Leslie’s Learnings: I thought a thought last night that I’ve never thought before. As my precious Frank and I climbed into bed, I thought, “I don’t want to say goodnight to today.” It was the most wonderful day. Full of memories for daydreaming moments. I close my eyes and smile picturing Tiffany, Heather and Danielle boldly standing on the altar and wooing our hearts as they share about their first week as minimalists. The need for new hangers sparks the realization that the need is not for more hangers, but less clothes.. The cleaning out of a forgotten drawer reveals a thought-to-be-lost-forever diamond earring. And money earned to buy more for self is given generously to offer hope for another. Together, we celebrate getting rid of the old stuff. Then almost in the same breath, our breath is taken away as our Ms. Opal walks down the aisle to meet her future husband in a church decorated by her great granddaughter. “Morning has Broken” fills the air, and together, with weepy eyes, we honor and stand in awe of the old. Heads bow reverently. The words to an old poem are put to song by young Alejandro and a prayer is prayed for our precious couple. Holy happens. It’s true. I didn’t want to say goodnight to yesterday. But oh what delicious memories I have for today. For this, O Lord, I give you thanks! [Today is Day 7 in our minimalist journey. If you want to join us, PLEASE give us a call and we would love to send you a thirty day prayerbook/journal, which you can begin on any day. Blessings!]
Greetings to you, my precious Luke Family, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, Before I present the information shared at our recent family meeting, I want to share my heart with you. I love that God birthed us. I love that in God’s infinite wisdom He knew who to call into His heart to love His people. I love that as one looks at the faces of our family, God’s rich diversity rules. We are truly a multi-cultural family that is learning to love one another. I love that God knows our hearts. We love Him, and we love His people. We yearn to be close enough to hear His whispers of love and mission, so that we can help His hurting people in Denham Springs and beyond. I love that we don’t love division. Walls that separate and exclude are unwelcomed in our community of faith. We seek to build bridges where the world says bridges can’t be built. We find common ground between Protestants and Catholics; Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Libertarians; denominations and non-denominations. We love being a part of the body of Christ. We are unique, and we have a vital calling by God to never stop learning how to love Him and love one another. Why? because He first loved us. He loved us enough to birth us. As our Father, God is faithful to let us know when we’re getting it right and when we’re getting it wrong. Right now, He’s letting us know that we’re getting it wrong when we think we don’t need to tithe. Tithing is a kingdom principle that God established. That’s it. Period. The fact that we agree with it or don’t agree with it, is irrelevant. Why would God want us to tithe? He knows we love our money, and He does not want money to control us. What happens when we stubbornly refuse to give to God what is already God’s? Read the next three pages, and you will find out. There’s simply not enough money to do what God wants to do. I love you, and I love us. Please read the remaining pages of this letter prayerfully. God has called us to be a unique presence in His body, and He’s eagerly waiting for our response. With deep love and much respect for who and whose you are – Luke 10:27 Family Meeting 3/30/14 Our current reality: • Greg Lavergne, an assistant auditor for the State of Louisiana and former chair of Luke’s Board of Trustees, has spent many hours getting the finances in order. He had to go back five + years to make sure that the accounting was accurate. He finished this process in February 2014. • Leslie established the Finance Team to make sure we were being fiscally responsible and missional. The Finance Team is responsible for how church funds are spent. • The Finance Team renegotiated company contracts. The Ministry Leaders got creative with ministry. We saved $18,000 last year! • Giving in 2013 was down from 2012 by about $18,000. Had we not been prompted by God to radically trim our expenses, we would have had a larger deficit. • Weight Watchers, a tenant of the church through 2013, did not renew their contract to rent church space. • We cut our giving in half to