Friday Uplift: November 21, 2014

In yoga, there’s a thing we do at the end of each class where we put our hands together at our hearts, and then we say the magic yoga word, “namaste” which literally means “I see/recognize the divine in you.”

Two things made me think of this today…
  1. I’m preaching on Matthew 25 this Sunday (whatever you did to the least of these, you did to me) and so thinking about seeing God in others has been front and center lately.
  2. I read Ephesians 4:29 today – Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up faith, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.
So those two things together got me thinking about the power of how we think and speak and act toward others.
We often go through our day looking out for ourselves first, and others next… but that is not what we’ve been asked to do.
We are asked to “build up faith” with our words and actions…and treat those around us as if we were interacting with Jesus himself.
So really, it all comes back to that “namaste.”
Do we see others as children of God?
Do we look at those around us as a part of the family of God?
We’ve ALL been created in the “imago dei” the image of God – all of us.
And to me that means when we walk around with a namaste mindset, we are literally trying to see God in those around us.

Even in the mean ones.
Even in the annoying ones.
Even in those who misunderstand you.
Even in those who have things we want, like health and joy and love.

So, while this might seem a little out of the box for some of you, I want you to try it with me.
Close your eyes.
Take a deep breath.

Bring your hands together at your heart.
Take another deep breath in, and say, Namaste.
I see the Divine in you.
Today, I challenge you to choose to spend your day in the namaste mindset.
See the Divine in those around you.
Because you too have been created in the Image of God… and the Divine is in you as well.
See you Sunday.

Friday Uplift (November 14, 2014)

hopeMay the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Hope.  Easy to say, harder to do.
I always have wondered how we get hope.

If I’m feeling a little hope-less, how do I go about getting more – or how do I become more hope-full?

The word hope is actually not used that many times in the New Testament, believe it or not, only 54 times, and none of those in the Gospels. (and only 32 more times if you add in the Hebrew equivalent in the Old Testament).

The word used in the New Testament is elpis (pronounced el-peace) from the root elpo.  This word translated literally means “an expectation of something good.”
Read that again.
An expectation of something good.
Not just thinking maybe, perhaps something good… but expecting it.
I think we use the word hope like what we are asking for is not a given.

We say things like: “I hope so!”
and: “fingers crossed, hoping for the best!”
But that’s not actually what the word means.
It means there is an expectation that good is going to happen.
Not potential of good, but expectation of good.

So then at the root of hopelessness is the fear, or the belief, that good things cannot and will not happen to us.

Sometimes we really feel this way.
We cry out to God to stop,
 please don’t let me take one more hit,
 I can’t take another piece of bad news,

and as we wonder how on earth we are supposed to manage, we start to buy into the belief that maybe good things really won’t come to us.

And I get it, and I’ve been there, but let me say this loudly and clearly today:

THAT IS NOT TRUTH.
 God has promised to give us GOOD things.
In Matthew 7, Jesus is talking to his followers about just this:
7 “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. … 9 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10 Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

For those of us who have kids, it’s hard to imagine them asking for something to eat and giving them a rock. Right?  And, Jesus says, we are sinful, we are human, we are NOT GOD.  So if it is possible for US to give good things to our children, imagine the good things GOD is going to give you.

Yes.

This is where hope comes from.

Not from some magic formula that we can use to get more hope when we’re feeling empty… but from God, who has promised to give us good things.

Hear that today.

Believe that you are God’s beloved child.
Trust that God will keep his promises, and expect good things.

That is hope.

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Friday Uplift (October 24, 2014)

One of my favorite Bible verses is from Lamentations.
Yes, you read that right.
I have a favorite verse from one of the most depressing books of the Bible.

If you are ever having one of those days where everything just feels like it’s going wrong, this is the book to read.  It will join you in your lament.
But, right in the middle of all that lamenting and crying out there is this tiny, little, strangely-out-of-place, ray of hope.
“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.”
(Lamentations 3:21-24)
The last part of this verse, “therefore I will wait for him” can also be translated as “therefore I will hope in him”
I don’t like waiting, at all, but hope is something I can get behind.
Hope is what keeps me going.
Hope is light in the dark.
Hope is what reminds me that God has got my back.
When life hurts like crazy, you WILL cling to something, anything.
This verse reminds me to cling to God.
Clinging to everything else brings despair, but clinging to God brings hope.
The next verse in this chapter says it best: “The Lord is good to those who put their hope in him”
Happy Friday.  Enjoy your gift of today.
And hope in the promise of tomorrow.

Friday Uplift (November 7, 2014)

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (psalm 34:8)
I came across this reflection this week, and it’s been sitting on my heart to share…
Gratitude, yes. 
for all the big things that stand tall, thick with abundance, joy, faithfulness. 
I cannot help but applaud their presence. 
 
But deep thankfulness for the bite-sized pieces of my life? 
The little moments assumed and presumed slip quickly through the busy fingers of my busy life. 
November gestures with a wrinkled brown hand,
beckons me to wisely consider those fleeing moments of grace, in things quickly passing: 
a walk on a musty wooded path, 
a cup of coffee silently savored,
a birdsong in the squeaky hours of dawn,
the gentle touch of a loved one’s hand, 
a faded crescent moon in a royal blue sky, 
 
I turn to gather finely layered remnants such as these in the command of my days, and discover with surprise, 
How quickly my inner room is a harvest place of gold. 
November is supposed to be about thankfulness, and often I think we do just as this poem says: We thank God for the big things, our loved ones, friends, etc… but these colder days are perfect for reflecting on the little things that bring us joy and bring us life.
This can be especially difficult when things aren’t going the way we imagined they’d go.  We lose jobs, our marriages falter, or our health is shaky.
Even then, even in these moments, there are “moments of grace” throughout the day.

So this November, instead of participating in a daily thankfulness of obvious things, take some time, and look inward, be reflective, and become aware of all the ways that God is working in the world around you.

Then you will be able to, as the psalmist said, “taste and see” the goodness of God.

Happy Friday,and see you Sunday.

Friday Uplift (October 17, 2014)

17 The Great Preacher of peace and love came for you, and His voice found those of you who were near and those who were far away. 18 By Him both have access to the Father in one Spirit. 19 And so you are no longer called outcasts and wanderers but citizens with God’s people, members of God’s holy family, and residents of His household.20 You are being built on a solid foundation: the message of the prophets and the voices of God’s chosen emissaries with Jesus, the Anointed Himself, the precious cornerstone. 21 The building is joined together stone by stone—all of us chosen and sealed in Him, rising up to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In Him you are being built together, creating a sacred dwelling place among you where God can live in the Spirit.

 I chose this text today from a different translation than usual. I used “The Voice” translation of Ephesians 2 because I loved the picture it paints of community in Christ.
It’s so beautiful, and so different than the way our world likes to work.
We have been brought into the community and we are no longer outcasts but insiders.  And what does this mean?  We are built together, and when we are together it creates a sacred dwelling place for God to be with us.
Oh I love that.  Isn’t it lovely?
This totally changes the way I see others, how I interact with others.
We are in this together.
We are a part of the work of God together, and each of us, each one, has a place in it.
Take this lovely image with you today, and this weekend, as you go about your daily life and work.
You are a member of God’s holy family, and when you come together in community, you are creating a holy temple.

Friday Uplift (October 10, 2014)

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’
So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”
Content in weakness? Um, I don’t think so.
I like to get things done.  I like to be strong.
But there are a lot of things that I can’t do much about.
I know two people on hospice right now.
It is heartbreaking.  More than anything, I wish that these lovely people and families didn’t have to go through this process of the end of life.
And yet, this verse from Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians keeps coming to mind:
That God’s power is made perfect when we are at our weakest.
I think people sometimes wonder why we seem to notice God more in the hard moments and less in the good ones.  I think this is why…
God’s grace is most obvious when we are weak,
God’s strength is most felt when we don’t have our own.
So today, I hope you find some time to join me in praying that God might join us in our weakness, to remind us that God’s grace is now and always will be more than enough for us.

AMEN.

Friday Uplift (Sept 26, 2014)

Exodus 14: 13-14
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today.  The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

There are days when I really need this verse.  God makes a HUGE promise to the Israelites, right when they needed it most, but deserved it least.  They were scared of a coming fight, and out of their fear, they began to complain.  They said “wouldn’t it be better if we were still slaves? Why did you bring us out here?”
That’s right.  They were longing for the good ol days of enslavement in Egypt.
And what did God do?  Send them back to teach them a lesson?
NO – he stayed and fought for them.
“Stop worrying.” He said. “You only need to be still and I will take care of the rest.”
I heard a podcast yesterday where a researcher who studies happiness discovered that the number one key to happiness isn’t good things happening, but being present just where we are.
Not looking forward, not looking back.
This is an extremely difficult task.
But this is, in a sense, what God is asking of the Israelites here.
Stop worrying. Don’t be scared.
Stop thinking about how things used to be, or what is going to happen in your future.
Be still. Be present where you are right now.
And God will do the rest.

Friday Uplifts – An Explanation

So a little while ago, one of our members of the Cancer Support Group here at Prince of Peace (POP HOPE) asked me if I’d do a weekly devotional of some kind… and so began the Friday Uplift.
It’s often reflective of where I am, or where I have noticed people in need… and while it is me who writes it, I have really felt the Holy Spirit at work, using this simple devotional to meet people where they are, and give them an uplift to end the week. I feel like they have grown bigger than just the Cancer Support group, and so I’m going to post the last few I’ve written today, and then I’ll post each Friday after I’ve sent them to the group.
This has become a labor of love for me, and I’m blessed to be able to share it with you.

If you want the devotion in an email, send me a note with yours and I’ll add you to my list!