What’s the best present you have ever received?  Was it an unexpected gift someone surprised you with that you continue to cherish today?  Was it some teaching or advice that you continue to use and live by years later?  Maybe even more than any material thing, the best present was just the presence of someone in your life.  Weather it was a special moment with someone you care about deeply, or just the influence they have had on you over time.  Maybe there are several people who fit this description for whom you are grateful.  Maybe this person is even God the Father, the Son, the Spirit, who guides and directs you each day.  Whatever that present means to you, maybe you can continue to give the same gift to others, so that it continues to have influence in the world, going forward. 

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23

One morning earlier this week, I was rushing to get things ready for my work day and eventually got on the road and it was about 20 minutes into my drive when I noticed that everything was frosted like it was about to be put out on the shelf as a Christmas decoration.  I kind of wondered if I had just driven into an area where this was the case, but then realized, probably not.  I had just been so focused and thinking about other things, that I didn’t see the beauty all around me.  Some nay-sayers might comment that there is nothing nice about Winter, but they are blind to the truth as well.  We have seen much snow lately, and this past week, one day had some big flakes falling softly to the ground.  It was as mesmerizing as gazing into a fire and you just get lost in the powerful gentleness of what it is.  Each season of the year and of life has something marvelous for us to see if we just stop for a moment to witness the miracles all around us. 

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.  Psalm 19:1-2

It seems I often get so caught up in what I have to get done, or do next, that I can miss opportunities and moments where I should stop and be more fully involved and present.  I don’t fully realize this until I do stop and engage with someone longer, or just sit and enjoy the company of others without feeling the need to rush off soon.  A month ago, I thought I would just stop to say hi to some old friends, when I had about 200 miles to travel yet.  We ended up visiting for 3 hours, and it flew by like it was 20 minutes.  I then wonder if I even desire to spend time like this talking to and praying with my God and my Lord, or whether I would be willing to carve out a portion of my day or night to do so, because more often than not, I do not seem to have any prolonged time to spend in His presence.  It is when I consider where I am spending my time and energy that helps me better see when my priorities are out of place.

 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:2-4

How about when you encounter any trials or struggles in your life?  Do you ever see these as a gift from God?  More often than not, it is something that you pray to God to help you get through and overcome, instead of something to learn or grow from.  Maybe when you look back on some of the things you have gone through, at that point you can see it as something that was good for you, but it is very seldom we realize this in the midst of that struggle.  Not everything bad that happens to us always turns out to be good, but there is usually something we can learn from it to help us grow or teach others.  If there is something frustrating you are dealing with now, it doesn’t hurt to talk to God and even ask Him to show you what if any good may result from it, or how to redeem something of value from the messes we deal with in life.  If there is anything that our God is in the business of doing, it is redeeming good from a bad situation.  As you move forward each day, may you see beyond the current crisis to a new joy which lies beyond!

Yours in Christ,
Clark