Peace for the Day

Devotions for our daily angst.


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Honor

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier GuardsThese people draw near Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts hold off and are far away from Me. Matthew 15:8

Instead of a donkey (Numbers 22), God used a television show to start me thinking about honor. (Such an old fashioned notion.) The use of cursing God’s name as a basis for the majority of the dialog caused me discomfort and led to intense internal discussions. I cringed every time I heard the characters swear but, in truth, I didn’t want to stop watching. It took me a few weeks and a lot of wheedling with myself and God to finally conclude I could no longer watch the show. By doing so, I was not honoring Him.

About the same time, I stumbled across Mark 6:4-6 NIV. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

The wonderful thing about reading the Word is that no matter how many times I’ve read one verse, in a moment of clarity, I understood it in a totally new way. I noticed a link between honor and faith and miracles. The people in his hometown did not honor Jesus; therefore, He could not do any miracles there.

Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology defines honor this way – “to give weight or to grant a person a position of respect and even authority in one’s life”.[i] We hear about very few miracles across the church in America. Could it be, I wondered, connected to our lack of honoring Him? We don’t grant him the position of respect and authority that we once did. Bringing it closer to home, I examined my life. Do I honor God?

Honor is not an idea to be worn like a badge. It’s a core value that requires action. At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery, the Honor Guard protects the tomb 24-7 365 days a year. The maid of honor helps the bride prepare for the wedding. Medal of Honor recipients acted valiantly beyond the call of duty. Students elected to the National Honor Society maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average and participate in extracurricular activities.

I want to honor God, in practice. I yearn for the Holy Spirit to nudge me when I’m not. Like Chris Tomlin sings in the song Amazing Love “It’s my joy to honor You. In all I do, I honor You.” That’s my prayer.

[i]  http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/honor.html

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The Gift That Keeps on Giving

…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:8

I love my family and the friends who are as dear to me as family. I treasure each and every one of them and the time we spend together. For my 60th birthday, they gave me the grandest gift – all of them all together for an entire day. We gathered at my daughter’s home for an afternoon of laughing, talking, playing, and, as it developed, singing around a blazing fire pit late into the night.

God gave me this treasured gift before I knew to ask. Ephesians 3:20 tells us He is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams]. This He did with His usual extravagance.

One day a brown-haired young man with twinkling green eyes and a quirky sense of humor walked into my life and my heart became his. Who knew the blessings that would ensue because the Air Force recruiter was closed for lunch and the Navy recruiter was open? This “happenstance” brought him to my little part of the world at the submarine base in Groton, Connecticut. Who could foresee the day we met we’d be blessed with a wonderful family woven together over a lifetime with dear friends into a beautiful tapestry?

Not me, for sure. I didn’t even know I needed one. But God did.

The Bible is peppered with familial stories of deception, lies, cheating, manipulating, controlling, disdain, forgiveness, love, and grace. Cain killed Abel. Joseph’s brothers hated him. Isaac and Rebekah, playing favorites, pitted their sons against each. John and Andrew’s mother pushed Jesus to promote them above the other disciples.

In families, whether immediate or the greater community, we rub each other like sandpaper smoothing out the rough edges. We strengthen and hold each other up. We stretch one another to the limits. We learn to depend on God because, sometimes, it all goes wrong and we break.

I’m grateful God knew what I needed before I even asked. I would have missed out on the greatest blessing – joy, love, heartache – family.


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I Have Decided to Love

Multicultural Arms

Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it – because it does. (1Corinthians 14:1MSG)

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend. Martin Luther King Jr.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King Jr.

Excerpt from his (Martin Luther King Jr.) August 16, 1967 “Where Do We Go from Here” speech.

And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. And I have seen too much hate. I’ve seen too much hate on the faces of sheriffs in the South. I’ve seen hate on the faces of too many Klansmen and too many White Citizens Councilors in the South to want to hate, myself, because every time I see it, I know that it does something to their faces and their personalities, and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love.

