Scripture: Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
For everything there is a season, cialis and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted…
Thought for the Day: Today is that strange day on our calendar that won’t appear next year or even the next. It is, of course, leap day. One of the most troubling occurrences of this infrequent date was 1960. It was the debut of the cartoon, Family Circus. Like many of you, I always loved Family Circus. It was an event that would give rise to many smiles in the decades that followed. Now that doesn’t sound troubling at all, but on that same day in 1960, an earthquake hit Morocco that killed more than 12,000 people. It was an event that would cause tremendous grief and heartache in the decades that followed. I find it hard to fathom how two such different events could have occurred within the same 24-hour period, yet maybe it’s not all that unusual or infrequent. In fact, it may be more common than one might initially think. The author of Ecclesiastes seems to suggest a rather orderly movement from one time of life to another, but I perceive that most people find such diverse happenings overlapping or even occurring concurrently. I had a parishioner years ago whose first child was being born on one floor in the hospital while his mother was dying on another floor of the same hospital. He asked, “How do you do both?” I didn’t have a very profound answer at the time, but later he was able to reflect on how life is rarely an either/or, but a rich diversity of emotions and experiences running simultaneously. I’ve got to think that being grounded in God helps us navigate and discover meaning amidst this patchwork of life.
Prayer: Amazing and Grace-filled God, no matter how well I attempt to structure my life, I find it to be messier and more complicated than I’d like. Continue to provide me with your companionship as I navigate the full range of human experiences… even when they seem to converge in one moment of time. Amen.
This is an article every church pastor and church leader should spend time wrestling and arguing with…
Thanks to Tim Suttle for writing: How to Shrink Your Church.
Scripture: Proverbs 15:17
Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it.
Thought for the Day: Vegetarians respond to this scripture by saying, find “Well dah!” I am a vegetarian wannabe, click but I am pretty sure this was not an early commercial for the Jerusalem Chapter of Vegans United. As I reflect on this piece of proverbial wisdom, there are two simple questions that come to mind: First, what would you be willing to sacrifice for the sake of love? And second, if you did sacrifice it for the sake of love, would it actually be a sacrifice since the love you received is in fact much more valuable than what you supposedly sacrificed?
Prayer: O God of Mercy, provide me the strength to relinquish my tight fear-induced grip on the unnecessary so I can take hold of your love that will ultimately take hold of me. Amen.
Scripture: Romans 15:2
Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor.
Thought for the Day: The other day as Donna and I were cleaning-up around the old house, sale we received a good-bye gift. Nancy, one of our neighbors, brought us a recipe book with contributions from those who live along our street. This was just another example of how those on Freeport Lane made our lives a little bit better. We have all heard the nightmare scenarios when a neighbor is less than pleasant. Some of you may have lived it. I must confess that I have only been blessed by my neighbors, or as the Apostle Paul puts it, ‘raised up’ (the word pleased in the original Greek comes from the verb to raise up) by their kindness and generosity. In this case, their gracious gift will continue to bless as we make and consume delicious food, but also through the memories those recipes will evoke. Though the neighbor in Robert Frost’s poem believes “Good fences make good neighbors,” I believe a good sidewalk where people are out walking and conversing is one of the contributing factors to making good neighbors and good neighborhoods. How blessed we were to find such a neighborhood!
Prayer: Holy and Merciful God, I give you thanks for all those who take seriously the task of building up their neighbor and their neighborhood. May the small acts of community-building between neighbors lead to community-building on a much larger scale. Amen.
Scripture: Matthew 5:48
Be perfect, buy therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Thought for the Day: My son Zach and I were driving home the other day. He had some of his Legos in the back seat with him. Suddenly he held up a Lego figure and said, “Dad, this Lego woman wanted a spouse, but she couldn’t find a good one. So she decided to build one herself.” “Really,” I said, “I’m glad human beings can’t build their perfect spouse. If they could, I would have had a hard time getting your mother to marry me.” To which Zach responded, “Yep! You wouldn’t have had a chance.” Too often we think that our imperfections keep us from being the perfect spouse, the perfect friend, the perfect neighbor, the perfect child, the perfect Christian. I could understand why a person might think that to be true, but our imperfections don’t necessary interfere with our ability to enter into amazing relationships.
As I am preparing to perform a couple’s wedding, I have them do a Pre-Marriage Inventory. It’s an assessment tool that assists couples in their relationship skills. There is a question that asks:
My future spouse has:
1. No irritating habits or idiosyncrasies;
2. A few irritating habits or idiosyncrasies;
3. Numerous irritating habits or idiosyncrasies.
A few questions later, it asks:
True or False–We are a perfect match.
I appreciate couples who respond honestly to the first question by saying their future spouse has some or many irritating habits or idiosyncrasies, but they also say this person is their perfect match. None of us will ever measure up to the culture’s definition of perfection, but the good news is that God still sees goodness and beauty within each of us…traits that make us a perfect gift in the lives of others.
Prayer: Lord God, I need a reminder. I need to be reminded that I am good and valuable in your sight. Thanks! Amen.
Scripture: John 17:18
[Jesus said,] As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
Thought for the Day: I was listening to the Christian Radio Station the other day, and doing a little head-nod to the beat of a song I hadn’t heard before. The tune was catchy, and I was enjoying it so much that I almost ignored the words. But suddenly I was yanked from my groove by a line in the song. I was certain I had misunderstood it, but as soon as I returned to the office, I Googled the lyrics and discovered what I heard was correct. The song is “Where I Belong” by Building 429 (yes, that’s the name of the group). The chorus says,
All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong
On the surface, it sounds rather innocent. And I have often said we as Christians have our citizenship in another Kingdom. Yet the line, “Take this world and give me Jesus, This is not where I belong” is an escapist theology that has little basis in scripture. We may claim a heavenly address (or whatever metaphor you wish to use), but to say we do not belong here is to reject the very message of Jesus. Incarnation, the divine being manifest in human form, is the example set forth by God. We do not run away from the world, but fully engage it as resident aliens (using the language of Hauerwas and Willimon) for the purpose of transforming it unto God. Too many people toss-up their arms and say, “To hell with this world, give me Jesus!” But if they want Jesus, the only place they will find him is in this world, revealed within the Body of Christ, as he engages in the work of transformation.
Prayer: Loving God, when I am overwhelmed and find myself looking for an escape, call me back to the mission of Jesus that firmly exists in this world and in this moment. Amen.
Scripture: John 11:9
Jesus answered, search “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, help because they see the light of this world.
Thought for the Day: You may begin to see a theme in my devotionals, doctor but the move to the apartment has been a major focus as of late. One of the new found difficulties is finding my way around the apartment in the dark. At the old house, I could move quite well early in the morning without turning on a light. I had come to know the distance to the bathroom or bedroom door. As long as a shoe had not been left along the pathway, or worse, a lego piece (those hurt on a barefoot), I could get up early to go to the gym without disturbing Donna too much. But when the path is unknown and potential obstacles are many, darkness is bad news. As I see it, Jesus offers some practical advice: Don’t walk in darkness. I guess that means don’t walk too far from the One who is the source of light, and of course, look out for the legos no matter what. They hurt whether it is dark or light.
Prayer: Be my Light, be my Guide, be my Patient Friend as you lure me out of the darkness. Amen.
Scripture: 2nd Thessalonians 3:16
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you.
Thought for the Day: We have officially moved into our apartment. I am surprised at how well things are fitting without having an attic and losing about 400 sqft, seek but a lot of stuff that needed to go to Goodwill has gone to Goodwill. The interesting part has been at night. It’s funny how a new setting with unexpected creaks, help unexplained buzzes and an occasional ‘ping’ can make sleeping a little rough. In three nights, pharmacy I have gotten out of bed, wandered the house, looked in Zach’s room, checked the hot water heater, verified that all the doors were locked, and returned to bed with no explanation for the sound that had awakened me. Though I’m guessing in another three weeks or so, I will be sleeping well as those unexplained sounds become the norm. A lot of life is about finding a new normal after a change. It might be something as insignificant as moving a short distance or an event as traumatic as the death of a loved one. The new normal will probably not resemble what life looked like before the change, and that can be very hard to accept. The Good News for us is how the Divine Presence gives us peace “at all times and in all ways.” To me, that suggests how God brings the gift of peace, but does so with special attention to the unique circumstances of life. Too often we attempt to find that normal ourselves, but do so by searching for a past normal that will never return. God understands the grief and fears associated with change, but we must trust that God’s gift of peace will come at all times and in all ways…giving us a new normal.
Prayer: Lord God, I love you and I am working to grow in my trust of your amazing and grace-filled presence. When dramatic events occur, and what was will be no more, help me to believe in your ability to provide a new peaceful balance. Amen.