Pastor Steve's Blog

April 21, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog Happy Easter April 21, 2019 I want to begin my blog by wishing everyone a HAPPY EASTER. Easter is the high point of our Christian year and it is no exception this year. I am writing my blog on Monday, April 15. As I sit here in my church office, there are three things that I am struck by from this past weekend: The first one for me is Palm Sunday and Holy Week. The other two are Tiger Woods and Game of Thrones. I can pretty much bet that the world is focused on Tiger Woods and Game of Thrones rather than it being Holy Week. I have a few thoughts on these three. First, for us golf fans, the Masters Tournament will be celebrated in the decades to come as one of the greatest comebacks, not just in golf, but in sports history. Americans love a great comeback story, particularly when there was a great deal of doubt that Tiger could ever win again, let alone win a major golf tournament again. The nay-sayers kept nay-saying right up until the conclusion of the 18th hole in the final round on Sunday. Then the expression was, “I can’t believe this happened…even though Tiger Woods has been saying “I’m going to win again” for a while now. The golf analysts put up all the stats yesterday: 15 Majors, 5 Masters Titles, and 81 Tour Victories. Quite the golf and sports resume. But as I was celebrating all of this Sunday afternoon, along with so many others, the Holy Spirit began speaking to me and drawing parallels with Jesus and Holy Week. The greatest comeback story for us as Christians is certainly Jesus Christ after what happened to Him on Friday and the outcome on Sunday morning. Holy Week weekend will be remembered eternally. Let a golf tournament top that. After Good Friday, many doubted Jesus would rise from the dead, even though Jesus had been saying for a while that He would. And even after Sunday morning, the nay-sayers said, “I can’t believe this happened.” Sound familiar. And these included those closest to Him, His disciples. As for stats. Check these out two. The greatest of all time. One Crucifixion. One Resurrection. Now, as for all the hub-bub around HBO’s television series “Game of Thrones,” there is much gossip and speculation as to who will win the “Iron Throne” in the final season. There was a big article about all of it in the Life Section of the Sunday edition of the Jacksonville Times-Union paper. I must confess that I have not watched the series, but according to the paper, here is what I missed: Andrew Dalton writes “Living in Westeros can really change a person. Those who survived the first seven seasons of ‘Game of Thrones’ have seen their parents, children, and even pets stabbed, disemboweled and beheaded. They’ve been burned and frozen. They’ve lost essential body parts. Some have been through death and back, others suffered the horrors of puberty. Occasionally, they’ve been allowed some triumph.” After reading all of that and thinking…humorously…just what I want on my mind when I am getting ready for bed, the Holy Spirit turned my mind away from all the human imaginations and intrigue of which we are capable and back to Holy Week and the reality of the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords. As Christians, we don’t have to speculate about who will sit on the Throne of Heaven in the end. We know. But I must say…it was quite a weekend…and I can share all the spiritual stuff…however, on a human level, I really enjoyed the golf.

April 14, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog April 14, 2019 Palm Sunday As you know, I’m always looking for interesting stories that help illustrate pertinent and instructive points and ideas that can assist us in our faith journey. I found a story that gives us food for thought, so I thought I would share it with you for Palm Sunday. Claire McGarry who wrote a Devotional titled “With Our Savior: Family Devotions for Lent,” shared this story in regard to Palm Sunday. “In Antigua, Guatemala, the people line the cobblestone streets with sawdust during Holy Week. They don’t just dump the sawdust in piles and spread it out. They dye it all different colors and painstakingly place it in the most intricate patterns. They invest so much energy and love in the process, it takes them from sunset on Holy Thursday to sunrise on Good Friday to finish. When they’re done, it’s the most stunning site! Every street looks like it’s lined with the most exotic oriental carpets, from one end to the other. It’s their way of reenacting Palm Sunday. Like the people in Jesus’ time lined the road with cloaks and palms for his entrance into Jerusalem, the Guatemalans create a pathway worthy of a king. It makes what comes next all the more shocking. In an instant, the Good Friday Posadas (Processions) tromp through the sawdust carpets, destroying all the hard work and beauty in their wake. This part reenacts how, in an instant, the people went from hailing Jesus a king, to abandoning him and demanding he be crucified.” My how quickly things in life can change depending on circumstances. One day the crowd is with Jesus, the next day they are not. One day our faith in Jesus is at an all-time high, the next day, it is at an all-time low. God calls us to be steady and constant in our faith and witness to Christ. God calls us to not be like a boat that is blown here and there in the wind. This Holy Week, let our faith in Christ be firm and unshakable.

