Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Biblical Superwoman

"Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all." Proverbs 31: 29 NRSV

I really do hate hearing this entire Proverb read at a funeral of a woman. I mean, come on, what woman could ever live up to this description? This is like the guys' ultimate companion. Do you know any woman who has ever measured up to the woman of Proverbs 31?

One key, I think, is that this woman is fabulously rich so she has many servants to actually do the work. She makes sure it is done but without their help, she could not possibly do all this.

She is the ultimate Biblical Superwoman.

And, heaven help us, many of us women and wives try our best to emulate her!

How many women are still doing chores when our children are asleep and our husbands are in bed watching the 10:00 news? Folding clothes while watching the news is still doing the chores! How many women out there are responsible for the majority of the housework/cooking and taking care of the kids while working full time? How many single moms out there are doing it all with little or no help?

Well, take a moment to reflect. You may not exactly be the Proverbs 31 woman but you have still surpassed them all in the eyes of God! You are God's superwoman.

And if you are a guy, please take sometime to thank a woman in your life who has been like a superwoman for you.

God, you love each of us just as if we were a superperson. Thank you for your love which surpasses all love we can find here on earth. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Spare the Teaching Moment....

Discipline your children, and they will give you rest; they will give delight to your heart. Proverbs 28:17 NRSV

What does the word discipline mean to you?

A stern lecture?

A spanking?


Recently I took a parenting class and learned that discipline means to teach.

That's right. To teach.

Disciplining your children means to teach them how to behave: within the home, with friends and in society. And teaching involves more than telling or demanding. It involves showing, encouraging, modeling and practicing. There are also consequences when the child gets it wrong.

Yet, many parents are so wary of punishing their children that they have neglected teaching their children. They might tell their children what to do but they don't know how to do more than that. Of course, their kids are not going to do as they ask! No one has encouraged them, showed them, made them practice, modeled good behavior or made them accountable for their actions.

Proverbs reminds us that when we take take to teach/discipline our children we will be rewarded with children who let us relax (maybe enjoy retirement?) and in whom we are delighted.

Are you disciplining the children you know?

God, help us to learn how to teach our children and all children whom we love. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, June 28, 2010


Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. Proverbs 27:1 NRSV

This verse hits close to home.

You see, I am making plans to meet some relatives that I have only talked to through facebook and email. I am very excited but also a bit nervous. I am so focused on this upcoming event that everything else around me seems to pale in comparison. But this verse is a real wake-up call.

Even though I have boasted about my upcoming trip on facebook, I don't know what even tomorrow will be like. I need to focus on the here and now. Certainly I can make plans. However, I need to stop going on and on about this future trip. How do I know I will be able to make it? I am praying that it will happen. But I am not in control of the future. God is.

And that is the point of this verse.

We cannot truly know what this very day will bring. Only God has that power to see into the future, to know for certain what will happen. It is God, not humans, who are in control of tomorrow.

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

May God bless you this day!


Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Do not say, "I will do to others as they have done to me; I will pay them back for what they have done." Proverbs 24:29 NRSV

Okay, Proverbs has got to be the "social gospel." It really has a lot to do with our interactions with others in society!

This verse is a perfect example. It is all about how we treat others. Do we say that we should treat others how they treat us? Well, many of us quote the Golden Rule about treating others as we should like to be treated. But our behavior does not reflect the Golden Rule.

I am serious about this. How many times have a heard church members promising retribution in situations from their neighbor's yard antics to the latest bombing in the Middle East? It is all about doing to others just as we have been done to. The neighbor trimmed the crepe myrtles growing on our side of the fence? Well, two can play that game! I'm gonna "accidentally" mow over their day lilies lining their driveway. Heard the latest about the violence in the Middle East? How many folks have responded that we should just nuke the lot of them?

Do we really want to treat others as they should be treated?

Is it not easier to treat others as they have treated us?

Do we really follow the Golden Rule? Or are we listening to Proverbs 24:29?

God, you want us to be kind to our enemies, to love those who hate us. But, God, that is so hard to do! We would rather "get them back" for what they have done to us. Help us to think about your guidelines before we speak or act. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Taking Responsibility

One's own folly leads to ruin, yet the heart rages against the Lord. Proverbs 19:3 NRSV

I love how Proverbs really has some good insight about human nature. Sometimes I think it hits too close to home!

This verse is a perfect example. How many of us (me included) do stupid or thoughless things, get in trouble for them, then sit around trying to blame God for all of it? I mean, shouldn't God have warned us? Stepped in and done something to help? Prevented us from failing? God, where were you?

