Monday, November 30, 2009

Sermon from Yesterday

Luke 1:5-25

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.

Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.”

The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”

Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”

Humble Beginnings

Who here has ever composed a Christmas list? It’s an active thing to do while waiting for the big day to arrive. It’s what we do while we’re waiting on Santa, waiting for those eight magical reindeer to appear and bring presents galore. I used to compose a Christmas list every year—the lego catalog was my particular guiding text in this activity, and it probably would have been easier for me to simply photocopy its pages and stick them in an envelope, but instead I dutifully copied down the list of desired items and stuck them in my stocking on Christmas Eve. I never considered giving Santa some preparation time, and perhaps that has much to do with the fact that I never received any of the items on my list. I read recently that those who give their time to answer letters to Santa Claus for the postal service have recently had to undergo extra training for privacy matters. The Postal Service had wanted to cut off the service due to privacy concerns, but vehement protests helped them see the light. As to what these privacy concerns are, I have no idea. Perhaps it is now a national security matter to divulge what legos I want.

Regardless, composing a Christmas list is an active way of preparing. When you think about it, the art of prayer often resembles a Christmas list. Our prayers usually do, and should, include a list of things that we are desperately hoping for. They are of far greater importance than the things on most Christmas lists, but they are desired things. Now there are many different ways to pray. The one that I follow is the ACTS formula—adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication. My life tends to weigh far more heavily on the confession side of things, but I get around to supplication. We all have things we are praying for; for healing for some, guidance for others, peace, justice and a whole host of other worldly issues, as well as prayer requests for myself. We lay all these things down at the foot of the cross, before our Lord Jesus Christ, trusting that He will hear our prayers, hoping that He will answer some.

Zechariah and Elizabeth had a Christmas list. Well, they didn’t actually have a Christmas list, since they were on the early side of Christmas, but they had a prayer request, one from the depths of their aged souls. I don’t know how long they had been praying for this, but I suspect it had been for many years.

So one day Zechariah, a priest before God, was chosen to go into the temple to pray. He enters the sanctuary of the Lord, where God is supposed to be dwelling, and begins to pray. We’re told the whole assembly of the people was praying just outside the sanctuary, so we have this mass of people gathered to pray to God. I imagine each of them had different desires in the depths of their hearts, each different longings, different hopes and dreams. That day something extraordinary happened.

An angel showed up. Not to the entire crowd, but just to Zechariah. Zechariah is inside the sanctuary when an angel of the Lord shows up, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. Zechariah, who has been praying to the Lord for years and years with no answer, reacts with…

He’s overjoyed, right? He’s been praying and praying for this day all his life. This is the biggest thing he and Elizabeth have wanted, and finally an angel of the Lord is standing before him. What could be better? Surely he has prepared himself for the coming of the Lord, right?

Not in this story. In this story, Zechariah reacts with terror and overwhelming fear. I can understand this initial reaction, I am certain I would be afraid if an angel was suddenly standing before me, even I was in a place where that sort of thing was supposed to happen. We get caught in our routines, and anything out of the ordinary is a surprise.

But what surprises is what happens next. The angel of the Lord issues great news to Zechariah: his prayer has been heard, and it will be answered. They will bear a son, and they are to name him John. He goes on to tell Zechariah the details, but in all of this, Zechariah reacts the same way another man did when he heard similar news: Abraham struggled to believe the news the angels brought him. “How will I know that this is so?” is Zechariah’s question. Had I been the angel, my response would have gone something like, “Well, when your wife is nine months pregnant and can barely move, perhaps then you’ll suspect something.”

The angel senses what is going on beneath the surface. The angel hears Zechariah’s doubt. He realizes that Zechariah does not expect this prayer to be answered, even in the presence of Gabriel, an angel of the Lord.

As a response, as punishment for his doubt, Gabriel tells Zechariah that he will be unable to speak until the baby is born.

Zechariah then emerges from the sanctuary, trying to take all this in while suddenly standing before the entire assembly of the people. Perhaps that is the first time he tries to open his mouth and speak, but nothing comes out. Somehow he gestures, and what a mime he must have been, and each one of them realized he had seen a vision. For some unknown reason, he continues motioning to them, his pantomime apparently making up the remainder of the service. He then leaves to go home to his wife.

Zechariah’s tale is an odd one. I doubt that many of us know people who can share a similar story. An old priest goes into the sanctuary of the Lord to pray, encounters Gabriel, the angel of the Lord, learns he’s going to have a baby, then is punished for not believing, convinces the whole assembly of the Lord what has just happened, then goes home to a grateful wife.

The great news of this story is that Zechariah and Elizabeth have the child in spite of Zechariah’s doubts, in spite of his lack of preparation, in spite of his faith in his prayers being answered. John the Baptist still shows up, nine months later, beginning a journey that changes the face of the world. Perhaps Zechariah didn’t expect the angel’s words to be true, but his prayers are still answered.

Thanks be to God that the same holds true for us. In spite of our sin, in spite of our inability to prepare, in spite of our entire society focusing more on the commercial side of Christmas, God still shows up and gives us the greatest gift of all. Perhaps we’re in the sanctuary praying but not sure when, or if, God is going to answer our prayers. Perhaps we haven’t even made it this far because we’re too distracted by life and the thousands of things that seem to be crammed inside. Perhaps by the time we get to Christmas we’re simply ready for it to be over.

But God still shows up, and God still shows us lover greater than we have ever known.
So how do we prepare for this? Advent is a season of preparation, a time in which we are to cleanse our hearts and prepare our minds for the mind-blowing event of Christ’s arrival.

Let’s look at the punishment. Why? Not out of fear that the same might happen to us, but rather out of the realization that when we are not actively preparing ourselves with our hearts and minds focused on Christ, we are not able to live as a full people. We are not fully using our gifts because we are not living as the people Christ has called us to be.

What gifts do you have that you’re not using? How has God blessed you, and how is God calling you to be a blessing to others? Zechariah lost his gift to speak. May we not lose our voices, but may we as the people of New Hope Presbyterian Church speak through our actions and through our love this Christmas season. May we be in prayer and in study so that we draw nearer to the God who comes to us on Christmas day. May we be in service, looking outward this Christmas season, looking for the chance to love and to serve those in need among us. There are thousands in Chattanooga who are hungry and in need; there are children who need someone to read to them at the Newton Center just as there are families working through Habitat who need help building a home. But those in need may not be that far away. The one sitting next to you in the pew may be in need of someone to ask, truly and sincerely, how they are doing. May we not forget that Christ calls us to love one another, and may we seek to mirror the love God shows in Christ by loving our neighbors, by loving the stranger, by loving our families and by continually giving our hearts and our minds to show our love and gratitude to God our Father in heaven this Advent.
Let us pray.

Monday Morning

Dear Lord,
We have spent the weekend giving thanks. We have set aside a day each year to give thanks for our unearned blessings. We gather together with family to praise your name, to recognize that every good gift comes from your hand. On this day, may we savor that attitude. May who we are and what we do be seen as a continued psalm of thanksgiving to you, our Maker and Redeemer, Savior and Friend.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Holy of Holies,

Thank you. For all you give, thank you. For the grace and mercy and peace you have poured out from your holy throne, thank you. You have defeated death and sin by your merciful power. You have given love greater than I can imagine. You have placed a lamp before my feet and shown me a better path. You have redeemed me, called me by name, and offered me hope greater than I deserve. For all the mercies you have shown, even in the face of my own sin, thank you.

I love you. Amen.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday Morning

Great God,

What is my purpose? I know that it is to glorify you and praise your holy name, but I struggle to know how to do so. How does this life praise you? I have cried out to you, but I hear no reply. Speak to me, Lord, that I may hear and obey. May your voice ring out, calling me to be your servant, your disciple. I know that I am your beloved, and yet I seem to find so many ways to deny that on this day.

As the seasons change, one to another, may I recognize you as constant and proclaim that you alone are Lord of all. As I change and grow, may my foundation be built upon your holy name.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Morning

Thank you, Lord, for this morning.

You are the Creator of all things. From the sun in the sky to the millions of stars that dot the night, your hand has formed them all. I watch in awe as night becomes day and you have created anew, for you sustain our creation with your powerful right hand.

May an attitude of gratitude wash over me this day, and may I revel in the glory of each moment. May I live as a thankful child, aware of the wonder of it all and grateful for your abiding love.


Friday, November 20, 2009


Holy God,

If I understood the way the world worked, perhaps I would know you better. If I could explain how the earth was formed, perhaps I would begin to know a little about you. But you are shrouded in mystery.
Even in mystery, though, you came to be known. Through the prophets and apostles, through your Son Jesus Christ, you have longed to be known. You have given us so many opportunities to know you, to worship you, to thank you. May I see these opportunities today and give you thanks, give you praise, give back to you out of which I have been so freely given. Thank you.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fair Trade this Christmas

One billion people live on less than $1/day.

Want to help life one mission families out of poverty this Christmas?

Let's spend less money.
Let's give with meaning.
Let's choose fair trade.

Just One.

The Scots Confession, Chapter XI


The Ascension

We do not doubt but that the selfsame body which was born of the virgin, was crucified, dead, and buried, and which did rise again, did ascend into the heavens, for the accomplishment of all things, where in our name and for our comfort he has received all power in heaven and earth, where he sits at the right hand of the Father, having received his kingdom, the only advocate and mediator for us. Which glory, honor, and prerogative, he alone amongst the brethren shall possess till all his enemies are made his footstool, as we undoubtedly believe they shall be in the Last Judgment.

We believe that the same Lord Jesus shall visibly return for this Last Judgment as he was seen to ascend. And then, we firmly believe, the time of refreshing and restitution of all things shall come, so that those who from the beginning have suffered violence, injury, and wrong, for righteousness’ sake, shall inherit that blessed immortality promised them from the beginning. But, on the other hand, the stubborn, disobedient, cruel persecutors, filthy persons, idolators, and all sorts of the unbelieving, shall be cast into the dungeon of utter darkness, where their worm shall not die, nor their fire be quenched.

The remembrance of that day, and of the Judgment to be executed in it, is not only a bridle by which our carnal lusts are restrained but also such inestimable comfort that neither the threatening of worldly princes, nor the fear of present danger or of temporal death, may move us to renounce and forsake that blessed society which we, the members, have with our Head and only Mediator, Christ Jesus: whom we confess and avow to be the promised Messiah, the only Head of his Kirk, our just Lawgiver, our only High Priest, Advocate, and Mediator. To which honors and offices, if man or angel presume to intrude themselves, we utterly detest and abhor them, as blasphemous to our sovereign and supreme Governor, Christ Jesus.


It fascinates me that the ascension and judgment are so closely tied in this text. It would have been far easier for this section of the confession to simply end after the first paragraph, but instead the authors wanted a theological statement to be made about what is to come based on what has been.

Isn't that who we are, as Christians? Aren't we always looking forward based on what has come before? We trust in God because we know that God is reliable. God has a great track record! We know that God will be faithful to God's promises, so we look forward to the day when those promises will be fulfilled.

Comfort, the confession says, should be found in the ascension. It says that we should take great comfort in knowing that the God who ascended to heaven will descend one day, and the very thought of that should give us great comfort in the face of every mortal danger. We have nothing to fear because we have a God in heaven who loves us.

That should change the way we live. Does it?


Great God of Heaven and Earth,

May my labors today glorify you. You have given each of us a calling, a task to complete as your chosen people. That task is different for each, and yet they are all the same: to glorify you. I have tried and tried to separate my life into the sacred and the secular, but you insist on being present in every moment of my day, in different ways.

May my worship of you be complete today. May every part of my body worship you in every way. May my thoughts and my words worship you. May my very soul bow before your holy throne on this day, O Lord!

Jack's Life

Jack's Life, by Douglas Gresham, was disappointing. I love C.S. Lewis and enjoy everything he has read. This book had received mostly positive reviews on Amazon and I found it in a bargain bin somewhere, so that made for a great combination.

It should have stayed there. While Gresham did live with C.S. Lewis for the last ten years of Lewis' life, you wouldn't know it until the last ten pages. It seems to be a compilation of other biographers with no special insight. Perhaps there are stories published here that are unique, but there is no spice to the story; it merely plods along, page after page, describing Lewis' actions.

This book seems to have been written in an attempt to get C.S. Lewis canonized, or at least to let us all know that Lewis was superior in every way to everyone else. All others in the book pale when held up to the light of C.S. Lewis. His brother is attacked constantly, as well as his father and adopted mother. The only other individual in this book who seems to hold a candle to Lewis is the author's mother, who enters the picture later in life. The author spends a good deal of time describing what must have been a remarkable woman even if the descriptions are only half-true. It didn't feel like, in reading it, that Gresham had a special angle or privilege.

This is basically a defense of C.S. Lewis. Surely there are other, better, more balanced biographies out there.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I went to a funeral today. They are always strange to me. I will freely admit that I'm not always comfortable with death. For that reason I'm grateful to funerals--they bring me up close to something that often makes me a little uncomfortable. They force me to think about issues I don't like to think about. I stare death in the face and wonder.

The great thing about funerals is that I know who wins. I've read the story, and I know the end. I still have my questions, and I imagine I will have them until my end, but even though I have questions I know the story: light triumphs over the darkness of night, even if the darkness doesn't understand it.

At funerals, the two come crashing together. We have the darkness of night and those who are mourning, certain that their lives have more sorrow than they did the week before. There is so little comfort in funerals, despite the fact that those of us who conduct them offer the greatest comfort in the world. The hand of God catching our tears doesn't make us feel better until long after we've stopped crying.

I've sat on both sides of the pulpit at funerals, and I don't know which is harder: trying to explain death or waiting for someone else to do it. Both, I believe, are impossible, and yet we expect it regardless. In death there is mystery, and when faith is the only answer we can give, we will always wonder.

What we see now we see in part, and while one day we will see clearly, I still stand against the window, my nose leaving a smudge, hoping that I shall understand, and that in that understanding my tears will dry and I will beam with joy that God does indeed triumph in the end.

Scouting the Divine

Margaret Feinberg's Scouting the Divine is a novel of pursuit, a tale of a woman chasing after the meaning of texts more than a thousand years old, in hot pursuit of the passion and love of God that is woven into texts that had once been covered with dust but now shimmer in the afternoon warmth found in the depth of God's love.

In this book, Feinberg describes the time she spends with a shepherdess exploring the meaning of Christ as the Good Shepherd. What does a shepherd do? What can we learn about God from knowing what a shepherd is? We don't spend much time in the fields watching over our sheep; how might a conversation with a shepherd shed light on this dusty old metaphor?

She does the same with a beekeeper, exploring the idea of a land flowing with milk and honey. A farmer sheds light on the numerous agricultural references of God and Christ. A vintner in California reframes what it means for Christ to be the vine while we are the branches. Each interaction opens Feinberg's eyes a little wider in awe of God's love and infinite wisdom.

What's the first thing I learned? Loving God takes work. Not simply in the work we do in reaction to God's amazing love, but also the work we must do in studying the text. We are all called to spend time in the Word, but Feinberg shows the importance of truly studying the text, of digging deeper and getting dirty, finding morsels of wonder that we skip over when we simply skim the text so that we might check another item off a to-do list.

What else did I learn? I learned that a sheperd knows the voice and needs of every sheep and loves them more fiercely than I might have imagined. The sheep are to be protected, even when it means doing something the sheep might not like. I learned about the importance of community in farming, about how important it is to focus on the task at hand or else begin to suffer inconsistencies in the result. I learned about how we all must work together in order to be a faithful hive so that the land might flow with milk and honey. I learned that pruning a vine requires tiny shears, not a weekwacker.

Each of these things I learned was based on Scripture interpreted through hard work. Each of these things brought me this much closer to God. Each of them makes me stand in wonder at the incredible God we worship and adore.

Thanks be to God for those who love the text and open our eyes to its wonder in our lives.

Wednesday Morning

How majestic is your name, O Lord of heaven and earth! The banner of your glory is stretched from horizon to horizon, and we cannot contain your greatness. You have reached down from on high and given us more good gifts than we can know. You alone are God, and we rejoice that we are your people.

How majestic is your mercy, O Lord! We turned from you in sin and weakness and were startled when you forgave. We don't know the depths of your mercy, for every time we try to test them, you are there to forgive, to renew and restore. Your love is wondrous, O God!

How majestic is your name! May it be on my lips this day and forevermore!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Excited Dog

I guess this is old news, but new to me. Wish we all got that excited whenever our troops come home.

Uncommon Carriers

No, I have no idea why I bought this book. I know it was on sale. Beyond that, I haven't a clue.

But I'm glad I did. It was fascinating for many reasons. It definitely worked a different part of my brain than most of my books. Uncommon Carriers, by John McPhee, is the tale of different modes of transport in this country that most of us are unfamiliar with. McPhee spends time riding with a trucker, learning the art of watching 'bears' (police). He visits a school in Europe where ship captains are trained to navigate difficult harbors on a miniature version of the watery world. He recreates Thoreau's adventure up a river in a canoe, travels with a coal train and visits UPS's headquarters in Louisville, where packages of every shape and size are sorted and delivered.

I never expected to read a book like this, but now know far more about trucks and trains, tankers and UPS. It was a delightful, well-written read, and for anyone looking to mentally escape for a few days while picking up a few tips on how best not to be run over by a semi, I'd highly recommend it!

Tuesday Morning

O Lord,
You know my every movement. From the moment that I wake you are surrounding me with your grace, even when I am unaware. Your goodness is before my first step, and I inhale it with my first breath.
If only my day were filled with such knowledge of you, perhaps it would be too wonderful to bear. Instead I go about my hours filled with thoughts of self and self-interest, wondering how I might best serve myself. You alone are worthy of my time and my passions, and yet I am consumed with my own life.
As I take a deep breath and am filled with your peace, prepare me for a day of glorifying you rather than self. You alone are God, worthy of my praise!

Monday, November 16, 2009

God's Love is Like...

God's Love is Like...

A Tree

Have you ever run into a tree? You've been out walking in the dark and you can't see which way you're going and all of a sudden you hit something solid and immoveable, you get that weird feeling in your nose and pain shooting through your body, and you know exactly how real that tree is no matter whether or not you could see it? God's love is sure like that, some days. Even when you can't see it, you turn a corner and then, bam, it hits you right in the face. It was there all along, though. You just didn't see it.

Tree roots also turn up in the strangest places. A sidewalk thirty yards from a tree will start buckling, and it turns out that a root from the tree has gone all the way out there to find water. It's changed the entire landscape. God's love does that. Ends up in completely different places than where we thought it was, and all we can do is marvel. It's changed our lives forever, even if we didn't expect it to show up.

Trees change through the seasons. From the promising buds of spring to the beautiful canopy of shade to the full palette of colors to empty limbs in winter, the tree is in constant flux. But the tree is always there, always present, never moving. Sounds like God to me! Always moving, never predictable, always there. Sometimes in the winters of our lives we wonder if God's love has left us, just as perhaps in the long winter nights we wonder if the leaves will come back, but spring comes, and we discover the tree is alive and well, just as it has been all summer. It was just in a different form.

Trees grow slower, often beyond our ability to comprehend it, but then we walk out the door and notice that the tree has grown three feet! God's love often moves in imperceptible ways until we look back and notice how much we've changed.

Trees also plant other trees. Some use pinecones, other use nuts or acorns, but each tree plants little seedlings around itself. God's love does the same for us, inspiring us to plant little miniature versions of God's love in our world. All of our love points back to God's love, showing the true beauty!

Trees can be cut down. Sometimes they're burned in fires or just die of disease or old age. God's love never dies. In fact, its stronger than death. My analogies aren't perfect. God's love is perfect. Thanks be to God for that! (And for trees, because most of them are beautiful!)

Monday Morning

Great God,
On this new beginning, may my day honor you. May I not be consumed with petty quarrels, caught up by greed and self-focus, pulled away from you by mindless distractions. May this day be lived as though it is the greatest gift of all; may I remember that it is holy, because you are holy. May my words and actions, my very thoughts, focus on you and your Son, Jesus Christ, who fills me with such joy and gratitude that any other thing I focus upon is a distraction. May this life glorify you, God.

Exodus 12:43-13:2

43The LORD gave Moses and Aaron the following instructions for celebrating Passover:

No one except Israelites may eat the Passover meal.

44Your slaves may eat the meal if they have been circumcised, 45but no foreigners who work for you are allowed to have any.

46The entire meal must be eaten inside, and no one may leave the house during the celebration.

No bones of the Passover lamb may be broken. 47And all Israelites must take part in the meal.

48If anyone who isn't an Israelite wants to celebrate Passover with you, every man and boy in that family must first be circumcised. Then they may join in the meal, just like native Israelites. No uncircumcised man or boy may eat the Passover meal! 49This law applies both to native Israelites and to those foreigners who live among you.

50The Israelites obeyed everything the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron to tell them. 51And on that same day the LORD brought Israel's families and tribes out of Egypt.

Exodus 13

1The LORD said to Moses, 2" Dedicate to me the first-born son of every family and the first-born males of your flocks and herds. These belong to me."

I love the passion that is displayed by God for his people. There are no questions as to how God feels about them: he wants them to worship him first, before anything else. He wants to see them live faithfully, with lives structured around his holy Word. He wants the people to be passionately in love with him.

Of course, they, like every generation since, don't quite get it. They put so many other priorities first, choosing their own health and wealth over the abundant life found only in God.

But still God pursues them, just as God pursues us, seeking a relationship that will live on for all of eternity.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thursday Morning

Holy God,

Cover this day in your grace, so that as I move through it I may leave footprints that others might see the presence of your love.

Cover this day with your wisdom, that as I speak my words my be transparent and others might see you through me.

Cover this day with your love, that my actions might testify to a love far greater than I am capable of.

Cover this day with the light of your Son, that all my efforts might go towards His glory, and His alone.

I love you. Amen

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Presbyterian Youth Minister from Kenya

Veterans' Day

While one day certainly isn't enough to say thank you to our Veterans, I am glad that we have such a day, for those who have served and those who are now serving deserve our gratitude.

I certainly can't imagine the reality of standing on that wall, offering yourself as a target, as a defender of this country. I can't begin to fathom traveling to distant lands that were once little more than fantasies on a globe and being shot at. I simply can't understand the terror and danger those men and women face, but I am grateful they do it.

I am grateful they do it because the sacrifice of so many has made my way of life possible. I am grateful they do it because their sacrifice means I do not have to sacrifice. I am grateful they do it because without them, this country would be a far different place.

I don't know what the best way to honor the Veterans' is. Thank you seems so trite in the face of so many who have lived and died, been wounded and forever scarred, for the freedoms this country enjoys and often takes for granted. It doesn't seem big enough, but it's important to offer.

So to all the vets--thank you.

Wednesday Morning

Holy God,

Your beauty lingers in the air like the sweetest fragrance. We only need to take the time to inhale it to appreciate it.

Your goodness wanders into the pages of our lives, rearranging our schedules in the hopes that we might notice your presence, your love, your blessings that are a constant presence among us. We only need to read a little closer to appreciate your love.

Your mercy stretches from one horizon to the next, always bigger than we had once imagined, grander than we could think, nobler than we could design. Thank you, Lord, for love bigger and greater than we.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tuesday Morning

Holy God,

May your gifts open our hearts this day. Your grace astounds; your majesty is proclaimed from one horizon to the next. Your love echoes from the treetops to the valley floor. How great is our God!

Questions abound, O Lord, about war and famine and loss. We ask them all, and still you remain faithful. We cannot understand your ways, O Lord, and your wisdom is not our own. We humbly ask that you guide us along our road of life, leading us on a path that brings us closer to your son, Jesus Christ, day by day.

May all we do bring honor to your name.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Religious No More

I have been reading Religious No More by Mark Baker as a guide through the study of Galatians on Wednesday Night. I just finished it the other night, and thought about how much it has to teach us, despite it focusing on religion in Honduras.

Mark Baker lived in Honduras for years, interacting with the local churches there and learning how legalistic many of them were. Some even went beyond what we would consider extreme, threatening damnation to those women who might cut their hair or wear makeup. Baker interviewed many who had found church communities where grace was the central focus and found they were far more excited about the church.

It got me to thinking about how we portray the Gospel. Do we truly focus on the grace first, and then deal with our need to respond to the grace? Or are we too focused on the little things that we feel like we need to do in order to display our love and devotion to God? Are we too caught up in trying to prove our love for God, or trying to earn God's love? Do we still feel like we can make God love us more?

I know that I often fall into the category of thinking 'grace plus_____'. The plus is usually something different, but I seem determined to earn the grace of God, despite my overwhelming inability to do so. To simply fall back and thank God for grace seems too....easy? I don't know the answer, but I thank God for grace and pray for the strength to stop trying to earn my way into heaven.

Monday Morning

It was early on the first day of the week that you rose from the dead.

It is early on this first day of the work week that I come in humbleness to whisper words of praise. Something within keeps me from shouting them from the rooftops, so I whisper a word of thanks from time to time.

Thank you, Lord, for all that you have done, for all you are and promise to be. You sustain this life with your mighty hand, and you hold me, safe and sound, within your glorious salvation.

Thank you.