The Ripple Effect

The Ripple Effect

A small dog had been struck by a car and was laying wounded by the side of the road. A doctor driving by noticed that the dog was still alive, stopped his car, picked up the dog and took him home. There he discovered that the dog had been stunned, had suffered minor cuts and abrasions, but was otherwise alright. He revived the dog, cleaned up the wounds and was carrying the animal from the house to the garage when it suddenly jumped from his arms and scampered off. “What an ungrateful little dog,” the doctor thought to himself. He thought no more about the incident until the next evening when he heard a scratching at his door. When he opened it, there was the little dog he treated, with another hurt dog.

That is the story of the “ripple effect.” Throw a stone into a lake and the water ripples out, and the circle widens. One of the great characteristics of the first Christians was their ripple effect. Something had happened to them that so filled them with joy they just could not contain it. It was contagious. It spread out among the people in a ripple effect. And the circle of love grew wider and wider.

Let us pray: Lord, help us to spread your love by being the gospel, the good news to others. Give healing to those who are ill or anxious today and remind us of the power of your spirit to transform every earthly situation. Give strength to the weak and hope to the depressed. Keep in safety all who travel. Watch over the poor and the homeless. Now let the ripple effect of your love and joy help us to make this day a masterpiece. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

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Birth Places of Hope

Birth Places of Hope

There’s a wonderful story about a little boy who couldn’t wait for his new baby sister to come home from the hospital. He couldn’t wait to be near her and to talk to her. But his parents didn’t want him to be left alone with her; he was only four, so they would supervise his visits. He kept begging to be alone with her so one night his parents finally agreed.

The boy tiptoed into her room and next to his sister’s crib and said: “Tell me about God – I’m starting to forget.”

As adults it is especially easy to forget. Which is exactly why we need to be able to tell our own stories about God. We need to tell each other about answered prayers and about God’s presence through tough times. We need to recount the ways in which God has rescued us and carried us and loved us – so that when tough times come, we remember… We must remember because these stories and memories that we all carry with us are the birth places of hope.

Let us pray: God of Grace, you have walked with us even through the valley of the shadow of death. You have loved us in spite of our short-comings. And your grace has met us and sustained us at our deepest point of need. May we never forget; and may we never fail to share a word of hope with those in need. Amen.

GOD’S PLUS SIGN

GOD’S PLUS SIGN

Some pastors wear a pectoral cross while leading worship. It was something I did regularly during much of my active ministry. I had several such crosses. Among them was one that was far from fancy. Actually, it was quite simple. That cross was not professionally made, but had been fashioned from a piece of thin, unfinished balsa wood. A ballpoint pen had been used to inscribe two words on that homemade cross, two words that were relatively few in their number of letters, but huge in meaning. On the horizontal arm of the cross was written the word GOD, while on the vertical arm appeared the word LOVES. GOD LOVES. The two words cleverly shared the letter O.

The cross was obviously the handiwork of a creative child, a child who just happened to be our younger son. That cherished cross was a Father’s Day gift to me many years ago. What a treasure it remains to this day. I still wear it on occasion, even though the green twine that suspends it from my neck is becoming more and more frayed.

That cross is precious for two reasons: its message and its source. Love is what makes it so special: a Father’s love for his creation and a son’s love for his Dad. If only the message of that crudely made cross could be the norm and guiding light for each of us. To know the power of the cross, the depth of God’s unconditional love in Christ, is what can root our lives in a way nothing else can. To share that love with family, friends and those in need is what can fill us with a wonderful joy and peace. Because GOD LOVES, we love too.

If perchance, you are feeling unloved, unlovable or unloving for whatever reason just now, I’d urge you to remember the timeless message of that simple balsa wood cross–
GOD LOVES.

LET US PRAY: Eternal God, we pray that your love in Christ would stand front and center in our lives. And, knowing that love, we ask that you would use us to make it come alive for others. Fill us each day with your grace and focus our sights always on the cross, your plus sign for our lives. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

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A PRECIOUS GIFT

A PRECIOUS GIFT

Well, the unbelievable happened just a few months ago, our first-born grandson headed off to his freshman year of college. How can that be? It seems like just yesterday that my wife and I were taking his Dad to college. And my first year of higher education, while now certainly rather distant in the rear-view mirror, remains a most vivid memory.

