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Thursday, March 28, 2013

CUP: Lenten Devotional Day 45

Lenten Devotion Day 45

CUP

But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. 
Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" 
They said to him, "We are able." 
Matthew 20:22

Late last night I set the table. Today is Maundy Thursday and our prayer station is the table...the table where cup was shared, bread was broken and feet were washed. Each Disciple has a seat around the table and as I set each place I tried to put myself in their shoes. What were they thinking this night? What was their mood?

I thought it would be Judas' place setting that gave me the most trouble but it wasn't...it was Peter's. Peter is the one that frightens me. Right or wrong I can firmly convince myself I could never betray Jesus...surely there is no Judas in me! But denial? Well, that is something altogether different. I sat in Peter's seat and wondered as his own confidence that he would never deny or abandon Jesus and yet before the cock crowed he had done so not once but three times.

 "Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?"

Peter was so sure he was...and eventually he did...but at that moment he couldn't.

Am I? Will I? Could I?

Are you?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

LIGHT: Lenten Devotion Day 42

Lenten Devotion Day 42

LIGHT

For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. 
Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 
Ephesians 5:8-9

God is light, in whom there is no darkness at all.
Jesus Christ is the light of the world.

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world,
and we loved darkness rather than light.
(UMC Book of Worship: Service of Tenebrae)

These words of greeting struck me to the core yesterday. Their truth still has me reeling a bit today - dizzy with a reality that I would much rather deny. In the beginning...God created...let there be light...and it was good.  There is no denying the goodness of light. It bring us warmth, illumination, photosynthesis, as well as understanding, clarity, and guidance. For these reasons and more, Jesus is called Light.

God created light, God is Light, God sent Light
Light for the world

And we loved darkness rather than light.

The truth still cuts doesn't it? Light is found in all that is good, right and true....yet we are drawn to that which is bad, wrong and false. We choose to lurk in the shadow - uncommitted to step fully into light and live as children of that light. We have every excuse in the book as if we have developed a sudden sensitivity to light that requires we never enter it would glasses to shield our eyes and an umbrella of shadow to hid behind. The Light shows too much truth for our comfort, shames us with too much good in light of our weakness, and challenges us with too much right for all of our wrongs.

Christ
Light of the World
Rising on that Easter morning for all eternity
Offering each of us the chance to rise also
Into the Light

And we loved darkness rather than light.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

RESTORE: Lenten Devotion Day 39

Lenten Devotion Day 39

RESTORE

And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, 
who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, 
will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. 
To him be the power forever and ever. Amen. 
1 Peter 5:10-11

All of us at times find ourselves on the brink of brokenness. We suffer in all manner of ways: some self-inflicted, some accidental, some inflicted by injustice. The stress of life can become just as visible on our bodies and souls as the stress inflicted upon the walls of the old house I live in. All around my home the walls are littered with stress fractures brought about by years of settling, shifting and...well...living. Despite the cracks, however, our home is secure and safe because the foundation is sure. 

Life may create all kinds of stress fractures in my body, mind and soul...but there is good news and hope that serves as the strong foundation to hold me together in the threat of brokenness. "...Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you...." 

This promise doesn't mean I will never experience stress, suffering, or brokenness...but it does promise that those things will not get the better of me. It does promise that those things will not do permanent damage.
It does promise that Christ will
RESTORE
my scars and establish new life. 

ALONE: Lenten Devotion Day 38

Lenten Devotion Day 38

ALONE

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, 
"Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." 
And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 
When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; 
and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 
Jesus straightened up and said to her, 
"Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 
She said, "No one, sir." 
And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again." 
John 8:7-11

Close your eyes for a moment and let the powerful image of this story sink in. A lone woman, dragged to the middle of a crowd of men who seek to condemn her to death for adultery. Her terror and her shame are palpable as John recounts the story. She is brought before Jesus and probably never once realizes they are just using her as a trap - they could care less about her and her fate.

