Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Steps


...Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak...those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:29-31

A labyrinth is a walking meditation that is based on a circular pattern of paths that interrupt and change direction, doubling back on some of the same views but from a different distance from the center.  Many European churches and cathedrals have labyrinths within their walls, or in adjoining courtyards.  Some American churches have followed suit, providing outdoor labyrinths for the community to use.  

The labyrinth can be a symbolic journey of moving towards the sacred center, and carrying that energy back into the world.  But unlike the trip down the aisle to the altar, it is not the shape of a cross; rather, it is a series of indirect paths that fill in the gaps around the shape of the cross.  

This is different from a maze, where one spends the bulk of the time being lost, and having no sense of direction or center.  

Our lives are a series of journeys that change direction by circumstance or intention, but seen in the perspective of moving toward centering they can form a circle.  Our lives outside the labyrinth might indeed be a maze, where confusion and happenstance rule.  But by positioning ourselves in the labyrinth, we can be part of an ordered flow of movement towards what sustains us, and then bring that back out to the world. 

Walking has seldom felt comfortable to my joints, even after hip replacements and revisions.  But taking a series of short walks towards a goal, where every arc and segment has meaning, is a physical and mental challenge with which I can identify.  The center is always in sight, providing a stability and calm to the whims of direction.  I love the image of God being in the center, and of many feet having gone before me on this journey.  

Because we often think of God in stillness, it is refreshing to remember that God is with us in our movements.  Many cultures have dances that celebrate their spiritual and sacred beliefs, and it is helpful to resonate with that kind of worship.

Prayer: God of my feet, bring me close to you as I choose my steps.  God of my eyes, let me see you at the center of all that I do.  God of my bones, help me to move as you created me to move, in joy and and strength.  God of my soul, keep me centered as I am trying to take you with me to the world.  Thank you for the paths that others have made in their journeys to you, and help me to recognize them as I walk.  Amen.

Mollie Manner

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Joy

“Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord Your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness.  He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains as before.  The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.  I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locust and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you.  You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.  Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.  An afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.  Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” Joel 2:23-29


This passage shares a reminder that sons and daughters, children and grandchildren will see life in a new way. After judgment and repentance, restoration and blessing will follow. When disturbing world events threaten to overwhelm, we take comfort in the promise of deliverance for those who are faithful to God. We find joy in the promise of restoration.


As our grandchildren bubble over with joy and excitement brought by new experiences, their delight makes us aware of the many blessings that come from seeing life in a new way.  A baby crowing with delight when hearing stirring music played by a bell choir, a preschooler excitedly urging a reluctant mom to embrace a first roller coaster ride or savoring orange slices dunked in chicken soup (hmmm…)—simple daily experiences remind us of the joy God intends for those who love him.
 

Prayer: Creator God, thank you for your promises of blessing and restoration.  As we seek to be faithful to you, give us an appreciation for seeing life in new ways and the courage to be agents of your hope, joy and laughter.  Amen.
 

Barry and Alinda Stelk

Monday, January 15, 2018

Love


As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.
Psalm 103:1:1


We are so blessed for the love of family, friends and our Gracious Lord. We may not understand or realize how deep these loves are, but should know God loves us without condition.

Excerpt from Everyday Praise:

It’s hard to grasp how deeply God cares for us, because our firsthand experience of love comes from relationships with imperfect people. But God’s love is different. With God, we never need fear condemnation, misunderstanding, or rejection. He completely understand what we say and how we feel, and loves us without condition. Since God is never fickle or self-centered, we can risk opening up every part of our loves to Him. We can risk returning the love He so freely gives.

Prayer: Gracious Lord, thanks for the love of family, friends and of our love and relationship to you.

 
Shirley Flynn-Bell

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Way of Life with God

Occasionally I read from The Message version of the Bible which helps me understand. I saw Galatians 5:22-24 before Christmas and was so touched that I placed these verses in every Christmas card and with every gift. Paul teaches a great way to live!

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely… Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.
 
I rededicated my life in 1998 and knelt beside my bed.  In my prayer I told God I understand why the answer to my prayer was “No, my child.” Please lead me and teach me from now on. From that day forward, I have felt the serenity mentioned in Galatians with gifts coming into my life. He helped me direct my energies wisely to lead the tennis teams at Wesleyan University. I had exuberance and conviction to learn coaching at a higher level for not only young women, but young men also. The job stretched me in ways I hadn’t even dreamed of before; and led me to depend on our Father in heaven. We, coach and students, learned to compete, but one t-shirt the women’s team made for me tells how much more we had together. It stated on the back “10-0, UNDEFEATED, INCREDIBLY GOOD LOOKING, AND DARN FRIENDLY TOO!” Our opponents were more than just rivals; we understood they were students too and a basic holiness permeates things and people. Because I turned to Jesus my paranoid loneliness went away. He not only gave me a job working with kids I came to love; he gave me the way to love them. He gave me new in-laws and new grandchildren that love me back.

But what if I had continued developing a temper and refused to love the kids; Galatians 5:19:21 tells me what would have happened. We would have been angry at every loss.
 
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time; repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, thank you for the words of Paul of Tarsus giving us guidelines to live by. Forgive me when I forget them. Amen.
 
Sandra Hilsabeck-Hastings

 

 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Humility


When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2 NIV

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4 NIV

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 

I’m sharing a poem I wrote last year as my January devotion (shown along with photo below...click on photo to enlarge). As I read it again, I'm reminded that God is our great example of humility, that He continually shows us that we need to be humble as well. It’s interesting the situations that arise that can bring this to light. We become vulnerable when we share these moments in our life, and growth comes from allowing that vulnerability. Trust those in your life and bare your soul, and you may be surprised at the connection that results.

·        Just when we think we have a situation under control, God shows us that life isn’t predictable.

·        Parenting is often challenging, especially when our children surprise us in unpleasant ways.

·         A day goes along uneventfully, we take it for granted, and then chaos ensues.

And on and on. None of us are immune to finding ourselves in situations that leave us shaken, surprised, or depressed.

Just as sure as we aren’t alone in our struggle, God assures us He is with us as well…through the good and the bad, reminding us of our humanity.  

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for those situations that may be difficult, for they bring me closer to You. Help me to reach out to others who may be struggling, too. Remind us that we’re in this together. Thank you for your comfort and guidance. Amen.


Donna Gustafson

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A Clean Slate


And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32 


A new calendar year gives us an opportunity for a fresh start.  When I was a child, my Sunday school teacher reminded us students of this opportunity.  She explained that it was like our individual blackboard slate wiped completely clean. (Today, we might say it is like deleting on our computers.)  God’s forgiveness is available to us every day not just at the beginning of a new year.  The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9-15) reminds us of that in verse 12.  “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
 

As a young child, I threw an icicle at my sister.  It just missed her eye.  I told my sister that God would forgive me.  My sister complained to our mother, who used the incident as a “teachable moment.”  My mother explained that I needed to sincerely confess my error, be truly sorry, and then ask for God’s forgiveness.  It was an important lesson for both my sister and me.
 

The Scriptures proclaim another essential part of forgiveness.  “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)

Forgiveness of others can heal us as well as our relationships.  Most importantly, it can deepen our relationship with God.

Our guilt over past mistakes sometimes prevents us from asking for God’s forgiveness.  It is never too late to go to God in prayer, confess our sins and ask God to help us to take away our guilty feelings.  We can choose to let go of our guilt and no longer allow anger and bitterness to poison our life.  Forgiving others or ourselves takes time and effort.
 

Prayer:  God we need your forgiveness.  Help us to find ways to forgive others daily and look for the wonderful blessings in our lives.  Grant us your mercy and grace.  Amen.

 

Lois Poppe (reprinted from January 2, 2012)