April 11

“A major part of the Christian journey is learning how to handle those times when the heavens are locked, when our lives are weighted with the winter garments of despair, pain, worry and loss. We try desperately to convince ourselves that we don’t serve a God who has absented himself from the listening post, who has hung up a “Shop’s Closed” sign and taken off to vacation somewhere in the balmy south.” -Karen Burton Mains

I am angry at God right now. My sister’s husband has cancer. He was diagnosed 2 years ago, but the past few months his health has declined and his symptoms have gotten worse. My sister said to me tonight she is watching her husband die. I am not the first one to be mad at God. I am not the first one to not understand human suffering. Sometimes it is easy to look the other way when others suffer, but not when your own sister is describing to you about her husband literally starving to death in front of her. I feel so helpless. I have been praying for them since the diagnosis. I can listen to her cry and yell and be angry. I know God is there in our suffering, but sometimes it sure is hard to feel it.  I can’t fix the suffering for my sister and her husband, unfortunately, no one can. But I can try to “be” there for her. I can check in on her, even if I think maybe it isn’t a good time or I may be bothering her. I can cry with her. I can just listen to her and ask others to pray for both of them. Here on earth we can be God’s arms to give a hug, or shoulder to cry on, or a hand to hold. We can be God’s ears, to be present and listen.

“The literal translation of the words, ‘pray always’ is ‘come to rest’…This rest, however has little to do with the absence of conflict or pain. It is a rest in God in the midst of a very intense daily struggle”. - Henri Nouwen

God’s spirit is right along side helping us along…He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of wordless signs, our aching groans. Romans 8:26-27 (The Message)

Gracious Father, help us to be the vessels for you here on earth when others are suffering. Help them to feel Your presence through us. Amen.

March 28

            Consider for a moment your feet. Without them, we would not be able to do basic tasks such as walk, kick, or drive a car. Our feet are very useful parts of the body, yet we often take them for granted, noticing only when they hurt – and when they do, we know that it’s time to get off them as soon as possible.
            The Bible has quite a selection of verses about feet. For example, Isaiah 52:7 says (paraphrased in Romans 10:15), “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” We are also often called to lay ourselves down at Jesus’s feet, and to be His hands and feet in the world.
            Jesus walked all over Judea and Galilee, delivering His message to any and all who came. And when, at long last, the time came for Jesus to be crucified, His feet had to support not just His body, but also the cross on which He would die. I can only imagine how much His feet hurt by the time He got to Calvary, but He knew what this would accomplish, so I can also imagine He knew the suffering would be worth it to save the world. May we honor His act of sacrifice by being the feet (and hands) this world desperately needs.

March 21

     Giving thanks when things don’t go as we planned may be a challenge. Sometimes God puts others people in our lives to help us learn to do so. A few weeks ago, our Women’s Retreat was scheduled on a weekend that was rainy and very foggy up in the mountains of Pennsylvania. Some people talked negatively about how the fog was affecting the weekend. A few days after the retreat, a wise friend shared that as she thought back over the weekend, she said she realized she was thankful for the rain and fog. The reason being that she thought the women on the retreat spent more time together in the large meeting room enjoying talking with each other. If the weather would have been sunny and warm, many people would have gone outside and not spent as much time together. My friend was able to be thankful even when the weather conditions were not what we had hoped they would be. I pray that I can be one of those people who can give thanks in all circumstances.

Father, teach us to be thankful in all circumstances.

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
                                                                                                    Thess. 5:18

March 14

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps
Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

I recently attended my uncle’s memorial service. I was close to him when I was a teenager and young adult. As the years went on, he   remarried a woman who turned out to be the love of his life. When he remarried, his new family seem to literally swallow him up, and I felt some resentment that he was taken away from “my” family. He and I were never that close again. 
As I sat there at his service and listened to person after person from his “new” family speak from their hearts about what a positive role model he was, what an influence he had on them, and how loved and supported they felt by him, I had an epiphany. God’s plan for my uncle was to be there for them, not us. My sister had the exact same epiphany during the service. Somehow, acknowledging that this was God’s plan brought us some peace and understanding. This was not our plan, but it was God’s plan and purpose for my uncle.
He was a man of faith most of his life, but like many of us, his faith grew stronger as he got older. He was an artist, and the picture above is from one of his drawings of the church where he was baptized and grew up in Cincinnati. He felt a special connection to the church and sometimes returned there when he came in town to visit. Living out his faith and beliefs were what his new family experienced when they were around him. 
Isn’t this what we all hope will be said about us? Are we living our faith, loving and supporting others on their faith journeys, even when it isn’t our plan, but God’s plan?
Loving God, Thank You for revealing Your plan to us to help us understand and give us the courage and strength to continue on our earthly journeys.  Amen.


February 26

            We are living in a time of what used to be considered unimaginable horror, but which has now become so normalized that we’re now numbed to it all. We feel that whatever is happening is so far beyond our ability to do anything about that we either do nothing or do something safe such as offering thoughts and prayers. There is nothing wrong at all about offering thoughts and prayers; they are a way of letting people know that we are with them. But there comes a point when thoughts and prayers are simply not enough. Actions must, at some point, accompany the prayers.
            James 2:17 says, “Thus also, faith without works is dead.” Many biblical scholars have taken this to mean that works consistent with the ideals of the Christian faith should naturally follow if we have true faith; if not, then our faith is empty and meaningless, and we are lying to God and ourselves. It is just as important to note, however, that good works by themselves do not guarantee us salvation. The two – faith and works – must necessarily be joined together.
            I do not claim to have all the answers to what ails our society, but I do know that it is not enough just to offer thoughts and prayers, and nothing else. At some point, we will have to act on our faith and let our good works flow through the world. If we are going to claim that we are Christians, then it is high time that we started believing and acting the way Jesus taught us.


February 18

Ecclesiastes 3:1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven

Does this include winter? The season of winter has a bad reputation. Most people I ask would say winter is their least favorite season. Not too many of us embrace winter: too dark, too cold, too long. Ice, snow, blustery winds. But we don’t want to miss the gifts of winter: the quietness of snow falling, the icy trees that glisten in the bright sun and look like Christmas decorations, the crisp clean air, the clear blue sky, and the clear night sky that reveals stars not seen in other seasons. 

A former TUMC pastor said “winter offers us a time to reflect, remember and give thanks. There is a grace in the quietness and solitude of winter which is unlike any other season.” I find it interesting that Lent, a time of reflection, begins in winter. Many folks try to escape winter, but I think God gave us winter to teach us the lessons of slowing down, refreshing, reflecting and resting. 

The Lord says, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” Isaiah 55:10-11

“May your winter places be kissed by light.” - John O’Donohue


February 8

Ice and freezing rain are not usually amusing. They are dangerous, inconvenient, and miserable. But, I had to laugh at my dog and his reaction to the ice this past week. He was so obviously disgusted by the whole thing! He refused to go down our porch steps, refused to go into the street, and gingerly stalked around the crystalline grass. I'm grateful that he is small and easily carried. I'm grateful for the giggles in an otherwise grim weather event.

Thank you, Lord, for my funny little dog. Thank you that we didn't take a tumble down those steps. Thank you for the warmth of our house when we returned after our adventurous walk. Amen.


January 29

We live in an age in which it seems the predominant emotion is hatred, and nobody is immune to it. Hatred can range from the seemingly trivial, as in “I hate it when I have to restart my computer,” to the much more serious “I hate those [fill in the blank] people! They don’t belong here! Let’s get rid of them!”
            Hatred is one of those things that should not belong in a Christian (or any other) society, yet it keeps cropping up. And the sheer negativity of the hatred is often enough to overpower its opposite, love. I think it should be reasonably clear that the God as revealed by Jesus is a God of love, and it must grieve Him when he sees so much hatred in the world.
            The Bible is also clear on what it says about hatred. 1 John 4:20 reminds us, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” And Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.”

            We, as humans and, thus, as children of God, have a choice. We can either choose love or hate. And though hate may be the easier choice, it is also the path that leads to ruin. Therefore, let us choose love; it may be more difficult than hate, but the end result will be far better.


January 21

     Encouraging others is a way of serving God. It shows that you value that person, and you want to help them be the person that God wants them to be. We all need encouragement at some time in our life. A few words of encouragement can make a difference to a person who is struggling. Ask God to guide you to those people who need encouragement. Sometimes God nudges us to encourage people who have hurt us. This can be a challenge, but God will help you find the words. Encourage someone in your life today!
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

                                                                                                         I Thessalonians 5:11                                                                     

January 14

We are renewing our baptism at church this month. This got me thinking about water. We cannot live without it. We often take it for granted, we sometimes don’t even notice it. 
It can be refreshing, cold, hot, frozen, scarce, plenteous, and powerful. It can be both beautiful and destructive. When we do pay attention to it, often we are mesmerized, captivated, and soothed by it.  Many of my friends as well as my sister love the beach and consider it one of their favorite places to be. The waves continually come in and go out and you can look forever toward the distant horizon. The sound of water can be very calming and you hear it differently in lapping waves, impressive waterfalls, streams gurgling over rocks, and rain falling gently on a roof. I also love the reflective quality of water - sun or moonlight shining on water has delighted humankind for years. Light and water can even combine to form a dazzling rainbow.
I think when God created water, his intention was to remind us of Him. He used water over and over again in the Bible as a symbol for many things including spiritual cleansing, new birth, life and deliverance. Water and God have many of the same characteristics. Something to ponder.

Isaiah 55:1 
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters…”

Gracious Father,

Help us to see You when we look at water. Help us not to take it for granted or waste it. Help us to remember You and that it reflects Your beauty.