Fall has finally arrived. The leaves have started changing colors, the grass is beginning to start its winter nap, and the squirrels are gathering food in frenzy as they prepare for the upcoming cold. Yes, it’s about time!
Growing up, I thought the leaves changed colors because of the cooler weather, but that is not the case. As the days grow shorter, there is less light. The shortened days cause less photosynthesis in the leaves, thereby triggering a change in color from healthy green to oranges, reds, and yellows. All of this because of less light.
We as humans begin our change for the season as well. No doubt the sweaters and sweatshirts that were packed away last Spring have been unpacked and organized ready for the cooler temperatures. Our favorite sweatpants and sweatshirt now hang ready to provide warmth and comfort once again. Even the colors of our fall clothes sometimes mimic those we see in nature with deep reds, brownish yellows, and blacks. Yes, it’s about time.
The events we see unfolding around us with the changing season may cause us to contemplate about other events as we think back to the summer and look forward to a cold winter. We might debate about the lateness of Fall and how Summer hung on a little too long. We might have noticed the time in the evening that was light only a few months ago is now dark and the stars are visible. All these changes and more are orchestrated by the Master Builder, the Creator of all things!
In Ecclesiastes, scripture tells us there is a time for every matter under Heaven – a season for everything. The comparative list is long. We see a time for being born and a time to die. Also, there is a time to plant and a time to harvest. There is even a time to be silent and a time to speak. These contrasts seem to bookend a time, or a season in our lives. We can even say some of these are light dependent, or more specific “Light” dependent.
The Light of Christ is a power thing. The more we have Him in our lives, the more His light shines through us. And with more light, just like the leaves of a tree, we stay full of life and shine in the presence of the Son. But the less we hang around in the “Light”, the darker we become. We lose our connection to the Vine and we wither and may fall away from the source of our strength.
We may like the change of the season, or we may not. We must admit it is time. This week let’s continue to reflect the light of Jesus in a dark world that needs a little brightness! Remember, it only takes the light from a single candle to drive out darkness. Yes, its about time we drove darkness out by carrying the light of Christ everywhere we go!
My earliest memory of glue is from kindergarten. The class would cut out shapes from the construction paper (only if we had the safety scissors which really wouldn’t cut anything!) and apply liberal amounts of glue to the cutout, a big sheet of paper, as well as to ourselves and our clothes. The cutout stuck to the paper, our fingers stuck together, and anything we touched became stuck to our hands!
Glues have evolved since my kindergarten days from the old white glue to a whole array of colors, consistencies, purposes, and strength. Descriptors like monster, gorilla, and super are used to identify some of the strongest glues around. Using these can solve a plethora of issues, but just like a child in kindergarten, unwanted items can get semi-permanently joined with your fingers, and painful to remove.
Some glues have even been developed by accident. In 1968, a 3M chemist was attempting to create a super-strong glue, but instead created a tacky adhesive. For six years the chemist tried to solve the issue and market it. It wasn’t until 1974 when one of his colleagues came up with the idea of using a bookmark with the adhesive applied to the back as a way to keep his bookmark in place in his hymnal did the idea take off. And the unity of a little yellow piece of paper and many book pages became a household name.
Unity is something we see every day. Sadly, these days we see a lot of disunity. Watching the news and seeing all the chaos of disunity reminds me of the creation story, when the Spirit of God moved over the formless void. He then said, “Let there be light” and the unity of creation took its first step, becoming one with each other and with its Creator. We think as intelligent people we understand the relationships between all of creation, but we have only scratched the surface. When we look at the earth from space, we see weather systems moving around the globe in unity with one another, as dancers move across the dance floor. And yet in the deepest parts of our ocean, we barely know much about the plant and animal life and how they live together and survive under the immense pressure of miles of water above.
God created mankind to be in unity with one another. One of the earliest signs of disunity we find in the Bible is the story of Cain and Able. The scripture says Cain’s countenance fell; he took his eyes off the Lord. He became angry and murdered his own brother because of jealousy and anger.
Is a form of Cain’s anger inciting disunity in our nation and our world? I believe it is. Disunity is a destroyer and is authored by the author of lies and fear. We can however fight back against disunity, and here’s how. 1 John 4:18 says “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love .” Jesus’ words are recorded in the Gospel of John when He said to His Heavenly Father “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity .”
There is one way to completely overcome disunity around us, and that’s with the love of Christ. Love is the glue that holds all things together. Let’s create a little “glue” between ourselves and our neighbors this week and show the love of Christ in unity!!
All of us must admit, it’s nice to be recognized for doing a good job. We feel good about ourselves as well as the accomplishment of a task well done. There are other types of recognition that can be difficult, while another can be invaluable.
In the work environment, scrutiny abounds. This scrutiny can come from the “higher-ups”, from those we serve, from our co-workers as well as those we supervise. Positive recognition can be the most effective and cost the company virtually nothing. A simple “thank you” or “job well done” from the boss can go a long way. But let rumors get started, and people begin to draw conclusions about what they believe to be true. Suddenly, we are recognized for some things that were either misleading or totally contrived. We could all use less of this type of recognition, as it tears down reputations, our sense of self-worth, and harms the company or corporation in the end.
Another type of recognition can be fun. Remember the last time you attended a high school reunion? Pictures from the Year Book are flashing across the big screen as you walk into the room, and your task is to try to match the youthful classmate with the, let’s say, more age experienced! Look at them in the eyes and their smile, and you still see friends from long ago. Even their laughs give them away. They’ve changed, but haven’t we all?
We all change as we go through this life, both in a good way and some not so good ways. We are a product of the environments we live in, work in, and play in. Our actions or behaviors are shaped by the experiences we have. If those are pleasant experiences, we develop a good attitude as a result. If those experiences are not as pleasant, our developed attitude is exactly opposite. Both positive and negative attitudes then produce an emotion, which then drives our behavior.
It can be easy to recognize people’s behavior from their experiences, e.g. a combat veteran. Wonderful bonds are formed through controversy, but they can also leave indelible marks on our spirits. To fully understand these and other marks, one must have experienced the same or closely related situations.
Another type of recognition which can be invaluable comes from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Does Jesus recognize the trials and temptations we go through daily? Yes, He does. Does Jesus understand what it’s like to go through them? Again, yes He does. Jesus felt pain, He felt sorrow, He felt joy, and He felt temptation directly from the father of lies – Satan. We might think we are in this world alone. However, Jesus not only recognizes all these things, He recognizes with us. As a result, we should be recognized along with those who have trusted Him to save us from this world as well as from ourselves.
Jesus told a group of religious elites who claimed to do His work, but did the works to puff themselves up, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evil doers.”
None of us want to hear Jesus say those words to us when we one day stand before Him. Regardless of the recognition we receive here on this earth, we should act, talk and walk daily in a way so we can hear Him say “Well done, good and faithful servant!” That is the type of recognition which should drive our daily talk, walk, and especially how we treat others. Amen!
A common phrase we hear in many sports circles is “strive for perfection.” The goal is to execute the perfect play, or to have the perfect golf swing, or to make a perfect basketball free throw every time. Perfection can be, and sometimes is the only level of performance we accept. But if it’s carried to extremes, we develop a “perfection obsession.”
There is nothing wrong with setting excellence as a goal. But are excellence and perfection synonymous? Excellence defined is “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.” Nothing in the definition indicates excellence is error free! So why do we associate the two together? And what damage to our society is being done by doing so?
Go to any little league baseball game anywhere during the summer and you’ll see the ugliness of perfection, or the insistence of it. Parents are yelling at their child through the chain-link fence because they’ve missed a grounder or a fly ball! And heaven help the umpire who makes a call that could have gone in favor of either team! Soccer games are no different. Physical altercations are commonplace at these venues, much to the amazement of the children on the field.
One more example of unachievable expectations manifested in human behavior can be seen at public forums. In all levels of our government, federal, state, and local levels, people can be seen applauding and jeering when a presenter, or even a public official’s character is attacked! While this situation is unfortunate for all involved, the loss of emotional control prevents the most simple logical decisions from being accomplished.
While we shake our heads at what we see in our society today concerning perfection, don’t think for a moment we have cornered the market in modern times. As long as humans are involved, excellence will be the victim of the perfection attitude.
An example of someone always taking the lead in actions, words, and thought is Simon Peter. He was called Cephas as well as Peter by Jesus, both translated as “Rock.” Rocks can be hard, solid, and larger ones can be difficult to move. This describes Peter’s personality, but not his actions. He was the one who stepped out of the boat and walked to Jesus on the water. But he let his emotions gain control and fear caused him to sink. He along with two other disciples saw Jesus transfigured on top of Mount Hermon, and immediately Peter took the lead on building shelters…..until the voice of God came from a cloud! Then Peter’s humanity kicked in and he fell to the ground hiding his face in fear.
It was fear that caused Peter to sink in the water. It was fear that caused him to fall face down on Mount Hermon. And it was fear that caused him to deny Jesus three times the night Jesus was arrested and tried. In spite of all of his humanness and shortcomings, Jesus still saw a strength in Peter. Before His ascension, Jesus restored Peter even after all his failures to His Lord.
Humanity was created in perfection. Adam and Eve let their humanness get in the way and they fell short of their intended perfection. But just like Jesus restored Peter, God will restore us every time we fall short. He knows we are human. And if you think of it this way, God has forgiven our sins through His Son, and therefore we are seen as perfect in the sight of our Heavenly Father.
Let’s not let our humanness get in the way of our worship to the one person who sees us in the perfection of His creation, nor loving our neighbors as we love ourselves!
Numbers mean different things to different people. You have statisticians who use
numbers to describe properties of a group of people, whether it is behaviors, medical conditions,
or in this day voting preferences. Entire companies and corporations have been established for
the sole purpose of gathering numbers (data) and using them for predictive purposes. But be
wary, statisticians can make numbers say what they desire. Numbers do not lie, but the use of
them can be questionable.
Numbers are sometimes called a language all their own. If you don’t agree, try to read a
statistical or algebraic formula without knowing the language! Trying to read an algebraic
sentence can be as daunting as trying to read a foreign language which is written in characters,
such as Chinese or Japanese. Without being educated or fluent in this type of language, you will
be hard pressed to understand it.
Numbers however are also called a universal language. Hold up one finger in a foreign
market and point to a fruit, and you’ll get “one” of what is receiving your pointing. Two means
a pair of something and so on. The use of numbers has been in existence since creation to
delineate time, quantity, and measurements.
God created the heavens and the earth, and then created man and woman – two. God did
all this in six days and rested on the seventh. In the days of Noah, it rained forty days and forty
nights. Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of a whale, or a fish. Jesus referenced this
same number when He told His disciples He would spend three days and three nights in the heart
of the earth (See Matthew 12:40). God uses numbers throughout His Holy Word to help us
understand significance in His kingdom. Even though God uses these numbers, He would rather
we pay closer attention to events.
During creation, was a day really twenty four hours long? Did it really rain for forty
days? Did Jonah really spend three days and three nights in the belly of a fish? God wants us to
look at the significance of the events and not dwell on the finite numbers our human brains
understand. Thank God creation happened. The Great Flood happened for a purpose. Jonah’s
mind was changed and once being deposited on the beach, He decided to follow God’s
instructions (and it only took 3 days to do it in a very convincing way!!).
God is event driven. But there is one number that is very important to God, and that
number is ONE. That is the number of steps it takes to return to Him. No matter how far we
stray from Him, He says He is always with us. The journey of one step is ours to take, not His.
Let us remember, the journey to God or back to God is only one step in length. All we
must do is turn toward the destination and take that one step. Therefore, the number one can be
the most rewarding and life-giving numbers we’ve ever known.
Remember, one step is all it takes to receive ever-lasting life, and can be the most
lifesaving and life-giving number you’ll ever know!!!