Friday, May 25, 2012

Abraham Lincoln's Proclamation for a National Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer

"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven.  We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity.  We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown.  But we have forgotten God.  We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.  Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!  It behooves us, then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness."
April 30, 1863

(Click on the Title of this blog to link to a devotional from about Memorial Day)

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Call to Build Community by Marva J. Dawn

In reading from the book “The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering the Call” by Marva Dawn and Eugene Peterson, I found some paragraphs worth sharing.
The most extreme leap in the breakdown of the social fabric came with the onset of the technological milieu.  Jacques Ellul states that technicization brought as drastic a breach as the
Fall, but that is a typical Ellulian overstatement.  Though nothing could be as decisive as human entry into sin, Ellul is right to recognize how terribly (and subtly) disruptive of the communal fabric our present milieu is, to a great extent because the very tools we work with and the toys with which we play pull us away from each other.
For example, consider dishwashers.  We might think they are great labor-saving devices, but we do not as easily notice how they have stolen part of our household fabric for intimacy.  When I was a child, my brothers and I did the dishes together and sang in three-part harmony while we cleaned them.  I won’t falsely romanticize that intimacy—we also whacked each other with towels—but the potential for enjoyable singing and good conversation was there.  We also sang together with our parents in the car on our way to Wisconsin to visit our grandparents; when we were in college (a time when lots of siblings lose touch with each other), my closest brother and I used to make up fugues on the train home for holidays.  The point is that we had established the practices of fellowship and nurtured them while we did dishes.  If a family uses a dishwasher, taking care of the dishes is usually a solitary job.  In addition, think of all the technological toys, like Walkmans and solo computer games, that keep us from singing with each other in our society.
Consider television sets.  We never owned one when I was small.  Instead we played games and various sports together.  These days if my husband and I go for a walk in the evening, we notice that in some houses as many as three different television sets are on in the some houses as many as three different television sets are on at the same time in different rooms.   What kind of camaraderie is possible in a family that spends its time so separated?
I am grateful for technological tools.  (I am not a Luddite!)  The problem is that we become too enthralled with their advantages and don’t ask good questions about how much they take away from us.  For example, computers are much faster than typewriters for writing books; I’m glad simply to punch “Print” after making corrections instead of retyping everything.  However, computers can also contribute to our alienation far more than we realize.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Once a whore, always a whore…not so with Jesus

Luke 7:39-43 says:  When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is--that she is a sinner."  Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you." "Tell me, teacher," he said. "Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"   Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled." "You have judged correctly," Jesus said.”

A certain Pharisee was having a dinner party and invited “the Prophet” Jesus for dinner.  When Jesus entered the Pharisees dinner party, he was treated with indifference.  He was not afforded the customary or traditional feet washing due a guest as they entered someone’s home.

An uninvited guest came in, a local woman of ill repute.  It says in verse 39 “When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is--that she is a sinner."  Notice, the Pharisee “said to himself,” then Jesus answers him (v.40) “Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you." "Tell me, teacher," he said.”  Note:  Jesus knows our thoughts.  Have we confessed our sin of distracted evil thoughts?  A sobering reminder.

In verse 39, the Pharisee questions whether Jesus was a prophet since a prophet would know “what kind of woman was touching Him.”  The Pharisee at best thought Jesus a prophet not God himself in human form.  The thought that this woman’s life was transformed by the Living God never entered the Pharisees mind—once a whore, always a whore.  Not so with Jesus…this woman’s very open display of love, in the midst of uppity Pharisees, proved a life touched by the Living God is and will continue to be transformed.

The question to ask is this:  do we give people a second chance?  Do we believe God moves in the lives of people?  Do we believe in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit?  The world says “once a whore, always a whore.”  God inspired word says, “Be ye transformed.”  The transformed woman’s acts of love did not save her, her faith in Jesus did.  “Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."  Luke 7:50

Only Jesus makes new.  We can live in peace with each other and with God for eternity no matter where we came from.  God changes and transforms lives…that’s good news for us sinners.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Crab apple trees, crow calls, old dogs…and another day of Mercy

As the sun came up over the horizon this morning, the light illuminated the small crab tree.  The blossoms were beautiful in the early morning light—almost iridescent.  Before the moment passed, I grabbed my iPad and went out to take a picture.  I didn’t realize that I had it on video.  The quality was really bad but in the background you can hear crows calling, birds chirping and our black lab, Lily making early morning noises.

In the beauty of the early morning, I realized how blessed I am just to be alive.  I treasure the simple things of life.  To be able to walk, talk, smell and still be free and alive.  (I guess they are not really simple things, are they?)

I have attended four funerals in the last few weeks; one more today, one more tomorrow.  Life goes on.  It’s the time of “all things new on the prairie” yet at the same time, it’s a time for dying.  It’s kind of like our spiritual life—saint and sinner at the same time; spiritual refreshing, new birth, yet physically dying.

The sun is bright, the rains have brought freshness to the farm.  I listen to Radio Oberheim out of Munich, Germany (old time German music) while I eat duck fat sandwiches for breakfast.  (I’m not really eating duck fat sandwiches but my ancestors did.)

Life goes on.  God’s timetable plays out.  I live to greet another morning but I remember this day is truly in God’s hand.  I know not what it brings…  Lamentations 3:19-33 says:   I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."  The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.  Let him sit alone in silence, for the LORD has laid it on him.  Let him bury his face in the dust-- there may yet be hope. Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace. For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.

New mercies each morning this I know is true; mercy in the midst of great sin; faithfulness even when I wander.  Unfailing love in the mist of grief and affliction—what a God!  What a Savior!  Thank you, Jesus…I will wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord…