The church

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.

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Prayer and worship

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat. ~Psalm 19:1-6 (CEB)

We have lost the sense of the sacred in what we do. Every act we do can be a form of prayer. Fixing dinner can be prayer. When I smile, that can be a prayer. Painting a picture or singing a song that can also be a prayer. When I do anything that brings joy to the Creator of the world, it is a prayer. It is a sacred act. Often we forget that the ordinary daily movements of life can be sacred.

Also taking notice of He’s creation around me can also be a form of worship. When I notice the changes of light with the time of the day or the season; the suddle colors of the hours before sunset as they change to amber and gold then into the darker shades of night… the songs of the birds, the wind on my face…   Every time I stop and notice I can feel the tension release from my stomach, my shoulders relax and my thoughts clear. For that one moment in time when I say “Ahhhh…”, I worship the One who created that ever changing scenery.

May I not be too busy this day to be in worship and prayer, O Lord. May I recognize the sacred in each moment of this day. May I not forget to see Your wonders around me. May I ever be thankful for the simple moments in live. Amen.

A letter written for me

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. ~2Tim 3:16-17(CEB)

One of many things that fascinate me about the Bible is how it can speak to me as an individual. This is what sets scripture apart from all other writing. It speaks to every person from every background and every generation. In order to accomplish this it was written in symbolic language.

“A symbol is a representation of a greater reality. The symbol is not the reality but points to it. In order to grasp the truth of a symbol one must not look “at” it but through it to the greater reality that awaits discovery but the one who has eyes to see and ears to hear (Matt 11:15).” ~ Rueben P. Job

Jesus spoke in parables so that his teaching would have universal and singular appeal, and for that reason he taught through parables (Mark 4:33-34). If I carefully search each Bible story it will reveal hidden truth that suits my life’s situation. If I do not take the time to search the scriptures deeply, the symbols will remain nontransparent.

It is important that I take time every day to read scriptures as if it was it was a letter written just for me – as if the writer was thinking only of me when writing. Through analogies, metaphors, parables, I can enter into a personal dialog with God. There are questions that I can ask to help me understand what insights God is trying to speak to me: (1) What is this scripture saying to me about God? (2) What is this scripture telling me about myself? (3) What is the scripture saying to me about how God calls me to be in service to Him?

Heavenly Father, I stand amazed at how You speak to me today through something written over 2,000 years ago. Train me in the way that I need so I may be equipped for Your good work. Amen.

Prayer for the reader

Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive. ~Matt 21:22 (NRSV)

Not just in the Psalms can prayers be found but throughout the Bible. They are beautiful and I love when I come across them in my Bible reading. Here is a prayer that I want to share with you. Paul has written this prayer to the Ephesians but we can claim this prayer for ourselves today.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. ~Eph3:14-21 (NRSV)

Heavenly Father, I embrace this prayer as my own today. Grant strength and power through you Holy Spirit. Allow Christ to dwell in my heart so that I may know that love that surpasses all knowledge. I pray for You to work in me to accomplish abundantly more than I can ever imagine for Your glory and honor. Amen.

The key

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the one who is first over all creation, Because all things were created by him: both in the heavens and on the earth, the things that are visible and the things that are invisible. Whether they are thrones or powers, or rulers or authorities, all things were created through him and for him. He existed before all things, and all things are held together in him. He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the one who is firstborn from among the dead so that he might occupy the first place in everything. Because all the fullness of God was pleased to live in him, and he reconciled all things to himself through him— whether things on earth or in the heavens. He brought peace through the blood of his cross. ~Col. 1:15-20 (CEB)

Christmas holds the key to unlocking the deepest mysteries of my life: Who am I, where did I come from, is there meaning to my life, and where am I going?

In Christmas rests the revelation of God’s self to humankind. Through Jesus’ birth I can now understand God in human terms. Because of Jesus I can make sense of my life and understand more fully who I am and where I am going.

If we were left with just the creation story and the sacred texts we might feel that God is distant, uncaring and unapproachable. But when Jesus appeared as the revealer of a divine God, God becomes nearer, more loving and approachable. Now we know that God understands us and that we can begin to understand God. The birth of Jesus allows an experience of God with us and within us.

