Love makes the difference

When they finished eating, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus asked a second time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.”  He asked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was sad that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” He replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” ~John 21:15-17 (CEB)

“As I drove up the driveway, our children raced out the front door and met me at the car. Before I could bet my suitcase out of the car, they were telling me about Puddles, the dog that had followed them home from the little store a few blocks away. We had talked nearly every day about the dog we were going to get when we were able to move into the country. Everyone wanted a big dog like a Dalmatian or a black Labrador. But as I got out of the car I noticed a dog that was small and scraggly, of mixed origin, very soon to be a mother, and yet very personable. The chorus of affirmation for the dog from our children was compelling. But I gave no clear answer to their question, “Can we keep Puddles?” I did not want to adopt a dog like this, and I knew I had to move quickly to make sure we did not have a dog and a littler of puppies on our hands.

I suggested that after our evening meal and our shores were completed we would talk about what to do with the dog. Later, when we were all settled down in the family room, and with the dog in the garage, I asked each of the children to tell me why he or she thought we should keep Puddles when we could get a beautiful and large dog. Each of them had a good reason. She needed a home. We would enjoy the puppies. She would be a watchdog. Last I turned to our eight-year-old son and asked him what we should do with the dog and why. His eyes filled with tears and he said, “We should keep her.” I asked him for his reason why we should keep this scraggly dog. He responded through his tears, “Because she loves me.” We kept Puddles. She was with us while our children grew up and when they called home form college and career, their first question was always, “How is Puddles?” She lived with us seventeen years because one little boy lover her enough to save her.

Jesus knew that only love was strong enough to keep the disciples faithful in the days ahead. His repeated questions to Pete were meant to clarify for Peter what the real love of his life was. Only love is strong enough to keep us faithful and the question or qualification is first of all about our love. For God knows what we know: Only love is strong enough to keep us faithful . . . and joyful. May our love for God continue to grow in the presence of God’s love for us.” ~From A Guide to Prayer For All Who Seek God, Rueben P. Job

Almighty God, I thank You for loving me so much. Thank You for the adoption into Your eternal family. May the gratitude I feel for Your love strengthen me as I go about Your will for my life. In this time of prayer, come to me. Speak words of life and love into the depths of my being. May I feel Your presence this day, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

He came in peace

The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him. They shouted,

“Hosanna!

Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Blessings on the king of Israel!”

Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

Don’t be afraid, Daughter Zion.

Look! Your king is coming,

sitting on a donkey’s colt.

His disciples didn’t understand these things at first. After he was glorified, they remembered that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.

The crowd who had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead were testifying about him. That’s why the crowd came to meet him, because they had heard about this miraculous sign that he had done. Therefore, the Pharisees said to each other, “See! You’ve accomplished nothing! Look! The whole world is following him!” ~John 12:12-19 (CEB)

“The ass was the beast on which kings rode when they came in peace; only in war did they ride upon horses. The entry of Jesus was the claim to be King.

But at the same time it was the claim to be the King of peace. It was upon the ass of peace and not upon the horse of war that Jesus came. He came deliberately refusing the role of the warrior Messiah and claiming to be the Prince of peace. He was appealing for a throne, but the throne was in the hearts of men. In that entry into Jerusalem Jesus, in a dramatic symbolic action which spoke more loudly than any words, was making one last appeal to men, and saying to them: ‘Will you not, even now, even yet, accept me as your Lord and King, and enthrone me within your hearts?’

Jesus entry into Jerusalem was an action of supreme courage; it was an assertion of royalty and an offer of love; it was at one and the same time royalty’s claim and love’s appeal.” ~From Mind of Jesus by William Barclay

We miss the subtle things of life. The still small voice. The Prince of peace. The noises of this world grab at our attention more now than ever. The distractions of this world increase daily. Would we even notice a quiet entrance today?

Lord, Help me to see the small things in life and to hear You whisper my name. May I this day accept You as our Lord and King making a place for you in my heart. Amen.

Real Freedom

One day Jesus was standing beside Lake Gennesaret when the crowd pressed in around him to hear God’s word. Jesus saw two boats sitting by the lake. The fishermen had gone ashore and were washing their nets. Jesus boarded one of the boats, the one that belonged to Simon, then asked him to row out a little distance from the shore. Jesus sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he finished speaking to the crowds, he said to Simon, “Row out farther, into the deep water, and drop your nets for a catch.”

Simon replied, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing. But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.”

So they dropped the nets and their catch was so huge that their nets were splitting. They signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They filled both boats so full that they were about to sink. When Simon Peter saw the catch, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Leave me, Lord, for I’m a sinner!” Peter and those with him were overcome with amazement because of the number of fish they caught. James and John, Zebedee’s sons, were Simon’s partners and they were amazed too.

Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid. From now on, you will be fishing for people.” As soon as they brought the boats to the shore, they left everything and followed Jesus. ~Luke 5:1-11 (CEB)

“We need to look for what we dismiss and what we disdain. Look at what we’ve spent our whole life avoiding. We don’t want to look unsuccessful. That’s our shadow. I can see why my father, Francis, intentionally countered the way the West was moving. He moved entirely into the shadow self and said, ‘Here is where I will rejoice.’ I will delight in nonpower, nonaggression, nondomination, nonpleasure, nonwealth and nonsuccess. He lived so close to the bottom of things that he could never fall very far. Now that is freedom! ~From Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr

Almighty God, as You have sent Jesus to be for me the light and truth, send now Your spirit upon me to grant me grace and strength to follow in His footsteps this day. Amen.

Freedom of the soul

Brothers and sisters, I want you to know that the things that have happened to me have actually advanced the gospel. The whole Praetorian Guard and everyone else knows that I’m in prison for Christ. Most of the brothers and sisters have had more confidence through the Lord to speak the word boldly and bravely because of my jail time ~Phil. 1:12-14 (CEB)

“We are desperately afraid of having no power. We fear loneliness, poverty and boredom. We fear failure terribly.

Nonviolence, nonpleasure, nonaggression are also part of our American shadow. These are the things that we avoid to create our character armor. We lust after the kind of aggression that allows us to be dominant, to be powerful. We settle for a certain kind of pleasure that really isn’t joyous. Sometimes pleasure, as a limited [secularized sacred] experience, is the avoidance of joy. It is to entertain one part of our body, perhaps, but at the price of the inner glow and juice of our whole being. Poverty is the ultimate shadow for many of us. We cannot imagine being happy without our money. We would be petrified to be without our many options. We’ve substituted freedom of choice for the freedom of the soul which alone gives spiritual joy.” ~From Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr

Almighty God, may Your strong hand defend, guide, and empower me along my journey today. Help me to overcome the darkness with Your light, my selfishness with Your love and my indolence and cowardice with Your steadfast devotion that I may ever live in Your presence and perform faithfully over my appointed tasks, and finally come to everlasting life; through the Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

Bushes aflame

“Therefore, don’t be afraid of those people because nothing is hidden that won’t be revealed, and nothing secret that won’t be brought out into the open. What I say to you in the darkness, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, announce from the rooftops. Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul. Instead, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Aren’t two sparrows sold for a small coin? But not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father knowing about it already. Even the hairs of your head are all counted. Don’t be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows. ~Matt 10:26-31 (CEB)

“Two years ago I faced the crisis of cancer. The dreaded disease, which had already taken the life of two close friends and relatives and invaded two others, now attacked me. In stark moments of confrontation with the truth, we can never predict our own response. At first I fell into a black hole, defeated. Then I swam in a sea of surrounding realities: my connectedness to others, my faith in the immensity of life, a strength whose source I simply accepted. In time my feelings roamed the spectrum of fear and despair. My body endangered by mortal enemy. My life thrown into turmoil and my future made uncertain. My total helplessness in the face of a silent, aggressive foe.

My recovery was quick, my prognosis good, my basic attitude healthy. I was immersed in understanding and love. My pain was borne by others and in that sharing there was comfort and hope. Before long I was engaged in all my normal activities. But ‘normal’ has become a meaningless word. Health has become a relative experience. Time is etched with urgency. Life, which I too am prone to take for granted, has assumed a precious value. People and the time spent with them are treasures, not to be calculated, and not to be abused.” ~From Every Bush is Burning by Joan Puls

Almighty God, through the power of your Holy Spirit you enable us to do and be more than we can think or imagine. I thank You for community through which You have shown me Your love in my helpless moments. Come now, dwell within me, and make me strong to do Your work and will. Through Christ my Lord. Amen.

The greatest gift

After these events, the LORD’s word came to Abram in a vision, “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your protector.Your reward will be very great.”

But Abram said, “LORD God, what can you possibly give me, since I still have no children? The head of my household is Eliezer, a man from Damascus.” He continued, “Since you haven’t given me any children, the head of my household will be my heir.”

The LORD’s word came immediately to him, “This man will not be your heir. Your heir will definitely be your very own biological child.” Then he brought Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you think you can count them. He continued, “This is how many children you will have.” Abram trusted the LORD, and the LORD recognized Abram’s high moral character. ~Gen. 15:1-6 (CEB)

“The greatest gift I have ever received from Jesus Christ has been the Abba experience. ‘No one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (Matt. 11:27). My dignity as Abba’s child is my most coherent sense of self. When I seek to fashion a self-image from the adulation of others and the inner voice whisperers, ‘You’ve arrived; you’re a player in the Kingdom enterprise,’ there is no truth in that self-concept. When I sink into despondency and the inner voice whispers, ‘You are no good, a fraud, a hypocrite and a dilettante,’ there is no truth in any image shaped from that message. ~From Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning

Lord God, in whom I find life, health, and strength, through whose gifts I am clothes and fed, through whose mercy I have been forgiven and cleansed, be for me guide, strength, Savior, and Lord all the days of my life. I offer my prayers through Christ. Amen.

When spirituality dawns

It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” ~John 20:19-22 (CEB)

“Real spirituality dawns when our life with God becomes as real as the problems and joys we experience each day. Until then we live in two different worlds- one, a seemingly real, practical and demanding world; the other, a wistful, so-called ‘spiritual’ world. In our daily activities, we may see ourselves enmeshed in the world, perhaps burdened. However, in our prayer we walk in the mystery of God, we dwell in peace, and we wish we could simply remain there.

This separation cannot remain if all our life is to be filled with real meaning, peace, and awe, no matter how violent or stormy our days may become. When we are truly prayerful we join both worlds. As we become naturally aware of God throughout the day, we journey in both worlds simultaneously. That is truly the spiritual life.” ~From Everyday Simplicity by Robert J. Wicks

Lord, You have promised to meet those who seek Your face. Come now and reveal Your presence to me this day. Help me walk in Your mystery and dwell in your peace. In the name of Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

He won’t abandon me

Then Moses called Joshua and, with all Israel watching, said to him: “Be strong and fearless because you are the one who will lead this people to the land the LORD swore to their ancestors to give to them; you are the one who will divide up the land for them. But the LORD is the one who is marching before you! He is the one who will be with you! He won’t let you down. He won’t abandon you. So don’t be afraid or scared! ” ~Deut. 31:7-8 (CEB)

“Fear kills a mind and soul by slowly obliterating the visions we hold for our lives. That we should not fall prey is a constant theme in the scriptures. God does not want us to succumb to the chilling and killing aspects of fear; God encourages people not to be afraid of the circumstances in which they find themselves. It seems that one of God’s favorite themes is ‘Do not be afraid’ or ‘Do not fear.’ Perhaps God repeats this theme so often because we so often fear circumstances that confront us in our lives and ministries.

God is not suggesting that we will not confront fearful realities in our lives. God is simply promising not to abandon us to fearful circumstances but to go with us through the dark night of fear, danger, and uncertainty.

Fear, left to eat away at us, finally brings us to a ‘little-death.’ We must not deny our fear or avoid dealing with the fearful moment. In scripture God never suggests an escapist attitude as an antidote for fear. The many ‘do not be afraid’ promises in scripture do not suggest that we shun the fearful prospects in which we find ourselves, but God consistently promises to be with us in the dark and ominous moment.” ~Norman Shawchuck

Almighty Father, I thank You for being with me in the darkness. Thank You for guiding me and giving me strength. I know Your promises are true and that You will not let me down or abandon me. You march before me with Your light showing me the way. I will not give into fear this day, In Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

Included

Later, Jesus himself appeared again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberius. This is how it happened: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter told them, “I’m going fishing.”

They said, “We’ll go with you.” They set out in a boat, but throughout the night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples didn’t realize it was Jesus.

Jesus called to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”

They answered him, “No.”

He said, “Cast your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”

So they did, and there were so many fish that they couldn’t haul in the net. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard it was the Lord, he wrapped his coat around himself (for he was naked) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they weren’t far from shore, only about one hundred yards.

When they landed, they saw a fire there, with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you’ve just caught.” Simon Peter got up and pulled the net to shore. It was full of large fish, one hundred fifty-three of them. Yet the net hadn’t torn, even with so many fish. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples could bring themselves to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread, and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. ~John 21:1-14 (CEB)

“For those who profess and call themselves Christians, the lens through which everything else is interpreted is a person: Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection. Just as the lover never plumbs the mystery of the beloved, so we do not exhaust the mystery of Jesus. This, at first, seems a strange claim. But it is not less extraordinary that contemporary ‘messiahs, saviors, and gurus’ possess the consciousness of modern men and women . . . . A walk on a Saturday evening through the streets of a busy city reveals what models, exemplars, paradigms are operating in the lives of the people.

We cannot do without a paradigm to help us live. As a believer, I keep bumping into Jesus. I wander away, and there he is, perhaps in the eyes of someone on the street. There is no escape for me. Nor do I want there to be.” ~From Soul Making by Alan W. Jones

Almighty God, in every age You have called out men and women to be Your faithful servants. Be with me this day as You call me to join in the work of Your hands. Grant me this day and always a clear vision of Your call and strength to fulfill the ministry assigned to me. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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