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 – 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 – Unity

Unity

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12 NIV

We are in this together.  There is no part of the body of Christ that we can excise in order to bring about unity.  We are in unity.  The question is how we learn to live with each other in all our differences and diversity, wrongs and sins.

First we must choose to be together no matter what.  Staying together in an era where divorce is so common can appear to be an old-fashioned idea especially if one party feels as if the other is beating them up.  Perhaps it is best to walk away.

And yet we can’t.  We are in this together whether we want to be or not.  We are the body of Christ.  We can’t leave each other alone no matter how much we want to do so or in fact do so.  We are inextricably tied together with one another.  We will face one another in heaven one day.

So let’s learn to love one another as God loves us.  That is, better than we love ourselves.

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.

Las Vegas – We Stand With You

Las Vegas

We here are GCFA stand in solidarity and love with the people of Las Vegas, Nevada against the brutal violence perpetrated against humanity late Sunday night.  When one part of the body is hurt, the entire body suffers.  It is only in love that such wounds can be healed.  We send our thoughts and prayers to those hurt in this act of domestic terrorism.   Just as importantly, we stand firm in our Christian conviction that death shall not have the last word.  Our risen Savior has broken the bonds of death and set free all its captives.

Evil may think it has won this day.

Fifty plus are dead, over 500 are injured.  Firefighters had to wear Kevlar vests to the scene along with the police.  In today’s social scene, bullets made to pierce, not just flesh, but cement and plaster, are readily available for sale.  Military grade weapons pervade the American landscape–yet we still have faith and hope.

We have faith and hope that there is a greater power in this world that is a light against the darkness.  Love will always triumph over hate.  For every Good Friday, a resurrection is promised.  We hold onto that promise for ourselves, our church, our country and all the people as children of God.

We stand in any breach of faith and hope that has been cracked by this night of cruelty. “And let them give it to the doers of the work which is in the house of the LORD, to repair the breaches of the house,” 2 Kings 22:5b (KJV) We stand that those whose faith and hope is tested by this night of horror who can stand upon our shoulders for resolve until their hearts and bodies have been mended by the Holy Spirit of God.

We will continue to pray and do what must be done to challenge the circumstances that allow such acts of depravity to occur according to the Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church. (#3303, 3426)

Today is the day
God deplores violence in our homes and streets,
rebukes the world’s warring madness,
humbles the powerful and lifts up the lowly.
And so shall we.  (A Companion Litany to Our Social Creed)

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

A call to Love is a call to Love – EVERYONE. What?!

embracelove

On Facebook, I have seen some examples of people of color loving neo-Nazis and white supremacists.  In forming intimate friendships, they have been able to love the hate out of them and become friends.

If we are all made in the image of God, and thereby worth everything in God’s eyes, enough for God to send God’s Son to us, then is loving the enemy something central to all our lives as Christians?

Are we prepared to do this as a church?  Can we #embracelove around our neo-Nazi brothers and sisters?

In order to love we must first prepare ourselves.  How can we do so?

  1. Loving each other. We must be a living example of a people who love one another without conditions.
  2. Resting in the love of God and our fellow Christians. Learning to accept love will help us to teach others how to do so as well.
  3. Learn to listen. Truly listen to hear the other not to prepare a retort or comeback.  Listening to understand is not acceptance.
  4. Rely on hope. We will not always succeed.  Some will resist our embracing them with love.  We must never lose hope that God will touch their hearts in some way that lies beyond our presence in their lives. Only God redeems the irredeemable.

No one is beyond reproach from God or God’s followers.  While we as a church do not accept the rise of Nazism and we do not believe in one race’s superiority over another, we also believe that all are deserving of God’s love and healing touch, no matter what their sin.

Dear Lord, we live in troubled times.  Help us to see each other’s worth not in skin color but in the content of our character, the strength of our love for one another and the righteous grace You bestow upon us.  Amen.

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.