Monday, December 31, 2012


In worship yesterday, Joe's sermon was entitled Epilogue.  He talked about the time between -- the time between Christmas and the next Holiday.  The time between one thing that has happened, and the next one to happen.

Some of us rush from one event to the next, but he encouraged us to wait in the Epilogue -- in the time between. 

On Christmas morning, I was up before anyone else.  The house was quiet -- even the dog was still asleep.  Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.  I turned on the Christmas tree and all the lights in our village, and read.  I sat quietly for about 20 minutes reading, and then another 20 minutes, doing nothing.  It wasn't Epilogue, really -- it wasn't the time after, but it was an Intermission.  It was unplanned time to breath, enjoy, relax, listen to God. 

Joe seemed to think that Epilogue was a time of nothingness -- an empty time between.  I think Epilogue -- that space between -- is a time of something.  In that time of quiet, we do something very important.  We are still.  We listen.  We turn aside to see God.

Remember in Moses' experience with the burning bush?  He turned aside, and saw the bush.  There are times when we must turn aside from what demands our attention in order to see God at work. 

We are called to Epilogue.

Labels: ,

Friday, December 28, 2012

In Praise

The devotional I read this morning in Disciplines was centered around Psalm 148.  Have you read it lately?  It's a beautiful Psalm (read it here).

The author of the devotional says that each element of the Psalm is praising God by being whatever God had created it to be.  For instance, the stars are praising God by doing what stars do, the fruit trees by being fruit trees and the wild animals by being wild animals.

Have you thought of that before?  I'm not sure I ever have.  Have you considered that we praise God by being what God created us to be?  That we praise God by using creativity, if that is our gift from God; by teaching, if that is our gift; by singing, if that is our gift.  If we are kind or understanding or helpful, then using those characteristics (gifts from God) is a way to praise God.

Don't get me wrong -- if I am whining and grouching, I'm pretty sure those aren't gifts from God, and living those characteristics doesn't praise God.  But if I live into my potential, being the best me I can be, then I am praising God.

Go out today and use your gifts in praise of God. 

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Last night Steve and I went to see the movie The Hobbit.  Good movie.  Get comfortable; it's 3 hours long.  Peter Jackson doesn't know how to make a short movie.  And this is just 1/3 of the book.

Anyway, Gandolf finds a sword in a cave and give it to Bilbo.  The Hobbit replies that he doesn't know anything about using a sword.  Gandolf says, "True courage is not about knowing when to take a life but when to spare one."

It's probably rare that you or I have to decide if we are going to take a life or spare it, but expand the thought a little bit.  Think about the weapon we use all the time -- our words.  It is easy to cut someone with what we say.  Even if it doesn't physically kill them, it does kill something, each time we do it. 

Perhaps true courage could also be sparing people from the barbs of our words -- building them up instead of tearing them down.

There is alot of talk lately about 26 random acts of kindness.  Maybe some of mine and some of yours could be kind acts of speech.

Labels: ,

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mary's Song

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Svior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  Luke 1:46b-49

The verses above are from the Magnificat, Mary's song after agreeing to serve as the mother of the Christ. 

What does it mean to have a soul that magnifies the Lord?  I have a ruler in my desk drawer that will isolate and magnify a line of text on a spreadsheet.  It helps me to keep my place as I read numbers; it makes them bigger and easier to see; and it keeps me from looking at the wrong lines.  I wonder if magnifying the Lord is similar -- to magnify the Lord would be to make him more visible to those around us -- to make it hard to miss him.  It would mean that someone could see God through us.  Do we magnify the Lord?

And the next line -- her spirit rejoices in God her Savior.  She serves with joy.  She isn't grouchy or morose about it.  She could have been -- her life was now in danger, her reputation would be shot.  Nothing will be the same again, and yet she rejoices.  Do we rejoice in our service?

Mary sees what she is doing as a gift of grace from God, one that she doesn't deserve.  She doesn't believe he has chosen her because of her worthiness, but instead, in spite of her unworthiness.  Do we sometimes believe we deserve God's favor?  Do we see opportunities to serve God as gifts of grace?

It's a beautiful song,and it holds much for us to consider.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Steve told me yesterday that someone told him that his goal was to be needed but not seen.  That's really the opposite of what many of us strive for -- we want to be needed and we want our necessity to be obvious as well as our hard work.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.  He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. John 1:6-7
John was a witness.  He was needed but not the focus of what was to be seen.  He pointed to someone else.

