Wednesday, December 26, 2018


"For what is your life?  It
is even a vapor that 
appears for a little time
and then vanishes away."
(James 4:14)
While most households, those who celebrate Christmas that is, were noisily opening up gifts. I found myself doing something quite unusual that morning.  At least I thought so until I sat down to read my devotionals.

I was just trying to clear away a bit of clutter from my desk i.e.,
rubber bands, paper clips, and Christmas cards yet to be opened.  Trying to bring some order to the space. A writing desk sits in the corner of my rarely used living room and it is my favorite spot to meet and chat with the Lord!  

I picked up an obituary from a recent funeral to file it away. (Call it an age thing but for years I've been bringing funeral programs home, reading through them again and promptly putting them in a folder in my file drawer.)  I can't seem to throw them away. It feels disrespectful, like throwing away the memories or legacy of those departed!

I have obituaries of church members, family friends, family members of friends, and relatives (misfiled because I have a separate folder for those!).  A collection of different sizes, various styles, full page and bookmarks.  It was like leisurely looking through a family  photo album. 
They commemorated people of all ages.  One was of a baby only a few months old.  A few had lived to their eighties or nineties! They dated back to the early 2000s, so of course I began to see members of the same family appear (husband and wives, mothers and fathers of friends, sadly, some of children of parents still  living).  There were beautiful and brilliant twenty year olds; talented millennials, and I grieved all over again for the knowledge and wisdom taken to the grave by  senior saints who blessed and encouraged me while they were alive!

I stood there just remininscing,  thinking about where I was in my own life when these souls transitioned.  I was beginning to feel a bit morbid when I settled down to read my In Touch Devotional by Dr. Charles Stanley.   He put it all into perspective.  Christmas is the perfect time to reflect on life, death, and eternity.  After all isn't that why Jesus came into the world? (John 3:17; John 10:10; John 14:1-3).

Mary, Jesus' mother had to consider His death not long after rejoicing at His birth (Matthew 2:13-21).  King Herod pronounced a death sentence on all Jewish male children, two years old and younger to deter the One prophesied from taking the royal throne.  In those critical hours, Jesus' earthly parents had to envision the brevity of their son's life and so it should be with us.  

For some the Circle of Life may be long and winding filled with many high points.  But for others short and abrupt! The reality of it all is that some that we celebrated Christmas with this year may not be with us next Christmas.  Show them love while you can and remind them when they start to complain, that the greatest gift they could ever receive is Jesus!

In reading the title of this blog post your mind may have wandered back to the movie Lion King, one of my favorites!  The similarity in name and theme was no accident
.  I love the song, Circle of Life.   In fact the entire movie teaches life lessons worth sharing.  But when I look at the lyrics of this particular song a bit closer I find a great deal of wisdom in them.  Wisdom that is appropriate no matter what stage of life you are in or your religious preference.

As humans we all flow through a life cycle predetermined by our Creator (Psalms 90:10). It is up to us to find our place and purpose in it while we can because as is attested to by both the psalmist David and writer James in the bible, it goes by so quickly.   Now that Christmas is over, our minds tend to lean toward the future. New resolutions, prospects, and opportunities to look forward to.

While we prepare for what will be a wonderful year of beginnings for some, let us be thoughtful.  It may also be a year of finality.  Sadness and regrets may also be in our futures. Still your hearts now against anger or bitterness for any losses that may occur.  Embrace it all as it comes!  The ebbs and flows, the ups and downs.  All are normal and with God's help we'll find our way through it.  

It's the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love.
'Til we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle,
The Circle of Life.
(Circle of Life lyrics by Lebo M.)


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Thursday, December 13, 2018

COMPASSION: A Priceless Christmas Gift

But go and learn what this means.
I desire mercy, not sacrifice...
(Matthew 9:13a)
As I have matured and become somewhat limited in my finances as a retiree, I've ceased trying to find the perfect Christmas gift for others!  I'm sort of done with asking the grand kids for their list and then rushing all around town trying to fulfill their wishes!

I'm thankful that I no longer have to participate in Secret Santa gift exchanges and cookie swaps at work.   Yes, they were fun at the time but grew mundane year after year.  Then it's that tedious chore of  shopping for obligatory gifts.  You know, those gifts you buy individuals out of guilt, because they buy you one every year!  Of course when you find something suitable it has to be of the same quality and price range as the one they bought you so as not to appear cheap! Does anyone beside me think that to give without any thought but price is shallow and hypocritical?

When it comes to giving Christmas gifts this year, I'd like you to consider one that is actually appropriate all year around but is rapidly falling into oblivion...compassion!  One of the down sides of having access to 24/7 media is that we are bombarded with our world's brokenness and soon become desensitized to it.  I must confess, I'm no longer shocked at the perversion and violence going on in my city.  Concerned,  Yes!  Shocked hardly! What my local news misses, I can catch in the form of made from real life movies; reality or talk shows.  If I'm not careful, I sink into the same kind of negativism and apathy as the world!  This should not be so!

Compassion is not the same as empathy (although close).  The lack of it is not always apathy!  One can feel very strongly, even pray for a situation without really getting involved.   It goes much deeper than that.  True compassion can be seen demonstrated by the Lord, Jesus, Christ.  It is identifying with the pain and suffering of another although keenly aware of the circumstances and consequences that caused it.  It's seeing others as God sees them!  Broken but still of value! 
Looking beyond where people are to where they could be or were meant to be!

In the Gospel of John we find Jesus moved with compassion to intervene in the life of two women: The Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:4-26 and the woman caught in adultery in  John 8:1-11.  Both women were considered social outcasts in their religious communities.  No doubt past decisions and current lifestyles put them in the predicament they were in, but Christ never condemned them! He not only felt their pain (He was considered a rebel and outcast to the Pharisees) which is empathy; but He did something to make their lives better.  That's compassion! 

On our current political scene, hundreds are at U.S. borders trying to escape poverty, drugs, and violence in their birth countries.  I understand the immigration pundits "hard line" defense.  But history tells us that they have not always taken this stance.  It is the color of the immigrants it seems that makes a difference.  In any case I must agree with Laura Bush's quote from earlier this year  in regard to the immigration issue: "Can we not find a kinder, more compassionate and moral answer?

We seemed to have lost both empathy and compassion not only for those trying to get to America, but citizens born here.  When will we as, I heard said: "Stop looking at issues through the eyes of the pocket book" and do something about them.  People are dying for lack of affordable healthcare insurance and those with it compromise their standard of care because of the rising cost of prescriptions and premiums to keep it.  Yet pharmaceutical and insurance companies are thriving.  The CEOs of these companies empathize with the situation (they get sick and die too) but because their ability to afford healthcare comes from the profit they make off others, compassion seems somewhat lacking. 

There's not much we can do on the national or global scene but we can demonstrate compassion now, right where we are!  As the body of Christ, let's stop politicizing compassion, picking and choosing who we will pray for, minister to, invite to our churches.  Let's reserve judgement of a person until we've first taken time to know them.  Everybody has a story....stop and listen!  Don't just pray about a situation, get involved in a "real, significant" way.  God did this for us when He sent His Son, Jesus to die for our sins (John 3:16)!   He had compassion for our brokenness and every wretched life style that existed.   Don't you think it's time to do the same.  Let's RE-GIFT COMPASSION this Christmas.  It just might make a difference!


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