Monday, September 29, 2014

Where are you from?

Where are you from?

Washington DC and Annandale
Carol and George
     Lillian and Bill
     Lucille and George
Divorced parents and a single mom
Huntington and Garden Farms
Not attending church
     Sometimes attending church
          An invitation from a friend
     Always attending church
Presbyterian (Lutheran) and United Methodist
     Where I stayed
UMYF, tour groups and Sunday school
Marshall University, twice
Steve - moving from me, to us
     to mother of two
     Grant and Josh
Ecology and aquatic entymology
     Medical research in diabetes and Vitamin A
A Walk to Emmaus
A sleepless night
Foundation and full time ministry

I'm from joy and a growing relationship with God.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Taking God with me

In 2 Kings 5, after Namaan is healed, he returns to see Elisha again.  Interesting that this time Elisha comes out to talk to him.  Namaan says, "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; please accept a present form your servant." (verse 15).

When my cousin was a young child, his parents explained to him that God was everywhere - not just in Church.  So one evening, their family went to a drive in movie (remember those? - I miss those).  When they got there, Alex rolled down the window and yelled, "Hey, God, we're here!"

Namaan didn't understand that God was everywhere, so he asks for two mule loads of earth to take with him to his home so that he would have God with him.  We (I) giggle at that, but do we do that?  Do we try to control where God is and what God sees?  Do we fail to confess our sins in an attempt to not tell them to God?  I always disliked the verse of Psalm 139 that says, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.  See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting" (Verse 23-24).  Someone once asked me, "What would you do if Jesus asked to come to your house?"  I would ask him to wait an hour so that I could go clean it.

We don't control where God goes or what God knows.  He goes everywhere and knows our "inward parts."  I know we know that; I know I know that, but do I really know that?

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Monday, September 15, 2014

The role of the servant

Are we tired of the story of Namaan yet? I love this story, with all its layers and happenings.

When we last left Namaan, he had been told, by a messenger, to go wash seven times in the Jordon.  He goes on and on about how the rivers in his home are so much better than the rivers in Israel.  He is disappointed that Elisha didn't come out and wave a hand over him to heal him.

His servants approach him and ask, "Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, 'Wash, and be clean."? (verse 13b).  Interesting that the writer doesn't record a verbal response from Namaan at all.  Namaan goes and does what Elisha commanded, and Namaan is healed.

I don't know the relationship between Namaan and his servants.  Was it hard for them to step forward and confront this angry general?  Or was there relationship more open, and words such as this more acceptable and even expected?

Do you have friends who will point out where you go wrong in your spiritual life?  Do you have someone who would say to you, "Why are you so angry?"  or "Why are you making this so difficult?" or "Have you considered that you might be wrong?"  Are you open to friends who hold you accountable?

And are you willing to be that kind of friend to someone else?  Will you risk the other person's anger or rejection of your thoughts?  Are you open to the idea that your suggestions might be wrong?  The accountability friend isn't a "fixer;" he is a mirror of thoughts - a reflection of God's leading in the person's life back into their eyes.  That's a lot harder than being the person who just shares an opinion, because it means removing all personal motivation, and placing the other person's well being ahead of your own.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

It's not who you are

Continuing on with the story of Namaan, we left him standing outside of Elisha's house, waiting for the prophet to come out and see him.  What does Elisha do?  He sends out a messenger to tell Namaan, "Go, wash in the Jordan seven time, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean." (verse 10).

Instead of being grateful for this, Namaan is insulted!  How dare this lowly prophet not come out and see him in person?  How dare he give him such a mundane task to bring healing.  Namaan is much better than this!

Do we think too highly of ourselves?  Do we have expectations of what we think is fair, or even more, what we believe we deserve from God? From other people? Does our pride and our sense of self-worth sometimes stand as a barrier between us and God?  Between us and other people?

I wonder if that is one of the reasons the Bible tells us that God can reach us better in our weakness than in our strength, and that in our weakness, God becomes our strength?

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's not what you bring...

Next in the story of Nahaam, beginning with verse 9, Nahaam goes to see Elisha. He goes to what I picture as a small, unassuming home with horses and chariots and all of his accompanying paraphernalia.  Can't you just picture it?  He is bringing all that he considers wealth, all that he sees as status, and he appears at Elisha's doorstep, expecting a cure.

Many years ago, my grandmother was ill.  I remember my grandfather telling us that he had made a bargain with God.  He would quit smoking if God would heal my grandfather.  She did get better, and he did stop smoking, but I never really thought that God was part of the deal.  Grace is free, and I believe God wanted my grandmother to be whole and healthy, EVEN MORE than my grandfather did, which is unimaginable.  I'm glad he gave up smoking, and God probably was, too, but it wasn't a bargaining chip.

As silly as Nahaam looked coming to Elisha's house with his riches is how we look, coming to God, expecting to bargain for grace - expecting to make a trade for healing.  Grace has already been given to us, and healing will come - be it physical or not - if we will allow it.  I just don't believe that God picks and choose who will receive a miracle based on what we bring.  Do you?

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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Where do we go?

Namaan's story goes on in 2 Kings 5.  He goes to the King of Aram and tells him what the young girl had said.  And the king of Aram said, "Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel."  (verse 5).

Namaan goes to the king of Israel with the letter, and with gold, silver and clothing - customary gifts for a king.  The King of Israel doesn't know what to do - he can't heal the man, and he thinks this is all a prelude to war.  Elisha, the prophet, hears of what is going on, and sends a message to the king, "Why have you torn your clothes?   Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel."  (verse 8b).

Who do we go to instead of God?  Who do we place in God's place?  Where do we go, assuming that we will find healing and wholeness when all along God is waiting for us?

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Monday, September 08, 2014

The Servant Girl

Jack's sermon yesterday was based on 2 Kings 5 - the story of Namaan.  If you haven't read it, take a look at it.  It's an interesting story, and I think it offers us much to consider.  My plan is to look at several aspects of the story over the next few days.

First, consider the young servant girl in the story. Namaan is a general in the Aram army.  He is much favored by the King of Aram (which is currently Syria) because he (Namaan) led the army to a great victory over Israel.  During this war, the young girl is taken from Israel and is made the servant of Namaan's wife.  Namaan suffers from a skin disease, and the servant girl said, "If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria.  He would cure him of his leprosy."  (verse 3).

People say the Old Testament is without grace, but I think this story of this young girl is full of grace.  She has been abducted from her home and made to become a slave.  Would you be willing to offer God to your abductor?  She was.  We don't even know her name, but she stands as an example of someone who loved her enemy.

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Friday, September 05, 2014

Pray Without Ceasing?

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Pray without ceasing?  What on earth does that mean?  It's hard enough to find time to pray; I'm supposed to pray ALL THE TIME?!  I've heard people say that they "pray without ceasing," but I never really believe them.

So what does it mean to you?

A woman told me a story once about a visit she made to the hospital.  She was sitting in the waiting room, with other members of her family.  I'm sure you've had those times, trying to be patient while you are waiting for news about your loved one who is ill or injured.  While they waited, one of the family members asked this woman to pray.  Later, they told her that she hadn't done it right.  She needed to use more eloquent words - more elaborate syntax.  It was a long time before she would pray in public again.

Do we have preconceived notions about what prayer is?  Must it be "just right?"  Is prayer only those times when you talk to God, in sentences and paragraphs -- explaining to God your needs and wants, and hoping God provides?

Yesterday, I wrote about other kinds of prayer.  Do you think I'm right?

For me, sometimes the best, most productive prayer is those times when I'm not speaking to God. Sometimes, I hear God best when I listen.  And that is prayer.  I wish I could say that I did it without ceasing, but I think we could all open our minds and our hearts more often to hear God speak.

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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Is it prayer?

What is prayer?  I think sometimes we are stuck in the idea that prayer is when we stop and intentionally "say prayers."  Don't get me wrong; that certainly is prayer, and it is one that we need to nurture.  But I don't think it is the only prayer we can experience.

I got a call late one night earlier this week that a friend's mother had died.  I went to bed thinking about that - it was sudden and unexpected: shocking.  I prayed, but it felt inadequate.  I couldn't go to sleep.  I'm a card maker, and as I tried to sleep, an idea for a card formed in my mind.  It was the middle of the night, but I got up, and made the card for my friends.  The time creating the card felt much more like prayer to me than the normal, "Dear God..." prayer time.

I have felt the same as I knit, or as I walk in the park or as I drive and plan a sermon, or as I write a sermon, or as I write a blog post, or even as I bake bread.  Not all the time, of course, but actions in our lives can be holy moments of prayer.  We should never limit God, and what we perceive as God's actions.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

What difference does it make?

What difference does prevenient grace make in our lives?  What difference does it make that God pursues us - that God prepares the way for us?

In our lives we are used to the idea that we make our own way.  We might prepare ourselves for a task by doing some research or even seeking training to be more prepared.  We make reservations at hotels before we travel and sometimes before we go out to eat, all in preparation for our arrival.

What does it mean that God prepares us and prepares the way?

God knows us before we know God.  We don't have to find God; God finds us.  We come to know God because God opens the eyes of our lives and builds our faith.  Without prevenient grace, we would not have faith in God.

The Mayor of Huntington has asked community churches to join together in prayer next Sunday, seeking solutions from God for our city's drug problems.  I went to the early service at a different church this past Sunday, and the pastor preached about prayer - what it is and what we are doing when we pray.  And then he asked the congregation to be in prayer during the week in preparation for worship and and prayer next Sunday.  God will prepare the members of the congregation so that they are ready to pray.

That's grace, and it makes a world of difference.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hide and Seek

Do  you pay attention to the Children's Moment in worship?  It's always more interesting when the children have a conversation with the person who is leading worship.  Sometimes, it's fun to watch the worship leader struggle to keep on topic while the kids tell him their stories.  Other times, what the kids say is incredibly theologically wonderful, and in it is the gem of the lesson.
 
I was listening to the Children's moment in worship the other day. The lesson was about Psalm 139.
Where can I go from your spirit?
   Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
   if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
   and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
   and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
   and the light around me become night’,
even the darkness is not dark to you;
   the night is as bright as the day,
   for darkness is as light to you.
(vs 7-12)
Can we play hide and seek with God?  One little girl said that if we try, we will find that God always knows where we are.  In fact, she said, God is there before us.

That's a great definition of prevenient grace from a 9 year old.   We should all remember her wisdom.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Self-examination

I've never sold a house, but I imagine, when the time comes, you inspect your house.  You discover where the flaws are - where you might need to do a repair or an improvement, and then you start working to fix the problems.

Do we sometimes need to do the same things for our spiritual life?  Do we need to step back and do an inventory?  List our problems and confess them to God, so that God can repair us?

What is the benefit of confession?

  • Is it one way that we can be rid of the idea that there is nothing wrong with us?  Are we sometimes blind to our sins?  Can self examination and confession open our eyes to our own problems?
  • Does confession make us more grace-filled toward others' issues, and less judgmental?
  • Could it be that by discovering our issues that we open ourselves up for improvement?  Transformation that wouldn't happen otherwise?
  • Does confession offer healing? I've seen people who are so convinced of their flaws that a sense of unworthiness stops them from opening themselves up to their capabilities.  Is confession to God incomplete without acceptance of forgiveness and openness to transformation?  I think we need to remember that God meets confession with grace and love - and with healing.


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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Give Thanks

I mentioned last week that I spent some time in prayer after communion just thanking God for all of the wonderfulness in my life. It's am amazing practice, because thanksgiving builds a way of looking at the world.

Kalas, in the book I am reading, asks, "Why express your gratitude to other people?"  He answers the questions, and here are my answers (some of which are the same as his):

  • We are called to spread light.  Remember yesterday when I quoted the idea that gratitude is love with a memory?  Sharing gratitude for a service given is sharing love, and that is light.  We do it because we are called to do it.
  • What if the other person doesn't seem to care about our words of thanks?  First of all, you don't really know what effect your words and actions will have on another person.  Secondly....
  • Being grateful transforms who you are.  When we are grateful, we see more for which to be grateful.  
  • And to put it bluntly, life needs more grace from you and me that it needs silence, or even grumbling.  


So give thanks.  Kalas, in the first half hour of each day, lists those things from the previous day, for which he is thankful.  I've done that for periods of time.  It's helpful to me to have a "rule" to list at least three. Specifically.  I can look at the blank sheet of paper, and think, "Yesterday was terrible; there is nothing to be grateful for."  But if I must list three, I can find them.


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Monday, August 18, 2014

Gratitude

I really do have some new pictures to show you; I just need to spend some quality time with my laptop computer first.  Anyway...

I just started a book I've had on my shelf for a while called I bought a House on Gratitude Street by J. Ellsworth Kalas.  I think I'll write today's posts with just a few one liners from what I've read so far (Introduction and half of Chapter 1).  Maybe some of these will be future posts; maybe they will only serve as springboards for your own thoughts:

  • Gratitude is love applied...gratitude is love with a memory.
  • If you insist on holding on to the conviction that you're a self-made person, you'll never buy property of Gratitude Street.
  • When we rise above deprivation, it can easily make us small and mean inside...
  • Gratitude that is not expressed is meaningless.  Gratitude is not complete if it is simply a feeling within one's bosom.  Unfortunately, however, we often leave gratitude in that unfinished state.  That is because gratitude is such a warm and fuzzy feeling that we think the feeling is the essence of gratitude when in truth the feeling is just the beginning.


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