All posts by Mark O Wilson

Thank You God for Each Moment

Lord, thank you for each moment,
for the blue-sky moment,
the softening earth,
the refreshing wind,
the yellow bush,
for my full heart
and the joy rising in me.

Soften me
to receive whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Lord, thank you for each moment
for the twilight moment,
the pause,
the good tired,
for the quiet reflection,
the slowing down,
the mysterious sunset,
for the wisdom growing inside me.

Gentle me
to feel whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Lord, thank you for each moment,
for the midnight moment,
the loneliness,
the fretful wondering,
for the watchful stars,
the long ache,
the sleepless wait,
and the hope straining in me.

Focus me
to see whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Lord, thank you for each moment,
for the high-noon moment,
the job,
the necessary routine,
for the sweaty struggle,
the impulse to change,
and the courage gathering in me.

Ground me
to wrestle with whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Lord, thank you for each moment,
for the shared moment,
the listening,
the unguarded word,
for the fragile openness,
the ready smile,
the accepted difference,
for my passionate heart
and the trust rooting in me.

Stretch me
to grow with whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Thank you for each moment,
for the charged moment,
the confrontation,
for the hard decision,
the unexpected growing,
for my intense heart
and the truth expanding in me.

Free me
to be open to whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Thank you for each moment,
for the holy moment,
the music,
the child’s eyes,
for the sunlight,
the touch,
the tears,
for the trembling pleasure,
the unutterable beauty,
for the life and love and heart in me aware,
and the wholeness spreading in me.

Touch me
through whatever comes as a gift
That I may be grateful
and praise you in it.

~from Guerrillas of Grace by Ted Loder

The Burial of Dad’s Sermon Notes

Cleaning out my office after 26 years of ministry in the same small town congregation, I stumbled across my father’s sermon notes.

Since his death in 1991, I’ve kept several boxes of his hand-scrawled outlines enshrined in a filing cabinet, to honor his memory, maintaining a sacred bond with my heritage. But leafing through these mementos of glory thundered from the pulpit, I finally admitted the truth to myself.  There was no life in them.

For Dad, notes did not contain the life.  It was in the delivery.  The notes weren’t the sermon.  Rather, they were like spent bullet shell casings, or fireworks that had already been shot.  They were just scraps of words without significance.

The day I threw my father’s sermons in the dumpster, it felt somewhat like a second burial. . . with hope of resurrection.

Spiritual Formation and Beach Glass

“Spiritual formation is like the creation of beach glass. The pieces of glass that enter the ocean are never identical. Neither do they also look the same as the current washes them to the shore. It is the same for my spiritual formation and the ultimate result of a lifetime of being changed and transformed. I will still be me, but I will look, feel, and react differently.” — Sadie Kaminski

Singing In the Cage and Out

LITTLE CAGE
-Anonymous

He placed me in a little cage,
Away from gardens fair;
But I must sing the sweetest song,
Because He placed me there.

Not beat my wings against the cage,
If it’s my Maker’s will,
But raise my voice to heaven’s gates,
And sing the louder still.
—-

OPEN CAGE
-Darrelyn L. Tutt

He opened up my little cage,
And caught me unaware;
And now I wish to sing the praise,
Of He who brought me there.

With open wing and joy I sing,
And none more dear to me;
Than He took the bars away,
And set my spirit free.
—-

“Now the Lord is the Spirit,
and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
2 Corinthians 3:17

Darrelyn Tutt is an outstanding poet.  Her inspiring and reflective writings can be found at her site:  Inkwell Ministries 

Whose Neighbor Are You?

The Good Samaritan by Vincent Van Gogh

One day, a rule-bound lawyer, hoping to get a checklist to prove he was good enough, approached Jesus and asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Like a wise rabbi, Jesus didn’t give an answer, but countered the question with his own question, “What is written in the Law?  How do you read it?”

The lawyer was thrilled, because he knew the answer to that one!  Proudly, he rattled off something he learned in the synagogue  as a child years ago, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.”  Then he added, “And, love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Bingo!” said Jesus.  “You nailed it!  You said it right.  Now, DO it!”

The lawyer was startled.  The conversation was moving fast from theory to real life application.  He wasn’t so sure he liked the direction this was going, and got defensive.”

“But. . ..  But. .  . who is my neighbor anyway?”

He wasn’t asking in order to find a neighbor to love.  Instead, he was asking “who is NOT my neighbor?  Who can I exclude?”

Jesus would have none of that, so he responded with a story.

“A man, traveling to Jericho, was attacked by robbers, beaten and left for dead beside the road.

A priest hurried by.  He was late to church.  When he saw the broken, bleeding victim, he thought, “That’s sad.  I wonder what he did to deserve that” and passed on the other side.

Another religious guy a local politician, approached him, and, horrified when he was the battered man, thought, “We need to have a discussion about violence in our community.  At the next council meeting, I’ll see if we can form a committee to look study it.”  Then, he scurried on his way.

Finally, a Samaritan passed by.  (Samaritans were considered half-breed outcasts in their culture.  All the characters in the story so far would have looked down their noses at him — especially the lawyer who asked the question in the first place.)   The Samaritan stopped and helped the injured man.  He bandaged his wounds, put him on his own donkey and carried him to a safe and comfortable place to heal.

Now, who was the neighbor in this story?”

The lawyer realizing there was only one correct answer here, replied, “The one who showed mercy.”

And Jesus smiled and said, “You are right — and THAT is what you need to do.”

The lawyer started the conversation by asking “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus ended the conversation by asking, “Whose neighbor are you?”

Sarcasm isn’t so Smart

The following was written by Dr. Clifford M, Lazarus, co-founder and director of The Lazarus Institute in New Jersey.

———————–

If you want to be happier and improve your relationships, cut out sarcasm since sarcasm is actually hostility disguised as humor.  Despite smiling outwardly, most people who receive sarcastic comments feel put down and usually think the sarcastic person is a jerk.  Indeed, it’s not surprising that the origin of the word sarcasm derives from the Greek word “sarkazein” which literally means “to tear or strip the flesh off.”  Hence, it’s no wonder that sarcasm is often preceded by the word “cutting” and that it hurts.

What’s more, since actions strongly determine thoughts and feelings, when a person consistently acts sarcastically it usually only heightens his or her underlying hostility and insecurity.  After all, when you come right down to it, sarcasm is a subtle form of bullying and most bullies are angry, insecure, cowards.   Alternatively, when a person stops voicing negative comments, especially sarcastic and critical ones, he or she soon starts to feel happier and more self-confident.  Also, the other people in his or her life benefit even faster because they no longer have to hear the emotionally hurtful language of sarcasm.

Now I’m not saying all sarcasm is bad.  It’s just better used sparingly – like a potent spice in cooking.  Too much spice and the dish will be overwhelmed by it.  Similarly, an occasional dash of sarcastic wit can spice up a chat and add an element of humor to it.  But a big or steady serving of sarcasm will overwhelm the emotional flavor of any conversation and taste very bitter to its recipient.

So, tone down the sarcasm and work on clever wit instead which is usually devoid of hostility and thus more appreciated by those you’re communicating with.  In essence, sarcasm is easy (as is most anger, criticism and meanness) while true, harmless wit takes talent.

Thus, the main difference between wit and sarcasm is that, as already stated, sarcasm is hostility disguised as humor. It is intended to hurt, and is often bitter and caustic. Witty statements are usually in response to someone’s unhelpful remarks or behaviors, and the intent is to unravel and clarify the issue by accentuating its absurdities. Sarcastic statements are expressed in a cutting manner; witty remarks are delivered with undisguised and harmless humor.

Also, don’t hestate to tell others that you don’t appreciate their sarcastic comments because it’s just thinly veiled hostility and unacceptable bullying.

Remember:  Think well, act well, feel well, be well!

Dr. Clifford Lazarus blogs for Psychology Today’s “Think Well” https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/think-well

Finished

“Preparatory Sketch for Christ in Calvary”, Nikolay Gay

“It is finished!”

Those were the words Jesus Christ uttered as he hung, dying, on the cross. “It is finished!” What could he have possibly meant?

Failure Words?
At first glance, one might wonder if these were words of despair – quitting words. “It is finished! It’s a hopeless cause! I’ve failed! I quit!”

It would certainly be understandable if that’s what Jesus meant. Just think: he suffered the greatest injustice in human history. He lived a spotless life, but was sentenced to a traitor’s death.

He came to love – but was hated.
He came to help – but was rejected.
He came to heal – but was broken
He came to forgive – but was despised.
He came to bless – but was cursed. .
He came to bring life – but was brought death

Stepping into darkness and bearing another’s burden is difficult enough. It becomes nearly impossible, however, when the person who needs the help rejects it.

You could hardly blame Jesus if he had meant “I’ve had enough and I give up” when he said “It is finished.”

BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT HE MEANT!

No, he didn’t give up on humanity. He didn’t give up at all! Despite the wickedness, hatred and scorn – he “loved them to the last!” He ended up on the cross precisely because he was NOT willing to give up! He loved them enough to pay the ultimate price. There was no quitting! There was no turning back!

The good news from Good Friday is that Jesus has not given up on you! Regardless of where you’ve been or what you’ve done, the Savior loves you and is offering you his grace and forgiveness.

Fighting Words?

Another way you could interpret the phrase, “It is finished” is to say “I’m fed up! If this is the crummy way you’re going to treat me, then I am THROUGH with you!” Again, you could hardly blame Jesus if that’s what he meant.

People often say this when they’ve been hurt and pushed over the edge.

“I have tried and tried to save this marriage – but now it’s OVER! I’m through with you!”
“Son, I’ve waited up past midnight for you to come home one too many times. Pack you bags! I’m through with you!”
“You have messed up the accounts again. I can’t stand this kind of incompetence! Clear out your office. I’m through with you!”

They treated Jesus in the most horrible way you can imagine. The worst suffering and disgrace you’ve ever faced pales in comparison to what Jesus endured. It would only be normal to fight against it and say “I’m through with you!!”

BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT HE MEANT!

No, Jesus wasn’t at war with them. When he spoke about those who were committing such atrocity against him he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

These were not fighting words They were reconciling words: words of peace and release.

Faith Words!

When Jesus said “It is Finished”, he was not saying failure words or fighting words. Instead he was speaking faith words! He had done the job he came to do! He had completed his purpose!

Just like a construction worker who completes a bridge and says, “It’s finished!” That’s what Jesus was saying!

I have opened up the Bridge – over the mighty gulf of sin and evil – to a right relationship with God. The work is finished!
I have opened up a Way – a road to eternal life for whoever has faith and believes! (John 3:16) It is finished!
I have opened up the Door – to life beyond death. “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies!” It is finished!
I have opened up a New Life for you. You can live in freedom and forgiveness. It is finished!

In The Upper Room

There’s a place for all the weak and weary
A place where all may find real peace
In the upper room with Jesus
All our cares and heartaches cease.

There is cooling water for the weary
There’s a balm for ev’ry broken heart
There is rest for all the heavy laden
His peace to you He will impart.

In the upper room with Jesus
Sitting at his nail-scarred feet
Oh what rich and full communion
Fellowship divine and sweet.

— Bill Gaither