Monday, November 30, 2009

Like Us In Every Respect

Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people.
Hebrews 2:17 NRSV

I have always understood that Emmanuel or God with us means that Jesus did become human just like you and me. However, today it really strikes me again how much Jesus was like us. The book of Hebrews reminds us of the humaness that Jesus took on. However, it wasn't just like a costume or a mask. Jesus became human - just like us, his brothers and sisters - in every respect.

I often want to put a limit into how much Jesus was human. Certainly, he must have been way more spiritually mature than most of us. He was also very attuned to our Father and His will. But does that mean you and I would never be able to be as mature? Could we never be that attuned to God and God's will?

I suppose the better point of view here is not that Jesus was human but how divine can we become? How much closer are we all capable of being to God? If Jesus was like us in every respect, then perhaps we too could be more divine than we are at this moment.

The price of being more divine entails sacrifice. However, none of us really feels like taking on all that sacrifice and atonement responsibility. So, we will pass on that - thanks so much. Jesus became like us in every respect but one - he accepted his divine nature as well as his human one.

God, you gave us your Son who became like us in every respect. Have patience on us, God, when we avoid being closer to you, more divine and spiritually mature. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What spiritual traits do you share with Jesus?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Sunday of Advent

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. John 1: 14a The Message

The image of God's Word becoming a person and physically moving into the neighborhood is a good one for Advent.

A new neighbor means that there is some anticipation involved. People are wondering if the new person will be a good neighbor, keep their yard neat, not have loud parties and will generally "fit in" with the other residents. In some neighborhoods there is also an effort to be welcoming. When the moving van drives up, folks often stop by to introduce themselves. Some people might even bring food. A local church may have a special welcome packet to give. Curiosity and hospitality are the guiding factors when a new neighbor moves onto our street. 

We need to begin our own Advent with curiosity and hospitality.

Curiosity means that we should really explore how Jesus has entered into our lives. We should be asking questions about where Jesus needs to be born in our everyday existence. We can allow our imaginations to picture Jesus being real even in our darkest places.

Hospitality means that we are actively preparing for Jesus to enter into our lives. Being welcoming means preparing not just our homes but our very souls for Jesus' entrance. Cleaning house and getting spruced up can be applied to our spiritual lives as well as our dwelling.

Let us welcome our new neighbor with genuine curiosity and hospitality.

God, you long to enter our lives not just as a visitor but as a permanent resident. Take away our stubbornness and our sloppy attempts to prevent your full presence. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What is one desire you have for this Advent season?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Give Thanks

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart. Psalm 138: 1a NRSV

My prayer for all of us is that we have learned how to be live thankful lives this month. When we live gratefully, we are thanking God with our whole hearts. What a wonderful way to open ourselves to the stressful yet joyful time of Advent! What an awesome way to spiritually grow in living each day of our lives grateful to God!

God, we give you thanks with our whole lives, our whole hearts, and our whole beings. Thank you. Amen.

Name one thing you are thankful for in this very moment.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, November 27, 2009

Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118: 21-24 NRSV

We are reminded to thank God for these things:

God has answered our prayers.

God has given us salvation.

Jesus not only died for our sins but lives again through the glorious resurrection. We therefore have hope and assurance of our own resurrection - life after death!

All of these things are God's doing, not ours.

We see these things and are amazed: no one but God could do them!

God has made this day.

We should rejoice and be glad in it!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Amen.

Name one thing you forgot to give thanks for yesterday.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, November 26, 2009

O Give Thanks to the Lord

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 118: 1

What more can I add?

Happy Thanksgiving!

God, thank you so much! You are so good to me! Your steadfast love endures forever! In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

Name all of your blessings and share these with family and friends today.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord, all you nations! Extol him, all you peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord! Psalm 117 NRSV

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

But only in America.

Does that mean we should be the only ones thanking God?

No, says the Psalm!

Even God's chosen people agreed that the whole world should give God praise and glory.

So, stop looking around the internet to see if people in other countries are thanking God. Spend your precious time giving God thanks.

