When to toss in the towel …

[Paul says] “So how does it happen that the more I love you, the less I’m loved?” 2 Corinthians 12:15

imageParents adopt children to give them a loving home. However, in some cases, in return they experience years of heartache from disobedience, disrespect, hatred, and the attitude, “I’ll show you who is in control.”

To Paul, the Corinthians were like adopted children. He took on the challenge of being their pastor, teacher, and friend, and when he was out of their sight, they reverted to their pre-Christian bad behavior.

The second letter to the Corinthians shows a distraught apostle. But instead of throwing up his arms and saying, “I quit,” he wrote of his love and hope for them. He learned how to love from God, our Father, who adopted all of us in our baptism.

Thank you, God, for parents, teachers, preachers, and friends who do not give up on us. Amen.

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Sacrificing to gain …

“What kind of a deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself?” Matthew 16:26

imageA recent episode of the TV show, Dr. Phil, featured a divorced woman whose three adult children staged an intervention to help her break free from being a hoarder. The plan failed, and the children became estranged. Now, they wanted Dr. Phil to fix the family and the house. Film clips showed the interior of the house reduced to pathways and a kitchen one could not use to prepare or eat a meal. When Dr. Phil asked, “Do you consider yourself a hoarder?” She answered, “No. I just save things to use later.” Digging deeper, the woman said, “Everyone left me. I’m so lonely.” Her collection of rescued items filled the void in her heart.

In Matthew 16, Jesus told the disciples about his forthcoming trip to Jerusalem and how he would suffer by the hands of religious people and be put to death. This prospect deeply troubled Peter. Jesus reassured the disciples that his self-sacrifice would be the way he’d find his true self.

I didn’t see the end of the show about the hoarding woman. I’m guessing Dr. Phil told the kids to get out of her way and for the woman to find the way to sacrifice her “collection”–to find herself.

Lord, help us avoid filling our loneliness with a worse situation. Amen.

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Do you have common sense?

Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Romans 12:18,19

Couldn't spray her with this lovely dress on.

Couldn’t spray her with this lovely dress on.

A couple of years ago my granddaughter, twelve at the time, sprayed me with a water hose. After recovering from the shock of cold water, I said, “I’ll get even with you! When you least expect it, you’re going to get a shower.” So far, she’s had her guard up, and we both know a surprise hosing during the summer in Arizona would be relief, not getting even.

In reading Romans, chapter 12, I see Paul as being the apostle of common-sense advice. Throughout his ministry, besides teaching theology, he gave advice, such as the one in today’s scripture. Paul broke through the literature of the day, including imperial decrees, exquisite poetry, finely crafted moral philosophy, known as “world-class” literature widely available to everyone and gave the common person something they could understand.

In the book of Romans, Paul’s letter reads life a “Cliff Note” of Christian theology, which included the common-sense mentality taught by Jesus. To learn how to improve your daily life, may I suggest reading Romans 12 in “The Message” (available through BibleGateway.com).

Dear God, we give you thanks for the writings of Apostle Paul. Amen.

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Do you need a head-to-foot examination?

“Examine me, God, from head to foot, order your battery of tests. Make sure I’m fit inside and out.” Psalm 26:2

imageThirty-five years ago a surgeon removed most of my thyroid gland. Did you know the thyroid gland acts like the boss to the rest of the body, supervised by the pituitary gland, and answers only to the CEO: the hypothalamus part of the brain? After collecting data stored in the brain, hormones are sent out for the body to use. If you have no thyroid gland, you must take medication for the rest of your life.

After surgery I cruised through many years with only slight adjustments to my dosage of Synthroid. However, for the past couple of years, fatigue often creeps into my day before noon. My doctor orders blood tests to check my hormone levels and when necessary adjusts the dosage of the medication. Yet, often I need a mini-nap or two to get through the day. Perhaps the thyroid isn’t the problem, maybe it’s the Arizona summers of extreme heat.

When I’m physically tired, I also suffer from spiritual fatigue. Should God examine me from head to toe, maybe he’d discover a malfunctioning pineal gland (referred to as the “principal seat of the soul” found buried deep within the brain) and prescribe solitude and meditation to give me a boost.

Dear Lord, examine us and tell us what we need to grow in our faith. Amen.

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Change your words?

“Let your words change them. Don’t change your words to suit them.” Jeremiah 15:20

Guideposts Magazine, August 2007.

Guideposts Magazine, August 2007.

In the process of publishing my first article in Guideposts Magazine, it didn’t take long to understand my words could be changed–and in most cases, for the better. As a participant in the 2006 Guideposts Writer’s Workshop, I sat among my critique group, which included my newly-appointed editor and four other contest winners.

During our daily sessions, we took turns picking apart each other’s prize-winning manuscripts. While examining my work, at the paragraph about how I prepared for a date with my husband, my editor said, “You don’t apply makeup, you put it on.” I thought, Well, you’ve never watched me get ready for the day–an application process for sure.

I accept that my writing style (my voice) will not please all editors, nor perhaps some of my readers. And, that’s okay. I’m not out to impress anyone and to become someone I’m not. I write from the heart to share a message–the same one Jeremiah wrote about in the Old Testament: Life is a daily challenge to please God, not man.

Lord, let the words I write give inspiration to the readers. Amen.

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Is your religion a fairytale?

“God gets furious with people who are full of religious sales talk, but want nothing to do with him.” Ephesians 5:6

imageMy religious preference is a vehicle to carry my faith to the next level. As a “cradle Lutheran,” I was baptized into the Christian faith. Over the years, I’ve explored other main-stream denominations, but the Lutheran theology is where I’m most comfortable. My three brothers and three children were cradle Lutherans, also. Only two of the six remain in the Lutheran church. I say, “If you are a Lutheran, be a good one.” And, the same goes for Methodists, Baptists, and non-denominational church members (and those who express their faith as non-Christians).

The early Christians didn’t have dozens of denomination to choose from to express their faith–there were simply Christians and non-Christians. Some used their religion as a form of idolatry or as a fairytale. Apostle Paul’s humble task was to teach the fledgling baby Christians to live out their religion, by the examples of Jesus and the love of God, to those not yet baptized into the faith.

Dear God, you love us to show our faith, not just tell about it. Amen.

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What part are you?

“You are Christ’s body–that’s who you are!” 1 Corinthians 12:27

Linda at workRecently, I took a ten question, multipe-choice quiz on Facebook titled, “What career should you have been in?” The computer declared I should have been a writer. But I’m already a writer! Perhaps the test is telling me is that I should have started writing before I turned sixty!

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he used the human body to explain to the new Christians what it takes to be Christ’s “church.” He listed the parts of the church needed: apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, healers, helpers, organizers, and those who pray in tongues.
I don’t see “writer” on Paul’s list! From my twenty-plus years working in the church I recorded minutes of church council meetings, wrote and edited columns for the newsletter, bulletins, and flyers.

When I retired from my parish position, I felt called to blog a daily meditation moment and to write inspirational material. Perhaps there is a limb somewhere on the body of the church reserved for writers.

Lord, show us how to use our skills to be part of your body–the church–and our communities. Amen.

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Were Peter and Jesus friends?

“My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on the secret of who I really am.” Matthew 16:17

imageJesus questioned Peter, “Who do you say I am?” This question Peter could answer without searching for the answer: “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus was pleased Peter “got it.” From reading the Gospels, it appears Jesus had given enough hints as he taught and healed in the presence of the disciples. There seemed to be something special about Peter and his relationship with Jesus–more like a friendship.

I’ve begun research on a possible book I’d like to write on the topic of friendship–after fifty. It has become harder, especially since moving to another state, to find the kind of friendship Jesus had with Peter–the kind where they grew to know each other by just hanging out.

I’ll be soliciting stories from my Facebook friends about their experiences finding friends and keeping friendships alive through the years–especially those formed after fifty. I just might find a clue as to how to turn acquaintances into long-lasting friendships.

Lord, help me recognize good friends when you brought them to me. Amen.

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Can you change?

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.” Romans 12: 2

Darren stopped by for a visit and got a selfie with Grandma Olive

Darren stopped by to visit his Grandma Sampson in her apartment.

A couple of years ago 93-year old mother called and asked, “What would you think if I moved to Cedar Place?” (an apartment for seniors next to the nursing home where my dad spent his last five years of life). I responded with, “I like the idea. How can I help you?” She didn’t need my help! She put her house on the market, picked out a unit with a good view, and began to make lists of what she would need in the apartment, what she wanted to give to her children and grandchildren, and found someone to hold an estate sale to remove the rest of her life-time accumulation. A college student moving into their first apartment couldn’t have been more thrilled than Mom to be living alone in an apartment for the first time.

Charles Ringma, a theologian who authored one of my favorite meditation books, “Dare to Journey with Henri Nouwen”, said this about change: “Change that arises out of reactions will hardly be helpful. Changes made to quickly fill the empty places in our lives will hardly be satisfying. Changes made on the run is seldom purposeful.” The trick to making a change in your life situation is to be open to possibilities–like my mother. I am grateful neither me nor my brothers had to suggest it might be time for a change….

Dear Lord, help me see change as an opportunity to learn, grow, and enjoy life even more. Amen.

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Thank you… no, thank you!

“Thank you! Everything in me says ‘Thank you.’ …The moment I called out, [for help] you stepped in; you made my life large with strength.” Psalm 138:1,3

imageSomeone says to me, “Thank you,” and instead of saying, “You’re welcome,” I often repeat, “Thank you”. We tend to dilute the meaning of the word by using it when we really aren’t thankful.

In the Psalm for today, David tells how he called out to God, “Help me! God heard his prayer and helped him through a rough time. Then David just just didn’t say, “Thank you,” he gave a heart-felt thanks by adding, “Everything in me says,”Thank you!”

During the day, I often use the two most popular two-word prayers: “Help me” and “Thank you.” Years ago I adopted for my mantra the words, “Thank you.” You might be thinking, how do the words, “Thank you” work as a mantra?” (a phrase that is repeated by someone who is praying or meditating”– Merriam-Webster). I believe God hears my prayers before I utter them aloud. Such as when I look into the rearview mirror and see a flashing red light, instead of pleading,  “Please God, let the sheriff be after someone other than me…”, I say “Thank you.” And, if he speeds right past me, I utter another, “Thank you!” This is a prayer of thanksgiving, not a mantra.

Thank you, Lord, for the ease in communicating with you. Amen.

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