Removing the Lamp Shade
MARCH 24, 2016
Today is Maundy Thursday — What Does “Maundy” Mean?
Derived from the Latin word mandatum, meaning “commandment,” Maundy refers to the commands Jesus gave his disciples at the Last Supper: to love with humility by serving one another and to remember his sacrifice.
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:34-35
Many churches will hold a service this evening – some tomorrow evening that will commemorate the final scriptures related to Christ’s last hours before dying on the cross.
The scriptures recount the Passover meal that he had with his disciples. Different Gospels highlight various aspects of that time together, from Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, to the offering of the Bread and Cup and his referral of them as his Broken Body and his Blood, to the betrayal, the prayer in Gethsemane, his arrest, being beaten, the crown of thorns, the trial, the crucifixion and the laying of his body in a tomb.
The service is a reminder of what Christ has done for us – how he loved us so much, that he stretched out his arms on the cross, willingly, so that evil and death would be conquered and that they would have no hold on anyone who believes.
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.” John 3:16-18The Message (MSG)
This is the message of the Gospel. Those who believe strive to live a life of love and compassion, of grace and forgiveness, because this is what Christ has done for us – Jesus showed compassion for us by offering us grace and forgiveness and offering us a new way of living.
If anyone tells you different. If anyone tells you that you do not have to love and pray for your enemies, they are not a follower of Jesus Christ.
Take time tonight or tomorrow to attend a service. Hear the words of the Passion for yourself. They are life-changing passages of scripture that are as relevant and freeing today and they were the day Christ stretched out his arms on a cross for all human kind.
Let us pray: Lord, you suffered and died for me and yet there are times I forget, there are times I doubt, there are times I still do not fully understand why. May the Words, may the story of this Holiest of weeks ring true in my heart so that I can truly celebrate on Easter Morning. Amen
MARCH 23, 2016
It has been quite the week, personally. I lost my driver’s license, couldn’t find my glasses, and felt ucky! But today is a new day. Woke up feeling refreshed for a change. That is big stuff for someone with PMR and Fibromyalgia. Found my glasses and got a replacement license. God is good!
We all have days and weeks that make us wonder why we got out of bed. The temptation is to pull the covers over our heads and just hide from the world. But even on our worse days, we can experience blessings.
While looking for my glasses and my license, I found a few other things that I had forgotten I had or where they were! The physical issues usually clear up or one finds the stamina and strength to push through them.
Yesterday we invited a pre-school to join us for an Easter Party. I woke up tired and with a sour stomach. I really wanted to go back to bed. I could have called someone and just stayed home, but I chose not to. I drug myself over to the church and as the morning went on my physical issues did ease up. If I would not have gone, I would have missed such a blessing!
The children begin their time at St. John’s in the sanctuary. They were full of questions! What is this – what is that? I was blessed with the opportunity to offer a basic explanation of some of the things in the Chancel, like the Baptismal Font, the Altar and the large black cross with a crown of thorns. I loved their curiosity and there awe and wonder as I shared the Easter Story with them.
Christ offers us new life, no matter how we are feeling. We can give in to the darkness of pain and discomfort or circumstance, or with a little effort, we can enjoy our life.
Christ gave his life to the cross for us, to break the bonds of evil and death, so that we may have life and have abundantly. When we choose the Light of Life, we are able to find and experience joy every day.
Have you ever met someone who has all sorts of health or financial issues and yet seems happy and full of life? A poorer then dirt family and yet they ooze love and are truly happy. Someone down on their luck, as they say, and yet has a positive outlook, realizing that “this too will pass”. And if you need a stronger example, think of those who are being persecuted/beheaded or shot for their faith. They face death and yet, with tears and a deep resolve they refuse to deny their faith.
As we approach Good Friday, something to ponder on: How do I deny Christ, by letting the circumstance of life overshadow the Good News of Christ? Do I choose to live my life to the fullest I am able or do I give in to the darkness of the world?
Let us pray: Holy God, I want to choose life, the life you offer that transcends all circumstances. Renew my heart, lift me out of the mire of ill health or financial difficulties or anything else that could drag me down to where I cannot feel the joy of life in You. Heal my attitude. In Jesus Name, Amen.
March 21, 2016
Mark 11:15-21The Message (MSG)
They arrived at Jerusalem. Immediately on entering the Temple Jesus started throwing out everyone who had set up shop there, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of the bankers and the stalls of the pigeon merchants. He didn’t let anyone even carry a basket through the Temple.
And then he taught them, quoting this text:
My house was designated a house of prayer for the nations;
You’ve turned it into a hangout for thieves.
The high priests and religion scholars heard what was going on and plotted how they might get rid of him. They panicked, for the entire crowd was carried away by his teaching.
Jesus shows his human side in these verses! Wow! Can’t blame him; His father’s house of prayer had been turned into a money making machine that took advantage of everyone. Money changers traded your money for temple money, at a cost of course, and then the merchants overcharged for the animals needed for sacrifice. The House of Prayer had become a Den of Thieves.
Appalled are you? Many of the same things happen in churches today. Some even ask you to leave if you can’t put the proper amount in the offering. Many TV evangelists are known for milking older folks out of their money. Christian based material seem awfully expensive. “Buy my video Bible Study and save your congregation, grown your congregation, – it will only cost you $200.00. If you have checked the price of altar cloths, crosses, choir gowns, and so forth, you would be shaking your head at the price, Ok, so maybe I am getting a little carried away, but not much. By the way, I need a jet so I can spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, please send money now!
As we enter Holy Week, perhaps we should look at our churches through the eyes of Christ. Would we see a depth of prayer happening in all areas of the church life, not just on Sunday morning? Would we see acts of kindness, compassion being lived out? Are the needs of the poor being met? Would we feel loved and accepted for who we are or are only some of the people welcome? Is the church being the church that Jesus died for?
Maybe Holy Week is a good week to “house clean” our churches. To do that we must also look at our own lives, for we ARE the church. What would Jesus find, if he walked in?
Let us pray: Holy God, scriptures like this one make me uneasy, so I pretend that was then and we, the church, are different today. Open my eyes that I may see, what Jesus would see. Cast out all that is offensive to him and restore a right spirit in me, your church. Amen.
MARCH 19TH, 2016
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, a day set aside to usher us into Holy Week, the time frame of which we remember Jesus entrance into the city of Jerusalem, his turning the tables over in the temple, the Passover meal in which he instituted foot washing and the sharing of the bread and the wine (his body and blood), the time of prayer in the Garden, the betrayal of Judas and arrest, his suffering through floggings and taunting, he betrayal by the peter and the people, and his crucifixion. That my friends is a whole lot of stuff packed into one week.
I often wonder how many hear the events of Holy Week? It seems that fewer and fewer people participate in a Maundy Thursday Service or a Good Friday Service. Many go from Palm Sunday to Easter – two celebrations in a row and forget about the happenings in-between them. Many church’s to solve this dilemma have started having a Palm/Passion Sunday – and try to pack all of it into one service, which is hard to do well and takes away the total effect of Holy Week.
In the garden, Jesus said to his disciples, in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 14, verse 37b “Asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Watch with me and pray lest the Tempter overpowers you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is week.”
The disciples didn’t realize what was going to happen. They didn’t fully realize that “the time had come.” and didn’t feel the urgency so as to make more of an effort. But, you and I know, we know what happens, cannot we, take the time to watch and pray, to remember the agony Christ endured for us.
Let us wave our palms tomorrow, but then also turn towards Jerusalem. Be in prayer, attend a mid-week service or a Good Friday service. Sit with the details and realization of what Christ has done. For it is only then, that we can truly celebrate on Easter Morning.
Come, watch, and pray.
Let us pray: Lord, help me to be more attentive this coming week that I might be a true witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Help me to understand all that took so that the binds that evil and death had on us could be broken. Stir my heart fiercely, disturb me and heal me, so I might truly celebrate on Easter morning. Amen.
MARCH 17TH, 2016
From the Book of Romans Chapter 11:33-36 (the Step-Stone Bible)
God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge are so deep! They are as mysterious as his judgments, and they are as hard to track as his paths! Who has known the Lord’s mind? Or who has been his mentor? Or who has given him a gift and had been paid back by him?
All things are from him and through him and for him. May the glory be to him forever.
I leave you with this passage to ponder on as you go through your day, through the rest of the week. As you touch something, or see something, when you take a breath, engage in conversation, have a great idea, hold a child, kiss your honey, be mindful, that all that you have, all that you can do, is a gift from God. Remember to say thank you. Remember to give credit where credit is do. Give God the glory!
Let us pray: Lord, I am so grateful for the gift of life and all that it entails. May I never take for granted the gifts you have given us through Creation, through your Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit. I thank you and praise your holy name, for loving me so much that you breathe you life into me. Amen.
MARCH 16TH, 2016
I love the song, “Were You There” – it is a Holy Week Hymn about the crucifixion but there is a line at the end of the song that says: “Sometimes It Causes Me to Tremble”.
What causes you to tremble? For me it is not the threat of war or terrorism, it is not the threat of disease or death, not the possibility of hard times, these things are temporary parts of life that will always be with us – unless of course man-kind changes.
The things that cause me to “tremble” are things like, broken promises. In the church, we promise many things in the hopes of fulfilling those promises.
Couples come to be married and make promises before God, but most never allow God in their marriage.
Parents bring their children to be baptized, making promises to bring them up in the church and yet, we see few bringing them back to church.
Those seeking membership in the church make promises to be a part of the church to help it thrive and grow and yet when asked to participate in a Bible Study or Mission or some leadership position, they don’t have the time.
These things make me tremble. Taking are promises so lightly. What would the church, the community we live in, even the world, look like if we kept our promises that we make before God and one another?
As you read the following, keep in mind that the church is the Body of Christ.
“Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble, where you there when the church came tumbling down.” I know that isn’t a verse in the hymn, but perhaps it could be. A new sorrow – perhaps for our time and place these verses would be sung:
Where you there when the people closed their hearts
Where you there when the people walked away?
Where you there when the churches closed their doors?
O sometimes it causes me to trem-ble, trem-ble, tem-ble.
Sit with that for a while, does it make you tremble?
If you are familiar with the original hymn, the last verse is a verse of joy. In the original, the last verse is: “Where you there when Christ rose up from the tomb? “ So, although the hymn has the flavor of sorrow, it turns to joy – and make us tremble.
So it will be with the church. If the church becomes empty and crumbles to the ground, out of it’s rubble it will arise having broken the bonds of apathy and having a renewed heart for love, forgiveness, mercy and grace.
“Where you there when the Body of Christ arose? O how it makes me tremble!
As you remember the crucifixion on Good Friday and are appalled at what was done to Jesus, think how we crucify him today. Think how we deny him, how we discount him as king of our lives; think how we tear apart the Body of Christ, His church.
Let us pray: Lord, renew my heart, renew the Body of Christ in this generation. Raise us from the tomb of despair into new life with you. Make me tremble! Amen.
MARCH 14, 2016
PSALM 127: 1B
“Unless the Lord watches over the city, the men who watch over it stay awake for nothing.”
This Psalm has so much packed into it, I decided to look at it verse by verse. Saturday’s Removing the Lamp Shade had to do with the need to have the Lord build our house. Allowing him to have control over all we do.
In today’s verse, it is basically the same, except we are talking about our community, our country. The spiritual climate in our country right now is one that needs to be paid attention to. The hatred for “otherness” and just plain out distain for humanity seems to be running rampant. Compassion, mercy, and forgiveness are hard to find. We are out of balance and need to tip the scales back.
There is a hymn based on 2Chronicles 7:14 that has these words,
“If my people ‘s hearts are humbled, if they pray and seek My face; If they turn away from evil, I will not with hold My Grace. I will hear their prayers from heaven. I will pardon every sin. If My people’s hearts are humbled, I will surely heal their land.” (Claire Cloninger) How appropriate this hymn is for the climate of our country. If you believe in the power of prayer, then pray. Pray, not for what we want, but for what God wants for us. Put all your political allegiances aside and fervently pray for God to restore our country, our unity, our peace.
If we, who believe, do not do this, there will be no rest, there will be no peace. Havoc and Chaos will rule. The hatred and mean-spiritedness, the evil that seems to be infiltrating everywhere, from big cities, to small towns and even into our churches will lead us down a dark and dreadful path of destruction. Destruction as a nation and destruction as people who profess to be Children of God.
I encourage you to pray. Pray for our country. Pray for our future. Pray for our churches. Pray for one another. Pray as you go to the polls to vote.
Most people know the Lord’s Prayer, there is a part that says, “Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” May that be our prayer.
Let us Pray: Creator God, I come to you deeply concerned with the spirit of our country, the spirit of our people. Pour your Spirit upon our country, bring it back from the clutches of evil and set it on the firm path of justice for all. Help me to be more loving, more compassionate, more giving. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Amen.
FEBRUARY 29, 2016
When I was in seminary, I also had work to do for my “INCARE” Committee. It was a group of people from my home Conference in the United Church of Christ who kept track of and mentored all persons who were on the track for Ordained Ministry. They asked me to do a paper for them, I am not sure what the subject was anymore, but boy did I write a paper! I used all the new language I was learning at seminary , so I could should them I was learning. It turned out that they sort of liked the paper, but informed me that it wasn’t me. They were looking for something more personal, something in my own words that showed my own understanding.
Getting back to my story – they gave me another paper to write. This one on Sin and Redemption with instructions that it needed to be in my own words and from my own perspective and not from the text books.
How often do we do that with God? How often do we go before God with flowery language, sounding more like a dictionary of ecclesiastical terms that married a poet, who is shouting to get attention!?
When it comes to God, we don’t need to put on a show, use special wordage – all we need to do is open our hearts in honest conversation. To talk with him like we would our best friend.
Praying isn’t complicated. One needs no special training. There is no right or wrong way to pray. We need not fear that God will be angry or disappointed, that he will smite us, strike us with a bolt of lightning, if we don’t follow a certain way of praying or use certain words.
We are saved by the Grace of God, we have nothing to fear but fear itself. You don’t have to be anyone but who you are. God knows you inside and out, so there is no reason for pretense. You can go to God in prayer, just as you are. To quote a favorite hymn:
Just As I am, without one plea But that thy blood was shed for me
And that thou bidd’st me come to Thee. O Lamb of God, I come! I come.!
Let us pray: Abba, Father, I come to you just as I am. Amen.
March 12, 2016
Psalm 127Good News Translation (GNT) (VS1)
If the LORD does not build the house,
the work of the builders is useless;
How often do we strike out gung-ho on a project, any project, just to lose momentum in the midst of it? It can be a personal project or group project, for home, work, school or church. In fact, it could be any decision we need to make. Seems like a great idea, something much needed, but somehow it falls flat. We lose sight of our intended goal, get bogged down in all the details, and nothing gets accomplished or ends up being a shadow of what we had hoped to accomplish.
in Perhaps this Psalm gives us the answer. “If the Lord does not build the house, the work of the builders is useless;” How often do we take time to ask God for guidance? How often do we pray over the planning, the questions, the answers and the steps we take to bring it to fruition? How often do we fall into a secular/worldly way of doing things and not have God as our main advisor?
For those who believe in the power of God, in the power of prayer, it should be a no brainer that the first thing one does is take it to the Lord in prayer!
Buying a house? – Pray first. Ask God to help you find the right one and the right financing for your economic situation.
Want to get married – Pray. Ask God to guide you to the right person and invited Him into your relationship.
The same goes for every area of our life – jobs, retirement, when to start a family. God should be in the center of all you decide.
The same goes for a church. Visioning, planning, doing missions without God is like getting married to yourself. You could be any civic or secular group, but definitely not a church. Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church, you must first go to him.
The Psalmist has it right. Anything we build, we need to let God do the building or it is fruitless.
Let us pray: Lord, I am not very good at coming to You sometimes. I want to “do it myself” like a two-year-old. Help me to rely on you. Help me to trust that You know what is best for me, for my church. I put myself, my church in Your hands. Amen.
MARCH 8, 2016
1 Samuel, Chapter 3
The reading is long so I haven’t posted it, but please look it up and read it. The story in this chapter is about Samuel who was sleeping on the temple floor as this duties as an assistant to the priest required.
One night Samuel hears a voice calling him, he calls out “Here I am”, but getting no response, he run to Eli’s (the priest) chamber to see what he wanted. Eli tells him that he did not call, so Samuel goes back and lies down. It happened again, and again, Eli said that he did not call him. The third time it happened, Eli suspects what is happening (that it is the Lord calling to Samuel) and tells Samuel, “Go, lie down: and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Once-again the voice called out to Samuel,but this time instead of running to Eli, he responds saying, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” The message he received led him to eventually going form sanctuary assistant to the greatest prophet since Moses.
I wonder how many of us miss the “Voice” calling us into great and wonderful opportunities simply because we either don’t pay attention or because we expect that voice to be more clear and for God to act in a more supernatural – lightening and thunder – kind of way.
But all is not lost for us, remember, Samuel received several intuitive callings, not just one. It reminds me that the Spirit won’t stop. The Spirit will continue sending signals until we finally pick up on it.
The trick for us is that we also need to distinguish if the “voice” we hear is our own or that of the Spirit. So it is important that we don’t rush into something, but to take one step at a time, seeking further directions and to also be willing to change direction or step back if we realize, we were listening to our own voice and not that of the Spirit.
Also, a point to remember, is that Samuel wasn’t sure what he was hearing. He went to Eli each time and it was Eli that confirmed that it was the voice of the Lord. All of us need one or two people in our life that we can go to and bounce things off of – to make sure that we are on the right track.
There is much more to this story, I hope you read it. And as you do, take note how the Spirit is working in both Samuel and in Eli. Then, take some time to mediate on how you hear that “voice” that calls to you and how you have responded. Maybe it is time to really listen and answer, “Speak, my Lord, for your servant is listening.”
Let us pray: God, open my ears and my heart that I might hear and recognize your voice. Guide me in the ways you would have me go, for I am your servant and I am listening. Amen.
MARCH 7TH, 2016
JOHN 14:27 (The Living Bible)
“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
I love these words from Jesus. We seek peace, but we seek the kind that is temporary or superficial. We seek peace in our lives through our families, relationship with others and through financial resources just to name a few.
It is not that these things are bad, but true peace can only come with trusting Jesus. Our relationships, whether friends or family, we can feel at peace and have a sense of security and of being safe. But relationships change and people die. We can find peace and security in having money in the bank for a rainy day, but finances wane and sometimes become all encompassing, and when we die we cannot take it with us.
The Peace of Christ, surpasses all understanding. It is there is all circumstances of our lives. If we put our life in the hands of Christ and allow him to be our centering place, we will have an inner peace that will sustain us no matter what.
Jesus says, don’t be afraid or troubled. With his peace, we need not be either of these things, for we know that God has it all under control. All we need to do is put one foot in front of another and live through the situation, knowing that God is walking with us.
All worrying does, is steal our joy. When we allow fear of what is or what may be to shadow our lives, we are stealing joy from our hearts. We must take one day at a time. Enjoy the good in it. Enjoy those who are in our lives today. Tom morrow may never come, so why be concerned? We do not need to worry about tomorrow, but live today so that tomorrow will take care of itself. If we become obsessed with the what if’s or the how’s or allow fear and dread to creep into our being, that we have no peace, but fleeting, temporary peace.
I am not saying that we should not plan for the future or set goals, those are important to do, but they should not overwhelm us to the point where we forget to enjoy today.
Let us pray: Lord, sometimes I get caught up on the fervor of fear and trepidation. My mind and heart gets clouded with fear. Remove these thoughts from me and restore my peace, so that I may enjoy today. Enjoy the life you have given me and live it to the fullest. Help me to lean into your guiding hands of love and mercy. Grant me peace. Amen.
March 4TH, 2016
The Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:9-13
Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
‘Your kingdom come,
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
‘Give us this day our daily bread.
‘And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors
‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]’
In the midst of the Lord’s prayer is the line that goes, “ and forgive us our (debts, trespasses, sins) as we forgive (our debtors, those who trespass or sin against us).”
Many of us pray that prayer every day or at least once a week during a church service, but how many of us really take notice of those words? In essence the prayer we pray asks God to forgive us to the same extent that we forgive others.
Most of us go to God and ask for forgiveness for the things we do wrong, but, when we are wronged do we extend the same grace to others?
Are we able to let go of both the wrong and the resentment?
It seems to me that Jesus is trying to teach us, that if we experience forgiveness, then we too need to forgive, but if all we do is receive and not extend it to others, then perhaps we really don’t understand forgiveness.
Take some time and ponder these questions:
1. Do I seek forgiveness for my wrongdoings, my sins?
2. Do I accept God’s forgiveness – His grace?
3. Do I, in turn forgive those who have wronged me – sinned again me – whether they ask for it or not?
4. If it is as the prayer states, “forgive me as I forgive others” – how forgiven are we?
If we talk the talk, then we need to walk the walk.
Let us pray: Holy and Merciful God, I thank you for the gift of your forgiveness for my sins. Increase in me a thankful and grace filled heart that I too may forgive, let go of the hurt and anger and be at peace. Amen.
MARCH 2ND, 2016
One of the books I am struggling, and I mean struggling to digest is entitled “The Weird Church – Welcome to the Twenty-First Century” by Beth Ann Estck and Paul Nixon. I won’t go into the contents of the book but find it extremely difficult and intriguing all at the same time. In the beginning of each chapter there is a quote. It is one of those I would like to share with you this day.
“We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place with myself? And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and culture? This, then, is the fullness of time:
When the Son of God is begotten in us.
— Meister Eckhart, German Mystic and Philosopher, 1260-1328.
Pretty insightful man, I would say. It is so true. We can espouse religious language and even do some very good works, but what are they if they are done with our head and not our heart?
We can talk all we want about “grace” but if we aren’t grace- full – then what kind of message are we sending? How can profess to believe in Jesus Christ, to be Christians but not live it out in our lives?
For instance: Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, but more often then not, vengeance is sought. Jesus tells us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and incarcerated, and yet we turn the other way, so we don’t see them, or we feel they deserved the plight they find themselves in. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, but we want to annihilate them from the face of the earth. Jesus calls us to life of servant hood and yet we want to be served instead. We use the Bible as a weapon of hate instead of as a book of love and mercy. We sing praise songs and old hymns but fail to live for Jesus.
The Bible says we are to be ambassadors for Christ, we are to imitate him – to allow Jesus to work in us and through us. None of us is perfect, we all fall short of the glory of God. but we should at least be striving to “birth” Jesus in all we do and say.
Where is Jesus in your life? Have you moved him from head to heart? I am not asking if you are saved. We are saved by the grace of God. But are you living like you are saved?
As we walk through this Lenten Season, as we approach Good Friday and witness the suffering of Christ for our souls, may we meditate on the question Meister Eckhart asked. Are we birthing Jesus in our world today?
Let us pray: Lord, sometimes I block you fro my heart because I don’t want to pay the cost of discipleship. I know I should forgive, I know I should love my enemies, I know I should have compassion on those who are in trouble. But to do so Lord, costs me and I don’t want to pay the price. Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me, so that I can birth Christ in every aspect of my life. Amen.
MARCH 1, 2016
I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903 in Letters to a Young Poet
A former pastor of mine once wrote this quote in a card to me. It was at a time when I had more questions that not. This quote from Rainer Maria Rilke, has helped me many times to focus and take one step at a time.
How many times we stop ourselves from doing things because we don’t know if they will work out or how you can manage or afford or even question your ability to do them. So we continue on, not taking the pathway we considered. We come up with all these questions and no real answers so we squelch our thoughts and ideas. We allow the questions to exhaust us making it hard to take even one step at living into them.
Instant answers aren’t always beneficial. As the poet said, if we knew the answer, could we live it? There is a growing process, a learning process that we must go through to find the answers to our many questions. The journey of living into the answers is a time of gaining strength and knowledge so that we can live through the answers.
As I look back, I can see how many questions were answered in time, for I indeed did live my way into the answers of some and still am living into the answers of other questions. But I wonder how many times the Holy Spirit has tried to urge me out of my comfort zone or lead me in a certain direction and I let the questions get in the way. I refused to live them out, therefore, I will never know the answers. That is when we find ourselves looking back and saying: I should have, I could have, but now I will never know.
I believe that the more questions we have about something, the more important it is to live into the answers. Don’t be afraid of the questions – live them.
Let us pray: Holy God, there is a season for everything, that is how you created our world and us. Help me to live each season in confident hope. Help me to embrace the questions and live into them. Amen.
FEBRUARY 27, 2016
1” That is why, ever since I heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and of the love you have for Christians everywhere, 16-17 I have never stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you wisdom to see clearly and really understand who Christ is and all that he has done for you. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can see something of the future he has called you to share. I want you to realize that God has been made rich because we who are Christ’s have been given to him! 19 I pray that you will begin to understand how incredibly great his power is to help those who believe him.“
It is this prayer from Paul to the Ephesians that I leave with you this day for meditation and pondering. I don’t know who reads “Removing the Lamp Shade”. But if you are reading this, know that you have been prayed for throughout the eons by the ancient prophets, by Christ, by the Apostle’s like Paul and by me.
May your heart be open by Paul’s words and your soul comforted. May you find Sabbath rest tomorrow as you worship our God in whom all things are possible. Amen
REMOVING THE LAMP SHADE
FEBRUARY 26, 2016
No, for the Scriptures tell us that for his sake we must be ready to face death at every moment of the day—we are like sheep awaiting slaughter; but despite all this, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us enough to die for us. For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.”
This is Paul’s answer to yesterday’s questions whether anyone or any circumstance can ever keep Christ’s love from us.
The answer is a resounding NO!. Not even death can separate us from the love of Christ. Even though there are times in our life when face difficult hardships: financial, ill-health, broken relationships, even imprisonment, Paul assures us that nothing can ever separate us form the love of Christ. When these things happen, and they will, it is not a punishment by God, but circumstances of life. Jesus presence is always with us and the promises of God never disappear no matter what!
This is our assurance. This is what we hold on too when everything else seems to be falling away. We need not live in fear. We need not think we are no longer worthy.
The Grace of God is hard for us to understand. But there is truly nothing we have to do. There is no way to earn God’s grace. It is a free gift given to us through the blood of Christ.
If we believe, we can have peace in our hearts no matter what is happening in our lives. If we have done something wrong and punishable by law, then we serve our time, but that will not take God’s love away from us. If we are ill, or lose our job, or loose a loved one through death or broken relationship, it does not mean that God does not love us. Nothing on heaven or earth can separate us from the love of God.
Let us pray: God of love and grace, forgive me when I fail to have faith in your promised love for me. Help me to accept the grace of your forgiveness. You and you alone are my help and my salvation. Amen.
REMOVING THE LAMP SHADE
FEBRUARY 25, 2016
ROMANS 8:36 Living Bible (TLB)
“Who then can ever keep Christ’s love from us? When we have trouble or calamity, when we are hunted down or destroyed, is it because he doesn’t love us anymore? And if we are hungry or penniless or in danger or threatened with death, has God deserted us?”
How many of us have asked the questions above? We have been conditioned in many ways to think that when “bad things happen,” it is because of something we have done. Granted, there are consequences for our actions both good and bad, but God’s love for us is always there. God never leaves us.
There was a great video clip on Face book the other day. (If I were more tech savvy, I probably could have attached a link to it, but alas, I am not gifted in that area. ) But here is how it sort of played out:
A man went in to the barbershop for a haircut. As the barber was cutting his hair, he was reading his Bible. When all was done and he was ready to leave the barber made the comment that he didn’t believe in God. He said, that if there were a God, we wouldn’t have so much violence in the world, there would not be hungry people and so forth. The customer just stood there not quite knowing what to say and then he left. Once outside the store, he stood and pondered. Standing a few feet away was a young man, hanging out listening to his music. He had long strangely hair, tattoo’s and various piercings. All of a sudden and idea came to him. He went back into the barbershop with the young man in tow. He informed the barber that he did not believe there were any such things as barbers. The barber looked at him at bit stunned and said, “I just cut your hair, how can you say that?” The man said, “Look at this young fellow! Look at how long his hair is. If there were barbers, he wouldn’t have long hair!”. The barber then said, “ but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any barbers! I can’t cut his hair if he doesn’t come to me, ” The customer said, “exactly!”
When we are troubled, God is there. He has not gone anywhere. When we have feels of fear, abandonment, loss, that is when God’s arms open to comfort us and reassure us. All we need to do is turn to him. There is nothing in our way, there is nothing special we have to do to earn His love, comfort or peace. God is right there with you.
In tomorrow’s post, we will see what Paul has to say in answer to those questions.
Let us pray: God, sometimes I get so caught up in wordly things, I feel storm tossed by the winds of uncertainty, I panic and fret, and cry out wondering where you are. In times of trouble help me to feel your presence more deeply. Help me to reach out my hand and grasp yours. Unveil my eyes, my mind, and my heart that I may see only you, trust only you, and allow your peace to set me free from all that assaults me. Amen.
FEBRUARY 24 2016
GALATIANS 6:9 (The Living Bible)
“And let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up.”
Another great verse to keep handy! Often we hear people say how tired they are – that they try and try and try and still things don’t work out right (or at least not how they want them to). At one time or another, I think we all have that feeling, towards our family, our work, our church, life in general. We just want to pack it in; call it a day; find a nice out of the way place and hunker down far away from everything. We get discouraged and heart-sick and wonder if it (what ever it is) is worth while all the effort we are putting into it.
It is discouraging for many of us in the church. We try all sorts of ways to reach out and touch people’s lives, touch each others lives, and sometimes, it is like we are hitting our heads against a stone wall.
We want to see results, we want to know we are doing the right thing and making a difference.
There have been several post on Face book, encouraging people to pray for their pastors. Trust me, we need your prayers! It seems that in the church, the buck stops with us, especially when things aren’t progressing as percieved they should. There are many pastors who, as they look out over their flock, can relate to Jesus’ lament in Matthew 23:37Living Bible (TLB) “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones all those God sends to her! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.
In some ways, I find it comforting that even Jesus had these feelings, but I also know that he never gave up and that gives me and hopefully all of you the strength and courage to continue doing what God has called you to do, to continue doing what is right.
Apostle Paul , 2 Corinthians 12:10, had this to say, “Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite-happy about “the thorn,” and about insults and hardships, persecutions and difficulties; for when I am weak then I am strong – the less I have, the more I depend on him.”
Let us pray: God of the weak and heavy laden, there are days I just want to go off and hide from the world. It seems that all that I do is for nothing. Pour your Spirit upon me, help me to put one foot in front of the other, doing what is right, until that day comes, when you call me home. Your faithful servant. Amen.
FEBRUARY 23, 2016
Colossians 3:12-13 The Message (MSG)
“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.”
Perhaps I should put this on my bathroom mirror so I see it every morning!
I often think, “What do people see, when they look at me?” I know that seems strange maybe, perhaps it sounds self centered but I don’t mean it that way.
Have you ever sat somewhere and just watched people? At first, I tend to notice their outward appearance: the clothes, hair and so forth. But if I can observe long enough, I start to notice their mannerisms, their body language, how they interact with those around them. If I were honest, sometimes, I judge. But hopefully, more often than not, I offer up a little prayer for that person; a blessing for their day.
It is amazing how, one can observe the qualities mentioned in the verse from Colossians. You can sense these qualities in them. If we are lucky, sometimes we encounter someone and know that we are in the presence of holiness.
So, I often wonder, what people see, when they look at me. Are they seeing compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline, even temperament and a person that forgives? My thought is that some days they do, some days, not so much!
These are the things we are to strive to develop and wear each day. As we grow in God’s love, these gifts develop in us and through us. None of us is perfect and there will be days that none of these characteristic’s are evident, but that doesn’t mean they are gone, it just means we need an wardrobe adjustment! How we are towards others, towards the world is a a choice we make everyday hour of the day.
So as you begin your day, put on your love and highlight it with the right accessories of compassion, kindness, humility, forgiveness and so forth.
LOL! A commercial just came to mind! The one that says, “What’s in your wallet?” Perhaps we could adapt it – “What’s in your closet?”
Don’t get caught without it!!!
Let us pray: God of love, thank you for the gifts you bring into my life. Thank you for loving me even when I choose the wrong wardrobe. Come into my closet and remove those garments that are unbecoming and dress me, so that when people see me, they think of you. Amen.
REPLACING THE LAMP SHADE
FEBRUARY 22, 2016
ROMANS 5:3-5 – (Common English)
“But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. “
There have been times I have read that and smirked – yes smirked! “Pride in my problems? Really?” As I have grown in my faith and trust in God, I have come to be able to say. “Really!”.
Take a moment and look back over your life. Think about the hardest time in your life. What did you learn during that time?
Last year I had the honor of officiating at a Celebration of Life Service for a 95 year old women. We use to call her the “onion lady” because she was the only one who was willing to peel and chop onion for our community meal each month. I used that in my eulogy. During her lifetime, life had handed her a series of “onions”. Instead of fretting and feeling sorry for herself, she took the onion given, peeled, chopped and made wonderful fragrant dishes out of it. She took the onions life had handed her and turned it into something delectable and beautiful.
One of the hardest times in my life was when my first husband was killed in an accident. Talk about troubles! I felt so lost and alone and overwhelmed. How was I going to go on breathing? How was I going to take care of my three children? What now? Who am I?
Those were the things I remember asking myself, asking God.
The lessons I learned through all of that were:
- I was stronger than I thought.
- I learned to let go and let God – to fully rely on Him.
- I learned that I no longer grieve for the person who died, but for those who are left.
- I learned that when you ask God “what now?” that he will take you on quite a journey to places you never expected to go.
- I have learned that in the midst of problems, crisis, trouble, if I just stop and take a deep breath, place the issue in God’s hands, and trust Him to see me through, I come out the other side stronger.
None of us want problems or tragedies in our life, but we also know that they are inevitable. It is how we handle those things that makes the difference.
I don’t know how many times I have said or thought, “If I survived that, I can survive anything.” What ever you are going through now, you will survive and you will be stronger for it. And when the next one comes, you will remember: when life hands you an onion – peel it! Create something good out of it.
Let us pray: Loving and Steadfast God, thank you for walking with me through every turn in the road especially the valleys. May I walked through them with my head held high, trusting in you. Amen.
FEBRUARY 20, 2016
One of the novels I am reading is entitled “A Reliable Wife” by Robert Goolrick. In it is a line that really caused me to stop and ponder. “Anyone can learn. Anyone can read and learn. The hard thing to do, to act – to speak French, to go to Africa, or to poison an enemy, to plant a garden.”
How true is this! We can read and learn, but how often do we put what we learn into action? How often do we live out the things we learn?
I think this is especially true in our faith. We love to read the Bible and we love to tell everyone about the Love of Christ and about forgiveness and grace, but DO WE LIVE IT ?
The hard thing to do is, live it! There are so many who say, “I am a Christian!”; “I believe in Jesus Christ!”, but saying it and being it are two different things.
If one is a Christian, one can’t spout love but spew hatred.
If one is a Christian, one can’t promoted forgiveness but hold grudges.
One can’t claim to be compassionate and then refuse to help anyone in need – that is unless they deserve it.
And so on and so forth!
We have a tendency to romanticize the Bible, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and what it means to be a Christian. But being a Christian is hard work! It requires of us! It requires of us from the moment we first learn to the day we die. Christianity is a way of life, not a philosophy to be studies and pondered.
Take some time to sit down and check yourself, your life. Get out a piece of paper and write down these headings:
How do I live out:
Then also put write down these headings:
Who do I hate or spew hate against?
Who do I withhold unconditional love from?
Who do I not have compassion for?
To whom would I not offer forgiveness and grace?
If we are honest, there might be a few things written down under the later headings.
Being a Christian is a way of life, not just a set of beliefs. It is putting our beliefs into action.
After you have pondered and perhaps prayed for God to show you where you need to grow, write down 3 areas, the more specific the better, where you want to live out your faith more fully. Then in three months, revisit and see how you are doing. Note how you have changed, how your views have changed and see how much you have grown.
Let us pray: Lord, sometimes I find living out my faith is difficult. I would much rather just read and tell others how to be, than be those things myself. Where I am selfish, let me be generous. When I tend to spew or act in hatred, grant me tolorance and understanding. Open my heart so that I may be filled with love and compassion for all people. May I err on the side of forgiveness and grace. May the love of Christ not only be in my heart but shown in everything I do. Thank you Jesus, for loving me, for offering grace and forgiveness for my sins. May act on all you have taught me. Amen.
FEBRUARY 17TH, 2016
“We do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.” 2 Corinthians 4:5
Sometimes there is a fine line between sharing our experience and expertise and bragging. I often catch myself and wonder – am I boasting about the things I have done in ministry or am I sharing ideas? Am I lifting up Christ or myself? Are people looking to me or are they looking to me as a directional guide to Christ?
That is what Paul is dealing with in 2nd Corinthians. The people became caught up in the “glory” of those supposedly proclaiming Christ, that they looked to them instead of Christ. Paul, in 2nd Corinthians, wants them to realize that their focus should not be on the person ministering and speaking but on Jesus.
This happens so much in today’s culture too. You have some TV evangelists who seem to be more full of themselves then they are of Christ. Not too long ago, one was trying to get people to send in money so he could have a private jet to get around in. He played up his importance – his role in proclaiming the Gospel more than he proclaimed the Gospel.
In too many churches, then and now, the congregation lifts up the pastor more than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Too often, people choose a church to worship in, because of the pastor. It is not that the pastor isn’t important, but pastor’s come and go. One’s focus should always be their relationship with Christ. A pastor is a guide, a counselor, someone who is more concerned with the spiritual health of the congregation then their own importance.
Tony Robinson, in his intro to “2 Corinthians – a Listen Up! Bible Study” says, concerning “celebrity pastor”: “But the question persists – is it the gospel of Christ crucified that they preach or some other gospel? And is this way of leading a congregation sound? Or do personality-focused ministries fail us, and the church, in the end? “
Paul uses strong language when he says, “we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.” Some hear the word “slave” and shutter. They contention is that they are not going to be a “slave” for anyone. According to the dictionary the word slave means: “a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them. to work excessively hard” The difference between being a “slave” in the terms of the definition and a “slave” for Christ, is that we are not forced, but willingly “work hard” for Christ. Being a “slave” for Christ, means we put Him first in all we do. Christ should be our focus, not ourselves.
As you go through the week, think about your relationship with your pastor and your relationship with Christ. A pastor should be respected for his or her gifts but not worshiped. What should be of importance is how much have you grown in your spiritual life and the life of your congregation. If you find signs of growth, then your pastor and leadership are doing what they are called to do: “Proclaiming Christ.”
Let us pray: Lord, sometimes I get distracted by the glitter and shimmer of a pastor or a church. I pay more attention to what they are doing then on the relationship they have with you. Help me to evaluate my spiritual life. Am I proclaiming you or my pastor? Am I proclaiming you or myself? Help me to focus on and live out a true discipleship that proclaims Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Amen.
FEBRUARY 8TH, 2016
I am borrowing today’s devotional or at least part of it, from my friend Jim. He mentioned this at a gathering today where we were talking about “Church Bullying” . I had heard it before – probably from him.
First, read the love text from 1 Corinthians 13 below. It is a familiar text. We tend to romanticize it and it is read at many weddings, so even if you are not a Bible reader or a church attender, you have probably heard this text at some point.
Verses from Corinthians 13 (from The Message)
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Paul was writing this to a struggling church. So many churches today are struggling. They wonder if they can make budget, if they will be around in 10 to 20 years. They flounder around like a fish out of water trying to find their way back to being the Church that Christ had in mind.
Perhaps, if Paul was here today, this passage would look like this:
The Church never gives up.
The Church cares more for others than for self.
The Church doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
The Church doesn’t strut,
The Church Doesn’t have a swelled head,
The Church Doesn’t force itself on others,
The Church Isn’t always “me first,”
The Church Doesn’t fly off the handle,
The Church Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
The Church Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
The Church Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
The Church Puts up with anything,
The Church Trusts God always,
The Church Always looks for the best,
The Church Never looks back,
The Church keeps going to the end.
The Church is the embodiment of the Love of Christ. Perhaps, it is time that we remember this. Perhaps, it is time to “Be the Church.”
Let us pray: Jesus, you created the church to be You in the world. But we have taken it and made it into a building instead of a way of living. You call those who believe in you to live a life of love, compassion, servant-hood; offering mercy and peace to all. Help me to be the Church is every aspect of my life. Amen.
FEBRUARY 6, 2016
Matthew 6:33-34The Message (MSG)
“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
This is a great “anti-worry” passage, but even more so, an attitude adjustment passage. As human beings and especially, American human beings, we tend to feel that we have to do it all. We get so preoccupied with life that we don’t live it! We get so caught up in “the worldly things of life,” that we forget to pay attention to what God is doing in our lives or at least trying to!
In the book, “Thy Kingdom Come!” by Patricia Said Adams, she writes “In loving God with our whole selves we are putting God and his kingdom first, we are giving ourselves to God and to others; we are not denying our own needs, but we know that God will take care of them so that they no longer need to preoccupy us.”
Some might say, “Well, then, why don’t those who are in need or asking for stuff do that – trust God to provide?” Who is to say they aren’t and God is using you to meet the need, just as he has led someone to meet your need at some point in time.
For me it comes down to trust. Do I trust God to meet my needs, to provide the gifts I need to do the things he asks of me?
Perhaps a good exercise would be to sit and write down those times when you were in need: needed a friend to talk to, money to pay a bill, food for on the table . . . . did the right person call or run into you or stop by just when you needed them; did you receive a bonus or an expected check or perhaps a card with money in it – just in time to pay that bill; did a neighbor or other family members stop by with items from their garden or had been cleaning out their cupboards and brought you some items they no longer wanted, or maybe you were able to get groceries from a pantry. If you are reading this, you are still around and your need had been met, perhaps not without struggle, but met. Praise God!
Let us pray: Bountiful God, you have given me everything I need; open my eyes and my heart so I can see where you have carried me through times of hardship and struggle. Remind me how blessed I am and that I too am called to be a blessing to others. Take my mind off myself and send me a soul in need. Amen.
FEBRUARY 5TH 2016
Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work— from Exodus 20: 8 – The Message
I was visiting a 90 plus year old women several years ago. As we were talking, gardening came up. I proceeded to tell her that I planned to plant my flowers on Sunday afternoon. With that her eyes got very big, her thin wrinkled hand came up and then she extended her Index finger and said, “Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy!” – as she shook her finger at me. Her daughter gasped and said, “Mom”, you don’t yell and shake your finger at the preacher!”
It was very hard not to laugh, for it looked very comical, but she meant every word she said. Hard as I tried, I could not convince her that, for me, that wasn’t work, it was a way of communing with God – that I actually talked with Him as I worked in the garden. She didn’t buy it at all!
As a pastor, my Sabbath is on a Friday. It is a day, where (providing no one had died or had a crisis arise), I spend as I want. If I want to sleep in, read, shop, whatever – it is a me and God day. It probably isn’t really what God meant, but I work on Sundays! So this is my day to relax and chill out. I read my devotions and since your reading this, also write my devotional. God and I spend quality time together in many ways.
In our culture, it seems we are going 24/7! Work days are no longer a regular Monday to Friday for many. But it is important to take a day to rest and relax and enjoy God’s world. A time to breathe and smell the roses!
How about your Sabbath? Do you have a day where you do not do any work? Where you relax, perhaps have some God time?
If you aren’t, it about time you carved out some down time and reconnected with yourself, your family and God.
Let us pray: God of the Sabbath, Heaven and Earth are full of your Glory! Help me to stay put long enough to feel it! Show me how to make more time for you and for my family. Help me to breathe in your peace. Amen.
FEBRUARY 4TH, 2016
John 10:10 :The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
Chuck Swindol in one of his books had a chapter entitled something like: “Died age 34 buried age 69”. That title stuck with me. When I am feeling discouraged or perhaps even tired and ‘life-less”, that phrase somehow finds its way into my consciousness. It brings thoughts like ”do I want to be like that person, just going through the motions, never truly living?”
Jesus said, in the verse above, that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. And so it is. When you allow thoughts of fear, anger, jealousy, greed, or frustration keep you from enjoying life, then life itself is being stolen from you. Jesus came so that we can have abundant life – he is not talking about money and material things, but those things that make life worthwhile – joy, fulfillment, happiness, peace and so on.
There is a poem called, “The Dash”. The dash is the line between years on your tombstone. (1953 – 2016) It doesn’t matter if the distance between those dates are short or long, but what matters is that dash – how you lived those years. Are you living your years abundantly? Are you grateful for each breath you take even on days when life itself is not so kind? Are you using the gifts God gave you to help others? Are you aware of how blessed you are and living out those blessings?
Don’t let the thief steal life from you. Make the most of every moment. Don’t worry about tomorrow for it is true, tomorrow will take care of itself.
Life is such a gift, no matter if we are walking high on the mountain top or in the deepest valley. Each step in life offers us an opportunity to grow, to be who God created us to be. With Christ, we have have joy in the midst of our sorrow, in the midst of a chaotic situation.
About a year ago, I had the honor of officiating at the Celebration of Life Service for a dear 96 year old lady. She was quite an example of what it meant to live life abundantly. During the service I mentioned that we called her the onion lady. We did so because she was the only one who didn’t mind chopping onions when we had a meal at the church, everyone else would find something else to do – then peel the dreaded onions!
You see, when life handed her an onion, she used it! She peeled it, chopped it or sliced it and discovered that it added much flavor and aroma to her life.
She didn’t have much growing up. Went to work at an early age to help make ends meet. She fell in love and married a wonderful man, but the war came and he left to serve his country. While he was away she gave birth to her first born with out his physical presence. He soon came home, but without the use of his legs. He was paralyzed from the waist down. She faced it with strength that only God could provide. She peeled the onion and used it and created at beautiful life for herself and her husband and their little girl, even eventually adopting another child.
She had life, and had it abundantly!
Let us pray: Giver of Life, I thank you for each day that you give me. Thank you for the opportunities you put before me to grow in mind, body and soul. Thank you for the onions that add flavor to my life. When I am low, remind me God, of my blessings and of your love. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, who came to give me abundant life. Amen
REMOVING THE LAMP SHADE
FEBRUARY 3RD, 2016
“For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are – high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean – nothing will ever be able to separate us fro the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.” Paul’s words from Roman’s 8:38-39
When I was a younger, I had two favorite places I would escape to. One was church. It was a place I felt safe and accepted at. The second was the library. I loved to read, still do. Both offered me a way to live in a world that wasn’t mine.
In church, I heard a lot about the Apostle Paul. I would dream that I traveled with him from place to place, telling people about Jesus. I marveled at how he felt at home no matter where he went. He seemed to be able to blend in and yet make a difference in their lives. I envied his ability to praise God even while in jail or being beaten and that he would share the Gospel even with those who were persecuting him. He was my hero.
At the library, I could go on any adventure I chose! The books gave me a broader view of the world and how people lived. I loved the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. They started me on my love for mysteries.
One of the books I read in my mid-teens was entitled, “Straight down the crooked path.” Of all the books I read, that one stood out. It was about a young couple in love (remember, I was a teenage girl!). The story line followed them from the first flirt to old age, if I remember correctly. The lesson I took away from that book was that no matter what “crooked path” you find yourself on, keep putting one step in front of the other and trust God to be there.
No one lives their life without finding themselves headed in a different direction then they were before. Entering a relationship with someone changes the direction of pathway you are on. Add into that path, times when you got a job, lost a job, got married, had children, battled an illness, lost a loved one and so on and so forth. When you look back over your life, you will find that there were many twist and turns. No one ever walks through life in a straight line. That would probably be very boring!
Some people get scared when things change, but change is a natural thing. Once you learn that God will never abandon you, you still may have some butterflies, but you will find that you will enjoy the journey much more.
The Apostle Paul and books helped me to grow in my love and trust for God and in my understanding of life. What helps you? Where do you escape to? How much do you trust God and allow God to guide you straight down the crooked path of life?
Let us pray: God of the past, the present and the time to come, thank you for always being there for me. Help me to trust you at every curve life brings my way. When I am scarred, walk with me and give me the strength and courage to keep walking straight down the crooked pathway of life. Amen.
REMOVING THE LAMP SHADE
FEBRUARY 2ND, 2106
I found the poem I mentioned yesterday. It had come to mind while I was writing yesterday’s reflection. I offer it to you now for your own reflection.
A Tandem Ride With God
I used to think of God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there, sort of like a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I didn’t really know Him.
But later on, when I met Jesus, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Jesus was in the back helping me pedal. I didn’t know just when it was He suggested we change, but life has not been the same since I took the back-seat to Jesus, my Lord. He makes life exciting. When I had control, I thought I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable. It was the shortest distance between two points.
But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places and at break-through speeds; it was all I could do to hang on! Even though it often looked like madness, He said, “Pedal!” I was worried and anxious and asked, “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer and I started to learn to trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into adventure. And when I’d say, “I’m scared”, He’d lean back and touch my hand.
He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me their gifts to take on my journey, our journey, my Lord’s and mine. And we were off again. He said, “Give the gifts away; they’re extra baggage, too much weight.” So I did, to the people we met, and I found in giving I received, and still our burden was light.
I did not trust Him, at first, in control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it, but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, jump to clear high rocks, fly to shorten scary passages. And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, Jesus.
And when I’m sure I just can’t do any more, He just smiles and says… “Pedal.”
Let us pray: Thank you Lord for poets whose words are just what I needed to hear. Thank you for always being there for me and for the adventures you take me on. And Lord, please, please keep reminding me to “Pedal.” Amen
FEBRUARY 1ST, 2016
“Be Still and Know that I am God” – Psalm 46:10
Sorry I have been off grid for the past few days. Do you ever need to do that – just try and remove yourself from everything? I needed to spend some time in prayer, to “be still” and remember that God is God!
Life, at times, tends to crash in one a person. Actually, I think it is the evil one at work, throwing arrows. It causes one to worry about all sorts of stuff, especially about oneself or about the future or about . . . well, everything. Doubts come into your mind and even into your heart. When that happens, before things get too dark, it is a good idea to just “Be still and know that God is God”.
A former parishioner, who has gone to his heavenly reward several years ago, use to say, “Nothing is ever so bad, that it can’t be worse – so be glad for what is.”
That saying comes to my mind often. It helps me put things in perspective. It doesn’t mean for us to settle for what is or to let it continue on a downward trend, but to acknowledge it and deal with it.
Before I can deal with it, I need to get honest with myself and with God. I need to allow God to heal the wounds that those arrows made and renew my spirit. Then, and only then, can I take the “bull by the horns” and begin taking steps to address the issures at hand and move forward.
Perhaps you have been there, perhaps you are there now. If not, it is likely that you will be, at some point or another. So take time. Be Still. And know that God has it under control. Remember that you do not have the weight of the issue on your shoulders alone and that God will provide what you need. All God asks is for you to do your part.
There was a poem I heard years ago. If I find it, I will share it with you tomorrow. Until then, “Be Still and Know that God is God.”
Let us pray: Lord, it feels like arrows of doubt, dismay, discouragement, and more are being flung my way. Their sharp tips burying into my heart and soul. You are the great healer of mind, body and soul. I seek healing. Remove the arrows and heal my wounds. Restore me so that I can serve you without hindrance. Amen.
REMOVING THE LAMP SHADE
JANUARY 28, 2016
A Reflection – Lent is coming!
The beginning of Lent is just two weeks away. I have to be honest, I don’t like when Lent comes early. Not much breathing room between Christmas and Lent when that happens. I know there are some tradtions that do not practice or acknowledge the Lenten Season. But it is a tradition that I have grown up with and practiced almost all my life.
I especially cherish Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday services. Over the years, fewer and fewer people attend these services. They are during the week and people either don’t have the time or won’t take the time to attend. Receiving the ashes reminds me of God’s unconditional love for me; that on my darkest days, He still loves me. Maundy Thursday is a time to hear the Passion Story (Jesus last week) all at one time and not in short bursts. I hope you attend one of the services at a church near you that offers them.
I have my personal Lenten devotional ready to go. I actually got it last year from CTA. It is entitled “This Love Changes Everything”. It consists of a Bible verse and some questions and lots of room to write. I find doing things like this help keep me grounded and centered, especially when the world around me is in chaos!
The past several years, I have stopped the tradition of “giving up” something for Lent. Instead, I try to “give” something for Lent. I find the difference very rewarding. It is not a denial, but a sacrifice of myself. I know some give up candy or soda or a favorite food and that is a challenge and it has been for me in the past. But “giving” has it’s own chalenges, it requires of me. It requires thought and time and myself. It does not take away, but adds.
What keeps you grounded? What are your “go to” things everyday to keep you on an even keel? How will you do or not do “Lent” this year. Will you deny or give or not do anything?
Let us pray: Holy God, you have given your only Son so that I may have eternal life. Guide me as we enter this season of Lent, that I may grow in knowledge, love, understanding and compassion. Amen.
REMOVING THE LAMP SHADE – January 27, 2016
- God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
- The courage to change the things I can,
- And the wisdom to know the difference.
- I share this prayer with you today, first because it is one I say often, especially when I am frustrated, secondly, because so many people struggle with their situations.
- Before one can do anything, one has to accept the situation or circumstances for what they are. When you are able to do this, you can then think clearer and move on to the next part of the prayer.
- Two Examples:
- Financial problems: Ok, so your broke, you don’t know how you are going to pay the bills. Accept that fact. Don’t make excuses or whine about it. Then, take a realistic look at what your income is and what your expenses are, and how you spend your income. Then, have the courage to make changes; adjust your spending, find ways to increase your income.
- Relationship problems: No matter who it is, first you need to accept that there is a problem and realize you have no control over the other person. Accept the other person for who they are. Look at your own part in the problem (no one is innocent). Have the courage to admit your part and look for ways to change your attitude and/or correct your part of the problem. Pray for the other person involved. Then, decide if the relationship is worth salvaging or if it is time to let go.
- The serenity Prayer is one that you can apply to every area of your life, every decision, every issue.
- There is more to the prayer, here it is in it’s entirety:
- God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
- The courage to change the things I can,
- And the wisdom to know the difference.
- Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.
Write this prayer not in part but in whole and keep it somewhere in plain site, to remind you, to stop and breathe and assess.
- Now, pray the prayer.
REMOVING THE LAMP SHADE – JANUARY 26, 2016
While I was on the road last week, I listened to an audio book written by the author of the “Shack”, William P. Young. The title was, “CrossRoads”. I absolutely loved it. I like how Young takes you into the spiritual world of the Trinty.
In this book, the main character, Tony, takes a jounry into his own soul. I love how the author discribes what is there. For Tony, it is a desolate place with no color or life. I don’t want to spoil the book for you in case you want to read it or in my case, listen to it, so I won’t go into the details. (Got the audio tape at Ollie’s for $2.99!)
As I listened, I began to wonder what would my soul look like and who do I allow to live there. Is it filled with color and light or is it barren and drab? Do I allow ample space for Jesus and the Holy Spirit or give them just a cabin or hovel to live in? Whose voices do I let rule my soul? How much room do I give to pride, ego, haughtiness, swagger, and so forth. Do I allow Jesus and the Holy Spirit to rule my soul or do I allow my ego?
CrossRoads made me pay attention to these things.
The commercial for Capital One asks us, “So, what is in your wallet.” Perhaps the questions should be, “So, what’s in YOUR soul”?
Let us pray: Abba Father, help me to clean house. Help me to take a good look at what lives in my soul and remove those things that do not give life, those things that cause darkness and decay. Help me to make more room for Jesus and for the Holy Spirit, that they may have lots of room to work in my life and through me, in the life of others. Amen.
January 25th, 2016
This is more of a reflection. I hope all of you took advantage of being snowed in to relax and slow down a little. I thought it was a good time for a jigsaw puzzle! The one I hadn’t opened yet was one of Jesus knocking at the door.. Putting it together became a time of reflection for me.
I enjoyed “putting Jesus” together! I found his face, a foot, a hand, then the other hand, finally his other foot. I exclaimed to my husband “ I found Jesus!” He looked over at me and said, “About time!” and chuckled.
Well, that got me thinking.
First, I thought about how, at time, I really do concentrate on one “part” of Jesus more than other.
His face, brings a smile to my heart. It makes me feel safe and accepted.
His arms and hands – offer me a sense of welcome, comfort and security.
His feet, remind me that he walks with me and I am never alone.
One of the verses from this past Sunday was 1 Corinthians 12:27:
“Now you are the Body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it.”
In the “light” of that scripture, my thoughts began to change.
As a Believer in Christ, when people look at me, do they see the face of Christ? Do they see a face that brings a smile to their heart, that makes them feel safe and accepted.
When it comes to the arms and hands – are my mine welcoming, do they offer comfort, compassion, and a sense of peace?
When it comes to my feet – do I walk with others in their time of need? Do I walk where Jesus calls me to walk?
Secondly, this particular depiction of Jesus knocking at the door, has a window in the door and the window is glowing with light. I found that interesting, for most pictures have a solid door. That window was one of the first things I put together. Then while building the puzzle, I realized that putting Jesus together was much easier then assembling the rest of the door. The door area is dark and surrounded by a stone wall. That is the part I am starting on now. I am realizing I don’t like the dark part. It reminds of me of looking at the dark areas of my life. But then, I look up at that window and realize that there is light shining brightly inside and Jesus is willing to come through my darkness to find that light within.
Hope you enjoyed your “snow days”. I sure did!
Blessings, from the Light in the door!
Let us pray: Lord of Light, thank you for loving me unconditionally and for always knocking at my door of darkness. Amen.
January 22, 2016
Psalm 32The Message (MSG)
Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be—you get a fresh start,
your slate’s wiped clean.
Suddenly the pressure was gone—my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared.
Every one of us needs to pray;
when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts we’ll be on high ground, untouched.
Countless times, instead of going to God and offering Him my wrong doings, my sins, I have kept them buried, hidden, thinking that they would some how disappear! But, in reality, that never happens. They sit and fester and cause pain and anquish not only to me but also others.. My self-asteem shrinks and I feel worthless. My heart hardens and my spirit dwindles. I don’t treat people with love and compassion, but judge them as I judge myself.
We have a loving and forgivng God and when we fess up, when we go to him and lift up our sins, He will receive them and wipe them away. My heart, your heart is free once more to live fully and love fully. We can sing with joy once more!
Let us Pray: Loving God, thank you for loving me even when I don’t love myself or others very much. I lift up my heart and all that is in it for healing. Empty me of my weeds and dry spots and plant in me seeds of life, love, mercy, grace and joy. In the Name of Jesus, who died for my sins, Amen.
January 21, 2016
Full text is John 4:1-15, I have only printed the later portion of the text.
A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)
The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”
The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!”
Have you ever had one of those days where you feel like your mouth is filled with cotton balls? When your lips, tongue and throat seem so dry that you actually exclaim, “I dying of thirst!”? Then, when you finally get that cool glass of water, or soda or whatever it is you get to drink, those first few swallows feel “heavenly” and you let out a lound “Ahhhhhhh!” when you come up for air.
Have you ever thought that our spirits get that way? That our inner being is so dry and nothing you try seems to quench it’s thirst? That is how the Samaritan Woman was felling. Life had worn her down and her inner self was parched and looking for relief. A relief, she didn’t think would ever happen.
Jesus tells her that he has this water. A water that will cause gushing fountains of endless life and tells her that she will never be thirsty again.
In their conversation, He offers her what no one else had offered: self respect, unconditional love, and hope. That is what Jesus offers each and every one of us. He will quench our parched hearts and soul. He will renew us so completely that we will never again feel desolate and dried up.
When we take a long drink of Jesus and allow him to be our main supplier of inner substance we will find that that inner thirst is not more for we have found what we needed.
Let us pray: Jesus, the living water of life, fill my cup, fill it up, so that that I can be satisfied. Amen
Hebrews 6:1-12 The Message (MSG)
So come on, let’s leave the preschool finger-painting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ. The basic foundational truths are in place: turning your back on “salvation by self-help” and turning in trust toward God; baptismal instructions; laying on of hands; resurrection of the dead; eternal judgment. God helping us, we’ll stay true to all that. But there’s so much more. Let’s get on with it!
What the author of Hebrews is saying is: OK, you know the basics. You have the foundational information and understanding. You have passed Christianity 101. Now it is time to learn more. Let’s shine the light a little brighter and see how much more is revealed!
How many of you quit school once you learned to read and write and count to 100? Very few I am sure. You learned your letters and their sounds, but then you had to learn how to put the letters together to make words, then learn what the words meant and how to put them into sentences, and how to write those sentences and so forth. One lesson built upon another.
It always amazes me, that good Christian people do not think they need Sunday School or a Bible Study. It is true for our religious leaders, pastors, teachers – we can’t stay stagnant, we need to grow in knowledge and understanding. Reading books is great – but then you need to share your thoughts and insights with others. The Bible tells us,
Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all. (Proverbs 3: 5-4)
Let us Pray: Jesus, the Living Word, help me to grow in your word. Bring others into my life that will help me to challenge my perceptions and will take me deeper into the word. Help me to seek people that will feed me more than baby’s milk; that will give me the meat and vegetables I need to grow into a more mature Believer. Amen
January 19, 2016
I will surely demand your blood for a human life, from every living thing I will demand it. From humans, from a man for his brother, I will demand something for a human life. Whoever sheds human blood, by a human his blood will be shed; for in the divine image God made human beings.
These verses are what God spoke to Noah as they were departing the Arc. Re-read them. They are powerful words from our God. Those words should sizzle in our hearts, when we see them in the Light.
How does that play out in our lives, especially when Christians, shed blood in the name of God? I am not talking about war or self defense, I am talking about senseless killings committed in the Name of God. When pastors and other Christians leaders tell people it is OK to kill! If a person believes differently, or anyone else that doesn’t believe in our God. If they live a way you don’t approve of, go ahead annihilate them. So, if someone is homosexual, is not white, or Muslim or has a different belief practice then they do, get rid of them! May God have mercy on their soul.
God himself said he will demand their blood for taking a human life.
God made human beings – all human beings in His image. When we kill out of hatred, without regard for life we are sinning against God, against His creation.
If you love the Lord Your God with all your heart and soul and might, there is no room for hate killing. Jesus told us to love one another as he love us. I guess that means if we take a life, we don’t believe that Jesus loves us!?
Perhaps it is time to remember who we are and whose we are. It is time to truly value life again.
Let us pray: Lord, thank you for shining the light on this scripture for us this day. Thank you for reminding us that life is valuable, it is a gift from you and not to be distroyed. Remind me each day, each hour, every time the shadows enter my heart and I want to take a life, remind me that, that person was created in your image, just as I was. Amen.
January 18, 2016
Psalm 112 – Common English Bible
Praise the Lord!
Those who honor the Lord,
who adore God’s commandments, are truly happy!
Their descendants will be strong throughout the land.
The offspring of those who do right will be blessed;
wealth and riches will be in their houses.
Their righteousness stands forever.
They shine in the dark for others who do right.
They are merciful, compassionate, and righteous.
Those who lend generously are good people—
as are those who conduct their affairs with justice.
Yes, these sorts of people will never be shaken;
the righteous will be remembered forever!
They won’t be frightened at bad news.
Their hearts are steady, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are firm; they aren’t afraid.
In the end, they will witness their enemies’ defeat.
They give freely to those in need.
Their righteousness stands forever.
Their strength increases gloriously.
The wicked see all this and fume;
they grind their teeth, but disappear to nothing.
What the wicked want to see happen comes to nothing!
Today, bask in this psalm. Reply to your fears, your worries, your doubts with the verses from this Pslam. Let it strengthen you when you feel frightened. Let it be your prayer.
January 17th, 2016
Remember the Sabbath day and Keep it Holy. Praying that you will join your brothers and sisters in Christ at Church this morning. May you find fellowship and instruction for your Spirit as you worship.
Genesis 6:9-22 – January 16, 2016
These are Noah’s descendants. In his generation, Noah was a moral and exemplary man; he walked with God. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. In God’s sight, the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence. God saw that the earth was corrupt, because all creatures behaved corruptly on the earth.
God said to Noah, “The end has come for all creatures, since they have filled the earth with violence. I am now about to destroy them along with the earth,so make a wooden ark. Make the ark with nesting places and cover it inside and out with tar. This is how you should make it: four hundred fifty feet long, seventy-five feet wide, and forty-five feet high. Make a roof for the ark and complete it one foot from the top. Put a door in its side. In the hold below, make the second and third decks.
“I am now bringing the floodwaters over the earth to destroy everything under the sky that breathes. Everything on earth is about to take its last breath. But I will set up my covenant with you. You will go into the ark together with your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives. From all living things—from all creatures—you are to bring a pair, male and female, into the ark with you to keep them alive. From each kind of bird, from each kind of livestock, and from each kind of everything that crawls on the ground—a pair from each will go in with you to stay alive. Take some from every kind of food and stow it as food for you and for the animals.” Noah did everything exactly as God commanded him.
Remember this song:
Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory!
Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory!
Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory!
Children of the Lord.
The Lord said to Noah, “There’s gonna be a floody, floody.”
Lord said to Noah, “There’s gonna be a floody, floody.”
“Get those children out of the muddy, muddy!”
Children of the Lord.
Most children have sung this song sometime in their life as well as heard the story. It is one of those timeless stories, that whether you are a church goer or not, you have heard it. It is a story of and promise and faith.
The question is, do we believe it? Not just that it happened but do we believe in it’s promise? God saved the faithful, which happened to be Noah – and his family. God saved all creatures of the air and ground. The world as they knew it was coming to an end. The rains would fall and the earth would be covered in water, but God’s faithful would be saved.
Remember back in 2000, when there were people who thought that when the clock struck 12 on New Years Eve, there would be mass destruction. All computers would be compromised, the earth as we know it would be changed forever. People were panicking, stocked up on provisions and hunkered in waiting for whatever was to happen, happen. But the next day the sun rose, the computers where fine and life went on.
What I saw was a people that were scared, a people that had no faith, no trust in God to keep his promises. If Noah had been like that, there would not have been an ark and nothing would have been saved.
We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but if we believe, we can face tomorrow, knowing that God will provide, that God will take care of us. He will never leave or abandon us. That doesn’t mean we will not face hard times and difficult live experiences, but it does mean that God is with us in them, bringing us to new life, just as God brought Noah and his family and all the creatures on the earth to new life.
The question for us is: Do we believe? Do we have faith? If so, then each morning we can sing: “Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory!” Because with God there is always a new day.
Let us pray: God of Creation and Re-creation, we give you thanks for each new day. Help me to live faithfully, the way Christ has taught me, in all situations and circumstances. Remind me of your promises and help me to keep mine. For You are my God and I am Your Child. Amen.
John 2:1-12The Message (MSG)
Three days later there was a wedding in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there. Jesus and his disciples were guests also. When they started running low on wine at the wedding banquet, Jesus’ mother told him, “They’re just about out of wine.”
Jesus said, “Is that any of our business, Mother—yours or mine? This isn’t my time. Don’t push me.”
She went ahead anyway, telling the servants, “Whatever he tells you, do it.”
Six stoneware water pots were there, used by the Jews for ritual washings. Each held twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus ordered the servants, “Fill the pots with water.” And they filled them to the brim.
“Now fill your pitchers and take them to the host,” Jesus said, and they did.
When the host tasted the water that had become wine (he didn’t know what had just happened but the servants, of course, knew), he called out to the bridegroom, “Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill brings in the cheap stuff. But you’ve saved the best till now!”
11 This act in Cana of Galilee was the first sign Jesus gave, the first glimpse of his glory. And his disciples believed in him. After this he went down o Capernaum along with his mother, brothers and disciples and stayed several days.
Typical Mom! Did your parent ever do this to you or as a parent, have you done this to your child. “Go ahead honey, show them what you can do.” LOL! Can you see Jesus rolling his eyes and saying, “Mommmm!”
Mary knew how special her son was and looks like she wanted to show him off a bit!
There are several things that stand out for me in this story. I will share two of them with you.
Jesus obeyed his mother. Although he didn’t feel it was “his time” as of yet, he did as asked. It made me think of the times I have said, “not right now – maybe later” or “I’m not ready to do that yet.” But someone pushed me and in the end I was glad they did. Have you experienced that? God, has given each of us spiritual gifts, perhaps we need a push to use them for His glory. Oh, go ahead! You can do it!
The other thing that shined out in the story was that Jesus didn’t take credit for what he did. The credit for the “good” wine was given to the wedding host. Usually when we do something, we want the credit for it. But that is not how Jesus thought. My thoughts went to the times when I received praise for something I had done, but in my heart, I knew it wasn’t me, but God. Perhaps God uses us, just as Jesus used the ritual water pots. We are the vessels though which God causes good things to happen.
Let us pray: Abba Father, I lift my heart to you in praise and thanksgiving for you have blessed me abundantly. Help me to use the gifts you have given to touch the lives of others; to bring love, grace and happiness into the lives of those around me and beyond. Push me, nudge me and help me to obey. Amen.
January 14, 2016
Psalm 62 Common English Bible
Only in God do I find rest; my salvation comes from him.
2 Only God is my rock and my salvation—
my stronghold!—I won’t be shaken anymore.
3 How long will all of you attack others;
how long will you tear them down[b]
as if they were leaning walls or broken-down fences?
4 The only desire of this people
is to bring others down low;
they delight in deception.
With their mouths they bless,
but inside they are cursing. Selah
5 Oh, I[c] must find rest in God only,
because my hope comes from him!
6 Only God is my rock and my salvation—
my stronghold!—I will not be shaken.
7 My deliverance and glory depend on God.
God is my strong rock.
My refuge is in God.
8 All you people: Trust in him at all times!
Pour out your hearts before him!
God is our refuge! Selah
9 Human beings are nothing but a breath.
Human beings are nothing but lies.
They don’t even register on a scale;
taken all together they are lighter than a breath!
10 Don’t trust in violence;
don’t set false hopes in robbery.
When wealth bears fruit,
don’t set your heart on it.
11 God has spoken one thing—
make it two things—
that I myself have heard:
that strength belongs to God,
12 and faithful love comes from you, my Lord—
and that you will repay
everyone according to their deeds.
Oh My! Lifting the Lamp Shade off of this Psalm, causes some discomfort! It seems our present world if filled with violence and lies. Most dialogues contain hateful, spiteful words. They don’t talk, they yell and talk over one another, vying to have the last word. Some do bodily harm to another, because of their skin color or their beliefs or profession or just because. There is so much hatefulness in the world and much in done in the name of God! How wrong! It seems like humankind has not learned form our past mistakes.
This is not how God wants us to live and to be. In the midst of all this darkness of heart and destruction, if we believe in God, then we are not to take part! We are not to lash out in anger and violence. We are not to be revengeful and hateful and demand what is not ours. And, if we find ourselves caught in the midst of such darkness, we are to hold on to God and let Him be our strength – to let God protect us. Hate and violence, bigotry, racism, sexism, and so on are not a part of God’s realm of love. Love, joy, compassion, gentleness, forgiveness, grace – these are more aligned with the realm of God. Which plays out in your life?
The Psalmist says that God will repay everyone according to their deeds. Perhaps that is something to remember the next time we tear someone down, treat them harshly, seek revenge, are greedy and want more than our share. Remember the old saying, “What goes around, comes around.” Jesus tells us to treat other as we would want to be treated; to love others as He loves us; to forgive as we are forgiven. May it be so.
Let us pray: Lord God, sometimes we don’t realize how we sound and how we treat others and sometimes we know and don’t care. It is more important for us to have our way and to be right and to wield power, than it is to love and offer compassion and mercy to others. Call us back, O Lord, call us back so that we can once more be a people pleasing in Your sight. A people worthy of being called “The Children of God.” May you O God, be our strength and our refuge. May we trust in you and you alone. Amen
JANUARY 13, 2016
John 1:35-42The Message (MSG)
35-36 The next day John was back at his post with two disciples, who were watching. He looked up, saw Jesus walking nearby, and said, “Here he is, God’s Passover Lamb.”
37-38 The two disciples heard him and went after Jesus. Jesus looked over his shoulder and said to them, “What are you after?”
They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
39 He replied, “Come along and see for yourself.”
They came, saw where he was living, and ended up staying with him for the day. It was late afternoon when this happened.
40-42 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John’s witness and followed Jesus. The first thing he did after finding where Jesus lived was find his own brother, Simon, telling him, “We’ve found the Messiah” (that is, “Christ”). He immediately led him to Jesus.
Jesus took one look up and said, “You’re John’s son, Simon? From now on your name is Cephas” (or Peter, which means “Rock”).
I see myself in those disciples. Do you? When I was considering going into the ministry, I was trying to find ways I could “do it on the side.” Ways I could follow where God was calling but not disrupt my life too much.
When I met with the Church and Ministry Committee in Penn Northeast Conference about the possibility of doing Licensed Ministry, they encouraged me to be ordained. “What? I can’t do that! I don’t have a college degree. I am not that smart. “ You see I was willing to dabble in a ministry that where I could pick and choose when I wanted to serve and that wouldn’t cost me too much. But, Jesus had other plans for me, just as he did for the disciples.
That night I was talking with my daughter who was in college at the time. After I got done telling her all that was said at the meeting and listing all my reasons why I could not become an Ordain Minister, she replied with: “Mom, when Jesus called the disciples, didn’t they drop everything and follow?” My reply was, “yes?” She then said, “Are you better then they were?” — Wow! That hit me like a ton of bricks.
I guess, I was willing to “follow” Jesus as long as nothing was required of me, or at least very little. But, Jesus asked me to “come and see” – to be a part, to make changes in my life.
Not all calls to “Come and See” lead to becoming an Ordained Pastor, but, Jesus does call us all to be his disciples, using the gifts the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon us.
Question to ponder is: Am I following at a distance and just observing or am I willing to allow Jesus to use me to “Be the Church” in this world?
Let us pray: Jesus, help me to hear Your call for my life clearly. Help me to let go and be a true disciple, not just following and observing, but walking with You to bring the message of grace to all people. Push me to be all that You created me to be. Amen.
January 12, 2016
42 Just like a deer that craves streams of water,
my whole being[c] craves you, God.
2 My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God.
When will I come and see God’s face?[d]
3 My tears have been my food both day and night,
as people constantly questioned me,
“Where’s your God now?”
4 But I remember these things as I bare my soul:
how I made my way to the mighty one’s abode,[e]
to God’s own house,
with joyous shouts and thanksgiving songs—
a huge crowd celebrating the festival!
5 Why, I ask myself, are you so depressed?
Why are you so upset inside?
Hope in God!
Because I will again give him thanks,
my saving presence and my God.
Have you been there – thirsty for the living God? Being badgered by others asking you “Where is your God?” I remember when my first husband died, it was August 18th 1987. As Christmas approached, some people commented, “Well, I guess you won’t be doing Christmas this year.” I remember being appalled, and asking them “Why not?!” It seems they thought that since Bob had died, I didn’t have a reason to celebrate the birth of my Lord. Yes, I was depressed and grieving, but it had never occurred to me, not to “do Christmas.”
Perhaps that is what it is like for those who do not have a relationship with God, I really don’t know. But what I do know, is that, without God, I have no hope – no hope for my late husband, no hope for myself.
God promises to walk through the valley of the shadow of death with us, whether it is the loss of a loved one, a broken relationship, ill-health, financial difficulties, career disappointments – God is right there with me, with you. Yes, I cried, bared my soul in anguish , but never doubted for a minute God’s love for me or for my children.
It is good to ask the questions: “Why am I so depressed. Why am I so upset.” It is good, because they prompt us to remember God’s faithfulness in times past. It is good because these questions open up an honest dialogue with God, which helps us begin to heal.
There is life after a death, there is life after a disappointment, there is life after a devastating experience. That is the hope we have through Jesus Christ. It is the one thing you can count on. Friends and family may turn aside, but God will never abandon or forsake you.
Let us pray: God of Hope, when I fail to remember your promises, remind me. When fail to trust you with all things, remind me of your faithfulness. When darkness surrounds me and I think all is lost, remind me that my hope comes from you and you alone. May my heart and soul praise your name now and in every circumstance. Amen.
January 11, 2016
Psalm 5 – The Message
1-3 Listen, God! Please, pay attention!
Can you make sense of these ramblings,
my groans and cries?
King-God, I need your help.
you’ll hear me at it again.
I lay out the pieces of my life
on your altar
and watch for fire to descend.
4-6 You don’t socialize with Wicked,
or invite Evil over as your houseguest.
Hot-Air-Boaster collapses in front of you;
you shake your head over Mischief-Maker.
God destroys Lie-Speaker;
Blood-Thirsty and Truth-Bender disgust you.
9-10 Every word they speak is a land mine;
their lungs breathe out poison gas.
Their throats are gaping graves,
their tongues slick as mudslides.
Pile on the guilt, God!
Let their so-called wisdom wreck them.
Kick them out! They’ve had their chance.
11-12 But you’ll welcome us with open arms
when we run for cover to you.
Let the party last all night!
Stand guard over our celebration.
You are famous, God, for welcoming God-seekers,
for decking us out in delight.
I love the Psalms! They remind me that when I pray, I need to have an honest conversation with God. Sometimes, my prayers seem superficial – maybe even trite. I forget to put my whole self into them and they feel distant or businesslike like, but God calls us to bear our souls to him. To converse with him our deepest thoughts and needs. I think that is why so many love reading the Psalms. David truly did have a heart for God. He wasn’t afraid to be honest with God.
Take note of your prayers, perhaps write them and see how they sound when you read them back to yourself. Does it express your true thoughts and needs?
Let us pray: Abba, Father, I come to you this day, admitting that sometimes I am not honest with you and my prayers and petitions seem trite. Help me to share with you my deepest fears and longings, my highest hopes and dreams. Help me to empty myself, so you can fill me with new life. Here are my fears Lord, . . . . Here are the desires of my heart . . . Here are my intercessions (prayers for others) . . . Hear my prayer O Lord, In Jesus Name. Amen.
JANUARY 9TH, 2016
John 8:12 (-19)The Message (MSG)
12 Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.”
(The whole reading goes to verse 19, if you would like to read the full interaction that Jesus is engaged in.)
In these passages, Jesus takes off the “lampshade” and reveals his identity and yet, (if you read the whole pericopie,) they still can’t see, their understanding seems “shaded”.
Jesus said, “I am the World’s Light” If you go back to Chapter 1, of the Gospel of John, you will see that the author used these words to proclaim a new beginning. “What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out”
The question for the day is “Do we believe that Jesus is the Light of the World.?” If we do, are we walking in that Light or do we walk in the shadows of the darkness instead of the full Light of Christ?
I don’t know about you, but there are times I put on the lampshade and pull it as far down as I can. You see, it seems much easier to grumble about things not being right, than to make them right; much easier to hold a grudge, then be forgiving; much easier to place labels on people – and have a me against them attitude, then it is to love them as Christ loves me; much easier to look to my own needs, then to putting the needs of others first; much easier to see the darkness in others, then see it in myself.
When we take off the lampshade and walk in the full Light of Christ, we will see clearly the Light in all people and all situations. Let us be people of the Light. Let us take the lampshade off our minds and hearts and be the child that God created us to be: full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22). Let us become part of the Light.
Let us pray: Lord, take my hand and lead me deeper into the Light of the World. Remove the lampshade from my mind and heart so that I stop stumbling around in the dark. Amen.
January 8th, 2016
Psalm 27 The Message (MSG)
Light, space, zest — that’s God!
So, with him on my side I’m fearless,
afraid of no one and nothing.
2 When vandal hordes ride down
ready to eat me alive,
Those bullies and toughs
fall flat on their faces.
4 I’m asking God for one thing,
only one thing:
To live with him in his house
my whole life long.
I’ll contemplate his beauty;
I’ll study at his feet.
5 That’s the only quiet, secure place
in a noisy world,
The perfect getaway,
far from the buzz of traffic.
9-10 You’ve always been right there for me;
don’t turn your back on me now.
Don’t throw me out, don’t abandon me;
you’ve always kept the door open.
My father and mother walked out and left me,
but God took me in.
11-12 Point me down your highway, God;
direct me along a well-lighted street;
show my enemies whose side you’re on.
Don’t throw me to the dogs,
those liars who are out to get me,
filling the air with their threats 13-14 I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness
in the exuberant earth.
Stay with God!
Take heart. Don’t quit.
I’ll say it again:
Stay with God.
What a great Psalm of confidence in God and a reminder to stay strong in the Lord. Especially in those times when the world come crashing in! We tend to get so caught up in the worldly view of things, we forget who is on our side! Who will bring us out of this present darkness.
As believers, why would we allow present day circumstances to instill fear in our hearts? Instead of playing the fear mongering game and looking like Chicken Little running around shouting “the sky is falling, the sky is falling”, what if we remained calm and confident, knowing that God is on our side and had our back. What if we put all that negative energy into sharing the Love of God? Can you imagine?
This Psalm certainly lets the light shine – no lamp shade here! Read it again and own it. Make it your own. Re-write it in your own words. How would you express your confidence in God, to fellow brothers and sisters or even a non-believer? Perhaps you could take time and write down the times that the world came crashing in and you were afraid and then how that played out.
When my first husband died, leaving me with 3 teenagers to raise, I cried out to God every day – what now, Lord, what how? How am I to live? What am I to do know? I knew God had a plan for me even though it was my darkest hour. God showed me the way. It wasn’t an easy path, but He with walked with me and put people in my path to help me along. I ended up going to college, then on to seminary. I have learned as the Psalmist had learned to stay confident that God has my back and to remain calm in the midst of the storms of life. And even more importantly, that my part, my mission, my ministry in this world is to be a child of God and let His light shine.
Let us pray: Lord, when I feel like I am crumbling, when the world is crashing in, help me to remember this Psalm and realize that I am not alone, but that you walk with me. Grant me the strength and courage, to meet the world head on, as I walk the path you have set before me. Amen.