Posted in 2021 Advent devotions

Hurry up

“The Road to Bethlehem” Advent devotion for December 21, 2021. Photo by Andy Beales on Unsplash

[The shepherds] went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. (Luke 2:16)

I find it interesting that the shepherds hurried down the road to Bethlehem to see the newborn Christ child. I wonder what “haste” looked like in first century Israel. A quick walk? A run? I don’t imagine shepherds having any other forms of transportation.

For us, fast is never fast enough. We covet faster internet, faster delivery of purchases, faster acting medications and immediate responses to our texts. We look for the fastest moving check-out line at the grocery store. We check a map app to find the fastest route to our destination. And why is our food taking so long?

One of the hardest things to get used to on mission trips to other countries was the seeming absence of time. I’m used to doing pretty much everything by the clock. From waking up to starting a class to keeping appointment, I’ve got to be on time. In other cultures, though, time just doesn’t matter that much. Your departure time is whenever you happen to leave. Lunch is whenever the food is ready. A meeting begins when everyone has shown up. The clinic closes when the last patient is seen. People are always more important than the clock.

Perhaps “with haste” doesn’t mean a sprint to the manger. Maybe it’s more like, “Let’s go right now.” What are we waiting for? Let’s make this trip a priority. Someone has come that we need to see.

At the very end of the bible, Jesus said, “I am coming soon.” Two thousand years later, we realize his idea of soon isn’t ours. Soon for us means a few minutes, not a few millenia. But he didn’t say, “I’ll be there in a few minutes.” We’re still learning what “soon” means in the context of eternity.

When we’re children, it seems to take forever for Christmas to arrive. And the overnight minutes before Christmas morning crawl by. For parents, though, it comes too quickly, and there’s barely enough time to get everything done. After three days visiting my dad in assisted living, he always said, “Do you have to go already?” I felt like I had been there three months.

Never put off the ones you love. Call them or visit them now. You don’t know how much longer they’ll be around. Do it with haste. And then savor every moment as if it were an hour. One day you’ll wish you had more time.

Come soon (with haste), Lord Jesus. But in the meantime, help me savor the wait. Amen.

Posted in Stories, time

The gift of time

I think I have long underestimated the value of time. I am sure I am not the only one. I want to share how a few precious people brought this to my attention lately.

I went to visit a friend in the hospital last week. He joined our congregation a few years ago, is just a few years younger than me, and has always been a great encourager and support for me. He’s one of those guys who’s face lets me know he understand what I’m talking about.

Anyway, when I got to his room, his condition wasn’t great but was improving. His wife had another appointment and amazingly, no one came in the room while I was there. We had an uninterrupted forty-five minutes before his next diagnostic test. We talked about many topics, from the church to his family to upcoming trips and how he ended up in the hospital. After the sacrament and a prayer, he said, “Thanks. I don’t often get you to myself.”

Later than week, I sat down to visit with a woman whose husband had died two years ago. The time sure had flown since his funeral, especially during the Covid quarantine year. It turns out we had a lot of shared experiences to discuss. I also learned a lot of new things about her family and passion for horses. An afternoon flies by when you’ve got a bowl of peach dumplings and vanilla ice cream, and a miniature bull terrier licking your hand. It turns out we both really enjoyed that afternoon.

And then today I had an exclusive invitation to a 90th birthday celebration. I was the only gentleman to score a seat with some amazing, faithful sisters who gathered to mark this moment. When it was over and I was driving away, I thought, “The most important thing was that we were there.” We were there with her. We were there to celebrate with her. We were there to eat and drink, to smile and laugh, to make an ordinary day extraordinary.

After the tea, finger sandwiches and birthday cake, I got into my truck and got a message from my wife. Someone in the hospital. I stopped in on my way home. She was doing well, but was alone. Her husband had a ailing dog to care for. Those dogs, they grab our hearts and won’t let go! We laughed and cried and prayed. I’ve been there. And I’m glad I could be there.

I really don’t have much to give other than my time. Today God reminded me how valuable that gift is.

Posted in Lent devotions

It’s time

“Scenes from the passion” Lent devotion for Friday, March 5, 2021. Photo by Amanda Jones on Unsplash.

And [Jesus] came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” (Mark 14:41-42)

You haven’t eaten since midnight. You woke before your alarm, got dressed and headed to the hospital. The nice person at the desk got you checked in and got your copay. The pastor stopped by to pray with you. You’re just waiting when you hear your name being called. It’s time. It’s your turn. Soon your procedure will begin.

The meal is finished, the waiting is over, the prayers have all been spoken, and now “the hour has come.” It is time. Time for Jesus to be apprehended by those who have wanted to arrest him for a long time. Time for Jesus to be handed over to those who want no less than his execution. It’s time for Jesus to find out what pain, suffering and death are really all about.

Continue reading “It’s time”
Posted in Moments of grace

Forever? Or just a moment?

It feels like this is going to go on forever.

I know it hasn’t been that long. It just feels like it. This is July. It was back in March when we first became concerned in our community. Churches stopped gathering for worship, restaurants closed, doctors cancelled appointment, nursing homes and hospitals restricted visitors, toilet paper flew off supermarket shelves and we started wearing masks.

It’s been four months. We’re worshiping at church, but at a distance. A few can go to restaurants. I’ve caught up on doctor appointments. There’s plenty of toilet paper but hardly any hand soap at the store. More people are wearing masks. And the news is still mostly about Covid-19. It feels like it’s been four years. I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. I wake up every morning to the same news. More people are sick, more people are dying, more people are wearing masks, and more people are angry about wearing masks.

Is there an end in sight? Yesterday I read that most of the research to find a cure or produce a vaccine has yielded little if any results. Those who like to make predictions estimate it will take five to ten years to get past this. If we do at all. It already feels like we’ve been doing it that long.

During a phone conversation today, though, I realized it’s almost been a year since my dad died. A whole year? Already? Those eleven months have flown by. Time is time. It passes at a constant rate. So why is my perception of time so different when applied to different chapters of my life. Why does time sometimes seem so long, like the line to get on the roller coaster, and other times short, like the ride itself? Why do the first hundred miles of a long trip pass quickly, while the last 100 seems to take forever?

Plenty of people have asked that question. How many have come up with an answer? None that I know of. I do know that time passes because I measure it. I watch the clock, I have a schedule, I have events on my calendar and appointments to keep.

Sometimes on my day off, I take off my watch. I don’t worry about the time. And when I do that, time doesn’t bother me, either. On those days I’m never late, I’m never rushed, it’s OK if I have to wait for something or someone. I find that fascinating. It’s like I can step away from time when I need to. I should probably do that more often.

Posted in common sense, time

“The (fill in the blank) will still be here tomorrow.

Photo by Sophie Elvis on Unsplash

In a world of “limited-time offers”, warnings that “time is running out,” “if you call in the next five minutes” teasers and “not available in stores” products, all of life can seem urgent. After all, yesterday is gone, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed and today is all you really have, right?

Well, yes and no. There are definitely some things you don’t want to put off until tomorrow. But there are other things that will still be there tomorrow. We should pray for wisdom to discern between the two.

For example, definitely spend time with people, especially the ones you love today. But don’t get too hung up on cleaning every nook and cranny in your house. If you are too busy or stressed out today, don’t worry, the dust will still be there tomorrow.

Write a thank you note as soon as you can. The longer you wait, the more awkward that task becomes. Didn’t get to all the weeds in the garden? Don’t worry, they will still be there tomorrow.

If you can, play with your children or grandchildren today. They won’t be little forever. If you don’t get around to throwing out the old leftovers in the refrigerator this afternoon, don’t fret. They will still be growing mold tomorrow.

Spend some time with God today, even if it’s just few minutes in his word or in prayer. He usually has something to tell you that you’ll need later on. But if you didn’t get all the ironing done, don’t sweat it. The wrinkles will still be there tomorrow, or better yet, they might just hang out overnight!

Get some exercise. At the very least, go for a walk. And take the dog. Keep moving rather than feeding inertia. If you don’t get all the toys put away that you got out playing with the kids, never fear. They’ll be waiting for you tomorrow!

Why not run some of your life through the “The (fill in the blank) will still be here tomorrow” filter?

Posted in Ministry, questions

Yes, I have time for a question

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Twenty minutes or so before worship began last week, a good friend of mine asked, “Do you have time for a quick theological question?”

My heart rate increased, adrenaline began pumping as I reveled in that moment. Even in those moments when I should focus on the hour ahead of me, I love a good question about God, faith, Jesus or the church. In fact, when someone asks less specifically, “Can I ask you a question?” I will often reply, “I hope it’s a bible question!”

Many questions aren’t biblical or theological. In fact, they are usually anything but. For example,

  • “Do you know the copier access code?”
  • “Do we have any more garbage bags?”
  • “Whatever happened to __________?” (Fill in anyone’s name.)
  • “Where do you go to get your car fixed?”
  • “Who is that person I saw at church yesterday? He was older, had gray hair, wore glasses…”
  • “Why is it so cold/hot/noisy/dark/bright in here?”
  • “Where can I find a roll of toilet paper?”
  • “Why didn’t I get any offering envelopes?”
  • “When is the dumpster going to get emptied?”
  • “Can I use the fellowship hall for a birthday party in June?”
  • “Who left this food in the refrigerator?”
  • “What happened to the food that was in the refrigerator?”
  • “Why isn’t there anything on that bulletin board?”
  • “When did you get glasses?”
  • “Where are your glasses?”

Do I have time for a theological question? Most certainly, yes!

Posted in Life


img_7547.jpgA few months ago, I realized that almost everyday, I glance at a clock at exactly 7:22. Sometimes it’s am. Sometimes pm. It might be my watch, the clock in the car, the microwave in the kitchen, the cable box under the TV, to the lock screen on my phone. On a daily basis my eyes see the digits 7-2-2. By the way, that’s my birthday, July 22.

A coincidence? Maybe. A sign? I don’t know. Some inner prompting? Beats me. A little weird? Absolutely. A number to play? I haven’t tried.

At first it was, “Whoa.” Then, “Again?” Sometimes I wonder, “Does that happen to anyone else?” Mostly I just chuckle. Tonight, I’m trying to imagine some significance.

Maybe it will be a code I need someday to unlock a briefcase filled with cash.

Maybe it’s a message from the future, from another dimension, or from a parallel universe.

Maybe it’s a flight number. A locker number. A key number. A hotel room number. A parking space number. A cable channel. A radio frequency.

When I see it, I now consciously think, “Hey, I’m alive!” I never want to take that for granted. Life is too much of a miracle. Other times, I’ll just whisper a little “thank you.”



Posted in Grace, Ministry

It takes time

It takes time. In my morning devotions I just began the gospel of Mark. Before this I was in Luke. What a contrast. While Luke takes his time getting through the birth of Christ and extensive teaching, Mark moves things along very quickly. In just three quick chapters of Mark, Jesus has attracted not only crowds of followers, but also plenty of opposition and they are already plotting to kill Jesus. After three chapters in Luke, Jesus is just getting warmed up for his public ministry.

In many ways, I think we come at the church and ministry from Mark’s perspective. We expect things to happen quickly. Whatever ideas, projects, and programs we implement, we look for quick results. This may not be true everywhere, but in my experience, it takes quite a while to see things develop in the church. In our own congregation it has taken many years to move from talking about missions to actually going and doing mission work. It’s taken many years to develop some of our music programs, community involvement, and teachers for classes.

So I’ve learned that you can’t force these things to happen. You can’t rush them. And all those months when it seemed like absolutely nothing was happening, something was happening. God was working to prepare his people for ministry. Note to self: when it seems like not much is happening, relax. There’s actually a whole lot going on.

Posted in Grace, Ministry

A little more time

Yesterday, I needed more time. More time to get things done, get to all the places I needed to be, and more time to spend with people. As the day began (my days typically begin at 5 am, feeding and walking the dog before my devotional time), I knew I’d never get everything done I needed to get done.

I dropped my neighbor off at the restaurant where we have our Thursday morning men’s bible class, went down to the hospital to pray with someone about to go in for surgery, headed back to the restaurant for the rest of the class, picked up my daughter after a doctor’s appointment and took her to school, and then got to church. After that I had two early afternoon appointments, some errands to run, another bible class to attend at night, supper to prepare in-between, and I really wanted to go over my sermon for Sunday. Yeah, one of those days. It’s not like that everyday, but it happens.

Here’s the cool part. I got all that done and had some time left over. It is as if my day had more than 24 hours in it! How did I do that? I guess I could share my secrets in my next best-selling book. But to tell you the truth, I’m not sure I have the answer, other than to give God credit for a day that seemed a little longer than usual.

Now it could be that I overestimated how long some of my tasks would take. Traffic wasn’t too bad, the line at the store wasn’t too long, and I knew the guard at one gated community, so entrance was fast and easy. So I had two chunks of time to go over my sermon, was able to make a few phone calls, didn’t have to rush through dinner with my wife, and had a few bonus conversations with people along the way.

I believe that just as God provides other resources, like wealth and abilities, he can provide some time, too. This should be a surprise, because he did it for both Joshua and Hezekiah in the Old Testament. I never expect it to happen to me, and it doesn’t happen every day, but when it does, it’s pretty cool. Thanks, Lord.