Monday Beginnings

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.

Moments of Integrity

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!

Dance at Sunset

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.

Trusted Surrender

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.

TobyMac Lose My Soul

Monday Prayer

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! 

Bearing Burdens

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. 

1982

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.  

Galatians 6:2 is written on the bottom of this stone art. Dec 2021.

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. 

Lunes por la Mañana en Guatemala

Rooster calls across the dark morning tell me to rise, a new day has come. Before the people move or I can launch my mind to the work ahead, every bird, animal and plant is making a clear claim of praise for the faithful rise of the son. Villancico; song of praise. Santa Maria is invisible; the clouds shield any human sight of her presence.  Nublado.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 
This is what the ancients were commended for. – Hebrews 11:1

Morning Prayer
God, thank you for the creation that never ceases to praise you for the morning’s arrival. You have ordained another day; you speak it into being for all creatures.  And whether we wake with heaviness or joy – you are here with us. Please walk with us wherever our steps trod today, we need you. Clear our minds of fear and shame. Remove the weight of worry. Fill our spirits with your grace and mercy. Remind us that we were created with your love, and we cannot destroy what you are making whole. Where we are broken – keep mending and restoring. When we are moving too fast – redeem within us your pace. Wherever love needs to pour over our wounds, we welcome your presence however you come. We trust you completely. Let it be. Amen. 

They Come For the Love

Thanksgiving Eve, 2021. When the small town you landed in way back when, turns into a little city where everyone wants to live, the holidays change too. Live music outside the grocery store, people milling about everywhere and an abundance of everything….except rosemary! There is a sense that everyone is preparing with anticipation that “gathering” is fully back. It is almost as if everyone is praying that we are all “OK” as we gather. I get it. Being with friends and family in this season is a huge gift! A lot of life has happened in the past 20 months. No one and no family is exactly the same. It’s OK for us just to name it.

The grace of bridging the past with a still unfolding future is not an ordinary move. It’s different. People have been through things. Grief has entered our lives in waves we’ve not before experienced. Joys have been greater; sorrows have been deeper. We are still trying to sort out what our “normal” will be; all the while holding our hands wide open to what we have yet to see. 

We are preparing (actually, I did no preparing) to walk/run the Turkey Trot in the morning. It is a favorite way to begin the day and support our local food bank. I love beginning Thanksgiving Day with the community and for a great cause. It makes the feast even better.

I pulled my grandmother’s stitched wisdom from where it hangs and placed it on the kitchen counter today. I don’t want to miss it as I prepare to celebrate this Thanksgiving. Her signature is on the back: dated 1968, along with her address label from Gracey, KY.  Grandma Lester’s wisdom is something we all may need as we gather on Thanksgiving Day 2021. In some strange way, I wonder if she stitched it so we would be faced with seeing it many years later. Perhaps even before hosting friends and family at our tables. 

Whatever you have prepared for Thanksgiving Day – it is enough. Whoever gathers at your table will be blessed by your love, whether it is with one or with fifty. The house doesn’t have to be spotless. The food will be good, however little or much. The setting doesn’t have to be any more than is naturally there.  What does matter, is how much love is present. This is why people come to the feast. 

God, please bless our tables with your grace. Let our love for the people gathered be the most important gift we bring. Fill the empty chairs with your presence so any grief is met with your love and comfort. Season our conversations with the wisdom of your spirit. Help us to hear one another with compassion and curiosity. Remind us, Lord, of all the ways you have been so faithful and present with us! However you stir us in this season of gratitude, we thank you. We trust you, Lord, and we love you. Amen.

Transitions

I love the way fall arrives. Every day there is a change, some signal that transition is happening. We anticipate the beauty that will come. We delight in the changes that we enjoy. We sigh (and maybe complain a little) about things we don’t embrace so easily: like an hour less of daylight!

Creation tries to teach us to receive it all, and trust that something right and amazing is unfolding. If I stop at the stream long enough I will see things falling away. Hedge apples drop to the ground. Leaves turn colors and float to some landing place. All the while, something new emerges. The deer is in pursuit, focused for the season. The squirrels prepare for winter, gathering up all they will need. Frost sneaks in the early morning hours and covers the earth, preparing for the winter on its way. All waiting for a child’s spirit to notice.

Perhaps God speaks in these transitions. Reassuring us that we are not alone in any season. Reminding us that way leads to way. Encouraging us to trust the Creator to keep guiding us along the path. Walk slowly and watch. Walk softly and listen. The whispers of the Spirit arrive in many ways.

Creator God, we welcome you to reveal yourself to us today. We invite the whisper of your Spirit to stir us from our slumber. We ask for the grace of your help – giving us wisdom in moments we most need it. Bring hope into our days and fill us with your Peace. Amen.

Fix My Eyes on You 

Our Dads

I was blessed with two of them. My “Dad”, is the one who raised me and taught me to love animals, take risks and that you don’t have to answer every question.  I learned unconditional love from him because God showed me how to love when it made no sense.  I would not be the person I am today if Dad had not been who he was.  

Over time I realized that my dad’s suffering was what helped teach me unconditional love. And boundaries. And some stuff I’d rather not have learned.  But there is so much more that I am so grateful to have learned! Things like: It is OK to bite if you get backed into a corner.  You can always drive in snow; go slow and watch out for the other guy. If you want to eat you better damn well make sure you have a job. And sometimes your dreams get fulfilled in ways you didn’t expect, but that is OK, just go with it. 

My amazing Dad!

My second blessing was my stepfather, who married my mom many years after I was an adult. He fell in love. She fell in love. They decided to make a life together. For all the years of their marriage (20+) he loved her so well. She loved him so well. I suppose without the stresses of raising children or paying mortgages, their marriage was truly a refuge and delight for later years. He was the most gracious man I’ve ever known. Never in a hurry. Always interested in what was going on in our lives. And he loved our mom.

Their marriage blessed me with extra siblings, and most of all it blessed me to experience what joy and delight can come when you least expect it. In the last year of his life there were a few health challenges. I was in their home for an overnight visit once when I woke up to someone singing. It was my mom. She was serving him breakfast on a tray, and she was singing to him as she entered the room, “Good morning! Good morning!” I could hear the love in her voice. I could see the appreciation and love on his face. They did their last season together so very well.

Mom and Dick, my amazing stepfather

I think dads have a tough job. When I finally “grew up” and experienced some big falls myself, I realized that my dad did the very best he could with his life.  He was a very tough man. And broken, like all of us.  His heartaches and life griefs were overwhelming. But he continued. It wasn’t always smooth or what he imagined, but he persisted until he took his very last breath. And then he was free. 

I know Dad could have given up and stopped living at many different points in his life. But he didn’t. He kept going. And because he kept going, we did too. We kept learning about love and mercy and grace. We kept asking God to show us how to navigate the days, and God was faithful to help us. We all just kept living and doing the very best we could with what we had to live with – including our broken selves!  

Both of my fathers are in heaven tonight. They have no pain or sorrow. And anything that was not resolved on earth for either of them, has been completely resolved in heaven. I’m so grateful they were both chosen to be my dad and stepfather. I’m so glad we lived all the way until their very last breath, and we lived fully. It is a gift I always cherish, and a gift that never stops bearing fruit. 

A Night Prayer on Father’s Day
Holy God, thank you for our dads. We never need them to be perfect, we just need them to be our dads. So please give all fathers an extra measure of your love, wisdom and care. Please remind them of your mercy and grace that is always available and give them courage to ask you for it. Most of all, as this day comes to an end, please cover all dads with your great compassion, and please cover all of their children with your steadfast love. Thank you, gracious God, for being our perfect father, and for giving us our imperfect and amazing dads. Amen.

It’s Always Been You – Phil Wickham