Monday, November 22, 2010


…you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:19-20)

Paul introduces us to a “truly global faith…where only one category remains: all believers. Across cultures and races, God is building a new family: we are joined together in Christ, and in our multi-colored, many-tongued expressions, the Holy Spirit dwells.”

Gerard Kelly, writing for
Scripture Union USA, is Senior Pastor of Crossroads International Church in Amsterdam.

Dear God,

How is it that we divide up into denominations? St. Paul, steeped in the tradition of his own religion and culture learned a better way:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:28)

Yet there’s a human inclination to choose sides. I tend to associate with people that look like me, think like me, live like me.

Father, don’t let church become my private club. It should be more like a base camp. A place for supply. A place where an expedition begins - even an adventure!

Lord Christ, you prayed for unity, that we would be one.
(John 17:11) No barriers. No boundaries. Help me to find common ground with all believers in your teaching, your example, your presence. Amen.

Photo credit

Monday, November 15, 2010

Stones that Speak

Joshua erected a monument at The Gilgal, using the twelve stones that they had taken from the Jordan.

…this was so that everybody on earth would recognize how strong God’s rescuing hand is and so that you would hold God in solemn reverence always. (Joshua 4:20-24, The Message)

Dear God,

You instructed Joshua to build a memorial of twelve stones - a memorial that would speak of your blessing, guidance and protection to the generations.

We erect monuments to our heroes - military, commerce, philanthropy, church and sports.

But what are the “stones that speak” in my life? Could I find twelve? What about faith? Family? Is there a stone that speaks of service? Discipleship? Grace?

And certainly, my monument doesn’t merit chiseled marble. Maybe a pile of river rocks where your Spirit has removed the jagged edges.

Lord Christ, I pray that my life will speak to others - of your blessing, guidance and protection - that they will hold you in
reverence and recognize your strong, rescuing hand. Amen.

Photo credit

Monday, November 8, 2010

All Saints' Day

We celebrated All Saints’ Sunday yesterday…singing (with gusto) For All the Saints and I Sing a Song of the Saints of God. It prompted me to reflect on the “cloud of witnesses” that has surrounded me, and for that I praise God:

I sing a song of the saints of God…

My Grandparents, Lewis and Clara. They would recite the Lord’s prayer with me at bedtime. Laying a foundation of faith.

My boss and his wife, Larry and Catharine. Dedicated to one another, their family, their employees and community. A couple to imitate.

Patient and brave and true…

My co-worker and friend, Lyn, whose life was claimed by cancer. His compelling assurance of Eternity strengthened my faith.

The departed Saints in the Men’s Bible Study at St. Matthew’s. Loyal to their church and committed to their faith. Never bashful with their doubts and questions.

Who toiled and fought and lived and died…

Mrs. Hawkins on my Meals on Wheels route. Terminally ill. Always reading her Bible. Preparing for Heaven.

Cindy’s nanny, Elizabeth. The family’s lively prophetess of both admonition and encouragement.

For the Lord they loved and knew…

My colleagues Jan and Ben. For their high standards and friendship.

For Wild Bill, my father-in-law, who loved nature and learning and teaching. A model of graciousness.

They were all of them saints of God, and I mean, God helping, to be one too. Amen.

Photo credit: Cemetery in Cracow Poland on All Saint’s Day

Monday, November 1, 2010

Signs and Wonders

Saints Peter and John Healing the Lame Man
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Wondrous God, thank you for this day!

Father, the book of Acts tells us the Gospel was confirmed with “signs and wonders.” I don’t believe those powers were confined to 1st century church. I’ve seen them in my life. 21st century Christians need to raise their expectations!

We have extraordinary powers: to love, to care, to encourage, to share, to befriend. I should exercise my special powers with greater frequency.

I may not have the healing touch of Peter or John, but I have the power to forgive. That’s a potent and healing force!

