Friday, January 29, 2010

Where No Light Shines

He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.

Daniel 2:22

Five miles down, in the ocean depths, lives a fish that nobody has ever seen. Because it lives in an environment completely devoid of light, it is a species that has no need for eyes. Eyes, after all, are only necessary for the purpose of taking in light.

Many of us have a memory of the darkest day of my life. It is that moment when the light was completely sucked out. Immobilized we had no sense of how to move forward. The darkness robbed us of our sense of place.

Truthfully, an honest journey for the life of the Jesus follower can match this darkness. When entering into an intimate relationship with Jesus, His light pours over us, revealing the deep and hidden things that live in the five mile depths of our souls. We can have only one response, repentance, literally turning and going in the opposite direction. What else could be our response when the Light shines on our stuff that breeds in the darkness?

Hiding in the dark, frequently startled by his Light shining on what we need to turn away from, doesn’t sound very appealing. But, unlike the deepest dwelling fish, there is a Light to lead us. And, when we turn around, we will be bathed with such abundant Light that we will discover we are no longer living as bottom dwellers.

Jesus, I don’t want totravel down to my depths.
But, I do want to see what it is
that I need to turn away from in order to
live completely in Your light.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Rope of Rags

Jeremiah sank in the mud.

Jeremiah 38:6c

Having just washed my car of previous road grime I gingerly drove through the recent snow melt of slosh, mud and water. Almost immediately my right front tire sank and the back wheels were spinning. I was in a hole with no traction. But in an age where finding help seems difficult, help came almost immediately in the form of a passer by and the gas station attendant. After sanding the ice underneath the back wheels I tried again, still to no avail. It was only after both gentlemen stood in the watery hole themselves and pushed the front end that the wheels grabbed and I was again on my way.

Granted it may be a silly illustration but it prompted my thinking about when Jeremiah was thrown into an empty well and sank in the mud. His hole was deep with no apparent means of exit. And even though Jeremiah was a great prophet, a man who had conversations with God he still needed someone's help. All his goodness, his obedience to God, his commitment to the life God had given him didn’t preserve him from that muddy hole.

Jeremiah’s help is named Ebed-melech who lends a hand by risking his position in the king’s house--pleading for Jeremiah’s rescue. Making a rope of old clothes and rags Ebed-melech drops it down and Jeremiah is on his way again.It’s a story of how we need each other, no matter who, what or why. Coming alongside, lending a hand, making a rope, whatever it takes to help the one who has fallen in a hole is living the Jesus way.

Jesus, help me to see and know what I need to do to help
my neighbor, friend,brother or sister get out of the mud.Amen.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Solid Promise

Suggested Reading: Judges 6:11-32

And Gideon said to him, "Please, sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us?And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us...?"

Judges 6:12-13a

Oh God, why is this happening were my first words after hanging up the phone. Having moved five times in four years, this move, to work with a Christian organization, was supposed to be the move that would begin the financial stability we desperately needed. Now, four months later, sitting in a near empty house, we were learning a difficult lesson–our chosen state of residence had laws that allowed employers to fire employees without warning or reason. The injustice done by a Christian organization was particularly painful. Where was God?

Gideon lived the upheaval of having to move frequently. Israel was under an oppressive regime that swarmed over them devouring their crops, destroying their pastures, consuming their lives. Escaping to a cave, it's no wonder, when assured of the LORD’s presence, he asks, why then has all this happened.

Sometimes we, too, are cave dwellers. Retreat seems our only choice, afraid that if we poke out our head, we will feel the smack of another blow. And we ask, why then has all this happened? In the case of Israel many of their problems were of their own making. And, even though Gideon had remained faithful to the LORD he was not immune to trouble.

The LORD never does answer Gideon’s "why" question. Instead the LORD responds by giving Gideon a task that seems beyond his ability! And when Gideon objects, the response he hears isn’t an answer but a promise...I will be with you.

Thought for the Day: How can I practice the presence of God in my life?

Jesus help me to accept the unexpected
within the security of your promise,"I will be with you."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Specific Character

Suggested Reading: Hebrews 12:1-17

At the time, discipline isn’t much fun...
Later, of course, it pays off handsomely,
for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature
in their relationship with God.

Hebrews 12:11 (The Message)

It hurts me more than it hurts you were the most ridiculous words I heard as a child. How could being disciplined possibly hurt my parents more than it hurt me? It made absolutely no sense until years later when I found myself disciplining my own child. My intention was to bring about the definition of discipline—a specific character or pattern of behavior. I found that disciplining, like being disciplined, hurts like crazy. Good discipline isn’t given or received easily.

If a relationship with God is our desire, it’s a guarantee that discipline will be involved. Avoiding or resisting the challenging moments of our lives can become the wall that prevents us from seeing God moving us towards a specific character or pattern of behavior. Wallowing in the pain of what is happening now keeps us distracted from discovering who we are and what God may want us to become.

Athletes speak of breaking through a barrier in the midst of training. Discipline gets them through. Leaning into the pain, the hardship, the crises of our lives and yet break through the barrier, is to discover the handsome pay off–a well-trained, mature relationship with God.

Perhaps God is saying, “It hurts me more than it hurts you,” but, inflicting pain isn’t what he’s after. His discipline has a break through goal in mind.

Thought for the Day: How has, or is presently, God disciplining my life and for what purpose?

Jesus, I don’t like being disciplined.
It hurts! I need your help to break through the barrier and discover
who you want me to be.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Confident Praying

Suggested Reading: I Kings 18

And God strengthened Elijah mightily...Elijah ran in front of Ahab’s chariot.

I Kings 18:41, 45-46a (The Message)

Elijah was a prophet who didn’t move through life easily or smoothly. He did, however, speak the truth, walked with God and prayed, energetically. In chapter 17 of I Kings, Elijah prays over the dead son of a widow, O God, my God...Why have you killed her son? His prayer confidence got results! Scripture says, God listened to Elijah’s prayer and put breath back into the son's body.

Now a three year, Elijah predicted drought, had settled in on the land and the people of Israel were desperate. They were looking at other "god" possibilities that might help them out. Elijah puts together a "god" competition–the earth bound god Baal against I AM. For hour upon hour the prophets of Baal cried out full throttle but all they managed were hoarse voices. Elijah, on the other hand, confidently approaches the altar and prays, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, make it known right now that you are God...reveal to this people that you are God, the true God. That’s all it took! God responded with such intense fire that the altar and everything around it was incinerated. Sheets of rain followed as well as God giving Elijah so much energy he out ran a chariot of horses! All a result of praying with confidence.

Praying confidently–it’s a thought worth pondering. When we pray is it with the confidence of Elijah or do we make ourselves hoarse with our Baal crying?

Jesus, thank you for listening to me!
Teach me how to talk to you
with "Elijah confidence" believing
that no matter the circumstances
you will give methe energy to out run the horses.


Image--Slaughter of Prophets of Baal, Gustave Dore, 1864.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Time for Everything but Prayer

Suggested Readings: Psalm 107:28-31, 2 Kings 4:8-10, Mark 6:30-31

Why is there so little anxiety to get time to pray? Why is there so little forethought in the laying out of time and employments so as to secure a large portion of each day for prayer?

Why is there so much speaking, yet so little prayer? Why is there so much running to and fro, yet so little prayer? Why so much bustle and business, yet so little prayer? Why so many meetings with our fellow-men, yet so few meetings with God?

Why so little being alone, so little thirsting of the soul for the calm, sweet hours of unbroken solitude, when God and His child hold fellowship together as if they could never part?

It is the want of these solitary hours that not only injures our own growth in grace but makes us such unprofitable members of the church of Christ, and that renders our lives useless.

Horatius Bonar

Thought for the day: How can I make more space for prayer?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rest Awhile

Suggested Reading: Mark 6:30-44

Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.”

Mark 6:31 (The Message)

More than once I have made myself sick with fatigue. Allowing schedules to dictate and perhaps even more, my own self-imposed “obligations”, I have been brought down low. One would think that these bouts would be an awakening for me, but all too frequently I forget and once again gray moons frame my eyes.

No one understands a hectic, demanding, out of control life like Jesus. But, so many of his greatest moments come after he has taken a break. He understands that his effectiveness is greatest when accompanied by periods of rest.

Taking the time to ask ourselves, “What does God want me to do?” can be inconvenient. I know people who feel guilty for taking a nap or cutting out early to go to bed. Their accomplishments are impressive but they always seem to come with a cost. Health becomes tenuous; relationships strained.

Most of us are unprepared for the ultra marathon that is our life. Noisemakers of all varieties prevent us from hearing the Voice, “take a break and get a little rest.” Only in the slowing down, being by ourselves, will we be able to hear how and where we should be going.

Thought for the day: Is my schedule self-imposed or God directed?

Jesus, help me to hear your voice
reminding me to take a break.
My heart, my soul, my body needs
to rest with you.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fires and Floods

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you; when you walk through fire, you shall not be burned….

Isaiah 43:2

Waiting for my plane at Chicago's O'Hare Airport I became aware of enthusiastic singing coming from the television. Turning around I watched the CNN reporter, standing in front of a backdrop of singing, clapping, joyous Haitians. The by-line at the bottom of the screen was "Haitians find their faith gives them strength." It seemed impossibly absurd that with the earthquake's staggering death toll rising they could sing. They believed and were practicing the presence of God even as they breathed the death surrounding them.

Experience tells us that life is painful. We didn’t learn to walk without falling down or ride a bike without skinned knees. Why should it be any different growing up spiritually? Eugene Peterson says that, "growing up and growing up in Christ are the same thing."

When I first heard these words twenty-five years ago I left the room completely confused. How could they possibly be the same? But with each passing year my growing up continues. And like those who have gone before me, along the way have come the "flood" and "fire" challenges that have strengthened body, soul, mind and heart.

When we open ourselves to God's presence within each "fire" or "flood" the possibility of becoming more like Jesus increases. The singing Haitians understood that "fires" were inevitable, and that God's presence was with those whose lives were lost as well as with the living. They had not been consumed.

Jesus, you have power over water and fire!
I accept the floods and the fires
that will ultimately keep me
growing up in You.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Traveling Home

Today, Monday, January 18 is a travel day. I leave North Carolina and fly home to my dear husband who waits for me in Durango! God has been present. We still don't have all the answers regarding the health of my father but I do believe that as we walk forward God will see us through.

These are difficult days for so many and I am reminded by the events in Haiti how easily we can think of our own needs, our own desires, our own difficulties, forgetting that the Gospel message is one that asks us to reach out beyond ourselves, beyond our comfort zone and touch the others that God has created.

Thank you and may you experience a God blessing today.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Desert Gifts

Caleb said to her, "What do you want?"
She said to him,
"Give me a blessing.
Since you have set me in the land
of the Negev,
give me also springs of water.
And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.

Judges 1:13b - 15

What a wedding gift! Achsah encourages her new husband Othniel to ask her father for land as a wedding present. Caleb responds to his son-in-law by giving the newlyweds acres in the Negev–land not even remotely hospitable to new life. Achsah is a bride who is in circumstances beyond her control.

Amazingly she doesn’t demand a more appropriate gift! Instead she goes to her father and asks for a blessing that will make desert living possible. "Give me a blessing–I can’t live in the desert without water." It’s a cry for help from a daughter to her father. Hearing her cry, Caleb does not skimp on his generosity. He gives Achsah the upper AND lower springs. It is abundantly more than her request.

Our urgent cries to our Father are often, "get me out of this desert!" We don’t want to live in the Negev! But, to be able to see our deserts as the Father’s gift and ask that the gift be accompanied with a blessing, making desert living more habitable–this is how we want to live! Expecting God to exchange the gift would mean we know better than he what we need. To ask for a blessing within the desert is to acknowledge that God knows where we are living and what we need to survive.

Father, I am your child!
Hear my cry!
I am not asking for the desert to be removed
Hear my voice!
Bless me with your living waters.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Start Jumping

But for you that honor my name, victory will shine
like the sun with healing in its rays, and you will jump
around like calves at play.

Malachi 4:2

Playful calves bring a smile to one’s face. Exercising their new limbs in short bursts of energy they quickly dip for a nip of milk from their mother then return to their romps. They don’t have a care in the world.

On any given day of any given week there are times when we don’t feel like calves at play. Our spirit has little or no energy to expend. Even the sun’s warmth doesn’t touch our skin for the dark cloud surrounding it. And as far as feeling victorious, well, some days we feel more like we’re walking around with a capital “L” on our forehead.

In these times we become desperate for relief. However, in the process of our frantic search for happiness we will miss God’s promised victory.

God wants us to give him the honor no matter what is presently happening. The word but in this verse makes all the difference - it brings hope. In this last book of the Old Testament God says the day is coming when the arrogant and evildoers will be destroyed, but, if we honor his name, thankful for what he has given us, rejoicing in his presence, attentive to how we walk through our lives, day by day, we will not be among them.

Victory will come in due time. The sun will shine again and leaping with joy we’ll walk out of the darkness into the healing rays of the sun. So, today be still in his presence. Calf jumping will come later and no doubt when it is least expected.

Jesus, help me to live each day
in a way that honors
who you are in my life
and when it is time for jumping
my spirit will be ready.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

No Hidden Weakness

I look up to the mountains; does my strength
come from mountains?
No, my strength
comes from God,
who made heaven, and earth,
and mountains.

Psalm 121:1 (The Message)

From every vantage point I see mountains out my windows. They define, in many respects, “awesome” with their soaring peaks and deep crevices. From a distance I can’t see the trails I have hiked but I know they exist. The mountains are not as impenetrable as they seem and while at one level it would appear they offer an element of safety, they also host a myriad of dangers. It's easy to get lost in the mountains if one gets off the trail.

Trusting in the strength of what we can see, touch and hear isn’t unreasonable until we consider that with every strength there also lies a weakness. My visual of the distant mountains doesn’t give me a complete picture of what exists within its folds. Trusting in their apparent strength and protection becomes short sighted. Those same mountains have also hosted flames, gale force winds and a range of wild animals--all of which have the capacity for destruction.

Every morning, however, the mountains become my reminder of the Strength who made them. They represent only a small portion of what God is able to accomplish. And, while there can be hidden dangers in the mountains, there are no weaknesses hidden in God’s strength.

So, whatever today brings I will look to the mountains and be reminded that my life, my very strength depends on the God who made me.
Creator God, thank you for giving me visual reminders
of your strength, power and creative nature.
I am depending on your strength today

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Digging Deep

Remember my affliction and my wanderings…
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope…
the steadfast love
of the Lord never ceases.
Lamentations 3:19-23

The aged coastal cypress is bent and bowed down, but rooted firmly. Prevailing against the unrelenting winds it’s shape and color have been altered, nevertheless, it clings to the precipice above the turbulent Pacific. Though formed and shaped by the winds it cannot control, it has not moved.

Adversities in our lives shape and alter us. The result is precious dreams and eager ambitions blowing away and we find ourselves reluctantly closing the door on what we thought were marvelous possibilities.

Who will remember what we have endured? My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. The memories of hurt and suffering never go away. Like scars that remain from a physical injury there are and will be soul scars resulting from what has blown our way.

Jesus remembers our suffering! His own suffering makes him intimately acquainted with the hurts we experience. He responds by loving us, steadfastly. Like the resilient cypress we press in to the Rock. No matter the winds velocity the Rock does not move. Taking any action to move away from the storm will mean letting go of the Rock that keeps us safe.

By pressing in, digging our roots deeper into the Word we will feel the Rock’s strength. The steadfastness of the Rock is our only hope of survival. We cannot move.