Then Jesus writes in the sand

Who will cast the first stone? I'm sure none of you have ever done wrong - let the one who is completely innocent throw the first punishing blow.

Then Jesus writes in the sand

The earth must have twitched as each stone was dropped...the women must have felt the weight lift off of her own shoulders in disbelief. One by one the men walk away and the woman is 
ALONE 
with Jesus.

A sinner standing with a Savior
forgiven
and alive.

HOME: Lenten Devotion Day 37

Lenten Devotion Day 37

HOME

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, 
and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 
Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, 
when you lie down and when you rise. 
Deuteronomy 6:4-7

I look often at this cabinet in my home filled with objects from long ago. My great-grandmother's plate, my grandmother's buttons, my husband's grandfather's watches...and on it goes. Objects taken so that we might remember those special times like when my sister and I would use my grandmother's buttons as money to play a version of Go Fish that we adapted for gambling (I have no idea where we got that idea, lol). Those simple object matter to me a great deal now. They are not worth anything to anyone else but to me they are the greatest treasury of memory and love. They tell my story. They remind me who I am and where I've been. 

Despite the gambling issue (give us a break, we were only in elementary school) we were blessed to have been raised in a godly home full of godly lessons. Our extended family taught us so much about faith, honor, ethics and love.

As I read Deuteronomy today, I am reminded that this is an God-given task issued to families. "When you are at home..." teach your children about the love of God; the kind of love that involves you heart, soul, and might. 

HOME
is where the love of God is taught, lived, and proclaimed
so that it might be passed down
generation to generation
so that we know who we are and more importantly
whose we are.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

BELOVED: Lenten Devotion Day 35


Lenten Devotion Day 36

 BELOVED

To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: 
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 
Romans 1:7

Beloved
called and loved
follower and master

Beloved
broken and poured
body and blood


Beloved
fed and quenched
bread and wine

Beloved
I am Christ's
Christ is mine

I am beloved

Monday, March 18, 2013

RISE: Lenten Devotion Day 34



Lenten Devotion Day 34

RISE

"The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him,
 and three days after being killed, he will rise again." 
Mark 9:31

A storm rises. Thunder echoes through the mountain valleys. Rain begins to fall. Mountains disappear behind a wall of fog. They will appear again...but not yet. Rain will nourish the ground and flowers will sprout from it. Life will rise from the storm...but not yet.

As we rapidly approach Holy Week we remember the rise of an approaching storm. Thunderous words of betrayal, denial, and judgment echoed in the streets. Tears fell. Jesus....betrayed...arrested...beaten...condemned. His body disappears behind a wall of stone. He will appear again...but not yet. His death will plant seeds of doubt and we wait to see what those seeds will grow. But we know...life will rise from behind that stone.

We know...
Easter is coming

RISE
and see
Jesus lives!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

SURROUND: Lenten Devotion Day 32

Lenten Devotion Day 32

SURROUND

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people,
from this time on and forevermore. 
Psalm 125:2

Nothing makes for a greater day than to snuggle on the sofa with loving arms wrapped around you...watching the ACC tournament :)  Ok, the basketball is irrelevant (to this post at least - although my team is winning at the moment - Go Heels). What matters is the arms wrapped around me. Tomorrow marks 23 years in which those arms have been wrapped around me. I cannot express the feelings of blessing and thanksgiving that accompany that statement. I sometimes feel guilty that some never find intimate love and yet I have had it so abundantly for so long. I hate to be greedy...but I love to be loved.

When I think of the feeling of abundant love that comes from my husband's arms surrounding me, I can't help but feel awe at the thought that God's love also surrounds me. While my husband must occasionally let me go...God never does. The immense love that I feel from my marriage pales in comparison to the love of God that surrounds me every second of every day.

I pray that your Lenten journey has been one in which you find yourself surrounded by God's love. In the midst of your reflection and repentance I hope you have felt the forgiveness of God enfold you. 
May his arms 
SURROUND 
you
and may you feel abundantly loved.

