Trick Or Treat

Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? Luke 11:37-52   As a child I remember Halloween as a fun night. Growing up in a small town it wasn’t unusual to be out late but on Halloween we actually had something to do; walk the entire town and get as much candy as possible. Needless to say we had a lot of candy, some of which never got eaten. It never dawned on me then that how much candy we ended up with was determined by two factors; the number of doorbells we rang and how the host distributed the goods. Some people held out a big bucket of candy and allowed us to take what we wanted. This gave us the opportunity to pick and choose. Others would keep the bucket close and rationed out the pieces. Hopefully we got something we liked to eat. Today I wonder what determines whether we allow the trick or treaters to take what they want or whether we control what they receive? No doubt, if we allow trick treaters to take what they want some will take far more than what they need and perhaps the host will run out before the night is over. If however the host chooses to ration the goods she may end up with far more candy left over than she intended to have. What I do understand is that as the receiver, giving should not be taken advantage of and as the giver; giving isn’t so much about who controls the output of goods. Having been in both positions, what’s more important is the experience within me during the exchange.

So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.‘But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practised, without neglecting the others. Luke 11:37-52

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Fresh Flowers

‘No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar, but on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. Luke 11:33-36  A friend of mine once told me that when she lived in Seattle Washington she always made sure there were fresh flowers on her kitchen table. The flowers were not just for her but her family and visiting friends as well. When it comes to the number of cloudy days, Seattle ranks fifth averaging over 200 per year. The fresh flowers helped my friend see light when there was no light.  We know that cloudy days don’t negate the light that emanates from the sun. For the believer Christ is light. However like those cloudy days in Seattle, the light that is inside of us sometimes needs help to shine. We see and experience so much in this world which can sometimes leave us feeling as if that light is dimming. Blessed are we when the light of Christ is fully within us and everything we see and experience is interpreted by that light and not by the darkness that sometimes surrounds us.

Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.’ Luke 11:34,36

Seeing Again

‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Mark 10:46-52 Ever notice how everything in Marks Gospel seems to happen immediately? Bartimaeus wanted to see again and immediately, because of his faith regained his sight. It seems clear that Bartimaeus wasn’t always blind. At some earlier point in his life he had vision and for reasons unknown to us he lost his sight. Who among us has not experienced a period of “blindness,” an inability to see the things right in front of our veiled eyes. It can be scary, confusing and frustrating. Life certainly can be like that sometimes. The good news is that we can do exactly what Bartimaeus did, and in faith call Jesus out to help us “see” again. For God would much rather we follow him with our eyes wide open than eyes wide closed.

Psalm 34:4-8

I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
   and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant;
   so your faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord,
   and was saved from every trouble.
The angel of the Lord encamps
   around those who fear him, and delivers them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good;
   happy are those who take refuge in him. 

Jeremiah 31:9

With weeping they shall come,
   and with consolations I will lead them back,
I will let them walk by brooks of water,
   in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;
for I have become a father to Israel,
   and Ephraim is my firstborn. 

Neighbors

“Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” ...‘Go and do likewise.’ Luke 10:25-37  The lawyer in this passage of Luke thought he was being rather smart by asking Jesus “Who is my neighbor?” However, his question reveals that what he was asking, is about who is to be the neighbor that he should love. It’s one of those kinds of questions that has the potential to separate and divide the haves and have-nots, the righteous and sinners; if we allow our sense of who we are, to be defined by the world’s standards rather than by God.  I like the way Jesus addresses the question with a question after first telling a parable about four men. Jesus challenges the lawyer to identify himself in the parable. Of course the lawyer would not see himself beaten at the side of the road. How many of us would? He could however see himself as the Priest or the Levite. That is until he realizes that both in the story show more folly than compassion as would be expected from a Priest or Levite. At the very least, Jesus’ question briefly forces the lawyer to identify with the Samaritan (considered to be “unclean”). The parable helps the lawyer and us to understand simply, that the one who acts is the neighbor. At all times, each of us is to be the neighbor because in Christ it’s who we are. A scripture from Ecclesiastes 10:1-18  …folly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place, really begins to take shape in times of need. We don’t always have the luxury of determining who will help us. Perhaps one day we may find our selves “fallen at the hands of robbers.” Which of the three would we want to pass by? Is it not the one who acts on our behalf?

Matthew 7:1-2  “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”

After a somewhat long reflective morning, I opened this blog site and new I needed to share this one with you. It was just what I needed and I hope you will find it equally encouraging and inspirational in your walk with Christ.

Morning Story and Dilbert

Beginning today I will no longer worry about yesterday.
It is in the past and the past will never change.
Only I can change by choosing to do so.

Beginning today I will no longer worry about tomorrow.
Tomorrow will always be there, waiting for me to make the most of it.
But I cannot make the most of tomorrow without first
making the most of today.

Beginning today I will look in the mirror and I will see a person worthy of my respect and admiration.
This capable person looking back at me is someone I enjoy spending time with and someone I would like to get to know better.

Beginning today I will cherish each moment of my life.
I value this gift bestowed upon me in this world and I will unselfishly share this gift with others.
I will use this gift to enhance the lives of…

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Yesterday And Today

by the grace of God I am what I am. 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 I really love this statement by Paul. Some of the people of Corinth may not have liked who he was or what he’d done, but he makes it very clear that his message wasn’t about him anymore. It’s about God’s decision to use Paul’s gifts so that others may seek God. Previously, Paul’s heart was in the right place, but his head (thinking) was someplace else. Many of us fall into this category in some or all areas of our life. Who but God understands this about us even when we don’t see this about ourselves? While Paul attributes his past experience and current ministry to one “untimely born”, he realizes his journey is exactly where God always intended it to be. Perhaps by his own description of his life he wishes his path could have been different, but he has accepted the fact that he is what he is today, because of that path. In fact his yesterdays and his todays go together – because except for the “dead”, today doesn’t come without yesterday. Today in this world the conflict of heart and mind isn’t unusual. But even to the “untimely born”, God will bring the heart and mind in to one place for the glory of his name and every day we are given is an opportunity to follow the Lord. Thus as believers, like Paul, minding what we were yesterday, should with praise encourage the question; “What are we today?”

Psalm 1

Happy are those
   who do not follow the advice of the wicked,… but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
   

Cloud Of Unknowing

‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.’ Job 38:1-7, 34-41  This was the beginning of God’s response to Job as he struggled with the adversity that was happening in his life. As a believer, during adversity in my life, I sometimes find it very difficult to believe that God really is on my side. Perhaps it’s because I forget God’s relationship to this world, which of course includes me as well as the rest of humankind. I like to think that somewhere, at some point I was always a part of God’s grand scheme. Then there are times like today however when I feel as if God  has left me in a cloud of unknowing. I think of his servant Job and ask myself where was I indeed? Yet because of his greater plan in the midst of everything else under his authority, here I am.

Job 42:2  I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 

Are You Able?

But Jesus said to them, …‘Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ Mark 10:35-45

How many times had Jesus and the disciples sat down at a meal together feeding invited and uninvited guests? How many times had Jesus walked away from crowds trying to kill him? How many times had Jesus quieted the arrogance of the Jewish leaders simply by using the Mosaic Law as his defense? If the “cup” was only full of these kinds of experiences, we’d all be able to drink of that cup. But we know that the cup isn’t always so full. Sometimes it’s half full and other times it’s down right out empty! When James and John answered that they were in fact able to drink of that cup, my guess is they had absolutely no idea of what Jesus was referring. I think Jesus knew as well that they didn’t really know, but I believe what he heard in their answer was that they were not only able but willing. Even in hindsight of the reality of the disciples request, Jesus’ confirmation of their willingness, is a confirmation to all of us today who are yet still willing (even as we sometimes fail), to drink of that same cup. The life to come may not be about prominence. But the good news is that when God calls us in this life, through Christ we are already able, and our willingness to drink is what moves us towards that spiritual reward.

Mark 10:35-45  They replied, ‘We are able.’ So Jesus called them and said to them, …whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’ 

Psalm 91:9-16

Those who love me, I will deliver;
   I will protect those who know my name.
When they call to me, I will answer them;
   I will be with them in trouble,
   I will rescue them and honour them.
With long life I will satisfy them,
   and show them my salvation. 

Solemnity Of Our Faith

As for you, always be sober (not drunk, serious, sensible, solemn), endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully. 2 Timothy 4:5-13

Since I can remember, for a long time, I’ve been guided by my emotions. In some situations it’s been very good and in others very destructive. It is quite possible I believe, to be drunk with strong feelings, to respond emotionally in ways that either create change on one hand and/or chaos on the other. The solemnity of our faith is not to be without emotion but rather to be able to distinguish the influence our emotions can have in creating that change and/or chaos. Various groups have adopted the serenity prayer in modified versions. I think today’s scripture warrants our attention to this original and untitled serenity prayer attributed to theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, 1943.

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.

Breaking Bread

How long , O Lord? Will you forget me forever? Psalm 13

Because I don’t always do the right thing, I realize that sometimes, love needs time to respond. In retrospect, I know that in my shortcomings as a child, my mother could not ignore me forever, although at times it seemed as if she did. We lived in the same house and there were times when we did not interact with one another as much, such as in morning routines. But I grew up during a time when we always sat down together to eat at the dinner table. Eventually, the silence was always broken. It generally began with a question like “Would you pass the rice please?”

Food brings people together. Physically or spiritually it’s one of those common denominators in all Christian faiths. Some denominations break bread once a month, others once a week and some every day. However,”Breaking bread” is more than what we experience in our brick and mortar houses of worship. If we are the house in which Christ lives, in his steadfast love, he breaks bread with us and this is what we should also experience every time we share a meal with one another. How long will you hide your face from me? (Psalm 13) – only until the next meal.

Luke 9:1-17 But he said to them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ …And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled.