Christian, Congregationalist, devotion, faith, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), Psalm, Psalms, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace for a Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2017

In a few hours my family will gather around a table with this centerpiece and celebrate Thanksgiving. The cornucopia made by my wife from the herbs on our garden remind me of the bounty bestowed upon us. The 106th Psalm reminds us to give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

While today has largely become a forgotten “secular holiday” sandwiched between the marketing behemoths of Halloween and Christmas, it maintains its “holy” vestige. Some families will seem incomplete because of loved ones not present. But the separation is only physical. Those who we love and loved are never really far from us. They are as close as a memory or a twinge in the heart.

God’s infinite love and mercy envelops all of us; Past, Present and Future, Near and Far. Our live have been intricately woven together in a weave that can never be torn apart. We are one with each other.

Yes, today give thanks to the Lord for his mercy endures forever.

Lord, I bow before you with few words, only a thankful heart. Amen.

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Change, Christian, Congregationalist, devotion, faith, Love, Matthew, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), The difficulty of change, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for November 2, 2017

Change is in the air. Literally.


Change is in the air, literally. The buds of Spring gave way to the green leaves of Summer. It is now the season of the red, yellow, and orange leaves of Fall. Yes, change is in the air. Mornings are crisper and days grow shorter, despite our best efforts of grudgingly giving up “Daylight Savings Time.”

Change is a part of life. People enter and leave our lives. Children are born and grow up and begin families of their own. We are changing, too, as we gain new experiences and hopefully, greater wisdom.

Four-star General Eric Shineski once said, “If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more.” The saddest thing in life is the inability to change, especially in the face of new circumstances and information. Survival does not belong to strongest but to the most adaptable.

Jesus once observed that we are so good at discerning the seasons but so bad at discerning the “new thing” that God is doing in our midst. (Matthew 16:2) We continually try to put new wine into old wineskins. (Matthew 9:14-17, et al) We resist change, God’s new thing. 

The challenge for those who take Jesus seriously is to be open to God’s movement in this world. The movement toward justice, equality, respect, humility and generosity. All of these things are elements of the thing we call Love. “Others will know that you are my disciples,” Jesus said to The Twelve on His last night with, “by seeing how you love one another.” (John 13:35)

May the World see a glimpse of grace in our love. 

Lord, let me not be afraid of change but see it as a part of the “new thing” that you are doing. Use me as You will to do the work of the Kingdy every day of my life. Amen. 

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Christian, clouds, Congregationalist, devotion, Exodus, faith, Moses, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), Robert F. Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for Ocober 9, 2017

On a recent flight between Glasgow and London we descended through clouds so thick that I couldn’t see the ends of the plane’s wings. Bumping from the smooth clear blue skies above  I began to think about the Old Testment figure, Moses. On the mountaintop he had a theophany with God–a God moment, some would say. But when he came down from the mountain he saw a people who had given up hope and worshiped a golden calf! (See Exodus 32)

In life there are moments when we rise above life’s clouds and are given a glimpse of grace, a vision, of who we are called to be as well as Who God is. We cannot stay above the clouds too long. The air is to thin. So we live belong the clouds in the land of the golden calf. 

But we never really forget the mountaintop, and what it is like to be above the clouds. People who take Jesus seriously are called to never lose sight of the blue sky of God’s Kingdom. They are to pray and work for that Kingdom to come here on earth.

At the eulogy of his brother, Robert, the late United States Senator Edward Kenedy ended his remarks with these words: Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?  May we who take Jesus seriously ask the same question.

Lord God, let me never be satisfied with the way things are in this world of too much pain and sorrow. Give me a vision of Your blue sky above the clouds of hopeless and despair. Make me a master craftsman in the building of Your Kingdom.  Amen. 

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Congregationalist, devotion, faith, Forgiveness, Love, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for October 24, 2017

I got lost today. After visiting Glasgow University on the Weat End of the city I took a few wrong turns while taking pictures and suddenly realized that I didn’t know where I was. I pulled out my very scanty “tourist” map and tried to find my “bearings”. I was at the bottom of a large hill in what appeared to be a warehouse district. Looking around, I saw a familiar name on a directional sign and began to follow the directions. Still, nothing looked familiar. To make matters worse, what was a light sprinkle of rain became a steady shower. I pulled the hood of my jacket over my head and soon saw drops of rain falling off of the hood I front of me!

On the upper part of the hill, though, I looked to my right and saw a familiar site; the Sandyford Henderson Memorial Church of Scotland, the very place that I worshipped only a couple of days before! It was a welcomed sight! I finally knew exactly where I was and what I had to do next!

 

There are times in all of our lives when we “lose our way”. We take a wrong turn, make a bad decision and suddenly wonder to ourselves, “How in the world did I get here!” 

