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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.

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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.

The Label Maker

16 Oct

Read: Acts 16:22-31

“Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches.  Everyone who is victorious will eat of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven.  And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.”

Revelation 2:17 NLT

 

It was a dull afternoon.  All of the pages had finished their tasks for the day and were shut up in the “page cage.”  We were busy debating what to do with the rest of our day, when someone pointed out that we had several label makers available to us.  And what good were label makers if they weren’t used to label things?

Picking up one of the guns, one of the pages quickly printed out the word “door” and attached it to the door of our tiny office.  Passing it on, another page typed out the word “window” and immediately affixed it to the windowsill.  The next thing to receive a label were the chairs followed by the bookcases. We labeled the ceiling, the lights, the walls, and a paperweight… even each other.  And when we ran out of things to label?  We started all over in Spanish!

The Bible has quite a bit to say about the labels that each of us bear and none are more important than our names.  Given to us by our parents, they serve to identify both us and (at times) some of our unique characteristics.  They are labels which say something about who we are or what our parents hoped we would become.

Unlike the labels that the pages placed on the items in the room, these names may be more or less accurate and each of us knows someone who fails to live up to the name they were given.  This will all change, however, when we finally see God “face-to-face”.

Scripture tells us that at the end of time, God will give each of us a special name which He has chosen for us and which will describe us perfectly.  These labels will not be based upon what He hopes we will become, but upon what we actual are through the sacrifice and renewing power of His Son.  There’s only one catch if you want one of these perfectly accurate labels… you have to belong to Him.  Unlike pages, He doesn’t label other people’s property!

Challenge:  Have you accepted God’s gift of Salvation?  If you haven’t, consider doing so.  A little step of faith will lead to great rewards!

The Moving Party

9 Oct

Read: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

“This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him concerning the events that will happen soon… God blesses the one who reads this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to it and obey what it says.  For the time is near when these things will happen.”

Revelation 1:1a, 3 NLT

 

It was exciting.  The tiny page cage was being redecorated and we were the ones tasked with performing the renovations.

The first thing to go was the two ton, solid wood, desk which blocked the doorway.  Built sometime during the eighteenth century, we speculated that it had been used by George Washington, himself, and carted across the country by wagon train.  An arduous journey, perhaps, but not too much for a piece of furniture built to survive an atomic blast.

The catch to moving the desk was that it was on the third floor of the capitol building.  We needed to get it down two flights of semi-circular stairs and onto the first floor where it would later be placed in storage.  Like pallbearers, eight pages and our Sergeant at Arms lined up to lift the enormous hulk, directing it cautiously through doors of the House chambers.

Finding it somewhat heavier than anticipated, we stopped to rest at the top of spiral staircase and began to debate what we ought to do next.  After some discussion, it was determined that we would maintain our formation with the strongest pages at the bottom and the rest of us relieving the weight from the top.  Then, lining ourselves up, we slowly began to make our way down the flight.

There wasn’t really enough room on the staircase for both the desk and the cadre of pages and we soon found ourselves in a very dangerous position sandwiched between the heavy piece of furniture and the cool marble wall.  With only about six inches between the desk and the railing/wall, we were all inhaling as deeply as we could and praying that we’d make the rest of the journey intact.

It was at the moment when we realized our danger that it happened: the top fell off.  The large piece of dark wood went flying down the stairs as if it had been aerodynamically gifted and landed in the entryway with the smack of a gunshot. Within seconds, the entire Capitol security compliment jumped into action, guns drawn and ready for a showdown. What they found instead were eight flustered pages and an apologetic Sergeant at Arms.

After His resurrection, Christ gave His followers a little insight into what would happen during the end times.  While the picture He painted was one of war and danger (not unlike the one envisioned by the Capitol guards when they heard the effects of our mismanaged adventure), it came with promise of redemption.  In the end, those who love Him will be part of a far more successful moving party as we relocate from earth to our eternal home in Heaven!  What a blessing to know that some renovations are guaranteed to end in success!

Challenge:  Are you worried about the future?  Take your concerns to God.  You may be surprised to discover just how many of your worries are truly unfounded… and just how much control our loving God really has over both our eternal destiny as well as our lives today!

The Future Governor

2 Oct

Read: Luke 12:4-7

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.”

Hebrews 4:16 NLT

 

It had been a long morning on the State Affairs committee and, wrapping up my work somewhat later than anticipated, I decided to head out for some food.  As I exited the House chambers, I noticed that instead of grabbing lunch, the majority of the other pages had hung back and were now leaning over the railing of the rotunda, mouths agape.  Curious, about what had attracted such a crowd of admirers (and, more importantly, distracted them from their meal) I too, leaned over the rail.

There, beneath us was the Governor.  I had been collecting the signatures of each elected official in a special volume I’d obtained prior to the session and, seeing the opportunity to add another to the collection, took off at top speed.  Rushing down the curved, marble stairs, I made a b-line across the slick floor and came to a stop just in front of where he stood.  “You don’t know me, Sir,” I began, “but I’m the future governor of Idaho.  May I have your autograph?”

The approach worked better than I expected.  A week later, all of the pages were formally introduced to the Governor.  As I entered the office, he pointed and, shaking his finger announced, “I remember you!”

While most of the pages were horrified by my initial boldness, the result was that I was able to acquire the thing which I was after: the Governor’s signature.  And Scripture promises similar results when we exhibit boldness in approaching God.  Bought with the blood of His Son, we too now have the right to approach Him with both confidence and candor – anytime, anywhere, and for any reason.  What a blessing to know that we always have His ear!

Challenge:  Do you talk with God about everything or do you save your prayers for the “big” issues?  Scripture tells us that God is intimately concerned with the details of our lives… even those details that seem unimportant to anyone other than us.  This week, make a concerted effort to share all that takes place in your life with the One who loved you enough to send His son!

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