Monday, February 29, 2016

Daily Devotion for Day 17 of Lent 2016

Scripture Reading: Exodus 15 (NRSV)

Miriam sang and danced with
tambourines. I wonder if some
denominations want to censor this passage!
There is something about a song that can tell a story and allow it to stick with us in a way that is substantial.  It seems to stay with us better than without music.  That is why hearing a jingle can take you back to a product you haven't thought of in years.

Recent research has shown that music can even reach some dementia patients where other methods have failed.

So for the deeds of the escape from Egypt to be recorded in song is not a surprise. Much of the time when we see poetry or songs embedded in the biblical text, scholars believe that these are older traditions (older than the time the author was writing) that were added to the story that give it more weight.

The following miracle of the bitter water turning sweet could be a reprise of all that has come before.  The bitterness of slavery made the people complain to the Lord. God heard their complaint and moved to rectify the problem.  Their freedom was then sweet to them.

As we consider our own bitter situations in life, they come to all of us.  Sometimes we find that resurrection has come to them and we are made new.  Where have you seen a situation become sweet in your experience?

Picture by abbyladybug on, used through the Creative Commons license

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Daily Devotion for the Third Sunday in Lent 2016

Scripture Reading: Exodus 14 (NRSV)

This story also shares God's mastery over
the sea which was a mysterious and destructive
force to the Hebrew people.
As I continue to read through Exodus, I find that this reading reaffirms my stand that I do not take the scriptures literally.  I interpret them understanding that they contain truth.  I utilize other passages of the Bible to help me in my interpretation which is how I deem it to be faithful.

My case in point, today's scripture if taken literally, sets God up to be rather sadistic toward Pharaoh. Whether Pharaoh deserved it or not is beside the point.  A literal reading is that God hardened his heart to pursue his former slaves and then killed him for doing so. 

At this point, he becomes a pawn in a larger cosmic game in which he has no real say in his own destiny.

What is important is for us to hear this story in the same way the ancients would have heard it.

One difference is that Pharaoh had set himself up as a deity.  If others looked upon him as a god made flesh, this story shows that God has ultimate power over any that claim godhood.

Another difference is that people that lived as slaves would have lived in fear of a former master.  The anxiety of being returned to the collar and the lash would be real for anyone ever under the thumb of another.  People freed from the modern sex slave trade shows us that psychological damage doesn't heal overnight.

So for these people to hear this story, Pharaoh is shown to have less freedom than they did.  He is entirely at the whim of God.  His own freedom is imaginary.  

It is not to be taken as a treatise on free will but rather as a story that lets the oppressed know they have God on their side.

Think of a time when you needed God on your side.  How would you tell that story today?

Picture by Oliver Clarke,, used through the Creative Commons license

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Daily Devotion for Day 16 of Lent 2016

Scripture Reading: Exodus 13:11-22 (NRSV)

The consecration of the firstborn once again points to the theme of loyalty to God.  As the firstborn had more property rights than later born offspring, we see that when they are given to God, this is keeping with the understanding of family identity being caught up with God.

This looked to me like a pillar of cloud
when I saw it at Yellowstone in 2007.
You may have heard your own family traditions stating, "we don't do those things in our family."

For a herding people, the first fruits of the flock are listed here.  Since we have now settled down in cities and towns for the most part, our giving has shifted into money deposited in the offering plate. Some have transitioned even further, setting up the regular transition of funds electronically into the church's coffers.

Our gifts to God in these new ways signify our loyalty no less than they did in the time of the Exodus.

These first gifts are in response to the freedom they have received in God.  They are still witnesses to God leading them as they see the twin pillars of cloud and fire.

As God continues to lead us today in more subtle ways, what is our response of loyalty? Have we given of our first fruits or do we contribute left-overs?  How might our giving change if we imagined ourselves consecrated to God?

Friday, February 26, 2016

Daily Devotion for Day 15 of Lent 2016

Scripture Reading: Exodus 12:43-13:10 (NRSV)

We have more priestly material as we finish chapter twelve.  It seems as if God has an idea of exclusion for humanity when we look at the instructions for future Passover celebrations.