April 7, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog April 7, 2019 I read an online column this week by Paul J. Batura, vice president of communications at Focus on the Family and the author of “GOOD DAY! The Paul Harvey Story.” The online column asked the question “Whatever Happened to Howard Johnson’s?” In his column he shares about his childhood vacations and road trips with his family and stopping at the orange roof restaurants and hotels along their way. I can also remember our family vacations back in the 1960’s and stopping at the place with the orange roof quite a few times ourselves. I liked their ice cream. Nostalgia can be a great thing and can bring back some wonderful memories. But as great as they are, they are in the past, and not the present. Go looking for a Howard Johnson’s orange roof restaurant today and you only find them in your memory. As great as our past experiences have been with God as individuals and as a church, we can’t let ourselves be caught in nostalgia-only mode. Our relationship with God needs to exist within the current realities of our lives and circumstances. That’s the only way for us to move forward and be used of God. But it doesn’t mean we don’t treasure and honor our past, but we need to live in the present. God said His name was “I AM.” God is always in the present, not the past nor the future, and so should we also be. With that said, let me share a little bit of his online column with you so that you, too, can share in the nostalgia of decades gone by and smile with that memory. “If you’re over the age of 35, the sight of the orange roof and copper steel cupola weathervane were at one time synonymous symbols of either the great American road trip or a special family meal – or both. With over 1,000 dining establishments in North America in the 1960s and 1970s, Howard Johnson’s was, for several decades, the largest restaurant chain in the United States. Established in 1925 as a small pharmacy by Massachusetts native Howard Deering Johnson, the enterprising Quincy resident quickly expanded his efforts to selling ice cream, hot dogs and soda at area beaches. The enterprise was a success. He perfected his ice cream recipe by increasing the butterfat content and soon distinguished himself from the competition by offering 28 flavors, a remarkable selling point in an era of few choices. His first restaurant featured classic New England fare that would become fan favorites – especially fried clams, hot dogs, baked beans and a hearty line of desserts, including sherbet and pie. World War II not only slowed Johnson’s expansion but actually threatened to shutter the business altogether. But with the peace in 1945 came renewed prosperity. In 1954, he opened his first motor lodge in Savannah, Georgia. The advent of the Interstate Highway System later in the decade only fueled the company’s growth. By the late 1970s, there were over 500 motels scattered all throughout the country, many of which had his accompanying restaurants next door. I’ve had the great pleasure and privilege of staying in a few magnificent hotel properties as an adult, but in my mind and memory, as silly as it sounds, Howard Johnson’s was six stars on a five star scale. Maybe it was the air-conditioning, a total luxury for a kid who learned to accept as normal the humid, sweltering summer heat of New York. Or was it the pool that each motel had in its courtyard, often with a slide and diving board? It’s funny how childhood experiences often inform adult habits, for good or bad. To this day, one of the great joys of my life is an early evening swim followed by dinner with my family. I realize now that’s because that was our family’s tradition as a kid – and supper at Howard Johnson’s always seemed the perfect ending to a perfect summer’s day. My choice was always the same – the “Daily Double” – two hot dogs in toasted butter buns, slipped inside cardboard sleeves, accompanied by a side order of crinkly, crisp French fries. In planning this year’s vacation, I was saddened to see that all the Howard Johnson’s we stayed at in the area are gone now – either taken over by new owners or demolished altogether. The restaurants have been out of business for years. As I plotted and searched properties online, though, I realized that I wasn’t really searching for Howard Johnson’s. I was searching for my childhood. I was reaching for that which has faded into memory, for a time when my greatest cares were hot dogs and swimming pools.”

