Sunday, April 16, 2017
Saturday, April 15, 2017
Old Testament: Job 19:21-27a
Morning Psalms: Psalms 95, 88
New Testament: Hebrews 4:1-16, Romans 8:1-11
Evening Psalms: Psalms 27
he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.
(Job 19: 25-27a)
I was struck by these words for Holy Saturday. They are so familiar to me because I say them each time I preside at a burial service and, honestly, they are my favorite part of that service. They are words of great hope in the face of sudden despair, supportive confidence during a time that could be characterized by deep insecurity.
We all go through difficult times in life, times when relationships are challenging or jobs are lost. Perhaps our children experience tough times and we just can’t seem to help. Maybe it is a health issue that we face, or maybe someone close to us dies. Whatever and whenever the challenge, these words of faith are something we can hold on to. They are a statement of faith that, come what may, all will be well. We can face whatever life brings because we have God. Sometimes that’s all we have to hold on to. And, if we truly think about it, that really is enough.
On this Holy Saturday, when Jesus is dead and the disciples are in despair and fear, on this day when everything the disciples lived and believed was in question, on this day when God seemingly ceased to exist, let us remember these words from Job – who suffered as much as any of us have, or still do – “I know that my Redeemer lives.”
Friday, April 14, 2017
Why? Because we only really understand God’s love, the healing power of God’s grace, in those dark moments. We can only really experience the transformative power of God in our lives when our lives are truly transformed. God is not a God of the status quo.
Thursday, April 13, 2017
READINGOld Testament: Jeremiah 20:7-11
Psalms: Psalms 102
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32
Gospel: John 17:1-26
Evening Psalms: Psalms 142, 143
DEVOTIONALToday, the Lord humbles himself to wash our feet. We freely receive His love for our lives. He also commands us to bring the same love to the rest of the world. But how? With skills, time, or money?
A decade ago, I walked out of the movie Hotel Rwanda wondering how the world could allow genocide to happen before our eyes. I sided with the radical theologian William Hamilton in describing the global populace as careless, selfish, and devoid of God, yet urging them to do good works even without the Divine. I said to myself, “We can never let a tragedy like this happen again!” But by the time I got to my car, I realized that it was happening again. The tragedy in Darfur had begun to gain global attention and was bordering on genocide. I was now on the stand receiving the judgment I had given to the rest of the world. Oh boy; it was a gut check. Somehow, the Lord kicked me hard enough to make me pick up the phone, call a friend of mine, and shout, “Ok, enough talking! We’ve got to finally do something.”
I was scared to death to say “Yes” to Jesus’ call and finally take action against the injustices in the Sudan. But as Jesus declares in today’s Gospel, “The glory that you have given me, I have given to them that they may be one even as we are one.” This tells me that none of us are left behind or ill-equipped, that as Christians we have been united with our Lord to recognize and heal the various “deaths of God” in the world.
Two months after that phone call, my friend and I produced the very first Save Darfur Concert in Hollywood. It did not solve any of the issues in Africa, but it was a catalyst that launched us into the global network that is fighting on much bigger stages to end genocides across the globe.
Maundy Thursday reminds me that somehow I am miraculously made one with Christ. I am given hope that, even in my own selfishness and doubt, I have the opportunity to join Jesus’ call to help heal a fallen world. In my call to ministry I must infuse today’s Gospel promise, fight the fears of inadequacy to fulfill God's call within me, and accept Jesus' words that we, that I, have been given the same God given glory to help unite the world in His love. Amen.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
READINGOld Testament: Jeremiah 17:5-10, 14-17
Psalms: Psalms 55
New Testament: Philippians 4:1-13
Gospel: John 12:27-36
Evening Psalms: Psalms 74
DEVOTIONALTwo years ago, while lying in a hospital bed, Dad wrote on my hand, “You saved me.” That really touched me; but looking back, I really think that he saved me.
He was my teacher. He taught me how to be compassionate, how to persevere, how to be competitive and a true sports fan, how to create something from nothing, and most importantly how to love someone unconditionally.
He was caring. He would always go out of his way to ask people more than just how they were doing; he would dig deeper. “How did you choose your career?” he would prod. He would find out the family history of our cab driver in a 10-minute ride. He did this because he really cared about people and who they were.
He was strong. He taught me to measure strength by how you handle yourself when you are dealt a tough hand. He persevered through all the obstacles that he faced, and he did it all with infectious positivity and a big smile. He had a “never give up” attitude that kept him going and inspired everyone around him.
He was my personal coach. Going to sporting events with my Dad was when we were truly in our element, cheering for our teams. Whether it was watching a Redskins, Nationals, or WVU game, Dad was always by my side yelling into the TV or shouting coaching advice into the living room.
Nothing was better than singing Country Roads in the stadium after a WVU home win. He taught me to be the sports fan I am today, and I am always going to cheer extra loud for him.
He was creative. His birthday cards were one of a kind, and he always knew how to make you laugh, even while delivering a touching and heartfelt message. His Christmas morning scavenger hunts were riddled with punny clues. He taught me to see beauty through photography, getting just the right angle and lighting.
My Dad shaped me into the person I am today. He made me a strong, caring, creative, competitive, and loving daughter, and no one could have done that better than him. He saved me, and he will always be my soldier.
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Old Testament: Lamentations 1:17-22
Morning Psalms: Psalms 6, 12
New Testament: 2 Corinthians 1:8-22
Gospel: Mark 11:27-33
Evening Psalms: Psalms 94
Have you ever felt like giving up on yourself? Like whatever battle you are facing just can’t be won? That’s how I felt a year and a half ago. I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, and I saw my future flash before my eyes: Insulin injections, poor circulation, loss of limbs, inability to be insured, etc ... all because I couldn’t seem to get my weight under control. And, I’ve been a paying member of Weight Watchers since July 2002! I felt overwhelmed. Giving up seemed like the easiest route for me to take.
