Christian, Congregationalist, devotion, Hurrican, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for October 16, 2017

I was supposed to be on the island of Iona, Scotland tonight, but I’m not. You see, a funny thing happened on the way to Iona–a little hurricane named Ophelia. No ferries went to Iona today so I am spending the night in the nice little port city of Oban, hoping for better weather tomorrow. 

Plans don’t always work out as we intend. Unexpected and uncontrollable events occur. So what do we do? One passenger ranted, and swore at a very patient attendant. Did she think the attendant could control the weather? Her tirade didn’t change a thing. It may have made them a little worse. My family will be the first to tell you tha I’m no saint, but when my turn came simply asked the attendant for suggestions. Then I made the best of it.

I think that anyone who takes Jesus seriously needs to see the reflection of God in the face of another. Berating someone reveals a hole in our own character. We need to constantly remind ourselves to roll with punches, or as Jesus’ follower, Paul, wrote, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances (for to face life’s challenges with such an attitude) is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5: 16-18, amplified)

Lord, teach me how to develop a thankful heart, one that reflects Your love for me as well as for others. Remind me to rejoice always, pray constantly and rejoice even in the midst of disappointment. Amen. 

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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, Lost luggage, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for October 10, 2017

My luggage didn’t make it with me to Scotland. I had a hunch that it would miss its flight, or rather my flight. With a plane delayed from take off by an hour and 51 minutes, my hunch proved correct. Before even going to the baggage carousel I checked with airport claims. As I suspected, luggage MIA (Missing In Action)!  I was advised to check the luggage carousel with the other passengers on my arriving flight. I waited and waited. Soon there was only me and three unclaimed bags. 

Jesus told many stories about lost things; a son, a coin and a sheep.(Luke 15,et al). In each of those stories and others He pointed to a God that both actively searched and patiently waited. At a different time and place He said that there were others, His “sheep”, that were not of “this fold”. (John 10:16). They, too, must be found and patiently waited for. Those who take Jesus seriously are called to actively search and patiently wait for thos “sheep”, not with formulated tracts or prayers but with lives that inspire imitation. 

Lord, remind me each morning as I begin a new day that each day is a gift. Let me live in such a way that when others see me they see a true reflection of You and Your love.  Amen.

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

Glimpses of Grace for August 29, 2017:Walking in the Dark

I’ve walked in the dark a lot in my life. Maybe you have, too. I don’t mean spiritual or psychological darkness but the physical darkness of the night in homes, buildings, and wooded areas. Over the years I’ve learned a few important things.

First, be alert and watch for shadows. They often indicate drop offs or dips of one sort or another.

Second, and most importantly, slide your feet along the surface without putting your weight on the front foot so that you can keep your balance and control.  It’s a lot like ballroom dancing.

My wife and I ballroom dance. Over the years I learned that the best ballroom dancers seldom “pick up” their feet. Rather they slide them forward. This is particularly true in my case, as my wife often wears open toed shoes. Sliding my foot cuts down on toe injuries–her’s, not mine!

Third, follow the lead. In any ballroom dance, and in any walk, someone has to lead.

Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear no evil… (Ps. 23: 4) There are many dark places in life. When you walk through one, which you will, remember to watch the shadows. Slide your feet forward. Keep your balance. And follow the lead of the One “Who brought you.”

Lord, make me sensitive to Your lead in life’s “dance”. Amen.

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

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for August 11, 2017

 

 

 

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Mark 9: 14-2

Text: (Jesus) said to (the disciples), “This kind can come out only through prayer.” (v. 29)

“If all else fails, pray.” Or, “I’ve tried everything else, all I can do now is pray.” Prayer as a last resort.

Several years ago I read a little known book by Jonathan Bathke entitled Jesus>Religion. A line in that book was revelatory to me.  We rarely bother to consider whether or not our plans are God’s plans. Too often we ask God to bless our plans rather than asking God what He wants us to do.

Maybe the place to start is not with plans but with prayer. The story in Mark 9 is a difficult one. It seems that the disciples pulled every trick out of their sleeves, did everything they ever saw Jesus do, except one thing. Pray.

Some things are only possible through prayer. Every member of the 12-step recovery group knows this. Everyone who lives in extreme poverty knows this. Everyone who suffers great loss knows this. It’s just that most of us just don’t believe it.

A few weeks ago, after over three decades of being a minister, I realized that I don’t really know how to pray. So, I am asking God to teach me. And I am learning, one step at a time.

Lord, teach us to pray. Amen.

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