Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Tuesday,March 31

Day 41


There's an anthem, by Hal Hopson I believe, based on psalm 91: It is running through my head right now. It's a great anthem in it's own right, but the lyrics are fantastic. Essentially, the world can be going to heck in a handbasket, and the world may literally be firing arrows at you, but God will watch over you and protect you. Literally taking you under God's wings. You don't get more protected than that.

It is tempting to say: gee the themes for these meditations seem to be repetitive, or just variations on a theme. But that's the point: God's comfort and protection is from everlasting to everlasting and we need to be constantly aware of them. Being humans, however, we are easily distracted and can easily get caught up in the turmoil of life and then we try to take it all on ourselves... So we do need the constant reminders.
You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
    who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Monday, March 30, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Monday, March 30

Day 40


Over the last couple of days, many demands have been made of me. Some openly and combatively, some gently and with patience, some were made passively. While I understand that I have a responsibility to meet all of them, it is sometimes a drain. It is good that I am going through this meditation because it is helping me cope. I am surprised at how often I have to remind myself to think back on the psalms and take courage and solace from them. I suppose I expected that reaction to be second nature by now. But it's not. I guess the lizard brain (the one that experiences fear and wants to fight or flee) is stronger than the rational, meditative brain. I thank God that we are in Lent and that God has called me to see these reminders on a daily basis.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid?
Sometimes I read those verses and I just want to shout at the world: "Bring it!"

Then again, there are times when I should ought to have them tattooed somewhere as a reminder...
One thing I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
    and to inquire in his temple.
Amen...

And if you are going through tough times right now:
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!
Questions for reflection:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Sunday, March 29

Day 39


Today we shouted "Hosanna!" and waved the palm fronds. Soon enough, we will be shouting "Crucify him!" Our human nature will take over and Jesus will die for us. He will pay for our sins. On the third day he will rise again to complete our redemption. Psalm 118 speaks of the human strugle, the human struggle against human enemies, the human struggle in life. It speaks of God saving us from that struggle, from our humanity.

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever!
And there is prophesy:
I thank you that you have answered me
    and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the chief cornerstone.
And we are called to gratitude:
This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.
We pray:
Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
    O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!
And we rejoice:
This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Saturday, March 28

Day 38


Hard to believe tomorrow is Palm Sunday. The Lenten season is drawing to a close. It seems to have flown right by. Much as our lives seem to fly right by. As we make our way through Holy Week to Easter Sunday, we cannot but help feel a longing for the time when we will be with God, in God's kingdom, and away from the pain and suffering of this world. Psalm 84 speaks of a lovely dwelling place in the courts of the Lord. It sounds peaceful and magnificent. It would be tempting to only long for that place of repose. It would be tempting to find a way to rush through this life, to get to that life.

But that would be missing the point. This life is not a rehearsal for the next one. It is the life we are given to do the best we can with. It would be a waste to spend it in longing. Rather, we should strive to work for the kingdom here and now. Not because we have to earn Grace, but because we are grateful for that Grace and in gratitude should share it with the world.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
    they are ever praising you.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Friday, March 27

Day 37


Proper worship should be all about making a joyful noise unto the Lord, worshiping the Lord with gladness, demonstrating joy in the experience. We belong to God. God redeems us, God blesses our lives, how else shall we show our gratitude?

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come into his presence with singing.
No, I'm not saying my singing is noise. Well, mostly it's not. But mostly, the point is not to get hung up on the quality of the singing but to just get on with the singing.

That sentiment can be extended to our works: we should not worry about how well we can do them but that we should just get on with them and work for the kingdom here and now. God will bless our attempts and make the best use of what we can deliver...
For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Thursday, March 26

Day 36


We work hard, we struggle, we strive, we suffer strife. We feel that life is all about putting enough effort into life to make it all worthwhile. But the psalmist implies that our fulfillment in God only happens when we calm down, relax and approach God in humility.

But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.
This is so counter to everything we're taught and have come to expect that it will take a major adjustment to our thinking to get to that place of - dare I say it? - Zen. But sometimes it's in the giving up, letting go and accepting help that we finally find relief.
Questions for reflection:
  1. What impedes the calming and quieting of your soul?
    1. The noisy world.
    2. The expectations of being "upwardly mobile."
    3. The expectation that I must be completely self-sufficient.
  2. Spend some time right now in silence, seeking calm. Maybe meditate or pray. Imagine you are resting in God like a child on its mother’s lap.
    1. That's a very comforting image.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Wednesday, March 25

Day 35


Another psalm talking about our place in the world. It starts with a reminder that, in the final analysis, God is in charge.

