Saturday, January 31, 2015

Facing the Storm



Mark 4:35-41
January 31, 2015

But Jesus was in the rear of the boat, sleeping on a pillow.  They woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re drowning.” Mark 4:38

I grew up in the Midwest far away from the ocean.  I have yet to spend an evening on the water during a storm (or a day for that matter), where I wondered if we would make it to dry land.  While crossing the English Channel in college, on a ferry, I experienced the result of high Gale force winds on a small boat.  It was hard to walk around, so I decided to stay in my seat.  There was never a fear that we wouldn’t make it, but the journey was uncomfortable to say the least.
Physical storms in a way mirror our emotional storms we face in life.  Things happen and they can make us feel like we can’t get grounded.  The ground beneath our feet is literally moving and is unsteady.  Or we find ourselves trying to walk in one direction but are pulled in another.  Or we may find that we are holding on with everything that we have.

What all storms have in common is a feeling of being out of control.  Sailors have little control of a small vessel being tossed about in an angry sea.  We too can face challenges in life where we feel like we have little control.

What strikes me in this passage is the presence of Jesus.  He isn’t on the shore watching the disciples in their boat being tossed about.  He is present.  He is with them all along.  

Although we may mirror the desperate disciples and yell “God, don’t you care that I am drowning?” remember that God is with us during the storms we face.
When we can offer to God our concerns and place them in God’s hands what we will find is that God has the power to still the storms of life.

Prayer: God I pray for those in my life that are facing storms today.  Open my eyes to the ways that I can be a calming presence in their life as they navigate their way forward.  Amen.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Growth



Scripture: Mark 4: 26-34
January 30, 2015

Consider a mustard seed.  When scattered on the ground, it’s the smallest of all the seeds on the earth; but when it’s planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all vegetable plants. Mark 4:31

The mustard shrub in the Ancient Near East was an invasive weed.  Farmers would never welcome it into their fields and surely wouldn’t plant it.  And I so I image that the original audience had some thinking to do before they could really hear what Jesus was trying to teach them.  Once you get beyond the absurdity of the whole set up, you begin to realize that what Jesus is teaching us is that the Kingdom of God is absurd to those who don’t understand it.
And not only that, but it is invasive and grows where it isn’t planted.  The same happens with God’s word.  It might start out quiet small within you but God can make it grow exponentially.
What small thing in your life is God giving growth to?  Think about what it needs in order to grow, how it needs to be cared for, and all of the potential that lies in that one small thing. 
Prayer:  God you are the Great Gardener and Creator.  I praise you for the growth of your word in my life.  May it grow and flourish in unexpected ways.  Amen.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Revealed



Scripture: Mark 4:21-25
January 29, 2015

Everything hidden will be revealed and everything in secret will come out into the open. Mark 4:22
I can remember when my kids were young and they thought by covering their eyes that I couldn’t see them.  Or more recently, when I am in another room and I can hear the distinct sound of the glass on our cookie/candy jar closing and the response to what was that noise is “nothing.”  As if they didn’t sneak a treat because I couldn’t see it happening.
The gospels play a lot with the theme of light and darkness.  (And while I am a firm believer in the goodness that comes through a dark night with God:  Or simply the relaxation and rest that is necessary for our overall health that only can happen in the dark: I am going to focus on the light not as a good/bad distinction, but simply as a distinction.)
There are things in our lives that we just would rather not have exposed to the light.  Maybe it is because of our pride or shame or a combination of both.  But what Jesus reminds us is that whatever we try to hide will eventually surface. 
True growth happens only when we are our authentic selves with one another.
Prayer: God help me to embrace your presence in those places in my life that I would rather hide from others.  Help me to let go of the things, attitudes and behaviors that keep me from fully experiencing your presence in my life.  May the work that you are accomplishing in my life be a beacon of light to others.  Amen. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Receiving



Scripture: Mark 4:1-20
January 28, 2015

“Listen to this!” Mark 4:3

I realized some time ago that my spiritual, emotional and mental state have everything to do with whether or not I hear God speaking in my life.
We can allow so much noise to enter into our day that we consider it to be normative.  And what I find is that through all of that internal and external noise that I can’t hear God. 
Have you ever prayed where you do all the talking?  It reminds me of conversations where someone just needs to talk out their problems but doesn’t take the time to listen.  Do you know anyone like that?  Someone who is just looking for affirmation?
While God is always there but we often put up barriers so we can’t hear God’s response.
Jesus teaches us in today’s parable that we are like different types of soil.  Depending on how we prepare ourselves to receive God’s word we may or may not hear it and allow it to change us. 
Prayer:  God help me to make time today to hear your voice, to take time away from the distractions of the day and read slowly over the words of scripture.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Radical Inclusion



Scripture: Mark 3:31-35
January 27, 2015

“Whoever does God’s will is my brother, sister, and mother.” Mark 3:35
I love family!  I especially love watching sitcoms that poke fun at family dynamics.  (Recently Eva, my daughter, saw one that came way too close to home and it was a little awkward but in the end the laughter was good for us both.) No family is perfect and when you mix together a variety of personalities never do you find a dull moment and rarely a quiet one!
While we don’t get to choose the family we are born into, we do have the choice in deciding to follow Jesus.  When we make that decision we become part of a larger family (with even more personalities where you will NEVER find a dull moment and rarely will find a quiet one!).
God created us with relationship in mind.  We are made to be in supportive, loving and caring relationships that allow us to grow.  When you read through the gospels you see a story of the life of Jesus lived in relationship with others.  
As he is teaching one afternoon, he affirms that his family is larger than his biological one.  Those who love God are also part of his family.
At the core of our calling to follow Christ are relationships, where we are to welcome one another as we have been welcomed.  
Prayer: God thank you for making me to be in relationship with others.  Help me to place Christ in the center of all of my relationships.  Amen.

Temptation

Matthew 4:1-17 Back in the early years of my ministry, I led a group of senior high youth through a 30 hour fast. It was a trend a...