Finding 30 Minutes

Mar. 4, 2013

Luke 4:42a

When daybreak arrived, Jesus went to a deserted place. The crowds were looking for him.

Once Jesus established Capernaum and the Sea of Galilee as his ministry home base, it didn’t take long for the crowds to swarm him. Despite no Twitter feed, Facebook updates or text-messaging sightings, even when Jesus tried to have time alone, he was found.

I think it was more than paparazzi following him around. While there were lots of inquisitive folks who were skeptical, I also think there were a bunch of folks who really wanted to see if they could be healed, experience a new power in their lives or find peace and comfort in something.

Spending time with other folks can be very draining. Personally, these days it takes more energy for me to be at the top of my game when present with others. How did Jesus deal with thousands of people clamoring for his attention and energy?

He spent time with his Father, before and after exhausting times. It’s daybreak. The sun is just beginning to peak up over the horizon. Where is Jesus? In a very quiet place, all by himself, only in the presence of the Father. Quite often after one of those exhausting ministry days, we hear him sending the disciples ahead so he can have some quiet moments by himself before he performs the next miracle.

When was the last time you spent 30 quiet minutes with the Lord? I mean, no TV, no music, no earphones, no nothing. Just you and God. Unfortunately, it’s been way too long for me.

When I received a call into ministry, I often wondered how many times previously God had tried to get my attention and tell me something. I was too busy to hear the Lord’s voice in my life. I really wanted to avoid doing this in the future. Thirteen years later and I know I’ve missed God’s voice. I know I’ve let other noises drown out the most important voice in my life.

This week, I’m going to find 30 minutes just to be with God. Where is a place that you feel close to God? Go there this week, all by yourself and spent time with God. We’re supposed to get a bunch of snow in the next 36 hours. Could you take 30 minutes away and just be with God while it snows and we wait to dig out? Or maybe after the snow, you can go to that special place and just be with God?

I cannot promise something profound will happen in those 30 minutes. Most likely, it won’t. Even if you do not really hear anything back, the exercise is not wasted. It may take more than one 30 minute block of time to decompress and hear God. How often we spend 30 minutes in front of the TV, checking Facebook or surfing the internet. In this season of Lent, let us chose to spend 30 uninterrupted minutes with God so we can just breathe.

Lord Jesus, if you needed time away to be with the Father, how much more we need this time with you. What makes us think we will hear your voice without some quiet time with you? Inspire us to spend 30 minutes with you this week. Let us have no expectations about this time other than just to be with you. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Three Years

Mar. 2, 2013

Luke 4:31

Jesus went down to the city of Capernaum in Galilee and taught the people each Sabbath.

Three years. This is the time many biblical scholars believe was the length of Jesus’ ministry.

Think back to March 2010. How has your life changed? We’ve added a couple grandchildren added to our family and my dad has passed away. We’ve celebrated several Holy Week and Easter celebrations and Advent and Christmas seasons.

Three years from now it will be March 2016. Will my life be very much the same or will it be considerably different? It is impossible to know.

Consider where you were spiritually three years ago. Has this area of your life changed? I have learned there is far more to the Christian life than getting it right. There is living it right. While I can learn more about the Bible, the gospel and what I perceive as God’s truth, living means applying information in a world filled with disappointment, doubt, suffering, idolatry and forgiveness.

I love learning. I often miss the intellectual stimulation from seminary. But I do not grow mature in my Christian life simply by reading books, skimming scripture, listening to sermons and going to church. We grow by taking the stuff from our ordinary, everyday lives and integrating it into our understanding of our faith. We discover what faith means for us personally when we take our spouses and families, our parents and siblings, our children, our friends, our co-workers, our dreams and fantasies, our hopes and dreams and lay them before our Lord and Savior. We can have lots of “information” accumulated about God but unless we discover how to “apply” it to everyday life, it’s simply information.

The person with the most information doesn’t have a competitive advantage in the end. Those who somehow begin to develop a life of holy living on a daily basis makes God smile. This is not a life only reserved for nuns and monks and popes. I think God deeply desires for us to each move a little closer to God in our daily living; something very accessible to all of us.

Where would I like to be spiritually in three years? A little closer to this holy living. More able to take daily life situations and contemplate how they fit into my understanding of grace and mercy. I pray that I have a deeper understanding of how events from the Old Testament influence and connect to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. But until I take those events and connect them to my life, it is no more than a bunch of information.

How did Jesus position himself for this holy living? By taking regular retreats into the mountains to pray and be with his Father. By taking the simplest and most regular things in his daily life and turning them into a way to teach others. He did this not to give others more information; he was modeling for us how necessary it is for us to integrate faith into what we do every

Three years can zip by. May we see that daily, we choose to move closer to you or further away from you. Flat-line spiritual living really doesn’t happen. May we choose to seek how to live more holy daily. 

Blessings –

Dianne

Confidence in Healing

Mar. 1, 2013

Mark 5:24b-29

A swarm of people were following Jesus, crowding in on him. A woman was there who had been bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a lot under the care of many doctors, and had spent everything she had without getting any better. In fact, she had gotten worse. Because she had heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his clothes. She was thinking, If I can just touch his clothes, I’ll be healed. Her bleeding stopped immediately, and she sensed in her body that her illness had been healed.

My friend Carlene has struggled with cancer for many years. The cancer has moved to various places throughout her body. Two weeks ago over coffee, we had a frank discussion about health, life and life after death. She was expecting another chemo treatment a week later. She was very aware that successful treatment options were limited.

On Monday, Carlene’s husband called. Carlene had the chemo treatment last Thursday but had not responded well. She was at the hospital in excruciating pain. Things looked very grim. On Wednesday, Carlene came home on Hospice. Daily she slips further from this world.

Those who know Carlene agree she has endured more challenges in her life than anyone should endure. Her youngest son died of brain cancer when he was a senior in high school. About 18 months later, her other son died in a motorcycle accident. Meanwhile, Carlene was going through her own cancer diagnosis and treatments.

I became acquainted with Carlene after the death of her first son. While I do not understand what it means to live through the death of a child, I related from the perspective of a person who has watched their spouse loose a child. We became fast friends. We don’t talk every week or every month. We believe in the quality of conversation and time, not the quantity. We have talked about faith, trust, healing and experiencing seemingly unmanageable life situations.

We have also talked about healing. Carlene and I agree that ultimate healing is not always possible on this earth but eternal healing gives us hope. I have consistently admired Carlene for continually seeking Jesus’ healing hand, whether physical, emotional, mental or spiritual healing for herself. She literally desired to touch Jesus’ figurative clothing and “be healed.” She was also very realistic, in knowing that ultimate healing would happen at the end of her earthly life as she experiences an eternal home in heaven.

On Wednesday, I asked Carlene if she was afraid of anything. Even though words were difficult for her, she clearly told me that she is not scared of dying. This is the type of healing I know she wants and desires. It’s the kind of healing that can only come through Jesus Christ. This, my friends, is the form of healing I pray for all of us.

Lord God, I pray for those who suffer physically that we quietly name. As the great physician, you can and will ultimately heal us. Let us have faith, like the woman who only wanted to touch Jesus’ clothes, that healing is very possible. May we have confidence in your ability to heal in the very best way possible. 

Blessings –

Dianne

Lacking Moisture

Feb. 28, 2013

Psalm 63:1

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

A pitfall of winter: cracked, dry and chapped hands. This is the time of year my nails, cuticles and hands are a mess. I use hand lotion all the time, like 10-15 times a day. Rick says my hands are so wimpy because I use too much lotion. Is that really possible?

Last week at church, we had this discussion about the best hand cream for cracks that develop around nails this time of year. The deep ones where the skin actually separates for no reason other than they are chapped. The ones that hurt. Even the men were comparing their cracked hands, including my husband. Wise Louise advised us what is THE BEST hand cream on the market.

I have this container of hand paraffin in my night stand. During the winter, I use it every night. It’s super thick. My wedding rings have remnants of the paraffin on them. On the bottle, it suggests wearing special gloves for 20 minutes a day or all night to heal the cracks. I have the gloves and booties for my feet. When I’m desperate, I put them on for a night.

Several weeks ago, I realized our house needed moisture in the air. I dug out the humidifiers and set them out. That’s when I remembered I had thrown away the filters last winter and had not gotten replacements. I went online, ordered them and waited. Meanwhile, the humidifier was still sitting in the living room. Rick dutifully filled it and turned it on. When the water level didn’t go down and I turned it off, I shared that it probably would work better with a filter. “Oh, is that why it wasn’t working?” he asked.

As much as my hands and skin thirst for water, does not my soul thirst for the Lord even more? Our culture is becoming an ever increasing dry and parched land with little or no watering of the Lord in our daily lives. The distractions pull us farther and farther into a parched land and too often, we are only willing participants. I’ve been contemplating how I refresh my soul this week. If I’m really honest with myself, I would say that recently, I’ve not been doing a very good job. And I wonder why I feel as if I’m in the badlands. The humidifier only works when there is a filter and water. Moisture for my spiritual soul only happens when I take time to filter out distractions and intentionally water myself with rituals that restore me.

