Tuesday, September 30, 2008

God's Life

Below is a short devotional that I gave to group of Jesus followers recently. It's a little longer than the usual devotional posts!

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.

Romans 12:1-2a (The Message)

One evening I was invited to dinner at the home of a retired architect and his wife. I was looking forward to it because I had heard about his unique home. When I walked in it was evident he had a particular style.

As we walked around the rooms with him showing how he had put everything together including an enormous billiards table in the middle of the living room I began to be aware that his initial design had not changed one iota from the time he initially put it all together. He had even designed his environment without consideration of his wife—no dishwasher resided in the kitchen because “it didn’t work with my design.” I asked him, “Do you ever change anything around?” “Never. When I put something down, it stays there,” he replied.

My friend was so well adjusted to his culture that there were no allowances for anything "new" whether it be a new arrangement of his furniture, a gift received from a friend or giving his wife her wish of a dishwasher.

As Jesus followers we can’t take anything for granted or become too settled in our “created” environments. Nothing in our lives is too mundane or unimportant for God to take an interest in and want control of. Trying to achieve a sense of security we, like my friend, set up our inner houses in a way that we find comfortable. We like it the way it is. But God wants all our brick a brac, our collections of whatever is important to us, people, events, the stuff of our lives that we cling to as sacred. He doesn’t, however, promise to keep the arrangement of things the same.

There is risk in not being well-adjusted! When we fix our attention on God or in other words open the front door and take him on a tour it may be that he wants to move around the furniture so that we have a better view of him. He may want to get rid of some of the objects that keep us distracted and prevent us from embracing the things he wants for us. He may even find that what we thought kept us connected to him has broken down.

One night my husband and I weren't able to attend the weekly Bible study we had for college students in our home. Trusting them we told the leaders to go ahead and meet in our home. When we walked in the door later that evening our equilibrium immediately went haywire! Every piece of furniture, pictures, wall hangings, figurines, plants, everything had been moved slightly. It was unnerving.

So it can be when we totally embrace God’s life instead of our “created” one. We’ll be changed from the inside out but the result, while initially uncomfortable, will ultimately be more pleasing. The next day I moved everything around and I found the new arrangement very refreshing.

Monday, September 29, 2008

God's Breakfast

The angel of God…
shook him
awake…and said,

“Get up and eat
some more—you’ve got
a long journey

ahead of you.”

I Kings 19:7

Growing up eating breakfast was mandatory before I took off to school but I ditched it in college and haven’t been a “breakfast eater” since! Later exercise took precedence over eating until one morning I set off on what ended up being a longer and more strenuous race walk than planned. Eight miles later, having had nothing to eat since the previous night’s dinner, I collapsed on a nearby patch of grass conscious that I had yet another mile to get home. I hadn’t prepared myself. The result was a body depleted and shaking.

Elijah had embarrassed the Baal prophets and Jezebel was threatening death and so running for dear life he collapses, falling asleep in the shade of a bush. But his running isn’t over and so the angel of God wakes him up in order to eat, even providing the food whose nourishment will, according to this account, last him forty more miles!

When we take a road trip our preparations usually include going to the store to purchase food staples. A road trip with God requires the same. The difference is that he will provide the food if we are willing to take the time to eat.

Daily “breakfasting” with God will get us down the road in better shape than if we skip the meal. But, it takes discipline. In Elijah’s exhaustion eating may have been last on his mind. I still don’t like eating breakfast, but eating makes a huge difference in how I feel when the work out has been particularly difficult.

Get up and eat some more!

Jesus, forgive me
when I take on the day
without “breakfasting” with you.
No wonder I grow emotionally
and spiritually tired!
Help me to not miss any of
the meals you provide.
Artwork--The Prophet Elijah Receiving Bread and Water from an Angel. Peter Paul Reubens, c. 1625.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Crumbling Markets

Say to those who
have an anxious heart,
Be strong; fear not!

Isaiah 35:4a

Anxiety makes a visit almost everyday. Investment empires that were thought indestructible collapse and with them the “fortunes” of others. Lenders who invented unbelievable mortgages achieved their goals and now people close the doors of their “dream” home passing the foreclosure sign on the curb. Families who only drove by the local food bank now get their groceries there. Like rabbits, anxious hearts are multiplying.

