With imagination and song

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint ~Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

“Christian existence… involves a life or incredible rhythms, of highs and lows, whether in a concert hall hearing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony or in a Memphis dive trumpeting the blues. Its antinomies include a hunger for community, yet a taste for the silence of aloneness. The yearning is for intimacy, but the embrace occurs on a windswept hill called Golgatha. There is an emptying out of all thought and imagery in order to lose oneself in the Unknown and Unknowable. Yet there is an excitement over the playfulness of imagination and the intensity of mind. Christians are claimed by a past that hopes for the future by drinking deeply of the present. They are daring persons for whom belief is etched with faithful doubts. They hold tenaciously to what has been bequeathed, yet they gamble on the new being born. “~From The Art of Spiritual Direction by W. Paul Jones

Empty me O Lord so that I may be filled with Your thoughts and Your love. Help me to dream Your dreams and to dance to Your tunes. May I lose myself in the “Unknown” today and find myself in its possibilities. Amen.

Reality, hope and proof

Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see. The elders in the past were approved because they showed faith. By faith we understand that the universe has been created by a word from God so that the visible came into existence from the invisible. ~Hebrews 11:1-3 (CEB)

“Many of our tame hopes are fulfilled on a daily basis: the hope that the sun will shine, of that the pay check will arrive as planned, or that we will get sufficient nourishment for the day. Though one is disappointed once in awhile, our anticipation of these ‘small’ things though not insignificant, is frequently realized.

By contrast, some of these same issues for people in other cultures are ‘wild hopes.’ Many of our sisters and brothers do not receive a salary nor do they get three square meals a day nor does the sun of freedom shine in their lives. Born into poverty or oppressed by social systems, these people find little joy and peace. If they are fortunate in avoiding violence they still must struggle with resentment and bitterness in their awareness of the consumption and materialism of the wealthy.

We must pray like Jesus that hope might be restored and that the earth might be recast. Only the gift of the Holy Spirit can empower us to trust in the future and to assume our rightful responsibility for the common good. Renewing the face of the earth is the work of the Holy Spirit through those people who say yes to being the Spirit’s agents of knowledge, love and kindness. Our hope, wild or tame, is grounded in God’s promise of presence. Herein is our joy and peace.” ~From Resurrection to Pentecost by Robert F. Morneau

I thank You Heavenly Father, for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Through Its guidance may we renew the earth. May I be the Spirit’s agent of knowledge, love and kindness. May it embolden me to hope and to dream wild dreams for Your Kingdom. Amen.

Certainty

The Lord was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the Lord. ~Isaiah 38:20 (KJV)

“It has been said that Charles Wesley’s hymns always begin on earth and end in heaven. So it is with John Wesley’s theology. He was firmly convinced of the coming day of Christ, which is not yet, but toward which humankind, with the whole creation, is moving. For Wesley, it was necessary to stress God’s ultimate victory; but it was also important to affirm the penultimate reality of God’s presence, now experienced as life that is drawn to God in increasingly focused love. John Wesley had a doctrine of final things, an eschatology, in which God’s kingdom is being presently realized even as it points toward a consummating future. The Christian lives with the lively hope that God, who has begun a good thing, will fulfill it in the day of Jesus Christ.” ~From Practical Divinity by Thomas A. Lanford

I am certain that God, who began the good work within me, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Phil. 1:6) And I know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28)

Thank You O Lord for the hope you instill in me. I thank You for Your word that tells of Your ultimate victory. Thank You for beginning a good thing… in me. Amen.

That which has no end

Shout triumphantly to the LORD , all the earth! Serve the LORD with celebration! Come before him with shouts of joy! Know that the LORD is God— he made us; we belong to him. We are his people, the sheep of his own pasture. Enter his gates with thanks; enter his courtyards with praise! Thank him! Bless his name! Because the LORD is good, his loyal love lasts forever; his faithfulness lasts generation after generation. ~Psalm 100:1-5 (CEB)

Indeed, the Church has a future; it has the future. This is the eighth day which passes description and cannot be foreseen, the day on which God will complete his work of creation, the Church will reach the goal of its pilgrimage and the world will recognize its Lord. And that seventh age will be our Sabbath, a day that knows no evening, but is followed by the day of the Lord, an everlasting eighth day, hallowed by the resurrection of Christ, prefiguring the eternal rest not only of the spirit, but of the body as well. Then we shall have holiday and we shall see, we shall see and we shall love, we shall love and we shall praise. Behold, this is how it shall be at the end without end. For what else is our end, but to some to that kingdom which has no end?’ ~From The Church by Hans Kung

Heavenly Father, I thank you for Your loyal love that lasts forever. Help me to have the courage to live with my eyes on the eighth day to that time that I will finally be able to walk through Your gates with a joyful heart and enter Your courtyards singing Your praises. Amen.

Reign in my heart

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being. What came into being through the Word was life,and the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light. ~John 1:1-5 (CEB)

As Christians we live by faith in God, and we carry within us the notorious hope that a life of faithfulness is indeed the best way to live. Our hope is that fidelity and faithfulness will result in a holy life and the comforting companionship of Jesus Christ. The rewards of peace and assurance of continued companionship with God in the life to come belong to every faithful Christian.

We hope for that which we do not see. The reward of holy living today is merely a hope for tomorrow. The rewards of peace and assurance may be ours today, but they are only a hope for tomorrow. The companionship of Jesus Christ is experienced today but is only a hope for tomorrow. The promise that this ordinary life can be invested in the extraordinary reign of God today and tomorrow is the hope that encourages us to do what we can where we are to makes God’s will known and real.

When disease, disaster, death, or triumph strike, we are filled with hope because our ultimate trust is in God. Our worlds and wealth may crumble; disease and disaster may lay hold on what and whom we value; but followers of the Christian way continue to be hopeful. We hold onto hope because we are filled with faith that God is able to consummate the promise made to redeem and transform all who turn their lives toward God. ~From Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Ruben P. Job

My hope is in You today O Lord. I thank You for the rewards of peace and assurance that you promise me for today. Reign in my heart and give me courage to make your sovereignty known to others. Amen.

Looking at my “self” again

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. ~1John 4:1-4 (NRSV)

At times my heart is drawn away from your loving purpose and way. My spirit leans toward the unloving though, the unloving word. I am prone to turn away from you and to embrace those things I know to be wrong and harmful.

As long as I continue to fight against those things with the power to destroy my life, I know that you are with me and living in my heart. I want you to take complete control of every aspect of my life. What a strange thing to be new and old at the same time, to be recreated by your love and yet continue to struggle with my old self. You have freed me from the guilt and power of my own brokenness, but inner healing requires a long process of divine therapy. ~From Praying in the Weslyean Spirit by Paul W. Chilcote

Heavenly Father, I am so thankful that You are greater than the spirit of the antichrist. When I find myself in darkness help me not to be led astray by unloving words or to embrace those things to be wrong and harmful. Protect my heart during times of wandering. Help me as I struggle again with my “self”.  Help me to find my way back into Your light. Amen.

A walk in darkness

But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal Live ~Jude 20-21 (CEB)

“As our insensitivity to our own feelings grows, our lives often begin leaking all kinds of negative emotions. Without even realizing it, we go about feeling frustrated, unappreciated, resentful, exploited lonely, put upon, needy angry, and acting in ways that let these negative emotions overflow toward others. If we were in touch with our feelings, these emotions could be moments of truth for us, warning us that we are heading for trouble. They could be the raw material for soul-searching and meditative exploration of what is going on in our lives. When we are out of touch with our hearts, however, we fail even to notice our feeling, much less to receive and act on their important messages.” ~From The Journey from Misery to Ministry by Francis Dorff

I know personally what happens when I start shutting down my emotions. I begin to not know the truth in situations and begin to perceive harm coming from all directions. I become more and more isolated and begin to think myself a victim. I cannot be about God’s work if I am playing the victim. If I cannot be in touch with my own heart how can I reach out to other’s?

Heavenly Father, I thank You for loving me so much that You bring me out of the darkness. I also know that You allow the darkness to come again when I need to make the space to seek You once more. In those dark moments I know that You are with me walking beside me, wanting to show me the way, if only I ask. Help me to not be afraid of the darkness but to realize it is just a signal that it is time to search for Your light once again. Amen.

My small part with great love

I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, so that they may follow my statues and keep my ordinances and obey them. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God. ~Ezek. 11:19-20 (NRSV)

“When we were traveling in India, . . . we had the unforgettable experience of talking with Mother Teresa. We remember savoring that time: the sunlight on the balcony, her wise and wrinkled face with piercing eyes, the sisters in the courtyard below doing laundry, and her parting words, ‘Please pray for us that we will be faithful, and not interfere with God’s works.’

In the immediacy of that moment, we were given a gift- and that gift involved what we should and could do (be ‘faithful’), and what we shouldn’t do (‘interfere with God’s work’). She truly believed that she and her sisters- whose devotion to God and care of the rejected and dying ones in our world is legendary- needed to be aware of this possibility and to guard against getting in the way of God’s work. Those who criticize Mother Teresa for not attacking the systemic problems that cause persons to be sick and hungry and dying on the streets of Calcutta and Chicago may be called to do that very thing. But Mother’s calling was to share compassion and love and to feed and hold the dying. Each of us must discern and answer our own unique call.

Mother Teresa’s request presupposes that God is active and that we only muck up the situation when we forget that our understanding is partial. We must avoid the temptation to play God!” ~From Sacramental Living by Dwight W Vogel and Linda Vogel

What a reminder that we are not called to do it all. We are called to do our part. If we all do our part, some will do the feeding, the holding, the loving and others will fight the battles that attack the root causes and injustices for hunger and suffering. What part are you called to do?

Heavenly Father, Help me discern my part of the battle against hunger and suffering. Help me to be faithful this day and to not interfere with Your work in the world. Amen.

Idleness

Everything that is revealed by the light is light. Therefore, it says, Wake up, sleeper! Get up from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

Be filled with the Spirit

So be careful to live your life wisely, not foolishly. Take advantage of every opportunity because these are evil times. Because of this, don’t be ignorant, but understand the Lord’s will. Don’t get drunk on wine, which produces depravity. Instead, be filled with the Spirit in the following ways: speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts; always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 5:14-20 (CEB)

“As I listen to myself and to other Christians, I notice that after some years of following Jesus we tend to suffer from various symptoms of drifting away.

When we were young in our faith, we were eager to give sacrificially of our time and resources to alleviate the pains of the poor; we were eager to take the time for daily reading of the scripture and prayer. Fasting was a spiritual delight, and we would plow through show up to our belt buckles to get to church on Sunday. Then, after some years, we began to drift away from the spiritual disciplines that sustained us in earlier times.

John labeled three deadly conditions that cause us to drift away from our earlier spiritual disciplines (1 John 2:16); lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life (or, if you will, lustful desires, wandering eyes, and greedy eyes- a false sense of security in our material possessions). John insisted that if we follow in these ways, we certainly will come to spiritual and ethical shipwreck.

Most Christians, I suppose, don’t come to such extreme conditions. But for many, after some years of faithful practice, spiritual rigor mortis sets in- and all is lost. Paul suggests an antidote for drifting away; ‘Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.’” (Eph 5:14-20) ~Norman Shawchuck

I have mentioned before that I hope when Christ comes I am on the “up-swing” and not on the “down-swing”. Sometimes I just get “tired” and discipline slips out the window. Other times I just get too busy with life. But Paul tells us in 2Thessalonians 3:6 guard against becoming idle. We are to be about God’s work.

Heavenly Father, help me this day to live wisely and not foolishly. Show me areas that I have drifted. Help me make the most of these days giving sacrificially my time and resources that Your kingdom may be glorified. Amen.

Drifting…

Those who stand firm during testing are blessed. They are tried and true. They will receive the life God has promised to those who love him as their reward. No one who is tested should say, “God is tempting me!” This is because God is not tempted by any form of evil, nor does he tempt anyone. Everyone is tempted by their own cravings; they are lured away and enticed by them. Once those cravings conceive, they give birth to sin; and when sin grows up, it gives birth to death.

Don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. ~James 1:12-16 (CEB)

The twelve all had a good beginning with Jesus. Their signs of loyalty, fidelity, and faithfulness came often in their brief time with Jesus. And yet in many of the crucial times for Jesus and for them, the truth is that they drifted astray. They lost sight of Jesus and his way and focused on themselves and their way.

A good beginning is wonderful to experience and to observe. Even more wonderful is to see a woman or a man full of years and still full of goodness and faith. To observe a marriage that is marked by fidelity and unqualified love after a half century of living brings hope and encouragement to all who desire strong families and strong communities. Faithfulness is a wonderful thing to experience and to observe.

Some congregations have remarkable and almost miraculous beginnings. Beginnings that are marked by rapid growth and transformation of nearly every life that enters their sphere of ministry. These congregations’ transforming ministry touches every part of their community, and that community is forever changed. Faithfulness is a wonderful thing to experience and to observe.

There are denominations that carry a precious part of the gospel’s treasure in such faithful ways that the world is a better place because God has given them life. Their faithfulness in good times and bad, in wealth and poverty, provides direction and encouragement for all who choose to live a life of goodness and holiness. Faithfulness is a wonderful thing to experience and to observe.

The bad news is that individuals, congregations and denominations can drift astray. It happens so easily. It happens the moment we lose our center we begin to lose our way. We know it does not have to be that way because every day we can keep our eyes upon Jesus Christ and ask for guidance and grace to remain faithful. The good news Christians share is that Jesus Christ is able and willing to guide and enable us on our journey toward our true home with God. ~From A Guide to all Who Pray, Rueben P. Job

Thank You heavenly Father for sending Jesus into the world to guide me on my journey towards You. Help me to stay centered in Your will this day. Guide my steps and give me enough grace to remain faithful. Amen.

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