Well, God was there all the time. It was ourselves who were out of our minds! How come we have a hard time accepting responsibility for our actions?

Take speeding for example. I am sure most of us at one time or another have gotten caught speeding. But what did we try to do? Well, we tried to get out of it. Pleading, tears, arguing, explanations -- we have used them all... right? Who among us has simply said, "Yes, officer, I was speeding. I admit the fact that I broke the law and will accept the punishment." In fact, after being handed the ticket, we probably fussed at God for "allowing" us to get caught! Not a single one of us probably admitted to God that, yes, we had done wrong and must accept the punishment even when we have no money to pay it.

Now I do admit there are situations in our lives where we might have made some mistakes but others also made mistakes. I am not saying to take all the blame on ourselves. I am saying we must be honest with ourselves and admit those things that we have done wrong.

Proverbs reminds us to take responsibility for our actions without trying to blame God.

God, we are so sorry to blame you when we are the foolish ones. Forgive us, we pray. Help us to admit to you when we have made mistakes. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, June 25, 2010

Social Vampires

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing personal opinion. Proverbs 18:2 NRSV

Have you ever known someone who never listens? I mean never listens. They are too busy talking, usually about themselves, their immediate family, their problems, their job, their struggles and stresses. One book I read suggested calling these types of people "social vampires" as they tend to suck the life right out of your friendship/relationship. In whatever situation that they find you, they will give advice or their opinion without taking time to listen to you and understand how you are feeling.

Well, I don't want to be called a fool but I know that I am really good at expressing my personal opinion. How about you? Are you better at listening or giving advice? Do you begin to tune someone out when you know what you think needs to be said? Are you more aware of what you should say in response than what is coming out of your friends' mouth? Have you ever just tried to listen without working on any type of retort?

As a pastor, I am expected to have some sort of holy opinion, I suppose. I have learned to keep my mouth shut (most of the time, anyway) when someone is talking. At least I try to reiterate back to them what I think I heard them say. That will at least put a stopgap into my inane attempts at trying to "fix" them. One good way to respond is simply to pray with them right then and there. That reminds both of us who is really in control! This would work with anyone who struggles with trying to simply listen: pray with them before trying to give your personal opinion!

See if you can't take more pleasure in understanding others today and throughout this weekend.

God, help us to do more listening and trying to understand than expressing our personal opinion. Thank you for loving us even when we are foolish. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A dinner of love

Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it. Proverbs 15:17 NRSV

I don't think Proverbs is suggesting that we all become vegetarians but Proverbs is saying that love is more important than many luxury items -- including meat. We in America do not see eating meat as a luxury - - we see it more as a necessity. But for many people (even some in this country) meat is for the very wealthy and/or used sparingly. Certainly any animal that is "fatted" would be a sign of wealth as it would take a great deal of money to get your cattle well-fed. So, what this verse is saying is that love in a family is far more important that money.

However, when I hear this verse, I also have the vision of a family sitting down at a meal together. It is almost as if this verse is about showing love while eating a meal as a family. Better to have a meal with just vegetables while everyone sits down, enjoying each others' company. Fatted ox isn't as good when you have to eat it by yourself, on the run or in front of the television.

I recently watched a show where two young people were interested in one another but they came from very different families. The young man was from a fabulously wealthy family. However, when he sat down to eat, he was not surrounded by anyone but six maids and a butler. The rest of the fancy table was surrounded by empty chairs. The young woman's parents owned a struggling dry cleaning business. But even as they sat at a tiny table eating their vegetables, they were laughing with one another and talking about their day. In fact, the young man visits them and falls in love with the woman's family as much as he does her!

What kind of atmosphere do you find at your family's table? If you are not sure about "feeling the love" what can you do about it to change it?

God, thank you for our families. Help us to express love to one another, especially at the table. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Love not Hate

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. Proverbs 10:12 NRSV

I cannot begin to tell you how many women I have spoken with who love everyone except their ex spouse. And this isn't just a passing emotion, either, or something that is simply left over from a bad marriage. They hate their ex spouse because of the hateful and downright evil things the man has done to them because of issues around custody. I have come to believe that, when a woman's child is involved, there is no such thing as a simple emotion in matters of custody.

I am always amazed at what shenanigans I see men try to do to their ex wives through their treatment (or lack thereof) of their kids. The child becomes a weapon in the hands of the man - another way to "get back at" or punish the woman who has not let herself continue to be under the man's power. While the man uses issues of custody - time with the kids, lack of attention to the children, constant court battles, child support, demands for restitution, disagreement over education and religion - the mother usually is just trying to keep her head above water while attempting to raise the child/children in a loving environment. But how can you keep that environment loving while hating the father?

Provers 10:12 tells us that hatred causes problems while love provides soothing and comfort.  This may sound like great advice until you try to apply it in a case like that above. Can love really cover all offenses? This sounds very difficult.

And it is.

It is much easier to hate just as it is much easier to be angry (and act like it) than to let that anger pass. Love that covers all offenses is hard to keep going. Even though we can see that in the end love is the better option, how do you stick with it in the face of such injustice? Also, how can you love someone even though they hate you with every fiber of their being? Love in the face of hatred, injustice, and unfairness is tough. No, impossible. Right?

God, you ask us to love rather than hate. But when we find ourselves facing such injustice, unfairness and hatred, it feels as though we are being left hanging .... Maybe that is what Christ, and you, felt when he was hanging on a cross. Okay, Lord, you do ask us to love as Christ loves us. You ask us to do the impossible. With your help, God, nothing is impossible. We love you, Lord. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lay aside immaturity and live, and walk in the way of insight. Proverbs 9:6 NRSV

I have been thinking lately about how immature some folks that I know are at this stage in their young lives.

Sometimes I just want to sit them down and give them a good piece of my mind. Share my own wisdom, as it were.

They wouldn't be able to hear it, though. I don't think any of them have been taught wisdom by their parents. Perhaps they have not been allowed to be wise while they were younger. Instead, decisions were made for them and there were no consequences for their immature behavior. Adults closest to them just expected such behavior as something to assume at their age.

I can really see how the speaker (possibly Solomon) at the beginning of Proverbs wants their own child to claim wisdom for themselves, even at a young age. What a speech for a parent to give to their child! See wisdom, avoid evil, do what is right and you will have blessings upon blessings give to you by God. Wisdom is more important that gold or silver! Seek what is truly important: a wise heart.

Perhaps the real blow to our wish for young people to have wisdom is that we older folks have not exactly embraced wisdom for ourselves. We have gone after the gold and silver, power and prestige, stuff over understanding. Has God really been a priority in our lives? Do we seek to understand or get our way?

We need to first examine our own hearts for wisdom before we get on our soapbox about being wise.

God, you ask us to lay aside our immaturity and live. Help us, Lord! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, June 21, 2010

We Owe, We Owe, So It's Off to Work We Go!

So do this, my child, and save yourself, for you have come into your neighbor's power: go hurry, and plead with your neighbor. Proverbs 6: 3 NRSV

This proverb is speaking directly to debt. Whatever you have to do, it says, get out of debt!

But why? What does Proverbs have against being in debt?

Because being in debt to someone means that you are in their power. And once you are in someone else's power, how can you be true to God's commandments? You are under the commandments to the one whom you owe. Only if you owe to no one are you completely free to be under God's commandments.

This is so very contrary to our Western society, where we have all gotten heavily into debt, even if our debt only includes our home.

My family has been trying to follow a plan to get out of debt. Right now the only credit card we own is a Lowe's card, believe it or not. And I am working on getting my husband to cut that one up (why is that so hard for him, hmmm?). We do have a couple of other debts which I hope we can someday get out from under. I must say there is something freeing about cutting up those cards. What a feeling! I think it would be so freeing not to owe anyone anything at all. We might not be rich, but we would be free.

How about you?

Are you in debt to anyone?

Have you ever tried to get out of debt? Did you? If so, how did it feel?

Do you think we can be totally free and still owe money?

God, you ask us to place ourselves in your power, not the power of the credit card or mortgage companies. Help us to pay off our debts so that we only owe to you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Where is wisdom on your list?

[Wisdom] is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Proverbs 3:15 NRSV

What do I desire?

The entire season and the final movie of Boys Over Flowers (the Taiwan version with subtitles).

An iPhone - latest version.

Okay, also an iPad. Updated iPhoto. And while I'm at it, a year of lessons at the Apple store.

A shopping spree of Cabi clothes.

New shoes!

New AC/heating system at our lake house.

New floors at our lake house.

New sofa at our lake house.

Okay, a total remodeling of our lake house, including landscaping.

New car that gets super mileage.

Trip to go and see my half-sisters.

A vacation this summer to the beach.

A date-night with my husband.

Wait a minute, I don't see wisdom on this list of what I desire. But isn't that what the psalmist is referring to? We should desire wisdom above all these things from clothes to movies to trips.

