Christian, devotion, faith, Fear, Martin Luther, Presbyterian Church (USA), Psalm, Psalms, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for October 14, 2017

As you walk west up the streets of Edinburgh’s “Royal Mile” an imposing figure looms before you; The Edinburgh Castle. Standing on a craggy volcanic rock, it has been a place of refuge and symbol of power for at least 3000 years. Above the drawbridge gate there  is a crest with inscription written in Latin; Anemone me impugned laces sit, which means, “No one attacks me with impunity.”

As I read those words in this, the 500th year of Luther’s birth, I recalled his great hymn, “A mighty fortress is our God,  A bulwark never failing.” 

God is our refuge and our strength,” the Psalmist wrote, “very present help in time of trouble. Therefore we will not fear.” (Psalm 46: 1&2a)

We live in a very fearful time. The late Edwin Friedman described this as “a time of free-floating anxiety” manifested by a “failure of nerve”. We seek quick answers and easy fixes. Your team isn’t winning? Replace the coach. Business is lagging? Replace the CEO. Not  happy at home? Find a new spouse. But the problem isn’t “them”, it’s “us”–we just don’t have the “nerve”, the “courage” to own up to it. 

I suspect that the Psalmist faced such a time as this when he penned the words to Psalm 46. “Though the waters roar and the mountains shake …God is in the midst. (vss. 3&5) Those are truly words of grace … Glimpses of grace. 

Let we forget Whose in charge, the Psalm ends on a note of faith and conviction. Be still and know that I am God … The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. (vss. 10a & 11) That’s more than words; that’s a promise. 

Lord when my heart is troubled or worried or anxious, give me the grace to rest in Your Presence. Remind me that You are in the midst of life’s storms and turmoil. Remove me fear and give me courage as well as a peace that passes all human understanding. Amen.

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Christian, devotion, faith, Fear, I John, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace for October 13,2017

Standing in the quiet silence of the ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral,  I saw the North Sea in the distance. The  wind and mist blew in my face and I fell into a trance of wonderment of what was. The Present broke in, though, by the distant sounds of children at play, the distinctive tweet of a teacher’s whistle, and the snap of a kicked soccer ball.

Jesus once told His disciples, as they stood in awe of the grandeur of the Temple, that there would come a day when not one stone would lie upon another. It was hard for the twelve to hear and others simply didn’t want to hear it, but Jesus knew that nothing in this world last forever. Nothing. New cities are built on long forgotten ruins. In these new cities couples fall in love, babies are born, children laugh and play with each new beginning calling us, no, inviting us, into an unknown Future.  Remember this: in the midst of ruins there are always new beginnings.

Jesus’ death was not the End. It was the precursor of  a New Beginning. And even now The Story–God’s Story–has not ended. The Resurrected One continues to call, guide and lead us into a Future that is known only to God. This Future did not frighten the writer of John’s first letter. It didn’t frighten him because he knew something that we often forget. He preached it to his dying day. “God is love…and perfect love casts out fear.” L(1 John 4:9&14) Let this be today’s glimpse of grace: be not afraid. We may not know what the future holds, but we do know in Whose Hands it is held.

Lord, give me the courage to commit my whole self, my very life and the lives of all whom I love, into Your loving hands. 

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Cemeteries, Christian, Death, faith, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for October 12,2017

I like walking through old cemeteries. To me they are a kind of library. As I walk among the markers I read biographies; a name, a date of birth and of death. Sometimes an inscription tells of a profession, or whether they were the a son or daughter, husband or wife.  Some died in war. Some in youth, some in old age. Each has a story to tell. At times you sense the tragedy of a whole family, church and village. I saw this once in a small church cemetery. A mother and three of her children died of cholera within days of each other in the 1850s. I grieved for the husband and father left behind.
In the picture above it looks as if the dead look down upon the living in the city below. Maybe they do. “Good people dear as you pass by, On my cold grave do cast and eye  As you are now so once was I,   As I am now so shall you,  Prepare for death and follow me.”

Jesus once told a story about a man who never had enough. No matter how much he had, he wanted more. One night the Angel of Death took his hand.  “Tell me,” Jusus asked, who does his stuff belong to now?” (Luke 12:16-21)

“Th each is to number our days,” the Psalmist wrote, “that we might gain a heart of wisdom.  “ (90:12) A glimpse of grace. 

May that glimpse of grace be our prayer, too.

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Christian, devotion, faith, Fear, Mark, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for August 9, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Mark 8: 34-9:1

Text: For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake and the gospel, will save it. (v. 35)

My biggest regrets in life is when I played it safe; I was afraid to take a chance. Too often I was afraid, to be painfully honest. Opportunities were lost because of my fear. I cannot help but to wonder if God was disappointed in me, not in a bad sort of way, but in the way a parent feels for their child when they don’t apply themselves. It’s a disappointment born of sadness.

I think that while God understood my fears and even forgave me, I also think that God wished that I would have trusted Him more. My lack of trust diminished His glory.

I don’t know where I would have been if I had trusted more. I still struggle trusting God but I am getting better at it.

If you have trouble trusting God with your future, I will pray for you…for all who are fellow strugglers in the journey.

Lord God, give me a discerning heart and the courage needed to take Jesus seriously, for it is only in taking Him seriously that we will find Your purpose in our lives. Amen.

 

 

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Christian, devotion, faith, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace for August 7, 2017

Devotional Reading: Mark 8: 11-21

Text: The Pharisees came and began to argue with Him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test Him. (v. 11)

Proof is not faith and faith is not proof.

In today’s reading even the disciples of Jesus, His followers, wondered who He was. Had those closest to Him, who walked with Him every day, forgotten the miraculous feeding of the 5000? He asked. Had they so soon forgotten the healings, the restorations, and the everyday wonders of walking with Him? Did they, too, need “proof?” It seemed as if they did.

While we cannot always understand the events of life, but can we at least believe that God is in the mix somewhere, working out the Divine Purpose in ways beyond our understanding? Maybe God’s “back story” is yet to be revealed.

It may be that we simply need to tell ourselves, “I don’t know what God is doing or what this all means, but I know that God is faithful. God is here with me. God will show me the way when I see no way.”

I remember picking my way across a creek near my house. I looked for rocks that were above the water line. Some were slippery and best not used, but I managed to “pick” my way across the creek one step at a time. Maybe we need to “build a bridge” as we walk over troubled waters.

That little mental reminder can be a source of strength and courage and hope.

Lord, help me to never forget that You are with me in all of life’s circumstances and events. Give me the faith to trust in Your Presence. Amen.

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Christian, devotion, faith, Fear, Feeding of 5000, Mark, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for August 5, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Mark 8: 1-10

Text: They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. (v. 8)

I once hired a personal trainer to help me regain some of the strength of my younger days. He wasn’t, what I call, a “frog man” with muscles not found in nature or pictured in the back of the comic books of my childhood. He looked like a normal everyday kind of guy with no visible body fat. Our workouts were an hour, and he would encourage as well as challenge me. When I thought I could do no more, he’d ask me to do just one more. Lo and behold, I always managed to do one more!

I thought of him after reading today’s gospel story. Individual followers of Jesus, as well as groups of us, do not know how much we can really do if push comes to shove. Often we are satisfied with “good enough” instead of doing just one more.

The disciples did not know how they were going to feed the 5000. Jesus asked them to bring their resources to Him. He blessed it before giving it back to them.  “Okay, let’s see what we can do.” They did far more than they ever imagined; as a matter of fact, they had left-overs.

I am reminded of what the Risen Lord said to Paul; “My strength is made perfect in your weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9) When we say, “There’s not enough”, God says, “Yes, there is.” When we say, “I’m not enough,” God says, “Yes you are!”

Lord, Let me not see scarcity but plenty. Let me not be afraid to try even if I fail. Let me never think that I am not enough, because You know that I am. Amen.

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Alcoholics Anonymous, Baptism, Christian, devotion, faith, Mark, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for July 29, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Mark 6:1-13

Text: And (Jesus) was amazed at their unbelief. (v. 6)

Years ago I picked up a copy of Twenty-four Hours a Day, a devotional book for recovering alcoholics. I picked it up because I was volunteering as a spiritual director at an adolescent residential treatment center based on the twelve step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. I found the book to be one of the most powerful insights into developing a childlike faith that I had ever read before or since. I have given away countless copies to individuals who want to develop a deeper faith.

The very first step is to acknowledge our powerless and give ourselves to a Higher Power, however we may understand that Higher Power. We have to be dependent upon Someone besides ourselves. This is very counter-cultural, especially in America where I do too many funerals that have the ballad of individualism “I Did It My Way” included in one way or another.

In today’s reading Jesus sent His disciples out traveling light, we nothing more than the bare essentials and trust in the grace of God–as they understood Him (or, perhaps, Her!). And when the disciples returned they couldn’t contain their joy and their surprise for they were able to “cast our demons”, make a real healing difference in the world. Their experience contrasted the experience of the people in Jesus’ home town, a place where He could do no wonders because of their lack of faith–trust in anything other than themselves.

I believe that we have to constantly remind ourselves that we don’t know the answers, can’t figure much of anything out and have to ask God to show us the way. My experience has been that when we can humble ourselves to do that, that life gets a whole lot easier and better.

Lord, my way isn’t working working so well. Show me Your Way, the Way of Truth and Life. Amen.

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