August 31, 2023
A couple of days ago, I did some hospital visits, and as I stepped out of one hospital, I was immediately struck by the smell of cigaret smoke. Now let me be clear - this is not intended to be a judgment against those who struggle with an addiction to nicotine, but I notice cigaret smoke from quite a distance. As I looked to my right, there were three people smoking, and though they were a fair distance away from the entrance, what caught my attention was that the furthest one away was standing within three feet of the big sign that read: This Is A Smoke-Free Campus. For me, it was a metaphor of sorts that probably should speak to all of us and how we are often unaware of that one glaring concern that everyone else can see. I’m pretty sure I have at least a half dozen of those things in my life, and many of you have chosen to be very kind in how you pretend to ignore them. I appreciate Proverbs 5:12 where we read:
And you say, “How I hated instruction!
How my heart despised correction!”
We are never fans of those who point out what we should have already seen, but assuming it is done with love and kindness, our attitude in the long run will be one of deep appreciation.
When those I trust and who love me come and speak truth to me, I pray for the capacity to hear their words. This is my request, O Lord. Amen.
August 30, 2023
What would it look like to step into conflict with a clear expression of love? We have examples, and sadly, the initial reaction is not good. Often, the energy of the conflict is redirected toward the one who is offering an alternative. There are times when somehow the one who tries to enter into the conflict with love is scapegoated and blamed for the conflict itself. Jesus found himself in this circumstance often, as is described in Mark 3, where Jesus puts himself in the middle of some religious bickering that occurred between the different religious sects of the day. Within a few verses, both his family and the scribes accuse Jesus of being out of his mind or possessed by a demon. The different groups, often fighting among themselves, suddenly turn that negative energy against Jesus. In moments like this, the common response of the one who is on the receiving end of the accusations is to back away. Strangely, even as the original conflict returns, the narrative shifts, and the one offering the alternative is made to be the real problem. What we learn at the end of the day is that there is rarely any interest in actually resolving the conflict. So often, identity and financial prosperity are tied to the maintaining of the conflict, and if some third party can be cast in the role of the villain, the conflict can continue without the real source of the problem ever being named. This continues to happen today—in the workplace, our politics, families, and even churches. Notice that Jesus was one who did not step away but continued to be the agent of love, offering an alternative amidst the conflict.
With courage that can only come from you, O Mighty God, I seek to be one who willingly steps into the fray and offers some Good News about love, mercy, and kindness. May I have what it takes to stay, even when I am cast as the enemy. Amen.
August 29, 2023
When you think about it, a lot of stuff in life depends on circumstance or experience. Right now, many of us are joking about a cold front coming when the highs will be in the mid-90s. Burr! I grew up in Nebraska, where winters were pretty cold, and when I was attending college in Oklahoma, I wore shorts quite often during the winter because it was only 38 degrees. Today, I need to bundle up and wear gloves at 38 degrees. Though one of the questions often asked these days is whether faith, ethics, and purpose are dependent on circumstance or experience. Utilitarianism is the ethical belief that one chooses the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Nations make many such choices, but choices on the macro level that produce the greatest good may not make sense when we are working one-on-one. The life of Jesus does not always provide us with easy answers for how we are to move between the micro and the macro, yet Jesus also called out people as hypocrites when one part of life did not match another. In fact, Matthew 23 tells us of Jesus speaking "woe" to the religious leaders who gave great energy and focus to the small things but seemed unaware of how such passion should also be applied to the community and the systems that controlled those communities. I’m not going to suggest an answer here, and maybe that’s part of the challenge—there is not a go-to answer. But I do believe Jesus continues to challenge us on what our faith looks like in our simple day-to-day encounters, alongside how we believe the larger systems, including economics, should be reflected in those same simple convictions.
In all the challenges of life that come before me today, O Gracious One, keep me asking the hard questions about the expectations the Jesus-life puts before me. Amen.
August 28, 2023
Prayer for the Week: Why is it that hate-filled violence continues to be present in our society? Why is it that one person detests someone or some group to the point that killing appears to be the only answer? Some try to blame you, God, or suggest it’s just the way things are. Yet I look to the stories of faith, and I see how prophets, teachers, and Jesus himself stood in the tension as they sought to bring healing, reconciliation, justice, and hope to communities and nations. Their convictions drove them to sacrifice and face danger, never being dissuaded from the belief that even a small group of people could change the world. May such a belief dwell within us so deeply that we too are willing to do whatever is necessary to bring real and lasting change to your hurting and broken world. Amen.
August 27, 2023
I was sad to read about the death of Bob Barker. Like some of you, I grew up with Bob and The Price Is Right. Of course, it was a daytime game show, so I only watched it when I was home sick from school. Bob was a friend on those sick days as I rested and watched… as that was the time before Cable, and there was really nothing else to watch. In later years, Bob Barker made a cameo appearance in the Adam Sandler movie "Happy Gilmore." It made me like Bob even more as it showed a great sense of humor, including a capacity to laugh at himself. When I first saw the movie, I said that I hoped to be able to be like Bob Barker at that age. It is so important and healthy to have the capacity to laugh at ourselves, to participate in some self-deprecating humor, or to spin someone’s teasing in such a way that it sort of disempowers the teasing. In scripture, we meet so many characters who appear to have great maturity and a marvelous capacity to not make it about themselves. I think about Esther, and though we have no example of her laughing in her story, I sort of feel she was one of those people who would have been so comfortable with herself that she would have easily laughed at her own mistakes and blunders.
May the love you show me, Good and Gracious God, provide me with strength of spirit and mind. Above all things, I want to live with joy and delight, never taking myself too seriously so as to miss that joy and delight. Amen.
August 26, 2023
Many of you know what it is like to journey alongside someone toward the end of life. Maybe it was a grandparent, parent, sibling, close friend, or simply someone God brought into your life. It is a draining experience on every level—emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And until you are in the moment, it is hard to understand. And of course, there are the complexities when a number of family members are involved.
Over the last two+ years, my mother had seen a steady decline in her cognitive ability, along with ongoing struggles with her physical health. Of my siblings (there are four of us), I was the one who did not live in Lincoln, NE. I tried to make it there when I could, but my three siblings were quite amazing in their care and commitment to my mother. I know there were times when they were exhausted and other moments when my mother, because of her dementia, said things that were mean and hurtful. As a woman who served as the Care Minister at my home church for nearly 20 years, and had walked alongside many people during cognitive loss, my mother had heard many such comments herself. We talked about it as I experienced such moments in my own ministry, and like all of us, there was a bit of dread in my mother as she hoped she would never find herself doing such things. Sadly, it is not a choice.
If you find yourself serving as a caregiver right now, make sure you give yourself plenty of grace. It is never easy. Also, make sure you have friends or family with whom you can confide, laugh, and express frustration. We have a support group at Cypress Creek that many are finding helpful, but no matter what your situation looks like, do not take it on alone. Find opportunities for respite, even if it is a short walk while someone else sits with the one for whom you are providing care. With all that said, I am beyond grateful for all those who, amidst lots of heartache and hurtful happenings, are doing the good work of caregiving. And let me give a special shoutout to my siblings and a handful of special friends who were beyond faithful to my mom, both laughing and crying during some of the more challenging moments.
Today, O God, I pray for all those who are doing the daily work of caregiving—for those who were up most of the night; those who heard hurtful words; those who are exhausted emotionally and physically; those who are feeling the weight of financial concerns; those who find themselves doing anticipatory grieving. May your Eternal Spirit of Love and Compassion be known to all those who find themselves doing this often thankless job. Amen.
August 25, 2023
Sunday, we begin a new series where we will reflect on stretching. As a former gymnast and gymnastics coach, I know the importance of stretching. In some of my beginner classes, it was fun to watch incredibly inflexible kids start to see progress. Maybe it started with touching their toes, then moved to the splits, and eventually to a pancake. Of course, you can’t force it or make it happen any faster than your muscles will allow. And each of us is different. The same is true of our faith. In Romans 12:2, Paul writes about how we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The Greek word we translate as renew is anakainósis, and it is made up of two Greek words: Up and Make Fresh. There is this sense of making something new by moving (or reaching) upward. We know for sure that neither renewal nor transformation will occur by remaining where we are. It requires movement, and in this case, the stretching of our minds. How is your mind being stretched these days?
God, continue to form me and stretch me for the purpose of making me a more faithful disciple of the one they called the Incarnate Word, Jesus. Amen.
August 24, 2023
So I’m driving in NE Texas, and alongside the road I notice a poorly made sign that reads: WE PROCESS MEAT. I assume they are getting ready for deer season. But the sign was only 30 yards or so away from a cemetery. Placement is everything! I’ve seen too many horror movies to not be left a bit nervous about exactly what kind of meat they are processing. Again, proximity to something can be helpful or damaging to your reputation, and this is why I have spoken and written quite a bit lately in regard to White Christian Nationalism. It was not our choice, but certain hateful expressions of Christianity are placed right alongside every other expression of Christianity. More than a quarter of the U.S. population now claims no religious affiliation, and among that group, a high percentage of them have a negative opinion of Christianity. Why? Because they bundle us all together, and unless we become ultra-clear about who we are and make sure there is no confusion by association, more and more people will come to believe that all Christians are hateful, racist, and misogynistic. Because of the name, we find ourselves placed in close proximity to groups that, in my opinion, bear no resemblance to Jesus. I too often find myself saying, "But I’m not one of those kinds of Christians." Maybe my life and my proclamation should make it so clear that a disclaimer is not necessary, but right now, I find the need to make a distinction.
We may not all have the same beliefs about you, O God, but the Jesus of scripture seems ever so clear about the priority of love, the necessity of mercy, and the absolute need for compassion. Maybe we can all just start there. Amen.
August 23, 2023
I drove part of the way back to Houston yesterday, spent the night at a hotel, and ran by the grocery store to grab something to eat for dinner. There was a frozen vegetarian meal that looked good, but after getting back to the hotel, I could not open the plastic surrounding the meal. I eventually did, but it was both frustrating and embarrassing to be losing a battle with a thin piece of plastic. In Luke 15, we find a group of parables, including the woman who lost one of her ten coins. You only have ten; how is it that you lose one of them? It’s frustrating and a bit embarrassing, but when you find it, it feels like more than just a small victory. And the woman in the parable treats it like she won the lottery. Now, I don’t want to make a parable out of my battle with a frozen dinner, but it sure seems important for us to celebrate the little things in life. Too often, we spend a lot of time waiting for the big victories that may or may not come, but maybe celebrating a whole bunch of small victories helps provide hope and creates a sense of conviction in one’s search for another small victory.
Build within me, O Spirit of Strength, a belief that small successes and a few fledgling moments pointing toward a favorable outcome can bring me and the world a little hope. Help me to join the woman who brought together friends and neighbors so that what needed to be celebrated could truly be celebrated. Amen.
August 22, 2023
In the last two days, I have seen Genesis 1:1 in three rather unusual places.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The first was on a billboard along the highway; the second was a plaque at a thrift store; the third was in a bathroom stall at a gas station. In the case of the third, it was scratched into the metal divider between urinals, and the scribe only got to the word “heaven” before concluding. And just above the scripture was someone’s phone number that was offering a good time.
For far too long, the church has suggested that the primary place to express its purpose is within the walls of the church, and even more specifically, inside the walls of the sanctuary on Sunday morning. Seeing Genesis 1:1 show up where people are living their daily lives reminds me of the importance of the church remembering that it is the church wherever a single member of the church body is—driving along a highway, walking through a thrift store, or even doing what you do in a gas station bathroom.
Wherever you need me to show up, Lord God, and to do so as an expression of Christ’s body, I pray that I will do so with the same grace, passion, and compassion as Jesus showed throughout his ministry. Amen.
Rev. Bruce Frogge