Use Your Mannas

Breakfast was a thing when I was a kid. Nobody had ever heard of (or would have approved of) “intermittent fasting,” this new, cool way to describe skipping breakfast. No, indeed, the first sensation of the morning was the smell of toast (Oh God, I miss the smell of toast!) and the sweet scent of Cream of Wheat doused with a spoonful of sugar and drowned in whole milk. This was the manna of my childhood, the sustenance that enabled me to walk close to two miles in New Jersey winters to school, (Uphill! Both ways!) and the provision laid out by my mother that communicated love with every bite.

It seems that biblical manna was not too far off from the breakfast mannas we grew up on. More Frosted Flakes than Cream of Wheat, it was a sweet, crunchy coriander-like substance that appeared on the ground in the mornings when the Israelites were immigrating through the wilderness toward a promised future. When they began to complain that the food provided in their slavery in Egypt was better than starving, God whooped them upside the head with grace and provision. He is a much better parent than the rest of us.

Exodus 16 The Message (MSG)

16 1-3 On the fifteenth day of the second month after they had left Egypt, the whole company of Israel moved on from Elim to the Wilderness of Sin which is between Elim and Sinai. The whole company of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron there in the wilderness. The Israelites said, “Why didn’t God let us die in comfort in Egypt where we had lamb stew and all the bread we could eat? You’ve brought us out into this wilderness to starve us to death, the whole company of Israel!”

4-5 God said to Moses, “I’m going to rain bread down from the skies for you. The people will go out and gather each day’s ration. I’m going to test them to see if they’ll live according to my Teaching or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they have gathered, it will turn out to be twice as much as their daily ration.”

The manna rained down, and quail was also provided. Just your basic meat and bread meal, home delivered by the Lord himself. He was doing home delivery meals before home delivery meals were cool.

God was trying to teach them to depend on him, so he only provided enough for one day at a time, with twice as much given on the sixth day so they didn’t have to work for it on the Sabbath. If the people gathered too much and tried to hoard it, it turned smelly and wormy over night. That’ll teach ya!

This manna appeared like a fine dew on the ground, and God instructed them to go and gather it. Because it was a substance completely of heaven and never before seen on earth, they called it man-hu, a Hebrew word that roughly translates into whatizit?

I think God provides whatizits all the time. Bread from heaven rains down on us daily, but we are too busy complaining to notice. The sun rises every morning bringing warmth, but we’re focused on the cold front and the low temperatures. A baby is born, a miracle unto itself, but exhausted parents reminisce about the sleep they don’t get anymore. A husband comes home with a gift that isn’t quite right, and the wife focuses on the imperfection. A wife prepares a meal and burns the broccoli, and the magnificent pork loin is overlooked. A worker with paycheck in hand spews his discontent over his coworkers every day after work, ungrateful for the job that provides said paycheck. We do it all the time. WE LOVE TO COMPLAIN.

People, use your manners. Better yet, use your mannas. Everything you have is a gift of God. Your home, your work, your family, your food…there is nothing you possess that isn’t a part of God’s grace and provision. Quit thinking it’s all about you and your abilities. Where do you think those abilities came from? We would be nothing without God. God provides, and we receive.

A few years ago I spent the night at our church volunteering in our homeless ministry. These people are wandering in the wilderness of NOTHINGNESS. The ministry itself is their manna, and they are completely humbled and grateful for warmth, a blanket, a meal, and a smile. As I was settling into my cot, complaining about the discomfort of a cot, one of our guests came over to me and asked me if I like fresh pineapple. I do. I love fresh pineapple. She went to the guest room and returned with a fresh pineapple for me. I was shocked, and tried to refuse. She had purchased a pineapple that day and the store was having a “buy one, get one free” deal, so she wanted me to have her free pineapple. It meant the world to her to give a gift to the pastor, so I accepted it.

Manna. Bread of heaven. Whatizit? It is you, giving away your pineapple so that someone can share the sweetness of the sustenance God provides you. Go and be someone’s manna today, and let grace, mercy and gratitude rain down on you.

Deafening Busyness

“After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet.”