I have been praying daily for the Lord to speak to me. “Help me hear your voice,” I’ve prayed daily before getting out of bed. Yet, God seems eerily quiet. Maybe I just haven’t been lathering my soul with the right things: time away from God. I have forgotten to filter secular culture for the water to become moisture in my life. Most importantly, maybe I’ve forgotten that a lot is going on when I don’t think anything is going on.

Whether we are going through a dry time in our lives or we remember a recent dry time, speak to us. Help us remember the ways we best suck up the moisture our spiritual soul needs. Encourage us gently to filter out those things that pull us away from you. Speak to us. And if you seem quiet, remind us that you still work in us this day. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Beware of Demons

Feb. 26, 2013

Mark 1:32-34

That evening, at sunset, people brought to Jesus those who were sick or demon-possessed. The whole town gathered near the door. He healed many who were sick with all kinds of diseases, and he threw out many demons. But he didn’t let the demons speak, because they recognized him.

Want to scare a crowd at a church quickly? Start talking about demons. I can’t remember hearing a sermon about demons. Until last Sunday, I had never shared one. Yet, casting out demons was very much a part of Jesus’ ministry.

Demon possession at the time Jesus was alive was complicated. When an illness was outside the limits a doctor could treat, the illness was attributed to a demon. First century medical technology was significantly different from modern medicine. Doctors were not aware of infections or bacteria. The only way they knew how to get rid of them was to cast them out. When a person had an epileptic seizure, the only sensible explanation was a demon. There was no concept of psychological diseases. A person with multiple personalities, bi-polar or other mental illness was considered demonic.

Are there demons in our world today? I see them. Several years ago, Rick and I took an alcoholic into our home. This person spoke of alcohol as a demon. Other addicts also consider a bottle or an opiate a demon; one that can take over a person’s life and lead to self-destruction. For a bulimic or an anorexic, food may be their demon. Anything that can lead to self-destruction or hurt someone else can be a demon.

Watch the evening news and we quickly see examples of people who struggle with a demon. I know nothing about the young man who walked into the Sandy Creek Elementary School and began shooting. I believe some demon convinced him the way to deal with the challenges in his life was to inflict pain on someone else, with no thought to how the families devastated by the shooting would be affected.

Just as Jesus drove out the demons first century folks dealt with, Jesus can help us with our demons. When that voice in the back of your mind tries to convince you of something radical, we must invoke the Holy Spirit to release us from those thoughts. Still today, Jesus is more powerful than the demons that haunt us. It begins by asking for Jesus’ healing power in our lives.

What demon are you struggling with? What does that voice in the back of your mind try to convince you of that seem silly or far-fetched? Lay your hands in your lap and open yourself to the Holy Spirit’s healing as you pray.

Lord God, thank you for the health care professionals who provide care for me and my family. Thank you for enlightening them in ways to care of the human race. How thankful we are that many things previously attributed to demons can be treated through modern medicine. Yet, it may be very difficult for me to admit there is a demon in my life. Help me to recognize the evil that encourages me to hurt myself or others. Release this evil from my life. May I be open to your Spirit’s healing hand upon me this day. Even now, come to me this day. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Stretcher-Barrier Friendship

Feb. 25, 2013

Mark 2:1-5

After a few days, Jesus went back to Capernaum, and people heard that he was at home. So many gathered that there was no longer space, not even near the door. Jesus was speaking the word to them. Some people arrived, and four of them were bringing to him a man who was paralyzed. They couldn’t carry him through the crowd, so they tore off part of the roof above where Jesus was. When they had made an opening, they lowered the mat on which the paralyzed man was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven!”

A significant part of Jesus’ ministry was healing people. He healed hundreds of people, maybe thousands. In this healing story, Jesus is probably at Simon Peter’s house. The house wasn’t big. Yet it is packed with people wanting to see, be with or be healed by Jesus. A band of brothers have a friend who is paralyzed. The buddies want Jesus to heal him. They load him up on a stretcher and go to the house Jesus is. One small problem: they can’t get near the door.

These guys don’t shrug their shoulders, turn around and wait for another day. They get creative. First century Jewish homes often had flat roofs, commonly used as a patio. The guys scramble up the stairs going to the roof with their paralyzed buddy. I imagine the guys contemplating where Jesus most likely was sitting. “Here goes!” says one as he begins digging through the mud and thatch roof.

Those inside the house soon felt silt in the air, then mud clumps dropping on the floor. Peaks of light poked through the growing roof hole. I envision Peter questioning what is going on. Jesus holds him back.

When the hole is big enough, the four friends lower their ill friend into the house with ropes. Immediately, Jesus proclaims the man as healed. What a miracle!

