Saturday, May 26, 2007

Grassroots Grace

Psalm 129: 6 May they be like grass on the roof, which withers before it can grow (NIV)

Have you ever seen grass grow on a roof? I have many times, especially back in Scotland. In the bleak countryside, you come across old derelict cottages, abandoned decades ago, which once housed a shepherd or a crofter and his family. There's usually no front door and all the glass windows are gone. Stone has fallen upon stone, and the harsh Scottish winters have weathered what was once a pretty cottage with a garden.

And then summer comes around. Wild flowers spring up all over the place - pink and white foxgloves, golden dandelions, beautiful bluebells and scarlet poppies. The place is transformed and there is even grass on the roof, edging its way around the slate tiles. The place has been abandoned by people, but the glorious Spirit of our Creator abounds. What was once forsaken, derelict, and lifeless has become an abundant theater of wildlife and beauty, diversity and color.

This happens to churches, too. A congregation can appear dead and dull, insignificant and abandoned, and then suddenly the Spirit of God touches the place, so that hearts and minds, lives and people become transformed, renewed and re-strengthened. New people enter the doors; new ministries are born; a new hope spreads through the entire congregation. Prayers are answered and lives are healed. Friends are reconnected to God, and once weary souls are refreshed and saved. All of them beautiful flowers in God's garden, which we call church.

This is what we should all pray for our churches today of all days - a creative showering of the Holy Spirit in worship and fellowship, ministry and mission, meaning and purpose.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the King of all Creation and we are blessed by Your mercy and grace. Transform our lives and renew our faith. Heal our past and strengthen our churches. Guide us and lead us on a new journey of faith that is exciting, fulfilling, and rewarding. In Your Holy Name, we expectantly pray. Amen.

Stushie writes the daily devotional Heaven's Highway that you can link to from this page

Saturday, May 19, 2007


Scottish Accent Audio version here

Romans 5:5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (NIV)

I came across a new word the other day: acedia. It means ‘spiritual languor.’ I guess it’s like belief burnout or compassion fatigue. It’s when you lose your connection to God, His church or His people, and you end up feeling isolated, vulnerable, and maybe even abandoned.

It’s like being in a spiritual wilderness with no sense of direction, focus, or meaning. It’s a hard state to be in and a hard experience to endure. Souls can feel lost in acedia, but it seems to be an important part of our spiritual journey and Christian growth.

The Desert Fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries experienced a lot of this, especially when they chose to be isolated from the rest of the Christian community. They went out into the desert to find themselves because they were too many distractions around them in the towns and cities where they lived. They found the peace and quiet, solace and tranquility they were looking for, but slowly and surely acedia wormed its way into their hearts and minds. For a time, their souls became depressed and their grasp of God weakened. Some of them went mad with despair, whilst others were overwhelmed with a spiritual malaise.

So, how did they overcome acedia? They kept on praying. They kept on meditating about God. They kept on reading the scriptures. And even although this was hard to do, they persevered; bringing their souls through that acediac wilderness to a realization of a new hope in God’s overflowing love through being reconnected to the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps, you are feeling the same acedia. Maybe you’ve felt disconnected to God for a while and have lost some of that peace, presence and spiritual strength you so desperately need at this time. You’re not alone, and others have walked that wilderness path before you. Keep praying. Keep reading. Keep persevering. You’ll one day discover that God still holds you in His hand and that He keeps pouring out His love to you day by day, hour by hour, second by second.

Prayer: Father God, sometimes we feel that we have lost our grasp of faith and that things are not the same. Sometimes we wonder if You are really there, or if we are really that important to You. As we struggle with acedia, keep on loving us. Continue to guide us by Your grace and lead us by Your love. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen.

Stushie is the writer of the weekday devotional Heaven's Highway. He also blogachutes on Friday lunchtimes - you haven't tried blogachuting yet? It's more progressive than emergent...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Hump Day Prayer . . . for Travelers

Be mindful, O Lord, of those who travel by land, by sea, and by air; of the old and young, the sick, the suffering, the sorrowing, the afflicted, the captives, the needy and the poor; and upon them all send forth Thy mercies, for Thou art the Giver of all good things.

--Orthodox Christian liturgy

Monday, May 14, 2007

Monday Question of the Week . . . Church and State

This past Saturday was Election Day here is the Lone Star State. This weekend as I was driving around I saw several churches, non Presbyterian and most with a direct view of the highway, that had hundreds of signs for politicians on their property and there was something about this that disturbed me. What do you think about churches posting signs for specific politicians on their property? Separations of church and state? Speaking truth to power?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Sunday Meditation - Pentecost Peace

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. NIV

Pentecost Peace

The Holy Spirit of Pentecostal Peace descends like a dove to earth, only to be crucified in an Iraqi civil war.

Jeremiah 8:11-12 They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious."Peace , peace ," they say,when there is no peace . Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct?No, they have no shame at all;they do not even know how to blush.So they will fall among the fallen;they will be brought down when they are punished, says the LORD. NIV

Sometimes Stushie finds it hard to say what he wants, so he puts it into his art. He writes the daily devotional Heaven's Highway, which also contains much of his computer scribbles and spiritual doodles.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday Review. . . . Research Resources

As Church communications are becoming more and more electronic, I thought it might be useful to see if I could get a collaberative effort going to list available online resources for Bible Study and research links. Next week, I will do sources for online devotionals, meditations and prayers.

I am finding that for a variety of reasons it is becoming more and more useful to be able to e-mail a link to an article, a commentary, a map without having to scan a paper copy or worry about copright.

Here are a few of the resources that I use:

Textweek -- This is a huge resource organized by scripture passage that includes links to commentaries, dictionaries, articles, all kinds of things.

Online Study Bible -- A little on the fundamental side, but quite useful.

House Church Architecture -- Posted this morning on member blog, Kruse Kronicle is a nice description of 1st century residential architecture useful in discussion of 1st Century house churches.

Chrisitianity Today -- This web page is almost completely searchable and has a huge archive of articles. -- This web page includes multiple translations, an online concordance, some cross-refernences and commentaries and multiple other resources. -- I haven't spent much time here, it is clearly more conservative than I; but it does at least appear to offer a wide variety of resources including some self-study theology work and other things not frequently found other places. It is on my list to check out more fully the next time I have some free time. . . .

Bible and -- This is a resource from Christianity Today that includes Bible Study tools, apologetics, devotionals, even small group curriculum. I haven't spent much time here, but I would love to hear from anyone who has. -- This site offers the ability to search multiple translations by keyword.

Virtual Salt -- This is a links page to a variety of Bible study resources available on the web that includes most of what I have listed above plus some.

So, what do you use?


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Hump Day Prayer . . . Mother's Days

Mother’s Day Prayer

Eternal God, on this day we lift up mothers to you. You, O Lord, are the one “who, from our mothers’ arms, hath blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.” Scripture has prepared us to recognize that by your grace, mothering takes many forms. We pray for mothers around us . . .

. . . For those who, like Jesus’ mother Mary, have been surprised by the unexpected responsibility of parenting. Remind us not so much of the circumstance through which children come into the world, but that they are always a gift from you. Help us to always see your image in them.

. . . We pray for those who, like Naomi, find themselves parenting someone outside the predictable patterns of mothering. Bless this day all grandparents, aunts, foster parents, adoptive parents, and kindly people who care for children.

. . . And we give thanks for those like Ruth who become caregivers for their elders. Because the generations that need to be mothered and the seasons of our lives can change, we sometimes find ourselves mothering those who have even forgotten who we are. We take strength in knowing that you remember their identity when they no longer do. Grant courage and strength to all those who provide care in your name.

. . . We pray for those who, like Hannah, have struggled with the task of letting go of a child. Teach us to support our children, even when the calling of their hearts does not meet our greatest hope for them.

. . . We pray for those like Mary or Rachel who have known the deepest agony of a child’s death. Remind them again that nothing can separate their child from your certain love. Give strength and peace to those who mourn and those who cannot stop mourning.

. . . Despite our best efforts, families are breeched and broken by death, disaster, or disagreement. Help us, like Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, to regroup our families in confident hope that in due season wounds shall be healed and oneness restored.

. . . On this day we set aside to remember mothering, we also call to mind those men who are called to the vocation of mothering, those who, in the absence of another, seek the heart of a Mary or a Rachel. Let us renew our commitment to uphold them this day.

Loving God, the bond between parent and child can be the most intimate and nurturing of our lives. When this is our experience it is indeed a foretaste of your realm. To remember mothers on one day is not enough. So, fashion in us a people who pray, work, laugh, and weep with mothers and children in whatever circumstance is most faithful. For this we seek your grace and presence. Through Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we pray. Amen.

Ideas! Spring 2004

Monday, May 07, 2007

Monday Question of the Week . . . Special Offerings

The Special Offerings Review Task Force meets every four years to evaluate the four churchwide special offerings and decide whether to recommend any changes. The Task Force wants to base its decisions on as much input as possible, and they have provided an online serve to gather the public’s opinion. I thought it might be interesting to see what you all think.

  1. Which churchwide special offering(s) does your congregation currently receive? One Great Hour of Sharing, Pentecost, Peacemaking, Christmas Joy, or none at all.

  2. Are there too few, just enough, or too many churchwide special offerings? Too few, Too many, or Just enough

  3. (Yes or No) Are there causes or programs that currently receive funding from churchwide special offerings that you believe should no longer receive such funding? Click for a list of churchwide special offerings and the causes each supports.

  4. (Yes or No) Are there causes or programs that currently do not receive funding from churchwide special offerings that you believe should receive such funding?

  5. (Yes or No) Would you suggest changing the recommended timing of any of the offerings?

  6. Are there other comments or suggestions you would like the Task Force to consider?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Sunday Devotion - Love One Another - Foggetaboutit!

John 13:31, 34
When he was gone, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. NIV

Here’s a question: why does Jesus wait until Judas leaves before He starts to talk about loving one another? Surely if He had said this before Judas left, it would have changed the whole betrayal episode? Judas may have questioned his own motives about whether or not he really loved Jesus, causing him to reject the idea of betrayal. But somehow Jesus chooses to talk about love after Judas was gone. Is there something we should learn from this?

Church people can be the most loving people on earth. At the same time, church people can be the most hateful people on earth. There’s a fine line at times between loving one another and loathing each other. I’ve been in parish ministry for over 21 years, on both sides of the Atlantic, and do you know what? People are the same on either side of the pond. They can love you or leave you, hate you or help you.

I’ve seen people walk away from one another in church or refuse to help because they end up on the same ministry team. I’ve been asked not to pair certain people as greeters at the church door because they can’t stand one another. I’ve also watched some people at meetings aggravate one another simply because of an unresolved issue which has gone on for decades. Or then there’s the political fallout each time a presidential election comes along. Every congregation has their feuding families. Every church has their competing and contentious personalities.

Maybe that’s why Jesus waited until Judas left before speaking about loving one another. Perhaps He had had enough of Judas and knew that his heart couldn’t be changed. Judas had a reputation for seeing the worst in other people – remember the woman with the perfume – and he also was accused of dipping into the cash flow for his own purposes. People like that are hard to please, hard to live with and, above all, hard to change. So maybe Jesus wasn’t about to do Judas any favors.

Love one another? Foggetaboutit! It’s hard enough getting people just to live with one another at times….

Prayer: Lord Jesus, why didn’t You make it easier for Judas to turn away from his betrayal of You? Why didn’t You stop him in his tracks and keep him from becoming a traitor? And why did You ask us to love one another? You know how hard that is, especially in church, never mind the world!

O Lord, help us to love one another, even if it kills us to do so. Amen.

Stushie writes the Heaven's Highway daily devotional and loves to blogachute to waste time. You haven't tried it? Shame on you - that's what Fridays are for!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hump Day Prayer . . . Community

Dear Lord,
thank you for our time in community,
for deep friendship,
for those conversations late at night,
for the vulnerable intensity lubricated by laughter,
for the freedom to serve others
and to affirm ourselves
in the face of all that you know and we know of our lives.
With which so many as affected
can yet be your body on earth in the community of creation.