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The Beaded Reindeer

25 Dec

Read: Matthew 7:7-27

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

James 1:5

It was a warm, mid-August afternoon and I had spent the better portion of my day standing at the checkout counter unpacking Christmas merchandise.  I’m not certain whose idea it was to start Christmas this early, but several other stores had begun putting their product on display in July, so I suppose we were just keeping up with the flow.

While I was able to clearly identify most of the product I was labeling, there was one item which baffled me.  Long, twisted gold wires with bright red, green, and gold beads created quite an elaborate and sparkly, but indefinable figure.  Upon closer examination, I was able to determine that it was some sort of standup decoration, but even once I’d sorted out which side was “up” (this task was not as easy as one might have hoped), I wasn’t wholly certain what it was.

The curly cues at the back of what I assumed was the head might, perhaps, be antlers, but that seemed unlikely given the doggish shape of the head (complete with a gold beaded nose that made it really hard to tell whether it was a dog or maybe a seal). Then, there were the feet.  Long and fat, they flopped forward for half the body length of the strange creature, making it look like some sort of deformed rabbit.

I turned the creature over in my hands several times.  “What exactly is this supposed to be?”

My manager gazed at it closely for a moment or two and then announced “It’s a deer.  See the antlers.”

I frowned, wondering how she could identify the “thing” with such certainty.

It was at this point that she explained that the catalogue from which she had ordered had not contained any pictures of the product, just descriptions – including one for a “Beaded Reindeer.”

Unfortunately, many times in this world we find ourselves in the same predicament as my manager, being promised one thing and receiving something entirely different instead.  Sometimes these discrepancies are small and inconsequential, but at other times, they can make the difference between life and death.  Fortunately, God doesn’t cut corners on the details.  We can rest assured that He will provide exactly what He has promised… every time!

Challenge:  While we only see pieces of the puzzle, God sees the whole picture.  This vantage point makes Him uniquely qualified to make unconditional commitments to His children… and we can be certain that He will do exactly what He has promised!  The next time you feel tempted to worry, spend a moment in prayer.  Then, commit to trust Him, regardless of your circumstances!

Today’s devotion was excerpted from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce” available in print for $9.99 or on Kindle for $7.99.

My Sparkling Personality

18 Dec

Read: Exodus 34:29-35

“For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Hebrews 3:14-15a

“What is it about Christmas decorations,” I asked, shaking a sugar covered wreath that I had found lying on a shelf, “that requires them to consist of all these little sparkles and things that are destined to fall off all over your carpet every time you touch them?”

“Guess it’s just more festive that way,” my coworker suggested, grinning and shrugging her shoulders.  “It does seem to get everywhere, doesn’t it?”

After a day of merchandising the product, I could easily affirm her statement.  It seemed that the more time I spent with the decorations, the more I had begun to look like one, myself.  The glitter coated my clothes, my face, my hair, and was even inconveniently stuck between my toes.  I attributed my magical glow to “my sparkling personality” and let it go at that, but I couldn’t help feeling that everyone who passed was taking note of my strikingly festive appearance.  Everyone knew where I had been and what I had been doing!

Scripture tells us that, spending time with Christ should have much the same effect as spending time with Christmas decorations – the more we are with Him, the more we will look like Him.  As His Spirit fills us, we will begin to conform more and more to His image and will – leading others to take note of who we are and in whose presence we have been!

Challenge: Are you spending time with God through prayer and the study of His Word?  If not, commit to making time in His presence a regular part of your life.  The more you are with Him, the more like Him you will become!

Today’s devotion was excerpted from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce” available in print for $9.99 or on Kindle for $7.99.

The Headless Santa

11 Dec

Read: Acts 9:1-22

 

“And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.”

Acts 9:20–22

 

Decorating a store for Christmas has always been one of my favorite tasks.  There is something wonderful about arranging displays of garland and ornaments, “fluffing” artificial trees, and adorning everything with multi-colored blinking lights.  I feel inspired, even worshipful as I place each nativity on the shelf.  Every now and then, however, someone comes up with a unique decoration idea that may not convey the spirit of the holiday as well as one might hope.

“Are you actually hanging a Christmas tree upside down from the ceiling?”  I asked.  I knew my tone was a bit incredulous, but it isn’t every day that one’s manager is seen trying to strap inverted objects to the roof of a greenhouse.

“Yes,” she replied, as though hardly thinking such an answer was necessary.

I watched with interest for a moment then asked the only question I could think of, the only one that made any sense given the situation, “Why?”  

“‘Cuz I feel like it,” she replied, retrieving the roll of wire which was balanced atop her ladder and beginning to secure the bottom part (and only the bottom part) of a Santa Claus to the tree.

“You know, it’s the wrong holiday for headless things,” I observed.

“I know,” she replied, grinning mischievously. 

For the next hour, my manager worked quietly, eventually wiring on Santa’s head, though it still hung rather precariously from his body.  “You know, that wire won’t hold and Santa’s head is going to fall off in front of some little kid and scar him for life,” I warned.  “He’ll live in mortal terror of Santa Claus!” 

While Santa never did lose his head, I wasn’t amiss in my belief that past experiences, especially traumatic ones, can often affect the way we respond to people or situations in the present.  Scripture, however, teaches that previous experience is not always the best guide.  While we should not be naïve, expecting to see change everywhere, we also shouldn’t be so set in our beliefs that we anticipate the same results in every situation.  God still performs miracles, just as He did with Saul!

 

Challenge: Are you allowing your experiences with certain people or situations to dictate the way you react to similar circumstances in the present?  If you are, commit to weighing each situation honestly and allowing room for God to work.

Today’s devotion was excerpted from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce” available in print for $9.99 or on Kindle for $7.99.

This Little Light of Mine

4 Dec

Read: Matthew 5:13-16

 “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

1 Peter 2:12

One of my favorite Christmas tasks was getting the toy department ready.  I took a particular liking to the baby toys: things that light up and shake and sing songs and spin and flip and spring.  In fact, I was teased quite a bit because my interest in playing with these toys oft times exceeded the interest of the very children for whom they had been designed.

The fascination which I felt with the “three and under” category did not frequently extend to the rest of the department, so it came as a bit of a surprise when one of the “six and over” toys caught my attention.  It was a three foot licorice whip type protrusion which extended from a hard, glittery handle in yellow, pink, orange or green.  When batteries were placed inside of the handle, this extension lit up, producing a glow quite similar to that of a table lamp.  Despite the apparent uselessness of the device, I couldn’t resist the urge to play with it.  First, I tried using it as a sparkler, whipping it around and writing things in the air.  Then, I tried using it as a flashlight to look beneath my manager’s desk (nothing terribly exciting down there).  Finally, I tried some make believe fencing moves with it.  I was hooked.  This was clearly one of the best toys ever invented!

I quickly decided that there was absolutely no way that such a device could stay on the shelf as a display (since no one would have any idea what to do with something labeled “Glo-Wand”) and began carrying one around with me to show off to the other employees.  I do believe that most of them were rather frightened when I emerged from behind shelves and boxes, whipping the lithe plastic tube through the air in as menacing a fashion as I could manage.

During the afternoon when I carried it, however, something interesting struck me: when I was out in the store beneath the florescent lighting, you could barely tell that it was turned on, but when I walked back into a dark corner of the warehouse, the little device let out as much light as Yankee Stadium!  Its light seemed to increase as the darkness increased!

Similarly, as God’s children our light shows up best in the darkest places.  While Christians need to spend time in each other’s company, it is when we are in the company of those who do not yet know Jesus that our lives shine the brightest!

Challenge: Are there some “dark places” where you live, work, or go to school?  Commit to spend some time to bringing light to them!  Volunteer at a local homeless shelter or food bank, take an unsaved co-worker to lunch, or stop by the home of a shut-in.  You’ll be surprised at how much a “little light” can brighten someone’s day!

Today’s devotion was excerpted from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce” available in print for $9.99 or on Kindle for $7.99.

It Sings

2 Jan

Read: Psalm 98:1-9

“O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.  Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.”

– Psalms 95:1-2 KJV

In my mind, no store can carry any merchandise more abominable than things that sing.  It is not that I have any objection to singing.  In and of itself, music can be quite beautiful.  However, when a singing item is placed on a display shelf, it naturally attracts the attention of everyone who passes.  The result is that the employees who work in the department in which the singing merchandise has been placed are forced to listen to the same song or refrain all day, every day for months on end until they repeat it in their sleep.

My list of despicable singing things includes the caroling trout, “La Cucaracha” playing chip and dip bowls, mooing cookie jars and the barn cookie jar that plays the “Green Acres” theme song.  (I also feel a strong loathing for jack-in-the-boxes and talking action figures.)

There was one piece of singing merchandise, however, that I took a particular liking to: a line of stuffed, caroling farm animals.  When squeezed, these creatures begin to sing in their native tongue.  That is to say, when I squeeze the cow, he moos “Deck the Halls” and if I squeeze the dog, he barks “Jingle Bells.”  Finding these characters particularly amusing, I was forced to consider why I felt such distaste for every other singing product in the store.  I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t the singing, or the songs, but the mechanical sound of the voices that turned something cheerful and beautiful into raucous noise.

As Christians, we too run the risk of our songs becoming little more than noise.  We sing the same hymn or praise chorus so many times that it has become mechanical.  Becoming focused on our actions, we forget the meaning that our they ought to embody.  We forget to fill our praises with the joy which God has given us.  And, instead of our songs being beautiful and melodic, a joy to God, they become worthless babble.

As we enter the New Year, let’s take a moment to commit to purposeful praise – the kind which shows both God and others the gratitude we feel.

Challenge:  Make a list of the ways that God has blessed you.  Then, let your songs be filled with the joy of Thanksgiving!

Book Signing this Friday!

30 Dec

From 2-5 PM on January 4th, A.C. Gheen will be signing copies of her book, Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce, at Hastings Books (540 E. 17th St, Idaho Falls, ID).

Retail Ready features a selection of daily meditations based upon the difficult and downright wacky experiences of a retail worker.  Each day’s devotion includes a Scripture reading, memory verse, and lifestyle application challenge to help teens learn to better integrate the teachings of the Bible with their daily lives.  Readers are encouraged to approach their job with purpose, intention, and a good dose of humor!

A. C. has worked as a cashier, freight worker, retail sales clerk, buyer, event caterer, elected official, and Staff Assistant to a U.S. Senator.  Her eight years in youth ministry qualify her to offer teens this uniquely Biblical perspective on what it means to live an active Christian life while achieving success within the secular workforce.

Excerpts from Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce are available online at: https://acgheen.wordpress.com/category/devotions/retail-ready/

Hope to see you there!!

You Can’t Even Give It Away!

5 Dec

Tomorrow, through December 9th, get a FREE Kindle edition of “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce”!

Read: Matthew 28:18-20

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2

Some people seem to be sent into our lives simply to test us and, on this particular afternoon, I found just such a person standing nearby as I worked to sign people up for our store’s discount card.

After listening to several customers tell me that they weren’t interested, he turned around and declared quite adamantly, “You can’t even give those away!”

I smiled and said that I was giving them away to which he responded with a piteous smile.

After I had been told “no” several more times, he turned and said something to the effect of, “Guess they don’t know what a great deal they’re missing.” (At this point, I could feel myself growing irritated at his mockery.)

No, no, no, no… “So how many hours do you have to do this?” he asked with a delighted grin.

Resisting the urge to let him have it, I relaxed in my seat and continued my work. The truth was, despite his derision, I was ten memberships short of averaging one for every three minutes of the entire six hour period in which I had been working! The results of my efforts had been nothing short of phenomenal and the choice was now mine – to focus on the negative and give up or to see the success which had been achieved and finish the task.

As believers in Christ, we often face very similar situations and it can be difficult to keep our focus, particularly when people are making fun of us or deriding what we believe. And that’s why the Bible tells us to keep our eyes on Christ. Only by making Jesus the center of our lives at all times will we be able to stay on the path He has prepared for us and accomplish the task which He has given us – that of sharing the Gospel with sinners like ourselves!

Challenge: This week, commit to keep your focus on Christ and finish the task!

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