Monday, January 31, 2011


Since God knows the secrets of the heart. -- Psalm 44:21

The Psalms are a great resource.  In their many chapters lie some expression for just about every human emotion possible.  Psalm 44 could be considered a lament.  Things are not going well for the writer.  It starts out with the great sadness of knowing God HAD helped His people in the past.  But, now for some reason misery and failure had fallen upon the people - even in spite of their having been faithful and true to the covenant.  The writer of Psalm 44 blames God for all the calamities that are occurring to them and ends by crying out to God to rescue them.  The Psalm ends with an almost echoing silence where the people are left waiting for an answer.

In some ways it's a LITTLE bit reassuring that when we have difficulties and pray and pray only to be met by the silent treatment, that we aren't the first to have been subjected to this.  Why, even the author of a chapter in the Holy Scriptures has felt the same way.  So, perhaps many have had the same experience.  The 44th chapter also confirms that very holy people, people of the Bible, people who were doing everything right have problems and remain faithfully waiting and in relationship with God.  Theirs is an example worth noting and copying.

The Psalms teach that it is okay to be a little frustrated and impatient.  That it's okay to complain and whine to God (though referring to it as "lamenting" sounds better!)  Impatience is a part of the basic human character; just waiting when things are falling apart is not one of our typical strong suits.  Yet, remaining in the midst of a shipwrecked existence AND continuing the monologue with God, we see from other Psalms, does win out.  Time passes and all things are healed through perseverance in hope and faith; though I WILL grant the waiting can be hard.

So keep your faith intact by lamenting and by saying your prayers.

Hey God -- what about me?  You helped all those other people.  Help me in my faith and give me the strength to share my faith with someone needing a bit more of their own.  Amen.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Being Made Well

Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.  --Matthew 9:35 (NIV)

There are all kinds of illnesses, diseases, disorders, and sicknesses; on every level of life -- emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual.  If one owns a copy of Robbin's pathology book - a TERRIFIC book weight tipping scales at about 5 pounds, one would think on just the physical level that there is no way a body can work at all.  Everyone has some kind of problem, or if not, the time WILL come.

Jesus spent a great deal of time healing and curing.  He used various methods for an array of fuzzily-described maladies.  Today Christian ministries pray for God's healing, and this morning nearly every church on the planet is likely to be praying for several someones with illnesses and problems.  Cynics say praying is superstitious mumbo jumbo of no value to rational human beings.  They cite as evidence the number of people prayed for who do not get well and die.

Wellness is a far broader concept than whether someone continues to eat, drink, and be merry without constraints.  Wellness is, by and large, a spiritual matter.  How is it with your soul?  There IS a peace and a calm assurance that comes in knowing Christ pulls alongside you and that eternity is there and is yours and that all life's struggles are lessons and temporary things that do "too pass away."  The Moravian watchword for this week is I Cor. 1:18 -- "For the message of the cross is foolishness for those who are perishing, but for those who are saved it is the power of God."  Memorize it and say it to yourself daily for the coming week.

Go this day IN the power of God, knowing all is well!

We gather this day to hear the Good News, to be made whole in every way, and to be found as your own.  Amen(1)

(1) From Moravian Daily Texts 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Guided Meditation

It is as if the dew of Hermon
   were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the LORD bestows his blessing,
   even life forevermore.  -- Psalm 133:3 (NIV)

Guided meditation is a nice way to just enter into the presence of God.  This one in particular aims at creating a flow of that Presence through your whole body.  For some, guided meditations are weird.  Other people love them.  You take your pick.  If you like it I can do more.  If you don't, hey, in three days it will have passed off the page and be in the archive. :)

Get into a comfortable chair where it's quiet and you can totally relax for a few minutes.  If you are blessed with nice sunshine streaming in the window, so much the better!

Start by taking 3 deep breaths with your eyes closed and placing your hands on the top of your head, continue breathing deeply and slowly.  Imagine as you breathe that a pure white light from heaven is moving into the top of your head and flowing downward to your feet as you breathe in and out.  Holding your hands on your head pray: "Whole Light and Being of Christ flow through me, from the top of my head to my feet."  (Whenever you're ready move to the next step.)

Continue breathing and move hands to your forehead.  Pray: "Thoughts of Christ be mine today."  Think about what thoughts of His He could be giving to you.

Continue breathing and move hands to the sides of your eyes.  Pray: "Vision of Christ let me see myself and others as You see."

Continue breathing and move hands to your throat and voice box.  Pray: "Voice and Words of Christ come through me this day."

Continue breathing and move hands over your heart.  Pray: "May the love of Christ be mine and be shown through me."

Continue breathing and move hands over your stomach.  Pray: "Christ, feed me and be my sustenance and nourishment."

Continue breathing and move hands over lower abdomen.  Pray; "Foundation of Christ, let Your Passion and Resurrection be my joy and transformation."

You can then return your hands to the top of your head and imagine (as the verse from the Psalms at the beginning) the misty drizzling warm rain of God's blessing falling on your head and flowing downward over your whole being.

You can take as long of a time with each stage as you wish.  Enjoy the Presence!

Friday, January 28, 2011

I Shall Not Want

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  -- Psalm 23:1
I'm a wanting person.  One of several dysfunctional ways I handle stress is to shop, and I can find a lot of things that I want.  Put me at Fry's or Kohl's and I have a problem.  This is the most superficial kind of wanting.  There are more important or more significant wants in life -- like wanting good health, or your kids to be well and happy, or even the reverse of wanting is still wanting -- for example, not wanting to get old.  THEN, there are so many other things that might cross from wanting over into needing -- like the rent money, or car payment.  These are wants, as well, from a larger vantage point.

