Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thursday, February 26, 2015

READING

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

DEVOTIONAL


“God so loved the world that he gave his only Begotten son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

This Christmas was sadder for me than past Christmases. In a few weeks it will be the 5th anniversary of when my son, Bobby, passed away.  

I believe that nothing happens by chance – yet I was really startled when I looked at the readings assigned for today and found John 3:16 on the list. This verse was Bobby’s favorite. I think of Bobby often. During Advent, the Women’s Bible Study Group that I attend studied the book: “Not A Silent Night,”a story of Mary, beginning at the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, traveling back in time to His birth. Early on, I found myself identifying with Mary – we both had lost a son. Though the circumstances of our sons’ deaths were vastly different, we each suffered a heart-wrenching loss. 

Many of you have lost a loved one, friend, or co-worker. I’m sure you agree that the pain you feel in losing someone you love is indescribable. When Bobby died, my family and friends offered words of kindness to help me through my grief; but for me, the words that brought me the most comfort I found in John 3:16. I believe being assigned this scripture to read, at this time, was no accident. I believe that this was God’s way of telling me that my son is where he is meant to be – resting in the loving arms of Jesus. God loves us so much that he gave his only Son to die on the cross so that my son, you, and I will have eternal life.  

I have a picture hanging in my family room – it is a picture of a baby lamb in the arms of Jesus. At Easter, after we mourn the death of Jesus on Good Friday, we celebrate His glorious resurrection -- believing that Jesus, with open arms, will someday welcome us to eternal life in His kingdom. Amen.

WES


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wednesday, 02/25/15

READING

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

DEVOTIONAL

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.” (Psalm 119:71-72)

Our world and our personal lives are often so full of turmoil. What balm can science or philosophy create to ease this suffering and worry that we all at some point must confront? 

Not long ago I came home from the hospital but a shell of my former self. A rare disease had atrophied my muscles to such an extent that I could not walk or even dress myself. I had to rely on my family for every assurance of existence. I had lost all security and confidence for facing the world. Hope had been eclipsed by fear and insecurity.

But somehow in that darkness I rediscovered a light I always suspected existed. I knew that God was with me all along and would not leave me. I felt this light through all the souls at St. Matts. I felt this light in the gift of my wife that God gave me to make sure I knew that love is stronger than anything else in the world. Instead of relying on a fleeting physical ability or risky economic cushion, I felt the new assurance of a love that is far more valuable and is there for all eternity.

Now, the challenge is not to let the gales of circumstance dim the light in me or in anyone else who needs it. I know this is not easy. We seem to be challenged on a daily basis. It seems sometimes the odds are so stacked against us. But the light is still there, and I ask every Sunday to help in any way I can to keep that light alive. Today’s New Testament passage speaks clearly to me of this task:

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” (Hebrews 3:13-14)


RH

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday, 02/23/15

READING

Old Testament: Deuteronomy 8:11-20
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, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. … He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions.  He brought you water out of hard rock.”  (Deuteronomy 8:11; 15)
 
  All through life, we experience ups and down…the thrills of success, the despair of loss. Sometimes, these highs and lows seem to go in streaks. Sometimes they seem to happen because of things we have done or not done.  

This year, I seem to be stuck in the mode of loss. I have experienced the adage of “deaths come in threes” at least twice over. I have experienced the excitement of a new contract or a contract increase because of my hard work, and then felt the loss of the people involved with that work, the related work, or a similar related project loss. All through this time, it has been difficult to understand the why of it. Why did my friend die? Why did we lose this contract? Why did that not happen the way it was planned? Why am I so sad?

I have tried to continue to look to God and ask for His guidance, His understanding, His peace. I believe that this is the only reason I have been able to keep my own peace. I believe that all of our work, all of our treasure, all of our success, and yes, even our loss comes from God. I must remember that my life is blessed by God, and that no matter the highs and lows that happen to me, it is His grace and His will that provides for my life. It is not solely the consequence of my hard work or actions, but mostly the result of my love of God and our neighbors. I must remember to be thankful for Him and not prideful of my works. I must remember that I need to follow in His path no matter what the distractions and results appear to be. He has a plan; I must love him and love my neighbors; mostly, I must be thankful for all that is.
WAA


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday, 02/22/15

READING

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

DEVOTIONAL

“For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land – a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing;… When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” (Deuteronomy 8: 7-10)

 Do you say grace before meals? If so, what do you say? When I was a little girl, we said, “God is great, God is good, and we thank Him for our food. Amen.” As I got older, we added, “By His hands we all are fed; give us Lord our daily bread.” When Beau and Allison were little, they attended the Apple Tree School, so our family’s grace was a slightly revised version of the Johnny Appleseed song. “Oh, the Lord’s been good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me the things I need, the sun and the rain and the Apple Tree. The Lord’s been good to me!” At some point, dear friends taught us the catchy, “Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub! Yay, Lord, AMEN!” And now that our kids are older, we generally stick with the traditional, “Bless us O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”  

I believe that, in the end, it doesn’t really matter WHAT grace we say, only that we say it sincerely, acknowledging with grateful hearts that everything we eat and drink – everything that gives us life and sustains us – is a gift from God.

But can I honestly say my grace is always sincere and heartfelt, or is it sometimes rote? Do I say it in public, or only in the privacy of my own home? Do I say it before every meal, or just before dinner? As I reflect on today’s Old Testament lesson, I realize there is some room for improvement in my “grace” department.  

God, you have put me in a land overflowing with fresh water, plentiful food, and delicious wine. Help me always and everywhere to praise You and to be grateful. Amen.

JMP


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Saturday, 02/21/15

READING

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

DEVOTIONAL

“I want you to insist on these points, that those who have
believed in God be careful to devote themselves to good works:
these are excellent and beneficial to others.”
(Titus 3: 8)


Twelve years ago, at the age of 60, my mother-in-law, Judy, gave up a deeply rewarding job, sold her house, and left her family and friends to move to Cambodia, learn the Khmer language, and devote 3 years of her life to a mission program. She devoted herself to working with young mothers living in abject poverty, to help prevent mother-to-baby HIV transmission. Judy was at a stage in her life when most of her friends were rightfully enjoying retirement, the arrival of grandchildren, and a slower pace; and yet she chose to devote herself to good works in a pretty extreme way.  

I often think that between work and the demands of raising children and having a busy family life, I just don’t have the time to pitch in and help out with every outreach program or volunteer service opportunity that presents itself. And then I think about Judy or see someone who is busier than me stepping up to help with or run an event, and I realize I have a long way to go to be the kind of servant Jesus asks his followers to be.  

There are many reasons I am thankful to have found St. Matthew’s, but chief among them is that I have learned here what it really means to be the hands and feet of Jesus, because I see so many members of my church family doing just that. As a lifelong regular church-goer, I had never before seen so many church members giving so much in service to their church and to the community around them. It inspires me; week in and week out, it challenges me to be a better Christian and to give more of myself. Paul’s words in his letter to Titus challenge me in the same way.  

Heavenly Father, this Lent help me to recognize and seize the opportunities to glorify You through good works, large and small. Amen.

TH


Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday, 02/20/15

READING

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

DEVOTIONAL

“You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine…For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…” These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.” (Titus 2:1-15)

As I reflected on today’s reading from Titus I recalled vivid memories of a management training course I was sent to by Microsoft. It was a week-long residential class that involved simulating a community (24 hours per day). Everyone attending the class came in as a “Bottom,” a “Middle,” or a “Top.” The Tops made the rules and set the goals, and the Middles were responsible for getting the Bottoms to do the work to meet the goals and serve the community. Fundamentally, the setup was designed to create tension and pressures similar to our daily lives at work and at home in a microcosm so that we could experiment, learn, and grow. At the end of the week there was a long session where we reflected and analyzed everything that happened, identified the key events that made a difference, and tried to understand the viewpoints of people in other roles within the system.

One of the things that became fundamentally clear as I went through the program is that at various times in our lives we all play the role of Tops, Middles, and Bottoms. It is also equally clear that no part of an organization can be effective without the others. In the same way, I think that the plan of action outlined in Paul’s letter to Titus is not speaking to husbands or wives, young or elderly, teachers or students, as individual people. Rather, he is speaking to the many parts of each of us and offering guidance for the myriad of roles and situations in which we daily find ourselves.

Similarly, the last line - “Do not let anyone despise you.” Controlling what others feel is not something most of us can manage, but we can take a cue for this from one of my favorite people and quotes: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

Dear Lord, Please give us the courage to honestly embrace the opportunities to serve you in all the roles we play and the grace to accept and embrace the feedback we receive so that we can grow closer to you. Amen.
JWS


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Thursday, 02/19/15

READING

Old Testament: Deuteronomy 7:6-11
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. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.”

Have you ever been in a place of business and seen people just lose their cool? They start ranting, screaming, generally acting like 2–year-olds, and you’re actually embarrassed for them? I don’t know about you, but, when I witness a person showing that type of behavior, I instantly judge and think, “That person really needs Jesus.” I wonder if anyone’s thought that about me? Well, honestly, I’d be extremely surprised if the number of people who thought that about me wasn’t in the thousands. 

I’m ashamed to admit that I’m not a “model” Christian. My behavior and actions are in need of a major overhaul. What really hits me in the gut, though, is that my children are following in my footsteps. They scream and yell at each other, they call each other such ugly names, and from what I gather in listening to their conversations, they are often that way with their friends. They’re “modeling” me alright, and it’s humiliating.

I don’t want my children to continue on the path down which I’ve been leading them. I want us, me and my family, to be beacons in the darkness of this world, to be pure and full of love to every single person we meet, as Christ is to us. So, as I meditate today, never have I been more grateful that Jesus died for my sins. I know He forgives me for this “detestable, disobedient and unfit” behavior, and that He gives me grace to start anew.

“Abba Father, thank you for sending your only Son to die for me. Help me to change and become who it is you want me to be, to be someone worthy of calling herself a Christian. May my words, actions, and deeds be revealing to those around me and reflect You as the Light of the World, King of all Kings, and Lord of All. Amen.”

KLR


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday, 02/18/15


READING

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


DEVOTIONAL

“…And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Years ago, one of my neighbors was invited to participate in a Special Olympics track and field event. Kevin was born with Down Syndrome, and he never spoke. But Kevin understood everything, and he had the most incredible imagination. A laundry basket instantly became a row boat; a baseball cap transformed him into a homerun hitter; the William Tell Overture had him galloping like the Lone Ranger!

With his father’s help, Kevin prepared for the running event. Every evening, he practiced starting at the sound of a whistle, and every day he ran just a little bit farther. 

One day, Kevin didn’t want to practice. He shook his head and adamantly refused. Having anticipated this, his father showed Kevin a video of one of the races in Chariots of Fire. That’s all it took. Kevin not only wanted to run, he wanted to run fast! After that, he willingly and faithfully practiced, and on the day of the event, Kevin was ready. At the sound of the whistle, he took off running as fast as he could. Soon, he was way ahead of the other runners! 

It must have been the noise. First, he simply slowed down. Then, he stopped completely. Facing the cheering crowd, Kevin started to bow. Turning from one side of the field to the other, he bowed. His father ran down the sidelines calling his name, urging him to continue running. Snapping out of his victorious reverie, Kevin ran toward the finish line. He did win, but just barely. 

Though my limitations are different, my challenges are similar to Kevin’s. Sometimes I allow the noises in my life to distract me from staying the course. Sometimes I adamantly refuse to work any harder, thinking I’ve done enough, prayed enough, believed enough. That’s when my coach intervenes.

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending a coach to teach me and to guide me, to snap me out of my reverie, whether it be one of comfort, anger, self-pity, or self-righteousness, regardless of the life event behind its cause. I pray that I may use the Lenten days before me to listen… in silence, through prayer, and by reading your Word, as I attempt to run with perseverance the race marked out for me…fixing my eyes on Jesus. Amen.
MO