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