Monday, April 30, 2018

breath

Opening Prayer: O Loving God, who breathed me into being, breathe your Divine Breath in me again this day—that I might be filled with your life and guided by the winds of your Spirit.  For the sake of your Son.  Amen. (The Blue Book by Jim Branch)

Scripture: Genesis 2:4-7

Journal: How is the Spirit giving life and breath to your soul these days?

Reflection:

breath

the soul 
needs room
to breathe
and to be 
breathed into

the spirit
is willing
but the flesh 
is weak
said he
who came 
among us

the spirit
is always
ready to
breathe its life
when we are
finally willing
to make space
for that breath

the breath
that blows 
where it will
and makes alive
that which was 
lifeless

the breath
that breathed 
into the dust
of the ground
and brought us
into being 
will bring us 
into being again
and again
if we will just 
give it space

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.  Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.   Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.   Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.  Amen. ~St. Augustine

surrender

Opening Prayer: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. (Psalm 51:1-4)

Scripture: Psalm 51:1-19

Journal: What words or images can you relate to or identify with most from this Psalm?  What speaks to your heart?  What speaks for your heart?

Reflection: Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement; he is a rebel who must lay down his arms.  Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realising that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor—that is the only way out of our 'hole'.  This process of surrender—this movement full speed astern—is what Christians call repentance.  Now repentance is no fun at all.  It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie.  It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. (Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis)

Prayers

Closing Prayer: Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.  Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:7-12)

Saturday, April 28, 2018

together

Opening Prayer: How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. (Psalm 133:1-3, NIV)

Scripture: Psalm 133:1-3

Journal: How is your sense of community these days?  Do you feel union or isolation?  Where are you living in fear right now?  What would it look like to live in love instead?

Reflection: How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. (Psalm 133:1-3, NIV)

     When God’s people live together in true community there is a qualitative difference.  It is good and pleasant.  It is like precious oil poured on the head—fragrant, soothing, and healing.  It is like the dew of Hermon falling on Mount Zion—renewing, restoring, and life-giving.  It is the place where God’s blessing is poured out, and where life, as he intended it to be, is experienced first-hand.  
     True community reverses the effects of the fall.  It is where we are able to go from “I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid” (Gen. 3:10) back to being “naked and unashamed.” (Gen. 2:25)  It is the place where we are able to recapture the intent of God’s “very good” creation.  Thus, it is no accident when King David—in Psalm 133:1—uses the same word (towb) to describe what happens when God’s people live together in unity that is used to describe the goodness of his original creation. (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31)  God’s desire for us is union, not isolation.  Union both with himself and with each other.
     Unfortunately the leap from fear to love is a pretty big one.  Few seem willing to make it.  It is hard for us to muster the courage to come out of hiding, stop covering, and begin to relate to one another in loving vulnerability.  Paul put it so well in Romans 8:15 when he says, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.”  If we ever want to recapture the life of deep, true community that God desires for us—and that we desire for ourselves—we must choose to live in love, not in fear.  “For there is no fear in love.  But perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)
     So let us come out of hiding.  Let us truly show up and be fully present with each other.  Let us stop trying to fix and judge each other, and simply be with each other and listen to each other in love.  Let us open up, rather than covering up.  Maybe then we will start to live the life God really desires for us to live.  And it will be like precious oil.

Prayer

Closing 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. (Psalm 133:1-3, MSG)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

wait

Opening Prayer: I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his words I put my hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.  O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. (Psalm 130:5-7)

Scripture: Psalm 130:5-6

Journal: Where and how in your life are you waiting for the Lord?  How is this going?  What do you think God is up to?

Reflection: Waiting for the Lord does not mean being held in a state of perpetual limbo, but that God is at work in ways we cannot yet see.  The truth is that God is always at work.  Therefore, the key to waiting is not merely to endure it, but to embrace it.  In fact, it is only when we embrace it that are we truly waiting for the Lord and not merely for our circumstances to change.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: I pray to God—my life a prayer—and wait for what he’ll say and do. My life’s on the line before God, my Lord, waiting and watching till morning, waiting and watching till morning. O Israel, wait and watch for God—with God’s arrival comes love, with God’s arrival comes generous redemption. (Psalm 130:5-7, The Message)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

stop

Opening Prayer: Stop us, O God, when we go running off in a-million-and-one directions instead of being still and quiet and allowing your voice to speak to us and direct us.  For when we do not stop, look, and listen, there’s a good chance we are following ourselves rather than following you.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 46:10

Journal: What or where do you need to stop?  Will you give yourself the freedom to do so?  What keeps you from being able to stop?

Reflection:

Stop!
Stop thinking it's all up to you.
Stop acting like it all depends on you.
Stop running around trying to manage and control everything.
Stop carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.
Stop eating the bread of anxious toil.
Just stop!
Be still and know that I am God.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Be still and know that I am God.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

repent

Opening Prayer: O Lord, allow your word this day to open us up to whatever you long to do within us.  Let it cut us to the heart and make us more into the people you desire us to be.  Amen.

Scripture: Acts 2:37-41

Journal: What has cut you to the heart lately?  Why and how?  Did it bring you to the point of repentance?  What did that look like?

Reflection: Repentance is not an emotion.  It is not feeling sorry for your sins.  It is a decision.  It is deciding that you have been wrong in supposing that you could manage your own life and be your own god; it is deciding that you were wrong in thinking that you had, or could get, the strength, education and training to make it on your own; it is deciding that you have been told a pack of lies about yourself and your neighbors and your world.  And it is deciding that God, in Jesus Christ, is telling you the truth.  Repentance is a realization that what God wants from you and what you want from God are not going to be achieved by doing the same old things, thinking the same old thoughts.  Repentance is a decision to follow Jesus Christ and become his pilgrim in the path of peace. (A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson)

Prayers

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, give us the strength and the courage to follow you more closely—whatever that may look like—from this day forward.  Amen.

Monday, April 23, 2018

131

Opening Prayer: O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.  O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 131:1-3, ESV)

Scripture: Psalm 131:1-3

Journal: As you listen to the words of this ancient prayer, what prayer of God rises in your heart?  Write it down.

Reflection:

o lord
may my heart
never become
too proud
may my eyes
never be raised
too high

do not let me get
too full of myself
or take myself
too seriously

help me to stop
trying to be
such a big deal
but instead be
totally content
being a little deal
so that you
may be big

for only then
will my soul
be at rest
only then
will my heart
be still and quiet
only then
will i be able
to find myself
content in your
loving embrace

and put my hope
in you
instead of me

Prayer

Closing Prayer: O Eternal One, my heart is not occupied with proud thoughts; my eyes do not look down on others; I don’t even begin to get involved in matters too big, matters of faith, state, business, or the many things that defy my ability to understand them.
     Of one thing I am certain: my soul has become calm, quiet, and contented in You. Like a weaned child resting upon his mother, I am quiet. My soul is like this weaned child.
     O Israel, stake your trust completely in the Eternal—from this very moment and into the vast future. (Psalm 131:1-3, The Voice)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

low

Opening Prayer: 
From the heights we leap and go
To the valleys down below
Always answering to the call
To the lowest place of all
From the heights we leap and go
To the valleys down below
Sweetest urge and sweetest will
To go lower, lower still
(Hinds’ Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard)

Scripture: Matthew 18:1-4

Journal: What does it look like to humble yourself today?  How will you choose that path over exalting yourself?

Reflection: “Don’t strive to be a spiritual giant, strive to be like a little child.  Live humbly—small, innocent, lowly.  Strive to be of no reputation.  In my kingdom the way to make yourself great is to make yourself nothing.
     “So let go!  Let go of trying to look wise, or be great.  Let go of having to be right and have your opinions valued.  Let go of trying to be somebody.  Instead, seek to become nobody.  Humble yourself; do not exalt yourself.  For then you will finally be useful in the Kingdom of God.
     "And don’t worry if you get this all backwards a time or two, my disciples did the same thing.  So you are in good company.” ~Jesus

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Forgive me, O Lord, when I try to look wise.  Forgive me when being right becomes more important than being loving.  Forgive me when I try to be somebody, rather than trying to be nobody.  Forgive me when I get it all backwards and try to exalt myself, rather than humbling myself.  Make me more and more like your son, Jesus, each day.  Amen.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

must

Opening Prayer: Compel us, Lord Jesus, by your great love; that we might follow you with glad and joyful hearts, wherever you may lead.  Amen.

Scripture: Luke 9:21-24

Journal: How are these verses taking shape in your life these days?  How do you think Jesus wants them to take shape in your life?  What does that look like?

Reflection: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
     There is a must in the life of faith that is not fraught with guilt, not stuffed with ought and should. Instead, it is born out of affection and delight.  It is get to rather than have to.  It is pull rather than push.  It is not begrudging and coercive and forced, but a genuine expression of a heart that has been captured by love, the fruit of intimate union.  Thus, it cannot be quashed, contained, or subdued, but flows from our inner being like a river toward the sea.  It propels us into life with energy and vitality that mere duty cannot provide.  It does not beat us down or wear us out, but, by its very nature, reorders, renews, and transforms.
     Somehow we must learn how to move from one must to the other.  The state of our lives, and our ministries, depend on it.  For our must will incarnate itself in one form or another.  It can take the shape of joy and peace and gratitude, or it can take the form of gloom and sadness and despair.  Which do you think Jesus would prefer? 
     O Lord Jesus, help us live our lives like you did, by the must of love.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: O Lord Jesus, help us live our lives like you did, by the must of love.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

important versus urgent

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to never lose sight of the one thing because of the many things.  We get so distracted and anxious at times.  Help us always to choose the better part; the part that will not (and cannot) be taken from us—you!  Amen.

Scripture: Luke 10:38-42

Journal: What has you worried and upset these days?  What things are distracting (or consuming) you from Jesus?  Do you really believe that he is the better part?

Refection: Years ago a dear friend gave me some really wise words.  He said, "The quality of our lives will be determined by how well we do the important things that are not urgent."  And he was so right.  All of us have many urgent things that vie for our attention each day, some of which are important and some of which are not.  If we want to live lives of depth and quality, we must not allow ourselves to be ruled by the tyranny of the urgent (as Martha was), but to be focused on, and attentive to, the important things instead.  That is the kind of life Jesus wants us to live.  Just ask Mary.


  Most of our conflicts and difficulties come from trying to deal with the spiritual and practical aspects of our life separately instead of realizing them as parts of a one whole.  If our practical life is centered on our own interests, cluttered up by possessions, distracted by ambitions, passions, wants and worries, beset by a sense of our own rights and importance, or anxieties for our own future, or longings for our own success, we need not expect that our spiritual life will be a contrast to all this.  The soul’s house is not built on such a convenient plan: there are few soundproof partitions in it.  Only when the conviction—not merely the idea—that the demand of the Spirit, however inconvenient, comes first and IS first, rules the whole of it, will those objectionable noises die down which have a way of penetrating into the nicely furnished oratory, and drowning all the quieter voices by their din. (The Spiritual Life by Evelyn Underhill)

Prayers

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, may we never miss the important by being consumed with the urgent.  Give us the strength and the wisdom to always choose the good part—sitting at your feet and listening to what you say.  Amen.

Monday, April 16, 2018

one thing

Opening Prayer: One thing I ask of you, O Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in your house all the days of my life.  That I may gaze on your beauty, O Lord, and to seek you in your temple.  Amen. (Psalm 25:4)

Scripture: Luke 18:18-25; Luke 10:38-42

Journal: What is the one thing you lack?  What is the one thing for you?  How will you center your life around the one thing rather than the many things?



Reflection:

one thing

one thing
is needed
one thing
you still lack
one thing
i will seek

if this life
is meant
to be about
one thing

then why
do i seem
to miss
the point
so often

Prayer

Closing Prayer: There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might. (Jeremiah 10:6)

Saturday, April 14, 2018

rooted

Opening Prayer: Lord, I am yours; I do yield myself up entirely to you, and I believe that you do take me.  I leave myself with you.  Work in me all the good pleasure of your will, and I will only lie still in your hands and trust you.  Amen. (The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith)

Scripture: Colossians 2:6-7

Journal: What does it look like to walk in God?  How does that take place?  What does it look like to be rooted and built up in him?  How will you make that a possibility in your daily life?

