Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Let’s talk about one vs ten; Life is easier with just one.

Sunday’s sermon was about sin.  I know, that seems almost blasé doesn’t it.  But let me be honest, sin makes me uncomfortable.

Now, I probably need to explain that statement. Sin in my mind is something one consciously does that is against one of the Ten Com- mandments.  And I have long struggled with the philosophy that one can sin unconsciously and/or that one is born with sin.

Therefore, when Scott Griffith, associate pastor at Sedalia, Missouri’s First United Methodist Church, admitted that he was gong to be talking about sin, I put up my guard.  But I listened.

And I was impressed.  Sin should not be a topic that causes my guard to go up or to squirm in my seat.  Sin, especially as a licensed pastor, should be something I can openly discuss.  So I listened.

Sin does not have to be a topic that immediately sets off a minister into a hellfire and damnation style of sermon, and Griffith certainly did not do that.  Instead, he calmly handled it and reintroduced the Ten Commandments via the Emoji characters that now dominate social media and our smartphones.

I quickly shot to the internet and found his graphic and copied it for future reference.  Why?  Think about how our society has become so focused on visual images.  The emojis have personified emotions in such an open forum that they are immediately understood and even in a non-specific language manner.

I suggest spending a few minutes reviewing the simplified version of the commandment and then study the emoji that is associated/assigned to that commandment.  They communicate the effect of the sin so effectively: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwje7OOwr4LjAhVKDq0KHWYGBF0QMwhTKAAwAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pinterest.com%2Fpin%2F70016969189628034%2F&psig=AOvVaw2nL2na3i5GQuMwTMe737LC&ust=1561474350157640&ictx=3&uact=3

Certainly I could now go into a long essay reflecting upon each one, but I want to shift to how much simpler life is when one has to only follow onecommandment rather than ten.

When Jesus answered the Pharisees’ question as to which commandment was the greatest, he replied:

 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

–Matthew 22:36-38, NLT

In other scriptures, Jesus repeats the commandment in a range of simplified versions.  Look at this list found with a search on BibleGateway.com:

John 13:34

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must loveone another.

John 13:35

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Romans 12:10

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 13:8

[Love Fulfills the Law ] Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

2 Corinthians 13:11

[Final Greetings ] Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace

Galatians 5:13

[Life by the Spirit ] You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

Ephesians 4:2

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

1 Thessalonians 4:9

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.

2 Thessalonians 1:3

[Thanksgiving and Prayer ] We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.

Hebrews 10:24

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,

1 Peter 1:22

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.

1 Peter 3:8

[Suffering for Doing Good ] Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

1 Peter 5:14

Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

1 John 3:11

[More on Love and Hatred ] For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.1 John 3:23

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

1 John 4:7

[God’s Love and Ours ] Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

1 John 4:11

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4:12

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

2 John 1:5

And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.

So I ask you:  Wouldn’t you rather prefer living life simply following only one commandment rather than ten?

And If I could identify an appropriate Emoji for the one commandment, it would simply have to be . . . 

Please join me in prayer:

Dear loving Father,

You loved us so much that you sent your son

To teach us how to live with one another in love.

Forgive us for all the times that emotions flare up

Causing us to risk breaking the one commandment:

     Love one another.

May we fill our love for one another

into our hearts and minds so no sin creeps in.

And with our lives devoted to loving others

Let us share our love for you 

In as many ways as we can.

With the love and grace from you Our Heavenly Father,

     through our belief in your son Jesus Christ

          and the power of your Holy Spirit within us,

grant us peace and joy

that comes from loving one another.  –Amen!

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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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God’s glory, the Son’s shining light, and today’s sunshine

Sunshine has returned!  In fact this marks the third day just this week seeing the brilliance of Spring’s sun shining through the new leaves of trees around the house. Goodness, it feels so good!

Any day filled with sunshine feels so much more valuable than days filled with clouds, rain, snow and all the ill weather one can imagine.  Yet I know that the sunshine would not seem nearly as valuable if there were not those days filled with grey skies and inclement weather.

This line of thought continues to reflect much of what I read, too.  As readers may remember, I am reading C.S. Lewis’sThe Chronicles of Narnia, and that I am invested in a year-long Bible reading plan.  

Last week when the sun broke out, the blog almost wrote itself; here it is a week later and the sun is also out this morning and an idea that started circling through my brain was sparked by chapter 11 in the third book of the chronicles:  “The Horse and his Boy”.

