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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

who was a neighbor

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to be merciful, as you are merciful.  Amen.

Scripture: Luke 10:25-37

Journal: Where do you find yourself in today’s Scriptures?  What touches you?  What disturbs you?  How is God asking you to be a neighbor?

Reflection: It’s a subtle difference, but a huge one.  And the motivation for asking the question in the first place tells us everything we need to know about the heart behind it.  And, ultimately, Jesus is always concerned with getting to the heart of the matter.
     “And wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”  Who do I really have to love?  In other words, “What is the minimum requirement to get into heaven?  I’m not really concerned with being merciful, I’m just concerned with doing enough to inherit eternal life.  I’m just interested in what being merciful can do for me.  So give me a minimum requirement and I’ll make sure I do that.”  The problem is that selective mercy does not really come from a heart of mercy at all, but only from a desire to appear merciful, to justify ourselves.  And Jesus wants far more for us (and from us) than that.  Jesus wants us to be filled with a heart of compassion, so that mercy just pours out of us freely and naturally.
     That’s where the subtle difference comes in.  After he tells the story of the Good Samaritan, he asks the expert in the law, “Which of these was a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  Do you see the difference?  One asks, “Who is my neighbor?  Who do I actually have to love?” and the other asks, “Who was a neighbor?  Who actually had a heart of mercy and compassion for the man?”  One is concerned with who do I have to love and the other is concerned with how do I love everyone that comes into my path.
     When our hearts are full of mercy and compassion there is no selectivity.  Oh, I’m not saying that it should look exactly the same with everyone you come across, that will likely be determined by what is most helpful to the one that is before you at any given moment.  Sometimes what looks like helping can actually be hurting.  But what I am saying is that when you have a heart of compassion you do not just get a free pass to look the other way and move to the other side of the road.  A heart of compassion asks, “Jesus, what would you have me do in this instance?”  Merciful people show mercy, it’s just what they do—or rather, it is just who they are.  Somehow we are so in touch with our own inner need and brokenness that our hearts just go out to the wounded and the broken because we recognize our own woundedness and our own need, as well as God’s great mercy to us.  So, as a result of that—in view of God’s great mercy—Jesus tells us to “Go and do likewise.”


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, give us hearts like yours; hearts filled with mercy and compassion.  That we might show mercy to those around us each and every day.  Amen.

Monday, August 29, 2016


Opening Prayer: I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit. Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. (Psalm 30:1-4)

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 7:14

Journal: What does the Scripture for today do within you?  How does it give you hope?  Where do you want to turn to God and ask him for healing today?

Reflection: As long as our wounds are open and bleeding, we scare others away.  But after someone has carefully tended to our wounds, they no longer frighten us or others.
     When we experience the healing presence of another person, we can discover our own gifts of healing.  Then our wounds allow us to enter into a deep solidarity with our wounded brothers and sisters. (Bread for the Journey by Henri J. M. Nouwen)

We are wounded people, in dire need of healing.  If you don’t believe it, just read the morning paper.  And unfortunately, in lieu of healing, our tendency is to shove our wounds into each other’s faces, demanding that they be noticed and paid attention to.  Or we try to inflict wounds upon others in anger, frustration, or retaliation.  Neither of these actions, however, get us the end result we were hoping for.  We must take our wounds to God first, only then can we have any hope of the healing and the wholeness we most deeply long for.  Only then can we be the agents of healing and wholeness to a wounded and broken world.


Closing Prayer: O Lord, we are wounded people.  We are a people in need of healing and wholeness and peace.  Unless you heal our wounds, O Lord, we have no hope.  Heal our land, O God, that we might choose love and kindness over violence, anger, and aggression.  Have mercy on us!  Amen.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

my god, my god

Opening Prayer: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. (Psalm 22:1-5)

Scripture: Matthew 27:45-54

Journal: Where in your life are you crying My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  How does the cry of Jesus from the cross speak to you today?