This time I was certain that the house was going to blow down. Winds that were the force of hurricane gusts brought an impressive cold front to the Outer Banks, and the windows rattled, the screens tore, and the house swayed. This three-story house was swaying in the wind so hard that it woke me up from a dead sleep. Winds are not uncommon on our little island on the edge of the continent, but this was a doozy. There is something both unsettling and reassuring when we are confronted with the power and force of a true “act of God” of Old Testament proportions. We can do nothing but listen to its howl and wait for it to subside on its own accord.

In the book of 1 Kings, Elijah has fled for his life, with Jezebel on his heels. He runs to the safety of a cave and has a one-on-one with God, complaining that he is the only righteous man left in Israel, and now they are about to kill him. He is instructed by an angel of the Lord to climb the same mountain where Moses received the commandments, and wait.

God sends a great and strong wind to assault the mountain, but he himself is not in the wind. Then an earthquake follows, but he is not in the earthquake. Finally, a fire rages through, but still no God. When the ruckus is over, God chooses then to speak to Elijah in a still, small, thin, and quiet voice:

1 Kings 19 (NIV)

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

After the power display, God tells Elijah that it’s time to get back to work. Elijah receives his marching orders, is given a helper, and sent back into the trenches. His mission to bring Israel back to the Lord.

I often wonder if I am missing God in the loudness that surrounds me.

I wonder if we miss our own marching orders because we are so focused on the wind, the earthquake and the fire that we don’t stand still long enough to tune our ear to the whisper. So much to do! We are so overwhelmed with busyness! I’m WAAY too busy to sit quietly and listen! The winds of our jobs, the earthquakes of family responsibilities, and the fire of maintaining our day-to-day lives keep us from hearing the still, small voice that offers the solution.

Woe unto us if we continue living in the cacophony. God is patiently waiting us out. He will not shout over the noise we have surrounded ourselves with, but rather will wait until we are ready to tune our busy noise out so we can tune his quiet love in.

Take heed. As Advent approaches, it is going to get louder. Busy upon busy, we will frantically run around preparing to celebrate the….what? Oh, yes, the birth of the Savior, who was quietly laid in a humble manger with only the sounds of the soft-spoken cow and the peacefully snoring donkey providing background noise. Christ is the focus, so don’t get caught up in lights and tinsel and all the rest of the noise so much that you miss the moment.

God with us, Emmanuel. Be quiet! And listen.

Blustery Day by Michelle Robertson.

Here Come Da Judge

You know her. She never enters a conversation without making a one-sided proclamation. Or maybe it’s a him, who sees everything from behind his horse blinders and doesn’t hesitate to share his particular squinty-eyed world view with everyone around him. We are surrounded by a great gallery of judges. Everyone feels free to weigh in on matters that are frankly better left to our Lord to judge, but that doesn’t seem to stop the flow of condemnation that comes from their mouths.

If we sit with a judge whose prejudice and bias match our own, we sometimes don’t even notice it. We hear their banter as “opinions,” and everyone is entitled to their opinions, right? Free speech is the foundation of our society, and we roll with the judgements that suit us. But when someone runs counter to our thinking, we balk. That person is being so judgmental! Who gave them the right to spew?

Who, indeed?

Matthew 7:1-6 New International Version (NIV)

Judging Others

7 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

YIKES! I think I may just sit here quietly for the rest of the week. This passage makes God’s position very clear. He sits as the only judge on the bench, and any attempt we make at judging others is sure to come back on our hypocrisy and subject us to the harsh judgement we mete out to others. God’s word is simple. DO NOT JUDGE.

We have all been the subject of somebody else’s judgement. Early in my ministry, I was judged by some church people to be too female to be a clergy person. That was something about myself that I could not change, so I tried not to feel the sting of that dismissive assessment of my gifts. But it hurt, I’m not going to lie. To have one aspect of my self-hood be a reason for someone to reject me was hard, and it stung.

We’ve all been on the back end of judgment. We’ve been told we’re too young, too black, too gay, too differently-abled, too short, too fat, too thin, too old, too Asian, too tall, too much on the spectrum, too different, too liberal, too traditionalist….it’s all just TOO MUCH. How dare we?

Give as you would like to get. Love as you would like to be loved. See people the way God sees them. And treat everyone with the respect you would like to receive. God’s word is clear: judge not, lest you be judged. God is a jealous God, and he does not need anyone sitting on the throne of judgement but himself.

Sun Setting on a Colington Day

Be the Light

A dear friend is going through a pretty mean divorce, and the constant wrestling with her husband over the children’s schedules, whose turn it is to have them, and other parenting issues are really wearing her down. He is constantly pulling the rug out from under her, so that she never quite knows whether she is coming or going. His latest trick is to change arrangements by text minutes before an appointed time. She is worn out.

She has tried to be upbeat and positive through it all, and to accommodate him as much as possible. Their children love and need their dad, and she works hard to ensure that they have regular access to him. When he has asked for more time, or needed to switch to a different time, she has gladly given it. But after describing yet another very tense interaction with him, when he refused to take the kids as prearranged in order to get back at her for some imagined offense, she looked at her hands in her lap and said, “It is getting so hard to be a light in this darkness.”

We know we are called to be the light. Jesus came to be the light of the world, and we are called to reflect that light into the darkness of our surroundings:

Matthew 5 (New International Version)

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

In over 20 years of counseling, I have noticed a certain myopia that comes over people when a relationship breaks apart. The daily hurts and struggles, the shock of I do’s turning into I don’t, I can’t, and I won’t, and the sheer energy drain that it puts on people is exhausting. Folks in the midst of this often get lost in the daily battles, and can’t see the long view.

When something like this comes into your life, it is important to keep your eyes looking upward and outward. There you will find Jesus looking straight back at you. His word assures us that he will never leave us or forsake us, even to the ends of the earth. It is also important to not lose sight of who you are, which is so easy when you are being pushed and shoved at every turn. Regardless of what the other person is doing, remember WHO you are, and WHOSE you are. You are the Lord’s beloved. You will get through this, with God’s help.

My friend is a light. She is radiant, and glows with joy and the delight of the Lord. I know that she will get though this, and by remaining true to the God who created her, she will retain her sense of self even when darkness tries to invade.

Are you in the middle of a battle? Do you feel as though the darkness has taken away your shine? Are you losing yourself? Take heart. Stay focused on God’s commandments, his blessings, and his light. Sunrise breaks through the darkness for good people. Grace, mercy, and justice will come.

Psalm 112 The Message (MSG)

1-10 Hallelujah!

Blessed man, blessed woman, who fear God,

Who cherish and relish his commandments,

Their children robust on the earth,

And the homes of the upright—how blessed!

Their houses brim with wealth

And a generosity that never runs dry.

Sunrise breaks through the darkness for good people—

God’s grace and mercy and justice!

Sunrise at Avalon Pier by Michelle Robertson

The Heat is ON

There comes a moment in everyone’s life when a stark reality…one that has been impending for days…suddenly rears its ugly head. You have to give in, you have to respond, and finally, you have to turn on the furnace. No longer can you pretend that late summer is lingering, or Indian summer is still hanging around, or even that we are enjoying a mild fall. Nope, when your feet hit the floor as you slide out from under the warm covers and your whole body yells “SNOWSUIT!!” it’s time to turn the furnace on.

I hate first-time-furnace day. The SMELL, ugh. All dormant furnaces smell the same the first time they are turned on. The long months of rest that they enjoy allow every manner of dust, musty particles, dirt, etc. to collect, and these things burn off within the first few hours of firing up your furnace.

Dormancy, accumulation of dust, and sudden burning. This sounds like what might happen in my brain if I sat down to take the math portion of the SAT right now. Some things really do come into a “use it or lose it” situation.

It can also happen to our faith.

What if we went for months without firing up our faith? Can you really take a break from your relationship with God, corporate worship, acts of service, fellowship with other believers, or scripture reading?

Romans 11 (The Message)

11b-13 Keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

Gosh, this is so good. Keep yourself aflame. Be alert. Be cheerfully expectant. Bless your enemies, feed them lunch, discover beauty in everyone…the list of ways to stay fueled up is long and incredibly helpful.

I suspect as you read that, the Holy Spirit highlighted something for you in a neon yellow color.

What in particular speaks to you today? Laugh with happy friends? Cry with sad ones? Don’t hit back? Stop being stuck-up? Don’t insist on getting even? Stop judging everyone?

Whatever has hit you this day, take it to heart. God uses scripture all the time to fire up our dormant furnaces. Focus on that one thing and make it your mission. Do it with all of your passion. It may smell funny for a moment, but soon you will be fired up again for God’s work and his people. It’s time to burn off your dormancy and light the fire of Christ in you. Bring on the heat!

Morning Heat by Michelle Robertson

Shadow Beliefs

Swiss psychologist Carl Jung developed a theory about recurring negative self-talk that he called shadow beliefs. A shadow belief is an unconscious belief that influences our entire lives – telling us what we can and cannot do, and driving all of our behaviors. They are born in our childhood and well fed by our family, friends, and ourselves as we grow up. These are the negative beliefs hidden from our conscious view that rob us from having what Christ wants us to have in our lives: peace, contentment, hope, and life abundant.

Shadow beliefs take the form of an inner voice that responds in every situation with a loud and negative commentary. I saw this first hand once when a woman I observed spilled salad dressing all over herself in a restaurant. The volume of self-abuse that followed for the next 20 minutes was disconcerting. Repeatedly and loudly she ranted about how STUPID she is, how clumsy, how she couldn’t believe she had yet again ruined her clothes, and how she didn’t deserve to go out. She paused for a quick breath and then loudly questioned why something bad ALWAYS happens to her, and cycled back to yelling about how stupid she is…and the second verse was the same as the first.

Shadow beliefs are even reinforced in our childhood songs: “Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms.”

The only way out of shadow beliefs is to first recognize them, and then address them each time they pop up. That, of course, can take a long time and might require some professional help. But in the shouting back against them, take heart! The God of creation wants so much more for us. The Savior of the world died so that we might have LIFE, and life abundant. And the Holy Spirit is a vibrant and lively presence of truth in our situation. We all just need to tune our ears to God’s voice instead of the inner one that is trying to limit us.

Romans 12 The Message (MSG)

Place Your Life Before God

12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.

Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Fix your attention on God. By his power, he will change you from the inside out. External things in our culture and internal things like shadow beliefs conspire to drag you down. Don’t let them. Don’t be so well-adjusted to your shadow beliefs that you fit into them without even thinking.

Embracing what God does for you is the best way to counteract the flow of negative inner dialogue. He believes in you even when you don’t believe in yourself. Remember the cross! Christ’s action there makes us worthy of paradise. Make that your belief, and you will soon realize that nothing else matters.

Day’s End by Michelle Robertson

Projectors

A projector is an output device that can take images from a source and show them on a screen. Movie theaters use projectors at the rear of the theater to cast moving images on a giant wall screen in the front. Projectors are found in schools, businesses, training centers, etc.

And then there is another type of projecting. This is when someone has a grudge, grievance, anger issue, or mental instability, and projects that onto another person. It is a defense mechanism for coping with undesirable feelings and emotions. People project negative feelings onto others rather than admitting or dealing with the unwanted feelings. A husband constantly accusing his wife of cheating may be projecting his secret behavior onto her. A teenager, frustrated with his lack of accomplishment, may taunt and pick on a younger sibling rather than face his own feelings of inadequacy.

Bullying is a form of projecting. A middle school teacher and I were chatting last week and she talked about how much bullying takes place in school. She is working very hard and deliberately to have kids understand their own emotions and to take ownership of what they are processing internally, rather than project those feelings of anger and shame onto others by bullying. Sadly, many of them will grow up to be adult bullies and continue to project their unresolved issues onto others.

Bullies will probably always project. But that doesn’t mean you have to be their screen.

Luke 17 English Standard Version (ESV)

Temptations to Sin

17 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.

3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.

If your brother or sister sins, rebuke them. Jesus never called us to be doormats. We can stand strong in the full armor of God and stand up for ourselves in his might. When the money lenders were defiling the temple, Jesus didn’t capitulate. He threw them out. Turning the other cheek here doesn’t mean offering a bully a second chance to strike…it means turning your cheek away as you walk out the door, closing it behind you on the bully.

Ephesians 6:10-20 The Message (MSG)

A Fight to the Finish

10-12 God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life.

God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

If you have someone who continues to project their misery onto you, walk away. Bury yourself deep in God’s word, and pray for strength. Put on the full armor against evil, and stand up for yourself. Projectors need screens, so as soon as you stop being one, the show will be over and you’ll still be on your feet. God is strong, and he wants you to be strong. Take every weapon he supplies, cover yourself in prayer, and STAND FIRM. You’ve got this, because God’s got you. Thanks be to God.

Peaceful Waters by Kathy Schumacher

Moving Sidewalks

The instructions are clear. If you choose the moving sidewalk at the airport, you need to step carefully on and off. If you want to stand on the moving sidewalk, please stand on the right, so that others may pass you on the left. I think this is good counsel. After all, they are SIDEWALKS, not SIDESTANDS. So if you want to stand, at least stand to the side so that the walkers can actually MOVE on the MOVING sideWALK. The calm and soothing voice of the announcement that plays over and over is non-confrontational, polite, and instructive.

If this same announcement played in other parts of the country, it might sound different. I grew up in South Jersey, where I imagine it would sound a little more assertive. Think The Sopranos-assertive. If Tony Soprano recorded the announcement it could sound like, “YO! Youze are on the moving SIDEWALK. I SAID SIDEWALK, as in MOVE A-SIDE so that others can WALK. What bozo doesn’t know to move ovuh? WHADDYAZ think this is, the turnpike for cryin’ out loud?? Ah, fuhgeddaboutit.”

Traveling through the magnificent Atlanta airport recently, I encountered several opportunities to observe the moving sidewalks. They connect the ticketing lobbies, baggage claims, and all of the terminals, spanning miles. If I have time, I prefer to walk on the non-moving concourse, but the sidewalks are a good alternative if you have just enough time to use them, and you don’t have to default to the train. You just hope that you can move forward quickly and people won’t get in your way. ATL is huge, with multiple concourses. It processes about 300,000 people a day. A DAY. That’s a lot of moving sidewalk violations right there.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes about moving sidewalks. OK, he writes about metaphorical moving sidewalks:

Philippians 3 (The Message)

Focused on the Goal

13-14 Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

15-16 So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.

17-18 Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street.

Paul encourages us to keep moving forward with our eyes on the goal. He warns us that others, who are looking for the easy sidewalk, will block us and stand in our way. But we are to walk forward and NOT TURN BACK.

I know a woman who is struggling with two significant family relationships. She can’t move forward with the situation as it is, and so she has addressed it with them. They are a stumbling block to her, blocking her spirit, her joy, and her goal of pursuing a life that reflects her relationship with God. She has chosen sobriety, while they have chosen to take other paths. She has chosen honesty, while they have chosen avoidance. As she keeps her eye on the way forward, she has no choice but to not look back. If she were to do so, she would surely fall off the moving sidewalk.

Does this resonate with you? Is God calling you to a way forward that means you have to leave the past behind? Is God inviting you to pursue him at the cost of everything else? Do you need to shed toxic relationships in order to attain the goal of the abundant life offered by Christ?

Wherever your moving sidewalk is headed, step on with care. Keep your eyes always looking forward. Carefully make your way around others who try to block your progress. And no matter what, don’t look back.

Passing on the Left in Concourse B.

Plaster Saints

Saints. They can be canonized heroes of our faith, plaster statues in a cathedral, a football team in New Orleans, or the guy sitting next to you. And the guy sitting next to him.

We usually balk at the notion that every day Joes are saints, and the thought that we ourselves fall into that category is especially squirm-worthy. Comparing ourselves with the likes of the Apostle Paul, Mother Teresa, and Gabriel the Archangel is uncomfortable at best, unless you have a really, really big head. Most Protestant denominations don’t have saints, as our Catholic brothers and sisters do. Our traditions don’t include canonization, but we do have saints of the ordinary variety. You and me.

All Saints’ Day is a way of marking the ordinariness of extraordinary people of faith. Many churches observe this on the first Sunday of November. Names of those who have died in the last year are read, and a candle is lit for each. Sometimes a bell is tolled as well. It is a sacred and solemn day of remembrance and thanksgiving for the faithfulness of these folks.

The phrase saints appears in the Bible over 60 times. In Colossians 10, Paul assures us that all of us are saints:

Colossians 1:10-14 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

10 So that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins

The root of the word saint comes from the word sanctified. To be sanctified is to be “set apart for holy use.” We have been called out of the world to be the reflection of Christ to a world that doesn’t know him, but needs him desperately.

Many years ago, I traveled to Israel. Most of the holy sites are maintained by different churches: Roman Catholic, Coptic, Greek Orthodox, Franciscans, etc. As an American Methodist, I was struck by all of the plaster statues and busts of saints I knew nothing about. It was an interesting distraction from the holy site itself.

When I got home, I reflected on our Protestant understanding of saints as ordinary people, and I sadly realized that in many instances, I have been and continue to be a plaster saint. How about you? Do you ever feel that way…that if people knew what was really going on inside of you, they surely would feel differently about you?

The scriptures may affirm us as saints with the rest of the members of the household of God, but in so many ways, our usefulness as those set apart for holy use only runs skin deep. I may appear somewhat saintly on the outside, but the plaster is covering who I really am, and hiding my less-than-sanctified-self from the world.

In our ordinariness, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Then we put on a plaster cast and show a holiness to the world that doesn’t really speak to who we are inside. As they say, actions speak louder than words, and people can easily see past the mask. And so can God.

On this All Saints’ Day, let us spend a moment meditating on that. Do you mirror the image of God in everything you say, do, think, and post? Or is your sainthood just a plaster façade, hiding an inner self you don’t want others to see? Let us mark this day with self-examination, confession, repentance, and change.

As saints, we are called to work hard in every way to do the right thing, and endure in good works no matter the cost. We are instructed to grow in our knowledge of God, so keep doing your daily devotionals, people! Thank you for reading! Saints endeavor to live a life worthy of God, not just show up to church occasionally so we can check that box.

You see, the whole point of sainthood is not to be perfect, but to be redeemed, forgiven, and strengthened by the Holy Spirit to live a life that reflects our faith. And some day, when the saints go marching in, oh Lord, let us be in that number!

Morning Meditation by Colin Snider

Laughing at Death

The history of Halloween is interesting. It began as a Celtic practice called Samhain, which was held at the end of the harvest season, when late fall turns into frozen winter and the death of all the earth’s growing things was imminent. The Celts believed that on the day of Samhain, the veil between the living and the dead was lifted, and the dead came back and walked the earth. So the people dressed in costumes and lit bonfires to confuse the ghosts and ward off the evil spirits and the walking dead among them. Samhain was held on October 31st.

All Saints’ Day, a festival for remembering the saints, was set by Pope Gregory III on November 1st in order to co-opt this pagan tradition and connect it to a Christian practice. Samhain thus became known as All Hallows’ Eve, which we now call Halloween. In many ways, the two traditions are related. All Saints’ Day recognizes the work of the faithful who have died in the previous year and have gone on to experience God’s glorious eternity. Samhain was a day when people actively defied death, laughing at the very notion of it.

As it should be.

Nobody wants to die. We are designed by God to seek life, preserve life, protect life, and frankly, we spend most of our days trying to make the best of this life that we’ve been given. So while we don’t look forward to dying, we also can live our lives as those who are prepared to die, because living or dying, our life is with the Lord. God designed us for life, but death is a part of God’s design as well. Because of the resurrection of Jesus and his promise to take us to the place where he went upon his death, we can live in such a way that, while we don’t seek death, we don’t dread it either. We can even put on a Buzz Lightyear mask or Mickey ears and laugh at death on All Hallow’s Eve, because in the end, death has no lasting power over us:

1 Corinthians 15

51-57 But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again.

At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true:

Death swallowed by triumphant Life!

Who got the last word, oh, Death?

Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?

I know a man who is not afraid of death, despite his ongoing battle with brain cancer. He has sought treatments, has had surgery, and has received miracles of love, healing, and friendships from the Lord. A new tumor has stabilized, and the original tumor bed has another tumor growing in it. This will be dealt with through prayer, positivity, medical treatments, and the power of God. In the meantime, guess what this man did last month? He offered to lead a men’s Bible study and support group this year. That, my friends, is laughing at death. Who gets the last word? Jesus. Always Jesus. We ain’t afraid of no ghosts.

58 With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.

So mote it be.

Hatteras Campfire by Melissa Herring