Family valued

September 18th, 2017 by Maureen

Grandchildren are the crown of aging. Parents are a source of pride for their children. Prov. 17:6

Members of functioning families view one another with pride and delight. We are glad to be related. Certainly everybody’s not perfect. Families have to opportunity to see one another at their worst; and yet we continually choose love, grace, trust, honor, hope and peace as relationship principles and family values.  We learn these values from our Father who values each of us so much. We belong. We are connected. We are accepted. And we welcome each new members with delighted open hearts, open minds, and open arms. The very thought of my children and grandchildren puts a smile on my face!

Lord, thank you for family today.

The B-I-B-L-E

September 16th, 2017 by Maureen

You search the Scriptures because you believe they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Jn. 5:39

Reading the Bible as a literal rule book can lead us to some pretty bizzare lifestyle choices and condemning attitudes towards those around us. Reading the Bible as a promise book turns a conversation with God into a contract negotiation. Reading the Bible as a resource to support arguments, exert control, or inflict guilt and shame is not going to do much for relationships with other humans or with God.  Reading the Bible in the literary, historical, cultural, language, and sociological contexts in which it was written adds more meaning and intellectual honesty, but can turn it into a bunch of stories about some ancient people groups and a demanding deity who all seem to have slightly megalomaniacal tendencies. To matter spiritually, the Bible, even Old Testament Scripture, has to be read through the lens of Christ’s mission and personality and translated or paraphrased honestly and without agenda.

Lord, reveal the love and truth of Christ in every chapter.

Learning the art of the chill

September 15th, 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. Even when we feel justified in going off on someone, taking a deep breath with Christ helps us to respond from heart, mind, and spirit rather than simply to react from our emotions. 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. Developing the art of the chill can help keep our relationships supportive and honest and our message stay consistent with Christ’s love and grace.

Lord, make my love loud and my tone chilled.

Remembering the motion of waves

September 12th, 2017 by Maureen

I pray that out of the riches of His glory that you may be strengthened with power through His Spirit, that God may make His home in your hearts. Eph 3:16-17

Ever go to the beach and then still feel like you are being rocked by the waves hours later when you lie in bed that night? This phenomenon of feeling like you are moving even when you are still is called an “illusion of self motion.” The sense of God in us and with us is more than an illusion. God at home in our hearts is like feeling the rhythm of His waves even when we aren’t directly, consciously thinking about God or praying. We are constantly affected by wave after wave of His love, grace, wisdom, hope, and goodness. Sometimes we are more aware of it.

Lord, thank you for being in me, with me, and for me all the time.

Participating in abundance

September 10th, 2017 by Maureen

Generous people prosper. Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. Prov. 11:25

There is no reason to hoard our resources or fear we’ll run out. God is open-handed and open-hearted. We gain more than we give. This doesn’t mean we should see gain as motivation for giving. It’s not about quid pro quo here. It’s not about prosperity, but about reflecting and participating in God’s refreshing, nourishing abundance. Unselfishness contributes to a generous environment that promotes gratitude, growth, and hope.

Lord, refresh someone else through me today.

What does it mean to ask, seek, and knock?

September 9th, 2017 by Maureen

Keep asking, you will receive. Keep seeking, you will find, keep knocking and the door will open. Matt. 7:7

Nag. Nag! NAG!! Does the Father really enjoy 30 minutes of begging for the same thing? Is it in His nature to simply reward us for being persistent? Does asking God for the same thing every day until we get it really build faith muscles or it just playing the odds? Does going on a hunger strike obligate God to deliver.  Does quote scripture to God like magic incantations open up heaven? Are answers more likely to come if we round up more people to pray, gathering consensus for our cause, like circulating a petition? Maybe figuring out prayer is the secret to manipulating and obligating God into meeting our demands and fulfilling our agendas. Lots of books have been sold based on these theories.

And God promised. Right? It says so in the next verse: For everyone who asks, does receive; and those we are seeking do find, and the door is opened to the one who knocks. Matt 7:8

Matt. 7:7-8 are sandwiched between the part about taking the beam out of your own eye before judging someone with a speck in theirs, and the part that asks whether a loving father whose child asks for bread would give that kid a stone. So maybe the context isn’t about us demanding our agendas. Maybe “asking, seeking, and knocking” don’t mean what we think they mean.  If God already knows everything, loves us, and wants good for us, maybe prayer is about opening our hands, heads, and hearts to what the Father is giving us.

Lord, for myself and all the others I know who are experiencing loss, fear, uncertainty, and need, what are You giving us? What are you showing us? Which door have You unlocked for us?

 

Health prescription: Happiness

September 7th, 2017 by Maureen

A cheerful heart is good medicine. Prov. 17:22

Science is catching up with this ancient wisdom. An article in Time  quotes one scientist’s conclusion: “Learning to enjoy your work, being more grateful and having really positive relationships are important.” A recently published study from Harvard concurs.

Ever wonder whether obsessing over healthy habits like diet or exercise or being less stressed might actually diminish the benefits of adopting those habits? Happiness can’t be the goal. It is a by-product that comes from living life fully engaged and fully present. God is the source of our gifts and talents that cause work to be enjoyable and fulfilling. God is the Giver of good things who responds to our gratitude with the joy of a Father and the resources of the Maker of heaven and earth. God is the love, the connective tissue that makes relationships even possible; and He is the Spirit that inspires empathy and belonging.

Lord, help me be more aware and responsive to Your presence and Your goodness as I live life.

Prayers for protection

September 6th, 2017 by Maureen

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy. Ps. 5:11

Singing with joy is not our natural response to imminent danger or feeling threatened. It certainly doesn’t come easy when we experience loss. But God’s ability and His desire to protect us are incredibly powerful. He offers us a place of protection that is so safe that fear is unnecessary and maybe even unreasonable. Sometimes our perceptions of what constitutes protection might differ from what occurs, especially when we are focused on difficult circumstances or dealing with tangible messes we hoped to avoid. Sometimes it is the peace and joy in our hearts that needs protecting most.

Lord, I take refuge in You. I am safe because I know that You are always with me, in me and for me.

A plea for gentleness

September 5th, 2017 by Maureen

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger. Prov. 15:1

Many people in our culture seem to have the impression that communication that is strident and confrontational is somehow more effective. Being loud and angry might make people feel more powerful, but this is not the kind of power that creates lasting change in hearts, minds, or culture.  Gentleness takes a lighter touch. Gentleness listens, responds with respect and empathy, and creates rapport. Gentle responses open the door for genuine conversation. Gentleness allows people to consider one another as fellow human beings and to engage in civil consideration of one another’s ideas. Gentleness does not preclude disagreement, but tempers it with affection, humor, and common courtesy.

Lord, help the weary, the frustrated, and the wrathful, even those who believe they are justified in those feelings, to be able to hear Your gentle tone and to find the grace to use it with others.

Even if its not real, time is a relentless illusion

September 4th, 2017 by Maureen

To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die…. Ecc. 3:1-2

Is it really possible that the way human beings experience time is only an illusion? There is great debate in physics over how time works and whether time exists at all.

While I find this stuff fascinating, whatever its essence and however it works, we can’t ignore the way we humans experience time. The only time we can directly affect is now. The only moment we can actually experience love and grace and relationship is now. And yet we do reference our memories of past experiences and our hopes about the future in how we interpret and experience now. Births and deaths, seasons and decay, and our own aging selves are part of an observable flow of time and change that we experience. But often our perceptions about God’s perspective of time rather than our own observations influence our sense of meaning and purpose, and motivate our responses to whatever is going on in the present. What we believe about God and eternity affects how we perceive and experience time.

Lord, I’m trusting You with all my time, my life, and my being because experiencing You makes everything else more real.

Disrupting the other pride

September 2nd, 2017 by Maureen

Pride goes before destruction. A haughty spirit goes before stumbling. Proverbs 16:18

This post isn’t about attitudes full of hubris, prideful, cavalier overconfidence, or ruthless entitlement. We all know that stuff is poison. There is a kind of pride that is appropriate and important to our mental and emotional health. Human beings need to experience that sense of meaning, worth, and honor that is sometimes called pride. Sometimes our introspection detours us into the other kind of pride because we can’t find the constructive kind of pride within ourselves. Sometimes we depend on recognition from others to derive this kind of pride. Sometimes we may even feel the need to self-promote to others or to challenge others’ priorities or perceptions in order to get the responses we want from others. Suppose we choose to seek God’s image, His creativity and intelligence, His grace and goodness in ourselves and in each other. Suppose we chose to see ourselves and one another in that way.

Lord, help me to experience the humility that can derive pride from You rather than struggling to find it in myself or demanding it from others. Fill me with the pride that goes with restoration.

Swim with the current

September 1st, 2017 by Maureen

Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed, and shaken, and running over will fall into your lap; with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. Luke 6:39

When we pour love, grace, generosity, and justice out into the world we experience abundance. I don’t think what we gain from giving is a reward for doing good. Or karma. Doing something just so we get back seems kind of self-serving and not at all like Jesus. Perhaps, instead, giving is participation in Who God Is. When we become aware of His love and grace, when we choose to swim with the current of the love that caused the Father to send His Son, our spirits will naturally be swept into the experience of His abundance and bounty. When we see ourselves as the source of what we give it’s easy to become stingy and worry about running out. When we are in Christ and He in us, we are part of an infinite flow of resources coming from Him.

Lord, if Your love is an ocean, I want to go where the current takes me.

neither height, nor depth, nor Harvey can separate us from the love of God

August 30th, 2017 by Maureen

for I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor messengers, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things about to be, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 8:38-39

The flood waters cannot get high enough to separate us from the love of God. Destruction, lack of help, loss of health or resources or home or even loved ones is not an indicator of God’s abandonment or lack of love. Indeed the heart of God is to heal, to help, to restore. Sometimes big emergencies are the times when we hear His heartbeat the loudest and tap into its rhythm. Standing in the sunshine on a beautiful, I’m reminded that just a few miles south there are not. And yet God loves them just as much as He loves me.

Lord thank you for all Your hands and feet on the ground and in the water helping and healing.

Respond with comfort and compassion

August 28th, 2017 by Maureen

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Cor. 1:4

So many people need to be comforted right now.  In essence, God has partially outsourced compassion and comfort to human beings. Our impulse to help others comes from the image of His love and compassion in us. It comes from remembering how it feels to be comforted. His love becomes tangible as we reach out to comfort and help hurting people. We develop the art of comforting as when we experience God’s comfort directly, when we receive God’s comfort through the love of other human beings, and when we witness it being given to others in need. Reaching out can come in the form of our time, labor, resources, money, encouragement, companionship, and/or prayer. There is no one way or “right” way to comfort and help. Sometimes our best response is supporting those who can help most effectively. Let us comfort in whatever ways God inspires us.

Lord, help me deliver compassion and comfort in ways that reveal Your love.

Shelter in a storm

August 26th, 2017 by Maureen
As the passing by of a hurricane, so the evil is not, but the righteous have a lasting foundation. Prov. 10:25
There are times when it feels like our lives are blowing away board by board like a house in a hurricane. The love of God shelters us like the safe room where we run for protection in a storm. His love is staked so deep that it cannot be uprooted by wind or circumstance. Our hearts cannot be flooded out by tears or trouble because we are His children and He is our foundation.
Sweet Friend, Loving Father, Shelter in all Storms, when I feel vulnerable help me know that I am attached to Your invulnerable foundation.

Partial eclipse of the heart

August 24th, 2017 by Maureen

In the beginning… was the Word [Jesus]…and in Him [Jesus] is life and that life is the light of humanity. The light shone in the darkness but the darkness didn’t perceive it. Jn. 1:1,4-5

Jesus cannot be eclipsed by the darkness. The light that is Christ has always been. He shone at the creation of the world. He was shining when the first creeping darkness cast its shadow on creation. In the moments when it looked like darkness would overtake the whole world, Christ has always been that spirit of mercy, that gesture of love that overtakes prevailing hate. In the moments of confusion and emptiness when the light in our hearts feel eclipsed by pain, fear, loss, and evil, Christ is that fleeting thought of truth and goodness, that sliver of hope that persists. His is the voice that speaks love and grace, reason and truth so we never have to perceive total darkness.

Lord, help my eyes to perceive Your light when things look dark.

Unchained hearts

August 23rd, 2017 by Maureen

Even if our hearts condemn, God is greater than our hearts and He knows all things. 1 Jn. 20

When we mess up it is easy to let feelings of failure and guilt define us. We may measure ourselves against other people who appear to have it more together than we do. Comparison can make us feel like “less.” Fortunately God has a perfect perspective on each of our situations. He doesn’t see us the way we see ourselves or the way we see each other. Christ releases us from condemnation; we don’t owe Him guilt. Christ redeems us; we don’t owe Him restitution. God looks on our true hearts, not the feelings and thoughts that come from our faulty perceptions of ourselves and others. God transforms, redeems, and restores and He wants us to experience that transformation, redemption, and restoration as the real state of our hearts.

Thank you for the peace and confidence that keeps me moving forward, even when I lose some ground.

Restoration takes longer, is much harder, and costs more than demolition

August 20th, 2017 by Maureen

Cover all other virtues with love, which is the uniting principle that results in completeness.
Let the peace of Christ be the ruling principle in your hearts. Col. 3:14-15

It is very difficult to meet the anger, rage, slander, abusive language, and lies that permeate our culture with mercy, goodwill, kindness, unpretentiousness, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness.

It seems as if the Architect has handed us the tools for restoration rather than demolition. Restoration is a more painstaking and tedious process than tearing down and rebuilding. Sanding off layers of ugliness to uncover beauty creates a bond that swinging a hammer and discarding the rubble does not. In our culture right now many people, and understandably so, have grown impatient and annoyed with the pace of “progress,” however they define or envision “progress.” If the only goal is to move the needle for change, it doesn’t matter what kind of strategies are employed, what motives or agendas drive the people who lead, or who is destroyed in the process. If the goal is restoration then how we encourage and achieve change matters very much. In Colossians 3 Paul calls out destructive attitudes and expressions (Col. 3:8) and calls for restorative attitudes and expressions (Col. 3:1-13). God loves everyone we disagree with, everyone who has ever hurt us, everyone who wants to destroy us, everyone who is yet to experience His love and grace. When we focus on destroying what we hate rather than restoring what we love, people God loves end up on the rubbish heap with the ideologies and practices we rightly need to discard.

Lord, help me to express Your beautiful restorative love and grace in what I stand for and how I stand there.

Love child by heredity and environment

August 18th, 2017 by Maureen

Beloved, let us love one another, because the love is of God, and everyone who is loving, of God has been γεννάω (begotten) and knows God. 1 Jn. 4:7 YLT

In this familiar verse “γεννάω” is traditionally translated “born of God” but “begotten” is the literal translation of “γεννάω.” It shares a root word with “procreate.” Think of the implications of this. We are more than fallen-natured strays who are lucky enough to be adopted into God’s house. Instead we are begotten of God. We inherit the spiritual DNA of the Father who γεννάω us. And love is the primary trait of those with this DNA. Love is also God’s environment. Knowing Him influences us to respond to others from the environment where we live.

Lord, let me respond to others out of the the heritage of love You give me as Your child.

Being misunderstood is not a virtue

August 14th, 2017 by Maureen

The reason the world does not understand* us is because it did not understand Jesus. 1 Jn. 1:3b

Grace reflects the love of a Father who wants to be known and sent His Son to reveal Himself to the world.
Grace communicates the motives and message of this Father’s children.
Sometimes we equate being misunderstood with being like Jesus when what we may need is a gut check concerning our motives, messages, or methods. There is no inherent virtue in..

…being confusing or misunderstood.
…oversimplification.
…rejecting intellect or emotion.
…making intellect or emotion paramount.
…taking action for action’s sake.
…remaining static to avoid misinterpretation.
…remaining silent to avoid conflict.
…replacing work and doing for engaging mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.
…using prayer and study to avoid engaging physically or relationally.
…expressing ideas about God without communicating His love, peace, hope, and mercy.

The messages about the Father and His Son that His children communicate and the motives with which we communicate them do affect the way the world sees and responds to God.

May His children express His great love with the confidence that comes with experiencing it themselves. May that love inspire more and more to discover His love and call themselves His children.