A moment of defiance

Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel of Luke may be one of the most difficult to hear and even more challenging to follow. In our society of self-promotion and self-protection, we are told to 

-love our enemies 

-turn the other cheek

-do good and expect nothing in return 

-forgive the seemingly unforgivable

In today’s Old Testament story of Joseph and his brothers, we are given an example of what this looks like. Remember that Joseph was the favorite among twelve brothers. His father, Jacob, showed his favoritism publicly. Moreover, Joseph tells the family of his dreams where they are bowing and honoring him. The behaviors of both Jacob and Joseph stirred up such intense jealousy that the brothers plotted to kill Joseph. At his brother Reuben’s resistance, they relented and sold him into slavery instead. Joseph was around 19 at the time. Joseph was rejected, kidnapped, enslaved, and imprisoned, and yet, he served in Egypt, and he was promoted and prospered.

Throughout this time away from his family, it is repeatedly said that “God was with him.” Joseph believed this and echoed it in his words to his brothers “it was not you who sent me here but God.” Joseph understood that the goodness of God underscores all of our experiences. Joseph saw the difficulties and cruelties he experienced as opportunities for discipline and growth. When Joseph meets with his brothers again, 20 years have passed. However, with a strong sense of purpose and a desire to serve others as if serving God, Joseph harbors no bitterness or resentment. He has been humbled by his circumstances and allows his life experiences to be places of discipline and growth. He meets his brothers again, and he kisses them, weeps on them, and they talk with him in intimate fellowship and friendship. He expresses an incomprehensible love for his brothers. They sent him away to destroy him; he returns to save them.

The story of Joseph’s time in Egypt reminded me of an article I read about a man named Charles Rodgers who lives in Florida with his two-year-old daughter. He works as an HVAC technician and salesman. He has a degree in Christian ministry and counseling and speaks to churches and organizations about social reform. At the time of the article interview Charles Rodgers was 39 years old. But, like Joseph, at age 19, his life was entirely different. He was a young man born into a life of foster care and abuse. He lived in a dangerous neighborhood with a poor school system. He blamed the world and took no responsibility. He is quoted saying, “Crime wasn’t difficult for me because I felt like the victim.”

 After his best friend was shot and killed, he set out for revenge armed and ready. Before he could get revenge, he was arrested and imprisoned. At age 20, he said, “he felt worthless like his life had no value, and yet at the same time he had a desire to prove otherwise.” Rogers said that prison gave him chances to change his life. In his view, his arrest saved lives, including his own. He used his time in prison for discipline and growth. He began challenging authority with both the prisoner hierarchy and the prison staff. He learned about himself. He learned that when he was “treated like a human, he wanted to be more humane. And, when he was treated like an animal, he acted like an animal. He also learned that “the smarter prisoners studied human behavior and learned how to “not fight” while still maintaining respect.” 

1st Corinthians tells us, “Just as we have born the image of the man of dust; we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.”  Rodgers, it seems, understood his duel nature. He understood there was something more than what he saw in himself and desired to cultivate it.

Rodgers said he would put himself in places where professionals who visited the prison were and mimic their behavior. He began volunteering for the Hospice program at Angola prison. He edited the prison newspaper and was able to create in the prison woodshop. After several appeals, his record in prison, letters of restitution to victims, and victim support for his release, he was discharged, having served 17 years of his 35-year sentence. I hear this story, and I cannot help but think. God was with Charles Rodgers, molding and forming him into the man he is today.

“Prison wasn’t great but I made it what I needed it to be to maintain my sanity and obtain my freedom.”

Charles and Joseph, both as young adults, used strength and courage as they allowed their 20 years in captivity to help mold and shape them to be the men God created them to be. Life did not go well for either of these young men, yet they used the systems of their captivity to grow and become men who would make life better for others. 

Jesus’ sermon on the plain tells us to be like Charles and Joseph. Love those who hurt us. Do good for the sake of good, turn the other cheek and forgive at all cost. In my notes, I wrote next to turn the other cheek the words “defiant love.”

For me, the struggle with “turn the other cheek’ is that it seems so completely unfair. It seems weak and unassertive, like not standing up to a bully.   But if I think of it as defiant love like the men in the stories told today. I hear strength and courage.  

Defiant love is transformational love.

It changes us and those around us. It sees the dual nature of people and recognizes the struggle we all have.  

I think Charles and Joseph are perfect examples of turning the other cheek. There was nothing submissive about their lives in captivity. They began as young men, not understanding the strength and power they possessed, but they grew into it as they served others. They loved defiantly. 

