As some of you know who follow this blog, I served most of my ministry as a lay pastor (as in didn’t get paid). But far from being a problem, the lay pastor situation gave me opportunity to serve as an associate at a small Brazilian church for 14 years, and a volunteer chaplain at a large nursing home. Some days, it was like the Clark Kent/Superman scenario, where I rushed home to shower and change clothes, then hurried out to hold the Wednesday afternoon services at Allied Skilled Nursing. I loved serving both at church and nursing home, but it was at my secular job, that God taught me the best lessons. So, let’s rewind 30 years to a day when I was mowing lawns. My home state Connecticut could be named after a Native American word meaning, “Land full of rocks!” Practically every lawn we mowed had at least one large granite boulder to mow around. One very nice property in particular, was blessed with an abundance of enough stones to build one of our famous New England stone walls. My friend Noel, who just started working with us, was not familiar with our properties and so he accidently grazed over one unseen stony protrusion after another. Finally, He stopped, said a few choice words and stated, “You guys have the worst lawns I have ever seen!”
“Come on Noel.” I said trying to keep a calm tone. “These are the ones Jesus gave us.”
“Well then, Jesus must not like you very much!” Noel retorted, then restarted his machine and began mowing the back half of the property.
Now, I know Noel’s opinion isn’t proper theologically, but I have often felt a lot like him! Some days it feels like other folks have nice easy lawns to mow. They don’t have rocks to mow around or hidden outcroppings lurking just beneath the tops of the long grass. Sure, I know that Jesus Loves Me Because the Bible Tells Me So, but there are some days I wonder how much He likes me! The answer I have discovered after whacking a number of rocks in my 71 years, is that God allows rocks to mow around because He does care. He loves us so much that He has given us the chance to go back time and again to difficult people, hard places and sticky situations until we remember where the rocks are. Then we can give Him thanks, in every situation as we learn to mow around them!
Milk Eggs and Worry in the New Year by Peter Caligiuri
That is why I say to you, don’t worry about living—wondering what you are going to eat or drink, or what you are going to wear. Surely life is more important than food, and the body more important than the clothes you wear. Look at the birds in the sky. They never sow nor reap nor store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Matthew 6:25- 26 Phillips
I must confess that we New Englanders brag a lot about how tough we are when it comes to winter. We laugh uproariously at stories of school districts in the South shutting down because of a couple of inches of snow. But no matter how many New England snowstorms we have lived through, often our conversation at home when it starts falling, begins with the words, “Honey, can you run to the store to pick up milk and eggs?” Somehow, despite knowing that hens will keep on laying and cows will continue to give milk, we go into panic mode. No matter how tough we seem to others, Jesus knows us all the way to the core of our fearful hearts. He sees that no matter how many times He has provided daily bread and protected us through long cold nights that at the first sign of a storm we act as if God won’t take care of us this time. But if as Jesus tells us we watch the birds, we’ll see that none of them stay up late at night looking for bird seed, bugs, or worms. They simply fold their wings, tuck their heads then and drift off to sleep. It seems lately as if we are facing a record number of storms including presidential politics, hurricanes and a pandemic that just doesn’t want to quit. But what will count in the year ahead is not what problems we are face, but who we face them with. Our same God who is an expert on feeding the birds loves us more and knows exactly how to care for His children.
Let’s be honest, some of us will be snoring when the ball drops in Times Square this New Year’s Eve. After all, despite all the hoopla, nothing really changes, and January first is just another day. I had huge expectations when I was a young boy. I remember getting dressed up for the big New Year’s celebration at my aunt’s house. As I got ready, I was nervously anticipating what would happen at the stroke of twelve. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I felt that it would be life changing. When the moment arrived, there were shouts of “Happy New Year” with hugs and kisses all around. Aside from all the fresh-baked treats, the noisemakers were my favorite part. It was my once-a-year opportunity to make a terrible racket without getting into trouble. When the confetti settled, it was quite a letdown when I realized that nothing significant had actually happened. Suddenly it all felt so hollow and after that year, I never got very excited about New Year’s Eve. Then fifteen years later, as a new believer, I experienced a very different way to welcome the New Year. I probably ate a bit too much at my church’s potluck dinner that night, but I can’t say that I regret it. As we cleared the tables, midnight was quickly approaching. We each found a place in the sanctuary to kneel and pray. We hardly noticed as midnight came and went without fanfare, but in God’s presence, I was not left feeling hollow. That year, I knew in my heart that something significant had happened and that when we prayed, God listened, and was ready to work in marvelous ways. So my prayer for you is that you give your New Year to God, and then watch Him get involved and give you a Blessed New Year!
The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) is able to accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God—it is dynamic and can have tremendous power]. James 5:16 AMP
A Little Sunshine News
The beginning of a New Year is the best time to look back and be thankful for the year we have passed through. Sunshine News has grown over this past year by the addition of Pastor Janice Burnett and Rob Keller as regular contributors. Our little publication which began as a single page devotional given out to a single facility has grown to be available in 8-9 Senior Communities in Florida and Western New York. If you would like to write for Sunshine Newsletter, we would love to hear from you in 2022! We are looking for devotionals, news, humor, poetry or inspirational quotes. Most of all please pray for our team’s outreach to facilities that have been sometimes locked down, often stressed out and daily struggling through two years of Covid-19. We begin believing that God is so amazingly good that He sent Jesus for everyone who is willing to receive Him as Lord and Savior. He remembers those who are forgotten and specializes in restoring the weakest of hearts. Thank you and God bless you in the New Year ahead!
God specializes in giving people a fresh start! Rick Warren
That is why I say to you; don’t worry about living—wondering what you are going to eat or drink, or what you are going to wear. Surely life is more important than food, and the body more important than the clothes you wear. Look at the birds in the sky. They never sow nor reap nor store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Matthew 6:25-26 Phillips
As a native New Englander I confess that we do brag a lot about our toughness when it comes to winter. We laugh uproariously at stories of school districts in the South shutting down because of a couple of inches of snow. But no matter how many winters we have lived through our response to snow falling on our own street stays the same. “Honey, can you run to the store and pick up some milk and eggs?” Despite the logical conclusion that hens will keep on laying and cows will continue to give milk, we go into panic mode! No matter how tough we pretend to be, Jesus knows us all the way to the core of our fearful hearts. He sees that no matter how many times He has provided daily bread and protected us through long cold nights that at the first sign of a storm we act as if God might not take care of us this time around.
But if we watch the birds as Jesus tells us to do, we’ll notice that none of them stay up late at night looking for seeds to pluck from the bushes or worms to pull from the ground. They simply fold their wings, tuck their heads and drift off to sleep.
They somehow know that tomorrow will always dawn with all they need to get by. So whether you are wondering if there will be milk and eggs at the store when the snow melts or panic buying toilet paper in the pandemic, what counts is not on how tough we are, but who we are looking to for help. If we look to Jesus we will be amazed to discover once again, that the same God who is an expert on feeding birds, knows exactly what we need today!