Archive for January, 2017

The wonder of naming

January 30th, 2017 by Maureen

No longer will your name be called Abraham Gen. 17:15
No longer will your name be called Jacob Gen. 32:28
Saul became known as Paul. Act 13:9
I will give to each one white stone with a new name written on it. Rev. 2:17

When most of us experience the joy of naming – a new baby, or even a new puppy – we think about names that are in some way meaningful and reflect something about the being we are naming. We even name inanimate objects because they matter to us. Historically, being recognized as legitimate with the father’s name often meant the difference between having an inheritance and not having an inheritance. Our Father has a special name for each of us too. He calls us by the name that perfectly reflects who we truly are. In the Bible God even renames some people in order to reflect changed lives and changed relationships with Him.

Thank you, Papa, for giving me my own unique name and Your redemptive name.

Still Christmas

January 23rd, 2017 by Maureen

He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure.  Eph. 1:8-9

God’s plans for each of us is rooted in the same love and kindness that motivated Him to send Christ. His all-encompassing plan of redemption should be a source of pleasure to Him and for all of us as well. If God’s redemptive plan doesn’t sound like kindness and wisdom worth spreading then maybe it’s time to assess what exactly we think that plan entails. A tendency toward legalism and judgment can take the “good” right out of the news. A tendency toward “us and them” can take the “world” right out of “God so loved.” The “good news of great joy for all people” is relevant and true today just as it was on the first Christmas.

Lord, I rejoice in Your Big Plan of loving redemptive grace.

Optimistic realism

January 22nd, 2017 by Maureen

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Phil 4:8

Negativity robs us of peace, joy, and power. We make ourselves pessimists when we dwell on our doubts. We set ourselves up for failure when we focus on the worst possible outcomes. We make ourselves victims when fear rules our decision-making. We trap ourselves in the past when we dwell on disappointment. Realistically there is a lot in this world to cause grief and concern, but there is also so much beauty, joy, kindnesses, and love. It just depends on what we choose to notice and how we choose to process it.

Lord, give me the hopeful mind of Christ so that my gut reaction is to see beauty and notice good and respond in kind.

Hey, true believers, love to all of you!

January 21st, 2017 by Maureen

And now these three remain, faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor. 13:13

Today some true believers are rejoicing because they hope this new presidential administration will infuse society with their vision. Others are mourning or protesting because they are losing hope for their visions, also based in deeply held beliefs. Liberty is a beautiful belief that informed the founding of this country. Our citizens have the liberty to disagree and voice our opinions by powerful and effective means. Without love, though, liberty becomes less beautiful and peaceful. Without love, expressions of our beliefs and hopes so easily become angry, graceless, mean-spirited rhetoric. Without love, fear informs our decisions. Without love, we label and judge and see each other primarily through the lenses of our differences. Love believes the best of others, wants the best for others and communicates even disagreement with others from that position.

Lord, show me how to love everyone in the midst of all this fear and conflict.

the other Cloud

January 19th, 2017 by Maureen

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. Heb. 12:1 (NIV)

Each of us has a personal cloud of witnesses who inspire us. They may be made people from the Bible, historical figures, or individuals we know personally. Their stories inspire and encourage us. When times get hard, when we feel discouraged, inadequate, or pulled away from what we know God has for us our cloud of witnesses serves as motivating examples of how to focus, keep going, problem-solve, and how to trust God and respond to His voice.

Lord, thanks for my cloud.

Trapping foxes

January 18th, 2017 by Maureen

Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love. Song of Sol. 2:15

Little offenses can added up over time and eventually damage our relationships with others. Tiny annoyances one after another can multiply until our loving attitudes turns sour. We can even interpret a string of disappointments as evidence that someone – maybe even God – doesn’t care about us. The enemy of love tries to eat away at our hearts, one little bite at a time, but God’s love is bigger than the mischief of all the little foxes.

Lord, help me to meet every little fox with Your patience, goodwill and grace.

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.