Nov 4 2015

Starting the Day Off Right

_DSC2359I have the privilege of teaching a Sunday School class each week. For the past few months we’ve been studying John Ortberg’s book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted.  In our session this past Sunday we were challenged by Ortberg to take seriously the apostle Paul’s injunction, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)  He makes a big deal about Paul saying “whatever you do” and included a number of everyday instances where we ought to consider how we might do things “in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  One of those things was waking up.  How might we begin a new day as Jesus would?  We had a good discussion on this and there are certainly a lot of different things we might do. I happen to believe, however, that the best way we can start a new day is by praying.  I suspect Jesus would concur.  We might begin a new day by simply offering thanks for the gift of another day to live.  We might also offer our gratitude for mercies made new with the rising of the sun. (See Lamentations 3:22-23)  It would also be wise to ask for wisdom and guidance for the tasks ahead of us that day.

_DSC2590Over the years I have also found it helpful to read prayers or devotional thoughts at the beginning of a new day. There are lots of great resources available.  One of my favorite authors is John Philip Newell.  He has written a number of books that provide prayers for both morning and evening.  One of those is Sounds of the Eternal: A Celtic Psalter.  Here are a couple of morning prayers from this volume: “As daylight breaks the darkness of night, as the first movements of morning pierce the night’s stillness, so a new waking to life dawns with us, so a fresh beginning opens. In the early light of this day, in the first actions of this morning, let us be awake to life.  In our soul and in our seeing let us be alive to the gift of this new day, let us be fully alive.” 

Another one of Newell’s prayers reads: “Early in the morning we seek your presence, O God, not because you are ever absent from us but because often we are absent from you at the heart of each moment where you forever dwell.  In the rising of the sun, in the unfolding color and shape of the morning open our eyes to the mystery of this moment that in every moment we may know your life-giving presence.  Open our eyes to this moment that in every moment we may know you as the One who is always now.”

_DSC2545In many of Newell’s prayers he incorporates elements of Creation and uses them to lead us into prayer. This is something each of us can do as well.  I encourage you to pay attention each morning to what is going on in the natural world about you and allow what you see and hear to direct your prayers to the Maker of heaven and earth.  I really can’t think of a better way to start one’s day.

–Chuck

(The pictures shown above are some I’ve taken early in the morning this past week.  The top one was taken in southern Indian’s Hoosier National Forest and the bottom two were taken not far from my home in Henderson, KY.)


May 5 2013

New Beginnings–Again!

AD2471Right before leaving Pikeville a dear friend gave me a stone that had engraved upon it the words “New Beginnings.”  This time in my life truly is a period of new beginnings.  I made the move to Henderson, Kentucky, this past Tuesday. I started my new job at the First Christian Church of Henderson on Wednesday. This morning it was my privilege to share my first message with this congregation as their new pastor. Although new beginnings can be very stressful and scary, I am excited about where God has brought me and I look forward to what is ahead.

AD2408I’m glad that my new beginning has coincided with the season of spring. Spring in many ways represents a new beginning for the earth. I was reminded of that a few days ago as I took a walk in nearby John James Audubon State Park. The wildflowers bursting forth from the ground and the countless shades of green in the trees reminded me of the scripture where God declares that He makes “all things new.” (Rev. 21:5) This afternoon I saw a robin feeding its chicks. Once again there was the reminder, “I make all things new.”   Wherever I seem to glance this time of the year this is the message that presents itself to me.AD2480I see behind both my own new beginning and the signs of new beginnings in nature a God of grace and mercy. I see a God who finds delight in offering us a new beginning every single day. In the third chapter of the Book of Lamentations we find these beautiful words: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (vs. 22-23) How awesome it is that we get a chance to start over or begin again every day of our lives! It is even more awesome to know that the God of all Creation is with us on this journey and provides us with both His presence and love constantly.

When you wake up tomorrow, make sure to offer thanks to God for the gift of new beginnings. And then do it again the day after that.  And the day after that…

–Chuck

(I took the three images shown here this past week at John James Audubon State Park in Henderson, KY.)


Jan 4 2012

New Beginnings Every Day!

“…His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning.” Lam. 3:22-23

“Every new morning is a new beginning of our life.  Every day is a completed whole.”  These are the words that begin the devotional thought for today in a book I’m reading based on the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  The thought of each morning being a new beginning for us is certainly not something I haven’t heard before.  What Bonhoeffer goes on to say, however, is.  He writes, “God created day and night so that we might not wander boundlessly, but already in the morning may see the goal of the evening before us.  As the old sun rises every day, so the eternal mercies of God are new every morning.  To grasp the old faithfulness of God anew every morning, to be able—in the middle of life—to begin a new life with God daily, that is the gift that God gives with every new morning…”

I find Bonhoeffer’s explanation for why God created day and night fascinating.  He felt God knew we would have a tendency to “wander boundlessly” and that this would cause trouble for us.  Therefore He put us in a world where we would know each morning that darkness would return each evening and we would therefore have to order our lives accordingly.  I realize that this thinking doesn’t necessarily fit into a modern society where earth’s darkness is no longer a hindrance to travel or wandering, but I feel that there is a message here that is still pertinent.  We are meant to live within nature’s cycles.  We should be humble enough to admit our limitations and also our need for rest.  There is much in God’s Creation that reminds us that we are not meant to always be doing something.  We all need rest—physical, mental and spiritual.  In Bonhoeffer’s view, every sunrise and sunset offers us this important reminder.

Reflecting on the words found in Lamentations 3, Bonhoeffer rightly affirms that every new day is a gift from God and that a part of this ongoing gift is God’s love or compassion.  This is something each of us should remember at the start of each new day.  Every sunrise is a reminder of God’s love and faithfulness to us.  Every sunrise is, likewise, a memo that we have another chance “to begin a new life with God.”  Apparently, in God’s plan new beginnings are called for every single day, not just at the beginning of each New Year.  I don’t know about you but I am incredibly grateful for that.

–Chuck

(I took the top image at sunrise on the east coast at Acadia National Park.  I took the bottom image at sunset on the west coast at Redwood National Park.)