In my home country, the Netherlands, you still see many large wagon wheels, not on wagons, but as decorations at the entrances of farms or on the walls of restaurants. I have always been fascinated by these wagon wheels: with their wide rims, strong wooden spokes, and big hubs. These wheels help me to understand the importance of a life lived from the center. When I move along the rim, I can reach one spoke after the other, but when I stay at the hub, I am in touch with all the spokes at once.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
When I think of the word hub, I think of the binding center of an object or business. A hub is a focal point or center from which other things evolve. We often hear of airline hubs which are places where airlines concentrate passenger traffic and flight operations at a given airport. It means that you can go to a hub airport and literally go anywhere in the world, often nonstop. Nouwen images the wagon wheel hub as a place where you can be in touch with the entire wheel. It goes without saying that our relationship to Jesus as Lord is the hub of our faith. As Christ followers we need a hub of practice.
Let me suggest that the hub of our relationship is communication with God, and that communication is prayer. Without communication there is no understanding or action. We can learn all we can about a famous person, but until we communicate with them, we do not know them. The hub of being a follower of Christ is our commitment to study and service to the world, but these are meaningless without a personal relationship that is established with regular prayer. Prayer is not a luxury or an option, but the “hub center” from which all else in our relationship evolves. How should we pray?
We pray by setting aside time to communicate with God on a regular basis. This could be regularly attending a time of worship. In worship we are taken away from the distractions of the world and committed to a time to be with God. While we are in worship, we have the perfect opportunity to communicate with God. Worship is truly a time of other worldliness. In worship we are inspired by the mere fact that in worship we are not alone and gain strength from the communion of the saints, both past and present. In worship we are given specific times and ways to pray, and we are strengthened by the community that surrounds us. Worship is a time for prayer.
Prayer can also be a time of silence and reflection. This is a time that we can individually set aside to be in communication with God. Try to take just five minutes a day to listen to God and invite his peace into your spirit. You can start this with a simple repetitive prayer, such as the Jesus Prayer. Repeating the words can bring us into focus with God, and he will then he acts within our spirit. This works best when a time and /or a place is set aside. A room, a chair, a tree, anywhere you can be silent and focused..
Prayer can also be highly active. The use of written prayers, prayer beads of some sort or Christian icons can allow you to get in touch with God. Let me urge you to make prayer the hub of your practice as a Christian. The more you communicate, the better you will understand him and the fuller your life will become.
The scripture reminds us that all communication begins with our relationship with Jesus from whom all else comes. (John 14:6)
Lord, I want to communicate with you. May I come to know that prayer is the way that is accomplished. I implore you to help me to learn to pray regularly and effectively. May I see that prayer is the true hub of my relationship with you. Let my prayers be the center of my life and work as one of your followers. This I faithfully and humbly ask of you.
Sacrifice – The surrender of something valued or desired, especially ones life, for the sake of something regarded as more important or worthy , or in order to avoid a greater loss.
Sacrifice is an unpopular concept in modern American thought. We have been conditioned to think that we must sacrifice nothing, and that sacrifice is a sign of weakness. To the contrary, people who know how to sacrifice are some of the strongest people in the world.
Let me tell you the story of an obscure Japanese Ambassador.
Chiune Sugihara was born on a day of new beginnings January 1, 1900. As a boy, he cherished the dream of becoming the Japanese ambassador to Russia. By the 1930s, he was the ambassador to Lithuania, just a step away from Russia.
One morning, a huge throng of people gathered outside his home. They were Jews who had made their way across treacherous terrain from Poland desperately seeking his help. They wanted Japanese visas which would enable them to flee Eastern Europe and the Gestapo.
Three times Sugihara wired Tokyo for permission to provide the visas; three times he was rejected. He had to choose between the fulfillment of his dream as an ambassador and people’s lives. He chose the latter. He dared to disobey orders. For twenty-eight days he wrote visas by hand, barely sleeping or eating. Recalled to Tokyo, he was still writing visas and shoving them through the train windows into the hands of the refugees who ran alongside. Ultimately, he saved six thousand lives.
Sugihara was not only a courageous Japanese, he was also a committed Christian. He spent his remaining days in Japan, humbly selling light bulbs. When his story was finally told, his son was asked, “How did your father feel about his choice?” The young man replied, “My father’s life was fulfilled. When God needed him to do the right thing, he was available to do it.”
Most of us will not be faced with the level of sacrifice that was thrust upon Ambassador Sugihara, but if we were, I hope that we would all be able to show his level of courage and commitment. The true meaning of sacrifice is to be able to give up something precious for the sake of someone else. We should not spend our lives looking for that great sacrifice but preparing for when it comes.
