Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Psalm 104:24

Bumblebee, Shark Valley Visitor's Area, Everglades National Park, July 2013

O LORD, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
Psalm 104:24

Monday I took a little time for a quick walk and photo shoot along the roadside canal at Shark Valley Visitor's Area of Everglades National Park off US 41. It has become my go to place. Bees and butterflies and flowers were in abundance. I watched a water snake attack a baby alligator (which swam away unharmed). A red-shouldered hawk hung around long enough for a number of photos and its presence at such a close distance left me amazed. A Blue heron hung out for awhile. For an hour not a single human being passed me. The only sounds were the songs of birds, the flow of the canal, the buzz of insects, and the deep throaty call of the ever-present pig frogs. The 7 foot alligator that swam by didn't make a sound, which was somewhat unnerving. Not since I was a child has God's creation so enraptured me, (when I would walk fields of goldenrod covered in Monarchs and by stream beds teeming with frogs, turtles, and more). 

I am learning that as we slow down, take sabbath time, open our eyes and ears and allow God's creation to sing to our hearts, gifts begin to unfold, one after another: peace, a renewed spirit, a sense of wonder. Yes, it is darn well muggy awful hot and humid, but I don't notice. And this surprises and delights me. Those walks have enabled me to be a better pastor and person. And I trust that many more might benefit from more time in God's creation. To slow down, to look, to listen, and to see!

Isaiah 26:7

White Peacock Butterfly, Shark River Visitor's Area, Everglades National Park, July 2013

The way of the righteous is level;
O Just One, you make smooth the path of the righteous.
Isaiah 26:7

Obviously, Isaiah doesn't live our lives, now does he:
the mountain tops, the valleys, the hills and sprawling landscape, the ruts, puddles, and stones that fill the paths of our lives. 

But perhaps the truth is that we encounter life differently as people of faith. Not that God rewards us with an easier journey, but rather the journey, itself, is transformed, we now fellow sojourners, a resurrection people, a people who live in the assurance of a living hope that will not fade or fail us. A journey in which nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Psalm 37:8

Blue Heron, Shark Valley Visitor's Area, Everglades National Park, July 2013

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
Do not fret — it leads only to evil.
Psalm 37:8

Here's a question: Tell me the one time when Jesus was angry.
Hint: There is no indication that when Jesus "cleansed" the temple he was angry. In fact one gospel says that he used this action to teach.

Jesus is no fan of anger:
"But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment" (Matthew 5:22)

So that whole "righteous anger" thing we like to break out and use for a free pass. Tuck that card away. That currency is no good here.

While anger is not sin, in and of itself, it rarely has a heart of love to give it true life.

Deuteronomy 4:9

Hawk, Shark Valley Visitor's Area, Everglades National Park, July 2013

But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children's children-- 
Deuteronomy 4:9

Passing on the faith is at the heart of the promises that we make before God for the future generations entrusted to us. It is never someone else's responsibility, though others may equip us, encourage us, and support us in our journey. Such are the roles of church, Sunday school, and the like. It is, as one might imagine, an awesome responsibility and one I suggest is more about learning to share our stories of faith than anything else. Let us ask ourselves what we need to become more comfortable sharers of all that God has done for us, what God means for us and what it means that we are people of God, and then find those places, activities and friends who can assist us; places where others offer to accompany us on the journey.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Psalm 118:5-6

Lubber Grasshopper, Anhinga Trail, Everglades National Park, July 2013

Out of my distress I called on the LORD;
the LORD answered me and set me in a broad place.
With the LORD on my side I do not fear.
What can mortals do to me?
Psalm 118:5-6

Fear, paralyzing fear, disorients us so that we can no longer find our way. We stumble, seeking only to take one more step, but we cannot; we place a tentative toe, then withdraw it. Fear robs our life of joy, of fullness, of freedom, and far worser still, of our ability to honor our relationships. 

