Saturday, February 28, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Saturday, February 28

Day 10

Today's Psalm tells us to rely only on God for our protection. Which means, not relying on ourselves, not relying on the world, not relying on what the world relies on for protection.

In a world where self-reliance is so highly prized and where wealth is considered the ultimate solution to all problems, this is a hard proposition. Even as Christians, we are encouraged to fend for ourselves. The dichotomy (and tension of faith) is that while we can't sit back and wait for God to take care of everything, we can't put our sole reliance on ourselves. Finding that balance of confidence in our works (to bring about the Kingdom of God, not our salvation) while relying on God to see them to completion is the challenge I see, not only for Christians but for all people of faith.

Questions for reflection:
  1. In your life, what competes for God’s place? What tempts you to delete that word alone from your view of God?
    1. Overconfidence
    2. The noise in the world which drowns God's voice.
    3. Good intentions that never come to fruition.
  2. If you were to finish this statement, what would you say? God alone is my . . .
    1. I would borrow today's devotional prayer:
         God my salvation, rock, fortress, and deliverance, help me to grow in experiencing both your power and your love so I can trust you alone.

Lenten Devotion -- Friday, February 27

Day 9

What if the fortune God restores to us is Peace? Imagine a world where we could all live without fear because Peace broke out?

I have to admit that i just watched "Citizenfour". It's worth a watch, if only to get the rest of the story on Edward Snowden. The primary question running through my mind as I watched was: "How in the world did three administrations (essentially) get away with convincing us that they had our best interests at heart when they perpetrated this massive invasion on our privacy?" The simple answer is: we let them convince us that there are clear and present dangers out there and that in order to protect us, the government had to get all this information.

There's no easy answer to this, but the fortune I would pray for God to grant us is the discernment to find peaceful, non-invasive solutions.

The mind blowing bit here is that this Psalm is telling us that we can look forward to:
Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
 Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.

"Blessed are the Peacemakers for they will be called children of God." Blessed also because they will bring us songs of joy.
Questions for reflection:
  1. Think of a moment in your life when sorrow turned to joy. In what ways did you see God giving you joy, and in what ways did you think you caused the shift on your own?
    1. Every down has it it's up.
    2. Every job end has been followed by a better job.
    3. God gave me joy, I had nothing to do with the shift.
  2. If you asked God today to “restore your fortunes,” what specifically would you ask for? Do you think this refers to money?
    1. Restoring a world where the biggest concern would be bringing about the Kingdom of God, rather than worrying about external dangers, real, imagined, or simply perceived as dangers.
    2. I do not thing this has anything to do with money. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." That just doesn't seem to be the focus God would want us to have.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Thursday, February 25

Day 8

I'm amazed. Intellectually, I've know that God is never far and always looks out for me and my familly. What's amazing is how little I've been focusing on that in my day to day life. This meditation has helped me with that focus and has made me even more aware of God's hand in my life. The way events have been unfolding and the way the devotional has been fitting in has been a real wake up call.

Today's Psalm echos yesterday's Psalm in that God is our protector. God protects us in all situations from all dangers.

Rather than taking comfort in that feeling and being smug about it, I believe that we should take that feeling with us as we step outside our comfort zones to work for God's Kingdom. We should not expect for that to be easy, but we should expect that God is with us every step of the way.

My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
Questions for reflection:
  1. Look back at your life. What are some of the anxiety-provoking situations that God has helped you through?
    1. Every job transition.
    2. The passing of my parents and my aunt.
    3. Dealing with the aftermath of their passing.
  2. What are some of your biggest anxieties today? Pray the words to this psalm with those fears in mind.
    1. Another job transition.
    2. The questions about next steps.

God our help, may we know deep inside that you are with us always, even when our worlds seem to be falling apart.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Wednesday, February 25

Day 7

At first glance, this Psalm has no relevance to me. I do not have mortal enemies I am afraid of. I can understand the sentiment, but not relate to it directly. On the other hand, the point that Lynne Baab makes that "Some people have internal enemies, emotions and thoughts that attack from within" certainly resonates.

It is good then that Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

As we read in Romans 8:31: "If God is for us, who can be against us?"

Perhaps if we read verse 2 as:
2 if the Lord had not been on our side
    when dark emotions, fear and doubt attacked us...
The most important part is still
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
Questions for reflection:
  1. When you think of the enemies in your life, what or who are they?
    1. Fear
    2. Doubt
    3. Anxiety
  2. In what ways has God rescued you from those enemies?
    1. This devotion is a great help.
    2. Tonight's Lenten service was a great help.
    3. My family, (immediate, extended and church) have been a great help.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Monday, February 23

Day 6

Note: Monday and Tuesday's devotions got jumbled for me. I'll be doing Monday's devotion today, relabeled yesterday's as Tuesday's and I should be all caught up tomorrow.

A Psalm of praise and gratitude. A Psalm of peace. It fits well with what I'm going through because I feel God's strong presence in my life right now. I'm going to bookmark this meditation and this psalm for when, inevitably, life's travails bring me down. I may be on the mountain top right now, but I know eventually I'll go back to the valley. And I hope that this reminder will keep me going, keep my eyes on God and remind me that God is with me even there.

I have to admit that the last three verses are jarring.
Those who want to kill me will be destroyed;
    they will go down to the depths of the earth.
They will be given over to the sword
    and become food for jackals.
But the king will rejoice in God;
    all who swear by God will glory in him,
    while the mouths of liars will be silenced.
It flies in the face of "Love your enemies", even "Love your neighbor." I realize that this is why we must examine the context of all scripture to understand it's full complexity, but not feeling so strongly about anyone in my life it doesn't seem to apply. However, in the greater context of "what do we do about [insert terrorist organization name here]" I can see where this attitude could be comforting. God as protector. Still, I can also see it as validating a vengeful, retributional attitude. That could be really dangerous. But I will hang on to the beginning of the Psalm for comfort.
Questions for reflection:
  1. What do you long for most from God today?
    1. Peace and Understanding.
  2. In what ways has God satisfied your deepest longings?
    1. The immediate future has been clarified for me. I don't have the same worries and anxieties I had very recently.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Tuesday, February 24

Day 6

Please note, Day 5 and Day 6 have gotten jumbled somehow. I will ammend in the next post.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear.

I've often said it sometimes takes a two by four to get my attention, that God sometimes uses one. These Lenten journey reflections have been a wake-up call. Not to rehash the last 6 days, but the consistent, recurring message has been God telling me: "Trust me."

I think I can safely say that I am now calmer than I've been in a looong while. I'm willing to sit back and see where God is leading me rather than trying to either blindly forge ahead or panic because I'm not making headway.

There's still a lot on my plate. I still need to prioritize, organize and complete a number of things... But I'm not as apprehensive as I was two weeks ago. 

In the context of the bigger picture, my concerns about world politics and where we are collectively heading, these verses are comforting:

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

I like that the verses point to a time of peace, not to apocalyptic end times. Now we wait and see how things unfold, knowing that we might have to do something to bring about that peace, but also knowing that God will guide us to get there.
Questions for reflection:

  1. What are the earthquakes—and tremors—of anxiety in your life today, and in what ways do you feel God’s presence in the midst of them?
    • career transitions, world-wide chaos and violence...
    • I feel God's presence through these reflections, in the support of my family and Church and through all the messages he's put in my way over the last couple of weeks!
  2. Spend some time taking up God’s invitation in this psalm: “Be still and know that I am God.”
    • I will. Hope if you are reading this, that you will join me.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Sunday, February 22

Day 4

Technically, Sundays are not part of Lent. This is because on the Lord's day we celebrate The Resurrection. The Lenten devotionals reflects this by examining the Psalms of Praise.

An atheist friend asked me once, a long time ago, "Why does your God need all this praise and adulation?" I told him: "God doesn't. we do. We need to Praise God. It re-orients us away from the pettiness of daily life and it's issues and towards God's greatness." If I were answering today, I would attempt to explain "where our treasure is, so is our heart."

Psalm 145 is a Psalm of praise, and a Psalm of promise.

The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
    and lifts up all who are bowed down.

Those two lines are particularly comforting for me.
Questions for reflection:
  1. What makes it difficult in your life right now to praise or thank God?
    • Today, it is actually quite easy to praise God because of all the answered prayers.
    • In other times, the business of life and the competing distractions and noise get in the way of being focused on God and praising God.
  2. Look back over the first five days of Lent and name some of the emotions you experienced. What can you praise God for?
    • Anger
    • Frustration
    • Doubt
    • Gratitude
    • Relief
    • Joy
    • I can praise God for the relief and joy: they are God's doing.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Saturday, February 21

Day 3

I really should stop being surprised by God's ways. Today we had a Service of Witness to the Resurrection (that's what we Presbyterians call funeral/memorial services) for a dear friend, mother of a dear friend, grandmother to a dear friend of my son's, pillar of the community.  Psalm 23 was the psalm of the liturgy. So, as I said, I should not be surprised that it is the Psalm for the devotional today. But I am. 

