Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year's Eve Meditation Three


The grace of the Lord Jesus
be with all. Amen.

Revelation 22:21

After all that has taken place before hand--the highs and lows, the goodness and the difficulties, the unity and the conflicts the very last verse in the Bible ends with this gift, God's grace.

Grace is the love and protection that God gives freely to his creation every moment. Of course, those who have gone before us as well as ourselves have done nothing to deserve this generous gift and yet throughout the Biblical lives as well as our own God repeatedly gives a gift that sometimes we aren't able to recognize--grace.

As you look back over this year look specifically for evidence of God's gift of grace. It may have been a great year for you. It may have been a year of discouragement. Or, perhaps your year was without anything significant. Covering it all was God's love and protection--God's grace.

Grace is a gift that will keep on giving in 2009 as well. May you live 2009 with this assurance.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Year's Eve Meditation Two


Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!

Psalm 143:10a

Doing the will of someone is allowing them to have control over either your whole life or at the very least portions of your life. In day to day reality for many of us that poses a tremendous struggle. There's a certain amount of security when we "control" the sequence of our lives, keeping the will of others on the other side of the fence.

Allowing God to teach us his will won't and isn't any less of an inward struggle. Relinquishing ourselves wholly and completely to the unknown seems, well, out of control! And yet, that is exactly what God wants--for us to be out of control in order for him to be in control.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Year's Eve Meditation One


On the day I called,
you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased.

Psalm 138:3

It seems that the days between Christmas and New Year's are days of recovery. Our energies are completely expended not only because of the rush of the season but also the let down. That which was eagerly anticipated is over--family is gone, kids are off, the house is a mess. We're in the in-between, reflecting over the year with no idea what is coming.

In the midst of our weakness God finds something very workable and maleable. His hands begin to work, forming and shaping, readying his creation for the future.

Call out to him today. Your voice will be heard and your soul strengthened.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Don't Be Afraid

Jesus is born!

Change has been a significant part of my life. It is a fact that I have learned to live with and on many levels embrace. Change can be enlivening, like a breath of fresh air. But it is good to also have a few things in one's life that are consistent.

This manger is one that I have had for almost 50 years. I set it up as a child and now my daughter continues the tradition. This year, however, another change took place and our daughter went away to college but she wanted to set up the manger when she came home. Carefully unwrapping each figure she decided where it should be place. While the location of the manger is different in each of our homes I again cherished its familiarity and how year after year it was unchangeable.

It is for me a symbol of the unchangeable character of Jesus. While the world around me spins at the center is this baby, God incarnate, who came that I might have not just life but abundant life. That is his unchangeable gift that lasts no matter the changes that come my way. I have no idea what 2009 will bring!

May you know the unchangeable presence of Jesus this Christmas and throughout this coming year. Thank you for reading my meditative attempts and I pray that God has used them in some way to bring his unchangeable nature into your life.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Seeking the Horizon

Seventeenth Advent Reading

In those days Mary arose
and went with haste into
the hill country…


Luke 1:39

Mary may have been a contemplative at first but when her conversation with Gabriel began sinking in as her “condition” became reality she fled to the only person who would understand. Elizabeth also knew the outcome of a Gabriel visit and for six months she had been living the encounter. No one could have possibly helped Mary understand what lay ahead like Elizabeth.

Difficult times demand empathetic companions. Finding someone who is experiencing or has experienced a similar situation is to discover hope. Knowing that you’re not alone allows a view of the way out where once you saw only barriers.

God promises that with every difficulty he allows, a way out is also on the horizon. Mary wasn’t given her world turning event without someone who could be in the experience with her. After Mary’s three month stay in the hill country Elizabeth gives birth and Mary is once again left alone. But the companionship she shared during those three months must have helped her through the ensuing months of feeling alone and ostracized.

Gabriel was gone and Mary couldn’t prove his visit but she only needed at least one person who could understand. God provided just what she needed when she needed it.

Thank you God for not leaving me helpless
when difficulties come.
Help me to see the horizon
and the help you always provide
.
Amen.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Angelic Visits

Sixteenth Advent Reading

But she was greatly troubled
at the saying, and tried to discern
what sort of greeting this might be.


Luke 1:29

It’s probably safe to say that most of us would think we were delusional if we saw an angel. We don’t expect angelic visits in spite of the fact that we read about them frequently in the Bible. Throughout the Old Testament angels make appearances to all sorts of people. The psalmist assumes angelic presences in Psalm 34:7—“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him…” But, when was the last time you anticipated, expected, looked for an angel?

Now we come to Mary and we assume a great deal. We know that Gabriel gives her assurances, “Don’t be afraid.” But, how often have we considered, “pondered” Mary’s response at the moment Gabriel bursts into her room. While Gabriel later says, “don’t be afraid”, Luke doesn’t record “fear” as Mary’s first response but “discernment.” She doesn’t seem to be all that surprised by Gabriel. Instead, she looks at the encounter reasonably and rationally. It’s not the presence of Gabriel as much as what he says, “O favored one, the Lord is with you” that troubles Mary and gets her thinking.

We can have a tendency to put Mary in the ultimate spiritual category and yet if Jesus is to be accessible to all of us it surely begins with Mary. She was a girl who had learned her lessons well--so much so that Gabriel’s appearance isn’t startling. Instead Mary wonders how her life warrants such a visit.

Are you ready for an angelic visit? The Lord is with you.


Jesus, your coming was a miracle.
But you came using regular,
ordinary means in order for
me know that you are with me.
Thank you, Jesus!
Amen.

Friday, December 19, 2008

God With Us

Fifteenth Advent Reading

Ask a sign of the Lord
your God, let it be
deep as Sheol or high
as heaven.


Isaiah 7:11

Angelic preschoolers standing in two rows sang through their repertoire of music. The audience was enthralled consisting of mostly parents and grandparents. However off key their songs of Christmas it didn’t matter, they were precious in the eyes of those beholding them. I was simply an observer sitting by my now adult “child” who not long ago was living her childhood.

Looking at the sweet, innocent faces singing about the birthday of Jesus I was struck with the realization that in ten, fifteen years the world would look very different. These singing voices might look back and wistfully recall their childhood and “better” days. “Oh God,” I prayed, “let these children live in your future.”

God heard the cries of the Israelites and in his compassion, in his love, he gave them a promise that would allow them to live in his future. A virgin would conceive and bring to birth a son whose name would be “God with us.” This sign would reach the highest heavens and the deepest portions of the earth and with it would be the opportunity of living in God’s future—“Immanuel.”

Jesus, I want to live not only in
the present but in the future with you.
Amen.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Beauty from Ashes

Fourteenth Advent Reading

A terrible fire ravaged the whole building, and when, afterwards, she went back to inspect the remains of her office all she could do was shake her head and be grateful that she had not been in the building at the time. Certainly none of the files of papers had survived.
With one backward glance her eye fell on a tiny blackened vase still standing on the charred remians of her desk. She had a new office now in a different place and was able to move in there instead. Well, little vase, she said, you and me have survived and you shall come with me into my new office.

It stood in the usual place on the corner of her new desk, but when people came in she noticed a difference in their reaction. Before, they woudl say, 'Oh, what a beautiful vase.' Now, since it had been through the fire, they said, 'Oh, what beautiful flowers.'

