Monday, April 30, 2012

Conversations of the Heart

Colossians 4:6
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

I love everything about blogging!  From writing the draft, to typing it onto my blog page, to scheduling it, to publishing it.

But, my absolutely favorite part of the whole process is reading comments from my beloved readers.  Always interesting.  Always insightful.  Ever encouraging.  Filled with wit and wisdom.

And, sometimes, posing questions or scenarios which beg a conversation.

How I relish responding to each and every one!

I read them closely and carefully, mindful of what is being said or inferred, and I do my best to give a personal reply that will be meaningful to them.

And, it's always interesting to see, based on the comments, who is not only reading the devotion, but is also reading the comments of others.  Many times, the comments build upon one another, and it feels as though the whole community is exchanging ideas.  How wonderfully amazing!

On the flip side, I, too, read the blogs of many friends with whom I grow closer with each reflection read and every comment I give to them.  It's a thrill to return to their posts to find they have replied to me with such thoughtful words.  Acknowledging my input.  Appreciating my presence.

Making my heart sing.  Bringing a smile to my face.

All those beautiful exchanges.  The thoughtfully crafted words.

The answers for each individual who takes time to visit.

Conversations . . .

Full of grace.  Seasoned with the salt of the Spirit.

Right from the heart.
When you visit your favorite blogs, do you usually leave a comment for the author?

Will you join me in prayer?
Thank You, Father, for the friendships made through blogging.  What a gift to be able to share our thoughts and feelings with others and be encouraged and uplifted in doing so.  May our conversations continue to be loving and fruitful and blessed in Your sight.  Amen.

Psalms 41, 52 or 44
Exodus 32:1-20
Colossians 3:18-4:6 (7-18)
Matthew 5:1-10  

Sunday, April 29, 2012

"Life in the Fast Lane!"

Mark 6:32
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.

So many of us lead hectic, fast-lane lives.  We juggle job and family.  Household chores and errands.

Run Joe to soccer.  Run Susie to dance lessons.  Run Sam to karate.  Run to catch the bus or train or plane.

Run!  Run!  Run!


With all the demands on us each day, where can we go or what can we do to "get away from it all"?

Because, no matter how busy we are, we all need that solitary place to which we can retreat.  To be alone with our thoughts.  To spend time in prayer.

To breathe.  To rest.  To relax.

And, that once a year vacation to the beach or the mountains just doesn't cut it.

It must be daily.

So, where to begin?  Where can one more moment just for you be possibly squeezed into your already overflowing schedule?

The answer?  Prioritize!

Take a long, hard look at what you are doing each day, each week, each month.  Write a list of all your many activities.  Now, take several minutes to sort them into three categories:  "Must Dos"; "Might Dos", and "Why Am I Doing This in the First Place?"

Under the first heading would be activities like going to work, cooking dinner, driving the kids to various events, etc.  Under the second, list anything for which you currently volunteer such as your PTA, a homeowner's association, or a church committee.  Last, list those chores you currently do solo when other family members could easily pitch in and help with.

Now, where in those things you have listed can you trim the fat?  What time of the day can you make just for you?  To find that peace?  That solitude?

To breathe.  To rest.  To relax.

Because, if you don't take care of yourself, how can you truly take care of others?
Are you too busy to take time out just for you?

Will you join me in prayer?
So many of us, Father, are living life in the fast lane.  Help us to slow down and learn to take a sabbath rest just for ourselves each and every day.  Let us remember that it is only when we take care of ourselves that we can have the strength and the energy to take care of those we love.  Amen.

Psalms 63:1-8 (9-11), 98 or 103
Exodus 28:1-4, 30-38
1 John 2:18-29
Mark 6:30-44


Saturday, April 28, 2012

I Just Can't Thank You Enough . . .

Colossians 3:15
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.

When my children are very young, teaching them to say "thank you" is a much more difficult task than I ever would have imagined.

They are given a toy, a treat, a compliment.


"What do you say?"  I remind them.

"Thank you," they correctly respond.

I shake my head, wondering when the day will come when they will spontaneously thank someone without me having to prompt them.

That day, of course, finally arrives, but not without lengthy training.

And, while saying "thank you" is the polite thing to do, more importantly, it's the right thing to do.

Because, it paves the way for a life lived with an attitude of gratitude in all things.  A positive, powerful attitude.  Knowing that any gesture of kindness, no matter how small, should never be taken for granted.

Being appreciative for the generosity of others.

And, in turn, learning to be kind and generous at every opportunity.


With every breath we take.

In good times and bad.  In joy and in sorrow.

Thanking the Lord for every sweet blessing.  Thanking Him for being there with us in times of trial.  Of pain.  Of suffering.