We use a lot of technology in worship (and in other arenas).  It's purpose is not to be seen, but to instead point others to God.  When we see the technology, our eyes are taken off the goal -- the focus -- God.

How often does that apply in our lives?  How often are we to be the witness to something -- to God -- but not the focus?  Does that position set well with us? 

It's not about me.  It's about God.  And that's my calling.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What does the Lord Require?

There is a scripture from Micah that begins something like, "What does the Lord require of you..."

I think about the shootings in Connecticut, and I hear so many people talking about what needs to be done to prevent it in the future.  Most of what I hear is external.  "They need to..."

What does the Lord require of you?  And me?

Do you believe we live in a culture of violence?  What have you done to increase peace?  Have you forgiven a neighbor? 

Do you believe there is no justice?  What have you done to stand up for the oppressed and downtrodden?  What have you done to increase justice?

Do you believe God has been removed from schools?  What have you done to teach children about your faith?   What have you done to share the love of God with a child?

Do you believe we need to increase the availability of mental health care?  What have you done about it? 

Do you believe evil and hate are becoming more prevalent in society?  Do you shake your head in disbelief at what has happened?  What have you done to love more?  To share kindness? To show the world a different way of living?

What does the Lord require of you?

(Please don't read this as me pointing at you -- I point at myself, as well.)

Labels: , , ,

Monday, December 17, 2012

Comfort, O Comfort

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term...  Isaiah 40:1-2a.

In reading again from Gooder's book, The Meaning is the in the Waiting, I found her comments about this passage applicable to today, in the light of the tragedy on Friday.

She says that our modern translations miss part of the meaning.  This command is not one from God to the Prophet -- it is not singular.  It is plural.  "Is there anyone who will go out and comfort my people?"

It seems to me God is calling for people to comfort people. 

And not only that, Gooder says, but also that those words will speak to the heart of the people.  The words spoken will be transformational.  The words will convince those hearing them that God is there.  She says, "It will comfort their brokenness but also resonate truthfully, deep within them."

What words can we say?  What actions can we do?  What is our role to provide comfort to God's people?  What can we do that will convince people that the absolute, life-changing truth is that God is present?  God is present in what feels like exile -- what is exile? 

Labels: ,

Friday, December 14, 2012

Remember Me

I was listening to a story this morning on Public Radio about a man who has a rare form of amnesia.  At unpredictable moments in his life, he will loose his memory of the past, and have to start his life over.

His wife has committed to be there for him, even if he doesn't remember her.  This has happened in their lives together, and she helps him to start over.  She said, (and I'm paraphrasing, because I don't remember exactly what she said), "I worry that at some point this will happen, he won't remember me, and won't want to continue with our marriage.  I'll have to let him go."

He said, (paraphrasing again), "When I didn't remember who she was, I saw in her eyes that I could trust her.  I knew I was where I supposed to be.  I will always love her, even if I can't remember her."

I remember thinking, when my mother-in-law was battling Alzheimer's, what it would be like to not remember God.   As I think about it, and I think about who God is, I believe that even if she couldn't remember God, God would still not leave her alone.  We know God because God makes it so.  I imagine if we can't remember God, he still remembers us, and he works within us so that we can see his eyes, know that we can trust him, and always love him, as we are always loved.

God wouldn't have it any other way.

For those interested, the StoryCorps episode on Public Radio that I reference above can be found here.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Back Story

One of the decorations we put up for Christmas (sometimes) is a hand painted Village.  This year, our village has a "back story."

If you click on the image, and look in the lower left hand corner, traveling along the road are three small figures -- they are Mary, Joseph and a donkey.  Each day, they move down the road.  My son says they are stopping at each building to see if there is room for them.  There is a shepherd and sheep on another end of town, moving toward the center, and three wise men, coming from another point.  There is even a lone cow, near the church, moving each day toward the center.

Jesus, thanks to our son, is inside the first building on the left, which is a movie theater.   He's in there watching a movie, waiting to make his appearance on Christmas Day.

The Nativity story, acted out in tiny figurines, in a small, quiet town.

I love that our son thought of it, and that he's moving the figures each day.  I think there is an application to what he is doing to our own lives.  We're moving toward Christmas, waiting.  Mary and Joseph, strangers from outside of town, are trying to find a place to go.  They'll end up homeless, in the park, on Christmas Eve, and Jesus will arrive.

Are we waiting for a day of gift-giving, or are we waiting, watching, for Jesus to appear, so that we can go where he is?

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Modern Prophecy

Inspired by Isaiah 11:6-9

The wolf shall live
with the lamb.
The homeless shall find a place to sleep,
the vulnerable shall be secure,
and no one will
know violence.
The bully, the nerd and the popular kid,
shall sit together,
and faith shall unite them.

The black man and the white man
shall share a meal,
share a city,
share a world,
without distrust or prejudice.

The woman shall stand for justice,
find her voice,
preach God's word,
without worry of being out of place.

The young child shall walk to school,
come home from school,
sleep in his own bed,
without fear of harm or pain.
He shall not experience hunger or humilation,
and he shall not cry out in desperate want,

No one shall hurt or destroy
on all of my Holy earth.
Everyone shall have full knowledge
of the Lord,
as waters cover the sea.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


In the devotional I read today, written by Candace Lewis and published in Disciplines, the author talks about a village in Ghana, West Africa.  The well the village used for water was damaged, so they dug deeper, in the same well, to find another water supply.  They were able to accomplish their task, and clean water sprung up from the well, amid praises to God.

What will we find if we dig deeper?  What live-giving water will spring forth?

I've been thinking alot about peace lately.  At last week's Advent luncheon at St. Marks, where my office is located, Janet talked about God's peace.  It made me ask, "What is peace?"  We all want peace of mind, peace and quiet, a peaceful Christmas -- but what does that mean?  I don't think it's the same as God's peace.

She said God is the only one who can give peace.  It's a gift, I imagine, like grace is a gift?  But what does it mean? 

God certainly doesn't leave us at peace -- he nags and prods, pushing and pulling us until we get up and follow. 

Perhaps God's peace is found in the stillness.  Be still, and know that I am God.  Does peace lie here?  Does the knowledge of the presence of God bring us peace?  Grant us peace?

Don't read this and think, "Wow, what's going on with her that she is looking so hard for peace?"  I feel at peace, but I'm just digging deeper to understand it better.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Rejoice! Sing!

Zephaniah 3:14-20

Rejoice!  Sing! 
Shout with gladness!
Understand how God has turned your world
your future,
your lives upsidedown!

The Lord has taken away
all judgements against you.
He has freed you from your sin.
He has turned away everything
that could harm your living.

The Creator of the Universe
stands with you,
among you.
Stop being afraid.
Stop being weak.
Your strength and your courage
come from God,
and he has brought you victory.

Your God rejoices over you.
He takes pleasure in your life.
He is glad you exist.
God's love renews your living,
and brings you life eternal.
Listen?  Can you hear him?
God is singing over you.

Can you hear God's voice?
He is telling you what he has done.
He has removed disaster from you.
He has erased your guilt.
He will protect you, as a parent protects a child.
God will save you when you are weak,
gather you in when you are outcast,
and he will change your shame into praise.

Rejoice!  Sing!
God will bring you home,
and he will return you to being
a beloved Child of God.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Advent 2 Lectionary Resources

Call To Worship -- Luke 1:68-79

Leader:  Blessed be the Lord God of Israel for God sees us and loves us.
People:  He has raised up a savior to redeem us.
Leader:  May we serve and worship him, without fear, and in holiness and righteousness.
People:  So that he can bring light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death
All:  And guide our feet into the way of peace.

Collect -- Malachi 3:1-4
God of the refiner's fire, who transforms us from sinful creatures to whom we might become, cleanse us and change us so that we are able to reflect your light into a dark world, through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Prayer of preparation for the worship leader (to be used in meditation by worship leader prior to worship) -- Philippians 1:3-11

Creating, redeeming, sustaining God, prepare me to lead your worship in this place.  I bring you thanksgiving for the people who will gather in your sanctuary.  I thank you every time I remember them; they bring joy to my prayers.  I am confident in this -- that you, who began a good work in them, will bring it to completion in Jesus Christ.  Remind me of this assurance.  Help it to inhabit the work I do for you today, so that I may be a part of what you are doing through these people.

I pray they might hold me in their hearts, forgiving my mistakes, hearing your word through my incomplete and imperfect leadership.  Make it obvious to me and to them that we all share in your grace, in our freedoms and in our burdens. 

Create in me a clean heart, so that my love for them is obvious to them, and so that your love for them overflows through me.  May grace abound in them so that in Christ Jesus they may be pure and blameless and so that all of us today may produce a work for you that yields a harvest of righteousness and peace.

May our worship today echo in glory and praise of you, O God, and may it be pleasing in your sight.

In your son's name I pray, Amen.

Benediction -- Luke 3:1-6

Go forth from this place blessed by God and as one who prepares the way for the Lord.
Go forth from this place with the knowledge that God goes before you, filling every valley with God's grace.
Go forth from this place with the assurance that God will level your path, bringing the mountains low, making the paths straight and the rough ways smooth so that you can continue in your work in God's kingdom. 
Go forth from this place as a light for all people so that we will all see the salvation of God together.  Amen.

Labels: , ,

Friday, December 07, 2012


Still reading The Meaning is in the Waiting.  Today I read about Sarah laughing when God told her (once again) that she would have a son.  I've always thought her laughter was natural and expected.  Who wouldn't laugh?  I hadn't noticed what Gooder points out -- that part of the laughter is cynical.  Sarah has been told that she will have a son before, and she has been waiting and waiting and waiting.  Who can blame her cynicism?

Later, when confronted about the laughter, she denied it.  God pressed her to admit to the laughter:  "Oh, yes, you did laugh" (Genesis 18:15).  He wants her to claim everything the laughter meant -- the disbelief, the hope, the cynicism.  In claiming those emotions, she would be able to recognize the pure joy of the birth of Isaac -- whose name means laughter in Hebrew.

What emotions do we ignore?  What experiences would God have us claim so that we would recognize the transformation God will bring?

We were talking in our staff retreat today (among other things) about harvesting loss.  God brings goodness out of loss.  What fruit can you harvest from loss?  Can you at least claim the loss so that God can bring goodness from it?

The transformation of Sarah's cynicism to joy didn't shorten her wait.  It didn't erase the years of hoping and impatience.  The good doesn't make the bad go away, but God can do what we think might be impossible, and bring joy.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 06, 2012


For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.  Ephesians 2:14

When our son Joshua was born, we sort of already had his name picked out.  He had difficulties at birth, wasn't breathing, was actually a plum color.  His shoulder had gotten "stuck." 

He improved quickly, turning a nice, healthy pink and crying as babies do.  Later we found out that the problems had resulted in an injury to his right shoulder, creating nerve damage and torn muscles.  He still has issues with it today.

We named him Joshua because we liked the name, but this story is about more than that, and his name becomes important.

James Moore, in his book Christmas Gifts that Won't Break reminds us that the name Jesus means "savior" or "the lord's helper," but also that Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua.  Remember Joshua in the Hebrew Bible?  Joshua led the people into the promised land.  He led them to the town of Jericho, where the walls came down.  Joshua was a wallbreakers.

Jesus was a wallbreaker.  He broke down the walls between us and God.  He broke the walls down between each of us.  He broke down the walls between our expectations of what each of us should do and what God plans for us to do.  He broke down the walls between races, genders, classes, ages, economic standing.  He broke down all the walls -- and he still does.

Our Joshua is a wallbreaker.  Even with his arm injury, he does what he wants to do.  He breaks down the walls between what we might think he can do and what he WILL do.  He is aptly named.

Will we be wallbreakers?  We will tear down what separates us from each other and from God?  Blow your horn, rely on your God.  Tear down the walls.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Not Waiting

I'm sitting in my office.  Next door, one of my co-workers is waiting on hold for a technical person to help her with a computer problem.  Waiting.  We do it all the time, in so many different circumstances.  There are times when I enjoy waiting. It can be a period of stolen moments to use as a precious commodity - to read or knit.  To relax. 

That patience with waiting is removed when there is a pressure to accomplish something or be somewhere else.  Saturday, I had 30 minutes to run an errand before I picked up Josh from a piano "thing" he was doing.  I spent much of the time waiting in line.  Much more waiting, and I would have been very late (I was 4 minutes late to pick him up). 

Another person waiting kept moving from line to line, trying to find the shortest one, saying she needed to be at the funeral home and then downtown by 2:00.  What I noticed about her was that if she had stayed where she started, she would have finished much sooner.  Our impatience in waiting, and our attempts to circumvent the waiting can have negative consequences.

So it was with Sarah and Abraham.  Sarah became impatient with the waiting and told Abraham to "go into her slave girl" so that she could have children through Hagar.  The consequences were not what Sarai and Abram had planned.  If God had not intervened, Hagar and Ishmael would have suffered much more than they did from Sarai's frustration.

Waiting for the Lord sometimes means releasing the need to solve the problem in our own way in our own time.  Our impatience can result in negative consequences that neither we nor God intend. 

How do we know when God is calling us to action and when our own impatience and need for control are subverting his call?  Good question.  How do we know?

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


Walmart flowers on my desk. 
They are sprayed red, and I think that is so strange.
He went into all the region around the Jordon, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Luke 3:3

According to the devotional I read today, John proclaimed the repentance for the forgiveness of sins as a means of preparing the way for the Lord.

And why would we prepare the way for the Lord?  So that the world can be changed?  So that we can fulfill God's mission?  Yes, to all of those.  God will and does transform the world.

It is, in fact, the mission of the United Methodist Church -- to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. 

When you read that, does it sound like something that we need to do for someone else?  Make someone a disciple?  Change the world?  Is there anything in that mission about the need for us to seek forgiveness?

What does one have to do with the other?

Could it be that the transformation of the world begins with you and me?  Could it be (and I think it is) that God's goal is to transform the world through us?  Through each of us?  And that for that to happen, we first need to repent so that we ourselves can be transformed?

I think repentance and forgiveness is a way God removes the barriers that come between God and each of us, and between each of us and each other.

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

Labels: ,

Monday, December 03, 2012

Go, and Come

Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.  Genesis 12:1
Paula Gooder, in The Meaning is in the Waiting says that the translation of the word go in the above verse brings problems.  This word go can mean go, if you are standing with someone, or it can mean come, if you are far away from someone.

I actually like the contrast.

We are told to Go.  Imagine the benediction of a worship service, with the one leading worship standing with us, in front us of, and relating God's word to us to Go into the world.  I can imagine God standing with us, giving us directions.

I can also see that when we are far away from God, he calls to us, and tell us to come.  There are times when we hear a call, as if from far away, and we know it is God giving us directions, giving us leadership.  Come, come to where I am and do what I am doing.

For a God whose kingdom is now and not yet, whose son died but is alive, a command to both go and come seems reasonable, and even just right.

Labels: ,

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Pre-Advent Devotional

Isaiah 30:18: Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.

This is a devotional I wrote for our JM Devotional Ministry, cross-posted here.

This morning I picked up a book by Paula Gooder called The Meaning is in the Waiting. I haven’t started the book itself yet, but I did read the forward by Lauren F. Winner. She says this:

We are told, by advertisements and by our Blackberries, to squeeze time dry, to use it well, to maximize it. The church tells us a different story about it (time) -- it is God’s and there is enough of it, more than enough. The church’s narrative about time is never clearer than during Advent, when we are invited to spend our time very foolishly indeed. We are invited to wait. Just to wait.

Take a breath. Take some time. Waste it. Waste it during a season when everything around you demands that you make the most of your time. Wait on God.

Lauren Winner tells us that something amazing happens when we do. We find that God is waiting on us. The image that came to my mind was of a parent waiting up at night for a teenager to come home. God is waiting for us. “The Lord waits to be gracious to you.”

I find myself in a time that feels like limbo. Thanksgiving has come and gone; Advent has yet to come. We are waiting to begin waiting. My devotional challenge to you this week is to give some thought to Advent. What will you do as you wait for God? How will you prepare yourself to begin?

My commitment this Advent is to find some quiet time each day for devotionals and prayer. I commit to more spiritual reading during this month. Our pastor this Sunday said that “we belong to the Truth.” I want to draw closer to the Truth during this time of waiting, and I am going to be intentional about it.

It is God’s time, and there is enough of it. Do what seems wasteful, and wait for God.


Creator God, who stretches a hand across the heavens and spreads the stars in the sky,
meet us in our waiting.
Loving Son, who came and comes and will come,
come today and meet us in our waiting.
Abiding Spirit, who waits with us,
speak to us in our waiting.
Loving God, grant us the courage to wait for you
and the grace to realize you wait for us.

Labels: ,