Archive for August, 2017

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.

Love in a state of continuous discovery and amazement

August 13th, 2017 by Maureen

See what great love the Father has given us that we may be called children of God. The reason the world does not know or understand* us is that it did not know or understand Him. 1 Jn. 3:1

What we gain through calling ourselves His children is intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and experiential love.
We are always in a state of ginōskō , recognizing the familiar from His perspective, perceiving God in new ways, always learning and gaining understanding as our relationships with our Father grow and the realization of what it means to be His children settles in us. All we discover through knowing Him is permeated with His great love. If we want to help others in the world to recognize that they, too, can call themselves His children, it is most likely that trying to explain the tangibles and reasoning behind what we think we know will be less effective than communicating His great love.

Lord I want to know Your love more deeply and fully myself and to help others experience what it means to be your child.

ginōskō  tr. “know” also means “to understand, to recognize, to perceive, to see”

The greatest love

August 13th, 2017 by Maureen

See what great love the Father has given us that we may be called children of God. The reason the world does not know or understand* us is that it did not know or understand Him. 1 Jn. 3:1

What we gain through calling ourselves His children is intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and experiential love.
We are always in a state of ginōskō , recognizing the familiar from His perspective, perceiving God in new ways, always learning and gaining understanding as our relationships with our Father grow and the realization of what it means to be His children settles in us. All we discover through knowing Him is permeated with His great love. If we want to help others in the world to recognize that they, too, can call themselves His children, it is most likely that trying to explain the tangibles and reasoning behind what we think we know will be less effective than communicating His great love.

Lord I want to know Your love more deeply and fully myself and to help others experience what it means to be your child.

ginōskō  tr. “know” also means “to understand, to recognize, to perceive, to see”

 

The greatest go-to ever

August 12th, 2017 by Maureen

As the Father has loved me, I love you. Remain, abide, in my love. John 15:9

God equips us with His love as a go-to for whatever we encounter.
Love can be the idea that informs how we process and respond to the things that happen around us and to us.
Love can be the emotional connection that guides our interactions with others.
Love can be the spiritual light that connects us to God and all He created.
Sometimes stress and habit cause us to detour into our old go-to responses because love response feels unfamiliar.
If our past automatic responses to hurt, threat, or confusion have been despair, fear, or anger,
if our past relationships have been mired in unforgiveness, suspicion, or power,
if our past spiritual experience has been rooted in law and shame,
we might respond in ways that obscure how we experience and communicate His love.
Remaining and abiding is about our perceptions, experiences, and responses.
Such detours can’t move us out of God love, though. Nothing can.

Lord help me to remember go-to love when my heart, mind, and spirit start to detour.

Health 101: stay hydrated and rested

August 9th, 2017 by Maureen

Jesus stood up and said, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me and drink! Whoever believes in me, as it is written, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within them.” Jn. 7:37-38

The human soul requires hydration just as much as the human body does. Christ is the source of refreshing, life-sustaining  nourishment. It is like a river that flows through us, hydrating our spirits. If we start feeling parched it could be that we’ve forgotten or just been too busy, to stop and drink. Sometimes the most productive thing we can do for ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually is to take time to rest and drink.

Lord, I’m stopping by this river. Fill my soul and my life with Your living water.

Creative naming

August 8th, 2017 by Maureen

God formed every creature on earth and brought them to the man to see what what he would name them. Gen 2:19

God invited humans into His creation process. Naming something requires use of creativity and imagination. Naming something adds to language. Naming assigns description, meaning, and context to the word we use to name something. Sensory associations like shapes, colors, sounds, and smells become attached to the word we use to name something. We participate in God’s creativity as we use our experiences with these named things to create art, to convey metaphoric meaning, and to make other useful and beautiful items that we also name.

Naming can elevate and individuate so that the full force of God’s creative energy, love, and delight is expressed. Naming a child provides one of the earliest markers of identity. Naming an animal tends to cause us to form emotional attachments and assign greater importance to that specific animal. If naming makes something important, then when we label and categorize in order to depersonalize and devalue or when we use words that already have negative connotations to name something, or someone, we are unnaming them.

Lord, inspire me to name things and to associate thoughts with those names that express how much You love and value all You have made.

Of rocks and roosters

August 6th, 2017 by Maureen

Upon this rock… Matt. 16:8 I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me. Matt. 26:34

Jesus: Peter, who do you say that I am?
Peter: Your are the Christ, the Son of the living God!
Jesus: On this rock I will build my church…” Matt. 16:15-18
Fast forward
Jesus: “Before the rooster crows Peter, you will deny me three times…”
Peter: “I don’t know what you mean…I don’t know the man…I don’t know the man.”
The rooster crows. Peter remembers Jesus’ words and goes somewhere he can weep in private. Matt 26:69-75
Fast forward
Peter stood before a crowd in Jerusalem and lifted his voice… Acts 2:14

Peter’s recognition of Jesus as the Son of God is the rock on which the church is built, not Peter himself. Later Peter walked on water then sunk, cut off a man’s ear to defend Jesus and got corrected for it, wimped out on the the night of Jesus’ crucifixion, and was picked to preach the first public sermon to the crowds after the Upper Room experience that launched the new faith. We all have rock moments and rooster moments. God defines us by Christ not by those moments. Neither our rocks nor our roosters have to power to change God’s love for us, our status as His children, or His desire or ability to express His love, grace, and truth through us. We do have the power to choose how to process our rock and rooster experiences. Roosters crow to wake us up, not to accuse us. Feeling the rock under our feet gives us confidence, perspective, and solid place to stand; we don’t have to be the rock.

Lord, thank you that I can experience restoration and transformation in all my rock and rooster moments.

Love can suck the life right out of you. But in a good way.

August 5th, 2017 by Maureen

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

Some people die or risk death saving someone else in emergency situations. Some people choose professions that require risking their lives for strangers. Until we are faced with the reality of it, none of us actually know whether we’d choose to die for someone else, even for someone we love. While it’s not death, sometimes we lay down some of things that make up our lives, like our time, our energy, our space, our resources, and our comfort, because we love someone who needs those things from us. There are days when death seems quicker and easier than the tedium of daily laying down of life that caregivers and others engaged in long-term support for loved ones experience. Whatever we lay down when we choose love over self reflects and punctuates the great love that God has for all of us.

Lord, thank you for not requiring this of me but doing it for me. I would like to get to a point when love doesn’t feel so sacrificial and I’m not so protective of my own concerns. Show me how.

Random thoughts about nine out of ten lepers

August 4th, 2017 by Maureen

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. Just outside a village ten men with skin disease were standing around. They weren’t allowed in the village because people were afraid they would catch their disease. They saw Jesus and knew his reputation as a healer.
“Master, have pity on us!”
“Go show yourselves to the priests,” Jesus told them.
They headed for the synagogue and were healed on the way.
One of them came running back praising God in a loud voice to say thanks.
This guy was a Samaritan and threw himself in front of Jesus “thank you, thank you, thank you!”
“Are you the only one who came back?” Jesus asked.
Jesus helped the man up off the ground and told him, “Get up and go, your faith has made you whole.*” Luke 17:11-19

Jesus did them all a big solid and thanking Him seems like basic manners. One guy comes back to say thanks and Jesus likes that, but, as far as we know the leprosy didn’t come back on the other nine just because they didn’t return. Consider that their healing happened on their home turf. Since leprosy meant being separated from the community, there were probably people that they couldn’t wait to be with and talk with after the priests declared them “clean.” It’s likely they were known to the priests that Jesus sent them to show. Obviously gratitude is the point of this story and Jesus definitely makes an observation about thankfulness in it, but it is faith, not thankfulness, that Jesus tells the guy made his healing possible. All ten lepers believed Jesus could heal them or they wouldn’t have asked and it wouldn’t have happened. If getting what we want from God involves saying certain things, assuming certain prayer positions, quoting from scripture, repetition, crowd sourcing, an appropriate level of drama, etc. etc. we can use this story to include “thanks” as one of the mechanisms of prayer or healing. Prayer and healing isn’t about “doing it right” and neither is faith. Nine guys did it wrong. They didn’t come back to say thanks yet they were still healed and forever impacted by what Jesus did for them. I’m not sure it’s fair to judge these guys as “ungrateful” anyway because we only are told this little part of their story. What if, after the excitement wore off a little bit, some of those guys realized they owed Jesus a thanks. They may have sought him out or sent Him a note. I’m sure He was cool about it. When telling someone else’s story, the details we choose to include and where and how we choose to end their story matters.

Lord, from a grateful heart, not because I’m scared you’ll take it all away or not give me more…Thanks!

*This is that Greek word “sōzō” that can mean a lot of things. In this case it’s most often translated “well” or “whole” but also can mean “safe and sound, saved, made whole, rescued, preserved from danger.”

Lovely as nouns. Harder as verbs.

August 3rd, 2017 by Maureen

Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Eph.4:2

Being loving, humble, patient, and gentle is a lot harder than feeling good about love, humility, gentleness, and patience as abstract concepts. As long as we live on this earth somewhere, somebody is messing up. Sometimes those mess ups have a direct negative effect on us personally. Somebody who really loves us inadvertently hurts us. Somebody we don’t know and doesn’t know us selfishly gets in our way. (If you ever drive or shop you know this is true.) Somebody who is having a bad day (or maybe even a bad life) is mean to us on purpose. We can choose to say our lines through pursed lips, acting out our versions of humility, gentleness, patience, and love. And feel fake. It’s probably still better than punching somebody. But better than faking it and patting ourselves on the back, we can choose to experience God’s love for someone else, and participate in it as we love them with God’s own grace and mercy. And we can thank God for being humble and patient, and gentle and loving through us and in us.

Lord, help me to receive Your grace and to extend it to others.

Choosing peace

August 2nd, 2017 by Maureen

If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Rom. 8:31b

We can’t control what happens to us but we do get to choose how to interpret and respond. Never underestimate the love of God nor the power of the company and equipment He uses to help. If we interpret bad stuff as aimed at us by God or a sign that He has abandoned us, we are going to assume certain attitudes and attributes apply to God that may make receiving His love, peace, and help more difficult for us. If we respond to bad stuff as victims or even combatants, we may actually diminish our ability to effectively process and manage what is happening to us. If we choose to start from a premise that God loves us and desires good for us, that His power includes whatever is happening to us now, and that He equips us and those around us with the insights, gifts, and talents to solve or manage our situation, we can experience our circumstances from a mental and spiritual environment where peace and perspective prevail.

Father, just like everything else, You’ve got this.

Ceaseless

August 1st, 2017 by Maureen

Pray without ceasing. 1 Thess. 5:17

We call the times when we ask God for direction and express desires “prayer” and prayer certainly is that.
But prayer is more than that. Prayer is also conscious acknowledgement that we are together with God. We are in Him and He is in us. We recognize His love and goodwill for us and everyone we meet. We express that we trust Him and that He is trustworthy. Before we ask Him to do anything for us or ask Him what we should do, we can settle into Who He is and who we are because we know Him.
But prayer is more than that. Prayer is also our unconscious, involuntary, inexplicable spiritual life functions. We breathe His love in and out and the lifeblood of grace courses through our veins even when we are completely unaware of Him. Even when we hurt. Even when we doubt. Even when we are spiritually comatose. God’s presence in us and with us does not require our conscious prayer. But He likes it. And it helps us.

Lord,  I am grateful to live and move and have my being in You.