January 2, 2013 Devotion

Prayer for January 2, 2013

Our scripture focus this week is from 2 Peter 3.9: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

The first of January is when many people decide to embrace a new start. However, the success rate for New Year’s resolutions is abysmal. The media predicts the rate at which these promises will be broken before we even make them.

So what are we to do? Are resolutions to eat better or to exercise or to spend more time with those we love or to learn another language useless? Should we abandon these ideas—or as one commentator suggested—tell no one what we resolved to do, or better still—keep these resolutions reasonable and easy to reach?

On this second day of a New Year why not decide to go for the big one? Why not decide that this year is going to be a year to honor “on earth as in heaven”? Why not decide to seek to discover God’s vision for each of us?

Gordon MacDonald has three steps from his book Ordering Your Private World that would be helpful in ensuring that this year’s promises have more chance of being kept.
1. Start each day asking, “What do You desire of me today, Lord? What can I do that brings you honor?”
2. Ask the Lord, “Show me where in this world sin has not taken root so that I can see what you are revealing to me through Your loving heart.”
3. Ask, “Where can I serve You, Lord Jesus, by supporting and encouraging others?”
Last year I decided to ask myself these three questions every day. My success rate was not perfect, but on the days in which I made one of more of these my focus, I was truly blessed. The Lord stands ready to support us. The Lord waits patiently for us to seek guidance. Perhaps, those resolutions we easily forget are doomed not because we are weak, but rather because we believe it all depends upon us. We forget that God wants to help us—if we but seek God’s guidance.
Recap Prayer and Challenge: Dear Lord, Help us to remember that when we honor You we honor all of Your creation. Help us to remember that you are actively in our lives revealing your love to us. Help us to serve You knowing that there is no greater purpose. In Jesus name, help us to embrace a New Year knowing You do not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. Amen.

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Day 20

Week 3, Day 20 is entitled: “Visualize God’s Blessings”

EMJR (Early Morning Joy Ritual) for Day 20

When I went back to school to train for ministry I was an “older student.” At Wesley Theological Seminary I walked into that first class with Dr. Sharon Ringe nervous and completely unaware of what was in store. One exercise that helped me was to buy tapes that showed how to remember things more easily. Those tapes explained how the mind remembers with vivid pictures. The premise was that in the process of taking in huge amounts of information, the mind is constantly eliminating things it believes we do not need to remember. It encouraged remembering things visually and making pictures. Newberry is encouraging us to create pictures in our minds that imagine the future. My problem is that I can see beauty in a finished picture—but I am not always able to see what might be drawn on that empty canvas.

In ministry, a pastor can wear a stole only after he or she is fully ordained. A close friend created a wonderful needle pointed stole for me using many of the Christian symbols. She created this free hand, and it is a one-of-a-kind stole that many people admire.

The uniqueness of the stole for me is that she created it and gave it to me before I was fully ordained. When times got tough in preparation for full ordination, I would look at that stole and visualize finally getting to wear it. Every time I do get to wear it, I think of how she created this and literally was visualizing my future better than I could.

What are you visualizing this morning?

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Week 3 Day 19 of 40 Day’s to a Joy-Filled Life

Week 3, Day 19 is entitled: “Just Exchange It”
EMJR (Early Morning Joy Ritual) for Day 19
So we really cannot multi-task when it comes to thoughts???? I mean, trying “not to think about something” really does cause us to think about that very thing which we are trying to block out? This reminds me of a time when I was working through a deep hurt. A good friend placed a rose at my back door with the note, “this, too, will pass.” Every time I looked at the rose that day I move farther away from my sadness. Each morning, the first thing I do is reread my prayer journal entry from last year. Not only does this help me to see where God has helped me to grow—it shows me the things I thought were really big problems that have been resolved quite nicely.
I want to reiterate Newberry’s warning that “[a]ttempting to get rid of an unproductive thought by fighting it or trying to block it out will not work.” Too many times I have heard people say, “just forget it.” Newberry explains why the mind just does not forget things easily, especially things that have hooked our feelings. For me, asking the question, “Where is this going?” has helped.
I think we have all had times when we were happy, and then gotten ambushed by something unexpected and damaging happening. So we might think of God’s Word as a welcomed ambush that can redirect us. I have seen people’s moods change when a dear friend walked in the door. Imagine how we would feel if God was embodied before our eyes.
What do you think?

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Week 43 of the Grand Sweel

Prayer for Week 43, October 24, 2012, of Grand Sweep Journey


Our scripture focus this week is John 20.31, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this bookBut these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”


John’s gospel focuses on many healings.  The woman at the well, the man blind from birth, and the man who is lame—all respond differently to being healed.  Nevertheless, Jesus seeks them all and wants them all to know who he is and why he is on earth.  According to Kalas, the Bible is a “spell-binding story of God’s pursuit of our human race.”  He goes on to say that the Gospel of John “telescopes time and eternity at the opening” by reminding us, “his name was ‘the Word’ ages before he was named Jesus.” 

The Grand Sweep through the Bible combines provable historical facts of times certain with spiritual truths that illuminate and inspire.  If we try to line up everything logically we can get into a bit of a conundrum.  So we will need to go back to the basics if we want to experience the fullness of John’s message.  Why did the Word become flesh?  “So that any who believe in Him might become children of God.” (John 1.10-13) How serious is God’s love for the world? “He gave His only Son.” (John 3.16) John shows us the lengths that God is willing to go to gather together all of the “dispersed children of God.” (John 11.52)  Do we value ourselves as much as our Creator values us?  Do we value our brothers and sisters as much as God does?  Do we want to be healed and made whole?  Every time we are healed and made whole, or every time we are part of another being healed and made whole, how do we respond?


Recap Prayer and Challenge: Dear Lord, You pursue us, and we run away.  You heal us, and we forget.  You invite us to help others, and we hesitate.  But you are persistent.  You prepare a table for us, you invite us into your presence, help us to understand how precious your Word made flesh for us is.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

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Day 17

Week 3, Day 17 is entitled: “Hunting RATS”
EMJR (Early Morning Joy Ritual) for Day 17

I remember reading about RATS in Newberry’s first book on the 4-8 Principle. I had never thought about “Really Awful Thoughts” terrorizing us. When I read through the descriptive patterns that RATS can take, I was intrigued—none of the categories seemed particularly dangerous at first. For me, the person who likes to amplify, feel deeply, guess, exaggerate, identify, or forecast might seem harmless. But the cynics, blamers and justifiers were easier to call out. However, as I read through Newberry’s descriptions of each of these categories, it became clearer that in all of these cases if the “fact checking” we talked about yesterday is askew, the seeds of discontent have time and space to grow into terrorizing RATS. I remembered how a dropped stitch in knitting creates a huge hole if it is not picked up.

When I was growing up, my mother was strict about not allowing us to gossip. If we came to her complaining that someone had gossiped about us, she would say, “When people talk about you, they leave someone else alone.” Gossipers will always find someone to slander, but if no one listens to them, the slander has no influence. Deciding to disconnect from the source of RATS is intriguing. What do you think?

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Day 14

Week 2, Day 14

 is entitled: “Gift of the Present.”

EMJR (Early Morning Joy Ritual) for Day 14


Richard Foster’s book, Life With God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation, was a blessing to me last year.  Foster’s practical promptings helped me see that I needed to focus more on the present than to worry about the past or the future.  He is emphatic that God’s grace is “not accessible to us if we are trying to act independently.”  I think that is the key to living in the present moment.  God’s grace is sufficient for this moment.   Countless times God has taken the meagerness of what I have to offer and enhanced it—because I had no other choice but to surrender.  So what we are trying to do is to stay present to the God’s Holy Spirit that is always guiding us gently in the right direction.  Distractions are all around us.  Modern life is full of interruptions—and those interruptions take us down many rabbit holes.  Before I established a time certain for the daily routine of prayer, my intentions remained wishful thinking and then regret at the end of the day that the time to pray was pushed aside by daily interruptions.  However, once I began praying soon as I woke up, a strange thing happened.  Going to the Lord in prayer each morning helped me to focus on the day I am in.  My neighbor in Maine gave me a plaque that reads: Yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery; the present is God’s gift to us.

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Day 11

EMJR (Early Morning Joy Ritual) for Day 11
Okay, I have to confess I had a tough time yesterday.  So I had to go back to the drawing board and say—what happened?  How did the day go south?  And the problem I have is really a problem of expectations.  My family tells me I have “high expectations.”  What I think really happens is that I “plan too much.”  When my plans do not work out—I am like one of those old fashioned records with a scratch in the grooves.  The record will not play.  One of the things we did (when I was a kid) to make a record with a scratch play was to put a penny on top of the arm that held the needle.  That was usually strong enough to force the needle through the scratch.  Today’s lesson on gratitude is exactly what I need to do to recover.  I need something to push down on me so I can move through this scratch.
Newberry says gratitude is learned and that it is 1) A choice, 2) A feeling, 3) A capacity.   This exercise was like that penny on the arm of the needle for me.  I have so much to be thankful for.  Yesterday did not go as I planned, and my “take away” is not what I would have expected—but I did get an important “take away lesson” that has moved me to action.  I want to stand out as an unusually grateful person.  It is encouraging to know that this attribute is a choice I can make if I respond and do not react.  That penny that is pushing down on my heart is God’s hand assuring me that God’s plans for me are much better than anything I might plan or “expect.”

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Week 42 of the Grand Sweep

Prayer for Week 42, October 17, 2012, of Grand Sweep Journey
Our scripture focus this week is Luke 15.2, “The scribes complain: ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’”
Kalas proclaims that the Pharisees’ desire was not to see sinners redeemed but to be isolated from them.  Jesus, on the other hand, saw the sinner as someone who is lost.  Have you ever been lost?  Because I am directionally challenged, I have been lost many times.  It is not a good feeling.  But this morning I want to ask, why would we want to separate ourselves from lost people?  And this leads me to ask, why was the Elder Brother so upset when the “lost brother comes home?”  I suggest that the Pharisees (who are personified as the Elder Brother for those of us who identify with the Elder Brother) are afraid. The return of the lost in someway threatens them.  So I am prompted to ask, what causes this fear?  Jesus leaves the story of the Elder Brother unfinished.  Will he ever go into the party and embrace his lost brother?  Will the returning brother appreciate his father’s gift of acceptance?  What do you think?
Prayer and Challenge: Dear Lord, You rejoice when sinners find their way back to you.  Help us, also, to know when we are lost, and then help us to find our way back to You. Help us to rejoice when our siblings do well, and to know we need not fear the redemption of others.  Help us to know You, and not merely to know about You.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

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Day 10

40 Days to a Joy-filled Life: DAY 10 (October 16, 2012)
Week 2, Day 8 is entitled: “The Secret Studio.”
EMJR (Early Morning Joy Ritual) for Day 10
How is it going?  On Day 10 are you experiencing any differences?  If I compare how I am learning new “thought patterns” to learning to make better choices when I eat—I find one obvious similarity.  I feel better.   Yesterday at staff meeting there were delicious looking doughnuts sitting beside the coffee.  For a split second I considered eating one.  But then I remembered how eating one really made me feel long term.  The choice not to eat the doughnut is a lot like the choice not to think about all the things that are wrong.  To focus on the fact that God wants only good things for us renews me.  When was the last time you made a list of all the good (non-material) things you are able to do?  Then, have you thanked the Lord for the ability God gave you to do these things?

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Day 8

40 Days to a Joy-filled Life: DAY 8 (October 15, 2012)

Week 2, Day 8 is entitled: “Stop Identity Theft.”

EMJR (Early Morning Joy Ritual) for Day 8
Yesterday I preached on a word I made up a few years ago called YAAUUGOG which stands for You Are A Uniquely Unrepeatable Gift of God! Today I read on page 40 of our book that Newberry says, “ . . . you are an original masterpiece, handcrafted by the Creator of the universe.” Then he goes on to quote the very passage we read yesterday “We are God’s masterpiece. He created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do good things he planned for us long ago.” (NLT) It felt truly affirming to read this. So knowing this, what are we to do?
I must admit, though, that I am having trouble writing down what is means to be a beautiful, wonderful child of God. What do you all think? What does it mean to you to know you are a beautiful, wonderful child of God?

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