November 23, 2015

O' Little Town of Bethlehem

Jesus was born in a specific place, a Judean sheep-town that can be located on a map and visited in person. The good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ therefore is not a kind of “once upon a time in a Disney movie” story, but the account of real people in real places.

In Hebrew, the name Bethlehem means “a house of bread.” Think about it. The village where Jesus was born was named after a human need as basic as eating.

Perhaps this is God’s way of telling us that our Christmastime celebration is not a kind of “escape from reality,” a few days or weeks of fairy-tale spending and pretending out of the year, but that the coming of Christ  (both at Bethlehem and into our lives) signals a real concern given by God to meet our real, most basic human needs—new life, a second chance, forgiveness, mercy, unconditional love, grace, faith, generosity, love thy neighbor, joyfulness, humility, acceptance, courage, devotion, self-control, justice, kindness, moderation, stewardship, patience, hospitality, commitment, discernment, integrity, virtue, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, propitiation, justification, reconciliation, and salvation.

How much of your Christmas celebration is merely redundant and unnecessary, and how much is truly essential, truly spiritual?

O’ little town of Bethlehem…
The everlasting light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight. 

November 17, 2015

She Gave Her All

One Sunday morning a mother wanted to teach her daughter a moral lesson. So she gave her daughter a quarter and a dollar to put in the offering plate during church."Put whichever one you want in the collection plate and keep the other for yourself," she told her. 

When church was over, as they were walking to the car, the mother asked her daughter what amount she had put in the offering plate. “Well,” said the girl, “I was going to give the dollar, but just before the offering plate was passed the preacher said that we should all be cheerful givers, and I knew I'd be a lot more cheerful if I gave the quarter, so I did.”

Unfortunately the girl was persuaded by selfishness rather than sacrifice. She could have kept the quarter and given away the dollar, instead she did the opposite. Just like in the story about a widow (see Mark 12:41-44) who could have kept back one of the coins, it wouldn’t have been much, but it would have been something, but instead she gave them both away.

So Jesus calls his disciples to him and points to a widow with two coins in her hand. He wanted them to take note of the sacrifice of her gift.  “This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others,” Jesus said.  But how can that be, Jesus?

Because the widow held nothing back. She gave her all. Are you giving God your all, or holding something back?  

November 7, 2015

Blind Bartimaeus

          “Rabbi,” blind Bartimaeus pleaded, “I want to be healed.” 

          Asking can be difficult. It is risky. It is humbling. There have been times in all of our lives when we have needed help. To not ask for help when we need it is, from one perspective, a sign that we are too self-absorbed. What we are saying, in part, is that we have full control over our lives and we don’t need help from anyone!
          But there’s more. From the other side of the coin, when you don’t allow someone to help who is offering to help, you are also denying that person the opportunity to share the gift of God’s love with you, and that’s not being fair to them.
          On this text in Mark’s gospel (see Mark 10:46-52) many commentators comment on how blind Bartimaeus could see more as a blind beggar than most people can see with their eyes wide open. They comment about how Bartimaeus saw Jesus as the one who could help him, how he saw Jesus as the Messiah, and how he was not afraid to ask for help.
          I am taken-back by how much faith Bartimaeus seemed to have, about how bold he was, how determined he was. He knew what he wanted and he wasn’t afraid to ask. I am also taken-back because I know how easy it is to be blind to Christ and to ignore his presence when I am struggling with some issue, or caught up in some situation that is distracting my spiritual life or hurting my personal life.
          I know the faith it takes to ask God for help; the courage it takes to go to someone and confess you have a need; the vision required to admit your blindness and to ask for help when the world around you is telling you to simply be quiet.
          But what startles me most about blind Bartimaeus in this story is not that he saw Jesus as the one who could help him and had the faith to ask for that help, but that after he was helped, when Jesus told him to “go” you are healed, he had the conviction to instead faithfully follow Jesus up the road.  He was told to go, yet still he followed.
           Having received his sight, he followed Jesus.  He didn’t selfishly go away to be alone once his need was met. The Bible says he “followed Jesus along the road.”  He got in the crowd that was heading to Jerusalem with Jesus. He pointed and said, “See that man up there?  He’s the one who cured me!  I once was blind, now I can see!  If you are blind, or you know someone who is blind, bring them to Jesus…he can help them see!”
I once was lost
But now I'm found
Was blind but now I see
You take our failure
You take our weakness
You set Your treasure
In jars of clay
So take this heart Lord
I'll be Your vessel
For all the world to see
That Your life in me
Is Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me

October 28, 2015

Famous Last Words

Famous Last Words

Franz Hayden (1732-1809), composer:
“Cheer up, children, I’m all right.”