Lord Christ, help me to see the opportunities. And I ask your forgiveness for the ones I’ve missed when busy and self-absorbed. I’ll take Peter’s advice and claim the promise:
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord… (Acts 3:10)

Use me for “signs and wonders” on your behalf today…through the Spirit’s extraordinary power. Amen.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Rebuke to Fear

I borrowed the title from my priest, the Rev. Bill Bennett. A recent sermon inspired a few thoughts about trusting the Lord and its antithesis, fear. Learning to trust God is the antidote to anxiety, a rebuke to fear.

Fear is a medium of distortion. Fear, prejudice, hate, inferiority, and so on, are the ingredients of alienation. (Valson Thampu writing for Scripture Union)

Unfortunately, we seem to be wallowing in fear these days. A rebuke is in order. Pray with me...


My nation is afraid. This imposing, broad shouldered, bighearted country is scared.

The decade began with terrorism and the finale was a recession. We’re beset by INSECURITY writ large.

Hate-filled fundamentalists are a hard-to-love, difficult-to-forgive foe, but we’ve gone overboard with our enemies list: Muslims, the poor and immigrants. Threats and finger pointing abound. Political discourse is profane and divisive. Is America’s heart shriveling?

We reflexively trust our military prowess and revered market economy. Surely, that has been humbling during protracted war and sluggish economic recovery. Yet, “In God We Trust” does not come easily.

The prescription is found in your Word:
…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 
(2nd Chronicles 7:14)

That does not require an American theocracy, or a welfare state, or mass deportation. It is, however, a challenge to the Church. We have ample grounds for repentance, personal and national.

Will people who call themselves Christians sincerely, intentionally turn to You? Will they trust and obey? Will they put a generous faith ahead of parsimonious politics?

Only then can transformed human hearts shout a rebuke to fear:
In God We Trust.

Monday, October 18, 2010

In Adversity...

Dear God,

I seek comfort and peace from my faith, but I have learned that true intimacy with you comes from the opposite pole.

It's in our episodes of adversity, suffering and discipline that you are “up-close and personal.”

Surely, you desire our worship, service and study, but finding to you in adversity, clinging to you in hardship…

…is where Christian character is developed
…is where Godly wisdom grows
…is where bonds of trust are cemented
…is where your presence is most keenly experienced.

Lord Christ, when I see trouble help me to see you, not dimly, not in the distance or in the shadows, but “up-close and personal.”

Through the power of your Spirit,

Monday, October 11, 2010

Infectious Faith

Recruiting his first disciples along the Sea of Galilee shoreline, Jesus said he would make them “fishers of men.”

The Message interprets his pitch to Peter and Andrew (Matthew 4:19) this way:

Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.”

Jesus’ intent was clear, but there’s wide interpretation over the type of bait we should use. Some opt for fear and shame. At the other extreme are evangelists who promise prosperity. I’m trying to fill my spiritual bait bucket with compassion, comfort, forgiveness and love.

Let’s pray…

Lord, I read a devotion that grabbed my attention.

It stated that we are agents of cosmic reconciliation…that you are at work healing your creation. That’s a big idea. What’s my role?

This reminds me that my salvation is not an entirely personal matter. Indeed, there’s a responsibility to share my faith, to live a life that draws others to you.

I pray, Lord Christ, that you will equip me for that work. (Left to my own devices I’m seriously deficient.)

Holy Spirit, help me to develop an infectious, communicable faith…that I may be your agent in my corner of the cosmos.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Change of Coordinates

I heard this from UMC Bishop Will Willimon on Day1:

All the gospels present Jesus on a continual road trip - God in motion.

…some of Jesus' best words were spoken on the run. So, if you want to know about Jesus, you've got to meet him on the road.

Anybody who wants to meet Jesus, to understand or to be with Jesus, must be willing to relocate.

That relocation might not be a change of address, but it will surely represent a change of priorities, attitude and/or heart. Jesus is our navigator. He is likely to adjust our coordinates.

Lord, we pray your will be done.
(Matthew 6:10)

And we aspire to Christ’s thoroughly selfless standard:
Yet not what I will, but what you will.
(Mark 14:36)

...but we remain stubbornly stationary. We spin cocoons of self-will. We long for predictability. We want things set and fixed.

