Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Meditation for New Year's Eve

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 30, 2009

No One Greater Than He

The faith that Jesus inspired in his disciples had such a profound impact on them that the disciples found it impossible to believe anyone could be equal or greater to him, not even Moses or Elijah, not even Abraham. That a prophet or judge or messiah should come after Jesus and be greater than Jesus was inconceivable. It was not necessary to wait for someone else. Jesus was everything. Jesus was everything the Jews ever had hoped and prayed for. Jesus had fulfilled or was about to fulfill every promise and every prophecy. If anyone is to judge the world in the end, it must be he. If anyone is to be appointed Messiah, King, Lord son of God, how could it be anyone but Jesus?

On his robe and on his thigh he has the name written:
King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Revelation 19:16
Brennan Manning, Reflections for Ragamuffins

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Coming in Glory

Contemplating the crib (meaning, looking at Jesus while loving him), the Christian's faith flames into joyous expectation that the Christ who came in history will one day come in glory. Paul writes in Colossians: "When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" (Col. 3:4). Here, Paul refers to a future event. Christmas arouses longing for the Parousia, the Second Coming. It awakens hope in that heralded upheaval, that upcoming earthquake that makes radical discipleship possible, ushering in as it will the ultimate fulfillment of human history.

I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have,
so that no one will take your crown."
Revelation 3:11
Brennan Manning, Reflections for Ragamuffins

Monday, December 28, 2009

Intimacy With His Father

The readings for this week are taken from Reflections for Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning. This is a devotional that has been significant in my life.

A central theme in the personal life of Jesus Christ, which lies at the very heart of the revelation that he is, is his growing intimacy with, trust in, and love of his Abba.

After his birth in Bethlehem Jesus was raised in Nazareth by Mary and Joseph, according to the strict monotheistic tradition of the Jewish community. Like every devout Jew, Jesus prayed the Shema Israel, "hear, O Israel, the Lord you God is one God" (see Deut. 6:4), three times a day. Jesus was surrounded with the Absolute, dominated by the One, the Eternal, the "I Am Who I Am."

In his human journey, Jesus experienced God in a way that no prophet of Israel had ever dreamed or dared. Jesus was indwelt by the Spirit of the Father, and gave a name of God that would scandalize both the theology and public opinion of Israel. The name that escaped the mouth of the Nazarene Carpenter: Abba.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name.
Philippians 2:9

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Christmas Creche

by Cristen Alexandria Mangrum

In chapel a few weeks back we were asked to think of our favorite Christmas moment or something of the like at which I promptly drew a blank. In my defense, it was after all, only ten in the morning. After exchanging lame half-truths of Christmas’s that were memorable, or memorable enough to fill the three minutes we were given, my friend and I, with whom I shared my sorry excuse of a story, returned to our banter, none of which was mildly Christmas related. After the service I was a little bit upset that nothing from my childhood Christmas stood out. Nothing? Really?

Then I remembered the Christmas party of 1998 which will forever be a big hit, not because I got done up fancy but because of the Christmas Crèche. The Crèche has, for as long as I can remember, come out yearly in a pinstripe box from the 1950’s which looks out of place 364 days out of the year, except for when it makes it’s debut sometime around the first week of December. Containing the nativity scene of my mother’s childhood, it bears little resemblance to anything modern day productions have created. Chipped yet chic, it has always been my job to assemble Mary, Joseph, the various animals, an ensemble of holy looking Wise Men, and of course the big baby J himself into the typical Christmas story scene. While all of the characters and animals alike have held positions ranging from traditional to avante garde at my more creative moments (as mostly demonstrated between ages 4-6), the position of the infant Jesus rarely changes, because, after all, he is the main event, the real deal, the man behind the month to which we dedicate our devotion.

The Crèche depicts that Holy Night long ago when Jesus, after months which must have seemed longer than years to his expectant family, both Holy and human, became no longer an abstract glimmer of hope for Earth but tangible flesh, basked in hay encased in the perfectly crafted manger, as set upon our rosewood coffee-table, of course. The appearance of Jesus days prior to the actual Christmas day was never questioned as everyone knew that Christmas was the celebration of his birthday, so what did it matter if he showed up to his party all month long, days before his designated ‘birth’. These traditions formed the basic tenets of my Christmas season, the joys to which I took pleasure, the kickoff of the whole Christmas shebang.

