Tuesday, April 27, 2010

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

In so many of Paul's letters to the various churches around the Mediterranean, Paul is admonishing and correcting the recipients of some bad behavior, bad theology or trying to solve some theological argument. This is not so in his letter to the Thessalonians. This is a letter of encouragement. It seems that the Thessalonians were good, strong Christians and their only real problem was persecution from those outside the faith. As such, I always find the letters to the Thessalonians particularly encouraging.

For those of us who consider ourselves to be faithful, and we really try to be as faithful as we can as often as we can, life can get pretty discouraging. We can get caught up in routines, we can feel like as much as we try to do the "right thing" so often that right thing goes unappreciated or unnoticed. If we get caught up in that, it really becomes difficult to do the right thing constantly when so many others don't do the same and seemingly their decisions that are based on selfishness or greed don't really seem to matter either. If you've ever felt that way, then Thessalonians is for you.

While none of us consciously are "keeping up with the Jones'" we can so easily wonder why we are striving so much to be faithful when it, frankly, doesn't seem to benefit us - or at least it seems that way. I wonder if the people of Thessalonica had any idea of their reputation that Paul is reporting to them? Did they know their example was a witness to all? Did they realize the impact they were having on other communities by their faithfulness to God? My guess is, probably not. Since communication and travel in those days was not what it is now, my guess is Paul's letter of encouragement really was welcome and inspiring. He let them know that their faithfulness, their choosing to do the right thing, really mattered.

My guess is it is the same for us. While we don't often receive accolades for the decisions we make or the way we live our lives, often it is others to are impacted by our actions... even if we aren't aware of it. We might not ever realize the witness we are to others, but we must keep on and keep the faith - people do notice, and most importantly, God notices. We will receive a reward for our decisions and our lives, we just may not see that now.

Keep the faith.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Colossians 3:1-17 Walking by Fai†h when the Plane† Shakes: Par† 2

Walking by Faith when the Planet Shakes: Part2

for part 1, see April 10th.

The night of terror yielded to Dawn of the Dread. Hours after the last maremoto rolled over Dichato, with multiple reassurances that there would be no more quake-generated waves, ABC/PM made their way slowly through the devastated village streets.

Where Friday they had left their rented cabin with all their belongings, they found only a foundation. But they had lost only their vacation possessions; the residents of Dichato had lost all that they knew.

Returning to higher ground the young people scavenged a demolished restaurant for a bit of food and liquid refreshment. That night they slept soundly, three of them to a single twin mattress, beneath the sky, still wary of being inside a building when the aftershocks threatened to complete a half-finished destruction. The next day they visited a hilltop tent city...

I asked Carissa what could be done to help the village of Dichato. She replied:

Thank you so, so much for your interest in Dichato! Seriously, that poor little town got obliterated and needs all the help it can get. If you want to see more pictures and read the full story of what happened to us, you can check out my blog:


You have to look back like 2 posts for the pictures and like 4 posts for the complete story.

As far as the t-shirts go, I'm waiting on info too! My friend Amanda that was with me here for the earthquake designed the T-shirts and was in the process of ordering them, but I'm not sure what exactly is going on at the moment...I'm kind of out of the loop being on the other side of the world haha! But there's a group on Facebook if you want to follow along on that:

I'm waiting on an e-mail from Amanda, and I'll let you know the status of the shirts once I get that. Thanks soooo much again for your interest, I'll keep you up-to-date on what's going on!


Amanda, Ben, and Carissa have been raised with Christ, and were providentially spared from the destructive forces that struck Dichato. May they, as we, keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

to be continued...
listen to Colossians 3:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Colossians 2:8-23

Verse 8 of this passage really struck me. "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ." The word "captive" cinched this for me.

Because that is exactly what living in today's world is like. To fall prey to all the flash, the drive, the promise of fame and fortune is to fall captive to something that is not of Christ. Paul is telling us to live beyond this world of "deceptive philosophy". Instead, we are to live "alive with Christ" and not in the shadows of any form of earthly judgment.

But, let's face it - that's hard. Today's life reminds me of the old cartoon, the Jetsons. Our daily life follows a routine that is surely not one from heaven. Remember the morning routine at the Jetsons' house? Remember how George Jetson would get into his hover craft and get into the line of traffic? His day was always predictable, at least in terms of what would happen when (and even that he would surely get in trouble at some point). Paul is telling us not to live such a life with our head in the day-to-day secular world, getting lost in the shoulds, the shouldn'ts, the haves and the have-nots.

But, it is also true today what Paul writes: People who delight in false humility go into great detail about what they have seen, about their daily lives, their exploits and such to give them such great importance. They set out to prove that they are doing the "right" thing as measured by today's society.

We are not connected to those who are so disconnected from God. As Paul says, we no longer belong to this world. We are not part of the false humility, the self-imposed worship of lesser "gods".

We are alive with Christ. He cancelled our debt which stood between us and God so that we may be one with God. There is no need to surrender, to be captive to today's earthly definitions of peace and hope. We have something much better - eternal life.

listen to Colossians 2:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Colossians 1:1-14

Verse 4 of today's passage says: "for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints," Obviously Paul had heard about the Colossians faith and love for each other from someone. I can't imagine word traveled as fast in those days as it does now, but it seems that those two attributes of that church were known and Paul prays for them.

My question is, what is St. Matthew's known for? How do people in the community view us? Do we know? Would anyone notice (Outside of our members) if we weren't here? I think the answer is a resounding YES! We do so very much to reach out to our neighbors that the community of St. Matthew's is known for her love of her neighbors. About a year ago I had the pleasure of meeting the new head Pastor at a local Lutheran church. When I introduced myself and told him who I was and that I was from St. Matthew's, he said - "Oh, you are the church that does so much in Outreach!" Now, please understand that I was attending a monthly LINK meeting where every church represented is involved in outreach. But, the reputation of St. Matthew's is such that apparently we are known for doing much more - at least more than most. How wonderful. I can't tell you how proud I was of us that day. And then we have all of the groups that meet in our church - the Scouts, the Anonymous groups of every variety, the preschool, the Latino congregation - all of whom benefit from use of our church. So many people would be affected if St. Matthew's didn't extend herself in the way we do.

I think we can ask ourselves the same questions about us as individuals - what do people say about us? Are our reputations based on Christian principles? Are we known for being kind, forgiving and loving to those we meet? Or do people think we are hypocritical? Who would miss us if we weren't here? What would be said about us? Are we known for our faithfulness to God? Are we known for our love of our families? Our Friends? What about our attitude toward strangers or even people we really just don't like?

Just something to think about as we go through our days ahead - are we who we profess to be? What do we need to do to be a better witness? How is it that we can be known among those we know as someone who does love God and love our neighbor?

Friday, April 16, 2010

I Peter 3:13-4:6

Imagine yourself sitting in a room which fills you with peace. The room holds several things you treasure or items of beauty; keepsakes, art or photos of loved ones, perhaps. You can sit with a cup of tea and look out the windows onto a peaceful scene- the forest? The ocean? You can write, or read, or watch the clouds go by. It may be sunny out, or (if you prefer) a soft rain or snow may be falling. The room is very precious. Its contents are precious as they seem set apart. To enter the room is a special experience.

When I read I Peter 3:15 , “in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord,” I think of my heart as a room. Our hearts hold what is most important to us like our special rooms hold the things we cherish. In my heart, I hold Christ, the most dear thing I have. We have just celebrated Lent and Easter and have reflected on how Christ suffered and triumphed for us. I picture myself entering my room. I sit with Him, worship Him, and turn my life and my desires over to Him. This is what it means to me to sanctify Him in my heart, as Lord.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

1 Peter 1:13-25

"You shall be Holy, as I am Holy" 1 Peter says...