Jesus, bent and bowed down,
I feel overwhelmed by life storms.
Help me to dig into the strength
of your steadfast love.
Your mercy is my hope.
Your love is my rock.
Your faithfulness is my foundation.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines…
the Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet
like the deer’s he makes me tread
on my high places.

Habakkuk 3:17a, 19b

Seventy-eight years after it happened, I see the evidence of a family losing everything. Standing in the museum, concentrating on the black and white matte photo before me, I can almost hear the wail of the wind as it blows away the top soil. For months the clouds had refused to relinquish any water. Now there is only howling, dusty, robbing wind.

Wailing winds have frequently stripped me bare leaving my soul hungry and thirsty. It is difficult during these times to see any bits of fuzzy new growth. But my desire is to learn how to live in this moment and find my joy in the God who knows when I have done a face plant in the sand.

His joy doesn’t come in seeing me face down. It’s his creation, me, looking into his face that he longs to see. So, he lifts my head each day and soon I get a peek of higher ground. And before I know it, the day comes when I am able to stand and begin walking.

The Lord is my strength. And when I have climbed, slowly and cautiously at first, my calves and thighs increase in strength and I find I am able to leap and jump over rocks. Reaching the top I scan the horizon and am shocked at how far God has brought me.

Jesus, the winds have blown it all away.
I don’t even have enough strength to stand up.
But, I believe you have all the muscle
I need and that soon
my view will be from the summit.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Snow White

Purge me with hyssop,
and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51:7

A few years ago I was taking my dirty clothes to the Laundromat. You never realize how long laundry takes until you have to sit and wait for it! After stuffing the dark load into the washer I began to fold the clean whites. I watched as the water flowed in, suds appeared and the cycle began; back and forth--stop--back and forth--stop.

An old hymn began humming in my brain. Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow now wash me and I will be whiter than snow. Theology shows up in the strangest places and I began to ask, “How do I become whiter than snow?”

It was the back and forth, rubbing together, friction, that produced my clean clothes. Perhaps it is that same action that makes me whiter than snow. It’s the friction of disappointments and struggles that, in part make up my life, that will ultimately wash away my dirt and grime, leaving me clean within and without.

I have no idea how my clothes “feel” when they’re being washed but the washing process looks uncomfortable! I don’t like friction of any kind. My load of dirty clothes is clean within the hour. But my life, at various times, continues to be rubbed with adversity and discouragement. Will the whiter than snow result, be worth this painful rubbing?

When I gathered my clean clothes I saw, that while showing signs of wear, they were clean–made brighter for the rubbing. I pray that these life rubbing experiences will make a difference after all.

Jesus, help me.
I don’t like the agitation
and rubbing that is going on in my life!
I long to be purer, whiter,cleaner
but I need your strength to endure the washing.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Trusting Sorrow

For the Lord will not cast
off forever, but, though he
cause grief, He will have compassion…

Lamentations 3:31-33

Whether innocent or not, condemned Irish prisoners in the early centuries, were often put on a boat without paddles, food or water. Cast out to sea, they were left to the mercy of the currents and the elements. Their fate was assumed.

Our sorrows are not always a result of our guilt or wrongdoing, nevertheless, like condemned prisoners we are at their mercy. In our condemned boat of sorrow we cry, what have I done? Where is my hope?

A few years ago when I was floating in my own sorrow boat my husband gave me a silver angel with the engraved words, “I know God will give me the strength to endure. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.” A woman of wisdom and insight, Mother Teresa knew what she was talking about. She had seen and experienced suffering up close.

Perhaps she was right. Our grief and sorrow may be about God trusting us. The pain we feel makes us want only compassion and love. Being entrusted with grief is beyond our abilities. Yes, that’s right, it is beyond our abilities and so our only response can be to trust the God who entrusts us with things beyond our understanding.

Helpless and unable to change the course of our sorrow boat we rely on his compassion and love to guide it to a solid place. The journey will take time. But, our hope is in the God who trusts us.

Lord, thank you for riding with
me in my sorrow boat!
Long or short, I trust you
to journey me to a wide and spacious place.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hope Walking

Presently I am in North Carolina with my father who is recovering from pneumonia as well as other complications. For the next few days I will be repeating some of our earilier meditations. Thank you for understanding as well as your prayers.
She had heard the reports
…and came up behind him

in the crowd and touched
his garment.

Mark 5:27-28

Well known in the community, her disease was one of those that caused a commotion when she appeared. She lived in isolation. Living wasn’t the challenge, simply existing was the insurmountable hurdle. No one would touch her. No one would intercede for her. Her youth was gone and the medical bills had emptied her accounts. Her situation was beyond hopeless.

Names are not significant in this story. But perhaps her name could have been, HOPE! Her life defines its meaning. Her losses were extensive with her health being the first domino. And yet having lost everything, one thing remains, hope, and it gets her out of bed, onto her feet, into her clothes, out the door and down the street.

She must have heard the gasps and felt the shudders of the people she passed. But she stumbles on and pushes her way through the crush of the crowd. Each step turning hope into confident belief that Jesus, unlike all the other healers she had encountered, was different. The word swirling around was that true healing power flowed out of this Healer. She knew that all she had to do was reach out and touch.

Hope–it’s what kept her walking to the point where she stretched out her hand and touched. And she wasn’t disappointed–everything she had heard was true.
Jesus, forgive my self-pity and wound gazing.
Help me, today, to claim hope as my motivation
to keep reaching out andtouching You.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Watch Your Step

The steps of a man
are established by the Lord…
he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand.

Psalm 37:23-24

The steep cliff on one side and the prickly berry bushes on the other make for a narrow path on my walk. It has been one of my favorite walks. But whenever I walk this path I am keenly aware that a thoughtless step could literally hurl me into the waters below. While I love to see the scenery I must also keep alert to where I am stepping, where the path is taking me.

There aren’t any barriers that keep me “safe” but I find that part of what draws me to this particular walk is exactly that, it isn’t “safe.” Potholes, rocks, roots constantly impede my progress forcing me to slow down. In the process I see and hear my surroundings.

The path ahead for this year is unclear nevertheless God has mapped out a spectacular hike for us if we’re willing to risk it. It is unsettling when we realize that our established steps may not be on a well groomed route. And so it is an act of faith and trust to walk with this God who promises that our destruction is not his end goal.

Our time of arrival at God’s appointed destination is an unknown and not all that important. How willingly we traveled, paying attention to the views, keeping hold of his hand, will help us arrive ready and in shape for whatever God has planned.

Jesus, I will stumble and fall
along this hike you’ve planned.
Thank you for holding my
hand so that while I may be
bruised and scratched I am not
completely thrown off course.

Monday, January 4, 2010

For the New Year

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Revelation 22:21

After all that has taken place before hand--the highs and lows, the goodness and the difficulties, the unity and the conflicts, the very last verse in the Bible ends with this gift, God's grace.

Grace is the love and protection that God gives freely to his creation every moment. Of course, those who have gone before us, as well as ourselves, have done nothing to deserve this generous gift and yet throughout God repeatedly gives a gift that sometimes we aren't able to recognize--grace.

As you look back over this year look specifically for evidence of God's gift of grace. It may have been a great year for you. It may have been a year of discouragement. Or, perhaps your year was without anything significant. Covering it all was God's love and protection--God's grace.

Grace is the gift that will keep on giving in 2010 as well. Live 2010 with this assurance--the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is with you.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Beginning

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God!
Psalm 143:10a

Doing the will of someone is allowing them to have control over either your whole life or at the very least portions of your life. In day to day reality, for many of us, that poses a tremendous struggle. There's a certain amount of security when we "control" the sequence of our lives, keeping the will of others on the other side of the fence.

Allowing God to teach us his will won't and isn't any less of an inward struggle. Relinquishing ourselves wholly and completely to the unknown seems, well, out of control! And yet, that is exactly what God wants--for us to be out of control in order for him to be in control.