Trusting in your decision …

“Moses raised another objection to GOD: ‘Master, please, I don’t talk well. I’ve never been good with words, neither before nor after you spoke to me. I stutter and stammer.’… He said, ‘Oh, Master, please! Send somebody else!’” Exodus 4:10,13

Moses tried everything he could to do what God asked of him… “Who, me? …Why me? …Send somebody else!” That’s how I felt when I received a call at the Grand Canyon Synod Office from a representative of church women’s group when she asked me to be the presenter at their annual retreat. “Why me?” I’ve never done a women’s retreat before. Let me find you someone with experience,” but she insisted, “We want you to do it.”

God didn’t appreciate Moses’ excuse that he didn’t talk well. But God heard him and said he’d enlist Moses’ brother, Aaron, who was known to speak well, to do the talking. God would give Moses the message and tell his brother what to say.

After agreeing to do the retreat, I enlisted a pastor’s wife, who had done several retreats, to help me. Together, we pulled off a spirit-filled event for the women. Aaron teamed up with Moses, and they pulled off the great escape for the Israelites who were seriously mistreated.

I had a chance to say “No, I can’t do the retreat,” but God wouldn’t accept “no” as an answer from Moses. Like Moses, I learned to trust God when a challenge seems overwhelming.

Help us, God, to move out of our comfort zone when called to serve. Amen.

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Take off your sandals!

“God said, ‘Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You’re standing on holy ground.’” Exodus 3:5

Moses came across a burning bush and heard a voice. God became visible to Moses through an angel of the Lord in the form of the burning bush. Throughout the Bible, fire represents “purifying and refining,“ as in the quality of God’s infinite holiness. God commanded Moses to remove his sandals. Barefoot, one cannot walk on rocky or sun-heated ground, which kept Moses from getting any closer to the bush—a natural gap between God and Moses.

Years ago, I witnessed a burning bush. We had driven into our driveway, and a passenger in our car opened the backdoor, lit a small firecracker and tossed it toward the neighbor’s house. Within seconds the whole bush at the corner of the house went up in flames. We scrambled to get a hose and put the fire out as quickly as it had gone up in flames. Fortunately, only the dead needles in the bush burned, and the owners never knew of the burning bush escapade.

I know the only way I can see God face-to-face is to become obedient and faithful to God while still on Earth. Fortunately, God sent his son to show the way to heaven is through Jesus and the power of forgiveness. Sometimes, it’s necessary to put on a pair of sandals for the rocky roads in our life.

Lord, help us hear your call however it appears. Amen.

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Five Wishes …

“Then he [Jacob] instructed them [his sons]: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave which is in the field of Ephron the Hittite,… Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried there; Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried there; I also buried Leah there.” Genesis 49:29,31

Do you have your “about to be gathered to my people” plan? A couple of years ago, Glen and I completed the documents for  “Aging with Dignity – Five Wishes.” The booklet walked us through the paperwork needed to prepare for the end of our  life cycles on Earth. [One can do it on-line if preferred at https://www.agingwithdignity.org.]

Neither of us had a sense of urgency to sign these documents, but like Jacob, we wanted our choices to be known for burial. The documents established Power of Attorney for Health Care, a Living Will, and suggestions for a celebration of life service. I referred to these documents a year ago last April when Glen died, which made it easier to fulfill his wishes.

Jacob had specific instructions as to where he wanted to be buried. I’ve joked for years, “I’ve never found a cemetery I want to spend the rest of my life in, so I’ll be cremated.” The decision regarding burial vs. cremation needs to be established long before passing away. After all, you only get one chance to get it right.

Dear God, let us enter your Kingdom in peace. Amen.

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Brotherly love …

“I am Joseph your brother whom you sold into Egypt. But don’t feel badly, don’t blame yourselves for selling me…. God sent me on ahead to pave the way and make sure there was a remnant in the land, to save your lives in an amazing act of deliverance. So you see, it was you who sent me here, it was God.” Genesis 45:4,5,8

Joseph—what a guy. His brothers sold him into slavery and years later, during the great famine, they went to Egypt to seek food and encountered Joseph, and he forgave them.

I have three brothers who have treated me fairly all my life. We didn’t argue. We never were estranged. When I asked my mother, “Did we fight as kids?” She said, “No.” I believe we cooperated with one another out of respect for each other and for our parents. There was no jealousy. We all had jobs, did our share of work around the farm or house, and enjoyed spending time together.

When I hear of siblings that can’t be left alone at home for even an evening because they will fight, it makes me sad. Joseph’s brothers hated him because it was obvious their father loved him the most of his twelve sons. Many of them plotted to kill Joseph, but decided to sell him instead. You can imagine the fear that went up and down their spines when they realized the man saving them from starvation was their abandoned brother.

Thank you, God, for my brothers—all good servants of the Lord. Amen.

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Living a drought …

“Seven years of plenty are on their way throughout Egypt. But on their heels will come seven years of famine, leaving no trace of the Egyptian plenty.” Genesis 41:29

Through God, Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream—seven healthy cows and seven sickly-looking cows meant there would be seven years of prosperity to be followed with seven years of drought. Same meaning with the Pharaoh’s dream about seven healthy ears of corn on one stalk and seven puny ears on another. Joseph told Pharaoh he needed to find the most organized, intuitive man he could to prepare for the drought during the seven good years and administer the distribution of grain during the drought so that his people would not starve.

I lived in Nebraska during a seven-year drought. We moved to Beatrice during the first year of the drought and left at the beginning of year seven. At year four, during the fall, the sky opened and rained for days. The Big Blue River in Beatrice flooded one mile out of its bank, devastated many properties. One of the families in our church had five feet of muddy water in the first floor of their home. The church I belonged to sent crews of helpers to save whatever possessions they could and to make it habitable.

We must never forget during prosperous times, it could change as quickly as a river floods. A good job can turn into an unemployment check and a healthy body can develop a serious illness.

Dear Lord, help us prepare for periods of drought in our lives.

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A little inspiration …

“If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot.” 1 Corinthians 15:20

Years ago I spent five weeks at Holden Village Lutheran Retreat Center deep in the Cascade Mountains in Washington State to “get away.” I shared a room with my friend, Jan, which consisted of two twin beds, a writing desk, one chair, a small closet, and a sink. It was wintertime, cold and snowy. Mail came twice a week; there was no Internet or telephone service, no vehicles, and, I did not leave the village the entire time I were there.

At Holden I learned to live as a community. I worked thirty-two hours a week in exchange for board and room, cleaning public areas, guest rooms, and doing laundry. Every week I took my turn washing dishes and cleaning the dining hall after dinner. I worked along side people from all walks of life—gay couples, a transvestite, college students taking time away from studies, pastors on sabbatical, and retirees wanting to “give back.”

At the end of every day, the community gathered for worship. Anyone who wished to lead a service could do so. This quiet worship and sharing time was a wonderful way to end the day.

At Holden, I learned more about love and the grace of God in five weeks than in the sixty years I’d lived prior to this experience.

Dear Lord, thank you for helping me draw closer to you in a quiet village. Amen.

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My writing place …

 

“And god said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear. And it was so…” And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:9

God created the world we live in first and then decided to place man and woman on it to enjoy the fruit of his labor. We are given the task of being caretakers of this beautiful world. When all else seems down and ugly in the world, the beauty of nature shows through. We are blessed to be part of it wherever we are and in whatever we do.

To awaken with a view of fields and woods on the north and a creek on the south has fulfilled a long-time dream of spending time by water and with farmland all around, which takes me back to my youth growing up in Iowa. With the peaceful setting, I’m hoping to spend a lot of time writing this summer—a book is calling me to be written.

It takes a quiet setting for me to tap into the portion of my soul that is creative. I also plan time to try kayaking on Dunning Creek behind our cabin, which eventually flows into Chesapeake Bay, so I must be careful how far I venture from home. From where I have my desk, I can watch the crops grow, birds perching, squirrels flitting around, and rabbits roaming.

Lord, thank you for the diversity of seasons and the landscape you have provided for us to enjoy. Amen.

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“We work to feed our appetites;
Meanwhile our souls go hungry.” Ecclesiastes 6:7

During the last year, I traveled nearly nine months out of twelve.  Much of the travel including sitting down to a meal at a restaurant. I’m not fond of eating out, as I feel when I order something I’m ordering an extra pound with it that stays on my waist and find it is harder to get the pounds off the older I become. I don’t enjoy looking at menus anymore, and I’d rather not get out of the car after riding for hours and sit down and eat a meal in a restaurant.

I’m better at feeding my faith life with scripture reading, meditative writing, attending church regularly, and walking and talking with God during the day. Over the years, I’ve noticed when I’m not in balance with my body, mind, and soul, I tend to fill the empty space with in Godly things like potato chips, popcorn, chocolate bars, and ice cream. These foods make me feel worse after eating them, and then I need to work harder to eat healthier again.

It’s the same  thing when I neglect my faith life. My days are less productive and I feel dull and unfulfilled. The  longer stray from my routine of spending time with God, the more estranged I feel. God wants us to have a balanced life, and it does begin with a balanced meal.

Dear God, help us keep in balance by paying attention to what we eat and how we feed our soul. Amen.

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Get in or out of the boat!

“The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down.” Matthew 14:32-33

When you have one foot in the boat and one on the dock, your legs will spread and you’ll take a tumble into the water. You need to either get out of the boat and walk or get both legs in and start paddling.

I’ve always found it difficult to board a boat—the bottom of the boat rarely stays still enough for me to get my feet planted squarely. Even though I am a strong swimmer, I’m not fond of taking an unexpected dive into a lake or river—especially if the water is cold.

For years we had a canoe stabilized with Styrofoam pontoons on both sides. The pontoons made it easier to get in and out of the boat and more difficult to tip when someone moved around or when hit by a wake from a power boat.

There is a book in my library called “If you Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat” by John Ortberg. You need to take risks if you want to accomplish anything–and if you fail get back in the boat.

Every new venture in life is a paddle or walk situation. It’s up to us if we want to get out of the boat, float or paddle up stream.

Thank you, Lord, for being the pontoon support to move forward without capsizing. Amen.

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R E S P E C T …

“God’s eye is on those who respect him, the ones who are looking for his love. He’s ready to come to their rescue in bad times; in lean times he keeps body and soul together.” Psalm 33:18-19

While raising us kids, my father was the silent partner in discipline, yet he let it be known he wouldn’t allow disrespect for our mother or for himself. We were to treat them with kindness and love. To get his point across, I once heard him say, “If you talk back to your mother or me, I’ll climb across this table and get you!” Of course, he never had to do this because we respected and feared him.

We are to treat everyone with kindness and respect—the people who wait on us in the grocery store, the scruffy looking homeless person on the curb, teachers, leaders, neighbors, friends, family! There are no exceptions to this rule. My mother jokes, “If you can’t be good, be nice.” I’m not sure what she means by this, because if you are good you will be nice! And, we need to be God-like and respect his creation–humans, plants, and animals.

Think of someone you respect—such as a beloved teacher—and use the same kind of kindness shown him or her to someone you normally ignore because they are “different.” Begin with an act of kindness like saying “Hello.” Or, as I learned in Texas, “Ya doin’ all right?” and watch for their reaction.

Lord, help us see others as you see us. Amen.

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