Systems have a way of righting themselves when they have gotten out of whack. In the balancing everyone is affected in some way. What were deemed as rightful “creature comforts” suddenly are revealed as luxuries. Nothing escapes the jostle and the ignored and taken for granted become priceless. When our “created” world rights itself, in order to achieve better balance, anxiety comes knocking.

God is a master at putting things in balance. From the beginning he’s had his work cut out for him as his Adam and Eve creation have raced to achieve and acquire for themselves. Unfortunately our ravenous appetites never seem to be replete and so throughout the centuries God has demonstrated his ability to balance what we have unbalanced.

All he has ever desired is for us to be content with the life he’s given. What is required of us is discovery of that life and to stop chasing a life he never intended. But, fear not! God loves you. If you’ve messed up and flown off the scales or been affected by someone else’s mess he will set the scales right. You can find contentment in the “new” life that he gives, if you keep your face in his.

Jesus, sometimes I feel as
though my world is disappearing.
But, then I remember that what I
envisioned for myself may not be
what you want for me.
Help me to be content with the life you intended.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Book Quote

I've been reading unChristian by David Kinnaman of the Christian research group, The Barna Group. Here's another challenging quote (see the monthly quote on side column).

The first error that christians make is coming to the wrong conclusion. God's judgments about people are perfect; ours are not. When Christians reach the wrong verdict, it is typically because of our own biases, assumptions, or stereotypes about others. Our superficiality gets the best of us. One Christian I talked to recently said, "Yeah, I know what you mean about stereotypes. When I see a person who is tattooed or pierced up, I try not to judge them based on their outward appearance. I realize that their appearance is probably just a symptom."

I was shocked. Did you notice what he was saying? He may as well have said, "I wouldn't judge based on outward appearance, but there is something wrong with these people on the inside." Do you see how subtle judgment can be? It creeps up on us and drips out of our conversations and attitudes.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


When a man or woman
commits any sin, the
person has broken trust
with God, is guilty, and
must confess the sin.

Number 5:7

As a Jesus follower I have been part of a number of Christian “cultures.” I have wondered at how certain theological doctrines came to take such an important role in each of them. The tenets of the Christian faith are the same but there exists in all Christian “cultures” certain doctrines that seem to be “lines in the sand” for separation and clarification, creating a Christian placement of sorts.

There is one common denominator--sin and repentance. At one conference I sat in a Presbyterian sanctuary listening to Southern Baptist, Anne Graham Lotz preach that if sin is allowed to continue in an individual’s life or in the life of a Christian community and repentance is ignored, ultimately the presence of the Holy Spirit will cease to be present. Why? Because sin separates us.

It shouldn’t be that difficult to understand. Have you ever witnessed two people refusing to talk to each other? They are separated by some hurt inflicted. And, if left unresolved it will carry them farther and farther away from each other.

The difficulty comes in admitting to the sinful stuff that distances us from each other which in turn drastically separates us from the embrace of the Trinity. Believing in confession of sin and practicing it reside on opposite plateaus of the Grand Canyon. The doing of it will require going down into the depths in order to come up on the other side. But, the alternative is living a lonely life, separated.

Getting down where sin resides won’t be pretty. But, if we climb and reach the other side the hot shower of God’s love will wash all the dirt away.

Jesus, I confess that I
have broken trust with you
by refusing to look at certain behaviors,
thoughts and attitudes that
separate me from You.
Forgive me. Give me the
comfort of your embrace.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Facing Goliath

The Lord who delivered
me from the paw
of the lion and
from the paw of the bear
will deliver me

from the hand
of this Philistine.

I Samuel 17:17

In the midst of challenging times it is usually almost impossible to see what possible good could come from the experience. When the darkness has settled it takes every ounce of energy to sometimes just wake up in the morning. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a loss of employment, relationship conflicts, illness or whatever may be troubling, it all feels like being paw swiped by a "lion."

It isn’t until we see the light of day that we start flexing our “muscles” and discover that we’ve made it to the other side. We’re grateful that the trauma is over and hope to live in the light for a long, long time. Then one day we feel the swipe of a "bear." It’s then that we discover that our “muscles” are stronger this time around.

David was confident when he talked with Saul about how he would handle Goliath. As a shepherd it had been necessary to fend off some vicious attacks. Consequently, he was in excellent shape. But he never forgot who granted him life after each encounter.

Building up spiritual strength requires some serious work outs. Every difficulty, every tough encounter, every conflict builds up the necessary muscle for the possibility of facing a Goliath. Not everyone will necessarily face a Goliath, nevertheless, when the “lions” and “bears” attack they are what will strengthen us for the possibility. And, our assurance can be like David--the Lord who grants you life from these swipes will also be there for any Goliath.

God, it’s difficult to see that “bear” and “lion”
attacks can be part of what strengthens me.
Because of you I can face any Goliath.

Artwork--David and Goliath. Titian. Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, Italy

Monday, September 22, 2008

I'm a Branch

I am the Real Vine
and my Father

is the Farmer.
He cuts off every

branch of me
that doesn’t bear grapes.

John 15:1-2 (The Message)

For several years we lived in a region known for its verdant wine valley. Acres of rolling, grapevine covered hills were a pastoral view for miles. In between, there were sheep grazing in the fields. It looked pristine and in perfect order.

This was my only image of the area until a few months after our arrival I drove the winding, twisting road and spotted smoke in the distance. Rounding the curve into the valley I was startled. The vineyards had been massacred! The verdant hills were replaced with miles of fence-post like pieces of wood. Smoke was rising from small burning piles of tangled vines. Pruning season had begun.

Jesus used visual images like this when he taught his disciples. It may well have been pruning season when he made his comparison. And, like me, perhaps the startling “result of pruning” image caused them pain in the looking.

Whether in our churches or individual lives God uses the act of pruning to rid what doesn’t produce the way he intended. Unfortunately, like the vineyards in my wine valley, it can be severe as well as uncomfortable. As the Farmer he sees the amount and quality each branch is producing and what his harvest will be.

What he looks for are not necessarily the prettiest, sturdiest or even abundantly producing branches but the branches whose fruit will, by their very quality, bear witness to his perfect farming ability. And at different times, even those will get pruned in order to keep producing the very best.

Jesus, I want to be
a branch that is always connected
to you. Train me, prune me,
shape me that I might produce
fruit that reveals Your perfect nature.
Artwork--Amber in the Vineyard, Donna Schaffer, http://sonic.net/~dsscha/SonomaPaintings.html

Friday, September 19, 2008

Unexpected Encounters

For several years I have taken as my life "theme" each day that I am "eagerly expecting the unexpected." At the time when I claimed this as my "mantra" we were at the open door of a long awaited sabbatical. I was fully expecting the unexpected to be exciting. Now, over five years later much of the ensuing unexpected wasn't so pleasant. Nevertheless, the theme I took then continues with me today because of those experiences. Following Jesus is full of the unexpected.

And then one day, there is an unexpected encounter that stops you in mid-stride and you have no choice but to receive it as an amazing God moment. And while it may seem ridiculous to some, such a moment happened to me recently. I saw a moose.

Now granted, I live in a state that has such animals, but I am not a hunter nor was I in a remote wilderness area. As we were driving home early one morning through the mountains I saw ahead what appeared to be a the biggest statue I had ever seen. But, it didn't make sense because it was at the side of the road! Coming closer I stopped the car in the middle of the road, woke my snoozing husband with an urgent whisper, "It's a moose. Look at the moose."

The next thing was a marvel to see. This glorious creature, with its enormous antlers, spindley legs but massive body began to move, gracefully. While there were cars coming north and south around the turn it was absolutely quiet in that moment. Nothing accompanied us. And in that unexpected moment I was very much aware of the One who had thought up and created the moose.

I know it may sound silly. But, for a city girl like me, to see such a creature, so unexpectedly, I just couldn't help saying to my Father, "Wow! Thank you" because that moose reminded me that in spite of the challenges and the uncertainties God continues to allow me to live and breathe an amazing life.

Just something amusing. But maybe someday you'll see a "moose" and remember the One who made you.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Distinctive Melodies

If…lifeless instruments,
such as the flute or harp,
do not give distinct notes,
how will anyone know
what is played?

I Corinthians 14:8

Enthusiastically they reasoned if other kids could do it what was stopping them! They would form a band. After all, they “knew” all the popular songs. Rehearsals would be at our home. One of them had a keyboard, another a violin, a few of them could sing, even a small set of drums appeared on the appointed day. An hour later they were gone. “What happened to rehearsal?” I asked my daughter. “Oh, it didn’t sound very good. None of us really knew how to play the instruments.”

The next time you listen to your favorite piece of music remember what is required to produce the notes. Your enjoyment didn’t just happen. Before the music made its way out of your stereo or iPod a huge amount of time, effort, dedication, commitment and practice preceded.

Some, like myself, may play an instrument but you’ll never hear my recordings! Long ago I stopped practicing and while I may still have the ability to sit down and play through a piece, the music isn’t very distinctive.

The community of believers is full of musicians. Some have learned the beginning spiritual lessons reciting them as crisply as a “C” scale, but that’s where it stops. Others want to learn how to be a follower. Satisfied with do’s and don’ts the music they produce, while clear, is stilted, never becoming anything more. Then there are those who want to live the Jesus way. Learning, practicing, feeling the music in their marrow, their lives become distinctive melodies that encourage others to become Music students.

Jesus, forgive me when
I don’t take the time to
keep learning and practicing what it
means to be Your follower.
Help me to be a melody
that encourages people to become Your musicians.
Artwork--Unused Instruments, Carmen Cartiness Johnson, San Antonio, Texas

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

No Pretending

But I, God, search
the heart and examine
the mind. I get to the heart…
I get to the root
of things.
I treat them
as they really are,
not as they pretend to be.

Jeremiah 17:10 (The Message)

Once, while participating in a healing conference, the leader took us through a spiritual exercise of seeing our hearts as a garden. “What do the walls look like surrounding the garden? Are they stone, a picket fence, what condition are they in or are there walls at all?” she asked. “Now, go into the garden. What is growing? Are there weeds? Any flowers? What about weeds pretending to be flowers?”

Continuing through the exercise she reminded us that God knew the difference between flowers and weeds in our respective gardens. The “seeds” we had planted in our spiritual soil would ultimately reveal their identity. And, no matter how relieved we might be to see that any “weed seeds” didn’t really look that bad and perhaps the incidents that planted the seed could remain hidden, God knew fakery.

It was a painful exercise. Looking at ourselves or our believing community and allowing God to point to the “weeds pretending to be flowers” is an exercise in humility. And, the exercise doesn’t end with God’s pointing finger. In identifying what is “pretend”, God says, I want to get to the root of this weed. I want to do what one does with weeds in gardens.

Beware! It hurts when God starts pulling weeds. He does whatever it takes to get at the root. Afterwards we may discover our gardens fairly bare. But with humility comes repentance for what is exposed and removed. And, what remains will be a garden free of weeds pretending to be flowers but ready for good seed planting.

Loving God, here is my heart’s garden.
No matter how painful, pull out every
weed that pretends to be a flower.
Plant in me seeds that will produce
true beauty and reveal Your glory.
Photo image taken from tinyfarmblog.com/tag/cosmos/

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Living Faith

Kindle a flame,
to lighten the dark
and take all fear away.

Grabbing my bag and Bible I jumped into the car. My spirit was anxious as I headed to our worship service. The past few months have been challenging to say the least. What we had anticipated and expected about our future prior to moving and beginning ministry here has not been our reality. God's "pillar of cloud" has moved in a very different direction.

The day before I had popped in a CD of music from the Iona Community as a way of soothing my troubled soul. It had worked wonders then but now I needed silence, not really in any "mood" to be soothed. As I reached to turn off the stereo the final track came through and I was stopped--Kindle a flame, to lighten the darkness, and take all fear away. Helplessly I was drawn in as over and over the voices sang this prayerful meditation.

Making my anxious way to worship I began singing along, praying that the Holy Spirit would do exactly as the song/prayer requested. Our place of ministry needed a flame kindled providing a circle of light in the darkness. And all the accumulating fears, whatever they may be for this community of believers, needed to be taken away.

Three miles later, such a brief time, continuing to sing as I entered our sanctuary my spirit was far less anxious. A "pillar of fire" was going to lead the way.

...he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him.
Daniel 2:22

Lyrics by Wild Goose Music, Iona Community, England

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Prayer of Abandonment to God

I am no longer my own, but Yours.
Use me as You choose;
rank me alongside whoever You choose;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for You,
or laid aside for You,
raised up for You, or brought down low for You;
let me be full, let me be empty;
let me have all things, let me have nothing;
with my whole heart I freely choose to yield
all things to Your ordering and approval.
So now, God of glory,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
You are mind, and I am Your own.

Adapted from the Methodist Covenant Prayer

Friday, September 12, 2008

An Original

Don’t become so
well-adjusted to your
culture that you fit
into it without
even thinking.

Romans 12:2a

Caught in a circle of friends Trevor found it difficult to say “no” to anything they proposed. If you asked the question, “Who are you?” he would declare himself independent and free thinking, unaffected by peer pressure but his decisions about how to live were evidence to the contrary. It was clear that at the core of his being was an uncertainty about identity, and so adjusting to the culture was much easier--it didn’t take a whole lot of thought. Besides, he needed friends.

There is a great deal of pressure to be identical to everyone else. While the culture may tout originality take a look around. From tattoos to handbags to expensive cars to haircuts there is more imitation and conforming than uniqueness.

Jesus followers are called to be unique different from the culture. What that demands of us is serious thinking about how each of us will accomplish that goal. Every day we are confronted with “norms” that at the outset were off center but over time quickly became enmeshed in the culture. Consequently, creating a distinction about what makes living the Jesus way unique has become more and more of a challenge.

Living with a heightened awareness of one’s culture isn’t a bad practice for the Jesus follower. Daily asking questions about the impact on one’s spirit and spiritual life as a result of TV shows, magazines, advertisements or friends keeps us thinking about how we should live. In a culture of sameness, the life of a Jesus follower should be attractive by its originality.

Jesus, you avoided cultural traps
staying focused on Your purpose.
It was Your originality that attracted crowds.
Help me stay alert to anything
that keeps me from being an
original for You.
Artwork--Mona Lisa, Leonardo Da Vinci

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Day of Rest

Today there won't be any writings or postings. Sometimes one has to stop, be still and listen. I am in that season and today is a listening day! I pray that today you will hear God's voice, experience the love of Jesus and move in the direction of the Holy Spirit. Blessings.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hiking Trails

I am the way,
the truth and the life…

John 14:6

Having slid, stumbled and side stepped down a steep embankment we came to a stop at two paths leading in opposite directions. Not sure which direction to take we waited until an approaching hiker came nearer. “Which path takes us back to town?” we asked. Pausing briefly he replied and pointed, “I dunno. There’s the town.”

His guidance wasn’t much help. We could see where we wanted to be we just didn’t know how to get there. So, choosing a path we continued our slide downhill finally reaching our destination.

Life for the Jesus follower is much like hiking on a mountain trail. A narrow path guides the way but it comes with rocks, roots, climbing on all fours ascents and sliding descents. There are branch slaps and bloody scrapes but when reaching the top the vistas are spectacular. There are no assurances of what will happen, even if you’ve taken the same hike several times. There is always an element of risk even losing one’s way.

Just wanting to hike doesn’t get you to the vistas. You have to know the path that will get you there. This is also the first step for the Jesus follower. In order to get anywhere in faith we have to learn and know the trails that will get us to where we want to be. Seeing the destination won’t be enough. The only choice is getting on the trail and hiking. This is what moves us forward to the One who not only knows the way but is the Way.

Jesus, I want to hike
and see the vistas you
have for me. Thank you for
being my Trail Guide.
Help me to be a good student--
seeing where I should be
and learning how to get there.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Loss Returned

Come home, hope-filled
prisoners! This very
day I’m declaring
a double bonus—
everything you lost
returned twice-over!

Zechariah 9:12

Loss—it’s everywhere. Homes, bank accounts, jobs, marriages, loved ones, traditions no matter who you talk to they have lost something. And because the surrounding culture is changing so rapidly our loss of what has been or what was becomes even more pronounced. As the level of loss varies so do our reactions to that loss. But the pain that accompanies it is universal. Loss is being slammed into a wall. Spinning and reeling we lose our bearings finding it difficult to focus, imprisoned in our pain.