March 31, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog March 31, 2019 As we work our way through “40 Days to Rock our Church” one of the important aspects of these 40 days is improving our relationship with God and how we can better communicate with Him through prayer. I read an article this week in another Lenten Devotional titled “Turning In” found in “With Our Savior: Family Devotions During Lent” by Claire McGarry. It talks about prayer and makes a great, but very simple point and I thought I would share it with you. “But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:6. “If my kids watch too much TV, their imaginations get drowned out by the babble of their shows. After the TV is turned off, that deafness has them wandering around complaining their bored. Yet when a recent snowstorm knocked down the power lines, the silence had them immediately turning to their creative sides. They built amazing Lego structures and vehicles, and spun a storyline so intricate, that it lasted for hours. It can be the same with our prayers. If we’re just shouting them out to impress others, we’re drowning out our ability to tune into our Savior. It’s not until we go someplace quiet, and open our ears and hearts, that we’re rewarded with the blessing of hearing His voice.” With our Savior let’s pray: “Dear God, quiet my mind so I can hear your whispers in my heart.” Amen.

March 24, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog March 24, 2019 Let me share another thought from our Lenten Devotional “40 Days with Jesus: Celebrating His Presence” by Sarah Young. She wrote this devotional as if Jesus is speaking to you personally. “SEEK MY FACE, and you will find all that you have longed for. The deepest yearnings of your heart are for intimacy with Me. I know, because I designed you to desire Me. Do not feel guilty about taking time to be still in My presence. You are simply responding to the tugs of divinity within you. I made you in My image, and I hid heaven in your heart. Your yearning for Me is a form of homesickness: longing for your true home in heaven. Do not be afraid to be different from other people. The path I have called you to travel is exquisitely right for you. The more closely you follow My leading, the more fully I can develop your gifts. To follow Me wholeheartedly, you must relinquish your desire to please other people. However, your closeness to Me will bless others by enabling you to shine brightly in this dark world. As the deer pants for the streams of water; so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? Psalm 42:1-2. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. Psalm 34:5. For Reflection: Philippians 2:15”

March 17, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog March 17, 2019 A Thought from our Lenten Devotional “40 Days with Jesus: Celebrating His Presence” by Sarah Young. The author wrote this devotional as if Jesus was speaking to you personally. “Thankfulness opens the door to My presence. Though I am always with you, I have gone to great measures to preserve your freedom of choice. I have place a door between you and Me, and I have empowered you to open or close that door. There are many ways to open it, but a grateful attitude is one of the most effective. Thankfulness is built on a substructure of trust. When thankful words stick in your throat, you need to check up on your foundation of trust. When thankfulness flows freely form your heart and lips, let your gratitude draw you closer to Me. I want you to learn the art of giving thanks in all circumstances. See how many times you can thank me daily; this will awaken your awareness to a multitude of blessings. It will also cushion the impact of trials when they come against you. Practice My Presence by practicing the discipline of thankfulness. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4 Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:18”

March 10, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog March 10, 2019 I hope you were able to join us at our Ash Wednesday service on March 6. It was a great service in which we all had the opportunity to worship God and prepare our hearts for the penitential season of Lent by receiving ashes on our foreheads in the shape of a cross. This ritual was introduced by Pope Gregory I, who was Bishop of Rome from 590-604 A.D. It was enacted as a universal practice in all of western Christendom by the Synod of Benevento in 1091 A.D. As I said on Wednesday night, Ash Wednesday is not for the faint of heart. The season of Lent is a time for serious self-examination and soul-searching, for both individuals and our church, about our sins and our temporal existence on this earth. As we engage in this season of Lent, we must remember that it is a season we pass through. It is not a season in which we take up residence. It is a season we pass through in order to be properly prepared for the season of Easter and the Resurrection. The rejoicing of Easter and the Resurrection is all the greater because we have seen our mortality and recognized and repented of our sins during Lent. So please take full advantage of Lent, but do stop and set up camp in it. For God and the church never meant for us to permanently take up residence, thinking only of our mortality and sin. Lent reveals the “bad news,” but the “Good News” is because of Jesus and his death on the cross, we get to pass through Lent and move on to Easter. Glory be to God. Amen.

