Archive for July, 2016

Life is impromptu

July 31st, 2016 by Maureen

You say, “Tomorrow we will go to a certain city and stay there a year to do business and make a profit.” You have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. James 4:13-14a

Expect the unexpected because the unexpected is definitely expecting you. It’s not bad to make plans but it’s a mistake to expect them to play out in real life the way they do in your head. Even contingency plans end up tweaked or scrapped. If satisfaction depends on smooth execution of plans, get used to frustration and disappointment. Breathe.  Accept. Adapt. Enjoy. There is more than one way to get there and God knows them all.

Lord, help me to be flexible and nimble when plans fall through.

Increasing chance of showers

July 30th, 2016 by Maureen

Let my teaching fall on you like rain; let my speech settle like dew. Let my words fall like rain on tender grass, like gentle showers on young plants. I will proclaim the name of the Lord… Deut 32:2-3a

Rain in the middle of a hot summer is a sweet delight. Things are heating up with the election, plus we live in a diverse culture where we encounter people who hold to different philosophies, doctrines, agendas and practices than our own. Our conversations with like-minded individuals can feel like the respite of a summer shower. We all need that, but instead of viewing the rest of humanity as drought, what if stayed open to the possibility of refreshing showers anywhere, anytime, from anyone? Sometimes, through very unexpected sources, God reveals profound truth and interesting connections that gently soak into our open hearts and minds as we enjoy and appreciate relationship with another person.

Lord, help me to listen to everyone with a loving heart and open mind. Help me to find common ground where there seems to be none.

Human problems with pain management

July 29th, 2016 by Maureen

I [Paul]I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears., not to grieve you, but to let you know the depths of my love for you. 2 Cor. 2:4

Maybe our learned social or cultural responses to public pain explain why so many people resort to sessions of mind-numbing avoidance or solitary confinement rather than share the pain with anyone. We translate hurt into humor, anger and stoicism for public consumption because those can make us feel stronger and more powerful than authentically expressing hurt. For many of us it takes a huge level of vulnerability and trust to share our tears. Most of us would like to avoid the obligatory kindness that comes  from pity or the resentment that comes when people interpret tears as manipulation. Some of us have been taught that tears betray weakness, so we shed our tears in isolation, if at all. On the other hand, some of us overshare our pain, perhaps for validation, or because pain has become part of how we identify ourselves. Our social and cultural defaults can cause us to respond inappropriately to the pain of others, consciously or unconsciously dismissing pain, feeding it, or becoming co-dependent in it. Yet, in addition to His own personal loving responses to our pain, God uses healthy relationships between human beings, in addition to His own personal loving responses to our pain, to help us gain and keep a loving, gracious perspective, experience healing, and grow from the experience.

Lord, help me create a safe and honest place in my relationships where others can trust me with their pain; and take away the shame I associate with my own pain.

The ticket is not the show

July 28th, 2016 by Maureen

For the law never made anything perfect. But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God. Heb. 7:19

Focusing on perfection is like going to an amazing concert and spending the whole time looking at your ticket instead of engaging in the show. Right now, at this very moment, God sees each of us as perfect. Not because our behavior conforms to a set of standards devised to measure perfection. Jesus is perfect. His blood is perfect. The hope is the nearness of God. The hope is continually discovering our transformed selves. The hope is learning how to live in Him as the person He has really made us to be rather than continually struggling to live up to some constructed version of “perfect.”

Lord, help me enjoy being at and in the show.

Life really is good

July 27th, 2016 by Maureen

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. Rom. 8:18

We don’t get to decide what happens to us but we get to determine its power over us. Sometimes what we label “suffering” boils down to inconvenience. Sometimes what we label “persecution” is simply disagreement. Our perspective and response to unpleasant experiences determines the mark they make on us. Not to say the pain we feel is not real and legitimate and worthy of attention and comfort. It’s often helpful in getting past hurt to acknowledge it and talk it through. We gain realistic perspective by remembering His loving presence is always with us and in us, His victory over evil and death applies to whatever we are experiencing, His victory is reconciling all things to Himself even things that presently oppose Him. Add to that all the people who love us, the opportunities we  have, and the moments of true beauty, joy, and peace that He gives us in this world, comparatively speaking, no matter what happens, life is good.

Lord, you are good all the time and I praise you.

Music of nature

July 26th, 2016 by Maureen

Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds, you mountains and hills, fruit trees and cedars, wild animals and cattle, small creatures and flying birds, kings and nations, princes and rulers, men and women and children. Ps.148:7-12

It lifts the spirit to hear the song of a fellow worshiper. If we are listening and looking for it, it may not be that much of a stretch to hear a song of praise coming from His creation itself. Drops from last night’s rain, circada’s rhythms, rustling leaves, and barking dog are all singing in my yard this morning. It’s definitely jazz.

Lord, let Your name be exalted in all the earth.

Are you out of your mind?

July 25th, 2016 by Maureen

We, all with unveiled faces, mirror the Lord”s glory, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Cor. 3:18

Our minds sometimes default to old patterns that no longer reflect who we are or what we are about now. Sometime we need to stop overthinking ourselves and contemplate God. Period. No asks. No apologies. No religious obligations or practices. No whining. No focus on self at all. Just God. Because He’s God. Contemplate grace and everything that comes with it. Contemplate His power and creative energy. Meditate on every aspect of His character. Let His glory, love, and peace permeate every particle of body, mind, and spirit. Be made small to be made large. Become empty to be filled. Contemplate His face to recognize our own faces, transformed and unveiled.

Lord, I discover and become my true self when I look at You.

Does the light of life come with an adjustable intensity rheostat?

July 24th, 2016 by Maureen

Jesus spoke to them saying, “I am the light of the world. One who follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life. Jn. 8:12 (Mounce)

This light, this phōs, is the same powerful energy that animates all creation, same illuminating force that first lit the newly created earth, the same blinding light that caused people in Old Testament stories to shield their eyes, the same glow that flickers as love, joy and hope in our emotions, and the same flash of enlightenment that reveals truth, discovery, and understanding in our minds. His light animates us, bodies, minds and spirits. This light is not something that just follows us around, outside and separate from us, but something that He has put in us. He gave it to us and we have it in us. Permanently. To a certain extent, though, we seem to get to choose how much light we let into our lives and how much we let flow out.

Lord help me to shine bright inside and out with Your own life-giving, darkness-dispelling light.

 

Be love, don’t just do love

July 23rd, 2016 by Maureen

A new command I give you, love one another. Mark 12;34

So how do we love one another out of obedience to a command. We can be nice and charitable and demonstrate all the behaviors associated with being “loving” but still not experience love. Actions motivated by obligation or fear of being judged offer no joy or abundance. Actions out of desire for spiritual stature or to prove worthiness have nothing to do with love or grace. Motivated by love and grace, Jesus came show us that God loves us and that He doesn’t just do love, God is love. He transforms and redeems us precisely because we cannot transform and redeem ourselves. Love for others comes from a transformed heart not from a set of proscribed actions. Sometimes, though, participation in loving action is a way of unlocking the love Christ gives us for others.

Lord, I want to be love, not just do it.

Following Jesus is not a travel package

July 22nd, 2016 by Maureen

“Come. Follow me.” Jn. 1:39,43

Motive, expectations, and perception have everything to do with how we experience the journey. Jesus wasn’t inviting His disciples to join Him in a known journey. They didn’t get an itinerary. In fact, much of His teaching involved deconstructing their motives, expectations, and perceptions. The experience cannot be packaged. It is encouraging to share travel stories, but its not helpful to expect each person to be impacted in the same way, even by a shared journey. Following involves expecting and accepting change and movement. Following involves trust that God loves each of us and understands us as individuals. Following involves openness to discovering how Christ is next going to reveal His love, grace, transformation, and redemption in us and through each of us.

Lord, help me to embrace the unknown adventure of following you.

 

A spirit, a mind, and a body walk into a garage

July 19th, 2016 by Maureen

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. 1 Thess. 5:23

Our spirit, mind, and body can sometimes pull in different directions, like wheels on a car that needs alignment. Spending time with Christ and embracing His teaching gets us back in alignment.What is a spirit? What is a mind? We can be helpless victims of our own pasts, our limited educations, our brain chemistry and firing neurons or we can tap into the influence of mind of Christ, the body of Christ, and the Spirit of Christ.

Lord, do work on my spirit, soul, and body, and teach me to maintain that work.

Mercy!

July 18th, 2016 by Maureen

For your own sake, Lord, smile on Your desolate sanctuary…See how your city—the city that bears your name—lies in ruins. We make this plea, not because we deserve help, but because of your mercy. Dan 9:17-18

Mercy is just that, Mercy. Not bestowed because we earn it. God’s decision to restore our desolate souls even after we’ve let the garden He created in us become a desert, is mercy. Right now so many people are responding to one another from places of fear, anger, hate and desolation. We can choose to respond from the place of grace and mercy He has chosen to give us.

Lord, from individual relationships to the “us” and “them” animosity between different groups of people, to warring nations, please fix the mess we’ve made out of Your gift of life.

Fearless life before death

July 17th, 2016 by Maureen

He alone is my refuge and place of safety. I trust Him. Do not fear the terrors of the night nor the arrow that flies by day; do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that falls at midday. Ps. 91:2,5-6

Fear empowers threat and interferes with living joyful, peaceful lives in the here and now. Shakespeare wrote ‘A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death once.’ Threat is real but doesn’t have to be a constant source of worry and fear. Preparation and caution turn to paranoia and paralysis in the face of fear. Empathy for victims turns to projecting worst-case scenarios upon ourselves and our loved ones when we fear. If we respond with fear to every new threat we discover we are dying over and over. The One who conquered death offers us abundant life now and assurance that even if threats become reality, He redeems and restores that reality. That is the now and future reality we get to fearlessly live.

Lord, help all who are facing terrible things and all who live in fear of those things to experience Your peace and to trust Your power to redeem even these things.

God can restore the hottest mess

July 15th, 2016 by Maureen

Many there are that rise against me. Many there are who say of my nefesh (life, self, emotional being, passions, desires, soul) that there is deliverance for me from God. But You, O God, are a mogen (shield) around me, my kavod (honor) and the lifter of my head. Ps. 3:2-3 (Orthodox Jewish Translation)

Psalm 3 is a prayer of David’s in the middle of another hot mess that is at least partially of his own making. The whole story is in 2 Samuel 13:13-15:12. David’s lack of response to a serious family matter has splintered his already dysfunctional family and escalated to the point that his son Absolom has taken David’s throne and is chasing him down to kill him. Civil war has erupted as everyone takes sides. Even from David’s place of shame, fear, anger, and grief, he believes God loves and values him. God loves, protects, and restores us when we fail miserably, when are at our worse, when we feel worthless, when we can’t figure out our next move, when we feel threatened and ineffectual, when we are under attack, when people say we’ve brought it upon ourselves, and when nobody else thinks we are worth the effort.

Lord, help all of us who feel vulnerable and unprotected right now to sense Your love and protection. Help all of us who feel like failures right now to sense Your love and restoration. Show me how to respond with love, grace and honor.

 

 

 

 

Transformation is not the same thing as improvement

July 14th, 2016 by Maureen

May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Matt. 6:10

Jesus came to make us citizens of His kingdom not to give us a citizenship test we have to pass. His death and resurrections accomplishes transformative reconciliation to God.We can’t cause this change through successful adherence to disciplines and practices, through behavioral modification, or through improvement programs. Not to say those things can’t be valuable in improving our lives and relationships, but only Christ transforms us or make us new creations.  Our actions, attitudes, and choices as kingdom citizens reflect our awareness of our spiritual transformation, our adoption as sons and daughters, and our citizenship in His kingdom so that we become on earth as we’ve been made in heaven.

Lord, help me experience the reality of Your kingdom come. Give me greater insight into who I am in heaven and help me reflect that transformation in who I am on earth.

Emotional hoarding

July 13th, 2016 by Maureen

Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. Ps. 34:5

Emotional hoarders hold onto guilt and shame, cling to old, false, and limiting perceptions, and relive past hurts and offenses. All this stuff is baggage that casts shadows and adds weight. These things may even be the way we define ourselves. Holding onto our emotional hoards for the rest of our lives is not going to undo what Christ has done for us or make God love us less, but identifying ourselves by these things keeps us from experiencing the full benefits of the new, redeemed, restored, reconciled, transformed identity that Christ freely gives us. There is no one-size-fits-all vanishing solution for an emotional hoard, but we do get to choose what we focus on and how we want to see it.

Lord, help me to focus on all You free me for rather than hoarding the things you free me from. 

The currency of forgiveness

July 11th, 2016 by Maureen

And forgive our sins [trespasses, debts] as we have forgiven those who sin against us. Matt. 6:12

If the currency of forgiveness is not the cross – total, complete, unearned, and restorative – we are all screwed. Some of us have trouble forgiving because we ourselves are guilt-ridden and haven’t forgiven ourselves or felt forgiven by God or someone else. And some, in our pride, never feel the need to be forgiven. And some of us just enjoy feeling justified in our offended. Like so much else Jesus said to His friends who relied on law for redemption, the Lord’s prayer contained impossible challenges that only the power of Christ Himself make possible. We don’t earn forgiveness by forgiving others. While we still needed forgiveness, Christ forgave us. The powerful result of Christ’s loving, gracious forgiveness is reconciliation to God Himself. It is from the storehouse of this same abundant, unmerited grace that we draw when we forgive and seek forgiveness.

Lord, let me live and breathe Your grace.

If love defeats death and evil, it certainly can defeat hate

July 9th, 2016 by Maureen

I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. Matt. 5:44-45

From the sidelines it’s easy to label heroes and villains and to give out praise and judgment. But followers of Christ are called to love our neighbors be they police, protesters, victims, law-breakers, rioters, politicians, reporters, facebook posters, bystanders, or racists. In fact, manifesting His Love helps us eliminate the “us-them” mentality that must assign blame, justify ourselves, or categorize others. Eliminating “us-them” changes the way we look at and respond to one another. Any hope any of us have lies in the same love, the same three nails, the same empty tomb, the same risen Christ who came for each and every one of us.

Lord, when I don’t understand, when I don’t relate, when I simply don’t have another person’s perspective on the situation, let Your love and grace be my first response.

Taste and see what the Lord is cooking up

July 8th, 2016 by Maureen

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Ps. 34:8a

God serves up his goodness in surprising and creative ways. His goodness may not be plated according to convention or expectation. Sometimes it’s all sweet, but sometimes, in fact most of the time,  the flavor of goodness is complex and may even have a little bitterness up front, but never finishes on a bitter or sour note. Even when it seems to be a hidden ingredient, His goodness is going to define the flavor and make it nourishing and delicious.

Yum, Lord, serve me up more of that sweet, savory goodness.

Counting hairs instead of splitting them.

July 7th, 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 knows how many hairs and tears and longings are represented. The Holy Spirit is always opening hearts and minds to the love and grace of Christ and inspiring other hearts  and minds to express His love and grace. Often the Holy Spirit brings together those who need to experience God and those who need to express Him. When that happens, when we get to be one of those people, counting hairs is way more important than splitting them.

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