Monday, February 29, 2016

Monday, 02/29/16

READING

Old Testament: Genesis 44:18-34
Psalms: Psalms 80, 77, 79
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 7:25-31
Gospel: Mark 5:21-43
Evening Psalms: 77,79

DEVOTIONAL

“…A woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.  She had suffered a great deal… When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak… she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’  Immediately … she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.  At once Jesus… turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?’” (Mark 5:24-30)

I intimately relate to the woman in today’s gospel. The health issues and challenges of living with chronic pain and physical limitations absolutely changed my lifestyle. In high school, my girlfriends didn’t appear to have the same sort of symptoms. They could run and jump, while I often had to stay home from school because my monthly symptoms were vastly different. I wondered what was wrong with me!

I was also an athlete, and we travelled to games all over the county.  I remember, at times, feeling that I had let my teammates down by not performing at my best.  Looking back, I was probably the only one who thought that. I was the one putting pressure on myself.  I was angry, enraged by the pain and the limitations that pulled me back, slowed me down, and interfered with goals I thought I should have been able to accomplish.  After forty years, I believe I am finally able to recognize that I did as well as I could, especially given the circumstances. I truly gave my all.

I continue to fight these chronic conditions and limitations; and although I find myself more tired and frustrated than in my youth, I now have the power of prayer and meditation in my life. I strongly believe that it would be so much easier if I could just “let go’ and let the Lord carry my load; but letting go has never been easy for me.  The woman who touched Jesus’ garment may have thought that Jesus wouldn’t notice if she just touched quickly; but Jesus knew right away. How scared she must have been. I would imagine she felt unworthy. Yet, the woman knew in her heart and soul that Jesus could heal her. I can understand and relate to that.

Dear Lord, please help me to rely on You in times of strife. I pray for the strength to “let go.” Amen.

DS


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sunday, 02/28/16

READING

Old Testament: Genesis 44:1-17
Psalms: Psalms 93, 96, 34
New Testament: Romans 8:1-10
Gospel: John 5:25-29
Evening Psalms: 34

DEVOTIONAL

“For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4)

As I ponder my New Year’s resolutions for 2016, this passage from Romans reminds me just how difficult it is to follow my faith and build spirituality. I see examples of sins of the flesh as any kind of physical addiction (food, alcohol, caffeinated drinks), inappropriate TV or Internet viewing, materialism, and even vanity.

My goals this year are an increased effort toward attaining good health, achieving a more work/life balance, greater focus in forming and maintaining more sincere and meaningful relationships, and reducing waste and materialism in my house.

I believe that sins of the flesh work against these intentions, by stealing time, reducing focus and discipline, and possibly worst of all, that horrible feeling of guilt or regret.

For me, this passage from Romans talks about committing to my spiritual life to counter the temptations of the flesh. I think I will add more frequent and detailed prayers this year, paying particular attention to overcoming sins of the flesh, growing my spirituality, and achieving my goals—with less guilt and regret.

DGD


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Saturday, 02/27/16

READING

Old Testament: Genesis 43:16-34
Psalms: Psalms 75, 76, 23, 27
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 7:10-24
Gospel: Mark 5:1-20
Evening Psalms: 23,27

DEVOTIONAL

Today’s gospel passage (Mark 5:1-20) was so inspiring to me because of my passion for psychology and mental health. I learned from my studies in college that humans used to attribute a lot of mental illness behaviors to demon possession. Now, with all of our advances in science and medicine, we are led to believe that a lot of these documented cases of demon possession were actually outbursts of mental illness left untreated. But when I read this particular passage from Mark, I wasn’t concerned about whether or not the man was truly “possessed” or whether he was just experiencing a mental health crisis. I was focused on how Jesus was treating the man with the affliction.

In this day and age, a man who would force his bonds, cry out day and night, and cut himself with rocks and stones would surely be considered someone who is mentally ill. Most likely, we would seek to subdue that person using medicine. We would house him in a psychiatric facility, restrict his rights and responsibilities, and even limit his ability to interact with other human beings. We would be treating the illness at the possible expense of the person inside, because that is the best that we know how to do.

