Individualized itineraries

January 17th, 2017 by Maureen

Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” Jn. 21:21-22

The way Christ guides each of us individually is not a universal template for the journey of faith. None of us is equipped to measure the difficulty or ease of another’s journey. None of us is qualified to explain all the apparent departures and differences in another’s path. Comparison or competition only distracts us from experiencing peace and purpose. Our Father lovingly responds to each of us exactly where we are and is taking us exactly where we need to be.

Lord, help me to follow where You lead me even when I can’t see where I’m going.

Worth the trouble

January 13th, 2017 by Maureen

Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 2 Cor. 1:6-7

We are in this together. Sometimes our pain is the very thing that equips us to offer comfort to someone else. Sometimes the fact that we are currently in a comfortable position makes us perfect candidates to render aid to those with troubles. The nature of community is that we are going to inconvenience one another and sometimes we are going to cause inconvenience to others. Be okay with that.

Lord, help me see myself and others as worth the trouble, especially when it is trouble.

My stake in the family biz

January 12th, 2017 by Maureen

For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality. Col. 2:17

If we continually see God in the roles of heavenly Maker-of-Rules, Cop, Judge, Executioner, or even Nag, we continue to define ourselves in the role of sinner and to relegate our responses to guilt, shame, self-loathing, and occasionally to grateful servant. Identifying as beloved children requires us to re-acclimate to what feels like unfamiliar territory. Though it seems too good to be true we get to authentically respond to a real Father, the Rescuer and Redeemer of Souls, Slayer of Sin and Death, Revealer of Truth, Lover of our Souls. We get to see ourselves as Christ has made us, beloved children and kingdom stakeholders, not mere worker bees or pawns, intimately involved in the Family business – and pleasure – of light and love.

Lord, let the distracting shadows that linger on me dissipate in Your light and love.

Be calm and love loud

January 11th, 2017 by Maureen

A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered. Prov. 17:27

Even when we are passionate about our message, sometimes we actually say more by saying less. Calm, loving, accepting, gentle, reasonable attitudes tend to create an atmosphere where communication can happen. Listening to others also helps us gain the insight we need to actually be helpful and effective when we do speak.

Lord, make my love loud and my tone chilled.

God is a creative problem solver

January 9th, 2017 by Maureen

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone.  James 1:5-6a

When we seek God’s wisdom in decision-making we have to be open-ended. Presenting Him with a list of pros and cons is like asking God a true-false question. God is a higher level thinker and creative problem solver. He’s into essay questions. Often instead of giving us answers we discover that we are already in the middle of His solution.

Lord, out of everything I do know and everything I haven’t even considered, open my heart and mind and vision to Your solutions.

This means something

January 8th, 2017 by Maureen

For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only (monogenēs) Son that everyone who believes in Him not perish but have eternal life. Jn. 3:16 (Mounce)

The Greek word monogenēs means “pertaining to being the only one of its kind in a specific relationship” and”pertaining to being the only one of its kind or class, unique in kind. This distinguishes Jesus from every other prophet, every other eternal being, every other heavenly being, every other child of God, every other savior, both in His unique attributes and mission and His unique relationship with the Father and Spirit. Understanding who Jesus matters in terms of understanding and experiencing God’s love toward us and perceiving who we are in the context of who Jesus is.

Lord, I love You and thank You.

The benefit of the belief

January 7th, 2017 by Maureen

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. 2 Cor. 5:16a

Humans have a tendency to make assumptions about one another based on appearance, occupation, zip code, tastes and interests, income and possessions, and all sorts of other superficial qualities. Then we sometimes project the baggage of our impressions on people before we ever really talk to them. Many of us form relationships based on the value-add we think the other person can bring to our lives. But Jesus responded to each unique individual with genuine interest and love…and still does. We can choose to hear and value one another in the same way. It starts with listening to understand and love instead of listening to evaluate and judge. This goes beyond extending the benefit of the doubt, we can choose to form relationships based on the belief that each of us has intrinsic value.

Lord, help me to listen openly and love sincerely.

Crazed but not cracked

January 6th, 2017 by Maureen

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 2 Cor. 4:7

As pottery gets older a network of tiny tension lines, called crazing, sometimes forms. Crazing indicates vulnerability to cracking, but the plate or jar is still whole and usable. His light keeps shining out of us even when we show signs of crazing because we contain His light; we don’t cause it. And even when we feel a little crazed, He never leaves us or forsakes us. He remains in us, our hope and our inner light.

Lord, pour light from this crazed vessel.

A clean slate mentality

January 5th, 2017 by Maureen

[Love] is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. I Cor. 13:5b

Often January is the time we are most engaged in a “clean slate” mentality. We can use the New Year as to let go of old wounds and past conflicts and view others with the same clean slate Christ views us. When someone irritates us there is a tendency for old memories of that person’s past offenses to surface. We can use those to justify prolonged and escalated irritation with that person. One aspect of the transforming power of Jesus’ reconciling love is that we can learn to toss the wrongs that others commit against us into His sea of forgetfulness. Discarding past baggage in a relationship helps us deal more justly and mercifully with the current, specific conflict of the moment. A clean slate also gives those involved a relationship the greater chance to embrace change rather than to continue to play out assigned roles of The Annoyed and the Irritant.

Lord, thank you for erasing the record of my wrongs, I need to borrow Your eraser.

When you don’t have it in you, it’s still where you are.

January 3rd, 2017 by Maureen

O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 (NIV)

Other versions translate, “justly” as “justice” or “what is right,” and “mercy” as “kindness.” Imagine the impact that just shooting for just, right, kind, merciful, humble, kind attitudes and communication with others in every situation, can have on relationships, charitable giving, classroom and business practices, and public courtesies. We are unlikely to pull this off all the time even if- and maybe especially if – we are intentionally trying to do Micah 6:8 like it’s a task. We only have it in us to be this way because God has it in Him, and we are in Him and He’s in us. Focusing on these beautiful attributes in our beautiful God unleashes His love and grace in us so that we become rather than merely behave.

Lord, just as you supply all my needs, Micah 6:8 me please.

Contents may shift but the bag is still full

January 2nd, 2017 by Maureen

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. For what measure you measure, it will be measured in return to you. Luke 6:38

Anyone who has opened a new bag of chips knows that contents shifts so that while the content of the bag measured in ounces is considered full, the bag can look half empty. How we measure our resources and how we perceive that measurement determines whether we experience what we have, and what we think we have to give, as abundance or lack. And…that pressing and shaking going on in our lives might just be contents shifting to make room for more. What if the abundant life Christ has for us really is all that and a bag of chips – and the bag is bottomless?

 Lord, help me to measure by Your limitless abundance.

Resolutions for the unresolved

January 1st, 2017 by Maureen

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Eph. 2:10

Every New Year seems like an opportunity to reinvent ourselves. One more time we take stock of things we want to change about our lives or ourselves and determine to make it happen. For real this time. It’s certainly in our best interests – and often the best interests of those we love and who love us – to make loving, healthy, reasonable choices for our lives. But sometimes we end up feeling like failures by the end of January because we failed to keep our resolutions. Beating ourselves up doesn’t solve or resolve anything. Christ has already restored, reconciled, and resolved us (and all our unresolved issues) to the way God created us to be. It may seem non-linear to us, but God is not bound by time and neither is His work. Our perceptions, awareness, and choices are eventually catching up to what He’s already made us. Be of good cheer, Christ has already overcome for you and in you whatever you think you need to overcome.

Lord, help me stop obsessing over imperfections and let You do the resolving.

Righteous. In a good way.

December 29th, 2016 by Maureen

Through the good news the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Rom. 1:17

“Righteousness” is one of those words that has been tainted in the Christian world. Righteousness is not about reinventing ourselves according to some abstract, external moral code because the righteous God gets really angry if we don’t. The broadest definition of “dikaiosynē,” the Greek word translated as “righteousness,” means “the state of him who is as he ought to be.” N.T. Wright says that it “denotes not so much the abstract idea of justice or virtue, as right standing and consequent right behavior, within a community.” In that sense one could look at it like this: each person becomes who God created them to be, the community exists in mutual love, respect, and recognition of each one as genuine creations of God, and, consequently, people treat one another with His intentions. One could also look at it as how we view the Father, the Son, and the Spirit and how we experience His loving restoration of us to our righteous selves. This transformation results in a seeing as we ought to see, being as we ought to be, not out of fear but out of our genuine selves.

Lord, help me to be as You you made me to be and to treat people as you intend me to treat them.

The inevitable dysfunction of human relationship

December 28th, 2016 by Maureen

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. Eph. 1:5

We might as well face it: every family is dysfunctional in one way or another. You can’t pick your blood family. Even though you can pick your friends, there is usually some dysfunction there as well. We intentionally or unintentionally hurt each other. We disappoint, annoy, and frustrate each other. This is the dysfunctional human family that God, in His love, grace, and pleasure, brought us to Himself through Jesus. Adoption is a chosen relationship. The deepest, most accepting and supportive of friendships happen when we adopt each other knowing there is going to be some dysfunction that comes with that.

Lord, help me to experience Your love, grace, and pleasure in my relationships with other people, even – perhaps especially – through the inevitable dysfunction.

The delightful breather after all the busy cheer

December 26th, 2016 by Maureen

Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a little break and get some rest.” For there was constant coming and going. They hadn’t even had a chance to eat. Mark 6:30

The joy of Christmas comings and goings can be exhausting. Thinking of “holiday mode” as being constantly on the go is physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually unhealthy. We need to be secure enough in our relationships with one another that we don’t expect one another to operate at holiday pace all the time and that we don’t feel obligated to do so ourselves. We all need recharge time. We are sons and daughters of God our Father who delights when we are kicking back at home and at rest in Him, with Him and because of Him.

Jesus, thank you for all the joyful comings and goings and for the quiet rests between.

Unwrapping the big present

December 25th, 2016 by Maureen

If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water. Jn. 4:10

Wrapping Christ up as a baby and placing Him on earth as a free Gift of grace was God’s tangible proclamation of love for the human race. In this verse Jesus is presenting grace with the wrapping still on but He knows what will happen when the woman he’s addressing in the passage unwraps the gift He’s giving her. Heaven joyfully anticipates the moment each of us unwraps the Gift. The original angel song “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth, peace and goodwill!” rings out for each of us. The original message “Fear not, I bright you good news of great joy!” continues to become personal reality for humanity, one heart at a time. Unwrap the gift!

Thank you, Lord, Your grace is exactly what I need and it always fits perfectly.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel…

December 24th, 2016 by Maureen

Angel of the Lord to Joseph: She will bear a son and you will call him Jesus…The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel. Matt. 1:21,23 and Is. 7:14

It is not our perceptions of Jesus that define Him, but how we individually process Who He Is does determine how each of us experiences His redemption and His presence.

יְהוֹשׁוּעַ – Hebrew – Yehoshua or Joshua literally means “he who saves, redeems, or delivers.” Even when we don’t recognize the ways in which we are threatened, bound, or limited, Jesus established freedom for us and continues His rescue mission into our hearts and minds.

עִמָּנוּאֵל – Immanuel means “with us is God.” Even when we don’t feel like He’s there, God is still with us to the very same extent that He is in those moments when His presence feels absolutely tangible to us. How can we be separate from Him in whom we live and move and exist?

Jesus came to ransom our captive souls and end our lonely exiles.

Oh come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh bid our sad divisions cease,
And be Yourself our King of Peace.

9 “what ifs” of gifting that don’t have to suck the light out of Christmas

December 23rd, 2016 by Maureen

Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights. James 1:17

Sometimes gift-giving is full of stressful “what if’s?” This is a repost from last year, but I’m feeling it again so maybe some of the rest of you are too:

  1. What if he or she thinks a gift card means lack of effort and equates lack of effort with lack of caring?
  2. What if your loved one doesn’t like the gift you picked out?
  3. What if you waited too long and it turns out the store is sold out of the one thing you know he or she wants?
  4. What if you opt for a donation in his or her name but your loved one buys you a nice gift?
  5. What if you all draw names, communicate price-limits, desired items, donations, etc. but there is that one person who is going to buy everybody something no matter what?
  6. What if somebody gives you a gift and you didn’t get them one so you have have to grab one of the unmarked obviously generic gifts you wrapped up just in case, and it’s obvious?
  7. What if you didn’t think to buy generic gifts?
  8. What if the “estimated” arrival time on that gift you ordered for someone else changes to after Christmas?
  9. What if by the time it’s time to open the gifts all the joy and light seems to have been sucked from the experience?

Any one of these “what if’s” might result in somebody feeling bad. Or mad. Maybe we all need to just take a breath and remember that we are loved and we give gifts because we love. God loved us and gave us His perfect gift and doesn’t actually care what items give each other as expressions of love and celebration. Lighten up.

Lord let whatever I give and whatever I receive be done in the light of your love.

Bring the merry, Mary

December 22nd, 2016 by Maureen

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. Luke 1:46

“Congratulations, kid, it’s a Messiah.”  When an unmarried, pregnant young woman uttered this song of praise, the blessing of being chosen was taking its toll on Mary’s relationship with her fiance and her standing in her community. That whole thing about giving birth in a stable probably wasn’t on Mary’s bucket list either. Christmas is going to have its inconvenient and awkward moments. Like Mary we can choose to embrace the absolute wonder of “getting to” participate in celebrating God’s truly good news of love and goodwill,or we choose an attitude of “having to” endure the inconveniences and disruption. Hint: “getting to” keeps the Merry in Christmas.

My soul magnifies the Lord!

You can’t “fix” Christmas…and you don’t need to

December 21st, 2016 by Maureen

Glory in the highest to God, and on earth peace, among men — good will. Luke 2:14 (YLT)

So many Christians feel a specific obligation to “fix” Christmas and to “fix” the people we see at Christmas. This very attitude can rob us and the people around us of peace and goodwill. If Jesus is the reason for the season and God sent angels to announce His birth as a message of God’s peace and good will, how does criticizing secular Christmas entertainment, decorations, or traditions, resenting the winter holidays of other religions, bemoaning the commercialization of Christmas, or insisting on a “purist” position that challenges the authenticity or appropriateness of celebrating Christmas at all promote peace and goodwill? I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one preacher who went to a mall and told little children who were in line to see Santa that Santa isn’t real.  Dear, well-meaning fellow Christians. Stop it. Just adore Him. Peace, love, Christmas.

Glory to You, O Lord, show us how to greet this time of year with Your peace and goodwill toward others. All others.