Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"Coming to America . . ."

Hebrews 11:15
If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.

In the 19th Century, millions of immigrants pour into the United States. My great-grandmother on my mother's side is one of them.

Elizabeth McLaughlin is born in Ireland. Her parents are survivors of the horrendous Potato Famine of 1845. They, like most of their countrymen whose lands and titles were confiscated by the British, are poor.

When she is aged seven, the Lady of the Manor spies her in the local village with her mother. She is enchanted by Elizabeth's lustrous auburn hair, luminescent green eyes, winning smile.

She has no daughter of her own . . .

Elizabeth's mother is startled one day to see this royal and elegantly dressed woman standing in the doorway of her humble cottage.

The Lady wastes no time divulging the reason for her visit. She wants Elizabeth as her own. She promises to raise her in luxury. Provide her with an education. Give her all the finer things in life.

She offers a hefty sum.

More than Elizabeth's mother could hope to see in seven lifetimes.

Arrangements are made. The Lady will return in a week to claim her girl.

But, when the day arrives, Elizabeth's mother cannot go through with it. She loves her precious girl too much to let her go. No amount of money can compensate for the loss of her own flesh and blood.

So, I wonder how my great-great grandmother felt when her daughter, at the tender age of sixteen, boards a steamship for America. The land of opportunity. Of freedom . . .

Where a stubborn, savvy, strong-willed Irish girl, used to hard work, can make something for herself.

She does just that; a story for another time.

And, never returns to Irish shores . . .
~
When Jesus calls us into freedom with Him, there is no looking back. No going back.

Our past is in the past. Our future is in Him.

Now, and for eternity . . .
~
As you journey with Jesus, are you running to meet Him, or are you looking over your shoulder?

Will you pray with me?
May we always trust, Father, in the journey You have set before us. Do not let us dwell on where we were or who we were before Jesus entered our lives. Let us ever walk in the light of His freedom. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 61, 62 or 68:1-20 (21-23) 24-36
Genesis 21:1-21
Hebrews 11:13-22
John 6:41-51

Monday, January 30, 2012

"'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus . . ."


John 6:29
Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

I trust you . . .

Three simple words. Waltzing arm-in-arm with the magical trio: "I love you".

Because, you can't love without trust, and you can't trust without love.

I trust you . . .

Handing your teen the car keys. Assigning an important project to the new employee. Watching your spouse leave for an extended, overseas business trip.

I trust you . . .

"Mom, I've got some good news and some bad news . . . " Teen fine. Car totaled.

"Mr. Smith, I have some good news and some bad news . . ." Project nearly complete. Deadline missed.

"I hate to break this to you over the phone . . ." Good news: Huge promotion. Bad news: Located in France. Not returning to the States. Not sending for you . . .

He's met someone. Fallen in love.

I trusted you!

Trust. Shattered like that plate glass window your son's baseball hit after you told him not to practice in the yard. Broken like the porcelain doll you warned your daughter not to touch. Scattered in your heart like confetti along a parade route.

That's when love steps in . . . and begins, ever so slowly, methodically, to piece trust back together.

It takes time. Lots of time.

And, when the divorce papers arrive, maybe never . . .
~
Jesus asks us to trust Him. To believe in Him whom the Father has sent.

The One who will never break that trust. The One who will never let us down.

The One whose love will always be there to pick up and put back together our broken lives.

Are you trusting in Jesus?

Will you pray with me?
We trust, Father, in Your steadfast, unwavering love for us. While others we trust may disappoint us, we know You never will. Thank you for sending Your beloved Son, Jesus, that we might trust in the gift of eternal life through Him. Amen.

Psalms 56, 57, (58) or 64, 65
Genesis 19:1-17 (18-23) 24-29
Hebrews 11:1-12
John 6:27-40

Sunday, January 29, 2012

If the Spirit Moves You . . .


Galatians 5:25
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

What type of walker are you?

Are you a leisurely ambler? A fast-paced strider? Somewhere in between?

When I set out from Point A to Point B, I always walk quickly. This comes from years of conditioning, training myself to keep up with those who have longer legs than mine.

Which, as I stand a hair shorter than 5'3", is just about everybody. And, definitely, everyone in my family.

I have no trouble keeping up with Danny when we walk together. I never feel as though I am holding him back from his natural pace.

We tandem perfectly.

Until . . .

The first day of Passion 2012. We have a long walk in the bitter cold from our hotel to the Georgia Dome where this Christian gathering is held. Yes, we could have opted for a taxi, but we are pumped up about this event and eager to get some exercise.

About five minutes into our trek, I notice. Danny is no longer beside me, but several strides ahead. I attempt to pick up my pace, but my hiking boots, worn to ward off the chill, aren't amenable to speed.

Danny notices, too, and stops.

"Why are you lagging behind? Are your feet okay?"

"My feet are fine. Yours aren't. You're walking way too fast for me."

"I'm sorry, it's just that I always walk quicker when I'm excited about something like I am now. I'll do my best to slow down."

Danny tries. He really does.

But, I can see that bounce in his step, the spirited prance of a racehorse at the starting gate. How I wish my feet had wings!

Little do I suspect that, in moments, my wish will be granted.

Once inside the dome, we have to negotiate seemingly endless ramps to arrive at our desired level. People flow in a continuous and, oh, so rapid stream all around us.

"C'mon!" Danny grabs my hand firmly.

Suddenly, I think I'm in one of those cartoons where the character on the treadmill accidentally pushes the wrong button and his legs become one big blur trying to match the insurmountable speed.

I am flying!

I am keeping in step!

All because my hand is in Danny's strong grip.

And, I know he won't let go . . .
~
Are you walking in step with the Spirit?

Will you pray with me?
When Your Holy Spirit calls us to pick up the pace, Father, help us to stay in step. If we lag behind, grab our hands and hold them tightly. Bring us up to speed that we might ever walk, or run, in Your ways. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 24, 29 or 8, 84
Genesis 18:16-33
Galatians 5:13-25
Mark 8:22-30

Saturday, January 28, 2012

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch . . .


John 6:26
Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill."

Miss Betty, a spry 80-year-old, is frugal with her money. When she buys something, she always gives the item, and her budget, careful thought. So, it is rare when she decides to treat herself to lunch at a restaurant.

It is two months since Miss Betty's surgery to correct a blockage in her intestines. She is feeling the best she has in weeks and decides a celebration is in order.

She gets in her car and heads to the local Cracker Barrel. It is a Thursday, and this means sweet potato souffle is a featured side dish. It's one of her favorite comfort foods.

One in which she can't wait to indulge.

As usual, the popular restaurant, known for its southern-style cuisine, is hopping with diners. But, because she is by herself, Miss Betty is quickly escorted to a two-seat table by a window.

The efficient, pleasant waitress attends to her within seconds of her arrival. Miss Betty gives her order promptly and settles in with a book to wait for her food.

Not ten minutes pass before her meal, with the coveted sweet potato souffle, is served. Miss Betty eats leisurely, relishing every bite. She purposely does not finish her lunch. Why? The waitress has temptingly mentioned that blackberry cobbler is the special dessert of the day.

Yum! She just has to try it!

With her lunch remains boxed up and ready to go home with her, Miss Betty digs into the delectable cobbler. No disappointment here!

The waitress is passing by. Miss Betty asks for her check.

The woman turns and smiles warmly.

"Ma'am, it's already been taken care of."

Miss Betty's fork clatters to her plate. She looks around the restaurant frantically, searching for a familiar face.

"She's already left," the waitress tells her. "Took care of the tip, too. Enjoy your afternoon, ma'am."

Dumbfounded, Miss Betty gathers up her purse, book, and leftovers and heads for the cashier's desk.

She approaches the young lady behind the counter.

"Excuse me," she says, "but, my waitress just told me my bill was paid for. Do you know who it was? Did they say why?"

"She didn't identify herself," the cashier replies, "but, she did tell me why she wanted to cover your check. She said you reminded her of her mother who passed away last year."

Miss Betty's eyes fill with tears.

"Oh, what a kind, caring person she must be! I so wish I could thank her."

"I'm sure watching you enjoy your meal and remembering her mother is all the thanks she needs."
~
In today's scripture, the crowds follow Jesus not because of who He is, but because he gives them a "free lunch". Did any of them ever think to say, "Thank you"? Was it thank you enough for our Lord to watch them enjoying the meal His mighty hands had blessed and broken and shared? To whom have you offered a free lunch lately?

Will you pray with me?
We thank you, Father, that Your beloved Son, Jesus, paid the ultimate price to save us from our sins. By His Word, we are fed; by His love, we are healed. As we go through life, may we never miss an opportunity to show His grace to others through generosity and kindness. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 35 or 138, 139:1-17 (18-23)
Genesis 18:1-16
Hebrews 10:26-39
John 6:16-27

Friday, January 27, 2012

"All My Stains Are Washed Away . . ."

Hebrews 10:22
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

I love that first cup of coffee in the morning.

The steaming liquid with its rich aroma. Sipping. Savoring.

Feeling the fog lift slowly from my sleep-smothered brain.

By the time I drain my second cup, I am fully awake. Blissfully aware.

But, not refreshed . . .

It's not until I hop into the shower, hot and steamy like the coffee, that my body feels renewed. Ready for the day ahead.

Hair washed. Body lathered. Face scrubbed.

Clean!

On the outside . . .

But, what about the inside?

What about my heart? Have I sprinkled it with pure thoughts? Is it cleansed from guilt? Evil inclinations?

Or, like forgetting to scrub behind my ears or that hard-to-reach part of my back, is there a blemish there? Someone I have not forgiven? A person I neglected to pray for?

Thoughts which hinder me from loving my neighbor? From sincerely and fully loving the Lord?

Time to come clean. Time to "fess up". To pray to God to "create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me". (Psalm 51:10)
~
Are you ready today to come clean with God?

Will you pray with me?
(From The Book of Common Prayer, The Holy Eucharist: Rite Two)
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 40, 54 or 51
Genesis 17:15-27
Hebrews 10:11-25
John 6:1-15

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Praise You in the Morning, Praise You in the Evening . . ."


John 5:41
"I do not accept glory from human beings."

We all need encouragement, don't we? Those thoughtful words, spoken or written to us, which compliment our new dress, our finesse on the job, or a gourmet meal prepared to perfection.

The words that make us smile. Put that extra spring in our step. Give us that warm fuzzy feeling all over.

Fill us with pride . . .

Oops!

Therein, lies the rub.

While we can and should take pride in how we look or what we do, to be dependent upon recognition by others to validate our existence leads us down a treacherously slippery slope.

Instead of accepting compliments gracefully and moving on, we cling to them.

And, work furiously toward earning the next feather in our cap. Pleasing others to get their attention. Craving the next accolade and the next and the next.

Eventually, our only friends are flatterers. Using us for whatever purpose they deem us necessary. Dumping us like yesterday's trash when our usefulness to them is spent.

And, there we sit . . .

An empty vessel, devoid of self.

Because, we do not build our personality, our sense of worth, in God's image. Rather, we see the whole meaning of our lives reflected in the mirrors others hold to our face.

We seek glory from others when we should be glorifying our Creator.

Thanking Him for giving us life and love and salvation.

Paying our highest compliments to Him.
~
Are you or someone you know addicted to praise? What can you do to change the situation?

Will you pray with me?
We all need encouragement and praise, Father. Help us to gratefully receive compliments and give sincere, heartfelt ones to others. May our only addiction to praise be in praising You. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 50 or (59, 60), 118
Genesis 16:15-17:14
Hebrews 10:1-10
John 5:30-47

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Peek-A-Boo!



Genesis 16:13
She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me."


Virginia Rose loves to play "peek-a-boo".

She covers her eyes with her hands, her favorite pink "Baby Bear", or, as in the photos above, any toys she happens to be holding.

We say, "Where's Virginia?"

She makes us wait a second or two.

"Where's Virginia?"

Up or down go her hands from her beaming face.

"There she is!" We exclaim.

She also loves it when one of us reciprocates by hiding our own eyes.

"Where's Gammie?" I ask, palms over my eyes. I imagine the look of anticipation on Virginia's face.

"Here she is!" I announce as I remove my hands to a chorus of giggles.

As we play this game with her, ancient me
mory floats to the surface. I recall being three-years-old, hiding my eyes beneath my hands, and thinking that because my eyes were covered, no one else can see me. I am invisible!

And, it makes me wonder what is going through Virgina Rose's mind when she conceals her eyes.

When we ask, "Where's Virginia?", does she imagine she has disappeared from our view? That we can't see her? That she has vanished?

When, in truth, she has been fully in our sight the whole time.

Aren't we, at times, playing peek-a-boo with God?

Covering up our eyes and pretending, like a child, He can't see us?

Concealing our sins instead of confessing them?

Until He has to ask, "Where's Martha?"

Oh, I do hope He never has to!

But, if He does, I pray to promptly answer, "Here I am, Lord!"
~
Have you been playing peek-a-boo with God?

Will you pray with me?
You see us, Father, with all our shortcomings, our failures, our mistakes, yet, warts and all, You love us. We are so thankful for Your grace, mercy, and forgiveness. May we ever keep our eyes opened and focused on You. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 119:49-72 or 49 (53)
Genesis 16:1-14
Hebrews 9:15-28
John 5:19-29

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Warning! It is Unlawful to . . .


John 5:10
So the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat."

Every society has laws. Some guarantee our protection and safety. Others serve to maintain a semblance of civility and respect within a culture. However, there are those laws, to many in the United States, which infringe upon a person's individual right to choose.

Too many which contradict our Declaration of Independence's guarantee of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Too many that assume morality can be legislated . . .

Georgia, the state in which I reside, has a law on the books, time out of mind, which makes it illegal to sell liquor on Sundays. The origin? State law makers whose staunch Christian upbringings view drinking as sinful.

While they can't control what their constituents do the other six days of the week, they can, by glory, make them tow the line when it comes to keeping the Sabbath sanctified.

How crazy is this? If a person desires to drink on Sunday, all he has to do is stock up the Saturday before. It's a no-brainer.

The law, essentially, is ineffective.

It needs to be repealed.

After many long years of debate in the state legislature, it is decided, over the loud and raucous protests of the die-hards, that the state will vote, county by county, town by town, on whether to allow the sale of alcohol on Sunday.

The vote takes place in November of 2011.

My town votes in favor of repeal. 76% for and 24% against.

Quite a margin. Quite a message.

Did I vote for it?

