Thursday, December 30, 2010

Final Week of 2010 - Thursday

It has been a dark season for my husband and myself these last couple of years. I don't remember where I saw this quote, although it was credited, but when I read it I wrote it out and propped it up on my desk.

Nobody is wise who does not know darkness. I appreciate the dark hours of my existence in which my senses are sharpened.

From It's All Right to Cry

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Final Week of 2010 - Wednesday

I begin each day with my Celtic Daily Prayer Book. Even though I have been using this prayer book for ten years and have read and reread the various Scriptures and readings they always seem to be new and fresh and perfect for whatever I may be facing on any given day.

Too often when we come to pray we have fixed ideas as to what the subject for our intercession will be - or if God gives us the subject we again lapse into our own thoughts, ideas and preconceptions instead of letting the Spirit teach us what to pray. We need to take authority over our own thoughts, however good, in case they are an impediment to God's directives and burden.

Wordless prayer can often be effective, too. Some of the times when we 'worry' about a person for hours on end for no apparent reason, who normally we rarely think of, may turn out to be the closest to real intercession we have ever come.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Final Week of 2010 - Tuesday

This year I've learned much from the Desert Fathers - always straight and to the point, sometimes painfully pointed!

Living without speaking is better than speaking without living. For a person who lives rightly helps us by silence,while one who talks too much merely annoys us.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Final Week of 2010

It doesn't seem possible that this is the final week of 2010. This year will be memorable for me on multiple levels; filled with euphoric highs coupled with demoralizing lows. But this I know, God was in the midst and He has not moved. Thank you Father!

This week I am going to be sharing with you some of the quotes and scriptures that helped carry me through this tumultuous year. My only prayer for you all is that God will reveal Himself to you this week in a way that you can understand, appreciate and claim as your own revelation. A word meant for you.

Live from day to day, just from day to day. If you do, you worry less and live more richly. If you let yourself be absorbed completely, if you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Bring Me a Unicorn

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

For unto us a Child is Born!

Thanks be to God!

With prayers that your Christmas is rich with joy and blessings.

Valerie

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Expecting Angels

But she was greatly troubled at the saying,
and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.

Luke 1:29

I would think I was delusional if I saw an angel. I don’t expect angelic visits in spite of the fact that I read about them 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, I don’t live my life anticipating, expecting an angel!

Now I come to Mary. Gabriel gives her assurances, “Don’t be afraid.” But I haven’t often considered or “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 but what he says, “O favored one, the Lord is with you” that gets Mary thinking.

I usually 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 somehow learned to expect the unexpected--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!
Amen.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Living in the Future

Ask a sign of the Lord your God, let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.


Isaiah 7:11

Angelic preschoolers were standing in two rows singing through their repertoire of music. The audience, consisting of parents and grandparents, were enthralled. However off key their songs of Christmas it didn’t matter, they were opera singers in the eyes of those who loved them. I was one of the observers sitting by my now adult “child” who not long ago was singing her own Christmas songs.

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.
Amen.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dangerous Rejection

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 she wouldn’t hear the answers. Her spirit lives behind a granite wall. The path that she walks is paved with her desires, her wants, her choices—her fears. It’s fear that 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 sure isn’t 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 today, 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!

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

Monday, December 20, 2010

Looking for Justice

The Lord will bring about justice and praise
in every nation on earth, like flowers blooming in a garden.

Isaiah 61:11 (CEV)

In an attempt to entice travelers to their country, the government of Iraq adopted the slogan, “tourism not terrorism.” Despite the promotion, I still would not move it to the top of my travel list. Images of devastation, drought, sand storms and death persist in streaming through my mind. And yet, around 600 BC, travelers journeyed to what we know as Iraq to see the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, 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.

In a world that seems hopeless, the Iraqi slogan is revealing. They are waiting, hoping for justice to reign. So much has been lost and memories of their ancient past are fading. They have only the stories of their ancestory when justice, praise and peace were the government.

Difficult times have taught me that justice is hard to come by when human nature rules. I think Adam was gifted with an innate sense of justice but he believed the serpent’s lie and it warped his ability. As a result “man’s” eye focused on "me", instead of  "them" and justice fell to the bottom.

But I have hope! In the new heaven and new earth of God’s kingdom there will be no other governing power but His justice. My tears will be replaced with laughter, sorrow will be 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.
Amen.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Riding the Waves

She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger…

Luke 2:7a

God shows up at the oddest and most unexpected times. Once, at the heart of a difficult time I was the accompanist for a worship service where there were intentional times of silence. All day, in very psalm like fashion, I had been asking God to show up in a powerful, awesome way and perform the spectacular miracle that would end my sea sickness. Now, silently sitting at the piano, I again prayed my week 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 rescued and regain their rightful place as the people of God. I think they anticipated that, despite prophecy concerning a child, the Messiah would come charged and 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 will not be a life-rescuer. Instead he is a Messiah that calls people to a life-change. Those waiting for a Messiah rescuer never figured that they would have to change how they acted, how they lived, how they worshipped.

After my piano revelation my “difficult time” didn’t change. In fact, it got worse. But the words, “But I came as a baby” reminded me daily that life changing miracles often begin with little or no recognition. And so I open myself to be changed from the inside out, and I’ve found that instead of being sea sick, I can ride with the waves and eagerly anticipate the unexpected.

God, thank you for showing up with your
big miracle and changing me from the inside out.
Amen.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Poem for Advent's Waiting

No one can celebrate
a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.
The self-sufficient, the proud,
those who, because they have
everything, look down on others,
those who have no need
even of God - for them there
will be no Christmas.
Only the poor, the hungry,
those who need someone
to come on their behalf,
will have that someone.
That someone is God.
Emmanuel. God-with-us.
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God.

