Saturday, March 31, 2012

This, Too, Shall Pass . . .

2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

And, since nothing else that I see merely through the senses can or will persist, He alone is. ~Mohandas Gandhi

There are days I wax nostalgic.  Wishing I could see again the landmarks in my life which are no more.

The home I grew up in.  Where I even raise my own children for a time.

Bulldozed.  Along with the entire neighborhood to make way for town-houses and condominiums.

My elementary school.  Leveled.  For a shopping center and restaurants.  The playground, a parking lot.

The overgrown horse track, its original, cyclical path barely visible beneath meadow grasses.  Where my brother and I romp and run with abandon.

Occupied now by a hospital.

The vast acres of forest behind our house.  Where ancient hardwoods, some with trunks six feet in diameter, stretch their worshiping branches toward heaven.  The winding paths we explore with my dad.

Chopped down.  Hauled away.  The ground upon which they proudly stood, graded for a baseball field and tennis center.

Changes.  All in the name of progress.

And, a reminder . . .

That everything we can see is temporal.  Fleeting.

To place our hopes in what we see is but vain pursuit.

But, to place our hopes in what we don't see is to know.

He, alone, is . . .

Do you have favorite landmarks from childhood which no longer exist?

Will you pray with me?
Help us to remember, Father, that the things of this world are passing away.  Let us not cling to them.  Instead, may we keep our eyes fixed on that which we cannot see and place all our hopes in You.  Amen.

Psalms 137:1-6 (7-9), 144 or 42, 43
Exodus 10:21-11:8
2 Corinthians 4:13-18
Mark 10:46-52   

Friday, March 30, 2012

"Pretty Woman"

2 Corinthians 4:7
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

Proverbs 31:30
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

In sorting through photos, I find one of me taken about thirty years ago.  What it is doing in this particular collection is a mystery.  What's not a mystery is how much I've aged.

I stare at the young, smiling face as if she is a stranger.  Is this really me?  Really?

Oh, what a difference three decades make!

I look in the mirror, searching for that young lady.  Do I see her?  Can I find her?

I gaze at the photo again, then back at the mirror.

I hear my mother's voice, "It's not what's on the outside, but on the inside that counts."

And, beauty is only skin deep . . .

I can't help but laugh at my own silly vanity.  Which, of course, accentuates every crinkle and wrinkle around my eyes.  My battles scars.  Purple Hearts.

For our bodies are but jars of clay.  Chipped and cracked with the passing of time.

Worn and weary vessels which will one day split and shatter.

And, free our souls from their earthly bondage . . .

I look at the young me.  Pretty on the outside.  Hurting, confused and lost on the inside.

For she had yet to accept Christ in her heart.

I look at the now me.  Aging on the outside.  Content, at peace, filled with love and conviction on the inside.

Because, Jesus is the Lord of my life.

And, I realize with a smile.

I'm not getting older.

I'm getting better . . .

What does the phrase "to age gracefully" mean to you?

Will you pray with me?
 As our bodies age, Father, help us to accept ourselves and others for who we and they are on the inside and not on the outside.  Let our inner beauty, the treasure You have given us, shine through to others no matter how old or how young they are.  Thank You for all the blessings of this life.  Amen.

Psalms 22 or 141, 143
Exodus 9:13-35
2 Corinthians 4:1-12
Mark 10:32-45 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"We Know Where the Spirit of the Lord is . . ." Part II

2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Greatly troubled after reading Rachel Held Evans' post, "15 Reasons I Left Church" (See link in yesterday's post.), Pastor Emily writes not a rebuttal, but an invitation to our church.  And, many warm and wonderful reasons why she choose to stay.

Even when those disenfranchised by legalistic churches might as, as some of her friends do, "'Why would you stay in a place that is broken beyond repair?'"

Her answer is simple.  Straightforward.

"Because, I believe that with Jesus, nothing is beyond repair . . . if I walk away from the church, it will never change.  But, if I stay inside and work and pray and live out my call, maybe through me and those with me, God can change the world."

What follows are points which Emily makes about our church that any of those "eight million twenty-somethings" who have dropped out of corporate worship would find appealing.  Refreshing . . .

  • You don't have to "check your brains at the door".
  • You experience unconditional love.
  • Questions are both expected and encouraged.
  • It is human nature to doubt.  Bring yours on!  We'll tackle them together.
  • "We are a 'permission-giving' church."  Is there a ministry you wish to start?  A class you want to teach?  An outreach program that touches your heart?  Share with us and go for it!
  • We want you to "hear God's call and follow it".
  • We "believe in the power of grace, mercy, and forgiveness and that the message of Christ can change the world".  That, together, we can bring God's kingdom just that much closer to a reality in this world.

And, if these qualities stand tall and firm and lovingly in our church, certainly there are thousands more like us around the world.

With arms wide open in welcome to all God's children.

Just as they are.

And, who know that the Spirit of the living God writes not on tablets, but on the human heart.
Is there a church out there that is right for you?  Will you seek one out?

Please join me in prayer:
I thank You today, Father, for the ministries of Pastor Emily and Pastor Wallace, and others like them who lead their flocks with love and compassion.  Who welcome us with all our questions, our doubts, our fears, our hopes, and our dreams.  Who know that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  Amen.

You can link to Pastor Emily at Revive Worship here:
Or, at

Psalms 131, 132 (133) or 140, 142
Exodus 7:25-8:19
2 Corinthians 3:7-18
Mark 10:17-31    

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"We Know Where the Spirit of the Lord is . . ." Part I

2 Corinthians 3:3
You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Are you a Christian who no longer attends church?  When did you leave?  More importantly, why did you leave?

In a recent post, writer/speaker Rachel Held Evans lists and discusses 15 reasons why she left her church at the age of 27.  She is one of, as she states and I quote, "eight million twenty-somethings [who] have left the church, and it seems like everyone is trying to figure out why".  (I have provided the web address for Ms. Evans' blog at the bottom of this devotion.)

Two of Ms. Evans' reasons hit close to home.  Why?  Because, these are the same sentiments I've heard expressed repeatedly from Facebook and blogging friends who also dropped out of church and have yet to find welcome in a new one.

Those reasons are:
  • "I left the church because sometimes I doubt, and church can be the worst place to doubt."
  • "I left the church because my questions were seen as liabilities."
The common thread for Ms. Evans and my friends is this:  All dropped out of legalistic churches.  Those which prefer the laws on the tablets, not on the hearts.  Where pastors preach the "shalt nots" with a fury and conviction that must never be doubted.

Never be questioned.

To do otherwise is to commit heresy.

And, the naturally curious, sincere seekers, who love the Lord, who desire a closer walk with Him, are shushed, shunned, and, finally, driven away.

Where are these to go now?

Is there any hope for them?

Is there a church somewhere, anywhere, that would welcome their doubts?  Invite their questions?

Would take them in, just as they are?

The answer is a resounding " YES"!

A "yes" I will gladly share in tomorrow's blog.
Are you a Christian who no longer attends church?

Will you pray with me?
I pray today, Father, for all Your children who earnestly seek You, but have not found You in places of worship.  Comfort and guide these little one as they struggle with doubts and questions.  Lead them to other Christians who will welcome them, embrace them, just as they are.  Amen.

Psalms 119:145-176  or 128, 129, 130
Exodus 7:8-24
2 Corinthians 2:14-3:6
Mark 10:1-6

Link to Ms. Evans' blog:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Won't You Fly High, Free Bird?"

Psalm 124:7
We have escaped like a bird
from the fowler's snare;
the snare has been broken,
and we have escaped.

My father is an avid gardener.  One year, he decides to plant some blueberry bushes in our yard.  Nothing is tastier or more tempting than blueberries picked at the peak of ripeness from one's very own garden.

They give home-grown tomatoes a run for the money!

But, as much as we love blueberries, so do the birds.  We lose most of our first crop to their voracious appetites.

The next year, Dad decides to foil our feathered friends.  He drapes a fine-mesh netting over the bushes to protect the ripening fruit from being consumed by unwanted guests.  The net reaches from the top of the bushes to the ground.

Almost . . .

Colander in hand, I stroll from the house toward the blueberry bushes to collect the perfect ones.  It is a sweltering summer's day.  I am sweaty and uncomfortable, but the vision of Mom's blueberry pie keeps me focused on the task at hand.

As I draw near the bushes, there is a startling commotion beneath the netting.

A little bird, panicked by my approach, flails its wings vainly against its mesh prison.  Chirping manically, it frantically flutters, again and again, trying to escape.

To no avail.

I realize the bird must have slipped in under the net.  Now, in its fear and agitation, it cannot recall the way out.

I have to remove the net to free it.

Moving slowly so as not add to the poor creature's terrorized state, I grab the net from the bottom and lift it gently upwards.  The bird, not knowing that freedom is close at hand, beats its wings in furious retreat.

Entangles itself further in the fowler's snare.

It isn't until I have withdrawn the net completely from the bushes that it finally flies away.

And, the blueberries are all mine.
When the troubles of life entangle you, do you turn to the Lord for help?

Will you pray with me?
Too often, Father, we let the snares of life bind us.  Like the trapped little bird, we beat our wings hopelessly, trying to escape our fears or solve our problems on our own.  Remind us, dear Lord, that You are always there to free us when we turn to You in faith and trust.  Amen.

Psalms (120), 121, 122, 123 or 124, 125, 126, (127)
Exodus 5:1-6:1
1 Corinthians 14:20-33a, 39-40
Mark 9:42-50 

Monday, March 26, 2012

"Different Strokes for Different Folks . . ."

Mark 9:38
"Teacher," said John, "we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us."

When Pastor Wallace and his wife go on vacation, they enjoy visiting a new church on Sundays.  Wallace prefers to sit in the back pews where he can better observe the congregation as they engage in worship.

On this particular Sunday, his attention is drawn to the pew tw0 rows up.

At one end, a middle-aged man sits passively, looking straight ahead.  The embroidered badge on the left sleeve of his shirt indicates he is employed by the county's sanitation department.

In the center of the pew is seated a young man dressed casually in jeans and a t-shirt.  He rocks back and forth.  Constantly.  Wallace wonders if he might be autistic.

Just before the service begins, an elderly woman, elegant  in her diamond rings, stylish coiffure, and mink stole, slips into that pew and takes her seat next to the aisle.  The fragrance of her designer perfume hangs lazily in the air.

Three very different persons.  All in the same pew, though not sitting together.  Participating in worship, but not interacting with one another.

Wallace watches.  And, wonders about this seemingly incongruous threesome.  Is there any rhyme or reason for them sitting there?  Or, is it simply random?

It is Communion Sunday.  Everyone will soon leave their seats, pew by pew, to share in the Lord's Supper.

As the organ plays, the ushers move methodically down the center aisle.

One finally reaches the row of three, signaling them to exit.  What happens next is the very last thing Wallace would ever have imagined.

And, the very best . . .

The elderly lady stands, steps into the aisle, and waits.

For the young man in the jeans and t-shirt to join her.

They wait together for the garbage collector.

Then, arm in arm, up the aisle they walk.

To feast as one at the table of the Lord.

Where Jesus welcomes all His children.
Can you overlook social and economic differences in others?  Are you striving to see Christ living in them?

Will you pray with me?
Heavenly Father, we can so easily, like John, dismiss other Christians who are "not one of us".  Help us to see and You see and love as You love, knowing we are all Your children.  Thank You for Your precious Son, Jesus, whose table has room for us all.  Amen.

Psalms 31 or 35
Exodus 4:10-20 (21-26) 27-31
1 Corinthians 14:1-19
Mark 9:30-41 


Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Something Wicked This Way Comes . . ."

Romans 12:21
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Evil is never so dangerous as when it disguises itself as good.  ~Dennis R. Maynard, When Sheep Attack

"I just never saw it coming . . ."

Sally's voice trails off.  Tears stream down her cheeks.  She clutches her coffee cup to steady her trembling hands.

Her husband of fifteen years leaves her for another woman.  He wants a divorce.

This man who always treated her kindly, lovingly.  Provided handsomely for her and the children.  The one who vowed 'til death do us part . . .

As I listen to her story, I am grief-stricken.  Shell shocked.  This couple, my friends for years . . . how can this be happening?  Robert is such a good man.

Or, seemed to be.

Or, was . . . Or, was he ever?

Because Satan, the father of lies, rarely sports his readily identifiable costume replete with horns and a pitchfork.

Oh, no!

He dons any number of unsuspected guises.  Hides behind smiles and words that reassure us.  Lull us into complacency.  Dull our awareness.

And, when we are at our most vulnerable, he strikes.  Hard!

A breath-knocked-out blow.  The plunge and twist of the blade.

And, hope and faith and love fall to their knees.

Good is no longer.

We are crushed.  Broken.

But, not beyond repair . . .

When we trust the Lord to heal us.  In His goodness.  In His time.

Sally looks up at me, her eyes moist and mournful.

"I really want to hurt Robert back.  Hurt him like he's hurt me.  But, I can't.  I just can't.  There are too many wonderful memories.  And, repaying evil with evil?  It will only serve to punish me in the end."

Amen, my brave and faithful sister.  Amen.
Have you ever mistaken evil for good?

Will you pray with me?
Deliver us from evil, Father.  Keep us safe and strong in the knowledge and love of You and of Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Give us wise and discerning hearts to recognize Satan in all his nefarious disguises.  Help us to overcome evil with good.  Amen.

Psalms 118 or 145
Exodus 3:16-4:12
Romans 12:1-21
John 8:46-59 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

"Not Because of What I've Done, but Because of Who You Are . . ."

