IRAQ PULITZER PHOTOS(Jesus) said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because You say so, I will let down the nets.” Luke 5:4-5

It has been said that there are no atheists in foxholes. When soldiers believe they might die imminently, prayers to a God they may not know are common. They’ll do anything for a sense of peace and protection in the face of an oncoming battle. So where is God when non-believers or lapsed believers or really good people unexposed to God begin to ask—desperately—for His intervention?


I can tell you where God is. I was one of these unexposed, uninformed, and unsure people who tried to be pretty good most of the time, but I just didn’t know God. When I was staring down the barrel of a gun, expecting my life to end, God was right there, responding in the millisecond it takes people like me to think, “Hey, maybe I should send out a quick prayer here…can’t hurt.” In fact, I believe in my heart of hearts that the Holy Spirit put the very words in my mouth which most likely saved my life.


“Foxhole religion” is trusting God to do the impossible. Consider Simon Peter, a simple fisherman who encountered Jesus when this itinerant Teacher requested to sit in Simon’s boat to speak to a growing crowd of followers. After He spoke, Jesus said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch” (Luke 5: 4). Simon thought, “Who is this Guy who thinks He knows about fishing?” But out of respect for the Teacher, Simon did as he was told. The catch was immense, causing the nets to begin to break. Simon did not know who Christ was, but he obeyed and learned something special about the Man Who would change his life and countless others (including mine).


When a stranger sexually assaulted me at gunpoint and showed his intention to chain me to a tree in the forest, I cried out to a God I did not know. The man fled and I was spared an almost certain death.


Holy Spirit, we thank You for putting the words of life and salvation into our mouths even when we don’t know to ask. Amen




Unmade BedBut when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.  John 16:13


According to retired Navy Admiral Willian H. McRaven, a good way to avoid a chaotic day is to make your bed every morning. McRaven, now chancellor of the University of Texas, gave a commencement address explaining his theory, and video of the speech went viral. The New York Times quoted McRaven: “You need an anchor point for your day, and sometimes that anchor is as simple as making your bed.” The Admiral learned during his Navy service that popping those sheets tight enough to bounce a quarter off them gave him a sense of control during his time in Afghanistan. The Times reported that the image of starting his day with an orderly activity gave him “a small sense of pride” and encouraged him “to do another task and another.” McRaven has even written a book on his theory, Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…and Maybe the World.


Good news for me! Because my father was an Air Force Officer for most of his adult life, I grew up valuing some of the same order in my own life. And yes, I do make my bed every single time I get out of it, even when I take a nap. I can’t say that this particular ritual translates to other areas of my life. Ask my husband. He would confirm that I am, otherwise, a disorganized packrat who still has the dress I wore to my kindergarten graduation. I never know if it might come in handy someday.


What is more important to God in keeping us anchored is our dependence on and attentiveness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When the Israelites were wandering the desert and literally packing up their beds to move at a moment’s notice, the Pillar of Cloud and the Pillar of Fire (i.e., God’s Spirit) followed them day and night, never leaving them (Exodus 13:22). 1 Corinthians 3:16 says that we are God’s temple and His Spirit still dwells in our midst. The logical outcome of our reliance on the Spirit is to weather life’s storms with trust and faith. That will definitely change your life…and maybe the world, bed made or not.


Lord of the Ordered Universe, teach us to rely on Your Spirit’s wisdom. Amen


Hurricane Irma FloridaI consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18


The New York Times reported this morning, “With the monster quake (in Mexico), four hurricanes (in the Atlantic and Caribbean), flooding across South Asia and a wave of raging wildfires in the western U.S.—not to mention the recent solar eclipse and renewed fears of nuclear war—you could be forgiven for thinking apocalyptic thoughts.” A science fiction writer was also quoted as saying, “These aren’t the End Times, but it…feels like the End Times are getting in a few dress rehearsals right about now.” I am writing this from the safety and security of Minnesota, the middle of the country. Although we have our natural phenomena—tornadoes, ice storms, blizzards—this time, we are being spared. My friends in Tampa, not so much.


If some television reporters have their way, we see only the worst: the scariest rescues, most tragic outcomes, winds that blow the reporters’ hair sideways (why are they out there while telling us not to be out there?). And if the media outlet has producers with compassion in their bones, we might see some news clips of all the people who travel miles in horrible conditions, leaping out of their comfort zones to help those affected by the most recent upheaval.


How can a loving, all-powerful God allow this terrible suffering? Hurricane Irma is taking her sweet time meandering across the island nations in the Atlantic and Caribbean, and her effects will be felt for month, maybe years to come. But in God’s grand scheme of things, there will be a brighter future for those who trust in Him. In Romans 8:18, Paul’s mention of “the sufferings of this present time” is not about the length of time Irma torments the earth. It’s about all history from the time of the Fall of Man. God has given us divine hope through Christ that all of creation will be restored to its original state, or most likely to an even better condition. Yes, we must suffer and we all must die. But God’s promise of eternal life through the sacrificial death of His Son Jesus means death is just the beginning.


Saving Father, sustain us through life’s many trials and give us hope for a bright future with You. Amen


Pullman StrikeThen He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Matthew 9:37


During the economic Panic of 1893, thousands of businesses shut down, and unemployment reached over 20%. In 1894, about 3,000 Chicago railroad workers staged an unauthorized walkout to protest reduced paychecks and layoffs.  Nationwide, half a million workers held sympathy boycotts, slowing railroad traffic such that President Grover Cleveland sent troops for the first time in history to end the strike. To promote peace, Cleveland declared a national holiday called Labor Day. The railroad strike resulted in widespread unionization and public awareness of class and pay inequality, and spawned the ideas of minimum wage and overtime pay.


And you thought Labor Day was just about the bratwurst.


This fall, our church is planning its annual Stewardship Sunday, on which we kick off a campaign to have members pledge what they plan to give for the coming year. Our church emphasizes all the ways in which our members give—money, time, talent, expertise, experience, and passion. When Jesus said “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few,” He was not talking about the monetary bottom line it took to keep His earthly ministry afloat. He was talking about the labor of harvesting souls, reaching those who don’t know about the Kingdom of God, or had chosen to ignore what they had heard. How can we as laborers in that Kingdom make a difference in other peoples’ lives? How do we spend and give away our money, time, talents, expertise, experience and passion? Yes, the church has a budget, and sometimes people forget that the church has light and power bills just as individual households do, and the church also needs to buy coffee and cleaners and printer paper and toilet paper just like everybody else. But the real purpose of the church is to bring as many souls as possible into lasting, daily, committed fellowship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In God’s eyes, the worth of our offerings that promote the Gospel message far surpasses the numbers that appear on the checks we write or the change our children collect for Sunday school offerings. The money will come if the passion is there. Can you be a laborer for God’s harvest?


Father, this Labor Day, stir us to consider how we work to build Your Kingdom on earth. Amen