Uncounsciously I seek Your grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph. 2:8-9 (CEB)

“I have always marveled at how plants unconsciously seek the light and warmth of the sun and how persons unconsciously seek the light and warmth of God’s Love. As persons, we do this at the level both of our roots and of our fruits- at a level of both our being and our doing. When we become aware that our roots have been reaching for God all along and that God’s Love has been sustaining us throughout, we begin consciously and willingly turning inward toward God in prayer. This moment of prayerful turning marks a major conversion in our life and growth as persons.” ~From The Art of Passingover by Francis Dorff

Unconsciously I seek You O Lord. There is a place deep within my soul that longs for You. You are the Source of my life. I thank You for sustaining me while I was still unaware of what my heart was truly longing for. Continue to grow me ever closer to You. Amen.

Washed by grace

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. ~Hebrews 10:22 (ESV)

“Life is not a game we win, and God is not a trophy we merit. No matter how ‘good’ we are, we are not good enough for God. On the other hand, no matter how ‘bad’ we are, we can never be outside of God. We can only hope in each instance to come to such a consciousness of God that no lesser gods can capture our attention and no trifling, self-centered gods can keep us from the fullness of awareness that is the fullness of Life. It is the project of life, this coming to Wholeness, this experience of Purpose beyond all purposes, this identification with everything that is.” ~From Illuminated Life by Joan Chisttister

Draw me ever closer Lord to a true heart in full assurance of faith. Protect my heart Lord from an evil conscience. Help me to remember that I am a new creature washed pure by You. 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.

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 concious

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.