The bread and fish of life

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Late in the day, his disciples came to him and said, …“Send them away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy something to eat for themselves.”

He replied, “You give them something to eat.”

But they said to him, “Should we go off and buy bread worth almost eight months’ pay and give it to them to eat?”

He said to them, “How much bread do you have? Take a look.”

After checking, they said, “Five loaves of bread and two fish.” ~Mark 6:35-38 (CEB)

“We can never forecast the path God’s energy of rescue will take. It is never any use saying to God ‘I am getting desperate! Please answer my prayer by the next mail and please send a blank check.’ God will answer but not necessarily like that; more probably God will transform and use the unlikely looking material already in hand- the loaves and the tiny fishes- looking up to Heaven and blessing it and making it do after all. A priest was once asked if many miracles happened at Lourdes. He said, ‘Yes, many; but the greatest are not miracles of healing but the spiritual miracles, the transformation of those who pray desperately for cure of this or that and come back, not physically cured, but filled with peace and joy, surrendered to the Will of God, conformed to the Cross.” ~From The Light of Christ by Evelyn Underhill

Some days I do not like the word “transformation”. Those are the days that I want my prayers answered now. Other days I see the beauty in the process; the growth in the journey. On those days I can value the twists and turns of life. I can’t help but still dream of “blank checks” or “get out of jail free cards” but life has taught me to see that help does come more often at what I have already in hand. I just have to remember to “take a look”.

Thank You Lord, for the “loaves and the tiny fishes” in life. May I remember to value more the transforming power that You send me as I sort through my steps for this day. Help me to remember to listen to Your nudges for which path to take. Amen.

A great adventure

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Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” ~Matt. 28:16-20 (CEB)

“Many priests today are said to be abandoning prayer. One simple reason for this is that they have never experienced the power that prayer brings. Those who have once experienced that prayer is power will never again abandon prayer for the rest of their lives. Mahatma Gandhi put it well: ‘I am telling you my own experience,’ he said, ‘and that of my colleagues; we could go for days on end without food; we could not live a single minute without prayer.’ Or, as he said another time, ‘Given the type of life I am leading, if I ceased to pray I should go mad!’ If we ask God for so little it may well be because we feel the need for him so little. We are leading complacent, secure, well protected mediocre lives. We aren’t living dangerously enough; we aren’t living the way Jesus wanted us to live when he proclaimed the good news. The less we pray the less we are likely to life the risky, challenging life that the Gospels urge us to; the less of a challenge there is in our life, and the less we are likely to pray.” ~From Contact with God by Anthony de Mello

Sometimes I wonder… what if Jesus really meant what he said. If so than I am not living dangerously enough. There are no risks that I take no challenges that I have taken up for the good news. It would be easy to put Jesus in the box of “another good teacher”. That would be a safe place to put him. That would be the easy path to take.

Lead me on a wild adventure O Lord. May I never ask so little from You that I cease to live. Help me to see in this day how I can really live for You. Amen.

The spirit’s role

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And that all this assembly may now that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand. ~1 Sam. 17:47 (NRSV)

“The practical question is: Do I adequately acknowledge the Spirit’s role in the good actions I perform every day, or do I attribute them only to my own initiative and hard work? The scriptural model insists that if the action was good, the Spirit was present from the beginning to the end. Since I am a teacher of theology it is most important for me to acknowledge God’s role in this area. Do I see the desire in me to teach well for the love of God and others as coming from the Spirit? Do I recognize that the strength and insight to carry out the good desire well are also infused by the Spirit? At the end of the day, do I adequately acknowledge God’s role in my successes and give [God] appropriate thanks? In addition to my teaching, I must do the same review for my counseling, my committee work at the university, my writing, my prayer, my helping others in any way throughout the day. I have allowed grace to be present and operative in myself to the extent that I have tried to do my daily service for the love of God and others. To this extent the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus our Lord has been dominant over the pressures on me not to serve with love. To the extent that I have not served in love, I humbly admit my faults and as for a greater increase of grace to transform these areas. My reward for living in the Spirit is the habitual peace and joy I experience.” ~From In His Spirit by Richard J. Hauser

May all glory and honor be Yours O Lord. May I be infused with the Holy Spirit as I walk out into Your world this day in Your service to those I meet. May Your love over flow through me to all Your children. Amen.

Shook up

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After they prayed, the place where they were gathered was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking God’s word with confidence. ~Acts 4:31 (CEB)

“In all your experience of Christ, it is wisest for you to stay away from any set form, or pattern, or way. Instead, be wholly given up to the leading of the Holy Spirit. By following your spirit, every encounter you have with the Lord is one that is perfect. . .  no matter what the encounter is like.” ~From Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ by Jeanne Guyon

I get so locked into a schedule that I set for myself. How often have I missed out on God’s leading because I was focused on what I thought I should be doing?

Heavenly Father, help me this day to be led more by the Holy Spirit. Guide me in the direction that You would have me take for this day. Amen.

Kiss of the Holy Spirit

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When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak. ~Acts 2:1-5 (CEB)

“Most of us have lived long enough to have thought or said, ‘I could never do that!’ It is a common response of ordinary people like us to a task that seems to demand extraordinary wisdom, strength, or faith. However, the Bible is filled with stories of those who told God they could lead, witness, or perform the task they were asked to do. Of course they were right! They could not do the difficult- or even the simple and easy –on their own. The biblical stories from Abraham to the first-century Christians point out that only with power from beyond themselves could the faithful fulfill their calling.

What are you planning to do that you cannot possibly achieve without help from beyond yourself? What do you feel God is calling you to be and do that is impossible without God’s intervention in your life? These questions move us quickly to the realization that we often live our lives on the easy path of the least faith and effort. To observe the church is to see that we are not alone in choosing the easy path. Yet we know there is a better way and a higher calling for us as individuals, as congregations, and as denominations.

The early disciples were told to wait upon God until the power came. They waited and the power did come. The book of Acts is a brief record of how the early church carried on its life and ministry with power from beyond itself. The record of individuals and Christian movements that have transformed the world within and around them is testimony to their capacity to receive power from beyond themselves to fulfill their calling. This power was given to ordinary people who were called to live in an extraordinary way. Could that be your calling today?” ~From A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Rueben P. Job

Almighty God, send Your Holy Spirit upon me this day that I may perfectly love You and faithfully follow You today and always. In the name and spirit of Christ. Amen.

Awareness

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It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. ~Isa. 25:9 (NRSV)

“God is the one who teaches to listen and pray. We must pray for the gift and pray for the gift to be taught. They say that mature writers have ‘found their voice.’ I think we need to ‘find our ear’ –our best way of recognizing God’s voice, knowing that, once we have found our ear, God may decide to speak in a different language.

Some people simply cannot listen to God in scripture. Some find God most readily in music or in the outdoors. Contemplation in the Jesuit understanding is paying attention to the reality of God. Whether God be in scripture, music, the other person, or in nature. Whenever we get beyond our own small preoccupations, whenever we have some degree of self-transcendence, whenever we are aware of the reality of God, contemplation has begun. If you are absolutely unable to find God in your Bible, go outside, listen to music, do whatever you do that puts you in touch with Something More.” ~From Spiritual Awakening by John Ackerman

You have started my heart to beating, given me eyes to see, set my feet in motion… Help me to love You more dearly, see you more clearly follow You more nearly this day, O Lord. Amen.

Sent out on a mission

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“I’m praying for them. I’m not praying for the world but for those you gave me, because they are yours. Everything that is mine is yours and everything that is yours is mine; I have been glorified in them. I’m no longer in the world, but they are in the world, even as I’m coming to you. Holy Father, watch over them in your name, the name you gave me, that they will be one just as we are one. When I was with them, I watched over them in your name, the name you gave to me, and I kept them safe. None of them were lost, except the one who was destined for destruction, so that scripture would be fulfilled. Now I’m coming to you and I say these things while I’m in the world so that they can share completely in my joy. I gave your word to them and the world hated them, because they don’t belong to this world, just as I don’t belong to this world. I’m not asking that you take them out of this world but that you keep them safe from the evil one. They don’t belong to this world, just as I don’t belong to this world. Make them holy in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. I made myself holy on their behalf so that they also would be made holy in the truth. ~John 17:9-19 (CEB)

“Each of us has a mission in life.  Jesus prays to his Father for his followers, saying:  “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).

We seldom realize fully that we are sent to fulfill God-given tasks.  We act as if we have to choose how, where, and with whom to live.  We act as if we were simply plopped down in creation and have to decide how to entertain ourselves until we die.   But we were sent into the world by God, just as Jesus was.  Once we start living our lives with that conviction, we will soon know what we were sent to do.” ~Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen

Heavenly Father, May I take up my mission for this day to fulfill the tasks You have given me to do. Give me the strength that I need for this day. Amen.

To simplify

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But as for me, I will look to the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. (Mic 7:7 (NRSV)

My heart longs for a simpler life, to be more available more able to listen and to learn more about God’s truths. I wonder how life can get so busy and complicated. Elizabeth Canham in the book Heart Whispers says that this is the challenge we face in today’s world. Our challenge is to find ways to let go of our dependence on things, expectations and status. We must intentionally make space for God’s word…

“Benedict chose to simplify his life in order to be more available to God, to listen and to learn the way of Truth. Others with a similar yearning soon joined him, and guidelines for their life together became necessary; hence the Rule, for simplicity is not easy. There is risk involved in refusing to live by cultural norms, as well as struggle in trusting God for daily needs. Most of us will not be called to monastic life; our challenge is to find ways to let go intentionally of our dependence on things, status, and expectations. Only then can we make space for God’s word.” ~From Heart Whispers by Elizabeth J. Canham

Almighty God, it is the cry of my heart to be close to You, to know more fully of Your truths. Help me to simplify my life. Help me to remove any dependence on things, status and any expectations I might have. May there be space to know Your word for my life. Amen.

Tested, expanded, redefined

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So I find that, as a rule, when I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me. I gladly agree with the Law on the inside, but I see a different law at work in my body. It wages a war against the law of my mind and takes me prisoner with the law of sin that is in my body. I’m a miserable human being. Who will deliver me from this dead corpse? Thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then I’m a slave to God’s Law in my mind, but I’m a slave to sin’s law in my body. ~Romans 7 21:25 (CEB)

“As we mature in faith, our willingness is tested, expanded, and refined. We become more conscious of our limitations and turn to God. The necessity of God’s grace becomes clearer as we become more attuned and accurate in our recognition of our dependence on God and less sure of anything that causes us to describe ourselves self-righteously. At times, when confronted by the less-than-ideal behavior of others, we may recognize that we are capable of similar actions and give thanks to God for helping us avoid unwelcome pitfalls. Scripture instructs us to be holy as God is holy, yet we increasingly realize the impossibility of holy behavior unless it is brought about by the Spirit’s empowerment and our willing responsiveness and cooperation. Many people use spiritual direction as a window through which to notice and attend to their own expectations and expressions of willingness and willfulness.” ~From Holy Invitations by Jeanette A. Bakke

Almighty God, you have created me, called me, chosen me to be Your child. I wait now to receive Your word of guidance and blessing. Grant unto me ears to hear, eyes to see, and faith to respond to Your love and leadership. In the name of Christ. Amen.

Willingness

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LORD , you have examined me. You know me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up. Even from far away, you comprehend my plans. You study my traveling and resting. You are thoroughly familiar with all my ways. There isn’t a word on my tongue, LORD, that you don’t already know completely. ~Psalm 139:1-4 (CEB)

“Willingness is the opposite of willfulness, being full of our own will and ways and the satisfaction in being self-made or self-controlled persons. Willingness to be aware and willingness in general are prerequisites for spiritual direction. Willingness is a chose position of vulnerability that recognizes we are ordinary being in need of God’s love, companionship, and guidance. It includes our acknowledgement that we are not all we would like to be or all that God hopes for us and points toward our desire to hear and follow the Spirit’s invitations even when it means giving up our ways in favor of what we perceive as God’s ways.

When we are even a little bit honest, we recognize that our measure of willingness varies depending on what is being asked of us and by whom. Some of God’s opportunities seem to offer pleasurable outcomes. Surrender to these requests is easy. But there are times when the Spirit invites or simply takes us into unfamiliar territory either inwardly or outwardly. Then we may feel decidedly uneasy about following. God’s love and intentions are larger and farther reaching than we realized. They extend beyond the kind of people we are used to and the kinds of problems, possibilities and joys that are familiar to us.” ~From Holy Invitations by Jeanette A. Bakke

Heavenly Father, it is my wish that You find me this day not in willful disobedience but with a willing heart to do Your will. Search my heart. May You find it free of “self”. Help me be more vulnerable for Your love, companionship and guidance this day. My desire is to follow Your invitation where ever it may lead me. Amen.

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