Monthly Archives: July 2013

Wednesday’s Word: Encouragement

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David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor and tried to walk, but he couldn’t, because he wasn’t used to wearing them. “I can’t fight with all this, “ he said to Saul. “I’m not used to it.” So he took it all off. He took his shepherd’s stick and then picked up five smooth stones from the stream and put them in his bag. With his sling ready, he went out to meet Goliath. 1 Samuel 17: 39-40

 

We all know the story of David and Goliath: a young shepherd triumphed in battle against a giant warrior. We love hearing about underdogs beating the odds and achieving victory, probably because most of us identify with the “little guy.”

 

So lets look at this little guy, David. He had already been anointed as king by the prophet Samuel, but in spite of that, remained home watching the sheep while his older brothers went off to fight the enemy. Sent to the camp by his father, David couldn’t believe no one would accept the challenge to fight Goliath one-on-one. David volunteered, perhaps because he had a sense of who he was, chosen by God. And, because he had a sense of who he was, he knew better than to try and be something he wasn’t. The armor that worked for soldiers and kings wouldn’t work for David. He was comfortable sticking with what he knew. David relied on the experience his years of protecting sheep from wild animals had given him. Armed with the skills of who he was and trust in God’s call to him, David conquered his enemy.

 

We can find encouragement when we feel like underdogs, whether the bullies we face are outside of us or the negative tapes in our own minds. Through baptism, we, too, are anointed as God’s chosen. He will equip us to deal with whatever challenges we’re called on to face. We don’t have to betray who we are. We never have to be—or pretend to be—something we’re not. We are exactly where we are meant to be. God has a plan for us and every experience we’ve ever had has given us opportunities to develop the resources we need to face whatever lies ahead.

 

Prayer:  Lord, help me remember who I am and trust that I am where you want me to be.

 

Reflection for sharing:  What problem looms large in your life today? What can help you remember that God will equip you to cope with any problem you face?

 

 

Saturday Spotlight: Miriam

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When Miriam joined her brother Aaron in speaking out against their brother Moses, claiming to be equally important prophets, Miriam was stricken with a skin disease. When Moses prayed for her, God instructed him to shut Miriam outside of the camp for seven days before she was allowed to return to the community.

 

Miriam had watched over her baby brother Moses when their mother placed him in a basket in the Nile River to save him from death under the Egyptian decree. Years later, after Moses led the Hebrews through the Red Sea and God destroyed their enemies, Miriam led the other women in a musical celebration. If it weren’t for Miriam’s protection when Moses was an infant, there might not even have been an Exodus. Was she really out of line considering herself equal to Moses? And why was she, and not her brother Aaron, who also spoke against Moses, excluded from the camp?

 

Perhaps God knew Miriam’s heart needed more. Seven days of solitude gave her an opportunity for reflection. Self-righteousness and the insecurity that breeds it are very common. People who feel good about themselves don’t need to build their self-esteem at the expense of others. Miriam couldn’t see that she was good enough. Despite her foibles, the entire Hebrew nation waited for her before they moved on. She was not abandoned. She had inherent value as a person, by God’s grace.

 

This is good news for those of us that feel driven to build our weak self-images up by externals or by belittling others–even in our own minds. We don’t have to struggle to make ourselves gret. It doesn’t work. But we will be built up as we recognize that we are worthy of love simply because we are God’s creation.

 

When Miriam was shut out of the camp for seven days, the others waited for her before moving on. Have there been times when others were held back because of your actions? Have there been times when you have been held back because of someone else?

 

Adapted from “Fools, Liars, Cheaters & Other Bible Heroes”  http://www.biblemeditations.net/books

Wednesday’s Word: Reassurance

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Lord God Almighty, none is as mighty as you; in all things you are faithful, O Lord. You rule over the powerful sea; you calm its angry waves. Psalm 89: 8-9

 

A stormy sea is vast and powerful. None of us would be foolish enough to think we could control the waves. Still, no matter how violently the breakers crash or how high they tower, eventually the sea calms down again.

 

Lots of things are more powerful than we are. Nothing is more powerful than God is. When we feel small and helpless or weak and vulnerable, we can be grateful for God’s power and might. There’s no question that danger, damage, and destruction are real. It’s challenging to trust God’s faithfulness when the storms of life crash around us, but storms don’t last forever.

 

Hurricane Sandy ripped through the East Coast last year. Despite the devastation, God’s faithful presence remained. It was evident in the courage and love that abounded as neighbor helped neighbor, and as strangers provided hurricane victims with physical necessities and sorely needed comfort and encouragement. A sense of community emerged. Perspective was gained. Light was shed on the difference between inconvenience and true necessity. The storm passed and the rebuilding began.

 

When we are weathering stormy emotions, turbulent relationships or trying to rebuild our lives in the wake of tragedy, we can remember that God’s power is greater and He remains faithful.

 

Prayer:  Lord, help us trust in your power and faithfulness.

 

Reflection for sharing:  How can reflecting on God’s power reassure you when you feel most vulnerable?

Saturday Spotlight: Reuben

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When Joseph’s brothers made plans to kill him, Reuben, the oldest brother, intervened. Reuben probably had as much dislike for Joseph as his brothers did. Moreover, as oldest son, Reuben was entitled to the privleges of the firstborn. He had even more reason to feel threatened because his father doted on Joseph. Nevertheless, Reuben followed his conscience and stood up to his nine angry brothers.

 

Although saved from death, Joseph was sold into slavery and ended up in Egypt. Joseph rose from slavery to be the governer of Egypt. His system of stockpiling and rationing grain saved all of Egypt, along with his family of origin, from starvation during a severe famine. It is a remarkable story. None of it would have happened if Reuben had not had the courage to stand against his brothers’ united front.

 

We never know what repercussions our actions will have. It takes tremendous courage to follow what we know to be right, to oppose popular opinion, or even our own families. Breaking the code of silence in a family denying or hiding the pain of alcoholism, addiction, or incest can be terrifying. Seeking help is not being disloyal. It’s an act of bravery.

 

Our actions may never make headlines. But every time we make the hard right choice or extend ourselves in some life-giving way, we are helping to save the world.

 

Before taking a stand for what you believe is right, what are some important things to consider?

 

Adapted from “Fools, Liars, Cheaters & Other Bible Heroes”  http://www.biblemeditations.net/books

 

 

Wednesday’s Word-Freedom

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“We are allowed to do anything,” so they say. That is true, but not everything is good. “We are allowed to do anything”—but not everything is helpful. 1 Corinthians 10: 23

 

“If it feels good, do it,” sounds good, but it can be a trap. We can lose our freedom of choice and end up in slavery to our self-will. “I’m addicted to more,” I once heard someone say. We lose our ability to act in our own best interests when we’re pushed around by what we think will give us pleasure. From couch potatoes to people who “shop till they drop,” it’s easy to invest time in the enjoyable at the expense of truly rewarding activities and relationships.

 

On the other hand, life-enhancing choices often seem anything but pleasurable–at least initially. Freedom to change means moving off the path of least resistance. That takes effort. Exchanging a steady diet of junk food for healthier food choices may seem literally unpalatable, but many who try it find that they feel better in the long term. Turning off late night TV show to get a good night’s sleep might seem like a drag until we wake up refreshed and free to face the day without dragging ourselves around or tanking up on caffeine.

 

If we are truly free, then we are free to say no to the siren call of self-will.

 

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for the gift of free will. Help me use it wisely.

 

Reflection for sharing:  What “freedoms” are you choosing that aren’t in your best interests? In what ways are you free to make other choices today?

Saturday Spotlight: Leah

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Poor Leah! Jacob loved her younger sister Rachel,  but her father duped him into marrying Leah instead. How humiliating! Jacob then  married Rachel as well. While having more than one wife was common in that culture, making room for her sister, clearly the favorite, had to be bitterly painful for Leah.

 

But God, in his goodness and wisdom, blessed Leah, who was able to bear six sons for Jacob, while Rachel remained childless for a number of years. Leah’s fruitfulness secured her a position of respect, although she probably never felt cherished. Still, God allowed Leah to become Jacob’s wife for a reason, in spite of Jacob’s preference. It was Leah’s son, Judah, through whom the promised Messiah came, and Leah’s son Levi fathered the tribe God chose to serve in the tent of His presence.

 

If Leah hadn’t faced emotional challenges, perhaps she wouldn’t have had the strength of character needed to be the mother of tribes destined for such a huge role in God’s plan.

 

We’ve all felt the pain of rejection. Hurt and disappointment are normal reactions. We don’t have to pretend we don’t feel them, but we aren’t doomed to misery. The more we focus on what God’s plan for us might be, the less we need to concern ourselves with other people’s reactions to us.

 

Question for reflection and sharing:

What coping skills might have helped Leah deal with her challenges? How can those coping skills help when you or those around you experience rejection?

 

Adapted from “Fools, Liars, Cheaters & Other Bible Heroes”  http://www.biblemeditations.net/books

 

Wednesday”s Word: All Heart or All Talk?

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The Lord Said, “These people claim to worship me, but their words are meaningless, and their hearts are somewhere else. Their religion is nothing but human rules and traditions, which they have simply memorized.” Isaiah 29: 13

 

Meaningless words—I’ve spoken them. I’ve rattled off prayers while my heart’s been somewhere else. I’ve also rattled off words when my heart wanted to pray but my mind was so crowded with confusion or fear that I couldn’t concentrate. There’s a difference. Thankfully, God seems to care more about our hearts than our brains.

 

Ideally, when we talk to God in prayer and worship, our minds, hearts, and words are all united. But we aren’t perfect. Minds wander. We may not be able to concentrate for any number of reasons. I think God understands that. After all, he made us human, therefore, limited. What Isaiah is warning against is insincerity.  Just going through the motions and outward compliance doesn’t go deep enough. If our hearts aren’t reached, if we aren’t changed, the externals won’t do us much good.

 

So how do we make ourselves sincere when we worship God? It might help to think about why he is “worship-able.” God is love. When we get in touch with His dynamic love, when we recognize that we are loved, warts and all, when we accept that unconditional love—even when we least deserve it—how can we help but be affected? When we are filled with love, it begs to be shared. We’re empowered to love God, who first loved us, with a love that will also flow out to others.

 

Prayer:  Lord, warm my heart with your love so I may love and honor you and yours.

 

Reflection for sharing:  If your heart is “somewhere else” today, how can you open it to God’s love?

Saturday Spotlight: Rebecca

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Rebecca was sweet, beautiful, and willing to leave her family and homeland to become Isaac’s bride, according to the book of Genesis. That didn’t keep her from manipulating circumstances some years later to help her younger son, Jacob, cheat his twin brother Esau out of the blessings due the firstborn son.

 

Rebecca then manipulated her husband into sending Jacob to live with her family in Mesopotamia, thereby saving him from Esau’s understandable anger. Her husband favored the older, more rugged son. Rebecca’s may have wanted simply to protect the son she saw as disadvantaged. But Jacob was the child God had chosen to lead–this had been revealed to her during her pregnancy.

 

During his years in Mesopotamia, Jacob married and fathered twelve sons, who became the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel, God’s Chosen People. I can’t help wondering if Jacob became successful in spite of Rebecca’s schemes, rather than because of them. Maybe if Rebecca hadn’t meddled, Jacob would have succeeded without alienating his brother or being forced to live in exile.

 

Parents aren’t the only ones tempted to take matters into their own hands. When God’s will doesn’t match our plans, it’s easy to forget that he has everything under control. Even when we’re “only trying to help,” our efforts to force outcomes often create tension and become self-defeating.

 

Ultimately, none of us is powerful enough to thwart God’s plans. He knows all about our lack of trust and efforts to control, even when we mean well. He can use us to accomplish his will anyway, just as he did with Rebecca.

 

Reflection for sharing:  God told Rebecca about his plans for Jacob and Esau before they were born. When have his plans and provisions for you unfolded before you became aware of it?

 

Adapted from “Fools, Liars, Cheaters, & Other Bible Heroes” http://www.biblemeditations.net/books

 

Wednesday’s Word: Rooted In Love

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“…The root of the righteous bears fruit.”  Proverbs 12:12

 

We had a huge apple tree in our back yard when I was a kid. It was great for climbing. I used to sit up in the branches, pick an apple and munch it while enjoying the view from my lofty perch. The apples definitely came from the branches, not the roots. At least that’s what I would have told you back then.

 

Year after year, first the blossoms, then the buds, and finally the fruit would appear on those branches. The sturdy trunk supported them, but what supported the trunk? What kept that trunk from getting knocked over by wind when the ground was soaked with rain? The roots. I’m guessing that root system had to be very deep and extensive because that tree withstood hurricane gales that toppled a nearby cherry tree.

 

Thank God for our roots. Because they’re below the surface, we may not notice them, but roots nourish us and keep us anchored. What are we rooted in today? How can we strengthen that connection? How will a stronger connection to our roots enable us to bear fruit?

 

Prayer:  Lord, keep us rooted in Your love today.

 

Reflection for sharing:  God loves you just as you are, right now. How can taking in God’s love enable you to bear fruit today? What might that fruit look like?

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Meditations

But Jesus answered “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” (Matthew 4:4)

 

All Bible quotes are from the Good News Translation unless otherwise noted.

 

It is reassuring that Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors to be his followers. These were laymen, not Scripture experts. It is wise to seek guidance from religious scholars and clergy who have studied Scripture to avoid errors in interpretation. But the Bible is also a gift given to each of us, to use as a basis for prayer and meditation.

 

I’m not a Biblical scholar; I’m an expert only on my own experience. Following the Scripture passage is a brief meditation along with a question or two as a springboard for your own reflections. Please feel free to share your own thoughts or insights on the passage by adding a comment. All comments are moderated, so please allow some time for your comment to be posted.

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