If this priestly author lived before the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BCE then there was probably a sense of anxiety surrounding the likelihood of foreign invasion.  Keeping separate in the earliest time would be a matter of not polluting their traditions with the culture at large.  As we consider how Judaism has undergone persecutions, disruptions and migrations throughout history, it is amazing that their faith has survived to this day given their minority percentages within the world religions.

It is long after the time of the Exodus that the Hebrew people began to see themselves as a light to the nations.

Is there a special place you go to get away to find yourself?
Sometimes in order for us to really know who we are, we must withdraw from other people.  Jesus spends time alone in prayer throughout his ministry.

This time of reflection for us upon the book of Exodus allows us to have individual time with God and to discover who we are in the midst of this story.  How does "the teaching of the Lord may be on your lips" weigh with your own understanding of your faith?  Which of God's scriptures influences you the most?

Photo by "Image Catalog" on  Used through Creative Commons license. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Daily Devotion for Day 14 of Lent 2016

Scripture Reading: Exodus 12:1-42 (NRSV)

Christianity would do well to understand
our Hebrew heritage to better grasp our own faith.
If you have been following along the readings, you might have discovered a difference in style for today's text. Many scholars believe that there were different sources of writings that were later edited into one story.  In today's reading, the Priestly source is rather easy to spot in that it is concerned with dynamics of worship (specifically the Passover here).

As we think about worship, the celebration of Passover is a major part of the worship life in Judaism today.  I attended a Passover hosted by the Jewish Student Association when I was in college.  It was fascinating to see the story come to life through their liturgy which involved eating!

As we think about how they recount this story, it is a reminder that they were once slaves and yet became free through God's intervention.  As Christians, it is no coincidence that our own narrative has similar elements.  The apostle Paul speaks of being slaves to sin and becoming free through God's intervention in Jesus Christ.

As we focus on the resurrection, we can see the resurrection taking place in the freedom of the Israelites after being slaves for over four hundred years.

This allows us to ask the important questions, "Where has resurrection occurred in my life?" and "Where is resurrection still needed?"

Picture by Eczebulun (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Daily Devotion for Day 13 of Lent 2016

Scripture Reading: Exodus 10:21-11:10 (NRSV)

I find it fascinating that the Egyptians are plunged into darkness while the Israelites walk in the light.  While you might look at this as literal and miraculous, one could also take this spiritually.  It allows us to examine ourselves, and ask, "Am I living in the light?"

We also see the breaking of final ties here between Pharaoh and Moses.  It appears that Pharaoh is on the verge of losing it.

Then we have the warning of the final plague.  The death of the first born is difficult to understand if we live outside the culture of inheritance.  Within the Hebrew people, the first born represented the future of the family line.  It was about identity.  To cut off the first born is to cut off one's vitality.  Their stability in their expectation comes crashing to a sudden halt.

They would be asking, "What will become of us?"

Just like that, God can change our path and the road we thought we were on comes to a dead end.

Sometimes abrupt changes in our lives are very disruptive and full of grief.  But these abrupt changes can also allow us to wake up in a sense.  To reset our lives is sometimes necessary for us to embrace life.  We may find that we've been walking in darkness for too long.

What does it mean for us during Lent to step into the light?

Photo by James Walpole, creative commons license.  

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Daily Devotion for Day 12 of Lent 2016

Scripture Reading: Exodus 10:1-20 (NRSV)

Now the officials are putting pressure on Pharaoh rather than on the Israelites.  We see the tide turning from when the pressure was originally on the Hebrew people in making more bricks without straw and being punished if they didn't fulfill their original quotas.

For God to state that the reason behind all the plagues and the delays is to make the Egyptians look foolish seems to me an interpretation that was later inserted into the story rather than the actual words of God.  I do not believe that God is petty and this certainly implies pettiness on God's behalf.  A people that had arisen out of slavery might certainly need to cast them in this light as redemption for all of the years they struggled in servitude.  

It is not surprise that Pharaoh would only want to allow the men to go.  The women and children would serve as hostages to ensure their return.

However, we see the premium that God places on all the people going out to worship. Within this desire, we see God's system of value over the world's system.  Women and children are just as important as the men and if they are not all allowed to participate, then more trouble is on the way!

If we imagine that only children fuss,
we are fooling ourselves!
It is only relatively recently that women and children have been accorded human rights and these are still not universal depending upon the country or region. Sometimes people today would rather have the babies or children taken out if they are too noisy.  Youth sometimes whisper or play on their phones.  Yet, this passage seems to remind us that all are needed for worship.

What do we each need to do in our prayer life to have a more charitable attitude toward welcoming those who may seem different or have a different approach?

After all, I don't think any of us would like to see a return of the locusts!

Photo by Kyle Flood from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada (Waaah!) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, February 22, 2016

Daily Devotion for Day 11 of Lent 2016

Scripture Reading: Exodus 9:13-35 (NRSV)

There is nothing so awe-inspiring as skies heavy with rain and full of the potential for destruction.  Growing up in Oklahoma has allowed me to be outside to see weather pregnant with the possibility of hail, lightning or tornado.

Hail can still wipe out our food source
in an instant. We are fortunate to live with
a wide distribution of resources today.
I have also witnessed the aftermath of these storms. The devastation to a home is not something I would ever claim was a part of the divine plan.

I have seen hail ruin wheat crops where a farmer's season of work is erased in ten minutes.

Who could condemn the depression that can set in when such an event happens?

For those who work the land, hail is about the worst four-letter word of them all.

So what do we make of this particular plague in today's reading?  

As I re-read it, I keep coming back to the warning.  Those who took God's word seriously found shelter.  Those who laughed it off suffered loss.

In looking with a critical eye, if Egypt had just experienced all of the preceding plagues, who in their right mind wouldn't take precautions?

This seems to be saying that we often get what we deserve when we don't pay attention to God.  As the Bible leans toward moderation, we may find that our excesses get us into trouble.  The simplest example might be the rich meat-filled diet of most Americans which can lead to weight gain if we are not getting enough exercise.

On a harder note, when we don't forgive as God calls us to, we find our consciousness filled with angst rather than peace.

During Lent, this is the time when we take a strong look at ourselves and ask, "When have I left myself exposed to the hail?"

Photo by opengridscheduler posted on under the creative commons license.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Daily Devotion for the Second Sunday in Lent 2016

Scripture Reading: Exodus 9:1-12 (NRSV)

When I read this passage, I always remember
the scene from O Brother Where Art Thou
when Delmar says, "Not the livestock!"
Now we are getting into two components that really should drive things as we think about the human condition: economics and health.

The striking of the livestock would be a direct hit to the wealth of Egypt. One might consider that if the Hebrews were slaves, what would prevent the Egyptians from simply taking their untouched cattle?

We don't have time to consider this possibility (and maybe the Egyptians didn't either) before the next plague strikes.

This time, boils cover their captors.  Even the magicians are afflicted and Moses is left unopposed except for Pharaoh.  We can see that the allies and resources of the oppressor are falling away.  Justice will come if ever slowly.  Over three thousand years later, Martin Luther King, Jr. recognizes this as he states, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

The hardness of the heart of Pharaoh symbolizes to us just how difficult change is.  How often have I hardened my own heart toward some change that took me by surprise?

Most of the time, I think we harden our hearts toward forgiveness of an injury done to us by another.  If I do this, do I call down a painful boil upon my heart?

Photo by psyberartist (cattle1a  Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Daily Devotion for Day 10 of Lent 2016

Scripture Reading: Exodus 8:16-32 (NRSV)

Within this text today, we have the first account where the Egyptian magicians are unable to reproduce the power of God.

Gnats are certainly awful, especially when you are trying to breathe.  As we think of gnats and flies, they are not so bothersome today because we can seal our houses up so tight.  This would not have been the case in ancient Egypt.

After the Nile turning to blood and the frogs and the gnats and flies, it seems that the people of Egypt would have to be wondering why these things keep happening.  Even today, these events would create a panic.

Pharaoh knows and even agrees a second time to let the people go to sacrifice in the wilderness but once again he goes back on his word when Moses releases the land from the flies.

It is as if Pharaoh can't help himself.  Giving up the Hebrew people as slaves would change their whole economy and each time the plague ceases, he may have talked himself into believing that it couldn't have been as bad as it seemed.  Surely it wouldn't happen again.

From our perspective, it seems as if Pharaoh is refusing to do what is right.  But from an ancient perspective, he is trying to look out for the best interests of his people.  Having slaves meant that his own people would not have to work as hard.  Within their understanding, they wouldn't have afforded foreigners the same rights and privileges that we would today.

To share this understanding, imagine what you would do for your own family that you wouldn't do for a stranger.  This gives helps us understand how tribal we still are in many respects.

Think about conflict in the world today.  It could be global or national or local.  Where do you see lines being drawn over these basic tribal understandings?  How is God calling us to erase these lines?

Photo by magdalena_b from Flickr's creative commons.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Daily Devotion for Day 9 of Lent 2016

Scripture Reading: Exodus 8:1-15 (NRSV)

When my children were younger, they used to collect toads in the backyard at Piedmont. Some evenings they would nab around a dozen.  We had an old empty aquarium that they used for temporary toad storage for an hour or so before letting them go.

I like frogs but not in my home!
That being said, twelve toads in one backyard was as close as I've ever come to the plague of frogs in the passage today.  I can't imagine what it would be like having them all over the house.

Evidently it was bad because Pharaoh finally relents and tells Moses that the Hebrew people can go worship God. However, when Moses stops the plague, Pharaoh can't help himself.  He goes back on his word.

This seems rather foolhardy in the sense that if it happened once, what's to prevent Moses from just turning back on the frogs like a great amphibious faucet?

Being short-sighted is something to which we can all relate from time to time.

Rather than change, we often fool ourselves into thinking that things really will stay the same if we want it bad enough.  What is something that you've resisted even though it was probably for the best?

And how are we called during Lent to give up things for the good of the whole?

Photo by Harmen Piekema via wikimedia commons.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Daily Devotion for Day 8 of Lent 2016

Scripture Reading: Exodus 7:14-25 (NRSV)

Now we begin to get serious about pushing against the establishment to bring release to the captives.

The Nile River, the lifeblood of Egypt, is turned to blood.

If you can imagine this Bronze Age civilization being reduced to digging for water when they have always had so much at their disposal.  What would it have been like for the common Egyptian?

No one in that time period would have considered slavery to be unethical.  Certainly no one wanted to be a slave but the common citizen didn't speculate on the fact that they enjoyed luxuries at the expense of others.

Furthermore, this display of power would have caused them to doubt their own deities.  In Egypt, Hapi was the god of the Nile who was sometimes referred to as the "Lord of the fishes and birds of the marshes."  When Exodus mentions the fact that "the fish in the river died" in verse 21, this is not only an economic hardship but a crisis of faith.

Moses is showing Pharaoh that God is greater than Hapi.
The disruption of fresh water still effects livelihoods today.

When the Egyptian magicians perform the same feat of turning the water into blood, I can't help but imagine Pharaoh thinking, "It's already bloody water.  Can't you turn it back?"

Just as the people of Egypt took their water source for granted, it makes me wonder how many of the basic necessities I take for granted today?  Let us be in prayer for those who do not have fresh water to drink and for all regions looking for an end to their drought.

Photo by Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil [CC BY 3.0 br (], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Daily Devotion for Day 7 of Lent 2016

Scripture Reading: Exodus 6:28-7:13 (NRSV)

This is a passage in which the author is more concerned about showing the power of God than the ethics of the manipulation of free will.

In it we see that Pharaoh's heart will be hardened by God.  But then God will also perform signs and wonders that will push back on this stubbornness.

Which will win out?

Well, ultimately, we have to believe that God will.  If you were looking at this logically, wouldn't it be simpler if God just softened Pharaoh's heart in the first place?

It is a matter of looking back on the story and telling it from a faithful perspective.  For a people emerging from slavery, the most important thing may be to show that God was in control of this entire situation - even the response of Pharaoh who was also seen as divine.  This shows that the Israelite God was more powerful than the Egyptian god. This will reoccur many times before the story is over.

Where would you see God in this picture?
If we weren't sure which would win out, we see a foreshadowing with the staffs that turn into serpents when Aaron's staff swallows up the the Egyptian staffs.

One of the Wesleyan beliefs is that God walks alongside us in the journey of life (preceding grace). If we really prescribe to this, how would we tell our own stories differently if we inserted God's presence into the telling?  

Where in terms of both trials and celebrations would we see God at work in us and through us and around us?

Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography from USA (Ninety Degree Summer Day) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Daily Devotion for Day 6 of Lent 2016

Scripture Reading: Exodus 6:1-27 (NRSV)

Ever have difficulty believing something that was too good to be true?

Sometimes animals that have been abused have
a tendency to shy away from human contact.
Are people any different?
This seems to be the case for the Israelite people in today's reading.  Freedom from bondage and a land to call their own must have seemed like "pie in the sky" to them.

At some point it becomes a matter of showing them rather than telling them.

If you have ever had a friend or a relative that has suffered abuse, it becomes a lesson in futility to try to encourage them through words.  Loving them through actions seems to be the only recourse that will show any results.

God seems to be working through Moses through his words, but more is needed for both Pharaoh and the Israelites.

Have you ever needed proof of someone's love for you?  If you know of someone who has undergone trauma and might have difficulty trusting, how might you best express God's love for them through your actions?

Picture by Petra Martin (Množírna psů) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, February 15, 2016

Daily Devotion for Day 5 of Lent 2016

Scripture Reading: Exodus 5 (NRSV)

This is a classic example of systems resisting change.  Pharaoh is quite happy with the current arrangement and sees no need to change it.

In fact, when Moses suggests even three days off to observe a religious festival, the response is to increase their work load.

Savage Station, Virginia field hospital following a battle during
the Civil War showing that large scale change will
put up large scale resistance.
The taskmasters are beaten when they can't keep up with the new measures.

All of this puts pressure on Moses for the people to complain, "Why are you doing this?  We were better off than before you came!"

Change will take some more pressure at the top as we soon shall discover.

The reality is clear that some at the bottom on both sides will also pay the price for a change.

Is there anything you have ever put up with because it was easier to do nothing?

What systems have you been willing to endure rather than speak to because of the increased pressures you imagine you would face?

What if you believed that God lifts up the downtrodden - would this influence your response?

Photo by Gibson, James F., b. 1828, photographer. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Daily Devotion for the First Sunday in Lent 2016

Scripture Reading: Exodus 4:18-31

The mystery of the Hebrew Bible is that it was likely shaped by several different sources that were later edited together.

As the different people told stories about their spiritual ancestors such as Moses, we can also see odd tribal stories that may have equally odd beliefs about God.

Verses 24-26 of today's reading certainly fit this bill.

Why on earth would God want to kill Moses?  After his son is circumcised, this seems to appease God.  It could be that Moses needs to connect his own family with the captive people that God is sending him to free.

After all, Moses was raised as an Egyptian and then went to live as a Midianite, even marrying into the family of a Midianite priest.

The circumcision could have been a message to God's people as much as a devotion to God.

With this act, Zipporah, the wife of Moses, a Midianite, could be stating, we are Hebrews just like you.

Standing with others in their need can be a powerful act.

Can you see how solidarity with those who are suffering can be an act of faith?

Think about someone that you've stood by in their time of trouble.  Think about how this might have changed their lives.  Can you see how God is a part of this?

When disaster strikes, the church stands in solidarity
with those who have lost their homes.  The work by itself is just work.
What makes it divine is that we are looking at our
neighbors with compassion.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Daily Devotion for Day 4 of Lent 2016

Scripture Reading: Exodus 4:1-17 (NRSV)

Moses recognizes what has been an age-old problem of individual spiritual experience.

