Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It's Time to Say Goodbye

Nothing is new under the sun and so to say that life is full of twists and turns is simply to repeat what anyone who is living knows already. When I first started writing my meditations on certain verses back in January of 2008 the turn of my life at the time prompted me. The following three years provided the appropriate twists and turns dealing out copious fodder for meditations. It remains fascinating, after all these years, to see how pertinent, how fresh, how spot on, are the lives of the Old Testament, the ministry of Jesus and the epistles to the turbulence of life today.

But just as life events prompted my writing I find that life events are prompting me to stop posting anymore writings. It has been a tremendous experience and I am grateful to all who took the time to read my musings - some of you even commenting on them! So, it is with a great deal of sadness and yet peace that I sign off from writing anymore On Crooked Knees.

Thank you again. My life has grown and changed for the experience. As you continue with your journey I hope that you will make new discoveries in how God intersects with your life. He is not absent in his silence. May we all live in the fullness of the knowledge that we are created in His image.


Monday, March 21, 2011

On Vacation

Hi! I'm leaving town on Tuesday and will be gone for the week to celebrate my daughter's 21st birthday! What fun! Look for new writings next Monday!


Friday, March 18, 2011

It's Time to Jump

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

On any given day there are times when I don’t feel very playful. My spirit is depleted and even a sun shinning day doesn’t dispel the grayness. And as far as feeling victorious, well, some days I’d feel more comfortable walking around with a capital “L” on my forehead.

At these moments I become desperate for relief.

God expects a lot when He demands honor in the middle of adversity. However, I do find hope in the word but. God promises that He will deal with the arrogant and evildoers, but my true pleasure will come when I give Him the glory.

During desperate times victory will come in due time. The sun will shine again and leaping with joy I’ll finally walk out of the darkness into the sun’s warmth. So today I stand in His presence. Calf jumping will come later and no doubt when I least expect it.

Jesus, help me to live each day in a way that honors You.
I trust that when it is time for jumping
my spirit will be ready.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Doing Church

But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.

Matthew 9:17b

In ten weeks I have worshipped at eight churches. There’s a lot of talk about “doing church” differently but so far I haven’t seen any significant change. Flashing images have replaced crosses, drums pound in lieu of organs vibrating, shirt tails instead of suits are the norm but the structure has essentially stayed the same. This truth I learned, on a recent Sunday, as I sat after singing a few songs, and listened to an hour sermon.

When the Jordan waters dripped from Jesus a genuine change happened. The traditionalists became aware of an uncomfortable sensation - change. Rituals and structure began to crumble under the words, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” They flailed about as their religious “plates” shifted, unceremoniously dumping them into the unfamiliar. Jesus brought a new paradigm, a different way to “do church” in the world. Very little of his ministry happened in the synagogue. Most of it was spent on dusty roads, amongst pressing crowds, crowded dining tables, rolling hills.

If I want Jesus’ new wine paradigm to influence my world I guess that I need to chuck "the way it used to be" wineskins and start making new ones. As uncomfortable as it may become, I’m going to move beyond the way “church” used to be, because the world isn’t the way it used to be.

Jesus, you transcend time, cultures and centuries.
Help us to be paradigm shifters, showing You to the world in a new way.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Here is a portion from the Inward Journey by Gene Edwards.

I have observed through the years that most Christians have little understanding of the word 'season'. Our Lord is a seasonal God; He comes, He departs. his faithfulness never changes, but His seasons do! There are seasons when the tree is green, there are seasons when it is dry, and seasons when, for the life of us, the thing looks dead. Now, does this mean you are serving some capricious God who comes and goes by whim? Or, could it be, that it is only through 'seasons' that true growth may come?

Paul said, 'Does not nature teach us?' Fruit from a tree comes to us as a result of three or four seasons. The Christian and the Lord's body both need rain and sunshine, cold and hot, wind and doldrums.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

But. . .

...as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Colossians 3:13b

My husband recently had the temerity to tell me that I find it difficult to forgive. Well, I can tell you, I’ll never forgive him for that bit of marital honesty! But, I guess I am a “little” like Paul that I can’t seem to do what I want to do and instead do the very thing that I try to avoid – hold accounts of hurts and wrongs. With every fiber of my being I want to be able to forgive without the bind of strings. I want to be like Jesus.

Even at His death Jesus forgave, Father, forgive them (Luke 23:34). It translates that if I am a Jesus follower, forgiveness is an absolute. Jesus didn’t hold accounts of the repeated hurts, rejections, betrayals that were hurdled at him. Even knowing their true characters he kept Judas on as a disciple, never wavered with Peter, and showed compassion for the uppity desires of James and John. Forgiveness was just a part of Jesus’ DNA.

Here’s the rub, if Jesus forgave so freely, why do I find forgiveness so difficult? My slow dawning awakens me to the reality that I don’t want to take ownership of my actions, choices, and responses that need forgiveness. My emotional DNA is lacking and this inward look isn’t pretty. Forgiving a person who has caused me so much hurt is to admit, in the eyes of Jesus, that the difference between us is empty space. To forgive is to accept my need for forgiveness.
This is why my husband may be right, as much as I cringe to admit it. But. . .in my defense, I am getting closer to understanding that when I forgive, I accept the abundant forgiveness that Jesus gives me.
Jesus, thank you for instinctively forgiving me.
I need a forgiving "second" nature. I’ve been hurt
but help me to be like You, not holding on but forgiving
in the same way I have been forgiven.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Are My Prayers Heard?

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

For years I’ve wrestled with the purpose of prayer. Truthfully asking, “does God hear my prayers” or would the same thing happen if I hadn’t prayed at all. Reflecting back on a couple of my “pray without ceasing” themes I have to say, they were not and have not been answered. Many would tell me, “well that is God’s answer!” Personally, I’m not satisfied with that response for the reason that I was praying how Jesus taught me to pray.

For some this may be very unsettling and for that I apologize. My faith is one of constant wrestling and struggle. And, it seems that the older I get the more complex it becomes. It’s for this reason that Achsah’s prayer to Caleb is so intriguing.

Not satisfied with her wedding gift of miles of dry, worthless desert Achsah high tails it to her father. "Give me a blessing–I can’t live in the desert without water." It’s a prayer, a cry, a pleading from a daughter to her father. She isn’t asking for anything more than she needs but only for what will give her the ability to live. Caleb responds with abundant alacrity giving Achsah the upper AND lower springs.

That’s really all I want, is to be able to have what I need to live in the desert. I cling to the generosity of Caleb as a symbol of God’s potential generosity. Perhaps I don’t possess the boldness of Achsah but I am beyond expecting that life in the desert will end. Over and over I read this conversation between a daughter and her father and hope that my prayers could be heard in the same way.