Reflection: I had come to wonder sometimes at the lack of depth in my prayer.  I began to worry, too, at the sense of imbalance in my life and at the lack of centeredness as well.  I began to wonder if those things had a connection to my prayer.  I began to realize that the longing that I had, and have, for the presence of God could no longer be filled by a few stolen moments of extemporaneous prayer.  I began to have a sneaking suspicion that prayer was a larger and deeper and richer and more astonishing thing than I had known before.  I began to desire a way of life that was more like the lively and reasonable sacrifice that is called for by the words of the Eucharist.
     Although my life had been spent largely in the church and around people of faith, I had had a growing sense that I could go no deeper in my journey without some manner of instruction and experience in some ways of prayer other than the one I already knew.  “We fool ourselves if we think that such a sacramental way of living is automatic,” wrote Richard Foster once, in a book about prayer and discipline.  “This kind of living communion does not just fall on our heads.  We must desire it and seek it out.  We must order our lives in particular ways.” (A Good Life by Robert Benson)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: O my God, teach me to seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, or find you unless you show yourself to me.  Let me seek you in my desire, and desire you in my seeking.  Let me find you by loving you, let me love you when I find you. ~St. Anselm of Canterbury

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

walk

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: Jeremiah 6:16

Journal: Where is the gap between intention and reality in your life these days?  How are you walking?  How is God asking you to walk?

Reflection:   Walking is essential in the life of faith, there are no two ways about it.  It is impossible to follow Jesus without walking.  Thus, it is not intention that counts, but action.  Intention is meaningless without movement.  The best made plans are worthless without us eventually putting one foot in front of the other and beginning to move in the direction of our hopes and dreams.  The desire for a deeper, more intimate life with God will never be realized unless we take that step to make time and space to pray.  Wanting to pray isn't the end, praying is.  The path is only traveled by walking it.  So let's get a move on.  Even as we continue to stand and look and ask (as Jeremiah has told us), let us figure out what walking in the good way looks like today.  And then let us walk.  Obedience is the process by which intention becomes reality.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: I ask you, Lord Jesus, to develop in me, your lover, an immeasurable urge towards you, an affection that is unbounded, longing that is unrestrained, fervor that throws discretion to the winds!  The more worthwhile our love for you, all the more pressing does it become.  Reason cannot hold it in check, fear does not make it tremble, wise judgment does not temper it. (The Fire of Love by Richard Rolle)


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

into the deep

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, give us the strength and the courage to follow you, wherever it may lead.  Amen.

Scripture: Luke 5:1-11

Journal: What does it look like for you to put out into the deep water for a catch?  What is Jesus asking you to leave behind in order to follow him to new and deeper places?

Reflection: Jesus tests our limits and invites us to go out into the deep, far from the secure shores of large savings accounts, comfortable routines, familiar places and situations.  There have been many times when I felt overwhelmed by work and family responsibilities,  There have been times when I felt depressed, wanting to escape to the comfort of home or to the security of familiar tasks.  I was afraid of what lay ahead.  Every year we wonder where the money will come from to sustain our ministry.  But in every one of these situations, Jesus has been there beckoning me, beckoning us, beyond the security of shallow water to go with him into the deep. ~James McGinnis

Prayers

Closing Prayer: Disturb us, Lord, when we are too pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little, when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore.  
     Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.
     Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wilder seas where storms will show Your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.  We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes; and to push back the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.  This we ask in the name of our Captain, who is Jesus Christ. ~Sir Francis Drake


Monday, April 9, 2018

true community

Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, may we be one as you are one.  May we continually pour precious oil on each other’s heads.  Teach us how to love each other fully and freely.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 133:1-3, Genesis 2:18-3:13

Journal: What is true community marked by?  What inhibits or opposes it?

Reflection: We all have a deep longing for genuine, loving relationships in our lives.  The only problem is that we are all terrified of them at the same time.  It is such an odd tension: to be made to stand before God and each other naked and unashamed, and yet to be constantly hiding and covering up in fear and shame instead.  The thing we most deeply long for is also the thing we are most deeply afraid of.  What a dilemma.  
     That is where the call to true community comes in.  True community happens when we are brave enough to come out of hiding, stop covering up, and live in loving vulnerability with one another.  True community restores creation intent, reversing the effects of the fall, and ushers us into the beauty and intimacy of the life of the Trinity.  That is why it is both good and pleasant.  That is why it is like precious oil poured on our heads.  That is why it is like the dew of Hermon falling on Zion.  True community is where God bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

Prayer

Closing Prayer:  Lord God, give us the courage and the grace to come out of hiding and live in loving vulnerability with each other.  Because when we do this, we bring your kingdom to earth in a real and tangible way.  Amen.

Friday, April 6, 2018

humble

Opening Prayer: O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 131:1-3)

Scripture: Matthew 23:1-12

Journal: How would you define humility?  What is its fruit?  How do you grow it?  Where is it growing in you?

Reflection: Humility opens our inner ears.  It enables us to acknowledge the spirit of who we are and who God is.  Only the humble can understand the deep resonance of God’s voice in the whole of creation.  Humility withstands any arrogant tendency to reduce the world to our purposes. (Pathways to Spiritual Living by Susan Annette Muto)

Humility is not weakness but strength, for it receives the strength of God. It is not folly but wisdom, for it is open to the ever available wisdom of God.  It is not nothingness but fullness, for into the vacuum created by the demolition of human pride and self-sufficiency, pours the fullness of God. (Discipline and Discovery by Albert E. Day)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: God, I’m not trying to rule the roost, I don’t want to be king of the mountain. I haven’t meddled where I have no business or fantasized grandiose plans.
     I’ve kept my feet on the ground, I’ve cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content.
     Wait, Israel, for God. Wait with hope. Hope now; hope always! (Psalm 131:1-3, The Message)

all in

Opening Prayer: Jesus, help us to hear your call today to a life abandoned to your kingdom and your purposes.  To think that you would call us to anything less than that is utter fantasy.  There is no half-way with you.  It is all or nothing.  Help us to be “all in.”  Amen.

Scripture: Mark 8:27-38

Journal: Who do you say Jesus is?  Who does your life say he is?

Reflection: Looking for Jesus is an undertaking fraught with danger.  As I intimated earlier, the closer you get to finding him, the higher the stakes become.  He is no mere passive object to be circled and appraised like a piece of sculpture.  You look at him and he looks back.  You may begin the search for Jesus with your own agenda, but be warned:  he has one too.  As the disciples discovered, you pay a price for finding Jesus.

     He may, in fact, one day turn to you, as he did those feckless first-century followers and ask, ”But you-who do you say that I am?”  Then you will either have to abandon his company altogether or spend the rest of your life trying to answer that question. ~Virginia Stem Owens

Prayers

Closing Prayer: Vindicate me, Lord, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered.  Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness. …My feet stand on level ground; in the great congregation I will praise the Lord. (Psalm 26:1-3, 12)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

deepening

Opening Prayer:  Lord Jesus, help me to never be content living with less of you, when you desire so much more for me and from me.  Give me the courage and the strength to move out of the shallow and comfortable places, to those of true depth and trust.  This can happen only by your power, so Lord, have mercy on me.  Amen.

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 2:9-16

Journal: How would you describe your spiritual life these days?  Where have you grown complacent or comfortable?  How does God want more for you?  How does God want more from you?

Refection: Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and choose what better leads to God’s deepening His life in me. ~St. Ignatius

Prayers

Closing Prayer: From the desire for life to be easy and comfortable, O Lord, deliver me.  From the temptation to live on the surface of things, O Lord, defend me.  From the tendency to be lackadaisical and complacent in my life with you, O Lord, protect me.  Give me a yearning, O Lord, for a deeper, richer, and fuller life with you.  And then give me the courage and the strength to move in that direction.  Amen

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

spiritual practice

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to live in such a way that we will recognize you when you come and walk along with us.  Amen.

Scripture: Luke 24:13-35

Journal: What things help you be more aware and attentive to the presence and movement of God in your life?  How often do you practice those things?  How can you intentionally make them a part of your spiritual practice in a way that helps you to better recognize God’s presence in your life?

Reflection: As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. (Luke 24:15-16)
     Never underestimate the value of spiritual practice in life with God.  We are not told exactly what kept the disciples from being able to recognize Jesus.  Maybe it was the chaos of the last few days, maybe it was all that was swimming around in their hearts and minds at the moment, or maybe it was something bigger than that.  Who knows?  But we are told what helped them to finally realize who it was that stood before them--the breaking of the bread.  Spiritual Practice.
     Spiritual practice is the thing that keeps us rooted and attentive and aware.  It keeps us awake and alert and open to God, and whatever he might be up to at any given moment.  It is not an end in itself, but is a necessary means to a beautiful end--union with the God who made us uniquely and loves us dearly.  Spiritual practice is not meant to manipulate, control, or manufacture.  It is merely something that makes space within us and among us, so that when Jesus finally does come up and walk along with us, we will actually be able to recognize him.
     Yet somehow, given the demands of this life, it is something that is easily pushed aside.  And when it is, it makes us less and less able to notice the One who walks among us.  That is probably why John Wesley once wrote: "O Begin!  Fix some part of every day for the private exercises.  You may acquire the taste which you have not: what is tedious at first will afterward be pleasant.  Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily.  It is for your life; there is no other way: else you will be a trifler all your days."

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to arrange our lives in such a way that we constantly make space to hear your voice and see your hand.  Otherwise, we might walk through this life unaware of the beautiful things you are doing within and among us.  Give us the grace not to miss you.  Amen.

Monday, April 2, 2018

through the tears

Opening Prayer: Set me free, O Risen One, from all my misguided ways of being and seeing.  (Journey to the Cross by Jim Branch)

Scripture: John 20:1-18

Journal: How is pain or sorrow keeping you from being able to see the resurrected Crist?

Reflection:

     through the tears

woman, why are you crying
who is it you are looking for
~john 20:15
sometimes
the pain of the cross
so blinds our eyes
that we cannot see
the resurrection
standing right in front of us

we become 
so consumed with
our sorrow and sadness
that we forget
for a second
or a season
that this life
is not about us

o god
give us the grace
to look beyond the tears
and find you

Prayer

Closing Prayer: O God, give us the grace to look beyond the tears and find you.  Amen.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

easter

Opening Prayer:  Lord Jesus, I'm so glad Easter is finally here.  During this season train my eyes and my heart to see you, O Risen Christ, in ways and in places that I don't normally see you.  Thanks be to God that you are alive!  He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Hallelujah!

Scripture: Mark 16:1-8

Reflection: What was it like in that dark tomb, Jesus?  What exactly happened when light suddenly broke into the darkness and brought you to life once again?  Did the mouth of God come down from heaven and breathe the breath of life into your lifeless body?  Or did he reach down with his life-giving hands and brush the death from you as one would wipe sleep from the eyes of a child?  Or was it like a Father tenderly bending down over his sleeping child to plant a gentle kiss upon his forehead?  Perhaps it was more like an earthquake; a sudden jolt of power and life that hit you like a lightning bolt from on high, raising you suddenly to life once more.  
     And were there any words uttered in that silent grave?  Words that you had the privilege of hearing, but that we will never know about because they were words meant only for your ears: arise, my love, or wake up sleepy head or My Child, I've missed you so much!  
     And what was it like when the grave clothes were removed?  And who exactly did that?  Was it the angels who were present the next morning; sent by the Father to unbind his beloved Son?  And why exactly did they fold them and stack them so neatly?  I'll bet they were smiling from ear to ear.  
     And O what a reunion there must have been, the Three-in-One becoming Three and becoming One once more! What was that like?  What was it like when you and the Father, and the Spirit, were reunited?  What were the looks on your faces?  What was going on in your hearts?  What a dance that must've been!  A dance we are now invited to join.  O the joy, joy unspeakable.  
     Let our imaginations run wild on this Easter day, as we dream about, and celebrate, the day our beloved Jesus was raised to life again! (Journey to the Cross by Jim Branch)

Pray: Sit in the presence of the risen Jesus today.  What do you want to say to him?  What do you think he wants to say to you?  Tell him what you long to see risen in your life.

Closing Prayer: O God, our heavenly Father, today we join with your people throughout the world to celebrate the resurrection of your Divine Son, Jesus.  We celebrate the fact that his victory over death has opened the way to eternal life.  By the power of his resurrection and by your Spirit within us, O God, raise us up and renew our lives as well.  We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forevermore.  Amen.