God, thank you for __________________________________. May all the world give you glory. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Name an additional something you are thankful for today.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

At Their Wit's End

Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the mighty waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity; they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wit's end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. Psalm 107: 28-31 NRSV

In one of the Spiritual Gifts books I own, there is a list of three cautions for each gift. For the gift of Mercy or Compassion, one of the cautions is to avoid helping an individual when God may be trying to work changes in that persons life through their current catastrophe.  Doing too much for that person may hinder God's work in their life. 

In this verse, the sailors can already see God's works in the waters, yet it takes God's actions through the storms to make them dependent upon God. God had to do something to get their attention in order to save them. Their bravado and intellegience had reached epic proportions: they no longer recognized God's bounty and provisions.

We don't like to think of God causing havoc to get our attention. We would rather blame it on the devil. But sometimes God must use even dire circumstances to get us on the right track. Once we are there, in the quiet haven, we can then give God the glory and the praise.

God, thank you for all you do in our lives even those things you do to keep us on the right path. Your love shows no bounds. May our gratitude be as great as your love. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Name one thing you are thankful for in this moment.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, November 23, 2009

#1 Priority: Thanking God

Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction; they loathed any kind of food and they drew near to the gate of death. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress; he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy. Psalm 107: 17-22 NRSV

Living in sin can make you sick.

Acting sinfully can kill you.

Crying out to God and admitting your guilt can be your deliverance. God will forgive and heal.

When this happens, we should be thankful and share our testimony of what God has done for us.

When the ten lepers are healed and only one returns to thank Jesus, no wonder Jesus asked where the others were! [See Luke 17:11-19] When we are healed, when we are forgiven, our greatest priority is to thank God.

Share a few moments right now talking to God and being truly thankful for God's forgiveness and healing in your life. Then share with someone else about what God has done for you.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, November 22, 2009

In Jail?

Some sat in darkness and in gloom, prisoners in misery and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. Their hearts were bowed down with hard labor; they fell down, with no one to help. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress; he brought them out of the darkness and gloom, and broke their bonds asunder. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. For he shatters the doors of bronze, and cuts in two the bars of iron. Psalm 107: 10-15 NRSV

When we think of prisoners, we think of those who have broken the secular laws of our city, state or nation. We think of them as being just where they should be. It is their own fault that they have ended up where they are now. I suppose we become hardened to their plight. Do any of them cry out to the Lord? Does God hear their cries?

What of those who live in a different kind of prison? Oh, I know there are many people who have rebelled against God and either don't realize the prison they are living in or don't care. But the psalmist tells us that rebelling against God can incur misery, gloom and distress. Pleas for help come from their souls as well.

God does not turn a deaf ear. God brings prisoners of all kinds out of the darkness. God destroys their bonds. God shatters the doors of bronze and breaks the bars of iron in two. Thank God!

God, we may not be prisoners but we are part of this human race. As such, we too are recipients of your steadfast love and your wonderful works. Thank you for saving us from all types of prisons. In Jesus name. Amen.

Name one thing you are thankful for in this moment.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to an inhabited town; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; he led them by a straight way, until they reached an inhabited town. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. For he satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things. Psalm 107: 4-9 NRSV

For those of us reading this devotional, we probably don't have a personal experience with being homeless. I remember one time going with my family and our church to feed a group of homeless people under the expressway downtown. My son was about 3 years old. On the way home, we talked about why all those people were there and the fact that they were homeless. "Well, we need to get them a home," he wisely said in response.

The psalmist speaks of those wandering in desert wastes, unable to find a town, being both hungry and thirsty. Perhaps we are to take this figuratively and think about when we have been desert wanderers in our lives. Or maybe the imagery harks back to the people of Israel wandering in the desert. But I like to think more of a literal meaning: homelessness.

In each case, it is God who gives direction. God provides a way out of the desert - whether real or figurative. God provides shelter, food and drink. Maybe God's face looks like the volunteer from the shelter - but it is God's face all the same.

