Monday, June 26, 2017

Celebrating the Gift of Life

Psalm 139:13-14 (NRSV): Celebrating the Gift of Life
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
  you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. . .
My youngest son, Luke, just turned two. He is beautiful and healthy, the typical two-year-old with a bold personality and curiosity that keeps us on our toes. And it is in the moments of reflecting on his birth and life that I am reminded about the awesome power of God.
Luke was born five-and-a-half weeks early, and Dana was in the hospital for thirty-one days prior to his birth. Every day they were in the hospital, I realized that there was nothing more I could do but pray and leave them in God’s care. Their hospitalization required my surrender. Of course I did everything I could do as a father and husband, but I felt powerless. And powerlessness is a frightening feeling. Fear, however, did not win out; God’s grace did. God gave both Dana and me the grace to persevere and grow in our faith and trust in Him.
This story ends with life’s celebration: God beautifully “knit [Luke] together in [Dana’s] womb.” Our lives have truly been blessed.
Recall a time when God blessed you, and be mindful of it this week. As the week progresses, look for the many other times God presents blessings in your days. Pray for God to show you His presence in the trials and celebrations of your experience, and He will.
Have a blessed week,

Sunday, June 18, 2017

We Are One Body

1 Corinthians 10:17 (NLT): We are all United in Christ
And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body.
In this part of St. Paul’s first letter to the faithful at Corinth, he chides them for their divisive behavior. They are bad-mouthing each other and eating food offered to idols; this went against what Paul (and Jesus) taught regarding love for God and neighbor. Paul gives them a plain reminder of who they are in Jesus Christ -- “one body.”
Division is easy, but unity takes sacrifice. When we put aside our differences and focus on the core of who we are as faithful, loving people, our world blooms with a peace that only God can give. Paul reminds us of this: We need to come together. We need to love each other. We need to celebrate and remember our unity in Christ.
One of the best illustrations of this unity is a recent prayer gathering I attended. As we held hands and prayed, the unity was electric. Even though we all come from diverse Christian backgrounds, we are bound by our faith in Jesus Christ and that is a beautiful thing -- “we are one body.”
Let us pray:
Eternal Father,
Look upon your people with mercy … and give us the Spirit of Jesus to make us one in love.  We ask this gift, loving Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Have a blessed week,


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Remember the Love

Philippians 4:8 (NLT): Remember the Love
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
The end of the school year is here, and as I contemplate June and what it brings, I cannot help but experience a flood of mixed feelings. The juxtaposition of wonder and sadness set the backdrop of my thoughts. But in my heart-of-hearts, when I recall the shining faces of the students I serve and the joyful presence of the people with whom I work, I feel the flood of Christ’s peace. Successes, failures, challenges, and celebrations have paved the road of life in Christ this school year. And as I prepare to share these last few days with my dear students, I thank God for His love, strength, and grace. For without Him, I can do nothing.
St. Paul writes to a dear, loving Philippian church that has given him support and encouragement, especially during the time he wrote this letter. For at the time, Paul was imprisoned. In the letter, however, especially chapter 4 where this verse is located, Paul tells the church community, “Thank you.” Professor Jouette Bassler writes that “the Philippians had heard of [Paul’s] imprisonment, and Paul wanted to reassure them of his undiminished joy -- even in those circumstances. . . He wanted to express his gratitude for their gift and for their constant friendship” (2099). Paul, also, reminds his friends to be of a loving mind -- to rejoice in the things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). Paul reminds us that our mindset means everything.
I pray that as we end this school year, we, too, “think about these things” and remember the love we share. Let us, with the mind and heart of Christ, recognize and celebrate where God uses us to love, forgive, support, and be an agent of His peace. And let those comforting thoughts draw us closer to the One Who is love. Amen.
Have a blessed week!


Sunday, June 4, 2017

True Friendship

John 15:13 (NRSV): True Friendship
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Sometimes truth is revealed in simple ways, and simplicity is something we often ignore. This weekend, my youngest son and I sat down to watch Sesame Street, and in one of those episodes, I heard a familiar song. This time, however, the song came to life for me and resonated a beautiful truth. The dialogue leading into Bert and Ernie’s “That’s What Friends are For” goes as follows:
Ernie: It's pretty messy in there, Bert.
Bert: Well, Ernie, you're just a little messy. I've learned that. I'm used to it. Let's go to sleep.
Ernie: You know, Bert, you're a real friend. I'm messy and you don't like it messy, but because I'm your friend you don't mind too much if I'm messy.
Bert: Well, not *too* much, Ernie. Let's just go to sleep.
Ernie: But, but that's what a friend is, Bert. I mean, not minding too much because you like somebody. That's a friend, Bert, a pal! Not minding! That's what friends are for!
Bert and Ernie model something very important in human relationships -- true friendship. The line that resonates for me is Ernie’s summation of a true friend: “But, but that's what a friend is, Bert. I mean, not minding too much because you like somebody. That's a friend, Bert, a pal! Not minding!” True friendship is looking past ourselves, past our preferences, to the person we love.
Jesus teaches us that there is no greater love than to give ourselves away for the sake of loving the other person (John 15:13). This giving away of the self begins with forgetting our wants, desires, and prefered ways for the sake of the person we serve and love. To love someone means to look past their faults and into the gift they are as a human being, child of God, and friend. Giving our life away to others begins with loving them, like Bert does Ernie, regardless of their faults and flaws.
Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, true friendship is a gift perfectly modeled through the self-giving love of Your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Grant, O’ loving Father, that our lives be given away in love to those we serve and that true friendship be something each of us emulates. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Have a blessed week.