Monday, July 27, 2009

  • LOL
  • In case you’re not into Internet slang, LOL means laugh out loud. I heard that children laugh 300 times a day and adults only laugh 20 times a day. Isn’t it sad that something we used to enjoy so much we do so little as we get older! Did you know that a good, hearty laugh can help relax our muscles for up to 45 minutes? It’s hard to feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing. You just can’t beat a good belly laugh, can you? A few weeks ago I went with a group of friends to hear The Funniest Man in America James Gregory, known for his clean southern humor. Our gang spent two hours in side-splitting laughter and have such fun memories of our evening together. For a taste of James Gregory comedy, check out this clip:
A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17: 22

I’m so glad the Bible encourages laughter. I love the humorous exaggerations found in Proverbs.
Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion. Proverbs 11:22
Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife. Proverbs 25:24

God showed a sense of humor when he told Abraham to name his son Isaac, which means “he laughs,” because Abraham and Sarah laughed when they heard Sarah would give birth to a son (Isaiah 17:19)

God even used humor with those ungrateful Israelites when they complained so much about manna not being good enough and demanded meat. What did God do? He gave them meat, “until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it.” Numbers 11:20.

Sarcasm is a form of humor. When Job cried out to God in frustration and questioned God’s handling of Job’s crises, God responded, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” (Job 38:4). In our language it might sound like this: “When you create your own world, then you can tell me how to run mine.”

In uncertain times, in stressful times, in extraordinary times, and in just every day ordinary times, let’s remember to loosen up and lighten up.
You might try some of these tips -
  • Surround yourself with reminders to lighten up: Keep a toy on your desk or in your car. Put up a funny poster in your office. Choose a computer screensaver that makes you laugh. Frame photos of you and your family or friends having fun.
  • Watch a funny movie or TV show.
  • Go to a clean comedy show such as, “Funny for a Reason,” a Christian Comedy Show by Michael Jr, Saturday, August 8, 7 p.m., Tivoli Theater.
  • Read the funny pages.
  • Check out your bookstore’s humor section.
  • Host game night with friends.
  • Make time for fun activities (e.g. bowling, miniature golfing, karaoke).

Hope you’ll get a chuckle out of this:

The Ten Commandments Southern Style:

  1. Just one God
  2. Put nothin' before God
  3. Watch yer mouth
  4. Git yourself to Sunday meetin'
  5. Honor yer Ma & Pa
  6. No killin'
  7. No foolin' around with another fellow's gal
  8. No tellin' tales or gossipin'
  9. No tellin' tales or gossipin'
  10. Don't be hankerin' for yer buddy's stuff

Mighty Works

Monday, July 20, 2009

I think one of the saddest situations Jesus found himself in is found in Mark 6:1-6. My pastor, Rev. Mark, used this passage in a sermon illustration a few weeks ago and I have thought of it often since then.

Jesus had been away from home ministering to the multitudes, teaching through parables, healing the sick, and driving out demons. Then he returned to his hometown and was joined by his disciples. I imagine they were ready to do mighty works in Nazareth just as they had done throughout the countryside. Jesus gave a lecture on the Sabbath and everyone was so impressed they wandered how he became so wise. I imagine the homefolks began to look at each with great puzzlement and talk among themselves. “How did he get so smart?” “I didn’t know he was so wise.” Well, their awe turned to awful pretty fast when in the next breath they began to criticize him. I can hear them now, “He’s just a carpenter.” “How can he perform a miracle with those hands?” “Who does he think he is?” “We know his whole family.” “There’s no way he can do these things.” They were offended by him.

(Before we get too highhanded, I guess we need to ask how many of us have the same reaction to our own small town men and women who do well.)

Crowds had swarmed around Jesus throughout the countryside wanting to hear him teach and to receive healing, yet in his own hometown he was rejected. Jesus told them, “A prophet has little honor in his hometown, among his relatives, on the streets he played in as a child.” Now as sad as that is, for me it is not the real tragedy. You see, the real tragedy is seen in verse 5, “Jesus wasn’t able to do much of anything there –he laid hands on a few sick people and healed them, that’s all.” That’s all! Just imagine the things Jesus could have done if they had not rejected him. Jesus knew these people better than anyone anywhere. He knew their hurts and their weaknesses. Imagine the miracles he could have performed, the healings that he could have done, the knowledge he could have shared. They rejected him and in so doing, they rejected hope. Look at Jesus’ response to those in Nazareth.
“He marvelled because of their unbelief.” (KJV)
“He couldn't get over their stubbornness.” (The Message)
“He was amazed at their lack of faith.” (Today’s NIV)
Because of their unbelief, their stubbornness, their lack of faith, they missed out on mighty works. They missed out on miracles, so Jesus left home again and went around to other villages, teaching, preaching, and healing.

Jesus wants for us the same thing he wanted for his hometown friends. He wants to do mighty works. As I meditated on this passage, I began to do some soul searching. Is there any area of my life that is preventing God from doing a mighty work within me? Do I have an unbelief or stubbornness or lack of faith in any area of my life? What am I preventing God from doing in my life? My prayer is that I will give my all to him so that he can do all within me and through me that he wants to do.
Is your unbelief, stubbornness, or lack of faith keeping God from doing a mighty work in you?


Monday, July 13, 2009

In the last two weeks I have enjoyed learn about the benefits of meditation. I heard Faith Formation Leader Jan Johnson and Yoga Instructor Jenny Smith speak about using meditation to enhance our spiritual life. Jenny shared the health and spiritual benefits and led the audience through a meditation that left us relaxed after a busy day. Jan described the purpose of scriptural meditation as a way to “savor the text and enter into it” and allow God to speak to us.

In his book Contemplative Bible Reading, Richard Peace shares the history of meditation and describes a simple four-step process of scriptural meditation. One of the most common methods of meditation is called lectio divina, a Latin phrase that means “divine reading.” Over 1,500 years ago the early monks would set aside time for personal reading, prayer, and reflection. A monk would go to a private place and begin to repeat aloud a passage from Scripture, often from the Psalms or Gospels. The monk spoke the passage out loud until he was struck by a particular word or phrase. Then he would stop and ponder this word or phrase, believing it to be a word from God for him.This meditation led naturally into prayer as the monk offered back to God what he heard. As he moved deeper and deeper into prayer, he would come to the place where he rested in the presence of God.

One of the first leaders to use lectio divina as a spiritual exercise was Benedict, an Italian monk who lived in the fifth and sixth centuries (about 480-550). Benedict’s Rule for Monks in 525 AD outlines four steps for scriptural meditation.

1. Reading/Listening: Read aloud a short passage of Scripture. As you read, listen for the word or phrase that speaks to you. What is the Spirit drawing your attention to?
2. Meditating: Repeat aloud the word or phrase to which you are drawn. Make connections between it and your life. What is God saying to you by means of this word or phrase?
3. Praying: Now take these thoughts and offer them back to God in prayer, giving thanks, asking for guidance, asking for forgiveness, and resting in God's love. What is God leading you to pray?
4. Contemplating: Move from the activity of prayer to the stillness of contemplation. Simply rest in God's presence. Stay open to God. Listen to God. Remain in peace and silence before God. How is God revealing Himself to you?

Other tips for meditating on God
Use all 5 senses during meditation.
Personalize the text by inserting your name.
Meditate on God’s works and wonders during a walk in nature.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Lord, have mercy

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A couple of weeks ago I was blessed to hear Jan Johnson, Christian inspirational author and speaker, at the Chattanooga Praise Breakfast. Jan lit up the room as she shared with contagious enthusiasm what it’s like to daily enjoy the presence of God. She shared that the key to getting rid of our stubborn habits and character flaws is “to build an interactive life with God.” From her books, Enjoying the Presence of God and Savoring God’s Word, Jan shared ways to experience Divine companionship through what she called “hanging out with God.” She encouraged us to make our conversations with God part of the rhythm of our lives. She described breath prayers, prayer reminders, and self-talk as ways to become more intimate with God.

1. Breath Prayers
Breath prayers are those sayings, verses, or sentence prayers of just a few syllables that have great meaning to us. These are short prayers that we breathe throughout the day to fit whatever circumstance we encounter. One of her favorites is “Into thy hands.” For example, when you are afraid of an upcoming surgery, pray “Into thy hands.” When you don’t want a family member to suffer, pray, “Into thy hands.” When faced with an unpleasant co-worker, pray “Show me this person’s heart.” In doing daily chores, pray “This task is for you, Lord.”

These are not “Vain repetitions” that Jesus warned about in Matthew 6:7. Breath prayers are the groanings of the heart. Breath prayers don’t replace our time of prayer and devotion, but they are quick ways to keep connected to our Heavenly Father through the day. Other prayers -
“Turn her/his heart toward you”
“Turn my heart toward her/him”
“Bless ___________through me”
An old southern favorite I’ve prayed for years, “Lord, have mercy,” could work in just about any situation!

2. Prayer Reminders
Jan suggests using visual prayer reminders as triggers for prayers. For example, looking at photos displayed at home or work remind us to pray for family and friends. The sound of a siren is a reminder to pray for the crisis at hand. Other prayer reminders might include:
A stone in a pocket
Wearing a cross
Scripture verse taped to the wall
The scent of a candle
The chiming of the hour

3. Self-talk to prayer talk
Instead of filling our minds with negative self-talk, we can replace those thoughts with prayers. Our minds are often filled with petty criticisms, such as, “Doesn’t she know that hairstyle went out in the ‘60s?” or “Can’t he ever get anywhere on time?” Our goal is to replace harping and complaining with prayer and praise for others. The negative thought, “Will this sermon ever end?” becomes “Touch these lives.”

As we become more intimate with God and aware of His presence, our “holy” responses to daily challenges will become more automatic. God wants us to be so close to him that our responses are his responses. That’s why “hanging out with God is so important! This week when I’m tempted to criticize the lady with a cartload of groceries in the 10 items or less checkout line, I’ll breathe a prayer for her. I’ll probably start with, “Lord, have mercy,” but I’ll get there!
Please write a "Breath Prayer" in the comment section. Click on the title, "Lord, have mercy," and scroll to the bottom of the page.
Jan Johnson's books can be ordered at

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