Tag Archives: God’s Presence

God is Always at Work

Living in the Spirit
October 31, 2017

Scripture Reading: Joshua 3:7-17

When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing towards the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan. –Joshua 14-17

Many of us read with skepticism stories recorded in the Bible of extraordinary events saving people. Some even invest time and energy trying to explain them as naturally occurring events. Some like me think it may be a little of both. The Battle of Dunkirk in World War II perhaps involved both. German soldiers had Allied troops backed up to the waters’ edge with no place to go when the German commander decided to slow their push down until supplies could catch up with them. I wonder how much this commander felt the sting of killing enemy soldiers as if they were sitting ducks. A still small voice perhaps peaked his conscience.

The small break in action coincided with the allies’ desperate attempt to rescue their soldiers by way of the sea. The main problem was the Germans had superior air power that could destroy the rescue ships either coming or going. The allies decided to proceed, and as they headed for the beaches of France, it rained so hard the German planes could not take off, and the fog over the water was so dense the ships were not readily visible. While many gave their lives in this rescue, the people on those ships and boats saved 330,000 soldiers.

What strikes me about both stories, the Israelites crossing the Jordan and the Battle of Dunkirk, is God’s presence among God’s people who seek solutions to the situations in which they find themselves. While God calls us to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God  (Micah 6:8b), God is present with us and supports us as we seek to do God’s will.

Lord, listen to Your children praying,
Lord, send Your spirit in this place;
Lord, listen to Your children praying,
Send us love, send us pow’r, send us grace!**

Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to step out in faith and act when needed and the faith to accept your guidance in our actions. Amen.

*https://www.deedsofgod.com/index.php/31-1940-ad–gods-weather-the-evacuation-of-dunkirk-mainmenu-169
*Chorus of Lord, Listen to the Children Praying by Ken Madema see at http://crossingsmusic.wikidot.com/lord-listen-to-your-children-praying

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Spending Time in a Fog

Epiphany
February 21, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 24:12-18

Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. –Exodus 24:15-18

I must say I do not think I have ever considered being in a fog, whether mental or physical, in positive terms. I like to know where I am and have some sense of what lies ahead of me. When I hear a morning weather report indicating zero visibility, I take caution. Driving becomes a slow and tedious process with every fiber of my being on alert. When I was a senior in high school with only one year of driving experience, I drove from our farm to a nearby town for a dental appointment in an early morning dense fog. That evening on the news I heard that a pedestrian was struck by a car and killed on my route about the same time I made my trip. I did not see anyone on the road and did not see the accident happening or being cleared. I trembled at the news as it could easily have been me driving the car that killed the man.

I rather think Moses was in a mental fog when he ascended the mountain wondering where do we go from here? He chose to walk into a dense fog as a part of finding his way out of a mental fog. Is that what faith is all about? Is faith taking our own lack of understanding deep into the presence of the mystery of God in search of wholeness and guidance? Is that done with the assurance a baby feels resting in the arms of a loving mother?

Prayer: Parent of all, give us the courage to enter your presence with the certain hope of your loving arms surrounding us. Make us whole as your Spirit’s wind blows away the fogs of life that overcome us. Show us your way, your truth, and your life. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

God’s Presence

 psalm-8915-geeky-and-sassyLiving in the Spirit
October 5, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 66:1-12

Come and see what God has done:
   he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
He turned the sea into dry land;
   they passed through the river on foot.
There we rejoiced in him,
who rules by his might for ever,
whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
   let the rebellious not exalt themselves. –Psalm 66:1-12

How often do we stop to take inventory of what God has done in our lives? We are blessed to have the Psalms to remind us of God’s presence. The Hebrew Bible most often focuses on the Exodus as the seminal event in the lives of the Israelites when they clearly experienced the life-giving and saving nature of God. As the Israelites ran from the Egyptians, the path opened for them to walk across the waters on dry ground and escape from harm’s way. Such life changing events stay with us. For Christians, the Incarnation and the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior forever rewrote our history.

While such monumental events as these frame our faith systems, I believe the everyday encounters with God strengthen our souls just as much perhaps more. Granted we might never have entered into relationship with God without one of those Aha! Moments, we sustain faith by our daily journey with the Lord. Partaking in Holy Communion, the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, whatever we prefer to name it, is a point in time when we intentionally reconnect with God. It is a time to be still and know that God is God.

Just as important are those moments when the reality of a small but highly relevant event in our lives strikes us as being indicative of God’s working. Some of us describe them as God things, little events that in and of themselves seem innocent enough but make a big, unexpected difference. The recognition of such occurrences is our opportunity to both speak to God’s presence in our lives and to thank God for it.