Thank you, God, that you provide the way out of the desert. Thank you that we can be your instruments and your hands. Thank you that we can be grateful for all the good things your provide in our lives. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Name one thing you are thankful for in this moment.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, November 20, 2009

More Love, Less Anger

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Psalm 103: 8 NRSV

God is very different from me.

I am not slow to anger. In fact, I would say I have a trigger-happy temper. Many people blame the color of my hair. However, my adoptive father also has a nice temper which I have seen in action on many occasions. Maybe it is a combination of nature and nurture: a double whammy of the two. Either way, I have a temper that I am more likely to show than love.

I am beginning to wonder if God's ability to be slow in getting angry has to do with the love God has for us. Perhaps because God loves so much, God is less likely to be angry when we mess up. God wants us to be in a loving relationship with God and God knows that can only happen if God shows us love, not anger.

Maybe if my own capacity for love was bigger, I would be less likely to lose my own temper.

Spending time, energy and emotions on love means anger has less room and is less likely to flair.

More love, less anger. Something to strive for. Certainly something to be thankful for when it comes to our Lord and Savior!

God, thank you that you show me endless love rather than anger. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Name one thing you are thankful for in this very moment.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Don't Forget

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and to not forget all his benefits- who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. Psalm 103:1-5 NRSV

Bless the Lord with all that is in you and never forget all God has done for you.

What has God done for you?

What diseases has God healed in your life?

What was your Pit? How did God redeem you?

When has God shown you steadfast love and mercy?

Do you acknowledge when God satisfies you with good things?

In what ways has your youth been renewed besides with Botox?

Bless You, God, and with all that is in us we bless your Holy name. Amen.

Name one thing you are especially thankful for from the above questions.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An All Day Affair

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
Psalm 92: 1-4 NRSV

Being thankful is an all day affair.

You may think if you say thanks at breakfast, then that is all you need to do for that day. However, giving thanks does not end at the beginning of the day.

That is because God doesn't stop giving blessings nor does God stop being praise worthy after 9 AM.

The psalmist says to give thanks for God's love at the beginning of the day and be grateful for God's faithfulness as you go to sleep. God makes us glad by all of God's creation and all God gives each of us throughout the day.

God, thank you so much that you never stop blessing us with love, mercy, blessings and your creative order. May we all learn to live thankfully each moment of every day. In Jesus' most precious name we pray. Amen.

Name one thing you are thankful for at this moment. Name another in four hours.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sharing Thanks

We give thanks to you, O God;
we give thanks; your name is near.
People tell of your wondrous deeds.
Psalm 75: 1 NRSV

I love to hear about where people have seen God at work in their lives. It is awe-inspiring just to see the wonderful and thankful expressions on folks' faces. And when you hear someone else's story, you want to share your own.

Lately, many of my friends on facebook have been sharing things they are thankful for as it is that season. Those are some of my favorite posts. There is something much more uplifting about sharing thanksgiving rather than gossip.

My favorite time in worship is our Lay Witness time - one member wants to call them "Glory Stories." Some days in worship, the Spirit does not seem to be nudging anyone to say anything and there is a dead silence. However, most of the times folks really do want to share what God is doing in their lives and we all give thanks together.

That is exactly what the psalmist wants us to do!

God, help us to give thanks not just privately to you but in public so that we can all give you thanks together. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Share one instance where you have seen God at work in your life lately with someone else and give thanks.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, November 16, 2009

Praise and Thanksgiving

I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
Psalm 69:30 NRSV

I was so excited this morning to see that the scripture I had chosen was only one verse. This will be easy, I thought. Then all of the following questions (and answers) began popping up in my head.

What is the real meaning of this verse? Sometimes I wonder what we lose in the translation from Hebrew to English in the Bible, especially in the Psalms. With this psalm, does song mean singing or does it mean saying a psalm? Is the second line simply a reiteration of the first line? In other words, does the second line simply repeat the first line?

Either way, the point is to glorify God. Actually it says to bless God's name which we don't know. We do know different names that God is called and I think that each of us calls God a different name. For example, some folks I know always say Heavenly Father when praying. I always just say God. What name are we to be using when saying this blessing?