When the Church is at its best it is a collection of people who have decided to take Jesus seriously. They encourage one another in both life and individual faith journeys. At its best the church is not a place of judgement but grace, not a place of “have to’s” but “get to’s”. It is a place of encouragement and love and acceptance enabling us to grow more and more into the image of Christ.

Such a place, such a church, is a hint of the Kingdom of God and the very embodiment of a glimpse of grace.

Lord, when I stumble and lose my way, help me find a faith community that will help me get my “bearings” again.  And, Lord, help me be a mirror reflecting Your life-changing love seen in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Amen. 

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Christian, Congregationalist, devotion, faith, Holy Spirit, Luke, Gospel of, Mark, Matthew, Parable, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for October 22, 2017

The winds in Glasgow, Scotland today have been particularly blustery, whipping flags and pushing pedestrians. While coming back from worship, suddenly a strong gust shot up the street stripping the hood of my jacket from my head and then just as abruptly turning around and tossing the hood back where it was! 

In the afternoon, as I read a book I looked out a picture window standing before me. I watched the ever-changing blue-gray clouds of October dance across the sky.  

Jesus once said  that the Holy Spirit is a lot like the wind. We can hear the sound of and even feel it. One moment it can buffer our progress, and the next moment it can push us forward as if to say, “Hurry! Onward!” 

I think that deep down many of us don’t trust the Holy Spirit. We are afraid of it. We are afraid of it because it is so wild, untamable, and free. Yet, it calls to us throughout all of the seasons of life; in the cool winds of spring, the warm lazy winds of summer, the changing winds of fall and the frigid winds of winter. 

If we can but go with this wind in all of our seasons, we can become a glimpse of grace.

Lord God, give me the courage to go where the wind of Your Spirit will lead me. Let me be not afraid. Amen.

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Christian, devotion, faith, Fear, Martin Luther, Presbyterian Church (USA), Psalm, Psalms, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for October 14, 2017

As you walk west up the streets of Edinburgh’s “Royal Mile” an imposing figure looms before you; The Edinburgh Castle. Standing on a craggy volcanic rock, it has been a place of refuge and symbol of power for at least 3000 years. Above the drawbridge gate there  is a crest with inscription written in Latin; Anemone me impugned laces sit, which means, “No one attacks me with impunity.”

As I read those words in this, the 500th year of Luther’s birth, I recalled his great hymn, “A mighty fortress is our God,  A bulwark never failing.” 

God is our refuge and our strength,” the Psalmist wrote, “very present help in time of trouble. Therefore we will not fear.” (Psalm 46: 1&2a)

We live in a very fearful time. The late Edwin Friedman described this as “a time of free-floating anxiety” manifested by a “failure of nerve”. We seek quick answers and easy fixes. Your team isn’t winning? Replace the coach. Business is lagging? Replace the CEO. Not  happy at home? Find a new spouse. But the problem isn’t “them”, it’s “us”–we just don’t have the “nerve”, the “courage” to own up to it. 

I suspect that the Psalmist faced such a time as this when he penned the words to Psalm 46. “Though the waters roar and the mountains shake …God is in the midst. (vss. 3&5) Those are truly words of grace … Glimpses of grace. 

Let we forget Whose in charge, the Psalm ends on a note of faith and conviction. Be still and know that I am God … The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. (vss. 10a & 11) That’s more than words; that’s a promise. 

Lord when my heart is troubled or worried or anxious, give me the grace to rest in Your Presence. Remind me that You are in the midst of life’s storms and turmoil. Remove me fear and give me courage as well as a peace that passes all human understanding. Amen.

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Christian, devotion, faith, Fear, I John, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace for October 13,2017

Standing in the quiet silence of the ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral,  I saw the North Sea in the distance. The  wind and mist blew in my face and I fell into a trance of wonderment of what was. The Present broke in, though, by the distant sounds of children at play, the distinctive tweet of a teacher’s whistle, and the snap of a kicked soccer ball.

Jesus once told His disciples, as they stood in awe of the grandeur of the Temple, that there would come a day when not one stone would lie upon another. It was hard for the twelve to hear and others simply didn’t want to hear it, but Jesus knew that nothing in this world last forever. Nothing. New cities are built on long forgotten ruins. In these new cities couples fall in love, babies are born, children laugh and play with each new beginning calling us, no, inviting us, into an unknown Future.  Remember this: in the midst of ruins there are always new beginnings.

Jesus’ death was not the End. It was the precursor of  a New Beginning. And even now The Story–God’s Story–has not ended. The Resurrected One continues to call, guide and lead us into a Future that is known only to God. This Future did not frighten the writer of John’s first letter. It didn’t frighten him because he knew something that we often forget. He preached it to his dying day. “God is love…and perfect love casts out fear.” L(1 John 4:9&14) Let this be today’s glimpse of grace: be not afraid. We may not know what the future holds, but we do know in Whose Hands it is held.

Lord, give me the courage to commit my whole self, my very life and the lives of all whom I love, into Your loving hands. 

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