Saturday, November 1, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Saturday!  All is well here at 811. FROGS WIN! FROGS WIN! 

The candle is lit…

As I have turned the page in my devotional book the theme of the month is:
“Because of all that the Son is, we have been given one blessing after another. John 1: 16

Dear God, through your word of encouragement, I become myself. Thank you for looking far enough in me to see strengths and skills I don’t know are there. God, in you is all my worth, glory and joy. I thank you for accepting and loving me. I praise you for delighting in me and leading me to victory.  Thank you Lord for placing in each of us a heart-place where you find a place to dwell.  Lord, I lift the Via deCristo Weekend coming up. Bless all who will serve and all who will participate with your Presence and unconditional love. Thank you Lord, I love you so much. I pray all of this in Jesus’ name, amen.

Tonight I was asked to provide the homily and preside over Eucharist for the final team meeting of the Via deCristo weekend to be held this coming weekend.  This evening’s writing is sort of a pre-Advent thought and a portion of the homily I shared this evening.

My Heart would be Your Bethlehem. A Shelter for Your birth; My body be Your dwelling place, A sacred temple on earth. By holy intervention and act of the divine in union with mortality make incarnation mine. (First verse of My Heart Would be Your Bethlehem by Stephen Hill)

When it comes to the month of November I think of three things; my birthday, Thanksgiving and usually the beginning of Advent. This weekend I began reading a small book titled Not A Silent Night by Adam Hamilton; a minister of a Methodist Church in Kansas. He writes this 68 page book to look at the life of Jesus through Mary’s eyes in the most unusual way. He writes this book from the time of Mary’s death to the birth of Jesus. It is a fascinating read.  I have for about six years now felt a kinship with Mary as we have both lost adult children in very tragic ways and watched them die. Her son died in a public viewing and our son died in my arms.

Casey and I had a deeply personal relationship.  Mary’s relationship with Jesus was deeply personal and this lyric is somewhat like the beautiful song of praise Mary sings in Luke as she accepts the responsibility of carrying the Son of God in her body and mothering him not only as God’s son, but her son  as well. The song reminds us of her life changing surrender but it is also a song that belongs to us. It is a reminder that our relationship with Jesus is deeply personal. This tiny revelation wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger must be placed in us. We must be willing as was Mary to bear the cost of discipleship and face whatever scorn, or misunderstanding or whatever life hands out to us to its full conclusion—making our personal heart-space the place where Jesus can be born over and over as our life matures and admitting our moment by moment need for Him to find a dwelling place in our hearts. We are all called to bring the Holy Son of God to earth.

The chorus of this piece speaks of our own surrender and commitment to a life lived with, in and through the love of Jesus:   “My heart, my will, my mind, my all, I consecrate to bring the Holy Son of God to earth. Oh, let the angels sing!” Let us let Advent begin, just a little early.

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing and carry Jesus with you wherever the journey leads. Wear comfortable shoes; set your clock one hour back and get some extra sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Friday, October 31, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
TGIF Today God is First and Happy Halloween.  All is well here at 811.  Several trick-or-treaters, but fewer than last year. I think the Friday Night Lights may have slowed down the trick-or-treaters. 

The candle is lit…

Dear God, I want to know you in an authentic, profound relationship. Teach me to have full confidence in you, my God, for you are surely worthy of all my trust. I will focus y my eyes on your faithfulness rather than my own failures. I will look to you to help me fulfill the promise of all that my life can be.  Lord, you are the great promise keeper and I know I can count on your promises. I know you know of every wrong choice I have ever made and every opportunity I have missed and each mistake I have made. I know these life errors have caused you grief. Lord, I will never be able to thank you enough for the grace you offer as you meet me where I am and restore hope to my life. I love you Lord, in Jesus’ name, amen.

I am kind of a sequential learner. I learn stories and information in order; beginning to end. But today I began reading a short piece of writing, only 68 pages that tells and expounds on a story we have all heard all of our lives. The title of the book is Not a Silent Night by Adam Hamilton. It tells the story of Jesus as seen through the eyes of Mary, his mother beginning with the time near her death and ending with the birth of Jesus. It is a fascinating book. My time today allowed me to read approximately half of the piece of writing.  I have always believed that the greatest witness in scripture to the life of Christ was the mother of Jesus; Mary.  She and I have a few things in common.

