Alarm

AlarmToday’s Word: ‘Alarm’ as in… God is near, as near as your next alarm.

Set an alarm for three minutes from now. Lay down, close your eyes, rest and wait for the alarm to go off. While you’re resting and waiting, think about what alarms remind you to do: wake up, start something, finish something, be somewhere, go home, say thank you.

Alarms remind us to do important things. When was the last time your alarm went off? What did you do? Did you shut off the alarm and go back to sleep? Did you do what the alarm reminded you to do?

Let’s read Luke 17:11-19.

As Jesus went toward Jerusalem, he crossed the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers met him. Keeping their distance they called out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Looking at them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” They went, and on their way, became clean. One of them, realizing that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus said, “Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?” Then he said to him, “Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you.”

Maybe reading this story is like an alarm: It’s time to thank someone! Do you need to thank someone? What was the greatest gift you’ve ever received? What are you thankful for today?

Before the alarm goes off, make a list in your mind of 10 things that you are thankful for and thank those people for their gift! God has given you the great gift of life today!

How could you call God today? How would you say thank you? What would you say thank you to God for today?

Now turn your alarm off, close your eyes and spend some time with God and share how thankful you are!

(adapted from my writing in “God Is Near: 30 Extraordinary Encounters.” ©2001, Group Publishing, Inc., Loveland, Colorado)

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Fruit - God Is Near

Veteran

Veteran

Today’s Word: ‘Veteran’ as in… Gene Gauche. Thank you for your service, dad!

Gene Gauche was born for adventure.

From his birth onward through his formative years in Lisbon, North Dakota, his 26 years as a Navy pilot, and on into the rest of his life, Gene loved the sense of discovering whatever was around the next corner. This was most evident in the fact that in his 62 years of marriage and life together with his wife Joyce, the two of them moved nearly forty times making a home wherever they were, including Coronado, California, Morocco, Africa, Beverly, New Jersey, Oak Harbor, Washington, Los Osos, California, Green Valley, Arizona, Edmonds, Washington, and Sun City West, Arizona, along with several summers on Lake Sallie, Minnesota. Gene and Joyce were married for 62 years before Joyce died in 2006 in Sun City West, Arizona.

That’s a lot of adventure.

Gene was active in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam conflict. Over the years he flew 14 different aircraft, was an instructor in the Hercules C-130 at Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Bases in New Jersey and Wold Chamberlain Field known today as Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport. Among Gene’s many accomplishments during his 26 years in the United States Navy, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (for heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight); the Presidential Unit Citation (for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy). Gene was also awarded the Air Medal with Four Oak Leaf Clusters.

Gene retired from the United States Navy on July 31, 1968 as a Lieutenant Commander.

Gene’s life was full and rich and he reveled in every role in life as a husband, father, pilot, hunter, musician, private and commercial real estate broker, private and commercial fisherman, a golfer (with a hole-in-one to his credit), a tennis player (with a state championship), a grandfather, a great-grandfather and a friend.

Gene was also known as a veteran.

And for that, today, and every day, I say, “Thanks for your service, dad!

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Map

Map.jpgToday’s Word: ‘Map as in… God is near, as near as the address on your house.

You’ll need a map for this one. Go either old school with one of those huge atlases that don’t fit on any bookshelf you have in your home, or just use your computer. On the map, find your state and locate your city and your street. Now, for just a few moments, think about all of the people who live close to you; those on your street and in the neighborhoods around you.

Now imagine that you’re on a vacation. With your finger follow along all of the roads that lead you away from and back to your home. Think about all of the people whose homes you would pass as you traced those roads.

What do you think it’s like on those roads right now? Close your eyes and imagine what they might be doing as you passed them by. Think about what you might find along the way: stop signs, detours, lakes, rivers, closed roads, freeways, other vehicles.

How far from your home have you been? Have you ever been lost? Have you ever felt all alone? Have you ever felt like you needed some direction in your life? Were you afraid?

Did you find your own way back or do someone rescue you? What was it like to come home again?

Let’s take a look at Luke 15:11-24

The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother 11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

God wants to always be in a close relationship with us, but sometimes we feel very far away from God. But God is always near.

Put your finger back on the map on ‘your home.’ Imagine God saying to you. “Welcome home!” Say to yourself, “I am Home.”

Say out loud, “I am at home with God.”

(adapted from my writing in “God Is Near: 30 Extraordinary Encounters.” ©2001, Group Publishing, Inc., Loveland, Colorado)

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Fruit

FruitToday’s Word: ‘Fruit’ as in… God is near, as near as a banana.

You’ll need a banana or some piece of fruit that you can easily peel.

Pick up the fruit and hold it in your hand. What does it feel like? What does it look like, what do you see?

Hold it to your nose. What do you smell?

Now peel the fruit and taste it. Is it sweet or sour? Is it strong or mild? Is it what you expected, or are you surprised?

Often what we see on the outside looks much different from what we see on the inside.

People say that about the bible, too. What do you think?

You’ll need a bible. Pick up the book and hold it in your hand. What does it feel like? What does it look like, what do you see?

Hold it to your nose. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

What do you smell? Now ‘peel it’ open; turn to roughly the middle of the book and find Psalm 34:8. These words invite us to “taste and see that the LORD is good!” Our friend, Eugene Peterson translates it this way: “Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see how good God is.”

Do you ever wonder what God is really like? Can you see God? Can you smell God? Does God sometimes seem hard to get to know? Does God seem to be all wrapped up in mystery? Is your experience with God filled with drama, or maybe comedy?

We’re invited to go beyond the cover of the ancient scriptures and discover the amazing grace, the awesome love, the history, poetry, the love stories, the drama, and even the humor.

God invites us to peel back the layers of each page and discover how amazing the love of God can be!

The bible. Peel it. Open it. Taste it. See it. God is near. Now, as long as you’ve peeled the banana, go ahead and eat it.

(adapted from my writing in “God Is Near: 30 Extraordinary Encounters.” ©2001, Group Publishing, Inc., Loveland, Colorado)Fruit - God Is Near

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Building

BuildingToday’s Word: ‘Building’ as in… the church should leave the building.

So here’s a question I’m wrestling with: When I “go to church” on a Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday, to give thanks to God for all that God has done, is doing, and will do in and through the people of God everywhere, when we “go to church” to sing, to listen, to pray, to give thanks, to share resources – all of that and so much more, is that all there is? Is that the extent of it? Is that the whole purpose?

Don’t misunderstand, great and important things go on and take place when the Body of Christ is gathered. Christ-Followers have been doing this for centuries, and the Body of Christ is strengthened greatly in this way. But at some point we have to ask ourselves what changes come about in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our cities and beyond if just gathering together is all that we do?

I know, it’s a challenging question, but how does doing all of that really change the things that we all know need to be changed? I’m affirming without reservation that there are many ways and reasons that friends and family worship together “at church.”

What I’m challenging us to think about is how our being together ‘in the church’ changes how we think about ourselves ‘as the church’. How do we move beyond the walls ‘of the church’ so that we can actually ‘be the church’ for others who may not ordinarily – or even ever – darken the door of the church building?

Just a thought: “going to church” or “being the church.” I guess that’s a distinction that I’d like to make.

Kindness, acts of service, sacrifice, helping, listening, showing up, encouragement – all good stuff. It doesn’t always have to happen in a building.

So, may it be said of us: “The church has left the building!

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Church

Church1Today’s Word: ‘Church’ as in… the church isn’t a place on the map, it’s not a building on the street. The church is a movement of the people.

(Read this one slowly, it’s is a little tricky.)

My conversation with the high school students revealed that being together in worship is a value that we affirm together as a church, as a community of faith. It is a value that runs very deep.

But it’s important to think about how we understand ‘church.’

Often, ‘church’ is understood as the building where people gather, where people go to consume ‘churchy’ things—“religious goods and services.” Church is sometimes described using phrases like engaging and entertaining worship, fun and lively music, inspirational and/or information-rich and/or data-heavy sermons/message.

Yikes! How did that happen? Aagghh! Never mind, I know. I’ve been part of the system.

But what if we helped each other think about church in a (really, it isn’t such a…) radically new (it hasn’t always been this…) way?

What if we began to understand ‘church’ not so much as a noun—a place or a thing, but more as a verb—a missional action that people live into; Jesus’ work, activity, presence, and power in the lives of people in our own neighborhoods, to say nothing of the world beyond the end of our street.

So then, when kids and parents and individuals and families begin to engage in the work of Jesus through their (brick and mortar) churches, they aren’t so much going to a (static) place, as they are actually becoming the (dynamic) hands and feet of Jesus in the world. They’re actually doing the work of Christ all around them.

The church from this perspective isn’t where we go to get something. The church is who we are when we’re giving something, giving ourselves away!

The church isn’t a place on the map, it’s not a building on the street. The church is a movement of the people.

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Promises

PromisesToday’s Word: ‘Promises’ as in… our images of the Divine, of Jesus, of the Spirit really do inform how we live out the promises we make as followers.

I was talking with some high school students recently about their faith journeys. These young people were preparing to ‘affirm their baptisms’ which in our context is historically known as Confirmation.

We talked about images of God and what they ‘see’ when they imagine God’s activity in their lives. It’s always a fascinating conversation that reveals not only the images they carry, but the many different images that we, as their mentors, friends and guides, have suggested along the way. We talked about images of Jesus and ways of understanding the missional call to “be the hands and feet of Christ in the world.” We then talked about how the Spirit’s presence impacts people on a daily basis.

These were awesome conversations with some awesome young people. All of this was set within the context of five rich, layered and specific promises:

“…to live among God’s faithful people; to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper; to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed; to serve all people, following the example of Jesus; and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.

When I asked one young student how she understood these promises in her life, she talked about the importance of gathering with her friends for worship each week. She told me that the people that she worships with are some of her closest friends and that she really can’t imagine being without them in worship—to say nothing of life in general.

So many images, five promises. How do your images of God, Jesus, and the Spirit impact the promises you make as a follower?

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