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Saturday, April 29, 2017

waiting and listening

Opening Prayer: Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

Scripture: Psalm 130:5-7

Journal: How do you listen?  How is waiting a part of that?

Reflection: If I did actually put my hope in the Lord, and more specifically in his word, I would do a lot more waiting, it seems.  I would train my soul to sit still and wait and listen until the word of the Lord had revealed itself to me.  Then, and only then, would I move, or act, or speak.  Unfortunately, I don't do that very often; which makes me think that I don't really put my hope in the word of the Lord at all, but in my own.  I tend to talk a lot.  I tend to fill all of the space and give him no room to get a word in edge-wise.  I tend to make myself so busy telling and speaking and acting that it shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that my trust is not in his word, but my own.  Which makes me want to stop altogether.  It makes me want to shut up.  It makes me want to sit still.  It makes me want to listen.  It makes me want to be like the watchmen and simply wait for the Lord.  Maybe I'll give that a try.

I think I will do nothing for a long time but listen, and accrue what I hear into myself. . . .and let sounds contribute toward me. ~Walt Whitman


Closing Prayer: O God, teach me to listen.  At times I get so busy speaking and telling that I leave no room for listening, and listening is where it all begins.  Amen.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


Opening Prayer: Sing to God, O kingdoms of earth, sing praise to the Lord, to him who rides the ancient skies above, who thunders with mighty voice.  Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the skies.  You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.  Praise be to God! (Psalm 68:32-35)

Scripture: Psalm 68:32-35

Journal:  Do you live with a sense of empowerment in your life?  Why, or why not?  How does it show itself?

Reflection:  How do I miss it?  It is there, it is available, but somehow I rarely seem to experience it.  Is it just me?
     I tend to live my life with a constant sense that I am at the mercy of my circumstances.  At times I live in reaction to them, and at others I live in spite of them. But there is more.  There is something that I am missing.  Something that I am rarely in touch with--God's power.  But here it is, right in Psalm 68: "The God of Israel gives power and strength to his people." (v. 35) God wants me to live my life empowered by him.  The same power by which he rides the ancient skies above and the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead is available to me.  That's a lot of power.
     Why then, do I not experience it more often?  Could it be that in order to live an empowered life, you must be aware of, and in touch with, the Source of that power on a regular basis?  Or could it be that somewhere deep inside, I don't really believe that his power is available to someone like me?  Who knows?   I do know that it is something I am going to reflect upon in the days ahead.  It is something I am going to ask God about.  It is something I am going to pray for.  I am tired of getting my ass kicked by my fears, anxieties, and insecurities.  It is time that I take a stand and use the power that is available to me--resurrection power--to live the victorious (and I do not use that word often) life that God wants to live in and through me.  What that looks like, I have no idea.  But I am excited about the possibilities.  Praise be to God!


Closing Prayer: O great and awesome God, you give power and strength to your people.  May we live empowered, victorious lives in you this day.  Amen.

Monday, April 24, 2017

peace be with you

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, how we desperately long to know your peace.  Make it a reality in our hearts and souls this day.  Amen. 

Scripture: John 20:24-28

Journal: What is your sense of God's peace in your life right now?  Why is that true?  How can you know his peace more deeply?


your wounds
lord jesus
offer healing
your blood
gives life
your life
casts out
fear and doubt
so that
we might believe
and exclaim
my lord
and my god
and know
your peace


Closing Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you desire us to live in your peace.  Help us to do that this day and every day.  Amen.

Sunday, April 23, 2017


Opening prayer: Give us your peace, O Lord, in the midst of our chaos.  Speak your love into the middle of our fear.  Bring your healing to our broken and wounded hearts.  Breathe your Spirit onto and into us, and send us to be your presence in a lost and broken world.  Amen.

Scripture: John 20:19-22

Journal: What does this scene stir up within you?  How has Jesus spoken love into your fear lately?  How has he offered you his peace?  How is he sending you to do that into the lives of others?


into the midst of their fear
jesus came
and stood among them
offering his peace
and sending them
as he was sent
breathing his spirit
into them as they
embarked on their journey

they were now the god-breathed
sent to offer the life and peace
they had received
by the breath of his spirit

and now it is us
we are the presence of Christ
to a broken world
we are to offer
our risen wounds
as sources of healing and life

we are bearers and sharers
of his peace
we are the mouths
through which he breathes
his life-giving spirit

we are sent as he was sent
on the winds of his breath
to speak love into fear


Closing Prayer: Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
     O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life. ~St. Francis of Assisi

Friday, April 21, 2017


Opening Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you have taken me for your very own; I belong to you.  Help the knowledge of this taking to give me the strength and the courage to live my life this day as your chosen child.  Amen.