Prayer: God of Grace and God of Glory, we thank you for the monumental impacts your love has on us, and we grow in faith as we recognize and thank you for the God things we encounter in our daily walk with you. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Praise the Lord!

praise the LordEastertide
March 30, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 150
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
   praise him in his mighty firmament!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
   praise him according to his surpassing greatness!  

Praise him with trumpet sound;
   praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
   praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with clanging cymbals;
   praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord! Is a phrase uttered in many different circumstances. Read from Psalm 150 it is associated with absolute joy. My church has a tradition of singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus at the close of worship on Easter Sunday. It is a robust making of joyful noise to the Lord.

I have heard Praise the Lord! uttered from people discovering that everyone in their household survived a tornado that destroyed their homes, their vehicles, and for some their tools of work. Actually, I have heard it shouted with arms raised when a family pet has been to discovered alive after such a storm.

The birth of a child is a source of great praise to God as is successful surgery or other sources of healing. And I have heard it said in grateful appreciation of their service and love when one of the saints of the church returns to his or her maker.

We praise the Lord not as a special occasion but as a response to God’s abiding presence in every breath we take for it is one way we can thank God for the wonder of his abiding love.

Prayer: Praise the Lord!

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

We are Not Alone

Backpack of foodEastertide
March 29, 2016

Scripture Reading: Acts 5:27-32

The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, so that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’ –Acts 5:30-32

What acts of God have we each witnessed in our lives? While we can and certainly should carry on the stories of the acts of Jesus when he was on the earth and the acts of his first disciples following his resurrection, including that very resurrection, where is God acting in our world today? We take so much for granted, sometimes we do not stop and see God in the outcomes of our lives.

The blossoming of Oklahoma City after the bombing that shredded our peace of mind in 1995 has been amazing. Surely the Lord has been in this place. We are a kinder people. I sense the same reality for New York City after 9/11. The transformation of many oil-well scared properties across our state into fields of bountiful, primarily grain production and beauty reveals the influence of the earth’s creator. Thousands of children whose primary source of food is the school lunch program have sustenance over weekends through the backpacks of food sent home with them from school at the end of each week.

While our peace is still being shattered by terrorist and we still have much to do to care for the earth, while there are too many lives being wasted in prisons rather than restored to productive citizenship and too many hungry children and sick people with no means of obtaining care, we need to lift our eyes to the hills and see the hope in Jesus Christ as we continue to carry his way into the world.

Prayer: Lord, restore our hope remind us that your love is greater than any calamity we might face. Give us strength and courage for the journey. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Whose Righteousness are we Following?

worship-modeLent
March 10, 2016

Scripture Reading: Philippians 3:4b-14

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith –Philippians 3:4a-9

What’s in your faith resume’? What is the difference in being well schooled in the faith and living the faith? Paul had a great resume’ and he was living his beliefs as he persecuted the church. He no doubt had the best intentions in the world. I am amused at the many polls that report various attitudes based on faith that define people of faith by whether they attend church weekly or more or less often. Paul was no doubt at the temple whenever there was something going on.

Now do not misunderstand me, I strongly support engagement with a community of faith including weekly worship. I, frankly, think the times I need to be in worship most are those times I don’t want to be there when my mind is racing, my attention is distracted, and I am wondering why we are sing all four verses of a song. I have forgotten in these moments the source of my strength. I am in desperate need of being still and knowing God. Sometimes the third verse rarely sung is what pulls me back to the presence of God.

We need to find God’s righteousness and live God’s righteousness as was modeled for us in the life of Jesus. It is when we settle for our own righteousness that we run amuck.

Prayer: Lord, be present with us when we are distracted by the things of the world. Give us a nudge to remind us of your righteousness. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

The Higher Way

original-2Lent
February 23, 2016

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 55:1-9

Seek the Lord while he may be found,
   call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
   and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
   and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
   nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
   so are my ways higher than your ways
   and my thoughts than your thoughts. –Isaiah 55:6-9

Love is a better way. It is the way of the Lord. So why are we constantly challenged to not be challenged to follow this better way? Why is it so easy to slip into lazy patterns of distrust, selfishness, greed, even hate? Why are we so disposed to judge people and rank people in our hierarchies of worth by color, economic status, gender, or sexual preference? Why do we have patterns of discerning beauty that excludes some traits and includes others?

I know that by faithfully doing my stretching exercises every day, I will experience less pain and be more agile than forty years of arthritis usually allows. That does not always translate in my doing the exercises. Indeed, there are times when life happens and I am truly needed elsewhere. I depend on my routine faithful stretching to carry me through those times. I also know that by faithfully practicing the presence of God in my life through doing the basic spiritual disciplines of prayer, study, worship, and service, I am fortified for those times in life when I must depend on the spirit to pray for me.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)

Prayer: Lord, forgive me when I turn to lesser gods for the nurture that I need. Sustain me in taking your higher way. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Hear my Cry

magic_mushroomsLent
February 15, 2016

Scripture Reading: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

Then he said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.’ But he said, ‘O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?’ He said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him. –Genesis 15:7-12

How do we know that God will do what God says? First, we might want to consider how do we hear God’s voice? How do we discern among the whisperings in our ears that voice which is truly God’s? Abram had sensed God’s presence in Ur, followed God’s call to leave Abram’s home, travel to a far land, and he obeyed that call. Now that he had arrived that age old questions haunts him. “Have I done the right thing?” In a culture where having children was as much an economic necessity as it was a way of continuing one’s heritage, not being able to have children was a particularly powerful loss.

I was an adoption worker for a while many years ago. I have heard the pain of parents longing for offspring that never arrived. I do not know whether it was worse for those who knew the reason they could not conceive or for those for which there was no known reason. I always thought it was harder for the latter, if there were no reason, then surely they must have done something wrong for which they were being punished.

Abram faced the dark night of the soul in our scripture today. He is questioning the very validity of the faith he had been so sure of many miles ago. Jesus put this experience into words from the cross by quoting Psalm 22:1, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? In reality neither Abram or Jesus had given up on God, they both still called on the Lord, fully expecting a response and so should we.

 Prayer:
Hear my cry, hear my call
Hold my hand lest I fall
Take my hand, precious Lord
Lead me on*. Amen.

*Words from the hymn Take my Hand, Precious Lord. See the full lyrics at https://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&aq=&oq=Precious+Lord&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4WQIB_enUS519US519&q=precious+lord+take+my+hand+lyrics&gs_l=hp..0.0l5.0.0.1.255730………..0.4dgmVf3nwz4

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Fearful Futures

safe_in_his_presence-297520-300x300Epiphany
January 4, 2016

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 43:1-7

But now thus says the Lord,
   he who created you, O Jacob,
   he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
   I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
   and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
   and the flame shall not consume you. –Isaiah 43:1-2

Some animal made a great effort to get into the attic of my house following an ice storm that left long icicles hanging from all the eaves. The animals walk across my roof sounded like the giants from the storybooks of my childhood. It was definitely not my routine visiting squirrels. It made the weirdest loud high-pitched screeching sound. It was dark outside and I could not see anything from my enclosed porch and trust me when I say, I did not venture out the door of my safe harbor to determine what the source of the noise was. My neighbor said he had heard the animal too and had seen recently a possum and a raccoon in the neighborhood, but I doubt it was either of those animal. My guess was a large feral cat.

While I sat in the comfort of my warm house protected from not only wandering animals but also ice and other elements, it struck me how frightening it must be on the run as a refugee. My church purchases blankets each year through Church World Services that literally may be the only shelter some of these people have.

In our scripture today, Isaiah is writing for Israelite refugees reminding them of God’s presence in all aspects of life even floods and fires. As I write this some of the worst flooding in recorded history is occurring in Missouri. Wildfires have plagued the western part of our country for months. We all need to be reminded of God’s abiding presence in meeting life’s challenges, but just as importantly we need to remember that we are God’s partners in bringing comfort to those escaping danger from whatever its source.

Prayer: We thank you God for your abiding presence in all that we face ourselves and ask for your strength and support as we venture forth to be present with others with fearful futures. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

God with Us

Let all mortal fleshChristmas
December 25, 2015

Scripture Reading: Colossians 3:12-17

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. –Colossians 3:15-17

Years ago when I first moved to Oklahoma City and started attended a much larger church in membership as well as structure than I had ever been in before, I marveled at the beauty of music, I had never sung before. At one of the first Christmas Eve services I attended we sang the hymn, Let all Mortal Flesh Keep Silence. I have since thought it captures this day the best.

 Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand;
set your minds on things eternal,
for with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descended,
come our homage to command*.

There is indeed a song in the air in the presence and welcoming of Emmanuel, God with us. We sing because we are happy; we sing because we are sad, angry, remorseful, full of hope and hopeless. We sing because we are God’s people within whom God planted music deeply in our souls. The music is a love song: “Chose to come with me and whatever we face, we face together.” Whatever song needs to be sung is always sung together whether in sorrow or hope, dissonance or harmony.

Prayer: Lord, forever keep your song in our hearts. Amen.

*First verse of Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence. See at http://www.hymnary.org/text/let_all_mortal_flesh_keep_silence

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.