Sunday, November 30, 2014

attention, sunday

Sunday, November 30 (First Sunday in Advent)

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.
          
Opening Prayer: My God, since You are with me, and since it is Your will that I should apply my mind to these outward things, I pray that You will give me the grace to remain with You and keep company with You.  But so that my work may be better, Lord, work with me; receive my work and possess all my affections. (The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence)

Scripture Reading for the Day: Luke 12:35-40

Reading for Reflection:
 
     The word advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means coming. Thus Advent is a season in which we are invited to watch and wait for God’s arrival among us—making it a time of intense yearning and deep longing.  It is a time filled with hope and anticipation, a time that reflects the 400 years (between the Old and New Testaments) that God’s people waited for Him to appear, to speak once again after all of the years of silence.  Can you imagine?  Four hundred years of silence.  Four hundred years of watching and waiting.   
     How easy it would have been to lose hope.  How easy it would have been to be filled with doubt and despair.  How easy it would have been to give up, to lose heart, to stop believing that God was ever really going to show up again.  How easy it would have been to say, “My master is taking a long time in coming” and begin living by our own rule and by our own agenda.  Advent is the time where we take heed of the words of Jesus, “Therefore, keep watch because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”  So during the days and weeks ahead, may we pay very careful attention, lest when he finally arrives, we miss him altogether.

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself
    
                    
Closing Prayer: Lord, I ask for the grace to let go of my own concerns and be open to what you are asking of me, to let myself be guided and formed by my loving Creator. (Sacred Space: the Prayer Book 2010 by Jesuit Communication Centre)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

loved, saturday

Saturday, November 29

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.
                                                                                   
Opening Prayer: I feel your love as you hold me to your sacred heart, my beloved Jesus, my God, my Master, but I feel, too, the need I have of your tenderness, and your caress because of my infinite weakness.
                                                                 ~Charles de Foucauld
                                                                                   
Scripture Reading for the Day: 1 John 4:7-21

Reading for Reflection:
 
     This inexhaustible love between the Father and the Son includes and yet transcends all forms of love known to us.  It includes the love of a father and mother, a brother and sister, a husband and wife, a teacher and friend.  But it also goes far beyond the many limited and limiting human experiences of love we know.  It is a caring yet demanding love.  It is a supportive yet severe love.  It is a gentle yet strong love.  It is a love that gives life yet accepts death.  In this divine love Jesus was sent into the world, to this divine love Jesus offered himself on the cross.  His all-embracing love, which epitomizes the relationship between the Father and the Son, is a divine Person, coequal with the Father and the Son.  It has a personal name.  It is called the Holy Spirit.  The Father loves the Son and pours himself out in the Son.  The Son is loved by the Father and returns all he is to the Father.  The Spirit is love itself, eternally embracing the Father and Son.
     This eternal community of love is the center and source of Jesus’ spiritual life, a life of uninterrupted attentiveness to the Father in the Spirit of love. (Making All Things New by Henri J. M. Nouwen)

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself
     
                                                                                              
Closing Prayer: O love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee;  I give thee back the life I owe, that in thine oceans depths its flow may richer, fuller be.  ~George Mattheson

Friday, November 28, 2014

loved, friday

Friday, November 28

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.
                                                                                    
Opening Prayer: I feel your love as you hold me to your sacred heart, my beloved Jesus, my God, my Master, but I feel, too, the need I have of your tenderness, and your caress because of my infinite weakness.
                                                                   ~Charles de Foucauld
                                        
Scripture Reading for the Day: Psalm 36:5-10

Reading for Reflection:
 
     I know you through and through—I know everything about you.  The very hairs on your head I have numbered.  Nothing in your life is unimportant to me, I have followed you through the years, and I have always loved you—even in your wanderings.
     I know every one of your problems.  I know your need and your worries.  And, yes, I know all your sins.  But I tell you again that I love you—not for what you have or haven’t done—I love you for you, for the beauty and dignity my Father gave you by creating you in his own image.
    It is a dignity you have often forgotten, a beauty you have tarnished by sin.  But I love you as you are, and I have shed my blood to win you back.  If you only ask me with faith, my grace will touch all that needs changing in your life; and I will give you the strength to free yourself from sin and all its destructive power.
     I know what is in your heart—I know your loneliness and all your hurts—the rejections, the judgments, the humiliations.  I carried it all before you.  And I carried it all for you, so you might share my strength and victory.  I know especially your need for love—how you are thirsting to be loved and cherished.  But how often have you thirsted in vain, by seeking that love selfishly, striving to fill the emptiness inside you with passing pleasures—with even greater emptiness of sin.  Do you thirst for love?  “Come to me all you who thirst” (John 7:37).  I will satisfy you and fill you.  Do you thirst to be cherished?  I cherish you more than you can imagine to the point of dying on a cross for you. (Mother Teresa from Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter)

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself
     
                                                                                              
Closing Prayer: How exquisite your love, O God!  How eager we are to run under your wings, to eat our fill at the banquet you spread as you fill our tankards with Eden spring water.  You’re a fountain of cascading light, and you open our eyes to light.  Keep on loving your friends; do your work in welcoming hearts. (Psalm 36:8-10 The Message)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

thanksgiving

Opening Prayer: We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near.  We recount your wondrous deeds. (Psalm 75:1)

Scripture Reading for the Day:  Psalm 105:1-6

Reading for Reflection:

I am gradually learning that the call to gratitude asks us to say "everything is grace."  When our gratitude for the past is only partial, our hope for the future can never be full. (All is Grace by Henri Nouwen)

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself
                                                                   
 
Closing Prayer: Oh, thank God—he’s so good!  His love never runs out.  All of you set free by God, tell the world!  Tell how he freed you from oppression, then rounded you up from all over the place, from the four winds, from the seven seas. (Psalm 107:1-3, The Message)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

loved, wednesday

Wednesday, November 26

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.
                                                                                   
Opening Prayer: I feel your love as you hold me to your sacred heart, my beloved Jesus, my God, my Master, but I feel, too, the need I have of your tenderness, and your caress because of my infinite weakness.
                                                                     ~Charles de Foucauld

Scripture Reading for the Day: Zephaniah 3:14-20

Reading for Reflection:
 
     The things we do are not proof of our value, worth, or significance.  They are not the measurements by which we try to justify our existence.  Instead, the things we do are our expression of love to the God who already loves us more than we dare ask or imagine.  They are not a resume.  They do not earn us anything.  They simply say, "I love you, too." 
     Therefore, God can say to us: “Stop measuring.  Stop earning.  Stop comparing.  Stop performing.  Your worth is not hanging in the balance.  It does not depend on everything you achieve, or on every accomplishment you attain.  So relax.  Listen to my voice of love singing over you.  Allow it to quiet your restless and insecure soul.  Live in the freedom of knowing you are loved deeply and fully and completely...and eternally.  Instead of working so hard to prove yourself, just be in love—with Me.”

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself
     
                                                                                               
Closing Prayer: O Lover of My Soul, hold me in your arms again.  I’m back from the streets and the darkened alleys and the cheap hotels.  I long for the love that only you can give.  I’m back and I need you again. (A Heart Exposed by Steven James)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

loved, tuesday

Tuesday, November 25

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.
                                                                                   
Opening Prayer: I feel your love as you hold me to your sacred heart, my beloved Jesus, my God, my Master, but I feel, too, the need I have of your tenderness, and your caress because of my infinite weakness.
                                                                      ~Charles de Foucauld

Scripture Reading for the Day: Luke 15:11-32

Reading for Reflection:
 
