Tag Archives: God

Guess What I Saw!

Today is truly spring, and yesterday I discovered it at a time I really needed to find a breath of fresh air:

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I did not plant this jonquil here.  It is actually coming up with some wild onion that I have had before and cannot seem to get rid of.  

So I was genuinely surprised to discover this flower blooming in the midst of the cedar mulch under the deck. 

I needed this harbinger of spring because earlier that morning I had made the trek to Walmart in order to get my usual supplies.  I knew there were issues with stocking, but still what I found was a shock.  

There was no cereal except for less than a case of a couple of brands.  Only one box or two of instant oatmeal.

There was no rice!

There were very few cans of vegetables.

There was no toilet paper as I had heard and discovered from other outings the weekend before.

Finding items was a challenge because not only is our local Walmart managing the pandemic, it is also going through a major remodel, so everything is everywhere.

I left shaken.  

Throughout history humanity has faced crisis; we are not different.  And there really is no reason we should feel protected from a global pandemic as the world comes right into our homes if by no other means than videos. 

Then today, we took a long drive down to Truman Lake because it was sunny and pleasant.  We would not interact with other people just by taking a drive, so why not?

The fishermen were still out on their boats despite the near freezing temperatures.  The Sonic was delivering meals to the car windows as always.  And there were cars, well more pickups and SUVs, on the road.

The small towns were ironically the same as they always appear.  Even the little mom & pop restaurants seemed to be doing their normal lunch hour business.  I almost felt like we were outside of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) parameters.

We all need to look for the little reminders that God’s world is filled with his glory.  We need to see all the spring flowers popping out from the mud and grime of the wet, cold winter.  We need to see the families outside in their yards–together.  We need to hear the peepers as they announce spring.

And we all must realize that humanity is going to continue even though the going is extremely trying right now.

We must return to God’s scriptures and the story of how he joined us on earth as Jesus Christ, son of man and son of God.  

Easter may not be what we expect this year.  There may not be any worship service to attend.  The Easter outfits may not get to be worn on April 12 as planned.  The Easter Bunny may have to wait a bit before families and friends can get together.

But the good news is that God is good all the time and all the time God is good.  We just need to look for the good.  We need to hear how all the communities are finding new and inventive ways to love one another.  We need to consider what we can do, too.  

This Sunday, March 22, and the coming Sundays our churches are joining forces to fill the social media with church services.  There may be more people “in church” this week than ever before thanks to the technology and the social media that has developed.

Sharing the good news will be a breath of fresh air along the airwaves right alongside the news broadcasts.  Share with others in any way that you can the story of Jesus Christ.

Open up the computers, the tablets, the cell phones, and even the smart TVs and find the worship service of your own church or maybe someone else’s.  You can visit as many as you want this week and during the coming weeks.

I think the on-line church service and devotionals is much like finding the jonquil blooming in the most unexpected place in my yard.  May the services open up your heart and you experience the renewal of faith this first spring Sunday.

Please join me in prayer:

Dear God, 

Thank you for the gift of spring.

Be with your children around this world

     struggling with the angst filling today’s world.

Let us join together in worship

     in any way we can, wherever we can

     so we may experience 

     the joy of Christian community.

Guide us as we continue to move forward

     through these uncertain times.

     heal those who are sick;

     protect those who rush to their aid;

     and show us new and wonderful ways

     of loving one another 

     so all may experience the transformation 

     that comes when we accept Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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Living in midst of pandemonium

Our pastor’s Lenten series is titled “Confronting Evil” and each week he covers a specific topic.  First was bitterness, then betrayal, and third cynicism.  

As we experience the flood of information and the dramatic changes that the coronavirus has created, I am realizing how those individual topics can be translated into this very experience.

Though I have not experienced the virus yet, nor know anyone personally who has, I have to admit that I could understand that this virus is a 21st century evil–or at least can spiral us into a mindset that stirs up the very characteristics we might identify as un-Christian responses.

This week the series subtitle is “Putting Satan behind You.”  We cannot put the temptations or the emotions behind us in dealing with evil, we must address it.  We live in community, not isolation, therefore we confront a wide range of evils.

