Monday, March 31, 2008


A few weeks ago I was able to take part in a worship service that was intended to be a funeral for Christ. The room was almost completely dark, except a few candles, there was a cross in the center of the room, and places to sit around the cross. Upon entering the room you noticed a few things: it was dark, cold, and smelled of some kind of incense. The smell wasn't like the familiar smells of scented candles that smell like flowers, fruits, or freshly washed linens...this smell almost stung your throat every time you inhaled. The worship was somber, quiet, and simple: a few readings from Psalms, and a few dramatic readings by various characters of the last hours of Christ's life: Peter, Judas, Pilate, and others. After the readings were finished, the cross was carried out like a casket while a recording of Amazing Grace was played on the really sent chills up my spine and down my arms. All sat in the darkness for a few moments of silence after the cross had been removed from the room.
After the worship was over, I noticed that my clothes smelled like the incense...we weren't in the room for very long, but it was long enough for the fumes to work into my clothing...I carried the scent with me.
Have you ever been to a restaurant and someone near you orders fajitas and the server brings it out sizzling, smoking, and smelling. You know when that happens that you're going to smell like fajita meat until you change your clothes...the smell stays with you. And anyone that smells you will have a pretty good idea of where you've been and what you've been doing.
There are numerous stories in the Old Testament of people making burnt offerings to God to help cleanse them from their sins. The smell of burning flesh is a smell like no really does choke you. I can imagine that anyone that made a burnt offering in the temple smelled for the rest of the day...maybe even the next few days. And everyone they came near knew where they had been- in the presence of God.
So, how do you smell? Not literally...but can people tell when you've been to church on a Sunday afternoon/evening? Do you get angry with the server that's taking too long or gets your order wrong? Do you yell or honk at someone that cuts you off in the car? What about how you conduct yourself on Monday, Tuesday...and so on? Can people tell that you're a Christian by how you act? Sometimes, people cannot easily tell that we're Christians when we don't carry the Spirit with us when we leave. We are a people called to be different, called to love. Incense isn't used often in many of today's churches, so how can we make it clear where we've been and what we've been doing?
"Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other." 1 Thessalonians 4:9

Monday, March 24, 2008

In the Shadow

"Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me." Psalm 63:7-8

       It's now officially spring. Not because the calendar says so, but because the flowers and trees say so. One of my favorite trees is the Flowering Dogwood (or Cornus florida.) I guess I like it because my parents like it. It is a beautiful flowering tree, but it has its limitations. It doesn't do well in places where it gets too much sunlight... so it tends to thrive in shady areas. You can find some dogwoods that can survive in open spaces, but these often lose the delicate, beautiful look that I enjoy about the trees. The Dogwoods here have just started blooming, and I'm enjoying seeing the flowering trees show their beauty. The kind of dogwoods I love to see in bloom have very few limbs, and are spread out like an old fashioned hand-fan. You'll often see Dogwoods grow like this when they're nearby a larger tree that provides shade from the sun.
    The Dogwood is not one of the larger trees, and it may not be able to stand on its own, but it is more beautiful than any tree I know of during the time it is in bloom. Other times of the year, it's easy to miss the Dogwood, as it's size is so small compared to the larger oaks, pines, hickory trees... While it's not the big beautiful shade tree, the dogwood may be one of the "smarter trees." It allows bigger trees to take on the majority of the hot sunlight during the summer, the ice and freezing precipitation during the winter, and the wind during storms. 
    As Christians, especially young Christians, we should strive to be like the Dogwood. Use God, and other Christians (especially older, mentor-type Christians), to be a refuge from the harshness of life. Life can be hard and confusing... when it is, it's nice to have something to help you through the struggles. I find a lot of comfort in the song "This is Our God" as performed by Chris Tomlin.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Don't spoil your dinner.

This is the second part of a series on preparing yourself for worship. Part 1, "Wash Up" was posted on March 10th.
Many of us have heard it over and over from our parents, teachers, or any other adult in our lives... "If you eat now, you're going to spoil your dinner." The phrase can be confusing to young's not like your dinner is actually going to spoil because you snack before the official meal, it's just that you're going to fill up before dinner and not be able to eat the meal that hopefully has some nutritional value to it. So, we would pout...maybe even beg....or claim that, "I'll still be hungry." But more often than not, we're already full of some snack food that is merely filler and it gets in the way getting what we really need.
Sometimes we do this as we approach church or worship. We bring things into worship that keep us from getting what we really need. Maybe it's guilt from the things we've done wrong....maybe we're still mad at someone and "can't believe they call themselves a Christian..." or maybe we're just pouting about the way things are at church....we don't like it, it's not our style, or the more popular "I don't get anything out of it..."
Lots of things get in the way. But these all have one thing in common - us. We sometimes get so caught up in what we're feeling, that we forget to open ourselves up to what God might have in store for us. We've essentially filled up on feelings of guilt, irritation, hate....and there's no room for God to move us to feeling the way we should when we're in the presence of the Lord Almighty. Last week I talked about preparing for worship by getting in a worship-ful state of being before entering the worship place. This week, I challenge you to not "spoil your dinner" by bringing feelings into open to what God might have to say to you through those leading worship. If we ask God to do amazing things, we need to come expecting miracles. Go. Serve. And remember to Love always.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spring Cleaning

I'm going to start pulling the entrys from the Williams Staff blog, so that you can read both of my weekly entrys in one place. However, I would encourage you to continue reading the blog to hear what the other staff members have to say. Now, here is this week's entry that was originally posted on Tuesday March 11th.

