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

Glimpses of Grace for November 21, 2017

When I came home, what should greet me but packages left outside the front door of my house. Two were early arrival Christmas gifts and the other was something that we intend to give later.

As I carried these harbingers of the Christmas season into the house I thought about the gifts found in the Christmas story. There are the obvious gifts of the Magi, those travelers from the East who followed the Star in search of the Promised King. But there are also lesser recognized gifts; the visitation of the angel Gabriel to Mary, Gabriel telling Mary to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth for confirmation of her own pregnancy. Gabriel’s visit to Zachariah reminiscent of the Strangers’ visit to Abraham generations earlier. Jospeh’s dream telling him not to be afraid and the Mary’s Child was the longed for Holy One. Later, a warning in a dream sending him to Egypt.

So many unexpected and largely unrecognized gifts, each a glimpse of grace. I believe that God still sends gifts our way, packages on our doorsteps. They always come as a surprise. All we do is bring them into our heart’s home and open them.

Lord, thank you for Your many unrecognized and too often unappreciated gifts that flood our lives Daily. Give us humble and thankful hearts. 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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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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Cemeteries, Christian, Congregationalist, devotion, Luke, Gospel of, Mark, Matthew, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for October 21, 2017

As I walked through a late 17th-early 18th century cemetery in Scotland I was struck by the beauty of the walled family plots. This one is that of a Maclaren, who completed this life’s journey in 1817.  To the left of the entrance there is a notation that his four year old son, Peter, is buried beside him. A terrible loss for any parent. 

I stepped into the sacred space and discovered to the left “the home” of a person who has not “home.l As I stared at my discovery  I was reminded of the Gadarene demoniac, shunned and feared by his community and forced to live  among the tombs. In the story Jesus healed the man, “clothed him in his right mind” is the phrase that is used. 

I do not pretend to know why someone took up residence among the tombs. It could be because of a number of reasons; illness, bad luck, choice or because he had nowhere else to go. I do know, though, that someone once said that the greatness of a people is seen in how they treat those who at the dawn of life, their children; those in the twilight of life, their elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, their sick, their needy, their disadvantaged, and their disabled. 

Jesus “healed” the demoniac. He restored the man to the community that ostracized him. He gave him a “new” life. Can those of us who take Jesus seriously do any less? Isn’t that what we are called to do? After all, aren’t we supposed to be “the Body of Christ”’on earth? Isn’t that what it means to be a glimpse of grace?

Lord, let me not settle for easy answers or simply look away from the pain of the world. You gave me a mind to use and resources to be a steward over; show me how to do both, to Your glory. Amen. 

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Christian, Congregationalist, devotion, Iona, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace for October 18, 2017

Pilgrims’ pathToday began with a morning prayer service in the Abby on Iona. Later in the morning I began the journey to St. Columbra’s Bay which is named after an one of the 12 Irish Apostles. St. Columbia is credited with spreading Christianity to Scotland in the 6th century. He died on June 9, 597 and is buried on Iona. One of the island’s chapels bears his name. 

On our journey we came across two sets of pilgrims on a one pilgrimage. My own “pilgrimage” was cut short a quarter of a mile from the bay when I slipped on a rock in a marshy section and twisted my ankle. Thanks to the assistance to my housemate, Wilford Gowing, a Robert Burns quoting Anglican clergyman on sabbatical, I made it back to where we stayed

Plans can change in a moment, in the flash of an eye or slipping on a rock. We often fall short of our goal. It is those times when God provides “angels” of mercy, bearers of grace to help us get back on our feet. 

The moment one journey ended, a new one began. God was in both journeys every step of the way. That is truly a glimpse of grace. 

Lord, for all the saints who from their labors rest, we give your thanks. Amen. 

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for October 16, 2017

I was supposed to be on the island of Iona, Scotland tonight, but I’m not. You see, a funny thing happened on the way to Iona–a little hurricane named Ophelia. No ferries went to Iona today so I am spending the night in the nice little port city of Oban, hoping for better weather tomorrow. 

Plans don’t always work out as we intend. Unexpected and uncontrollable events occur. So what do we do? One passenger ranted, and swore at a very patient attendant. Did she think the attendant could control the weather? Her tirade didn’t change a thing. It may have made them a little worse. My family will be the first to tell you tha I’m no saint, but when my turn came simply asked the attendant for suggestions. Then I made the best of it.

I think that anyone who takes Jesus seriously needs to see the reflection of God in the face of another. Berating someone reveals a hole in our own character. We need to constantly remind ourselves to roll with punches, or as Jesus’ follower, Paul, wrote, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances (for to face life’s challenges with such an attitude) is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5: 16-18, amplified)

Lord, teach me how to develop a thankful heart, one that reflects Your love for me as well as for others. Remind me to rejoice always, pray constantly and rejoice even in the midst of disappointment. Amen. 

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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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