Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21


Can we play “Let’s Pretend” for just a few minutes? Let’s say we’re with that motley group of disciples who were following Jesus on the eventful day when the rich young man approaches him. Obviously, the young man has an interest in Jesus and his teachings and has a desire to increase his understanding of spiritual things. He genuinely wants to know what he should do to gain eternal life.
You remember the story. Jesus reminds the young man that he’s to keep the commandments, to which the young man respectfully responds that he’s already done that. He probably grew up the way many of us did—listening to the Bible stories and learning rules. He most likely was a dutiful young man who was admired and held out as an example to the other young folks.
Then Jesus gets to the heart of the matter: “Go; sell everything; and give it all away.”
“Sell everything…”
What would be your first reaction? Jesus didn’t say that to me. What if he DID say it to you? We know that he said it to that one young man at a specific point in history.
But WHAT IF? Would you be panicked with fear? Would you be squirming?  Would you think, where do I begin? Would you think that the voice surely couldn’t be God? Would you, like the young man, go away sorrowful?
Of course, God wants to provide for us and to meet our needs. That’s not what this story is about. It’s about love and priorities and trust. A loving Father wants to be first in our lives and wants our trust to be in him to take care of us and not in the things that occupy so much of our time and energy and space.  Does it make you even a tiny bit uncomfortable to think that God just might ask you to make him a greater priority in your life?
When we were helping our parents downsize so they could get the proper medical treatment and care needed, I worked for about a year going through closets and cupboards to sort out the accumulations of decades, the things that might be needed someday. My father’s workshop was the most difficult. My sweet son-in-law helped me by hauling away countless loads of hardware and junk that were part of my dad’s treasures. (Curiously, Dad’s Alzheimer’s provoked him to “hide” a lifetime of expensive collections in the big garbage bin.  You know what happened.)
Jesus said that our hearts are with our treasure. What would we say if he did ask us to give it all away?


Father, search our hearts. May you find that Jesus is Lord, and that everything we desire is in him.   May we hold loosely everything that we have, for we are merely stewards. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.



Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail… Job 38:22 (KJV)

A few years ago we visited an orphanage in a village outside Nairobi. We arrived in time for the closing session of the small elementary school and were treated to recitations and musical performances. Scores of precious children in their brown slacks or skirts and white-checked shirts eagerly shared what they’d been learning.
It was near Christmas, and carols were abundant. My favorite song, however, was when they broke out into a cheerful, “Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh… Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…” Somehow, I think none of those sweet little children had ever or would ever experience snow, but they loved singing about it.
Here in the southwest, we, too, love to sing and think about snow. Just a few weeks ago, I was leaving a restaurant with my brother and sister-in-law and was surprised to be met by a serious snow flurry. I hadn’t been watching the weather (How many variations of hot to warm can one have in south Texas?) and was startled to see the magical flakes collapsed together in heaps throughout the parking lot. In fact, I had to wait a considerable time until the heater had melted the snow on my windshield so I could safely head home.
The following day a teammate and I headed south for the Rio Grande Valley through an absolute wonderland of white. The route down I37 that we negotiate so often is typically flat, straight, and downright boring. But with barren branches traced in snow, cactus covered with natural frosting, and miles of flat land touched by the unexpected whiteness, the drive delightful. My friend said she wouldn’t have known where she was if road signs hadn’t been visible.
We passed highway workers in bright neon yellow clothing throwing snowballs at one another. Children were constructing their first snow men. Animals were tentative at the wonder around them. And people were smiling.
Obviously, we do not live in the north where snow storms become hazardous, and we do not spend weeks or months shoveling snow or waiting for the plow to arrive. For us in the south, snow is an unexpected pleasure, and this snow was a delightful surprise. Social media was full of snow pictures. Even businesses took note of the snow.
Now with all our technology, resources, and wealth who among us could have brought so much pleasure to so many people with just a word? All the snow machines of the world couldn’t have created the wonderland we enjoyed in south Texas. The snow fell on the just and the unjust without discrimination. Isn’t that just like God? He doesn’t stingily hand out his gifts; they’re for everyone who will to receive. And all his gifts are just reminders of his intense love for his creation and his desire to give joy.
Can you imagine all those tiny snowflakes that God meticulously and individually designs? Apparently, he also delights in what he describes as treasure to be kept in his storehouses (Job 38:22). How many ways does he surprise us with his abundance? How many times do we receive and acknowledge his gifts with gratitude?
Let it snow.


Father, with a word you have created all things. And for your pleasure all things have been created. Thank you for your beauty that is just a foretaste of everything you have for us. AMEN.