Heart to Honduras and stopped giving to Community Hands all together because we did not have the money to continue our support. It is critical that we restore our giving to local and foreign missions when current revenues increase. Income for 2013 General Giving for 2013 $175,516* Rental Income (majority from Weight Watchers) $ 4,880 Total Income $180,396 *Does not include designated funds. Designated Funds can only be used for the purpose defined by the giver. Ex: Sponsoring a youth to go to camp. This money can not be used to pay for our general expenses. Expenses for 2013 Pastor & Ministry Salaries $ 78,808 Head Pastor, Elders’ Assistant, Music Minister, Youth Minister, and Nursery Workers Office Supplies $ 10,714 Trustees Expenses $ 86,729 Mortgage, Janitorial, Lawn Care, Property Tax, Insurance, Utilities, Alarm Monitoring Missions & Ministries (all) $ 7,855 Worship $ 1,693 Music Licenses, Altar supplies & Audio Visual Total Expenses $185,799 2013 Deficit (- $5,403) 2014 Information • Luke will sustain a $2,600 increase in expenses for alarm monitoring and garbage pick up (previously paid by anonymous donor). • We need to repaint the church or we will have long term damage. The Trustees are planning on doing it in stages so we can get started on it. • If giving stays the same for 2014, we will still have to cut $13,500 just to cover expenses equal to last year (does not include painting). Jan-Mar 2013 Jan-March 2014 * Difference $55,900 $46,387 ( – $9,513) *includes estimated amounts Here are some of the questions and answers asked at our Church Meeting and afterwards: 1. How many tithing units do we have? Based on individual and family units, we have 72 tithing units at Luke. 2. How much do we owe on our Building? We have two mortgage notes. We owe Whitney Bank $305,088 and we owe Frank Akin’s mortgage $693,957 totaling $999,045. 3. How much do we pay for our mortgage monthly? We pay Whitney Bank $3,076.20, and we pay Frank Akin $923.80 totaling $4,000. 4. Why did the church decide to take on this much debt? Frank Akin agreed to loan Luke 10:27 $717,052. Regrettably, the construction costs exceeded the original estimate to buy the property, build the sanctuary and renovate the church office. A second loan was necessary to complete the project. 5. When does the bank note come due and what happens then? Both loans come due in Oct 2015. The bank can ask for the full amount to be paid or hopefully, renegotiate another five year term loan. 6. What are we supposed to do? Tithe. God says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. “Test Me in this,” says the Lord, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Malachi 3:10 A tithe is the first 10% of one’s income. We are not called to be irresponsible in providing fundamental needs for our families. If tithing seems impossible, treat it as a goal. Determine an intentional , responsible plan for moving toward a tithe over a given period of time. 7. Can we do fund-raisers or try to get more people to come to church? Certainly, but not in place of tithing. God wants us to tithe. Please prayerfully complete the enclosed commitment card, and place it in the offering basket on Easter Sunday or mail it to: Luke 10:27, 536 Centerville, NE, Denham Springs, Louisiana 70726. God bless you.
Learning’s from Luke…. By Rachel Roussel “I cried out, ‘I am slipping!’ But your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.” Psalm 94:18-19 Each day we each struggle with worries that can produce anxiety and fear. Maybe it’s personal or the economy, jobless rate, murder rate, or other problem. But recently I heard a pastor say, “worry is meditating on words that are not God’s word.” What can we meditate on instead? God’s word tells us to think on good things, to fear not and be anxious for nothing. God’s word says that he’s our provider, our fortress, our shield, our present help in time of need. God’s word says that when you cry out that you are slipping that he will grab you and hold on until you get back on your feet, and he gives us renewed hope when all hope seems lost, and renewed cheer. Cheer? This simple word at the end of the verse can easily be overlooked, but it’s important to remember that God always comforts us and carries us through times of trouble back to the place of joy. In Matthew 6:25 God tells us to stop worrying about our lives. Instead, focus on what God is doing today, and on what we can do today to help bring his plans into being. Because as Romans 8:39 says, “Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.”
A Learning at Luke…… By Jenn Bull Recently, my husband asked me what I thought the difference was between trust and faith. Being an introvert who often goes away and processes things for a while (it’s been over a month) I didn’t answer right away. I have pondered the question a few times and am not sure I have completely come up with the answer but I love the question. The way we speak about trust and faith is similar but I also see a distinct difference. We say, “I trust you” or “I have faith in you.” Both are declarations that only we have the authority to speak yet one (trust) points to something more specific than the other (faith). I trust someone when, over time, they have shown me that they are sincere, reliable, and capable. They really mean what they say, they have followed through in the past, and they have the skills necessary to do what they say they are going to do. Faith on the other hand points to something deeper. While they may not have shown sincerity, reliability, and/or competence in the past, I have faith that it is within them. “I trust you” simply says what it says. “I have faith in you” attempts to draw something out that thus far has been unseen. Trust cannot exist without faith, yet, faith can exist without trust. This is because faith is a gift from God. It is that place within us that goes to the heart and often does not make logical sense. It is often a challenge to explain our faith. It simply exists but wrapping our minds around it can be a daunting task. When we have faith in someone or something, that faith comes from the light within us that sees the potential in the other and is not dependent on the past. Faith looks to the future possibilities. It goes to the heart and takes us out of our heads. When a parent continually makes room for a child to mess up it is because in the heart of the parent, the potential for the child exists. The light within the parent is trying to interact with the light within the child. This is also the distinction that creates the grey lines (and the grey hair) between when to let our children fall again and when to carry them. Knowing which one to choose depends on whether we are choosing from the head or the heart. Sometimes, it’s from both. Help us, Lord God, to follow Your guidance in our dealings with faith and trust. Make us sensitive to the light within ourselves and those around us. From there, help us to act accordingly. We adore You, O Christ, and place our faith and trust in You. Amen.
A learning at Luke 10:27 By Becky Walding In a world of uncertainty I often find myself looking ahead and wondering about all the what if’s and things to come whether they are good or bad, most often bad. I get so caught up in the unknown that I allow myself to get to a state of worry and then fear enters without even realizing it. Once in that place I become so frozen that I can’t or won’t allow myself to savor all that life is offering at this moment. I become so fearful it literally stops me from seeing anything good in my life because I am so focused on the if’s. This morning in my quiet time with Jesus, I asked him a question, “What do you want me to learn today?” this is what I heard.. “Be content- live for today, enjoy each moment. Do not worry about things to come, instead put all your trust in ME and I will guide you and keep you safe. I just love how he knows just what we need and when we need it. Feast on these verses. Philippians 4:11 I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Psalm 56:3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 37:24 …though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord upholds them with his hand. Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you. So today I am leaning into these truths and trusting. Father God, I want to savor each day with you and cherish every moment with the people in my life. Thank you for your sweet way of talking to us and reassuring us that you are right there with us every step of the way. I pray that as I savor all you have to offer that I will continue to grow closer and closer to you each day. Love you so much. Your servant, Becky
It was a Freudian slip. An error in speech due to an unconscious wish. His prayer during our worship service was coming to an end. “in the name of Jesus we play. Amen.” We play?! I love it! Praying is playing with God. Wow! That’s no Freudian slip. That’s divine revelation. God wants to play with us. I’ve prayed with prayer shawls and prayer books, but never with play dough. The unconventional thought seeped into my soul. Pray with play dough? Preposterous. Call out to God with a crayon? Absurd. Seek the Lord in sand? Strange. But not according to recent research in the field of Social Sciences . Studies of the brain prompt Neuropsychologist R. Joseph to say, “The limbic system (of the brain) may well be the seat of the soul or may serve as the neuro transmitter to God.” We are wired to connect with God. Creative arts heighten that connection by offering a “slow-paced setting conducive to reflection.” John Berryman, author of Godly Play, encourages us to be in the presence of Godly laughter. “Godly laughter,” writes Berryman, “is that of creation and play.” So, here’s to pink play dough, a pack of colored pencils, a sack of sand and a box of crayons. Teach us to pray, Lord. Teach us to play. . . . . with You! We adore You, O Christ, now and forever. Amen.
I wish you could experience my daughter-in-law, Kathryn, tell this story. She’s such a gifted storyteller. During Sunday School this past Sunday I wanted our children (ages 3-12, a most amazing, delightful blend) to experience the omnipresence of God, i.e. God is always present everywhere. As a part of our exercise Kathryn took three different age groups to play Hide and Seek in the sanctuary. First, they entered the sanctuary like little, noiseless ninjas. Next, they silently sought their hideout while the “seeker” counted. When the seeker was ready to seek he/she whispered the scripture, “If you seek me, you will find me.” After a couple of solo rounds the seeker said softly “If you seek Me,” and the hiders gently joined in, “you will find Me,” until all had been found. The following point was to be made: Even though we can’t see God, God is here. When Kathryn got to the “God is here” part, she heard an audible gasp. There stood her stunned daughter, Caroline, age 3. Body motionless. Eyes as wide as saucers. Disbelief refusing to flee from her face. S-l-o-w-l-y . . . three very BIG words came out of her tiny, petite mouth. “G-O-D is H-E-R-E?!!!” Incredible! Unbelievable! The Big guy?! The One I talk to every night?! He’s here?! WOW! Utterly, totally amazing!! No wonder Jesus said, “Unless you become like a child you will not enter the Kingdom of God.” Help us get this, Lord. Grow us younger, Grow us smaller. Grow us into a deeper understanding that wherever we are, You are. Y-O-U are H-E-R-E!! Incredible! Amazing! What are You seeing? What are You hearing? What are You longing to be for us? We adore You, O Christ, now and forever.
Unhurried intimacy with Christ. Like a salmon swimming upstream it’s a daunting task. Why? Why is it so difficult to linger in God’s presence? Why is it so hard to just hang with the One who knows us better and loves us stronger than anyone? When I was growing up my Mom had a mantra: “Leslie, slow down!” I wish I had been a better listener. Have you ever noticed how the beautiful things in God’s creation take their time? Slowly, insistently light defies darkness as the sun rises. A baby is born. A flower blooms. An oak tree looms large in our yard. Each formation takes the path of gradual growth. Each formation experiences barely perceptible change from one day to the next. I think God likes unhurried. Today, Lord, help us linger in Your Love. Give us the courage to challenge “busy” and “not enough time” by spending gentle, relaxed time with You, the One who saves us from ourselves. We get that it’s going to take us time to learn how to take time. So, bless us with persistent patience, Jesus. We adore You, O Christ, now and forever. Amen.
Today, Lord, How many faces will we see? How many words will we read? How much time will we spend with our family and friends? As our fingers type and swipe Bring us, Love, into Your Light. Yours is the Face we want to see when we strike a messaging key. Love listens. Love learns. Love forgives a wrong turn. Love seeks to always find something good – something kind. Love never wants to turn away from what His people have to say. Love gives us space to make a fuss refusing to give up on us. So, today, Lord, may Your Face fill the space between us and our friends. May Your Love from above be our button marked “Send.”
“I want to pray, but I don’t know how.” “Who has time? I sure don’t.” “I just do it while I’m doing things.” Common thoughts for an uncommon practice. Uncommon because prayer is a sacred encounter with the One who created us. A listening for holy whispers. A transforming power to change direction, change one’s heart, and change the world. It’s God’s way of intimacy with us. It’s One being one with us. Leading us. Convicting us. Loving us. So let’s learn about it. I’m SO excited about the series we’re doing at Luke on Sunday mornings: Being with Jesus to be sent out. Each week, along with the sermon, we’re receiving a WayCard. The WayCards contain specific ways to experience intimacy with the One who thinks we’re His best idea ever. For these first ten weeks we’re learning how to be with Jesus. Our being with Him informs out doing for Him. If we don’t get this order right, being before doing, we end up like a chicken running around with her head cut off. Busy, but dead. The following weeks we’ll experience being sent out in ministry of service, finances, and relationships (with particular focus on strengthening our marriages). It’s a breathtaking experience to be with Jesus and to be sent out by Him to help build His kingdom. So, let’s learn how to do it together! You are our King, Lord. We stand in awe that you want to come close to us. Help us create space in our busy lives to love You,. . . to serve You, . . .to just be with You. We adore You, O Christ, now and forever. Amen.
