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Thursday, December 31, 2015

new year's eve

Thursday, December 31

Opening Prayer: O God, as we come to the end of another year, help us to look back on all that has happened—both to us and in us—only as it is helpful to looking forward to all that you long to do in us and through us in the year to come.  Thank you that you long to do a new thing.  Help us to be totally open to whatever that may be.  For your Kingdom and your glory we pray.  Amen.

Scripture: Isaiah 43:16-21

Journal: What new thing do you long for God to do in you in the coming year?  What former things do you need to forget?

     The years that lie behind you, with all their struggles and pains, will in time be remembered only as the way that led to your new life.  But as long as the new life is not fully yours, your memories will continue to cause you pain.  When you keep reliving painful events of the past, you can feel victimized by them.  But there is a way of telling your story that does not create pain.  Then, also, the need to tell your story will become less pressing.  You will see that you are no longer there: the past is gone, the pain has left you, you no longer have to go back and relive it, you no longer depend on your past to identify yourself.
     There are two ways of telling your story.  One is to tell it compulsively and urgently, to keep returning to it because you see your present suffering as the result of your past experiences.  But there is another way.  You can tell your story from the place where it no longer dominates you.  You can speak about it with a certain distance and see it as the way to your present freedom.  The compulsion to tell your story is gone.  From the perspective of the life you now live and the distance you now have, your past does not loom over you.  It has lost its weight and can be remembered as God’s way of making you more compassionate and understanding toward others. (The Inner Voice of Love by Henri J. M. Nouwen)


Closing Prayer: Lord God, do a new thing in me, both this day and this year.  And when you do, please give me eyes to see it and a heart to perceive—and receive—it.  Through your son Jesus, who makes all things new, I pray.  Amen. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

god with us, wednesday

Wednesday, December 30

Opening Prayer: O Lord our God, may something new be born in us this day, as well as this season—this season where we celebrate your birth into this cold and cruel world.  This season where we rejoice over your amazing arrival to live among us; to give us light and life and hope and peace.  We pray this in the Name of Jesus.  Amen.

Scripture: John 1:1-18

Journal: How have you seen the Word become flesh during this season?

Our spiritual life depends on his perpetual coming to us, far more than on our going to him. Every time a channel is made for him he comes; every time our hearts are open to him he enters, bringing a fresh gift of his very life, and on that life we depend. We should think of the whole power and splendor of God as always pressing in upon our small souls. (Advent with Evelyn Underhill)


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, Word of God made flesh, thank you for coming into our dark and hurting world with your life and your light and your love.  Thank you for descending from the throne room of heaven to become one of us, in order to show us the heart of your Father.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

god with us, tuesday

Tuesday, December 29

Opening Prayer: The day of joy returns, Father in Heaven, and crowns another year with peace and good will.  Help us rightly to remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men.  Close the doors of hate and open the doors of love all over the world.  Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.  Deliver us from evil, by the blessing that Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clean hearts.  Amen. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Scripture: Luke 2:36-38

Journal: What about Anna captures your heart?  What do you love about the description of her?  What do you think Anna would have to say to you?  What does God have to say to you through Anna?

     Anna, her name means grace.  And her description is as compelling as her name: “She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.” Anna was absolutely consumed with God, and the things of God, even though, in her younger years, life had evidently thrown her some pretty nasty curveballs. 
     But somewhere along the way—though we are not told exactly when or where or how—she had been captured by God’s grace.  God had put his song in her heart and she could not stop singing it.  It is what she did both day and night; she sang continuously to God.  She was so full of his song within her that she simply had no choice, it was what poured out of her soul whenever she opened her mouth.  I wonder if it was that song in her heart that allowed her to recognize exactly what was happening in the temple on this particular day.  For, when she saw the baby Jesus being presented, the song once again poured forth—a song of thanksgiving, a song of deliverance, a song of hope, a song of redemption.  After all of those years of waiting and watching, the Word had finally become flesh, and she wanted everyone to know about it.  Thanks be to God!

Closing Prayer: Lord, during this Christmas season, may we be like Anna, not departing from your temple, but worshipping, fasting, and praying night and day.  May we, like her, be constantly giving thanks for the gift of your redemption, both in our lives and in our world.  Amen.

Monday, December 28, 2015

god with us, monday

Monday, December 28

Opening Prayer: Most High, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart, and give me right faith, certain hope, and perfect charity, wisdom and understanding, Lord, that I may carry out your holy and true command. Amen. ~St. Francis of Assisi

Scripture: Matthew 2:13-23

Journal: What do these verses from Matthew do within you?  What mourning or sadness or grief is within you during this season?  What do you do with that?  Where is God in the midst of it?

     Right in the middle of this joyful season of celebrating the extraordinary gift of God’s coming into our dark world, we get this stark reminder of just how dark our world and dire our need is for a Savior.  Today is referred to as The Feast of Holy Innocents on the church calendar.  It is the time when we remember the slaughter of innocent children by King Herod in his attempt to kill the infant Jesus.  Herod was so threatened by the idea of losing his throne to this newborn King that he would go to any length to make sure his power and his position were not taken away from him.  It is a vivid reminder to what lengths we fallen humans will go to preserve and defend our self-centered ways once they are threatened.  In fact, we do it all the time, just not so obviously or violently.  Ours is a much more subtle, covert operation, usually involving words as weapons. (Watch and Wait by Jim Branch)


Closing Prayer: O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of your presence, your love, and your strength.  Help us to have perfect trust in your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to you, we shall see your hand, your purpose, your will through all things. ~St. Ignatius

Sunday, December 27, 2015

god with us, sunday

Sunday, December 27

Opening Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus!  You are my righteousness.  You are my goodness, the cause and the reason for goodness.  You are my life and the light of life.  You are my love and all my loving.  You are the most noble language I can ever utter, my words and all their meaning, my wisdom, my truth, and the better part of myself.  Amen. (Preparing for Jesus by Walter Wangerin Jr.)

Scripture: Luke 2:21-35

Journal: What about Simeon captures you, or stirs something in your heart?  How are you like him?  How do you long to be like him?  What would Simeon have to say to you today?


On tiptoe we stand, Lord Jesus
eagerly awaiting
your full revelation
always expecting you
to come some more.

Our hands and hearts
are open to your grace.
Our lives still waiting for
the fullness of your presence.
We are those who have been promised
a Kingdom, and we can never forget
Yet we have a foot in both worlds
and so we stumble.

But still we stand
on tiptoe
Owning our kingdom-loving hearts
and our earth-eyes
We lean forward
And hope.
~Macrina Wiederkehr


Closing Prayer: Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel. Amen.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

he is coming, saturday

Saturday, December 26

Opening Prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ,
     Thou Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, be born into our world.  Wherever there is war in this world, wherever there is pain, wherever there is loneliness, wherever there is no hope, come, thou long-expected one, with healing in thy wings.
     Holy Child, whom the shepherds and the kings and the dumb beasts adored, be born again.  Wherever there is boredom, wherever there is fear of failure, wherever there is temptation too strong to resist, wherever there is bitterness of heart, come, thou blessed one, with healing in thy wings.
     Saviour, be born in each of us who raises his face to thy face, not knowing fully who he is or who thou art, knowing only that thy love is beyond his knowing and that no other has the power to make him whole.  Come, Lord Jesus, to each who longs for thee even though he has forgotten thy name.  Come quickly.  Amen. (The Hungering Dark by Frederick Buechner)

Scripture: Luke 2:15-21

Journal: Come to the manger today.  Take in all of the sights and sounds and smells.  What do you see?  What do you hear?  Look at the newborn King.  Adore him.  Marvel at him.  What stirs and captures your heart?

It is impossible to describe the joy that fills the room at the birth of the child.  A midwife friend tells me that the excitement of welcoming new life never grows old.  I wept and laughed simultaneously at the first sight of each of my children—beautiful, yet so small, and even to my favorably prejudiced eye, slightly comic.  All the waiting and work had brought forth this morsel of promise.  There is both mystery and absurdity in raw new life, and only those who have not seen it in its newness and rawness can indulge in sentimental and romantic rhapsodies about it. (Holy Listening by Margaret Guenther)              

Closing Prayer: Rest in me, my child, forgetting about the worries of the world. Focus on me—Emmanuel—and let my living presence envelop you in peace. Tune in to my eternal security, for I am the same yesterday, today, and forever. If you live on the surface of life by focusing on ever-changing phenomena, you will find yourself echoing the words of Solomon: ‘Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!’
     Living in collaboration with me is the way to instill meaning into your days. Begin each day alone with me, so that you can experience the reality of my presence. As you spend time with me, the way before you opens up step by step. Arise from the stillness of our communion, and gradually begin your journey through the day. Hold my hand in deliberate dependence on me, and I will smooth out the path before you. (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young)

Friday, December 25, 2015

christmas day

Friday, December 25

Opening Prayer: Almighty God, who came to us long ago in the birth of Jesus Christ, be born in us anew today by the power of your Holy Spirit.  We offer our lives as home to you and ask for grace and strength to live as your faithful, joyful children always.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. (A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants by Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck)
Scripture: Luke 2:1-14

Journal: How, or where, will Jesus be born within you or around you today?  Give thanks to him.  Adore him.


Lord of little things
you made your home
in a stable under a star
in a cradle on straw
and the little things
shone their starlit welcome
make your home with me
in the little things of my days
cards, gifts, mistletoe on tiptoe
tree tinsel, multicolored lights
and let the little things
shine their glory for you and me
once more…(Living the Questions by Robert A. Raines)


Closing Prayer: O almighty God, who by the birth of thy holy child Jesus hast given us a great light to dawn upon our darkness: Grant, we pray thee, that in this light we may see light.  Bestow upon us, we beseech thee, the most excellent Christmas gift of charity to all, that so the likeness of thy Son may be formed in us, and that we may have the ever brightening hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our lord.  Amen. ~The Book of Worship

Thursday, December 24, 2015

christmas eve

Thursday, December 24

Opening Prayer: O Lord, the time has almost come.  Just a few more hours and we will once again celebrate your coming into this dark and broken world.  Soon the light will dawn, our hearts will be enlarged, and our joy will be increased.  We wait, O Lord, in silence and wonder and hope for your arrival among us and within us.  Come, Lord Jesus.  Amen. (Watch and Wait by Jim Branch)

Scripture: Isaiah 9:1-7

Journal: What words about the coming of Jesus stir something to life within you today?  Why?  Which name for Jesus seems most fitting for where you are in your journey these days?  Why?

Reflection: At times we drift in our lives.  Amid the uncertainty and suspense of not knowing or the sheer tedium of things remaining the same, we can learn to keep our eyes wide open, scanning the horizon of our experience.  Like Noah we may have to do this for a long time until at least some green sprig signals, “There’s land ahead.”  Signs may beckon through something as ordinary as a phone call, as intimate as a touch of a child’s hand, or as subtle as an inner urge whispering, “This is where you need to go!”  Like Paul and his near-sinking boatload, we would be wise to feast ourselves again and again on signs of promise and hope even as we are tossed about on the sea of not knowing. (The Way of Discernment by Stephen V. Doughty and Marjorie J. Thompson)


Closing Prayer: Gracious, loving and merciful God, on this Christmas Eve, as the light of your Word penetrates our hearts, as we are reminded of the gift of life and faith, as the glories of the heavenly hosts are echoed in our church, we open ourselves up to your Spirit and give you thanks.   We are grateful, Lord Jesus, that your story has become our story, and we celebrate your birth. 
     Continue, we pray, to instill in us a profound sense of your abiding presence, and help us to take to heart the wonder of your love, that we may walk in your ways and delight in your will.
     Help us, Lord God, to be the faithful, gracious, loving, giving and forgiving people you would have us be.

                                                                                    ~Rev. Dr. Sean B. Murray

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

he is coming, wednesday

Wednesday, December 23

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.  We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.  We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.  We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.  We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.  We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.  To you we say, "Come Lord Jesus!"  Amen.

                                                                          ~Henri J. M. Nouwen

Scripture: Jeremiah 33:14-16

Journal: What words from this passage cause hope to rise up in your heart?  What life is springing up within you these days?  How do the promises of God give you strength and encouragement in the midst of your current situation?

     There is a divine initiative in our every encounter with God.  Even before we knew our Creator, God loved us.  Even before we turned to look toward God, God was moving toward us.
     Our faintest yearning for God is assurance that God is already longing for us.  Our first feeble step toward God is possible because God has already been moving toward us, drawing us nearer by the divine magnet-heart of love. (How to Conduct a Spiritual Life Retreat by Norman Shawchuck, Rueben P. Job, and Robert G. Doherty)


Closing Prayer: O Lord, how hard it is to accept your way. You come to me as a small, powerless child born away from home. You live for me as a stranger in your own land. You die for me as a criminal outside the walls of the city, rejected by your own people, misunderstood by your friends, and feeling abandoned by your God.
     As I prepare to celebrate your birth, I am trying to feel loved, accepted, and at home in this world, and I am trying to overcome the feelings of alienation and separation which continue to assail me. But I wonder now if my deep sense of homelessness does not bring me closer to you than my occasional feelings of belonging. Where do I truly celebrate your birth: in a cozy home or in an unfamiliar house, among welcoming friends or among unknown strangers, with feelings of well-being or with feelings of loneliness?
     I do not have to run away from those experiences that are closest to yours. Just as you do not belong to this world, so I do not belong to this world. Every time I feel this way I have an occasion to be grateful and to embrace you better and taste more fully your joy and peace.
     Come, Lord Jesus, and be with me where I feel poorest. I trust that this is the place where you will find your manger and bring your light. Come, Lord Jesus, come.  Amen. (The Road to Daybreak by Henri J. M. Nouwen)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

he is coming, tuesday

Tuesday, December 22

Opening Prayer: O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.  Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel, shall come to thee, O Israel.

Scripture: Isaiah 64:1-8

Journal: What does this passage do within you today?  Where does it bring you to life?  Where does it disrupt or challenge you?  What are you longing for God to rend the heavens and come down into?

Venite!  O Come!  It is the deepest cry of our hearts, and the constant cry of the Advent season.  After all, we have watched and waited for so long.  Not as long as Israel mind you, but, nevertheless, we have waited.  We have waited for what has seemed to us an eternity.  We have waited so long for that prayer to be answered, or that pain to be relieved, or that prodigal to return, or that relationship to be healed, or that longing to be fulfilled.  And so we cry, with all of humanity throughout the ages, Venite!  O Come!  Come, Lord Jesus, into our darkness.  Come, Lord Jesus, into our sadness.  Come, Lord Jesus, into our bondage.  Come, Lord Jesus, into our brokenness.  Come, Lord Jesus, into our chaos.  O God, please rend the heavens and Come!  Venite!


Closing Prayer: Oh, that you would rip open the heavens and descend, make the mountains shudder at your presence—As when a forest catches fire, as when fire makes a pot to boil—To shock your enemies into facing you, make the nations shake in their boots!  You did terrible things we never expected, descended and made the mountains shudder at your presence.  Since before time began no one has ever imagined, no ear heard, no eye seen, a God like you who works for those who wait for him.  You meet those who happily do what is right, who keep a good memory of the way you work.  But how angry you’ve been with us!  We’ve sinned and kept at it so long!  Is there any hope for us? Can we be saved?  We’re all sin-infected, sin-contaminated.  Our best efforts are grease-stained rags.  We dry up like autumn leaves—sin-dried, we’re blown off by the wind.  No one prays to you or makes the effort to reach out to you because you’ve turned away from us, left us to stew in our sins.
     Still, God, you are our Father.  We’re the clay and you’re our potter: All of us are what you made us.  Don’t be too angry with us, O God.  Don’t keep a permanent account of wrongdoing.  Keep in mind, please, we are your people—all of us. (Isaiah 64:1-8, The Message)

Monday, December 21, 2015

he is coming, monday

Monday, December 21

Opening Prayer: O Lord God, whose chosen dwelling is the heart of the lowly; we give thee thanks that thou didst reveal thyself in the holy child Jesus, thereby sanctifying all childhood in him.  We beseech thee to make us humble in faith and love, that we may know the joy of the Gospel that is hidden from the wise and prudent and revealed unto babes.  Amen. ~The Book of Common Worship

Scripture: Isaiah 2:1-5

Journal: What does it mean for you, this day and this season, to walk in the light of the Lord?  Where or how do you need to beat your swords into plowshares and your spears into pruning hooks?

     To pray means to wait for the God who comes.  Every prayer-filled day sees a meeting with the God who comes; every night which we faithfully put at his disposal is full of his presence.
     And his coming and his presence are not only the result of our waiting or a prize for our efforts; they are his decision, based on his love freely poured out.
     His coming is bound to his promise, not to our works or virtue.  We have not earned the meeting with God because we have served him faithfully in our brethren, or because we have heaped up such a pile of virtue as to shine before heaven.
     God is thrust onward by his love, not attracted by our beauty.  He comes even in moments when we have done everything wrong, when we have done nothing. (The God Who Comes by Carlo Carreto)


Closing Prayer: Help me to be attentive, Lord Jesus, to all of the ways and all of the places and all of the people through whom you will come to me today.  You are, and have always been, the God who comes.  Thank you that your heart will not allow you to stay away.  Come, Lord Jesus! (Watch and Wait by Jim Branch)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

he is coming, sunday

Sunday, December 20

Opening Prayer: O Holy Spirit of God, visit now this soul of mine, and tarry within it until eventide.  Pervade all my imaginations.  Suggest all my decisions.  Lodge in my will’s most inward citadel and order all my doings.  Be with me in silence and in my speech, in my haste and in my leisure, in company and in solitude, in the freshness of the morning and in the weariness of the evening; and give me grace at all times to rejoice in thy mysterious companionship. (A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie)

Scripture: Malachi 3:1-4

Journal: What do the images of a refiner’s fire and fullers’ soap do within you?  How do they speak to your life or heart right now?  How do those images make you feel about his coming?  How do they disturb you?  How do they inspire you?

There are many avenues of attraction to God.  Some are drawn to him through his beauty, others to his peace, and still others are attracted by his power.  Most men find themselves drawn to God as the source and wellspring of the very meaning of life, the ultimate ground of human existence.  But it may be that the first motion of God within the believer-to-be is one of disturbance.  Sometimes we forget that God comes to us, not only to give us peace but also to disturb us.  He comforts the afflicted and he afflicts the comfortable. (A Reason to Live!  A Reason to Die! By John Powell)


Closing Prayer: O Lord, who can endure the day of your coming?  Who can stand when you appear?  In the midst of this season of angels and shepherds and mangers and wise men, let us never forget exactly who it is that is entering our world; the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  Amen.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

hope, saturday

Saturday, December 19

Opening Prayer: O God, anchor our souls in the hope that your promises are all true.  Helps us to find peace and comfort in the faithfulness of your character, in spite of our circumstances.  Hold us fast when the storms of life are blowing us around so much that we are afraid that at any moment we might crash upon the rocks of life.  Be our strength and our shield, O God, our shelter from the storm.  Through Jesus we pray.  Amen.

Scripture: Hebrews 6:13-20

Journal: What is state of your soul these days?  How are you being tossed about?  What is anchoring your soul?

     Anchor – a person or thing that can be relied on for support, stability, or security; a mainstay.  The Greek word is agkyra, which is used four times in the entire New Testament; once here in Hebrew 6:19, and the other three times in Acts 27.  The three instances in the book of Acts all refer to a literal anchor on a ship; that which provides safety, stability, and security.  The anchor is the thing that keeps you from crashing into the rocks, or keeps you from getting tossed about by the sea, or keeps you docked securely in the harbor.  It doesn’t offer to change the circumstances, but offers to help you in the midst of them. 
     Here in Hebrews the word is used metaphorically to describe the effect God desires for hope to have on our souls.  Hope (in God’s promises) is meant to be an anchor for our souls, to keep them safe and secure in the midst of the storms and chaos of life.  The promise is not that the seas will be smooth, or that the storms will stop, or even that everything will turn out alright.  The promise is that even if the circumstances never improve, his promises will be an anchor for our souls.  The only thing about an anchor is that in order for it to work, it has to be used.  An anchor does no good sitting inside the ship, it must be tossed into the sea.  Nor does hope in God’s promises do us any good if they are never tossed into the raging sea of our fear and doubt and anxiety.  Once we rely on, and trust in, his promises—which remind us of his heart and his character—as our soul’s anchor, then, and only then, will we find that “the rope holds.”


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

Friday, December 18, 2015

hope, friday

Friday, December 18

Opening Prayer: Enliven us, O God, with a great hope.  The hope of your coming.  The hope of your redemption.  The hope of your healing.  The hope of freedom.  May we be agents of this hope in your world.  Amen.

Scripture: Zechariah 9:9-12

Journal: What hope does the Zechariah passage cause to rise in your heart?  What images enliven you?  Why?  What does it look like to be agents of this hope in the world?

     Hope is a force of God that enlivens us to life.  We can easily miss the radical significance of this definition to our lives.  Hope is often described as the expectation that desires will be fulfilled or as a feeling of assurance about current and future circumstances.  When someone thinks positively or believes deeply about desired outcomes, so this line of reasoning goes, then hope happens.
     However, hope is more than a positive attitude or elevated feeling of assurance.  Like faith and love, hope is a force.  Yes, it functions within individuals to transform their lives.  But hope also resides and functions outside an individual’s attitudes and feelings.  The very character of hope as energy that comes to us from God means we encounter hope as a transforming force that we do not control.
     Hope’s mission is to save us from a false sense of aliveness.  Rather than fulfill whatever fantasies claim our hearts, hope rescues us from a diminished life.  Its mission to us is congruent with its mission to the world: to enliven all to life and to save the world from a false sense of aliveness.
     The opportunities to experience hope are as close to us as we are to our neighbors and our bodies.  God has given us the capacity to pay attention, imagine, and enter into the wonder of life together.  This capacity is also our God-given assignment.  God created us to be a home for hope, to discern its work, and to be a people of hope. (“The Work of Hope,” by Luther E. Smith, Weavings)


Closing Prayer:
O Expectancy,
born of fertile wonder,
belabored by narrowed hope;
craning curious lives forward,
You are the brother of holy surprise.
Come startle awake
our dozing apathy, our complacent dreams,
that we may behold your borning, Advent cry.
Amen. (Behold! By Pamela C. Hawkins)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

hope, thursday

Thursday, December 17

Opening Prayer: O God, you offer us a refuge amidst the trials of life.  May our waiting prepare us to see glimpses of your face, even as we long for the full appearance of your goodness throughout all the earth.  Amen. (A Guide to Prayer for All Who Walk with God by Rueben P. Job, Norman Shawchuck, and John S. Mogabgab)

Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-10

Journal: How do these words strike your heart today?  What do they bring to life within you?  How do they disrupt or disturb you?  How do they offer you hope?

     We will experience the minutes and hours and days of our lives differently when hope takes up residence.  In a letter to Jim Forest, who at the time directed the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Thomas Merton wrote, “The real hope is not in something we think we can do, but in God, who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see.”
     Hope is not dependent on peace in the land, justice in the world, and success in the business.  Hope is willing to leave unanswered questions unanswered and unknown futures unknown.  Hope makes you see God’s guiding hand not only in the gentle and pleasant moments but also in the shadows of disappointments and darkness. (Turn My Mourning into Dancing by Henri Nouwen)


Closing Prayer:
Holy preparation,
counterweight of surprise,
plum line of hospitality;
you are fresh hay quickly strewn,
soft linen bands newly torn,
to hold the One who is to come.
O Preparation, catcher of the off guard,
leveler of all things high and low;
you are the smoother of rough edges
and bearer of good news.
Come, reveal our webs of apathy
with holy, sweeping light.
Amen. (Behold! By Pamela C. Hawkins)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

hope, wednesday

Wednesday, December 16

Opening Prayer: Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there!  If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.  If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
     For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:7-16)

Scripture: Matthew 1:23

Journal: What is your current sense of God’s presence in your life?  How does the promise of his presence give you hope?

     What a promise!  And more than just a promise, what a statement of who God is!  He is Immanuel!  That is his name!  Thus, he is the God who just can't stay away.  He is God with us!  In the midst of our deepest darkness, he is with us.  In the midst of our most desperate loneliness, he is with us.  In the midst of our most unimaginable pain, he is with us.  When our hearts have been broken beyond repair, he is with us.  When we have made a total mess of our lives, he is with us.  When tragedy strikes, he is with us.  When we are lost, left, or abandoned, he is with us.  At the times we feel most unlovable and ashamed, he is with us.  When we feel like complete and utter failures, he is with us.  When we feel like all hope is lost, he is with us.  When we feel completely broken and inept, he is with us.  When we are terrified of what lies before us, he is with us.  When we are uncertain about our futures, he is with us.  And even when life seems to be going "just fine thank you" he is with us even then.  In fact, the Psalmist (Psalm 139:7-12) tells us that there is nowhere we can go where he is not with us.  Just open your eyes and your ears, he is there.  Somewhere.  Even if he is there in a way—or a place, or a form—that you didn't expect.  He is with us!  It's just who he is.  Thanks be to God. (Watch and Wait by Jim Branch)


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus. Help us to believe that it’s true.  Help us to truly believe that you are Immanuel—God with us.  Help us to believe it in spite of our fears and our uncertainties.  Help us to believe it in spite of our anxieties and insecurities.  Help us to believe in spite of our loneliness and isolation.  And help us to believe in spite of our feelings and our circumstances.  Thank you that you are Immanuel, it’s just who you are.  And since you are Immanuel, which means you will always be with us, help us to seek always to be with you in return.  Amen. (Watch and Wait by Jim Branch)