As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.  Isaiah 66:13


Can you imagine anything better than a mother’s love?  I admit, I could never have competed with either my daughter or daughter-in-law in discerning the unique gifts and personalities they nurture on a daily basis.  And then there’s the topic of energy…

Today marked the mid-point of Camp Curry.  I’ve often remarked that the miracle of Sarah and Abraham was not their producing Isaac, but it was their ability to keep up with him.  Or perhaps that’s what their household staff did.

Today’s parents, and especially the mothers who nurture the children while running the household and managing a career, are amazing.  They are routinely dealing with higher expectations than my generation experienced, and their children have greater temptations, information, and challenges than ours ever did.

As the crust of the earth was cooling, I remember my grandmother talking about doing the laundry one day, ironing another, baking took another whole day (Does anyone do that anymore?), mending was part of the schedule, and then there were grocery shopping and cleaning.  Between my daughter and daughter-in-law, each week they do most of the above PLUS gardening, chauffeuring children to school and extracurricular events, running a successful home business besides a full-time job, and participating in a lively social calendar.  They are not unlike other mothers today.

So what’s my point?  Having been with my precious grandchildren this week and getting ready to let them go back home, I am more strongly reminded of the need for prayer for our young family members and particularly the young mothers:  that the joy of the Lord will be their strength (Neh. 8:10); that they will look to him for encouragement (Isa. 41:10); that they will always experience God’s presence (Deut. 31:6); that they will know they are greatly loved by God (Romans 8:37-39); and that he will supply every need they have (Phil. 4:19).  AND that they will delight in being stewards of the precious treasures with which God has entrusted them.

I will miss the sweet grands, but they will be returning to the place where they belong and where they will be loved and shaped into the image God planned from the beginning of time.  And I will be here praying for them all, loving them, and waiting for the next visit.


Father, thank you for the special times I have with all my sweet grandbabies.  Be with my friends who spend long seasons apart from their families and give them opportunities to bless those other children you’ve brought into their lives.  Make us your hands and feet as we love and touch those you’ve entrusted to us.  Keep their parents in you, and help us never to cease praying for them.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  II Corinthians 4:16 (NIV)



The workmen are at it again.  This time they’re stripping off rotten wood siding and trim and lattice work.  Some are painting; some are nailing; some are measuring and sawing.  Living in a house that’s over 100 years old has its own special charm, but it also is terribly demanding, and maintenance is high on the list of priorities.  Last year it was the kitchen when the plumbing erupted; the year before was an upgrade for my bedroom space.  Now I have to attend to the exterior.

Years ago there was a country song that was all about old houses:  This Old House by Stuart Hamlin and recorded by Mel Tillis.  It mentioned all the things the house had been through—storms, darkness, lightning, night winds—but went on to say that the old house wouldn’t be needed much longer.  The song writer was getting ready to meet the saints.

Paul talked a bit about houses when he mentioned having a treasure in an earthen vessel (II Corinthians 4:7), a fragile dwelling place.  We know that treasure, our eternal life in Christ Jesus who dwells within us, continues on no matter the condition of our mortal bodies.

I find that thought comforting in this transient environment that can bring daily challenges to us all:  a child becomes ill; an elderly person falls and breaks a bone; a teenager tears a meniscus; automobile accidents result in injuries.  And though our temporal housing, our body, may suffer and even deteriorate, our eternal life in Christ Jesus is being renewed every single day.

Pains and aches, no matter how severe, do not touch our relationship with our Lord.  Living by faith in his promises, rejoicing in his nearness, and trusting his grace can always lift us beyond the here and now.  In suffering we move confidently into his presence and ask him to hide us (Psalm 32:7) from the storm ravaging our body for the moment.  We rest steadfast in him, knowing that pain and distress are only temporary while he is eternal.

Never will he leave us, and when it’s time to move on from the patched-up house we’ve inhabited for a while, we have the assurance that our heavenly home will be maintenance-free.  And our eternal self will be forever liberated from the shell that demands so much attention.


Father, keep me focused on you and not the physical ailments that sometimes tempt me to get obsessed with them.  Thank you that these aches remind me that I am made for eternity and will some day be set free to live forever with you.  Meanwhile, help me to use suffering for your divine purposes.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38



A colleague and I have been doing lectures for clergy and laity on Christian stewardship.  So many people seem to be of the opinion that stewardship is optional—we pick and choose those things we will care for.  As if our bodies will run on automatic without proper food, exercise, rest, and relaxation…  As if our spirits will continue to thrive without the Word, obedience, or prayer…  As if our souls will be sustained without love, intellectual stimulation, or challenges…

Stewardship is holistic:  our time includes choices and priorities; our talent encompasses sharing those unique gifts with which God has blessed us; and treasure is that which God has planted within these clay vessels as well as all the resources he’s entrusted to us.   Actually, we are brimming over with riches that we can expend on God’s Kingdom and at his direction.

Over dinner, some friends told me how their pastor had graphically illustrated this point last week.  Typically, their church doesn’t pass an offering plate—people entering the sanctuary place their offerings in a box set aside for their tithes and offerings.  The pastor announced he would do something different.  He would preach on giving, and they would take an offering.

After this unusual occurrence, the ushers passed buckets—the pastor asked people to give only the cash in their pockets—and then brought the buckets back to the front whereupon the pastor told the congregation that the buckets would be passed again.  But this time, anyone who had a need was to take out what he needed—that was what everyone wanted him/her to do.  At that, the congregation began to applaud, and the buckets were passed.  Right and left, hands began to reach out and find that there was plenty for all.

This week, the pastor announced the result of this ministry:  Stories were pouring in of desperate folks being touched and helped.  After all the needs were met, there was still $68,000 left over.  He asked everyone to stay tuned to see what God would do with the leftovers.

Does that remind you of a story about loaves and fishes?


Father, when we trust you and allow you to be Lord over all you’ve given us, there is always enough—and more.  Thank you.  AMEN.


My times are in your hands.  Psalm 31:15  (NIV).


My graduate advisor was a time management consultant.  He gave us so many helpful ideas about time, but there are two things that really stuck with me.  First, time is an equal opportunity commodity—everyone has exactly the same amount, no more and no less.  Secondly, we cannot manage time; we manage ourselves in relation to time.  So these two little truisms pull the rug out from under our excuses for procrastination:  I just didn’t have time or I’ll do it when I find the time.  As if someone else has more time than we do…

Typically in our church year, we are called to look at those resources of which we are stewards:  time, talent, treasure.  Curiously, we seem to understand that talent and treasure are God’s, and we are his stewards.  But when it comes to time, we take ownership and thoughtlessly speak of my time and parse the way we expend this trust.  We guard our time and dare anyone to impose on it.  Even God should not presume to infringe of this personal possession.

So we spend our time indulging ourselves in whatever manner we choose, but it really doesn’t matter how innocuous the activity if it diminishes God’s calling on our lives.  We can spend hours in mindless personal entertainment (as opposed to re-creation) and feel empty and restless rather than refreshed and satisfied.  Or we can daily, prayerfully ask God how we should expend the moments and hours he’s given us for his purposes.  While we all have the same amount of time allotted, that time is finite and can joyously be invested in his Kingdom for eternal purposes.

What if we were to dedicate time to God as intentionally as we give him the talent and treasure he’s entrusted to us?  Would we stop guarding it and daring people to infringe upon it?  Might we find, just as treasure tends to be, that it is multiplied even as we freely commit it to our heavenly Father to use as he pleases?

I think it’s worth a try.


Father, at the start of this day, we commit these next twenty-four hours to you to use for your glory.  Give us the discipline to embrace and prioritize our responsibilities, enjoy the leisure you provide, and not waste a single minute of your precious gift. In all that we do, help us to glorify you.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


…a little child shall lead them. Isaiah 11:6

I was assigned to serve in Uganda for about seven months. For years, Grandson Sam had accompanied me to work in a church community center, so it wasn’t unusual for him to accept my invitation to spend the summer in Goli. Sam was about to turn eighteen, and I’d gotten a placement for him in the village clinic with Sister Kim.

That summer Sam worked in the tiny lab peering at slides of native bacteria and local diseases, learning more than he would have from a text. He worked in the pharmacy dispensing drugs, and he accompanied doctors on their routes around the district and watched them perform surgeries. (He even picked up some of the local “bugs” on his visits.)

The business director of the diocese was a regular morning visitor in our little cinder block house and loved to share our hot tea and chapatti (local flat bread). When Rev. Martin discovered that Sam played an unusual instrument, a violin, he asked if he would play for Sunday service in the cathedral. Sam was thrilled and practiced a lovely Beethoven selection. He was already a local favorite, so when everyone learned that he would be playing a “western” instrument for church, there was great anticipation. That Sunday, the music stand was set up, Sam tuned his instrument, and began to play. Not a sound was heard other than the beautiful notes from Sam’s gifted fingers. And then the giggling began to ripple through the congregation. No one had ever heard such an instrument. Sam played on and on and finally ended to great applause and laughter.

Sam’s popularity grew, and he was often assaulted by the children who loved to pull him into their games. He hung out with the bishop’s children, and they all became fast friends. When he came down with malaria, despite taking his preventive meds and lathering himself with Deet, the whole diocesan compound was alarmed. Malaria was not something muzungus handled well. Sam was confined to his bed with fever, weakness, and all the dangerous symptoms brought about by the bite of an Anopheles mosquito. Nurses from the clinic came to treat him, and Sister Kim directed her cook to make special broths for Sam. Villagers made enquiries about him. But two of my Ugandan friends did even more. Evaline and Esther sat up all night praying for him. No fanfare. No big deal. They prayed until they sensed Sam would get better. No one was surprised when he made a full recovery.

The time passed too quickly as we worked throughout the warm days and read to each other late into the night. One day we sat together in our little cinder block house sharing a companionable meal in silence. The doors were left open to catch any passing breeze, and our dogs and an occasional goat wandered in and out. I had given up on teaching our sweet cook how to prepare some of our familiar dishes, so we learned to take advantage of the fresh fruits and vegetables growing all around us.

In the middle of this idyllic situation, Sam spoke up. “Grandma, these people have nothing.” I waited. “But they’re happy,” Sam added. I had to agree. Did Sam recognize that the faith they had was worth more than any material blessing we Westerners value so much? “I’m so happy,” Sam went on. “I’m glad I’ve learned this at my age.”

How soon that summer was gone, and Sam left, taking with him the treasures he had gathered in Goli.

Father, you told us a little child would lead us. Sam saw and lived with God’s joy evidenced through the lives and love of our Goli friends. May he never forget, and may we always cherish those eternal things that can never be taken away. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


For who hath despised the day of small things? Zechariah 4:10 (KJV)

Every morning at the same time, Frances and Edward (my mismatched dogs) and I leave our house through the wooden gate at the drive. We cross the road and head for the nearby nature preserve—but that’s not the goal of our walk. We make a right onto Crescent. The traffic is still light, and the sun hasn’t yet peeped over the trees. Soon we approach a tall white Frank Lloyd Wright-ish home that’s set in the woods, and we pause so the puppies can have a little drink at the pond—but that’s not the goal of our walk. Further on, I see the fairy-like playscape that a young family has created for their children after pulling down a century-old three-story home—but that’s not the goal of our walk.

We slow our pace as we get closer to the path that crosses the preserve, and we walk back and forth. It will not be long now. And within minutes I hear a vehicle coming around the curve, slowing as it approaches. This is what I’ve been waiting for.

My son and two small grandchildren take this route to school every day, and if I leave at a certain time, our paths intersect. The windows of the car roll down, and I see three sets of hands waving, two very small and one larger. Greetings and smiles are exchanged. And then we part. It’s only a moment of time. It’s just a small thing. But it’s intentional sharing and reinforcing love.

How little effort it takes for lives to be touched with God’s love. Being present. Offering a smile. Giving a hug. Pouring out and giving away the joy he pours into us with abandon. Little things that bring great joy.

Father of all creation, you shower us with so many precious little things that brighten each day.  We all have something to give.  Help us, who have so freely received from you, freely give. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:19-21 (KJV)
Besides being a judge, my husband was an artist who had a sharp eye and collected Oriental rugs. His very favorite was a lush, red Heriz. To ensure its safekeeping, I put it in a guest bedroom where it would get little traffic, and the dogs were not likely to soil it.
One afternoon a friend was in that bedroom, and she called out, “Marthe, there are lots of little white butterflies in here.” I had no idea what that was about but rushed in to see what might be going on. We looked to see where the “little white butterflies” were congregating, and, sure enough, they had found the dark, secret place under the guest bed. Gloria and I quickly pulled the bed out and saw where the swarm of diminutive moths had nibbled their way right down to the rug’s foundation. We vacuumed to see the extent of the damage—it was widespread and much worse than I thought.
As I waited that afternoon for Peter to return from work, I tried to formulate a rationale for neglecting this family heirloom. Would I be subjected to days of silence or, even worse, berated for my stupidity? The wait was long and uncomfortable. I could think of nothing to say.
I briefly greeted Peter at the door and took him upstairs. He took one look at the damage, turned around, and shrugged his shoulders. That was all. “We’ll see if we can repair it,” he commented. I stood in a state of shock as he casually dismissed one of his treasures. His whole attitude was, “It doesn’t have eternal life. It gave us pleasure for awhile. Put the bed back; forget about the damage underneath; and we’ll enjoy what we see.” There was never a word of condemnation.
From that time till this, I’ve tried to model Peter’s attitude about things that break or get spoiled or stolen or ruined. Do they have eternal life? Everything temporal has a shelf-life. Only those blessings given us by God are eternal.
P.S. The rug was irreparable with its extensive damage. Even then, my husband never looked back, preferring to live without judging or regrets.
Father, help me to hold all things loosely knowing that they are only with us for a while. Let my treasure be securely in heaven, invested in eternity. In Jesus’ name. AMEN