Full Devotion to God

In the days of the circuit riders a minister was out riding one afternoon
and came upon a man out working in his field.
“Fine day isn’t it?” the minister called out.
“Its fine for you”, the man replied, “All you have to do is ride around on
that horse thinking about God all day long, while I have to sweat here in
this field and then walk home afterward. I don’t think it is right you
should have things so easy while I have to work so hard.”
“On the contrary”, the minister answered, “thinking about God is one of the
most difficult things you can do.  And to prove it, I’ll give you this horse
if you can think about God and nothing else for one minute.”
“You’re on,” said the man and immediately he sat down in silence.  Thirty
seconds later he looked up at the minister, and said, “Does that include the
Richard Fairchild, Not Far from the Kingdom of God.


Watching Out for Us

Jesus wants us to love God and others with our soul. The soul is that part
of us that denies logic. It is a mystery. Loving with our souls goes beyond
what people would consider as normal. We give forth our love because we want
to and it probably makes no sense to outsiders.

During the course of earning her master’s degree, a woman found it necessary
to commute several times a week from Victory, Vermont to the state
university in Burlington, a good hundred miles away. Coming home late at
night, she would see an old man sitting by the side of her road. He was
always there, in sub zero temperatures, in stormy weather, no matter how
late she returned. He made no acknowledgment of her passing. The snow
settled on his cap and shoulders as if he were merely another gnarled old
tree. She often wondered what brought him to that same spot every evening.
Perhaps it was a stubborn habit, private grief or a mental disorder.

Finally, she asked a neighbor of hers, “Have you ever seen an old man who
sits by the road late at night?” “Oh, yes,” said her neighbor, “many times.”
“Is he a little touched upstairs? Does he ever go home?” The neighbor
laughed and said, “He’s no more touched than you or me. And he goes home
right after you do. You see, he doesn’t like the idea of you driving by
yourself out late all alone on these back roads, so every night he walks out
to wait for you. When he sees your taillights disappear around the bend, and
he knows you’re okay, he goes home to bed.”

Keith Wagner, Almost Heaven, adapted from Garret Keizer, Watchers in the

Wouldn’t It Be Great?

Wouldn’t it be great if I won a million dollars? Well, maybe it wouldn’t be
so great. Not everyone has the same idea of a great time. One person’s wish
may be another’s nightmare. Take, for example, the story of three men who
were sailing together in the Pacific Ocean. Their vessel was wrecked and
they found themselves on an island. They had plenty of food, but their
existence was in every way different from what their lives had been in the
past. The men were walking by the seashore one day after they had been there
for some months and found an ancient lantern. One man picked it up. As he
began to rub it and clean it, a genie popped out and said, “Well, since you
have been good enough to release me, I will give each of you one wish.”

The first man said, “Oh, that’s perfectly marvelous. I’m a cattleman from
Wyoming and I wish I were back on my ranch.” Poof! He was back on his ranch.

The second man said, “Well, I’m a stockbroker from New York, and I wish that
I were back in Manhattan.” Poof! He was back in Manhattan with his papers,
his telephones, his clients and his computers.
The third fellow was somewhat more relaxed about life and actually had
rather enjoyed life there on the island. He said, “Well, I am quite happy
here. I just wish my two friends were back.” Poof! Poof! Everybody’s idea of
a “great time” isn’t the same!
So is it true? Are many Americans sitting around wishing, “Now wouldn’t it
be great …if I won the lottery…if I had my dream house…if I was
famous….” As Christians…as the people of God…what if instead of
wishing for money or fame or success or more “things,” we could just as
earnestly wish with all our hearts and souls and minds and strength that we
could love the Lord our God and love our neighbor as ourselves?
David Beckett, Wouldn’t It Be Great?

Loving out of Obligation

A rabbi was asked, “Which act of charity is higher–giving out of obligation
or giving from the heart?”
All in the class were inclined to respond that giving from the heart had
something more in it, but they knew the rabbi was going to say just the
opposite, because in spiritual teaching nothing is logical. They were not
“Giving from the heart is a wonderful thing,” the rabbi said, “It is a very
high act and should never be demeaned. But there is something much more
important that happens when somebody gives charity out of obligation.
“Consider who is doing the giving. When somebody gives from the heart, there
is a clear sense of oneself doing something; in other words, heartfelt
charity always involves ego gratification.
“However, when we give out of obligation, when we give at a moment that
every part of us is yelling NO! because of one reason or another–perhaps
the beneficiary is disgusting, or it is too much money, or any of thousands
of reasons we use to avoid giving charity–then we are confronting our own
egos, and giving nonetheless. Why? Because we are supposed to. And what this
means is that it is not us doing the giving, rather we are vehicles through
which God gives…
David A. Cooper, Entering the Sacred Mountain: A Mystical Odyssey, Bell


The Strong, Saving Love

I think it was Charlie Brown who said, “I love humanity! It is people I
can’t stand!” Yet the costly love that Jesus embodies involves an intimate
encounter with God’s fierce and holy love. It involves pouring out self for
real people, sinners all, with all their real-life quirks, faults, smells,
and flesh-and-blood sins.

That harried young mother in the doctor’s waiting room (or maybe the next
pew): perhaps loving her as yourself means offering to watch the toddler
while she feeds the baby. That person in line at the bank who’s stumbling
over the English language and struggling to understand deposits and
withdrawals: could loving him mean stepping out of line and helping him get
it straight? That next-door neighbor struggling to keep his marriage
together, that daughter who pushes your buttons every ten minutes, that
husband scared of being laid off — these are the ones who desperately need
the strong saving love, the compassion and mercy, the challenge and holiness
and presence of Jesus. In those moments, dare to risk being rebuffed or
inconvenienced. Dare to look foolish and make mistakes. Dare to love God and
that person, even if it wrings your heart with pain to do so. It’s what
we’ve been created, redeemed, and commanded to do. Hang your whole life on
love, for the truth is, it’s God’s love, active in you. And his love will
never fail.

Cathy A. Ammlung, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost, CSS Publishing

Beauty and the Beast

G. K. Chesterton once said that the really great lesson of the story of
“Beauty and the Beast” is that a thing must be loved before it is loveable.
A person must be loved before that person can be loveable. Some of the most
unlovely people I have known got that way because they thought that nobody
loved them. The fact of the matter is that unless and until we feel
ourselves loved, we cannot love. That’s not only a principle of theology but
of psychology and sociology as well. Just as abused children grow up to
abuse their children, loved children grow up to love their children. Loved
persons are able to love. Unloved persons are not. Christianity says
something startling. It says that God loves and accepts us “just as we are.”
Therefore we can love and accept ourselves and in so doing, love and accept
Donald B. Strobe, Collected Words, www.Sermons.com <http://www.sermons.com/>


Love is not blind. Love is the only thing that sees.
Frank Crane

The Love That Conquers the World

The love for equals is a human thing–of friend for friend, brother for
brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles.
The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing–the love for those who
suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This
is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.
The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing–to love those who succeed
where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of
the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is
always bewildered by its saints.
And then there is the love for the enemy–love for the one who does not love
you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The love of the tortured for
the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.
Frederick Buechner in his book, The Magnificent Defeat.

Chip It Away

There is a story about a man who had a huge boulder in his front yard. He
grew weary of this big, unattractive stone in the center of his lawn, so he
decided to take advantage of it and turn it into an object of art. He went
to work on it with hammer and chisel, and chipped away at the huge boulder
until it became a beautiful stone elephant. When he finished, it was
gorgeous, breath-taking.
A neighbor asked, “How did you ever carve such a marvelous likeness of an
The man answered, “I just chipped away everything that didn’t look like an
If you have anything in your life right now that doesn’t look like love,
then, with the help of God, chip it away! If you have anything in your life
that doesn’t look like compassion or mercy or empathy, then, with the help
of God, chip it away! If you have hatred or prejudice or vengeance or envy
in your heart, for God’s sake, and the for the other person’s sake, and for
your sake, get rid of it! Let God chip everything out of your life that
doesn’t look like tenderheartedness.

James W. Moore, Some Things Are Too Good Not To Be True, p. 32.

Representing Christ

When I was at Drew University in New Jersey, I became friends with a
Catholic priest named Sean O’Kelly. Sean was redheaded and always seemed to
have a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes. He spoke with a heavy
Irish brogue because he had only been in America for a few years.

While he was in school, he was also pastoring a Catholic church in the heart
of Newark, New Jersey. If you want to talk about urban blight and poverty
and hunger, all you have to do is to take a trip up and down the streets of

On one occasion, Sean heard that a family in his parish was hungry. Because
of a bureaucratic foul-up, a mother with five small children had no food and
no hope of getting any until the end of the month.

Although the family was not Catholic, Sean O’Kelly went to the grocery store
and bought a supply of groceries. There were three full sacks, and he went
to the apartment building where the family lived. After carrying the
groceries up four flights of stairs and walking down a long hall, he came to
the apartment. He rang the doorbell, and a little boy about seven years old
answered the door. He looked at Father O’Kelly’s clerical collar and the
sacks of groceries, and then screamed at his mother: “Mama, Mama, come
quick. Jesus brought us some food!”

In telling about that incident, Sean said, “I will never forget that child’s
comment. At that moment, I realized that I was the Christ for a hungry

If we are to be the neighbors that God calls us to be, then we need to
understand that you and I are expected to help those we have the capacity to
help. The opportunities for service are almost endless in every neighborhood
– even yours. There are a dozen ways or more for you to help people if you
are willing to be the neighbor God calls you to be! Religion in a nutshell
means that you really are expected to be “Jesus” to your neighbors when they
are in need.

Robert L. Allen, The Greatest Passages of the Bible, CSS Publishing Company,

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