“Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour?” -Mark 14:37 (RSV)

 I am a lifelong churchgoer, so you’d think by now I’d have the rigors of Holy Week figured out. Yet I continue to model myself after Saint Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane: fast asleep.

I was supposed to meet my wife, Sandee, at Maundy Thursday services, but I was (as usual) late. The church was mysteriously empty, save for some stragglers. Had I missed everything?

As I sat in the dark church in an even darker mood, I heard voices somewhere, then the vague but unmistakable smell of incense. The service, I realized, was in the small chapel below, as it always is. I simply wasn’t paying attention.

Welcome to my own Lenten metaphor. I am often too distracted to find out where I should really be, too preoccupied to focus on what I should really do. Instead, I flit from place to place, a driverless car

hauling my inattentiveness to its next missed appointment, ignoring the distant voices calling me to my real purpose.

Today, more than ever, I am feeling my Peter-like humanity. Try as f might, I am struggling to stay awake to watch, to witness, to pray.

“Could you not watch one hour?” My heart says yes, but my actions show the real answer: well, no, probably not.

One day I’ll have to answer for that answer.

Lord, the spirit is willing, but the rest of me sleeps. Wake me to the possibilities of this world and the next.

-Mark Collins

Digging Deeper: Psalm 121:2-4



Little Susie, a six-year-old, came home from school whining, “Mommy, I’ve got a stomachache.”

“That’s because your stomach is empty,” her mother replied. “You’d feel better if you had something in it.” She gave Susie a snack and sure enough, Susie felt better right away.

That afternoon the family’s minister dropped by. While he was chatting with Susie’s mom, he mentioned he’d had a bad headache all day long.

Susie perked up. “That’s because it’s empty,” she said. “You’d feel better if you had something in it.”


As we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. -2 Corinthians 4:1 (NKJV)

I awoke from anesthesia surrounded by the warm, loving presence of God. I didn’t want to leave that place of utter peace so near to Him. Reluctantly, I regained my senses.

God had answered my prayers for healing. By rupturing the same disk a second time, I discovered that doctors were able to perform the surgery needed to fix problems that had been plaguing me for four years.

Over the next few weeks, my strength returned and the pain from surgery faded. Every day I could do a little more. I’d received my very own miracle.

Then I heard news about a family member who had been battling cancer since childhood. The bone marrow transplant surgery he’d just undergone hadn’t worked. The cancer was back. His last hope was a trial drug.

I felt the wind drop from my sails. Who was I to ask God for healing? There was a twenty-three-year-old man who needed this miracle more than I did. I’d been dealing with crippling pain for a few years, but it

wasn’t threatening to take away my life.

Dear Lord, why me and not him?

I know I cannot answer that question, but what I can do is share some of my miracle with my family member and tell him about the complete warmth I experienced when God was protecting me during

surgery. The end isn’t something to fear but to celebrate.

Lord, Your mercies are more than I deserve. Please don’t let the miracles You work in me be squandered. Help me to show others .Your everlasting goodness.

-Erika Bentsen

Digging Deeper: Luke 18:1; 2 Corinthians 4:15–16; Ephesians 3:8–13




There was a knock at the door. It was a small boy, about six years old. Something of his had found its way into my garage, he said, and he wanted it back.

Upon opening the garage door, I noticed two additions: a baseball and a broken window sporting a baseball-sized hole. “How do you suppose this ball got in here?” I asked the boy.

Taking one look at the ball, one look at the window, and one look at me, the boy exclaimed, “Wow! I must have thrown it right through that hole!”


“Honor, your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the that the Lord your God is giving you. ” -Exodus 20: 12 (ESV)

Both of my parents fell ill this year at the same time. This was the first time either of them had been hospitalized tor a serious condition, It seemed as if the moment that one of them was released from

the hospital, the other would have to go back in the very next day. It was overwhelming to experience the entire thing from more than seven hundred miles away.

I had planned a trip home to celebrate the birth of my nephew, but by the time the trip arrived, my parents needed help; the trip was filled with doctors’ appointments, calls to different health care professionals and providers, monitoring medicine intake, fluid bags, and sleep.

I felt sad not to have special time to bond with my new nephew, but I also couldn’t help feeling grateful for opportunities to give back, in any profound way, to those who nurtured me and helped me grow.

The week was in no way glamorous, nor were there grandiose gestures made. However, I do not underestimate the power of showing love and I didn’t take for granted that one emotion-filled week where love was not just a word but an action.

Lord, help me to be fully present in the time I spend with my parents and to honor them by simply practicing love.

-Natalie Perkins

Digging Deeper: John 13:34-35



Once I worked as an operator on an old IBM 370/Model 138 mainframe at a local college. My position had been reclassified to fall into a new area outside of the I/S staff. One day, my new supervisor entered the room and stared at the air conditioning unit directly behind me. He studied the two flashing lights for a few moments and asked what job it was currently processing.

I killed my career by replying, “Actually, sir, it’s cooling the room. The computer is over there.”




“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” -Jeremiah 31:25 (NIV)

I feel like I just had the wind knocked out of me,” my friend Krista confided over the phone. She’d applied for a job recently and thought the interview had gone well. But they didn’t hire her. She’d been job hunting for more than six months and was discouraged. Before I could offer any words of encouragement, she mumbled that she needed to go and hung up.

I called her later and invited her to lunch the following day. The minute she sat down, she looked over at me. “1 don’t know what to do,” she blurted out. “It’s harder and harder to keep on looking when I keep

on getting knocked down.”

I reached over and took her hand. “I know this is hard,” I said. “Let’s pray about it.” I prayed quietly. “Lord, give Krista the courage and tenacity to keep looking for the job that will fulfill Your perfect will for

her. Amen.”

We finished our meal, talking about possible jobs she could apply for when a message alert sounded on my phone. I glanced at it. It was from my friend Jessica. She’d posted a story online about her son at school that day. I read through it quickly; then looked up at Krista and smiled.

“I think you’ll like this story,” I said.

I read Jessica’s post out loud: “Here’s a great lesson from my five-year-old son, Sam. He just told me that someone pushed him down at recess today. So I asked him, ‘What did you do?’ He replied, ‘Well, I

just bounced right back up!”

Krista and I both laughed. She said, smiling, “Well, if Sam can do it, then I guess I can too!”

When it feels like fife has knocked me over, Lord, give me the strength to get right bade up.

-Melody Bonnette Swang

Digging Deeper: Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 John 4:4



When Joe’s wife ran away he got so depressed that his doctor sent him to see a psychiatrist. Joe told the psychiatrist his troubles and said, Life isn’t worth living.

“Don’t be stupid, Joe,” said the psychiatrist. “Let work be your salvation. I want you to totally submerge yourself in your work. Now,what do you do for a living?”

“I clean out septic tanks.” Joe replied.


Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it. -Isaiah 30:21 (NIV)

Tell the group who you are,” the facilitator instructed us at a business workshop. Responses were “I am the manager … I am the director … I am the vice president … ” Afterward, she observed, “You all told us what you do, not who you are.”

To help us better understand, she introduced herself saying, “I am,I follower of Jesus. My husband and I live on our ranch. I enjoy writing, teaching, and speaking. Now, who are you?” The answers were

different the second time around as we struggled to publicly redefine ourselves,

At lunch, the discussion centered on why the instructor made an issue of the introductions. Some questioned why she revealed her faith.

A few thought she was trying to establish a reverent tone. Others saw It as an icebreaker. Most of us thought it was a lesson in not confusing who you are with what you do.

I believe it was more. We were there to develop our leadership skills. Our teacher began by leading us to rethink our identities. Intended or not, she pointed us to her source: Jesus. Whether you’re the leader of an organization, a church committee, a communlty project, or a family, what greater expert to seek direction from than the Source of wisdom, guidance, and strength?

Thank You, Lord, for experiences that cause us to ponder who we are. Keep them alive in our minds until

we find the treasures they hold Amen.

-John Dilworth

Digging Deeper: Proverbs 3:6, 16:9, 28:26




A speeding motorist was caught by radar from a police helicopter in the sky.

An officer pulled him over and began to issue a traffic ticket. “How did you know I was speeding?” the frustrated driver asked.

The police officer pointed somberly toward the sky.

“You mean,” asked the motorist, “that even He is against me?”


A blonde pulls over at the gas station, gets out of her car, opens the hood, and checks the engine oil.

After a few seconds of intelligent thinking, she takes the dipstick in her hand and, raising her chest high, walks up to the attendant.

“Excuse me sir, but can I buy a longer dipstick?”

“May I ask why you need a longer one ma’am?”

“Because this one isn’t long enough to reach the oil!”



For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. -Romans 8:18 (ESV)

About three-quarters of the way through the semester, after mid-term grades but before final papers were due, I started hearing from students.

“My computer crashed, so I’m not going to get it in on time.”

“I have a biology paper due the same day, and I don’t know how I can get both done!”

“I’ve got a migraine and feel nauseated all the time. I went to the nurse, but apparently I just have to wait it out. I can’t work.”

With each confession, I sank further into end-of-semester anguish.

“I’m the worst teacher in the world,” I told myself. “Too picky. Too demanding. I’m stressing them to the point of making them sick.”

That week, at an instructional seminar, the invited speaker denounced just such teaching. “Learning should be play!” she concluded brightly. I sank deeper into self-reproach with every word of her spunky message.

A week later, though, I read my students’ work. Their writing exceeded anything they’d done all semester.

“Wow!” I said as I handed back their papers. “I’m so impressed!

You’ve really learned!” Their faces glowed.

Every semester reteaches me that progress-whether physical, academic, or spiritual-typically involves struggle. There are fun moments but also hard ones, and God promises to use every bit of

effort for His ends.

Father, help me remember Your purpose in my struggles.

Help me to not give up.

-Party Kirk

Digging Deeper: 2 Corinthians 4:8-9; James 1:1-5



My son Mark was only 5 feet, 8 inches tall when he left for college in the fall. He worked through the Christmas holidays and didn’t return home again until the February break. When he got off the plane, I was stunned at how much taller he looked. Measuring him at home, I discovered he now stood at 5 feet, 10 1/2 inches. My son was as surprised as I. “Couldn’t you tell by your clothes that you’d grown?” I asked him.

“Since I’ve been doing my own laundry,” he replied, “I just figured everything had shrunk.”




FALLING INTO GRACE: Unlikely Blessings

They shall console you, when you see their ways and their deeds; and you shall know that it was not without cause that I did all that I have done …. Ezekiel 14:23 (NRSVj

Almost pleading, I asked the orthopedic doctor when I could resume some of my exercise routine. I knew I wouldn’t be doing planks or sit-ups for a while, but I desperately hoped to get back to walking. Preferably, yesterday. Believing that my sanity depended upon maintaining something of my before-fall life, I was willing to work through the pain, but I needed the doctor’s okay.

Turning from the X-rays of my broken bones, he smiled at me. “The only activity you’ll be doing is lifting a coffee cup.”

Seeing he was ready to dismiss me, I quickly asked another question. I wanted him to show me where the breaks were on my body, so I would know where to expect the pain to be concentrated. He pointed to a small bump between my neck and shoulder and then to an area on my side near my back. I got ready to leave.

“You know,” he began, and I turned to see him looking at me with compassion, “the pain will radiate. It won’t just be concentrated in those spots. You’ll have pain like you can’t believe in places that will surprise you, at times that don’t make sense,”

And I did. But it was easier because he’d prepared me. I didn’t panic when a movement took my breath away; I knew to expect it.

I’ve had too many doctors in my life. But I’ve learned that God works through them. Every time I flinched with pain, I knew that through that doctor, God had given me a bit of certainty, even if it was about how uncertain my life could be. Oddly enough, that felt like grace.

Lord, thank You for unlikely blessings and unexpected consolations.

-Marci Alborgherti

Digging Deeper: Luke 12:25-28; 1 John 4:11-12



A nervous young minister, new to the church, told the flock, “For my text today, I will take the words, ‘And they fed five men with five thousand loaves of bread and two thousand fishes.'”

A member of the flock raised his hand and said, “That’s not much of a trick. I could do that.”

The minister didn’t respond. However, the next Sunday he decided to repeat the text. This time he did it properly, “And they fed five thousand men with five loaves of bread and two fishes.” Smiling, the minister said to the noisy man, “Could you do that, Mr. Perkins?”

The member of the flock said, “I sure could.”

“How would you do it?”

“With all the food I had left over from last Sunday!”



You will hurl all our sins into the depths of the sea. -Micah 7:19 (CEB)

It’s interesting what we can remember and what we may regret. When I think about the kind of dad I was when my kids were younger, I hate to recall the times when the two of them tested my patience. Two boys three years apart, roughhousing indoors, the playful tussling that turned into wrestling matches, threatening to destroy furniture if not send antique pottery falling from living room shelves, smashing on the floor.,

[ can hear myself say between gritted teeth, “That’s enough, boys,” and then raising my voice to ear-splitting volume when my seemingly mild-mannered request was totally ignored. “If you don’t stop it right now,” I would holler, “you’re going to both be sorry. Somebody’s going to get hurt.” My demand for a time-out was a request for myself. I needed a time-out. All that shouting … I hated to think what the neighbors made of it. What kind of dad was I?

Not long ago I said to our now twentysomething, ever-patient son Timothy, “You boys would make me so angry when you were younger. Oh, how I would yell at you.”

Tim looked at me quizzically. “You never yelled at us, Dad.”

I smiled at this bit of grace being delivered firsthand. “Just so you know, I did raise my voice, really loud. But I’m glad you’ve forgotten it.” It was as though I was being given forgiveness without even asking for it. Note to self: God can do some amazing, ex post facto rewriting of the most cringe-worthy scenes of our lives, at least as they are remembered by our loved ones.

Thank You for being a God Who forgives and forgets … and helps us to do the same.

-Rick Hamlin

Digging Deeper: Psalm 103:12; Hebrews 10:17

Daily Guideposts



**Your eyes won’t get much worse.

**Things you buy now won’t wear out.

**There’s nothing left to learn the hard way.

**Kidnappers are not very interested in you.

**No one expects you to run into a burning building.

**In a hostage situation you are likely to be released first.

**Your supply of brain cells is finally down to a manageable size.

**Your joints are more accurate than the National Weather Service.

**Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.

**Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can’t remember them either.


A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I loved you, you also are to love one another. -John 13:34 (ESV)

As the movie credits scrolled, I sighed, pondering the films message. For two hours I’d stepped back into history, to a time when women had fought for their right to vote. The courage of these women inspired me. Their sacrificial resolve challenged me. Their perseverance empowered me.

This story also made me think or my mother, whom I had lost a year before. On Election Day several years ago, my mother asked if I’d voted.

I swallowed and answered honestly: I had not. Having recently moved, I was barely acquainted with the state public officials and I knew nothing, about the current candidates. I’d figured that voting would have been useless.

“Daughter;” my mother responded with conviction, “there’s no excuse for not voting. Don’t you know people lost their lives fighting for the right to vote? They died, so you and I could have that right.”

Her words struck a nerve deep inside. As a woman of color, I knew many African Americans had lost jobs, homes, and even their lives while fighting for the right to vote. I knew that women also had sacrificed much for this very same right.

Since my mother spoke those words to me, I have never missed an opportunity to cast my vote. Her words remind me of other courageous souls who sacrificed much, so I could enjoy the blessing of rights

and freedoms: the right to choose any seat in a movie theater; the right to send my children to schools with students of all races, cultures, and backgrounds; the right to vote. These freedoms were bought with a price, and I must live my life in honor of so many sacrifices.

Lord, may I never take for granted the sacrifices of others on my behalf

-Carla Hendricks

Digging Deeper: Luke 12:4; 1 John 3:16

Daily Guideposts


These are stories and test questions accumulated by music teachers in the state of Missouri, circa 1989.

Source: Missouri School Music Newsletter.

* It is important to be able to reach the brakes on any piano.

* Just about any animal skin can be stretched over a frame to make a pleasant sound once the animal is removed.

* It is easy to teach anyone to play the maracas. Just grip the neck and shake him in rhythm.

* My favorite instrument is the bassoon. It is so hard to play people hardly ever play it. That is why I like the bassoon best.

* I would like for you to teach me to play the cello. Would tomorrow or Friday be best?

* The plural form of musical instrument is known as orchestra.

 * Tubas are a bit too much.

* A contra-bassoon is like a bassoon, only the opposite.

* The most dangerous part about playing cymbals is near the nose.

* The flute is a skinny-shape-high-sounded instrument.

* Instrumentalist is a many-purposed word used by many player-types.

* Anyone who can read all the instrument notes at the same time gets to be the conductor.

* The main trouble with a French horn is it’s too tangled up.

* For some reason, they always put a treble clef in front of every line of flute music. You just watch.



I love you, 0 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 …. -Psalm 18:1-3 (NRSV)

I arrived at the intersection moments after the crash. Two cars were sliding to a rest, only a split second after they had collided head-on.

That awful metallic scream was still ringing in the air as I jumped out of my car and headed toward them.

Nothing was crumpled. It could have been worse.

I saw one person alone in each car. Both were conscious. Another nearby driver arrived on the scene, too, and we each headed for a car.

My driver was a man about my father’s age. I opened the driver’s side door and I will never forget what happened next.

“Whoa!” he exclaimed, peeling his hands off the steering wheel like it was a hot iron.

“Are you okay?” I asked. He began to get out of the car and stand up.

“Careful now,” I said. But his feet were already on the pavement.

Then he grabbed both of my hands in his and looked me full in the face.

“In every thing give thanks,” he said, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

“King james,” I said, smiling, acknowledging that he was quoting a famous verse (18) from 1 Thessalonians 5.

“A rule of life,” he responded.


There are so many reasons why life is precious, Lord. May I see them everywhere I go today.

-Jon Sweeney

Digging Deeper: Ezra 9:9

Daily Guideposts


Out shopping, my friend Darin noticed a mother with three little girls and a baby. The woman’s patience was wearing thin as all the girls called “Mama” while she tried to shop. Finally, Darin heard her say, “I don’t want to hear the word MAMA for at least five minutes.” A few seconds went by, then one girl tugged on her mom’s skirt and said, “Excuse me, miss.”

* * * *

Only in the Military

When I was a newly commissioned Lieutenant in the Army, I was assigned as a temporary assistant in an administrative office in a Military Intelligence unit. One day a long memo came around with a cover sheet instructing all assigned officers to read it and initial it as indication of their compliance. I figured it meant me too, so I read and initialed, BUT a few days later, it came back addressed specifically to me. An attached note read: “You are not permanently assigned to this unit and are thus not an authorized signee. Please erase your initials and initial your erasure.”


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