What’s called for is empathy not explanations or egg salad

September 24th, 2016 by Maureen

When Jesus saw her weeping… He was deeply moved and distressed…Jesus wept. Jn. 11:33, 35

Grief and sadness are part of human existence, at least right now. What people in distress need is empathy not explanations, friendship not fixing. Jesus’ response to His friend’s sadness was not to try to cheer her up but to weep with her. Expecting people to power through, equating periods of sadness with lack of faith, or going Job’s friends on the situation and trying to figure out why bad things happen are uncalled-for responses. Then there is the well-meaning knee-jerk Christian response to sadness: prayer and casseroles. While often welcome and helpful, sometimes doing something for our hurting friends is a way of avoiding emotionally engaging with them. Sometimes in the course of being Jesus hands and feet, we are also called upon to be His tears.

Lord, show me how to be with my friends who are hurting not just for them.

Is it possible to care too much?

September 21st, 2016 by Maureen

In my search for wisdom and in my observation of people’s burdens here on earth, I discovered that there is ceaseless activity, day and night. Ecc. 8:16

We are all busy and because we are so connected through instant-access media and social networks, we also are keenly aware of other people’s busy-ness.,,and their business. While the desire to know, the desire to help, and the desire to pray are all good, we can become spiritually, mentally, and emotionally over-saturated with concerning information. Sometimes caring about everything makes it hard for us to effectively impact concerns in our own backyards. We have to trust that God has it and that He can inspire those closer to each situation to become involved.

Lord, lead me to become involved where You want me, help me to be effective in those areas, and help me to let go and trust You and other people with the concerns that are not mine to bear.

Big shade in endless summer

September 20th, 2016 by Maureen

The Lord watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. Psalm 121:5

When situations get hot and sticky and seem as endless as a Texas summer, God is still right there to restore cool reason and gracious perspective. When the shiny stuff blinds and distracts, God is right there to shade our eyes so we can see what’s really important. No matter what is going on, God is right where He’s always been, right here, right now.

Lord, thank you for always watching over me and helping me.

In each of our beginnings, God…

September 17th, 2016 by Maureen

You formed my inmost being and wove me in my mother’s womb. Ps. 139:13-14

Perhaps we all experienced God in our first awareness as connections fired in our developing brains and we experienced our senses without being able to assign meaning yet to what we were experiencing. Perhaps our need to love and be loved are rooted in vague memory of our First Friend’s deep love and tenderness for us. Perhaps our desire to create and contribute come from an unfocused awareness of our worth and significance to Him. This is all speculative, of course, but what we can know is that He has been with us and for us from our very beginnings.

Lord, thank you for being with me always.

The long middle

September 14th, 2016 by Maureen

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Col. 2:6

Beginnings are exciting, endings are gratifying, but in the long middle seems to play on our weariness and weaknesses, on the distance ahead, the mis-steps behind, and all the bumps in the road. When that becomes our perspective we just have to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and stay on the road. God is no less loving, exciting and awesome than He was at the start or will be at the finish. It’s in the long middle that learn the most about the way He inspires us, provides for us, and cares for us.

Lord, help me to keep following even when I’m not feeling it.

The leadership style that brings out the best

September 11th, 2016 by Maureen

I’m not trying to order you around against your will. But by bringing in the Macedonians’ enthusiasm as a stimulus to your love, I am hoping to bring the best out of you. 2 Cor. 8:8 (Msg)

Authoritarians order people around based on their own claims to power and authority; bureaucrats and legalists order people around based on their interpretation of rules and law; transactional leaders manipulate people through reward, competition, guilt, and punishment; transformational leaders inspire and encourage people to embrace excellence and then provide resources and examples that help people experience fulfillment. Jesus is a transformational leader. He transformed us by making His home in us and giving us His own nature, He is already in us. Transformational leaders help bring Jesus’ nature out in us.

Lord, help those with authority over me to bring out the best in me.

