This morning during Daily Prayer, I was left contemplating, with awe Psalm 36:
Sin whispers to the wicked, in the depths of their heart; •
there is no fear of God before their eyes.

2 They flatter themselves in their own eyes •
that their abominable sin will not be found out.

3 The words of their mouth are unrighteous and full of deceit; •
they have ceased to act wisely and to do good.

4 They think out mischief upon their beds
and have set themselves in no good way; •
nor do they abhor that which is evil. R

5 Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens •
and your faithfulness to the clouds.

6 Your righteousness stands like the strong mountains,
your justice like the great deep; •
you, Lord, shall save both man and beast.

7 How precious is your loving mercy, O God! •
All mortal flesh shall take refuge
under the shadow of your wings.

8 They shall be satisfied with the abundance of your house; •
they shall drink from the river of your delights.

9 For with you is the well of life •
and in your light shall we see light. R

10 O continue your loving-kindness to those who know you •
and your righteousness to those who are true of heart.

11 Let not the foot of pride come against me, •
nor the hand of the ungodly thrust me away.

12 There are they fallen, all who work wickedness. •
They are cast down and shall not be able to stand.

I was struck by the visual scene that so easily gets painted in my mind as I read about the faithfulness of our Lord.  I would encourage you to stop this morning and re-read those words several time. Allowing the truth and beauty to wash over you and paint a picture of God's majesty in your mind.

Why? Because we need it.  Even as Psalm 36 denotes, sin exists and is a reality in our lives.  As Daily Prayer went on today, it recounted Joseph being thrown into the pit by his brothers (Genesis 37) and Paul talking to the church about his ministry to Gentiles (Galatians 2). Even while Paul spoke, there were those who tried to get him in trouble for the freedom he found in Christ.  But even as we read these stories, we, as readers, know the ends of the stories:

Jacob staring at the bloody clothes, refusing to be comforted and declaring that he will go to the grave still mourning.  This is juxtaposed to him standing face-to-face with his son, on Egyptian soil, and having the years of pain, heaviness and sorrow stripped away in just a moment.

Or we, who are Gentiles: living, breathing, and operating daily in the grace of God.  Why? "We did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel may remain with you (Galatians 2)."

Sin is a reality, but do not allow its reality to cloud your vision. Look again upon the faithfulness, the justice, the strength, the mercy of our living God.  And know, know that even in the midst of sin, He is orchestrating redemption and beauty for not only you, but generations to come.

In Christ,

Learning to Live: Present

A lesson for my life for several years has been - learning to live: present.  Personally, it seems so easy to vacillate between the past and the future, but to stay firmly in the present, that is hard.  Our culture  easily embeds us in this swinging pendulum: Facebook asks us to continually share what just happened in the past (and often to highlight only the good of those moments).  Our smartphones alert us to what is to come.  We have calendars full of events a year in the future.  We can set reminders that alert us to what will happen in 1 hour, 10 minutes, 5 minutes and more.  Even with all these reminders, I often find myself walking around with the feeling that I am forgetting something, something important.

But I often find that I haven't forgotten anything, except, perhaps to enjoy the present moment.  Perhaps, enjoying the present moment is an element of childlike faith? Why? Because it is something I see my children do all the time.  They do not worry about the past nor the future.  They play, they laugh, they enjoy, they get annoyed, they shake it off and play and laugh again.

Because being present is no longer natural for me, I've had to become intentional about pursuing it.  Here are some things that have helped me over the years to realign myself to the present:

  • Understanding more about God: Through the years, I've had to learn to let go of the neurotic feeling that God was standing somewhere beyond me, tapping His foot waiting for me to get there, so that when (if) I arrived we could move forward together.  For many years, the voices  that surrounded me, held out a carrot saying that tomorrow was better with God. Tomorrow I would be holier, tomorrow I would be more peaceful, tomorrow there would be more joy.  Well, I suppose, I am more peaceful, holier and joyful than I used to be but it didn't happen by continually chasing tomorrow.  It happened when I woke up to the fact that He is with me TODAY, no matter where TODAY places me.  It happened when I realized that He is in charge of His Kingdom (not I) and that He has invited me to be a collaborator with Him in the Kingdom.
  • Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
  • The people walking in darkness
        have seen a great light;
    on those living in the land of deep darkness
        a light has dawned.
    For to us a child is born,
        to us a son is given,
        and the government will be on his shoulders.
    And he will be called
        Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
        Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

    Of the greatness of his government and peace
        there will be no end.
    He will reign on David’s throne
        and over his kingdom,
    establishing and upholding it
        with justice and righteousness
        from that time on and forever.
    The zeal of the Lord Almighty
        will accomplish this.
  • Henri Nouwen, "Wherever I am, at home, in a hotel, in a train, plane, airport, I would not feel irritated, restless, and desirous of being somewhere else or doing something else.  I would know that here and now is what counts and is important because it is God himself who wants me in this time and place. (Monk Habits for Everyday Life by Dennis Okholm from chapter 8: Staying Put to Get Somewhere)"
  •  C.S. Lewis: The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them for eternity.  He therefore wants them to attend chiefly to two things - to eternity itself and to that point of time which they call the present.  For the present is the point at which time touches eternity.  Our business, as demons is to get them away from the eternal and the present.

