Friday, March 31, 2006

Exodus 2:1-22; Psalm 107:1-32;
1 Corinthians 12:27-13:3; Mark 9:2-13

For those of you who know me, I prefer to live my life by the saying, “The glass is half full rather than half empty.” To me, living life with a positive outlook seems to be much better for my health. It aids me in staying focused in the present. Realistically though, we all encounter many challenges that may get even the most positive person among us feeling helpless and lost at times. I’ll take myself as an example.

In 1994, we were told that our daughter, Angie, whom I had been carrying in my womb for 7 ½ months, would not live long, a year at most, since she had a rare fatal condition. To our surprise, the Lord blessed us first by allowing her to stay with us an additional month in my womb, and then again by allowing her to be born alive. She only lived 20 minutes in our arms, enough time for us to take pictures and make memories of her that would sustain us for life.

By February 1995, our second son, Joshua, was born. Born four weeks early, the doctors said Josh had brain damage and that he may not ever walk or talk. In November 1999, Josh had a grand mal seizure. We were told that night by the doctors that they did not know if Josh would be alive by morning; if he was, he may have severe brain damage. Now a fourth grader, Josh has mild cerebral palsy, epilepsy, severe food allergies, and some learning disabilities. Well, for those of you who know him, there is now no “off button.” We can’t stop Josh from talking or running around.

One might ask, how did my husband, Dave, and I deal with such grim news in each of these situations? Honestly, it was not easy at all because the reality is that we were and are only mere humans. We are definitely not made of the same divine material our Lord comes from. But we knew we had two choices. Let the news we received destroy us, or find a way to put our “glass is half full” philosophy into practice. The odds seemed so against us, but the answer came to us through faith that we derived from one of my favorite Bible passages, Exodus 2:9. From it, I believe that focusing on our human predicament may paralyze us because the situation may appear humanly impossible. But concentrating on God and his power will help us see the way out. Right now you may feel unable to see through your troubles. Focus instead on God, and trust him for the way out. That is all he needs to begin his work in you.

In additional, I came to truly appreciate these experiences through another one of my favorite verses in the Bible, Psalm 107:32. From it , I think that those who have never truly suffered may not appreciate God as much as those who have matured under hardship. Those who have seen God work in times of distress have a deeper insight into his love and kindness.

Embracing suffering as a gift from our Lord is probably one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves. I know it has made all the difference for me. I look forward to the next challenge our Lord is planning to bless me with. Because in the end, it will be a blessing in the disguise of a challenge!

Chris Hallett

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Exodus 1:6-22; Psalm 73; 1 Corinthians 12:12-26; Mark 8:27-9:1

As I read today’s epistle, I am always struck by the affirmation of faith of the collective community of the church. Together as brothers and sisters in Christ, we vow and reaffirm this message weekly in our liturgy. The creed, be it Apostles’ or Nicene, states the belief in the “catholic Church,” the universal Church, under God and his Christ. Paul points out in his letter to the Corinthians, with inspired clarity: “By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” Upon reflection, Paul helps remind us that all parts of the Body of Christ have an integral place and belong together to make the whole of the church function properly. No single part can separate itself and say it is not of import, needed or valued. Paul reminds us, “The eye can not say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet.” Let us all hearken to the lesson in a time of tumult and fractionalizing in the church. Let us all know in our hearts that the natural and man-made disasters that surround our society and nation can only be overcome with the body intact and whole, functioning together as one. Truly, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

Shall we all not resolve together, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, to heed this lesson and strive to maintain health and harmony amongst all members of the body? Can we not reflect prayerfully as Paul urged the Corinthians to do and be mindful of our unity and commonality? Will we not work together as one body to help shelter and heal all those in need: “one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit”?

I am prayerfully hoping, with reverence we all remember we are of one body on our journey with Christ.

Steve Weser

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Genesis 50:15-26; Psalm 119:121-144;
1 Corinthians 12:1-11; Mark 8:11-26

Verses 121 to 144 of Psalm 119 are part of a prayer characterized by utter dependence on God. Again and again, the suppliant speaks to God in terms that show how much he requires him, not merely as a supplemental stabilizing force in his life, one more aspect to get right on his way to earthly happiness, but as the very breath sustaining his life, without which he would be completely and entirely lost. Indeed, his reliance on and love for God draw him into a spiritual quest to obey God perfectly. The suppliant understands that the only way to fully obey God is to understand what is required of him. Knowing that such intimate knowledge of God’s mind is beyond his own faculties to discover, he can only pray that God reveal it to him.

The position of the suppliant is the position that must ultimately be assumed by the true Christian. The true Christian must not only depend on God for every scrap of bread and every sip of wine that nourish the body, but must also depend on God for shelter from the many dangers this earthly world puts before us, for purpose in an otherwise (nihilistic as it sounds) purposeless life, and from salvation from the sin intrinsic in being human. In addition, the true Christian yearns for spiritual truth, that he may better carry his cross and follow Jesus.

There are countless books on how to grow spiritually. I cannot paraphrase them in three sentences, nor can I give you a simple solution on how to become spiritually mature because there is no simple answer. There is no guaranteed method, no quick fix, no shortcut to God. But perhaps the suppliant got it right when he prayed simply and clearly and concisely from his heart, in terms born of absolute sincerity, “Your statutes are forever right; give me understanding that I may live.” God, grant those who love you understanding that, together, celebrating in your holy presence, we may live eternally.

Kate Strong

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Genesis 49:29-50:14; Psalms 94, 95; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34; Mark 8:1-10

I could title this devotional “Kitty Murphy Part II” because, just like last year, Kitty “Balaam” Murphy (Numbers 22) jumped into my lap while I was working on this devotional. I had been praying about the theme for the passages when the furry, inquisitive feline leaped into my lap. Then I remembered, “Oh yeah, it is time to feed the three kitties!” Indeed, it was 6 p.m., the time when the three receive canned cat food. Then the theme dawned upon me – food – my favorite thing!

Food is in all the passages. Using my cultural context, I thought of food because of the time of funerals and mourning in Genesis 49 and 50. (People bring food to people when they have lost a loved one.) The verses in Psalms 94 and 95 say that the Lord is my defense and rock. (Surely David’s passage means that God will provide food!) Then 1 Corinthians 17 reminds us of coming with pure hearts to communion. (This is spiritual food – however, food nonetheless.) And Mark 8 tells of Jesus providing for the 4,000. (Yeah for leftovers!)

