Matt. 5:15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
Can you believe this winter? After snow shoveling what seemed like daily the previous two winters, I haven't had to shovel one time. I sort of miss it. Well, maybe not. Any way, as I was thinking about that, I realized that spring is not too far away. In fact, as I write this, it's only 43 days until spring is here.
Many studies have shown that people are more depressed or can become depressed during winter. The days are short, heck, there are many winter days when I get home from work, put my pj's on immediately and then realize it's not even 5:00 yet, the nights seem darker and it seems like we will never see the sun again, not to mention the cold. However, when we get a whiff of spring, maybe through one of those flukish 60 degree days in February, or for whatever reason, we start to come out of our winter doldrums. The days get longer, the temps go up and everything starts to blossom. Can't you smell it? Can't you feel it? SPRING!!! We look forward to spring for so many reasons. Warmer temperatures, summer vacation, the end of the school year gets closer, we spend more time outside, the boats are in the water (can't wait!!!) and as I said before, the days are longer, we have more light.
As I was writing that last paragraph, I started thinking to myself, that sounds a lot like my journey in life and even more so in faith. Various times of darkness and cold, sometimes feeling like that bad situation would never end, ending up in a dark place, a dark corner, feeling alone. Dark, cold, gray and all alone. Just like winter, that can easily put us in a depressing state of mind. Now that I've made us all feel a little lousier, what if I told you that you could have spring 365 days a year. That there was so much light, you wouldn't know what to do with it. That you never had to feel alone again. That those dark, cold and gray times could be over shadowed with the abundant colors of spring. If that was true, I believe most of you would sign up for that, right? Well guess what, it is true. That light is Jesus and He is the light of the world.
What do we often have a tendency to do when things aren't going our way? When life just isn't working out the way we thought. When we're just not feeling very good about much of anything. Many times we withdraw. We go farther into darkness by feeling sorry for ourselves. We try to dig out of the hole by ourselves, by pushing away those offering to help and amazingly, we push away Jesus. We put the brightest light the world has ever and will ever see under a basket, or in a corner or just shut it off completely. The one source of light that could take away all the darkness, we ignore. When we need Him the most, we don't look to Him, we look away.
Folks, these are the times when we shouldn't run to Jesus, we should sprint to Him (or walk as fast as you can if you have a bum ankle like mine). He is our eternal season of spring, our eternal source of light. Remember Monopoly's get out of jail card free. Jesus is our get out of a bad mood card for free, but not just once, FOREVER. So why in the heck would we shut out the one source that can take away all our pain, that can ease our suffering, that can bring peace to our lives, that truly can make bright what seemed like eternal darkness? Don't push Him away, don't shove Him in a dark corner, or shut Him off completely. Let Him in, let that light shine on you, let it erase the darkness, warm your heart and spirit and in turn, it will allow us to do exactly what the next part of the passage says.
It 's Matt.5:16 and it reads like this; "In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
I have said and wrote many times how reading a bible passage a second or third time can reveal something you've never seen before. Well guess what, it just happened as I was writing this. I went into this posting with the sole focus being on how Jesus can make us feel better, bring us out of our dark places and be our light forever. And all of that is most definitely true. Jesus will bring us out of the darkness, He will be our light, but it's not our light to keep. It's not our light to make us feel good and then go back and live the life we were living before. Doing the things that brought us into that darkness. No, it's taking that gift, that light and sharing what Jesus gave to us with others. With others who are in the dark. Who are feeling alone. Who think that their despair might never end. Who end up in that dark, cold, gray corner and feel like maybe this is how their life is supposed to be. We have to shine our light on them. We have to cut through their darkness and let them see the wonderful light that was shared with us.
Yes, in the end, it has nothing to do with our happiness, though it sure does feel great when His light brings us out of our darkness. No, it's about doing the same for others. It's about shining our light on them, sharing our gifts, holding that hand, writing that letter, making that apology, giving that hug, making that call, lending that ear, judging less, loving more, being like Jesus. When we give it all to Jesus, great things happen. Not only in relief of our burdens, but even more importantly, in allowing us to relieve the burden of others by doing God's work. Go and be that light for all to see.
I walked into my office, Diet Pepsi in hand, hoping it would infuse me with the energy I needed to face the day. The small church I was serving was in conflict, which seemed to be their normal state of existence.
We were trying something new and it was succeeding. People were coming to our church and getting involved for the first time in years. We had doubled our attendance, seen lives changed dramatically, but not everyone was happy with our congregation's success.
The conflict was wearing thin that morning. It had turned personal. No longer were the grumblings about songs, microphones and sound levels. Now people who had worked hard to build relevant ministries were being targeted with vicious demoralizing gossip. Complaining about the pastor is just part of the job, but nothing made my blood boil like hearing about a personal attack on one of the people who was putting their heart and soul into helping people. I had entertained the thought of leaving on a few occasions but dismissed it quickly, except this particular morning. Now the question was like a companion that wouldn’t shut up.
As I went about my day performing the routine tasks – print the bulletin, think of a catchy title for Sunday’s message – a thought occurred to me. “What if you chose this?” ‘Who would choose this nonsense?’ I replied incredulously. Then I mulled over the question.
What if God had pulled me aside before all this started, asked me to work hard to help people change their lives, but the process it would be difficult. I and my companions would be misunderstood, sometimes even maligned in the process? Would I have chosen to do this had I known this ahead of time?
I thought about Ally whose family was back together after months of separation. I thought of Nicki who was free of her addiction to drugs, and Michael who now played the guitar in the band after a life of loneliness and solitude.
Yes, I would have chosen this because it was meaningful and right.
I’ve long since left that small church, but the question has never left me. When I find myself on the receiving end of someone's displeasure who has used their emotions as an excuse to be unchristian and unkind, and the energy temporarily wanes, I ask myself, “what if I chose this?” If I see a reason that I would have chosen this path, I stay with the renewed strength to carry on. If not, then I know the next adventure awaits.
Would you have chosen to be where you are right now? Not every circumstance, but are you seeing enough good to make the challenges worth it?
Would you have chosen the life you’re leading if it was stretched out before you, beginning to end, ahead of time?
If so, be encouraged. If not, what are you going to do about it?
We left our church family in late January of 1941, cheered by our Methodist basketball team being first half champions of the church basketball league, yet tempered by the sight of 47 young men of Girard leaving for Camp Shelby in Mississippi, the unlucky ones whose numbers were called for the first wave of draftees into the army. Our country was not at war – yet – but the entire continent of Europe and the British Isles, northern Africa, China and Japan and most of the Pacific countries were engulfed in a huge world war. The people of our country were divided in how to respond. Technically, the United States was neutral. But, graphic photos in their daily papers of war’s devastation, broadcasts from England during nightly bombings, and (remember, this is prior to TV) weekly newscasts seen in their local movie houses; these altogether produced one group who wanted the US to get involved. Because America is a land built by emigrants, many of our people had relatives who were living in war zones. However there was another group, just as large, who did not want to get involved in any way. They knew the horrors of war, and wanted to avoid it if at all possible. Still, to our government leaders, it seemed prudent to prepare for the worst, hence the draft of young men into the army begun in late 1940, and the beginning of construction of warships and planes. Looking back from our perch seventy-five years into the future, we know how we were catapulted into that war by the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December of that year, but folks in February, 1941 were definitely divided about the war around them. We have no way of knowing, but there were probably folks representing these different views in Girard, and even in our church family. Whatever was happening in our church seventy-five years ago, when our members left the building they walked into a world full of the sights and sounds of war, with our country practically the only oasis of peace.
In the month of January, I reported on our new preacher, Rev. Maly, using the Girard News column called “Church Notes” to announce an evening Sunday service and inviting those who attended churches who did not have an evening service at their church, to come to ours. Now, in February, in the “Church Notes” column, he announced that his Sunday morning, Feb. 2 morning worship sermon title would be “The Three Greatest Lines In The Bible”. His sermon for the evening service would touch on “Unfinished Business”.
Then, the next evening, the Girard Junior Chamber of Commerce met at our church, and Rev. Maly spoke to them on the subject, “Life’s Questions”, such as: What is Your Name? Where do you live? How old are you? These questions sound like they would only require simple answers, but, apparently he expanded them into an interesting and thought provoking talk.
The next Sunday, the 9th, his sermon title for the morning service was “The Fountain of Eternal Youth”. The evening service featured special music by the choir under director Frank Fuller and Rev. Maly’s sermon title was “Let Go and Let God”. The evening service of the following Sunday also featured special music, this time by the Girls’ Chorus, with a solo by Miss Edith Williams.
Some of you will recall that last month I noted that, in the sports section, the News reported our Methodist Team was “First Half Champions of the Church Basketball League.” We had beaten the Christian Team in the Church Basketball League play-off game 36 to 34. The sparkplug for the Methodists was Evans with 20 points. I speculated that “Evans” probably referred to Jack Evans. After reading the article, Ruth Streb e-mailed me to say that Jack Evans was known as a talented basketball player and the article probably was about him.
Now in February, the second series of the Church League games were being played. The Girard News edition of February 28th reported that “Bill Carson’s Methodist five beat St Rose’s cagers 43-25 Wednesday night. Schoenfield had 5 goals and 1 foul, Schlecht had 4 goals and 2 fouls, and Carson had 4 goals and 1 foul to lead the Methodist scoring.” This resulted in a tie for the title between St Rose and the Methodists. The article concluded with the announcement that there would be a playoff game between the two teams in March. As I noted last month, the Girard News Sports reporter never bothered with full names of players, only their last name. (Probably because he assumed that everyone in town knew who he was talking about, anyway) If any of you can come up with a first name for Schoenfield or Schlecht, just send an e-mail or call me, and I’ll put them in next month. I remember Bill Carson well, not for basketball but as an excellent golf coach, and the owner of a great driving range, where he struggled to teach me how to swing a club when I was in college.
On this happy basketball note we will leave our church family in February of 1941, 75 years ago in our church, our town and our country.
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