What if they don't believe me?

God gives Moses three signs in order to allow people to see that Moses is more than a blowhard.

His staff turns into a snake.

He can turn his hand leperous and back again.

He can turn the water from the Nile into blood.

But even with these wonders, Moses still is not convinced.  He tries to persuade God to call someone else.  He claims that he doesn't speak well.

It seems that if God could give him these three signs, why couldn't God just cure his speech problems?  Why does God have him enlist his brother Aaron?

Maybe sharing the vision of justice is a part of what we are called to do.  After all, each of us has limitations.  Yours may not be a problem speaking but you are likely able to identify a weakness or two.  As we compliment one another, maybe our work together becomes divine.

Think about who it is that you work well with.  Have you ever thought about how God might be a part of your synergy?

I've found that not only do many hands make light work, but
that God also gives us strength when working together.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Daily Devotion for Day 3 of Lent 2016

Scripture reading: Exodus 3 (NRSV)

Was Moses spiritual but not religious?

That seems to be a popular stance for many people who claim faith but do not have active involvement in any established expression of it.
Moses Before the Burning Bush
by Domenico Fetti

Moses was of the tribe of Levi which was where the Hebrew people later found their priests. So it is likely that Moses did hear the stories of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.  When Moses encounters God, he must have recognized God when he heard these names mentioned.

Living with the Midianites, Moses might have had the opportunity to worship other gods but not the God of his ancestors.

And so Moses might have been spiritual, believing in God but not religious in that he would have had no people in which to share the practices of faith.  However, when God speaks to Moses, we see that his spirituality is calling him to be religious in the sense that religion is something shared by a community of people.

He is called to be religious in that he is called to responsibility for his people.

As we consider our own faith, it is much easier to love God than to love our neighbors. But maybe when we seek to only love God without any change of behavior toward other people, we are remaking God in our own image.

We'll see what God thinks of idols in subsequent chapters!

God invited Moses to repair the slavery of the Hebrew people.  If you imagine God calling to you as God called to Moses all those years ago, is there some injustice that God is asking you to address?

Whatever it may be, we can imagine that God is also saying to us as God said to Moses, "I will be with you."

When we answer this call, we see that our spirituality also moves us to be religious.

Picture by Domenico Fetti [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons   

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Daily Devotion for Day 2 of Lent 2016

Scripture Reading: Exodus 2 (NRSV)

The first of today's stories is the more well-known.  The parents of Moses were of the tribe of Levi which signified that they could be priests among the Hebrew people.

Br'er Rabbit stories showed that
he survived by outwitting Br'er Fox
and Br'er Bear who had more power.
They were told by American slaves
who needed their wits to overcome
the cruelty of their masters.
This is a Br'er Rabbit story in that it is about a subjugated people that tricked their way into success.  Moses is actually raised as an Egyptian with all the privilege that brought.  Yet he is also a Hebrew and still feels kinship with his people.

After killing the Egyptian, Moses flees to Midian where he lives in exile for years.  This mirrors what his own people will endure centuries later in Babylon.

Moses seems to establish a life away from his people.  He gets married and they have a son together.  But he seems to never forget his roots.  He even names his son as a play on words that is a reminder that he is not truly home.

These stories of Moses remind us that God is continually at work in our lives in a variety of ways.  Sometimes it is behind the scenes. Sometimes we run away from our calling but it never really leaves us.

Is there a conflict from which you have run?

Is there something you need to resolve that will give you peace?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Daily Devotion for Lent 2016: Ash Wednesday

Scripture Reading: Exodus 1 (NRSV)

Much of the time in the Hebrew Bible which Christians refer to as the Old Testament, the prophets are sharing God's word with the people about their current behavior.  They are often calling them to task over their lack of faithfulness.  Their impending calamity such as invasion or destruction can be laid at their own feet.
The sheer scope and size of the
Egyptian buildings is impressive considering
the limitations of their tools at that time.

The author of Exodus offers no such rationale for why God's people have ended up as slaves.  We are not told that they were worshiping Egyptian gods or even forgetting the widows and orphans among them.  

They end up as slaves not through any fault of their own but because they lost their connection to the royal family.  Who you know was just as important in that time as it is today.

As I think about my own privilege, I realize that I have lots of connections that helped me to be successful.  They have also helped keep me out of trouble.

With Lent, we often reflect on what Christ has done for us.  If we believe that Christ is working through others on our behalf (preceding or prevenient grace), then it might be a good reflection for you today to consider and give thanks to God for three people that have responded to that call.

They may not even think about it as a call - they may just have helped you.

But as people of faith, we look at this and name it as Christ working in them or through them.

Why not drop an email, text, Facebook message or tweet to these people today simply expressing your gratitude for them being in your life?

Picture by Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Disciplines are Much Easier When They are Theoretical

We have a regular "methodical" way of organizing our work as the people of God.  It is through The United Methodist Book of Discipline which is revised every four years.

Within this work, we try to name our theology but also our practice.  Making sure that we are putting what we believe into how we are living is key.

We don't always get it correct.  In fact, there may be things in it with which we don't agree.

But there is a sense of covenant about it which allows us to trust each other.

If you had told me when I was a child that I would ever rely on something called a Book of Discipline, I would have shuddered for my future.  I equated discipline with punishment.

In fact, anything that limited my personal desires was not something I would have claimed was a good thing.

As a child, I can recall my parents fasting (abstaining from eating) as directed by the church.  They didn't make me participate since I was still growing but I remember thinking, "That sounds awful!"

When we begin to mature, we see that to deny ourselves can actually be beneficial.

The lessons we learn allow us to be better stewards of our relationships as well.
We'll get to the 10 Commandments on Saturday, March 5
of the daily schedule.  The Book of Discipline is similar
in many respects!

As we enter the Lenten season, it will begin with Ash Wednesday and end with Easter Sunday.  The days in between are forty (plus Sundays) that remind us of the forty days that Jesus fasted in the desert.  They also remind us of the forty years God's people wandered in the wilderness seeking the promised land.

With that in mind, my Lenten discipline this year will be reading and writing about the Book of Exodus.  I will be posting a link to a daily reading along with my reflections so that you might join me as well.

For some of you, this will be a refresher in the stories of Moses.  Others will be encountering these texts for the first time.  Regardless, I hope that you find this daily discipline to be helpful to your spirit.  Starting Wednesday, click on each day and we'll journey together.  Feel free to leave a comment on your own impressions of that day's reading or where you agree or disagree with mine.

This will make it more of a community reading which ties us back to covenant!  My hope is that as we finish the last of the book on Easter Sunday, we will see how resurrection allows us to realize our promised land together.

In Christ,


Picture by Billy Hathorn at en.wikipedia [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Absolutes of Love

"(Love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
                                                                                                                     Paul of Tarsus, ca. 53 

These beliefs about love suggest a spiritual state rather than a simple, fleeting emotion.  After all, who can't point to a love that did not endure or that let us down?

Paul is lifting up a vision of what it is that we encounter when we engage in the love of Christ.  We seek to approach this love in the best of our relationships.  But we are bound to sometimes fail those whom we love the most.

What happens then?

If love were one-sided, then we would simply let the relationship go and we would be solitary once more.

But love is not simply something I do but it is something in which we dwell.

When we are weak, love allows the other to be strong on our behalf.  

If we engage love with integrity, we don't allow ourselves to be weak all the time. Rather, we share strength as often as we can.

But what if there are times when we are both weak?  

In this instance, we have to trust in God to be strong enough for the both of us.

These are good reminders of how we are to be the church.  Paul was writing to Corinth and they had their share of problems.  Paul was reminding them of the very thing that binds them together when they falsely concluded that they were done with each other.

Sometimes in our weakest moments, God touches us and we remember who we are on our best days.    

If this is not salvation, I don't know what is.

In Christ,

Sometimes we carry our friends and sometimes our friends carry us.

 Picture by Jocelyn Augustino (This image is from the FEMA Photo Library.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons