Monday Meditation – Football Season

Football

Football season is upon us.  So begins that great past time activity – Monday morning quarterbacking!  It is something pastors are familiar with only theirs is called Sunday afternoon pulpit preaching.

This activity occurs when the game or sermon has been experienced and at the next available gathering time for fans or congregation members, attention focuses on what the coaches and quarterbacks and preachers and ministers “should” have done.  It is a time when everyone has an opinion about what happened even though none were actually on the field or in the pulpit.

Learning can happen in the stands or easy chairs, and the pews.  But be mindful not to critique from the sidelines or the back pew unless you’re ready to get on the field or in the pulpit to show how your observations should be taken and how they can improve the game or message.

Getting on the field can take many forms.  I don’t mean you actually have to make it as a player or a coach, or be ordained as an elder or deacon.  If your advice is good enough to be shared, share it, not just with other fans but with the team leadership or church leadership.  Dialogue (two-way communication) is important in this day and age of social media isolation and selfies.

Yet remember the three rules of sharing one’s opinion.

  1.   Is it relevant?
  2.   Is it necessary?
  3.   Is it kind?

Dear Lord, help us to share what we know with others in a way that is both helpful and gracious.  Let us not just critique for the sake of gossip but to be helpful.  Help us to listen and watch carefully so that we might know of what we speak when we talk.  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.

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.

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.

Monday Meditation – Father’s Day

Father's Day

You know what just makes me cry as soon as I see it?  Those commercials where service members who are fathers surprise their kids when they come back from war.  The kids are so happy and excited.  Both the 2 legged and 4 legged variety.  In one commercial, a man in fatigues crouches down to the level of this 4 year old.  The little one throws herself into his arms and says, “Ohhh, daddy.”

Daddy.  Dad.  Father.  Pa.  Papa. They are known by many words in every society.

Where mothers are the everyday rudders, we look to for direction, fathers sometimes can seem larger than life.  To a son he can be a role model.

For a daughter, Daddy can be her first boyfriend.  The one she measures all others against.

There are many fathers in the bible.

Good men who were  after God’s own heart.  They are considered righteous.  And yet each one fails his children in some way.

Adam the first father, who had no role model before him, no example to follow.  He clearly is not aware of the feud between his two sons that gets out of control.

Lot was given the chance to leave Sodom and Gomorrah before they were swept away.  He is saved by God.  He was a decent guy.  Where was Lot’s sense of decency when his daughters get him drunk and he gets them pregnant?

Abraham was a father to an entire nation.  But tossed out Hagar and his son Ishmael into the desert.

David was said to be a man after God’s own heart.  God blessed him.  Where was David when his son Amnon raped his daughter Tamar?  Absalom, another son of David, is the one to mete out punishment to his brother.

All these despicable acts perpetrated or at the very least, not stopped by the righteous fathers, against their children.  Yet all were considered men who loved God, and whom God loved as well.  God even considered a few friends.

How?  What made this possible?

Grace.

It was grace that saved them.  That didn’t mean they didn’t have to deal with the consequences of their actions or inactions.  As we all must.  Grace and justice go hand in hand with God.

Father’s Day is a celebration of dads.  Of tough ones and gentle ones.  Tall ones and short ones.  Fat ones and skinny ones.  Fathers with long hair, fathers with bald heads or dreadlocks.  Woman who are father figures.  Young fathers.  Old fathers.  Men who are like fathers to those without.  First time and second time fathers.  It is a celebration of fathers who get it right and all of them that get it wrong sometimes.

Let us pray continued grace for all of them.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Outside Our Comfort Zone

Comfort Zone

Sometimes we are called upon by God to do things that are outside our comfort zone.  Nowadays almost anything God asks us to do will tend to fall outside of what we usually do.

It is how our faith grows.  We come to trust in the Lord as we walk into unchartered territories.

Opposition

Our faith is truly tested when opposition comes up against us as we walk in a new thing.  Rarely are there no troubles when it comes to doing something difficult.

The angel’s words to the women at the tomb who were about to embark on a journey none of them had ever taken before, rings ever truer today in an age of skepticism, fear, anger and hate.

“Do not be afraid.” Matthew 28:5 (NIV)

Let us take to heart the angel’s admonition as we begin to walk out in faith on the new things God is doing in the Church and in the world.  There will be many changes in the coming months and years.  Let us remain true to our God and have the courage to face the opposition that may come against us as we try to do God’s work in this Church and this creation we have been given.

Dear God, Holding fast to what endures – Your love, Your grace and Your justice – and letting go of what is but mere chaff, grant us the courage to live faithfully beyond our comfort zone.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Giving

Giving

It is the heart that does the giving; the fingers only let go. – Nigeria proverb

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21 NIV

All giving is from the heart.  Giving is first an inner choice before being an outward action.

We must ask ourselves several questions as we give.  It will help strengthen our hearts toward generosity and away from selfishness.

  1. What am I giving? Finances, time, gifts?
  2. Why am I giving? Conscience, habit, guilt, love?
  3. What does God think of my giving?

As Christians we realize that what we have is a blessing.  Being good stewards of the things we’ve been given should be a priority.

A friend of mine had stopped giving to her local church because the congregation seemed to be on a theological course she did not appreciate.  She had been giving money and time to the church but had stopped both.  She continued to attend church because she had been a member there for over fifteen years.  Even though she entertained thoughts of leaving the church, she didn’t.  She still loved the people there.

God pricked her conscience and asked her why she wasn’t giving anymore to the church.  One reason was to “punish” the church for doing what she believed to be wrong.

God asked her if “punishing” the church was an acceptable form of protest.  She struggled with the question because it seemed like a conventional way to get her point across.

However, was that really the case?  She finally concluded that her “punishing” the church was really her attempt to “control” the church. But this is God’s church and that action was unacceptable.

If things were wrong, she needed to make her case.  She needed to show she was invested in the church community.  Withholding her giving was not doing either of these actions.

As a result, she went back to teaching bible study and giving financially.  Within weeks, a ministry opportunity came up that was near and dear to her heart and the church took it on.  Now her tithe and offerings support not only the church but also this new ministry.

We must get our hearts right with God before we start trying to use our giving as a vehicle of protest against the Church.  In some cases, it may be appropriate.  In some cases, it may not.

However, we must all seek God’s guidance so that our generosity is never stunted for our own personal agenda.  Keeping in mind all those that we, as a Church in connection, can help by our generosity begs us to give and give generously.

Dear God reveal to us our innermost feelings and thoughts.  Show us how to give joyously and generously to your ministries here on earth.  Let us put away our foolish intentions and look for your guidance.  Amen.