Yes. Because morality cannot be legislated.

It is a choice.

And, as Christians, if we truly follow Jesus' commandments to love our God and our neighbors as ourselves, we won't be breaking any laws.

We will be fulfilling them.
~
Are there any laws in your community that are antiquated or ineffective? Are there those which limit a person's freedom to choose?

Will you pray with me?
You have given to all of us, Father, the gift of free will; to walk with You in true freedom or turn away and become incarcerated by the laws of darkness. Let us seek Your truth and wisdom in all things and live the abundant life promised to us through Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 45 or 47, 48
Genesis 15:1-11, 17-21
Hebrews 9:1-14
John 5:1-18

Monday, January 23, 2012

Just to Take Him at His Word . . .

John 4:50
"Go," Jesus replied, "your son will live." The man took Jesus at his word and departed.

It is ten days before Christmas. I am finally on my way to Walmart to purchase stocking-stuffers and a few gifts for my son, daughter, son-in-law, and, of course, my precious granddaughter, Virginia Rose.

In our home, we don't go overboard at Christmas. We keep gifts simple, useful, but meaningful. It has become a tradition to give new pajamas to son, Daniel, daughter, Sarah, and son-in-law, John. How thrilled I am to find the perfect sets for each of them!

Stocking odds and ends are a breeze, too. Even for Virginia. I am so excited when I find a CD of Christian songs for children. She loves music and I envision her clapping and dancing to the tunes that her mother will recall from her many memorable summers at church camp.

But, when it comes to finding that one special toy to wrap and place under the tree for my darling girl, I am at a loss.

The shelves groan with a plethora of choices for her age group.

And, so many, too many, resemble toys she already has.

Then, I spot it. An interactive pocketbook with all the accoutrements, sized for a toddler, that one would find in mommy's purse. I take it down from the shelf for a closer inspection.

Cute, but is this the right gift? Will she play with it? I know how much she loves to place things in containers and take them out again . . . how much she loves to explore her diaper bag . . . it talks? Wow! Hmm, looks like batteries ARE included . . .

My expression conveys my inner uncertainty.

"Oh, my little girl just loved this toy!"

I turn to see a pleasant young woman smiling at me.

"Really? Did she? I'm trying to find a gift for my granddaughter and I was thinking about buying this one."

"How old is she?"

"Almost 17 months."

"Perfect! My daughter got this on her second birthday and it was her favorite for years."

An immense relief washes over me.

"Thank you," I say, "I was so confused about what to get. You've been such a help."

"You did look a bit worried. That's why I spoke up. Take my word for it, this is a great gift for your granddaughter."

"Thanks, again, and Merry Christmas!"

"Merry Christmas to you, too!"

I do take her word for it. Happily, I place the toy in my cart.

And, head off to checkout, confident in the knowledge I've found the perfect present for Virginia Rose.
~
Are you taking Jesus at His word?

Will you pray with me?
We pray, Father, for the grace to trust in Jesus' word more and more each day. Let us grow in His love and in His truth so that others may accept our words when we declare Him Lord of all. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 41, 52 or 44
Genesis 14:(1-7) 8-24
Hebrews 8:1-13
John 4:43-54

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Top Secret!

Mark 7:36
Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it.

Can you keep a secret? It isn't easy. Especially, when the news is so good, you want to shout it from the rooftops.

And, it is so true that when we are told not to tell, the urge to do so becomes overwhelming. Almost impossible to contain.

My husband, Danny, is wonderful about keeping secrets in the form of surprises for me. On special occasions, such as our anniversary or my birthday, he won't divulge which restaurant he has selected for the celebration. Wow, does this keep me guessing!

Or, he throws mystery into the mix.

Like the Valentine's Day when I assume we are going to a restaurant, but end up at a couples' cooking class where we help with and share in a romantic meal. Or, my last birthday, when he hands me driving directions which will lead me to my birthday destination. Lucky me! I follow his instructions and wind up at an elegant spa where I enjoy a hot rock massage!

But, there is one birthday when Danny simply can't keep a lid on his secret. It's as if voices in his head are screaming, "Don't tell! Don't tell!" The more he hears them, the less he can control the temptation to tip his hand.

"Okay, Martha," he says, "I give up. I know it's two weeks before your birthday, but I can't take the suspense anymore. Would mind if I gave you your gift right now? I'm dying to show it to you!"

This is so out of character for the King of Surprises, I am momentarily taken aback.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" I ask.

"Are you sure you don't mind?"

"Oh, no, it's fine. I can tell how important this is to you. Sure, why not celebrate early?"

Danny is beside himself with glee.

He tells me to sit down in the living room and close my eyes as the gift isn't wrapped.

What could he have possibly bought that was too big or bulky to be wrapped?

My thoughts whirl with ideas.

But, I never come close to guessing . . .

"Okay, you can open your eyes!"

Now, it's my turn to be beside myself. I'm so amazed, so delighted, so touched, words elude me.

The gift? A new guitar! An instrument I have not played in years because I did not have a decent one.

I can hardly believe it . . .

My eyes brim with tears.

"Do you like it?" Danny asks.

"Like it? No, I love it!" I exclaim. "And, I love you!"
~
How difficult is it for you to keep a secret?

Will you pray with me?
We are so grateful, Father, that no secrets can be kept from You. All that is in our hearts and minds, You already know, and, yet, You love us anyway. Let us not keep secret the fact that we are Christians, but the shout the news with joy from the rooftops! Amen.

Readings
Psalms 63:1-8 (9-11), 98 or 103
Genesis 13:2-18
Galatians 2:1-19
Mark 7:31-37

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"I Love a Parade!"

John 4:29-30
"Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?" They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

As a child, I love parades. I never miss watching Macy's Thanksgiving Day or the Rose Bowl Parades on television.

And, I'm thrilled beyond measure when my parents take us to downtown Atlanta to watch the annual Fourth of July Parade with all its bands, floats, and celebrities.

The music of the marching bands is so stirring! The ornamental float so inviting!

I long to ride on one. To sit right on top, waving to the cheering crowds as I pass by.

Lost in a daydream, I envision myself in a flowing gown with a glittering gold and diamond tiara perched on my head. Smiling and nodding to the thousands of admirers who line the street. Adored by everyone . . .

Fortunately, I outgrow this delusion!

To this day, I have never participated in a holiday parade. But, both my children have.

In the rural Georgia town where my parents have retired, they host a Fourth of July Parade which passes right in front of their house. Two different years, Grandpa helps my son, Daniel, and daughter, Sarah, decorate their bicycles with red, white, and blue bunting and American flags so they can join the throng.

Everyone in the community is invited to join in. But, participants must sport the national colors.

And, smile.

And, wave.

Grandpa drives them to the starting point of the parade. Gets them in their places. Shows them whom to follow. Cautions them not to pass, even if the pace slows.

Their Nana and I wait at the house, anxious for the parade to start, eager to see my children in it.

For what seems like an eternity in the blazing July sun, we view the festive procession.

Uncle Sam, the Grand Marshall, leads the way in a mule-drawn wagon. (Did I mention, we are in the south?)

Behind him come the tractors. Police cars. Fire trucks. Floats from local churches and businesses. Shriners in fez caps riding their absurdly delightful motor scooters and go-carts.

And, of course, the local politicians. Is any parade complete without them?

But, no sign yet of Daniel and Sarah.

"Oh, wait, I see them!" I say. "Right behind the John Deere float!"

Sure enough. Here they come. Pedaling, waving, smiling. And, sweating!

They veer off the parade path to join us.

"That was so much fun!" Declares Daniel.

"Mom, you have to do this with us next year," Sarah says, giving me a hug.

"I just might do that," I tell her. "I just might . . .
~
I see a parade of people in today's scripture, excitedly following the Samaritan woman who has brought them marvelous news. As they process, they call and invite anyone and everyone along their route to join them. To come and see for themselves the man who is the Messiah.

The Christ.

Our Savior.

And, the Grand Marshall who leads us in this parade called Life.

Are you inviting others to join in His parade? To follow Him?

Will you pray with me?
We thank you, Father, for sending Your Son, our Savior, to lead us and guide us, to love and forgive us. Help us to let others know that His invitation to join in His parade is open to all. Let us march together in Christian unity and love. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 30, 31 or 42, 43
Genesis 12:9-13:1
Hebrews 7:18-28
John 4:27-42

Friday, January 20, 2012

Out of Your Comfort Zone!


John 4:24
"God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth."

For years, I attend the Episcopal Church. As in Catholic and Anglican worship, Episcopal services are liturgical and traditional. Every type of service or sacrament is dictated by The Book of Common Prayer. Deviation from these formal rites is a rarity.

There is something marvelously reassuring in knowing what to expect when going to church. I can walk into any Episcopal church anywhere in the country and follow right along. Assured no punches will be pulled. No detours taken.

The rich, reverent language of The Book of Common Prayer unites us. Keeps us focused. Kneeling. Standing. Praying.

Everyone is literally on the same page during worship.

All led as one to the pinnacle of the service: The Holy Eucharist. The Great Thanksgiving. Holy Communion.

We are in our comfort zone . . .

While there is solace in the sameness of each Sunday service, there is also the risk of complacency. The prayers are rote. The order of service is routine.

Chiseled in stone, it can grow as cold as one . . .

It is all too easy for the seasoned Episcopalian to sleepwalk through what should be a spirit-filled, glorious experience of corporate worship.

For the words, meant to bring honor and praise to God, to become meaningless, stale in their repetition.

Uninspiring. Lifeless.

A recitation, not revelation.

Liturgically locked, not free in spirit.

Or, in truth . . .
~
Do you attend a liturgical church? Are you going through the motions every Sunday, or are you worshiping God in all spirit and in truth?

Will you pray with me?
Let us remember, Father, that you are spirit and we should ever worship and praise You with hearts, minds, souls, and strength in that same spirit. Infuse the words we recite and the prayers we offer each week with new life, vigor and meaning. Let our worship of You be filled with awe, with joy, with thanksgiving. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 31 or 35
Genesis 11:27-12:8
Hebrews 7:1-17
John 4:16-26

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"I Wanna Hold Your Hand!"

Psalm 37:23-24
The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

My granddaughter, Virginia Rose, is pulling herself up on furniture, the sides of her playpen, and on our pant legs since she is a year old. Any day now, we think, she will be walking.

Not so!

When she stands, she points her toes like
a ballerina. No flat feet here!

This, of course, makes it impossible to have balance or traction without holding on to something.

Thirteen mont
hs. Fourteen months.

Crawling as though her arms and legs have wings.

But, still, no walking.

Fifteen months. Sixteen months.

Walking, but on her knees! Have you ever seen a child do that? I know we haven't!

Diva in Diapers!

And, yes, still a crawling champion.

In her seventeenth month, mom and dad decide it's time for a little "hand-up" to help Virginia gain confidence in walking.

They take each of her hands in one of theirs and help her walk along with them.

They practice. At home. The store. The playground.

For Virginia, it's just a game. One she willingly plays. Day after day.

And, just before
the end of December, she takes her first real steps. All on her own!

She is still crawling, walking on her knees, and reaching for hands to help steady her when she walks. But, e
very day sees her stepping more and more in the right direction.

Because of the guidance and help of firm and loving hands. Ones that uphold her. And, keep her feet from stumbling.
~
When in your life have you stumbled, but not fallen, because God had you by the hand?

Will you pray with me?
Father, we can be confident in our walk with You for we know You are walking with us, holding our hand, ready to catch us when we fall. We praise You for the precious gift of children who need our love and protection just as we need Yours. We thank you for the graciousness of Your might hand. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 37:1-18 or 37:19-42
Genesis 11:1-9
Hebrews 6:13-20
John 4:1-15





Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Testify!


John 3:33
Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true.

When I decide to go back to school to earn a degree in education, I have many years experience as a paraprofessional. Enough, I hope, when matched with a stellar college record, to earn me a teaching position in a private school where a state issued certificate is not necessarily required.

I apply at a local Christian academy. My interview with the headmaster goes swimmingly. By the end of the week, the call comes which confirms I am hired.

Ecstatic doesn't begin to describe how I feel!

It is the end of the school year. I have all summer, with pay from my current position, to look forward to a job as a true teacher and the higher income it promises.

Jump to the middle of August. School begins in two weeks. I get a call . . .

The headmaster who hired me resigns over the summer. A new one is in place. He wants to meet with me. The secretary doesn't say why . . .

A host of fears and speculations plague my mind.

Does he just want to meet me? Is there something he doesn't like from looking at my application? Can he decide to let me go? Fire me? All because I was hired by someone else?

I shudder at the thought. I have already resigned from my paraprofessional job. What will I do now?

Nothing. Other than meet with him. Face the music. Take whatever comes as God's plan for me at this juncture in my life.

The day of our appointment arrives. I cloak my nervousness with what I pray is a winning, confident smile. I purposely get to the school early and wait in the front office. The secretary is friendly and conversational which puts me more at ease.

Right on time, the new headmaster appears in the doorway and cordially invites me into his office. We shake hands, take our seats, and exchange the customary pleasantries.

Then, the bomb drops . . .

Unexpected. Unanticipated. Unprepared for.

"Ms. Murdy, would you please share with me how and when you were saved?"

My mind races. Back to the Sunday I chose to return to the Episcopal Church. The voice I heard booming in my head the moment I entered the nave.

"Welcome home!"

That's when I knew. That's how I knew. It is my testimony. It is God's truth.

But, will it be enough for the headmaster?

As the words tumble forth, I pray he hears my heart.

When I finish, there is a broad smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye.

He extends his hand to me once again and says, in the very words I heard from the Lord -

"Welcome home!"
~
When and how did Jesus become Lord of your life?

Will you pray with me?
Thank you, Father, for the saving grace of Your Son. Without His sacrifice, we would be lost in a world of sin and darkness, forever separated from Your love. Because of Him, we can know and serve You as Your children. And, when we are called to Heaven, we can count on hearing You say, "Welcome home!" Amen.

Readings
Psalms 38 or 119:25-48
Genesis 9:18-29
Hebrews 6:1-12
John 3:22-36


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Light of the World, You Stepped Out Into Darkness . . ."

John 3:21
But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Mike is up and out of the house well before daylight and on his way to work.

It's his birthday. He wishes to take the day off, but his schedule doesn't permit it. Back to back meetings. Conference calls. Last minute lunch scheduled by an essential client.