James Joyce (1882-1941), Irish novelist:
“Does anybody understand?”

On a Tombstone in Arizona:
Here lies
Lester Moore
Four slugs
From a 44
No Les
No more

Lucy Stone (1818-93), American suffragette:
“Make the world better.”

William Tyndale (1491-1536), English translator of the Bible. At the stake:
“Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), English philosopher:
“I am about to take my last long voyage, a great leap in the dark.”

Emily Dickinson (1830-86), poet:
“I must go in, the fog is rising."

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827):
“Friends applaud, the Comedy is over.”

On a Tombstone in Enosburg, Vermont
Here lies the body of our Anna
Done to death by a banana.
It wasn’t the fruit that laid her low
But the skin of the thing that made her go. 

Winston Churchill (1874-1965), British statesman:
"Oh, I am so bored with it all."

Bing Crosby (1904-77), singer and movie star:
"That was a great game of golf, fellers."

October 15, 2015

Halloween: Good or Bad?

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival. Today it is a holiday that gives people a chance to display their Halloween decorations, go to haunted theme parks and play imaginary dress-up.

The tradition of dressing-up in a costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago winter was a difficult, worrisome time. Simply getting in your car and going to get groceries at a local grocery store was not an option. Garden’s had to be grown, food had to be canned, and meat had to be cured. The Middle Ages was a particularly difficult time to be alive.

A common belief back then was that on Halloween, ghosts would return to the earthly world. And that if the people left their homes, they would surely encounter some of these ghosts who were roaming the earth. So to avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would not recognize them and instead mistake them for another spirit.

To keep the ghosts as far away from their homes as possible, people would place containers of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and detour them from trying to come inside.  For more Halloween background click here

Halloween, is it good or evil?
Can Christian’s celebrate Halloween?
Is it possible to simply have innocent fun 
without being converted to the dark side?

You’ll have to answer those kinds of questions for yourself.  Whether you have thought about it like this or not, there are some good qualities Halloween has to offer.  Let us not forget:

1) Halloween reminds us of the ever enduring earthly transformation that takes place from the changing of the seasons.

2) Halloween provides us with an opportunity to get to know our neighbor, thus opening the door to being more loving and understanding of our neighbor.

3) Halloween gives us a chance to be creative: Who/what will you disguise yourself as this year? What design should we carve on the pumpkin? Who has a story they would like to share around the bonfire?

4) Halloween reminds us to relax. Take a break from reality. What better way to briefly step away from the flurry of life than to spend an evening with friends and family giggling, eating, and guessing: Who’s behind that mask? Is that you dad? 

Photo of a decorated vehicle we saw at a rest stop on the PA Turnpike

October 9, 2015

Wisdom Quotes

Wisdom Quotes

All the beautiful sentiments in the world
weigh less than a single lovely action.
—James Russell Lowell, 19th century

Not everything that can be counted counts,
and not everything that counts can be counted.
—Albert Einstein, 20th century

Lay hold of something that will help you,
and then use it to help somebody else.
—Booker T. Washington, 20th century

Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot.
In your soul are infinitely precious things
that cannot be taken from you.
Oscar Wilde, 19th century

If you believe what you like in the gospels,
and reject what you don't like,
it is not the gospel you believe, 
but yourself.
—Augustine of Hippo, 5th century

All serious daring starts from within.
—Harriet Beecher Stowe, 19th century

October 1, 2015

Do Not Despair

Do Not Despair, unhappy child of night !
Sink not in the abyss,
Look upward, reach out toward the light,
And God will touch your hand with His.

Lift your heart upon the wings of prayer,
Watch it soar to the holy place
Where peace, serenity are everywhere, 
And dwell within His loving grace.

by: Carol H. Behrman