In Awe of God

June 30, 2017

See how the Lord blesses those who fear him.

Psalm 128

In all the many translations that Scripture goes through from the original, sometimes it gets a little off.  To me, the use of the word ‘fear’ here is a little off.  I think the word ‘awe’ would be so much richer.

God is a loving God, he does not want us to live in fear of him.  What parent wants their child to fear them all the time?  How can you deepen a loving relationship with someone you fear?  I tend to hold back a lot of what I would like to say or do or be when I am with people I fear.  That’s not what God wants for us or from us.

To be in awe of someone brings with it respect and dignity.  It also brings an openness to the other.

See how the Lord blesses those who are in awe of him.

When you are in awe of God, you look at all the things he does, all the things he creates, all the things around you with different eyes.

A tree is no longer just that thing growing in my yard that gives shade and dumps its leaves.  It’s a magnificent example of God’s love.  Look at all the shades of green in those leaves.  Look at all the different shapes of the leaves and the intricate complex webbing of limbs and branches and twigs to get the leaves to where they can receive the sunlight so they can do the whole process of photosynthesis and make food for the tree to grow and flourish.  And to think the root system under a tree is almost as big as the canopy!  Those roots reach for water and other nutrients to feed the rest of the tree and to grab securely in the ground so the wind won’t blow it over in normal circumstances.  And that tree is home to birds and bugs – creatures God has created.  What a miracle in each tree!  If it weren’t for the tree using the carbon in the air to make food, our whole air supply would be different and would drastically affect our ability to breathe.

What a blessing a tree is!

When we look at the ordinary things in our lives through the lens of being in awe of God, we see the blessings he gives us.  He doesn’t bless us because we are in awe of him.  Our being in awe of God allows us to see the blessings already there.

Put on your ‘AWE’ glasses today and see the blessings that surround you!




Over the top!

June 28, 2017

The word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:
“Fear not, Abram!
I am your shield;
I will make your reward very great.”

But Abram said,
“O Lord GOD, what good will your gifts be,
if I keep on being childless
and have as my heir the steward of my house, Eliezer?”
Abram continued,
“See, you have given me no offspring,
and so one of my servants will be my heir.”
Then the word of the LORD came to him:
“No, that one shall not be your heir;
your own issue shall be your heir.”
He took him outside and said:
“Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can.
Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.”
Abram put his faith in the LORD,
who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.

He then said to him,
“I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans
to give you this land as a possession.”
“O Lord GOD,” he asked,
“how am I to know that I shall possess it?”
He answered him,
“Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat,
a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
Abram brought him all these, split them in two,
and placed each half opposite the other;
but the birds he did not cut up.
Birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses,
but Abram stayed with them.
As the sun was about to set, a trance fell upon Abram,
and a deep, terrifying darkness enveloped him.

When the sun had set and it was dark,
there appeared a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch,
which passed between those pieces.
It was on that occasion that the LORD made a covenant with Abram,
saying: “To your descendants I give this land,
from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River the Euphrates.”

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

We have such an “over-the-top” God!

I love the relationship Abram has with God.  God makes him a huge (“over-the-top”) promise that his reward will be great!  But Abram, being himself with God, wants to know what good is it going to be when he doesn’t have any kids to pass it on to.

So God makes another “over-the-top” promise – Abram’s descendants will be numerous as the stars in the sky.  Now remember they are out in the desert without all the city lights we have so you can SEE the stars and how many there are.

Abram takes God at his word, even as outrageous as it seems, and believes him.

But God isn’t done yet.  He makes another “over-the-top” promise that all this land will belong to Abram.

Now even with the deep faith and trust that Abram has in God, this is really “over-the-top” and Abram questions “How am I to know I that I shall possess it?”   How is this going to work?  Wow, Lord!

God tells Abram to kill the animals and wait.  Then God shows Abram what a big deal his relationship with Abram is when Abram sees the smoking pot and the flaming torch passing between the animals.  Once again God goes “over-the-top” to show Abram how much God loves Abram and how important their relationship is to God.

God does the same with each of us.  He constantly shows us how important we are to him and how important our relationship is to him.  Doubting that?  Take a piece of paper and start writing down all the gifts God has given you…..  A home, a family, a job, clothes to wear, food to eat, heat, air conditioning, land, air to breathe, medicines to help you heal, trees, flowers, fish, animals, cars, friends, your own specific gifts that are unique to you for you to help others, the ability to walk, talk, smell, hear, feel, taste, and touch, the ability to read and write, and on and on and on!  Everything we have comes from God.  Even with this small list that only touches the “over-the-top” list of things God gives us, we should be overwhelmed at the goodness of God to us!

But we become so accustomed to those gifts that we don’t see them as gifts any more.

Today I invite you to spend some time with God today, maybe even making your own list of gifts, but definitely thanking him for showing you how much he loves you and how important you are to him with his “over-the-top” gifts.

Being Complacent

June 27, 2017

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Enter through the narrow gate;
for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction,
and those who enter through it are many.
How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.
And those who find it are few.”

Full Reading:   Matthew 7:6,12-14

That last statement makes me nervous….  I can get pretty complacent about my spiritual life:  I go to church regularly.  I receive the sacraments.  I try to be a nice person, kind to everyone.  I tithe.  I don’t commit any major sins.  I’m going to heaven, right?

Maybe not!  I heard a talk once on how sneaky Satan is and one of his greatest weapons is making us feel complacent.

He quoted this Scripture:  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  Matthew 22:37.  The key word here is ALL….

Do I love God with ALL my heart?   Nope.  There are so many times when what I want is more important than what God wants.  There are times when I really don’t want to do what God is nudging me to do.  There are times I just don’t want to put forth the effort to do what God wants me to do.  There are times when I couldn’t care less – I hate admitting that!

Do I love God with ALL my mind?   Nope.  When I get angry and/or hurt, my mind goes on a retaliation rant – and I let it.  When I am not satisfied with all that God has given me, my mind goes on a very selfish self-centered daydream.  When I get really irritated with other drivers or someone who won’t do things the way I want them done, my thoughts are far from kind!!  When fear gets too strong in me, my mind goes on a defensive route, based on what is not real.

God is not the most important person in my life so I am not near the narrow gate!

Satan has a really good time with me when he gets me feeling complacent about the wide gate and broad road I am on.

Lord, I ask for the courage and the strength to make YOU the center of my life.

Building an Altar to the Lord

June 26, 2017

The LORD said to Abram:
“Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk
and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.

“I will make of you a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
so that you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you
and curse those who curse you.
All the communities of the earth
shall find blessing in you.”

Abram went as the LORD directed him, and Lot went with him.

The LORD appeared to Abram and said,
“To your descendants I will give this land.”
So Abram built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.
From there he moved on to the hill country east of Bethel,
pitching his tent with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east.
He built an altar there to the LORD and invoked the LORD by name.

Full reading:  Genesis 12:1-9

What really struck me in today’s scripture is Abram’s willingness to follow the Lord even though he didn’t know where he was going.  And that he built an altar to the Lord in each of the places he traveled through.

What if we did that?  What if we willingly followed the Lord even though we don’t know where he is leading us?  I’m not talking about moving, I’m talking about the little every day experiences where the Lord invites us to step out of our comfort zone in helping others or doing something new.  Maybe it’s being Liturgist at Worship or helping with VBS or teaching Sunday School or joining a committee.

And what if we built an altar at each place we visit – whether it’s physical or symbolic or emotional or spiritual.  To me, an altar means I’ve been here and I’ve worshiped the Lord here and he touched me here.

Now that I am in my new home, this has me thinking about how to build an altar – a simple one – outside – to help me remember this is the Lord’s gift and he led me here and continues to touch my life here.  It may be 3 smaller rocks on top of each other.  It may be a plant.  It may be a bird feeder.  But it will be something that speaks of the Lord’s presence to me.

I invite you to think about building your own altar at your home to remind you that the Lord holds you in the palm of his hand – that he’s ‘got you’ – that he is leading you and is with you.

Different Eyes

June 23, 2017

Moses said to the people:
You are a people sacred to the LORD, your God;
he has chosen you from all the nations on the face of the earth
to be a people peculiarly his own.
It was not because you are the largest of all nations
that the LORD set his heart on you and chose you,
for you are really the smallest of all nations.
It was because the LORD loved you
and because of his fidelity to the oath he had sworn your fathers,
that he brought you out with his strong hand
from the place of slavery,
and ransomed you from the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.
Understand, then, that the LORD, your God, is God indeed,
the faithful God who keeps his merciful covenant
down to the thousandth generation
toward those who love him and keep his commandments,

Full Reading – Deuteronomy 7:6-11

During my prayer time today I have been trying to wrap my brain around us/me being SACRED to God.  He’s the one that’s sacred – he’s the one who is sacred to me.  And then all that ugly stuff of there is nothing sacred about me and I’m not worth that etc. comes creeping in.

And I hear God say to me in my heart, “It has nothing to do with your worthiness.  Loving you is my choice.  You can’t do anything about that – except to say THANK YOU!”

I know that this was written way back in the days of Moses but it still holds true for us:  the faithful God who keeps his merciful covenant down to the thousandth generation.   We are generations down the line – maybe even close to the thousandth generation.  Wow.

Where have you seen God’s love for you today?  Can’t come up with anything?  Then PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE look at your world and your life with different eyes!!   God is everything and in everything but it takes looking with different eyes to see him and his love.

You are missing the most important part of your life if you don’t see God and his love in everything!  We are sacred to him and he is constantly showing us that!


Loving Perfectly

June 20, 2017

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:43-48

So many of us get to that last line “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” And it scares us to death because we know, as human beings, we CAN’T be perfect – as in make no mistakes.

Maybe that’s not the ‘perfect’ Jesus is talking about.  Go back to the beginning of this passage and Jesus is talking about loving.  God is Love so if God is perfectly himself, then he loving to all people in all circumstances.  That does not mean that he goes along with everything a person chooses to do but he loves the person no matter what.

That’s the ‘perfect’ we are invited to, the ‘perfect’ we are challenged to live every day in every circumstance.  We are invited and challenged to be loving as God is loving (and sometimes it’s a ‘tough love’!!) .  Yes, we will make mistakes but that’s not the perfect God is asking.

Who will receive God’s love from you today?  Everyone you meet!

Now is the Acceptable Time

June 19, 2017

Brothers and sisters:  As your fellow workers, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.  For he says:  In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.  Behold, now is a very acceptable time;    behold, now is the day of salvation.

Full Reading – 2 Corinthians 6:1-10

My experience of packing up and moving and now unpacking the last few weeks is changing how I hear this scripture.

I used to think that it meant my receiving the graces of God and that it is about my salvation…..

I have been overwhelmed many times in the last few weeks by the generosity of time, talent, and treasure by my friends – from the giving of time and talent to help me pack to finding me the bed, the a/c, the washer and dryer, even a mailbox! that I have needed and then getting those things to my new home – to the giving of money to help buy the things I need, like a new couch, to a new laptop, to Denny and Ann buying me a new patio set for my wonderful little back patio!!  It was an amazing group of strong people who helped me move last Saturday – we were in the two trailers in about an hour and fully unloaded by 11, ready to eat lunch prepared for us by Early UMC women.

My eyes have leaked gratitude and awe often.  One of the hardest parts in the midst of all of this is that I can’t physically do what I want to do!  I have felt so wrapped up in caring and concern by my friends.

All of the people who have journeyed with me through this move have been GRACE to me.  “we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.”   “In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.”   Yes, Lord, you did!!   You helped me through every single one of the many people who have helped me in any way.  These people have shown me your grace, your care and concern for me.  They have been your face, your hands, your feet, your hugs.

In their giving in whatever way, out of the kindness of their hearts, they are working out their salvation.

May I invite you to turn your thinking on their Scripture around….  The grace of God we receive are many times those nudges we get to go help someone in whatever way we can.  It’s not just about receiving our salvation but about giving it too in so many ways.

Yes, the main point of our salvation is Jesus dying for us in our oh so human condition – but it’s also about living out that salvation by living as Jesus did, helping others with our time, our energy, our talents, our treasure.

Now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Who are you helping to save today?


March 29, 2017

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.

Full Reading – Isaiah 49:8-15

I think most of us have been at that point where we just want to yell “Where are you, God?!”

It’s in those moments when our faith grows, when we have to trust in God’s presence and love for us when we don’t feel it.

God cannot lie – so when he says he is with us always and that he will never forget us, it’s TRUTH.

Sometimes our experience of not-so-perfect-love here on earth gets in the way of our trusting God.  Just because we have been hurt by human beings doesn’t mean God is like that.  Faith isn’t faith until we have to struggle with it and choose it in spite of what our emotions may be telling us.  Faith is trusting when we can’t see the outcome.

God tells us he will never forget us.  Trust that.  Trust his amazing mystery of love for each of us.

A Clean Heart

March 28, 2017

A clean heart create for me, O God;
give me back the joy of your salvation.

Psalm 51:12

Sometimes I think we are our own worst enemies.  When I let guilt and regrets take over in my mind and heart, there is very little joy in me – even though, after talking all of that guilt and those regrets over with God, I continue to sit in the darkness instead of grabbing on to the joy and light that God offers me.

Each time God forgives my sins, he creates for me a clean heart!  But Satan creeps back in with those guilty thoughts and I find myself entertaining those thoughts instead of telling Satan to get lost because God has taken care of it!

It’s almost as if I have to punish myself because God doesn’t.  And Satan has such a good time with that!  He loves to rob us of the joy that God wants for us.  God’s joy leaves no room for Satan.

Grab on to that clean heart that God is trying to give you – and live in the joy of God’s salvation!

Choose Joy!

March 27, 2017

Thus says the LORD:
Lo, I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
The things of the past shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness
in what I create;
For I create Jerusalem to be a joy
and its people to be a delight;

Full reading – Isaiah 65:17-21

We are in the hard part of Lent – we are sometimes getting tired of our penance of choice.  It’s getting harder to keep that promise.  And we may be getting cranky.  The weather here in Iowa isn’t helping either with very little sunshine!

In today’s scripture God reminds us that, in the midst of our Lenten practice, God is creating something new within us.  He is changing us.  He reminds us that God is joy and that’s what he wants to share with us!  The Good News is that God loves us, just as we are – and that can’t bring anything but joy!

What are you doing with the joy God is bringing to you and your life?  Do you see it?  Do you accept it?  Or are you focusing instead of what you don’t have or what is wrong?

“For I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight….”

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