Monthly Archives: November 2022

Unlikely Heralds

“When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.  All who heard it were amazed at what had been told them by the shepherds.”  (Luke 2: 17-18)

The Gospel of Luke reports that at the time of Jesus’ birth, shepherds nearby were told by an angel that a Savior, the long awaited Messiah, was born. They were told where they could find him and how they would recognize him — in Bethlehem, tightly wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in an animal’s feeding trough. 

God chose shepherds, one of the humblest of occupations at the time, to be the news media of the day to spread the word about God becoming one of us.

We can only imagine the reaction of Mary and Joseph to having some complete strangers visit them and share a story that confirmed what they, too, had been told by an angel – that the son born to Mary was the Son of God, Savior, and Messiah. 

A savior of the world being born was of course amazing news.  This good news that the shepherds first proclaimed 2000 years ago is just as important to the world today as it was then.   A savior has been born!  The creator has become one of his created!  An anointed one has come to reconcile God and mankind, and be an example in reconciling each of us to one another.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, this savior offers to dwell in us and enable us to be and bring his presence to the people and circumstances in our lives.   

Like the shepherds, we may consider ourselves unlikely heralds that Jesus is still present in the world today, but he is present to all who accept his offer to dwell in them.  We have the same opportunity as the shepherds to spread the word about Jesus in what we have seen, heard, and experienced. 

Over the past few years, I have been participating in a Christian ministry to the local jail.  The venue of the jail has certainly taken me outside my comfort zone.  But on one occasion I found myself sharing about how in between the first and second coming of Jesus, there is a third coming – when we invite Jesus to come and reside in our hearts. Sharing how Jesus changed my life prompted three of the inmates to share how Jesus had changed their lives.  This was remarkable because inmates are very cautious about sharing anything personal in front of one another. 

As with the shepherds, I was an unlikely herald in the venue of the jail, but telling others about Jesus is part of God’s plan for us.  All who hear will be “amazed!”    

Are we following the example of the shepherds in telling people about Jesus?

What Are You Thankful For?

“Enter the temple gates with praise, its courts with thanksgiving.  Give thanks to God, bless his name; good indeed is the Lord, whose love endures forever, whose faithfulness lasts through every age.” (Psalm 100:4-5)

What are the chances that 102 pilgrims sailing from Plymouth, England in 1620 would encounter two English speaking Indians on the North American continent?  These Indians, named Samoset and
Squanto, became instrumental in the pilgrims’ survival.  They helped the pilgrims learn how to plant corn, catch fish, and trade with friendly Indian tribes. 

Was God looking out for the pilgrims?  Apparently the pilgrims thought so.  At the end of the summer of 1621, after building new dwellings, planting and harvesting food to get them through the next winter, the pilgrims were “brimming over with gratitude” and Governor Bradford declared a day of public thanksgiving in October.  (See The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall and David Manuel.)

As our national day of Thanksgiving approaches this week, I pause to reflect on a long list of blessings for which I am deeply thankful:

  • A Father God and his son Jesus Christ who love me and offer to dwell in me through the Holy Spirit and give me purpose in loving and serving the people in my life.
  • A loving wife of 59 years and a mutual love that grows deeper each year.
  • A family of five children, including three sons-in-law, one daughter-in-law and 13 grandchildren who are believing Christians and enjoy one another’s company.
  • An adult daughter with Down syndrome whose bright smile, hugs and inclination to love shows the rest of us the face of God; and who recently started Coffee and Community after daily mass on Tuesdays and Thursdays at our local parish.
  • Christian friends from the People of Praise community, Christians in Commerce, St. Marks Catholic Church and our neighborhood who would take a call at 3:00 A.M. if the need arose.
  • A declining PSA after 38 sessions of proton radiation for recurrent prostate cancer. 
  • Meaningful work in business and ministry spanning 60 years.
  • Material blessings that are sufficient.

This list does not mean we are exempt from trials and temptations, for who can escape them in this world.  But we share the God of the pilgrims who calls us, strengthens us, and upholds us.

What are you thankful for?  Make a list and offer it up to God in thanksgiving.

Praying for the Right Words

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us.” (Rom. 8:26)

Have you ever strained for what to say to a person at a critical moment?  Perhaps it is a friend who has lost a spouse or child; maybe it’s a friend who is depressed from losing his or her job, or a teenage son or daughter in need of correction.  In such moments, do we ask God and the Holy Spirit to give us the right words?

A few years ago, I came home and my wife said a former secretary from my work at Mobil had called and wanted me to call her back.  “She didn’t sound well,” my wife said.  I was astounded.  It had been more than forty years since she had been my secretary!  What could she possibly be calling for? 

I called her back.  She was indeed very ill.  She had had cancer, followed by a stroke, and was now confined to a wheel chair.  She thought she was dying, and she wanted to thank me for encouraging her to go back to school to finish her college education so she could move into higher level jobs.  She did complete her degree in an evening program, and later enjoyed a successful career at Mobil moving through several positions.

As I was talking with her, I was prompted to pray with her, but I was resistant.  I started to have a second conversation in my mind with the Lord.  Since I am used to praying in the name of Jesus, I asked the Lord, “How do I pray for her?  She is Jewish.”  The thought came into my mind, “Pray in the name of the Father.”  So I asked if she would like me to pray with her.   

She said yes.  So, I prayed in the name of the Father to bring her comfort and healing.  I finished by saying , “Marilyn, I am going to continue to pray that you will be able to get out of that wheel chair and walk again on your own, and when you do, I want you to call me and let me know. 

A few months later I received a call.  Mr. Dalgetty, you told me to call you when I was able to get out of this wheel chair and walk.  Today, I took my first steps!”   

The Holy Spirit is always present to give us the right words for the circumstances before us.  Jesus says all we have to do is ask. (Luke 11:13)

In challenging circumstances, do you call on the Holy Spirit to give you the right words?    

Revealing the Father to Others

“I have revealed you to the ones you gave me out of the world.” (John 17:6)

These are among Jesus’ last words on the night before he was arrested.  He is praying to the Father, asking that he protect the disciples and observes that he has revealed the Father to them through his teaching, his miracles and the example of his life.  He had earlier told Phillip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

Just as Jesus saw his responsibility to reveal the Father to his disciples, so too do we have a similar responsibility to reveal the Father to the people God puts in our lives.  This certainly includes our spouse and children for whom we have a special responsibility, but it also includes friends and colleagues. With respect to our children, we have a teaching responsibility similar to Jesus.  The Church assists us in this effort through religious education, Sunday school and sermons. 

With respect to our spouse, friends and colleagues, the primary way of revealing the Father is through the example of our lives and in our actions of love and service.

I am reminded of a former boss, colleague and friend who passed on a few years ago.  Tom was General Counsel of Mobil’s worldwide marketing and refining operations.  I reported to him in various assignments over eleven years. 

Without ever mentioning the words God or Jesus, Tom revealed the presence of the Father in his life by his example.  He didn’t talk much about his faith, but he lived it in the daily actions of his life.  While demanding the highest quality of legal services from the lawyers and staff he oversaw, he was always fair and truthful in dealing with people and what was best for them in their career development and training. 

He never winced from speaking the truth to management on controversial legal issues. Once he was convinced that the legal work of his staff was correct, he fully supported that work with senior management.  Tom’s leadership of our legal group reflected integrity, excellence and a special respect for all people.   

When I think about Jesus’ words and example of revealing the Father to his disciples, and the example of Tom’s life, I am prompted to reflect on whether my actions and words have been revealing the Father to the people God has put in my life.  In the Parable of the Talents, we see that God expects us to be good stewards of the talents, time, and possessions he entrusts to us. (Matthew 25:14-30)  This also includes the people he puts in our lives – our spouses, children, work colleagues and friends.      

Richard Blackaby in his book, Spiritual Leadership, says the primary goal of spiritual leadership is “taking people from where they are to where God wants them to be.”   

Are we helping the people in our lives come to know the Father and be where he wants them to be?

Peace – God’s Elusive Gift

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”  (John 14:27) 

These were among Jesus’ last words to the disciples on the night before his arrest.  In spite of these words, our experience tells us that ongoing peace is a challenge for us to attain, particularly the kind of peace St. Paul describes as passing all understanding. 

Thomas A Kempis in his book, Imitation of Christ, says, “Our peace consists in humble bearing of suffering and contradictions, not in being free of them, for we cannot live in this world without adversity.  He who can best suffer will enjoy the most peace.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran minister was imprisoned by the Nazis in 1943 and executed just days before the war’s end in April, 1945. Eric Mataxas, in his biography of Bonhoeffer, says that he brought peace and calm to his fellow prisoners.  “His strength was borrowed from God and lent to others,”said Mataxas. 

On the day of his execution, the prison doctor observed, “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God.  I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain God heard his prayer.  At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer, and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed.  I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”

Most of us are not likely to experience the challenges that Dietrich Bonhoeffer did, but as Thomas A Kempis says, we cannot live in this world without adversity– sickness, unemployment, estrangement from loved ones, a difficult boss, caring for a disabled relative – the list is endless.  Are we able to handle these challenges with the kind of peace that Jesus is talking about?

In the prime of my career as an attorney for a large company I declined a promotion to avoid a relocation that my wife and I believed would have adversely affected our family which included three teenage daughters at the time.   For a couple of years I was not very peaceful as I was asked to take an assignment I held once before so someone “more promotable” could take my job. 

Then our company had an incident at one of its facilities for which I was responsible for overseeing legal services.  We had several lawsuits, regulatory actions, a legislative effort to outlaw our operations and even a criminal action against two of our managers.  We were able to resolve all of these matters in a satisfactory manner, and it turned out to be the most challenging and rewarding legal work of my career.

In Jesus’ closing moments with the disciples he said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

How do you find your peace?