Thursday February 26, 2015

IF WE PICTURE all the obstructions between us and God as a wilderness, Lent presents us with time to clear and cultivate a part of that wilderness, to create an open space in it. In this newly opened space, we may live more freely and commune more closely with the divine. We can transform this wilderness and make it our home, our garden, a place that invites God in and asks God to stay.

- Sarah Parsons

Tuesday February 24, 2015

LOVE IS OUR LORD’S MEANING, I saw most surely in this and in all that our God made that God loved us, and this love never was satisfied and never will be. All God’s works have been done in this love, and in this love God has made everything that is for our benefit, and in this love our life is everlasting. In our creation, we had a beginning, but the love in which God made us was in God without beginning. In this love we have our beginning. All this we will see in God without end.

- Julian of Norwich

Monday February 23, 2015

SILENT PRAYER will help you to focus clearly on God. The constant stream of thoughts that run through your mind is like [trying to herd a] hundred cats [up a hill]. At first you go chasing after them, lost in the intrigue of where they go and whether you can catch them. But the more you practice silent contemplation, the less tempted you will be by their antics. Eventually you will barely notice them at all, and when you are distracted by them, you can return more quickly to the open space of the silence where you wait for God.

- Daniel Wolpert

Friday February 20, 2015

PEOPLE WHO EXTEND COMPASSION to us are guardians of our soul. John Makransky calls them benefactors, emissaries of love in our lives. These are people who see us, understand us, value us, and celebrate our homecomings. They offer us the inestimable gift of revealing to us the truth of who we are – we are worthy of love even in our shame; we are held with love even when we forget it; our beauty is beheld even when we feel blemished; though our journeys leave us broken and burdened, we are and remain thoroughly beloved.

- Frank Rogers Jr

Tuesday February 17, 2015

JESUS CALLS. Disciples follow.

Every disciple’s journey begins with answering Jesus, and answering Jesus means following him step by step wherever he leads. While those first disciples did not know where that might be, what those new places and situations might demand, they worked hard to keep pace.

“Follow me” is never an easy command to obey, for discipleship often means going with Jesus from place to place. He does not stay long anywhere but is always moving on to the next town, the next synagogue, the next need. Discipleship is harder yet on the ears and the head and hardest of all on the heart, whose highways are built over mountainous rationalizations, gouged deep by storms of selfishness and self-doubt.

- Thomas R. Steagald

Monday February 16, 2015

NOT LONG AGO, during a particularly stressful season of church ministry, my spiritual director (and friend) suggested I go into the sanctuary to pray, but “not those eloquent prayers you pray on Sunday mornings and at meetings. Simple prayers,” she said. “Whatever your heart prompts you to say. Raw.

I thought of the time Frederick Buechner’s therapist told him to write with his left hand a dialogue between himself and his long-dead-by-suicide father. His right hand, a novelist’s hand, formed words for effect, created and crafted meaning. Writing with his left hand might allow him to discover meanings deeper than he could invent.

Wondering if I could pray “left-hearted,” I entered the sanctuary and took a spot on the left side, the lectern side – away from the pulpit, away from “my” side. For what seemed the longest time, I just sat there, restless and uncomfortable and alone. Voices behind me in the hallway signaled that Family Night supper was about to begin, but I did not want to see anyone. I hunkered down, hiding.

I tried to clear my mind. I tried to focus. I could do neither thing. I was jittery, as if the silence of the empty room were a predator closing in for the kill. I tried to turn off my brain and turn on my heart. Instead, my memory raced, careening through recent days and disappointments. …

“I don’t want to be the pastor anymore,” I growled to the pew in front of me. “Not here. Not anywhere!” I leaned back and saw the rafters of the sanctuary. They looked like the ribs of a ship, or a whale. I was Jonah, in the belly of the fish, squatting in salt water and darkness and vomit.

I do not know how long I sat there; less time than it felt like, I am sure. But snapping upright and snorting – enough of this! – I grabbed at the pew in front of me to wrench myself up in spite of my legs and get the hell out of there.

I was already standing, weakly, when I glanced down and saw [the hymnal] in the pew rack. My chin twitched. I paused. Then, as if my knees were water, I collapsed back into the seat. With trembling hand I reached for the hymnal and turned luckily to page 878, “An Order for Evening Praise and Prayer.” How often had I turned to this very spot over the years? Prayed these very prayers? This time, though, when I looked down, it was as if I had never before seen them. These were not my prayers, but they were not not prayers, either. …

Tears flowed, and I knew, I knew, that I was not alone. Not at all. I was not even praying alone. No matter what I felt or didn’t feel when I began the liturgy, the liturgy itself proved that I was praying with others, even in that moment. I was part of the community, the family of God, the body of Christ. I may have been by myself in the sanctuary, but I was one of many – only one, yes, but one of the great we that is the church.

- Thomas R. Steagald

Sunday February 15 , 2015

EVERY DAY offers opportunities to know and celebrate God’s grace and to share it with others. Every day we find opportunities to encourage other Christians and to receive their encouragement for our daily walks. every day we have opportunities to love and serve the world that God loves and to point to the ways that God redeems and transforms life. …

As we stay focused on our priorities – loving God and loving others – we will cultivate our capacities and abilities to carry out God’s work in the world. As we spend time in prayer, seeking God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, and deliberately cultivate compassion for others and the courage to take action and serve, we’ll discover both the strength and the joy to be exactly who we were created to be.

- Rebecca Dwight Bruff