STOP! Please. Before you place any more food in your mouth today, would you take a moment to hear my heart. Yesterday three children came to our LANDers after-school program with their hands on their stomachs. “Please, Ms. Leslie, I’m starving,” one moaned. With tears in her eyes she cried, “I didn’t get to eat breakfast or lunch today. They couldn’t feed us at school. Please let me have snack early today.” As I frantically placed food in their empty hands my precious Frank called a high ranking political servant and asked what was happening. He stated the horrific obvious. “It’s happening all over the country. The government’s shut down.” Blame is of absolutely no benefit here. Democrat or Republican? I could care less. It is our children that grab my heart. They are totally dependent on us to get it right. And so far, we haven’t. Several weeks ago Nancy Hill, an elder at our church, preached a powerful word about prayer. She stated an absolute truth. “Prayer is the easiest and most powerful tool we have at our disposal.” She’s absolutely correct! Blame helps no one. Prayer, on the other hand, releases strong Power, great Wisdom, and a Compassion that weeps and raises the dead. PLEASE. Whether a deal is made today or not, I invite you to place no food in your mouth for the next twenty four hours. Let your growling stomach bring all children across the world to mind. Let the pangs of hunger awaken your soul to pray protection for them. Our children our counting on us to get this right! In our emptiness, Lord, fill us with Your Wisdom, Your Power, and Your Compassion. We adore you O Christ, now and forever! Amen.
A Learning at Luke . . . Taking a Double Take at Double Tape by: Kevin Acord Last Saturday I decided to attend the Fall on Your Knees class being offered at our church through October. I was expecting to learn something about prayer, but little did I know, I was in for much, much more. Ms. Leslie brought pieces of paper with various thoughts on prayer for us to put into the notebooks we brought with us. She was even thoughtful enough to bring several rolls of Scotch tape for us to use to put the papers into our notebooks. When I got my roll I noticed that it was double sided tape. I immediately thought, “I can’t use this, it’s double sided tape; it will make the sheets in my notebook stick together!” My next thought was, “Classic, Ms. Leslie!” In that fond, warm, yet patronizing kind of way I all too often think and speak. As soon as there was a break in the teaching, I passed the roll back to Ms. Leslie and asked for another while pointing out the silliness of trying to use double sided tape. Ms. Leslie then said, “Yes, I handed that out so one side could stick to the back of the handout and the other could stick to the notebook.” Doing it that way never even crossed my mind. I couldn’t believe I missed something that simple. Immediately, the Holy Spirit said to me, “Kevin, how many other times have you thought you did things the right way and judged someone?” “What other areas in your life could you be stuck doing things a certain way?” I guess it’s worth a double take.
Rory’s Learning . . . Ownership I like people who rent. Please do not assume that I do not like people who own…that’s certainly not the case. The truth is that none of us really own anything…well, except one thing but I’ll get to that later. People who rent have a sense of freedom from their stuff. Whatever it is they are renting…they can look at it and be like “hey stuff…guess what, you don’t control me”. Need an example? Okay…here we go. In a few seconds I’m about to make you feel, with only two words, absolutely carefree. When you read these simple two words your mind will be at ease, your spirits will rise, and a sense of freedom will instill in your soul……………rental car. How many times have you heard “it’s okay it’s only a rental.” Or a human being is actually stepping up to drive a group of other human being’s somewhere, with a big toothy human being smile, saying “Guys don’t worry I’d be happy to drive! It’s a rental!” Then all the other human beings are now smiling too, because they do not have to drive the cars they think they own…everyone’s smiling Now stop. You’re having too much fun. I’ve got to bring you back to earth. Way too much smiling…in a few seconds, I’m going to give you another word that will put you back at your desk. One word that’ll bring you to reality, cause a little crick in your neck, tighten your collar a bit, and add some sweat to your brow……………mortgage. Ugh, yeah, I feel like I need to get up and stretch a bit. Mortgage sounds like Mordred…or the kingdom of Mordor or even Mortal. How morbid. The more I feel like I own something…the more that thing actually owns me. I was watching Andy Stanley the other night, and he said something I really dug. “I never buy anything that I feel like I couldn’t lend to someone else.” Wow! I started thinking…hey I could let that person borrow this and that… I was getting a real sense of ‘alright! My stuff doesn’t own me!’ Then ironically I looked back at the TV Andy was on and thought…if someone came in right now, and asked to borrow my only TV…I’d say no. Yeah…I’m still dealing with that one. I also really like how Jesus deals with the issue of ownership. There was this super rich ruler who asked Jesus what he needed to do to get into heaven? Jesus said just do what God tells you. The ruler said, I do all those things but what else? So Jesus said sell all of your possessions; give everything to the poor and come follow me. The rich ruler couldn’t go there and left. Right there, the heart of it…the one thing I actually own! Choice. I do not own stuff, I either outlive my stuff or it outlives me. I do not own my name…probably 1 maybe 2 generations after I die, my name will most likely be gone from this planet. Eventually all names fade. The only thing I own is what I choose to do now. On the surface it may seem cruel to ask what Jesus asked of the rich ruler…but think about it for a second. Jesus didn’t say, okay sell everything you own…bring it back here, give it to me and I’ll take care of you. Or, sell everything you own, give it to me and I’m going to equally disperse it among my disciples and we are going to fund this really cool new movement! Jesus didn’t choose the ruler’s money……………Jesus chose the ruler. Jesus doesn’t want our money, he wants us. Jesus knows the only thing we own, is our choice. How we choose to give…how we choose to love…how we chose to live…how we choose people over stuff……………I need to go back and rethink the whole TV thing. In he who chooses me, Rory
Rory’s Learning . . . (Ms Leslie’s son 🙂 ) Is God my friend? Nope. I bet that shocks a lot of people? Growing up I was taught to have a personal relationship with God, I did…but I ended up creating God in my image. I fell in love with Jesus, however…whenever I sinned I would find my buddy God telling me “it’s okay, we’ll just keep working on this together”. My main man would give me a very nice comfortable pat on the back and nod of the head towards my sin. I could not have been more wrong. You see there is a reason Christ refers to God throughout scriptures as Abba…or father…not buddy, the dude, big guy, or even brother. Even though as a Christian you could argue if any one person who’s been on this planet could refer to God as a peer he could, but he didn’t…why? Christ wanted to impart the parental relationship we have with our father…he is our father, we are his children. In case you have a problem with this relationship, let me put it in another light. Some of you can remember your teenage years, and some of you reading this may be going through them now. Say when you were a teenager…you were super lucky to have that one Jimmeney Cricket friend. That one friend who didn’t give into peer pressure, didn’t look at you with rose colored glasses, and told you right from wrong. Now, say you find yourself in a situation where you are about to do something you know is wrong and your with Jimmeny. Jimmeny kindly reminds you hey you know this is not good…but there is no real strength behind it and you do it anyways. Now, say you are in that same situation…but your dad is standing behind you. Need something else? Okay…because it goes both ways. The football player falls in a heap on the field. He’s lying there writhing in pain. You see his fist pound the turf, PT’s are surrounding him. You can sense the complete anguish in his face. His best friend Jimmeny is in the stands thinking “oh man that had to hurt, it’s okay he’ll get better and we’ll work on this first thing tomorrow morning!” But there is someone else in the stands. The crowd of 92,000 is deathly quiet…yet you can hear this one fan’s heart beating like a bass drum. This fan is the only one standing, eyes fixed on the player…so much so that the 92,000 have completely disappeared. He’s defining every second of movement, totally encompassed with the situation. With every ounce of his essence he is shouting inside…”GET UP!”… Dad. God is not Jimmeny Cricket. Today I challenge us (you and I) that before we fall in our sin to not think “okay, the big guy knows I’m struggling with this”…but to know that our heavenly father is looking at us with the most passionate love and his heart is shouting…GET UP! In Christ and Love, Rory
Do you ever feel alone? No one understands your pain? No one gets what it’s like to be you? Too much to carry. Too heavy a load. Too tough to handle. Wherever you are – whoever you are – this is for you. God gets you. You were His idea. You were His thought. He thought you were such a good thought that He made you. Very intentionally He made you. You weren’t a mistake. You were an inspiration! He loved the idea of you so much that He crafted you and placed you on this planet to be in a relationship with Him and with those around you. You know that chair you’re sitting in right now – floor you’re standing on – bed you’re resting in? God is more real than any of those, and God is right there to offer you greater support. It’s hard to have a meaningful relationship with someone you can’t see, isn’t it? Right now you can’t see the specific spot on which your body is resting. But you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is supporting you. You can’t see the One who thought you were one of His best ideas ever. But you can see what He created. Take just a second to look at one finger. It’s amazing! It bends, extends bleeds, feels, lifts, points and touches. It contains bones, tissue, tendons, nerve endings, blood vessels and a print that identifies you as you. All that in a few short inches! He’s an amazing God! He loves your finger. He loves that it makes a print – an impression that no one else in the entire world can make. And He loves you! He loves that you are right where you are, making an impression that no one else in the entire world can make. The people around you? They’re there for you to love. No one can love them like you can. That’s why you are there. It will be hard sometimes. Love takes courage and guts. You have to choose to be patient and kind. To not keep a record of their wrongs against you. But the one who gave you that fantastic finger is right there with you. That’s why He’s there. To help you do what He created you to do. Love. You can do it. And most of all . . . so can He! We’re leaning on You, Lord, because You are strong enough, wise enough, powerful enough to catch us when we fall. We adore You, O Christ, now and forever. Amen.
God I love life. I love how wine becomes the blood of Christ and bread breaks into His broken body. Jesus, the Christ, the Living Lord and Loving Savior sits at our table and becomes our banquet. Heads bow. Hands open. We sip. We chew. We remember. . . . . what He did, what He is doing and what He will always do. Starving souls are satisfied. Weary hearts find rest. I love watching water drip down the head of an infant on an altar. God begins the conversation and declares across the universe, “This one is mine. I knew him before he was born. I formed him in his mother’s womb. Nothing absolutely nothing can take him away from My love.” And, the people of God respond. “We promise to live lives that will lead him to Your love.” I love how a man and a woman come together in holy union and end up reflecting the image of God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit become One. A relationship is created to create. Likewise, man and woman become on. And a relationship is created to create. A relationship of giving, not taking. A relationship of receiving, not demanding. I love how God’s breath created a universe that takes our breath away. Its magnificence makes words meaningless. You are amazing, God! Thank you for life . . . . a glimpse of eternity with You. We adore You, O Christ, now and forever. Amen.
We crave to keep our comfort zones. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. Everyday for sixteen years I have driven past Rodeo Drive blissfully oblivious to a “world of without”. As I cling to my things and yearn for yet more, God interrupts my “world of with”. He does it brilliantly. He chooses to use something that is precious to me. Children. They dance into my world through The LANDers, our church’s after-school program for children who have no adult supervision after school. Three of these priceless treasures are brother and sisters. The brother joyfully jumps out of his seat whenever help is needed. His younger sister eagerly runs into my arms the minute she lays eyes on me with the biggest hug and happiest “Ms. Leslie!” Their older sister looks and sings like an angel. When the day ends all three, aged 8-12, join their two high school sisters and sleep in one room. Five children share one bedroom in a dilapidated two bedroom trailer. They inspire and convict me. Crash my comfort zone, Lord. Crash it! Open my eyes to the poverty I comfortably cruise by. Break my heart. Please break it. May their basic needs loom larger than my unneeded wants. Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us. Help us to not fear uncomfortable. Help us embrace the scratchy, rough circumstances you place in our world as opportunities to see something we’ve not been able to see. We adore You, O Christ, now and forever. Amen.
Catastrophes. Crises. Concerns. They insist on being a part of our days. They are exhausting. Distracting. Anxiety producing. Had any of those lately? I sure have. You can’t control them. And you want desperately for them to not control you. But they refuse to be ignored. They tug at your heart and taunt your expectations. “I thought things were okay.” But they’re not. “Everything seemed great.” But it’s not. And so we worry. Fear manifests itself in high blood pressure and sweaty palms. We wonder how things will possibly work out. Solutions sneer and stand beyond our grasp. Then suddenly, unexpectedly enters God. The enormous, all powerful, all knowing, everywhere present God makes His presence known to you and to me. And the demons of despair tremble. A promise shouts across the universe. “ALL THINGS – ALL THINGS” – ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD FOR THOSE WHO LOVE THE LORD!” Romans 8:28 A new reality reveals itself. God is in control. Perfect Love proclaims, “I love you. I’ve got your back. And the ones you love? I’ve got theirs too. Trust me. Keep talking with me about it. I will give you strength to persevere. Wisdom to see what others can’t. And a peace that passes understanding. I will use this for good. As wretched and wrecked as this situation seems, trust Me. I will use it for good.” Help us, Lord. Help us look to You in trust, rather than to circumstances in fear. We adore You, O Christ, now and forever. Amen.
It tastes better than a cup of coffee, a glass of warm milk, or a hot fudge sundae with nuts and whipped cream. A couple of nights ago I realized regretfully that I had forgotten to attend our Study/Prayer Group. Totally bummed I continued the myriad of tasks before me as a gnawing anx began tugging at my soul. Breaking away from my ‘to do’s’, I went outside to walk and wonder. “What is it God? What do you want me to hear?” A spiritual practice came to mind from a recent reading. Centering Prayer. The early desert mother and fathers (ie. 4th century women and men monks who totally captivate my admiration) practiced contemplative prayer as a lifestyle. Today centering prayer provides a means to encounter their transforming experience. I’ve heard about it. But never tried it. That night I tried it. No amount of M&Ms and Diet Coke could have brought the peace and pleasure I experienced in 20 amazing minutes. Recognizing my complete lack of culinary skills this is one of the best recipes I could possibly share with you. Centering Prayer Serves: one weary soul PRESET a timer for 20 minutes CHOOSE one of the words below or your own sacred word of one or two syllables. God, Abba, Jesus, Mary, peace, shalom, prayer, love, stillness, joy … SIT comfortably with eyes closed. and silently, slowly repeat your word. WHEN a “thought, feeling, impression, memory or external stimulus attracts your attention gently return to the sacred word…as if the word were a feather floating softly onto a pillow.” (The Tree of Life, Models of Christian Prayer) SPEAK slowly the Lord’s Prayer at the end of the twenty minutes. YIELDS: one refreshed, centered soul submitted to the Holy Spirit It’s twenty minutes, Lord. It feels impossible. Stir in our hearts a way to do what doesn’t seem doable as we seek to be what we haven’t been for Your glory. We adore You, O Christ, now and forever.
Has the Lord placed a troubled child in your path? Maybe a step child – grandchild – neighbor’s child – your child. Their needs are beyond you. Their behavior frustrates you. You want to ease their pain, but you can’t. Short term or long term, their problem poses a problem in your life. Guilt holds your heart. Heavy rides your back. And confusion clouds your mind. That’s how I went to bed last night. Aching for a child I love, but cannot help. All night I tossed. All night I turned. And, all night I heard the same six words sung over and over again in my sleepy soul. “Our God is mighty to save.” “Our God is mighty to save.” “Our God is mighty to save.” It’s true He is. We aren’t. But there is one thing we can do that He can’t. We can bring the children to Him. He already knows them. He already loves them. But He needs us to let go of them and leave them with the One who knows and loves them perfectly. If God has placed a child with a problem in your path, as He has mine, believe it or not, it’s a privilege. He’s trusting you and He’s trusting me to persistently, insistently “Let the children come to me.” How? When our eyes look into theirs, PRAY. When our hands fold their clothes, PRAY. When our hearts hear their name, PRAY. Why? He is able to do what we can’t. “My Savior, He can move the mountains, My God is Mighty to save, He is Mighty to save.” Move the mountains, Lord. Ease our children’s pain. Help us flee fear. And give us the courage to leave the ones we love with the One who loves them most. We adore You, O Christ, now and forever. Amen.