Forgiveness Button

Forgiveness Button

Friend of Dial Hope, I have a small calculator on my desk which I figure my finances and store personal data for ready reference. It’s amazing how much information can be typed into the memory factors of this mechanical brain. On the left side of the keyboard is a powerful button. It is called the clear button. When I make a mistake, a touch on the clear button eliminates it immediately. Each time I use this calculator I am reminded of how much it’s like the brain. It has the capacity to store good and bad memories. How often I wish I had a clear button to press to immediately correct my mistakes, or that I had the capacity to bring up old memories that disturb me and have them taken away, never to be thought about again. Then, as I contemplate how wonderful that would be, I am reminded how the Lord has built into us a “clear” button. It’s called forgiveness. When we accept his forgiveness, we can forgive ourselves, and then out of the assurance of that grace, forgive others. Today, friend of Dial Hope, press the forgiveness button – now!

Let us pray: Into the clutter of our everyday lives, O Lord, you come with your heavenly order: into the weakness you come with your strength; into the sin you come with your holiness. Give us the grace to receive you now, to open the doors of our beings and invite you in, not just over the threshold but into the innermost parts, the upper rooms and lower rooms, the nooks and crannies and closets. Dwell in us, O Lord, that we may glow this day with your light and pulsate with your presence. Help us to make this day a masterpiece as we rejoice in hope. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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We Are in Charge of Our Attitudes

We Are in Charge of Our Attitudes

My friend Milton Fulton was the business administrator for a church I served in Jacksonville, Florida. His salary was a whopping one dollar a year! After a very successful career in the business world, he decided to use his retirement to serve the Lord by serving his church. So, our family of faith benefited tremendously from his gifts and love of the Lord.

In Milton’s office on the bulletin board there was a single sheet of paper with the following paragraph centered on it:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearances, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so, it is with you…

Let us pray: Gracious God, we thank you for people like Milton Fulton who give so generously of themselves. We thank you for their examples of service and positive attitude. Remind us each day of your grace, fill us with your spirit, and empower us to choose to live fully – even in the face of great struggles. We know that with you we can face this world and its challenges with joy and hope. Use us again as instruments of your love, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Gratitude Contentment Connection

The Gratitude Contentment Connection

I want you to close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths. Now, I want you to remember the most beautiful thing you saw last week? Now, I want you to imagine the most important person – or people in your life. Take just a minute and say thank you to God.

Consider for just a minute what gratitude does to the heart.

In the letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul wrote, “Do not worry about anything, but everything by prayer and supplication -with thanksgiving – make your requests known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Paul seems to be making a connection between prayer that includes thanksgiving – and God’s peace. He’s making a connection between gratitude and contentment.

What if we made a habit of listing 5 things we are thankful for every morning? Can you imagine a better way to start the day?

Let us pray: God of Grace, thank you so much for children, laughter, smiles, hugs, for Flowers and butterflies, for family and friends, for life and health, for Sunny days, and for rain. Thank you for our families of faith, for grandmas and grandchildren, for Love, for goldfish, and for the ability to think and imagine.

And God we could go on and on. Help us never take these gifts for granted. You have given us so much. We receive and we receive and we receive. Help us to appreciate, but not to stop there. Help us to allow our gratitude to be reflected in the way we live. As we have received, may we in turn give; for we pray in the name of the One who gave even his very life. Amen.

I Too May Rise Again

I Too May Rise Again

Spiritual giant, Martin Luther, once wrote about the heart wrenching disagreement Paul and Barnabas had in the book of Acts. He wrote:

“Such examples are written for our consolation: for it is a great comfort to us to hear that great saints, who have the Spirit of God, also struggle. Those who say that saints do not sin would deprive us of this comfort.

“Samson, David, and many other celebrated men full of the Holy Spirit fell into grievous sins. Job and Jeremiah cursed the day of their birth; Elijah and Jonah were weary of life and desired death.

“No one has ever fallen so grievously that he may not rise again. Conversely, no one stands so firmly that he may not fall. If Peter (and Paul and Barnabas) fell, I too may fall. If they rose again, I too may rise again.”