It's his birthday. No one at work acknowledges it. Even Emma, his wife, who never forgets anyone's birthday, doesn't leave a card at the table as she has done every year of their marriage.

She doesn't even get up with him to fix the coffee. To sit a few moments together before the day with all its hectic pace and demands begins.

No card. No call. No text . . .

It's his birthday. The meetings are one big yawn. Lunch gives him heartburn. The conference calls are unproductive.

And, it's nearing the end of the day . . .

No card. No call. No text . . .

"How could she forget?" Mike says angrily as he grabs his briefcase, leaves his cubicle, and heads for his car.

And, the long commute. The rush hour traffic. On a Friday. On his birthday . . .

Arriving home in the dark. After leaving for work in the dark.

Dark. Dark. Dark.

His mood. The drive. The house.

The house???

He pulls into the driveway. Parks next to Emma's car.

Not a light to be seen.

Not even on the porch for a welcome.

Mike rummages around in his glove box for a flashlight. A trip on the stairs would not be a happy ending to this most unhappy birthday.

"What's going on here?" He grumbles, irate and irritated.

He makes it safely up the walk, the stairs, and onto the eerily gloomy porch.

As he fumbles for the key which unlocks the door, a terrifying thought hits him.

It's all dark. Emma's car is here. What if something awful has happened to Emma? Did someone break in while I was at work? Did they hurt Emma? Did they . . .

He can't bring himself to finish that thought.

Frantically, he turns the key and throws the door wide.

"Emma! Emma! Are you here? Are you alright?"

"SURPRISE!!!"

The room is instantly ablaze with light. And, abounding with friends. Smiling, laughing, shouting, "Happy Birthday, Mike!"

And, there's his precious Emma, flying to him, wrapping him tightly in a hug he will never forget. Kissing him smack on the lips in front of God and everybody.

"Happy Birthday, honey! It was so hard to keep tonight a secret!"

Mike smiles broadly, and realizes it's the first one he's worn all day.

"I love you, Emma," he whispers. "You are the light of my life."

Then, turning to the guests, he whoops, "PARTY ON!"
~
When you were walking in darkness, who shone the light of Christ into your life?

Will you pray with me?
We are all in the dark, Father, until Your light breaks through. Let the light of Christ fill our hears with love and joy. May we shine His light into the darkness of a hurting world. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 26, 28 or 36, 39
Genesis 9:1-17
Hebrews 5:7-14
John 3:16-21

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Let's Go Fly a Kite, Up to the Highest Height . . ."


John 3:8
"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

It is a brisk and blustery day in March. The sun is shining and there isn't a cloud in the sky. What a spectacular day to play outside!

My brother, Bill, and I are running around with friends on the spacious field behind our apartments. That's when Dad appears in the doorway. With a big surprise . . .

"It's a kite!" I yell to Bill as both of us race full tilt down the hill to meet our father.

"What do you think of this?" He asks, holding up the brilliantly yellow kite with its flowing tail of white rags tied to the bottom.

"It's great! Can we fly it now?"

"What are all these things?" Asks Bill, pointing at the tail.

"These will give some weight to the kite," Dad explains. "The wind is so strong today, it would put the kite into a tailspin up there otherwise. Ready to give her a test flight?"

"Yes! Yes!" We shout, clapping our hands and jumping up and down.

"Okay, now, stand back so I can run the kite into the wind."

With that, Dad takes off. We watch in amazement as the kite soars upward, its paper crackling and snapping, its tail wiggling like a sidewinder.

Up! Up! Up!

Dad lets out more string. Then, more. Then, more.

Until our kite is nothing but a tiny speck of sunlight yellow in the azure heavens.

"I've never seen one go this high!" Dad exclaims jubilantly, his strong hands grasping the stick upon which the string is firmly tied.

"I can hardly see it!" I declare.

"It's way up there," says Bill. "Is it high enough to reach the moon?"

Dad laughs, "Afraid not. But, yes, it's way up there. It's going to take some time and patience to bring it down safely."

"Bring it down? But, you just got it up there!" I protest.

"Don't worry," he assures me. "I'll bring it back slowly. You'll have plenty of time to see it dancing in the wind."

And, so, we do.

Savoring every movement of the wondrous, yellow kite.
~
Will you soar like a kite on the wind of the Holy Spirit, letting Him take you, dancing, that much closer to Heaven?

Will you pray with me?
May we all be like the yellow kite, Father, floating, flying, frolicking on the wind of Your Holy Spirit. In Him, we feel Your presence and know Your divine will for us. Let us soar in the surety of Your gracious love for us. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 25 or 9, 15
Genesis 8:6-22
Hebrews 4:14-5:6
John 2:23-3:15

Sunday, January 15, 2012

"Rain Down on Us, Rain Down on Us, Lord . . ."


Genesis 7:4
"Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made."

The date is September 22, 2009.

I leave for work in the pouring rain.

When I arrive at school, there is hope for my umbrella against the driving sheets of water. I make a dash for it.

Chilled and dripping, I watch as buses disgorge an endless stream of water-logged children. They flood into the building, shouting and calling out to one another.

Soaked shoes leaving wet prints on the floor.

Marking a slick trail toward lockers and classrooms.

"Mrs. Orlando, have you ever seen it rain so hard?" Asks Donnie, one of my homeroom students.

The note of worry in his voice is unmistakable.

"No, dear, I haven't," I answer honestly, but offer what I hope is a comforting smile.

"Isn't it supposed to flood? That's what we heard on the radio. Why didn't they cancel school?"

"Probably, because school has never been canceled on account of rain. Try not to worry, Donnie. Everything will be alright."

But, it isn't.

First period. Second period. Third period.

Still, the opened heavens unleash their fury.

Rumors of early dismissal begin to fly. By lunch, they are confirmed.

The ban on cellphone use at school is lifted as children are urged to contact parents.

Here come the buses.

Not a moment too soon.

For surrounding roads are flooding. Fast!

Administrators stay with the children awaiting rides. Teachers are dismissed.

Again, a drenching dash for me. I am praying to make it home. For everyone to make it home . . .

A twenty minute commute becomes a two-hour nightmare.

Every route I know is shut down by creeks raging over their banks.

Where to turn? What to do?

Just before panic sets in, I remember that Danny is working at home today.

I call him, but not before I notice my cell battery is dangerously low. And, I have no way to charge it in the car.

He gives me directions, thankfully, before my phone dies.

And, I'm off! Only to discover another road block . . .

"Stay calm," I reassure myself as I turn around.

I pray harder than ever.

There is a road on my right with a familiar name. I take the turn. Take the chance.

"Please, Lord, let this bring me home!"

It's long. Twisty and sinuous. Slick with rain.

But, not flooded . . .

It leads to higher ground.

It leads me home . . .
~
Do troubles seem to be flooding your world today?

Will you pray with me?
When troubled waters threaten to drown us, Father, help us to remember that You will ride out the storm with us. Let Your grace and mercy ever rain down on us. May we give You thanks in all things. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 148, 149, 150 or 114, 115
Genesis 7:1-10, 17-23
Ephesians 4:1-16
Mark 3:7-19

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"We Have Never Seen Anything Like This!"

Mark 2:12
He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"

Passion 2012 is held at the Georgia Dome, a venue more accustomed to catering to football fans than 42,000 college-aged, Christian youth.

At the dome, they have a rule about bottled drinks. You can't take the lid back to your seat. Why? Because they have no end of problems with people chucking the tops at others or throwing them onto the field.

I think this is one rule which could have been rescinded for Passion 2012.

Danny and I are more and more amazed with each session we attend. Crowds of these young people wait patiently, quietly in the freezing cold for the doors of the dome to open. When they do, there is no pushing, shoving, or running. They file in in an orderly, mannerly fashion.

As the dome begins to fill, we have to stand up plenteous times for students to get to their seats. We always hear an "excuse me" or "I'm so sorry to make you get up" or "I promise, this is the last time" as he is going to his seat or she is exiting to use the restroom. To a person, every one of these young people is smiling, polite, agreeable.

Each scheduled session begins ten to fifteen minutes later than advertised. There is no booing, no demanding chants, hand-clapping, or foot-stomping. The only signs of restlessness or impatience are expressed in the sporadic flights of paper airplanes, doing "the wave", or lighting the apps on their cellphones which imitate the look of a lighter. What a bedazzling sight that is!

When a band takes the stage, all are up on their feet, eager to sing and clap along with the praise music. Which they do. With incomparable energy.

But, when Pastor Giglio gives his welcome and call to prayer, or when the guest speaker for the session begins his or her presentation, you can hear a pin drop. Hardly a soul leaves their seats. They pay rapt attention. Many take notes.

I have never seen anything like this before . . .

Never been in this enormity of a crowd that wasn't rowdy, boisterous, obnoxious.

I gaze in wonder.

In awe.

As the mighty hand of God covers this place.

Uniting the many as on in His Holy Name.

All for His great glory . . .
~
Are you, like these young people, setting a Christ-like example for those you meet today?

Will you pray with me?
We give thanks, Father, for those who minister to our youth, who point them and guide them in Your direction. We pray for them and for this generation they mentor. May Your gracious blessings be upon them always. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 18:1-20 or 18:21-50
Isaiah 41:17-29
Ephesians 2:11-22
Mark 2:1-12

Friday, January 13, 2012

Knock, and the Door Shall Be Opened . . .

Mark 1:37
When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you."

For an event as enormous as Passion 2012 to be successful, 42,000 college students from around the country and the world need to feel welcome, at ease, at home.

This is the job of the "Door Holder", 1,700 adult volunteers who meet, greet, and assist the students in every way imaginable.

Whether they are directing the huge crowd in and out of the Georgia Dome, lining the sidewalk to guide them to the building where box lunches are distributed, or steering them through the gargantuan Georgia World Congress Center for registration and group Bible studies, the Door Holders are ever warm, cheerful, and caring.

Filled with God's love for these young people.

Happy to help.

Content in the joy that comes with serving others.

Even when the "other" is not a college student.

A Door Holder is inside the GWCC when she is approached by a woman whose name badge indicates she is a custodial supervisor. Her face is the epitome of bewilderment. Her arms are crossed tightly over her chest.

"What is happening here?" The woman, visibly trembling, asks the Door Holder.

Though puzzled at how a custodial supervisor could not know the name of the event taking place, she smiles and politely offers the obvious answer.

"This is Passion 2012."

"Yes, yes, I know," says the woman, patting her chest agitatedly. "What's happening here? In here? I've never felt this way before. So . . . so . . . full! What is it?"

The Door Holder knows precisely how to answer.

"God is in this place. That's what the fullness is you feel inside. It's the loving presence of the Lord Jesus."

"Oh! Oh! Then I must know about this Jesus. I must!

Right then. Right there. The Door Holder shares the good news of Jesus Christ.

Within minutes of hearing the Gospel, the custodial supervisor drops to her knees and welcomes Jesus into her heart . . .

This Door Holder lives up to her title.

She holds open the door which leads to the Lord.
~
How can you be a Door Holder in the life of someone today?

Will you pray with me?
Thank you, Father, for being with all of us at Passion 2012. Your splendor and glory of Your presence blessed us. We rejoice in the redemption of the woman who was lost before she found You. We pray to become Door Holders for all who are searching for You. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 119:1-24 or 12, 13, 14
Isaiah 41:1-6
Ephesians 2:1-10
Mark 1:29-45

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Unchained Melody

Hand of Hope constructed at Passion 2012. Each white flag represents 1,000 people in slavery.

John 15:15
I no longer call you servants*, because a servant does not know his master's business. I have called you friends, for everything I learned from my father I have made known to you.
*slave

27 million people.

Enslaved around the world.

A staggering statistic.

There are more slaves in the 21st Century than at any other time in human history. Trapped. Exploited by sex trafficking. Sold into service. Bound by indentured servitude.

In chains . . .

Men, women, children . . . especially, children . . . abused and tormented . . .

With no future. No hope to live the life God has destined for them.

27 million . . .

A face behind each number.

Hearts longing to be free. Praying for release. Praying for strength.

Praying for a miracle . . .

Passion 2012 - A Generation United for Freedom.

Forty-two-thousand college-aged students attend this four-day Christian conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Here, they are made personally aware of the plight of slaves around the world. And, in their own backyards.

The hope at Passion 2012 is to raise $1 million in donations to Christian organizations who are combating the evils of slavery and rescuing and restoring its victims.

To lead the charge. To be the change.

To free these 27 million children of God . . .

The outpouring of donations from these young people is phenomenal. In four days, they raise not one, but almost three million dollars! An anonymous donor, touched by the efforts of these students, brings the final total to $3.5 million!

What a happy ending!

For a new beginning.

In hope . . .
~
Sadly, you and I, as consumers, contribute unwittingly to the practice of slavery through the products we demand and purchase. Take a moment to visit www.slaveryfootprint.org and complete their survey. Undoubtedly, what you learn will make you think twice about what you buy. I know I will in the future!

You can still make a difference in the fight against slavery by adding your donation to www.268generation.com/passion2012.

Will you commit to freeing a child of God today?

Will you pray with me?
We are all your children, Father. Open our hearts to see the faces behind the statistics, to hear their cries for freedom, their prayers for dignity, for hope and a future. Let us be the hands and feet of Jesus who claimed us not as slaves, but as friends. Bless, we pray, those who suffer in slavery and those who diligently work to set them free. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 98, 99, (100)
Genesis 49:1-2, 8-12
Colossians 3:18-4:6
John 15:1-16





Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Apple's Fall . . .


John 14:7
"If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree . . .

It is Parent-Teacher Conference Week. I always look forward to these one-on-one meetings with parents to discuss their child's progress and get to know them better.

I like discovering who lies behind straight-A Alice, struggling Sam, hyperactive Harry, chatty-chatty Charlotte, insolent Ian, shy Shirley, boisterous Barry, sweet, sweet Sue.

The conferences are booked for twenty minute intervals.

Within the first five minutes of interacting with the parents, I know . . .

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree . . .

"I always made good grades at school. Alice pushes herself to excel. We are so proud of her and make sure she knows it."

"Sam has never liked school. No surprise here. I never liked school, either."

"I have to admit, it's hard for me to sit still whether at home or at work. I guess Harry takes after me."

"Oh, yes, from the day Charlotte began talking, she hasn't stopped! Blah! Blah! Blah! All day long! Like I was telling my sister the other day, oh, did you know she has a child in this school, too? Nathan Smith. Did you teach him last year? I thought surely you did, oh, but, then again, sis never mentioned you. She would have mentioned you, you know; she talks about all Nathan's teachers and rarely likes any of them, so, I'm sure I would have heard about you before you taught Charlotte . . ."