Food was just the springboard for the real meaning. The Lord told me that I would never view food the same because food stands for Find One Opportunity Daily.

Here are some suggestions on how you can do FOOD – and not gain weight!

  1. Invite someone to church. Preface it with, “Say, how about if I buy you brunch at IHOP? Come to church with me. Then we can go to brunch!”
  2. Buy one can of spaghetti sauce and donate it to LINK, the food pantry. (Please put the can in the box in the parish hall.)
  3. Call someone up from church and tell them you are praying for him or her.
  4. Offer to bake a dish for Helping Hands through the Community Committee.
  5. Ask our rector about available service opportunities.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, help me Find One Opportunity Daily to honor you and follow your example. In Christ’s name we pray, amen.

Leanna Wilson

Monday, March 27, 2006

Genesis 49:1-28; Psalm 89:19-52; 1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1; Mark 7:24-37

May those in the Body of Christ be edified and the lost be led closer to the truth for the glory of God. Lord, let only your truth be revealed in these words I have written. Amen

“Today is such a nice day,” the billionaire’s son thought, “I will see how fast I can drive my Porsche 911 through town on the wrong side of the road. If anything happens or I get stopped, I will just say, ‘Do you know who my father is?’ That should take care of everything.” At first, you may say to yourself, “What an idiot! Who would do something so careless and dangerous? Someone could get hurt regardless of who his father is. Aren’t there rules?”

“I don’t know about the son in the 911, but I have been saved. Rules do not apply to me. I am saved, washed by the blood of Christ, freed from death. My Father is God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. I am not of this world; the world’s rules do not apply.” So I thought when I was first saved. I felt I could do as I pleased, without a price to pay. To make sure, I checked my “Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth” handbook – my Bible. In 1 Corinthians 10:23, I read: “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible, but not everything is constructive.” This is a very convicting verse for me. It is the theme I got out of today’s readings. In Genesis, when Reuben, Simeon, and Levi did as they pleased, they were passed over by their father; Judah was made first and given blessings. The psalmist is so concerned over God’s anger towards David that he questions if God is going to keep his covenant with him. If David is one of God’s anointed, how did he provoke God’s anger? It’s a good thing for me that God does not break his promises or covenants; I would never finish the race on my own. Besides, my relationship with my Father is not about what I can get away with or how far or many times I can cross to the other side of the road; it’s about what I can do for his glory. Then why are we, children of God, given so much freedom? The answer is simple: to glorify our Father.

If we choose not to throw our lives away, not to waste them by returning to the way we were, and if choose to live them to glorify the Father, the smallest part could nourish someone in need. The last reading says this when the mother speaks to Jesus, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Could it be we are the children, and even though we can, we are not to throw our gift away, but eat of it what we can, and the rest shall fall to the those that are in need?

If I am a child of God, is it right to give my life to this world, chasing after worldly things, driving down the wrong side of the road for fun, with little regard for whom I might hurt? Should I not live it in ways that even the tiniest pieces (crumbs) give hope to the lost? For me, not everything is permissible – not because I can’t, but because of my love for Jesus. When I am not sure, I ask myself three questions. Is it good for me? Is it good for the body of Christ? Is it going to glorify my Father? Are you sometimes that man in the Porsche? Do you feel as though you can cross from one side to the other without harm? Do you think of others or only of yourself? Have we earned the right to do as we please? I am going to guard the gift I have been given and do my best to use it in ways that honor the one who gave it to me.

Clint Huffman

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Genesis 48:8-22; Psalms 19, 46; Romans 8:11-25; John 6:27-40

“The heavens are telling the glory of God!” Psalm 19 begins as a hymn to God as creator of nature. This is a subject near and dear to my heart, as many of you know. Even on a gloomy winter day, I marvel at God’s work. Walk in the woods, or gaze out the window. At first you might notice the mud. Everywhere you look you see brown: brown dead leaves, brown twigs and branches, and yes, brown mud. But look and listen a little more closely. Do you hear the leaves twitching on the forest floor? Look closer still, something is moving – a small bird (in the birding world commonly know as LBB, little brown bird), perfectly camouflaged, is finding food in those life-giving dead leaves. Now check out the branches and twigs. Try to focus on their tips. Do they look just slightly more swollen than they did a week ago? Life. Life from death. Promise. Promise of spring and flowers and things to come. Each of these readings has that same life, that same promise: God’s promise.

Sometimes we look past the things God created for us in our quest for more or bigger or better. How can we possibly make something that is better than God’s own creation? God has given us green plants, capable of changing sunlight into food. He has given us mountains, piedmont, coastal lands, rivers, oceans, clouds, and rain. God intertwined them into a mind-boggling web where each receives from and gives to that web, but the web is never diminished or depleted. We are part of that web, but at the same time outside of it. We have been given the gift of eternal life. We are asked to do more than just give and take here on earth. We are asked to care. We are asked to believe. Read through John 6:27-40. Are we focusing on the loaf of bread, or the bread of life?

I read through Psalm 19, lines 1-6, along with the Revised Standard Version footnotes, several times one evening as I prepared to write this. What beautiful imagery! The sun, rising each day, silently, yet its voice is heard and reaches all the earth. Rising from the end of the heavens, it makes its circuit to the end of them. Nothing is hid from its heat. God’s own creation, 93 million miles away, is powering life on our planet. The next morning we headed off early for our usual 8:00 a.m. Sunday service and turned onto Route 7, heading east. There was the sun, huge and glowing, having just risen above the ridge. I have seen this same sight many times in the past, but now I know I will not see it without hearing the words, “The heavens are telling the glory of God!”

Merry Breed

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Genesis 47:27-48:7; Psalm 136; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Mark 7:1-23

[W]ho made the great lights –

his love endures forever.

The sun to govern the day,

his love endures forever.

The moon and stars to govern the night;

his love endures forever.

(Psalm 136:7-9.)

This past summer I had the privilege of going on the youth mission trip out to Montana for about a week. Now initially I had my doubts about the mission trip. I was going to be in the middle of nowhere, and I had no idea what to expect of it. What would it be like where we were going? And what would we be doing? Needless to say I went into it feeling a bit shaky.

Once we arrived in Montana, all my uncertainties and other fears proved to be incorrect. I don’t know that I have ever worked in such an open and comfortable setting as I did while I was in Montana. One particular memory sticks out in my mind when I think of God’s work shown on the trip. This was a time in the afternoon while I had been painting a family’s home for a number of hours and was beginning to grow a bit tired. I was called to take over the painting on the highest point of the roof of the house. So I climbed up the ladder and headed for the spot on the roof where I needed to resume painting, and as I began to paint I glanced just over the top of the roof to find myself looking at one of God’s greatest creations. Just beyond the roofline there were grassy rolling hills with animals grazing on them. As soon as this picturesque landscape revealed itself to me, I also realized that a cool breeze had brought itself upon me. What was before a blazingly hot day had become the ideal temperature. It is this image, this memory, that sticks out in my mind as being what God intends for life to be.

I was one of many other youth working on the house that day but it wasn’t until I found myself on the ladder that I truly realized what I had been doing, and the impact we all were making on this family’s life. The companionship of all of us working together to accomplish one task and the amazing scenery in the background are what God had intended. Seeing the beautiful hills, the sun shining, and all of the people working together to make a difference showed me that God’s love truly does endure forever.

Chris Palmer

Friday, March 24, 2006

Genesis 47:1-26; Psalms 91, 92; 1 Corinthians 9:16-27; Mark 6:47-56

My 4 ½ year-old-son and his best friend came bounding into church from Sunday School eager to show me the fish they had colored. They proceeded to tell me how God fed thousands from a few loaves and a couple of fish. Matching their enthusiasm, I said “Really!” In response they proudly exclaimed, “Yeah, God is so great, he can do anything!” I thought to myself how easy it is to lose sight of the awesomeness of God’s power and what this means for us. I think the set of readings today speak to God’s power and urge us to step out boldly in our faith with the promise that no threat or danger, no matter how great, is mightier than God’s power.

Psalm 91 speaks of God as the protector of those who trust in him. “He will shelter you with his wings; you will find safety under his wings. His faithfulness is like a shield or a protective wall. You need not fear the terrors of the night….” In Mark, Jesus calms his disciples as he walks across the water by stating, “Have courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.”

Fear is a paralyzing force, causing us to become passive and keeping us from taking initiative or stepping out of our comfort zone. Fear can even keep us from serving God and obeying his word. Jonah comes to mind.

The way to heaven is compared to a race in 1 Corinthians, a race that requires conditioning of our soul and intense effort. I believe we must step out of our comfort zone with the knowledge that God will protect us if we are to win this race. This does not mean that we will be spared trials and tribulations, pain, or suffering in this world. The reading for Genesis reminds us the pilgrimage is not always easy. Discipleship is dangerous. In the light of the blessings of eternity, the sufferings of this life are but a small price to pay! I pray that I will be bold enough to take the big steps that Jesus has for me to take.

Charlie Biegel

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Genesis 46:1-7, 28-34; Psalms 85, 86; 1 Corinthians 9:1-15; Mark 6:30-46

The things I think about in the passages are very much intertwined in what I believe are an individual’s greatest challenge: trust. As each of us knows and feels on a daily basis, trust is something that evolves. We learn to trust ourselves and our judgments; we learn to trust others (or not) based on our interactions with them. In his prayer to God – Psalm 86 – David affirms his faith in God and says, “I trust in you.” Each of us must learn to put our trust in the Lord, our Savior. This, to me, is difficult at times yet key to my faith. Is it yours?

Today’s passage in the Gospel of Mark, clearly provides us all witness to trust in him and he will provide. This was not just the many who were fed. These were the apostles who followed Christ and questioned their ability to feed the masses with only five loaves of bread and two fish. Yet, all were fed despite that fact. As they could not see how and had to trust Christ to provide, so must we. We must trust our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

There are always times when I, knowingly and unknowingly, question how I will meet the demands of my family, work, church, others, and Christ – and selfishly, the demands of some of the things I enjoy, like golf and being outdoors. And because I want to do all that I can do to help others with the talents I’ve been blessed with, I try to put my trust in God to do his will.

To believe that what you do is the right thing for yourself in your mission to serve our Lord, Jesus Christ then put your trust in him – I will continue to do this. I hope you will, too.

Bob Petersen

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Genesis 45:16-28; Psalms 81, 82; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 6:13-29

God makes it easy for us: “There is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live.” God doesn’t leave anything up to our imagination. He specifically says there is only one God and that God is the one for whom we live. We don’t live for that antique sports car we dream about, or that delicious Death By Chocolate ice cream from Milwaukee’s. People are very quick to idolize nearly everything they take interest in, even if it doesn’t deal with God. This isn’t to say that we need to go to church everyday and only participate in church activities; we need to live our entire lives for God, every aspect. It was him that gave us our lives in the first place.

I believe it is easier than it sounds to live our lives for God. When you go jogging, don’t go jogging to lose weight so that you will look better for other people. Lose weight because God gave you the ability to run, and so that other people can see God’s amazing creation. Do everything that you do for God, not just because you can or to better yourself. When, for example, we start to exercise purely for our selves, we quickly fall into the trap of idolizing so many things that aren’t God. We start to idolize the way other people look, the way we look, the food we eat, and how much time we spend in the gym. All of these things pile up and get in the way of what we should be focusing on God.

Andrew Nelson

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Genesis 45:1-15; Psalm 78:40-72; 1 Corinthians 7:32-40; Mark 6:1-13

When I first read the assigned Bible readings, I thought they had little in common. After some time and prayer, I realized the common thread which I called the “3Cs.”

  1. Choices
  2. Consequences
  3. Communication

The first reading from the Old Testament describes the choice made by Joseph’s brothers to sell him, thus turning from God’s way, resulting in the consequence of five years of famine. The psalm speaks about God’s vengeance and his rejection of the chosen tribes because of their choice of lifestyle, and how he turned instead to the tribe of Judah and a humble sheepherder, David.

Corinthians speaks of choices for those who are married and those who are single – how each should strive to be fully devoted to the Lord, and how the choice of marriage can make that devotion more difficult through the needs of family. The last reading, from Mark, speaks to communication as well as choices and consequences – how Jesus chose the disciples, and how he asked them to go and communicate the word, acknowledging that some will choose not to listen, and applying consequences.

I felt unsure of how to interpret these readings – about how God’s vengeance through rivers of blood, flies that devour, and frogs that destroy. All of this didn’t seem very applicable in my world of today. I thought about a book I had just read – Talk to the Hand – about the lack of manners, respect, and politeness in English society today. I realized that the passages do apply today. They apply in these ways.

  1. Our choices are important. Do we choose to put God first? Where do we spend our money and our time? Do we need that new coat, shoes, and car? How do we treat our neighbor? Do we offer a hand to those in need? Do we even ask how someone is doing? Do we know who needs a hand or word of support within our little church group? These are choices – choices of putting others first or ourselves as number one, consciously or subconsciously.

  1. Choices have consequences. Those who do not go to church may lose their way. A church that is not supported may shrivel and close. And those who do not help their neighbor may have no support in their time of need.

  1. Communication helps in making the right choices. We communicate by talking over our choices before we make them, by listening to others, and by listening for God to help us make good choices. We also learn through reading the Bible or devotional articles.

If everyone remembered the 3Cs, what a difference we could make. I hope you strive, like me, to follow the 3Cs today and always.

Ann Lowden

Monday, March 20, 2006

Genesis 44:18-34; Psalms 77, 79; 1 Corinthians 7:25-31; Mark 5:21-43

In The Message, Psalm 77 starts out: “I yell out to my God, I yell with all my might, I yell at the top of my lungs. He listens.”

Clearly the writer is upset! And clearly he doesn’t try to hide the depths of his feelings from God. How different do you think yelling out to God is from yelling at God?

Perhaps verse 10 gives us something of an answer. “Just my luck,” I said. “The High God goes out of business just the moment I need him.” My money goes on the psalmist as not just expressing how upset he is to God, but how upset he is with God.

And yet, the psalmist still calls God “my God.” Tenuous though his grasp may be, he has not lost faith. That is made all the more plain in those two words, “He listens.”

What a beautiful thing! We can express ourselves openly and honestly to God and know that he listens. He doesn’t try to shut us up or berate us for being overly emotional or tell us to get over it. He listens.

Then something else happens. Having expressed his lament full force to God, reason returns. In verses 11 and 12 the psalmist says: “Once again I’ll go over what God has done, lay out on the table the ancient wonders; I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished, and give a long, loving look at your acts.” This leads him to conclude: “O God! Your way is holy! No god is great like God!”

Whereas the writer of this psalm began greatly troubled and in despair, he ends encouraged and uplifted, reaffirming his belief that God will act on his behalf just as God has done in the past.

Friends, faith does not require us to be dishonest with God or ourselves, to hide from our doubts and questions like they are not there. What faith does do is allow us to come before God just as we really are, knowing that he won’t get upset with us for doing so. To the contrary, he listens, and offers us his comfort.

Rob Merola

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Genesis 44:1-17; Psalm 34; Romans 8:1-10; John 5:25-29

I am a daughter of God. I am led by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guides me and leads me to Christ and helps me to become like Christ. This is what the Bible tells me. We are not controlled by sin but by God’s Spirit in us. All we need to do is to follow God’s word, turn from sin, obey God, and our prayers will be answered. We may have troubles in our lives, but if we are righteous, the Lord will deliver us from them all.

I don’t know about you, but I have difficulty sustaining my faith in believing those words. Will the Lord really deliver me, or wouldn’t it be wiser for me to try to fix my troubles on my own, just in case? My fear and worries take over. I tell myself there must be something more I can do…to be more responsible, more accountable, and more knowledgeable. When I am called to do good and do God’s work, how will I measure up?

I recently was asked to participate in a healing service at Saint Matthew’s. Although I was uncomfortable, never having done that before, I accepted the offer. Before and during the service I kept asking myself, “Who am I to be praying for people?” Surely this takes special training, a special spiritual awareness. Am I worthy enough to ask for healing from God for others through prayer? It was when my son said to me, “Mom, it’s not about you,” that I realized that I was participating in God’s work. It wasn’t about me and all my concerns. I was a vessel through which God was working. What was important was not “how good” but “do good.” God was leading me, and I was willing to be led. The experience taught me not to rely on myself but on God. God is always affirming his faith in me. I just need to follow.

That is what God asks of us all. He leads and guides us to work through him, troubles and all. If we choose to believe in him and follow, our prayers will all be answered, and God’s loving kingdom will be ours forever.

Sharon Ferguson

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Genesis 43:16-34; Psalms 75, 76; 1 Corinthians 7:10-24; Mark 5:1-20

Back in my junior year in high school, I took psychology for a semester. We had to write a research paper on a psychological disorder based on a book of our choice. My first choice was a book on schizophrenia. Because the book discussed material I did not care to read about, I tried reading about multiple personality disorder. That book was far too long to read by the due date. So, my last choice was a book on obsessive compulsive disorder. Initially I was resistant and unenthusiastic. But I did the assignment, wrote the paper, and that was that. Or so I thought. It was not till a year later that I realized the reason for and importance of writing that paper. I met a girl whom I eventually started to date. I discovered she was a very hurt girl, and that her pain was from obsessive compulsive disorder.

Looking back now, I realize this was no coincidence. It couldn’t have been mere chance I learned something I could use to help support and love another person. This theme comes from today’s readings. The psalms declare how great and glorious God is. His judgment is supreme. Even so, we rarely know the full extent of God’s plan. As the brothers of Joseph return to Egypt for more food, they are so worried and preoccupied that they cannot enjoy and understand the plan laid out for them, that Joseph just wants to love and help his brothers. How many times have we “missed the whole plan” because we were so worked up about other things going on?

Mark teaches us another mistake some make. A man delivered from demons falls at Jesus’ feet and asks to go with him. Astonishingly, Jesus turns him away to stay home and spread the good news of the messiah in that way. Like the letter to the Corinthians, this shows us that God does not always call us in extravagant ways, with a loud voice booming from a torn open sky. God’s call can be as simple as doing a research paper on your third choice topic. God calls us to do his work in whatever niche we occupy on this earth. Though we do not always know what his plan is, we should be assured that as long as our hearts are right with him, we will naturally follow him.

Alex Leach

Friday, March 17, 2006

Genesis 43:1-15; Psalm 73; 1 Corinthians 7:1-9; Mark 4:35-41
“That’s not fair!” How many times have you heard that phrase? How many times have you uttered it? How many times have you simply thought it? Whether due to a violated sense of entitlement, an advantage gained by someone through unequal means, or a misfortune come our way, we can all identify, and in many cases, personally recall, situations of unfairness. The resultant feelings can lead to jealousy, resentment and anger. These in turn can lead to a rash of usually unproductive, sometimes irrational, and often sinful actions.

In today’s reading from Genesis, one can sense in Jacob’s voice the frustration with the unfairness of the situation. He has already lost one son (Joseph), and another has been jailed in Egypt (Simeon). There is now a famine in the land, and everyone is starving. The only hope of living is to buy food from the Egyptians, who have plenty to spare. However, his sons refuse to go to Egypt without, in his eyes at least, risking the life of yet another son, the youngest, by taking him with them. Thanks to Judah’s pleading, he is convinced not to abandon Simeon in an Egyptian prison.

The writer of today’s psalm, Asaph, describes several unfair situations. The wicked prosper and increase in wealth. They are healthy and strong; they have no struggles and are always carefree. In contrast, he has kept his heart pure but has been plagued all day long. He has washed his hands in innocence but has been punished every morning. He might very well have said, “That’s not fair! Why do those who couldn’t care less about God seem to have it so easy when I’m trying to do what’s right and yet I have all these problems?”

Since the question is a difficult one to answer, it is easy to dwell on wearisome situations. The results are feelings of envy towards those who do evil and of hopelessness and futility in trying to do good. Indeed, Asaph even states, “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me.” (Psalm 73.16.) Rather than falling into a mode of despair and self-pity, however, he experiences something else instead. He enters the sanctuary of God.

It is here that he finds (and we can find) true and eternal justice instead of the unfairness of this world. It is here that we find full wisdom instead of ignorance. It is here that we find strength and complete fulfillment so we can declare that “earth has nothing I desire besides you.” It is here that we can say, regardless of the situation we find ourselves in, “it is good to be near God.”

Heavenly Father, when we find ourselves in unfair circumstances, when we find ourselves wallowing in self-pity and wondering why others seem to have it so well, may we remember to enter your sanctuary; confident that you will not let us slip or lose our foothold, but will take us by the hand and guide us, that you will strengthen our heart and will afterward bring us into your glory, through Christ our Lord.


Mark Vereb

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Genesis 42:29-38; Psalms 70, 71; 1 Corinthians 6:12-30; Mark 4:21-34

The problem with sin in our lives is that it often must be concealed, at which point it takes on a life of its own. “Little sins” cause pain and distance from God, but things like selling your brother into slavery present another class of problems. In this story from Genesis 42, the brother, of course, is Joseph. God had preserved his life and caused Joseph to go from being a slave to a ruler in Egypt, and he has just met his brothers again after many years.

The Scripture in I Corinthians also deals with concealment, in that those who find themselves caught in the web of sexual sin often must conceal what they are doing. To me these are extreme examples of what can happen to each of us if we let bitter feelings or desires go unchecked by the grace of God. Lest we think we have too much self-control to kill or to engage in sexual sins, the New Testament doesn’t let us off. We are to have pure thoughts.

Some things can’t be concealed. Think of the way the Bible speaks of the glory of God and his kingdom. In the reading in Mark 4, Jesus likens the gospel to a light which is to be placed for all to see. Not only that, the good new is like a little seed which grows into a crop. These are things of growth, of light, of blessing to all – just like our lives should be.

The psalmist and Joseph have the common attitude of what I call the “drop in the ocean” view of God’s love. No matter how much evil is present in life, the evil is like a drop in the whole ocean of God’s love. Joseph knows this and explains God’s dealings in his life when he reveals himself to his brothers in Genesis 45. The psalmist writes about this in these Psalms. Although he has seen troubles, “many and bitter” (Ps. 71: 20), he praises God for God’s goodness. If we realize this about sin ­ – that it has its limits when compared to the love of God – we can find hope.

Linda Merola

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Genesis 42:18-28; Psalm 119:73-96; 1 Corinthians 5:9-6:8; Mark 4:1-20

Today’s reading in Mark focuses around the well-known parable of the sower and the seed. This parable is one that most know off the top of their heads. But to many of us, myself included, it is just that, a parable. It remains abstract, something we know, but rarely stop to actively think about. Yet when we do, we can see two very important messages in this simple parable.

This parable is generally accepted to be speaking about the condition of one’s heart. Since it is drawn directly in the passage, this is the first message I see in it. Jesus explains to the disciples, and to us, what each type of soil represents in one’s everyday life. The soil types represent these: a hardened heart; a heart which is eager to accept but not so eager to sustain; a heart that is ripe and will accept but is not tended to and is occupied more with the world than God’s word; and finally, a heart that truly accepts God and allows him to take control. As believers, this message is vitally important to us; we must guard our hearts and keep them as pure as possible for the Lord. In this time, keeping our hearts open and ripe can be hard.

While I was reading, a second meaning occurred to me. One of the soils of the parable is a symbol for community. The ready community nurtures and protects those within it. It is in this that the solution for believers lies – in the community in which we immerse ourselves. We must keep ourselves in the word to keep the plant God has sowed within us healthy. We must immerse ourselves in the church, in Bible studies, in prayer, and in a godly community in general. Through this we can also affect the community around us, helping others’ hearts become ready for the Lord. This season provides the perfect opportunity for us to do this. Today, may we actively try to make our hearts a place where God’s fruit can truly flourish, and through our own actions, make our communities places where God can firmly take root.

Alex Davenport

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Genesis 42:1-17; Psalm 68; 1 Corinthians 5:1-8; Mark 3:19b-35

What are we to make of Jesus? Much in our culture, in our churches, and in our lives seeks to domesticate him. We want to make him a conventional, respectable figure. We try to tame him into being just a good person, a wise teacher, worthy of a respectful nod now and then, should we pass him in church, in the family Bible, or in a class on ethics or history.

Many people who knew Jesus firsthand in his day must also have wanted a containable holy person, a manageable Jesus – good but not perfect, pious but not innovative or driven, liked but not compelling. Yet this was not the Jesus they encountered. Consider what occurred prior to today’s gospel reading (Mark 3:19b-35) in just the first two and half chapters of this book. Mark began his narrative about Jesus on the run: a flat-out proclamation of Jesus as God’s special agent, God’s own Son, empowered by God’s Spirit – all to transform people’s lives, even the whole world. Then Mark propelled the story along with Jesus preaching repentance, healing people, subduing evil spirits, befriending disreputable people, and gathering followers – crowds of followers!

Neither Jesus’ family nor Israel’s religious leaders knew what to make of him. His family wondered if he had lost perspective. They thought he verged on mental and emotional unhinging. The religious leaders went further. They accused him of being an agent of the evil one, of Satan himself. Jesus rebuked both his family and those leaders. To his family, he made clear that his true family consists of those who pattern their lives after the will of God. Blood kinship is secondary. To the religious leaders, he warned that resistance to God’s Spirit, to God’s holy presence in the world, is to alienate oneself from God at the deepest levels of spiritual life, in this world and the next.

Neither Jesus’ family nor Israel’s leaders could domesticate him. Nor can we. We must not try. Jesus breaks our categories of conventionality and respectability in his utter devotion and commitment to God, to God’s will and action in the world. May we follow this untamed Jesus out of our tidy religious categories and into God’s true goodness and holiness in the world!

Gregory Strong

Monday, March 13, 2006

Genesis 41:46-57; Psalms 64, 65; 1 Corinthians 4:8-21; Mark 3:7-19a

Do we recognize new opportunities as responsibilities to serve God?

In today’s Old Testament reading, Joseph accomplishes something wonderful and quite difficult. As strange as it seems, I am not referring to saving Egypt from seven years of famine. Instead, I am referring to Joseph’s ability to recognize a new opportunity as a responsibility given by God.

When Pharaoh asks Joseph to be his second-in-command, it would have been easy for Joseph to decline. “I just interpret dreams. Surely someone else is better qualified to prepare an entire country against a famine!” Instead, Joseph accepts the opportunity to lead a nation.

How many opportunities are we presented with? Some are daunting, such as becoming a parent, taking a new job, or forgiving someone who has hurt you. Others can appear mundane, such as calling an old friend, sending a thank you note, or saying hello to a stranger. How often do we ignore these opportunities? We may have practical rationalizations. Someone else could do it better. I don’t have time. I don’t want to make things worse. I don’t want to get involved. But when we ignore these opportunities, what responsibilities are we neglecting? What of God’s work are we leaving undone?

If Joseph had declined his opportunity to serve Pharaoh, would Egypt have survived the famine? Possibly. But what else would have been left undone? Would he have reunited with his family? Would they have moved to Egypt?

Joseph believed preparing Egypt was a responsibility given by God to him alone. Under Joseph’s leadership, Egypt was able to save enough grain not only to survive the famine, but to spare enough to sell to neighboring countries. His faith allowed Egypt to exceed its own needs.

When we recognize the opportunities to serve God, we fulfill the responsibilities he entrusts to us.

Mason Turner

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Genesis 41:14-45; Psalms 8, 84; Romans 6:3-14; John 5:19-24

May the Lord bless me with insight and understanding of his word.

How do you deal with authority? It is something I have struggled with my whole life. All of today’s readings address authority in some manner. The Old Testament starts with the wonderful story of Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams and being promoted to the number two man in all of Egypt. This story, presented as a London West End musical, established the careers of both Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice back in the 1970s. Joseph is given total authority over all the people of Egypt, which included authority over his own brothers who had sold him into slavery. Why was he given this authority? It was because God gave him a gift to interpret dreams. Joseph was quick to tell Pharaoh that he was just the messenger and that the prophecy came directly from God, who has the ultimate authority.

This supports an important reality of the workplace. The authority that a person has must be given to them by someone who is recognized as having the authority to give. Joseph’s authority came from God and Pharaoh. Psalm 8 speaks directly concerning God giving authority to man. He is given “dominion over the works of your hand.” This is about being chosen. Isn’t that what we all seek? To be chosen to be loved, recognized, and supported. We seek this in all our relationships – family, church, work. Some will not want the authority that is given because often it has responsibility attached to it. For many, being chosen and recognized are enough.

Psalm 84 is one of my favorites. “How lovely is your dwelling place” has been set to music many times and introduces us to the glories of heaven. In this dwelling place we will live secure in the total authority of God. While on earth we may rebel against authority, but Christ has guaranteed eternal security with the Father.

Both Paul and John confirm that the authority is given. John confirms that the total authority of God is given to his son, Jesus, and Jesus is free to use this authority in his name and as he wishes. Paul then tells the Romans that Jesus, through his sacrifice for us, has given this authority to each of us who die with him and are reborn.

What a wonderful thing this is. When we feel weak, unloved, unimportant, and insignificant, we can stop, pray, and realize that we have total authority over this world because we are guaranteed a place in heaven, where we will live for ever.


John Dickie

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Genesis 41:1-13; Psalms 138, 139; 1 Corinthians 4:1-7; Mark 2:23-3:6

In the course of leading an ambitious life, I think many people forget that there is no problem that is too large or too small to place before God. Just as Pharaoh in Genesis 41:1-13 sought guidance through Joseph, ultimately through God we should try to use God’s wisdom as a compass. I don’t think it’s a matter of asking for a straightforward answer, but of asking instead for the proper path, not just in matters that we feel are too big, but also in matters that seem small. Speaking from a senior’s point of view, I’ve watched a number of friends let homework and college applications build up because it “wasn’t that much.” Instead of tackling it one step at a time, they say it’s too big. It’s the same with social lives, that all-consuming aspect of a high school. Instead of asking for guidance or working through problems with the knowledge that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, my peers let grudges and gossip build up and end up losing their friends. It’s important to tackle all problems not as monsters but as puzzles, even if that puzzle is deconstructing a mountain. Just as God provided us with a Sabbath for contemplation and prayer, he will also provide us with answers. With the knowledge that God can provide a positive outcome to all things, it’s easier to deal with everything else.

There is a joke that has been circulated many times about a man in a flood who turns away a ride out, a boat, and a rescue helicopter because he believes God will intervene. The punch line is that God sent the car, boat, and helicopter to rescue him rather than intervening directly. God surrounds us with other people to help break down our mountains, but people also tend to forget that sometimes we may need to offer our time to others to break down their mountains. One of the most powerful messages Jesus tried to deliver is that we should never turn someone in need away. Just as he went out of his way to help where he could, we should do what we can to help other people. As long as people take the short amount of time to extend a hand to their neighbor, there is no mountain that is too small to move.

Lauren Burt

Friday, March 10, 2006

Genesis 40:1-23; Psalm 51; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Mark 2:13-22

What are your dreams? I don’t mean those long-ranging life goals. I’m not talking about your dream of owning a private jet or going into space, though I’m sure people have wished I would go into space and stay a long while. I’m talking about those dreams you have every night – about those times when your mind is at rest, and God has a real chance to speak to us through our clutter.

Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;

you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

(Psalm 51:6.)

I took a college psychology class where we kept a journal of every dream we remembered for a month. It was one of the most fascinating and memorable assignments of my life. I remembered my dreams so vividly, and I realized I was having multiple dreams every night. How often do you remember what you dream? Do you believe there’s a reason behind the dream?

