Favorite Quotes for Pastors

I keep some favorite quotes in my Bible to remind me of both my calling as a Christian and as a pastor. Some have inspired me, others challenge my attitudes, still other remind me that I can do nothing unless I’m attached to the vine of Jesus

“Lord, take me where you want me to go;
Let me meet whom you want me to meet;
Tell me what you want me to say and
Keep me out of your way.”
This prayer was on a card that Father Michael Judge Chaplain had in his pocket the day he died, ministering to firefighters at the World Trade Center, on September 11, 2001.

“Communicate God’s heart, character and will.” Adam Hamilton, comments about his prayer in his book “Making Sense of the Bible”

“To be unclean is to turn away from union and intimacy with Jesus.” Gail R. O’Day New Interpreters Bible, Commentary on the Gospel of John (pg 723)

“God, help me to see those who have hurt me not as enemies . . . but rather as thirsty people. And give me the courage and compassion to offer your Living Water, which alone quenches deep thirst.” Based on a prayer of Henri J.M. Nouwen

“God, I will guard my lips, my mind and my heart so that my language will not disparage, injure or wound another child of God. I must do no harm even while I seek a common good.” Rueben P. Job, “Three Simple Rules”

“Let me no more my comfort draw
from my frail hold of thee,
In this alone, rejoice in awe
Thy mighty grasp of me.”
This is from a poem of John Campbell Shairp, which I first found in a sermon by  Ted Loder.

“Ministers are like trumpets, which make no sound if breath be not breathed into them.” John Flavel

 “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5-6

Remembering to Remember the Sabbath

When the Israelites were on the way to the land of promise, God gave them Ten Commandments which would guide their life together. You can find the story of their journey from slaves in Egypt to the land of promise in the Biblical book of Exodus. I suspect that one of the least kept of the ten, is to “Remember the *Sabbath Day and keep in Holy.”  This commandment is the only commandment that starts with the word “Remember.”  (See Exodus 20) I wonder if it was because God knew we would be tempted to believe that Sabbath rest was unimportant.

Imagine how radical it was to ask people living on the edge to take a day off . . . to actually rest and pause in their busy lives . . . to spend time with their creator God. The Israelites were told not only that it was OK to take a break from their work, but that God commanded a day of rest. The day would be a day to reflect on life and one’s relationship with God. It created by, its very existence, time for family and friends.

There have been times when people have turned Sabbath rest into legalism, where the least activity brought offense and broke a rule. But, that was never God’s intention for the Sabbath. When Jesus was questioned one day about his actions on a Sabbath, he said to those who complained, “The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)

God’s intention has always been that Sabbath rest would be an opportunity for us to take a break from life as usual, to allow ourselves time for something else. We would find in Sabbath rest opportunity  to ponder things of eternity and the things of God. It would allow us to renew our body, souls and spirits . . . it would offer space to heal our  wounds and for our souls to be restored.

Wayne Muller in his book “Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives,” writes “If we forget to rest we will work too hard and forget our more tender mercies, forget those we love, forget our children and our natural wonder. God says: “Please don’t. It is a waste of a tremendous gift I have given you. If you knew the value of your life, you would not waste a single breath. So I give you this commandment: Remember to rest. This is not a life-style suggestion, but a commandment – – – remember to play and bless and eat with those you love, and take comfort, easy and long, in this gift of sacred rest.”

*Traditionally, the Sabbath was thought of as the Seventh Day of the week (or Saturday by our calendar). Christians began to worship on Sunday as they remembered that Christ was raised to life on the first day of the week.

Inauguration – Changing Visions – Changing Dreams

The Domes, Milwaukee Mitchel Park“The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”              I Samuel 16:7

Change is always difficult. When it comes unbidden by us, the changes created are more difficult to accept. Today, our country changed hands. President Obama stepped back and President Trump took the oath of office. We have a new president, which one segment of our nation is thrilled is here. Meanwhile, another segment feels a deep loss and fear. In our divided nation we’ve grown tense and uneasy. We do not trust each other or what motivates those whose values are different from our own. We no longer believe in the good intentions of people whose political views are not like ours. Distrust breeds alienation, false assumptions, division and fear.

On this inauguration weekend, it is good to remember that God sees us all so differently. God doesn’t see blue states and red states, Republicans or Democrats. The color of our skin, the place where we live and our wealth matters little to God. No, God looks inside us. God understands what we are made of. God looks into our hearts. God sees into the very center or our being. God knows our dreams, our hopes, our aspirations. God sees the goodness in us and in those we disagree with.

On our coins are printed the words, “In God We Trust.” Today, in the changing of presidents, is a good day to begin praying for our nation and all it’s leaders. For in some way that none of us really understand, God does work through our prayers. Our hearts are touched with the love of God. We find ourselves being changed in our praying. Divisions between people are bridged. Mountains move, in spite of logic, reason and common sense.

So let us pray for the unity of our nation and wisdom for its leaders. Let us pray for integrity, compassion and justice to rule the hearts of all our leaders. Let us pray for minds open to hear another viewpoint, patience to understand another heart and light to see God’s vision for our nation. Let us live the words on our coins and truly trust in God.

Sometimes, the Answers We Need are Already Within Our Grasp

The Hertz 800 emergency number fell out of my purse four weeks late. I needed it back in Crescent City CA where my rental car refused to start. I had an almost new Volkswagen Jetta that should have been the perfect car. But from the beginning the steering column locked which made it difficult to turn the key. I once had a car like that, so I figured I could handle this. On my third day of vacation, I drove to a Safeway store to pick up a couple of items, leaving all my rental car information at the hotel. In the store parking lot, I discovered the steering column was locked tight on the car. No matter how much I jiggled the steering wheel or the key, I simply could not get the key to turn over.

So there I was in the Safeway Customer Service counter, calling Volkswagen – the only number I did have. They offered to help me out if I would just stay on the phone, go to my car and try a few things. But, that would mean my Virgin Mobile phone worked in Crescent City CA, which it did not. Given the problem, their next solution would be to tow the car one hundred and ten miles to their nearest dealership, in the opposite direction I was traveling. I’d already tried the local Hertz Rental agency which was closed. I still had Triple A though. They promised to have someone there within ninety minutes. As I talked with the Triple A contact, I did get the 800 emergency number for Hertz.

That night, the rental car company was staffed by a kind and helpful man. He told me how to unlock the steering column, by pressing the brake to the floorboard. And wonders of wonders, it worked. That would be two hours after I discovered I couldn’t turn the key in my beautiful blue Jetta. A couple of days ago, my purse tipped over. Cards spilled out of pockets. One of them was a Triple A card I’d tucked into my purse before heading out on vacation. On the card was the Hertz Rental Car emergency 800 number.

Sometimes, the answers we are looking for are already within our grasp. We may simply need to dig a little deeper inside ourselves, or spend time with a trusted friend. The answers may surprise us as we journal about our concerns and our fears. A solution might appear in our reading of scripture or in the words of a familiar song. It may simply be that we are at a place where we need to take those first steps we already know we need to take.

God has as many ways of guiding us as there are people on this earth. Look around today. Where have you felt God nudging you to explore, risk or dare? Who in your life are you feeling a need to reach out to? What problems are burdening your heart and who have you thought of trusting them with? God leads a single step at a time. Is it time for you to take that step in front of you?

Even though I didn’t find the card the day I needed it, I was blessed by a young woman at the customer service desk at the Safeway store who showed extreme patience with me . . . while I used her phone for most of two hours. The Triple A service truck arrived just as I was ready to leave. Turning the car off for a moment, once more, the steering column locked solid. I needed the Triple A driver to get it started that time. In the morning I traded the Jetta for a more seasoned Honda. The next thousand miles went without a hitch.