HOPE for the HAPLESS

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12


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Unwrapping Thankfulness!

Man comes home to find all of his possessions wrapped

Associated Press  CHICAGO — A Chicago man could be unwrapping the hundreds of Christmas gifts spread around his apartment for days, even weeks.  Trouble is, they aren’t really presents. They’re his own belongings meticulously wrapped by friends as a prank while he was out of town.  Louie Saunders’ packages contain everything from couch cushions to the beer in his refrigerator.  His friend Adal Rifai masterminded the scheme after Saunders gave him a spare key. It took 16 people, 35 rolls of wrapping paper and eight hours to finish the job.  Saunders tells the Chicago Sun-Times he’s only been able to unwrap about 10 percent of the packages.  He said that the upside is that, with each package he unwraps, he finds something inside that’s just what he needs.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this story!  First of all, I’ve always been the kind of guy who appreciates a good practical joke … not the mean-spirited, demeaning, kind that hurts the object of the joke … If it’s not funny for everyone involved then its just not funny.  But this – this is funny!  I also appreciate that 16 people cared enough to spend 8 hours pulling this off.  It belies a strong bond of friendship in all involved.

Secondly, (and most pointedly) I love the attitude of the fellow at the center of it all.  Mr. Saunders in his good grace teaches us all an important thing or two about contentment and thankfulness …  finding in each new package something that is “just what he needs”  This is at the heart of what God is trying to teach us in such commandments as Thou shalt not covet, and such prayers as Give us this day our daily bread.

The only exception I take with the article is when it says that the parcels are not presents, just his own belongings.  They ARE gifts!  Food, clothing, house, home, even jokers for friends are all wonderful presents from God!  Would that we could all with Mr. Saunders come to view all our possessions in this new light.  See this computer under my fingertips?  A gift from God.  That sandwich for lunch? Gift.  These shoes … that clock … the beer in the fridge … the chair over there … all gifts from God!  All new and wonderful and exciting – if we take the time to see them again for the first time.

God loves us enough to provide us with so much that we take for granted.  Not just the big stuff like forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation in Jesus Christ (which we so gratefully unwrap each Christmas!), but the little things that often go overlooked in our day to day routines.   If we spent more time unwrapping what we already have, instead of wishing for what we don’t, maybe we’d all be a little happier … more content … and whole lot more thankful!

So I propose two things.  First, a brand new Christmas tradition.  Wrap up something you already own.  Something you are thankful for.  Put it under the tree and when it comes time to open the presents use it to tell your loved ones what you have to be thankful for!  Second, as we begin a new year, lets try to begin a new way of looking at “stuff” … with joy, surprise, and most of all – thankfulness.  For then you will truly find something that’s just what you need!

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. [1 Timothy 6:6-8]

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Not All Gifts are Equal

376 Once in Royal David’s City

2

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor and mean and lowly
Lived on earth our Savior holy.

4

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heav’n above;
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone.

5 Not in that poor, lowly stable
With the oxen standing by
Shall we see Him, but in heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high.
Then like stars His children, crowned,
All in white, His praise will sound!
Text and Tune: Public domain. Created by Lutheran Service Builder © 2006 Concordia Publishing House.

Have you ever noticed that not all gifts are equal?

Some of the gifts I so desperately longed for as a child, (and to my great and giddy joy – received on those glorious Christmas mornings so long ago) were also some of those gifts quickly discarded, forgotten and ignored.  After the initial thrill wore off there just wasn’t enough merit in the gift itself to warrant any lasting connection.  Although they were given from the best of intentions, given out of love and compassion … The reality of the toy or game I had asked for lacked substance and meaning.

Some gifts, on the other hand, the ones often coming un-asked for, and un-appreciated, turned out in the end to be some of the most endearing and engaging I ever received.  The kind of gift that often deflates a present-gorging youngster, stalling the voracious consumption of ribbons and wrappings and bows in a devastating swath of frenzied avarice … if not bringing it to a complete standstill … These “clunkers” often turned out to be the best gifts I can remember. (Despite what my younger self may have thought at the time.)

But whether the gift is truly great or not only comes out in the wash of time and experience … In the ups and downs of life beyond the Christmas tree.  It is the gift that has meaning beyond Christmas day that is truly great.  It is the gift that has meaning in our daily life that is something to be treasured.

I was reminded of this once again, as for the last three days I have sat at the bedside of a dear saint who is dying.  Together we have been spending our time reading again the  Christmas Story.  I was struck, at how precious and poignant these so-familiar words are. I was struck by how unfamiliar I was to the great depth and meaning there contained in them for not just those who gather in joy and plenty with family … but also for those who lay alone in their sick beds … and for those surrounded by family, while on their death beds.  There is a powerful substance and a meaning in these Christmas Words -a life and death substance … an eternal meaning.

No, not all gifts are equal.  And the gift of God’s Son, born this Christmas Day so long ago … this is a gift beyond compare!  A gift not always looked for, or appreciated, but one that continually grows in the wash of time and experience.  A gift that rises from humble beginnings, and quaint observances to the heart of all our hope and consolation, all our peace and comfort in this life. A gift that has eternal meaning right from the Christmas manger all the way through to the Good Friday cross, the Easter Sunday tomb, and beyond into heaven itself.  The gift of God’s Son is for every day of our life, be it good, bad, joyous or grieving.  A wonderful gift for new days.  A breathtaking gift for our last days.

May you, dearest friends, have the gift of seeing this infant Jesus, this precious gift of God, through new eyes, as I have these past few days.  May you hear the familiar Christmas story again for the first time with brand new ears.  Whatever your circumstances, wherever your life may be at, may you be engaged by this most endearing present … not just on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but in every day of your life to come!


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Proclaiming the Good News … through Social Media

Some time ago I wrote a series of three articles on reaching out with the Gospel through social media.  These ran in the September, October, and November Issues of The Canadian Lutheran.  If anyone is interested you can check out each of the articles by following the links below.

Social networking is such a fluid thing, it is changing day-by-day, and while it can all be so confusing for someone as “old-school” as me (I prefer my games on a board not on the TV, and my phone on the wall in my home, not in my pocket), I am constantly dumbfounded by the possibilities!  I would love to hear what you think … were these articles useful, or did I miss the mark?  What would you add?  What possibilities most intrigue you?

Online For The Lord:

Proclaiming the Good News – in a word.

Proclaiming the Good News – just picture it.

Proclaiming the Good News – bringing it all together.

If you haven’t had the chance to read this great publication called The Canadian Lutheran you can find copies online HERE.

I would encourage you all to have a look … it really is worth your time!


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Mercy me!

US store owner who showed mercy on would-be robber gets thank you note, $50 in the mail

Published: Thursday, December 3, 2009 | 9:02 AM ET Canadian Press THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

SHIRLEY, N.Y. – A convenience store owner who showed mercy to a would-be robber says he’s received an apology note and $50 in the mail.

The unsigned note said it was from the man who tried to rob Mohammad Sohail, who has a store on Long Island, near New York City. The note said the would-be robber has a new job, a new child, and is staying out of trouble.

Sohail told the newspaper Newsday that he is saving the $50 for charity.

The bat-wielding man tearfully told Sohail in May that he was trying to feed his family. The rifle-toting businessman gave him $40 and bread, and made him promise never to rob again.

+ + +

What a touching and heart-warming story … just the kind of good-news tale that people hunger to hear this time of year. Can you imagine the made-for-TV movie? Can you picture the Hallmark cards? Can you you hear the chorus of voices calling out: “This is what the spirit of the season is all about!”

And in a way, I think they are right … but NOT in the way they were thinking. This all too common scene (acted out hundreds of times each day in our country) playing out with a new and novel ending is very much like what the True Spirit of Christmas is all about … but it has nothing to do with touching gestures, or heart-warming notes.

It has more to do with the raw surveillance video of bats and guns and shouting and cursing, swearing, crying and pleading. Watch the video of two very real people, pushed to the edge by fear and circumstances. Two people who’s lives are very nearly out of control. Two ordinary people engaged in some very real, very ugly, life and death moments. There’s your Christmas Card for you.

For that’s what the first Christmas was like … that’s what it is all about. A world where ordinary people like you and me are pushed to the edge by fears and foreclosures. People battered and bewildered by our circumstances. People whose lives have been ruined by sin, spinning out of control. People facing death each step through this life. Into this world of pain and suffering, sin and selfishness, God sent His only begotten Son. A helpless baby to help those who cannot help themselves.

And how can a baby do all this? By growing into the man, the king, who would be betrayed, who would face the cruelest weapons of this world – hatred, envy, indifference, pride, arrogance. Weapons every one of us still wields in a vain attempt to provide for ourselves. So this baby grown into a king would stand at the mercy of Religious and Secular rulers yet receive none. Who would receive the blows of the rod, the cuts of the whip, piercing of the nails, and the thrust of the spear. No reprieve was given Him, no mercy shown to Him. There’s your Christmas Card for you!

But that’s the way it had to be. That is the gift that must be given if there is to be mercy for you and me. Christ must be shown no mercy, so that I may be shown His. That’s what Christmas is all about … mercy for us bunch of sinful thugs, a precious gift freely given to one and to all, for not one of us deserves it. Nor is it a gift given on condition. No strings are attached to this parcel. Even if we do not always appreciate it or look to it, it remains. Let this touching gesture … that God gave us His one and only Son to suffer and die and rise again for you, be your heart-warming note this season!