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What Everyone in Your Life Wants for Christmas This Year

Dave Ramsey turned me onto this guy.  Without further comment, I present timely wisdom from Jon Acuff —

 

I know exactly what everyone in your life wants for Christmas this year – your presence.

Your husband? He wants your presence.

Your wife? She wants your presence.

Your kids? They want your presence.

Your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your father, your mother, your friend, your neighbor? They all want your presence.

Every day this gift becomes rarer and rarer. Can you remember the last time you had a full conversation with someone’s face, not just their forehead as they stared at their phone? Can you remember the last time someone was “all there” not just partially there because interacting with you wasn’t enough to hold their full attention? I have to leave my phone in the car when we go to dinner parties or I will be physically present but absent in every other way possible as I engage with the phone instead of anyone else.

Don’t miss Christmas because you’re working or you’re lost in your phone.

This year, give someone that rarest gift of all, your presence. No one else can give them that.

It costs nothing, but it’s worth everything.

- See more at: http://acuff.me/2014/12/gift-everyone-wants-christmas/#sthash.bPuiG9QP.dpuf

All of Us Together

If you are an older leader,

make sure you listen to the younger.

If you are younger,

never think you don’t need the older.

It’s the beauty of the body of Christ

all together

as we serve on the mission of Jesus together.

Nephew Ryan and I were celebrating his completion of his freshman year of college.  (He’d called me up a couple of months before and said, “Ya know, Uncle Joe, I’ve been thinking — a trip to Nashville would be a great way for us to celebrate my completion of my freshman year of college.”  Immediately we started making plans.)

We were there in time for a Conference on Contemporary Worship.  Two days before, I’d seen an insightful guy with memorable hair on a video discussing the same topic.  I turned to tell Nephew Ryan something, and there was that same guy in line with us.

I introduced Nephew Ryan to him and asked him about a suggestion he’d made regarding physical placement of praise bands in worship to avoid establishing a concert atmosphere.  We had a great chat.  The guy with the remarkable hair was young and fascinating.  He was also noticeably condescending to this older pastor.

Time goes by as it always does.

This Christmas, Teacher and Baseball Coach Ryan, now with several years experience at both, and his wife with her advanced medical degrees, will be back from Texas with their 5 month old son.

And the guy with the notable hair is now serving as a Senior Pastor.  He recently wrote of the importance of inter-generational collaboration, and how things look different from this side of the table.

His conclusion?   “If you are an older leader, make sure you listen to the younger. If you are younger, never think you don’t need the older. It’s the beauty of the body of Christ all together as we serve on the mission of Jesus together.”  It takes all of us, together.

Our old friend St. Paul wrote, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” (1st Cor. 12:12)  It takes all of us, together.

A song in our United Methodist Hymnal has us sing, “Many gifts, one Spirit, one love known in many ways.” (#114)  It takes all of us, together.

As my colleague with the hair that’s still memorable, remarkable and notable says, “It’s the beauty of the body of Christ all together as we serve on the mission of Jesus together.”  It takes all of us, together.

Amen and amen.

Done? Or Not Done?

Dones are the ones who have left church with no intention of ever returning.

Many were key leaders and very active in their church.  Or even churches, over a period of years.

Some were even pastors who simply got fed up with the unrealistic expectations and unrelenting demands of some church members.

But there’s one who’s decidedly NOT done.

Or, more correctly, there’s One Who’s decidedly NOT done.

God is not done.

God is not done with any of us.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness, O God.  — Lamentations 3:22,23

God’s Extraordinarily Good Design

“Too often  we find ourselves starstruck,” writes Beth Dunlop in the Winter 2015 edition of Modern.

She says that we’re too often “seeking out the elusive — the rarest design, the most famous architect or (dare I say it) the most expensive object— when in fact there’s extraordinarily good design close at hand.”

And too often we learn this too late.

Worse, too often we do this in our lives of faith. We go in search of the latest faith fad, and we miss what God’s already doing “close at hand.”

Perhaps worst of all is the end result, as we leave one church and join another.  And then another.  As each one fails in turn to meet our every expectation and whim, we drift towards being part of one of the fastest growing segments of our society: the Dones.  The Dones are simply done with church.

Don’t be done.  Notice what God’s doing “close at hand” and ride that wave.

God’s own “extraordinary good design” is indeed “close at hand.”

You’re an example of that!

The Cradle, The Cross, and Joy to The World

Long ago, Martin Luther said that we’ve lost the point of Christmas if we don’t see the shadow of the cross falling over the manger.

Adam Hamilton says in a DVD lesson series that our church is studying this month that “Christmas and Calvary go hand-in-hand.”  Adam invited us to see the Crucifixion through the eyes of his mother.

Things got serious real fast.  Even somber.  And for some, it was even a blinking-back-tears time.

Rightly so.   “Preach Christ crucified” says 1st Corinthians 1:23.  It doesn’t say we’re to preach and teach and talk and sing just about a Jewish baby born in a manger.  That baby grew up.

“Preach Christ crucified.”

This is serious stuff.

Makes me thankful that the cross wasn’t the end of it all, but only the beginning of a new chapter called Resurrection.

Like we sing in Joy to The World, 

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make
His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found!

Where today will you notice His blessings flow?

What actions will you take today to No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground?

There’s still work to do be done.  God is still in business.  Are you and I in business with God?

Prayer for Advent, part 3 of 4

Merciful God,

you sent your messengers the prophets

to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation.

Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins,

that we may celebrate aright the commemoration of the nativity,

and may await with joy the coming in glory of Jesus Christ our Redeemer,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

One God, forever and ever.  Amen.

 — #201 in The United Methodist Hymnal

A week from today will already be Christmas Eve.  For too many Christians, Advent’s been a busy time.  Again.

Meanwhile, the God of mercy, who sends messengers our way, has invited us to change some things in our hearts, our minds, and our lives.

Why? To “prepare the way for our salvation.”

Sounds like Psalm 24:9, “Open up the doors that the King of Glory may enter!”  Then we’ll be able to “celebrate aright the commemoration of the nativity.”

May this very day in our Advent season not be so busy that we miss the point of it: getting ready for what really matters.

Be Bethlehem

No ear may hear his coming,

but in this world of sin,

where meek souls will receive him,

still the dear Christ enters in.

O Little Town of Bethlehem, verse 3

In our church’s children and youth Christmas Musical this weekend, we were invited to make our hearts be Bethlehem.

“Let the mind of Christ be in you,” wrote St. Paul to the church at Philippi and to us.  That could also be translated “the attitude of Christ.”

For there to be room in our hearts, minds and attitudes for Christ, what’s one thing you and I’ll have to change today?

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