Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hold Your Tongue!

James 3:5
Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

Have you ever posted an innocuous spark of a comment on Facebook only to have it burst like wildfire with "likes", comments and sharing? Most of the time, the posts of friends offer lively, witty, and humorous remarks that fan the flame in others to joining in the fun; tongues are wagging gleefully and harmlessly. There are instances, however, almost always in conversations stemming from some political source or controversial article, that can begin jauntily enough, but ultimately degenerate into downright nasty, degrading, and insulting commentaries better left unsaid no matter how self-righteous or indignant the offended and/or offending party is. And, when the profanity enters, I simply close the door to the whole shebang.

James knew that our tongues, albeit small, were the most difficult members of our bodies to tame. With the rise of social networking, the words we type to friends should be regarded as carefully as it we were speaking to them in person or on the phone. Perhaps, with the lack of inflection and nuance the written word conveys, we should be all the more vigilant in subduing our tongues, especially if we harbor the tiniest shred of doubt as to whether or not the reader could wrongly interpret our message. I, unfortunately, and I would suppose a few of you, have learned this the hard way.

As Christians, I believe we have to practice the greatest restraint in matters of the tongue. We are children of the light, but the darkness which would love to envelope us is only a shadowy, slip-of-the-tongue away. If we are put off by or unsure of how to respond to a comment, it is best, for our sake and for the sake of others, to remain tongue-tied. Holding our tongues takes concerted effort, but it is a discipline well worth developing.

Psalms 38 or 119:25-48
1 Kings 9:24-10:13
James 3:1-12
Mark 15:1-11

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lights, Camera, ACTION!

James 2:17
So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

I have to agree with James. Actions speak louder than words. I can profess all the day long to be a Christian, but if people don't perceive me acting like one, how could I possibly hope to bring them to the faith? Admittedly, we are first saved by grace through belief in Christ Jesus and asking Him to be Lord of our lives but, if we truly love Him, we will do what He commanded: To love our neighbor as ourselves. And, that requires action! This is no couch-potato faith; it's a get-our-into-the-world-and-make-disciples-for-Him faith. As the Lord said: "Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40) The world will know we are Christians by our love.

I will leave you today with this question to ponder: If faith is dead apart from works, are works dead apart from faith? There's something to contemplate! I look forward to seeing your thoughts and opinions on the comment feed here or on Facebook.

Blessings, my friends!

Psalms 26, 28 or 36, 39
1 Kings 8:65-9:9
James 2:14-26
Mark 14:66-72

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mom Always Liked You Best!

James 2:1
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.

Back in the late 1960s, audiences were treated to the music and comedy of The Smothers Brothers on various variety shows and on their own show for three seasons. Dick Smothers was the straight-man, and brother, Tommy, was the clown and upstart. One of their famed routines, which never failed to evoke laughter from their viewers, involved Tommy, slowly but surely, losing an argument with Dick and finally, in exasperation at the lack of any better rejoinder, defiantly blurting out, "Mom always like you best!" As a child watching this, I was unsure if it was only a joke of if Tommy really felt his mother had shown favoritism toward Dick as they were growing up together. It made me wonder, quite uncomfortably, I might add, if my own parents liked my brother more than me. With these worries, I struggled to find their skit humorous, and always felt immeasurably sorry for Tommy.

In today's scripture, James exhorts the early church to avoid showing favoritism to any of the members. It seems this church was deferring to their wealthy members while treating the poorer with indifference. This partiality indicated that worldly values were being placed above heavenly ones, and James is anxious to guide them away from such practices which lead not to glory, but to sin. He doesn't tolerate a lip-service faith, but demands one of action where belief in and the following of Christ Jesus is lived out to the letter. If Christ died for all, then all should be welcomed with the same love He showed to us.

Do you perceive partiality or favoritism being played out in your church? Do you struggle with the notion that all who walk through the doors of the sanctuary should be equally accepted? When strangers enter the Sunday service or a Sunday school class for the first time, how are they greeted? How are they treated? Do they feel like Dick, the loved one, or like Tommy, the one not quite loveable enough? Today, think of the ways partiality affects your life and vow to affect change in that arena for the sake of the Lord.

Psalms 25 or 9, 15
2 Chronicles 6:32-7:7
James 2:1-13
Mark 14:53-65

Sunday, August 28, 2011

God's House

1 Kings 8:27
"But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I build?"

Solomon fulfills the dream of his father, David, to build a house for the Lord, a permanent structure where all may come to pray, to worship, and to offer sacrifices to God. It was a spectacular, sprawling edifice, t
estifying, in all its grandeur and opulence, to the overwhelming love of the Jewish people for their God. In spite of all its wonder and resplendence, at its dedication, Solomon confesses that no humanly-created temple could ever hope to contain the greatness that is the Lord's. Of course, he is right. When we build a church or a temple to God's honor and glory, it is how and why we feel His presence in our hearts, minds, and souls when we worship as a community in that place which matters to Him and to us. That made me think about why certain churches appeal to some and not to others, and about churches which have meant so much to me during my life.
When we were in Washington, D.C. this past May, Danny and I were awed and inspired by our nation's cathedral. I don't know if I would feel comfortable attending services in the grand nave as it is overwhelming, but th
ere are several smaller chapels within the structure that I found appealing and inviting. A visit to the National Cathedral should be on everyone's bucket list!

Here is an aerial photo of one of our local mega-churches. I have many friends who attend this church and love it. It seats over 7,000 people! Again, I would feel lost in this venue, but maybe Jesus
likes the idea of feeding the 5,000+ in climate controlled comfort. :)

Not a great photo, but I was compelled to include Holy Trinity Parish as it was the first church I entered when the Lord re-entered me. My children were raised in this place and I have endless and fond memories of my years worshiping there.

