The night shift

You are the one who lights my lamp—

the LORD my God illumines my darkness. ~Psalm 18:28 (CEB)

“There is always a night shift and sooner or later we are put on it. The praise does not cease with the fading of the light, but goes on through the spiritual night as well as the spiritual day. And if you are picked for the night shift- well, praise the Lord. Lift up your hands in the dark sanctuary of your soul when you are tempted to wonder what is the good of it all, and praise the Lord! And the Lord, maker of heaven and earth, will bless you from Zion.” ~From The Fruits of the Spirit by Evelyn Underhill

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and in his grace gave us unfailing courage and a firm hope, encourage you and strengthen you to always do and say what is good. Amen. –Thess. 2:16-17 (TEV)

When I fall

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We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8:28 (CEB)

“In learning to accept the consequences of living as a Christian, most of us trip on the cracks and ‘fall flat on our face’ once in a while. Fortunately, we do not all have to experience that literally! We eventually learn that ‘for those who love God all things work together unto good,’ we relax a bit. Until we repeatedly experience the truth of that statement, the words are only words we have heard, but as we struggle to ascend the ‘upgrades’ in our lives and find that the view from the top of the mountain was well worth the effort, the words become convictions” ~from Symbols of Inner Truth by Carole Marie Kelly

Thank You Heavenly Father for always picking me up when I fall on my face. Thank You for always loving me as I learn the truths You are trying to show me. Thank You for the mountain top experiences that help me to get through life’s valleys. Amen.

When I call you to me

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The LORD proclaims, the LORD who made the earth, who formed and established it, whose name is the LORD: Call to me and I will answer and reveal to you wondrous secrets that you haven’t known. ~Jer. 33:2-3 (CEB)

“How shall I call upon my God, my God and my Lord, when by the very act of calling upon him I would be calling him into myself? Is there any place within me into which my God might come? How should the God who made heaven and earth come into me? Is there any room in me for you, Lord, my God? Even heaven and earth, which you have made and in which you have made me – can even they contain you? Since nothing exists would exist without you, does it follow that whatever exists does in some way contain you? But if this is so, how can I, who am one of these existing things, ask you to come into me, when I would not exist at all unless you were already in me? Not yet am I in hell, after all, but even if I were, you would be there too; for if I descend to the underworld, you are there. No my God, I would not exist, I would not be at all, were you not in me. Or should I say, rather, that I should not exist if I were not in you, from whom are all things, through whom are all things, in whom are all things? Yes, Lord, that is the truth, that is indeed the truth. To what place can I invite you, then, since I am in you? Or where could you come from, in order to come into me? To what place outside heaven and earth could I travel, so that my God could come to me there, the God who said, I fill heaven and earth?” ~From The Confessions by Saint Augustine

Almighty God, you who are the source of my life and strength. In Your presence alone I find help, hope and life to sustain me this day. Help me in turn to be a healing reminder of Your love to all whose lives I touch this day. Amen.

Seasons

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Examine me, God! Look at my heart!

Put me to the test! Know my anxious thoughts!

Look to see if there is any idolatrous way in me,

then lead me on the eternal path! ~Psalm 139:23-24 (CEB)

“The seasons of our life will condition our response to the God who encounters us in the psalms. Again Psalm 139 is a good example. When I feel that I am in a precarious place, I will be relieved to know that God surrounds me, but when I am caught up in prideful ambition, I may wish that a distance could be placed between us. The palm raises my awareness of what is going on for me at that moment and, in the process, puts me in touch with the Source of my life. It offers no magic ‘fix’ but sets me to the task of figuring out the most appropriate response to the One who loved me into being. Often that response will be an invitation to change.” ~From “Sing a New Song” by Elizabeth J. Canham in Communion, Community, Commonweal

Lord, You know me by name. You know my heart like no one else. You never let me stray from You for very long before You start calling me back. As the Source of my life, help me to align that life with Your will today. Amen.

Behind and below

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Where could I go to get away from your spirit?

Where could I go to escape your presence?

If I went up to heaven, you would be there.

If I went down to the grave, you would be there too!

If I could fly on the wings of dawn,

stopping to rest only on the far side of the ocean—

even there your hand would guide me;

even there your strong hand would hold me tight!

If I said, “The darkness will definitely hide me;

the light will become night around me,”

even then the darkness isn’t too dark for you!

