Not all months have a thirty-first day. What do we do with a "Bonus day" such as a thirty-first? Have you ever found yourself with unexpected time? We had a lot this winter, with so many snow days! What do we do with unexpectedly free time?
Lord, help me to use my time wisely. Help me to be open to your Spirit's nudges and to follow them. Guide my actions and my words that they may be loving and generous. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Palm Sunday. Passion Sunday. We go from the "high" of welcoming the king on his donkey with shouts and palm waving to the "low" of the wrenching prayer in the garden and the arrest and trial and then shocking death of crucifixion- all within the space of one hour. What a wonderful time of walking with the congregation and the children, waving palms, singing, and shouting hosannas! I love watching the children as they realize that they are allowed to shout in church. Then, we begin to hear scripture read about how Jesus was betrayed, then arrested. We hear about his trial and his conversation with Pilate. We sing a somber song. We hear the words that condemn him to the cross. The church is stripped of all the beautiful colors and fabrics. We leave a bare church- a silent congregation. The children are shushed and we walk out, our eyes lowered so that we won't be tempted to speak.
Lord, bless us this Holy Week so that we may open ourselves in the silence to accept your word. Amen.
The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.
The first week of spring is here! Spring awakens a world of beauty in nature as well as within our souls. We ask for restoration of soul and mind. Guide our lives to see the new areas of growth you have planted for us. Change our thoughts to be clear and focused on your abundant blessings. Refresh our lives with thirst for your word and guidance. Brighten our days to see opportunities for new experiences and learnings. We thank you for spring, a time of re-birth and renewal; a time for earthly and spiritual beauty.
As spring approaches and we get back to normalcy with 5 whole consecutive days of school, we anxiously anticipate spring break. But during this time, do we really properly prepare our minds to comprehend the magnitude of the Easter Sunday? Let these upcoming weeks be for you a time of great spiritual revival, and let your mind be filled with the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us remember the incredible sacrifice he made for our sins, so that everyone of God's children may bow down in praise of the Almighty. Take this time to make sure YOU are ready to comprehend the magnitude of the sacrifice our Lord made on the Cross for your sins.
Change my thinking.
Dislodge the lies put into my mind by the harsh judgments of others – and of myself.
Help me to let go of the dark strongholds in my life that fill my spirit with anger, resentment and unforgiveness.
Help me to remember that forgiveness is a choice I can make. It does not erase the wrong, but it frees me from the dark grip it has on me.
Help me to open my heart to you, and to grasp the good strongholds of your light, your words, and your healing.
Change my thinking, Lord. Open my heart – and my mind -- to you.
Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4: 31-32. The Message.
I am sad today. Some things have happened that disappointed and frustrated me. There are times when I simply want to walk away from a situation or a group. I think we all feel that way sometimes. Does God feel that way? From our reading of scripture, we know that God has expressed feelings of disappointment, frustration, and even anger. BUT, God never walks away. God has never abandoned us, and God never will.
Patient and loving God, thank you for loving us and for always reaching out to us- always, even when we turn away. Please help me to see the ways that I disappoint you and help me to follow you more closely. Grant me patience with others so that I may be a blessing for them and that they may be blessings for me. May your kingdom of mercy, forgiveness, and joy be more and more a reality! Amen.
Posted by Towson United Methodist Church at 6:59 AM
Grace is a funny thing. It’s one thing that makes absolutely no sense in this world. It’s something that none of us deserve, and yet God freely chooses to give it to us, no questions asked. But most of us think this is not enough. We feel we need to earn grace without realizing that all we need to do is just accept it.
Baptist theologian Charles Stanley offers this experience of what grace is like. When he was in seminary, one of his professors passed out the final exam in his class with instructions to all the students that they had to read the entire exam carefully before they started answering the questions.
It became evident that this exam would be one of the hardest the seminarians had ever encountered. They wondered how they would ever pass this barrage of increasingly difficult questions…until they reached the final page. It said: “Now that you have read the entire exam, you have a choice: you may either take the test as written, or simply sign your name at the bottom of this page, and in so doing receive an ‘A’ on this exam.”
Dr. Stanley recalled that it took him the better part of the day to get over this. If the professor’s goal was to demonstrate how grace works, he certainly achieved it. No one deserved to get an “A” just for signing his or her name on an exam, but the professor offered it.
Mind you, not everyone accepted this gift. One student took the exam and got a C-plus. Not a bad effort, considering how hard the test was…but he could just as easily have gotten an A.
God gives us the gift of grace. But the real question is not why God chooses to do this. The real question is whether or not we are going to accept the gift.
Happy St. Patrick's Day
Legend has it that St. Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate the concept of the Trinity: one plant with 3 leaves as a metaphor for one God in 3 persons. It's a charming story and may be true. What is true about St. Patrick was his ability to speak the good news of Christ and to live that gospel message. He loved the Irish people, understood them, spoke their language, and was able to connect with them. He didn't try to force them to become like other Christians, but interpreted the faith in ways that were authentic to their culture.
Amazing and awesome God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thank you for the men and women who speak about and live out the good news of your salvation. Help us to follow the model of St. Patrick and love people where they are and as who they are. In the name of Jesus our Lord, Amen.
Regardless of the temperature or the weather, the sun declares that Spring is near. The angle of the sun is shouting to me that the winter is almost over. It reminds me of part of the poem prayer by St. Francis of Assisi.
Most High, all-powerful, all good, Lord!
All praise is yours, all glory, all honour and all blessing.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through all that you have made,
and first my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and light you give to us through him.
How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendour!
Of you, most High, he bears the likeness.
How Will I Fill in the Blank?
I have conquered my to-do list. I have scheduled, planned, organized, and worked until every item is checked off. What a feeling of freedom and victory. Now I have time to _____________ .
How will I choose to fill in that blank?
God has made – and saved -- each of us – for a purpose. He has equipped us with all the gifts we will ever need to be who He needs us to be in this world. The work has already been done. The lists have been checked off. Every blessing has been given to us. To you.
But, wait. There is one more thing – and it’s a big one. God asks us to make the choice to be obedient and live the life He made us to live. We all live at the mercy of our choices, and there is no power in our belief in God unless we have the power to walk away from Him. To fill our time – His time -- with lists to be checked off. It’s our choice. Your choice.
How will you spend your time today? How will you choose to fill in the blank?
In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk – better yet, run! – on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline – not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick to mend fences. (Ephesians 4:1-3 The Message).
Do you ever ask God to take away your pain? That pain may be caused by the death of someone dear to us, a diagnosis of a serious illness, broken relationships, disappointing behavior of a family member or friend, or not getting that job you had wanted. No one escapes pain during their life time. Where do you turn when you are experiencing pain? Some people try to ease their pain with food, or alcohol. Some withdraw from family and friends. Others may turn to God. God doesn't promise us a life without pain, but he does promise he will be there for us. During painful times, I find that I become closer to God. I know when I ask him for strength, he will give it to me. I know God will be with me and see me through difficult times. When I look back on these painful times, I can see how God was working in my life, helping me through these difficulties.
When I pray you answer me: you encourage me by giving me the
strength I need. Psalm 138:3
When I pray you answer me: you encourage me by giving me the
strength I need. Psalm 138:3
Posted by Towson United Methodist Church at 11:56 AM
IN SEARCH OF COLOR
This winter has been hard for many people. If we aren't looking at white snow, it's the dirty snow that has been plowed. The trees, grass, and plants are drab brown or grey, and in most cases, covered with white or dirty snow. The ice has been scary to walk or drive upon, but it does sparkle on the few clear days and nights. Otherwise, the sky has been low with blue and darker clouds.
Help! I'm in need of color. Last week I was on the hunt to find it. We found a conservatory to walk through that had palms, ferns, and beautiful orchids. It was refreshing for my weary eyes. A small paradise of life found surrounded by winter's cold and dullness.
God is everywhere - found in the snow, the ice, the cold, and dark days of winter. But I don't seem to notice God's hand until I'm awakened by the magnificence of nature's color. Lord, help me to see you in the people, the animals, and in the nature that is close around me, no matter the color or the temperature. But I do thank you for the moments and opportunities that sparkle and grab me to remind me you are still here.
I was feeling apprehensive. My brother was coming to see me for a few hours while he was in town. We were going to lunch together. Ordinarily I’d have been excited. We have a good relationship; sibling rivalry is a thing of the past at our age. But I was in the midst of a struggle, and I knew it was too intense to ignore. Oh, it was no secret—we both knew about it. Indeed, that’s one of the reasons he was coming—to be supportive. But I didn’t want to spend the time together talking round and round about my problem. I had a need to share the positives in our lives, and enjoy the fact that he was there. But as heavy as my heart was, I feared that wasn’t likely to happen.
Then suddenly, as I waited for him, there was another person there. I’d seen her around and had casually spoken with her. She faced some similar concerns as I had. She had picked up on that and she asked me how I was doing. She very gently shared some thoughts and ideas and suggestions. I found myself sharing with her some of the things I would have unloaded on my brother.
When he arrived, my apprehensions had vanished. Oh, we talked of them briefly, but they were no longer the big elephant in the room. We could share some deep fellowship together. That casual unexpected meeting with a sensitive acquaintance had been like a dose of medicine—or more accurately, like a touch of God’s grace. What I had needed from my brother, God had already supplied through another person. The day had become so good already; it could only get better.
God is there for us and with us in moments we least expect and in ways we never calculated. The Psalmist said it well: “Lord, you have searched me and known me.” Psalm 139:1 Be open to God’s grace touching your life on surprising contacts and widening circles.
As a junior in college in 1975, I had the opportunity to visit the Taize Community in southern France. In the summer, thousands of young adults from all over Europe went as they still do today to camp out in tents and to spend a few days or a week there in order to experience God’s presence. Worship was a memorable experience. The church holds over 2,000 people and was built by German Christians as a sign of reconciliation from Germany to France. (Brother Roger Schutz, the founder of Taize, hid Jews in his home during WWII). The church had a huge organ and we would sing simple songs and Psalms together in various languages, which was helpful for people like me who did not know any other language but English.
Something really good happens when people fervently pray and sing together, seeking God’s will and presence in their individual and common lives. I have been blessed other times during my life in which worship together seemed to come alive and take on a life of its own. When we come focused on God, praising and worshiping God together, the experience is palpable. Worship in the chapel on Ash Wednesday and the last couple of Sundays had some of that indescribable feeling of transcendence and nearness mixed in. It seems that God can do something with us and in us when we come together focused on Christ in our common life. May our prayers together rise to be our living sacrifice of praise at TUMC.
Posted by Towson United Methodist Church at 12:14 PM