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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

alive to God

Opening Prayer: Help me, Lord Jesus, to prepare the way for your coming, whatever that may mean.  Amen.

Scripture: Isaiah 40:3-5

Journal: How are you preparing the way, both within you and around you, for the coming of Jesus?

Reflection: “What is required is a constant aliveness to God—an aliveness present when you talk, read, watch, or examine something.” ~St. Theophan the Recluse

Advent is here, and once again we have a beautiful invitation from God to enter into the watching and waiting of the season as we prepare for his coming.  But just how do we “prepare the way” (Isaiah 40:3) for the coming of the King into our everyday lives during this season?  One way is by paying attention, which is a lot harder than it sounds.  A vital attentiveness to God’s movement and God’s presence is required.  An aliveness to God, and to his Spirit, must be nurtured and nourished within us.  This aliveness is nurtured by prayer and nourished by love.  So let us be diligent in the days ahead to make relentless time and space to pray and to love. 

Pray

Closing Prayer: Help me, Lord Jesus, to be alive to you at all times and in all ways.  I cannot do that on my own, so please to a deep work within me.  Amen.

 

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

cease striving

Opening Prayer: Cease striving and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10, NASB)

Scripture: Psalm 46:10

Journal: Where in your life are you striving these days?  Why and how?  How is God speaking to you about through this scripture?  What does he want to say to you?

Reflection: “Stop.  Just stop.  Stop trying desperately to prove you are worth loving and just let yourself be loved.  Let me love you.  Let me cradle you in my embrace and let me whisper words of delight and affection in your ear.  You are so busy, so full of striving.  Just be still for a moment and know that I am God.”

Pray

Closing Prayer: Forgive me, O Lord, for my endless striving.  Somewhere along the line it has stopped being about you and has started being about me.  Forgive me.  Give me the strength and the courage and the grace to stop trusting me and start trusting you.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

hurled

Opening Prayer: In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.  From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.  You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.  I said, “I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.  The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me, seaweed was wrapped around my head.  To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me forever. (Jonah 2:2-6, NIV)

Scripture: Jonah 1:17-2:10

Journal: When was the last time God hurled you into the deep?  What was your response?  What were the results?

Reflection: “You hurled me into the deep” (Jonah 2:3) not to harm me, but to deepen me, and awaken me to your presence, your will, and your direction.  You hurled me into the deep in order to change me into the person you dreamt me to be, to restore the Divine Image in me.  If we are not changed by these moments of chaos and crisis, then what are they for?

Thus, this hurling was not malicious and hurtful, but intentional and redemptive.  It was a severe mercy, a tragic tenderness, and an exacting kindness.  So thank you.  Even though it was incredibly difficult to go through, you accomplished something good and beautiful in me as a result. 

Pray

Closing Prayer: But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God.  When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.  But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you.  What I have vowed I will make good.  Salvation comes from the Lord. (Jonah 2:6-9, NIV)


Wednesday, October 12, 2022

his eyes

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that you always look at the lost and broken through the eyes of love.  Help me to see the love you have for me in your eyes today, so that I might be able to love others the way you want me to.  Amen.

Scripture: John 4:17-18

Journal: What do you think was in the eyes of Jesus as he said these words to the Samaritan woman at the well?  How did he see her?  How does he see you?

Reflection: “You are right when you say you have no husband.  The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you have right now is not your husband.  What you have said is quite true.” John 4:17-18)

What do you think was the look in the eyes of the Savior as he uttered these words to this lost and thirsty woman?  Was it a look of disdain and judgment and disgust?  Or was it a look of compassion and longing and tenderness?  How you answer that question tells you so much about what you really believe to be true about God.  And that is significant. 

If we are consistent with the Jesus we see in the rest of the Gospels, I think it had to be a look of love.  Rarely did Jesus ever look at the lost and broken with a look of disdain, so I think it had to be a look of desire and of invitation and of delight.  Because I do not think he said these words to shame her, but to awaken her.  It was his way of saying to her, “You have not yet found your beloved, and he is the one standing right in front of you.”  Because more than anything else, the story of God is the story of a lover in constant pursuit of his beloved.  Do you believe that?  Do you believe it for this woman?  And do you believe it for yourself? 

What do you think the eyes of Jesus hold as they look at you?  How could it not be love?

Pray

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, forgive us when we believe that you look at us through the eyes of criticism or anger or disgust.  Help us to see ourselves as you see us, as your beloved.  Only then can we see others that way as well.

Monday, October 10, 2022

just do it

Opening Prayer: “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

Scripture: Psalm 27:4

Journal: What do the words dwell, gaze, and seek mean to you?  How do they take shape in your time with him?  How often to you actually do them?  How often do you make time and space to dwell with God, to gaze upon his beauty, and to seek him in his temple?

Reflection:  In the midst of chaos—evil men advancing and enemies attacking and armies besieging and war breaking out—David asks for one thing, and it’s probably not the one thing you would expect.  Instead of asking God to intervene, or make it all go away, he asks that he might “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”  He does not ask for his circumstances to change; he asks for his perspective to change.  He asks for his practice to change.  For he knows that if he can learn to dwell in God’s house and gaze upon God’s beauty and seek God in his temple, then everything else will take care of itself.  What a beautiful prayer! 

The only problem is that it’s really easy to talk about doing those things, and to write about them, and maybe even to pray them, without actually doing them.  Take it from me, I’ve become an expert.  There are many days when I pray this very prayer and think about its beauty and write about its wisdom and its depths, without actually taking the time to stop and dwell and gaze and seek.  And if I fail to actually do these things, they cannot bear fruit in my life.

G. K. Chesterton once said, “The difference between talking about prayer and praying, is the same as the difference between blowing a kiss and kissing.”  If we don’t actually do it, we never reap the benefits or taste the pleasures and treasures of intimacy with God.  Which is so sad for us, but even sadder for God.  God longs for us to know the depths and breadth and heights and passion and intimacy and pleasures of his unfailing love.

It’s almost like God is waiting for us to bask in his love and express our love for him in return, but all we do is talk about it or think about it or write about it.  We never really enter into it, so that he’s left saying, “Are you going to kiss me or what?  Are you going to dwell and gaze and seek, or are you just going to sit there?  Are you just going to think about it, or are you actually going to do it?  Don’t just talk about loving me, love me!  Just do it!

Pray

Closing Prayer: Forgive me, O Lord, when I talk about dwelling and gazing and seeking, and fail to do them.  Help me to make time and space today to do the one thing David asked.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

waiting and trusting

Opening Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to learn what it means to wait patiently for you.  Give me the faith and the strength and the courage—as well as the trust—to do so.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 40:1-4

Journal: How and where is God asking you to trust him these days?  What does that look like?  How does that involve a willingness to wait?

Reflection: “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me up out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:1-3)

There is a deep connection between waiting and trusting.  In fact, it is impossible to wait patiently for the Lord if we do not trust him—we will be far too busy managing and controlling and manipulating life to do so. 

And while it may seem that our inability to wait is a result of impatience, the truth is that it is more a result of a lack of trust, which makes it is more a matter of unwillingness than of inability.  We refuse to wait because we do not trust.    

Unless we truly believe that God's heart toward us is good and that he will take care of us and provide for us, then waiting, much less waiting patiently, becomes impossible because we will always be busy trying to arrange our lives and our circumstances.  All of which means that if we cannot, or will not, wait for the Lord, then we do not have a patience problem, we actually have a trust problem.

Pray

Closing Prayer: O God, help us to trust in you.  Cultivate in us, during this Advent season, a heart of waiting.  And help us to let go of our compulsive need to control and manipulate and manage.

 

Thursday, September 8, 2022

ulterior motives

Opening Prayer: Forgive me, Lord Jesus, when life becomes more about me than it is about you, when it becomes more about my plans than about yours, when it becomes more about getting my way that doing your will.  Forgive me when my kiss becomes an attempt to get what I want, rather than an expression of my delight and affection.  Amen.

Scripture: Luke 22:48

Journal: What are your true motives in coming to Jesus today?  What kind of “kiss” are you giving him?  What is his response?

Reflection: “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48) It’s sad how often I come to Jesus with ulterior motives.  And it’s comical to think that somehow I’ve convinced myself that he doesn’t see right through it.  And yet, like Judas, he loves me anyway.  Amazing Love!  How can it be?

Pray

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, you kiss us with the kiss of Divine Affection, and yet we kiss you with a kiss of betrayal or manipulation or demand.  Forgive us.  Help us to give you the love and adoration you deserve, both this day and every day.  Amen.