The question attacked me: if we are wanting "stuff" are we really allowing the Lord to be our shepherd?  I don't think the Lord shepherds us to want. Perhaps the greatest counter to our shopaholic ways would be when we're being overrun with the desires to go shopping or something we want is driving us nuts we can remember to ask ourselves where is my shepherd?  I've been trying this and it works!  It seems to quiet that "gotta have it" craving, even better than the overloaded credit card balance. Trusting the Lord is my shepherd really does cause me to not want.

There is even a hymn on point: Trust Him When Thy Wants Are Many. 

Gracious Lord, help us trust You for the grace to conquer all.  Amen

Thursday, January 27, 2011

To Whom Are You Listening?

Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].  -- Romans 12:2 (Amplified Bible)

Societal and cultural norms, media influence, peer concerns and expectations all lean a heavy weight against the wall of our personhood.  How we're doing is put up against the measuring stick of our material possessions and whether we're staying out of friends' and neighbors' gossip mill.  Paul writes that we should not allow these things to shape us.  Yet, it's probably the case that a goodly share of the anxiety and troubles we bear arise fundamentally out of worry over external opinions and fears of others' supposed judgments and even threats.

So Paul says the counterbalance to this pressure to conform is by transforming and renewing our minds.  I like how the Amplified Bible includes in parentheses:  " that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good...will of God."   Each of our unique and deeply personal walks with God should be the central measuring stick of how we're doing.  Nobody can live in your shoes, or know what it is like to be you - except God.  In THAT most sacred relationship there is a deep understanding that transcends everyone's idea of who or what you are.

God has a good, accepting, and perfect will for each of us.  Broadly and generally stated it is that we feel loved and accepted by Him first and let the rest of the world take a flippin' leap.  The deeper details of that will for us can only be discovered and realized through time with God.  We renew and transform our minds (and attitudes) only if we spend the time in meditation, reflection, study, and prayer.  Only through that can the relationship with God reveal specifics for what we should and can be doing on the more practical levels of daily living.  Through your own personal relationship with God then, be released from all of the external demands and live your life through Christ.

Dear Lord, help us shed the weight of all the external influences.  Help us find the time to dwell with You and soak us in your healing presence.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Cool Design

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?   --Matthew 6:26-27 (NIV)
The late Thomas Merton talks in The Seeds of Contemplation about how God only needs for us to be ourselves.  He says that God places within every created thing the true essence of what each thing is, and He is given greatest praise and glory by giving back just what we are.  He gives the example of a tree.  A tree is most real, and gives praise to God by being the beautiful tree it was created to be.

Now, humans have this troublesome issue in being what we're created to be.  We tend to over think what and who we are.  Which of us, at some point(s) in our lives, has not asked, "Who am I?"  There are many books and therapists available to help us "find ourselves."  Many others are quick to tell us how "to be all we can be."  Religion goes out of its way to tell us we have a sinful basic nature and we have to work hard to be good enough.  Yet, we are created in the image of God?  Does not God derive pleasure simply by watching us at play, being the person He made us to be?  Is it not being sacred to live to the simplest, yet fullest, essence of what God made us to be?

The gospel writer asks the same question in a way -- can any one of you add an hour to your life by worrying?  Do you not know that God has hold of you?  God, I think, had a pretty simple design in mind when he made us.  Perhaps theologians and control freaks have perverted the simplicity, such that we have fallen into the habit of worrying (and conniving and manipulating) when we can't make our lives work as gloriously as we think they should.  Perhaps the nearest help we have available to us is remembering the divine image with which we were created -- and that God Himself declared it is very good!

Marvelous Designer, maker of the universe, grant us an appreciation for the simplicity you used to make us.  Help us to see our lives as built of the dust of stars and divine genius.  Lift our heads and lighten our hearts, helping us to accept the playfulness that You intend for our lives.  In Christ's name, Amen.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Change satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!] -- Hebrews 13:5b (Amplified Bible)

My mother died just a little over a year ago.  For the last two years of her life I lived with her and took care of her in her studio apartment at Evergreen Place.  I happened to be going by Evergreen Place this morning and I decided to stop in just to see what it looked like, and to see whether mom's apartment had rented.  I think the thing that struck me was just how much was unchanged.  The furnishings were the same.  There were the same purple carpeted halls that I'd walk, same plaid overstuffed furniture, same artwork on the walls, the dining room still arranged with it's many round tables where I imagined even the same petty competitors bickered for the same table, even many of the same names on the gold nameplates on the doors.  In so many ways it seemed like life there was totally the same as when I moved out.  Yet, I feel different.  I feel like a hundred years has passed by and like life is so completely different; so much has changed for me.

I thought on my way back to my car how this is like God's presence with us.  Much of Christianity speaks to the trustworthy, ever-present, changeless God who is our constant companion through all life's miseries and joys.  Looking at Evergreen Place, I realize I am the one who has changed.  I am the one who has moved out, moved away, moved on with life.  Perhaps this is how we also disconnect ourselves from our Constant Assurance?  We move on, get busy with our lives, move away from the religious and spiritual roots and traditions that held us steady.  But, God remains steadfast, maintaining His end of the covenant that He promised centuries ago.  

When I got up to the third floor south wing at Evergreen Place and arrived at Apartment 333, where I had spent 2 solid years, there was a gold nameplate on the door that said simply, "Welcome."  This is the invitation God puts out there every hour of every day to each and every one of us -- Welcome. Welcome back, welcome in, welcome beside Me.  Amen.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Only You Can Satisfy

As the deer pants for streams of water,
   so my soul pants for you, my God.
  -- Psalm 42:1
This is one of my favorite songs - hope you find some meaning in it too.  Click here

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Consider What You Possess

Son of man, What is the vine tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest?”  --Ezekiel 15:2

Charles Spurgeon was one of the most prolific preachers in the Reformed Baptist tradition.  He lived in the mid-late 1800's.  I, on occasion, read his morning and evening devotion on the Christian Ethereal Library - a treasure of a website with thousands of older Christian documents.  I share a part of yesterday's reflections from Spurgeon:

...Do not thy thousand wanderings stand before thee, and tell thee that thou art unworthy to be called his son? And if he hath made thee anything, art thou not taught thereby that it is grace which hath made thee to differ? Great believer, thou wouldst have been a great sinner if God had not made thee to differ. O thou who art valiant for truth, thou wouldst have been as valiant for error if grace had not laid hold upon thee. Therefore, be not proud, though thou hast a large estate—a wide domain of grace, thou hadst not once a single thing to call thine own except thy sin and misery. Oh! strange infatuation, that thou, who hast borrowed everything, shouldst think of exalting thyself; a poor dependent pensioner upon the bounty of thy Saviour, one who hath a life which dies without fresh streams of life from Jesus, and yet proud! Fie on thee, O silly heart!
("Fie" is a word used to express mock surprise or dismay -- so, "Surprise, surprise, O silly heart.")

Help us O God, appreciate the depths of Your surrounding love.  Still the condemning, judgmental voices and instill a sense of the supreme specialness with which you hold onto us.  Amen.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I Look to the Hills

The LORD watches over you—
   the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
   nor the moon by night.
 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
   he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
   both now and forevermore. 
                                           --Psalm 121:5-8

You can go to and search for Psalm 121.  The entire Psalm is a short, beautiful affirmation of God's presence.  Click on the picture to make it big and just enjoy the sunrise and in the pink/purple light behind Mt Rainier.  Spend a few minutes just thinking about this:

"Look to Me, and be saved...."   (- Isaiah 45:22)

Saved from what?  From what has God saved you?  I think we assume some eternal cosmic thing when we hear the words, "be saved," and while it is that, there is also a daily, even hourly or minute by minute saving going on -- look for those moments too: how God gets you through/saves you day to day.  Journal your answers to "look to Me, and be saved..." saving me from what? If you're of a mind to post your thoughts here under comments, you're welcome to do that.

Lord, you save us from something every minute of every day.  Help us rejoice for all 525,600 minutes each year that you walk alongside us.  In Christ's name, Amen.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Look Not to Your Own Interests

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.   --Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)
 I'm not sure how to get down this idea rattling around in my head, which is sparked by these verses.   A significant segment of American society values the idea of the "self-made man" --  the "rugged individual" who has "done it my way" and pulled himself up by his own bootstraps to run a major corporation.  It's a mean side of society of one person carving out a privileged place from which to stand on another person's head in a scramble up some vaulted social ladder.  How did our culture fall into valuing such bald selfish ambition with it's attending vain conceit?

There is another view of America.  The underside or shadows-lurking side where violence is assumed to be part of the expectation to protect personal property or personal opinion.  To look out for our own interests permits us to buy and use a gun or a knife or extortion to the point that assassination and murder are not just contemplated, but carried out daily on street corners in every city.

Both of these pictures conjure up disturbing and unwanted images in our spirit.  These two pictures ARE the result of selfish ambition and vain conceit -- where we each take on the belief our needs are most important, even to the cost of blood.  There IS another vision though.  It's possible to see a cycle of concern and caring for another person curving around on itself resulting in each of us receiving back more than we put into it. 

It's possible through a Christian lens to see that responding to another person's need inspires that person to help another that inspires another person to help another until it reaches back around and aids us in our own need, and all are lifted up.  If you're burdened in needs that you can't seem to shake or get out from under could it be due to a frustrated wrestling with and looking after your own special interests?

There is no question that the Christian vision is broken since guns are still going off in Safeway stores and High Schools.  But it should not be this way.  There ARE so many ways to do good to another.  I offer you the reflective contemplation of the next few minutes to let your imagination take flight with the others in your life who have interests, worries, grieves, concerns, weights that you could aid.  I wonder often if depression is so rampant because gratitude and recognition is so miserly protected.  A book I saw at the bookstore the other night was called The Art of Thank You: Crafting Notes of Gratitude.  Aid to another can be a prayer, a thank you note, a phone call, a small gift, a cup of tea.... how can you look to others' interests?  I trust this word from God will sow seeds of help that will come back as a rich harvest that will feed your own needs AND spirit!

O God, may the acts of concern for others become a blessing not only to them, but to ourselves as well.  Amen.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” - James 1:2-3

Nothing will test faith like the trials or problems that come our way.  Our first reaction to a problem is to handle things our own way, through our own capabilities and powers.  If a problem comes our way that we can handle then we don't really need God.  Many situations that come our way, however, are bigger than we are.  When the problem is bigger than we are, then that is the very time we need to claim God and hold on with perseverance and patience for things to work out in God's time, on God's larger time scale.  Supreme difficulties may suggest we are part of something eternal in nature and if so, then only God can carry us through it.  It can be reassuring in fact, to realize we are standing in an eternal time line that transcends us.  God is the only one in control of the eternal!

Eternal God carry us through this day.  Remind us that we are part of a bigger time line, this day being just one of our infinite number of days with You.  In Christ's name we pray.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rich Enough To Be Lifted Up

23Jesus said to his disciples, “Most assuredly I say to you, a rich man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.”
25When the disciples heard it, they were exceedingly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”
26Looking at them, Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  ---Matthew 19:23-26 (WEB)

The first thing that is almost American in this passage is that the disciples are astonished that it's going to be difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. Our society is so wealthy by world standards, and we behave so arrogantly at times, that it's hard sometimes to imagine that God isn't almost obligated to give us the Kingdom.  The disciples' astonishment speaks either to their perception that everyone is wealthy; or, that they thought that people buy their way into God's special graces.  Of course, neither one is true.  Salvation, going to heaven, entering the Kingdom of God - whatever terminology one uses for the falling into God's Eternal Love -- is impossible for us to do on our own.  It's not something one can buy or earn.  No one can behave well enough, obey enough, or do things right purely enough.  Humans simply cannot save themselves.

But while the entering into God's Eternal Love through our own merits or actions eludes us, God happily reaches past our puny efforts and lifts us up. In the words of the Mary Oliver poem, "Wild Geese":
You do not have to be good
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert repenting...

God cares enough - infinitely so -- to reach down and lift you off your knees, to pull up on your chin, to lift your head heavenward and say, "Enough of this, you are my child.  I know what you need.  Just be at peace."   Just be at peace!

Embrace us in Your Eternal Love and affirm in us that You are enough.  Help us relax into this comfortable place next to You.  Let all worry and concerns melt.  In Christ we pray, Amen.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Lamp Unto My Feet

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.  -- Psalm 119:105
 To keep a lamp burning we have to keep putting oil in it. -- Mother Theresa
I've decided there isn't a whole lot else left to say about these two quotes.  Together they kind of say it all.  

Monday, January 17, 2011

Random Kindness

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” --Philippians 2:14 (NIV)
Two celibate monks came to the crossing point of a slightly elevated river.  There was a woman there who could not get across.  So one of the monks offered her his back and he carried her across the swollen stream.  Once on the other side the two monks continued their journey, but the one bewailed the other for having touched the woman.  Mile after mile he complained about how sinful his brother in faith had been.  Finally, the monk pulled them to a stop and he turned to his friend and said, "I put that woman down at the edge of the river.  Why are you still carrying her?"

Life in these times, actually life in all times, is full of the warped and crooked.  If we want to look for the misery, unfairness, wrong, twisted, and misdirected we can find it with little trouble.  Newspapers fill their pages with these kind of stories.  We drag ourselves down into pits of despair when we follow these stories.  They take us down into the basement of human nature and leave us discouraged, bleak, and untrusting.  Soon we find ourselves grumbling and complaining about everything wrong; losing sight of what is pure and uplifting.  The more grumbling we do, the more universal the negative feels.  So stop!

Assess situations fairly and as accurately as possible but don't let situations, no matter how bleak, color your beliefs about everything.  Being a child of God we are risen above the basement of human nature.  Our basic nature is founded in Love and we conquer the negative with Love.  We short-circuit the grumble game simply by not perpetuating the grumbling.  Stop carrying the weight of guilt and shame.  Put it down at the side of the river and move on with your journey where you'll discover your blameless purity.  Work to counter-balance the bad things that happen by being a thoughtful blessing to others.  Commit random acts of kindness and help the perceptions of how crooked and depraved our generations are to improve.

God help us to be active in seeing the positive attributes and sides of a situation.  Give us the foresight and commitment to inject small amounts of kindness into the scene wherever we go.  Amen. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  --Romans 8:26 (ESV)
Truth be told, perhaps nobody knows how to pray right -- not if by prayer we think it is the ordering up of some creation from our own minds as a solution to our problems.  Borne from our limited understanding and place, we mistake human reason and intelligence as adequate for telling God what and how to do things.  The Apostle Paul says the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  Perhaps our chief weakness is assuming our brains can solve all our problems.  Our small puny blurry perspective on life is hardly a vantage point from which to launch missives to God on how to manage the world.  So, prayer is something different from an ordering up of our answers for different problems in life.

Sophy Burnham said, "We are told that prayer brings angels down.  But if prayer is thought, concentrated and distilled, the clear pure yearning of the heart, is prayer also the manifestation of the divine?  The desire itself being granted as a gift of God, in order that its satisfaction may be given us by God."  Perhaps prayer is nothing more than the act of manifesting the Presence of the Holy One; an act of the will simply to bring God to the forefront.  From that point onward, one's spirit must surrender to the power that is then present in the room, trusting that the act or answer God will give is what is best for all.

Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and to house, our home be blessed.  Amen.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Deep Calls to Deep

My soul is downcast within me;
   therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
   the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
   in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
   have swept over me.
 -- Psalm 42:6-7 (NIV)  

Snoqualamie Falls at flood stage makes a violent roar.  When I took this picture I took the rainy walk to the bottom of the falls and felt the thundering vibration of thousands of tons of water free-falling over the cliff.  I thought of this verse -- "deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls."  The roar of it drowned out every other sound, yet standing there with the mist from it falling upon me soaking my face and hair there was the strong Presence of God.  

One of my favorite catch-phrases is "that water is under the bridge."  Life's river keeps moving.  No matter how stagnant or stuck we might think we feel, God is, in actuality, moving us ever closer to Him, because that is what God most desires from us: a deeper, closer relationship with Him. Half of the challenge in life is letting go of the things which have happened, of watching them pass under the bridge and go over the falls and on to the ocean.  

Standing on the bank of the falls that morning I remember casting all my worries, things which depressed me, sorrows, and sadnesses into the water by imagining that each one was in a rock that I would pick up and throw.  With each thrown rock I felt lighter and the nearness of God's peace was more profoundly upon me.  I'd encourage you to try this meditative stone throwing at a body of water near you and feel for yourself deep calling to deep; the depths of your soul meeting the depths of God.

Why, my soul, am I downcast? 
Why so disturbed within me?
I put my hope in You, O God,
for I will yet praise You, 
my Savior and my God. Amen.  -- Psalm 42:5

Friday, January 14, 2011

Truth That Sets Us Free

"If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples; you will come to know the truth, and the truth will set you free."  -- John 8:31-32 (NJB)
 The Jews to whom Jesus was speaking these words misunderstood them.  They asked him when they had ever been slaves and pondered aloud why he would then say they would be free when they already were.  As is frequently done with Gospel stories, the people Jesus talks to often miss the point.  Fact is, this is a dense verse.  In its 27 words there are four places that cause rather profound questions to arise.

The first is how to make His word our home?  Other translations say if you abide in my teaching.  If you were to boil Jesus' teachings down to one summarizing phrase what would it be?  Our home in Christ has to rest in His nature as God.  God can be a scary if our conception is of the Judge who is critically watching every move we make; anxiously awaiting our mess up so as to send us away.  God is quite another matter if like Thomas Keating says, "If you trust God, you know that no matter what you have done or not done you are loved by God.  In fact, God knew you even with your bad character..." and still he died for us.  Knowing this fact brings us home.

The second question is what does He mean by disciple?  Disciple is more than a follower or hanger-on.  Disciples don't traipse around mimicking the Master.  Disciples are engaged practitioners of what the Master is teaching.  Jesus sent them out 2x2 to practice what they had seen.  Likewise, if we adopt our place in the house of the God of Love then we should practice.  I told my daughter just tonight that she can't hope to learn the flute without practice, practice, practice.  Neither can we be disciples unless we are putting what we believe to the test and risk practicing what we think we have learned.

The third question is what is truth?  I think the answer to this question then has been answered.  We live within the Realm or house of One who loves us and understands us better than we can even understand or know ourselves.  Accepting this Truth we are compelled to practice this truth and behave in all circumstances as though it IS The Truth.  Living The Truth finds us falling in line with becoming and living a whole lot of virtues that lead to a radically different world than the one we see splashed on the newspaper every morning.

Finally, the fourth question is how does the truth make us free?  The ultimate freedom is a spiritual one where the certainty of The Truth causes us to shed the care and worry about non-essential issues.  There were two Christian women martyred in 204 CE by the names of Perpetua and Felicity.  You can read their amazing story in the Christian Ethereal Library.  They represent the letting go of worldly worries that keep the majority of us tied in knots.  They were fervently devoted to The Truth and they find a peace and freedom few of us know.

So, know the Love Which Will Not Let You Go, risk practicing it in everyday life, and experience the Truth of that Love freeing you such that the worries in life slip into non-significance.  There's a simple summary that's thousands of times harder to live than to say!  Happy disciple-ing.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

On Being Reconciled

God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what He is doing. We're Christ's Ambassadors. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God's work of making things right between them. We're speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he's already a friend with you.                                   -- II Corinthians 5:19-20 (The Message)
Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti.  A couple years ago I read the story of Dr. Paul Farmer's heroic efforts to provide free medical care in Haiti. (Mountains Beyond Mountains)  It was transformational and ever since Haiti has been a place heavy on my heart.  Whenever I have fallen into the "I wants" or feeling the need for a big shopping spree or feeling like I have life hard I think of Haiti.  When children are stuck eating a little millet seed or flour mixed with dirt and water just to have their tummies not hurt from hunger any more that day, EVERY problem I have pales in comparison.  Then, into that abject misery came a monstrous earthquake and within minutes what had been squalor became riches in comparison with what was left in the quake's aftermath.

We stand in a very privileged place.  We have been given the fresh start.  Even when we are weighed down with our problems and wake up in the morning wishing there were parts of our lives we didn't have to face, those problems are nothing in comparison to what others in places like Haiti or the Congo are facing.  We are in the privileged place of knowing we have been forgiven.  God HAS blessed us -- almost too much so!  We have an obligation, we've been given a task, to show others the same love that we have received.  We ARE ambassadors for Christ and we're charged with mediating a peace - in the case of Haiti, a peace between our haves and their have nots.    

A year later things are not a lot improved in Haiti.  One of the poorest countries on planet earth is just a few hundred miles off this rich country's coastline.  There are three relief organizations working relentlessly in Haiti that I trust implicitly: World Vision, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), and Partners In Health.  Please consider sending one or all of them a donation to help.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Greater Perspective

I kept my faith even when I said, "I am greatly afflicted."  -- Psalm 116:10
I don't know how exactly that people can wander around life thinking, "I'm in control of my life."  I have a little bit of trouble wondering how people set goals and make plans.  I was once an Urban Planner and wrote 20-year Comprehensive Plans.  I've known individuals who have made a 5-year plan for their life.  The shooting in Tucson this last weekend, car accidents, bad diagnoses, unplanned pregnancies and economic downturns - just to name a few - speak to the fragility of life and the complete unexpected, unimaginable events that enter life to make it seem totally capricious and unpredictable.  There are few really for whom life proceeds like clockwork, yet we so often think we're in charge of our destiny.  We're admonished by success coaches and positive-thinking gurus to "Make your plan and work your plan."  Yet plan and work though we do, the course frequently doesn't follow on track.  We wind up anxious and fretting, or worse, totally side-tracked in grief and despair.

Afflictions often enter life unplanned and unannounced.  Wee glitches like bank overdrafts, or appendicitis attacks; or larger things like heart attacks, or violent muggings alter the course of what we had planned.  There is nothing like a death of a loved one or a life threatening diagnosis to sober us up to the fragility of life and how NOT in charge of life we are!

YET, even when I say, "I am afflicted," the Psalmist says, "I kept my faith."  So often when afflictions come we see people who follow the advice of Job's friends: they curse God and walk away since He seemingly won't give them what they want.  They rail at all those around them, "How can anyone believe in a god who won't intervene?"  Little g - god- is precisely the problem.  Our God is not the little g -- some small familial superstitious deity in charge of handling all our whim wants up until the day the Big problem strikes.  We have faith in a God who is bigger than this life; bigger than our plans; bigger than eternity -- with an eternity's perspective with an everlasting life offered for those who take faith seriously.  This kind of larger than life, overarching faith cannot be crushed by the problems in life - be they monstrously big like our child being shot at a grocery store by a whacked out gun-wielding assailant - or nicking ourselves shaving.  We walk with a God who knows it all -- not just the here and now, but the there and forevers.  He sees where and how we fit and often we're the last to know what that plan is.  The fact is, we can't know, and because we can't faith is demanded.  We walk by faith, not by sight.  We trust the larger, behind the scenes, mysterious and unfathomable dimensions that our Lord can see and we hang onto His perspective in times of tragedy because our own is so puny to explain anything about the life stuff that CAN seem impossibly hard to bear.  The shocks and troubles and deaths in life WOULD be impossible to bear without the Big God.  So be one who keeps faith, even when afflicted.  It's all any of us have.

Dear Big G -- keep tragedy away, nurture security and peace within, help us to trust that You have the wheel of a far bigger boat that we sail upon, than the little ones we paddle around little ponds we think are huge.  Amen. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cooling off in the Spacious Places

When hard pressed, I cried to the LORD; he brought me into a spacious place. The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” 
                                           --Psalm 118:5-6

This is the Des Moines pier that goes out about 100 feet over Puget Sound.  It was one of the spacious places I thought of when I saw this passage.  I take a lot of walks down along the waterfront when I'm frustrated.  Where are your spacious places?  Spacious spots are places where just being there brings a balm to your restless or drained or anxious mind and heart.  Feeling out of sorts, out of control or upset in any way is frequently most effectively countered with physical activity.  So a walk in a spacious place is perfect.  I have almost mastered the walking meditation that Thich Nhat Hanh describes in Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames.

The meditation goes very simply like this.  You focus all your attention on your breathing -- the air going in and out of your body.  Then, note the feel of each foot as you walk.  You can even count the steps you take during an in-breath and on the out-breath.  It's remarkable to me that something this simple really does dissipate any chaotic swirling of feelings.  Thich Nhat Hanh says, "With every step, you can arrive in the present moment, you can step into the Kingdom of God." (p.23)  So try it - take a walk in a spacious place when you are hard pressed and just breathe, "The Lord is with me; I'll not be afraid." 

Circle me, Lord.  Keep comfort near and discouragement afar.  Keep peace within and turmoil. out.  Amen  (Celtic Caim prayer)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Stand by Me

When the storms of life are raging, stand by me.  -- Charles Tindley
(To see all the lyrics to this hymn -- Click Here)

How often are the troubles that we perceive ourselves having due to having troubles finding forgiveness -- forgiveness of others, or forgiveness of ourselves?  How frequently does the lack of forgiveness that we carry sour us to everything and everyone?  We'll carry a grudge for a slight that was shown us, one thing leads to another, and maybe years later resentment over that slight is still poisoning how we feel.  Sometimes the grudge spreads and the person sours to much more.  My mother carried a deep-seated anger and resentment toward the President of the U.S. for having drafted my father.  She carried this grudge for 60 some years.  When my father died, she received in the mail a certificate signed by President Bush thanking my father for his service to the country in WWII.  That certificate erased her anger and she commented frequently about how much lighter and happier she felt for that expression of gratitude and the warm wave of forgiveness she suddenly felt vividly from it.  She said, "I never knew what forgiveness was before I felt this."

Oswald Chambers throws out this challenging observation: "When a person fails in his personal Christian life it is usually because he has never received anything from Jesus Christ."  (My Utmost for His Highest) The thing Christ makes available to us is the forgiveness of sins.  With forgiveness comes a liberation from the slippery path to anger, resentment, and the weight of grudge carrying.

As I said yesterday, Jesus repented for our sins when he was baptized.  He also has done the work to atone for our sins and provide forgiveness to us all.  So the obstacles and stumbling blocks in life we trip over from holding a resentment or from blaming someone for our failings really do not need to be held because Christ has handled that. The same liberated relief my mother felt when she discovered forgiveness for a grudge she had carried all those years is readily and freely available.  We only need receive it and let go of the bitterness toward the other; or, let go of the remorse and regret within ourselves, and stand by Christ.  He never leaves us, but we often leave him for want of chewing on our cud of bitter unfairness or remorse.  Stand by him and let it go.

God, for the tremendous grace you've supplied through supplying our repentance and forgiveness we give you thanks.  Help us to stand securely beside you, trusting in our liberation from the prisons of hostility and hurt to which we too readily condemn ourselves.  Amen.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Repentance II

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  -- Mark 1:9 (NIV)

I've always found it a little odd that Jesus went out and almost had to twist John the Baptist's arm into baptizing him.  According to church theology Jesus was sinless, and the story goes John was preaching a baptism of repentance.  So, for what reason was Jesus seeking baptism?

According to George Hinman, pastor of University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, as per John Calvin -- Jesus was acting as the representative of all human kind.  Jesus was receiving the baptism of repentance, WAS repenting, for all of our sins.  On our behalf Jesus repented of our sins so we do not even have to do that ourselves.  That is how much God wants a relationship with us.

So, as I said yesterday we have sins we haven't even realized, but before we even get to the awareness point of what they are, the repentance has already been handled and we should be moving on to the next item in life.  I don't think God wanted religion all bogged down in worrying over, analyzing, and criticizing sinful behaviors. It's time wasted and the hurt and negative feelings that can arise from such judgmental practices do no one any good.   Most of us can be hard enough on ourselves for our transgressions.  Jesus' baptism washed that away.

Whatever my troubles and issues O God, let them not be wrapped up in a shroud of guilt.  You've taken the sins of the world and destroyed them in Your sight and we give thanks for that.  Onward and upward, bring on another problem.  Amen.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Repentance I

For on this day, in the City of David, is born to you a Savior who is the Messiah. 
                                                               -- Luke 2:11

I think one of the major reasons people struggle with God is that they hate the idea of being judged and the whole idea that God is waiting to smite them for perceived infractions - be they minor or major.  The fallacy in this myth is that God is big enough that should He decide to smite you, He would; probably before you even realized it was coming.  So no part of this hellfire and brimstone breathing deity could be avoided simply by ignoring it or not going to church.  However, I think most us, you sociopaths excluded, have consciences that trouble us.  Because of overly judgmental people preaching overly judgmental messages under the guise of Christianity, we can easily go to the place of "I'm having a really rotten time here with my life, so it must be a punishment for all the things I've done wrong.  Then we proceed to obsess over what we need to be repenting over, so the misery in life will stop.

The word repentance is based on it's meaning of "turning from."  When we repent we look for those things in our life from which we feel a need to turn.  These things are typically viewed as sins that must be acknowledged and abandoned; often we believe prior to God accepting us. A number, sadly a huge number, of people in churches use this doctrine to stay "holier than thou."

I have a couple thoughts about this kind of "church control" nonsense.  First, there are so many ways to sin that no one could begin even to be conscious of them all.  One of the huge drawbacks to being human is that the time-space continuum brings conflicts wherein whatever we might decide it is going to involve a sin.  "Goody two shoes Christians" can never achieve righteousness in their lives, no matter how much they judge me, or how good THEY think they're being.

Second, since I can never know all the sins I commit, I need help in increasing my consciousness of what I am doing to myself and others.  I need someone who helps me repent and to live in the consequences.  To me this is the whole design purpose in God sending a Son.  God personally experienced the bind of living in human flesh faced with the conflicts in love, relationships, ethics, desires, and wants.  God learned tangibly very quickly how conflicted and troubled life can get - to be faced with multiple decisions where none of them make everyone happy or turn out right.  God knows each of our struggles and supplies tools for dealing with messy lives, and let's face it, everyone has some messiness in living.

I hope that through the posts of this blog I can share some of those tools as I've learned them.  I hope by using the comments option here that you might share some of the tools you've picked up.  Living with the decisions we make, having a base out of which TO make decisions is one of the fundamental purposes in having a faith that embraces a larger flowing meaning to life.

Designer of All That Is, thank you for the humility you showed by becoming one of us such that I can be truly understood by You.  Help me in my attitudes, perspectives, and repentance.  Amen.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Show Mercy, Get Mercy

Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.  -- Hebrews 4:16

Mercy is not a word we hear too often in our society.  There is much more focus and drive put on getting our way, gaining our place, having our rights, and insuring that no one takes advantage of us.  We think of mercy as being like soft on crime, and yet when we are stressed and having too many things go wrong we might even call out under our breath, or out loud, "Have mercy on me."  Mercy is another word for compassion.  To get mercy, we have to be willing to give it to others.

We approach the throne of grace by being boldly merciful to others and giving slack and working at putting ourselves in the shoes of someone else.  That rude or grumpy person who cuts in front of us in traffic or in line at the grocery store could well just be having a huge number of pressures -- perhaps similar to, or worse than, the ones we are facing ourselves.  We have no way of knowing who is experiencing tremendous grief, loss, financial stress, bad health news, a job loss, etc.  While we all tend to hide our troubles and without thinking reply "Fine," when asked how we are, the truth of life is that everyone we meet has some kind of need. 

We live in a society that has gotten busier, more rude and pushy, and where few people notice the others around them.  My mom preached the Golden Rule at me a great deal -- doing unto others as I would have them do unto me.  There is also the saying, "What goes around comes around."  If you want or need mercy and grace for your situation, you have to be willing to give mercy and grace to the other people you meet.   Be bold enough to smile and even speak a simple "Good Morning."  Politeness, civility, forgiveness, and generosity given will be returned to us.  Showing consideration to others who, in more ways that we can probably guess, are in as much need for help as we are puts us in the position of receiving the same considerations in return.  These measures of thoughtfulness are how God is thoughtful toward us every minute of every day.  These are the ways we approach the throne of grace boldly.

Lord, we come before You boldly offering ourselves as examples of your love, mercy, and help in times of need.  Consecrate our offering and claim us as Your own.  Raise out of our needs the understanding and compassion that comes only from You such that we realize the help You share with us hourly.  Amen. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011


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)

Today is Epiphany.  Epiphany is the traditional Church celebration of the Wise men arriving at the manager to deliver their gifts.  For a long amount of time (the story is imprecise) they had traveled following a star, which led them to the specific spot in Bethlehem where the Christ child was.

It's interesting that The Church has designated this observation as Epiphany.  In the common vernacular epiphany means insight - the "aha!" moment when a light bulb goes off in the head.  God sent an epiphany, or insight, for human beings when Christ was born.  This was an insight that connected not only humans to God, but also God to humanity in a new way.  That Insight lit the way for three eastern noblemen from over 800 miles away to follow.  They followed (and found!) something with much larger meaning than themselves.  I suspect, though we never hear it, that their lives were forever changed.  

When we find ourselves needing help for situations larger than we are, the lesson here is look for the Epiphany that changes things.  Be open to searching for a guiding insight or light, which God is always faithful to provide.  Take time each day to ask yourself, "Where is God's Epiphany for me today?"  Then, be on the lookout through your day and anticipate His "aha!" to hit you.

Holy God, you entered into a new and fresh kind of intimate relationship with us.  Help us to recommit ourselves daily to meeting You in return.  Help us find an intimate meaning and depth in our lives that is always larger than we are.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bound Roots

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  -- John 15:5
This is my favorite office plant -- it's an Arabian Coffee Tree.  I like coffee.  I have hopes it will someday grow up and actually have a coffee bean or two.  It has not been doing well though.  The leaves have curled and fallen off and no amount of love, water, and Miracle Grow had seemed to help it.

It's interesting to me how we can live in the same circumstances day in and day out and not see things for how they are.  The small pot laying in front was the pot in which I had my coffee tree.  A sudden thought finally came over me, as I stood fussing over my dying plant -- "MAYBE it's root bound!"  So I went out and found the next size pot and transplanted it Saturday morning.  The roots were packed in so tight that hardly any soil remained around them.  I broke up the root ball and placed it in the larger pot with new fresh soil.  "AH!" it said.

Troubles in our life where we wake up looking for answers and help most frequently grow on us gradually.The choices we make, the busy lives we run cause us seldom to sit and feel what is happening to our roots -- the tap root of our existence -- buried in God.  We handle all of life's presentations of challenge and opportunity on our own terms and pat ourselves on the back.  The pot fills up with more of our roots, squeezing out God, the source and nurturer of our life.  If you're finding yourself in need of help, filled with anxiety and stress take a good look at the pot in which you're growing.  Take some quiet time to stretch your roots out and invite God back into the spaces!

Holy Gardener and Giver of Living Water, sprinkle the soil of our lives with your merciful understanding and peace.  Help us to keep our focus on the things You hold to be important.  Help us not become so congested with our own management powers that we lose the central place You hold.  In Christ we pray - Amen.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

From Whence Cometh My Help?

Surely God is my help;
   the Lord is the one who sustains me.
--Psalm 54:4
Welcome to my devotional blog site.  This month's blog theme is Help.

I awake often very early in the morning and this is a view not far from my house.  Granted Mt. Rainier is more often shrouded behind a wall of gray and rain, but when it is clear the sight is magnificent.  No picture can do it justice.

Anyway, I wake up before dawn most mornings with the words already formed and foremost in my mind: "O Lord, from whence cometh my help?"  Immediately, the rote answer comes: "My help is in the Lord."  This is an every day occurrence.  This is followed by a heavy sigh for there is then a swarming of all the things that are stressing me out: finances and relationships principle among them.

As I have aged I feel as though I have gotten dumber.  There is a mushrooming amount of "stuff" about life I do not know, and what I thought I knew it turns out I didn't.  So, in the process of having tmy 20 or 30-something confidence in life shattered, I greet each day knowing only two things: 1) Anything can happen, and 2) God is there before it does with open arms ready to gather me in and sustain me through even the most difficult of circumstances.  Are the circumstances easier?  No, not really, not at all.  But, what is easier is knowing that in the end, God has a sustaining, ever-present cushion that will catch me and that is enough for me to know.

Sustaining God, hold us through this day and help us to bravely lift our faces to the rising sun.  Whatever befall us grant us the will to look behind difficulty for the positive.  Bless us in this quest and grant us the help we need to keep walking onward.  Amen