    It's far better to make them live in the future, all their passions point in that direction.  The thought about the future inflames hope and fear.  It is also unknown to them so that making them think about it will make them think of unrealities.  In a word, the future is of all things the least like eternity.  It is the most completely temporal part of time - for the past is froze and no longer flows and the present is all lit up with eternal rays.  Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the future.  Gratitude looks to the past, love to the present, fear, avarice, lust and ambition look ahead. (Screwtape Letters Letter 15)

    Years ago I heard a sermon by Erwin McManus where he said something to the effect of, "If you need a vacation to enjoy your life, then you need a new life."  This really struck me at the time, because I felt like I was in survival mode and that vacations, those one week, once a year things, was what I was surviving to live to make it to.  In those obscure places, existed the ability to live in joy and freedom.  His words awakened me to the fact that this wasn't what I needed to live for because God had indeed offered me life for today, in fact it was sufficient for every day.

    So years later, I think it is working:

     Common, everyday life is holy.
    I find myself wondering where my phone is and realizing that I haven't touched it in over 3 hours.  I find myself holding my kids, smelling their hair, looking at them in the eyes, laughing genuinely with them. 

      Living present, enjoying the gift of today.
    I find myself finding joy in the small, monotonous everyday tasks of folding laundry, vacuuming, sweeping; not wishing those tasks away or seeing them as an inconvenience.  I find myself enjoying work, recognizing that it is a holy task that allows me to partner with God in everyday life. 

      Because, this IS the day that the Lord has made.
    I also find myself giving myself grace to be human: to be crabby, impatient, frustrated, grumpy - inviting God to lead me through the dark places that still exist within me.

    So let us rejoice and be glad in it.
    In Christ,

Advent: HOPE

This week's Advent theme is HOPE.  

In light of this week's tragic news events the lessons I've been learning this week on this topic sit very relevant in my heart, mind and soul.

What does hope mean, in a world of darkness?

What is the purpose of the body of Christ in this age?

Should fear, rule and reign over our hearts?

My reflections on those questions are being answered for me by these thoughts:

  • There is nothing new under the sun. 
  • Christian Hope is not wishful thinking.
  • Christ's Kingdom is not of this world. 
  • We are representatives of His Kingdom here on earth.
 There is nothing new under the Sun
I've been reading, Seeking God, by Esther de Waal this week.  She was discussing how the Rule of St. Benedict was established during the age of the barbarians.  Barbarians from the north were raiding and destroying the known civilized world.  As I reflected on it, I recognized that terrorism is nothing new to the human story.  But neither is the seeking of God, by His people.

Christian Hope is Not Wishful Thinking
Our Lectionary readings at church this week covered the idea of Christ's Coming the second time:

Luke 21:25-36
 25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

My pastor reminded us that in the midst of the chaos of this world, we can lift up our heads in hope and confidence, because we do know the ending of this story.  REDEMPTION is what God is up to in this world.

Christ's Kingdom is NOT of this world 
This week, too, I reflected upon Christ before Pilate, answering the question - are you the King of the Jews?

Jesus' response, was that His Kingdom was not of this world.  Jesus was very much in the world and His life was definitely affected by the world, however, He was keenly aware that His story was not written by the world.

We are representatives of His Kingdom here on earth 
All these truths brought me back to the question, then what is our place in this world? Do we need to be given to fear? Because if you spend five minutes watching the news that is where you can easily be led.

Personally, this Advent season is leading me to a new reflection: of Christ returning as King.  I've never experienced Christmas reflecting on this, I've only reflected on it through the eyes of the first Christmas.  However, there is a sweetness to this season, reflecting on the fact that He will return again as King.

In light of all of this: 
Because there is nothing new under the sun, I am aware that terror exists in our world, but I also am aware that Christ is fully confident in the role of His Bride, the Church.  We have been invited to place our Hope (confidence) in Him and what He is up to in our lives.  We've also been invited to fully live in this world and have our lives fully affected by this world, but to also be confident that we are part of another Kingdom.  Finally, we've been invited to walk out His Kingdom, here on earth, in the midst of darkness.  To be the LIGHT in a dark world.

May we LOVE our enemies.
May we pray for those who PERSECUTE us and others.
May we LOVE our families and our children.
May we SERVE our neighbors.

Lastly, I feel this Psalm provides a fitting direction to direct our hearts, souls and minds in this season:
 Psalm 24
 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
    and established it on the waters.
 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not trust in an idol
    or swear by a false god.[a]
They will receive blessing from the Lord
    and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
    who seek your face, God of Jacob.[b][c]
Lift up your heads, you gates;
    be lifted up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord strong and mighty,
    the Lord mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, you gates;
    lift them up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
    The Lord Almighty—
    he is the King of glory.

May we lift up our heads, our King is coming.  May His GLORY be reflected in our lives, even today.

Advent: Hope

In Christ,

Embracing the Father

My children are coming to the age where they are realizing that they have power: power to debate, to move others and to stand their ground.  Often times, the fertile soil for testing these powers is in their relationship with one another.  So today after the third stand-off, I believe over who was to start the dishwasher or something of that do or die sort, I decided it was time we had a little talk.  A talk about what it means to lead - as Jesus leads.

The idea of leadership has been an area of thought for me lately, because I've been blessed with both a boss and a pastor that each lead with grace.  I've been amazed at what a difference it makes in my ability to be creative, excited, free and energized in what I do.  Being under life-giving leadership has really caused me to step back and reevaluate what it means to lead.  Because, if you know me well, I like to lead.  Leading by clearing the path and bringing people through, even if I have to drag them through.  But learning to lead, by grace, first, with patience, hope and belief in those that follow, that is a new one for me; in fact it is a challenge.

So back to our little talk this morning, it led us to Mark 9:33-37 in The Message.  The beauty embedded in these verses caught me by surprise:

 They came to Capernaum.
When he was safe at home, he asked them,
 “What were you discussing on the road?”
This totally made me smile, especially since I was talking to my kids. Of course He knew what they were talking about.
34 The silence was deafening
(Um, yeah, they knew they had been caught.)
—they had been arguing with one another over who among them was greatest.
35 He sat down and summoned the Twelve.
(Do you see the grace in His approach...)
“So you want first place?
Then take the last place.
Be the servant of all.”
36-37 He put a child in the middle of the room.
Then, cradling the little one in his arms (...and the tenderness?),
he said,
“Whoever embraces one of these children
as I do embraces me,
 and far more than me—God who sent me.”
Here's the thing.  My kids are black and white, solid, logical thinkers.  Why in the world would they want to be a servant to their sibling? (These words finding echoing friends in the chambers of my own thoughts).  But the images Jesus creates - they take us out of our paradigm and He changes the whole conversation.  I saw things in a whole new way during this discussion:
Jesus wants us to view the others with the same gentleness, tenderness and care that we would a baby.  This means they are precious to Him and should be precious to us.  And then, then He takes it one step further, this act of tenderness and compassion becomes a place of blessing for us.  By embracing (holding tenderly in our arms with care and compassion) we are embracing Jesus and not only Him, but God as well.
Personally, I had never seen these verses this way before.  Be a servant. Suck it up. Do the right thing because you have to! That's what I always saw before.
But this, this has shaken me, awakened me, excited me.  Perhaps it will do the same for you.
In Christ,


 cascading off of marble walls.
incased in beauty.
Structures of success,
left empty inside.
today is measured
by what we create
But what do we do when
we've reached the epitome of success
and look around to see that we are standing there
Those are the modern day images I think of when I reflect on 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Often times, I feel that we are taught to measure our lives based solely upon our successes, yet rarely are we taught to love, challenged to love.  It is easier, much easier to achieve than to turn the other cheek and to love.
Yet the way we see God explain how He weaves Himself into our lives is in the dailyness of it all.
Love it is patient.                                                                                                                fails.
  Love it is kind.                                                                                                            it never
        It does not envy.                                                                                              Love
            It does not boast. It is not proud.                                                       It always perseveres.
                It is not self-seeking.                                                                 It always hopes.
                     It keeps no record of wrong.                                         It always trusts.
                                                     Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders fail.
My heart aches when I see brokenness.  Broken lives. Broken marriages. This wasn't the design. This wasn't the intention. It wasn't how we were built to be.  I pray that my heart never becomes callous to the pain I feel when I encounter this brokenness. 
Yet, I see, know and understand that He hasn't abandoned us. Nor has He ignored us. 
May we understand that the little decisions we make everyday.  The choices to love and forgive. To choose to trust, to choose to hope, to choose to persevere - those are the things that truly matter.  Those are the foundational truths upon which our homes are built.
Let us learn how to incorporate Christ into our daily lives, our daily decisions, our daily choices. This is where He belongs.
In Christ,

Daily Prayer

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