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.

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.

Borning Cry, Christian, devotion, John Ylvistaker, Presbyterian Church (USA), Psalms, Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for August 6, 2017

Devotional Reading: Psalm 23

Text:  The LORD is my shepherd. (v. 1a)

At the end of the day, when I lay in bed and close my eyes, I say a silent prayer to myself. I then mentally review the day now finished. I don’t dwell on any one moment, I just do a quick review, kind of like watching a home movie. Often, before falling to sleep, I will begin to recite the 23rd Psalm, an evening psalm. I may not finish the psalm before “the sandman” carries me off but one of the last words I silently say to myself are, “The LORD is my shepherd.”

The LORD is with me in all of the day’s events. I frequently, silently ask for help; wisdom, courage, strength. At the end of the day I know that the LORD watches over me as I sleep. And the LORD will be there when I close my eyes one last time–whenever that will be.

My baptism was a confirmation that I am a child of God. God claimed me as a child even before I was aware of God’s existence. God claimed me as a child even if I denied God’s existence. God’s claim on my life is not based on me but upon God.

There is comfort in knowing this. I hope that you have this comfort, too.

Whenever we celebrate a baptism at the church I serve, we sing “Borning Cry.” The composer of the hymn recently experienced “one more surprise” as he passed from This Reality into the Eternal Reality. I close this devotion with his lyrics as a prayer.

“I was there to hear your borning cry,
I’ll be there when you are old.
I rejoiced the day you were baptized,
to see your life unfold.
I was there when you were but a child,
with a faith to suit you well;
In a blaze of light you wandered off
to find where demons dwell.”
“When you heard the wonder of the Word
I was there to cheer you on;
You were raised to praise the living Lord,
to whom you now belong.
If you find someone to share your time
and you join your hearts as one,
I’ll be there to make your verses rhyme
from dusk ’till rising sun.”
In the middle ages of your life,
not too old, no longer young,
I’ll be there to guide you through the night,
complete what I’ve begun.
When the evening gently closes in,
and you shut your weary eyes,
I’ll be there as I have always been
with just one more surprise.”
“I was there to hear your borning cry,
I’ll be there when you are old.
I rejoiced the day you were baptized,
to see your life unfold.”*

*John Ylvistaker, 1937-2017

Christian, devotion, faith, Humble Humility, Presbyterian Church (USA), Psalms, Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for July 4, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Psalm 46

Text: Put not your trust in princes, in whom there is no help. When they die and return to earth, their dreams die with them. (vvs. 3&4)

An international company in the city where I grew up started to build a new factory but a year or two into the project the global economy changed. Construction halted and only a steel skeleton stood against the sky, a silent witness to a plan that never came to life.

This text has been one of my guiding principles in life. It applies to me and to others. It keeps me humble and helps me avoid putting too much hope in any one individual or having too much confidence in myself. It has reminded me that I do not truly own anything in this life. No one or thing is truly “mine”. It reminds me that there is only one Savior, and it isn’t you or me. These are good things for us to keep in mind.

On this national holiday as we commemorate the “birth” of a nation, we can celebrate and, at times mourn, our collective history, but we must also remember that it is “in God we trust.”

Lord, thank you for all that You have given to us. Make us responsible trustees of this portion of Your estate during our short time in this world. Show us how to pass on to those who follow us a better world than the one we inherited. Amen.








reminds me who God is and who I am.

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

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for June 30, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Psalm 130 (a morning psalm)

Text: My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning.

The movie “Groundhog Day” is about a self-centered reporter who wakes up to the same day over and over and over again until he “gets it right”; until he becomes a truly “nice guy”. Of course he was helped along in this “spiritual” journey by falling in love with a beautiful woman. At some point in the movie, though, he looked forward to the day being over so that he could “start again”.

Sometimes you just can’t wait for a day to be over. Things did not go well, or at least as you had planned and hoped. You watch the clock because all you really want to do is wait until bedtime so that you can put this day in the proverbial “history books”.

I’m not sure what was going on in the psalmist mind when the 130th Psalm was written but the writer began with words of thanksgiving for God willingness to hear our prayers. This is followed by a sense of gratitude for God’s continuing forgiveness of our “iniquities”. The Psalmist closed by reminding himself, and the reader, of God’s hope which is new every morning.

Maybe that is why this was selected as a morning Psalm. Yesterday is a memory from which we can learn. Tomorrow is a hope to lead us forward. But Today is the only thing that is “real”. Make the most of it.

Lord, thank you for Your forgiveness and for loving me enough to listen to my thoughts and prayers. Lead me through this day and when it draws to a close, let me one again confess my iniquities and take comfort in the fact that You watch over me all through the night. Amen.

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

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for June 11, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Common Daily Lectionary: (an evening reading) Psalm 139

Text: Where can I go from Your Spirit or where can a flee from Your Presence? (v. 7)

The 139th Psalm is my favorite Psalm, bar none. I like it so much because it marvels at God’s Providential Care of us. There is nowhere that we can hide from the Presence of God. God’s knowledge of us begins even before we are born; For it was You who formed my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. … My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In Your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.  

The Psalmist does not claim that God causes or lets things happen. Bad things do happen because we live in a broken world, a world filled with selfishness and greed. Disappointment is a frequent visitor in our lives. Yet, while God neither causes nor lets bad things happen, God is right there with us when they do happen.

A grieving parent once asked me “Where is God when I’m hurting?” I thought about that question for a long time before I was ready to answer. My response may have been woefully inadequate but I said that God is “right there, on the Cross of Jesus.” We cannot keep our children from pain, but we can suffer with them, and comfort them and love them even in the midst of great pain. That’s what God does, too.

Visit this place, O Lord, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy; let your holy angels well with us to preserve us in peace; and let your blessing be upon us always; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen. (from The Book of Common Prayer, compline service)

Christian, devotion, I John, Presbyterian Church (USA), Psalms, Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for June 3, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Psalm 23

Text: Ye, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death… (v. 4, King James Version). Even though I walk through through the darkest valley (a number of more modern translations)

I received a text message from a friend who has had more than his share of problems. He has suffered just about every imaginable loss over the past year and a half or so; family, job, wealth, etc. Another hard knock came his way recently, one that would have have knocked him off balance at any other time, but it was the final straw. He felt like he was going to break.

“What have I done to cause God to do this to me?! Have I been so bad?!”

The cry of anguish in the soul.  I thought about how I would respond as we were in different states of the country. I wanted to choose my words carefully. I also wanted to pray and think about my response. Finally I wrote him saying that I’m not sure of many things but there are a couple things of which I am very sure. He did nothing wrong and God is not punishing him. That is not Who God is. God is love (I John 4:8).  Bad things happen because we live in a broken world. Secondly, remembering the words of the most beloved Psalm as well as the Cross of Jesus, I am convinced that God is with us in our pain and suffering, even if we cannot feel His Presence. God walks beside us in Life’s dark valleys, especially the dark valleys of the soul. And, in the words of Paul in his letter to the Romans, nothing in this world can ever separate us from God’s love.(Chapter 8) That God-love is unconditional. And it is transformative. Earlier in chapter 8 Paul wrote from his own life experience saying that while God does not cause evil, God can redeem evil and bring something good out of the ashes; not perfect, but good.

I don’t know if my response was what he needed. I have not heard back from my friend. But I do know that in my response I revealed not some pious jargon but the deepest  beliefs of my faith.

Maybe my words can be of comfort to you or someone you know.

Be our light in the darkness, O Lord. Be present and protect us through the hours
of the night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness. O Lord, drive far from us all snares of the enemy; let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace; and let your blessing be upon us always; Amen. (from The Book of Common Prayer, compline service)

Christian, devotion, Evening, Presbyterian Church (USA), Psalms, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for May 31, 2017

For Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Psalm 9

Text: I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;  I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.  I will be glad and exult in you;  I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. (vss. 1 & 2)

Psalm 9 is a reading for this evening, when the day is done. At the end of each day I lie in bed and reflect upon the events of the day. Then I think more deeply upon the two or three things that brought me real joy and “give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart.

We sleep better when we end the day with a heart filled with thanksgiving. We sleep more soundly when we close our eyes enveloped by the Psalmist prayer, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.” (Ps. 4: 8)

Sleep tight.

As I close my weary eyes, Lord, give me a thankful heart and the confidence that in Your presence I will sleep in safety. Amen.

Christian, devotion, Presbyterian Church (USA), Psalms, Song, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Devotion for April 28, 2017

Devotional Reading: Psalm 96

Text: O sing to the LORD a new song, sing the the LORD, all the earth. (v. 1)

“Give me the making of a people’s song, and I care not who makes the laws.” The quotation is attributed the the 17th century Scottish writer and politician Andrew Fletcher. It has the ring of truth about it.

Songs move a people, a nation and the world. Recall how “The Star Spangled Banner” united a nation since the War of 1812, or how “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” solidified the North just as “Dixie” united the South during the American Civil War. The Christian Missionary Movement of an earlier time marched into new fields singing the hymn “Onward, Christian Soldiers”*  In my youth, it seemed that the whole world sang, in various languages, Coca Cola’s “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”.

Have you ever considered making your life a hymn to the LORD? The decisions you make, the attitudes you carry, the words you say have are the lyrics to your life.

Today’s Psalm was used as worshipers entered the Temple but it is also a call to carry the hymn of praise out of the worship assembly into the world. You, too, are writing the psalm of your life every day.

O Sing to the LORD a new song, … write your song, your psalm…to the glory of God.

Lord, You write the music and today and every day, I’ll sing the song of Your glory. Amen.


*Contrary to today’s interpretation, it was not a military song, per se, but a call to share the message of Christ.

Awesome, Christian, devotion, Presbyterian Church (USA), Psalms, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Devotion for April 28, 2017

Devotional Reading; Psalm 47

Text: For the LORD, Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth. (v. 2)

We use the word “awesome” a lot. It seems that everything is awesome. You’re an awesome person. That was an awesome game. This is an awesome meal. It is always meant as a compliment but something is lost in its overuse. An unassisted triple-play is not awesome. It is rare and impressive, maybe even great, but it is not awesome.

Awesome is not a word that is thrown around casually in Scripture. It is reserved for God. Only God is awesome, that is, worthy of “awe”.

One of the evening Psalms assigned for today is the 113th. At the end it marvels and celebrates how God “raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap”, and sits them beside princes. Only God makes the barren woman the “joyous mother of children.” (vss. 8 and 9). Those are awesome.

Lord God, only You are truly awesome for you give us hope in the midst of despair, courage in the midst of fear, and unconditional love when we are our most unlovable. Thank you. Amen.