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Glimpses of Grace—You Can’t Take It with You

Years ago my wife and I were invited to a “Monopoly” party. When I was a kid, I loved the game. I loved playing with the money. It made me feel rich! Besides, where else can you get $1500 for doing absolutely nothing?! I loved buying and selling. It’s fun to have hotels on Broadway and have someone land on it toward the end of the game. You can be a “robber baron” buying railroads and utilities. But up until that invitation to a Monopoly party, I had never played the game to the bitter end.

    Our host was a self-proclaimed “World Monopoly Champion”. His wife dutifully endured his annual Monopoly parties for a number of years. He decorated extravagantly. Little colored Monopoly lights with each individual bulb in the shape of a little dog, or shoe or race car were strung across the room. There were Monopoly paper plates and napkins. I was impressed.

That evening I played Monopoly like I play Bridge. I don’t really take Bridge seriously. I never really understood adding up the number of “points” in my hand.  I don’t like the pressure of playing a hand while my partner watches, no judges me. I don’t know what makes up a “rubber”. If I’m on the winning team, fine. If not,  fine, too. I play for the social aspects.

As this game of Monopoly progressed one player after another dropped out, having run out of money. By the time there were only two of us–the host and myself–I was bored, ready to be done, and do more serious socializing.  I asked the host if he just wanted to call it quits. 

“Do you concede?!” he said a little too excitedly. Now he awakened the dorment primal beast within me.

“No”, I replied. We played on…and on and on for this was a battle to the Monopoly death, mano y mano. A half an hour or an hour later Eventually he was mortgaged to the hilt and out of money. I won. I strutted into the kitchen like a banty rooster and crowed, “Guess who won?” Meeeee! Bam!” 

His wife was surprised, as was everyone else who knew my competitor well. He had never lost at Monopoly. And here’s the ultimate kicker, we moved out of the community before the next annual Monopoly Championship of the World event was held.  Like Rocky Marcinio, I retired as the undefeated Monopoly champion of the world! 

I’ve pondered over the years about sending him a belt buckle with Monopoly pieces glued into it.

In the book, When the Game Is Over: It All Goes Back in the Box minister and author John Ortberg wrote about the life lessons that he learned playing Monopoly with his grandmother. The most important lesson was this: Remember, when the game is over, everything goes back into the box.

I do not know if God has a Plan for our lives or not. But I do believe that God has a Purpose for each of us. The Westminster Divines said it best: our Purpose is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Life is like a game of Monopoly. The question each one of us must ask is this: “How am I going to play the game? I decided to play the game to the glory of God. How about you?

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Advent Devotion for December 22, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Luke 1: 57-66

Text: They said to her, “But none of your relatives has this name.” (v.61)

A colleague once told me that when Tradition conflicts with Truth, it needs to be dismantled. Traditions for traditions’ sake is hallow.

I thought of my friend’s wise words when I read that  Elizabeth and Zechariah named their son “John”. They were breaking with Tradition in order to live toward Truth.

Just because something hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be done. The birth of John was the beginning of something new. And when John’s kinsman, Jesus, was born a few months later, God did something totally new, something that theologians call the incarnation. God became one of us as well as with us in an entirely new way.

As Advent rapidly draws to a close, take time to reflect upon the Traditions in your life that conflict with Truth. What are you going to do about it?

O Lord, do not let me allow Tradition to make me small. Let me honor the Past while living the in Present and moving toward the Future. May in my Past, Present, and Future may You be glorified. Amen. 

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Advent Devotion for December 21, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Luke 1: 39-56

Text; My soul magnifies the Lord… (v. 46b)

“The Magnificat”is Mary’s response to her kinswoman Elizabeth’s “blessing”.  When Bach set them to music the piece was so beautiful that listeners seldom listen carefully to the words or their. Why does Mary’s soul magnify the Lord? The answer may surprise you.

He scattered the proud in the thoughts of their (own) hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he had filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” (vss. 51-53)

God has always had a bias for those who have nowhere else to turn. From the blood of Abel crying from the earth for justice through the prophets of the Old Testament who called for Justice to roll down down water and Righteousness like an everflowing stream to Mary’s song, to Jesus’ parable of the Sheep and the Goats, God reveals a bias for the Least, the Last and the Lost.

I believe that one of the spiritual disciplines of Advent is for us to learn how to be Generous. To paraphrase minister and author John Ortberg, when the game of life is over, all of the pieces go back into the box.