Using the Wesley Study Bible, I often read the sidebars.  Today as I read about Jesus confronting Satan during his 40 days in the wilderness, I noticed that one of Wesley’s core terms is ‘temptation’:

“. . . Wesley knew that temptation more often comes to us in subtle ways.  Our bodies are frail and subject to pain, which inevitably brings temptation.  The human environment in which we dwell is also a wellspring of temptation, and our character is constantly being formed and reformed by the influences, both moral and immoral, around us.  Sadly, believers who fall 

short of perfect love are also a source of temptation, for they are still in the grip of inward sin.  Their pride, jealousy, and other “unholy tempers” can provoke the same tempers in others. . . “(p. 1166)

As I read through this explanation, I realized that right now, today, in the midst of the global battle against a virus, we confront evil in how we manage even this event.  

As we confront the virus, be alert to the emotions that we must manage:  bitterness, betrayal, and cynicism.  We are humans who must rely on God even in the midst of a pandemic.

I close with verse 10 from Matthew 4:1-11 reading:

“Away with you Satan! for it is written,

     ‘Worship the Lord your God,

          And serve only him.’”

Even Jesus had to confront evil, but he lead by example and we should follow his model.  Let’s face the reality of a pandemic, but rely on God.  Serve one another in love in all the ways that you can following all the medical advice that you can.

Dear God,

Heal our bodies, minds, and souls

so we can fend off evil

and love one another

 with total abandon.   Amen.

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Thanksgiving Words of Wisdom

Stopping for a few moments to consider the blessings of the year, I cannot escape that no year is free of problems. Nor is there any individual who escapes some form of pain and is in need of some form of healing.

For myself, I read a daily devotion as I complete my day. I use the annual devotional book provided by Guideposts. This year, after my husband’s truck accident, the challenges for healing are real. Therefore, I am taking the liberty of sharing from a reading from November 26:

Words of Wisdom

(Excerpted from Guideposts 2019:  Walking in Grace, for November 26)

“The Best Six Doctors are . . . 

Sunshine

Water

Rest

Air

Exercise

Diet.

I read the list again.  It was all there.  Simple gift from God.  Everything I needed to feel better.  The six best doctors.  And, of course, time to heal.

. . . Sunshine, water, rest, air, exercise, and diet.  I decided I needed to add ‘patience’ to that list.  But the fact remains, nearly everything we need to be healthy is simple, easy, free, and available.”

Closing prayer:  

Lord, remind me when I get discouraged to step back, take a deep breath, and remember that all I need has already been given to me.

[This excerpt was written by Patricia Lorenz and if framed through her own need for healing after knee surgery. Thankfully she shared this so we, too, may remember to trust God.] 

Thank you for sharing, Patricia Lorenz, because your words have reached us and I am confident reaches so many others.

This Thanksgiving we count our blessings that not only are we whole, we are healing. Nothing can protect us from the accidents in our daily lives, but what we do to maintain our mental health–and for me, my Christian health–is essential.

Always remember that God does provide, and the six best doctors are his gift to us each and every day, every year. Thanksgiving reminds us to celebrate our blessings, and for the words of those who share their faith.

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Yesterday is today while old is new—and vice versa

No, this is no riddle I propose. Rather, it is a reality when studying literature; and for me, the literature I have been focusing on is Biblical as I continue the year-long Bible study.

I know I have shared before about my personal study, and it is not always easy.  I just completed reading the two books of Samuel.  To be honest, I should have read them after completing a course in ancient history that included the sociology and the geography of the Middle East.  These books were not easy.

Add to the historical, geographical, and the social-political intricacies of these books, the filter of Christianity that has been my upbringing and continued adult life.  The content seemed so distant, until I stopped and realized the above truth that I know is literature:  Yesterday is today; old is new.  This then translates as Today is yesterday; new is old.

While studying literature in college, the emphasis that any story, poem, essay that can withstand the test of time can be defined as classic literature.  The themes, regardless of the style, the plot, the setting, and the characters (aka the elements of literature), are as time-appropriate today as they were when first written—and anywhere along the timeline of humanity.

Therefore, the books of Samuel, continue to be literature which teaches today’s generations the themes of how to live within our earthly, human context.  The book is filled with human drama, political battles, jealousy, adultery, and more.  These are the very same conflicts that exist in our world today.

So what does one learn?  Over and over again, the lesson is to follow the Golden Rule:  Love one another as you want to be loved.  And love being an attitude between one and any other human (and dare I add, species).

But there is one other commandment that all need to remember.  We are to love God.  Not only that, we are to love God above all else. 

Remaining in a long-term relationship with God is not easy, especially with all the temptations that humanity has created throughout history.  And we all tend to be weak in the face of temptation or in the face of peril.

This week my thoughts have focused on the health needs of close friends.  One had bypass surgery and the other has been in chemo treatment for a rare cancer.  Recovery is not easy for either of them, and what can I do?

Pray.  I can on holy conversation with God.  The prayers are for them to have the strength and the resolve to do whatever they, their medical team and primary care providers can do to battle the health issues.

But maybe the most important prayers is that God uses these trials to reach into their own lives and let them experience his loving presence. 

Over and over the Old Testament stories share that bad things happen to good people.  We cannot explain this as humans, but there are the words in scripture that can advise us.

Today, the reading was Habakkuk, not a common book and one of prophecy.  But today, I heard God’s message that helps me to manage the earthly experience.

In the first chapter, Habakkuk asks two questions:

–v. 3 “Why do you make me see wrong doing and look at trouble?”

–v. 13 “. . . why do you look on the treacherous and are silent when the wicked swallowed those more righteous than they?”

Habakkuk has four more sections:  

  • “God’s Reply to the Prophet’s Complaint”
  • “The Prophet’s Prayer”
  • “The Woes of the Wicked”
  • “Trust and Obey in the Midst of Trouble”. 

It takes reading through them and the study notes to make God’s answer clearer:

Under “God’s Reply to the Prophet’s Complaint” is verse 2:5: “Moreover, wealth is treacherous, the arrogant do not endure.”

Under the section” The Woes of the Wicked”, there are a series of ‘alas’ statements, but hear v. 20:  But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him!”  What a reminder to have no other god before him.

Then Habakkuk prays in v. 3:16:  

“I hear, and I tremble within;

   my lips quiver at the sound.

Rottenness enters into my bones,

   and my steps tremble beneath me.”

Even the prophet speaks honestly to God.  We can do the same.  Go to God in prayer to defend yourself from despair.  

Habakkuk ends with these words from v. 3:18-19:

     “. . . yet I will rejoice in the Lord;

       I will exalt in the God of my salvation.

   God, the Lord, is my strength;

      He makes me feel like the feet of a deer,

      and makes me tread upon the heights.”

In the introductory notes for Habakkuk, there is more clarification in understanding why bad things can and do happen.  In referring to Habakkuk 2:4 “. . . the righteous live by their faith”.  The notes continue, “The prophet’s vision emphasizes trust in God despite circumstances.”

John Wesley spoke to the same them in Sermon 119, as referenced in the introductory notes:

“. . .  judgments concerning good and evil, not to visible and temporal things, but to things invisible and eternal.  . . .hope [is] based not on visible circumstances but in God.”

These words from the Old Testament and the Wesley Study Bible are guiding me to fuller understanding and appreciation of how valuable my faith is in managing life in our earthly world.  And with that, I pray:

Dearly God,

Guide me along my journey.

Speak to me through scripture.

Teach me by the words of your faithful.

Then, let my words be your words

Sharing your grace, your promises

    and your love with others so they, too,

    feel your love and live to love others.  –Amen

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Praying the Psalms VII + final: Throughout it all, praise the Lord

The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, the birds are singing and what echoes in my ears:

     This is the day that the Lord has made;
         let us rejoice and be glad in it. (NRSV)

These words come from Psalm 118:24 and have been part of my life as long as I can remember, whether it was from my mom’s mouth or from a pastor’s, these words seem to express the joy I feel for the world which surrounds me.

As I finished reading and studying the Psalms this past week, I found that my thoughts and my mood just seemed to soar as I read through the final ones.  I cannot imagine ending these weeks of study and not want to express myself in a joyful manner.

Turns out according to the Wesley Study Bible, the final (of five) books in Psalms are filled with psalms of praise.  That piece of information made me stop to think. So much of the Old Testament seems filled with despair, and yet in the hymnal of the ancient Israelites, the emphasis is on praising God.

Placing this into the 21stcentury world, I think we need to remember this too.  Despite everything that circulates in the media and all the horrendous news that seems to open each newscast (and just an aside, my first degree is in journalism, BJ’76 from MU) so I tend to be a “newsaholic.”  Still, I delight on the day the Lord has made.For me, praying the psalms includes always praising God for some element of the day whether it is a personal relationship that brings me joy, whether it is the love from my pets, whether it is a warm embrace, or something 

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Praying the Psalms IV: Or at least I had hoped . . .

For two weeks I have failed to finish a blog posting and feel frustrated. Due to my husband’s truck wreck, I have found myself managing time differently.  And I have not been able to sit down in quiet and gather my thoughts.

Yet, I have worked hard to keep up with my daily Bible study and the psalms are still being read.  In fact today I read Psalms 111-113, and I find myself still thinking how these psalms fit into our lives yet today.

What I wanted to share these past two weeks is that the psalms speak to us even when we struggle over and over again.  Psalm 88 is a prime example of how we can talk to God when we feel at the very brink of sanity due to all the troubles we face:

Lord, you are the God who saves me;
    day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
    turn your ear to my cry.

I am overwhelmed with troubles
    and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
    I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
    like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
    who are cut off from your care.

You have put me in the lowest pit,
    in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
    you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.[d]
You have taken from me my closest friends
    and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
    my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to you, Lord, every day;
    I spread out my hands to you.


10 Do you show your wonders to the dead?
    Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
11 Is your love declared in the grave,
    your faithfulness in Destruction[e]?  
12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
    or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

13 But I cry to you for help, Lord;
    in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 Why, Lord, do you reject me
    and hide your face from me?

15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
    I have borne your terrors and am in despair.


16 Your wrath has swept over me;
    your terrors have destroyed me.
17 All day long they surround me like a flood;
    they have completely engulfed me.
18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
    darkness is my closest friend. [NIV]

Read through this psalm and consider the times in your life when you were at a low spot—or a valley as in Psalm 23.  Look at verse 3.  How many times do we say that in our lives?  Yet, God never wears out on us.

I apologize for not writing the past two weeks.  I am managing the troubles in our household the best I can without losing focus.  I have not forgotten any of you and want you to know that I am keeping you in prayer. 

Please, too, keep my husband in prayer.  The healing process is lengthy for the type of injuries he incurred, but he survived the accident, which is a miracle.  In fact, whenever we have to review the accident with yet another specialist, they, too, are in awe that he survived as well as he has.  In these conversations, we are reminded that God rode right along with him during this accident and for that I read and pray the psalms of praise.

Please join me in a prayer taken from Psalms 23:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

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An open apology to kids about knowing God, faith

I apologize.  

As I continue to study and to read the Bible, I realize I failed.  I failed to teach you faith.  I failed to practice the parenting principles that my own parents taught me.  I failed to share what I know to be my own life foundation.

I apologize.

As I grew up, both Mom and Dad lived a Christian lifestyle.  They modeled it by the very routines of our day and our week.  They never demanded that we participate, but then we would never have refused to follow their instructions.  It never even occurred to me that we should question the practices.

Therefore, why did I not follow those deeply entrenched practices on my own?  I did some, but some I did not.  Going to church each Sunday was a well-preserved practice and included attending Sunday school.

Because Dad always went with us each Sunday, I never thought that my own husband would miss church.  I thought that was just part of the agreement in a marriage.  When I first had to go to church alone, I ached. It was so wrong, yet I failed to make an issue of the change.  I just went—alone and alone with the kids.

I apologize.

Another practice that I failed in was maintaining the practice of the meal’s blessing.  We had three meals a day growing up and that meant three mealtime graces.  

I admit that the practice weakened during the college years because prayer is private and mealtime in the dorm’s cafeteria was far from private.  The meals’ grace disappeared.  Oh, I could have said the grace privately, but I don’t remember doing so.  And when I moved into an apartment, I could have resumed the practice then.  But I didn’t.

Then came marriage and meals were often in front of the TV.  No table grace then.  

And then came kids.  I should have known that I needed to add in the meal’s prayer, but I did not and did not even approach the subject with Dad.  I failed.

Then life changed with the divorce, and the opportunity to add in open prayer was there—but I hesitated.  It was not until the preschool grace developed and later remembered that the simple table grace resurfaced.  I failed to do so in a timely manner, but now it seems so important, so routine, and so simple.

I apologize.

Now the two practices of church attendance and table grace are just two small, concrete pieces to the Christian lifestyle that one can wear openly, but there is more about which I need to apologize.

Faith education is a critical failure.  I know that many argue that as children develop, they need to learn about God on their own, along their own timeline, in their own way or by their own experiences.  But how does that work?

Having been a teacher for 30 some years, I know that learning is developmental.  I know that all individuals can learn.  I know that we all learn differently.  I know that we learn by seeing, by hearing, and by doing.  

Yet, did I teach faith in my own home. No.  I realize now that I counted on the kids learning via other people’s teaching.  I delegated the task to others and did not take my own initiative to teach the very foundation of my own life.  I failed.

For some reason I thought that I was doing enough, and I was not.  I thought that since my kids lived in my home they would be able to figure out the importance of faith by osmosis.  

I did not figure in what would happen when outside influences or the divorce would create an entirely different learning environment than I felt I was maintaining.  I neglected my kids’ faith education.

I apologize.

How easy it would be to just ignore the issue, but I cannot stand seeing what life without God does to people.  I see so few who seem to have an internal fountain of joy shining from within them; and I know they are missing the joy I experience knowing God in my own life.

What I should have done is been verbally open about how God is part of the daily world in which I exist:

I should have spoken about how God created this universe and we are to care for it.  

I should have shown how all the different birds are part of God’s creation.  

I should have shown how farmers are key to feeding God’s people and for protecting this world that supplies all we need to grow crops and to nurture the livestock that feeds us.

I should have explained how important it is to treat each and every individual with love, just like we want to be treated.

I should have shown them that good leaders do care about their subordinates making any business or organization work smoothly.

I should have . . . and the list continues.

I apologize that I failed.

But, today, I want to put a stop to the failures and speak out—directly—to my kids.  God is good.  Whether you can ever fully understand the concept or not of an omniscient God, a creator, a spirit, a being, or whatever, I know that you must know what a difference God makes in my life.

More than anything I want you to experience the joy of this life experience that we are given.  I want you to demonstrate to all those you interact with that the power of loving one another is priceless.  I want you to share the love of life that you have because God loves you so much that he provides it.

And, I want you to know firsthand the value of studying the literature of the Bible.  We use words as a tool, and the Bible is filled with words to implement in your lives to manage all the ups and downs.  

As human beings, who do have the freedom to chose right and wrong, who do have the mental capabilities of analyzing history, science, social science, and experience, and who face all the challenges of living among believers and non-believers, we must learn all that we can about God.

Knowing God personally makes it possible to manage the evil forces that co-exist in our world. 

Knowing God personally makes it possible to live a joy-filled life even when we are confronted by a life challenge whether physical, mental, financial, or even a natural disaster.  

I apologize that I did not arm you with the knowledge of God that makes life good now and on into eternity.

I apologize that it has taken this many years to speak up.

I apologize that I did not teach you how to pray so you can always feel the reality of God with you, by you and for you.

Hear my prayer oh Lord, 

I am just a child of yours

     always learning of your vastness.

I am a child who has wasted time

     sharing what I value with my own.

I am a child who whines to you

     that my kids may not know you on their own.

Forgive me, Lord, 

     for my failures to teach my kids of You.

Forgive me, Lord,

     for wasting time in sharing faith out loud.

Forgive me, Lord, for whining

     rather than doing as much as I can.

Guide me to speak out loud 

     the truth of your love for us.

Guide me to live out loud

     my faith that so others may see.

Guide me to love my kids

     and all others as you commanded.

Thank you for the words of the faithful

     that share knowledge of faithful living.

Thank you for the open communication

     through our prayers.

Thank you for your guidance

     through the Holy Spirit within us.

May I be the parent unafraid 

     to love not only my kids but all your kids.

May all your children experience your great love

May they know the joy of loving you, 

         of loving life, and         

of loving one another.  –Amen

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