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Friday, July 31, 2015

chosen, friday

Friday, July 31

Opening Prayer: Lord God, thank you that you have invited us to your heavenly feast.  May we accept that invitation with gratitude and humility, dress ourselves in our best wedding attire, and join in the great celebration.  Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 22:1-14

Journal: Where do you find yourself in the context of this parable?  What does the story touch inside of you?  What disturbs you?  Why?  How do you respond to it? 

Whether a man arrives or does not arrive at his own destiny—the place that is peculiarly his—depends on whether or not he finds the Kingdom within and hears the call to wholeness—or holiness, as another might say.  The man who hears that call is chosen.  He does not have to scramble for a place in the scheme of things.  He knows that there is a place which is his and that he can live close to the One who will show it to him.  Life becomes his vocation. (Journey Inward, Journey Outward by Elizabeth O’Connor)


Closing Prayer: Hallelujah!  For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure. ~Revelation 19:6-8

Thursday, July 30, 2015

chosen, thursday

Thursday, July 30

Opening Prayer: Thank you, O Sovereign Lord, for always being at work in our lives—even in the midst things that might seem to have no redeeming value.  Thank you that you are a God who is mysteriously and covertly always working for our good, regardless of how things might appear.  And thank you that nothing can ever separate us from your unfailing love that is in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Scripture: Romans 8:28-39

Journal: Howe is God at work in your life these days?  How is that a part of the process of conforming you to the image of his Son?  What confidence or hope does it give you to know that nothing can ever separate you from his love?

When you lose touch with your chosenness, you expose yourself to the temptation of self-rejection, and that temptation undermines the possibility of ever growing as the Beloved….When we claim and constantly reclaim the truth of being chosen ones, we soon discover within ourselves a deep desire to reveal to others their own chosenness. (Life of the Beloved by Henri J. M. Nouwen)


Closing Prayer: Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 
     “Who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has been his counselor?”
     “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.  To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

chosen, wednesday

Wednesday, July 29

Opening Prayer: Lord God, thank you that you chose us in order that we might bear fruit, fruit that would last.  Help us to ever and always remain in you so that that might indeed be the case.  Amen.

Scripture: John 15:9-17

Journal: How well are you abiding in his love these days?  What kind of fruit is that producing in you?  What does the knowledge that we were chosen in order to bear fruit do within you?

Reflection: I have always enjoyed the part of the prayer that suggests to us that we are taken by God, that we are chosen.  “You did not choose me, I chose you,” we are told Jesus said to His friends once, and I claim it for myself as often as I feel I can get away with it.  I remind myself of the hope of it when the darkness comes, and celebrate the astonishment of it when the Light is all around me. (Living Prayer by Robert Benson)


Closing Prayer: Thank you, O God, that were chosen for much bigger reasons than we will ever fully understand.  We were chosen in order to be a part of a much bigger story; the story of others coming to discover their own wonderfully mysterious chosenness.  Thanks for making us a part of this eternal work.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

chosen, tuesday

Tuesday, July 28

Opening Prayer: Lord God, you have proclaimed that we are chosen, holy, and dearly loved.  Help us to dare to believe that it is really true.  And help us to live as if we believe that it is really true.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Scripture: Colossians 3:12-14

Journal: Do you believe that you are chosen by God?  Do you believe that you are holy?  Do you really believe that you are dearly loved?  What is your life like in response to that?

     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 the meaning of the word “chosen” has for me, but I hope you are willing to listen to me from within.  From all eternity, long before you were born and became a part of history, you existed in God’s heart.  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. (Life of the Beloved by Henri J. M. Nouwen)


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to live today as if I believed I was your beloved, and help me also to live today as if I believed that all of those I come into contact with are dearly loved by you as well.  Amen.

Monday, July 27, 2015

chosen, monday

Monday, July 27

Opening Prayer: You, O Lord, are the fountain of life, and the source of all goodness; You made all things and filled them with Your blessing.  Thanks be to God.  Amen. (Venite by Robert Benson)

Scripture: 1 Peter 2:1-10

Journal: What does it mean that you are part of a chosen people?  A royal priesthood?  A holy Nation?  A people belonging to God?  What do those truths do within you?  How do they fit together?

     “Come here,” said the Lion.  And she had to.  She was almost between its front paws now, looking straight into its face.  But she couldn’t stand that for long; she dropped her eyes.
     “Human Child,” said the Lion.  “Where is the Boy?”
     “He fell over the cliff,” said Jill, and added, “Sir.”  She didn’t know what else to call him, and it sounded cheek to call him nothing.
     “How did he come to do that, Human Child?”
     “He was trying to stop me from falling, Sir.”
     “Why were you so near the edge, Human Child?”
     “I was showing off, Sir.”
     “That is a very good answer, Human Child.  Do so no more. And now” (here for the first time the Lion’s face became a little less stern) “the Boy is safe.”  I have blown him to Narnia.  But your task will be the harder because of what you have done.”
     “Please, what task, Sir?” said Jill
     “The task for which I called you and him here out of your own world.”
     This puzzled Jill very much.  “It’s mistaking me for someone else,” she thought.  She didn’t dare to tell the Lion this, though she felt things would get into a dreadful muddle unless she did.
     “Speak your thought, Human Child,” said the Lion.
     “I was wondering—I mean—could there be some mistake?  Because nobody called me and Scrubb, you know.  It was we who asked to come here.  Scrubb said we were to call to—to Somebody—it was a name I wouldn’t know—and perhaps the Somebody would let us in.  And we did, and then we found the door open.”
     “You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion.
     “Then you are Somebody, Sir?” said Jill
     “I am.” (The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis)


Closing Prayer: Thank you, O Lord, that you have made us a chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation.  Thank you that we belong to you, so that we might declare your praises.  Thank you that you brought us out of the darkness and into the wonderful light.  May we always remember that, and live our lives in grateful response to your mercy and love.  Amen.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

chosen, sunday

Sunday, July 26

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 1:3-14

Journal: How does it make you feel to know that God has chosen you to be his very own?  What does it do within you?  What is your response to his grace and love?

     This longing that wells up in us, though, does not spring into existence on its own.  "God is always previous," is the way the theologian Von Hugel put it.  "You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you," is the way Aslan put it, the lion in the Narnia Chronicles who called Edmund and three other children from England into the magical land of Narnia.  The way the apostle John put it was, “We love because he first loved us."
     Maybe, too, that is why we long.
     "God's yearning for us stirs up our longing in response," says Howard Macy in Rythms of the Inner Life.  God's initiating presence may be ever so subtle—an inward tug of desire, a more-than-coincidence meeting of words and events, a glimpse of the beyond in a storm or a flower—but it is enough to make our heart skip a beat and to make us want to know more." (Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire)


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.
     Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.
     It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. ~The Message

Saturday, July 25, 2015

treasure, saturday

Saturday, July 25

Opening Prayer: My God, I wish to give myself to thee.  Give me the courage to do so. ~Francois Fenelon
Scripture: Philippians 3:7-12

Journal: What words in this passage inspire you?  What words encourage you?  What words disturb you?  What words challenge you?  What would it look like to give yourself completely to God?

The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. ~The Message


Closing 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.  For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. ~Psalm 27:4-5

Friday, July 24, 2015

a note

I recently re-released a book after giving it a pretty significant overhaul and remodel, plus adding some fun things to it.  Don't let the "Look Inside" on Amazon throw you, they haven't updated it yet (and I'm not sure they will).  But take my word for it, it is much better and a good bit different.  Hit the link if you are interested: Pieces II

I don't think many people know about this book, but there are many Pieces in there that I really love.  So grateful for his grace!  And so grateful for your companionship on this journey.


treasure, friday

Friday, July 24

Opening Prayer: Into Your hands, we commit our spirits; for you have redeemed us.  Keep us as the apple of Your eye, and hide us in the shadow of your wings.  Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy. (Venite by Robert Benson)

Scripture: Psalm 17:6-8

Journal: Do you really think God sees you as the apple of his eye?  Why or why not?  Is it possible that God actually treasures you?  What would it look like for you to live as God’s treasured possession?

     The shoe has been squarely on the other foot this week, but now the tables turn a bit and we see that not only is God our treasure, but we are his.  Hard to believe isn’t it?  No matter how hard it might be to get our heads around this unbelievable fact, it is still true.  And when we start to truly believe it, and start to live like it is true, it changes everything.  No longer are we only pushed toward change by inner conviction, but we are also pulled into change by His great affection.  And that pull is a powerful one.  That pull is able to give us the life with God that we most deeply long for and have always dreamt about.  It is able to give us the power and the strength to become all that he imagined us to be from the very beginning.  It is the pull of his great affection that reorders all of the other (lesser) affections in our lives and makes us long for his love, his power, and his will in our lives.  You are the apple of his eye.  Believe it! 


Closing Prayer: Lord you are my Lover, it is you whom I desire.  You flow through my body like a stream, you shine on my face like the sun.  Let me be your reflection. ~St. Mechthildis

Thursday, July 23, 2015

treasure, thursday

Thursday, July 23

Opening Prayer: O Lord my God, give me an ever-deepening intimacy with you, and an ever-deepening trust in your unfailing love.  Amen.

Scripture: Luke 2:19

Journal: What have you treasured and pondered lately?  How often do you treasure and ponder God?  Take a minute and ponder what he is doing in you—treasure it.  It will have a significant effect on your day, as well as your life.

     What makes you the best version of yourself?  For me I think it has a lot to do with these two words: treasuring and pondering.  When I am taking time to ponder what God is doing within and around me, and to treasure whatever that may be--as well as, more importantly, treasuring the One who is doing these things--then I tend to be my very best self.  The word used here for treasure in the Greek is syntereo, which means "to attend to with great care."  It gives the impression that you completely realize that you're holding something of immense value in your hands (or in your heart), so you take the very best care of it you possibly can.  You marvel at it, you behold its beauty, you gaze upon it, you are fully captured by it.  And the word for ponder is symballo, which means "to bring together in one's mind."  It is to think deeply about, to reflect upon, to consider the value and the implications of.  The two really go hand-in-hand.
     The saints and the poets throughout history have used different words and images to capture these two concepts, as well as to help us understand how to practice them.  Julian of Norwich once wrote: "Truth sees God, and wisdom beholds God, and from these two comes the third, and that is a marvelous delight in God, which is love."  And A. W. Tozer wrote: "Faith is the gaze of the soul upon a saving God."  Mother Teresa once said, "By contemplation the soul draws directly from the heart of God the graces which the active life must distribute."  And finally, author Marian Scheele once wrote, "When the soul is occupied by looking away from present trials into the face of Christ, and making this a regular and passionate occupation, this soul will become more tranquil and still, and therefore more able to reflect the Being it adores."
     My guess is that how well we are doing at treasuring and pondering will directly affect the quality and depth of our lives.  Therefore the question becomes: "How am I doing at treasuring and pondering what God is up to within me and around me these days?"  Which then begs the question, "What is God up to within me and around me these days?"  Unless we make some time and space to consider these questions, and to treasure and ponder the answers, we will never really stand a chance of being the very best version of ourselves--the version that God dreamt us to be. 
     And that doesn't just carry implications for us, but implication for those God has called us to as well.  We must be very good stewards of whatever God is doing in and around us because that very treasure is not only what God has given to nurture and feed our souls, but also the treasure he has given us to give away to those in our lives and world.  I think that's what Jesus was getting at when he said in Matthew: "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old." (Matthew 13:52)
     So today, let us all treasure and ponder.  Because as we treasure and ponder our great God we will find that we are the ones treasured and pondered by the One who loves us, treasures us, and delights in us more than we dare ask or imagine.  Thanks be to God!      


Closing Prayer: O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory above the heavens.  Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.  When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?  Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.  You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.  O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! ~Psalm 8:1-9

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

treasure, wednesday

Wednesday, July 22

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that you have placed your treasure within us, these broken clay jars, that your glory might shine through the cracks of our brokenness and reveal to the world your immeasurable beauty.  Amen.

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:7

Journal: Where has God shown up in your brokenness lately?  Where has his treasure been evident in your “clay jar” life?  How?

     The contrast is pretty remarkable when you think about it; treasure in jars of clay.  I mean, who does that?  Who would put something of infinite value inside a container that is beaten, broken, and tattered?  I’ll tell you who.  God, that’s who!  Because somehow the beauty of the treasure becomes most evident when it shines through the cracks of our shattered and broken lives.  He can take the bruised, the battered, and the discarded people and things of this life and turn them into something that is amazingly beautiful once again—only because of the priceless treasure he puts within us.  That’s just the way he works.  He is the God who brings beauty from ashes, who brings life from death, who brings peace from chaos, and who brings wholeness from brokenness.  He is the God who turns ordinary fishermen into martyrs, who takes lepers and makes them clean, who takes prostitutes and makes them saints.  And I am so glad!  Aren’t you?


Closing Prayer: Lord God, thank you that you care enough for us to place your treasure inside of us.  May people not see us, but the beauty of the treasure we hold.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

treasure, tuesday

Tuesday, July 21

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: Matthew 13:52

Journal: What is God doing within you these days?  What is in your storehouse right now?  What treasures has God placed there in order for you to pass them along to others?

     A significant part of this life of faith, it seems, is being good stewards of those things God is doing (and has done) within us.   Matthew, in fact, refers to them as treasures, new and old, stored up in the storehouse (of our souls).  They are not the result of our own wisdom or insight or giftedness or favor, but things God, for some unknown reason, has chosen in his kindness to give to us.  They are his gracious gifts that are intended to do something beautiful deep within us, but also to be brought out of the storehouse at the appropriate time and shared with whoever God brings across our paths.  Therefore, we should always be aware of, and paying careful attention to, the things God is doing within us, because they are the very things he desires to use to show others the beauty of his Kingdom.


Closing Prayer: O God, Lord of all, you place your treasures within us and call us to be good stewards of their infinite beauty.  Give us the grace and the wisdom to know how to care for this treasure, and where, when, and how to pass it along.  Amen.

Monday, July 20, 2015

treasure, monday

Monday, July 20

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are indeed the treasure hidden in a field.  Help me to seek and search and dig and hunt until I finally find you today.  And when I do, capture my heart and soul completely with your beauty and majesty in a way that totally reorders my priorities, as well as my life.  Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 13:44

Journal: Do you really believe that the Kingdom of God is like treasure?  Like treasure hidden?  What will you do to seek and search for that treasure today?  What treasure does God have for you?  How is he your treasure today?

     The kingdom of heaven is like treasure.  What an incredible statement!  Of all the pictures that come to mind when I hear about the kingdom of heaven, the picture of a priceless, matchless treasure is not typically one of them.  Why is that?  What do I really think the kingdom of heaven is like?  And how does what I think the kingdom of heaven is really like shape my life and my belief? 
     I have a suspicion that if I really believed the kingdom of heaven was like treasure, I would live my life much differently.  At least that’s what history would lead me to believe.  Just take a look at those who found it: the guy in the field, Zacchaeus, James and John, and Peter and Andrew, Paul, just to name a few.  It seems that something deeply significant happens within a person when they really discover the beauty and the majesty—the breathtaking quality—of this treasure. 
     What comes to your mind when you hear the phrase the kingdom of heaven?  And what comes to your mind when you think of treasure?  What do you treasure?  What is your treasure?  It seems like a pretty significant question.  In fact, both Matthew and Luke go as far as to tell us (like we saw yesterday) that where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also.  So I guess it is something we should spend some time considering.
     I've been thinking a lot about treasure these days, particularly as it relates to the kingdom of heaven.  Mostly because of this parable.  And the more I think about it, the more it seems like once I am truly convinced that life with God (the kingdom of heaven) is like treasure—the most valuable, beautiful, captivating treasure I could ever hope to discover in my wildest dreams—it completely changes everything.  My heart is totally and completely captured by its (His) beauty; and I will do anything, and give up anything and everything, to possess it.  That's the way it was for the man in the story at least.  And that's the way it could be for us too.  At least that seems to be one of the main things Jesus is trying to communicate by telling the story in the first place; that the kingdom of heaven is like treasure.
     But it's not just like treasure, it's like treasure hidden.  Now there's an interesting twist.  Why in the world would God want this treasure to be hidden?  But we all know from experience that it indeed is.  We all know thousands of people personally who have never found it.  In fact, they don't even know (or care) that it's buried and waiting to be found.  The only answer I can come up with is that there must be something in the seeking.  And not only in the seeking for the very first time, but in the seeking each and every day after that as well.  That means that the why of the hiddenness may not be quite as important as the fact that it is, indeed, hidden.  For if it is, indeed, hidden then that must be the very nature of this treasure—always hidden, waiting to be found.  And if that is the very nature of this treasure, then I need to constantly be on the lookout for it.  If there is buried treasure waiting to be found, I need to constantly be seeking, and searching, and digging to unearth it, each minute of each and every day.  Whether it be in a conversation, or a situation, or a circumstance, or a hardship, or a wound, or even in Scripture—or in my time with Him each day—I must constantly be digging in search of the treasure hidden in the field.  It is there, just waiting to be found.  And when I begin to approach life in this way it will radically change everything.  I will be completely sold out (like the man in the parable), giving up anything and everything, in order to take possession of this immeasurably valuable treasure, constantly making it my very own.


Closing Prayer: 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

Sunday, July 19, 2015

treasure, sunday

Sunday, July 19

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, our eternal treasure, be our one desire, be the first of all our affections, be the center of our lives.  May all we do, think, and say revolve always only around you. Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 6:19-21

Journal: What does your life tend to revolve around these days?  What does that tell you about where you heart is?  What does that tell you about what you treasure?

     Typically, you can tell what’s most important to a person by the way they spend their time.  Whatever that thing is that gets the majority of our time, energy, and attention has a really good chance of being the thing that we treasure the most.   Oh, we can try to convince ourselves, and our world, otherwise, but when it comes right down to it, we know it’s true. 
     Jesus knew it too.  He realized that the things that our lives tend to revolve around are the things that have our hearts.  And the things that have our hearts are the things, like it or not, that are our treasure.  So we have to pay careful attention to what our lives (and our use of time) are telling us.  What does the way I live my life say about what is really important to me?  Where does most of our time, effort, and energy get invested?  What does that say about what I really treasure?  Who, or what, has my heart right now?  Is that person, or thing, treasure that will last?  What does it look like to treasure Jesus above all else?


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us treasure you above all else.  Amen.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

the heart, saturday

Saturday, July 18

Opening Prayer: God unto whom all hearts are open and unto whom every will speaks, and from whom no secret thing is hidden, I pray You to cleanse the intent of my heart with the ineffable gift of Your grace, that I might perfectly love You, and worthily praise You.  Amen. (The Cloud of Unknowing)

Scripture: Jeremiah 29:10-14

Journal: What do the words of Jeremiah do within you today?  What makes you come alive?  What challenges you?  What does it look like to seek the Lord with all your heart?  Where are you in that process? 

     Prayer is not real unless it comes from the heart.  “The heart” is a phrase that is strongly emphasized in the Bible.  It is a picture of the heart of human personality, the place where all our attitudes, drive and motivation come from.  The heart is the core of our being.  Prayer starts with the heart, because God longs to relate to us at every level of our being.  This includes our feelings, our mind, our imagination, our love, our memory, our will.  God seeks to know us intimately for all that we are.  This is why prayer focuses on the very core of our being, inside the heart.  John Chrysostom, the great preacher in the fourth-century church, said, “Find the door of your heart, and you will discover that it is the door of the Kingdom of God.” (The Transforming Power of Prayer by James Houston)


Closing 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)

Friday, July 17, 2015

the heart, friday

Friday, July 17

Opening Prayer: Deliver us when we draw near to you, O God, from coldness of heart and wanderings of mind: grant that with steadfast hearts and kindled affections, we may worship you in Spirit and in Truth.  Amen. (Venite by Robert Benson)

Scripture: Proverbs 4:20-27

Journal: What is springing up in your heart these days?  What is giving you life?  How will you keep your heart set on Jesus?

     Indeed, if we will listen, a Sacred Romance calls to us through our heart every moment of our lives.  It whispers to us on the wind, invites us through the laughter of good friends, reaches out to us through the touch of someone we love.  We've heard it in our favorite music, sensed it at the birth of our first child, been drawn to it while watching the shimmer of a sunset on the ocean.  The Romance is even present in times of great personal suffering:  the illness of a child, the loss of a marriage, the death of a friend.  Something calls to us through experiences like these and rouses an inconsolable longing deep within our heart, wakening in us a yearning for intimacy, beauty, and adventure.
     This longing is the most powerful part of any human personality.  It fuels our search for meaning, for wholeness, for a sense of being truly alive.  However we may describe this deep desire, it is the most important thing about us, our heart of hearts, the passion of our life.  And the voice that calls to us in this place is none other than the voice of God. (The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge)


Closing Prayers: Drive far from us all wrong desires, O God, and incline our hearts to keep your ways.  Grant that having cheerfully done your will this day we may, when night comes, rejoice and give you thanks.  Through the one who lives a reigns with you and your Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. (Venite by Robert Benson)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

the heart, thursday

Thursday, July 16

Opening Prayer: O God, we can’t hide from you, for you see right into our hearts.  It is our hearts that you most care about.  It is our hearts that you desire one hundred percent ownership of.  It is our hearts that ultimately make us who we are.  Therefore, O God, capture our hearts once again today and make us completely your own.  Amen.

Scripture: 1 Samuel 16:1-13

Journal: What words or images are you most drawn to in this scripture?  Why?  What are you most disturbed by?  Why?  What do you spend more time and energy investing in, the outward appearance or the heart?  What does God see when he looks into your heart today? 

     We spend so much time and energy on the “outward things” these days, or at least I know I do.  Oh not just our physical appearance, but our whole persona.  It is how we are judged in this culture.  And, if we’re really honest, it is how we judge as well.  We care a lot about how we look, or should I say how we are perceived.  We strive for success.  We work for achievements.  We list our accomplishments.  We build our reputations.  We make a name for ourselves.  For us, and for our world, image matters.  We define ourselves, oftentimes, by how others see us and by what they say and think about us.  Which makes for a rocky and lonely ride.
     But aren’t you so glad that God is not like that?  Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t look on the outward appearance, but looks on the heart?  It is the exact opposite of what the world does.  Maybe that’s why these verses can be so unsettling.  God is kind of turning our normal ways of being and seeing upside down.  What matters most in his economy is not the outward things, but the inward things.  Because life was meant to flow from the inside out, not from the outside in.  He knows that if he has captured our hearts, our lives and our behavior will take care of itself.  After all, only good water can flow out of a good well, right?
     So maybe instead of spending so much time constructing my outer world, I need to invest much more time and energy on my inner one—nurturing my heart.  Maybe I need come before him much more often in prayer and allow his great affection to so capture me that it affects everything I do, think, and say.  Because maybe God wants my affection far more than he wants my activity.  For he knows if he has my affection, he will have my behavior as well.  In fact, he will have all of me.
     My guess is that’s what he saw in young David as he came in from tending the sheep.  He saw a man after His own heart.  And that’s exactly the kind of king he was looking for.    

Closing Prayer: God of all that is good and just, grant us courage to walk the path of faith with integrity and wisdom to rely on you to guide our feet toward the level ground of vital Christian community.  Test us where we think we are strong, and strengthen us where we know we are wavering.  Above all, create in us pure hearts given fully to love of your truth.  Amen. (A Guide to Prayer for All Who Walk with God by Rueben Job, Norman Shawchuck, and John Mogabgab)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

the heart, wednesday

Wednesday, July 15

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, may we always know that before anything else you want our love.  You desire us to love you with everything in our being.  You desire us to love you above and beyond anything else in all creation.  And you want that love for you to determine everything else that we do.  Help us to hear (Hear, O Israel) and heed your call today.  Amen.

Scripture: Mark 12:28-34

Journal: What do the words of Jesus do within you this day?  How do they capture you?  How do they inspire you?  How do they disrupt you?  How do they challenge you?  What does it mean to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength?  How does that enable you to love your neighbor as yourself?

There is a secret place. A radiant sanctuary. As real as your own kitchen. More real than that. Constructed of the purest elements. Overflowing with the ten thousand beautiful things. Worlds within worlds. Forests, rivers. Velvet coverlets thrown over featherbeds, fountains bubbling beneath a canopy of stars. Bountiful forests, universal libraries. A wine cellar offering an intoxication so sweet you will never be sober again. A clarity so complete you will never again forget. This magnificent refuge is inside you. Enter. Shatter the darkness that shrouds the doorway… Believe the incredible truth that the Beloved has chosen for his dwelling place the core of your own being because that is the single most beautiful place in all of creation. ~Teresa of Avila


Closing Prayer: O God, you love us with a wild, passionate, unfailing love, and you ask that we love you with the same.  Give us the grace and the courage and the strength to do just that.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  Amen.