Remember and make peace

May 29th, 2017 by Maureen

I will give them—within the walls of my house—
a memorial and a name
far greater than sons and daughters could give.
For the name I give them is an everlasting one.
It will never disappear! Is. 56:5

We remember those fallen in the defense of our nation. We honor them. We are grateful for their service and sacrifice.

Lord, give present and tangible comfort to those who have lost loved ones in battle. Heal the physical, emotional and spiritual wounds of those who returned home, but lost the life they had before and the person they were before. Give the wisdom and desire to make peace to those who have the power to do so. Let our remembering lead to peace rather than more war.

 

“Always look for the helpers” – Fred Rogers

May 28th, 2017 by Maureen

…being made strong with the inherent power of God to exert His powerful dominion leading to patient waiting and slowness in avenging wrongs. Col. 1:11

There seems to be so much anger and lashing out in our culture right now. In most of these situations there are also people who intervene to help, to calm, and to bring peace. In the case of the Portland train stabbing Ricky Best, 53, Taliesin Namkai-Meche, 23, and Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21  tried to help. They wanted to calm the anger directed at two teen-aged girls who were being harassed by a ranting man. It doesn’t look like they knew the suspect had a knife, they were simply trying to make peace. Best and Meche were fatally stabbed and Fletcher was seriously injured. I am reminded of a frequently quoted statement by Fred Rogers, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Sometimes the helpers lose their lives, but they never lose their power. The inherent power of God is love and grace.

Lord, bless the peacemakers, heal the broken-hearted, and let the inherent power of Your love prevail through the helpers in this world.

I’ll have what Jesus is having

May 27th, 2017 by Maureen

Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.” Jn. 4:34

Human beings seek physical and emotional nourishment from a number of sources, not all of which are healthy. In order to feel satisfied we may feed our stomachs, our egos, our bank accounts, even our minds. Rather than seeking to gain a sense of fullness for himself, Jesus found fulfillment, satisfaction, and sustenance by focusing on relationship with the Father and with those around Him. This is God’s offer of fulfillment for all His children.

Lord, I want to be nourished and satisfied by fulfilling Your purposes for me.

How to proceed

May 25th, 2017 by Maureen

This is the secret God tells us: that Christ is in you, the hope of glory. Col. 1:27

God can be with us and within us at the same time. That God guides our decisions and directs our paths is sometimes clearly evident; yet we also encounter seasons when we have to make decisions without necessarily experiencing definitive confirmation from God about the direction we should take. Whether we are experiencing certainty or indecision, Christ loves us and intends good for us. We can experience hope even when there is no certainty. We can embrace each season with confidence in His love for us now and optimism about His good plans for our future.

Lord, help us to go from here with deep awareness of Christ in us, with us, and for us.

The economics of the kingdom of heaven

May 24th, 2017 by Maureen

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, He went away and sold everything he had and bought it. Matt. 13:44-45

This is a parable, a metaphoric story told to illustrate a lesson. On the one hand, it could mean the Father estimates our worth as equivalent to His own Son. On the other hand, it could mean that we humans are motivated to pursue the things we perceive as valuable and this invisible kingdom of heaven is worth everything else we value. Either way, in the economy of love and grace, there is an infinite, unique Godhead (Father-Christ-Spirit) with an eternal reign and limitless assets assigning great value to both the kingdom of heaven which seems to be this invisible, undefined awareness of the interconnected relationship of human beings with God and with each other borne of faith; and to each of the estimated 108.2 billion human beings who have ever lived, most of whom can’t quite fully grasp the concept of the kingdom even if they believe it is real.

Lord, thanks for valuing me.

Hopes and prayers for graduates

May 23rd, 2017 by Maureen

Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. Col. 1:9

This is the time of year that parents and teachers lead students to the launching pad called graduation and hope they are all ready to fly, intellectually, emotionally, practically, and spiritually. Some have developed deep relationship with the God who loves them. Some have yet to discover that He is at work in their lives. Some have been the objects of prayer from the time they were in the womb, and all of them have been the objects of God’s love and affection for their whole lives, whether they know it or not.  The joy and risk of launching them out is knowing that they will return home changed. And as they leave us we get to fill the space between us with prayers for all they will discover and become. We get to trust the God who loves them to have each of their journeys well in hand. We get to rejoice with them over the adventure ahead.

Lord, thank you so much for the hopes and dreams represented in these young lives.

Always growing

May 22nd, 2017 by Maureen

The Good news is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, just from the day you heard and understood the grace of God in truth,  it continues to bear fruit and grow in you. Col. 1:6

Do we spend too much time considering where we aren’t yet rather than rejoicing in where we are? Before a tree branch is filled with leaves there is a little nodule that looks like a little bump on the branch. It’s hard to imagine that leaves will spring from it. Before the nodule appears, the branch might even look dead, but growth is still happening inside that tree. Does the vision of where we think we should be in Christ obscure the beauty of where we are right now? Does God enjoy us throughout our journeys or only when we arrive?

Lord, thank you for the growth and fruit You are causing in each of us.

If the news is so good, why do you sound so mad?

May 21st, 2017 by Maureen

The time has been realized, and the reign of God approaches, change your mind, and believe in the good news. Mark 1:15

I woke up this morning to the sound of a voice that sounded angry. There was a preacher on TV in another room. I couldn’t see him but could imagine the tension in the stance, the facial expression, and the gestures that usually accompany such a vocal tone.  According to communications experts, body language makes up 55% of communication and vocal tone makes up 38%. The actual words only make up 7%. This is a well known statistic, but there is a caveat.  When the nonverbal doesn’t match the verbal message, this formula explains  what people respond to in trying to understand the message. Context is also important. Does the speaker expect the audience to disagree? Does the message require the speaker to be on the defense? So if a speaker delivers a message that should be fabulously good news to an audience they are supposed to love in an angry voice, what is that audience to make of it? How many people change their minds because someone is yelling at them?

Lord, maybe it’s just me, but please inspire those who share the good news to share it as if it is indeed good.

Greeky geek out about heaven

May 20th, 2017 by Maureen

Col. 1:4-5 says …for we have heard of your faith and Jesus Christ and the love you have for all the hagios (usually translated “saints” but also means holy, hallowed, pure, sanctified) because of the eplis (tr. hope. In Greek mythology Eplis is the personification of the spirit of hope, the only gift left for humankind in Pandora‘s box after she opens it.)  ho apokeimai (tr. laid up, reserved, stored) for you in ho ouranos (tr. heaven. Ouranos was the Greek god of the sky. Ouranos came to mean both the atmosphere, the regions we now call space, a physical place that is the seat of order of things eternal and perfect, and a spiritual realm. ) The article ho indicates singularity. This is a one-of-a-kind thing.

At the time Paul was writing and to the audience Paul was writing, the Colossians, the origins of these words and references would be abundantly clear. There is also causality in this statement. Faith and love are motivated by hope. The object of this hope seems to indicate that we can expect something we have not yet understood in a realm we have not yet experienced. That’s an exciting and comforting thought.

Thanks for the hope, Lord.

On finals and other measurement

May 19th, 2017 by Maureen

It is my earnest expectation and hope that I will in no way be put to shame but with complete boldness Christ will be exalted in me whether in life or death. Phil. 1:10

Engineer and businessman W. Edwards Deming coined the phrase, “you can expect what you inspect.” This is the reason teachers evaluate student learning and businesses have employee reviews. Following all the rules and not messing up does not demonstrate Christ revealed and exalted in us any more than regurgitation of information or perfect executing of basic skills demonstrates higher level thinking or creativity. If we focus on simply avoiding shame and embarrassment then we probably will manage to do that, perhaps only that. If we inspect the exalted Christ then we can expect to reflect His image. Here, the analogy breaks down. We don’t have to worry about measuring up because Christ is still the full measure. Loving and seeing Christ and noticing Christ revealed in others is not something that is truly measurable.

Lord, help me to look at You and long for You.

Life and death situation

May 18th, 2017 by Maureen

The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 1 Cor. 15:26

Nobody gets out of life alive and nobody escapes the pain of loss that death creates. That we still die does not indicate Jesus failed to defeat death with His resurrection. The Greek word “katargeō,” usually translated “destroyed,” also means “to deprive of force, influence, or power” and “to be severed from.” Jesus pulled all death’s teeth so that the best death can do is gum at us. Jesus severed us from the fear and finality of separation that give death it’s influence over our hearts and minds. Instead His force, influence, and power allow us to experience life, love, and hope even in the face of death.

Lord, as much as it hurts to be separated by death, help us to experience hope that deprives death of teeth.

“Quiet time.” I don’t think these words mean what you think they mean

May 15th, 2017 by Maureen

…for God, be silent O my soul, for from Him is my hope. Ps. 62:5

Our “quiet times” can seem anything but quiet. All the busyness and worry that consume our minds may simply turn into gut-wrenching prayers. Study time can get the wheels spinning rather than contributing to silence. We all need quiet times that remove us from our concerns and offer genuine quiet, stillness, peace, and rest. In this quiet we can feel deeply aware of and connected to Christ. In this quiet we might feel like we are breathing eternity in and out, like we are weightless in His love and grace. This kind of quiet time can make the rest of the day (including time we spend praying or studying) feel richer, more meaningful, more hopeful, more real.

Lord, thank you for refreshing my soul in the quiet.

Mother’s Day from this mother’s point of view

May 14th, 2017 by Maureen

May she who gave you birth be happy. O my son, give me your heart. May your eyes take delight in following my ways. Prov. 23:25-26

I am so happy to be the mother of each one of my grown-up children.
May they remember our journey through childhood together with delight.
May only the best of my influences carry over into the lives they carve out for themselves as adults.
May they follow whatever of my ways they find life-giving and helpful,
and forgive me for the ways that left them scarred…and may those scars be temporary and healed.
May we enjoy many more journeys together as adults.
May the ways I travel with their families be filled with new delights
and continually marked by love.
May they always be aware of my unconditional love for them.
And of their’s father’s love.
And of Your love.

Lord, thank you for this delight I call motherhood!

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.
 

Infinite love means never having to do the math

May 10th, 2017 by Maureen

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. Eph 3:18

Any direction we go, God’s love reaches us. However we may try to measure His love, or our worthiness of it, the answer is always “infinite.” We can put away our rulers, and stop worrying about whether we measure up. He loves us wider, longer, higher, and deeper than we can imagine.

Lord, thanks for Your love.

Don’t choose the box

May 9th, 2017 by Maureen

God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. I Cor. 12:6

Does an infinite God with infinite resources and infinite creativity manifest the same thing the same way in every individual’s life? In considering the infinite nature of God it is reasonable to assume that even the “width, depth, breadth, height” of God’s love might only express the human limits of experience.  If we consider our own personal experiences and perceptions to be the only possible model for everyone else, it’s likely we are creating a rigid, static box that can only accommodate very limited views and experiences with God. Will He be there with us in the box? Absolutely. But why limit our experiences with God, our potential for growth, and our relationships with others by staying in the box?

Thank you Lord for all that You are in all the people and all the ways I have yet to encounter You.

Pirates called Moth and Rust

May 8th, 2017 by Maureen

Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Matt.6:20

Hours and hours of stress and energy are spent figuring out how to hold on to the things we treasure. Fear of loss can prevent us from fully resting in God’s grace, fully trusting in God’s provision, and fully surrendering control over what we love to the Father who loves us. There is a false sense of control and possession in holding tight and worrying over the stuff that matters to us, as though our efforts are all that’s keeping our treasure from slipping away. In reality, God is the maker and provider of treasure – and the One who helps us determine what deserves to be called “treasure.” Our misplaced priorities and efforts are the moths and rust that steal the joy and benefit from having treasure.

Lord, thank you for helping me see the pearl in the wound and the diamond in the coal already on earth as it is in heaven.

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.

Unsearchable things outside the bubble

May 6th, 2017 by Maureen

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. Jer. 33:3

If all our encounters with God involve confirming what we already think we know and understand we are hardly going to experience great and unsearchable things. Perhaps these unsearchable things are unexpected, intense, relevant, God-inspired ideas floating outside the bubbles of our carefully curated personal perceptions. There are times when we are able to experience His mind with such clarity that it forever expands our perceptions and responses. We can’t make this happen; and it could be that expecting some kind of uber-biblical, super-spiritual, burning-bush, divine-dream diverts us from recognizing and engaging when encounters with the unsearchable present themselves. Sometimes His inspiration catches us in moments when we are discovering because we’ve allowed ourselves to genuinely engage. Sometimes simply being open and aware of connection with Him launches us into great and unsearchable things.

Lord, take me beyond my own limits.

Jesus is winning and so are you

May 4th, 2017 by Maureen

I thank you for answering my prayer and giving me victory!  Psalms 118:21

Some life experiences can feel as if we’re fighting our way through an unwinnable battle. When we feel afraid and trapped, God offers us comfort and freedom. When we feel overwhelmed and defeated, God helps us discover His very own wisdom and strength. When time is definitely not on our side, God holds eternity in His hand. When it feels like the fate of the universe hang in the balance – whether it’s the actual universe, the massive sum of all existence, or it’s just a piece of the universe that affects us personally – we can know that the present is also the past and the future for Him, so in every now,  even the ones we have yet to perceive, Christ is victorious over everything.

Lord, thanks for the win.