Companions in the desert

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We are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives. ~Ephesians 2:10

“Hospitality is the virtue which allows us to break through the narrowness of our own fears and to open our houses to the stranger, with the intuition that salvation comes to us in the form of a tired traveler. Hospitality makes anxious disciples into powerful witnesses, makes suspicious owners into generous givers, and makes closed-minded sectarians into interested recipients of new ideas and insights.

But it has become very difficult for us today to fully understand the implications of hospitality. Like the Semitic nomads, we live in a desert with many lonely travelers who are looking for a moment of peace, for a fresh drink and for a sign of encouragement so that they can continue their mysterious search for freedom.

What does hospitality as a healing power require? It requires first of all that the host feel at home in his own house, and secondly that he create a free and fearless place for the unexpected visitor. Therefore, hospitality embraces two concepts: concentration and community.” ~From The Wounded Healer by Henri J. M. Nouwen.

As I wander through life I stumble across other travelers looking for something. When I take a moment to visit I may find it to be a simply moment to freshen us to journey on or I may find a companion to travel life’s rugged roads for a longer period. I never know when I come across another traveler if it will be a brief encounter or deeper friendship. I am only asked to take notice of those whom I come in contact with as I travel along.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for the travelers You have sent along the way. I thank You for the community You have given me. Help me to be ever aware of others that You may want in my life. May I always be open to new traveling companions. Amen

House of sand

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You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves. Those who hear but don’t do the word are like those who look at their faces in a mirror. They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like. But there are those who study the perfect law, the law of freedom, and continue to do it. They don’t listen and then forget, but they put it into practice in their lives. They will be blessed in whatever they do. ~James 1:22-25 (CEB)

“’But I do not know how to awake and arise!’ I will tell you. Get up, and do something the Master tells you; so make yourself his disciple at once. Instead of asking yourself whether you believe or not, ask yourself whether you have this day done one thing because he said, Do it, or once abstained because he said, Do not do it. It is simply absurd to say you believe, or even want to believe in him, if you do not anything he tells you. If you can think of nothing he ever said as having had an atom of influence on your doing or not doing, you have too good ground to consider yourself no disciple of his.

But you can begin at once to be a disciple of the Living One- by obeying him in the first thing you can think of in which you are not obeying him. We must learn to obey him in everything, and so much begin somewhere. Let it be at once, and in the very next thing that lies at the door of our conscience! Oh fools and slow of heart, if you think of nothing but Christ, and do not set yourselves to do his words! You build your house of sand.” ~From Creations in Christ by George MacDonald

It isn’t that scriptures are too hard for me to understand, it is that sometimes it is hard to live out the scriptures I read. But there is a moment when I do make the sacrifice where I often find that the blessings I receive far outweigh anything I have done without. When I have been pushed out of my comfort zones to follow God’s will for my life I find a wealth of community that I would not have had if I had remained in my seclusion. As God stretches and molds me I have to remember that ultimately He is working all things not just to fulfill His plans for the Kingdom but also for my good.

Heavenly Father I thank You for stretching and molding me into more than I could ever be on my own. Continue to mold me in Christ’s image… give me the strength to just to the next right thing. Amen.

Deserts of the heart

 

20170108_153136.jpgAt once the Spirit forced Jesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and the angels took care of him. ~Mark 1:12-13 (CEB)

“A Strange life-giver, the Holy Spirit, for the life given is compassed about by desolation. The story of Jesus bears stark testimony to this unsettling truth. At the birth of Jesus the Spirit-guided words of Simeon prophesy desolation for Israel and for the heart of Mary as well (Luke 2:34-35). Immediately after his baptism, during which God calls Jesus ‘my beloved,’ the Spirit drives him into the wilderness of isolation, vulnerability, and temptation (Mark 1:12-13). And at the end of a life exquisitely responsive to every subtle rhythm of the Spirit’s leading, Jesus chokes out the unthinkable words, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matt 27:46)

Christian tradition teaches that there are times when we, like Jesus, are led into arid soulscapes that bruise and disorient us. These places seem bereft of God’s presence and filled with temptations to lose heart in God’s goodness, care, and sovereignty. In this harsh ‘winter of abandonment’ (Johannes Tauler), Jesus’ anguished cry of desertion becomes our own. Desert and cross- places of excruciating separation from the God we have some to know but equally unbearable intimacy with the God we are yet to know, places bare of all human possibilities but pregnant with grace. ‘Lord,’ exclaims the scorned and ill young priest in a novel by Georges Bernanos, ‘I am stripped bare of all things, as you alone can strip us bare, whose fearful care nothing escapes, nor your terrible love.’ [We discover] the riches hidden in the poverty of desert and cross, symbols of God’s ‘terrible love.’ In the ‘fearful care’ of the Holy Spirit we are stripped bare but not left naked and exposed in desert wastes.” ~From “Editor’s Introduction” by John S. Mogabgab in Weavings September/October 1993

The Hebrews after their release from bondage traveled through a desert on the way to learning who they were as children of God. Doors to the past had to be shut in order for them to move into their new future in the Promised Land. Old habits and old ways of thinking had to be worked through in that isolation time in the desert. If I remember the Israelites when I find myself in times of “desert” I know that God is taking me to a place where I can begin anew. The desert isn’t a place of abandonment; it is the transition time from “what was” to “what will be”.

Lord, in the desert moments of life, help me to remember that these are just momentary transitions of life. Just as the Hebrews had to spend time in the desert to ready their hearts to enter the Promised Land so I must spend time in preparation for the things You want me to do. Bolster me and strengthen me for the task of transformation to new life. Amen.

Under the surface

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This is why I kneel before the Father. Every ethnic group in heaven or on earth is recognized by him. I ask that he will strengthen you in your inner selves from the riches of his glory through the Spirit. I ask that Christ will live in your hearts through faith. As a result of having strong roots in love, I ask that you’ll have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, together with all believers. I ask that you’ll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God.

Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always. Amen. ~Ephesians 3:14-20 (CEB)

“One of the dangers of spiritual growth is that too much emphasis can be placed on ‘results,’ on how we are doing or how we are progressing. When we catch ourselves being anxious about the results of our prayer or wonder if we are changing fast enough, it is time to go back and ponder Ephesians 3:20. This passage tells of God’s power working through us and offers the assurance that this power is ‘able to accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine.’” ~From The Cup of Our Life by Joyce Rupp.

Waiting for things to happen or change is not my strongest personality trait. I don’t sit still well. I want to see things moving. I want to be moving and doing.  It can be hard to remember that even though I don’t see any changes happening that God can still be doing a mighty work. Under the surface things are happening.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for things seen and unseen. I thank you for doing far more than I could do on my own or even imagine. I know that You will do a good and mighty work in me. Amen

An adventure

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This is why I, Paul, am a prisoner of Christ for you Gentiles. You’ve heard, of course, about the responsibility to distribute God’s grace, which God gave to me for you, right? God showed me his secret plan in a revelation, as I mentioned briefly before (when you read this, you’ll understand my insight into the secret plan about Christ). Earlier generations didn’t know this hidden plan that God has now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets through the Spirit. This plan is that the Gentiles would be coheirs and parts of the same body, and that they would share with the Jews in the promises of God in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I became a servant of the gospel because of the grace that God showed me through the exercise of his power.

God gave his grace to me, the least of all God’s people, to preach the good news about the immeasurable riches of Christ to the Gentiles. God sent me to reveal the secret planthat had been hidden since the beginning of time by God, who created everything. God’s purpose is now to show the rulers and powers in the heavens the many different varieties of his wisdom through the church. This was consistent with the plan he had from the beginning of time that he accomplished through Christ Jesus our Lord. In Christ we have bold and confident access to God through faith in him.So then, I ask you not to become discouraged by what I’m suffering for you, which is your glory. ~Ephesians 3:1-13 (CEB)

“Religion has not tended to create seekers or searchers, has not tended to create honest humble people who trust that God is always beyond them. We aren’t focused on the great mystery. Religion has, rather, tended to create people who think they have God in their pockets, people with quick, easy glib answers. That’s why so much of the West is understandably abandoning religion. People know the great mystery cannot be that simple and facile. If the great mystery is indeed the Great Mystery, it will lead us into paradox, into darkness, into journeys that never cease… That is what prayer is about.” ~From Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr.

In the good news about the immeasurable riches of Christ we find a Great Mystery that promises us the adventure of a life time. If we aren’t in the middle of an adventure maybe we are missing something.

Heavenly Father, Help me this day to see with Your eyes, hear with Your ears, love with Your heart. Send me on a grand adventure as Your hands and feet. Amen.

Risky business

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It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple those who were selling cattle, sheep, and doves, as well as those involved in exchanging currency sitting there. He made a whip from ropes and chased them all out of the temple, including the cattle and the sheep. He scattered the coins and overturned the tables of those who exchanged currency. He said to the dove sellers, “Get these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a place of business.” His disciples remembered that it is written, Passion for your house consumes me. ~John 2:13-17 (CEB)

“To find in ourselves what makes life worth living is risky business, for it means that once we know we must seek it. It also means that without it life will be valueless. More than just a few find their most valued selves despite the risk, although the majority seem to be… people who don’t wish to make any trouble- not even the kind that’s expected. The majority shrewdly stay dull to what in them is life and has meaning. A few brave souls, however, do look within and are so moved by what they find that they sacrifice, from then on, whatever is necessary to bring that self into being.” ~From Ordinary People as Monks and Mystics by Marsha Sinetar.

What am I consumed with for God? Do I take any risks for God? Am I brave enough to step out on a limb for God?

Embolden me Heavenly Father to find who I am and what it means to be a child of God. May I not shrink away from understanding Your will for me life. Help me to love mercy, seek justice and walk humbly with you. Amen.

Dangerous journey

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When the magi had departed, an angel from the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon search for the child in order to kill him.” Joseph got up and, during the night, took the child and his mother to Egypt. He stayed there until Herod died. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: I have called my son out of Egypt.~ Matthew 2:13-15 (CEB)

“The Christian life is seldom described as a dangerous journey. We are reluctant to speak of the cost of seeking God and the danger of following Christ. It is so much easier and more appealing to speak of the rewards and benefits of the journey of faith. While we must never denigrate the incomparable gifts and rewards of a life of faith, we must also look straight in the eye the cost of every decision to seek God and to follow Jesus Christ.

Jesus experiences the marvelous embrace of God at his baptism. To hear the voice of the One who called all things into existence name Jesus the beloved is gift and reward without comparison. It is a wonderful moment of revelation and loving affirmation. However, the story does not end there, for almost immediately Jesus finds himself in the desert, alone and wrestling with the darkest and fiercest forces of evil.

The earliest of prophets and the saints of this millennium have all discovered that the way of faith is not always the way of ease and comfort. Determining to follow Jesus often leads us into paths we would not choose for ourselves. To say yes to God’s call requires saying no to our own voice and sometimes to the voices of persons and things we love.

For Jesus the call of God had the shadow of the cross upon it. Surely Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, made for us, makes our sacrifice on the cross unnecessary. Can we then expect to escape the shadow of the cross on our journey? Probably not. But we can pray for and receive guidance and strength that will take us safely and victoriously through the dangers and risks we encounter in saying yes to the call of God in our time.” ~From A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Rueben P. Job

I thank You Heavenly Father for this journey I am on. Though I find myself wrestling in the dark at times I know that ultimately this journey will bring me into Your light. I pray for guidance and strength that will take me safely and victoriously through all the dangers and risks I will encounter for I know that Your love and affirmation is what I ultimately seek. Amen.

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