Mile-marker moments like these and many others remind us that the clock continues to tick in a never-ending way, whether we choose to acknowledge that reality or ignore it. Time is, indeed, ” an ever-rolling stream”. Todays quickly become yesterdays and, before you know it, next year somehow becomes last year.

The Psalmist helps us focus on the importance of each and every new twenty-four hours with his penetrating and provocative words,

” This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

To be sure, each new day is a gift from above, a gift to be unwrapped, opened and certainly used as fully and faithfully as possible.

Friends of Dial Hope, embrace today, appreciate today, enjoy today, make the most of today.

And, do the same with tomorrow and each tomorrow thereafter God graciously grants us.

Let us pray: Gracious God, may we never take your gift of time for granted. Each new day is precious. May we live this day and every day in ways that declare our gratitude and make your love real to others. Amen.

“HANG IN THERE “

“HANG IN THERE “

It appeared during my daily, early morning walk. Initially unaware of its brilliant presence, a fellow early riser called it to my attention. A quick upward gaze brought the truly magnificent sight into view — a rainbow, a full rainbow as stunning as any I could remember ever seeing before. Perched ever so delicately, but boldly, on the distant horizon, what a refreshing, uplifting greeting that colorful arch offered to a new day.

Rainbows never fail to fill me with a sense of wonder and awe. Rainbows have a magical way of capturing the eye, exciting the mind and warming the heart. But, rainbows do more than temporarily treat us to a beautiful sight, they remind us of God’s biblical promise that he is always with us and will always provide. Rainbows are God’s way of saying, ” Hang in there!”

So, my friends, when the inevitable storms of life threaten to drench us, when family members disappoint us, friends frustrate us, employers confound us, health concerns restrict us and death claims one precious to us, remember the rainbow, God’s reassuring sign that he is ever present and offers us a hope that never wanes.

Let us pray: Loving God, sometimes we feel like just giving up, all but overwhelmed by circumstances that seem to be more than we can handle. When moments like that come, Lord, speak to us in ways that remind us we are yours and that you will see us through even in the darkest hours. Grateful for the renewing love you stand ready always to share, we pray these things in the name of the Good Shepherd, your son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Taking Inventory

Taking Inventory

Teacher and author, Dr. David McLennon, once wrote about his very first job in a small town general store. At age thirteen he was hired as a handy boy. He would sweep the flour, bag items for customers, put up stock. One Saturday, he heard the owner say to one of the clerks “It’s that time of the year again, it’s time to take inventory.” Now that was not a word that entered into his vocabulary yet. So, he went up to the kindly older man and asked, “Sir, what is an inventory?” Patiently the owner explained that it was a time when you made a list of everything that you had–from groceries on the shelves to wrapping paper and string. Still somewhat confused, McLennon asked the owner why? “Well,” he responded, “it is easy to forget exactly how much you have each year. Every now and then you have to take an inventory just to see what all you have.”

This little story raises the question for us: Have I taken inventory of my life lately? Have I made an effort to count all those positive things I have in my life?

So often we are apt to complain about the challenges we face or about what we are lacking. What if instead, from time to time, we sat down to list the gifts, blessings and opportunities God has given us. It seems to me that this would be a great exercise especially when we are in a mood to whine or wallow in self-pity.

It is easy to forget just how much we have. Every now and then, let’s take inventory.

Let us pray: You are good, O God, and you have been good to us. As we make our lists, may your peace rest on us. And may we remember again that we are blessed to be a blessing. Amen.

Just Stay in the Race

Just Stay in the Race

There is a story told by Mary Hollingsworth about the acclaimed director, Cecil B. DeMille. When they began working on the movie Ben-Hur, DeMille talked to Charlton Heston, the star of the movie, about the all-important chariot race at the end. He decided Heston should actually learn to drive the chariot himself, rather than just using a stunt double. Heston agreed to take chariot-driving lessons to make the movie as authentic as possible.

This was no small feat! Learning to drive a chariot with horses four abreast, was an enormous challenge. After extensive work and days of practice, Heston returned to the movie set and reported to DeMille. He said, “I think I can drive the chariot all right, Cecil, but I’m not at all sure I can actually win the race.”

With a slight smile on his face, DeMille said, “Heston, you just stay in the race, and I’ll make sure you win.”

That is God’s promise to us as well: “You just stay in the race, and I’ll make sure you win.”

The Apostle Paul wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

Let us pray. God of hope, we remember the encouragement we receive from the book of Hebrews – that we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. Therefore, we will run with perseverance the race that is set before us. We trust that you are with us every step of the way – even unto eternity. Grant us strength and courage, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Bug Disease

The Bug Disease

I want to begin this meditation with a passage from the New Testament, 1 Peter 1 :22: “Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.”

The late musician Duke Ellington said his doctor once told him that the bug disease kills more people than any other disease in the world. It is very important, therefore, not to let anything bug you! The Duke’s doctor wasn’t talking about germs. He was alluding to the tensions of living and our relationships with others.

One of the most destructive stresses of life is hatred. If you let yourself hate the chances are that the one you hate won’t get sick – you will! Loving your neighbor instead of letting him bug you is the very best way to avoid such tension and illness.

Doctors find that Jesus’ admonition to love one another is good sound medical advice. Freedom from the bug disease brings not only a healthy body but also peace of mind, a happy life, and continuous hope.

Memorize this beautiful passage from the Old Testament book of Proverbs: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)

Let us pray: Loving God, we acknowledge that life is a mixture of light and dark, ease and difficulty, joy and distress. Today we pray especially for those who now experience the darker side; those who grieve, those who struggle with personal problems, those who feel neglected, those whose lives are touched by illness or despair, those who are tired and scared.

Let the hope that comes from Jesus Christ infuse them with healing, love, strength, and courage. Save us all from the bug disease of hatred, bitterness, and cynicism. Now let the word of joy and hope that is in the gospel ring in our ears with new truth and fervor this day. Through Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Happy Veteran’s Day!

Happy Veteran’s Day!

I love the story of a young man who was away at college and wanted a little extra money for the weekend. He knew his father had just learned how to send text messages on his cell phone, so he thought he’d send his father a message. The text read, “Dad. No mon. No fun. Your son.” The father texted back, “Too bad. So sad. Your dad.”

That’s a funny story. As a father, I can completely relate. But it is a good thing we don’t all respond like the father, all the time, especially when we see a need. We all have to make decisions about how we use our time, our energy, and our money. But when we are able to be generous, beautiful things happen.

Let us pray: God of Grace, you give to us beyond measure, and we don’t have to look far to notice the many blessings in our lives.

On this Veteran’s Day, we thank you for the women and men who when called to serve, did not respond like the Father in the story – but who responded instead with self-giving sacrifice. Today we entrust each and every veteran – along with those who currently serve – to your gracious care. Help us as a nation to take care of them and to serve them as they have served us. May they know our gratitude and your peace. We remember that you have blessed all of us to be a blessing to others. Give us eyes to see the need around us and hearts to respond. Amen.

Be the First

Be the First

There is a story about two brothers who went to see their minister to help settle a long-standing feud. The Minister got the two to reconcile their differences and shake hands. As they were about to leave, he asked each one to make a wish for the other. The first brother turned to the other and said, “I wish you what you wish me.” At that, the second brother threw up his hands and said, “See, Pastor, he’s starting up again!”

Sometimes it is like that, isn’t it? We assume that others don’t like us – or that they are out to get us. Sometimes a relationship has been so stressed that it is hard for us to imagine a better way. What if the second brother had been able to say, “Well, I wish you a beautiful life?” How might that have changed the dynamics and helped to heal the relationship?

In your own life, I pray that you would remember the power of forgiveness. May you be the first to reach out and try to reconcile any hurting relationships. Even when reconciliation is not possible, may you be the first to wish the other person a beautiful life.

Let us pray: Sometimes O God, we harbor a lot of resentment. We carry around the baggage of old hurts and wounds, and it gets heavy. Help us to walk away when we need to, but always to forgive and to let go. When possible, give us your courage and strength that we would be the first to reconcile. In doing so, may we experience the fullness of your grace. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.