Sunday, I had a fantastic experience. I taught Sunday School to over 40 children of a wide range of ages. We discussed the meaning of Holy Communion. We talked about who Jesus is. We talked about what Jesus taught, the miracles he performed. (Some of the preschoolers were very focused on the feeding of the 5000). We talked about Palm Sunday, his Last Supper, Passover and what that is, Jesus' death and Resurrection.

Honestly, I was very impressed with how much they knew. They seemed to get it - even the young ones. The Sunday school and/or parents of these children are doing a great job.... and then it came.... one particularly precocious 4 year old (I won't name names) asked a question near the end of the class... "Why did Jesus have to die, anyway?"

Wow. From a 4 year old. He can tell you all about Jesus, his life, his ministry, his death and resurrection. But here was the WHY question. He said it wasn't fair that Jesus was a good man and he had to die.

So, the only way I could explain it was to explain that if people were supposed to be good 100% of the time - all day every day and all night every night, and they weren't - they did something bad - they made bad choices, hurt other people, hurt themselves or hurt God they couldn't do anything to make up for it - because they had to be good and make good choices all the time - there wasn't "time off" when they could just do whatever they wanted.

Then a 9 year old said "well all you have to do is pray and say you're sorry!"

Exactly.. because of Jesus' death and resurrection, all we have to do is pray and say we're sorry. And that is why we live lives of faith and that is why we strive daily, hourly even, to be Holy as He is Holy. Out of thanksgiving for the life we have been given and the forgiveness and debt Jesus paid for us, we are called to live our lives thankfully and lovingly - toward God and toward each other.

I hope they got it. I hope we get it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10 †Walking by Faith When the Planet Shakes†

Walking by Faith When the Planet Shakes

Afterward, no one could remember whose idea it was to go to the disco. But it
may well have saved their lives.

It had been a lazy afternoon at the beach for the beginning of the last weekend
of the summer. The two twenty-somethings who had arrived from Michigan on
Wednesday had overcome their jet lag and enjoyed dipping their toes in the chilly Pacific and catching enough rays to lose their pale faces. The quintet enjoyed dinner at a laid back beachside café where the adventurous among them
sampled a seafood chowder called mariscal, washed down with margaritas. They were a bit of an odd set: dark-haired Pablo and his cousin Matias, strawberry-blonde (and self-described gringa) Carissa, and the two recent arrivals, Carissa's college classmates, blonde Amanda and buzz-cut Ben. After dinner they were just 'chillin' until they decided to move on to the pulsing dance floor of Katanga Planet. Turning in early was not on the minds of the many college students in town; classes would start again on Monday, but 'til then party like it's…19.99 hours to Sunday.

And so it was on to the KP although in truth it was already well past midnight,
which is when one prefers to be dancing anyway.

They were able to stake out a cushioned booth in a corner just off the dance
floor, but they didn't linger there as the sound was so continuously dense that
conversation was impossible. They formed a circle of five, each moving inward
and outward with dance steps in phase like a beating heart compressed by the
larger circles of the other revelers around them, arms raised in celebration of
the liberty to live consequence-free. The young Americans were a continent and a
culture removed from dear old, conservative, Calvin College, class of '08.

They danced to set after unremitting set of techno-tunes (a music style called
cumbia according to Carissa), when the song abruptly changed. The dance floor was struck like the blow of a gong, but a blow that kept hammering. "Oh my God!
Holy crap" and screams mostly in Spanish or the universal lingua franca of
abject terror. The lights went out, the DJ's music stopped, windows shattered
and wine bottles smashed on the floor. Carissa and Amanda found each other in
the dark, and then braced on a wood pillar that supported the peaked ceiling of
the club. Ben bent his knees like a surfer riding wave after merciless breaking
wave. For ninety seconds that seemed nine hundred the earth tried to shake fleas
off its itchy back. And then it stopped.

The five found each other beneath the trees outside, where the only light was
the nearly-full moon. Limbs still shaking from the backwash of adrenaline, the
Americans wanted nothing more now than to get back to their rented cabin by the
beach and sleep off the shock of experiencing a world-class temblor. It was, as
the song says, "twenty-five or -six to four" in the morning.