Whew!

Ian, Shirley, Barry, and Sue?

I will leave them to your imagination.

Because, by now, I'm sure you see where this is going.

And, the apple's fall?

You know exactly where it lands . . .
~
Are you looking, really looking, at Jesus today, so you may know the Father?

Will you pray with me?
So often, Father, we don't see that Your Son, the apple of Your eye, leads us directly to You. We do want to know You. May we humble ourselves and listen to Jesus with our whole being. Help us learn to follow Him so that me might ever follow You. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 148, 150 or 91, 22
Isaiah 55:3-9
Colossians 3:1-17
John 14:6-14

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"Don't Know Much About History . . ."

Colossians 2:8
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

"Catholics aren't Christians!"

My breath exits with a whoosh. I'm floored!

Where does this sixth grade girl get her ideas?

Regaining my composure as best I can, I ask, "What do you mean by that, Lindy?"

"Oh, you know," she declares, as if I do. "They baptize babies. Everyone knows that's wrong. You get baptized after you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior."

I know I shouldn't push the envelope, but curiosity gets the better of me.

"Is that all? Is that the only reason you think Catholics aren't Christians?"

"Oh, no, ma'am," Lindy continues confidently, "they have wine at communion. Everyone knows Christians don't drink. And, they confess to a priest of all things, not to Jesus directly."

The word priest escapes her lips in a venomous hiss.

"Who is telling you these things?" I say, even though I'm sure I'm breaching some kind of boundary here.

"Lindy's chest puffs with pride as she announces, "My pastor! My mom says he knows everything about being a Christian."

But, nothing about history . . .

"I see . . . so, if Catholics aren't Christians, does that mean they won't go to Heaven when they die?"

Her eyes flash as though inflamed by the very place she now envisions.

"They burn in hell!"

Really? Now, this should come as a shock to the world's 1.2 billion Catholics . . .
~
Lindy's pastor shepherds a mega-church. How many others, besides her family, have been led astray?

Abandoned to the wolves of fear and prejudice and ignorance?

What of the myriad other pastors pontificating from the pulpit?

The televangelists who preach a gospel of health and wealth? Assured prosperity?

But, only for those sheep who open their wallets.

Wide!

Where are the good shepherds . . . ?

The ones who point directly to Christ. His love. His teaching. His salvation.

Not pointing their fingers at others.

I pray the church you attend is led by one led by Christ . . .
~
What can you do in your daily life to point others to Jesus?

Will you pray with me?
We know, Father, that none of us is perfect. Like sheep, we have all gone astray. We need the Good Shepherd, Lord Jesus, to lead us on the right paths for His sake and for ours. May those who pastor us from the pulpit point only to Christ. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 138, 139:1-17 (18-23) or 147
Jeremiah 23:1-8
Colossians 2:8-23
John 10:7-17

Monday, January 9, 2012

"You're My Soul and My High Inspiration . . ."

Colossians 1:29
For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.

Writing brings me such joy and satisfaction.

Writing for others, as I do with my devotions, takes that joy and satisfaction to immeasurable heights.

Do I write because I have a gift for it? Yes. To not acknowledge and act upon a talent the Lord has given me would be to deny Him and His desires for my life.

Is it easy for me? Yes, and no. Sometimes, the words literally fly off the keyboard. Other times, I pause. I ponder. I pace. I pray for inspiration.

It always comes . . . I've learned, on those days, to have patience with myself. To rest in God's timing.

Do I write every day? No. Because there are holidays, errands, events, and obligations which demand my time and attention.

So, in crafting my daily devotions, I stay a week to ten days ahead of the scheduled posting date. That way, I am prepared when expected, or unexpected, interruptions occur.

Do I always feel "up to it" when I sit down at the computer? Heavens, no! But, I remember His commission to me. I recall His promise.

To stay by my side . . .

As I read scripture. Choose a verse. Meditate upon it.

And, allow Him to show me the story He wants me to tell.

He hasn't failed me. Not once.

And, I know He never will . . .

He is within my soul. He is my inspiration.

When I toil, He shares my burden.

When I struggle, He takes me in His arms . . .

It has been said that writing is the most lonely of professions.

I don't buy it.

For, I am never alone.

My Jesus is with me always . . .

When do you feel the closest to the Lord?

Will you pray with me?
Thank you, Father, for the gifts and talents you have given to us. Help us to use them for Your honor and glory. Let us ever feel Your comforting presence in our lives, guiding, showing, teaching. Be our inspiration! Amen.

Readings
Psalms 121, 122, 123, or 131, 132
Isaiah 45:14-19
Colossians 1:24-2:7
John 8:12-19

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Down by the Riverside


John 7:37-38
On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them."

It is the last full day of our honeymoon in the Nantahala Mountains of North Carolina. The April sun is shining, the sky is a brilliant blue, and the temperature is balmy.

Danny and I decide to pack a lunch and head back to a park we passed several times on our many adventures. It rests along the edge of the Nantahala River.

Surely, we think, there will be a spot along the banks just perfect for a picnic.

When we arrive at our destination and disembark from the car, the first thing I hear is the voice of the river. Distant, yet constant. Ever moving. Ever flowing.

Calling . . .

We gather up our paraphernalia and assess the direction we should go.

"This way," says Danny, pointing across a meticulously mowed field sporting its gleaming spring green. "The walk will be easy enough while we look for a break in the bushes to get down to the river."

The promise of an effortless walk is welcome as we are toting not only picnic supplies, including a well-worn quilt to sit on, but also Danny's guitar and songbook. We plan to make an afternoon of it!

That is, if we find the right place . . .

After about a minute, Danny spies a potential break in the bracken which lines the river's edge.

"Look here!" He exclaims. "It's a bit overgrown, but this is definitely a path. I think it leads right to that rock overlooking the river."

And, so it does!

We slip and slide a bit on slick leaves, dodge a few briars, but make it unscathed to the coveted rock.

Where the voice of the Nantahala is large and clear and strong.

We stand motionless for several minutes, listening to the sonorous song of rushing waters. Watching the dazzling sunlight play and dance upon the coursing rapids. Drinking in the splendor and beauty of our surroundings.

The river is alive. An endless flow. A perpetual rhythm. An eternal spring.

The Living Water . . .

Alive in our hearts.

Flowing with endless love.

Perpetual forgiveness.

Eternal peace . . .

Will you quench your thirst with the Living Water today?

Let us pray:
Thank you, Lord, for the gift of Your Son, Jesus the Christ, the Living Water, who soothes our thirsty souls. Let us drink deeply of His love, His truth, His Word, His grace. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 117, 118 or 112, 113
Exodus 17:1-7
Colossians 1:15-23
John 7:37-52

Saturday, January 7, 2012

What Are You Hungry For?

Deuteronomy 8:3
He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

When I am hungry, really hungry, I am not the person you want to be around.

I am sullenly quiet. I'm shaky. I can't think straight. My mind is consumed by the irritable gnawing in my stomach.

I feel grumpy. Out-of-sorts. At odds with the world.

As close to fasting as I will ever come. And, live to tell about it.

I . . . Must . . . Eat . . .

