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.

Monday Joy

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

Resuscitation

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. 

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.

HUMILITY: Proverbs 30:1-6

“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

Morning walk; late June 2022

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. 

You’re Going to Be Okay

TODAY: Proverbs 27:1

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.

Today

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything. – James 1:4

Facing the wind, 2021

I encountered this bird on Amelia Island last year. I have never forgotten the moment. He stood there for the longest time. The wind blowing in his face. His feathers all ruffled and worn. He was shaking. Every few seconds I thought he would blow over or give up and fly away. To my untrained eye he seemed determined to stand in the wind and gather up courage and focus for the day. I wondered if this was his morning prayer.

When I think of what it takes to stay the course when we are tired or frustrated or feeling like what we’re doing is not making a difference, I think of the way James teaches about challenges and trials. It frames my attitude and thought process. If there is something waiting for us after a season of perseverance, James reminds us that it is worth the waiting. It is worth the patience, diligence and whatever else you are mustering up to walk through each day. Something more than eye can see is happening. Perseverance comes with a blessing. It is something we trust and hold on to when the days are hard. Hold on today; prayers are all around you.

Lord, thank you for being with us when we are living through seasons of challenge. Please bring patience enough for today, and hope that fills the spirit and offers peace. Protect and guide, as you have promised to do; your wisdom is our greatest source of help. We trust you completely, Father, and we love you. Thank you for your faithfulness! Amen.

Trusted Teacher

Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.  – Jesus in the Gospel of John 15:4-5.

Jesus gives some last instructions and words of wisdom to his disciples before he is arrested. He reminds them that the time they have shared together and all that he has been teaching them has prepared them for all that is to come. There is a caveat to the work ahead.  If the disciples want to be involved in what God is doing on earth, they must abide in Christ. They must stay as close to Christ as a branch is with a vine. That’s pretty close.  

Abiding doesn’t mean performing for approval. A branch does not perform and then look back to see if the vine approves or not. Nor does a branch disconnect from the vine and do anything that replaces the nutrients, power, and life that the vine gives.  When a branch disconnects from its vine, it eventually dies. Abiding in Christ means living in and with that connection. It is life itself, breathing in and breathing out moment by moment. It is not a program or mandate; it is a way of being alive. 

There is freedom abiding in Christ. We are not alone. We do not have the world resting on our shoulders. We are in this life with Christ. We are drawing from the strength and love of the one who came to earth for us! Not to harm us, but to show us what it looks like when the love of God is fully in human form. 

Jesus, our trusted teacher, came to help us experience a different way.  Our trusted teacher came to save us from distorted truths and a hijacked religious hierarchy that had lost connection with God’s loving intention for our lives on earth. Jesus came to redeem all these things and to fulfill the kingdom of God on earth. What a gift our Creator gave the world – and continues to give us every day. 

The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. – Jesus in the Gospel of John 10:10

We seem be in a constant stream of focusing on a group of people and literally tearing them apart with our opinions, judgements, and disappointments.  We’ve seen it happen with law enforcement, teachers, doctors, nurses, and numerous other groups.  A mistake by one person becomes a condemnation of everyone. An error that needs forgiveness and justice becomes a pass to never trust anyone again. 

It may be that the noise of it all begins to make us think there are no trusted sources in a world that really needs wisdom to navigate through the circumstances of daily life.  Hear the good news:  Jesus is a trusted teacher. Jesus is the son of God; the Messiah the prophets said would come; the resurrected Christ that is with us even now.  The teaching he shared while he was on earth is trustworthy.  It is a teaching that sets us free.  The way God continues to teach and guide us through the Holy Spirit is trustworthy. Abiding in Christ helps us remain tethered to that stream of wisdom. 

I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. – Jesus in the Gospel of John 15:11

Check out more of what Jesus said by reading the 15th chapter of John: https://bit.ly/3wT9pkf

Three simple ways to practice “abiding” in Christ right now:

  1. Read from the Gospels several times a week or even daily. Start small. Ready for five minutes. Read a chapter. When you finish all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), start back and begin again. We need to be reminded daily of these teachings. It provides focus and food for our spirit. 
  2. Ask God to hold you close to the vine of Christ. Simple & powerful prayers: 
    “God, please keep me close to Christ today”. 
    “Lord, help me to walk faithfully through this day.”
    “Jesus, come right away; I need help!”
    “Christ, you are my vine; I am your branch; let it be.”
  3. Do one small act of kindness for someone. It can be as simple as saying, “I love you” to people in your household; taking a bouquet of spring flowers to a friend or stranger; thanking someone for their service (waiter; store attendant; co-worker; teacher; etc.); listen to the one who needs to simply say their things. Anonymous kindness strengthens the spirit. Known kindness strengthens relationships. It’s always good to intentionally be kind to others. How can you be kind to someone today? 

Lord, when your ways are so different from ours, it is probably going to be hard for us to see. Please draw each of us and all of us near to you so when you teach us, we are able to comprehend. We want to abide in you, and we need you. We love you, Lord, and we trust you completely. You are our trusted teacher; our Savior; our friend. Amen. 

My Trust in the Lord – Psalm 11

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

Winter’s Last Dance?

My grandfather always said to wait until after Easter before counting on winter weather to be finished.  Like any good farmer, he held even that with open hands, often reminding us that God is the one who created the world, and we don’t control the sun and the rain.  A farmer works on faith and prayer in all efforts. A good approach for a Monday morning!

Was this winter’s last dance?  I don’t know, but it was beautiful. 

I am always fascinated by how quickly nature adapts to changing conditions. I don’t see resistance or hear complaint. Life persists fully and confidently forward.

Monday Prayer
Lord, you are our dwelling place. Wherever we are and whatever the conditions of the day, we need you to order our steps. Give us courage to walk into the week with confidence of your presence, and trusting that in your presence there is fullness of joy and life everlasting. We believe in YOU. Where life is overwhelming, please come quickly Lord to assist. Thank you for your faithfulness in all seasons. We pray in the name of the resurrected Christ, Amen.

You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; and in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
– Psalm 16:11