Grateful . . .

For everything.
Do you have a gratitude attitude?

Will you pray with me?
Today, Father, we simply want to thank You for everything You have so generously given to us.  Let us cultivate a gratitude attitude in all times and in all places.  Help us enhance the lives of others by sharing our positive, powerful, thankful attitudes with them.  Amen.

Psalms 30, 32 or 42, 43
Exodus 25:1-22
Colossians 3:1-17
Matthew 4:18-25  

Friday, April 27, 2012

Why? Because We've Always Done it This Way!

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

How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb?

Ten.  One to change it and nine to lament how much they miss the old one.

Now, before my Episcopalian readers get miffed at this joke, please note that I attend the Episcopal Church for most of my adult life.  I love the liturgy and cherish my Book of Common Prayer from which I take the daily readings I share with you.

But, let's face it.  The Episcopal Church is traditional.

Very traditional.

So much so that the revision of the hymnal in 1982 and the addition of Rite II to the 1928 BCP threatens unholy schism in the church.  As a good-will compromise, my church, along with many others, offers both the old and new rites in different services, smoothing down those ruffled feathers.

When I return to church after a long hiatus, I closely observe the worship behaviors of the congregation.  I don't want to stand out as a person out of the loop.

After all, my church upbringing is sketchy at best.  I remember my mom feeling embarrassed to attend services because she only has one hat.  In those days, women are required, by tradition, to cover their heads.  Needless to say, we do not attend very often.

So, I watch.  And, I learn.

When to sit.  To kneel.  To stand.

To genuflect.  Cross myself.

Traditions . . .

Going through the motions.  None of which guarantees a closer walk with the Lord.

For some, whose hearts are centered on Christ, a genuine expression of adoration and worship.

For others, nothing but a sanctimonious show.  A routine practiced because we've always done it this way.

For me?  I'm trying to fit my square peg in a round hole.

Again and again.

It isn't until I join the Methodist Church that I see how human-imposed practices of piety, while beautiful gestures, are not what Jesus wants from me.

He desires all of me.  Heart.  Mind.  Soul.  Strength.

Surrendered completely to His will.

He desires me . . .
Are there traditions practiced in your church that are of man's making, not God's?

Will you join me in prayer?
Help us, Father, to discern between human traditions and practices and true worship of You.  Let us look to Your beloved Son, Jesus, to guide us and keep us focused on His commandments, His love, His sacrifice, above all else.  Help us to grow in love and grace through Your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Psalms 105:1-22 or 105:23-45
Exodus 24:1-18
Colossians 2:8-23
Matthew 4:12-17  


Thursday, April 26, 2012

In God, We Trust

Matthew 4:7
Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

Recently, a poster makes its viral way around Facebook, picked up and shared by countless members.

It reads:  Man says, "Show me, and I'll trust you."  God says, "Trust me, and I'll show you."

Isn't that the most simple, yet absolute, truth?

As much as we hate to admit it, there are times we put God to the test.  We want a sign from Him.  A guarantee.

Or, worse, we bargain with Him.  Lord, if you'll just do _____________, I promise to ______________.  (You fill in the blanks.)

Instead of going to Him humbly and thankfully in prayer, trusting Him first and foremost.


Not as the disciple, Thomas, who had to see to believe.  Had to place his finger in the wounds of the risen Christ before declaring, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28)

Or, like the Pharisees and Sadduces who demand that Jesus give them a sign.  Show proof of who He is.  Who He thinks He is.

Jesus, never one to mince words, puts them promptly in their place:  "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign!"  (Matthew 12:39)

And, in today's Gospel, the Lord reminds us that to put God to the test shows pride, not humility.  Our will, not His will.

That's not how it works.

For what seems right to man is of this world.

As Christians, we may live in the world.  But, we are not of it.

And, we are called to place all our trust in God.
Are you trusting in the Lord with all your heart?

Will you pray with me?
We come before You today, Father, with contrite and humble hearts.  Please forgive us the times we put our wills before Yours; the time we put You to the test.  May we place all our faith and trust in You and Your will for our lives.  Amen.

Psalms 37:1-18 or 37:19-40
Exodus 20:1-21
Colossians 1:24-2:7
Matthew 4:1-11  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Help! I Need Somebody! Help! Not Just Anybody!"

Psalm 38:21-22
LORD, do not forsake me;
do not be far from me, my God.
Come quickly to help me,
my Lord and my Savior.

Some days, writing my Daily Devotions is smooth sailing.  I read the appointed scriptures from Old and New Testaments and a verse pops right out at me.  Sews the seeds of a story which grows rapidly and flourishes on the page.