Celtic Daily Prayers

Whatever hardships you may have experienced this year haven't gone unnoticed by God. He is taking them even now and changing the shreds into a magnificent garment. Whoever you meet will see only the beauty that God has created.

May God's Spirit descend on you today. Blessings.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rejected

Thirteenth Advent Reading

He was despised and rejected…

Isaiah 53:3a

She doesn’t want to have anything to do with Jesus. After all, she went to church the whole time she was growing up and didn’t learn anything so why would she want to sit in a pew now. Her questions are posed such that answers are moot. Her spirit resides behind a granite wall. The path that she walks is paved with her desires, her wants, her choices—her fears. Fear is what keeps her despising and rejecting.

Long before his birth Jesus was destined to be rejected. To have that kind of shadow hanging over one’s existence doesn’t seem very promising or hopeful. The Bethlehem innkeeper was just the beginning of a series of rejections. How does one keep living in the midst of continual rejection?

And now, thousands of years later the rejection continues. It’s painful when those we love reject the One we love. Their rejection becomes the elephant in the room that is squeezed around and avoided. With every conversation there is a limit because the ultimate, deepest part of oneself cannot be shared—a love for Jesus. Conversations start but end quickly as soon as faith pulls up a chair.

But should their rejection be surprising given what is required of a Jesus follower? When Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” he’s asking for a total commitment, a complete handing over of oneself. No wonder those that despise and reject are fearful. Because it means that the shadow of rejection over Jesus could very possibly fall over us as well. Living with rejection is part of the Jesus journey.

Jesus, when those I love reject you,
I feel rejected too.
Help me to love
even when I feel despised.
Amen.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gardens of Justice

Twelfth Advent Reading

The Lord will bring about
justice and praise
in every nation on earth,
like flowers blooming in a garden.

Isaiah 61:11 (CEV)

The government of Iraq has a new slogan, “tourism not terrorism.” They have high hopes. It is perhaps one of the last places most tourists would think of going for a holiday. More than likely, the images streaming through our heads are views of devastation, drought, sand storms and death. And yet, at around 600 BC the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were one of the seven wonders of the world. Even more poignant is the possibility that somewhere in the vicinity of Iraq was the first garden—Eden.

In a world that at times seems hopeless the Iraqi slogan is sobering. Whether they know it or not they are waiting for justice to reign. So much has been lost and memories of recent past are fading so that what remains is the passed down history of the dawn of time where justice, praise and peace were the government.

We like the sound of justice but it is difficult to come by when sinners rule. Adam was gifted with the knowledge of justice but believing the serpent’s lie altered his ability. As a result man’s focus turned inward instead of outward and justice took a back seat.

But there is hope! In the new heaven and new earth of God’s kingdom there will be no other governing power but his justice. Tears will be replaced with laughter, sorrow given over to joy and death turned into life. What was seen as lost will be found and the gardens of the world will bloom once again.


Creator God, let your
justice take control
of my heart, soul and mind, today.
Amen.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Stop Rushing!

Eleventh Advent Reading

Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him…

Psalm 37:7

Everything stopped as a worshipper calmly stepped forward, clicked the wheel on his cigarette lighter and lit an additional candle on the Advent wreath. With baited breath the remaining worshippers watched silently. The pastor said, “Thank you.” But the muttered words of one member spoke the truth, “Well I guess the second Sunday of Advent suddenly turned into the third Sunday.”

In the flurry of events and burgeoning schedules during the Advent/Christmas season it’s not surprising to feel ourselves rushing. Our days go into hyper-drive as we check off our lists that give us a sense of accomplishment. We live one day while thinking ahead to the next or the one after. There is so much to do with little time.

It takes an act of will to stop rushing. Like the worshipper who hadn’t even experienced the second Sunday of Advent before preparing for the third we lose ourselves in the “structures” of the season. Caught up in the structures we miss the quietness of being still, waiting, and meditating on the significance of the season.

Jesus didn’t come to support the commercial or even religious structures of our rushing, frenetic days. The hard, uncomfortable ride to Bethlehem wasn’t a mad dash to the mall. The stable didn’t provide the appropriate Christmas ambience. The feed trough had never seen fine linen or sterling silver. Jesus came simply, lived simply and simply loves all who take time to be still before him.
Jesus, forgive me.
As I have “waited”
for you I have been rushing
through the days
without being still before you.
Help me to stop, be still and wait.
Amen.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Big Miracles

Tenth Advent Reading

She wrapped him in a blanket
and laid him in a manger…


Luke 2:7a

God shows up at the oddest and most unexpected times. Once, at the heart of a difficult time I was the accompanist for a worship service where there were intentional times of silence. All day, in very psalm like fashion, I had been asking God to show up in a powerful, awesome way and perform the spectacular miracle that would end my sea sickness. Now, silently sitting at the piano I again prayed my week’s long big miracle prayer. In the stillness came a quiet voice, “But I came as a baby.”

God’s promised people had waited a long time for the Messiah. Their hopes rested on the big miracle, a Messiah that would rescue them from the tremendous weight of persecution and genocide. When the Messiah came they would be redeemed and reclaim their rightful place as the people of God. Perhaps they anticipated that, despite prophecy concerning a child, the Messiah would just “appear” ready for battle.

But, of course, it wasn’t just the baby that was the issue. When Jesus comes into his ministry his intentions become clear. He is not and will not be a life-rescuer. Instead he is a Messiah that calls people to a life-change. Those waiting for their Messiah rescuer never thought that anything would be required of them personally.

Our circumstances may not change but there will be a big miracle because of the birth of a baby. When we allow ourselves to be changed from the inside out how we live in and experience the difficulties will look different. Instead of being sea sick we’ll be riding the crest of the wave.
God, thank you for showing up with your
big miracle of changing me
from the inside out.
Amen.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Poem for Advent

Ninth Advent Reading

Advent

by W. H. Shaw
(A Poem based on Rev. 22:20)


I am. I was. I will be.I am not coming soon I am here.
I was born on a cold night in a cold place
Unnoticed, unheralded by cold people
Who turned my mother away.
On that night were you listening?
On that night the "least of your brothers" was me.
Now do you see, do you hear and do you care?
I am not coming soon I am here.
In your life do you see me
In the ragged men and women
Who search the cold street
Looking for my reflection in your heart?
Do you hear my voice in
Their muttered plea or in their tear?
I am not coming soon I am here.

Do you hear me when your friend turns to you
To ask forgiveness and trust?
Do I not forgive you always?
Do I not give you a merciful ear?
I am not coming soon I am here.
In this season I was born unto you
Fulfilling the promise of God’s care.
Look for me, listen to me…
I am not coming soon I am here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day Three--Praying the Psalms

Blessed be the Lord,
for he has wondrously shown
his steadfast love to me
when I was in a besieged city.
I had said in my alarm,
I am cut off from your sight.
But you heard the voice of my
pleas for mercy
when I cried to you for help.
Love the Lord, all you his saints!
The Lord preserves the faithful
but abundantly repays the one
who acts in pride.
Be strong, and let your heart
take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord!

Psalm 31:21-24

Monday, November 24, 2008

Praying the Psalms

This week of Thanksgiving I am taking a break from writing. Life has a way of intervening forcing us to stop and take account. Praying the psalms has been a valuable guideline for me throughout my life and most particularly recently as I experience the joys, sorrows and uncertainties of each day. So, this week I will post a psalm for your prayer and know that I will be praying them as well.

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.
The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he grustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
Psalm 33:9-12

Friday, November 21, 2008

Good Company

If the world hates you,
know that it has hated me before
it hated you.

John 15:18

We generally don’t like people mad at us. Confronting people makes us uncomfortable and even though we may know that their behavior or attitude is wrong it is easier to avoid than to confront. Fear of their potential anger overshadows the result of their destructiveness. We hope that by ignoring the problem it will disappear.

During the months of Jesus’ ministry he increasingly experienced attacks against his character. By the third chapter in the gospel of Mark the Pharisees have joined up with their arch enemies in an attempt to destroy Jesus. They hated Jesus and that hatred was their driving force to cunningly plot his demise.

Very few of us are familiar with this level of hatred but perhaps at some level we have endured the heat of someone’s anger. Jesus was hated because he dared to confront sinful behavior. He wasn’t afraid of speaking truth and exposing actions that were performed in the dark.

As followers of Jesus Christ we too are called to confront what we know to be sinful. Whether it be in ourselves, our church, a friend we cannot be afraid to bring into the light what has lived in the dark. Hatred may be our “reward” but our strength lies in the knowledge that we are in the good company of Jesus who endured a hatred that led him to his death but also to his resurrection.

Jesus, forgive me when
I see sinful behavior and allow
it to go unchecked.
I am afraid of the anger and
hatred I might receive.
Help me to be bold in your strength
.
Amen.

Artwork--Crucifixion: Inside View, Igor Ulanovsky, Israel, 1998.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Waiting...Ugh!

I waited patiently for the Lord…

Psalm 40:1

Patience has never been a virtue of mine so it isn’t surprising that it remains the constant lesson in my life. From birth I was apparently eager to get going and not much has changed. I like to see things happen—quickly. So, when confronted with obstacles that slow down my progress instead of seeing them as moments of reprieve and rest I view them as nuisances. But, in my defense I am learning a life-changing lesson. These obstacles are becoming prayer moments.

There’s a reason why the psalms talk frequently of waiting, patience, be still. The psalms know us better than we know ourselves! Rushing from project to appointment we become frustrated, irritated and annoyed that life isn’t as “smooth” as we want it. There are continually obstacles, like the signs held by road workers that force us to stop and wait. Fuming over being stopped doesn’t get us to our destination any faster. Patiently waiting, being still is what allows God’s voice to be heard and in that hearing our spirits are quieted.

Believe me, it’s hard to be still. But there is a greater richness to the quality of life with the obstacles. Without them I would be more apt to forget to take in the surrounding view and more importantly keep a listening ear open to the heart of God.

Jesus, forgive my rushing life.
I want to accept the obstacles
as stop signs that allow me
more time with you.
Amen.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Growth or Death

You were running well.
Who hindered you from
the truth?

Galatians 5:7

Some of the seed that is thrown by the farmer in Jesus’ parable of the sower falls amongst the thorns. The seed begins to grow but soon its life is choked out of it and what began as promise ends in death.

It’s a familiar parable with powerful spiritual implications and hopefully shock value for the Jesus follower. Thorns are everywhere! When we say “yes” to Follow Me nothing can be taken for granted. The growth of our seed rests solely on the attention and awareness we give to it. Jesus later tells of seed that falls on fertile ground. Our course, when asked, we know we all want to be those fertile seeds! But it is important to consider what may be the thorns that hinder us from growth.

Everything that we take into our life has the potential to feed our souls or suck them dry. From books read to friends made to movies seen whatever touches us leaves an imprint. In order to keep running well with Jesus critical decisions will need to be made as to who and what we’re “hanging” with. Growth is impossible when we keep choosing to live with the thorns. Even our doubts don’t have to stop growth. Here again it depends on us; choosing the influences that will feed and nurture our struggling seed will determine whether our soul lives or dies.


Jesus, forgive me for
allowing thorns to grow up
around me. These are what
are hindering me from
running well.
Help me to choose only
that which keeps me healthy in you
.
Amen.


Artwork--Four Soils, James B. Janknegt, 1982-2002

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reading Hosea

Selection from the Celtic Daily Prayer Book

Reading for today Hosea 3:1-3

The prophet Hosea was married to Gomer, whom he loved dearly but who was often unfaithful to him. Out of this experience, Hosea was able to speak to the people about how God feels when they run away from His love, and how He remains faithful.

God made us; and for us to function as intended we should consult the Manufacturer's instructions. Sometimes the handbook is out of reach, but it holds the answers or, at least, the explanation. God's intention for sex was that it be part of the bonding of a permanent relationship: that one body and one spirit go together. When a person gives him or herself to a number of partners that person is joined to each of them; and, as each walks away, that person feels more and more fragmented.

God can heal that fragmentedness and release the bonds of the past. These can be cut right through. His laws are there for our protection.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Praying Intentionally

We all know that praying is important in the life of a Jesus follower. But there always seems to be an elusive quality about it in that we're not sure just "how to do it." Once in conversation with a group of people I discovered that some "prayed" once a day. I was left wondering if they talked to their friends, spouses, family "once a day." A pastor called a congregation to 90 minutes of prayer a day for the purpose of spiritual growth. They found it more than challenging and again I pondered over how much time is spent watching television, reading, exercising. So many of our activities throughout the day are intentionally planned, intentionally executed, intentionally accomplished. Prayer somehow falls through the cracks of our intentionally planned days.

It is perhaps because we think of prayer as only a one way conversation. Most of my friends wouldn't tolerate my friendship for very long if I sat and talked to them for 90 minutes. Our friendship continues and flourishes because we talk with each other in a mutual back and forth conversation. Sometimes talking, sometimes listening makes a rich and satisfying experience.

I took on the challenge of 90 minutes of intentional prayer for the past three weeks. Some days were spent with 30 minutes here, 15 minutes there and so on. Others provided a total immersion into the refreshing waters of prayer. It has been life changing. The intentionality of accepting the challenge kept prayer in front of me throughout my day. My days have become turning off the radio while driving to an appointment and I find I've had a 25 minute conversation. Standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes listening to God's Spirit suddenly 20 more minutes have passed.
The days and hours of intentional prayer have given me life at a time when I felt life waning.

This week I am putting my physical house in order. In the process I am praying that during the physical ordering my conversations with my Father will do some spiritual ordering as well.

Prayer isn't about "how to do it" or even "when" but more along the lines of how much do we desire and long to be in conversation with the One who made us.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Praying Revival for our Church

Here we stand
in total surrender
lifting our voices
abandoned to Your cause.
Here we stand, praying in the glory
of the One and only Jesus Christ the Lord.

This time revival
Lord come and heal our land.
Bring to completion
the work that You've begun.
This time revival
stir up Your church again
pour out Your Spirit
on Your daughters and Your sons!

Here we stand in need of Your mercy
Father forgive us
for the time that we have lost.
Once again make us an army
to conquer this nation
with the message of the cross.

A. Piercy & C. Groves
IQ Music

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Troubles

Even though troubles came down
on me hard, your commands
always gave me delight.

Psalm 119:143

Walking together into Sunday School my companion said, “I don’t know why Job had so many problems. He just got hit with all sorts of stuff and I can’t remember what he did.” “Absolutely nothing.” I replied. Job lived a blameless and upright life. He feared God and avoided evil at all costs. (Job 1:1-2) There was no reason for his trouble except that God gave Satan permission to give a try at tempting Job away from the presence of the Lord. What Job endures as a result of this bargain is pretty grim.

There doesn’t seem to be any “fairness” when it comes to troubles. For some life seems to offer little difficulty while others get far more than their “fair” share. It can be troubling and if you’re like me you may have wondered if God has given permission to Satan in your life as well.

Job can be a source of comfort, however. Through it all God never left Job’s side. God knew how he had made Job and he was confident in his creation. Job’s initial reaction to his troubles is upbeat as he claims God’s “commands.” But, of course, he is human and ultimately slides into despair. Nevertheless those “commands” had become an integral part of his soul. They carried him through the darkest moments to the point on the other side when Job with confidence is able to say, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)

Present God, troubles have
come down on me hard.
Don’t take them away, but
reawaken in me the truths
of your commands so that
I can find joy in the sorrow.
Amen.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

No Napping

Keep a cool head. Stay alert.
The Devil is poised to pounce,
and would like nothing better
than to catch you napping.

I Peter 5:8 (The Message)

My first encounter with evil happened in a church. It wasn’t a surprise then, a few years later, that I again experienced evil while doing “ministry.” Calling out the name of Jesus to shine and expose the penetrating evil I was relieved of its suffocating presence. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t look for evil behind every bush, but I definitely don’t take the presence of evil for granted.

The first miracle in the gospel of Mark finds Jesus in the synagogue when a demon possessed man accosts him. Jesus doesn’t seem to be surprised. Perhaps the scribes and Pharisees knew that evil had invaded their holy place, but they had done nothing. It had been easier to live with the elephant than to get rid of it.

Talking about the Devil isn’t politically correct. Talking about God is because it’s comforting. But here’s the truth, as sure as there is a God, there is a Devil. He doesn’t possess any power over God but in a day he accomplishes scads of mischief, especially amongst Jesus followers. There’s no reason for the Devil to work “out there” in the culture, he’s already got that pretty much in tow. The last remaining place to conquer is wherever Jesus followers gather. If he can destroy a body of believers he calls it a day.

Jesus followers, wake up! We’ve been napping too long. Christianity has become an anathema in our culture because we have denied knowing that there is a Devil poised to pounce. Be aware! He works where you least expect him.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit
I praise you Three for the power
you have over the Devil.
Let me never assume his
demise but be ever vigilant
about his whereabouts.
Expose his presence with your light.
Amen.


Artwork--Liberation from Demonic Power, Salomon Raj, India, contemporary. Asian Christian Art Association

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Prayer Fitting

…pray without ceasing.

I Thessalonians 5:17

A few years ago I heard of a church member complaining that too much time was spent praying and studying the Bible during the board of deacons meetings at their church. Because of this spiritual indulgence not enough business got done. It was a sad exposure of what perhaps many more Christians believe—prayer should be done on the fly, used as an opening and closing or perhaps, if not convenient, eliminated altogether.

We know that we should pray. Niggling doubts, however, cause us to disbelieve that it has any affect on our lives or the believing community we call church. Jesus believed in prayer and he committed time to it. And Jesus didn’t have lots of spare time! If we read the gospels with any openness we see that Jesus had a packed schedule with numerous interruptions! Yet repeatedly there is a solid connection between the time Jesus spends in prayer and the affect of his ministry. In choosing deliberate, intentional times of prayer (Mark 1:35) miracles happened. Jesus didn’t just fit prayer into his “schedule.” His life fit into intentionally “scheduled” God conversations.

No wonder Paul carries this encouraging message to the Thessalonians. As new believers they needed the assurance that their conversations with God the Father would be as powerful and life changing as those of Jesus. Prayer can’t be a by-product of our lives, it must be the genuine product. It’s the real article that makes us Jesus followers, allowing us to see miracles.

Without prayer we are merely tailings.

Jesus, forgive me
when I “fit” conversations with you
into my schedule.
I want to make my days
fit into a life of prayer.
Help me become the
genuine product of praying without ceasing.

Amen.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Prayer of Hope

For whoever believes
in the power
of the blood of Jesus,
nothing is impossible!

The Lord shall surely
perfect that thing,
that thing
which concerneth thee.

To whoever believes
in the power
of the blood
of the Crucified Lamb,
nothing shall be called impossible!

Blessed be the Lamb
that was slain before
the foundation of the world.

Celtic Daily Prayer Book

Friday, November 7, 2008

God's Evidence

Blessed be the Lord,
who daily bears us up;
God is our salvation.


Psalm 68:19

There’s nothing like good, long time friends. Those friends who have known you for years and while months may go by the minute you hear their voice you’re off in vibrant conversation. Talk flows smoothly and readily. The immeasurable value of these friends is the ability to remind you, by their presence in your life, of who you were, where you have been and where you’re standing today. They are God’s evidence.

The psalms are perfect guidelines for prayer. They give us permission to rant, to bless, to praise, to be depressed, to curse, to glorify, to thank. And, they always bring us back to Who.

Even when we’re in the middle of the muck we usually don’t forget God. No, in fact more than likely he is very much in the center of our thinking—either for blame, doubting or hopefully, if we are able to embrace the moment, praising. But, as the psalms illustrate, he’s strong enough to take it all. Whether we acknowledge it or not, every day we are given is an opportunity for God to carry us to where he eventually wants us to be.

Back to those valued friends. If we allow them, they bear God’s evidence that we have been carried forward through whatever storms have slammed us. Acknowledging who we were and who we are now, they are God’s evidence that he provides what is needed in order to daily bear us up.


Generous God, thank you for friends.
It is through friends that I can
see you never forget me.
Their encouragement, their support
is your evidence that you daily
bear me up.
You are my salvation.
Amen.


Artwork--Ruth and Naomi, Phillip Ratner, 1998. The Safad Bible, Israel Bible Museum.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Go to Ninevah

But Jonah got up and went
the other direction to Tarshish,
running away from God.

Jonah 1:3 (The Message)

I can remember exactly which road I was driving when I uttered-- “Lord, I want to really know what it means for you to live in me and me in you.” At the time I thought it a prayer of honesty and perhaps a point of discussion with God. He apparently took me at my word because since that day there have been more times than I can count that I have wanted to do a Jonah—get up and go in the other direction.

Jonah wasn’t ignorant of what God was asking him to do. He knew Ninevah and that his physical end might well be at the hand of the Ninevites if he came with God’s “message.” To follow God’s message to live in him was, in Jonah’s mind, much more than he could deliver. Ultimately, he valued his life more than anything.

When God lives in us complete control over our lives is lost. And, we can plan on unexpected “surprises” that ultimately will draw us further up and further in to the Kingdom of God. Of course, “surprises” is a euphemism for hardships. Ninevah was a hardship for Jonah but he wasn’t in control of the ending.

Many years later I realize that God has answered my prayer. In the beginning I fought my Ninevahs because, like Jonah, they were too difficult, too risky, too challenging, too dangerous. I never got to Tarshish, either. And when I finally reached my Ninevahs they usually turned out much better than expected.

I hear your voice calling, God.
Help me to not run away in fear.
My desire is to move in the direction
of each Ninevah you send my way.

Amen.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Prayers

Pray especially for rulers
and their governments
to rule well…

I Timothy 2:2

No matter the election outcome we must remember to pray. This will be, for some, a monumental task because of the extreme emotions that attach themselves to elections. There will be those who with one result will think that God has left us. With another, others will be convinced that God is protecting us from certain doom. Paul, however, isn’t talking about prayer for God to be on one side or another. Throughout the Bible we are instructed to obey the rulers that are in place and pray, pray, pray.

With these words Paul urges Timothy to keep focused on his calling. It’s not a question whether we agree with the politics of the time or the person. More than likely there will be one election or another that we oppose. No, the business we are to be about as followers of Jesus Christ is prayer, believing that God is in control no matter the elected official. If we truly believe that the God we follow sees all, knows all, and controls all then we are relieved of our fussing over political figures because all our fussing does is distract us from our primary calling, prayer.

If you agree with the outcome, pray for God’s wisdom to saturate the core of their being. If you disagree pray the same prayer. Our pastors, our senators, our representatives, our presidents, whoever is in leadership or authority over us need our prayers. But our prayers should be about calling upon God’s wisdom, God’s direction, God’s knowledge and not begging God for change. Whatever the circumstances it may be that God wants us to change. This is the prayer that we should pray. God, how do you want me to live, what are you requiring of me for such a time as this?

This is the way our Savior God wants us to live. (I Timothy 2:3 The Message)

All knowing God bring your
wisdom to those in leadership.
Open their eyes to your vision
of how you want the world to be.
Help us to be Your peace
in the midst of the chaos.
Show us how to live at such
a time as this!
Amen.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Speak Up!

Don’t be bluffed into silence by
the threats of bullies.
There’s nothing they can do
to your soul…Save your fear for God,
who holds your entire life

—body and soul—in his hands.

Matthew 10:28 (The Message)

Chinese Christian, Brother Yun is a man well acquainted with bullies. As part of the growing house church movement in China for over forty years, he has been beaten within an inch of his life numerous times and suffered persecution beyond what any healthy mind could imagine. He has never, however, allowed the bullies to silence him.

Inside and outside the church there are an abundance of bullies. Unfortunately, there are even more who have been bullied into silence. Seeing injustice and mistreatment the silent ones turn their heads away hoping that it will go away, afraid that if they speak up and take action they’ll lose friends, lose their position or just plain lose the fight. As a result, people get beaten up and destroyed because the silent ones are more afraid of the bullies than of God.

Power and control at various levels are what bullies seek. But, as Jesus followers we know that there is only One who has complete power and control. This is the One whom we should fear the most—the One who truly holds our entire life in his hands. Wherever we encounter bullies or see others bullied we cannot be afraid to speak the gospel truth. The harm the bullies inflict is detrimental and destructive but their effects are mild compared to God’s response if we don’t speak the gospel truth in boldness and love.

Silence only affirms the bullies attitudes and speaks nothing about who we are to be in Christ. Don’t affirm the bullies! Speak the gospel truth today.

Jesus, you never allowed
the bullies to silence you.
When you saw shameful actions,
heard damaging words,
and witnessed abuse you spoke boldly
about who God wants us to be.
Help me, Jesus to no longer be
silent but to boldly speak your gospel truth.

Amen.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Heavenly Man

Below is an excerpt from the book The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun. It has been a recent read and one that has convicted, inspired as well as humbled me!


You can never really know the Scriptures until you're willing to be changed by them. All genuine revivals of the Lord result in believers responding with action and soul winning. When God truly moves in your heart you cannot be silent. There will be a fire in your bones, like Jeremiah, who said, "His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot." Jeremiah 20:9

Furthermore, it's only when we step out in obedience and share the gospel with people that we come to know God's blessing in every area of our lives. That is why the Apostle Paul wrote to his co-worker Philemon, "I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ." Philemon verse 6.

I've seen people in Western churches worshipping as if they're already in heaven. Then someone invariably brings a comforting message like, "My children, I love you. Don't be afraid, I'm with you." I'm not opposed to such words, but why is it that nobody seems to hear a Word from the Lord like, "My child, I want to send you to the slums of Asia or the darkness of Africa to be my messenger to people dying in their sin?"

Friday, October 31, 2008

Cleaning Drawers

What you’re after is truth
from the inside out.
Enter me, then,
conceive a new, true life.

Psalm 51:6 (The Message)

Jack Rogers, a Presbyterian pastor, once gave an illustration of the difference between Luther’s reformation and that of John Calvin. The two reformations, said Rev. Rogers resemble the cleaning out of a dresser drawer. In Luther’s reformation he pulled out the drawer, took out only those parts of the Catholic tradition that he believed were detrimental. John Calvin, on the other hand, pulled out the drawer, dumped everything out on the bed and put back into the drawer only what he believed was good for the life the church.

There’s no leaning here towards one denomination or another! Instead this delightful comparison also represents what God wants to do in our lives. We are that dresser drawer. When God pulls it out to take a look it may be that the accumulated junk inside prevents anyone from seeing who we truly are as Jesus followers. But, God is looking for that which speaks of the complete person. Through difficulties, hardships, downturns and disappointments our drawer contents are dumped out in order to find what has been lost—truth about who we are in Christ.

The best part of this analogy is that God never leaves our drawer empty once he’s done his reforming. Having cleaned it thoroughly, he puts back only that which pleases him and will bring him glory. With this “reformation” there are no fears of being discovered a fraud. What people see is exactly what they will get—a person whose identity is in the truth of God’s love.

Open me up Lord!
Clean out my life’s drawer
so that whoever sees me
will know the truth of
your amazing love.
Amen.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Staring Down Sin

For I know
my transgressions,
and my sin is ever

before me.

Psalm 51:3

Growing up I heard fantastic “personal” testimonies. Whenever there was an evangelistic service planned for our youth group or church there would always be a speaker who enthralled us with the depth of their plunge into the sin pit. My life seemed utterly boring by comparison. I loved hearing how God had reached down and pulled them out. Somehow it gave more meaning to my understanding of being “saved.” I loved Jesus, but I hadn’t really done anything which to be been “saved” from! At least that is what I thought.

In order to confess one’s sins recognition of sin is necessary. And it’s this snag that continually trips the Jesus follower. For those individuals who live a “good” life it becomes particularly challenging. When we’re told to “confess our sins” what exactly do we confess?

It’s easy to focus only on the sin biggies when faced with confession. We can easily sidestep the practice because we’ve successfully avoided them. But if we are honest with ourselves and read the Bible carefully, we discover that the biggies aren’t mentioned nearly as often as those things we don’t always consider “sin”—bad tempers, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk and lying (Colossians 3:8-9a). Any one of these “sins” we can find an excuse for that seems plausible. But, unfortunately there are no excuses available for these or any sin.

When faced with sin on this level there is no escaping confession. Whether they are conscious or unconscious sins, confession is our opportunity to admit, Yes! my sin IS ever before me.

Generous in love—God, give grace!
Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been;
my sins are staring me down.
Amen.
(Psalm 51:1-2 The Message)


Artwork--No Man's Land, Jankel Adler, 1943, Tate Gallery.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Prayer for Cleansing

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
Psalm 51:2

Loving God, who sees and knows all, even those things that I think I have safely hidden away, forgive me. I need your confronting hand to show me behaviors, speech and life choices that fall painfully short of what you want from me. It is only in your confronting that I see how I am living versus how you want me to live.

The world today is so angry and mean. People fear losing everything they have gained and in their fear lash out. In their meanness they say and do things they perhaps never thought possible. I discover that too often instead of being a light in the midst of this darkness I am infected by their spirits of anger and fear. My response is to do in kind as I have received. Forgive me, God! Help me to not succumb to these dark spirits!

Let me see the joy of my salvation and know again the pleasure of living in your presence. Pour your cleansing water, like a flood, over me and with the pouring I pray all that stubbornly clings to me would be washed away.

I pray for your shield to protect me from all that seeks to co-op me!Let my words be your sweet honey to all with whom I speak. Let my actions reflect the love you give to me daily. I am your creation. In your washing restore me to the beauty you originally intended.
Amen.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Help Yourself...Not!

Have mercy on me, O God…

Psalm 51:1a

There are those who pretty much live out their “Christian” life in this way—God helps those who help themselves. It is difficult for them to connect that the God who gave them life also wants to live and help them, daily.

God is intimately acquainted with us. For us, however, to be intimately acquainted with God takes humility. The, God helps those who help themselves, approach doesn’t allow room for much humility. The emphasis is pretty much on the individual will power of “me.”

Humility is the defining characteristic of an unpretentious and modest person, someone who does not think that he or she is better or more important than others (wikipedia.org). Here’s the attitude of a Jesus follower coming to confession. When we ask God to have mercy on us it is the first step in acknowledging that our lives are nothing without God’s presence and the first step towards repentance. True confession, honest repentance cannot begin without first stepping towards humility and asking for God’s mercy.

“Helping ourselves” isn’t the Jesus way. God didn’t create us so that we could “go it alone” or “make our own way.” In asking for God’s mercy we identify him as the artist, welcoming him into the painting of our lives. Here is evidence of his gift of free will. God wants to keep on painting! It is at the point of our saying, have mercy on me, O God that humility overtakes our pretentions and he can continue.

Repentance has just begun.

Have mercy on me, O God.
I cannot help myself and my life
is nothing without you.
Amen.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thoughts on Confession

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10


It may be that "confession is good for the soul" but it is definitely one of the most difficult disciplines of a Jesus follower. And yet, it is perhaps the number one requirement when it comes to living a life with Jesus. In Mark we see that John the Baptizer preached a message of baptism and repentance which resulted in life change. We like the thought of baptism, that implies being clean and belonging, but repenting becomes a painful thought, one to be avoided. We don't like what it will take or what it will demand.

I've been thinking recently about confession after having it as an assigned topic for a Sunday School class. It definitely wasn't a subject I wanted to address because of what it required--allowing God to confront my sin! But then, after reading an article about the increasing number of web sites that offer "anonymous online confession" and the number of "hits" they were receiving it would appear that as individuals, as a church, as a culture we are in desperate need of God's confronting.

The reason why true confession and repentance is so difficult is because of what it requires--standing before God, silent, listening to what he has to say about what he sees and knows isn't right. We don't like to confront each other, much less be confronted! Consequently being confronted by our Creator is particularly intimidating.

We know we sin. Sin is anything that goes against what God wants. The problems rise when we put a "value" on sin. Surely "criticizing" our church leaders isn't nearly as "sinful" as murder. Passing along information that isn't yours to pass--well, come on now, "gossip" can't possibly be held to the same standard as breaking one's marriage vows!

We can find any number of excuses for our sin. But whether it be slandering someone we don't like or murdering them it is the same in God's eyes. Sin is sin. He just doesn't see the same distinctions that we do.

If, as Jesus followers, we want to experience growth in our lives and health in our churches it will require our willingness to hear God's confronting voice. We will be surprised at what he points to because it will be those things that we thought innocuous, those little "sins" that we did in "love" or thought didn't really hurt anyone.

Little or big, it doesn't matter, sin destroys. God, however, begins the restoration process when humbly we fall on our faces praying,
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Untying Knots

When he was alone
with his disciples,
he went over everything,
sorting out the tangles,
untying the knots.

Mark 4:34

My husband can sort out tangles. Early in our relationship I discovered this ability when I found him with a coed’s tangled mess of necklaces on a table before him. Although sometimes it took longer than others his patience always paid off because he never failed to unravel the knots. He was the “go to” guy for sorting out tangles.

Getting into a knot seems to be much easier than getting out of one. Like discovering a tangled pile of necklaces the life decisions that we make can suddenly creep up on us. The harder we try to detangle ourselves the more tightly knotted we become. We desperately need a patient hand to sort out our tangles.

During his ministry travels Jesus saw a lot of tangled, knotted up people. For some their knots were of their own making. For others their tangles came about due to illness, cultural estrangements or political decisions. But all of them needed the patient hand of Jesus to sort them out and he never failed to unravel every single knot. There were those, like the Pharisees, who in their panic knotted themselves even further, but for those who wanted to be un-tangled Jesus spoke, “Your sins are forgiven.”

It doesn’t matter what our spiritual or emotional condition may be. And, whatever the reason for our knots existence we first have to stop frantically running around trying to untie them. Our efforts alone only make them tighter. It’s time spent with Jesus that ultimately brings our tangled mess to unraveled beauty.

Jesus, time spent with you
makes things far less complicated and tangled.
Help me to remember that
whatever the situation your
hand alone will straighten it out
.
Amen.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Soul Windows

Let all bitterness and wrath
and anger and clamor and
slander be put away from you.


Ephesians 4:31

Eyes are the windows to the soul. Whether one likes it or not, what lives in the depths is revealed. The next time you sit in an airport or wherever a large “study” of people is available look at their eyes, you may be shocked at what you see. In my own observations I’ve seen plenty of fearful eyes, bitter eyes, empty eyes, angry eyes. In between there have been those eyes whose deep pools have brought me refreshment.

Whatever we’ve set up house for in our souls, whether anger or bitterness, peace or joy, will ultimately find its way out the door of our eyes as well as our mouths. God created us as a living being whose physical, emotional and spiritual lives is intricately connected. It is impossible to keep hidden whatever we take in on a regular basis. It’s like overeating! Eventually we don’t need the scale because the results are evident in the mirror.

While Jesus was surrounded by Pharisees angry about how he was upsetting their traditions he never succumbed, even to the point of his death, to their soul dwellers. Here in Ephesians Paul reminds us of this truth. To be a follower of Jesus we have to evict from our souls those emotions that make our eyes and mouths distasteful to see and hear.

Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and slander abound today even among Christians. But, as Jesus followers, we can’t succumb to these. We have the message of the Kingdom! A “world” difference will come about when that Message is the only resident in our souls. Then our eyes will shine!

Jesus, forgive me for allowing
anger, bitterness, anxiousness
and slander to set up residences.
You brought the message of the Kingdom--
bringing joy, promise, hope and love.
Help me to evict the others and move
in only your Kingdom message.
Amen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Food for Thought

Man can control all kinds of things, but the tongue may be the hardest of all. Once a word is out of our mouth, it is hard to call it back. Regret will not achieve this.

God's rulings are not negotiable, either. When we ignore them we hurt ourselves and usually others as well. When we see the damage we cause them we are aware of our sin, and rightly are frightened of God. His forgiveness frees us, but if we become sensitized to His approval, and ask for the sense of the "fear of the Lord" this can help us begin to know wisdom, and guard our tongue.

The man who never minces his words is responsible for a lot of indigestion.

Hugh Redwood

Today on I am on the road traveling and praying. May each of you know the presence of God today allowing the words he gives you to flow from your mouth. Blessings.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Powerful Words

Jesus shut him up:
“Quiet! Get out of him!”

Mark 1:25 (The Message)

It shouldn’t be considered circumstantial that the first healing told in the gospel of Mark is Jesus expelling a demon. Having arrived in Capernaum Jesus heads immediately to the synagogue and begins teaching. Right there smack in the middle of the synagogue, where many were gathered for the Sabbath, the first declaration of Jesus’ identity, other than John the Baptist, comes from a demon. The encounter sets the stage for the drama that will increasingly unfold as Jesus begins his ministry. Repeatedly the demons recognize the power of a Jesus spoken word.

Most of us have gone through varying degrees of difficulties. Just as soon as I begin to set a table for one pity party a “perspective” story comes my way. It’s a story of someone else’s difficulties that far outweigh my own and I’m slapped with the reality of my “troubles.” The problem with my pity party is that I shouldn’t have had it in the first place. Jesus doesn’t want to be a guest at a pity party. He wants to heal from the inside out.

The words of authority that Jesus uses on the troubled man in the synagogue are the same he wants to say to us. When we find ourselves with issues that “drive us insane”, problems that “torment us”, or worries that “plague us” the authority of Jesus speaks into the tumult, “Quiet! Get out of her.” They alone are the words that will drive out the “demons”, heal us from the inside out, bringing us real peace.

Jesus, thank you that your
authority surpasses any issue,
problem or worry that troubles me.
Speak your healing words, “Quiet! Get out of her!”
bringing me healing from the inside out.
Amen.
Artwork--Man with the Unclean Spirit, Ian Pollack, EICH Gallery

Monday, October 20, 2008

Prayer Wrestling

And Jacob was left alone.
And a man wrestled
with him until the
breaking of the day.

Genesis 32:24

A personality type exists that is relentless. They will convince, coerce, cajole, in order to get what they want. Parents of children with this personality type can be worn down, employers can become frustrated, spouses irritated. But, there is a flip side as well. The “positive” of this “negative” is one who possesses a determination to succeed, leadership skills and an unusual ability to stay focused on the goal.

Jacob was a man who demonstrated this personality. At an early age he tricked his father, cheated his brother and turned the tables on his father-in-law Laban. He made a number of people angry. On top of everything Jacob now takes on God! He’s one gutsy guy! But, here is where his negative became a positive.

While Jacob’s life is full of perfect illustrations of how NOT to live the scene that unfolds for us in this chapter of Genesis is one of a man prayer wrestling. Much like his blessing from his earthly father, Isaac, Jacob is determined to get what he wants—God’s blessing. And, his ability to stay focused on the goal leads him to a full night of wrestling with God, even getting a permanent injury as a result.

Prayer wrestling—it’s something to think about. When we pray are we intentional and focused about our goals in prayer? Are we willing to “stay up all night” wrestling with the only One who can make a difference? Next time you pray think about Jacob. His prayer method got him what he wanted in the end!

God of blessings, thank you
for your strength.
Help me to not be afraid
to spend time wrestling with you.
Amen.
Artwork--Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, Eugene Delacroix, 1854-61.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Open the Door

I stand by the door.
I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out,
the door is the most important door in the world--
it is the door through which folk
walk when they find God.
There's no use my going way
inside and staying there,
when so many are still outside,
and they, as much as I,
crave to know where the door is.

Samuel Moor Shoemaker

People often find safety within the confines of their church community. Even if they have a life "out there" that's exactly where it stays "out there." Afraid to allow their various worlds to combine they keep separated their "spiritual" life from their "worldly" one. One "world" consequently knows very little about the other.

If God isn't ashamed to call us his own, why are we relunctant to claim that relationship when it comes to our "worldly" friends? At such a time as this, we can't afford to go where it is safe and close the door behind us. Standing in the doorway, as Shoemaker describes, is keeping open to whatever opportunity might arise to open the door to the kingdom to whoever passes by.

May you see today the opportunities that God brings your way.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hear Him Speak

“My presence will
go with you,
and I will give you rest.”

Exodus 33:14

Moses had taken on a responsibility that he had not sought out. Picked by God from his birth for a destiny he never imagined Moses knew first hand the range of emotions and experiences that exist when living God’s plan. Initially there had been heart stopping, God-glory moments when he and the other Israelites had first escaped Egypt. But as the days and weeks passed the unending desert vistas began to take their toll. Now Moses, chosen by God for a task which seemed to highlight his inadequacies, heard daily thousands of voices whining and complaining. Where was the burning bush God when you needed him?

So, once again Moses has a conversation with God, doing his own bit of whining and complaining and in the middle of Moses’ “furthermores” God assures him of his presence. It isn’t a promise of rescue from the difficulties or a commitment to making it all better, simply a promise that God’s presence is in the desert.

Despite all that Moses had seen of God’s glory in the desert when times got really tough he needed assurance that God would be there. And God delivers yet again giving Moses a God-glory encounter like he has never experienced (Exodus 33:21-23).

This same God goes with us every day, even when we feel he his distant. In fact, it is perhaps in our desperate times that we hear his voice most keenly because in our questioning and our desire to know we listen more intently

Hear him speaking today, “My presence will go with you…”

Even when I don’t “feel” You, Father,
You are with me.
When my day is dry I need You to
lead me to water.
Tired from the turmoil of life
I want to hear Your words,
“I will give you rest.”
Amen.

Artwork--In the Wilderness of Sinai, Igor Ulanovsky, Israel, 1998.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Reading Blueprints

Unless the Lord builds
the house, those who
build it labor in vain.

Psalm 127:1

Passing a construction site recently I wondered at its beginnings. A visionary stands in an open field seeing houses, a business park, a playground, a hospital. Unseen by those passing by are detailed blueprints, environmental reports, contracts made with various building “specialties.” What is seen are crawling, snaggle toothed yellow machines digging, scraping, preparing the land for what will eventually rise out of the empty landscape. At the center of the entire project is an individual who conducts and orchestrates. Success depends on no one working independently from the one who knows how it will all come together.

The natural progression of this illustration is in understanding that God is both visionary and orchestrator in our lives. And yet, more often than not we build our lives without “reading” his blueprints. We may think we’re doing and being exactly what a “good” Christian should be about and yet we find ourselves disconnected and dissatisfied. The curb appeal of what we’ve built with our lives may look great but if someone stopped to take a closer look…well, God’s blueprints are stuffed in the back closet.

Whether it be in our personal lives, the life of a congregation or family when we build according to our own blueprints we won’t find contentment. Volunteer of the year, best mom, best dad, superb deacon or elder, amazing Sunday School teacher, inspiring sermons—it is all a vain exercise if not done as a result of following God’s blueprint.

Learning how to read blueprints takes time and patience. How much time do you take to learn how to “read” God’s blueprints for your life?

Jesus, I admit that too often
I live by my own plans
and desires of how I want
people to see me.
Forgive me, Jesus. Teach me
how to read your blueprints in order
to see the vision you have for me.
Amen.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Food for Thought

Recently I came across this quote by George Eliot. It resonates with me on a number of different levels.

It describes the relationship we can have with our
heavenly Father
or a relationship with a treasured friend.

It describes the relationship that Jesus followers
should ultimately have with each other as a result
of the "breath of kindness" God extends to them.

Lord, let it be so. Amen.

Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.

George Eliot

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Child's View

…I say to you,
whoever does
not receive the

kingdom of God,
like a child

shall not enter it.

Mark 10:15

We were locked out of the house! Tears puddling in her eyes my small niece looked up at me, “Aunt Val, how are we going to get back in?” Taking her in my arms I asked her, “Do you trust me to take good care of you and find a way back in the house?” Nodding her head and griping my outstretched hand we walked away from the locked door and towards a plan of action. She never asked again how I would accomplish my task. Instead she went about her play confident that I would do what I had promised. In time, the door would open because I had given my word.

A child’s faith is inspiring. No wonder Jesus used it as a point of reference for spiritual maturity. Children have the uncanny ability to believe and accept what they cannot understand. Somewhere along the line we lose the gift and believing becomes insurmountable. With every downturn comes a litany of questions—why did it happen, how will we survive, when will we see a turnaround.

It is not a child’s level of intelligence that Jesus uses as an illustration of how to live in the Kingdom. Being ignorant or na├»ve isn’t a Jesus follower requirement. Instead it is a quality of believing that in spite of not knowing how or why, when God promises that he will “deliver them (us) out of all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17b) we look into his face, grip his hand and put our complete trust in him.

Jesus, I have outgrown
“childish” things
but help me to never
outgrow the spiritual gift
of a “childish” trust in You
.
Amen.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Change

“Time’s up!
God’s kingdom is here.
Change your life

and believe the Message.”

Mark 1:15 (The Message)

“Vote for change” are familiar words these days. In a world that changes faster than our ability to keep up we keep looking for the “change” that will make everything better. Whether it’s a “change” that takes us back to some point where we felt comfortable or “change” that takes us out of our discomfort we want to keep things within our comfort zone.

But, change shouldn’t happen just for the sake of changing. What Jesus wants isn’t change just for change sake. When Jesus preaches about the good news that God’s Kingdom is here he’s talking about a change with one goal in mind—life itself.

When Peter and Andrew, James and John leave the only life they know to follow Jesus they chose a new life. Their choice of change brought financial instability not only to themselves but to those who depended on them. What went through their minds as they changed their lives no one will ever know. But through the gospels we see that their change choice radically altered their lives and ultimately has changed the course of millions of lives. It was a change for growth and life in God’s kingdom.

When we follow Jesus we must be ready for life-change. The disciples were on the move with Jesus, the message of the Kingdom was the constant, but life lived was always growing. To grow in Christ requires a “vote for change” to live life in God’s Kingdom. It guarantees a life richer and much more fulfilling.


Jesus, change is not very comfortable.
By choosing your Kingdom life I know
that my life cannot stay the same.
A vote for change means allowing
you to do with me what you will.
As uncertain as it is, I choose
life in your Kingdom.
Amen.

Artwork--Sermon on the Mount, Fra Angelico, Museo Di San marco Dell'Angelico, Florence.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Small Morsels

I'm traveling these days and spending time with people who love me. It is a good time to meditate on small morsels, chewing them and discovering the complexity of meaning and the depth of truth. Here's what I'm praying and meditating on today--

I will run in the way of your commandments
when you enlarge my heart!
Psalm 119:32
If my heart is enlarged I'll not have time to hold back, nor will I carry things that hamper my progress.

From Celtic Prayer Book
Questions for meditation today.
What creates an enlarged heart?
How do I avoid carrying "things" that prevent me from passionately pursuing God's way?
What do I need to put aside, no strings attached, to live completely and unashamedly in the presence of God?

Blessings.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Safe

While driving across the western landscape of New Mexico I had ample time to pray, listen and meditate. During the three plus hours I had before arriving at my destination I listened to one CD--Eden's Bridge, Celtic Worship. Given the surrounding and the music it was an amazing worship experience.

Times have been difficult for many leaving them feelings lost and alone. This song was one that provided much to meditate on. The Shepherd never sleeps until he has brought all his sheep into the shadow of his hand. Blessings!

Lost in a little room
One with whitened-out windows where no one goes
Lost in an empty space
Where no one else can reach me or hear me cry
But the Shepherd never sleeps
Nor leaves off searching for His sheep
So how can I be afraid?
For You will find my heart again
You can warm my fears away
And I won't be alone
For You will bring me home again
Safe into the shadow of Your hand


I was an only one
Separate and different and so aware
That I was a lonely one
Without a friend to call me to say "Hi"
But the Shepherd knows His sheep
He alone will meet their needs
So how can I be afraid?
For You laid down your life for me
You became the living door
And I won't be alone
I can hear You calling me
Safe into the shadow of Your hand


Here, there is life for me
Life in such abundance from You
Here, there is sanctuary
And entering through you I find Your peace
For the Shepherd knows his sheep
His is the only voice they heed
So how can I be afraid?
Now that You have found my heart again
You who've warmed my fears away
And I won't be alone
Now that You have brought me home again
Safe into the shadow of Your hand

Shadow of Your Hand by Eden's Bridge--Celtic Worship CD




Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Unbound

"Unbind him,
and let him go.”


John 11:44c

Jesus didn’t just give life to dead Lazarus. Before Lazarus could live he had to first be unbound. True freedom came when, unbound by the restraints, Lazarus could move every joint, every muscle, every limb. Until then, he couldn’t get out and live his new life.

I once heard a preacher talk on living the resurrected life. Using this chapter from John he encouraged his listeners to live out the Lazarus story believing that Jesus could do the same in their lives. They may have been beaten down, trampled on, discouraged, feeling like death itself, but Jesus could speak into their “dead” lives “Lazarus, come out.”

I needed to hear this good word. But Jesus’ final words are what hit home. Absolutely! Living the resurrected life is available if we believe, but there’s a key essential that must happen to fully enjoy it. Jesus has to unbind all the straps that keep us bound up.

These straps could be a variety of different things and they change depending on the context. In a congregation it may be certain events, structures or traditions that bind up the resurrected life. Individually it may be attitudes, desires or fears that keep one tied up unable to live the new life.

Whatever the straps, Jesus says, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Yes, He wants all his followers to live a resurrected life, unbound by anything that keeps things status quo. Because you see, living a resurrected life is to live a new life.

Jesus, thank you for the
gift of a resurrected life.
Help me to live in that new life
by allowing you to speak the words,
“Unbind him, and let him go.”
Amen.
Artwork--The Raising of Lazarus, Alfred Leslie, 1975. Bayly Art Museum, University of Virginia