On The Dime

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 27; 147:12-20, Exodus 1:6-22, 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, Mark 8:27-9:1


Have you ever heard the expression “life turns on a dime?” It refers to the way our fortunes can change with little to no warning. When a new king who did not know Joseph or Joseph’s family rose over Egypt, he did not look kindly on the Hebrews. This new king viewed them as a potential threat, should they decide to align with his enemies. To preempt any uprising, he put harsh taskmasters over them and turned them into a nation of slaves. He went so far as to tell the Hebrew midwives to kill any male children at birth. The midwives were clever, and said Hebrew women were strong and gave birth on their own before a midwife could arrive. In a generation, the Israelites went from famine to favor to fetters.

In what must have felt like a mid-stream change of course to the disciples, Jesus began to teach them he would have to undergo great suffering, die, and rise again to fulfill his mission as Messiah. After all the miraculous healing, multiplication of loaves and fishes, and adoration of the crowds, Peter couldn’t believe his ears. He tried to tell Jesus it didn’t need to be so, and Jesus famously responded: “Get behind me, Satan!”

Psychologists tell us change –– good or bad – is an enormous source of stress, and sudden change even more so. In truth, life is nothing but change. Our bodies are machines of change, transforming food and air into blood and thoughts. As we sleep, our planet moves around the sun and our sun turns with galaxies and we wake unimaginable distances from where we laid our head. Change is unceasing; only our awareness of it flickers.

At the center of it all is God. He is the fixed point on which all else pivots. No matter our fortune, no matter where in the universe we stand, Jesus is the north star of our faith, guiding us toward the loving creator at its heart. Whether we are showered with riches or stripped of dignity, focusing on the center keeps us from spinning out of control.

Comfort: Focusing on God keeps everything in perspective.

Challenge:  Talk with a friend about their perceptions of your ability to handle change.

Prayer: God of creation, you are my center and my focus. Thank you for your constant love. Teach me to keep your ways in focus. Amen.

Discussion: What changes do you find especially difficult? What makes you dig in your heels and say: “Enough!”

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

Expectation Management

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window): 
Psalms 84; 150, Reading Genesis 48:8-22, Romans 8:11-25, John 6:27-40


How often does life unfold the way we expect? It’s a question without a truly quantifiable answer, but one suspects: far less than we’d like.

Jacob was a very old man when he met his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh. The lives of Jacob and his family, particularly his son Joseph, were full of twists and turns, deception and separation. Many of these familial wounds were self-inflicted, such as when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and faked his death. They didn’t like his predictions that one day he – the youngest – would rule over them, and ironically their actions set him on a convoluted path to power over not only themselves but all of Egypt.

When Joseph presented his two sons to Jacob for a blessing, the surprises continued. Joseph had positioned them so the older boy, Manasseh, was at Jacob’s right hand, traditionally the hand of greater blessing reserved for the oldest son. Jacob crossed his hands and – despite Joseph’s protests – instead gave the greater blessing to Ephraim, who was destined to father a “multitude of nations.”

Hard to believe the prophetic Joseph didn’t see it coming. After all, he was the youngest when his brothers betrayed him. And Jacob was a younger son who’d stolen the blessing of his older brother by deceiving his blind father. Down the line, Jacob’s great-great-grandson Moses survived to lead the Israelites back out of Egypt and slavery because of deception surrounding his birth. The nation of Israel survived and thrived because God isn’t limited by human expectation.

Christ upended expectations as a messiah of peaceful submission rather than bloody revolt. He taught us God loves and forgives all the “wrong” people. Could it be that the thing standing between us and the fully realized kingdom of God is our own expectations? Perhaps God waits to meet us around those twists and turns we fear and avoid. Those apparent flaws we condemn in ourselves and others could be keys to grace. Some days the map of faith is nothing but detours. When we stop placing expectations on God, we learn to expect God everywhere.

Comfort: You don’t have to know God’s plan.

Challenge: You just have to be open to it.

Prayer: God of creation, I seek to meet you where you are, and not where I would demand you be. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear your presence wherever you would have me encounter you. Thank you for the wonder of life, and its countless unexpected blessings. Amen.

Discussion: What expectations are frustrating you right now? Are they necessary expectations? Is anything but ego making you hold onto them? If you let go of them, would your life be better?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

The Great Author

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 84; 150, Genesis 41:14-45, Romans 6:3-14, John 5:19-24


Joseph was a pivotal figure in the history of Israel. His brothers – angered by their father Jacob’s preferential treatment and by Joseph’s visions predicting his rise to power over them – sold Joseph into slavery and told Jacob he was dead. Though Joseph was respected by his master and made head of the household, the master’s wife framed him for assault and he was jailed. After years of imprisonment – where his talents  again put him in an unlikely position of leadership – Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams landed him a role as Pharaoh’s chief adviser. When a famine fell over Egypt and the surrounding lands, Joseph’s foresight kept the people from starving and he was able to save his long-estranged family by welcoming them into Egypt.