To confront that fear, let the Lord's strength be our strength; let the love with which God claims us, forgives us, and saves us bear the burden of our fear, freeing us to live, to love, to claim the hope which sustains us. The fullness of life is the gift that God has given us - let us honor God by giving to God all that diminishes that gift.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hebrews 4:9-11b

Butterfly at Anhinga Trail, Everglades National Park, July 2013

So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter God's rest also cease from their labors as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest
Hebrews 4:9-11b

For us, the Sabbath is not about rules, but a relationship. 
It is not a specific day as it is for our Jewish brothers and sisters (and I honor that), but a way of being, of living in relationship with God.
Do we trust God to cease from labor and enter into God's rest?
Someone much wiser than I once said that a sabbath is when we do that which brings us the most joy. 
I believe that we honor God by honoring God's gift of the Sabbath to us. The rhythm of work and ceasing from work flows from God's very act of creation. 
I also believe that because it is not about rules, but a relationship that it is transformative if we allow ourselves to participate in its gift for us.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Matthew 16:24

Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."
Matthew 16:24

Crosses are not the burdens we bear, but walking in the way of Jesus. So we need not, should not brag about our sufferings, nor lament them, but rather practice humility; for it is a humble heart and a humble life that marks disciples of Jesus. That quality will bear a greater witness to Jesus and his love for all than nearly anything else we will ever be capable of doing in Jesus' name.  

(Anhinga, Shark River Visitor's Center, Everglades National Park, Florida, July 2013)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Jeremiah 29:13

Shark Valley Visitor's Area, Everglades National Park, Florida, July 2013

When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart
Jeremiah 29:13

We crowd our hearts and our lives with many things, both important and trivial. Faith calls us to have perspective that so much of our anxiety and anger and nearly all our fear is misplaced. This photography hobby of mine has forced me to slow down in order to see things that I have not seen since I was a child and wonder ruled more of my life than any other emotion. It allows time for God to speak, in a language I better understand, the language of creation, of awe, of stillness and beauty, one heart seeking another. How does your heart seek out the voice of God?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Psalm 95:6-7a

Green Egret, Shark Valley Visitor's Area, Everglades National Park

O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
Psalm 95:6-7a

We must broaden our understanding of worship until the whole of life becomes the very act of the thing, itself. 
Like the Celtic Christians of old, we must open ourselves to the presence of God in the routine, the mundane, life in the ordinary becoming extraordinary; God surrounding, enwrapping, enfolding, every moment, every heartbeat. 

Romans 9:25-26

Purple Porterweed, Parsonage Butterfly Garden, Florida, July 2013

Those who were not my people I will call 'my people,'
and her who was not beloved I will call 'beloved.'"
"And in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' there they shall be called children of the living God.
Romans 9:25-26

Jesus spent his entire ministry living out God's plan to draw all people unto God, to erase boundaries and borders that separate us into insiders and outsiders, the welcomed and unwelcomed. Jesus spent his entire ministry living out God's plan to incorporate the high and the lowly, the powerful and the poor, the popular and the lonely, the broken and the lost. Every time we label, mock, and hate others and use religion to divide rather than advance this ultimate plan of God, we expose one of the fundamental human sins within our own hearts.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Psalm 10:1

Shark Valley Visitor's Area, Everglades National Park, July 2013

Why, O LORD, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
Psalm 10:1

Sooner or later we will experience it: the feeling that the Lord is distant, far off or even uncaring of our present situation. That when we need the Lord most, that the Lord is no where to been seen, heard or found.

The psalmist cries out these, our secret fears.

Yet, these feelings do not change the truth.
They do not diminish the power of the promise of God.
As the psalmist will later declare: 
"But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief,
that you may take it into your hands."

Be at peace, rest in hope, for the Lord is with you, especially in the place of your greatest need, your deepest fear, where your suffering is manifest. God's promise to be with us can withstand our doubts.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Lamentations 3:48

Sea Grape Leaf, Hollywood Beach, Florida, July 2013 

My eyes flow with rivers of tears
because of the destruction of my people.
Lamentations 3:48

Grief is not a lack of faith, nor a sign of doubt in God's promises. Rather, we grieve because we love, and just as Christ grieved and lamented over friend and city alike, we acknowledge that in our grief we are the people that God has molded into God's own image, if not more so. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Matthew 5:16

Butterfly on Ageratum, Shark Valley Visitor's Area, Everglades National Park

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. 
Matthew 5:16

In a world that thirsts to know God, to see God, to experience God, we are called in our baptism to embody Christ in showing mercy, living compassionately, and doing all things in love so that Christ might be known. May the whole of our lives be our testimony. May there be no doubt as to who our hearts cling and from where our life draws meaning. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Philippians 2:3-4

Shark Valley Visitor's Area, Everglades National Park, Florida, July 2013

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others
Philippians 2:3-4

To many, humility is seen as weakness, but in Christ, weakness is strength and humbleness a way of life. To take up our cross daily in our following of Jesus is to die to self in order to live for Christ.
And it is OK if we have no real clue what that means. The Holy Spirit will teach us.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Romans 12:2

Butterfly, Shark Valley Visitor's Area, Everglades National Park, July 2013 

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2

This is a fundamental truth: Our will and God's will are not the same thing. It is our humble yearning to conform our will to God's will, but are we willing to empty ourselves so that Christ might fill us? Are we bold enough to risk the consequences?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

1 Samuel 13:7b

Shark Valley Visitor's Center, Everglades National Park, July 2013

for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7b

Could you imagine a life where all that people could see of you is the love that you embody: Love for them, for others, for creation, for God, for yourself as a child of God made in God's image? 

John 6:9

Shark Valley Visitor's Area, Everglades National Park, July 2013

There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?
John 6:9

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Theresa

And, of course, those small things are great things. Perhaps not by the measure of the world, but in God's calculus they matter most. The prevailing thinking far too much of the time is that the problem is too big, so I will ignore it. The smallest act of kindness done in Jesus' name is to embody Christ before the world. It matters. It always does and always will. For it makes Christ known.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Juvenile Alligator, Everglades National Park, Florida, July 2013

With my voice I cry to the LORD;
with my voice I make supplication to the LORD.
I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him.
When my spirit is faint,
you know my way.
In the path where I walk
they have hidden a trap for me.
Look on my right hand and see — 
there is no one who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares for me.
I cry to you, O LORD;
I say, "You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living."
Psalm 142:1-5

When life becomes lament, the psalmist reminds us that the Lord remains our steadfast refuge. The Lord cares. The Lord hears our cry. Hope abides!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Luke 6:43-44

Fruit Tree Garden, Kona Kai, Key Lardgo, Florida, July 2013

No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit.
Luke 6:43-44

Fruit flourishes with proper care and fertilizer. 
If we want the fruit of our lives to embody a gracious and loving God; if we want to bear witness to the hope freely gifted to us; if we want to be imitators of Christ as the dearly loved children of God that we truly are - we must put the greatest priority on how we choose to nurture the faith that produces such fruit. 

Good fruit is no accident. 

Disciple and discipline share more than a few letters...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Matthew 18:20

Key Largo, Florida, July 2013

For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.
Matthew 18:20

We are called in faith into community for one another.
I am not arrogant enough to suggest that one vision of what that community looks like is enough for God. What is enough is God's promise in and through Christ Jesus to be present when we gather in God's name. We are more perfectly the image of what God intends for us together, then we could ever be alone. Some of us pastors fill our waking hours dreaming of what new communities God is asking us to form where the lost may be found, and the spiritual sojourners may gather.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ephesians 1:8b-10

Woodpecker, Key Largo, Florida, July 2013

With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 
Ephesians 1:8b-10

In Christ, the lost have been found; the scattered, gathered together. Shall we not declare it to those near and far? The Lord welcomes all!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Colossians 3:8-11

Poisonwood Tree, Islamorada, Florida, July 2013

But now you must get rid of all such things — anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
Colossians 3:8-11

In Baptism we die to ourselves and rise to live Christ. In what ways have you lived into your new self today?

Philippians 3:10-11

Waterlily, Key Largo, Florida, July 2013

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:10-11

Because Christ lives, we live, grace having found us  through the resurrection of Jesus. The questions is: Do people see this new life  in us?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

1 Peter 1:3-5

Water Lily, Key Largo, Florida, July 2013

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 
1 Peter 1:3-5

We are not who we were, nor are we nothing. All we are we are in Christ Jesus, and having been made new in Christ, we live for the glory of God to love God by loving our neighbor deeply, selflessly, and humbly. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Romans 12:15-18

Shark Valley Visitor Area, the Florida Everglades, July 2013

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Romans 12:15-18

Choose this day to live in peace, to be a maker of peace, to embody peace. Stay your hand when it seeks to sow the seeds of discord, the seeds of judgment, the seeds of injustice.

Shark Valley Visitors Area, The Florida Everglades, July 2013

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
Romans 12:9-12

When our lives are upside down, which happens more often than most of us are willing to admit, the challenge to love is great, but selfless love turns us outward and transforms us and becomes the gift that we need to be ready to give and to receive at those moments.