Had God also finally given up on me? I turned to scripture to look for answers. I found one in Psalm 6:
This psalm is a song of anguish and answer. No matter what sin I bring to God, if I repent and turn to the Lord, I am assured, in verse nine, that:
God didn’t give up on me! He heard my cries and forgave me and wanted me to succeed. My weight loss journey has been one of spiritual awakening as I learned to ask God for help each and every day. Praying to lose weight? Not exactly. It’s more like asking God to help me make better choices that honor His creation. And He has answered my prayers: 75-pounds-lost worth of answered prayers.
May the Lord continue to hear my prayers and fill me with His unending love, because in the end, God’s love lasts a lot longer than a chocolate chip cookie. Amen.
Monday, April 10, 2017
NEW TESTAMENT: PHIL. 3:1-14
OLD TESTAMENT: JER. 12:1-16
GOSPEL: JOHN 12:9-19
PSALMS: 51:1-18(19-20), 69:1-23
Thirty years ago I spent the summer selling Bibles door-to-door. There were about 50 college students in our group when we started that adventure together. We would work six days a week and then meet together on Sunday. Part of that Sunday gathering was a church service heavily laced with singing. Direct sales is never easy, and being completely on my own in southern Mississippi was a very difficult experience. It was the songs that we sang that uplifted me and gave me comfort through those difficult weeks as I accomplished a task to which I truly felt called.
Several years later, when I was grieving the loss of our first child through a miscarriage, I found that one of the songs that brought me so much comfort that summer was based on Philippians 3:10-11 (one of today's readings). As I read the words in Philippians, I was reminded of God's faithfulness and solace during that summer of selling books. The song came once again to my lips and once again God brought me comfort and peace.
When I look back to those two experiences, I'm convinced that it was the truth of God's word that was touching and ministering to me. Even now when I sing that song and I'm reminded of God's faithfulness and have a renewed hope for the future. I have learned that when I invest in learning God's word, the investment returns a tremendous dividend.
That's my goal for this Lenten season — to invest in God's word.
Sunday, April 09, 2017
NEW TESTAMENT: 1 TIM. 6:12-16
PSALMS: 24, 29, 103
OLD TESTAMENT: ZECH. 9:9-12, 12:9-11; 13:1, 7-9
In Matthew 21:12-17, Jesus has entered Jerusalem just prior to going through a horrible death. And he knows it. He goes to the temple and he is angry. How can the money changers and robbers desecrate his father's house? Don't they know what's going on, what Jesus is about to go through? Of course, they have no idea. They have no clue that the person who is throwing them out of the temple will change the world. Perhaps they wouldn't care if they had known.
Then, after the rage at seeing the desecration, Jesus turns and starts healing people. I can actually relate a bit to Jesus here. I have known times when my blood boils one moment and overflows with love the next (thinking kids here), allowing my emotions to take over one moment then pull it together (barely) the next. Actually, I can't imagine having anything in common with Jesus, but as a human, I have had moments like that.
I wonder if Jesus was at his most human that last week. By the accounts of his prayers in Gethsemane, it appears He was in the same mindset just before being arrested - asking God if the cup could pass, then owning up to the fate that was his alone. Even at what seemed to be his most human time, Jesus was holy.
I can only hope that at those times when I am at the depth of my humanness, I can achieve some level of grace. To do that, I believe I need to practice living a life of grace. Practice makes a behavior automatic. At first, you have to think about what you are doing and do it intentionally. Then, after time, it becomes second nature. Like jumping in the pool when you see someone drowning. May I come to know grace as an automatic reaction to the lowest moments of my life.
Saturday, April 08, 2017
Old Testament: Jeremiah 31:27-34
Morning Psalms: Psalms 137, 144
New Testament: Romans 11:25-36
Gospel: John 11:28-44, 12:37-50
Evening Psalms: Psalms 42, 43
You will rarely hear me utter the words, “I promise.” This is because so much is unknown, our paths, our circumstances, our lives, my life, can all change in the blink of an eye, and I am ever conscious of that fact. I’ve also dealt with the devastation of having someone whom I thought would never break a promise to me not follow through. This only reminded me that people are fallible; and while people are capable of breaking promises, I know that God will not.
Jeremiah prophesized the covenant that God would make with us, as believers in Christ. A covenant, to me, is the highest kind of promise, the kind I can hold tight to when it seems everything else is failing. God didn’t just say these things, He “declared” them, and He didn’t declare them with a lingering, “maybe … “. He declared them definitively and referred to them as a covenant -- the truest of promises!
So while people, with all their good intentions, might fail me every now and then, I know, without a doubt, that God won’t. Sometimes I struggle; sometimes I can’t seem to make sense of the why’s that come up in life, but it’s God promises that tell me, no matter what I’m facing, I can cling tightly to Him and to His promises and know that everything will be ok.
Friday, April 07, 2017
READINGOld Testament: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-13
Psalms: Psalms 22, 95
New Testament: Romans 11:13-24
Gospel: John 11:1-27, 12:1-10
Evening Psalms: Psalms 141, 143
What would I cry from the cross? This question comes up a lot in my prayer life during Lent. Would I be able to look at the jeering crowd and ask God for their forgiveness? Could I look at my best friend and ask him to care for my mother? But I keep coming back to one thing…
In all my pain and suffering, could I trust that God was with me?
Psalm 22, for me, bridges the most difficult gap in my spiritual experience. In those times when I seek God, and hear no answer; in those times when I feel hard-pressed on every side, when my burdens seem too much to handle; in those times it feels like the world is out to get me, I remember the psalmists cry:
I believe deep faith is coupled with what St. John of the Cross called, “the dark night of the soul.” It is unexplainable, but we will all experience times when we feel God’s absence, when everything stands against us, when our normal spiritual routine becomes dull, boring, and meaningless. For me, the hard part of this experience is the shift I perceive in verses 17 and 18. Even when I feel alone, God is with me. Even when I pray and hear silence, God is with me. Even when everything feels hopeless, God is with me.
This is not a platitude and, at times, it is impossible to remember. Yet, I must remind myself that it is not wrong to be angry with God. It is not wrong to feel slighted when God seems absent. The dark night of the soul is not an easy struggle, it is not a short struggle, and it is not one easily solved by saying, “God is with you.”
But God is with you, and He is with me. God will not forsake you, and He will not forsake me. And no matter how far away I may feel, or how far away God feels, God is with me.
Thursday, April 06, 2017
Old Testament: Exodus 7:25-8:19
Morning Psalms: Psalms 131, 132,
New Testament: 2 Corinthians 3:7-18
Gospel: Mark 10:17-31
Evening Psalms: Psalms 140, 142
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the young man that he cannot buy eternal life, whether through money or through good behavior. He needs to completely let Jesus be in charge of his life. That ceding of control – even to our Lord and Savior – is something I’ve always struggled with.
I spent my 20s thinking I was in control of my life. I worked hard in school, got a job, and paid my bills. My actions produced solid, logical reactions…until the day I found out I had a softball-sized tumor in my abdomen.
What had happened? I had always been healthy, and my husband and I had great plans for our future. Suddenly, I was living in a nightmare, my whole world consumed by tests, doctor visits, my mother’s tears, my father’s attempts at reassurance, my husband’s sleepless nights, and my own crippling fear of dying at the age of 31 -- a new bride with possibly shattered dreams of becoming a mother.
It brought me to my knees, and God answered. He spoke to me in still, quiet moments….a Christian song in my head, a phone call from a colleague who had survived two brain tumors, an email with a verse from Scripture. Slowly, I began to realize that even though I wasn’t in control, He was. He gently took the reins from my desperate clutches and set me on His broad, comforting shoulders.
And then He delivered me. The tumor turned out to be very rare and completely harmless.
Now, a year and a half later, I’m not saying I have perfect faith and don’t try to wrestle the reins away from God every once in a while. But I now understand how comforting it is to let Him be in charge. He is a much better driver of my life than I am. It might not be the perfect ride; it might not fit into my plans; and I might not receive a life free of pain or terrifying circumstances. But the life I do live will be much more fulfilling if I let go and live my life in line with His plans.
Wednesday, April 05, 2017
READINGOld Testament: Jeremiah 25:30-38
Psalms: Psalms 119:145-176
New Testament: Romans 10:14-21
Gospel: John 10:1-18
Evening Psalms: Psalms 128, 129, 130
I thought that, as I got older, life would get easier. With knowledge and experience, I’d get better at my job, better at being a husband, better at being a father.
About a year ago, my mentor at work told me there would soon be a reorganization, and I was in a position to define the work of a new team. Well, I didn’t. I was so opposed to the reorg, I didn’t want to define the work for a team that I didn’t think should even exist.
A few months later, management made the reorg. I ended up on the team anyway, and getting a project that, frankly, was from the bottom of the barrel. The reorg also put a lot of my friends out of work. I was a mess for weeks. It wasn’t just that I made a mistake with my career, but I was terrified of the future. How long until I was laid off? So many people around me had been out of work for months, even years. How long until that was me?
One night, I lay in bed and prayed. Not for any change. Not for any understanding. But just to feel God’s presence. To feel His love. I didn’t want to feel this love through the people around me; I wanted a hug from our Father.
And there was nothing. My heart was wrapped in the same coldness that had been surrounding me for weeks.
So how did I get from there to here: writing a Lenten devotional?
I really just wanted to pull away from anyone not immediately close to me. But I already had a commitment to Cub Scouts, and I couldn’t just walk away from that. Some friends had some projects, and I helped them. In all of these little “helps,” I would feel good, if only for a while. I’d actually try to fight this good feeling, push it down in favor of melancholy. But whenever I’d help someone, I’d continue to feel just a little bit of peace.
Was this God’s love? His hug? I honestly don’t know.
Life will always be a struggle; and many days I feel like pulling into my shell. But for me, it is only in action — in service — that I feel God’s love.
Tuesday, April 04, 2017
Old Testament: Jeremiah 25:8-27
Morning Psalms: Psalms 120,121, 122, 123
New Testament: Romans 10:1-13
Gospel: John 9:18-41
Evening Psalms: Psalms 124, 125, 126, 127
On December 23rd, 2004, I had a stroke. I was 40 years old, in perfect health (I thought). My children were 10, 6, and 1. I was training for a half-marathon. My career as a therapist was thriving. I was homeschooling my oldest child. The Christmas gifts were bought and wrapped; the sweets were baked. I was superwoman. And then I wasn’t.
I was unable to remember the words for common objects, the 7 continents, or even what date it was. I couldn’t pick up a paper clip or even zip up my jacket. Christmas was in the hospital, with stockings hung on my IV stand with care. Afterward, I was unable to drive, cook, or even take care of my baby. I was helpless.
I was also blind, just like the Pharisees in John 9. I spent the next few years blindly struggling to live what I thought was “a good life.” I returned to work, home schooled my first and second children, taught Sunday school, and joined a bible study. I added more, more, more to live “a good life” and to return to my former superwoman self. I thought I was in charge. I couldn’t see that having a stroke was actually a gift, a gentle reminder that I am not in charge.
Save me, LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues.”
Eventually I began to drown in my life. I felt overwhelmed, wrung out. I was engulfed in grief for the year and the memories that I lost. I felt completely and totally inadequate. I was not superwoman – I couldn’t even love well. So overpowering was this grief, this dense black hole that I was in, that I would wake up in the middle of the night and go downstairs and write in my journal how I was a terrible mother, wretched wife…… I cried out to God in the middle of the night, and He answered, “You are not in charge. Cast all your anxieties on Me. Let ME fill you up.”
This was a turning point for me. I began the long slow realization that it is not all up to me. I am not in charge. That, in fact, “The Lord is (my) Keeper….He will keep (my) soul.” (Psalm 121: 5, 7)
Monday, April 03, 2017
Old Testament: Jeremiah 24:1-10
Morning Psalms: Psalms 31
New Testament: Romans 9:19-33
Gospel: John 9:1-17
Evening Psalms: Psalms 35
disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or
his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor
his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so
that the works of God might be displayed in him.
In South Korea, a decade removed from the war, daily life in the rural countryside was still very difficult. From my earliest memories, my family consisted of my mother, my father, an older brother, a younger brother, a baby sister, & me. At some point in my idyllic childhood, things took a drastic turn. My mother loaded my younger siblings and me onto a bus to Seoul. She knocked on some doors and left my brother & sister in the arms of strangers. Even at the tender age of 5 or 6, it dawned on me that my mother was trying to give us a new home, a new life. I clung tightly to my mother & refused to go with anyone. Eventually, I ended up in an orphanage and was adopted by a single mother, here in the U.S.
Nearly 40 years later, I cannot remember what my biological parents or siblings looked like. I do not know their fate. Last year, my adoptive mother passed away. I was, once again, an orphan and, like the blind man in today’s gospel, unable to see. I wondered what I had done to be dealt these cards.
What I have since realized, like the blind man receiving his sight, is that my life is, indeed, a miracle. I was gifted with the better life my birth mother had hoped for me, a blessed life with a loving family. I have wonderful children to continue my legacy. My future looks very bright. God's work and compassion is revealed in my life!
Sunday, April 02, 2017
READINGOld Testament: Exodus 3:16-4:12
Psalms: Psalms 118, 145
New Testament: Romans 12:1-12
Gospel: John 8:46-59
Evening Psalms: 145
DEVOTIONAL“Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery…’ Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?” (Exodus: 3:16 – 4:2)
What would I do if someone came to me and said they could tell me the future? I keep wondering how anyone would react. What would I even do about it?
Growing up, we started hearing about the effects that our actions then would have on the environment in the future. I began hearing about global warming as I entered high school, and Green Peace was all over the news. We knew that the trash we were generating in conjunction with the growing population would create global change in our own lifetimes. Yet, 30 years later, I still decide to buy a new cell phone because the old one didn’t have the apps I want, and I can’t even explain how to compost, even though it should be an integral part of my life.
Despite knowing that his people were suffering, Moses needed a direct message from God to accept that he would be the one to free the Israelites. The Egyptians didn’t want to accept change either, even with a clear message from Moses about what would happen if they ignored him. Obviously, I’m not alone in this struggle to change, even when a clear vision of the future is right in front of me.
God, backed with science, has given me a clear message about the future. I really struggle to commit, but I am working to change. Hopefully, I’ll be more Moses than Egyptian.
Saturday, April 01, 2017
READINGOld Testament: Jeremiah 23:9-15
Psalms: Psalms 107:33-43, 108:1-6
New Testament: Romans 9:1-18
Gospel: John 6:60-71
Evening Psalms: Psalms 33
They say as you grow older your eyesight and hearing become weaker. I disagree! I can see more clearly now and my hearing has become stronger, so much so that I can hear and see what the Lord asks of me… well, most of the time! For the last couple of years I know I’ve “listened and seen” more clearly at least on three occasions.
Two years ago I decided to listen harder to what God was saying to me. So when I was asked to teach Sunday school, I didn’t hesitate the way I had so many times in past years. Suddenly, I knew that this was something I truly wanted to do; I just never heard God’s invitation or saw the joy I would experience in teaching Sunday school to the Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten children of my church family. I am now in my second year of teaching, and I love it!
Last year, in March, 2014, the trip to the Holy Land was offered. The Lord said, “Go. It’s the perfect time.” And so I did. I actually went to Jerusalem and walked on the streets that Jesus walked. As young people say these days, “How cool is that?” I’m so happy that I listened. I’m so happy that I saw what He had in store for me, or at least gave it a chance.
The third time I listened has to do with singing. I have always loved to sing. Two years ago, I attended a concert by the Loudoun Chorale, as several members of St. Matthews were in this group. I was invited to their performance, and I’m glad I went. Again, the Lord said, “Join and sing my praises.” I did, and I have enjoyed singing with them for two years now.
Dear Lord, please help me always to listen to what You would have me do. Amen.
Friday, March 31, 2017
READINGOld Testament: Jeremiah 23:1-8
Psalms: Psalms 95, 102
New Testament: Romans 8:28-39
Gospel: John 6:52-59
Evening Psalms: Psalms 107:1-32
My wife and I love Shenandoah National Park and often go up on Skyline Drive to spend a few days and nights soaking up the raw beauty of the Appalachian Mountains.
Sitting on the edge of a rocky cliff on a clear sunny day watching a hawk far below us floating on the updraft of air, making gentle loops as it silently slips across the tree tops, is an experience I’ll never forget. Equally memorable was the day two years ago when the mountain shook during an earthquake and the night last summer when the gales of a very strong thunder storm made our cabin creak and groan as the huge oak trees outside bent in the wind.
I also recall a fishing trip in January a couple of years ago with some friends from Church. We went out on a charter boat with our favorite captain and had an unbelievable day catching and releasing many large rockfish, or as we New Englanders call them, striped bass. We were fortunate to have several hump backed whales breach and blow spumes of water right next to our boat (smelled fishier than the rockfish!). The combination of smooth quiet motion and the whales’ huge powerful bodies was such an incredible and humbling example of sea life and creation all around us.
What a blessing it has been to experience these times of total peace and the sheer power of the beautiful and complex world God has given us in which to live.
GOD, thank you for the beauty and power of this world YOU have given us live in. May we always appreciate this gift and do everything we can to keep and preserve it. Amen.
Thursday, March 30, 2017
OLD TESTAMENT: JER. 22:13-23
GOSPEL: JOHN 6:41-51
PSALMS 69:1-38, 73
Romans 8:12-27 "The Spirit will help us in our weakness "
On September 11, 2001, Americans and the world shared a collective sorrow as our world was seemingly turned upside down. On September 12, 2001, I suffered my own personal sorrow and grief when I received a call from the Humboldt County coroner informing me my dad had passed away, an apparent suicide.
The surge of pain was immense. I was overcome with sadness, guilt, and anger. Sadness, for the loss of a man I loved and adored and for the fact that he would never meet my wife (my girlfriend at the time). Guilt, for not knowing he was in such a sad and deep state of depression. And anger, at the illness that had plagued him for his life and led him to this demise.
However, during this moment of weakness, and perhaps the saddest point of my adult life, I felt an overwhelming peace. My faith carried me through it all. I came to realize that I will not always understand God's plan, particularly in moments like these, but I know the Spirit is always with me, right by my side, to carry me through.
Nine years have passed. I see my dad daily in my son's beautiful eyes and in my daughter's rambunctious spirit. One need not look far to find God. My experience has proven to me that the Spirit is always with us, even in our darkest moments. My faith has only grown stronger, and I thank God for my blessings each day.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
READINGOld Testament: Genesis 50:15-26
Psalms: Psalms 101, 109, 119:121-144
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Gospel: Mark 8:11-26
Evening Psalms: 119:121-144
DEVOTIONAL“Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand?...’” (Mark: 8:17)
As a young married couple, we took a trip to Big Bend National Park. Upon arrival, we decided to take a short hike before dinner. We selected a short circuit hike and headed out without snacks since we planned to enjoy dinner on our return. As it turned out, the trail was a longer hike that shared the trailhead. As we hiked along enjoying the stark beauty of our surroundings, our stomachs began to growl. Unaware that we were on a longer journey than we had anticipated, we continued on, thinking we would soon be back at the lodge and a well-earned dinner.
Eventually, my hunger started to get the best of me, and we stopped to check the map to see how much further we had to go. I was more than a little panicked to see that, not only were we on a different trail from what we had intended, but we were just getting to where the trail turned back toward the lodge. There would be no benefit to backtracking at this point. I mostly wanted to sit down and throw a fit, as I was not only worried about being hungry, but also about having enough energy to get back. So, we continued on while I alternately grumbled about not bringing snacks and prayed for energy to make it back.
Just as I was reaching the point where I thought I had too little energy to take even one more step, I noticed something small and red in the middle of the trail. It was a red Jolly Rancher, or so I thought because it was unwrapped. For me, it was a prayer answered. That slightly dirty piece of cherry candy (my favorite flavor by the way) tasted so good.
To this day, I obsess a little more than the rest of our family about having snacks with me even when we go on short hikes. I was reminded of this hike while reading Mark 8:11-26 where the disciples are worried about forgetting to bring bread. Jesus reminds them of feeding the five thousand with five loaves and asks them if they still do not understand.
Heavenly Father, Thank you for this reminder that You provide me all I need. Even though I plan ahead for future needs, I have faith that You will always provide for me.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Old Testament: Jeremiah 17:19-27
Morning Psalms: Psalms 97, 99, 100
New Testament: Romans 7:13-25
Gospel: John 6:16-27
Evening Psalms: Psalms 94, 95
(Paul, Romans 7:24)
Paul’s plea is, I believe, no mere rhetorical exercise. When he wrote this, he truly felt disheartened by his ongoing struggle with sin. The scars of that ongoing struggle were likely the same that many of us bear and deal with on a daily basis: despair, discouragement, shame.
The last 5 years have been a struggle with advancing middle age. I now medicate for hormone levels, blood pressure, and depression. They are almost certainly inter-related in a complex way, and finding balance in them, as with other types of balance in life, is tricky and probably never final. I have made painfully slow progress in some spiritual disciplines; each Lent seems to offer an opportunity to ratchet up the ladder. But I keep my expectations contained.
Paul’s affirmation of the saving facts of Christ’s sacrifice probably represents something he had to tell himself repeatedly: Thank you Lord, you’ve done for me what I could never do for myself. I am eternally grateful that your love for me, even when I didn’t deserve it, is greater than any failing in me.
So long as I’m walking on earth, my struggles will continue. I am bound to have more days when I wonder, even aloud, what good may be served by my perseverance in the face of my past record of defeats. At such times I will do well to say, Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ, because what I could never do He has done once for all and for all time. And the blackness and bleakness of my despair will lift so that I can become a little more like Him.
Monday, March 27, 2017
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)
My grandfather, “Mack,” took my brother and me to church most weeks when we were younger. I have very fond memories of Grandfather Mack. I’m so happy he was a faithful Christian and took his grandkids to church. My parents divorced when we were very young, and my mother remarried another very faithful Christian, and we went to church every week. Because my parents were very involved in the church, it spilled over to more than just Sundays. I remember loving going to church, and then, when I became a teenager “loathing” going to church (most of the time). I have amazing memories from my church as a youth -- church camp, youth group meetings (once I got there), 24-hour famines, ice skating, 1st loves, …
However, the most important thing I got from “growing up in the church” was getting to know God and his amazing love.
No matter how far I strayed from the church, I always had an
amazing relationship with God, and He never stopped loving me.
I know how much God loves me.
I want my children to know and experience that love.
Heavenly father, I pray I will always remember how important it is for your love and faithfulness to be “known through all generations” and what that means to my family and to those I touch in this life.
Sunday, March 26, 2017
When I was in college, I had a sweet Friday night job – to show movies in the large common living room of my dorm. Part of this job entailed picking the movie up at the student union sometime during the week. To save an unnecessary trip, most of the time I would call first to make sure the movie was available for pick up. One week the featured movie was Dr. Zhivago, so when I called the office and said who I was, I figured the lady answering the phone knew I was calling about the movie. So I asked if Dr. Zhivago was there yet. The reply was, “I don’t know, I’ll ask.” What I heard next was a muffled yell (her hand obviously over the phone), “Is there a Dr. Zhivago in the office? Dr. Zhivago! Dr. Zhivago!” As Dr. Zhivago did not himself answer, I thanked the lady, hung up, and stopped in the next day. I just made sure to mention I was asking about the movie….
I was reminded of this anecdote in reading John 6: 27-40. In this passage, the crowd is hearing Jesus but not listening. They’re taking his words literally. It is something I’m sure I do on a regular basis. It’s so easy to hear what is being said but often times we have to step back, quiet ourselves, and quiet our souls to be able to properly listen. This is an important message John shares with them (and us); it would have been (and still would be) a pity to miss it.
Dear Lord, please helps us to remember to take the time to quiet our souls, so that we can listen to your words of wisdom and truth and let them bring peace to our day and to our lives. Amen.
Saturday, March 25, 2017
Old Testament: Jeremiah 13:1-11
Morning Psalms: Psalms 87, 90
New Testament: Romans 6:12-23
Gospel: John 8:47-59
Evening Psalms: Psalms 136
Contemplating today’s readings left me with a deep longing to talk to my mother. She was a Presbyterian minister’s daughter and grew up in the church (almost literally). She was the one who really taught me about God and would have relished the chance to help me embrace Him through scripture. Sadly that’s not an option now, as I lost her long ago; but I think I know what she would have focused on…
We would have discussed God as a teacher, the wrathful God, the cryptic messages, the deep meanings; but it would always come back to…
She would have argued that really the printers made a big mistake; they missed the exclamation point, and she would probably have chanted several times, over and over, until she found the most pleasing notes…
I lost Mom when I was 22, and her presence in our lives has been sorely missed. I would always say it was way too soon, but I wouldn’t have said that I lost her when I was ‘young’. Our son’s 21st birthday will have passed by the time you are reading this. I’m struck anew by how young I really was when she passed and by the sudden realization that I’ve now lived more than half my life without being able to be with my mother. The only real comfort to the enduring sense of loss is the sure and certain knowledge that, like Our Father’s love and because she is with Him…
Friday, March 24, 2017
Old Testament: Genesis 47:1-26
Morning Psalms: Psalms 88
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 9:16-27
Gospel: Mark 6:47-56
Evening Psalms: Psalms 91, 92
I would like to think of my faith journey as different from others. I convinced myself that my brother’s accident on March 29, 2001, in which he was hit by a drunk driver and from which he still suffers from brain and physical injuries, was the trigger for my transformation from a person of faith to essentially an atheist. Now, I realize that it wasn’t my brother’s accident that changed my faith; it was my laziness and complacency in college.
In high school, I was involved in all aspects of Catholicism: Eucharistic Minister, retreat leader, daily mass attendance, monthly confessionals, etc. I thought that “involvement” alone would carry me – that I could coast on my spiritual journey.
What I didn’t learn until around 2010, after nearly 10 years of having no real spiritual guidance or direction, was that my faith takes daily effort. It is a constant struggle. It’s easy when church is available on your campus, but it’s much different in the “real world.” When I left high school, I left my community, and without community, I felt isolated, alone, even lonely. What I also realized, though, was that my spiritual foundation from high school had never left me.
Yes, my brother’s accident was terrible, but he is actually a happier person now than he was before the accident. While I was lonely before, I’m a much happier person now because I know what loneliness and isolation feels like. I now have a community and spiritual family, an amazing wife, and wonderful friends. What more could a person ask for? Whether it be a simple smile, a hug, a joke, a shoulder, I now do these things not just as a happy person. I do these things with a true sense of spiritual foundation, and it’s this foundation that has made my life so much more meaningful.
Maybe my faith journey isn’t so different from most people’s…
Thursday, March 23, 2017
READINGOld Testament: Jeremiah 10:11-24
Psalms: Psalms 42, 43
New Testament: Romans 5:12-21
Gospel: John 8:21-32
Evening Psalms: Psalms 85, 86
DEVOTIONALwake from my slumber in my tent, wrapped in the warm cocoon of my sleeping bag, to the sound of the birds welcoming the day. I slip out into the cool, crisp morning, not a soul is awake, but the world is alive; the light of a new day crests the peaks of the mountains, lighting the tops of the trees like candles on the altar. I marvel at the works of God.
The hustle and bustle of my daily life, days filled with scurrying from school to work, appointment to appointment, activity to activity, frequently from sun up to sun down, limits my ability to fill my heart with God. I am driven by a culture of success and the need for more, drowning out the call of the Lord.
But sometimes less is more. At least once a month, I take time off, stop the hectic pattern of my life in this day and age, to take a group of Boy Scouts camping. I turn my scurrying into providing a service to others, teaching them skills they can use to be successful in life as well as how to be reverent. I teach them it is important to be quiet, literally and figuratively, to hear and see the wonders that God has provided. More importantly, I share with them something I believe: when we take the time to stop, reflect, listen and look around, our eyes are opened. We see more, hear more, feel more; and that is when I realize the Lord has been with me all along.
Lord, help me to remember that my success is not reflected in what I accomplish in the least amount of time possible. That I need to stop and listen to Your word and direction, take time to reflect, and have my eyes opened to the wonders that You have provided.
“…For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For You Lord are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon you.” ( Psalm 86:4-5) Amen.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Old Testament: Jeremiah 8:18-9:6
Morning Psalms: Psalms 119:97-120
New Testament: Romans 5:1-11
Gospel: John 8:12-20
Evening Psalms: Psalms 81, 82
because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
and character, hope.”
As one of Christ’s earliest followers, Paul defined a lot of Christianity. Paul’s affirmation that suffering brings hope through the love of God is something that the church taught me early on, but that I didn’t understand until years later.
Shortly after I began to be homeschooled, my mom had a stroke. As you might expect, this made my education a bit more complicated, and life at home drastically changed. But through all of it, she never stopped trying to be the best mother she could be. With all the pressure on her, with the medical bills and the homeschooling and the house and my dad’s busy schedule, she never once gave up.
And she might have had moments when she felt defeated and almost lost hope, but I never saw them. She stayed strong for us. Because of that, we grew stronger as a family, and I grew as a person. I think Paul is right. It might be in the hardest times that we grow the most.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Old Testament: Jeremiah 7:21-34
Morning Psalms: Psalms 78:1-39
New Testament: Romans 4:13-25
Gospel: John 7:37-52
Evening Psalms: Psalms 78:40-72
the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through
the righteousness that comes by faith.”
This faith Paul speaks of is also for me, for I believe in the One who raised Jesus from the dead. This scripture reading reminds me to trust in God, an all-loving father who always has my best interests at heart.
Last February my dad was diagnosed with leukemia that is incurable. After my parents told me about this, I was unable to sleep well or to concentrate. I was filled with worry and dreaded the worse every time I talked to them over the phone. I called them almost every day. Finally, I realized I was driving myself (and them) a little crazy.
In a quiet moment of prayer, I came to understand that only God has the power to solve a problem as large as this one was for me. So I asked Him to take care of my dad, and I put all my faith in His power (that His Will be done). The relief I have felt since that moment has been liberating. My heart and soul have been refreshed, and my peace of mind has been restored. I have made a personal vow to have more faith in God and to trust Him more.
Remember, even when all seems lost, God is there. Trust Him.
Monday, March 20, 2017
As I read Mark 5:24-34 I am reminded of a similar time of my life. It was a moment that I’ll forever remember, and cherish.
I had completed two months of cancer radiation treatment, and the cumulative effects were at their worst. All of the medicine I took was not helping ease the pain and discomfort. I had tried everything from soaking in a hot bath to walking in circles. There was nothing my doctors or I could do to make it better. After days of agonizing, I prayed to our Lord and told Him I could take it no longer. Just as the woman in the gospel story did, I put my life totally in His care. And then it came. I could feel God’s Peace come over my body. It had been a long time since I had relaxed like this. I gently slipped into the peaceful slumber that had eluded me for days.
Just as the woman in our gospel reading reached out, touched Jesus, and felt his power, I reached out through prayer and felt the power of God entering my body. What an awesome feeling! God wants us to know and feel His presence in our lives. He wants to help us and will help us if we ask and have faith.
I pray that all of you might experience the miraculous sensation of God’s Peace and Love entering your being. There is nothing else as heartwarming and comforting. Amen.
Sunday, March 19, 2017
READINGOld Testament: Jeremiah 6:9-15
Psalms: Psalms 93, 96
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Gospel: Mark 5:1-20
Evening Psalms: Psalms 34
he will erase their memory from the earth.”
I read somewhere recently that 30 percent of adults claim to regularly daydream about being celebrities. What a surprising number, no? Only 30 percent? I would have thought it was well over 50. Perhaps I'm biased, what with a lot of my friends being the notorious self-documenting, 20-somethings who popularize phrases like, “YouTube Famous." I think we really are edging closer to Andy Warhol's "everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes" future.
There's a little-known phenomenon among actual hyper-famous celebrities: they don't understand social media. Just for example, Rapper DMX doesn’t know how email works, and Julia Roberts thinks twitter happens on a pager. It makes me think that there's a connection, and that we're all striving for the same thing, regardless of age or number of Instagram followers: we want to be noticed and remembered. I’m not sure fame is inherently bad, but for the blip in time that we all get to be on Earth, I feel like it can't be that important. My Facebook wall is probably not evil, but it will almost certainly not be remembered. What is worth remembering and searching for is almost always found in friendship and prayer.
LORD, Help me to pray like a foodie tweets: constantly. I promise not to clog up your feed with complaints about the line at the bank. Rather, I promise to be honest, and to be myself. Help me to avoid things that would have you turn your face away in sadness. Help me to honor the memory of your Son through my actions remembered. Amen.
Saturday, March 18, 2017
READINGOld Testament: Jeremiah 5:20-31
Psalms: Psalms 75, 76
New Testament: Romans 3:19-31
Gospel: John 7:1-13
Evening Psalms: Psalms 23, 27
Our neighborhood rallied together for Leslie. During prayer vigils, we prayed for peace, wisdom and discernment for Leslie’s doctors, strength for her family, and comfort for Leslie. Interestingly, and my friend’s Facebook comment helped me realize this, not one person prayed for healing. Surely, these prayers were not bold enough to bring healing to Leslie, but then I read Leslie’s comment: Yes, but don’t forget to give thanks. My heart stopped when I read her comment. What could Leslie possibly be thankful for? Her four children are faced with the prospect of losing their mother. Her family may have to endure the pain of her loss. The scenarios in my head were of unending loss and grief.
On reflection though, I believe that by offering thanks to God, Leslie is finding another way to cope with her illness. She is focusing on the abundance and beauty of God’s eternal love: the neighbors who stepped in to help care for her family, the friend who drove her to chemo, the changing seasons she witnessed from her deck, and her beautiful family. If I had to deal with a similar situation, would my prayers be words of thanks? Would I be filled with the love, light, and peace of our Lord? I pray that I would be like Leslie - trusting God, and taking to heart the above words from today’s Psalm.
Lord, I thank You for the gift of this earthly life. More importantly Lord, I thank You for the gift of eternal life – a gift made holy by the sacrifice of your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Friday, March 17, 2017
“A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to the disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’” (Mark 4:35-41)
Our world, as children, revolved around a small harbor on the South Shore of Massachusetts. To say that we went sailing before we were born is not an exaggeration. Children of sailors, we had a small boat, almost as wide as it was long, to sail around the harbor and begin to learn the skill of racing. Each Sunday afternoon in winter one sibling would crew for Dad in Frostbite Races inside the harbor, conveniently scheduled to begin after the local church services had concluded. The family spent many summer days out sailing on the ocean in our larger sailboat, quite comfortable at sea.
