Friday, July 20, 2018

Rules for Living


“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:19-34



Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Loving the Unloved



As Jesus was coming near Jericho, there was a blind man sitting by the road, begging. When he heard the crowd passing by, he asked, "What is this?"

"Jesus of Nazereth is passing by," they told him.

He cried out, "Jesus!  Son of David!  Have mercy on me!"

The people in front scolded him and told him to be quiet.  But he shouted even more loudly, "Son of David!  Have mercy on me."

So Jesus stopped and ordered the blind man to be brought to him,  When he came near, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?"

"Sir," he answered, "I want to see again."

Jesus said to him, "Then see. Your faith has made you well." Luke 18: 35-42       
Just as with the blind beggar, Jesus reached out again and again to the helpless, the poor, the sick and the outcasts. When Jesus saw that Zacchaeus, the hated tax collector, had climbed  a sycamore tree just to catch a glimpse of him, Jesus immediately urged Zacchaeus to hurry down because he wanted to stay at his house. 

When Jesus' disciples and the bystanders saw Zacchaeus being welcomed and treated so well, they began grumbling and saying, "This man has gone as a guest to the home of a sinner." In the closing verses of Luke, chapter 19, Jesus answered them, saying, "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."

In John, chapter 4, Jesus met with a Samaritan woman at a well, and asked her for a drink of water. Now the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other and Jews would not even use the same cups and bowls that Samaritans used.   Jesus then told her that he was the Messiah. And she went back to town and told everyone she met about him.

We see them all around us, on the streets, standing with a sign reading "WILL WORK FOR FOOD", at the Gathering Place.....the poor, the hungry and the outcasts of this wonderful city of Lincoln. It reminds me of a song by Avery and Marsh that we used to sing in the seventies.  It's called, "Love Them Now."  It goes like this:
"There are lots of lonely people, lots of strange, peculiar people, who need all the love--that anyone can give. We've been told: 'Don't speak to strangers and the ones who aren't approved of,' but perhaps we have forgot how Jesus lived.  Love them now. Don't wait till they're gone away.---Love them now, while they're around. Touch them, hold them, laugh and cry with them. Show them, tell them, don't deny--with them. Honor them, give birth and die--with them now.  Love them now--before they're just a guilty mem'ry. Love them now,--Love them now. There are lots and lots of people, who are hard to get along with, who demand and hate--and tear down everyone. But we're not to be their judges, not their wardens, not their masters, we're supposed to be their servants like God's son. Love them now."
               
Prayer: Dear God, help us to love each other. Help us not to be judgmental, and more forgiving.  Amen

Gerry Draney (reprinted with permission)



Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Exclusion and Acceptance


“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20

The sermon this Sunday (July 8) left me with many images, some different than the actual message and then of course the actual message. One of them brought to mind my attendance in a different church. I have had the opportunity to attend other church denominations since many weekends are spent out of town. Now this particular church left me with a sad prayerful feeling. Upon arrival at this church were several greeters making their presence known by stepping up and greeting all those attending. They were outside and inside, now I am not talking about one or two. I am talking ten or twenty. The entrance is is designed more like a theater entrance. As you enter what would be the sanctuary there are ropes closing off the back rows of seating and ushers guiding you to the next available front row. Once the service started the bright pink lights of the stage (instead of an altar) and the white lights flashing are joined with the sounds of a band and four singers. The big screens are filled with pictures and words to the song. After a few songs a gentleman is lead up front by two other men. He apparently is the pastor. He greets everyone explaining that the way they put their arms in the air and other actions are their way of recognizing the Holy Spirit. That all are welcome here, but enters into that if you come from another denomination or have never accepted the Holy Spirit then you are now in the right place. Unfortunately he proceeds to declare that other denominations are not connecting to the Living God. There was scripture reading and interpretation of those readings. At the end of Sermon the Pastor is led out by the same two men and more singing ends the service. The same greeters are there to thank you for attending. 

I felt like I had attended a concert or motivational speaking engagement. It was not the church for me.  Now I am glad that those attending are following Jesus.  But I pray for their exclusion to other denominations. I just read a posting on Facebook where they were debating the exclusion of non-Catholics taking communion. 

I am always thankful to be attending my church that I feel renewed for the week. That I feel all are welcome and accepted at our church. I pray that we greet all those new and faithful members in the way Jesus would. 

Prayer: In the name of Jesus I pray that we guide more to follow in the path to your kingdom.  I pray that exclusion of others is eliminated and we accept others with your open arms.  I thank you Father for guiding me to a church that gives me the renewal of my spirit and strength to live my life on your chosen path.  Help me to welcome and invite others to your loving arms Amen.

Lori Hood


Monday, July 16, 2018

Be Steadfast in the Lord


Do your best to win full approval in God's sight, as a worker who is not ashamed of his work, one who correctly teaches the message of God's truth. II Timothy 2:15. 

Do your best to come to me soon.  Demas fell in love with this present world and has deserted me, going off to Thessalonica. II Timothy 4:9-11. 


When I was a little girl, my dad wrote this first scripture in my autograph book.  He wanted me to know how important it was to always do your best; and he wanted me to know, also, that my work was a reflection of God's work.

In Paul's second letter to Timothy, he talks about steadfastness and loyalty.  He tells Timothy to do his best and not be ashamed of his work. Paul also says, in effect, come help me!  Demas has fallen in love with this present world, and has deserted me. 

This struck a chord with me.  I have lost count of the people I have known through the years who joined the church, gotten involved with the church, and suddenly, inexplicably, quit coming and just dropped out!  It leaves one wondering. "What happened?"  Did they feel they had to give up their church and their religion because they had taken on too much?  Or do we push people to get involved before they are ready?  I don't know the answers to these questions. But I do know, being involved in my church means everything to me.  

I think the old hymn fits what I am talking about:

"I love thy church, Oh, God,
The House of Thine abode”

Gerry Draney (reprinted from August 2012)

Friday, July 13, 2018

Faith and Freedom


In whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. Ephesians 3:12

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17

My September 11 experience re-connected me with the important values in my life. My husband and I went to New York City to serve as Disaster Childcare volunteers following September 11, 2001. 

Arriving at Kennedy Airport, we noted U.S. flags everywhere. Pier 94, a warehouse where we did childcare, had U.S. flags hanging across the wide expanse. All workers had one purpose, assisting the survivors of the World Trade Center. 

Parents brought their children for us to care for while they dealt with the maze of agencies documenting their loss. The dividers were covered with pictures and letters from children all over the U.S.

As physically and emotionally draining as this experience was for those who lost so much, it was also uplifting. A special bond united us all, with a common purpose. Even in the aftermath of this tragic event, I felt a sense of hope for the future of the survivors and our country.

Most importantly, my experience in New York affirms for me the importance of faith and freedom. Faith – for me, faith is essential to having hope for our future.  The Rev. Mark J. Stewart, affirms, “There was a resiliency in the American spirit to see this tragic moment through. A new spiritual awakening, sense of being and purpose, and dedication to principles of freedom and life emerged from the carnage.  Out of the shadow of death, there is a new morn.”

Freedom – September 11, 2001, affirmed, for me, how fragile and how vital freedom is to our democracy. So what does September 11 have to do with voting and freedom? I loved seeing the flags flying everywhere.  I loved the enthusiastic singing of the National Anthem. However, I don’t think waving flags and other symbols of patriotism are enough. For our families today and our children and grandchildren tomorrow, we must find time and energy to insure our country’s freedom. Registering to vote, becoming an informed voter, and working to insure justice for all citizens in our country and around the world is essential to our democracy.

Many citizens do not vote. We can encourage our friends and neighbors to vote. For our democracy to continue as a vital force, we must do this.  As Erica Snyder, a student, stated, “I learned that to be great in a community, you don’t need to be famous, you don’t need to be wealthy.  You simply need to become a reliable source of good.”
                       
Prayer: God, we need your encouragement to insure freedom and justice for all citizens in our country and around the world. Lead and guide us. Amen.

Lois Poppe

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Lily


...Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them....Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.   Matthew 6:25-34

I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon....    Hosea 14:5

His cheeks are like beds of spices, mounds of sweet-smelling herbs; his lips are lilies, dripping liquid myrrh.   Song of Solomon 5:13

My gardening efforts are more as an editor than as a creator; or perhaps I could claim that my gardening artistry is more as a sculptor than a painter.  Besides watering a few pots of herbs and flowers, my primary outdoor pursuits are weeding, mowing, and trimming.  

There is a wonderful John Singer Sargent painting of two girls in white dresses lighting paper lanterns among luxuriant blossoms, called "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose". It has always reminded me of summer gardens at dusk; even more so because I spent many a summer twilight watching my two daughters chasing fireflies. The lilies in the painting are white and pink, and very trumpet-like. They seem to gather around the girls, focused on the lanterns. They echo the ruffles on the girls' white dresses. I have never seen lilies blooming like that; they show up in beautiful florist shop bouquets, but they are far more exotic than the day-lilies that show up in gardens I have tended.

The lily referred to in Biblical writings could have been any variety of flowering plants similar to what we know as lilies, including tulips and irises. It was probably any brilliantly colored, somewhat cup-shaped blossom that would have been noticeably elegant in order to be compared to Solomon's robes. It was also one of the symbols for Christ.  

Myrrh is an aromatic oil from a resin that does not come from lily pollen, but the reference in Song of Solomon refers to the sweetness of the lily-like lips of the beloved. Myrrh was a prized, so it can be assumed that the lily too was a symbol for something very desirable.

The rains of late June coaxed all sorts of jungle-like greenery to take over half of my back yard. By the time I was able to get to it, it looked like a tangle of vines from Sleeping Beauty's castle, or some malevolent botanical species from Harry Potter stories.  

When I cleared a section of the garden of these epic monsters, I was rewarded with a lovely area full of day-lilies, with strong stalks and bursting buds. Two of them broke heroically into bloom later in the day, shaking out layers of bright orange ruffles that were easily visible from inside the house. They gave me the courage to keep attacking the suffocating overgrowth, and for the moment I have restored some measure of peace to the garden.  

Anyone with an appreciation for nature's glories is moved by the splendid variety of blooming things. We should look at ourselves with the same wonder, appreciating the miracles that make us what we are.  

I tend to be overloaded with clutter and the noise of the world. I try to tend the garden of my life so I can breathe and reveal what God is making of me. It requires powerful resistance in this world to simply be the beautiful creatures we are. It seems that anxiety is always making a fresh attack on us. I try to keep those triumphant lilies in my mind as I fight what I hope is the good fight.  

As usual, when a symbol or metaphor takes root in my consciousness, I become aware of other references from day to day. I have recently been re-reading a Harry Potter book, and his dead mother Lily is always revered in Harry's and other characters' memories. Her sister Petunia, who was a vain and punitive character, is aptly named as the more common, less revered flower.   

Recently I worked with a voice student in some musical theatre workshops. She was trying to prepare a good cut for an audition piece, and she needed a lot of assistance from the workshop presenters. I accompanied her on the piano as they worked with her, and we talked afterwards about her music. She was so grateful, and asked if she could hug me. It was so touching - not just to receive that sincere appreciation, but to watch her blossom as we all worked with her.  I was tickled that her name was Lillian. 

My grown daughter has a close friend she met in grade school named Lily. I saw her recently, and was struck again by her radiant smile and energy. I am aware of powerful community activities she is involved in. She has come through some immense personal challenges in her life, to be a person who guides and leads others with respect and a nurturing, positive attitude.  

Prayer: Wondrous Gardener, your lily is a beautiful reminder of your stunning creation and your ardent care for all of it; for all of us. Help me to revere your work, which is creating your world day after day. Help me to accept the care and nourishment that will make me continue to grow. When there is anxiety or other antagonists threatening the flourishing of your work, help me to prune those things from my life and my world. Thank you for the lily, and for the eyes to appreciate its infinite beauty. Amen.

Mollie Manner