Thursday, December 31, 2015

Remembering & Celebrating a Life well llived

To the glory of God and in memory of Eugenia Cross

this week one of your saints died.
She would not have claimed the name saint,
but that's what she was --
Her life, a witness to you and your love.

you consoled Martha and Mary in their distress;
draw near to us who mourn,
and dry the tears of those who weep.
You wept at the grave of Lazarus, your friend;
comfort us in our sorrow.
You raised the dead to life;
give to our beloved eternal life.
You promised paradise to the repentant thief;
bring us all to the joys of heaven.
Washed in baptism
and anointed with the Holy Spirit,
give us fellowship with all your saints.
Nourished at your table on earth,
welcome us at your table in the heavenly kingdom.

she has fought the good fight;
she has finished the race;
she has kept the faith.
Receive her into your eternal embrace,
the same embrace that brought her into life,
the same grace that breathed her first and her last breath.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Moved to Tears of Joy

So Christmas is always a hard time for me.

I miss my grandparents. I miss the trip over the mountains into Tennessee.  Leaving in southeastern North Carolina, I miss the cooler weather (80 degrees on Christmas Day!)

As a pastor, this is my BUSIEST time of year... addition rehearsals for musicals and cantatas, additional end of the year meetings and evaluations, additional worship services, phone calls, and visits that need to be made but some don't happen...

Also as pastor, I'm mindful of the pain many are feeling, the dark nights, the deep hurts, the grief, the emptiness, the loneliness.  My prayers are continually filled with longing for the hope of Christmas, the light that breaks into the darkness.

So I've begun a practice of looking for hope, watching for signs of Christ's coming.

There are many:
the gifts of love shared over meals,
the glow of candlelight in churches,
Christmas meals shared
in soup kitchens and food pantries and churches serving those in need,
carrying a homemade loaf of banana bread to an elderly neighbor and being invited into their house and into their lives as they tell stories...

This year there is a song I heard online.
The background is busy.
There is talking and laughing.
It's not a romantic ideal.
It's real life.
It's about the child to be born,
but it holds real life.
The song's refrain reminds us
that Christmas is not about me --
Christ was born "for the good of us all!"
And his birth is just the beginning.
There is life; there is teaching; there is healing;
there is challenge; there is death; there is resurrection.
"for the good of us all!"

This year I was moved to tears of joy with this song:


In a byre near Bethlehem
Passed by many a wandering stranger
The most precious Word of Life
Was heard gurgling in a manger
For the good of us all

By the Galilean Lake
Where the people flocked for teaching
The most precious Word of Life
Fed their mouths as well as preaching
For the good of us all

And He’s here when we call Him
Bringing health, love, and laughter
To life now and ever after
For the good of us all

Quiet was Gethsemane
Camouflaging priest and soldier
The most precious Word of Life
Took the world's weight on His shoulder
For the good of us all

On the hill of Calvary
Place to end all hope of living
The most precious Word of Life
Breathed His last and died, forgiving
For the good of us all

In a garden, just at dawn
Near the grave of human violence
The most precious Word of Life
Cleared His throat and ended silence
For the good of us all

see more here:

Thursday, December 17, 2015

How long will our prayers go unanswered?

PSALM 80:1-7
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
and come to save us!
Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
O LORD God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbors;
our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
Lord Jesus,
born among angels, and shepherds, and wise men,
and ordinary servants like Joseph and Mary,
Stir up your might
and come save us!
Shine your face upon us;
brighten your light with us;
then we may be saved.

How long will you
let our cries for help go unanswered?
Tears, fears, worries, changes, doubts, uncertainty...

Just like in days of old,
we are walking in deep darkness.
Shine your light upon us again.
We need You --
a lamp to our feet,
a light to our path,
a beacon of hope on the shoreline,
a pillar of fire at night,
a star to lead the way.

Let your face shine on us
and we will be saved!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Not Fear but Peace

Micah 5:2-5a
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
and he shall be the one of peace.
this was the passage the scholars found
when the wise men arrived
and asked Herod,
"Where is the child born king of the Jews?"

A study in contrasts:
King Herod
an agent of the Roman Empire
Death Squads
Political Strength

Baby Jesus
the Son of God
Prince of Peace

our news media is full of Herod:
of those who walk the halls of power,
of those who prey on our fears,
of those who confuse terror with power,
of extremist hide outs, strategic missile strikes, and threats of more,
all words used to hide the reality of violence, death, and revenge.

Prince of Peace,
Come and reign over us.
May Your peace be born 
in us, through us, between us, among us.
"Cure Thy children’s warring madness,
Bend our pride to Thy control.
Shame our wanton selfish gladness,
Rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal."

Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Do it quickly, Lord Jesus.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Family Ministry: One Disciples Another

Psalm 145:1-4
I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you,
and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall laud your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
"Family ministry is
the long, slow, hard work
of people who disciple parents and grandparents
so that they can disciple children.

It has always been people who disciple people,
and the process has always been multi-generational.

Yes, there can be helpful tools in that process.
But unless we are directly focusing
on nurturing the faith in the daily life of people
who are in turn nurturing the faith of others,
all the products in the world
won’t produce Christians
with a vibrant faith in Jesus.

Let’s help the Spirit 
create vibrant faith."

The above quotation from Vibrant Faith.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Generations Together Worship You, O Lord!

Luke 1:35-45
The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.  And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.  For nothing will be impossible with God.”  Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit  and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?  For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

may we be like Elizabeth & Mary
this Christmas.
These women from two different generations:
one "getting on in years";
one a young woman.
one married for decades;
one just engaged.
one with dreams unfulfilled;
one with visions of angels.

In a time of great change
in their pregnancies,
they run to each other -
one old and one young.
They rejoice together, O God.
They share their experiences of Your blessings.
Very different stories
and yet so very similar.

Elizabeth & Mary
resist the temptation
to turn only to their peers.
Instead they find support,
strength, and encouragement
in each other.
Two women from different generations
Worshiping you, O God, together.

You are a God of all generations,
and we generations need each other.

This Christmas 
Lord, may we be like Elizabeth and Mary
turning to each other to find 
support, strength, and encouragement!
The generations together worshiping you, O Lord.

The above prayer inspired by the thoughts of my friend Nate Phillips in his blog post:Talkin-bout-my-generation

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

SING to God

I love music.
I love making it.
I love hearing it.
I love dancing to it.
I worship you through it.
I experience you through music.

Any time of year
and especially,
at this Christmas time of year,
I am moved
to tears,
to joy,
to devotion,
to praise,
to sadness,
to hope,
to silence
through music.

As I write this prayer,
"Ava Maria" is singing forth from my computer.

This Christmas
I lift my voice
to sing praise to you!
to pray for my world before you!
to put my hope in you!

Lord Jesus,
hear my love for you in my heart
through the music on my lips.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Try This: Get Specific

Often at Thanksgiving when I make my list of the things I am thankful for, it becomes a list of general statements... family, friends, health, etc... and that's a good list.

But what would it be like to get specific? What about this year making a list that names names, that spells it out, that really says for whom and for what I am thankful?

I challenge you this year to get specific in our gratitude.
For whom are you grateful this year?
What relationships do you give thanks to God for?
List them by name:

What life opportunities are you grateful for?
List them by name with details:

What realities of your health are you grateful for?
List the details here:

What else do you need to say, "Thank you" for?
Get specific and list them here:

Now read those lists.
Pray through those lists.
Lift each one up to God.
Get specific with God.

God knows each hair on your head,
it's about time you got to know
each blessing God's given you.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Thanksgiving Psalm

Some time ago when I was small, my mother started a tradition in my family at Thanksgiving. At the start of the big meal, we read together Psalm 100.  As my brother and I have grown, married, and added children to the family, the ritual continues. 

The ritual is a reminder of who we are as the Grateful People of God.  It is a passing of our faith in a Faithful God from one generation to another.

I invite you to join us praying this ancient prayer of Thanksgiving to God:

Psalm 100
1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Mighty God,
by your power you created us,
and by your goodness you call us to be your people.
Accept the offering of our worship
that every race and nation 
may enter your courts,
praising you in song;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

prayer from the Book of Common Worship

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

GRIEF and SADNESS at Holidays

Thanksgiving (and other Holidays) are not so easy.

Old wounds buried deep still hurt.
Seats are empty
because of death,
or divorce,
or divisive words.
Our old disagreements still linger.

Try as we do
mistakes will be made
words will be said
turkeys will be dry
hurt will be felt
tears will fall.

at this holiday season
give us an extra measure of grace
a little more patience,
a deep breath to calm us,
a minute more to hold our tongue,
a listening heart that seeks compassion,
a shoulder to cry on,
a loving embrace...

And if it's not asking too much, Lord,
give us a precious memory
to hold
to remember
to celebrate
that will illicit from our lips
a whispered, heartfelt,
"Thank you."

Monday, November 23, 2015


how fortunate we are
in the United States
to have a holiday
designated to say,
"Thank you!"

It is one of my favorite holidays,
not because of the food,
not because of the football,
not because of the black Friday sales...
I love Thanksgiving because I need to say,
"Thank you."

Thank you to my family for loving me.
Thank you to my friends who stand beside me.
Thank you to my church for challenging me to grow in faith.
Thank you to my mentors who show the way.
Thank you for all the goodness that is mine to share.

And THANK YOU to You, Lord,
for all...
all that I am,
all that I have,
all that I can do,
all that I enjoy,
all that I take for granted.
All is from you,
a gift to me.

So, Thank you.
With my words,
with my actions,
with how I use my abilities,
with how I use my resources,
with how I love,
with how I treat my neighbors,
with how I love my enemies,
with every breath and heart beat:
Thank you, God.

Not just on Thanksgiving Day,
but everyday you give me:

Friday, November 20, 2015

Jesus the King

Sunday, November 22 is Christ the King Sunday.
As that day approaches, I have been reflecting on the Three-fold office of Christ: Prophet, Priest, and King. This week's prayers will reflect on how Jesus is for us all three: Prophet, Priest, and King.

JOHN 18:33-37
Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?" Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
Lord Jesus,
You are King of Kings
and Lord of Lords!
You are enthroned among the heavens,
King over all creation.

Jesus, our King, you
govern us by your Word and Spirit.
You guard us and protect us
keeping us always in the freedom
you have won for us in victory over life and death.
You uphold justice in your righteousness.

And even now you are accomplishing
your kingdom come
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.

Of your kingdom, Lord Jesus,
there is no end.

Today, Lord Jesus,
I bow my knee
to serve you, my King,
the King of Peace,
the King of Righteousness,
the King of Grace,
the King of Reconciliation,
the Servant King.
To you, and you alone,
do I pledge allegiance.
You reign in power and grace
on the throne of my life.
Thanks be to God!

The Heidelberg Catechism 
Question 31: Why is he called "Christ," meaning "anointed"?
Because he has been ordained by God the Father and has been anointed with the Holy Spirit to be
our chief prophet and teacher
who perfectly reveals to us
the secret counsel and will of God for our deliverance;
our only high priest
who has set us free by the one sacrifice of his body,
and who continually pleads our cause with the Father;
and our eternal king
who governs us by his Word and Spirit,
and who guards us and keeps us
in the freedom he has won for us.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Jesus the Priest

Sunday, November 22 is Christ the King Sunday.
As that day approaches, I have been reflecting on the Three-fold office of Christ: Prophet, Priest, and King. This week's prayers will reflect on how Jesus is for us all three: Prophet, Priest, and King.

Hebrews 4:14-16
Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Lord Jesus,
you are the Great High Priest.
You stand before God
interceding for us,
praying on our behalf.

You hear our confession
and declare to us the words of God's forgiveness.
More than that you yourself enact forgiveness!
Through your perfect sacrifice on the cross,
our sins are forgiven;
our lives are made new!

You, Lord Jesus,
are the Great High Priest.
Pray for us now
and at the hour of our death.

The Heidelberg Catechism 
Question 31: Why is he called "Christ," meaning "anointed"?
Because he has been ordained by God the Father and has been anointed with the Holy Spirit to be
our chief prophet and teacher
who perfectly reveals to us
the secret counsel and will of God for our deliverance;
our only high priest
who has set us free by the one sacrifice of his body,
and who continually pleads our cause with the Father;
and our eternal king
who governs us by his Word and Spirit,
and who guards us and keeps us
in the freedom he has won for us.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Jesus the Prophet

Sunday, November 22 is Christ the King Sunday.
As that day approaches, I have been reflecting on the Three-fold office of Christ: Prophet, Priest, and King. This week's prayers will reflect on how Jesus is for us all three: Prophet, Priest, and King.