My brother and I finally convinced Dad that we were skilled enough to race our 15” Mercury sailboat outside the mouth of the harbor, on the ocean! The breakwater had always been our limit; we were never to leave the mouth of the harbor without Mom or Dad. As perhaps young teenagers with two lifetimes of experience sailing, we were quite confident in our skills. We were sure our only challenge was to live up to the family name and win the race. It didn’t take long before we knew a couple of kids were no match for the Atlantic Ocean. The sea became choppy and the wind changed direction. We had to at least finish the race, but we were both more concerned about how we were going to get back inside the mouth of the harbor. Neither of us wanted to admit that we had somehow failed to inherit Dad’s seemingly innate skill at handling a sailboat and reading the wind, weather, and surface of the water. We did not share our fears; we lacked faith and each did not want the other to know of our self-doubt. It was perhaps forty years before my brother and I reminisced about that day and found that we both had been gripped by exactly the same fears. I can feel the disciples panic as the waves broke over their boat. Fortunately, God was with us also as we made our way past the Coast Guard (another symbol that God was, indeed, watching over us) and rocky breakwater, safely into the harbor.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Old Testament: Jeremiah 4:9-10, 19-28
Morning Psalms: Psalms 70, 71
New Testament: Romans 2:12-24
Gospel: John 5:19-29
Evening Psalms: Psalms 74
Children, administrators, and teachers went to school one morning, to a place thought to be safe – after all, they had safety measures in place. A young man’s mother slept in her bed, where she thought she too, was safe. On that terrible morning, none of them were in a safe place. We seem to live in a day and age, where no physical place is safe – not our shopping malls, movie houses, schools, workplaces, places of worship, or homes.
As a result of this tragedy, and others similar to it, there is an ongoing dialogue about how we can protect ourselves and our children. As Christians, scripture provides us with an assurance that the world cannot – the Word of God.
Refuge is defined as a safe haven, sanctuary, shelter, protection, place of safety, or asylum. My faith provides all the refuge I need to navigate through the challenges life presents. Knowing that God is still in control and has promised never to forsake me allows me to live my life without fear.
Thank you God, for the refuge you provide. You have promised always to be with us in the midst of all that occurs – the good and the bad. Thank you for that assurance.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
READINGOld Testament: Genesis 42:18-28
Psalms: Psalms 72, 119:73-96
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 5:9-6:8
Gospel: Mark 4:1-20
Evening Psalms: 119:73-96
DEVOTIONAL“Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled among the weeds and nothing came of it. Some fell on good earth and came up with a flourish, producing a harvest exceeding his wildest dreams.” (Mark 4:7-8, The Message)
Today’s Gospel reading about the scattered seeds makes me uncomfortable. In this story Jesus compared people to seeds that fall on different soil and experience different outcomes. I’m pretty sure that if I took the Facebook quiz on this I wouldn’t like my results. I have an uneasy feeling. With the busyness and distractions in my life, I am much like a seed that falls into the weeds and cannot produce a good harvest.
I’m writing this as the year 2015 is drawing to a close. I look back and see that, indeed, I had a busy year. Like every year. Like everyone else. I think Jesus was pretty clever using the weeds choking analogy because just like the weeds that seem to never stop popping up, so does the stuff of everyday life.
In the last few years, I have found myself drifting away from the good earth by being too caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. It’s easy to think that “someday” I won’t be so busy and “someday” I’ll get around to it. The problem, of course, is that “someday” never happens. Oh, I attend church services regularly and pray daily, but it seems as if I never get around to much more.
So what happens now? How do I get myself back from the excuses of “someday”? This year, right now, I have set goals for my spiritual life, goals which include spending time in service to others and in daily Bible reading – two things from which I had found myself drifting away. With God’s help, I can turn “someday” into “now, today” and find myself on fertile ground, away from the weeds of life.
Lord, help me to focus on my spiritual life. Help me to commit to reading Your Word and in serving others as You have called me to do. Help me to harvest a full life in You. Amen.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
READINGOld Testament: Jeremiah 2:1-13
Psalms: Psalms 61, 62
New Testament: Romans 1:16-25
Gospel: John 4:43-54
Evening Psalms: Psalms 68
My son Henry, who just turned two, is at that high-mobility/low-fear stage of life. If I’m walking up the stairs while he is heading down, he’s likely to fling himself into my arms without warning. Sometimes while I’m holding him, he’ll suddenly flip over backwards, dangling from my arm like a furiously giggling 26-pound bat. My parents tell me I was much the same at his age and had a similar bravado concerning a certain swimming pool near our apartment in Georgia.
This part of life is so fleeting, when we have complete faith that we’ll be caught, held, rescued, and comforted. That an all-powerful caregiver will always be there to keep us from harm and make things better.
In the passage from John, the government official who sought help from Jesus wouldn’t be dismissed, asking Jesus twice to come and heal his son. But when Jesus told him to go, that his son would be well, he took Jesus at His word… and simply went. What was it about Jesus that gave the official the feeling that all would be well? Something in His voice? His eyes? His general way of being?
Lord, please help me to put my complete trust in You, and to take You at Your word. Amen.
Monday, March 13, 2017
Old Testament: Genesis 41:46-57
Morning Psalms: Psalms 56, 57, 58
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 4:8-21
Gospel: Mark 3:7-19a
Evening Psalms: Psalms 64, 65
Above all, I give thanks for this Lenten season and the opportunity to grow closer to you.
I know it seems like a cold, grey, and overall forlorn couple of months, but this time that we take each year to focus on our relationship with You is a blessing that I will always give thanks for. It’s not easy, living in this world as a follower of Christ. As a flawed individual, I have trouble overcoming my own perceptions of my flaws and the flaws of others, which hinders my efforts to do Your will. I doubt, fail, worry, guilt, and struggle. But God, please remind me every day that You created me exactly the way I was meant to be.
In today’s Gospel reading, Mark tells us who Jesus appointed as His apostles. Mark does this in such an interesting way because he doesn’t say, “John, who was the highest selling tradesmen in his area,” or “Paul, who could diagnose any illness from a brief glance.” This tells me that it didn’t matter to Jesus what these men had accomplished, or even what flaws they had. I live in a world where a name is only as good as its accomplishments. God, please give me the peace to know that You don’t care about what I’ve accomplished, but that You just care about me.
And Papa God, today I ask that You accept me in Your discipleship. I come before you flawed, under-accomplished, and broken. Help me strip those insecurities away so that I can help build Your kingdom and continue the work You have lovingly entrusted us to do, the work that You are lovingly entrusting me to do.
In Christ our Lord,