Sunday, December 16, 2012

Please Pass This Cup

Reading: Mark 14:32-36

With all the horrific violence in Connecticut this week, it's a shaky time in our country. We're frustrated, we're afraid, we're angry, we're exhausted. We've been bombarded with the media giving us incorrect information, constantly changing information, and their endless opinions. All the special interest groups are in full steam ahead mode, clamoring their anti- and pro-gun rhetoric. The cacophony of all the confusion is deafening.

And, we ask "why?"

How can God let this happen?

It's not a question we like to hear, especially as followers of God; when those on uneven spiritual ground or no spiritual ground at all ask this question, we squirm.

Just be reminded that this is not heaven yet. This is the imperfect world; we each have a mission. We're not going to be able to even remotely make sense of acts of evil after evil--this is what makes the world the world. This is, as believers, our mission field. We're not going to understand the why and how of everything that happens when Satan is on the loose--our intelligence is finite. However, we have been given, as believers of the next world's existence, the mission of working with one person at a time to bring them to this belief as well. We need to remember that the work is now. Our true peace will come in our eternal home.

Every time something horrific, sad, or distressing happens, we lose our comfort level. We ask to have the cup passed from us and let us just go about our lives. It's very difficult to do, but we all need to remember that each worldly event increases our duty to share that there is still Good News...that this life is fleeting, but eternal life is available to all for the asking.

There are not too many things I can think of that are more excruciating than losing a child to mindless violence. It's mind-numbing to even consider it. Yet, the love of Christ and the love of God is so very deep--it is the only answer that will help the healing begin. It's my charge--and my honor--every day to offer words of God's infinite love to those I come into contact with. I hope it will be your charge and honor as well.

God's will be done--His will for us of loving one another as we love ourselves. In this way, the world, even when it's at its worst, will perhaps make a bit more sense. And living our faith will spread some loving light on our brothers and sisters of this world.

Peace be with you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Journey of James--Our Challenges for Today, pt. 1

As I was reading through the Book of James, it seemed that the concerns he shares are as relevant today as they were in his lifetime. So, for the next few weeks, I'll be walking through the chapters and sharing his wisdom and discovery.

In the first part of the first chapter, he speaks of trials and I said, very relevant for us today. From the moment we wake up, it seems that the trials and/or temptations begin. When we go to sleep at night, many times they still linger.

What does James offer as advice for these troubles?

Enjoy them.

You heard it...enjoy each and every one that comes your way. Why, you ask?

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4). 

A common response, then, is why does God test us so much? James' answer? God doesn't test us...that seed of doubt that grows and expands and turns to our own brand of inner torture of trials is all ours--homegrown within us. We are imperfect, after all--our goal in this life to seek wisdom that starts erasing those imperfections. 

"When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death" (1:13-15).

So, knowing this, how do we become assured that we will be able to avoid the seeds of doubt, evil, and desires that bring us only misery? Ask for wisdom.

"If any of you lacks wisdom he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him" (1:5).

It seems to all come down to faith and honesty on our part. That nagging in our gut that tells us what we're doing isn't right is doing us a great service if we heed that nagging. Being honest with ourselves and others is a great stress reliever, Mark Twain once said, "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything." The truth will set you free.

"Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we be a kind of first fruits of all he created" (1:16-18).

Peace be with you.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Time to Forgive...and to be Forgiven

Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:17-19

We're in for a good test of our mettle this week, folks. On Tuesday we'll be having our national, regional, and local elections. To say it's been a dirty bunch of campaigning has been an understatement.

Now it's time to forgive...and to be forgiven.

"If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old is gone and the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).

I've been reading an excellent book this week, Praying Like Jesus, by James Mulholland. Mr. Mulholland's book goes through each stage of The Lord's Prayer and puts it into simple, yet thought-provoking words.This morning I was reading a section on forgiveness and it immediately had me thinking about the upcoming election on Tuesday. Hopefully, not too much damage has been done with our words and with our deeds; hopefully, the clean-up will be manageable. One segment in the book tells of when President Lincoln was in the midst of the end of the horrible Civil War. All those round him were demanding retribution from the South--the punishment should be severe, they told him. They were the enemy. Lincoln reminded them that there was a much more effective way to destroy one's enemies. He stated, "Do I not destroy my enemy when I make him my friend?"

Words to savor, digest, and ponder...words of wisdom.

As Mr. Mulholland states in this chapter of his book, we need to remind ourselves that all the self-righteous indignation we can muster is one thing...ridiculous. Pointless. 

Why, we ask? We've been wronged; we've been hurt; we've suffered at the words and deeds of others.

Because, simply, we've all been forgiven...over and over and over again. Every day--hour by hour. God forgives. God loves unconditionally. And God is our model for living. That's all we need to remember. 

So, as the elections approach, let's keep this in the backs of our minds...or in the fronts. Harsh words do no good whatsoever; harsh deeds make the darkness all the darker. And we are truly children of the light.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Putting the Power Struggle into Perspective

Readings: Daniel 7:9-14, I Thessalonians 5:1-11, Matthew 25:31-46

During this season of posturing, finger-pointing, and down-right ugliness, I sometimes feel the need to shut off the TV, turn off the radio, click off the computer, and ignore all reading materials until the political season blows over. I know I'm not alone in this. I'm perplexed by the many candidates for office who blatantly ignore the question posed to them at a debate only to use their allotted time to bad-mouth the opposing candidate. All this struggle for one thing--power. 

Look out.

Too much power in the hands of humans has been proven, over the centuries, not to be a good thing--we're just not good at handling it. Even the most well-meaning politician, once handed a great deal of power, will need a great deal of reserve to keep things in perspective. It normally doesn't end well.

Only one takes and uses this power for all good things: our loving God. Fortunately for all of us, he lent this power to Christ as well in order to aid us in our lives to work for the betterment of this beautiful planet and all people and things that inhabit it.

"He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power, all peoples, nations, and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed" (Daniel 7:14).

God is our one true authority--he waivers to no one. We're still not so hot at it. It's not an easy street to be on; over the years, we've had perhaps a hand-full of leaders who have truly understood the concept. Unfortunately, too many others are lured by the temptation of power and influence and, over time, lose sight of their true call to serve and not be served. 

Christ understood authority--and the price that, during his time on earth, came with it. "He died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up just as in fact you are doing" (I Thessalonians 5:10-11). He was in ultimate service to God for all our sakes.

During this time of fist-shaking, fabricating, and general nastiness, we need to pray for a peaceful solution. Our job is not to work diligently for one person to have power over another--our job is decide who of those running for office will be the best servant to all people--rich and poor, but particularly a servant to those who need our help the most. Wondering if that is an out-dated idea? I don't think so..."He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me.' Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life" (Matthew 25:45-46).

Peace be with you.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Good, Old-Fashioned Pity Party

Readings: Job 14:1-6, I Thessalonians 4:13-18, Matthew 24:15-28

We all have a good, old-fashioned pity party from time to time. I don't know of anyone who is exempt from them. I know I've had my share. In today's readings, we get to witness--step by step--of one of the Bible's most famous pity parties--Job. 

As you'll recall, Job pretty much had the world by the tail--big family, health, wealth, all the good things in life--until Satan came to God one day and suggested that perhaps if Job's life were not as easy, he might not be as quick to praise God for all his many blessings. So, the problems began for Job--the massacres, the boils, the loss of virtually everything. And then the friends showed up to rub a little proverbial salt into those wounds. 

And Job, for a good while, did a very human thing--he had a pity party. At one point he declared that his life, as well as all others' on the planet, was futile at best. "Man's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed. So look away from him and let him alone, till he has put in his time like a hired man" (Job 14:5).

Sound familiar? I think we all have these feelings from time to time. "What's the use?" we ask ourselves. Why work so hard to do well for others when it all comes down to dying and being laid to rest--the cemeteries are full of both saints and sinners. 

That's where our pity parties must end--there is a purpose for all things in life, and our faith is our life line. "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope"(I Thessalonians 4:13). "Therefore encourage each other with these words" (I Thessalonians 4:18). If we get caught up in the pity party ourselves, we start looking for the easy way out--just what Satan is hoping for, day after day. We are warned of this throughout the Bible, particularly in the book of Matthew: "So if anyone tell you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms' do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man'"(24:26-27). We'll get caught up in the ultimate web of deceit if we allow our need for temporary extreme comfort to over-take our wisdom.

So, do we eliminate pity parties from our lives completely? More than likely not. From time to time we'll all feel a little out of sorts--that's pretty natural. But the key to all this is to pull ourselves out of it as quickly as possible. And, if that doesn't work as well as we think it should, look to a friend to help you with getting un-stuck...most times, there's someone there more than happy to help you get back to happy, too. Ultimately, tell your best friend in the world--Jesus will understand and always makes time to listen.

Peace be with you.

(NIV Study Bible)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Faith in Truth

Readings: I Kings 17:17-24, Colossians 1:9-14, Matthew 9:18-26

Faith in truth--when we are truthful with ourselves as well as with each other, our lives just naturally go smoother. We also are more inclined to trust one another and have faith in one another once truth is established. In I Kings we hear these words of faith in truth: "Then the woman said to Elijah, 'Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth'" (17:24). 

Faith and truth were also apparent in the book of Matthew when Jesus was walking among the people and healing many. There was a woman who had suffered from a disease for many years. Yet she had faith. She knew that Jesus was the living truth. So she thought to herself, "If only I can touch his cloak, I will be healed". And she was. "Take heart, daughter," he said. "Your faith has healed you" (9:21-22). 

If we wake each morning with the goal of sticking to the truth in our thoughts, actions, feelings, then it will become easier to have faith in our lives as well--everything becomes much clearer and simpler. 

There's a beautiful prayer in Colosssians: "And we pray in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way; becoming fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience and joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (1:10-14).

Peace be with you.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tax Debates

Readings: Proverbs 8:11-22, Philippians 3:17-21, Matthew 22:15-22

With the upcoming elections, taxes seem to be on the front burner of topics. I've yet to meet anyone who truly likes paying taxes, but there are various opinions on just how much is a comfortable amount to pay.

Taxes have been around since the time of Christ; in fact, He was asked, "Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" (Matthew 22:17) His answer? "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's" (Matthew 22:21). Jesus didn't seem to get quite in the uproar the rest of us do. Maybe because he realized the wealth of Caesar couldn't touch the riches of Heaven. 

"With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and property. My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, along the path of justice, bestowing wealth on those who love me and making their treasures full" (Proverbs 8:18-20). It's easy for us to forget what real wealth is; we instead kind of follow after this paper stuff here on Earth. "Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:19b-20). Citizenship where the debates on taxes, healthcare, education, etc. have no place. Citizenship in paradise. 

No debate there...just blessings beyond our wildest dreams.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ah, Wisdom

Readings: Proverbs 3:11-20, Philippians 1:3-11

"Blessed is the man who find wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more Precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is the tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed" (Proverbs 3:13-18). 

Ah, wisdom. It brings us long life, riches, honor, pleasant ways, peaceful paths, blessings...yet we tend to avoid it like the plague. Just what is with us?

Wisdom is not reactionary; we have become a reactionary society. We live in a world saturated by misconstrued sound-bites; a world of snap decisions; a world of confusion feeding frustration feeding ignorance. We have somehow strayed from our intended path far enough that we feel it is right to not listen, to not think, to not be objective. And, in return, we live each day in environments of subjectivity, opinions based on lack of information...and the devil delights in the mess.

In Philippians, Paul wrote the following to a group of folks acting pretty much as we do today: "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is your best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness than comes from Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God" (1:9-11). 

Doesn't that sound like a great way to live? Then why don't we? It seems pretty about we give it a try today...and then tomorrow...and then the day after that. About 30 days makes a habit, I've always been told. Who knows? After 30 days maybe the world just might be a little better place.

Peace be with you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Blessed Forever

Readings: 2 Samuel 7:18-29, Ephesians 6:10-17, John 4:46b-53

In the book of 2 Samuel, King David--one of God's favored--sits in meditation and, after a period of contemplation, asks aloud, "Who am I and what is my family that you have brought me this far?" (7:18) At the end of the chapter, he closes by asking for continued blessings from God: "Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O Sovereign Lord, have spoken, and with your blessing, the house of your servant will be blessed forever" (7:29).

Look around your immediate surroundings. Perhaps we could be asking the same questions. We are indeed blessed to know that, with little thought, we will go to sleep tonight in relative safety with few exceptions under a sturdy roof in a comfortably temperature room in a comfy bed. What have we done to deserve this? Do we remember to be thankful for blessings and continue to humbly ask for them to continue? Or do we just chalk it all up to the luck of the draw, that we just happen to be in our current level of comfort due to some lucky moves by our ancestors? If so, then the need for blessings will wane, due to our underlying lack of faith that we are, indeed, being looked after by a greater being--God. If this is the case, perhaps we need to look at the faith of the royal official that encountered Jesus. This official, I think it safe to say, was comfortable in his surroundings and his home. There was one serious problem, however, that he couldn't make better, no matter how much wealth or comfort he possessed--his son lay sick at home and his prognosis was grim. So he sought out Christ and spoke to him. "...and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death...Jesus replied,'You may go. Your son will live'" (John 4:47, 50).

What an additional comfort to us that Christ is always with us no matter what the situation. We are indeed blessed forever.

But what about the times we feel that the devil is in charge? Are we still being blessed? Yes. We have received comfort for those times as well. "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand" (Ephesians 6:13).

We are forever blessed; all we need to do is accept this gift.

Peace be with you.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Watch Out--Your Pride is Showing

Readings: Proverbs 2:1-9, Ephesians 5:15-21

There's a somewhat ridiculous trend that has taken our country by storm in the past several years. You don't need to look very far to see it--perhaps only as far as the nearest bumper sticker.

"Proud parent of a honor student"

What's wrong with this, you ask? 

Pride--a word that has run rampant in this country and not for the good, unfortunately. 

Look at the Bible for references of pride...did they ever turn out in a good way? Not exactly. In fact, in chapter after chapter, verse after verse, we are told that humility, not pride, is our chosen path.

Pride has become the catch word for life in our society. I'm proud of this; I'm proud of that. I have pride in my work; I have pride in my possessions. Pride, pride, goeth before the fall...and we're falling folks, we're falling.

Our country is at a cross-roads and we're riding that pride train to our doom. With pride comes a great sense of independence--another word we use ad nauseam in our lives. We're not, if we are truly followers of God and Christ, meant to be truly independent. We are meant to be interdependent, trusting, and faithful to our Father who is in heaven.

Proverbs 2:1-9 gives us the benefits of being good, moral people in a fallible, pride-filled world: "My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair--every good path."

We say we are a nation under God--are our actions exemplifying that? We have a tendency to point out others' shortcomings while, at the same time, overlooking our own in the name of pride. As a result, more and more of our neighbors around the world are looking at us with a very skeptical eye; we're not exactly practicing what we preach. Pick up a newspaper, turn on the tv or radio, listen to anyone within earshot and do we hear humility and a sense of humbleness in daily living? Hardly. We instead hear "how proud I am", or "how much I deserve this" (self-pride). How can we boldly stomp around this planet in the name of being one nation under God while, at the same time, our most basic moral necessity of humility is fading? There are growing numbers of religious groups that see us as hypocrites, as allowing our basic tenets of beliefs being over-ridden by one-upmanship in the workplace to the point of insanity, a lack of interest when it comes to giving more than possessing...simply put, we're not practicing what we're preaching to others. Someone is in need of food, warmth, clean clothing--we decide they don't deserve it, they don't take care of themselves--they don't take pride in themselves or their possessions. Maybe we need to start thinking more about what we can do in humility, not what they're not doing in the name of pride.

We've allowed our sense of pride to ignore our need to follow the words and commands that are "stored up within us" these days--we've drifted. Way, way off course.

We are all graced with wisdom--if we use it. In our wisdom we know that the world, for the most part, is an evil place, full of chest-thumping and prideful nature. In our wisdom, we also know that we don't have to increase the evil--we have the innate ability to think. We're not a bunch of those notorious lemmings that blindly line up and follow where those with a little quicker wit and sharper tongue will encourage us to go in the name of being #1. Don't like what's going on around us, locally and/or nationally? Then do something about it. But remember to look with a very objective eye at every situation before speaking out...then speak out after prayer for God's wisdom. Make sure your ideas come from God, not from man. And allow all thoughts and deeds to be humble...not "I'm proud to be doing this, but rather I'm humbled to be doing this.

Then we're back on the right road and the journey becomes smoother. We give the glory where it needs to be given--to God and not to ourselves.

Peace be with you.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Readings: James 2:1-11, 13-17

This morning I participated in the final celebration of our church's 50th anniversary--it's been a season of different events that have encompassed the past 50 years of the its existence. The sermon as well as the readings worked beautifully with a portion of the church's mission statement: "Living life abundantly through the worship of God and service to others". The "worship of God" comes to us pretty normally, living in a spiritual environment. The "service to others" however, sometimes becomes a bit muddled. I found myself questioning my ability to be in service to others as today's readings were shared: James 2 speaks of two qualities that we as Christians are expected to possess and practice--no favoritism based on wealth or power and diligently doing good works. 

We try, but how well do we succeed?

"For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, 'Have a seat here, please,' while to the one who is poor you say, 'Stand there,' or, 'Sit at my feet,' have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors" (3-4, 9). Why is it that we tend to lean toward favoritism to those who are clean, well-dressed, or nice-looking? Perhaps it's because we, for whatever reason, feel a bit more safe and comfortable around people who are more like ourselves. We are out of our comfort zone and don't really know how to react when someone is different from we avoid them. Many times we sit in frustrated silence because we know this isn't right--we feel it in our gut. But, nevertheless, we can't make ourselves take that step. It just all seems too much of a gamble.

This feeling has increased over time in our country to the point of truly taking its toll on different groups of our population. Worldwide, it has become criminal; here at home, embarrassing.

I was reading an article in The Smithsonian that spoke of the book by Michael Harrington. The Other America was published back in 1962--yet its theme rings just a true today. Our poor, many times, become invisible. As Dwight Macdonald wrote in the review of the book, "Everything seems to go wrong with them, They never win. It's just boring." So true. How many times have we found ourselves in varying degrees of concerned conversation about a person with barely enough health care or basic necessities to get by only to surmise that they "just can't catch a break." Doomed to failure. These aren't the folks that we stereotypically picture in our minds, parading about on ridiculous talk and reality shows. These are the good, salt-of-the-earth folks that have tried all their lives to make it and now, they simply can't. This can be person at a time. No big, sweeping reforms. Following the word of God will do it. "What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill' and yet yo do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead" (2:14-17).

This week, if you see or think of someone who is having it really rough (this won't be difficult), help them. That's it. One person at a time, one meal at a time, one lift to somewhere at a time, one good deed at a time. No need to have the big fundraiser...that's too overwhelming. Just one small gesture at a time. And listen to their story. The answers to helping them many times lie in what's going on in parts of their lives we either don't know about or don't bother to know about in this business of life.

One person at a time...peace be with you.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Stairway to Heaven

Readings: Genesis 28:10-17, Ephesians 4:17-28, Matthew 9:1-8

Most of us remember the song "Stairway to Heaven" least parts of it. In Genesis the first use of "Stairway to Heaven" was used by Jacob--he makes no mention of any bustles in any hedgerows. What he did see, however, in his dream was incredible. "He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it" (28:12). Jacob's explanation was "How awesome is this place! This none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven" (28:17). What a vision for us to carry.

So how can we be a part of that stairway? By living as children of the Light as is taught to us in Ephesians. We are cautioned to not live only the mundane lives that the world offers. It's just too easy to get separated from our spiritual self if we do so.  "They are harkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of their ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts" (4:18). Unlike the lady in the song, we won't be purchasing our place on the stairway to heaven with our earthly gold. That just won't do it; our souls need to be in the transition to be as pure as the purest gold. It's not easy, but we can do it, step by step. 

We also need always remember that living as Children of the Light is going to seem odd to many. If we look to and follow Christ's example each day, we're going to make some of those around us uncomfortable and flat out anger others. One of many examples of Christ's difficulties of living as the Light is given in Matthew when he was preparing to heal a paralytic man. The Jewish teachers and keepers of Jewish law were always on the watch for Jesus to break Jewish law so they could levy charges against him. He always, of course, knew this was their plan. He asked them, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins..."(9:4-6) and then he told the man to get up and to go home--which he did. The Jewish teachers and keepers of the law couldn't see that Jesus was beyond their limited laws...his way takes us all higher on that stairway to heaven.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Just on Loan...

Readings: I Chronicles 29:10-20

During the rein of King David, he attempted to build the finest temple the world had ever seen. God had other plans, however, so the duty fell upon Solomon, his son, after he took possession of the crown. While the magnificent structure was being planned and David was collecting provisions for the undertaking, he prayed the following prayer:

"Praise be to you, O Lord, God our Father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name" (29:10-13). 

David then goes on to point out something very liberating to us all: "Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand" (29:14). "O Lord our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building  you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand and all of it belongs to you" (29:16).

Everything we have...our time, our possessions, our very lives...are on loan. It really puts things in perspective. Probably one of the best loans we'll ever receive, no doubt--but a loan nevertheless. All the fuss about what to wear, how to decorate our homes, how we appear to those around us--not really that big of a deal after all. Our sole purpose is to take the abundant blessings we're given and to use them to help those around us. That pleases God more so than all the latest and greatest of anything.

So, the next time we feel like we're not quite good enough because we're not where someone else is financially or otherwise, just's just a loan. 

We're given this loan interest free and unconditionally. What we do with this miraculous loan truly determines our respect for it.

Peace be with you.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dear Politicians...

Readings: Proverbs 25:11-14, Ephesians 4:2, Luke 14:1-11

Dear Politicians...

I'm concerned...concerned that you freely use the name of God to support your ideas, your wants, your needs.

I'm concerned that words apparently mean little...even the words of God. If you all truly followed the word of God, you would eliminate the hate from your speech. "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver"(Proverbs 25:4) Where are the words aptly spoken?

Boasting about your abilities, your skills, your ability over your opponent' many empty words. "Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boats of gifts he does not give" (Proverbs 25:14).

The posturing, the name-calling, the negativity and ugliness of words toward one another. "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:2-3).

How about truly practicing what you're "preaching" instead of bombarding all of us with the venom that has become commonplace and turned this country increasingly ugly? Let's bring it back to what you claim it to nation under God.

"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:11).

Thank you and Peace Be With You.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Parenting 101

Readings: Job 5:17-26; Ephesians 3:13-21; Luke 7:11-16

All of us have been involved some way in parenting--we either are parents or we've been parented. It's a topic we can all weigh in on since we're a been there, done that group.

I think we can all agree that parenting styles have changed over the decades--dads, in particular, have gone from parenting after work and on weekends to making themselves available most all the time. With moms becoming more a part of the workforce, the dads of today have stepped up in sharing more of the responsibilities of rearing the kids. When the dads of today take on this role, they certainly have the perfect role model--God...the ultimate parent. "Happy is the person who God corrects! Do not resent it when he rebukes you" (Job 5:17). Talk about Parenting 101...could we ask for a better teacher?

The finest things any parent anywhere can give to a child are the gifts of ultimate love and faith. This trumps the latest and greatest toys, gadgets, or vacations. These gifts from God never wear out--they only get better. A beautiful couple of verses in Ephesians seems a wonderful way to share this gift with a child, no matter what age: "I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you will have roots and foundations in love so that you, together with all God's people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep is Christ's love. Yes, may you come to know love--although it can never be fully known--and so be completely filled with the very nature of God" (3:17-18). 

Do we ever get parenting completely right? Probably not. But we do have a guide full of lessons in the Bible. All throughout the New Testament as Jesus was on his mission while on Earth, he dealt with parent after parent. We know his compassion was always with them and he gave them hope. Christ blessed children wherever he went. He blessed the parents as well. In several instances in his journey he would encounter a parent who was grieving over the loss of a child. In some cases, he would miraculously bring that child back to life. In other cases, he would mourn with the parents. "When the Lord saw her, his heart was filled with pity for her" (Luke 7:13). We read in several instances that Christ gave very sound advice to the parents of that time--that advice still holds just as strongly today. 

So, when parents of children of all ages get a little weary of knowing the right thing to do for their children, we all need to remember to shove those parenting books aside and look to the ultimate Parenting 101 guide...all the advice we need is right there--and the support team is beyond compare!

Peace be with you.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

This Worry is Not For Us

Readings: I Kings 17:8-16, Galatians 5:25-6:10, Matthew 6:24-34

Worry. It's epidemic. 

Since I've gotten involved in the study of reflexology, I've read article after article of studies done on the stress that comes from worry. We tend to worry about anything and everything. The Bible speaks to this: "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'" (Matthew 6:31) Sound familiar?

When we think about it from a spiritual point of view, it seems pretty minor--yet how many billions of dollars each year are spent on having just the right look? How many arguments will there be this next week over what kids should or will want to wear to school? 

This worry is not for us. We're told instead to "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these (other) things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33). 

The drought this summer has brought with it another pile of worries. Are we told that things are always going to work our way? No indeed. Instead, we are told to "let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9). This verse in particular reminds me of the farmers who dedicate so much to their craft. Not giving up is the bottom line in farming. Crops have been replanted after devastating weather. They pick up the pieces and keep doing good. "Therefore, as we have opportunity let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" (Galatians 6:10). We know that farmers are people of faith and can they be otherwise? In our own way, we can "farm" our faith as well in our day to day lives. And we all know, if we're busy farming, we don't have time to worry.

In I Kings we read the story of Elijah going to the widow's home and asking her for food. She replied that she was gathering fire wood to fix the last of the food in the home for her and her son and then they would perish. And Elijah? He told her not to worry, and there would be enough food...and there was. 

"So therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:34).

This worry is not for us.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

21st Century Leprosy

Readings: Proverbs 4:10-23, Galatians 5:16-24, Luke 17:11-19

Leprosy--the mere mention of the word makes us shiver. Though it still exists in our world, it is not nearly as prevalent as during Biblical times. Those with the disease during ancient times were shunned and sent to colonies where many times they would die rather than receive healing--the medical answers weren't available as they are now.

As I was reading through Proverbs, Galatians, and Luke, it occurred to me that leprosy is still among us, albeit in a 21st century form. Many are ill; millions of people "just don't feel well" and look for every cure imaginable. We try new diets and take other extreme measures, we go on numerous and expensive vacations to relax, we get elective surgery to make us feel better. Yet the illness stays with us.

We have leprosy in the 21st century--it takes over our bodies; it takes over our souls. It has no intent of leaving. What is this horrific dis-ease? Greed. Entitlement. Envy. Impatience. Frustration. The need to be the best. An over-all lack of self-control. Many a person spends day after day in excruciating pain--all as a result of these "ailments". We have forgotten, as written in Proverbs 4 that "above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life" (23) and that we need to keep the words of God "within our hearts, for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body" (21-22).

What is the cure for this 21st century leprosy? Taking the cure of the fruit of the Spirit which is "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). If we have our daily dose of developing our lives in these areas, we will feel the shadow of the illness of self-centeredness lift from our bodies as well as from our souls. Then, as Jesus told the thankful leper, we can "rise and go; your faith has made you well" (Luke 17:19).

Peace be with you.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Helping Our Neighbors

Readings: Zachariah 7:4-10, Galatians 3:16-22, Luke 10:23-37

Where I live, in the Midwest, helping one's neighbor is just plain the thing to do. We help people who need a ride when the car won't start, feed the dogs and cats and pick up the mail when they go on a little vacation, hold their hand or give them a shoulder when a catastrophe strikes. Who would we be if we weren't there to lend a hand or ear?

The Bible tells us in both the Old and New Testament that being a good neighbor is not only a good idea, but very much expected of us.

But what do we do when we expand the neighborhood? When the "neighbor" is a person who makes nothing but bad choices throughout life; when the "neighbor" is a person or family that isn't our color or nationality; when the "neighbor" is someone of questionable background? The Bible gives us an answer: "Do not oppress the widow, or the fatherless, the alien, or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other" (Zachariah 7:10). A pretty tall order for us, don't you think?  Are these people deserving of our help if they're clearly not helping themselves? "Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another" (Zachariah 7:9).

But aren't we supposed to encourage people to be good and do good? Won't helping them just encourage them to do the opposite? Don't we need to use "tough love" to encourage them to make them more independent? When we think on these terms, we've immediately limited ourselves to think on a level that is beneath the spiritual plane we've been called to use. "The scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe" (Galatians 3:22). That's our dose of tough matter how good we think we are, we're still all sinners. Only our faith in Christ will release us from these limitations--and once we receive more and more release, it enables us to become more of that good neighbor. As difficult as it is, we're truly called to look over, through, and beyond another's faults when offering aid or assistance.

It all pretty much gets summed up in the familiar story of the Good Samaritan. We remember that there was a man that was robbed, beaten, and left for dead along the road. Since he wasn't the "right" kind of person in many a man's opinion, he was ignored--until a Samaritan came along. He helped the man up, got him cleaned up and his wounds cared for, and made sure he had a place to stay until he regained his health--no questions asked. All was covered. Then Jesus asked, "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hand of robbers?" (Luke 10:36)

"The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him.' Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise'" (Luke 10:37).

Throughout this week, let's all agree to be more of the example of the Good Samaritan; we don't have to agree with everything a person in need does, says, or in the way he/she acts. We do, however, have an obligation to "go and do likewise" in helping our neighbor.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Readings: Isaiah 29:17-21, II Corinthians 3:4-9, Mark 7:31-17

In our world today, we're ovewhelmed with sound. Quiet is at a premium. Ask anyone who has ever had to deal with hearing aids and they'll tell you just how much noise and sounds there are in everyday life. Zeroing in a particular voice becomes nearly impossible with all the competing sounds. Add to the cacophony of voices all the electronics meant to "enhance" our life experiences and just about the only thing a hearing-impaired person wants to do is shut the batteries off in their devices.

Silence. Sometimes it is golden.

Today's readings, however, deal with a different kind of silence...too much silence. Deafness and muteness. And Jesus' wonderful, miraculous power to mix some mud with his holy gift of healing and the utterance of the word "Ephphatha!" which means "be opened" to a deaf and mute man, allowing him to hear the precious voice of Jesus and to give him verbal thanks (Mark 7:31-37).

This makes me think--at times, aren't we all in need of ephphatha? How many times do we turn the "deaf ear" to situations around us where we could be of some use? More importantly, how often do we turn that "deaf ear" to God's direction for our lives? We talk ourselves out of becoming involved, telling ourselves it's none of our business, it would require skills we don't have, etc. However, 2 Corinthians 3: 4-5 tells us "such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we were competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God." If our hearts are true, God will lead us through whatever challenges we encounter when we practice ephphatha to others' needs.

So, today, tomorrow, this week...let's think about whether our hearing impairment is caused by our ears simply not working as efficiently as they used to or if it's really us choosing to not hear. And, when we need that boost of confidence, remember that "in that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll" (Isaiah 29:8). No matter how much our physical ears don't hear, we'll always be able to hear the whispers of our loving God.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ego be Gone

Readings: Daniel 9:15-19; Luke 18:9-14; I Corinthians 15:1-10

Since beginning reflexology training, I've spent a pretty good amount of time pondering on the idea of ego. Just as with any other God-given blessing, when one sees that she/he is actually helping another person feel better through one's actions, it's very easy for ego to creep in. After all, we're the ones making all this happen, right?

Wrong. So very wrong.

I have a good friend that I go to regularly for hands-on healing through cranial sacral therapy and viseral work. I think I feel good before a session; I leave knowing I feel better. One of the first things I noticed in our conversations after sessions was her hesitance whenever I would tell her she was doing a great job. She would simply say it wasn't her doing it. 

And now I understand. It's not her--she has beautifully humbled herself to be a vessel of God's wondrous power. Luke 18:10 tells us the "for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." It gets very easy and tempting to start taking credit when someone feels better and wants to give you the all the credit for doing the work. But, if we did take that credit, the work would be greatly compromised. We would only be able to work within our range of power in helping others; it would be limited to only what our capacity for healing holds. 

Very limited indeed.

When we remove all ego from the picture and know that "but by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me is without effect" (I Corinthians 15:10), we become vessels of whatever goodness God wants to share with those receiving the sessions.

And God's goodness is without end.

Before giving reflexology to a client, I always send a silent prayer on that person's behalf for the mercy of well-being. I know that God is at the helm and only through the presence of Christ working through me as a conduit does the healing take place. "We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy" (Daniel 9:18).

It is indeed a humbling and spiritual experience to see someone feel better after being allowed to offer reflexology to them. I pray each day that Christ will always be with me and allow me to continue to reach others who need a sense of profound relaxation from the stresses of life. My witness to my savior is to humbly follow in his footsteps and be an instrument of his unending peace.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Simple Gifts...Miraculous Gifts

Readings: Jeremiah 7:1-11, I Corinthians 12:1-11

During this past week of 100+ degree temperatures and drought all around us,  one's thoughts quickly turn from all the wants of luxury and turn to the needs of basic precious gifts such as the relief of a breeze or a glass of water.

Simple gifts...miraculous gifts.

Perhaps this is a good time for us to look inwardly with a bit of introspection. Our excessive wants have somehow morphed into perceived needs. Yet are we any happier? Or are we endlessly searching, thinking that the next purchase or acquisition will help us find that elusive feeling of peace?

Our ultimate happiness and fulfillment peace is already with us...simple, yet miraculous gifts. 

Jeremiah 7:5-7 tells us "If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless, or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place in the land I gave to your forefathers forever and ever." It truly comes down to having one God and to loving our neighbors as ourselves. Simple, miraculous gifts we can give to one another.

Yet we're warned in verse 8 that "But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless." We're caught up in endless advertising that originates from unknown and uninterested sources with one solitary goal in mind--that we consume. As a result, we find ourselves in a loop...the Dalai Lama once gave the following answer when he was asked what surprised him the most about humanity: 'Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies, have never really lived.'" We are given the chance to truly live and experience life--we just get too busy to accept the simple yet miraculous gifts.

Just what are these simple, yet miraculous gifts? I Corinthians 12:7-11 tells us: "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the gift of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge, by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit and he gives them to each one, just as He determines." 

We are offered these simple, yet miraculous gifts--all we need do is accept and share with others.

Peace be with you.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wisdom Cookies

Readings: Proverbs 16:1-9; I Corinthians 10:1-13

Anyone who has ever eaten at a Chinese restaurant knows that, at the end of the meal when the bill arrives, it will be accompanied by a fortune cookie for each person at the table. There are all kinds of suggestions on who gets which cookie. The basic custom of which I'm aware involves never picking one's own cookie, but allowing someone else to do it for you. This works fine, of course, unless you're dining solo--then I guess you could count it being picked out for you from the beginning when it arrives at your table. 

It's always fun to go around the table and have each fortune read by its new owner. Some seem to fit nicely into our lifestyles and we consider it custom made for us; others just kind of leave us shaking our heads and wondering. 

As Christians, we more or less have our own type of fortune cookie in the Bible--although probably "wisdom cookies" would be a more appropriate name. Wisdom cookies sprinkled liberally with those precious seeds of God's wisdom. 

We have the Book of Proverbs.

When we look at these words of wisdom and practice them in our lives, our good fortune may indeed increase--although on a level much deeper than we normally think. We are, after all, following the rule of God in our lives when living out the proverbs.

From the readings above today, three particular proverbs stood out to me. The first is from verse 2: "All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord". How many times have we "meant well" or plowed head-first into an issue without first taking it to Christ? Most time is just doesn't work out well, even when we mean well and all seems innocent. We forget that our interpretation of an innocent act and Christ's interpretation of an innocent act can be two different things.

Verse 3 is another truth to practice each day: "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." When we make plans, once again, we tend to plow right ahead without first taking it to Christ. If we commit to Christ our "blueprints" of plans, we are much more likely to succeed. The plans will be more carefully thought out; something to take to Christ would need to be of pure thinking and motive. Once we pass that hurdle and make our plans pleasing to God, if it be His will for our journey, that plan will succeed beyond our wildest imaginations.

Verse 9: "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." By nature, we humans are planners...we plan every moment of every day if given the chance. However, once again we tend to forget the necessary step of inviting Christ into the plans. We may know where we want to head in life, but if we exclude God from these plans, our steps will falter again and again.

In I Corinthians, Paul shares with us more seeds of wisdom through Christ--these seeds of wisdom are also showers of blessings to ease us when times get tough. "So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so you can stand up under it" (verses 12-13). If we awake each morning remembering these words, we will be more than able to take on each day and live it to the fullest in ways that are pleasing to God.

Seeds of sure to scatter freely and nurture...the world could use a  healthy crop!

Peace be with you. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Art(lessness) of Negotiation

Readings: Jeremiah 23:16-29, Romans 8:12-17, Matthew 7:15-21

The Art of Negotiation, The Art of the Deal...two book titles among the hundreds that are found on bookshelves of booksellers these days. Making deals and having negotiations have seemingly come to the forefront of most everything we do anymore.

While compromise is sometimes the only viable solution, we seem to have taken that idea to limitless extremes. Our court systems are full of lawsuits where one group has taken liberties with another group and are now in negotiations to handle damage control; many a teacher has sadly walked away from education after realizing that we have raised generations of potential great minds that think first of negotiation down to the lowest common denominator of work needed to pursue knowledge; we all grouse about poor service, poor products, poor quality, yet we will jump at the first opportunity to negotiate a "real deal" on something...

Sometimes it works--sometimes it just doesn't.

Our daily lives have become a beehive of these activities. We spend time in endless negotiations and have little to show for it except stress, anxiety, and frustration.

Turn on a TV, radio, or open a magazine and, once again, we're bombarded with negotiations...but they seem to go too much to the extreme. How many commercials are on each day that first plague us with worry, concern, or anxiety and then assure us with product "x" all will be well? It used to be funny to watch because it was no more disconcerting than a dirt ring on a collar or a husband who preferred someone else's coffee enough to accept a refill. Now it's our health, our safety, our homes--most everything--that is being put on the table for negotiations. We're told that home invasions abound, that we're a stroke or heart attack waiting to happen and no one will be available to help us, etc. Then the negotiators come to the rescue. If we buy product "x" or subscribe to a service being advertised then all will be fine and we'll never have another worry. I don't know about you, but I'm not buying it--literally nor figuratively.

False prophets abound. They play on our worry, our fears, our stresses...things that the Bible tells us repeatedly are issues of the flesh, not the of the spirit.

How do we deal will all this needless negotiation from all these false prophets who assure us that things will be "just fine" only if we follow their every word? It's simple...we just follow our Father. We are assured that not only are we his adopted and beloved, we are also his heirs. "Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory" (Romans 8:17). No negotiations nor power struggles are necessary--we already belong to a Father that will watch over contract needed. No negotiation for limited services. All is well in His watch.

Peace be with you.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Never, Never Alone

Readings: Isaiah 62:6-12, Romans 6:19-23, Mark 8:1-9

I'm guessing it would be impossible to find one person on this planet that has never felt alone or deserted. 

It's not a good feeling.

When we find ourselves in that dismal place, it's a good time to start talking with God. We can use Isaiah 62:6-7 as an example of--more than likely in this case saints--who were praying without ceasing to God to end the time of waiting for the establishment of the Holy City. They prayed and prayed, according to the poet, "and gave him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth" (v.7). These saints--Moses, Amos, Habakkuk, Ezekiel, Elijah, Second Isaiah, and Daniel--had a very close relationship with God. They were certainly qualified for the job of "the watchmen on the walls". They established themselves in their positions and "gave God no rest" (v.7) from their prayers for Jerusalem.

Our darkest hours can find us on that wall as well. And it's okay. In these verses God allows us to realize that we are truly never, never alone. It's absolutely okay to pray and pray and pray to him in our pain, in our frustration, in our fear. By doing so, we lose all our inhibitions and we grow very close to our God. The barriers fall...our Father is there and listening.

In the book of Romans, Paul attempts to share the message that once 
we develop this deeper relation with our God where, when praying, we "give him no rest", we gain that "free gift of God--eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (6:23). And once we are there...we are never, never alone.

In the book of Mark, the familiar story of Christ taking care of human as well as spiritual needs is told. In the chronicle of Jesus feeding the four thousand with seven loaves of bread, Christ's compassion toward those following him shows us that if we pray without ceasing, if we die to sin in order to follow this sacred path, we too can provide compassion and care to others. His words show his sincere love of those around him: "I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat; and if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come a long way" (8:2-3). 

In our journey of this life, we will come upon those who are hungry, not only for food or drink, but for compassion and love. We can't send them away hungry, either--they could grow faint and lose all hope. In carrying out Paul's words of Christ's love, we emulate our perfect Savior and make sure those around us know they are indeed loved and will never, never be alone.

Peace be with you.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Common Thread

Death, I dare say, has become somewhat common in our lives here of lately. Within the past two months, we've lost two aunts, an uncle, and a dear friend. I've attended three of the funerals; the fourth one is fast approaching. 

While sitting in the services, I'm finding a common thread. It's a thread I'm happy to find.

A common thread of the love of family, of friends, and most of all, a love of Christ.

As families, we sometimes grow a bit apart as far as schedules, distances, and life in general takes us. Nevertheless, once we're back together, the old and familiar closeness of what makes us tick as a family unit reappears--it's a nice, comforting feeling. A common thread of memories, beliefs, and behaviors that make us who we are as family members.

In the book of Ruth, after the death of her father-in-law and husband, Ruth was in a position to end her family ties to her sister-in-law and mother-in-law, yet she didn't; she knew the importance of keeping those ties. She would, without them, have no one to call family. So even as Naomi was convincing her that it was okay to go on and have her own life anew, we read that "Ruth replied, 'Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God'" (1:16).

She understood that common thread.

In our lives as Christians, God has given us, as family members of his kingdom, a common thread to follow to keep us safely within the realm of that family--he gives us instructions on how to keep ourselves in line (just like a good parent). In Matthew we read that we are to make sure we keep in good relationships with our brothers and sisters on this planet while we are here. "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, then come and offer your gift" (5:22-23). 

That common thread of family peace is vital to our existence as well as our finding our path to eternity.

Another common thread I have found throughout the different funerals I have attended of late is that beautiful message that keeps us all going, no matter how sad, tired, or disillusioned we find ourselves. "For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:9-10). 

That beautiful common thread weaves us not only to one another, but meshes us with Christ and everlasting life. We are indeed blessed to be a part of this magnificent tapestry.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gone Fishin'...A Time of Patience

Readings: Lamentations 3:22-23, I Peter 3:8-15, Luke 5:1-11

Anyone who enjoys fishing knows that patience, many times, is the name of the game. You can have the best pole made, the ideal bait, the best conditions...but once everything is put into place, it comes down to simple patience. We've all watched the fisherman that puts a line in for a minute or two, reels in, recasts, lets the bobber get settled and then, just when you think it looks good, it gets reeled in yet again.

Fish like to take their time before they commit to getting caught--kind of like people. 

In Luke 5, Jesus called the first disciples from a life of fishing in the conventional sense to begin fishing for men, i.e. winning them over to eternal life. And, as a leap of faith greater than they ever took while guessing where the next big catch might lay, these men followed Christ--a man they barely knew. Christ told them, "Don't be afraid; from now on, you will catch men. So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything, and followed him" (10-11). 

So, do we want to get caught? What's in it for us? about a life on this beautiful earth of living in harmony with one another? Those of us who are "caught" "live in harmony with one another, love as brothers, are compassionate and humble, not living a life of paying evil with evil or insult with insult, but rather with blessing" (I Peter 3: 8-10).

It makes me glad I took the bait. You, too, I'm guessing.

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23). 

Peace be with you.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Blessing of the Ages

Readings: Numbers 6:22-27, Luke 6:36-42, Romans 8:18-23

"The Lord bless and keep you, 
the Lord make his face smile upon you and be gracious to you; 
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace." (Numbers 6:24-26)

This ageless blessing was originally given by God through Moses to Aaron and his sons to bless the people in their care. And now, centuries later, we hear these words of peace, hope, and faith in benediction at church services of varying denominations.

It's a blessing that makes us feel very loved, very at peace, very centered.

What can we do, in return, for our brothers and sisters to show our gratitude for this eternal blessing? Christ gives us words to live by in Luke 6: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and it will be given to you" (36-38). Notice that even these words are words of's not just a list of "don'ts" or "shouldn'ts". Rather, these words are gentle reminders that we are all fallible, yet we are all worth saving. Don't want to be judged? Don't judge. Should be easy, right? Yet we all are guilty of the continual pattern of judging, condemning, not forgiving, and not giving as we should. Yet, we are still given the blessing of God.

Seems like it's certainly worth the effort to work on that judging, condemning, not forgiving, and not giving enough's kind of the least we can do, it seems.

But it's work--real work--to live our lives in this way. 

It's enough to wear a person out at first...

When we start to feel a little weary about the whole idea of changing and trying to do better, our loving God sends us more encouragement to do well. "For the creation was subjected to frustration, not only by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God" (Romans 8:20).

Liberated from bondage to decay...brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

What do we ever do to deserve all this love?

We have received the blessings of the ages from our God, through his beloved son. On this beautiful day, let's all work toward that "attitude of gratitude" by judging less, condemning less, forgiving and giving more. We have the "how to" directions and an endless pool of inspiration. 

Peace be with you.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Found It!

Readings: Isaiah 12:1-6, Luke 15:1-10, I Peter 5:6-11

Losing things is no fun; finding things is pure joy. For every person who's ever lost something somewhere around the house, it can be an exercise in frustration. When we do finally find that lost item, we feel almost humbled while, at the same time, exuberant.

There are two parables in Luke that celebrate the feeling of finding the lost. In the first, that of the lost sheep, Jesus shares how diligently a good shepherd will look for one lost sheep among a flock of 100. He equates making sure that all of the flock are safe and sound to the search for all sinners returning to the fold. "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent" (Luke 15:7).

The second parable is of the lost coin. This falls into our everyday lives of lost stuff. Jesus talks of how a person will pretty much turn a house upside down if something of material value is lost. We can all pretty much relate to that. But Christ merely used this as a "for instance"--his true interest is in our eternal lives. "In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the perseverance of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10).

Lost stuff is an aggravation; a lost soul is a tragedy. It seems the world has this mixed up these days. Think of how diligently we look for lost items that will, over time, cease to exist or be of any value. Now think of the lack of diligence we pursue those who we know have not yet returned to the eternal flock. Isaiah 12:4 states, "Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted."

The earthly clutter tends to override the eternal path...

I Peter gives us a pretty good instruction book on how to keep things under control on a daily basis and, thereby, keep the "clutter" out of our lives--be it material items or the way we live our lives. "Humble yourselves therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. And the God of all grace, who called you to this eternal glory, in Christ, after you have suffered a little while will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast" (5:6-8, 10).

The next time something is lost, look that something receiving more attention than a someone nearby that does not yet know the love of God?

Peace be with you.