Until of course, TLC showed up to the holiday party my parents had given to the members of the Session of our church. "Tanya Cook" (the "L" still eludes me to this day) or “TLC” as she signed gifts, cards, or referred to herself fondly in third person, had barely placed her foot in the door before rushing to the crèche, this time set up more traditionally for the evening’s affair. “YOU HAVE TO PUT THIS AWAY!!” she cried, plucking the sleeping Holy infant from his designated spot of the night into my chubby palms. “Christmas isn’t here yet!! He only comes out on Christmas!!”. Bewildered, I marched little baby Jesus into the closest closeted space one could find; our silverware drawer. Baffled by not only the desecration of my carefully positioned crèche creation, and by so many adults looming above, cheek pinching and gabbing, it is without a doubt that His ride into the drawer was less than graceful. He remained as such until the next morning when upon unloading the dishwasher he was found by my equally bewildered mother, tangled in the daggers of forks and knives unfit for the party the night before. My mom, with little questioning, managed to get the details of the previous evenings scenario out of me. "TLC" was known for her outrageous and rash actions, so her party trick caused slight guffaw from the Mangrum clan. Innocent Jesus returned to his safe homestead with mother Mary and father Joseph and the others protecting him throughout the remainder of the Christmas season.

I did not give the incident much thought at the time as I was, after all, eight years of age, with Santa’s impending arrival heavily on the mind. To be honest, I do not know why all of the story comes back to me some eleven years later, when the Advent season is neither pressing on my mind nor as appreciated as it has been in years past, when life moved slower, His coming as festive and as fraught as on some small fraction I think it must have been for Mary and Joseph trekking to Bethlehem countless centuries ago. I think I recalled now because I recognize some many miles down my own journey of faith that I now know what it means to wait. To go hours and days and months with the mundane of the everyday, in expectancy of what is to Come, even though it may not be visible at the present time. To Yearn for a Christ that is tangible and present, visible for all. To understand the excitement and nervousness Mary must have felt knowing what lay in store for her as placed by God.

While unwrapping the crèche box bears little resemblance to carrying the Son of God in one’s belly, I do believe that in some small way there is the same expectant urgency in beginning the celebration of something glorious as begun with the Advent season. Some small assurance that no matter the years, Christ will come, incarnate and alive, waiting to follow us into whatever home we may inhabit, wrapped in the promise of a story so alive and rich and steeped in tradition it transcends time and the trappings of the modern day.

Perhaps that is what "TLC" tried to teach me by snatching him away until his proper day that December night, but I’d prefer to think He was where He should have been all along, inside our home, an obvious light to all of the real reason for the special china, occasions, festivity. Christ is alive whether he is sitting on the coffee table wedged between Mary and friends, or whether he is not so observably placed, wedged between agendas, schedules, pain; the boxes we encase him in eleven months out of the year, until we are humbled and called to be reminded of his Glory.

Come, let us adore Him.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Christmas Eve 2009

Change has been a significant part of my life. It is a fact that I continue to learn 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. Our family creche is one that I have had for over 50 years. I set it up as a child and now my daughter continues the tradition. The custom was to set up the creche immediately after Thanksgiving. But, with the advent of a daughter in college even this "tradition" has now "changed." It doesn't get set up until she comes home.

Carefully unwrapping each figure she decides where it should be placed. While the location of the creche has been different in each of our homes I cherish its familiarity and how year after year it is 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 haven't the fainest idea what 2010 will bring except the contancy of change!

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. Blessings!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Eighteenth Advent Reading

'Each day has enough trouble of its own," Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. He meant it. He was realistic enough to recognize that this world is too often a place of suffering, for now still in the grasp of the World Hater, the prince of this world.

A day will come when sorrow will be no more and death itself be destroyed, but until then there will always be some poorer than others, some bereaved mistreated, abused. We must do all we can to protect and to heal, but even the miracles we see are only signs of the Kingdom. That Kingdom is at the same time 'already' and 'not yet.' We are not exempt from trouble, injustice, violence and suffering, just because we are believers. He will allow some of these things to touch us also, even though it is not HIm that visits them upon us.

Jesus, who understood that it was necessary for Him to suffer, still questioned, Was there no other way? Job wondered what was going on and in this life was never told what had happened in the courts of heaven over his story of trials. We know that no test is beyond what we can endure, but why this random, faceless violence unleashed at times in our society? The cross begins with an unanswered 'Why?' - and Christ also shouldered the cross.

Celtic Daily Prayer
From the Northumbria Community

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Appointed Companion

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 aloneness.

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 21, 2009

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 daily 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? Don't be afraid. 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 18, 2009

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 own 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 inthe present but in the future with you.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

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 would 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 16, 2009


Thirteenth Advent Reading

He was despised and rejected…

Isaiah 53:3a

Recently I met a woman who doesn’t want to have anything to do with Jesus. Her reasoning is, 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. Relinquishing ourselves to Jesus is dangerous! And part of the Jesus journey will include rejection.

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

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 their ancient past are fading. What remains are the stories of the dawn of time when 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 14, 2009

Hurry. . .Wait

Eleventh Advent Reading

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…

Psalm 37:7

Everything stopped as the worshipper walked 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 11, 2009

Big Miracles

Tenth Advent Reading
She wrapped him in a blanketand 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 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 and changing me
from the inside out.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

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.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Redwood Stumps

I finally have a flight out of Denver and am heading home this afternoon! Amazing what a little "weather" can do to one's schedule. Nevertheless I am thankful that I am safe, warm with good books to read!

Eighth Advent Reading

There shall come forth a shoot
from the stump of Jesse, and
a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

Isaiah 11:1

California redwood trees are magnificent. Towering the stratosphere, their massive trunks wider than an arm’s reach, one can’t help but be awed when standing among their roots. Some trees have survived hundreds of years and it’s for this reason that the environmentalists persevere. Nevertheless, the redwood remains one of the most resilient trees. If cut down, within the year new shoots will pop up around its base. It’s a survival tree. Massive amounts of digging are required to completely destroy the life of a redwood.

The people of Israel spent years at the hands of ruthless powers determined to dig out their life. Isaiah’s words have weight when considered in this context. They feared they would become extinct having been cut down with only a remnant, a stump, showing. Into this desolation and destruction Isaiah makes a promise that the stump is not dead. God will shoot up a living, fruit bearing branch!

In the midst of life’s challenges and the feeling of sometimes being cut down to the roots Jesus comes promising new life, restored life, redeemed life. Nothing is dead or hopeless in the eyes of God. What is seen only from the outside is not considered by God. He is not distracted or discouraged by what looks like utter destruction. Instead he sees only what is underneath, at the root and begins the life restoring process.

Out of the stump of Jesse, a remnant of a nation, came the Hope of the world. Imagine what God wants and can do with our stumps!

Jesus, your humble beginnings
give me hope.
Help me to see not the stump
of my life but the shoots you are
causing to grow.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Safe Home

Presently I'm standed in Denver, CO because of this amazing storm system. I thought I would be home by Monday night, now it looks like Wednesday evening! But, God is present and I'm grateful for this "inconvenient" experience! Blessings!

Seventh Advent Reading

…the Son of Man has no where to lay his head.

Matthew 8:20b

Having a place to live should be one of those inalienable “rights” for everyone and yet the homeless rate continues to rise. Growing up I took “home” for granted, the front door always opened to the familiar and I felt safe. Now in the past five years I’ve lived in six homes. Barely did I become familiar with my surroundings but the boxes were packed and a new home was becoming “familiar.”

There are many who have lived for years in the same home. They have found safety in a shared community of church friends, local schools and volunteer organizations. Feelings of unfamiliarity aren’t familiar. For those individuals this verse will be unsettling.

But our waiting for Jesus this Advent season means that if we are committed to following him we’ll also become aware that his arrival will mean living with uncertainty and unfamiliarity. Setting up house wasn’t on Jesus’ ministry agenda. His focus was bringing the kingdom of heaven to a world that had lost its place.

I am reminded of this when I moan about not living in a home for any longer than seven years. Alas, answering the call of Jesus on my life has meant that I had to put aside all that I considered familiar, certain, secure. The flip side is that my safest “home” is now with Jesus and together we’re on the move!

Jesus, thank you for being “home” for me.
When uncertainty and fear
grip me I feel the pull
of your hand and I’m
on the road again with you.


Monday, December 7, 2009

A Cloudless Sky

Sixth Advent Reading

Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.

Revelation 21:3a

While wandering through the daily grind of the wilderness the Israelites had only to take a glance or renew a morning memory to be reminded that they were not alone. God’s presence was always evident in some way or another. In the morning they gathered God’s manna. Moving from one location to another a cloud or fire pillar was their GPS. And if that wasn’t evidence enough God was in the tabernacle that they carried with them.

God dwelled with the Israelites in objects that could be seen, felt, heard. Of course, even those weren’t enough for them at times. Despite all the visuals they still took to shaping golden cows. When Gabriel appears in Mary’s bedroom and the first indication of Jesus’ birth is given it is also the beginning of God making his dwelling place with man.

This amazing birth, where God reveals himself to man through his Son, should be an event that stops all doubt of his existence. Surely from this point there should be astounding accounts of God’s presence. Now he has been made flesh. Now we should be able to see him. But it doesn’t happen like that and we’re left wondering if the Israelites had it better.

With the appearance of Jesus we become more vulnerable when it comes to experiencing God. Faith in the unseen is now required. But, by looking more intently for God, keeping open and vulnerable to the experience, the visuals that appear will take us deeper into the mind of God. And that is a gift the wandering Israelites never received.

God, make my life
Your dwelling place.
Help me in the experiencing of
your presence
to go deeper into You.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christ Climbed Down

Fifth Advent Reading

In a college contemporary poetry class I was introduced to Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I was enthralled. Recently I heard it again and its impact held. Take your time reading it, keeping in mind that Ferlinghetti's poems were written during the 50's and early 60's. Amazing how not much has changed.

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no rotless Christmas trees
hung with candycanes and breakable stars

Christ climbed down from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no gilded Christmas trees
and no tinsel Christmas trees
and no tinfoil Christmas trees
and no pink plastic Christmas trees
and no gold Christmas trees
and no black Christmas trees
and no powderblue Christmas trees
hung with electric candles
and encircled by tin electric trains
and clever cornball relatives

Christ climbed down from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no intrepid Bible sales men
covered the territoy
in two-tone cadillacs
and where no Sears Roebuck creches
complete with plastic babe in manger
arrived by parcel post
the babe by special delivery
and where no televised Wise Men
praised the Lord Calvert Whiskey

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no fat handshaking stranger
in a red flannel suit
and a fake white beard
went around passing himself off
as some sort of North Pole saint
crossing the desert to Bethlehem
in a Volkswagon sled
drawn by rollicking Adirondack reindeer
with German names
and bearing sacks of Humble Gifts
from Saks Fifth Avenue
for everybody's imagined Christ child

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no Bing Crosby carollers
groaned of a tight Christmas
and where no Radio City angels
iceskated wingless
thru a winter wonderland
into a jinglebell heaven
daily at 8:30
with Midnight Mass matinees

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and softly stole away into
some anonymous Mary's womb again
where in the darkest night
of everybody's anonymous soul
He awaits again
an unimaginable
and impossibly
Immaculate Reconception
the very craziest
of Second Comings.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Forever Enduring

Fourth Advent Reading

…whatever God does
endures forever…

Ecclesiastes 3:14a

From the start God had a plan. He would make a creation in his image. In this way the rest of his creation would be cared for with the love and attention that he envisioned. So came about God creating “man” in his image. It was a brilliant plan which went south when “man” decided to take matters in their own hands and take care of creation they way they saw fit.

But God doesn’t ditch his creation which by this time doesn’t look very much like him and has been a disappointment. Instead he keeps finding ways of showing “man” what they are supposed to look like. Seas are divided, walls fall down, battles are won against all odds, fires don’t consume—these are just a few of God’s revelations. He loves and never gives up on what he created in his own image.

By the end of the Old Testament, however, it would appear that God’s patience is tissue thin. Despite the numerous appearances and revelations “man” has continued their blundering ways and made a royal mess. The prognosis for the future is…zip.

Even this does not deter God. His original drawing was still on the board and it continued to give him pleasure. There remained one revelation that could turn it all around. He would become the image he created through the life of his Son. In the life of Jesus “man” would begin to see creation differently and understand that whatever God does endures forever.

Creative God, thank you
for never giving up on your
creation. Help me to see
clearly your kingdom through
the life of your coming Son.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Join the Club

Third Avent Reading

God’s readiness to give and forgive
is now public. Salvation’s available
for everyone!

Titus 2:11 (The Message)

At one point in my life I lived in an area where people were defined by their club membership. It was one of the first questions asked when meeting someone new, “Where are you a member?” The catch was that even within the “club” system there were levels and so there was the possibility that your club membership may or may not add up to much.

With the arrival of Jesus in the waters of the Jordan a life-changing ministry begins where the doors to the existing religious clubs are thrown open. Almost immediately the “club” board realizes that their power base is eroding away and that before long their membership will include the “riff raff” dining with Jesus. The structures that they had carefully put into place, the important levels of religiosity would no longer have any merit.

With the coming of Jesus God appears in the flesh ready to give and forgive. The rules that had been put into place for the protection of his creation were no longer needed. Nothing would now stand in the way of a personal, one on one relationship.

It’s a marvelous sense of belonging. There are no entry interviews, fees or personal recommendations in the kingdom. Doors don’t exist because the kingdom is always open and everyone is invited and welcomed into the “club!”

Jesus, thank you for
coming and changing
the system, the structures
the rules so that everyone is welcomed.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Never Too LIttle

Second Advent Reading

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among
the clans of Judah…

Micah 5:2

“Little is much when God is in it” is a frequently used phrase full of hope and promise. We like knowing that size doesn’t matter, amount isn’t quantified and quantity isn’t valued. As long as at the heart of the matter God resides endless possibilities exist.

Throughout the Bible there are accounts of people who gave in abundance out of their little. Elijahprepared a meal with the last of a woman’s oil and flour and she ends up with enough food to feed her entire family over the next several months. Rahab offers protection under a pile of straw and her name reappears as the individual who helped change the course of a nation. A widow gives a couple of coins amounting to less than a cent and her life turns into a story of abundant giving.

Then there is Bethlehem, whose line of historical significance is limited but whose impact is profound. A boy who sleeps with his sheep and calls Bethlehem home, finds himself King of Israel. And while Bethlehem may be mentioned later no one really thinks much of it because there isn’t much to think about!

Bethlehem is small and seemingly of no consequence until it shows again that little is much when God is in it. Bethlehem, out of its “little” gave in abundance to a world and its dwellers an event of such significance that nothing could or would ever be the same.

You overcome the odds, God!
Help me not to think in terms
of how little I might have
but how my little could affect
a change that mattered.

Monday, November 30, 2009


First Advent Reading

I wait for your salvation, O Lord.

Genesis 49:18

Waiting is part of our daily lives but it doesn’t mean that we grow accustom to it. Our shoulders slump at the bank’s long line. A quick trip to the market is extended because of the “quick trips” of others. Kids can’t wait to grow up and be on their own. Parents simply wait to see how their parenting techniques have worked. Living and waiting walk hand in hand.

And now we come to the time of Advent—a time of waiting for the salvation of God. Here there is a significant difference in the focus of our waiting. With this waiting comes hope, promise of a future. There is a "known" in the waiting--Jesus bearing witness to God in his flesh. The end result of all our other waiting pales by comparison.

Throughout the coming days as we wait in line for whatever reason we might want to consider the waiting as an opportunity. Instead of fuming over time lost, let’s rejoice in the time gained to consider and wonder at Who we’re ultimately waiting for.

Jesus, I eagerly wait for you!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Praying the Psalms

Then you called out to God in your desperate condition;
he got you out in the nick of time.
He quieted the wind down to a whisper,
put a muzzle on all the big waves.
And you were so glad when the storm died down,
and he led you safely back to harbor.
So thank God for his marvelous love,
for his miracle mercy to the children he loves.
Lift high your praises when the people assemble,
shout Hallelujah when the elders meet!
Good people see this and are glad;
bad people are speechless, stopped in their tracks.
If you are really wise, you'll think this over--
it's time you appreciated God's deep love.

Psalm 107:28-32, 43 (The Message)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day

This Thanksgiving I have the privilege of being with at least part of my family. For the first time in 31 years my husband and I had to go to separate coasts to see our families, which has meant us being apart. It is a bitter sweet experience this Thanksgiving. I am with family that I love while missing my husband and daughter who mean the world to me and whom I love with every breath.

So, this Thanksgiving I'm thankful for it all--the joy and the sorow, the closeness and the distance, the laughter and the silence, the past and the future, the successes and the failures--all of which are continuing to be used by God to mold and shape me into a vision of character that I hope and pray will be glorifying to him.

My prayer is that you also will embrace it all and give thanks for what God has allowed to come into your life. Thank you for your reading and being a part of my growing up in Christ.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Waiting. . .Ugh!

Suggested Bible Reading: Psalm 40

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.

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. Obstacles are constant, like the signs held by road workers that force us to stop and wait. But 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.

Thought for the Day: How often during the day am I “still” ready to hear God’s voice?

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

Monday, November 23, 2009

Intentional Prayer

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. Members 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.

Prayer is often approached as a one way conversation. Most of my friends wouldn't tolerate my friendship for very long if I sat and talked at them for 90 minutes. Our friendship continues and flourishes because we talk with each other in a mutual back and forth conversation. Its talking and listening that makes a rich and satisfying experience.