I share this with you to offer that sometimes in order to put a spark in our spiritual lives we have to look at things from a different angle.  Sometimes our spiritual lives can become somewhat routine and maybe just a bit boring. And while I place great value in scripture study, pray and regular worship attendance is it possible that there are times that when we do these tasks God gets left out? Perhaps if we  do many of these things alone consider being part of a weekly fellowship group that studies scripture, has discussions and prays together is the spark our spiritual lives need.  Could we be so bold and courageous as to change some of our practices and pursue a deeper relationship with God by fellowshipping with others? Advent is coming soon and it is a time of preparation.  Traditions ae important, but making new traditions can be just as meaningful.  Step out on your faith and enjoy a greater abundant life. 

“The Lord takes pleasure in those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy and loving-kindness.”
Psalm 147: 11
Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing and encouraging others as you go. Wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep.  Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Wednesday!  All is well here at 811. 

The candle is lit…

Thank you dear Lord for the words of life you speak to me. By your words I am named and claimed. By your words I am held, molded and sent out.  Lord, Your Word means so much to me. I am comforted by your words. Your Presence is affirmed in Your Word and I find your grace sufficient in your word. I love you Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen

One of the things I have enjoyed since graduating from the seminary is reading for pleasure.  For about six years reading for fun was something I remembered. But I still enjoy reading for meaning.  The meaning for which I read is learning more about God and the power of the Holy Scriptures. The power of the Word is made to inspire, encourage and help. I especially love the Psalms. Tonight my meditation recalls the psalmist calling the words of God being “sweeter than honey.”

I love to speak words and sing words and write words and listen to words, but God’s words are always life-giving and life affirming. The words of God have the power to transform us from the depths of our souls.  God’s Word enters in through our ears and eyes to our minds and finds its way to our hearts where it becomes a part of our lives changing us and transforming us.  Reading God’s Word, speaking God’s Word, listening to God’s Word, singing God’s Word and living out God’s Word will result  a life in abundance  causing each of us to thrive.

“How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
Psalm 119: 103
“I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of him shall be sweet; I will be glad in the Lord.”
Psalm 104: 33-34

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing, and encouraging someone as you go. Wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Tuesday!  All is well here at 811.

God, I know I have often focused on the very things that make me stumble and sin. Transform me, God because I want to honor you with my whole life. Give me wisdom to know what to look over and what to overlook. Teach me that the greatest wisdom is a loving heart, and when I am afraid of not measuring up or just afraid; make me wise beyond my years.  I love you Lord. Thank you for being ever present with me and giving me reminders of your love. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Temptations are just what they say…tempting!  In our speed dial world of fast communication we can order anything with just a few touches of some buttons on our phone. In really short order,  books, pizza games, new dresses and shoes are either downloaded on our phone or at our doorstep in a very short amount of time. I mean when was the last time we paid for something using real green cash or spoke to someone in customer service. I rarely go to the bank. How about you?   As long as we live here on this earth and technology continues to upgrade and increase,  temptations are always very close at hand…as near as our phones. I think we can call this instant gratification.  And I must admit I am guilty of giving in to temptation.

While these things may not be sinful how do we stop falling into sinful patterns; things that lure us into sin? We know that Jesus has broken the power of sin at the cross of Calvary, but how do we change and stop wanting things that harm us in our hearts, minds, souls and bodies? Sometimes when I am driving in the car I let my mind wander and my thoughts are not godly thoughts. Lately when this happens I have been turning on the Christian artists I have downloaded on my phone so I can listen and sing while I am on the way home. This strategy is helping!  Romans 12: 2 instructs, “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”  Temptation begins in our thoughts and travels down into our feet and hands causing us to act on those thoughts.  We have to change our thinking; change the things on which we set our mind.  We need to focus on God.

Singing Christian music helps me focus on God. The temptations in our thoughts will not go away immediately. Transformation takes time!  But praying for God to take away our desire to sin is found in scripture and if we claim and pray this scripture I hope to find my/our desire to keep focused on God when temptation comes.

“Take away my desire for to do evil or to join others in doing wrong.”
Psalm 141: 4
“My eyes are upon You, O God the Lord; in You I take refuge.” 

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing, giving thanks as you go and encourage someone else along the way. Stay focused on God. Wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Monday, October 27, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Happy Monday!  All is well here at 811. 

