DEC 14, 2016 Devotional: Angels We Have Heard on High

You know what my all-time favorite, churchy Christmas song is this time of year?  That’s an easy answer…..”Angels We Have Heard on High“…. Simple lyrics with a mash-up of Latin thrown into the mix:

Angels we have heard on high

Sweetly singing through the night

And the mountains in reply

Echoing their brave delight

Gloria in excelsis Deo

Gloria in excelsis Deo

For years the story of the Christmas miracle, that miracle of the birth of a Savior, tends to focus on a young virgin woman, unmarried, and somehow pregnant.  Today, I want to share some thoughts on another side of this miracle.  Imagine if you will that God has assembled a platoon of his best angels.  He tells them he is going to send his son to the world, and that this son, born human, will be a savior to all people.  God tells the angels, “Come with a plan on how we’ll announce this spectacular event….and let me know your thoughts ASAP.”

God leaves the room and the angels are left to come up with a plan.

The Bible shares stories about angels throughout the chapters.  Angels are used to deliver important messages such as:

  • Life and Death
  • Victory and Defeat
  • Judgement and Mercy

But this would be the most spectacular news yet.  The angels know they need lots of flash, bang, and fanfare.

The leader of the angels might be heard saying, “Let’s make a huge splash with the announcement.  Maybe have angels descending onto a huge gathering of elders and chief priests in the most important temple in all of Jerusalem”.

The angels package up their plan and God returns to hear their idea.

They pitch the idea….and it falls completely flat on our Heavenly Father.

Now God delivers his plan to the angels to implement.  It goes something like this.

God says, “You’re going to deliver the good news of the saviour’s birth….to a handful of shepherds who are tending to their flocks.”

The angels are stunned.  “Huh…..”, they must have said back to God.

“Okay, Father,” says one of the angels….”Then will the shepherds race to the temple, interrupt the high priests and announce the great news?”

“Nope”, says God.  “You’re going to alert the shepherds in the middle of the night.  It will be cold, and lonely, and quiet and no one else will be around.  Even the sheep will be sleeping.”

“And you know what else,” asks God.  “My son’s earthly parents won’t be married.  Mary, my son’s earthly mother, will be a virgin yet pregnant.  And this will be a source of great controversy”.

“But, Father,” the angels will plead one final time.  “Surely, the birth will be at a place of great splendor, because only under those conditions could a future king arrive?”

“Wrong again.  Mary and Joseph, my son’s earthly parents, will travel to the city of David, called Bethlehem.  Mary will travel on the back of a mule and they will not be able to find any comfortable place to sleep.  There will be one small inn…but no rooms will be available.  But a kind-hearted inn keeper will allow them to rest in the barn behind the inn.” says God.  “And that will be the place of this great miracle….”.

Probably not the actual planning session that took place in Heaven.  But I hope you can see my point.

I’ve often talked about shepherds in some of my devotionals.  I love the stories of shepherds and sheep.  God knew he could announce the birth to shepherds watching their flocks at night because they would not think twice about the message.  They’d take it at face value.  In fact, scripture reminds us that upon hearing the news, the shepherds “hurried off” to see the Christ-child.

Where are you looking for our Saviour this Christmas season?  Are you looking at all?

Today marks our final WAWA for the year as we take a couple weeks off the rest, relax, and enjoy the Christmas season.  My hope and my prayers for you this week, is that we all find our Saviour in the simple ways all around us.  God doesn’t want us to honor this season with fireworks and fanfare.  Be kind.  Love one another.  Be peaceful.  Be humble.  Think of others less fortunate.  Pray.  And remember the reason for the season.

I’ll leave you with a great quote from a very smart man:

“There are two ways to live your life.  One is as if nothing is a miracle.  The other is as if everything is….”  Albert Einstein

Look for the miracle of Christ’s birth.  And look for the miracles all around.

Merry Christmas and blessings to all.

 

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DEC 14. 2016 WAWA: Final Burn of the Year!

Our final workout of the year is focused on purely running with some degree of stair climbing so bring your legs AND your lungs!  It’s still fairly dark in the morning’s, so we’re going to stick close to the Cornwell Center “neighborhood”.  The total running distance is “just” 3 miles plus the stairs.  I promise this workout will make you “feel the burn”!

Meet outside The Cornwell Center ready to stretch at 5:40 am.  We’ll launch shortly thereafter.

Weather will be clear, and a cool 42 degrees F at the start.  Dress accordingly.

The WAWA has three parts:

Part 1:  “Run to Burn” (1.5 miles)

We’ll run as a group from our start location in front of the Cornwell Center, doing a lolly-pop route of approximately 1.5 miles.  Route will be right out of the parking lot, right onto Queens Road (just past the baptist church), right onto Roswell, right onto Wellseley, cross over Selwyn, then right into the access road that leads to the Queens University parking deck.

Part 2:  “Burn” (15 sets of stairs)

For the “burn” portion of the WAWA, we’ll do three sets as follows:

-Set 1:  Run up the parking deck stairwell.  Do 10 standing squats at the top.  Run back down the zig-zag levels of the parking deck (not the stairwell).  (Repeat 4 more times.)

-Set 2:  Run up the stairwell.  Do 10 walking lunges at the top.  Run back down the zig-zag again.  (Repeat 4 more times.)

-Set 3:  Run up the stairwell.  Do 10 single-leg dead-lift to reverse lunges (5 each side).  Down the zig-zag again, of course!  (Repeat 4 more times.)

Part 3:  “Burn to Run” (1.5 miles)

Same route running back, only a reverse “lolly-pop”; Wellesley, then left onto Roswell, left onto Queens, then left back towards the Cornwell Center.

We’ll start and finish this WAWA as a group….!

Cool down then devotional.

Workout Leader:  Mike Lenhart

Devotion Leader:  Mike Lenhart

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DEC 7, 2016 Devotional: Salvadorian Reflections….How Can This NOT Be….?

It’s been four days since returning from El Salvador.  I’m fortunate to claim three visits to the Central American country is a year’s time.  Last week, was my second trip during an Advent season.  And once again, I find myself scratching my head about all that we were able to during our six days “in country”.  I mentioned much about our work efforts to build a new Habitat Home during last week’s devotional.  No power tools, lots of clay.  Lots of mixing of gravel, sand, and cement on the ground, then shoveled into wheelbarrows and dumped into the deep long trench lines that made up the outline for the house.  In many ways, our work efforts were fairly simple.  Days 1 and 2…..use pick axes and shovels to move dirt out of the stringed-off outline of the home’s outer and interior walls.  If you get tired or bored of that….there’s rebar assembly and construction that needs to take place.  Day 3 was a celebration in the village so our work was a little more limited.  But we made up for it during Days 4 and 5, mixing the concrete components to fill in the holes, secure the rebar, and top-off the trench lines with additional cement.

Sounds very simple right?

And if that was all our team experienced last week, then I’d say it was a pretty cut and dry build and this might be the shortest devotional ever.

Of course….things were not that simple.

There’s the factions between neighboring communities who’ve never had to work together towards common goals….who are now faced with that dilemma.  The sharing of resources at a health clinic in one community across all the other ones….something that’s never been considered before.

There’s very high unemployment across the country and while the population sits around 6 million people, there’s estimates of another 3 million who’ve migrated to the United States for work….and send money “back home” to their families.

There’s fears that a new presidential administration in the US might force that same 3 million people back to El Salvador, putting even more of a strain where few jobs are available.

There remain concerns about gang violence, especially in the urban areas.  There’s signs of spreading gang violence to the smaller villages, mostly noted by gang graffiti on abandoned homes and brick walls.

There are still mosquitos….and Zika, although those concerns seem to be decreasing.  Small hope, some might say.

During the week, there are very few men in the village, since most of the work available to that gender is in the urban areas.  So, many children grow up not knowing their fathers.  And somewhere in all that mess, is this shying away from any men who visit the village, such as our group of mission workers.  Children are quick to run up to hug the women on our team; but still quite standoff-ish from the men.

How can this be?  Recognize that verse?  You might know that it appears at least twice in scripture.  But during our current season of Advent, it’s more relevant from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 1 where Mary questions the angel who announced the virgin’s pregnancy with the simple question of “How can this be…?

So, as with many mission workers in villages similar to the one of our efforts last week, we found ourselves asking “why” over and over again.  And for me personally, no matter how many times I go to El Salvador, I am left with those same questions.

How can this be…that God allows this to happen?  Where is God in the midst of sure poverty?

The answer is that you have to look for Him.

How do I know?

God was there on the build site when we showed up with very little experience and soft, uncalloused hands, showing us how to get through the tasks that needed to be done.

God was there when we stumbled on a family we met last year….and started peeling back the onion on some pretty serious “drama” that was taking place in their home.

And God was there every day when village children would watch us working, smiling every time we made eye contact.

In the midst of poverty, and strife, and drama….God was there.  Yes, while we were looking and questioning “how can this be….”, we began to realize later in the week the thoughts of “how can this not be….”.

How can this not be our call to action?

How can this not be our reason to care?

How can this not be a demonstration of sharing our abundance?

How can this not be an unyielding desire to return?

How can this not be a chance for discipleship?

On the final day, we were walking around the village, taking in a quick tour of a couple of the neighboring communities where future build efforts might take shape.  Remember those kids who stayed away from the men in our group?  The youngest girl from the family of a single-mom, approached me during the tour…rattling off some spanish that I of course had no idea what she was saying.  Without hesitation, the girl reached up and grabbed one of my fingers, pulling me forward, still trying to point out something to me.  She held my hand for at least 30 minutes, climbed up on my shoulders, and giggled more than I’ve seen her do during any of my previous visits.

Yeh…how can this not be the work of God?  How can this NOT be?

Every now and then, we need to twist around some of those Biblical passages we’ve memorized.  It’s in that turning upside-down of the familiarity, that we expose the needs, wants, and our calls to serve.

Let’s all pray to find the mission trips in our own personal hemispheres.

 

(Photo credit: Josh Richard, Myers Park Presbyterian Church)

 

 

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Hill Repeats…..How Can This Be???

 

The last time we did a hill repeats workout….it was the morning after the presidential election.  How can that be???This workout is long overdue!  No rain on the forecast for tomorrow morning, but there will be a slight chill (42 degrees) in the air.  Perfect for running!

And here’s a bonus….I believe the famous, Hillside Lights, are already up on that street!  Nothing takes my mind off running hills like looking at beautiful Christmas balls!

Let’s do this!

Meet outside the Cornwell Center, ready to go at 5:40 am!

Here’s the planned route:

Initial route:

  • Cornwell Center (start)
  • Right down Selwyn Avenue
  • Left onto Radcliff
  • Left up Queens Road West
  • Right onto Princeton
  • Left onto Jameston
  • Right onto Westfield, then briefly pick up the Greenway
  • Left up Hillside and stop at the intersection of Hillside & Chelsea

At this point, we will have run approximately 2 miles.

Hill Repeats portion (approximately 1/8 mile up and 1/8 mile down)

  • Run uphill from Hillside/Chelsea to Hillside/Croydon intersection
  • Easy jog back downhill to Chelsea.
  • Repeat 3 – 5 more times.
  • On final hill climb, continue to the top of the street to Selwyn and wait until the whole group finishes.

Final stretch of run is left down Selwyn, returning to our start point at the Cornwell Center.  Final stretch is approximately 1 mile.

Total distance planned (depending on how many “repeats” you do):  4.0 – 4.5 miles

Workout Leader:  Mike Lenhart

Devotional Leader:  Mike Lenhart

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