Monday Meditation – John Wesley and Budgeting

John Wesley

“By the right use of money we can provide for others.  Money can serve as a husband for the widow and as a father to the orphans.  We can supply protection for the oppressed, a means of health for the sick, and a comfort for those in pain. Money can become as “eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame (Job 29:15, NRSV); and, indeed money can lift up others “from the gates of death” (Psalm 9:13).”

Budgeting can be a stressful and boring process.  Yet budgets often speak volumes about what a person or organization does or does not value.

They force us to make choices—some difficult, some easy.  Nevertheless, it is these choices that signal our values about what we take responsibility for as individuals and organizations.

For John Wesley, budgeting was easy.  He gave all but what it took to maintain his health.  That amount rarely changed, despite his earnings rising over the years.  His basic maintenance was just that, the basics.  Probably a bit austere to our day and age. But, nonetheless, this is a living witness to his commitment to giving from his abundance.

It is estimated that Wesley gave away nearly $50,000 US in his lifetime. It is the equivalent of a whole year’s wages for some lucky few today.  Back then, it was an enormous amount of money.

John Wesley believed in generosity.  Even if he never preached it, his life and his budget spoke for him.   His life was his living witness to budgeting and giving. He lived as a steward of all God gave him.

“If at any time a doubt should arise concerning what sum you should spend on yourself or any part of your family, there is an easy way to resolve the doubt. Ask these questions: (1) In spending this money, am I acting according to my character? Am I acting not as an owner, but as a steward of my Lord’s goods? (2) Am I giving this money in obedience to God’s Word? In what scripture does God require me to spend this money? (3) Can I offer up this action or expenditure as a sacrifice to God through Jesus Christ? (4) Do I have reason to believe that for this very work I will receive a reward at the resurrection of the righteous? You will seldom need anything more than these questions to remove any doubt that may arise.

If any doubt still remains, you can further examine yourself by prayer according to each of these four questions.”

Cain Kinghorn, John Wesley on Christian Practice: The Standard Sermons in Modern English, Volume 3 (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 2003), 317–334.

Monday Meditation – God Cares For Us

Marah

Then Moses had Israel leave the Reed Sea and go out into the Shur desert. They traveled for three days in the desert and found no water.  When they came to Marah, they couldn’t drink Marah’s water because it was bitter. That’s why it was called Marah. The people complained against Moses, “What will we drink?”  Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord pointed out a tree to him. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. Exodus 15:22-25 (CEB)

To give a little background about this Scripture text from Exodus, God had already delivered the children of Israel from the hands of the Egyptian army, opened the path for them through the Red Sea, and led them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  Now, as they travel through the wilderness, they wander without water for three days.  The scorching sun made them tired and thirsty.

We have experienced some very hot days this summer and we can imagine how it could have been for the Israelites walking in the desert for three days with no water.  Finally they come to a place called Marah where they found some water.  As they started to drink, they soon discovered that the water was bitter.  The very name Marah means “bitter”.  Just imagine how you would react if you were at a restaurant on a very hot day and you order a nice, cold refreshing drink, you patiently wait for ten minutes and finally when the waitress brings it, it is  slightly warm and bitter.

In the case of the Israelites, they didn’t have a drink of water for three days.  They must have had so much hope and expectation when they saw water, but soon their expectation was turned to total disappointment and frustration.  So, immediately, they began to grumble and complain against God and Moses.  Max Lucado says, “Their jubilation over liberation soon becomes frustration over dehydration”.

I’m sure all of us go through “Marah” times in our lives.  So, how do we deal with our Marah times?  Do we react like the Israelites who grumbled and complained?  Or do we look to God for solutions?  You may have heard or read this before:  “No matter what your problem is: don’t nurse it; don’t curse it; please don’t rehearse it.   Just call on God and He will reverse it”.

I know from personal experience it’s pretty hard to let go and let God take control of our situations.  But that’s what we are reminded in 1 Peter 5:7 where the apostle Peter says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you”.   In 1 Corinthians 10:13 the Apostle Paul says, “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone.  God is faithful, and He will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing He will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it”. 

Gracious God, we thank You that You are our Great Healer!  Forgive us of our grumblings and murmurings and the times we have wandered away from Your presence.  Grant us hope and healing, courage and strength to hold on to You when we experience “marah” times in our lives.  Use us as Your messengers of hope in the lives of those who are hurting.  We love you and we praise You. In Your Holy name we pray!  Amen!

Monday Meditation – A Psalm of Lament

September 11 Twin Towers

Almighty God, where are you?

In this darkest hour,

We call for you, begging for your light.

For many years now, we have lived with a scar on our land.

It was created with the toppling of buildings and planes upon our soil.

The loss of life, infernal.

The loss of innocence, disturbing.

The darkness fell upon on

Like a veil, as the dust covered us for miles.

For some the pain is still potent.

The grief too much to bear.

The bitterness harsh.

The anger desperate.

 

But you are a mighty God.

A just and merciful God.

While grace is your first instinct,

Your righteousness will not be denied.

We cry out for your mercy upon our brokenness.

We cry out for redemption from our pain.

 

The love of God shall never fail

Death, broken in the resurrection,

Is not the last call upon our souls.

Love is the infinite power

That will prevail.

God is love.

#embracelove

Monday Meditation – Back to School

Learning

Learning has been given a bad rep lately.  Book learning, university and college educations are being considered extravagances for the rich and idle.  Those who attend such institutions are considered “snobs.”  Yet never have we needed the spiritual practice of learning more.

The proverbs of Solomon, King David’s son, from Israel:

 Their purpose is to teach wisdom and discipline,
    to help one understand wise sayings.
 They provide insightful instruction,
    which is righteous, just, and full of integrity.
 They make the naive mature,
    the young knowledgeable and discreet.
 The wise hear them and grow in wisdom;
    those with understanding gain guidance.
 They help one understand proverbs and difficult sayings,
    the words of the wise, and their puzzles.
 Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord,
    but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:1-7 CEB

Learning can be a spiritual discipline.  Discovering new information, facts and understandings can open our souls to new things about our spiritual life and about God.

We practice being receptive and aware when we learn.  We practice changing and challenging our own thinking and traditions when we learn.  We engage with others when we learn.  We learn not to judge but to identify our core beliefs.

Get wisdom; get understanding.
    Don’t forget and don’t turn away from my words.
Don’t abandon her, and she will guard you.
    Love her, and she will protect you. Proverbs 4:5-6 CEB

During this time of going back to school, let us remember how learning can open up a completely new world of understanding to us not just in the physical world but in our spiritual lives as well.

Dear Lord, as this new school year begins for so many students, ready them to learn, by making sure they start out with a good night’s rest and a hearty breakfast.  Prepare them to learn as a spiritual practice that will help them to grow closer to you, to experience you in a way that is personal and intimate.  Amen.

Prayer for Texas and Louisiana

Embed from Getty Images

Lord God, so many are in peril this day as rough waters surround so many in Texas and other areas nearby, literally and figuratively.  Lord we ask for your Son, the one to whom we can turn to in times of trouble to bring His peace to those in danger.

Lord we pray for those who have answered the call to help.  Give them strength to carry out their mission of rescue.  Let those who are called to give, give readily, both in their time, gifts and finances.

When storm clouds plant themselves above our heads help us to remember that the rainbow is yet to come.  Lord help us through these torrential times.

We thank you for all that you have done for us thus far in our lives and the life of our country.  Let us remember that at the heart of it, we are all your children in need of help and love all the time.  Let us be to one another the hands and feet of Christ even as the heavens are thrown open.

We pray this in our savior’s name, Jesus Christ, amen.

How to Help

You can make a financial contribution to UMCOR’s disaster response efforts by giving to U.S. Disaster Relief, Advance #901670, or to Material Resources  Advance #901440, through your local church or directly through their website.

Whether you put together hygiene kits or cleaning buckets, take a collection to support our shared response through UMCOR, or spend some extra time in prayer for those caught in the path and for those who will respond, thank you!

Resources

More information about response efforts is available on these conference Facebook pages: The Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist ChurchLouisiana Conference of The United Methodist ChurchRío Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church and Central Texas Conference.

Monday Meditation – Go, Go, Go!

On the Go

The word “go” is prevalent in the gospel stories.  In Matthew alone it appears 82 times, not counting any derivatives.  Jesus is the one who often is uttering the word to his disciples, to demons, to those sick and now healed.  Almost everyone is charged with “to go” in some way by Jesus.

We Christians are to be a moving people!

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Matthew 5:41 (NIV)

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Matthew 10:7 (NIV)

Jesus sends us out into the world.  We are to always be in a mission state of mind.

A previous week’s devotional said, “We are to inhale worship and exhale witness”, we are to bear witness to what Christ has done for us, in order that others may see the love and power of Christ in this world.  We must “go” into the world outside our church walls. This is what Jesus did when he met people where they are instead of making them come to him at the synagogue.

God, for whatever reason, has chosen to work through us in this world.  How do we chose to achieve that responsibility is up to us.

Dear God above and below in our lives, help us to be worthy partners in these ministries You have led us into.  You are our lead.  Open our eyes and hearts to see and know Your Holy Spirit and how it is moving in our world.

The Last Word : A Response to Charlottesville

Virginia

 “I have decided to stick to love. For I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems…. He who has love has the key to ultimate reality.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

I find myself in a turmoil this past weekend.  The events in Charlottesville, VA have disgusted and angered me in two ways.  Disgust for the vision of separatist hate that the fascist right proclaims and anger for the violence perpetrated against those protesting peacefully against these voices of hate.

It’s difficult to watch what happened in VA and not be troubled at how much our country has changed in the last decade and also in how it hasn’t changed very much since the 1950’s.  Hate and violence seem to be the answer to every problem. Or worse, indifference and dismissiveness.

Having seen what we have this weekend we must take a stand.  We must say “NO” to hate, “NO” to violence and “YES” to love and “YES” to nonviolence.  And we must do so in the face of abject hatred and terrible violence just as the protestors of the neo-nazi, white supremacy, alt-right groups were doing, before being mowed down by one of them.

“So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I’m about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:16 CEB

Now is not the time to be lukewarm.  It is a time for passion and desire.  For what?  For justice, for righteousness, for equality, for love.

Those who hate have decided now is the time to reveal themselves.  Let us look them in the eye without hoods covering their faces and speak love to them, speak the gospel message to them, speak the coming kingdom of God to them.

Their time is limited.  Jesus has already vanquished hate and death.  In His resurrection, we have love abundant for all.  And that is the last word.

Dear God, you are almighty.  You are all loving.  Help us to love during this time of turmoil we as a country are facing.  Help our individual hearts seek peace from you.  Help the leaders of our country to speak peace and love not hate and violence.  Help us as Christians to lead in our Savior’s footsteps of nonviolence and righteous understanding.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – A Ministry Passion of Mine

feeding

And I will still be carrying you when you are old.  Your hair will turn gray and I will still carry you.  Isaiah 46:4 ERV

During my sabbatical, in addition to caring for my grandchild, attending Spanish classes and keeping the house clean, I was able to participate in a passion of mine in ministry to older adults.

In my church’s neighborhood, there is a group of older adults who live at or just above the poverty line.  They are typically living alone, their children hardly visit, and they are lonely.

During my sabbatical and even now, I meet with them regularly.  Being an introvert, I can give them what they most crave – someone who listens.  It is a skill I get to use to the glory of God.

Response

They have responded by coming to our church once a month to be fed physically, mentally and spiritually.  In addition to listening to them and being with them, I also cook for them.  You see, cooking  is another one of my passions.

I have great joy in working out God’s call on my life.  To be able to partner with God in shepherding these older adults through their later years is immensely rewarding to my soul.  It is my way of answering Jesus’ command to his disciples in Mark 6:37, “You give them something to eat.”

For whatever reason, God has chosen to include us in His work caring when we care for the marginalized, including the elderly.  As God’s partner, we must take seriously the many institutional changes going on in the country today that may leave the elderly behind in poverty and at risk.

I do what I can in my life to carry out the gospel message, but I cannot forget that society must never leave behind those whom Jesus came to save even the one amongst the many.

Dear God, you are the Great One, the Almighty One.  Lord, we come before you now asking for our part to play in Your ministries in this world.  Whether it is as an individual or as a society, help us to come together to do Your will and show Your love here on earth.  Help us to remember the lonely and the powerless.  We ask for clarity from, and for, our representatives in the halls of government.  Help all of us to choose wisely and not selfishly. Amen.

Monday Meditation – Change Is Hard

Changes Ahead

All of us have probably gone through or are going through a change.  Some we hate, some we enjoy, some we fear, others we don’t know what to feel or think about.  It is in these times of change that we see who we are and not just who we say we are. We have a chance to ask some critical questions in the midst of change. Who are you during these times?  What is your attitude?  What are your values?  What is your faith?

The UMC is going through changes.

Has been for a couple of decades.  But that is to be expected.  As new generations come through our doors, they bring their own influences and sensibilities.  A grandmother listens to the preacher, assuming he’s telling the truth to the best of his knowledge.  Her grandson is checking out what the pastor is saying on his tablet or cellphone, making sure of the minister’s accuracy through online resources.  He also maybe looking up opposing arguments.

What is the change we want to see in our denomination?  What does God want to change about us?  What is God already changing in UM churches all over the world?

Jesus knew exactly who he was and went about being the change he wanted to see, the Kingdom of God here among his people. Mark 1:15

He wasn’t like Grumpy Cat in this picture.  “There’s only 2 things I don’t like.  Change and the way things are.” says Grumpy.  Jesus was the change He wanted done on earth as it is in heaven.

Grumpy Cat

Dear God, Show us how to change into what we are to be next.  Help us recognize and live faithfully as nothing stays the same.  Change is inevitable but need not be unenviable.  Turn our hearts toward you and your ministry here on earth. Amen.

Monday Meditation – Touch

Touch

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners, (Isaiah 61:1  NIV)

Jesus healed the sick by touching them and restoring them to their communities. The priests only wanted money for sacrifices to be made in order for one to be allowed to rejoin one’s family and community.  They wanted to be paid in order to make one ritually “pure” again.

Miracles

Big miracles like the virgin birth and the resurrection just don’t happen in my life with too much frequency.  But many miracles Jesus performed every day, like touching someone in need, often those who no one would touch.  I’ve seen such love, I know it can happen.  I just don’t see it enough.  Touch is an incredible miracle.  Because without it none of the others would matter.  Even one’s weak faith did not disqualify you from receiving Jesus’ touch.

A touch.  The compassion of one man willing to break all the rules to touch you at your lowest.  It doesn’t have to be physical, it can be spiritually.  But both together are so powerful.

Dear Lord, Your Son came to touch and heal us.  Let us follow His lead and reach out to those nobody wants to touch.  Grant us courage to do so.  Amen.