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28. St. Nick 29. Obedience 30. Plenty or Poverty 31. The Poor
32. Punctuality 33. You and Me 34. Stress 35. Stubbornness
36. Supporting Clergy 37. Taking Crosses 38. Temptations' Defense 39. Want vs Need
40. What's Important 41. Worry 42. Using Folks 43. That's Unfair!
44. Unity & Strife 45. It Really Hurts! 46. Forwarding E-mail 47. It's in the Bible!
48. Should I Vote? 49. After an Election
Thins to Do While
You Have a Chance!
 

Visit the Holy Land

What a faith clarifying experience to actually walk where Jesus walked, to stand on Calvary where He died, and to visit the mountain where He ascended to His Father.  When you go, take a trip planned by a church.  It's so much better to go with those who share your faith! 

 

Make a Confession

While most folks associate "mouth to ear" confessions with the Roman Catholic Church, you need not be Catholic to make a confession.  Find someone -- a minister, teacher, advisor -- who can make you the promise of absolute secrecy and share that what's burdening you and/or causing you pain.  What you learn, experience and feel might well surprise you!

 

Date your spouse

IWhen you get married, you probably shouldn't go our on dates any more . . . at least not with anyone but your spouse!  Asking your dearly beloved out to dinner and a movie or a walk in the park, -- just some place you can be alone together for a reasonable amount of time -- is often the most beneficial thing couples can do for their marriages.  What can you think of for a date with he/she with whom you'll spend Eternity?  (Make it fun!)

 

Visit a Cemetery

Now this isn't the first place you ought to take your spouse on the date that's mentioned above, but it's a great spiritual exercise.  Visiting a cemetery gives you a special opportunity to say your prayers in quiet, ask God's blessing on the time you have left on earth, and remind yourself of the uncertain nature of life itself.  Before we know it, we'll be standing at the foot of the Throne of Grace.  When you go, take a Bible or a spiritual resource, a lawn chair or a blanket, perhaps even something to drink or a small snack.  Don't go when you only have 15 minutes: half an hour is the bare minimum.  And then just sit, pray, and think.  You'll be surprised what you'll learn about yourself and about God!

 

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If you've done something you think everyone should do while they have a chance, please share it with others by clicking here!

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Meditations Available Below by Number

Find a topic in the list and scroll down to its number to read.

   
  1. Advent  2.  God's Name  3.  Ashes
  4. Avoid Temptation  5 . Being Yourself  6.  The Bible
  7. Blaming Others.  8.  Complaining  9.  Energy/Vitality
10. Faith and Doubt 11.  Faith and Works 12. The Departed
13. Fidelity 14. Washing a Foot 15. Thanks in All
16. Good Friday 17. Heart/Soul Trouble 19. Freedom
19. Suffering 20. Prayers' Answer 21. Jesus' Name
22. Justice 23. Loyalty 24. Momentum
25. Memorial Day 26. Tragic Miracles 27. Giving Up

1. ADVENT

Scripture: Mark 13:37   Jesus said, “What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch.”

Meditation: Advent has begun and, with it, has brought the new year in the Christian calendar. Happy New year to you all! Most of us use Advent as a time to prepare for the celebrations of Christmas: i.e., buying presents, having parties, taking out new credit cards!.... But the Church reminds us that Advent is also a season where we not only await the celebration of the coming of Christ at the First Christmas, but “His coming again in power and great glory to judge the living and the dead.” How ready are we to meet Jesus face to face? That’s what we need to work on during Advent! Ask yourself these questions, and if you answer in the negative to any of them, think about changing things in your life — with or without the help of a friend, a counselor, or a priest — so that your response can become a profound YES! (1) Is my heart a suitable manger in which Jesus can be born today? (2) Is my response to the poor as charitable as the Innkeeper’s response to homeless Mary and Joseph? (3) Am I, like the Wise Men, willing to make sacrifices in the gifts we give? (4) Am I, like the Blessed Virgin Mary, willing to rejoice first in good (the birth of a Son) rather than to complain first about the bad (delivering Him in a manger)? May God send you a pensive heart and a Holy Advent, that you will take the time to use this Holy Season to prepare to meet the Risen Christ face to face.

Prayer: Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which Your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that, in the last day, when He shall come again in glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through Him who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


2. Ascribe to the Lord the Honor Due His Name

Scripture: Psalm 96:8   “Ascribe to the LORD the honor due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts.”

Meditation: How often, just before the collection plate is passed on Sunday morning, have we heard these words?! A careful reading of this Psalm links “showing honor” to God with “bringing offerings” to Him. Lent is a time when we remember Jesus’ offering His life for the sin of the world. Theologically, it’s very important that we remember that no one “took” Jesus’ life from Him, rather He freely offered it. In our imitation of Christ — our daily vocation — how are the “things” that others receive from us perceived: as that which we freely offer, or as that which has to be taken from us? In that spirit, another Scripture comes to mind: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor 9:7)” How we offer is often more important than what we offer! Here follows an exercise in “cheerful giving.” Consider offering one monetary unit — dollar, a dime, or whatever you can — for each of the following. Make it a family activity, or do it alone. But remember, as God offered His Only Son to become man for us, and as that Man offered Himself a as “perfect sacrifice for the sin of the whole world,” so let us offer ourselves, with cheerful hearts, unto Him. Today: Offer one monetary unit (OMU) for every mile you drive today. Thurs: Offer OMU for each pair of shoes in your closet. Fri: Offer OMU for each phone call you make and/or receive. Sat: Offer something to a child of a fallen soldier (see link below). (Google search helpful, or go to http://www.freedomalliance.org/scholarship.htm) Sun: Offer OMU for each electronic entertainment item (TV, radio, VCR, etc.) you own. Mon: Help feed a hungry “third-world” child http://www.christianchildrensfund.org/ Tues: Offer OMU for each doorknob in your home and/or workplace. Wed: Read and act upon the Devotional that will come to your Inbox!

Prayer: O merciful Creator, Your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for Your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of Your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


3. Ashes to What?


Scripture: Matthew 6:3      Jesus said, “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others.”

Meditation: As you probably know, Ash Wednesday is tomorrow, March 1. While Jesus command us not to use ashes to “show off” about our walk with the Him in front of others, there’s more to ashes than that. Ashes are made from the dried, brown palm branches of last year’s Palm Sunday’s green palms. These palms remind us of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when clothing and palm branches were spread in the street so that He might ride over them on a donkey. When, five days later, Jesus offered His life, He took the next step in the process that would lead to His triumphal Resurrection, triumphal Ascension, and His eventual coming again in triumph and great glory at the end of time. When ashes are imposed on us, they signify not only our mortality, but our eventual triumphal entry into the Kingdom of Heaven as well. Not unlike the model for our life, Jesus, much pain and suffering may await us in the mean time. Through the season of “preparing for Jesus’ death,” do keep your eyes on the Resurrection. Obedience and love lead Jesus to His death, but onward to triumph. We too, if open to God’s continuing Revelation, through obedience and love and, lest we forget, through our own discipline of prayer, fasting, and self-denial, will be led to triumphant and fullness of life, both in this world and in the next. (No matter where you live, or where and how you worship, here’s a church open near you tomorrow, ready with ashes, to help start your Lenten observance!)

Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


4. AVOIDING TEMPTATION

Scripture: I Cor 10:13      ...When you are tempted, God will also provide a way out, so that you can stand up under it.”


Meditation: You and I are tempted to sin and violate our identity as Christians each day. Temptation may come in the form of stealing, adultery, lying, or in more subtle ways such as gossiping, being unforgiving, or not giving credit where credit is due. One of the simplest ways to keep temptation from turning into sin is to remember the “Golden Rule: Due unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Sometimes temptation takes us unaware, but much more often, we have time to think between when we are tempted and when we act. On those latter occasions, ask yourself the Golden Rule’s question: “would I want .... to do this to me?” Sometimes the simplest of tools can be the most profound!

Prayer: Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil. For the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory are Yours, now and forever. Amen.


5. BEING YOURSELF

Scripture: Genesis 1:27      “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them.”

Meditation: We are not clones. The first humans were individuals and unique: one male and one female and, doubtless, with other physical, emotional, and psychological differences. And so are we! But our modern world preaches that if we’re not richer, thinner, better-dressed, in the right car, etc., there must be something wrong with us. While we’re always called to more righteous behavior in our uniqueness, God wants us to be ourselves. There’s an old cowboy saying, “You can’t put a boot in an oven and take out a biscuit!” God has a plan for our lives predicated on the gifts and graces He gave us. I’m at our best when I recognize and rejoice in how God created me, when I strive to be more fully who I was created to be by repentance and amendment of life, and when I serve God as only I can. I’m at my worst when I, struggling to conform to the daily-changing trends of the world around me, jeopardize my uniqueness and debilitate the life and ministry God intended when He made me who I am.

Prayer: Dearest Lord, give me the strength to accept myself for who and what I am and, at the same time, the wisdom to never “use” who I believe myself to be as an excuse for unrighteous and sinful behavior. Remind me daily that You have a plan for my life that is debilitated when I pretend to be someone I’m not. And finally, give me the grace to use who I am, where I am, to Your honor and glory through serving You as only I am able. Amen.


6. THE BIBLE

Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16-17      All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Meditation:
Once upon a time, a man with financial trouble went to his pastor for counsel, who told him that everything he needed to know was in the Holy Bible. The next Sunday the man greeted the pastor with a huge smile and said, “It’s amazing, Pastor! All I did was open the Bible and found the answer to all my financial problems.” When asked what he found, the man said, “I closed my eyes, opened the Book, and there it was: Chapter 11!” While the pastor’s advise was true, not all of us know how to find what we need in Holy Writ to address our problems. Here are two ideas, accessible on the web: htpp://www.BibleGateway.com contains the whole Bible, cataloged by book, chapter and verse, and thematically as well. http://www.missionstclare.com has a lectionary (a systematic, day-by-day reading of the Bible, that will cover all major Biblical themes in two years, if read daily.) Do check them out. St. Timothy is right: all scripture is valuable for what we face everyday. But you have to read if you want to access its wisdom!

Prayer: Blessed Lord, You caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learing: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life. Amen.


7. BLAMING OTHERS

Scripture: Isaiah 6:1       Isaiah writes, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.”

Meditation:
Late Sunday evening and early Monday morning, destructive tornadoes ripped through the Midwest. Throughout the last couple months, fires have burned their way through many a drought-dry field, farm and ?!” While only bad theology teaches that God sends these things to us to test us, there is an opportunity we have through events like these, and other stressful and terrible times in our lives. King Uzziah (above), having reigned 52 years and done much good for Israel, toward the end of his life, violated God’s will, contracted leprosy, and died. This was a shock to Israel, and for the Prophet Isaiah. Grief was profound. But, as this week’s Scripture tells us, during that stress, unrest, grief and time of unsettling change, Isaiah saw the Lord. As a pastor and priest, I have found that during times of tragedy, people who are in pain will grow either closer to God or become distanced from Him. There is usually no middle ground. And also, in my experience, the people who grow closer to God during these times intentionally “seek out” God to help them through these times; those who become distanced often blame God or attribute the tragedy to Him (often “to test me”) and develop such a warped picture of the Divine to which they can no longer relate. This Lent, as we remember those painful and stress-filled days in Jesus’ last weeks on earth, let’s resolve this: “the next time something hurtful happens to me, let me seek God and how He can draw me closer to Him, rather than blaming God for the bad that has happened.” This is what Jesus did, and look where it got Him!

Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, You hate nothing You have made, forgive the sins of all who are penitent, and work for good in all things: Help us, when pain and sorrow strike, to seek Your presence rather than to blame You, to search in the pain to find the potential for recovery and growth, and to ever want to understand You better as the giver of all good things, and the redeemer of sin, death and pain, so that we, seeing You as You are, might be drawn closer to You in Your real Identity; through Jesus Your Son, who through the pain of the Cross, blamed not, but sought and surrendered Himself to You, only to find Resurrection and life eternal. Amen.


8. COMPLAINING

Scripture: Matthew 24:9-14      Jesus said, “They will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another.... But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Meditation:
Some of us have got it pretty rough. It’s not hard to complain about the state of the world and how it negatively effects us, or about our health, about the cost of living, etc. But, as a friend of mine says, “life is a mud sandwich; either take a big bite, or starve to death!” We can’t escape temptation and the nastiness that engulfs us from time to time, but we can meet it with valor and dignity. I’m always inspired by the story of the martyr Vibia Perpetua, a young widowed mother in Rome who, because of her Christian faith, would not make the sacrifice to the Emperor (and self-proclaimed god) Severus. On March 2, AD 202, after confessing at her “trial” “I am a Christian,” she and her friends were sent to the arena to be mangled, clawed and/or gored by a leopard, a boar, a bear, and a mad cow. This went on for hours, but she just wouldn’t die! Finally, toward the end of the horrific day, she and her companions were killed by a stroke of a sword through their throats. Perpetua’s swordsman, being inept, missed her windpipe. After shrieking with pain, she pulled out the sword, and guided it to her throat for the executioner so that he wouldn’t “miss” again. Talk about endurance, faith, and suffering! The next time you’re having a bad day and are tempted to complain . . . .

Prayer: Dear Lord, when I find something that’s not right in my life, help me to avoid complaining about it. Save me from the temptation to believe that I am a victim, as the more I believe in my own “victimhood,” the more I will feel even more victimized. Instead of complaining, grant me the grace to put my trust and faith in You, and strengthen me to focus my energy on correcting the situation which is causing me pain. All this I ask in the Holy Name of Jesus who, truly victimized on the Cross, saw it as an opportunity to rededicate Himself to You. Amen.


9. ENERGY AND VITALITY

Scripture: Colossians 1:27-29 (excerpted)      “To the saints , God has chosen to make known the glorious riches of His truth, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, so that everyone may be presented to the Father. To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.”

Meditation:
Energy comes from God. The same energy present at Creation — that which organized and invigorated the earth — is present with us. And it doesn’t make any difference whether we’re gregarious or shy, rested or tired, happy or sad. The secret to functioning as a “person of energy” is to realize what Paul understood: it is God’s energy that works through us, and not our energy working with God! Dependent on “my energy,” I lose effectiveness when I’m not rested, frustrated or simply disinterested. But dependent on Divine Energy, God channels His energy through my actions, weak as they often may be, to present to others the vitality that (at Creation, through darkness and chaos) was able to energize the world! When you’re “up” and able to do great things, don’t lose your humility by gazing upon that which “you” have done. And when you’re “down,” place yourself at the foot of the Cross, the source of Ultimate Energy, and keep going. By so doing, the contagious energy of the Resurrection will show itself to the world, winning souls to and changing lives through Christ.

Prayer: Almighty God, Thou art energy, give me energy; Thou art fullness, give me fullness; Thou art strength, give me strength; Thou art vigor, give me vigor; Thou art conquering power, give me conquering power. And through the power that raised Jesus from the dead, let Thy fullness, strength, vigor and conquering power be contagious through me. Amen.


10. FAITH AND DOUBT

Scripture: John 20:26-28      Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Meditation:
Thomas gets a “bad rap” as “Doubting Thomas,” but is that really fair? And beyond that, is doubting a sin? Think about this: Initially, when Thomas missed Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearance, he said he wouldn’t believe until he put his hands in the wounds of Christ. Now he’s back, sees Jesus, and immediately after Jesus offers an invitation to him to do just that, Thomas makes the most profound proclamation of Jesus’ Being in the whole of the Bible: “My Lord and My God!” But note this: at no time does Thomas ever take Jesus up on his offer to touch Him. At the end of the day, Thomas’ faith leads him to the same conclusion as the other Disciples, to wit, “We have seen the Lord.” Thomas engages his mind in the exercise of his faith. Through questioning (the real meaning of the English word “doubt” in the New Testament) Thomas comes to a more profound faith than those who questioned not! There’s something to be learned in that. It’s not necessary to check your brain with your hat as you enter the Church! God gave us minds to use; why shouldn’t we use those minds in the understanding and application of faith?! We must if we are going to grow beyond what I like to call “Sunday School Faith,” appropriate to a child and not an adult. Doubt, in Bible language, is a virtue, NOT a sin. Appropriate use of “doubt” means serious contemplation about that which you believe, and education to understand it better. Looking for a New Year’s resolution: adopt a plan of contemplation and education to help you “doubt” better. If doubt led Thomas to proclaim Jesus’ true identity, then doubt away!

Prayer:
Everliving God, You strengthened Your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in Your Son’s Resurrection: Grant me the ability and the desire to use the mind You gave me as I strengthen my believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God, that my faith may never be found wanting in Your sight; through Him who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


11. FAITH AND WORKS

Scripture: James 2       What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Meditation:
So often, as a result of something a Biblical character says to display his/her faith in God, action immediately follows. Lazurus is raised from the dead AFTER Jesus proclaims God’s power to do anything; Matthew leaves the tax office AFTER he recognizes the power in the One who called him; Paul converts thousands AFTER he professes faith in the Son of God and amends his intentions and ways; etc. Similarly, our faith in God bears fruit and is strengthened when it is followed by action. For the remainder of Lent, this E-pistle will make suggestions on how you might put the faith you have in Christ into action into the world. This week will center on corporal works of mercy. Should you do these things, and do them daily, God will draw you closer to Him who offered Himself to God, a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. May God bless us as we put our faith into action! Today: Quietly do a chore (at home, work, school) that is done by another. Thurs: Do an anonymous random act of kindness for someone you do not know well. Fri: Phone a person who would enjoy a call from you, preferably someone sick/or weak Sat: Write or email a person in the Armed Forces (Google search helpful in finding one) Sun: Offer to take someone to Church with you Mon: Give at least three things to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or another charity. Tues: Mail a greeting card to someone sick, in hospital, or who needs encouragement. Wed: Read and act upon the E-pistle Devotional that will come to your Inbox!

Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, You bless the faithful who perform good works in Your Name: Strengthen me to put my faith into action, so that Your will and Your love may be manifest through me to the world, to the strengthening of my faith and my ability to follow You, even unto the Cross; through Him who, through His sacrifice and works, destroyed death for us, Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


12. THE DEPARTED

Scripture: The Souls of the righteous are in the hands of God.... The faithful will abide with Him, because grace and mercy are upon His elect, and He watches over His holy ones.      (From The Wisdom of Solomon, Chapter 3)

Meditation:
Today the traditional Church remembers the souls of the faithful departed (All Souls’ Day). This is the day when we remember and pray for those whom we have known, but who have passed to greater life. Sometimes folks ask, “Why do we pray for the dead?” We pray for people we love all the time. Eternal life begins at the moment of our Baptism, and never ends. Just because someone is dead (for the moment!) doesn’t mean that he/she is beyond the reach of God’s notice through prayer. At the General Resurrection of the Dead, we pray that we will join them, and live in eternal peace and felicity. Don’t be afraid of praying for the dead: St. Paul tells us to pray without ceasing for those we love. He doesn’t say that we should stop those prayers at the moment of their death.

Prayer: Father of all, we pray to you for those we love, but see no longer, especially…………….. Grant them your peace and let light perpetual shine upon them. In Your loving wisdom and almighty power, work in them the good purpose of Your perfect will, and finally bring us, with them, into Your perfect presence; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


13. FIDELITY

Scripture: Luke 1        Mary said, “Let it be unto me, according to Thy word.”

Meditation: The Blessed Virgin Mary, perhaps best known for her unflagging loyalty to her Son, gives us something to think about. From the moment of His conception to His death on a cross, Mary was was present with Him. She took Him to the Temple as a child, listed to His teaching as an adult, and was with Him even to the “end.” Whenever I think of the Blessed Virgin, I think about my ability to be loyal, and how well I’m doing with respect to fidelity. Join me this week is evaluating how loyal we are to our God (e.g., in weekly worship and in giving of time, talent, and treasure), to our families (especially our spouses), to our employers/employees, to our Country, and to our friends. Can we rightly be accused of being “fair-weather” friends, being faithful to God when convenient and/our without sacrifice, and to all the promises we have made? These are hard questions to ask, but worth the asking. God, even thought we don’t deserve it, is faithful to us; how faithful are we in return?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, in whom we find perfect loyalty and fidelity. Drive far from us any manifestations of our fickle, fallen nature. Make us faithful to our promises, our families and friends, and most especially to You. And, when we fall into sins of infidelity, remind us of Your faithfulness to us, that we may amend our lives following Your example. Amen.

14. FOOT WASHING

Scriptures: John 13:15          Jesus said, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”

Meditation:
The “Maundy” in Maundy Thursday comes from the Latin word, mandatum: in English, commandment. By the use of the word “ought,” above, Jesus obliges His disciples to do to others as He has done for them. (Stronger than the English word, ought, the New Testament Greek word used here is opheilo [pronounced of-i’-lo], “to be bound to do, or to be commanded to do.) On the night before Jesus’ was handed over to suffering and death, He commanded His disciples to treat others as He treated them: accepting, forgiving, and far better than they deserved. Foot washing was common in ancient Eastern culture as a sign of hospitality and respect. Sandal-clad travelers, hot and dirty from the road, were welcomed and refreshed by the host as he, or as one of his servants, washed his guests’ feet. The Old Testament shows what an honor foot washing was: Abraham washes the feet of God and two angels who appear to him in the desert (Gen 18:4); Lot washes the feet of his angelic guests as the visit him in Sodom (Gen 19:2); Joseph offers water to wash the feet of his brothers when they come to Egypt looking for food, before they recognize him, whom they sold into slavery years before (Gen 43:24); Rebekah offers her future husband, Isaac, water for his feet (Gen 24:32), as does Abigail for her future husband, David (1 Sam 25:41). Jesus, as His Hebrew ancestors before Him, does something very humble and not all that pleasant to make others feel cared for, welcome, and loved. And then He commands us to do the same. No fancy theology here, no need for extensive Biblcal exegesis or textural criticism. Just a command. As Jesus has done for us, so are we commanded to do for one another. It’s as simple as that.

Prayer: Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before He suffered, washed the feet of others and commanded us to do the same: Mercifully grant that we may follow His most holy example and obey His righteous commands, that we, through His humility and compassion, might receive His pledge of eternal and everlasting life; and who now lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


15. GIVING THANKS IN ALL THINGS

Scripture: I Thes 5:18       “...give thanks in all things, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Meditation:
Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go — or not — to give thanks, as Paul suggests above, to God in all things. Alone or with others, tomorrow is a day when we should all stop and thank The Almighty for His bounty and loving care. I recommend the “General Thanksgiving” (below) to you as suitable for use for Thanksgiving Day. Whether at grace before a meal or some other time during the day, it’s a wonderful _expression of the gratitude that everyone ought to have. May God give you a grateful heart this week, and allow that gratitude to spill over into the rest of your lives. A Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!

Prayer: Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give You humble thanks for your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom You have made. We bless You for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for Your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to Your service, and by walking before You in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.


16. GOOD FRIDAY

Scripture: Isaiah 52:13-53:12       “See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. Just as there were many who were astonished at him — so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance — so he shall startle many nations; Kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.

Meditation:
This is the day when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, put sin to death by His self-sacrifice on the Cross, for your sins and mine, those past, present, and those yet to be committed. Sometimes it’s more important to participate in something than it is to understand it completely. Today is such a day. Place yourself in the position of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John, those who stood at the foot of the Cross, and who heard the Savior speak His last words. You, like them, are rendered speechless at His love unto death. You, like them, see Him forgive those who brought Him to Calvary, even those who wielded the nails. And you. like them, see Him stretch out His arms of love so that a world, filled with cruelty and hate, might come within the reach of His saving embrace. Today of all days, don’t be afraid to be speechless. Get to Church today if you are able. And take five or ten minutes at home alone, in silence, and stand in awe of the Incarnate Beauty of Holiness: Him who leads us, through His Crucifixion and death, to that which is ultimately true and good, lovely and gracious; as He leads us to God!

Prayer: Almighty God, I pray You graciously to behold me and all Your children, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the Cross; and who now lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


17. HEART TROUBLE AND SOUL TROUBLE

Scriptures: John 12:27 and John 14:1      “Jesus said, ‘And now is my soul troubled.’” & “Jesus said, ‘Let not your hearts be troubled.’”

Meditation:
These two verses from John’s Gospel have always intrigued me. It looks, at first glance, like a contradiction: Jesus admits to His soul’s trouble, but then tells His disciples to not let their hearts be troubled. A little Greek helps to show us that the issue here is not Jesus’ setting up a “double standard,” but that John the Evangelist is noting the difference between the Greek words for “heart” and “soul,” often understood in modern English as the same thing. Not so in Greek! The Greek word for “soul” is psuche (soo-kay), understood in Greek as the center of a person’s emotions. The word for “heart” is kardia, the center of the intellect, and the director of will and character. The word for “troubled” is terasso, being stirred up or agitated, or tossed about. What is John telling us by citing Jesus in these texts? Jesus could not control the way He felt emotionally (psuche/soul) and, when things got tough, the “butterflies” in His stomach were stirred up and upset. But that did not control Jesus’ heart (kardia), that directed His will. If Jesus is our model for life — and He is — then The Gospeller may well be telling us that even though we get upset or dismayed, this need not cause us to lose direction in those things we choose to do as “acts of will.” Jesus addressed God the Father when He said His “soul was troubled.” This is prayer. Through prayer, He found the strength to go on, accomplish His Father’s will, and encourage others (e.g., the disciples and us). The next time you’re upset, angry, frustrated or distressed, follow His example: “take it to the Lord in prayer.” This will strengthen you to keep your heading and do the right thing, even in times of stress and trouble.

Prayer: O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, when we are stirred up and emotionally tossed about, the grace to lay those issues at the foot of Your throne, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all bad choices, that in Your Light we may see light, and in Your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


18. THE HOLINESS OF FREEDOM

Scripture: Psalm 8:1       “O Lord, our Governor: How exalted is Thy Name in all the earth!”

Meditation:
God is referred to as “governor” as well as other titles of authority throughout Holy Scripture. God’s act in freeing the Israelites from Egyptian slavery shows us, among other things, that God is interested in the political order as well as the physical and spiritual. Freedom is what God is all about! Freedom is such a huge deal for God because, without it, one has no liberty to pursue the working out of his/her vocation as a child of God. That’s why July 4 is a Holy Day in the calendar of the Episcopal Church. We thank God for liberty and freedom, not only because of what happened in AD 1776, but because freedom is essential to our service of Him who is Lord of all. This July 4, amidst the firecrackers and Sousa marches, remember the holiness of freedom, and pray that we all, individually, nationally, and globally, might use our freedom to the service of others in God’s Name. For, as St. Paul put it, “Service to God is perfect freedom!”

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant, we beseech Thee, that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace, and make possible this Divine Gift for others, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with You and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns in that celestial country, world without end. Amen.


19. HOPE IN SUFFERING

Scripture: Hebrews 10:19-24           Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds......

Meditation:
Blessed Julian of Norich (AD 1382-1417), a deeply spiritual, holy and saintly woman, desired three gifts from God: (1) the obedient mind of Jesus’ passion; (2) bodily sickness in youth and Jesus’ three wounds on the Cross; (3) a never-ending devotion to the Love and Mind of Christ. At age 30, Julian fell gravely ill and was given last rites. Miraculously, the sickness left her and only to be replaced by the Stigmata (the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and feet from the Cross). Her sickness and recovery brought her the first two longed-for items, which then passed from her mind. The third, the divinely inspired longing for Christ, never left her. In perhaps her most famous quotation, Julian wrote that faith and trust in God was all that one needed to get through anything that happens to us, no matter how hopeless it might seem. She wrote the words that Jesus spoke to her in her journal: “I can make all things well; I will make all things well; I shall make all things well; and as thou canst see for thyself, all manner of things shall be well.” Our world, filled with it’s obligations and distractions, is sometimes overwhelming. This may well lead us to hopelessness. It is then that the Divinely-revealed words (above) can be called upon to remind us of something St. Paul wrote: Suffering builds endurance, which produces character, that leads us to Hope, which shall never disappoint us. The time to pray for simplicity and quiet is when things are simple and quiet, not complicated and noisy. In hopeful prayer in the context of quiet, we build up our reserves of faith so that, if properly stored up, will sustain us through the “noise” that surrounds us.

Prayer: Lord God, in your compassion you granted to the Lady Julian many revelations of your nurturing and sustaining love: Move our hearts, like hers, to seek You above all things, for in giving us Yourself, You give us all. Through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


20. IS EVERY PRAYER ANSWERED

Scripture: Psalm 123:2-3       “As the eyes of a servant look to his master...so our eyes look to Thee, O Lord of Hosts.”