This is the church Danny and I presently attend and at which we lead the contemporary praise service. Kennesaw United Methodist is, hands down, one of the friendliest and welcoming churches I've ever been in. If you are looking for a church home in our neck of the woods (Kennesaw, Georgia) or
just visiting the Atlanta area, come give us a try!

Known simply as "The Old Church", it has sat on the outskirts of Emory at Oxford College (Oxford, Georgia) where my father was dean for 12 years. The church was constructed in 1841 and renovated several years ago. Although it is not used for regular worship services, the college and town employ it for special events and occasions.

I hope you enjoyed the photos today; there would have been many more, but Blogger decided I had uploaded enough. Has this ever happened to you? I'd sure like an answer to this one!

Be that as it may, being a member of a faith community is an integral part of the Christian experience. I hope you have a church home you love or, if not, that you are earnestly seeking one. In the meantime, know that God is everywhere, in everything, and living in you. He invites you to worship Him any time and in any place. May God bless you this Sunday and always!

Psalms 148, 149, 150 or 114, 115
1 Kings 8:22-30 (31-40)
1 Timothy 4:7b-16
John 8:47-59

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lord, Save Me!

Psalm 116:3-4
The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the LORD:
"Lord, save me!"

Recently, my mother-in-law, Mimi, gave us the scare of a lifetime. Danny, my husband, had just visited with her on Thursday and all was well, but he felt an inexplicable urgency on Monday to call her from his work. He tried three times before she finally answered. It was then he learned his mother had been vomiting all weekend and hadn't told a soul, thinking, somehow, it would all just go away. Immediately, Danny dropped everything and raced to her home. After some tough-love convincing regarding her need to be in the hospital, Mimi finally relented; Danny bundled her into the car and rushed her to the emergency room. It wasn't a moment too soon.

Mimi was dehydrated and on the brink of kidney failure when she was admitted to the hospital that Monday. It wasn't until Saturday that the doctors felt she was stable enough for the surgery they needed to perform to repair a hernia obstructing her lower intestine. Seeing this feisty, strong-willed woman laying like a frail, wilted flower in her bed, piteously suffering, was almost more than we could bear. "Lord, heal her, save her!" We prayed over and over for a miracle and asked our friend and relatives to do the same. I added Mimi's name to multiple prayer chains and kept everyone updated on her progress which was painfully slow until after her surgery. The cards were stacked so high against this 80-year-old with heart problems and COPD, but knowing that so many were praying for her gave us a tremendous sense of peace and hope.

The good Lord decided it wasn't time to call Mimi just yet. To our amazement and delight, we watched her make huge strides each day after her surgery until, by Thursday, she was deemed well enough to be allowed to go home with conditional arrangements for home health care. What a relief it was to see her beaming face at this news, to hear the child-like excitement in her voice at the prospect of going home, to know that she and we were witnesses to a miracle of healing. God untangled the cords of death which snared her and blessed her with new life. Thanks be to God!

Psalms 20, 21:1-7 (8-14) or 110:1-5 (6-7), 116, 117
1 Kings 7:51-8:21
Acts 28:17-31
Mark 14:43-52

Friday, August 26, 2011


Mark 14:38
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Before my blog was dedicated to daily devotions, a result of God's calling, it was entitled "Martha's Meanderings; I would write intermittently on topics that interested me and which I hoped would be of interest to others. One particularly popular series I offered was centered around Lent with emphasis on what people planned to give up or take on during that penitential and reflective season of the church year. I was duly impressed with both the sacrifices and added, spirit-renewing activities my readers were eager to embark upon for those long and, for some, arduous forty days preceding Easter. Their spirits were, indeed, in it for the long haul, or so it seemed . . .

I wonder . . . For how many did the good and God-inspired intentions fall by the wayside after Lent conceded to Easter? The spirit, so willing and committed in us all, sees a beginning, a process, but the end permits a backslide into former habits and comfortable practices once Lent becomes a thing of the past. How many changes survived the Lenten journey? How many sacrifices and convictions declared transformed us, truly resurrected us into Christ's promise? Did those forty days make a lasting difference, denote a declaration of a heart turned, a mind renewed, a soul reborn?

In the last moments of His life here on earth, Jesus understood, in fullness and with clarity,the entire gambit of what the human spirit can bear. He became one of us to understand us and fill us with a new hope, a renewed spirit. He knew that we can have every good intention in this world to do what is right and honorable, but what we really need are "God-Intentions", the willingness and determination, to place all of our faith and trust in Him to save us from all temptation and shortcomings. We need to pray as He did to the Father: "Not my will, but yours be done." We must know this: in our weakest moments, the Lord gives us strength beyond measure.

Alleluia and amen!

Psalms 16, 17, or 22
1 Kings 5:1-6:1, 7
Acts 28:1-16
Mark 14:27-42

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A New Covenant

Mark 14:24
"This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them.

One of the Biblical definitions for "covenant" at is: the conditional promise made to humanity by God, as revealed in Scripture. The adjective "conditional" lends itself to an "If/Then" situation, i.e., if God's people agree to obey His laws, then they will have His protection. God is always the initiator of these covenants and, repeatedly, throughout the Old Testament, Israel fails to keep up its side of the bargain. In today's scripture, Jesus presents a new covenant to His disciples, the very one that would cement the foundation of the Christian faith: I will shed my blood for you for the forgiveness of your sins; If you believe in Me, Then you will have salvation through Me. We have the freedom to enter into this agreement or, in our wanton use of free will, choose to ignore it.

Whether or not the disciples knew, once and for all, by Jesus' use of the term "covenant" that He was none other than the Son of the Living God is not clear. What is clear, however, is the critical impact the Last Supper had on them. Jesus' commandment to them to break bread and share the cup in remembrance of His sacrificial body and blood is one we can rest assured they faithfully adhered to as we, some 2,000 years later, still celebrate Holy Communion in thanksgiving for and recollection of the Lord's dying on the cross for our sins. Through communion, we enter into Jesus' presence and, with repentant hearts, renew our covenant with Him. In turn, He offers to us His saving grace.

Thanks be to God!

"This is the body, this is the blood,
broken and poured out for all of us.
In this communion, we share in his love.
This is the body, this is the blood." ~ Casting Crowns

Psalms 18:1-20 or 18:21-50
1 Kings 3:16-28
Acts 27:27-44
Mark 14:12-26

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Good and Faithful Servant

Mark 14:9
Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."

Throughout the gospels, it is Jesus who gives to others. he teaches, He feeds, He heals; the blind see, the lame walk, the dumb speak, the dead are restored to life, the hungry are fed with good things, both physically and spiritually. In today's scripture, the tables are turned. A woman, whom Mark does not name, enters the home where Jesus is staying and proceeds to anoint His head with nard, a costly and precious oil in that day and time. The onlookers are horrified! How dare she waste this valuable fragrance which, if sold, could have swelled their shared treasury to a monumental sum? They harshly chastise her until Jesus abruptly halts them: "Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me." (Mark 14:6)

It strikes me as poignantly ironic that the disciples, those closest to Jesus and the very ones who, in their hearts, should know He is infinitely deserving of this gift, grouse and grumble, while the woman, unidentified, but probably a member of His entourage, understands that this Jesus is the Messiah; her sacrificial gift to Him mirrors the light of the sacrifice He will soon make for the salvation of the world. Jesus treasures her selfless and generous act of love toward Him. She is serving Him just as she has seen Him serve, and her altruistic offering, He declares, will be remembered wherever the gospel is preached.

How are you serving Christ in your life? Do others see and sense Him living within you? When at last you depart this veil of tears, how will others remember you? I pray that one day all of us will hear our gracious Lord say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

Psalms 119:1-24 or 12, 13, 14
1 Kings 3:1-15
Acts 27:9-26
Mark 14:1-11

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Mark 13:37
"What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'"

When I roll out of bed in the morning, I am neither alert nor awake. It isn't until I'm sipping on the second cup of coffee that the remnants of drowsiness are dispelled like a morning mist when greeted by blazing sunlight. In the hazy limbo between sleep and wakefulness, my thoughts are scattered and incoherent, and I'm certainly not watching for anything other than the weariness to fade. If the Lord chose this moment to return (or anytime in the night when I'm blissfully slumbering), I would be found delinquent and dilatory in following His command to "Watch!"; that is, of course, if Jesus meant for us to be physically prepared to meet Him. As He was wont to use hyperbole in His teachings, I believe Jesus was using corporeal illustrations to represent the urgent need for our spiritual readiness upon His return. Our souls, adorned like a bride awaiting her groom, should be ever mindful, ever anticipating, ever vigilant in each watch of the day or night.

No one knows the day nor the hour of the Lord's coming. In light of that, we should engage fully in every present moment, neither dwelling unproductively on the past nor projecting disproportionate scenarios for the future. While the one holds precious memories and the other fuels our hopes and dreams, the here and now is, essentially, all we have. We can choose to greet each moment, aware and awake, or we can drift away in dreamy detachment. I hope today you will decide to live in the moment by moment, wakeful, alert, aware, and watching, so you don't miss a minute of this life with which God has blessed you!

Psalms 5, 6 or 10, 11
1 Kings 1:38-2:4
Acts 26:24-27:8
Mark 13:28-37

Monday, August 22, 2011

True Prosperity

Psalm 4:6
Many, LORD, are asking, "Who will bring us prosperity?"
Let the light of your face shine on us.

No mistake about it, our country is in, and has been for longer than I can recall in my lifetime, an economic slump. This is not a comfortable or reassuring place to be. Jobs are lost, businesses sit on their funds, fearful and hesitant to create new positions and generate growth, homes are foreclosed upon, families are stressed and strained beyond measure, college is postponed because of lack of funds and uncertainties. Those who have managed to brave college in these days, with degree in hand, find it nigh impossible to land a job beyond a fast food establishment. Many who were looking at retirement now cling to their jobs tenaciously, fearful of their future should they let go. When will this errant train get back on track? Where is the light at the end of this depressing tunnel? Who, now, will bring us prosperity?

Despite all the doom, gloom, and trepidation faced by many in this day, churches in communities everywhere are reaching out, lending a hand-up, assisting those who are victims of unfortunate economic circumstances. In everything from soup kitchens, to shelters, to job counseling, to food pantries, Christians are replacing fear with faith, despair with hope, worry with reassurance, sorrow with joy. They are loving others as Christ first loved us, freely, generously, and unconditionally. In their faces and in their actions are reflected with brilliance the shining light of the Lord. They know and show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, in whom true prosperity is found.

Will you pray with me? Heavenly Father, Lord and Giver of Life, help us to love as you love, to serve as you serve, and tell the world of the true prosperity found only in you. May our faces shine with your light, may our words be filled with your truth, may our actions speak louder than our words and ever testify to your mercy, your forgiveness, and your steadfast love. In Jesus' precious name, amen.