As I am reading along, the intuitive thought was that the presence that Shasta was feeling had to be God.  Yet the words did not paint the image, just the sense of presence:

“. . . Shasta discovered that someone or somebody was walking beside him. It was pitch dark and he could see nothing.  And the Thing (or Person) was going so quietly that he could hardly hear any footfalls.  What he could hear was breathing.  . . . “

When I read, sometimes it is impossible to slow down; and as I read through this, I could hardly take in the words because I was in such a hurry to see if what I suspected was true.

And the story continued as I raced to learn more. The presence was indeed a lion, not just any lion but Aslan.  Lewis’s depiction of the presence in this third chronicle develops the omniscient presence in ways that warms one from the inside out just to read the words.  

Lewis put it like this, “Shasta was no longer afraid that the Voice belonged to something that would eat him, nor that it was the voice of a ghost.  But a new and different sort of trembling came over him. Yet he felt glad too.”

This morning the sun shines and all the worries that sat upon my heart as yesterday ended is cleared away.  I  know that the Voice is with me and I have nothing to fear.  And today’s sunshine simply reinforces that inner sense of well-being.

Yet, there is another benefit from reading The Chronicles of Narniaas it is mirroring or reflecting the reading and the study of the Bible.  I find that the sunshine we experience in our earthly life may only be a hint of the light that is referenced in scripture as well as in Lewis’s works.

This is Holy Week for the Christian world in which we review the story of Jesus’ final earthly week.  We entered the week with Palm Sunday telling the story of Jesus’ triumphant arrival on the back of a donkey.  The crowds are cheering and the mood is festive.  

Then the clouds of deception move in.  The light fades.  The horror of lies, a trial, of mob frenzy, and brutality move in. The moments drag on and the harsh treatment turns into a nightmare for the faithful.  In just a few days, the Son of God, Jesus Christ who has been symbolized as the light in the darkness of sin.  Jesus is God’s ‘son’ light.

I know, I know.  I am risking too much symbolism, but I cannot seem to escape the reality of today’s sunshine.  And the reading!  How can I not find the connectedness of the readings?

Lewis continues writing showing how Shasta moves from the grey fog into the light:

“The mist was turning from black to grey and from grey to white.  This must have begun to happen some time ago, but while he had been talking to the thing he had not been noticing anything else. Now, the whiteness around him became a shining witness; his eyes began to blink.  . . A golden light fell on them from the left.  He thought it was the sun.

“He turned and saw, pacing beside him, taller than the horse, a Lion.  . . . It was from the Lion that the light came. No one ever saw anything more terrible or beautiful.

“The High King above all kings stooped towards him.  ..He lifted his face and their eyes met.  Then instantly the pale brightness of the mist and the fiery brightness of the Lion rolled themselves together into a swirling glory and gathered themselves up and disappeared. . . . “

Those words!  I recognized those words and my mind swirled, too.  The Bible has told the story of God’s glory more than once: 

Exodus 33:

15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

And then Moses returns to the people from Mount Sinai with the stone tablets:

Exodus 34:

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.

33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.

The references to the glory of God in the form of a brilliant light are woven into the story from the Old Testament; and then comes the Gospels that tells the story of Jesus Christ, God’s son, sent to teach us how to live loving one another.

In Matthew and Mark the story of the transfiguration of Jesus shares the same image of God as Moses experienced

Matthew 17:1-3

 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Jesus“shone like the sun” and Jesus is the son of God.  We look out on these bright sunny days and see just a hint of the glory of God.  

Even though the disciples Peter, James and his brother John were eyewitnesses to the transfiguration, Jesus told them not to speak of it until “. . . the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”  (Matthew 17:9)

These three disciples were unclear about what Jesus was speaking thinking it was a reference to John the Baptist, but today, in the bright sunshine of Holy Week, 2019, we Christians know the story as it continued forward.

Jesus ended his ministry experiencing the darkness of human evil.  As he hung on the cross, the sun was covered by the darkest of clouds, and an earthquake shook the earth.  Two days later, the Son broke out, and the Glory of God became visible again:

Matthew 28

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

In Mark, the report refers to the angel in a white robe, in Luke, the clothing of the two men “gleamed like lightning”, and finally in John, Mary Magdalene sees “two angels in white.”  The significance of the light cannot be ignored, so on these bright sunny days of Spring, when the dead of winter is thrown off and the new life explodes under the sun, I understand the Glory of God!

Please join in prayer:

Praise you, Lord Almighty,

For the glory you share through the brightest sunshine,

For the Glory of your Son’s light that guides us

      through the grayest of days,

For the glory of Your Presence now and forever. –Amen

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Have you ever been so afraid to read a book that you fail to?

Ok, I admit that is what happened to me in relation to an entire genre—fantasy.  And I had my reasons to avoid them.

Primarily I am dyslexic and reading books with created language does not work well for me.  First, I have to decode the language and then I have to create a new vocabulary just to read the books.  

Then there is the problem that develops with long-term memory.  Created language has to be relearned several times before it is committed to long-term memory and can be efficiently recalled so as not to love the comprehension necessary to keep the story fluid for the reader.

These logistical issues have caused me to put down books repeatedly.  Over the course of my life, I have avoided some of the most acclaimed books and I have wondered what I may have been missing.


Oddly enough, the determination to read the Bible in one year has triggered a nagging question:  Why does everybody rage about C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia?  

I had little knowledge about the series and only knew that C. S. Lewis wrote them and that he was a widely read theologian. I felt guilty that I had not read it and so I have decided to tackle the chronicles.

As of this writing, I have completed the first two books in the singular volume of the seven books in the series.  I was surprised that the first one was not The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobebecause that is the one I remember first learning about.

So as I sat down with the book and looked at the copyright, I discovered the secret in the copyright years:

1950—The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

1951—Prince Caspian

1952—The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

1953—The Silver Chair

1954—The Horse and His Boy

1955—The Magician’s Nephew

1965—The Last Battle

Granted, this did surprise me as the first one I read was The Magician’s Nephew, because it is the first in the one volume collection I am using.  Yet, I can understand why it was first at this point and I dare not reveal the secret.

That means the second one I just finished is the first one Lewis wrote, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. And I am fascinated with the autobiographical note that is included stating the Lewis wrote this as a child’s fairy tale for his own granddaughter Lucy.

But to return to the premise of my own fear of reading this series:  The language is not as created as I had thought it would be but I do know it helps to understand the time context and the language in which it was written. The English language is not American, it is British and that could trip up the reader who is unfamiliar or unprepared to know some of the colloquial references.

Secondly, it is important to remember that it was written at the close of World War II.  For the British, the proximity and the reality of that tremendous war played a role in the culture which even explained how the children are relocated out of London to a country estate.

These factors can make a difference for me in even picking up a book as I prefer reading American historical novels.  The setting and the language are comfortable and do not take additional work for my comprehension.  And I like to read, so that comfort makes reading more efficient as I do not have to learn something unfamiliar to pick up the nuances of the literature.

And I am wandering around in this conversation because there is so much to explain as I dive into this reading challenge.  I think there is one more huge piece to add to this background of my reading:  my personal familiarity and study of the Bible.

After completing The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, I am in total awe of the theological base of the story.  I simply cannot imagine how Lewis could so inventively develop the story of Narnia to explain or to demonstrate the immensity of the Gospel story.

Admittedly when I become engrossed in a book I become captured and struggle to put the book down.  My initial decision to read the chronicles was coupled with a desire to have a very special reading companion in the process—my own granddaughter. 

As I read, every once in a few chapters, I text her a comment or share a piece of information with her.  She reacts, even though usually in one word replies.  I cannot be sure of her own reading and/or progress in the book, but there is something unique in having the ability to share in the process with someone who is hovering in that tween state of mind.

Let me explain some of my own emotional reactions. When Edmund first connected to the Witch, I could hardly stand it.  I wanted to yank him out of the castle and make him quit eating the Turkish Delight. Why in the world could he not see the deception!

I had to text my reading partner that I did not like Edmund.  At the same time I explained the literary term foreshadowing.  Her reaction, “Cool.”  Needless to say, I do not know any more than that concerning her comprehension or anything, but it is enough to keep me going.

Then yesterday hit.  I kept reading and when I finished chapter 14, I hurt.  In fact I had to tell her that, and no reaction. But then I know that I hurt because I knew the full connection to the Bible.

Chapter 14 ends with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. 

How could I explain that to her without crossing the line of trust that I am suppose to allow her to discover whether or not she wants to know about faith? 

How could I add how knowing the Bible I know that the rest of the story has so much more and that there really is hope?

So, I kept reading.  Somehow I knew that I needed to add something into my text messages so she had hope, too.

I finished the second book later in the day, and I know the beauty of the story as it continues.  Therefore, when I finished it, I had another text for her: 

“By the way, I cold not quit reading.  The end of the books is so exciting.  Let me know what you think once in a while.”

No response yet, but she is not suppose to have her phone on during the school day.  We will see, but until then I continue in my own challenge to read the chronicles and continue my Bible study.

I know one thing more, now I want to read Lewis’ theological books, too.  There is so much more to learn through my own independent study and so much I want to share with others.  

Conversation always helps when reading, and I always look for others who have read the same material so I can add more depth to my own understanding.  

Thank goodness the Holy Spirit does provide me assistance as I read and study the ancient words of the faithful.

And thank goodness I have overcome my fear of reading not only the full Bible using a new approach, but to reading Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.  I am sure that as all good books do, I will want to read even more.

Please join me in prayer:

Dear God,

Thank you for wordsmiths

who have taken your story

and created new ways of sharing.

May my own words reflect

the truth of the scriptures

and the story of Jesus Christ

who died for our sins

and taught us how to love one another.

Guide us during these days of Lent

to continue reflecting on our own lives

and seeking to be closer to You

through what we learn of Jesus Christ

by the power of the Holy Spirit, amen.

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Just one word makes all the difference

Continuing on my year-long Bible study, I find that my thoughts are so full of ideas that it is difficult to isolate a clear statement. Today, it took me all week to locate what I had read and find a way to state what I learned. I pray that it makes a difference for you, too.

How often does one’s Bible reading reveal the phrase “fear the Lord” or “fear God”?  I always struggle with the word choice of ‘fear.’  

During my reading, I may have unlocked the mystery of the word ‘fear.’  I may no longer fear understanding why that is used over and over in human’s relationship with God.

What I uncovered during my study time came in the study notes in the Wesley Study Bible(p. 762) connected to Proverbs 1:

“In Proverbs 1:7 (and in 2:5; 9:10; 15:33; 31:30), the fear of the Lord refers to moral obedience, the acknowledgment that everything worth knowing and all moral guidance comes from God.  Elsewhere in the Old Testament the fear of the Lord refers to the trembling of the human being in the presence of the divine (Isaiah 6) and the covenant loyalty the nation needs to show the Lord (Deuteronomy 10:20).  Theologically, each of these three biblical postures before God—the obedience of Proverbs, the awe of Isaiah, and the loyalty of Deuteronomy—is a response to God’s prior, gracious activity. . . . “

The term fear in today’s culture typically does not conjure up those images:  obedience, awe and loyalty.  Instead, fear has extremely negative connotations.  Therefore, as I read through the study notes and found this paragraph, I had to stop and reread the earlier note:

“We today do not like the concept of “the fear of the Lord,” assuming it means a fear of imminent punishment.  But, though there are several meanings ascribed to the term in the Old Testament, none of them refers to fear of imminent divine punishment.”

Wow!  For years I have struggled to fully comprehend why the Bible uses “fear of God” if God is love.  My tendency is to read scripture replacing the word ‘fear’ with the word ‘respect’ and move on.

The explanation in the Wesley Study Biblethat I have inserted makes more sense to me than any other word or analysis I have found. 

By looking up the word ‘fear’ in the Oxford Dictionary On-line [accessed on April 5, 2019 at https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/fear] , I can see why the meaning of fear has evolved into the negative connotations that cause me problems:

As a noun:  An unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.

As a verb:  Be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or harmful.

No where in these definitions is any reference to ‘awe,’ ‘obedience,’ or ‘loyalty’.  Even when I checked the origin of the word, I could not find a connection to these Biblical definitions of ‘fear’:

Old English fǣr ‘calamity, danger’, fǣran ‘frighten’, also ‘revere’, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch gevaar and German Gefahr ‘danger’.

Granted the word ‘revere’ shows up, but that does not lessen the negative connotations of the words ‘calamity,’ ‘danger,’ and ‘frighten.’

Thank goodness the study notes has introduced this new viewpoint of the word ‘fear.’  I can read the Biblical use of ‘fear’ differently now.  I can stop feeling guilty because I do not ‘fear the Lord.’  I now can see that fear is awe, obedience, and loyaltyto the Lord.

Please  join me in prayer:

Dear Lord,

Thank you for the wisdom of Biblical scholars

who can translate your words in ways

to clarify ancient literature for me today.

Thank you for the sense of awe, 

the desire to be obedient, and

the sense of loyalty my faith provides.

Thank you for your unending presence

through the power of the Holy Spirit,

so I may continue to grow in faith.  –Amen.


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I heard the peepers! Hope soars as spring eases in.

The truest harbinger of spring has to be the sweet, sweet sounds of peepers in the evening.  Last night as I took the dogs out, I heard them.  True it was faint, but that sound is undeniable.

Then this morning, just before dawn, I stepped outside and again I heard that glorious sound—peepers.  This has to be real.  Spring must be coming soon.  

I realize the sound is so faint, but the peepers’ home is a marshy area about a half-mile from our yard, over the ridge and around the lake.  During the day nature’s spring symphony is hard to hear, but in the evening and the dawn, life is not yet loud.

Is that not like hearing the Holy Spirit speaking to you?  Life is noisy here in our world.  We have the alarm clocks, the TVs, the machines to get us to and fro, the machines producing the goods we sell, the voices of the sales people that hound us around the stores, the life sounds of parents, kids, and even the retirees, can become so loud that we hear nothing else.

Granted this is not a new topic.  The issue of the noise in our life seems to be a popular topic in the self-help literature.  Discussions about stress also reference this life noise.  We allow the noise to step between one and another in conversation and even in relationships.  We need silence.  

Maybe I am writing this for myself.  I keep noise on in the background throughout the waking day.  I should make silence a priority, but I don’t.  The noise is worse in the winter because I cannot step outside into the natural world and listen to nature.  

Hence my excitement hearing the peepers.  I know that soon I can step outside and listen to the symphony of nature rather than the noise from the TV or machines. I will be able to step away from the winter capsule filled with noise.

Last week I referenced Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Sacred Rhythms, and in the chapter “Solitude” one is reminded how needing silence is part of practicing ‘solitude:’

Barton opens the chapter with a quote from Parker Palmer’s  A Hidden Wholeness:

“The soul is like a wild animal—tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy, self-sufficient. It knows how to survive in hard places. But it is also shy.  Just like a wild animal, it seeks safety in the dense underbrush.  If we want to see a wild animal, we know that the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods yelling for it to come out.  But if we will walk quietly into the woods, sit patiently by the base of the tree, and fade into our surroundings, the wild animal we seek might put in an appearance.”

Simply reading that quote triggered the desire for solitude.  I recognize that need for the silence of nature.  Notice that I do not mention quiet, I mean the silence of nature and all its natural sounds.  

Solitude from human-made sounds does not allow my soul to open up.  Even though I sit in the house with no other human, I tend to turn on background noise in the form of the TV.  I even turn the sound down just to a low sound that I really cannot make out the conversation.

Going on through the chapter I began to realize how come, even with my noise background, how I wanted solitude from other people and other noise.  And I thought I was an extrovert and who is fueled by contact with others.  Lately I am wondering if I really am an introvert and need aloneness to recharge.  If that is the case, it is directly opposite of how I have lived my life.

Barton develops her argument for solitude so well that I began wondering how I could find solitude in my world.  And then I heard the peepers!

Solitude may mean removing ones self from noise and allowing one to decompress.  And I am just now, after 7-8 months, realizing how many layers I must peel away in order to be decompressed enough to let God go to work through me.

Barton says, “One of the fundamental purposes of solitude is to give us a concrete way of entering into such stillness, so that God can come in and do what only God can do.” (p.41)

I am learning that working as I believe God asks me to work cannot be done while I am living in so much noise—noise that has developed from the years of working in education and then the pulpit, too.  

My noise is locked into my brain and I need it to be peeled away so God has a straight path back into my consciousness. I need to decompress.

As I have invested in a thorough study of the year-long Bible reading, I am hearing words I never have heard before.  I am realizing that I am ‘listening’ differently and that is due to the layers of noise slowly being peeled off.

My solitude practice is not complete, but I am making strides.  The long, harsh winter is making it difficult for me to step out into the silence of  nature and silence the noise of daily living.

Barton provides a ‘practice’ section in her chapters, and the one for silence provides these guidelines:

  • Choose a comfortable, safe place to be open and available to God,
  • Settle into a comfortable position, sit quietly, breath deep, become aware of God’s presence, and your desire to be present with God;
  • As you sit quietly, begin to notice what is true about you without rushing to make something happen;
  • Sit with what comes into your awareness, becoming aware of God’s presence with you; and
  • Regularly practice this way of entering solitude until it becomes routine.  (p.43-44)

Granted this is only a summary of the practice, but I can see how this could help me to decompress.  I can also see how it will allow me to hear God’s directions for me.

Barton shares how even Jesus needed solitude and tried to make sure that the apostles also learned this practice.  We all need to find a way to step into solitude in order to stay in a close, personal relationship with God.

I am not there yet, but with the work I am doing with the Bible reading and the guidance from various recommended authors like Barton, I am peeling away the clutter in my brain.  I am getting closer to the practice of solitude (esp. with spring being announced by the peepers).

Please join me in prayer:

Dear Father, 

You are The Word.

You are found in scriptures.

You are talking to me, and I do not hear.

Lead me out of the noise.

Lead me to solitude.

Lead me to hear you speak.

Thank you for words of friends.

Thank you for the words of scripture.

Thank you for the words of leaders.

May I find the solitude to hear You

By the power of the Holy Spirit.  –Amen.

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I know. Ash Wednesday over, Lent begins. I’m not ready.

The long, cold winter has so consumed my psyche that I was unprepared to accept the arrival of March.  We seem so far away from the typical spring images that usually accompany March. 

And accompanying that, I was surprised when I realized that Tuesday was Mardi Gras, which meant that Wednesday was Ash Wednesday and today is the first day of Lent!  Oh my goodness, how the time flies.

This has caused me to struggle wondering why Lent has snuck up on me.  I suppose one reason is the weather, but a second is that I have not had to prepare for the season as I have the past 10 years.  This is a season as a parishioner, not as a pastor.

I admit to feeling a bit guilty because I have no plans, no identified fasting plan or any 40-day practice.  The 40-day period of giving up something or doing something as a spiritual practice has always been a challenge for me.  This places me in an awkward position:  Is it too late?

Committing to the year-long Bible reading plan, I have already implemented a very structured practice.  This is not just sitting down and reading a novel, this is study.  My 40-day challenge is realistically a 365-day challenge.

Therefore I should not feel so guilty, should I?

Add to this study, though, is an additional reading I have just completed.  Based on a friend’s recommendation I have read through Ruth Haley Barton’s Sacred Rhythms(2006).  

The nine chapters take one through a process to establish the spiritual practices that develop–or maybe a better word is enriches—one’s spirituality.

Barton offers a personal viewpoint on the practices while providing the rationale, the scriptural basis, and the encouragement needed to reorganize one’s life to be more mindful of one’s own spirituality.  

The chapters outline the various practices as solitude, scripture, prayer, honoring the body, self-examination, discernment, and Sabbath.  

John Wesley also identified the individual acts of piety as means to strengthen one’s spirituality, also.  The United Methodist Church’s website lists these as “. . . reading, meditating and studying the scriptures, prayer, fasting, regularly attending worship, healthy living, and sharing our faith with others” [Accessed on March 7, 2019 at umc.org].

There are differences, I realize, but Barton confronts the problems that our culture faces in this 21stcentury that Wesley could not have imagined.  Wesley’s acts of piety do still apply, but having Barton explain how today’s technological world and demanding family life do not have to interfere with these practices.

Therefore, as I continue working through the year-long Bible reading plan, I am going to reread Barton’s book with a pencil in my hand to make additional notes.  My Lent will be to review, release today’s world, and to work on developing a 21stcentury plan, or as she calls it, rule of life for myself.  

I may still be unprepared for Lent in the traditional sense, but I must forgive myself and acknowledge that whenever and however I work to improve my personal spiritual practices is the ultimate goal. Isn’t that what Lent is?

Please join in prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,

You are my teacher.  

You are my healer.

You are my redeemer.

Forgive me for letting the world step in the way.

Forgive me for worrying that I am not perfect.

Forgive me that I procrastinate in growing spiritually.

Thank you for the words of others who teach.

Thank you for the words of those who help me heal.

Thank you for the words of scripture that are timeless.

Guide me in my understanding.

Guide me in making better time for scripture.

Guide me in adding scriptural practices

     that work for life eternal.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit,

With Jesus Christ your son,

And you, our Lord, I Am.  –Amen

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