The Great Outdoors (Prayer devotional for the week of June 29, 2014)

What comes to mind when you think of summer? Even as blazing hot as it is, I still think of the great outdoors—especially anything having to do with water. I spent my summers on swim team and love the water! Playing in sprinklers and drinking straight from the hose, swimming in the lake and pool, collecting shells and rocks at the beach, going canoeing at church camp, having water balloon and squirt gun wars … there are so many fun things to do outside.

There is something about being in and around water that is so soothing, so inviting, so relaxing. Watching waves on the beach or listening to nature sounds at the lake seems to slow down time and re-center our perspectives.

And yet, water can also be unsettling … to the Gulf Coast resident bracing for another hurricane … to the adult at the pool party who never learned to swim … to the tent cities in Haiti during the rainy season.

I’ve often heard that even the poorest in America are far richer than the poor in many other places of the world. It is hard to fathom, but let’s try to think about it. I wouldn’t particularly want to bathe in Lake Waco or the Bosque or Brazos Rivers, but any of those options would be better than a sewage-laden, stagnant gutter. If worse came to worst, I could walk into just about any public building around town and take a non-toxic, free drink from the nearest water fountain. When I turn on the faucets in my house, I expect clear water to come pouring out. We may be under drought conditions, but we still have washing machines, dishwashers, sprinklers, bottled water and swimming pools accessible to us. None of us will die of thirst tomorrow.

Yet, some others will.

So, as you head to the lake/pool/river to celebrate during this holiday weekend, let’s turn our hearts to God in thanksgiving for the blessings of our freedom, to be certain, but also his creation. Take time to thank him for “little” things – like indoor plumbing and the fact that we can worship freely in church today – and lift up those who cannot.
Originally posted July 3, 2011

Becoming Transformed (Prayer Devotional for the week of February 9, 2014)

Art appreciation has never been my strong suit, but one of my favorite pieces is a mixed media sculpture called “Born Again” by artist Dean Kermit Allison. The design features a man looking skyward with his back slightly arched and his hands clasped in front of him, as if he’s exerting himself to stay upright. From the waist down to the ground, he is covered in bronze that is peeling off in large patches. His exposed upper body looks like crystal, which provides a stark contrast in light and texture. I have only ever seen a photo of the sculpture, but it still moves me.

The bronze is harsh, rough, and jagged, like sin that has encased us and held us captive. And yet, the crystal-clear beauty of a transformed life is bursting out of the ugliness. Wow. Think for a moment … really let it sink in … about that imagery of what Jesus has done for us.

When we participate in the symbolism of baptism, it is a representation of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection; as though our sin is being washed away like water washes your body. We can scrub ourselves raw in the shower and yet never cleanse what lies beneath the skin. God, on the other hand, sees through your tough exterior; he knows what hides beneath.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIRV) says, “Anyone who believes in Christ is a new creation. The old is gone! The new has come!” Certainly, through his death and resurrection, Jesus has secured salvation for those who believe in him, but that’s not the only thing. Our salvation doesn’t begin the moment we die. It happens right now!

Transformation is a process, but God sees your potential. In 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, we are reminded that there is newfound freedom in Christ, and we become more like him as we allow God to change us. Peeling off layer after layer of sin is not usually an easy or painless process, but like the statue I described above, the end result is glorious.