Thursday meditation moment … A cult?

“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me.” Philippians 3:12

imageNews flash! Unless you belong to a church which believes every word of the Bible is true, especially the creation story, then your church is just a cult. Well, that’s what I was told today by a young man who “found Christ.” As a young Christian I found him vulnerable to the teaching of a small Bible church in which they believe they have the right to judge who is a true Christian or a member of a cult.

Paul stated in Philippians that he is well on his way to understanding Christ. He didn’t do this only by reading scripture, but by observing Jesus and following his teaching. I feel that I am well on my way to understanding my faith, too. I no longer react when judged for my beliefs, and if I were to see the young man again, I’d tell him that reading the Bible is optional. Yes, optional. The Bible educates, enhances and deepens my faith through the writings of scripture.

I can agree with the new believer on one fact: God is powerful enough to do everything in the Bible just as it reads. But I don’t have to hash over  how he managed to create the world in seven days. That give me more time to just love and worship God for the results of creation.

Dear Lord, please don’t let Christians destroy the concept of Christianity. Amen.

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How much loss or pain could you take?

“God gives, God takes. God’s name be ever blessed.” Job 1:21

imageJob had been flying high on his success. In God’s eyes, he was the best representative of a god-loving and fearing man. But Satin couldn’t leave things alone and challenged God to see just how much Job would continue to be faithful to him without his health, wealth and beloved family.

Soon Satin sent Job’s life into a spiral of loss. His work animals were stolen, field hands were murdered, lightning struck his sheep and shepherds and “fried them.” Then his camels were raided and the drivers massacred. But the worst news came when he learned that his children were partying at the home of one of his children and a tornado swept in and struck the house, collapsing and killing all his kids.

Most of us will never experience the losses and pain of Job. Just twenty minutes of severe leg cramps while in the ER proved to me that I could endure pain, but I must say I didn’t do it much better than Job. I prayed God would send a bolt of lightning and wipe away the pain until the morphine and valium infiltrated into my blood stream.

The Book of Job reads like a fairytale. First good fortune, then disaster. God restored everything–some things two-fold, and Job lived another 140 years.  The lesson about Job isn’t just about gain and loss. It’s about letting God be God.

Dear Lord, give us the ability to face our disasters and losses. Amen.

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Turn to salt …

“God decreed destruction for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. A mound of ashes was all that was left—grim warning to anyone bent on an ungodly life.” 2 Peter 2:6

imageThe story of Sodom and Gomorrah puts a strong image in my mind of people formed into chess-like pawn characters because they refused to obey God. God warned them, but they did not fear God enough to turn away from their evil ways.

I.S.I.S. is claimed to use mentally handicapped children as pawns. Without their being able to understand what is happening, a bomb pack is strapped onto their bodies. Innocently they are sent to do destruction. I have detested the way I.S.I.S. is infiltrating the world and their despicable anti-human tactics. Now, after reading about children being used as pawns, I want to rip their hearts out with my bare hands.

Wouldn’t it be great if God could isolate evil people, give them one more chance to turn away from evil, and if they still refuse, give them the Sodom and Gomorrah treatment and turn to them into pillars of salt. They would stand like salt blocks to be licked by wild animals and eventually disintegrate and be gone forever.

Lord, turn my angry heart palpitations into action to help save children all over the world. Amen.

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A couple of eggs will do . . .

image[Jesus said] “It takes more than bread to really live.” Luke 4:4

Jesus went into the desert for forty days to fast and pray. Unfortunately, Satan accompanied him there and tried his best to tempt him into sinning. He knew Jesus was hungry and suggested he turn a stone into a loaf of bread. Jesus remained strong by recalling scripture from Deuteronomy 8:3, “He [God] made you go hungry. Then he fed you with manna … so you would learn that men and women don’t live by bread only; we live by every word that comes from God’s mouth.”

This morning I read every item on the hospital “Culinary Services Menu” to find something to eat for breakfast. It’s difficult to introduce food into my system after a few bad gastrointestinal days. I gave up eating wheat years ago, so that eliminated the pancakes, toast, and muffins. Scanning the bacon and sausage items made my stomach turn a bit, so I settled on a couple of hard-boiled eggs, all-too sweet canned peaches, and cranberry juice.

Scripture tells us God pushed the Israelites to their limits throughout the forty years of wilderness time. Every time they stumbled, God picked them up, fed them, and moved them on. That will be good to remember when I receive my tray and stare at two lonely eggs and a few peaches. God is taking care of me.

Dear Lord, give us peace for our wilderness time. Amen.

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I am not in control…

“Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night, not flying arrows in the day, not disease that prowls through the darkness, not disaster that erupts at high noon.” Psalm 91:6

imageI pick the scripture I use for my blogs from the common liturgy for the day. Once again, it spoke to me–all too relevant.

Early Thursday morning I got physically ill with a gastrointestinal disaster and could not longer stand on my two feet, Glen hauled me to the ER, where I’ve been in a private suite for three nights.

Being ill is bad enough, but when you have family visiting from Iowa and Indiana, it leaves me feeling helpless–almost like a disaster that I can’t be in control and play “hostess with the mostess.”

But as God is taking care of me in the hospital, all the adults in my home are taking care of themselves just fine–except for my sister-in-law, who came in by ambulance two hours later and is two floors above me with a different illness. Crazy vacation. But we fear not, wild wolves (coyotes around here) won’t keep us from enjoying the last days we have together in Arizona, when we finally break loose from this overly-priced resort.

Dear Lord, help us understand that we are not in control of our days or nights. Amen.

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Living on Holy Ground …

“God said, ‘Kneel and pray. You are in a holy place, on holy ground.'” Acts 7:33

imageYears ago, I called my friend, Katy, who grew up in the Panhandle of Texas, to tell her we were moving to her old stomping ground. She responded, “That’s God’s country.” After living there, with the square miles of plains, very few trees, and brown hues, I thought, “Yes, it is God’s country–God’s the only one who would want it.” Yet, there was something special about that part of the country.

When I lived in Washington State, I loved the lush, green forests, mountain peaks, and bodies of water. I felt as if I were walking on holy ground. In California, we experienced the Pacific Ocean, the giant redwoods, the beaches. Again, holy ground. After spending months in New Jersey, I fell in love with the historical grounds, abundant farms, the shore. More holy ground. In Arizona, I’ve stood among the ruins, climbed mountains, hiked the desert. Yes, holy ground.

I still consider Iowa to be my most holy ground. That’s the place I took my first step in a barnyard, walked bean fields, swam in the Skunk River. The next time I go home, I will kneel and pray for the wonderful experiences I’ve had in eight states in this beautiful country.

Thank you God, for giving us holy ground. Amen.

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In His Image

Today’s post is taken from my book, The Donut Theory

In His Image
Among us, you are all equal. Galatians 3:28

imageI dug deeply into my workbag for my car keys. It was 4:30 and I
could finally go home. It had been one of those days when I left
my house a few minutes late and ended up stalled in traffic behind
two cars that had collided on Grand Avenue. The postage machine
had run out of money, and the automatic download over the phone
line wouldn’t cough up the funds I requested. Before noon, I’d
spilled my tea on my new message pad. And, the phones—all four
lines rang continuously, each caller needing something “right now”
or didn’t want to leave a message on voicemail.

As I headed for the door, the phone rang. I reached over the
counter and picked up the receiver, forced a smile in my voice, and
recited, “ ynod Office, this is Linda. How may I help you?” A
familiar voice spouted, “This is Walter. I need to talk with the
bishop right away.” I whispered a quick prayer for the bishop and
transferred the call, guessing Walter didn’t want to talk with anyone,
but needed to download his frustrations. “And he thinks he’s
having a bad day,” I muttered to myself.

On my way to the door, I paused and stared at a picture of
Jesus, a farewell gift from the retreat center. The artist, William
Zdinak, had painted the head and shoulder of Jesus by using faces
of famous people, like Pope John XXIII, Ghandi, President
Kennedy, and members of the artist’s own family. He called the
painting In is Image. When asked about the painting, he wrote,
“We are ‘all one in Christ,’ as t. Paul has told us. Hurting one, we
all hurt; helping one, we help all.”

I tried to imagine Walter’s face as part of the collage, and mine,

Dear Jesus, help me remember when I help others,
I become part of your image, too,

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Straw and bricks …

“Pharaoh’s orders: No more straw provided. Get your own straw wherever you can find it. And not one brick less in your daily work quota!” Exodus 5:11,12

imageWhen I was a kid, Reuben H. Donnelly’s was the largest employer in the Nevada, Iowa area. Most everyone either worked for them or knew someone who worked there. Between high school and going to business school for a few months I worked in their typing department. My assignment was to type on a manual typewriter the inside addresses and salutation on pre-printed letterhead.

The department set a quota for the typists to reach in order to make a bonus. If I remember right, it was around 800 per day. The only problem was I was working in the State of Wisconsin, and many of the cities were Native American names, such as Ouiskonsin, Owisconsing, Quisconsing, Weeskonsan. When I made a mistake, I had to throw it out and start again. On those days, it was hard to make quota.

Pharaoh set an unreasonable quota for the amount of bricks the slaves had to make each day. Later he became greedy and ordered them to find their own straw. That would be like me having to type the whole letter on a blank sheet of paper, instead of an address and name. I would never had made quota that way.

Lord, help us be fair to one another. Amen.

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Are you a cream filled donut?

“Our shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places.” Isaiah 58:8

imageThink of a shadowed life–perhaps a neighbor who built a home they could not afford. The lawn and landscaping look like something from Better Homes and Gardens, but you are never invited into their home. Perhaps you would walk on sub-flooring, see a living room with worn-out furniture, a dining room being used as a catch-all or toy center, and duct tape used to keep the refrigerator door closed. You may think, “Is it worth putting on the appearance of being affluent to live like this?”

There are days when I’m a bit down and I put on brighter clothing, glittery jewelry, and a touch more makeup just to go shopping. At the store, I look around to see if anyone notices my efforts to look good. I believe most people are too busy doing the same thing to worry about how I look. But if I were to be short with a store clerk, no amount of jewelry or makeup would make me look good in the eyes of God or anyone else.

The good news is that God tells us we can clean up our act, “You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.” I like this statement. It give the homeowner a chance to consider opening his front door to his neighbors, who have no right to judge him for how he chooses to complete his home–lawn first or furnishings first.

When I’m feeling good about where I am in my life, I can leave my house in everyday clothing, little makeup, and wear no jewelry. I know that as long as I treat others with respect and fairness, God will notice.

Dear Lord, help me stop masquerading the real me. Amen.

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Go, ahead …

“If God says it’s okay, it’s okay.” Acts 10:15b

PessimistThis scripture refers to Peter when he was told he could eat non-kosher food. All through the Bible, we are told what is kosher and what is not, and it’s not all about food. The Ten Commandments spell out rules and laws to live by so that a community can work together.

Years ago, a young man said to me, “Why do we have to pay taxes—it’s not fair.” I pointed to the street out front of the house and said, “Do you like to drive on paved streets with traffic signs and patrolled by police and sheriffs?”

We whine about things we can’t control or find to be inconvenient and forget what chaos our world would be in if we all said, “Go ahead, it’s okay.”

Sometimes I wish Jesus would return to earth—not to take us all home—but to repeat the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, and the Sermon on the Mount. Then, unless he put it into a text or on YouTube, it would be hard to get the word out.

Dear Lord, do you have any new tablets in digital form coming out soon? Amen.

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