Baptized by choice . . .

image“Dress Aaron in the sacred vestments. Anoint him. Consecrate him to serve me as priest.” Exodus 40:13

After the Israelites were freed from slavery, God chose Moses to be the construction foreman for building a place of worship, referred to as “The Dwelling.” After the materials were gathered and the construction completed, God commanded Moses to prepare for the consecration of Aaron as God’s chief priest. Every detail was spelled out from how to set up the table, where to place the Gold Altar of Incense, how to hang the curtain at the entrance, and everything that needed to be anointed with oil.

Through my work in the church, I’ve had the privilege of assisting in planning for ordinations, consecrations, commission services, baptisms, weddings, and funerals. However, none of them touched my heart as did the baptismal service I witnessed yesterday. My son, dressed in a T-shirt and gym shorts, walked down the steps into a portable pool (that resembled a large animal watering troth). There a pastor in waders welcomed him into his arms, prayed and spoke words I could not hear, and gently lowered him backwards into the water. When he lifted him out of the water, Michael’s face glistened and warm tears flowed down my cheeks.

Even though Michael experienced baptized as an infant, he chose to receive the cleansing water for his soul and to become part of the community in which he worships. I believe in “one baptism for the remission of my sins,” but there’s nothing in the Bible that says we can’t get too much of a good thing.

Dear Lord, bless those who choose to be baptized into their new-found faith. Amen.

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Precious time …

[Jesus said] “You don’t always have me.” John 12:8

Tea for two ...

Tea for two …

Mary created quite a stir among the disciples the day she poured expensive oil on the feet of Jesus. It was Judas, the betrayer and thief, who asked, “Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor?” (vs. 4) Jesus knew if Judas got his the the proceeds from such a sale, the poor would not get a penny of it.

Jesus followed this statement by saying, “Let her alone. She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me.” (vs. 7,8)

For many years, my mother spent part of the winter with me. I worked mornings and gave up my afternoon activities to spend time with Mom. (Believe me, it was no sacrifice to give up going to the exercise center.) Every afternoon I planned an activity to get mom out of the house, even if only to visit the quilting store or go to a few garage sales.

Mother no longer spends winter months with me, and I miss the time we had together. It was as precious to me as the oil Mary poured on the feet of Jesus.

Dear Lord, help us chose precious time over the desire for earthly possessions. Amen.

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Will your house be passed over?

“He [God] won’t let the destroyer enter your house to strike you down with ruin.” Exodus 12:23

imageA few days ago a young man I know left his home for about an hour, and returned to discover he someone had entered his home through a window and stole jewelry and around three-thousand dollars worth of collectible baseball cards. The value of the lost items is covered by insurance, but money can’t reimburse them for the feeling of being violated by the intruder.

In Exodus, we read how all of God’s efforts to get the Pharaoh to release the Hebrews had failed. His final blow came when he commanded Moses to tell Pharaoh, “At midnight I will go through Egypt and every firstborn child in Egypt will die … so you will know that God makes a clear distinction between Egypt and Israel.” (vs. 4,7)

Even with this warning, Pharaoh refused to release the Israelites. God instructed Moses to address the community of Israel that on the tenth day of the month they were to prepare for the Passover. To protect the Israelites, each household hosting the Passover meal was to smear blood from a lamb on the two doorposts and lintel (the upper support of the door) of their house. This blood would serve as a sign to God’s “destroyer” to pass over their home and protect their first-born child.

In our prayers we ask God to protect us from harm. In today’s society, God might advise us to install a home security system.

Dear Lord, spread your wide arms around our homes and protect us from the evil that waits to enter. Amen.

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Are you going through a drought?

“And now, God, do it again — bring rains to our drought-stricken lives … so those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.” Psalm 126:4,6

imageAlmost daily the drought in California makes the news. When our daughter, Susan, lived in Chico, California, we always made a trip to the farmer’s market, and I’d stock up on almonds, walnuts, and whatever produce was available during the season. With water being rationed, it’s possible farmer’s markets will begin to disappear.

Which one of these products are you willing to give up?

Which one of these products are you willing to give up?

In the seasons of our faith life, we may go through a drought and no one may notice. There are days when I don’t feel the spirit moving, and I write anyway and then wonder if anyone can tell I’m needing a spiritual shower.

What causes you to go into a spiritual drought? Do you procrastinate whether or not to go to church? Have you decided you don’t need a daily meditation boost? Do your burdens weigh you down to the point you collapse into bed and forget to mutter as much as “Thank you,” to God? God notices our drought and promises to rain armloads of blessings on us, but first, we need to ask.

Thank you for showering us, Lord, through the life-giving water of our baptism. Amen.

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Communicating from afar …

“I plan to send Timothy to you very soon so he can bring back all the news of you he can gather.” Philippians 2:19

imageWhile Paul sat in a Roman jail, he wrote long letters, such as the one in the Book of Philippians. He sent them with a trusted friend to share to the people and waited for the friend to return learn about the ministry he had begun.

Before my husband and I were married, Glen spent ten months on the U.S.S Jason, a repair ship, cruising throughout the Pacific Ocean. During those long months, we wrote letters–almost daily. The letters came to me in batches, sometimes once a week. He received my letters even more intermittently. My children found it hard to believe that during that time we didn’t have as much as one telephone conversation.

As I think about the hundreds of letters I received from Glen, I realize it wasn’t the current news (not much to share when on the open sea), but how much I learned through his words about his sensitivity, humor, goals for the future, desires for our relationship.

About fifteen years into our marriage (about the time our children could read), I made the decision to burn the box of letters as they were intimate and for my eyes only. Now, I wish I had kept a few of the letters so that my children could get a glimpse of their father as a young man.

Dear Lord, we wait to hear good news from all your servants. Amen.

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Wednesday meditation moment: Ask a neighbor for a favor

“Go sell the oil and make good on your debts. Live, both you and your sons, on what’s left.” 2 Kings 4:7

imageElisha’s servant died, leaving his wife with a debt, and no money, to pay a man threatening to take her two children if she didn’t pay him. The woman went to Elisha for help. Elisha asked the woman what she had in her house, “Well, I do have a little oil,” she said.

Elisha told her to go to her neighbors and borrow as many bowls and jugs as she could and then pour the oil into the vessels. The moment the last bowl was filled, the oil stopped flowing, and after selling the oil, she was able to pay the debt.

Marie is my new neighbor. One day while making soup, I found I was out of onions. I called and asked if I could “borrow” an onion. Instead of replacing the onion, I took her a container of the soup. She returned the container filled with brownies. A friendship has developed from daring to ask for a favor.

The neighbors in the story dared to ask her neighbors for bowls and jugs not even understanding their purpose. Just think of the stories she was able to share when she returned their bowls and jugs. “You saved my children!”

Dear Lord, let us respond with love to the needs of our neighbors. Amen.

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The Wedding Supper is ready …

“Blessed are those invited to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb.” Revelations 19:9

imageSince leaving Iowa, we rarely have the opportunity to attend a wedding. In the culture of my family and community, weddings weren’t an extravagant event. My wedding went like this: Invitations went out to immediate family and close friends. The ceremony took place at my church at 8:00 p.m., which lasted exactly twelve minutes. After the quick kiss, everyone followed Glen and me to the fellowship hall for tea sandwiches, nuts, mints, coffee, punch, and the a small piece of wedding cake. By 10:00 p.m., pictures were completed, and through a shower of rice, we headed out for the honeymoon.

When we moved to the Chicago area, we were invited to a wedding of one of Glen’s co-workers. My friend, Katy, knew I had never been to a big wedding celebration and gave me a piece of advice: Bring a wedding gift equal to the cost of the wedding reception. That meant I would have to spend at least fifty to one hundred dollars for the gala event. “It’s a party,” she said, “and you pay for it by your gift.”

The Wedding Supper of the Lamb was a free event for the believers. Jesus paid the entry fee with his death. The resurrection became our invitation to the grand ballroom where we will feast along side of God and all the saints who went before us.

Thank you, God, for the Wedding Supper you have prepared for us. Amen.

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Take the day off …

God said to Moses, “The tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly, fast, and offer a Fire-Gift to God.” Leviticus 23:26

imageThe book of Leviticus was written to instruct the people of Israel ax to how to live holy in a land that knew nothing about being holy. One such rule was the mandatory day of rest on the tenth day of the seventh month of each year, a Day of Atonement when everyone would fast and offer a “Fire-Gift” (something made by fire) to God. If people refused to adhere to this day of rest, God said he would destroy them.

God also said, “This is a perpetual decree for all the generations to come, wherever you happen to be living.” (vs. 31). In our society, most people would be grateful to celebrate a Day of Atonement just to get an extra day away from the job or work at home. So, on July 10 of each year, tell your boss that God said, “Don’t do any work that day–none” and see how that works for you.

As I am no longer employed, every day is the tenth day of the seventh month in which I can choose to work or rest.

Dear God, thank you for making the seventh day of each week a day of rest. Amen.

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With arms wide open …

“This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found.” Luke 15:32

imageI guess I may have been considered the prodigal child in our family when I left home three weeks after graduating from high school. I took a bus from Des Moines to San Francisco to be closer to my future husband stationed in the Bay Area. The big difference between the prodigal son in Luke and my story, is that I asked for nothing from my parents. I boarded the bus with two suitcases (a graduation present), and around sixty dollars cash. I still remember my parents taking me to the bus depot and my father handing me a dollar bill, “I owe you this,” he said. A dollar in 1964 would at least buy me a lunch.

I spent that summer living in a YWCA in Oakland and working for a temp agency. Before getting kitchen privileges, I ate out of a little cooler–peanut butter and jam sandwiches, apples, bananas, and whatever wouldn’t spoil. After three months, Glen’s ship moved down the coast to San Diego. I followed him and began the search for a job. After two weeks, and no prospects of a job, Glen put me on a train and sent me home.

As with the prodigal son, my parents opened their arms to their crazy daughter, yet only eighteen years old, and gave my bedroom back to me, plus three meals a day. No more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and an apple for dessert.

Thank you, God, for being the Father who welcomes us back home after we have strayed. Amen.

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Digging your heels into the sand . . .

“God said to Moses, “I look at this people—oh! what a stubborn, hard-headed people! Let me alone now, give my anger free reign to burst into flames and incinerate them. But I’ll make a great nation out of you.” Exodus 32:9,10

imageMoses busted his buns when he moved the Israelites out of Egypt, and now God wanted to “burst into flames and incinerate them” because they were worshipping false gods. Moses had the audacity to tell God he needed to reconsider. Why would God destroy what he had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel that they would have as many descendants as the stars in the sky. God listened to Moses’ plea and put up with the antics and disrespect of the Israelites for forty years.

I see the behavior of the Israelites to be similar to how toddlers act. We just completed a ten-day visit with our daughter in New Jersey. I hadn’t seen the boys for six months, and I was quite amazed at how the four-year old changed from being compliant to expressing himself on everything from what he would wear and what he would eat. He has become attached to his toys and his mother and sharing isn’t his strong suit. The six-year old could discern the consequences of his actions and conformed more quickly to the requests of his parents.

The Israelites became disenchanted with their journey and began to act like four-year olds. When we dig our heels in the sand and defy everything that doesn’t fit with our perspective or is not within our comfort zone, we raise the fury in God, and everyone around us.

Lord, help us move out of our stubborn ways to be compliant with your will for us. Amen.

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