The Jewish exiles knew a lot about loss. For years they had been prisoners of one regime after another and with each imprisonment a bit more had disappeared. In the midst of all their losses it surely felt as though God had vanished. God, however, reveals himself through Zechariah to faithfully remind them that they will never lose His love, comfort and care.

God never vanishes but sometimes we make an exit from his presence. Bent over in pain we look at our feet, missing God’s loving and comforting gaze. As difficult as it may be when facing loss it is the stories of those who have gone before us that can help us stand straight. The plight of the Israelites is just one story where we can be assured that while we may have lost everything, God is not lost. He promises that everything that is lost will be returned and more. What is returned may look different but it will be much more satisfying.

Loving God, forgive me
when bent in pain
I lose sight of you.
Thank you for offering hope
for a future that is more
than I can see presently.
Artwork--Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee. Rembrandt, 1633. Isabella Gardner Museum

Friday, September 5, 2008

Killer Tongues

The tongue runs wild,
a wanton killer.
With our tongues
we bless God

our Father; with
the same tongues
we curse the very
men and women he
made in his image.

James 3:8b-9

Christians can be brutal. I know this from experience. Preparing myself for worship one Sunday morning the woman sitting at my right turned and whispered, “You know I’ve talked to a few people who don’t think your husband is very friendly.” Another time I listened to a distraught church member recount the information she had received about the state of my marriage along with other choice tidbits. None of it had any substance. It was simply a matter of tongues running wild.

While most people would agree that “gossip” is wrong Christians have found that if they wrap it in the garment of “sharing” it has a more appealing appearance. Once while leading a Bible study in James the question was asked, “Should you listen to gossip, or should you refuse, encouraging the individual to speak to the person involved.” “Oh, honey,” replied one long time member, “people need someone to talk to and sometimes they need to just get things off their chest.”

Quite frankly, it can be kind of fun to listen to stuff about other people. Nevertheless, if what you’re hearing hasn’t been discussed with the person in question, you are participating in the destruction of the Christian community. The tongue is a wanton killer.

If our tongues both bless God and curse His creation how meaningful is the blessing? When tongues run wild ego is in control. In short, gossip is telling God that what he created is less than satisfactory. That takes nerve!

Jesus, forgive me for the
times I’ve listened to a wanton killer.
My desire is to be part of
building up your creation.
Help me to have the courage
to boldly speak against the
words that seek to destroy.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Assume Presence

The Lord will keep
your going out and
your coming in…

Psalm 121:8

Numerous times I have felt it necessary to “tell” God what he needed to do—“Be with us now.” “Be with Mary.” “Take care of my family.” “Guard and protect Pete as he travels.” My “to do” list for God is endless. I forget that asking for God’s presence isn’t necessary. Acknowledging his presence is another matter entirely.

Listen closely to most prayers and you’ll hear the majority of Christians telling God that he needs to do something. Perhaps there’s a brief thanksgiving and then a quick dash towards the request line. And, of course, the request line is always the longest. It’s almost as though God is viewed as a type of cosmic waiter, standing by patiently waiting for our orders because he has no idea what we could possibly need.

Some may argue that, as with a waiter, it’s appropriate to acknowledge our needs. There is a distinct difference however, between acknowledging our needs to God and telling him what needs to be done. I remember once telling God that he needed to take a particular person out of my life…they steadfastly remained until the time came when I acknowledged God’s will keep character. Instead of my telling I needed to be told.

There is concreteness to the word will. So, when we pray our starting point should be an assumption…the Lord will keep. Our requests then build on that assumption and become acknowledgements of our own inabilities. God knows. What we need is the ability to believe it.

God, I acknowledge your
presence with me. I believe
that there is no empty space
between you and me.
Help me to be continually
aware of your watchful eye.

Artwork--Moses Before the Burning Bush, Domenico Feti, 1613-14, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Nothing but Persistent

Many tried to
hush him up,
but he yelled

all the louder,
“Son of David! Mercy,
have mercy on me!”

Mark 10:48 (The Message)

Bartimaeus had learned that if he was going to get attention he had to be the one who yelled loudest. One of many who depended on the generosity of strangers he knew that sitting quietly didn’t get any clinks in his bowl. His keen hearing alerted him to the tread of feet long before his companions. Waiting for the right moment he would pitch his voice so that the first voice heard would be the one remembered.

When one of the “senses” is lost, the remaining go on hyper alert. So, it’s not surprising that with his “we don’t see them” status, Bartimaeus heard numerous conversations. Even if he hadn’t listened Bartimaeus could feel the heightened climate and he determined a plan.

Positioning himself carefully he waited. There was no mistaking it, not only could he hear the commotion but the dirt beneath him poofed with the weight of hundreds of feet. He had heard about the crowds but had never anticipated it to be quite so huge. On this day, however, money wasn’t what Bartimaeus was after. The time had come!

Jesus! Mercy, have mercy on me! Repeatedly he pitched his voice over the clamor and repeatedly he heard mouths shushing and hands pushing to quiet him. Pitching all the louder he heard, “What can I do for you?” In a flash Bartimaeus replied—I want to see. Instantly his eyes saw the eyes of his Healer.

Mark identifies Bartimaeus because his listeners would have remembered him. He is after all the perfect example of persistent and believing prayer.

Jesus, thank you for
healing Bartimaeus and
in so doing showing me
that prayer cannot be anything
but persistent and believing.
Artwork--Bartimeo, Mexican Icon, Galeria de Obras de Coleccion

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Run away from
infantile indulgence.
Run after mature righteousness—
faith, love, peace...

2 Timothy 2:22 (The Message)

“We’re training the baby at a very early age how to relax.” So says the owner of a new up and coming “baby spa” where infants come to be soothed, massaged and coddled. Here infants will be the focus of attention with someone attending to the “needs” they don’t know exist. And while these infants know nothing of what it will take to learn how to walk, talk, and ultimately work to support themselves it is apparently important that in their helpless, dependent state they learn how to do nothing.

Time will ultimately tell us if “training” a baby how to relax is successful or necessary. But even before the progress of time common sense would seem to say that what is being taught at a deeper level is the importance of “me”, “my”, “mine."

How does this pertain to the life of a Jesus follower? If we look at the “baby spa” image as well as the underlying “me” message we better start running! Taking account of our lives and asking the question, “What indulgences occupy my life, keeping me as the focus?” could be painful. We like our indulgences.

But, the message of Jesus was to not live for ourselves but to make our lives an outpouring of God’s Spirit. This type of maturity comes only as we run from that which keeps us at the “baby spa.” Running towards faith, love and peace doesn’t allow for “me” time but we’ll be in much better shape.

I want you as my coach, Jesus.
Teach me to run!
Artwork--Fleeing the Garden of Eden, Gustave Dore

Monday, September 1, 2008

Excellent Standard

God blessed the seventh day…
because on that

day he rested
from his work.

Genesis 2:4 (The Message)

The significance of the first Monday of September has lost its original glory. Somewhere along the years its meaning was forgotten replacing it with sheer relief for the “long” weekend. As a tribute to the workers who labored for the “well-being” of our country, Labor Day, was established. It takes after all hard work to do anything well.

God labored for the “well-being” of his creation. During each creative season he put together all that would make for a perfect, cohesive, and well planned universe. No detail was left out even giving “man” the strength to carry on the “well-being” of God’s creation. And when each of God’s “days” was finished he knew that his labors had produced something good.

Each day as we go to our work, school, volunteer positions or whatever task to which we put ourselves can we say, at the end of the day, “it is good.” God set a work standard when he created the world—excellent. It’s a high, demanding standard but it has been passed along to us as well, his creation.

Working and striving for excellence in whatever we do is a tribute a “Labor Day” as it were to our Creator. The world watches to see if our speech matches with our behavior and unfortunately it too often finds us falling short. Remembering and acting on the standard of excellence that God established will be crucial in our ability to communicate to other’s in God’s creation that we mean what we say and we do it with excellence.

Creative God, thank you for
your excellent creation. Help me to
live each day, with the strength
you give me, to strive for excellence
and be a living example of your work.


Artwork--Creation of the Sun and Moon, Raphael, 1518-19