Many are familiar with the words of Revelation 22:13 where Christ says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." When he speaks of the "alpha and omega" he is referring to the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. It is sort of like saying, "I am the 'A' and the 'Z'." It is Christ's way of affirming that in terms of our life, He is the one who is with us at the beginning and He is the one who will be with us until the end. These are powerful and comforting words. But what do these words mean for us in terms our daily life? What do these words mean in terms of our response to Him? At least four things come to my mind...
There is a playground on the property of our church. It is a very nice one that was developed in memory of one of our children who lost her life in a tragic way. It was developed primarily for use by our church members, but it is open to all from our community. One of the playground's most frequent guests is a young girl who will come and, for hours, simply swing.
I'm usually not surprised to see her on the swing. When I come and go from my office, frequently we will wave to each other as I pass by. But one day the temperature was freezing. In fact the temperature gage said 22! Yet, there she was, swinging on the swing. What in the world could this mean?
It finally happened! The tree in my back yard, that I was planning to cut down, fell over. I didn't even know it had happened; my grandson came in from the backyard and shouted, "Pappy, your tree fell down!" He was right. It had toppled to the ground and when I examined it, amazingly, I could find no evidence of any roots. I don't know exactly what happened to them, but without roots the tree had no chance to remain standing. It is much like that in our spiritual life as well...
One of my many interests is that of photography and one of the key principles of photography is to "protect your highlights." Now what does that mean? A highlight is usually the "brightest area of a photograph in which you can see detail." It is what gives the photo contrast and it is the portion of the photo that captures our attention. Recently I listened to photographer/philosopher Sean Tucker describe this theme of "protect your highlights" but he applied the principle to more than just photography; he said this principle also needs to be applied to life.
It is very common this time of year for families, churches, shopping malls, (and even some businesses) to decorate in ways that lift up the Christmas season. The light displays throughout the Tulsa and surrounding area spectacular. Christmas trees and manger scenes can be easily found. (Pictured above is a display that was set up by the Passages Sunday School class of the 1st UMC of Sapulpa). But the value of these displays does not come from a simple casual glance; rather the value is found in a pause coupled with reflection...
Every year, at this time, the beloved Dr Seuss classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, can be found on one of our local or cable stations. It is a humorous story and one which provides a wonderful lesson for children young and old. But the fact is, there are real "grinches" who steal Christmas from many, each and every year. Some of theses grinches have been around since the birth of Christ.
I recently learned that our local Presbyterian Church (1st Presbyterian of Sapulpa) was offering a Blue Christmas service for families during Advent. Some may ask, "Why would they do that? Isn't Christmas a season for celebration and joy? Who would attend a "blue" Christmas service?" Well the fact is many will (or should) attend.
I attended a "wellness" event recently; it was sponsored by our Methodist Conference as a part of their strategy to encourage self-care among clergy. By attending certain events, having an annual physical, and spending some time with a "fitness coach" we are able to see a reduction in our monthly health insurance rate. But beyond the financial benefit is the hope that healthier clergy will be a more effective clergy! Overall I've found the experience to be helpful and I've heard that many organizations are now offering these types of programs. It made me wonder, however, why preventative programs aren't offered to address one's mental health?
Recently we celebrated a Day of Thanksgiving. For Kristi, Beth and me this is always a wonderful family time. On Thanksgiving day we were joined by our son John, his wife, Alisha and our two grandsons (also the grand-dogs!). We were also blessed by having Alisa's parents and sister join us this year. It was a feast of both food and fellowship. Usually we connect with Kristi's sister and family on Friday after Thanksgiving for pizza at Hideaways (pictured above) but this year that side of the family was doing a mini-vacation in Alabama. Still we had a great time with all who were able to join us. Indeed, we had much to be thankful for...
After an almost snowless winter last year, it was nice to have snow come early in November this year. Our first snowfall was not a blizzard but it was beautiful all the same! (Pictured above is Sarah, my Administrative assistant, enjoying winter's first snow.) We didn't have much Fall this year, but I welcome the early Winter all the same. It brings an end to "rag-weed season" and the heat and dust that accompany summer. It also reminds us of "the seasons of life" of which the writer of Ecclesiastes speaks: There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens, says the writer in Ecclesiastes chapter 3.
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.