The candle is lit…

Dear God of all creation and giver of every good and perfect gift. You my Lord exceed all things and love with a love so perfect that we cannot even begin to understand.  I come before you to ask you to use me to encourage others. Please empower me tomorrow to bless those around me with the spiritual gifts you have given. Lord, there are folks out there that need your love, grace and encouragement just to get through the day. You have loved us so very powerfully and with such compassion that we out of our thankfulness and gratitude  need to tell others of that great love.  Lord, help us to not be shy about sharing your love with others around us where we work and with whom we live. Thank you Lord for this great opportunity to encourage others in loving ways. I love you Lord, in Jesus’s name, amen.

Each of us sometime today used the gifts and talents given to us to further a career, improve ourselves, get someone ready for school or work or simply to survive the day.  Some of us may have gone to further our education to increase these gifts and be better able to do our jobs or careers. Those for whom we work trust us to do these jobs or perform the skills necessary to the best of our abilities each day.

We also have spiritual gifts that God has entrusted to us to help further the kingdom here on earth by helping others. God gave us these different gifts to be a blessing to others and to encourage those around us who are in need. Maybe you think you do not have spiritual gifts, but when you signed on to be a believer in Jesus those gifts were given to each of us.  Your gift could be praying, serving, providing comfort to someone just by listening, or being the minister of presence as you represent Jesus by simply sitting with someone who just does not want to be alone. These spiritual gifts can be taking food to a neighbor or making sandwiches for the local homeless shelter.  Our gift from God is the trusted privilege of showing the love of God in gracious ways to all those we encounter. And as Dolly Parton once said, “If you see someone without a smile, give them yours.” It is amazing how a smile can brighten someone’s day. Smiling is something I do often and to all I meet.  We are not called to use these spiritual gifts to make ourselves feel better but for the glory of God. The amazing thing that always happens to me is that even though I am serving to be a blessing to someone I always walk away knowing I have been blessed.  Be a blessing to someone and encourage them in some way and way and watch how God works in both of your lives.

“May those who fear You see me and be glad, because I wait for Your word.”
Psalm 119: 74
“Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Let your mercy come to me that I may live; for your law is my delight.”
Psalm 119: 76-77

Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing and blessing someone as you go.  Wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep.  Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Greetings from Austin Street
Blessed Sunday to you all! 

The candle is lit…

Dear God, thank you for receiving what I bring and giving me what I need.  Open my eyes to understand others and tell them of the grace You offer so freely and completely. Thank you for loving us much that your take our weaknesses and strengthen us with your Presence in our lives. Forgive us Lord when we forget to come to you first. I love you Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.

The title of my meditation tonight is  Surrender All. I have spent the afternoon and evening preparing a talk on Grace in Action for the upcoming Via de Cristo weekend where I will be serving as a Spiritual Director; a clergy position. There is a portion of the talk where I recall Casey at MD Anderson Hospital and when he received his first chemotherapy treatment and how he lay in the hospital bed and as soon as they opened up the chemotherapy drugs he began to sing softly, “All to Jesus  I surrender…all to him I freely give.”  It was a holy moment for me and I realized the presence of God was within Casey giving him peace, strengthening his faith and taking away fear.

There is an old song that says, “Give them all to Jesus. Your shattered dreams, wounded hearts and broken toys.”  My friends Jesus asks for our problems, challenges and difficult situations “making sure there are no claw marks on them.” Last night at the Casting Crowns concert they sang a piece titled Just Be Held with this phrase, “and when you’re tired of fighting chained by your control, there freedom in surrender, lay it down and let it go. Stop hanging on and just be held.” That phrase warmed me like a hug from Bruce. The message of the piece was asking God to help us let loose of the tension of our grasping hand and give our situations willingly (well now there is a hard word) without hesitation or condition, reservation or hesitation to God. God wants our concerns about relationships, employment issues, and inner struggles. The greatest gift God ever gave us was the gift of free will or choice. The choice is simple; believe in God or don’t believe. God asks for our choices and for us to say, “It is all yours Lord. I give it to you.” God wants us to let go and not hold on. Coming before God will hands that are full and leaving with hands that are empty means that we have given God control and are proclaiming him as Lord of our lives. God is good and the power of God’s love for us as lived out in the life of Jesus wins!!

“I trust in you, O Lord; I say “You are my God.” My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.”
Psalm 31: 14-15
“The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”
2 Chronicles 16: 9
Take joy in the journey praying, praising, laughing, giving thanks and laying our burdens down on the road. Wear comfortable shoes and get some sleep. Love you all, Bruce and Gaylene