One bite. Two bites. Three.

Slowly, steadily, my strength returns. My head clears. I find my voice.

And, I am smiling, content, at peace.

I am no longer the self running on empty.

I am the self, filled and fulfilled.

A self, after famishing, more grateful than ever for the nourishment God provides.

For our bodies.

For our souls.

Manna from heaven. The Bread of Life.

Our Savior.

Our Lord.

Have you fed on the word of the Lord today?

Will you pray with me?
We thank you, Father, for providing for our physical needs. May we always be grateful for You bread which feeds the body and the soul. Let us bow before You with humbleness and thankfulness of heart. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 103 or 114, 115
Deuteronomy 8:1-3
Colossians 1:1-14
John 6:30-33, 48-51

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bearing Gifts, We Traverse Afar . . .

Matthew 12:21 (Isaiah 42:1-4)
"And in his name the Gentiles will hope."

(This post was inspired by the book Revelation of the Magi by Brent Landau.)

A sign in the heavens. A lone star. A new star.

As brightly shining by day as by night.

It is for this the Magi have waited. Generation upon generation.

Waited . . . And, watched . . .

In faith. In trust. In hope.

For His coming into the world.

A king like no other.

The star's radiance conveys the message loud and clear.

He is born! The King of kings! The Lord of lords! Follow me! Follow me and see!

In unbridled excitement and overwhelming joy, the caravan is assembled.

Food. Water. Clothing. Bedding. Camels to carry it all.

And, most importantly, to bring the gifts meant only for Him.

Stored for untold ages. In a secret cave known only to the Magi. Now, reverently, ceremoniously, brought to light.

Gold - He is our King.

Frankincense - He is our High Priest.

Myrrh - He is born to die for our sins.

Meticulously, painstakingly packed.

The star, dancing in their eyes, begs their journey to begin.

A long, arduous, dangerous, unpredictable trek upon which, in faith, in trust, in hope, they cannot wait to embark.

And, as they travel, following the steadfast star, the miraculous occurs.

Rough and rocky roads are smooth and safe. Mountains melt before their approach. Streams appear when thirst comes upon them. Their food is replenished daily.

It is never too hot. Never too cold.

And, they do not grow weary.

They follow and follow and follow the star. For weeks, for months, for years.

In faith. In trust. In hope.

Until that glorious and joyous day when the star comes to rest over the place where the child, Jesus, the Messiah, is staying.

In humility and awe, the Magi fall down at His feet in sublime worship.

They present to gifts meant only for Him.

Saved and cherished for this very moment in time.

When God became flesh and dwelt among us.

They, though Gentiles, witness to the truth that Jesus, Son of God, most high King, has come to save one and all.

And, they return home, rejoicing in the spirit, resting in the hope of salvation.

Does today find you rejoicing in the spirit, resting in the hope of salvation?

Will you pray with me?
Thank you, Father, for the witness of the Magi to Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. At this celebration of Epiphany, may we all, like they, fall to our knees to worship our King, our High Priest, our Savior. May our hearts be ever filled with faith and trust and hope. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 46, 97 or 96, 100
Isaiah 49:1-7
Revelation 21:22-27
Matthew 12:14-21


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Only You, Jesus, Only You . . .


John 11:12
"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

If only . . .

Regrets. Our lives can be littered with them.

If only I had done . . . If only I had chosen . . . If only I had said . . .

Poor decisions. Bad timing. Wrong choices.

Something we wish we had said.

Something we wish we hadn't.

If only he had done . . . If only she had chosen . . . If only they had said . . .

The shortcomings of others loom larger than life.

A glaring mirror in which our own failures are reflected.

Poor decisions. Bad timing. Wrong choices.

Something we wish they had said.

Something we wish, with all our heart, they hadn't.

If only . . . then . . .

A solid marriage. Better job. Steady income. Responsible children. Reliable friends.

Happiness . . .

Jesus, if only You had been there . . . If only, Jesus . . .

But, He was there. And, He is here.

It is not if only, Jesus. It is ONLY Jesus!

Only He can wipe our slates clean. Cancel out the poor decisions. Cover the bad timing. Cast aside the wrong choices.

Only Jesus can forgive.

But, only if we let Him . . .

Are there "only ifs" in your life for which you or others need forgiveness?

Will you pray with me?
Help us, Father, to learn from our past mistakes and not carry our regrets into the future. In true repentance, let us seek the forgiveness of Jesus for ourselves and others who have hurt us. Heal us in mind, body, and spirit that we might live to serve You and do Your will going forward. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 2 or 110:1-5 (6-7)
Jonah 2:2-9
Ephesians 6:10-20
John 11:17-27, 38-44

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pinning Down the Truth

John 9:10
"How then were your eyes opened?" They asked.

A popular birthday party game when I am growing up is "Pin the Tail on the Donkey". The elements of the game are simple: Post a picture on the wall of a donkey minus its tail; give a tail to every player; blindfold each in turn; twirl the person around until she is dizzy and disoriented; face her in the direction of the donkey, and hope she can pin the tail close to the animal's rump.

I hate this game . . .

Partly, because I cannot stand being blindfolded.

Mostly, because of one humiliating experience at one particular birthday party.

"Who wants to be first?" Asks the mother of the birthday girl.

Of course, never having played before, I want to go first. My six-year-old enthusiasm is uncontainable. The mom notices. She chooses me.

"Okay, Martha, here's your donkey tail."

I make sure to grasp it firmly, determined to place it at its proper destination.

"Now, for the blindfold."

The thick cloth descends over my eyes. I can't see a thing. Panic simmers just below the surface.

Then, she ties it. Tight! So tight, it painfully pinches the roots of my hair. Presses mercilessly against my eye sockets.

Had my throat been the bandana's victim, I would surely have choked to death.

"And, here comes the fun part," the mom announces. "Let's spin you round and round!"

Her hands grip my shoulders like a vise. She whirls me so roughly, my feet are literally dancing in an effort to keep me upright.

When she finally stops and points me in the right direction, my head is a twirling top. I stagger like a sodden lush, lost and reeling, toward the goal. Arms outstretched. Tail in hand.

Bingo!

I stick the tail to the paper.

The gales of laughter which ensue tell me I have missed the mark.

Big time . . .

My head is jerked backwards, my hair yanked, as the mother tears away the bandana from my eyes.

And, through tears I am unable to fight, I am so relieved to see once again, I hardly mind that I placed the donkey's tail right between his eyes.

"Who's next?"

I retreat to a far corner, dry my tears on my sleeve, and watch.

That's when my eyes are truly opened . . .

Every little girl takes her turn. The bandanas are tied gently. The spinning is minimal.

All come closer to the mark than I.

The birthday girl's lands squarely on the target.

It is my first experience with not being liked. I don't understand . . .

Up until this moment, I am blind to unkindness in this world.

But, now I see . . .

When, in your life, were your eyes opened to the truth?

Will you pray with me?
We ask, Father, that You keep our eyes open and focused upon Your truth. We are never lost nor forsaken when we seek to walk with You. Help us to open the eyes of others to Your Word, Your love, Your grace. Amen.

Readings
Psalms 85, 87 or 89:1-29
Joshua 3:14-4:7
Ephesians 5:1-20
John 9:1-12, 35-38

Happy Birthday, Virginia Rose!

Psalm 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Seven years ...