February 27

Matthew 16:24-26New Living Translation (NLT)

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?[a] Is anything worth more than your soul?
During Lent I frequently hear people discuss what they are 'giving up'. Some include giving up;  desserts, soda, candy, coffee, smoking, chocolate, texting, certain TV shows, etc.... When I was a child my mother would always guide me to not decide what tangible thing I could do without for six weeks, but think of something I could work on or do better. Her comment always made me stop in my tracks.
 As I ponder the scripture from Matthew, I think that is exactly what he is saying. What is it in your life that God wants you to change? Surely there is one thing. During this time of Lent and reflection, think of what God is directing you to change. Changing something in your life that God wants you to to do is worthwhile and maybe a better choice than giving up cookies for Lent.
 What are you going to change?


February 19

            This is a true story about two friends named Jack and Charlie.
            Charlie was old. And he was also blind. One could easily say Charlie already had two strikes against him. No one around him was sure what would ever become of Charlie.
            Then one day, Jack appeared. From the moment Jack met Charlie, it was instant friendship. At that first meeting, Jack became Charlie’s eyes. Jack would always guide Charlie around, making sure that nothing happened to his friend. They would go to the local eating establishment, and Charlie would eat to his heart’s content. When he was done, Jack would lead Charlie home, step by step.
            This continued for sixteen years, never once faltering, Jack leading Charlie everywhere.
            They were inseparable.
            Until the day the inevitable happened. Charlie eventually had his last day in the sun, and he died peacefully. Jack has gone slowly downhill since his old friend died, but he lives with the knowledge that one day, perhaps soon, he will see Charlie again, and they will be as inseparable as ever.
            A touching story, I think you will agree. But I left out one important detail of this story: Jack and Charlie are not humans. They’re not even man and dog. No, Charlie was an old, blind horse, and Jack was, literally, an old goat.
            People still don’t know how and why this friendship started. It’s rare, although not unheard of, for animals of different species to form close bonds of friendship (not counting humans and their pets). But this is one is extremely unusual, because it seemed as though Jack really didn’t get anything out of it. For sixteen years, he was Charlie’s eyes, and not once did he ever waver in his duty. He helped out his friend, even when there was no reward for himself.
            That is a textbook definition of compassion. And if the “lower animals” can form such bonds, how much more can we, as humans, be capable of?
            In John 13:34, Jesus clearly says: “A new commandment I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, you must also love one another.” If we must live our lives by only one statement, that’s a good place to start.

Lord Jesus, we confess that we have not loved You or our neighbors wholeheartedly. Guide us, Lord, and show us ways in which we can show the love You have commanded us to give to one another. In Your Name we pray, Amen.


February 13

I have spent some Valentine's Days alone and lonely.  I have spent some Valentine's Days alone and glad of it.  I have spent some Valentine's Days surrounded by love and some surrounded by pain and confusion.  All these holidays can be marvelous or disastrous, depending on the circumstances and on with whom I spend them.  What is obvious in those statements is that depending on myself or other people for happiness is a risky endeavor.  Depending on God is the rock solid foundation for joy in life.


February 11

My email lurks sometimes.  It waits ready to pounce with a problem or bad news.  My email also lingers gently sometimes.  It waits to offer solutions, answers, and good news.  The presence of those tidbits and connections is constant, waiting for me, even when I'm out of reach.  As constant as email is, I have seldom offered my email to God.  It seems so prosaic, somehow, too ordinary.  There are a few email conversations that I have steeped in prayer, but usually, I just read and type without a particularly spiritual thought.  What differences might arise if I prayed as I opened my inbox and hit the send button?

Gracious Holy Spirit, help me to offer all I do to you, even the ordinary stuff, like email.  Please bless the words I send.  Help me to compose with love so that you will permeate every word.  Bless those who send me email and those who receive the email which I send.  In the name of Jesus, our Lord, Amen.


February 9

Have you ever had an irritable cashier at the grocery store check you out or work with an angry co-worker who is difficult? We all have to deal with difficult people at times in our lives. How do you deal with them? It is tempting to avoid these people or react in anger. We don't usually know what may be happening in their lives that may be causing them to react in such a negative way. Reacting to them in a negative doesn't help them or us. Possibly, all they need is someone to be kind to them. This is a real challenge. We want to treat them like they treated us.  We may feel they deserve that. Ask for God's help in guiding our responses in these situations. With His help, we can show kindness in these difficult situations.

Dear Lord, help me to treat others as I would want to be treated in all situations.

Be Kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
as God in Christ forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32 ESV


February 7

The moon was spectacular a couple mornings ago- yes, morning.  I was awestruck as I went into my yard just as the moon was setting and the eastern sky began to lighten.  The sky was clear; the moon was huge; the air was crisp; the neighborhood was silent.

Thank you, mighty Lord, for the moments of quiet splendor which you send into our lives. Amen.


February 5


So you think you're too busy to pray?

How many times have you been in an "almost accident?" or have seen an "almost accident?"  The first thing out of your mouth is probably, "Jesus!" as you slam on the brakes.

There was a saying when I was in school -- they had just taken prayer out of school and parents were shocked and wondered what was going to become of us -- and that was, "Don't worry, students do their best praying right before a big test."

When I taught Sunday School, I was teaching prayers that children can memorize, such as The Lord's Prayer.  I would tell the children that these prayers will come in handy when life becomes very difficult and you don't know what to say to God.  It's good to have a memorized prayer ready to keep you centered and bring you peace when you need God the most.  And I would tell the children, if you need a really fast prayer, just say, "Amen," which means, "so be it."  

You think you're too busy, but you probably already pray several times a day.  Keep it up!  Because God is listening... "Amen."


February 3

            On a recent Sunday morning, I got up at my usual time and began preparing to go to church.  I heard several sirens indicating what I took to be a large fire or accident  in the area.  The sirens persisted, and I looked out the window but saw no smoke nor anything else unusual. Then came a call from someone I was going to take with me to church.  He wasn’t going; he’d received a call from one of his children who’d warned him it was icy out there and there were accidents all over the place. I could see no ice or rain out my window.  The television stations were little help:  the local ones were issuing no cautions while the weather channel from some distant city was making dire predictions of serious ice on I-95 from Washington D.C. to Boston. I finally decided to not go to church and learned later what a treacherous situation it had been out there on the roads.

            Later that day,  I read the story of Nathaniel’s call by Jesus---how he’d dismissed his friend Philip’s invitation to meet Jesus (Nathaniel didn’t regard anyone from Nazareth very highly) and then how he was puzzled when Jesus made a complimentary comment on Nathaniel’s  character.  Slowly Nathaniel’s mood moved from rejection to puzzlement to acceptance of Jesus.

            I felt like I’d been Nathaniel that morning.  The sirens, the phone call, the mixed television messages were all indicators that my decision to go to church was not wise and should be reconsidered.  I did just that, and am so glad I did.

            How grateful I am that God gets through with a guiding word, even when we, like Nathaniel, are slow to get  that word. We are not alone; God is a very present help.  Don’t dismiss God’s nudgings, God’s reminders, God’s assurances.

            “Lord, let me hear your voice and discern your presence as I seek to                      negotiate my life.”  Amen.