I am also stuck here because I am trying to recall if I know of a song that praises God's name. Possibly the songs Emmanuel and El Shadai. There may be others.

Do you see what is going on here? Instead of spending time praising God, blessing God's name and magnifying God with thanksgiving, I have instead tried to rationalize and intellectualize what I really want to be doing.

Good thing that I don't think I am alone in this.

God, we praise your name and magnify you with thanksgiving! In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Name one thing you are thankful for in this very moment.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thanks Be To God!

You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy. Psalm 65: 11-13 NRSV

The imagery of this psalm is perfect for this time of year. This is the time of the harvest, for reaping the bounty of the season. The imagery combines God's creative order with the domestic needs of humans.

Human imagery:
wagon tracks

Natural imagery:

Both of these come together as part of God's creative order:
God's bounty
God's wagon tracks
God's joy

Everything points back to God.

The psalmist has indicated in the proceeding verses that the harvest is plentiful because of what God has done in terms of sending the much-needed rain. It is because of God's natural gift of rain that the harvest is so bountiful so that the joy of the harvest is also because of God. It isn't because humans have planted or planned but because of what God has done that has caused such a rich harvest.

When we are able to trace all the good things in life back to God we are able to be thankful.

God, we are truly thankful for your bounty this season. Thank you! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Name one thing you are truly thankful for in this moment.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Deliverance and Hope

By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. Psalm 65:5 NRSV

God is not just the God of people but the God of the whole creation. God provides deliverance and hope to people and creation. Not only should we be thankful for what God does for us personally or even communally but also what God does in the whole world - including nature.

In the midst of hurricane season, thanking God for God's power and wonder in nature can be a bit awkward. We tend to see and hear about all the destructive power of nature which seems to reflect badly on God's own awesome power. Many of us wonder how God can allow such awful things to happen. If God is in control, how can God cause the destruction of lives and property?

However, the psalmist focuses us on what God does do rather than complain on what God is not doing. That is the true meaning of thanksgiving. To be thankful means that we focus on what is rather than complain about what we wish could be. Being thankful looks at the world as it is and finds God offering deliverance and hope.

God, thank you for your powers of deliverance and hope. Help us to see these around us this very day. In Jesus' name. Amen

Name one thing you are thankful for in this very moment.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, November 13, 2009

Praise is Due to God

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed, to you all flesh shall come. When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions. Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple. Psalm 65: 1-4 NRSV

You do not have to have much to be thankful.

In fact, it is the most basic of God's gifts - forgiveness - that is the most precious gift of all.

Being forgiven means that God can choose to dwell near us. Satisfaction then comes from being chosen to live in God's presence. God is not limited to the temple presence or even the church altar. God can be with us wherever we are living.

In addition, the psalmist tells us that these things will make us happy. Not just content, but happy.

Living in God's presence.

Three simple things for which to give God thanks.

God, thank you for forgiving me, for choosing to be with me and for giving me your joy. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Name one thing you are thankful for in this moment.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, November 12, 2009

An Endless List

You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you, were I to proclaim and tell of them, they would be more than can be counted. Psalm 40:5 NRSV

This verse reminds me of the song that says "List your many blessings, count them one by one...." I cannot recall the song's title but I think of listing out all the things that are right in my life.

I have done this once or twice, especially when it seems like everything is going wrong in life. I simply thank God for a roof over my head, food on the table, clothes to wear and a vehicle to drive. I don't do this kind of thing to make myself as better or more worthy than others. However, I do realize that people in my own neighborhood may be without those same things.

The psalmist points to not just those personal blessings but communal ones as well. Such communal blessings include things like the creation of the universe, a beautiful fall day or God's love for each of us. In fact, what the psalm tells us is that we can never list all of God's blessings; they are simply too many for us to realize. God has given us so very much: there is no end to God's blessings. In the same way, there should be no end to our thankfulness.

God, our thankfulness to you for what you have given us has no end. Thank you! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Name at least one blessing that you are thankful for in this very moment.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A New Song

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40: 1-3 NRSV

My life had been one long downward spiral and now I found myself at the lowest of the low points. There was no way I could get myself out of this mess. There was no human being who could help me. In fact, there was no human being who even desired to help me as I had burned those bridges long ago.

So I did the only thing I had left to do, I prayed to God. It was awkward at first because I had not talked to God in so very long, at least not seriously. My prayer was more like a rant that became a humble request for something - I wouldn't call it help but perhaps forgiveness.

To my surprise, God did forgive me. I felt it, I knew it and I can't even explain it or put it into words.

But God did more than that. God helped me get out of the bleak situation that I was in. In fact, God did more than that. God got me out of trouble and caused some wonderful things to happen in my life. God brought back people who loved me and God met more than the most basic needs that I had.

This was not something that I had done, but what God had done. What else could I do but praise and thank God? I could not stop speaking aloud of what God had done in my life. For some reason, this made other people realize the awesome power of God and humbled them greatly. I didn't try to evangelize. The thanks and praise from someone so selfish and caught up in themselves was enough for others to see God for who God is.

A new life, a new chance and a new song: all through God's splended power and and love.

God, only you can give new life. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Name one thing you are thankful for in this moment.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Changing Clothes

You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever. Psalm 30: 11-12 NRSV

Yesterday we emphasized that our thankfulness should not be dependent on our good mood. Today, we are looking at being thankful for when God gives us joy.

The part that I see as important in these verses is that it is God, not other people nor life circumstances that create joy in our hearts. Friends that have gone through grief have often been told that time is the great healer. But this psalm indicates that it is God, not time, that will truly heal our sadness.

The psalmist also admits that mourning can prevent us from being thankful, especially in a public way. In fact, I would imagine most of us would be shocked if a family member of the deceased came in praising God loudly in song. Even if they were thankful for the loved one's life, society dictates that they should only be quietly thankful.

The imagery of exchanging sackcloth - also an indication of sorrow over sins committed - for the clothing of joy is a wonderful one. In fact, realizing that it is God who has undressed and redressed you makes the feelings quite personal as well as recognizes God's power and control.

May we depend even more on God when feelings of remorse, grief and sadness threaten to overwhelm us to the point we are unable to give thanks.

God, clothe us with your joy. Then we will not be silent with our thanks one moment longer. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Name one thing you are thankful for in this moment.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thankful No Matter Your Mood

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30: 4-5 NRSV

How can we be thankful when we feel like we are being punished? How can we give God glory and praise when we feel like God is angry? How is being thankful when we are sad at all helpful in our relationship to God?

The psalmist intends to give us, God's faithful ones, some instruction. Or maybe good advice. Either way, we need to listen closely.

You see, being thankful is a way of life. It should occur whether you are laughing or crying. Thankfulness is a state of your heart. This is because within a day's time our lives can change and our emotions will change with them. But giving God thanks is not or should not be dependent on our moods. If we wait until we are in a good mood, we may either forget what we are thankful for or we will be sloppy in our thanksgiving.

So, whatever state your mood is in today, don't let it prevent you from giving sincere thanks.

God, may we not depend on our good moods to give you thanks and praise. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Name one thing you are thankful for in this moment.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Thanks for Help

Blessed be the Lord, for he has heard the sound of my pleadings. The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.  Psalm 28:6-7 NRSV

Thank you, God, for your help.

Sounds pretty simple. Straightforward. Easy to do.

But how many times do we say that simple prayer?

This psalm reminds us that even the most insignificant things are thanks-worthy. And this verse reminds us that we do often need to keep our thanks simple and focused on the smaller things. God does lots of big, glamorous things in people's lives, including our own. But we can easily overlook the answers we receive to our small pleas. God acts quietly, in the background and we don't often thank God enough for those actions that strengthen our trust in God.

God's smallest actions and efforts can open our hearts and our mouths to being thankful.

God, thank you for hearing my pleas. You are my strength and my shield, in you my heart exults. I trust you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Name one thing you are thankful for in this moment.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Thanking Beyond the Walls

In your strength the king rejoices, O Lord, and in your help how greatly he exults! You have given him his heart's desire, and have not withheld the request of his lips. Psalm 21:1-2 NRSV

Can you truly be thankful for the good things in someone else's life? Could you be thankful, say, for the family and leadership blessings of President Obama? Did you ever thank God for something President Bush accomplished or said? (We are not going on party lines when it comes to thankfulness!!)

The psalms are full of thankfulness on behalf of the country and the leader. This is not just about me or my own family. This is national thankfulness. This is thankfulness for what blessings have occurred in the lives of our leadership, despite any hardships you and I may face as followers.

For us as Christians, the best way to grasp this type of thankfulness and live it is to think of our worshipping community. What thanks can we give for our own family of faith? How can we be thankful for the blessings of the church even when our personal lives are falling apart? Or when decisions have been reached that we did not agree with? Can we truly be thankful for, say, our Bishop? Our District Superintendent or other denominational leader?

When we are thankful for what God is doing in our church, then we are capable of looking beyond our walls into the world. And when we do, we will discover so many more thanks for blessings beyond what we could imagine.

God, thank you for all you have done for my worshipping community, my city, state, and country - especially the prayers you have heard and answered to all who lead. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Name one thing you are thankful for in this moment.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thanksgiving Outloud

For this I will extol you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing praises to your name.  Psalm 18:49 NRSV

We should be thankful. But we are not meant to keep our thanks to ourselves.

Of course, there is always the danger that our thanks may seem to others like bragging. However, if we are truly thankful and we are speaking so that God can overhear us (for who among us believes that God wants us to make others feel less important than ourselves?) then our thanks should be made in public.  Poems, songs, words and expressions of thanks are all good when we are conveying to good in front of others how thankful we are. In fact, the best forms of thanksgiving are those we find in worship!

For the Hebrew people, gifts of thanksgiving were to be left on God's altar on a regular basis as part of offerings of well-being. In fact, they were also be to consumed on the same day (see Leviticus 7: 12-17). Songs, such as this psalm, were to be lifted up in voice and in music by the leaders as well as the people. The best example of that is Miriam's song after the people of God cross the Red Sea and Pharaoh is finally defeated (Exodus 15:20-21).

So, be thankful but don't keep it to yourself!

God, help me to find the best way to thank you in public this week. Because I am truly thankful. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Name one thing you are thankful for in this moment.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thanksgiving for God's Support

For who is God except the Lord? And who is a rock besides our God? - the God who girded me with strength, and made my way safe. He made my feet like the feet of a deer, and set me secure on the heights. He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand has supported me; your help has made me great. You gave me a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip. Psalm 18: 31-36 NRSV

I pray for God to guide my steps everyday, so I love the imagery of God making my way safe, helping my feet to be swift, and setting me on a secure overlook from where I will not fall. Of course, here the imagery is specific to protection in battle. But don't you think that some days are a battle? Don't you and I need God's guidance and warrior training to be victorious?

The verse that speaks to me most in a thankful sense is verse 35: You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand has supported me; your help has made me great. God gives us the tools we need like a shield. God also lends concrete support like someone helping a lady down from a high place or a mighty leader giving their powerful backing to someone not so great or important. And the thankfulness is truly felt when there is the verbal realization that it is God, not ourselves, that makes us great.

God, thank you for your support in our everyday life. It is you, not us, that make us victorious in our own battles. Thank you! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Name one thing you are thankful for in this moment.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Thanksgiving: Making A List

I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, so I shall be saved from my enemies. Psalm 18: 1-3 NRSV

How many times in the month of November have you and I been asked to make a list of what we are thankful for? I know when we sit down with my father-in-law at Thanksgiving, he will ask each person to say what they are thankful for. Often I find myself writing in my devotional (!) a list of what I am thankful for in this season.

However, listing our thanks in God's hearing should be a way of life for us as Christians, not just a once a year American tradition.

The psalmist in Psalm 18 begins by listing some names for God that are real in the psalmist's life:
God the one whom I love;
God as the one who not only gives but is our strength;
God the rock;
God who is our fortress;
God that delivers;
God who is my God;

God the rock in whom we take refuge or protection;
God as our shield;
God who is the horn, the announcer and bringer of my own salvation;
God is our stronghold, our ultimate defense;
It is God whom we call upon.
It is God who is worthy to be praised.
When I call upon the Lord, I shall be saved.

Thankfulness in Psalm 18 is for God's ultimate protection in the battle of life. May we begin today and everyday to thank God for being our ultimate protection.

God, thank you for protecting me in these ways:___________________________________________.
In Jesus' Mighty Name I pray. Amen.

Name one thing you are thankful for in this moment.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Doing Right in God's Eyes

In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes. Judges 21: 25 NRSV

If we can learn nothing else from the Book of Judges, it is to take a hard examination of our own lives and ask if we are doing what is right in our own eyes rather than in God's eyes.

I am asking today if you will spend at least five minutes asking God to reveal to you what you are doing that seems right to you but God disagrees.


God, thank you for revealing how blind we really are. So often we see that we are doing the right thing but we see with our eyes, not yours. Help us to truly see, Lord. Thank you for this book of the Bible that can act as a mirror for us in our daily walk with you. In Jesus' holy name we pray. Amen.

Question for the day: Did you really take five minutes or did you just skip over that in order to read the prayer and this question?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, November 2, 2009

Go And Do Likewise

And they instructed the Benjaminites, saying, "Go and lie in wait in the vinyards, and watch; when the young women of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vinyards and each of you carry off a wife for himself from the young women of Shiloh, and go to the land of Bejamin. Then if their fathers or brothers come to complain to us, we will say to them, 'Be generous and allow us to have them; because we did not capture in battle a wife for each man. But neither did you incur guilt by giving your daughters to them.' " Judges 21: 20-22 NRSV

Here is a plan: we are two hundred women short for wives for the men of Benjamin so what can we do? Oh, I know! There is that big homecoming game scheduled in a couple of weeks. When the dancers come out on the field, you can run out and kidnap one of them to be your wife. That way, your tribe can be rebuilt plus the families of these girls won't have to worry about them living in sin. We will tell them that it is all okay and just be generous with those dowries!

I just want to say here that there are only two women in this entire book that I would want to be: either Deborah or Jael. And at this point, I am leaning toward Jael and all her tent pegs. I can't believe that, either, because in my last devotional I was speaking against violence. But I can't believe the treatment of the women in the book of Judges. This reminds me that they are considered property not human beings. The only value is in their virginity - then later in their fertility.

This last chapter of this book is just full of wonderful life-applications.

Go and do likewise? I don't think so!

God, I am only seeing the bad stuff here and the great excuses people can make for their actions. What's that? Did you say I am guilty of the same? God, I am truly sorry. Please forgive me. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

Question of the day: What about the book of Judges made you angry?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Big Cover-up

So the congregation sent twelve-thousand soldiers there and commanded them, "Go, put the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead to the sword, including the women and the little ones. This is what you shall do; every male and every woman that has lain with a male you shall devote to destruction." And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead four hundred young virgins who had never slept with a man and brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan. Judges 21: 10-12 NRSV

What a solution! This is kind of like weeding out the church of people who either don't believe a certain way or do things against the leadership. Let us get rid of them unless they are uncorrupted and can be brought over to our point of view! That way we don't have to really deal with the problem, we can just cover it up.

I also think this is what can happen when we merge two different churches together. It is not always the best solution to the problem and can actually lead to further sins and problems. You get rid of the obvious (sins, disobedience, lack of following the Law) by strategic cover-up (grief, loss, power-struggle) rather than repentence (mentoring, teaching, turning around).

Thank you, God, for Jesus who keeps us from acting on violent impulses. May we learn to change, grow and empower rather than simply cover up our problems. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What are you trying to cover-up in your life or church?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims