A Time for Everything (Prayer Devotional for the week of November 9, 2014)

I have a confession to make: There have been a couple of years in the not-so-distant past when I didn’t feel like decorating for the holidays. I didn’t really want to do anything for Thanksgiving, and I couldn’t bring myself to start thinking about Christmas. In fact, if I didn’t have kids, I wouldn’t have even bothered to put up a Christmas tree. It’s not that I dislike Christmas (although, the older I get, the more frustrated I feel about how ridiculously we’ve commercialized it), but I just didn’t feel like celebrating anything. Christmas break 2008 was the last time I saw my brother alive, and the holiday season always makes me feel melancholy.

 

One reason I like the book of Ecclesiastes is because it was written by the wisest man alive (King Solomon), which might make you assume that he had it all together, but apparently he had days just like the rest of us when he was at his wits’ end. In Ch. 3, verses 1-8, Solomon lists several opposites as a way of explaining the balancing act of life. Verse 4 (NIV), for example, says that there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

 

Solomon went on to explain in verse 11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Those years when I didn’t feel like celebrating? There was a time and a reason for that. I still mourn, of course, but this year feels like a new beginning. Perhaps it’s the chill in the air and the prospect of snow on Christmas, but I’m eager to decorate this year. I’m actually looking forward to the holidays and the turning of the calendar.

 

God is at work, exchanging our ashes of mourning into lovely crowns (Isaiah 61) and making the darkest day beautiful again. We need only look around us to see his masterpiece.

Is Jesus Just Enough? (Prayer Devotional for the week of December 22, 2013)

I read a comic recently about a man asking his wife to pick up something at the grocery store, except he spoke to her in the way that a lot of us Christians pray nowadays. The conversation went something like: “Honey, if you could just, you know, maybe just pick up some milk, Honey. I want to just thank you, Honey, if you would, for just getting the milk.”

It sounds silly in that context, but isn’t that what our prayers sound like more often than not? We hem and haw to try to get the words right, instead of speaking our hearts. We box God in (maybe without meaning to) with our “ifs” and “justs.” We cut to the chase about what we need (perhaps more often, what we want) and gloss over praise, thanks, and confession.

What if we spent a day talking to God in prayer about how awesome and wonderful he is, without asking for a thing? In Psalm 103:20-22, David described how he wanted his soul to praise God like the angels in heaven. We could learn a lot by reading how the angels worship God. There are some very beautiful examples in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 7:12 (NIV), the Bible describes how heavenly hosts fall down in worship before God, exclaiming: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” Earlier in Ch. 4, we read about heavenly creatures who repeat day and night: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”

24/7, these heavenly citizens praise God. I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to find 24 minutes to pause and pray. As we go through this week with the hustle & bustle of Christmas, let’s ask ourselves: Is Jesus “just” a feel-good story to think about once a year? Is he “just” the one you go to when you need something? Or, is he your all in all? Instead of getting caught up in the distractions of the season, let’s find time to reflect on God’s glory, wisdom, honor, power and strength, and praise him as the angels do.