Oscar Romero

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Where is Home?

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. In the span of six years I once 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.

My waiting for Jesus this Advent season means that if I'm committed to following Him I'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, for the last thirty years, in a home 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.
Amen.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wilderness Wanderings

My apologies if this meditation doesn't make sense! It made total sense to me as I wrote it so it may be much more out of my own experience and desire to "see" God than anything else! My only prayer is that God will use it in some way! Blessings.

Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.Revelation 21:3a

While wandering through the daily grind of my wilderness I have only to take a glance or renew a memory to be reminded that I am not alone. God’s presence is always evident in some way or another. Sometimes, however, I wish I could gather physical manna like the Israelites. But then chagrined, I admit that I am too much like the Israelites in their denial of the obvious.

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. And then Gabriel appears in Mary’s bedroom and it is yet another physical demonstration of God’s presence with man.

It was an amazing birth - God revealing Himself to man through his Son! It should be the event that stops all doubt of His existence. Surely from this point on there will be astounding accounts of God’s presence, now that He has appeared in the flesh. Now I should be able to visually see Him! But in my wilderness wanderings it doesn’t happen like that and I’m left wondering if the Israelites had it any better.

With the appearance of Jesus I 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 seen and unseen visuals that do appear will take me 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.
Amen.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A New Showcase

…whatever God does endures forever…

Ecclesiastes 3:14a

When I read the first couple of chapters in Genesis I sometimes allow my mind to wander and think about what God really had in mind. His initial plan was quite creative and then He topped it by deciding to create in His image. By doing it this way the rest of His creation would be cared for with the love and attention that He envisioned. It was a brilliant plan which went south when His “man” creation decided to take matters in their own hands!

But continued reading reveals a God that doesn’t ditch his creation even though it doesn’t remotely resemble Him and has pretty much 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 showcases. He loves and never gives up on what He created in His own image.

By the end of the Old Testament God’s patience seems to have become tissue thin. Despite the numerous appearances and revealings “man” has continued their blundering resulting in a royal mess. The prognosis for the future is…zip.

Zip still does not deter God! His original vision, however, still gives Him pleasure. And so He sets into motion a plan that would turn it all around. He would become the image He created. So He begins again, sending His Son, as a new showcase. This time He hopes that “man” will see Him more clearly 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.
Amen.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Club Membership

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?” Without employment at the time, I felt completely excluded by the question, apart from the fact that I couldn't even begin to afford club membership!

With the arrival of Jesus in the waters of the Jordan, a life-changing ministry begins and 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 important levels of religiosity that they had carefully put into place 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. I feel no exclusion! There are no entry interviews, fees or personal recommendations in God’s 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.
Amen.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

His Knowing Nature

Come, see a man who told me all that
I ever did. Can this be the Christ?
John 4:29

Recently I assembled a series of interview questions for an upcoming hire. Of course, the questions were supposed to shed light on the person being interviewed. Some of the interviews ended up being longer than others because at the front of the interview was a question of story – tell me a story from your life that would help you connect to our clients.

Granted, I work at a faith based organization that ministers primarily to young women and their babies but the stories that surfaced were fascinating. And perhaps even more revealing - who could connect a life story and who struggled. Whether they realized it or not their stories gave me a glimpse of their character.

When the Samaritan woman returns to town it is with a message of being known. In her conversation with Jesus she discovers that her words are merely the surface of what Jesus knows about her. After all their theological debating what turns her into a believer is the knowing nature of Jesus.

It is this intimacy of knowing that I find particularly unique, comforting and unsettling. I may try to hide certain flawed traits from others but my core, my very soul is totally exposed to Jesus. He knows exactly who I am.

This is the Christ for whom I wait this Advent season.

Jesus, from the beginning
I have never been hidden from You.
I praise You for Your all-knowingness!
Amen.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Little is Something

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 phrase I heard frequently while growing up. It was full of hope and promise. It's comforting knowing that in a culture where "bigger is better" in God's world size doesn’t matter, amount isn’t quantified and quantity isn’t valued. If at the heart of the matter God resides endless possibilities exist.

Throughout the Bible there are accounts of people who gave abundantly out of their little. Elijah prepared a meal with the last of a woman’s oil and flour - she ends up with enough money to feed her entire family for several months. Rahab offers protection under a pile of straw and her name reappears as the woman 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 lesson of abundant giving.

Then there is Bethlehem, whose line of historical significance is limited but whose impact is profound. A young boy sleeps with his sheep and calls Bethlehem home and becomes the 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 residents 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.
Amen.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Calm Fidgeting

I wait for your salvation, O Lord.

Genesis 49:18

Every day I always spend a certain amount of time waiting. And I confess - I don’t like to wait. But no amount of neck craning, fidgeting or dashing seems to quicken my wait time. A quick trip to the market is extended because of the “quick trips” of others. My drive to work is stalled due to road work. Living and waiting walk hand in hand, and in my case, uncomfortably!

And now is the time of Advent—a time of waiting for the salvation of God. But with this waiting comes hope, promise of a future. There is a "known" in the waiting--Jesus bearing witness to God in his flesh. All my other waiting pales by comparison. I am humbled in this waiting.

Throughout the coming days as I wait in line for whatever reason I want to consider waiting as an opportunity. Instead of fuming over time lost, I want to work on rejoicing in the time gained to consider and wonder at Who I am waiting for.

Jesus, calm my fidgeting spirit
as I eagerly wait for you!
Amen.

