Monday Meditation – Taking It For Granted

Taking it for granted

Second Sunday in Advent

 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

 Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! Philippians 2:6-8 NIV

What was the last thing you anticipated?

The birth of a child or grandchild?

Going to church?

Going back home during the holidays?

A vacation?

Nowadays anticipation is not a feeling we normally experience in our day-to-day living.  Perhaps you anticipate going to church every Sunday. Too often, though, many think of church not as something new and exciting but mundane and obligatory.  We no longer anticipate the weekends because we have to accomplish all the things we put off during the week.

Christmas can become boring or obligatory too.  Buying gifts and celebrations, may all seem the thing to do, a necessity of living in a nation that celebrates the holidays.

Yet we cannot forget that the incarnation of our God in human form is a highly anticipatory event in history.  We must not take it for granted despite its annual commemoration and all the perfunctory circumstances that seem to come with it.

Let’s refresh our minds and understand anew the grandness of the event.  The awesomeness of our God being born into our world to live among us and love in a way that is almost incomprehensible.  When we give ourselves over to this awesome love, it invades our very being with a light so bright and warm it can chill the coldest heart or soul.

How awesome is our God?!

Dear God, help us to feel again the anticipation of your coming to Creation.  Let us bask in your light of love and goodness.  You are our Savior!  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Anticipation

Anticipation Advent

First Sunday in Advent

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17 NIV

Advent is a time of anticipation.  It begins the countdown to Christmas.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our Savior, an incarnation of God in our midst.  Nowadays this may seem typical given the success of Marvel Comics and their incarnated God Thor.

But long ago, the idea of God talking on human form was profane and secular.  And it is.  God no longer resides in the heavens but here on earth.  First as Yahweh, then as Jesus and now as the Holy Spirit.  God is alive in Creation, in partnership with it, showing us the Way to true life and living with one another.

How awesome is our God?!

Dear God, we expect with great anticipation Your coming to us in the form of an infant child.  To be so vulnerable shows us how we are to be just as vulnerable as You were to us.  Give us faith to do so.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – A Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, let us remember how blessed we all are.  We all probably have more than we need.  We all probably have more than enough to eat, a roof and four walls to protect us, clothes on our back and people who love us.

This feeling of gratitude reminds me of a song heard in chapel this month.

Curled up in a cardboard box

Joe gives thanks for all he’s got

The label says Frigidaire,

but it’s been home for one full year.

There’s a work of art on the wall,

Joe’s first attempt to draw.

It looks like scribble at first glance,

but that’s just Joe bowing his head.

Heaven help me when I feel low,

to be just a little bit more like Joe.

When he’s not at his residence,

He’s a landmark down on Rivers Bend.

Where he mans the mission and he combs the street,

Shines a light for those in need.

It’s his way of giving back, keeping who he is intact.

For all he does he don’t get jack,

but he’s got a few Jacks back on track.

Heaven help me when I feel low,

To shine just a little bit more like Joe.

There are some who have nothing.  We pray for those who are without this Thanksgiving, find some peace, protection, satiation and love for the rest of this year.

Let us not only do our individual parts to help but also support those institutions that now exist to help those in need, like our churches and our government.  Matthew 25 speaks to us not only as individuals but also collectively as nations.

A Little More Like Joe, Lyrics & Music by Robby Hicks ©2009

Monday Meditation – A Prayer

Prayer

Lord we pray for this world, Your creation.  A place you lovingly brought to life out of nothing.

With Your hands, You created man and woman in your image.  With Your very breath, You gave us life.

We forget how much of You is in us.  Yet as Your children, we can’t help but be a likeness of You.

How deep that likeness is depends on the time we spend with You.  Reading the bible, Your inspired Word.  Taking time to be in Your presence whether through prayer, meditation or worship.

You are our God.  There is none higher than You.

You take care with us.  Even when we deserve Your righteous anger, it is slow to burn.

Even when we spew hate and hurt against one another for no other reason than our differences in looks, culture, religion or identity, You remind us lovingly that we are all Your people.

Help us to understand one another.  To see one another as Your child, Your Beloved.

With understanding can come love and perhaps that is why we abhor sitting with each other and listening to understand instead listening to argue.

Lord forgive us our sins.  Show us the way of Love.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – You Don’t Have That Kind of Time

Time

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12 ESV

“When I was 38, my best friend Pammy died, and we went shopping about two weeks before she died, and she was in a wig and a wheelchair. I was buying a dress for this boyfriend I was trying to impress, and I bought a tighter, shorter dress than I was used to. And I said to her, ‘do you think this makes my hips look big?’ and she said to me, so calmly, ‘Anne, you don’t have that kind of time.”  Anne Lamott, from “Beyond Bunnies: The Real Meaning of Easter Season,” with Michele Norris, NPR’s All Things Considered, April 18, 2011

If the past weeks have shown us anything it is that we are vulnerable.  We may be at the top of the food chain but we are not beyond our human frailties.  Hurricanes can kill us.  We can kill one another.  We can be killed in our homes and at entertainment venues.  Time can be taken from us quickly and without warning.

Life is too precious to waste on wondering if our “hips look too big.”  Life is for hanging out with friends who are dying and enjoying each other’s company.  It is about helping one another get out from underneath the mud and muck of a category five hurricane.  It is about risking one’s own life to save one’s neighbor, even a stranger, as bullets rain down upon a crowd.

Life is about more than the superficial.  It is meant to be experienced and all its audacity wrung out.  We cannot take it for granted.  It is too tenuous nowadays to be wasted.

Dear God help us to understand Your plans for us in this life you have given us.  When many conspire against us, let us know that You are God and love shall conquer all.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – God Is Always Here

God Is Always Here

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 29:20b NIV

I don’t know what it is like to not know God.  I don’t know everything about God but I do know God is real.  And that makes all the difference in the world.

I may feel it.  I may live it.  But I am never alone.  God is always here.

I may be confused. I may be scared.  But I am never alone.  God is always here.

The world may seem like it is crumbling.  But we are never alone.  God is always here.

Violence may be all around me.  Strangers may trample over me.  But I am never alone.  God is always here.

We don’t always understand.  Our confusion is confounding.  But we are never alone.  God is always here.

It is in this togetherness with God that allows us to withstand the trials and tribulations we go through.  Not because we know the “why” but because we know the “Who.”

We are never alone.  God is always here.

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.