"The Lord is my Shepherd" evokes an immediate and visceral reaction to all Christians. To me it is a Psalm of comfort, hope, power. It has helped many of us through many travails.

Today it has given me comfort to know that Betty is under The Shepherd's care more directly. That she is taken care of and fed and blessed. That though we will miss her tremendously, she has - indeed - completed her baptismal journey. 

In today's service and today's devotional, I hear God saying: "Chill, I got this. Put your doubts away because I will always take care of you (specifically),  - and the whole family (yours and the Church.)"

Questions for reflection:
  1. Where are your green pastures? Where are your still waters? Where is your darkest valley?
    • My "Green Pastures" are my comfort zones. As are my still waters. That's where I don't have to "work at it."
    • My Darkest Valleys are outside my comfort zone, where I have to work at being in the situation and contributing...
  2. This year in Lent, in what ways might thinking about God as shepherd help you draw near to God?
    • Thinking of God as Shepherd helps me see as more than just loving Father. As Shepherd God will actively guide me, even when I'm acting like a typical sheep (the dumbest creatures in the animal kingdom.) God will make demands of me, but always for my own good.
    • If God is with me in my Darkest Valleys, then I should stop being so trepidatious about stepping outside my comfort zone.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Friday, February 20

Day 2

Devotional: Psalm 98

As already established, God has a sense of humor. In many ways, that's a very good thing.

Yesterday I talked about uncertainty and doubt. Today, the reading is about seeing a "new thing" and singing a "new song." Sure enough, God has shown me a new thing on the career front (more on that when things are final and official.) He has blessed me with a friend that pointed out that truly God is capable of all things (Romans 8:28). Which was comforting. It also reinforced that I need to work on that patience thing.

Questions for reflection
    1. What are the biggest obstacles to your ability to see—and accept—God doing new things?

  • My severe lack of patience
  • My wanting to do/fix/solve things myself, my way. Not necessarily being open to what God really wants.
  • Too much faith in my abilities, too little faith in God

    2. What new things have you seen so far this year? What has enabled you to see them, and in what ways are you resisting and embracing them?

  • The New Beginnings process at WPPC, totally embracing that change. Seeing nothing but positive come out. Scary positive because of the changes that we must embark upon, but hopeful that we can make them happen.
  • The imminent career change. Literally, today, am accepting what's coming.

Sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
    have worked salvation for him.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Thursday, February 19

Beginning the Journey.

My Lenten practice this year will be to follow the Lenten Devotional From PCUSA's "Presbyterian's Today", reflect on the readings, answer the reflection questions and blog about it. (To find out more: search for #‎PCUSALent‬)


This passage shows up in both Psalm 42 and Psalm 43
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

Speaks to me about the doubt and uncertainty I've been feeling.

There are two areas I am primarily concerned about. Affecting me on the personal front: my job search. Affecting me in a more global sense: the rise of radical Islamism and accompanying violence.

On the personal front, I have a general idea what I need to do but don't have a clear perspective on where God wants me to be right now.

On the global front: I have absolutely no idea what to do other than pray. Everybody I know has a very firm, unmovable opinion on the topic (regardless of where they stand.)  I don't feel that there is a way to convey the message that this complex problem does not have any simple answers. That retaliation and revenge will do nothing to solve it. That dealing with anything other than the root causes (social injustice, power abuse, lack of a viable economic base to name but a few) is a waste of time and lives.

Psalm 42, 9:
I say to God my Rock,
    "Why have you forgotten me?

But I know God hasn't forgotten me, I know I must seek God and God's wisdom in prayer and study. And hope God grants me the courage to act on what I learn.


1. In what ways do you long for God's presence, and what events or aspects of your life trigger that longing?

Seeking Peace and Justice and Reading the news respectively.

2. "Hope in God," the psalmist says. During Lent this year, what are you hoping for? 

Finding Peace
Bringing Peace
Finding Justice
Bringing Justice

Monday, February 2, 2015

On Net Neutrality