Monday Meditation – Valentine’s Day Gifts

Valentines Day

Valentine’s Day

Some say Valentine’s Day is a made up celebration by the floral and card companies in order to make sale in an otherwise devoid month of any “holidays” or “special occasions.”

I say any excuse to celebrate “love” is worthy.  Now how we choose to do so can be up for discussion.

Gifts

While gifts are one way to show love, they are not the only way or some would even say they are not the best way.  We can celebrate with gifts of all kinds like flowers and candy and cards as gifts for Valentine’s Day.  Even those are given with some thoughtfulness. It is more the thought put into a gift that provokes the most joy.

A handmade gift from my grandson is worth a great deal to me.  The effort and thought put into it by him is what counts as love in my eyes.

But we can combine gifts of cards, flowers or candy with something else.  Whether a purchased or handmade gift, we can also take the time to pray for them and then send a quick email or text letting them know you remembered them in your prayers.  It’s not bragging if done from a heart of servanthood to that person from a place of love.

It will show the other person that you were thinking about them and brought them before God with love and attention.  You shared your love for them with God.  You shared your time with God with them.

That, my friends, is a great gift.

Dear God, who is love, show us how to love more perfectly.  Help us to remember those near to us when we come to you in prayer.  Let our time be about others and not solely about us.  When sometimes thoughts and prayers can seem like empty sentiments, help us to revive the power of prayer. Amen.

Meditation Monday: Growing Pains

In order for a lobster to grow it must first rid itself of its shell. The shell does not grow but is rigid for the protection of the soft crustacean inside.

Growing Pains

As a lobster grows it begins to feel the growing pains of the too small shell it has. Pressure builds up as its body pushes against the old shell. It finds some rocks to hide in. Soon enough, it breaks out of its old shell with a new one already intact.

Just like the lobster, we sometimes have to push through growing pains in order to get rid of the old as we grow. God provides for new “protection” but we must recognize that we need to grow out of where we have been in order to get to where we need to go. The “stress” the lobster feels as it grows against it new shell is a sign to it that it needs to begin the molting process.

As the lobster sheds its old shell it recycles the minerals within it to build the new shell. It continually builds upon what has come before into what is to come.

“No one sews a piece of new, unshrunk cloth on old clothes; otherwise, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and makes a worse tear. No one pours new wine into old leather wineskins; otherwise, the wine would burst the wineskins and the wine would be lost and the wineskins destroyed. But new wine is for new wineskins.” Mark 2:21-22 (CEB)

Dear God, help your church to shed its old shell as it matures and grows. Like the lobster, let us build on what we had in order to get what we need to proclaim and do your love in the world you have set us in. Amen.

Advent Week One: The Fig Tree

Advent week one

1st Week of Advent

During this advent season, we watch for the coming birth of our Savior. In Mark 13:28-30 Jesus, himself, speaks of watching for him to return with signs in the heavens. Just as a fig tree signals the beginning of the summer season so too will the coming of Christ have signs preceding it.

Yet in Mark 11:12-14, 20-21, Jesus curses the fig tree for not bearing fruit even though it is out of season for figs. The tree withers and dies.

Often the success of the Israelites is portrayed as a fig tree in the Old Testament. And most central to its success is the Temple, the religious and political hub of the nation. The Temple was the storehouse of tithes, alms and offerings.

Fig Tree

So when the fig tree is bursting forth with life, Jesus tells us we can watch for him to come back. But when it does not supply what is needed to the hungry, it will be cursed and wither from the root.

Why is Jesus so disgusted with the fig tree even though he knows it isn’t the time for the harvesting of figs?

While we may watch for signs of Jesus’ coming, just as every year we look with anticipation for the coming nativity, need still remains in the land. And as long as this want continues, the people of God should share the fruits of the Temple to alleviate that hunger, no matter what the season. When that happens perhaps the fig tree will finally be in bloom and Christ will come again.

“Learn this parable from the fig tree. After its branch becomes tender and it sprouts new leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, you know that he’s near, at the door. I assure you that this generation won’t pass away until all these things happen. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away.” Mark 13:29-31 CEB

Dear Lord, help us as we wait for your return. Help us to be the blooming leaves of the fig tree, feeding those in need, whether spiritually or physically, so that your light would return to this world permanently. We need you more every morning. Help us to watch for your coming. Amen.

Support the spirits of our military troops

Support Troops

Support the spirits of those who serve us

Those who serve our country in the armed forces and the first responders in our communities often witness harrowing acts of war and violence.  It makes an impact on the body, mind, and spirit of each one of them.  Too often, though, the spirit is forgotten.  We rally to make sure those who provide help to others have sufficient medical/psychological care and benefits befitting the nature of the intense jobs they hold.  But how can we care for their spirits?  The United Methodist Men had an answer.  From an Eagle Scout project, Strength For Service was born.  It supplies devotional books to members of the armed services and first responders free of charge.  For a story about how your ministry can support this project click here.  Help the men and women who do so much for us with books designed to help build up their spirits.  This is but one way to honor their service to us.

Meditation Monday: Heal

heal

In chapel one morning I was struck by a verse in a worship song.

“Earth has no sorrow heaven cannot heal.”

Heal

What struck me was the absolute truth of this statement. There is no sorrow God cannot heal.   Will it be a fast and pretty process? No. The verse doesn’t make that claim. Will it be a painless and easy process? No the verse doesn’t make that claim either.

We are promised a healing. What that looks like and how it progresses is up to each individual’s circumstances and lives. But if we are willing so too is God.

Almighty God, there is nothing above you. You have set us a little lower than yourself. There is nothing on Earth that heaven can’t deal with. Help us to remember to bring to you all our heartbrokenness and feelings of sadness so that we might once again know a deep love and happiness because we have gone through pain to get to the other side with you. Amen.

Meditation Monday: Pastor Appreciation

Pastor Appreciation

And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 3:15 KJV

October is pastor appreciation month. It is a time when we honor all the hard work by the “shepherds” of the church. It is a tough job and often thankless.

Pastor Appreciation

We assign one month a year to celebrate and thank our pastors. On social media there is a video going around entitled, “Some days Jesus has to shepherd me like this …” it shows a modern day shepherd grabbing something down in a deep hole. As he pulls to get it out we realize that somehow one of his sheep has slipped into a tiny but deep hole. Pulling it out by its hind legs in order to rescue it, the message is clear.

Not only do our pastors help to shepherd us through life with prayers, guidance and advice which feed our souls, sometimes they pull us out of the deep holes we fall into. We can recall some of these moments as we come to this month of thanks and appreciation.

Dear God help us to appreciate those you have set the mantle of leadership upon. We know we can be unkind at times, but we also are capable of the most loving acts of appreciation. Encourage us to show our thankfulness for our pastors, the shepherds of your flock. Amen.

Click here to read pastors sharing what they love the most about their job.

UMC Flood Relief

Flood ReliefOne Drop Of Water That Leads To A Flood

One drop of water is insignificant.

One trillion drops can stop an entire city!

In Louisiana, in a short time, millions upon millions of drops of water fell from the sky inundating the people, their pets and their homes with flood waters. Four parishes have been declared disaster areas because of this flood. There is much devastation and chaos.

Like snowflakes, individual water droplets are singularly beautiful, even innocuous and not all that forceful. But when they get together, their power becomes an overwhelming flood, sinking entire homes and killing people.

One Drop Of Grace That Leads To A Flood Of Love

Yet, just as much as drops of water coming together can wreak havoc upon a community, so too can United Methodists when we come together to bring grace and love to people devastated by flood waters.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is working with FEMA and other national disaster response organizations, including the American Red Cross, Lutheran Disaster Response, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, and the umbrella group, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD). They are helping those affected by this flood with warehouse space, cleanup buckets, distribution assistance, and shelter for evacuees—opening hearts, minds and doors to those in need.

Banding together, United Methodists can take on the flood and show people how God is working their midst.

The best ways to help are to assemble and send cleanup buckets and to support the UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response Advance, #901670, with your donations.

And praying, always praying.

Dear God, we pray hope and peace to our brothers and sisters in Louisiana. We ask for your healing touch upon the land that is flooded. May the waters recede and the time of rebuilding begin. We will not forget them now or when the rains stop. Protect them especially the vulnerable. Watch over them. Amen.

Elections and The Common Good

Elections

Elections

For many, elections have become a competition, a horse race. They determine whose person wins and as a result whose beliefs and values are supposedly the best.

Yet elections are about more than who wins or loses. They are a right and responsibility of each citizen who is of age.

Many have fought wars both violent and nonviolent to give everyone the right to vote. We do their sacrifice an injustice by not participating in this democratic system that, while flawed, is better than all the others out there. It is better than coups, monarchies and theocracies.

The Common Good

Elections are also a responsibility. They ask of us to think and pray long and hard about how we are to be in community with one another. Elections are not about winning one for the team, but the common good. They are to make common the good for all.

As a connectional church this is not new to us United Methodists. “Every United Methodist congregation is interconnected throughout the denomination via a unique, interlocking chain of conferences. The United Methodist Church practices representative democracy in its governance.” We understand the rights and responsibilities of our Connection’s common good.

Let us now in each of our country’s electoral process and our Church’s connectional process, seek the beloved community, the common good for all. Let us not only participate in a horse race that does not in the end care for the making of community but only in winning. We are not to vanquish one another but love one another as our God so loved us.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, … Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11 ESV

Meditation Monday: Seeing God

Seeing God

The first Russian cosmonaut in space was asked by ground control about what he saw in space.

His answer: “I don’t see God.”

Often when we look for God, we turn our attention heavenward. We look up literally and figuratively. Turning our focus to the sky we “watch” for God just as the disciples did when Jesus ascended. Instinctively we pray upward and we speak to God as if He is above somewhere. But this is not seeing God.

And yet Jesus tells us to look horizontally when we search for Him.

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The Beloved Community

Community

Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives. Martin Luther King Jr.

Whoever isn’t against us is for us. I assure you that whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will certainly be rewarded. Mark 9:40-41 CEB

The question of who is in and who is out of the beloved community is one of the threads running throughout the gospel of Mark. What we find when we study Jesus in Mark is that those who are on the margins of society – the sick, the dying, the poor, the “unclean”, Gentiles, children, women, Galilean fisherman, prostitutes and the demon-possessed, are all at the center of the community. Always have been and always will be.

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