Running with Mark 91


Day 91 – March 27, 2020



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)



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



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.




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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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



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?



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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Running with Mark 88


Day 88 – March 25, 2020


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.


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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Running with Mark 87


Day 87 – March 24, 2020



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!


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.




Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

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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.





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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Running with Mark – 85


Day 85 – March 22, 2020  

Today’s blog comes from guest blogger Rev. Chris Carr. Chris is the preacher for Sunday, March 22, 2020.




Mark 12: 28-34 (inclusive Version)

28 One of the religious scholars who had listened to them debating and had observed how well Jesus had answered them, now came up and put a question to him: “Which is the foremost of all the commandments?” 29 Jesus replied, “This is the foremost: ‘Hear, O Israel, God, our God, is one. 30 You must love the Most High God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” 32 The scholar said to Jesus, “Well spoken, Teacher! What you have said is true: the Most High is one and there is no other. 33 To love God with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself—this is far more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.” 34 Jesus, seeing how wisely this scholar had spoken, said, “You are not far from the kindom of God.” And after that no one dared to question Jesus any more.


This seems as important a time to understand to heed Jesus’ call to Love God and Love our neighbor.    


Right now, it feels hard to see God, let alone love God.  In this season of a pandemic, there are a lot of questions, and the answers are unclear.  We are spending a lot of time looking out of windows, to keep separation and keep people safe.  People are either stuck inside, away from family and friends, out of school.  We had to make the tough decision to reschedule REYOUNITE youth event, where we had JJ Warren, Jennifer Knapp, and others coming for an amazing weekend.  It was a really hard decision.  We had a great Youth Group time online on Wednesday and the questions raised were mostly about this sense of the length of time this will continue.  How long will we be out of school?  How does God let this happen?  It feels like there is a lot obstructing our view of the Holy.  Fear does that.  We get tunnel vision and close off.  We are trying to look through a window to see God, but the curtains of Covid-19 are blocking our view.     


We don’t know when things that have ceased or been cancelled will be able to happen.  But we do know that when we commit into relationship with that which connects us beyond physical contact, we are able to throw back the curtains that obstruct our view and see with greater clarity, and when we do, our actions, whether they are in our home, or in the world of live-streams, can tell our neighbor they are loved.                     


Please read 1 Corinthians 13 to see what Paul, the apostle whose writings make up a lot of the New Testament, had to say about love.                                                                                                                               





“Feeling Low”



When i’m feeling low

and my heart is weak

i know you have the strength

 to carry me

When i’m broken down

and i’m filled with grief

 i know you’re far beyond

what my mind conceives


As I look beyond the cares of life

I can feel your heart

Through the pain and strife

 As I look beyond the cares of life

I can feel your heart

feel you wash my sight

i can feel your heart

feel you offer life


you lead me to the water, sweet water

the water of life

when i am sinking,

you lift me up out of the night


how can it be hallelujah

i feel this love overtake me 




God, we bring our cries, we bring our questions, we bring our fears.  In this uncertain time, help us seek clearing our vision out the window, to push back the blinds and feel your love, and be in relationships that magnify Your love into the world.




Peace and Love in Faith,









Prayer Focus:



Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

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Running with Mark 84


Day 84 – March 21, 2020  



Hebrews 1:1-4 New Revised Standard Version


Here is the same reading from The Inclusive Bible.

 In  times past , god spoke in fragmentary and varied ways to our ancestors through the prophets; 2  in these final days, God has spoken to us through the only begotten, who has been made heir of all things and through whom the universe was first created. 3  Christ is the reflection of God’s glory, the exact representation of God’s being; all things are sustained by God’s powerful word. Having cleansed us from our sins, Jesus Christ sat down at the right hand of the Glory of heaven— 4  as far superior to the angels as the name Christ has inherited is superior to theirs.


Professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Dr. Craig R. Koester writes:

The author begins by focusing on God’s methods of communication. God has spoken in many various ways through Israel’s prophets, but things take a radical turn when God communicates through an embodied Word: the Son. The writer’s opening lines encompass the Son’s inheritance of all things and his activity at creation. The writer will not let the readers’ imaginations remain impoverished with a Christ who is too small. The writer uses words like “radiance” to evoke a sense of divine light entering human sight. He speaks of “exact imprint,” using a term that could refer to the image on a coin. The imprint made visible the very being of God, which was otherwise invisible.

Then the writer sketches out a journey. He follows Jesus from death to glorious life. He goes from making purification for sins through his suffering and death, and to a place above the angels. For a moment readers are taken out of the ordinariness of their situation, as they follow Christ into the presence of God. As readers then and now are drawn into the presence of God in worship, they too go on a journey. It reorients their perception of the situation in which life is lived[1].


Where do you see God’s radiance breaking into our world?



Christ Whose Glory FIlls the Sky –Charles Wesley

Notice the images of light and radiance in this hymn.

1 Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only Light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
triumph o’er the shades of night;
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Daystar, in my heart appear.


2 Dark and cheerless is the morn
unaccompanied by thee;
joyless is the day’s return
’til thy mercy’s beams I see;
’til they inward light impart,
glad my eyes, and warm my heart.


3 Visit, then, this soul of mine;
pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
fill me, Radiancy divine;
scatter all my unbelief;
more and more thyself display,
shining to the perfect day.

Source: Trinity Psalter Hymnal #156



Prayer Focus:

Pray for God’s light to break through in your life and in our world.


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins



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Running with Mark 83


Day 83 – March 20, 2020  



Psalm 121

Mountains are my sacred space.  There’s no vacation I enjoy more than time in a national park with great big mountains. 


Our family has traveled to Alaska three times.  The first time was with all our boys when they were high school and college aged.  We spent time in Denali National Park which was amazing.  Everyday we looked for Denali, the big mountain, but it was always covered with clouds.  We thought seeing Denali was just a myth meant to lure tourists.


The second time we went to Denali, we didn’t see the mountain either.  But… we were driving back to Anchorage, suddenly the clouds cleared and the mountain was visible in the rearview mirror.  We quickly pulled over to the side of the road to see it and take pictures.


I think God is like Denali.  God is always there, but sometimes it is cloudy and I can’t see God.  Sometimes the clouds are of my own making, like when I am too busy and not making time to spend with God.  Later I see God in the rearview mirror and say, “Oh, there you are.  You were there all along!


Sometimes the clouds are things the world throws at us, like a pandemic, it can be hard to see God.  The mountain is so big, and it looks so cloudy.  But, when we really look, if we open our eyes, we will see God and God’s people at work.  Mr. Rogers used to counsel people to look to the helpers at a time of crisis.  Goodness the helpers are everywhere.

  • doctors, nurses, medical personnel helping the sick
  • grocers who are working so hard to keep food on the shelves
  • truck drivers who are delivering needed supplies
  • nursing home staff caring for vulnerable adults while under quarantine
  • first responders
  • neighbors who are checking on their neighbors and offering help with groceries etc.
  • schools and organizations that are finding creative ways to feed people

Personally, I’m so very proud of our church community and the way you are pulling together.   We have a team of volunteers who will be calling all of our members who are age 75+.  There is another team of people ready to help with whatever our elders may need.  The staff is working on all kinds of creative ways to connect.  People have been supportive and patient during technical glitches during live streaming because of so many new churches and people watching online.  Others have reached out to fund the pastor’s discretionary fund so that I will be able to help people who have needs or may have lost hours or their jobs.  Ministry teams are checking in and doing their work.  Some adult small groups have been meeting online!  In the midst of this challenging time, we are learning how to be the church in a new way.


May the words of Psalm 121 bring you courage and hope today.

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
    from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time on and forevermore.



Immortal Invisible God Only Wise – Tommy Walker

This is a fun, upbeat version of the hymn done be a big inter-generational chorus.


Prayer Focus:

Pray that God, the mountain, would be revealed.


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

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Running with Mark 82


Day 82 – March 19, 2020  



Isaiah 5:1-7, The Song of the Unfruitful Vineyard

When you read the passage it may strike you as very familiar.  It is – that’s because you read it a few days ago in Mark 12:1-12, where Jesus quoted this familiar story.  Jesus out a leadership twist on the parable, pointing out the failure of the tenants.


Isaiah’s version doesn’t talk about the tenants.  It addresses the “fruit” of the vineyard.  God is saying, I planted an amazing vineyard.  It had everything you could ever need.  It is reminiscent of the story of Adam and Eve in the garden.  God had created a beautiful garden with all they needed for a rich and full life.  But Adam and Eve were tempted.  The temptation was not so much to eat the forbidden fruit, it was a temptation for them to want to be God.  We get that.  We want so badly to control our lives.  We think we are wise and know what should happen. 


I shudder to think how many bad choices I have made in my life.  There were of course the times when I was a teen and made some silly choices and a couple of dangerous choices.  Who thought it was a good idea to ride with two people on a bicycle, who were not wearing helmets, to ride down the 50th street hill as fast as we could….in the dark!  There have been times when I have not chosen the way of love, but the way of gossip or triangulation.  There have been times when I “pilfered away my time” in the words of John Wesley.  Sometimes I have held onto anger and nursed hurt.


What about you?  What choices and decisions do you regret?


The vineyard yielded not grapes that were good for eating or making wine.  It yielded wild grapes, literal sour grapes. 


The first part of the book of Isaiah is often called “First Isaiah”.  It is made up of chapters 1-12.  In this section the prophet is calling out Judah’s faults and failings and the ways they have wandered away from God.  Israel was divided into the northern kingdom (known as Israel) and the southern kingdom (known as Judah). 


The latter parts of Isaiah will talk about the coming of the Messiah.  Isaiah does not leave us sitting in the rotten mess of grapes we have made.  Isaiah brings us hope!




Let It Breathe On Me


Words & Music: Magnolia Lewis-Butts —
Harmony/Arranger: W. O. Hoyle

Let it breathe on me, Let it breathe on me.
Let the breath of God now breathe on me;
Let it breathe on me, Let it breathe on me,
Let the breath of God now breathe on me.

While I’m working Lord in your vineyard here,
I can do naught if thou aren’t near.

Let it breathe on me, Let it breathe on me.
Let the breath of God now breathe on me;
Let it breathe on me, Let it breathe on me,
Let the breath of God now breathe on me.

When the pathway Lord I cannot see,
When the way is dark, Lord, breathe on me.

Let it breathe on me, Let it breathe on me.
Let the breath of God now breathe on me;
Let it breathe on me, Let it breathe on me,
Let the breath of God now breathe on me.




Prayer Focus:

This would be a great time to talk to God about the wild grapes, you have sown.  Consider asking God to help you let go of the “sour grapes” you have held onto.


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

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