Daily Devotions

Checkmate!

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Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. (Proverbs 16:3)

 

John Ortberg is a Christian writer who sees the world in such meaningful ways. In his book, “Soul Keeping,” Ortberg describes the nature of the soul: “The soul is a little like the king on a chessboard. The king is the most limited of chess pieces; it can only move one square at a time. But if you lose the king, game over. Your soul is vulnerable because it is needy. If you meet those needs with the wrong things, game over. Or at least, game not going well.” Yet, most people spend more time caring for their teeth, than caring for their soul.

 

Our concern for the soul isn’t because of its neediness, but our fallenness, according to Ortberg. Our soul is the essence of who we are, in our being. This vulnerable thing we call the soul, is also profoundly powerful, giving us the ability to experience the Almighty One. Like any other living thing, it requires nurture, and needs to be fed. It can be fed potato chips or kale. Potato chips consist of alcohol, and other ingredients that rot the spiritual. Spiritual kale, is prayer, worship, and caring for others.

 

A good chess player understands that you must look ahead. A good chess player knows how to utilize each chess piece to her/his advantage, protecting the king, while advancing forward. Prayer, worship, and caring is the way to successfully utilize each one of the chess pieces. You have a plan, goals, and commitment, and you work them to benefit the king.

 

During this Advent season, as we celebrate the birth of the “King of Kings,” consider how you are nurturing your faith. Do you have a plan, goals, and the commitment necessary to be successful in nurturing your soul, and moving forward in faith? The Advent and Christmas season is a time for new beginnings. Take this time to prepare your spiritual chessboard, and prepare the pieces necessary to protect your king (your soul) and move forward toward a successful life, honoring God.

 

Making Connections

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Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone. (Genesis 2:18a)

In a previous church, I visited with a distinguished man who came to our worship services over a period of time. I called on him and he let me visit him in his home. This person, who was approximately 75 years old, lived in a tiny, one-room studio apartment. We had a nice visit, but just before I was getting ready to pray and leave, the conversation turned strange. First, he started talking about this being the only place where he was sure we were not being bugged by the Democratic Party. He knew they were after him. Then, as I was walking out the door, he said, “Please tell me if I ever smell bad. I heard a woman, about 10 years ago, say I smelled bad.” This was a man who was meticulous in every way.

Over time, a number of us came to understand that this poor man had spent the vast majority of his life alone. He never married. He was an only child, who was totally alone when his elderly mother died. He worked in the back room of a small business, doing the books for thirty-nine years. We realized it took him great courage to attempt a church life. Sadly, he pushed the church away, as his paranoia that the Democratic Party had spies in the church, kept him from connecting with our church. A number of people tried to include him, but his issues were just too serious and, without familial advocates, we had to give up. To this day, I fret about how he spent the rest of his days.

Connections with other human beings are vitally important to a meaningful life. People who are without others have higher levels of dementia, suicide, and many other health issues, both physical and emotional. Briana Wiest, in her article, “Connection Is a Core Human Need, But We are Terrible at It,” states, “Connection is the experience of oneness. It’s having shared experiences, relatable feelings, or similar ideas.” Wiest continues, “The biggest problem in most people’s lives in trauma, and trauma is what creates a damaged ability to connect with others.” I do not know the trauma my older friend experienced, but he did come across as a traumatized human being.

Today, think about and pray for ways you and your church can make connections with those who are utterly alone. It isn’t an easy process because those people are often the hardest to find. Plus, they will often not be particularly interested in connecting, but need to all the same. Doing so will take compassion, patience, and emotional creativity to draw them out. Without us, who will? I love Wiest’s next statement: “Most people believe a connection is something they earn by being ‘good enough’ when it is really something they develop by being willing enough.” Our task is to provide a situation where they will be willing enough. Be willing to open your heart to someone who has lost connections with this world.

 

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