Daily Devotions

Two Life Stories: Two Life Lessons

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And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)

I love the following quote by Myles Monroe, “The value of life is not in its duration. You are not important because of how long you live, you are important because of how effective you live.” I love people’s stories. Almost everyone has an interesting – or at least entertaining – story to tell. Some stories are sad, others are courageous, while others are compassionate. As I’ve said before, ministers are blessed and cursed with the access to people’s stories. We learn these stories in moments of struggle, death, and celebration.

In my first congregation, my elementary Sunday School teacher was found guilty of federal crimes and being part of the largest theft ring in the history of the state. On a Saturday night, he was successfully fleeing police by shooting his gun out the window at them, and just hours later he was calmly sitting in the classroom with elementary age children, teaching them the lessons of Jesus.

Another member of that church was named Lu Crow. She and her husband lived in Stevens Point, Wisc., in the winter, but were very active in our little congregation in the spring, summer, and fall. Lu’s husband had retired a number of years before, from UW Stevens Point, where he had been a professor. By the time I met Lu, she and her husband were elderly, and Lu had any number of health problems which made it hard to get around. Yet, she was one of the most beloved individuals in two communities. She would write dozens of letters, everyday. She pestered the heck out of me, regularly calling to see if I had recommendations for who needed a letter. Celebrations, prayer concerns, “thinking of you.” People cried when they saw “Lu Crow” written in the corner of the envelope. She just had a way with words, and divine timing. God worked through her.

Two individuals from the same church. Both trusted and respected, until one wasn’t. Lu’s life seemed so limited, but she lived with a freedom and reach well beyond what should have been possible for a person with her physical limitations. Meanwhile, the Sunday School teacher was young and healthy, and had his whole life in front of him. Yet, the last time I saw him, he was wasting away in a federal prison. If you made me choose, I’d rather be Lu, at the end of her life, with her broken body. A broken body is so much better than a broken soul. Today, reflect on your story. What are you pleased about, and what needs to be changed? Ask God to use you. It is never too late, and you are never too broken. I hope my former Sunday School teacher learned that and reformed his life. That is my prayer. Make your story meaningful!

My Childhood Memories

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Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

It is funny, the things you remember about church from childhood. I remember a Christmas at my grandparents’ church in St. Cloud, Minn. Two bats were flying around the ceiling during the worship service. Now, I don’t remember the sermon, but I do remember those bats. The greatest moment – just as the choir hit their high notes – the bats started their descent. They swooped down onto the ladies with the blue hair. Now, if you are under 50, you may not know that gray hair dye often used to turn women’s hair a blue color. The bats loved that specific tint. All the hours Rev. Stevens put into that sermon, and he was upstaged by two Chiroptera, bats.

I do not remember a single lesson my church school teachers taught, but I remember them so clearly, even after so many years. My grandfather had just died. My teachers were a wonderful couple, about the same age as my grandparents. I loved them, not because they were great teachers of the Bible, but because they were kind, and the man looked just like my grandfather. When we returned to Colorado, after my grandfather’s funeral in Minnesota, we returned to church, and sitting in their class was like a Divine resurrection. It was comforting to watch this man and his wife share their faith, compassion, and love. They helped me grieve without even realizing it.

Think about your own memories of childhood in the church. For those of you who do not have childhood church memories, think about your Christmas or birthday celebrations. What do you remember? I am willing to bet words, or even sentences, are not part of your memory. For most children, it’s actions and emotions that make a difference. We remember the silly, the sad, the confusing, and the joyous. For those of us with a church background, church provided many of those moments.

Today, reflect on your childhood memories. What were the joys and sorrows? What made those memories profound in your young mind? How have they influenced your life up through this moment? God speaks in so many ways, often without words. God can speak through emotions, especially to children. The next time you think God doesn’t exist, or that God has never spoken to you, think about your childhood and the ways God reached out to you then. Know deep within yourself that God is still reaching out to you now.

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