Monday, December 17, 2012

Whether or not there was/is a Grudge.

Luke 2:17
When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child;

Here’s where I think Mary and Joseph might have had a difference of opinion. For Mary, this is amazing news. Who wouldn’t want to know that their child is incredibly special? But for Joseph things are murkier. Yes, this is a special child, but it’s technically not his child! Furthermore, he knows it!

Obviously it would appear that over time Joseph put such understandable misgivings aside. Or did he? We’ll never know.

With Christmas gatherings on the horizon, sometimes we encounter people who give us reason to cringe for one reason or another. Maybe they said something once that rubbed us the wrong way or maybe they just behave in a way that grates on our nerves. My only advice would be to take a cue from Joseph and act in such a way that, even if there is a grudge of some kind brewing, history doesn’t record it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Finding Extraordinary in the Simple

Luke 2:12
This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

I used to enjoy the old Indiana Jones Movies. I remember in one movie he had to choose the proper chalice among many. There were lots of really fancy ones on display, but the real chalice was the plain unadorned one. Just a simple cup, really.

The sign the angel promised to the shepherds was really plain. A child. Just wrapped up in ordinary cloth. Lying, of all places, in a manger.

Years ago my mom used to give me some of my Christmas presents in a brown paper bag stapled shut at the top with my name scribbled big letters with magic marker. She wasn’t being disrespectful. She had a lot on her plate and wrapping presents just wasn’t where she chose to spend her energy. But the gifts, well, the gifts were still precious. Both the gift itself and the gift of knowing who it came from.

The shepherds were about to discover as much and more.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Who Is Jesus?

Luke 2:11
to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

Who are you, really? Personally I wear several different hats. To my wife I’m a husband. To our children I am a father. To those who attend Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, I am a pastor. By the grace of God I am all three of these things and many more.

Jesus, according to the angel, was Savior, Messiah, and Lord. We all need saved from something, so we need a Savior. We are all drawn to someone who is truly anointed, and so knowing the Messiah (which means the anointed one) is as good as it gets. And for all our talk about wanting to be captain of our own ship and all the rest, well, truth be told, if there were simply someone else that we could trust truly had the world’s best interests at heart, well, we’d be glad to proclaim him or her Lord.

In Jesus the shepherds found their Savior, Messiah, and Lord. He was all that they could ever ask for. Born in their day, in their nearby town, and coming soon to a theater of life near you.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Personal and Public Good News

Luke 2:10
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:

Recently I learned that my nephew is engaged. This is his personal good news of great joy. But even though the news is personal, it’s not private or exclusive. Last night Facebook was all awash with “likes” and congratulatory comments and happy pictures and all the rest related to the news of their engagement. Clearly it was news of great joy for lots of people, not just my nephew and his fiancé.

How sweet it was, according to Luke, for the shepherds to be among the first to know of the joyful news for all the people. Yes, the news was intended specifically for the shepherds. But it was also specifically intended for everyone else. Maybe even you. And like the angel said, there’s no need to be afraid. It’s good news of great joy!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Keeping Calm in spite of Circumstances

Luke 2:9
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

When I speak in terms of a calmer Christmas, I don’t mean to imply that it will be non-eventful. Scary stuff happens in this world. Yet when such things happen around this time of year it seems to catch us by surprise, as if such things should not be allowed to happen over the holidays.

When a custody battle is lost, a personal relationship breaks, a job ends, a challenging diagnosis is given, a pink slip issued, or the house burns down—we consider it insult added to injury if it happens over Christmas—as if it would have been any easier if had happened in, let’s say, January.

The fact that so many of us think that such things shouldn’t happen over Christmas reveals just how far removed we are from the very first Christmas. But if we have the courage to enter back into the story, we can see a more realistic and less idealistic picture.

Scripture says that the shepherds were “terrified” when the angel of the Lord stood before them. In the Gospel of Matthew’s version of this story, every child under the age of 2 was to be killed by order of Herod with the hopes that Jesus would be among them. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus had to flee for their lives. It doesn’t sound like a very calm Christmas, does it? And, of course, we just read a couple days ago that Mary and Joseph had to settle for manger in shed because there was no room for them in the inn. It was a VERY eventful Christmas for them and not particularly calm at all.

In a few days we’ll learn how the terrified shepherds eventually got their courage back. But for now, let us be content to know that the calmer way to Christmas has more to do with one’s mindset than one’s circumstances. If we get nothing else out of Christmas, let us at least remember that the whole point of Christmas is not an absence of drama but, rather the presence of Jesus in the midst of it all.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Calmer Way to Christmas for December 8th

Luke 2:8
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

While most of the world sleeps, some people are still up. In our culture police cruise the streets, paramedics await a call, convenience store workers exchange goods for cash, and shift-workers take their turn. There are also those who wish they could sleep, but for some reason are still up—or up again.

And then it happens…something out of the ordinary occurs that only a few will see.

I remember being at a family gathering late into the night one summer. We were at my uncle’s house when all of a sudden we noticed a peculiar red glow in the Southeastern sky. Strange. We got in our cars. We had to go see. It was a fire. An old barn had caught—or more likely been set—on fire. We alone were there to see it—and to call the fire department and such—all because we were still up.

Somebody always is—just like the shepherds who were keeping watch over their flock by night.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Calmer Way to Christmas Devotion #7

Luke 2:7
"And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn."

You’ve probably heard stories of your own birth. In my case I was the last of six children. When mom realized that it was time to head to the hospital, she sent my older sisters to the barn to tell my Dad. Mom, of course, had been through this routine several times before and therefore had tried to hold off as long as she could. Dad, of course, had also been through this routine several times before and figured there was no real rush. I’m told that’s why he went ahead and milked three more cows. All I can say is that I’m glad I wasn’t in the car—well, in a way I guess I was—to hear what mom said to dad when she found out the reason for his delay. That couldn’t have been pretty…

But then again, I wonder what kind of chilly reception Joseph got years earlier when he broke the news to Mary that there was no room in the inn and a stable and a manger would have to do.

Nevertheless, we all made it, we look back now and laugh, we realize all that we were upset about or irritated about didn’t matter that much. God did what God was gonna do and the world has never been the same since.

Thanks, and have a great day.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Calmer wy to Christmas Day 6

Luke 2:6
While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably got a pretty vivid memory of the birth of your first child. For us the event began at around 4:00 am when my wife got up in the night and I suddenly realized that it was, well, TIME.

I downed a quick bowl of cereal while she finished getting ready and then off to the hospital we went. Complicating matters for me was the fact that it was a Sunday morning. Thankfully we had given the president of the congregation a sermon manuscript from Tony Campolo (since I don’t use manuscripts myself when I preach) as a contingency plan. I think he practically gave birth to something or another himself when I called him at around 7:30 am and said he’d be preaching that day. But preach it he did-- and it was a good thing too—our son was born at 10:40 am that day, almost to the minute of when, back at church, the president finished the sermon with a rousing AMEN! That was quite a day!

I can only imagine what Joseph was thinking when Mary told him that it was time. It means everything else that he may have planned for the day would suddenly be put on hold. More pressing matters were at hand.

The calmer way to Christmas takes to heart that it’s okay to have a change of plans for important matters. Whether one must awake from a sound sleep or simply take a pause from the project of the moment, occasionally one must simply MAKE time whenever it IS time for a monumental event. That’s what happened to Joseph and Mary so many years ago.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Calmer Way To Christmas Devtion #5

(Note: On a new toll-free recorded message center (877-470-1910, ext 1) for the church I serve I am making available 24 personally-written daily Advent Devotions as part of a "Calmer Way to Christmas" series. Each of the first 20 of these 24 devotions is based on verses from the Gospel of Luke's version of the Christmas story. During this Advent Season I've decided to suspend my normal devotional practice and post the transcripts of these "Calmer Way to Christmas" Advent devotions instead. Below is today's installment. If you wish to listen to the devotion instead, simply call the number above and then choose extension 1.)



Luke 2:5
"He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child."

Back in 1989 I took what, at the time, was the biggest there’s-no-turning-back journey of my life. I was on my way to Frankfurt, Germany to serve as an intern for a year. Granted, it was the land of my ancestors, but I couldn’t speak German and had never been out of the United States with the exception of a college fishing trip or two to Canada. This trip was big.

Thankfully, I didn’t go alone. Right by my side on the giant 747 was my wife who had actually spent a couple years in Europe as a child. Looking back, I don’t think there’s any way that I would have ever signed up for such an experience without knowing that she would be by my side all the way. Sure, I’m a pretty self-sufficient kind of guy, but I’ve also got my limits. I appreciate and am sometimes surprisingly dependent on support from others. With the presence of my wife I was good to go. Without it I’m not sure I would have ever made the trip.

