The Night Mercy

Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith will it be done to you”; and their sight was restored.

Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew 9:29

Two blind men start following Jesus and just as soon as he goes inside they present themselves to him. They ask for mercy…neither of them can see; they are blind. They knew Jesus could restore what they had lost. They were confident that mercy was available. So they humbled themselves enough to ask for what they needed.

We don’t know exactly why, but the way Matthew tells the story, Jesus warned them not to tell anyone. He may have hoped to stay under the radar a little longer. But they couldn’t hold it in; they told everyone in the area. It was not the discreet healing Jesus may have hoped it would be. Getting free of something that is holding you back from seeing is pretty awesome; of course they wanted to tell!

We can lose sight in a lot of ways. Sometimes we have blind spots that prevent us from moving in the direction we need to go. Maybe we can’t see our way out of a situation or just simply don’t know how to take a step into the unknown. The mercy of Christ is present; we need only ask.

The night is a good time to ask for God’s mercy. The day rolls back through our minds and occasionally lingers in moments of regret or worry. We don’t have to carry it into our sleep. It’s OK to ask for what we need. We can trust the Spirit to sort out the details. Ask for mercy. Name what’s weighing on your heart and mind. Trust that everything is going to be OK, because God is holding you in the asking. God really is holding you. God is holding us.

Lord, have mercy on me.
For the moments I didn’t pause to see you…
restore my sight and sense of your presence.
For the words said too harshly, or words not said at all…
Lord, bring grace to cover the gaps.
For the worries stacking up on my shoulders and the situations I can’t fix…
Lord, please take it all into your hands.
You are our Peace. Amen.

Moments of Faithful Risk

“While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. “ – Matthew 26:6-7

Bethany is the town where Lazarus and his sisters lived, but in this situation, the meal is at Simon’s house. It is the most unexpected house to host a meal. Simon was known as a “leper” until he was healed by Christ. Now he is hosting a meal for Jesus.

The woman that comes with the expensive perfume is named as “Mary” when John writes his account of this story (John 12:3). She must have been saving this perfume for just the right situation and time. It is valuable. Somehow she knew (by God’s grace and a nudge of the Spirit?) that this is the time, this is the moment, for her to give it. She chooses to give it all to Jesus. She doesn’t know why, she just knows she is supposed to offer it.

The disciples – the followers of Jesus – are appalled. It is too extravagant; a waste. Jesus is pleased; she obeyed the nudge of the Spirit and did something that involved her in his story of redemption. God’s plans are fulfilled. This woman’s offer of love and devotion prepares Jesus to offer his greatest gift of love: to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13)

We know Christ’s sacrifice is near; and we know resurrection is coming. His preparation and her involvement in his journey of obedience…these are moments of faithful risk. In the kingdom of God we take risks to love across societal norms, boundaries that limit access to Christ, and even fears whether they are real or imagined.

We return to the neighborhood today and knock on doors to invite the children to come out for “Bible Club”. Some will say yes. Some will wait for another day. We will teach the Bible stories, play games and sing. Love, friendship and joy will be shared, if even for a few short hours of the day.

I do wonder… Is it possible that we, who are so deeply distracted with our busy lives, are bringing “perfume” to the neighborhood? Or is it much more likely that Jesus finds us in Simon, the Leper, and asks us to come into the neighborhood and be healed so we can serve others with him?

Jesus is grateful for the woman’s lavish love. He says this moment is so important that every time this story is told, her act of faith and love will be shared. He wanted us to know this. She took the risk of walking into a setting where women were not typically welcomed. She gave her greatest gift and it prepared him for his. How are you giving your best for Christ?

God help us to walk humbly as we go through your neighborhoods today. Heal in us whatever keeps us from loving and serving you freely. We have no good apart from you so please come near. We love you. We trust you completely. Thank you for trusting and loving us enough to bring us here with you.

Bible Club lot #streetreach
Bible Club lot #streetreach

Serving with our youth group in Memphis. The joy of witnessing what God is doing in our teenagers is a gift. Being with children in the neighborhood is just finding where Jesus is already and joining the miracle. Grateful.


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

Come Quickly to Help Us

Our nation, and perhaps others in the world, watch and wait today for the verdict coming out of Minneapolis. It is a heavy day.  Trials and verdicts are our meager means of order and justice.  They serve us well and they serve us imperfectly, but they are the best we have established so far to help us as a nation.  The hope is that over time and history our practice of justice, law and order is likely to improve as long as we keep learning and working on it. I pray that will never end for our nation.   I am grateful to live in a country where a democracy and order for justice is in place. It is far from perfect; it is, however, what we created and in many places of the world, this does not exist. 

On these days, however, – when it feels like the whole nation is holding tension – every part of me turns to prayer. Words fail me, though this morning I am writing.  Something in me requires me to write today.  My spirit hears a voice above the news and tension. It is, by my discernment, the voice of God.  I believe healthy discernment comes in the community of believers, so I say that with the caveat that I can only share what I see; my sight and hearing is always incomplete.  As I came to my Scripture reading today, I let it roll over my mind and help instruct me. The reading is from Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica:

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. – I Thessalonians 5:14-22

Give thanks in all circumstances? Even the circumstances we face today? A trial that has the whole nation holding their breath? A pandemic that has changed so much of our ordinary lives and continues to edge us out of our comfort zones and into territory we’ve never before traveled? Grief that runs through communities and families while new life is begging to be acknowledged and allowed to flourish?  Give thanks for those circumstances? 

The message is actually not about circumstances. It is a message about how our lives are ordered and grounded in a way that Christ leads us to show up in all circumstances. With joy, with prayer and with gratitude.  

Our joy does not come from circumstances. It comes, rather, from the experience of love we share with Christ and one another.  That joy cannot be removed from our spirits. It is the presence of love and communion with the God who made us all the time, no matter what is going on in our circumstances.  That supernatural joy is especially helpful when it is embodied by the people around us. But even in the absence of those people, the Lord is faithful to be present.  There is a verse in one of Paul’s letters that expresses this so beautifully:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,  neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  – (Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. He was talking about persecution the Christians were facing at the time. Romans 8:38-39)

Prayer that taps into the power of our Creator to intervene, to shine light, to bring forth wisdom that we do not have – and to bring it into all circumstances, is a way to navigate these tensions and ask for help. We need God’s help in these situations. We have not done well left on our own. And yet, we see hope and something new rising out of the chaos.  Humility helps us ask for divine help.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. – (Jesus’ words to his disciples as recorded in the Gospel of John 15:5-8)

We have gratitude for the unending mercy and steadfast love of our Creator that redeems these impossible situations with justice in ways that may use a court of law but are never limited to a court of law.  Remember that Christ was condemned to die by crucifixion and he was raised from death! We bring gratitude for the way Jesus met the Centurion of the Roman army and the leper who had been isolated from all relationships.  Gratitude for a God that reaches out for the hand of every human being and says, “here, let me pull you out of this pit; there is another way”. 

I’ve been pulled out of that pit many times. Including the pit of my own mindset and the pit of my own choices.  I’ve watched families rescued from their sinking into that pit of destruction. I’ve witnessed organizations and communities restored by the power of God’s grace and mercy embodied in the people. We worship a God that brings justice; a God that redeems; a God that restores life and peace.  Trusting in God’s presence brings gratitude for the kingdom of God that IS being fulfilled on earth as it is in heaven.  The Lord has made that clear; our part is following where God leads us into that unfolding and unveiling. 

Be courageous. Be humble. Be disturbed and be at attention. The way we respond in all circumstances is a reflection of Christ’s presence in our lives.  Remember who and whose you are today. In all things, honor God; there is no better way to walk through these days. If we claim to be children of God, we don’t get a pass for acting without grounding and thought today.  This is how the Scripture says it; may God indeed intervene for us all.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. – Thessalonians 5:23-24

God of heaven, come quickly to help us. You are the God of all people. 
You know our circumstances far better than we do. 
You know what it feels like to be condemned and what it feels like to offer forgiveness. 
You know the power of calming the waves in the ocean and the humility of loving enemies.  
You set the captives free, 
including all of us 
when we are captive to sin and destruction.  
We struggle when our understanding of justice is different than yours. 
We struggle when our perspective of mercy is discounted, dismissed or ignored.  
We depend on earthly bound entities to redeem our world, 
but we know …we know …
you are the only one who can redeem us 
and bring the fullness of justice and mercy 
into our lives and our nation. 
We acknowledge you and our own limited capacities. 
You invite us to call upon you in our time of need; 
you promise to be with us.  So we come and ask. 
You made us, Lord, you know what is in us.  
Please help us today and in the days to come. 
Help us to respond in all circumstances with ways that reflect you 
and lead us to new life.  
We come with joy, prayer and gratitude for your presence among us.
We need you and we trust you completely.  
Come quickly, Lord, to help us.