Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tangled up

As many people do, we begin decorating for Christmas the weekend after Thanksgiving. In my family, the tree was always up and decorated on Thanksgiving day. It was tradition to eat Thanksgiving dinner and then break out the decorations.

When I was a kid, all of our decorations were kept in a huge cardboard box. I think the box was at least twenty years old back then. The old box was composed more of duct tape instead of cardboard, but it served its purpose.

As I began to put up the tree in our house the other day, I was really looking forward to plugging it in to see the beautiful lights. You see, about five years ago, we bought a pre-lit tree. I think my wife was tired of hearing me complain about getting the Christmas tree up and lit each year. Sure enough, the pre-lit tree worked just fine. I was much more pleasant when putting the tree up, and we have thoroughly enjoyed our Christmas tree each year since then.

On Friday, I dug our Christmas tree out of the attic, found the stand, and brought it downstairs where I ceremoniously placed it by the fireplace. I then plugged the green cord into the outlet and pushed the floor switch. Nothing happened. I began to check connections, fuses and bulbs. Nothing worked. It seems the problem with the pre-lit tree, is that the lights eventually stop working.

I decided to take off the old lights that were not working and replace them with new strands. That idea seemed simple enough. I thought I’d be finished in no time. I started with the bottom branches, but found out very quickly how difficult this job would be. These commercially wrapped lights were impossible to unwind. I finally had to get wire cutters to free our tree from this electric version of kudzu.

I spent most of the day Friday afternoon, and all of Saturday morning cutting wires from fake tree limbs. Finally, Sunday I began stringing lights on the tree, only to discover that I didn’t have enough lights, so once again the project was put on hold. The Christmas tree that I thought would take one afternoon to decorate has taken four days. I am happy to report, however, that at the time of this writing, the tree is up and beautiful.

All of this made me think about how we must seem to God sometimes. We are like tangled up Christmas lights that have stopped working. God patiently, light-by-light, checks to see which parts of our lives are blown and then repairs them. He then lovingly replaces the fuses that keep the electrical current flowing, with the Holy Spirit. When all of the maintenance is finished, He places us out into the world to shine for Him.

As you journey through this busy time of year, you may feel all tangled up and unable to glow. Slow down. Give the King whose birth we are celebrating a chance to make you beautiful again.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again… Galatians 5:1

Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.
Daniel 12:3

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Amazing Grace

You really need to watch this video. I have never heard some of this information before. It is extrememly powerful. Just click on the words Amazing Grace above.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Wasted Time

Sometimes it flies, sometimes it crawls, but it always passes inexorably. We mark it, save it, waste it, bide it, race against it. We measure it incessantly, with a passion for precision that borders on the obsessive. Time is so vitally enmeshed with the fabric of our existence, in fact, that it's hard even to conceive of it as an independent entity--and when we try, the result is less than enlightening. Pondering the mystery of what time really is, St. Augustine wrote in his Confessions, "If no one asks me, I know; but if any person should require me to tell him, I cannot." Michael D. Lemonick

Time is always moving forward. Whether we are ready for it or not, time will pass. Sometimes we embrace it and wish for it to move faster, such as when we are listening to a really boring preacher. At other times we want it to slow down, such as when we are spending time with a special someone or sharing one of those “unforgettable” moments with our children.

I had one of these moments a few days ago. Since we have two children, and they both like to hear stories before bed, my wife and I take turns putting them to bed. One night she will read to our daughter and put her to bed, while I am reading to our son and putting him to bed. The next night we switch.

Two nights ago was my turn to put our son to bed. We read a short book and then we were just lying on the floor talking. As we came to a place in our talk where we were not saying anything else, he just slid over beside me, took my arm and put it over him, and snuggled up. We just laid there on the floor for a few minutes, not saying anything at all.

After a few seconds, I noticed something. I could hear ticking. He has a Thomas the Tank Engine alarm clock. It is one of those wind-up clocks with the bells on top and the hammer that moves between them for the alarm. The second hand was extremely loud in the quiet room, as if the clock was trying to remind me of the constant passing of time. I wanted to savor that moment forever, but we both needed to go to bed.

Often, we don’t even notice the passing of time. It comes and goes. The times when we are mindful of it is when we don’t have enough of it. However, we should always be aware of how short this life is and how urgent we need to be about God’s work.

In Psalm 90, which is a prayer of Moses, we find the following words in verse 9-10

For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; We finish our years like a sigh. The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

We truly do not have time to waste doing and focusing on the things that do not matter. Jesus tells the parable in Luke chapter 14 about the great supper. One declined the invitation because he had bought some land and needed to attend to it, the second said that he had bought some livestock and needed to see after them, the third said he had just married and he needed to also decline.

What “things” are on your to do list that keep you from serving God? There is no excuse that is good enough for declining God’s invitation to serve. The seconds are ticking away. What are you doing?

Then [Jesus] said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:59-60