I was on a crowded bus once headed for Norfolk when an interesting discussion occurred between my fellow passengers. What follows is a fictional version of the conversation. The story centers on a beautiful elderly woman. While her name is not Eulalie, her words spoken over thirty years ago, ring true today. Especially today.

Educat’n Eulalie

Miss Eulalie Lisbeth Purdee picked up her worn carpet bag, black pocketbook and prepared to board the already crowded bus. It was slow going. She took a step and stopped. One foot up. Stop. She leaned on the handrail and shifted her weight. Lift. Another step. With a hoist­ing motion, she pulled herself and her bags up the Greyhound stairs. Behind her, impatient people shuffled in line.

“Here, ma’am, let me help.”

Eulalie looked up. A tall white man wearing faded jeans with a frayed jeans jacket leaned toward her from the top step. His arm reached out to her.

“It’s the arth-a-ritis, you know.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Gets to my knees someth­ing bad. Makes ’em all stiff like.”

The stranger smiled as he helped her up and reached for the bag. “Here. Let me take that for you.”

She pulled back. “You won’t go to fool’n an old woman, would you?”  Eulalie held on tight. “My medicines and my homemade divinity is in that bag.”

“Now, ma’am, you know my mama taught me better than that. I’m just going to put it up here for you. Would that be all right?”

Eulalie nodded and released the bag.

She found the first empty seat about four rows back and sat down. She wiped her brow with a hand-stitched embroidered hankie and patted her heaving chest. Traveling wore on her and she’d just started the trip.

“Phew,” she said as she waved the hand with the hankie back and forth across her face.  “It’s heating up in here.”

Her stiff bent fingers, joints enlarged with age, struggled to undo the buttons of her black wool coat. She strained to pull off the heavy winter coat. There wasn’t enough room. She angled forward in the seat.

“Here. Let me help,” said a deep voice.

Eulalie looked up to see who had spoken. She saw a strong dark face hidden behind mirrored glasses. She saw herself in them looking up at him. He was large and black, a “dude” her grandson would have called him. She thought he was young, maybe twenty. Even though it was November, he wasn’t wearing a jacket. Eulalie noticed his arm muscles were bigger than the top of her legs. He looked like the weight lifters she’d seen on the television set.

He held the coat for her as she pulled out her arms.

“Thank you,” she told him.

Carefully, he laid the coat over the back of the seat. His head was covered in small tight braids with red, yellow, green, and blue wooden beads woven in. They clicked when he dipped his head toward Eulalie. He smiled and walked on.

Eulalie settled the coat around her shoulders. The purse was still sitting on her lap. She decided to tuck it in the chair beside her.

“You all settled, ma’am?”

It was the kind jeans man. Eulalie nodded yes. “You’re not from around here.”  She stated. “No offense,” she said, “but when you get my age, you’ve earned the right to be nosy.”

He laughed. “None taken, ma’am. I’m from Texas. Traveling to D. C. for the holidays.”

“I thought as much.” Satisfied with his response, she answered his question. “I’m comfortable. Thank you.”

“Your bag’s right up there.” Tex, she decided to call him that, pointed to a compart­ment over her head. “You need anything from it, you let me know.”

“Well, I don’t mean to be a bother, but I could use my Bible. I meant to get it out before I sat down. It’s right along on the outside pocket. If you could just reach in and pull it out for me, I’d be much appreciated.”

“No problem.”

She watched him feel for the book.

“Eulalie Lisbeth Purdee,” he read. “Well, Miss Purdee, seems like this book’s seen some use.” Tex handed her the Bible.

She ran a finger over the worn gold letters.

“Twenty-two years’ worth. I’ll be 72 come spring.” She fluttered the onion skin pages, soft and yellow with age. “Now this Christmas past, my grandson, – I’m going to spend the holidays with him and his family.” She was proud of this fact. “He gave me a brand new Bible.  Large writing. It’s a fine, handsome book.”

Eulalie smoothed down the leather cover and laid her wrinkled creamy coffee brown hands on top. “But it’s not this book. My husband gave me this one. It was on my fiftieth birthda­y and our thirtieth anniver­sary.”

“That’s something in this day and age, Miss Purdee. Seems to me that book’s been good to you.” Tex was forced to sit down to let people pass. His seat was directly across the aisle from Eulalie’s.

She smiled to herself. “It certainly has.”

The bus pulled away from the curb and the trip began.

Eulalie was just starting to doze when she heard, “I’m telling you Johnson had Kennedy killed…”

She looked up wondering if she could see the face belonging to such a young voice. It had a crackle in it like it hadn’t properly aged yet. Yes, she thought. There he was hanging over the seat talking to Tex. His dirty blond hair was slicked. She could see pimples still dotted his pockmarked face.

“He had him killed I’m telling you.”

It wasn’t eavesdropping, Eulalie thought. They were talking loud enough for everyone to hear.

“Johnson did not have Kennedy executed,” Tex said. “Why would he go and do that?”

Eulalie watched his blue-jeaned arm emphasize each word as he talked.

“To be president!” Spittle spewed out of the young man’s mouth. He wiped it away with the back of his sleeve without a thought. “All vice presidents want to become presidents. It’s only natural.”

The kid, Joe College she thought she’d call him, was mouthing off again. Couldn’t be a day over nineteen but talked as if he’d been around forever. Just like the young, she chuckled.

“Well, they sure as heck don’t make good ones. Just look at Nixon.”

That was a different voice, Eulalie thought. She poked her head into the aisle but couldn’t see who was talking. The new voice must be sitting next to Joe.

“And Agnew.” Joe College sat on the arm of the chair with his butt perched against the window. Eulalie was certain he was going to fall.

“Take a history class,” Tex said. “Agnew was never president.”

“Well, he did time, didn’t he?” Joe College was on a roll now.  “And I have studied history and that’s what I’m telling you, man. Johnson plotted against Kennedy. He wanted the dude out of the way.”

“President Johnson was a good man, a good president.” Eulalie couldn’t help herself.

“Listen to the woman.” Tex winked at her. “She knows her stuff.”

“It was an awful time, just awful,” Eulalie said. “President Johnson did all he could after President Kennedy was shot.”

“That’s right.”  It was the new voice talking. The man swung around into the aisle so he could look at Eulalie and Tex. “All he could to get us deeper into Nam. Man! That war was a crock.”

He had thick mousy brown hair hanging halfway down his back and couldn’t have been old enough to even be alive during the Sixties.

“It’s the end of November,” she said. “How can you be so tan?”

“Surf’n and ski’n. Ski’n and surf’n, ma’am. I live to do both. On my way now to my old man’s place in Denver. Gonna stay there a while and hook up with a resort. Earn some big bucks teaching the yuppies to ski.” He pulled his hair out of his face and smiled at her.

Eulalie couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen such deep blue eyes. They twinkled at her like they were dancing. She returned Denver’s smile and felt the need to pat her black pillbox hat.

“And then there’s Ford.” Joe couldn’t get off the subject. “If he wasn’t tripping at a golf course, he was tripping down stairs.”

Everyone laughed.

“Who’d ever thought a good old boy from Arkansas would be president?” Tex asked.  “Will wonders never cease?”

“Should’ve left that hillbilly redneck back in the hills for all the good he’s done this country.” Denver picked lint off his corduroy pants.

“Nothing but trouble since he was elected.” With a wave of his hand, Joe College blew away all presidents, past and future.

“What’s a redneck?” Eulalie asked.

The men turned to look at her. They were quiet for a moment. It wasn’t that easy of a term to explain.

Tex decided to give it a try. “Well,” he rubbed his chin while he thought. “You know, a country boy, a hick, a hillbilly. Something like that.”

“Do you mean nigger?” she said. Her voice was quiet, intelligent.

“No, not that, ma’am.”

Eulalie explained to them, “Now you don’t have to be black or white to be a nigger. Just low. It’s not about color, you see. It’s about type.”

“Man!” Joe College said. “You know!  Redneck! A country jerk. Drinks shine. Has a riffle rack in the back of his truck. Like that. Wears flannel even in the summertime.”

“Well, we don’t mean a spick.” Denver added.

“Or a kike,” Tex said.

The men spewed racial slurs like pellets out of a scattergun.

“Now hold on just a minute!” The bus driver yelled over the talking and engine. He looked at his passengers in the large overhead mirror. “There won’t be any of that kind of talk on my bus! I don’t want any trouble!”

Except for the sound of wheels on asphalt, the bus was quiet.

Eulalie opened her Bible. After a few long minutes, she spoke into the silence. “We all God’s creation, you know, black, white. It don’t matter to Him. He made us all. My blood runs red. Your blood runs red.” She closed the book. “We all be His.”

Father, Heal the brokenhearted. Proclaim liberty to the captives and release from darkness for those who are in prison. Comfort those who mourn, grant consolation and joy to those who mourn in Charleston. What the enemy meant for evil to destroy us, to destroy our country and the lives of those who died, turn it for our good. In Jesus’ name. Amen. (Isaiah 61)


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Jehovah Sofar – The Lord God the Writer

Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness. (Isaiah 30:8 NIV)

This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you.” (Jerimiah 30:2 NIV)

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5 NIV)

God is the greatest writer I know. He authored 66 books written by 40 people over 1500 years centered on one theme – the rescue of mankind.

People read the Bible like it’s a flat one-dimensional document. So boring! I read it like a newspaper describing current events. Or better yet like a script. It pops!

God gets foreshadowing. After Judas left to betray Jesus, John 13:30 says, “And it was night”. Dun, dun, dun-dun. The lights dim, the music changes, and we know something bad is coming for our hero.

How about when Jesus yelled, “Lazarus, come out!” Do we just read the words like Charlie Brown’s adults speak? Blah, blah Lazarus come out oh blah, blah, blah. If I staged this scene, I’d heighten the tension to the breaking point, direct Jesus to pause long enough for the audience to wonder what he’s going to do, and then have him shout the life giving words.

Conflict. Every story in the Bible has someone trying to do right and someone else trying to thwart him. It starts in the Garden when the snake tosses a wrench into peaceful Eden. “Psst. Hey. Eve,” he whispers. “Come here a minute. There’s something God doesn’t want you to know.” It continues through the Old Testament to the New Testament when Simon Iscariot accepts thirty coins to betray Jesus. Like a Mafia don, he seals Jesus’ fate with a kiss. (Was it a dark, stormy night that night in the Garden of Gethsemane? We know it was cold because later on Peter warmed his hands by a fire.)

Plot twists. God knows plot twists better than any soap opera writer. He understands the human condition with all its weaknesses.

Joseph bar Jacob or Joseph Jacob’s son. He’s the protagonist of one of the most interesting sagas of all time. The story of his life should be a mini-series. Our hero was a brat, a pain in his brothers’ behinds. They, grown men every one of them, hated him so much they wanted to kill him so they tossed him into a pit. What happened next? With their little brother pleading for mercy from the depths of a deep hole in the ground, they ate. Yep. They sat around the campfire and had lunch. Oblivious to his terror and pain.

Opportunity arose in the form of a caravan. Can you see it? They’re stretched out by the fire, full of food, burping, picking their teeth, figuring out what to do next when they see a dust cloud in the distance. As it moves closer, they realize it’s a caravan.

“Hmm,” one of them says. “Maybe we don’t have to kill him.”

“Yea,” another adds. “We can…”

“Sell him.”

Now that’s a plot twist.

Jehovah Sofar, God the Writer, has written a book to us, his children. A special book so we can know him better. As we read The Book, -Bible means book- we take heart. He understands us. He gets humans with all our warts, angst, fear, and self-absorption. And he still loves us everyone. Amazing.

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