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Daily Lenten Devotionals for the OCC

325 for our 325th Anniversary Year!

 

INVITATION to DAILY DEVOTIONS in LENT

Rev. Kenneth C. Landin

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Join with us here at the OCC as we make our spiritual journey through the season of Lent together. Each day in Lent we will post a daily devotional, with a reflection question, and a prayer to assist you in being mindful of your faith and spirit life.  Lent is comprised of the 40 days before Easter not including Sundays which are always considered Feast Days of Celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We hope that these daily devotions will offer you very practical and accessible way to maintain a spiritual discipline through Lent.  May God bless your faith to grow with grace and to be energized in all you are seeking in the Spirit.

 DAY 1. Ash Wednesday. March 1, 2017. Prayer 238. A New Season of The Spirit

Tonight we enter the season of Lent. These are the 40 days before Easter.  Yet we don’t include Sundays in the count because Sundays are always considered a celebration day for the Resurrection of Christ.  To prepare for the renewing joy of Easter, we observe a season of reflection, meditation, and service.  This prepares our heart to recognize and receive the redeeming work of Christ in our lives.

The 40 days recalls the story in the Gospels in which Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness dealing with the temptation of hunger, self-will, and a desire to be famous and powerful. He resists the voice that is trying to pull him away from God’s will.  Jesus reads the scriptures to gain insight and resolve to know and do God’s will for him.  Apart from daily distractions, Jesus’ time in the wilderness encourages us to take time to focus our attention on our spirit lives with God.  Some folks prefer to give up a food item such as sweets, chocolate, or red meat to remember our struggle against earthly desires.  Another wonderful way to observe Lent is to give up a behavior that is unhealthy or not life-giving.  Being less critical of self and others, being more hopeful, being faithful in all things, finding ways to serve others’ in need are examples.

Our Lenten fast does not have to be about denying ourselves a food item. We can intentionally let go of a bad habit, and take up a positive behavior aimed at increasing our faith action in the world.  The important step is to make sure that we are not so full of ourselves that there is no room left for God’s love.

The prophets of old described the need for the people of faith to let go of self-directed wants and desires and to desire justice in the world around us. Isaiah 58:6 tells us that having a sincere heart before God and others is vital to the spirit life, “Is not this the fast that I choose, to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?”

REFLECT

Take a moment to select an item to give up or a behavior to take on for Lent.

PRAYER

Dear God, as I enter Lent this year, bless me to keep my discipline that I may grow in faith and dedication to doing your will for me. Amen.

 

DAY 2. Thursday March 2, 2017. Prayer 239. Leave A Blessing Behind

In the prophecy of Joel, there is a great concern that present conditions of the earth and the state of society would mean an end to everything. Joel describes how the locusts have devoured the crops.  The fig trees, pomegranates, palms and apples are all drying up in the fields.  Joy and gladness have left the house of God.  To this condition, Joel 2:12, the prophet hears God boldly proclaiming, “Yet even now, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.  Return to the Lord your God for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and relents over disaster.  Who knows whether God will not turn and relent and leave a blessing behind?”  There is much in being a faithful person that we are waiting to see what God may provide even in the midst of hard times and thin conditions.  If we give up hope, if we give up turning our hearts towards God, surely we will miss the blessings he has left along the way.  Don’t give up hope!

REFLECT

Note the times you have given up hope in something or someone. Pray that you will leave a blessing behind.

PRAYER

Dear God, when times were tough I gave up on this relationship. I could not see a future.  Make my heart ready to return to the way of love and thereby take a bold step on the way towards reconciliation.  Amen.

 

DAY 3. Friday  March 3, 2017. Prayer 240. Joy Restored

A terrible condition to find a church in, is one that has lost its joy. Psalm 51:12 prays to God, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing heart.”  The way of the Spirit is marked by joy.  People lose their joy when there has occurred great loss, terrible suffering, physical hardship and pain.  When a church prays fervently to God, “Restore to us joy in your salvation” we remain steadfastly the church in the world.  Restoration, renewal, redeeming love, this is the stuff of the Spirit life.  We intentionally remember these gifts and ask for them when they are far from us.  Never let anything take your joy from you.

REFLECT

When have you let a group, a condition, a news story take your joy from you? Ask for joy to return.

PRAYER

Dear God, thank you for restoring to me the gift of hope in your saving grace. Never let me forget your joy in me.  Amen.

 

DAY 4. Saturday  March 4, 2017. Prayer 241. A Broken Sacrifice

Being human is about experiencing brokenness. Our bones get broken.  Our bonds get broken.  We break our promise.  A dream we held is broken apart.  A relationship breaks over something of which we have no control.  Much of our lives can be marked by the phrase, “It was a tough break.”  Psalm 51:17 gives us a soothing prayer, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” God looks less for our sacrifices to be things that will all eventually break down and return to the earth.  God looks more to the heart and sees how we have been broken apart by loss and broken open to the need of mercy and compassion.  God refuses to look away from those broken places and desires to fill them with love and new life.

REFLECT

Meditate on the times you’ve suffered the greatest heartbreak. Imagine God soothing those hurts.

PRAYER

Dear God, even my faith in you becomes broken. Let me face my brokenness with your divine concern and mercy.  Amen.

 

DAY 5. Monday  March 6, 2017. Prayer 242. Driven Out

The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden ends with God sending them out to work the soil for food. And, having driven them out, every way back to the tree of life is guarded by the cherubim and a flaming sword. But, in Genesis 3:21, we see God makes garments for them and tenderly dresses them against the elements before sending them on their way out into the world.  The story of Adam and Eve is about maturity and accountability.  Eve and Adam let curiosity lead them into the world of adult responsibility way before they were ready to handle it and they became suddenly ashamed.  Shame can drive a person to feel uncomfortable in their own shoes.  They hadn’t needed shoes in Eden because there were no thorns and thistles and rocky roads.  What was it like to wear shoes for the first time?  Every step we take in our own shoes contain a little bit of the mystery of leaving Eden.  No one likes to be driven out from a comfortable position.  Comfortable and protective shoes remind us of divine preparation and a desire to have a little Eden with us in each step we take forward.  There is nothing like a comfortable and dependable pair of shoes.

REFLECT

Think about your most favorite pair of shoes. What places did you go?  Who went with you in them?

PRAYER

Dear God, I thank you for all my shoes, and the hands that have made them. May I step towards all my responsibilities in life with the tender memory of your kindness and love to prepare me for all I have to do out there.  Amen.

 

DAY 6. Tuesday March 7, 2017. Prayer 243. The Courage to Expect Good Things

The Rule of Saint Benedict is a set of directions for monastic life which came from his experiences after leaving the larger corruption and turmoil of the Roman world in the Sixth Century. With contemporary life moving as fast as it does now, it’s good to remember the need to slow down and listen to the ways of the Spirit is a very ancient calling, need and practice.  Here are some words for use in the morning.  “Life will always provide matters for concern.  Yet each day brings with it reasons for joy.  Each day carries the potential to bring the experience of heaven; have the courage to expect good from it.  Be gentle with this life.” We live fully in our times when our times are filled with good expectations.  It takes courage to hope for good things so profoundly that our good hope begins to enact them into being.

REFLECT

What are your deepest hopes for this time in your life? What is a good hope just for this day?

PRAYER

Dear God, let me be gentle with my hopes today, yet let them be as big as your divine heart is for all the world.  Amen.

 

DAY 7. Wednesday  March 8, 2017. Prayer 244. To Babble or Not To Babble

The New Jerusalem Bible translates Matthew 6:7 in this way, “In your prayers do not babble as the gentiles do, for they think that by using  many words they will make themselves heard.”  Jesus is offering us a lesson in how to practice the art of private prayer.  Even in a quiet space in home we are filled with the noise of many voices.  Our own voice, and the words of others can crowd our minds with both helpful, but all too often, negative thoughts that distract us.  We may not even want to enter into a quiet place specifically because we don’t care to revisit what we will hear in that solitude.  One thing we know for sure.  If we babble on endlessly about our problems without listening for a solution, or repeating our questions without the patience to wait for answers, we are engaged in a one way conversation.  That is not to say that the smallest requests or the slightest babblings coming from our mind and soul are not important to God.  They are.  God knows what we need before we ask.  The goal in lent is to quiet all those voices in order that we may hear our Lord speaking to us in the depths of our heart.  Prayer takes time.  Prayer takes practice.  Don’t rush.  Don’t judge. Just be.

REFLECT

Take a moment to list out all the voices and words that keep you from prayer. Put them aside for 10 minutes. Then lift them to God in prayer.

PRAYER

Dear God, may even my babbling be a blessing to you. Thank you for showing me the way to pray.  Amen.

 

DAY 8. Thursday  March 9, 2017. Prayer 245.An Inner Hermitage

An ancient monk wrote of the spiritual discipline to find solitude in the desert wilderness, “Not everyone can or should live as a hermit. But no Christian can do without an inner hermitage in which to meet God.”

Imagine retreating from society to live in a place of complete solitude from this noisy world. You could enter a small and humble dwelling place, yet the essential requirement is that it is remote.  Through the centuries many have sought to draw nearer to the Spirit in this way.  Yet even in the most extremely distant land, the true hermitage is a place inside you.  Even a hermit can have a noisy soul.

REFLECT

Describe what a quiet place would look like in your day. Make that vision happen.

PRAYER

Dear God, let me create a place of quiet in my soul that I may become remote to the noise and distractions of the day even for a few precious moments. Amen.

Day 9.Friday  March 10, 2017. Prayer 246.A Spiritual Intruder

We want quick answers for all our urgent questions. Spiritual wisdom takes time to receive.  We are going too fast to allow it to catch up with us.  We become our own spiritual intruders, knocking things about before they can reveal anything to us in a manner we can understand.  Alessandro Pronzato describes it as if forcing something out of the desert.  “The desert does not take kindly to those who tackle it at breakneck speed, subjecting it to their plans and deadlines.  It soon takes its revenge and makes them pay dearly for their presumption.”

Replace the term “desert” with “ocean” or “sky” or “nature” or “world.” How about “spiritual wisdom?”  We make haste at our own peril.  Our schedules we create intrude upon our soul’s inner clock.  You can’t make rivers run uphill.

REFLECT

Note how you intrude on your own goal to be more spiritual. Attend to that.

PRAYER

Dear God, even I get in the way of my own spirit goals. Grant me the wisdom to know what to rush away from and to what I must slow down for to perceive.  Amen.

 

Day 10. Saturday March 11, 2017. Prayer 247.Alone with God

Aloneness is a deeply important part of the human experience. So many in our society suffer from being alone.  So many loved ones in our circle of knowing suffer from aloneness.  At different moments of each life, we all are driven into aloneness.  We may be alone from others, from God, from ourselves, and be far from where we want to be.

Thomas Merton wrote, “The more we are alone with God the more we are united with one another.” If our Lenten discipline includes time to be in solitude with God’s Word, than we become richer in our solidarity with all who suffer and long for inner and outer peace in the world.  God’s Word may invite us to seek peace and pursue it with our whole being.  God’s Word may invite us to bless those who are poor, to console the grieving, to feed the hungry, to visit the sick.  Our time apart draws us even more sincerely towards others.

REFLECT

Sit quietly. Who is the first person in need that comes to your mind?

PRAYER

Dear God, may my response to aloneness draw another towards true community. Amen.

 

DAY 11. Monday  March 13, 2017. Prayer 248. Removing Sandals

When Moses was out keeping the flock for his father-in-law Jethro, he came to the Mountain of your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

God on the west side of the wilderness. The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame.  A bush was burning yet it was not consumed.  When Moses turns aside to see this great sight, he hears a voice.  It’s God calling.  In Exodus 3:5 the Lord says to Moses, “Do not come closer.  Remove your sandals from Why would God ask us to remove our sandals?  Is it to show us that God is big and we are small?  Is it to invite us to experience being grounded in God—to be at home in the holiness of God’s presence?  Whatever our place is, before God, or apart from God, we are best in touch with the holiness of the earth in bare feet.  Shoes help us run faster, work harder, do more in less time, busy at our tasks of living.  Removing our sandals has us slow down and be in touch with the feeling of the earth beneath our feet, like being a toddler again, like returning to Eden.

REFLECT

What is your favorite place to go barefoot? Describe the feeling as you walk there.

PRAYER

Dear God, in all the places I go, may I be in touch with you. Let my spirit be grounded in your Spirit.  Make me humble in my place and holy in yours.  Amen.

 

DAY 12. Tuesday  March 14, 2017. Prayer 249.Trust In The Holy

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is asked by the angel Gabriel to trust in the great plans that the Lord has in store for her son, the Son of the Most High. Only Mary could tell us what it meant to trust in something as big as the entire promise of faith of her people, given to them by the ancients.  Mary was given no special powers against danger, disease, dereliction, or depression.  She was asked to see her son as born into a holy calling for their holy God.  All she had to go on was the angel’s re-assurance in Luke 1:30, “Don’t be afraid.”  She had to rely on what she had already been taught about the character of God in her upbringing.

Her song describes God’s character as humble, merciful, holy, enduring, strong, and effective. God fills the hungry with good things and scatters the prideful thoughts of the ruling class.  God remembers the poorest of the poor both in spirit and in things.  God gives a joyful faith.  That’s worthy of all Mary’s trust and ours.

REFLECT

Ponder the trusting nature of Mary. What characteristics of God do you trust?

PRAYER

Dear God, I confess I have difficulty trusting in things I cannot be sure about. What will happen to me?  In all my uncertainty bring to my remembrance all your strengths.  Amen.

 

DAY 13. Wednesday  March 15, 2017. Prayer 250. Joyful Service

 The key to a strong and sincere spirit life is one marked by simple acts of service. In Matthew 20:27 our Lord teaches us, “whoever would be first among you must be your servant, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Jesus defines greatness as our being willing to be a servant to another in the cause of life affirming love.  He tells us that in the world we find great ones in positions of authority lording it over others.  Not so in the way of love.  Being Christ-like, means that we as Christian brothers and sisters are always looking for opportunities to use our skills and our time and our position in the service of others in need.

Service can never be forced or come from a sense of dreaded obligation. It must always come from a sense of joy.  If we enter a room and lead the conversation with our own wants, needs, fears, and disappointments, that is not the Jesus way.  We enter each room ready to hear the cries coming from the soul of another.  We may not be able to fix or change the conditions in the room, but we bring a powerful healing gift with faith words delivered joyfully that serve our mission.

 

REFLECT

What need do you see in your daily life and schedule? Pick one and reach out.

PRAYER

Dear God, help me to let go of what I want so much, that I may begin to help others in so much need. Amen.

 

Day 14  Thursday  March 16,  2017. Prayer 251 Cries For Rescue

 When God called to Moses on the mountain he was responding to the people’s cry for rescue. They were being held as slaves in the service of the Egyptians.  Their lives were filled with hard work, poor health, and no rest.  They had no hope for their children to live better lives in freedom like their ancient ancestors.  God heard their groaning and knew their needs.

In Exodus 3:7 God says, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land flowing with milk and honey.”

In every life, we are tempted to think our problems are not of God’s concern or they would be removed already. Being a child of God means crying out constantly for freedom from human bondage and an eager acceptance of obedience to God’s Word.  God cries out for us to rescue others from their misery.  We all share in this mission.

REFLECT

Call to mind those who suffer the most in this world. Listen to their cries.

PRAYER

Dear God, in a world so filled with misery, show me the way to respond to the cries that I am able to hear. Amen.

 

DAY 15. Friday  March 17, 2017. Prayer 252. Greater Works

 Our faith asks us to believe in Christ. Trusting in Jesus has more to do with accepting his character and life work, rather than holding onto an abstract thought about a religious doctrine.  Jesus says to his disciples in John 14:12, “Truly, truly I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these you will do, because I am going to the Father.  Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

Jesus gives us a powerful ministerial practice. If we ask anything in his name, he will do it.  To have someone’s name gives you power over that person.  You call out and they respond.  Jesus name in Hebrew means, “God rescues, saves, delivers.”  Christ, in Greek means, “anointed, blessed, consecrated.”  When we pray in the name of Jesus Christ we are calling on God to save us with blessings.  All work we do with prayer makes greater the work of rescue Christ began in us.

REFLECT

Take 10 minutes to meditate on the meaning of the name Jesus Christ.

PRAYER

Dear God, in all I do, in all I work for to accomplish, make it to come out greater, in your name I pray. Amen.

 

DAY 16. Saturday  March 18, 2017. Prayer 253 Don’t Forget To Ask

 The way of the Spirit is revealed to us through a generosity of questions. Don’t forget to ask for what you truly need and for what you long for in this world.  If we become afraid to ask, if we fear consequences for asking a question, then we are not fully using our faith at its best.  In Matthew 7:7 Jesus teaches, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”  Everyone who asks will receive.  Life experience teaches us that what we receive from God after we ask may not be exactly what we had in mind at the start, but, we will always receive something.

Sometimes in response to our prayers we receive silence. That means we need to attend to our soul in quietness.  Keep listening.  Don’t give up on that question.  Let the answers come to you.  Sometimes we get the opposite of what we asked for.  Attend to what comes.  Look at the lessons from any losses incurred.  How has what you hoped for become more real and more precious?  Sometimes we get exactly what we prayed for.  This can be the most difficult outcome.  You may ask, “What do I pray for now?”  That’s a good prayer that brings you back to the beginning of your journey in the Spirit.  God always responds in some way.

REFLECT

Meditate on your prayer life. Do you want to increase it?  Pray for that to happen.

PRAYER

Dear God, why is it so hard to find the right words to pray? I ask you to open the door to my heart and mind and let me find all the good things you want me to receive.  Amen.

 

Monday DAY 17. March 20, 2017. Prayer 254.Going Out

 The book of Exodus tells the story of Moses leading the people from their slavery in Egypt and out into the desert wilderness. In Exodus 19:1 we read, “On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they come into the wilderness of Sinai.”  It was there at the foot of the mountain that the people waited with great trepidation and anticipation what God would tell Moses to say to the people.  In short, God tells Moses to instruct the people to “listen to my voice and keep my covenant.”

Life is a continual series of stepping out into the great unknown. Think of all your life passages that began with going out to a new place.  The first day of school, the first day after graduation, the first day at a new job, the first date with an important person in your life, going out to a civic meeting, going out to the ballfield, going out to a dance recital, going out to see the doctor or the dentist.  What word of God are we most afraid to hear as we are about to step out?

REFLECT

What new place are you entering in your life right now? What is God saying?

PRAYER

Dear God, bless me as I go out today. May I hear your voice and remain steadfast in our committed relationship together.  Amen.

 

Tuesday DAY 18. March 21, 2017. Prayer 255. The Day Pours Out God’s Word

 Psalm 19:1 begins this way, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims God’s handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.  There are no words whose voice is not heard to the end of the world.”  The very day, we have been taught, is a creation of God that came into being when God said, “Let there be light.”  Each new day is continually called out into being by God.

The Psalm goes on to say that the Word of the Lord is holy, complete and perfect, reviving our souls, rejoicing in our hearts, and enlightening our eyes. Taking just a few minutes in every day to be still, and to listen carefully for what the day is telling us or has just told us, will increase our ability to enter each new day with confidence in the Spirit.

REFLECT

Sit quietly for fifteen minutes. What part of this day is talking to you?

PRAYER from Psalm 19:14

Dear God, let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.

 

Wednesday DAY 19. March 22, 2017. Prayer 256. The Word Became Real

 In the Gospel According to John, we hear that God’s Word became real. John 1:14 reads, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen the glory, glory as of the Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  There is nothing better than to come into the presence of a person who is both graceful and truthful in all things.  These are the marks of a true friend, a supportive life companion.  A friend is gentle with you, caring for how you will respond.  But a friend never hides from the truth, because the truth is the only way to truly care for a friend.

When we stop to listen to the truth of our lives, it invites others into relationship with us. In short, our vulnerability can be our greatest strength when it comes to entering and maintaining excellent relationships.

REFLECT

What is your most difficult truth about yourself? Let others in on your truth.

PRAYER

Dear God, may I never delay in accepting my truth, and with your grace, may all my relationships be marked by real love. Amen. 

 

Thursday Day 20. March 23, 2017. Prayer 257. The Power of the Living Word

 In the Book of Hebrews we hear that God’s Word has the power to draw us out of our hiding places. God does this by taking a deep look at what is inside of us.  Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  God’s Word is alive and real and does not shy away from telling us the truth in our innermost self.  Can our soul and our spirit be divided?  Our soul is the quintessence of who we are.  Our spirit can be defined as our prevailing tendencies and motivating force.  Our soul can sing even if our spirits have sagged!

REFLECT

Name the ways how your carry yourself that is not in harmony with your soul.

PRAYER

Dear God, I am half way through my Lenten prayers. Am I hiding from you or am I hiding with you?  Grant my soul and spirit to be at rest and not divided from your Spirit.  Amen.

 

Friday DAY 21. March 24, 2017. Prayer 258. The Sower of Seeds

 The Word of God is compared to sowing seeds. In Luke 8:11 Jesus sums up the Parable of the Sower saying simply, “Now the parable is this: The seed is the Word of God.”  Jesus teaches his disciples that they have been given the secrets of the kingdom of God, yet for so many, God’s ways will seem illusive to understand like mysterious parables.  It is so easy to let important things be neglected and taken away.  It is so easy to get all enthusiastic about a new start and then lose your way when things get hard.  And, it is very easy to be distracted by a hundred million other wants and needs in the world.  The seed that yields a hundred fold is the one that lands in good soil.  Be good soil.  Amend yourself.  Hold fast to God’s Word with an honest and good heart.  Bear fruit with patience.

REFLECT

How do you neglect the Word of God and let other things become more important? Imagine ways to make your spirit a rich soil for God’s Word to grow.

PRAYER

Dear God, help me to make your Word for me a priority. Let me yield much love for you in all I say, in all I do, and all I become.  Amen.

 

 Saturday DAY 22. March 25, 2017. Prayer 259. Leaving Space for the Word

 ImagineifIwroteadevotionwithoutleavingspacesbetweenthewords.Itisimpossibletoreadwithoutmakingspacesbetweenthewordssothatyoucanunderstand,and,itisreallydifficulttonotmakespacesbecausemymindandfingersaresousedtodoingit.

TRANSLATION

Imagine if I wrote a devotion without leaving spaces between the words. It is impossible to read without making spaces between the words so that you can understand, and, it is really difficult to not make spaces because my mind and fingers are so used to doing it.

That’s a great spiritual tidbit I read in a devotional. Our words, God’s Words, language itself is so completely dependent on leaving spaces, leaving room, making clear boundaries so that it remains understandable, accessible, readable, and receivable.  God wants us to hear God’s Word for us.  When we make a space in our busy day, when we make room in our wordy minds so full of worry and concern, we begin to let God speak to us more clearly.

REFLECT

How can I make more space for God’s Word in my life? Set a simple goal and try.

PRAYER

Dear God, help me to make a special place for you everyday! Amen.

 

Monday  DAY 23. March 27, 2017. Prayer 260.A Stone Pillow

 The book of Genesis tells the story of Jacob. He had taken the inheritance that had rightfully belonged to his brother and was running in fear of his life.  On the way the story tells us in Genesis 28:10 that Jacob “came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set.  Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep.”  During his dreams he saw a ladder appear, a gateway between earth and heaven.  And, angels were busily ascending and descending upon it, and God spoke to Jacob.

How hard must be your journey, how frightened must be your soul that using a rock for a pillow is your best option for the night? Jacob’s very name means, “A strike at the heels, a striving with God.”  Jacob is fleeing for his life, and God’s messengers appear with his head between a rock and a hard place.

 

REFLECTION

What was the most difficult spot you were in? What made all the difference?

PRAYER

Dear God, when I am stuck between a rock and a hard place, appear to me and guide me forward by faith. Amen.

 

Tuesday DAY 24. March 28, 2017. Prayer 261. Awake with Love

In Song of Songs 5:2, we read, “I slept, but my heart was awake. A sound!  My beloved is knocking.”  The door is opened but the great anticipation is met with a quick disappearance.  Sometimes what we so long to see is so close we can sense it and have great expectation for it, yet it is so elusive to our ordinary, everyday, waking state.  Only in our dreams do we begin to get a sense of the holy beyond us.  The writer of this song opens the door but finds that love has turned and gone.  “I am sick with love.”

That’s what love does. Holy love from God above and humanly, brotherly, sisterly love on earth invites us and calls us to keep trying to open the door, to keep listening to our dreams, to not be afraid of the nights we are awake while we sleep.  God never stops speaking to us in our great love for one another.

 

REFLECTION

Who do you love so much that you can hear them at the door? Ponder the attributes of a loved one who is special to you.

PRAYER

Dear God, may you bless my thoughts, my dreams, my memories, my past, my present and my future with beautiful loved ones that love to come knocking at my door. Amen.

 

Wednesday DAY 25. March 29, 2017. Prayer 262. Nothing Apart

Our Lord describes many times to his disciples that he can do nothing apart from his Father in Heaven, as he refers to God. In John 5:19 Jesus teaches us, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.  For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.  For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.  And, greater works than these will he show him.”

The image of a Heavenly Parent may be helpful to your spirit life, or it may not, depending on your life circumstance with your parents in your early years. In the gospels, Jesus is literally saying to us, remember that God is showing you how to do great things, even greater than what he accomplished with his faith with God as amazing as that sounds.  God can make great things happen when we listen intently to God’s ways, and not our own wants and needs first.  God’s love helps us grow in faith.

 

REFLECTION

For Lent, did you give something up? How is that going?  Try again if need be.

PRAYER

Dear God, increase my faithfulness. Let me see your works and imitate your example.  Amen.

 

Thursday DAY 26. March 30, 2017. Prayer 263. My Soul Finds Rest

Psalm 62 begins, “My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from God.” We struggle mightily in the present to increase our spirit lives as we are compelled to live in a world that demands so much of us to move more quickly, accomplish more effectively, handle several important things at once, respond to a blizzard of messages coming at us from many different sources continually.  In the times that this ancient author wrote this song, how slow was life then, to the way it is now?  How did they experience the need to find a place apart from the world to draw near to God in the spirit?

The confidence of the ancient wisdom as that we can find rest for our souls. St. Augustine speaks to this saying “You have created us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”  It’s good to practice rest.  Rest your weary body.  Rest your worrying mind.  Rest your aching heart.  The Bible tells us that this is possible and is a daily invitation from God.

REFLECTION

From what do I need a deep and gentle rest from to lend my soul a little tender loving care? Ask God to help you find the rest you need.

PRAYER

Dear God, for you alone my soul waits, may I find you coming to me in silence that speaks lovingly that I am secure in you. Amen.

 

Friday DAY 27. March 31, 2017. Prayer 264. Fashioned from Dust

 Genesis 2:6 sets the scene of creation, “and a mist was going up from the land, and was watering the whole face of the ground—then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

Gardeners come alive in the Spring after the early rains come and the soil softens and it’s time to get our hands into the dirt. For those who find rest in the garden, they are re-enacting the scene of creation.  God loves to play in the dirt.  God fashions our bodies out of the muddy mist and airy vapor.  Then, God plants a garden where every pleasant thing springs up.  Spring reminds us that God has been making life happen out of the darkness of the dirt for such a long time we can only guess.

REFLECTION

What is your favorite garden spot? Imagine your hands in the soil making it happen soon.

PRAYER

Dear God, when this winter weather is over, please let my spirit be fashioned once again in the soil of your creation. Amen.

 

Saturday  DAY 28. April 1, 2017. Prayer 265. Only The Beginning

 The story of the tower of Babel is a cautionary tale. There once was a time that the people from the whole earth could speak the same language.  They figured out how to bake bricks so that buildings could exceed one story.  Together they tried to reach higher than the heavens with their construction so that God would see they could not be easily dismissed.

Then the unimaginable happened. Before the tower was completed, they forgot how to talk with each other.  Genesis 11: 9 indicates the name of the place was called Babel, “because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth.”  The work crew stopped and was dispersed all over the earth.  God had said that this massive enterprise to build a tower to themselves is “only be the beginning of what they will do.”  A one year old babbles continually in a language no one else can understand.  Yet, that one year old seems perfectly content, even joyful, in expressing that thought just the way it is.  That’s the God language.

REFLECTION

When you are confounded by what others are trying to say, can you identify anything good that can come out of them because it is different than your words?

PRAYER

Dear God, help me to understand what others are telling me. Let me remember how to enjoy the God language before it became the human language.  Amen.

 

Monday DAY 29. April 3, 2017. Prayer 266.

Anointing Stones

 The stone that Jacob rested his head upon when he dreamed of God’s angels ascending and descending from heaven became dear to him the next day. In Genesis 28:16 Jacob awakes from his dream and proclaims, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.  How awesome is this place!  This is none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven.”  Then he fashioned the rock into a pillar and poured anointing oil over it to forever mark the place where God let him find divine rest in the midst of a restless wandering from his sins.

The local houses of God that have been my spiritual homes along the way have had granite block foundations. These stones have supported the faithful in their dreams of a peaceful life, struggles to overcome all obstacles, striving to make justice in the world, remembering loved ones past, and blessing loved ones recently born.  Each stone is a reminder that God was surely in that place.

REFLECTION

Imagine the churches that were dear to you. What dreams did you pray there?

PRAYER

Dear God, watch over me, be with me, and keep me in your peace wherever my life takes me. Amen.

 

Tuesday DAY 30. April 4, 2017. Prayer 267

Like No Other Event

 In Exodus 19:17 we see an event like no other in history, “Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain.” Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke.  A thick cloud appeared.  Lightening flashed. The sound of the trumpets grew louder until the thunder came.  The Lord called to Moses to come up and receive the ten words of the covenant.  What must it have been like to be in that crowd of trembling people that day?  No other day has held a moment like that.  What moment of a day still lingers in human history as the one we received the Ten Commandments?  We are still reading them.  We strive to live by them or we ignore them.  They are still there.  We wrestle over public displays of them.  We wrestle with others and ourselves in not keeping them.  That day was like no other.

REFLECTION

Read the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17. Which ones are hard to keep?

PRAYER

Dear God, let me approach you just close enough to learn your way. Don’t overwhelm me with my lack of holiness that I run away in fear and trembling.  Amen.

Wednesday DAY 31. April 5, 2017. Prayer 268.

Have Compassion

 In the Book of Lamentations we read a series of poems that express the great grief felt when the beloved city of Jerusalem was lost to an invading force. Gone forever were the hopes and dreams and tireless efforts to build a way of life.  Or were they lost?  Beautiful expressions of lament keep close to the heart the vision of a Godly life in a world that seems very un-Godly.

The great assurance comes in Lamentations 3:31, “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though God cause grief, God will have compassion according to the abundance of steadfast love; for the Lord does not willingly afflict or grieve any child.” It is a bold faith statement that God is not destroying our world due to our sins, but is loving us into a less sinful world through endless compassion.

REFLECTION

When have you led with thoughts of God afflicting you when the time calls for God’s great compassion?

PRAYER

Dear God, whenever I am tempted to believe you have destroyed something out of anger, let me see how your compassion is creating something new in the way from here. Amen.

Thursday DAY 32. April 6, 2017. Prayer 269.

Rejected Before and After

 Jesus’ life and mission was directed squarely at the human will to reject. We reject faith.  We reject God.  We reject others whom we don’t like.  Sometimes we reject even our dearest loved ones.  Into all this rejection comes Christ’s love to try to reach us though we reject Jesus’ message and the way of life.

The story of the blind beggar who was healed by Jesus is a story about how God does not reject us like the world does. The person was born blind.  It was not his fault.  He did nothing to cause the condition.  As a disabled person he was rejected by his family as his birth brought them public shame.  His neighbors rejected him as a useless beggar.  The religious leaders rejected him as proof that God blessed people to be sighted and powerful.  Then, one day, Jesus healed him and gave his sight back.  Once again his neighbors deny it is him.  His parents disown him out of fear they will be rejected publicly.  And the religious authorities kick him out because he has received healing by an unauthorized source.  You can hear the formerly blind person saying, “I always wanted to see, but, then I saw how ugly everyone really was.”

In John 9:35, Jesus hears he was rejected again, and comes to him and tenderly asks, “Do you believe?” The person who now is the only one in the village who can truly see says in essence, “In you?  Yes.  In them, how could anyone!”

REFLECTION

When did you reject someone and why? How does faith ask you to see differently?

PRAYER

Dear God, help me to not be so quick to reject, but, to accept where love needs to go. Amen.

 

Friday DAY 33. April 7, 2017. Prayer 270.

Giving God Everything

 It is not easy to give everything up to God. We don’t have enough time.  We don’t have enough energy.  We don’t have enough faith.  How can I give more to God?

Faith invites us to begin each day having given God our best—the best of our heart, hands and heads. Nothing is too small for God to receive.  Nothing is too big for us to give away.

REFLECTION

Ponder this classic prayer of abandonment composed by Charles de Foucauld.

PRAYER

My Father, I abandon myself to you, do with me as you will. Whatever you may do with me I thank you.  I am prepared for anything.  I accept everything provided your will is fulfilled in me and in all creatures.  I ask for nothing more my God.  I place my soul in your hands.  I give it to you, my God, with all the love of my heart because I love you.  And for me it is a necessity of love, this gift of myself, this placing of myself in your hands without reserve, in boundless confidence, because you are my Father.  Amen.

 

Saturday DAY 34. April 8, 2017. Prayer 271.

Driven By Prayer

 There is a scene in the Gospel of Mark in which a boy is suffering from an ailment that seizes him, throws him to the ground and he foams at the mouth. His father asks the disciples to cast out the spirit of his son that he may be healed.  They could not do it.  Later, Jesus arrives and asks what is going on.  The father asks him to heal his son if he can.  Jesus replies all things are possible for one who believes.  The boy is healed.  The disciples ask Jesus why they couldn’t perform the healing.  In Mark 9:29 Jesus says to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

Deep prayer drives faithful action. We cannot do anything apart from God.  Prayer grounds us in what we must do on earth by opening the heavens to bear on the situation we face.  Prayer changes everything.

REFLECTION

Name the most difficult ailments or sufferings you have. Pray without ceasing.

PRAYER

Dear God, I believe! Help my unbelief!  Heal me under the shadow of your wings of prayer.  Amen.

 

Monday DAY 35. April 10, 2017. Prayer 272.

The Following Day

 As we enter Holy Week, the Gospels grant us a view of each day. Monday’s account in Mark tells us that Jesus and his followers came into Jerusalem from Bethany.  On the day following the Palm Sunday Procession, Jesus enters the temple and turns over the tables of the moneychangers.  In Mark 11:17 he proclaims, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations?’ But you have made it a den of robbers?”  His words and actions got the authorities very upset.  They were now seeking a way to destroy him and his message.

REFLECTION

Name the ways we keep church a “House of Prayer for All.” Pray for the church.

PRAYER

Dear God, keep our church a “House of Prayer for All!” Help me to turnover my life by prayer daily. Amen.

 

Tuesday DAY 36. April 11, 2017. Prayer 273.

In The Morning

On Tuesday in Holy Week, Jesus and his followers pass by a fig tree they had seen yesterday. Peter points out to Jesus in the morning that the tree, which they found barren of fruit, had withered completely away.  In Mark 11:22 Jesus tells them, “Believe in God…whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven may forgive your trespasses.”  Jesus connects the lack of generous, forgiving prayer towards the withering of life.  We must always pray, believing in our heart, that we all stand in need of prayer.  We are not perfect and holy.  God is.

REFLECTION

Who has trespassed on your space and life? Pray for their forgiveness.

PRAYER

Dear God, apart from you my faith withers, make my daily prayers full of faith and full of a forgiving love. Amen.

 

Wednesday DAY 37. April 12, 2017. Prayer 274.

Before The Passover

Two days before the Passover and the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, as was their annual faith custom to celebrate, Jesus and his Disciples find themselves at the home of Simon the leper in Bethany. On Wednesday in Holy Week, Mark tells the story of how a woman in Simon’s house breaks open their cherished family burial ointment and proceeds to pour it over Jesus’ head to shower him with love and appreciation and sustaining comfort for what is soon to happen to him.  Jesus’ group becomes indignant and asks why couldn’t they sell the ointment and give it to the poor because it was worth a year’s wage of a day laborer.

Jesus says, in Mark 14:6, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her?  She has done a beautiful thing to me.  For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them.  But, you will not always have me.  She has done what she could.”  We become quick to say others should be more perfect than we are.  Our love is betrayed into the hands of our own jealousy.

 

REFLECTION

Name the times you have criticized another’s generosity of love in comparison to your own wants and needs.

PRAYER

Dear God, lead me to know in my heart that another’s generosity does not prevent me from being generous. Amen.

 

Thursday DAY 38. April 13, 2017. Prayer 275.

Maundy Thursday

Thursday in Holy Week is referred to as “Maundy Thursday” from the latin root word that means “commandment.” When the disciples gather with Jesus for the last time in the upper room to celebrate the Passover Feast, Jesus shares with them prayers, instructions and gives them a new commandment.

In John 13:34 we read, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this, all

Love is the only thing that will lead the church to be God’s House of Prayer in a world in which the nations go to war over territory, resources  , beliefs and bitter hatreds. Whenever the church is not filled with love in all it is doing, it ceases to be Jesus’ disciples.

 

REFLECTION

How can you help the church be fully loving in all the church is called to do?

PRAYER

Dear God, help me to fulfill my faith promise to live into your new command, let me use all my resources of heart, mind and strength for love. Amen.

 

Friday DAY 39. April 14, 2017. Prayer 276.

Good Friday

Good Friday, or more truly rendered, “God’s Friday” is the most solemn day of the year in the Christian calendar. Even to the present day in our civic and secular and diverse culture, most public school systems take this as a day to have no school.  Some faiths obligate a family to attend a service.  Other denominations do not.  This is in part due to the fact that what occurs to Jesus on Friday in Holy Week is unthinkable, unbearable, and his level of suffering is too hard for us to look at.  It is easier to be busy doing something else.  We abandon Jesus when he needs us most.  That is humbling.

In Matthew 27:46 Jesus cries to God from the cross, “Eli, Eli, My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” Even the Son of God knows what it is like to be left alone, to feel forsaken, to have been abandoned by love.

REFLECTION

When has faith sustained you when you feel abandoned and alone?

PRAYER

Dear God, let me draw near to you in prayer when my urge is run away from you. Amen.

 

Saturday DAY 40. April 15, 2017. Prayer 277.

Holy Saturday

  

Where is our Lord Jesus on the Saturday of Holy Week. The Gospel accounts all describe his death on Friday, the Jewish Sabbath, in which he must be place in the tomb before sundown.  The story resumes when his friends go to find him on Sunday morning.  He is not there.  He has gone before them to Jerusalem.

The Apostle’s Creed says this about Saturday, “He descended into Hell.” There are many stories about what Jesus accomplished in Hell before the resurrection.  Were saints baptized?  Were people prepared for their resurrection?  Did God enter the place no one thought God would ever go so that we know truly that God is present to us everywhere, even in hell?

Could we not say that Jesus suffering at the hands of a cruel world was not already for him a living hell? How could it have been worse?  This leads us to the conclusion that no power of darkness or death is a place the Lord will not enter by love.

REFLECTION

Name the times and places in your life that are dead to you. Pray for love, forgiveness and resurrection.

PRAYER

Dear God, even on my darkest days when in dreary despair and my faith is far from me, remember to me that you visited this place and have gone before me, showing me the way to my new life. Amen.

 

 

 

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