Welcome to the February 2009 Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
    You are welcome to use these writings or pass them on. All we ask is that in all things you remember the Author and give Him the glory, and remember this vessel which He has used to bring them to you. Peggy Hoppes




















Divine spark

Living the life


Scripture on this page taken from the American Standard Version of the Holy Bible which belongs to the public domain.



A WORD FOR TODAY, February 2009

February 2, 2009

Scriptures for Sunday, February 8, 2009: Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11, 20c; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39

1 Corinthians 9:16-23 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of; for necessity is laid upon me; for woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel. For if I do this of mine own will, I have a reward: but if not of mine own will, I have a stewardship intrusted to me. What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel without charge, so as not to use to the full my right in the gospel. For though I was free from all men, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more. And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, not being myself under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, not being without law to God, but under law to Christ, that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak: I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. And I do all things for the gospel's sake, that I may be a joint partaker thereof.

Have you ever felt like you are living the same thing day after day after day? It is like every day is the same. You get out of bed at the same time, put on the same kind of clothes, eat the same breakfast. Then you get into your car and drive through the same traffic jams to the same office to do the same work over and over again. Oh, there might be minor differences during the day: a blue shirt instead of white, a cheeseburger instead of a chicken sandwich. At home after a long day of work is the same thing, too. Dinner, television, a newspaper filled with the same stories. Then to bed for another night of rest before it all begins again.

Phil Connor experienced this to the extreme. In the movie “Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray plays Phil who is a arrogant self-centered weatherman who is sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for the annual Groundhog celebrations. He does not want to go because he thinks the whole thing is beneath him. The town is boring, the celebration corny. Punxsutawney is the last place in the world he wants to be. He does the report with distain and rushes his director and cameraman out of town. Unfortunately, the winter storm he swore would not hit the area closes the road home and he’s stuck for another night in the small town.

The next morning, Phil wakes to exactly the same day. Everything is the same, literally. The same song is playing on the radio, the same banter comes from the DJs. The same people are walking around outside and in the Bed and Breakfast where he was staying. He has to go back to Gobbler’s Knob and do the report again. Everything else that day is the same and he ends up in the Bed and Breakfast for another night. No one else knows that he’s living the same day. To them it is a whole new day. But for Phil, the day is new but everything about it has happened already. This happens over and over again. Each morning Phil wakes up to the same day.

He first responds with confusion and denial. He doesn’t want to do the report again and tries to convince everyone that he’s reliving the same day. They think he’s just nuts. Eventually he realizes that his actions have no consequences, so he takes advantage of the situation. He joy rides with a bunch of drunks, has a one night stand with a pretty woman, and steals a bag full of money left on the ground by some bumbling armor car guards. Then he becomes desperate for the day to be over. He tries to kill himself. He steals the groundhog (also named Phil) and drives them both over a cliff. He jumps in front of a moving truck and jumps off a building. Nothing works. He wakes up the next morning exactly the same.

He finally concedes to the idea that he’ll be living the same day forever, so he takes advantage of the situation. He learns how to play the piano and how to carve ice sculptures. He reads great novels and learns poetry. He becomes knowledgeable in many different fields. He gets to know the people and his co-workers, learning the most intimate details about his pretty producer so as to win her trust and get her into his bed. Over and over, day after day, he fails as she ends each day with a slap on his face. All the while, Phil is watching the town and its people, learning every movement, seeing all their needs.

One morning Phil decides to tell the producer Rita that he thinks he’s a god. He doesn’t think he’s God, but he tells her about his seeming immortality. He proves his incredible knowledge by telling her details about all the people in the town, and then tells her exactly what the cameraman will say when he comes through the door. They hang out together for that day and she tries to keep him awake until midnight, but they fall asleep and he wakes up to another old day. On that day he finally used his power for good.

He spent the day doing good things for the people of Punxsutawney. He presents the most fabulous report about the groundhog celebration. He saves a boy who falls out of a tree. He changes the tire of a group of older women. He gives the Heimlich to a man in a restaurant chocking on a piece of steak. He helps a young couple through pre-marriage jitters. He’s the hit of the party and Mr. Congeniality of Punxsutawney, loved by everyone. This time Rita really does fall in love with this terrific guy who is much different than she thought he was. They fall asleep in each other’s arms and when Phil wakes up, it is a new day.

It was when Phil started living for others that he found renewal and hope in a new day. The same can be said for Paul. He didn’t preach the Gospel for his own sake, he preached it for the sake of others, so that they might know the hope and peace of Jesus Christ. For their sake, he also gave up the things that had made him happy, so that they would not suffer in any ways by his hands. In doing so, he found much greater blessing. And the same can be true for us. While our days may seem to be the same thing over and over again, we can live our life for the sake of others. In doing so, we’ll see that it is a whole new day for us, too.


February 3, 2009

Scriptures for Sunday, February 8, 2009: Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11, 20c; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39

Mark 1:29-39 And straightway, when they were come out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever; and straightway they tell him of her: and he came and took her by the hand, and raised her up; and the fever left her, and she ministered unto them. And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were sick, and them that were possessed with demons. And all the city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many that were sick with divers diseases, and cast out many demons; and he suffered not the demons to speak, because they knew him. And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose up and went out, and departed into a desert place, and there prayed. And Simon and they that were with him followed after him; and they found him, and say unto him, All are seeking thee. And he saith unto them, Let us go elsewhere into the next towns, that I may preach there also; for to this end came I forth. And he went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out demons.

I have been a stay-at-home mom for the best part of the last twenty years. I’ve had a couple of part-time jobs in the past few years, but being a mom has always been my main vocation. I’m very thankful that I have not had to go to work to support my family because it has given me the opportunity to be available and active in my kids’ lives. Whenever there is an emergency, or sickness, or unexpected need, I am glad that I can drop whatever I am doing to take care of the kids without worrying what it will mean for my job. It doesn’t get any easier as they grow up. Yes, they are able to do many things themselves and they learn to help with chores around the house, but their needs change. They still need someone to drive them to their activities and to run out late at night to get those must have supplies for that last minute project.

I love being a mom, but I have to admit that there are times when I wonder what I could have accomplished if I had followed a career path. Someone recently asked the question, “If you could have done something differently in your life, what would it be?” My answer is that I would have pursued a different degree at college. Would it have made a difference? I hope not, because I love the life I’ve lived, but I can’t help but think that I might have had a much bigger impact on the world in which I live if I had taken some chances in my youth.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing greater than raising up two terrific kids. They are my legacy and they will accomplish great things, of this I am certain. But as an intelligent, talented individual, it is natural for me to wonder what might have been and what can be. After all, my life isn’t over yet! I recently filled out a job application for a job that I think would be enjoyable and a good fit for my circumstances. Even as I’m waiting to hear from the employer, Zack has needed me. Would I have been free to help him if I were tied to a job? Many people balance work ant children, so of course I would have found a way. But do I get a job just so that I have some tangible evidence of my gifts? That’s the question.

Today’s story from Mark is very comforting for me in several ways. First of all, we see Jesus ministering in a home. In the previous story, Jesus healed a demon-possessed man after preaching and teaching the scriptures in the synagogue. He was seen and heard by many who were amazed at His authority over the word and the spirit. He was just beginning to accomplish the great things that we still remember today: the miracles, the crowds who followed Him, the willingness to give himself wholly for the sake of the world. These are great acts. Yet, we follow the story of healing with a much simpler experience. A friend’s mother was ill. Jesus touched her and she was made well. And we see in this story that she wasn’t healed for some great purpose. She was healed so that she could continue to live in her vocation: serving those she loves.

She was a nobody. She has no name and is only identified by who she knows. She had no great job, and yet Jesus restored her to her place in her community, to her place in her home. He gave her the gift of life again to do what she was meant to do. It was not a special day or a special place. This story shows us how Jesus did extraordinary things for ordinary people in ordinary places on ordinary days. Jesus can, and does, the same for us as we live our ordinary lives in this world. Wihle I will still pursue the possibility of a job, I won’t wonder so much about whether or not I can accomplish something great. God is in the ordinary experiences of our life, too.


February 4, 2009

Scriptures for Sunday, February 8, 2009: Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11, 20c; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39

Let us go elsewhere into the next towns, that I may preach there also; for to this end came I forth.

Reality shows are very popular on television these days. There is a competition for just about anything you can think of: chefs and restaurants, business, beauty, design, friendships, love, marriage, sports and talent. Some of the most popular are, of course, the reality shows pitting musicians against one another. Some of these shows are looking for the best singers. There was even one show looking for the worst singer. Sadly, the people had no idea they were pitted for the anti-idol show. They actually thought they were winning a contest that was choosing the best singers.

The talent shows always begin with a period of auditions. People arrive in droves at pre-selected places like theaters and stadiums to wind their way through a series of tests until they reach the actual judges. Most of the people have been weeded out at that point, although they all allow a few questionable contestants through the system so that the audition shows will be interesting and funny. It was sad to watch the auditions for the anti-idol show, because extremely talented people were rejected, often with rude and untrue statements.

One of those talent shows did something different during their auditions in the most recent season. Instead of relying only on the opinion of the judges at that final step in the process, they filled the theater with an audience who were asked to respond to the contestants positively or negatively according to their opinion about their talents. They often stood up and cheered, especially when the people were really talented. They often booed and screamed things like “GO HOME” to those who were terrible. I think this turned old very quickly because even the judges were getting upset with the way the noise of the crowd. Yet, there were times when the crowds were able to change the opinion of the judges. Some people stayed who would have been sent away and some people were sent away who might have had the chance to stay, based on the opinion of the crowd. It is easy on a show like this to see how a crowd can control the course of events. It is hard for one man or even several people to stand against a crowd.

Our Gospel lesson takes place early in the ministry of Jesus and His friends. The news of the exorcism of the man in the synagogue had quickly spread around the countryside because later that evening many people who were sick and possessed came to see Jesus. He healed many of them, but not all. He managed to get some rest, but woke while it was still dark and left the house to find a quiet place to pray and renew His strength. When the disciples found Him, they said, “All are seeking thee.” We expect Jesus to return to the house and continue healing the people, but He takes the disciples in another direction. He does not heal everyone.

The crowds could have easily dictated the course of Jesus’ ministry if He had answered every call for healing from every person who needed to be made whole. He might never have left Simon’s home, as the crowds would have come day after day looking for Him. But healing was not the focus of His ministry, it was a part of it. Healing was one of the ways that God would verify Jesus’ authority. It was one way God’s glory would shine to the people, to show that Jesus had the power of God. Jesus told the disciples, “Let us go elsewhere into the next towns, that I may preach there also; for to this end came I forth.” He came to preach, to teach, to change people’s spirits as well as their bodies. Jesus would not allow the crowds to tell Him what He should do. He did what God had sent Him to do. That is the share the Word that heals hearts and sets people free.


February 5, 2009

Scriptures for Sunday, February 15, 2009: 2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Mark 1:40-45

2 Kings 5:1-14 Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honorable, because by him Jehovah had given victory unto Syria: he was also a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. And the Syrians had gone out in bands, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maiden; and she waited on Naaman's wife. And she said unto her mistress, Would that my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! then would he recover him of his leprosy. And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maiden that is of the land of Israel. And the king of Syria said, Go now, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, And now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy. And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? but consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me. And it was so, when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel. So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariots, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of Jehovah his God, and wave his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

I’m reading a book called, “Thursday Next: First Among Sequels.” It is the fifth book by author Jarrod Fforde that I have read. His style is unusual, a mix between several different literary genres. The books tend toward science fiction, but would not fall solely in that category. Mr. Fforde has a dislike of High School English forced reading of ‘the classics’ and has created a series that makes fun of the practice of analyzing fiction for a grade in school. In Thursday Next’s world there is a parallel universe within fiction into which she can ‘jump’ to solve literary crime. The characters are real people who not only live in their stories, but also in their back stories where they can get out of character and do things not found on the pages of the books that we read. The books are filled with obscure literary references and strange plays on words that make it fun to read.

Thursday has a son named Friday. They live in England in a world that is much the same but very different than ours. The setting is England, but it is a place that revolves entirely around literature with an unusual hierarchy of government organizations that control every aspect of life. One such organization is the Chronoguard, which is in charge of ensuring the safety and security of time. The members of the Chronoguard are an elite group who can travel through time to fix the things that are wrong with history to make it ‘right.’ Friday, whose grandfather was part of the Chronoguard until he was eliminated (killed off), but still exists even though he doesn’t exist any longer, is a natural candidate for induction into the Chronoguard. As a matter of fact, according to the history, which they know because they’ve already been to the future and back again, Friday is not only a member but becomes the leader and saves the world.

Unfortunately for them, Friday doesn’t want to join the Chronoguard. He knows what happened to his grandfather and he refuses to fall into the same trap. Besides, he’s sixteen and unwilling to do anything the adult world wants of him. The Chronoguard leaders have made it clear to Thursday that she must get Friday to join, immediately, because if he doesn’t the world will end. She says she’ll try, but doesn’t know how she’ll manage to do so. Friday won’t be pushed, cajoled, bullied or bribed into doing something he doesn’t think is right.

They have an unrealistic expectation. They see the world based on their knowledge and experience, and according to their experiences, Friday should already be a member of the Chronoguard. But things aren’t working out as they had hoped. They don’t know what to do because their future depends on this young man who has a mind of his own. I’m only about halfway through the book, so I don’t know what will happen, but somehow, someone will convince Friday to do what he is meant to do.

In today’s story, Naaman has leprosy and the future of Syria is dependent on his leadership. They heard of a healer in Israel who could give Naaman a new start, but from the beginning the story is filled with ridiculous expectations. The king of Syria, based on his understanding of how the world works, sent Naaman to the king of Israel. The king of Israel had no healing power and no control over the prophet who can heal. The king of Israel thought the king of Syria was just looking for a fight, so was frightened by the visit from Naaman. Everyone was looking at the situation from their own world view and established unrealistic expectations.

Elisha, the healer prophet, heard that the king of Israel had gone into mourning over this visit, so sent for Naaman. Naaman, an important man in his country, expected Elisha to meet him along the road. However, Elisha simply sent a message to Naaman to go wash in the river Jordan. This was yet another ridiculous expectation. Naaman thought he deserved a face to face meeting. He thought Elisha would touch him to provide the healing. He was dumbfounded about the suggestion to bath in the Jordan, which even then was a dirty river. “Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?” he asked. He did not expect to be healed by taking a bath in a dirty river.

Naaman was ready to leave disappointed and angry, perhaps even with a thought of war on his mind. However, his servants suggested that perhaps it wasn’t the prophet’s expectations that were ridiculous, but instead his own. “My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” His servants convinced him to try, and it did bring the healing he desired. Sometimes things don’t go as we expect. Sometimes those around us will ask us to do things that seem ridiculous and unrealistic. But it might just be through those ridiculous and unrealistic expectations where we will find healing and peace. We have to look beyond our own point of view to see how it might just be the right thing to do.


February 6, 2009

Scriptures for Sunday, February 15, 2009: 2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Mark 1:40-45

Psalm 30 I will extol thee, O Jehovah; for thou hast raised me up, And hast not made my foes to rejoice over me. O Jehovah my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. O Jehovah, thou hast brought up my soul from Sheol; Thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. Sing praise unto Jehovah, O ye saints of his, And give thanks to his holy memorial name. For his anger is but for a moment; His favor is for a life-time: Weeping may tarry for the night, But joy cometh in the morning. 6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, I shall never be moved. Thou, Jehovah, of thy favor hadst made my mountain to stand strong: Thou didst hide thy face; I was troubled. I cried to thee, O Jehovah; And unto Jehovah I made supplication: What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth? Hear, O Jehovah, and have mercy upon me: Jehovah, be thou my helper. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing; Thou hast loosed my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Jehovah my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.

We have found some stability in our life. After so many years of upheaval, it feels pretty good. Bruce is in a good job that he enjoys and is doing well. Victoria is settled into college life and is succeeding in academics as well as all the other aspects of school. Zachary is finding his own place in this world, learning how to prioritize and to fulfill all the responsibilities that come with school and activities. We have set down some roots and are settled into the daily grind.

It has been nearly three years since Bruce retired from the Air Force. That was a time of real joy because Bruce was celebrating thirty years of active service. In the past few years we’ve seen other friends pass through the same door, as they left the security of military service to go out into the world where jobs are often difficult to find. We remember the doubt, confusion and uncertainty of those first few months as Bruce tried to find something that would support our lifestyle while offering him a way to use his gifts and talents. It wasn’t easy. Others have found the same difficulty.

A friend of ours recently retired. It was a great ceremony and party, but it was followed by a great deal of unease. Even though they were happy to have passed into this new phase of life, they had no idea what would come next. Our friend had some job prospects, but nothing certain. He took a temporary job because he became concerned about their future. Finally the job he wanted came through, but the company wanted him immediately. Again, there was joy in the hiring, but uncertainty about everything that had to be done. They needed to sell one house and buy another. They needed to handle moving, and all this had to be done in a matter of weeks. It was a whirlwind for our friends. Everything happened so quickly that we were unable to even get together before they left. One day they were hear, the next day they were gone.

We tend to think that it is impossible to be joyful while also experiencing doubt, confusion and uncertainty, and yet during the most important moments of our lives these things run in tandem. A wedding day is joyful, but we can’t help but wonder what our marriage will be like. The birth of a baby is joyful, but we worry about whether or now we will be able to raise our kids well. Graduation and retirement are joyful moments in our lives, but we wonder what’s next.

Unfortunately, we often let the doubt, confusion and uncertainty drive our attitudes. As I watch the show “Bridezillas” I see women who are unable to find joy in the situation because they are too caught up in everything that can go wrong. Many parents make bad choices because they forget to be thankful and they work too hard to be ‘right.’ They keep their nose in self-help books, trying to figure out how to be parents rather than enjoying their babies and letting their love drive their actions. We miss out on the joy of life because we set aside the reality that God has given us the gift of that moment and He intends for it to be good.

This psalm was written for the dedication of the Temple. Though this was a time of joy for the people of Israel, it was also a frightening moment. The Temple gave the people a sense of stability, roots. Yet, people were still out to destroy David and the Israelites. They could not become complacent in their blessedness, for complacency is our greatest enemy. Complacency means that we take for granted our past and our God, we forget His grace and we think we can take credit for our blessings. Things will be well, of this we can be certain. Yet, it is not by our power or our might; it is by the grace of God. We will face difficult times, times of transition and uncertainty. Our tomorrows are not set in stone. However, when we remember that God walks with us and that He is the source of all the goodness in our life, we sing His praise and find His joy. For praise of God brings joy to our spirit, it is a gift that God gives us by His grace.


February 9, 2009

Scriptures for Sunday, February 15, 2009: 2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Mark 1:40-45

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Know ye not that they that run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? Even so run; that ye may attain. And every man that striveth in the games exerciseth self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, as not uncertainly; so fight I, as not beating the air: but I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.

Sign-ups for the San Antonio Rock-N-Roll Marathon and Half-Marathon began recently. The race is on November 15, 2009. It seems like it is a bit early to be planning to attend an event that is so far in the future, but it is never too early to prepare to run or walk so many miles. The 26.2 mile marathon and the 13.1 mile half-marathon takes superior physical conditioning, even for the healthiest and active people. Lance Armstrong once ran the New York Marathon, and despite his seven Tour-de-France championships, says the marathon is the most difficult thing he’s ever accomplished. So, those who want to run the San Antonio, or any other, marathon, must begin early to train.

Some people think it is enough to occasionally run on weekends. They think that if they just push themselves for some weeks or months before the race, they can make it just the one time. They do not realize the physical strain that occurs during the race and have not learned through proper training how to recognize their body’s stress points and does not interpret the signs given off by his body, often overdrinking early in the race but then becoming dehydrated late. They don’t learn how to keep a healthy pace, pushing too hard in the beginning and then running out of steam at the end. It can be a deadly proposition for someone who does not know what he’s doing.

So, it is important to begin training early. The registration packets provide a good program and timeline, helping the runners prepare in a healthy and successful way. Even those who do well find the race hard to run and are exhausted at the end. But when done well, it is an exhilarating and emotional accomplishment.

Now, I heard about another race recently that seems equally difficult, but in a much different way. In Raleigh, North Carolina, the students at North Carolina State have been running a charity race that benefits the North Carolina Children’s Hospital. This marathon is only four miles, but the challenge comes at the halfway point. The participants leave the N.C. State Belltower and run two miles to a Krispy Kreme Donut shop. They eat a dozen donuts and then run back to the Belltower. How do you train for a race like this? The idea of eating twelve Krispy Kreme donuts makes me ill, but to do it in the midst of a four mile run is enough to send me kicking and screaming. But more than five thousand people ran the race this year. They earned $35,000 for the hospital. It was a valiant albeit disgusting effort.

There are always winners in marathons, but for most people, winning is not the object. They run just to accomplish the goal. They want to be able to say that they finished the race. It is difficult to prepare and even more difficult to complete, but they walk away with a sense of accomplishment for something well done. They succeed by persevering through the training and the race. They set a goal and achieve it.

Paul uses the example of a race to describe the Christian life. There is a goal for which we should set aside all things—eternal life in Christ Jesus. This is not a goal we can achieve by our own abilities, yet it is a goal for which we run in the hope and grace of God. There is something great about living our life for the Lord, for giving our life to His service. There is something amazing about always moving closer to the fulfillment of God’s promises to His people, our journey to the greatest goal that exists. This is a goal which we are called to share with others so that they too might run the race and receive the prize of faith and eternal life.


February 10, 2009

Scriptures for Sunday, February 15, 2009: 2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Mark 1:40-45

Mark 1:40-45 And there cometh to him a leper, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And being moved with compassion, he stretched forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou made clean. And straightway the leprosy departed from him, and he was made clean. And he strictly charged him, and straightway sent him out, and saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing the things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to spread abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into a city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.

The New Revised Standard version of this text has the leper saying to Jesus, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” This seems like an odd thing for the leper to say with Jesus. It sounds as if he is encouraging Jesus to do something Jesus does not think he could do. Jesus knows who He is and that nothing is impossible. Why should the leper have to encourage Jesus into doing what Jesus does best?

There is so much we do not know about this encounter. Who else was there? It is unlikely that Jesus was alone, after all, He had already called a number of people into His ministry. In the previous story, Jesus asked His companions to accompany Him someplace else, into the other villages to preach and heal. Now, the leper was probably living on the outskirts of a village, having been exiled by his disease. Did Jesus manage to get away from the crowds without anyone tagging along?

Even though we are very early in the story from Mark, Jesus’ popularity is already gaining. People have heard about His healing power and authoritative teaching. He had to leave the last village because crowds were arriving with their sick and possessed. He healed many. He was changing lives. Yet, it is unlikely everyone was excited about this Jesus of Nazareth. Crowds make leaders nervous because crowds are easily swayed. Crowds can easily be manipulated into a frenzy. In a time when there was already unrest among the Jews, anyone with any following was probably watched carefully. It is still early in the story, but everything Jesus did was already under scrutiny. It is important to squash rebellion quickly.

So, we see a leper, who was by law required to stay away from all people. Jesus was a preacher and teacher, so it was especially important for Him to stay clean. Yet, the leper came to Him, risking his own safety as well as Jesus’ reputation. “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Jesus could have done so with a word. He could have followed the example of Elisha in our Old Testament for this week from 1 Kings 5, and sent the man to a body of water to wash.

Jesus went a step further because His ministry touched more than the flesh. He healed bodies, but He also healed people’s spirits. Jesus touched this untouchable man, giving him the warmth of a human relationship from which he’d been separated. Jesus took His own risk that day, touching an unclean man which would have made Him unclean. How would the people respond to a leader who had such an obvious disregard for the law?

What we see in this story is that Jesus’ chooses to take risks for the sake of our well-being. We can approach Him, even in our dis-ease, to ask Him for healing and mercy. “If you choose,” we can ask Jesus, reminding Him that He is indeed able, and Jesus answers by reaching out His hand. He chooses to make us whole, to bring reconciliation and peace to our lives. He chooses to touch us even though we are unclean because He is so clean He makes us clean. He’s not concerned about what the world thinks. He is concerned only about doing all that He was sent to do: preach, teach and heal the world.


February 11, 2009

Scriptures for Sunday, February 15, 2009: 2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Mark 1:40-45

To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Jehovah my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.

On the show “True Beauty” last night, the pretty people were put to the fitness test. But since the new reality show is about finding more than the outer beauty of the contestants, there was another test about which they did not know. The fitness tests were run by teenagers, and it was the teenagers who would select the winners and the losers. The show’s judges wanted to see how the beauties would deal with the youth with whom they were working. During the fitness test, the contestants were friendly with the youth, laughing and joking about the tests. Some even gave the teenagers fitness advice.

As is typical of the show, there was another test. During a lunch break, one boy was set aside, apart from the crowd. The “loner” was the test. Would the contestants talk to the loner or focus only on the ‘cool kids?’ Would they sit with him, ask him questions, give him a word of encouragement? Out of the five contestants left on the show, only one talked to the loner. She was very sweet, complimenting him on the work he had done that day and making sure that he had eaten some lunch. The other four went out of the way, even ignoring the loner, to talk to and sit with the cool kids. One contestant even commented after the boy left, “He’s going to become a sniper one day.”

We see later that the boy is really not an outsider. It was just an act to test the beauties. He was, of course, not the most attractive of the young people. The contestants are on the show because they believe they are the most beautiful people in America. But it was obvious in the four contestants that failed the test in treatment of the young man, that their beauty is shallow. They did not recognize his loneliness. They did not care that he was set apart. They avoided him and ignored his needs. The young man’s friends, however, knew that he was a great guy. When the contestant predicted his future, one of the other boys looked horrified and disturbed by such an unkind remark. That contestant was one of the bottom two and was the one who was sent home last night.

That young man was well-liked and part of the group, but the reality is that there are many people who are outsiders in our world today. They are lonely, set apart from society for many different reasons. As much as we would like to deny it, we still see illness as they did in the ancient days. We may not call the sick ‘unclean’ but we are afraid of many diseases and separate ourselves from those who suffer. We may be uninformed, or just uncertain about what we can do. So we avoid the situation, sometimes not even realizing that they are outcast. We are blind to the possibilities, and unfortunately miss out on some awesome opportunities because we do not go forward in faith and trust.

The contestants do not know that they are being tested on their inner beauty as well as their outer beauty, but inner beauty is not really something you can present actively. It is a natural response to the circumstances we face. The one beauty who did talk to the loner wasn’t doing anything special, at least not in her mind. She was simply being kind to someone who looked like he could use a friend. Her inner beauty shined in an ordinary moment when she did an ordinary thing.

The two leper stories in this week’s lectionary are very different. In the first story, Naaman was leprous, but apparently did not suffer the same exile as the leper in Mark’s story. Naaman was a powerful man, in the counsel of the king. His skin disease may have been minor, perhaps in the earliest stages, and yet it was bad enough that the servant girl of his wife knew he was suffering. His culture probably did not see the disease as something that would make one ‘unclean.’ Naaman followed all the rules of his culture, seeking permission from his king and mercy from Israel’s king. Naaman expected the prophet to do something extraordinary. He was offended by Elisha’s distance and his ridiculous command. Yet, it was in trusting the word of the prophet, no matter how ordinary, that Naaman found healing and peace.

In Mark’s story, the leper was a loner. By law the man was exiled to a place outside his village, separated from those he loved and everything he knew. He could not work, had to rely on the goodness of others for food. He may have had to shelter in rocks or in some make-shift hut. He was unclean, and as someone deemed unclean he had no power or rights within the community. The man did not follow the law; he approached Jesus. The leper knelt before Jesus, humbling himself before the One he knew could change his life. He begged not for healing but to be made clean again. The problem for this man was not that he was sick, but that he’d been cast out of the life of the community.

For Naaman, a dirty, ordinary river was the source of his healing, but it was trusting in God that changed his life. The leper in the Gospel lesson also trusted in God for healing. Paul encourages us to run the race to receive the incorruptible crown. The race is not some extraordinary experience, but our daily walk with God, trusting in His mercy and living according to His will and purpose for our lives. Everything we have is God’s and He has given to us according to His grace. Naaman was healed to show the world that the only God is the God of Israel. The leper was healed to show the glory of God to His lost and wandering people. Whatever circumstances we face, we face them with faith so that God will be revealed to our world. We might not even realize what we are doing, for God shines brightest in the ordinary moments of our lives lived trusting in Him.


February 12, 2009

Scriptures for Sunday, February 22, 2009: 2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9

2 Kings 2:1-12 And it came to pass, when Jehovah would take up Elijah by a whirlwind into heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for Jehovah hath sent me as far as Beth-el. And Elisha said, As Jehovah liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Beth-el. And the sons of the prophets that were at Beth-el came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that Jehovah will take away thy master from thy head to-day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for Jehovah hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As Jehovah liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho. And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came near to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that Jehovah will take away thy master from thy head to-day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. And Elijah said unto him, Tarry here, I pray thee; for Jehovah hath sent me to the Jordan. And he said, As Jehovah liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood over against them afar off: and they two stood by the Jordan. And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground. And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I am taken from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so. And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, which parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof! And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.

In the movie, “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement,” Princess Mia (played by Anne Hathaway) learns that she must be married by her twenty-first birthday or she will lose her crown. One member of parliament happens to have a nephew who would be the next in line for the crown if Mia is unable to take over the position. The young man is not terribly interested in being king, but follows his uncle’s plan for awhile because he’s not sure that Mia is the best thing for the nation. He eventually realizes that she would make a terrific queen and withdraws from the scheme. Mia convinces parliament to allow her the position without marrying and she becomes queen.

Genovia seems to have an unusual tradition when it comes to the succession of monarchs. Queen Clarisse (played by Julie Andrews) seems to be a vibrant woman, far from retirement. Most monarchs hold on to their position until they die or until they are no longer capable of dealing with the work. In this case, it appears that Queen Clarisse decided to retire when Mia was twenty-one, an appropriate adult age but not necessarily to take over as leader of a country. I’m not sure if Clarisse’s retirement was mandated by law, but it seems like she should have held on to her position a little while longer so Mia would have the chance to learn how to rule.

Obviously this is a fictional story, but the succession of leadership is a very important responsibility of a government. If you study the history of a country like England, you will see it is filled with confusing moments when the rule of the monarch was in question. Many men claimed to hold the right to the throne and often fought for it with armies. At times the people did not agree with the choice of monarch and fought against the throne for the one they thought should be the rightful heir. It was vitally important that everything is right, that there is no doubt as to the family relations and heritage connections or else someone else will be able to open the question and perhaps usurp the throne.

Today’s bible story is about the proper succession of power. Elijah was about to be taken to heaven and it was time for a new head prophet to be selected. Elisha insisted on accompanying Elijah on his trip, a trip that took them along the journey of previous Hebrew leaders. It was a journey Moses was not allowed to take. Due to his own failings, Moses never entered into the Promised Land. Instead, the Hebrews were led across the Jordan River by Joshua as Moses watched from a hilltop. Then he died and God buried him in Moab. Joshua took the Hebrews through the Jordan, through Jericho, through Bethel to Gilgal where they were circumcised and restored into a right relationship with God. Elijah traveled back to the Jordan, to go into the land where Moses was buried.

Religious communities were situated at each of those places, gatherings of prophets who did the Lord’s work. They all considered Elijah their father, in the sense that they were sons who might inherit the place as the head prophet. They followed Elijah and Elisha to the Jordan, constantly reminding Elisha that he’d be left alone. Elisha refused to leave Elijah alone, thus showing his commitment to the task that would be required of him. Being a prophet was never easy, and being God’s main voice against the injustice and sin of His people meant persecution.

When they arrived on the opposite bank of the Jordan, Elijah asked Elisha what he could do to repay his loyalty. Elisha asked for a double portion of the spirit. This was not a greedy request. He didn’t want more spirit than Elijah had. Elisha was asking that it be made perfectly clear that he is the true heir and successor to Elijah’s ministry. With so many other ‘sons,’ all of whom may have been hoping that they would become the head prophet, it was important that the inheritance be made clear. The first born, the rightful heir, was always given a double portion of the inheritance—not twice as much as the estate, but twice as much as any other son. Elisha was given what he asked, the mantle of leadership fell on his shoulders and the other prophets recognized him as the head prophet.


February 13, 2009

Scriptures for Sunday, February 22, 2009: 2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9

Psalm 50:1-6 The Mighty One, God, Jehovah, hath spoken, And called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined forth. Our God cometh, and doth not keep silence: A fire devoureth before him, And it is very tempestuous round about him. He calleth to the heavens above, And to the earth, that he may judge his people: Gather my saints together unto me, Those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice. And the heavens shall declare his righteousness; For God is judge himself. Selah

I like several of the reality shows that are on television, but I rarely watch American Idol beyond the audition phase. That said, I have no idea what’s going on with the season except for what I’ve heard on the news or read online. As I understand, there have been several controversies, as there are every year, about people who had made it through the judging but were not eligible. Then, as there are always those second guessing the judges’ decisions, everyone has an opinion about whether or not the judges have chosen the right finalists.

How do you begin with a hundred thousand or more people and get it down to just 36? There will always be someone who thinks another contestant was better. But the judges’ decision is final, and the fans will have to accept it. The judges look for more than just a decent voice. They look for the right people to be the American Idol. This includes physical attributes, attitudes and flexibility. Will the contestant be able to sing more than just one type of song? Will they take instruction from the experts brought in to give advice about hair and make-up, movement, tonal qualities and song choice? Will they appeal to a wide audience? Will they have the perseverance to continue even when times are tough? Are they too emotional or not emotional enough? The judges have done this long enough that they know it is not always the best voices that will make it in the business. If there is talent, a good singing voice can be developed. The same is true about everything else an American Idol needs to succeed.

The process is rough, however. Simon has the reputation of being overzealous with his comments to contestants. If they are bad, Simon will honestly say so. Sometimes his comments are so filled with cruelty that we are offended. However, he is firm with those who are arrogant about their talent, especially when they have no talent. He is rough because he does not want them to waste their time following a path on which they simply can not succeed and they need to be put in their place so that they will not continue to make fools of themselves. Though many people think he’s heartless, he’s really not. He has mercy and compassion with some of the contestants. But sometimes a judge has to say a horse is a horse.

The image of God as judge in these verses from Psalm 50 is not a comfortable image for us. He is described as preceded by a devouring fire and angry tempest. He calls forth the heavens and the earth to judge His people. We don’t read the rest of the psalm, but in it God calls His people to account for two things: their mindless rituals and the lip service they pay to God. They do not worship with heart, but do everything out of some sense of duty or some idea that God will repay their generosity with blessing. They can recite the laws, but they do not live according to the intent of God’s Law. They’ve lost touch with the God whom they are called to worship and serve.

Have we? Is our worship from the heart or are we following mindless rituals that mean nothing to the God of heaven and earth? Do we live the life we are called to live or do we just say a lot of pretty words? We ought to look at this psalm from our own world view and heed the warning. Have we forgotten our God? The whole of creation will stand as witnesses against us if we continue to follow mindless rituals that do not glorify God and pay lip service to the One by whose grace we can know and receive salvation.


February 16, 2009

Scriptures for Sunday, February 22, 2009: 2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that perish: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. Seeing it is God, that said, Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Paul knows what it is like to be blind. He was a zealous Jew, set on a course of extermination. He wanted to destroy the new way of seeing, ‘the Way’ as it was called in that day. Luke tells us in the book of Acts that Saul, which was his name at that time, was “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” He had letters to take to the synagogues of Damascus, giving permission to punish those who were following ‘the Way.’ As he made his way to Damascus on this very important mission, he was struck blind by an incredible light on the road. Inside the light he heard a voice calling out to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

Jesus called Saul, whom He renamed Paul, into His ministry with that light. Saul remained blind for three days and during that time he fasted. Jesus sent another man, a follower of ‘the Way’ named Ananias to heal his vision and help Saul, Paul, on his new ministry.

So, it is natural for Paul to talk about the Gospel in terms of light and blindness. He had experienced it himself in a very real, and powerful way. He was blind by his own understanding of God, using his knowledge of the scriptures and his position of power and authority in Israel to persecute Christians. He was even involved with the death of Stephen, and perhaps many other Christians. He was given the most incredible encounter with the Living Christ, Jesus, who met him on that road to Damascus in a very dramatic way. His conversion experience was certainly something to remember, and something that came up often in his teaching and preaching. He’d been blind, both spiritually and physically, and he’d been healed of both.

Yet, somehow he knows that not everyone will see the reality of the Gospel message. They will be blinded, as he was blinded for awhile, by the things of this world. He was blinded by his power and his understanding of the scriptural texts. He was blinded by the traditions of his people. He was blinded by his perception of the people who were following ‘the Way.’ He could not see the reality of God’s love and mercy and grace as found in Jesus Christ.

Sometimes it is hard to see that reality because the people who share the Gospel message with us are imperfect and caught up in their own perceptions of the world and Jesus. Many non-Christians say that the reason they are not Christian is because of the Christians. We are seen as hypocrites and that we will fall for any fairy tale. Often guided not by intellect but emotion, Christianity is seen as foolishness. Paul wanted the Corinthians to know that he was not trying to sell himself, but that the message he shares is about Jesus and Jesus alone. He brings us back to his own beginning when he was foolishly unwilling to hear the truth, when he faced the blinding light and three days of physical blindness. We are reminded that nothing we can do can overcome that spiritual, and physical, blindness. It is by God’s grace and mercy that people will see.

So, we go forth sharing the Gospel message, always remembering that it isn’t about us. Though we would like to count every ‘conversion’ as a notch on our belt, counting every saved person as something we’ve accomplished, we see that it is never about us. Though we are the messenger who can take the Gospel out to the world, it is God who lifts the veil off the eyes of those who do not believe. It is God that shines in their darkness. It is God who makes them see.

He did so for us and will do so for many others in the years to come. Do you have a story? Can you share with others how you came to see the light? Of course you do, and can. Our stories may not be as dramatic as that of Paul. We may not even be able to identify a time or place when we were blind and then could see. However, we can see the light only by God’s grace and thanks to the loving care given by the witnesses that came before us.


February 17, 2009

Scriptures for Sunday, February 22, 2009: 2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9

Mark 9:2-9 And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them; and his garments became glistering, exceeding white, so as no fuller on earth can whiten them. And there appeared unto them Elijah with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter answereth and saith to Jesus, Rabbi, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. For he knew not what to answer; for they became sore afraid. And there came a cloud overshadowing them: and there came a voice out of the cloud, This is my beloved Son: hear ye him. And suddenly looking round about, they saw no one any more, save Jesus only with themselves. And as they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, save when the Son of man should have risen again from the dead.

“The Bucket List” is a movie about two dying men who discover life together by traveling the world. Starring Jack Nicholas as Edward and Morgan Freeman as Carter, the movie asks the question, “What would you do if you had a limited time to live?” Fortunately, Edward was an extremely wealthy businessman, so the two men had unlimited resources to complete their bucket list, a list of things they want to do before they kick the bucket.

The bucket list included the desire to ‘witness something truly majestic.” Though they saw shared some beautiful moments, like sitting on top of the pyramids in Egypt, Carter didn’t think any of those things were as majestic as being on the top of a mountain. He explains that it is so quiet on the top of a mountain that you can hear the voice of God. Nothing less than a mountain top experience would be enough for Carter. Unfortunately, they arrived at the base of an incredible mountain when the weather turned bad for the winter. They would not be able to get to the top for months. Soon after the two men had a falling out and returned to their homes. Then Carter’s cancer got the best of him and he perished on the surgical table. He never had his mountain top experience. In his final words, Carter asked Edward to finish the list.

In the end, the two men were buried together on the top of a beautiful mountain. The final scene shows Edward’s assistant adding a can filled with Edward’s ashes in a special container at the top of a majestic mountain. He crossed off the final thing on the bucket list “witness something truly majestic” and placed it in the container with the ashes of the two men.

We are somewhat disappointed that they did not get to experience that mountain top experience, but they both had much more powerful experiences in the valleys of their lives. Carter realized that he had a wonderful life, with a wife who adores him and that he didn’t need to get to the top of the mountain to experience the voice of God. Edward finds love and joy in his daughter and granddaughter from whom he’d been estranged for many years. They both realized that life isn’t lived at the top of the mountain but in the every day experiences with people they love.

The transfiguration must have been a most incredible experience for Peter, James and John. Not only were they on the top of a mountain, but they were there with the Messiah. At that moment, they did hear the voice of God, not in the whisper of the quiet wind but in a voice coming out of the clouds. The words were repeated from Jesus’ baptism, “This is my beloved Son.” Whether anyone heard that voice at the Jordan we may never know for sure, but now it was heard by Jesus’ inner circle of friends. It was a moment worth grasping forever. Peter even wanted to build permanent structures so that Moses and Elijah and Jesus would have a place to stay.

But Jesus hurries them off the mountain, back into the valley because He knows that it is in the valleys where life is truly lived. They could not stay on the top of the mountain; they had to get back to work. There were still people who needed healing. There were still demons to be cast out. There were still so many who needed to hear God’s word and learn about God’s kingdom so that they might be saved for eternity. It would not happen if they lingered on the mountain top. The real work was in the valley.

Do you ever feel like you want to go to a place far away, perhaps to the top of a mountain? Have you ever had one of those moments that you never want to end? Those experiences are incredible, but they are not where we should stay. It is time to move on, to get back into the muck and mire of real life to share the Good News with others so that they too might hear the voice of God.


February 18, 2009

Scriptures for Sunday, February 22, 2009: 2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9

This is my beloved Son: hear ye him.

My dad was a very quiet man. I have a very vivid memory of one conversation we had when I was very young. We talked about the weather. Though the Conversation was inconsequential, it had a lasting memory for me because it was one of the few times that my dad talked to me. This isn’t to say that he was a bad father or that he ignored his family. He just didn’t talk much. But when he had something to say, it was worth stopping whatever you were doing to listen.

This is a rare quality, especially in our world full of words. Everyone has something to say now and there are so many outlets where they can express their thoughts. Most of the news sites on the Internet post boards where the topics can be discussed by the readers. Reading these discussion boards is sometimes sad, sometimes disturbing, sometimes hysterically funny. Everyone has an opinion and most people are willing to post their thoughts for the world. Unfortunately, sometimes those thoughts are incoherent and unrelated to the topic at hand.

The number of blogs on the Internet has grown, also. It is so easy to set up a site to share whatever comes to mind. Though my format is different than the blogging sites, I’ve been doing it for nearly ten years now! And, there have been some people throughout the years willing to read the words I put to ‘paper.’ I’m sure, however, that in those nearly ten years I’ve said some things that are foolish or trivial. I’m sure there have been times that someone has disagreed with my point of view. I’ve considered myself very blessed that so many people have found value in my work, but I often shake my head in wonderment as to why. Why do so many people ‘listen’ to me?

The Gospel lesson for this week is an amazing story. Peter, James and John were invited to experience a most incredible moment. They witnessed God briefly breaking through to our world in a powerful tangible way. The Law (seen in Moses) and the Prophets (seen in Elijah) are brought together with the fulfillment of everything they spoke as promises in Jesus Christ. They saw Jesus in a form that is beyond anything earthly. They heard the audible voice of God speak to them personally. This is something we can read and imagine, but we can’t really know what it was like for those three men. We read this story and experience awe, but they were afraid. We think Peter was silly for wanting to build tabernacles, but what would we have done? How would we have responded to this incredible moment?

The message God spoke to the disciples was simple but very powerful, “Listen to Him.” In a world when we have so many voices screaming at us with opinions that are built on biases, it is hard to know to whom we should listen. There’s a commercial on television that says “You know that expert that said this, the one that came on just after the expert that said that.” Which one is right? Who is telling the truth? What is the truth? But God tells us what to do, “Listen to Jesus.” I’m not sure it is that easy, because there are so many voices trying to tell us what Jesus meant, and they rarely agree. But we can listen. We can pray. We can do our best to live as God calls us to live, serving Him with our hearts and our hands and our voices, knowing that God is faithful and that He is more powerful than our failure.


February 19, 2009

Scriptures for Sunday, March 1, 2009: Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15

Genesis 9:8-17 And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you. Of all that go out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of the flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud, and I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.

A covenant is not just a contract, it is a promise. Defined as “a usually formal, solemn and binding agreement,” a covenant happens between two parties, and yet one party is fully responsible for the keeping of the covenant. This is especially true when it comes to biblical covenants. In the next few weeks, we’ll hear about several of those biblical covenants, promises that God made to His people. This week we hear about the rainbow.

We are in the midst of an extreme drought, well below the normal average of rainfall even for Texas. Though we are generally a desert environment, we do get rain, especially during the winter. Despite a few muggy and dreary days in the past few weeks, we are so far beyond it was suggested that we would have to have 140 consecutive days of drizzly rain like we had a few days ago to make up for the drought. Of course, we would hate to have so many wet and dreary days in a row. The weather men have reported that there might be a change in our weather pattern very soon, indicated by that morning of drizzle and fog, but we will still continue to be dry until the heavens open and the rain begins.

It wasn’t that long ago that we had an overwhelming amount of rain. Just a few years ago we had day after day of rain, so much so that the water was just running down the streets and the dry creek beds were overflowing. Some families dealt with flood waters as the rivers and creeks rose above their banks. It is hard to believe that we can go from soggy to dangerously dry in such a short period of time, but that is part of living in our region.

When it is raining, all we want is a day of sunshine. We moan about the weather, frustrated by our cancelled plans and our unfinished work outside. Wet weather brings with it an array of health issues, including depression. Mothers go crazy trying to find things for the children to do while trapped inside for long periods of time. Sometimes the wet weather brings along worse weather problems like severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Property damage is an unfortunate part of the rainy season as hail, wind and flooding destroys cars, homes and even lives. It is no wonder when it has been raining for a long time that we search for some sign that it will end.

Covenants often come with some sort of sign. In the case of Noah and his ark, God gave a rainbow. A rainbow can not form on a fully sunny or fully rainy day. It takes both the sun and the rain to make a rainbow. So, after a long rain, it is such a joy to see the clouds begin to thin because the sun can shine through the rain to give us the sign that God remembers His promises. Though it still floods locally when the rain falls to hard or long, we see the sign of the covenant that God will not let it rain so much that everything will be destroyed. We are given a moment of hope even in the midst of our problems. God is faithful, and the rainbow reminds us that there will be an end to the rain.

Unfortunately, a localized flood can destroy someone’s whole world—home, family and livelihood. In the midst of such misfortune, it is hard to realize that God is keeping His promises. Our faith rests not in a promise that everything will be perfect, but in God’s promise that there is always hope beyond our troubles. We still get sick and die; we still suffer financial difficulties and persecution. It is then that we look for the signs of God’s covenants, remembering that there is an end to the rain.


February 20, 2009

Scriptures for Sunday, March 1, 2009: Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15

Psalm 25:1-10 Unto thee, O Jehovah, do I lift up my soul. O my God, in thee have I trusted, Let me not be put to shame; Let not mine enemies triumph over me. Yea, none that wait for thee shall be put to shame: They shall be put to shame that deal treacherously without cause. Show me thy ways, O Jehovah; Teach me thy paths. Guide me in thy truth, and teach me; For thou art the God of my salvation; For thee do I wait all the day. Remember, O Jehovah, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindness; For they have been ever of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: According to thy lovingkindness remember thou me, For thy goodness' sake, O Jehovah. Good and upright is Jehovah: Therefore will he instruct sinners in the way. The meek will he guide in justice; And the meek will he teach his way. All the paths of Jehovah are lovingkindness and truth Unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.

Memory is an odd thing. I don’t know about you, but there are so many times when I remember the things I want to forget and I forget the things I want to remember. I find that I lose things more often, forget why I’ve walked into a room, or forget the names of people who I’ve known for years and words that I use regularly. I don’t want to admit how many times I’ve gone to the grocery store for one or two things, and I’ve come out with a dozen other things, missing the one or two things I went to purchase in the first place. I do write notes to help me remember and then I forget the notes! Or, the notes get buried in my purse and I forget to look at them. The other day I even had the note in my hand but never bothered to look at it. When I got home I couldn’t believe I forgot the most important thing on the list! Perhaps that is a sign of age, although I think we all have moments of forgetfulness, even when we are young.

It is amazing how we are able to remember how to do something that we haven’t done in a long time like ride a bike or swim in a pool. These are learned activities, but we never seem to lose those abilities even when they go unused for a long time. However, if a foreign language is not practiced regularly, we can easily forget the words and the grammar rules. We can remember some things so well that we can teach it to someone else without difficulty and yet there are other things that are so complicated that we can’t explain it to another person without doing it ourselves. I’m that way with the computer. I can fix almost anything on the computer if I am sitting right in front of it, but I have a difficult time telling someone over the phone or over their shoulder where they should look for something in their files.

Then there are those times when I remember things out of the blue. I think of an old friend or have a delightful memory about family. I might be reading a book or watching television and suddenly an image from ages past comes into my mind. Those memories make me smile most of the time, and sometimes I laugh at the joke or shed a tear at the nostalgia. How often do we get songs stuck in our head that last all day long? That’s a response of our memory. Don’t you just hate when you begin singing a song to which you do not remember all the words? So, not only are you going nuts as your memory continues singing a song all day long, you are also constantly reminded about your lack of memory!

The worst part of memory is when everything we remember is negative. Although I enjoy remembering the good times in my past, I can’t help to also remember some of the most embarrassing moments of my life. Those moments go around in my head and even though there’s nothing I can do about it now, I still try to think of ways I could have overcome or avoided those moments. It does no good to remember those things, but sometimes they take over my brain and leave me wondering about myself.

And who hasn’t remembered something terrible about a loved one when in the midst of a disagreement? Sometimes it is incredibly hard to fight with our spouses or kids without the old sins coming to our minds. We remember how they hurt us in the past and that makes it almost impossible to approach our disagreements with mercy and love and forgiveness in mind. We are more likely to remember the bad things than the good, despite the fact that the good moments always outweigh the bad. We have selective memory, but we usually remember the things that will make us better rather than those things that might help us to see each other with grace. Even if we have forgiven them, we never forget.

God has selective memory, also, but His memory is exactly the opposite of ours. God forgets our sin, which is absolutely incredible considering our sin against God is far worse than any sin we’ve committed against one another. God forgives, of this we are certain because He has promised us His forgiveness through Jesus Christ. But God also forgets. Our past sins do not come back to bite us over and over again. Forgiveness from God is permanent, it is final. When God remembers us, He sees a beloved child whom He created ‘good.’ He sees us with love and grace, remembering all the good things about our lives and how we have been a blessing to others. He remembers those important moments in our life, like when we were born, when we were baptized and when we showed Him how much we love Him. Most of all, He remembers His promises and is faithful, even when we are not.


February 23, 2009

Scriptures for Sunday, March 1, 2009: Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15

1 Peter 3:18-22 Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, that aforetime were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water: which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ; who is one the right hand of God, having gone into heaven; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

One of the hardest parts of being a parent is finding where to draw that line between the things we do for them and the things they do for themselves. It begins very early, as our children become independent beings who can put on their own clothes and pick up their own toys. Do we allow them to choose for themselves or do we make all the decisions? When do we let go? On an episode of one of those nanny reality shows on television that I watched recently, there was a mother who still put her preschool aged children into disposable underwear like pull-ups and fed them baby food because she did not want them to grow up. She liked being the mommy and would not let go.

It doesn’t get any easier as they grow older. Our children are faced with much more difficult and permanent decisions. They have to become more responsible in school, accomplishing homework and acting maturely in class. As they get to Junior High and High School they are given more choices. As a parent, we have to be part of the process, and yet we can not be the decision maker. We might want our kids to get involved in the activities we like, but they won’t be happy if we force them to do things they do not want to do.

Some parents even play a major role in the college decisions. How many parents insist that their children attend their alma matre? Some movies use this as the story plot: a child is pushed from a young age toward a particular goal. In the end, when the child (at this point young adult) decides to do something different, the parents are shocked that they would give up their dream, the child always responds, “No, it was your dream.”

But as parents we wonder how much to let go. After all, we’ve all made poor decisions and when we see our kids going in the same direction we want to stop them. We want them to benefit from our mistakes. We want to keep them from failing the way we failed. When we see that they are not living up to their potential, we want to push them harder. We nag them to get their homework done. We force them to go to practices. We bribe them to do the things we want them to do. It is out of love and out of our desire for what is best for our kids, but is it always best? Sometimes it is necessary to allow our children to fail. We have to let them suffer the consequences of their decisions or they will never learn how to make good choices.

There is, however, also a time when we have to stop our kids from making perilous mistakes. The “tough love” movement and “Scared Straight” helped to bring young people who were choosing to do foolish and dangerous things. Drugs, alcohol, gangs and other illegal activities can send our kids to prison and even death.

What would the world have been like if God had not sent the flood in the days of Noah? The book of Genesis tells us that “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence.” God saw man’s wickedness and realized that He could not ‘contend with’ man any longer. God’s greatest creation had turned so completely away from God’s intent and purpose that they needed to be destroyed. There was one man, Noah, who was righteous—in a right relationship with God. God saved Noah and His family so that they might start again and in the process God changed the relationship between man and creation and between man and his God. Did this stop us from making bad decisions? No, humankind continued to turn from God. But Noah was just a foreshadow of the promise to come. The promise which began with Adam and continued throughout the history of God’s people until Jesus came to fulfill it.

God did not destroy the people who had been wicked in the days of Noah, but He stopped them from destroying the world which He had created. Peter tells us that Jesus shared the Good News with them, and all those who perished before God’s promise was fulfilled. Noah and his family were saved from the Great Flood, but God did not forget the souls that were lost. And now, we are blessed by the gift of a similar pass through death by water in baptism so that we too might be restored to a right relationship with our God.


February 24, 2009

Scriptures for Sunday, March 1, 2009: Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15

Mark 1:9-15 And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in the Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens rent asunder, and the Spirit as a dove descending upon him: And a voice came out of the heavens, Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I am well pleased. And straightway the Spirit driveth him forth into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days tempted of Satan; And he was with the wild beasts; And the angels ministered unto him. Now after John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe in the gospel.

When I went to college, I had a plan. I was going to get my degree in Elementary Education and go on to teach. Now, in the decision making process leading up to that day when I first arrived at school, I thought of several other possibilities. I was interested in art and considered going into either commercial advertising or art education. I have to admit that I rejected both of those majors because I was afraid I could not handle the amount of artistic work involved. I copped out by choosing what I believed to be a simpler major.

Throughout those college years I wondered if I’d made the right decision. I love teaching. I love kids. I seem to do well with children. It seemed like a natural career for me to pursue. I took all the classes and enjoyed learning how to be a teacher. In the sophomore and freshmen years we were given some classroom experiences to help us decide if we were following the right path. Those experiences were, unfortunately, very limited. A few hours in the classroom, a few weeks working with a teacher was not enough to know if we really wanted to spend the rest of our lives in that profession. It was not until my senior year, my final semester, that I really experienced what it would be like to be a teacher. And I hated it. Though I enjoy brief encounters with children, I was not meant to be a classroom teacher. Though I honor and respect teachers for the work they do, it wasn’t the work I was called to do.

Those college years are designed to help young adults discover their talents and develop their interests. I think universities have gotten much better about helping their students realize the possibilities. Victoria has already had the courage to change her mind, to follow a different path than she considered a few months ago. She might even change her mind again. To help her in the decision making process, she has applied for a summer job that will help her see what it is like to work fulltime in the new field. By the end of the summer, she might be looking at her future with a different perspective. On the other hand, she might just find herself.

I went to have lunch with Victoria and some of her friends at school today and we began talking about this. I was asking her friends about their majors and what they planned to do with their lives. They were all pretty much in agreement that they know what they are doing now but not quite what they want to do later. One friend, an art major, is not sure how she wants to use her talents. Another, in communications, has discovered an interest in theater. Now is the time for them to discover who they are, to develop those talents and reflect on how they want to use it in the future. It is ok that they do not know now, they have a lot of growing and learning and maturing to do in the next few years. Thankfully, they have mentors and teachers and friends that will help them hear God’s voice and discover His purpose for them in this world.

Our Gospel lesson for today is seven short verses, but in this passage Mark shows Jesus going through a very similar process as those college students. First Jesus learns His identity. During His baptism, God says, “You are my son.” He is immediately sent into the wilderness to reflect upon this identity. For forty days He is tempted. Though Mark does not give us the details, we know from the other gospel writers that Jesus is faced with the possibilities of where to take His ministry. Satan offered Him a different path, but Jesus knew who He was and what He had to do. Finally, we see Jesus leaving the wilderness and going into action. He recognized His identity, reflected on His purpose and put it to work.

Perhaps, as we begin this Lenten season, it is a good time for us to discover who we are and reflect upon our identity. We tend to jump into action without really knowing who we are or what we are meant to do. How much easier it would be if we followed this process, like Jesus, listening for God’s voice and taking time to face the temptations that keep us from being all that we can be. Then we can go out and do the work we have been called to do.


February 25, 2009

Scriptures for Sunday, March 1, 2009: Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15

Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit…

I’ve been a stay-at-home-mom for a long time. As a stay-at-home-mom, I have always felt the bulk of responsibility for the care and welfare of the children rests on my shoulders. It does because I’m home and available to deal with all the things they need. However, I’ve even felt guilt for those times when others have to step in and help. Bruce works hard all week; he doesn’t need to spend his days off playing chauffeur for his kids. I shouldn’t need the help of a neighbor to pick up my child from school. I hate to ask others for help and I’ve had the attitude that I can do it all by myself.

That attitude came crashing in on me when we lived in England. My dad needed surgery and my mom was ill. They asked me to fly home for a few weeks so that someone would be around to help Mom while Daddy was in the hospital. I wanted to go because I knew I was needed, but I was also needed at my house. My kids needed me. How could I leave them for even a week? Bruce could take some time off work, but we were going to have to rely on friends and neighbors. I was ‘supermom,’ how could I hand over the care and welfare of my children to someone else? I did, and I learned in that experience that I don’t have to do it all by myself. As a matter of fact, I learned that it was a blessing not only to accept the help from others but also to give others the chance to help me.

They say no man is an island. No matter how much we think we can survive alone, the reality is that we are dependent on one another. We might be able to handle a great deal by ourselves, but we will find blessing in the community created between people. As it turned out, that trip back home was the last time I was able to spend time with my mom. She died three months later. My children survived just fine without me and Bruce did a great job as a stay-at-home-dad. They all enjoyed spending time with friends and we developed some deeper friendships with those on whom we relied. It was a positive experience all around.

In the beginning, God created Adam and quickly realized that though there were a huge number of animals in creation, it was not good that Adam was alone. He needed a help-mate, as we all need people on whom we can rely. Jesus Himself found a wonderful group of people to travel with Him, to learn about God and to share God’s message with the world. Besides the twelve, there were women that traveled with the group and homes where they were always welcome. Jesus did not do the three years of ministry by Himself. However, in this week’s Gospel lesson we see Jesus all alone in the wilderness. The responsibility for the salvation of humankind had to rest on His shoulders alone. No one could help Him. No one could take some of the weight of that burden from Him. He had to face His temptations alone.

This is the first week of Lent, the beginning of our remembrance of that wilderness experience. As much as we want to join with Jesus in every way of that journey, we need to remember that we no longer have to do it alone. Whatever we decide to do to experience the wilderness during this forty days, we can rely on others for encouragement and accountability. This is Ash Wednesday, and many people are choosing some aspect of their life to set aside until Easter. Fasting can be a valuable spiritual discipline, but we do not have to do it alone. There is great blessing in leaning on others, particularly in those times when we are weak and tempted to fall.


February 26, 2009

Scriptures for Sunday, March 8, 2009: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:23-31; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, Jehovah appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be the father of a multitude of nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for the father of a multitude of nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee… And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and moreover I will give thee a son of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be of her.

Prince is a prolific musician who has recorded twenty three albums in thirty years. He has achieved critical acclaim and has received many awards for his work, including the 2008 Grammy for R&B Male Vocal Performance. Prince has also been in movies and on television throughout the years. He writes and produces music and plays multiple instruments.

He was born Prince Rogers Nelson, but as is the practice of some celebrities, he has professionally gone by only his first name, Prince. Many actors and musicians consider name changes to enhance their careers, some choosing just a portion of their real name, others making something entirely new. They want name recognition, and certain names as given to us by our parents do not provide what is needed for a successful career. Prince took this a step further, choosing in the early 1990’s to create a name that was only a symbol and was unpronounceable. The symbol was later copyrighted as Love Symbol #2, but reporters and disc jockeys simply referred to him as “the artist formerly known as Prince.” He quickly realized the foolishness of this name change and returned to Prince, although it is still fodder for the comedians.

It is interesting that he chose a symbol to represent his name, especially when we are looking at a passage in the scriptures that describes a name change. We do not necessarily understand the depth of what happened in this passage because our letters are simply building blocks for words. They do not mean anything separate and alone. An “m” is just an “m” and will always be so. However, in the Hebrew language there is meaning to the letters. As in some other languages, you might be familiar with the fact that the Hebrew alphabet has a numerical equivalent. Alef=one. There are those who student the numerics of the language, finding meaning in the numbers of the words as well as the words in context.

It is obvious in today’s text that something has changed with Abram and Sarai, something is new. God gives them new names. Though the names themselves are quite similar to the names they were given by their parents, their new names show at least a difference in dialects. The scriptures tell us that the new names represent their new place in God’s plan. Abram became Abraham; the childless one became the one who would be the father of many nations. Sarai became Sarah; the childless one became the one who will give rise to nations.

There is more to this name change than meets our eyes, however, and it has to do with the additional letter. The letter “h” in Hebrew is “hey” and means “to reveal” or “behold.” It also represents the divine breath and revelation. In other words, God has breathed new life into Abraham and Sarah; their lives will be different because God is irrevocably intertwined in them. If we take this study of the Hebrew letter even further, we discover that “hey” is a combination of two other Hebrew letters, “dalet” and “yod.” “Dalet” is understood to mean “door” and represents broken humanity. “Yod” the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet means “hand” and represents the divine spark. So, in adding the “hey” to Abraham and Sarah’s name, God is opening the door into their beings with His hand, to enter in and bring out His purpose for their lives. In this passage we see God offering a promise to the father and mother of many nations, but we also see Him taking hold of them and giving them everything they need to become what He has planned.

It seems impossible that a ninety-nine year old childless man might become the father of many nations. The promise is equally impossible for Sarah who was well beyond the age of child bearing. Yet, Abraham believes God and trusts that God will be faithful. Do we live with such trust? We should. Although our names have not been changed, God has breathed His “hey” into our lives, too. We have been changed as He has revealed Himself to us through Jesus, by grace, in our baptisms.


February 27, 2009

Scriptures for Sunday, March 8, 2009: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:23-31; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38

Psalm 22:23-31 Ye that fear Jehovah, praise him; All ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; And stand in awe of him, all ye the seed of Israel. For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Neither hath he hid his face from him; But when he cried unto him, he heard. Of thee cometh my praise in the great assembly: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. The meek shall eat and be satisfied; They shall praise Jehovah that seek after him: Let your heart live for ever. All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn unto Jehovah; And all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is Jehovah's; And he is the ruler over the nations. All the fat ones of the earth shall eat and worship: All they that go down to the dust shall bow before him, Even he that cannot keep his soul alive. A seed shall serve him; It shall be told of the Lord unto the next generation. They shall come and shall declare his righteousness Unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done it.

Nearly three years ago, a girl named Kristi Yamaoka earned her fifteen minutes of fame in a terrible accident at a basketball game. Kristi was a cheerleader for Southern Illinois University and they team was building a pyramid during a time out near the end of an extremely important game. Kristi fell off the pyramid and fell on her head. They stopped the game while medical staff dealt with her injury. They were very concerned that Kristi would be permanently injured, so every care was taken to keep her still. Video of the fall hit the airwaves from national news reports to YouTube. The game was a close one, and the crowds were noisy with spirit. The minute Kristi fell, however, the gym went silent.

What made Kristi more famous, however, was how she dealt with her injury. She did not want to leave the game. She did not want to affect the performance of her fellow cheerleaders and her basketball team. She wanted them to win, because a win meant a trip into the playoffs. The medical team insisted that Kristi be taken to the hospital, but even as she was being taken on a stretcher, Kristi continued to cheer her team. Her coach cautioned her to stop, but the medical team said she would be fine, so Kristi showed her spirit by performing the fight song routine right on the stretcher.

Two things came out of the accident. First of all, Kristi recovered completely. She’d suffered a chipped neck vertebra, concussion, and bruised lung and was released from the hospital just two days later. She had no problem securing her place on the team for the next school year. The other thing that happened is that the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators banned tossing or launching of cheerleaders and pyramids were limited to two levels without mats. The ban became permanent in July 2006, despite the negative reaction from cheerleaders and coaches.

What makes her story so remarkable was her attitude following her fall. Though she was injured, her concern was only for the other cheerleaders and the basketball team. “My biggest concern was that I didn't want my squad to be distracted, so that they could continue cheering on the team, and I didn't want my team to be distracted from winning the game,” she said.

Have you ever known a Christian who is so filled with Christ that he or she can continue praising God even in the midst of tragedy and pain? Kristi’s coach said, “She’s 100% school spirit.” Though the focus of her excitement was different, Kristi reminded me of the passionate Christian. It reminded me of the Christian that can praise God from a wheelchair and speak about hope at a funeral.

From the stretcher on her way out of the game Kristi said, “I am a cheerleader.” She had to cheer. It was who she is and what she does. How many people can say “I am a Christian,” and live their life so fully immersed in who they are in Christ that they can’t help but live in praise and worship to God? Do we walk around living in the Spirit of God? There are a few, but very few, people about whom it might be said, “He (or she) is 100 percent spirit,” because we get caught up in the troubles and pains of this world. It doesn’t take much for us to lose sight of God’s gifts. The greatest gift is life, the true life that comes from the forgiveness that our Lord Jesus Christ bought for us on His cross. We are called to live fully in that gift so that the world might see the grace of God and believe.


February 28, 2009