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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Do you see what I see..... Day 36 Tuesday in Holy Week Lent 2015

Day 36  Tuesday in Holy Week Lent 2015

"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."  John 14.6

Most of us know about Thomas and his moment of doubt or incredulity as the artists often say; but we often forget about this little encounter between Thomas and Jesus earlier in the Gospel.  Jesus has just promised his disciples that they will always be with him, and that in his Father's house their are many mansions, that is, plenty of room for all of them!  He then says, "and you know the way to the place where I am going."  To which Thomas responds, "Lord we do not know where you are going?  How can we know the way?"  To this we have Jesus response above.   Take a moment to reread those words and just let them settle into your heart.  Way, Truth, Life. 

We understand that in Jesus we have the fullest revelation of God that we will every encounter.  Jesus is God with us, and in his life, death and resurrection we come to know who God is and what God desires.  The words at the end aren't meant to keep people away, or somehow condemn folks who don't share our faith; they are meant to speak the truth.  To know Jesus is to know God.  To know God is to know Jesus.  For try as we might, there will never be a better way to understand God than to understand Jesus.  As we get deeper into the celebration of Holy Week, take a page from Pilate's script.  "Behold the man!" John 19.5  What do you see?   The Gospel of John hopes that you've come to see, the way, the truth and the life.

A prayer.  "Dear Lord, as we once again remember your passion during this holy week, help us to take the time to truly gaze at you and what you have revealed.  Amen."

Monday, March 30, 2015

Stand by me......Day 35 Lent 2015 Monday of Holy Week

Day 35 Monday in Holy Week  Lent 2015

"But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength"  2 Timothy 4.17a

"Just come and stand beside me, will you?"  The answer was yes, even though I didn't really have much to do with the incident, nor did I have anything pertinent to add.  But what this person needed was someone to stand beside them.  That is, to know that they had there in the presence of adversity a friendly face and someone who could be counted on for support, regardless of the outcome of the day.   Sometimes we just need to know that folks are standing with us, whether figuratively or literally.

Titian, 16th Century, Simon of Cyrene helping
Jesus carry the cross
I know in my own journey when I have felt the most vulnerable, the most dejected and disappointed, I have always reached out to folks and asked them to stand with me.  And it is amazing the strength and perseverance that comes from the knowledge that you are not alone.  How much more can we stand strong in the faith realizing that the Lord himself stands beside us and gives us strength.  These are the words of Paul to his young friend Timothy and they are important words for us to hear as well.  There is a promise that has been given to you in the waters of Baptism and one that will never wear out: the Lord stands beside you and will give you strength.   

Oh, that I might never forget this promise!  Thank you dear Lord for the gift of your presence!

A prayer:  "Dear God, remind me that I never stand alone, but am always in your presence. Help me to lean on your strength especially in my own times of weakness.  Amen."

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm/Passion Sunday Lent 2015

Palm/Passion Sunday Lent 2015

As this Sunday is not a part of the days of Lent, it is the entrance to Holy Week.  Come to worship and walk with Jesus from the Mount of Olives where he'll be hailed as king, to the way of the cross were he will be sentenced to death, crowned with thorns, and enthroned on a cross. 


Saturday, March 28, 2015

What does he see in him..... Day 34 Lent 2015

Day 34  Lent 2015

"As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him."   Mark 2.14

Not exactly where you want to meet the Messiah of Israel; while working at the occupying Roman army tax booth in Capernaum.  Let's face it, Levi (Matthew) would have been hated by the townspeople.   He is not a spiritual up and comer and he certainly can be branded as a traitor to his people. Yet, Jesus calls him to follow.  In the Biblical story what comes next is quite fascinating.  They celebrate this new found friendship with a dinner at Levi's house.  Of course Levi has all of his friends there as well and this causes quite a scandal!  The Gospel tells us that 'many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples' at the dinner party.  This of course didn't go over well with the authorities. 
One of the most powerful portrayals in the film
Jesus of Nazareth by Zeffirelli.

What did Jesus see in Levi?   Then again, what does Jesus see in me?

I love what director Franco Zeffirelli does with this in his epic movie/mini-series "Jesus of Nazareth."  (Still the gold standard of Jesus films by my opinion).  He has Peter angry as a hornet that Jesus would call his enemy the tax collector to also be a disciple.  Peter will not go to the dinner party at Levi's house, but after an agonizing evening of personal struggle he shows up at the entrance to the door.  Jesus seeing him, tells those gathered that he wants to tell them a story, and he proceeds to tell the parable of the "Prodigal Son."  (Remember two brothers, one had strayed away and was welcomed home and the older brother was angry because he didn't think the younger one deserved mercy).  After telling the story, Peter in tears embraces his former enemy.   A truly powerful scene. Watch it if you can:  Jesus of Nazareth link

What did Jesus see in Levi---the power of reconciliation, of forgiveness and new life.  What do we see in others?

A prayer:  "Dear Jesus, help me to see in others what you see in me.  Amen"

Friday, March 27, 2015

Go ahead and be great.....Day 33 Lent 2015

Day 33  Lent 2015

"Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”  But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest."  Mark 9.33-34

woman pilgrim at Capernaum in the Holy Land
Here we are at the second of Jesus' passion predictions--he's just told the disciples that he is headed for a cross and all the anguish that will follow.  And what is their reaction?  They get into an argument about who is the greatest in their midst.  The disciples just sometimes don't get it---and neither do we.  We go around convinced that everything is a competition and that we have to at least make a pretty good showing, if not be the greatest ourselves.  Now, hear me, this has nothing to do with 'pride of workmanship' or of 'doing your best.'  No, the disciples here are arguing purely about status and especially about status vis-à-vis the position of the disciple standing next to him! 

But what I find interesting is that Jesus doesn't condemn them for their conversation.  I would have thrown down a little hellfire and brimstone myself; but thank goodness I'm just in sales and not in management.  No, Jesus sees this as a great opportunity to talk about greatness.  He doesn't seem phased by the idea at all.  In fact, he gives them a clear and direct answer.  "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”  Mark 9.35. 

Probably not what the disciples were expecting.  For Jesus being great has nothing to do with status, but with actions on behalf of the neighbor.  And truth be known we could all probably benefit from a little attempt at being great. 

A prayer:  "Dear Jesus,  I ask this day that you might give me the strength to be great without the ego of status.  Amen."

Thursday, March 26, 2015

It's not all for you.....Day 32 Lent 2015

Day 32  Lent 2015

"When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow."  Deuteronomy 24.20

The Gleaners, Jean-François Millet, 1857
We no longer live--most of us--in the agriculturally driven society of the ancients; but we still have something to learn from their wisdom.  You see back then if you had an orchard, a field, a vineyard you were required by God to not be overly efficient!  What I mean by this is that those who were most marginalized and in danger of being exploited  (the foreigner, the orphan, the widow), those who had no one to look out for their best interests, were to be remembered at the time of harvest.  They were to be allowed to go and glean from the fields that which they needed to survive.  That is you didn't harvest everything, nor did you try to maximize your profits to the point of forgetting your obligation to provide for others.   Ruth, a very important figure in the history of the faith, and ancestor of Jesus, had to rely on the goodness of this practice as she was a foreigner and a widow living on the edge of subsistence. 

Most of us no longer have vineyards and orchards from which the most vulnerable can come and receive; but we do have income, skills and time that should fall under the same ordinance of God in regards to caring for the last and the least of these.  Why?  Partly because it is a good exercise in gratitude.  When we convince ourselves that every olive, every grape, every penny and every dollar solely belongs to us, then we have begun traveling down a road of ingratitude and greed that will lead to hardened hearts and misery.   Wealth is not bad, but what it can do to the soul is terrifying.  

So today I want you to be a tither.  You should tithe on all your income (give 10% on behalf of God's work in the's actually fun... my family does this and we have yet to miss a meal).  But alas, this might just push you over the edge, so today I want you to tithe on what you make for one day.  So if you make $50,000 a year, that comes to $137 a day, so I want you to give away $13.70.  If you make 25K then cut that in half.  If you make a 100K then double it!  But whatever you do, give it to help the foreigner, the orphan, the widow, the homeless, the destitute, the sick, the forgotten....I don't really care who you give it to, but give it away!  Now that you've become a 'tither' for a day...I wonder if you could do it for a week, a month, a year, a lifetime....otherwise your not only beating your Olive trees but stripping them as well.

A prayer: "Dear Lord, guard me from the evils of greed and help me to enjoy what you have given, even as I give.  Amen."

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A tale of the loving father....Day 31 Lent 2015

Day 31 Lent 2015

"But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him."  Luke 15.20b

MURILLO, Bartolomé Esteban Return of the Prodigal Son
Tonight at evening worship we'll have the last of our Lenten parables which will be the so called "Prodigal Son."  It will come as no surprise to those who have been with us during these Lenten midweek worship opportunities that this is just one more misnamed parable.  The story is not about a prodigal/lost son; but about a loving merciful father.

What I always find so interesting in the parable is the little speech that the son is putting together in his head in anticipation of his upcoming meeting.  He has confession, regret, even his own punishment all figured out; but the old man, well, he doesn't care.  He doesn't care about anything other than the fact that his son was lost and has been found, was dead and is alive again.  Here I think is the real power of forgiveness.  Forgiveness dares to no longer defines a person (ourselves) by the past events; but by a future that is open to new growth, new bonds, and new opportunities. 

So take a lesson from the story of the loving father: if there is a particular moment of guilt, of shame, of remorse that you keep carrying around and conveniently use as a stick to beat yourself up about, put it down.  God doesn't care about your past, only the present.  And today, God would simply like to throw his arms around you in love and say, "Welcome home."

A prayer:  "Dear Lord, so often we carry within us burdens that you have long called us to leave behind.  Give us the courage to lay them down and to run into your arms.  Amen."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Life after birth .....Day 30 Lent 2015

Day 30 Lent 2015

"If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s."  Romans 14.8

Death.  I have to tell you that I'm not afraid of death, but I'm not looking forward to dying!  I think that sums up the feeling that many folks have.  We know what we have here on earth and the thought of leaving these things is, well, it's kind of depressing.  For me, it's not death that's depressing but the 'opportunity cost' that death represents.  To not be there as my family navigates the joys and trials of life---will that is sad.  And in the case of life that is taken way to soon, it is again the opportunity cost of 'unrealized potential' that I mourn; what could and should have been. 

In Our Greatest Gift, Henri Nouwen tells a parable of faith and hope. He imagines twins–a brother and a sister–talking to each other in their mother's womb:   The sister said to the brother, "I believe there is life after birth." Her brother protested vehemently, "No, no, this is all there is. This is a dark and cozy place, and we have nothing else to do but to cling to the cord that feeds us."  The little girl insisted, "There must be something more than this dark place. There must be something else, a place with light where there is freedom to move." Still, she could not convince her twin brother. 
After some silence, the sister said hesitantly, "I have something else to say, and I'm afraid you won't believe that, either, but I think there is a mother."  Her brother became furious. "A mother!" he shouted. "What are you talking about? I have never seen a mother, and neither have you. Who put that idea in your head? As I told you, this place is all we have. Why do you always want more? This is not such a bad place, after all. We have all we need, so let's be content."
The Christian life is lived between the sister and the brother in this mythical womb.  We are at once to be content and fully present in the gift of the moment; nevertheless we are also to be those who realize that there IS a 'mother' out there and that this present reality is only a foreshadow of what is to come.   So Paul has it right, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's--and that is the most important thing of all!
A prayer: "Dear Lord, may we live content in what you have given us; while being hopeful of that which is to come.  Amen"

Monday, March 23, 2015

Get up and go..... Day 29 Lent 2015

Day 29  Lent 2015

 "So Abram went, as the Lord had told him..." Genesis 12.4a

These first three words are really quite amazing:  So Abram went.  Really, at the age of 75, leaving the comforts of home and hearth, he strikes out from the family estate at Haran into the wilderness of the unknown.  Lot, his nephew goes with him, as does Sarah his wife; but they are all heading into an unknown future with very little security, besides that of faith.

Pieter Lastman, Abraham's journey, 1614
Now Abram (or Abraham as he'll later be called) was not perfect and he certainly had times of doubt and confusion, nevertheless you have to give him credit for the shear guts it took to set out that day solely because he believed it was what God had told him.  

Indeed, Paul will reflect on the faith of Abraham as he describes the very nature of the Christian life.  The Christian doesn't have it all figured out and certainly doesn't know where it is that God might be leading; but the Christian dares to trust that God is good and that God will not leave us abandoned.  Sometimes parts of the journey seem 'Godless' but when traveled through the lens of faith we are able to press on with the hope that even these 'Godless' patches will be the route by which God is at work in and for us.   

Be brave!  Be strong!  Be bold!  Where is it that you think God might be telling you to go? 

A prayer:  "Dear Lord, you call us just like Abraham to follow you.  Show us the way that you would have us go and give us the courage to get there!  Amen"

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Fifth Sunday in Lent 2015

The Fifth Sunday in Lent

While Sundays are not a part of the 40 days, they are an important part of our Lenten discipline.  

Today we hear the Gospel from St. John:  23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

What does it mean to follow Jesus?  Does he really mean hate?   What happens when a seed is sown (buried) into the earth?  What are the signs of growth in your life?

A prayer:  "Dear Lord, help me to follow.  Amen"

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Come out, come out where ever you are..... Day 28 Lent 2015

Day 28  Lent 2015

"Truly, you are a God who hides himself,
    O God of Israel, the Savior."   Isaiah 45.15

The Crucifixion by Antonello da Messina
1475.   I think he captures the "hiddenness."
The hiddeness of God is something that is near and dear to Lutheran Theology.  We often speak of it as the "Theology of the Cross" wherein God is present and at work often times in those places where it seems most unlikely for God to be found.  It spells over into the fact that God in Christ seems to be found in those things which are opposite of what we would expect: God is present in the serving of others, in suffering, in darkness, in weakness, in lastness and leastness and even on the cross.  This is a holy mystery; but nothing new!

The passage above from Isaiah is spoken in the context of God claiming Cyrus the Great (A Persian Gentile emperor) as God's messiah (anointed) and how it is that God will be at work through him.   This is not what the people expected.  God shouldn't be found in a gentile king, but within God's own people...I mean we have a contract of sorts!  What could God be thinking?   Ah, yes, 'your thoughts are not our thoughts' O Lord!  Isaiah will remind us of this in just a few chapters.

Don't assume that God is not present, often God is hidden, to be seen only through the eyes of faith and the assurance of hope.   Look for the hidden God in all that you do and you just might be amazed to discover that God is in the most unusual places--and people!

A prayer:  "Dear God, we certainly don't see the world as you see it!  Help me to see you at work even in the hiddenness of your presence!  Amen"

Friday, March 20, 2015

In the world and loving it! Day 27 Lent 2015

Day 27 Lent 2015

 "I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one."   John 17.15

Here in John 17 Jesus is praying what scholars call his "High Priestly Prayer."  That is Jesus is acting in the role of priest and praying for all his people--including us!  This is an amazing thing to ponder.  Christ praying for us.  And the prayer that Christ prays is telling.

So many Christians have been duped into thinking that the plan of God is ultimately about the 'great escape' from this world and that the best way we can prepare for this rip roaring grand exodus is to cluster ourselves together in safe havens of holiness.   But that is not the plan.  Fear is not the plan.  Isolation is not the plan.  We are called to be out in the world, to let our light shine and to be doers of good on behalf of the God we love and serve.   
Jesus is not naive to the power of evil and to the temptations that face us all; but he seems to be confident that God is more than capable of protecting us from the assaults of the evil one while we go about witnessing to the love of God in Jesus Christ.   I know sometimes it seems like the bad news is winning, and it would be easier to just give up, to punt, to hunker down and disengage.  Don't.   For God has placed us in the world and we have work today...confident that God will protect us from all evil.   

A prayer:  "Dear Lord, what power is greater than your love?  Help me to remember this as I do my work in the world.  Amen"

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Opps, Did I really say that....Day 26 Lent 2015

Day 26 Lent 2015

"You must understand this, my beloved:  let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger;  for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness."  James 1.19-20

Think twice before speaking once!  Don't put your foot in you mouth!  That's why you have two ears and only one mouth!  All these sayings speak to a similar truth that James is trying to get across to his community: words are powerful and can destroy in a moment what has taken a lifetime to build.   When I talk about the power of words with our young people I invite them to realize that with only a few choice words I could destroy our relationship.  They would never think of me the same again, nor would they have much respect for me and how I live my life.  This is true, even if they have known me for years, a few choice words can destroy everything.

I guess as Christians we shouldn't be so surprised at the power of words.  After all we confess that God created all things through the power of the Word and that Jesus himself is this Word of God, incarnate.  So why is it that we forget the power of words...the power to lift up and the power to lay waste?

Why not intentionally use this day for the positive power of words spoken in love.  Find something nice to say about everyone you encounter--and share that word as often as is appropriate.  Think of it as an extra credit Lenten discipline!

A prayer for today: "Dear Lord, slow down our need for anger and our desire to be defensive around others.  Instead help us to us our words to lift up and strengthen the relationships that surround us. Amen."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A work in progress.....Day 25 Lent 2015

Day 25 Lent 2015

"I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ."  Philippians 1.6

Everything will be alright!  Oh I know there are troubles and concerns and I know that often times our faith seems to be wavering on the precipice of disaster; but we have a promise here that God does not abandon the work that God has begun in our lives.  And make no mistake, God has begun something in you.  The story really begins before you were born, as you were known to God even before that first breathe entered your lungs.   

For the Christian this claiming is found in the gift of Holy Baptism, where the promise of God claims us as children of God and heirs with Christ to all that God has done.   This day, claim with confidence that gift and promise.  With Paul rejoice that while the road may still be long, and while you--like the rest of us--still have lots of room for growth and spiritual maturity; God is at work in your life and you will not be left out on the great and glorious day of our Lord!

A prayer for today:  "Dear God, remind us this day that you are near and at work in our lives as we grow into your love for us and all creation.  Amen"

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Cheers to Patrick! Day 24 Lent 2015

Day 24 Lent 2015

 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you."  Luke 6.27-28

On this feast day of St. Patrick I can't help but be drawn to these words from Jesus from the Gospel of Luke.  (Similar are found in Matthew as well).   Here in America St. Patrick's Day will be used as an excuse to get drunk, to turn things green, to pinch the unlucky wearer of anything but green, and to foster the belief in the wee people who create mischief and disorder.

Why have we forgotten about Patrick?  Maybe because he actually lived out the words of Jesus above and by doing so he showed that these words were not just an unattainable goal--but could become a reality.   When we get beyond the fairy tales (no he didn't drive snakes out of Ireland) we find a person of faith who followed the word of God even when it meant returning to where he had been enslaved.   Patrick was 16 when taken by Irish pirates from his home in Britain.  After some 6 years as a captive he walked over 200 miles to find a boat that would take him back to his homeland.  Upon his return he took up the study for the priesthood and then some 15 years later, he followed a vision that he should go back to Ireland and witness to the Gospel.  

So if you find yourself in a pub tonight, hush the crowd and propose a toast to Patrick, a saint of God who dared to live out the words of Jesus by loving his enemies and praying for those who had done him wrong!  To Patrick!  Cheers!

A prayer for today:    Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left.   May I do all that I do this day remembering you O Lord.  Amen.   

Monday, March 16, 2015

It's a little bright in here! Day 23 Lent 2015

Day 23 Lent 2015

"I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness."  John 12.46

Christ of St. John of the Cross
Dali, 1951
The funny thing about light is that it can be both comforting and oppressive.  If you are struggling to stay on a trail at night then a flash light can be your best friend.  That same light, when held by someone else and pointed at your face can become disorienting and the cause of concern.  We often just think of light in its positive meaning, but it does have its "dark side"  --pardon the pun! A nice dark steak house can hide the fact that I have a little bit of stain on my shirt; while a well light restaurant gives me no cover.  

If I'm honest, sometimes I prefer hiding in the dark.  I prefer the shadows, because in the shadows others can't see my imperfections.   Jesus calls us out of the shadows, out of the darkness into the light. This can be somewhat painful.  It's like looking at the face in the mirror and wondering what ever happened to that poor chap!   But Jesus' call to the light is not for the sake of embarrassment but for the sake of honesty.  That we might truly come to understand the nature of who we are, that we are creatures, that we often fall short of the glory of God and that we are more dependent than we would care to let on.   Good!  This kind of honest assessment helps us to see the reality of our brokenness and drives us into the arms of Christ.  

But, here's the thing, once the light has caused us to squirm and face our own reflection, it now become the variable 'lamp unto our feet' and helps to guild our way home!  

A prayer for today:  "Dear Lord, the light of your presence is both judgment and mercy (Law and Gospel).  Help us to prefer the honesty of the light to the delusions of our darkness.  Amen" 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Fourth Sunday of Lent


As you know, Sundays are not a part of the 40 days of Lent; but they are still an important part of our Lenten discipline.   Take time for worship today!   This morning the lesson will be from John 3 and will include one of the most famous and recognizable pieces of scripture in the whole world.  John 3.16:  "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pretty ordinary lives.....Day 22 Lent 2015

Day 22 Lent 2015

"Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”" Luke 3.14

Soldiers at Qsar el Jehud
The place of Jesus' baptism at the river Jordan
I've always loved this little section of Luke's Gospel where folks who are going out to see John the Baptizer ask for advice as to what they should do to live lives that show their repentance.  That is, how shall our lives show to others what we have come to believe.  John's answer to the crowds, to the tax collectors, and here to the Soldiers is quite...well...nonspiritual.   

He doesn't say that they should go to prayer 5 times a day or perform some rigorous task like climb a mountain or undertake a great journey.  No, they could best show what they've come to believe by allowing it to reflect in how they lived their every day common lives.  In the case of the soldiers, don't use your vocation (and weapons) as a means of intimidation in order to manipulate others and take what is not yours and be content with what you have.  

We often try to make faith way to complicated.  Faith is best served when we translate it into our everyday actions and relationships.  Imagine yourself asking this same question to John the Baptizer.  "And I, what shall I do?"  What do you think John's reply would be?  Then go and do it!

A prayer for the day:  "Dear Lord, help us to live out our faith each and everyday in concrete ways that both serve our neighbor and give glory to you.  Amen."  

Friday, March 13, 2015

Keep on knocking....Day 21 Lent 2015

Day 21 Lent 2015

"Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me." Revelation of John 3.20

This is one of the most famous verses in the Revelation of John and has even inspired a famous Christian folk art painting with Jesus at the door.  There is one important part of this painting that I have never liked.  (maybe you do and that's OK).  It is painted with no door knob on Jesus said of the door.  It's supposed to indicate that it's up to us to let Jesus in.  The implication is that if we fail to open the door, then we have lost out on Christ.
Christ knocking at Hearts door, Warner Sallman

I prefer to ponder the image of Christ knocking.  Knocking.  Knocking on each and every door in my life.  It is not that Christ can't come in and stand beside me, for often he does.  In fact in the Resurrection accounts he needed no such invite to be present with his disciples  (see  John 20.19 ).  The point is I think that I am to be reminded that Christ is always there.  Always present.  Always makes himself available.  That being said, he does not force himself into our lives but is always there at the ready.  The point is to keep our ears attuned for the knocking of Christ, that is, to never forget that no matter where we might find ourselves, Jesus is there at the ready to stand beside us.  For more on the painting and a nice explanation click HERE

A prayer for the day:  "Dear Lord, help us to have ears that  hear you knocking at the doors of our lives and may we cherish the gift of your presence. Amen." 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Praying away those things that stalk us.....Day 20 Lent 2015

Day 20 Lent 2015

 "Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you." 1 Peter 5.7

For most of us there are those moments when we can feel an anxious spirit beginning to creep up upon us.  It is like a predator that ever so slowly gets closer and closer, until we can almost feels it's warm breath breathing down the nape of our neck.   Sometimes the source of our anxiety is easy to diagnose: an upcoming confrontation, a lack of resources, a certain predicament that has ensnared us or a loved one.  But other times our anxieties seem to be more vague and undefined, just a sense of uneasiness that begins to take over our thoughts.

Here Peter gives us some sound advice when it comes to our anxieties---pray them over to the Lord.  And there is an ancient prayer technique for doing this, it's called the prayer of relinquishment.   Begin by closing your eyes and praying with your hands outstretched and your palms up.  Feel the wait of your anxieties in the palm of your hands.  Recognize and name them if you can.  Then, recite the list again, this time slowly turning your hands so that your palms eventually will be facing down.  After each anxiety is named  (if it is unnameable then just call it 'anxiousness') say, "I give this to you O Lord."   At the end of the prayer repeat the passage above from 1 Peter.  

You might have to repeat this prayer over and over again, but my experience tells me that there is relief to be found and that Peter's advice is solid.  

A prayer for the day:  "Dear Heavenly Father, as we travel through the waters of fear and anxiety remind us that you are present, and encourage us to cast those things that would dampen our spirits unto you.  Amen."

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Have a drink..... Day 19 Lent 2015

Day 19 Lent 2015

"On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me."  John 7.37

Jesus was in Jerusalem for what was known as the festival of Booths or Sukkot.  Part of this festival involved the high priest coming down to the spring of Siloam and he would fill a golden pitcher and then pour it out as a reminder of God's providing for the people--in their day, and in the exodus from Egypt.  
Pool of Siloam, taken from my last trip
to the Holy Land with Linda H and Marlene F.

Imagine in the middle of this, Jesus standing up and shouting:  Let anyone who is thirsty come to me."  It is not water that Jesus was offering, but the gift of the Holy Spirit.  A gift that like water gives life and satisfies our deepest needs.  Just as we can become thirsty and need to replenish ourselves with water, so our spirit can become dry and lifeless.  We to need to be replenished for the spiritual journey ahead, and Jesus promises to satisfy our spiritual needs through the giving of the Holy Spirit.

And you have this Holy Spirit within you!  No, you say!  Yes!  Scripture promises that you can not say "Jesus is Lord" without the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12.3).  Take time today to pray for the Holy Spirit to rejuvenate and satisfy your spiritual thirst.   And be confident that this gift is already in you--ready to flow from your heart like a fountain.  Why not even visualize this happening.  Close your eyes, see your spirit-filled heart and now visualize a valve being opened that releases the Spirit to flow throughout your body and into the world.  Breath deep and drink of the Spirit.

A prayer for today: Dear Lord, may the Holy Spirit flow from our hearts and quench our thirst, and may our heart, body and mind be moved to praise you for the life giving water that you bring.  Amen."

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Fountain of Youth! Day 18 Lent 2015

Day 18 Lent 2015

"So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day." 2 Corinthians 4.16

It is said that Juan Ponce de Le'on searched for the fountain of youth and hear in the New World we continue his frantic quest.  We are obsessed with youth.  We are obsessed as a culture with trying to defy the reality of our growing older by hiding the signs of our aging through any number of products that restore color, increase libido, defy gravity, and convince us that we are immune to the ravages of time.    Here's the stats:  Americans spent in 2014 over 10 BILLION dollars on cosmetic plastic surgery.  It is estimated that the anti-aging generates 88 BILLION dollars a year--in America!

The Apostle Paul knows what we--even with our surgeries, pills, dyes, procedures, and denial--have tried to forget.  Our bodies eventually will betray us.  We are creatures with a limited lifespan; but there is a part of us that is immortal.   The key to a healthy life, and healthy aging--according to Paul--is to nurture our inner nature, that is to grow in our spiritual awareness and as disciples of Jesus.  While our bodies are destined to decline, our spirit has the potential to grow and evolve.  

Interesting how we throw so much time and money into that which is destined for dust; and pay so little attention to that which is destined for glory!

A prayer: "Dear Lord, we are indeed marvelously made and we thank you for gift of life.  We ask that as our own strength fades that we might grow in our love and appreciation for all that you have done, now, and in the world to come.  Amen"

Monday, March 9, 2015

Wait for it...... Day 17 Lent 2015

Day 17 Lent 2015

"Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!"   Psalm27.14

      Paul "Bear" Bryant is widely considered to be one of the greatest college football coaches of all time. Bryant's record in 38 years at Maryland, Kentucky, Texas A&M, and Alabama included 323 wins. He also took 29 teams to bowl games and led 15 of his teams to conference championships. In the 1960s and 1970s, no school won more games than Alabama (193-32-5). He won 6 national championships and was SEC coach of the year 11 times. As one of his colleagues said, "He wasn't just a coach; he was the coach."

     John Croyle, an All-American defensive end on the 1973 national championship team, played for the Bear, and shared this story of one of coach Bryant's pregame speeches.

“In this game, there are going to be four or five plays that will determine the outcome of this contest. Four or five plays that will swing the momentum toward us, or away from us. I don't know which plays these will be. You don't know which plays these will be. All you can do is go out there and give all that you have on each and every play.”

Here’s the reality—Our life is made up of a series of moments. A few of those moments will be absolutely transformative—they will change our life and the lives of others forever. But since we usually don't know which moments will be the "game-changers," the Bible repeatedly urges us to "wait on the Lord."  But this is not a passive waiting.  A kind of do nothing existence.  On the contrary we should be always on the lookout, expectant and hopeful that God can use any random moment to be a moment of Grace that blesses you and the world.

A prayer for today:  "Good and gracious Lord, help me to live this day expecting to see you and your work in my life.  Guard me from despair and give me the courage I need to face each and every situation with confidence and hope!  Amen."

Sunday, March 8, 2015

This is the day! The 3rd Sunday in Lent

Bernardino, Mei  Christ clearing the Temple
Once again, Sundays are not considered a part of the 40 days of Lent.  Each Sunday is a little 'Easter' in and of itself.   Nevertheless our Sunday Readings and worship are an important part of the Lenten discipline and experience.  Today in the morning (830 and 1030) we'll experience a side of Jesus that makes us uncomfortable....he's angry in the Temple!  At 6pm we'll continue or movement through the Gospel of Matthew and look at the theme of "Forgiveness."  

                                                                           Make time for worship!  WE need you! 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Running on empty! Day 16 Lent 2015

Day 16 Lent 2015

"She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying."  Luke 10.39

She?  Who is she?  That would be Martha who is also a friend and follower of Jesus. Martha and Mary are not only sisters but locked together for eternity as the polar opposites of discipleship.  Martha was a doer!  A type "A" go getter that didn't have time for folks not pulling their own weight when there was work to be done.  Mary on the other hand is the sibling who will gladly let other's do while she sits at the Lord's feet and exercises her mind and imagination.  

VELÁZQUEZ, Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Christ in the House of Mary and Martha
c. 1620
In my experience Martha's don't always have a lot of appreciation for the Mary's of the world!  And I'll also confess, I give thanks to God above for the many Martha's throughout my ministry that have been such faithful doers of the Word (God bless you, you know who you are!).

That being said, even the Martha's of the world can benefit from the example that Mary sets.  You see sometimes we can get so overly scheduled and tired that we don't realize just how empty our own spiritual reserves are getting.   Prayer, worship, slow meditation on the scriptures, all of these things can help recharge our batteries and keep us at our spiritual best.  

Once again, for all you Martha's out there--I love you!  That being said, make sure you take some time to fill your own tank and sit at the feet of the master.

A prayer:  "Loving God, each and every day is filled with opportunities for us to be at work in the world.  Thank you for the blessing of work and purpose.  Help us to recognize when it is that we need to refresh ourselves by the still waters that you lead us toward.  Amen."

Friday, March 6, 2015

Can I get a witness Day 15 Lent 2015

Day 15 Lent 2015

"... and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Acts 1.8b

I wonder today how it is that I can be a witness for Christ?  I have to admit, part of me cringes when I hear this word 'witness' because I think of Christians standing on street corners and yelling out threats of doom and damnation.   That's just not for me.  

But luckily we can witness to Christ in many ways and I am convinced that each and everyone of us is indeed called to do just this--be a witness.  But what about us timid folks who just don't feel really comfortable with this?  Here are some ways that you can be a witness that even the most timid can embrace!    1) Actually reference 'church' or 'worship' or 'Jesus' in your casual conversations. Now I don't mean get in someones face and preach at them, what I mean is let folks know that you are a person of faith and that you actually make time for this. Think of how easy this would be:  "At church yesterday I saw the cutest purse!"  "After worship we found the best place to just sit and relax." "My pastor yesterday told the goofiest joke!" "Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, but I don't think he ever had to drive on the 91!"  2) Make sure you tweet, facebook, instagram (whatever social media you use) whenever you can about being at church or coming to worship.  How about this on Tweeter:  "Sitting in church and reminded about the power of love!"  Or what about an Instagram that shows the patio after worship and says:  "Donuts at church...whatever happened to lead us not into temptation!"

I know these are silly, but my point is that being a witness to Jesus is something we all can do.  How will you be a witness today?

A prayer: "Dear God, help us to be lamps in the midst of darkness and help us to have the courage to be bearers of your light!  Amen."

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Driving by Braille! Day 14 Lent 2015

Day 14  Lent 2015

"We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows !"         1 Corinthians 13.12  The Message Translation

I can remember it like it was just yesterday, driving on Highway 99, stereo blaring, leaving Fresno and hitting a patch of the deadly Tule fog.  It was early January and I was in a hurry to get to Sacramento when all of a sudden my visibility lowered to about 2 feet.  Given the fact that I was going 65 miles an hour and had no idea of who was ahead of me, or who was behind me, it became very clear why this phenomenon of the San Joaquin Valley is the leading cause of weather related causalities in California. 
What makes it so terrifying is that you know it is not safe to stop and it is not safe to continue, it is the proverbial 'damned if you do and damned if you don't' situation.  So the best thing is to slow down, roll down your window and listen attentively and keep your eyes on the fog line; oh and pray like you've never prayed before! 

The passage above comes from the famous "love chapter" and is often
omitted at weddings.  But it deserves to be read within the context of this great chapter.  There will be times in life when our options will all seem less than ideal.  There will be those moments when we aren't sure what is the best approach and will realize that the decisions we make may have important lasting consequences.  What do you do in such times?  Rely on love.  When forced into a situation with several bad options, roll down the window of prayer--straining to hear what God might be saying--then pick the one that is most loving and remember that when the weather clears--and it will--it's a lot easier to live with a decision, even if it didn't turn out right, that was based in love.

A prayer: "Dear Lord, when confronted with choices and decisions that all seem to be less than ideal, help me to find the path that is most loving, and be content with knowing that is the best that I can do.  Amen"

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Go and do! Day 13 Lent 2015

Day 13 Lent 2015

Vincent Van Gogh,
The Good Samaritan, 1890
"Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker,
    but those who are kind to the needy honor him."  Proverbs 14.31

Today's thought is going to be incredibly simple.   Taking to heart the words of Proverbs above, find time today to be kind to the needy and thus give honor to the Lord our God! 

Why not memorize this little verse and recite it every time you have an opportunity to honor the Lord!

Prayer for today:  "Dear Lord, you are the one from whom all good things flow! Open are hearts to share with others what you have first given us. Amen."

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

To be loving or to be right....that is the question Day 12 Lent 2015

Day 12 Lent 2015

"Welcome those who are weak in faith,[a] but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions."  Romans 14.1    [a] or conviction

Thomas Aquinas,
painted by Fra Angelico
How much time is wasted by the church as we quarrel over opinions?  Almost any town in America has a church on the corner where at some point and time the people got in a quarrel with each other, or the pastor, or some issue and the result was a new church built on a different corner for those who "held to the truth." 

Paul continues in Chapter 14.4, "who are you to pass judgement on the servant of another."  Sometimes we have to get beyond the labels of "right" and "wrong" and work on such things as "Love" and "Mercy."  A church that is afraid of diversity of opinion is a church that is closed to the Holy Spirit.

Our prayer for today is actually a quote from Thomas Aquinas:   “We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject, for both have labored in the search for truth, and both have helped us in finding it.”

Monday, March 2, 2015

Do not worry....that's worrisome! Day 11 Lent 2015

Day 11 Lent 2015

"Do not worry about anything, bu in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."  Philippians 4.6

I imagine that like you I have lots of worries.  I worry about small things and big things. I worry about my family and my abilities.  I worry about the climate and the human race.  Now granted, most of my worries are "first world problems."  I don't tend to worry about where my next meal will come from or whether I'll be able to find enough clean water to sustain myself and my family; but I do worry.

Paul, following in the footsteps of Jesus declares that worry is less than helpful and not a part of the Christian life (Matthew 6.25-34); but sometimes I find this worriesome!  Woe is me!

Luckily Paul seems to add some ammunition to the fight against worry. He encourages us to pray with supplication, that is an earnest plea for God's intervention.  But he follows this with the fact that we should do this with thanksgiving.  That is we can be confident that our prayers, our supplications, all those things that concern us have been presented to God and that God will be at work not only in those things that we have lifted up, but in our lives as well helping to live beyond the anxiety of worry.   

A prayer for today:  "Dear God, so many questions and concerns bombard us this day that we tend to focus on them and not your word.  Give us the strength to recall your promises of love and presence and to be confident and thankful that you always hear our prayers. Amen"

Sunday, March 1, 2015

This is the day....2nd Sunday in Lent 2015

Second Sunday in Lent

"This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."  Psalm 118.24

Sunday's are not a part of the 40 days of Lent, but a celebration of the resurrection and joy of Christ.   Take this day to worship  (Come to OSLC if you can 830, 1030 and 6pm---but take time!!!)   The Bible tells us that the Sabbath has two purposes:  to give you rest from the toil and weariness of the week and to offer a time for us to offer worship and praise to God.  A good Sabbath is when you can do both!   Happy Sunday.