Unfortunately I have since lost the journal. The message in today’s reading from Genesis really brought the memory back to me. Here is Joseph interpreting the dreams of a cupbearer and the baker for Pharaoh. Joseph is using God’s incredible gift to him and speaking truthfully to the men around him – a truth so clear and undeniable it can only come from God.

Going back to my original question, what do you dream of? When you wake up in the morning and a dream stays particularly close to you, what do you do with it? The cupbearer did remember his dream, but then forgot the promise he made to Joseph. Even if you remember your dreams and find a meaning in them, do you also remember whom to thank for the gift?

Through this Lent I would challenge you to keep a dream journal – to write down your own dreams each morning when you wake, to really remember your thoughts through the night, and to see if God may be leaving you a message. I will pray that he does.

Tom Leary

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Genesis 39:1-23; Psalms 59, 60; 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:15; Mark 2:1-12

A leading conductor was once asked, “What is the most difficult ‘chair’ to fill in your orchestra?” You might have expected him to mention the challenge of recruiting the world’s best performers for the leading positions. Surprisingly, he said the most difficult chair to fill is the “second chair!” He knew the value of having musicians who, while not the absolute tops in their instrument, were dedicated to doing the very best they could with the gifts they had been given. After all, an orchestra is made up of a large number of players, and getting the very best performance from each and every member is what makes the difference.

When it comes to witnessing for Christ, the apostle Paul knew something of this “orchestral theory.” In his letter to the Corinthian believers, he said, “I have planted, Apollos watered … but God gave the increase.” He knew that soul-winning is a group effort, not just the domain of a few particularly gifted Christians who know how to “witness.” God uses evangelists to invite people to accept the gospel. Leading up to these conversions, however, there were probably many little kind acts that influenced people to make that final decision. Maybe it’s just giving a friend a lift in your car to a doctor’s appointment. Or, calling someone on the phone to find out how things are going. Or, it could be sitting by a lonely newcomer at church and showing you are genuinely interested in that person. Any one of a number of sincere acts like this could just be that “cup of cold water” that refreshes someone and influences them to eventually profess their faith in Christ.

Finally, Paul wisely cautions us to remember, it is God who “gave the increase.” We can be a genuine link in the witnessing chain, but it is our sovereign Lord who ultimately calls people to his side. The best soul-winning is not a solo performance. It is truly an orchestral event in which many dedicated “second chairs” participate!

Roland Kuniholm

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Genesis 37:25-36; Psalms 49, 53; 1 Corinthians 2:1-13; Mark 1:29-45

As I sit here writing this devotional, I’m finishing off some really good food – my mom’s chocolate mousse in fact. And as I’m sitting here reading the verses for this devotional, I begin to realize the lack of permanence in my life. There is nothing in my life that couldn’t change in an instant; no certainty that tomorrow will be anything like today. Such are the things of this world – like this chocolate mousse cake. It seems so perfect while you have it, but it goes fast. When it’s gone, you forget about it. Such is life without God. We probably love our life, or some things we have, or any of the little rituals we carry out every day. But when it comes down to it, all those things don’t matter when you’re dead, or (should I say) even more alive then ever. For when you are in heaven, or (to quote a children’s song) “partying with Jesus,” you won’t care about anything – any being quite literal – that you had in this world.

But don’t get the wrong idea, for you can have constancy in this life. That constancy is Jesus. For no matter what happens tomorrow, or even today, Jesus is willing to be in your life and in mine. You can ask, just as the man with leprosy did, for healing, and you can be sure that Jesus will do for you as he did for him. In Mark 1:41 it says what Jesus did for the man with leprosy. “Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said...and he was cured.” So even if tomorrow an earthquake, or a hurricane, or a tsunami takes away everything you have, just ask Jesus for help, and he will show his compassion and his love. Even if tomorrow you begin the long struggle to deal with the death of a loved one, just ask Jesus for help, and Jesus will be willing to help. I don’t know about you, but knowing this, if anyone comes to me in distress, I only hope I can be like Jesus – to be “filled with compassion ... [and say,] ‘I am willing.’ ”

Jared Hallett

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Genesis 37:12-24; Psalms 47, 48; 1 Corinthians 1:20-31; Mark 1:14-28

When I first attended Saint Matthew’s Church (15 years ago this coming April 16), it was Palm Sunday. I sat in the last row on the left. To be back in the Episcopal Church made me feel I was coming home. Also, I felt God was saying, “This is where I want you!” In my heart I said, “Yes, God.” When I left I introduced myself to the Vicar, Father DeMott, and told him I wanted to join Saint Matthew’s.

I had grown up in the Episcopal Church, and my friends and I sang in the choir and attended Sunday School every Sunday. My Bible was presented to me by the rector for “diligence and attendance” in 1951. My friends and I were active at church functions.

I joined Saint Matthew’s and decided I was not going to be a “Sunday Christian.” I joined the women’s group and the coffee hour set-up committee. I was just becoming disabled and used a cane. Father DeMott used to tease me about poking the devil’s eye out with my cane. I wrote poems of praise for the newsletter and became reporter for the women’s group.

One evening Father DeMott called and asked if I would like to do something for the church? My immediate “Yes!” amazed him.

“Don’t you want to know what it is?”

My response was, “If it’s within my capabilities, I’ll do it.”

Thus I became register (secretary) to the vestry. I became more and more involved and loved every second. I became more disabled and found I was diabetic. I was at church every Sunday. About six years ago I found I could no longer attend church and could no longer drive.

Still, I serve God by being the best person I can be and by sharing my faith. God has blessed me so very much, and I will always say, “Here am I, Lord.”

Gerri Arnold

Monday, March 06, 2006

Genesis 37:1-11; Psalm 44; 1 Corinthians 1:1-19; Mark 1:1-13

In today's Scripture reading I am reminded of a father's love. A love so great that it doesn't seek to shield his children, but rather allow them to develop. Sometimes we may feel that our Father has forgotten us, or even forsaken us, but the love is so strong that he wants us to choose and develop the correct path.

As a parent, I know there is nothing harder than allowing your children to do something on their own when you know that failure is part of the process. The instinct to protect them at all costs must give way to allowing them to make mistakes, or how else can they grow and develop?

We have become a society that sometimes over-protects our children. We question whether any child should experience failure. Schools question whether children should be graded on a scale; sports are sometimes presented as everyone wins; awards given out to every child. But without knowing failure, how can you learn to truly appreciate, and work for, success? Without failure, how can a child understand that their father’s love is not predicated on success? We must guard against becoming so cautious with our children that they are denied the necessity of learning how to handle both success and failure, or denied understanding that love transcends either experience.

In the end, the father’s love exists no matter whether the child succeeds or fails in any task. What counts is the direction that the child takes, perhaps with gentle prodding from the father, but nevertheless as the child’s own choice. The best we can do is teach, encourage, and show by example, our commitment to God, our morals, and beliefs. In the end, our children must choose the path for themselves. Likewise, Christ has showed us the path, and God the father’s love is never ending, but we must still choose and follow the path ourselves.


Sunday, March 05, 2006

Daniel 9:3-10; Psalm 103; Hebrews 2:10-18;
John 12:44-50

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (John 12: 46.)

When light is introduced into the darkness, things are illuminated. That place can be a physical place, but most assuredly Jesus is speaking of the inner places. At one time or another, most (if not all) of us have been in a dark place in our respective lives.

Perhaps as a child you played the game of hide and seek, and later as an adult with young children. When I have played with my young grandchildren, they have often hid where they could be seen by me. But they thought that since they didn’t see me, the reverse was also true.

I venture to say that many of us continue to play the game on a regular basis – alone. We do not want others to know that we are lost and seeking the way out of whatever holds us captive. But just like I could see my grandchildren, God sees us wherever we are.

Jesus shared our humanity by experiencing temptation, which better equipped him to help us with our own temptations. In Hebrews 2:18, it reads: “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

Jesus is the one who can show us the way out of our personal darkness. We have only to invite him to come into our hearts. Only then will we hear the calm, quiet voice of God calling us to the life he has purposed for us – a life without fear.

Will you allow him into your heart this Lenten season? He is waiting, where you can find him – in the light.


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Ezekiel 39:21-29; Psalms 42, 43; Philippians 4:10-20; John 17:20-26

In my opinion, the best thing about unity in Christ is that none of us have to be perfect.

Christ speaks of how he is in us and the Father is in him so that we all may be brought into perfect unity. One of my friends’ big criticisms of Christianity is that it does not allow for uniqueness; after all, if we are all one, how can we really be that different?

But I say, friends, that our unity in Christ truly allows us to be different. If we all join together, then we can all complement each other. Our flaws will be offset by another’s strengths, and our strengths will offset another’s flaws. Those things that we struggle with in our lives will be a specialty of another person. In unity we can all work together to help each other improve our spiritual lives and our faith, and we can conquer anything. That is one of the reasons fellowship is so important within the Church. No one else can tell you when you’re wrong better than a loving, concerned friend who looks to Christ for all things.

And I also believe that our unity in Christ allows us all to be different in order to form a truly beautiful whole. The unity of Christ is not made up of carbon-copy Christians. There are gothic Christians, punk Christians, preppy Christians, and jock Christians. There are Christians who are entranced by danger and risk, and there are others who just like to play it safe. There are morning Christians, and there are night Christians. There are Christians of every shape, size, and color, with every different interest you could think of. Our heavenly Father made us unique and different so that we may thrive in him according to our own talents and loves in life, so that each of us may be a crucial, irreplaceable part of the unity of Christ.

And that is one of the things that I love about Christianity, because I don’t know about you, friends, but I certainly do enjoy being a bit peculiar.

Christine Merola

Friday, March 03, 2006

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Psalm 31; Philippians 4:1-9; John 17:9-19

“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplications with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7.)

In the late 1970s we were in love and knew we wanted to be married. Not only did we need to gain the approval of our parents for the marriage, but we needed to find a location that offered a pharmacy school and a government employment opportunity. This may sound simple at first, but it was quite complicated. After many hours of research (not by computer in those days), we determined that there were four universities in the country that were in close proximity to government installations. Two were eliminated for various reasons. That left only two possibilities. The next task at hand was to secure a job at the desired location and get accepted into the targeted university. To say that was an anxious time in our lives is an understatement!

The verse from Philippians quoted above sums up that tumultuous time in our lives. We did what we could do to secure our future: researched prospective jobs; studied vigorously; and prepared for interviews. Most importantly, however, we gave our anxieties to God and trusted him to lead us to where he wanted us to be. There were a few bumps along our journey. But ultimately with God’s help, we reached the first destination of our married lives where pharmacy school was completed and a government career was launched.

Recently we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. There have been a few more anxious moments and bumps in the road of our journey. Yet when we remember to give our anxieties to God in prayer and keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, then the journey is much smoother and more enjoyable.

Maria and Randy Palmer

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Habakkuk 3:1-18; Psalm 37:19-42; Philippians 3:12-21; John 17:1-8

This year I participated in a life altering event when I went down to Long Beach, Mississippi, on the first Saint Matthew’s “Katrina Relief Mission.” I had many, many first impressions. So many hit me at once that I quickly became overwhelmed, and very much overpowered. I thought many times that if there was a real life example of the definition of wrath, surely what I was seeing in Mississippi was it.

I could easily understand how a person who lived through this, but lost everything, may have looked up towards the sky and asked, “Why hast thou forsaken me?”

Two of the readings in this collection talk about the wrath of God, particularly Habakkuk 3. Out of context it certainly can paint a picture that the wrath brought upon the people of the Gulf States must surely be the result of not living right.

But then my attention was drawn to a particular passage in Psalm 37.

In times of disaster they will not wither;

in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

(Psalm 37: 19-20.)

To me this passage speaks to people of faith to help them understand that, in the face of disaster and wrath, circumstances will reveal just how much people can persevere.

Once we began our work on the mission, I began to talk to as many local folks as I could find and as time would allow. I asked them about their circumstances and why they chose to stay. Invariably I heard the same message. This is my home. I want to help. I lost everything, but others lost more.

I met folks who could very easily have focused on their own needs – and I doubt I would have blamed them – but I saw them help others and continue to sacrifice even though they had little to give.

Psalm 37 made me think that indeed these people were finding some level of fulfillment of faith in helping others and that in some way they may be helped in return. I came to believe that what they were getting in return was tangible proof that faith can heal some of the worst wounds and provide when appearances would otherwise make one think all was lost.

In light of this disaster of Biblical proportions, I found people of unimaginable strength, who were in terrible need but were enjoying a level of faith you simply have to admire.

I was very much humbled by the people I met. I have taken this experience – nay, awakening – to heart; and I have found ways to apply that in my daily life.

James Thompson