Transcendent problem-solving

September 10th, 2016 by Maureen

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. Col. 3:1-2

So much of our problem-solving strategies involve identifying the factors influencing the problem, trying to figure out how to manipulate those factors, and possibly praying for divine intervention. What if we could access solutions that transcend our own resources, powers, and perspectives? What if time spent fully engaging with God as His resurrected, restored, and abundantly loved child could bring much more clarity and inspiration to the solution than all our research, mental focus, and even anguished praying over the problems themselves? As counter-intuitive as “forget about it” might seem, what if clearing our minds of the problems and shifting our focus to God could be the beginning of the solutions?

Lord, I release these earth-bound problems to You and set my thoughts and desires with You in a place that transcends the problems and even the solutions to them.

September 8th, 2016 by Maureen

The Lord is mindful of us: He will bless us…He will bless those who worship and stand in awe of him. Ps. 115:12-13

We are on God’s mind, each one of us, great and small. We have His attention even when He does not have ours. And in those times when we are fully aware of His awesome power and great love, we will also be fully aware of how blessed we are. Blessing and provision are two different things. Provision is our Father making sure we have what we need. Blessing is our perspective on His love, thoughts, and provision concerning us. Gratitude and trust has everything to do with whether or not we know or believe we are blessed.

Thank You Lord for Your abundant and loving thoughts of me.

Soft launch

September 7th, 2016 by Maureen

Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. 2 Cor. 2:10

Opening our hearts, minds, and lives to God means that He will redefine ideas like “need” or “desired conditions.” What we might consider essential before launching into a project may not even be on God’s radar and what He considers essential might be unexpected. It’s actually comforting to know we aren’t the ones that have to come up with the perfect plan and all the provisions and then execute perfectly. It is our trust in His wisdom and power that makes the journey enjoyable and the work effective.

Lord, I trust You to supply what I need and show me how to work with it.

The problem’s not in the plot but in the tone

September 5th, 2016 by Maureen

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? Ps. 13:1 But I have trusted in Your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord for he has dealt bountifully with me. Ps. 13:5-6

David in verse 1: Life sucks and I feel like God has abandoned me. David in verse 5-6: I trust God who has been good to me. God has not changed between verse 1 and verse 5. In verses 2-4 David goes on a rant to God about how abandoned and attacked and defeated he feels. Then the whole tone shifts. There is nothing to say the circumstances resolved. If our lives are stories, we often have little control over the complications in the plot, but we do have control over the tone.

Lord, I really want the tone of my life to be trusting and rejoicing and singing. Sometimes it just isn’t. Thanks for not abandoning me even when I feel abandoned.

Enjoy good

September 1st, 2016 by Maureen

Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and enjoy faithfulness. Ps. 37:3

God is good and does good. He invites us to participate in the good He creates and to share it with others. His goodness translates hope and peace and joy and meaning into our day-to-day lives and inspires us to communicate that good to others in meaningful ways.

Lord, I look forward to participating in the good You are doing today.

Make me a channel of Your peace

August 31st, 2016 by Maureen

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Phil. 2:1

Sometimes God answers these questions with a divine, spine-tingling sense of His presence but often, probably most of the time, He gives us each other to provide encouragement, comfort, and a sense of belonging. He pours His own tenderness and compassion into us and inspires us to respond to others who need that same tenderness and compassion. After hanging out with me I want people to be able to check “yes.”

Lord, help me to be sensitive to others and to Your Spirit’s response to them.

When God bursts into song

August 30th, 2016 by Maureen

For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. Zep. 3:17

Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn. 1:14) and now makes His home in our hearts (Eph. 3:17). Jesus, the Messiah, the Redeemer, the Maker is delighted by us. Imagine Him bursting into song about you! He does this not because we can do anything to inspire His songs but because His own love and grace for us makes us part of the song of love and joy He’s always sung with the Father and the Spirit. Because He loves us like this we can face anything with calm and confidence, and even joy.

Lord, I am amazed and thankful for the mystery of Your delight.

Famous last words

August 28th, 2016 by Maureen

 

If I want him to remain alive until I come back, what concern is that of yours? (Jesus to Peter concerning John)  John 21:23

Behold I am sending the promise of my Father to you, but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. Luke 24:49

I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matt. 28:20

Each of these gospels records different last words of Jesus, and each offers a different perspective. John records a personal conversation between Peter and Jesus, basically offering assurance that Jesus is interested and involved in our individual stories. Luke offers assurance that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit continue to communicate with us and will be our source and inspiration. Matthew simply says that no matter what happens throughout history, or through the passages of our own lives, Jesus is always, always with in.

Jesus, thank You for communicating to humans through Your life, Your words, and Your Spirit.

The shame factor

August 25th, 2016 by Maureen

For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. Phil. 1:20

If we feel shame, rejection or retribution from God every time we fail, if we may interpret the negative events  surrounding our lives as God’s punishment for our failures, we expect too much from ourselves and too little from Christ. Christ came because we can’t execute perfection on our own. If we expect Christ to cover us, if we expect the Holy Spirit to guide us, and if we expect the Father to treat us like beloved children, love and trust towards God replaces shame and fear as motivation for our life choices. We live bolder, more honorable lives when He is living in and through us, without the shame factor, than we possible can live through our own efforts.

Lord help me let go a shame and honor You with my trust.

Safety Second

August 24th, 2016 by Maureen

This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. Ps. 91:2

Savings plans, generators, medical plans, security systems, prenups, fire alarms, airbags, diet and exercise, or lucky socks are uncertain safety nets. Mountain cabins, spa baths and special coffee creamers are all unworthy to be called refuges. Whatever benefits these other things may hold, the only truly safe place, the only sure refuge, is God. Yet, we have a tendency to think that what we can control is safer that what is unknown and God, as much as we may love Him, comes with things unknown and uncontrollable. God’s love for us is trustworthy and it is only in that trust that we can fully experience the safety He offers us.

Lord, whether my safety nets fail or hold up, I trust You and take refuge in You.

Always means always

August 22nd, 2016 by Maureen

We who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. Heb. 6:19b

We run to God for many reasons. Sometimes it is it escape harm or evil, fear, or shame, sometimes it is victimization, self-loathing, or grief, sometimes it involves our awareness of evil or our own mortality. His love doesn’t distinguish between our reasons. His victory at the cross was a victory over every possible situation or condition. The reality is that we are already and always in His arms. The hope is that we remain aware of His arms always around us so that the peace and confidence that sometimes seems so fleeting becomes as certain as breathing.

Lord, I run headlong, with complete abandon, deeper into the refuge of Your arms.

Love does not equal circumstance

August 18th, 2016 by Maureen

And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. Matt. 10:30

God has intense, personal love for each one of us. It’s reassuring and amazing to look at any crowd of people and realize that God know how many hairs and tears and needs are represented. The Holy Spirit is always surfing crowds looking for someone who is open to experiencing the love and grace of Christ. this is true in Louisiana and California where people are experiencing floods and fires, in the Middle East where people live in war zones, in every part of the world where people face disease and poverty. Our circumstances, and even our doubts, are no measure of God’s intensive love and concern for each of us.

Lord, let some unsuspecting head and heart be filled with the wonder and beauty and magnitude of your love!

Peace when faced with the unknown

August 17th, 2016 by Maureen

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Jn. 14:27 RSV

These are Jesus’ words to His disciples as He tells them that He will soon complete the world-changing mission His Father sent Him to accomplish, return to the Father, and leave them here. He promises His Spirit will be with them in an even better way than He’s been with them. It is likely the disciples could not stretch far enough to imagine a scenario where Jesus’ absence could be better than His physical presence. We often  have trouble imagining benefits in change that requires that we let go of a beloved known for an uncertain unknown. The same peace He promised His disciples is ours because not only is He with us always, He is in us too.

Lord, help me to embrace peace and hope, untroubled and unafraid no matter what the situation.

Onward and usward

August 16th, 2016 by Maureen

He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Eph. 4:16

Just as we are meant to individually experience what it means to be one in and with Christ, we are also meant to experience unity as a community of those He loves and leads. “Synergy” describes what occurs when two or more produce a result through Christ that isn’t individually obtainable. God’s kingdom runs on interdependence. The Kingdom of God can go viral when a group of individual believers experience synergy with Christ together.

Lord, help me to look outward and upward instead of “me-ward.”