UnfriendYou are my friends. John 15:14


Mark Zuckerberg and his “friends” created a new land called Facebook. The citizens’ identity “profile,” includes photos, interesting facts about themselves, and a life they choose to show us. Usually, that life includes exciting highlights—happy vacations to faraway places, children and grandchildren doing adorable things, and cats—lots of cats. Maybe the citizen will include a special personal item in his or her cyber-resume, such as a new car or boat, or $300 shoes or expensive jewelry (engagement rings, real or imaginary, are popular among female citizens). Drama is important to many; shocking facts and photos sometimes appear with predictable regularity on certain people’s pages. A Facebook resident’s worth is measured by the number of “friends” he has. A “friend” is a person who can view the cyber-life of another person, only by permission. If disagreements ensue, a citizen may “unfriend” another citizen. The topography of the Land of Facebook is rather flat, but it’s still possible to get lost there for huge chunks of time.


Facebook doesn’t have very good law enforcement, however. Crimes of all sorts are committed on Facebook that go largely unchecked. One of the most tragic is the cyber-bullying of teenagers, sometimes resulting in the targeted person taking her own life. Everyone agrees this is heartbreaking, but the Facebook rulers don’t do much about it. They just sit back and collect all the money they are making from ads the citizens are forced to view.


God has a “facebook” too. It’s called the Bible. God has a “presence” on every page; in fact, the words in the Bible are God, and they are living and real. The Bible contains exciting places like the wilderness of Kadesh, not made-up locations like Farmville. God doesn’t change the layout of the Bible without notice, although some people have taken great liberties with the Bible’s translation. No one tries to hack into the Bible. If they go there, it’s to read the Word of Life and try to live a better one. There are no crazy cat videos in the Bible, although there is a great story about a lion and a guy named Daniel. And God never, ever “unfriends” those who believe in Him. Start your Bible account today!


Ever-Present Father, cause us to seek Your “face” in the one true “facebook,” the Bible. Amen


Open BookHeaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Matthew 24:35


Thanks to my mother’s tutelage (n., teaching and guidance), I have a pretty good vocabulary. So I was naturally chagrined (n., frustrated, annoyed) when I ran across a recent  It Pays to Increase Your Word Power article in Readers’ Digest Magazine, including “some too-frequent examples of verbal misuse (and abuse!).” I thought I knew the meanings of all of these words, but was I amiss (adv., mistaken)!


Take noisome. Sounds like a combination of noise and bothersome. But how many of you correctly answered stinky? Or allusion. Thinking of your favorite magician? Wrong again. Allusion means indirect reference. Change the a to an i and you have a character pulling rabbits out of hats and dissecting his aide-de-campe (n., assistant). One more: diffuse. Thinking about bomb squads and terrorists? Unless they are both spreading things freely about, you missed it again! We defuse bombs, disagreements and ugly rumors. A photographer diffuses light to make an image appear softer.


God’s Word can be confusing too. For years, I didn’t know “suffer” meant “to allow.” Luke 18:16 says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (New International Bible). But the King James translation says “suffer” instead of “let,” making one think Jesus didn’t want to be bothered with the rowdy kids! Look at Psalm 2:11: “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” Thank goodness someone explained this one to me early on! “Fear can be interpreted as “respect” and “awe.” Since we know God is good all the time, we can dutifully honor and highly respect Him even while we are rejoicing in our salvation.


The Word is God (John 1:1) and will always be with us. God says His Word “shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose” (Isaiah 55:11). Each time we read the Bible, those “words” bring hope, healing and miracles. The more we infuse (v., allow to be filled with) ourselves with the Word of God, the more Christ-like our minds become. Describing God’s love and power is the only way we should use the word awesome (adj., causing feelings of fear and wonder)!


Living Word, fill us up with Your goodness Your marvelous love. Amen


Erin and OprahThrough the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. Psalm 8:2


“Growing up in Illinois public schools.., I was educated with my classmates on tornado drills, fire drills, bus drills, stranger danger, and learned the 8 ways to say “NO” to drugs… I never had to take cover because of a real tornado…stop, drop, and roll or run out of a burning building…evacuate a school bus due to an emergency… Where was the drill on how to escape a child molester? Where was the lesson plan on sexual abuse, safe/unsafe touches, and safe/unsafe secrets? It never came. I was not educated on ‘How to Tell Today or How to Get Away.’ I was never educated on ‘My Body Belongs to Me.’”


These are the words of Erin Merryn, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, whose mission is to get a law she herself drafted passed in all fifty states. Erin’s Law will provide age-appropriate curriculum about child sexual assault for children pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, and provide training and resources for teachers, school staff and parents. Nineteen states have passed the law as of 2014; eighteen more are currently reviewing the law.


If any topic would cause us to wonder what is happening to this world, it should be child sexual abuse. How can we, as imperfect humans, turn a social issue as serious as this around ourselves? Why won’t God intervene? It is well-known that pedophiles cannot successfully be rehabilitated, and yet our justice system continues to let them out of prison (if they are sent there to begin with) when they have “served their time.” When have survivors finished “serving their time?” I’m sure some of them feel they themselves would be better off locked away and safe when these perpetrators go free.


Jesus prayed to the Father, “You have hidden (God’s truth) from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (Luke 10:31). Do we expect those little children to survive into adulthood on their own, or do we work to transform society to give those children the tools they need to escape harm and stay healthy? Find out more about Erin’s Law (www.erinslaw.org). If your state hasn’t already done so, tell your legislators to pass it.


Come Lord Jesus, save our children. Amen


Child NeglectWhich of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9-10


I could hear the man from inside the women’s restroom in the large medical building. He was in the men’s room, shouting at his little boy, pushing and shoving too. The boy began to cry. I glanced at another woman drying her hands. She looked worried and afraid. “Will you find someone in this building to help, and I’ll try to talk to the man when he comes out?” She agreed, and hurried out the door.


Within a couple of minutes, they came into the hall. The child’s face was red and swollen. He was holding one elbow with his other hand. “What’s going on here?” I asked the man. “None of your business!” he shouted. “My kid just needed a talking to!” By now, several people had gathered, including a dentist. “Let’s go back into my office and see if we can set up another appointment,” the dentist said to the man. “I’m not bringing him back on another day!” the father yelled. “He needs to learn how to behave!” Everyone but the father seemed to understand that the little boy was just frightened, first of the dentist, and then of his father. Eventually, a building administrator came and, with the dentist, escorted the man into a private room. Another employee took my name and number, and I actually got a call from the clinic a few days later telling me that protective services had been called and were taking “appropriate action.”


I was on auto pilot, and bravery wasn’t an issue. I couldn’t stand by and let this cruel father treat his child like that. As a “concerned bystander,” I wanted to do all I could to help. How much impact could we have if we all spoke up when something didn’t look right? I believe Jesus would want that.


Perfect Father, not all earthly parents live up to Your expectation to give children what they need. Help us to intervene when it is possible to do so, to keep children safe. Amen


StyrofoamHe split the rocks in the wilderness and gave them water as abundant as the seas; He brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers. Psalm 78:15-16


I recently read a nonfiction book about life at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Station in Antarctica. Because of the ecological importance of using only biodegradable products, the man in charge of station supplies was berating residents for bringing in unacceptable items. “Remember,” he said over the loudspeaker, “paper comes from trees; Styrofoam comes from hell.”


This made me recall all the times I had insisted that my young daughters properly dispose of their trash and be responsible for the care of our planet. As a mom, I was relentless about making them understand that their dropping even one gum wrapper was important because, if we all did that every day, it would amount to a lot of trash. My daughters are in their forties now, with kids of their own. Just in that space of time, the accumulation of litter in the world has grown exponentially. Americans each throw away about three pounds of garbage daily, amounting to well over 150 million tons per year. Only about a third of that would be recyclable, if people took the time to separate the materials they discard. The Great Pacific Ocean Patch is a soupy collection of marine debris—mostly plastic—that extends from just off the coast of North America all the way to Japan. We are wrapping our planet in garbage, one soda can at a time.


It must break God’s heart to see His beautiful creation lying in disarray. When He brought this planet into being, He said, “It is good,” not “it’s good, but man will ruin it.” Littering is a sin against God’s handiwork, as deadly a sin as murder because we are murdering out planet. Satan just loves to see us wreck all that God has created, whether it be love for each other or our earthly natural resources. “But how can we stop it?” you ask. There are no simple answers. As Christians, we can be responsible for ourselves, teach our children the importance of not littering and recycling, and pray that others will see the error of their ways.


God of Creation, forgive us for our complacency in caring for your planet. Amen


 Water with GullHe leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. Psalm 23:2-3


When I was young, I took my health for granted. Although I was born with a curved spine, I rode horses every day as a child—usually bareback—keeping my body more fit than most of my friends. When I quit riding horseback, I began to experience back problems, joint issues, inflammation, and a whole host of other physical symptoms (many due to the stress of working two jobs and a less-than-perfect first marriage) that took more than a small bite out of my vitality. For years, I pushed myself beyond what was safe and healthy, raising two daughters, working days as a college counselor and nights playing drums in the band. During those years, the Lord seemed to be saying that He would carry me through, but I couldn’t imagine what was ahead.


During my first hospitalization, I was given the poem, “I Needed the Quiet” by Alice Hansche Mortenson, which has meant more to me than all the medical treatment and pharmaceutical wonders I’ve been given over the years. Mortenson’s poem speaks of God’s knowing exactly what we need and when we need it. Even illness or debilitation can be embraced as a gift from God when viewed from His perspective. Most likely written when she was ill herself, Mortenson’s poem says, God “whispered so sweetly of spiritual things. Though weakened in body, my spirit took wings.” It was in that first period of recovery that I learned I could not expect to bear any spiritual fruit while living in the fast lane of life on earth. “No prison, my bed,” Mortenson’s poem continues, “but a beautiful valley of blessings instead.” Left to ponder my situation alone, I began to feel the presence of Jesus more intensely. As a new Christian, it was necessary for me to have a period of “cloister” where I allowed Jesus to fully bear the cross of my dismal human condition in order to find true growth in Christ. And when at last I was released from the hospital, I found a new appreciation for my life, the beauty of God’s world, and His gentle response to my illness.


Read the whole poem: http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/fbf/quiet.html


Healing Lord, thank You for good things we sometimes don’t appreciate, and for upholding us in our distress. Amen


LabrynthBlessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. Psalm 89:15


Carefully, I began making my way through the labyrinth, a huge canvas circle on the floor of our church gymnasium. Lacking good balance, my first few steps were tentative, as though feeling my way in a new dimension. When I began to get the hang of walking between the lines, or “walls,” my body relaxed and I felt a subtle tug on my spirit. Gradually, the experience shifted. I was less aware of my feet and more conscious of my breathing and thought processes. Before I made it to the “core” of the seven circuits, I began to softly sing Twila Paris’ “Center of His Will”: “I’ve been on the edge before, and I have felt the chill/But I could never live outside the center of Your will.” I continued to meditate on these words as I reached the “core,” turned around and walked back to the “mouth,” or opening, completing the exercise.


Several “spiritual exercises” were offered at this women’s workshop. I chose the labyrinth because I had always been fascinated with one at the cathedral in Chartes, France, built about 1200 AD. There, the path was often walked for repentance, in which case it was “walked” on the worshipers’ knees. Today, people walk the labyrinth for many reasons: to relax, meditate, or just for fun. The Latin term solvitur ambulando, “solved by walking,” describes the labyrinth experience, suggesting that the exercise can help us resolve complex personal issues and reduce mental anguish.


Labyrinths are thought to enhance right brain activity—illusion and creative thought. For me, the event opened the floodgates of my soul. By the time it was over, I had sung the Paris lyrics several times, ending with “Though I sometimes fear this place, and find it hard to fill/I could never live outside the center of Your will.” The labyrinth took on special meaning, as a symbol of being in the Holy of Holies, God’s throne room. A profound sense of His presence washed over me, and I prayed Paris’ lyrics: “Keep me in the center of Your will.”


Holy God, Your presence is precious to me. Help me to remember that my distress can always be “solved by walking” in Your paths. Amen


zachThose who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31


I once heard that eagles can fly higher than any other bird. On the rare occasion when other birds threaten them, eagles don’t get their feathers ruffled. They just spread their wings and circle upward, until no other flying creature can reach them. High above all other forms of life on this planet, they stay there until the menace has passed.


Stillwater, Minnesota teen Zach Sobiech knew what it felt like to “Fly A Little Higher.” His mother Laura chose this line from Zach’s now-famous song, “Clouds,” as the title for her memoir about Zach’s battle with osteosarcoma. A rare bone cancer most prevalent in children and young adults, osteosarcoma has one of the lowest survival rates for pediatric cancer. Zach and his family and friends lived out everyone’s worst nightmare: three and a half years from diagnosis to their final goodbyes. He was only a senior in high school when he left this world, but this remarkable young man brought the light and love and grace of Christ to thousands of individuals around the globe with his music, courage and faith. His mother’s seemingly insurmountable task of writing their story gives credit to the Master for His unfathomable faithfulness and guidance along the way. When her grief must have still been so raw, Sobiech the mom wrapped the story of this tragic event in splendor that could only come from a heart wholly devoted to God and to her family. She captures Sobiech the son’s spirit and the family and friends’ support of that spirit with her eloquent writing, interjecting real-life daily living and down-home family humor with much grace and good timing. After reading the book, I said, “If only I can live my last days with half the strength and faith that Zach showed, I am certain I will hear my heavenly Father say to me as he surely did to Zach, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’”


Eternal Father, in Zach’s own words, You are “sitting there holding a rope” when we descend into our darkest hour. Help us remember that “…someday, I’ll see you again/we’ll float up in the clouds/and we’ll never see the end.” Amen


Zach’s song “Clouds” can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HtCXgo4fvU , and his mother Laura’s book, Fly A Little Higher is available at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_7?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=fly+a+little+higher&sprefix=fly+a+l%2Caps%2C469


Bowing Before JesusJesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” John 21:5


One of my all-time favorite Christian songs is the 1996 release, “I Love You, Lord” by Laurie Klein. A sacred prayer to me, I sing the words aloud with a CD, or in my head in the shower. I feel the presence of God slow me to a pace worthy to call “unceasing prayer” (at least for a moment).


The lyrics are simple but profound (sing it out loud if you know it): “I love you, Lord/And I lift my voice/To worship You/Oh, my soul rejoice/Take joy, my King/In what You hear/Let it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.” On the Internet, I stumbled quite unexpectedly onto information about the composer. A 2013 guest blog on AbbeyoftheArts.com reveals Klein to be a gifted poet and writer, a real-live person who struggles with prayer just like I do. Who knew? I expected her to be this totally together woman who manages life’s disasters and triumphs with great grace, penning songs on the back of her electric bill while waiting in line to pick her kids up from school. Not so!


Klein describes herself as a “hummingbird,” struggling to slow herself down enough to spend quality time with God. “I’m a Monk Wannabe” she says. Decelerating due to illness a few years ago, she learned to nurture herself in small ways, carrying around a basket she called her “portable cloister:” scented hand lotion, a nail file, and other worldly trappings to calm her body, mind and spirit. During this humbling quiet season she had a revelation: “The one moment we can fully inhabit is the one we often sidestep: this one.”


How freeing is it to think of “unceasing prayer” as a moment-to-moment experience, rather than a tedious, down-on-my-stiff-knees penance I must pay for my sinful nature! The sacred can truly be found in the small things we often overlook, if we stop overlooking them and see them as holy.


Yes, Lord, I love you! Help me in my failure to recognize You loving me back in the everyday moments of my life. Amen


Burning HeartsAs they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus Himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing Him. Luke 24:15-16


I love the story of Jesus on the road to Emmaus. There is so much meaning in this passage, I am simultaneously filled with mystery and enlightenment. Jesus is enjoying Himself after being cooped up in that tomb for three days, and He decides to have some fun with these two hapless travelers. I don’t imagine that He actually wore a disguise, but the men don’t recognize Him when He joins them on the road and says, “What’s shakin’?” The men are amazed that this fellow Traveler could be so uninformed! He doesn’t even know what’s just happened in Jerusalem! Jesus plays along and lets the fellows tell Him the whole story, which of course is about Him.


Still not ‘fessing up to Who He is, Jesus tells the travelers “the back story,” from the Prophets’ predictions to these recent events. Even though the two guys still don’t recognize the Christ, they ask Him to join them for a meal at an inn. This is the really cool part: Jesus breaks the bread, and voila! The two men’s eyes are opened and they realize just Who their dinner companion is. “Didn’t our hearts burn within us?” they ask each other later (Luke 24:32). Well, yeah! I suppose something was going on, with all that Christ-Light bouncing around!              


A few days ago, Jesus had held this same ritual with His disciples. He said, “This bread is My body, broken for you,” and, “This wine is My blood, shed for you.” Until I read and studied the passage about the road to Emmaus, it never occurred to me that, each time I partake of the wine and the bread I am “recognizing” Jesus again. It’s easy to forget what He “looks” like, when I’m tearing around living my crazy-busy life and generally ignoring my spiritual self. But now, each time I accept the wafer and the cup, I breathe deeply and remember that the Eucharist is there to remind me at what great price Jesus purchased me and made me whole.


Jesus, Light of Life, burn within our hearts and help us “recognize” You throughout our busy days, and especially when we take communion. Amen