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 – Standing Up

Protest

This past weekend the hate groups at Charlottesville, VA showed up in my neck of the woods, Middle Tennessee.  Many preparations were made for their arrival.  The two cities they were gathering at had to come up with physical plans to keep the peace within the group as well as with counter protesters.  Where and when people would be allowed access to parks and parking, which streets to close, and even asking some businesses to close on the day of the protest were all things taken into consideration,

Counter protesters had to make arrangements as well with the police and local governments regarding their protest against the alt-right.  Furthermore, they held workshops on non-violent protesting.  I’m proud to say that such a workshop was held at an area UMC Church.  There were sign making workshop at a large pot-luck dinner held the week before the protests to gather together all who would be involved in the counter protests.  Bonding and preparing need to happen when love rises against hate.

It was such a delight to see people of many faiths and walks of life, come together and stand against those who would advocate for racism and ethnic cleansing.  To see the body of Christ standing in the way of evil gave me goosebumps.  The church fulfilling its mission in the footsteps of Christ is what the world needs to see more of in the future.

“If indeed you continued in the faith firmly established and steadfast and not move away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven.” Colossians 1:23 NASB

Dear God, help us to stand steadfast in Your love against those who would do harm to Your children, all Your children.  Grant us courage to do so.  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 – 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.