Nighttime would shine bright as day,

because darkness is the same as light to you! ~Psalm 139:7-12

“Our desire for equilibrium can become an idolatrous attempt to deny a large part of what life is about. The advertising industry achieves a good deal of its success through the message that if only we opt for this or that product, our needs and longings will be satisfied. We learn that life is not yet perfect, but we can fix it by obtaining the right house, floor polish, insurance policy, or therapy. In other words, we are encouraged to believe that there is something wrong with us if things are out of kilter and that life is meant to be lived on a plateau of happiness. The psalms give the lie to this kind of thinking by encouraging us to robustly deal with life as it really is and to find God in disorientation as well as harmony.

It is both a relief and a challenge to comprehend that there is no place where God is not. Psalm 139 speaks of the attempt to escape the Creator by soaring into the heavens, going into the depth, or sinking into the horizon where sea and sky meet. The sense that God is behind, in front, and above, laying a hand upon the one who feels searched out and known, makes the omnipresence of the Creator into a felt reality. I pray this psalm and I have to ask ‘Who am I? How can I respond to this all-encompassing presence of God?’ In my time and place I am on holy ground, and as I allow myself to be held in that moment of awareness, I must respond with what is truly in my heart. I tell God that I am afraid, relieved, filled with gratitude, or overwhelmed by a sense of being invaded.” ~From “Sing a New Song” by Elizabeth J. Canham in Communion, Community, Commonweal

Heavenly Father, Thank You for being behind me and going before me. Thank You for knowing the depths and the heights of my life. Thank You for fencing me in even when I thought that I just wanted to be free. Thank You for this time and space to know You more fully. Amen.

To flow with the river

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After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 35 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. 36 Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? 37 What will people give in exchange for their lives? 38 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.” ~Mark 8:34-37

“Spirituality is about seeing. It’s not about earning or achieving. It’s about relationship rather than results or requirements. Once you see, the rest follows. You don’t need to push the river, because you are in it. The life is lived within us, and we learn how to say yes to that life.” ~From Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr

Today I am going to try to not swim against the current. Today I am going to rest and let the river do the work. When I try to get places by my own power, I just wear myself out. I think I will lay back and see just where this river takes me.

Heavenly Father, You say in Your Word that Your yoke is easy and Your burdens are light. Help me to make the right choices this day so I can step out in faith and not feel overly weighed down. Help me to flow better with the currents of life so that I can look up and see Your glory around me. Amen.

By faith

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By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out without knowing where he was going. By faith he lived in the land he had been promised as a stranger. He lived in tents along with Isaac and Jacob, who were coheirs of the same promise. He was looking forward to a city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith even Sarah received the ability to have a child, though she herself was barren and past the age for having children, because she believed that the one who promised was faithful. So descendants were born from one man (and he was as good as dead). They were as many as the number of the stars in the sky and as countless as the grains of sand on the seashore. ~Hebrews 8:8-12 (CEB)

It is hard for me to relate this passage. I don’t have the long family history, those stories that tell me who I am. It is hard for me to understand what it was like for Abraham to leave all he had known, to leave his family behind and step out on faith. I have a confession to make. I never thought twice about leaving all I had known or my family to move 6 hours away after I finished college. I didn’t inquire with God whether I should go or should stay. I just went. I wasn’t thinking of my future much less of children and grandchildren when we packed up the moving van and headed to East Tennessee.

Now that I have lived away from immediate family and half raised my family with only my husband to help out, my view of family has begun to change. The examples laid out for me had been get married and move off. That is what my parents had done and their parents before them. The whole idea of living in an area surrounded by extended family is completely foreign to me. But as I have gained friends who have that family history, stories and support I have begun to understand just what it might have meant to leave all I had known behind.

In Abraham’s time, it appears that he was a well established “city dweller” living on his family estate. Here was his inheritance. Here was his history. Here was his support. God called to Abraham, asking him to give up the security he had. God wanted him to have something more. This was a new concept to look to your Heavenly Father for your inheritance. When the Jews heard this story, they knew what sacrifice Abraham was making, what dreams he might be giving up. They understood the risks that Abraham was taking to head out from an established home into the wilderness to roam. Abraham believed God when he said that he had something more in mind for him than Abraham had for himself.

I am at a point in my life where I feel that God is asking me to let go of what I have banked my securities in. He has something more in mind for me than the little niche I have carved out for myself. Can I have the faith of Abraham? Can I blindly go where He calls me to go? Can I believe enough in a promise to find something more than I hold in my hands now? Abraham did.

Heavenly Father, give me the strength to stand up when You call. Guide my steps so they go with a purpose. Keep me from wandering too far from Your promises. I believe the scriptures when they say You have my good in mind. I claim this day all the promises You have for me. Amen.

Choosing life

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“Don’t think that I’ve come to bring peace to the earth. I haven’t come to bring peace but a sword. I’ve come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. People’s enemies are members of their own households.  “Those who love father or mother more than me aren’t worthy of me. Those who love son or daughter more than me aren’t worthy of me.  Those who don’t pick up their crosses and follow me aren’t worthy of me.  Those who find their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives because of me will find them. ~Matthew 10:34-39 (CEB)

Choosing life seems like the reasonable thing to do. If given the choice why would anyone not choose life It seems foolish to choose anything else, to choose anything less than the best. It remains a mystery to me that we often find ourselves choosing what diminishes life and leaves us less than we were before. But we are often unaware of the consequences of our choices until later, sometimes much later.

Jesus always invites us to choose life by forsaking our way of life for his way of life. It is never an easy choice. Choosing to walk with Jesus in a culture that ridicules faithfulness and glorifies violence is to choose a way with cost attached. When you choose to walk with Jesus in a culture that rewards those who take for themselves before thinking about others, you may end up feeling someone has taken advantage of you. And yet, as the decades pass and we look back, it is clear to see that those who sought advantage by taking advantage have in reality lost life. Those who chose to walk with Jesus in the hard decisions and in the good times it may seem that the cost of choosing life is too high, but when you stop and think about it, choosing life is the only reasonable choice to make. ~Ruben P. Job

Heavenly Father, help me to choose life this day. Help me to live for You. Amen.

The church

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I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you. I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers, and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers. This power is conferred by the energy of God’s powerful strength. God’s power was at work in Christ when God raised him from the dead and sat him at God’s right side in the heavens, far above every ruler and authority and power and angelic power, any power that might be named not only now but in the future. God put everything under Christ’s feet and made him head of everything in the church, which is his body. His body, the church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way. ~Ephesians 1:18-23 (CEB)

This excerpt from Henri Nouwen’s book, Bread for the Journey, really makes me stop and remember how crazy mixed up I was in college. I never really lost my faith in God but I really struggled with the rest of the package. I have never really known how to word what I went through in my heart other than to say I had lost my faith in “religion.” I have since understood that the community of believers is not perfect but that we still need that community:

“The Church is an object of faith.  In the Apostles’ Creed we pray:  “I believe in God, the Father … in Jesus Christ, his only Son – in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”  We must believe in the Church!  The Apostles’ Creed does not say that the Church is an organization that helps us to believe in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  No, we are called to believe in the Church with the same faith we believe in God.

Often it seems harder to believe in the Church than to believe in God.  But whenever we separate our belief in God from our belief in the Church, we become unbelievers.  God has given us the Church as the place where God becomes God-with-us.”

Heavenly Father, as we struggle to live in this world with people so different from ourselves, help us to come together through You. Help us be in communion with one another, all of us forgiven for our sins through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Searching, again

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Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. ~Psalm 23:4 (NRSV)

There are days I feel adrift from God. Sometimes it may be a result of my trusting in self again. It isn’t that God has moved, I have moved away from Him. Other times He has moved and I need to seek after Him. Again. Gary Moon in his Book Falling for God says it this way:

“All believers who want to become an apprentice of Christ and not just his admirer will find themselves in the blank space between the verses in Psalm 23. Because he loves us so much, the Shepherd moves on. We look around and wonder where he has gone. We feel alone, abandoned. We call out. Nothing. The voice that used to call our name is silent and does not respond when we call. He is gone. He has moved farther down the road that leads home. During the dark night experience, our job is to seek God and to go to him again. When we do, we realize we are not the same person. Our relationship with him is not the same. We [too] have moved. We are closer to home and closer to union.” ~From Falling for God by Gary Moon

So whether my rough spot is due to me moving toward idols (Self-reliance) or God moving me on down the path to greater maturity, my job, your job, remains the same. We say, “Here I am, Lord, helpless without you.”

Heavenly Father, help me to seek You in all I do this day. May I ever grow more into who You see me to be. Amen.

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