Change my coordinates, Lord! Move me through your Word.

Maybe I’m resisting something that could be a Godly surprise? Maybe there’s a stranger in my path destined to become a friend?

Standing still or your will? How can I resist the Creator of the Universe who calls me?

Open my heart to your perspective, and put me on your path. In Jesus name, that I might reflect his love and purpose, Amen.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Uneasy Rider

No pain, no gain. It’s true at the gym, and it’s a tenet of the Christian faith. John Grayston, writing for Scripture Union, puts it bluntly:

We cannot expect universal approval or an easy ride…suffering is part of our calling as servants of God (1 Peter 2:21). The love which we pour out will not always be returned. Pain is caused not only by those whom we would expect to be our opponents, but also by those whom we might expect to stand with us.

Effective ministry will always be conducted from a position of weakness. There is no other way, for this was Christ's way and it is his example that we follow. Our ministry, like his, is always service. We look, in the words of Ignatius Loyola, for "no reward, save that of knowing that we do Thy will."

This goes against human nature and the spirit of our age. It is hard.


I grumble about hostility toward the things of faith in our country, but it doesn’t begin to compare to this stat: 200 million Christians in thirty-five countries are persecuted.

And I experience some Biblical whiplash reading 2nd Corinthians. Paul is not one to sugarcoat the faithful life:

…as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way…in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger.
(from 2nd Corinthians 6:4-5)

Lord Christ, my ride is pretty smooth. For that I am thankful, but I probably spend too much time on the path of least resistance. That is not your way.

When I encounter turbulence inspire my response with your example and the words of St. Paul. Despite his candor, the glass is better than half full:

In your Holy Spirit, even in sorrow, we will find rejoicing…and purity, understanding, patience and kindness…sincere love…the power of God. (from 2nd Corinthians 6:6-10)


Monday, September 13, 2010

Christ, Conquest & Church

Lord Christ,

Let us be clear about your declaration to the Jewish authorities.

They asked:
Are you God’s anointed one?

And you answered:
I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven. (Mark 14:61-62)

It’s a declaration you made to the church, not to the government.

Maybe we are misguided to mark history solely by political movements and governments, by conquerors and conquests.

Because across history, the Church (however imperfect it may be) is your chosen instrument of global redemption.

Jesus, you conquered sin and death, and your conquest across generations is the human heart.

Include me, Lord Christ, in that great movement. How can I serve your church today? Amen.

Photo credit

Monday, September 6, 2010

Propelled by the Spirit


It isn’t lost on me that Acts of the Apostles commences with your Spirit. I note the significance.

The Holy Spirit: Hard to define. Difficult to pin down. But like the wind, we can hear it. We can feel it.

Whatever the Biblical image or metaphor - wind, fire, water, dove - I pray for a full measure of the Holy Spirit…infusing every aspect of my life, propelling my faith and faithful witness.

Lord Christ, let me hear it. Allow me to feel it…that I may act. Dare I ask, that I might act as an Apostle! Amen.

Maybe this is a glimpse of the Holy Spirit:
A Cook pine ablaze in the Kapalua sunset on Maui, Hawaii

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ancient Kings - Modern Mistakes

Holy Father,

I’ve been reading through 2nd Kings, and I see a troubling pattern from one king’s reign to another. As Scripture puts it:

They did not turn away from their sins…

They followed detestable ways…

They did not do what was right in the eyes of God.

That was 2800 years ago, and I tend to think of those folks as warring primitives. Are we any better? Could we be worse? So much distracts and blocks our wholehearted allegiance to you.

We, however, have a distinct advantage. You sent your Son to give us what the Hebrew kings could never provide: Your grace and sanctification…reshaping our attitudes and actions.

Lord Christ, I want you to be first in my life that I may love you with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind.
(Matthew 22:37) You are my King!