Scripture: Isaiah 43:1-7

Journal: What does it mean to you that God has taken you as his very own?  How does that knowledge impact your daily life?

Reflection: 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: O God, I belong to you.  I am your beloved child.  Help me to live my life out of that truth today.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

devoted to prayer

Opening Prayer: O God, teach me to pray and then help me pray. Amen.

Scripture: Colossians 4:2-6

Journal: How will you devote yourself to prayer today?

Reflection: We prepare to pray not by composing our prayers but ourselves; forming the inner life so that it is adequate to the reception of truth, not just the acquisition of facts.  But when we engage in the act of prayer itself, there is no preparing, no getting the right words, no posture to take, no mood to assume.  We simply do it.  Prayer is primal speech.  We do not first learn how to do it, and then proceed to do it; we do it, in the doing we find out what we are doing, and then deepen and mature in it. (Answering God by Eugene Peterson)


Closing Prayer: O God, help me to know that the only way I will ever learn to pray well is by praying much.  Give me the grace and the strength and the desire to pray much.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Opening Prayer: You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. (Psalm 139:1-6, NIV)

Scripture: Psalm 139:1-24

Journal: What does this Psalm stir up within you?  What does it tell you about God?  What does it tell you about yourself?  How does it encourage you to live differently today?

Reflection: O Father, you know me inside and out.  I can’t hide anything from you.  You know my thoughts and you know my fears.  You know my insecurities and you know my anxieties.  You are utterly familiar with all my dysfunctional ways.  And yet, for some unknown reason, you still love me with a passion and an affection that I can never fully understand.  It is simply too much for me to comprehend.  You love me so fully and so completely that even my darkness is not dark to you.  For you dreamt me into being and breathed your breath of life into the depths of my soul.  Before the foundations of the world were laid, I was a beautiful thought in your mind; a thought that brought a huge smile to your face and great joy to your heart.  I am your work of art, your masterpiece.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
     Your thoughts of me outnumber the sand.  You think of me every second of every day; you can’t get me off of your mind.  You long to take me into your great heart of love again and again and again, constantly reminding me of the delight you take in me.  You desperately want me to know the height and depth and breadth of your unfailing love, so that I will always know myself as you know me—as your very own.  I am your beloved!  Help me to live that way.


Closing Prayer: Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen. (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV)

Monday, April 17, 2017


Opening Prayer: O God, giver of life, you bring life from death, beauty from tragedy.  Bring us. O Lord through the fire and the water, and into a place of abundance.  And if not this day, then someday.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 66:8-12

Journal: What has been raised to new life in you lately?  How has a hard road, or experience, turned out to be a place of abundance for you?  How did God redeem it?


     by Jim Branch

you let men ride over our heads;
we went through the fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of
abundance. ~psalm 66:12

we can only see it
in hindsight
this place of abundance
to which we have
been brought

we could never
have recognized it
while our heads
were being ridden over
or as we were
walking through
the fire and water

yet here we are
on the other side
of it all
in a spacious
and fruitful land

who could have imagined
that such a rugged road
would lead to
such a beautiful place

this too is resurrection


Closing Prayer: Lord God, help us to trust your heart even when we can't see your hand.  Help us to know that you are always the God of resurrection.  Amen.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

easter sunday

Opening Prayer: Power of Love, shining through the risen Jesus, radiantly shine in the dark places of my pain.  Let their power to infect me be broken and drawn into your heart. (Feed My Shepherds by Flora Slosson Wuellner)

Scripture: John 20:1-18

Journal:  What new life is rising in you this Easter Sunday?


     easter by Jim Branch

the silence was deafening
that early morning as she stood,
gripped by a love that would not release her
everyone else was gone
back to their homes and their families

“how could they forget so quickly?” she thought
as she stood in the first light of dawn,
tears streaming down her cheeks
“did they not feel it too…the love?”
“if they did, how could they leave?”

her heart would not allow her to go
so she stayed—as near to him as she knew how
was she waiting?
was she hoping?
or was she simply doing the only thing she could—
to be near the place he was last near
she would rather be near him than anyone or anything
so she stayed…and cried
longing to hear her name from his lips once more

and then suddenly the voice…it startled her
looking through the tears she could not see who it was

“have you seen him?” she asked
“do you know where he is?”

it wasn’t until he uttered her name
that she recognized his voice
and at its sweet sound
everything in her was raised to life again
it was easter you see…and he had risen
and because of that
so had she


Closing Prayer: O God, who by your One and only Son has overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life; grant, we pray, that those who have been redeemed by his passion may rejoice in his resurrection, through the same Christ our Lord.  Amen. ~Gelasian Sacramentary

Friday, April 14, 2017

good friday

Opening Prayer: O most holy and loving God, we are awestruck when we fix our eyes upon the cross of Christ.  We are awestruck at the depths of your love.  We are awestruck at the extent of your holiness.  We are awestruck at the completeness of your character.  The cross, O Lord, is not just something you did, but shows us who you are.  Thank you.  Amen. (Journey to the Cross by Jim Branch)

Scripture: Matthew 27:45-54, Amos 8:9-10

Journal: What do you want to tell Jesus today?  What do you want to tell the Father?

Reflection: From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
     When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
     Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
     And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
     At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
     When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:45-54)

In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord,
“I will make the sun go down at noon
    and darken the earth in broad daylight.
I will turn your religious festivals into mourning
    and all your singing into weeping.
I will make all of you wear sackcloth
    and shave your heads.
I will make that time like mourning for an only son
    and the end of it like a bitter day. (Amos 8:9-10)

O Jesus, how can we possibly say "thank you" enough for what you endured for us?  It is overwhelming.  Your love for us in incomprehensible.  And, on this day, I can't help but wonder, as well, what this day was like for your mother and your Father.  How awful it must have been for Mary, to have watched your agony and not be able to do anything about it.  But how much worse it must have been for your Father, who could have intervened, but knew, for love's sake, that he must not.


Closing Prayer: Thank you, Jesus!  Thank you, Father!  Thank you, Spirit!  For by your wounds we are healed.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

maundy thursday

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to draw close to you this Maundy Thursday, that we may hear your words, receive your body and blood, and keep watch with you as you prepare to go to the cross.  Amen.

Scripture: John 13:1-38

Journal: Imagine yourself in this room.  What do you see and hear?  How do you feel?  What do you want to say to Jesus?  What do you think he wants to say to you?


today is maundy thursday
today you wash our feet
today you offer us your body as food
and your blood as drink
today you give a new command
to love each other as we have been loved by you
today you speak to us about your departing
about your dying and about your being raised to new life
today you tell us of the place you have prepared for us
and the spirit that has been given to lead us there
today you invite us to abide in your love
as a branch abides in a vine
today you pray for us
that as the father is in you
so you will be in us
and we in you.
tonight you ask us to watch with you and pray
because your time has come
o jesus, you have been such a friend and companion to us
may we be the same to you
as you journey to the cross


Closing Prayer: Help us, Lord Jesus, to stay spiritually awake this day/night.  Help us to watch and pray.  Lord, have mercy on us.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

prayer and being

Opening Prayer: O Lord, let me be like a tree, planted by streams of water.  Let me send my roots deeply down into you, so that I may bear fruit and my leaves may remain green, even in a time of drought.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 1:1-6

Journal: What would it look like to live your life like a tree planted by streams of water?  How do we get there?

Reflection: Psalms 1 and 2 are a pair, working together to put our feet on the path that goes from the nonpraying world in which we are constantly distracted and intimidated, into the praying world where we come to attention and practice adoration.  For prayer is not only a matter of saying the right sort of words to the right kind of God.  Our being is involved, the way we are. (Answering God by Eugene Peterson)


Closing Prayer: O Lord, help me not to walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of mockers.  Help me, instead, to delight in your word and meditate on your law, that I might live my life rooted in you rather than blown about by the winds of circumstance.  Amen.

Monday, April 10, 2017

broken to be given

Opening Prayer: O Lord, help us to not lose heart when times get hard, but instead help us to cling tightly to you.  By your Spirit guard us, protect us, and renew us.  Help us to realize that these light and momentary struggles are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory that is beyond all comparison.  Help us, O Lord, when things look bleak, to always keep our eyes firmly fixed on you—the unseen God—rather than on the visible circumstances around us.  In the name and power of Jesus we pray.  Amen. (Journey to the Cross by Jim Branch)

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Journal: How is God using brokenness in your life these days?  How are you being broken?  What is the fruit of it?  How might he use it in the lives of others?

Reflection: I've been thinking a lot about the idea of brokenness for the past few weeks, and its value and necessity in the life of faith.  None of us wants it, few if any would ever invite it, but no one can deny the unseen value of brokenness when it comes to the process of transformation.  I know that personally the most broken times in my life have been the times when God has done some of his best and deepest and most lasting work within me.  Brokenness simply does something in us (and then through us) that nothing else can do.  In fact, 2 Corinthians 4:17 tells us that brokenness is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory that is beyond all comparison.
     Brokenness shatters our sense of independence.  It strips us of our need for control.  It empties us of all pride and arrogance and agenda.  And it makes us more and more like Jesus, who although he was a son, learned obedience through what he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8)  But one of the main things that brokenness does is that it makes us into people who can be humbly and fruitfully given.  We are not broken just for the sake of being broken.  We are broken to be grown and then given.  As my friend Robert once said, "We cannot be multiplied enough to be given, we can only be broken enough to be given."  So brokenness has both a purpose and an intent.  So if you are in the midst of being broken during this season where brokenness plays a prominent role, don't run away from it.  Embrace it.  God is making you into the one he dreamt you to be.  Brokenness is not the end, just a means to a glorious end.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ~2 Corinthians 4:18


Closing Prayer: Lord, when I am tempted to look around me, and let what I can see determine how I live my life, turn my eyes toward you and allow me to see the depths of your love and affection.  Let the things that are unseen be the things that determine who I am and what I do.  Let my hope be built on things that are eternal.  In the name of Jesus I pray.  Amen. (Journey to the Cross by Jim Branch)

Sunday, April 9, 2017


Opening Prayer: Saving God, you set your heart on us and made us your own.  May we listen with the ear of our hearts to the many ways your Word and your love will be present to us and formed in us this day.  We ask this through Jesus, the Word made flesh.  Amen.  (The Work of God ed. by Judith Sutera)

Scripture: Hebrews 4:12-13

Journal: Is the word of God active in your life these days?  Why or why not?  How?  How has God’s word penetrated you lately?  What was the effect?

Reflection: Torah (Law) is God’s words that hit the target of the human condition.  The noun torah comes from the verb, yarah, that means to throw something, a javelin, say, so that it hits its mark.  The word that hits its mark is torah.  In living speech, words are javelins hurled from one mind into another.  Not all words are javelins; some are only tin cans, carrying information from one place to another.  But God’s word has this aimed, intentional, personal nature.  When we are spoken to in this way, piercingly and penetratingly, we are not the same.  These words get inside us and work their meaning in us. (Answering God by Eugene Peterson)


Closing Prayer: O Lord, Thou didst strike my heart with Thy Word and I loved Thee. ~St. Augustine

Saturday, April 8, 2017

help my unbelief

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am such a mess.  At my best (and at my worst) I am an odd combination of belief and unbelief.  Help me to truly believe that you are good and that you care deeply for me and the things in my life and world.  Help me to trust in you.  Amen.

Scripture: Mark 9:14-29

Journal: Where in your soul are you a messy combination of belief and unbelief?  What does it look like to have faith even in that messiness?

Reflection: God, today I resonate with the desperate cry in the Gospel, “I believe, help my unbelief.” Sometimes I think I operate my life out of more doubt than faith. And yet I want to believe… and I do believe. I’m a complex creature. At times, I can believe with my head, while my body is still locked into patterns of skepticism and doubt. Faith is not yet in my muscles, my bones, my glands. Increase faith within me, O Lord. I’m sure that for faith to grow you will put me in situations where I’ll need resources beyond myself. I submit to this process. Will this mean moving out on behalf of others, praying for them and trusting you to work in them? If so, then show me the who, what, when, and where, and I will seek to act at your bidding. Throughout I am trusting you to take me from faith to faith—from the faith I do have to the faith that I am in the process of receiving. Thank you for hearing my prayer. Amen. (Prayers from the Heart by Richard Foster)


Closing Prayer: Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.  Amen.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

build the house

Opening Prayer: Lord God, unless you build the house, all of our labor is in vain.  Therefore, let us not go charging ahead with our own plans and our own designs, building our lives in whatever manner we see fit.  But help us to always look to you as the master builder, for you alone can build something that is eternal.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 127:1-3

Journal: What does it mean to let God build your house?  How will you do that?  What might he need to demolish in order to build according to his design?

Reflection: So now the house is in place, shiny and bright.  I have applause and esteem.  They congratulate me for my flexibility and leadership and enthusiasm and what I’ve done and am doing.  But this house of mine is somehow askew: it’s my house, not the Lord’s house.  “In vain do the builders build.”  And yet I know in my heart that each step was taken because it was right and seemed to be the Lord’s way.  Yes, it was, but he had something else in mind for it.
     Then another image rose spontaneously as I walked along.  It was the Lord as an artillery captain who came in front of my fine house dragging his cannon and proceeded deliberately and systematically to shoot the whole damn thing apart.  Story by story, wall by wall, brick by brick he gunned down the house that took me twenty-five years to build until only rubble was left, pieces of masonry on the ground, and I'm standing there with the debris of my life at my feet looking at the ruins.
     The strange thing was this big wide grin on the Lord’s face as he gunned it apart in high glee.  It’s as though he said to me: now watch the top story while I blow it apart.  There!  Now watch the second story: there it goes!  Isn’t that great?  Now watch the back wall: hooray!  Now the side walls, now finally the front and it’s all gone.  Isn’t that marvelous!  And he turned to me with joy and warmth and smiled on me with much encouragement. (A Traveler toward the Dawn by John Eagan)


Closing Prayer: Build the house, O God, whatever that may mean, that we might not labor in vain.  Amen.