The great mystery of God unfolds in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Now I know who I am- God’s beloved child; to whom I belong- my faithful redeemer; and where I am going in my journey of life- to a place prepared for me.

The wait is over… The nights are getting shorter…  Merry Christmas!

What a humbling thought O Lord, to think that You, the Creator of more than my limited vision can see, loves me and calls me His beloved child. Today I thank You for sending Jesus into the world to reveal to me Who You are. Without his example of Your love for me I might not be able to grasp how far, how wide, how high and how deep Your love for me really is. Thank You for the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection. May I remain secure in my knowledge of Your love as go out into a hurting world. May I be a reflection of Your mighty love to everyone that I meet this day. Amen.

God’s preposterous promise

Mary said, “With all my heart I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior. He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant. Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored because the mighty one has done great things for me. Holy is his name. He shows mercy to everyone, from one generation to the next, who honors him as God. He has shown strength with his arm. He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations. He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty- handed. He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, remembering his mercy,  just as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.” ~Luke 1:46-55 (CEB)

“Mary’s song of praise must have been a shock- even to Elizabeth and surely to everyone else who heard it. It bordered on treason and blasphemy and must have left every adult who heard it angry, confused, embarrassed, surprised, curious, or frightened. And it could be that all these feelings were swirling around in the hearts and minds of those who heard this message of radical revolution.

First of all, here she was a simple peasant girl, announcing that God had chosen her for great responsibility, honor, and blessing. Only Elizabeth could hear this song without a knowing smile, attributing all this nonsense to teenage idealism. As a matter of fact, Mary’s declaration would likely have been dismissed as teenage daydreams if it had not all come true!

And what about this prophecy that God would bring down the rich and powerful and lift up the weak and powerless? Where did she get this nonsense? Again we might say it was youthful idealism, out of touch with reality and an absolute absurdity in our world. We could say that- if we didn’t know about Jesus and his proclamation and practice of the same truth.

The final straw was the youthful confidence that God can be trusted to keep promises. Where did a mere child get the wisdom and the faith to bear witness to God’s trustworthiness so boldly? Perhaps from the same God who dwelt within and spoke through the voice and actions of Jesus. Jesus trusted God as loving Abba and taught and lived his faith in a God who was absolutely trustworthy. He not only taught people to receive God’s love but also taught them how to trust, love, and obey this trustworthy God.

God’s promise seems no less preposterous today. Turn the values of this world upside down? Rich become weak, poor become strong? Each of us is chosen to be God’s special witness to God’s promise of love and justice? It does seem like a preposterous promise, until we listen carefully to the Advent story, observe the life of Jesus, and listen to the Spirit’s voice today. But then we see that the promise is for us. The responsibility to tell the story is ours. And yes, the blessing and honor come to all whose lives point to Jesus Christ and God’s revolutionary purpose in the world. ~ From A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God Ruben P. Job

Heavenly Father, through this season of Advent may I be reminded that Your promises are never empty and always true. Although they may at times seem preposterous, Your values can be counted on, Your justice and love are true. Let me hear the Spirit’s voice this day as more and more of Your story are revealed. Amen.

 

A practice of faith

Even young people are known by their actions, whether their conduct is pure and upright. ~Prov. 20:11 (CEB)

“There is no need to multiply examples of what is so patently an essential condition of the Christian walk. We are saved through faith- an unflagging, unwavering attachment to the person of Jesus Christ.

What is the depth and quality of your faith commitment? In the last analysis, faith is not a way of speaking or even of thinking; it is a way of living. Maurice Blondel said, ‘If you want to know what a person really believes, don’t listen to what he says but watch what he does.’ Only the practice of faith can verify what we believe. Does faith permeate the whole of your life? Does it form your judgments about death, about success? Does it influence the way you read the newspaper? Do you have a divine sense of humor that sees through people and events into the unfolding plan of God? When things are turbulent on the surface of your life, do you retain a quiet calm, firmly fixed in ultimate reality? As Therese of Lisieux said, ‘Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you. All things are passing. God alone remains.’ Does your faith shape your Advent season this year?” ~From Reflections for Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning

Almighty God, thank you for reminding me that Jesus Christ is my Lord and that I am Your servant. Thank You for the reminder that I am loved; I am forgiven; I am empowered; and that I have been sent out to live as Your faithful one. Amen.

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