     Aren't you, like me hoping that some person, thing or event will come along to give you that final feeling of inner well-being you desire?  Don't you often hope:  "May this book, idea, course, trip, job, country or relationship fulfill my deepest desire."  But as long as you are waiting for that mysterious moment you will go on running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied.  You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy, but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run.  This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burn-out.  This is the way to spiritual death.
     Well, you and I don't have to kill ourselves.  We are the Beloved.  We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children and friends loved or wounded us.  That's the truth of our lives.  That's the truth I want you to claim for yourself. That's the truth spoken by the voice that says," You are my Beloved."
     Listening to that voice with great inner attentiveness, I hear words that say:  "I have called you by name, from the very beginning.  You are mine and I am yours.  You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.  I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother's womb.  I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace.  I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for a child.  I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step.  Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch.  I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst.  I will not hide my face from you.  You know me as your own and I know you as my own, You belong to me....wherever you are I will be.  Nothing will ever separate us.  We are one." (Life of the Beloved by Henri J.M. Nouwen)

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself
     
                                                                                              
Closing Prayer: To my Father, I’m on my way home again.  I know the way, but it’s been a long time.  I’m different now—not much older, but much more wrinkled.  Funny how things change us, funny how we change things.  You loved me enough to let me leave.  It didn’t seem like love back then—honestly, it seemed like indifference.  But time has taught me more about what real love looks like.  Now, I see my old house up ahead waiting tentatively beside the road.  And then you appear, without folded arms or a furrowed brow, just outstretched arms and tender tears.  You run to greet me, looking past my past.  Even though I ran away willingly and came back grudgingly, you loved me enough to wait for me, and now I feel the greatest love of all as you welcome me back home. (A Heart Exposed by Steven James)

Monday, November 24, 2014

loved, monday

Monday, November 24

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.
                                                                                   
Opening Prayer: I feel your love as you hold me to your sacred heart, my beloved Jesus, my God, my Master, but I feel, too, the need I have of your tenderness, and your caress because of my infinite weakness.
                                                                      ~Charles de Foucauld

Scripture Reading for the Day: Romans 5:1-8

Reading for Reflection:
 
     Let me talk very intimately and very earnestly with you about Him who is dearer than life.  Do you really want to live your lives, every moment of your lives, in His presence?  Do you long for Him, crave Him?  Do you love His presence?  Does every drop of blood in your body love Him?  Does every breath you draw breathe a prayer, a praise to Him?  Do you sing and dance within yourselves, as you glory in His love?  Have you set yourselves to be His, and only His, walking every moment in holy obedience?  I know I’m talking like an old-time evangelist.  But I can’t help that, nor dare I restrain myself and get prim and conventional.  We have too long been prim and restrained.  The fires of the love of God, of our love toward God, and His love toward us, are very hot.  “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and soul and mind and strength.”  Do we really do it?  Is love steadfastly directed toward God, in our minds, all day long?  Do we intersperse our work with gentle prayers and praises to Him?  Do we live in the steady peace of God, a peace down at the depths of our souls, where all strain is gone and God is already victor over the world, already victor over our weaknesses?  This life, this abiding, enduring peace that never fails, this serene power and unhurried conquest over ourselves, outward conquest over the world, is meant to be ours.  It is a life that is freed from strain and anxiety and hurry, for something of the Cosmic Patience of God becomes ours.  Are our lives unshakable, because we are clear down on bed rock, rooted and grounded in the love of God?  This is the first and greatest commandment. (A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly)

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself
     
                                                                                              
Closing Prayer: Almighty God, my Father, I call upon you and request of you that your love may be found in me your servant.  I know not how to love as I ought; but you who are Love can reveal it unto me.  Show me the way to Love.  Amen. (Disciplines for the Inner Life by Bob Benson and Michael W. Benson)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

loved, sunday

Sunday, November 23

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.
                                                                                   
Opening Prayer: I feel your love as you hold me to your sacred heart, my beloved Jesus, my God, my Master, but I feel, too, the need I have of your tenderness, and your caress because of my infinite weakness.
                                                                      ~Charles de Foucauld

Scripture Reading for the Day: Ephesians 3:14-21

Readings for Reflection:
 
     We spend most of our lives trying to make things happen for ourselves and for people we love.  But life is not reduced to what you give or know or achieve.  Nor is it reduced to your mistakes, your failures, or your sin.  Life isn’t even defined by whom you love.  Rather, it is defined by the God who loves you.  In other words, you are not the central character—not even of your own life’s story.  This is not meant to demean you; it is meant to set you free. (Sacred Thirst by M. Craig Barnes)

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself
     
                                                                                              
Closing Prayer: O Thou who ordered this wondrous world, and who knowest all things in earth and heaven:  So fill our hearts with trust in thee that by night and day, at all times and in all seasons, we may without fear commit all that we have and hope to be to thy never-failing love, for this life and the life to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. (The Book of Worship)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

grace, saturday

Saturday, November 22

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.
                                                                                  
Opening Prayer: I am sure that there is in me nothing that could attract the love of One as holy and as just as You are.  Yet You have declared Your unchanging love for me in Christ Jesus.  If nothing in me can win your love, nothing in the universe can prevent You from loving me.  Your love is uncaused and undeserved.  You are Yourself the reason for the love wherewith I am loved. (Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer)

Scripture Reading for the Day: Psalm 32:1-11

Reading for Reflection:
 
The greatest saints are not those who need less grace, but those who consume the most grace, who indeed are most in need of grace—those who are saturated by grace in every dimension of their being.  Grace to them is like breath. (Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard)

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself
     
                                                                                              
Closing Prayer: Grant me, O Lord, to know what I ought to know, to love what I ought to love, to praise what delights you most, to value what is precious in your sight, to hate what is offensive to you.  Amen.
                                                                      ~Thomas a Kempis

Friday, November 21, 2014

grace, friday

Friday, November 21

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.
                                                                                  
Opening Prayer: I am sure that there is in me nothing that could attract the love of One as holy and as just as You are.  Yet You have declared Your unchanging love for me in Christ Jesus.  If nothing in me can win your love, nothing in the universe can prevent You from loving me.  Your love is uncaused and undeserved.  You are Yourself the reason for the love wherewith I am loved. (Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer)

Scripture Reading for the Day: Luke 7:36-50

Reading for Reflection:
 
     She is not named, but everyone seems to know who she is.  In fact, she has quite a reputation in town.  It would seem that her reputation has even become her identity. That is until she met Jesus.  We're are not told exactly when or how that happened, but somewhere along the line these two had met before, and it had changed everything about her.  Now here she is, on this particular evening, entering a house she had no business entering.  A woman "like her" just didn't barge into the house of a Pharisee, especially when he was entertaining.  He had invited Jesus to dine with him and a bunch of his Pharisee buddies, so they could all get an up close look at the one everyone was talking about.  Whether it was curiosity or hostility that inspired the invitation we are not sure, although we can probably guess.  All we are sure of is that he had invited Jesus to his house, and that he and his guests were reclining at the table.
     It is into the midst of this "dinner party" that she comes, uninvited and uncaring that she is uninvited.  She doesn't care about protocol.  She doesn't care about political correctness.  She doesn't care what anyone thinks or says.  All she cares about is getting to the feet of her beloved Jesus.  She only has eyes for him.  So she enters the room and doesn't look back, making a beeline straight for his feet.  And when she gets to him she does an amazing thing: she stands behind him at his feet weeping, and begins to wet his feet with her tears.  Then she wipes them with her hair, kisses them and pours perfume on them.  Did you catch that?  She is weeping and she is kissing—sorrow and affection.  Two things that seem contrary, but are actually inseparable.  It is the gospel brought to life—two things that always must be connected in this life of faith.  It cannot be just one or the other, it must always be both.
     There is always a weeping that is such a necessary part of the picture.  It involves a deep recognition of our utter sinfulness, brokenness, helplessness, and desperation.  It is what happens within us when we come face to face with the absolute horror of our sin, which crucified ChristAnd this weeping is much more than simply crying; it is an activity that is deeply redemptiveIt involves a deep recognition, a deep admission, and a deep healing.  These were not normal tears, they came from somewhere way down inside; from that place of godly sorrow that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 7:10.  The godly sorrow that leads to repentance.  But as necessary as the weeping is, we can't stop there.  There is more.
     That's where the kissing comes in.  For not only did she weep, but she kissed.  As a matter of fact, the literal translation of the Greek is that she kissed much.  She smothered him with kisses.  She could not stop kissing him.  She just went on and on.  That’s why Jesus says, “This woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.”  His love for her had completely captured her heart.  It had kindled an uncontrollable affection deep within her that simply could not be contained.  She could not stop even if she wanted to, so smitten with love for him was she. 
     This is the part we usually miss as we wallow in our sinfulness.  But it is the part that we can’t afford to miss, because it is the beauty of the gospel.  We must always be kissing him as well—and kissing him much at that.  Which begs the questions: Are we completely captured by his love?  Does a deep affection for him well up from the core of our being?  Are we showering him with our kisses?  Are we falling more and more deeply in love with him each and every day? (Being with Jesus by Jim Branch)

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself
     
                                                                                             
Closing Prayer: Continue to have mercy upon me, to stir me from the doldrums of sin, to deliver me from my selfish involvements, to forgive me my sins and failures, to shore up the weak places in my life.  Help me to feel something of your loving acceptance and to reflect to others the joy of being your son and servant.  Amen. (Psalms/Now by Leslie Brandt)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

grace, thursday

Thursday, November 20

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.
                                                                                   
Opening Prayer: I am sure that there is in me nothing that could attract the love of One as holy and as just as You are.  Yet You have declared Your unchanging love for me in Christ Jesus.  If nothing in me can win your love, nothing in the universe can prevent You from loving me.  Your love is uncaused and undeserved.  You are Yourself the reason for the love wherewith I am loved. (Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer)

Scripture Reading for the Day: Romans 3:21-26

Reading for Reflection:
 
     Cheap Grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
     Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that has.  It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods.  It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble.  It is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows Him.  Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.  Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.  It is costly because it costs a man his life, and is grace because it gives a man the only true life. (The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself
     
                                                                                              
Closing Prayer: Show me your glory, I pray to you, that so I may know you indeed.  Begin in mercy a new work of love within me.  Say to my soul, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.”  Then give me grace to rise and follow you up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen. (The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

grace, wednesday

Wednesday, November 19

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.
                                                                                 
Opening Prayer: I am sure that there is in me nothing that could attract the love of One as holy and as just as You are.  Yet You have declared Your unchanging love for me in Christ Jesus.  If nothing in me can win your love, nothing in the universe can prevent You from loving me.  Your love is uncaused and undeserved.  You are Yourself the reason for the love wherewith I am loved. (Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer)

Scripture Reading for the Day: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

Reading for Reflection:
 
I do not at all understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.  It can be received gladly or grudgingly, in big gulps or in tiny tastes, like a deer at the salt.  I gobbled it, licked it, held it down between my little hooves. (Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott)

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself
     
                                                                                              
Closing Prayer: O Lord, my God, thank you that, regardless of the situation or the circumstance, your grace is always sufficient for me.  Through Christ Jesus.  Amen

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

grace, tuesday

Tuesday, November 18

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.
        
Opening Prayer: I am sure that there is in me nothing that could attract the love of One as holy and as just as You are.  Yet You have declared Your unchanging love for me in Christ Jesus.  If nothing in me can win your love, nothing in the universe can prevent You from loving me.  Your love is uncaused and undeserved.  You are Yourself the reason for the love wherewith I am loved. (Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer)

Scripture Reading for the Day: Titus 3:1-7

Reading for Reflection:
 
God has infinite treasures to give us.  Yet a little tangible devotion, which passes away in a moment, satisfies us.  How blind we are, since in this way we tie God’s hands, and we stop the abundance of His grace!  But when He finds a soul penetrated with living faith, He pours out grace on it in abundance.  God’s grace is like a torrent.  When it is stopped from taking its ordinary course, it looks for another outlet, and when it finds one, it spreads out with impetuosity and abundance. (Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence)

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself
     
                                                                                             
Closing Prayer: Lord, deliver me from the small loyalties of habit or tradition that would keep me from larger loyalties of the spirit.  Let me so incline myself to you that your presence in my life determines both what I think and what I do.  Through Jesus, who understood the deeper meaning of freedom.  Amen. (A Devotional Guide to the Gospels by John Killinger)