Archive of ‘OBSERVATIONS’ category

LEADER of the BAND

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Yesterday. A very dear man, a very dear friend slipped from this world to the next to receive his reward. I am quite sure as he was caught up in the “Meeting in the Air”, he heard the words “welcome my good and faithful servant” from his Lord. As he stepped into the presence of Almighty God and his Savior Jesus, the words welcome home “friend” and “my child” were there to greet him. When he walked through the pearly gates he was met by the saints who had gone on before him.

I had not come to know this dear friend very long, or at least not in the usual way we measure time in years. I can say that as he unfolded his life in story to me I felt like I had known him all his life. He was a devoted and adoring husband to one. He was a loving and kind father, modeling the Heavenly Father, to his children. He was a wise, discerning mentor to his children and their children. He was a friend to all that took the opportunity to know him. He was a musician by heart, well accomplished in a variety of instruments. He was a teacher by passion, willing to instruct others in their pursuit of musical ability. He was a faithful disciple of his Lord Jesus Christ, continually striving to be more “Christ- like” in all walks of his life whether in work, play, or just everyday life. I knew him as a dear friend and the “leader of the band”.

In our life’s journey we are fortunate and blessed if we are given the occasion to meet and know one known as a “leader”. I had this opportunity with him. Each time we were together I felt loved and welcomed. I began to understand the qualities that make a servant- leader as I sat and listened to him reveal the wisdom he had experienced in his life. If there is a recurring scripture that examplified what I learned from my friend, it is found in Romans Chapter 12. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

I saw in my friend the charisteristics that make a servant- leader. In his story I see what each of us that knew him should strive also to obtain in our own story. He first made a choice. To follow Christ and have his mind renewed. His transformation was driven by a steadfast commitment to the new life he had been given. His integrity was founded by his accountability and transparency in everyday life. He grew to understand God’s will for his life and he was unwilling to compromise from the truth. His compassion for others led him to give and serve more than he took. His passion for Christ fueled his lifetime desire to glorify God in music and song. In his music he found more than happiness which is a state of mind, he found joy which is a matter of the transformed heart. He was the leader of the band, a leader in life, showing the way to Christ.

My dear friend began receiving his eternal reward yesterday. The world may not have recognized and rewarded him as he was due for his gift, talent, and passion. Those of us blessed enough to have known him understood as he did that his greatest reward was waiting till yesterday. His reward will continue throughout eternity. I miss him today. I will see him again. He was and is the “leader of the band”.

LIFE, LIBERTY, PURSUIT of HAPPINESS

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With the 4th of July just passed, I heard these words several times from a range of varying venues. The words are common to us all that live in the United States. Of course we know they are found in the Declaration of Independence penned by our nation’s founding fathers. We first learned them in our early childhood History lessons at school, even required to memorize them in some instances in latter History or Civics classes. If you live in the USA, you are familiar with at least the content of this famous statement.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”

For the past few days I heard these words repeated many times in political statements, 4th celebration speeches, funeral addresses, friends conversations, TV advertisements, and from church pulpits. Each time they were spoken in sincerity, honoring either our heritage or the values represented by our Nation as a land of freedom. Of all the words found in our nation’s formulative documents, these are most representative of the beliefs we hold as a nation. They give us all a sense of national patriotic pride, a foundation of basic values from which we hope to build our homeland. I am truly thankful to have been born here in America, it was a gift of grace from God. I also continue to pray that God will bless America and He will lead this Nation as a people to bring these truths from self-evident into fruition in the manner in which we live as a Nation under God.

Having just firmly attested to my thankfulness and pride in our Nation’s core beliefs, I wish to expound a little deeper into what I believe to be is often not spoken concerning these self-evident truths and Rights. Our forefathers were correct. We as a Nation were endowed by our Creator, God, to His Truth. His Word plainly states His Creation and His Sovereignty over all is self-evident. The unalienable Rights given to us as a Nation and to all peoples who call upon His Name were given with a price. The cost of these Rights we enjoy was the Crucifixation and Resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. I in no way discount the sacrifice by untold numbers of brave men and women who gave their all to protect these God given Rights. To these honorable persons we all should give thanks and prayers for those who continue still to protect what God has so graciously given us as a people.

Whether you are a follower of Jesus Christ or not, the Truth that is self-evident that endows those Rights of Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness are given by God only through His Son Jesus and the price He paid for all mankind’s sin. It is only by grace and faith in Christ’s sacrifice that a believer can come to this understanding of the Truth and the rights that follow. For those who do not yet believe in Christ, God offers the same Truth and grace given rights for their acceptance. Salvation and forgiveness are freely given by God to all who believe in their heart and accept by faith in the Truth of Jesus Christ.

As a Christian, a follower of Jesus, we begin to understand that those rights we posess are only true as found in Christ. Galatians 2:20 states, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” NIV  To be blunt, if I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer live. Christ is living within me. Dead men have no rights. Those Rights are only found in our Resurrected Savior. The self-evident Truth is that my right to life here and eternally is in Christ. My right to liberty from death and sin is only in Christ. My right to pursue happiness is only found in following Jesus. He alone is the Life, the Truth, and the Resurrection. Only in Him can true Joy, Peace, and happiness come. As a believer in Christ I surrendered all of my Rights to the Sovereignty of Christ as Lord. He alone is my portion and my cup. Any rights given to me come from and through Him alone. Jesus said,” If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23 NIV  In our everyday life when our rights come into question, we must deny our self right, take up the crucifixation cross again today, and follow the only One who has Rights. If I have a right to Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness it had to flow through Jesus to me following Him.

I pray all who read this come to understand where the Truth abides and in whom our Rights come from. Yes, may God of all Creation bless America as a Nation through the honoring of His Son Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 

WHO IS FOLLOWING YOU?

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When we left The Next Day, I became aware that I may have left some of my readers, especially those who have not yet chose to believe in Christ and even some believers, with a question or two. In the text I did place a strong emphasis on a Christians’ hope in the Resurrection. This truth gives us the assurance of our own life after death with Christ in Heaven. That truth alone gives us great peace and hope in Him. We are comforted in the knowledge of where we will spend eternity in God’s presence. Our future is secure because Jesus was raised from the dead!

I finished by text with a statement that implied Christians embrace the next day without fear, with love, forgiveness, and joy. This statement is true and within this statement lies the question for many.Some will ask, so Christian, your faith in Christ secures your Heavenly future after death. They will accept your hope in that truth. But what about the next day here on earth? How can you have no fear of the next days’ woes, or how can you embrace the next day with love, forgiveness, and especially joy in our troubled times? Those are valid questions. Our hope in Christ is especially grounded in eternal life with Him, but we also have this remarkable hope and joy in the next day while we are here on earth. There are numerous scriptures which support our hope and joy in this next day, but allow me to introduce you to just one.

The next day as a Christian or not on this earth is not guaranteed to be easy, without strife or calamity, and certainly not just the way we want it to be. We can’t have it our way all the time. In light of that observation how in the world can we live the next day with hope and joy! And don’t forget the fear of what might be!

To be a disciple/believer in Christ, He says “Follow me.” Psalm 23 tells us He is our shepherd, our leader. He leads us to green pastures, still waters, down paths of righteousness, and yes even through the valleys of death. He tells us to fear no evil. We are known as followers of Christ. We are instructed to model our next days after Him. By following Jesus we have our hope in eternity. But did you know as a follower of Christ someone’s following you, well actually two entities.

How in this worlds’ next day can I as a believer in Christ have hope and joy amist all the troubles? I have two guys ( forgive the personification) following me every where I go for the rest of my life! Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” NKJV  That’s where our joy and hope come from every next day. I/We can’t go anywhere on this earth, any day without these guys following us around. Goodness and Mercy, what a swell couple to have following you around. Even in the hard or troubled times these two make sure I am covered. I have no reason to fear, Goodness and Mercy got my back. I can have joy, real joy every day, they never leave me.

Keep these two in mind as you prepare for the next day. If you are following Christ, He assures you that He has them following you. He also said you may live in His house forever when the next day is the last. If you are not a believer, who is following you? Think about it.

 

THE NEXT DAY

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Easter Sunday, a favorite day for almost everyone. I know it is one of my special days of the year. Although the specific date on the calender may vary from year to year, Easter usually signals the arrival of spring time. The bitter cold temperatures begin to meld into warmer days. The appearance of green grass sprouts and budding trees along with a few flower blooms all appear at Easter time. The daily sunshine amounts seem to expand exponently, with it our outlook on the days ahead.

Easter Sunday brings the Easter Bunny. In our secular world, the arrival of Easter has become one of the top Holidays celebrated throughout our nation. Chocolate bunnies, marshmellow eggs, and of course we can’t forget the Peeps and jelly beans! Easter baskets are filled with toys and candy on the arrival of Easter morning. There are egg hunts, egg rolls, and egg drops held throughout the town not just at the churches. Then the fashion shows begin. The ladies dressed in their finest spring attrire, some donning a lovely Easter bonnet. The guys in their new Easter suit, or at minimum the new pastal shirt and tie. The children smartly dressed in cute spring dresses or little bow ties for the lads. Then my favorite, the Easter banquet is presented. A table full of delicious favorites served around the table for the family gathering. Or perhaps the special buffets offered at our favorite eateries with special friends.

For Christians, Easter Sunday is even more wonderful. There are all the things mentioned before which we all enjoy with the rest of the world. But we have even a more spectacular occurence  to celebrate and rejoice, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who was crucified, died , buried, and on the third day arose. He is Risen, He is alive, and because He rose from the dead, we who believe in Him shall rise from the dead also. For a believer this day is the most remarkable day of the year to celebrate. All we believe and hold dear as truth is centered around the events of this day. Jesus death for our sins, and His resurrection to mark our forgiveness, secures our hope in this life and the next with Him in heaven. What a reason to celebrate! Easter Sunday brings out the gladness of heart and just pure joy for those who have called upon His name for salvation.

Well, its the next day. I did eat the big feast, wore some pastel colors, fellowshipped with dear friends, sang praise and worshipped to God and my Risen Lord at our church, I didn’t have too many chocolate eggs, but I celebrated Easter! I celebrated the special day and the Holiday as a Christian and a living member of this world. It’s the next day.

If you are not a Christian, it’s just the next day. I suppose as you return to your weekly routine you can begin to look forward to Memorial Day for the upcoming holiday. If you are a Christian, it’s still the next day. I warrant the most of us return to our weekly routine along with the rest of the world. Scriptures say that is not so uncommon as found in John 21:3 (AMP).  ”Simon Peter said to them, I am going fishing!” By the way it was his occupation not recreational sport. “They said to him, And we are coming with you!”

Peter returned to his routine, at least initialy, until given a new occupation by Jesus. I would believe that Christ would also have us return to our given occupation, routine, unless otherwise enlightened by His Holy Spirit. It’s the next day and we move forward, but we do so carrying the encouragement and hope renewed in our hearts each Easter Sunday. We embrace the next day without fear, with love and forgiveness for our brother, and with joy given by Jesus that can not be taken away. And we do so the next day also, and the next day.

LABELS

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This past week I was drawn into a discussion with a co-worker about what I first perceived was a query into a search for a new church home. Although  the conversation began with identifying geographical locations of area churches, I soon realized that the direction of our talk was being guided toward church selection based on doctrinal interpetation by denominational belief. The word Labels popped into my mind.

Labels are a significant and important part of our daily lives. They help us identify products, places, and services. With the use of labels we are provided necessary information to minimalize our searches and guide us in our selections. My quest for petrol on an flashing fuel guage would not find much resolution by looking for businesses labeled Pharmacy. Identifying food products in the local grocery store would be fruitless without labels attached to the product. Searching a directory for plumbers would be of little help when in need of a haircut. Labels are important. We use them daily.

Labeling can also be puzzling when allowed to mutate into generalizations without discernment. I return again to the conversation about doctrinal denominational beliefs. After the word Label entered my mind I quickly chose to state my view that being guided by Labels alone in church selection could impede the search. Wisdom and discernment from the Holy Spirit and Scripture would provide the better guide not always found in generalized labels. I found agreement in that statement from my co-worker. It also provided a closing point to a pointed conversation.

Galatians 3:26-29  ” For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. For as many {of you} as were baptized into Christ [into a spiritual union and communion with Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah] have put on (clothed yourselves with) Christ. There is [now no distinction] neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ [are in Him Who is Abraham's Seed], then you are Abraham’s offspring and [spiritual] heirs acording to promise.” AMP

I do like labels. I use them everyday. I would find daily activity very difficult without them. I don’t use Labels very often when seaching for a church to visit. Now that word of caution comes into play. I will through wisdom and discernment of Scripture and agreement of the Holy Spirit avoid and eliminate churches not founded in the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I, you should only be in fellowship with others that are in Christ as He presented Himself, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by Me.” John 14:6

There are many churches out there and in my geographical area that present Christ as He presented Himself. Amazingly enough, most of them have Labels on their sign out front inviting you to come and join them in the worship of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I usually read the invitation and worship times, very rarely will I read the Label.

 

 

RESURRECTION

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Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, the day Christian believers cherish most dearly. It is a day of celebration and joy, a day to give thanks to God the Father for what He has done. On this day we more profoundly celebrate and declare that Jesus Christ, the Son, was resurrected from the dead. The event of the Resurrection holds several important meanings to those who believe. The Event reveals the true nature of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. The Event of the Resurrection allows us as believers to hope in our resurrection into eternal life as well. The Event of the Resurrection gives us as disciples faith in the promises of God through Jesus. The Event of the Resurrection proves there is life after this physical one we now know. There are numerous other meanings and important derivitives of the Event of the Resurrection, more than intended in this brief thought.

As a part of your Easter celebration this year I hope you have the opportunity to attend a worship service to be with family and friends. There I am sure at least one aspect of the Resurrection Event will be declared and expounded upon. The thought I wish to express today is as part of our Easter celebration that we consider the Resurrection, the Person. I wish not to confuse you or in any fashion seperate the our risen Lord from the event of the Resurrection. My intent of thought is primarily to shift our focus from the manifestations of the Resurrection Event to the person of the Resurrection, Jesus Christ. I myself, had often viewed the Easter celebration focusing primarily on the Event of the Resurrection and its meanings. This year, I am urged to look upon Resurrection, the Person.

JOHN 11: 25-26

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am [Myself] the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on) Me, although he may die, yet he shall live; And whoever continues to live and believes in (has faith in, cleaves to, and relies on) Me shall never [actually] die at all. Do you believe this? Amplified Bible

What a very poinent question Jesus asks of the Bible character Martha in this story. What a very profound statement Jesus is making to us as believers today. Jesus reveals to all who would believe that the Resurrection is a person, Himself, not an event! He does not just say that there will be a resurrection event of the dead on the last day. This is how Martha replied to Jesus following the death of her brother Lazarus. I encourage you to read the whole story of Lazarus in Chapter 11 of the Book of John to help you gain understanding.

Jesus says, “I am the Resurrection . . .”. Okay, you ask, what is the point here. Yes, Jesus was resurrected from the dead, because of Him we too have the hope of eternal life and resurrection. Yes, that is all true and more, much more. That alone is reason enough to celebrate Easter and every day.

Jesus identifies Himself here in this passage with another name. He declares His name is also Resurrection. Rather than an event the name Resurrection is He, the two are inseperable. It is not just something that will take place because of Him, it is Him. Resurrection is the person Jesus.

In the times of trouble when trials of this world come our way, we can hope. When calamities fall around and upon us we can not escape, we have faith. When the illness is diagnosed, and no cure is available, we can believe. When the world seems headed to certain destruction, we can trust. When the next generation seems to have wandered away, we can hold fast.

We can hope, have faith, believe, trust, and hold fast to Resurrection, the Person. When faced with any and all of the mentioned troubles, it is sometimes just our final prayer to look to the Resurrection, the Event. One day it will be over and all will be well. This is true, God promised. But I offer you another alternative view, in your prayer look to Resurrection the Person. Jesus, was making a point with Martha, one He intended for us to see and understand as well. He was not just a part of the Resurrection event to come, He was it in person. And the Person had a surprise for Martha, her brother came walking out of the cave, alive!

Now good Christian doctrine will dictate that I may actually need to wait for the Recurrection event for my healing, God’s thoughts and plans are not my own. His are much higher and all for His glory. Jesus, the Resurrection person will always be about His Father’s business and bring glory to the Father. In this we can look to the Resurrection person for today’s need, not just a future healing event. When I pray or call out to Jesus about the troubles of my today, I can restate what Jesus said of Himself. Jesus you are the Resurrection and the Life. I believe you!

HAPPY EASTER!

MIRRORED SIDE

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MATTHEW 6:12, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” These words were spoken by Jesus in the familiar verses known to us as “The Lord’s Prayer.” Jesus went on to say in verse 14 of the same chapter of Matthew, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

So many times when the subject of forgiveness is brought to our attention, either from the pulpit or admonishment from a friend, we are primarily concerned with our hurt or woundedness. Someone hurts our feelings and our friend understands but knows the scripture and instructs us that we must forgive. Our pastor gives an anointed sermon on forgiveness and we are reminded that perhaps we had not quite forgiven that past injury from long ago. I admit I too have fell victim to unforgiveness, at some time we probably all are guilty of not having a forgiving heart.  We are trapped in our own hurt and self centered feelings. Our self pity inhibits our willingness to forgive the injuring party.  The problem could very well be we are focused on what they did to us. Perhaps we need to look in the mirror side of forgiveness.

I believe there are two window panes as we view out our souls at forgiveness. The lower pane is an unobstructed look at our wound and the person who did it! We oft use this pane because with our head down in self pity it’s the only one we see. I have also found it is very difficult to allow forgiveness to stream out this window; the down draft keeps blowing back inward.

There is an upper pane to the window of our soul, this pane is mirrored. When we raise our head from self pity, we can look straight into the mirrored pane of forgiveness. There we see what Jesus said about forgiveness and our own shortcomings before Him. Many aspects are visible in this view. We see that we all fall short daily and need His forgiveness. Often we can see that we may have had a role in the event that wounded us, actually even causing hurt to the other person. Rarely is it all one person’s fault, especially in light of our Christian view as Jesus taught. Perhaps even we have continued to cause hurt to another and have yet to ask for forgiveness. The most excellent part of the upper window pane, is while we are looking up toward Christ, forgiveness flows in and out of our souls. We can forgive and be forgiven.

There is an example of forgiveness related in a story found in the New Testament. This story contains all the above elements of forgiveness. I believe the best part of this story is that we are left to speculate on how it ends, even supplanting ourselves into each role. What would we have done? Which window pane would capture our view?

My favorite example of forgiveness found in the Bible has to be the story of Onesimus. I can’t be sure why I like it so much, there are so many different aspects to the story, but I feel I am drawn to this true story from the aspect of the guy who did the wrong, or the obvious wrong. The fellow who was prompted to do the forgiving probably has much more to display as exemplifying a biblical incident of forgiveness. Even Paul who orchestrated the whole forgiveness proceedings from start to finish was a better testimony to forgiveness. So it is not that I like this one episode in God’s revealing Himself because great spiritual men forgave but because a small man found God’s forgiveness and was able to forgive himself and seek the forgiveness of those he had wronged. Oh, I firmly believe he had considered the consequences of his wrong acts before he turned to face his wrong, but the desire to act out what he had been given was even a stronger stimulus than fear of retribution. I believe this is a great example of forgiveness in the Bible, because one little man forgave himself, capturing the heart of what he had been given, forgiveness by Christ.

I like this story in the way it was written and feels, common. I will insert the proper descriptive information for correctness, but I believe the story becomes more relative in everyday truth. Let’s look at this Onesimus fellow, even his name is a contradiction to his character. He is a runaway slave, skipped town and even stole from his employer/owner Philemon. Onesimus means useful or beneficial in Greek, he could hardly be called that in view of his current circumstances.

I want to interject here a note about slavery and Christianity. I believe scripture would lead all men to believe they are servants/slaves to Christ alone. To enslave another would contradict how Jesus instructed us to love one another. In the period of this story slavery was most common and accepted throughout the Roman Empire and the known world. It was embedded in their culture. Historians believe there were approximately three slaves to every freeman by count at this time. Slavery was not a racial issue then. The Roman government practiced enslaving its captured nations rather than killing them. Most of the domestic slaves of that time were educated. Many were paid wages, bought their way to freedom, or were made free men after a length of service. Of course not all slaves at this time were treated well. Slavery has never been good for the enslaved, then, in our nation’s past, or now throughout the world.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Back to our story of Onesimus, found in the Book of Philemon, New Testament, written by Paul as a letter. In his getaway he winds up in jail, we don’t know why, in Ephesus or Rome about A.D.60 or so. No matter where he was, he meets or remeets this guy we know as Paul the Apostle, small world of coincidence that they should meet. Onesimus receives the Gospel from Paul and is forgiven for his sins. He becomes a help to Paul in ministering to his needs while imprisoned and recaptures his name of useful. Along the way of becoming a servant not a slave, Simon must have forgiven himself too.

Let’s now consider Philemon, the namesake of the letter written by Paul from jail. Philemon was a prosperous Christian, a member of the church in Colossae, perhaps even a minister.  Probably personally known by Paul and converted by hearing him preach. It is feasible to think Onesimus might have even seen Paul or known who he was while enslaved in Colossae. He was a gentile believer not necessarily a Roman citizen, so his legal claims to Onesimus as a runaway may not have been a matter of Roman law. Under Roman law Onesimus crime would have been punishable by death. The church may have met in Philemon’s house. Colossae was a well known market city in present day Turkey. Philemon undoubtedly grew up taking slavery as common in this area and culture. When Onesimus runs away taking some of what belonged to Philemon, he considers himself the injured party as would law and public opinion.

Paul in his letter to Philemon is presenting Onesimus back to him as rightful and even promises to make restitution for what was taken from him. Paul has hand written this letter to be carried back by Onesimus and personally presented to Philemon. There is more to this brief letter than returning a slave, much more. Paul sets about to plead with Philemon on Onesimus behalf. In his letter are several arguments to this end. Included in these, sometimes subtly, are admonishments and advice to Philemon to look at the mirrored pane of his own soul. Enslavement of Onesimus would be a big one, but Paul also makes him aware that he too was a sinner, now forgiven.

We must look at Paul as the playmaker in this story. As with many of Paul’s converts Onesimus takes on hardily the task of ministering to Paul for the sake of the Gospel. From Paul’s on writing we see that he preferred to have Onesimus stay and work with him. This is where we can only speculate what happened. I tend to think Onesimus was happy to be where he was but there was this inner nagging about the wrong he had done and he longed for forgiveness from Philemon and reconciliation. I like to think in Paul’s wisdom he saw that this was a God opportunity to reveal the practice of forgiveness and make plain the teaching of Christ, so he encouraged Onesimus to return and ask for forgiveness. As a measure of trust Paul inserted himself into the plan for Onesimus’ sake as well as Philemon. He could face punishment by returning and Philemon would be presented with a test of his faith to forgive and accept him back as his brother in Christ. Paul does not discount the wrong done by Simon nor try to minimize it. Paul realized that their transformation should have impact on their social interaction as well as their spiritual one. Paul does remind Philemon that he has the right to demand forgiveness but he does not. He chooses rather to appeal to his knowledge of God’s grace and love.

This story is a great example of forgiveness in the Bible and shows some practical application. Three stages of forgiveness, restoring humanity to the wrong doer, surrendering our right to get even, and blessing the one we forgive are all revealed in this story. The fundamentals of the healing process are told here. We see that wise counsel can reveal our own need to take the mirrored view, accounting our failures as well. We are reminded that it takes one to forgive but two to reconcile, maybe with the help of a third. Also we see that there are strings attached to forgiveness with reconciliation, just asks Philemon. This bible story reminds us that forgiveness is fair, a statement of severe honesty, and it is natural in our new creation. We saw Paul recognize God’s view of forgiveness as a must opportunity to be taken even with risk. Blame and judgment are recognized and not discounted so forgiveness can occur. Forgiveness can only truly occur when both panes of the window to our soul are opened before Christ.

In closing I do believe the best part of all the practical truth told in this story is being able to forgive ourselves. I hold that most important of the lessons of Philemon and forgiveness. How did Onesimus learn to forgive himself? We see the right of telling it to ourselves, over and over. We keep it to ourselves; we don’t flaunt it especially in front of the one we wronged. We do act like it though. We do something extravagant, to honor what we have been forgiven. I can’t tell you for sure how the story ends with Onesimus. One account says he not only was accepted, reconciled, and freed but that he went on to be a bishop and the head of the church in Ephesus after Timothy. This account also says he was imprisoned and martyred in Rome. The Eastern Orthodox Church recognizes him as Saint Onesimus. I don’t know. He may have been forgiven and returned to his social level of slave in Philemon’s household. He may have been reconciled and set free. He may have become Philemon spiritual partner and great things for the kingdom were done. I don’t know but I believe he was forgiven by God and himself.  Now that’s the Gospel!

GUILT & FORGIVENESS

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  • •           GUILT & FORGIVENESS            By: Don Williams

A  presentation to help us better understand guilt and forgiveness.

  • •           GUILT

The one factor common to everyone, found in anxiety, depression, anger, relational, sexual, martial, abuse, identity, family, divorce, and control issues.

The one factor common to all men.

We all suffer from guilt at some time.

WHY? Because we are all guilty!

ROMANS 3:23, ECCLESIASTES 7:20,    ACTS 17:30

Guilt has been described as the place where religion and psychology most often meet. It is a terribly painful emotional experience. In most all of the problems that a person may face, guilt will be a part of the difficulty. With this knowledge it is imperative that we learn to help others and ourselves manage guilt in a way that brings forgiveness.

  • •           TWO CATAGORIES of GUILT

Ø OBJECTIVE GUILT occurs when a law has been broken, the lawbreaker is guilty, not related to feelings.

Ø SUBJECTIVE GUILT refers to the inner feelings of remorse and self-condemnation that come because of our actions.

