Monday, August 31, 2009

Food for Thought

One Christian city, one city in any part of the earth, whose citizens from the greatest to the humblest lived in the spirit of Christ, where religion had overflowed the churches and passed into the streets, inundating every house and workshop, and permeating the whole social and commerical life--one such Christian city would seal the redemption of the world.

Henry Drummond, The City Without a Church

Monday, August 24, 2009

On Retreat

Having just returned from dropping our daughter off at college, my husband and I have gone on retreat. Not to be mistakened with vacation, because, while we're away from our home, we want this time away to be focused on prayer, silence, writing and discovey. With this in mind, I will not be posting any meditations this week, however, by week's end I hope to have written several more meditations for On Crooked Knees!

To all of you who have faithfully read this blog--thank you. Your prayers would be greatly appreciated. We need a refresher course in how to listen to God's voice and be attentive to his direction!

See you next Monday!

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Right Direction

Point your kids in the right direction—when they’re old they won’t be lost.

Proverbs 22:6 (The Message)

There are no guarantees when raising children. You don’t need to be a parent to comprehend this truth, because you are someone’s child. Musing over the past we wonder, “How did I manage to get from there to here?” If it’s your turn to be a parent, the slippery nature of parenting has probably found you frequently on your back, wondering how you lost your footing.

The kicker is that the relationship never ends! It’s a job from which you can’t resign and most likely don’t want to relinquish. At some point, however, a shifting of the paradigm takes place and you find yourself looking into the face of a person who looks vaguely like your child. All the time you spent pointing in the right direction will now be put to the test.Will this child, who you feel in your marrow, be able to find their way?

Proverbs is a great book with bits of hard and comforting truths. However, even here there aren’t guarantees. Everyday I have asked God to protect my child from my numerous parental mistakes. But, when a child is no longer a child and with saucer eyes is looking at the world, a parent has to trust that their directions were clear.

Ultimately, that child who you nurtured, loved, spoiled and who was claimed as your own isn’t your possession. She was knitted by God, created for His joy and sustained for His purposes. As parent you only pointed towards the goal. From this point forward the child must choose, on their own, which direction they will take. It’s the risky part of parenting—will they go in the right direction.

Father, thank you for creating, knowing and loving me, your child.
Help me to feel Your touch, hear Your voice and
move in the direction of Your choosing.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gift Words

Watch the way you talk…Say only what helps, each word a gift.

Ephesians 4:29 (The Message)

If you can’t say something nice don’t say it at all was part of my early education. Honestly...I haven’t always applied this principle. But, I've been the recipient of words spoken by individuals who haven’t applied it as well! It’s not that uncommon when living in community! In election years sometimes I want to use my “outside voice” to say, If you can’t say something nice… We live in a time when people believe it is their “right” to say whatever they “feel” with very little thought to the effects.

The majority of conflicts, estrangements, misunderstandings have begun with stone words instead of gift words. Words are perhaps some of the most powerful weapons we have at our disposal. They can, however, also be tools for rebuilding and restoring. It all depends on what words are spoken and how.

As Jesus followers, the words we speak should make us distinctive in a world consumed with “tongue rights.” When the “world” hears Christians exercising tongue rights with each other, what are they to think? Why should they choose another Way if what they are seeing isn’t any different then their present way of living? Our behavior should be so gift-like distinctive that it attracts people, like a sumptuous table of food.

Watching the way we talk begins at “home.” The words we speak to our parents, spouses, children, siblings are practice for words spoken to our neighbors, friends, and fellow Jesus followers. Our “nature” is not gift words. Saying only what helps is a conscious, deliberate and daily choice.

Jesus, thank you for Your “gift words”
that brought healing, forgiveness and wholeness.
Help me to watch the way I talk
so that I can give “gifts” instead of stones.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Food for Thought

Religion and the gospel...lead to divergent ways of handling troubles and suffering. Moralistic religion leads its participants to the conviction that if they live an upstanding life, then God (and others) owe them respect and favor. They believe they deserve a decent, happy life. If, however, life begins to go wrong, moralists will experience debilitating anger. Either they will be furious with God (or "the universe") because they feel that sinced they live better than others, they should have a better life. Or else they will be deeply angry at themselves, unable to shake the feeling that they have not lived as they should or kept up to standards. The gospel, however, makes it possible for someone to escape the spiral of bitterness, self-recrimination, and despair when life goes wrong. They know that the basic premise of religion--that if you live a good life, things will go well for you--is wrong. Jesus was the most morally upright person who ever lived, yet he had a life filled with the experience of poverty, rejection, injustice, and even torture.

Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Loving Memory

Remember me, O my God, for good.

Nehemiah 13:31c

For a lifetime the world witnessed her humble life at work. Most people understood the why of her endeavors, fewer understood the Who. It was difficult to put into a “worldly” context a life lived in obedience to God. Nevertheless, Mother Teresa’s journals express a very basic spiritual emotion—does God even care. How many times have you wanted to say the words of Mother Teresa--“I feel like refusing God.”

Nehemiah’s life took a drastic turn when he lived his life in obedience to God. After moving to Jerusalem he encountered one barrier after another attempting to thwart the good work God had called him to do. And, when the wall was finished, his “enemies” were afraid because they knew that it was a result of God’s help (Nehemiah 6:15-16). Enemies that are afraid are unpredictable and yet Nehemiah continued--restoring, rebuilding; helping the Jewish community to return their focus on the Who of their existence.

By the end of his life, this humble cup bearer accomplished much more than anyone ever anticipated. What had started as a construction job turned into a life long mission. In the process of repairing the physical walls Nehemiah realizes that the spiritual foundation of the community had been compromised and so he stays, obedient to God’s call.

They both lived obedient lives. But, Nehemiah and Mother Teresa shared a doubt--was their good work enough to be remembered by the God who had called them to obedience.

God has a loving memory.

God, thank you for those who have lived before us revealing
that an obedient life is a life that You remember.
My desire is to do Your good work, living a life of obedience.
Remember me, O my God.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Trouble Happens

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

John 15:18

Marian always wore her snowy hair in a tidy French twist. With hearing aids firmly in place, you would find her, every Sunday, at the doors of our sanctuary handing out her warm “hellos” and “we’re glad you came.” Her conservative style and Norwegian sensibility were in sharp contrast to our alternative lifestyle community. She was unique, but, what one never failed to recognize was Marian’s devotion to Jesus.

Even though she was over twice my age and had studied the Bible far longer than I, she came every week to the Bible study I taught. She was firm in many of her ideas and, at times, her Biblical doggedness frustrated me. But it was from Marian that I learned one of my most important lessons, “when you raise up the name of Jesus, trouble is going to happen.”

If we are genuine about living in the Kingdom, being the name of Jesus in the marketplace, lifting him up in our churches, making our lives a living testimony to Christ’s character, there will be obstacles--big ones, mean ones, gossipy ones. Rarely has a day gone by that I am not reminded of Marian’s insight, “when you raise up the name of Jesus, trouble is going happen.”

Trouble surrounded Jesus from his birth, continuing until his death. Personally, this makes me squirm--I want people to like me! But, knowing that Jesus walked through the trouble, the hatred, the animosity and plots against his life towards the Kingdom, gives me confidence to keep walking the Jesus Way.

The world, or even closer, maybe some of our friends may “hate” us. But, we’re not alone. Jesus lived it--to the cross.
Jesus, I am afraid of people not liking me
and so I keep quiet about You, about what is
right and wrong. About sin!
Help me to live, breathe, speak. . .You!

Image--Rembrandt. Peter Denying Christ. 1660

Friday, August 14, 2009

Internet Problems

Hi! Sorry about no posting today. I just got back on the internet this evening after being without phone or internet for almost 24 hours due to a huge power outage! So, look for a new devotional on Monday! Blessings on your weekend. God Reigns!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fearless Giving

...I did not demand the food allowance of the governor,
because the service was too heavy on this people.

Nehemiah 5:18c

Our meal was delicious. There had also been way too much! “Doggy bag” in hand, we walked around the corner. Out of our periphery we glimpsed a worn, disheveled woman crouched on the concrete. She never said a word, simply rocked back and forth.“We need to give her our food,” said my daughter. Walking back I was greeted with a “Hello Lady.” Explaining that we had more food than we needed she grabbed the bag—“Thank you!” Later that evening we saw her still rocking, the “doggy bag” empty.

Nehemiah goes to Jerusalem with good motives--helping put Jerusalem back together. He discovers, however, extreme opposition to his good work as well as his own people taking advantage of each other for their own gain. Food has become a premium. When Nehemiah is appointed governor he refuses to eat the food allotted to him because it comes to his table on the backs of people who have little to eat.

Today, history is repeating itself all around the world. The number of individuals that are considered starving is approaching 1,000,000,000. Domestic food banks are finding that food donations that stock their shelves are diminishing even as the demand on their supplies increases.

We’re frightened for own future which makes us afraid to give. But what if we lived like Nehemiah. How much food would we be able to give if we cut out just one meal a week? I think you’ll be surprised both by how much you can give as well as how you’ll feel.

Jesus, thank you that my needs are met.
Help me to be aware of any excesses and seek out ways
to give away what I don’t need.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Psalm for Today


I am exceedingly grateful, O Lord,
for You have heard my cries and complaints,
and You responded with mercey and strength.
Now my life is overflowing with thanksgiving,
and my mouth is filled with Your praises.

If only the leaders of our disjointed world
would listen to Your words
and direct their people in accord with Your will,
they would then know the meaning of peace,
and they would rejoice in the ways of God.

You have not shielded me from the pains of trouble
or the ravages of conflict,
but You have kept me
even amid sorrow and suffering.
You take my side against the enemies of my soul,
and You will not allow them to destroy me.

Thus I know You will fulfill Your purpose for my life.
Your love and mercy is everlasting;
You will not let me go.

From Psalms/Now by Leslie Brandt (Concordia Publishing House)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New Life

…just as Christ was raised from the dead by
the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:4c

I love to move furniture. For many years I moved my family room furniture to a new position at least once a month. I’ve been known to, while visiting friends, give ideas for a new arrangement for their own furniture! Suffice it to say, I don’t mind change. When it’s suggested that perhaps a new arrangement isn’t favorable, my reply is what my interior design business partner and I gave years ago, “live with it for three weeks and if you still don’t like it, we’ll move it back.” Usually, the “new” arrangement stayed the same—adjustments were made and they found that the “new” view wasn’t so bad after all.

Change, for change sake, isn’t good. But if change brings revitalization and a new life is experienced, think what we would have missed in our insistence to keep things status quo.

Jesus brought change to a religious structure whose furniture hadn’t been “moved around” for centuries. Waiting for the Messiah had become part of the furniture arrangement. When Jesus comes and sets about not just rearranging things but suggesting that there is a totally new way to live. . .well, the old order put up with him for three years and thought they found a way of getting everything back in order. History, of course, proves differently.

The challenge that we as Jesus followers are now facing is similar. We’ve become comfortable in our furniture arrangement--the way we “do” church, how we “live” in a pagan culture and how we “practice” our faith.

The call of Jesus remains fresh and new 2,000 years later. It isn’t a call to pack furniture into rooms called finance committee, missions committee, outreach committee, etc. It isn’t a call to build a bigger and better sanctuary. It isn’t a call to do our worship exactly the way we’ve done it for years. His fresh and new call remains along these lines, “Stop rearranging furniture! Get rid of it! Follow Me, live in Me, be in Me and we’ll change the world.”

Jesus! Help me to live a life free of just being comfortable
wanting the “way it used to be.”
I want to live your new life in this new age!

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Prayer for Christian Unity

Increasingly I feel an urgency to pray for Christians to come together; leaping over denominational barriers and joining together in "one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all" (Ephesians 4:5). Here is a prayer to that end. My hope is that you will join me in praying that our differences will cease to divide us and instead, we will be united by our belief in the One who "works through all."

O God, form the minds of your faithful people
into a single will.
Make us love what you command
and desire what you promise,
that, amid all the changes of this
world, our hearts may be fixed
where true joy is found;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

Book of Common Worship

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Rest Awhile

Ah, stubborn children, declares the Lord
…who set out to go down to Egypt,
without asking for my direction...

Isaiah 30:1a, 2

I have come to the place in my life where I don’t make a move without first talking to my Father. Unfortunately, this lesson has been learned the hard way. I have often wondered at those individuals who seem to make decisions for themselves and somehow it turns out. My experience has been, when trying this approach, that things turn out messy. Waiting for His direction is maddening and yet, it’s in the waiting that problems are made clear.

From churches to government there seems to be an absence of asking God for direction and waiting. Dozens of books are available outlining program development for churches, money growth for individuals, five year plans, and retirement survival. None of these are wrong but I wonder how frequently we stop in the midst of our devouring them and pray, “Lord, what do I do?” Perhaps, like the Israelites, we respond in panic when things go wrong, rushing back to our enslavement.

God says over and over again that He wants to have conversations with us even about the simplest of issues. He’s good at giving directions. The challenge that presents itself is, are we willing to follow the directions given. Flashy neon signs abound tempting us with life directions. God’s sign is a simple wooded one, but, it does provide a strong support when we’re weary from our running around.Sit and rest awhile. Soon the way will be made clear.
Jesus, thank you for the signpost of your Cross that points the way.
I want to live my life asking first directions from You.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Goal Straining

But one thing I do: “forgetting what lies behind
and straining forward to what lies ahead, I
press on toward the goal…

Philippians 3:13b-14a

Athletes are perfect illustrations for how God wants us to live life as a Jesus follower. Endurance, strength, character, perseverance, discipline are just part of what makes up a world class athlete. But the ability to put behind them past failures or mishaps and focus on the ultimate goal is the perfect example for a Jesus follower. Ice skaters may take a tumble in the middle of a gold medal program but so far I’ve never seen one skate off the ice—they always get up; focusing on the goal even if the fall has cost them.

Forgetting “stuff” that has happened in the past is tough. Like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress we carry it around with us even though the weight digs into our spirit. When we are bowed by the hurts, fears, betrayals, misunderstandings, rejections of our lives it’s impossible to see any of the beauty that lies ahead.

Jesus had a lot of “stuff” happen to him. From the start people were out for his blood. He was misunderstood. He was rejected. Friends denied knowing him. Betrayal led to his ultimate death. But, he never looked back nor did he carry any baggage. He kept the goal of the Kingdom in sight and, in order to reach it, he kept moving forward.

The next time the Olympics come around, think about the spiritual parallels. With every pulsing muscle and disciplined breath they strain forward. They never look back. The goal is ahead, not behind them.

Jesus, your life is a comfort and an inspiration. You know
the “stuff” I keep lugging around.
Forgive me! Take from me everything that keeps me from reaching You.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Transforming Power

…do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Colossians 3:17

As a participant on a panel, I heard a group of teenagers once ask, “If Jesus was all about love, why have so many been killed in his name?” The question intrigued me, as did the uncertainty of the panelists. In response, I asked, “What events are you thinking about specifically?” One shot back, “the Crusades” another followed with “Hitler killing the Jews.” Their only points of reference were events instigated by Christians from the 11th century and they put them along side a 20th century event perpetrated by a mad man. Now I was the one uncertain how to answer!

We live in a period of history where the past is muddled for the majority of individuals. Events flow into each other and we’re not able to make distinctions between what is truth and what is fiction. If, as Jesus followers, Truth is our guide then it becomes an absolute necessity in this environment to know what we’re talking about.If doing everything in the name of Jesus is our compass then we better know everything involving the power of His Name. Jesus sends his disciples out into the world with only His name and they heal, restore; changing lives through the Kingdom message.

The name of Jesus is powerful and testimonial. Doing everything in the name of Jesus demands that we intimately know Him; allowing Him to saturate our souls. Think about the end result, however—we could bring about a powerful transformation to our world.

I pray that the teenagers will experience the transformation.

Jesus, thank you for givingme the power of Your name.
Be my teacher.
I am committed to learningmore about how Your name can transform
my life and the world.