not my hands, my hands
not my feet, my feet
not my friends, my friends
but my god, my god

this shows the true agony
of that horrific moment
when you lord jesus
cried out in the dark

it was not the physical pain
that finally made you scream
it wasn't the flogging
or the thorns
or even the nails

nor was it the emotional pain
that caused you to wail
it wasn't the denial
or the betrayal
or even the abandonment of friends

it was the spiritual pain
that finally broke your heart
for all of the sin
and all of the pain
and all of the suffering
of all of the world
was placed upon you
and for the very first time
you were separated completely
from divine love

and god himself mourned
the loss of his beloved son
and tore his heavenly robes
in grief and sadness
as the curtain of the temple
was torn in two
from top to bottom

the sun hid its face
the earth shook its head
and trembled at the sight
the rocks split in half
the tombs gave up their dead
and the centurion looked on
in amazement

for lord jesus
your cry from the cross
is also the cry of our hearts
in our darkest moments
we too scream out
my god, my god
why have you forsaken me

so from the cross
you not only said,
"i get it."
i know the depths
of your sorrow
but you also said,
"i'll take it"
i'll take all of your sin
and all of your pain
and all of your suffering
and all of your brokenness
as well as that of all people
from all ages
on myself

for by my wounds
you are healed

            *inspired by the sermons of Timothy Keller


Closing Prayer: My God, my God, many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.
    But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
     I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. (Psalm 22:12-24)

Saturday, August 27, 2016


Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, by your wounds we are healed.  Thank you for your willingness to be wounded, in order that you might raise our woundedness to new life, and make us a source of healing for others.  Give us the courage to go there this day.  Amen.

Scripture: Isaiah 53:4-5

Journal: How have the wounds of Christ healed you?  How are they healing you still?  What are your deepest wounds right now?  How is Jesus longing to heal those in order to make them a source of life to others?

Reflection: Nobody escapes being wounded.  We are all wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.  The main question is not “How can we hide our wounds?” so we don’t have to be embarrassed but “How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?”  When our wounds cease being a source of shame and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.
     Jesus is God’s wounded healer: Through his wounds we are healed.  Jesus’ suffering and death brought joy and life.  His humiliation brought glory; his rejection brought a community of love.  As followers of Jesus we can also allow our wounds to bring healing to others. (Bread for the Journey by Henri J. M. Nouwen)


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to give our deepest wounds and sorrows to you this day; that you might heal and restore us, and use us for the healing and restoration of others.  Amen.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

the kingdom of heaven

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 10:1-8

Journal: What does the kingdom of heaven mean to you?  What image does it carry in your heart and mind?  How might Jesus want to expand that image?  What does it mean to you that the kingdom of heaven is at hand?

Reflection: “And as you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”  Of all the instructions that Jesus gave his disciples as he sent them out on their first missionary adventure, this was the only one about what to say.  One line.  That’s it.  All the rest was about what he wanted them to do and how he wanted them to do it.  But their verbal message was to be short and sweet: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  I wonder why?  And why the kingdom of heaven?  Matthew is actually the only one who uses this phrase.  All of the other gospel writers use the expression the kingdom of God.  I wonder if that’s mostly because Matthew was writing to a Jewish audience, to those very lost sheep of Israel that Jesus was specifically sending the disciples to.  And his Jewish audience would have had preconceived notions—very particular and fairly distorted ideas—about what the kingdom of heaven was supposed to look like.  They were looking for a kingdom that would come by military force, to wipe out their oppressors and establish them in the places of power.  But Jesus’ idea of the kingdom of heaven was very different from that.
     For Jesus, the kingdom of heaven was not just something that would come about way out there in the future, but something that was intended to shape our lives and our thinking in the here and now.  Because when the King entered the kingdom, the kingdom had indeed arrived.  When the King entered his kingdom there was visible evidence of his reign: renewal, restoration, redemption, deliverance, healing, cleansing, release, freedom.  Therefore, the disciples not only had the privilege of proclaiming the reality of the kingdom among us, but also got to be active participants in bringing that kingdom to earth.
     The same is true today.  The kingdom of heaven is not only something we wait for and long for and hope for, but is also a current reality.  The King is still in his kingdom, as he lives in each of us.  His kingdom is still at hand.  It is a kingdom that we have the ability to experience here and now.  One that we are invited each day to taste and enjoy and participate in as we love Jesus and love and serve those in this broken and chaotic world. 


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, let us not just live for some future time and state of being, but let us live fully in the here and now, knowing that your kingdom is indeed at hand.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

mothers and fathers

Opening Prayer: O God, our Heavenly Father, thank you for those you have placed in our lives to nurture our faith and to give us guidance and direction; those who have been spiritual mothers and fathers to us.  We are eternally grateful for them and recognize our great need for each of them.  May we be a similar blessing to those in our lives and world today.  Amen.

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12

Journal: Who have been those to serve a mothering and fathering role in your life of faith?  How did they do that?  How is God calling you to do the same?

Reflection: The perfect love of our heavenly Father includes as well as transcends all the love that a father and mother can have for their children.  We may think about the two hands of God embracing us as a mother’s hand and a father’s hand: one caressing, consoling, and comforting; the other supporting, encouraging, and empowering.  We too are called to be father and mother to those who want to come home. (Bread for the Journey by Henri J. M. Nouwen)


Closing Prayer: Thank you, O God, that the love with which you love us is always greater than the greatest loves we will ever know in this lifetime.  Your love is unfailing, your love is unconditional, and your love is unending.  Help us to know that love, which is beyond knowledge, that we might love those in our lives and our world with your love and not just our own.  Amen.

Monday, August 22, 2016


Opening Prayer: Loving Father, teach me to love and care for those that need you today.  Those who are passed over and do not feel love unless I love them for you.  May Christ's love for others be felt through me today.  In your name and by your power I pray these things.  Amen. (Disciplines for the Inner Life by Bob Benson and Michael W. Benson)

Scripture: Matthew 9:32-38

Journal: What is your first response when you see people that are harassed and helpless?  What would it look like to have compassion on them?  Who are the harassed and helpless ones in your life that God is calling you to show compassion to this day?

Reflection: The gospel of Matthew tells us that when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.  The word Matthew uses here is splagchnizomai, which means to be moved from the deepest parts of your being.  That is what goes on in the heart of Jesus when he sees people in need, he is moved so deeply that he simply must do something to alleviate their suffering.  That, I think, is the difference between pity and compassion.  Pity is just a feeling, whereas compassion is a feeling that spurs us to action.  And that is what Jesus asks of us, not to stop at a mere feeling, but to be moved all the way to action. (The Blue Book by Jim Branch)


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, give me your heart of compassion for all those that I come across today.  Amen.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


Opening Prayer:  O Lord, our God, the Father from whom all fatherhood derives its name, thank you that you are our Heavenly Father, and that you love us more than we can dream about in our wildest dreams.  Thank you.

Scripture: Matthew 9:18-26

Journal:  Consider the two fathers in this scene.  Consider your own.  What does that do within you?  Now consider the two daughters.  Which one can you most relate to?  Why?  What is God saying to you through this passage?  Where are you in need of healing?

Reflection: The tears of a father are a powerful thing.  Unfortunately, the absence of a father is as well.  This is a scene of two fathers—well, really three, but we’ll get back to that in a few minutes—and two daughters.  One father comes to Jesus, pleading for his little girl’s life to be restored.  He is heartbroken and desperate and hurting, but also believing that even now Jesus can do the impossible.  Maybe, as a synagogue ruler, he remembered the story (and the faith) of Abraham, who knew that God could raise his son Isaac back to life again even if he was commanding Abraham to sacrifice him.  This father, too, is choosing to believe that which looks impossible.  It had been a long and painful road thus far.  Who knows how far he had come, who knows how many tears he had cried, and who know how many prayers he had uttered.  But no price was too big and no distance too far when it came to his love for his little girl.
     The other father is conspicuously absent.  Who knows, maybe he died years ago.  Or maybe he left her when she was young.  Or maybe he had fled the scene twelve years ago when she started to bleed inside and it could not be stopped.  The only thing we do know is that, at this point in her life, she is alone.  She has no father coming to plead on her behalf.  She is on her own.
     That is until she reaches out and touches Jesus.  Then she is healed.  Then she is set free.  Then she is made whole.  And after he heals her body, he proceeds to heal something much deeper.  It is then that he calls her, of all things, daughter.  Jesus knew.  He knew how much the love of a father, or the lack thereof, could mean.  After all, his father had loved him perfectly.  And now he does the same for her.  And that’s where the real healing begins.


