devotion, Luke, Gospel of, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed theology, Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

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 Devotion for December 5, 201

Daily Reading: Matthew 21: 12-22

Text: The blind and the lame came to him, and he cured them. (v. 14)

Since the mid-1990s I read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at this time of year. And each year I see something new in the old tale. Today’s reading from Matthew’s gospel caused me to pause and consider one scene in particular.

It occurred during the visit of the Spectre or Ghost of Christmas Present. Scrooge watched as his underpaid clerk Bob Catchit came home to a place of the love that old Scrooge longed to have. Cratchit softly told his wife something Tiny Tim said on the way home from Christmas Day worship.

“Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself,” Cratchit whispered, “and he thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.” A glimpse of Grace.

Glimpses of grace are seen whenever the lame walk and the blind see. It is witnessed whenever lifeless tradition is swept out of the lives of the oppressed and the forgotten. It is heard whenever we listen to the voice of the quiet who often see this world more clearly than we do. Glimpses of Grace are reflected in the lives of those who take the Child named Jesus seriously.

Lord, let me see Your Presence in the presence of those who the rest of the world do es not see. Amen.

 

 

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Glimpses of Grace Devotion for November 28, 2017

Many serious followers of Jesus are entering a spiritual time called Advent. It is a season of serious soul-searching, spiritual reflection. But it is also a time of fun and celebration as we prepare for Christmas.

One of the traditions of my family is something called the “Advent Wreath.” My wife made one of cloth many years ago, and it has been used in our household for as long as I can remember. But this year we have a new Advent wreath to mark off the days before Christmas. It is a handmade wreath constructed by our oldest granddaughter. She is only 10 years old. She used her own money to buy buttons, yarn and an assortment of candy to use on the wreath. With an embroidery hoop and a piece of cloth she drew a Christmas tree, sewed on buttons, and tied candy to the wreath’s buttons with strands of yarn. I can only imagine the time that she spent on the project. When she gave it to us at Thanksgiving I saw not only a granddaughter’s work of art but the embodiment of pure Love.

I suspect that that is really what Advent is about; opening ourselves to receive a Holy Love; a Love so great that the Creator of All that Was and Is and Will be became one of us and with us, a visible manifestation of an invisible holy truth. The heart of this season is not condemnation but salvation. As John wrote in the gospel that bears his name, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him. (3:17)

Each morning I will be able to take a piece of candy from the wreath and be reminded of the sweetest love of all; a forgiving, redeeming, restoring holy love. And that is a glimpse of grace.

Lord God, in this time of Advent preparation let me be ever thankful for your love that will not let me go. Amen.

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for November 14,2017

” Whenever I come into this place I feel the Presence of God,” someone said to me a few years ago as she walked to a yoga class. Often she would quietly sit in the sanctuary after class.

We need a sense of Awe in our lives. Especially in times like now. We need a sense of the Holy to keep us grounded, to remind us that we are the creature not the Creator.

Sometimes this sense of the Holy, this sense of Awe comes at seemingly serendipitous times like the first time a new parent feels the breath of their child upon the cheek or when we see a loved one pass peacefully from this Existence into the next. One moment they are here and the next, they are somewhere where we have yet to go. Such moments are a glimpse of grace if only we had the eyes to see.

Lord, I am surrounded by Your grace. Awaken me to a sense of Wonder and Awe so that I can see the Holy in my midst. Amen.

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for November 12,2017

My 8 year old grandson recently asked if he could light one of our scented candles. As I went to get a lighter he stopped me. “I want to use a match.” “Have you ever used a match?” I asked. “No.” “Well you cannot light a candle or a match without some adult around.” “I know.” 

Remembering when I was 8 years old, I retrieved a book of matches. “You have to be careful because you can easily burn yourself. If you do, it’ll sting for a couple of days.” He nodded and tried to strike the match. On his fourth try and third match, success! As he brought the match to the candle wick he burnt his finger. He quickly blew out the match and set it down. A couple of seconds later I heard water running in a sink. I went to investigate what was happening and saw him holding his finger under the water. 

“Using cold water?” I asked. He nodded. “Let me see your finger.” No mark or redness but I could tell that he wanted to cry. “It’s okay to cry, you know. If something hurts you can cry.” And he did. 

In his first letter to the Thessalonians Paul wrote to a grieving community of faith, “We would not have you ignorant, brothers and sister, lest you should grieve for your loved ones who have died as those who have no hope…” Paul did not tell the community not to grieve. If something hurts, it’s okay to cry. But our tears are not those of hopelessness for Death cannot have the last word for we who take Jesus seriously. We are an Easter people! 

“Tears may tarry for the night,” the Psalmist wrote, “but joy comes in the morning.” In your night of tears may you look forward to the morning and see a glimpse of grace. 

Lord God, sometime life simply hurts. Bless my tears and the tears of those who weep, no matter what the cause. Give us a vision that sees beyond this world of sight and sound so that we can catch glimpses of the eternal. Amen. 

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for November 12,2017

My 8 year old grandson recently asked if he could light one of our scented candles. As I went to get a lighter he stopped me. “I want to use a match.” “Have you ever used a match?” I asked. “No.” “Well you cannot light a candle or a match without some adult around.” “I know.” 

Remembering when I was 8 years old, I retrieved a book of matches. “You have to be careful because you can easily burn yourself. If you do, it’ll sting for a couple of days.” He nodded and tried to strike the match. On his fourth try and third match, success! As he brought the match to the candle wick he burnt his finger. He quickly blew out the match and set it down. A couple of seconds later I heard water running in a sink. I went to investigate what was happening and saw him holding his finger under the water. 

“Using cold water?” I asked. He nodded. “Let me see your finger.” No mark or redness but I could tell that he wanted to cry. “It’s okay to cry, you know. If something hurts you can cry.” And he did. 

In his first letter to the Thessalonians Paul wrote to a grieving community of faith, “We would not have you ignorant, brothers and sister, lest you should grieve for your loved ones who have died as those who have no hope…” Paul did not tell the community not to grieve. If something hurts, it’s okay to cry. But our tears are not those of hopelessness for Death cannot have the last word for we who take Jesus seriously. We are an Easter people! 

“Tears may tarry for the night,” the Psalmist wrote, “but joy comes in the morning.” In your night of tears may you look forward to the morning and see a glimpse of grace. 

Lord God, sometime life simply hurts. Bless my tears and the tears of those who weep, no matter what the cause. Give us a vision that sees beyond this world of sight and sound so that we can catch glimpses of the eternal. Amen. 

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for November 11, 2017

The Church is like a lighthouse shining in the dark. 


257 steps from ground to balcony. This is equivalent to climbing a 12 story building. The guidebooks say that it is a strenuous climb. 

I’m talking about the Cape Hatteras lighthouse on the outer banks of North Carolina. A few years ago I climbed to the balcony of the lighthouse. The view was amazing. There is a picture of the lighthouse, painted by an aunt, hanging above the desk in my office. I have it there to remind me what it means to be a group of people who decide to take Jesus seriously, to encourage each other to live Another way, the Jesus Way. 

Lighthouses warn ships of danger in the night. Jesus called those who would walk in His Way–the way of Truth and Life–to be a light to the world warning people of the dangers inherent in the world’s values. He never called His followers to be comfortable in their homes, church buildings or country clubs.  

Jesus continuously challenges us to go where He went and to touch those whom He touched. We “give themselves away” and in order to find “our very selves”. 

Only the Church is called the Body of Christ here on earth. When we live into our call we become tiny glimpses of Grace. 

Lord, make me Your instrument. Send me where You will to do what You would have me do. May I find my true self in serving You. Amen. 

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