Wednesday meditation moment: If needed, add some salt.

salt[Jesus said] “Salt is excellent. But if the salt goes flat, it’s useless, good for nothing.” Luke 14:34

If someone were to say, “You are the salt of the earth,” you would be considered a person of great kindness, reliability or honest. In the scripture for today, Jesus is talking to his disciples and spelling out his expectations of them, including kissing goodbye everyone they loved and parting with their earthly possessions. Jesus depended on them and nothing could distract the disciples from being the salt of the earth to his ministry.

At my age, I consider myself old salt. I’ve learned about kindness, reliability, and honesty from experience. But that didn’t happen without being tossed back into a big pot and fed handfuls of salt through the grace of God. Just as in making soup.  I have been asked, “How do you make such good soup without using a recipe?” I say, it’s all about testing it while it cooks and adding the right seasonings to bring out the flavor.

Lent is a time to examine our faith. Every Wednesday during the six-week period of Lent, my church holds a simple soup supper before worship. The soup maker seasons the broth to suit the basic needs of the diners. However, there is always a saltshaker on the table, for those like me, who need to add a little flavor to my Lenten experience.

Dear Lord, help us all to become salt to the earth. Amen.

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I have a plan for you …

“I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” Jeremiah 29:11

Lo I amNearly twenty-three years ago, I went from being a healthy woman to a sick chick within a moment. It started with a pop and pain that shot through my abdomen region and paralyzed me to my chair in my office. Within a few hours, the symptoms went away. Three weeks later, another pop, more pain, and another trip to the ER. The surgeon removed two-thirds of my stomach to repair the damage done by perforated ulcers and ordered heavy doses of antibiotics to clear the infection in my gut. My weakness drained me of hope.

Then, one day hope came through the window in the form of warm sun rays on my back and a quiet voice that said, “Lo, I will be with you always.” I raised my head and looked around. I was alone, but for the first time in months, I felt the presence of comfort.

Later that day while looking through the mail, a small magazine dropped onto my lap. I picked it up, turned it over. My eyes feasted on the cover of a Christian women’s magazine showing a bright orange and yellow sunrise lifting behind a mountain and illuminating a quiet lake in the foreground. Then I saw it—the same words I had heard earlier that day: “Lo, I am with you always…”

Lord, thank you for reassuring me, through the second message, that you had not abandoned me. Amen.

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Monday meditation moment: Good fig or bad fig?

God showed me two baskets of figs placed in front of the Temple of God. Jeremiah 24:1

iPad 6-13 333God told Jeremiah a story about figs—a basket of good, edible fruit and another with rotten fruit. God said he would honor the good figs and treat the rotten figs as outcasts.

During this time of the year in Sun City, people bring baskets full of oranges, grapefruit, and lemons to the church and recreation centers for anyone to claim. Sometimes they rot before taken and are tossed into the garbage.

My husband makes juice from our orange tree. He examines each orange to make sure it is free of bad spots before cutting them in half and putting them through the electric juicer. One bad orange could contaminate a jug of juice.

Likewise, one or more disgruntled church members can stir up a sour, tasteless experience for the rest of the members. The congregation prays for these people that they might have a change of heart.

Lord, help us know when to pray for someone to find peace in a new pew in a new parish. Amen.

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How well to you really see?

[Jesus said} “Can a blind man guide a blind man? Wouldn’t they both end up in the ditch?” Luke 6:39

BlindMany years ago, my Uncle Clarion spent a weekend with us during a break from the VA Hospital in Chicago, where he was learning how to function without his eyesight. Macular degeneration had left him with only parameter vision.

One afternoon my husband took my uncle to the mall to find a TV in which he could best see the picture. With his white cane in hand and dark glasses on, he and Glen entered the electronics’ store. Uncle Clarion said to the clerk, “I want a TV for a blind man.” Glen said the clerk looked at him as if he were crazy, until he explained his limited vision.

My uncle’s vision may have been deteriorating, but his strong faith in God, dedication to his family and friends, and strong values were like having 20/20 vision. I would have trusted my him to steer me anywhere (except from behind the wheel of a car), as I knew God had him in his sight at all times.

Lord, let us see through your eyes the direction you want for our faith journey. Amen.

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Saturday Meditation Moment: Are you an Old Turtle?

“Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves.” Isaiah 30:15

Old TurtleOne Christmas, nearly twenty years ago, I gave each of my adult children a storybook called Old Turtle. I recorded myself reading the book, along with a statement, “You will not always have me, but you will have this little story about life.”

Old Turtle, written by Douglas Wood and illustrated by award-winning artist, Cheng-Khee Chee, is a beautiful book about God’s creation and how trees, stones, ants, the sky, fish begin to argue over who or what God is. When Old Turtle, the quiet creature, could stand it no longer, she yells, “STOP.” In her wisdom, she then validates all of God’s creation by saying, “God is gentle and powerful, above all things and within all things… God IS.” She then tells them to make room for others—human beings.

Isaiah was the “Old Turtle” prophet God used to tell the people of Judah and Jerusalem to STOP—to stop acting as if they did not need God in their lives. Today, we need Old Turtle to appear all over the world and scream STOP to the human beings who abuse the Earth and cause wars and other acts of violence to all of God’s creation.

Dear Lord, thank you for the reminder that we need to be gentle with one another and to all of creation. Amen.

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Sunrise and Sunsets …

“What a beautiful thing, God, to give thanks … to announce your love each daybreak … I saw your work and I shouted for joy.” Psalm 92:1,2,4

March 2013 280Arizonians like to brag about the beautiful sunrises and sunsets God provides. I admit to being one of the residents who takes pictures of the glory bestowed upon our state and post them for my Facebook friends to envy.

I always thought the accumulation of dust and pollution in the air creates the brilliant sky portraits. However, if this were the case, China would claim to have the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Actually, what our eyes see when the atmosphere is at the lowest level in the a.m. and p.m. is a combination of clean air, high clouds, and sunlight, which contain a wide spectrum blue, violet, orange, and red colors. Another God miracle.

Every morning when the sun rises, we enter into a polluted world by our thoughts and deeds. It’s only when we seek a spiritual cleansing, that God allows others to see our hearts and souls as beautiful as an Arizona sunset.

God, remove the dust and pollution from our hearts to glorify you and to reflect your love and grace to others. Amen.

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Do you really know it all?

“Arrogant know-it-alls stir up discord, but wise men and women listen to each other’s counsel.” Proverbs 13:10

feelBores—that’s what they are! The arrogant know-it-alls—or more specifically, the ones who think they know it all.

In one of the episodes of The Good Wife, one of the judges was sensitive to the way lawyer’s argued their case. The lawyers discovered that when they started a sentence with, “In my opinion …” they had a better working relationship with the judge.

A few months ago, I read a ranting statement in the My View section of our local newspaper. The writer responded to a previously-printed article by saying how the writer’s opinion gave him something funny to laugh at. His use of sarcasm drove me to my computer to give my view: sarcasm is a form of hatred!

In my opinion, no one deserves to be laughed at for exercising the right to freedom of speech. “My View” published my opinion the following week and I hope the arrogant know-it-all read it. In my opinion, he needed my counsel.

Lord, help us become a know-it-all in matters of justice and fairness. Amen.

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Don’t touch it …

“If you touch anything ritually unclean, like the carcass of an unclean animal, wild or domestic … you’re contaminated and you’re guilty.” Leviticus 5:2

free rangeThe book of Leviticus taught the Israelites how to live a holy life to benefit their overall health and wellbeing. They saw the rules as a gift from a caring God. Today we have federal guidelines and rules and regulation to keep our food safe.

Years ago, I decided I wanted homegrown (before we called them “free range”) chickens for our deep freeze. I enlisted farmer friends to add an additional two dozen chicks to their spring inventory. A few months later, we scheduled a butchering day.

On the way to the farm, a scene flashed through my mind. I was a child standing by the fence watching my mother step on the head of a chicken and pull it off the body. I shook off the memory and wondered if I really wanted fresh, homegrown chicken.

After observing the farmers skin and gut a few chickens, I mustered up the courage to plunge my hand deep into the cavity of a chicken. Over forty-years later, I still remember how my hand recoiled as I felt the warm organs, and how my friends laughed when my eyes flashed a sense of horror. At that moment, I wondered if I really wanted fresh, homegrown chicken. They were worth the experience!

Dear God, help us understand that you love us enough to establish rules to save our lives. Amen.

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Loose Lips Sink Ships …

“I am getting the picture that when you meet together it brings out your worst side instead of your best!” 1 Corinthians 11:17

loose lipsToday’s message is from my book, The Donut Theory, Meditations and Inspiration for the Church Office.

Loose Lips Sink Ships”

Post a guard at my mouth, God, set a watch at the door of my lips.
Psalm 141:3

“Loose lips sink ships” is my brother Gary’s favorite saying when he hears someone gossiping or repeating sensitive information. It’s easy to get caught up in conversation that leads toward the direction of becoming gossip, or is in the category of “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

When the only thing two people have in common is that they work together in an office, it’s easy to get caught up in conversation about people and events of the church.

Recently I had lunch with a co-worker. After returning to my desk, I thought about the conversation we’d had about a member of the church and began to feel as if I had betrayed my lips. We didn’t talk about anything that wasn’t common knowledge, but it just didn’t feel right with my soul.

To keep from having another episode of loose-lip syndrome during lunch with a co-worker, I developed a menu of appropriate behavior:

1. Appetizer: Light conversation about the weather, the atmosphere of the restaurant, the prompt service;
2. Entrée: Topics that could be published on the front page of the church newsletter;
3. Dessert: Sweet stories of blessings in our lives;
4. Bill: Pay it forward—What I’ve learned that can make a difference in my own life that I can share with others; and
5. Tip: A quote from my mother: Mind my Ps and Qs, which I’ve interpreted as: practice prudence, positivity, playfulness, peaceful sharing, and quit talking so much and listen more.

Lord, when I’m vulnerable, post a guard on my lips. Amen.

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Monday meditation moment? Chicken or the Egg?

image“And since virtually everything comes from God anyway, let’s quit going through these “who’s first” routines.” 1 Corinthians 11:12

Apostle Paul spent a great deal of time writing about the relationship between God and man and man and woman. But in the end, he’s says there is no way to understand the “who’s first.” It’s kind of like which came first, the chicken or the egg, or the oak tree or the acorn. God created everything and had a plan that continues to work today.

There are many unanswered questions about faith and life. I call them the what ifs. Such as, what if my first fetus had not aborted early in my pregnancy, would it have been a girl or boy, blond or red headed?

When my youngest daughter was around ten or so, she asked me, “If your first baby had made it, would you have had me”? I don’t remember my answer, but I hope I said, “Yes, because it was God’s plan, not mine that you were born instead of the other baby. And, we are so happy it worked out this way.”

If we knew the answer to all of our questions, we would certainly have more questions. I’m thinking Paul would have pondered our questions and then said, “Please quit going over the what ifs!”

Dear God, thank you for revealing the answers to our questions at the right time. Amen.

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