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.