Thanksgiving blessing

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On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men with skin diseases approached him. Keeping their distance from him,  they raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!”  When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” As they left, they were cleansed.  One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice.  He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.  Jesus replied, “Weren’t ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?  No one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you.” ~Luke 17:11-19 (CEB)

Only one of ten lepers returned to thank Jesus for healing them. It is easy to criticize the nine who did not thank Jesus for healing them. The sad realization is that is probably my average on a daily basis. I probably only thank God for one out of every ten blessing He bestows on me. If that much…

Sometimes God uses our children to remind us to be thankful. Through my son’s prayers, I am reminded that I too should be thankful for my bed, a warm house to call my own and a family that loves me. When I tell my son we are not to feel guilty that there are others that do not have these basic needs but that we are to thank God for what we do have, I am reminding myself of all that I take for granted on a daily basis. We are rich compared to some and for these rich blessings, I am thankful. So ever grateful.

I found this prayer and thought it was a good prayer to share on this Thanksgiving Day:

It is always right, O God, to praise you and to bless your name. Even if the harvest fail, even when economies falter, still you are our God; still, you bless us richly. Help us to see your active hand in bounty or in scarcity, in pain as well as pleasure. When we fail to see you at work we fall into the sin of ingratitude, or even suppose that all that we have is the work of our own hands, the result of our own intelligence and industry. Forgive us, and save us from an existence so self-centered. Set us free from greedy and grasping hearts. By your generosity to us, teach us to be generous to others, and thus to give evidence to you that we are indeed your thankful people. This we pray through Jesus Christ, your most gracious and enduring gift to us, for whom be everlasting praise. Amen. ~From the book, This Day, a Wesleyan Way of Prayer, by Laurence Hull Stookey

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.

God’s hiddenness

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“Today also my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy despite my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling! I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me. Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; but he would give heed to me. There an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted forever by my judge. “If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.” ~Job 23:2-9 (NRSV)

Sometimes in the midst of my troubles, I feel so alone.  I even feel abandoned by God.  Here is an example in the Bible of a righteous man who also felt abandoned by all and God seemed to be so far away.

Life can get really ugly sometimes. We don’t have to live it perfectly. We just have to make it through each day until we get to the other side of bad times. We can’t get to the other side without living through it. The Israelites are an example of this. To make it to the Promised Land they had to go through the desert. They didn’t do it perfectly. They even still had some kinks that needed to be worked out when they got to the new land. But God guided them through the desert and they eventually got there.

When it seems that God isn’t answering my prayers I have to remember that He is faithful. There are things that He is doing that I cannot see. All I am required to do is to live through each day, letting Him guide my steps. I don’t have to see where I am going. I just have to go.

 Guide my steps this day Lord, blind as I may be to the work you are doing. Strengthen my trust in You that all things will work out in the end for my good. I know that the only way to get through this dessert is to just walk on through. Steady my steps when they falter, strengthen my heart when it is faint, give me faith when it seems all hope is lost. Amen.

Real religion

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With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O mortal, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. ~Micah 6:6-8 (NRSV)

In Micah, the author accuses the people of not having real religion. They went through the motions of the spiritual acts and festivities. But they forgot that it wasn’t their acts but their heart that God was looking at, He looks at the spirit of their giving.

Only if we walk humbly with God can we respond to God in a proper (good) way. God isn’t looking for the large sacrifices that might seem culturally acceptable. We are required instead to practice “justice” so that we can set things right between others and God and “love kindness” by maintaining a loyal commitment to God and others that transcend any legal requirement.

We are reminded in this summary of the Law by Micah that walking humbly with God can only result from a transformed life that conforms to the image of God. If we wish to be genuine Christians we must strive towards an intimate walk with God based on faith and a life of active service to others rooted in compassion and justice, they reflect the loving nature of the One whose image they bear. This orientation is a movement from self to God in all things. Real religion is a journey of faith working by love leading to holiness of heart and life.

Heavenly Father, May I find myself this day on a journey towards being a reflection of You in all I do. Help me to have enough strength to practice justice, to show kindness and to humbly walk with You. Amen.

Walking on water

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Right then, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowds. When he sent them away, he went up onto a mountain by himself to pray. Evening came and he was alone. Meanwhile, the boat, fighting a strong headwind, was being battered by the waves and was already far away from land. Very early in the morning he came to his disciples, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” They were so frightened they screamed. Just then Jesus spoke to them, “ Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.” And Jesus said, “ Come.” Then Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus. But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!” Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, saying, “ You man of weak faith! Why did you begin to have doubts?” ~Mattew 14:22-31 (CEB)

It is interesting to remember that the disciples found themselves in that storm because they had obeyed Jesus and got into the boat in the first place. Obeying Jesus didn’t keep them out of the storm. In this case, it caused them to be in the middle of one. But if Peter had never gotten into the boat, never had faith enough to step out of that boat and attempt to walk where no human had ever walked before, he would not have been in the place to find himself in the arms of Jesus. Being in the arms of Jesus isn’t such a bad consequence I am thinking.

In an attempt to help my son through a storm a few years ago, I asked him, “What was the worst thing that could happen to us if a tornado did hit our house?” His reply was that “We would die.” “Then where would we be?” I asked him. “Heaven”, he said.

Sometimes when I think of the worst case scenario, the worst case might actually be the best case. In the arms of Jesus is the best place to be. If my stepping out in faith brings me straight into his arms is that really a bad thing?

Heavenly Father, may I have enough faith today to step out into this storm called life. In obeying You may I find that it actually brings me closer to You. Amen.

Transformation

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The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the LORD are sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb. ~Psalm 19:7-10 (CEB)

What if, instead of reading the Bible, you let the Bible read you? … What would happen if we approached the test less aggressively but even more energetically and passionately? I wonder what would happen if we honestly listen to the story and put ourselves under its spell… not using it to get all our questions about God answered but instead trusting God to use it to pose questions to us about us. What would happen if we trusted ourselves to it – the way a boy opens his heart to a girl, the way a patient trusts herself to an oncologist? ~From A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLare

What would happen if we changed our opinion that the purpose of scriptures was not what we can get from God but to learn how to be “at-one-with-God”, that the overarching theme of Scripture has to do with transformation made possible through learning to live a ‘with-God” life.

Just what would a transformed life look like if I approached reading my Bible in this way?

Heavenly Father, help me to transform into who You would have me be as I read Your words this day. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14). Amen. 

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