Genesis 3:14
God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites:  'I AM has sent me to you.'"

Who am I?

Haven't we all asked that question?

And, gotten many diverse and different answers along life's path?

A child.  A parent.  Church member.  Entrepreneur.  Husband.  Wife.  College student.  Cook.  Homemaker.  Singer.  Writer.  Trainer.  Teacher.  Coach.  Photographer.  Lover.  Best friend.

The list is endless . . .

We all wear different hats and juggle many roles depending on our situation and the people with whom we surround ourselves.  The people who, by the very nature of our relationships and experience, would define us.  Place us in a box.

Perhaps, it is an elegantly wrapped box tied with a satin bow.  But, it is a box nonetheless.

And, it doesn't really answer the question.

Who am I?

Because, so much of who we are, at least to others, is determined by what we do.  How we act.  Where we work.  Where we play.  How our time is spent.

All of which are finite, subjective assessments of our true selves.  A partial picture.  With so many missing pieces . . .

The pieces living within us.  Deep inside.  The ones that only we can use to solve the puzzle of our being.

Introspection.  Discernment.  Silence.  Prayer.

Who am I?

A sinner.  In need of salvation.

A saint.  Transformed by God's grace.

An heir.  A child of God.

I am because He is.

And, was, and is to come . . .
Who are you?

Will you pray with me?
It is in You, Father, that we live and move and have our being.  Because You dwell in us, we can dwell in you.  Only You define the "who" we are.  May all glory, honor and majesty be Yours, world without end.  Amen.

Psalms 107:33-43, 108:1-6 (7-13)  or 33
Exodus 2:23-3:15
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Mark 9:14-29  

Friday, March 23, 2012

"Without Love . . . Where Would You Be Now?"

1 Corinthians 13:1
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

It is easy to do in love what we love to do, isn't it?

Spending time with a spouse or a best friend.  Reading to our children or grandchildren.  Taking a long, leisurely walk in the woods with our dog.

Writing poetry.  Composing music.  Singing.  Dancing.  Playing.  Praying.

Whatever it is we love to do brings us such joy, peace, contentment.

Blessed and sacred times . . .

But, what about the things we don't love doing?  How can those dreaded, but necessary, chores in life be accomplished in love?

Be moved by love from profane to profound?

For ages, I view housework as a drudgery.  I detest it.  But, I desire a clean house, so I do it.

Joylessly.  And, certainly, not in love.

But, all that has changed . . .

Because, the "why I do it" has changed.

Before I pick up the dust rag or grab the mop or arm myself with Windex and paper towels, I focus on the love I feel for Danny, for our family, for our home.

That love brings a smile to my face.  Puts a spring in my step.  Helps me center in the moment.

To see what I once decried as a banal waste of my time with fresh awareness.  As worthy a testament to love as a kiss or embrace.

Because, the care I show in doing this work reflects the care I have for others.

No more resounding gongs or clashing cymbals.

Just a sweet, sweet melody in the key of love.
Are you doing things in love today?

Will you pray with me?
 Help us, Father, to do all things, even the ones we find difficult or trying or boring, in love.  Make us aware in all our undertakings of Your great and steadfast love for us.  Remind us that it is because You love us that we can love at all.  Amen.

Psalms 95, 102 or 107:1-32
Exodus 2:1-22
1 Corinthians 12:27-13:3
Mark 9:2-13  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Survey of the Heart

Mark 8:38
"If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in His Father's glory with the holy angels."

You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. ~C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Early on in his ministry, Pastor Wallace shepherds a small flock, a congregation of fewer than fifty folks.

He is persuaded by a well-meaning associate to conduct an anonymous survey of the members to see where they stand on issues of faith.  It will help, he is promised, to meet more specifically the spiritual needs of the fold.

The Monday after the survey is taken on Sunday, Wallace sits at his office desk to peruse the findings.  Because the congregation is not large, the age-group range, he soon discovers, removes the anonymity of certain members.  Allows him to know exactly who answered the questions.

And, more importantly, quite disturbingly, how.

The question that imparts the most distressing answers is as follows:
"Who do you say Jesus is?  a)  A good man, b)  The Messiah, c)  A good teacher, d) A liar".

A young man, the only member fitting the 18-25 age bracket, has attended this church along with his extended family since infancy.  His answer?  "A good man".

The oldest member of the congregation, the only one in the 75-85 range, who has attended this church for fifty years, answers, "A good teacher".

Wallace is shocked.


This is not at all what he expects to see.  After preaching Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Messiah.  Sunday after Sunday after Sunday . . .

Because, to declare Jesus to be anything other than the Christ is to deny Him.

Reject Him.

To call Him a liar . . .
Who do you say Jesus is?

Will you join me in prayer?
Never let us be ashamed, Father, to call Your Son, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.  May we fearlessly declare His salvation to a hurting world in need of the love and redemption only He can give.  Amen.

Psalms 69:1-23 (24-30) 31-38 or 73
Exodus 1:6-22
1 Corinthians 12:12-26
Mark 8:27-9:1 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Mark 8:18
Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?  And don't you remember?

When it comes to birthdays and other special occasions, my family counts on me to remember these and remind them to send a card or make that phone call.

"Daniel, Nana's birthday is in a week.  Get that card in the mail."

"Sarah, don't forget to call Grandpa on Christmas to wish him a happy birthday."

So, imagine my chagrin, my horror, my shame, when, one year, I forget.

An incredibly important occasion . . .

I am so engrossed in writing my novel, I literally don't know what day of the week it is.

That is NOT an excuse.  Not at all.

How could I NOT recall?  Especially, since I love my dad so much.

How could I be so self-absorbed as to totally miss the approach of Fathers' Day???

The realization dawns on the Friday evening before the Sunday event.  No time to buy and send a card.  It won't get there until Monday.

Too late . . .

I am sick at heart.  I have never missed a Fathers' Day or my dad's birthday.  I know he, of all people, will understand, but that doesn't make me feel any less like a heel.

Lacking any alternative, I send Dad a lovely e-card.  Let him know it's on the way as he doesn't always check his computer.

Feeling lower than low and guilty as sin.  Promising myself this will NEVER happen again.  For any reason.  On any occasion.

I vow to write down every important date on my calendar.

And, check them!

Because, there is no excuse in forgetting loved ones.

To not regard their needs because I'm so embroiled in my own selfish pursuits.

Such a painful and humbling lesson . . .

But, one that taught me well.

To . . . forget-me-NOT.
Have you ever forgotten a special occasion in a loved one's life?

Will you pray with me?
Let us always remember, Father, the words and teachings of Your beloved Son, Jesus.  May they guide us in all truth and righteousness.  Never let our selfish desires consume us.  Make us ever mindful of the needs of those we love.  Amen.

Psalms 101, 109:1-4 (5-19) 20-30 or 119:121-144
Genesis 50:15-26
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Mark 8:11-26 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Waited on, Hand and Foot

Mark 8:2
"I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat."

Recently, I accompany my husband, Danny, on a business trip.  It is an environmental conference in the neighboring state of Tennessee, and Danny is asked to speak about EPA's Energy Star program in industry.

Although I am not officially part of the conference, I am invited to share in the meals provided.  A continental breakfast of fruit and various breads is delicious, but doesn't stick with us very long.  By lunchtime, we are ravenous!

We arrive early at the ballroom where the noonday meal will be served.  The aromas wafting from the buffet tables intoxicates us.

I notice that all the many tables have already been tastefully set.  Burgundy tablecloths.  Crisp, white napkins enveloping silverware.  Water and iced tea placed at every setting.

Perfect and inviting in every way.

And, with stomachs growling, we don't shirk from joining in with those first in line.

For, even with two buffet lines, serving over 300 participants will take time.  I marvel as I help myself to chilled salad, steamy, mixed vegetables, creamy Alfredo, crispy, golden chicken, and freshly baked roll - how does a chef go about planning and preparing to feed such a crowd?  It boggles my imagination!

Especially, when the food we eat is savory beyond our expectations.  Quantity AND quality.

The buffet lines are monitored by unobtrusive servers clad in black.  Not a chaffing dish nor desert tray goes empty before it is deftly removed and replaced by a full one.

Moving silently, gracefully, as if their steps are choreographed, the attendants are a wonder to watch.

And, to not even see coming.

It isn't a moment after my soiled dinner plate is set aside that it is spirited away by an observant server.

Giving the phrase "waited on, hand and foot" a whole new meaning.

No one who partakes of this luncheon leaves hungry.  Appetites are satisfied.  Needs are met.

And, all are energized for the busy afternoon sessions ahead.
When Jesus provided food for the 5,000, how do you think the people reacted?

Will you join me in prayer?
Thank you, Father, for sending Your Son, Jesus, the Bread of Life, to dwell among us and save us from our sins.  When we partake of the Holy Eucharist, in remembrance of His body given and His blood shed for us, may we be filled with the Holy Spirit and energized to serve others in His precious name.  Amen.

Psalms 97, 99, (100) or 94 (95)
Genesis 49:29-50:14
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Mark 8:1-10 

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