Wisdom is more precious than money, any item or any luxury. 

What does your desire list look like? Is wisdom on the list?

God, we should have wisdom at the top of our wants list. Wisdom from you should be our highest priority. Yet, we tend to have lots of stuff on our lists instead. Forgive us, O God, and help us to desire what is truly important. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Let everthing that breathes....

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Psalm 150:6 NRSV

Are you breathing? Do you have to think to breath? No? That is good!

Praising God should be the same way.

Praising God should be as natural as breathing. We should do it all the time, without thinking about it.

We fill our lungs with oxygen, then let out carbon monoxide. We should receive all of God's wonderful blessings, then respond with praise to God. In. Out. Receive. Praise.

We don't think about it when do receive blessings.

We shouldn't have to give it a conscious thought when we praise God, either.



Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!


Friday, June 18, 2010

Teach me to do your will

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Let your good spirit lead me on a level path. Psalm 143:10 NRSV

I am always asking for God's guidance and discernment in my daily life. However much I ask for this guidance, I can't say that I am so good about following God's will.

That is why I really like this verse. The psalmist is asking God to teach them to do God's will. It isn't about following God's will as being instructed how to follow God's will. "Teach me, guide me," the psalmist requests, "so that I can walk on a level road."

In order to do God's will for our lives, we must first be taught how to follow God. We have to learn how to follow the Spirit. This is not something that comes naturally to us. We aren't born with the instinct to follow the Spirit. We must learn to do so, possibly using some trial and error on the way.

What is it that you think you need to learn in order to stay on the path that God has placed before you?

How well have you followed God's will in the past?

What lessons have you learned? Is there anything you could teach or share with other followers along the way?

Don't keep the lessons you have learned to yourself! You may be the instructor God has sent to others in your family or faith community.

God, you want us to follow you. Yet, we must be taught how to do so. Send your instructions to us through others we encounter. Help us to pass on what we have learned to others as well. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Heartfelt Prayer to God

Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock! Psalm 137:9 NRSV

This is one of the most disturbing images and instructions in the Bible. This verse has turned many away from Christianity if not religion. What is going on here? Why is this verse even in the psalms?

We must read the whole of Psalm 137 to really understand it. In this psalm, we hear a lament of the Israelites who have been forcably removed from their home in Israel and taken to exile in Babylon. They are beyond dispondent. I have said this before but the Israelites saw the Temple in Jerusalem as the place where God dwelt. God was always attached to place. Now they see themselves not only detached from home but detached from God. Still, they are praying our their heartache to God.

And that is what we must understand.

This is a hearfelt prayer to God - full of anguish, disgust and anger.

When you are really heartsick, your emotions are what guide your prayers to God.

Should we not be able to be completely honest with God even when we are violently angry? Is it not better to express our feelings in angry words rather than act them out? How much to you think the psalmist really wanted to kill innocent babies? Maybe the psalmist felt that way at that time and needed to express that feeling to God. But do you think they continued to feel that way?

Is it not good to hear that others got so angry when they were upset, to hear those words of violence and know that it is okay to completely let go with God? Anger is a powerful emotion. Better to express it in an angry prayer to God than in carrying out such atrocities.

God, we have a difficult time with this passage of scripture. Help us to talk to you - when we are angry, happy, sad or remorseful - and to really share with you what we are feeling rather than to act on our feelings without thinking. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Precious Oil

It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. Psalm 133:2 NRSV

Usually, folks think this verse is disgusting. Oil on your head? Yuck!

However, we come from a 21st Century/plenty of H20 and AC culture. We are all about getting rid of the oil on our heads (unless you are like me with very dry hair). And the oil on our faces!

But imagine that you don't have air conditioning. There is very little water to spare - you would drink it, not bathe in it. It is near 100 degrees in the shade. What can you do to cool off?

Well, one thing that was (and still is) more plentiful than water in the Middle East is oil. No, not that crude stuff! I'm talking about olive oil. I encourage you to feel some olive oil today. Just take a bottle and put a bit of it in your hand. What does it feel like? Wet? Silky? Cool? A little heavy? Think about what it would be like to put that on your head when you are very hot - say in the middle of a summer in the South. Wouldn't it feel refreshing? A little cool, wet, silky and heavy. It would run down your head onto your face (and your beard if you have one) and then onto your collar or shoulders.

Now take that imagery one step further. We know that Aaron was the first priest. He was ordained by Moses on God's instructions. When Aaron was ordained, Moses took oil and poured it over his head. So, not only was it cool and refreshing, it was also holy and awesome. God's power and responsibility entered into Aaron and his descendants as that oil was poured over his head, running down to his beard and the collar of his robes.

The psalmist speaks of unity between relatives to be like that refreshing yet powerful oil. What a wonderful imagery! Now if we could only make that reality.

God, what are you asking me to do today to create harmony and unity in my family? Guide me, Lord, guide me. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Painful Imagery

The plowers plowed on my back; they made their furrows long. Psalm 129:3 NRSV

This is painful imagery.

I can see a sharp metal blade coming across a person's uncovered back, cutting through the skin, causing blood to gush up and sounds of agony to come from that person's lips.

I see also someone tied to stakes and being whipped, each cut of the whip being like a plow across that person's back.

Either way, the scars will be there in the skin as well as in the mind of the one who suffers.

And this psalms is speaking of the land of Israel, which has been attacked by their enemies. Because it is truly land, the imagery of the plow on someones back makes the most sense. The idea that someone would come and dig up what is not theirs in order to punish and cause pain is very real. This verse brings home to us the pain of this kind of loss.

It is no wonder that the remainder of the psalm asks God to bring about the downfall of their enemies. The pain and the shame is so great that this is all the psalmist wants. The scars will probably not go away, no matter what happens to their enemies.

God, it is hard to know what to do with this request. We do feel the pain and agony here Lord and we understand wanting the enemy to be punished. Help us in our struggle with this. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, June 14, 2010

Have Mercy

As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until he has mercy on us. Psalm 123: 2 NRSV

Several thoughts in my head concerning this passage:

  • hands of a master or mistress: does this entail punishment, i.e. a slap for doing wrong?
  • looking at a person's hands means that you are lower than they are, at least to some extent
  • the visualization here is someone on their knees, kissing the master's/mistress' hand
  • if you look at someones hands, you can't be looking at their eyes: sign of shame
  • if you look at someones hands, you can't be looking at their eyes: sign of subservience
  • until God has mercy: how long is the servant/slave bowing before their superior?
In asking for forgiveness and mercy, it may seem as though we expect punishment. Will the same hand that feeds us become the hand that hits us? In asking for God's mercy, we recognize that we are lower than God. In asking for God's forgiveness, we must be obviously in supplication, whether truly on our knees or not. In asking for God's mercy, we come face-to-face with our shame. In asking for forgiveness, we admit our subservience. God will have mercy, but it won't happen immediately. We may have to keep asking until we are truly sorry and God sees this in our hearts. And we may have to continue to ask for forgiveness again and again until we are ready to accept God's complete forgiveness.

God, we come before you to entreat you for mercy. Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy upon us! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, June 13, 2010

One Verse from Psalm 119

Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain. Psalms 119:36 NRSV

Okay, choosing one verse from the longest Psalm was a hard thing to do! But, as I always try to do, I have focused on the one verse that seemed to "speak" to me. And that is what happened with verse 36.

This psalm is all about following God's laws and walking in God's ways. This specific verse reminds us of where our priorities need to be. Our time, energy and thoughts should be spent on God's word rather than making money. Certainly, this does not mean quitting our jobs in order to join a convent! However, I see so many people in this country who spend most of their waking hours trying to make money. Even in the ministry, it is expected for a pastor to work 60-80 hours per week. Thankfully, we are blessed in that we should be spending the majority of this time on our knees or with our nose in The Book. But what kind of example are we setting for our congregants?

Here, I need to be clear about the difference between selfish gain and making money for basic needs. Basic needs are food, clothing, shelter, and, of course, love. This does not include jet skis, club memberships, exotic vacations, name-brand clothing (ouch!), cable, cell phones or i-anything.  Of course, our society has made it seem that all these other things are basic needs. Society tells us that, if our neighbors, friends and family have these things, they must be essential for me to have as well. And when we adopt this attitude (which, unfortunately we ALL have) we spend less time studying God's decrees and more time in "selfish gain."

God, save us from selfish gain. Give us a new perspective on what our basic needs are. Turn our hearts to study your word and your commands. Help us to make you our #1 priority. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, June 12, 2010


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

Why should we give thanks to God? Because God is good and God's love firmly endures no matter what.

God's love is not based on how much we love God. God doesn't love us in terms of how well we live or even if we sin. That is what makes it possilble for the sinner to pray the sinner's prayer. God is just waiting for us to turn away from our sins and to God. This is because God loves us so very much.

In the Old Testament, God gets angry a lot. And yet, God never truly gives up on God's people. They may be punished or redirected but God never abandons them. Often their own behavior puts them far away from God. But this usually directs them back to the one who loves them so very much.

So we should not just be thankful to God for physical blessings or good mental attitudes or what ever has brought us joy. We should be thankful because God loves us wholeheartedly and unreservedly.

God, we have much to be thankful for. Today, we give thanks for your goodness and your steadfast love which lasts forever. Thank you, God, thank you! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, June 11, 2010

Firm in Our Hearts

They are not afraid of evil tidings; their hearts are firm, secure in the Lord. Psalm 112:7 NRSV

How many of us fall apart when we hear bad news?

How many of us imagine even worse things when we hear negative tidings?

Yet, if we are secure in God's hands, why should we fall apart? Why should we become negative and pessimistic when things are not going well?

This psalm reminds us that, if we are sure in our faith, our hearts will be firm. We won't be afraid of evil tidings. That doesn't mean we won't cry or feel helpless. Just because we are faithful does not mean we are devoid of emotions. It does mean that fear of evil will not move us. We will stick with God. We will lean on God's promises. We will lean on our community of faith. We will continue to give to God's work in the world. We will continue to give God the praise and the glory.

However, we can't wait until bad news reaches us before being firm in our hearts, secure in the Lord. We must first be scripturally sound, full of graciousness, mercy, righteousness, giving to the poor and needy, generous with our blessings and sticking to what is right and just. This is what Psalm 112 says of those whose hearts are secure in the Lord. They are already firm in God's commandments and the life worthy of God before evil strikes.

How firm are you going to be when you hear bad news?

God, help us to be grounded in you, living the life that you command us through the scriptures. Then we will remain firm in our hearts when we hear bad news. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, June 10, 2010

In return for my love they accuse me, even while I make prayer for them. Psalm 109:4 NRSV

We are to pray for our enemies.


My prayers would be all about how my enemies need to listen to God, do better, stop sinning, and generally end up seeing the world as I do. I want God to make my enemies more like me.

But is that really how we are to pray?

Is it not more powerful to pray God's blessings on your enemies? To pray for God's protection for them? To pray that they come to know God more deeply and fully? To pray that they have a right relationship with God (rather than a relationship just like mine)?

The psalmist is being attacked while praying for these same people. The psalmist loves the attackers even while they falsely accuse the one who is praying and loving.

Reminds me of the guy who was being killed for something he didn't do and asked God to forgive his attackers. Interestingly enough, what this guy did actually ended up saving those who killed him. They accused him in return for his love and his prayers.

Are we not to do the same?

God, I pray for my enemies today. I name them to you and lift them to you. I do not pray for their demise or their suffering. I pray for their redemption and for your blessings to fall upon them. May I forgive them even as you forgive me. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Prisoners in Misery and Irons

Some sat in darkness and gloom, prisoners in misery and irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. Psalm 207: 10-11 NRSV

A friend of mine was recently in a courtroom, waiting with a loved-one to go before a judge. While there, she saw so many people who were truly in chains. These were real prisoners but they made her think of all the people in that courtroom who were prisoners of sin. She could almost smell their misery and their living hells. She was moved to pray for them.

I guess we don't think of ourselves as bound to our sins. We don't see ourselves as prisoners to evil. But often we are in chains, in abject misery and darkness. The reason is because we have ceased to follow God or we have foolishly followed humans (including our own rebellious desires).

If you could name one sin that you are bound to right at this moment, what would it be?

Why do you feel bound to this sin?

God wants to free you from this sin. But you have to be willing to confess, admit your guilt, and accept God's forgiveness.

Are you willing and able to do so today?

God, I pray that you will break the chains that hold this person reading this devotional. May they accept your forgiveness and mercy. May we all be freed in the Holy name of Jesus. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches. Psalm 104:12 NRSV

I don't often hear the birds, especially in the morning. But recently I was visiting some relatives in Massachusetts where they keep their windows open all night and they have no "white noise" going on like we do at home. So, I heard the birds. Early. Very early. And very loud. I don't think I slept late often because of the birds.

In actuality it was not that bad. In fact, it felt nice to hear the birds, many of which I was unable to identify. Those early mornings made me think of other happenings in nature that I either ignore or don't notice because of all the noise going on around me. Against what else have I kept my windows shut?

Psalm 104 is a praise to God, especially praising nature. Each verse highlights some part of creation that shows the glory of our creator. Verse 12 comes after the recognition that God is instrumental in even the streams of water. The verse says that a body of water encourages the birds to build their nests in surrounding trees, making their music among the tree tops. Even a small stream does more than provide water - it provides homes and music!

Thank you God, for even the simplest of gifts you have given us in nature. Help us to see all the wonders of your glorious creation! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sing a New Song

O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory. Psalm 98:1 NRSV

When did you last learn a new song to sing? Was it something you could sing to God? I love the thought of singing a new song to God when God has given us the victory. However, I probably spend more time singing old songs for all the new things God has done in my life. Why don't I learn new songs for each wonderful blessing that God gives to me?

The psalmist wants a new song to be sung, for everyone to pick up an instrument and play, for every voice to be lifted up with a joyful sound and even for all of nature to join in on the celebration. And all this is because God has remembered and brought salvation to the people of Israel - most likely in returning them from exile. God has done something for the community of faith. The only thing left is for all of creation to sing something that has never been sung before.

I suppose one of the reasons that I don't learn new songs to sing is that I have not experienced that kind of joyful celebration. I have not been exiled from God nor a returned to God's favor after exile. How much easier it is just to sing what I already know. Certainly in church we have a hard time singing "new" hymns or songs. Folks get all bent out of shape if it is something they do not know and they probably will not even try to learn it.

But the joy of the community around the psalmist is so overpowering that there is nothing else to do but to join in a new song to God.

May you be moved to sing a new song to God today!

In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Come and Worship

O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! Psalm 95:6 NRSV

This psalm is an encouraging word for us to simply worship God. Let us go, worship, bow down, humble ourselves before the living God who made and created us. We should spend time worshipping God.

Please note that it doesn't say to just go to church (although that can help us to worship). We are very capable of going to church yet not worshiping God. Many of us have learned how to go through the motions or to look like we are present even when our minds and spirits are elsewhere.

I sure hope you are going to a worship service this weekend. If you find yourself unable to go, I hope that you will spend some time in worshiping God. In either case, the focus should be on God. That's right. Not on what you wear or how badly your children behave. You shouldn't be worried about being holy or right. You should focus on being before God and recognizing your humble state. We are all dependent on God, even when we don't realize it. That is why the psalmist reminds us to worship and bow down. This is not a greeting between two equals. This is about honoring our maker. We are the lowly ones in worship. God is the supreme being to whom we give our allegiance, love and faithfulness.

O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

God, we come before you in this moment to give you the glory and praise. We worship you, God, not ourselves or the works of our hands. We humble ourselves because you have created us, you love us when we least deserve it, and you have given us the gift of salvation. Thank you, God! In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Still Green and Full of Sap

In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap, showing that the Lord is upright.... Psalm 92: 14-15a NRSV

In Psalm 92, the psalmist is speaking of those who are in right relationship with God. The analogy is that righteous persons are like trees. They grow well when they stay or are planted near God's presence. In this verse, that image is extended to what they produce. Even when they are old, they are able to produce fruit. Old age does not take away the life inside of them. This is the Lord's doing and is proof of God's own love and support.

I am beginning to believe that most of these Psalms were written by older folks...they seem to be speaking about old age a lot!

What this psalm says to me is that if a person stays in a good relationship with God, it won't matter how old they get. God will make sure all that they do leads to good works and others coming closer to the Lord. God will make sure that they are young at heart, no matter their age.

Think of those that you know who are in right relationship with God. Are any of them in the life stage of old age? Do you see them as still producing good works? Do they still touch the lives of those around them?

Take some time in this next week to talk to them and ask them what their advice is in keeping a strong and youthful relationship with our God.

God, you are always behind us when we are in right relationship with you. Help us to come ever closer to you, so that not even age will dampen our witness to your life and love. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Friday, June 4, 2010


You have caused friend and neighbor to shun me; my companions are in darkness. Psalm 88 NRSV

This is an unusual psalm because it ends with this verse. Prayers are not answered in this psalm. Only the request for help and connection to God ends this psalm and prayer.

I think this psalm really spoke to me this morning because I am about to go to a meeting where I will see many of my friends and neighbors and I am wondering if I will be shunned. Will people speak to me? Will I be ignored? Will people be talking about me? Wondering about my career choices? Would I have a better chance of getting their attention on facebook rather than face-to-face?

I realize how self-absorbed this all sounds. Then I realize that most likely everyone else will be thinking the same thing. Folks will be too concerned about how others are seeing them that they probably will have little chance to focus on me. If I am shunned it will probably be because they are also self-absorbed.

But is it part of the Christian faith to be surrounded by friends? Is it not to be following our Lord Christ Jesus? Would it not be better to be focused on God's attention rather than our friends' attention? In fact, parts of this psalm says that God is punishing them because their companions have abandoned them and they are overwhelmed by their troubles. But is that truly God's punishment? Does God not have greater things in store for those who are abandoned and full of troubles?

Christ was not only abandoned by his friends, he was betrayed by one of his closest companions. Yet, he was willing to forgive those who would accept his forgiveness. He even forgave those who actually killed him. And God forgave all of us who denied and executed Jesus. Part of being God's chosen is to be shunned by others. However, God will be there with us. Even when life seems to be an instrument of God's punishment, God will never abandon us.

God, thank you for your constant companionship. May I focus on your presence this day. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Righteousness and Peace Kissing

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Psalm 85: 10 NRSV

One of my seminary professors, Dr. Thomas Thangaraj, wrote a song for this Psalm. I remember learning it when I was on a summer seminary trip with him to his native India. All of us students learned this song and often sang it as a blessing before meals -- a sort of blessing/entertainment combo I suppose. We also sang it in chapel in seminary and on a few other occasions. In addition, we helped record it for one of his albums (I had to go to India to be recorded!).

The reason I digressed here is because whenever I read Psalm 85 I remember all the times I have sung the words: righteousness and peace will kiss each other. There is something so wonderful about that imagery. Peace and justice coming together, greeting each other with a holy kiss, makes a wonderful picture in my mind. I can almost imagine two people sitting down together to share a meal with handshake, a hug or a holy kiss. Righteousness and peace together at last would make a good caption!

But seldom do we think of righteousness or justice as being linked with peace. Too often we want things made right, even at the cost of war and violence. Peace is far from our minds at these times.

Yet, some of the most powerful peace-makers have been those who have fought without violence for justice and righteousness: Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., come to my mind. Not that these individuals were perfect but they did know how to get righteousness and peace together in the same room if not kissing.

Jesus Christ is the best example. He brought about a peace that wasn't about an absence of war but a peace that went beyond anyone's understanding. He brought about a right relationship with God that didn't have to do with sacrifice and obedience to the law as much as it did having a pure heart and belief. He make sure that righteousness and peace would indeed meet and kiss.

God, thank you that you bring about righteousness and peace through Jesus Christ. Help us to constantly hold these in our own hearts. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Let Your Face Shine, God

Restore us, O God, let your face shine, that we may be saved. Psalm 80: 3 NRSV

What does it mean for God's face to shine?

For this psalm, God's shining face seems to have three levels of meaning. The first is that God notices; in other words, God's face turns to the psalmist and the plight of the people. The second is that God is not indifferent to the problems of God's people. God doesn't just look and then walk away. This leads to the third level of God's healing or restorative power. To shine on someone or some people means that God causes a miracle to happen: God's people are returned to where they were as God's favored ones.

So, praying for God's face to shine means that you are petitioning God to notice, be moved and heal.

Is there someplace in your life that you would like God to notice?

Is there an area of your journey with which you need God's empathy?

Is there a part of you that needs God's restorative and healing power?

Give this some thought for a moment.

Then, let us pray:

Restore us, O God, let your face shine, that we may be saved. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Good Grief to Greater Glory

And I say, ‘It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.’ Psalm 77: 10 NRSV

Psalm 77 is a psalm for someone in grief and agony. All they can think about are their problems, their feelings about their troubles, and their body's reaction to all that has happened in their life.

I know that you have been there at sometime in your life. Think back to that time when all you could see was the awful tragedy of your personal situation. Maybe you had lost a loved one, been terminated from a job, been cheated on or given your all to someone who had thrown it back at you. All you could see at that moment was your own problem. You were drowning in your sorrows and anger. You held disbelief and heartbreak close to you. It was almost as if you enjoyed your paralyzing emotions. That would be what I would term wallowing in your grief. At that time, it actually feels good. There is something so self-absorbing and kind of self-righteous in enjoying your pity-party.

But there eventually comes a time when you would rather sleep at night. Self-pity becomes tiring. Troubles don't seem so righteous anymore. Grief is simply boring. The problems haven't gone away but your reaction changes.

That is when God will change your grief into glory.

When we make that transition from pity to praise, it is as though we have been freed.

No, our troubles are still there. But so is God. And so we realize God's majesty above all these trials we are living through.

Once we recognize God's sovereignty, we can move on and be again the people God calls us to be.

God, when we are experiencing grief and seem to be enjoying it at the same time, transform our grief into giving you the praise and the glory. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims