Sunrise and sunset Your rhythms offered for all every morning, every evening without fail.
Breathe in and out Sight, sound, touch, taste, smell every day, every night without fail.
As long as we are here we are still together every moment, every hour without fail.
Attentive to work or rest laughing or crying Your words remain faithful without fail.
Celebrations and sorrows Ordinary and miraculous Life here and there; profound gifts without fail.
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made and all their host by the breath of his mouth. He gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle; he put the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him, for he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. – Psalm 33:6-9
God, as we embark on our Monday beginnings, we welcome your assistance and presence. Let our steps be ordered by your Spirit even when we are unaware. Where work is started, let it bring good to our lives…the “good” that honors the life you give us today. Where rest is embraced, may it bring peace. When tears of sorrow or joy need release today, let them flow like fountains; watering our souls and reminding us how wonderfully you’ve created the world. Every beginning is an offering from you. We are grateful; we receive. Thank you for loving us. We need you, Lord, and we trust you completely. Amen.
Central Station is just three minutes away from the Lorraine Hotel and the National Civil Rights Museum. I’m as close as I can be right now. The music of this city is pouring out of every speaker I pass by; it’s rolling out of the entrance of my room and flowing through the gathering spaces. Music washes over you…over me; it begs me pause…just let it flow over me like water. Let it soak, inspire, remind me…and speak in the remembering.
I came to Memphis on “business” but I’ve stayed by necessity of heart. My friend and colleague, Rev. Dr. Autura Eason-Williams, was murdered here in Memphis on July 18, 2022. She was not “mine” per se – she was all of ours. We loved her. We appreciated her. We were inspired by her courageous leadership and certain call. Her husband and children were encouraged and bolstered by her love every day. I’m in her “district”; I’m in her city.
Someone else was murdered the morning of my arrival. A runner. A mother, a wife, a teacher, a woman. Eliza Fletcher. I did not know her, but her disappearance changed my weekend. The tenseness in my body increased. I altered the plans I had for walking. When a man pulled up, rolled down his window and hollered at me as I walked down the street, “hey pretty lady what are you doing?”, I wanted to scream. I kept my cool and kept on walking. He drove on and I turned around for yet another route. I hate not feeling “safe”.
The museum walks me through history as I read through and get a taste of someone else’s experience. Someone I didn’t know, though I read some of his writing and particularly his letter to his pastor colleagues; written from the Birmingham jail. I am moved by the history I’m walking through but I am undone by the sobbing of the young man who is next to me. He must have been 11 or 12 years old. An older woman was with him; a grandmother, perhaps. She doesn’t try to stop him from crying, but she’s right by his side as he takes in this part of our history.
Something catches my eye: “Don’t stop now. Keep moving. Don’t get weary. We will wear them down with our capacity to suffer.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressing a rally at Shiloh Baptist Church December 15, 1961. It’s “the capacity to suffer” that won’t leave my spirit. So many people have gone before us that had the “capacity to suffer”. I do wonder…do we have that capacity now?
Memphis is not a city of murder and violence. There is more. Music is here. Amazing blues music. Rock n Roll. Country. Incredible scores of musicians found their deep rhythms in this city. I walked over to the Arcade and got a window seat looking out at South Main Street. The lady sitting next to me has a story. She’s going to tell me a little, but not much. Memphis is “home” for her. I explain that I’m not from here; I came to town to officiate a funeral, but I stayed to take in the museum and a bit of culture. I stayed to remember my friend. She tells me she’s “sorry for my loss”, but I tell her how it’s OK, because I’m a pastor and this is what we do; we do funerals. We want to honor and celebrate people’s lives. We think it’s important.
She has generational connections to the Arcade. We cover a lot of conversational ground in a few short minutes. It occurs to me as we sit and chat in what is the “oldest Café in Memphis”, that Reggie surely ate here many times. And maybe Elvis and surely Aretha Franklin. It also occurs to me that the woman I’m talking to in this moment is just as important as all of them. For all I know, which is very little, she is probably famous herself. The chances that I would recognize her are slim to none, unless she belts out a song I know. She kind of looked famous, but doesn’t everyone? https://arcaderestaurant.com/history/
As she gets up to leave, she looks at me and says, “you said you are a pastor; you are a pastor; right?” And I said, “yes; I am”. She said, “I’ve been needing to talk to a pastor but not a pastor from Memphis. I’m really glad I got to talk to you today.”
Of course, I was glad too; to have a true “local” to chat with and laugh a little; share a bit of history; say some things you might only say to a stranger. Of all the things we talked about (and I met her son in the middle of it all), I don’t know what one thing she needed to say to a pastor, whether it was “content” or just the experience she was seeking. Whatever we both needed, we seemed to get it sitting at the window seat looking out at South Main. Saturday afternoon in Memphis, Tennessee.
“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.” – Psalm 4:8
God, please be near to anyone who needs to feel “safe” right now. We love you and we trust you completely. Amen.
If you don’t know Reggie, you’ve missed something that will bless your life. Start here and just keep listening. Peace.
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. – Lamentations 3:22-26
I often think of how gracious God was in giving us something new every morning. The new expression of sunrise, while the rhythm remains steadfast. The new song of the birds, though the familiar melodies. The new breath in our lungs and the new beats of our hearts…that have never before been expressed!
Every moment of every day is an unfolding of something new God is creating. While that “new” is being discovered and lived one hour at a time, there is also a steadfast presence that does not change. The love and grace of God is always available and ready to be offered. The peace that only God can give, is accessible in the humble asking.
However we come into this Monday, God is right here with us. On game or not; feeling it or not; scared to death or celebrating your greatest accomplishments…the presence of the Creator is standing at your side. Listen for that voice as you walk through this week. It is far beyond the opinions and noise that swirls around with hope of distracting us from God’s wisdom that comes in the pause. Listen.
God, this morning we pause to reconnect and remember your presence and faithfulness. We embrace the mercies you give for this day. We give thanks for the compassion and love you hold; ready to come quickly and abundantly as we seek. It is our desire to honor you with the gift of life you have provided today. Help us, Holy Spirit, to do it well. We welcome your JOY into our lives. We love you, LORD, and we trust you completely. Amen.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. – Jesus in the Gospel of John 15:11
“May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. As the old saying goes, ‘From evil doers come evil deeds, so my hand will not touch you.’” (David’s words to Saul; I Samuel 24:12-13)
It’s a moment. Saul is pursuing David. He is extremely angry, and his intent is to kill him. David and his small group of men are deep inside a cave when Saul’s army, not knowing David is in there, makes a bathroom stop. David has the perfect chance to kill Saul, or even just take him captive. But he doesn’t.
He chooses not to do it because he trusts the LORD to be the one who brings justice, and he wants to honor the Lord’s appointed king. David trusts God more than he trusts his own desires. He trusts God’s timing more than he trusts his own. He knows that one dishonorable or destructive deed just leads to another and another. There is no end to the cycle of evil and violence. He chooses something different in this moment.
I’ve been reading David and Saul’s story over the past few days. It is such an incredible story of our humanness and God’s faithfulness. This link takes you to I Samuel 24 for this moment between David and Saul: https://bit.ly/DavidandSaul This story strikes me as something that is instructive for us and perhaps a needed word.
Emotional intelligence teaches us that pausing before reacting allows us the moments to respond in ways that do not perpetuate destruction, cruelty, or falseness. Jesus taught things like pray for your enemies (Matthew 5:43-48) https://bit.ly/prayforenemies ; and don’t get burdened down with worrying (Matthew 6:27) https://bit.ly/3bVTPvO ; and that we have the ability to observe the actions of falseness or destruction (Matthew 7: 15-19) https://bit.ly/3C36s2P .
How do we remember these teachings in the moment of need? Well, perhaps a pause gives us enough seconds to choose our response and to consider, as David did in this situation, a better way. The three chapters of Matthew 5-7 are worth our reading and taking to heart as often as we are willing.
When I read these teachings and stories like David’s, I am reminded of how amazing God is to love us. We are our full human selves, and God continues to shape and restore us into his image. Our brokenness meets God’s healing. Our thwarted thinking is realigned with the mind of Christ. We make different choices. We choose avenues of peace. We love one another in ways that show the world more of the God we worship. Little moments of integrity. One breath and one response at a time.
God, thank you for understanding our humanness and brokenness. I know there are so many times I’ve disappointed you. I’ve been weak and allowed circumstances to propel me even though I know your Holy Spirit is so faithful to guide when I pause to hear you. Our dysfunctions are real, Lord, but your healing does restore us. Your healing gives us the gift of choosing differently. Thank you for any moments we honor you with those choices. God, please take the hard places in our hearts and minds; create open spaces for us to heal. Your redemption and restoration of our lives is amazing to experience, and we all need you. Please keep doing it more and more. Thank you for leading us to higher ground as we begin this week. It is our desire to honor you with our lives. We love you, Lord, and we trust you completely. Amen.
Friends, be encouraged! God sees you and hears you; you are not alone!
There was no 911 system in place. No professional EMS response unit to summons. So, this is how Paul responded when a young man fell to his death while Paul was preaching.
Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. – Acts 20:9-11
I always laugh when I read the story of Eutychus falling out of the window. I’ve been in that precarious situation of falling asleep during a talk that lasted too long! Maybe you have as well.
There are other stories of resuscitation in the Scriptures. Both prophets, Elijah and Elisha, whose stories are written in I and II Kings, responded in situations where the breath of life had ceased. You can read the accounts here: https://bit.ly/3yKT3cx
As a former Paramedic, I read these stories with intrigue and wonder. In one of our 1990’s textbooks, Pediatric Advanced Cardiac Life Support (PALS), the quote in the opening cover page included a verse from Elijah’s story of resuscitating a young boy! He is staying at the home of a widow and her son dies. Elijah is distraught, especially since this woman has offered her home and hospitality to him when he needed a place to be. Elijah responded out of his angst and care, but also with God’s healing power:
Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” – I Kings 17:21
These stories of physical resuscitation are real accounts of God working through people who have placed themselves in the service of the Lord. These miracles helped everyone (prophets included!) to experience God’s faithfulness.
What came to mind as I read the story of Eutychus today, was not about physically falling into sleep or ceasing to breathe. What came to mind was the resuscitation that so often comes, just as miraculously, at the presence of someone else.
It takes human beings to perform CPR to resuscitate someone whose lungs have ceased to breathe, and heart has stopped its beating. And it often takes human beings to ignite the flame of our spirits when the spark is low or, perhaps, even gone. Albert Schweitzer framed it well:
At times our light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. – Albert Schweitzer
Schweitzer’s quote has been meaningful to me for many years. Particular people come to mind that have offered that spark in my life, often without knowing it, and even more often – when I didn’t even know how much I needed it.
Who rekindled you by offering that spark? Take a moment now to thank God for their presence in your life and ask the Lord to give them the blessing they may need today. It was God who gave Paul and Elijah and Elisha the healing needed in the situations they faced, and it is God who gives us the spark to share with someone else. Your prayer has power because God is faithful. Prayer is answered in surprising and miraculous ways. We never have to know how or why; we are just faithful to pray.
Lord, we are intrigued by the way you empower us to restore life to one another. Human to human, at your careful guiding. It comes in so many ways we often don’t recognize it. Thank you for the people you place in our paths when we need a spark to rekindle the flame. Nudge us when we are the ones to share that gift with someone else. Please bless those who need a refreshing breath for life today; may it be provided in just the way it is needed. Thank you for your faithfulness. Amen.
After so many days of heat, the rain was all blessing. I watched the steam rising up from the pavement, it was as if the whole of creation was sighing with relief. The grass and trees must have been shouting “thank you” as water dripped from their dry, exhausted foliage.
Tonight the sunset seemed to announce the joy we feel. I will not attempt to add to its beauty with words. I offer glimpses and a prayer. Whether it is for tonight or the morning coming, may our confidence in our Creator be strengthened. May our joy be ever present.
Lord, we see your creativity in the ordinary rhythms of nature and we are overwhelmed with your beauty. The skies dance at your hand! The sunset follows its path, a practice set in place by You that unfolds every day. Nothing is out of place. And yet, every setting of the sun is for that moment in history; it will never occur again in exactly this way. You, LORD, amaze us! Help us to trust you with our days. Allow us the gift of witnessing your presence in our lives and in our world. Please continue the redeeming work of equipping and maturing us for your kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We are in awe of you, Lord, and we are grateful. Please grant peace to those who sleep; and inspiration to those waking. We welcome you into the spaces of this night that leave us wanting. We welcome your joy as the morning breaks fully open. You, Lord, are the only One who holds this night. You are the only One who holds the dawning of a new day. Help us to honor you by living it fully, with gratitude and joy. We trust you, Father, and we love you. Thank you for the gift of this dance. Amen.
“I am weary, God, but I can prevail. Surely I am only a brute, not a man; I do not have human understanding.”
“I have not learned wisdom, nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One.“
“Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Whose hands have gathered up the wind? Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is the name of his son? Surely you know!“
“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” – Proverbs 30:1-6
It turns out that even though we humans can engage in the intimacy of relationship with our Creator, there remains so much we do not know.
I find myself truly dependent on the wisdom of the Lord to guide me in all things. Without divine help, my own steps lead me where grace is illusive, and burdens pile up without reason. There is a lot of freedom in knowing how much God can do, when we can do nothing!
Listening to these Proverbs as I walk this morning, I hear Jesus speaking too: Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. – Jesus in the Gospel of John 15:4
Lord, where your people are weary, please provide hope and strength today. Where sorrow has interrupted the best of plans, give your peace that refuses to abandon. Be our refuge and shield; our joy and strength. Our hope is in you, and it is good; we trust you completely! Amen.
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. – Proverbs 27:1
When I was growing up we had a houseboat on Barkley Lake. That is where we spent hours running trot lines, learning how to water ski, and spending time with other families up and down the slip. It was adventure and rest; discovery and learning. This all began with our parents and another couple renting a houseboat for their vacation each summer. Those experiences led to the purchases; our boats were docked right across from one another. We were neighbors on land and water. When we were at the lake, it was all just about that moment.
The name of our houseboat was, TODAY. It often inspired conversation and intrigue. My mom was the one who suggested it and we all agreed, not fully understanding what that name might hold for us and our family. I still remember the peacefulness of watching the moon on the lake at night, early morning fishing, and the fun of learning to ski. Each day its own blessing, each day its own challenge. All a gift.
Today is our blessing. May the Lord walk with you; with us.
Lord, thank you for this day and all you offer with it. Help us to appreciate the gift of this moment that was newly created by your hand, and will never be again. Please allow us the joy of your presence; it is the greatest gift. May our steps today be directed by you in every way. Amen.
A prudent man sees danger and seeks refuge but the simple keep going and suffer for it. – Proverbs 22:3
There are signs to see and choices to make early on that make a difference on how things go with us. Whether in times of success or challenge, celebration or sorrow; paying attention is important. This wisdom of seeing the sign of danger and taking refuge is welcomed counsel.
Jesus and Peter have an interesting encounter with each other that comes to mind. The story is in Matthew 16:21-28. Peter has accepted and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew 16:15-16); he believes! But as soon as Jesus starts sharing what is about to happen to him, Peter refuses to accept it. Jesus mentions suffering and Peter baulks.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” – Matthew 16:21-22
The rebuke from Jesus is clear: “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block for me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” – Matthew 16:23
Jesus recognizes the danger of this moment and he seeks refuge in God’s plan. There’s a danger for Jesus. Avoiding the suffering that is between this moment and the resurrection would change everything. There is a danger for Peter; his faith journey is at risk. If Peter begins to think he knows how things should go better than Jesus, he will never experience the miracles of God on earth. His faith journey will be stunted by the refusal to surrender to God’s way in any situation.
Jesus sees the danger and immediately makes a choice. His refuge is not hiding; his refuge is in God. He turns away from Peter’s enticing plan to avoid the whole mess. He turns toward what God has revealed to him and the path he must walk. Christ’s response in this moment also prevents Peter’s faith journey from being wrecked and sidelined.
What are you seeing?
God of wisdom and mercy, please give us wisdom to see, even when our eyes fail us. Your wisdom and discernment are the guardrails that guide and protect us from paths of destruction. Thank you for the many ways you show up beside us and shine light on our path! We need you and we welcome you to direct our paths. Amen.