Sunday, January 26, 2014

Road Construction

"Lord, give us faith and strength the road to build,
To see the promise of the day fulfilled,
When war shall be no more and strife shall cease
                   Upon the highway of the Prince of Peace"
--Heralds of Christ--Laura S. Copenhaver (1868-1941) and George W. Warren (1828-1902)  

"And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness..."--Isaiah 35:8.

The road that passes by our house is, what we call in the country, a backroad. To those who are unfamiliar with the term, I can assure you that the word is quite descriptive. The traffic on our road is minimal, so the maintenance on it  many times resembles the use--minimal. I've been known to liken it to driving on a piece of Swiss cheese--lots of holes of varying sizes to be dodged while in transit to the adjoining state highway. Unfortunately, at the present time, that adjoining state highway is suffering as well. Numerous scars of varying sizes, shapes, and depths have developed from wear and tear. It has, apparently, due to poor choices of materials used, become every bit as treacherous as our little poorly functioning backroad.

I come from the generation where roads were everything. Even though the first coast to coast interstate system was built in the decade before my birth, roads were a very important part of my young life. We took many a vacation while I was growing up--all in the car. It was rare when we encountered a road that was very poorly built or maintained. Thick layers of asphalt with bright yellow and white ribbons of paint greeted us in state after state. Sadly, that is no longer the case. The roads we now encounter on our car trips vary from "o-kay" to "oh dear".

Thinking about the third verse of the hymn Heralds of Christ, I see many comparisons concerning roads in our lives, both literally and figuratively. We are given a charge through our dedication to God that we will "build the road" that will be fit for the Prince of Peace to travel upon--a road that bears no scars of hate, no dangerous potholes of war or strife. Our attempts to do this many times end up looking more like the Swiss cheese backroad than the smoothly paved and lined  highways of generations past. In the busyness of our days, we tend to not take the care to smooth the road bed, to mix the materials carefully, to check for proper conditions, and to add enough layers to last throughout the many challenges of heavy traffic, poor weather conditions, and general wear and tear of time. We want to be good stewards of God's world, sharing His love and message to all people; but, for whatever reasons, we tend to not stay the course. We shy away from being direct with our faith, we water down the word of God, we don't follow through with re-visiting those to whom we share God's love--as a result our "road building" doesn't result in a road fit for Christ, but rather a more holey than holy road. 

Isaiah 35:8 tells us that "a highway will be there, and it will be one of Holiness". This is our charge while here on earth. Time to sharpen up our road construction skills. An honored guest is coming soon.

Peace be with you.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Make My Heart a Shining Star

"Thou heavenly Brightness! Light divine! O deep within my heart now shine, And make thee there an altar! Fill me with joy and strength to be Thy member, ever joined to thee In love that cannot falter; Toward thee longing Doth possess me; turn and bless me; Here in sadness Eye and heart long for thy gladness!"--O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright  by Phillipp Nickolai (1827-1878)

Psalm 45:6-8 "Your throne, O God, endures forever, Justice is your royal scepter. You love what is good And hate what is wrong. Therefore God, your God, Has given you more gladness Than anyone else" (Psalm 45:6-8).  "I will cause your name to be honored in all generations; the nations of the earth will praise you forever"(Psalm 45:17).

I was looking out the window the other morning at a sunrise and it was a beauty. One of those where variegated pastels take over the sky with one single twinkling star remaining from the previous night.  The star had that unique searing , pure, glimmering quality that tends to defy accurate description. It caused me to pause and take in the simple, yet breathtaking sight. The song, "O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright" came to mind.  "Fill me with joy and strength to be Thy member, ever joined to thee in love that cannot falter" is how my heart, mind, and soul feel when considering the absolute and perfect beauty not only of that morning's  sunrise, but every day--sunrises, sunsets, delicately bloomed flowers, refreshing rains on parched ground.  We are certainly treated as the beloved and royal children of the King. Our surroundings of nature are beyond description and compare in their design.

"Here in sadness, eye and heart long for thy gladness"--on our best days, we know that without God in our lives it's a life that is truly missing its core. With God, our days aren't filled with mindless joy; they aren't filled with mindless anything. With God, our perspective changes and we know, even on our saddest days that there is comfort. We are human and nothing will keep us from occasional sadness--we have free will and that freedom will lead us to choices or consequences of others' choices that create pain and hurt in our lives . Our bodies are also imperfect, and they will fail us from time to time. This, of course, makes us sad, indeed. Nevertheless, that sadness is not accompanied by an empty, hollow feeling. God fills in all the gaps with love and, even in those miserable times, we feel comforted and know that we are being held in God's loving hands.

"I will cause your name to be honored in all generations; the nations of the earth will praise you forever"--so true. Once we have become one of God's holy family, we want to encourage our families and friends to experience this indescribable bliss. It is, indeed, a true peace that passes all understanding.

"O Morning star, so fair and bright…" this lovely verse not only describes the first views of our waking hours but also our "bright and fair" lives as the children of our loving God.

Peace be with you. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Indeed, We Have a Story to Tell to the Nations!

"We've a story to tell to the nations, That shall turn their hearts to the right, A story of truth and mercy, A story of peace and light, A story of peace and light. For the darkness shall turn to dawning, And the dawning to noon-day bright, And Christ's great kingdom shall come to earth, the kingdom of love and light. Amen."--H. Ernest Nicol (1862-1928)

Mark 16:15--"And he said to them, "Go into all the world, and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation."

Ask anyone--would they like to wake up each morning knowing that their day will be a day full of love and light where there is no negativity toward themselves or others? I'm going to guess this question would be met with a resounding, "Of course!"

Then why aren't we? The answer is alarming simple. In looking at the words in the above hymn, it's we that have a "story to tell to the nations". In accordance with verse 15 in 16th chapter of the Book of Mark: "Go into all the world, and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation" gives us a charge and responsibility to tell our neighbors as well as strangers we encounter throughout our day and throughout our journeys about the love of Christ. The perfect love of Christ that will indeed bring light into all the dark corners of everyone's lives. We're not waking up to love and light because we're not sharing that story of "truth and mercy, peace and light". We're keeping that light under the basket (Matthew 5:14-16) and not sharing the most wonderful news mankind will ever receive. That is why we wake up with doubt, concern, worry, dread of what the day will bring. What a loss for us...each day is indeed a blessing and a gift we receive from our loving God. 

Let's each make the effort to share the good news of truth and mercy. What a wonderful day it will be when we truly wake up to a day of love and light.

Peace be with you.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Welcome, Three Kings

"We three kings of Orient are; Bearing gifts we traverse afar, Field and fountain, moor and mountain, Following yonder star…"--We Three Kings written by John H. Hopkins, Jr. (1820-1891)

 Matthew 2:1-11: "Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem, in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. At about that time some astrologers from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 'Where is the newborn King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in far-off eastern lands, and have come to worship him.' King Herod was deeply disturbed by their question, and all Jerusalem was filled with rumors. He called a meeting of the Jewish religious leaders. 'Did the prophets tell us were the Messiah would be born?' he asked. 'Yes, in Bethlehem,' they said, 'for this is what the prophet Micah wrote 'O little town of Bethlehem, you are not just an unimportant Judean village, for a Governor shall rise from you to rule my people Israel.' Then Herod sent a private message to the astrologers, asking them to come to see him; at this meeting he found out from them the exact time when they first saw the star. Then he told them, 'Go to Bethlehem and search for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him too!' After this interview the astrologers started out again. And look! The star appeared to them again, standing over Bethlehem. Their joy knew no bounds! Entering the house where the baby and Mary his mother were, they threw themselves down before him, worshiping. They opened their presents and gave him gold, frankincense  and myrrh."

 Happy Epiphany! With all the commercialization of the Christmas season, this most important holiday in the Christian church gets swept away with all the decorations, cards, and trappings. But Epiphany is such a lovely time. The Kings have finally arrived at the manger.  What a wonderful Biblical lesson to share with children of all ages--recognizing  that the 3 Kings were not present at the manger on Christmas Eve, but were far away in the western part of the world. They wanted to visit and worship this new-born King so strongly that they made the long trip east to a far-off land to a tiny little town named Bethlehem, led by an incredible star in the sky. They brought with them priceless gifts; once they arrived and beheld this miraculous child, these gifts paled by comparison. This wee baby was their--and our--salvation. Life would never be the same again.

 So when that manger scene comes out with next year's Christmas decorations, be sure and keep it out and truly celebrate the miracle of Epiphany--one of the first stories of Christ's life that we can share and celebrate with one another.

 Peace be with you.