John 14:8-11
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”  Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves..."

Lord Jesus,
you are
the Great Prophet
in word and power.

Just as the prophets of old,
in your words you speak to us
the voice of God, 
the Word of God,
the wisdom and teachings of God.

You show us God.
You reveal to us the nature of God.
Just as the prophets of old,
You point us 
beyond yourself to the very heart of God.

You act on behalf of God
giving blessings,
calling for repentance,
challenging unfaithfulness,
calling forth justice & righteous from our lives.

You, Lord Jesus,
are God's Prophet.
Speak again to your people.
Open our eyes to see God at work.
Call us to repentance and faithfulness:
"Seek first the kingdom of God and God's righteousness."

Speak, O Great Prophet,
we are listening!

The Heidelberg Catechism 
Question 31: Why is he called "Christ," meaning "anointed"?
Because he has been ordained by God the Father and has been anointed with the Holy Spirit to be
our chief prophet and teacher
who perfectly reveals to us
the secret counsel and will of God for our deliverance;
our only high priest
who has set us free by the one sacrifice of his body,
and who continually pleads our cause with the Father;
and our eternal king
who governs us by his Word and Spirit,
and who guards us and keeps us
in the freedom he has won for us.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Prayer in Times of Violence

A prayer for Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad

God of mercy, whose presence sustains us in every circumstance,
in the midst of unfolding violence and the aftermath of terror and loss,
we seek the grounding power of your love and compassion.
In these days of fearful danger and division, we need to believe somehow that your kindom of peace in which all nations and tribes and languages dwell together in peace is still a possibility.
Give us hope and courage that we may not yield our humanity to fear.., even in these endless days of dwelling in the valley of the shadow of death.

We pray for neighbors in Paris, in Beirut, in Baghdad, who, in the midst of the grace of ordinary life--while at work, or at play, have been violently assaulted, their lives cut off without mercy.

We are hostages of fear, caught in an escalating cycle of violence whose end can not be seen.

We open our hearts in anger, sorrow and hope: that those who have been spared as well as those whose lives are changed forever may find solace, sustenance, and strength in the days of recovery and reflection that come. We give thanks for strangers who comfort the wounded and who welcome stranded strangers, for first responders who run toward the sound of gunfire and into the smoke and fire of bombing sites.

Once again, Holy One, we cry, how long, O Lord? We seek forgiveness for the ways in which we have tolerated enmity and endured cultures of violence with weary resignation. We grieve the continued erosion of the fabric of our common life, the reality of fear that warps the common good. We pray in grief, remembering the lives that have been lost and maimed, in body or spirit.

We ask for sustaining courage for those who are suffering; wisdom and diligence among global and national agencies and individuals assessing threat and directing relief efforts; and for our anger and sorrow to unite in service to the establishment of a reign of peace, where the lion and the lamb may dwell together, and terror will not hold sway over our common life.

In these days of shock and sorrow, open our eyes, our hearts, and our hands to the movements of your Spirit, who flows in us like the river whose streams makes glad the city of God, and the hearts of all who dwell in it, and in You.

In the name of Christ, our healer and our Light, we pray, Amen.

Prayer by the Rev. Dr. Laurie Ann Kraus
Coordinator, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, PC(USA)

We also remember Burundi and South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen and Syria and the Central African Republic and the United States and all places where violence recently occurred that did not make the news.

Shared from:

Sunday, November 15, 2015

COMMIT: Giving ourselves to God

Today is Dedication Sunday at Elizabethtown Presbyterian Church.
In worship, the congregation will be invited to Commit themselves to God.

Together as we worship, we will process forward and place our pledge cards of time, talent, influence, and money on a table. Our action is significant.

The table that will receive our commitments is the historic communion table of the congregation.  It dates back to 1834.  At this simple table, God's people have been nourished on God's grace offered in the broken bread and poured out cup reminders of Christ's sacrifice for us.

We return to this table of grace to dedicate ourselves, to commit to God, to say, "Thank you."

The question of stewardship is NOT:
How much the church needs to receive?
but rather:
How much do you need to give?

We give thee but thine own,
Whate'er the gift may be,
For all we have is thine alone,
A trust, O Lord, from thee.
May we thy bounties thus
As stewards true receive,
And gladly, as thou blessest us,
To thee our firstfruits give.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Is God Really in Charge here??

MARK 13:1-8
As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down."
When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?" Then Jesus began to say to them, "Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.
you catch me
mouth open,
amazed at the grandeur
of technology,
a wide world made small,
the accomplishments of human ingenuity.

You remind me that
it all will be thrown down.

And you give me a warning:
"Beware that no one leads you astray..."
There will be false prophets;
there will be wars and threats of war;
nations will rise up again other nations;
there will be earthquakes and famines...

You tell me all this will happen,
and in the midst of it all,
you say to me:
"Do not be alarmed;
this must take place..."

Your words are a reminder
that even in all of this chaos,
even in all of this warring madness,
even in all of this sickness unto death,
in spite of all the evidence to the contrary:
You, O Lord, are in charge.

You are still, Lord of ALL.
So today
in the midst of loneliness,
in the midst of pain,
in the midst of illness,
in the midst of death,
in the midst of political debates,
in the midst of wrangling of words,
in the midst of wringing of hands,
in the midst of the grandeur
of technology, wealth, a wide world made small,
the accomplishments of human ingenuity
You, O Lord, are in charge.

Your purposes cannot be stopped.
Your love WILL continue to reach out
to the ends of the earth.
This is just the beginning
of what you are doing!

Today, Lord,
I stand in the confidence
I am glad I am not.
Help me do what I can
to extend your love
among my circle of influence
and beyond.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Prayer for Veteran's Day

today I lift up
to you
all those who have served
and continue to serve
the United States as soldiers.

Thank you for their commitment
to uphold the constitution of this great nation
and to defend us from every enemy.

Thank you for the sacrifices
their families make everyday
so that I can enjoy life freely
without thought of our nation's safety.

Growing up in a military town,
I remember well the families
with one member
so far away
in danger
facing the real possibility
of never coming home.

O God,
I join with your faithful
longing for a day
when our industry will be
in making tools of hospitality and welcome
instead of war and destruction.

Until that day, O God
Be the rear guard for our soldiers.
Be the stronghold
for their families.
Bring them home soon.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

COMMIT: Giving richly

Mark 12:41-44
He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."

Yes, I'm among the rich 
in this story, Lord.
I too contribute out of my abundance.
It's is an abundance you give me,
a gift of grace that I do not deserve.

Sure I work hard.
But even the ability to work,
the gifts I have in my work,
the opportunities I have through my work...
They all come from you, Lord.
Thank you.

But I wonder:
What would I give if I gave like the widow?
How would life be different 
if I became more conscious of my dependency on you?
I pray daily, "Give us this day our daily bread."
Would I complain less?
Would I be more grateful?
Would I not want so much more?
Would I silence the voices 
telling me I need more to be happy?
Would I be content?
Would I share more with others?

help me gain a new perspective.
Reset my desire for more.
Give me a desire to give generously
giving richly out of my dependence on you.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Be Present with God

I am often caught between
longing for the joys of my college days
(good friends, good learning, strong mentors, spiritual growth)
and my imagined future
(deeper friendships, financial security, life changing ministries).

You know I struggle to be
in the present fully
enjoying what you, Lord,
have put right in front of me.

I was reminded this week in a blog post from:
Matt Ham writes:
"I believe God seems distant to so many of us because the modern-day plague of our culture is the abandonment of the here and now. We eagerly trade every gift of the present for some far-off future promise—we live in constant pursuit of the rainbow's end. Or, we abandon the opportunity of the present for the regret of the past.
Inevitably, we spend our days relishing in the past or relentlessly chasing our future. It's no wonder God seems distant."
remind me
to look right in front of me
and be present in this moment,
your moment,
the place where 
"once was" and "will be" 

Be present to God today:
  • Turn off your cellphone
  • Be still
  • Watch the sunrise
  • Pray
  • Take a walk outside
  • Read Psalm 46
Richness and rest
intimacy and peace
contentment and joy
can only be found in the present.
thoughts in this prayer adapted from

Put GOD first!

PSALM 127:1-2
Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD guards the city,
the guard keeps watch in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives sleep to his beloved.

the psalm writer is clear:
Put the LORD first!

Work, rest, eating, toil,
building, guarding...
it is all nothingness
if You, Lord, are not first in all things.

Today, Lord,
I will put You first,
so that at the end of my days
I will rest forever in your embrace.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

BIG Questions: What should I do?

What does the future hold?

I pray often for students
who are in college,
for young adults
asking the questions:

What should I do?
What should I major in?
What is next for me?

These are BIG questions!
They are the questions of purpose, of vision, of "why?".

The answers to these questions can drive the next few decades of life! If the questions are left unanswered, or at least never wrestled with, then the future will be unfulfilling and unsettled.

Below is a link to a video in which I share some thoughts on what God says about our future.

BIG Questions: What Should I Do With My Life? from Etown Presbyterian Church on Vimeo.

Monday, November 2, 2015

HUMILITY and compassion

MARK 12:38-40
As he taught, he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets!They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."
I too like my robe.
It's my doctoral preaching robe--
the one with red pipping
around the velvet stripes.
It reminds me
of the ones worn
by many of my mentors.

Why do I wear the robe?
Because I'm proud of my doctoral studies?
As a symbol of my office as minister?
To gain respect from others?
Maybe a little...
But mostly I wear the robe
to cover up
an act of humility
so that it's not what
I'm wearing that matters
but the Word of God that I proclaim.

your warning is not
just about robes is it.
There are so many things we put on
to seem important:
the car we drive,
the title on our resume,
the names we drop,
the shirts we wear
from our exotic vacations,
the labels on our clothes,
the names of our neighborhoods...
All symbols of how we want to be perceived.
Seeking respect,
the best seats,
the places of honor.

But, Lord,
you show us a different way.
You dress in compassion.
Instead of dropping names,
you drop to your knees to serve.
You live among the poor.
Your friends are the least of these.
Not symbols,
but the reality
of your kingdom come
your willing being done
on earth as it is in heaven.

Teach us to put away our symbols of success
and take up your cross.
Help us commit to loving you
and loving others.
Working together to make a difference
in the lives of the people who surround us.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Commit to follow

Ruth 1:7-17
But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.” Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud.
They said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.”
But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands?Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.”
Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”
But Ruth said,
“Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people, and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die— there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!”

what amazing commitment Ruth has!
Naomi has nothing left to give her.
It does not make sense.
Such devotion to her mother-in-law
will not benefit her (at least not yet!).
The road before them is
long and lonely and hard.

And yet,
Ruth commits.
"Hesed" is the Hebrew word
used to describe Ruth.
The same word, Lord,
used to describe You!
"Hesed" steadfast faithfulness
without failure
without flaw
without end.

the more I think about this story
the more I think You ARE Ruth.
And I am Naomi.
It does no good for you to commit to me.
There is no benefit to you.
There is only a hard way,
a painful way,
an empty deadly way.

And yet, there you are
in the garden praying in anguish sweating blood for me.
And yet, there you are
on the cross committed to death for me.
And yet, there you are
beyond the empty tomb committed to Resurrection life for me.

You turn to me and say,
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people..."

That's commitment!
Lord, Thank you!
for committing to me.
Teach me that kind of commitment,
"Hesed" steadfast faithfulness.

today I commit to follow you.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

When Death Comes upon a House

Ruth 1:1-5
In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

so much illness,
so much cancer,
so much war,
so much death.

Naomi knew death.
First, her husband;
then 10 years later,
BOTH of her sons.
Death has come upon her house.

death has visited our community too:
a recent murder that still reels in my head,
a child of my church, now grown old, who is dying of cancer,
memories of so many neighbors, church members, friends
who have died.

This Sunday, All Saints' Day,
we will remember
those who have
kept the faith,
finished the race,
and have taken their seat
among the saints
who sing your praise!

We will remember,
and we pray that
we too will remain
steadfast in our commitment to you,
for you, Lord, are steadfast
in your commitment to us.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Do we REALLY believe God will provide?

COMMIT 2015 
Stewardship Campaign 
Elizabethtown Presbyterian Church

Psalm 23:1
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
"You are a Child of God;
sealed by the Holy Spirit,
claimed by Christ,
and nothing ever
said or done
can ever
change that."

"God himself will provide..." Genesis 22:8
Do we believe that?

If so, 
what are we going to do today to say,
"Thank you!"?

The question of stewardship then is 
not, "How much does the church need to receive?", 
but rather, "How much do you need to give?"

Saturday, October 24, 2015


MARK 10:46-52
They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you." So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

once we were
standing still
unable to see the way forward.

But you hear our cries.
You call to us
in our times of despair.

You heal us.
"Go; your faith has made you well."
But we don't want to "Go";
we want to stay and follow you.

Walk before us, Lord Jesus.
Show us the path.
It leads to a cross,
but also to an empty tomb.
It's a way that is hard,
a way that is painful,
a way filled with shadows and death.
But it is the only way,
your way that leads us home.

So lead on, O King Eternal,
we will follow you
today and everyday.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Take Heart!

MARK 10:46-49
They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you." 

you hear my cries.
At the sound of my voice,
you stand still,
you pause,
in compassion you stop.
And you call me to your side.

"Take heart!
Take heart!
The master is calling!
Get up...
he's waiting for you."

And so you are, Lord.
listening to my voice,
my cry.

Hear me
as I pour out
my heart's longing...

Monday, October 19, 2015

Cry out to Jesus!

MARK 10:46-48
They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

we, like Bartimaeus,
stand beside the highways and byways
along the way of life.
Some of us have lost our way.
Some of us can't see the way forward.
Some of us are left roadside begging.
We cry out to you:
"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

People around us
try to quiet us,
try to comfort us,
try to give us advice,
try to keep us from upsetting the ways things are...
But we cry all the louder:
"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
perhaps with a yell! "Have mercy on me!"
perhaps with sobs, "Have mercy on me!"
perhaps in pain, "Have mercy on me!"
perhaps out of loneliness, "Have mercy on me!"
perhaps in grief, "Have mercy on me!"
perhaps numb, longing to feel something, "Have mercy on me!"

We cry out to you, Lord,
because we know you hear us;
you care for us.
So we cry,
and we pray
no just for ourselves
but for our world.
"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy..."

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Thank you, Pastor.

This post may seem self serving, but I too need to say, "Thank you!"

thank you!
Thank you for the pastors in my life --
for Dr. Cliff McLeod who baptized me,
for Dr. Jeff Aiken whose voice boomed with passion for God,
for Rev. George Jacobs who showed the glory and struggles of ministry,
for Dr. Frank Colclough whose confidence in me as a teenager demonstrated the strength of our connectional church, 
for Dr. Ed McLeod who walked beside me as I answered your call to ministry,
for Dr. Ken Thomas who took me under his wing to mentor me in a small church,
for Dr. Richard Baxter who said "Amen" as I shared my story of calling at presbytery,
for Dr. Laura Mendenhall whose door was always open to her students,
for Dr. Bobby Wilkes who showed me what grace looks like in a pastor,
for Rev. Preston Sheally & Rev. Gary Lowe who listened over many miles in golf shoes,
for Dr. John Goodman who is a consistent listening ear,
for Rev. Evan Harrison who listens while we exercise together...

I had no idea the list of pastors 
in my life was so long.
I am certain I have left some out.
But for all of these and many more,
I say, "Thank you! Thank God for you!"

For those of us committed to being Disciples of Jesus Christ, Pastors are key people in our lives.  They pray with us and for us. Through their proclamation, they speak the forgiving good news of God's love in Jesus Christ to us. Through their failures, they remind us of our need to forgive. Through their strengths, they inspire us. Through their weaknesses, they show us where we need to step up and serve.

We look to pastors to provide leadership and guidance.These individuals deserve more than a 'thank you' every Sunday morning. For everything our pastors do, October has been designated Pastor Appreciation Month. This is a time for us in words and actions to express our gratitude and love for our pastors.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Humble Service, Bold Ministry!

Mark 10:41-45
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, "You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."
I spent the last week
with some of your most amazing servants.
Pastors, leaders, humble servants
from your church in Mexico.

On the first days,
I had no idea
who they really were.
So humble about their work...
So humble about the role
they play in your mission to the world...
So unassuming
treating me with the utmost dignity and respect.

It was only later in the week
that I realized
among their number was:

  • the Chairman of the Board of the ONLY Presbyterian University in Mexico! Universidad Alfa y Omega
  • the Vice President of Financial affairs from the same University
  • the Executive Secretary of the same University
  • the Director of International Studies of the same University
  • the chairman of the medical foundation
  • the director of the medical foundation
  • the General Presbyter
  • the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery
Many of these were also pastors of churches as well.

I was amazed by 
their commitment,
their passion, 
their love for you,

their investment in spending time with us,
their leadership,
their humility,
their vision for:

  • evangelism,
  • medical mission (They are working to build a hospital!),
  • education (Alfa y Omega is ranked among the TOP universities in their area!)
I saw in them exactly what you said:
"whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."
They modeled that well!

Thank you for their visit!
Thank you for giving me a peek 
into what you are doing in their part of the world.
Today I pray 
for my brothers and sisters 
in Tobasco, Mexico.
Strengthen them.
Provide for their needs.
Use them to challenge us to new faithfulness.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

For the Long Run

MARK 10:35-40
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." And he said to them, "What is it you want me to do for you?" And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They replied, "We are able." Then Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."

I join James & John asking:
Lord, I want you to do for me
whatever I ask of you.

And you say with love:
"What do you want me to do for you?"

I want...
well, I guess...
I'm not really sure what I want.

When I pray for peace,
and that doesn't seem to come.
When I pray for happiness,
that too seems to elude me.
When I pray for the church's commitment,
well, you've seen the attendance lately.

I guess what I most want
is to make a difference.
That's the drive that got me into ministry:
to make a difference.

But not just me,
What I really want
is for the congregation I serve
to impact the community
in life changing ways
for the good of the least of these.

And maybe you turn to me
like you did to James & John saying:
"You do not know what you're asking.
Are you able to drink the cup & be baptized
like I was, like they were?"

To which I can only say:
I hope so.
I'm trying; we're trying.

I hope you answer:
"Yes, you are. Yes, you will.
But you may never know the impact
the church is making in this life.
Keep on being faithful.
Remember what Friedrich Nietzsche wrote:
"The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is . . .
that there should be long obedience 
in the same direction;
there thereby results,
and has always resulted
in the long run,
something which has made life worth living."

So Lord,
today I put on my marathon shoes.
The life of faith is a long run,
and you are my running partner.
So when you're ready, Lord,
let's go.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Shocked by what I possess...

MARK 10:17-22
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: 'You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.'" He said to him, "Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth." Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

O Lord,
you really do set the bar high.
The life of righteousness is not a check list:
Do not murder -- check...
Do not commit adultery -- check...
Do not steal -- check...
I've done (or not done!) all of this.

You push beyond check lists;
You challenge us where we are most in need:
Our stuff.

The one thing we lack is our stuff.
O Lord, not that we don't have stuff.
But because we HAVE STUFF,
or rather our stuff HAS us.

The one thing we lack
is the willingness to let go
of our stuff --
our clothes,
our cars,
our fine furniture,
our wealth,
our 401k's, ...

Maybe the storms of late will remind us:
stuff comes and goes
but our dependence on You remains!
Help us dig out
from under the rubble of our stuff.
Help us learn to give away.
Indeed you did say,
"It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35)

We, who have much,
have a great opportunity to be
blessed by giving.
Help us claim the blessing that comes from giving.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Praying in the flood

the rain falls;
the waters rise;
the waves crash;
homes, cars, & trucks stuck on roadways
or worse washed away.

Lord, help.
Send your aide; send us.

Let us set aside
our preferences and prejudices
and provide aide to all.

Prove to us once again
the power of loving our neighbors.
And this time let us not stop.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Let ALL God's Children Come

Mark 10:13-16
People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

as a leader in today's church
it is hard to imagine anyone trying
to stop children from coming to you.

And yet we do
-- we do stop
your children from coming.
With our words and our actions,
we stop:
Your children who don't speak our language,
Your children who don't sit still,
Your children who can't or won't be quiet,
Your children who have physical limitations,
Your children with mental illness,
Your children who are more liberal than we are,
Your children who are more conservative than we are,
Your children who are more charismatic than we are,
Your children who are more reserved than we are.

Your blessings, Lord, are not reserved for some.
Your amazing grace is for ALL.
"Do not stop them..." you say to us,
"For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."

Help us
return to child-like faith
--a faith that welcomes all
for Christ's sake.

Monday, September 28, 2015

I DO: Commitment

MARK 10:2-16
Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" He answered them, "What did Moses command you?" They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her." But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."
Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."
your words about marriage
push against our "hardness of heart".
You raise a mirror before us,
a mirror of commitment --
"So they are no longer two but one flesh."
One unit,
knit together,
equal partners,
joined in marriage,
two unique people married
making a new entity -- a family.

And you push further.
"Those whom God has joined together,
let no one separate."
In your discussion of divorce and adultery,
you set the bar HIGH.
Marriage is commitment.

the biggest threat to marriage
I see daily
is lack of commitment.

what can the church do to emphasis
the work and commitment that marriage requires?

Thank you for the positive examples of marriage
you have put in my life.

Today I renew my vows to my spouse
that I made 13 years ago:
"I promise to love you and be faithful to you
as long as we both shall life."
Yes, I have.
And I will.

I will meet with a couple
who wants to become married.
Help me speak honestly and helpfully
about the commitment,
the promises, the new life,
the sacrifices, the gifts of grace
that they will face.

Marriage is hard work
and can be one way you give grace.
It has been for me.
Thank you.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Prayer from the Hurricane

PSALM 124:1-8
If it had not been the LORD who was on our side
— let Israel now say —
if it had not been the LORD who was on our side,
when our enemies attacked us,
then they would have swallowed us up alive,
when their anger was kindled against us;
then the flood would have swept us away,
the torrent would have gone over us;
then over us would have gone
the raging waters. 
Blessed be the LORD,
who has not given us
as prey to their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird
from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

it was 26 years ago this week
when Hurricane Hugo roared over my home.

I remember the preparations:
Filling bathtubs and sinks with water,
Canned goods, batteries, flashlights and radios,
Gasoline in cars and gas cans,
Sleeping bags and pillows,
Yard furniture, outside toys put away.

That day had a beautiful clear blue sky.
That night I woke to howling winds
and deep thuds,
which I learned later were pine trees falling.
My family gathered in the hallway listening to the radio.
Finally too exhausted I fell asleep in my sleeping bag.

The next morning I awoke to 24 pine trees down in our yard
and an amazing display of neighbors loving neighbors.
Baptist men from far away came
with backhoes and bulldozers to clear passage in the streets
Neighbors checked on the elderly.
Shared chainsaws and strength to remove fallen trees.

Then the most amazing meal--
a Eucharist of sorts.
Neighbors gathering together
bringing the thawing meat from the freezer,
the once frozen bread dough,
the chicken soup frozen in the summer for the winter cold
All gathering together around a gas grill and out door tables
the same ones who had sweated together clearing uprooted trees
now sharing, laughing, talking, feasting,
communing together.

The waves crashed high on the shore.
The winds broke windows, smashing trees through rooflines.
But the Lord was with us in the storm;
the Lord was with us in the recovery;
the Lord was at the table;
the Lord was on our side.

Thank you,

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Prayer when God seems silent

JAMES 5:13-20
Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.

Elijah was a human being like us,
just a man.
He prayed fervently 
that it would not rain, 
and it did not rain.

But what about 
when I prayed fervently 
that she would not die,
but she did die?

What about 
when they prayed for a child
and still remained childless?

What about
when she prayed to be clean from addiction,
but she's still a slave to alcohol?

What about
when the boy prayed to be adopted,
but he still lives at the children's home?

What about...
those times?
Were those prayers not fervent enough?
Was your answer just simply, "No."? 
or worse silence?
Did you not hear?
Did you not care?

the witness of the scriptures is 
you DO hear, you DO care.
Jesus Christ is your answer to prayer.
Sometimes he is a resounding "YES!"
Sometimes a clear "No."
Sometimes a shoulder to cry on.
Sometimes a miracle worker.
Sometimes a listening ear.
Sometimes he moves mountains.
Sometimes he calls us to come on the waters.
Sometimes he calms the storm.
Sometimes he moves us to action.
Sometimes he stoops to write in the sand.
He's always a mystery.

While I do not always understand ,
I will pray anyways.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Will you pray for me?

JAMES 5:13-20
Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.

I know prayer is important.
I know prayer is powerful.
Even this blog is a commitment to praying
and inviting others to pray.

And yet,
how often do I "call for the elders"
when I need praying?

I'm afraid my American independence,
my "I-can-do-it-myself" attitude,
my desire for privacy,
my fear of being seen as weak,
keeps me from inviting the prayers of others.

help me ask not just for your help
but for the prayers of others
because the prayers of the righteous
are powerful and effective.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The GREATEST among us

Mark 9:33-37

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all." Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me."

how foolish we are--
arguing about who is the greatest
when you are walking among us...
Of course, you are THE GREATEST Lord!

And yet, you surprise me.
Taking a child -- a toddler, I imagine.
One who babbles and waddles
wherever those little feet may go
squatting low to look
at the leaves, the flowers, the rocks
grabbing a handful of grass
trying to eat it

looking up with a silly smile
to the adults nearby...

You scoop up that bundle
of bubbles and tantrums
into your arms
and looking at me, you say:
"This one
--and every Child of God  --
welcome them in my name
with love and acceptance and grace.
When you do that,
you welcome me
and the GREAT God who sends me."

I will.
Today, Lord,
and everyday I will.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Gentle Wisdom

James 3: 13-18
Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. 

I'll never forget his response:
"I'm not worthy to be an elder;
I don't think I know the Bible all that well.
I'm not that smart.
I've prayed about it.
I've read the requirements.
I think there are better people in this church for this."

But it was exactly because he took it so seriously;
It was exactly because he prayed about.
It was exactly because he studied
the scriptures about being an elder.
It was exactly because of his humility.
For all that and more
that's why the congregation
and God was calling him to be an elder.

He became an excellent elder.

teach me gentleness born of wisdom.
The wisdom that does not seek selfish ambition
but rather seeks humility, purity, mercy good fruits, and peace making.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Did Jesus Keep a Secret?

Mark 9:30-32
They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again." But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
Why didn't you want anyone to know it?
Why keep your message secret?
Why do you tell those you heal not to tell anyone?
Why the Messianic Secret?

You preached openly in public.
You stood up again the religious leaders.
You healed the sick, the lame, the blind...
You fed 5,000! That's hard to keep secret!

Was it reverse psychology?
The more you said be quiet;
the more we shout aloud!

Was it because you knew you would be arrested?
There was too much work to be done.
If word got out, you would be arrested
and your work would be in jeopardy?

Was it because the kingdom of God idea is so radical
no one would believe it?
Was it because your kingdom threatens our kingdoms?
Was it because it just wasn't time yet?

Scholars have asked all these questions and more.
PhD dissertations have been and will be written about your secret.

I am learning in life --
there are times to speak boldly in public
and times to hold my tongue, keep quiet, and listen.
help know when the time is right.

Friday, September 11, 2015

To thine own self be true to live for God

Mark 8:34-38
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

how well I remember
wrestling with this passage in college.
I had just finished studying Shakespeare's Hamlet
echoing in my ears were the words from Polonius:
"This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!"

"To thine own self be true..."
Claim your identity.
Be true to yourself, your heritage,
your gifts, your calling.
It's such great advice --
especially for a freshman in college.

Then that night I read your words:
"If any want to become my followers,
let them deny themselves
and take up their cross and follow me."

Deny themselves and take up their cross...
Which is it Lord?
"To thine own self be true"?
"Deny themselves"?

Now 20 years later,
I realize they are the same:
To be true to myself
to deny myself and
take up my cross to follow you
for that is who you made me to be.
Following you IS being true!
Using my gifts, my abilities, my passions
for you IS being true to who you made me to be.

Thank you for making me to praise you!
Indeed I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
May my life be
a love song to you
sung aloud to the world.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

You are the CHRIST; I am not.

MARK 8:27-30
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" And they answered him, "John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah." And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
Lord Jesus,
your question still cuts 
to the heart of the matter:
"But who do you say that I am?"

"What words DO you use...?"
Lord, Savior, Rock, Redeemer,
Hope, Help, Salvation, Grace,
Son of God, Christ...

"What do you say about me in public?"
Jesus is my strength, my guide.
Jesus forgave and forgives me.
My faith in Jesus changes how I live.
When I pray to God for forgiveness,
I know God's answer --
the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ 
tell me that God says, "Yes, I forgive you!"

"What do you say about me with your life?"
I will follow you any where
from the city of Atlanta to the peach farming community of McBee
from the beach resort of Myrtle Beach to the busy county seat of Elizabethtown
from visiting at the nursing home bedside to praying at the ball field
from the board meeting of Habitat to the stockroom of the food pantry
from the session meeting to the homework table
from the Bible study to the dinner table
from reading bed time stories to answering a crisis phone call
Wherever you lead me, Lord, I will go...

"But who do you say that I am?"
You are the Christ.
I am not.
I will follow you all the days of my life.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Heal me... to hear and to speak

MARK 7:31-37
Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."

you who 
heal with a touch,
heal with a word,
heal in private,
heal with fingers in ears,
heal with spit,
heal with a tongue...

Open my ears
to hear your voice
the voice of God
the voice of my neighbor
calling out in pain
crying out in silence
grieving, numb, depressed,
lost in darkness, addiction, despair.

Release my tongue
to speak plainly
to my neighbor
of your love,
your grace,
your forgiveness,
your comfort,
your peace,
of the difference you make in my life
this day and every day.

heal me.
You do everything well.
Make this deaf one hear.
Make this mute one speak.
May it be so today.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Even the dogs eat...

MARK 7:24-30
From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." But she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." Then he said to her, "For saying that, you may go — the demon has left your daughter." So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

that's what I feel
when I see images of hungry,
malnourished children.

Deep Sadness!
is what I feel
when I realize
the pictures are of children in my country,
the United States of America.

How does that happen?!
Most dogs I know
have food enough and even health care.

help us treat the children,
your children,
all the children of the world
as good as we treat dogs, our pets,
for "even the dogs eat the children's crumbs"

Move us from complacency to outrage to action.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Take a long look in the mirror

James 1:22-25
But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act-they will be blessed in their doing.

we stare into mirrors
making note of every grey hair,
every wrinkle, every pimple, every flaw
obsessed with our looks.

What if we took that same gaze
to examine your Word, Jesus Christ.
True, we would see 
our every sin, every failure, every flaw,
But we would also see 
Your every act of love, every drop of salvation blood, every grace filled moment.
We would see a child of God worth loving, worth dying for, 
worth rising for, worth blessing.

That's the mirror we find in your Word, Jesus Christ.
The mirror of truth, 
both convicting us of our sin and convincing us of Your love.

Today I will take a long deep look 
in the mirror of Jesus Christ.
Help me walk away remembering who I am:
always a forgiven sinner, 
always a redeemed servant,
always a freed slave,
always a beloved Child of God,
always a creature made to praise You,
always one to bring Glory to God alone!
Alleluia! Amen!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Generous giving; First fruit living

JAMES 1:17-18
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

O Father of Lights,
thank you for every generous act of giving...
not just your giving
but any and every generous act of giving...
they come from your Spirit --
a Spirit that moves us
from complacency to generosity,
from greedy to giving,
from hoarding to sharing,
from abundance for some and scarcity for the others
to enough for all.

Enable us to be
your first fruits among your creatures.
Help us embrace our role among the created order--
living humbly before you,
caring for all creation,
giving glory to Your name,
sharing Your the same measure of the grace you give us
with all of Your children on this earth.

May it be so with me today
in big and small ways

Sunday, August 16, 2015

8 out of 10

Dear Lord,
you know the statistics:

8 out of 10 teenagers drop out of church.

Those are numbers worth fighting.
If we the church truly believe
the only thing that really matters in life
is a life-giving relationship with you, Lord Jesus,
then we will commit ourselves,
our time, our money, our energy,
our talents, our schedules, our loves
to make certain
the teenagers in our midst are connected to you.

How do we do that?
The same way you demonstrated love to us, Lord.
By coming among us,
by offering us acceptance and friendship,
by living and loving with us.

Help us commit to the youth of our church and community:
Meeting them where they are,
Calling them by name,
Extending acceptance and friendship,
Valuing their voice,
Exploring and asking hard questions of life and faith together.

That's the vision.
That's the work.
That's the mission.
That's what you call us to do.

Help us answer that call.

These thoughts taken from Genon Ministries founded 50+ years ago by Rev. Dale Milligan.  See his story in the video above.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Do whatever it takes!

John 1:1-7
Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John”  —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized—  he left Judea and started back to Galilee.  But he had to go through Samaria.  So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink."

Lord Jesus,
you met the woman at the well.
You met her where she was.
You met her in the midst of her daily ordinary life.
You went to her.

Too often in church, Lord,
we wait for people to come to us.
But your model of ministry was to go to them.

Today I pray for the church:
give us the courage to do whatever it takes.
Going into the streets, schools,
homes, businesses,
hospital rooms, lonely places,
violent places, broken places,
ball fields, locker rooms,
email inboxes, Instagram posts,
snap chats, Facebook...
meeting people where they are.
Doing whatever it takes to share your love.

make us uncomfortable in our pews
so that we don't sit too long, too complacent,
but instead having been nourished
by your Word, the waters of baptism and bread of life,
send us by your Spirit to meet people where they are.
Help us do whatever it takes.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Come and see

John 4:28-30, 39-42 
Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.
Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.”  So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.  And many more believed because of his word.  They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

who needs to hear my story today?
The story about your love in my life
how you know everything about me
and still you love me,
forgive me, and
use me to express your love to others.

Give me the courage to tell my story,
give my witness,
inviting others,
especially young others,
to "Come and see"

Come and see the Lord
who loves, forgives, heals, equips, and sends.
Come and see! what my God can do for you!
Come and see! what my God can do with you!
Come and see! what my God can do through you!
To the Glory of God.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Fulfill my thirst

John 4:7-15
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Loving Lord,
how often I miss the point.
You offer life giving water
that has eternal significance,
but too often I am focused
only on my temporary thirst.

Not that you think my thirst for water is unimportant,
but you see a bigger picture,
a wider view,
a fullness of life.

Today, O Living Water,
fulfill my thirst for a drink,
fulfill my thirst for well-being,
fulfill my thirst for fullness of life in you.

Flow through my soul today
so that others may know
your love in full measure.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Text a prayer or verse

Today try this:

Send a prayer or Bible verse via text message to someone who needs a lift.

Most text messages are 140 characters (including punctuation and spaces) so try to write a brief prayer or send a favorite Bible verse. Such discipline in writing prayers encourages brevity and getting to the heart of the matter quickly.

Some examples follow specific to the starting of the school year:

Loving God, bless my son today at school. In his work, in his play, with his friends, may he discover your joys today! Amen.

Only Wise God, guide the teachers at my daughter’s school today. May they lead her to discover the wonders of the world you created. Amen.

God, our one true friend, as the school year begins help (insert name) make friends who will be a support and encouragement this year. Amen.

God who calms the storm, calm our nerves during this first week of school. Help us focus to start the year off strong. Amen.


With school starting soon, imagine a student receiving a Bible verse or prayer via text from you during their day at school!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Write a letter of encouragement

Today try this:
Write a letter of encouragement.

The Apostle Paul wrote letters to strengthen the followers of Christ, the church. He hoped to support the churches by offering them words of encouragement and hope.

Today I invite you to write a letter, not to the church, but to a family member or a friend. Like Paul’s letters, let your letter be an encouragement focusing on what you know to be true and good about God.

Mail or send your letter of encouragement and offer the following prayer:
Great God,
We give you thanks for the ways your encourage us. Help us to encourage each other as we try our best to follow you. Amen.

School is starting soon.  What would it be like during the first week of school for a student you know and love to receive a letter of encouragement from you?

Ideas above adapted from: