Tuesday, May 30, 2017

trinity

Opening Prayer: Most holy and adorable Trinity, one God in three Persons, I believe that you are here present; I adore you with the deepest humility, and render to you, with my whole heart, the homage which is due to your sovereign majesty. O my God, I most humbly thank you for all the favors you have bestowed upon me to the present moment. I give you thanks from the depth of my heart that you have created me after your own image and likeness, that you have redeemed me by the precious blood of your dear Son, and that you have preserved me and brought me safe to the beginning of another day. I offer to you, O Lord, my whole being, and in particular all my thoughts, words, actions and sufferings of this day. I consecrate them all to the glory of your name, beseeching you that through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Savior, they may all find acceptance in your sight. May your divine love animate them, and may they all tend to your greater glory. ~A Morning Prayer to the Trinity

Scripture: John 17:20-23

Journal: How do you feel about this prayer that Jesus prays for you?  How is it playing out in your life?  How is the Trinity a model for the life God desires for us and among us?

Reflection: Out of the overflow of Divine Love we were dreamt into being, in order that we might participate in the intimacy and affection of the Trinity.  In the words of Paul Marechal: "The Trinity is a round dance in which Love flames forth from one Person to the Other in a flow that never ceases.  The Father is One and his Dance is Three: Love flaming out of the Silence of the Secret One, and returning to Abba in one concurrent, timeless motion—in the embrace of the Spirit."  This is the life Jesus is praying for in and among us, a life of intimate union with God and with one another.  Why would we settle for anything less?  It is by seeing and tasting this life within and among us that people will believe.  As we dance with God, and dance with each other, the world around us will be drawn into this intimate, beautiful mystery.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Enable me today, O God, to join the Divine Dance of the Trinity.  Amen.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

chosen

Opening Prayer: Almighty God, you have created us, called us, chosen us to be your people.  We wait now to receive your word of guidance and blessing.  Grant unto us ears to hear, eyes to see, and faith to respond to your love and leadership.  In the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen. (A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants by Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck)

Scripture: Ephesians 1:3-10

Journal:  What does it mean to you that you are chosen by God?  How does that impact your life and faith?

Reflection: Still, I do believe deeply that, in order to live a spiritual life, we have to claim for ourselves that we are “taken” or “chosen.”  Let me try to expand a bit on these words.  When I know that I am chosen, I know that I have been seen as a special person.  Someone has noticed me in my uniqueness and has expressed a desire to know me, to come closer to me, to love me.  When I write to you that, as the Beloved, we are God’s chosen ones, I mean that we have been seen by God from all eternity and seen as unique, special, precious beings.  It is very hard for me to express well the depth of meaning the word “chosen” has for me, but I hope you are willing to listen to me from within.  From all eternity, long before your parents admired you or your friends acknowledged your gifts or your teachers, colleagues and employers encouraged you, you were already “chosen.”  The eyes of love had seen you as precious, as of infinite beauty, as of eternal value.  When love chooses, it chooses with a perfect sensitivity for the unique beauty of the chosen one, and it chooses without making anyone else feel excluded. (Life of the Beloved by Henri J. M. Nouwen)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. ~The Message

Friday, May 26, 2017

empty

Opening Prayer: O Lord my God, give me the same attitude this day as that of Christ Jesus, who emptied himself and made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.  May I do the same.  Amen.

Scripture: Philippians 2:5-8

Journal: How is God calling you to empty yourself these days?  How is that process going?

Reflection: If we are too full, there is no room within us to receive the beautiful and life-giving things that God longs to give.  Therefore, we must empty ourselves.  We must empty ourselves of anxiety and insecurity and fear.  We must empty ourselves of opinion and agenda and demand.  We must empty ourselves of all of our need.  Ultimately, I suppose, we must empty ourselves of self.  We must empty ourselves of entitlement and right and privilege, just like Jesus did.  For only then will be totally open and completely surrendered to whatever God wants to do in and through us.  And that is the path to life and love and wholeness.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: O Lord, forgive me that most days I am so full of myself that there is no room for you.  Empty me, O God, of all that is not you, that I might be who you long for me to be and love the way you desire me to love.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

struggling

Opening Prayer: As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.
     Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:1-5, ESV)

Scripture: Psalm 42:1-11

Journal: What does Psalm 42 stir up within you?  How does it speak to the struggles of your own heart?  How does it offer hope?

Reflection:

     losing myself

there it goes again
that familiar struggle
between desire and need
between love and fear

it is such a fine line
one that is so easily
and subtly crossed
from i love you
to i need you

it is amazing how
something so beautiful
can become so tainted
in a matter of seconds

it is like a switch
is flipped inside
and i suddenly forget who i am
and instead start to grasp
for someone to be

Prayer

Closing Prayer: When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you,
From Jordan depths to Hermon heights, including Mount Mizar. Chaos calls to chaos, to the tune of whitewater rapids. Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers crash and crush me.  Then God promises to love me all day, sing songs all through the night! My life is God’s prayer.
     Sometimes I ask God, my rock-solid God, “Why did you let me down? Why am I walking around in tears, harassed by enemies?” They’re out for the kill, these tormentors with their obscenities, Taunting day after day, “Where is this God of yours?”
     Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God—soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God. (Psalm 42:6-11, The Message)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

us

Opening Prayer: Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. (Psalm 98:1-3, ESV)

Scripture: Psalm 98:1-9

Journal: What does Psalm 98 teach you about prayer?  How does Psalm 98 speak to your heart?  How does it speak for your heart?  How do we pray this prayer in community?  How will we pray it in community today?

Reflection: Liturgy pulls our prayers out of the tiresome business of looking after ourselves and into the exhilarating enterprise of seeing and participating in what God is doing.  We are drawn into a large generosity where everyone is getting and receiving, offering and praising.  We are drawn to the place where people are being loved and where they love us.  We are deepened into the practice of humanity in covenant with God that goes both beneath and beyond our self-defined religious desire.  We are put beside people who help us and whom we can help.  Liturgy breaks us out of the isolation of ego and emotion where we are cut off from the large winds and landscapes of grace.  God wants us outside the walls that quarantine us in our ego-sickness; he pulls us into the great dance of grace in which we find ourselves moving rhythmically and joyfully with partner after partner. Selah—indeed! (Answering God by Eugene Peterson)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!
     Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity. (Psalm 98:4-9, ESV)

Monday, May 22, 2017

building


Opening Prayer: O Lord, unless you build the house, they labor in vain who build it.  Help us to always remember that.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 127:1-2

Journal:  What are you building these days?  What would it look like to stop building and start being built?

Reflection:  Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1)

You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood . . . (1 Peter 2:5)

     We are builders by nature.  It seems to be woven into our DNA.  From the Tower of Babel, to the Roman Empire, to Microsoft, we just have a propensity to build things--be it a building, or a dynasty, or a business, or even a ministry.  Which is both a blessing and a curse.  For while building can be an asset if you are running a business, it is definitely a liability in the spiritual life. For in the spiritual life, the focus is not so much on building, as it is on being built.  It is not so much about what we can do, as it is about what God wants to do.  We can charge ahead into a thousand-and-one seemingly good plans, schemes, and agendas, and totally miss out on what God wants to build in us and through us.  So instead of grabbing that hammer and beginning to swing away at whatever grand project we have in our minds at the moment, let us, instead, consider how God might want us to be open and available for whatever he wants to build.  For apart from him, our very best work is only in vain.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: O Lord our God, forgive us when we start constructing our own houses--living by our own agendas and devices--and attempt to pawn them off as yours.  When we do this we are greatly deceived; we are toiling in vain.  You build the house, O Lord, whatever that may be, whatever it may look like.  For only then will the work of our hands be of any eternal value.  

Saturday, May 20, 2017

rooted or blown

Opening Prayer: Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
     He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
     The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Scripture: Psalm 1:1-6

Journal: How does this Psalm describe your life these days?  What image is more descriptive of your life, a tree planted, or chaff that the wind drives away?  How does rootedness come about in the spiritual life?

Reflection: Rooted or blown; two very different realities.  And yet, two very familiar ways of being.  Which one seems more descriptive of your life these days?  For me, I supposed it depends on the moment.  I can be cruising along, feeling rooted and connected and like all is well with the world one minute.  And the next, boom!  I am totally blindsided by a mood or a circumstance or a conflict and everything changes.  In the blink of an eye I am no longer rooted, but helplessly blown about by the winds of circumstance.  And, to be brutally honest, it doesn’t take very much to make it happen.
     Oh how I long for a life of faith that is more rooted, a life that has more strength and permanence and durability to it.  A life that is more grounded and centered and less susceptible to the winds change.  But how on earth am I to get there?  Luckily I am not left in the dark.  The psalmist comes quickly to the rescue with a practice that can help my heart and soul become more rooted—meditation.
     Meditation is the activity that can make me more like a tree planted by the stream and less like chaff blown around by the wind.  Meditation is the practice of reflecting upon the word of God in such a way that it takes on a life within us.  In meditation we take a word or an image from the scriptures and we repeat it over and over again—in our mouths, our hearts, and our minds—giving it space and time to speak to us and to find its home in us.  Meditation is a way of being with God that allows our roots to sink down deeply into his heart and his character in a way that roots us in his love and in his truth.  It is one of the practices of prayer that help our lives to be centered on him, rather than blown around by on our own circumstances.

Prayer: Respond to whatever God is stirring within you from Psalm 1.

Closing Prayer: Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.
     But not the wicked! They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind. They will be condemned at the time of judgment. Sinners will have no place among the godly. For the Lord watches over the path of the godly, but the path of the wicked leads to destruction. (NLT)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

prayer and community

Opening Prayer: O how we look forward to that day, O God, when people of every tribe, tongue, and nation will be gathered together before your throne, worshipping you with one voice.  It is what our hearts—whether we know it or not—most deeply long for.  Amen.

Scripture: Revelation 7:9-12

Journal: What is your vision of how and where prayer was intended to happen?  What is the communal nature of prayer?  What is your experience of it?  How will you strive to make prayer a more corporate practice in the days ahead?

Reflection: Prayer requires community.  Prayer is not possible outside of, apart from, or in spite of the praying community.  God calls his people to come before him and hear his word, to obey his commands and receive his blessings.  We hear that call and come.  We bow our heads and close our eyes.  We pray.  We open our eyes, look around and see, sometimes to our great surprise, that others are there also.
     The assumption that prayer is what we do when we are alone—the solitary soul before God—is an egregious, and distressingly persistent, error.  We imagine a lonely shepherd on the hills composing lyrics to the glory of God.  We imagine a beleaguered soul sinking in a swamp of trouble calling for help.  But our imaginations betray us.  We are part of something before we are anything, and never more so than when we pray.  Prayer begins in community. (Answering God by Eugene Peterson)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen. (Revelation 7:12)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

with us

Opening Prayer: O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:1-6)

Scripture: Psalm 139:7-18

Journal: What does Psalm 139 stir within you today?

Reflection: Prayer is not a matter of waking up God or making God pay attention to us. God is always with us, in us, around us, under us, over us. God’s presence pervades the universe, and that presence is personal. God loves each of us all the time. The problem has to do with us and our ability to quell the noise that goes on constantly in our minds…So we need to learn to focus on God, to rest in God, to listen to God. Prayer is all about getting through the barriers that keep us from God…In the end, it is God who does the praying. God enfolds us in his love and care in ways that connect with our deepest needs and our deepest wishes. (Meditative Prayer: Entering God’s Presence by Richard V. Peace)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24)

Monday, May 15, 2017

captured

Opening Prayer: Satisfy us in the morning, O Lord, with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Amen. (Psalm 90:14)

Scripture: Psalm 90:17

Journal: How do you allow the beauty of the Lord to rest upon you?  What does that mean?  How does this happen in prayer?

Reflection: There are two great mystical traditions in the life of prayer, sometimes labeled apophatic and kataphatic.  Apophemi is the Greek “no”; kataphemi is “yes.”  Apophatic prayer is nay saying, the via negativa.  It shutsits eyes so as not to be distracted or diverted from the pure being of God.  Kataphatic prayer is yea saying, the via affirmativa.  It opens its eyes, letting lihts and colors, icons and incense draw us into their, and our, source in God.
     There is certainly a place for apophatic prayer: our imaginations are rampant with neurotic lust and escapist longings that get projected against a cosmic widescreen we ignorantly name God.  Marvel and miracle, sensation and sentiment, doomsday fear and infantile eroticism are thrown together and made into what we suppose to be a god.  Prayers are constantly being addressed out of and to such fantasies.  Such prayers need fasting, and plenty of it, to purge them of their fantasies.
     But kataphatic prayer is surely normative: the Psalms train us in it, the incarnation confirms it, and the sacraments perpetuate it.  The rubric for apophatic prayer is, “fold your hands, bow, your head, shut your eyes, and we’ll pray.”  But the psalmists are kataphatic to a man, to a woman—they take us to the theater where we see “mountains skip like rams” (Ps. 114:4) and hear “trees clap their hands” (Isa. 55:12); they show us how to pray with our eyes open, wide open.  (Answering God by Eugene Peterson)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Let your beauty, O Lord, rest upon us, now and forevermore.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

good

Opening Prayer: Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!  (Psalm 118:29)

Scripture: Psalm 34:1-22

Journal: Do you truly believe that God is good?  What makes you say that?  How do pain and suffering and struggle affect your perception of God’s goodness?  What is the relationship between your perception of God’s goodness and your circumstances?

Reflection:

     good

in the midst of
the pain and chaos of life
the temptation arises to ask
am I being punished somehow
is that how it works
are you really good, o god
and what does that even mean

it is an epic struggle
to truly believe
in the goodness of god
especially in the presence
of the great sadness
it is a struggle indeed

but your goodness o god
is much bigger than
my circumstances
it simply has to be

your goodness
is not dependent upon
or determined by
my perception of
whatever is going on
in my life at the moment
for if it is then
heaven help me
i am in for
one hell of a ride

your goodness
must be deeper
and more substantial
than any circumstance
life could hand me
for it is rooted
in eternity
and thus
not easily seen
this side of heaven
unless of course
we are given eyes
to see

you are good
o lord
and that is that
when i choose
to believe
in your goodness
in spite of appearances
there is a rootedness
born in me
a solid place
from which to live
a on rock on which
to set my feet
in spite of whatever
storms might come

help me
o god
to believe
in your goodness
help me
to see
all of life
not as
right and privilege
but as
gift and gratitude
for you alone
o lord
are truly good

Prayer

Closing Prayer: O Lord, you are good all the time, and all the time you are good.  Help me to fully believe that it’s true, and to never allow my circumstances to influence or determine what I really believe about you. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

restore

Opening Prayer: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. (Psalm 23:1-3, ESV)

Scripture: Psalm 23:2-3

Journal: What place do silence and solitude occupy in your life?  What role do they play?  How might God be making you lie down in green pastures or leading you beside quiet waters?  How is he restoring your soul these days?  Are you resistant to the practices of rest and renewal?  Why?

Reflection: While teaching, lecturing, and writing about the importance of solitude, inner freedom, and peace of mind, I kept stumbling over my own compulsions and illusions. What was driving me from one book to another, one place to another, one project to another? …What was turning my vocation to be a witness to God’s love into a tiring job? These questions kept intruding themselves into my few unfilled moments and challenging me to face my restless self. Maybe I spoke more about God than with him. Maybe my writing about prayer kept me from a prayerful life. Maybe I was more concerned about the praise of men and women than the love of God. Maybe I was slowly becoming a prisoner of people’s expectations instead of a man liberated by divine promises. …I had succeeded in surrounding myself with so many classes to prepare, lectures to give, articles to finish, people to meet, phone calls to make, and letters to answer, that I had come quite close to believing that I was indispensable. …While complaining about too many demands, I felt uneasy when none were made. While speaking about the burden of letter writing, an empty mailbox made me sad. While fretting about tiring lecture tours, I felt disappointed when there were no invitations. While speaking nostalgically about an empty desk, I feared the day on which that would come true. In short: while desiring to be alone, I was frightened of being left alone. The more I became aware of these paradoxes, the more I started to see how much I had indeed fallen in love with my own compulsions and illusions, and how much I needed to step back and wonder, “Is there a quiet stream underneath the fluctuating affirmations and rejections of my little world?” (The Genesee Diary by Henri Nouwen)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. (Psalm 23:1-3, The Message)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

fallow

Opening Prayer: O God, Lord of the Sabbath, you made the Sabbath year for the rest, renewal, and replenishment of the land.  May we follow your lead and create time and space for our lives and our souls to be renewed and replenished as well.  It is all a part of your grand design.  Amen.

Scripture: Leviticus 25:1-7

Journal: Why was the Sabbath year instituted?  What was the desired result?  How and when do you allow your soul to lie fallow?  If you do not, why not?

Reflection:

     fallow

every now
and again
the land must
simply lie fallow
in order to be all
that it was
intended to be

the same is true
of the soul

there is
a deep need
and a great necessity
in the life of the spirit
for our hearts
and our souls
to lie fallow

to create
a time
and a space
where we do
nothing
but rest
and recover

a time where we
accomplish nothing
produce nothing
achieve nothing

a time where
we do not try
to be helpful
or available
but only
replenish and renew
our souls
for years of
future fruitfulness

but o how
difficult the task
how hard it is
to create
and maintain
this time and space
to hold onto it
doggedly
against all
that would try
to fill it up

it takes
an enormous
amount
of discipline
and wisdom
and courage
to let the soul
just lie there
undisturbed

that is why
so few
ever do it

Pray

Closing Prayer: O God, full of compassion, I commit myself to you, in whom I am, and live and know. Be the goal of my pilgrimage and my rest by the way. Let my soul take refuge from the crowding turmoil of worldly thought beneath the shadow of your wings. Let my heart, this sea of restless waves, find peace in you, O God. Amen. ~St. Augustine

Monday, May 8, 2017

do you love me more than these?

Opening Prayer: Late have I loved you, O Beauty, so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!  And behold, you were within me and I was outside, and there I sought for you, and in my deformity I rushed headlong into the well-formed things that you have made.  You were with me, and I was not with you. ~St. Augustine

Scripture: John 21:15-19

Journal: Do you love him more than these?  What is your these?  How is he asking you to follow him these days?

Reflection: The resurrected Jesus gets right to the point.  He asks us the very same question he asked Simon Peter: "Do you love me more than these?"  It is the question of the entire spiritual life.  Do we love him more than these?  Do we love him more than our families?  Do we love him more than our friends?  Do we love him more than our careers?  Do we love him more than our very selves?  For until we love him, above and before all else, we cannot possibly do the work he has given us to do--feed his lambs.  For if we do not love Jesus first and foremost, we cannot possibly feed his lambs, we can only feed on his lambs.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to love you before all else today.  For only then can I truly love others the way you want me to--fully and freely.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

recognizing jesus

Opening Prayer: Lord, you know me better than I know myself.  Your Spirit pervades every moment of my life.  Thank you for the grace and love you shower on me.  Thank you for your constant, gentle invitation to let you into my life.  Forgive me for the times I have refused that invitation, and closed myself off from you.  Help me in the day to come, to recognize your presence in my life, to open myself to you, to let you work in me, to your greater glory. Amen. (The Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius)

Scripture: John 21:1-14

Journal: What helps you to recognize Jesus in your life?  How will you cultivate the ability to recognize him more often?

Reflection: Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not recognize that it was Jesus. (John 21:4)
     It seems that one of the disciplines most necessary during the Easter season is the discipline of recognizing.  After all, the risen Christ could appear at any moment and we must pay careful attention, lest we miss him--just ask the disciples.  They were so busy not catching fish that they were oblivious to the fact that Jesus had been standing on the shore, at least long enough to build a fire and get some coals hot.  Why had they missed him?  The simple answer is that they were preoccupied.  They were so busy with the task at hand that they were paying no attention to anything else.  I get that.  I can get caught up in the comings and goings of my day just as easily.  Busyness, preoccupation, and hurry can blind me to the fact that Jesus is standing right there on the shoreline of my life and I have not recognized him.  I must learn how to slow down, to pay attention.  I must learn how to go through the course of my days with an eye out for the Risen One.  I must not let the chaos and activity of everyday life sweep me away and distract me from the real reason I am here in the first place--Jesus.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, give me the grace and the ability to recognize you today, however you may come to me.  Amen. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

flow

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, flow like a river—like many rivers—in and through my life this day, just like you said you would.  That I might be who you made me to be, and thus do what you made me to do.  In your name and for your glory.  Amen.

Scripture: John 7:37-39

Journal: What is your sense of God’s flow within (and through) your life on a daily basis?  What enables it?  What stifles it?  Do you truly believe that this is the kind of life God desires for you?

Reflection:

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.

                        ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to love like you.  Rid my heart and soul of all that is not love.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

and god said

Opening Prayer: O God, unless you speak we will never be anything more than formless and void.  Speak your life-creating word into our hearts and souls this day.  Amen.

Scripture:  Genesis 1:1-31

Journal:  How has God spoken something new into your life or heart lately?  How has he turned your chaos into creation?  How are you giving God space to speak his creation into your life today?