The story’s surprise is that the ill man does not get healed because he had a deep, resounding faith in Jesus. No, Jesus was impressed with the faith of the band of brothers, his four stretcher-barriers. The ill man is healed only because four friends had faith and dug a hole in the roof.

Who are your stretcher-barriers? Who are the four people you can call at 2 AM when something in your world falls apart? Do you even have four stretcher-barriers? Unfortunately, most of us do not. We all need stretcher-barriers, friends, whose faith gets us through times when our faith is maybe not strong enough. When our faith falters, our stretcher-barrier friend’s faith will carry us through and even lower us before the Lord.

What is the best way to get stretcher-barrier friends? Be a stretcher-barrier to someone else, unrecruited, unsolicited. Think of four people you can help carry right now. What can you do this week to reach out to them and be their stretcher-barrier?

How important community was to Jesus. He never expects us to explore and live this spiritual journey alone which is exactly why he wants us to understand just how important stretcher-barriers are. May we chose to be a stretcher-barrier to someone who needs one this week. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Walking the Wilderness

Feb. 23, 2013

Mark 1:12

At once the Spirit forced Jesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and the angels took care of him.

In the last blog, I wrote about listening to God and not life becoming a “to-do” list. Then I skipped doing the blog for several days. Many of those days, I had good intentions. I wrote it on my to-do list. But inspiration and motivation lacked.

If completely honest, I would admit that I am in a time of wilderness. It is not that I have a bad life or am depressed. I’m just in a wilderness time. I have been reading an autobiographical book by a wonderful pastor/theologian/well-known Christian author. Thus far, he shares about how it took three years to plant a new congregation. Finally, they got a building built. Then, people lost interest. People lost passion. Committed folks who helped get the faith community planted, started and built skipped worship. At the chapter I finished this morning, he wrote about how he entered a life phase he called the “badlands.” It lasted for six years.

“Welcome to my world,” I thought.

Several years ago, Rick and I traveled to Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park. On the way, we drove through the South Dakota Badlands. As we looked over the barren landscape, the Jeep thermometer registered 107 degrees. When we stepped out of the car at a look-out point, the air that hit our lungs was as dry and parching as the sand that fell over our sandals.

Before Jesus began his ministry, he was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. (I should have blogged about this event first. Maybe in a day or two.) Three of the four gospels say immediately after this this pinnacle event he went into the barren, dry and oppressive dessert for 40 days and 40 nights. The Judean wilderness is anything but beautiful. When I was there in January, it was dry, brown and ugly. An hour in this area was enough for our tour group.

Mark’s gospel only gives us one sentence. Luke and Matthew’s gospel give more detail. Here, Jesus was tempted by the Devil three times. Three times, he tries to lure Jesus away from being the spiritual being he was intended to be with temptations of secular culture. It is no different for us today. Maybe the enticements are different. But the baseline temptations are much the same.

I like Mark’s description because he includes these words: “And the angels took care of him.” Our society overuses angels to the point we are unsure of angel’s roles. But I do know this: God provides angels of many different kinds to walk with us in our own wildernesses. A couple showed up in my life this week. One angel astutely asked me what I need to do in the next six months to renew myself. Another angel walked into the church office, relieved to see me alive and healthy because I hadn’t blogged for a few days. These angels do not have visible wings or halos. But they want to care of me as I walk through the wilderness.

Lent is 40 days because Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness before he officially launched his ministry. Angels attend him as Satan tempted him. Thank God I do not have to walk the Badlands of my life alone. Angels attend me also.

When we hit the badland times of our lives, Lord God, bring angels to attend us. May loving people care for us in the wilderness times of our lives. As we are tempted to follow things not of your world, surround us with your love and protection. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

When is It Enough?

Feb. 16, 2013

Colossians 1:9-10a

Because of this, since the day we heard about you, we haven’t stopped praying for you and asking for you to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, with all wisdom and spiritual understanding. We’re praying this so that you can live lives that are worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him in every way.

As much as I would like to say that I really practice what I write or speak about, reality is so much different. I’m trying to remove distractions this Lent. But the adding has been a bit more difficult. Does writing something for the blog count? Even when it is at 11 PM at night?

For me, this is one of the struggles of the Christian life. When is enough ever enough?  I have become convinced the Christian journey is not purely about a “to-do” list, which we either cross off or get discouraged because too many things didn’t get accomplished on a particular day. I don’t envision a modern-day Jesus carrying around a Franklin Planner or an I-phone with blocks of time carefully scheduled throughout the day.

Yesterday, we got the two oldest grandsons for a few days. Enroute to get them, I asked Rick what types of things he planned on doing with them. The scheduler in me was coming out. On the other hand, Rick runs more by the seat of his pants, deciding on a whim what to do. Of course, we want to engage in the things the boys were looking forward to. That’s why sledding moved to the top of the list. Yet, picking out stones for tomorrow’s worship service became a wonderful time of wondering around the farm with Grandpa sharing and explaining history, agriculture and his story that the boys would have other not discovered.

I do think at times, Jesus had specific things in mind he wanted to do, say and engage. But was every parable carefully planned out in advance? Or did sometimes they just come about because of location, folks who entered Jesus life or happenstance events? I know this gets into a theological question of how much God has planned for our lives in advance and how much impact we have in making our down decisions. In the end, I’m quite confident that Jesus walked a tightrope balance between knowing exactly what was going to happen vs. taking advantage of teachable moments as they unfolded.

I pray this Lent that we can allow ourselves to do some planning and yet allow for the Holy Spirit to drop some completely unexpected and quite marvelous situations into our laps. In my opinion, we learn best within the context of the real lives we live. Thanks be to God for allowing this.

It is just a few days into Lent and maybe we are already questioning our commitment and application. Too often, we are probably harder on ourselves than You are with us. May we use Jesus’ ministry and model as a guide for daily living with you. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Adding Versus Subracting

Feb. 15, 2013

Colossians 3:24

Work because you know that you will finally receive as a reward what the Lord wants you to have. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Sometimes during Lent, people give up something. I wrote yesterday about this. While there can be great value in this, I think there is another way to approach Lent.

 

Add something. Take the next 40 days as an opportunity to do that something you’ve been meaning or wanting to do for a long time. Make this the time to read your bible daily. Or focus on really developing a time to pray. Or select a form of service to do for the next 40 days.

Last year, I challenged folks from the church I serve to think of something they could do for the next 40 days. Volunteer at the school one day a week, phone someone daily, babysit for an overwhelmed mom with young kids. Maybe you can’t do it every day of Lent, but designate when and how you will do this.

My neighbor, Tina, decided to write 40 cards to 40 different people last year. I received her last card, the Saturday before Easter. She wrote personal words of encouragement in my card. I’m trusting she did this for the other 39 people also. Earlier this week, Tina asked me for a few names of children to round out her list of 40. She is going to send cards to 40 Midland kids this year. What a great idea!

Yes, Lent has begun. But you can still do a 40 for 40 this Lent. Remember you have those extra Sundays which aren’t counted in the 40! What might you do as a 40 for 40 this Lent?

As much as we value and appreciate Christ’s sacrifice, maybe giving up something is hard for us to do.  Maybe what makes more sense is adding something we can do to help others this Lent. Clearly share with me how I might complete a 40 for 40 this Lent. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Enduring 40 Days

Feb. 14, 2013

Hebrews 10:12

Jesus our priest offered one sacrifice for sins for all time. Then he sat down at the right hand of God.

How long is 40 days? It depends. Forty days before you leave on vacation can be a long time. If your child is graduating high school and moving out, it’s not long enough.

Lent is 40 days; 40 days before we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. It can be a long season … or it can go quickly. Why 40 days? It’s biblical. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting and praying at the beginning of his ministry. Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai with God.

We are told that it takes 21 days to create a new habit. It never fails that on Easter Sunday, I’m excited to eat sweets and candy once again. Whatever I denied myself during Lent, I’m thrilled to put back into my life. So much for getting past the 21 days.

For Protestants, “giving up” something during Lent is not as familiar for us as our Catholic friends. A few years ago, Rick gave up ketchup. For most people, this is not a big deal. For my bottle-a-week husband, it was huge.

A few days ago, Rick warned me. He started Lent early and gave up chewing tobacco. Four years ago, he gave up chewing tobacco at the end of the year/beginning of a new year. A few days later, I left for the Holy Lands. It was time for a little space. While I love my husband dearly, his crabbiness almost drove me to drink! This time around, he quit while at the farm so I would not witness the early crabbiness. He was quite proud of himself yesterday when he got the tractor stuck twice and still stayed off the chewing tobacco. Way to go sweetie!

Why do some people deny themselves something during Lent? The purpose isn’t to lose weight or kick a bad habit. The purpose is to experience a sacrifice as Jesus sacrificed himself for our benefit. If you have chosen to deny yourself something this Lent, when you yearn for that something, may it be a reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made for you. Ketchup seems pretty little compared to this.

Let us pray: Whether I’m fasting from a beloved food, computer games or something else, when the desire for my fast consumes me, please remind me of Jesus’ sacrifice for my benefit. May we be sobered by his great love and devotion for us this Lent. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne