Category Archives: devotions

Third Sunday of Advent Meditation 12/12/2010

church in winter -click for source-

 

(from the online Book of Common Prayer)

Third Sunday of Advent

Stir up thy power, O Lord, and with great might come
among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins,
let thy bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver
us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and
the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory, world without end.
Amen.

160    Collect:  Traditional

O God, who hast caused this holy night to shine with the
illumination of the true Light: Grant us, we beseech thee,
that as we have known the mystery of that Light upon earth,
so may we also perfectly enjoy him in heaven; where with
thee and the Holy Spirit he liveth and reigneth, one God, in
glory everlasting. Amen.

Do you have any reflections for this Sunday?

My song today, is Mary’s song

The Visitation in the Book of Hours of the Duc...

Image via Wikipedia

This is the season of ADVENT.
Today, I want to focus on Mary’s Song (also called the Magnificat) from Luke 1:46-55.

When I first read this, as a kid, I thought, “Wow, Mary’s getting all charismatic…” I wondered if she would be dancing, or waving her hands, or twirling a flag. Would Elizabeth be worrying about getting poked in the eye?

But today, I rejoice, because I see so much better that God provides. I notice that in this Spirit-filled moment of joy, Mary gets what God is all about. She realizes what God is like, and what he does for people. She comprehends that God remembers (mind you, this does not mean God recalls, like finding a lost memory, but this specific term “remember” connotes that God “keeps in the front of his mind”).

God helps the ignoble Mary’s of the world, and will pick them to play the big parts. [Probably the least likely to be important was an impoverished, young, teenaged girl, from a small hill billy mountain village in the Middle East, right?]

The Magnificat speaks to me personally today, because I feel blessed; and perhaps it will be meaningful for you today. 

I hope you share your thoughts with us today.
Thanks.

46“My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

It seems God has a weak spot for the underdogs of the world.

Is chocolate filling my God-shaped hole?

Biscoff Gourmet

WARNING: Like any good chocolate–which contains 60% cocoa–this post contains 60% tongue-in-cheek humor, and has been produced from a place they may be associated with nutz nuts.

So, about Chocolate…
Recently, I’ve asked myself the questions, “Can I see God past my love of chocolate?” and “Am I stuffing chocolate into the so-called “God-shaped void” of my heart?”

It’s. not. so. simple.

First, we have to answer the questions: What is “the heart”? And does this heart “place” have a vacuum (missing spot, hole, etc)?

Okay. No. Let’s talk about the phrasing first.
This “God-shaped hole” phrase could be more viable, in the first place, if God were like a product, and would act predictably as such. If God were a pill, or a tool, or a consumable, then selling him as “the thing that fills us” would work a whole lot better. God could be like sliced bread, or an Apple product.

Don’t get me wrong, God actually is sold this way by folks each day. He’s promised as the only thing to be the perfect fit, the best boyfriend ever, or the one who (like a class president with a Mexican heritage), will “make your wildest dreams come true.”

But how about the brass tacks?
Like Snickers, does God satisfy?

Snickers Purchased Feb. 2005 in Atlanta, GA, USA

Image via Wikipedia

Well, to be honest, I’d have to say “yes”, “no”, and “sometimes”.
Optimally, yes, God does. God has the potential to, but I haven’t seen anyone able to really take him up on all his selling features, and be “satisfied” too consistently–especially during God’s silent times, or terribly rough periods of life. Personally, losing my dad made me feel particularly not satisfied by God. For a long time. This most likely has to do with spiritual immaturity, but I’ve lived long enough to see it as a typical human response.

Though God’s perfect, the reality of the situation brings to bear the bigger question, and probably more important question: What relationship DOES satisfy us? Or, is satisfaction even the point? I’m going to buck the popular belief and say, “No. It is not the point. The situation probably cannon come to resolution this way.”
How do you see it? Maybe I can be better enlightened.

Now, back to the first point: “What is the heart?” The common, and I will add contemporary, understanding of the heart has to do primarily with our emotions, affections, feelings, or loyalties. Do you agree? But, if we consider this meaning was not AT ALL a Biblical understanding of the word “heart,” a whole bunch of things can do a 180º, like K.I.T. in Knight Rider.

Heart, in Hebrew terms, was synonymous with the word “mind”, or the decision center of a person. “Heart” was considered fully tied to the choice of will. So, our phrase, “follow your heart” is a modern day example of the opposite connotation of one’s “heart” in the Bible. With the Greek language, the same understanding remains for the Hebrew understanding: The “heart” is we think of as “the mind”. All those verses, like “The heart is deceitful above all things, who can trust it…” Well, that is speaking about the mind, not that thing that “falls in love” or gets sentimental. WE are deceitful partial by nature and partially by a choice of will. That the blunt accuracy version of the topic.

With this in mind (unfortunate pun #1. Ugh sorry), is there even a “hole” to fill? Do any heart-type voids have more to do with desire, or something of a more fleeting variety? Weigh in on this, if you will. (Pardon unfortunate pun #2.)

In conclusion, can I come to the answer for “‘what chocolate is filling for me”?
No. Unless you allow “empty calories” or “once loose fitting jeans” for answers.

One more question:

Milk or Dark chocolate?

Evangelicals and Lack of Tradition

This year, the Christian calendar begins November 28th. It is the Season of Advent.

Advent House

Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran and many mainline churches observe the Christian calendar. The topic for each Sunday is predictable. Scripture from the lectionary guides the themes, liturgy, sermon, art, and music of that particular time. Traditional? Yes. Useful? I do believe it is.

It provides congruence. Most Evangelical pastors are accustomed to, more or less, speaking about what’s been on their mind recently. This is carefully referred to as “what God has laid on their heart.” (And you’d be a fool to question the movement of the Spirit, right? Maybe a fool, or maybe a blasphemer…if you spoke your thoughts.)

In general, it’s not a terrible thing to follow the leading of the Spirit. (If that is truly what is happening. But, that’s another post entirely!) But does this unformatted contemporary formula help cinch together the Story of God, the Christian Story, and bring a cohesive message of the Gospel, in history and depth, in a palpably connected way? Or, is the shoot from the Holy hip often more of a “bang here and a bit there,” approach?


I’d like to hear your take on it?

I tend to think a healthy mix of several Christian traditions could be very spiritually useful in contemporary times. We are already malnourished on a sound bite way of life as is it.

Chaplain Mike, a one-time Southern Baptist preacher, who blogs at imonk does the whole topic much more justice than I can. I strongly encourage you to link to his specific post with the link at the bottom, if you’d like.

Witness this poignant quote found there:
(It really hit home with regards to my Christian church experiences.)

“Part of the problem is that evangelicals really don’t have traditions,” said Carter. “Instead, we have these fads that are built on the strengths and talents of individual leaders. … But a real tradition can be handed on to anyone, from generation to generation. It’s hard to hand these evangelical fads down like that, so it seems like we’re always starting over. It’s hard to build something that really lasts.”– Joe Carter as quoted by Terry Mattingly

My main resource for this post and a really helpful article is here at imonk. It is most helpful for Evangelicals, and I challenge you to consider a deeper appreciation for the Christian calendar year, starting this Sunday, November 28th.

Thank you for reading.

Praying the “Daily Office”?

The Manuscript Room:  Book of Hours

Image by peterjr1961 via Flickr

Marine of the Korean War in prayer

The Anglican (Protestant) tradition uses the ancient Christian spiritual practice of praying the daily office. The daily office (aka Conical hours, divine hours, Liturgy of the Hours, or fixed hours of prayer) are fixed times of prayer set throughout the day. Millions of Christians the world over are in prayer at these times, and this routine allows space for communion with God, and the potential for continual spirit of God-awareness in regular life.

It encourages followers of Christ to accomplish that which the Apostle Paul admonished, to “pray without ceasing.”

Here are the “divine hours”:

The daily offices of prayer

 

This practice is particularly powerful when done in community. A retreat, or trip with others could include the teaching and experience of the daily office. And, one does not need a priest or clergy to “do it right”. If a group is devoted to celebrating the offices, all that is needed is the cooperation of others to commitment to it in heart and mind; and reverence and regularity.

To learn more, I offer these good resources:

Basic Helpful and  Informative article.

Daily Office, which one can follow online.

Praying the Daily Office I:  (Anglo-Catholic Style Daily Office) Traditional Anglo-Catholic Offices in the American PDF

 

Book of Common Prayer (England, 1559)

Praying the Office II. (Quick Reference Guide To the Prayer Book Offices)

 

Have you ever prayed the offices/divine hours? Would you consider praying the ones that wouldn’t interfere with your sleep?

To be continued…

Sunday Meditation – A Celtic Prayer

Celtic Knot by Denise A. Wells

Image by ♥Denise A. Wells♥ via Flickr

• Carefully read this prayer, and meditate on it today. You may reflect on it in the comments section, if you feel so moved.

O God of the weak

O God of the strong

O God of the righteous

O shield of homesteads

 

O may I find rest everlasting

In the home of Thy Trinity

In the Paradise of the godly

In the Sun-garden of Thy love.

from Carmina Gadelica

Resource:
pg 19 Celtic Prayers to Guard and Guide You

Good Books Publisher ISBN 1-56148-335

 

Thursday’s 5 Minute Retreat (4 of 5)

Lay down your stones

Ed Cyzewski invited me to carrying on with his 5 minute Retreat series this week. Today is day 4 of 5. I hope you find this brief exercise a way to create a bit of time and space in your day to refocus and reenergize. May God bless you.

This retreat would be best to do if you have a stone or brick handy. If it’s not easy to search for one outside, find something else, that feels weighty in your hand, like a paper weight, book, full water bottle, etc. Yes, I realize that sounds weird. Indulge me for a few minutes, k?

Before we start, please take a few steps to
prepare yourself to take a short rejuvenating break to refreshen your day and your spirit. Together we will gain new perspective. So, please eliminate potential distractions nearby. (Silence your phone, computer, shut your door, etc.)

Ready?
Here we go!

Hold your stone or object in your hand.

Close your eyes and take a few deep, slow breaths. (Be aware of where you are. “Be where you are.” That is, push the chatter of your mind aside, purposefully, for this short and set amount of time.)

Now as you gain awareness of yourself in the spot where you are, be very aware of the weight of the object in your hand. Concentrate on that sensation for a bit. With your eyes closed, notice its bulk, size, “weightiness”, and stay with that for about 60 seconds. (That will feel like a LONG time. But, please do hang in there, friends!)

Now think of the things weighing you down in your day this week. Everybody has something. Do you have conflict in a relationship, too much to do, deadlines, struggles, car trouble, illness, loneliness, frustration? What is bothering you RIGHT NOW?

Think about how those things in your life really do feel like a weight resting on top of you. They are pushing you down. They feel heavy.

Now, feel the weight of the stone or object in your hand, and make the conscious association, of what weights you down with this weighted symbol of it that you are holding.

Feel their weight, and recognize that you want to be free of it. You want new strength and relief. You want to claim that release.

Talk to God briefly about your particular struggle/s, all while clutching your stone or object.

If you can say this next bit out loud, I recommend it. If that will be too awkward because of your surroundings, try to repeat this a few times in your mind:

God, I am laying my weight down. Take it from me. I willingly lay it down for you to pick up.

(Repeating this for your ownership of this act will help you a lot.)

Now set down your weight. Release it. Lay it down, with purpose. (If you are outside, you may want to throw it down, or put it in a trash can. Or, maybe that’s just me. OH! And watch out for glass. It can sneak up on you, just as you let your stone fly.)

NOW–Feel the weight lift. It’s GONE.

Breathe deeply.

Now walk away.

And thank God.

Thanks for coming along today, and daring to experience life a bit differently. I hope this is helpful to you in a special way. I’d love to hear about your experience, if you’d like to share it here.

(1 of 5) -Monday’s Mini-Retreat (5 min or less)

Ed Cyzewski invited me to carrying on with his 5 minute Retreat series, “with my own spin”. So, for the next 5 days, I invite you to come here for a short and refreshing retreat in your day.

Let’s work through this and apprehend how God is with us. (Please feel free to comment anytime. Sharing your experience is valuable for all of us.) Blessings to you.

First, please be prepared to take a short rejuvenating break, and eliminate potential distractions. (Silence your phone, computer, shut your door, etc.)

Start off with five deep inhales and exhales.
— Be increasingly aware of yourself occupying a space, where you are. Feel the weight in your chest as you breathe, and let your air out slowly and calmly.

Cover your ears and breathe in and out five more times, listening to the sound of your breath.

Now-Be aware of God giving you life–the Breath of Life. His Spirit.

Spend a bit of time chewing on that theme.
–Allow yourself to make associations, dwell on an image or phrase about this topic which comes to mind, and how it relates to your life, today.

(If you get distracted, or your mind starts to wander, cover your ears again, and listen to your breathing.)

In this way-you try to “get out of your head” (a.k.a. to stop or dull, the chatter in your mind, and set your inner monologue aside.) Remember you are a spiritual being having a physical existence and tangible experience, right now in this moment. You live, you eat, you sleep, you think, and you breathe. Right now, you are here, breathing and living. Stay with that.

Briefly, talk to God (in some way) about your gift of life and Living breath. (Or, the associations, phrases, or images that have been on your mind.)

Now, realize you have God, with you, at hand (not far away), and you may keep this awareness to be revitalized and strengthened in your day.

One more deep breath, and stretch your arms, or whole body, a bit. Find relaxation in these few calm moments.

Here you are. You are yourself. Enjoy that.

And Enjoy your day.


Man Cave: Of sanctuaries and retreats

(A Room Decoration and Demarcation)

It’s been said that the adult male human regularly needs some “down time” after a work day (a.k.a. Cave Time) to rejuvenate, find refreshment, recharge, gain clarity, and so on.

BUT-I doubt–a LOT–that “cave time” is truly a need reserved for the masculine of the species.

As many men will attest, females also enjoy and feel the need to retreat, and find refreshment. For some women it looks like taking a walk alone, reading a book while soaking in a bubble bath, or even not being alone–such as, sharing emotions with a trusted friend or ally.

Whatever this time looks like, it is a demarcated boundary of sanctuary, and vitally important to good mental health, and a balanced life–notwithstanding the spiritual benefits.

My husband doesn’t feel he needs a “den” or a man gym set up in the basement to get his man cave time in. He most enjoys a vigorous bike ride through the beautiful countryside on his road bike. I most like a variety of sanctuaries and refreshing conduits–both with others and without.

It’s not a weakness or a shame to realize you need space, and find your own space routinely (be it physical space, quite down time, mental respite, or beneficial time of social interaction). It is part of how we [all] live out our humanity fully, and how we are better able to best rejoin to loved ones, and others in our work or social lives in the most healthy way. If you don’t alreadly, encourage your loved ones to carve out demarcated time for this human need, as well as maintain your own. Seriously. Put in on the calendar or in your planner. It’s really that important. Be systematic so you stick with it, and keep your appointments with yourself. You will be surprised how much everyone will benefit.

Do you get the “cave time” you feel you need?

What does cave time look, or sound like for you?

Any body know Scripture that encourages ‘cave time’?

I look forward to your responses. Thanks.

Are You Discouraged?

Oswald Chambers

 

 

Oswald Chambers meditation:

. . . when Moses was grown . . . he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens —Exodus 2:11

 

Moses saw the oppression of his people and felt certain that he was the one to deliver them, and in the righteous indignation of his own spirit he started to right their wrongs. After he launched his first strike for God and for what was right, God allowed Moses to be driven into empty discouragement, sending him into the desert to feed sheep for forty years. At the end of that time, God appeared to Moses and said to him, ” ’. . . bring My people . . . out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ’Who am I that I should go . . . ?’ ” (Exodus 3:10-11). In the beginning Moses had realized that he was the one to deliver the people, but he had to be trained and disciplined by God first. He was right in his individual perspective, but he was not the person for the work until he had learned true fellowship and oneness with God.
We may have the vision of God and a very clear understanding of what God wants, and yet when we start to do it, there comes to us something equivalent to Moses’ forty years in the wilderness. It’s as if God had ignored the entire thing, and when we are thoroughly discouraged, God comes back and revives His call to us. And then we begin to tremble and say, “Who am I that I should go . . . ?” We must learn that God’s great stride is summed up in these words— “I AM WHO I AM . . . has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). We must also learn that our individual effort for God shows nothing but disrespect for Him— our individuality is to be rendered radiant through a personal relationship with God, so that He may be “well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). We are focused on the right individual perspective of things; we have the vision and can say, “I know this is what God wants me to do.” But we have not yet learned to get into God’s stride. If you are going through a time of discouragement, there is a time of great personal growth ahead.

Have you thought about discouragement in this way?

Your thoughts or comments are encouraged.