Friday, March 15, 2013

TEMPER: Lenten Devotion Day 31

Lenten Devotion Day 31

TEMPER

Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, 
whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you. 
Psalm 32:9

If you have ever been in a car accident you know to take a moment to give thanks to Prince Rupert of the Rhine (1660) and Austrian Chemist Rudolph Reiden (1900). What? You don't know either of them? Well, give thanks to them anyway because Prince Rupert was the first to discover that heat can strengthen glass and Reiden was the first to patent "tempered" or "toughened" glass that is used in automobiles today. I'm no expect but the basic premise is that glass that is manufactured with internal stresses caused by heat will shatter differently than regular glass. "Tempering creates balanced internal stresses which cause the glass, when broken, to crumble into small granular chunks instead of splintering into jagged shards. The granular chunks are less likely to cause injury." (Wikipedia). So, anyone saved from a face full of jagged shardS in an automobile accident knows to say "Thanks" to Prince Rupert and Seiden.

How we temper ourselves matters as much as how our automobile windows are tempered...and much for the same reason. We are reminded often in scripture that our God is slow to anger and we are called to do that same. James 1:19-20 states: "You must understand this, my beloved:let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God's righteousness." 

Anger in itself is not a bad thing...Jesus was got angry at times. It is how the anger is expressed that matters. To 'fly off the handle' and 'have a quick fuse' means that we are reacting with our animalistic instincts. Anger explodes from us in much the same way glass is shattered - with sharp barbs that inflict serious damage to all in its path. We all endure stresses that make us angry but if we temper ourselves and can slow our anger down so that we can think it through, process it, find ways to let the stresses be used for good - then when our anger is expressed it is more like the shattering of tempered glass - with edges that are less sharp and less damage inflicting for those in its path.

How we 
TEMPER 
ourselves matters

Thursday, March 14, 2013

GO: Lenten Devotion Day 30

Lenten Devotion Day 30

GO

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, 
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 
and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. 
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Matthew 28:19-20

Go! It is a simple word. We are doing it constantly as we go to work, go to the store, go to school, go to church, go to the movies...well, you get the point. We "go" a lot. I sometimes wonder how many times in a week I pick up those keys and "go."

As I reflect on my Lenten journey I am also encouraged to stop and wonder how many times I pick up my cross and go. My keys are simple tools to allow me to "go" at a quicker and more efficient pace. Picking up a cross on the other hand...well...there is nothing seemingly quick or efficient about that. To pick up the cross and "go" is burdensome, slow, intentional, and troublesome. So, as I think about the mission of the church - "Go therefore and make disciples" - I am overwhelmed all over again with the impact of that simple word "go."

It isn't just about the mode of which you go (plane, train, automobile) but it is also about the purpose of why you go. It is about the attitude of how you go. "Go, therefore and make disciples..." calls us to live a life that is indeed burdensome, slow, intentional, and sometimes troublesome. It calls us to indeed pick up the cross and not the keys. It calls us to a lifetime of self-denial and seeking others. For some, this seems too much to bear and perhaps that is why Jesus ends it with a promise..."remember, I am with you always..."

As I think of this promise I think of Jesus, stumbling through the streets of Jerusalem. Beaten and abused he is struggling to carry his cross when Simon of Cyrene comes forward to help ease the load. Jesus says, "Take up your cross and follow me" (Matthew 16.24) but to that costly task he says, I will be your Simon of Cyrene - I will be there with you. In Matthew 11:29-30 Jesus says "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

To "GO" is a frightening thing for many of us. To answer that call seems an overwhelming prospect. Just remember, when God calls us to go - God gives us the way.

GO
And remember
He is with you always

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

WATER: Lenten Devotion Day 29



Lenten Devotion Day 29

WATER

"I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; 
I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Matthew 3:11

On my morning walk I came across a weeping tree. Ok, not a real weeping tree but I could not help but notice that of all the trees that surround my home there was only one tree that had water dripping off of it. Being the curious sort, I went in for a closer look. (The picture doesn't do justice but that white dot in the middle is a water droplet). After a few puzzling moments of trying to determine why this one tree was weeping it finally hit me. As I looked around I noticed the way the grass and fallen leaves were sparkling in the morning sun - frost. All around me was an icy glaze shimmering in the rising light. The sun was just peaking over the top of the church and hitting the yard...and the weeping tree.

Of course, I realized then that the sun was simply melting the frost that had formed on the tree and now that it was warming up it was beginning to melt. Soon, other trees would be sparkling with water droplets on their branches and all the earth would look bedazzled in silvery splendor. 

There are mornings, like this one, in which it is clear that the entire purpose of the earth is to serve as a witness to the glory of God. As I walked and felt myself warmed by the rising sun I began to think again about that tree. Isn't it just like God to provide such a beautiful and simple reminder of what life in Christ is like. 

That icy tree transformed under the ray of the rising sun...as it warmed, the ice melted, and water formed that now drips down and baptizes the earth, the flowers and the insects below it so that they too understand provision, love, fruitfulness and life. 

Isn't that was Christ has done for each of us? Under the ray of the Risen Son we are transformed so that our cold, hard hearts melt.The icy ways of this world begin to sparkle in the light of Christ and soon the Baptism waters are dripping from our hands, our heads, and our hearts. 

WATER
Dripping
flowing from the Son's warm light
WATER

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

SILENCE: Lenten Devotion Day 28


Lenten Devotion Day 28

SILENCE

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. 
Psalm 62:5

Life is loud. The busier we get the louder life becomes. We endure a whirlwind of noise, expectation, and chaos and then wonder why God has been silent. A couple of years ago I found myself weary of the noise of life. God's voice seemed a distant whisper and I felt great emptiness at the silence of his voice. I set out on a quest to hear God once more and ultimately came to the conclusion that God was not silent...I was simply in the midst of so much noise that I couldn't hear God. I tried many things to silence the world around me which ultimately let me to another conclusion...I also had to silence myself.

With the help of meditation, poetry, a spiritual director and a Tibetan Singing Bowl I relearned silence and reconnected with the voice of God. "For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is in him." 

Are you struggling to hear from God? Is your Lenten self-examination leaving you empty? Try taking the time to quiet your soul...REALLY quiet your soul. Each day carve out 30 minutes to just sit in silence and listen. Pray first and then devote 30 minutes to not think about anything but to simply listen in the silence for God's voice. After 30 minutes, try to journal or write down your thoughts and what you heard. You might be surprised at how clear 
God's voice comes 
in the
SILENCE

Monday, March 11, 2013

HAPPY: Lenten Devotion Day 27


Lenten Devotion Day 27

HAPPY

Those who want to do right more than anything else are happy, because God will fully satisfy them.
Matthew 5:6

What does it mean to be happy? 
For my puppy it only takes some baseballs and she is happy as can be...but then again she is happy eating cat poo out of yard so I don't consider her a great witness on the subject.

What does it mean to be happy?
“Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. 
“Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad. 
 “Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.
 “Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, 
because they will be fed until they are full.
 “Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.
 “Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God. 
 “Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God's children.
“Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, 
because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
 “Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak 
all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me.
 Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.
Matthew 5:3-12

It means even in 
hopeless, sorrowful, humble, starving, compassionate, heartfelt, chaotic, harassed, bullied living - 
God is with you.

HAPPY

Saturday, March 9, 2013

FAITHFUL: Lenten Devotion Day 25



Lenten Devotion Day 25

FAITHFUL

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name.
 For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. 
Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. 
Psalm 30:4-5

Perhaps you have heard the phrase "fair-weather friend." It defines someone who is only a friend in the best of times or in times in which it benefits them. If, however, you find yourself in need of support and true friendship in a time of trouble this "friend" is suddenly unavailable. They only want the good and happy part of you - not the troubled and suffering part. 

It is a sad reality but the truth is you don't truly know who your friends are until you face hardship - then it become quite apparent who will stick by you as a faithful friend. 

In our Lenten devotion today we are challenged to ask ourselves what kind of "friend" we are to God. What kind of Christian are we? What kind of follower of Christ?

Can you count yourself among the "faithful" who are steadfast followers or are you a fair-weather follower? Scripture makes it all too clear that God is faithful to his children..."I will not leave or forsake you" is a message repeated more than once. We can trust in the faithfulness of God but can God trust in your faithfulness? Or does the threat of the rooster crowing before dawn ring all too close to home for us? Are we, like Peter, sure of our faithfulness to follow until threatened and then we crumble in our resolve - denying our walk with Christ?

Jesus calls us to worship a faithful God.
Are you
FAITHFUL
in return?

FIND: Lenten Devotion Day 24


Lenten Devotion Day 24

FIND

From there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find him if you search after him 
with all your heart and soul. In your distress, when all these things have happened to you 
in time to come, you will return to the Lord your God and heed him. 
Because the Lord your God is a merciful God, he will neither abandon you nor destroy you; 
he will not forget the covenant with your ancestors that he swore to them. 
Deuteronomy 4:29-31

If you have ever owned a dog that was bred for hunting you know that they are always seeking to find. As I walk my little hunter each morning she goes forward, nose to the ground and stopping every three feet or so to dig or uncover some scent that only she can detect. On our walks she usually finds some treasure...a lost toy, a new discovery, an animal she has never encountered (she's only five months old she hasn't encountered much.) My point is, she is constantly seeking to find....something.

Our Lenten reflections are also supposed to be about seeking and finding...the kind of seeking and finding mentioned in Deuteronomy. The kind that promises if we seek God with all our heart and soul you will find him. 

This Lenten season you must ask "How hard am I looking to 
FIND 
God?" 


Thursday, March 7, 2013

NO: Lenten Devotion Day 23


Lenten Devotion Day 23

NO

He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, 
and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 
He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff;
 no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 
Mark 6:7-8

It would appear that "NO" has become one of the most dreaded words in the church today. In these economic times we are cautious and fearful of dwindling bank accounts and half empty offering plates therefore "NO" has become our answer to most questions. Can we start a new ministry? NO, it will cost too much. Can we give our staff a much need raise? NO, we can't afford it. Can we go into the poorest sections of town and invite them to come to church? NO, we need people who can give to the church. It is sad but I've heard each of these excuses over the past 20 years of being involved in churches. I believe our Bishop said it best last year when he said our churches are operating in a spirit of scarcity - always afraid they will run out or not have enough and therefore they are doing nothing, or a least the bare minimum they can get by with.

I wonder then, as a church, what we are to make of Mark 6:7-8. Jesus is sending his Disciples out into the world for ministry. Did he worry that there weren't enough of them? NO, he send them out only two in a group. Why then do we say we can't do ministry with only 25? Did Jesus worry that they didn't have enough resources? NO, he send them with no food, no facility to store their "stuff" because they had no stuff to store. Did he worry about lack of funds and decreased giving? NO, he sent them with not a dime in their pockets. There they went, two by two, with nothing but a staff and the clothes on their body. Did they go with a spirit of scarcity?

NO

They went with the Spirit of God. They went with the faith to believe Jesus when he said, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" (Matthew 6:25) They went forth with nothing and yet expecting everything....expecting God's blessing, expecting God's provision, expecting God's Spirit to take them where the needed to go and do with them what needed to be done.

NO is a powerful word and like all things powerful it can be used for good or for evil. Take some time to examine how your church has used that word lately. It is a word employed by fear of not having enough? Or is it a word embracing the power of God to provide all you need? 

Jesus said NO when sent his Disciples out to fulfill the mission of seeking the lost and healing the sick - NO - to worry about what they had, NO - to trying to protect themselves, NO - to doing it their way....and in return they said NO thing and NO one will stop us from doing as you say Jesus.

NO
How does your church use that powerful word?