The psalm today tells us, “take delight in the Lord and he will give you your hearts desire.”

The head knows what we want, but the heart knows what we need. 

Defiant love doesn’t give us what we want; it gives us what we need.  

We want to be the favored son, 

but we need family unity.

We want to separate the good from the bad, 

but we need to recognize equal humanity.

We want others to get what we think they deserve, 

but we need to help heal the world.  

We want revenge, 

but we need reconciliation.

The people of Jesus’ day wanted a king, but Jesus, in his defiant love, gave them a servant.

Just as we have been born in the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven. 

How will you love defiantly today?

Psalm 37:1-12

Genesis 45:3-11,15

1 Corinthians 15:35-38,42-50

Luke 6:27-38


A moment for grief

“We have this hope a sure and steadfast anchor for the soul.” Hebrews 6:19

I am currently reading Prayer in the Night by Tish Harrison Warren. As I read, I am equally comforted and discomforted by the honesty of the author’s approach to grief in the first chapters. “Feeling sadness is the cost of being emotionally alive. It is the cost even of holiness” (p.41). Warren continues to say that those who mourn are called blessed. There is a cost to being emotionally alive, but there is also a cost to being emotionally numb.

We live in a world where there is little, if any, time to mourn. We can escape those difficult emotions so quickly as we move into the busyness of life. The “doing” instead of feeling helps us at the moment. However, just as there is a cost to being emotionally alive, the cost of delaying our mourning is a prolonged process of grieving. We risk the possibility that our grief and sadness will come out in more uncomfortable public ways if it is allowed to percolate below the surface for too long. It is understandable to want to hold back those feelings. They are messy, require attention, and take our focus away from the kaleidoscopic of life. Engaging in our grief often forces us to question our significance. A spiral in this direction can be a path to hopelessness. We try to numb ourselves with distractions to help avoid this hopelessness, not realizing there is a better way.

There is a better way. We will be sad, we will mourn, and we must accept that grief, too, has a place in the kaleidoscope filling in places and making an image whole. When the light enters the ever-transforming image, it is always beautiful. The thing that makes all the broken pieces lovely is the light. How do we let the light into the dark moments of our lives? We can pray. “When we pray the prayers we’ve been given by the church—the prayers of the psalmist and the saints, the Lord’s Prayer, the Daily Office—we pray beyond what we can know, believe, or drum up ourselves” (p. 17). There are times I have experienced such overwhelming grief that remembering to breathe took great effort. I would catch myself breathing shallowly and have to pause and consciously take slow deep breaths to keep my head clear. In these times conjuring up thoughts that could soothe my spirit was difficult, prayers to God felt impossible. I knew he was present. I knew he would hear, but I couldn’t even form the thoughts to express what I so desperately needed from him.

One specific time I recall was the night of Hurricane Katrina. The air was still, humid, and miserably hot. My kids were all very young and struggled to get comfortable enough to sleep. We were safe in Mississippi, staying with family, but the restlessness of the night overwhelmed us. With no electricity, there was no way to distract ourselves or numb the worry regarding what was happening to our home. I recalled a friend telling me about how praying Compline while her daughter was in the hospital not only soothed her spirit, but after the prayers, her unconscious daughter seemed to be resting more peacefully as well. As I prayed Compline over my children that night, I remember well the calming effect of the words. “Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.” (Book of Common Prayer p.134). I remember those words “watch with Christ” washing over me and settling my soul. I would have never come up with those words on my own, but what they did for me was offer the image of me praying over my children with Jesus at my side, “keeping watch.” Those ancient words reminded me that I was not alone.  In knowing we are in the presence of God, there is peace. I needed just those words that night, that reminder gave me something to hold fast to, and in the morning, I knew God would still be with to guide me through the next day and the next.  

We cannot escape the heartaches that life will bring. Running from fear and grief can keep us from seeing the beauty in the knowledge that Jesus cares deeply for us and meets us in our times of darkness and need. When we don’t have our own words to pray, we have the gift of others who have been there before and found the words to share. By accepting the cost of being emotionally alive, we are blessed.

God’s character is unchanging and he blesses patience and endurance. Put feelings of doubt and insecurity on hold this week and move forward with courage into the places you are led.

a moment of thanks

Photo by lilartsy

I am encouraged by your presence, and I pray today you will have a rich encounter with Jesus, that you will be encouraged and strengthened in your faith.

There are many turning points in our lives and people who walked with us through them. Those moments and people are part of the story of how we ended up here in this place at this time.

As I reflect on the turning points in my life, my grandmother comes to mind. I called her grandmommie shortened to Gramma as I got older. In Highschool like most teenagers, I was in the midst of an identity crisis, and I had very little sense of direction. I also struggled with dyslexia which made the academic aspect of high school extremely challenging. I was embarrassed that I didn’t read as fast as others, and being called on in class was particularly stressful. Finally, I decided I wasn’t smart enough and pretty much gave up. I got lazy and neglected school.

Gramma, a retired teacher, saw something in me I didn’t see. She saw potential; she saw a future I couldn’t. She knew things I didn’t know. She had skills to teach me to help me cope with the learning disability that educators didn’t understand well at the time. She didn’t let me be lazy. She helped me see where my efforts and commitment were lacking. Gramma was my tutor, my encourager, and my guide. With her encouragement, I made a deeper commitment to my life. I went to college because she helped me see the person she saw in me and taught me how to live into it. Who I was; evolved into who I would become. I was the same, but then again, I wasn’t the same at all. Her love transformed me. She was my bridge.

The book of Malachi forms a bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Malachi could see both the past and the future. He saw the priest’s laziness and lack of commitment to God and worship. He saw the people of God as disillusioned, prideful, and disobedient. But he also saw the promise of the coming of the Messiah and how he would heal and mend those who came to Him. The breach was not irreparable, and God’s first message through Malachi was, “I have loved you. I am coming. Prepare the way. Commit to me as I have committed to you.

There are times in our lives that bridge where we have been and where we are going. It can be challenging to see these bridges. Sometimes, we can see them but are unwilling to cross. When we lose our commitment to God and ourselves, we cannot see what we cannot see. I believe God puts people in our path to help us. He gives us moments that refine us into his vision for us if we don’t shy away. In Genesis, he creates all things and declares them good. As we move through the Old Testament, goodness never leaves, but it is tarnished by laziness and lack of effort to live into being the people God wants us to be.

“In the reading we hear the question who can endure the day of his coming who can stand?” Jesus will be like a fuller’s soap. The fullers job is to clean and whiten cloth. It is soaked in soap and beaten to remove impurities, and the end product is beautiful and valuable. But the fabric must submit to the process.

There were many frustrating moments as I learned new ways to study and process information. But I knew my Gramma loved me, and I trusted her. So I met her commitment and made an effort to change and learn what she was teaching me.

As I read Paul’s letter to the Philippians, I hear a great deal of love in his words. Paul is grateful for the relationships he has; he feels held. He recognizes the goodness of the people yet understands the continual need to show them how to live successful mature Christian lives. He was committed to them and prayed that they would have more love, knowledge, and insight.
This love and encouragement will help them become the people God created them to be. He had confidence that the future would be promising because he recognized commitment in them.

Love is the first ingredient in this recipe for success. Love dissolves bitterness; love breaks barriers; love inspires. With love, we feel safe to go into those problematic places to push ourselves harder to do the work needed to become the people we are called to be. He didn’t teach them what to do and what not to do. Instead, he taught them about the love of Jesus, the power of that love, and how to let it work in us to develop our character. As our character is strengthened, we are more willing to be disciplined, be obedient and make good decisions. When loved, we feel safe enough to see the things about ourselves that we cannot see and strong enough to make the changes we need to make.

Who you are and who you will become is dependent on letting others teach you and help you while allowing the process of refining moments to do the work of transformation.

In the gospel lesson, we are given a gift of Old Testament scripture within New testament scripture, another bridge.

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Mark 1:3-5 NRSV

God commits to you, loving you perfectly and completely, guarding, guiding, and giving through others. Allow God’s love to restore you, refine you, and bring you to the place of repentance and preparation so that all you offer is as beautiful as you are.

In Creation, you were made, precious, and good. In the love of Jesus, you are made complete and beautiful.

What is your commitment to living into this beauty?
What is your commitment to loving others into theirs?

We are in a transitional time of our lives. We are being refined and called to prepare. You all are an integral part of the bridge between who I am and who I am to become. In these last two years of deacon school, you have been my guard, my guide, and you have given me much encouragement and strength in my commitment. You have been Jesus to me. I thank my God every time I remember you.

The Scripture Readings


A moment of hunger

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Psalm 14:4 reads, “Have they no knowledge, all those evildoers who eat up my people like bread and do not call upon the Lord?”
And I wonder.
Who are these evildoers? I am inclined to say they are other people, not myself or people that I know.
But verse three tells us, “there is none who does good; no, not one.” So maybe it is me, at those times when I forget to seek God or when He seems out of my reach.


In the Old Testament story, there is no doubt that the evildoer is David as we enter into a dark moment in the life of a great leader.

Instead of going into battle against the Ammonites himself, David stays back and sends Joab to do a job that was meant for him. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t tell us why he made this choice. Perhaps David was tired and needing some respite, this poet shepherd/king. Whatever the reason, David wasn’t where he belonged, which put him in a situation he wasn’t supposed to be in, which exposed him to temptation he would not have had, which led him to some awful decisions.

I believe there is a longing or hunger that runs through the scripture readings this morning. David, who has lost sight of God and forgotten himself, experiences a hunger. He is hungry and not sure how to have his hunger satisfied.

Hunger plus temptation is a dangerous combination and today’s reading tells a disturbing tale. David has reached a low point where God seems very distant from him. This David is “the David” who, in the service of the Lord, is a musician, a shepherd, a giant slayer, a conqueror, and a King. This is the David who God called “a man after my own heart.”

And David, being where he wasn’t supposed to be, with a feeling of emptiness, sees Bathsheba, another man’s attractive wife, and attempting to satisfy this emptiness takes her for himself. Bathsheba becomes pregnant. Bathsheba is the wife of Uriah, one of David’s loyal and steadfast top commanders. David, in his guilt, is desperate to cover up his terrible choice and sends Uriah home to his wife. When Uriah refuses to leave his men, David sends him to the front ranks of a planned assault to die. Uriah was a good and loyal man who, though he was not born into them, embraced the values of the people of God. Unfortunately, Uriah, a good man, was devoured like bread.

David was hungry but not hungry in the physical sense. Instead, he was spiritually hungry and couldn’t see what he needed, so as soon as temptation presented itself in his weakness, he sought to fill the longing with a woman that did not belong to him.

Think for a minute about the last time you were hungry, so hungry that you could feel it in the pit of your stomach.

Hunger, in the physical sense, is a signal that the body needs fuel. When we eat, we have more energy and more stamina to carry on the activities the day requires.

What David was experiencing here is another type of hunger. A spiritual hunger that sometimes we can also feel in our gut. It is an unsettling indicator that something is missing, but it is less clear what that might be.


In the Gospel reading, five thousand plus people gathered around Jesus to fill this type of hunger. This large crowd had been and continued to follow Jesus, hungry for knowledge and understanding. But, as time passed, Jesus recognized that physical hunger would also need to be addressed.
He chose this opportunity to teach Phillip how when looking to God and trusting, what you need to be satisfied in hunger, will be provided.

Remember David as a boy, too small to wear armor, defeats Goliath with five smooth stones. So we look now at a small boy with five loaves of bread and some fish and whose contribution feeds five thousand in the hands of Jesus. It says that the crowd was satisfied, but this satisfaction did not last long. They were fed spiritually and physically, but now they wanted to make Jesus king.

Wanting is another form of hunger. This hunger is similar to a longing for food and spiritual nourishment. But unlike spiritual and physical hunger, it is not true hunger and cannot be satisfied by the acquisition of what we want.

We, in our weakness, are easily moved by temptations and can find ourselves making poor choices to satisfy these pangs of hunger, especially when we lose sight of who God is and who we are in Christ.

What are you hungry for?
Peace, love, nourishment, understanding?
What are you wanting?

Something to think about, When was the last time you took something that you wanted but did not necessarily belong to you? This question is tricky because we can often justify the taking by convincing ourselves of our need for a particular thing. Understanding the difference between want and need can come from clues that our body gives us. When you have acquired the thing you wanted, did you feel satisfied, are you still uncomfortable, or did your discomfort increase?

I imagine David’s discomfort increased as long as he continued to pursue his wants instead of looking to God for his needs. We all experience wilderness times where our pursuit of God seems unnoticed by him; however, we must remember God is with us and remains with us. Jesus takes the weight of our hunger, reveals to us where our strength comes from, and carries the burden when we give in to our weaknesses and act as an evildoer.


Paul’s letter to the Ephesians tells us that our hunger will be satisfied when we remain in the presence of Jesus. When we know the fullness of God’s love, and we act from a place of abundance. We are enough, and we have enough when we allow Christ to fill our hearts.

And in the words of Paul,
“I pray that you may have the power to comprehend with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Amen.