But Pablo was excited. Run! Run! He urged, and they sprinted together toward
Pablo's car and piled in. Pablo backed out of his parking space and shifted
quickly into high gear. Matias rode shotgun with the three Americans crammed in
the tiny back seat. The trick now was to swiftly navigate the darkened streets,
avoiding major fissures that might have opened in the roadway or buildings
fallen into the road. Plus avoid hitting pedestrians and other cars bent on the
same objective, namely to get from sea level to the ridgeline south and east above
the village. When the way ahead opened clear of the lower village, Pablo gunned
it across a bridge that spanned a ravine. It seemed to Ben that the car wobbled
a bit as they cleared the upper end. He looked back to see that the bridge had
collapsed in their wake. Onward and upward they sped. Silently in the back seat,
they prayed.

At length they pulled up beside a two-story house that overlooked the bay and
the Pacific Ocean beyond, but they did not go in. There were steps behind the
house that continued up the hillside to the top of the ridge. They were now a
mile distant and over 400 vertical feet above the beach. Pablo began to explain,
my uncle told me about the big terremoto back in '60, after the first shocks
there was even worse damage from the maremoto, the big waves that came after. We gotta get to higher ground, now! Tsunami! was the lightbulb that flashed in their muddled brains. They regarded the shallow horseshoe-shaped bay by the shore they had just left. It was placid now. But when the waters receded to gather force, that bay would focus the wrath of the waves on the now-vulnerable village of Dichato.

Here, above the town, they waited. They did not have to wait long.

Out on the moonlit ocean a ghostly curtain of water drew up as the bay was
sucked dry. The anchored fishing fleet settled into the mud, before a 40-foot
high swell swept scores of boats across the beach and beyond. Thousands of
wooden home frames snapped like twigs for kindling. The ocean swelled to fill
the valley, rising and rising until the straining waves just licked the rear
tires of Pablo's car. Then, somehow satisfied, the water pulled back.

As the moon sank into the western ocean and the dawn came in high scattered pink
clouds, the waves came again and again and again, wreaking havoc on Dichato down
below. Pablo had a radio on, and an emergency broadcast system was advising that
the danger had passed, but they had no thoughts of returning to their beach
cabin.Tired and helpless all they could do was sit and watch and imagine the
destruction and the death being delivered by a restless earth and ocean. And
when dawn came the tranquil bay was strewn with the pathetic flotsam of what had
been a living town.

Carissa's parents had left Dichato mid-week after visiting their far-flung
daughter, and were back home in Michigan. They would wake up Saturday morning
and hear what had happened, but they would not know. They would try to call. And they would get…nothing.
There was no cell service in central Chile. Who knew when there might be service, or power...any type of communications, again.

Before leaving on this trip Amanda had been on the phone with her mother and
somewhat randomly told her that if it were ever required for identification
purposes, God forbid, she had a unique body marking, i.e. a tattoo on her foot.
Dear old mom was taken aback at not having been previously consulted on this,
even if this was her adult daughter's chosen means of expression. At least, for
mom's sake, it was an affirmation of Amanda's Christian conviction. Amanda,
sandals off as she rested tired feet, regarded herself now, a sojourner in a
devastated landscape. Her backpack, her clothing, her U.S. passport were almost
certainly awash along with the shattered timbers of the cabin she and her
friends had rented by the beach, but those seemed small things now. Those things
were not her life, the life which she still had in heart, soul, mind and
strength. For now that would need to be enough to sustain her. They all would
need to walk more by faith now than had ever before been required of them.

...to be continued...

Friday, April 09, 2010

1 Corinthians 15:51-58

I was struck in today’s reading with the words, “in the twinkling of an eye”. How many times do we hear that about bad things? We may hear “in the twinkling of an eye, all hell broke loose” or “in a twinkling of an eye, he was dead” or “in the twinkling of an eye, the twister landed and my house was gone”. The idea is that a twinkling of an eye is fast. Go ahead – blink. It’s fast, isn’t it.
I grew up in California. We had earthquakes. I hated earthquakes. They made you feel absolutely helpless. There was no where safe to go. Truly, in the twinkling of an eye, you could lose your life, your property and your family. Frankly, it was horrifying.

Even if we don’t face it on a daily basis, we know what the twinkling of an eye means. You can have a car accident, or lose a loved one, have a heart attack, whatever. The point is, your life will change that fast. How does that make you feel? Are you ready for this? Do you have what it takes to defend yourself against what horrible things could happen in the blink of an eye? How often do we not allow ourselves to think about the possible horrible stuff that could happen to us just because we are living on this earth at this time?

In today’s reading, we hear that all things will be changed in God in the twinkling of an eye. God can take over your life if you will let Him. Then, it won’t matter what will come in a twinkling of an eye. You can handle it. You have God on your side. You won’t have to fear the unknown.

Once you find God, stand fast in Him. He will turn away anything that can happen in the twinkling of an eye.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Exodus 12: 1-14
Isaiah 51:9-11
Psalms:  113, 114, 148, 149, 150
John 1:1-18, 20:19-23

I am writing this Easter devotional at Christmas. Both my daughters are home from college. With them home, it feels like some essential element of the universe slips back into place.  But when they leave… it feels like it somehow falls out of joint once again.

Imagine a world where we never have to be separated from those we love -- ever again; a world where both emotional and physical distance, and the pain they cause, are a thing of the past; a world where our delight in the full presence of those dear to us is never broken or diminished. How we long for such a world! Could it be that we pine for such a place because we are created for it? That such a world is our heart’s true home?

In celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter, we are celebrating a love so strong, so fierce, so determined, that it will bring such a world into being. Death is the most powerful force we know, the one that is the most final, and the one that no one—no matter how rich, or wealthy, or powerful—has ever defeated. No one, that is, but Jesus.

At Easter we proclaim that in the resurrection of Jesus Christ God has, indeed, conquered death. Because his power is so great that He can break even the bonds of death, the day is coming where absolutely nothing in heaven or on earth will ever defeat Love again.

Of course, we can say “no” to this love. In matters of the heart, love always respects another’s choice. But who would want to say “no” to such a love? Who would not choose to celebrate such love for all it is worth?

And that is precisely what we do at Easter; we celebrate God’s love. We celebrate the fact that the day is coming when we will never again be separated from it, or from any of his beloved children who, by his love, are united together as one.

We celebrate the fact that one day we will never feel the pain of being apart from God and all those we love ever again.


Saturday, April 03, 2010

Lamentations 3:37-58
Psalms 27, 88, 95
Hebrews 4:1-16
Romans 8:1-11

I want to dip back into the well of memory again, to the year 1977. It was the year Evie released "Mirror." It was the year Keith Green released the album "For Him Who Has Ears to Hear" (said to be a Bob Dylan favorite) including the song "When I Hear The Praises Start," with these opening lines:

My son, My son, why are you striving,
You can't add one thing to what's been done for you,
I did it all while I was dying,
Rest in your faith, my peace will come to you.

Jesus has done it all, done it for us, and that is the only way we will know genuine peace. Good Friday has become the "final final" day of God's work of Redemption, and ushers in this Ultimate Sabbath-day rest, but that is not a fact that anyone in Jerusalem on that Shabbat yet knew. They were squarely in that dark, empty, hopeless space, between the evident finality of the Cross and a Resurrection that not one of them anticipated.

A body lies in a wax-sealed tomb in the shadow of the Skull.
The Temple Guard on watch is bored.
Since weekly work is done the paths, the fields, the wider countryside is still.
The pilgrims to the Feast Of Pesach must be sleeping in today.
Behind closed doors, behind locked doors,
There are men who barely slept last night, will find no sleep tonight.
Their women rest, because that is what they have done, always, but the mind does not rest, there is fear, there is no peace.
The wolves have breached the gate; the Shepherd is struck down.
The flock is scattered and without defense.
The Guard yawns, adjusts his belt, awaits the night watch.
Sunset brings candles, a plan for tomorrow, and perhaps hope.

My precious bride, the day is nearing
When I’ll take you in my arms, and hold you
I know there’s so many things you’ve been hearing
But just hold on to what I told you.

Shabbat shalom!


Friday, April 02, 2010

Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-33
Psalms 22, 40, 54, 95
1 Peter 1:10-20
John 13:36-38, 19:38-42

Today is Good Friday, and Jesus has died. How does one respond to the fact that the God who created us, who breathed life into us, came to earth and died for us? It’s so difficult to get one’s mind wrapped around that fact. And yet, it is so.

I think Peter is one of the world’s favorite Bible characters because he is so flawed. We can identify with him so well. He follows Jesus, learns from Jesus, challenges what Jesus says, is scolded by Jesus, promises to die for Jesus, and yet, when he faces the reality that his dying could actually happen, he denies Jesus.

I’m not sure that I would have acted any differently in Peter’s shoes. I know I’ve done my fair share of things I’m not proud of, all the while professing to be a person of faith. I think this is true for so many of us. We are faithful people following Jesus. We have something happen that we don’t understand, so we protest – maybe even blame God for what has happened. We go to church on Sunday and repent and refocus our devotion to God; then, after we leave church, something happens, and our response isn’t exactly Christian. We say we’ll be faithful, come what may… then something happens that is infuriating, and we aren’t faithful all over again.

All the while, we are aware of the fact that Jesus died for us on this day. We are aware that our relationship with God cannot be broken no matter what we do. We are aware of God’s great

love for us that cannot be changed or lessened in any way…. And we are so eternally grateful.

We may not always show it, but we, like Peter, do the best we can. We live our lives as faithfully as we can; and, when we make mistakes, we always come back to God because we know the price He paid for us and that His expression of love for us is overwhelming.

We have hope that if Peter, who did so much wrong, was also forgiven and restored – to the point that he became the first Pope of the church -- that we, too, will always be forgiven and restored… and who knows, maybe we can have a ministry of forgiveness that can change the world – just like Peter.


Thursday, April 01, 2010

Lamentations 2:10-18
Psalms 102, 142, 143
1 Corinthians 10:14-17, 11:27-32
Mark 14:12-25

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.”

The morning after Constance’s death, I drove down to Woodbridge to visit a friend. My van was on auto-pilot. My mind was a mess. I’d visited Constance the evening before, prayed with her, gave her communion, even served her tea and toast…her last supper. Yes, these were good things, but I was still a mess. Should I have done something differently? Continued to suggest she call her daughter? (She said no.) Called 911? (She’d already called them twice that day but refused to go to the hospital -- just wanted them to move her to her favorite chair.) Stayed longer with her? (Her cousin would return to stay with her, she said, and called her before I left.) What I’d done was honor her wishes, honor her choices. But now she was dead.

Automatically, I pushed the radio button. A song was just starting. Its lyrics caught my attention. “I’m alive and well…” sang Kenny Chesney, “I’m alive and well..” I started crying, for I believed, and still do, that Constance is alive and well. She was ready. Even as she sipped her hot tea and nibbled on her toast, she asked me if I heard the music her neighbors were playing – her favorite hymns. I did not, but she heard the hymns, and she hummed along. Yes she was ready.

God’s message continued. Before the song on the radio even ended, a car closely merged in front of me. I glanced at the license plate. It read: “ISAIAH 12.” Though it’s not a reading assigned for today, it is part of His Word, and it was part of His Message that sunny morning. “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2)

Heavenly Father, Thank you for “…bringing me word of your unfailing love.” Thank you for reminding me that trust in you leads to Salvation, to an eternal life of being alive and well with You. Amen.