Psalm 15 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the Lord; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things will never be shaken. (NIV)
At a time when it often feels like everything is being “shaken”, the words of this ancient prayer land differently for me. I’m reading it silently and then out loud. My pen is underlining words to sear the wisdom a little deeper.
No slander. No slur. No wrong to a neighbor. Speaking truth from the heart. Keeping an oath even when it hurts. What a different experience we would all have if we intentionally practice what is contained in the five verses of this prayer! But not just a “different experience” …
The Scripture says there will be dwelling in the holy space.
The result is not that challenges and difficulty cease. The result is not being shaken by the difficulties that are part of this life. “Whoever does these things will never be shaken.”
Jesus urged his disciples to “abide” in him. Stay connected. Let’s dwell together. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) That is the way that leads us into the holy space.
A practice that may assist when we feel the desire to say or do what we know is harmful, is simply to name that with the Lord, and ask for help to not act in destructive ways. If the slurs and slander of another are not acted upon, the harm is not spread. Speaking to God or a trusted spiritual friend about our feelings allows us a holy space of confession. A space where Christ meets us and works on our hearts. We work it together. We clear what doesn’t need to set up dwelling; we let go so we can receive what is good.
The blessing in the holy space of confession is found in another prayer, Psalm 32. Read it here: https://bit.ly/holyspace
Keeping an oath may hurt, breaking covenant destroys. The LORD is the one who redeems. If life is shaking you right now, reach out for the one whose hand is already reaching for you. Your Creator can be trusted.
Lord, as we pray this prayer together with the words of Psalm 15, give us grace to live with you and in you. Thank you for receiving us as we are and restoring us to the wholeness you gave your life for us to have. We love you, Lord, and we trust you completely. Amen.
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, Teacher”, he said. Luke 7:40
There is nothing quite like Jesus knocking us off our high horse. Sometimes I get tickled at how quickly we humans (me at the front of the line) place ourselves in the role of God. Yes…God. Jesus serves at the will and direction of God. He walks the earth and embodies what it looks like and feels like to walk with and follow God. He doesn’t create his own plan and agenda. He seeks, listens, and follows. Hour by hour. Day by day.
His anguish is evident in his sorrow. His deep pain and courage take him into that quiet place of prayer and seeking again and again. The hope and delight of Christ show up when he proclaims God’s justice and love. Jesus sees the potential. Jesus desires to show people the kingdom God is fulfilling on earth. He wants it for everyone. He connects the dots of how God works over long periods of history. Some receive it. Some reject it. Some wait to see what happens next. Many are unaware at all; no one is living it in front of them. How could they know?
I am struck by the encounters Jesus has in Luke 7, particularly with two people. First, the Centurion whose son is ill and at risk of dying; read his story here in Luke 7: https://bit.ly/centurionstory And secondly, the “sinful woman” who shows up unwanted nor invited. Perhaps she comes spiritually ill and at risk of dying. It’s not precisely clear; she just comes. Read her story here in Luke 7: https://bit.ly/unexpectedmercy
Two totally different people. One is highly respected by many people. The other evokes feelings of disgust and words of condemnation simply by her presence. Jesus notices something about both, and he responds.
The Centurion and the sinful woman have two things in common: 1. Something in their lives is happening that they cannot fix. 2. They believe that God can fix it. (Jesus calls this faith)
With the Centurion, all his great work and reputation are not enough to cure his son’s illness. He can command many things in this life, but he cannot control this. Although he is not Jewish, nor is he known by others as a “follower” of Jesus in this context, he recognizes who Jesus is and the reverence he is to be given. He knows that at the command of Jesus, his son will be restored.
There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”So Jesus went with them.
He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” – Luke 7:2-8
Unlike the Centurion who has a stellar and well-earned reputation, the sinful woman’s life must be a complete mess. Even so, she still knows exactly how to approach Jesus. She comes with the hospitality that is due this important guest. The hospitality that is part of being human – extending true care and love. The same grace and hospitality Abraham offered the “visitors” who came to his tent at Mamre. Genesis 18:1-5 read it here: https://bit.ly/holyhospitality
The woman also comes with great emotion and love; she is completely humble before him. Are her tears the tears of shame and sorrow or are they, rather, expressions of deep gratitude for what she has already received? Either way, she comes vulnerable and trusting of the one for whom her hands and heart reach.
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” Luke 7:36-39
Simon, the Pharisee who has invited Jesus over for supper, is confident about the woman’s sin. He knows from his lifelong study that sin doesn’t belong. His inner voice is questioning the credibility of Jesus simply because Jesus allows her to be this close to him. Simon is concentrating on assessment and right judgement, something he is expected to do. Jesus must love Simon so much. He offers to teach him something he doesn’t yet know about God.
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, Teacher”, he said.
I never get tired of the spiritual lessons that are offered us in the midst of ordinary life. Whether reminding, sharpening, or revealing something we’ve not seen before…the Spirit of God is faithful to teach us.
Both of these stories end with something that leaves the people (and us) pondering the response of Jesus. He never goes to the Centurion’s house to heal his son, but his son is healed. He never points out the sin of the woman, but he announces that it is her faith that saves her, and she departs with peace.
And what about Simon? Jesus meets him where he is: a faithful religious leader exercising wisdom and judgment, yet missing something critical. Jesus tells him a story where he can think and discern. And then Simon receives a teaching from Jesus that will assist him in his work and ministry should he choose to use it:
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon,“Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet,but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.You did not give me a kiss,but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.You did not put oil on my head,but she has poured perfume on my feet.Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:44-47
Jesus responds to Simon’s inner thoughts…Simon never actually speaks them out loud. But Jesus hears his inner voice. The woman never blurts out the sin that is still being held against her, but her devotion and love speak all that Jesus wants to hear. She needs to express these acts of love and devotion to Christ. Her forgiveness is maturing into love.
What mattered for the Centurion was not how good he was or how respected he was by his community. Reputation and personal integrity are wonderful things to have, but they couldn’t heal his son. What made his encounter so profound was his deep reverence for who Jesus is, God in the flesh. He believed Jesus could do what he could not, and he reached out in faith.
We don’t need the details of the “sinful woman’s” story because her actions to and with Jesus are where he encourages us to focus. She loves him with gracious hospitality. She loves him without restraint. She loves him completely. While Simon is not able to see it, even with his educated and devoted life, Jesus teaches him to look for something different: the way she loves. When he sees the way she loves, he will see she is forgiven and accepted by God.
I do wonder about this.
With what reverence and humility do we approach God? Have we left space for God to teach us as we are going about our lives?
How do we approach the one who, in the beginning, created every living creature and thing on earth and called it good? How do we come to the one who literally gives us our breath and will hold us when our breath on earth is no longer?
Do we come to Jesus ready to learn and see something more than we’ve known?
What are we looking for in ourselves or in others?
Step 2 from The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous echoes in my ear: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
Both the Centurion and the “sinful woman” believe that God is the power that restores what is broken. It is Jesus, who just happens to be in the neighborhood. Perhaps Simon is coming to believe as well. Powerless to see anything but sin, he opens himself to be taught by the Christ who dines at his table. “Tell me, Teacher”, he said.
Holy God, please tell us too. We need to learn from Jesus too. We need a power greater than ourselves to restore us to sanity. We need you. Amen.
Alcoholics anonymous big book (4th ed.). (2002). Alcoholics Anonymous World Services.
The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all of my heart. He helps me and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. – Psalm 28:7
I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe an extra hour of sleep or time to walk Oreo before the sun was bright. Perhaps it was simply the cooler morning air beckoning me outside. Or maybe someone’s prayer whispered in the dark. Whatever happened – I woke up with joy. Even a sense of relief.
And not only joy, I woke up with songs! Songs of gratitude. Songs I could not fully explain. I remember riding with my grandfather Lester on the country roads of Western Kentucky when I was very young. It was a rare occurrence. Usually when Grandma was out of pocket for some reason and I had the gift of time with him. We were always going to check on a field or livestock, pick up seed or grain; working.
He would make up songs and sing them as we drove down the road. They seemed like songs of joy to me. He didn’t have a singer’s voice particularly, so he wasn’t singing to hear himself. But he sure did love to sing as we drove down the road. I was mesmerized.
It was as if a song was in his heart and he just had to let it out. They were songs about whatever was going on in life. And silly songs. A lot of silly songs! Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised if his way is somehow being cultivated in me.
In my kitchen cabinet there is a shelf full of random coffee cups. You know…those cups you receive as gifts or pick up somewhere along the way. Every morning when I open it up I have this little decision to make of what coffee cup “feels right” today.
With a song in my heart and on my lips; with gratitude for God’s kindness and presence; with love that often cannot be contained, I reached into that cabinet and grabbed this cup…
What is the song in your heart today? Whether lament or gratitude; praise or love you can’t contain…it’s always good to sing! And by all means, cherish today; it is a gift and will not come again.
May God’s peace be in you today. May you sense how deeply you are loved by your Creator. May the grace of Christ surprise you with a song that rises within you and offers you joy. Cherish today.
Before I begin – You have created Before I brush my teeth – You have established the day I watch your sun rise It changes every moment The beauty is too great for me to capture You are creating, moving, establishing I stand in wonder.
Forgive me when I begin the day with dread or fear or arrogance instead of gratitude and awe. Thank you for the sun rise that reminds me: “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being“.
Forgive us when we enter life’s moments with condemnation, pointing fingers at our neighbors; many of whom we do not know, and judging those we do. Forgive us when we want so much to be on the side of whatever is “right” that we have no more space to love. Or learn. Or listen for what you may be saying.
Your sunrise reminds me how quickly you create and establish new things. Every second of every moment moving mountains, changing minds bringing spirit, removing idols crumbling, building, shedding, breaking, healing, restoring, transforming…. And we stand in awe of You.
Help us position ourselves for humble following however and wherever you lead today. We love you, Lord. We trust you, Christ. Thank you for not giving up on us. We welcome your new day! Amen.
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.
“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!
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.
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” – Mark 8:34-38
Jesus says these words right after he and Peter have a very tense moment. They exchange some heated words. Jesus is giving his disciples a heads up about what he is soon to face: arrest and crucifixion. It sounds like pure evil and failure to Peter; he disagrees with the approach Jesus is taking. After an immediate response that rebukes Peter, Jesus pauses to offer this word…this teaching. Just so we know – the way we enter the abundant life involves surrender.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
God works in our lives and in the world differently than we often expect. Part of following Christ is humbling ourselves enough to listen, to watch, and to discern how God is guiding us. It often means receiving teaching or instruction that is beyond our understanding – but that we choose to accept and trust God with it. In truth, the teaching of Jesus is often over our heads! It rubs up against what we want to hold onto, or even what makes sense in the world. It causes us to squirm a bit and hope no one notices how much he shows us that we simply ignore.
Denying ourselves can be giant steps of bold surrender. It can also be tiny steps of faithfulness for today. It can be a step. Today. We all have different things in our lives that could use some surrendering. For Peter (see Mark 8:31-33), it is surrendering his attitude and confidence that he can adequately judge what Jesus needs to do. Peter is basically telling Jesus, “You have this wrong…let me tell you how we’re going to handle this situation.”
We do kind of have a problem with thinking we know what God needs to do and how it needs to be done. Surrendering is not placing our brains on pause or acting recklessly with our resources. It is, however, being fully aware that we need to listen for God’s guidance and to follow it with humbleness and trust. Surrendering – or yielding – means we make space in our lives for God to speak.
What does that look like? What it looks like for you is probably different than it looks like for someone else. How are you providing space for God to speak into your daily life? What wisdom are you reaching for to give you guidance? Is it the wisdom of God or the loudest voices that are pushing their way into your vulnerable moments?
Denying ourselves during the season of Lent is intended to develop spiritual muscle for the journey of faith. That muscle serves us in times of vulnerability. It helps us realign our minds and spirits; it sets our feet on solid ground. Whether the practice of surrender comes in denying ourselves a food we crave or spending 15 minutes a day being quiet and unplugged from technology, every step we take toward God is a way of saying, “I yield my way to your way, Jesus.”
God, we are all in different situations, but we share a deep need for you. We get caught up in our ways of handling life’s challenges and we often miss how you are moving among us. When we seek you today, please reveal yourself in whatever way each person needs to experience you to know that you are right here, walking with us. Strengthen us for the journey. We yield our lives to you. We love you, Lord, and we trust you completely.
The morning peace arrives differently for all of us. But it still arrives. God is faithful. I pray God shows up for you in exactly the way you need today.
God bring peace to bedsides where people are making transition. Let the presence of the resurrected Christ standing guard with them be very clear today. Bring peace to the people we love who are healing. Let their cells receive nutrients and care; let their blood flow richly through their bodies; fill their lungs with your breath of life and sooth the rhythm of every heartbeat. Free their minds from anxiety and fear. Thank you for equipping the medical teams with your healing grace. May their compassion and skill be guided by you.
Give strength to the ones who are weary but still face the day of long hours. Equip every person for each call and task. Cover them with safety and give wisdom in decisions. Please grant rest to those who have a holiday and slower pace. Give them joy and restoration however they need it.
Where hope is needed, merciful God, please provide the flame that causes us to catch our breath and say, “it must be the presence of Lord with us!” Thank you for the creative ways you respond when we ask for help. Open our spirits to see you and receive. We trust you, Lord, and we love you. Thank you for being right here!
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2
A late-night fatality revealed to me the burden I was choosing to help carry. My Paramedic partner set up with me all night as sleep couldn’t come while I was processing the trauma and death of an accident scene. It was more than just this call; it was also the reality that we would respond to many of these 911 calls. We would help many, save some lives… and many would also not survive.
My partner couldn’t take that burden away from me, nor fix it so I would not have anything to carry. What my fellow Paramedic did that night was bear the burden with me.
Listening and being with one another when we are carrying heavy loads allows us to experience grace. We are given the space to speak the jumbled and jagged feelings that come with being human. We are heard.
In those moments of sharing, we are freed from the oppressive weight, and it gives us strength to continue the journey. It is not magic; it often does not remove the burden, but it is lighter, and we are no longer alone.
What my EMS partner did for me in that very early season of my Paramedic days, helped me understand that unless I processed this along with the way, I wouldn’t be able to make the 1000’s of more calls that were waiting ahead in my career. I had my own pain being in the middle of others’ trauma and death. I would have to heal as I went along.
When I reported for my next 24 hour shift and opened my locker, I discovered a large paper rolled up and placed inside.
That was 1982 and the poster still hangs where I can see it often enough to not forget this way Christ calls us to be in the world. We need each other, and sometimes that is just listening to the deep of another’s heart. Vulnerability is hard. And it is healing. Listening takes time and it is a form of serving. Healing happens when both are present.
Jesus is the one who removes burdens. We are the ones who carry our loads and are blessed if someone else is there to help us bear the weight. Who is there for you? Don’t hesitate to let them near enough to assist. Jesus promises to help us, and sometimes that promise is fulfilled by the person God places in our path.
Recently a friend created a piece of art for me; it sits on my desk, always in sight. She didn’t know of the gift I’d been given so many years ago. But God knew…and perhaps never wants me to forget.
Lord, thank you for making sure I never forget who I’m called to be on earth. Thank you for the friends who help me bear the heavy loads in my life, and the special ways they are present. Whenever life is hard, please equip us to step into those moments and love as deeply as you love us. You call us to do it more and more. Perhaps it heals us all. Amen.