Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
My mother-in-law, Ellie Corrigan, was an exceptional person. She died at age 80 of an unexpected, avoidable illness, and the entire family was devastated. Those first, raw days after she was gone, we needed some comic relief, and we missed being able to ask for her advice about practically everything. We joked about having bracelets made that said, “WWED?” What Would Ellie Do? Our joke brought tears of joy in remembering all the times she had dispensed wise and comforting words to each of us. Six hundred people attended her wake, and the officiating pastor said, “Ellie prayed for each and every person gathered here tonight.”
The text of Matthew 22:37-40 were words that Ellie Corrigan lived by. She showed her love for the Lord in many ways, like taking and giving communion, attending her church and helping with various events there, and visiting the sanctuary almost daily to pray for others. There was never a day that went by that Ellie did not demonstrate God’s love to family, friend, neighbor or stranger. Her kind words and gentle spirit were a blessing to all who knew her. We miss her greatly, but we know that she is one of those “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) who surround us daily with unseen love.
God of Wisdom and Care, help us never to forget the wonderful people who have touched our earthly lives in special ways as Ellie did. Thank You for putting people like them in our lives, and thank You for taking good care of our departed loved ones until we see them again. Amen
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
Because I began following Christ as an adult, I consider myself to be “reborn:” I was not a believer, and now I am. At the time I became a “new creation” in Christ, I began to wonder what the difference was between people who were raised in the church and had always known Christ, and people like me who floated around in a daze until the day I laid down my life for Him. A Christian friend had a wonderful explanation.
“If a horse, or foal, is born on a ranch,” she said, “and raised by a caring person, the horse learns to trust her owner in ‘baby steps.’ First, the owner feeds and waters the foal, then puts a halter on her. Soon, a blanket follows, along with a saddle and bridle. When the horse is old enough, the owner gets on her back and teaches her to carry his weight and obey his commands. The horse doesn’t know exactly when she gave her will to her master, but she definitely has decided to trust him with her very being.
“A wild horse who wanders into that same owner’s corral one day would have a totally different experience. When the owner ‘breaks’ the wild horse, different techniques are used—great patience, ‘listening’ to the what the horse is telling you, understanding what this horse it thinking (perhaps that she fears you want to eat her for dinner!), gaining her trust. But it is very clear to both human and horse exactly when the will of the horse became that of the master.”
My love for horses made this example especially meaningful. I understood that being “born again” in Christ could happen in degrees while being raised in a Christian home. And I could surely relate to the concept that I needed to be “broken” before I was suitable to be one of the King’s kids!
Master of All Creatures, thank you for your precious gift of unending grace and abiding love. I am so glad I wandered into Your corral! Amen
Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” Acts 10:13-14
In the Midwestern part of the United States, particularly my home state of Minnesota and neighboring Wisconsin, a strange phenomenon occurs at least annually. Lutefisk dinners are held—and widely attended—in Lutheran church basements and Scandinavian cultural centers. “Lutefisk—codfish (fisk) preserved in lye (lut)—is both a delicacy and a tradition among Scandinavian-Americans,” reports Smithsonian.com, “who serve the chemical-soaked, gelatinous fish with a warm and friendly smile. Lutefisk, or lutfisk in Swedish, is a traditional dish in Norway, Sweden, and parts of Finland.”
I have never eaten—nor do I intend to try—lutefisk. I cannot even stand the smell of it! But many a bitter-cold night in our area, people line up outside for hours at fire halls and service clubs waiting to get in to eat the stuff. Now, I know God created everything in this world, and He told Peter that all food is suitable for consumption, not just foods allowable for the ancient Jews (Acts 11:9 “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”). But when I get to heaven, one of the questions I’m going to ask Him is, “Why lutefisk?” Don’t get me wrong: I love food, and I’m the first to line up for a good old-fashioned church supper. But when it comes to this particular dish, I cannot go there. I’m not in the line for lutefisk; I’m in the line that sells the tee shirts that say, “Lutefisk: Just Say No!”
God of Tasty Morsels, thank You that You gave each of us varying tastes in this life. You allow us to be unique, even though we are all created in Your image. Help us celebrate one another’s differences. Amen
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27
According to Wikipedia, Rat Rods are a style of hot rod or custom automobile built to imitate or exaggerate “traditional” hot rods, or period-correct restorations of original hot rods built in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. Some people think Rat Rods are built of junk parts. Pat Ganahl, a rat rod enthusiast and writer, is quoted in the Wikipedia article: “What I personally call Rat Rods, (is) a positive term… They’re artistic, fun, and sensational reinterpretations of late-’40s/early-’50s hot rodding as a culture that includes music, clothing, hairstyles, and tattoos. The cars are low, loud, chopped…with giant rear tires, lots of carburetors, open pipes, and tall gearshifts.” Rat Rods are easy to recognize because they are so outlandish in appearance and noise. If you’ve seen one, you know this!
Although God did give “rat rodders” the talent to create these crazy vehicles, He stands firm in how people are created: in His image. The Bible doesn’t say God created us to be “sensational reinterpretations” of Himself, and certainly we are not built of “junk parts!” First Corinthians 6:19 says that our bodies are “temples of the Holy Spirit,” Who lives in those who believe in Jesus Christ. Some of us may be “low and loud,” and our clothing and hairstyles vary, but we are all God’s children, created to love and worship Him.
Next time you see—and hear—a Rat Rod, thank God by making a joyful to the Lord!
God of the Rat Rodders, cause me to know that I am created in Your image and my purpose is to do Your will, whether it be “traditional” or “on the edge.” Amen
Our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. 1 Thessalonians 1:5
When I became a Christian, I was overwhelmed. Suddenly, I had a completely new purpose in life, and I felt as if the entire world was waiting for me to spread the Good News I had just learned. A believing friend called this, “Swallowing the Holy Spirit, feathers and all,” and she jokingly said that new Christians should be locked up for six months until they “learned the program.”
Now that I’ve been following Christ for several decades, I look back on what I must have been like in the beginning. I wouldn’t exactly say that I was an “in your face” Christian, but I certainly did utilize every opportunity to let people know about Jesus! I wanted everyone to share in this unspeakable peace and joy that I had found, and I still feel that way today. But I have learned over the years that sometimes people need to see Jesus in action in my life rather than listen to me explain about Him. Edgar Guest put it so well in one of his songs: “I’d Rather See a Sermon Than Hear One Any Day.” Sometimes, it’s the little things we say and do that make the most difference in other people’s lives. And most of the time, we will never know how our words and action affect those around us. We plant the seed, God causes the growth.
God of All Growth, let me be the seed planter for You in this troubled world. Let my words be Your words, and let them fall on fertile soil so that You may grow them into something wonderful. Amen
When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “… if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:20-24
When one of my daughters was in high school, she developed an eating disorder. Back then, I was not familiar with the signs and symptoms of this potentially deadly condition. Though I had been trained as a counselor, I did not recognize what was happening until my daughter was well into the patterns of both anorexia and bulimia. I knew this wasn’t “demon possession;” my daughter needed support and counseling. Her first inpatient treatment failed, and I was desperate to find some help. She was away at college, and I did not know how bad things were getting.
As I walked near our home one day, I prayed heartily for answers from God to help my girl. Though I was not familiar with the passage, Mark 9:24 came to me as a clear message: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Later, when I looked it up, I was amazed that the passage was about a parent asking Jesus to heal his child. I gained renewed strength to search for a different program for my daughter. She received the counseling she needed from some very skilled mental health professionals and was able to deal effectively with the disorder. She is now happily married with four beautiful children.
Gentle Healer, come to the aid of those with eating disorders and other mental health challenges. These people are Your children and need Your healing touch for distresses most of us cannot understand or fathom. You know, Lord, what they need. Amen
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.”
Parents of young children around the world will agree that one of the best inventions in recent years has been washable markers. Kids love to draw and color, and when they are very small, they don’t distinguish between what is an acceptable place to create their works (their own paper, tablets and coloring books) and what is not (walls, furniture, household pets and their own clothing and faces). Parents now have the choice of purchasing art supplies that can be washed away. Their biggest task nowadays is to keep the adult (indelible) writing instruments locked up and allow their children to use only the kind that can be removed.
Sometimes people think God’s commandments are written in washable markers. We choose which commandments we want to follow and erase the others (in our minds, at least). Most of us don’t murder or steal, but if we really examined the other eight commandments, we find that we do sometimes break them, or at least function “outside the lines” of what God originally set forth as undisputable law. We salivate when we see someone else’s new car (Commandment 10); we slip and use the Lord’s name in vane (Commandment 4); we allow ourselves to be overly focused on money, status, power, insert-idol-here (Commandment 5). God doesn’t want us to wash away any part of His commandments. That’s why they are written in stone!
Almighty, All-Powerful God, touch up those laws You wrote so long ago and fill our hearts and minds with them. Cause us to think before we break—or try to erase—them. Amen
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. Hebrews 12:8
The pastor who married my husband and me had an unexpected daily greeting. When people asked him how he was, he would respond, “I’m grateful!” Most people thought he was saying, “I’m great,” a pretty standard greeting in our society. They were caught off guard and often asked the pastor to repeat himself. That was exactly what the pastor wanted, so he could then relate what he was especially thankful for that day. My husband picked up this pastor’s unique response and as a result, he has had many interesting conversations with people he meets.
In contrast, I once had a co-worker who had experienced much tragedy in his life. His response, when asked how he was doing, was to say under his breath, “Doesn’t matter,” and then he would hurry away. One day, I caught him by the arm and gently said, “It matters to me.” The look on his face was priceless, and this brief exchange fostered a caring friendship between us until I moved away. I often think of the man and hope his attitude about life has improved.
God wants us to share our blessings with others, not just the big events in our lives like the birth of a child or a new job. He wants us to show our gratitude for the tasty hamburger we ate for lunch and the surprise email we got from an old friend. Sharing our gratitude with others is catching; soon others are telling us about the blessings in their lives too. Next time somebody asks you how you are doing, say, “I’m grateful!” It might surprise you where that answer will lead.
Holy Father, You shower us with untold blessings every day. Help us to be conscious of them and also tell others about them. Cause us to begin a contagious conversation about Your goodness. Amen
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations. Matthew 24:14
Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) is a French-founded (now international) non-governmental organization known for its humanitarian projects in war-torn regions and developing countries facing health crises. “Humanitarian action is more than simple generosity,” said James Orbinski, the organization’s president at the time it won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999. “It claims to build spaces of normalcy in the space of what is abnormal.”
We ask, “What is normal?” In God’s view, “normal” is what He intended humankind to be: first and foremost, His beloved children who live each day with the intention of following God’s ways with integrity and in good faith. The prophet Micah summed it up perfectly: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). Of course, we are human, and we are unable to do all of this on our own. We need God’s help, which is why He sent His only Son Jesus Christ to die on a cross for our sins. In sending Jesus, God’s plan was to “build spaces of normalcy in the space of what was abnormal,” namely, a fallen world. Believing in His Son frees us from all the messiness of this world and daily gives us another chance, if we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness. We can be “normal” no matter how dysfunctional our lives may be, if we simply look to Jesus.
God of the Normal and Dysfunctional, Disenfranchised and Marginalized and all the other creatures on this planet, be patient with us as we navigate our way through this strained and broken world. Grant us strength and perseverance for the journey and aid us in doing the next right thing. Amen
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and go to visit You?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.’” Matthew 25:37-39
I lead a Bible study and weight management program called First Place 4 Health at our church. The program is based on placing Christ first in our lives and enhancing spiritual growth in all four areas of our being: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. I was skeptical at first. I had participated in several other weight loss programs, and I longed for something more meaningful than just eating sensibly, exercising and tracking my food intake. But the idea that Christ cared much whether I was at my optimal weight and ate enough vegetables to feed a third world country? I wasn’t buying it.
Then, I read the passage in Matthew 25, where Jesus tells his disciples that he had been hungry, thirsty, lonely and ill, and they (the disciples) had come to His aid. The disciples said they didn’t remember doing these things. But Christ said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.” And then it hit me: I am “one of the least of these!” When I take good care of my body—God’s “temple”—I am taking care of Christ Himself! It’s not a matter of vanity. When I eat right, stay active and focus on God’s holy word, I grow closer to becoming the person He wants me to be. I serve God and my fellow human beings more effectively when I am operating at optimal level. Now that’s a diet I can live with!
God of the hungry and poor of spirit, stir in me the desire to live only for You, and to serve only You. Grant that I may keep that focus until the day You call me home, so that you will one day say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).