The story of Joseph is full of ironic turns.

The beautiful coat his father gives him to express love becomes falsified evidence of Joseph’s death.  When he refuses the advances of his master’s wife, Joseph’s integrity lands him in jail. Dreaming causes his family to cast him out, but eventually allows him to save them – and ultimately all of Israel. After his death, the Isralites fall out of favor with the Egyptians and become slaves, setting the stage for Moses and the Exodus.

Ferdinand Sabino said: “Everything will be fine in the end; if it’s not fine, it’s not the end.” Joseph’s story has a slightly different message: there is no end. What works against us today may work for us tomorrow. Yesterday’s triumph may be next year’s tragedy … and the following year’s triumph again. We never know how things will work out, and the end of our individual story is not the end of the greater story. Tying it all together is the presence of God inviting dreamers and kings, slaves and kidnappers to open themselves up to possibility and move the story of God’s kingdom forward. Whatever your situation is today, it will eventually change. Like Joseph, we do best in good times and bad when we hold tight to our faith while we wait for whatever unfolds in the Great Author’s next chapter.

Comfort: Change is inevitable, but God’s love is constant.

Challenge: God’s love is constant, but change is inevitable.

Prayer: Loving God, I will trust you always to see me through hardships and joys. May I be open to playing my part well in the endless story of your love and your kingdom. Amen.

Discussion: What have been some of the unexpected twists in your part of the great story?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

Reading the Room

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new window/tab):
Psalms 119:73-80; 145, Genesis 37:1-11, 1 Corinthians 1:1-19, Mark 1:1-13


Have you heard the expression “read the the room?” It refers to someone’s ability to gauge an audience’s mood and response. Comedians learn to read a room because every crowd responds differently. Executives read a room to determine the level of support for a proposal. Comedians can change the content of the message to please an audience, but a good leader with an important message can adjust only the style, never the meaning.

Jacob and his son Joseph were not skilled at reading a room.

Jacob’s obvious favoritism toward Joseph left his other eleven sons bitter. When he gave Joseph a special robe with long sleeves, it might as well have had a target embroidered on the back. At the age of seventeen Joseph began having prophetic dreams. In these dreams, his brothers – represented by sheaves of wheat or stars – bowed down to him. Whether he was simply oblivious to his brothers’ scorn, or wanted to spite them because of it, sharing his dreams made them more jealous than ever and they began to plot against him.

As Christians, we will be called to say unpopular things. We can adjust our style (even Paul adapted to local audiences) but we don’t have the option of altering the core message, because it originates with Christ. We want his message about God’s love and justice to be taken seriously and understood clearly.Therefore we should think before we speak, and try to anticipate how we will be perceived. Dressing our message in flamboyant, self-important language and attitude will cause people to react favorably or unfavorably more because of the style than the content. Giving the impression that we believe we are somehow superior to our listeners will give them an excuse stop listening. We want to be confident but not cocky; we are the trusted bearers of the message, not its source. A little humility goes a long way.

Humility will not always prevent others from criticizing, demeaning, or persecuting us for sharing the Gospel. In the end we want to be the best ambassadors for Christ we can be, regardless of the cost.

Comfort: You can have confidence in the Gospel.

Challenge: Work on striking a balance between knowing your audience and remaining true to your message.

Prayer: Loving God, thank you for the Gospel message of love and justice. Lend me strength and wisdom to share it with others. Amen.

Discussion: Have you ever changed your message because it was unpopular? What were the consequences?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

Master Plan

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 27; 147:12-20, Exodus 1:6-22, 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, Mark 8:27-9:1


The story of Joseph, his many brothers, and his father Jacob is very near its end with today’s reading. The journey to Egypt for Jacob (also called Israel) and his sons has been a long and twisted one.While Joseph and Pharaoh’s favor allowed the fledgling nation of Israel to settle freely in the Egyptian land of Goshen with all the food they needed, the other residents of Egypt were not so lucky during this seven years of famine. After giving Pharaoh all their money one year and their livestock the next, they had nothing left but their land and bodies. In exchange for food, they offered themselves up as Pharaoh’s slaves and had to pay a tribute of a fifth of all they harvested. Continue reading