Today’s Thought: What message do my works send about my faith?
If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? (James 2:14-16)
My mother loved to people watch. When I was in elementary and middle school, our family would make an entire day of picking up my older brothers from the airport when they would come home on military leave. For someone my age who rarely left our small, rural county, trips to the airport were pretty exhilarating. Especially since my people-person mother was in her element! We would try to guess passenger destinations from the way they were dressed or from bits of information we overheard. It was a particularly exciting trip if my mother struck up an actual conversation with one of the travellers. There were several particularly exciting trips!
Today’s Thought: How can I pray when my mind is so full?
Whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father… (Matthew 6:6)
This evening, I am surrounded by silence as I sit in my room at a history-laden bed and breakfast near the seminary. I’m here to attend a lecture and for the next three days, I will make my bed and eat my breakfast in this house. I have stayed here before in the same room, so it has the warm feel of familiarity. With a homemade do not disturb sign hung on the knob, and the locks all locked for the night, I climb up into the antique bed. It’s the perfect place and time for prayer. Now, where did I put those words?
Today’s Thought: Does a person’s status make a difference in how I treat him or her? (Hint: Don’t say “no” too quickly.)
You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (James 2:8)
One of the most quoted verses of the Bible is, love your neighbor as yourself. It’s fairly common to see it used in charity campaigns as a way of reminding us that “love” is an action word! To love our neighbor means giving, helping, donating. But in the Letter of James, Chapter 2, we’re asked to think about the various ways we show love to all of our neighbors and consider how… just maybe… we might love some neighbors more than others.
Today’s Thought: How do I answer when God asks for my help?
“Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:4-8)
A friend recently shared this quote with me: “At the end of a long day, I love getting into bed and turning off the lights so I can spend eight hours thinking about every mistake I’ve ever made.” I chuckled a little, if only at myself, because it’s how I’ve spent many nights in my life. Something about the silence and the darkness sparks self-reflection and before long, I’m ruminating down a rabbit-hole lined with personal failures—perceived and real. Those late-night journeys get imprinted into my subconscious. As a result, I manage to replay them whenever God (or anyone) says, “I need your help.”
Today’s Thought: What happens to my relationship with God when life gets hard?
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 NRSV)
I can hear your thoughts as you read that scripture only because I’ve thought the same thing. You’re wondering if it means you’re supposed to walk around smiling while your world is crashing down around you. First, I don’t recommend doing that because more than one person will think you’ve lost your mind. Second, smiling in the midst of suffering is absolutely not what James meant by this passage.
Today’s Thought: When was the last time I called God… and not because I needed something?
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning….” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love…. (Joel 2:12-13)
It’s Ash Wednesday. Today is the first day of Lent—a day when millions of Christians set aside time to reflect on our role as children of God. As most of us know by either observation or experience, children can be devoted and they can be distant; full of understanding and short on slack; quick to anger and tantrums, or easy to hug and love. Sometimes the parent-child relationship is solid, and sometimes there are cracks. And, if we aren’t careful, a crack can become an impassable crevasse.
So, what are you giving up for Lent this year? The frequency of that question is oftentimes only eclipsed by the two most popular answers: chocolate and Facebook. While you might benefit in some way from cutting back on both, I challenge you to look closer at what the Lenten season asks of us:
- Reflect on our relationship with God.
- Repent for ways we have damaged that relationship.
- Recalibrate our lives to the will of God.
- Recommit ourselves to loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.
Each day, from Ash Wednesday (March 6) through Holy Saturday (April 20), I’ll post a short devotion to help spark the process of reflection, repentance, recalibration, and recommitment. There will be a focusing thought, usually in the form of a question, as well as quotes, scripture, and hymns to further stimulate our thinking.
Join me in prayer for God’s direction and transformation over these next 40 days…
O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Common Book of Prayer)
I am currently working on a daily series for Lent 2019, to begin Wednesday, March 6 (Ash Wednesday), and run through Sunday, April 21 (Easter Sunday). As you might guess, this is a labor-intensive project. Therefore, I won’t be posting new devotions to 5 A.M. Thoughts until Lent begins.
Join me here next Wednesday, March 6, as we begin 40 days of Lenten self-reflection, preparation, and repentance.
5 A.M. Thinker
“Mommy… Can two women get married?”
I looked at my six-year-old daughter’s large, brown eyes and I said, “Not legally in our state.” It wasn’t a good answer, but it was true, and she accepted it without further questioning. In my defense, she was only six and she had caught me off guard. (Note to new mommas… the questions only get harder.)
That was 25 years ago.