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2017 Daily Devotions

Daily Devotion Friday, August 18, 2017

Mary Warejcka

He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children.  Matthew 15: 35-38

A Word of Hope
In the 1990s, I first read Susan Faludi’s Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women and had a hard time existing for months. That’s because in today’s terms I was “woke” to just how sexist the world was around me. I couldn’t go to movies without seeing how poorly women are treated in so many flicks. I couldn’t get through work as a reporter without noticing things like women being called chairmen or everyday life without hearing about mankind. And of course, I likely was getting paid less because I had ovaries. It was a great awakening for someone who thought she wasn’t a feminist just a few years earlier in college.

Of course, most of the rest of the world didn’t know or want to know just how biased the world was and still is toward women. Just recently a guy told me that he only knew angry feminists. Sexism is kind of a drag that many don’t want to face. I bet some of you are already tuning out. What is this feminist stuff in my daily devotion? How is that holy? But what better time to discuss it than this story about a miracle that only counts the 4,000 men there. See even, maybe especially, holy texts are not feminist friendly; too often. Here only the men are counted … what does that say? Imagine not counting enough to be counted… have you experienced that?

In feminist circles, one of the more productive things we do is try to re-imagine what this day might have actually looked like if it were told by say Jesus, who was super-woman friendly, or a woman in attendance, rather than a man there. This is what may have just happened…

In addition to the 4,000 men, there were about 6,000 women (more because women saw Jesus as a liberator for them) and about another 12,000 kids (because where else would kids be but next to their parents?). Jesus mentioned to the men around him that they should feed everyone. They pulled out a few loaves and fish … and said, this is all we have. And then Jesus, laughing, blessed them, and said, “Have you talked to the women? They are always prepared.” And from there, the women pulled out their stashes to add to the blessed food to share because who would leave home without snacks? The women wouldn’t. And by the time they all shared, they had enough for all the men and children, too, with plenty left.

In this re-imagining, the miracle is giving women the credit for what they did – feeding the people. In some ways, I think this is the superior miracle to Jesus miraculously multiplying the loaves and fishes. Perhaps that’s blasphemy but I’ll risk it because I think Jesus wanted us to create a world where the people are fed by each other, not only by him, not just by God. I think Jesus saw women and men as equal and probably hung out with women much more than is recorded.

Creator, help us re-imagine the world in new ways so that we might feed each other, as you intended.

Daily Devotion Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dr. Pat Saxon

 “I remembered your songs in the night…” Psalm 77:6

A Word of Hope

I’d been feeling off-kilter for days.  Disconnected.  One evening I slept and dreamed I was alone on a lake at night in a small boat, the water calm with the sheen of reflected light. No fear gripped me, but I knew it was time to return home, so I headed toward shore. In that pre-dawn state, strains of an old hymn floated from the depths:   “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus…”

The words I couldn’t fully remember, so I searched on Youtube and found Guy Penrod’s  tender assurance.  And I sang with him.

“Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
 Just to take him at his word;  
Just to rest upon his promise.
And to know, “Thus saith the Lord.”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him!
How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er.
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace….He paused and called us to repeat…

Oh, for grace….And then once again….

Oh, for grace… to trust him more!

I looked at the faces of the young choir behind him and they had gone inward. The song had become prayer. Breath and heartbeat. The shawl of grace.

The words and melody have companioned me in recent days, singing me back to presence, to relationship, to gratitude.

So many of us have stories of the blessing of song, songs old and new. A woman singing her mother’s favorite hymn as she lay unconscious and near death.  A song offering a lifeline in a time of despair. Songs which restore community.

Years ago I first heard the lyrics of “Sing Me to Heaven,” Jane Griner’s  beautiful tribute to song:

If you would comfort me, sing me a lullaby.
If you would win my heart, sing me a love song.
If you would mourn me and bring me to God,
Sing me a requiem, sing me to Heaven.

 Sing us a song in the night, O God. And may our hearts remember. Amen.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Matthew Crawley

Jesus Stills the Storm
And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm.They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”
Matthew 8:23-27    New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

A Word of Hope

Today’s reading shows us one of Christ’s most notorious miracles. Jesus tells the disciples they are to cross the sea and is the first to board. Evidently, the disciples took the helm while Jesus went below deck to rest. We know that several of the disciples were fishermen and adept at navigating the sea under a variety of conditions. But, when a storm suddenly erupts, its violence and fury overwhelm them.

Sure they are facing certain death, they rush to Jesus and find him...sleeping. Picturing this scene makes me laugh until I realize the number of times I felt Christ was taking a little nap while my life capsized before me. “Don’t you see what I’m going through? Do you understand I could die? Aren’t you going to do something?” Which, slightly paraphrased, is exactly what the disciples were crying out.

Then Jesus asks them: Why are you afraid?

I would love to tell you I tend to remain at peace in life’s difficult situations, certain things will all work out. But, honestly, I’m more likely to be the one pointing at The Perfect Storm and saying, “Oh, I think the typhoon and splintering boat have a little something to do with it.” And, that would be when God would ask me what he asked the disciples: “Why don’t you trust me?”

God will lead all of us toward a destination while showing us that the storm we face can be so ferocious that our own abilities will fail to bring us peace and safety. We, like the disciples, will likely feel terrified. But, it is in such moments that we are called to recognize our limitations and to viscerally trust in the God who works on our behalf, even amid our doubt and skepticism.

Most Loving God: We believe you can, and sometimes do, cause impossible situations in our lives to unfold in a miraculous way. We’ve experienced these occurrences. 

We’ve also experienced the pain of knowing You possesses the ability to resolve a situation, but do not. At least not in a way we understand. Remind us that regardless of the situation, You remain with us and Your Love drives away all fear. May we learn to remain at peace, to rest as You rest, even in our darkest hours. Perfect our trust and keep us mindful that You remain with us always. And so it is. Amen.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Rev. Dr. Gary Kindley
Pastoral Counselor


A Word of Hope:  Thoughts on God's Wrath and Mercy

Tom and I are going thorough the process of purchasing a house and selling our condominium. It has given me new insight about the idea of divine wrath (anger) and mercy (kindness)!

We have spent months choosing the right house in a location that we liked. We have endured “gnashing of teeth” completing countless documents required for mortgage, insurance, and realty law. We’ve pressed to get straightforward answers from sellers, lenders, realtors, inspectors, appraisers, contractors, plumbers, and electricians. Our faith has been tested, we’ve both lost our temper on occasion, but we’ve grown closer with the process.

The key issue about Divine wrath and mercy is intention and personality. What is the will and character of God?

It is a Christian tenet that God’s nature and intent is ultimately a loving one. Jesus taught and demonstrated that. It is expressed in the scripture referred to as the “greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:36-40). We can more easily understand God’s love and mercy because that is what we long for. The question is, what do we do with the idea of God’s wrath?

Paul’s understanding was that it was ultimately up to God. God chooses whom God chooses and rejects whom God rejects. There has been plenty of hot air given to fiery sermons on hell and heaven. So if God is graciously loving, is God also wrathful and mean-spirited?

Ultimately it comes down to Jesus’ teaching about this Abba, Parent, Father/Mother God who loves those creatures whom God created, and our understanding and experience of healthy, loving parenting. We may set loving limits for our children and be firm with them to guide them, but even their heart-breaking bad choices need not end our love for them*. So it must be with God.

[*As a therapist, I believe that when healthy parents stop feeling love for their wayward children it is out of self-protection because they cannot bear the pain.]

Remind me, Holy One, that love and mercy are both your gift and character. Though it is not Your desire to condemn, we still have free will to do wrong—and such poor choices come with consequences. Amen.

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