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
    the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas,
    and established it on the rivers.
And we have a reminder of where we stand:
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
    And who shall stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
    who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
    and do not swear deceitfully.
They will receive blessing from the Lord,
    and vindication from the God of their salvation.
Such is the company of those who seek him,
    who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
Those are pretty clear marching orders. But I find it interesting that God is referred to as "the God of Jacob." Somebody (hi Cindy!) sent me a sermon relevant to one of the previous meditations. In that sermon, Terry Roper points out that Jacob was not a nice guy. In fact he was pretty despicable. But God still used Jacob to accomplish great deeds. The sermon also mentions that Paul would not have made a whole lot of friends either. This is comforting: there is room for those of us that don't see ourselves as worthy to step up and accept the roles and duties that God would have us take on. To not let that perceived unworthiness get in the way.

This is another psalm that invokes a glorious anthem:
Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord of hosts,
    he is the King of glory.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Tuesday, March 24

Day 34


If you were to ask me what an ideal life looks like, one of the first requirements would be to have friends and family around me. In close proximity. Possibly a commune even. Community living, community support, community fellowship: All sound ideal. Now, I realize that is all idealized thinking (no pun intended) but I believe committed folks could make it work.

Looking at the world today, where there are many factions at work causing us to fear and distrust each other, it feels like one possible antidote would be placing a higher priority on community.
How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!
Questions for reflection:
  1. Where in your life do you experience unity between people? Where is it missing?
    1. I experience it around my family.
    2. I experience it at Church.
    3. I experience it at Faith on Tap.
    4. It's missing from an awful lot of the rest of the world. But maybe it's our duty to go take it out there.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Monday, March 23

Day 33


Lynne M. Baab's focus in this meditation is on where we live. As one who has lived all over the world, and loved everywhere I've lived (some places more than others, admittedly), home is wherever I happen to be at the time. If it so happens that family and friends are close so much the better.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    throughout all generations.
But I can see that for those who have a deeper link to their place of origin, and miss it, God as our dwelling place could be very comforting. A place where they belong.

What catches my attention about the psalm, though, is the psalmist's (Moses?) focus on the fleetingness of life.
You turn people back to dust,
    saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
A thousand years in your sight
    are like a day that has just gone by,
    or like a watch in the night.
Yes, that can be a frightening concept. But rather than be paralyzed by the fear of the insignificance of our life span, we should rather focus on what we can get done with what we are given.
Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
    Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
    that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
    your splendor to their children.
By extension, we should do our best to then show God's deeds to our children, the people of God and the people of the world.
May the favor[a] of the Lord our God rest on us;
    establish the work of our hands for us—
    yes, establish the work of our hands.
Questions for reflection:
  1. What does home mean for you? Is it a place, a set of people, a feeling, a smell, a set of values?
    1. Not to be trite but "home is where the heart is." Wherever family, friends, and loved ones are, that's where home is.
  2. In what ways do you experience God as your true home?
    1. Being part of my church home.
    2. Being part of community.
    3. Whenever I am able to be still and quiet enough to feel God's presence, wherever I may be.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Sunday, March 22

Day 32


The text of some anthems comes from the psalms. Reading the psalms, for me, automatically invokes the memory of those anthems. I can hear, sing, feel the anthem. In that recollection, I am re-living the moment in the worship space. Re-living that moment, I worship again.

Music in worship engages the right brain, the non-analytic portion. It allows us to worship from a deeper, more primitive part of our being. It provides a different understanding and appreciation of our Creator.

Lenten Devotion -- Satuday, March 21

Day 31


I have a hard time with the psalmists when they complain to God about "evil people", "the oppressors", generally people the psalmists have issues with. I have a hard time with this thinking because, fortunately, I don't have anybody like that in my immediate life. So I have a hard time relating. But, today's psalm reminded me that there is a set of people that I do have a hard time with: One Percenters. Before you accuse me of being a communist and anti free-market capitalist (which accusations I could live with by the way) please understand I have no issue with wealth per se. I realize that in many parts of the world, I am a one percenter. Having said that: my issue with the obscenely wealthy is that, in my perception, they are doing little or nothing to help with the world they live in. Yes this is a generalization, yes there are exceptions, but in general... [Spare me the arguments about people becoming self-sufficient, people get what they deserve, people have to earn their own way... I'd buy into the arguments if there was a level playing field. but there isn't.]

I'm a simple man, so I know there's many complications to this thinking, but I firmly believe if EVERYBODY shared 10% of their wealth (tithing) then we could solve a whole lot of the world's problems. Think what we could do with 10% of every billionaire's money... (Before you get all up in arms: remember that they got that money from us in the first place.)

Of course, it doesn't help that it feels like the psalmist is right, that the one percenters never have to deal with any hardships. We know from reading the news, that's not entirely true but it certainly feels like it sometimes.
They have no struggles;
    their bodies are healthy and strong.
Then the psalmist goes off on them from there. Which I really can't subscribe too either... But then:
When I tried to understand all this,
    it troubled me deeply
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
    then I understood their final destiny.
I'm not going to pretend I understand "their final destiny" or even particularly care about it, but I do like the the image of entering the "Sanctuary of God."
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
    I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
    I will tell of all your deeds.
I will leave it in God's hands and pray for more faith and trust. And pray that I can somehow be part of the eventual solution.
Questions for reflection:
  1. What kinds of situations make you the angriest? Bring that anger honestly to God in prayer.
    1. Any situation where there is injustice.
    2. Any situation where there is discrimination.
    3. Any time I hear about violence, specially violence brought on because of injustice and discrimination.
    4. Dear Lord: Show me how to channel that anger into something useful and constructive.
  2. Can you remember instances when God gave you answers to your concerns and you were able to affirm God’s goodness in the face of blatant evil in the world?
    1. I can't. But I pray that I will.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Friday, March 20

Day 30


Servanthood, in a first world context, is a concept that brings along a truckload of baggage and controversy. Nevertheless, that is what God asks to be: servants to the world. That's a concept that doesn't sit well with a people trained and rewarded for leadership and self-sufficiency. But like everything we've seen so far in these lenten devotions, if we put ourselves in God's hands God will equip us to do God's work.

To you I lift up my eyes,
    O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
As the eyes of servants
    look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid
    to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
    until he has mercy upon us.
It's easy to think of ourselves as servants of God. That feels natural. We should keep Matthew 25:40 firmly in mind: the people we serve, they are God's children. We would be serving God.
Questions for reflection:
  1. In what areas of your life are you most tempted to be proud?
    1. As a career professional, it is sometimes tempting to get a bit too focused on getting ahead.
    2. I'm very proud of my kids too, but I'm not sure that's what she's asking about. :)
  2. The success-driven values of our culture can put a lot of pressure on us. In what ways do you find comfort and relief in viewing yourself as a servant?
    1. Again we're up against the phrasing of a question anticipating a certain answer. I don't think I'm supposed to find any comfort or relief. I think I'm supposed to go ahead and get outside my comfort zone and help anyway.
    2. I have been greatly blessed in my life. Not that I'm trying to earn Grace, or feel that I can repay the debt I owe, but I certainly feel like I have an obligation to serve.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Thursday, March 19

Day 29


The psalmist talks about God knowing him, knowing him completely from his conception to his demise and everything in between including all his thoughts and motivations and actions and... That's both comforting and scary. There's nowhere to run and hide from God. Everything we think and do God knows. Still, despite all that, God's grace and forgiveness is there for us.

The comforting part of all that is that as well as God knows us, God can can still use us - flaws and all. If we look at the stories passed down to us in the bible, God never used perfect people. God always used people that God then equipped for the task at hand. So we have no excuse for hanging back or not heeding God's call. But if we step up God will be with us and will give us what we need to do God's work.
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.
Questions for reflection:
  1. If indeed God sees you through and through, in what ways does this help you to be honest with God?
    1. Me being honest with God is not the issue. Me being honest with myself and accepting that there is nothing I can hide is the bigger issue.
    2. That being said however, it does make me want to walk the walk that matches the talk.
  2. Which parts of your life do you fear sharing with God and others? What would it mean if you knew that you would be loved no matter what?
    1. I am human. I am always in need of redemption. I've always know that. Knowing that I will always be loved means I should be looking forward with hope, not looking backwards with regret.

Lenten Devotion -- Wednesday, March 18

Day 28


A psalm of confession. This psalm is attributed to David, after he "had been with" Bathsheba. God chose his people, very carefully, to show us that however far we stray we cannot stray so far that we are out of God's reach. Or God's Grace and forgiveness. Not to say that we should give ourselves permission to just live a sinful life, but that we should realize that as humans, when we stray we should give ourselves permission to accept God's forgiveness and allow ourselves to then live a life of wholeness. Forgiven, striving to be God's people and do God's will. We need to look to work for the Kingdom and not wallow in our guilt.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and put a new and right spirit within me.

O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
And guide me, O Lord, in how you want me to bring forth your kingdom.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Tuesday, March 17

Day 27


The depth of despair that Psalm 130 comes from is hard for me to fathom. I admit to feeling angst, fear, some measure of despair but nothing like this. But the psalmist shows us that even from those depths, reaching out to God is not only necessary, but the only option.

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
    so that you may be revered.
And there is forgiveness. Sometimes part of our despair is our inability to fathom how we can measure up to the Grace God gives us. But that's the point of Grace. It is freely given. We don't have to measure up. We have been forgiven. That debt has been paid.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
    more than those who watch for the morning,
    more than those who watch for the morning.
And in the Lord, in that anticipation, there is hope to keep us going.

