To share our stories

But remember the earlier days, after you saw the light. You stood your ground while you were suffering from an enormous amount of pressure. Sometimes you were exposed to insults and abuse in public. Other times you became partners with those who were treated that way. You even showed sympathy toward people in prison and accepted the confiscation of your possessions with joy, since you knew that you had better and lasting possessions. So don’t throw away your confidence—it brings a great reward. You need to endure so that you can receive the promises after you do God’s will.

In a little while longer,

the one who is coming will come and won’t delay;

but my righteous one will live by faith,

and my whole being won’t be pleased with anyone who shrinks back.

But we aren’t the sort of people who timidly draw back and end up being destroyed. We’re the sort of people who have faith so that our whole beings are preserved. ~Heb. 10:32-39 (CEB)

“We shouldn’t put down people who show great euphoria and excitement after a born again or religious experience. They’re right. Suddenly the world makes sense for them. Suddenly it’s okay, despite the absurdity, the injustice, the pain. Life is now so spacious that we can even absorb the contradictions. God is so great, so bottomless, so empty, that God can absorb even the contraries, even the collision of opposites. Thus salvation often feels like a kind of universal amnesty, a total forgiveness of ourselves and all other things.” ~From Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr

I love to hear people’s stories. It helps me to remember my own victories over trials. Sometimes it gives me much needed hope for a trial that I am going through. Sharing our stories helps us to put it all into focus. Everything in the end can belong to the overall story.

Heavenly Father, help me not forget my trials. Help me to weave my stories into my present being so that I can stand in wonder at the works and miracles that You have done in my life. Help me to dance in joy when other’s find their way home to You. Help me to sing Your glory when someone claims the inheritance of Your love. Amen.

To grow young

The crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”

He answered, “Whoever has two shirts must share with the one who has none, and whoever has food must do the same.”

Even tax collectors came to be baptized. They said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”

He replied, “Collect no more than you are authorized to collect.”

Soldiers asked, “What about us? What should we do?”

He answered, “Don’t cheat or harass anyone, and be satisfied with your pay.” ~Luke 3:10-14 (CEB)

“One of the great lies of our day is that conversion is instant, like fast food. God can zap us and we’re saved. It is all free. It costs nothing. Take it and run. This is what Bonhoeffer calls ‘cheap grace.’ Punch in at church. Grab a sacrament and run. Season your conversation with ‘praise the Lord’ and you’re among the saved.

One of the great truths of our day is that conversion is ongoing. Conversion is the process in which we are given opportunity upon opportunity to accept the free gift of salvation. Salvation is a free gift, yes, but it’s costly. It’s ‘costly grace.’ It costs us our lives lived passionately. The road to conversion is not a fast food line. When Saul was knocked down by that flash of lightning, that was not conversion. That was just God getting his attention. The conversion came as he groped his way in blindness to Ananias, able to see with interior eyes because he had no external eyes to depend on. His conversion continued day after day as he began to give meaning to his new name, Paul. He was still in the process of conversion when he was on his way to Rome in chains.” ~From A Tree Full of Angels by Macrina Wiederkehr

Lord, I don’t want cheap grace. Help me instead to live more passionately, love more deeply and cause such a great stirring that I am forever change. Guide me down the right path Jesus, seeing Your will for my life this day. Help me not to grope around in darkness but shine Your light clearly the path that I am to take. I claim all You promise me and I know that when I dwell in Your presence I am never alone. Amen.

The eyes of a child

See what kind of love the Father has given to us in that we should be called God’s children, and that is what we are! Because the world didn’t recognize him, it doesn’t recognize us.

Dear friends, now we are God’s children, and it hasn’t yet appeared what we will be. We know that when he appears we will be like him because we’ll see him as he is. And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself even as he is pure. ~1 John 3:1-3 (CEB)

“In 1966 a retrospective of Picasso’s paintings was exhibited in Cannes, France. Hundreds of his works, from the first he did as an adolescent beginner to the latest of the master, who was then eighty-five years old, graced the walls of the gallery. The old man himself roamed about, enjoying the show more than anyone. One report told of a woman who stopped him and said, ‘I don’t understand. Over there, the beginning pictures- so mature, serious and solemn- then the later ones, so different, so irrepressible. It almost seems as though the dates should be reversed. How do you explain it?’

‘Easily,’ replied Picasso, eyes sparkling. ‘It takes a long time to become young.’” ~From Alive in Christ by Maxie Dunnam

To see the world through the eyes of a child means I love more deeply, laugh more quickly and my heart grow young. A child trusts more readily and believes more easily. No wonder Jesus says we need to have the faith of a child.

Heavenly Father, thank You for this day and all the wonders it will hold. Help me to see the beauty of a flower, pause to watch a butterfly float by, and marvel at the song of a bird. Help me to look under the rocks for tiny wonders that I could easily walk by. Help me to see pictures in the clouds and inhale deeply the freshness of spring. When I come to the end of my day Lord, help me to sleep with the ease of one who has not acquired a world of hurts but lies safely in her Fathers embrace knowing with all assuredness that I am safe and sound. Amen

Diamonds

But we have this treasure in clay pots so that the awesome power belongs to God and doesn’t come from us. We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out.

We always carry Jesus’ death around in our bodies so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies. We who are alive are always being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies that are dying. So death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. ~2 Cor. 4:7-12 (CEB)

“Legend tells of a little girl who had an ugly hump on her back. The girl was so deformed that she was either ridiculed or pitied by everyone. When she died, it turned out that the ugly hump concealed angel’s wings. Can it be that all the ugly things in our lives have in them angel’s wings? Can it be that even our sin, our ugly sin, can be turned to good; could it conceal angel’s wings?

This is the glorious promise of conversion: God is able to make all things work together for good. Even the sinful years, the ugly years, need not be wasted but can result in good. Is this not a most comforting assurance? For many of us our ugly years were numerous, and they cause deep remorse. The may have struck at the prime of our lives and ministries. For so long we have grieved them, feeling that many years of ministry were wasted. But the love of God dawns upon us, and with it comes a most amazing promise and a new hope: We cannot redeem, God can; and what we cannot erase, God will.” ~Norman Shawchuck

Just about the time I start mourning the “lost years” that I could have been in service to God, I remember that God knew that I would take this road. It falls into His plan and He planned to use it ALL for His glory. The knowledge that I have gained by taking God’s paths or my own God will help me to reach out to others. Nothing is lost. All is gain in God’s sight.

Heavenly Father, when Satan tries to hold my past against me, remind me that You see me as a might warrior. When Satan tries to tell me I am worthless, remind me that I have always been Your beloved child. For all the loss that Satan waves at me, remind me that You will use it for Your gain. You, O Lord, are a restorer of dreams and I am thankful. Amen

Conversion

When the crowd heard this, they were deeply troubled. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”

Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.” With many other words he testified to them and encouraged them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Those who accepted Peter’s message were baptized. God brought about three thousand people into the community on that day. The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. ~Acts 2:37-42 (CEB)

“Conversion is going on all the time within us and within the world. The radical change of Christian conversion is also going on within us at all times. While the change of turning toward God may seem like a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it is in reality a continual process. We may think that we have turned fully toward God; then we discover another dimension of God, and we now immediately that more conversion is possible and necessary if we are to more Godward in all of life.

Conversion is a lifelong process of turning more and more fully toward God in all that we are, possess, and do. There may be earth shaking moments when we are being formed in the image of Christ at incredible speed and in remarkable ways. But such moments are not the end; there is more to come as we give ourselves to the transforming power of God.

While conversion requires our decision and action, the grace and strength to be changed- to become more than we are- is the gift of God. Conversion is a partnership project. We cannot transform us against our wishes. However, once we invite God’s transforming presence into our lives, the necessary power to change comes with the transforming presence.

It is wise not to try to dictate what our conversion will be like. We cannot know what God has in store for us until we begin to live in harmony and companionship with God. As our understanding of and relationship to God grow, we may begin to see where God is leading us in our conversion. On the other hand, we may experience surprises throughout our lives as God seeks to shape us. It is also wise not to assume that our conversion will look like, feel like, or keep pace with any other person’s conversion. Since we are unique and God is infinite, our conversion experiences will be unique as well. The important thing is inviting God to what the end product will be, but we do know that it will be good when we permit God to be the potter and we agree to be the malleable clay.” A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Rueben P. Job

O God our Father, renew my spirit and draw my heart to You, that my work may not be a burden but a delight; and give me such love to You as may sweeten all obedience. Help me that I may serve You with the cheerfulness and gladness of a child, delighting myself in You and rejoicing in all that is to the honor of Your name; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen- adapted from The Book of Worship

Purpose and goal

We sailed from Troas straight for Samothrace and came to Neapolis the following day. From there we went to Philippi, a city of Macedonia’s first district and a Roman colony. We stayed in that city several days. On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the riverbank, where we thought there might be a place for prayer. We sat down and began to talk with the women who had gathered. One of those women was Lydia, a Gentile God-worshipper from the city of Thyatira, a dealer in purple cloth. As she listened, the Lord enabled her to embrace Paul’s message. Once she and her household were baptized, she urged, “Now that you have decided that I am a believer in the Lord, come and stay in my house.” And she persuaded us. ~Acts 16:11-15 (CEB)

“The purpose and goal of spiritual discernment is knowing and doing God’s will. We can easily become enamored with discernment definitions, strategies for holding meetings, the emotional rush of doing something new, or even the self-adulation for attempting to do something spiritual. The newness of our endeavor may compromise our vision if we fail to see the urgency of knowing and doing God’s will. Nothing is more urgent in our lives or in our congregations than yearning to know and do God’s will. We must keep our eyes and hearts on our purpose and goal.” ~From Discerning God’s Will Together by Danny E, Morris and Charles M. Olsen

Almighty God, you have called the church into being and have gathered us into one family. By the power of your Holy Spirit help us to live in unity and peace with all Your children. May our actions this day be fruit of our faith in Your kingdom. In the name of Christ. Amen.

To be a friend of Jesus

“As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you. You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last. As a result, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. I give you these commandments so that you can love each other. John 15:9-17 (CEB)

Am I a friend of Jesus? I am if my words and actions are like his. When I was younger I would ask God, “How am I to know how to be like Jesus?” It all goes back to the simple lessons of childhood in the simple songs we learned. “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Not only did I learn that I am loved, but I learned where to go for other truths. The Bible. In the Bible I can learn to walk as Jesus walked and to talk as he talked.

Henri Nouwen talks about this in his book, Bread for the Journey: “Very often we distance ourselves from Jesus.  We say, ‘What Jesus knew we cannot know, and what Jesus did we cannot do.’  But Jesus never puts any distance between himself and us.   He says:  ‘I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father’ (John 15:15) and  ‘In all truth I tell you, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, and will perform even greater works’  (John 14:12).

Indeed, we are called to know what Jesus knew and do what Jesus did.  Do we really want that, or do we prefer to keep Jesus at arms’ length?”

Heavenly Father, help me to remember that when I feel that You are far away, that it is not You that has moved. I long to hear Your words, to know what You require of me. Help me to slow down enough today to spend time in Your Word. Amen.

Saintly material

 

Then the LORD ’s messenger came and sat under the oak at Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. His son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to hide it from the Midianites. The LORD ’s messenger appeared to him and said, “ The LORD is with you, mighty warrior! ” ~Judges 6:11-12 (CEB)

I am so thankful that God sees me for more than who I am. Gideon’s story always reminds me that God sees us not as we are but what we can become. The stories in the Bible show us that we can all be saintly material; we just have to be willing to go where we are asked and do what we are sent to do

James C, Howell in his book Servants, Misfits, and Martyrs, reminds us that “Saints do not possess an extra layer of muscle. They are not taller, and they do not sport superior IQs. They are not richer, and their parents are not more clever than yours or mine. They have no batlike perception that enables them to fly in the dark. They are flesh and blood, just like you and me, no stronger, no more intelligent. And that is the point. They simply offer themselves to God, knowing they are not the elite, fully cognizant that they are inadequate to the task, that their abilities are limited and fallible.”

Give me the strength this day O Lord to be the person that You see me to be. Help me to be willing to do Your will and to seek Your truths. May all I do be for Your glory. Amen.

Affirmation and love

When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you! ” She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom. ”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?”

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son. Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman who was labeled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant. Nothing is impossible for God.”

Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her. ~Luke 1:26-38 (CEB)

“Gabriel begins as he always begins, as God always begins (since this is God’s message, not Gabriel’s), with the affirmation of God’s creation. ‘Greetings, favored one!’ Gabriel proclaims to Mary. ‘The Lord is with you!’ Before she hears anything else, God wants Mary to hear this: She is favored. . . . Although a teenager, Mary need not ‘find’ herself. Her identity is a gift, bestowed upon her by God alone. Who am I? Mary may wonder. And God replies, ‘You are my favored one, beloved and beautiful to me.’

In truth, Mary does not stand much chance for an identity apart from God. She is too young to have had time to achieve much on which to base her identity. She is too poor to purchase her place in society. Add to this the fact that she is female, which means that even if she did have accomplishments or social stature to her credit, they likely would have gone unrecognized because of her gender. All of this makes Mary a most unlikely candidate for helping God save the world, which is precisely why God enlists her. Nothing about Mary suggests that she can be who she is apart from God’s favor of her.” ~From The Godbearing Life by Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster

I am not who I am based on my achievements. I am who I am based upon who I am in Christ. There is much value in taking the time to figure out who I in Christ. Being familiar with scriptures will help me to know who I am. Then when I am faced with what the world thinks of me I have God’s assurances tucked away in my heart. I can hold my head up high because I know who I am and I that I am loved.

Thank You O Lord, for Your assurances. Thank You for Your love that lives in my heart. Amen.

Value and Worth

You have tried my heart;
You have visited me by night;
You have tested me and You find nothing;
I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.

As for the deeds of men, by the word of Your lips
I have kept from the paths of the violent.

My steps have held fast to Your paths.
My feet have not slipped.

I have called upon You, for You will answer me, O God;
Incline Your ear to me, hear my speech.

Wondrously show Your loving kindness,
O Savior of those who take refuge at Your right hand
From those who rise up against them.

Keep me as the apple of the eye;
Hide me in the shadow of Your wings
~Psalm 17:3-8 (NRSV)

I am “favored” by God. I have value and worth. It is so easy to forget these facts wearing the labels that the world has placed on me. Some are not bad labels. Some are true. I am a mother. I am a wife… but I can still get lost among even these labels that I have chosen. But if I remember to still myself in God’s presence I can hear that still small voice say to me “You are Mine. You have value. You have worth. You are the apple of my eye, My favorite, My chosen one.”

Almighty God, I claim this day Your promises to me. I claim that I have value and that I have worth. I claim this day the fact that I am a beloved child. May the words from my mouth and the work of my hands reflect these truths in all I do and say this day. Amen.

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