Ashamed and embarrassed …

[Jesus said] “Unless you people are dazzled by a miracle, you refuse to believe.” John 4:48

This morning Pastor Mark continued his sermon series, “Do You Know Him?” My initial thought was, “Sure, I know Jesus—how could I not know him. I’ve attended and taught Sunday school and vacation Bible school. I’ve worshipped regularly, and written over 2000 meditation moments.” But by the end of his sermon, I was ashamed to think I thought I knew Jesus so well, as I frequently use God as the manager of the customer service department in Heaven.

In John 4:46-54 Pastor retold the story of a prominent man from Capernaum who had heard of “the miracle man” and traveled twenty miles to seek a miraculous healing for his gravely ill son from a man named Jesus

When the man approached Jesus, he demanded Jesus accompany him to his home to heal his son. Jesus simply replied, “Go home. Your son lives.” (vs. 50-51) Without seeing a miracle performed, he believed and headed home. His son’s fever had broken and he was on his way to recovery. The whole family became believers.

Recently, I asked God to heal a friend suffering with cancer, as her family needed her. I didn’t ask for God’s will, but I simply pleaded, “Please, God, heal Cindy.” God gave her a Heavenly healing. I am embarrassed to admit I questioned God, “Why?” I’m ashamed, as I know better.

Help us, Lord, not to question you, nor ask for miracles to satisfy our will. Amen.

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Water is in control …

[God says] “Watch closely. I’m laying a foundation in Zion, a solid granite foundation, squared and true… A hailstorm will knock down the shantytown of lies, and a flash flood will wash out the rubble.” Isaiah 28:16,17

Last weekend a tree fell into the river during a storm. I wondered how it would be removed. This morning, it is no longer my neighbor’s problem, as the rushing river water moved it down the river.

Yesterday afternoon while the sun still shined, a weather alert came through my cell phone: Flash flood warning in Bedford County until 11:30 p.m. The forecast was for two-to-three inches of rain. Throughout the night, it rained steadily. When I let Daisy out for her morning potty break, I walked the fifty feet down to the river shore and saw that the creek had risen at least four feet overnight.

The cabin is in a high-risk flood zone. Water marking on the wooden doors is proof that in 1979 at least eighteen inches of water invaded the cabin. Before leaving this fall, it will be necessary to raise everything at least to that height and put anything that could be destroyed by water in the loft. If the loft floods, it will be time to build an ark.

I admit I have a flood of fear about water I can’t control. I must trust God that if this happens, a good scrubbing will make it possible to continue to enjoy this place.

Thank you, Lord, being our stable, hard rock foundation to grow our faith. Amen.

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Out of sight? Out of mind?

If they see you coming, they look the other way— out of sight, out of mind.” Proverbs 19:7

Some things I intentionally place out of sight to avoid, such as income tax paperwork, mending and ironing, and years of pictures I need to sort through. And, there are things I see but don’t want to deal with, like a missed phone call from a “negative friend.”

I remember the years when my family would go “home” for a visit. Often, we’d get caught up in drama, and during the first of our five-hour drive home, we’d discuss the issues at hand. Then it became less important to us and we’d put it out of our minds.

This morning I reached for my electric skillet on the open shelf in the cabin kitchen, and thought, “I use this skillet more now that I don’t have to get down on my knees, open a cupboard, and retrieve it from behind other pots.” A good sighting.

For years, I felt awkward about leaving my Bible out for anyone coming into my home to see. Perhaps, I was afraid of showing my faith. And, I must add, I rarely read the Bible at home, reserving it for church and Bible study. It was when I began to read it daily I became comfortable leaving it on the kitchen table. When it’s in sight, just like my electric skillet, I find it is easier to use.

Lord, help us keep you in our sight and minds at all times. Amen.

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Greed…

“A greedy and grasping person destroys community; those who refuse to exploit live and let live.” Proverbs 15:27

There’s a fable circulating on the Internet about how to catch a monkey. A gourd is hollowed out and an opening is made just big enough for a monkey’s paw to fit through, and a few nuts are placed inside. The monkey reaches inside to grab the nuts, but when his fist is clenched around the nuts, it is too big to get it out of the hole. It doesn’t dawn on the monkey that if he lets go of the prize he can get his hand out. The monkey can cabe picked up along with the gourd.

I think of all the pot-luck dinners I’ve attended while working in the church. Staff, out of courtesy, would always to last through the line. As we waited, we’d see plates overflowing. Often, when we’d get our turn at the table, there would be only residue of the food left.

I’m greedy sometimes too–especially when I buy the extra large bag of popcorn at the theater. I’ll share it while thinking, “Buy your own.” I’m also greedy about non-tangible things–time with those I love and for doing what I love–writing. I feel there isn’t enough time in a day.

If my greed is allowed to consume my life, I too, as Solomon’s proverb says, will “destroy community.” So, if you attend a movie with me, I promise to share my popcorn.

Lord, help us live without being selfish and greedy. Amen.

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Name, please …

”Overwhelmed, Abram fell flat on his face. Then God said to him, ‘This is my covenant with you: You’ll be the father of many nations. Your name will no longer be Abram, but Abraham…” Genesis 17:3

Two prominent characters in the Bible experienced name changes. First, Abram became Abraham, a Hebrew name which means Father of a multitude. Abram means exulted father, and Abraham became the exulted father of a multitude, fulfilling God’s covenant with him to make him the father of many nations.

Apostle Paul’s original name, Saul, a Hebrew name, means “asked for; inquired of God.” After his conversion, his name became Paul or Paulus, which means “small” or “humble” in Latin. Yet, we know Paul, who did not ask for a conversion, became an important leader in the early Christian church.

My parents kept it simple by giving their children simple names to spell–Dean, Wayne, Linda, and Gary. My mother named me Linda Christine after her two grandmothers—Lena and Christina–both from Norwegian ancestry. Today, parents are choosing “old” namesfor their children. However, in 2017, Lena ranks 315 in popularity and Linda, 1212. Christina ranks 315 in most popular names for girls and Christine at 946. It may be awhile before we hear a baby named after me–Linda Christine.

Linda is Spanish, meaning “pretty,” and Christine, Latin, “follower of Christ.” I feel Mom and Dad named me well—a pretty good follower of Christ. I will never change it.

Thank you, Lord, for naming me “Child of God” through baptism. Amen.

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Waste not; want not …

“When the people had eaten their fill, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted.’ They went to work and filled twelve large baskets with leftovers from the five barley loaves.” John 6:12-13

I hear people say, “We don’t eat leftovers.” My response, “Really? You throw out leftovers? Give them to me!” I believe people that waste food never felt real hunger. Often, when I end up with more leftovers than I care to eat, I wrap them up and take them to one of my single friends. They are new to them and much appreciated.

This morning as I scraped the last bit of soft butter from the wax paper wrap, the quote, “Waste not; want not” ran through my mind. I grew up with leftover–as many as one could have feeding three growing boys. We looked forward to hash made out of the potatoes and roast beef, fried potatoes, and meatloaf cubed and tossed into pasta sauce. I’m a clever leftover cook and can make something new out of something we’d eaten a day or two earlier. When you toss a leftover Costco-style rotisserie chicken into a stew pot with water, you’ll have a great broth ready for your favorite chicken soup creation.

God showed us how to use leftovers. From two fish and five barley loaves of bread fed 5000 people, and when the leftovers were gathered, twelve large baskets of bread were saved for another day.

Lord, teach us to want not by being less wasteful with food. Amen.

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Everyone needs discipline …

“Eli’s own sons were a bad lot. They didn’t know God and could not have cared less about the customs of priests among the people. 1 Samuel 2:12

When visiting a person with dementia, I was chastised for not treating her the same way I treated the phantom people in the room. I just listened to her, knowing the disease was talking for her. But when she said, “Didn’t your mother teach you better than that?” I realized she still understood a parent’s need to teach a child to be fair.

Eli had two sons, and for whatever reason, he failed to gain control over them. They were “a bad lot” who refused to obey God and yet assisted Eli in the temple with the offerings. They had no respect for the sacrifices people brought to the temple and took advantage of women serving there.

When Eli heard complaints about his son’s behavior,  he warned them that when they sin against another person, there’s help from God, but when they sin against God, they are doomed. God punished Eli for failing to discipline his son by putting he and his family to death. On the other hand, under Eli’s care, Samuel, who was raised by Eli, was an obedient child and grew up to be a prophet and judge. Ironically, he had two unruly sons, also.

Raising children isn’t for the weak in spirit. When parents  and mentors discipline their children, everyone will be happier.

Lord, help us accept discipline for our own good. Amen.

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Eternal harvest…

“It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:7

This morning the pastor at Crossroads Bible Church near Bedford, Pennsylvania, admitted as a pastor, who grew up as a preacher’s kid and went to a Christian college, he entertains doubts about his faith. He’s skeptical about the words written in the Bible by human through God. “How can humans get so much information from God?” I appreciated hearing his message because I tend to doubt the parts of the Bible I find hard to accept–such as in Judges when a Levite man gave his wife to hoodlums who sexually abused her which resulted in her death. This story made me doubt God’s love until I found purpose in the story.

In our faith journey, we come up against situations we don’t understand. Pastor says it is okay to doubt our doubt. It causes us to grow by challenging what we read in the Bible and hear in the pulpit. The Bible is full of facts and figures, but it doesn’t explain the why’s or how’s.

Pastor used a garden as an example of “how and why.” Each year his wife plants the same vegetables and tends them the same way. Some years she has an abundance of veggies; other years the garden under performs. Life is like that too. Under God’s plan, no two days or years are alike.

Lord, help us culture our faith to reap the eternal harvest. Amen.

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Control, alternate, delete …

“A person without self-control is like a house with its doors and windows knocked out.” Proverbs 25:28

I began to learn about person computers in the early 1980’s, with the plan to re-enter the workforce. I took a nine-hour tutoring class to learn DOS and word processing. The commands challenged my brain to memorize keystroke combinations, and I became proficient enough to teach others word processing.

David Bradley was part of a team hired by IBM to build a personal computer. The company was behind Apple and RadioShack in the PC era and challenged this team to get an IBM PC on the market in less than five years. Bradley became frustrated when encountering a computer glitch, because each time he had to manually restart the computer—a time consuming process. He spent about five minutes writing a little program using two keys on the left side of the keyboard and one on the right (to keep from accidentally restarting the computer) and it became the infamous control, alternate, delete command (ctrl+alt+del).

God gave us control over our own lives as well as alternatives—”do as I command and we’ll get along just fine.” In the Old Testament, we read many times in which God “deleted” people who wouldn’t obey him.” Solomon said in Proverbs 3:1,2 “Take to heart my commands. They’ll help you live a long, long time, a long life lived full and well.”

Lord, help us learn self-control and alternatives that will keep us in your grace. Amen.

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Summer time and the livin’s easy …

“But blessed is the man who trusts me, GOD, the woman who sticks with GOD. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers— Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season. Jeremiah 17:7-8

Today is another hot, humid day by the river. I have had to learn to adjust to the climate change from summers in AZ where humidity hovers under ten percent most of the year and we think we are dying when it hits forty percent.

I remember a particularly hot and humid summer in 1986 while living on acreage outside of Aurora, Illinois. We had a large country farm home with two A/C and heat units, two staircases, and two fireplaces. Conserving energy was mandatory to keep the electric bill below $400 a month. We found refuge lounging under a big shade tree.

A read a study of how humidity and high temperatures affect human. First, short-term memory. Now, I have an excuse on humid days when I can’t remember my own phone number. Our cognitive resources are needed just to cope with being hot and sticky. Second, lethargy. I agree. Even getting up to throw together a salad and a plate of cold cuts and cheese for dinner was overwhelming. Third, less anxiety–because we take more naps. Who can be anxious while dozing under a shade tree?

Lord, I trust the hot and humid summer days will pass and my energy will return. Amen.

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