Mother-Daughter-Clipart-3Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. Psalm 23:6


Young Johnny was greeted by his friend Tommy as he entered the school yard. “Johnny, who’s that?” Tommy asked, pointing to a little girl and her mother walking along behind Johnny. “Oh, that’s little Mercy Goodness,” he told his friend, “and her mom, Shirley.” “Do you know them?” Tommy asked. “No, not really” came the reply. “But how do you know their names?” asked Tommy. “Well,” Johnny said, “my mom says a prayer every day when I leave the house, and she says, ‘Shirley Goodness and Mercy will follow you all the days of your life.’”


Sometimes children have a hard time understanding the “grown-up” words they hear at home, church or school. There are many kids’ bloopers, like the little girl who said the name of her favorite hymn was “Gladly the Cross-Eyed Bear.” Or the little boy who was told the plaques in the narthex were in memory of people who had died in the service, and the child asked, “Which one? The early service or the late service?” How about the youngster reciting the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father Who art in heaven, how do you know my name?” And our own pastor recently talked about how God is everywhere, and then asked, “Where is God now?” One child blurted out enthusiastically, “I think He might be in Ohio!”


This past Sunday, the youth at our church conducted the entire service. I was honored to accompany them on the drums, playing with other adult musicians as those kids sang their hearts out and led the congregation in song and liturgy. There may have been a few words mispronounced in the Scripture, or a couple of lines missed in the script, but it filled me with joy to see all these young people to whom the torch will soon be passed to continue the work of the church. Little ones amuse us, but they also amaze us in the way they embrace God’s joy and the work He asks us to do. If you have any little ones in your life, remember to tell them you appreciate them, and remind them that God does too.


Father of Young and Old, help our youth to embrace Your wonderful ways and to live out their lives in service to You. Amen


MIndfulnessFor I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness. Psalm 26:3

“Mindfulness” is a busy buzz word these days. There are many definitions of “mindfulness,” ranging from the Buddhist term anapanasati to Webster’s definition, “maintaining a non-judgmental state of heightened…awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions and sensations…in the present moment.” My daughter teaches her four children “mindfulness” when she tells them to pay attention or risk injury. Certain psychiatrists believe they coined the term for its stress-reducing benefits. Most agree that “mindfulness” is a good thing, an attribute of consciousness that promotes well-being. If someone pushes a piano out of a third story window while you are walking by, “mindfulness” can go a long way in preventing you from getting schmushed.

So what’s all the fuss? The Lord told Joshua to “keep (His Word) always on (his) lips; meditate on it (be mindful of it) day and night” (parenthesis mine). God promised Joshua that he would “be prosperous and successful,” which is to say, stress-free. The psalmist wrote about “mindfulness” Psalm 26, when he petitioned the Lord to deliver him from his enemies because he had been a good and faithful man. “I lead a blameless life,” he claimed, “deliver me and be merciful to me.”

King Solomon wrote all sorts of wise things about “mindfulness” in Proverbs, declaring that being in communion with God can reap untold benefits. If we pay attention to what God is telling us in His Word, we will “understand what is right and just,” follow “every good path,” allow wisdom to enter our hearts, and will be guarded by understanding (Proverbs 9:2-9). Even Mary marveled at how God could be “mindful of the lowly estate of His servant” and choose her to bear the Son of the Most High (Luke1:48).

All of this leads the Christian to realize that “mindfulness” is a practice God invented. We can be “mindful” of God at all times because He is “mindful” of us. Jesus told His followers that we are His sheep, and we will know His voice if we listen (John 10:3). Let’s be “mindful” today and hear the voice of God.

Jesus, You say You will call us by name and lead us out of danger. Help us keep our minds and hearts focused on You. Amen



Motorcycle MamaConsider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3


“You’d better try on your cycle gear,” my husband said the other day.  I had only been on his BMW motorcycle a few times, and once overnight, but he bought me expensive, state-of-the-art safety gear. He added, half joking, “If you can’t get yourself in and out of the suit, you can’t go along.” I glared at him, working the snaps on the pants liner, arthritic fingers curled in pain. I want this, I told myself. If I don’t get on that motorcycle and go with him, he’s going to do everything on my bucket list with his buddies, without me there! It was true, all his trips were “with the guys.” I love my husband, and he purchased the cycle after I married him at age fifty-two, so I hadn’t bargained for this. Besides, this trip was to Montana, a place I’d never been. I desperately wanted to see those mountains.


I almost had the twenty-plus pound suit on, looking like an aging cosmonaut, as he watched me over his newspaper. Finally, he got up and helped me finish. “We won’t be on the road until noon every day if you make me do this all by myself,” I wailed. “I want to go, but you have to help me a little bit.” Some would think I am crazy, or that he’s stubborn, or maybe a little of both. But our marriage is a happy blend of give-and-take, especially since we came to it “later in life,” with entrenched quirks and habits and dissimilarities. We have both stepped out of our comfort zones for the benefit of our relationship.


I think my relationship with the Lord is a little like this. God challenges me daily to do things I may not think I am able to do. I may complain and struggle to “git ‘er done,” but God is always patient with me. And when I don’t think I can pull something off, He is there to give me the strength and the encouragement, and yes, an occasional small miracle to help me through.


Father, this life is full of joys and challenges. Ride with us as we travel our many varied paths. AmenMotorcycle Mama


TelemarketersLike snow in summer or rain in harvest, honor is not fitting for a fool. Proverbs 26:1


One of the times I feel the most “un-Christian” is when I am assaulted by telemarketing calls, especially the electronically generated ones with on the other end of the phone, or a voice recording says “Congratulations!” or “Don’t hang up!” They call both my home and my cell phones, and they call at inopportune times. Now they use stolen or “burner” phones, so the area codes are often the same as mine, causing me to pick the phone up, hoping to hear a familiar voice on the other end. Then I’m stuck again. I once heard a radio spoof where all of the most obnoxious telemarketers were enlisted to launch a phone campaign against the terrorists. After the extremists received several hundred annoying calls in a short period of time, they all ran screaming from their bunkers and the group was disbanded.


How God would deal with telemarketers? Surely He would have more patience than I do. He never turns down any of us when we call, and He would probably answer every one. He knows everything so He could possibly help the caller improve his sales technique. But He doesn’t need anything, so He wouldn’t be interested in what the person was selling. If the caller had a quota, God would be sympathetic with the constraints of this world’s business models, and He might be able to steer the telemarketer into the pursuit of more lucrative, less stressful employment. In the unlikely event that God ever got annoyed by the calls, He could begin speaking in tongues in some ancient, long-dead language. That should slow them down. (Come to think of it, maybe I could try that…)


I should try to be more patient with telemarketers. They have to make a living, and maybe it’s the only job they can find. God does want us to be productive while we are here on earth. It might always be hard for me to deal with these unwanted phone calls, but next time one comes through, I’ll try to stop and say a prayer and ask God to bless the caller. I still won’t answer, but maybe I’ll feel better.


Patient God, help us remember not to sweat the small stuff (and that it’s all small stuff). Amen


Mountain with CabinYou will thresh the mountains and crush them, and reduce the hills to chaff. Isaiah 41:15


When I was in my twenties playing percussion in a road show, our lead singer performed “You Gave Me A Mountain.” The singer delivered that tune in a powerful manner that broughta tears to the eye and a hefty round of applause, if not a standing ovation. The song moved people. It moved me. I could not imagine the pain that went into composing the lyrics of the song.


Recorded by many vocalists, “You Gave Me A Mountain” was written by Marty Robbins in the 1960’s. The lyrics describe troubles the singer had overcome during his lifetime, from his mother’s death to his father’s bitterness over her loss, to his own wife leaving him and taking their baby boy. Described as “hills,” the singer is now facing something beyond what he thinks he can endure. “This time You gave me a mountain,” he says to God, “a mountain that I may never climb.” As I sat night after night accompanying our lead man as he delivered this song, I wondered what that “mountain” could have been.


Today was a painful day for me, my arthritis taking its toll on my mind, body and spirit. As I lay quietly trying to will the pain to abate, I thought of this song once again. It suddenly became clear to me that perhaps the singer wasn’t anticipating a life-threatening event, or even an emotional trauma such as the ones he had already experienced. Perhaps the “mountain” was simply “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” that one-more-thing that made everything he had endured suddenly unendurable. Those of us who live with chronic pain—physical or emotional—have all been through times when we think our pain cannot get any worse. But when it does, it is a blessing to know that God will hold us in our aloneness and our fear. He will say, “Do not fear, I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13). He promises us, “When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm” (Psalm 75:3). He walks with us through the valley. With God, we can face our mountains.


Healing Lord, be with us in the nighttime of our pain and also when joy comes in the morning. Amen


Girl with Horse 2For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2


When I was a teenager, my only source of joy in an otherwise out-of-control home life was riding my mare, Lito. Feeling her spine rise and fall as I gripped her bare back with my legs was pure heaven. Riding this wonderful, caramel-colored steed meant I felt free of all my troubles. I smelled the crisp Colorado mountain air as we wound through the trails in the mountains near our home. The sky was the color of a cobalt blue glass bottle shimmering in the sun.


Riding was life itself. My horse and I were bonded forever, protected by the whisper of the wind through the ponderosas. Riding was my only way to feel independent from my demented home life. Right or wrong, I could make my own decisions, like riding in a thunderstorm with lightning crackling close enough to make my hair stand on end. Jump courses could be set up high on a mountain prairie and I would sail my horse over log piles past jagged granite slabs and swaying scrub oak that snapped to attention as we raced passed. I could spur my horse close enough to the edge of a mountain reservoir to see our reflection in the water. Then, WHOOSH! Off the ledge we jumped into the water, with Lito paddling as though she’d done it every day of her life. She swam all the way across that reservoir before she climbed out of the water on the sandy shoreline. During my troubled youth, the adrenalin rush of horseback riding was my greatest joy.


I now know that joy is one of God’s abiding characteristics, one that He shares with all who believe in Him. I have joy on a daily basis, even in the midst of my worst days. It is against God’s nature to be sorrowful, because He is the creator of all that is good. The experience of happiness from anything other than God cannot compare to the unexplainable joy He brings, and that joy is His abiding presence in our lives.



Son of God, thank You for enduring what we call sorrow to give us joy in You. Amen


Viet NamI called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies. Psalm 18:3


My husband Patrick describes his first night as a helicopter medic in Viet Nam as being “like a bad acid trip.” Whatever the conflict—World War II, Korea, Viet Nam, or the Middle East—war is like nothing most of us can imagine in our worst nightmares. One particular incident stands out in my husband’s memory, when his helicopter team went to try to rescue some downed infantry.


“We were totally terrified,” he told me. “It was pitch black, and we were in the mountains. We had no radar…no relay stations nearby. And it was foggy.” It was very common in Viet Nam for aircraft to crash into mountains or trees. The pilots frequently developed vertigo so they didn’t know which way was up or down. “This particular night,” Patrick continued, “the ground troops were reporting that the injuries were very bad, and they were firing flares to show us the way. We were all afraid a flare would hit our chopper and ignite our fuel. We never got the rescue accomplished, and we even had trouble finding our own way back.” My husband was haunted that they were unable to save these soldiers.


Some years later, Patrick and I watched a historical documentary about military medics. Several veterans whose lives had been saved by medics were interviewed, among them many prominent U.S. citizens. These survivors talked about how grateful they were to the medics who saved their lives, allowing them to return to the United States, marry, have families, and live full lives, often in spite of many serious injuries. Patrick was mesmerized by the stories. I asked him, “Did you ever stop to think about all the people walking around who wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for you?” He paused for a moment and then said, “I never looked at it that way.”


Life is hard and war is hell. This Memorial Day, stop and remember all the brave men and women who have helped to ensure our daily freedom. Better yet, thank some in person.


Father of Peace, world peace seems impossible sometimes. We pray for a day when we will all live in peace, in this life or the next. Amen


Jump for JoyJohn replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” John 1:23


If God ever does a remake of The Earth, say on another planet in another galaxy, I want to play the part of John the Baptist. I’m not so crazy about wearing itchy camel’s hair clothing, and I’ve never eaten a locust (although I’m rather fond of honey). But John has the very best part in the whole drama because he gets to be loud and get noticed! He’s the one who comes around before anybody knows much about Jesus. John shouts out to the whole world to look out, because things are about to change drastically. John has known Jesus his whole life—he even knew to “greet” Jesus when they were both still in their moms’ tummies (Luke 1:41). I do wish there would be a script revision, though, because I don’t really want to have my head chopped off and delivered to Herod on the palace china.


John knew what he was called to do, and he was just hanging around baptizing everyone else he could persuade to get wet. He made it clear from the beginning that he was just the messenger, that the real Baptizer was about to show up with a whole different program. When Jesus did show up, John was not so much at a loss as to what to do as he was amazed that the honor was being bestowed on him.


Maybe they will have a sort of “community theater” in heaven, and I’ll get my chance to play John there. I can just imagine reenacting that pivotal moment with Christ, with me standing in the river in my size petite-small camel robe, and Jesus comes walking down the hill. I would have rehearsed my lines, and I’d be prepared to do my job. But then Jesus would take one look at me and say, “My child, you lived your life on earth shouting about Me from the rooftops. Let Me be the One to bestow sacraments on you now.”


And I’d faint.


Lord, You have given me more than I could ever hope or imagine in this life. Let me declare Your mighty deeds to all I meet. Amen


laughing JesusThen our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. Psalm 126:2


Many think the Bible is no laughing matter. God’s Word has a message that begs to be taken seriously. But the discerning reader cannot help but see snippets of humor there too. The Bible is about people, and we are pretty laughable.


Remember the story of the Israelites forced into slavery by the Egyptians? It’s amusing to think Pharaoh would disregard Moses’ warnings from God. Pharaoh said he didn’t need this big God. Soon, the Egyptian ruler was up to his eyeballs in frogs, boils, and locusts. Then God struck down all the first-born Egyptians sons, including Pharaoh’s own boy. Pharaoh finally told Moses to “get out of Egypt,” but Moses’ challenges were just beginning. Fickle Pharaoh changed his mind suddenly and sent his troops after the fleeing Israelites. Now Moses was in the doghouse with his own people. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?” (Exodus 14:11). Those ingrates! Smarting off to Moses instead of believing that God would somehow save them! The Israelites got a big surprise. The joke was on Pharaoh’s army when the Red Sea opened up and let God’s people through, but then swallowed up all the soldiers.


Later, when the Israelites were happily worshiping idols, God said to them, “Go and cry to the gods which you have chosen; let them rescue you in the time of your torment” (Judges 10:14). If that doesn’t sound like typical family squabble rhetoric, I don’t know what does!


Fast forward to the New Testament. After Jesus called Phillip to become one of His disciples, Phillip went to his friend, Nathaniel, saying, “We have found Him of Whom Moses…and…the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth” (John 1:44). Well, Nathaniel was having none of this nonsense! He turned his nose up at Phillip and snorted, “Can anything good come out Nazareth?” (v. 46). In Nate’s mind, Yahweh would certainly have the good sense to send the Messiah through another more prominent, well-respected place than Nazareth!  “Come and see,” Phillip told him. Nathaniel did, and the rest, as they say, is history.


Lord, You make all things beautiful, and You created humor too. Help us to laugh at life’s absurdities, including ourselves. Amen


PhoneMay He be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth. Psalm 72:6


I love rain! It has rained steadily for two days. I couldn’t work in my gardens, but I enjoyed watching the sheets of water drench the parched earth. I drank in the fresh smell and marveled at the cloud formations as they rolled across the sky like grey taffy being pulled while it’s still warm.


Then, I picked up my phone and viewed the whole storm on my weather app. In this age of instant information, I frequently fall prey to the “electronic” version of life instead of the real one. There is so much “stuff” at our fingertips today. People send me emails with photos of foreign waterfalls and exotic birds that I will probably never see in my lifetime. Those images are nice, but what happened to walking out our back doors and inspecting our way across the yard? I may not encounter white tigers and green-winged macaws, but I bet I’ll hear a cardinal’s song or see a baby squirrel raiding my bird feeder.


The Bible has a list of “apps.” They’re in the back of my NIV. I don’t have to download or install them, and they don’t cost anything extra; they came with the Bible. My Bibles’ list is called “Perspectives From The Bible,” and it gives me Scripture passages for whatever is on my heart. When I am afraid, I can go to 1 Timothy 1:7 (The Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.)  Matthew 7:5 has advice when I have a disagreement with someone: “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” When wordly things tempt me, James 4:7-8 advises, “Submit yourselves…to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” And I can get a summary of the whole program God sets forth for us in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” And God said, “There’s an app for that!”


Wise God, help us turn to Your Word for advice about our world. Amen