Reflection: The pre-Genesis condition of the cosmos is our own inner life: tohu and bohu, without form and void.  Things are not right; we are not right.  Our emotions bolt and stampede.  Our thoughts run riot.  Our bodies hurt.  Our appetites play havoc with our virtue.  We can't, it seems, direct our own destiny with dignity or wisdom for ten consecutive minutes.
     And so we pray.  Directed by the Psalms, we begin our praying by listening.  What do we hear?
         
          And God said, Let there be light. . . .
          And there was evening and there was morning, one day.
          And God said, Let there be a firmament. . . .
          And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
          And God said, Let the waters . . . be gathered together. . . .
          And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.
          And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament. . . .
          And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
          And God said, Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures. . . .
          And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.
          And God said, let the earth bring forth living creatures. . . .
          And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.

     Disorder gives way, piecemeal, to order.  Chaos becomes cosmos.  The language is rhythmic--cadence and repetition and rhyme.  God speaks creation into existence: "He spoke and it came to be; he commanded and it stood forth" (Ps. 33:9).  The rhythmic language makes a rhythmic creation. (Answering God by Eugene Peterson)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord, teach us to listen, for unless you speak, we will never be all you desire us to be.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

story

Opening Prayer: Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!  Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.  Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! (Psalm 107:1-3, 8)

Scripture: Psalm 107:1-43

Journal: What is your story with God right now?  How do the stories of Psalm 107 speak to it?  Is there one that seems most relevant right now?  Why?  If not, try writing your own story with God into the psalm.

Reflection: All prayer is prayed in a story, by someone who is in the story.  There are no storyless prayers.  Story is to prayer what the body is to the soul, the circumstances in which it takes place.  And prayer is to story what the soul is to the body, the life without which it would be a corpse.  Prayers are prayed by people who live stories.  Every life is a story.  We are not always aware that we are living a story; often it seems more like a laundry list.  But story it is. (Answering God by Eugene Peterson)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: O Jesus, speak to me during this time about the story you are telling, the story I was made for.  Open my eyes, Lord, to the ways that story is being told—and lived—in the events and circumstances of this day.  Show me how all that happens to me this day echoes your larger Story if only I will keep my heart focused on you.  In your name I pray.  Amen. (The Blue Book by Jim Branch)

Monday, May 1, 2017

unity

Opening Prayer: How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along! It’s like costly anointing oil flowing down head and beard, flowing down Aaron’s beard, flowing down the collar of his priestly robes. It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon flowing down the slopes of Zion. Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing, ordains eternal life. (The Message)

Scripture: Psalm 133:1-3

Journal: How do you define unity?  How do you seek unity?  What does it look like to live in community?

Reflection: What does living together in unity really mean?  And what does that even look like?  Does it mean that everyone agrees with each other all the time?  Probably not.  If that were the case, unity would only be about managing outcomes and controlling decisions, and I think it is much deeper and much more beautiful than that.
     If I am really honest, I have to admit that all too often my definition of unity has more to do with everyone finally sharing my opinion about something.  As long as it's going my way everything is great, but as soon as it heads a different direction I can get pretty defensive and insecure.  That is definitely not unity.  In fact, it seems like the direct opposite of it.
     I think unity has more to do with who we are to each other and how we are loving than it does with who is right and who is wrong.  It is a spirit among us, a spirit of love.  It is a determination to be for each other regardless of the circumstances, and to stand with each other even when things are difficult.  It is a commitment to love and serve each other, rather than a demand to be loved and served.  It is a determination to operate out of love, rather than fear.  It is about being compassionate, rather than contentious.  It is about a desire to listen, rather than a need to tell.  It is about having open hands, rather than clenched fists.
     The image of precious oil being poured on the head is a great one.  Each of us is a container of precious oil that was given to us--breathed into us at creation--to be poured out on those around us.  Unity, therefore, is about each of us bringing that precious oil--our truest and best selves--to the body, without demand or manipulation (no forcing and no holding back in the words of Rilke) and pouring it out on the heads of those brothers and sisters we are living in community with.  For it is then and there that God will bestow his blessing, even life forevermore.
     So maybe the question we should be asking ourselves is, "What does it mean to bring our best and truest selves to the body and pour it out for love?"  Maybe the answer to that question will help us to figure out what it means to live together in unity.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: O God, forgive me when I come to believe that unity in the body is when everyone finally shares my opinion.  Amen.