Meditation:
How do you and I handle trouble or pain when it comes? We all have our own “coping mechanisms,” and for many, one of those mechanisms is prayer. As a pastor, I’ve had lots of folks pray for help in time of need, and then come to me asking why “God hasn’t answered my prayer?” The quote from the Psalter above gives us a glimpse into this question. Look at the last phrase (above in Ps 123) and notice the part so often missed: UNTIL He shows mercy upon us.” God, being eternal, transcends time: time is not an issue for God, while it clearly is for us. Most people who wonder why God “hasn’t answered my prayers” have stopped praying due to frustration associated with not seeing God’s action in their issues. The trick is to continue praying, even though frustrated by time, “UNTIL He shows mercy upon us.” Jesus tells us that God answers all prayers offered to Him. Knowing that, let’s take some advice from King David’s Psalms: persevere in prayer! Answers will come! Never stop offering your concerns to God before He chooses a way to answer them.

Prayer: Almighty God, You are always more ready to hear than we are to pray, and to give more than we can desire or deserve: Help me not to be blinded by my concept of time, so that through persevering in prayer, I may be the recipient of Your answer and a beneficiary of Your Grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


21. THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS

Meditation:
Did you know that the Holy Name of Jesus is so great that it is repeated 977 times in New Testament? It’s that Name we celebrate on New Year’s Day, or in Church-speak, The Feast of the Holy Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For many years, Holy Name Day was associated with the Feast of the Circumcision. For in accordance to the Jewish culture of the days when Jesus dwelled on earth, a child became a full member of his family when he was circumcised, at which time he received his name. Matthew and Luker tell us that ”The invocation of the holy name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always.

When Jesus’ name is repeated often by a humbly attentive heart, the prayer is not lost by heaping up empty phrases, but holds fast to the word and “brings forth fruit with patience.” This prayer is possible “at all times” because it is not one occupation among others but the only occupation: that of loving God, which animates and transfigures every action in Christ Jesus.

From Saint Bernard (A.D. 1090-1153): The sweet Name of Jesus produces in us holy thoughts, fills the soul with noble sentiments, strengthens virtue, begets good works, and nourishes pure affections. All spiritual food leaves the soul dry, if it contain not that penetrating oil, the Name Jesus. When you take your pen, write the Name Jesus: if you write books, let the Name of Jesus be contained in them, else they will possess no charm or attraction for me; you may speak, or you may reply, but if the Name of Jesus sounds not from your lips, you are without unction and without charm. Jesus is honey in our mouth, light in our eyes, a flame in our heart. This name is the cure for all diseases of the soul. Are you troubled? think but of Jesus, speak but the Name of Jesus, the clouds disperse, and peace descends anew from heaven. Have you fallen into sin? so that you fear death? invoke the Name of Jesus, and you will soon feel life returning. No obduracy of the soul, no weakness, no coldness of heart can resist this holy Name; there is no heart which will not soften and open in tears at this holy name. Are you surrounded by sorrow and danger? invoke the Name of Jesus, and your fears will vanish.” Never yet was human being in urgent need, and on the point of perishing, who invoked this help-giving Name, and was not powerfully sustained. It was given us for the cure of all our ills; to soften the impetuosity of anger, to quench the fire of concupiscence, to conquer pride, to mitigate the pain of our wounds, to overcome the thirst of avarice, to quiet sensual passions, and the desires of low pleasures. If we call to our minds the Name of Jesus, it brings before us His most meek and humble heart, and gives us a new knowledge of His most loving and tender compassion. The Name of Jesus is the purest, and holiest, the noblest and most indulgent of names, the Name of all blessings and of all virtues; it is the Name of the God-Man, of sanctity itself. To think of Jesus is to think of the great, infinite God Who, having given us His life as an example, has also bestowed the necessary understanding, energy and assistance to enable us to follow and imitate Him, in our thoughts, inclinations, words and actions. If the Name of Jesus reaches the depths of
our heart, it leaves heavenly virtue there. Jesus’ Name embraces the Christian life. All of us began our journey through faith in Jesus. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we died with Jesus, were buried with Jesus and were raised as a new creation with Jesus. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to us. We live our faith in Jesus by manifesting love towards our brothers and sisters in Christ. Individual salvation depends entirely on the final judgment of Jesus. Without the Name of Jesus there would be no Sacraments, no being reborn again, no resurrection and no salvation. A world without Jesus would be a world without faith, without hope and without charity. Paul writes to the Philippians, “So great is the Most Holy Name of Jesus, that “God highly exalted Him and gave Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bend; in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”


22. JUSTICE

Scripture: Matthew 9:23-25        “When Jesus entered the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd (around the ruler’s daughter who was thought to be dead), Jesus said, ‘Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.’ But they laughed at Him. After the crowd had been put outside, He went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up.”

Meditation:
No matter what the situation, when Jesus was laughed at, He always “got the last laugh.” I believe, and trust, that God has a profound sense of humor. Were it not so, then why would people, created in His image, be able to laugh at something funny? Each year, at about this time, the “Darwin Awards” are presented to the “least evolved” among us. This week, instead of a “a profoundly spiritual meditation,” I’ve taken the liberty of relating “Award No. 10” that, I believe, shows the Divine sense of humor in the administration of justice. The story follows. In our list of things for which we are thankful, let us never forget that we are given the ability to enjoy the world, and laugh occasionally about what happens to us! “. . . . . When a man attempted to siphon gasoline from a parked motor home, he got much more than he bargained for. Police arrived at the scene to find a very sick man curled up next to a motor home near spilled sewage. A police spokesman said that the man admitted to trying to steal gasoline but plugged his siphon hose into the motor home’s sewage tank by mistake. The owner of the vehicle, convinced that justice had already been done, declined to press charges. . . .”

Prayer: O Heavenly Father, who hast filled the world with beauty and laughter: Open our eyes to behold Thy gracious Hand in all Thy works; that we, rejoicing in Thy whole creation, we may learn to serve Thee with gladness, for the sake of Him through whom all things were made; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.


23. LOYALTY AND FIDELITY

Scripture: Ruth 1:16-18        Ruth said to Naomi, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”

Meditation:
Some people are loyal and some people are not. After Naomi’s husband and sons died, she was left a widow as was her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Wanting to return to her homeland after a long absence, Naomi set out for Israel. Ruth, a gentile, against all of Naomi’s attempts to dissuade her, insisted on accompanying her mother-in-law. As a gentile, Ruth would receive no widow’s pension in Naomi’s Promised Land, no rights nor privileges, and virtually no hope of finding another husband among the Jews. Nonetheless, her loyalty to Naomi trumped any gain she might have received by staying in her own town and letting Naomi fend for herself. Little wonder we hear this reading often at weddings. We live in a society where loyalty is often short-lived. “Friends” often disappear in times of trouble; fidelity often is maintained only until a better offer comes along. But it doesn’t have to be that way with us as Christians! Ruth, as a result of her loyalty, did marry, and became the great-grandmother of King David. Jesus, in His loyalty to His Father’s will, even unto death, was raised to new life. Staying loyal often involves a cost, but the prize is always worth the price!

Prayer: Almighty God, grant us Thy gift of loyalty. For our homes, give us love and obedience; for our country, sacrifice and service; for our Church, reverence and devotion; and in everything make us true to Thee; through Thy Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. (From the Anglican Prayer Book for Soldiers and Sailors)


24. MAINTAINING MOMENTUM

Scripture: Ephesians 4:11       “The gifts God gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry (and) for building up the body of Christ....

Meditation:
The Body of Christ, as a Biblical term, refers to three primary realities: Jesus’ physical body, the Church, and the Real Presence of Jesus in Eucharistic bread and wine. While distinct concepts, they are inseparable. We can’t have “church” without an historical Jesus; a priest can’t celebrate the Eucharist alone; the Church as Body of Christ must continue Jesus’ work if it is to be the faithful Body it is called to be.
Easter didn’t (and doesn’t) happen in a vacuum. While modern visitors to the Holy Land can visit Jesus’ tomb, the stone that was rolled away isn’t anywhere in sight: perhaps it’s still rolling! And it should be! We must not forget that the Power that raised Christ from the dead caused enough momentum to propel the stone from the tomb and Christ from his slab. It powered Him through His Ascension to the right hand of the Father!
The key to “keeping Easter momentum” is to remember that Easter is a season, not just a day. We all practiced self-denial during Lent, but are we intentionally celebrating Easter for its FIFTY days? Come up with something you can do daily — something fun and restorative or joyful — and make it a part of your discipline until the Day of Pentecost. If you don’t keep the momentous Power of the Resurrection in mind, then don’t be surprised when “your stone stops rolling!”

Prayer: Almighty God, the Power that raised Christ, through death, to Your right hand in glory: Keep Easter before me through intentional celebration, so that I might be renewed daily by Your mighty power, and live as an icon to that power to the world that You came to save; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, in the power of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


25. MEMORIAL DAY

Scripture: John 15:13       Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, but ot lay down his life for his friends.”

Meditation:
Memorial Day is a day when these United States remember and honor those who have given their lives in the service of their Country. During times of war, as the national focus is centered on battles and sieges each day, Memorial Day can get lost in the shuffle or can focus on those who have fallen in current conflict. But we need to remember that, while we pray for and mourn those who have died in Iraq and it’s environs, current combat victims are not alone in the Role of National Honor. Memorial Day also honors those who have “made the ultimate sacrifice” in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the French and Indian War, the War Between the States, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the War in Vietnam, the Cold War and in the Gulf War as well. There are also those who honor, on Memorial Day, those who have died in the War on Crime, the Drug War, and other domestic and foreign conflicts. This year, as we picnic, swim, and celebrate on Monday next, let’s make sure we take time to say our prayers and thank God for those, who in this fallen world, have fallen themselves in the service of God and Country. May I suggest the following prayer which can be used at any Memorial Day Festivity: a prayer that will not only bless those now in Paradise, but that will share your faith and allow you to serve as an evangelist to family and friends . . . .

Prayer: Almighty God, the King of Saints, we praise and glorify Your Holy Name for all Your servants who have finished their course in this life in Your faith and fear: for the Blessed Virgin Mary, for the holy patriarchs, prophets, apostles and martyrs, and especially (on this day) all those who have given their lives in armed conflict for this nation, founded upon Your principles, known to us and unknown; and we pray that, encouraged by their examples, aided by their prayers, and strengthened by their fellowship, we may also have the courage to stand firm in Your gifts of liberty and freedom for ourselves and for others, and finally abide with them in Your presence with all the saints in light; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.


26. MIRACLES IN THE MIDST OF TRAGEDY

Scripture:  “Never neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angles unaware.”

Meditation:
For every horror story about Hurricane Katrina, there is a miracle. I’ve been at Dallas’ Reunion Arena and the Convention Center and, in the midst of the “Blame Game” and others who are trying to make political advantage of this disaster, I’ve seen my share of miracles. I’d like to share two with you, very briefly. The first miracle: It’s naturally for those who are in pain to voice that pain. But much of the complaining I hear on TV and in the paper is not coming from those displaced. In a week at shelters in Dallas, I’ve heard sadness and pain, but have not heard one complain from anyone displaced from the hurricane. The second miracle: Elena, displaced, in her 70s and looking for her sons, has been displaced before. Her stories as a Slav under Nazi occupation defy imagination. Through the Super Dome, with donated men’s clothes on her back, her strength and her faith made it possible for her to say, with her thick Slavic accent, with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye, “I’ll be just fine. If I can live through Adolph Hitler, I can live through anything!” We can all entertain angles in one way or another. Through donations or through volunteering, go out and find your own angel!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, grant us to to be so overwhelmed by adversity that we slip into the temptations to blame and complain. Help us find our own angel, and then give us the strength to sacrifice for his/her own good. Amen.


27. NEVER GIVE UP

Scripture: 1 Samuel 1:10-11       “Hannah was deeply distressed and...made this vow: “O LORD of hosts, if only you will look on my misery and remember me, and not forget me, but will give me a male child, then I will set him before You as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.”

Meditation:
What mother hasn’t had trouble with one of her children?! Monnica sure had her share with her son, Augustine who, to this day, is the patron saint of brewers because of the “constancy of his patronage.” At one point, the Church said to the brewers, in so many words, “this bud’s for you!” Drinking, combined with womanizing and criminal activity, truly made him the kid that “only a mother could love.” And she did. She never gave up on him, praying constantly for his conversion and long hoped-for change of life-style and, in God’s time, he repented and was baptized.
As most know, Augustine became an important figure in the life of the Church: a bishop, theologian, founder of religious orders and academic, he was instrumental in defining Christianity as we know it today. Had Monnica, his long-suffering mother, given up on him and finally turned him out, one of the greatest Christian thinkers and “do-ers” of all time might have been lost to the world. There are people, even in our own families, that we’d like to get rid of, write off, or just ignore. But how do we know that, in so doing, we might deprive the world of someone who could serve it through Christ as well as did Augustine?

Prayer: O Lord, through spiritual discipline You strengthened Monnica to persevere in offering her love, prayers and tears for the conversion of Augustine, her son: Deepen my devotion to You; use me in accordance with Your will, so that I might bring others, even and especially those closest to me, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and to livinGHis image. Through the same Jesus Christ, my Lord and my Model. Amen


28. SAINT NICHOLAS

Scripture: 1 John 4:7-14          Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

Meditation:
Known as Klaus, Mikulas, Niklas and Santa Claus, Bishop of Myra, (in modern Turkey) was generous to the poor, and special protector of the innocent and wronged. Many stories grew up around him prior to his becoming Santa Claus. For example: Upon hearing that a local man had fallen on such hard times that he was planning to sell his daughters into prostitution, Nicholas went by night to the house and threw three bags of gold in through the window, saving the girls from an evil life. These three bags, gold generously given in time of trouble, became the three golden balls that indicate a pawn broker’s shop, of whom he is also a patron saint. It is also said that he raised to life three young boys who had been murdered and pickled in a barrel of brine to hide the crime. These stories led to his patronage of children in general, and of barrel-makers besides. Factual or legendary, his care of those who cannot care for themselves is famous and celebrated throughout the world. His example is worthy of emulation at any time, but especially now as we prepare for how we will use our time, talent, and treasure as we prepare for Christmas. When you shop and spend, as yourself, WWSND (What Would St. Nicholas Do)?

Prayer: Almighty God, in your love you gave your servant Nicholas of Myra a perpetual name for deeds of kindness both on land and sea: Grant, we pray, that your Church may never cease to work for the happiness of children, the safety of sailors, the relief of the poor, and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


29. OBEDIENCE TO GOD

Scripture: Psalm 119:7        “I will praise you with an upright heart, as I learn your righteous laws.”

Meditation:
When I was a child, I learned that rules had to be followed so that I could “stay safe and have a good time.” This was not an original thought of my parents; God wrote Ten Commandments that, if followed by everyone, would make our world a great deal safer and more joyful. Jesus came because we could NOT live by God’s Law, but that doesn’t give us license to disregard them. St. Paul said “no” to those who asked, “Shall we sin all the more so that Grace may be more abundant?” The Psalmist is more of a scholar than a poet. There is nothing more important for him than the pursuit of the knowledge of God which, according to him, is the only knowledge worth having. Learning as much as possible about God allows him to participate in God’s righteousness and makes his life more godly and fulfilled. Note the use of the word “as.” Knowledge of God is a process. “As” more knowledge of God is gained, our very being becomes more righteous (upright), and we show our increased joy in gratitude and praise. Let’s not forget that knowing and obeying God’s Law is inseparable from the joy and peace that comes from righteousness. That’s why we often feel good for doing the “right” thing! True joy in life comes through Divine obedience.

Prayer: O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of Your people who call upon You, and grant that we may know and understand what things we ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who live and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


30. PLENTY OR POVERTY

Scripture: Ezekiel 12:3,6        God said, “Therefore, son of man, pack your belongings for exile . . . . Put them on your shoulder and carry them out at dusk.


Meditation: Bettie, Robert and I have moved into a new house (thus explaining the absence of an E-pistle last week). How much easier it would have been were we simply to have put our possessions in a bag, hoisted it on our shoulders, and headed off for our new home! But we were and are encumbered by many “things.” It wasn’t all that long ago that we opened Christmas presents — things — and rejoiced in them. But when it comes to moving, “things” take on a different flavor. I think a lot of the often compulsive desire to hang onto “stuff” come from living with a stewardship of scarcity. Beyond special keepsakes, “I have to keep this, because I may never get another;” or “I can’t throw/give this away because I paid for it,” might represent a lack of faith in God’s ability and willingness to provide us with what we need. The result: we have too much, and those who might better use our “stuff” continue in want. Living a stewardship of abundance involves keeping those things that we need, and those that hold a special place in our hearts, and trusting God to provide us with “our daily bread.” “Stuff” understood this way de-clutters our lives and benefits others as we’re more ready to give of God’s plenty than to hoard it. Here’s a suggestion: By Ash Wednesday, make a commitment to give away 10-20 things to those who need them. For extra credit, click the following: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/book_id=49&chapter=12&verse=26&end_verse=28&version=31&context=context

Prayer: O merciful Creator, Your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for Your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of Your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


31. THE POOR WITH US

Scripture: Matthew 25:31        Jesus said, “The poor you will have always.”

Meditation:
Remember last Christmas when you couldn’t watch TV without seeing something about the Tsunami every five minutes? And just weeks ago, the media was dominated completely by coverage of Katrina and Rita. As time passes, we hear increasingly less and less about these disasters, while the people and lives affected by them still suffer profoundly under their devastating wrath. The old saying, “out of sight, out of mind,” is more true than we would like to admit! So many people have acted with generosity and compassion, witnessing to the power of Christ in and among us. But we can’t fall into the trap of being content by having done our part by having written a check or having volunteered our time. The problems created by Rita and Katrina will be real for years, and can be handled only with dedication and generosity over the “long haul.” We can think and talk about the hurricanes in the past tense, but not the people. They will, as the poor to whom Jesus referred, be with us for a long, long time. “What plans do I have for Katrina and Rita survivors for today? For the future?” We must live in the imitation of the God in whose image we were created: constantly offering love and help, not just yesterday, but today and forever.

Prayer: Almighty God, Your life-giving love never ends. Help me to so hold those who suffer in my heart, that I might continue to act with generosity in their interest today, but in the months and years to come. Amen.


32. PUNCTUALITY

Scripture: Psalm 90:4       For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has past.....


Meditation:
A thousand years may seem like a day to God, but not to human beings who live in time. Until we reach Heaven, we are bound by time and stewards of it. In our modern society we “spend” money and “spend” time, as if they were a commodity to be treasured. They are! But the commodity time is not exclusive to the person who is “spending it.” The way you are I use time effects others and shows how we value others’ time and. in a real sense, how we value them. How many of us have been frustrated by by endless stays in waiting rooms, but are constantly late ourselves to social events, movies, parties, appointments and worship services? Such tardiness interrupts events and distracts attentions, and is profoundly distracting and annoying to those who are on-time. There is no such thing as fashionable late. Everyone runs late now and then, but those who constantly arrive late demonstrate the belief that their time is more valuable than others’. Perpetual tardiness is not only demonstrative of carelessness; it shows disrespect and sinful pride as it frustrates and inconveniences others. Our real selves are revealed when we look at what we “spend”, and upon what/whom we “spend” it. That is especially true of God’s gift of time. Do you have sufficient humility to respect others by being on time?

Prayer: Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the use of time, that we may use it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek to be treated with respect and dignity, grant us also the humility to treat others’ time in like manner in which we would have them treat ours; through Jesus Christ our Lord who, through His use of time, sanctified it and made it holy.


33. RELATIONSHIP MENDING

Scripture: John 20:24-5        Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

Meditation:
The Scriptures don’t tell us WHY Thomas wasn’t with the other Disciples when they saw Him after the Resurrection. But we DO know that, because he wasn’t with the others, he missed his first chance to see Jesus risen from the dead. Community is important. As Christians, our relationship with Christ is not “me and Jesus,” rather “us and Jesus” (which includes me as well). The holidays are a good time to check on your “community relationships.” Is there someone from whom you are estranged — a family member, a co-worker, a friend you “done ya’ wrong,” etc.? [Christmas is guaranteed to do one of the following: it provides an opportunity for you to do what you can to heal the brokenness of that relationship, or it will make you so mindful of that brokenness that the hurt will be intensified as the rest of the world celebrates “peace, good will to men.”] Swallow the pride; lose face; admit a wrong; apologize; take the first step; do all that you can and leave the results to God. As Jesus became one of us and made “communion” possible, do what you can to restore “communion” with at least one person this Holy Season.

Prayer: O God, I have an opportunity today. I know not what the road to reconciliation will bring, but make me eager and ready to start the process. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently, And if I am to take a risk and even suffer, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, O Lord, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.


34. STRESS MANAGEMENT

Scripture: John 14:1        Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled...”

Meditation:
We’ve meditated on this Scripture text before in the context of “worry.” This time, “stress.” My favorite definition of stress is “the distance between expectation and reality.” Lots of books and articles have been written about the elimination of stress from our lives. This, however well-intentioned, only adds to the stress! We live in a fallen world; stress is a reality that we will have until we enter Heaven. So stress management comes down to this: try to make your “expectations” as close to “reality” as possible. What do we “expect” from spouses, children, friends, employers, employees, etc.? And what is the “reality” present that we must live with. When our expectations are closer to reality, stress decreases. Try it.

Prayer: Dear Lord, in whom there is no worry nor stress: Give us peace through being willing to see things as they are, and then, give us the wisdom to measure our expectations more carefully and realistically. Amen.


35. STUBBORNNESS AS SCIENCE

Scripture: Acts 26:14        (On Saul’s way to Damascus to persecute Christians, Jesus said to him,) “Saul, Saul: Why do you persecute Me? It’s hard to kick against the goads.”

Meditation:
In the rural, agrarian Old World, oxen were
used extensively. A “goad,” an often-pointed stick, controlled by the farmer, was placed in a particularly sensitive area of the ox’s flesh, to “motivate” the performance of the commanded task. When the ox was stubborn, the pressure of the goad increased, causing “discomfort” for the ox, against which he would kick. Kicking only exerted more pressure on the goad and more pain for the ox. Hence the _expression, “it’s hard to kick against the goads.” Oxen, however, are not alone in God’s creation with respect to “kicking against the goads.” We, too, when we experience the pain or failure of rebelling against God’s commands (in marriages, family life, employment, personal relationships, etc.) often stubbornly try to manage that pain by pushing our agenda further, with the vain hope that our will might win out against God’s, or that He might let us slip through, exempt from His commands. News flash: It doesn’t work! We might experience temporary relief, but the goad is still there, felt even more when we push or kick against it. God uses goads so that we might experience a foretaste of Heaven before we enter it fully by living righteous lives, and to protect that same foretaste for others. Rebelling against God’s plan might be attractive, but it’s doomed to fail! Rebellion against God and His commands for our life only brings the goad nearer, and the pain associated with it “closer to home.” Guaranteed!

Prayer: Almighty God, once again I offer and present unto Thee my will, my soul and my body, to be a holy, reasonable, and living sacrifice unto Thy plan for my life. Grant that, as I attempt to repent from my own stubborn agenda and embrace Thine, I might be filled with Thy Grace and Heavenly benediction, and be made one body with Christ, that He may dwell in me, and I in Him. And when I err, judge me not by weighing my merits, but by pardoning my offenses; through Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God. Amen.


36. SUPPORT FOR CLERGY

Scripture: Matthew        28:19-20 Jesus said, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Meditation:
After Seminary graduation, countless priests and ministers go into the world to spread the Gospel. The life of an ordained minister is not an easy one: clergy are misunderstood frequently, make countless sacrifices, and live in a fish bowl. Some clergy handle this better than others — and it’s all worth it when you consider the joy of serving God in answering the call to ordination — but all clergy need support and prayer. Please pray for your minister every day, and especially for those new ministers who enter the world from Seminary, on fire with the love of Christ, ready to spread the Kingdom of God.

Prayer: Everliving God, whose will it is that all should come to You through your Son Jesus Christ: Inspire our witness to Him, that all may know the power of His forgiveness and the hope of His resurrection. Bless the seminaries who train men and women to spread Your Gospel, and be with those new clerics who graduate, that they me be filled with zeal to minister in Your Name; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


37. TAKE UP YOUR CROSS AND FOLLOW ME

Scripture: Matt 16:25        Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Meditation:
Throughout twenty years of priestly ministry I’ve been able to see people in very difficult positions: e.g. in deaths of loved ones, financial and marital disasters, issues with aging parents and disobedient children. . . . So often I have heard of the difficulties of this world as “my cross to bear.” Today, as we celebrate Holy Cross Day, let’s take a look at what “taking up one’s cross” is really about. We live in a fallen world that throws at us disappointments, sorrows, conflict and stress each and every day. But let me suggest that toting around the baggage of this world isn’t what Jesus meant by “take up your cross and follow me.” The taking up of a cross is a conscious choice. Jesus did not have His life taken from Him, rather He chose to give it freely. Similarly, when we “take up a cross,” it’s something we choose to do and not something thrust upon us. And in the Scriptures, Jesus prefaces the concept of “taking up a cross” with “let him deny himself.” Legitimate “crosses” are chosen. Always. In order to take up His Cross, Jesus had to bend over, place Himself in a difficult physical condition, and expose Himself to ridicule and pain. Only after picking up His Holy Cross could He carry it. What have you sacrificed lately in order to follow Jesus? What have you “done without” in order that others may be recipients of Jesus working through you? Time? Talent? Treasure? All of us “give” something to God, but how many are willing to “do without” to give it. If you can’t remember the last time you really sacrificed something to serve Christ, His Church, or one of His children . . . . .

Prayer: Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that He might draw the whole world to Himself: Mercifully grant that I, who glory in the mystery of Christ’s sacrifice and my redemption, may have grace consciously to take up my cross and follow Him; who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.


38. TEMPTATION'S DEFENSE

Scripture: Matthew 4:4 Jesus answered Satan by saying, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Meditation:
All of us encounter temptation from time to time. Keep in mind that temptation is not a sin; what we do with the temptation can either be virtuous or sinful. Jesus, being fully human, was “tempted in every way as we are, but did not sin.” In the Bible verse above, Jesus responds to the first of the three temptations offered to him by Satan in the wilderness, immediately after His baptism. But there’s something special about this verse. In each of the three temptations, Jesus quotes Holy Scripture (what we now call the Hebrew Scriptures or the Old Testament). This verse is a direct quote from Deuteronomy 8:3. Here’s the point: When Jesus faced temptation, He turned to the Word of God for help. The Scriptures “armed” Jesus with what He needed to resist temptation. And they can do the same for us. Involve yourself in a daily Bible reading. It can be structured, or it can be as simple as randomly opening the Bible and reading the chapter you see. Scripture can’t help us if we don’t know it. “Arm” yourself!

Prayer: Blessed Lord, who as caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life. Amen.


39. WANT VERSUS NEED

Scripture: John 20:26-28        A week later Jesus’ disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’.”

Meditation: [Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas? Or, should I ask, “Did you get everything you needed for Christmas?”. Modern marketing is successful when it changes “wants” into “needs.”] Was Thomas a victim of this same dynamic? Thomas wanted to believe in the Resurrection. He wanted to touch Jesus’ wounds and insert his hand into His side. He wanted proof. But that’s not what he needed. A week later Jesus appeared to Thomas again, and told him he could have his wants satisfied. But nowhere does it say Thomas “took Him up” on His offer. Thomas saw Him, heard his own words repeated, and without the “proof” of actually touching Jesus — getting what he wanted — Thomas came to faith and declared Him “Lord and God.” No matter what presents we opened, if we remembered that Christ was sent to us at Christmas by a loving Father to make eternal life possible, then we got what we needed for Christmas. [As we contemplate the coming of the new year,] let’s take some time to think about what it is we “want” and what it is we “need.” There might be a difference! Acknowledging that difference might well help us realign our priorities and make more possible the “abundant life” that Jesus has in store for us in this world, as well as in the future.

Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, You are always more ready to hear than I am to pray, and to give more than I either desire or deserve: Pour upon me the abundance of Your mercy, forgiving me those things of which my conscience is afraid, and supplying my needs by giving me those good things for which I am not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


40. WHAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT

Scripture: “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’”

Meditation:
St. Columba, the missionary who brought Christianity to the people of Scotland, received many honors as a missionary and as a priest, as he was instrumental in bringing the Christian Faith to Iona, where his boat landed in Scotland, and to the rest of the country. He was a “high-visibility” Christian, often finding himself in the limelight, and frequently the center of attention. His death, however, showed what was really important to him. After waking one Sunday morning, while working on a translation of the Psalms into the native tongue, Columba lay down his pen, and died. According to his sixth- century biographer, his last words were: “Sunday is called in the sacred Scriptures a day of rest, and truly to me it will be such, for it is the last day of my life, and I shall enter into rest after the fatigues of my labors.” Columba understood profoundly the Gospel quotation above. In all the good he did, that of which he was most proud was that his name was to be written in heaven. Like Blessed Columba, let’s not strive so much as to be important in this life, as to be present in the next!

Prayer: Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


41. WORRY

Scripture: John 14:1        Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled...”

Meditation:
Lots of us spend lots of time in worry. We fret about this, lose sleep about that.... A friend of mine recently reminded me of one of Ben Franklin’s quotes with respect to worrying. It’s consistent with Jesus’ admonition to trust in God and “let not your hearts be troubled.” This week, short and sweet. Intellectually, we know that worry cannot change reality and that it drains us of energy that can be better used. When you are tempted to worry, remember that, as Franklin said, “Worry is interest paid, in advance, on a debt you may never owe!”

Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

42. USING FOLKS

Scripture: (From Genesis 20)         While he stayed in Gerar, Abraham said of his wife Sarah, "She is my sister." Then Abimelech, king of Gerar, sent for Sarah and took her as a wife because e believed her a maiden. But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, "You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman." Now return the Abraham's wife and he will pray for you and you will live.

Meditation:

Presenting his wife as his sister is nothing new for Abraham; Genesis 12 recounts such a presentation to Pharaoh. In ancient eastern cultures it was not uncommon for a king, upon desiring a married woman, to have her husband killed, therefore making her available. (Later we'll witness King David do just this with Bathsheba's husband, Uriah the Hittite.) As his sister instead of his wife, Sarah would be no threat to him. Abraham uses Sarah to save his life, even though he was aware of the great price Sarah would pay for such an identity. But Abraham isn't alone; King Abimelech was quite willing to use her as well. Abraham was a rich man, a powerful leader, and even a military force to be reckoned with. Abimelech would benefit from an alliance with him, most easily gained by marrying int the family, a common royal custom that exists even to this day.
Sarah, considerably older in this story than she was when Pharaoh desired her for her beauty, is the real victim here. How must she have felt when, not once but twice, her husband was willing to sell her for a price, no matter what his motivation. While not that surprising in the ancient world where women were understood more in terms of chattel property than as equal human beings, it's shocking to see the extent to which we, in the present, are willing to take advantage of and use other people as means to an end.
Hitler used the six million Jews he killed in the Holocaust to promote his warped ideology of Arian supremacy. Ugly large-nosed Cyrano de Bergerac uses the handsome man, Christian, to woo Roxanne, Cyrano's love. Captain Bligh uses the men of the HM Bounty to satisfy his sadistic urges. Evil housekeeper Mrs. Danvers uses Rebecca to take revenge on Maxim de Winter in Alfred Hitchcock's American directorial debut, Rebecca. And, Hitler poisoned and shot himself, Cyrano loses Roxanne's love, Bligh had his ship taken away from him and was set adrift, and deranged Mrs. Danvers burned to death, trapped in Mansion Manderley, a blackened-crispy-crunchy victim of her own arson!
When we take credit for someone else's work, flirt with one to make another jealous, copy someone's homework, or otherwise use a human being as a means to an end, we deny their dignity as people, ends in themselves. And as that happens, our dignity diminishes as well. We can do better than that!

Prayer: Loving God, I thank You for the gift of life You gave and continue to give to me and to all of us. I ask Your pardon and forgiveness for my own failure and the failure of all people to respect and foster all forms of life in our universe. I pray that with Your grace, I and all people will reverence, protect, and promote all life and that we will be especially sensitive to the unborn, the abused, the neglected, he disabled, and the elderly. I pray, too, that all who make decisions about life in any form will do so with wisdom, love, and courage. Living God, I praise and glorify You as Father, Source of all life, as Son, Savior of our lives, and as Spirit, Sanctifier of our lives. Amen. (Adapted from Prayers for the Respect of Life)

43. WHEN SOMETHING OR SOMEONE IS UNFAIR


Scripture: (Matthew 5:10)        Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Meditation:
Talk about a soap opera. Here - as Paul Harvey might say - is "the rest of the story" from Genesis 39: The LORD was with Joseph as he was sold to Potiphar, who left Joseph in charge of his household. Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while Potiphar's wife took notice of him and said, "Come to bed with me!" But he refused. And though she pleaded day after day, he refused. One day while working she caught him by his cloak and said, "Come to bed with me!" But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house naked. Insulted and angry, she called her servants. "Look," she said, "this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house." When Potiphar came home she told him the same story. After he heard it he took Joseph and put him in prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden, and the warden put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners.
It's just not fair! Joseph didn't do anything wrong, but he was punished all the same. Sound familiar? All of us have been placed in this situation. And what did Jesus do wrong that He was subject to the humiliating death of the Cross? Being treated unfairly is part of living in a fallen world. So the question is not "Why have I been mistreated?" but rather, "What should I do when I've been mistreated?"
The one thing you shouldn't do - both because it's sinful and because it won't do you any good - is to respond in kind, mistreating those who have mistreated you. We see this in every political campaign in attack ads and in the opponent's responding with even more vicious attack ads. Here are a few suggestions how to respond virtuously and, at the same time, convert the person who has treated you wrongly.
First, be human and be yourself. Usually those who treat folks unfairly lose sight of your identity as a fellow human being. It's harder to mistreat a person than an inanimate object. Second, in that same spirit, try to remind those who mistreat you of what you have in common. This often leads the attacker to realize that in attacking you, they are attacking themselves. Third, show you're listening to the criticism, even though you're being treated unfairly. This can help convert the attacker into an ally, one with whom you can solve a problem. Together. Fourth, forgive your assailant. You can't deal productively with anything or anyone if you're holding a grudge. And finally, pray for those who would hurt you. Even though you may be able to handle the attacks, only God can change the attacker. Have you noticed? Jesus did all of these things to those who treated Him unfairly, even those who crucified Him. The Lord Jesus Christ gives us the perfect model for our human behavior. If it was good enough for Jesus . . .

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I thank you for sharing my human nature by suffering on the Cross for sins You did not commit and wrongs that you did not perform. Now I ask for Your strength to forgive, as You did, those who are unfair to me. Empty me of hateful and vengeful thoughts and fill me with Your love and forgiveness. Forgive those who try to do me harm through their words and through their deeds. And let me be, in their sight, an icon of Your strength and mercy, that they too might be brought from evil into good. In your Name. Amen.

44. UNITY THROUGH STRIFE

Scripture (Psalm 142:1)       "I cry out to the Lord; I plead for the Lord's mercy."


Meditation: Most folks over thirty can remember what they were doing when thy heard that President Kennedy was shot. For the current generation, the same dynamic is true about the terror attack on September 11, 2001, the seventh anniversary of which we observe tomorrow. I was in my office early that day, visiting with an ex-student who phoned me from -- of all places -- an office on Wall Street in lower Manhattan, just a few blocks from the World Trade Center. Our conversation ended when she said, "I just heard a horrible noise; I need to go and see what happened." (As victims were running out of the soon-to-collapse first tower, imagine the mix of fear and pride as I watched her, in a news broadcast, running toward it to help!) I left my office at the church and soon arrived at our Parish Day School to find teachers and students huddled around TV sets, watching a live broadcast from New York, when the second plane it. We summoned the students to the Chapel and, kneeling, prayed the Great Litany, the first thing to be included in the first English Book of Common Prayer (AD 1549), which pleads God's mercy and protection and is used historically in time of war. What I observed in the students that day was a mix of two important Biblical concept: genuine prayer and courageous works of mercy.
What followed in the next days and months was nothing less than miraculous: our nation in a post-Christian age on its knees and begging to be helpful: there were special services in most of our churches; the contributions to the American Red Cross broke all previous records. And . . . the nation was united in a way that it hadn't been since World War II. But it took a tragedy to generate those prayers and right stewardship.
In these days of partisanship, class warfare, and those willing to play "race cards" and "gender cards;" in these times of politics's vicious personal attacks, selfishness, and deceit, it would serve us well to remember the way our great country reacted when it was attacked by Middle Eastern terrorists. We would do good to realize that attacks from within are more destructive than attacks from without. And, last but not at all least, we fail ourselves and our God if we wait for tragedy and horror to spur us to righteous actions. It may be true that "there are no atheists in foxholes." But we need not wait for a volley of bullets to remind us "Whose" we are.

Prayer: O God, You have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect. And, we pray, fill us with a sense of Your righteous goodness, that we may reach out in love and generosity to others and be faithful in prayer in calm as well as in stress; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

45. DEALING WITH PAIN

Scripture: 1 Peter 5:10)        "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.'"

Meditation: When my now-car-driving-son was much smaller, he had a magic hanky: a handkerchief with his initials embroidered on it in red, that when applied to a painful area on his body, would alleviate all pain and suffering of any kind. Having run across it the other day in the back of a drawer, I put it in my pocket and planned to show it to my wife; the memories! But I heard a shout from another room and, upon investigating, I found my son holding his head after having hit it on the corner of an open kitchen cabinet door. Having nothing to lose, I put it gently on his head. Recognizing it, he smiled, hugged me, and went about his business. It still works!
More than 5 million people, including yours truly, deal with chronic pain. Even if you're fortunate enough not to count yourself among then, all of us have physical hurts from time to time, in varying severity. When so afflicted, there are some positive things we can do to make ourselves feel better, and to minister to those whom might be on-looking, at the same time. So, when in pain, try . . .
(1) Remember that pain is not a "thing," but a series of sensations that, no matter how severe or how present, constantly changes. It is not an objectifiable "IT," to be thought about and dwelt on, but an event than ultimately will pass.
(2) Try to experience pain as a learning experience, -- actually try to intellectualize it -- attempting to discover more about its cause and effect each time it happens. This will help you deal with it more effectively with your health professional and helps you deal with it more rationally than emotionally.
(3) Share it only with someone who has the ability to help you. This doesn't mean share it with the whole world. There is great virtue in suffering in silence with respect to family and friends; there is only stupidity in not telling your doctor about it, even if that means making an appointment to do so. There are no extra points in Heaven given to those who keep pain to themselves, thereby debilitating relief.
(4) Visualize the Suffering Christ -- Jesus on the Cross -- and remind yourself that He understands and shares your pain with you and that, through it, God opened to Him the eternal reality of Heaven.
(5) In so far as you are able, do something. Physical and intellectual activity help time pass more quickly and, often, diminish the effects that pain may have upon you.

Prayer: O God, the source of all health: So fill my heart with faith in Your love, that with calm expectancy I may make room for Your power to possess me, and gracefully accept Your healing. Remind me that by Your patience in suffering You hallowed earthly pain and gave us the example of obedience to Your Father's will. Be near me in my time of weakness and pain; sustain me by Your grace, that my strength and courage may
not fail; heal me according to Your will; and help me always to believe that what happens to me here is of little account if You hold me in eternal life, my Lord and my God. Amen.

46. TRUTH IN EMAIL FORWARDING

Scripture: John 8:23       "Jesus said, 'You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.'"

Meditation:
Barak Obama is a Muslim: Kenyan missionaries say so! Bill Gates is giving away money. There is a missionary in India who wants to move money to the US and will give you money to help. Listerine can keep insects away. John McCain hates the Democratic Party! And the list goes on: forwarded email messages that just aren't true. At the outset they may seem innocent enough; after all, anyone with half a mind realizes that the internet and email messages have to be viewed with a sceptical eye. Everything you read isn't true - everybody knows that. Not so!
Misinformation is worse and potentially more damaging than no information at all. If you don't believe this, then check out the stories at the end of this email (all of which come from reliable sources and checked to be true). The internet (and email, even though it carries your name/address) provides a degree of anonymity that leads many people to believe they're not culpable or responsible for passing on lies. Whether over the internet, telephone or in person, if you repeat falsehoods you're guilty of bearing false witness, a violation against the Ninth Commandment. Sin is sin, no matter the venue.
It takes so little time and effort to check something out before you hit the forward button on your keyboard. Perhaps the easiest way is to enter the item in question into a Google or Yahoo Search. More reliable yet is to check with www.Snopes.com, a website dedicated to validating "urban legends" and lies.
I used to think that if I couldn't find it on Snopes.com then it was true. Not so either. Just yesterday someone sent me the news that I had forwarded something only partly true. I stand as one indicted as well, with a new approach: if you can't prove it's true, just don't send it. The same rules apply to the forward button as they do to the phone's touch-tone keypad. Gossip is gossip in any form. And it's sinful. People have been misled, become ill, even lost their lives as a result of misinformation they've received online. Don't be the cause for someone else's pain.
Stories of harm done through misinformation: SUICIDE, MEDICAL, INSECT REPELLENT, FAITH, POLITICS. Here are a few examples of "truths" that bear checking out: . . .
Suicide
Medicine
Insect Repellants
Barak Obama
John McCain

Prayer: Lord, help me speak and write only the truth. Don't let me spread rumors and falsehoods by intent or through laziness. Remind me that anything I say or pass on, no matter how, becomes my own words. And, as my own words, I'm responsible for them and the harm they do. Keep me honest, online and off. I ask this in the Name of Him who is Perfect Honesty and Truth: Jesus, Your Son. Amen.

47. IT'S IN THE BIBLE!

Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16-17        "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that God's people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."


Meditation: Once upon a time, a man with financial trouble went to his pastor for counsel, who told him that everything he needed to know was in the Holy Bible. The next Sunday the man greeted the pastor with a huge smile and said, "It's amazing, Pastor! All I did was open the Bible and found the answer to all my financial problems." When asked what he found, the man said, "I closed my eyes, opened the Book, and there it was: Chapter 11!" While the pastor's advise was true, not all of us know how to find what we need in Holy Writ to address our problems. Here are two ideas, accessible on the web, that I use regularly: http://www.BibleGateway.com contains the whole Bible, cataloged by book, chapter and verse, and thematically as well. It also has some marvelous search tool to find specific passages or words, wherever they might be. http://www.missionstclare.com has a lectionary (a systematic, day-by-day reading of the Bible, that will cover all major Biblical themes in two years, if read daily.) Do check them out. St. Timothy is right: all scripture is valuable for what we face everyday. But you have to read if you want to access its wisdom!

Prayer: Blessed Lord, You caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life. Amen.

48. VOTING: RENDERING TO GOD AND CAESAR

Scripture: Matthew 22:21        "Jesus said, Therefore, render unto Caesar that which is Caesars, and unto God that which is God's.'"


Meditation: This quote from Matthew's Gospel is one of the most frequently quoted in the New Testament. Some people use it to understand stewardship and giving; others for earthly obligations held in comparison with Heavenly ones. But no matter how you "slice it," it's lesson can reach to virtually any issue that we encounter in life.
I don't need to remind anyone that election day is generally around November 4. And I would be remiss in my duty if I were not to remind you that, as Christians, we have not only the privilege of going to the polls today, but the obligation to do so. But why is that so? And how can we apply the familiar verse, above, to our duty as members of a republic that depends on its peoples' input to guide its course?
Scripture tells us that there were those who came to Jesus to trick Him by asking "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?" Remember Jesus' response? "Give me a coin. Whose likeness is on it?" They presented a penny, and told Jesus the image on the coin depicted Caesar. As Jews forbidden to own or possess images of people (to avoid violating the Second Commandment), they actually tricked themselves when they showed a coin to Jesus, with Caesar's likeness on it. Trapped by their own words, they slipped away, tricked rather than tricking! (Matt 21:17-21)
On Election Day we have an opportunity perform both of Jesus' commands: to give to government and God that which rightly belongs to them. Going into the voting booth satisfies Jesus' mandate to give our government what it needs for democracy to function: the input of the governed to chose the governors. Christ challenges us all to make a difference in the world. Thinking and praying about how we can help win the world for Christ satisfies Our Lord's mandate to render unto the Almighty what we owe Him as grateful recipients of His love and mercy. So, if you haven't already voted, examine what you know about God's will for the world and the creatures He created. Then go, and render unto Caesar.
As you consider how you can best partner with God to do His will, remember these concepts of Revealed Biblical Truth....
As God is the creator and the source of all life, and as His Son, Jesus, took human form in the Incarnation (the Christmas Miracle), all human life (from the instant of conception to the eventuality of mortal death) is holy and sacred. (Gen 1; John 1)
The strong in society have a God-given obligation to care for the weak, especially widows, orphans and refugees. (Ex 22; James 1)
If we are to be judged on anything, we will be judged on the way we have treated the poor. (Matt 25)
We have an obligation to make earth as much like Heaven as possible. (Luke 11)

Prayer: Almighty God, to whom we must give an account for all powers and privileges, guide the people of the United States as they elect officials and representatives; that, by faithful decisions and wise laws, the rights of all shall be protected and our nations enabled to fulfill Your purposes. Grant that we may be willing to make the sacrifice of time and thorough thought and prayer that we might meet our obligations to render unto God and government that which rightly belongs to each; through Jesus Christ our Lord, He who was divinely elected as Savior and Redeemer of all men and women, in unity with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

49. AFTER AN ELECTION . . . .

Scripture: Matthew 22:21        "And Jesus said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

Meditation: At the local phone, Mary, the day before what she was told was the most important election in recent history, reported for duty. A faithful volunteer, Mary dialed the next number on the list of registered voters, ready to solicit support for her candidate. On the other end of the line was an elderly man who, although pleasant enough and fun to visit with, had decided to vote for the other guy. Only one problem: homebound, long ago having surrendered his driver's license, he had no way to the polls. Mary was amazed to hear the polite voice coming through her headset, asking, "I hate to impose, but . . . could you take me to vote?" After remembering that partisanship was less important than his democracy-granted right to vote, she asked him, "What time can you be ready in the morning?"
Three phones to her left, Ramona was starting what she jocularly claimed to be "Call #1003!" The phone room grew quieter as all gradually tuned in on her phone call that involved abortion, health care, taxes, and the war. "We're finished. Good bye," eventually came from her lips in an uncharacteristically trembling voice. A thunder of applause filled the room almost as completely as did the silence a moment before. "Please, please," pleaded Ramona, "No. Please stop." "But you did so well! That's the best call I've ever heard," commented another caller. "I don't think so," continued Ramona. "You didn't hear the woman on the other end praying aloud to God to send me to Hell because, as she said, 'I was so filled with evil and so sinfully and blasphemously wrong.'"
This election had no choice but to be historical: had either party been elected, a "first" would have taken place with respect to ethnic/gender equality. That in itself is worth rejoicing; this should be celebrated by all Americans! The election is over; it's time for partisanship to subside. No matter how you voted; we ALL have a President/Vice President Elect. Holding on to the reasons that you voted as you did is no excuse not to accept the duly-elected winner. Holding one to accountability is one thing; being mean-spirited is another. Let's all give Mr. Obama a chance. If we can do that - in a real sense - we will all win.
Jesus, while He held on to those concepts He believed were right, was willing to let Caesar exercise authority over Him. As His followers, we can hardly refuse to do the same!

Prayer: O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to Thy merciful care, that, being guided by Thy Providence, we may dwell secure in Thy peace. Grant to the President and President Elect of the United States, our nation's Governors, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do Thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve us in Thy holy fear. Finally, in Thy mercy, grant to the people of these United States the grace to put partisanship aside and to unite as one people that, while never laying down our righteous principles, we may be supportive and maintain open minds, thereby enabling this great land to make Thy presence more visible throughout the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who livest and reignest with Thee, in the Unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.



Please visit again . . . New meditations are added each week.  May God bless you!