Psalms 1, 2, 3 or 4, 7
1 Kings 1:5-31
Acts 26:1-23
Mark 13:14-27

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Rules Have Changed!

Galatians 4:4-5
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

In order to grow into mature and responsible adults, children need to be taught the rules of life. It begins with the first "no, no" which guides a toddler away from something harmful and extends far into the teen years with admonitions such as "don't take drugs" or "your curfew is 11:00" with an immeasurable array of rules for home, for school, and in public peppered at them and, hopefully, positively modeled along the way. As parents, we hope and pray that all our encouragements to "play fair, don't hit, be kind, tell the truth, work hard, don't cheat" become so internalized within our children, that we no longer have to repeat our expectations. We can, at long last, trust them to do the right thing even when we are not looking.

Paul compares those living under the law, the Ten Commandments, to little children, heirs, yet not of age, dependent upon the "you shall not" before they can tackle the "you shall". In Christ, however, the rules have changed. Belief in salvation through Him and following His two great commandments, to love God with all of our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves, free us from the law. The ones in whom Christ abides have no need for rules set in stone because they will do what is right and righteous in the sight of God; His laws are now written on their hearts. They are redeemed and worthy to be called the sons and daughters of God, heirs through Christ, our Lord and Savior.

"Great is the love the Father has lavished upon us,
That we should be called the sons and the daughters of God." ~ Steven Curtis Chapman

Psalms 146, 147 or 111, 112, 113
2 Samuel 24:1-2, 10-25
Galatians 3:23-4:7
John 8:12-20

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Who Am I?

Psalm 144:3-4
LORD, what are human beings that you care for them,
mere mortals that you think of them?
They are like a breath;
their days are like a fleeting shadow.

This verse humbles me. Who am I, indeed, that the Lord of the Universe would even take notice of me and my fleeting shadow of a life? My mortality is certain; am I living each day to the fullest, as if it were my last? I've heard it said that we cannot truly live our lives as God intended until we accept the inevitability of our death.

As Christians, we have the sweet promise of eternal life with the Lord when we depart this veil of tears. We know, too, that as small and insignificant as we may be, we are loved, each of us, individually, by a God whose caring and mercy is boundless and beyond any grasp of human knowing. We accept in trust, we walk by faith, and we seek to fulfill that which He intended for us to accomplish while alive here on earth, even though, in the eternal scheme of things, we are but a sigh.

May the Lord teach us all to number our days. Amen!

"Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name, would care to feel my hurt?
Who am I, that the bright and morning star
Would choose to light the way for my ever-wandering heart?"
~ Casting Crowns

Psalms 137:1-6 (7-9), 144 or 104
2 Samuel 23:1-7, 13-17
Acts 25:13-27
Mark 13:1-13

Friday, August 19, 2011

Leggo My Eg(g)o!

Mark 12:38-39
As he taught, Jesus said, "Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets."

In the eyes of the world, the scribes have it made. Learned and wealthy, they emit an aura of authority, privilege, and piety wherever they go. People of lesser rank treat them with honor and respect and obey their teachings. Their trappings of elegance and knowledge, intended to impress men, however, do little to impress God. Jesus is essentially warning His disciples to never judge a book by its cover. While the teachers of the law exude a holier-than-thou exterior, on the inside, their hearts beat with pride, greed, and corruption. They don't practice worship, they practice hypocrisy.

Are there any "scribes" in our churches today? Is the Pope Catholic? Our senior pastor, Wallace, once recounted the story of a man he met who professed he was a Christian but refused to attend church. When asked why, he bluntly stated, "I can't stand those people; they're all a bunch of hypocrites!"

Pastor Wallace's response took the man by surprise, "Why, yes, they are, and that's why they know they need to be there."

If we are honest with ourselves, if we peer deeply into the recesses of our hearts, we know this to be true. Our egos struggle daily with the temptations and accolades of this world, yet we are a people aware that we are sinners, and we know we require the strength and mercy of a loving Savior to forgive us and help us overcome our weaknesses, our pretenses, our presumptions. Each Sunday, as I prepare to lead worship with the praise band, I have to remind myself: I am not performing, I am serving; the applause of the congregation is not for me or the band, it's for the music that inspires joyful worship in their hearts; this is not about pleasing others, Lord, it's about pleasing you.

Is there a "scribe" lurking somewhere in you today? Are you doing things that are pleasing to man, but not to God? Could you share some past or present shortcomings here with other readers to bolster them in their spiritual growth? I look forward to the dialogue!


Psalms 140, 142 or 141, 143
2 Samuel 19:24-43
Acts 24:24-25:12
Mark 12:35-44

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Are We There Yet?

Mark 12:34
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

When my children were small, we took frequent road trips to spend the weekend with their grandparents, my mother and father, who lived about an hour away. Invariably, within the first fifteen minutes of the drive, I would hear the inevitable phrase which I think must be implanted in the DNA of every child on the planet: "Are we there yet?" Taking a deep breath as if patience could be derived from the air, I would patently, predictably answer, "No, but we're not too far away", hoping to stave off a repeat question for at least another five minutes.

In today's scripture, everyone hearing the young man's testimony before Jesus is duly impressed. He has declared there is only one God, that we are to love Him with all our hearts, our minds, and our strength, and we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. He concludes by saying these are better than any burnt offerings or sacrifices. Bravo! Could there be a better answer? I envision the young man gazing eagerly into Jesus' eyes, awaiting affirmation of arrival: "Am I there yet?"

"No," Jesus answers, "but you are not far from the kingdom of God."

I imagine the crowd's reaction as they sympathize with the young man and murmur amongst themselves, "Then, what does it take to enter the kingdom of God? How do we reach it? Do we have a hope of finding it, of being there?"

These are questions we can still ask ourselves today. How do we enter God's kingdom and, once there, how do we stay? In a recent post for our summer Bible study, Pastor Emily introduced us to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, the four ways proposed by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, which can help us learn more about and aid us in growing closer to God. The first, and most important, according to Wesley, is scripture as it guides us as we employ the three that follow. The second is reason, how we learn about God through our thoughts and logical conclusions. The third is tradition, religious practices that have been passed down to us through tine and which have become a critical, meaningful part of knowing God, i.e., celebrating the Holy Eucharist or reciting the Lord's Prayer. The fourth is personal experience, interactions with those who have revealed God to us, have convinced us of His presence, have held our hand where we most needed their strength and comfort when we are at our weakest, have presented God to us in clarity and shaped our faith with conviction.

How could you, today, reflect upon these four ways to draw closer to God and His kingdom? Take your time. Refrain, if you can, from asking God, "Am I there yet?" Walk in faith. Trust that He will be the first to tell you when you've arrived.

Psalms 131, 132, (133) or 134, 135
2 Samuel 19:1-23
Acts 24:1-23
Mark 12:28-34

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

No Mistake About It!

Mark 12:24
Jesus replied, "Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?"

Making mistakes is an inevitable aspect of being human. Although I almost always learn valuable lessons from my mistakes, it doesn't mean, by any stretch, that I enjoy making them. Truthfully, I don't know anyone who does! If you could measure the impact of mistakes on a scale of one to ten, with one being the wrong turn you took in driving your spouse to a new restaurant and ten being the heart-rending realization that you married the wrong person, you would encounter, up and down the scale, a gambit of emotions: foolishness, chagrin, embarrassment, guilt, regret, sadness, humiliation, and anger.

Sometimes, we are unable to see our mistakes until someone points them out to us. In today's scripture, Jesus calls out the Sadducees on two counts: their assumption that there is no resurrection is incorrect and their underestimation of God's power is blasphemous at best. He gives them the opportunity to confront their inaccuracies, admit they are wrong, and repent, turning with their whole hearts to the God of the living, not the dead. Did they hear the truth of His words? Did they heed His teaching? Scripture does not tell us, but I'd like to think at least some, humbled by the authority with which Jesus spoke, began to realize the error of their ways.

What mistakes have you made recently? Were you able to learn from them and move on, determined not to repeat them? Most importantly, did you forgive yourself for it? Is there someone in your life who constantly brings up your past mistakes to your face? As God to help you forgive them and move forward. Take comfort in knowing that no matter how many times you make a mess of things, God still loves you and will help you recover. There's no mistake about it!

Psalms 119:145-176 or 128, 129, 130
2 Samuel 18:19-33
Acts 23:23-35
Mark 12:13-27

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Outward, Visible Signs

Psalm 126:2
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
"The LORD has done great things for them."

When you are out in public, at your job or school, or at home, how do you comport yourself? Do you behave in ways that signal to others that you are a Christian, putting into practice what you believe? Are you loving others as you love yourself? I like to think most of us, despite our occasional relapses and pitfalls, act in such a way as to awaken in others a desire to have what we have: kindness; mercy; generosity; peace, and joy.

My most difficult challenge in displaying a Christian attitude toward others is when I'm driving and someone does something dangerously stupid like cutting me off or honking at me because they think I'm not moving fast enough when the light changes. How quickly I forget the sticker on my back window which reads "Forgiven by Jesus" as a torrent of accusations and reprimands pour forth and gestures communicate everything but love and understanding. I am, at those moments, miles away from modeling the behaviors Jesus expects from me in all situations. Once the rage subsides, I am always quick to ask forgiveness and, though He gives it, He gently reminds me that it is the offended party, now long gone, of whom forgiveness should have been asked. Regrettably, I can't take back a lost opportunity to show God's mercy.

We need to be ever mindful that having an "I love Jesus" bumper sticker on our car or wearing a cross around our neck doesn't make us Christians just as standing in a garage doesn't make us cars. These are just trappings which can too easily trap us and lull us into religious complacency. We are, instead, to boldly be for the world outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace. It is then the nations will know we are Christians by our love and declare, "The Lord has done great things for them". Amen

Psalms (120), 121, 122, 123, or 124, 125, 126, (127)
2 Samuel 18:9-18
Acts 23:12-24
Mark 11:27-12:12

Monday, August 15, 2011

No Pay, No Pray!

Mark 11:15-16
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.

It's Sunday morning. Your family and you, freshly scrubbed and decked out in your finest, climb into your car and head for church. You are happily anticipating the service where you can praise and worship God together. As you turn onto the church's driveway, instead of be greeted by the familiar building with its soaring steeple, you are aghast and appalled by the scene unfolding before you. There, on the spacious church lawn, a raucous and tawdry traveling carnival has pitched its tents and rides. Discordant calliope music blares from gigantic speakers. The air is permeated by the odors of rancid cotton candy and stale popcorn. A garish clown with a leering grin holds balloons and waves frantically at you as he dances next to a sign which reads: Want church? Play three games, get three passes to enter. No pay, no pray!

What??? Your jaw drops to your chest, your eyes flash, your face turns beet-red with indignation and, yes, you are seething with rage! Is it difficult now to identify with the ire and outrage Jesus felt upon seeing the desecration in the courts of His Father's house? Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, rich and poor, flocking to the temple to worship at the Passover with repentant hearts and steadfast faith, are hampered, harassed, and cheated by the money changers and those selling animals for sacrifice. Jesus has had enough of this blasphemous circus and, with a physical anger not witnessed in Him anywhere else in the gospels, He banishes them with dramatic force, with actions they will not soon forget.

Jesus demonstrates for us here the concept of righteous anger, genuine distress in reaction to an injustice done or an innocent violated. Instead of sharing with you right now the things that stir up a righteous anger in me, I would like to hear from you first. Please share what rouses a righteous anger in you in the comment section below or on the Facebook feed. I'm looking forward to the dialogue!

Psalms 106:1-18 or 106:19-48
2 Samuel 17:24-18:8
Acts 22:30-23:11
Mark 11:12-26

Sunday, August 14, 2011

American Idols

John 5:44
How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that come from the only God?

The show, "American Idol", is aptly named. Thousands of would-be pop stars, longing for the glory and status of the stage, flood auditions all over the country, each one hoping that he or she will be the one crowned with that coveted title. The show has been wildly successful, drawing millions of viewers every time it's aired. And, yes, I admit it, I do enjoy watching it on occasion, especially when I need to rest my mind after a busy day. The issue for me, however, is not so much the concept of the show, but how it embodies the culture of so many Americans today who place celebrities in all genres, from singers to actors to athletes, on pedestals. The have become "Idol" worshipers.

The tabloids' screaming headlines in the grocery check-out lanes, the star-studded, glossy-paged People and Us magazines, and the popularity of shows like Entertainment Tonight, all are stark indications of the obsession so many have with celebrities. While there is nothing wrong with having a favorite actress or football player, something is terribly awry when those persons become the objects on glorifies and, dare I say it, deifies above all else. On the receiving end, the celebrities bask in their fame and the attention given them by their fans, accepting their homage and adoration for all it's worth. This is nothing less than tragic, nothing more than foolishness, and Satan's having one Hell of a good time!

Let us remember today the first of the Ten Commandments: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me." Let us pray, too, that those consumed by "Idol" worship will at long last see it for what it truly is: IDLE!

Psalms 118 or 145
2 Samuel 17:1-23
Galatians 3:6-14
John 5:30-47

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Awake My Soul!

Psalm 108:1
My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast.
I will sing and make melody.
Awake my soul!

Summertime heralds revival-time in many churches and mine is no exception. Ours was held two weeks ago this coming Sunday. It was in every way a joyous event filled with inspirational sermons and soul-stirring songs. I'm certain that I was not the only person who left there that evening feeling renewed, re-energized and refreshed in mind, body, and spirit, recommitted to loving the Lord and to spreading the good news of His kingdom to a hurting world.

As Christians, we all need revivals from time to time. Trials and temptations abound in this world and, even for the most devout, dedicated, and mature believers, these can wear on our hearts and cloud our minds in seeing God's vision for our lives. Maybe there is a strained relationship at work or family issues eating away at our faith. Perhaps, financial difficulties or the illness of a precious friend or relative are sapping our zeal for the Lord. The good thing about problems and situations that bring us to our knees is knowing we are in the correct posture to approach our God in prayer.

Will you pray with me today?

Heavenly Father, send a revival! Renew a right spirit within me. Restore my faith and trust in You. Refresh me in the comfort of Your word and Your presence. Awake my soul, dear Lord, awake my soul! In the precious name of Jesus, amen.

"Awake my soul, prepare an entrance for your glory,
And let my heart become a throne for you to dwell;
And when I need your Holy Spirit more than life itself,
Then Christ is formed in me." ~ Philips, Craig, and Dean

Psalms 107:33-43, 108:1-6 (7-13) or 33
2 Samuel 16:1-23
Acts 22:17-29
Mark 11:1-11

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Call

Mark 10:49
Jesus stopped and said, "Call him."
So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you."

One of my favorite films from the '90s was Sister Act. I loved the scene where Sister Mary Clarence (Whoopi Goldberg) is seated at a table, laboriously stringing beads with some of the nuns, when Sister Mary Robert asks her in all naivete, "Sister Mary Clarence, when did you get the call?"

"The call???" She responds, momentarily taken aback by this out-of-the-blue question; then, in the miraculous flash of a split second, her Catholic upbringing hits home.

"The call! The call! I didn't know which call you meant! I was working . . . I was working in Reno, and I got the call. And you don't know how hard it is to get a call until you've worked in Reno."

While most of us associate getting "the call" with ministry within the church, nothing could be farther from the truth. We are all called in one way or another to live out and to life fully into the gifts and talents with which the Lord has blessed us. I taught school for years and I truly enjoyed it, but there was always a nagging sense of something missing, something else I should be doing with my life. It finally dawned on me that God was calling me to write, but I ignored it, kept shoving it aside, arguing with Him that I didn't have time right now; I was too consumed with my job in "Reno" to heed His prodding. Despite all my protests and remonstrations, however, the Lord persevered and, at long last, won out and won me over. I write full-time now, and nothing in this world compares to the bliss and satisfaction I encounter each day in doing so.

How about you? Are you feeling restless or frustrated with what you are presently doing? Does there seem to be a piece missing in your life that you can't quite put your finger on? Chances are God is calling you to fill that niche He has designed just for you. Listen closely and carefully to what He desires for you and your life. Don't keep spinning your wheels in "Reno"; hear the call. Answer and obey.

Psalms 102 or 107:1-32
2 Samuel 15:19-37
Acts 21:37-22:16
Mark 10:46-52

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sing to the Lord a New Song

Psalm 105:1-2
Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.

I love to sing! One of my greatest joys is singing with my husband in our praise band, Crossroads, every Sunday. I've been a member of the band since 2005, shortly after Danny and I got married. In the beginning, my voice, more suited for folk music than the driving vocals of many of the Christian contemporary songs we perform, really had to stretch to meet the notes with force. I prayed over this time and time again, asking God to strengthen my voice, to teach me how to breathe, to grant me the dynamic tones I knew were locked within me; and, I practiced and practiced and practiced.

God has, indeed, been gracious. Today, I sing with a confidence and energy level never before realized in my life. Nothing compares to giving the Lord praise and thanksgiving, making know all the great things He has done, with song. I know I have been richly blessed and I am immensely grateful that God has allowed me to use this gift to lead others in praise and worship. All my days, I want to sing to Him, sing praise to Him, and tell of all His wonderful acts! How will you praise our Lord today?

If you would like to hear our band, Crossroads, please use this link:

Psalms 105:1-22 or 105:23-45
2 Samuel 15:1-18
Acts 21:27-36
Mark 10:32-45

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

No! No!

Psalm 119:132-133
Turn to me and have mercy on me,
as you always do to those who love your name.
Direct my footsteps according to your word;
let no sin rule over me.

Virginia Rose, my granddaughter who recently turned one, has suddenly become a champion crawler. When she visited with us last week, I had to keep vigilant watch to ensure she did not get into or grab onto anything she shouldn't in our house as we are a far cry from baby-proofed. She has an uncanny way of knowing the things she should not covet and, as she is headed toward them, will stop, offer me a heart-melting smile and the queen's wave, and carry on toward her goal. This time, she was aiming for the lamp cord enticingly exposed under the coffee table.

"No, no!" I say; Virginia responds with the wave and the grin and keeps on going.

"No, Virginia!"

Too late! She grabs the cord and pulls it toward her. I immediately take it from her hand with another gentle, but firm, "no" and shove it away as far as I can. Then I pick her up, place her back on the blanket and distract her with her toys. She is now playing contentedly, but I am left to wonder if she really understands what "no" means.

I think God must wonder the same thing about us sometimes. We hear His "No, no!" warning as we toddle toward sin, but, instead of refraining, we give Him a reassuring smile and a wave, certain of His love for us, and convince ourselves: "It won't hurt just this once". But every sin, large or small, that we commit hurts our Lord just as impudent or unruly behavior in a child hurts the parent. If we truly don't want sin to rule over us, we must listen for His concerned "no" and obey. We must humble ourselves to be guided by His will, not ours, as He will direct our footsteps according to His word when we allow it.

Before I knew it, Virginia Rose was once again headed for the lamp cord. In lieu of intervening with "no!", I decided to see what she would do upon reaching it, anxious to know what she did and did not comprehend. When she reached it, instead of grasping it and pulling it toward her, she imitated exactly what she saw me do: she pushed it away!

Lord, help me, help us, to always push away sin and temptation from our lives. Amen!

Psalm 101, 109:1-4 (5-19), 20-30 or 119:121-144
2 Samuel 14:21-33
Acts 21:15-26
Mark 10:17-31

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Come Out and Play!

Mark 10:15
"Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

What incredible joy I take in my one-year-old granddaughter, Virginia Rose! When my daughter and son-in-law bring her over for a visit, we lay an expansive coverlet over the living room rug, place her toys and her upon it, and revel in her antics and interactions with her playthings and with us. Her glowing smiles and contagious laughter reflect the love and attention she has most deservedly been given. Her abounding energy and curiosity is matched only by her guilelessness. She is trusting, open, loving, and living in the moment. Yes, Virginia, you awaken my dormant inner child, the one who wants to clap her hands and squeal in sheer delight just as you do, simply happy and in love with life.

God wants us to trust Him with the faith and love of an innocent child. Can we peel away the layers of life's sorrows, disappointments, and heartaches as we would an onion, stripping each off, one by painful one, until we reach the very core of our being where the child in us still dwells? Are we able to hear God's call to the child within: "Come out and play in My wondrous Kingdom!"? God is inviting you and me to take His hand as a child would a parent's, believing with all our hearts that He is all we need. Today, may you find yourself clapping your hands and squealing with joy as you play and frolic, a child born again, in the fields of the Lord!

Psalms97, 99, (100) or 94, (95)
2 Samuel 14:1-20
Acts 21:1-14
Mark 10:1-16

Monday, August 8, 2011

Give It Your All!

Acts 20:35
"In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

A week ago this past Sunday, my pastors concluded their five-part sermon series based on the book, The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, by Robert Schnase, with the topic: "Extravagant Generosity". Pastor Emily began with a touching story of her recent mission trip to Nicaragua. The abject poverty she described seeing there made the least of my possessions seem like treasures of unsurpassed worth. Yet, the adults and children she served while she was there were brimming with joy and understood the meaning of extravagant generosity. On their first day of teaching vacation Bible school, Emily and her co-workers were surprised and overwhelmed by an unexpected gift. The adults had Jerry-rigged a small wagon from whatever materials they could scrounge and each child had brought a fruit from the trees growing in their yards as an offering of thanks. The cart was overflowing and so were the emotions of those who received this unanticipated and heartfelt gift.

Pastor Wallace explained to us that extravagant generosity is based in faith, in trusting the Lord to take any monies or gifts we have, however meager, and multiply them; if kept to ourselves, they will only wither and die. He recounted a story told by Dr. Tony Campolo who was to be a guest preacher at a church when he was approached by a trustee and asked would he pray that God would give them $6,500 for an important project they wished to launch. Rather than asking God, Dr. Campolo pulled out his wallet and declared that yes, he would pray, but only if everyone in the room took out their wallets and empty them of all the money they contained. No one held back. When the money was counted, it far exceeded their goal!

Whether we give out of our poverty or out of our riches, when we ALL give together, we create extravagant generosity. I truly believe that if every church in this nation were to give to the goal of helping the needy in their neighborhoods and communities, there wouldn't be one family on welfare, no house foreclosed on, no children going to bed hungry, and no medical bills unpaid. The early Christians, through their mutual love and sharing, modeled for us the ultimate in generosity. Theirs was, indeed, blessed with extravagance.

Let us remember today the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

Psalms 89:1-18 or 89:19-52
2 Samuel 13:23-39
Acts 20:17-38
Mark 9:42-50

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Psalm 46:10
He says, "Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."

When I was teaching and raising two teenagers, peace and quiet were hard to come by. From the moment I awoke to the minute I went to bed, it seemed, my weekdays were a perpetual cacophony and the weekends weren't much better. From my son practicing guitar (loudly!) to the radio blaring in the car, from the mindless chatter on the television to the equally silly banter of teenaged girls, there was always a constant backdrop of noise. I developed a knack for tuning most of it out, but that, I discovered, was a far cry from the true silence I thought I longed for. I say "thought" because when the first opportunity arose to embrace them, I found stillness and silence to be unnerving. I couldn't even properly work on my novel without classical music playing softly in the background. I had to face it - I was addicted to noise!

Overcoming this addiction has been a gradual process. It started the autumn after I resigned from my teaching position; everyone was either at work or at school, and I had the entire, quiet, peaceful house to myself. Little by little, this reposeful solitude seeped into my soul, urging me to be still, to see distractions for what they were and let them go. Even though I accomplished many things each day, I felt as though my pace had slowed and the stress and tension hangover from the former clamor I'd become so used to began to melt away. I found that I was spending more time in Bible study, in prayer, and in writing. I, delightedly, felt God's presence more palpably and genuinely in my life than ever before; it was in my being still that I have come to know Him best.

Today, resolve to take time to be still, to be silent before the Lord and know that He is God.

Psalms 66, 67 or 19, 46
2 Samuel 12:1-22
Romans 15:1-13
John 3:22-36

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Standing With God

Mark 9:40
For whoever is not against us is for us.

In today's verse, Jesus is defending the man who is casting out demons in His name even though he is not a member of His elite circle of followers. Essentially, He is saying that there are two types of people in this world: Those who love God and those who don't. It's as simple and straightforward as that. There is no gray area, no wiggle-room, no place for indifference, no hemming and hawing, period!

If only the other choices we have to make throughout our lives were that unambiguous. Few are black or white, either/or, cut and dried. Major decisions require earnest thought, weighing all the pros and cons, before determining what we need to do. When I'm in these situations, I am so thankful that I can go to God in prayer, trusting that He will help me to draw the right conclusions and make the choices that are pleasing in His sight. After all, if I am standing with Him, what or who can stand against me?

Are you facing some tough choices or decisions in your life today? Go to God in prayer. He's standing by and with you, ready to lead you to the right answers.

"And if our God is for us,
Then who could ever stop us?
And if our God is with us,
What can stand against?" ~ Chris Tomlin

Psalms 87, 90 or 136
2 Samuel 12:15-31
Acts 20:1-16
Mark 9:30-41

Friday, August 5, 2011

Baggage Claim

Mark 9:24
Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

That one statement embodies my life's faith journey. There were many influences during childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood that steered me clear of the path God intended for me to take. In that time, I amassed a mountain of baggage labeled "Unbelief". Like Paul before his dramatic conversion, I, too, though indirectly, persecuted Christians; I denigrated them, made fun of their foolish beliefs, and carried on as if sin were a burden for other people to bear. I was above all that, riding my high horse with my nose in the air. Oh, was Satan on a roll! He was surely counting me in his wicked numbers. What the Devil didn't count on was God's intervention.

You can find a detailed account of how the Lord reclaimed me in my January blog entitled "God of the Impossible - Part Three" (you might want to read numbers one and two just for context), so I won't beleaguer that here. Suffice it to say, I became a believer, but I was still toting an unwieldy and unwanted amount of past baggage. Especially at moments when I was on the verge of a spiritual breakthrough, a growth-spurt of faith, Satan would hurl my doubts, my fears, my unbelief smack in my face. I persevered, certain that the Lord would see me through as surely as I knew He had called me, but how I despised this lingering darkness, this bleak reminder of my formerly shallow and bitter existence. How I desired the undiluted, unfettered joy I perceived in other Christians!

It was 25 years from the moment I first believed until the day God claimed the last carry-on bag from my heart. Think about that for a moment - it took me a quarter of a century to let go and finally let God! Believing all the while that He would one day free me in spite of my unbelief, I now look back on a journey worth every struggle, every doubt, and every tear shed along the way. His steadfast love, His boundless mercy, saved this once lost and wretched soul. Alleluia and amen!

"My chains are gone, I've been set free.
My God, my Savior, has ransomed me;
And like a flood, His mercy rains
Unending love, amazing grace." ~ Chris Tomlin

Psalms 88 or 91, 92
2 Samuel 12:1-14
Acts 19:21-41
Mark 9:14-29

Sing a New Song

  Danny and I in his new music studio Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. ~Psalm 96:1 A new song shall I sing unto...