March 3. 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog March 3, 2019 The moment has now come and gone for the special called session of the General Conference. Thank you for your heartfelt prayers for the delegates from around the world. Their task was not an easy one. There were three plans offered at General Conference to address how the church wanted to proceed in regard to human sexuality. The three plans were The Traditional Plan, the One Church Plan and Connectional Conference Plan. In the end after much debate and discussion, The Traditional Plan was passed by the General Conference. The Traditional Plan maintains the current language in the Book of Discipline with some changes. Our District Superintendent, the Rev. Dr. Jay Therrell, has outlined the changes: SO THE PARTS THAT PASSED AND WERE CONSTITUTIONAL TO THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE AS FAR AS WE KNOW: • The definition of self-avowed practicing homosexual now includes people living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union, or is a person who publicly states she or he is a practicing homosexual. (Petition 1) • Bishops are prohibited from consecrating bishops who are self-avowed homosexuals even if they have been elected. • Bishops are prohibited from commissioning or ordaining those on the deacon or elder track if the Board of Ordained Ministry (BOOM) has determined the individual is a self-avowed practicing homosexual. (Petition 5) • BOOM members must certify to the bishop that they will uphold the Discipline in its entirety (Petition 6) • The minimum penalty if someone is convicted of conducting ceremonies or same-sex weddings is one year suspension without pay (first offense), and termination (second offense) (Petition 11) • The DCOM and BOOM shall not approve or recommend persons who do not meet the qualifications after full examination and the bishop shall rule any unqualified candidate so recommended out of order (Petition 12) • Bishops can only dismiss a complaint if it has no basis in law and the reason for dismissal is shared with complainant (Petition 13) • Just Resolutions must state all identified harms and how they will be addressed to the complainant. (Petition 14) • Every effort should be made for Just Resolution to be agreed upon by the complainant (Petition 15) • Church can appeal based on egregious errors of law (Petition 16)

February 24, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog Feb 24, 2019 Well, the time has arrived for the called special General Conference meeting in St. Louis, MO from Feb 23-26 to deal with the issue of what will be the United Methodist Church’s stance on the subject of human sexuality. The point of my blog this week is to encourage you to continue to pray for God’s wisdom and guidance for both the lay and clergy delegates that are attending this called special General Conference from all over the world. This issue has been debated at every General Conference (which meets every four years) since I was in High School in the mid-1970’s, so I know the delegates are feeling the weight of this issue. As I mentioned in my pastoral letter to the congregation, there are strongly held beliefs on both sides of this issue and those beliefs should be respected. It is ok for us to have a disagreement of belief on this, and other issues, because God will not love us any less. We live in a world affected by sin, so none of us has the perfect answer or all the revelation on any issue with which we grapple. Knowing that should help to keep us humble. Therefore, as humble servants of Christ, let us esteem others more highly than ourselves and be kind to one another…even in our disagreements.

February 17, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog February 17, 2019 I want to start this week’s blog with the Scripture from John 15:20: “Remember the words I (Jesus) spoke to you, ‘No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.’” We are very lucky to live in a country that affords us the opportunity for freedom of religion. I know some would argue that we are losing some of that freedom as society is increasingly being called “post-Christian.” I, too, am concerned about that, but we are not losing our lives just for professing our Christian faith as has and is happening in other countries in the world. Because of that I don’t think that we, as a church, give much thought to this Scripture and the reality of persecution. But for some, the reality of persecution and death is all too real. I don’t know if you will recall back in 2015, when ISIS was seemingly at the height of its power in Africa and the Middle East, the horror of ISIS killing people for no other reason than for professing their faith in Jesus Christ. I read the following article this week in Decision Magazine. The title is: “Bodies of Christians Executed by ISIS Found.” “The bodies of 34 Ethiopian Christians killed by the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2015 have been found in a mass grave located on farmland near the coastal city of Sirte, Libya, which ISIS gained control of in 2015 before United Nations-backed forces regained control in 2016. The grave was discovered during the investigations of the terrorist group’s captured members, and the bodies of the Christians have been exhumed and will be repatriated to Ethiopia. According to Reuters, and ISIS propaganda video posted to social media in April, 2015 showed militants shooting and beheading Ethiopian Christians, who were in two groups, on the beach and in the scrubland. This incident happened two months after ISIS members executed 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt; a mass grave containing their bodies was found in 2017.” This week let us give thanks for the country in which we live. It may not be perfect, but it is our country and generally affords us a persecution free zone to practice our faith. Let us also pray for those who live in other places that, still to this day, suffer persecution for their Christian faith.

