Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Eternal flame

December 6th, 2017 by Maureen

Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace. Luke 1:78

Jesus, the Light of the world, offers peace to souls impacted by the lingering darkness. He brightens the corners of the dark cave of sickness, depression, poverty, isolation, doubt, and fear. Christ illuminates confusing situations and warms cold hearts. Christ guides us in, protects us, and ignites us with His light. Christ causes perpetual light that burns within and around us.

Lord, for all of us with broken hearts and broken lives, living in darkened places in this broken world,  open our eyes to Your light ever breaking upon us like waves.

Fear not anyway

November 29th, 2017 by Maureen

The angel said to her, “Fear not, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” Luke 1:30-32

Not only was Mary favored and chosen to be Jesus’ mother. She got a bonus: God gave her a clue about what He is up to. God is always involved in our lives but sometimes suddenly and unmistakably things come together that significantly upset our status quo and we realize with abrupt clarity that God is up to something. Usually there is no angel to explain details about what it is or what we are supposed to do. Fear not anyway. It might take a stretch of perspective to see it, and there may never be full clarity about what God is up to. The Holy Spirit does give hints occasionally. The good news is that the end result of God’s intervention will be more good news and great joy.

Lord, thank you for the next sudden, unexpected glory in my life.

For the holiday, bring pie and voluntary amnesia

November 22nd, 2017 by Maureen

I will forgive graciously, and I will never again remember their failures. Heb. 8:12

Instead of Auntie bringing pumpkin pie and judgment and cousin Lulu bringing rolls and resentment, what if everybody just brought food, thankfulness, and voluntary amnesia? The all-knowing God chooses to forgive with such finality that, from His end of the relationship anyway, it is like our failures never happened in the first place. Over and done. Period. If we bring everything that makes us feel like failures, everything we regret, and everything that we use to label ourselves into our relationships and/or if we remember all the ways others disappoint, fail, and annoy us and apply labels and expectations to future interactions with them, then “over and done” is never over and done. What if each of us could arrive home for the holidays undefined and unmarked by past mistakes (or even present ones)? George MacDonald wrote that “love is the opener as well as the closer of eyes.” While we may not have God’s power to wipe away memories, we can choose voluntary amnesia and close our eyes to the baggage of the past and open them to the beauty God sees in us and in those around us.

Lord, help us see ourselves and one another through Your eyes of love and grace.

Empathetic tears when the bell tolls

November 11th, 2017 by Maureen

Jesus wept. Jn. 11:35

I live where I hear ambulances. At any point in time lots of people are experiencing heartbreak and loss while I experience joy, or at least relative quiet. Sometimes the reality of this hits. Certainly God has all this in His loving hands. But hope and faith does not separate us from the pain that we observe around us, and sometimes experience ourselves. Hope and faith are not meant to stay our tears or our hands.

I love what John Donne wrote in the last part of Meditation 17, “each man’s death diminishes me because I am a part of mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” When we hear the bells toll, it is appropriate to weep. Empathy and response to the pain of others is steeped in Christ’s love.

As a fully human being Jesus was touched by the infirmities of human existence, the pain, the loss, the disappointment. Confronted with the grief of His friends, He wept. Knowing the miracle He was about to do did not erase the pain they currently felt, He wept. Recognizing that His friends’ perceptions of His mission was limited to their personal and local concerns did not diminish their concerns to Him; He wept. We are part of the empathy of God.

Lord, thank you for helping me have empathy, even when it hurts.

Singing with trees

November 7th, 2017 by Maureen

Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. And let the trees of the forest sing for joy. Ps. 96:11-12

Though not sentient in the human sense, is nature aware of it’s Creator and responsive to Him in some way that we can tap into? Or does our appreciation of the beauty of God’s creation cause us to imagine we hear the song of trees and jubilation of fields? Perhaps it does not matter. Perhaps we just need to go outside for at least a little while every day to enjoy God’s handiwork. This moment of pause, this awe, is a slow breath, that folds us into God’s own joy expressed in nature. It’s as if the song trees sing was stuck in our heads and our hearts and when we go outside we remember where we heard it and remember we’re a part of it too.

Thank you for surrounding me with so much beauty in nature and for giving me senses to experience it.

 

Listening is not a fill-in-the-blanks activity

October 23rd, 2017 by Maureen

So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them. Luke 8:18

How we hear depends on our perceptions, our natural intelligences, styles, and temperaments,
our experiences and expectations,
our theological and philosophical positions,
our current circumstances, our physical and emotional states, and
the list of filters goes on…
How we hear might be influenced by what we believe and feel about the speaker or the message.
We can choose to filter a message based on our own preferences or
we can try we to receive that message as the speaker intended it.
Do we make assumptions about the speaker’s both message and purpose
Rather than ask the speaker questions in order to truly understand the message, ?
Do we do that when God is the Speaker?
Listening is not a fill-in-the-blanks activity.

