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

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!

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.

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


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.

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.

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.

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.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Poem for Advent

Ninth Advent Reading


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.