In my own life with Christ, prayer has made a significant difference. Some days are spent with 30 minutes here, 15 minutes there and so on. Other days there is a total immersion into the refreshing waters of prayer. It has been life changing. 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.

If you're like me, sometimes I wonder about "how to do it" or even "when" but when I think of it in terms of a conversation, I realize that prayer is a conversation with the One who made me and wants to be in relationship with me..

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Grow or Die

Suggested Bible Reading: Galatians 5

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 for us 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 decisions will need to be made as to who and what we’re “hanging” with. Growth is impossible if choose to live with 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.

Thought for the Day: What choices am I making that nurture my seed of faith to grow?
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.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Suggested Bible Reading: Job 38—42

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. If you’re like me, you may have wondered if God has given permission to Satan in your life as well.

Job is a source of comfort. Through it all God never left Job’s side. God knew what Job was made of 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” were an integral part of his being. They guided him through the dark and into the light 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)

Thought for the Day: How can I make God’s commands an integral part of my being?

Always present God! When troubles come down on me hard,
don’t take them away, but bring me the memory
of your commands so that I can find joy in the darkness.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No Napping

Suggested Bible Reading: James 4:1-12

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 sanctuary. 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 isn’t taken by surprise. Perhaps even the religious leaders knew that evil had invaded their holy place, but they had looked the other way. It was easier to live with the elephant than to get rid of it.

For some, talk of Satan isn’t “spiritually” correct. God fares better—He brings comfort. But, as sure as there is a God, there is Satan. He doesn’t possess any power over God, but in a day he unleashes scads of mischief, especially for a Christian. There’s no reason for Satan to work “out there” in the culture, he’s got that in his grip. The last remaining place to conquer is wherever Jesus followers gather. Destroying a body of believers is at the top of his list.

As a result of “napping” on our watch, Christianity has become an anathema in our culture. James 3:7 says that not only are we to give ourselves to God but also resist Satan. It’s the two steps together that will help us bring God’s Kingdom to others.

Thought for the Day: Are their any areas of my life or church where Satan may be at work?

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

Monday, November 16, 2009

Prayer Fitting

Suggested Bible Reading: I Thessalonians 5:12-24

…pray without ceasing.

I Thessalonians 5:17

I once heard a church member complaining that too much time was spent praying and studying the Bible during the board of deacons meetings. 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 effect on our lives or the community we call “church.” Jesus committed time to prayer in spite of not having lots of spare time! When reading the gospels its apparent that Jesus had a packed schedule with numerous interruptions! But, repeatedly there is a connection between the time Jesus spends in prayer and the outcome 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.

As new believers, the Thessalonians needed the assurance that their prayer conversations would be powerful and life changing. Prayer can’t be a by-product of our lives but a genuine one. It makes us distinctive Jesus followers, allowing us to not just “see” miracles but experience them as well.

Thought for the Day: What do I need to do to make my life become a life of prayer?

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


Friday, November 13, 2009

God's Evidence

Suggested Bible Reading: Psalm 68

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.

Thought for the Day: Who in my life is God’s evidence of his presence?

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.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Go to Ninevah

Suggested Bible Reading: The Book of Jonah

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.

Thought for the Day: What is God calling me to do and be in His Kingdom?
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.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Facing Bullies

Suggested Bible Reading: Matthews 10:26-33

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 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, Jesus is the only One who has complete power and control. This is the One we should fear the most—the One who holds our entire life in his hands. Wherever we encounter bullies or see others bullied we cannot be afraid to speak the truth. The harm 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. So, don’t affirm bullies! Shout out God’s truth today!

Thought for the Day: Who in my life am I afraid to speak truth to?

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 speak your gospel truth.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cleaning Drawers

Suggested Bible Reading: Psalm 51

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

Psalm 51:6 (The Message)

I once heard an illustration of the difference between Luther’s reformation and that of John Calvin. The two reformations, said the author, resemble the cleaning out of a dresser drawer. In Luther’s reformation he pulled out the drawer and 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.

This delightful comparison also represents what God wants to do in our lives. We are the proverbial dresser drawer! When God pulls it out to take a look inside it may be that the accumulated junk inside reveals a necessary clean out. Through difficulties, hardships, downturns and disappointment our drawer’s contents are dumped out and replaced only with that which reveals the truth about who we are in Christ.

The best part of this analogy is that God never leaves our drawers empty. 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 grounded in the truth of God’s love.

Thought for the Day: What does God see when he looks in my "drawers?"

