Living out the day

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me. I will be present for you, declares the LORD, and I will end your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have scattered you, and I will bring you home after your long exile, declares the LORD. ~Jer. 29:11-14 (CEB)

“You have been wounded in many ways. The more you open yourself to being healed, the more you will discover how deep your wounds are. You will be tempted to become discouraged, because under every wound you uncover you will find others. Your search for true healing will be a suffering search. Many tears still need to be shed.

But do not be afraid. The simple fact that you are more aware of your wounds shows that you have sufficient strength to face them.

The great challenge is living your wounds through instead of thinking them through. It is better to cry than to worry, better to feel your wounds deeply than to understand them, better to let them enter into your silence than to talk about them. ~From The Inner Voice of Love by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Heavenly Father, help me to live through this day. Clear my mind or worry and fear. Help me to take each step as they come. Steady me, guide me, comfort me O Lord. Amen.

Keeping peace in our hearts

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. ~John 16:33

Whatever we do in the Name of Jesus, we must always keep the peace of Jesus in our hearts.  When Jesus sends his disciples out to preach the Gospel, he says:  “Whatever town or village you go into, seek out someone worthy and stay with him until you leave.  As you enter his house, salute it, and if the house deserves it, may your peace come upon it; if it does not, may your peace come back to you”  (Matthew 10:11-13).

The great temptation is to let people take our peace away.  This happens whenever we become angry, hostile, bitter, spiteful, manipulative, or vengeful when others do not respond favorably to the good news we bring to them.” ~From Bread for the Journey, by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Grant my heart peace this day O Lord. Help me to see with Your eyes and to Hear with Your ears. Help me to see beyond the present trials to the glory beyond. Amen.

To walk in wholeness and truth

After this there was a Jewish festival, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate in the north city wall is a pool with the Aramaic name Bethsaida. It had five covered porches, and a crowd of people who were sick, blind, lame, and paralyzed sat there. A certain man was there who had been sick for thirty- eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, knowing that he had already been there a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

The sick man answered him, “Sir, I don’t have anyone who can put me in the water when it is stirred up. When I’m trying to get to it, someone else has gotten in ahead of me.”

Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” Immediately the man was well, and he picked up his mat and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.

The Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It’s the Sabbath; you aren’t allowed to carry your mat.”

He answered, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk. ‘”

They inquired, “Who is this man who said to you, ‘Pick it up and walk’?” The man who had been cured didn’t know who it was, because Jesus had slipped away from the crowd gathered there.

Later Jesus found him in the temple and said, “See! You have been made well. Don’t sin anymore in case something worse happens to you.” The man went and proclaimed to the Jewish leaders that Jesus was the man who had made him well. ~John 5:1-15 (CEB)

“Thirty-eight years is a long time to be unwell. After so long, you might get used to being sick, and develop some strong habits to keep yourself infirm. After all, when you are stuck in a closet of ill health- and everyone around you is also used to being unwell- then being sick seems like the thing to do. If you decide to get well, all the other infirm people will complain about it.

This is the way it was for the man described in John 5:1-15. He felt at home in his infirmity, as did all the others who occupied the surrounding porticos. They were all unwell, and they spent all their time waiting but not seeing that their most serious illness was that they were ‘at home’ in their ill health. They would have felt quiet naked had they suddenly found themselves exposed to wellness. And so Jesus had remind this man that there was another alternative: ‘Do you really want to get well?’

The man’s response tells it all, as he reels off a long list of excuse:

I don’t have anyone to put me into the water.

When the angel comes to stir the water, someone gets there ahead of me.

So you see, all I can do is remain unwell for another year.

But I am faithful. I have been waiting for thirty-eight years.

Go ahead! Blame circumstances, blame the angel, blame the other sick people around you for not letting you in first. . . .  Do you realize the waters that need to be stirred are inside you? Just once why don’t you get up and get there first? If you listen carefully at this moment, you may just hear Jesus saying to you in the portico of your heart, ‘Get up! . . .  Pick up your mat and walk!” ~Norman Shawchuck

Heavenly Father, You know my lists and my excuses. Open my eyes this day to see past my perceived stumbling blocks to wellness. Help me to feel Your Presence I seek to get my feet underneath me so that I may walk in Your ways of wholeness and truth. Amen.

To be whole

After this there was a Jewish festival, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate in the north city wall is a pool with the Aramaic name Bethsaida. It had five covered porches, and a crowd of people who were sick, blind, lame, and paralyzed sat there. A certain man was there who had been sick for thirty- eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, knowing that he had already been there a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

The sick man answered him, “Sir, I don’t have anyone who can put me in the water when it is stirred up. When I’m trying to get to it, someone else has gotten in ahead of me.”

Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” Immediately the man was well, and he picked up his mat and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.

The Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It’s the Sabbath; you aren’t allowed to carry your mat.”

He answered, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk. ‘”

They inquired, “Who is this man who said to you, ‘Pick it up and walk’?” The man who had been cured didn’t know who it was, because Jesus had slipped away from the crowd gathered there.

Later Jesus found him in the temple and said, “See! You have been made well. Don’t sin anymore in case something worse happens to you.” The man went and proclaimed to the Jewish leaders that Jesus was the man who had made him well. ~John 5:1-15 (CEB)

“Do you want to get well? is a shocking question. Of course I want to be well! But then on closer reflection I am forced to ask, Do I really want to get well? At times I am so attached to my illness (today we could also say addiction) that I prefer illness to health. Possibly my illness (addiction) keeps me from facing the real problem or my real self. My illness could be the crutch I have used to hide or circumvent deeper spiritual problems.

The question also shocks because it reminds me that I am a participant in my road to health. God may indeed bring miraculous, sudden, or slow healing with or without the benefit of modern medicine. But it appears that God does not bring healing unless I desire to be whole. So once again I am reminded that I am partner with God. I am asked to participate in the healing process. Even in the miraculous healing I am asked to be a full participant.

In the passage where this question is posed Jesus gives instructions to ‘take up your bed and walk.’ The mental desire to be well now shifts to a physical act. I am asked to take some specific actions to open the doors to healing. Do I want to be well? Yes, yes, even if it means taking up my bed and carrying what has been carrying me. I am indeed helpless on my own and I am indeed invincible with God. God does have the ability to make me whole once again. In obedience I will take up my bed and walk on the pathway to wholeness.” ~A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Rueben P. Job

Heavenly Father, open my eyes so that I may see the bonds that keep me from being free. I want to truly walk in Your ways and feel Your healing hand on my life. I desire to be whole. Amen.

Bondage

Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy- seven times. ~Matt. 18:22 (CEB)

“Community is not possible without the willingness to forgive one another ‘seventy-seven times’. Forgiveness is the cement of community life. Forgiveness holds us together through good times and bad times, and it allows us to grow in mutual love. . . .

To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation. We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us. We say, ‘I no longer hold your offense against you.’ But there is more. We also free ourselves from the burden of being the ‘offended one.’ As long as we do not forgive those who have wounded us, we carry them with us or, worse, pull them as a heavy load. That great temptation is to cling to anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves. It is the way to the freedom of the children of God.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Liberate me Almighty Go, from the chains that bind my heart from loving You more fully. My anger blinds me from see You more fully. Open my eyes that I might see how You would have me live in freedom. Amen.

God of love

Dear friends, let’s love each other; because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love does not know God. Because God is love. This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins.

Dear Friends, if God loved us this way, we also ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. If we love each other, God remains in us and his love is made perfect in us. ~1 John 4:8-12 (CEB)

“I believe with all my heart that the mystery of forgiveness is the entire Gospel. When you ‘get’ forgiveness, you get it. We use the phrase ‘falling in love.’ I think forgiveness is almost the same thing. It’s a mystery we fall into: the mystery is God. God forgives all things for being imperfect, broken, and poor. Not only Jesus but all the great people who pray that I have met in my life say the same thing. That’s the conclusion they come to. The people who know God well, the mystics, the hermits, those who risk everything to find God, always meet a lover, not a dictator. God is never found to be an abusive father or a tyrannical mother, but always a lover who is more than we dared hope for. How different than the ‘account manager’ that most people seem to worship.” ~From Everything Belongs, by Richard Rohr

Heavenly Father, I am a poor, imperfect, and broken human being. I thank You for loving me. I thank You for the forgiveness you so freely and abundantly give. I thank You that I am not defined by my past. Help me to know more of Your love each day. Amen.

The little things

Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?”

Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy- seven times. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. ~Matt. 18:21-23 (CEB)

“This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life- to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son- how can we do it? Only, I think, but remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us!’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions.” ~From Fern-Seed and Elephants by C. S. Lewis

Help me to let go of those every day moments O Lord that add up to become more than they should. Help me to give the mercy I seek for myself to those around me. May I be quick to forgive and slow to anger. Amen.

Becoming conscious

On that same day, two disciples were traveling to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking to each other about everything that had happened. While they were discussing these things, Jesus himself arrived and joined them on their journey. They were prevented from recognizing him.

He said to them, “What are you talking about as you walk along?” They stopped, their faces downcast.

The one named Cleopas replied, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who is unaware of the things that have taken place there over the last few days?”

He said to them, “What things?”

They said to him, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth. Because of his powerful deeds and words, he was recognized by God and all the people as a prophet. But our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel. All these things happened three days ago. But there’s more: Some women from our group have left us stunned. They went to the tomb early this morning and didn’t find his body. They came to us saying that they had even seen a vision of angels who told them he is alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women said. They didn’t see him.” ~Luke 24:13-24(CEB)

“Our experience of grace represents a certain natural progression in the Christian life. Initially divine grace surrounds us without our conscious knowledge. We are simply immersed in God’s unconditional, ever-present love. God works to protect us from spiritual danger and ‘woos’ us in the unconscious infancy of our faith, calling us to be aware of grace. Once we have become fully conscious of a faith decision and choose to receive God’s forgiving love in Jesus Christ, we experience the grace of justification. At this point the experience of grace helps us know that we belong not to ourselves but to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ. We understand that righteousness before God is not something we earn; it can be received only as a gift. As the Spirit builds on the foundation of justification, we gradually grow in holiness of life, or sanctification. This experience of grace leads us to bear the fruits of the Spirit and to exercise the gifts of the Spirit. ~From Companions in Christ: Participant’s Book, Part 1 by Rueben P. Job and Marjorie J. Thompson

Help me this day O Lord, to be fully conscious of You. May I choose every moment to be aware of Your grace in my life. May I ever grow in holiness of life able to bear the fruits of the Spirit and exercise the gifts of the Spirit. Amen.

Sharing the abundant love

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 plan that 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. ~Eph. 3:8-13 (CEB)

Why must we go out to the far ends of the world to preach the Gospel of Jesus when people do not have to know Jesus in order to enter the house of God?   We must go out because we want to share with all people the abundant love and hope, joy and peace that Jesus brought to us.  We want to “proclaim the unfathomable treasure of Christ” and “throw light on the inner workings of the mystery kept hidden through all ages in God, the creator of everything”.

What we have received is so beautiful and so rich that we cannot hold it for ourselves but feel compelled to bring it to every human being on earth. ~From Bread for the Journey, by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Heavenly Father, thank You so much for all that you have done for me. Thank You for the love, hope, joy and peace that can be known through Jesus. Help me to boldly go out and proclaim the treasures that can be found in Christ so that others can find light. Amen.

Ups and downs


The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. ~Psalm 28:7

“Our emotional lives move up and down constantly.  Sometimes we experience great mood swings: from excitement to depression, from joy to sorrow, from inner harmony to inner chaos.  A little event, a word from someone, a disappointment in work, many things can trigger such mood swings.  Mostly we have little control over these changes.  It seems that they happen to us rather than being created by us.

Thus it is important to know that our emotional life is not the same as our spiritual life.  Our spiritual life is the life of the Spirit of God within us.  As we feel our emotions shift we must connect our spirits with the Spirit of God and remind ourselves that what we feel is not who we are.  We are and remain, whatever our moods, God’s beloved children.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Heavenly Father, help me to stay connected with you through all the ups and downs that will be found today. Help me feel Your Spirit as I strive to do Your will. Amen.

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