This is a test …

“Test yourself to make sure you are solid in the faith.” 2 Corinthians 13:5

imageWhile searching for an old photo, I ran across the Iowa Basic Skills reports from the tests I took in elementary, junior high, and high school. I observed the scores of each category and how they calculated out that I was just a little above average for each grade level.

I remember dreading those days of testing–almost to the point of becoming physically ill. As a poor tester, I had to go to class well prepared, and the only way to prepare for the basic skills tests is to do the best work you can, beginning in kindergarten.

In today’s scripture, Paul tells the Corinthians to test themselves, to make sure they are in line with what he taught them about living a faithful life. This kind of a test can’t be studied for, either. However, we can prepare for the many tests in life by daily meditation, prayer, and living a life pleasing to God.

Lord, thanks for seeing us as A+ students, regardless of the scores we achieve. Amen. Continue reading

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Three strikes! You’re out!

“Now preparing for the third [visit], I’m saying it from a distance. If you haven’t changed your ways before I get there, watch out.” 2 Corinthians 13:2

QualifiedI rather like the baseball method of disciplining children: Three strikes and you’re out! (of luck). Fathers play a game of discipline more like football–tackle the one running out of control and then start a new play. God, our Father, gives his children as many strikeouts and touchdowns as needed to keep you on his team.

Apostle Paul made two trips to Corinth, but didn’t see any improvement in the game plan for Christian behavior. God had qualified Paul to play hardball with the Corinthians and Paul told them,  “… you will get more than you bargained for.” (vs 3) Paul didn’t name the consequences for disobedience. He didn’t need to. Instead, he reminded them of the force of Christ, made strong through his death on the cross.

Parents who don’t discipline their children, such as using the counting method 1…2…3… and sometimes 3 1/2…,  either don’t care or don’t know how to get respect from their children. Or, perhaps they think they have nine innings to get them under control. Try that on a teenager….

Dear Father, thank you for not attaching baseball rules as a condition for receiving your abundant grace. Amen.

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It about the message…

“The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense” 1 Corinthians 1:18

Can you guess the donut theory?Eugene Peterson wrote The Message bible after re-writing the book of Galatians into today’s language. An editor from NavPress saw his work and asked if he would take on translating the New Testament. In an interview, Peterson said, “I was a reluctant participant in this. I really didn’t think that I could do it or that it could be done.” But in faith (and facing the possibility of looking “silly”), he completed both the Old and the New Testament in twelve years. The Message continues to fill a spiritual hole in the hearts of millions of readers, including mine.

My first book, Incidents from the Church Office, was written to inspire, encourage, and enlighten those who work behind the scenes in the church office. After much encouragement from readers, I wrote two more, which later I combined as the The Donut Theory.

Often when presenting to a group,  I offer the first participant who comes up with The Donut Theory a free copy of the book. Today, I’m offering free e-book codes to five Daily Meditation readers who can tell me the donut theory.  Think about donuts and imagine the life of a busy church office, and respond to this message.

Beloved God, even when our ministry seems a bit silly or makes no sense, help us to serve you with joy. Amen.

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Sin, debt, or transgressions?

“I forgave your entire debt when you begged for mercy.” Matthew 18:32

Forgiveness strongJesus told a story about a king called in a debt by a servant who owed a hundred thousand dollars. The guy couldn’t pay, so to recoup the money, the king threatened to take the servant and his whole family to the auction block. The servant begged for more time, and the king’s heart softened and he forgave the servant his entire debt.

A bit later, the forgiven servant ran across a fellow servant who owed him a measly ten bucks. “Hey, I want me money,” he said. When he couldn’t come up with the money, the servant begged for relief…time to get the money. But the miserly servant had him arrested and put him into jail until someone could come up with the money. Bystanders reported the lousy deal to the king, who called in the evil servant and rescinded the debt-free offer.

I am reminded of this story of mercy each time I say The Lord’s Prayer…”forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Lord, even when revenge is what we desire, help us show mercy. Amen.

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Who made you the judge?

“Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do.” Romans 14:1

 

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In Romans 14, Apostle Paul tells the people that one day everyone will have to kneel side-by-side and face the judgment of God. And, critical and condescending ways won’t improve your chances of entering Heaven.

Recently, I watched a documentary on TV about two men–once enemies in the Vietnam war, but now close friends. Air Force Brigadier General Cherry recalls the incident that decades later would bring the two together again: “My missile impacted his airplane and blew the wing off of it and there was a lot of fire and smoke and piece flew off and everything.” For years Cherry wondered what happened to Hong My. In 2008, he tracked him down. There were no condescending comments or criticism at their meeting, and they became good friends.

They two men were not personal enemies–just products of two countries with vast differences and humanitarian issues. When General Cherry and Hong My visited memorials and grave sites, standing side-by-side, neither criticized nor made condescending comments of the war.

God provided the way for the two soldiers to find inner peace and an unconditional, nor expected, friendship

Dear God, open our hearts to those who do not share our common goals and beliefs. Amen.

 

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God trumped me …

“He crowns you with love and mercy–a paradise crown.” Psalm 103:11

Kindergarten linda

Had to dig deeply into my box of memories to find this wrinkled kindergarten picture.

Those who know me as an adult couldn’t imagine me as an over-sensitive,  insecure mommy’s little girl. Today, psychologists may say I displayed symptoms of separation anxiety disorder.

I vividly remember the day I started kindergarten. I’d missed the first two weeks of school, due to a skin condition, was in no hurry to leave my mother’s side. Then, there I was–the new kid–frightened and wishing I could turn around and go home. While sitting in a circle on the floor and listening to Mrs. Nelson read a story, my mother slipped out of the room. No assuring hug or goodbye kiss. The moment I realized she had abandoned me to this new world called school, I cried.

Throughout my life, I’ve used the baby-step approach to build confidence in my abilities and in my faith journey. I’ve become a stronger woman–one who can stand on her own big feet. Now and then my sensitive side stops by for a brief visit, or insecurity tries to trump the card I’m playing. But when I stumble, I have God’s assurance that the crown of jewels prepared for me will keep on shining.

Dear Lord, thank you for helping me grow in confidence in my ministry as a writer and speaker. Amen.

 

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Acknowledge what you hear or see?

[Joseph told his brothers] “You planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good.” Genesis 50:19

CamelTo become a Spiritual Care Volunteer at my local hospital, I went through orientation on how to relate to patients. A scenario of how to acknowledge a patient’s pain might go like this:

Patient with a long face: My doctor never comes to check on me until after 8:00 at night … then I can’t get to sleep.”
Me pausing to think how to respond: I’m sorry to hear you are aren’t getting enough rest and that you are disappointed the doctor can’t see you earlier in the day.
Patient still a little teary: Thank you.
Me with a smile: I’ll share your discomfort and concern with someone who can help you. I hope you’ll be more rested the next time I stop by.

In the last chapter of Genesis, the saga of Joseph and his brothers continues:
Brothers talking among themselves after their father died: What if Joseph is carrying a grudge and decides to pay us back for all the wrong we did him? (vs. 15) Together they made up a story and wrote Joseph a letter: Dear Joseph, Father said on his deathbed, ‘Forgive your brothers’ sin—all that wrongdoing. They did treat you very badly. Will you do it? (vs. 16) Joseph read the letter and weeps.

The brothers go to see Joseph and throw themselves down on the ground near his feet:
Brothers add to the drama by saying: We’ll be your slaves! Joseph speaking heart-to-heart: Hey, bros, no big deal. I’m not God. I’ll give you a clean slate and I’ll gladly take care of you and your kids! (paraphrased vs. 19)

Nowhere in the story of Jacob and his devious sons did I hear: “We can tell how angry you are and how much pain you’ve suffered.”

Dear God, thank you for teaching the lesson of forgiveness through the story of Jacob and his sons. Amen.

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Follow me

[Pharaoh tells Joseph] “Tell your brothers, ‘This is the plan: Load up your pack animals; go to Canaan.'” Genesis 45: 17

Joseph’s brothers traveled two times from Canaan to Egypt in search for food for their families and found the brother they had sold into slavery as well! Pharaoh insisted the whole family move to Egypt imageand promised to make a good life for them.

“On the Road Again” became my theme song when I married a Navy guy. In fourteen months we moved from Iowa to San Diego, to Bremerton, Washington, back to Iowa, back to California, and then back to Iowa. We traveled in a 57 Chevy packed full of all our early possessions–praying and repairing it along the way.

Glen’s career with a natural gas pipeline company took us to Nebraska, then to Texas, and to our final work destination in the Chicago area. After retiring, we moved to a recreational neighborhood outside of Dixon, Illinois. One winter we spent time in Phoenix, Arizona, with our son and his family. I found a temporary job I loved, which had promises of becoming permanent. One afternoon while Glen puttered around the garage, I took my guitar, sat on the stoop and sang,  “I’ve followed you to Texas, I’ve followed you to Illinois …” and ended it with, “Now, won’t you please follow me to Arizona.”

We are here for good–no more moves. However, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your five-year plan.

Lord, give us flexibility in our life journey to enjoy the trip. Amen.

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Brotherly love …

“Jacob tore his clothes in grief, dressed in rough burlap, and mourned his son a long, long time.” Genesis 37:34

imageIn 1681, William Penn received a parcel of land from England as repayment of a debt, and it became the state Pennsylvania. Penn chose a place for the capital and named it Philadelphia, derived from the Greek words: philos (loving) and adelphos (brother). Thus, Philadelphia’s nickname became the City of Brotherly Love. Wikipedia reports that Penn had experienced religious persecution and wanted his colony to be a place where people got along with one another and could worship freely. And, he also wanted to keep a brotherly-love relationship with the Native Americans in the area.

In Genesis 37, we read about Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob–the one favored by his father. Because of jealousy, Joseph’s brothers beat him and cast him into a cistern. When a trader came along, they sold the “precious son” into slavery in Egypt. Through God’s design, Joseph could interpret the dreams of Pharaoh and helped to save Egypt from a severe famine. Eventually Pharaoh rewarded Joseph by putting him in charge of all the affairs of Egypt.

Now, for the good part of the story: Joseph’s family in Canaan were starving. On two occasions, his father, Jacob, sent his brothers to Egypt to purchase food from their brother they did not recognize! Eventually Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, and as a sign of forgiveness, kissed each of them on the cheek–a true sign of brotherly love.

Lord, help us share brotherly love with those who need it the most. Amen.

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Is it your duty?

“If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love?” 1 John 3:17

imageIn the finale episodes of the TV sitcom, Seinfeld, Jerry and his partners in crime, George, Elaine, and Kramer, walked away from an opportunity help an overweight man being carjacked at gunpoint. In sitcom-style, Kramer filmed the incident, and they made jokes about the scene as they walked away. The victim saw their behavior and turned them in.

The Seinfeld writers played up the reverse side of the Good Samaritan story in Luke, Chapter 10. After several people walked on by a man seriously injured by robbers, a good man overlooked the religious and ethnic hang ups of the day and stopped to help the bleeding guy on the side of the road.

Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer, had their day in court, were found to be guilty of not responding to “duty to rescue,” and paid for their lack of compassion in a jail cell. End of story.

During our lifetime, we may never need to step up to our duty and enact the Good Samaritan Law (which allows bystanders to assist without the fear of being prosecuted). However, rarely does a day go by that God couldn’t put us on trial–and find us guilt–for failure to assist someone in their time of need.

Lord, help us remove blinders of fear and prejudice to show God’s love. Amen

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