Joy in the Morning

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Psalm 130:6

I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

On the third day of Christmas, I awoke as I have for the past three weeks to my puppy ready to go out and greet the morning.  As I opened the door of her crate, she leapt up with joy, so happy to see me and so happy to be alive.  This small, but growing, 11-week old apricot standard poodle reminds me of our hearts and souls.

I have often thought of this Psalm 130 as one who has sat and watched in fear beside a child’s bedside, waiting for the morning, watching the clock until I could call the doctor’s office for help.  But, instead, today, I thought of it with joy not fear.  With joy, my heart rises up to greet the Lord in the morning.

When I was young, I would wake early.  The rule was in our house that I could get up any time I wanted, but I could not wake my mom until six.  I would get up before my two brothers and slip out to the back yard to the swing set.  There I would start my day as I had finished it, swinging and singing.  There was joy in the morning.

During the Christmas season we remember that we have been given a sign:  a babe in the manger.  This is the sign for us, a sign that God loves us and we are God’s children.  Throughout January, let us take this knowledge of being loved and let it grow in us like the leaping of a puppy, like the singing in the morning.  Let us live in the joy of the morning.

As we move forward into the year, let us do so with joy, filled with the love of God, remembering our baptisms.  We wait for the Lord and watch for the morning.  Like a puppy, like a child, my heart jumps with joy in the morning.

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Courage For a Life of Love

Pentecost cookiesThese are flame shaped cookies that helped us celebrate Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, 50 days after the resurrection.  We celebrate the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives.

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the breaking point.”  ~ C.S. Lewis

We all need courage to face the fears in our lives, fear of too little money, too little energy, too little knowledge to make the decisions that face us, fear of embarrassment or ridicule, fear of making a mistake, fear of losing our health, our jobs, and our loved ones.  No one is a stranger to fear.  And, some people in power or want to be in power can capitalize on that fear.  We need courage to live good lives that will please God.

Two thousand years ago, the Romans kept the peace by keeping the population in fear of the authorities.  Even the men who were the closest to Jesus of Nazareth were fearful after Jesus had been arrested, tried and convicted, and executed.  They feared for their lives.  They had been tasked with loving God and their neighbors but how can you do that if you are afraid of anyone you do not know?

And, then, something happened.  Something happened with a large sound like a rushing wind, something that was like light and fire.  Something happened that was powerful.  And, they were no longer hiding in an upper room but out on the streets, teaching, preaching, and healing.  They were once again living into the future.  They had courage to live lives that glorified God and spoke of God’s love and saving actions in Jesus Christ.

That was the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Advocate, who was the bringer of courage.  The Holy Spirit was a life changer.  In a world where we are encouraged to fear the outsider, the immigrant, the possible futures, do we need a courage that the world cannot give?  This is a courage to become more Christlike, a courage to love and serve instead of fear and hate.

This is a courage to live a life of love.  This is a courage the Holy Spirit can give.

We can pray: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.  Kindle in us the fire of your love.”


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Hope for the Future

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Love one another, even as I have loved you.  [John 13:34]

They will know you are Christians by your love.

Sometimes, the best of life seems to be captured in our memories of the past, the Good Old Days.  The best of life a hundred years ago could look a lot like a Norman Rockwell painting.  There would be communities where people knew each other, schools that taught addition and multiplication tables, and beautiful handwriting.  People would be walking to school and church, eating together at dinner time and Sunday lunches without being interrupted by the phone, texts, or TV.  This might be the best of former days.

But there was another side to life a century ago.  There was grinding poverty, discrimination against anyone of color, discrimination against women in education, as well as employment.  Those are not things I want again.  When I think of turning back the clock, I think of regaining the things that I value while keeping air conditioning, cars, the internet, and the hard earned equalities for women and minorities, and air conditioning.  I want the best of the past combined with the best of the present to form a better future.  It is my hope that we can do this.

Thinking of the Church, then and now, those who were once not a people are now a people, formed by water and word and joined by scripture, common experiences, goals, and values. Within this community, it does not matter where your people came from, whether they or you are documented.  It does not matter what kind of food you eat or language you speak in your home.  It doesn’t matter if I like vanilla ice cream and you love chocolate.  It doesn’t matter what political party you belong to or if you are an independent, or even a citizen.  It doesn’t matter if you know and honor the fashion code: “no white shoes before Easter or after Labor Day.”

In God’s house, all are welcome.  Around the Lord’s Table, all may eat and drink the mystery of the faith.

As Christians, we have a new identity in Christ.  That is our hope.  We are no longer slave or free, documented or undocumented, Republican or Democrat, red, yellow, black, brown, or white, straight or gay.  We are one in the Spirit, united in Christ.  They will know we are Christians by our love.

What if every Christian became so known for loving each other that people all around wanted to come, to sit beside us, to be our friend, and wanted to follow Christ with us?  How much more love could we show?

Let’s bring the best of the past and the present into the future in order to love God, love others, and serve the world.  That is the hope for the future.

They will know we are Christians by our love.


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We Are the Sheep of God’s Pasture

Thank you to Rev. James Wetzstein for permission to use his wonderful comic. More can be found at

Thank you to Rev. James Wetzstein for permission to use his wonderful comic. More can be found at

I don’t really like to think of myself as a sheep because they are somewhat stupid animals and I have prided myself on being a good student during my academic career.  But the truth is that I can also be dumb, either because I have no experience or knowledge of a subject or because I simply have not grasped what something means, perhaps we all can.  We can know facts without knowing what it really means.  And, I’ve been a sheep in other ways.  I’ve been known to follow fashion trends and buy things that I don’t really need but I want because it’s all the rage.  I can be a sheep.  However, being a sheep does not have to be bad if we continue to learn from Jesus and follow the right shepherd.

In today’s world, it is the same as it always has been.  We can choose who to listen to, who to follow.  We can choose on what to spend our time, our money, and our energy.  And, how we choose do this shows our priorities in life.  It shows which shepherd we follow.  Our actions reveal who we are.

Are we kind, generous, respectful, even when we disagree?  Do we help those in need?  Do we really want to know more about Jesus and more than that, to follow what he says is important.

Love God.  Love others. Serve the world.

May we be the kind of sheep who are kind.

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I am directionally challenged.  I get lost easily and even have trouble in knowing which way to turn when I get off elevators.  I am very grateful for the new technology that gives us mapping programs.  My phone uses these and even talks to me to give me the directions I need to get where I’m going, either by car or by foot.  If I make a wrong turn, it recalculates the route and will redirect me.  However, we can get off the route in ways that are not just traveling on roads but in the purpose of our lives.

John 10:1-18, Acts 9:36-43

Saul on the road to Damascus and Peter at the lakeside both saw the risen Lord and were redirected.  Both were good Jewish men, trying their best to live their lives, but they had gotten a bit lost and off track.  Saul was righteously killing people, in the name of God, of course, binding and killing those who followed ‘The Way.’.  Peter was living in fear and guilt with the horrible knowledge that he denied three times knowing Jesus, whom he loved and admired more than anyone else in the world.

My phone talks to me and tells me when to turn so that I can get where I’m going.  However, thankfully, it has never blinded me when I was going the wrong way.  Nor has it ever fed me breakfast and welcomed me back to the right path.  However, Jesus did both these things in our two passages today helping Saul and Peter to reorient their lives to the right path. He redirected them onto better paths.

Just as the mapping programs have to redirect us when we are going the wrong way, God recalculates and redirects our lives, as well.  But, just as we have to hear and follow the guidance of that mapping program, we also have to hear and follow God’s guidance.  And how do we do that?  How do we realize when we are doing the wrong thing, something that hurts rather than brings life to the community around us?

We continue to pray and meditate on scriptures and measure our lives against the teachings of Jesus to love God, love others, and serve the world.

People who breath murder and curses toward other countries or religions such as Muslims or homosexuals or other political parties are acting like Saul.  The Baptist Church that protests and preaches hate – is following Saul’s example.  Most of us do not do that — I hope none of us do, although there are lots of talk show hosts who broadcast such hatred.  I turn them off.  And, now when I do, I’ll think of the Holy Spirit saying, “Redirecting.”

Peter, on the other hand, is more understandable to many of us.  For, while we would not want to murder another person, we can understand the fear of being killed by angry mobs.  We can understand the regret for things we have done and regret for brave and good things that we have not done.

I saw an amazing historical picture of a brave man.  It was a photo of a crowd of Germans in WWII standing and holding their right hands high in a Nazi salute.  Within that huge crowd, one man stood with his arms crossed on his chest.  “Redirecting.”

Love God.  Love others.  Serve the world.

Examine yourself against these three statements.  Where could you do better?  How could you love God and people better?  How could you make the world a better place?  How can we, individually, and together make this world a better place, this community a better place?

If we have strayed, either in hate or fear or guilt, perhaps as we pray, we can hear the Spirit saying, “Redirecting, redirecting.”


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What Comforts You?

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There are times in life when we need comfort, just as the disciples did after the death of Jesus.  His death shook their world.  They seem to be huddling together in the upper room, afraid to be seen, afraid of the Roman guards.  All their hopes and dreams were smashed.  First, they were shocked by the arrest of Jesus.  Then, Peter, a loyal disciple, had denied that he even knew Jesus.  Three times, he denied him.  Then, Jesus was actually crucified and died.  The one in whom they had placed their hope was gone.

They sat together, doors closed and locked, afraid of being arrested, afraid of being tried, and afraid of being executed.  This was a very unsettling and scary time for them.  What could they do now?

You may have had some very unsettling times yourself when you were at a major cross road, where the past and the future seem disconnected.  Perhaps you have experienced a lay-off or a firing, or a divorce, or the death of a loved one.  If you have not had one of those times, you will some day.  It is part of being human.

We can find comfort in food, mashed potatoes, chocolate, or other foods that remind us of happy times and loving people.  And, we can find comfort in the company of kind people, a walk in nature, a good book, or a movie.  However, as I learned in fifteen years of walking the Hospice Road with many people, sometimes there is no personal presence or food, music, book, or movie that is strong enough to bring comfort.

When working as a hospice chaplain, I was frequently around people who are sad, sick, or grieving.  Some are in shock from receiving such a short life expectancy from the doctor.  They need more comfort than I, myself, can give.  I responded to their needs with prayer.  When praying for their comfort, I prayed that the love of God would surround them like a soft blanket and bring comfort for their souls.

What do you do when there is nothing we have that brings comfort?

Pray. The power of the Holy Spirit can give comfort that eliminates fear, brings peace and strength.  The love of God is larger than our deepest fear.

When we get to a major crossroad and don’t know what lies ahead, we can pray.  God is with us.  God will be with us, giving us the courage to go forward.  And, this comforts me.

What about you?

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Why do you wear a cross, if you do?

Wearing a Cross

We have passed through Easter and heard the good news:  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!   Death has been defeated!  The cross is empty which has gotten me thinking about crosses.

My mother collected crosses and had several favorites that she wore over and over again, such as the Jerusalem cross with the four smaller crosses that symbolized the wounds in Jesus hands and feet.  I, too, have a collection that includes several she gave me, including the one above.

In a message during Holy Week this year, a local pastor spoke of a survey of people who were wearing crosses.  Someone stopped people on the street and asked each one why they were wearing a cross and what it meant to them.  Not surprisingly, a number of answers were given, including ones that had nothing to do with Jesus, but were reflective of the beauty of the necklace or the love of the person who had given it as a gift.

How might you respond to such a question in a way that would reflect your deepest thoughts and truest feelings?  I might respond that it is a symbol of the one I follow, Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.  But I also like the answer that the cross reminds me of the love of the one who gave it to me, the God of all creation.

I wear a cross to remind me of Jesus’ sacrifice and the incredible love of God.  I wear it to remind myself that, as our forebears wrote in the Heidelberg Catechism: My only comfort is that “I belong – body and soul, in life and in death — not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins…”  I wear it to remind myself who I am and to whom I belong.  I wear it to proclaim the love of God who loves all creation.

For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life!  ~ John 3:16

If someone asked you why you wear a cross, presuming you do, what would you answer?

Peace of Christ

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Time Lords

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If I could turn back the clock, there are things I’d want to know.

But before I’d do that, I’d have to decide which clock to turn back. My office wall clock is now digital as is my bedside clock and would not give me satisfaction in running backwards, but there are other clocks, older clocks.

A cherry Grandmother’s Clock stood in my maternal grandmother’s living room, five feet tall, chiming on the quarter hour in the Westminster pattern.  It had a golden pendulum and weights, a face with the sun, moon, and stars that tracked the phases of the moon.My paternal grandmother had a much smaller, anniversary clock that sat on top of her maple console television in her double wide. It, too, tracked the phases of the moon under its glass dome. Beneath the face, a mechanism turned like an indecisive golden carousel, first one way and then another, the four golden balls held on small scimitars in constant motion.  My parents hung a school house clock in their entry.  Its wooden case marking our comings and goings as we grew and finally left the nest.  Presently, I have only digital clocks and a couple of watches to play with.  In recent years, I’ve even stored the watches and use my phone for time.

A professor showed me once how it was mathematically possible to set up molecules in a jar to move to a higher state of order, lower entropy. Time could briefly go backwards, but it was not H. G. Wells Time Machine, nor Dr. Who’s Tardis.  And, soon, the molecules returned to increasing randomness and time was on the move again in the right direction.

Although I’ve never gone backward in time, except in memory, I have lived months, or even years, in an afternoon. When I am “in the zone,” doing something I love, time speeds by. I am sure this sometimes happens for you. We become Time Lords like the Doctor, Doctor Who. When this zone releases us and we return to those caught in the molasses of ordinary time, we realize that so much more has happened to us than we can explain to anyone who was not with us.

If I could turn back the clock, I’d like to talk to my grandparents and great-grandparents. When were they caught up in such ecstasy that time warped and spun and danced at breakneck speed? After we savored those breathless moments together, I’d ask about the family tree.

When have you been swept up in ecstasy?  Overwhelmed by gratitude or joy?

Savor those moments, Time Lords and Ladies.  Savor and remember.


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Jonah and the Rose Garden


Jonah reminds me of my mother’s rose garden.  Jonah’s task to the Ninevites is a lot like weeding the rose bush bed. He didn’t want to go and I didn’t want to weed.  Have you ever been asked to do something that you really do not want to do?

Most likely, anyone who has had a parent or a boss has had this happen. When I was young , we had rose bushes on three sides of the yard. All those beds needed weeding.   It was too much for my parents alone to do.  And, my mother was partially raised by a grandmother and great aunt who had farms who believed that idle hands were a devil’s work shop.  This meant that I was obliged to spend some time pulling out Bermuda grass, Johnson grass, and lots of grasses that had no names that I knew.  To me they were all weeds.

My mother was smart enough to know if I had been lolly-gagging and not weeding my share of the garden. In that case, I was assigned an extra foot or three to weed. Unlike Jonah, I never ran away. I never went AWOL. And, I never got swallowed by a whale.

And maybe Jonah did not literally get swallowed by a whale, either. We are not exactly sure how to translate that word from Hebrew that we call ‘whale’ – it means a big fish. The writer of Jonah may have been using being in the belly of a whale as a metaphor – just as you or I, if we were very depressed might say we were trapped in a black hole, or down in a pit, or in the black hole of Calcutta – even if we’ve never been to India. To be in the belly of the whale for three days sounds like a terrible place to be.

So what? What does this humorous story have to teach us about ourselves and about God? For as the Word of God – it has a lot to say to us about our lives and about our God. So, where are we in this story?

Perhaps you are an unbeliever like the sailors or the people of Nineveh, but probably not. It is a brave unbeliever who comes through the doors of an established church — but it does happen. If so, consider how loving and merciful God is. Repent – and God will save you – for this life and the next.

We are most likely the Jonahs of the world, reluctant prophets, running from responsibilities. Perhaps in small ways.   Perhaps in larger ways.

I can sometimes be Jonah. You can sometimes be Jonah. We may try to run from God and from our responsibilities. But God is always God, always loving and forgiving, even when we hate the people God is forgiving, even when we are cross when God forgives us.

And, we may be cross when having to weed that rose garden, but we can still enjoy the beautiful flowers.  For a long time, the red rose has been a symbol of God’s love.  It also reminds me of the mercy and forgiveness of God.


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Holy Like a Pair of Scissors

Useful Scissors

The concept of being holy is somewhat scary to me but the thought of being useful to God is appealing.

What if being holy is like being the right pair of scissors for the job?  I couldn’t get by without my scissors.  I decided to round up some of the ones I use the most and take a picture for you.  And, I started thinking about scissors.

There are different scissors for different tasks we do, just as there are different people who are cut out for different kinds of jobs in the world.

Three things to remember about scissors:

1. Use the right pair of scissors for the job. I learned to never use the fabric shears for cutting paper. If you dull fabric scissors with paper, they might ruin your project by causing runs in the material. If you dull and nick haircutting scissors, the blades will chew and pull hair instead of cutting it. Use the right pair for the right job. And, I’ve found that my clippers do a better job of cutting my roses than my paper scissors or kitchen shears.

2. Take care of your tools. Clean and sharpen them.

3. And, make sure you can find them when you need them. Store them in the right place, kitchen shears in the kitchen, fabric shears in the sewing machine drawer.

That is what Holiness is all about, I think.

First, we need to understand ourselves, know what it is we do well, what we enjoy doing. Then, we need to understand our purpose.

In order to do our best, we need to be clean and sharp. This could mean many things to us, what we study, what degrees we get, how we spend our free time, or even how we care for our physical bodies. It can also mean that we pay attention to all our relationships, making sure that we forgive and are forgiven, as well as making sure that we live honestly and pay our debts. There are so many ramifications here. To stay clean and sharp, we need to pay attention to what we are putting in our bodies and our minds.

We need to be in the right place at the right time.

And, if we pay attention to these three things, perhaps we can do what we are designed to do: love for God, people, and this world we live in.

And, what would this possibly look like?

A friend of mine went to lunch with several teens one day. One of them removed the sign from the middle of the restaurant table and put it in her purse. My friend said, “What are you doing?” The young woman said, “I collect these.” My friend said, “That’s not collecting. It is stealing. It is someone else’s property. It’s stealing.” The woman put it back on the table.

How many of us would have spoken up? My friend’s understanding of what was right, her living an honest life, and her willingness to speak up made her the right person for that day. Perhaps, her words of sense made an impression on that young woman.

For others of us, being holy might be teaching high school, practicing law or medicine, writing computer code, designing bridges, running your own business, raising children, or managing a store. In every place, in every job, everr relationship, God needs people who know the Way to live and act in love.

Are you the right scissors for your job? What is your purpose? Do you keep yourself clean and sharp and in the right places?

Are you holy like a pair of scissors?

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