Hopefully Devoted: While You Wait

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Waiting is inevitable.

What we do with it is a choice.

Already this morning, I found myself waiting before I could go have “before-surgery-prayer” with someone at the hospital. Then on the way home, I had to stop for a school bus loading a dozen children.

Waiting is not only inevitable, it is inconvenient—we always seem to be waiting when we’d rather be doing something else.

So what can we do while we wait?

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We can read. We can pray. We can sing. We can pace (getting steps is always a good thing). We can talk to the others who are waiting around us.

These are the productive things we can do.

But we can also stew, grouse, complain, belly-ache, whine, and generally make everyone around us as miserable with the inconvenience as we are.

I know these things are options, because I’ve gone there way too many times myself.

Tucked away in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he makes reference to “redeeming the time” (5:16). This echos the Old Testament prayer of the Psalmist: “Teach us to use wisely all the time we have (Psalm 90:12).”

So how will you use your time, especially your waiting time, today?

May we all come to productive and wise usage…we’ll be happier for it…and God will be pleased.

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Hopefully Devoted: Jesus Loves Me

The story is told that when the theologian, Karl Barth, was asked to sum up his voluminous theological writings, he responded with, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”

I have a younger colleague who’s historical and theological knowledge blows me away. He is quite capable of using all the big words and complicated concepts…but he can also explain it to me—and I’m about as simple as they come.

There are those who are impressed and feed on the complicated: like a riddle needing to be solved, but there are those who long for the simple truth, the bottom line. Perhaps that is one of the reasons Jesus reached for a child and held them up as the paragon for faith.

When it’s all been said and done…and Jesus did just that…the truth that matters most is we are loved by the God of heaven who wants a relationship with us, wants to bless us, wants to bring us joy. He knows our name and our frame.

Why do we have to make it any more complicated than that?

Hopefully Devoted: How much love?

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The trial of a serial killer has captured the attention of most of the people in my little town. Finding an impartial jury has not been easy. Opinions are expressed in the morning coffee gatherings, in the papers, and on the regional news.

I met recently with a group who were close to one of the victims. Very early into our meetng, one of people spoke up: “I have a question. Do I have to pray for that guy?”

Easy answer: no.

But I’m not into easy answers.

I helped my questioning friend to tease out what she was really wanting to ask. She was somewhat resistant—seeking to hide the truth she was trying to avoid. But we finally got there. “Do I have to forgive him?”

What followed was an honest discussion about forgiveness. No one was comfortable…needing to forgive can do that.

As we were wrapping up our meeting, a new question surfaced: Do I have to like him?

Even easier answer: no!

Scripture says nothing about liking someone. I don’t think we’re wired to like everyone.

But we have to care about them. We have to love them.

Loving someone…caring for them…praying for them doesn’t mean we have to like them—and we certainly don’t have to like or condone what they did.

Perhaps the only thing we can pray for them is that they will find the strength to face the consequences of their actions.

If I did something horribly wrong I would hope someone prayed that much for me.

Hopefully Devoted: Rewards

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Rewards.

We all want them. But do we want the right ones, from the right people?

Jesus has been asked by his disciples for lessons on prayer. There is a bit of irony in their request. The Jewish people prayed…a lot!

But what were they missing? What was Jesus directing them to see?

Jesus calls them to remember what they already know: the commandments. The first commandment addresses their need to put God first…and only.

If the prayers of the people are intended to impress others with the level or depth of their spirituality, then they are not directing their prayers to the Great I Am. Are the ones they are trying to impress going to be able to answer their prayers, meet their needs?

What reward is there in that kind of praying? If we wow others with the wordiness and theological prowess of our prayers, then we have received the reward we sought: we made an impression.

But our needs remain unmet.

Jesus tells them about making sure their relationship with God is first, and when they do the rewards: what they need will come.

Now that’s a reward system I can support!

 

 

Hopefully Devoted: Hard Pressed

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Every Sunday morning during worship, we do a kids’ focus time called, Sermon in the Sack. Well, that’s what I call it. I’ve heard rumors others refer to it as “Stump the Pastor.”

Each week someone provides me with an item carefully hidden in a paper bag that I am given a few minutes to ponder before I present a spiritual/biblical lesson about to the children.

Yesterday I opened the bag as I was calling the children to the front.

Now let me preface what comes next by saying I’m not a cook. I love cooking shows. Dream of being able to make meals that amaze my family and friends. But they all know better: I’m a kitchen dunce and disaster.

So I opened the bag and found a garlic press. I’m not going to lie: I was impressed I even knew what it was. I knew immediately what direction I was going to go.

The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 4, seeks to encourage the people who are going through persecution. He uses his own series of trials and times in prison as an example for them. He tells them:

8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body (NIV).

And it occurred to me that I’m a little like garlic. I’m not useful if I remain in the bulb. I only make a difference when my outer shell is peeled away and I’m pulverized. The lessons I learn through life’s crushing experiences become the moments when grace and mercy shine through.

It’s not difficult to follow God and trust in his provision when things are sunny and going well—what about the times of shadow and storm? What about the times when pain is great and confusing, and the future is terrifying with its uncertainty?

Hold on weary one. No matter what happens, no matter how dark the night, no matter how crushing the thing is you’re going through: you are not abandoned, nor will you be destroyed.

Pra

Hopefully Devoted: Who is my neighbor?

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One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25, NLT)

When the expert in the Law asked Jesus what he MUST do to inherit eternal life, Jesus asked his own question: What does the Law tell you? (Answering a question with a question makes my husband crazy!)

The man quickly demonstrated his knowledge: Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. And, love your neighbor as yourself.

Ding, ding, ding.

He probably should have stopped there, but…endeavoring to find out the least he had to do with the least amount of people…he asked the question of clarification: and just who is that?

So Jesus told him the story of the Good Samaritan.

Readers Digest version: A guy heads out on a business trip. Robbers attack him, beat him, and leave him to die. A couple of religious types avoided getting involved by passing on the other side of the street—can’t get too close!

Jesus then introduced the most unlikely of heroes, a despisssssssssssssed (hiss like a snake when you say that) Samaritan. And he does everything to care for the man—he hows him mercy.

Who is your neighbor?

A.N.Y.O.N.E. And everyone you can extend the hand of mercy to.

And how do we love that neighbor?

This afternoon while I took (yet again) the grandson’s dog out to do his business, a thought popped up through my grumbling. He says he love the adorable mutt, but only puts words to that love when it’s convenient or fun. He’s nowhere to be found when there’s puke or poop to clean up, or when it crimps his plans.

Love isn’t conditional or convenient. Love costs. Love changes the lover and the beloved.

There is no how or who, why or when—Our neighbor is everybody else and we love them by seeing them, not avoiding them, and offering them the amazing love of the Father.

Prayer thoughts: God, I confess I don’t always leap to love. Sometimes I wish someone else would do the tough stuff. But you never fail to love me—no matter what mess I’m in. Thanks. Sink your love deep into my awareness until I don’t worry about the least I have to do, but live into your fullness until that’s what people see in me. Amen.