Alcoholics Anonymous, Baptism, Christian, devotion, faith, Mark, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for July 29, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Mark 6:1-13

Text: And (Jesus) was amazed at their unbelief. (v. 6)

Years ago I picked up a copy of Twenty-four Hours a Day, a devotional book for recovering alcoholics. I picked it up because I was volunteering as a spiritual director at an adolescent residential treatment center based on the twelve step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. I found the book to be one of the most powerful insights into developing a childlike faith that I had ever read before or since. I have given away countless copies to individuals who want to develop a deeper faith.

The very first step is to acknowledge our powerless and give ourselves to a Higher Power, however we may understand that Higher Power. We have to be dependent upon Someone besides ourselves. This is very counter-cultural, especially in America where I do too many funerals that have the ballad of individualism “I Did It My Way” included in one way or another.

In today’s reading Jesus sent His disciples out traveling light, we nothing more than the bare essentials and trust in the grace of God–as they understood Him (or, perhaps, Her!). And when the disciples returned they couldn’t contain their joy and their surprise for they were able to “cast our demons”, make a real healing difference in the world. Their experience contrasted the experience of the people in Jesus’ home town, a place where He could do no wonders because of their lack of faith–trust in anything other than themselves.

I believe that we have to constantly remind ourselves that we don’t know the answers, can’t figure much of anything out and have to ask God to show us the way. My experience has been that when we can humble ourselves to do that, that life gets a whole lot easier and better.

Lord, my way isn’t working working so well. Show me Your Way, the Way of Truth and Life. Amen.

Christian, devotion, faith, Mark, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for July 28, 2017

Devotional Reading the Common Daily Lectionary: Mark 5: 21-43

Text: (Jesus) said to her: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace… (v. 34a)

I’m going to tell you the story of Nancy. Many years ago Nancy was a member of a congregation I served. She was a wife, homemaker and mother of three boys. Over a period of time she began to bruise easily and tire for no apparent reason. Blood tests revealed that she had leukemia.

This was in the early days of bone marrow transplants when you had to find a “matching” donor, preferably a close relative. She was lucky enough to find a “suitable” donor but not a “perfect” match.

The transplant itself went well as it was no more complicated than a blood transfusion. Preparing for the transplant, though, was a life threatening experience as Nancy received toxic levels of chemo and radiation therapies. With a weaken immune system inflection was a constant threat, but the biggest threat was something called “host vs. graft”; the body’s attempt to reject the foreign health-promising material. Understandably Nancy was quite scared. I talked to her many times in the weeks preceding  the transplant.

One morning I looked up and saw her standing in the doorway of my church office. She had the most serene look that I had ever seen, almost a glowing countenance. I asked if she was okay. She responded by telling me of something that happened the night before.

“Jesus came to me last night. He told me that I was going to be alright. He didn’t say if I was going to live or die, but that I’d be okay; my family would be okay.” Nancy died about six months after the transplant but until the end, she held on to that “mystical moment.”

I thought of her as I read today’s story. Faith is a funny thing. It is a confidence, a conviction in something that defies human reasoning and even human experience. It is trust in the Other that is deeply personal and inexplicable. It is truly a gift from God.

My prayer for you is that you will experience the mystery of faith that believes in the unseen and gives you the peace that passes all human understanding.

Lord God, pour Your peace upon each one of us and give us the faith for the living of all of our days. Amen.

Christian, devotion, faith, Hebrews, Letter to the, Mark, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for July 26, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Mark 4: 35-41

Text:  “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?!” (v. 38b)

Have you ever had a time in your life when you wondered if God existed, let alone cared about you? I have. There have been many dark days too complicated to explain and too painful to relive for a mere blog post or podcast. So I think that I have a sense of how the disciples felt on that storm-tossed sea in today’s reading. Their words, you see, are my words spoken too often. That is why I added an exclamation point to their question.

Here’s the thing to remember. Jesus cared for the disciples. God still cares today–for you and for me. But caring does not mean that we have some kind of exemption from life’s trials and tribulations. Often these trials and tribulations are of our own making. Sometimes they aren’t. In in either case, we are neither exempt nor given a protective shield.

But that does not mean that God does not care. God cares enough to walk with us in the very shadow of death. God cares for us enough to die for us on the Cross and forever remove the “sting of death”.

In the letter to the Hebrews the author wrote that Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. Anything less is Proof and Proof is not Faith. I have come to believe that Faith is a matter of mind over matter. Faith leads us to the edge of life and tells us that we will be okay. Faith is both a gift and a a muscle to be exercised.

Lord, give me the faith that I need for this moment and the living of these days. Amen.


Christian, devotion, Holy Whisper, Mark, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for July 21, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Mark 3: 7-19a

Text: He (Jesus) went up to the mountain and called to Him those whom He wanted, and they came. (v. 13)

Sometimes you have just got to get away.

I am on the final days of a two week summer vacation. It is good to get away from the daily circumstances of life in order to reconnect with yourself. It is also good not to wait for a vacation to do this but to take a few hours away each day or at least each week to just think. Thinking is perhaps one of the most important things that we do.

Thinking, I believe, is different than worrying or fretting. To me thinking incorporates both prayer and silent listening to that Still Small Voice that spoke to the prophet so long ago.

Jesus had a habit of withdrawing from the crowds. In today’s text He goes to a mountain–the place where God is often met in Scripture–and He calls “those whom He wanted.” I believe that He calls to you and me every day. He calls us to go to the mountain with Him and to listen to what He whispers.

I believe that God whispers because in the din of the modern world, it is only a whisper that can make it through the noise. To hear a Holy Whisper one has to block out distractions and listen very attentively, very carefully. And then, hearing the Voice and validating it among other followers of Jesus, we do.

Have you taken time to listen for the Still Small Voice today?

Lord God, speak for your servant listens. Amen.

Christian, devotion, Mark, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for July 14, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Mark 1: 1013

Text: And the Spirit immediately drove Him (Jesus) out into the wilderness. 

I am fascinated by the Spirit driving Jesus into the wilderness so that He could be tested. In Mark’s gospel there is no other detail. Very simple. Very straight forward.

I remember a teacher who never gave quizzes or tests. He gave “knowledge finders.” I adopted his practice when I taught confirmation classes. Knowledge finders are an attempt to find out if the information shared becomes “knowledge” in the minds of students. More than once I would have to re-teach a lesson because if hadn’t turned into “knowledge”.

The other synoptic gospels say that Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. Depending upon the context, “temptation” and “testing” can be used interchangeably throughout Scripture. We are never tempted by something we do not desire. Jesus time in the wilderness was the time clarified His ministry. In the wilderness Jesus discovered what he stood for and, just as importantly, what He stood against.

Maybe we need a bit more time in the wilderness.

Lord, lead me not into temptation but if I must be tempted, let me not succumb to the temptation and fall. Amen.

Christian, devotion, Mark, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for July 18, 2017

Devotional Reading: Mark 2: 1-12

Text: Then four people came to Him (Jesus) carrying a paralyzed man. (v. 3)

No one becomes a Jesus follower on their own. Throughout our lives God touches us with touches that are often too gentle and too mundane to even be noticed.

I’ve been touched multiple times. The first touch that I remember was that of my parents. At night they would kneel with me beside my bed as we’d say our prayers.
“Now I lay me down to sleep…”  “Our Father, who art in heaven,  …”

Later I was touched by a Sunday School teacher named Mr. Cation. He was a widower. Each Saturday afternoon he’d bake brownies or cookies to share with us at the end of class. One Sunday he wasn’t in class, and we learned a hard reality of life; Mr. Cation died the night before. Blessed in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints. (Psalm 116:15)

After Mr. Cation there was a Mr. Koch. He had thick glasses and blond hair. We met in the minister’s office, five of us sitting in a circle. Somehow he always arranged for me to read the shortest verse in the lesson. I think that it was because he knew that I am a stutter and sometimes it was hard for me to verbalize, especially under pressure.

I had a young Sunday School teacher whose name I do not remember. But I do remember how she didn’t shrink from hard questions. I was in 4th or 5th grade with a very curious mind. I once asked her “If Adam and Eve were the first people and if they had two sons, does that mean that there was incest?” She neither blushed not stumbled but simply said that it was a very good question and that I should ask our minister. I did. Then, later, around Christmas, when we read the Christmas story in Luke’s gospel, I asked, “What’s womb?” We had just read how the baby in Elizabeth’s “womb” leaped at the sound of Mary’s voice. She very gently patted her enlarged tummy and said that it is the place where the baby grows in a mommy’ tummy. Question answered. Faith shared.

I had many other touches in life along the way. No one comes to Jesus on their own. We are carried by others, just like the paralyzed man in today’s text and reading.

So, who are the people who touched your life? Whose life are you touching?

Lord, thank you for those saints who helped mold my faith. May I touch another so that they can know You better. Amen.

Christian, devotion, Mark, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for July 20, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Caily Common Lectionary:  Mark 2: 23-3:6

Text:  Then He (Jesus) said to them, “The sabbath was made for man (and woman), not man (and woman) for the sabbath. (v. 27)

Whenever I eat at a restrauant or buy something on a Sunday or holiday, I always thank my server for giving me their most precious commodity; their time. I know that often they really don’t have a choice in the matter, but still.

Today’s text is one that I dearly love and often quote. The “blue laws” of my youth are long gone and largely forgotten. But at one time, stores could not open on a Sunday. Later this standard was relaxed by allowing stores that sold necessities to open at noon. Now, its an “free” range.

Jesus’ comment to His critics reminded them that when God created the sabbath the Almighty did so as an act of grace. We humans need to keep and ever-changing balance between work and play, labor and relaxation. Otherwise we get out of sync and bad things happen to our health and relationships.

The sabbath is not a set day or time. Some people become almost pharisaic in keeping a sabbath. They become like Jesus’ critics. That said, though, there does need to be a time to allow our “spirits to catch up with our bodies”.

I am not a good “sabbath” keeper, but I keep trying. By the grace of God I will find that balance so that I can be my best self. I hope that you reach this balance sooner than I do.

Lord, help me to find the balance in my life that glorifies You. Help me distinguish the important from the urgent, and keep the flexibility that allows me to be responsive to Your call while caring for my spirit. Amen. 

Christian, devotion, Mark, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for July 19, 2017

Devotional reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Mark 2:1-12

Text: Then four people came to Jesus bringing a paralyzed man. (v. 3)

No one becomes a serious follower of Jesus on their own. They have been touched by God multiple times along the way.

My parents were among my earliest touches. Each night they knelt beside my bed to lead me in prayer; the “Our Father” as well as “Now I lay me down to sleep…” Other touches were the volunteers at the first Vacation Bible School I attended at a neighborhood Free Methodist church. Then there were the after-school ladies who led a “Good News Club” program. They were probables Assembly of God or Baptist.

In my “home” church I had three memorable Sunday school teachers. One was a man named Mr. Cation, an elderly widower who brought us homemade brownies or cookies to eat at the end of class. Mr. Koch always gave me the shortest verses to read, I presume because he knew that I am a stutter. There was also a young teacher who was expecting her first child. At Christmas, as we studied the birth of Jesus, I asked the question that was on the other kids’ mind; “What is a womb?” (The child in Elizabeth’s womb jumped at the sound of Mary’s voice, you may remember.)

Not a single one of those people ever encouraged me to become a minister. All led me to taking Jesus seriously. Theirs was a cumulative affect by God.  Yes, No one comes to Jesus on their own. Like the four friends in today’s reading, someone carries us with loving arms.

Who carried you?

Lord, thank  you for the people who led me to You for You help me carry my burdens. Amen. 

Christian, devotion, faith, Lenten Devotion, Mark, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace for the 5th Sunday of Lent, 2017

Devotional Reading: Mark 8: 31-9:1. Morning Psalm 84; Evening Psalm 42

Text: For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? (v. 36)

I once did a sermon series entitled “The Questions of Jesus”. Today’s text was one of the questions. It is a question that I ask myself often.

When I was in elementary school one of my favorite short stories was “The Devil and Daniel Webster.” It us a story about a “hard-luck” man who wants to be successful. One night a “stranger” visits him and offers to make a deal–all of his dreams will come true if he will but sell his eternal soul to the stranger. Not fully understanding what he was doing and wanting worldly success so badly, he signed his name to the proffered document.

Time passes and his success grows beyond his wildest dreams. Then the stranger shows up to collect his soul. This is when our poor man enlists the help of Daniel Webster–a renowned attorney, orator, statesman and Senator of the 19th century in the United States. The stranger and Daniel Webster go toe to toe in legal battle late into the night until finally Daniel Webster wins the man’s release.

People make character compromises every day of their life. If they are not careful the can, inch by inch, they sell themselves to the devil. I believe that Jesus question is one that we need to ask ourselves nearly every day. “What do I gain if I ultimately lose who I am?”

We face many hard decisions and must make some compromises but we must always ask ourselves that one question. I think that we will conclude that some compromises are simply too much.

Lord, keep our Lord’s question upper-most in our hearts, and give us the courage to do the right thing–even if nobody notices but You. Amen.

Christian, devotion, faith, Lenten Devotion, Mark, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace for the 4th Sunday of Lent, 2017

Devotional Text: Mark 8: 11-21. Morning Psalm-84; Evening Psalm-42

Text: Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod. (v. 15)

    On a recent trip I opened my dopp kit and discovered that I forgot my toothbrush. Often when I travel I forget something. I went to the desk of the hotel and asked if they could provide me with a toothbrush. A smiling clerk pulled open a drawer and gave me a cellophane wrapped toothbrush.

Jesus and the disciples were traveling from one side of the Lake of Galilee when the disciples remembered something–bread to eat. They forgot to bring bread.  Jesus noticed and said to the 12 to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod. Beware of what they are trying to tell you is gives life meaning. Today’s Pharisees tell us that it is memorizing certain prayers or attending a certain church or being baptized in a certain. Today’s Herod tells us that they can provide security from “those people”, or that “you should be afraid–very afraid.”  Jesus, though, says, “Don’t you remember the feeding of the 5000? Do you think that I have ever left you in true want? Don’t you know that I love you? No matter what the world says, you are precious to me.”

The disciples forgot bread for a journey. They may have been a little hungry. But Jesus provides the only bread that truly satisfies our spirits.

    Lord, in this season of Lent help us to remember in this world of material want and gain, the You provide the only true bread that gives our lives meaning. Amen.