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.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thomas Merton on Forgiveness

If the unity of Christians in One Body makes the Church a sign of God in the world, and if men tend unfortunately to conflict and division by reason of their weakness, selfishness and sin, then the will to reconciliation and pardon is necessary if the Church is to make God visible in the world. Nor can this pardon, this communion in forgiveness, remain interior and invisible. It must be clearly manifest. So the mystery of the Church demands that Christians love one another in a visible and concrete way...Christ will not be visible to the world in His Church except in proportion as Christians seek peace and unity with one another and with all men. But since conflict is inevitable, unity cannot be maintained except in great difficulty, with constantly renewed sacrifice, with lucid honety, openness, humility, the readiness to ask forgiveness and to forgive.

Thomas Merton, Seasons of Celebration

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Supersize Me

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"

Luke 17:5

When I watched the documentary “Supersize Me” I was repulsed. Our culture thrives on bigger is better, even if it’s hamburgers! From houses to toilet paper "mega" is the operative word. Consequently, seeing the minuscule becomes a challenge when surrounded by the gargantuan. And yet, I’m surrounded by tiny bits that become "mega" important–a molecule of water for a start.

The disciples figured that bigger was better. In the days and weeks of following Jesus they had clued in on the fact that their "new life" was going to require something more. Jesus tells them that "temptations to sin are sure to come" and they beg–Increase our faith–bigger is better!

Faith doesn’t have to be big to be worthwhile. In the process of following Jesus, faith changes size. My faith didn’t start off the size of a California redwood. It began minuscule but was no less effective. Nurtured through prayer, Bible study, silence and Christian community faith grows. Difficulties, disappointments, discouragements water the seedling. Nevertheless there are times when I am certain that my faith isn’t big enough to get me through.

Bigger isn’t better. Flooding is a result of too much rain, causing destruction. The flip side is that a steady fall of raindrops can fill a reservoir, providing for the future. I pray that my reservoir of faith will be steadily filled, replenishing my seed during seasons of plenty and drought.

Jesus, You said that faith the size of a mustard seed
is where I can begin. Help me care for my faith seed
as consistently as I care for all the other things
that are important to me.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Break the Bank

...as he was reclining at table a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.

Mark 14:3b

My husband and I celebrated twenty-five years of marriage by living on opposite coasts. It wasn’t by choice! And a year later, when twenty-six rolled around, Bill moved to my coast. Arriving at the restaurant the hostess walked us to an empty table, “Oh no, this isn’t your table,” she said, “your table is over there.” And “there” was a table, set for two, colorfully stacked with twenty-six gifts hand picked by my husband as he drove across the country to join me. I was blown away!

The Bethany woman who anoints Jesus blew the roof off with her gift! Whether the ointment was specifically purchased or was in her closet her gift probably stressed her bank account. She believed that Jesus deserved the very best, even if the cost was future stability.

I have a fairly lengthy list of what I consider "valuable." They don’t all possess a monetary value but it’s certain that losing or giving them away would be painful. I like my things!

Jesus didn’t ask for her gift. It is given unexpectedly, willingly and generously. Her generosity convicts me and I ask, “How generous am I in showing my love for Jesus?”

From jobs, to homes, to stuff, to children, to spouses, to retirement accounts--whatever it may be that I hold valuable, am I willing to pour it generously over the head of Jesus?

Jesus, I love you with all my heart, soul and mind.
And while I want to give generously to You, I struggle.
Help me to remember the woman from Bethany
each time my fingers tighten around all that I consider valuable.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

No Second Guessing

Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
Your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,
“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21 (NIV)

Every morning I am offered a choice to hear or be deaf. Some days I am more eager than others. There are days, as much as I eagerly listen, I hear only silence. But even the silence is God’s voice. When I am open to His voice, hearing His words, living His silence, I have a greater possibility of becoming His hands, feet and mouth to the world.

I’ve been thinking about how we actually hear God’s voice and in hearing, do we really trust His voice to guide us in our conversations. I am haunted by second guessing my responses, reliving my conversations and kicking myself for “why didn’t I say. . .?” Even more guilt inducing is wondering whether I have been a good “witness” for Jesus Christ.

In my work I am daily confronted with individuals who have little or no religious background. They need to know their Creator. But worrying about saying the “right words” could very well stop me from saying anything at all! I want to put aside “right words” and accept His words. He knows what needs to be said and what should be left unspoken. With this confidence I step boldly into the unknown and be Christ to the people He brings. If afterwards I experience self-doubt as to how well I did, I have to trust that the words spoken and the “truths” covered were what God wanted.

Thank God that He is able to take my verbal bumblings and shape them into This is the way; walk in it.

Jesus! Help me to hear Your voice!

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Holy Climb

Moses said to the people, "Do not fear,
for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.

Exodus 20:20

My husband, a rock climber, says that when rock climbing it is important to keep an element of fear in your back pocket. It’s fear that keeps you from doing crazy moves. It’s fear that helps keep you focused on the rock. It’s fear that actually keeps you moving forward.

Too often my life has been paralyzed by fear, preventing me from moving out and living God’s life. In the past I have figured that if I kept things in control and obeyed the teachings of Jesus my life would be smooth. I have found just the opposite. More times than I can count my route up the rock has lacked proper hand holds and my feet haven’t found traction. But, instead of using Fear to my advantage I uncontrollably shake.

A decision to live fearing God gives me the courage, in the midst of the worst, to grab His hand and begin the climb again. Accepting that there will be challenges on this holy climb, I claim a healthy fear of God to help me choose the best route up. It’s this fear that helps me know the joy and sorrow of this adventure and that nothing can prevent me from reaching the summit of God’s plan.

Father God, help me.
You go before me.
I don’t want to make this climb without Your presence.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Eating with Misfits

...'the next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors,
the kind of people who will return the favor.
Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits
from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be–and experience–a blessing.

Luke 14:12-13 (The Message)

It is a luxury to be able to choose "safe", like-minded friends. My social bubble popped while living in a small, eccentric to the max, alternative life-style town for ten years. Hardly anyone "looked" like me! Arriving in town I began to cast about for friends who "fit" me. I found myself empty handed. Then I began to open myself to the town’s supposed "misfits.” Soon my friends became individuals that definitely would not have crossed my path if we had been living in a more populated area. My life, however, was richer, deeper for their "misfit" involvement.

Jesus didn’t seek out "safe" people. He intentionally hung out with the "misfits.” His disciples often tried to blow a protective religious bubble around him - he burst it every time. Jesus wanted to talk, eat, and socialize with the people who didn’t "fit." What difference would he have made if he had stuck with people who thought like him?

For every time you invite a "safe" friend to dinner think about the "misfit", the individual who doesn’t "fit" that could be invited as well. You’ll be–and experience–a blessing.

Jesus, I want to live like You lived, outside the bubble.
Help me to stop looking at who "fits" with me,
looking instead for unexpected friends.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Without a GPS

And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden...

Isaiah 58:11a, b

I don’t think that very many people in my community have a GPS. We don’t give directions by streets but by landmarks. If planning a trip out of town we Google or Yahoo the route. And while my father told me I needed to be able to read a map if I was going to learn to drive that “talent” now seems antiquated.

How I wish I could plug in GPS coordinates while traveling the Jesus road. Even if I could the response would probably be “unknown location.” Nevertheless without any map I walk, not knowing the direction and ending up in places of desolation along with vibrant gardens.

I know that in some weird way I have been led to now. Glancing back I see that I have somehow passed through scorched places and discover that in my wanderings I am stronger. Looking ahead I don’t see much but I feel stronger, ready for new directions!

Without GPS or Google maps I am completely out of control. It is unsettling. I like maps, seeing where I am going. But in attempting to control my route and destination I could very well miss hidden surprises, breathtaking views and ultimately lose my way altogether.

Jesus, you are the guide through the scorched places!
Thank you for making me strong along the way.
Without any clear directions I am following you.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Which Door to Choose

This morning I want to share a reading from my own readings during my silent time today. I pray it is as encouraging to you, as it was for me.

Related scriptures--Psalm 139:15-17; Isaiah 66:3-4; Hebrews 11:24-25

The future is not a foregone conclusion. But when we give God permission to intervene and bring about His will in us still again and again He offers us choices, perhaps between one good and another. This is so that we can create through our choices, enabling Him to bring into being things He had long ago planned for us. He constantly plans for me in love, and in His mercy he never allows me to see the might-have-beens that only He could see.

Celtic Book of Prayer

Monday, February 28, 2011

Living Noisily

I will pray with my spirit,
But I will pray with my mind also…

I Corinthians 14:15b

Jesus did not live quietly. As an adolescent he wasn't intimidated by the religious scholars but was confident in his identity and what he knew. From baptism to a wedding at Cana to feeding thousands Jesus lives his life publicly and noisily. Mark's
gospel repeatedly describes the "crowds" following Jesus. It wasn't a quiet life that Jesus lived.

In this "politically correct" age I find myself too often living "quietly." To live each day as an opportunity to live noisily for Jesus is a challenge. But what I'm realizing is that while I may not go down the street yelling "Jesus!" I can find a way of speaking Jesus into the life of each person I meet. It becomes a conscious awareness on my part. Each waiter, clerk, doctor, mortgage broker, window washer becomes an opportunity to not live quietly.

How I live noisily for Jesus will look different with each person I meet. But there is a constant between them all that requires nothing from the other. I can pray. Whether "quietly" or out loud the simplest way to be noisy about Jesus is bringing them to Jesus, in prayer.

Jesus, I love you.
Help me to see with Your eyes,
hear with your ears
and respond with Your love.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Psalm 73

From Psalms/Now

It is generally expected that God will stand by the righteous
and related to those whose deeds and thoughts
are purely altruistic.
I am afraid I just don't belong to that class of people.
I guess I am just a perpetual backslider.
Rather than thinking unselfishly,
I find myself envious and covetous
about those who have so much more than I.
They never seem to have problems.
They are always so strong and healthy.
I doubt that they know the meaning of conflict.
They are proud, carefree,
devil-may-care, even malicious,
and so disgustingly smug about it all.
They act as if God didn't even exist,
and they are almost blasphemous in their attitudes and actions.

And yet people will honor and applaud them;
they find nothing to censor about them.
What aggravates me is their obvious unconcern
about God or fellowman.
Yet they always appear to be so comfortable and well off.
And all the while I struggle so desperately with my sin-permeated nature.
I try so hard to please God, yet my days are full of conflict and my heart seethes in unrest.

I know I speak foolishly and unfairly,
but I get so fed up with it all.
That is, until I begin arguing with God about it.
Then I realize that they are not as well offf as they appear to be.
Their bright bubble will burst one day;
their dream will turn into a nightmare.

It's just that I get so depressed at times,
and I act like a stupid fool.
What is so amazing is that even while engrossed in irrational and unspiritual contemplations
I am never far from You.
You hold me close to Yourself.
You guide me and watch over me.
You assure me that is is all worth it.
And because of this glorious truth
I really have no need for anything else.
The essential desires of my being are met in You.
I shall often be victimized by human failure,
but my great God never ceases to love me and bless me.

How good it is to know that God is always near!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Jesus vs. Wal-Mart

I am with you always. . .

Matthew 28:20

Wal-Mart isn’t one of my favorites. Nevertheless I found myself one recent day in their storage area, along with a supervisor, rummaging through boxes of discontinued baby cribs. Struggling with one box, my Wal-Mart cohort called out to a co-worker, “hey could you help me with this?” “Off the clock,” was her snap reply and away she walked with her gargantuan soda cup. I overheard me saying to myself, “thanks a lot!”

Encounters such as this one always get me thinking. And this is what came to me: I am thankful that the Trinity is never “off the clock.” In the movie, Bruce Almighty, Jim Carrey finds out what it means to be always on the clock when he assumes, for a brief time, God’s responsibilities. He can’t even begin to keep up with the prayer requests!

And so I come to the mountain, along with the disciples, a place of safety and strength, to hear Jesus promise, I am with you always. There is no going “off the clock.” He is always ever present, ready to help me rummage through whatever pile I am struggling with. Now that's service!

Jesus, thank you for being with me – always!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Crawling Forward

I didn't get home from work last night until ten so I thought I would post a piece that I wrote three years ago. You may recognize it but as I reread it I found it very appropriate for my life at present. Amazing how some things just don't change! Blessings!

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed,
but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

Hebrews 10:39

I watched on TV how the summer heat tried to beat the life out of Gabriela Andersen-Schiess of Switzerland. Having run 26 miles in the 1984 Olympics she collapsed 400 meters short of the finish line. It looked pretty certain that Gabriela’s race was over. But then Gabriela proved to everyone watching, including myself, that she was made of tougher stuff. My body hurt as I watched her crawl, waving away all attempts to help her.  And I marveled as Gabriela crossed the finish line. Six runners had completely quit the race long before.

Jesus was made of tougher stuff. From the beginning, when the Holy Spirit drives him out to the desert, Jesus demonstrates what it means to not shrink back. At every turn the religious "heat" was continually turning up the temperature in its attempts to beat him down. Even falling under the burden of his cross, he continues to the finish.

In following Jesus, I feel the intensity of religious "heat." Throughout my spiritual race there have been those who have attempted to beat me down with their criticisms, insults and slander. And, I have face planted. But, knowing Jesus and the insults he endured keeps me crawling forward.

Jesus lived a life that proved finishing is possible. Moving forward, even on my hands and knees, will ultimately give me life. If  I shrink back, quitting short of the finish line, I will lose for sure.

Jesus, your life proves that hardships are a part of living.
Thank you for never shrinking back from the finish.
Help me, no matter the position,
to keep moving forward to life with You.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Waiting for God

But God’s not finished.
He’s waiting around to be gracious to you.
He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you.
God takes the time to do everything right.

Isaiah 30:18 (The Message)

When I first went away to college I thought it was pretty cool to grab a group of friends and head down to the dining commons. Scrambling through the food line I could grab whatever I wanted to eat, even if it didn’t fit into the pyramid food grouping. But eventually it was the waiting in line for every single meal every day that prompted this vow when I was a junior, “I will never wait in line for food again!”

Since that vow I can’t think of a day where I am not forced to wait or wait by default. I now wait for traffic lights. I wait for phone calls, doctor appointments and e-mails to be returned. I wait for repair technicians and online orders. I wait. . .Waiting has become an integral part of my life although I still refuse to eat in cafeterias and I don’t care for potlucks – it reminds me too much of my college days!

Honestly, I don’t find Isaiah’s definition of waiting comforting, in fact, it promises an unknown length of time - more waiting! It’s true, I believe that God does want to lavish me with His graciousness, but His demand for perfection just produces more waiting on my part! So, added to my list of daily waiting is waiting for God.

But I long to experience the gracious, merciful rightness of my Father, who hopefully isn’t finished with me, and so I wait. In my waiting I remember all that has been right from my past and I am refreshed knowing that the God of my past is also the God of my future.

Jesus, thank you for loving me enough
to wait until everything is right.
Help me to wait for all that is gracious, merciful and right.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Zumba Lessons

. . .and he said to him, “Follow me.”

Mark 2:14c

In my humble opinion there isn’t anything that will make you feel more like a klutz than joining a Zumba class! With every new pattern the instructor calls out, “follow me” but my feet find it difficult to mirror the beautiful, rhythmic movements. It’s loads of fun in a two left feet sort of way. My instructor keeps reminding me that “it’s hard in the beginning but it gets better” and she’s right. After repeated sequences my feet find their place more easily; in the mirror I can see that I am following my teacher’s steps more smoothly.

With fumbling feet I follow Jesus. He called me years ago and sometimes the following is easier than others. Everyday is a Zumba class with me attempting to mirror the steps He has laid out for me. I know in my heart how I want to walk and live but my desire and my actions aren’t always in sync. But with each repeated lesson and duplicated hardship, I am finding that my steps are becoming more solid, less awkward.

Jesus reminds me, daily, that following him is hard, but it gets better. His steps are not impossible. And, when I finally get the sequence, no matter how complicated, life resembles a cha cha step!

Jesus, You call out the steps.
Help me to learn how to follow.

Friday, February 18, 2011

From Catherine de Hueck Doherty

If we trust somebody we are truly opening the way to love, hope and faith. For God loves a cheerful giver, and there is no limit to the blessing God can give us. He will always make sure that we have what we need for ourselves.  That is to say, that when we give cheerfully, joyfully, of ourselves, of our faith, of our love, then indeed we become truly alive. We become so full that we are like a granary. Others can come and take the grain away.

But the word "trust is an immense word. For if men begin to trust one another, then they will stop killing one another with mental cruelty and every kind of inhumanity. . .Whenever you give it away, God replenishes it anew. Like love, trust can only be kept by being given away.

So let us all go into the depth of ourselves and find out if we trust one another, and if not, why not. Let us talk about, shall we? For charity begins at home you know, and the almsgiving of trust starts with us.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

He Knows Best

For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

I Corinthians 2:10b

Family legend has it that my mother once told my then boyfriend that she knew me better than I knew myself. He and I were engaged at the time and she wasn’t exactly keen on the idea. While I bristled at her knowingness the truth is that she had a better idea, than me, of what I would need in a marriage. My boyfriend became my husband and when I became a mother I finally had to admit that as my mother had “known” me I “knew” my daughter! At this point in my life I find it comforting that my mother knew me so well.

How the Father, Son and Holy Spirit exists as One is a theological mystery. But how they relate to each other is always consistent. Their intertwining, where one leaves off the other begins, brings comfort. With no beginning or end, I am safe within the center.

With these infinite abilities, why is knowing the depths of God important? Accountability and relationship. Living accountably, and in relationship with trustful friends, gives my life clarity, wholeness and vision. God being in relationship with the Holy Spirit, who searches everything, even God himself, means I know a God that can be trusted.

God sets the example of willingness to be “known.” It’s the kind of life he wants with me—a willing acknowledgment that nothing can be hidden because He knows me better than I know myself.

Jesus, You know me!.
Nothing is hidden.
I will become all You want me to be.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Walk in Hell

Be strong and courageous and do it.
Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed.
. . .He will not leave you. . .until all the
work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.

I Chronicles 28:20

If you’re going through hell, keep going. A friend told me that Winston Churchill said it. Google says the same, but I sure wish she had passed this along to me several months ago! It would have made the perfect hole in which to dump the mess I was experiencing. I was going through hell – for months - and I certainly didn’t know how to keep going.

But unbeknownst to me apparently I kept moving. I have proof – I’m still alive! When the heat was on and flaming tongues were doing their best to destroy, I didn’t want to go on. Evil smothered me. Fear paralyzed me. Discouragement neutralized me. Fatigue defeated me. How could I go on when I was standing still?

Though I walk through the valley of death never meant much until I went through hell. I feared the evil that surrounded me and I almost became an ash heap, but I stand today as a witness – God walked through hell with me. And, all I can say is that I was convinced that my work for the Lord was finished – but today is a new day and I awake to the realization that all is not lost or destroyed and His plans for me are still intake!

God! Thank you!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Reacting to Action

We love because he first loved us.

I John 4:19

Leafing through the fourteen page questionnaire I was required to submit, I blasted a groan. How many clients have you shared the Gospel with? How many clients accepted Jesus Christ? Come on! Was our effectiveness as a ministry really going to be determined by the number of clients that got “saved”? It was a painful reminder of a recent phone conversation with a community agency where I had assured them that while we were definitely a faith based organization we weren’t into “whopping people with our Bibles.” “That’s your reputation,” was her reply.

Recalling the first word in our non-profit’s mission statement I was tempted to cross out shared the Gospel and replace it with lovedHow many clients have you loved? Loving others, out of the vastness of love that has been given, seems like a very effective way to measure success! Any other measure becomes a statistic, a glorious, dust collecting trophy.

Loving everyone who walks through the door takes energy requiring a certain quantity of guts. It requires listening to painful stories, putting up with disgusting smells, bending to inconveniences, closing the gap of opposites with compassion, stepping outside my world and into the world of another.

Dropping my eyes again to the dreaded question I stopped my noisemaking. The “higher ups” weren’t going to get a real picture of what my staff and I did every day with that question because as un-measurable as it may be, loving is incredibly more demanding, far more long term, completely unconditional and sometimes very rewarding. Loving is my reaction to His action – because he first loved us.

Jesus, help me to love as You love.

Monday, February 14, 2011

God's Rhythmic Beat

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.

Genesis 8:22

“Have you ever lived in a neighborhood where no one has a job?” Startled by his question I simply answered, no. “I have” he said. Our encounter began as a knock on the door,a dog yowling nuisance. My interrupter was pushing a sale and I was eager to end our conversation. His question changed the course of our interaction. Closing the door a few minutes later, with two bottles of a miracle cleaner in hand, I prayed that his life would be better for the sale.

For too many years I kept looking out ahead attempting to gain a view of where my life might be going. Frequently I would adopt the life view of friends and try to weave their view into my life. It took awhile for me to face the fact that as much as I might try to change the view, fighting the rhythm of my life was fruitless.

Like the living conditions of the young man at my door, there are an abundance of injustices. But it has always been the manipulations of man that has messed with God’s rhythm, tipping the scales of balance and bringing about unfairness.

God’s rhythm for me, however, is specifically designed. His rhythm for my life has been dark and sweet with an underlying melody consistently playing, growing in its complexity, sometimes fading but always rich. What I have to do is to stop working so hard to interject my own notes and instead submit myself to God's careful arrangement.

Jesus, help me to live my life according to your rhythm.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Carry the Legacy

…since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…

Hebrews 12:1b

My story about how I came to be a follower of Jesus Christ isn't very dramatic. A friend once told me about sharing her testimony and she was shocked that people had clapped. It didn't surprise me, her testimony included lots of drama! No one has ever clapped about my conversion at 7 years old. But like so many testimonies, whether dramatic or yawn producing, they usually include the influence of another Jesus follower. They are grandmothers, Sunday school teachers, and in my case, parents who dragged me to church despite my teenage resistance. All of them make up a cloud of witnesses - people who faithfully pointed to the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.

It is important that I remember my cloud of witnesses. They represent a legacy of faith. My life of faith today is, or should be, a reflection of those who influenced me. Whether their impact was small or big time significant, their lives left an impact that lives with me daily.

When Jesus appears at the river Jordan he has a cloud of witnesses behind him. For thousands of years faithful individuals had pointed to the promises of God. Jesus was the embodiment. He carries on their legacy, increasing the cloud's depth by pointing the way to God.

While I may think fondly of my “witnesses” I can't stop there. They charge me with the responsibility to carry on their legacy and identify myself as a “witnesses.” It means that every day is another opportunity to faithfully point to the faithfulness of Jesus. It is how the legacy of faith will continue and the cloud of witnesses will grow.

Jesus, thank you for each witness that you have brought into my life.
Help me to carry on their legacy of faith
by being a faithful witness to others.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Back on Friday, February 11

Still gone on retreat with no internet service or cell phone service! What a relief! See you on Friday!

Friday, February 4, 2011

And the Lord came and stood,calling...And Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant hears."

I Samuel 3:10

Years ago a group of friends started recalling the prayer language we had heard as children. With the majority of us having been raised in faith communities that emphasized the importance of personal, extemporaneous prayer, our collective memories were extensive and yet oddly familiar. We discovered that most of the prayer language of our youth had a particular structure and usually entailed lots of talking. Some of the vocabulary used required a theological dictionary along with numerous spiritual proclamations and revelations. Opportunities for silence were pretty much non-existent. Basically, prayer was about talking, not listening.
I have grown to love hear others pray. Prayer is a unique opportunity! It is a God conversation consisting of simple, plain language--a conversation that is probably best by saying nothing at all.

Samuel’s prayer of Speak, for your servant hears is about as simple as it gets and yet it is perhaps one of the most poignant prayers that we can speak. It is one of those “says it all” prayers for the believer. No matter one’s circumstances, environment, mood or situation here is a simple prayer that can be prayed no matter the season of life.

But, it does have one challenging demand–silence. And, in an age of talking heads, iPods, and cell phones silence is a rare commodity. In order to hear, I have to be willing to listen, and in order to listen, silence is an absolute necessity.

God calls my name every day. I have only to pray, Speak, for your servant hears.
Jesus, thank you for calling out to me. Speak--I am listening.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

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 got my clothes clean. It was a painful awareness that it was 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.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

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 my life shape and alter me. The result is that my precious dreams and eager ambitions blow away and I find myself reluctantly closing the door on what I thought were marvelous possibilities.

Who will remember what I 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 my way.

But Jesus remembers my suffering! His own suffering makes him intimately acquainted with the hurts I experience. He responds by loving me, steadfastly. Like the resilient cypress I 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 me safe.

By pressing in, digging my roots deeper into the Word I feel the Rock’s strength. The steadfastness of the Rock is my only hope of survival. I 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.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

For the next eight days my husband and I are going on a retreat geared towards ministers and their spouses who have experienced a difficult ministry positions. Having come through three years of a toxic situation we are looking forward to this experience. With that in mind I will be posting some past writings. Thank you! May God reveal Himself to you in unique and mysterious ways!

May you be strengthened with all power,
according to his glorious might,
for all endurance and patience with joy...
Colossians 1:11

His power is at work in us, and if only we set our mind on the things which concern Him, we will see this power in operation. The power of God makes great works possible, but is just as operative in the small, perhaps unnoticed, things of life.

The power of God is great, yet He gives of it freely for His purposes. We have to wait for the power. There is no time for delay, as the Spirit has already come; the waiting is to prevent us dashing ahead, reliant on our own ability instead of His enabling. Even when works of power or "miracles" occur, these only confirm the message: "Look heavenward!"

The works of power are a signpost which says, "Go, in this direction, to God." But it was never intended that we worship the signpost!

Celtic Book of Prayer

Monday, January 31, 2011

Sometimes a Cave Feels Safe

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 I shouted after hanging up the phone. Our family had moved five times in four years and this move, to work with a Christian organization, was supposed to be help with the financial stability we desperately needed after years of educational pursuits. Now, four months later, learning a new city and sitting in a house that was waiting for our furniture I listened to my husband’s voice over the phone. His new Christian employers had reneged on the job. An injustice, done by “Christians”, 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. Gideon ran and hid in a cave. I understand why, when assured of the LORD’s presence, he asks, why then has all this happened.

There are times when I want to retreat to the nearest cave! Retreat seems my only choice when, afraid that if I poke out my head, I will feel the smack of another blow. I ask, why then has all this happened? I ask because Gideon had remained faithful to the LORD but it didn’t protect him from 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.

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

Friday, January 28, 2011

From Frederick Buechner

What is both Good and New about the Good News is the wild claim that Jesus did not simply tell us that God loves us even in our wickedness and folly and wants us to love each other the same way and to love Him too, but that if we let Him, God will actually bring about this unprecedented transformation of our hearts Himself.

What is both Good and New about the Good News is that mad insistence that Jesus lives on among us not just as another haunting memory but as the outlandish, holy, and invisible power of God working not just through the sacraments but in countless hidden ways to make even slobs like us loving and whole beyond anything we could conceivably pull off by ourselves.

Thus the Gospel is not only Good and New but, if you take it seriously, a Holy Terror. Jesus never claimed that the process of being changed from a slob into a human being was going to be a Sunday School picnic. On the contrary. Child-birth may occasionally be painless, but rebirth never. Part of what it means to be a slob is to hang on for dear life to our slobbery.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

They are NOT Redundant

So the churches were strengthened in the faith,
and they increased in numbers daily.

Acts 16:5

Not sure why, but the other day I googled “churches for sale.” Up on the screen popped as one of the options, “churches for sale, chapels and schools, redundant churches. . .” It was the word redundant that riveted my eyes. It means superfluous, exceeding what is necessary, in other words, something we could do without.

In my small, semi-rural community of 50,000 we have over 45 churches and I don’t live in the Bible belt! But, in my capacity as the director of a local pregnancy center I decided to go down my faith based, non-profit’s church list and worship with one or two for the next several Sundays. From my start on January 9 I have worshipped with six congregations. One Anglican church met in the recreation center, an “under the radar” church met in a home, a college lecture hall gathered students on Sunday evening. Another Sunday afternoon I stomped through the snow to worship with a PCA group that rented their sanctuary from the Southern Baptists. There was a petite Baptist church that was trying its hand at a video series for their Sunday School class. And then there was the Pentecostal church.

I’m far from my quest but so far I haven’t found a one of them redundant.

What I am discovering is that while the church culture has changed dramatically from my first remembering, there is good stuff happening. It’s true that those who are staying true to form and function are smaller in size and whiter in hair. While those worshipping bodies that are moving away from the rules and regs of structure have a larger number of youngish people but also include a number of white polka dots scattered throughout!

But thing of it is – they are all stretching, reaching, growing in the Kingdom. Whether they pray ancient prayers or speak in tongues their focus is on the same Father, the same Son and the same Holy Spirit. With each visit I have been blessed, encouraged and strengthened.

Our community couldn’t do without one of these churches! Size doesn’t really matter as long as each believing, worshipping group is strengthened in their faith and they respond by reaching out, bringing a daily numbers increase in the Kingdom.

Six down thirty-nine to go!

Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
Rain down Your blessings on these Your people!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

For Want of Prayer

Little different format today - you'll have to actually get out your Bibles! Blessings!

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

Jesus, I am praying that You
will teach me how to pray
all day, every day, no matter the
place or time.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Do Not Leave Early

As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

John 17:18

A man who mentored my husband during seminary was fond to say, “We will be held accountable for all the God given things that we refused to enjoy.” His wisdom came to mind as I heard a thirty-five year old say recently, “I just want to go and be with Jesus.” I get uncomfortable with those words. They sound righteous, noble but truth be told, I believe they are selfish.

Through the years I learned much from this wise man. He recently passed away, having enjoyed his God given life for over 90 years. His life was a constant pursuit of God’s best in the world, in people, in events. Even in his nineties young people flocked around him eager to suck from the marrow of his wisdom. He was the essence of enjoying everything that God had given him. Shortening life wasn’t in his vocabulary.

If Jesus learned how to live in the world then surely I can embrace this life with the same energy! I’m not done with this life! It is difficult to imagine Jesus whining about “just wanting to go home and be with his Father.” With the disciples there were times when he turned his eyes towards heaven in inquiry and the Pharisees’ continual badgering surely gave him a headache. But he never requests to leave His life before His work is done.

Don’t get me wrong! I want to go to see Jesus too – someday. But I don’t want to go before he can honestly say, “well done daughter!”

Jesus, I need Your wisdom to learn
how to live in this world in a way
that honors all the gifts You have given.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fan or Follower

If anyone serves me, he must follow me. .  .

John 12:18

It was a small country church with big ambitions – to live into the plan that God had for them in 2011. As I sat in the pew watching the DVD that presented their coming six week study that would help them realize this goal, the words “are you a fan or a follower” repeatedly flashed across the screen. I remember bits of the message, the people were friendly, but the gift I received was the question: Are you a fan or follower of Jesus Christ?

Having been in a larger church with a significant number of what I believed to be “fans”, I was moved by the honest, earnest desires of the 40 plus people gathered on this particular Sunday morning. There wasn’t a “fan” in the place! With one exception – there was some debate as to who would get into the Super Bowl!

Even in sports there is a difference between a “fan” and a “follower.” In a TV interview I heard a man boasting that he had never missed attending a Super Bowl – “I have missed weddings, births, family events. I will never miss the Super Bowl.” Now he was a fan – a fan of the Super Bowl.

Other people have one team that they follow, through winning and losing seasons. They can recite the stats of particular players, know where they went to school, who they’re married to and how many children they have. They know the team, inside and out.

Fans of Jesus go and sit in church every Sunday because that is what a “good” person does. Sadly, much of the time their behavior doesn’t live up to their church going. A follower of Jesus wants something much more intimate. A follower wants a life change and that demands a deep knowing of Jesus.

“Following” is an active word. “Fan” is sedentary. Walking out of the sanctuary that morning I knew that following Jesus was how I wanted to keep going!

Jesus, You have said, Follow Me.
As difficult as it may be, I am following!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Habit Making

Therefore encourage one another. . .

I Thessalonians 5:11

Like a thirsty plant I soaked up encouraging words this week. They came from my past and present. They arrived unexpectedly. They watered my soul soil and I was rejuvenated. They came with a person attached to them.

I have now lived long enough to know that encouraging words are difficult to come by for the reason they are hard to give. Envy, insecurity, hardness, ego, thoughtlessness, anger are just a few of the enemies of encouraging words. But when the enemies are put down, destroyed, a vibrant, engaging, lively life is realized by both the giver and the receiver.

Commenting on the bracelet worn by a post office worker recently I discover that he is a budding silversmith. “You are very talented,” I said. Those four words produced a smile and the sincerest “thank you” I have heard. And I realized that I had been able to give out of a supply that had been given to me. It had been a chain reaction.

So here’s a challenge to myself. Every day, alert to God’s prompting, I want to give an encouraging word to someone. They say it takes forty days to establish a habit - it looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me!

Anyone else up to the habit?

Jesus, I have been blessed with encouraging words.
Help me to have the words to spread the blessing.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Standing True

The Lord stands true at your side.

Psalm 110:5 (The Message)

In the past several weeks I’ve heard from friends who have lost their jobs, another one is living on social security and food stamps. There was a phone call from a mother who had just buried her 28 year old son - he had died of cancer. Another mom was saying goodbye to a son headed to Afghanistan. Then there was a wife who moments before had heard a cancer diagnosis for her husband. They felt like they were standing alone.

I’m not sure how to affirm that God is present in times of difficulty except to speak from experience. My challenges pale in the shadows of the stories I’ve heard but I know that I am alive because God has stood by my side.

How I wish life could be easier! It would be just super if I could have gotten to where I am today without the pain! But on the flip when I hear the voices telling me their stories I have a visceral reaction – I hurt. And I hurt for them only because I have been hurt myself.

I trust that Jesus is standing beside each storyteller. I trust that although they may stand still for awhile in the hollowness of fear, sorrow, shame and despair Jesus will lead them out. I know this because he's done the same for me time after time after time.

Jesus, thank you.
Help me to open myself up
to your always present nature.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Intrusive Moments

And he went with him.

Mark 5:24

No one was around when I first entered the church but then, spotting an open door, I rapped lightly on the window. I could see the pastor sitting at his desk but he didn’t respond. Certain he hadn’t heard, I knocked more firmly; still no acknowledgement. It was then that I saw his hands folded in prayer and I walked back out the door.

Climbing back into my car I wondered what Jesus would have done if he had heard a knock on his door. His schedule was continually interrupted by people needing attention. Even when he goes home some guys tear up his roof in order to get their friend to him! Jesus always responds, always meets, always attends. When he prays he takes himself completely out of sight.

As I drove back to work, mulling over the WWJD moment, I was reminded of encounters that I had deemed an intrusion because I had “Jesus work.” Instead of pushing aside the papers while a person was talking I continued to shuffle. Instead of inviting someone to sit I kept us standing, eager to get on. What had I missed in those moments of “intrusion?”

The pastor was doing a good thing. But I believe Jesus probably would have answered my knock.

Jesus, help me to see moments
of “intrusion” as opportunities from You.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Working Overtime

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

Mark 6:31 (The Message)

As an executive director I am paid on a salary basis. Yet daily I keep track of what I have accomplished and the hours I worked. Recently I figured out my hours and realized that in a little over two months I had worked over 40 hours of “overtime.” And I had wondered why I was so tired! This extra work has been compounded by three previous years of a difficult and painful congregational ministry which has now come to a close. My body hurts.

No one understands a hectic, demanding, out of control life like Jesus. Many of his greatest moments come after he has taken a break. His effectiveness was greatest when accompanied by periods of rest.

“God, what would you have me do” needs to be my daily prayer. 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. Their health becomes tenuous; relationships strained.

Often I feel as though my life is an ultra-marathon. Phone calls, schedules, appointments, voices keep me running and my foot pounding dulls the sound of His Voice, “take a break and get a little rest.” But, soon I will put it all aside to go on spiritual retreat with my husband. I am praying for some great moments afterwards!

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

Monday, January 17, 2011

Who is Good?

There’s nobody living right, not even one,
nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God.

Romans 3:11 (The Message)

In our family everything is open for debate. That’s what happens when you live with one philosopher and one in bloom. Given the environment it was natural to recently talk about whether man was basically “good” or basically “evil.” My response was a resounding “evil!” I am the one in the family that likes things black and white. My husband and daughter turned the question over and over looking at it through facets galore. They like to think that man is basically “good” and circumstances make him "evil." We let the question hang.

Upon returning to college, within the first week my daughter’s purse was stolen out of a friend’s car, leaving a smashed window. “I can’t believe that there are people out there like this,” was her Facebook message. Chuckling I typed, “So, is man basically evil or basically good?”

In my conscious effort to do and be “good” my alertness to God reminds me of my failings. And it’s in the little things that I fail most miserably. Even though I know the “score” it’s my thoughts that repeatedly hook me away from all that is true, honorable, pure, lovely and commendable (Philippians 4:8).

Jesus forgive me!
In knowing You I know I am not good.
Help me to think on only what pleases You.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Never Changing

I the Lord do not change.

Malachi 3:6a

In my lifetime I have seen black and white television turn into a HD flat screen high pixel picture. A man walked on the moon when I was in grade school and now there are regular excursions into space. Roe vs. Wade changed the future of the unborn when I was in high school and continues to change how society “sees” life. I didn’t take a computer to college. The college had a computer – it fit into a large classroom. Today we have two laptops and an “old” computer sitting in the garage. And what about phones! The list of changes in my “brief” life could go on and on.

In a changing world isn’t it good to know that there is One who has never changed and no change is on the horizon?

Of course, there is something else that has never changed and that is human nature. When I read through the Bible or the writings of the early Christians it is startling just how constant is our humanness. From Eve’s conversation with the snake to today the battle for our souls, our lives, our thoughts, has been on a never ending loop. Over and over the same battle has been waged, perhaps on different battlegrounds, but the battle is the same.

Into my human sameness steps the holy sameness of God. He calms the chaos, breaks the loop and sets me free to live a life of peace in the midst of this swirling changing world that I presently call home.

I praise the LORD who does not change!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I am a Redwood

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

Isaiah 11:1

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Judgement Day

But I say to you that everyone
who is angry with his brother will be
liable to judgment.

Matthew 5:22

I just turned off the television. Over and over the headline story of the recent shooting in Tucson, Arizona looped with everyone speculating about why the suspect, Jared Loughner, was so angry. The father of the little girl who died is encouraging the death penalty. I don’t blame him. His sorrow was palpable when seen on the screen!

In the silence I flopped opened my Bible and my eyes fell to this verse. I stopped looking any farther because I was convicted. Have I ever been angry enough to kill, absolutely not! Have I been angry with “my brother”, shamefully yes.

It has given me pause to consider if God sees my anger differently than that of Jared. Jared’s erratic, imbalanced, sick behavior was out for all to see and experience. His anger scared people. My anger I keep well hidden and even those with whom I have been angry probably don’t know. Nevertheless God has seen and felt it.

Mentally I believe I’m pretty balanced, stable and healthy! But the line becomes thin if I let anger set up residence in my soul. And I wonder just how I will be judged before my Father. Jared Loughner will be judged, now, by a jury of his peers. At some point in the future he and I will both be judged by our Maker.

God, forgive us!

Jesus, I think of myself as different.
But you have said that whoever hates
his brother is a murderer.
Help me to never allow anger to take control.

Monday, January 10, 2011


In those days Mary arose and went with haste to the hill country. . .

Luke 1:39

In the beginning, Mary was a contemplative. But when her conversation with Gabriel sank in and her “condition” became reality, she fled to the only person who would understand. Elizabeth was familiar with the outcome of a Gabriel visit and for six months she had been living with her growing body. No one could have possibly helped Mary understand what lay ahead like Elizabeth.

Difficult times demand that I find empathetic companions. Finding someone who is experiencing or has experienced a similar situation is to discover hope. Knowing that I’m not alone allows me to see the way out where once I saw only barriers.

God promises that with every difficulty he allows a way out is also on the horizon. Mary’s world wasn’t turned upside down without God providing someone who could be in the experience with her. Of course, after Mary’s three month stay in the hill country Elizabeth gives birth and Mary is once again left alone. But the companionship she shared during those three months must have helped her through the ensuing months of aloneness.

With Gabriel gone and Mary not able to prove his visit she needed at least one person who could understand. God provided just what she needed when she needed it.

Thank you God for not leaving me helpless when difficulties come.
Help me to see the horizon and the help you always provide.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Spiritual Frontal Lobes

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking.
Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.

I Corinthians 14:20

Smack in the middle of my daughter’s teenage years, a psychologist gave me a crucial piece of information – the reasoning part of the brain isn’t fully developed until the age of twenty-five. Of course he finished by telling me that teenagers primarily rely on the smallest part of the brain – the implusive part! I My initial relief was short-lived, my daughter was a long way from 25!

The psychologist’s message still resonates with me all these years later. Reasoning vs. impulsivity. My religious education didn’t particularly encourage “thinking” about my faith. Blind acceptance was more what was called for. It left me exploding onto the college scene believing primarily what I had been told to believe. It was, however, the perfect collision – my faith grew just as my frontal lobe was maturing!

“Unless you’re like children. . .” wasn’t permission to be immature Christians. It’s true, the defining child-like qualities of trust, love and openness are critical to the sacred life but ultimately God demands a stronger, more intimate knowledge of Himself. It is a demand that is demanding of my time, energy and focus. It is a demand that requires my thinking to move beyond an impulsive faith; maturing instead into a faith that isn’t afraid to reason and live into the uncertainties of the Who and Why.

Jesus, forgive me for putting limits
on my knowledge of Who You are.
Help me to grow my spiritual frontal lobes!

Thursday, January 6, 2011


And if one asks him, “What are these wounds on your back?” he will say, “The wounds I received in the house of my friends.”

Zechariah 13:6

Malika Oufkir lived a daily life of privilege and luxury as the adopted daughter of the king. She had been chosen at an early age to grow up with the princess as a companion. She was afforded the same rights of the monarchy. She missed her birth family but she never imagined that her opulent life would change. But a failed coup by her birth father, the king’s general, upended her world, dumping her into prison along with her mother and five siblings. The king, whom she considered as a second father, became her jailer for twenty years.

I have discovered that betrayal and injury by people who are close to me has left me with very painful wounds. Here were people who knew me and used that knowledge as a weapon. There is no point of return. Forgiveness is improbable.

When in the vortex of emotional pain, thinking about forgiveness is impossible. Humanly speaking it is. Left to my own devices I’m tempted to keep the wound fresh, opening myself to further infection. While unable to forgive, the life of Jesus and his friendly wounds become my inspiration. The gift of Jesus’ humanity gives me a “how to forgive” guide for the wounds inflicted by those who know me best.

Jesus accepted his friendly wounds as proof that the wound inflictor had a greater need--His Father’s love. Learning to accept my friendly wounds in this same spirit I am confronted with the truth that living in the Kingdom requires giving the gift of forgiveness.

Jesus, thank you for the gift of your humanity.
Your willingness to be born into this world of hurt shows me
that I am not alone. But your life also guides me to a life of forgiveness.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A No Posting Day

After having a fabulous semester in London and a wonderful, refreshing Christmas together my husband and daughter are driving to California today to get her set up back at college. That means I was otherwise occupied last night and this morning. My apologies! Check back in tomorrow.

Have a beautiful day!


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Faith in Practice

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

Isaiah 43:2

Once while squeezed in a waiting area of Chicago's O'Hare Airport I heard enthusiastic singing. Twisting around I caught a glimpse of the TV showing singing, clapping, joyous Haitians. The streamer at the bottom of the screen read,  "Haitians find their faith gives them strength." It seemed absurd. An earthquake had devastated their lives, the death toll was staggering and yet they sang songs of praise. I was witnessing their faith in practice. They were praising the presence of God even as they breathed death.

Experience has told me that life is painful. I didn’t learn to walk without falling down or mountain bike without getting a concussion! So, why should I expect my spiritual growth to be any different?

Eugene Peterson says, "growing up and growing up in Christ are the same thing."

When I first heard his sage advice twenty-five years ago I left the room completely confused. How could they possibly be the same? Well with each passing year I keep falling down! But it seems that with each "flood" and "fire"  my body, soul, mind and heart have been strengthened.

When I embrace God's presence, within each "fire" or "flood", the possibility of becoming more like Jesus increases. After a history of struggle, the singing Haitians understood  that "fires" were inevitable. But they sang for joy that God's presence was with the living and the dead. They could not be consumed.

Jesus, you have power over water and fire!
With head bowed, I accept my floods and fires
 that will keep me growing up in You.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Thought for the New Year

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,I find that poses a tremendous struggle. There's a certain amount of security when I "control" the sequence of my life, keeping the will of others on the other side of the fence.

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

I just wish being out of control felt more controlled!

Jesus, I want to be out of control
in being controlled by you.