Who is in control?

“They won’t listen to you because they won’t listen to me.” Ezekiel 3:7

imageThere is a saying, “You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” God learned he could speak his piece, but he couldn’t make the rebellious Israelites listen. Therefore, he commanded Ezekiel to be his spokesman. First, gave Ezekiel a book, with strong language of mourning and doom, which must have represented God’s anger, and told Ezekiel to eat it. Ezekiel said, “It tasted so good–just like honey.” With this, God fortified Ezekiel to be strong and to take God’s message to the Israelites.

The Israelites had been acting like out of control teenagers. I’ve known a few. I remember times when raising my three children (who I can’t remember as being overly rebellious), and I’d say something to one of them, and it went in one ear and out the other. I could hardly wait for their father to get home to give them another chance to hear what I had said.

There is a Rule of Seven concept in the field of marketing. Prospects need to hear or see the material or presentation seven times before the customer gets it and makes a purchase. Perhaps God needed Ezekiel to be his marketing expert.

Lord, when sharing your story, give us patience for the process. Amen.

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Start every day with a clean slate …

“These people that I’ve saved will start out with a clean slate.” Jeremiah 50:20

My husbanimaged is considered an electronic genius among his peers in Sun City (and his grandsons). He keeps his computer engineering skills active by writing programs and repairing computers. A most frequent comment he gets is, “I’ve screwed this computer up so badly it probably is ready for the junk pile.” I don’t think Glen has declared a computer dead more than a few times. After saving the user’s data, he does everything he can to save the computer, including  reinstalling the operating system to give the computer a clean slate and makes it like new.

Each day, I live a mini drama, feeling scattered and full of guilt from something I’ve said or done. Reading this passage in Jeremiah gives me hope. After God gathered the scattered Israelites, he gave them a clean slate and another chance at life.

When I go to God and confess all that I’ve screwed up during the day, while I’m sleeping, God forgives my sins. It is as if he takes a magic eraser and wipes clean my heart and soul to give me a new start for my day.

Thank you, God, for your Son, Jesus the Christ, who died to wipe the slate clean for all who ask for forgiveness. Amen.

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Witness the flavor of life …

[Peter said] “‘Get up and make your bed!’ And, he [Aeneas] did it.” Acts 9:34

imageDuring Peter’s travels, he had a stopover in Lydda and met up with some of Christ’s followers. He came across a man, who had been paralyzed for eight years, and said, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you.” And, he got up and walked around! Through this miracle, the people in the community became aware that God continues to be involved in their lives.

A Sunday school teacher did a little experiment with her class to show how faith “taste buds” can go away and be brought back to life. (I challenge you to try this experiment yourself!) Take a paper towel and wipe your tongue until it is dry. Sprinkle a few grains of salt on the end of your tongue. You will not taste the saltiness until the wetness of the tongue reappears!

The miracles of Jesus, and those performed by other disciples, are recorded in the Bible to help us grow in faith–to make us sit up and boldly take steps on our faith walk. However, when our faith goes flat or lacks flavor, God sends disciples (pastors, Stephen Ministers, friends, family members) and the Holy Spirit to pray for us, to talk with us (or just listen), or to do little acts of kindness to help us taste life at its fullest.

Dear Lord, thank you for those you send into our lives to help us move forward in our faith journey. Amen.

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How do we find peace?

I’ll make a covenant of peace with them that will hold everything together, an everlasting covenant. Ezekiel 37:26

I feel most peaceful in my home–specifically in the sanctuary of my screened-in patio. Here, I sit most months of the year and watch the birds, bunnies, and lizards in my yard, read meditationimages, and then write my own reflections in Daily Meditation Moment. Now that I am retired, I can choose to sit here all morning, and sometimes I do. But, the moment I re-enter “Realityland,” I am aware the world is not at peace.

What will it take to make peace prevalent in the world? No more war … no more abuse … no more prejudice? Unfortunately, there is no immediate resolution to the woes of the world. However, in the 37th chapter of Ezekiel, God brought peace to Zion and restored the livelihood for all to live in peace.  Through Ezekiel, God promised, “I’ll make them secure … I’ll live right there with them. I’ll be their God!” (vs. 26, 27)

As we celebrate Memorial Day, and remember the men and women who went to battle for people all over the world, we also give thanks for the promise God made in the book of Ezekiel. God’s peace begins in the heart, and in the sanctuary of your home (or patio).

Dear Lord, thank you for providing a way to peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.

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Tell me the truth!

“The Jews questioned Jesus about his identity. “How long are you going to keep us guessing? If you are the Messiah, tell us straight out.” John 10: 24

imageSocial ice breaker games are a great way to help a group of people become acquainted with one another. Sometimes at a retreat, we’ll play the game “two truths and a lie.” Normally, I wouldn’t suggest that we lie about ourselves, but this is one time we can do so just for fun. So, here are two truths and a lie about me: (1) I once made eight out of ten jump shots in the third quarter of a basketball game. (2) I served breakfast to the Everly Brothers one morning in 1963 at the Holiday Inn in DesMoines, Iowa, and (3) I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in engineering.

Jesus spent his ministry giving hints as to his true identity. In John 10, he used the analogy of sheep, and those who cared for them, to convey who he is: (1) “I am the Good Shepherd. (2) … in the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father, and (3) l received authority personally from my Father. (vs. 14, 18) Yet, the Jews wanted a more specific answer–tell us if you are the Messiah!

The Jews didn’t want to believe Jesus. Even with his acts of healing, the miracles he performed, and the stories he told, some people thought he was crazy or lying. And, yet, it was when he boldly proclaimed “… we are the same — Father and Son. He is in me; I am in him” that the Jews wanted to kill Jesus for saying he is God.

Now, for the answer to my two truths and a lie: If you know me well, you will know I did not get a degree in math, nor did I go to college.

Dear Lord, help us to show our true identity by the way we talk, act, and serve others. Amen.

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Leaving the judging to God

“Meanwhile, I’ll bring judgment on all the neighbors who have treated them [Israel] with such contempt. And they’ll realize that I am God.” Ezekiel 28:26

imageFor two years, the house across the street has either been vacant or had short-term renters. From my kitchen window, I can see the backyard, which has been poorly maintained. Suddenly the weeds were gone, lawn ornaments appeared, and it became apparent we finally have permanent neighbors.

Early one morning I saw a woman, wearing a post office uniform,walking her black lab, and I waved and said, “Good morning!” She briefly glanced at my direction and continued to walk. Immediately, I came to the following possible reasons for the snub:
— I looked older and she didn’t want to meet me; or
— She’s not friendly and does not care to know her neighbors.

I decided I would ignore her too. But I couldn’t get her out of my mind and came up with new possibilities:
–She was in a hurry to get to work and didn’t have time to chat with a new neighbor;
–The sun was in her eyes, and she didn’t see me or had ear buds in and didn’t hear me.

In Ezekiel, God paid attention to the people who had treated their neighbors unfairly. Because God knows everything, he judged them fairly. I judged my neighbor unfairly before getting acquainted. I will bake some muffins, buy a pound of Starbuck’s coffee, and leave them in a basket along with a note, “Welcome to the neighborhood. I love what you’ve done to your yard. Linda (your neighbor from across the street.) ”

Dear Lord, help us be good neighbors locally and around the world. Amen.

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The life cycle on earth is complete … some day.

“I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.” Psalm 23:6

The Message Bible

The Message Bible

You may not recognize the passage above from the version of Psalm 23 you memorized or have read throughout your life. Eugene Peterson, the translator of The Message Bible, cuts out the poetic gate of Psalm 23 and just says what the scripture needs to convey.

A couple of years ago, before going on an extended vacation, my husband and I reviewed our final “wishes” documents. It gives me a sense of comfort knowing that my end-of life plans are in place for my children and medical providers. It amazed me when I shared with friends that we have our wills, medical powers of attorney, the document signing our bodies over to science, and our desire to be buried in the Arizona National Cemetery, that she went silent and after a pause she said, “I don’t like to talk about this.”

God never promised any of us eternal life on earth. It is a fact. We will all die. I often make my own greeting cards–especially sympathy cards–and write this verse, “The life cycle on earth is complete” and if the person passes on at a younger age, I add, “all too soon for those who love him” (or her). We are living a life cycle in which only God knows the hour and day it will end. But we can plan for that day.

Dear God, when the life cycle on earth is over, receive our souls into the life that never ends. Amen.

 

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A heart of stone …

“I’ll cut out your stone heart and replace it with a red-blooded, firm-muscle heart.” Ezekiel 11:19

A hard heart from my backyard in Arizona.

A hard heart from my backyard in Arizona.

The heart is often referred to in scripture as a way to show how our lifestyle and emotions affect our spirit. When I’m upset or anxious, my heart feels heavy. If I’ve experienced a shock, or when I realize I’ve done something that hurts someone, it races. When I’m holding a baby or sitting close to someone I love, my heart feels warm–at peace.

When I read the scripture referenced above, it reminded me of when I was a freshman in high school. My father spent a year in a hospital bed in our living room to recover from what was considered a “pulled” muscle in his heart. After a year of not showing any improvement, my father went to a heart specialist at the University of Iowa Hospital. The doctor told him he should not have been confined to bed to treat this ailment. Within a few weeks, with proper medication, and after regaining strength from lying around for a year, he went back to work. The ordeal taught us we aren’t in control of our lives, and to question doctors, as they are humans practicing their skills and are not God.

In Ezekile, we learn that God doesn’t want our hearts to become like stone. If we live a clean life, God will pulverize the stone in our hearts to allow room for the pure red blood of Christ.

Dear Lord, when I become strong-willed and fail to follow your commands, soften my heart. Amen.

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Is it I, Lord?

“I [Isaiah] spoke up, ‘I’ll go. Send me.'” Isaiah 6:8

imageIn the first five chapters of Isaiah, we learn how morally and spiritually corrupt the people had become. One day Isaiah saw God in the form of six-winged angel-seraphs, who praised God and caused the foundation of Isaiah’s home to tremble. Isaiah responded with his fear of Doomsday and death and admitted to God he had not used his mouth in praise to God. One of the angels brought a hot coal from the altar and touched Isaiah’s mouth–a sign that his lips had been forgiven.

Recently, I responded to a plea by the volunteer coordinator at the hospital where I serve as a spiritual caregiver. She desperately needed someone to take an early morning shift at the surgical center desk one day a week. I felt as if I were being called to do this, and emailed her. However, the night before my training (to begin at 4:30 a.m.), I couldn’t sleep. At 3:10 a.m. I e-mailed the coordinator, “I’m sorry, I can’t come in, as I have not slept all night.”

This was one of the occasions in which I had let my heart trump my ability to discern the situation. For year, I’ve had sleep issues whenever I need to set an alarm for an early morning flight or appointment. I rescinded my offer to help the coordinator, who said, “That’s okay. It takes the right person to work the early shift. Someone will fill the spot.”

May I suggest when you feel as if God is calling you into action to be sure you are the one–like Isaiah, when he said, “Send me.”

Thank you, Lord, for giving us choices in how we can serve you. Amen.

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Tell me your story …

Agrippa spoke directly to Paul: “Go ahead—tell us about yourself.” Acts 26:1

2160199If you wish to learn more about Apostle Paul, read this chapter of Acts, in which he tells his conversion story from persecuting Christians to becoming one of the strongest leaders of the faith.

What do you say about yourself when someone asks, “Tell me about yourself.” It’s easy if you are being questioned by a doctor evaluating a health issue or when applying for a job. That narrows the field of who you are.

When I interview people for a story, I ask questions that will lead to what I want to hear. I don’t only need to hear they are a mother, wife, husband, father, or that they graduated from ABC University. I want to hear what makes their souls soar, what makes them want to get up each morning and tackle the day, what gives them pleasure, and what makes them sad.

It is our testimonial of living a faith-filled life that is often the hardest story to share. It is personal–something between you and God. However, many people become closer to God when someone risks sharing their story. So, perhaps today you can tell someone your story–whichever one is appropriate.

Thank you, Lord, for the story of Paul and all those who have helped shape my faith. Amen.

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