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April 12

Monday, April 12th, 2021

I grew up in church. I think I was there from the earliest time mom could bring me. Back then doctors said, “Take your child to church, the grocery store, shopping. It’s not going to hurt them. In fact, it will be good for them.” Exposure to the outside was seen as a good thing since they felt it helped with immunity. I can only remember one shot (although I’m sure there were more)- the polio vaccine.

We had both our girls in church and the nursery the first chance we had. Today’s parents keep their child in and away from church for the first year then won’t let them alone in the nursery. Okay so that is a slight exaggeration (6 months maybe but not a year). 🙂

But I digress.

I learned a lot growing up in the church. Like how to pray. “We thank Thee, O most Mighty and Holy One. We thank Thee…” You get the point. The more flowery the better.  In one man’s case, the longer the better…even if he repeated himself several times.

I learned as I got older that God’s not interested in long flowery prayers punctuated by a lot of King James English. He is delighted in humble hearts that give simple prayers. Matt Redman wrote a song with the lyrics: “May my words be few.” I’m guessing that pleases God. A humble heart with simple words. Not a rehearsed speech. Not a copycat of someone else. Just me and Him. Just you and Him.

“Father, may I realize what you really want is a humble heart seeking You. No pretense. No hypocrisy. Just a heart wanting to speak to You.”

April 8

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

I like to tease Jo. Sometimes I know I really get on her “last nerve.” One of Tami’s students once her: “Miss Grandi. Are we getting on your last nerve?”  🙂  Yeah, that would be me with Jo.

Anyway, as I was saying, I like to tease Jo. One of those times is when she was watching a Hallmark movie-whether it is the two-month-before-Christmas-movie-marathon or even now. There is a word which describes those movies:

Predictability.

I bug her (not because I chit chat while she is watching the movie or I ask half way through what is happening), but because I tell her what is going to happen. This guy and girl will meet at a lodge or some vacation spot (they like resorts). They might know each other from the past. They will start having feelings for each other but then one will have a close friend (sometimes someone they soon plan to marry) who will get in the way. One will leave but that in the last 10 minutes or so will show up at the shindig. They will realize they have fallen in love with each other and kiss and live happily ever after…or so we assume.

Predictability.

There might be a variation or two depending on the story line, but ultimately they all come down to a couple falling in love.

We like predictability…to some extent. I tend to think it could get boring having the same old same old day in and day out. My vote is for variation, for unpredictability, for adventure, for not knowing.

Have you ever given some thought to our lives as Christ-followers? How important is variety? Truthfully, we should be used to unpredictability by now. We serve a God who might be “the same yesterday, today and forever” and never changes, but the way He works is priceless. There is no “one size fits all.” Nor does He operate the same way each time. Sometimes it is a gentle tap on the window. Sometimes it is in the storm. Sometimes it is in the clear and gentle breeze.

And one thing is sure: no matter how He works, the most predictable part of it all is that He loves us and wants the best for us.

“Father, thank you for being You. Thank You for being both predictable in Who You are, and yet unpredictable in how you will work. Help me to see it as part of Your loving plan.”

March 24

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

There is a lot of talk these days-as well as a lot written- about what is called deconstruction. It is especially pointed when it involves prominent, well-known or well-respected people. We’ve seen in recent years pastors and leaders like Joshua Harris (“I Kissed Dating Goodbye”) announce he was getting a divorce and then just a few days later that he was leaving the faith and no longer considered himself a Christian. A worship leader from Hillsong. The lead singer of the Christian group Hawk Nelson. YouTube personalities Rhett and Link. That is just to name a few of those who have “deconstructed.”

I’m not talking about progressive like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Michael Gungor or Richard Rohr. That’s a whole ‘nother ball of tangled and messed up string.

These “deconstructors” dismantle their faith, leaving nothing. How and when it started is different. Some went through a class in college. Some went through a crisis in life. Some had a repressive, fundamentalist background they wanted to break free from. The reasons behind deconstruction are numerous.

Questioning one’s faith is not bad…or wrong. Oswald Chambers once said, “Doubt is not always a sign that a man is wrong. It may be a sign that he is thinking.” I believe it is good to question, to kick the tires so to speak. I disagree with those who say that if we question it shows we don’t have real faith in Jesus. Oddly enough, it is that type of environment that has caused many deconstructions to happen. I heard a podcast recently where the interviewee said there are three stages one goes through: construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction. Start. Middle. Finish.

Here’s a novel idea (well, not really but it sounded good 🙂 ). Instead of demonizing those who question, let’s encourage honest questions. Not the superficial kind. Honest ones. But let’s encourage that the questions not be answered by secular culture or by the cancel culture we see and hear so much from these days, but instead run to Jesus with the questions. Let’s seek honest answers to our questions. 

“Father, help me to be honest in my questions.  Help me to admit that some questions will not have answers. Help me to run to Jesus and not away from Him” 

March 18

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

So…why do I get up every morning? The short answer is so I can do what I need to do to live. I mean, if I didn’t get up but stayed in bed all day, I’m not sure I’d have a job. I know for some, because of depression,  getting out of bed is a chore. That is a legitimate reason. But for me? Getting out of bed is a must.

Let’s narrow that question down a little more. Why do I get out of bed at 3:30 every morning? (Some say it’s because I’m insane, that I’ve got a screw loose somewhere). Maybe so. 🙂 But…seriously, why?

The real short answer is not related at all to my job or my self-perception of what a lazy person might be. I get up early to be alone with God. I’m a morning person so I choose to have my time in the morning before I start the meat of my day.  The time of day is not important. What is in important is that I do have this time. Psalm 91: 1-2 says, “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God , and I trust him.” (NLT)

I want to be with Him. Back in 1999 I went through a rejuvenation of my faith.  Tami had moved back from Florida, moved in with us, and got a job teaching in town north of where we lived. On Sunday nights she began attending another church in town and then talked about their worship. It sounded like what my thirsty soul needed so I asked her if she minded that I tagged along. Of course she didn’t. It meant I would drive and usually buy us something to eat afterwards. 🙂 So we started going together. What a balm! During that time I heard a song which impacted me but I eventually lost track of it. Several months ago I looked for it. I searched everywhere. I even asked the pastor of the church, who was the Worship Pastor/leader at that time, if he knew the name of the song, or the singer, or where I might find it. He came up blank so I gave up figuring, “Oh well, Nice try. It is not to be.” Until this past weekend I got a wild hair while looking for some worship music on Spotify. I knew the name of the song and for some reason the name “Ian” came to mind. So I googled it by typing in the name of the song and “Ian.” Eureka! Lo, and behold, that was it.  The song: Encounter. The artist: Ian White. The link to that song is right here.

And that is why I get up so early. I want to have an Encounter with the Living God.  I want to be sheltered and find rest in His shadow. I want to live in the shadow of His wings. I want to Encounter Him.

So from now on this will no longer be called my Quiet Time. It will be called my Encounter Time. I hope you will join me each day and invite others. But more…I pray you will have your own Encounter Time with the Father.

March 12

Friday, March 12th, 2021

I want to continue with my thoughts on gratitude.

I Cor.13 tells us “These three remain-faith, hope, and love-but the greatest of these is love.” (13:13). I’d like to think about those three words when it comes to gratitude.

FAITH. We often hear Hebrews 11:1 quoted: “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (NLT)  The kind of gratitude which should flow from us is the kind which comes from trusting in the absolute and total lordship of Jesus, that He is sovereign over all things and that includes what happens in our lives. All events. All circumstances. IN. HIS. HANDS. God wastes nothing.

HOPE. The one quality which holds us together. It is fine believing and trusting. But hope tells us there is both a purpose and an end.  Faith tells us nothing was wasted, hope tells us nothing will be wasted. If we know there is an end-even though we cannot see it-we can hold on.

LOVE. The very culmination of it all. God’s love overrides evil, oversees every event, and overwhelms us with the glory of His Presence. It is this love which took Him to the cross and it is this same love that will bring us home.

“Father, may faith, hope and love be evident in my gratitude. My head says, ‘You know all that is going on.’ Please convince my heart with your overwhelming love.”

March 11

Thursday, March 11th, 2021

I want to continue my thoughts on gratitude.

I was sitting in my chair last night unable to sleep. It was one of those nights where the combination of no gall bladder (and still learning), eating the wrong thing too late, and my mind refusing to shut off which made for a tough night for sleep to come.

But as I sat there (remember I said my mind refused to shut off) and a thought hit me.

  • A person cannot be envious of another and be thankful.
  • A person cannot be jealous of another and be thankful.
  • A person cannot be dissatisfied and be thankful.
  • A person cannot grumble and be thankful.
  • A person cannot be a complainer and be thankful.

All those examples are dichotomous. The idea of being unhappy with one’s lot in life and being overly thankful just does not gel.

I am pretty ignorant when it comes to knowing much about a monk named Brother Lawrence. I have heard of him and that is about where my knowledge ends. I know of him. But I just read something recently which gave me a whole new perspective of this unique man.  He was a monk of lowly status who spent his days washing and scrubbing pots and pans and doing menial work around the monastery. In spite of that lowly life, people loved to be in his presence. Why? Because he loved to invite God’s Presence into all he did. His heart was filled with gratitude and therefore, it had no room for grumbling, complaining, etc.

Do people like to be in your presence because you bring God’s Presence with you? I ask myself that question and tend to come up wanting.

“Father, may today be a start of something different. May it be a day where people enjoy being in my presence because I bring Your Presence in with me.”

March 9

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

I’ve been doing a lot of listening lately to some worship music. Some older. Some newer. Chris Tomlin. Pat Barrett. Matt Redman. My sermons for the next 4 Sundays are on the cross (go figure since Easter is coming). 🙂  One song that keeps playing over and over in my mind is Once Again by Matt Redman. It has a chorus which says, “Thank you for the cross/Thank you for the cross/Thank you for the cross my Friend.”

It’s not often we say those kinds of words. The cross is looked upon as an instrument of ugliness and hate and in its physical form it is.  So being thankful? Not quite on our radar. That just doesn’t seem appropriate does it? Sounds sort of sadistic in a way. “Yes! I’m glad Jesus died on a cruel cross!” Well, in a way, we should be.

But that opens up a thought I want to pursue the next few blog posts: Gratitude. “Thankful for the cross.” Let’s define gratitude first:

It is the divinely given spiritual ability to see grace, and the corresponding desire to affirm it and its giver as good. (p.18)

Bill’s translation: Seeing what is as being from God and affirming and acknowledging it to God and others, i.e. taking no credit whatsoever for any of it but knowing WHO it all came from. As hard as it is to sometimes see, God is at work in all ways, and at all times to ultimately bring about honor and glory to Him. And ALWAYS for our good.

What are your ideas about gratitude? About the cross? I want to explore more the next couple of days. But I would like to ask you for your thoughts and how they might be reinforced or challenged the next couple posts.

“Father, I do thank You for the cross. A symbol of ugliness and hate has turned into the biggest and most vivid symbol of love the world could ever know. I know it has become that to me.”

Quote from “Practicing Thankfulness” by Sam Crabtree

March 8

Monday, March 8th, 2021

Yesterday was the first Sunday of the month. During the pandemic there were a certain group of folks who refused to come to the corporate worship of the church (or anywhere else for that matter) where masks were not required. I respect their decision even though it is not mine. After almost 9 months of distance and finally dialogue, we decided to offer a masked service the fist Sunday of the month. The only caveat was those who attended must wear a mask. Our first service brought 16 people (counting me and Jo) and each subsequent month has been about the same. We missed one month because of being virtual for 3 weeks due to Covid. So on a day like yesterday, I take part in three church services.

This third one is abbreviated since we have no singing. Announcements. Prayer time. Communion. Sermon. Since we offer communion at each service (every week) and I was the one who gave the communion thought/meditation, I had to guard against going through the motions.

That’s easy to do, you know? Going through the motions.  It is so easy for that to become rote. Just “doing church” by habit rather than by allowing the Spirit to move within me. But it isn’t just communion! No, it’s just about everything: Singing. Giving. Listening. Even greeting one another can be perfunctory. No heart. No soul. No closeness.

“Doing church” is a problem we all face. Programs and policies take precedence and begin to take on a life of their own. I’m thinking of Jesus in the Temple with the sellers who took advantage of the pilgrims who ventured to Jerusalem for the Passover and to offer a sacrifice at the Temple. Jesus was livid. A total disregard for the people was something that got “under His skin.”

We can get the same way. Being in worship is no longer about meeting God but “getting it right” and “fulfilling my duty.” Shame on us when we can enjoy the sweetest of all relationships: experiencing a oneness with the Father.

“Father, forgive me when I place meeting with You in the ‘gotta do’ department. Help me to not allow worship become a ‘do church’ thing. Please help it to come alive where I sense Your Presence in my worship.”

March 5

Friday, March 5th, 2021

There are times the best thing to do is to let Scripture speak for you. I’m going to do that this morning. As I read Psalm 65 I was struck by its praise. How many time haves I read this before and not seen it? I can’t say. But here is my summary of Psalm 65.

It begins: “What a mighty praise, O God, belongs to You in Zion”:

  1. You answer our prayers
  2. You forgive our sins
  3. You bring joy in your courts
  4. You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds
  5. You formed the mountains
  6. You quieted the raging oceans
  7. You silenced the shouting of the nations
  8. You inspire shouts of joy
  9. You take care care of the earth and water it
  10. You provide a bountiful harvest
  11. You drench the plowed ground with rain
  12. You soften the earth with showers
  13. You bless with abundant crops and a bountiful harvest
  14. You make green pastures out of wilderness
  15. You clothe the meadows with sheep
  16. You carpet the valley with grain

Some of the language is ancient, but it still fills our hearts with praise to the One who does it all. Is your heart filled with praise today? If so, what for?

“Father, may my heart be filled with praise of and for You today. Help me to rejoice as the psalmist did in all you reveal as to why You are worthy of praise.”

Here is a song to fill your heart. It was the one which was on my playlist this morning on the way to the office. Coincidence? I think not.

March 1

Monday, March 1st, 2021

(Note: I wrote this Friday, the 26th, but waited to post it until today)

I didn’t sleep well last night. Not exactly sure why. I was tired. I had a day of doctor visits (follow up to surgery and dental for an implant). I had a beautiful visit with a family of three children, who because of health issues with the youngest, have been unable to be in worship with the group. I took M&Ms to the kids; a bag of York peppermint patties to mom; and a bag of Heath bars to dad. Of course the kids were already in their boxes within 5 minutes! 🙂

If I had a “guess” as to why I have unrest and have been up since  before my regular “day-of-work-get-up-time of 3:30” is what I know I might have to do this morning and where I need to go. I will be at the High School at 8:00 to possibly “help” or listen to a teacher or student who is struggling. You see, we had a tragedy this week in our school system. Last weekend one of our teachers and baseball coach, the husband of our Middle School principal, had a brain bleed. Even a second opinion has declared him brain dead so last night they began harvesting his organs for the donation process. (He will continue making a difference long after he leaves this earth).  He leaves behind a wife and 2 young girls. The oldest turned 6 on Thursday. One also has Down’s but I’m not sure what her age is. Bryan was not only the baseball coach, but he also taught SpecEd and it is easy to see why.

Why then the upset? Because Ryan (our youth pastor) and I have been asked to be there to listen and help if needed. Ryan was there all morning on Thursday. Very few wanted to talk. Like one or two.  But who knows?  It appears that he and his wife were Christ-followers. Her posts allude to that.  If so, she has a hope beyond all one can imagine. I pray it will sustain her and the girls in the coming days.

But questions abound. Some I don’t have an answer to. Does anyone really? Only God knows for sure and His Word is the go-to. But sometimes questions still abound. I’m praying for wisdom if needed.

Meanwhile, would you please pray for Ashley and the 2 girls? They need God’s Presence more as each day passes.

“Father, You are the Giver of Peace. I pray that for Ashley. You are Giver of Wisdom.  I pray that for Ryan and me today.  I also pray extra wisdom for Ashley as she navigates life without the love of her life. And I’m looking for the good you will bring out of this.”