Joseph was blessed with loyal companionship on his journey to his ancestral homeland as well. Mary was there right by his side. It’s a Good thing too. We’d have no Christmas story without her.

Granted, we don’t always have the opportunity to take trips with loved ones close by. Sometimes we have to seemingly to go it alone. But then again, the calmer way to Christmas includes the belief that, whether we have someone physically present with us or not, there is an ever greater presence at hand—even though he originally came in a very small package.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Calmer Way to Christmas Devotion #4

(Note: On a new toll-free recorded message center (877-470-1910, ext 1) for the church I serve I am making available 24 personally-written daily Advent Devotions as part of a "Calmer Way to Christmas" series. Each of the first 20 of these 24 devotions is based on verses from the Gospel of Luke's version of the Christmas story. During this Advent Season I've decided to suspend my normal devotional practice and post the transcripts of these "Calmer Way to Christmas" Advent devotions instead. Below is today's installment. If you wish to listen to the devotion instead, simply call the number above and then choose extension 1.)

Luke 2:4
Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.

The other night, near midnight, I went to pick out our son from a friend’s house. Just as I headed out the door to the car it started to rain and I got rather wet. I remember thinking to myself, “it wasn’t raining a minute ago. couldn’t this rain have held off for 30 more seconds?” As I started driving it really started pouring. I’m talking a flat out slow-the-car-down-so-you-don’t-hydoplane-off-the-road kind of downpour. I remember thinking “this is nuts… …it’s late…I’m tired…I should be home in bed…why am I doing this?”

Then I remembered. “Oh yeah, I’m doing this because our son is, to sum it up with one word: family.”

Now no family is perfect, but family is our starting point in life. It’s our base camp from which we depart and often return. Even if we don’t return by choice or circumstance, it’s part of who we are and the reason we sometimes wake up with concern in the night or well-up with a tear of joy at a special event. I thought to myself that night, “you know, it won’t be long until this precious son of ours has his own license and he won’t need me to pick him up anymore and then there will be times when I will wish like crazy that I could go out and drive him home in the pouring rain rather than worry about him being out there all by himself.

In similar fashion, the trip that Joseph had to take those many years ago was almost certainly a major inconvenience. It’s doubtful that he travelled through much rain in that region, but I would imagine he probably ran into other issues as he travelled. But travel he did. Why? Because of family. The Bible tells us he went “because was descended from the house and family of David.” The Emperor may have ordered the census, but it was David’s family heritage that determined where he would ultimately need to go.

The calmer way to Christmas always seeks to see how our journeys through life, regardless of how inconvenient, can still be well worth our time.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Calmer Christmas Devotions 1-3

On a new toll-free recorded message center (877-470-1910) for the church I serve I am making available 24 personally-written daily Advent Devotions as part of a "Calmer Way to Christmas" series. Each of the first 20 of these 24 devotions is based on verses from the Gospel of Luke's version of the Christmas story. During this Advent Season I've decided to suspend my normal devotional practice and post these my Advent devotions instead. However, since I just made this decision today, you're a little behind. So today I will post the first 3 of these devotions, one for each of the first 3 verses from Chapter 2 of the Gospel of Luke. Starting tomorrow there will simply be one devotion posted each day.

Luke 2:1
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.

Last night I went to a seventh-grade girls basketball game in which our daughter played. Our team played hard, but clearly the other team had more experience and skill. The final score of 46 to 11 pretty much put an exclamation point on that fact.

As humans, we LOVE to keep score, don’t we. We love to have some tangible means of measuring success, so much so that often we make up little scores of our own. We size up each other’s cars and living arrangements, take note of who has accomplished what by the time of each high school reunion, and otherwise endeavor to know each other’s pecking order in life.

This is essentially why Emperor Augustus decreed that all the world should be registered. He was ordering a census, but this census was about more than mere curiosity. Augustus wanted to keep score in terms of the size of his kingdom and his realm of influence. Perhaps he wondered if his kingdom was 4 times the size of other kingdoms.

But as he was about to discover, outward scores don’t always tell the whole story. People driving modest cars or living in quite basic accommodations sometimes have more money in the bank than some people who appear to be living more luxuriously but are actually perilously close to foreclosure. In the case of last night’s basketball game, the final score doesn’t reflect the possibility that one or more of our girls, perhaps even one coming off the bench, may have played the best game of her life.

And Emperor Augustus? Well, he may have had the power to order a Census, but consider this. Once the census was all said and done, history records very little about the person who ordered the counting, yet devotes an entire New Testament to tell the amazing story of one of the people he counted.

The calmer way to Christmas takes to heart the fact that life is not so much about trying to prove that we’ve won but rather, to acknowledge that we’ve been won over by the story of the Christ Child who counts most of all.

Luke 2:2
This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

I’ve been a pastor now for over 20 years and have been blessed to serve in three different congregations. What I think is interesting is that congregations tend to keep track of their respective histories by who was pastor at the time. People will say something to the affect of, “well, we built this or started doing that when pastor so and so was here.” It’s a way of marking time.

We do the same thing as a country in terms of presidents. Mention Cuban Missile Crisis and we all think of John F. Kennedy. Mention Watergate and we think of Richard Nixen. Mention Iranian Hostage Crisis and we think of Jimmy Carter. End of Cold War? Ronald Regan. It’s a way of marking time.

Sometimes the Bible marks time in much the same way. The Bible says that first census of those days took place while a fella named Quirinius was the governer of Syria. That probably doesn’t mean much to most of us these days, but it is a way of marking time. A way of saying that this story that Scripture is about to unfold really happened at a particular time and in a particular place on this very earth that serves as our home.

The calmer way to Christmas takes to heart the fact that we needn’t get overly concerned with little details of the moment. By the grace of God we are part of a much larger story covering centuries of time that all started when a fella that we otherwise would never heard of was Governer of Syria.

Luke 2:3
All went to their own towns to be registered.

We’ve spent a couple days reflecting on ancient leaders (like Augustus and Quirinius) who thought they were big shots in their day but really weren’t in the greater scheme of things. That’s true. But it’s also true that leaders, whether for good or ill, can change the common person’s everyday life with the stroke of a pen.

When Emperor Augustus ordered the census, that meant that thousands of people had to take the time and effort to accommodate his command. For those who never moved away from the place of their upbringing, this may have been no big deal. For others the command would require a trip back home.

A trip back home can conjure up all sorts of feelings. Some might see it as wonderful opportunity to catch up again with family and friends. For others a trip back home might bring up feelings of dread. Perhaps the thought of home brings up painful child-hood memories of a place where it was hard to fit in or where our experiences were not always the best. Maybe we are no longer the same as we were back then and are not so sure that we even want to go back. Perhaps the expense of the trip comes at bad time.

No matter, Emperor Augustus made his decree and everyone was required to follow suit.

But here’s the thing. Whether leaders make good decrees or bad, God has a way of bringing something good out of it. It was on November 6th that I first outlined today’s reflection. That was election day in the United States. At the end of that day some people were happy and others were not.

For the record, I’m not here to trumpet or bemoan this year’s election results at any level. But I am here to remind us all that, historically speaking, the work of God has never been dependent on the faith of a mere secular leader. Such truth doesn’t rule out the possibility of a leader creating major inconveniences with the stroke of his or her pen. It’s been done before and it will be done over and over again. But the calmer way to Christmas realizes that, over time, such inconveniences can be seen much like Augustus’ ordering of a census—just another part of a larger and more glorious story to tell.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Just a Little Apostle Talk

Scripture: Romans 1:1-6 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, 6 including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

Observation: This paragraph and indeed the rest of the letter were written by Paul. Yet this particular part of his message, it seems, could just as easily come from other ordained people.

Application: This probably seems crazy, but what if I were to exchange my name for Paul in the above Scripture passage? At that point it would obviously no longer be Scripture—I’ll concede that fact right away. Yet aside from that admittedly important fact, my name—or that of any other ordained minister—might still fit. The hedge would be on how one interprets the name “apostle.” Literally to be an apostle is to be sent. However, it is also more narrowly interpreted to apply to the original apostles and to Paul who was sent directly by the risen Jesus. I don’t normally think of myself as an apostle. Nor do most other pastors. The few times I’ve encountered a pastor who referred to him or herself as apostle (none of which were ever Lutheran, by the way) I’ve always viewed with suspicion. It seems presumptuous to ever claim that particular title. In the Lutheran church we speak in terms of being called and sent by God through the church, but we usually use the title of pastor rather than apostle. For the record, I have no desire to be called an apostle, nor have I ever, with the exception of this little diatribe, actually thought of myself in those terms. Still, the heart of the message that pastor’s are called and sent to share is quite similar if not identical to that of people like the Apostle Paul himself. Perhaps this is why Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:5 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” Ministry is always about God’s work in the world; the actual human vessel through which God does it will always pale in comparison. Call me and other pastors or apostles whatever you wish, but give the real nod to our Lord Jesus Christ to whom all glory is due.

Prayer: Lord, let us not worry so much about our names but rather about your name that is above all names. Yes, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

(Readings today included: Romans 1-4)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Just In Case You Didn't 'Win' the Lottery

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:25 Beloved, pray for us.

Observation: It’s a short verse with an important request. Paul seems especially mindful of his needs that are above and beyond his ability to secure on his own.

Application:
It occurred to me yesterday while driving that mutual dependence is the basis for all meaningful relationships. Should we ever get to the point that we think that we don’t need anyone else, that becomes the moment when relationships break down.

For example, yesterday there was some kind of great big lottery drawing. With the jackpot at over 500 million, lots and lots of people who don’t normally play the lottery were out buying tickets. I suspect the reason for he mad rush to buy tickets was that many people like the idea of being financially independent. But it seems to me that suddenly being faced with that amount of money would be a huge burden with potentially devastating results. It would change a person’s life instantly and I’m not convinced that it would be for the better. Relationships would change. The way that the winners would see and even understand themselves would change. The way that others would see and understand them would change. It would be nearly impossible to go back to life as they know it and, while there might be a part of that life that they would be glad to trade in, I’m betting that there’s a part of their life that they love and be in danger of losing simply because of the sudden inflow of huge sums of cash.

But lottery winners are not the only people to face sudden life-changing events. Paul had his own life-changing event. It wasn’t a sudden influx of cash. Rather, it was a sudden influx of God’s overwhelming grace. So vast was this wave of mercy in Paul’s life that his relationships changed too and he suddenly found himself in all kinds of situations that he had never encountered before and needed to do so in such a way as to reflect the magnitude of God’s change in his life. So when Paul says, “Beloved, pray for us,” I think he really meant it. He and his companions needed prayer in order to be faithful and enduring in the face of the opportunities and trials before them.

Prayer is something we all need, whether we are everyday Christians or even lottery winners who may or may not be Christian. We will never be so independent as to not need prayer and, in fact, the more purportedly independent we may have deluded ourselves into thinking we are, the more prayer we likely need.

Prayer: Lord, I pray for lottery winners and for all who think they’ve lost but have likely won in the greater scheme of things. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: 1 Thessalonians 4-5 and 2 Thessalonians 1-3)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

When the Roof Collapses

Scripture: Matthew 28:2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.

Observation: This big event opened up many perspectives.

Application:
Just this morning I learned that a high school auditorium roof collapsed in Hawaii. The event is personally significant because I have been in that particular high school auditorium for, of all things, worship. Yes, for the last 17+ years that auditorium has been the worshipping home for New Hope Church, led by Pastor Wayne Cordeiro. I spent a week there some years ago for as part of New Hope’s Leadership Practicum Event. I still have the t-shirt that event participants received and I just wore it sometime last week. So, yes, that place brings back memories.

Thankfully no one was in the auditorium when the roof collapsed. Had the event happened a few hours later, there would have been a few hundred students in there. Had the event happened 26 hours later, over 1000 worshippers would have been in there.

But here’s the thing…the pastor and people of New Hope will see this roof collapse as opportunity for a whole new future. It’s as if an angel of the Lord is sitting on one of the remaining rafters declaring that the presence and work of God has moved on from that place and is waiting for the rest of them to catch up. It’s as if that place where so much substantial ministry over the years had occured was starting to be a tomb-like limiting factor and needed to be opened up.

Of course, I could be reading too much into this event. There was a lot of rain in a short period of time and the drains just couldn’t keep up and the roof finally gave in. I get that. Nor am I theologically deterministic in my thinking and inclined to think that God deliberately caused the roof to collapse. Rather, I’m of the firm conviction that regardless of how sentimentally or matter-o-factly we view this event, there are connections a-plenty for a whole new world to open up for the people of New Hope and for all who walk by faith and not by sight.

Prayer: Lord, I give thanks that no one was hurt and for how this event does offer substantial opportunity for reflection and moves toward the future of your own calling. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Matthew 28 and 1 Thessalonians 1-3)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Workout and Eating Plan

It's Thanksgiving and I'm at a nice state park resort with family for a 50th anniversary celebration. The question to myself was, what shall I eat and of what shall my workout consist?

It all starts with a little simple planning.

For starters, before leaving home I put a cup of rolled oats, 1/3 cup of raisins, and a couple teaspoons of flax-seed into a small zip-lock bag. So for breakfast I just purchased a serving of milk from the restaurant, poured my breakfast mixture into a bowl and enjoyed the same healthy breakfast that I normally have at home.

I won't be able to have my regular smoothie here mid-morning, but I've got almonds and apples which will make for a fine mid-morning snack. I've also got some carrots handy for a little carry-over since our big thanksgiving feast won't begin until 1:30. Then it will just be a matter of all things in moderation, filling up with those good things that will do the least damage and only sampling the nutritional disasters that we all want to enjoy now and then.

As for the workout, I must say that the fitness room in this resort is disproportionately poor in comparison with just about everything else they offer. The room is small and included 1 treadmill, 1 stair-climber, and about 4 Schwin stationary bikes. I would certainly have liked to see at least a set of dumb-bells.

But a wimpy fitness room can't hamper my ability to have a good workout. I don't even have to have a fitness room at all. But this morning I used a 3-exercise circuit (done 4 times) involving the stationary bike, 1-leg push-ups, and cross-body mountain-climbers. The key was to remember to bring my gymboss timer, set for 18 and 27 seconds respectively, and I was good to go.

So I've had a good breakfast, I've had a good workout, I've had my time of devotion, and no matter what happens from this point on, my day has already had a very good start. I hope yours started well too. But if not, just make the best of it from this point onward.

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving.

Kent

The Feast Before Our Very Eyes

Scripture: Matthew 13:16-17 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

Observation: The disciples lived in precious times. But so do we.

Application: Today is Thanksgiving. It’s a beautiful day and I’m with family at a state park to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of my in-laws. I’m sitting in a long hallway with a wall of windows overlooking a stretch of grass that leads to a beautiful lake. Just outside the window is a host of sparrows enjoying the bird-feeder buffet. It’s nice.

But it also makes me wonder how many people have longed to see such things, but never did. I wonder how many people longed to see 50 years of marriage but didn’t see it. I wonder how many people longed to have their own children, but weren’t able. I wonder how many people longed for a decent standard of living but never knew what such things were like. I wonder how many people have never spent a day in any kind of modest resort, other than perhaps to serve on the cleaning staff. I wonder how many people in the world have never looked out on a beautiful lake as the sun comes up. I wonder how many people have spent their lives on the outside looking in and how many people have spent their lives on the inside and never looked out.

To be clear, I wouldn’t equate any of these things with seeing the kingdom of God. That’s where the disciples clearly had a most definite edge, though it’s unlikely that they realized it at the time. And perhaps that’s the point. Realizing our reasons for thanksgiving at the time is one of the greatest blessings ever. To be able to see the beauty of life in front of us is one of God’s greatest gifts—to enjoy life’s feast right before our very eyes.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for this beautiful morning. But thank you, as well, for all the mornings that don’t look so beautiful, but nevertheless, really are. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Matthew 11-13)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Peace when there is no peace

Scripture: Matthew 10:12-13 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.

Observation: Peace is not wasted.

Application: I’m struck by the idea of peace either coming upon something or returning. And it’s interesting that, apparently, we may determine whether peace that is not well received can come back upon us. It’s almost as if peace, when not well received, has no-where else to go except back to the person who originally endeavored to share it. And so if that person can’t be at peace, the peace just drifts off into the abyss like a repelling magnet.

I’m probably over-analyzing here and I’m also not one to want to take Scripture too literally, especially if only to fulfill my own presumptions. But it does seem to me that sometimes we have to be at peace with other people not receiving our peace. And we need not take it personally—it was not our peace to begin with.

Prayer: Lord, help us to be at peace whenever we encounter less than peaceful people. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Scripture readings today included: Matthew 8-10)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Wealth and Debt

Scripture Verse: Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

Observation: Wealth is not meant to be served or, if it is served, God cannot be served.

Application:
I’ve been reading some things over the last year by a really smart person who is very wealthy and keeps working at being wealthy. But interestingly enough, he is quick to admit that making money (at least for him!) is relatively easy but is not the be-all/end-all of life. He points out the importance of having loftier goals than accumulating wealth, even though much of his life has revolved around making money. He strives to make money in a way that leverages his personal gifts for the benefit of others.

Thinking of him and reading the passages for today got me to thinking—we may not be able to serve God and wealth, but wealth can serve us as we serve God. In other words, if we were somehow to accumulate some form of financial fortune, its only real purpose would be to assist us in serving God and, of course, neighbor.

And here’s the flip-side—debt sometimes keeps us from serving God and neighbor. It could possibly be said, “you cannot serve God and debt.” This message, of course, strikes more of us closer to home. When we allow ourselves to get to the point where our debts become our focus, well, that has an affect on us as well.

Each ditch, wealth and debt, have their own trappings. The former deludes us and the latter cripples us should we, in either case, foolishly endeavor to have two masters.

Just something to consider before "Black Friday" and that which follows arrives.

Prayer: Lord help us to not be overly focused on wealth or debt, but let each in some way be of service to us and we endeavor to serve you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included Matthew 5-7)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Good Ol' JTB

Scripture Verses: Matthew 3:17-18 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit worthy of repentance.

Observation: John was a brave soul, able to speak very direct truth to powerful people. Very gutsy.

Application: There are times that I wish that I could be as direct as John the Baptist (JTB). But truth be told, it’s not so much a matter of a lack of confidence as it is as a lack of surety. I am so deeply aware of the infiltrating nature of sin, that it’s hard to feel like I could ever be so scathing in my pronouncements without, in some way, being hypocritical. By the same token, not only do I believe in the infiltrating nature of sin, but I also believe in the redeeming nature of grace which allows even decrepid individuals to offer something of worth in the world, sometimes even in spite of themselves. So it’s hard for me to totally count anyone out.

To be fair, JTB didn’t count people out either. He offered a call to action: “Bear fruit worthy of repentance.” In other words, demonstrate the depth of your sincerity.

I guess that’s something we all struggle to do. Before challenging others with such clarion calls, we’d be wise begin by taking JTB’s call to action personally.

Prayer: Lord, you offer so much opportunity to demonstrate our thankfulness. Enable us to take advantage of such things with joy in our heart. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included Matthew 1-4)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Exercise Tip: Plan Your Moves with Variety and Purpose

It's good to mix things up when it comes to exercise. But that doesn't mean throw out good exercise principles. There should be a purpose for every move we do.

I have a few principles that drive my every workout and combination of workouts.

First, I never do the same workout two days in a row. In fact, I seldom do the exact same workout within the same week or even series of weeks.

Second, I strive to involve the major muscle groups and their respective opposing muscle groups in each workout. I don't always hit this 100% (for example, the exact opposite of a push-up would be an inverted row, which I don't always do. But I'll usually have a pull-up or chin-up or something like that in a workout to at least come close to providing pulling motions to counterbalance pushing motions.), but I strive to come close.

Third, I do exercises for a specific period of time, but not with attempts to keep besting my previous number of reps for that same period of time. The goal is focused intensity along with a corresponding focus on form, not focused insanity that increases the likelihood of injury.

Fourth, the workout should be as long as necessary but also as short as possible. For me these days that amounts to a 5-minute warm-up followed by a very scripted 9-minute workout, all usually done from the comfort of my own unfinished basement with very little equipment--none of which is expensive.

Fifth, the workout, if necessary, should be able to be done anywhere. When travelling I've done my workouts in hotel stairwells, park shelter houses, play-grounds, or even just in my room. It's not always optimal, but it is always good. Workouts must be excuse-proof if they are going to be consistently done over the long haul, which is what really matters.

Kent Wilson
Founder of "Fit Under the Collar" and creator of "9 Minutes-To-Fit"

PS In case you're wondering, today's workout included a rare 12-exercise set:
--Warm-up followed by:

--Neutral-grip pull-ups
--Front Barbel Squats
--Alligator Push-ups (with feet on skateboard)
--Split-lung jumps
--T-Pushups with light dumbbells
--1-leg stability-ball curls
--cross-body mountain climbers
--inverted rows
--suspended push-ups
--side plank with leg raises
--side plank with leg raises (other leg)
--Turkish Get-ups with Dumbbell.

Nutrition Tip from the Clearance Rack

Yesterday I slipped into Alde's (a discount grocery chain in our area) to grab a few vegetables. On my way out I glanced, as I often do, at the clearance rack. A couple things caught my interest:

--Chili-Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil
--Butternut Squash Spaghetti Sauce

Normally I probably wouldn't actually buy either of these items, but hey, they were really cheap!

Once home, my curiosity got the best of me and I just had to find a way to try em out. I ended up with this concoction in a skillet:

--chilli-infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil
--fresh broccoli (diced small)
--fresh cauliflower (diced small)
--fresh mushrooms (sliced)

After I had sauteed the mixture nicely, I added a dose of the Butternut Squash Spaghetti Sauce and continued on medium heat until all was bubbly.

Quite good, albeit pretty spicy! Our 16 y/o son even came down from his room and wondered what in the world smelled so delicious!

Too late, however. By then it was all gone.

For Those Who Work With People They Don't Like

Scripture Verse: 2 Corinthians 3:2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all;

Observation: Paul felt that the community should reflect the Spirit of Christ, that they were the telling expression, for good or for ill, of how faithfully Paul had shared the gospel message.

Application:
It has been said, “if you don’t like the people who work for/with you, whose fault is that?” In other words, we have influence. While none of us has (nor should have) total control, we ourselves are an important dimension in our every relationship. To that extent, we do have the ability—at least to some degree—to shape relationships, including those of the household of God. It’s a somewhat scary thought as a leader, but congregations often do reflect the characteristics of their leaders. This is one of many reasons why a personal devotional life for leaders is absolutely critical. It need not be trumpted, but it does need to be practiced. Otherwise there’s no compelling reason for anyone else to practice what is preached.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for the opportunity to be of some influence in this world. Please enable the vast majority of that influence to be for good, rather than for ill. Such things are only possible by your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: 2 Corinthians 3-6)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Today's Workout: Excuses be Gone.

Today I was one round into my workout when the cell phone rang. I knew it was my wife on the line and I knew I probably needed to stop my workout and take the call (while my workout timer kept periodically beeping) because she was in route to taking the kids to school and it probably had something to do with somebody forgetting something and needing me to bring it in, etc. Well, nobody forgot to bring anything this time but there was a new scheduling and related transportation detail that needed to be worked out and since we had previously decided that our son couldn't have his cell phone back until tomorrow, we needed to figure out the scheduling details now so that he would know where I needed him to be and when so that I could pick him up. We agreed on the library, in case you wanted to know.

Ever been there? Well, we got-er done, but the call took 9 minutes of time and untold amounts of energy mixed with a touch of frustration out of an already busily-scripted day. It was real tempting to just scrap the workout plan at the point and move on.

But then I thought to myself, "the workout only takes 9 minutes. I'm here, I'm in my workout clothes. Let's just do this!"

And so I did. I started over with the opening round of jumping rope, moved to cross-over shuttle runs, on to regular shuttle sprints and then pikes with my feet on a skateboard. I repeated that 4-exercise set two more times for a total of 12 exercises, each performed for 18 seconds followed by 27 seconds of rest.

Done. Finished. Accomplished. Checked-off. Satisfied. Even offered a Lil' old fist-pump in view of the mirror at the end.

Sure, I could have scrapped the whole thing today, and sometimes that's exactly what I've done. But I'll tell you this; I always feel better (physically and mentally) when exercise is part of the day.

Excuses be gone.

things that matter

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 2:17 For we are not peddlers of God’s word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.

Observation: Paul desired to be a person of sincerity sent from God, not a self-proclaimed ‘peddler’ of God’s word.

Application: I’ve been working as of late on some direct-mail communication pieces intended for people who have moved and therefore this year will be spending their first Christmas in their new home. The challenge is to write these pieces in a way that catches the attention of the reader and yet also expresses the faith of the sender (that would be me) and the congregation of which I speak. I have no desire to be a ‘peddler’ but every desire serve as one who has been called and sent by God through the church. And this morning I was reading an article from a completely non-religious source who advocated communicating about things that really matter and not to waste people’s time and limited attention with things that don’t really matter. It seems to me that faith, of course, would rank right up there. The challenge, as always, is how best to communicate such important things.

Prayer: Lord, help me to refine my proclamation, whether through sermons or other communication, to be full of things that matter and light on things that don’t. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 41-42 and 2 Corinthians 1-2)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Today's Workout

Chin-ups with knee-ups
Barbell Squats
Bench Press
Kettle-bell Swings
Cross-body Mountain climbers
Dumbbell Rear Lateral Deltoid raises.

Repeat set in 9 minutes-to-fit fashion.

lasting value

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:3a For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received:

Observation: Paul kept going back to the primary point of his message, his primary purpose.

Application: A rather personal mission that I’ve been striving (sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much) to embrace for the last few months or so is this: “to provide messages, products and/or services of lasting value in a temporary world.” For me, anything of truly lasting value will be driven by a strong appreciation for what God had done for me and others through Christ. It truly is a gift that keeps on giving and it is the kind of thing that the Apostle Paul considered to be of “first importance.” I may still be fussing with how best to convey such things, both through the church and personally, but I am convinced that somehow or another, by the grace of God, I am on the right track. I’ve believed this to be so even before reading today’s assigned readings, but it’s especially reassuring to see that Paul said and believed more or less the same thing.

Prayer: Lord, this plugging away at life is really quite a new learning experience with each new day. But through you I continue to experience deep meaning in the journey. For that I give you thanks. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Psalm 149 and 1 Corinthians 15-16)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Body Language

Scripture Verse that Caught My Attention today: 1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Observation: The “You” is plural.

Application: We all like to think we’re special in various ways, but we also have much in common—much more than we often care to admit. In our little part of the world we say that we are part of the “United States of America.” Among other things, this means that even though various states will have their differences now and then, all of our states are still united under a larger umbrella.

Long before there was such a thing as America, there was the Apostle Paul who worked with a more readily-available image at the time—that of a body and its parts. His point was pretty simple—together we are the body of Christ. Sure, we have our individual roles, but all under the larger umbrella of being Christ’s body alive in this world. And because we are one body, when one of us suffers, it causes pain for the rest as well. To think otherwise is to forget that we are part of the body at all.

Prayer:
Lord, help us all to remember that non of us is an island unto him or herself. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 37-38 and 1 Corinthians 12)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Heavy Lifter

Scripture Verse that Caught My Attention today: 1 Corinthians 1:8 He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Observation:
God does the heavy lifting.

Application:
So often it’s tempting to delude ourselves into thinking that things are up to us. Well, some things are up to us, but measuring up to God is not one of them. In that regard, the appropriate attitude in life is simply one of thanksgiving. True, we’d prefer not to waste opportunities and the like. But even if we were to waste such things, the grace of God still stands. As Paul points out elsewhere, there is no room for boasting. Christ is necessary because Christ has done and is doing what we ourselves cannot do. Only Christ can make us blameless at his coming. We might be able to do a little touch-up here and there, but the deep cleaning can only be done by God who chooses to do so through Christ. This work goes on in the background of our life whether we are waking or sleeping or working or at rest.

Prayer: Lord thank you for your ongoing life-saving work. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 33 and 1 Corinthians 1-3)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Because the Community Has Spoken

Scripture Verse that Caught my attention today: Galatians 5:2 Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you.

Observation: Paul’s point was that if people were going to rely on their own actions, they were essentially trying to tell Christ that he wasn’t needed, that they could do it on their own.

Application: I’m not sure why we as humans want to take so much credit for our actions on the one hand and want to blame others for our various predicaments on the other. Take voting. If we vote for a losing candidate, it’s quite easy to delude ourselves into thinking that any problems that subsequently arise are not our fault. “We did our part” we think to ourselves and “therefore it is the winning majority that has the problem.” But with such perspectives we cut ourselves off from our common humanity and position ourselves as over and against the rest, thus dividing one community in two. Rather than embrace the fact that the one community has made a decision, we declare instead that the “other” community got the best of us this time, but we’ll strive to get them back the next time around. Such thinking can hardly lead to any kind of real health and wholeness for either oneself or a nation as a whole.

Paul believed that Christ was of no benefit to a person who insisted on justifying him or herself by actions. In a similar vein, it could be said that a nation is of no benefit to a person who refuses to see him or herself in community with the said nation. But I’m not sure that I completely buy either argument. It seems to me that Christ is beneficial to us whether we are willing to admit it or not. Likewise, a nation can be beneficial to us even if we persist in lambasting our fellow citizens and/or elected leaders as if we had nothing in common with them whatsoever. Both are forms of grace if we can find the grace to see it.

Prayer: Lord, I pray for all elected leaders of whatever party and for those who ran for elected office but didn’t prevail. Differences aside, the community as a whole has spoken for this particular time in history. Let us now find ways to support the voice of the community as a whole and also respect the dissenting community as a part. There will be plenty of regular opportunities for the community as a whole to speak again. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 31-32 and Galatians 5-6)

Monday, November 5, 2012

GET to's and HAVE to's

Scripture Verse that Caught my attention today: Galatians 3:18-19 For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise.
Gal. 3:19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by a mediator.

Observation: I like Galatians. It’s a rather harsh book in some ways. But it also is full of promise.

Application: One of the questions that Lutherans often ask is: “is this really gospel?” In other words, is this really good news? Is it really a gift or is it something you earn? If it is the latter, it’s not good news. If it is the former, it’s very good news.

The moment you HAVE to do something it usually ceases to be good news. Every time you GET to do something, it can be very good news. So when someone tells you that you HAVE to do something that you GET to do, they are trying to turn a promise into a law. Still, the law has it’s place. If we refuse to do what we GET to do, sometimes it can be helpful for someone to tell us that we HAVE to do it. We won’t necessarily gain any advantage out of such compulsion, but if it’s a good deed, surely someone else will. Hence even bad news for one can turn into good news for another.

Prayer: Lord, help us to find and celebrate truly Good News wherever you provide it. And since we have not yet come to the fullness of your promise, allow the law to help nudge us along wherever and whenever such nudging is needed. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 30, Psalm 120, and Galatians 3-4)

Today's Workout

Squat Jumps
Bench Press
Dumbbell Squat/overhead Press combo
Leaning Inverted Rows.

Paul's Lasting Word

Scripture Verse that Caught My Attention Today: Galatians 2:14 “But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Observation:
I would like to know how Cephas’ responded to Paul. Scripture is silent on the matter.

Application: When I was growing up, my parents—yes, both of them—used to watch a couple of soap-operas after lunch (this was after Dad retired). Usually it was, as I recall, “The Young and the Restless” and “Days of our Lives.” Sometimes, I’m embarrassed to admit, I watched them too—even though I thought they (the soap operas, not my parents) were stupid. Such drama!

Anyhow, often times toward the end of an episode we the viewers would be privy to some overview information and could see that it would only be a matter of time until so and so would figure out what was really going on and Lord only knows (along with the producer, of course) how so and so would react to such information once discovered. Often the episode would end with the suddenly-informed look on the person’s face, leaving us to wait until the next day how things actually turned out.

I’m reminded of such things when I read the passage above that details Paul’s confrontation with Cephas. We don’t learn how Cephas responds to Paul’s rightful accusations. Did he hang his head in shame? Did he try to justify himself? We don’t know. Paul got the last word—and we’re left with the lasting message.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for the lasting message that we find through Christ in Paul. You are the great justifier of all. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 28-29 (which I didn't read today) and Galatians 1-2)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Avoiding Winter

Scripture Verse that Caught My Attention Today: Mark 13:18 Pray that it may not be in winter.

Observation: Based on this it would appear that the people Jesus was speaking too could pray that end times wouldn’t be in winter. But does that mean it won’t be in winter (assuming people pray as such)? Not necessarily. Also in today’s readings, in chapter 14, Jesus prays that he won’t have to go through suffering, though he also yields to God’s will. Apparently it was God’s will for Jesus to suffer, and so he did. So although we may take up Jesus’ advice and pray that it will not be in winter, God’s will still rules.

Application: Right now a large number of people are dealing with the after-affects of Hurricane Sandy. It’s not winter yet, but it is rather cold. With electricity on the blink and natural gas supplies shut off for safety, I would imagine that staying warm is no easy task. No, it’s not the end times (as far as I know), but it does give a sense to the challenges that such times might bring.

Of course, Jesus also said that all of those things would take place during the generation of his followers. And in many ways those things did eventually take place. Jesus was crucified and, some years later, the Romans ransacked the temple. I’m unclear as to what time of year either of these things occurred.

Regardless, winter can be a challenging time. I spent the better part of today working with my father-in-law who was graciously helping get my water system for the barnyard up and running again. Winter is just around the corner and I’m trying to get it all prepared. In this case praying that winter won’t eventually set in isn’t really an option. Better to just pray that I and the systems I need to work are properly prepared for whatever weather comes.

Prayer: Lord, sometimes it’s hard to know what to pray for these days. Guess I’ll just go with the tried and true: Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 25 and Mark 13-14)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Beyond our Facination with Church Buildings

Scripture Verses that caught my attention today: Mark 11:15-17 Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; 16 and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written,
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?
But you have made it a den of robbers.”

Observation: In Mark 11 Jesus goes to the temple three times. First he goes late in the evening, doing little more than looking around and then leaving. Next is the encounter found in the verses above. Finally he goes back again the next day whereupon people confront him in regard the authority by which he does such things.

Application: I find Jesus’ relationship to the temple interesting. On the one hand it is clearly a special place for him. He spent much time there. On the other hand, he will indicate elsewhere that all will eventually be thrown down—without one stone left upon another. That which people admire is not always long-standing.

I think of the farm that we live on. The one barn is well over 150 years old and we hope to preserve it. Still, its life is limited by the limitation of our own resources, the cumulative affects of time, and, possibly, the lack of interest in the mind of whoever comes after us. It will be a sad day whenever it eventually comes down, but life will go on. It’s just a building. There’s no need to get overly caught up in it.

Same goes for church buildings and temples. Over time they come and go. Like home décor, styles of architecture come and go and are often determined largely by the availability of resources (financial and otherwise) at the time. I find it interesting that the incredibly beautiful Jerusalem Temple was totally destroyed by the Romans roughly 40 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Lots of people were spiritually devastated by that event. But only those who had placed their faith in the building. Not those who had placed their faith in the crucified and risen leader of the movement.

Prayer: Lord, temples and church buildings are interesting. There are lots of beautiful ones in Europe and even America today that are largely empty. But you teach us that the church is ultimately not a building but, rather, your people gathered in every time and every place. For that I give you thanks. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 23-24 and Mark 11-12)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Demon Drop

Scripture: Mark 9:28-29 When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 He said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.”

Observation:
Jesus apparently was aware of different types of demons and what was needed to cast each kind (or at least this kind) out.

Application:
Novices know generalities. Professionals know specifics. In this sense Jesus was a professional, knowing full well, once he got into the situation, that this was no ordinary demon and required prayer to exorcise.

I wish I were better versed at how best to help those who seemed to be possessed by some kind of power beyond their control. Over the years such a skill would have most certainly have come in handy more than once. Then again, maybe it’s best that I not have such abilities. In that regard there is only one professional—the one we worship.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for knowing what we don’t know. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings Today included: Psalm 121 and Mark 9-10)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Second Workout Class


Had the privilege of leading my second group in one of my "9 Minutes-to-Fit" workouts this morning--this time a group of supervisors and interns who attended an internship cluster retreat at Maria Stein Retreat Center. Had a great time with the group which included a physician as well as a person who has been attending Weight Watchers for about a year and has lost about 60 pounds. Good times...and as you can see from the picture above, it was a great start to the morning.

Getting a Life

Scripture Passage that Caught My Attention Today: Mark 8:37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?

Observation: Good Question!

Application: What can I give in return for my life? Some might argue that I can live it thankfully. Perhaps. Some say “life is God’s gift to you and what you do with it is your gift to God.” Perhaps.

There’s a similar question in the Psalms (116:12) that asks, “what shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?” The answer, at least there, is to lift the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord along with paying vows to the Lord in the presence of the people. So maybe that would be a good start.

Still, Jesus seems to imply that there is nothing that we can give in return for our life. Yet he informs his disciples that those who want to be his disciples should take up their cross and follow him. He goes on to say that they should also lose their life in order to save it.

So maybe there is something that we can give in return for our life. A life for a life. Perhaps a life given to God (as in lived for God) is very much a life from God.

Some time ago people used to say the phrase, “Get a Life!” It usually came with the connotation that the person was too caught up in his or herself and needed to take notice of the world around him or her and of the bigger problems that some people face. In Jesus, getting a life often involves giving one first—which, ironically, is exactly what Jesus did for us.

Prayer: Lord, help all of us to ‘get a life’ by being willing to share our own. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 22 and Mark 7-8)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Today's Workout

6 rounds of Jumping Rope followed by 6 rounds of shuttle sprints was all that was needed for today's "9 Minutes-to-Fit" Workout.

Hope Even For Humpty Dumpty

Scripture Verse that Caught My Attention Today: Job 21:23-26 One dies in full prosperity,
being wholly at ease and secure,
24 his loins full of milk
and the marrow of his bones moist.
25 Another dies in bitterness of soul,
never having tasted of good.
26 They lie down alike in the dust,
and the worms cover them.

Observation:
Different lives but the same death.

Application: We are all so different and also so alike. People make much ado about everyone’s uniqueness. We are told to “be ourselves” and to “be all we can be.” Yet at the end of our lives the same fate serves connects us all—death. However fancy or mundane the casket (if there even is a casket), eventually the worms will feast and we will be the main-but-soon-to-disappear coarse.

I’m not trying to be morbid nor am I trying to be particularly original. Job understood the nature of such things long before me. But Job also understood something else. Even before the time of Jesus, Job knew something of the power of God to bring life out of death and freshness out of decay. Back in chapter 19 Job declared:

25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
26 and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh I shall see God,
Good for him. Good for us.

Prayer: Lord, it’s almost easier to give thanks when someone does something for us that we could do on our own but is just a lot of unappealing work. Like when someone helps us carry the groceries in the snow or rain. But how do we give thanks when it’s something that we could never do on our own? It’s so big that the word ‘thanks’ seems woefully inadequate and, in fact, every expression of thanksgiving seems inadequate. After the worms have had their way, you are the only one capable of once again making us whole. That’s far beyond our abilities. As the old nursery rhyme puts it: “And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, couldn’t put Humpty together again.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 21 and Mark 5-6)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Uncle Paul

Scripture Verse that Caught My attention today: Acts 23:16 Now the son of Paul’s sister heard about the ambush; so he went and gained entrance to the barracks and told Paul.

Observation:
Paul was saved from the ambush by his nephew. I knew that Paul was not married, but I didn’t realize until tonight that he had a sister who, of course, had the son who saved his life (at least for a time.). Usually it’s Uncles who are benevolent souls for nephews rather than the other way around

Application:
I was an uncle the day I was born; I have three nieces who are older than me. Normally one would assume that Paul’s nephew was younger than Paul, but my own experiences bears witness to the opposite possibility. I wonder…was this an older nephew of Paul’s who was looking out for him? Probably not. Paul himself refers to the nephew as a “young” man in the next verse. Still, it’s neat to consider the wide variety of configurations that might have comprised Paul’s extended family. And while we often consider Paul to be one who sort of went about his ministry largely apart from his family, this verse serves as a subtle reminder that whatever family he had might not have been too far away.

Prayer:
Lord, thanks for the families that you provide for us, regardless of their configuration. Help for our earthly life comes from many corners, though ultimately from you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 16 and Acts 21-23)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Today's Workout

Just two moves today: Jumping rope and push-ups. Worked just fine.

The Wisdom of Silence

Scripture Verse that caught my attention today: Job 13:5 If you would only keep silent,
that would be your wisdom!

Observation:
Job had had enough of listening to his friends wax on and on.

Application:
Many of us can probably relate to this passage, not just in terms of others, but even of ourselves. How often have we wished that we could take back what we’ve said, kept in the mind what unfortunately came out of our mouths? It is just as wise (and perhaps even wiser) to know what NOT to say as it is to know what to say. This is best learned one day and conversation at a time.

Prayer: Lord, help us to listen more before we speak, ultimately striving to listen to you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 13-14 and Acts 17-18)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

From What Little We Know

Scripture Verse that Caught my attention today: Acts 12:17 He motioned to them with his hand to be silent, and described for them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he added, “Tell this to James and to the believers.” Then he left and went to another place.

Observation: Apparently Peter didn’t know that Herod had already put James to death (if this is the same James).

Application: We don’t always know the full story. For example, sometimes coaches have particular reasons for playing particular players or running particular plays. Novices from the stands may not always understand the strategy and are sometimes prone to form opinions that are not particularly well-informed. We can’t help ourselves.

Here’s a case-in-point. When I made the observation above I assumed that the James that Herod had killed as reported in Acts 12:2 was the same James that Peter was referring to in Acts 12:17. But a quick concordance check reveals that Peter and others are reported to have spoken with James in Acts 15:13 and Paul speaks with him in Acts 21:18. Furthermore, Acts 1:13 speaks of James and also James son of Alphaeus, thus revealing that there are at least two people by the name of James in the book of Acts. So my whole premise for this particular devotion has been crushed in one fall swoop of a concordance search!

THIS is what it’s like to be human—to know some things but not everything. To know part of the story, but not all of the story. But here’s the good news nevertheless…by the grace of God we are IN the story ourselves. And that may be all that’s necessary. As long as we know that we are in God’s story, we know that we are in a very good place.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for finding a way to include me, through Christ, in your unfolding story and drama in this world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 6-8 and Acts 12)

Friday, October 19, 2012

God's Work Through Our Experiences

Scripture Verses that caught my attention today: Acts 10:34-35 Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

Observation: Peter spoke from personal experience in terms of what he saw to be the word of God.

Application: I was reading earlier today an opinion that we have turned the Word of God into the word of words. It was mentioned that, for all our emphasis on the importance of the Bible, Jesus himself never wrote a word of it.

It’s ironic stuff. Jesus—who IS the word of God—never actually wrote the Word of God…unless one counts whatever it is that Jesus once scribbled on the dirt while people were accusing a woman of adultery.

What we have in Scripture, then, are largely the experiences of people who were moved by the Word of God to write words about God and about how they understood about what this God has done and about how this God was involved in their lives.

Peter’s story is a case-in-point. He understood God’s people to be of a certain type (circumcised Jews) but grew to understand God’s people to be of larger scope and greater diversity.

His was a powerful experience which led to the sharing of a powerful story.

I’m thinking that God is still busy creating powerful experiences which lead to powerful stories today. At least that’s what I’m counting on as I prepare to undergo my first-ever colonoscopy not long from now.

Prayer:
Lord, thanks for the many ways in which our experiences—for good or for ill—shape us to see your work in this world and to be part of your ongoing powerful story. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 5, Psalm 148 and Acts 10-11)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

When One Despairs of Even Life Itself

Scripture Verses that caught my attention today: Job 3:1-3 After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2 Job said:
3 “Let the day perish in which I was born,
and the night that said,
‘A man-child is conceived.’

Observation: Job was in a most difficult time in his life and he despaired of even life itself.

Application: Recently there was a person in the community who took his own life. Regrettably, it happens. Since this particular person was a teacher and a coach, you can imagine the ripple affect.

A few days later we addressed the topic with our youth and some parents and colleagues at church, especially those most directly affected. We had frank and honest discussion, including my own admission that there has been a time or two in my own life when I’ve briefly considered such things. I’m thankful that I never gave it truly serious consideration, but just the thought about it is scary in its own right, both to oneself and to others.

I don’t think that I or others are necessarily alone in this way. The Bible reveals that Moses once asked that he might die rather than go about the Lord’s business. And in chapter 3 of Job it’s clear that he’s not all too keen on the life experience either. Sometimes to go on living is really tough. It almost makes you wonder why, according to the Bible, that people who have died are sometimes brought back to life. Need they experience human misery again? Job laments ever being born in the first place. From the looks of the passage above it appears he might actually be more inclined to support planned parenthood than the right to life (though I have no interest in opening up that debate here).

What’s far more important, I think, is that sometimes people have a need to simply express how they truly feel at a particular time in their life without having to deal with judgment or condemnation or even well-intended but still patronizing little pats on the back to the affect of “now, now, the sun will come out tomorrow.” The sun may indeed come out tomorrow, but first one needs to get through today—starting with the ability to call it as dark as he or she sees it. If only someone would just listen.

That was part of the problem with Job’s “friends.” Try as they might, their method of “help” was to try to prove him wrong, thus piling even more emotional garbage on his plate.

Of course, hindsight’s pretty good and, had I been there, I might have piled it on pretty thick too.

Thankfully in Christ we have the most tangible proof of all that, regardless of its intense difficulty in some cases (which Jesus openly acknowledged AND experienced) life is still worth living…and with his help, living again.

Prayer: Lord, be with all who experience life’s difficulties at any time. Allow us to be absorbers of true feelings and, at the same time, conveyors of true love—the kind that is only found in you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 3 and 4 and Acts 8-9.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

This Morning's Workout

I'm just getting around to posting this but this morning's workout, after the warm-up, went like this:

--Chin-ups with knee-ups
--Barbell Squats
--Spiderman Push-ups
--Side Planks with leg raises.

--Chin-ups with knee-ups
--Barbell Squats
--Spiderman Push-ups
--Side Planks with leg raises (other side/leg)

--Chin-ups with knee-ups
--Barbell Squats
--Spiderman Push-ups
--Pikes with feet on skateboard.

Done.

Just Catching Up


Just before heading off to bed at a synod council retreat back in September I somewhat nervously invited the other synod council members to join me for one of my "9 Minutes-To-Fit" workouts the next morning at 6:45.

Keep in mind that even though I've been an exercise practitioner for years, I had never actually led anyone else in exercise before. So this was new ground for me.

Anyhow, the next morning six people showed up to see what it was all about, including our bishop and a member of the ELCA deployed staff.

"I sure hope this works." I thought to myself!

I didn't waste any time getting started cause I don't like to dilly-dally when it comes to exercise. I'm a let's-get-it-done-and-get-on-with-the-day kind a guy.

I explained the drill, pointed out the variations to consider depending on one's individual fitness level, started the timer and we were into it just like that.

They were really great and the work-out was a lot of fun. Later we took a snapshot of the group after we all had a chance to grab a shower. As you can see, they were great sports. I had posted the pic on Facebook some time ago, but I'm just getting around to posting it here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Today's Workout

Went with a 2-exercise circuit this morning repeated six times.

--Stationary Bike
--Basement Shuttle Sprints

Total Aerobic Bliss.

Purifying Work

Scripture Passage that caught my attention today: Malachi 3:2-4 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.

Observation:
These words, also found in a Bass solo in Handle’s Messiah, offer a rhetorical question with a most definite answer—only those purified by God.

Application: Every so often we all need, as they say, a swift kick in the pants. Something that gets us off our proverbial duff and spurs us to actions congruent with the faith we claim to hold dear. Truth be told, were it not for God’s mercy, no one could endure the day of God’s coming. All of us would be held up to the light and left wanting. Refining and purifying is God’s work to do on us until we more accurately reflect, by our actions, the one in whose name we gather.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for the purifying work that you have done, are doing, and will continue to do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Malachi 3-4, Psalm 138, Acts 5)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Today's Change-of-pace Workout

Today I mixed things up a touch by simply changing the nature of my last two sets.

So the first set was simply the following:

--Pull-ups
--Front barbell Squats
--Push-ups
--Pike (with feet on skateboard)

For the 2nd and third rounds of this set, however, I simply did "hold" moves.

For the Pull-up, that meant pulling up half way and holding that pose for the duration of the time.

For the front squat that meant gong half-way down and holding that pose for the duration of the time (legs got a little wobbly for the last few seconds.

Same goes for the Push-up and even the Pike.

Holding a move rather than going through the whole range of motion challenges the muscles in a different way and, when done occasionally, can offer a good change of pace to one's workout.

Try Presenting that to your Governor

Scripture Verse that caught my attention today: Malachi 1:8 when you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not wrong? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not wrong? Try presenting that to your governor; will he be pleased with you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts.

Observation: I love the line, “try presenting that to your governor;”

Application: I suppose what’s at the heart of this passage is the question, “does God care what we offer?” Can God tell the difference between that which is really prime and that which is scrap? And whether or not God can tell the difference, Malachi can tell the difference…and he is NOT impressed!

In some respects, what’s really at stake here is the witness. What kind of witness do we offer to others in regard to our faith when our offering is but the dregs of our production?

The implication is that, since God knows all of us personally, God is in a position to distinguish sincere and sacrificial gifts from those that are merely token and/or obligatory. Sometimes those around us can tell the difference as well. As the saying goes, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.

When Malachi quips, “try presenting that to your governor,” he is reminding us that if a governor can tell the difference between a quality offering and a cheap one, surely God’s discernment is infinitely greater. Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that God doesn’t notice or even care.

Prayer: Lord, help us all to be more sacrificial and more joyful in our sharing. The goal is to want to do such things rather than trying to get by with the least amount of commitment possible. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(readings today included: Nehemiah 13, Malachi 1-2, Acts 4)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Today's Workout

Today I led our church council (at our retreat) in a simple little 9 Minutes-to-Fit stretch. The goal in this case was to have a nice stretch but NOT work up a sweat since we were in jeans and such. So we took it easy with the following routine done 3 times in 9 Minutes-to-Fit fashion.

--Bodyweight Squats
--Stick-ups
--girl-style pushups (sorry, don't know the official name for this)
--Planks.

That was it, but made for nice little start to the day.

A Few Thoughts on Goodwill.

Scripture Verse that Caught my attention today: Acts 2:46-47 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Observation:
I am most struck by the phrase “having the goodwill of all the people. I’m not sure if that means that everyone thought well of them or whether they thought well of everyone else. Either way it must have been pretty good.

Application: As humans it’s hard to be totally liked and it’s hard to totally like. There are almost always some people who think ill of us, who feel we are up to something or otherwise a swindled. By the same token, it’s hard to have complete good will for others too. We worry about being taken advantage of or we struggle with our own sense of envy. Perhaps this is why elsewhere the Scriptures say that no-one is righteous. It’s part of our sinful condition. A portion of the ill that others think about us is actually true.

Still, it’s nice to see in the passage above a glimpse of what life in the Spirit can be like. Like communion, it’s a foretaste of the feast to come.

Prayer: Lord, help us to both offer and receive more goodwill. Yet let us also be mindful that such good-will is not so much deserved as it is gracefully given and received. Just like you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Nehemiah 9-10 and Acts 2)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Just In Case You Didn't Win

Scripture Verses that Caught my attention today: Acts 1:23-26 So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

Observation: What ever happened to Justus? I would imagine he remained very active, but he didn’t make it into the list of disciples. Yet we never hear from Matthias again either. Hmmm….

Application: It’s not always important to win. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t always give it our best shot, but winning really isn’t everything. Sometimes it’s okay not to get the job, not to make the team, not to get the call.

We don’t hear that kind of talk much in these days where people are labeled as winners or losers, success stories or failures. Yet it’s the truth. Not everything that is perceived as an “opportunity” is truly the best opportunity—or a necessary opportunity—for us.

In Scripture it does not appear that we ever hear from Justus again (the name is mentioned a couple other times, but seems to refer to someone else). Nor had we heard of him before. One might expect that fate from someone who didn’t make the final cut to be an official apostle. But Matthias isn’t heard from again either. What’s up with that?

No-one knows. My hunch is that Justus continued to be a faithful follower of Jesus just like the rest. Matthias may have made it to the inner circle, but that circle was designed to reach out. There’s a good chance that he was eventually martyred. It’s possible (though this is admittedly purely conjecture on my part) that Justus lived longer and witnessed longer because he wasn’t as much of a marked man as those who were counted among the apostles.

Whether or not that’s the case, the real take home point of this story may be that we can trust our “lot” in life to still hold plenty of opportunity of its own if we don’t spin our wheels lamenting about the opportunities that we think we may have missed.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for the lives we have. Help us to make the most of them. But let us also simply embrace them for what they are…opportunities for faithful service in their own right. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Nehemiah 7-8 and Acts 1)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Today's Workout

Didn't have time for a warm-up or anything this morning, so I just jumped right into the workout but chose exercises that could serve as a warm-up as well. Just a 3-exercise circuit repeated 4 times in the 9 minutes to fit fashion.

--Jumping Jacks
--Jumping Rope
--Stationary Bike

That was it.

Focus

Scripture Verses that Caught my attention today: Nehemiah 6:2-3 Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together in one of the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. 3 So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it to come down to you?”

Observation:
Nehemiah was very focused on his work and was not easily distracted. Although it does seem as if Nehemiah was a touch full of himself, there is still little doubt that his accomplishments were largely a result of his resolute focus on the mission at hand.

Application:
Focus is hard work. There are sooooooo many distractions in life—both from without and within. Yet it does seem as if God’s leaders of old remained focused on their work. They were mindful of what they were doing and of the bigger picture within which they fit. This is more than a lofty long-term goal for someday. Rather, it is a long-term mission with daily ramifications, including the willingness to say “no” to some things in order to say “yes” to others. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but with a listening ear to the Spirit’s nudging, it is possible.

Prayer:
Lord, help me to stay (or get!) focused on your missions at hand. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings included: Nehemiah 5-6, Psalm 146, and Luke 24)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Today's Workout

Although many options are available, I'm currently enjoying the 4-exercise circuit done 3 times in my 9 Minutes-To-Fit program. This morning's exercises included:

Pull-ups
Split-lung jumps
Walking push-ups (with feet on skateboard)
Pikes (with feet on skateboard)

Was a very good full-body workout.

Focus

Scripture Verses that Caught my Attention Today: Nehemiah 4:15-16 When our enemies heard that their plot was known to us, and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. 16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and body-armor; and the leaders posted themselves behind the whole house of Judah,

Observation: Nehemiah organized the people in such a way as to allow them to build the wall and protect the city at the same time.

Application: So often we’ll hear someone say something to the affect of: “if I just had time to dedicate to _____________, then I could get it done.”

There’s truth to that statement, of course, but the fact of the matter for many of us is that we have to make and fit the time into our existing schedule. It’s not so much that we need to multitask. Rather, we need to designate times to focus on one thing and the designate other times to focus on another. Nehemiah basically had the people organized into shifts, with some protecting and some building and then, presumably, the would switch over. Reading further he speaks of people protecting the city with one hand and building with the other. That might seem like multi-tasking, but actually it is a compartmentalizing of sorts, with one part of the body focused on one thing and the other part of the body focused on another.

In another part of Scripture we are reminded to number our days. Sometimes I think we would also be wise to number our hours so that we can focus our time on the opportunities at hand.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for the example in Scripture of your people accomplishing considerable feats with your help and their own sense of focus and will. And for Nehemiah’s ability to lead them in such pursuits. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Nehemiah 3-4 and Luke 23)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Today's Workout

Chin-ups with Knee-ups
Front Barbell Squats
1-leg push-ups
Ab-Wheel Roll-outs.

Three rounds using my 9 Minutes-To-Fit routine.

Taking Stock of the Situation

Scripture Verse that caught my attention today: Nehemiah 2:13 I went out by night by the Valley Gate past the Dragon’s Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that had been broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire.

Observation: Nehemiah took some time to take stock of the situation before formulating his plan to rebuild the wall. It should be noted that he didn’t do this completely on his own. He was first given permission by the king to go to Jerusalem to begin with along with assurances of safe passage. Still, he took advantage of the opportunity.

Application: Every so often it makes good sense to take stock of our own situations and then formulate a plan. It’s a time to give thanks for the opportunities before us and to employ them as appropriate. There are any number of areas in life where we could take such stock: Time management, family, work, friends, school and church/faith to name of few. We can take a look at each of these areas and more to see if we seem to be headed in the right direction and what improvements might be able to be made—all in response to the gift that God has given us in Christ. It usually feels good to have a plan, even if it’s ambitious.

Today I formulated a plan which led to formulating still another plan. I'm grateful for such things.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for the opportunities you provide to take stock of our respective situations and to plan accordingly. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Nehemiah 1-2, Psalm 133, and Luke 22)

Friday, October 5, 2012

When You Can't Sleep

Scripture Verses that Caught my attention Today: Esther 6:1-3 On that night the king could not sleep, and he gave orders to bring the book of records, the annals, and they were read to the king. 2 It was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, and who had conspired to assassinate King Ahasuerus. 3 Then the king said, “What honor or distinction has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” The king’s servants who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.”

Observation: It’s not always a bad thing to not be able to sleep.

Application: We probably all have times now and then when we have difficulty sleeping. Something tosses and turns in our mind and much-needed sleep eludes us. In such times it’s usually best to embrace the situation for what it is and make use of the time. King Ahasuerus did this long ago and, as a result, one man (Mordecai) was rewarded and a whole people (the Jewish race) was spared.

Not a bad night’s work!

Prayer: Lord, I love sleep and think it’s a wonderful gift. But on those nights when it doesn’t come so easily, help me make good use of the awake time so that the sleep is that much more satisfying when it eventually comes. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Esther 3-8 and Luke 18)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Today's Stretch

Today I didn't even have time for a 9-minute workout. Well, actually I would have had time for the workout, but I wouldn't have had time cool down before taking a shower and heading off for this particular day. So I simply took 5 minutes to do my regular warm-up routine which still gets the blood pumping but doesn't break a sweat. Here it is again:

Body-weight squats
Leg swings
walking lunges
close-grip pushups
Stick-ups
Waiter's bows
Planks
Light Dumbell deadlift/overhead press combo.

That was it! On with the day!

The value of "Worthless Slaves"

Scripture Verse that caught my attention today: Luke 17:7-10 “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 8 Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? 9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

Observation: This mirrors another verse in scripture that speaks of not thinking of oneself more highly than one ought.

Application: At first this passage seemed a little rough. I would be tempted to give the slaves a break. But in that day and time that was a slaves life. They functioned accordingly and would have found little support in complaining.

The challenge for us, of course, is that many of us think we are above a slave’s life. We think we are worth more, deserve more, should be catered to and the like. And on earth many of us have found ways to convince people that such things are true.

Still, at the heart of who we are is the fact that we are recipients of God’s mercy. We are servants who are called to be servants. And lest we think that is too harsh of a life, Jesus personally showed us an example of pure servanthood and called us to do the same. And in some ways one of the blessings is that we are actually given work to do. There is a purpose for our existence.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for the opportunity to serve you. May we always consider it something that we naturally “ought to have done.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Esther 1-2, Psalm 150, and Luke 17)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tasty and Healthy Meal

Yesterday's lunch consisted of an open-faced sandwich consisting of:

slim 100% whole-wheat sandwich buns spread with a generous helping of homemade hummus
covered with Kale that had been sauteed quickly in Olive Oil and topped with fresh diced tomatoes.

Delicious!

Today's Workout

I'm really loving these workouts because they are short but very focused and very challenging but still very doable.

Today's workout, after the warm-up, consisted of the following 4-move circuit repeated 3 times in my 18 seconds of work/27 seconds of rest interval fashion.

--Chin-ups with knee-ups
--Split-Lunge jumps
--Spiderman push-ups
--Ab-wheel roll-outs.