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Posts Tagged ‘devotion’

Skeletons in my Closet 

Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.

Ezekiel 18:30b-32

When my daughter was young, I enjoyed hiding in her room as she got ready for bed. While she was in the bathroom, I would go into her closet, turn off the light, close the door, and wait. I never jumped out to scare her, however; it was much more fun to sit quietly and wait for her to muster the courage to open the door to see if I was there. For me, it was a fun daddy-daughter moment I enjoyed immensely. In retrospect, she probably enjoyed the game much less than I did, and my nighttime ritual is probably one of the many fatherly faults that will haunt me on Judgment Day.

In truth, I have a closet full of scary things. It is not a typical closet, for there are no piles of clothes, monsters, or dust bunnies lurking behind its closed door. The skeletons residing in the deep, dark recesses of my consciousness are demons of my own making – hurtful decisions, selfish actions, and cruel words I have uttered over the course of my life. I would like to say the many piles of bones residing therein are old and dusty, but they are not. I add to the pile with discouraging regularity. Whenever I do or say something I know is beneath the expectation for a child of God, I throw it into my private closet and slam the door shut, hoping no one else notices. Perhaps it is an affront to my fragile ego to admit that I am less than perfect, or that I might be the cause of another person’s pain. Of course, such disappointment is a weakness I share with the rest of humanity.

Halloween is the time of year when we pull skeletons and other scary things out of storage and put them on display. Somehow, when that which scares us is brought into the light – such as when my daughter opened the door and turned on her closet light – things are not nearly so frightening. My faith tells me God will forgive me of my skeletons – every one of them. However, I must first let them go. I need to bring them out, own and acknowledge them, and turn them over to God. That is repentance, and God relieves us of the burdens we repent. No one, including God, can forgive that which we will not release.

Come home to church this Sunday. Leave the skeletons in your closet at the cross.

Finding Grace tag

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Nature and Nurture 

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! –2 Corinthians 5:17

About twelve years ago, my family went on vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was a wonderful trip and included stops in the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, and Crazy Horse. We stayed in a cabin, deep in the Black Hills, and soaked in the stunning beauty of the area. The Black Hills Spruce is a native tree, known for its short needles and deep-green color. On our last morning there, my children and I borrowed a kitchen knife and went in search of seedlings wanting to migrate to Kansas. We found 5 yearlings, each only a few inches tall, growing in the rocks beside the road – a certain death sentence as they grew. We carefully dug them up, wrapped them in wet paper towels, and placed them in a plastic bag to retain moisture for their journey south. Once home, I replanted them in pots and nurtured them in a protected area near our sunroom.

Today, the four survivors are about 3’ tall and are happy, thriving participants in the Hildenbrand ecosystem. What is interesting about our adopted trees is that they no longer look like Black Hills Spruce, even though that is what they are, genetically. Instead of the short, dark-green needles characteristic of their species, they have longer, bluish needles, much like a Blue Spruce. Clearly, they are still spruce trees, but they no longer resemble their siblings in the Black Hills. Their new environment has changed them into a different version of their old selves. In the words of Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, they have become a new creation!

There is a lot of research regarding whether how we are born – our genetics – or how we are raised – our environment – is most influential towards what we become. Obviously, some things will not change regardless of the environment. My spruce trees will never become oaks, raccoons, or granite statues. Within their genetic make-up, however, they have some flexibility. Becoming a Christian will not convert us, by itself, into a concert pianist or a professional athlete. Following the example of Christ, however, will help us become a more complete version of our self. Just as the new environment changed my spruce trees into something they would not otherwise have become, a good Christian setting will help us grow in ways not likely otherwise. We may look similar, but our lives will turn in a different direction.

My spruce trees were changed from the inside out. Living with God as the center of our lives does the same. We no longer live just for ourselves, or as if this life is all there is. We do not “hang on” for the end of the workday, nor do we simply hope to cruise into the weekend. As new creations, our lives have a renewed purpose and a deeper meaning, and we have a divine legacy to follow. Are Christians perfect? Certainly not, but we have a perfect leader to mold and shape us into useful vessels to carry the kingdom of God.

Come home to church this Sunday. Let the old pass away and become new!

Front CoverFinding Grace in an Imperfect World is a soulful collection of Scripture-based meditations and songs – a powerful tool for building or strengthening a relationship with God.

Now available at the downtown FUMC-Lawrence office, at http://www.ContemplatingGrace.Com, at Amazon.com, and other media outlets.                                                   

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