Month: December 2010

Meaningless Action

“Action without reflection is meaningless action.” I wish I knew the source of this quote, shared with me years ago as “from the mystics of old” – because the truths encapsulated within these profound words are worth both our pondering and our application. Flip this statement upside down and the underside is also true: “Reflection without action is meaningless reflection.”

Reflection at its finest should manifest itself in action. Otherwise, it’s navel gazing and insular and left to linger unattended. Attending to the soul by way of contemplation is what leads thoughtful believers into intentional service to others. The Great Commandment—loving God with heart, soul, mind and strength—plus the Second Great Commandment—loving our neighbor as ourselves—is what leads us outward into the Great Commission—as we go, making disciples of all nations.

The Christian community at its healthiest incorporates a balanced approach to our spirituality. Love for God, love for others in the family of God, and love for our unreached neighbors. When we ponder the reality of each aspect of our faith, we are led into further reflection and ultimately into more meaningful action.

Where will your head and your heart lead your hands in service to another? Offer someone a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name today, it’s good for your soul.

This entry also appears on the Conversations Journal Blog.

Tis the Season to Receive

When is it the season to receive? Correct answer: Advent, Christmas – and every other day of the year!

In the gospel of John, the mystery of the incarnation is spelled out with clarity. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:1-14).

The coming of Christ into the world was so that a people living in darkness could receive the gift of light and life and love found only in Jesus. To all who receive him, these gifts are generously given by God Himself so that we in turn can become his beloved children. Receiving the gift of Jesus is where it all begins.

One of my favorite Christmas carols was written by Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” The third verse speaks of the need for receptivity within the soul, “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven. No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.”

In this season of gift giving, I’d like to remind you to remain open to humbly receive the most wondrous gift of all – Jesus, and all the light, life and love he delights to share with you as his child.

A blessed and joy-filled Christmas to all!

A Peace-filled Silent Night?

By the time we sing Silent Night via candlelight on Christmas Eve, chances are we’ll be doing so after having run as fast as we can to get there! If your life is anything like ours, the list of things yet to do before Christmas (on top of an already full-to-overflowing life) feels overwhelming: create decorations, bake cookies, finish shopping, mail packages, send cards, attend events, prepare meals…just to name a few!

While we’re in the final countdown to Christmas, it might be good to add one more item to the list that’s good for your soul: seek peace. Yes, the peace that’s found in quiet places of rest and refreshment. It’s the only peace for your weary soul, discovered in the true hallmark of Christmas: Jesus himself.

Can you find one solid hour for yourself in the coming week to ponder the meaning of Advent and Christmas? A few ideas to consider: use the hour to be alone and reflect in your journal on the gifts of the season and the joy of knowing Jesus; put headphones on and listen to Handel’s Messiah or other classical music of the Advent and Christmas season and let your heart soar with praise; sit by a fire in a darkened room, pray quietly and enjoy the warmth that radiates; put your feet up in your most comfortable chair and savor the sights and smells of your decorated home thanking Jesus for being a part of his family; take a walk in the woods or by the ocean (or another body of water) and consider the vastness of God’s creation that Jesus entered on that first Christmas morning; stop in the middle of a crowded street and look prayerfully around you at the myriad of souls crying out for a Savior.

There are many options to consider as you await the singing of Silent Night by candlelight on Christmas Eve. Will you rush your way to the manger once more? Choose now to enter the joy of Christmas with the true peace of Jesus reigning in your heart and soul.

Christmas Letter No-no’s

What information will you keep out of the annual family Christmas letter?

As I was working over the weekend on writing this year’s family Christmas letter I had a silly thought…

What if this year’s letter were more about the disappointments of the past year rather than the highlights? I don’t think I’ve ever read a Christmas letter like that!

Most of our annual letters include updates like the incredible GPA’s of our children and their ivy league college placement, new job opportunities that show we’re climbing the corporate ladder, athletic prowess that has lead us into Olympic-like shape, exotic vacation locations, new (second) homes, etc. Yes, most of our letters are about strutting our braggage rather than embracing our baggage.

Not that this would be our list (!!), but I thought of a few items that most likely never get included in annual Christmas letters but are pound for pound far more profound than the highlights we dig up from our memory banks to boast to one another. For example, what about our incredible sadness over unresolved conflict with extended family members, or lost jobs due to a down economy and the depression that accompanied the layoff, or the infidelity of a brother or son and the impact that is having on a devastated wife and young children, or the news that indeed the tumor is inoperable and months instead of years are left to live, or learning that the addiction has overtaken a loved one to the point of daily misery. These are just a few options; the pain in our world is far larger, deeper and more significant.

I’m trying to weave into our annual family letter a bit of the realism of our past year, but I must admit, I’m hard pressed to do so. What if the truth about our disappointments are misunderstood and then gets maligned when we get talked about around “that friend or family member’s” holiday table? Is it worth the risk to speak about pain, heartache and disappointment or will I stick instead with the safe, pretty, and brag-worthy stuff?

I’m not done with my final draft. Not sure where it will end up. But challenged all the more about the importance of truth-telling and the freedom that comes when the raw material of our lives is shared authentically and within the safety of loving relationships. My baggage may not be shared with all; but it certainly is known by the few who matter most. And it’s the ones who know me best and love me most that know how to read between the lines even if our annual Christmas letter is only filled with highlights, blessings and joys.

What about you – who knows the truth about your life and the year you’re about to wrap up in just a few weeks?

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