It is important to be able to distinguish between the two types of guilt.

  • •           OBJECTIVE GUILT

Ø LEGAL :SOCIETY’S LAWS

Ø THEOLOGICAL: LAWS OF GOD

Ø PERSONAL: PERSONAL STANDARDS

Ø SOCIAL: SOCIALLY ACCEPTED RULES

LEGAL GUILT: a violation of society’s laws, an example would be theft. If a person steals from a store the individual is guilty of theft whether they are caught or not and regardless of remorse.

THEOLOGICAL GUILT: a failure to obey God’s laws. The Bible describes divine standards for human behavior, standards that we all violate at some time in our actions or thoughts.

PERSONAL GUILT: a violation of our own personal standards or resistance to the urgings of our conscience. An example would be a devoted father who had to be out of town on business on his child’s birthday. No illegal, immoral, or unbiblical acts were committed, but guilt is present.

SOCIAL GUILT: when we break unwritten socially accepted rules. An example would be talking too loudly in a normally quiet setting, a funeral gathering.

These types of guilt overlap, merge, and sometimes are not easily distinctive. Although most people would be uncomfortable when they violate any of the four objective types of guilt it is quite possible to do all of these and not feel guilty.

  • •           SUBJECTIVE  GUILT

The uncomfortable feeling of regret, remorse, shame, and self-condemnation associated with perceived wrongful acts or thoughts, including omission.

Ø APPROPRIATE GUILT FEELINGS

Ø INAPPROPRIATE GUILT FEELINGS 

Appropriate guilt feelings are present when we have broken a law, disobeyed biblical teaching, or violated the dictates of our conscience and feel remorse in proportion to the seriousness of our actions.

Inappropriate guilt feelings are out of proportion to the seriousness of the act.  These often come from within ourselves or can come from statements or judgments of others.

  • •           BIBLE   &   GUILT

Ø People usually refer to subjective guilt.

Ø Biblical Guilt is objective guilt.

Ø Psalms and other scripture relate  personal remorse, but not guilt feelings.

Ø Bible does not imply that we should arouse guilt feelings in others.

Ø Constructive Sorrow: godly sorrow.

Ø Divine Forgiveness: major biblical theme.

The words translated guilt in the Bible refer to the objective guilt in the theological category, not the subjective feelings of guilt that most people talk about when referring to guilt. A person is guilty in the biblical sense when they have broken God’s law. In the Bible there is little difference between guilt and sin.

Although biblical writers never mention subjective guilt, we do see this type of guilt throughout scripture. Deep expressions of remorse over sin are found in the Psalms. Paul writes of his own inner anguish as he fails to do good.

As a believer we have no reason to have guilt feelings because of the work of Christ, even so we continue in mental self punishment, dwelling on guilt we feel over our sin.

Many teachers, parents, preachers, and coaches attempt to stir up guilt feelings in others in an attempt to motivate, change behavior, punish wrongdoers, and protect people from future sin. These tactics may work temporarily but tend to be manipulative and arouse unhealthy guilt feelings.

The concept of Constructive Sorrow or Godly sorrow is seen in Paul’s writings. In 2Corinthians 7:8-10, Paul describes worldly sorrow (guilt feelings) contrasted with godly sorrow ( helps us turn away from sin and seek salvation.  Psychological guilt is self condemning and confession is usually a selfish motive to get relief from guilt feelings. Godly sorrow involves remorse, repentance, and a genuine desire to change.

Divine Forgiveness established by Christ so we could be forgiven and restored. Most biblical passages imply that forgiveness comes with two conditions confession and repentance. It also means we must forgive others.  We can help people find forgiveness from God, help them forgive others, help them receive forgiveness, and forgive themselves.

  • •           CAUSES OF GUILT

Ø PAST EXPERIENCES

Ø INFERIORITY and SOCIAL PRESSURE

Ø FAULTY CONSCIENCE DEVELOPMENT

Ø SUPERNATURAL INFLEUENCES

Ø LACK OF FORGIVENESS

Most people feeling guilty are seeking help with their subjective guilt feelings, they may be from an objective guilt but they seek help for their feelings. Why do they feel guilty? Some reasons are.

Past experiences and unrealistic expectations are a main reason. Early childhood parental standards and punishment can lead to self-criticism, inferiority, and guilt feelings. Guilt feelings are also a way for us to both punish ourselves and push ourselves to do better. These unrealistic expectations usually are not successful.

Inferiority and Social Pressure: feelings of inferiority and guilt are intertwined and can cause the other. Our self-perceptions are greatly influenced by the opinions and criticisms of others.

Faulty Development of the Conscience: Although the term conscience is found in the New Testament it is never clearly defined. Paul wrote that consciences are built on universal, divinely given principles that are written within us. A Conscience can be dead, dulled, weak, strengthened, and altered by teaching and actions of others. Again early childhood development is important here, as well as peer input, and social values. Christian training as a child or adult can also be an influencing factor on our conscience.

Supernatural Influences: an awareness of objective guilt can come from the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin. This influence is for cleansing and our good. Satan is referred to as the Accuser, these accusations in our thoughts lead to condemnation and guilt feelings.

A Lack of Forgiveness: not really a cause of guilt, but when we can not find forgiveness, guilt persists.

•           EFFECTS OF GUILT

Ø DEFENSIVE THINKING

Ø SELF-CONDEMNATION

Ø PHYSICAL REACTIONS

Ø MORAL PAIN

Ø REPENTANCE and FORGIVENESS

Guilt feelings can influence us in several ways.

Defensive Thinking: these take the form of defense mechanisms, ways of thinking that we use to avoid or reduce feelings of guilt. These can include repression, projection (blame), denial, withdrawal, rationalization, anger, or over apologize. Christians fall prey to the manner of thinking that “ sinful nature” is to blame. This can minimize the severity of sin and cheapen grace.

Self-Condemnation:  feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, weakness, low esteem, pessimism, and insecurity are all associated with guilt. Many people feeling guilt experience inability to accept compliments, say no to requests, or accept forgiveness. Anger of a self condemning nature can lead to depression and suicide.

Physical Reactions: guilt feelings can produce physical results. We are weakened and eventually may break.

Moral Pain: This type of effect is usually associated with the experience of intense violence, cruelty, or brutality. We experience deep moral pain from the acts we commit, experience or witness.

Repentance and Forgiveness: the one positive effect of guilt feelings. Confess and be made whole.

