Learn from your youth …

“Utterly cursed is every person who fails to carry out every detail written in the Book of the law.” Galatians 3:9image

As a kid my mother warned me and my brothers not to use “curse” words. As an adult, I understand cursing, such as saying “Damn you!”, is different than using other expletives, such as _ _ _ _ and _ _ _ _. Freedictionary.com defines “Damn you” to mean “To condemn to everlasting punishment or another terrible fate in the afterlife… such as being damned to live out his life in poverty.”

Therefore, to be damned by God means the relationship has been broken and your soul will not have eternal life. As a warning, Paul tells the Galatians that the ones who ignore God’s laws and make up their own are doomed to failure. But he doesn’t say there is no way to turn failure into triumph. We do this when we pray, such as the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses.”

I wouldn’t think of cursing someone. However, I didn’t realize how often I used “damn it” until one day when I heard my two-year old son saying, “Damn it,” while trying to build a tower with his blocks. Fortunately, toy blocks do not have a soul.

Dear God, remind us that you alone have the authority to damn those who do not live by your laws. Amen.

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Faith, fear, and worry …

image“How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you?” Galatians 3:2

Paul called the Galatians “crazy” or “foolish” because even though they heard the story of Jesus and his resurrection, they failed to accept that they couldn’t work to perfect God’s plan for salvation. The new Christians needed to take additional  faith steps to receive God’s generous gift of grace.

Life is about faith–in God, in ourselves, relationships, the weather, economy, and even in the comforts of life–like air conditioning on a 110 degree day. However, we are foolish when we believe anything, other than God, won’t fail us at some point in our life. People are not infallible, nor immortal. The weather is unpredictable. Markets fail and mechanical items break down.

However, lack of faith leads to fear, which leads to worrying–mostly about things we have no control over. I talk about the nonsense of worrying at retreats and workshops, and yet I find myself worrying about the craziest things, like getting laryngitis and can’t speak at a conference. That’s never happened and chances are it never will. I once read, “There isn’t room for worry and prayer in your heart at the same time.” So, which one should be kicked out?

Lord, thank you for faith–the gift that keeps giving. Amen.

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Serving the feet of Jesus …

“You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn’t quit kissing my feet.” Luke 7:45

image Jesus dined in the home of a Pharisee, a town harlot (who had seen and heard Jesus preaching) followed him there. With tears of joy she washed the feet of Jesus. As a symbol of humility, she let her hair down and dried his feet, and out of adoration, tenderly kissed them. With expensive perfume, she anointed his feet–knowing these feet were not of a common man.

The Pharisee watched Jesus accept this act of love and kindness and pointed out that the woman was a sinner and not worthy of being in his presence. Jesus put him in his place by telling him that beyond serving him a meal, he did nothing to make him comfortable. Jesus turned to the woman and said, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Vs. 50)

As a senior, I’ve changed my style of entertaining. I no longer spend hours planning, preparing, and serving guests. I use the K.I.S.S. method–“keep it simple sweetheart (or stupid).” I no longer collapse into my bed after the guests leave and wonder why I bother to entertain. Sometimes I wait until morning to clean up after the party and just spend time relishing the happy moments of good conversation and the deepening of friendships I afforded myself from not being a compulsive “hostess with the mostest.” And, I thank Costco and the Crockpot for easy entertaining!

Dear Lord, please accept our humble acts of adoration for your love. Amen.

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Sing your prayers …

“Celebrate God.Sing together—everyone! All you honest hearts, raise the roof!” Psalm 32:11

imageIn 1987, I attended the Constituting Convention of the Women of the ELCA in Milwaukee. Women gathered from across the country to see the birth of a new women’s organization. A new song became popular during that time–“I Was There To Hear Your Borning Cry” by John Ylvisaker. Words to the third stanza seemed appropriate for the convention:
When you heard the wonder of the Word, I was there to cheer you on. You were raised to praise the living Lord, to whom you now belong. With 4000 women singing at the top of their lungs and raising the roof of the colosseum, God certainly must have felt loved.

Fortunately, this song did not close with the convention. It is used for baptisms, confirmations, weddings, mid-life celebrations, and memorial services.

It has been said that singing hymns is a form of praying. When words escape you, break into one of your favorite hymns. Borning Cry will always be one of my favorites.

Dear Lord, thank you for hearing our cries throughout our lives.

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Where do wars begin?

“Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen?” James 4:1image

Can anyone tell me what terrorist groups really want? I wonder if the leaders even know. Could it be they are acting like “spoiled children, each wanting your (their) own way?” (James 4:3)

Wars begin in the heart and soul. Everyone has battles–most are worked out with prayer, therapy, or time. However, a battle of the brain can turn into an all-out war when it bleeds on to people with like minds. We learned this through history–Hitler’s personal battle ended in World War II.

In a perfect world, wars would be prevented if leaders attempted to “seek first to understand” (another of Steven Covey’s 7 Principles of Highly Successful People) what others want. James concludes, “If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way.” (James 4:4)

Dear Lord, forgive us for failing to ask you for what we need, not just what we want. Amen.

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An balm for everything?

“Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? So why is there no healing for my people?” Jeremiah 8:22image

Israel sank to a new low, and as punishment, God removed the comforts from the people. Jeremiah suffered great distress over the suffering of the people and cried out to God, “Is there no balm in Gilead ….?” A well-known Black-American spiritual song answers this question in scripture: “There is balm in Gilead, to make the wounded whole … ” We know the balm is Jesus, who came to earth around 600 years later, to became the spiritual medicine for our sins.

I remember as a kid we had only a few basic medications in our medicine cabinet: rubbing alcohol to relieve aches in muscles, Mercurochrome and iodine as antiseptics, and Denver Mud, an antiphlogistine, used to draw slivers out of the skin or infection out of a boil, and a jar of Mentholatum ointment for chest congestion.

Today, I have a specific medication for every possible medical emergency and need a cupboard instead of a medicine cabinet to store them. However, none of the old or modern-day “balms” can heal a sin-sick soul. That takes a big dose of Jesus!

Dear Lord, heal our sin-sick souls. Amen.

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Don’t make a promise you can’t keep …

[Jephthah vowed to God] “… whatever comes out the doors of my house to meet me will become the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” Judges 11:31image

The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah (the eighth Judge of Israel), and he vigorously fought against the Ammonites who were fast approaching the Israelites. Jephthah made a deal with God–you help me keep the Ammonites under control, and the first person to come out of my house and greet me will be given as a burnt offering. God fulfilled Jephthah’s plea.

Apparently, when Jephthah made the vow to God he didn’t consider that his one and only child–a daughter–might be the one to greet him. In fact, she ran to him with arms wide open, dancing along the way!

This story serves to teach us two things. One, Jephthah didn’t have enough faith in his ability to take control of the Ammonites without making the vow to God; and two, there is no such game as, “Let’s Make a Deal” with God.” God keeps his promises and expects us to do the same.

Jephthah’s daughter’s life was spared, but she spent the rest of her life as a virgin in the service of her Lord. Jephthah’s lineage ended with the enthusiastic he made to God.

Dear Lord, give us faith to endure life’s struggles without making promises we cannot keep. Amen.

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Each to their own …

[Paul said] “It was soon evident that God had entrusted me with the same message to the non-Jews as Peter had been preaching to the Jews.” Galatians 2:9image

We hear and read a lot about diversity in the Christian church. I think all Christians agree God is the Creator, Jesus the Savior, and that grace is offered to all who believe. Yet, Christians openly argue with one another as to whose theology is right and who can get into heaven.

I was in grade school when a girl on the school bus told me if I wasn’t a Catholic, I wouldn’t go to heaven. Since then, I’ve heard many other reasons why Christians will not get the nod to enter the pearly gates–especially because they don’t interpret scripture the same way they do.

I don’t waste any time worrying about these accusations. God gave me my brain and the ability to think for myself. I look forward to eternity when I meet up with those who said I’d never get there.

Dear Lord, give us tolerance for one another’s beliefs. Amen.

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A an amazing miracle …

“He [Jesus] said, “Young man, I tell you: Get up.” The dead son sat up and began talking.” Luke 7:14

imageJesus showed compassion towards a widow who had lost her only son. During the funeral procession, the pallbearers stopped and Jesus told the young man to get up. Immediately, he began to talk. The people around him realized they had just witnessed a holy mystery–that God was at work among them.

On a Sunday afternoon in November 1963, approximately 300,000 people watched a horse-drawn caisson carry the flag-covered casket of the body of President Kennedy down Pennsylvania Avenue to lie in state at the Capitol Rotunda. I sat glued in front of the small black and white TV in our living room, watching as the First Lady and her two small children lead the procession of mourners. I was 17, and yet today, I still feel a sense of grief over the loss of our leader.

If there was the opportunity for one more mysterious healing, I wish it could have been used to bring President Kennedy back to life. But then, there were many other occasions when a miracle could have saved the Kennedy family from more grief.

Dear Lord, help us live today as it may be our last one on earth. Amen.

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The perfect hair …

“This Absalom! There wasn’t a man in all Israel talked about so much for his handsome good looks—and not a blemish on him from head to toe!” 2 Samuel 14:25image

King David’s son Absalom looked good on the outside, but his heart was full of arrogance and evil deeds. One of his best physical assets was his hair, reported to be so thick and heavy that when cut it each spring the locks weighed around two pounds. The biblical character Samson also had a massive head of hair, which gave him strength. However, Absalom’s hair caused him his demise. During a battle he took off on a donkey through a forest of oak trees, and his hair got tangled in low-hanging branches and suspended him from the tree. One of his father’s men found him dangling and killed him.

We are a nation that adores beautiful people–at least that is what magazines and TV shows want us to believe. When I see a commercial advertising hair products and see a woman with flawless, long flowing auburn hair, I wish I could trade my soft, short silver hair with her. But even with such a hair transplant, I would only be as beautiful as my heart appears to God.

Lord, give us eyes to see through surface beauty. Amen.

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