Sunday, February 21, 2021

House of the Lord

I was glad when they said to me,
“Let’s go to the house of the Lord.”
Our feet are standing
Within your gates, Jerusalem.
(Psalm 122:1-2, NASB)

There is nothing intrinsically special about our church buildings. It is not the tabernacle or the temple where the literal presence of the Lord resided for so many years. Today the Spirit of the Lord resides in His believers.

It is not the place where we make sacrifices to atone for our sins and mistakes, where bulls and doves allow us to express our sorrow for behaving in a way that is not pleasing to God. Today we make the sacrifice of a contrite heart.

It’s not even the place we truly worship God.  Jesus Himself taught that the day was coming when we would worship Him in spirit and truth. Today, like so many days that have already passed, is that day.

Yet there is something special about returning inside the church. I felt it last year, too, when we initially resumed meeting outside after quarantine.

No social distance can replace the warmth of being with those you love.
No masks can cover the smile in a person's eyes.
No lack of corporate singing can stop the song in one's heart.

Every time I have ever travelled, there is this special moment when I walk back into my home.  Whether being away for a couple days or a couple weeks, there is nothing like placing your feet on familiar soil.  For the psalmist, that land was Jerusalem.  For me, today, it was the sanctuary at my church.

Where I first learned to study scripture.

Where I was baptized.

Where I first served God amongst other believers.

Where I married my husband.

Where I've testified to God's grace over and over in my life.

So I will pray for my church, my homeland, my Jerusalem. When the words falter, I will echo the words of the psalmist, that peace and prosperity be a part of our lives, not for our own sake but for the sake of our brothers and friends and for the sake of the house of the Lord.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
May peace be within your walls,
And prosperity within your palaces.”
For the sake of my brothers and my friends,
I will now say, “May peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.
(Psalm 122:6-9, NASB)

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Wacky Wednesday

It all began
with that shoe on the wall.
A shoe on the wall...?
Shouldn't be there at all!
(Wacky Wednesday, Dr. Seuss)

If you've read any of the other posts I've made here, you'll know that I don't often begin with a quote from something other than Scripture.  Again and again throughout my life, I've felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to commit myself to God.  In writing, that means my words are most always focused on His.

But we're coming off a wacky year, and I'm in a wacky mood.  And it just felt like a Wacky Wednesday kind of day.

Wacky because I've started a new part time job, in addition to my existing part time job, working as a tutor. Yesterday was my first shift.  I sat in my virtual classroom for two hours... all... by... myself.  Though I knew that was a very likely possibility, it was not the vision I had created in my head.

Wacky because I spent most of today attending to details for this weekend, our church's first service inside our sanctuary in almost a year.  Forty nine Sundays held outside or at home.

Wacky because I almost forgot it's Ash Wednesday. And even though my church does not traditionally celebrate Lent, we do usually have a special time together on Ash Wednesday. You can read my previous reflections on Ash Wednesday here: Rough Cloth and Ashes or Rainbow Offerings.

You might say that my lenten experience is begining with a shoe on the wall.

To Sacrifice or Not To Sacrifice?
Lent is always a little wacky for me.  Our denominational tradition does not encourage the lenten focus, but I know a growing number of believers who find the experience beneficial to their faith.  But when your church body doesn't practice the act collectively it becomes a bit of a spiritual landmine.  Mention your fast to the wrong person and you'll get a lecture about how we are not Catholic and God does does not demand a sacrifice from us.

I always want to remind them that God never really wanted sacrifice; He wanted obedience. Even in the era when animals were regularly being offered to God, it wasn't God's primary desire.  I want to open my Bible to 1 Samuel 15:22 and help them recall that the prophet said "to obey is better than to sacrifice." Saul, the King, would be dethroned for making sacrifices to God that He did not ask for.  

Oh, but there are sacrifices that God desires:
For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You do not take pleasure in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, God, You will not despise.
(Psalm 51:16-17, NASB)
God does not want a burnt offering.  He wants our hearts.  If a lenten sacrifice bring us back to Him, we should do it.

The Pattern of Fast and Feast
We love to celebrate the Christian feasts, Christmas and Easter.  We love the excitement and the tradition.  The joy.  But I'm not sure these days mean as much without also engaging in the fasts. The dark days.  The reflection and preparation.  The sorrow.

Many years ago, my husband and I went camping with a friend. We decided to explore some of the caves where we were staying. As excited as I was, I was also nervous about getting lost in our adventure. The farther we went into the cave, the smaller the light got until eventually it was the smallest it could be without disappearing. Our friend encouraged us to go farther, into total darkness. We compromised by making one single turn, stepping out of the light by only a few steps. That may have been one of the scariest moments of my life. We stood there a few moments until we were ready to leave, and I will never forget the joyous moment when I could see the light once again. For me, Lent is very much like that experience. It is a time remembering the darkness so that I can better celebrate the light.

Lent 2021
So here I am, still feeling wacky, but now a little retrospective too, wondering what Jesus would tell me if he were sitting at the desk across from mine.

I don't know. I really don't. But I can spend the next 40-ish days trying to figure it out.

Hey, God.
It's me.
How's it going?
Anything I need to pay attention to?
I'll be right here if You want to let me know...

Tuesday, February 16, 2021


But wanting to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
(Luke 10:29, NASB)

I had just turned the heater on when I heard the knock on my office door. I opened it to see a woman.

"Excuse me," she said. "We just noticed one of your windows is broken."

It's not unusual to find neighbors on our church property.  On the edge of an area zoned for manufacturing, a major residential area begins to the south of our church campus. A large grassy area covers that side of property.  Those who have been at the church a long time may see the grass as a missed opportunity.  The original plans included many more classrooms and a small chapel, and the grassy area would have been replaced with buildings for education and worship.  However, the early members of our church never got around to finishing development for one reason or another. So, these days, we often find our neighbors throwing a football, practing casting their fishing rods, or like today, playing with their dogs.  Hello, neighbor.

As a church we do our best to make use of that area.  We gated off a small section so our children's department can safely take students outside to run around. Over the years we've had many barbeques and water balloon fights.  We even purchased a blow up movie screen to host movie nights during the summer.

These local residents are our neighbors and it's generally easy to love them.

But what about the others?  What about the person who, for example, broke our window?  What about the person a few years ago who graffiti'd our trash cans?  What about the man who asked (that is, told) us to make expensive repairs to a portion of our building "because he loved Jesus"?  Can we invite these people to be our neighbors also?

Indeed, those needing to be accepted as neighbors are the ones from whom we least benefit.  When the Samaritan helped the man on the road in Jesus' parable, he was generous with time and money.  He took care of his physical needs, transported him to an inn, stayed the evening there, paid the man's debt, and promised to return in case more was needed.

The Samaritan was a neighbor to the man before the man could decide he wanted a neighbor.

It's easy to befriend the Mr Rogers of the world who declare "I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you."  However, when we find our neighbor is more Oscar the Grouch than Mr Rogers, it is then that we can truly model God's love.  We can love first (1 John 4:19).

Sunday, February 14, 2021

90 West

Today I took the 90 West
to see if I remember,
to give myself a test.

To visit where blue whales always swim
and the big blue bus
stops next to them.

To hear the songs that Beethoven plays
from long forgotten
elementary days.

To see if the lady had lost her head
or if fences protect
like they intended.

To buy a donut, though out of the way,
because they taste the best
on a Sunday.

To see the house that the earthquake hit
and make a guess
who lives in it.

To drive down streets that I once walked
and rode my bike
and with friends talked.

To revisit if I am still my own.
To know who I am.
To see my home.

Saturday, February 13, 2021


Eating a maple bacon donut.
I love donuts.

No, like, really love them.

And I love people who love donuts along with me.

Let me tell you about a man I worked with for a few years named Ted.  Ted was special because he would bring me donuts.  From Oregon.  To California.  Ted and I shared a mutual love for VooDoo Doughnut, a small and quirky chain of donut shops that originated in Oregon, but can now be found in at least four states.

If there is one near you, try the peach fritter.  I know, peach.  Just try it. I've eaten my fair share of donuts.  I can't say I've eaten at every donut shop in driving distance from my home, but that's only because my car gets really good mileage.

I've brought donuts to many people for many occaisions, but I've probably never had anyone appreciate it as much as Ted. Our love for VooDoo Doughnut grew because we had each other in our lives.  We talked about them.  We dreamed about them.  We ate them more because we'd bring them to each other.  Our lives were more donut-y because we had each other.

A rather beloved proverbs floats around some Christian circles:
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)
I've recently been very convicted by this.  Instead of feeling like iron for my fellow believers, I've felt like a spiritual cotton ball. Unsure if I'm sharpening anyone, I've withdrawn. Quarantine makes it easy to hide. There is an unrest in my spirit that must be resolved. Yet, the call for community persists.  I need the iron of others as much as they need me. I do-nut want to neglect this.

Last year I broke my favorite knife.  It has a lifetime service warranty, but the factory was closed because of COVID.  I could send it to them, but they could not promise how long it would be before they repaired it. For no particular reason, I waited. I was frustrated I had to mail my knife for repair.  I was frustrated the factory was closed. I was frustrated the knife had broken in the first place. So that knife sat on a shelf in my kitchen for months - six, to be exact - before I finally realized that I had made a foolish decision.  If I had mailed it when it first broke, it would already be repaired.

As believers, as pieces of iron, our sharpening does not always come in the way we would choose.  The difficulty of repair just means we need repair that much more. Some days I'm a dull knife, no good for any use, and collecting dust.

But not today.  Today this knife is sharp.

Today, I eat donuts!

Friday, February 12, 2021

FMF: Once

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.... so now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah. Do not be afraid.” (Zechariah 8:4-5,15, NIV)

I've been thinking about mourning lately.  I didn't realize that might be strange until I just typed those words.  Mostly, I've been thinking that we (and when I say "we" I mostly mean "I") don't know how to mourn properly.  We don't let ourselves feel the depth of our pain, but, perhaps more concerning, we don't know how to move in an out of periods of mourning.

The prophet Zechariah spoke to the believers in exile.  I must admit, I have not studied the exile as much as I have studied some other periods of Biblical history.  However, I do know that the exile ended.  Eventually, the believers moved back to their beloved city and walked its streets once again.

The prophet promised that the return from exile would bring blessing to the believers.  Their times of fasting would become times of celebrations.  Love and justice would rule their city.  People would follow them to experience the same blessing they saw in the lives of the believers.

Seeing our streets filled once again may be a concept many of us relate to more than we did a year ago.  We long to leave the safety of our homes and begin to do life out in our home towns, to see the elderly with their canes, and to hear the young playing again. While I feel that longing for my physical life, perhaps I feel it more in my spiritual lives.

Oh, God, allow us to return from our spiritual exile and do not let us fear Your blessing.

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This post is a prompt from Five Minute Friday and was written in approximately five minutes.
For more information, visit
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Saturday, February 6, 2021

Along the Way

Me, doing my best impression of a tourist.
My family planned a trip to see a Minnesota Twins game in July 2019. Target Field, where the Twins play, is almost two thousand miles from our home so we also planned some stops along the way. In Utah, we visited long time friends who had moved out of state several years before. In South Dakota, we stopped at a cafe with the same name as my younger son. Oh, and we went to this little place called Mount Rushmore.  Maybe you've heard of it?

And then we drove the two thousand miles back home.  Along the way we planned equally exiciting stops. In Iowa, we saw a musician who wasn't coming to the West Coast any time soon. And the Field of Dreams! In Colorado, we visited family. And in Las Vegas, Nevada we stayed at a fancy hotel - just because we could... and because I had a coupon.

Sure, we could have flown to Minneapolis.  What took us a week each way could have been accomplished with a three hour flight.  It probably would have been cheaper, too.  But, oh, the things we would have missed along the way!

A candy museum. A gun museum. A cowboy museum.  Three rounds of golf at three different miniature golf courses in the same mall. Watching a lightning storm set a field on fire. Countless small towns that claimed a connection to Laura Ingalls Wilder. A mid-America county fair. A hotel with hallways reminiscent of The Shining and showers that could be seen from the main room if you didn't turn on the lights properly. A picture opp next to a giant Green Giant statue. Finally getting my son a mug with his name on it.  An underground cave tour.

What happens along the way is very important in Scripture.  God's people were warned of armies, ambushes, and angels they would encounter along the way.  Yet we wonder why things are difficult for us.

There was a stretch of highway in Wyoming that really made me nervous.  We had been relying on our phone to direct us, and we hadn't had any problems.  Yet, when it told us to turn off the main highway to go on another path for one hundred miles, then turn right and continue for fifty miles, I was suddenly aware of everything that could go wrong.  What would happen if we lost cell reception? What would happen if we missed our turn?  What would happen if we got a flat tire? We could see the fences of distant ranches, but we could not see people.  We had to trust the way before us.

Life is too often like that Wyoming path.  Uncertain.  Unfamiliar.  Unexpected.  Maybe even undesired.

There is only one place to receive comfort in those moments:

Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house; I would not tell you this if it were not true. I am going there to prepare a place for you. After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." (John 14:1-4, NCV)

God has never abandoned me along the way, so why do I worry? I believe that God has revealed to me the way to the place where I am going, that place where I can finally be with Him in perfect peace. And I pray He alows me to enjoy the journey along the way.

Friday, February 5, 2021

FMF: Sunrise

“If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed." (Exodus 22:2-3, NIV)

This is not a political statement.
Thank you for not misconstruing this post.

What does the sunrise change? If you were an Israelite living in the time of Moses, everything. According to law of Exodus, it determined the guilt in your actions. Think about this way: In the safety of the light, you could see who was breaking in.  Your neighbors were likely awake to answer your call for help. It is not the same in the dark.  The light changes everything.

In our faith, we also have a spiritual sunrise. Lots of them. My denomination calls that process sanctification. It is the continual process of the Holy Spirit revealing to each believer what is right.  At certain points what was once justifiable no longer is. It is like James says, "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them." (James 4:17, NIV)

And we don't all get there at the same time. Maybe that is why God tells us not to be careful in issuing judgement. We will never have adequate information to make the right decision in all cases.  We may get some right, but we'll definitely get some wrong too. So we are warned to judge carefully, to confirm if the sun has risen for the person standing before us.

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This post is a prompt from Five Minute Friday and was written in approximately five minutes.
For more information, visit
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