We may never be called upon to make an ultimate sacrifice, but we need learn to make those small sacrifices that define out lives. A life that is defined by selfishness and greed has no joy. God created us for joy and abundance and the realization that we are all our brothers’ keepers. In order to live life to the fullest, we must be willing to make sacrifices. There are sacrifices to God and to our neighbors.
Sacrifice does not bring scarcity but abundance. The fruits of sacrifice are blessing, joy and fulfillment. As we condition ourselves to be willing and able to sacrifice with this knowledge, we begin to see a new and greater world.
Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers, and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.
~~~Thérèse of Lisieux
Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.
Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice and is never the result of selfishness.
~~~ Napoleon Hill
When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.
Sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you’re not really losing it. You’re just passing it on to someone else.
As my sufferings mounted, I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.
~~~Martin Luther King Jr.
The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.
Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.
The happiness of love is in action; its test is what one is willing to do for others.
Truth often sacrificed for the sake of stability and peace.
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.
To do what is right and just
is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the first fruits of all your crops.
Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.
Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
And walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And call upon the name of the Lord.
When you sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord, you shall sacrifice it so that you may be accepted.
~~~Leviticus 22:29Lord, Sacrifice is a hard thing. I was born with a nature to keep and accumulate, but you taught me by your own sacrifice the value of giving for others. Let your example be the blueprint and guide for my life. I ask you this day to give me the courage and strength to sacrifice for others as the need arises. May I learn the blessings of living a life of selflessness.
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
~~~2 Corinthians 5:17
We all live with a certain level of guilt for our past failures and fear of what we may face in the future. A recent article in Psychology Today points out that guilt is a natural reaction to harming another physically or emotionally. We can not avoid all guilt. but we can keep it from being the guiding force of our lives. Nouwen reminds us that guilt of the past can make us absent from the present. Guilty people become angry and lash out at the nearest target. They become paralyzed with fear and usually overreact to situations.
Guilt also taints our future actions and causes us to have a fear of fully living our present day. We are so afraid that we will repeat our mistakes that we do just that. How many times have you sat dazed by something that you have done in the past and missed an opportunity in the present? Our unresolved guilts are like a “snoozing alarm,”and they are just waiting for a chance to go off again.
Our task is to resolve those guilts and live the present moment to the fullest. Paul told the Corinthian church that being in Christ was being a new creation. Such a new creation is blessed with the renewal of life. We cannot erase the past, but we can renew ourselves through the grace of God. As we trust in the grace of God to redeem us, we can be assured that the same grace will relieve us of the burden of guilt and allow us to live to the fullest. Nouwen speaks of the “oughts” of life that keep us guilty and frozen in the present and the future. Because Christ has redeemed us we need not be burdened with the “oughts” of life but to simply live the day, and the “oughts” will take care of themselves.
Going boldly and unreservedly into the future is a daunting task. We all carry our guilt to some degree like a weight upon our shoulders. Let me say again that we have the grace of God to solve this problem. He has promised us that as we live for him, he will make our lives grand. Today I ask you to put the past to bed with the soothing grace of a God who loves us so dearly. It is like an ointment that heals a wound.
Lord, The biggest challenge I face is to be present in the moment. My mind loads me down with guilt of past failures and fear of future failures. Make it possible for me to be present in this moment that you have given me, and know that you will continue to give me what I need to move forward. I ask you to bestow upon me the joy of this day so that I may journey victoriously into tomorrow.
Gift – The voluntary transference of property without anything in return. A faculty, power, or quality bestowed; a virtue or endowment looked on as an emanation from heaven.
A gift is the voluntary transference of property without anything in return. Each year at Christmas time we begin to search for the right gifts for those who are close to us, but with that definition are we really giving gifts? Christmas is a traditional time of giving, but we must remember that a true gift expects nothing in return. We must understand that the gifts of the Christmas and birthday sort are the acknowledgement of the worth and value of our relationship to the receiver only if we do not expect quid pro quo.
To better understand the concept of gift, we must look to God’s gift to us. He created us and gifted us with this world, and when we rejected it he still loved us and gifted us further. From the time we rejected his gift, he began to try to win us back. He was determined to recreate his creation. When all else had failed he came himself and offered us a path of grace. God is the ultimate example of a gift giver. The quotes and scriptures I have published in this piece examine the many facets of the word.
We are gifted with the ability to do certain things in life. There are those who can make beautiful music or paint beautiful pictures, and others who can write prose and poetry. All these and more are natural gifts which were bestowed upon us by God when he created us. We would do well to be grateful to him for what he has given us and use our talents and gifts for the betterment of his creation.
There are other gifts that are not as easily visible or understood. Paul said to the Corinthian church,”And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” Simply put, God has equipped each one of us with the gift we need to be his partners in the salvation of his creation. This is most “other worldly” to think that God has given you something of himself that resides in you in a special way, and giving it with the free will to exercise it or to neglect it. He did give us a gift without expecting anything in return.
That is our challenge when we give to others. We are to learn to give without expectation of return. Just as we are overwhelmed by the grace of God, it is our hope that as we show our love to others it will be returned. That is the greatest gift of all.
Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.
― Mary Oliver
May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.
― J.R.R. Tolkien
What you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.
― Hans Urs von Balthasar
Everyone has a gift for something, even if it is the gift of being a good friend.
― Marian Anderson
A friend is a gift you give yourself.
― Robert Louis Stevenson
My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.
― Jim Valvano
Every problem is a gift – without problems we would not grow.
― Anthony Robbins
You can do something extraordinary, and something that a lot of people can’t do. And if you have the opportunity to work on your gifts, it seems like a crime not to. I mean, it’s just weakness to quit because something becomes too hard.
― Morgan Matson
Buy a gift for a dog, and you’ll be amazed at the way it will dance and swerve its tail, but if don’t have anything to offer to it, it won’t even recognize your arrival; such are the attributes of fake friends.
― Michael Bassey Johnson
A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect.”
― Jonathan Lockwood Huie
The great art of giving consists in this the gift should cost very little and yet be greatly coveted, so that it may be the more highly appreciated.
― Baltasar Gracian
The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, lie detector. This is the writer’s radar and all great writers have had it.
― Ernest Hemingway
Being present to yourself in love and with kindness is the ultimate gift.
― Amy Leigh Mercree
~~~1 Peter 4:10
Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.
~~~1 Corinthians 12:4
For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
~~~2 Timothy 1:6
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.
~~~1 Timothy 4:14
Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.
~~~1 Corinthians 12:28
Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Lord, The greatest gift you have given me is yourself. Now I implore you to give me the gift of giving to others in the manner you have given to me. With that gift I can begin to set the world right. Allow me to be your servant of giving, so that I may help spread joy and happiness to the world. In some small measure, help it to become what you intended it to be.
A new beginning! We must learn to live each day, each hour, yes, each minute as a new beginning, as a unique opportunity to make everything new. Imagine that we could live each moment as a moment pregnant with new life. Imagine that we could live each day as a day full of promise. Imagine that we could walk through the new year always listening to a voice saying to us: “I have a gift for you and can’t wait for you to see it!” Imagine.
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope
I believe that we were all created in the image of God. That means we are full of promise. Henri Nouwen said of God’s intentions ,” I have a gift for you and can’t wait for you to see it!” These words resonate in my soul and create a new vision for life. The world would be so different if we viewed ourselves and all we encounter through such a perspective.
A life full of promise has self worth and strives to live life to the fullest. People who lack self worth are abused and many times become abusers. A healthy self worth brings us closer to God and each other. A person with a positive self image is more likely to help raise the status of others. Positive self worth makes the world a better place.
Being full of promise means that we believe that God is at work in the world. That makes all the difference! So many people live bleak and desperate lives because they believe that everything that happens is their doing. God wants to help us. He wants to make us more fully whole. We are the crown jewel of his creation, and we are special to him. God never stops creating and recreating, and we are the beneficiaries of his work.
Being full of promise just means that each day brings a new challenge and a new blessing, and both are part of God’s word within us. Face the day, and claim the promise everyday.
Lord, It is good to know that you give us a promise of a future that is ripe with possibility. Strengthen us when we fall into negative thinking. Uplift us when we feel defeated. Give us the vision of a life of promise. We know that is the life you created for us.
Sorrow – The outward expression of grief; lamentation, morning, physical pain or suffering.
The year 2020 has brought with it a lion size load of sorrows.The sorrow of the pandemic, the sorrow of the social division of our country, the sorrow of the many who have lost jobs or businesses, and of late, the sorrow of an unseasonable hurricane. This small list may be only the tip of the iceberg. We must be reminded that grief and sorrow are an integral part of life. We can never escape sorrow, but we can learn the role of sorrow in our lives.
Sorrow is a time of discovery. During our time of sorrow we become aware of our essential needs of life. Before we experience sorrow , grief or loss we feel that we need every toy, trinket, person or status that we enjoy. The sorrow of loss then allows us to discover who we are without some of the trappings and people that we had so depended upon. This is a discovery that can make us stronger than we were before.
Sorrow is a time of cleansing. As we experience the sorrow of disappointment or loss, we can cleanse our lives of the unnecessary things or relationships that may be harmful to us. As we cleanse ourselves, we come to understand the necessary and cleanse the discretionary. Our lives become less weighty and much more uninhibited.
Sorrow is a time of healing. Undeniably, sorrow is a heavy burden. It comes with loss and disappointment. Our souls cry out in our times of sorrow for healing. This healing can only come through our faith. When we allow our faith to become the healing catalyst, we open the door to a complete healing of the soul. Through this process of healing, we find ourselves newer and better people.
Sorrow is a time of perspective. When sorrow enters our lives we take a fresh inventory and begin to sort out some things. This sorting brings some new perspectives that cry out for change. As we shift into the post-sorrow paradigm, we can become different people. Life takes on new meaning, new energy and new direction. Some things that seemed so important are now very much relegated to a different place in our lives.
Our time of sorrow is a time of learning and growth. No one ever invites sorrow into their lives, but it will come. During our time of sorrow we must look for the purpose of the sorrow. As the Sufi mystic, Rumi, tells us,”It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. “
Be aware that sorrow will be followed by joy.
― Charles Dickens
Do not apologize for crying. Without this emotion, we are only robots.
― Elizabeth Gilbert
Those who do not weep, do not see.
― Victor Hugo
Deep in earth my love is lying And I must weep alone.
― Edgar Allan Poe
No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.
― C.S. Lewis
She was a genius of sadness, immersing herself in it, separating its numerous strands, appreciating its subtle nuances. She was a prism through which sadness could be divided into its infinite spectrum.
― Jonathan Safran Foer
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
― Kahlil Gibran
Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.
― Charles Dickens
Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.” But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
― Kahlil Gibran
Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain.
― William Faulkner
Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.
― J.R.R. Tolkien
Why did I ever come forth from the womb
To look on trouble and sorrow,
So that my days have been spent in shame?
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,
~~~1 Peter 1:6
For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow.
And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him,
Then Joseph fell on his father’s face, and wept over him and kissed him.
Now they were all weeping and lamenting for her; but He said, “Stop weeping, for she has not died, but is asleep.”
By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down and wept,
When we remembered Zion.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Lord, There are times when I despair in sorrow, but I know that you will allow me to emerge from that sorrow with new purpose and understanding. I ask you now to help me to navigate this time in such a way that I still have hope. I put myself into your arms of mercy and love, and ask for relief that only you can give.
Joy – A declaration or assurance by which a person undertakes a commitment to do or refrain from doing a specific act. A divine assurance of future benefit or blessing.
Joy, what a word! Unfortunately, we all too often restrict the word joy to Christmas. The Christmas season is the time that we say ,”joy to the world,” but there are many other times that we should be overflowing with joy. A feeling of joy overtakes us when we see a child walk for the first time, a person experience healing after being ill, or even when we succeed at a difficult task. I believe joy has a supernatural quality about it. The feeling of pure joy cannot be easily explained but must be experienced.
Paul said to the Philippian church,” Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!” Joy is not an option for a Christian but should be a state of being. It is with a profound joy that I can say that I am a creation of God and saved sinner by the grace that Jesus attained for us. There are so many things to be joyous about that we really can’t be sad. but we are sometimes.
Our sadness comes because we have neglected the gift of the spirit that we received at our baptism. That Holy Spirit is “God with us,” and he never leaves. Our challenge is to believe that fact from the bottom of our beings. We must not allow ourselves to be dragged into the pit by the evil and negativity of the world. That evil, that mistrust, that negativity is the devil’s way of winning, and we must not allow him to win. The scripture also reminds us,” For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” The devil is a “joy thief” and God is an extravagant giver of peace and joy.
This week go out and experience joy to the fullest because you are a child of God who bears the presence of the spirit within you. That is a most unbeatable combination.
Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.
Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow.
Joy lies in the fight, in the attempt, in the suffering involved, not in the victory itself.
We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.
If you carry joy in your heart, you can heal any moment.
Let your joy be in your journey—not in some distant goal.
Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.
– Joseph Campbell
When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.
Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.
– Mother Teresa
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place.
~~~1 Chronicles 16:26–27
And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans! May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!”
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”
Lord, I praise you for the gift of inner joy. That is the gift You bestow upon me by the presence of Your spirit within me. You are never far from me, because You are always present in me. Let me tap into that source of joy each day and never neglect or doubt Your presence, because You are a faithful God who never abandons His creation.