Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunday, March 31, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Exodus 12:1-14, Isaiah 51:9-11
Morning Psalms: Psalms 148, 149, 150
Gospel: John 1:1-18, Luke 24:13-35, John 20:19-23
Evening Psalms: Psalms 113, 114

DEVOTIONAL



The Apostle John was an idea guy. Yes, he was concerned with history, with what really happened. Yes, he believed that God really did become man in Jesus Christ, that Jesus really did walk the face of the earth teaching people about God and performing honest-to-goodness miracles, that this same Jesus really was brutally executed on a cross, and that three days later this Jesus really did rise from the dead. John really did believe these things, and I do too.

But John is perhaps even more concerned with the Big Ideas behind these events. Why are they so important? Why do they matter? What is it that we are meant to see or understand that we’ve missed before or maybe even got all wrong?

And so John makes incredible statements like, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:18). That’s the Easter Message, friends. That’s why Easter is such a Big Deal, such a Grand Celebration.

Our world, as beautiful and glorious as it can be, is nonetheless filled with darkness in so many ways. There is the darkness of sin, of suffering, of death itself. There is cruelty, abuse, violence, and hurt. There is addiction, shame, and self-loathing. There is sickness, tragedy, and the loss that comes with such finality in the death of a loved one. Who of us escapes these things?

But in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we see that none of these things are the last word, the final step in the journey, the conclusion of the book. In the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we see that light really does shine in the darkness, and that the darkness never has in the past, nor ever will in the future, be able to put out that light. We see that God will achieve his purposes, and that one day light and love will fill all of creation and win the day.
CRM


Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday, March 29, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Wisdom 1:16-2:1, 12-22, Genesis 22:1-14
Morning Psalms: Psalms 95, 22
New Testament: 1 Peter 1:10-20
Gospel: John 13:36-38, 19:38-42
Evening Psalms: Psalms 40:1-19, 54

DEVOTIONAL


Good Friday is a day that should test us -- Physically, Spiritually, and Emotionally. Physically, if we choose to fast, we will be a step slower, and lagging mentally. Spiritually, we feel a distinct separateness from friends and co-workers who don’t acknowledge today as the death of our Lord and Savior. They won’t be as reflective, as pensive, as sad as you might be today. Emotionally, we will be conflicted, torn between the sadness of Jesus’ death and the happiness of the resurrection.

You see, today is a conflicting day for Christians. We acknowledge Jesus’ death, but we have trouble recognizing our own role in that death. We know on some level Jesus HAD to die for us to be saved so what makes it so bad? We’d rather just hurry up and skip to Easter, plus I hear there will be bunnies!

T.S. Eliot reflected on Good Friday in his poem “Little Gidding”, comparing earth to a hospital where we only get better by getting sicker, “and that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.” He said that all of humanity is sick, and the only healing available to humanity was the death of God and our own corresponding death. If this sounds morbid, it should. If we don’t in some way feel responsible for Jesus’ death, we are missing the point.

On this day when we are fasting, suffering, and contemplating what Jesus’ death really means, I will leave you with T.S. Eliot’s final words on the subject:

   The dripping blood our only drink,
   The bloody flesh our only food:
   In spite of which we like to think
   That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood-
   Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.


How, exactly do we go about making this Friday “Good”?

GSM


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 20:7-11
Morning Psalms: Psalms 102
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32
Gospel: John 17:1-26
Evening Psalms: Psalms 142, 143

DEVOTIONAL


“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while
I am still in the world, so that they may have the
full measure of my joy within them.”
(John 17:13)

What struck me about this verse is that the foremost thing on Jesus’ mind at the very hour he was to be taken prisoner was that the disciples know of the joy they brought to Him.  He is praying for His disciples.  He loved them.  

He loves me.  Yet, I have felt spiritually dry lately.  I have wondered why I have the right to be loved by God.  I am so imperfect in every way.  So, when I feel spiritually dry, it makes me doubt that God can love me.

So, how do I turn from spiritual dryness to knowing the joy Christ speaks of in John?  In her book, “What Happens When Women Say Yes to God,” Lisa TerKeurst gives an example of God’s love and the joy He wants you to have:   imagine you are planning a surprise party for someone you love.  Everything you do is done with great love.  The day arrives.  Everything is perfect.  But the loved one decides to go through the kitchen and up the back stairs to his/her room.  I wonder if this is what I do to God?

I believe God wants to show me the joy only His love can provide.  Yet, sometimes I reject it, ignore it, or worse don’t even see it.  Every day, God gives me signs.  His love is all around me, and I just need to open my eyes to see and my ears to hear that love.  It can come from anywhere and from anyone.  I need to recognize those signs so that I may feel the fullness of God’s joy that Jesus wished for the disciples and for all of us. 
VAN


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 17:5-10, 14-17
Morning Psalms: Psalms 55
New Testament: Philippians 4:1-13
Gospel: John 12:27-36
Evening Psalms: Psalms 74

DEVOTIONAL


“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
(Jer. 17:7)

I do not know if it is human nature or just my nature, but it is really hard for me to trust my problems to God, to just hand them over to Him. I see a problem and feel I should be able to fix it, either by solving it myself or by asking for help from others, but never really taking my hand off the tiller, so to speak. In the same way, it is equally hard for me to share these feelings with you (they don’t call me “stoic boy” for nothing). I’d like to think, however, that I am getting better at this.

Sometimes, I can look back and see God’s work in my life. When I have had a bad day, or even sometimes a good day, some random person who rarely even speaks to me other than to say hello will come up and say something really uplifting that makes a bad day better or a good day great! I pray this has happened to you; it feels wonderful. Other times when money has been really tight, something unforeseen happens, and a little extra cash shows up. Pennies from Heaven? I truly believe so. While these things may seem trivial, I recognize God’s hand at work, and His hand is anything but trivial; yet, I know that He is working in more subtle ways on much more important things in my life. Every time I “catch” Him working with me, I become a little better at trusting God, and I find myself taking another small step in my life-long journey with Christ.
DRR


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 15:10-21
Morning Psalms: Psalms 6, 12
New Testament: Philippians 3:15-21
Gospel: John 12:20-26
Evening Psalms: Psalms 94

DEVOTIONAL


“Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who
hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
(John 12:25)

I grew up going to a Christian sports camp. However, I was a little on the young side. This made my understanding of the Bible a little difficult as its powerful concepts were taught to me. In today’s Gospel reading, John writes that “the man who loves his life will lose it.” He continues to say that if you keep your life, it will be miserable. At 13-years-old, Allison thought this meant “if you’re happy with your life” (and I absolutely was, with a great family, great friends, and getting ready to start high school), “you are about to die.”

All right, so maybe it was a slightly ridiculous jump. But how do you explain to a young and learning Christian the idea of giving up a life she considers to be perfectly fine, in order to have a better one that is just a scary unknown?

It may have taken a while, but it finally dawned on me that all I had to give up was the part of my life that was missing God. Before realizing this, I made decisions based on my own moral compass, and not on the Word. My identity was defined by the activities I engaged in, rather than by the wonderful God who made me. I finally realized that “to lose” actually meant “to gain” the life God had beautifully and perfectly set out for me.

This passage gently reminds me that, no matter what I think is best for my life, leaving my personal desires behind to follow a Godly path is always the best and most fruitful option.
AP


Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 12:1-16
Morning Psalms: Psalms 51
New Testament: Philippians 3:1-14
Gospel: John 12:9-19
Evening Psalms: Psalms 69:1-23

DEVOTIONAL


“You are always righteous, LORD, when I bring a case
before you. Yet I would speak with you about
your justice: Why does the way of the wicked
prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?”
(Jeremiah 12:1)

Have you ever felt like one of the prophets was saying something that was in your own heart? Jeremiah questioned God’s justice, as I sometimes do. How, for example, can a just God allow the infectious greed in some men’s hearts (drug dealers, A.I.G., Enron) to prey upon those less fortunate than themselves? How can the one who told us “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” stand by and watch as evil spreads across this world causing one person to willingly harm another ( Newtown, CT; Aurora, CO; Syria; Angola)? Couldn’t He stop it if he wanted to? The answer is, of course He could.

I believe that God does act-- but in his own time. Although we look for immediate relief, every evil regime has eventually come to an end. The greedy have all fallen, if not in this lifetime then in the next.

Maybe Jeremiah was saying that if we are faithful to the Lord we must act on His behalf to help bring about His inevitable justice. How often have we heard the words, “They should do something to fix that”? Maybe the word ‘they” should instead be “we”. I know I have been guilty of sometimes complaining about a wrong while taking no action myself to right that wrong. Maybe if I spoke up or acted for Him, God’s justice would have arrived sooner.

I pray God will give me wisdom, courage, and strength so I might be an instrument of His justice from now on. Amen.
DJB


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday, March 24, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Zechariah 9:9-12, 12:9-11, 13:1 7-9
Morning Psalms: Psalms 24, 29
New Testament: 1 Timothy 6:12-16
Gospel: Matt. 21:12-17
Evening Psalms: Psalms 103 

DEVOTIONAL


“…See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey…. He will proclaim peace to the nations….”
(Zechariah 9:9-10)

Although my father often tried to read the Bible, his limited literacy skills prevented him from understanding many of its passages. I never gave it much thought, until about 10 years ago, when I gave Dad an illustrated children’s Bible, written in Spanish.

Dad opened that Bible every chance he had. This was something new for him – images that went with the words of the Bible! When friends or relatives stopped to visit, he would tell them about the latest story he had read. He especially liked showing them the picture of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey and the series of pictures leading to the Resurrection.

I wish I had known to tell Dad that by entering Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus symbolized peace. I wish I had known to tell him that the palm branches symbolized goodness. Dad would have liked knowing that -- especially last May, as he prepared for death and, with assistance, rode in a motorized wheelchair one last time around his favorite walking path -- behind the church – to savor a moment with God. Despite the painful challenges he faced with cancer, Dad was a very peaceful and a very good man.

I can picture them side-by-side: Jesus on the donkey, Dad in his wheelchair, winding down their respective journeys of peace.

Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live a life of patience, kindness, and goodness; one filled with the kind of peace that Jesus displayed as he entered Jerusalem. Amen.
MO


Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday, March 22, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-13
Morning Psalms: Psalms 22, 95
New Testament: Romans 11:13-24
Gospel: John 11:1-27, 12:1-10
Evening Psalms: Psalms 141, 143

DEVOTIONAL


“God, come close. Come quickly!
Open your ears -- it’s my voice you’re hearing!
Treat my prayer as sweet incense rising;
my raised hands are my evening prayers.”
(Psalm 141:1-2; The Message)

These are the words of David to God. I think David is imploring God to turn his prayers into something more than just his own words, to make them special -- sweetly wafting up for God to hear.

Many times, I send up quick thoughts as I’m driving, in between projects at work or running to another activity – “Keep them safe, Lord.” “Beautiful sunset, thanks!”

Sometimes silence is perfect, like when I’m walking the labyrinth at Shrinemont on a crisp, breezy, peaceful afternoon.

During tough times in my life, such as illness or the death of a loved one, my words, my conversations with God, have been nothing at all like sweet incense. I think temper tantrum, whining, and impatient demands would better describe what went on.

There have even been times, such as the death and funerals of my parents, when I didn’t have any words at all.

And I am so grateful for the authors who write, musicians who compose and write music, and the artists who paint, sculpt and much more. The gifts they create touch my heart and mind like nothing else and help me to express myself in ways that involve more than just words.

So, even when I’m not confident that my prayers will be as sweet as incense rising, I think God hears me. God is listening and understands whether my words are short, or impatient, or when I don’t have any words at all, or when I’m reading a prayer or praising in song. He understands and takes whatever I can give.
SKR


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thursday, March 21, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 26:1-16
Morning Psalms: Psalms 131, 132, 133
New Testament: Romans 11:1-12
Gospel: John 10:19-42
Evening Psalms: Psalms 140, 142

DEVOTIONAL


“I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.
I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble”
(Psalm 142:1-2)

Shortly after Lilah was born, we learned that she might be suffering from a serious illness that would force her to face life-long deficits and challenges. As any parent can imagine, my receipt of this potential diagnosis was devastating. In an instant, the joy I had experienced from becoming a first-time mom was gone, and I was filled with fear and anger. I questioned why something so terrible was happening to me. I felt alone and desperate. Although I had not called upon the Lord in many years, I found myself praying for understanding and clarity.

I cannot explain how it happened, but while I was praying, I realized something profound – something that would change my life forever. I realized how incredibly lucky I was to love someone so much that I could feel so desperate about her potential illness. I realized how incredibly blessed I was to have the opportunity to love a child the way I loved Lilah; and through my intense fear and anger was born the greatest gift – immense hope and faith. Lilah is 15 months old now, and we ultimately learned that she was not suffering from a serious illness, that she would be just fine. I am incredibly thankful for that, but I am also thankful that I had the opportunity to restore my faith in and love for God.

Shortly after this experience, my family began attending St. Matthew’s on Sundays. It is my hope to raise my daughter in a church where she will also learn to call upon God and find His mercy and love in times of trouble.
HAC


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 25:30-38
Morning Psalms: Psalms 119:145-176
New Testament: Romans 10:14-21
Gospel: John 10:1-18
Evening Psalms: Psalms 128, 129, 130

DEVOTIONAL


“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth
his life for the sheep… No man taketh it [my life] from me,
but I lay it down of myself…”
(John 10:11-18)

I bow my head as the cross is carried past me during the processional and the recessional. I bow because, some time ago, I compared notes with an Episcopalian I met. He asked me if I was a High Episcopalian or a Low Episcopalian. This was something I had never noticed or thought about, even though I grew up in the Episcopal Church. Not knowing the difference probably meant I had been attending a Low Episcopal Church.

A few years later, when I resumed attending church on a regular basis, I adopted that High Episcopal Church practice as a ritual, without any other purpose than to demonstrate reverence. I decided that keeping reverence where reverence is due is a good thing. Then I wondered, “Why am I doing this?” This led to some private thought. For a while, I thought about the actual suffering of our Lord upon the cross. Later, I reflected on His sacrifice bringing our redemption. I’ve concluded that bowing to the cross twice each Sunday, whether a Low Church practice or a High Church practice, is an excellent way to show reverence.

I marvel that the Son of God suffered and died for us, who are but creatures of little understanding… like sheep.
JE


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 23:16-32
Morning Psalms: Psalms 118
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 9:19-27
Gospel: Mark 8:31-9:1
Evening Psalms: Psalms 145

DEVOTIONAL


Time. I used to find myself despising this word. When I was younger I used to feel like I had unlimited time. I wasn’t concerned about it, didn’t try to measure it, felt no need to capture it. Rather, I simply lived -- laughing or crying in the moment, not thinking of the past or the future. As I grew older, I realized that time is limited. I am eighteen years old, so I am not anxious about dying tomorrow (though I know nothing is certain).

There were times, however, that I grew agitated as time barreled forward without me, taking with it people I love, health I took for granted, successes others would soon forget, comforts of all things familiar, and so much more. Sometimes I became so burdened by this concept of time that it sent me into a “swirling vortex of terror” (Finding Nemo reference) and enjoying the present moment became impossible, as I stood guard out of fear, ready for the next twist life offered.

I often wonder if Jesus also felt burdened by time. Did he struggle living in the present? Did he stress about his future and worry about imminent pain? Did he wonder if he performed enough miracles? After today’s reading from the book of Mark, I think it’s clear that Jesus appeared calm despite time-constraints on his life. During “the time of my life”, I know there will be new hardships and new comforts to either get through or enjoy, but I have Jesus as my role model. He gives me peace to live in the moment, laughing or crying appropriately, not dwelling on the past or stressing about the future.


JS


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Saturday, March 16, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 23:9-15
Morning Psalms: Psalms 107:33-43, 108:1-6
New Testament: Romans 9:1-18
Gospel: John 6:60-71
Evening Psalms: Psalms 33

DEVOTIONAL


“The Sprit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.
The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”
(John 6:63)

Last summer, a very well-liked and respected Physician’s Assistant at the hospital where I work was succumbing to an aggressive brain tumor. One Friday afternoon, knowing that his condition was worsening, he returned to the hospital to say a last goodbye to everyone. At 4PM I went to say my goodbye. While he was hugging me, Keith whispered in my ear, “God is in control”. Keith’s faith in God was strong. About one hour later, my mother called to tell me that my dad had passed away at 4PM. While driving home, it hit me -- Dad passed at the exact time Keith whispered, “God is in control”.

A few weeks later, Keith was a patient in the hospital, unable to speak. His time was drawing near. I truly wanted to pray for him, but I had never prayed for someone who was dying. So I prayed for God to give me strength. Finally, during my lunch break, I went to Keith’s room, and I prayed. Although he was unable to respond, I sensed that he could hear me.

When I returned to my duties, I found a patient waiting for me. His last name was Davis. My father’s name was Neil Davis. I knew, right then and there, that God was sending me a message, several messages, and I heard them all at once: I did the right thing; Dad was OK; God heard my prayers; Keith heard my prayers; and Keith and my Dad would be connected in Heaven-- but the biggest message of all was that God, indeed, is in control!

Thank you God for giving me strength and answering my prayers. I will continue to give of myself to You, in faith, knowing that You are in control.
SDF


Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday, March 15, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 23:1-8
Morning Psalms: Psalms 95, 102
New Testament: Romans 8:28-39
Gospel: John 6:52-59
Evening Psalms: Psalms 107:1-32

DEVOTIONAL


There are many references in the Bible to flocks of sheep and their shepherds. Quite often, a story revolves around lost sheep and a good shepherd who returns them to the comfort and safety of the flock. Jeremiah 23 opens with such a story, but with a bit of a twist. It opens with bad shepherds, shepherds who are not taking proper care of their flock and, therefore, leading them away from the Word of God.

In modern times, there are many bad shepherds who can lead “sheep” away from the comfort and truth that is God’s Word. I must admit that I was a lost sheep for many years. From my mid-teens to my early forties, church and faith were very low on my priority list. I can’t think of any particular reason for this, other than the fact that many of the “shepherds” in my life didn’t think faith was of any importance. They weren’t bad people, just not good shepherds. Fortunately for me, I have found new shepherds at St. Matthew’s.

In verse 3, Jeremiah says that the Lord would “gather the remnant of my flock” and “bring them back to their pasture.” St. Matthew’s is my pasture now. Verse 4 of Jeremiah reflects my very personal feelings for St. Matt’s: The Lord says, “I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified.”

I am truly blessed to be part of this flock, in a pasture with many great shepherds.
BR


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thursday, March 14, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 22:13-23
Morning Psalms: Psalms 69
New Testament: Romans 8:12-27
Gospel: John 6:41-51
Evening Psalms: Psalms 73

DEVOTIONAL


“I am the bread of life.”
(John 6:48)

One day recently I looked up into the branches of a winter-bare tree. Perched on the very top was a small bird, surveying his world.  It was all so beautiful, the bare branches, the beauty of the bird. A feeling of sympathy suddenly struck me: here was a small world of beauty (the bird weighed so little that the twig on which he was perched did not bend down!), and no one would particularly see or care about it -- but God does.  The little bird may have a short unnoticed life span, but God meets its needs and watches over it. God notices.

Jesus says in the Gospel today that He is the bread of life.  He ties it to a reminder of God's caring from the history of His Jewish listeners, providing them with manna in the desert. Jesus said the manna was a miracle of God's caring, but that a greater miracle had come. Manna was a food that only satisfied temporarily, but that He, as the bread of life, offered eternal life.

Having bread, or the feeling of being full, is deeply satisfying in a physical sense. Jesus, with His talk of manna and bread, knows this and reassures that He satisfies.

Jesus, thank you for caring for me, and for satisfying my needs in every way.
LAM


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 18:1-11
Morning Psalms: Psalms 101, 109
New Testament: Romans 8:1-11
Gospel: John 6:27-40
Evening Psalms: Psalms 119:121-144

DEVOTIONAL


“Then the word of the LORD came to me. He said,
“Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the LORD.
“Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.”
(Jeremiah 18:5-6)

Years ago, I was chatting with my girlfriends, talking about who would be the first of us to have a child. We debated about having an amniocentesis to detect birth defects and what we would do if we found out our child would be severely disabled.

I emphatically chose not to have an amniocentesis. First and foremost, I didn’t want anyone sticking a needle in my stomach. Second, I didn’t think it was necessary. I was in a state of denial and believed it would never happen to me.

Four years later, I gave birth to my second child. It didn’t take long to realize that Ethan was different, and in two years he was officially diagnosed with autism. During that time, my love for Ethan continued to grow. I loved him more fiercely than I could have ever imagined possible to love anyone.

It became apparent to me that even though I could not imagine mothering a disabled child, God sure knew I could. Ethan was the clay and God was the potter – shaping [him] as it seemed best. He knew that, given time to know my child, I would experience the pure joy of unconditional love – something that He gives to us every day. Today, I can’t imagine my life without Ethan, and I can’t thank God enough for knowing me and for shaping Ethan.
CN


Monday, March 11, 2013

Monday, March 11, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 16:10-21
Morning Psalms: Psalms 89:1-18
New Testament: Romans 7:1-12
Gospel: John 6:1-15
Evening Psalms: Psalms 89:19-52

DEVOTIONAL


“I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.”
(Psalm 89:1)

Whenever I’d walk into church, I could feel His presence everywhere -- in the songs, the Gospel, even the sermons. Slowly, that feeling began to fade away. By the time I went on a mission trip to Sneedville, TN, I hadn’t felt His presence in a while.

The drive seemed to take forever! But when we finally arrived, that positive feeling came over me again. I looked at the sky, and I smiled. I knew He was looking at me. As the week went by, though, that positive feeling started to fade away. I became someone else again, someone that I didn’t want to be; someone who gave up on Him. I was walking a fine line.

Then, Wednesday night came. Everyone from both churches met in the gym. Some of us talked about our day; some laughed, some cried. Suddenly, as we started singing songs, my body felt numb. I felt something go through me, something that I wasn’t expecting. But I knew that it was Him. I ran outside to the sanctuary next to the school. My friend followed me. She said, “Let it out!” I screamed into the cold, wet grass so only He could hear me, and I felt better than I had in a long time. After we went back inside, I sat down, closed my eyes, and prayed. I will never forget that night.

My faith has been tested, but is now growing again as I walk along the path He makes for me. Often, I will ask myself this question: Where does my faith stand right now? And if I feel like it’s fading, I will sit down, close my eyes, and pray.

EBH


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sunday, March 10, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 14:1-9, 17-22
Morning Psalms: Psalms 66, 67
New Testament: Galatians 4:21-5:1
Gospel: Mark 8:11-21
Evening Psalms: Psalms 19, 46

DEVOTIONAL


“We acknowledge our wickedness, LORD, and the guilt of our ancestors;
we have indeed sinned against you.
For the sake of your name do not despise us….”
(Jeremiah 14:20-21)
 
In my own home, I hear the voices of my two “angels” raised not in song, but in anger. I walk into their room, and it’s as if they’re trying out for the Mixed Martial Arts Jr. World Championship! The fighting is constant. I know that it’s all part of growing up, especially at their age; however I wonder how much they are influenced by the violence they see on TV or hear about on the radio.

I was struck by how relevant today’s readings are to our time. Right now, you have to be dead not to know about the horrific things happening in our country. I look around me, and I see violence rapidly becoming a normal way of life. I see us, as a nation, losing our way. We have turned from God, and our punishment is the death of innocents by sick people. I am terrified that the world is getting worse and that my children will suffer for it. I am angry, and I am fearful. My gut reaction is to withdraw from the world around me and move to the mountains to hide out in a place so remote that I can safeguard my family from the spreading of evil in the world. But, the reality is that won't change this world or me. I MUST confess my sins and sincerely repent. I MUST stop and turn back to God. I MUST take a stand and start being a Light in the darkness to those around me. Thankfully, through Jesus, God provided a means for me to repent, to live in His light, and to be free of paralyzing fear and anger -- and for that I am eternally grateful.

Thank you, Father, for sending Your son to be our salvation. Please forgive my evil ways, and help me to trust in You and to be a Light in the darkness.
KLR


Friday, March 08, 2013

Friday, March 08, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 11:1-8, 14-20
Morning Psalms: Psalms 88
New Testament: Romans 6:1-11
Gospel: John 8:33-47
Evening Psalms: Psalms 91, 92

DEVOTIONAL


“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High ...I will say of the Lord,
“He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Psalm 91: 1-4

Have you ever taken a personality test like Myers-Briggs, one that tells you your strengths and potential blind spots, preferred style of communicating and interacting with others, etc.? This past year our management team completed the Personalysis test, and I learned something interesting about myself. It’s hard for me to trust. Some people say they trust you until you give them a reason not to; according to the test, I don’t trust you until you prove to me why I should! And when I think about it, it’s really true… except with God. I have trusted Him for as long as I can remember, without question or hesitation.

Shortly after I graduated from high school, I turned 18 and I boarded a plane at JFK airport bound for Argentina, to be a Rotary exchange student for a year. I had studied Spanish all four years in high school and was pretty good, and I had an adventurous spirit for a young girl from rural Pennsylvania. There was just one hitch. I was arriving at the international airport in Buenos Aires but had to somehow cross the city and get to the domestic airport for my second flight, to San Pedro de Jujuy. Now, this was 1980… no Internet or cell phones with Google maps, I had maybe ridden in a taxi once at that point, and I had never taken a public bus or train. To this day, I have no idea how I thought I was going to get there, but I was not afraid, because I knew God would take of me.

During my first flight, I struck up a conversation with a nice man sitting across the aisle from me, and I learned he was from Virginia, lived in Argentina, and had a chauffer who was picking him up at the airport. When he found out I had to make my way to the domestic airport, he graciously offered me a ride, which I very gratefully accepted! Now, you can imagine the heart attack my Mom had when I later told her what I had done, but I knew in my heart I would be fine – God had sent an angel to help me. I trusted Him.

I don’t have more room, or I’d tell you about the equally amazing way God was watching over me when I left Argentina a year later – you’ll have to catch me at coffee hour to hear that story! Suffice it to say, I trust my God with all my heart and soul and always will, and I am so very thankful for his constant love and guidance and protection.
JP


Thursday, March 07, 2013

Thursday, March 07, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 10:11-24
Morning Psalms: Psalms 42, 43
New Testament: Romans 5:12-21
Gospel: John 8:21-32
Evening Psalms: Psalms 85, 86

DEVOTIONAL


“If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples;
you will come to know the truth, and the
truth will set you free.”
(John 8:31-32)

A few years ago, I heard the phrase, "Make your home a safe haven." It’s something that has stuck with me, and I have tried to do just that -- create a safe and welcoming place for family and friends.

Dan used to do a lot around the house to keep things from going to rack and ruin, things that were beyond my areas of expertise. Shortly after Dan died, Robert wanted to move to the basement. Together, my sons and I (with the help of some wonderful companies and people) carried out a project that refurbished a number of rooms so Robert and William could each have more functional and larger living space at home. Yes, it was difficult, but I realized that I could do things that were clearly outside my comfort zone. I also realized that it wasn’t the living space that Robert and William needed, it was their friends who entered our home, happy to just hang out with my boys.

If I make His word my home, then even when the storms come, my faith will remain and I can stand strong. My actions and words are what others see. I hope they reflect even a small portion of my love and faith in God. If I listen, I know I will be guided to the truth, and in that, I find much freedom.

It still warms my heart to see a big pile of unfamiliar shoes by the front door!
CGS


Monday, March 04, 2013

Monday, March 04, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 7:1-15
Morning Psalms: Psalms 80
New Testament: Romans 4:1-12
Gospel: John 7:14-36
Evening Psalms: Psalms 77, 79

DEVOTIONAL


I thoroughly enjoy, take delight in, and give thanks for the truth that is expressed in Paul’s writing. When I read today’s passage in Romans, I am drawn to these words,

“Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him
as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who
does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked,
his faith is credited as righteousness.”
(Romans 4:4-5)
 
In these verses, Paul illustrates the difference between faith and work by describing the process of employment. An employer does not call an employee’s wages a gift; instead, the workers earn what they receive. The wages are the agreed-upon amount, not a gift.

In contrast to the wage earner are the sinners who trust in God. These people do not work—in other words, they have come to God because of faith alone. Yet these people are declared righteous because of their faith, not because of their work. Hallelujah!!! If I could earn right standing with God by my works (doing good, obeying the law), salvation wouldn’t be free; it would be God’s obligation, like payment for my efforts.

In the Newsboys song You Are My King, part of the lyrics say, “Amazing love, how can it be That You, my King, should die for me?” During this season of Lent, I thank God for His gift of grace and for my acceptance of it.  
RPL


Sunday, March 03, 2013

Sunday, March 03, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 6:9-15
Morning Psalms: Psalms 93, 96
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Gospel: Mark 5:1-20
Evening Psalms: Psalms 34

DEVOTIONAL


“He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and
went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number,
rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.”
(Mark 5:13)

In the New Testament reading for today, Jesus calls out evil spirits from a possessed man who had been living in a graveyard. When Jesus commands the evil spirits out of the man, he allows them to enter a herd of 2000 pigs that was grazing nearby. As the spirits inhabit the pigs, they cause the herd to run off the edge of a steep cliff and plunge into a body of water below. I now wonder if that’s where the expression, “when pigs fly,” comes from. Probably not, but the thought of them cascading over the cliff must have been a sight to see.

We all have bad habits, vices, and demons that haunt us. I know I do. Next time I identify behaviors or habits I want to change or be released from, I think I’ll imagine Jesus removing them from me, putting them into a flying pig, and over the cliff they will go. I know it won’t be quite that easy, but it’s a great visual…and quite humorous!

Imagine, though, being an innocent bystander that day and witnessing this calamity. According to scripture, they didn’t know what to make of the scene and asked Jesus to leave. Perhaps they were afraid for the rest of their livestock? Rather than be fearful, I choose to allow the amazing sense of humor that God has to brighten my day and release me from the evils that haunt me. If I actually get to see pigs fly, that would be awesome too.
MKR


Saturday, March 02, 2013

Saturday, March 02, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 5:20-31
Morning Psalms: Psalms 75, 76
New Testament: Romans 3:19-31
Gospel: John 7:1-13
Evening Psalms: Psalms 23, 27

DEVOTIONAL


“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.”
(Psalm 23: 1-2)

There are times in life—like when one has just added a new baby to an already boisterous family—that still waters seem to be a phenomenon experienced by other people. But the Lord does lead me there, maybe not for long weekends of lounging on the beach, but in precious droplets throughout the day.

Here are still waters, as I experienced them today: Sunrise. Quiet while the rest of the house slumbers. The warm nuzzle of my son’s cheek against my own. Drinking in that wonderful newborn smell.

Goldfinches on the feeder. A mug of warm tea, made by my husband. A breakfast apple, washed and proudly presented by my two-year-old. Ice crystals on the porch. Branches against the sky. A warm home with room for all of us.

A hot shower. Lunch. Lettuce in the garden, still growing in winter. A hug, little hands pat-patting my neck. Drawing circles.

A visit from the brother I rarely see. A call from the friend I talk to almost daily. Help cleaning up. Playing together nicely.

A few bars of Handel, and then Bach. Driving with only one child in the car, and that child is sleeping. Grace. We are thankful for the new baby, for helpful grandparents, and for meatballs.

Big sister reading to little sister, sounding out the words, curled up together. A request for one more lullaby, “I’ll Be Loving You Always.” One more story, written by my big girl.

Quiet again with my husband. A moment to write out my thoughts.

Still Waters.
RP


Friday, March 01, 2013

Friday, March 01, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 5:1-9
Morning Psalms: Psalms 69
New Testament: Romans 2:25-3:18
Gospel: John 5:30-47
Evening Psalms: Psalms 73

DEVOTIONAL


If I give witness about myself, it doesn’t count. There is someone
else who gives witness in my favor. And I know that
his witness about me counts.”
(John 5:31-32)

I have a confession that may surprise you. I’m an introvert. This basically means my energy tends to expand through reflection and dwindle during interaction. I tend to take pleasure in solitary activities such as reading, meditation, and exercise. It’s not that I don’t like people; I just get drained in my interactions rather than energized.

So how I landed in a career that requires constant interaction with people (I’m a recruiter) is a mystery. Based on my personality, I should have been a software engineer, happily sitting at a desk knocking out code. Instead, I spend every day speaking to people and working with them to identify new careers or roles for them at my company. It’s exhausting. It’s a job made for extroverts, not introverted me.

And yet, God had other plans. Sometimes the things we’re called to do don’t necessarily seem right for who we think we are or what we’re supposed to be doing. But by putting a little trust in God, it goes a long way to seeing the rewards for taking the right, albeit different, path for our talents and abilities.

I’m glad I heard the calling. My career “choice” is validated by the countless “thank you” emails I get every week from people that found new roles and from those that were just grateful to have a trusting ear to listen to them. I love my job, and my hope is that others will find the same joy on their journey, wherever it may lead. For me, all it took was a little trust in God.
CL


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 3:6-18
Morning Psalms: Psalms 72
New Testament: Romans 1:28-2:11
Gospel: John 5:1-18
Evening Psalms: Psalms 119:73-96

DEVOTIONAL


“Jesus said to him, ’Rise, take up your bed and walk.’
And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed,
and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.  The Jews therefore
said to him who was cured, ‘It is the Sabbath; it is not
lawful for you to carry your bed.’”
(John 5:8-10)

As I often do in January, I find myself reflecting on the things I’d like to improve in the coming year. But I’m not calling them resolutions, as those have a tendency to fade rather quickly. I’m striving for permanent change. One thing I want to do in 2013 is to laugh more, help others laugh more, and find some humor in whatever challenges I may face.  Sometimes it’s hard to find a reason to laugh, even harder to find joy, but I will do my best to look for it. 

Now the Bible is not exactly a place one goes to find humor. Yet, I laughed when I read today’s gospel from John 5:1-18. Jesus cures a man who has been crippled for 38 years. He tells him to take up his bed and walk.  So, he’s walking for the first time in 38 years and some Jews come upon the man and say, “Hey, what are doing carrying that bed? It’s the Sabbath!” Their reaction is so ridiculous, it’s comical. 

I think about the times in my own life when I’ve failed to appreciate the wondrous and the miraculous because I’ve been too caught up in the trivial stuff. To be receptive to the wonder, to the glory and the miracles around me, I need to be ready and aware.   I need to pursue the laughter, be there in the present, and tap into the joy that is one of God’s greatest gifts to us.

MB


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 2:1-13
Morning Psalms: Psalms 61, 62
New Testament: Romans 1:16-25
Gospel: John 4:43-54
Evening Psalms: Psalms 68

DEVOTIONAL


“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
(Jeremiah 2:13)

When Felton and I were students at Virginia Tech, we did a lot of hiking. One of our favorite hikes was around Mountain Lake. A couple of years ago, Felton and I went to Mountain Lake and were surprised to see that the water level had dropped, so it was just a pond. We found out, rather than being a typical lake that is fed by springs of water, it is fed by rain and could not sustain itself during the recent draughts. When it became barren, it exposed its secrets, including the body of a man who drowned in the lake in 1921.

I have had times in my life when I am like Mountain Lake -- not being fed by “the spring of living water”. Those are times when I am not reading the Bible or belong to a Bible study, or not going to church, or going but not being fully present. I let myself be distracted by activities and “to do” lists. Like Mountain Lake, my soul begins to drain and become parched. Other times, when I read the Bible and am fully present at worship and Bible studies, I feel more balanced and resilient.

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.”
(Psalms 62:5)

Help me to focus on You and be fully present in You. Help me to be fully present in my actions, and may they glorify You.

SJ


Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday, February 25, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 1:11-19
Morning Psalms: Psalms 56, 57, 58
New Testament: Romans 1:1-15
Gospel: John 4:27-42
Evening Psalms: Psalms 64, 65 

DEVOTIONAL


“Get up and prepare for action, go out and tell them
everything I tell you to say. Do not be afraid of them,
or I will make you look foolish in front of them.”
(Jeremiah 1:17)

I hate football. I know it’s an American tradition, but I’ve never understood its entertainment value, and the rules confused me growing up. One year, my dad was waiting for the Super Bowl kickoff, but there was a spider in the bathroom I shared with my little sister. We were terrified of the spider and refused to go into our bathroom. We begged out dad to kill it for us, and he promised he’d do it after the kickoff, but eventually he caved, killed the spider, and missed the kickoff.

The truth is, I’m still not excited about football, but I’ll watch it with my family every Sunday anyway. I think that maybe Jeremiah’s attitude towards being a prophet paralleled my attitude towards football. Being chosen to be a prophet would be confusing, and he might not have been excited about it. Maybe Jeremiah had his own spiders to contend with, fears he faced or other challenges in his life. I think once he overcame his fears, got up, and prepared for action (as I do with a bowl of chili each time I sit on the couch to watch football with my family), he discovered that it wasn’t actually all that bad. Even though the things God was calling him to do seemed as scary as spiders were to me and my sister, or as confusing as football rules, they turned out fine in the end because he wasn’t doing them alone. While I still don’t really understand football, I’m not afraid to kill my own spiders anymore.

ES


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday, February 24, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Jeremiah 1:1-10
Morning Psalms: Psalms 24, 29
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 3:11-23
Gospel: Mark 3:31-4:9
Evening Psalms: Psalms 8, 84

DEVOTIONAL


“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart.”
(Jeremiah 1:5a)

Wow, how striking these few words are! As the 5th of 6 kids, I often thought I was at the bottom of the sibling totem pole. Isn’t it funny, and even a bit sad, how kids see themselves and interpret their importance in the family? Luckily I’ve grown up.

“Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will
is my brother and sister and mother.”
(Mark 3:34-35)

Now, when I think of my greater family, God’s family, I don’t put myself at the bottom of the totem pole. I see the totem pole as horizontal, and we all have the same “rank”. I see all my church friends and their individual gifts, what each brings to the table. I admire those who have gifts that I do not, and I try to be aware and appreciate those who might prefer to share their gifts in secret - those who would rather go unnoticed than receive praise. But we know praise is nice to receive, and when I start to feel, “Hey, didn’t anyone notice?”, I only have to remind myself that God knows, and who else would I rather please?

Because He knew me before he formed me. He knew me, who I would be, with all my faults and foibles, and He formed me anyway. He formed me as He formed His beloved Son, our Savior. Wow!
 
LML


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Saturday, February 23, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Deuteronomy 11:18-28
Morning Psalms: Psalms 55
New Testament: Hebrews 5:1-10
Gospel: John 4:1-26
Evening Psalms: Psalms 138, 139

DEVOTIONAL


In John 4:1-26, Jesus asks a Samaritan woman for a drink of water, and then tells her about the Living Water only He can provide. Although Jesus gets his thirst satisfied, the woman received so much more in return.

I was a chaperone during St. Matt’s mission trip to Nashville. Some of the teenagers were sure of their relationship with God, others questioned His existence. One day, three kids and I descended into downtown Nashville with one goal: to find 4 homeless persons with whom to share our lunch and water. We searched for the “right” place to stop. We questioned a police officer, a homeless salesman, and others about where to share our lunch; each gave a different location. Finally, we turned a corner and saw the church. I could tell just by looking at the kids that we had found THE place we needed to be.

We ate on the church stairs with four homeless people. After the initial awkwardness, the kids and their new friends were telling jokes, enjoying the meal, and talking about the wonders of God. The homeless talked about their troubles with alcohol, drugs, and outwitting the law. Despite their situations, they all expressed how strong their relationship with God was and how He provided in so many ways.

We gave four people food and water. We got back so much more – the unwavering knowledge that God is with us. He led us to the officer and salesman, around one corner then another, until we arrived at the right place. He led us to Dale, to Chief, and to the others. Most important of all, He revealed to one of the teens how God is with him in each and every step. There is no greater gift than faith in God’s presence, but being with someone when they dive into His Living Water is a pretty close second.

EC


Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday, February 22, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Deuteronomy 10:12-22
Morning Psalms: Psalms 40, 54
New Testament: Hebrews 4:11-16
Gospel: John 3:22-36
Evening Psalms: Psalms 51

DEVOTIONAL


“To this John replied, ‘A person can receive only what is given them from heaven.’” 
(John 3:27)


The holidays are the time when I think the most of family, friends, and other blessings in my life. But the past few months have been an exceptional time of reflection and thanksgiving for me. For the first time since I was 16, I found myself without a job, and it wasn’t by choice. The uncertainty of what is to come and how to provide for my family is stressful.

Today’s Gospel reading reminded me of the 2008 mission trip to Philadelphia. There I met a godly man who had a soup kitchen and clothing ministry for the homeless and needy. I’ve never forgotten what he told us. He said that God wants to give to others through you. And the more you give to others, the more God will provide to you, so that you can pass it on to those who need it. It was a gift, a wakeup call for my faith. I realized it wasn’t my job that provided for me, it was God who provided the job. I wholeheartedly trust that He will bring me to the perfect opportunity at the right time.

Gifts from the heart are blessings from heaven. I have been very blessed by the gifts of God that have come from friends and family and godly people He sends my way. May God continue to provide an abundance of blessings to you, as He has to me. Amen.

PFH

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Deuteronomy 9:23-10:5
Morning Psalms: Psalms 50, 59, 60
New Testament: Hebrews 4:1-10
Gospel: John 3:16-21
Evening Psalms: Psalms 19, 46

DEVOTIONAL


The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim  the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
(Psalm 19:1-2)

I’ve spent a lot of time in deserts, prairies, and mountains where the air is clear. One of my earliest memories is looking up at the stars. It didn’t make me feel small – it taught me the feelings of awe and wonder. At that age, I learned that God was everywhere, but mostly in Heaven. As a young man, thinking I grasped the concept of infinity, I felt very, very small. I learned that God was “out there,” monitoring my every action and thought. Later, I began to doubt that such a being could exist.

One very clear moonless night I sat at the rim of Bryce Canyon. I had never seen so many stars. I thought, “if there is a God, and if he created all this, there is no way that he cares what I do.” It was tremendously liberating to be freed from the all-seeing Eye. The elsewhere-god ceased to exist, but the stars still had a lot to say.

After many years, they eventually said, “You are the product of nearly 14 billion years of seamlessly connected creativity. The hydrogen atoms in these stars and in your body were formed at the Big Bang; the carbon atoms in your body were formed in ancient supernova explosions. God is not "Out There”, nor were you plopped down from Elsewhere. You emerged from the same heart of the cosmos that produced the infinite sky. You are connected to all this, and you cannot be unconnected.”

I like this new story, of a God present and active in the unbroken emergence from void to light to matter to life to consciousness to... whatever comes next. Finally, a God in which I can believe.

DF


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Deuteronomy 9:13-21
Morning Psalms: Psalms 119:49-72
New Testament: Hebrews 3:12-19
Gospel: John 2:23-3:15
Evening Psalms: Psalms 49, 53 

DEVOTIONAL


“This is what happens to those who live for the moment,
who only look out for themselves: Death herds
them like sheep straight to hell….”
(Psalm 49:13-15, The Message)


Yikes! Now that’s a strong message!  

Lately, I feel that a common sentiment folks have is that to make children happy, they (we) need to give them more – of everything -- more clothes, more books, more games, more, more, more of everything! Yet, words like those of Psalm 49 drive home to me that it isn’t “stuff” that our children need. They just need LOVE. (Isn’t there a song that goes something like that?) They especially need to see and learn what “love in action” looks like.

I’ve often wondered about the messages I am sending to my children by my actions. So, last year my husband and I made a small change. We rented a smaller beach house, one farther away from the beach, for our family vacation. Our young son, M2, noticed. We told him that this small change would save us money, and that we could use what we saved to help St. Matthew’s Capital Campaign and to buy groceries for Backpack Buddies. He liked that idea, especially when he later went shopping with me, personally selected cans of tuna and shelf-stable milk, and placed them into the shopping cart.  

It was a small start, but it was the best practical way I could think of to send M2 God’s message – not to only look out for ourselves, but to look out for others through acts of love. I hope to find other opportunities during my Lenten walk to show M2 how even small changes in something we do can make a big difference in the lives of others, like enabling a another child to eat, perhaps even the child that sits next to him on the school bus. Now that sounds like love to me!

MT



Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Deuteronomy 9:4-12
Morning Psalms: Psalms 45
New Testament: Hebrews 3:1-11
Gospel: John 2:13-22
Evening Psalms: Psalms 47, 48

DEVOTIONAL


“His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your
house will consume me.’”
(John 2:17)
 
God answers our prayers, but in His time, not ours. For years, I prayed that our family would find a church where we could all feel comfortable. It took four moves and buying a new home in VA before we found St. Matthew's. Though we drove by several local Episcopal churches and attended services at others, it only took one Sunday at St. Matt’s 9:15 service to know that we had finally found the house of our new Church Family.

Besides finding “zeal” within this house of God, I also found at St. Matt’s wonderful new friends, an answer to another long term prayer – also answered in God's time. As family members of St. Matt’s, my husband and I wanted to do our share, and so we joined a Mission Trip to Long Beach, MS. I prayed to make women friends on the trip, but I was the only female on our team AND on our work crew; so I was intrigued when one of the crew told us that his wife had sent 14 prayer shawls to hand out. After the trip, via email, I met this man’s wife, and she shared stories about starting her small group, “Knit1, Prayer2”. I wanted a group like that. Now, three years later, with Fr. Rob’s support, I have the most wonderful group of women friends, nearly all from St. Matt's, and all hard-working members of the “Knit2, Prayer2 Ministry” of this house of our Church Family!


KG

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Deuteronomy 8:11-20
Morning Psalms: Psalms 41, 52
New Testament: Hebrews 2:11-18
Gospel: John 2:1-12
Evening Psalms: Psalms 44

DEVOTIONAL

“Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God…”
(Deuteronomy 8:11)
 
I read a poem once, and it was titled, “What If Jesus Showed up Today.” The entire thing was about what would happen if Jesus showed up at your door step right now. As you read this you’re probably thinking, “Drop everything and have a nice conversation!” Or “Man, I would have to put all these magazines away and bring out the Christian CD’s from the basement.” If you didn’t react in this way, then I apologize; but if you did, then GO ME!

Every now and then, I have to take a moment to think: how many times have I said, “Eh… I’m too busy to help out at church this week…” But if I look at it as an invitation, a reason to visit Jesus at his house, then maybe I should help out. I wonder if Jesus is actually calling me to hang out and to help out, maybe not all the time, but maybe as much as I can. I just have to cancel the unnecessary things that surround my life, well maybe some of them. And if I REALLY am busy, making time to pray is probably a fantastic way to have a conversation with God. Jesus is already all around us, so trying to hide the classic KISS and Bruce Springsteen albums won’t help. But what might is finding Jesus in those things, so when I do pray, I can say “So I saw you in this song today, God.” And I will tell him how --and I bet He’d love to hear!
ZR

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday, February 17, 2013

READING


Old Testament: Deuteronomy 8:1-10
Morning Psalms: Psalms 63, 98
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 1:17-31
Gospel: Mark 2:18-22
Evening Psalms: Psalms 103 

DEVOTIONAL

“But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them,
and on that day they will fast.”
(Mark 2:20)

As a Christian, I believe that Christ is always with me. But for Lent, I consider a life without Christ, and so I fast. For forty days I sacrifice something that is important to me. This fast isn’t supposed to be easy. In fact, the more difficult it is, the more I should be relying on God.

I think that is why I always fall short on my fasting. It’s not that it’s too difficult — aren’t all things possible with God? They are, but honestly, I still try to tackle fasting on my own. I don’t put God first; I put my own will power first. I treat fasting during Lent no different than a New Year’s Resolution.

Today is the first Sunday in Lent. Depending on your tradition, it’s actually a day to rest from fasting. I will use it as a day to reflect on my Lenten Fast. How well did I do these past four days? Did I offer my fasting as a sacrifice to God, or was it simply an exercise in my own will power? Have I been asking God to help me honor my fasts? Have I been allowing enough space in my life for God to work?
Dear God, I pray for me and for my fellow Christians. May we always put God’s love and power ahead of our own will power. Rather than worry about having a “successful” Lent, may we, instead, honor our commitments to God.
MT


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Saturday, February 16, 2013

READINGS


Old Testament: Deuteronomy 7:17-26
Morning Psalms: Psalms 30, 32
New Testament: Titus 3:1-15
Gospel: John 1:43-51
Evening Psalms: Psalms 42, 43

DEVOTIONAL


Remind your people…They must always be ready to
do something helpful…They should be
gentle and kind to everyone.” 
(Titus 3:1-3)

For the simple reason that I have been entrusted to lead the Outreach Ministry at St. Matthew’s, these words from Titus really spoke to me. In fact, they hit a personal chord. 

Before I started officially working with Outreach, things were very different. I wanted to do good things. I strongly believed in doing good things. I just never felt the overwhelming call to action. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to do my part. Volunteering is something I’ve always done. I coached my kids; I was a Cub Scout Leader; I served as a Team Mom for Football -- and these were all very good things, especially since I was with my kids. 

Nevertheless, aside from my immediate family, I never had the feeling that I was making a difference in anyone else’s life. Ever since I started working with the Outreach Ministry at St. Matthew’s, however, I have felt a part of a very good thing, and I have seen wonderful good things happen. We (you and I) do impact lives as we reach out to strangers without expecting anything in return. By focusing on the needs of others and their well-being, by not judging lifestyles or situations, we simply help. Finding the time and the energy is not always easy. Yet, I know we must seek new ways for our Outreach at St. Matthew’s to continue helping people as much as we can and as often as we can…even while knowing that, in the end, it is not our good deeds, but God’s mercy that is our salvation. 

AB

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday, February 15, 2013

READINGS


Old Testament: Deuteronomy 7:12-16
Morning Psalms: Psalms 95, 31
New Testament: Titus 2:1-15
Gospel: John 1:35-42
Evening Psalms: Psalms 35

DEVOTIONAL


As a child, I lived with the knowledge that God was always present, that He was a warm, comforting presence whenever I needed. 

However, as I grew older and more “worldly”, I read and experienced intolerance and hypocrisy by an all-too-human church that fell back upon scripture it alone was allowed to interpret.  I also looked around each Sunday morning, and I saw people repeating the same words week after week, like some moral checklist.  The religion that I had grown up in seemed a lifeless example of “Do as I say, not as I do”.  I eventually turned my back on the whole thing, and I started my own quest to form an understanding of life.

That quest led me back to the beginning, to what Jesus taught.  Reading Titus, I’m reminded of what it means to follow Christ, of what it should look like. 

“In everything set them an example by doing what is good.  In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say.” (Titus 2:7-8)

I believe people’s hearts refuse to follow those that speak commandments but do not act in accordance with the message of love and integrity that Jesus taught.  Watching people living out the message that Jesus preached, however, compels others to want to learn more.  “Who are these people who put others first?  What is this that brings such strength and inner peace?” 

I recall that Jesus kept it really simple:  Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.  Living that, and not just saying it, is the most profound and fulfilling life-quest I have found.

TON

 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

READINGS


Old Testament: Deuteronomy 7:6-11
Morning Psalms: Psalms 37:1-18
New Testament: Titus 1:1-16
Gospel: John 1:29-34
Evening Psalms: Psalms 37:19-42

DEVOTIONAL


“To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted
and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact,
both their minds and consciences are corrupted.”
(Titus 1:15)

One of my favorite hymns is “Here I Am Lord”. It reminds me of growing up in Church; and my husband and I intentionally chose it for our wedding. Hearing the lyrics, Here I Am Lord, Is it I Lord? and standing in front of the altar about to embark on the adventure of marriage, I truly felt overcome with emotion.

The scripture readings from today made me think of that song, not because they are filled with flowery romantic language, but because they most certainly are not. The readings today speak of right from wrong, wicked versus evil, pure versus corrupt. After reading the scriptures for today, dejected was the first word that came to mind. I thought of the many times I have been arrogant or quick-tempered, professed to know God, but acted differently. I read that salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; so what does that mean for me when I don’t feel so righteous?

To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; reading this line from Titus is what brought the hymn to mind, and I thought back to the lyric, I will break their hearts of stone/give them hearts for love alone. I know that falling away from God, from righteous behavior, from believing that nothing is good, can be easy.

Lord, when I allow the world, or my own actions, to make me callous may I remember to ask You to help break the stone of my heart, to open my eyes to all that is good and pure, and to go where You lead me.

MM

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

READINGS


Old Testament: Jonah 3:1 - 4:11
Morning Psalms: Psalms 95, 32, 143
New Testament: Hebrews 12:1-14
Gospel: Luke 18:9-14
Evening Psalms: Psalms 102, 130

DEVOTIONAL


Before there was "the cloud" there was a Cloud
Of Witness: faithful women, men of God,
Four thousand years and building, some among
Us still, some passed, forever joined to Christ.

No cloud of ones and zeroes paints the lives
Of those who ran the race so well before us;
Who never let their eyes drift from the prize
And won a wreath that never fades to black.

 There was a man who wore a wreath of scorn,
Who ran a gauntlet first to gain a throne.
Though born the son, the heir, he was not spared
From discipline, from pain, from grisly death.

He bids me now: "Go toe the starting line,
Unload, unplug, unleash the power within
Your wobbly knees, your flabby arms and calves.

You've yet to shed one single drop of blood
In all your feeble striving to be good.

Resolve to stay the course of forty days,
Pray, pray and listen to the cheering crowd
And run to earn your place within the cloud."

MLB