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Thursday, February 28, 2013

EARTH: Lenten Devotion Day 16

Lenten Photo Day 16

EARTH


The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 
Genesis 2:15

As we contemplate our Lenten word for today (EARTH), I can't help by be drawn back to the creation story of our wondrous garden. Which also then draws me to the command that was given to Adam - "till  it and keep it." Our culture today is now in a heated debate over just what that means. Some believe that the earth's resources should be stripped and used up by her inhabitants. I even saw a quote recently from a preacher that said we were sinners if we didn't use the resources the good Lord had provided in the Earth. Hmmm, is that really what Adam was commanded?

Till it and keep it. I'm certainly not a farmer but I did learn a few things from my garden growing family. I learned that the ground has to be tilled to be productive. You break up the hard soil so that the seed can take root deeply and grow strong. I learned that the soil sometimes needed help to stay productive - You had to allow a field to stand empty every few years so that the nourishments could build back up. Sometimes you fertilized so that you could help add nutrients back into the soil. I learned that the earth must be respected - A little gift from our Cherokee neighbors. They taught us that you give back to the earth if you take from it.

I believe this is what God had in mind when he commanded Adam (and those to come after Adam) to till and keep it. That isn't a command to strip her of all she has and leave her used up it is a command that says take care of her, she will give to you abundantly if you take care of her.

EARTH
till it and keep it
safe.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

HEAR: Lenten Devotion Day 15


Lenten Photo Day 15

HEAR

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers."
John 10:3-5

When I was pregnant with my first child, Katie, my husband and I were all consumed by this miracle growing inside of me. We talked to her often and when a little elbow or foot would become apparent we would stroke it and tickle it and tell her how we couldn't wait to meet her. When she was born she had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck and so they let us see her briefly and then whisked her away to be checked out. It was a few hours later before they brought her to me. My husband had gone to run an errand and when he returned I was holding Katie in my arms for the first time. I will never forget it, she was a few hours old but when Tim spoke her little eyes flew open and she began to strain to get her head turned so she could see him. She knew the sound of his voice and when she heard him - she responded by being drawn to him.

As we continue our Lenten journey we must remember the importance of prayer and daily scripture reading for this is how we come to recognize and know the voice of our savior. It is in spending that daily time with Jesus that we get familiar with his voice so that when we hear it - we too will respond by being drawn to him. As Jesus taught, the sheep aren't going to follow a strange voice - only the familiar one.

Is Jesus a familiar voice to you? When he speaks to you recognize him and respond? When he calls will you hear?

HEAR
the voice of Jesus
calling

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

LIFT: Lent Devotion Day 14

Lenten Photo Devotion: Day 14

LIFT

Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11

As I have journeyed through the day I have been looking everywhere for an opportunity to photograph our word for the day: LIFT. I have thought of elevators, car jacks, cheerleaders, as I went about my day of visitations and a clergy covenant peer group meeting.This afternoon as I drove home I began to reflect upon all that had happened today and it suddenly dawned on me that I had been lifted or had been used by God to lift others all day.

 It started in my covenant group as they listened to me share a burden that was on my heart, then they gathered around me and laid their hands on me and prayed for me and for the situation. The feel of the weight, the heat, and the compassion from their hands was overwhelming and made me cry. Perhaps they thought I cried because of the burden but the truth was, I cried from the joy of having hands lift me from a state of worry to a state of remembering - remembering that as long as I am a Christian I am never alone in the journey. I have brothers and sisters who journey with me and they are, at times, the hands of Jesus lifting me up and encouraging me to take the next step.

When I left that meeting I went to an area nursing home and spent some time. There, I held the hands of others...weathered, wrinkled, weakened hands...and I tried to lift them up in prayer and in spirit. They all were smiling when I left them...I pray they felt lifted on this rainy, drab day. I pray my hands were the hands of Jesus lifting them and encouraging them as they take their next steps.

The words of 1 Thessalonians 5:11 came to mind and I drove home in the cold rain and I smiled as I thought about the hands that have touched mine today. I started out the day feeling low and burdened...I end the day lifted and free.

Be the hands of Christ for one another
encourage
build up

LIFT

Monday, February 25, 2013

COVER: Lenten Devotion Day 13

Lenten Photo Devotion: Day 13

COVER

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. 
Spread your protection over them, so that those who love your name may exult in you.
 For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover them with favor as with a shield.
Psalm 5:11-12

I am so blessed to say that almost every room in my home contains millions of little tokens of love. My Granny Hamlin (Geneva) loved to quilt and the only thing she loved more than quilting was giving her quilts away. The million tokens of love are the tiny little stitches that she hand stitched in each of my quilts. They may not have been perfect but in each stitch I can imagine what she was doing as she made it...sitting on her sofa, thinking of her family, praying for us, worrying over us...and loving us. She may be gone from this earth but every time I cover myself with one of her quilts or place one on my children's beds I know her love still covers us and I am secure in her arms once more.

As I reflect on the love of Christ I see how his love also transcends the separation of heaven and earth. I am surrounded by millions of tokens of his love - big and small - that remind me each day that I am covered in his love and sheltered in his arms. 

What tokens of Christ's love will you recognize today? 

COVER

be wrapped up in Christ's love.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

LIVE: Lenten Devotion Day 11


Lenten Photo Devotion: Day 11

LIVE

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus."Teacher," 
he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 
He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" 
He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, 
and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." 
And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live."
Luke 10:25-28

Life is full of questions. Like the lawyer we seek answers from the learned and wise. We look for knowledge and logic and hope that someday we will learn enough to "get it." With enough book smarts and enough information we can know God and know the right way to live a life that is abundant, purposeful and lasting. Isn't this what the lawyer is after?

Jesus' reply is simple, what have you learned in all your books, with all your education?

Easy, the Lawyer thinks - I know this one! I read it in a book - "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." 

                                 Jesus' reply is much more complex: "do this, and you will live."

                                        We can learn much, but Jesus call us to live much.

                                            Live what the bible teaches, don't just learn it

                                                                             LIVE

                                                                         Eternally
                                                                        Just do it


Friday, February 22, 2013

SPIRIT: Lenten Devotion Day 10

Lenten Photo Devotion: Day 10

SPIRIT

Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. "Receive the Holy Spirit," 
John 20:22


My family had a favorite vacation spot when I was growing up. The gorgeous Jekyll Island off the coast of Brunswick, GA. Even as a child I was in awe of her trees. Inland and on the marsh side of the Island there are towering Live Oaks covered in Spanish Moss and Resurrection Ferns. It was, however, the trees along the ocean side that fascinated me the most. As you can see in the above picture, these trees are shaped by the constant flow of wind coming in off of the Atlantic Ocean. Even on the stillest of days these trees appear to be bent under the high wind of a hurricane.

Today, as I reflect on God's Spirit I am reminded that scripture often speaks of the Holy Spirit being breathed into us or onto us. As the sound of a mighty rushing wind the Holy Spirit is said to fall upon us and we are transformed - bent to a new way of being or of living. Filled with the Holy Spirit we are drawn closer to God and (in good Wesleyan terms) closer to perfection.

As we journey into Lent let us desire to be like these trees: Let our lives show signs of a constant blowing of the Holy Spirit upon us. May we be shaped and transformed in ways that show God's constant movement and breath upon us. 

Come, 
Holy Spirit,
Come

Thursday, February 21, 2013

LOVE: Lenten Photo Devotion Day 9

Lenten Devotion Day 9

LOVE

Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and shield. 
Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. 
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.
Psalm 33:20-22

As I work on my morning devotion I look down to find my puppy, "Lady," in her usual position - curled up at my feet. She has already had a busy morning following my every move like a shadow, protecting me from the trash can that for some reason she felt was a threat to me, and showing her general love and adoration by flashing those big brown eyes at me. 

My husband insisted we didn't need a dog (he is correct of course) but there is something about having a constant companion who just loves you for no other reason than...well...than they love you.

Today's Lenten word for reflection is LOVE. What greater love is there than to lay down your life...Jesus arms outstretched on the cross - I love you this much...love the Lord and love your neighbor...Jesus loves the little children, of the children of the world.  These are a few of the images and sounds that come to mind as we contemplate love...but also that puppy curled up by my slippers.

Jesus came to love unconditionally. Yes, we have a responsibility to respond to that love but if we don't he doesn't withdraw his love. His love is always there, waiting for us to accept it, respond to it, live into it. Jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so...

Yes, Jesus loves me

LOVE

He means it

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

EVIL: Lenten Photo Devotion Day 8

Lenten Photo Devotion: Day 8

EVIL

You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow, 
Say this: “God, you’re my refuge. I trust in you and I’m safe!” 
Yes, because God’s your refuge, the High God your very own home, 
Evil can’t get close to you, harm can’t get through the door. 
He ordered his angels to guard you wherever you go. 
If you stumble, they’ll catch you; their job is to keep you from falling. 
- Psalm 91:1-2, 9-12 [The Message]

Yes, I find myself amused by the most ordinary of things...like this sign I came across at a local park today - which in my mind implies that Hell has a welcome center (the arrow is pointed down after all - where else could it be directing us?)

Today I have been reflecting on two passages, the one above which was emailed to me early this morning and also the passage I am preaching on this Sunday (Luke 13:31-35). Both passages speak to God being our shelter and a place of protection from evil but in the Luke passage is it more of a lament as Jesus yearns to be that shelter and protection yet the children of God will not respond.

God is our refuge in times of trouble. This doesn't mean we are insulated from bad things but that we are given the sheltering arms of Christ to weather the bad things. I guess it is much like when my children were sick or hurt - I could not take the sick or hurt away but I could hold them, encourage them, love them and assure them that I was there for them no matter what. Jesus, even as a man with no children understood this - because he was also a man with a mother who no doubt had done those things for him. So in Luke's gospel Jesus speaks of his love for the world as a mother hen yearning to protect her chicks.

As you continue on your Lenten journey remember that while there is much evil in the world that threatens us (even throws up a welcome center in Hell to lure us in) we do have a shelter above...a Christ who yearns to cover us in his arms and keep us from falling.

EVIL

there is a shelter of protection
whose name is
Jesus

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

WONDER - Lenten Photo Devotional: Day 7


Lenten Photo Devotion: Day 7

WONDER

Is there any wonder which the Lord is not able to do?
Genesis 18:14a

It seems a strange thing to be thinking about Christmas in the midst of Lent (or February for that matter) but today's devotional word took me right there to the manger.

There is a popular Christmas song titled "Strange Way to Save the World" that speaks to the wonder I feel in how God chose to implement this great plan of salvation - with an infant, born of a virgin, brought into the world homeless, soon an immigrant, later a Rabbi...then a King.

It was indeed a strange way to save the world and yet it was God's way...full of wonder.

In the Genesis story of Abraham and Sarah, God promises to begin a new nation with this elderly couple. They are so old that Sarah begins to giggle at the very prospect of her and Abraham creating a child together. The angels hear her laughter and ask that simple question, "Is there any wonder which the Lord is not able to do?"  Sarah thinks so...until she finds herself pregnant.

As we journey into Lent I hope we hear the same question echo in our ears - "Is there any wonder which the Lord is not able to do?" Of course not - the same Lord that brought an old man and woman to the birthing chamber brought his Son into the world...onto the cross....and out of the grave. 

Think about the wonders around you every day. Try to name several each day and not take for granted that our Lord is full of awesome and amazing gift - many of which are completely unexpected and unpredictable. 

WONDER

and see what God has in store for you.




Monday, February 18, 2013

WORLD: Lenten Devotion Day 6

Lenten Photo Devotion: Day 6

WORLD

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
Mark 8:34-38

What will it profit to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? A question we all need to contemplate in this season of Lent. 

With the availability of the internet the world is literally at our finger tips. A relative's dog is being boarded in a kennel while she is on vacation. I can log on every day and  watch the dog via webcam to ease her mind that he is doing well. With a few clicks of a button I can reach out to almost anyone in the world for anything of my choosing.

I could use the internet for so much...the possibilities are endless...but after years of being on here I have learned many lessons about Christian responsibility on this world wide web. I can be crude, funny, sexually suggestive, wild...that can gain me lots of attention and lots of friends. However, what does it say about me when I've claimed in my status on religion that I am a Christian? I might get popular in the world but I'm giving up my Christ-like living in return. Is it really worth it?

No! Popularity and boasting of my opinions and individuality are not worth failing to live and speak in ways that honor Christ. Yes, there are times I think it would be fun to jump into a conversation or share something funny that is a bit off-color but in the end I have discovered that denying myself the freedom to say what I want and post what I want is indeed the way that leads to a more peaceful and Christ-like life...even on the world wide web.

WORLD

Consider your voice in the world...
are you using it for Christ?


Settle: Lenten Devotional (First Sunday in Lent)

First Sunday of Lent: Photo Devotion

SETTLE

 Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to their ancestors that he would give them; 
and having taken possession of it, they settled there.
Joshua 21:43

This week my wonderful husband gave me the most beautiful Valentines Day gift....a four month old rescue mutt I named Lady. When we brought her home for the first time i expected that she might take a few days to adjust to a new home and a new routine. She surprised us all by acting as if she had been living here her whole life. The above picture was taken just an hour or so after bringing her home. As you can see she immediately settled right in.

As I reflect on today's Lenten word (Settle) I am reminded of the times that God has provided a place for me to settle: A home, a church, a calling, a marriage, a parenthood. God has provided me with so many amazing places and positions in which he says, "settle here for a while, there is work to do and lessons to learn."

Where are you settled in life? Is it a place of God's provision or have you chosen the place yourself? Is it a place of comfort or a place of challenge?

Settle

be where God calls you to be.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

INJUSTICE: Lenten Devotion Day 4

Lent Photo Devotion: Day 4

INJUSTICE

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. 
Isaiah 61:1-3a

There is no denying that this world is full of injustice. It is for this reason that the Gospel message is so important for it brings the good news that injustice will not have the last word and it will not be part of our eternal future.

This past Wednesday we put ashes upon our heads and took a moment to regret and confess the many ways that we contribute to injustice: we withhold our love from some, we seek to promote self over other, we worry for our own gain and deny responsibility for our brothers and sisters in need, we turn a blind eye to oppression as long as we are not oppressed, we fail to understand the brokenhearted, we ignore the captive, and act as judge over others. For these reasons we take up that bowl full of ash and regret.

The promise of Isaiah's proclamation and Christ's life, however, is that we move beyond the ashes and regret and actually change our ways so that we take a stand against all types of injustice. It is even in our vows when joining the United Methodist Church: "Do you resist the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?"

And the people of God say: YES! because it is our calling to "bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; ...to comfort all who mourn; ... to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. 

In this Lenten season I pray by the light of Christ we might see all forms of injustice around us and seek ways to take a stand against it...let us trade in our bowl of ash for a garland of peace.

INJUSTICE
take up your ashes and repent


Friday, February 15, 2013

SEE - Lenten Devotional Day 3

Lenten Photo Devotion Day 3:

SEE

They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, "Can you see anything?" And the man looked up and said, "I can see people, but they look like trees, walking."  Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 
Mark 8:22-25

I am fascinated by the stories of Jesus healing the blind. I am especially fascinated by the healings that take place in stages. One without sight comes to Jesus and with mud, spit, and a touch - finally the person can see "everything clearly."

As we journey into Lent we too are struggling to see clearly. As we enter these days of self-examination we yearn to see the person God created us to be...we fear to see how far we truly are from being that person....we seek to find a way to become that which we are not yet. 

Often it is like looking in a foggy mirror. With one swipe of the towel we think we should see all things clearly and know exactly who we are to be and how we are to become it. We take a swipe and hear Jesus say, "can you see anything?" And all too often we must admit that we cannot...not just yet. We see shadows, images of who we are to be and yet there is still much to learn, so much we must experience, so much to discern.

In your Lenten journey don't get frustrated with the time it takes to see clearly. In that time, the Savior is at work...reaching out...ready for that final touch. 

Look intently...be restored

Do you see anything yet?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Return: Lent Photo Devotion Day 2

Lent Photo Devotion:Day 2
RETURN

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan 
and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 
where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. 
Luke 4:1-2a


I am not much of a winter person. While others are watching for snowflakes, I scan the ground looking for signs of spring...the great "return" season. Seeing those first fresh stems of green pushing through the cold soil always make me smile. Life is returning to the barren world.

Spring is nature's Easter proclamation. As life returned to Jesus, so every year we see that acted out on the Earth's stage by the return of green, yellow, red, pink...and every other color on earth. 

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned...

This is my greatest wish for us in our Lenten journey - that at the end of our 40 days of self-examination, self-denial, and repentance - we also might be full of the Holy Spirit and ready to return to the trials and temptations of this world with renewed strength and vibrant proclamation. Just as the new sprouts of spring can withstand the last of the winter's snow and ice - so we can withstand all that comes our way...if we return, full of the Holy Spirit.

RETURN

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Who Am I?


Lenten Photo: Day One
Who Am I?

I woke up this morning thinking about Jesus' journey into the wilderness as depicted in an old, cheaply made BBC movie called "Son of Man." So often we picture Jesus as so confident and comfortable with who he is. After all, how can the Son of God not be confident and comfortable with his identity? Yet, in the movie the director has a striking scene depicting Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. His biggest temptation being the struggle to understand who he is.

I was astonished by this scene for it had never occurred to me that Jesus would struggle to come to terms with who he was - yet - if he was fully human as our creeds proclaim, then why wouldn't he struggle and feel less than confident at times? We all do right? 

Today I begin a Lenten photo experiment suggested by the Rethink Church folks. On this Ash Wednesday we were to take a photo on the topic of "Who Am I" - and I was surprised at how difficult I found that exercise. Who am I? It is difficult to sum up in a photo of course but I found myself struggling to sum it up even in words.

I am an ordinary woman blessed with many extraordinary labels: I am a Christian, a Pastor, a wife and a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend - those are my favorite labels. I am also ordinary and so on this Ash Wednesday I acknowledge other things that "I am" - a sinner, a body waiting to return to ash, a daily failure to be Christ-like. But then the extraordinary labels remind me that I am also an Easter Person - which means my sin is forgiven and my death is a victory.

Who am I? I am Christ's - and I am content