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Psalm 146 June 5, 2016

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Verses 5-9 Respond to the Trumps of the world:

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry.
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.

Heidi Grogan, this week’s devotion writer, notes that we should never stop praising God, who has “lifted us and restored us when we were bowed down and has empowered us to do likewise.”

She points out the psalmist refers to God nine times in verses 6-9, showing God’s concern for the oppressed and God’s presence in their suffering. We are all blessed when we look to God as the source of help. She asks where we need wise leadership translated into concrete compassionate action today and prays,

God, we thank you for being our strength. Give us wise leaders who have compassion for people who need protection and help. Loving God, may we stand with you, whose concern is for the bowed down. May we embody your compassion and action to relieve the suffering of the oppressed. Amen.

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Pentecost Sunday May 15, 2016

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This is so spot on that all I can do is quote the whole thing:

If you have ever dropped a rock in water, you know what happens. The impact creates changes. Ripples spread out from the point of contact. Many factors determine the size, extent, and duration of the ripples. Imagine what could happen if all the created order were impacted by a reality greater even than creation. How far from the point of impact would the effect be felt? We don’t have to imagine. We know. We know because of Pentecost. The reality that entered the world that day.

On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit entered the world in a new way and began a new creation. Greater than the whole of creation, timeless and eternal, powerful enough to spread the skies with the stars and the oceans with countless schools of fish, loving enough to lead us through Exodus and out of Exile, confident enough to come to us as a newborn baby, God comes with infinite love and compassion to birth the new creation. This is the size and force of the reality that entered our world.

We see the ripple effect immediately. The words for wind and breath and Spirit are all the same in the Bible. So the wind that sweeps the disciples out of hiding and into the public is the Holy Spirit, moving them and moving in them. The curse of Babel is reversed. Everyone can understand God’s word once more. The new beginning is announced with creative power. The ripples spread from Jerusalem, Samaria, and Judea to the ends of the earth. They spread still today. Spirit-bearing waves sweep away human failing and timidity and wash creation in the baptismal waters of new birth.

Creating God, wash me anew in the power of your Spirit that I may continue in your work of restoring creation. Amen

– Brad Gabriel, Upper Room Disciplines 2016
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Revelations 7:9-17 Work Those Spiritual Muscles April 16, 2016

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I don’t pretend to understand much of the Bible’s Book of the Revelation to John, but these verses, thanks to Handel’s Messiah, are very familiar. Even though that section of the piece is not the easiest, I always enjoy singing:

Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.

This morning a different part stood out to me in a section of verse 14 where there is a reference to “they who have come out of the great ordeal . . .”

I wondered about what was meant as the”great ordeal”, whether the writer was trying to rally the troops and referring to the martyrs and others who, in that century were enduring persecution and torture for spreading the new Christian faith, or anyone – then and now – who is simply living life with all its ups and downs.

I prefer the latter interpretation, especially after reading the devotional reading in my Upper Room Disciplines book. Besides commenting on diversity and how open to everyone God is (heaven – whatever that is – is open to everyone; no one but God gets to decide who is or isn’t welcome), Roy M. Carlisle, this week’s writer states, life, particularly spiritual life, is difficult.

We will struggle, experience dark times, and suffer, but if we have exercised the muscle of faith we will join that throng before the throne to say, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

I like the concept of a spiritual muscle. Since the beginning of last month, I have become more intentional about my physical being. I took on a challenge which involved a dietary change (including a daily protein shake and eliminating fast food from my daily diet) and a daily dance workout. I had to get up earlier in order to fit the exercise in and ran out of time for my morning devotional/meditation routine. By the end of the second week, the dance routines had become too stressful on my knees and ankles, I wasn’t getting enough sleep, and I stopped doing them. But the new way of eating had won me over and I went back to my old wake-up time, spending more time prepping my meals to take to work. I missed my morning devotions, however!

Eventually, I found new ways to exercise (I haven’t given up my first love, zumba, but my work schedule doesn’t allow it often enough.) Dance workouts that are less intense are available and can be done after work, a quick morning walk is great if there’s time, and food prep can be done in batches or prepped at work. I finally was able to feed my spiritual need again! New routines take time to assimilate.

Last week, I started a new challenge – a 7-day “detox” aimed at eliminating salt, refined sugars and other toxins by eating “cleaner”. No dairy products, alcohol, processed foods, or red meat – while drinking a gallon of water every day. This isn’t a diet for losing weight, but to cleanse naturally. It also addressed the mental part of us through relaxation, Zen, yoga, and walking. Light exercise while cleaning out the physical body.

It has been six weeks since I started my new physical routine. As we Methodists like to say, I’m still on that lifetime journey toward perfection! This past week has solidified the need for balance – physical, mental, social, and spiritual. Work the body’s muscles: take care of that “temple of the Holy Spirit” that has been given you; work that muscle known as your brain; stretch yourself out to help others and love all you meet; stretch your muscle of faith.

I realize I have rambled far longer than my usual posts here, but it has helped me process the process. I’m reminded of the sprinters who write “Hebrews 12:1” on their shoes, let us run with perseverance/endurance the race marked out for us . . .
I’ll finish with this short prayer at the end of Mr. Carlisle’s meditation.

Jesus, help us run the race and fight the good fight and do it for as long as we live. Amen.

John 20:19-31: Jesus Appears to the Disciples April 2, 2016

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The disciples are hiding behind locked doors in case the authorities try to arrest and execute them like they did Jesus. But locked doors are nothing to one who has conquered death, so Jesus appears to them inside the house, greeting them with the comforting and traditional, “Peace be with you.”

Peace is the gift we are all given by Christ Jesus. His greeting was and still is a traditional form of greeting, but the intention of His words are the promise and hope that belief in Christ With Us brings. With Christ, we are strengthened and made less fearful. The Creator and Sustainor has conquered death and is holding each one of us. There is no need to fear!

Clothed in Love April 2, 2016

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image (View from the window, Kings Beach, California, Christmas Eve Morning, 2015)

(April 2, 2016 – just discovered this was never published. It was written just before Christmas, yet a week after Easter, it is equally fitting.)

This week’s devotional is based on the theme of Love: God’s love for us and that same love we can share with everyone we encounter.

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26 tells us of Hannah’s love for her son, Samuel, who was such a precious and long-awaited gift himself, that she dedicated him to be a priest. Every year, she made him a new robe and gave it to him the one time a year she got to see him. It was made with love and prayers, and the devotion writer, Nicola Vidamour, reminds us to accept gifts given us by everyone who makes the effort. If someone we know gives us a handmade gift, appreciate the time and love that went into it. Appreciate kind actions wherever they come from and try to be kind and loving to every person you encounter.

Colossians 3:12-14 reminds us

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

That’s the message for everyday, but it’s a good reminder in case we get too caught up in whatever stresses us during the Christmas season. As Rev. Vidamour writes, ” Colossians 3:14 tells us that love is the most important gift to clothe ourselves with. Love is the perfect accessory for every outfit since love binds everything together in perfect harmony.

We take a sidetrack to the traditional verses of Luke 2:1-20 on December 24:
The Christmas Eve story of Mary and Joseph and the baby born in Bethlehem. Wrapped in swaddling cloths as a human baby who would later be wrapped in burial cloth, only to leave them as risen Christ! This is the ultimate form of love: to give up godhood to live among your creation, not only to teach and mentor, but to die horribly in order to get the point across!

Hebrews 1:1-12 reminds us of that exactly:

LONG ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

In a later verse, a comment is made about his earthly life set aside like his earthly clothes, “But you are the same, and your years will never end.”

Psalm 148 reminds us, “Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.”

All that is beautiful and awesome and good is due to God’s creative powers. That little manger baby was also He who created the heavens and earth. What incredible love for us humans, we who are also God’s creatures, to have come to teach and die for us! Let’s forever praise him!

Easter Sunday is Over; Time to Restart March 31, 2016

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I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

John’s declaration in Revelations 1:8 of God’s might is our reminder to get to work if we really believe in this Easter story of death and resurrection. If we follow Him who came to live, teach, heal, and die among mere mortals so we could glimpse God’s kingdom, Easter is our New Year every year.  It’s our reminder and motivation to love more, care more, and share more. We are both children of God and part of God’s priesthood. We are to BE Christ to others so that others can share in living that glimpse of the kingdom here on earth, TODAY. Let’s make it so.

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Philippians 4:4-7 Happiness or Joy? December 29, 2015

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Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Martha C. Highsmith writes that happiness is situational, that it is fleeting and often based on getting something material. Joy comes from a feeling deep inside, often from gratitude. Joy lasts as we remember and experience events and kind acts. We share joy by passing on or sharing joyful feelings.

We are happy to have something to eat when we are hungry but we will be hungry again. We are happy to have a car that we like and can depend on. We feel joy when we watch a beautiful sunrise, knowing we are alive with a roof over our heads and means to provide food, clothing, and transportation for our loved ones, that we a.

I finish this entry nearly a year after Sam finally came off the ventilator and sedatives that had kept him unconscious while he recovered from a terrifying illness. I will never forget the tears of joy I sobbed when I got the news that he was going to be alright. I still feel that joy whenever I think back on that moment. Happiness is fleeting but joy is something like what Mary kept in her heart. Remembering, pondering, reliving and relishing that feeling – and continuing to give thanks to God for the joy!

Psalm 19:1-6 September 8, 2015

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I love the first line of this psalm as it is so easy to understand how the “heavens proclaim” God’s glory. Look up at the sky, day or night, and tell me you’re not struck by the beauty and awesomeness of the clouds, stars,and colors that appear! God’s creative power is unending.

So if the natural world can so eloquently proclaim God’s glory, why can’t we humans do the same? We tend to be either overbearing (have you been saved? . . . ),  judgemental (our group knows the Truth . . .) or so desirous of not offending anyone, we barely admit how we feel about our LORD and saving grace. I tend toward that last one, telling myself that my “good works” will speak for themselves. But there has to be some kind of faith sharing, otherwise we would be like friends who for some reason are ashamed to admit a relationship. The “heavens” do it right:

There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;  yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

Actions speak louder than words, but words are still required.

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23 September 1, 2015

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Interesting list of proverbs the lectionary lists for today:

God made us all, rich and poor, so wealth or lack of it should not be how we judge others. (Even though we shouldn’t judge anyone anyway!)

We should share what we have and be generous, avoiding unjust acts.

Don’t take advantage of the poor or weak because God “pleads their cause” (and “despoils of life” those who mess with those plaintiffs!)

Who does the LORD want us to be? Someone who doesn’t judge others but tries to help them? Sure, of course. Attitude counts big in the why and how. Do we help because it’s our job? Yes, of course. But what does the LORD require of us in our heart and soul? What about our “sins of omission”, all those times and ways we ignore, forget, avert our eyes?

What does the LORD require of us? Elaine Eberhart, this week’s devotion writer, writes

We rob the poor in these small individual ways, but together our harm is much greater. We rob the poor when we allow check-cashing businesses to thrive in poor neighborhoods, charging exorbitant fees to cash paychecks. We rob from the poor when we cannot find ways to connect the working poor with traditional financial services so they aren’t victimized by an industry that makes their economic progress impossible. We rob the poor when we build subsidized housing over sites of former chemical businesses. Giving cans of food is important, but we are called to address those who despoil the lives of our brothers and sisters. Advocacy in areas of public policy can seem overwhelming, but perhaps it is the avenue of the most help. What if our only choice was to live with our children in the apartment over the chemical dump?

Advocacy and personal relationships continue to be the correct avenue, but it’s hard. We often do things we don’t like or find difficult at our jobs. Maybe remembering our job under God’s supervision will be what we need to remember when we ponder these proverbs.

Psalm 51:1-12 July 29, 2015

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King David, once he realized what he had done, not only begged forgiveness from God, but more importantly asked to be made new, made to be a better person. My husband often tells me, “Don’t be sorry, try to do it better”.

David asks for the correct action:

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

We can always ask God for a “do over”, hallelujah!