Closing Prayer: Thank you, Lord God, that we are your beloved children.  Remind us of that this day.  Touch us and heal us in the places where we are most in need of healing and wholeness, so that we might love the world with the same love with which we have been loved.  For your glory.  Amen.

Thursday, August 18, 2016


Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that you came to earth and walked among us.  Thank you that you still come to us each day through the power of your Spirit.  May we always follow your example and go to those in our world who are so desperately in need of your touch and your love.  Amen.

Scripture: Luke 10:1-12

Journal: What does going look like in your life?  What do you think God wants it to look like?  Who is he sending you to these days?

Reflection: Nowhere in Scripture do we get a better view into what Jesus desires ministry to look like than in Luke 10 and Matthew 10.  They are the chapters in which Jesus gives instructions to his disciples before he sends them out to be his hands and his feet in the world.  And you don’t have to go very far in either passage before you run into a crucial word—Go!  Jesus, from his very first words on the subject of ministry, wants us to make no mistake about the fact that ministry is something we must go to do.  That is because this going is the very essence of the incarnation itself.  It is what he did.  God came to us, in our world, on our turf, in our form, speaking our language, to show us how deeply we are loved.  Why then should we think that the ministry he calls each of us to would be any different?  Ministry is always about going, and if we are not going then we are not doing ministry according to Jesus’ model.  It is the essence of the life Jesus lived and the essence of the life he calls us to.  He tells us to come first to him, and then go to others (Matthew 9:1-2).  
     “Do not make them come to you.  Go to them!  I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.  Go!  Walk your community, build relationships with those you come across, love them with my love, meet them where they are, care for their needs, and speak to them about my love and my Kingdom.  Go!  Proclaim in word and in deed the reality of my presence and my love.  Go!  Be an agent of peace, an agent of healing, and agent of wholeness.  Go!”
     We cannot just stay put and hope that somehow the lost and the broken will come to us.  Rarely, if ever, will they do that.  We must go to them; walking our own neighborhoods and communities, engaging people along the way, trying to get to really know them and love them, and being willing to be known in return.  We must know their names and learn their stories.  We must hear their struggles and share their pains.  We must offer them the healing and the hope of the gospel.  We must speak the message, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”  And we must flesh out that reality in our lives, because the Spirit of the King lives in each of us.


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, show me where you want me to go today, and give me the courage and the faith to go there.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

old and new

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that you are making all things new.  Forgive me when I try to settle for bits and pieces of the new, while trying to hold on to a lot of the old.  Help me not to let the old things, and the old ways of being, get in the way of the new you want to do in and through me.  Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 9:14-17

Journal: Where is the old getting in the way of the new that God wants to create in you these days?  How are you holding onto the old?  How do you need to let go of it in order to receive the new?

Reflection: We have a terrible time letting go; especially letting go of old ways of thinking and of being.  Old patterns and habits do not die easily.  Why is that?  Why are we always so reluctant to let go of the old things in our lives and our hearts?  Is it because they have become so ingrained in us that they are almost second nature; that their disposal would feel like our death?  Or is it because we have somehow become so comfortable with them and accustomed to them that they are like old, dysfunctional friends that we rely upon to meet some deep and distorted need in our hearts and souls?
     Whatever the case, their effect is that there is no room in our souls to receive the new.  Old and new—even old and new ways of thinking and being—cannot exist side by side.  That’s the whole point Jesus is trying to make.  “It’s a new day.  The bridegroom is among you, and now within you.  Stop holding on to the old ways like a pair of worn out blue jeans.  I’ve got new things I want to do, both within you and among you.  But when you keep holding on to the old, it is like trying to put new wine in old wineskins, it simply doesn’t work.  You can’t put new life in an old, worn out container.  Therefore, get rid of the old altogether, because I am making all things new. (Revelation 21:5)  Not just some things, not just the things you will let me make new, but all things.  So let go of the old.  Throw it out.  Make room within you and among you for the new.”


Closing Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you are continually making me a new creation by the power of your Spirit within me.  May I always be open and receptive to that process.  For your kingdom and your glory I pray.  Amen.

Sunday, August 14, 2016


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! (Psalm 51:1-2)

Scripture: Matthew 9:9-13

Journal: Where do you find yourself in the Scriptures today?  Why?  Who do you most relate to?  What word or image seems to speak to you for some reason or another?  Why?  What is God trying to say to you today?

Reflection: Jesus loves the lost; he always has and he always will.  Something extraordinarily beautiful happens deep in his heart whenever he comes across a dear one that the rest of society has discounted, rejected, or given up on.  His heart goes out to them.  Which is, I believe, a good definition for the word mercy.  And if his heart goes out to them, and his heart is in us, then our hearts should go out to them as well.  But so often that is simply not the case.  Why is that?  Why do we find ourselves so often with the attitude of the Pharisees instead of the attitude of Jesus?  Maybe it is because at some point we have lost touch with our own sense of lostness.  And the minute in which we do that is the minute in which we lose the ability to have mercy on others.  Lostness and mercy go hand in hand, that’s what the Pharisees forgot.  They were so busy proving to themselves—and to everyone around them—that they were found that they forgot the fact that, apart from God’s mercy, we are all hopelessly lost.  I guess not much has changed in two thousand years.  
    Somehow our own sense of being lost or being found has a direct connection with whether we spend our days showing mercy or offering sacrifices.  How we see ourselves determines whether we realize our deep need for a Savior, or whether we just realize the deep need everyone else has for a Savior.  Thus, when we see the lost or the broken, the downtrodden or the outcast, our first reaction is generally not mercy, but judgment.  We want to put distance between us and them.  We want to create a distinction.  And we do this only because somewhere along the line we have forgotten what it is like to be lost.  Or, more accurately, we have lost touch with the fact that apart from God’s mercy we are all hopelessly lost, but he loves us stillThat’s why Jesus reminds us that his is a heart of mercy.  And he desires our hearts to be the same.  “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”  Thus, when we see the lost and the broken and the hurting he doesn’t want us to just see them, he wants us to see ourselves.  For only when we recognize and acknowledge our own enormous need for mercy, will we be able to extend mercy to those who so desperately need and desire it.


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Saturday, August 13, 2016


Opening Prayer: Jesus, help me to step inside your story today, so that you might tell me my own.  Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 9:1-8

Journal: Where do you find yourself in today’s Scripture?  How are you like the paralytic, or the carriers, or the scoffers, or the crowd?  Place yourself in the shoes of each this morning and see what Jesus has to say to you.

Reflection: Unless we make the stories of Scripture our own they do us little good.  The Gospel invites each of us to step inside its pages and encounter Jesus for ourselves, face to face.  That is the beauty of it.  It is alive.  It is engaging.  It is interactive.  It beckons each of us to ask the question: “Where am I in this story?  And what is God trying to say to me?”  It offers us numerous entry points into a deep and transforming conversation with Jesus.  Particularly this story.
     For example, how are you and I like the paralytic?  How are we paralyzed in our lives?  How have we settled for much less than the life God intended for us to live?  Where do we feel stuck and powerless?  Who is trying to carry us to the feet of Jesus, and where are we on that journey?  What would it look like for us to “Rise, pick up our mat and go home?”  What are we holding onto that must be left behind?
     And how are we like the carriers?  Who are we trying to carry to the feet of Jesus and how is that going?  How do we feel about that at the moment?  How long has the journey been so far?  Are we weary and discouraged?  Are we hopeful yet doubt-filled?  Are we dutiful and detached?  Or are we faithful and expectant?  I’m sure each of the carriers was a little different, but, regardless of what was really going on within each of them, they kept going.  And it was their faith that Jesus saw.  How are you? 
     Or do we tend to fall in line with the scribes?  I like to call them the scoffers.  Regardless of what beautiful thing was happening right before their eyes, somehow they were able to find something to criticize and scoff at.  I don’t know about you, but sadly I recognize myself in them much more than I would care to admit.  For some reason, be it insecurity or something else, we tend to have trouble celebrating the beauty and well-being of others.  Unfortunately, we look at the world through the lenses of comparison and competition, which makes everyone around us a threat to our personal worth rather than a brother and a sister.  So, in the case of the scribes, I guess the question becomes: Where is a spirit of criticism and complaint alive and active within us?  And why?
     Or finally, do we somehow find ourselves, at this point in our journey, in the shoes of the crowd?   Are we standing amazed at what we have just witnessed right before our very eyes?  Are we awestruck and dumbfounded at what we have just seen God do within us or around us?  Are we overwhelmed by his power and overcome by his beauty?  If not, why not?
     The truth is that we are most likely all of the above at any particular moment in our lives.  So our job, each day, is to pay close enough attention to God’s Spirit within us that we are be able to hear and discern what each of them has to tell us.  Or, more accurately, what he has to tell us through each of them.  What is it for you?


Closing Prayer: Lord God, let your word continue to resound within me throughout this day, that I might hear what you are trying to say to me and live like you would have me to live.  Amen.

Friday, August 12, 2016

who do you say i am

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to come to know you more deeply each day.  Help us to see who you really are, and let that knowledge transform us back into the people you dreamt us to be.  For your kingdom and your glory.  Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 16:13-20

Journal: Who do you say that he is these days?  Who does he say you are?  How are the two connected?

Reflection: “My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am.  And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are.  You are Peter, a rock.” (Mathew 16:17-18, The Message)
     It is impossible to truly know who we are apart from Jesus.  After all, he is the one who made us, he is the one who dreamt us into being.  He is the only one who knows exactly what was breathed into us before the foundations of the world were made.  So he alone can tell us who we really are.  He alone can give us a true sense of identity.
     And in order for us to discover who we really are, we must discover who he really is first.  The two are vitally linked.  When we discover who Jesus really is, he helps us to discover who we really are—just ask Simon Peter.  In fact, who we are only makes sense in the context of who he is.  So regardless of how hard I may try to make a name for myself in this life, any name that I can make, or achieve, or create for myself can only be false.  Identity can never be achieved, it can only be bestowed.  And it can only be bestowed by the Creator.  Therefore, when we, like Simon Peter, recognize who Jesus really is, then he is able to tell us who we really are, and what our role is in his kingdom.


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, it all begins and ends with you.  Help us to never forget that.  May we, this day, be who and what you created us to be—nothing more and nothing less.  May we, this day, be more concerned with your kingdom than we are with our own.  Amen.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


Opening Prayer: Father, I abandon myself into Your hands; do with me what You will. Whatever You do, I thank You. I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only Your will be done in me, as in all Your creatures, I ask no more than this, my Lord. Into Your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to You, O Lord, with all the love in my heart, for I love You, my God, and so need to give myself—to surrender myself into Your hands, without reserve and with total confidence, for You are my Father.  ~Charles de Foucauld

Scripture: Matthew 8:23-27

Journal: What are the storms in your life right now?  How are you reacting to them?  Do they lead you toward faith or toward fear?  Do you trust God’s heart and his hand to care for you in the midst of them?  Why are you so afraid?

Reflection: “Why are you so afraid?”  What a great question.  One that deserves a great answer.  How do you answer it?  Oh it’s easy to say, “Who me?  I’m not afraid,” when the seas are calm and our circumstances are good.  But when all hell breaks loose in our lives, then what happens?  Do we react in faith or do we react in fear?  Because these are the moments that tell us what we really believe, deep in our hearts, about life and about God.  Our reaction to stormy circumstances is telling.  How we choose to react to the storms in our lives determines what we allow ourselves to be controlled by—fear or faith.  Do we “Take courage” as Jesus so often calls us to do, knowing that he is ultimately in control of all things and will indeed take care of us?  Or are we swept away by chaos, allowing fear and panic to dominate our hearts and lives.  Taking courage happens when we choose to be led by faith rather than by fear.  So today, if a storm rears its ugly head, what will we choose?


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, do not let fear dominate me today, instead help me to choose faith.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

the crowd

Opening Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you had the courage to leave the crowd behind when it was necessary.  Give us the ability and the desire to do the same.  Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 8:18-22

Journal: Who is the crowd to you?  What role does the crowd play in your life?  How are you motivated, or determined by, the crowd?  How do you allow the crowd to distort your thinking?

Reflection: It’s interesting what effect the crowd has on our day-to-day lives, oftentimes without our even noticing it.  And it is just as interesting, if not more so, to look at the effect it had on Jesus.  While most of us go running toward the crowd to give us affirmation and a sense of identity, Jesus actually did the exact opposite.  He stayed away from the crowd, constantly leaving the crowd behind in favor of silence and solitude and prayer.  Of course his compassion got the better of him at times and thus he stayed with the crowd to heal and to help late into the night.  But he would not let the crowd determine his life or his worth. That role was completely up to his Father.  Therefore he was free—and even preferred—to leave crowds behind on a regular basis and escape to seclusion.
     We, on the other hand, play to the crowd more often that we would like to admit.  We tend to derive our sense of value and worth from what they say and how they feel about us.  We need the crowd in ways that Jesus simply did not.  We need the crowd to give us our sense of self, as false as it may be.  We seek out the crowd in order to gain some sense of fame, or popularity, or acclaim, or applause, or wealth.  We allow the crowd to determine the way we live our lives.  We get so swept up—as the scribe did—in the energy and momentum of the crowd and what they are saying that we begin to believe that life and love can be found there.  Particularly in this day and age, when likes and followers and friends and favorites and retweets and reviews allow the crowd to impact us even when we are by ourselves.  The crowd has become a part of the fabric of our lives every minute of every day.  And when we allow the crowd to determine us—where we will go and what we will do and how we feel about ourselves and our lives—we are in dangerous territory.  Because if we truly believe that the crowd can really offer us what we most deeply long for, we are woefully mistaken.  Because, as Jesus was trying to teach us, leaving the crowd behind is an essential part of the spiritual journey.

Spiritual Courage is following the deepest desires of our hearts at the risk of losing fame and popularity.  It asks our willingness to lose our temporal lives in order to gain eternal life. (Bread for the Journey by Henri J. M. Nouwen)


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, give us the courage to follow you this day, regardless of what the crowd may be doing, or demanding.  Amen.

Monday, August 8, 2016


Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, give us the courage, this day, to live real, authentic lives.  Lives that flow directly from you and what you are doing deep in our hearts and souls.  Give us the courage to be open and vulnerable with each other, and with you.  Give us the courage to put ourselves out there, whatever that may mean.  Give us the courage to live for your kingdom rather than our own.  All for your glory.  Amen.

Scripture: Joshua 1:6-9

Journal: How does the word courage strike you today?  What does it do within you?  What is courage calling you to?  How is God asking you to be strong and courageous today?

Reflection: “Have courage,” we often say to one another.  Courage is a spiritual virtue.  The word courage comes from the Latin word cor, which means “heart.”  A courageous act is an act coming from the heart.  A courageous word is a word arising from the heart.  The heart, however, is not just the place our emotions are located.  The heart is the center of our being, the center of all thoughts, feelings, passions, and decisions.
     A courageous life, therefore, is a life lived from the center.  It is a deeply rooted life, the opposite of a superficial life.  “Have courage” therefore means “Let your center speak.” (Bread for the Journey by Henri J. M. Nouwen)


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, give me the courage to live from my heart (and your heart) today.  Amen.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

can and will

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, give me faith this day.  Faith in your hand and faith in your heart.  Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 8:5-13

Journal: Do you believe that God can?  Do you believe that God will?  Do you believe that God really does care?  Write a little about that this morning.

Reflection: I don’t typically have trouble believing that God can do something, I have trouble believing that he will.  Why is that?  I’m sure it has a lot to do with the picture of God I carry deep in my heart.  One that I do not recognize until some struggle or circumstance brings me face-to-face with the ugly truth that I’m not sure God wants to do something.  I’m not sure I truly believe that he cares enough about me to go to all that trouble.  Which goes to show how I really feel about myself.  I see myself as an inconvenience.  Surely no one—particularly God—would care enough about me to go out of their way to help.  I am not worth that.  Thankfully Jesus sees it a little differently.  He loves me more than I can ever imagine.  He cares more about me that I could dream about in my wildest dreams.  There is no length he would not go to in order to show me that love.  He can and he will and he cares.  Thanks be to God!


Closing Prayer: Give me faith, Lord Jesus.  Faith to believe not only that you can, but you will act on my behalf.  Faith to believe that you really care for me.  And faith to believe that I am worth caring for.  Amen.