Thursday, April 30, 2009

Three Great Thoughts

Here are three marvelous quotes from Billy Graham.

Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion;
it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.

It is unnatural for Christianity to be popular.

Be to the world a sign that while we as
Christians do not have all the answers,
we do care and know about the questions.

May you go throughout your day today confident that God's presence surrounds you.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Speaking Jesus

I know a woman who loves Jesus. It's not that you know she loves Jesus because of the “aura” around her. No, when you’re with her you pick up very quickly that Jesus is in every intake and exhale of breath. Of course, the fact that she is totally unembarrassed to yell, "JESUS!" at any given time while walking down the street is also a good indicator!

One day, while having lunch together, she volunteered to pray for us. I half jokingly said, "but do it quietly." Since that lunch, I’ve often thought how we live out our lives for Jesus, "quietly."

Jesus, of course, did not live quietly. Even as an adolescent the religious scholars didn’t intimidate him. Jesus was confident in who he was and what he knew. From his baptism to the wedding at Cana to the feeding of the thousands, examples mushroom as to how Jesus lived his life publicly and noisily. The gospel of Mark repeatedly tells us that "crowds" followed Jesus continually. That isn't a picture of quiet.

We live in a "politically correct" age. Within this culture I find myself, too often, following Jesus "quietly." Daily looking at each encounter with an individual as an opportunity to speak "Jesus" is a challenge. What I'm realizing, however, is that while I may not have the courage to yell, "Jesus!" while walking down the street I can speak Jesus into the life of each person I meet. It means a very conscious awareness on my part. Each waiter, clerk, telephone order taker, doctor, mortgage broker, window washer becomes an opportunity to not be “quiet” about Jesus.

How we speak “Jesus” daily will look different with each encounter. But what I am struck with is the truth that I can do something that takes no time away from the individual. I can pray. The result of believing that God created everyone is that each person I meet becomes an image of God. They may not know it, but the fact is I do. My responsibility, as a Jesus follower, is to speak Jesus to them in a way they will be able to understand.

However, whether "quietly" or “loudly” the simplest way to speak "Jesus" is prayer.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Spirit is Active

The purpose of living is not to learn to make prayer; but to become prayer; to live in and for God according to the divine call, wholly surrended to the Spirit's activity in the soul for the glory of God.

Fr Gilbert Shaw

Every morning I thank God for the day, for my life and pray that he would use my life for this day according to his will. On the surface it seems like a very simple prayer, easily said. But at the deeper levels it is fraught with peril. One never knows exactly how God will demonstrate his will through the Spirit's activity.

Standing in the midst of a crowd of parents and their kids at a fundraiser for a local Christian school stood a lone, quiet man. It was obvious that no one was engaging him. I was watched as people gave him a wide berth. It was our turn to be seated and we were asked if we would be willing to sit with a "single." Coming forward as the "single", this lone man led the way to our table. Eddie would be our lunch companion for the next 45 minutes.

Introducing ourselves Eddie's smile revealed that he had lived a life quite different from our own. Crystal meth had destroyed his teeth distorting his countenance and speech--conversation was a challenge. But, one quality was evident--Eddie loved Jesus. In fact, with pride he told about his role as the "first thief" in the passion play at his church. Having gone to a country church as a little boy, recently he had again felt the touch of God's redemption.

Eating our “fundraiser” hamburgers I became keenly aware of my inadequacy to relate to Eddie. Our lives were a study in opposites with three exceptions, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. In the embrace of the Trinity we were exactly the same--redeemed.

Finishing lunch and saying our good-byes I watched as Eddie once again stood alone surrounded by the crowd. We had prayed together at lunch, but, more significantly, I hoped that our lives had been a prayer for Eddie. We hadn't asked to be seated with him, but God had intervened and having surrendered to the Spirit's activity we were blessed to live in and for God according to the divine call.

On this day, we would definitely have been the "losers" if we hadn't eaten a burger with Eddie.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Challenging Thoughts

A little something to "chew" on today!

The humility of Christ is not the moderation of keeping one's exact place in the scale of being, but rather that of absolute dependence on God and absolute trust in him, with the consequent ability to move mountains. The secret of the meekness and the gentleness of Christ lies in his relation to God.

H. Richard Neibuhr, North American theologian

Friday, April 24, 2009

Speak Plainly

If I don’t address you plainly with some insight
or truth or proclamation or teaching, what help am I to you?

I Corinthians 14:6 (The Message)

At two and a half years old our daughter had a strong hold on language. As parents we had to be careful what we said around her. Speaking in our parent “code” one day, she confidently declared, “It makes me angry when you talk in a way I don’t understand.”

Plain speech is essential to understanding. Christians sometimes have a tough time talking to each other much less talking to individuals who don’t know Jesus. We find ourselves divided by denominations or “cultures” having developed our own language by which we understand each other. The challenge comes when our “cultures” collide and the language spoken isn’t understood even though the foundation of our faith is exactly the same.

When it comes to talking to individuals who know nothing about Christianity think how confusing our language must be? Speaking plainly is essential to understanding. If we want our friends to know the Jesus we love we have to speak in a language that they can understand.

Sprinkling the name “Jesus” in one’s conversation doesn’t describe who he is. Telling people, who know nothing of God that “God told me…” doesn’t tell them how one got to the point of hearing God. Quoting Bible verses certainly reveals one’s ability to memorize but does it say anything about what you know about the truth of Scripture? Plain speech is essential to understanding. And it’s harder than it seems.

Jesus, you spoke to each person
in the language they understood.Give me the gift of
plain speech when Italk to others about You.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Touch Me

“Lord, if you will, You can make me clean.”
Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him,
saying, “I will; be clean.”

Luke 5:12b-13

We got to the hospital before it opened. Having scheduled surgery a week earlier I was eager to get the procedure over. Because my response to anesthesia is negative my prayer had been, “Lord, if you will, please help me get out of the anesthetic fog without getting nauseous.”

Touches filled the morning. My husband, the intake nurse, the anesthesiologist, the gynecologist, the recovery room nurse, someone always had their hand on me. A touch ended my day as well when a friend, trained in healing therapy, came with dinner and left me drowsy on the floor; the result of a pressure point foot massage. From the beginning to the end my healing involved touching.

Touching was an integral part of Jesus’ ministry. Children, lepers, women, generally those who made up the crowds were all recipients of his touch. What is amazing about many of theses touching accounts is the faith of the individuals. Like the hemorrhaging woman, the leper in Luke starts from a belief that with a touch healing would flow.

Jesus stretches out his hand and touches. His healing doesn’t depend on the leper meeting him half way with his own hand. He touches freely. What was required was a belief that a touch would do.

Walking into the hospital I knew that touching would be a part of the healing process. The truth is that Jesus was there too, touching me, bringing healing to my anxious spirit but also to my body because upon awakening there wasn’t even a twinge of nausea.

Jesus, thank you for your touch.
Stretching out your hand you touch life into me
and I know that I am nothing without that touch.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Firmly Knitted

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

Psalm 139:13

Having been told that pregnancy was a far reaching possibility, Marilyn was thrilled to discover that the improbable had become reality. The excitement was short lived, however, when several weeks later the doctor declared a miscarriage and a D & C was performed. Dwight and Marilyn left that day with only the weight of sorrow.When a few weeks passed Marilyn was shocked to discover that neither miscarriage nor D & C had been the reality, but, in fact, the baby was still growing. She was going to be a mother after all. And, after a few more months of womb somersaults, Marilyn and Dwight left the hospital with the weight of a 9 lb. baby in their arms.

Several years ago, while a participant in a healing conference in Oakland, California, I was taken back during one session to the point of being in my mother’s womb. As I sat listening to the weeping of those who had felt unwanted I became aware that my own senses were in a state of heightened security. I felt warm, safe--protected!

Later, in conversation with my mother I expressed awe by my experience. She reminded me of the circumstances surrounding my birth. Despite a diagnosed miscarriage and D & C procedure, I had remained firmly knitted. And now, that weighty 9 lb. baby Marilyn thought she had lost, was experiencing anew the reality that God had formed and knitted me and no matter what, I could not be unraveled!

Father, thank you for your creative and durable knitting!
Help me to remember that what you create cannot be unraveled.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Living Testimony

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him
because of the woman’s testimony,“He told me all that I ever did.”

John 4:39

Jesus and his conversation with the Samaritan woman is one of my favorites. Here is an intelligent woman, with a fighter’s spirit, who had a tough life. However, she also must have been a woman of faith. How else could she confidently debate with Jesus the finer points of his “water of life” message? Given the environment of the day the conversation should never have happened and yet it is one of the lengthiest recorded in the gospels.

Several years ago I read Obery Hendrick’s novel, Living Water, based on this conversation. As a New Testament scholar, familiar with the 1st century culture, Hendrick’s version altered my view on this woman.

Frequently we’re quick to right her off as “loose” because of her number of marriages. The conversation becomes a testimony of Jesus knowing all and offering salvation. And yet, her multiple marriages account for only 1 ½ verses in the 23 verses that tell us of their conversation. Surely, there is more to this woman than five husbands!

While the details of the Samaritan woman’s life aren’t recorded, evidence of her possible role in the community becomes apparent when she returns to town. On her testimony alone “many” Samaritans believed in Jesus.

It’s a humbling thought. When we consider our own lives perhaps a question we should ask is, “Would my testimony cause "many" to believe in Jesus?”

The woman of Samaria changed a community with eight words!

Jesus, you are eager to be in conversation with me.
Help me to be as eager to be in conversation with others about you.

Image--Christ and the Woman of Samaria, Michelangelo Buonarotti, 1475-1564, National Museums Liverpool

Friday, April 17, 2009


The fundamental mission of the church is preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. But there has been a loss of faith in the power of the Word. We feel it won't be effective if we say it as it is. It will turn people off; let's rebuild the temporal order first.

But there is a startling discontinuity between human reasoning and what God's Word says the priority is. War, loneliness, world hunger, abortion--these are rooted in man's rebellion. Man must submit in faith to Jesus Christ and repent. Putting a Band-Aid here and there on this or that moral problem is not the answer. Evangelization hits the core: man must submit in faith to Jesus Christ and repent. He must renounce his autonomy and self-sufficiency. Personal appropriation of the death and resurrection of Christ is the one foundation for Christian community and world peace. Failure to act on the gospel imperative to evangelize has resulted in holding to the form of Christianity while denying its power. Beautiful liturgies; mass; regional, national, and international meetings; crusades against immorality are good and have their places, but none of them is an adequate substitute for dying to self.

But you, keep you head in all situations, endure hardship,
do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of you ministry.

2 Timothy 4:5

Selection from Reflections for Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My Daily Prayer

I have posted this prayer before but I thought it might be a good prayer to again remember. It is one that I pray every morning as well as throughout the day. It never ceases to surprise me how protected I feel.

Christ as a light illumine and guide me.
Christ as a shield overshadow me.
Christ under me.
Christ over me.
Christ beside me on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
Lowly and meek yet all powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak
and the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
Christ as light.
Christ as a shield.
Christ beside me on my left and my right.

Adpated from Prayer of St. Patrick's Breastplate

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Well Seasoned

Let your speech always be gracious,
seasoned with salt,so that you may
know how you ought to answer each person.

Colossians 4:6

I’m a foodie, so I appreciate the importance of salt in a recipe. This simple, plain ingredient is essential to enhancing the flavor of almost any food. Too much you have failure but just enough is pure success.At one point in our lives we discovered that the “sticks and stones” adage was a lie--words do hurt. Unfortunately, emotions play a role in our ability to choose well seasoned words. Sharp words result in emptiness for both the speaker and the receiver.

Accusing, insulting, taunting words were hurled at Jesus, repeatedly and yet his responses were intelligent, clear and concise. His parables left his hearers puzzled, nevertheless, they knew they held truth. In season and out, Jesus spoke well seasoned words.

In this “immediate” age words are instantly transmitted and their affects are instantaneous. Christians are no less immune. As Jesus followers we need to consider very carefully our own saltiness. How we respond to each other, no matter our church, political or theological persuasion is in part what will make a difference in how the world views us.

Biblical interpretation may vary, but, we have a common Trinitarian truth--our Creator, his Son whom he sent, showing us how to live and forgive, and the Holy Spirit who continues to work in us today. Holding tight to this truth opens the way to gracious and seasoned speech. Making a difference in the world begins with how much salt we’re willing to scatter on each other.

Jesus, your words were always well seasoned. Help me to guard my tongue
speaking words that will bring life to the hearer.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pure Refreshment

Be rainfall on cut grass, earth-refreshing rain showers.

Psalm 72:6

Shuffling outside with the dog I became aware of the most amazing fragrance. During the night it had rained and the smells emanating from the earth were invigorating. There was crispness in the air and the morning’s color was a rainbow hue. I was alive!

We are called, as Jesus followers, to be like this particular morning—a moment of refreshment. Jesus lived his life in such a manner. People were eager to be around him. And yes, while his healing powers drew people, more than anything the presence and character of Jesus is what drew the crowds. He was different than what they had seen.

Growing up I was taught that my life should be lived in such a way that everyone would know I was a Christian. This was achieved by adopting certain “rules” by which to live such as no drinking, smoking or dancing. By not doing these things I would stand out and people would know something was “different.”

Jesus was certainly different but not by virtue of rules. His words, actions, responses were what made him different and attractive to people. Let your light shine…so that they may see… (Matthew 5:16).

To be like rainfall on cut grass, is to possess a fragrance in the core of your being which isn’t produced by rules. It is only achieved by allowing the Holy Spirit to breathe in you the life of Jesus; believing that everyone with whom you speak will be refreshed.

Jesus, may I be refreshing rain for someone today.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, "Father into your hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last.

Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, "Certainly this man was innocent."

Luke 23:44-47

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Image Maker

I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.

Psalm 101:3

Reasons abound for not taking time to study the Bible. Perhaps the most common is time—I don’t have enough time for study and prayer. Schedules are indeed maxed and yet in conversation one hears about recent TV shows that are being followed or movies that have been watched, repeatedly. Indeed, the average American watches four hours of television a day. In a 65 year life span there is a possibility that this “average” American will have spent nine years watching television.

Daily we are confronted with a world that is fighting to make us into its own image. Advertisements show how we can look better, feel more alive and null our pain. A daily celebrity watch elevates being famous to an art form. Talking heads argue over what is right and what is wrong, believing that we’re hanging on every word.

In this environment how do we avoid setting before our eyes anything that is worthless? The psalmist was seeking to walk a life of integrity. Throughout this psalm he lists what he wants to set before his eyes.As a Jesus follower we should keep a list as well. God wants to be our only image maker. In order to stay focused on who He wants us to become we’ll need to keep in front of us those things that will help us walk a life of integrity.

There is a battle for our attention. Acknowledging this struggle is to begin making a conscious choice between the worthless and the worthy.

Jesus, thank you for having a vision for me.
Everyday I feel the pull and tug of the world
wanting to make me in its own image.
Help me to set my eyes only on You.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A New Introduction

…leaving you an example,
so that you might follow in his steps.

I Peter 2:21b

Cutting into my lane I was confronted with its red rear end covered with bumper stickers. Irritated I edged up close at the next red light—God save me from your followers was adjacent to Celebrate Diversity. I was intrigued by the odd pairing.

As our zone of comfort shrinks in size and we become confronted daily with unfamiliar cultures and world residents the uncertainties of life become increasingly apparent. What once was cut and dry seems now to be a fuzzy line. Politicians refer to “moral” issues that were never considered as such. And what once was valued as “sacred” is tossed aside in pursuit of science.

Where does the Jesus follower stand in this confusion? As hard as it may be to accept our American culture is no longer Christian. This means that those that follow Jesus better know Who they’re following and why.

In this environment gone should be the arguments based on assumptions of what we think people know about Who we follow. Every day, whether we live in Iowa, SoCal, Texas or Washington, should now be viewed as an opportunity to introduce to this new culture the life of Jesus Christ.

But do you know him well enough to speak to this culture in the language they will understand? Jesus encountered a similar resistance to his message, but he knew how to connect what he was saying with the first century culture. Granted, his message ultimately nailed him to the cross, but the world did change as a result.

Jesus, help me to know You in such a
way that in introducing You people will
want to join the following.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tranquil Living

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh,
but, envy makes the bones rot.

Proverbs 14:30

A hardened face whose mouth lists a multitude of ailments sits across from me. On the outside this woman appears outrageously successful; nevertheless, it’s apparent that appearances don’t tell the whole story. She has proven that she can make money and no doubt there are numerous individuals who envy her mountaintop, but, it hasn’t prevented her from being envious of what she doesn’t have. Envy is literally sucking her bones dry.

It’s tough these days to not look at what others have and not be a little envious. The gulf between the haves and the have not’s widens daily. The objects of envy vary—money, job success, high achieving children or grandchildren, perfect marriages—the list goes on. Not a single one of these objects brings life.

Achieving a tranquil heart is an intentional act on the part of a Jesus follower. Bookstores are jammed with books and DVD's touting that their program will bring about a "peaceful" mind, or the "tranquil" life. Nevertheless they, too, recognize that tranquility doesn't come without a concentrated focus on the part of the individual.

The difference between the tranquility of a Jesus follower and worldly expertise is that Jesus gives us a picture of how true tranquility looks. When we know the life of Jesus, intimately, we are on our way to a life-giving tranquil heart. To know is to be intentional. Getting to know Jesus takes time, but, the reward is life itself. Envy will no longer be able to suck out our marrow.

Jesus, you never succumbed to the society around you.
Thank you for showing me that it is possible to live
a life of tranquility.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Calloused Knees

The Lord upholds all who are falling
And raises up all who are bowed down.

Psalm 145:14

Date notations in my Bible clue me in as to the state of my life at the time. It’s always interesting to cast my mind back to the time period listed. Sometimes I have difficulty even remembering the events that took place but the verse itself gives some indication as to where I was on my spiritual growth chart.

Today’s verse reminds me of the time I was flat on my face. The life I had envisioned had disintegrated and I was face to face with the dirt. All day long God heard my plaintive bleats. It didn’t feel as though I was being upheld or raised up.
But, hindsight is valuable. That fact that I am able to write today is evidence that the Lord does raise up all who are bowed down. The sands that I slogged through for months have brought me, today, to a wide and spacious place.

It turns out that what appeared to be the end was actually the beginning. The darkness that enveloped me was what ultimately allowed me to see the light. Loss of dreams produced a clean canvas on which God’s vision was painted.

This was not what I saw at the time but in reflecting back I remember early morning hours of prayer. One day passing into the next and discovering that instead of being on my face I was on my knees. And I find that it’s a good place to be. Besides, hopefully, the next time I won’t have so far to “fall.”

Jesus, thank you for the press of your hand
on my back—leading, guiding. I want to stay on my knees
in this wide and spacious place.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Fully God...Fully Human

…so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey,
was sitting beside the well.

John 4:6

In Sunday school I learned about the strength, power, and fortitude of Jesus. Amazing stories were told of his conquering Satan’s temptations, healing paralytics, freeing people from the grasp of demons. Because Jesus was God’s Son he was able to accomplish the spectacular.

Many years later I understood the importance of claiming Jesus’ humanness. As a child the power of Jesus drew me in. It was the human nature of Jesus that drew me as an adult. Knowing that Jesus lived life in the flesh, with all the stuff that goes with it, was what made him absolutely real.

There is comfort in the truth that whatever we experience in life Jesus lived it as well—at least on the emotional level. Whatever we have suffered emotionally as a result of loss, illness, rejection, fear, Jesus also suffered in his humanness. New Testament theologians believe that Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus probably died while Jesus was still at home—Jesus knew what it means to lose a parent.

The pressures of a hectic schedule weren’t foreign to Jesus. People demanding his attention were a daily occurrence. He was surrounded by people who didn’t understand him. Feel alone in a crowd—Jesus knew that emotion as well.

The deity of Jesus is absolutely important to our life as a Jesus follower. But knowing that he was wearied from walking and took time to sit down should be a solace to us in our day to day.

Jesus, thank you for your willingness to be human.
Because you lived life in the real world
I know that it is possible to not
be overwhelmed but to live as a reflection of you.
Image--Going to the Well, Kossonogi, 1968, Safrai Fine Art, Jerusalem

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Due to unforeseen circumstances there will be no postings today! Check back tomorrow and in the mean time may you know the presence of God today in your life.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Being Home

Foxes have holes, and birds ofthe air have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.

Matthew 8:20

During the three years that I lived without a house to call my own I discovered that owning one’s house is a privilege, not a right. The majority of the world doesn’t own the walls that surround them. Frequently I would complain about my rental digs believing that I was rootless without a house to call my home or the “valuables” that, I believed, defined me.

Then we relocated and I was thrilled when we purchased a house. Those “valuables” however that I thought would make it a home remained in storage for another six months! While sitting on a folding chair eating Thanksgiving dinner at a makeshift plywood table my awareness of the significance of my situation dawned on me. My focus had been on not having a place to live rather than on how God wanted me to live. A few months later we moved again!

When the Jewish scribe pledges his loyalty to Jesus, Jesus is quick to tell him what he’ll do without. Basically, following Jesus means not worrying about where one is going to sleep at night. The animals have it cushier than the Jesus follower!

Living life with Jesus could mean giving up many of the things we hold “valuable." But, I have found that I am wealthier when I ask, “How do you want me to live” every time a “valuable” has been taken away.I presently live in a house, but, the reality is that wherever God takes me is where I call home.

Jesus, thank you for being patient with me
as you teach me the difficult lesson of learning how to live.