And that is our hope. There is more grace in God than there is sin in us. Redemption is possible. Even now.

Let us pray: Loving God, you know how we struggle. You know how we have fallen, how we come up short. Yet you love us still. We thank you for your unending love and amazing grace. Be at work in us again this day. Heal our wounds, our addictions, our destructive ways, and raise us again to new life. For we pray in the name of the One who rose for us. Amen.

The Work of Christmas

The Work of Christmas

Author, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader, Howard Thurman once wrote:

“When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.”

That is beautiful, isn’t it? And, so true. May you and I continue the work of Christmas!

Our prayer today is one that Thurman wrote. Let us pray:
Lord, open unto me
Open unto me – light for my darkness.
Open unto me – courage for my fear.
Open unto me – hope for my despair.
Open unto me – peace for my turmoil.
Open unto me – joy for my sorrow.
Open unto me – strength for my weakness.
Open unto me – wisdom for my confusion
Open unto me – forgiveness for my sins.
Open unto me – love for my hates.
Open unto me – thy Self for myself.
Lord, Lord, open unto me!

Continue to Make Room!

Continue to Make Room!

Most likely by now, the presents are opened, the big dinner is finished. Maybe there are guests still with you; but chances are, the main celebration has come and gone. I truly hope you had a wonderful Christmas Day!

There is a story about a teacher who asked her Sunday School class, “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the church, would I get into Heaven?” “NO!” the children all answered.

“If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would I get into Heaven”? “No!” the children all answered. “If I read my Bible every day and prayed 3 times a day, then would I get into heaven? “Again, the answer was “NO!” “Well,” I continued, “then how can I get to Heaven?” In the back of the room, a 5-year-old boy shouted out, “To get into heaven, silly, first you gotta be dead!”

The children were right in a sense. It is not giving away our money to the poor, or working at the church, or reading the Bible that get us into heaven. The gift of salvation is free. But in another sense the children are wrong. Because of Christmas, the kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Because of Christmas, the kingdom of God is among you.

When we follow the One who was born in a manger, we are given hope, new life, and even a taste of heaven right here, right now. For those of us who follow Jesus, Christmas stretches throughout the whole year. It does not begin and end in one day.

My Christmas prayer for you is that you would continue to make room in your heart for Christ, the One who was born, who gave, who died and was raised so that we might live!

Let us pray: O Come, O Come Emmanuel, come now and teach us the way to salvation. Come with outstretched arms, fill us and renew us and bring us hope. You who are the Light of the nations, bring light to our eyes that we would recognize your kingdom among us. And, as our eyes are opened, give us also the strength to serve you and this world you so love; through Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Story of the Prince

The Story of the Prince

Merry Christmas!

The great Danish theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, once told a parable about a prince who wanted to find a maiden suitable to be his queen. One day while running an errand in the local village for his father, he passed through a poor section. As he glanced out the windows of the carriage, his eyes fell upon a beautiful peasant maiden. During the days that followed, he often passed by the young lady and soon fell in love. But he had a problem. How would he seek her hand?

He could order her to marry him. But even a prince wants his bride to marry him freely and voluntarily and not through coercion. He could put on his most splendid uniform and drive up to her front door in a carriage drawn by six horses. But if he did this, he would never be certain that the maiden loved him or was simply overwhelmed with all of the splendor. The prince came up with another solution. He would give up his kingly robe. He moved into the village, entering not with a crown but in the garb of a peasant. He lived among the people, shared their interests and concerns, and talked their language. In time, the maiden grew to love him for who he was, and because he had first loved her.

This very simple, almost childlike story, written by one of the most brilliant minds of our time, explains what we Christians mean by the incarnation.

In the coming of Jesus, we get a powerful glimpse of God’s deep and abiding love for us. And, we begin to understand what God is like: unconditional love, forgiveness and hope.

“Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Let us pray: Holy God, on this beautiful Christmas day, we remember that you loved the world so much that you gave your only Son for us. In that we rejoice! May this love we have received, calm our anxiety over the future, worry over the past, and any distress we feel in the moment. Renew our lives by your presence that we would carry your Christmas love into the world – and serve as instruments of your hope and peace. We pray today in the name of the Prince of Peace; Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Joy of Christmas

The Joy of Christmas

The owner of a big, shaggy dog called the local veterinarian on Christmas morning. “It’s my dog, Molly,” he said. “There is a large swelling at the corner of her mouth.” “But it’s Christmas morning,” the veterinarian replied. “Can’t it wait until tomorrow?” “Please,” said the dog owner anxiously. Please let me bring her now.” “All right,” said the vet. “Bring her right now.” When the dog arrived, the vet made a brief examination, then said to the man, “Do you have any children?” “Good heavens,” the man replied, “is it contagious?” “No,” said the vet laughing. “It’s bubble gum.”

Friend of Dial Hope the joy of Christmas is contagious, but not primarily because of our gifts of dolls, electronic games, bikes, scooters, pretty dresses, ties, candy, cookies, and bubble gum. The joy of Christmas is contagious because of the spirit, the Christ spirit behind the gifts. The glory of Christmas is that God became one of us to tell us that He loves us … yes loves us unconditionally. And those who believe this make this spirit of giving contagious.

Let us pray: God of love, we thank you that you cared enough to send us your very best, your son Jesus Christ. We give you humble thanks for the difference he makes in our lives. Help us now to make a difference in the lives of others and to make this day a masterpiece. Spread your mantel of grace and love over the men and women serving our country in faraway places. Be with the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. We pray for peace … that peace will come and there will be war no more. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Longing for Fulfillment…

Longing for Fulfillment…

Wendy Wright once wrote about her experiences visiting a homeless shelter at Christmas time with her church. In fact, every year they would go to sing Christmas carols. But, “In that setting,” she noted, “songs of snowmen and Christmas wish lists and hearty good cheer ring hollow.”

One year, she met a middle-aged man who wore an old dirty jacket, His “perceptions of things, due either to ill health or some chemical substance, seemed doubtful.” He asked if she would sing his favorite Christmas song-“O Holy Night,” with him. Wendy agreed and began singing. She wrote, “The crowded room gradually grew silent as he and I raised up our voices together.” The man leaned on the edge of a tattered sofa about three feet from her, singing with his eyes closed. As he sang, Wendy noticed a change come over him, “the tired creases of his street-weary face softened as he intoned,” she recalled.

As he continued to sing… his face shone and tears fell gently from his lowered eyes. “I knew, at that moment,” Wendy admitted, “that his longing and mine were one, and that the burning for the fulfillment of the promise that I felt was not only mine, it is etched on the human heart.”

This time of year, we do indeed long with all humanity for God to bring to completion what he began on that first Christmas morning.

Our prayer today, comes from the hymn, O Holy Night. Let us pray:

Oh holy night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

May it be so, O God. May it be so. Amen.

Jesus Loves You No Matter What!

Jesus Loves You No Matter What!

There is a funny Calvin and Hobbes comic strip where Calvin asked Hobbes,” Do you think there’s an evil Santa?” Hobbes responds, “An evil Santa?” “Yeah, like Santa’s deranged twin brother, or something! He’d make toys for all the bad boys and girls. Evil Santa would give all the dangerous, annoying and corrupting toys your parents won’t allow!” Hobbes asks, “And if you’re good?” “Then,” Calvin responds, “he punishes you with shirts and underwear.”

A church I served once ran an ad in the local newspaper the week before Christmas that featured a large picture of Santa Claus. The caption read, “Santa is watching to see whether you’ve been naughty or nice. Jesus on the other hand loves you no matter what.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love Santa Claus. He is an important part of Christmas in the Albright house. It’s just important to remember that Santa is here – only because of Jesus. It is God’s unconditional love and grace in Christ that makes the season what it is!

Let us pray: Loving and gracious God, I especially pray today for folks who are struggling during this holiday season. And I lift up to you those who have recently lost loved ones, and others, O God, who feel blue or depressed. Meet them wherever they happen to be this day. We thank you that you love us no matter what. May that unconditional love wash over us and renew us. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.