Monday, December 6, 2010

In Good Company

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

John 15:18

Confronting people makes me uncomfortable and even though I know that their behavior or attitude is wrong it is easier to avoid them and the issue, than to confront. Fear of their anger warps me and overshadows the effect of their destructiveness. I hope, that by ignoring the “problem”, it will disappear. So far, I haven't found that to be the best approach!

During Jesus’ ministry the attacks against his character increased, almost daily. Even by the third chapter in the gospel of Mark, the Pharisees have already joined up with their arch enemies, the Herodians, plotting Jesus' destruction. They hated Jesus and their hatred drove them to cunningly plot his demise.

I haven't known a level of hatred where my life is in danger but I have felt the heat of someone’s hatred. Jesus was hated because he confronted sinful behavior. He wasn’t afraid of speaking truth, bringing to daylight the dysfunctions and sinfulness that thrive in shadows.

As a follower of Jesus Christ I am called to confront what I know to be sinful. Whether it be in myself, my church, a friend or family member, I can't be afraid to bring into the light what has lived in the dark. Hatred may be my “reward”, but my strength lies in the knowledge that I am in the good company of Jesus who endured a hatred that led him to his death, but also to his resurrection.

Jesus, forgive me when I see sinful behavior, allowing
it to continue to live in the shadows.
I am afraid of the anger and hatred I might get back.
Help me to be bold in your strength.
Amen.

Image--White Crucifixion, Marc Chagall, 1938

Friday, December 3, 2010

Quality Life

I waited patiently for the Lord…


Psalm 40:1

Patience has never been my virtue, which is probably why I seem to need to learn the same lesson repeatedly! My mother says that in my eagerness to get going I jogged in place in the womb. 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 me pretty well! Rushing from project to appointment I become frustrated, irritated and annoyed that life isn’t as “smooth” as I want it. Like the stop signs held by road workers, obstacles are constant,. But fuming over being stopped doesn’t get me to my destination any faster. Patiently waiting, being still is what allows God’s voice to be heard and in hearing our spirits are quieted.

It’s hard to be still. But I’m finding that 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.
Amen.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Prayer. . .A Convo

Pray all the time.

I Thessalonians 5:17 (The Message)

I know that praying is important. But there seems to be an elusive quality about it in that I'm not always 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." I heard a pastor call a congregation to 90 minutes of prayer a day for the purpose of spiritual growth in their community. The grumbling I heard about how "impossible" or "difficult" it was again promoted me to ponder over how much time is spent watching television, reading or even exercising!

Most of my daily activities are intentionally planned, intentionally executed, intentionally accomplished. Prayer somehow falls, too often, through the cracks of my intentionality.

When I listen to prayers it seems that it 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 in a mutual back and forth conversation. Its the talking and listening that makes a rich and satisfying experience.

But, prayer has made a significant difference in my life. 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 a appointment and I find I've just 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 times when I have 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 back and forth convo with the One who made me and wants to be in relationship with me.

Speak Lord, your servant is listening. . .
and occasionally talking!
Amen.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's been a good break, but now it's time to start thinking and writing again. Thank you for joining me again on the journey! Thank you for your comments. I appreciated and loved hearing from you.

Joy in Darkness

Even though troubles came down on me hard, your commands
always gave me delight.

Psalm 119:143

“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,” said my eighty plus year old friend. “Absolutely nothing.” I quickly replied as I remembered all the times in the the last several years I’d gone back to Job and wondered at God’s “permission” for Satan to give a crack at bringing Job down. It made me think that maybe God had given his “permission” for my life as well!

Trouble isn’t “fair” in its distribution. For some life seems to offer little difficulty while others get far more than their “fair” share. Truthfully, I find the lack of a “fairness” quotient in life troubling!

But, Job does bring me comfort of sorts. Through all the loss, all the discomfort, all the pain God remains in Job’s space. God knew and was confident that He had built Job to last. However, Job also reminds me of all my own classic responses – upbeat, initially, with a slow slide into despair.

Job’s life had been shaped by disciplines that gave him what he needed most when most needed. He had lived, studied, and knew God along with His commands. It’s these commands, God's promises, that paved the road for Job, leading him through the darkness and into the light. In the end he says with complete confidence, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)

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

Monday, November 15, 2010

Changes Happen

Dear Friends,

God has a way of intervening in one's life and such is the situation with mine. For almost three years my husband and I have been ministering in a conflicted church environment. It has left us weary and exhausted but we have also grown through the experience. As of Sunday, November 14 we are no longer part of this congregation. In the meantime God had opened up another ministry opportunity for me as Executive Directore of a pregnancy care center.

What this means for On Crooked Knees is a needed time to regroup and pray. It doesn't seem possible, but I've been writing weekly devotionals for On Crooked Knees for almost three years! Thank you for joining me on the journey.

I'm going to take time off from writing for the next two weeks. Your prayers are appreciated and hopefully on December 1 you'll see a new devotional in your e-mail box or on this site. I am open to however God leads. May you all have a Thanksgiving filled with visions of all the blessings you have received this past year - even if it has been a year of challenges!

Blessings,
Valerie

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Traveling to Ninevah

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 the politics of Ninevah and that his life could be in jeopardy if he went with God’s “message.” To follow God’s direction, to live in him, would be a dangerous delivery. Ultimately, he valued his life more than God’s control.

When God lives in me, control over my life is lost. And I can plan on hardships along the way that ultimately will draw me further up and further into the Kingdom of God. Ninevah was a hardship for Jonah but he didn’t control the ending.

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 have never gotten to Tarshish. But many of my Ninevahs have turned out better than expected. Of this I am certain, each visit has drawn me further into the 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.
Amen.

Image - Jonah heads to Tarshish

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Don't Be Silenced

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. Although 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 they remain silent. As a result, people get beaten up and destroyed because the silent ones are more afraid of the bullies than of the One who holds in His hand their entire life.

Power and control are the food for bullies. But Jesus is the only One who has complete power and control. When I am bullied or see others bullied I cannot be afraid to speak the truth. Bullies are detrimental and destructive but their effects are mild compared to God’s response if we don’t fight their efforts, in boldness and love, with God’s truth.

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.
Amen.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

No Excuses

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Psalm 51:3

Growing up I heard all kinds of “personal” testimonies. At every “come to Jesus” worship service there would always be a speaker who mesmerized me with stories of their “life of sin.” My life seemed depressingly boring by comparison. I loved hearing how God had reached down and pulled them out of their sin pit. Somehow it gave more meaning to the concept of being “saved.” I loved Jesus, but I didn’t really know what I needed to be “saved” from! At least that is what I thought, then.

Acknowledging sin is usually the snag that trips up Jesus followers. When a “good” life has been lived it becomes particularly challenging – what exactly should be “confessed?”

It’s easy to focus on the “biggies” when faced with confession. But the Bible doesn’t mention the “biggies” nearly as often as those behaviors we don’t always consider “sin”—bad tempers, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk and lying (Colossians 3:8-9a The Message). A reasonable, plausible excuse can usually be found for any one of these “sins.” But sin is sin and no excuses are available.
When faced with “no excuses” sin there is no escaping confession. Whether they are conscious or unconscious sins, confession opens the door to a saved 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)

Image - The Blasphemer

Monday, November 8, 2010

Wash Me! Restore Me!

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 your beautiful original. Amen.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mercy on Me

Have mercy on me, O God…


Psalm 51:1a

I know people who live out their “Christian” life in this way—God helps those who help themselves. They can't comprehend that the God who gave them life also wants to help them. I believe that God is intimately acquainted with me. But for me to be intimately acquainted with God takes humility. The God helps those who help themselves approach doesn’t allow room for humility. The emphasis is on the individual, the 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 (wikipedia.org). This is the attitude of a Jesus follower coming to confession. When I ask God to have mercy on me, it is the first step in acknowledging that my life is nothing without God’s presence and this moves me towards repentance. True confession, honest repentance cannot begin without this stepping.

“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, I identify him as the Creator of my life. It is at this point of our saying, have mercy on me, O God that humility overtakes my pretentions and he can continue finishing the good work He has begun.
Have mercy on me, O God.
I cannot help myself and my life is nothing without you.
Amen.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

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

Psalm 51:10

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 I don't like being confronted even if I know I'm wrong! Quite frankly, it's a painful experience. Consequently, being confronted by my 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).

My mind tells me that sin is anything that goes against what God desires. But defensively I tend to put a "value" on sin which helps me avoid culpability. Surely, a little “constructive criticizing" of my church leaders isn't nearly as "sinful" as murder. Passing along information that in the passing loses it’s truth and perhaps isn't mine to share--well, come on now, "gossip" can't possibly be held to the same standard as breaking my marriage vows!


There are an endless number of excuses that I can generate for my 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 my “creative” nuances.

In order to experience spiritual growth and maturity, along with spiritual health, a willingness to hear God's confronting voice is necessary. I'm bound to be surprised at what He points to because it will probably be those little “sins” I thought innocuous, that I did in "love", I thought didn't really hurt anyone or believed, self-righteously, that I was doing the “right thing.”

Little or big, sins are destructive. Restoration, transformation, healing begins when I and my fellow believers humbly fall on our faces praying,

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

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Untangle Me

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

Mark 4:34 (The Message)

I’m here to tell you that my husband can untangle anything! Early during our dating 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, he never failed to unravel the knots. He was the “go to” guy for sorting out all sorts of tangles.

Getting into a knot is much easier than getting out of one. Like a pile of tangled necklaces, the life choices that I make can suddenly knot me up. The harder I try to detangle myself, the more tightly knotted I become. I need a patient hand to unravel me.

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 tightened their knots, but for those who wanted to be un-tangled Jesus spoke, “Your sins are forgiven.”

It doesn’t matter how my knots came into being. But I have to stop running around trying to untie them myself! My feeble efforts only make them tighter. The patient hand of Jesus will take my tangled messes and unravel them 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.
Amen.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Inside Out

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and
slander be put away from you.

Ephesians 4:31

My eyes, actually my whole face, usually tells everyone exactly what I’m feeling! I wish it wasn’t so but I just can’t seem to hide what lives inside. When I sit in an airport I like to people watch and I’ve stopped being shocked at what I see. I’ve seen plenty of fearful eyes, bitter eyes, empty eyes, angry eyes. But occasionally I have seen eyes whose obvious contentment has refreshed me.

Whatever I have set up house for in my soul, whether anger or bitterness, peace or joy, it ultimately finds its way out the door of my eyes as well as my mouth. God created me as a living being with my physical, emotional and spiritual lives intricately connected. It is impossible to keep hidden whatever I take in on a regular basis. It’s like overeating! Eventually I don’t need the scale because the results are all too obvious 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 their anger. Paul reminds me of this truth. To be a follower of Jesus I have to throw away all those emotions that make my eyes and mouths less than satisfying to see or hear.

Bitterness, anger, clamor and slander are everywhere. But I have the message of the Kingdom! I pray I can make a difference when the Kingdom Message is all that people can read on my face. Let my eyes shine!

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.
Amen.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Restoring Inner Peace

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.

In my life I've 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 me, inside out.

When I find myself with issues that “drive me insane”, problems that “torment me”, or worries that “plague me” Jesus willingly speaks into my turmoil, “Quiet! Get out of her.” These are the words that will drive out the “demons”, healing me from the inside out, restoring my inner peace.

Jesus, thank you that you have the authority
to speak the words, “Quiet! Get out of her!”,
bringing me healing from the inside out.
Amen.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Living Resurrected

Unbind him, and let him go.”

John 11:44c

Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. But before Lazarus could live he had to be unbound. Life came when Lazarus could again move every joint, every muscle, every limb, freely. At his unbinding he could get out and live his new life.

I once heard a sermon on living the resurrected life. The preacher exhorted his listeners to live out the Lazarus story by believing that Jesus could do the same in their lives. They may have been beaten down, trampled on, discouraged, feeling like death itself, but Jesus could speak into their “dead” lives “Lazarus, come out.”

I needed to hear this message. But it was Jesus’ final words that hit home. Living the resurrected life was available if I believed, but there was a key essential that had to happen to be truly free. Jesus needed to unbind all the straps that kept me bound up.

Straps could be a a vareity of things. In a church they may be systemic issues of control, gossip or traditions that bind up the resurrected life. Individually they may be negative attitudes, unrealized desires or paralyzing fears that keep me tied up.

Whatever the straps, Jesus says, “Unbind him, and let him go.” He wants me to live a resurrected life, unbound by anything that keeps me bound to the status quo. Living His gift of a resurrected, unbound life is to live a new life.

Jesus, thank you for the gift of a resurrected life.
Help me to live in that new life by speaking the words,
“Unbind him, and let him go.”
Amen.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Getting Outside

I stand by the door.
I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out,
the door is the most important door in the world--it is the door through which folk
walk when they find God.
There's no use my going way
inside and staying there,
when so many are still outside,
and they, as much as I,
crave to know where the door is.


Samuel Moor Shoemaker

People often find safety within the confines of their church community. Even if they have a life "out there" that's exactly where it stays "out there." Afraid to allow their various worlds to combine they keep separated their "spiritual" life from their "worldly" one. One "world" consequently knows very little about the other. If God isn't ashamed to call us his own, why are we relunctant to claim that relationship when it comes to our "worldly" friends? At such a time as this, we can't afford to go where it is safe and close the door behind us. Standing in the doorway, as Shoemaker describes, is keeping open to whatever opportunity might arise to open the door to the kingdom to whomever passes by.

May you see today the opportunities that God brings your way.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Prayer for You Today

I Kings 3:12-13

Lord, You know I am Your servant, so give me understanding. Protect me from deception. Give me wisdom. When people try to trick me or confuse me with their questions and clever arguments, help me to see their heart. Help me to know when to say nothing. Help me to know when to answer what they are saying. Help me to know when it is an unspoken question that I should be answering.

Teach me to recognize the moments when You wait to intervene, so I can say, 'It is time--YOU work now, Lord!'

Celtic Daily Prayer

Friday, October 22, 2010

Glory in the Desert

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Exodus 33:14

I can relate to Moses. He tried to avoid his God given responsibility. Picked by God from his birth, for a destiny he never imagined, Moses knew first hand the range of emotions and experiences that happen when one obeys God. There had been heart stopping, God-glory moments when he and the other Israelites first escaped Egypt. But as days and weeks passed into years, the unending desert vistas began to take their toll. Moses had been chosen by God for a job which seemed to only accentuate his inadequacies.

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. And instead of God getting angry at Moses’ need, God but gives him a God-glory encounter like he has never experienced (read the whole of Exodus 33).

It’s this same God that walks with me every day, even when I feel He his distant. It is perhaps in my most desperate times that I hear His voice most clearly, because in my questioning, and my desire to know, I listen more intently.

Thought of the day: What God-glory moments 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.”
Amen.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Like a Child

…whoever does not receive the kingdom of God, like a child, shall not enter it.

Mark 10:15

We were locked out of the house! Tears puddling, my small niece tentatively asked, “Aunt Val, how are we going to get back in?” Gathering her up, I asked, “Do you trust me to take good care of you and find a way back in the house?” Nodding her head and griping my outstretched hand we walked away from the locked door and towards a plan of action. She never again asked how my task would be accomplished. Instead, she went about her play, confident that I would do what I had promised.
A child’s trust is humbling. No wonder Jesus used it as a point of reference for spiritual maturity. Children have the ability to believe what they cannot understand. Somewhere adults lose this gift; turning believing into a challenge. With each downturn come the questions—why did it happen, how will we survive, what next?

Being ignorant or na├»ve isn’t a Jesus follower requirement. Instead, Jesus gives us a picture of believing, that in spite of not knowing how or why, when God promises that he will “deliver them out of all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17b) we can look into his face, grip his hand and keep living.

Thought for the day: What am I facing presently where I need faith like a child?

Jesus, help me to never outgrow the spiritual gift of a “childish” trust in You.
Amen.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why Do I Have to Change?

“Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here.
Change your life and believe the Message.”

Mark 1:15 (The Message)

It’s election time again and just about every politician promises change. In a world that changes faster than my ability to keep up, I keep looking for the “change” that will be positive. Whether it’s “change” that takes me back to some point where I felt comfortable or “change” that takes me out of my discomfort, I tend to only want “change” that keeps me well within my comfort zone.

“Change” shouldn’t happen just for the sake of changing. When Jesus preaches about the good news that God’s Kingdom is now, he’s talking about a “change” with a purpose, change with one goal in mind—life itself.

Peter and Andrew, James and John leave the only life they know to follow Jesus. Their choice of “change” brought financial instability, not only to themselves, but to those who depended on them. What went through their minds as they changed their lives, we’ll never know. But the gospels let us see that their change choice radically altered their lives and changed the course of millions of lives. Their’s was a change for growth and life in God’s kingdom.

When I follow Jesus I have to be ready for life-change. The disciples were on the forward move with Jesus, the message of the Kingdom never changed, but the life lived was always growing.

To grow in Christ, literally “be in Christ” requires me to live life in God’s Kingdom. I’ve discovered that I won’t always be “comfortable”, but my life is richer and much more fulfilling.

Jesus, change is not very comfortable.
By choosing your Kingdom life I know that my life cannot stay the same.
A vote for change means allowing you to do with me what you will.
As uncertain as it is, I choose life in your Kingdom.
Amen.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Word of Promise

Every morning I greet the day with readings from my Celtic Daily Prayer Book. In the ten years I've been using this prayer book I have ceased being surprised at how God's speak through either the selected portions of Scripture or the daily readings. The book is made up of two sets of yearly readings and although I've read all of them numerous times in the past ten years different ones rise to the top, ready for skimming!

The last three years have been very difficult in ministry. Days have been filled with unrealized expectations and disappointments. This particular ministry is coming to an end and our future is wholly and completely unknown. We feel as though we are free falling off a cliff.

Then came the following reading this week based on Judges 6:11-14 -

The story is told of a man who tripped and fell off a cliff. Clutching at the grasses on the edge of the cliff he found himself for a moment or two able to hang on and delay his fall.

"Is there anyone up there?" he cried out desperately. "Yes," came the reply, but no further response. "Who are you? Why don't you help me?" shouted the man. "I'm God," said the Voice, "and I will help you. But you must do exactly as I say." "OK," whispered the man, "what have I to do?" "First, let go!" "Is there anybody else up there?" called out the man.

Poor fearful little Gideon had to do something just like that to become the mgihty man of valour God saw him as. Against an army which far outnumbered them, God's solution was to cut back even further on numbers!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Going Camping

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

One college summer I decided to memorize Psalm 139. I can’t remember why this particular psalm except that I liked the idea of being known before I was born. Along with memorizing, I would journal my thoughts and pray over the sections. I never anticipated my life being radically changed.

Writer Diana Clancy talks about knowing something so well it “makes camp in you.” The same holds true with memorized verses. When a verse “makes camp in you” it settles in for the duration of one’s life. Turning ten, my parents challenged me to memorize 32 verses in the book of Proverbs. As each verse “made camp” I would say them to my mother telling her what I thought it meant. To this day, those verses are still camping.

Be careful, however, what verses you want to make camp! Anticipate that if you take on a verse about life change, life changing events will happen. If its verses about God’s forgiveness know that confession is around the corner. Expect when you set out to make camp with some verses for God to show up!

My college summer and the end of Psalm 139 coincided. As these verses made camp I kept being reminded of thoughtless words spoken to specific individuals, one whom I hadn’t talk to in over a year. I had been searched and found grievous!

Looking up the individual that kept joining my camp site, I apologized. Fortunately I was forgiven because as it turned out, God showed up and we were married a year later!

God, my heart is open to you.
Search me.
My thoughts are muddled.
Know me.
Show me what has hurt you.
Forgive me.
Lead me, God, to your glory.
Amen.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Checks and Balances

Pray for us, for we are sure that we
have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.

Hebrews 13:18

When making a decision there’s nothing like a clear conscience. But these days it seems that it is increasingly difficult to maintain a clear conscience as we are faced with decisions and choices that are troubling. From encounters with neighbors to co-workers to work ethics to church politics we come up against issues that cause us to double think our reactions. We ask ourselves, are our intentions honorable or do they reside in the muck of self preservation?

Perhaps we’ve been blamed for a broken relationship, a misunderstanding at work, an unrealized expectation or we have been unjustly accused and we wrestle with our conscience as to how we should respond. At times like these wouldn’t it be nice if God would speak, audibly, letting us know if the decisions we’re making are good ones?

As a Jesus follower I frequently have to call in-check my “instinctive” reactions. Unfortunately, I live under the cloud of “human nature” whose instincts lean more towards the category of “sin.” And, it’s for this reason, that I must check myself, listening to the voice of God through the truths of Scripture.

Life is full of checks and balances and I have the perfect scale. To gain a clear conscience and live a life that is honorable means taking the time to pray, study and learn the biblical truths, fighting against what may come “naturally.” But sometimes I’m also called to do the hard thing and confront sin in the community using the Biblical scale to speak the truth.

Jesus, forgive me when I respond to my “nature”
instincts instead of my “redeemed” ones. You
speak through the ministry of your life setting the guidelines in place.
These are what I want to keep me in check.
Amen.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rearranging the Furniture

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

Romans 12:1-2a (The Message)

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

As he walked us around the rooms, showing his careful design which included an enormous billiards table in the middle of the living room, I realized that his initial design had not changed one iota from the time he initially put it all together. He had even designed his environment without consideration of his wife’s one request—there was no dishwasher in the kitchen because, “it didn’t work with my design.” I asked him, “Do you ever change anything around?” “Never,” he retorted, “When I put something down, it stays there.”

My host was so well adjusted to his culture that he never allowed for anything new, whether it be a new arrangement of his furniture, a gift received from a friend or giving his wife her wish of a dishwasher.
As a Jesus follower I can’t take anything for granted or become too settled in my “created” environment. Nothing in my life is too mundane or unimportant for God to take an interest in and want control. Trying to achieve a sense of security I set up my inner house in a way that I find comfortable. I like it comfortable. But God wants all my thought out designs, my collections of whatever is important to me, people, events, my treasured traditions. The kicker is that He makes no promises about keeping my arrangement comfortable.

When I “fix my attention” on God opening the front door and giving him free reign, He will probably want to move around the furniture so that I get a better view--of Him. He may want to get rid of some of the objects that keep me distracted and prevent me from accepting the gifts He wants to give. He may even find, that what I thought kept me connected to Him, is out of order!

One night, my husband and I weren't able to attend the weekly Bible study we had for college students in our home. In total trust, we told the leaders to go ahead and meet in our home. When we walked in the door, later that evening, our equilibrium went haywire! Every piece of furniture, pictures, wall hangings, figurines, plants, everything had been moved slightly. I was completely unnerved, which was their intention! It’s similar to when I totally embrace God’s life instead of my “created” one. I’m going to be changed from the inside out and initially I’ll be uncomfortable, but ultimately I’ll be content with the outcome.

Unlike my architect friend, the day after the “attack of the college students”, I moved everything around and found the new arrangement very refreshing!

Jesus, help me to not become so settled in my life
that I miss the refreshment of living life in You.
Help me not to opt for security and sameness but
to trust that even though You move things around,
You know what is best for me.
Amen.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Eating for the Run

The angel of God…shook him awake…and said,
“Get up and eat some more—you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.”

I Kings 19:7

No one went out the door without breakfast when I was growing up. I remember thinking, “when I get big I won’t eat breakfast!” In college sleep took precedence over breakfast. Later exercise took precedence over eating. But one morning I set off on what ended up being a longer and more strenuous race walk than planned. Having had nothing to eat since the previous night’s dinner, I collapsed on a nearby patch of grass conscious that I had still had more to go. I hadn’t been prepared. My body was depleted and shaking.

Elijah had embarrassed King Ahab and Jezebel, being one angry wife, threatened Elijah with death. Running for his life he collapses, falling asleep under a bush. But his running has only begun and the angel of God wakes him up demanding he eat. And the angel provides food with so much nutritional value that it sticks with Elijah for his last forty miles!

When I take a road trip my preparations usually include going to the store to buy travel food. My road trip with God also requires some preparations. The difference is that God provides the food - I have to take the time to eat.

Daily “breakfasting” with God will get me down the road in better shape than if I skip the meal. But it takes discipline. In Elijah’s exhaustion eating was probably his last thought. I still don’t like eating breakfast, but I have to admit, eating it makes a huge difference in how I feel for the rest of the day.

Have breakfast with God! It’ll make a huge difference in your day.
Jesus, forgive me when I take on the day
without “breakfasting” with you.
No wonder I grow emotionally and spiritually tired!
Help me to not miss any of the meals you provide.
Amen.

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's in the Details

This is is the final meditation on James and here are Eugene Peterson's final thoughts--According to church traditions, James carried the nickname "Old Camel Knees" because of thick calluses built upon his knees from many years of determined prayer. The prayer is foundational to the wisdom. Prayer is ALWAYS foundational to wisdom.


What a gift life is to those who stay the course!
You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power,
and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end.
That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.

James 5:11 (The Message)

Frequently I search Job for reassurance; usually to chapter thirty-eight when God finally speaks up. While all the previous chapters lend their comfort in times of difficulty, God speaking out of a violent storm (The Message) shakes me because God, at that moment, claims his authority. The God who decided the earth’s size, hung the stars, and “orders the Morning, Get up!” has a thought for me as well.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson I am in the process of learning is to thank God for life, period. It began a few years ago when in the midst of a debilitating time I literally would choke on the prayer, “thank you for today, thank you for my life.” There were days when the struggle was so fierce that I could barely say them in a whisper. I don’t remember the exact day, but, there came the morning when, with ease, freedom and genuine thankfulness, I boldly prayed these words.

Job’s kind of staying power is impressive and there are definitely lessons to learn. It’s always good to hear, at the very end that whatever Job had lost was returned beyond his imagination. But God’s storm talk holds the real promise during difficult times. And if, like Job, I listen closely, my only response will be—“I’m convinced. You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plan.” Job 41:1 (The Message)

God is the big picture. God is in the details.
Thank you, Father, for this day. Thank you for my life.
I am yours and you are mine.
Thank You for knowing the big and microscopic
of my life bringing it together in a way
that brings glory to You.
Amen.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Living Together

Deep and living wisdom is on display here, wisdom both rare and essential. Wisdom is not primarily knowing the truth, although it certainly includes that; it is skill in living. For, what good is a truth if we don't know how to live it? Eugene Peterson (The Message: Commentary introduction for the book of James)


You can develop a healthy, robust community
that lives right with God and enjoy its results only
if you do the hard work of getting along with each other,
treating each other with dignity and honor.

James 3:18 (The Message)

Having “matured” into adulthood in the late 70’s my husband and I were fascinated with the idea of living in community. Influenced by Francis and Edith Schaeffer we dreamed of a home where a number of people would live, eat and worship together. And, for about five years we lived out that dream as we opened our home to a number of different full and part time community “residents.” Everyone contributed to the life of our small community through cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning, and gardening, at least most of the time.

There were times when someone didn’t get in and do the hard work. Agreements that had been made when moving in were broken. Household jobs were left undone and places set at the table were empty. It was amazing how, when this took place, what had been a smooth and easy operation suddenly jerked and jolted.

When I have the option to pick my friends, getting along isn’t all that difficult. But, put me into a church, a dorm, the workplace and I come face to face with individuals who are my polar opposites. And too many times I have walked away because the effort to be in their “space” takes too much work.

James addresses his letter to a church in the 1st century. It is a letter appropriate for many churches today. Strife and discord plague churches, governments, school boards and neighborhoods because people just don’t want to do the hard work of getting along. The result is that very little gets done and there are lots of empty places at the table.

Jesus, which one of your disciples did you “connect” with?
They seemed as varied as could be imagined and yet you brought them
together, teaching them the hard work of living in community.
Be my Teacher!
Amen.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Action vs. Words

"The letter of James shows one of the church's early pastors skillfully going about his work of confronting, diagnosing, and dealing with areas of misbelief and misbehavior that had turned up in congregations committed to his care. Deep and living wisdom is on display here, wisdom both rare and essential." Eugene Peterson (The Message: commentary introduction to the book of James)


Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this
if you learn all the right words but never do anything?
James 2:14 (The Message)

I once met a woman who by her appearances looked like a perfect Christian woman. She spoke the right words. Her life revolved around her church community. She frequently talked about caring for people in need. But, as time went on, I noticed that everything she did was self focused. There was never a time that I saw her reach out beyond the walls of her church. She talked a Christian line but her words never translated into positive actions.

For those of us who have grown up in the church, Biblical truths can easily become just words. “Well I can’t really live that way,” becomes our excuse because the “truths” we’ve learned are too uncomfortable to live by. New converts are more likely to take literally the Sermon on the Mount, where religious Christians reason that Jesus’ teachings are simply metaphors or even “suggestions” on how to live.

I can go to Bible studies, read my daily devotions, go to inspiring Christian seminars but it becomes a religious hideout unless I get “out there” and do something - taking my talk to the streets actively making a difference in the world’s ghetto.

Jesus, help me to live on the street, outside the protective church walls,
and be Christ to my community.
Amen.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Anything But Ordinary

Insiders see it (the church) differently. Just as a hospital collects the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the church collects sinners. Many of the people outside the hospital are every bit as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised. It's similar with sinners inside the church. Eugene Peterson (The Message: Commentary introduction to the book of James)


My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence
how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith.

James 2:1

Once, while employed at a humanitarian non-profit, it became quickly apparent that I was one of a tiny handful of Christians. One evening, after orchestrating a huge fundraising event, several co-workers and I kicked off our shoes to wind down. With cigar smoke curling to the ceiling and beer cans popping around me, I was startled when I became the center of a religious interrogation. Between the jabs and pokes came serious questions and yet there was a general opinion that what I believed, was unbelievable. That evening set the stage for the remainder of my time at that organization.

The barrage of questions never stopped during the duration of my employment and they came most frequently when, alone, I was surrounded by a group of people who could render their opinions. I was watched, constantly. And, of course, there came that time when I lost my cool in a meeting and I witnessed the smirks of “you’re no better than us.”

I don’t really know what marks I left on my last day of employment. My prayer is that in spite of my stumbling, I lived out my faith in Jesus Christ gloriously.

There were times when I simply wanted to be just another ordinary employee, after all we were about “doing good.” But then I would hear Jesus’ voice, calling me out of my wilderness, and I realized again that choosing the Jesus Way makes me anything but ordinary.

Jesus, you lived in a swirl of public opinion.
Thank you for showing me how I can live
my life in a glorious manner!
Help me each day to live out my uniqueness in You.
Amen.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Listen First

Post this at all the intersections, dear friends:
lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue,
and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness
doesn’t grow from human anger.

James 1:19 (The Message)

When next you sit down and watch the news, particularly those that have a talking head with a panel of experts, watch how well they listen. Granted they are governed by the clock and so their experts must disseminate their “vast” knowledge in seconds, but the level of anger that often explodes seems to be a direct result of minimal listening and excess talking.

Across the United States Christians and churches suffer because of deaf ears and tongues gone wild. With each story we hear about a church in crisis or a congregation struggling, the common thread connecting them is anger. Where and why the anger grew is varied, but more often than not, it is a result of people with out of control tongues and ears that are plugged.

The culture is angry. How then are we, as followers of Jesus Christ, supposed to live in this world and not let the world corrupt us? What the world sees is “us” looking and acting exactly like “them.” James gives us at least one way we can be markedly different and it isn’t really anything new but a truth that isn’t practiced consistently and it is this: Listen before you speak. Listening allows God to speak, bringing about his character in and through us.

Jesus, forgive me for the number of times
that I jump in with speech and so
water the seeds of anger.
Help me to be quicker to listen, bringing
your character into view.
Amen.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Hear and Act

Those who hear and don’t act are like those who
glance in the mirror; walk away, and two minutes
later have no idea who they are, what they look like.

James 1:24 (The Message)

Looking in a mirror isn’t always pleasant. I remember when my daughter was a toddler she loved looking at her reflection in the glass, in mirrors, anything that confirmed her appearance. Her reflection was comforting and she saw nothing “wrong” with the image. What I noticed was, as she got older, she began to see herself with a more critical eye. Now she has joined my ranks - avoiding the mirror if at all possible!

Using the Bible as a mirror to reflect my life becomes a minefield. Like walking away from my reflection I tend pick and choose which “images” in the Bible I want to reflect. I find comfort in the reflection that I am loved by God, but, it’s a harsher reflection when I read that my enemies deserve love as well. Being forgiven is a gift, until what is reflected back is that I first must confess my sin. It is so much easier to focus on the beauty instead of the ugly.

And then there are those sticky parts of the Bible! Like running into a spider web, I simply can’t shake off the Biblical truths that I don’t like. Loving each other sounds like Shangri-La until I am wronged by someone. And instead of “going to your brother” (Matthew 18:15) I end up going to anyone but him thus creating untold damage.

Hearing and then acting takes an effort of one’s will. God cannot make us “do” anything but he has given us a mirror that reflects how we are doing!

Jesus, help me to look into Your mirror
and see not only how I look now, but
the image you desire to see.
Amen.