Lord, help me hear what You and the people around me are really saying.

Peace and love

October 15th, 2017 by Maureen

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all. 2 Thess. 3:16

Peace is available no matter what is happening in our lives. Our circumstances reflect the imperfection of the world rather than the measure of God’s care. He is always in us, always with us and always for us. The way we process and respond to our circumstances can be influenced by our perceptions about God’s role. Did He cause it? Can He fix it?Is God merely a force that controls through positive and negative energy? What we expect from Him and how tapped into His divine love and goodness when we aren’t stressing to Him about some problem informs the experiences we have when we face hard things. Do we perceive God as Love?

Lord, thank you for bringing peace to my chaos.

Invisible but there. Definitely there.

October 1st, 2017 by Maureen

I will be your God throughout your lifetime— until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you. Is. 46:4

As we face life’s twists and turns, its disappointments, adventures, and changes, God is there. Even when we are unaware that He is taking care of us, He is still there. Because we are so very dear to Him. Whatever circumstances we face, we can carry on for as long as we have to because God carries us. Even if we feel alone, the reality is that God is there. And He wants us to experience His nearness, love, and support. We don’t have to earn it, or even fully understand it. It’s kind of like Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade taking the first step onto the invisible bridge. The bridge was there for him all along. He just accepted what He couldn’t see.

Lord, thank You for all these years of caring and carrying. I need You!

God’s will is not a hamster wheel

September 23rd, 2017 by Maureen

…be transformed by the renewing of your minds , so that you may recognize as genuine (discern) the will of God, what is inherently good, well-pleasing (acceptable), and completed (perfect).  Romans 12:2

This isn’t about agonizing over whether we’ve figured out God’s will for our lives and then stressing all the time over whether we are understanding it right and doing it right.  What, make that Who, could be inherently good and totally acceptable? What has been brought to an end, wanting nothing necessary to be complete? Could it be that recognizing the adequacy of Christ causes us to experience adequacy?  Could it be that the will of God is met in His Son and in us as we experience our goodness, acceptability, and perfection,  in Him and through Him? 

Perhaps our spiritual and life journey comes from moving higher up and further into what transformation and renewal mean rather than running the hamster wheel of trying to do better and be better so God will like us.

Lord, help me to experience and grow in the goodness, pleasure, and completeness You’ve given me.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

Jesus knows physics. Jesus knows fishing. Jesus knows you.

July 22nd, 2017 by Maureen

There was big crowd milling around waiting to hear Jesus speak on the shores of Lake Gennesaret. Four fishermen were cleaning their nets nearby where their two boats were docked. Jesus asked one of them, Peter, to take him out a little ways so he could address the crowd. He stood in the boat and gave His talk.
Jesus knew His physics. Sound travels well on water. Sound  bounces upward as it hits the warmer air on shore. So the people standing in the back where the shore inclines can hear just as well as the people in front. Speaking from the boat creates a natural amphitheater. So, if Jesus wants to give a Ted Talk, it’s a great venue.
But why stop with a talk; Jesus goes full theater.
He turns to Peter, “Put the nets out into deep water and get ready for a catch.”
This is awkward for Peter, the professional fisherman. Jesus is a great teacher, no doubt, but Peter knows fishing. He doesn’t want to embarrass Jesus in front his audience so Peter answers softly, “Uhhh, Jesus, We’ve fished all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so…”
A little bit later the nets were so full they were in danger of breaking. Peter had to call his partners in the other boat out to help with the catch.
It dawns on Peter that Jesus is more than a great teacher and he falls to his knees in awe.
“Chill, Peter, don’t be afraid,” says Jesus, “from now on you’ll be fishing for men.”
Jesus gave his audience a short drama, a live-action parable, to punctuate a message:
Just because you put all your effort and knowledge into a goal doesn’t mean it is going to succeed. But if Jesus inspires you to do things a different way or to take an unknown path, even if you have serious doubts, you can trust Him for abundant results. Jesus is an expert at everything.
After that the fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James, and John, took another leap of faith, closed their business, left everything behind, and followed Jesus. Luke 5:1-11

Lord, I trust You with my journey. Help me to recognize and respond to Your voice, especially when the unexpected or the unorthodox seems like the way to go.

Illustration from All Church Sound.

5 ways to Burst Bubbles

July 18th, 2017 by Maureen

Pray that I manifest the good news as I should. Walk wisely among those outside;* redeeming** the time. Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt. Know how you must answer each person. Col. 4:4-5

So how do we engage with those who have not yet acknowledged Christ’s good news and those who consider themselves “outside” our faith?

1. Live outside the bubble. When we only talk with and hang with people who share our ideas and interests we create cultural bubbles. Sadly, our culture seems to be be moving toward an “us and them” mentality steeped in animosity and suspicion of everyone perceived to be “outside” our particular bubbles. Imagine the impact of living openly and freely, defying categorization or definition. Jesus.
2. Listen. Listening communicates that you value the speaker. Listening communicates motives of love and grace. Don’t think about how you are going to respond or counter. Just listen to know them. Ask questions to understand how they got where they are in their lives and their thinking.
3. Live respectfully with the tension of disagreement. Many “outside” the Christian faith have formed opinions about the mission and motives of Christ and of Christians based on unwise and graceless efforts of well-meaning Christians. Silence and “I don’t know” are perfectly acceptable responses. “I was wrong about that” can be golden.
4. Trust God with the time. Rushing in frantically and forcefully, determined to get agreement to your message, is no way to redeem the time. You are there to build a relationship not to sell a product.
5. Give the Holy Spirit room. Trust that God’s desire to be known is greater than your desire for that person to know Him. Recognize that a person’s awareness or acknowledgement of God does not necessarily reflect the extent of God’s involvement in their lives. Don’t expect another person’s experience to look like yours.

Lord, help me to manifest the good, gracious, free, and loving nature of Your message in all my relationships.

*exō means “outside”
**exagorazō means “redeeming, in the context of the time, redeeming slaves to freedom”

Christ first. Christ synistēmi.

June 5th, 2017 by Maureen

Christ came pro tr. before (means both in front of and earlier than) everything else and in Him everything else synistēmi tr. holds together (also means consists, brings together, unites parts into a whole, compares and contrasts as a teaching method). Col. 1:17

If Christ has preeminence and unifies everything else in Himself, then we have every reason to adopt an optimistic attitude. But we humans tend to prefer “compare and contrast” to “uniting parts into a whole.” We tend to focus on differences, to notice inconsistencies with our views, to try and fix those inconsistencies, to establish “us and them” contexts, and to adopt adversarial narratives. Using these perspectives to see the world and to see ourselves in it can create rather negative attitudes toward everything that is not perceived as “us.” Christ’s prayer to the Father in John 17 “make them one as we are one,” is not Jesus’ desperate plea or wishful thinking, but confident confirmation of His synistēmi and an expression of His desire that humans be awareness of it. This loving unity is the joyful context in which Christ reconciled the world to Himself (2 Cor 5:19). What would happen if we could approach all our interactions, with other humans, with nature, and with social, political, and economic structures fully aware that Christ is before everything in all senses of the word, and that we all exist together in His synistēmi?

Help me put my attitudes in the synistēmi context of Your loving whole.

Summertime and the livin’ is easy

May 31st, 2017 by Maureen

He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! Ps. 103:5

The beginning of summer vacation always makes me feel like a kid again. The young are gifted with the ability to live in the moment and enjoy the present. Summer invites us into simplicity, stillness, and serendipity. It’s time for unstructured play, unfocused thought, and random discovery. It’s time to be instead of do. Even those who have to work can choose to have a summer attitude and experience unreserved delight and child-like wonder. Go play.

Lord, I surrender my concerns and embrace the good things You’ve laid out for me this summer.

Peace out

May 13th, 2017 by Maureen
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I give to you not as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27
 
There is plenty to trouble our hearts, in the world, in our country, in our city, in our communities, in our lives, among our friends and loved ones. The world gives us tools to try to explain how and why, to control the damage, and to protect what makes us feel secure. The peace that Christ leaves is centered in believing that He loves us, believing that we can trust Him, and releasing all we have to His care without fear. We can choose to let our hearts be troubled. We can choose to let Christ’s perspective drive our responses to troubling things. This is not as easy as it looks on paper, but His peace is a gift that we can choose to embrace.
 
Lord, in all the troubling things in life, keep turning me toward the peace You give.
 

Awareness of God formed and woven in

May 7th, 2017 by Maureen

You formed my inmost being and wove me in my mother’s womb. Ps. 139:13-14

Perhaps we all experienced God in our first moments of awareness as connections fired in our developing brains and we experienced our senses without being able to assign meaning yet to what we were experiencing. Perhaps our need to love and be loved is rooted in vague memory of our First Friend’s deep love and tenderness for us. Perhaps our desire to create and contribute come from an unfocused awareness of our worth and significance to Him. This is all speculative, of course, but consider the possibility that our awareness of God in all that is around, God with us, God in us, and God for us has the potential to permeate and inform everything we experience all the time.

Lord, thank you for being with me always.