Holy Spirit, I need your help…to turn away from sin, from detestable ways, to do what is right in the eyes of God. Amen.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Jeremiah's Anguish

Nature, faith, life…they are replete with contrast, contradiction, paradox. This photo speaks to the contrasts - the edge of a storm on an otherwise sun-filled day. It sort of captures the tension between darkness and light. One of the most puzzling Biblical contrasts for me is God’s love and wrath. The photo was taken - quite appropriately - at a Caribbean spot called Grace Bay. And where theological explanations prove elusive, I must rely on grace! Pray with me…

Great and Holy God,

I have been trudging through a study of Jeremiah. It is so threatening and depressing, so counter to my understanding of your love.

You know my heart; you know I am having great difficulty squaring your boundless love with your Biblically presented “wrath.”

I’m so convinced that the message of love, forgiveness, healing, guidance and protection is your lead story. But I don’t want to stumble into a “relaxed fit,” new age theology.

Jeremiah reminds me that just as you set before us “the way of life” so the opposite must exist - the way of death. (Jeremiah 21:8) There must be some sort of judgment or consequence for the unrepentant. For those who disrespect you. For those who wantonly refuse to follow.

In my confusion, help me to focus on your holiness, to honor your call to obedience, to seek your mercy, to cling to that nugget of hope in Jeremiah 17:

"…blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

May I become that man - through the grace of Jesus Christ and the power of his Holy Spirit. Amen.

Photo: Grace Bay, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

Monday, August 16, 2010


Thank you, God, for your wisdom…found in the Proverbs:

A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.

(Proverbs 14:29)

A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel. (Proverbs 15:18)

Father, I noticed that The Message translation replaces the word patience with slowness to anger and a calm, cool spirit.

And St. Paul, in his letters, bookends patience with understanding, kindness, peace, endurance and humility.

Lord Christ, this is all quite elusive. As Fruits of the Spirit go, patience has been slow to ripen for me…or maybe it has just shriveled up.

What are the underpinnings of impatience? Selfishness? Fear? High anxiety/low trust?

Holy Spirit, make listening my default. Give me greater trust in your guiding hand. I need an infusion of calm and cool. Amen.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Taming the Tongue

Words of counsel for the workplace from the Apostle James:

It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke… (James 3:5-6, The Message)

Lord Christ, my tongue can be a problem at work. In modern parlance, it’s a lack of discretion, sensitivity or decorum; sometimes sarcasm; sometimes gossip.

Holy Spirit, I need an be mindful of my speech; to be more thoughtful about my audience; to engage my brain before opening my mouth; and to internalize this Proverb:

Watch your words and hold your tongue; you’ll save yourself a lot of grief.
(Proverbs 21:23, The Message)


Monday, July 26, 2010

Who Really Owns It?

Words of praise, Creator God, from King David:

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.

Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.

Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.

(1st Chronicles 29:11-13)

Father, you got my attention this week. I heard a Muslim philanthropist explain that his wealth was a trust from God, and he was accountable for its use…for his stewardship. Then, a challenge in my Bible study: list all of your stuff and commit those possessions to the Lord.

The home, cars, checking, savings, investments. The toys and creature comforts: the HDTV, iPod, Blackberry, my beloved laptop, even the recliner.

Lord Christ, I acknowledge - with gratitude - that it all belongs to you. I acknowledge - with discomfort - that I have lavished these “material blessings” upon myself with insufficient regard to others’ needs.

Holy Spirit, minimize my inclination for personal comfort. Maximize my concern for others. You have my attention; put those “others” in my path. Amen.

Photo credit

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The not-so-original sin: Pride

Dear God, John Wesley warns us…

“Watch and pray continually against pride.”

As the Bible begins, we are confronted immediately by the sin of pride. Adam and Eve and the builders of Babel - just like us - wanted to be in control.

We seek autonomy rather than your authority. The pursuit of personal power and selfish purposes - that’s our agenda. (It seems appropriate that vanity and humanity rhyme.)

Father, I turn to the 51st Psalm, to David’s prayer of contrition:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Lord Christ, I pray for a clean heart - a right and willing spirit. Amen.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Jesus - for ALL & EVERYONE

As his final Passover approached, Jesus is quoted in John 12:32:

“But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." The Message translation adds a bit more emphasis - I will attract everyone to me and gather them around me.

The ALL and EVERYONE of that verse may have inspired the hymn “When Christ was lifted from the earth” by Brian Wren:

Where generation, class, or race divides us to our shame, he sees not labels but a face, a person and a name.

Thus freely loved, tho’ fully known, may I in Christ be free to welcome and accept His own as Christ accepted me.

(Episcopal Hymnal, #603)

I’m reminded that Christ calls us to welcome His own…ALL and EVERYONE. My prayer:

Lord, I have reached an age where I’m secure and comfortable with my attitudes, views and values.

But it’s quite possible that you don’t share my class, cultural and racial preferences.

Search me, Father, and show me where adjustment or reform are in order. Where do I need to change? Where have I been wrong?

I often ask you to endorse my views, but what I really need to do is seek your will, your way. I need to be a better listener for your voice.

In your love and grace, I can handle the uncomfortable and challenging revelations.

Set me to work today on your priorities…with your attitude, your preferences and your values.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, July 5, 2010

James Bond on Pentecost

There’s a famous James Bond line - about how he liked his martini “shaken, not stirred.”

Pardon the bartending analogy, but there’s a Pentecost theme here: On our faith walk we sometimes need to be shaken rather than merely stirred.
Accept these words of praise and intercession from Acts, offered by the Apostles gathered in the upper room:

“Sovereign Lord, you made the heaven and earth and the sea, and everything in them…enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness…stretch out your hand to heal…”

And in Acts 4, verse 31, it says:
“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken.”

Maybe I need to be shaken Lord?

Shake loose my pride and the myth of self-reliance.
Shake loose my comfortable complacency.
Shake me…that I may hold ever more tightly to you.
Shake me…that I may see your power and glory.

And like the Apostles, trembling with anticipation in that upper room, may we be filled with the Holy Spirit, may we live boldly for Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Tenacious Olive Tree

From the 52nd Psalm:

I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God;

I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever.

I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good.

Lord, I realize that olive trees are more than Biblical landscaping. Their symbolism is significant. A tenacious tree, they can live 500 years. They tolerate heat and respond well to pruning…with new growth…branches, attractive foliage and fruit.

Father, cultivate and prune us with truth from your Word…that we may trust solely in your unfailing love…that we may flourish for you…in the Bible’s fertile soil.

We ask this in Christ’s name,

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Limitations of Self-help

…all of us have been heavily influenced by the modern worldview, which believes that human reason and effort are able to understand and control the material world without a need for understanding or relying upon God. As a result we are prone to putting our trust in ourselves and in technology to improve our lives, forgetting that it is God who is the Creator and Sustainer…

When Helping Hurts
Steve Corbett, Brian Fikkert

“O Lord, You are our Father. We are the clay, You are the potter; we are the work of Your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)

Lord, we need that reminder from Isaiah. We’re easily seduced by the 21st century prophets of self-help and their popular best sellers.

Indeed, we need help. We all have failures, addictions, compulsions and obsessions, but self-help has serious limitations.

A lasting makeover, an effective rehabilitation, can be achieved only with your Grace. The unmatched counselor is your Holy Spirit. The incomparable book is your Word.

…but we are inclined to seek substitutes.

As Paul told the Corinthians: “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
(2nd Corinthians 5:17)

Father, mold me in the likeness of my Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Prayer for the Gulf

There’s a harsh line in chapter eighteen of Leviticus. God, speaking through Moses, says: …if you pollute it, the land will vomit you up just as it vomited up the nations that preceded you. (Leviticus 18:28) It brings to mind the Gulf of Mexico oil pollution crisis. Chapter eighteen is mainly about sexual ethics, but this still reads like a creation care warning to me.

Creator God,

I pray for the Gulf of Mexico…that you would heal that great body of water…the marine life, the shoreline, the wildlife and the people affected by the oil well disaster.

Let us confess...
That our technology, our best engineers and scientific minds are inadequate when we disrespect creation…when we cut corners…when profit becomes god rather than goal.

Let us confess…
That we are not the masters of creation, merely dependent stewards.

If only we would act that way.