Most days, however, it's a matter of my re-reading the scriptures.  Seeing more than one possibility.  Unable to pin one down easily.  Waiting for God to speak to my heart.

And, He never fails me.  Never lets me down.

Even when He does not come quickly to my aid.

Like today . . .

While there are several appealing prospects, I cannot decide.  I take them, one by one, and meditate upon them.  Is there a story here?  Yes, but is it one I can make personal for my readers?


Back and forth I go.  Between Exodus, the Psalms, and Colossians.  The Gospel is out as I have written a previous devotion related to it.

Perusing.  Pondering.  Rolling the potential of each around in my head.

I even do some internet research on topics that might be applicable.  Ones that could bring enlightenment to the verse.

Now, I'm becoming a bit anxious.  What if this is the one day, after the over 300 I've spent in God's word, in creating devotions, when He forsakes me?

Nonsense!  You know better!

I plug away.  Mulling over this verse.  That verse.  Think I've settled . . .

No, it's just not quite right.

I turn to my husband, Danny, who is working at home today.

"I can't believe this!  Why can't I decide on a scripture?  Find a story?  The last two days they've simply fallen into my lap.  I'm just not hearing His message for these.  It's so frustrating!"

"Go back one more time," he advises.  "It's there somewhere.  It will come."

I heave a sigh and do as Danny says.

But, instead of returning to a verse I am contemplating in Psalm 38, I reread the entire thing . . .

And, there it is!!!

God's awesome reminder that He is never far from me when I have faith in Him.
Are there times when God seems so far away from you?

Will you join me in prayer?
Help us, Father, to have faith and know that You will never forsake us or be far from our cries.  May we live to serve You in all things.  Let us hear Your voice guiding us into all truth.  Amen.

Psalms 38 or 119:25-48
Exodus 19:16-25
Colossians 1:15-23
Matthew 3:13-17  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"I Don't Like Spiders and Snakes . . ."

Matthew 3:7
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them, "You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?

Snakes never have and never will be one of my favorite creatures.  As a child, I am scared witless of them.  Every time dad takes for a walk in the woods in warm weather, I always have my eyes peeled so as not to accidentally step on one.

For, in our woods, vipers lurk.  The ominous rattlesnake and the venomous copperhead.  Each colored to blend seamlessly with the leafy forest floor.

One wrong step . . .

And, even though Dad assures us that most snakes are harmless, I don't buy into it.  Just the sight of a black Racer slithering through the grass in our yard is enough to send me screaming and scrambling to the house.  Staying indoors for the rest of the day.

Snakes.  From the temptation of Eve to the present day "snakes in the grass", they are portrayed as menacing, treacherous, untrustworthy.

Downright evil!

So, imagine my surprise when my daughter, Sara, returns from church summer camp with this announcement:

"Mom!  The new nature center is open at camp now, and guess what?  They have a snake named Peanut Butter and I got to hold him more than once!"

After figuratively picking myself up off the floor, I manage a wan smile.

"Oh, really?"  And, can't help but add, "And, you weren't scared?"

"At first, I was," she admits, "but, when I saw another girl hold him, I just had to try.  He is so sweet and gentle and silky to touch.  Oh, Mom, when we go to family retreat, we can go to the nature center and you can hold him, too!'

Over my dead body . . .

"We'll see, honey."

When, several months later, it's family retreat weekend, I'm hoping Sarah has forgotten all about Peanut Butter.  Not a chance!  She drags me, mentally kicking and screaming, to see her beloved snake.

There is already a small crowd of children around the young man holding Peanut Butter for all to see.  I observe the little hands stroking the snake as it slides up and down his arms.

"Go ahead, Mom, touch him!"  Sarah urges.

I sidle closer.  Grit my teeth.  Hold my breath.  Reach out tentatively.


Wow!  Silky!

"See, Mom, it wasn't all that bad now, was it?"
Do you have a fear of snakes?  If not, is there another creature that scares you?

Will you pray with me?
We thank You, Father, for the beauty and variety of Your marvelous creation.  We know each living thing has a role to play and is treasured by You.  Help us to appreciate, even if it's from a safe distance, the wonder in all Your works.  Amen.

Psalms 26, 28 or 36, 39
Exodus 19:1-16
Colossians 1:1-14
Matthew 3:7-12  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Are You Reaching Across the Aisle?

1 Peter 5:14
Greet one another with a kiss of love.  Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

For many years, I attend the Episcopal Church.  My children are raised in it.

The liturgy is uplifting.  Comforting in its routine.  Majestic in its language.

And, formal.  Very formal.

There is a point in the service called "The Peace".  This is the moment before the Holy Eucharist where the congregation is encouraged to greet each other in the name of the Lord.

"The peace of the Lord be always with you," intones the priest.

"And, also with you," comes the staid response.

Then, we shake hands with and greet those sitting next to us or in front of us or behind us.

There is never any effort to mingle with anyone a few rows up or back.  And, God forbid, one should traipse across the aisle to the other side!

So, as people tend to gravitate toward the same pews each Sunday, we end up more like a mutual admiration society instead of reaching out to anyone new or different in the name of Christ.

I join the Methodist Church where Danny worships before we get married.  Although I love the contemporary service, it takes me awhile to abandon myself wholly to it.  After all, I have years of traditional worship under my belt.

Now, as Danny and I help to lead this service, my favorite part to watch is the "Passing of the Peace" which we call "Meet and Greet".

As soon as the signal is given, the members are like eager students flooding the playground at recess.  There is no aisle too wide to traverse.  No visitor who goes unacknowledged.  

They hug, they smile, they reach out in genuine Christian love to one another.

It's a no-holds-barred free-for-all!

And, so amazingly joyful and wondrous to behold.

The marvelous peace of our Lord made manifest.
How do you "pass the peace" where you worship?

Will you join me in prayer?
Father, may we, as Christians, always greet each other with love and joy.  Help us to reach across the aisle to those who are new to our church or those we have not greeted before.  Open our hearts to see Christ in every person.  Amen.

Psalms 25 or 9, 15
Exodus 18:13-27
1 Peter 5:1-14
Matthew (1:1-7), 3:1-6 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter . . ."

1 John 2:12
I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.

Recently, my mother gives me a manila envelope stuffed with all sorts of cards and letters exchange between her mother and herself.  There are even some notes and postcards to my grandparents from me.

I've been so preoccupied as of late, I have yet to peruse these.  But, I'm looking forward to exploring the memories.  Rekindling ones I have forgotten.  Bringing the past into the present.

A present where letter writing, pen to paper, stamp to envelope, is a dying art.

I cannot recall the last time I wrote an actual letter to anyone.  Of course, I've included short notes in birthday or Christmas cards, but nothing which I would call an honest-to-goodness letter.

I remember when going to the mailbox is actually a thrill.  When I am away at college, I am especially heartened when there is a letter from home, or from other relatives, or from my boyfriend who attends another school.

I carry the missives back to my dorm room and, like waiting for a luscious dessert, I hold off on opening them until no one else is around.  Then, I open them slowly.  Lovingly.

I feast on every word.  Reading the letters again and again.  Feeling a twinge of homesickness, yet, at the same time, so comforted.

I treasure them.

And, I save each one.

I'm certain these early Christians, the little children, to whom John writes, feel the same way.

Hanging on his every word.  Sharing the letter again and again within the community.

Treasuring it.  Finding comfort.  Reassurance.

Feeling loved.

And, because we have it today, taking great pains to save it.

As did so many other first-generation Christians.

Letters of love.  Christ's love for them.  Christ's love for us.

Alleluia and amen!
Can you recall the last time you wrote an actual letter?

Will you pray with me?
We thank You, Father, for the collection of letters in the New Testament.  They teach, exhort, comfort, encourage, and guide us even today.  Let us give thanks for the apostles who wrote them and for those Christians who risked so much to keep them safe for posterity.  Amen.

Psalms 148, 149, 150 or 114, 115
Exodus 18:1-12
1 John 2:7-17
Mark 16:9-20 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Labor of Love

John 16:21
A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.

From the moment I find out that my daughter, Sarah, is expecting, I pray.

For the health of the child.  For Sarah's health during her pregnancy.  For a safe labor and delivery.

Because, I remember the excruciating pain of my own first labor.  Contractions so wildly intense I literally pass out between them.  The relief of an epidural and an emergency C-section arrive just in the nick of time.

I pray Sarah is not like me.  That she can experience a far less troubled labor and natural delivery.

Without.  Too.  Much.  Pain.

The due date is closing in . . .

John, Sarah's husband, calls us at eleven at night.  Wakes us up.

"We're at the hospital.  Come in the morning.  Doctor says it will be awhile."

I can hardly sleep after that.

When our alarm sounds at five, my husband, Danny, and I spring into action.

And, reach the hospital in record time.

Oh, it is so not like the old days!

We are allowed into the room with Sarah and John.  Up until the last moments before delivery.

Sarah has been given an epidural, but the pangs of labor still contort her face.  Her body writhes as each washes over her.

We hold her hands, watching the monitor which reacts with each mounting contraction.