Spring Cleaning
It's that time of year. Time to see what you haven't used in the past 10 months- that's the stuff that you can throw out or sell.But, if you're anything like me, that's not as easy as it sounds. I don't consider myself a pack rat, but I do tend to hold on to things that could be useful...but I'll never use them. That's the kind of stuff I need to throw away...before I convince myself that the stuff in the spare closet has some kind of sentimental value.Things in your spiritual life can be the same way. We might really think that something is needed by us or by others...but it's really just causing us to stress and worry. Or maybe we're harboring feelings from the past, and that is causing a rift in a relationship with another person...and our relationship with God. This is a great time to clear out the clutter, and return things to the way that they once were.Spend some time thinking today about what is really necessary in your life and in your walk with God...try to "get back to the basics," and see if there is a noticeable change in your relationship with God and with others.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Wash Up!

This is the first of two posts on preparing yourself for worship. The second part will be posted in next week's entry.

Verse of the week: Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ..." Colossians 4:2-3a

What do you do right before you come to worship? No really, stop reading and think about what the fifteen minutes look like before you leave your house for the church...or wherever you're worshiping.

Are you running around frantically trying to get ready because you overslept? Are you trying to keep your eyes open because you were up too late the night before? Are you scarfing down something that probably doesn't qualify as breakfast?

I remember when I was young (before my siblings and I got busy with all the different activities we did) that dinner was a very important part of the day. One thing I always remember being asked was, "Did you wash your hands?" And then, I'd have to prove and/or dad would smell my hands to see if they smelled like soap. After a while, I learned the drill and washed my hands, then walked up to my mom or dad and showed them I was ready for dinner by raising my hands so they could smell them. It was my way of saying, "I'm prepared to receive this meal."

So, do you prepare for worship? I'm not saying you have to be "clean" before you enter worship- God loves us despite our flaws...remember that's why we have Jesus. But many of us show up unprepared for worship. We see worship as something we go to and not something we do. Worship should not have spectators, worship should have participants. Someone taking part in a meal, or playing a role in a play will always spend some time preparing for what they're doing.

This week, I would challenge you to spend some time in prayer before worship. Ask God to speak to you during the worship experience, ask God to speak through those leading worship, ask that everything may be left outside the church, so that all can focus on what they're doing- worshiping an amazing God.

Monday, March 3, 2008


Before reading this devotion, I would recommend that you read Ecclesiastes 1-2.

Verse of the week:

"Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them?The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep."

Ecclesiastes 5:10-12 (NIV)

Last week's episode of Rob and Big give me something to talk about again (See last week's devotional). This time around, Rob starts the episode by having a bad showing at a skating session. Numerous times, Rob falls off his board and is obviously angry that what is normally easy for him, seems impossible at the moment. Rob then tells Big, "I feel like everything's in chaos. Like, my whole life is in chaos." Rob then begins his search for something to give him some stability in life.

So, Rob gets excited about "sacred geometry" which is basically posters of geometric designs (they reminded me of the magic eye puzzles of 15 years ago) that you're supposed to use for good luck. Rob puts a poster under his bed mattress and encourages Big to give it a try. Big hesitates, but is usually willing to go along with what Rob's newest idea is...even so, Big remains skeptical, doubting that using it will bring any luck. The duo then visit a street shaman that specializes in "sacred-G, " which gets Rob more excited about using the new-found luck. The duo then buys $1,160 worth of lottery tickets. After losing most of this money, Rob looks for other ways to show the power of "sacred G." So, Rob creates a skateboard using a "sacred G" design for the bottom of the board. After having a good skating session, Rob lands a trick he's never done before and proclaims that the "sacred G" helped him do it.

So, the moral of the story... what do you trust? Putting your trust in your accomplishments (like Rob with his ability to perform on a skateboard) will cause you to be frustrated sooner or later. So, how do you react when things are difficult...especially when they shouldn't be. The question you have to ask yourself is what are you after? What motivates you- fame, glory, money? Who do you blame when your goals seem to slip away? Who do you praise when you achieve something?

Rob shows us today how easy it is to forget about serving others and look to better ourselves. And, when we do that, we sometimes take extreme measures to help us get to where we want to be. Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, reminds himself and readers numerous times that "everything under the sun is meaningless, a chasing after the wind." This is a great piece of advice- if you spend your life chasing after the things of this world, you'll waste your time and be frustrated. Solomon, who many believe to have been the richest man in history, found only emptiness in his accomplishments and possessions, they never seemed to be enough. It was only when he set his mind on God that he felt truly fulfilled.

Set your mind on God and serving God's people and not on the things of this world so that you'll never be frustrated or lack satisfaction from your accomplishments...after all, there is nothing we can do to hold on to the things of this life... Go, serve! Or, as Rob and Big would say, "Do work!"