Lord God, in the closing days of Advent, plant within my heart the seed of Generosity so that I may sing with Mary, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” Amen.

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Advent Devotion for December 20, 2017

Devotional Reading from The Daily Common Lectionary: Luke 1: 26-38

Text: then Mary said (to the angel), “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” And then the angel left. (v. 38)

Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word. Such faith. Such submission. Such servanthood. This is the heart of what it means to take Jesus seriously.

When we say that “Jesus is Lord”, do we mean it? Is He our “all in all” or is that just a lyric in a song’s refrain? Are some places in our lives off limits to God? How about some of decisions?

Advent calls us to take a spiritual inventory. It is an invitation to recommit ourselves and to rededicate our lives to the One in Whose Image we have been created. It is to walk a new path or return to an old one; a path that is the Way to Truth and Life, real Life. It is to be a living glimpse of grace.

Lord God, let Mary’s response to the angel he my response to You. Use me as You will so that in the end You May be glorified. Amen.

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Glimpses are f Grace Dailey Advent Devotion, December 10, 2017

Luke 1:57-68

Text: Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth… (v. 57a)

Now the time came... What time? On the surface, the birth of John the Baptist, the heralder of Jesus. At another level this is the time that most people think of Christmas; only 14 more shopping days. Still, at another level, the time of our own end is drawing near. This is an inescapable fact. At a still deeper level, the time of the real Advent is nearer today than it was yesterday.

Too often we say to ourselves that “we still have time”. But we have less time than we know. We have less time than yesterday. So, Now is the time to make “those” changes that we’ve putting off for too long. Now is the time to seek reconciliation, to let go of past controlling hurts through forgiveness, to become a willing worker in the building of God’s Kingdom.

But it also reminds us that now is the hour of our repentance as we prepare for God’s Tomorrow.

Lord, teach me to number my days that I may obtain a heart of wisdom. Amen.

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for October 22, 2017

The winds in Glasgow, Scotland today have been particularly blustery, whipping flags and pushing pedestrians. While coming back from worship, suddenly a strong gust shot up the street stripping the hood of my jacket from my head and then just as abruptly turning around and tossing the hood back where it was! 

In the afternoon, as I read a book I looked out a picture window standing before me. I watched the ever-changing blue-gray clouds of October dance across the sky.  

Jesus once said  that the Holy Spirit is a lot like the wind. We can hear the sound of and even feel it. One moment it can buffer our progress, and the next moment it can push us forward as if to say, “Hurry! Onward!” 

I think that deep down many of us don’t trust the Holy Spirit. We are afraid of it. We are afraid of it because it is so wild, untamable, and free. Yet, it calls to us throughout all of the seasons of life; in the cool winds of spring, the warm lazy winds of summer, the changing winds of fall and the frigid winds of winter. 

If we can but go with this wind in all of our seasons, we can become a glimpse of grace.

Lord God, give me the courage to go where the wind of Your Spirit will lead me. Let me be not afraid. Amen.

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for October 21, 2017

As I walked through a late 17th-early 18th century cemetery in Scotland I was struck by the beauty of the walled family plots. This one is that of a Maclaren, who completed this life’s journey in 1817.  To the left of the entrance there is a notation that his four year old son, Peter, is buried beside him. A terrible loss for any parent. 

I stepped into the sacred space and discovered to the left “the home” of a person who has not “home.l As I stared at my discovery  I was reminded of the Gadarene demoniac, shunned and feared by his community and forced to live  among the tombs. In the story Jesus healed the man, “clothed him in his right mind” is the phrase that is used. 

I do not pretend to know why someone took up residence among the tombs. It could be because of a number of reasons; illness, bad luck, choice or because he had nowhere else to go. I do know, though, that someone once said that the greatness of a people is seen in how they treat those who at the dawn of life, their children; those in the twilight of life, their elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, their sick, their needy, their disadvantaged, and their disabled. 

Jesus “healed” the demoniac. He restored the man to the community that ostracized him. He gave him a “new” life. Can those of us who take Jesus seriously do any less? Isn’t that what we are called to do? After all, aren’t we supposed to be “the Body of Christ”’on earth? Isn’t that what it means to be a glimpse of grace?

Lord, let me not settle for easy answers or simply look away from the pain of the world. You gave me a mind to use and resources to be a steward over; show me how to do both, to Your glory. Amen. 

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