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

Monday, November 9, 2009

Staring Down Sin

Suggested Bible Reading: Psalm 51

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Psalm 51:3

Growing up I heard fantastic “personal” testimonies. At every evangelistic service there would always be a speaker who mesmerized me with stories of their “life of sin.” My life seemed utterly boring by comparison. I loved hearing how God had reached down and pulled them out of their pit. Somehow it gave more meaning to my understanding of being “saved.” I loved Jesus, but I hadn’t really done anything from which I need to be “saved” from! At least that is what I thought.

Acknowledging our sin is usually the snag that trips us up when we follow Jesus. If we’ve lived a pretty “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 sins “biggies” when faced with confession. But reading 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 The Message). Any one of these “sins” we can find an excuse for that seems plausible. But, no excuses are available for these or any sin.

When faced with “no excuses” sin there is no escaping confession. Whether they are conscious or unconscious sins, confession opens the door to a brand new life,

Thought for the Day: What sins do I make excuses for in my life?

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)

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Cleansing Prayer

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 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.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Face of Humility

Suggested Bible Reading: Psalm 51

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 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 ( 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 this opens the door to 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.” By asking for God’s mercy, we identify him as the creator of our lives. It is at this point of our saying, have mercy on me, O God that humility overtakes our pretentions and he can continue finishing the good work He has begun.

Thought for the Day: In what areas of my life do I continue to try to do things my own way?

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Confession is Good For the Soul

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" however, it is one of the most difficult disciplines of a Jesus follower. Nevertheless it is a requirement to living a life with Jesus. John the Baptizer preached a message of baptism and repentance which resulted in life change. We like the thought of baptism, it implies being clean and belonging, but repenting usually is accompanied by pain--a kind of pain that needs to be avoided at all costs. It involves too much introspection, too much self reflection, too much exposure. That kind of "life change" we can do without!

I've been thinking a lot about confession and the steps that are necessary to come to that place of a “right spirit.” Confession is at the heart of our Christian faith and yet in our prayers, in our relationships, in our Christian communities confession isn’t practiced very regularly. I once read an article about the increasing number of web sites that offer "anonymous online confession" and the number of "hits" they were receiving. Given the high number of “hits” it would appear that as individuals, as a church, as a culture we are in desperate need of God's confronting Spirit.

There’s a reason why genuine confession and repentance is so difficult, it entails coming to God, silent, listening to what he has to say about what he sees and knows isn't right. Generally we don't like being confronted even if we know we’ve done wrong! Consequently, being confronted by our Creator is particularly intimidating because of His x-ray vision that sees beyond the superficial looking at the heart, which is “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV).

We know with our minds that sin is anything that goes against what God desires. But defensively we put a "value" on sin which helps us avoid our culpability. Surely, a little “constructive criticizing" of our church leaders isn't nearly as "sinful" as murder. Passing along information that in the passing loses it’s truth and perhaps 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!

There are an endless number of excuses that we can generate for our sins. But whether it be gossip or slander, selfishness or willfulness, murder or adultery, it all has the same “value” to God. Unfortunately, sin is sin. God just doesn't see sin with our “creative” nuances.

In order to experience spiritual growth and maturity, along with spiritual health, as individuals or in our Christian communities, a willingness to hear God's confronting voice will be necessary. There will be surprises at what He points to because it will probably be those little “sins” we thought innocuous, that we did in "love", thought didn't really hurt anyone or believed, self-righteously, that we were doing the “right thing.”

Little or big, our sins are destructive. Restoration, transformation, healing begins when we humbly fall on our faces praying,

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tangled Messes

Suggested Bible Reading: Psalm 139

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

 Mark 4:34 (The Message)

My husband is a great untangler. Early in our relationship I found him with a coed’s tangled mess of necklaces on a table before him. Sometimes the process took longer than others but, 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 is much easier than getting out of one. Like a pile of tangled necklaces, the life choices that we make can suddenly knot us up. The harder we try to detangle ourselves, the more tightly knotted we become. We need a patient hand to unravel us.

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 how our knots came into being. But, first we have to stop running around trying to untie them ourselves! Our efforts only make them tighter. The patient hand of Jesus will take our tangled messes and unravel them to beauty.

Thought for the Day: What areas of my life does Jesus want to untangle and bring to beauty.

Jesus, time spent with you
makes things far less complicated and tangled.
Help me to remember that whatever the situation,
Your patient hand will unravel it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Soul Windows

Suggested Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:25-32

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. What resides in our inner depths cannot be hidden, long term. 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 with our physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions 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.

Jesus was surrounded by Pharisees angry about how he was upsetting their traditions. But, he never succumbed, even to the point of his death, to the anger that lived in their souls. 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.

Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and slander are present everywhere. We, however, have the message of the Kingdom! A “world” difference will come about when the Message is the only resident in our souls. Then our eyes will shine!

Thought for the Day: What do people see when they look into my eyes?

Jesus, You brought the message of the Kingdom--
bringing joy, promise, hope and love.
Help me to evict all that prevents your
Kingdom message from being seen and heard.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Words with Power

Suggested Bible Reading: Mark 1:21-28

Jesus shut him up: “Quiet! Get out of him!”
Mark 1:25 (The Message)

Isn’t it interesting that the first healing, found in the gospel of Mark, is one where Jesus expels a demon that has found a home in the synagogue? Having arrived in Capernaum Jesus heads immediately to the synagogue and begins teaching. Right there smack in the middle of the synagogue, where they gathered for the Sabbath, the first recognition of Jesus’ identity comes from a demon. The encounter sets the stage for the drama that increasingly unfolds as Jesus begins his ministry. The demons consistently recognize the power of a Jesus spoken word.

If we’ve lived any length of time, we have experienced varying degrees of difficulties. Usually, just when I’m setting the table for a good pity party for one, along comes a “perspective” story. It’s always a story of someone else’s difficulties that simply ruins my well laid table of self pity! Of course, I shouldn’t be having pity parties to begin with; Jesus doesn’t want to be a guest at my pity party. He wants to heal, inside out.

When we find ourselves with issues that “drive us insane”, problems that “torment us”, or worries that “plague us” Jesus willingly speaks into our turmoil, “Quiet! Get out of her.” These are the words that will drive out the “demons”, heal us from the inside out, restoring our inner peace.

Thought of the day: Where in my life do I need the words of Jesus, “Quiet! Get out of her”?

Jesus, thank you that you have the authority
to speak the words, “Quiet! Get out of her!”,
bringing me healing from the inside out.
Artwork--Man with the Unclean Spirit, Ian Pollack, EICH Gallery

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Prayer Wrestling

Suggested Bible Reading: Genesis 32:22-32

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 - with one goal - to get what they want. Parents of children with this personality type are worn down, employers become frustrated, spouses irritated. But, there is a flip side. 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 perfectly demonstrates 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. Now Jacob even takes on God! He’s one gutsy guy! But, his “negative” does become a “positive.”

True, Jacob’s life is full of perfect illustrations of how NOT to live, but the scene that unfolds here is one of a man “prayer wrestling.” Much like the blessing he received from his father, Isaac, Jacob is determined to get what he wants—God’s blessing. His tenaciousness, leads him to an all night wrestling match with God, which results in permanent injury!

Prayer wrestling—it’s something to think about. God never tires of hearing from us. Jacob is our proof, and who knows what our results will be!

Thought of the Day: When I pray, how intentional and focused am I about specific issues?
God of blessings, thank you for your strength.
Help me to not be afraid to spend time wrestling with you.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's a Day Off

Check in tomorrow as I will begin posting again! Thanks for reading! Valerie

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Taking a Day Off

Just wanted to let you know that today (Tuesday) and tomorrow (Wednesday) I will not be posting anything. Please check back on Thursday! Thank you so much for you support by reading this blog. I appreciate you all very much. Valerie

Friday, October 23, 2009

God-Glory Moments

Suggested Bible Reading: Exodus 33:12-23

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
 Exodus 33:14

Moses had not easily accepted his responsibility. Picked by God from his birth, for a destiny he never imagined, Moses knew first hand the range of emotions and experiences that result from obeying God. Initially there had been heart stopping, God-glory moments when he and the other Israelites 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 whining and complaining voices.

Moses talks to God, doing his own bit of whining and complaining. In the middle, however, of Moses’ “further mores” God stops him, assuring him of his presence. It isn’t a promise of rescue from the difficulties or a commitment to making it all better, just a promise that God is in the desert.

Despite all that Moses had seen of God’s glory in the desert, when it got tough he needed assurance that God was still there. God doesn’t scold but gives Moses a God-glory encounter like he has never experienced.

It’s this God that goes with us every day, even when we feel he his distant. It is perhaps in those most desperate of times that we hear his voice most keenly, because in our questioning, and our heart’s desire to know, we listen more intently.

Thought of the day: What God-glory moment have I experienced?

Help me to know your presence every day.
When my day is dry, lead me to water.
When I am weary, help me hear, “I will give you rest.”