February 10, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog February 10, 2019 I want to confess one of my sins to you. It is my impatience at distracted drivers who get lost on their cell phones when they are stopped at a red light…and when the light turns green…we just sit there instead of moving forward. After some seconds, and nothing is happening, I am put in the position of having to be impolite and honk my horn. Has that ever happened to you? With some humor, let me go ahead and apologize up front if you were the car I honked at. I was reading in a book this week called “The Jesus Challenge: 21 Days of Loving God and Neighbor” by Justin Larosa and I ran across an interesting heading on page 16 of the book entitled: “Distracted from distraction by distraction.” Obviously it caught my attention since I am blogging about it now. Let me share these few paragraphs with you since Justin makes a good point and is worthy of some considered thought as we live out our lives this week. “T.S. Eliot wrote these words a long time ago. They still fit. Our culture is busier and more technologically connected than at any other time in history. The digital age promised fewer work hours, more efficiency, and a hyper-connected world. It has delivered on those promises—except for maybe fewer work hours. But not without cost. People are distracted and overscheduled. Disconnecting from technology is a constant struggle for everyone, and we don’t yet know the long-term effects of gazing at electronics. But we have seen disconnected living—both subtle and obvious ways—including in the spiritual life. Additionally, twenty-four hour connectivity has delivered non-stop communication about conflict, polarization, and violence, perpetuating fear among many. While we will never go back to the days of rotary phones and answering machines, we must find ways to mitigate distracted living because distracted living diminishes our ability as Christ followers to live out Jesus’ Greatest Commandment. Distraction is a gigantic hurdle.” Has distracted living impacted your ability to live out the great commandment of loving God and loving your neighbor? If so, how? What changes do you think you can make to get a different outcome?

February 3, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog February 3, 2019 I was reading a devotional this week by Claire McGarry entitled: ‘We’re All Messengers.” The Scripture she uses for her devotional is Malachi 3:1: “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me.” She writes: “In college, I joined the theater crowd and began auditioning for plays. I secured my first role as Messenger #1 in MacBeth. During the entire two-and-a-half-hour production, I had only one line. To make me feel more important, my director told me that the message I was delivering would the help the audience make sense of what followed. John the Baptist was cast in the role of messenger by God. He was sent to deliver a message of repentance so people would turn away from sin, ask God for forgiveness and be baptized. All of John the Baptist’s lines were pivotal in helping people prepare for and make sense of Jesus’ coming. Every one of us has a part in life. Whether it’s big or small, if we deliver our lines with the right intention, our message will point others to Jesus. Doing so will help people make sense of who Our Savior is and what he’s done for us all. Prayer: Dear God, please give me the confidence I need to deliver your message to others. Amen.” The author is right. We are all messengers and the Christian messages we share with others should all point to our Lord Jesus and how much He loves all of us. We need more John the Baptists in our society today pointing the way to Christ.

January 27, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog January 27, 2019 I wrote last week about a book being read across the District and the Annual Conference called: “Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory.” To recap, I mentioned that the author, Todd Bolsinger, compared the principles and challenges we face today as a church to those faced by Lewis and Clark in their expedition to find a waterway to the Pacific Ocean. At the end of the article, I provided several questions the author asks each church to consider as it faces the new frontier. Let me reiterate these questions as they are important and relate to our future as a church. Why do we exist as a congregation? What would be lost in our community if we ceased to exist? What purposes and principles must we protect as central to our identity? What are we willing to let go of so the mission will continue? The author says that at the heart of every leadership question lie identity questions that must be answered. Each church must know and be secure in its identity – “who we are” – and that identity must be larger than any success or failure for it’s the compass whereby we, as a church, chart our course and meet our challenges. Our identity must reflect our deepest beliefs, our truest sense of self and church community and our core value(s). We need to know “who we are” when we face a new set of circumstances that we did not forsee in our past such as Lewis and Clark encountering towering mountains with canoes they did not expect. They had to adjust and in order to do so, they needed to know “who they were” and what was their primary mission? In his book, the author discusses a strategy used by Lewis and Clark that can be employed by us in the church today. It is called reframing. In adaptive leadership, reframing is another way of talking about the shift in values, expectations, attitudes or habits of behavior necessary to face our most difficult challenges. It is a way of looking at the challenge before us through a different lens. Lewis and Clark reframed their mission. Out of necessity and in order to move forward, the mission became about exploration (their core value) rather than just about finding a waterway to the Pacific. The author makes his point: “For church leaders facing this missional moment, the reframing of church strategy from a sanctuary-centered, membership-based, religious-and life-service provider to a local mission outpost for furthering the Kingdom of God enables our congregations to discover a faithful expression of our core identity in a changing world.” In other words, what is our core value(s) and what is our primary mission? Are we adaptable to the circumstances we face in order to accomplish our primary mission? The author continues, “But a reframe itself is only a new way of seeing and describing the problem. This is as far as many missional congregations get. They change the labels on the old file folders and announce that they are now a mission and not a church.” There has to be more. There has to be “new learning.” This is where so many church initiatives get stalled. There is no new learning. There has to be more than gathering together and coming up with a list of initiatives such as build a gym, bring in a rock band, give away C. S. Lewis books, change the name of the church or design a cooler website. Nothing wrong with those things, but there must be new learning to accompany these initiatives. When Lewis and Clark went over the Continental Divide was when they started discovering. They entered uncharted territory. They had to start learning all over again, adjusting their expectations, reconsidering their strategies, forming new alliances and partnerships. Our future as a church will require new learning from all of us because we face challenges we have never faced before. Our future survival depends on our ability to learn and adapt. I hope you give some considered thought to how we do mission in uncharted territory as we move forward. Are we ready to dump our canoes?

January 20, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog January 20, 2019 One of the books that is being read across our District and Annual Conference is entitled: “Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory.” In the book, the author, Todd Bolsinger, compares the principles and challenges we face today as a church to those faced by Lewis and Clark in their expedition to find a waterway to the Pacific Ocean in 1803. The back jacket of the book describes the basic story and theme of the book this way: “Although explorers Lewis and Clark were prepared to find a waterway to the Pacific Ocean, instead they found themselves facing the Rocky Mountains. You too may feel that you are leading in a context you were not expecting. You may even feel that your training holds you back more often than it carries you along. Tod Bolsinger brings decades of expertise in guiding churches and organizations through uncharted territory to help you reimagine what effective leadership looks like in our rapidly changing world. If you’re going to scale the mountains of ministry, you need to leave behind canoes and find new navigational tools.” Let me point out a couple of important things the author highlights in his book. First, at the core of adaptive work is clarifying what is precious, elemental, even essential, to the identity of the church. In other words, “This is who we are.” Lewis and Clark had to adapt to facing the Rocky Mountains with canoes. They had to recommit to their “core value” of exploration rather than just be about finding a waterway to the Pacific Ocean. We, as a church, are facing the unexpected Rocky Mountains so to speak with our canoes. We have found ourselves in a post-Christian era in this country where past models and ideas are no longer working. In other words, we have to recommit to our core value(s) and come up with a new strategy to meet the challenge of the mountains. The author poses some questions for us to consider as we seek to meet this new and changing challenge: -Why do we exist as a congregation? -What would be lost in our community if we ceased to exist? -What purposes and principles must we protect as central to our identity? -What are we willing to let go of so the mission will continue? Look for more in next week’s blog.

January 13, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog Jan 13, 2019 I wake up in the morning and I don’t want to turn on the television. Why? Because of all the goings on in Washington these days. It’s all enough to drive you crazy if that is all you hear all day. But I will say this, when I wake up in the morning, the one thing I do want to do, besides having a little breakfast and contemplating going to the gym, is opening up the Bible and turning God on in my mind and spirit first thing. My day certainly goes better when I spend those few minutes starting out with God. Lysa TerKeurst, in her book, Embraced: 100 Devotions to Know God is Holding You Close shares a devotion on “Giving My First Moments to God.” She uses Psalm 86:11 as the foundation for her devotion. Psalm 86:11 says, “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” Let her devotion prayer be your prayer this week as you begin each day. “Lord, may nothing separate me from You today. Teach me how to choose only Your way today so each step will lead me closer to You. Help me walk by your Word and not my feelings. Help me to keep my heart pure and undivided. Protect me from my own careless thoughts, words and actions. And keep me from being distracted by MY wants, MY desires, MY thoughts on how things should be. Help me embrace what comes my way as an opportunity…rather than a personal inconvenience. And finally, help me to rest in the truth of Psalm 86:13: ‘Great is your love toward me.’ You already see the ways I will fall short and mess up. But right now, I consciously tuck your whisper of absolute love for me into the deepest part of my heart. I recognize Your love for me is not based on my performance. You love me…shortcomings and all. That’s amazing. But what is most amazing is that the Savior of the world would desire a few minutes with me this morning. Lord, help me to forever remember what a gift it is to sit with You like this. In Jesus name, Amen.”