Running with Mark 91

 

Day 91 – March 27, 2020

 

Read:

Deuteronomy 6:1-9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Great Commandment

Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

 

 

What lessons do you think are most important for children to learn?

When our four sons were young, every day  I would say to them “I want you to be men of______” and they would say back, “Men of honor, excellence and integrity”.  For us honor meant that you were a person who practiced respect and that you treated others with honor.  Excellence did not mean perfection.  We are all going to make mistakes or behave poorly from time to time.  Excellence meant that we would strive to do our best.  Integrity meant that we would be people who kept our word and acted with integrity.  I used to joke with them when they were going out as teenagers, “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want your grandmothers to see you doing.”

 

My greatest hope and prayer for my children and grandchildren, and for the children of Lake Harriet UMC, is that they would come to love God with all their heart, soul and might.  Then as Jesus added, “And a second command is like it – you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Matthew 22:39)

 

Music:

You’ve Got to Be Taught” by Rogers and Hammerstein

Mr. Rogers – It’s You I Like   This classic clip should be watched with a tissue at the ready.

 

Prayer Focus:

What lessons from childhood have helped you?  What lessons were unhealthy and you’d like to be rid of?

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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Running with Mark 90

 

Day 90 – March 27, 2020

 

Read:

Psalm 22:1-2, 14-21 New Revised Standard Version

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Psalm 22:1

 

Do not be far from me, for trouble is near, and there is no one to help.

Psalm 22:11

 

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.

Psalm 22:14, 15

 

These words, written by David, are true words of agony.  This psalm is called a “Psalm of Lament”. Lament psalms can be individual or communal.   Lament psalms take on a very specific form:

Verses 1-2 = statement of the problem (I)

Verses 3-5 = expression of confidence (I)

Verses 6-8 = statement of the problem (II)

Verses 9-11 = expression of confidence (II)

Verses 12-18 = statement of the problem (III)

Verses 19-21 = entreaty for relief (I)

Verses 22-31 = the certainty of being heard and the vow.

 

I encourage you to go through the entire psalm, and see this pattern at work.

 

The psalmist feels free to cry out to God with all of his hurt, his fears, his agony.  For Jesus, the psalms were a primary means of prayer.  He learned them when he was just a boy, and continued to draw on them in his ministry.  Jesus will pray part of this Psalm while he is hanging on the cross.  “My God, why have you forsaken me?”.  After praying this psalm, Jesus will offer more gut-wrenching prayers from the cross, until at last he says, “Into thy hands I commit my spirit”.  As the psalmist in Psalm 22 states his faith and hope in God, so too does Jesus.

 

As I prepare this devotional it is Sunday, March 22, 2020.  As of today there are 32,644 cases of COVID19 that have been tested positive.  There are of course many more people who are ill than have been tested due to the shortage of tests. Senator Rand Paul revealed that he has tested positive, and now several other senators are quarantined.  What will these counts be by the time you read this on March 27th

 

If ever there were a time to pray in the words of Psalm 22, this is the time.

So beloved, cry out to God with your whole heart.  Pour out your fears.

 

 

Music:

Nearer My God to Thee – BYU Vocal Point

Yo Yo Ma on encouraging “Songs of Comfort” amid global crisis.  PBS

 

Prayer Focus:

Christ himself understands our feeling forsaken.

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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God Is With Us 3.26.2020

I wrote this post four years ago while struggling through an unplanned unemployment (remember that when reading it!).
 
I share in hope you find meaning (and joy!) in it today.

 

Finding Joy In Music

By Jane Weiers

 

My post earlier mentioned that I am a natural “sinker.” Yesterday, in the stress, anxiety, and turmoil of unplanned unemployment, I was headed for the bottom. Again. A feeling of sinking throughout much of the day. Finding out the cost of health insurance once mine runs out January 31 certainly did nothing to buoy my mood, nor did having to ask my mother for financial assistance starting in February. So, being the stubborn person I was genetically disposed to be (have you ever met my parents?!?), today I got out of bed fighting mad. At life. At the world. At having lost my job in a financial crisis that I had nothing to do with (funny how innocent people end up being collateral damage so often in life). So, I pushed myself into the shower (basic self care is a common struggle with those in clinical depression), put on some makeup, dressed up in a skirt and even put on a necklace, and forced myself to what has become my job application site: STARBUCKS. Ordered a drink. Plugged in my computer and my earbuds, and went to listen to a piece of music by a conductor that has become a favorite of mine: Joseph Curiale. I discovered he has composed a piece titled “JOY.” JUST WHAT I NEED TODAY! Music makes such a difference in the world, and I share this piece for others to listen to. I dare you to feel like you are sinking while listening to this.
 

https://youtu.be/cvxfJ43EdNU


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Running with Mark 89

 

Day 89 – March 26, 2020

 

Watch: Here is a short introduction to PSALMS from The Bible Project.

The Bible Project – Introduction to the Psalms

 

Read:

Psalm 116:12-19 New Revised Standard Version

 

Questions to ponder:

  • Why is the psalmist so devoted to God?
  • What troubles may have emerged in the psalmist’s life?
  • What is the Cup of Salvation?
  • Is your devotion based primarily on what God has done for you? If so, what happens when something bad happens to you?

 

Music:

Do you remember this old song from church camp or Sunday school?

I Will Call Upon the Lord

 

 

 

Prayer Focus:

In the midst of these trying days, for what do you give thanks?  Talk to God about those things.

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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God Is With Us 3.25.2020

I wrote this devotion four years ago when I was struggling through unplanned unemployment. I post it today hoping some reading it may see themselves in it and know they are not alone, and also hoping that some reading it may learn a bit about the physical human condition called “clinical depression.” There is much research going on about clinical depression and its root physical causes. Doctors and nutritionists are now focusing on the health of the gut/digestive system – the gut-brain connection – and how our modern diets, chemicals, and processed foods are affecting/increasing many diseases including clinical depression and anxiety.

 

I hope you find meaning in this writing.

 

A Sinker

By Jane Weiers

 

I am a sinker. Yes, you read that correctly, I am a sinker. I learned this while taking a swimming class my freshman year in college. As I recall the experience, while in the pool on the first day of class we were told to exhale our breath, put our heads down and see what happened. It was a test to see if we were “floaters” or “sinkers.” I headed for the bottom. A sinker. What did that mean for me as a swimmer? The instructor told us that in addition to pulling ourselves forward in a stroke, sinkers also have to work to keep ourselves afloat. Simply put, swimming is harder for a “sinker” than for a “floater.” Dang. I really like swimming.

 

This came to me in a restless night last night. I started pondering if this physical anomaly could possibly translate to other areas of my physical being. When life brings me lemons, when I exhale my breath and put my head down, what happens? My natural tendency is to sink. Into self-doubt. Into negative self-talk. Into emotional darkness. Into depression. Into CLINICAL depression. When I experienced my deepest clinical depression 25 years ago, the onset of that depression was a powerful physical sensation of falling. Yes, you read that correctly—a PHYSICAL sense of falling. My body felt out of control—on the inside. My body felt like I was falling—on the inside. And it was scary. Really scary. So scary that I eventually called a mental health hotline. I can vividly recall standing in the mudroom of our house talking to a crisis counselor. It was a Saturday. I was nine months pregnant with my first child. I was so scared. What I was feeling was SO overwhelming. The physical sensation was so strong that I wanted nothing more than to not feel that powerful inner turmoil anymore. I wanted out.

 

I am so thankful that I had already been diagnosed with clinical depression earlier in my life, so I had an educated sense of what I was experiencing—body chemicals becoming so out of balance that I needed medical/chemical/professional intervention. My body was experiencing a physical disease/imbalance, and that body, with that chemical inefficiency, needed physical help. Having already experienced both the darkness of being out of chemical balance and returning to the lightness of balance, I knew that it was not a personal “weakness,” but rather a physical anomaly of my physical body. I knew that with time and with chemical intervention, I would get out of that dark hole. Don’t get me wrong, when you are in that depth of depression every minute you are in it you can’t seem to see the forest for the trees. But, education is so important. And, once you are educated, it absolutely helps the rest of your life (isn’t that true about ALL education?!). Education is what this post is all about.

 

So, I guess I must accept the fact that I am a natural sinker. In more ways than one. Swimming takes more energy for me than others, and inner balance takes more energy and/or chemical help for me than for others. This in no way translates to me being a “Debbie Downer,” because on the “outside,” I am the person you want in a crisis, I am the consensus-builder, the one to find the positive in any situation, the one trying to keep everyone else positive (not that I am always smiling :/). If you ever wonder why I am SO FOND of positive quotes, it is very much self-help driven. In becoming professionally educated about my propensity for negative self-talk, I have learned I absolutely have control over my thoughts, if not my body chemicals. So when I find myself returning to my negative self-talk pattern, I work to break the pattern by changing my thoughts to the positive. And start re-reading books like, “Healing Is A Choice,” “Happiness Is A Choice,” and I highly recommend the book “Paths Are Made By Walking,” about how to reprogram the neuropathways in our brain (our thinking habits).
 
I find joy writing about finding joy, and write about joy as a means to an end.
 
Take that, you sinker…

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Running with Mark 88

 

Day 88 – March 25, 2020

Read:

Psalm 121

Please enjoy this video reflection of Psalm 121.  Psalm 121 – The Work of the People

 Psalm 121:7 says, “The Lord will keep you from all harm–“
What do you make of that verse when Covid19 is spreading?
As you wrestle with that question, it may be helpful for you to look at a classic piece called “Understanding the Will of God” by Leslie Weatherhead.  Weatherhead posits that there are three types of God’s will; the intentional will of God, the circumstantial will of God, and the ultimate will of God.
  1. The intentional will of God – is God’s ideal plan for humanity. This is God’s plan for wholeness, for Shalom.
  2. The circumstantial will of God – is God’s plan within certain circumstances.  I like to use the example of physics.  God created objects in motion to stay in motion, that is God’s will.  But what happens when two cars try to occupy the same intersection at the same time?  The cars crash.  It is not that God willed the crash to happen, but God did will the laws of physics.  The car accident took place not because of God’s intentional will, but because of circumstances.
  3. The ultimate will of God – is the glorious and final realization of all God’s purposes.  
 
Here’s a quote from Weatherhead: (he uses very old language that is gendered “he” for humanity)
“When a dear one dies, we call it “the will of God,” though the measures we used to prevent death could
hardly be called fighting against the will of God, and if they had been successful we should have thanked
God with deep feeling that in the recovery of that dear one his will had been done. Similarly, when
sadness, disease, and calamity overtake men they sometimes say with resignation, “God’s will be done,”
when the opposite of his will has been done. When Jesus healed men’s bodies and gladdened men’s
lives in Palestine, he was doing the will of God, not undoing or defeating it.”
 
Covid19 was not God’s intentional will.  It was caused by circumstances of this world, by the power of genes and viruses to change and mutate.  God’s ultimate will in this awful situation may be seen when humanity acts in the best ways of God.
 
Beware of bad theology!  There will be people arguing that COVID19 is God’s will, and this is not so.
 
 

Music:

I Will Lift My Eyes by Bebo Norman

Prayer Focus:

An Affirmation of Faith for Lent

We are not alone; we live in God’s world. We believe in God who has created and is creating; who has come to us in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new; who works in us and others by the Spirit. We trust in God. We are called to be the Church, to celebrate God’s presence; to live with respect in creation; to love and serve others; to seek justice and resist evil; to proclaim Jesus’ message of hope, inclusion and grace. In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.

—Adapted from the United Church of Canada.

 

 

 

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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God is with Us – 3.24.2020

Today I took a little field trip to the Joyce Uptown Foodshelf.
Did you know that demand is up at the food shelf?  Last week on a day when typically 30 families would be served, the Joyce Uptown Food Shelf served 62 families!
 
Check out this video to see what was happening today at Joyce.
 
 
 
Please be generous in your support of organizations that are serving those in need.
www.joyceuptownfoodshelf.org 
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins
 
 

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Running with Mark 87

 

Day 87 – March 24, 2020

 

Read:

Psalm 102:12-17

Yet You, O Comforter, are ever near,

your kindness is made known to all generations;

You answer the prayers of those who cry to You.

Come! Melt every heart;

the appointed time is nigh.

Those who trust in You find solace for their souls;

tears soon turn to joy.

All who reverence and honor the Beloved,

are nourished and held by Love.

For You, O Healer, invite us to wholeness,

to be co-creators along Love’s way.

You hear the cries of the afflicted, and answer their prayer.

Yet beware! Our thoughts are also our prayers,

May they be for the well-being of all!

Music:

Compassion Hymn

 

Prayer Focus:

A Prayer of Compassion by Mother Teresa

Lord, open our eyes
that we may see you in our brothers and sisters.
Lord, open our ears
that we may hear the cries of the hungry,
the cold, the frightened, the oppressed.
Lord, open our hearts
that we may love each other as you love us.
Renew in us your spirit.
Lord, free us and make us one.
Amen 

 

 

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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God is with Us 3.23.2020

 

Hello Beloved,

It’s Monday night.  By now you have survived another day of working at home.  Children have probably had some homework; books to read or maybe e-learning lessons from school. 
 
Some of you have worked at hospitals, clinics, grocery stores, as letter carriers or truck drivers.  I am SO thankful for your service during this Covid19 crisis.

 

When you were little were you afraid of the dark?  My dad has some land up north, way outside of any town.  On the nights that the skies are clear, you can see beautiful stars.  But on the nights where there is cloud cover, it is so very, very dark there.  I admit that those very dark nights can be scary because you are out in the woods and don’t know exactly what’s there.

 

Tonight we are going to take a walk around my yard.  Click on the link the link and let’s walk and talk.

 

 

Let’s pray,

Holy God, my day is drawing to an end, and I’m ready to turn in. But before I do, I have to thank you for your faithfulness today. It’s always a good day, even when things may not go the way I plan, or when the world seems in chaos, because you are in control.  For all the times when I was aware of your help today, all the times when your unseen presence seemed so near, thank you, God. But for all the ways you worked behind the scenes, unknown to me, moments when heaven-sent angels moved on my behalf in ways I’ll never know, thank you for those also, Lord. Amen. 

 

~ Rebecca Barlow Jordan

 

 


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Running with Mark 86

 

Day 86 – March 23, 2020

 

Read: Psalm

Psalm 89:1-4 New Revised Standard Version

This week five of the readings from the Narrative Lectionary come from the Psalms.  Why were they chosen?  Psalms were a primary form of prayer for the Jewish community.  They continue to speak to the hopes, fears, struggles and worries of all people today.

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian known for his opposition to National Socialism. His ties to the July 20, 1944, conspiracy to overthrow the Nazi regime led to his execution in 1945. His theological writings are regarded as classics throughout the Christian world.

Bonhoeffer penned these words on the Psalms:

“The Psalter is the prayer book of Jesus Christ in the truest sense of the word. He prayed the Psalter and now it has become his prayer for all time…we understand how the Psalter can be prayer to God and yet God’s own Word, precisely because here we encounter the praying Christ…because those who pray the psalms are joining in with the prayer of Jesus Christ, their prayer reaches the ears of God. Christ has become their intercessor…”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

 

As you read Psalm 89 from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying – An Invitation to Wholeness, may this be your prayer:

I will sing of your steadfast Love

            forever, my Beloved:

with forthright voice I will proclaim

your goodness to all generations.

For your abiding Love rules to the universe,

your faithfulness extends throughout the firmament.

Your Covenant from the beginning of time

encompasses all who choose to walk

the path of Love;

And to all generations that honor

your Way and your Truth

will Love make Itself known.

 

 

 

Music:

Sanctuary by Carrie Newcomer

Every Praise by Hezekiah Walker

 

Prayer Focus:

In this time of anxiety, ask God to be your Rock, your faithful One.

 

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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