By your hand, by your power, craft our repair and restoration efforts. Make them sufficient.

The Psalmist tells us:
You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. (Psalm 65:9)

Please Lord, heal the Gulf.

God’s preferred state for the Gulf of Mexico
Sunset from Captiva Island, FL

Pelican photo credit: National Post

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sing for Joy!

Praise to you, Lord, from the 81st Psalm:

“Sing for joy to God our strength…shout aloud…begin the music…”

It’s a song of rejoicing,
But you implore us
To loyalty,
To submission,
To follow your ways.

Three times the Psalmist pleads with us to listen,
“If my people would but listen to me...”

I pray that we will be better listeners,
That we make time for reflection,
Recognize the need for repentance,
And find renewal.

The Psalm concludes with your promise:
“…you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
with honey from the rock I would satisfy you."

Thank you, Father, that in Jesus we have received that
“bread of life” (John 6:35)…and sweet honey from the rock.

But the world is hungry. With whom can we share our bread today? Amen.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

On Vacation

Thank you, Lord, for that magnificent orange sunset on the Gulf of Mexico.

I’m afraid that I was equally interested in the yachts and multimillion dollar homes.

It’s so enticing to picture having everything you desire materially. I don’t give nearly enough attention to gaining everything I might need spiritually.

Yet, when I consider the problems I face at home or at work, it’s not material resources I need. The solutions are spiritual!

Saint Peter speaks to me:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)

Dear God, give me an effective, productive knowledge of my Lord, Jesus Christ. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, Amen.

Photo: sunset at Sanibel Island, FL

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Global Strategy

Thank you, Lord, for this day...for it’s rich blessings and for your presence in its difficulties.

We’re told in 2nd Chronicles 16:9…
For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

And it’s plainly said in Acts 4:12 of Jesus Christ…
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.

All of which brings me to the topic of globalization, not the present-day trend, but the global strategy you commenced 2000 years ago.

It is called “the blood of the new covenant.”

Not a very catchy phrase, but deeply profound nonetheless. Forgiveness, unconditional love, service, humility, mutuality, justice. Compelling product attributes that satisfy the cravings of humanity.

How strange…
That Jesus’ contemporaries missed the product launch. Hard hearts, culture and politics got in their way.

How disappointing…
That we’re no different.

Use me, Lord,
To promote your brand strategy.
To act locally, to pray globally,
For the coming of your Kingdom,
On earth as it is in Heaven.

In the name of the one who shed his blood
To establish the New Covenant,
Our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Big Picture

We sang the marvelous “Hymn of Promise” on Sunday:

In the bulb there is a flower…
In the cold of winter there’s a spring that waits to be…
There’s a dawn to every darkness…
Something God alone can see.

We just can’t seem to grasp the “big picture.” Our hope and trust wanes. We’re inclined to focus on the hurricanes, and we forget our wonderful times at the beach.

I’m always asking
why? Why this? Why that? Why me?

...when I should be praying
what? What would you have me do? What would you teach me? What’s our next move?

who? Who will I encounter today on your behalf?

You are so extravagant with us. We’re often too uptight to recognize it. I pray that your Holy Spirit will fill my heart with gratitude and inspiration. Enroll me in your “big picture,” and put me to work for your Kingdom.

Photo: rainbow after storm on Maui, Hawaii
Hymn of Promise, UMC Hymnal #707

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Atonement - in real time

Lord, I’ve been reading Leviticus. Well, you know full well I’ve been skimming it. All those rules and regs are pretty tedious.

But then we come to chapter sixteen, the Day of Atonement, when - once a year - the priest would enter the Holy of Holies...seeking forgiveness for the annual opportunity to wipe the slate clean.

Thank you, Lord, that in Jesus Christ we can enter your presence at any time...that we are restored daily (if not hourly)...that you have wiped the slate clean.

The ancient Hebrews spilled animal blood in their atonement ritual. Your blood was spilled for me. May I honor that
with humble obedience, thankful trust and wholehearted devotion and service.*

This I ask in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

* Jonathan Lamb, Langham Partnership/UK, writing for Scripture Union
Photo credit:

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Revolutionary Subordination

lux - u - ry (luhg-zhuh-ree) noun [from Latin, luxus and its derivative luxuria, excess, indulgence] The habitual enjoyment of or indulgence in the best and most costly things.

~ ~ ~ ~

Lord Christ, you call us to "revolutionary subordination" as reported in Mark 9:35…

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."

Lord, that runs counter to my preference for orchestra seats, heated leather seats or box seats at the ballgame. That runs counter to my ambition and need for affirmation.

Jesus, you refused to claim your rights or exercise your power. You rejected hierarchy, lived simply and spent much of your time with society’s outcasts.

Holy Spirit, help me to live that self-denying, cross-bearing life. Mold me into a "servant of all."


Revolutionary Subordination - John Howard Yoder, Politics of Jesus, Scripture Union, 2006;
Luxury - Fashion Institute of Technology, SUNY

Monday, April 19, 2010

Defending the Weak

This is lifted from my daily Bible study - Sunday's lesson from Encounter with God:

You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed... (Psalm 10:17-18)

Bishop Desmond Tutu of  South Africa
I believe the view of Scripture is that the economic poor are generally victims...the God who does see and care is the same God who urges his people to pursue justice for the poor. This is a critical part of our mandate as God's people, a vital element in our job description as disciples of Christ, one of the good works for which we have been created. (Encounter with God, 4/18/2010, Scripture Union)

The theme corresponds to a prayer I wrote in 2007. The statistics I cited are pre-recession numbers; I doubt they have improved.

I filed my taxes last week, and I sincerely felt I had done my part.

I read last week that the United Way had actually counted 1,806 homeless people in our community, but still, I had done my part.

I was confronted by the 82nd Psalm in a devotion. It’s entitled A Plea for Justice: Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy…
(Psalm 82:3-4)

I’m thinking I have more to do. If 1.1 million people in our state are at the poverty level…if 1.3 million have no health insurance…if 14% of our households know hunger, I have more to do.

Bishop Tutu speaks in that same disquieting book of devotions: If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

The 82nd Psalm pointedly asks: How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?
(Psalm 82:2)

I’m certain that I have not done my part. I have much more to do! Amen.

Monday, April 12, 2010

St. Paul on God's Love

Paul’s Letter to the Romans is characterized as an “elaborate theological essay” by the study notes in my NIV Bible. Not an easy read!

…but it’s our handbook on sin, redemption, salvation, grace, etc. Chapter eight speaks to forgiveness…the power and presence of the Holy Spirit…and Paul’s prose soars in the final two verses:

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. (Romans 8:38-39)


I seek the Spirit-controlled life…the Christ-centered life…the God-focused life...that St. Paul promises us in Romans.

But I’m too much “in the flesh”…not enough “in the Spirit.” There’s a strong resemblance to Adam. No one would mistake me for Jesus.

So, I thank you for the incredible promises we find in Romans, Chapter Eight.

The Apostle’s very first line:
…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. No condemnation. No judgment. Thank you, Father.

And Paul’s last verse:
…nothing can separate us from the love of God that is Jesus Christ our Lord. Not death. Not evil. Nothing in all creation. Thank you, Father. Amen.

A Spirit-filled sunset on Currituck Sound, Duck NC

Portrait of St. Paul by Rembrandt, 1635

Friday, February 12, 2010


Sunset Beach, NC

Your words, Lord Christ, to the first disciples…
The kingdom of God is near. (Mark 1:15)

St. Paul speaking to the Athenians…
…he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:27-28)

St. Paul writing to the Corinthians…
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2nd Corinthians 4:18)

Father, this is barely comprehensible to me.

Depending on the translation, your kingdom is near…at hand…it’s here! We’re living within the Kingdom…surrounded by God…enveloped by the Creator.

My encounters with the Kingdom are akin to a drive by. If I could only end this tug of war – my will vs. your will. I want to release the rope…take your hand…live within the Kingdom.

Lord, I pray for a palpable sense of the invisible…for a deeper spirituality. Levitate my spirit. Amen.

Friday, February 5, 2010


February 2nd was a Feast Day for much of the Christian community. Candles are significant to the observance. Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox Church and Anglicans celebrate Candlemas or the Meeting of the Lord.

Forty Days after Jesus’ birth his parents presented him at the Temple in Jerusalem. During the purification ritual Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:22-38) recognized the infant as the promised Messiah - long before his ministry began. Simeon proclaimed Jesus to be the “light for revelation.” There’s the candle connection and the name - Candlemas or Candle Mass. As Bible stories go, I believe this is a big one:

Simeon’s personal recognition of Jesus as our light, as our salvation, is fundamental. Anna’s enthusiasm for telling others is essential.

Praise God!
For Jesus,
Our Lord and Savior!

To borrow Simeon’s words: My eyes have seen your plan for salvation. We stand in the light of revelation.

Lord Christ, you are our illumination - our everlasting light.

We seek your presence and guidance - your enlightenment.

Like Simeon and Anna, may we find you - in Word, in worship, in service. May we recognize you in those we serve and those who serve us.

Prepare our hearts to faithfully reflect your light! Amen.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Prayer for Haiti

Dear God, I make much in these prayers of your glory revealed in nature, but nature turned on Haiti. Our heart aches for the people of Port-au-Prince. Our head aches for understanding.

My theology doesn’t smoothly accommodate acts of God, and the faith is wounded by religious pundits who claim to know the mind of God.

I pray that your Spirit will fill my chasm of knowing with more trusting…and some doing: stroke a check, volunteer, pray consistently.

I’m sure Haitians - who know severe suffering and loss up close - are clinging to their faith. I can keep a tighter grip on mine.

Yes, Father, you are revealed in nature. When that view is obscured, we find you elsewhere - in rescue workers and care givers, in relief workers and generous givers. There are things I can’t fully grasp, but your presence is never in doubt.

Lord Christ, may the people of Haiti find healing and restoration at your merciful hand. Amen.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Lead Me to the Rock

Curecanti NeedleColorado Rocky Mountains

Words of praise from the 61st Psalm:
Dear God, you are my...


My wings
Eagle’s wings that shield me
Eagle’s wings that lift me up

Proverbs declares: Whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. (29:25b)

So, why am I so inclined to measure my security at the bank, or the office, or even at home?

You, Father, are my first line of defense. My security is in your abiding presence - through your love, through Jesus’ forgiveness, through the Spirit’s power.

As King David prayed: Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge. Amen.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Better than OnStar

My wife will tell you that I hesitate (or refuse) to ask for directions. Technology has helped, though. My Blackberry has a GPS enabled navigator app.

Writing for Scripture Union, Dr. Elaine Storkey* makes an important point about spiritual navigation: “When we don’t let the Bible lead us to God, we turn from the great road map God has given us.” I’ve borrowed a few of her words for this prayer.

Dear God,

Considering my reluctance to ask for directions, I thank you for the Bible. It’s my road map.

And I pray for a measure of your Holy Spirit. It’s my GPS.

My confession: I don’t make time to recharge my GPS, and I sometimes lay the map aside.

…but still, Father, you patiently offer turn-by-turn directions.

My destination: An encounter with the Living God.

Speak to me from the pages of your Word. May I be drawn into your presence.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

* - Scripture Union USA, Encounter with God, 1/12/2010

Friday, January 8, 2010

Reverent & Jubilant

Sunrise at Sunset Beach, NC

Again, I turn to Max Lucado for a challenging thought. In his book And the Angels Were Silent Lucado warns against our tendency to “replace the Living God with the puny achievements of man.” The Psalms are an antidote:

Words of praise, Lord, from Psalm 24...

Words of praise, Father, from Psalm 89...

Dear God, do we really see or sense your splendor? Maybe our view is inadequate? Improve our vision.

Is our worship anemic? Does it capture your majesty? Infuse us with your spirit.

Surrounded by your presence, we are both reverent before our sovereign, all-powerful, creator God…and jubilant at your grandeur, blessing and love.

Thanks be to God. Amen.