Lynne M. Baab makes the point that our "advertising world" is tempting us to fill that void, that longing, with something other than God. That makes sense. If you measure the amount of distraction the world throws at us, keeping our attention from focusing on God, it's easy to see where we could be seduced into NOT looking to God.
Questions for reflection:
1. What is painfully absent from your life? What is one hole you’re waiting for God to fill?
2. In what ways are you tempted to think that something other than God will satisfy your longings?

I am grateful that I can say there is nothing absent from my life, there are no holes that need filling. I am grateful that I know that nothing will replace my longing for God. Having said that though, I will admit to being human and that I pray for strength in shutting out the ambient noise.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Monday, March 16

Day 26


The meditation psalms to date have been psalms of praise, thanksgiving, gratitude. God's glory and positive outlook are the focus. Today's psalm is a psalm of lamentation. If we are honest with ourselves, it's entirely possible that if we allow ourselves, that would be where we would spend the majority of out time: in lamentation. Or maybe that's just how this age feels, if we pay attention to the news at all.

There is surely a time to face our worries and fears. To express them, to deal with them. This psalm certainly gives us language we can use. It's a good model to follow because, though the laments are honestly expressed, they are always followed by a plea to God for mercy, aid or relief.

Psalms of lamentation are a good reminder that however bleak things look, God will always be there for us.

Thank God!
Hear my prayer, O Lord;
    let my cry come to you.
Do not hide your face from me
    in the day of my distress.
Incline your ear to me;
    answer me speedily in the day when I call.
Questions for reflection:
  1. How can you keep your honesty from becoming a pattern of negativity?
    1. Staying focused on praise, thanksgiving and gratitude while facing issues head on would be a good start.
    2. Favoring listening (to God, to others) over lamenting.
    3. Asking for God's help at all times.
  2. What distress or groaning would you like to express to God today?
    1. Actually, all things considered, on balance: Thank you Lord I am groan-free today.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Sunday, March 15

Day 25


Everybody praise the Lord! Everybody and everything, praise the Lord! It makes sense that the creature should praise the creator. I suspect that nature understands that and praises the Lord always.It's humans that have problems with that concept. At least humans in the first world. I don't want to sound like I'm being judgmental about the world I live in, but I think we sometimes forget who made that world and who keeps it going. We specially lose track of the creature/creator role because we harbor the belief that we are self-sufficient. Because of that belief, we probably don't pay near as much attention to our status as creature as we should should.


Questions for reflection:
  1. Who or what is excluded from your worship life? What is preventing them from joining you in worship? Now imagine you are joining with all creation in worship. How do you feel?
    1. Sometimes the way a question is phrased pre-supposes a certain answer or set of answers. The first two questions fall squarely in that category. I'm relatively sure that there is nothing or no-one that should be in my worship life that is not. If the intent is to draw folks into my way worship, I'm very ambivalent about that. I am definitely fine with inviting anybody who will listen long enough to come and join me in worship. But I'm not ok with thinking that the way I worship is the only, or even the right way of worshiping.
    2. The image of joining all creation in worship is a wonderful image. Being part of the whole body of Christ, part of all the creatures, being in harmony with all of God's creatures in worshiping the creator would be amazing.
  2. How would you live your life differently if you truly acted from the belief that all things belong to God?
    1. I would make all of my life about worship, not just a part of my life.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Saturday, March 14

Day 24


God is an awesome God, God is well worthy of our praise. God rules over all the world. God made it all.


He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with his truth.
I'm not sure the world could stand to be judged right now, even God's righteousness. I'm pretty certain God's truth is not something the world is ready for. The world has a long, long way to go before it can be ready. Here's hoping that righteous people everywhere will rise to the challenge of making the world ready.
Questions for reflection:
  1. What judgments do you think are needed right now for the world? How would the world be different if it proclaimed, “Jesus is Lord”?
    1. The world needs to wake up and stop letting the fear mongers hold so much sway. The world is allowing itself to buy into the war mongers' propaganda that we need more military escalation to keep us safe. I'm deliberately side-stepping the second question, not because I don't believe that the world should be proclaiming "Jesus is Lord", but because that mind set is used by certain extremists for very jingoistic purposes.
  2. Where do you see righteousness and truth being practiced in your life? Where could there be more righteousness?
    1. Wherever people of faith get together to work for the greater good and moving toward the Kingdom. There could more righteousness EVERYWHERE!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Friday, March 13

Day 23


Lynne M. Baab talks about us being God's sheep. I have to admit, I don't like the thought of being a sheep. I watched Babe you know. I know sheep are the stupidest creatures on earth. That's offensive that is. Also: There's a certain political extreme that likes to call anybody who doesn't agree with them "sheep"... (Which is funny considering how unthinkingly they follow their leadership... But that's a discussion for another time. (I promise, I'll pray for them.)) But then I thought about it a bit more. Well, maybe as a people we are not so smart as all that really. I mean we do expend a lot of effort and energy on trying to be happy. Generally by trying to acquire more stuff. Mostly we believe we have to keep working at it, hard, until we achieve that happiness. So... maybe not so smart. And if that's the case, then maybe having a wise and wonderful shepherd is not such a bad thing. God as our shepherd will lead us to green pastures... (I know, there's another Psalm about that and we covered it...)


Perhaps if we really were sheep, then we wouldn't be quite so destructive as a species. At least if we would follow a wise and wonderful shepherd we wouldn't be.

I know the following is primarily a western problem: maybe if we were to be more attuned to following and letting the shepherd take care of our needs, rather than constantly trying to "lead" people into doing things our way, pushing and shoving to establish ourselves... Maybe we could finally find some of that happiness we struggle so hard to find. Maybe we'd find peace.

Another thought about this Psalm: The biblical people (and maybe that's precisely why they were chosen) were perpetually going their own way and screwing up.
For forty years I was angry with that generation;
    I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
    and they have not known my ways.’
So I declared on oath in my anger,
    ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
And yet, time and again God relented, forgave and bestowed his grace. Even going as far as to give us God's only Son. For those of us (not you, reading this, I'm sure) who are perpetual screw ups: that's some strong comfort!
Questions for reflection:
  1. In what ways do you resist viewing yourself as a sheep?
    1. See above: sheep are not creatures to be emulated. Specially in a society that prizes self-reliance and go-geterness.
  2. In what ways do you enjoy thinking of yourself as a sheep in God’s hand?
    1. It might be nice to just let go and let God take care of everything.
    2. It would be good to have the faith to allow confidence in God. To allow Peace to come.

Lenten Devotion -- Thursday, March 12

Day 22


Today's been a sad day: Sir Terry Pratchett, my favorite author, passed away. He lost his battle with alzheimer's. It's times like these that Psalms can be a comfort. I could focus on the grief and loss, or I can focus on God's greatness and comfort.



May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face shine on us—
so that your ways may be known on earth,
    your salvation among all nations.

God will get all of us Pratchett fans through this. We will look to God for comfort.
Questions for reflection:
  1. When you look at the earth, where do you see God’s abundance?
    1. I hate to admit it, but the reflection questions are starting to feel a bit repetitive.
    2. But maybe that's the point, to continuously look for God's bounty everywhere, and stay focused on the Psalms.
    3. I see God's abundance pretty much wherever I look, if my eyes are open.
  2. What are the places in your life where you see God’s abundance and blessing?
    1. Being surrounded by loved ones.
    2. Having friends that understand me.
    3. Knowing that God has equipped me to get through whatever life throws at me.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Wednesday, March 11

Day 21


Psalm 8 is a good Psalm to read when dealing with doubt. It's a testament to God's love and God's might, and certainly a wake up call to us: with that much love and power behind us, how can we hesitate to do God's work, regardless of how insignificant we feel.


what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?
You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
Those are inspiring, awesome, comforting words. To be honest, there's also an aspect of trepidation: How can I ever be worthy? I'm pretty sure I can't. But there is God's grace, and God gave us his only Son. THAT is more than plenty. I will pray for guidance and strength to be worthy.
Questions for reflection:
  1. In what settings do you feel your smallness? Your significance?
    1. Smallness:
      1. Any time I contemplate all that needs work in this world.
      2. Any time I consider how much still needs to be done for us to reach equality.
      3. Any time I contemplate how far we are from world peace.
      4. Any time I consider what it would take to feed the world.
    2. Significance:
      1. Once in a while, I get feedback that some advice I have given has made a difference in someone's life.
      2. I hope I am contributing to my community.
      3. I hope I can at least bring smiles to those around me.
  2. In what ways are you called to be a caretaker of God’s creation?
    1. In every possible way. The verses above imbue a great sense of responsibility.

Lenten Devotion -- Tuesday, March 10

Day 20


I have to admit today's Psalm brought me up short. The Psalm is in praise of God for God's great creation. The wake up call: God made all creation. Including folks whose views and actions I find despicable (politicians trying to start a war and/or sabotage the rightfully elected leader of this country come to mind.)

That makes it real challenging. I know I'm supposed to pray for them. I know I'm supposed to love them. But it's very hard. I guess if it was easy...

I'm not saying I'm ever going to change my mind about their politics, but I now feel obligated to pray for them. No, it doesn't mean I'm ever going to see their point of view or agree with it either. But that's not the point. The point is that it's ALL God's creation and we have the charge of caring for ALL of it.
Questions for reflection:
  1. Our culture tends to extol the virtues of independence. Why do you think God instead wants us conscious of our dependence (and interdependence)?
    1. The "independence" that is promoted by the culture is an illusion. Humans cannot exist in isolation. We need community to survive. We need to be part of community to thrive. God wants us aware of that truth.
  2. In what ways are you tempted to think that you are not dependent on God?
    1. Only when I buy into my self-sufficiency.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Monday, March 9

Day 19


Those of us living in concrete encased suburbs and urban areas may have a hard time seeing the beauty of nature, and consequently hearing God's word through his creation. It behooves us to deliberately seek opportunities to be in nature, to see God's creation, to listen for God's word.


To generalize the sentiment a bit: we should make it a priority to find quiet moments in quiet places - away from the noise of the world - to listen for the "small, still voice within."

I have to say though, when I forget to do that God gets my attention with a 2x4 - between the eyes. You'd think after this many years, I'd learn to listen rather than wait for my attention to be gotten. (The old saw goes: "How do you get a donkey's attention? By hitting it between the eyes with a 2x4.")

Hopefully this lenten meditation will become a continuous practice of seeking God's will and wisdom.
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Questions for reflection:
  1. How have you heard God in nature and in the Bible?
    1. Often: While I'm on the golf course.
    2. Always: When I open my heart and let the Holy Spirit guide me in reading scripture. Particularly important when I'm reading familiar scripture and am in danger of skimming through it - because it's so familiar. Being open to the Holy Spirit leading me exposes new and relevant meaning.
  2. What specifically has God conveyed to you recently through nature or the Bible?
    1. Stop.
    2. Listen
    3. You (God's people) are stewards of this creation: take care of it!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Sunday, March 8

Day 18


The Psalm today is in praise of God for his care of Jerusalem. The language is very much of the time. It gives thanks for protection and food. It praises God for stomping out the wicked and the enemies. I can't help but think that we would not be comfortable with that kind of language today.



But what language should we use for thanks and praise, specially in the first world where all our needs are taken care of? Perhaps we should start by not taking the fact that our needs are taken care of for granted.
Thank you Lord for giving us the means to take care of your basic needs.
Thank you Lord for allowing us the luxury of not having to worry about them.
We praise you Lord for the many bounties you provide.
Of course, in the context of the Gospel Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for them. So praying for the demise of our enemies would be wrong.
We thank you Lord for giving us better means of communication, such that we can 
   (if we so choose) get a better understanding of our enemies. 
We praise you that despite those that would promote fear and panic, 
   we are in fact relatively safe.
Or perhaps I'm taking too many liberties with the interpretation...
Questions for reflection:
  1. What are you thankful for today about the way God sustains creation and human life? What about the way God sustains your life and those you love?
    1. We have the means to take care of our basic needs.
    2. God has given us the intelligence to take care of the world. If only we used that intelligence...
  2. After a week of thankfulness prayers, spend some time reflecting on the role you would like thankfulness to play in your life.
    1. I would like thankfulness to be a constant in my life, rather than a once in while thing...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Saturday, March 7

Day 17


Right now, as technology is rapidly approaching black magic in its capabilities, it is very hard to be impressed by anything, let alone experience actual awe. The Psalm refers to God's awesomeness. It would be well if we keep that awesomeness (in the real sense of the word, not the culturally watered down variation ) in mind.



Experiencing awe (reverence, fearful wonder) , when thinking of God can help us get our issues in perspective. To us, those issues seem huge even insurmountable. But they are practically nothing to God:

For the Lord Most High is awesome,
    the great King over all the earth.
He subdued nations under us,
    peoples under our feet.
He chose our inheritance for us,
    the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.

In an interesting linguistic quirk: a very dear friend of mind writes "I am in owe of God" whenever she is praising God for a miracle in her life. But, in thinking about it: she is not wrong. A direct result of experiencing that awe should be a sense of gratitude and a sense of indebtedness. Perhaps a debt to be paid back in taking care of the Kingdom, here and now. (I know she does more than her fair share of that and is an example to us all...)

A discussion for another time and place is the net effect on a society that requires more and more shock and/or dazzle to be impressed because of the blaness (to coin a term), ennui or just general sensory overload.
Questions for reflection:
  1. In the time of the psalmist, kings often inspired awe. What analogies could we use today when describing the awesomeness of God?
    1. For the Lord Most High is awesome,  
      the great cloud based/high speed/high capacity/ubiquitous/computing platform
      over all the earth.
      He provides for all our information needs,
      data under our feet.
  2. How could you make awe a regular part of each day?
    1. raise our heads from our devices and look around us at the miracles God provides
    2. be more aware of God's creation as we rush through it. (better yet: try not to rush!)
    3. build observation pauses into our schedules.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Friday, March 6

Day 16


I have a problem with today's Psalm: it could be interpreted as encouraging "Prosperity Theology". That is problematic because it doesn't take much observation to see righteous people struggling and wicked people prospering. I know that's not the intent of the Psalmist. More likely, it's about promoting a focus on God's law leading to a righteous life, leading to happiness, prospering in this context not being a financial prospering then but a prosperity based in contentment.

They are like trees
    planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
    and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
If "prosper" here is seen as contentment, then I can agree with Lynne M. Baab: "The metaphor of the trees planted by streams of water reminds me to look for the seasonal fruit and green leaves of my life."

I like the metaphor of "...roots sinking deep into the living waters of God’s grace." Not to belabor the metaphor, but the tree whose roots are deep in the living waters can withstand being in the (sometimes inclement and destructive) weather of the world, knowing that it is constantly replenished by living water.
Questions for reflection:
  1. What kinds of good fruit, green leaves, and other signs of God’s life in you are you thankful for today?
    1. Though there have been some setbacks, I'm able to move forward. (with a more positive outlook than when I first started this devotional practice.)
    2. I believe I can be a positive influence in other's lives.
    3. I am a contributing member of society.
  2. Right now, imagine your roots sinking deep into the living waters of God’s grace. What does that look like in practice in your life?
    1. Let the storms come, I can handle them.
    2. I hope I can anchor other's into whose lives storms rage.
    3. Maybe those of us with our roots firmly in the living waters of God's grace can feed the world with our fruit.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Thursday, March 5

Day 15


The Psalm is about gratitude to God for answering our supplications, taking care of our needs. That part is easy. The other part is showing that gratitude. The Psalm speaks specifically about being in the presence of the people of God. That's not that big a deal. Well, for me anyway. What's a bigger deal is showing that gratitude to the rest of the world. A rest of the world that is not disposed to hear, let alone understand that gratitude.



I've always said: I'm a KISS (Keep It Simple Silly) kind of guy. So the following verses resonate with me:
The Lord protects the simple;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest,
    for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.


That's telling me I don't have to understand God's plan. I just have to put my faith in God, be grateful for God's salvation, and show that gratitude.
"Just". :)
Questions for reflection:
  1. In your life, what impedes you from seeing the ways God has delivered you in crises? Does “delivery” always mean that the crisis is over, or can it mean the persistence of faith in the midst of crisis?
    1. It's not that I don't see the ways God has delivered me, it's more that I usually don't see the deliverance till after the fact.
    2. As to the second part of the question: yes, the bigger challenge is keeping the faith while waiting for the resolution.
    3. No, it does not mean the crisis is over. Someday, I will actually get to the point where I realize that God is with me throughout the whole process, all the way through resolution.
  2. Can you remember a time in your life when you felt the kind of relief this psalm expresses? Spend some time thanking God for it.
    1. There are several. More importantly: There are still several situations I'm praying about. I'm praying that I will realize there will be relief, shortly, and that I need to start the gratitude process right now.


Thank you Lord.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Wednesday, March 4

Day 14


English is an interesting language. Take the word "Bless", it can mean several things. For instance it can mean "to request of God the bestowal of divine favor on" or "to extol as holy; glorify". I'm trying not to get hung up on the linguistics, but maybe that's not wholly coincidental. Maybe what God is trying to tell me is: you do your part, I'll do Mine. That may sound heretic, but perhaps the intent is to shine a light on the fact that me "blessing" God (in the second meaning) is a prerequisite to God "blessing" me (in the first meaning.) Not that it's a quid-pro-quo situation. More that it's a continuation of the previous several lessons: what I focus on is what I'm going to see.



In the devotion, Lynne M. Baab says: "We bless God by being a blessing to others." So, it's not just about the words and the attitude, it's also about the being God's representatives for others. There is responsibility there.

Questions for reflection:
  1. What do you want to bless God for today?
    1. New Job.
    2. Warmth and shelter during the storm (literally.)
    3. Many new opportunities.
  2. In what way can you be a blessing today to others?
    1. More listening, less talking.
    2. More support, less advice
    3. I'm open to suggestions....

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Tuesday, March 3

Day 13


I have to admit, my first reaction was "Oh good, more of that gratitude stuff..." But I checked myself: 1) you can't have too much gratitude, 2) constant reinforcement is a good way to learn and 3) I'm glad I kept reading.



It makes perfect sense to me to keep focused on gratitude. But it can be a bit new-agey if we're not careful. I don't mean for that to sound derogatory in any way, just that the "attitude of gratitude" battle cry is common across our culture. We have to be sure that the focus of our gratitude is God. Not ourselves, not what we do, not how we do it: we have to be aware that the many blessings are freely given, not earned. That's where we differ from the secular culture. Or should anyway...

The last two verses are encouraging. The "They" refers to "the righteous":
In old age they still produce fruit;
    they are always green and full of sap,
showing that the Lord is upright;
    he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.


I realize that definitions of "old age" are shifting radically in this day and age, but this is a good reminder to keep striving and not sit back and claim an "old-age pass" prematurely. There's definitely more work to be done.
Questions for reflection:
  1. What are you most thankful for today?
    1. Tomorrow starts a new chapter in my life.
  2. As you name the things for which you are grateful, how do you feel? Do you feel less stressed, less anxious? How could you make more time for the things that gladden your heart?
    1. Not yet. Frankly, there's still some trepidation. Though the study so far has been helpful in preparing me and opening my mind and my heart, there's still residue of the old self asking all the "WhatIfs." I'm hoping that to at least allow the questions, but be confident in God helping me with the answers.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Monday, March 2

Day 12


"The Attitude of Gratitude" is almost a trite phrase. But that should not diminish it's impact. The attitude we carry colors our perception. If we are looking for things to be grateful for, we will find more. Conversely if we looking for things to worry about, fear, distrust, etc. we'll find those too.

God made us this way. In God's infinite wisdom, he also gave us free will. God allows us to choose how we live our lives... It is up to us to make choices that bring us closer to God.

On a completely different topic: it's hard to be Christian and of Egyptian descent sometimes. I cannot, in good conscience, pray:
who struck Egypt through their firstborn,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
or
but overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,[b]
    for his steadfast love endures forever;


One of the first things I'm going to ask God is going to be: What did we do to deserve this? I mean, I know it's complicated and God needed for the Israelites to go through this ordeal to complete their journey to being God's people (or start it depending on how you look at the story.) But if a people (the Egyptians) was destined to oppress God's people to show God's people the error of their ways and strengthen their trust in God, why then punish that people (the Egyptians) for fulfilling that destinies?

Now: I get that there's a lot more to the story, and that the history bears study and scrutiny to get he whole picture. But that's the hardest part of Biblical history for me to accept.

Back to gratitude: I am, however, grateful that God's plan for salvation is all inclusive to all who seek it. That that plan is just as open to those of us with doubts as those of us with unshakable faith in all aspects of Biblical history.
Questions for reflection:
  1. What are the biggest blocks to thankfulness in your life, and how have you overcome them?
    1. Oblivion (not focusing on "The attitude of Gratitude": looking for opportunities to be grateful and changing my perception.
    2. Pride: working on humility. For those that know me: that's a hard one! :)
    3. Getting caught up in the fears that the World keeps throwing at us: working on putting those fears into perspective.
  2. Make a list in writing or out loud of 10 things you’re thankful for, and use the refrain from this psalm for each one.
    1. Family
      for his steadfast love endures forever.
    2. A wide network of friends
      for his steadfast love endures forever.
    3. Church
      for his steadfast love endures forever.
    4. Relative Affluence and comfort
      for his steadfast love endures forever.
    5. Living in a time and place where I can freely practice my faith and express my thoughts
      for his steadfast love endures forever.
    6. A relatively secure future
      for his steadfast love endures forever.
    7. The Saints that have gone before me, that have informed my faith
      for his steadfast love endures forever.
    8. Living in a time and place that challenges my complacency and forces me to explore my boundaries
      for his steadfast love endures forever.
    9. Technology that allows us to be connected, worldwide, 24X7
      for his steadfast love endures forever.
    10. This opportunity to reflect on my Lenten Journey
      for his steadfast love endures forever.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lenten Devotion -- Sunday, March 1

Day 11


It's a noisy world out there, the noise drowns out God's voice. Psalms of praise serve two purposes: praising God, obviously, and getting re-focused on those things we should be grateful for. Things that are not important to the world - or so it seems - but that are important for the kingdom of God.



The Lord sets the prisoners free;
     the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
    he upholds the orphan and the widow,
    but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.


I'm sure that God intends to work through us to help the prisoners, the blind, those who are bowed down, the strangers, the orphan and the widow. Feel sorry for the wicked though. But while we get our acts together, we can praise God and pray that God will guide us into how to help.

The Psalmist is very clear about putting our trust in God, not "in mortals, in whom there is no help." So we praise God, we pray to God, and we work for God's kingdom here and now.
Questions for reflection:
  1. As you think of the past week, which characteristics and acts of God are you most grateful for?
    1. God's patience with me.
    2. God's constant and continuing care of me and my family.
    3. God putting reminders in my way that God is in charge.
  2. In what ways do those attributes and acts of God inform your worship and song?
    1. The worship and song, the praise, they keep me focused on God's importance in my life.