However, when I read this passage, I couldn't help but imagine Jesus bending down on his haunches, looking the man in the eyes, and gently asking him his name. I imagine Him looking past the crying out and the violence that this man was displaying. Even though all others in the village treated him with fear and avoidance, I believe that Jesus would see the man for who he truly was -- and He would care for him and show him mercy.

I think there is a lot I can learn from Jesus’ response to the sick man. No, we are not all qualified to heal the illnesses of our brothers and sisters. But when I think about this passage, I don’t think about Jesus expelling the demons as the moral of the story here. I think about the way Jesus treated an outcast of society, and leading by example for all the other people in the village.

Heavenly Father, help me follow Jesus' lead and always see others for who they truly are; help me care for them and show them love and mercy, despite any illness or demons that may afflict them. Amen.

LA


Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday, 02/26/16

READING

Old Testament: Genesis 43:1-15
Psalms: Psalms 69, 73
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 7:1-9
Gospel: Mark 4:35-41
Evening Psalms: 73

DEVOTIONAL

”He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?’” (Mark 4:40)

Life can sometimes feel like a voyage from one storm to the next. They come upon us whether we like it or not. They knock us around and threaten to destroy all of our stability and security. We question whether we can survive them, and we never know how long they will last. Usually, during these storms, I am scared and looking for answers or guidance on to how to navigate the unpredictable waters that engulf me. Recently, I have found myself walking alongside a very dear friend in the middle of a raging storm. These are the worst storms -- the ones that have the power to make you feel helpless and scared and alone.

My friend is going through something unimaginable. Her son is battling a life threatening illness, and every day presents new challenges for the family. I am constantly struggling to find just a few simple words to comfort her. I reassure her that she is strong and that God has a plan for all of us. The words feel small, but I believe deeply in these words. It has been inspiring to watch my friend respond to all that is going on in her life with faith rather than fear. She told me that fear is paralyzing and that she has no room for that in her life. She would prefer to spend her time focusing on her faith, which she finds energizing. After we talk, all I can think about is how incredibly brave it is for my friend to trust that Jesus is always with her. She understands that it is He who is in control over the storms of life, and she is genuinely comforted knowing that Jesus loves us and wants us to trust Him.

Jesus is asking my friend to do something greater than she has ever done before. She must put her full faith in Him and trust in His plan for her son. I believe that choosing faith matters because without it you can’t help people and show them God. I plan to choose faith and to be there for my friend through every wave of the storm.

init


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Thursday, 02/25/16

READING

Old Testament: Genesis 42:29-38
Psalms: Psalms 70, 71, 74
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Gospel: Mark 4:21-34
Evening Psalms: 74

DEVOTIONAL

“Again he said, ’What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.’” (Mark 4:30-32)

This Parable of the Mustard Seed reminds me so much of volunteer work and how important it is to give back. Service and volunteering was already a big part of my life before I began attending St Matt's and becoming a part of the amazing things happening here. Helping others is woven into the fabric of our church. St. Matt's helped me realize I could do more. I could grow by giving more of myself. 

Growth through helping others has fulfilled me and expanded my vision for what needs to be done and for what I can do. It also encourages those around me to help, which is exactly what happened to me. It's paying it forward in a real way. 

To be part of such a wonderful community has helped me take steps toward becoming the kind of person I want to be. The St. Matt's community showed my family what kindness and giving of yourself looks like. We see that thinking beyond ourselves is amazing. It has helped change our thinking and to grow as Christians. Being a part of God's family and giving is now embedded in our everyday lives. 

It is like the mustard seed. It started out small, but has grown and changed and spread its branches. It has provided for others, offered hope and comfort. It was planted as an idea of how to help and turned into so much more. It is now the "and then some" attitude in our own lives as part of our St Matt's family. I know that, as my time here comes to an end and I prepare to move on, I will take this with me and spread mustard seeds in other places and share them with other people. I will take all that I've learned here and carry it with me. That's a beautiful thing. 

Many Blessings to each of you.

TK


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tuesday, 02/23/16

READING

Old Testament: Genesis 42:1-17
Psalms: Psalms 61, 62, 68
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 5:1-8
Gospel: Mark 3:20-35
Evening Psalms: 68

DEVOTIONAL

Today we read of several cases of mistaken identity. Joseph's brothers do not recognize their kin, Corinthians mistake mothers for lovers, and Jesus is accused of doing work on behalf of evil. At first, I wondered how these people could so completely misidentify someone. Would I ever not recognize my own brother? Do they really need lessons on how to plunder a strong man’s house?

Once, in college, I was riding an elevator up to my friend's dorm to work on a project. These particular elevators were notoriously slow, and during the ride, a girl from my friend's building swore she knew me from a party. It became clear from the description of this particular soiree and the debauchery there present, that there was no way I had been amongst its guests. 

Some hours after clearing up the confusion, I began to wonder if I should have been there. Why wasn't I the guy at that party? Some of it sounded fun! What had I missed? Maybe I should be the kind of person who goes to more parties and wins the approval of more girls in my friends’ buildings.

Or maybe I shouldn't worry about it, because that's not what's important, and that's not who I am, and that's not whose approval matters. 

How someone could misidentify a brother seems more understandable after further thought; I had nearly misidentified who I should be. This wasn't the only time I considered I should be someone else, and I'll probably continue to do it. But my prayer is that I might continue to learn my identity by learning who God is calling me to be, to know that God loves who I am, regardless of who I was or who I will become, and that God's infinite love is more than any approval I could crave.

TB


Monday, February 22, 2016

Monday, 02/22/16

READING

Old Testament: Genesis 41:46-57
Psalms: Psalms 56, 57, 58, 64, 65
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 4:8-21
Gospel: Mark 3:7-19
Evening Psalms: 64,65

DEVOTIONAL

I have a gold cross necklace that has been nestled in the corner of my jewelry box for the last ten years. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve worn it. You see, when I wear the necklace I feel pressure to be a “good” Christian. I feel a responsibility to not curse, to speak kindly of others, to be patient and loving, to sacrifice my needs for the needs of others – in short to be Christ-like. Frankly, I find the pressure overwhelming and it’s just easier to not wear it. Not wearing the necklace gives me freedom to yell at the driver who cuts me off in traffic. Sans necklace, I can also be rude to the gym manager who can’t seem to bill me correctly despite multiple emails and phone calls from me. I can go about my day-to-day business with a breezy air and complacency that makes my life so much easier….or does it?

In today’s New Testament reading, Paul reminds me that being a Christian is hard work. He describes what it’s like to be an apostle:

“…When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly…” (1 Cor. 4:12-13).

Paul urges followers to imitate him. He tells the Corinthians that he is sending Timothy, a fellow apostle, “…who will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus…” (1 Cor. 4:17)

Most importantly, Paul says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power.”(1 Cor. 4:20).

I am reminded that the Holy Spirit is so much more powerful than my empty words -- whether they be rude or kind. I am reminded that it is love followed by action that will advance the kingdom of God. My freedom lies not in being able to yell at that rude driver, but in the peace and joy that can be found in Christ Jesus.

“For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” (Psalm 56:13) Amen.

MN


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Saturday, 02/20/16

READING

Old Testament: Genesis 41:1-13
Psalms: Psalms 55, 138, 139
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 4:1-7
Gospel: Mark 2:23-3:6
Evening Psalms: 138,139

DEVOTIONAL

“As for me, I call to God, and the LORD saves me.  Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.  He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me.” (Psalm 55: 16-18)

The Psalm readings of today spoke to me of God’s love and protection during tough times. When I am going through a difficult time, it is really tough to feel God’s love. So, I started looking hard for any sign of that love.

What I found were “love notes” from God.

I found them in my husband’s understanding and caring hugs when life gets demanding. I found them in my dog’s joyful greeting when I come home, tired after a long day at work. I found them in my Grandson’s sweet voice when he calls me “Mema.”

I found “love notes” from God the day a work friend called me and said, “I don’t know what is going on with you, but God told me to call you and pray for you,” and the day another work friend sent me her copy of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life: What are you here for? Then there was the “love note” from God through a friend who offered me a St. Matthew’s prayer shawl for a hurting relative.

Once I opened my eyes, it seemed that God’s “love notes” were everywhere. In 2013, I participated in a “Walk to Emmaus” spiritual renewal program (http://www.lvemmaus.org). That was a BIG love note from God!! Not only was I overwhelmed by God’s love during the program, but I have been blessed since by friendship, love, support, and reunions with the Emmaus family.

I also feel God’s love in the prayers and friendships in my St. Matthew’s small groups (Marriage, Sandwich Generation, and Run for God) and by knowing several amazing St. Matthew’s members. I feel very blessed to have discovered all these “love notes” from God, and I look forward to finding more of them in my spiritual journey! Look around you for your own “love notes” from God today!

SJ


Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday, 02/19/16

READING

Old Testament: Genesis 40:1-23
Psalms: Psalms 40, 54, 51
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 3:16-23
Gospel: Mark 2:13-22
Evening Psalms: 51

DEVOTIONAL

“While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.  When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” (Mark 2:15-17)

I read this passage and wonder what group I fall into. Am I really righteous, or too blind to see that I am not righteous at all? Am I a sinner, oblivious to the need to change, or a sinner who thirsts to be shown a better way? Might I even be the teacher trying to help others? I believe that I have been all of these, sometimes phasing through each of these groups in a single day. While I routinely have this personal self-reflection, I also tend to consider the direction of my work at St. Matt’s.

In this passage from the gospel of Mark, the teachers of the law realize that Jesus is not your typical “man of God” (teacher or Rabbi). At St. Matt’s, we often hear folks say that we are not your typical Episcopal church. Through my membership and roles at church these past 10 years, I have seen some pretty atypical things occur, sometimes with incredible, amazing, and seemingly miraculous results. I do regularly look for new methods of ministry, yet, I find myself constantly and intentionally questioning, searching for opposing opinions to things that we are thinking about pursuing or even those that are happening right now. That always makes me wonder. Am I on the right path, being taught, or starting to stray? Unfortunately for me, this is not always easy to figure out, but I will keep listening for God, asking Him to show me His will, so that I can act on it.

DR


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Thursday, 02/18/16

READING

Old Testament: Genesis 39:1-23
Psalms: am:  50, 59, 60, 19, 46
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:15
Gospel: Mark 2:1-12
Evening Psalms: 19,46

DEVOTIONAL

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble;…He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God;…The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” (Psalms 46: 1; 10-11)

This past year has been difficult for me and my family. I have leaned on God for strength more than I have in a very long time. As I was reading this Psalm, I was reminded of another difficult year I had a long time ago when I was a teenager in Catholic School. It was Lent, and being taught by nuns, I remember talking about “what to give up for Lent?” This was always the big question every year. But then, when I couldn’t really think of anything, my teacher (a nun) said to me, “You don’t always have to give up food, you know. What about giving God your time?” I wasn’t sure what that meant. So, after thinking and praying about it for a while, I decided that instead of giving up candy or some other food, I would go to “Stations of the Cross” every Friday during Lent, thinking I was giving up one hour of my time every week for God. What I learned was that I received more from that one hour each week than I ever gave up.

During that hour of focused prayer and “being still”, I learned that God is my refuge and my strength, that He is present during my troubles, and that He never leaves my side. I started looking forward to this time every week. I started to crave the peace it gave me, especially during difficult times. The calm it gave my spirit helped me make some very important decisions. I learned that sometimes it’s the stillness in your heart that speaks the loudest and clearest. Now, during this difficult time in my life, I still look forward to that one hour each Friday because, to this day, it’s the one thing I still “give up for Lent.”

Dear Lord, I pray that You give me and my family peace and comfort. I pray that I will always be able to be still and listen to Your quiet voice in my soul, no matter what is going on in my life. I pray for Your guidance and Your strength to get me through each and every day, and I thank You for being my refuge. Amen.

MAA


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wednesday, 02/17/16

READING

Old Testament: Genesis 37:25-36
Psalms: Psalms 119:49-72, 49, 53
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 2:1-13
Gospel: Mark 1:29-45
Evening Psalms: 49,53

DEVOTIONAL

Proclaiming my faith publicly is something I often struggle to do. If someone’s faith views are different from mine, I rarely say anything. In order to avoid conflict, I prefer to let people think what they want to think without getting in their way. Additionally, praying out loud and in public makes me anxious.

I am, however, very content praying in solitude, worshiping in my own way. I am comfortable reciting the Nicene Creed each week, worshiping through hymns, and offering thanksgiving through my everyday thoughts. This is enough… isn’t it?

”Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)

Today’s Gospel reading challenges me to pray intentionally and become more active as a Christian. It describes Jesus waking up early and intentionally retreating to a solitary space to pray. This depiction of Jesus praying is in stark contrast to the way I pray. Though in solitude, I seem to pray when I feel like it and only for a couple minutes. Except at church, I rarely kneel before God. This Lenten season, I am challenging myself to be more intentional when I pray the Lord’s Prayer and Nicene Creed. I challenge myself to pay attention to the words and their personal and universal meaning. When I recite these prayers every week, it is easy to forget their magnitude.

The second part of this Gospel story reports Jesus leaving his solitary prayer space after his disciples found him.

”Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’” (Mark 1:38)

I try to spread God’s love by being present and kind to everyone around me. When people see my actions, maybe they will be drawn closer to God. I believe this is important as an indirect way of proclaiming God’s greatness. I have also enjoyed talking with people I trust about my beliefs, questions, and doubts. But I must challenge myself to be bolder in my faith with more people. I would like to learn from others who have different religious views. I believe it’s the best way I can grow to understand others and myself.

Dear God, please guide me into intentional prayer and give me strength to boldly proclaim my faith, as Jesus did. Amen.

JS


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tuesday, 02/16/16

READING

Old Testament: Genesis 37:12-24
Psalms: Psalms 45, 47, 48
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 1:20-31
Gospel: Mark 1:14-28
Evening Psalms: 47,48

DEVOTIONAL

“…’Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets… and followed him.” (Mark 1:16-20)

In Mark 1:16-20, Jesus is walking along the Sea of Galilee and calls out to some fishermen -- telling them to step out of their daily pattern of work to do something more important.  They could have said, "We're busy, find someone else," but they listened, their hearts were moved, and they became His first disciples.

Last summer, I had the strangest, but most wonderful day I can remember in some time.  2015 had been a struggle on many fronts, dealing with some serious family medical issues and my mother trying to sell the family farm where I grew up.

The morning started with a call from my wife's doctor.  The results of her recent cancer surgery showed no indication that the cancer had spread -- the best news we'd had for many months. Since I had waited around for the call, I was already running late for work, with morning meetings I needed to get to.

As I made the turn onto the busy street headed to my office, I saw a dog running in the median, clearly alone and afraid. I had a leash in my truck, so I made a quick U-turn and caught the dog with the help of some other caring drivers. I took the dog to my veterinarian, where a young staffer sprang into action. The dog had tags that traced it back to a shelter in Georgia, so they started making calls and printing signs for me to take back to the area where I found her. 

I have to admit, my mind wasn't on my work when I ran into my meeting (late).  As the meeting wrapped up, my cell phone rang -- it was my mom in Missouri, calling to say she finally had an offer on the family farm. (Good news again!)

I got back to my office to see my phone message light blinking. The message was from my vet, telling me they had tracked down the dog’s owners and reunited them. Wow, three great pieces of news in one day.

At the start of a day, when so much was uncertain, an amazing series of events had unfolded and turned into good news. I hope at least part of it was because I didn’t say, “I’m busy, find someone else.”

BWH


Monday, February 15, 2016

Monday, 02/15/16

READING

Old Testament: Genesis 37:1-11
Psalms: Psalms 41, 52, 44
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 1:1-19
Gospel: Mark 1:1-13
Evening Psalms: 44

DEVOTIONAL

“… And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River…After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’” (Mark 1:4-15)

After just rejoicing in celebrating the birth of Christ, it’s hard to think of the season of Lent. Much of that rejoicing took place at St. Matthew’s or with people from St. Matthew’s. I feel blessed to be part of such a wonderful community!

Sometimes I feel like I am in the wilderness, in the hallway, in between one thing and the next. The next step is unclear. It is an uncomfortable place for me to be. One door has closed, and I’m waiting for another door to open. However, I am not alone. I am surrounded by God, family, and friends. Support and guidance may come from unexpected sources at unexpected times. If I am patient and accepting, my time there will be much less stressful. And, generally, the next step is far more interesting than I would have imagined. I am always right where God wants me to be, even if I don’t like it. The path is seldom straight. It may have many twists and turns. If I stop to look for the miracles along the journey, I never cease to find them.

Being baptized, I am forgiven my human iniquities. I don’t need to be perfect or do everything perfectly. I just need to strive to be the person God intends for me to be, one moment at a time. What great news, indeed!

CS


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Saturday, 02/13/16

READING

Old Testament: Ezekiel 39:21-29
Psalms: Psalms 30, 32, 42, 43
New Testament: Philippians 4:10-20
Gospel: John 17:20-26
Evening Psalms: 42,43

DEVOTIONAL

I go through the day trying to be kind and behave as a Christian. But, sometimes there are challenges that I encounter where I don't act, think, or feel the way I believe I should. Like, when people cut me off in traffic or someone steals a parking spot that I was patiently waiting for. Or, when someone asks me to do something that will “only” take a few minutes, but ends up taking a lot longer and affecting my schedule for the remainder of the day! At such times, it is hard not to feel anger toward others. When such or similar situations happen, I don't tend to stay on the positive path of treating others with kindness. When I get to this place, I tend to have a short fuse, and I look at every situation from a negative perspective. These negative feelings then taint my disposition and behavior in interactions that follow. At the end of the day, I feel tired and deflated because it became an awful, draining day. My soul feels beaten and battered.

“LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.” (Psalm 30:2)

Psalm 30 makes me reflect on how I deal with such days. When I don't feel good on how my day went, I pray to God and ask Him to help me. Help me to learn from the mistakes I made that day. Help me learn to deal with challenges differently in the future. Help me to look at things in a positive light, giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. Help me to move on so that the following day will be a fresh start for me. I may feel bad in the evening, but God can help me heal so I won't go into the next day with the negative feelings from the previous day. I go to bed knowing that everything will be okay…because tomorrow brings a fresh start…a new day where I can be a better me.

KB


Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday, 02/12/16

READING

Old Testament: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
Psalms: Psalms 95, 31, 35
New Testament: Philippians 4:1-9
Gospel: John 17:9-19

DEVOTIONAL


“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent, or praise-worthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. “ (Philippians 4:8-9)

I listen to a Praise Walk CD when I walk on my treadmill (though not as often as I should). The songs on the CD are beautiful, uplifting, and joyful. In between the different songs, a commentator interjects with different bible verses. Philippians 4:8-9 is one of those verses. As I walk, I close my eyes and speak to God in my mind and heart. I thank Him for my life and the joy He has given me in living each day. I thank Him for my children, family, and friends. I ask Him to watch over family and friends who are going through difficult times. I ask Him for patience in dealing with life’s everyday rollercoaster of events. Finally, I ask Him about His plan for me.

As long as I can remember I have asked myself this question, wondering, “What is God’s plan for me? Am I truly fulfilling His plan in my earthly life?”

I love being a part of the St. Matthew’s family and its mission -- “to know and share God’s love.” I truly believe that the work we are doing at St. Matthew’s is admirable, excellent, and praise-worthy. Being a part of St. Matthew’s and participating in many of its ministries is helping me identify God’s plan for me. Through our mission trips, community luncheons, backpack buddies, living nativity, Vacation Bible School, youth group activities, and small groups (to name a few), I am given the opportunity to joyfully fulfill God’s plan for me. Not only do I believe that what I am doing may help make someone’s life a little better, but I’ve also discovered that working in these ministries fills me with peace and joy.

Heavenly Father, my prayer is that You grant all of us the grace to know and live Your plan for us. I especially pray that You grant me the grace to know and live Your plan for me.

WS


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Thursday, 02/11/16

READING

Old Testament: Habakkuk 3:1-18
Psalms: Psalms 37:1-18, 37:19-42
New Testament: Philippians 3:12-21
Gospel: John 17:1-8
Author Assigned: Marcia Rugen

DEVOTIONAL

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…..Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-21)

Life has thrown many curve balls my way. One of the biggest was in March 1989, when my mother was diagnosed with stomach cancer. She passed away the following year, and from that point forward, my world was never the same. Even with all my family and friends surrounding me, I lived in a fog for a full year. I felt alone. I felt like an orphan. I felt like my world was colorless. My mother was the very element in my life that brought light into my world. The memories used to haunt me and send me into a downward spiral.

At some point something clicked, and I realized that the light she brought me was now living inside of me. I realized that it was up to me to take all she taught me and make my own way in the world. I learned how to take those amazing memories of her, turn them into positive motivation, and allow them to lift me up. I still miss her terribly each and every day. I still cry, like while I’m writing this. But the tears don’t last as long or sting as much.

The past couple of years have been particularly challenging for me for a variety of reasons, and I’ve taken the same approach that I took all those years ago. I’ve mourned what was lost, and I’m moving forward, focusing on what lies ahead and not behind me. I’m working on recreating myself, creating a new me. Dwelling on the memories of what was and mourning the loss of the future I’d planned is an essential part of the healing process. But just as I did when I lost my mother, I’m choosing to let go of the past and focus on what lies ahead.

Thank you, Lord, for sending your Son into this broken world to save us from our sins. Thank you for sending me an amazing mother as a role model for grace, strength, forgiveness, and beauty. May I be that same role model to those You bring into my life. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
MKR


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday, 02/10/16

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

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
(Luke 18:14)

I was in high school back in the middle 60s. I remember how important it seemed to us that we dress in the same kind of clothes. I don’t know who decided for us, but we all thought we had to wear Levi’s, shirts with button down collars, and nothing but Converse sneakers on our feet. We thought what you wore told the world how important you were.

Things really didn’t change as I grew up and moved on with my life. I believed that clothes were still the measure of a man, but less so than what you drove for a car, had for a home, or could claim as your job title. I was blessed with a good wife and family. Strangely, I still felt a need to justify myself through my accomplishments and possessions. I didn’t measure myself in terms of my shortcomings or what I did for others. Looking back, I think it was easier to feed my ego than it was to feed others.

I am now at the point in my life when things have slowed down a little. I have time to reflect and consider what was (and still is) truly important. So much of what I had viewed as important was just dust in the wind. What would my life have been like if I had put less emphasis on gathering stuff and what I wanted other people to think of me and spent more time improving myself as a person and helping others? I always got the most satisfaction when I was helping others, but I was blind to its importance in my life.

Lent is a time of atonement. As this Lenten season begins, my hope is to continue growing as a man in ways that really matter -- in forgiveness, generosity, and service to others.

Lord, I pray for Your forgiveness of my shortcomings and for Your help to grow a servant’s heart within me. May I learn to serve others and to focus on those acts that will make me the person You would have me be. Amen.

DB