I hold back tears.  Don't want to cry in front of my baby.  It would give her a worry she doesn't need.  But, it is so hard to see her suffer . . .

An enormous contraction!

"It's time!"  The midwife announces.

Danny and I scramble out the door, leaving John to comfort Sarah.

We wait in great anticipation.  And, miraculously, not for long.

"We have a girl!"  John shouts as he bursts through the waiting room door.

Without a moment's delay, he ushers us back to Sarah's room.

And, there she sits, propped up, holding a sweet and swaddled Virginia Rose.

A smile of sheer joy on her face.

 Are you experiencing "labor pains" in your life today?

Will you join me in prayer?
We know, Father, that this life can be fraught with pain, troubles, and sorrows.  Be with us, remain with us, through the storms we endure.  Help us to always hold Your hand, trusting that You will see us through.  Reassure us of the joy You have promised.  Amen.

Psalms 20, 21:1-7 (8-14) or 110:1-5 (6-7), 116, 117
Exodus 17:1-16
1 Peter 4:7-19
John 16:16-33 

Friday, April 20, 2012

"Very Truly, I Tell You . . ."

John 16:13
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.  He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is to come.

Do you consider yourself to be a truthful person?  Probably, the vast majority of you who are reading this would answer "yes".

So, would I.

At least, I strive to be truthful.  With others.  With myself.

Recently, though, I receive a beautiful story from a dear friend via e-mail.

It tells the reason why the cloth which was paced upon Jesus' face in the tomb is found neatly folded when His empty tomb is entered.  In Jesus' time, the story goes, if a master balled up his napkin and threw it on the table, that signaled his slave to clear the table.  However, if the master folded it beside his plate and left the table, it meant he had not finished eating.  He would return momentarily.

So, the tale concludes, this was Jesus' way of telling us He will return one day.

What a lovely sentiment!

But, it's not true.

And, I do not find this out until after I have forwarded this message to several friends, including my husband, Danny.

Who decides to do a little research . . .

Yep, it's a hoax.  No such tradition ever existed.

Boy, do I have egg on my face!

And, I feel badly for my friend, too, who sent this lovingly in faith and trust.

Living in the land of information-overload, it is becoming more and more difficult to discern fact from fiction.  Truth from lies.

We can become skeptical.  Jaded even.

If we let it get to us.

But, if we remember that the Holy Spirit will guide us in truth when we allow Him to take the reins, we have hope.

Hope that He will lead us in all goodness to see God's truth.

And, not be misled by what the world would have us believe.
Have you ever been fooled into thinking something was true when it wasn't?

Will you pray with me?
Give to us through Your Holy Spirit, Father, discerning hearts and minds.  Let us see Your truth revealed.  May we walk securely in the knowledge that You will lead us down truthful paths for Your righteousness sake.  Amen.

Psalms 16, 17 or 134, 135
Exodus 16:23-36
1 Peter 3:13-4:6
John 16:1-15  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed

John 15:16
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you might go and bear fruit - fruit that will last - and so whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

I do not work outside the home.  Instead, I spend many hours in a day reading scripture and writing my daily devotions.  It is my joy!

But, as any writer can tell you, this can be a lonely profession.  Just you, your thoughts, and the empty page glaring at you from your computer screen.  Waiting for you to begin . . .

While I love the serenity and solitude I encounter when writing, I am far from being an introvert.  I like people.  Love to socialize.  Crave the interaction with others.

That's why, for me, Facebook is a lifesaver.

Whenever I've had enough of my own musings, I can be surrounded by the thoughts and inspiration of friends in a mouse click.

I cruise the recent feeds.  Leave comments.  Read the blogs of friends.  Leave comments.  Watch entertaining and humorous videos.  Leave comments.

Oh, what amazing and wonderful friends I have made here!

I can't imagine how lonesome I would be, day after day, sitting at home while everyone else is at work, if I did not have this outlet.

And, this makes me think.

About my dear Facebook friends.  The ones I've chosen.  The ones who have chosen me.

Some from my past.  Some from my church and community.  Some half-way across the globe.

Even some who are friends of friends of friends.

Have chosen to be my friend, too.

And, I choose back.  Affirm their requests.  Delighted to have them on board.

Because, one can never have too many friends.
Have you chosen Jesus to be your friend?

Will you pray with me?
We thank You, Lord, for choosing us to be Your friends.  Let us affirm that friendship by ever doing Your will and following Your commandments.  Bless and keep all our friends in Your love and grace.  Amen.

Psalms 18:1-20 or 18:21-50
Exodus 16:10-22
1 Peter 2:11-25
John 15:12-27  

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...