Rest Along the Weary Road

Standard

This article was originally published in The Lutheran Ambassador, a publication of the AFLC (Association of Free Lutheran Churches).

Have you ever read a portion of Scripture and found a certain verse or phrase jumping out at you, striking you in a completely new way?  Or listened to a sermon when the Pastor said something that seemed meant just for you and your current situation?  Or had a hymn run through your mind over and over again?

See the source image

I think most of us have had that sort of experience, and when we do, we should pay attention.  The Holy Spirit may be nudging us to a deeper understanding, encouraging us with a word of comfort, or empowering us to take action.  Here’s a time that happened to me.

At our church during the Christmas season we always have a service when members have a chance to call out their favorite carols and the congregation sings a verse or two of each one.  As we sang “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” one year, I was suddenly and powerfully struck by the words, “rest along the weary road and hear the angels sing.”  Wow, I thought, that’s what Christmas should be about.  Nobody can deny that life is a weary road.  The Bible tells us that “man …is few of days and full of trouble”(Job 14:1), and that we can expect to experience trials and suffering (John 16:33).  All we have to do is look around our congregation to see people mourning the loss of loved ones, others who have lost their jobs, members in difficult relationships, or suffering from illness.  Christmas is a time to stop, to rest from all that, to remember the day God broke into our human lives with a precious gift, His own son, Jesus, to die for our sins.

Those of us in church know this.  The youngest child can tell you that Christmas is the birthday of baby Jesus, and the most theologically sophisticated use a big word to describe it, the “incarnation.”  But what is Christmas really about for most of us?  Far too often, Christmas becomes a time of frantic busyness instead of rest.  We have gifts to buy and wrap, cookies to bake, cards to send, people to entertain, parties to attend, a home and church to be decorated, more evenings out as we practice special music or a Christmas pageant.  We stress over whether our presents, our hospitality and our appearance have made the grade.  Maybe we spend more money than we should.  Then when Christmas Eve arrives, we’re too tired out to really appreciate it.  It’s just one more task to get through on the way to the conclusion of the season, when we can sigh and say, “Thank goodness I got everything done.”

None of the things we normally do around Christmas are bad.  Giving of ourselves in various ways, getting together with family and friends, spending some extra time at church, or singing Christmas carols, are all good things, especially if we do them in remembrance and thanks for God’s great gift to us.  But if, like Martha, we become “anxious and troubled about many things”  and miss “the one thing (that is ) necessary (Luke 10:41-42), we’ve lost the gift Christ wanted us to have.  Jesus Himself said, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)  This year, I’m going to try to be more like the shepherds.  I’ll think of Christmas as a time to take a break instead of a time to get a million things done–a time to eave the worries about my life behind and stop to worship the baby King, a time to rest along the weary road and listen to the angels.

Advertisements

Hey Fatty

Standard

I know that’s rude, in my defense I’ve only said that to my dog. And so far, since I’ve kept my tone loving, she doesn’t mind at all. (I really do love my dog, I just have a twisted sense of humor.) But call a person that and O M Goodness, it’s on. Do I have a point? Well yeah, people are obese and they’re sensitive about it. Me too I might add. No one has to point out to me my extra weight. I’m well aware. How’d I get that way? Did I stuff my face way to much? No, not really. Although I admit I’m not always great about what I eat. My main problem is a lack of activity. I went from fairly active, to not so much. (My injury had a lot to do with that.) So it’s hard, harder than it might be for other people. But that’s OK. That’s my normal. This is me. Would I like to loose weight? Of course. What’s my point again? Fattys like me might not be as lazy as they look.

Maybe sometimes that person we’re looking at has a story. Maybe we’re more than what we look like. God told Samuel that he saw human hearts, He said he saw past our bodies. And I’m both glad and concerned when I hear that. I’m glad he sees past my crippled body, and I hold out concern for what I know is a dingy heart I hold.

That being said, there’s an obvious increase in obesity in this country. Sometimes, we do need to remember we eat to live. Not live to eat. And moderation applies to food as well as politics. Sometimes a weight issue is rightly attributed to overindulgence. God provides well for us, and we need to thank Him for it. That might mean showing some discipline and gratitude. Discipline through restraint, and gratitude through sharing with those less fortunate.

 

What is Advent – Part 1

Standard

The following is the first in a series of excerpts from a sermon given by Jim Edgel on Advent.  Each day I will post another part of this.  He explains the meaning o advent and some of the traditions we celebrate.

 

“Friends this is the first Sunday in the season of Advent. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word “adventus” which means “coming” or “arrival”. The advent of our Lord is the beginning of the “Church Year” and observed during the four weeks prior to Christmas. This is a time for Christians to Prepare their hearts as a welcome place for God and Prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus and to Prepare for the second coming of Jesus as the risen Christ to rule triumphantly over life in heaven and on earth. During the Advent season our prayers and Bible readings should be focused on preparing us spiritually for Christmas (the first coming), but also for his eventual second coming. That is why Advent services include both Old Testament passages related to the expected Messiah and New Testament passages concerning Jesus’ second coming as judge of all. Also passages about John the Baptist, the precursor who prepared the way for the Messiah. Jesus is the light of the world. We who have sat in darkness have seen a great light, the light of Jesus Christ, our salvation.  We are reminded of the light that Jesus brings us by lighting the candles in our Advent wreath.”

 

Next time – The Advent Wreath  – Stay tuned.

“Hello – It Is Not Christmas Yet”

Standard

Okay, so I admit I am a little perturbed at all the Christmas stuff going on.  I can not even turn on the radio without hearing Christmas music.  First off, I am not a grinch, I just wish the true season of Advent would get its just attention.

The Advent season is important too, it is the time we Christians are suppose to be in prayer and study for the arrival of Jesus.  But as we are typical, we do not want to wait, we want it now, so we put up the tree, turn on the music and shop til we drop.

I ask all to remember that this season is NOT about the tree, lights, decorations, presents or even the feasts planned – Advent is our time of anticipation, desire to see and joy at the upcoming arrival of our Lord.  DO NOT rush this season – savor with anticipation the coming – look forward with joy to His words – and sincerely appreciate the best gift ever given which was His life for our sins,

DO NOT RUSH

SAVOR
ANTICIPATE

APPRECIATE

Enjoy the Advent season more thoroughly and you may find that Christmas is all the more precious.

 

God Loves You And So Do I

 

Michele

Hungry for What?

Standard

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied Matt. 5:6

It’s hard to ignore hunger, isn’t it?  When we’re really hungry it becomes difficult to work or concentrate or focus on anything else.  Hunger becomes insistent.  If it isn’t satisfied, it begins to consume us (literally).  In the verse above, taken from the Sermon on the Mount, and one of what we call the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us about one hunger only He can satisfy — a hunger for righteousness.

Image result for images of the beatitudes

According to my Bible dictionary, righteousness is “inherent or imputed guiltlessness before God.”  In layman’s terms you might say it is being made right with God;  or being declared “not guilty” in God’s eyes.  We all know we can’t do that on our own.  All the good deeds, all the striving to avoid sin, all the confessions and church services and Bible study in the world won’t get us there.  For that, we need a savior.  Only Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for each one of us can close the yawning gap between us and God.

So the question is, do you hunger to be saved?  Do you hunger for Christ?  I have to say, too often, I hunger for worldly things because they seem so much more immediate. After all, I need a house and a car and someone to love me right now!  I’ll attend to that spiritual hunger later, when I have more time, when my other hungers have been sated.  The problem is, later never seems to come;  and the truth of the matter is, we do find the time for things we really care about.  Don’t we care about Him?  He should be first on our hunger list.

Be right with God now.  Put the Kingdom first.  You’ll be satisfied.  The rest will follow.

 

 

 

New Month/New Theme

Standard

Well believe it or not, December is here.  This month the blog will feature articles about Advent and Christmas.  However, if we are moved to write on another topic, we will probably do so.

 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who reads, likes and shares are blog.  Our readers keep us inspired to continue this work.  All of the women who are authors on this blog feel extraordinarily blessed to have gained such a following.

May the peace of our Lord be with you always.

 

God loves you and so do we.

 

Michele Edgel

Work — Nourishment for the Soul?

Standard

I just finished another chapter of the book I’ve been reading for my morning devotional, Awake My Soul, by Timothy Jones.  He poses an interesting question — Can work not only feed the body, but nourish the soul?  It’s a chapter about the idea of vocation, or calling.  Martin Luther, of course, argued that not only priests and nuns, but milkmaids, blacksmiths and housewives shared in God’s work in the world.  The work we do becomes holy if reverently approached.  Our work can serve others and influence others for Christ.

Image result for images of vocation

Just recently I was talking to a friend about her Via de Cristo retreat (I was the leader of her weekend).  I shared with her how I felt that God had called me to train the team for that retreat, and she said, “Joan, you trained the team just for me.”  One of the big surprises that happened for my friend, was an opportunity to reconnect with another woman named Karen, someone she hadn’t seen since she was a girl.  Karen became Beth Ann’s spiritual mentor for a time.  I knew Karen through my workplace;  I was working at a job I was not eager to take, yet it led to an amazing experience for somebody else. No doubt there were other plans of God at work that I’ll never even know about.  It wasn’t where I wanted to be, but it was where I needed to be, and where God placed me at that time.  Knowing that has nourished my soul.

Often we are called to do what we enjoy, even if it involves financial sacrifice.  After retirement, I started work for the local library, only to find myself feeling unsettled.  I liked the job;  I like the people, so what was the problem?  I just had the continual, nagging feeling that it was taking me away from what God wanted me to do.  So I quit and now find myself blogging and working as a volunteer for my church.  These activities have fed my soul, and maybe to the souls of a few others.

Of course, it’s a constant challenge to discern God’s will, and we’ll make wrong turns.  We won’t always get it right.  We must pray, ask advice from Godly friends, and pay attention to our circumstances and how God is using our gifts and talents.

As Jones says in his book,

“We spend too much time at work for it not to be a setting for daily seeking and experiencing God.  …..CONCENTRATE ON WORK, BUT MAKE ROOM FOR GOD…”

 

Simplify–And Satisfy

Standard

Did you know that simplicity is a spiritual discipline?  Not something we think about much, is it?  I’m currently reading a book, Awake My Soul by Timothy Jones and I just finished a chapter titled, “The Soul and the Simple Life.”  He says that learning to live simply will allow us to be freer and less anxious, but it requires radical trust.  Here’s a quote:

“When I follow God, generosity becomes an option.  Knowing that today will provide the daily bread I need allows me not to exhaust myself in storing up what I think in my worst moments I will need.  I leave the issue in hand far bigger–infinitely so– than mine.”

Image result for images of the spiritual discipline of simplicity

I admit this is not easy for me.  I like to be prepared for the worst (or at least fool myself into believing I’m prepared).  However, Jones is right.  It can be exhausting trying to imagine and provide for every potential problem;  it’s probably not even possible.  How much easier to simply (no pun intended) trust God and do our best day by day.  I try to work on that, but often fail.  Here are some words of advice on simplification from Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline.

  1. First, buy things for their usefulness rather than their status ….Stop trying to impress people with your clothes and impress them with your life. ..

  2. Second, reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.  Learn to distinguish between a real psychological need, like cheerful surroundings, and an addiction.  …(he says if you find you cannot live without something such as particular foods or technology get rid of it).

  3. Third, develop a habit of giving things away.  If you find that you are becoming attached to some possession, consider giving it to someone who needs it.

    Sounds pretty scary and drastic doesn’t it.  What it boils down to is stop worrying about how to impress others, avoid the things that tend to control you, and be generous.  I know even I can take baby steps in trying to do this.  What about you?  Can you simplify your life so that it becomes more satisfying?