  • •           OVERCOMING  GUILT

Ø UNDERSTANDING and ACCEPTANCE

Ø INSTILLING INSIGHT

Ø MORAL EDUCATION

Ø REPENTANCE and FORGIVENESS

Ø MAKING RESTITUTION

Forgiveness and freedom from the burden of guilt is a gift from God. Guilt is a moral issue, and guilt feelings arise from moral failures. When people experience forgiveness, forgive others, and learn to forgive themselves they can learn to face their guilt and its causes.

Understanding and Acceptance: many people have a self condemning or self blaming attitude. We should not minimize the reality of sin, nor act morally superior, or condemn. An attitude of love and understanding works, love the sinner not the sin.

Instilling Insight: We must understand why we feel guilty. We must also be aware of our response to guilt. We need to recognize how or when our guilty feelings arose. These insights may lead to spiritual truths.

Moral Education: People with feelings of guilt must learn to reexamine their standards of right and wrong. It is almost basic theology, the solution to guilt feelings lies with honesty, confession, pray for forgiveness, repentance, and acceptance.

Repentance and Forgiveness: In dealing with the issue of forgiveness a person may think; I can’t ask for forgiveness, I don’t feel forgiven, I can’t forgive others, I can’t forget, and I can’t forgive myself. These struggles and thoughts are common to all.

Making Restitution: forgiveness is usually followed by a change in behavior and in thinking, these changes lead to true freedom from guilt.

  • •           CONCLUSION

The ultimate answer for guilt is not found solely in psychology. It is found in God and His forgiveness. We can be forgiven and our guilt removed and a way is provided to deal with our feelings of shame and guilt.

Although Christian Counseling is a wonderful tool to aid in our quest for freedom from guilt and to obtain inner peace, true forgiveness can only be found in the shed blood of Christ for our sin.

GUILT

HONESTY BEFORE GOD

CONFESS SIN

PRAY FORGIVENESS

REPENT

BELIEVE

ACCEPT

FORGIVEN

“The ultimate solution to guilt and guilt feelings is to honestly admit our pain, sufferings, failures, and guilt; to confess sin to Christ and at times to other human beings; to pray for forgiveness and a sincere desire to repent and change behavior; and then to believe with divine help that we are forgiven and accepted by the God of the universe.” quoted from Gary R. Collins, Ph.D. Christian Counselor.

 

WHAT DID YOU HEAR?

LINVILLE FALLS

What did you hear?

I don’t know if you ever played this game as a child or even as an adult in a form of party entertainment, but the game of repeating what you heard can be fun and enlightening. If the game has an official name I don’t know it, but basically one person secretly tells the person next to him a brief but concise statement. This statement beginning with the first person as being the true statement is then secretly repeated to the next person around the group. The more people that repeat the statement the more distortion seems to take place until the last person repeating the statement vocalizes what scantily resembles the original statement. As entertainment it is fun, as an observation it reveals the ease of a truth being distorted. This is true today but not a new problem to Christian disciples.

The Apostle John, one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples that witnessed His life, death, and resurrection, experienced this same phenomenon with Christian disciples in the 1st century following Christ’s death and resurrection.  John along with his fellow apostles including Paul had obeyed the Great Commission given to them and went throughout the known world teaching the Gospel (the truth) of Jesus Christ. Even in these early times of the spread of the Gospel, the truth was being distorted by false teachers. This is amazing given the first hand witness of the apostles of the truth of Jesus. The story being repeated by these false teachers was distorted from the original truth along a varying number of aspects. The problem for John at that time and the continuing problem today is that the distortion of the truth, the Gospel of Christ, is no game. The consequences of this distortion have present earthly effects as well as eternal implications for all men, Christian and nonbelievers.

The false teachers had distorted the truth in a number of ways which led to the writings by John found in his three letters to the church. John knew it was necessary to dispel these false teachings to prevent the corruption of the church at that time. The false teachers were presenting a false identity of Jesus as not fully human and fully God. Some were teaching a philosophy of being without sin in their spiritual state. Other false teachers claimed to know and love God but did not keep His commandments nor love one another. The list goes on and on, and continues ever growing today. Just as the Apostle John deemed it necessary to dispel the mistruths in his letters to the church of his day, those same letters of 1st, 2nd, and 3d John have advice and warnings for disciples today.

John letters to us today, boldly ask you as a disciple of Christ or perhaps as one who does not believe, “What did you hear?”

 

1st John 1:1-4

“We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.  NRSV

John wanted the readers and hearers of his letters to the church to grasp this important point. To emphasize its importance he repeats it several times in his letters. In 1st John alone he reissues the statement to adhere to that which “you have heard from the beginning,” four times. It is found in 1st John 1:1, 2:7, 2:24, and 3:11, as well as in 2nd John 5-6. We the readers and hearers of these same scriptures today are asked by John, “What did you hear?” He is admonishing us to let what we first heard of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to remain in us and not be deceived by new or false doctrine distorted by false teachers.

When the Spirit of God first convicted you of your sin and you were brought to repentance by this same Holy Spirit, forgiveness of sin and promise of eternal life was by grace through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He alone is your Lord and Savior that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That was what you heard from the beginning by the Spirit of God, whether it was audible, from the pulpit, or in a Christmas song. No matter how you heard it, cling to the truth you heard from the beginning.

In our new age of technology and intelligence much of the truth has been distorted or twisted to suit our cultural lusts and pride of life. This distortion as in John’s time is a lie. There is but one truth and it begins, was created, and belongs to God alone. This one truth is Jesus Christ, Him crucified, and raised from the dead for the forgiveness of sin.

1st John 2:24-25

“Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what He has promised us, eternal life.” NSRV

What have you heard?

FORGOTTEN BIRTHDAY-5

FORGOTTEN BD 002
watercolor by m.stewart

watercolor by m.stewart

PART FIVE: CONCLUSION

TUESDAY: CHRISTMAS DAY

 

Joey was exhausted! He didn’t know if he had that last bit of strength yet needed to climb into the back seat for the trip home. He was truly tired. It was a different kind of tired, not the kind you have after a long day of work on the farm or even a long day of class work at school. Those kinds of tired come from depleting your physical strength or mental capabilities. The days when you are glad they are over and done. This exhaustion is almost as physically and mentally demanding as those kinds but quite different. This type of tired he was experiencing now was the kind brought about by non-stop joy. His Christmas Day had been so overflowing with fun, good times and just plain ole happy that he was emotional tired as well to add to his mental and physical fatigue.

Of course Joey had not analyzed the situation nor scoped through its various aspects, as a small boy, he was just tired from a great day of enjoyment and satisfaction. At his age it is possible to have fun all day without achieving satisfaction. The pleasure of fun activities can so distract that desires are pushed aside or forgotten. Not this day, Joey had such fun and the activities of the day were a fulfillment of his heart’s desires. That rare combination results in two things usually, utter exhaustion from all the body’s energy being expended and joy. Being happy is a common experience for a child, experiencing joy is rare for most, even for some adults.

Joy is a word Joey probably would not use or even understand, but it was something he was experiencing. He didn’t know it but his exhaustion and peace were pure joy in human form. What a day it had been. What a Christmas Day it had been!

Joey awoke to the sight of a beautifully decorated Christmas tree adorned with lights and shiny ornaments. Sometime during the final stages of tree decorating, Joey had drifted off to sleep on the sofa near the tree. Following the visit from the three gift bearers, the excitement level of his mom had become contagious. Joey and Eli as well could sense the great relief and happiness she felt. A huge weight was lifted off her shoulders and now it really seemed like Christmas to her also. She gathered the boys in for a big hug and immediately began talking about what this gift would mean to them all. The laughing and planning went on into the night, way past Joey’s bedtime.

There were so much good tidings from their gift that the talking was non-stop. Joey’s mom explained how that now they could surprise their dad with an unexpected visit tomorrow on Christmas Day. There was enough to supply gas for the trip and perhaps a surprise gift for him too. She spoke of how until this blessing she had only been able to buy just a few clothing items for each of the boys for Christmas but now they could have some left over to shop after Christmas. Everyone was excited, what a Christmas present. After Joey drifted off to sleep on the sofa, his mom finished the tree. She would let him sleep there for the night.

“It’s really pretty,” thought Joey as he lay on the sofa peering at the tree through still sleepy eyes. The bright lights gave a rainbow of color to the dark green tree. It was huge, or from Joey’s perspective; the tall tree with its Angel topper almost touching the ceiling. Joey smiled as he mused to himself, “I picked it out, all by myself. The farmhands wouldn’t have known which tree to get if I hadn’t marked it for them.”

“Of course they brought it home for me,” Joey denying the underlying thought of how he had failed to bring home the tree himself. “I am happy they did that for all of us, that was nice of them.”

“It’s Christmas really,” thought Joey. “It’s Christmas,” he shouted as he realized what he had just said. He sprang off the sofa and bounded over to beneath the tree to see what was there that had not been there the night before. When he had gone to sleep last night there were lights and ornaments but that was all. This morning there were presents. Some of them were neatly wrapped in bright holiday paper of red and green. Others had no wrapping, only a bright bow to adorn them. It didn’t matter much to Joey if there was unwrapping to be done or not, they were both still presents. To a small boy that was all that mattered.

After Eli and his mom joined Joey around the tree, they began a methodical exploration of the gifts found there. First there was the sorting, an orderly division of the packages according to the names found on the labels. Then in turn Joey and Eli would open one gift at a time, allowing for motherly explanations of the gifts use or size or proper care. Although there were not numerous gifts under the tree, the process of exposing each one and expounding on its attributes did require a good bit of time. Joey’s mom had the least number of gifts, so she took only intermittent turns in the opening ceremonies. Joey had created some handmade ornaments and a personal Christmas card for his mother. She seemed thrilled with her unique creations. Eli had bought her a real present with some of the money he had earned from working this season at the grocery store. It was a nice scarf and gloves that one of the ladies at the store had helped him pick out for his mom. She seemed very thankful for the winter wear and Eli’s thoughtfulness. Following the gift opening, it was time for breakfast, a bath, and get dressed for the real surprise of the day. They were traveling to the hospital to see their dad, and he didn’t know they were coming. What a surprise it would be!

There wasn’t any way to contact the boys’ dad prior to their arrival. There were no telephones in the rooms. Joey’s mom had said on the trip down that since it was Christmas Day that dad would probably be up and not have any treatment today so they would get to spend the day with him.

Upon arriving at the hospital the boys ran to the door, in some way hoping their dad would be there in the atrium waiting for them.

“Slow down boys,” shouted their mom. “We have to check in at the desk first, so they know we are here. Then they will tell your dad and he can come out here.” Her words of instruction fell on deaf ears.

After a quick glance around and no visual sighting of his dad, Joey stopped and looked up. There was the biggest Christmas tree he had ever seen. It was 10 times bigger than the one at home. The huge two story entrance to the hospital was now adorned with this massive celebration of Christmas. It was covered from top to bottom with bright lights that twinkled on and off in some sort of random pattern. There were ornaments too. Big ornaments to match the size of the tree hung from every available tree limb. Everywhere around the hall green pine garland had been carefully hung to mark each door and window. Above each strand of garland was a neatly tied red bow. This place had always seemed big whenever Joey had come before to see his dad, but whoa, this was spectacular. At Christmas these grey dark hallways came alive with the Christmas colors of red and green, bringing a sense of hope to their viewers.

“Hey kids,” came the familiar sound of their dad’s voice from across the great hall. They had been so busy looking at all the decorations that they had not noticed the time interval from their arrival. The two boys wheeled around in time to see their dad coming across the atrium being pushed in his wheelchair by their mom. From the speed of their footsteps toward him and the broad smile on his face, this was obviously a great Christmas surprise for them both.

“Wow, did you guys ever surprise me today! I didn’t think I would get to see you on Christmas Day but here you are,” spoke their dad with a slightly broken voice. He gathered them both in for a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Joey didn’t care much for kisses any more, he was getting older you know, but this one he welcomed.

“What a great surprise, this is the best Christmas present ever,” exclaimed their dad. “We will have some fun today now that you are here!”

 

The family foursome sat in the atrium for a while catching up on all the events of the past few days. Well the parents sat and sometimes Eli, but Joey never creased the seat of his pants. He was up moving and talking letting his arms give visual expression to his every word. Everyone took turns talking but sometimes at the same time. The drama and thrills of the past several days came alive again as each member of the household told their own personal take on each separate event.

Joey spoke with pride as he told his dad of his exploits to bring home the family Christmas tree this year. The small aspect of he not being able to accomplish the act was far outweighed by his cunning skill of planning and marking the tree for those to follow. Joey could see that his dad was impressed with his prowess. He didn’t even scold him for the secretive plan or borrowing the tools without permission.

Next in the summary of events, the trio recounted for their husband and dad the details of the herdsmen bringing the selected tree to the house. Joey’s mom told more of the story from her perspective. This shed a little less glory on Joey and his adventure to secure a tree. Joey took the cue; talked a little less while his mom was speaking. Joey did notice how his dad would smirk a little smile toward him when his mom wasn’t looking. That helped.

Joey was glad when his mom got to the next part of their story. She began telling about the three men from church coming to the house and giving her the gift that made this day possible. He took it as a sign that he could start talking non-stop again. His version of the event was far more thrilling than his moms’. She kept tearing up and saying how thankful she was for today and the gift from the three that made it all possible. Joey’s dad listened intently to each member of his family. He was just so glad to have them there with him this day.

As the noon hour approached, Joey’s mom interrupted the barrage of excited conversation from the boys to their dad. “Well, I have one more surprise for all three of you,” she said. “I checked with the nurses and they said we could all have Christmas dinner together with your dad in the cafeteria! They are having a special dinner for everyone in the hospital and their families too. This will be great,” as she bent down and hugged them all once more.

“Let’s go,” said Joey, as he turned to lead the way. All three remaining members of the party just sat still in amusement. They realized that Joey had no idea which of the numerous vast hallways to turn into and soon he would realize it for himself. Just seconds later Joey abruptly stopped, turned back toward the group with smiles on their faces. “Come on dad, which way?”

“Slow down Joey,” came the instruction from his mom. “I will lead the way to the cafeteria. You and Eli help push your dad, but not too fast, okay!”

Joey had not been down any of the long pathways leading out of the entrance before, some strange rule about being old enough. Well today was different, it was Christmas. After making their way down a seemingly endless maze of corridors, the troop finally arrived at a huge set of double doors. As they rolled the wheelchair upon the entrance pad the broad doors sprang open wide. It would be difficult to say which had sprung open the widest at that moment, the automated doors or Joey’s eyes as he beheld the wonders in the room on the other side of the doors.

“Wow,” exclaimed Joey. “Look mom, dad, another gigantic Christmas tree!” In the middle of the room stood another tall Christmas tree adorned from top to bottom with blinking lights and oversized ornaments. There were innumerable tables placed all around the tree filling up the enormous banquet hall. On one side was a serving line like the one at Joey’s school but twice as long and filled with every delicious thing imaginable.

“Okay boys, let’s find a table first,” said his mom as she looked about the room. The vast cafeteria was almost half full when they arrived. There were other families, lots of kids, some doctor and nurse people, and Joey noticed there were many other dads there in their robes and pajamas.

“Over here mom,” said Eli as he pointed to an empty table near the tree. “That one will be fine,” as his mom wheeled the chair into place.

Within a little while, a man in a suit came and stood in front of the long serving line. He was barely visible to Joey from his seat at the table.

“I want to welcome all our guests today to our special Christmas dinner celebration. We invite you all to come and eat as our gift to you. Chaplin Howard will give thanks for this day and meal, then everyone line up and enjoy yourselves.” He continued, “Now boys and girls take your time, don’t rush through your dinner, but don’t leave too soon. I have been told there will be a special visitor arriving after dinner fresh from the North Pole!”

Joey had never seen so much food in one place. At lunch time at the school there would be big pans filled with the choices of the day, but the choices were singular. Here the choices seemed endless and Joey could hardly make up his mind. As he pushed his tray along the bar, every new selection seemed better than the previous one. With his dad’s urging Joey decided on the turkey and dressing, just like his dad. The really neat thing was the dessert table was set up separately and overflowing with lots of choices. Joey of course went for the chocolate cake. It’s hard to beat a proven favorite.

 

After dinner, there were a group of nurses positioned around an old piano in the corner of the hall. They sang several familiar Christmas songs and invited everyone to sing along also. Suddenly through the massive double doors burst a familiar sight in a bright red suit. Santa’s entrance with a sack on his back brought a huge cheer from all the children scattered about the hall. With a big “Ho Ho Ho,” Santa began making his way about the room to every table. He had helpers to pass along Christmas gift bags to each and everyone.

Joey knew it wasn’t really Santa, but what kid in his right thinking is going to say anything at this moment. Santa was headed his way with a bag full of surprises. As he took the brown paper bag from a helper, Joey did remember with a look from his mom to say, “Thank you.” Everyone round the table, even his folks got a gift bag and a “Merry Christmas” from the jolly fellow.

Without delay Joey peeled open the bag to discover an assortment of nuts, fruit, and best of all candy. There were striped candy canes, multi-flavored hard candies, and of course chocolate drops. Joey wasn’t real sure why his folks gave him and Eli all their candy, surely they liked chocolate too. They seemed content with the apples and oranges found in their bag. He didn’t question their choices but gladly opened his sack for the added treats.

The foursome had sat around the table laughing and talking for most of the afternoon. Other families were lingering as well; no one seemed to want to leave. Once while Joey’s mom had left to go to the bathroom, Joey went and sat in his dad’s lap. He wanted to tell him about the amazing discovery he had made this Christmas. He was sure he would understand. As Joey explained the events of the church Christmas play and the wooden nativity ornament he had been given, his dad listened with great intent. When Joey had finished talking, Joey’s dad gave him a big hug as he said, “Well how about that, Joey. I had never figured that out either before you told me. You and Jesus share your birthdays at Christmas time. Now that’s special! No one could ever forget your birthday or His, ever. They just have to remember its Christmas!”

Joey didn’t say anything. He didn’t need to. His dad got it, even if some of the others didn’t.

“Well guys we need to be heading home soon, before it gets too late,” said his mom. As she rose from the table she continued, “I don’t want to be driving home after dark in this weather and your dad needs to get some rest after this tiring day.”

 

With a tug on the rim of the back seat Joey hoisted himself past the doorway of the car with his seemingly last bit of strength. Joey was exhausted! What a Christmas Day this had been!

He settled into the backseat, pulling the hood of his coat up over his ears. He gathered his treasures left there in the seat of the car. The small wooden ornament clutched in one hand and the faithful “Queen Anne” box of chocolates pulled up next to him on the seat.

As they made their way out of the parking lot of the hospital the car slowly began to warm and Eli fumbled with the radio playing Christmas music.

 

 

“Well Joey,” said his mom peering in the rearview mirror as she entered the highway headed back home. “Did you have a good Christmas?”

It was a delayed answer, quite expected by his mom. She knew he would soon be asleep as they traveled homeward.

“Yeah, we had a great birthday,” came the muffled tone from the rear seat.

She wasn’t sure if the sleepiness or the last bite of a cream filled chocolate covered cherry distorted his reply. The unexpected answer brought a gaze of puzzlement from her eyes into the mirror for a last look. He was about gone.

Joey’s last thoughts were centered on his amazing stewardship of his chocolate covered treasures. With his plan he could make them last till time for school to begin again. It was all in the planning and of course his unique way of devouring them in a two step process.

As the radio softly played a welcoming tune, Joey drifted off in sleep. “Yep, it was a great birthday, huh Jesus.”

“Silent night, Holy night

All is calm, all is bright

Round yon Virgin Mother and Child

Holy Infant so tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly peace

Sleep in heavenly peace.”

 

 

 

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