THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – Tuesday, March 16th
On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38 NRSV)
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift. (Revelation 22:17 NRSV)
I love this spiritual invitation that Jesus gives us! First, he perfectly describes our longing for him as being “thirsty.” Our need for Jesus is like thirst, for we need him to quench our deepest yearnings, to refresh our dry spirits, to replenish our withered souls. Then he calls us to freely come, to take the water of life as a gift! We are given this holy thirst, and we are given the answer to our thirst. Jesus is our source and sustenance of life.
I have felt this thirst for Jesus, haven’t you? I want to come to him when I’m worried, when I’m thankful, when I need direction, and even when I’m content. I cannot recall a time when I thought, “Okay, I have had my fill of Jesus now.” These words today bless this holy longing. Jesus invites us to freely come and drink.
Then we have this verse that confuses me a bit: Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”1 Jesus abides in us always. He fills us with his goodness and love forever. In him, we have everything we need for life.
But I’m still thirsty… I still want more of Jesus. Am I missing something? Where is this thirst coming from, if Jesus has already filled me?
I found my answer by learning more about sponges. 😀
HOW DOES A SPONGE WORK? The key to functionality when speaking of sponges, is a little scientific concept known as surface tension. All of those nooks, crannies and holes are not just for looks, and they are actually integral to how this tool works. The increased surface tension created by this inner structure will actually draw in moisture and cause it to cling to the surface of the sponge, and then absorb into the material… In general, the more holes there are, the more surface area there is, and therefore, the more moisture the sponge can hold…
When dry, these holes are larger and more rigid, but as the block begins to saturate, the holes will shrink as the rest of the sponge swells. A dry sponge allows water to flow in quickly, but will also cause more water to escape due to the big holes. As the holes shrink, the water has a more difficult time leaving due to the narrowed passageways, but it will also begin sticking to the other water molecules as well. This is why a wet sponge will soak up more water than a dry one. The holes of a sponge act as absorption points as well as storage areas, and when water begins to enter, it will both cling to the vast surface area as well as absorb into the material.2
We are like the sponge in our thirst for Christ. When we create more space for time with God, these spaces increase our ‘surface area’ to receive and absorb more of the water of life. God increases our soul’s capacity – much like the spaces in a sponge expand – so we can take in even more precious water. As additional water begins to shrink the spaces, these spaces become both absorption points and storage areas.
Wet sponges can absorb more liquid than dry ones!
Let us keep seeking, keep thirsting for this water of life. As we become more saturated, may we let God continue to expand our spaces and increase our absorption. May we also remember to generously and freely pour out the water of life for others, for we can trust Jesus’s promise to keep filling us – always!
May we respond to Jesus’s invitation to us, “Let anyone who is thirsty, come,” with joyful and open hearts to absorb every drop!
Our reading for tomorrow is Luke 5:1-11.
1John 6:35 (NRSV)
Bible verses are found at https://classic.biblegateway.com/
THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – Monday, March 15th
Read Matthew 20:29-34.
They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.”
Matthew 20:33 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them;
for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”
Matthew 19:14 (NRSV)
Our spiritual invitation for today, “Let our eyes be opened,” is our invitation to a fresh new way of regarding life.
When the blind men had their sight restored, they not only saw the world with clarity, we can imagine they also saw the world with gratitude and wonder! They could look at the beauty of nature, the faces of loved ones, even the ordinary things of life as fresh, new, and exciting. Their vision would help them become more mobile and free. They could more readily discover and explore the rich abundance of life with grateful and joyful exuberance.
How might those of us who already have our sight become blinded to the rich fullness of life? I think of my days spent worrying over needless concerns while I am missing out on precious moments. The times when my setbacks keep me from seeing my small successes. When the routine monotony of pandemic life diminishes my sense of adventure. When I begin to believe that my age prohibits my dreaming or imagining greater goals or exciting escapades. These daily blinders can keep me from seeing all that life with God offers us. I can miss finding so much goodness, simply because I have limited my view.
The second verse must be included, for what better way is there to see anew, than to see through the eyes of a child?
A while back, I posted this photo on my Facebook page. My two-year old granddaughter had refused to put the yellow stickers on the outlines, because the outlines were blue. Instead, she chose the photos that more closely resembled the stickers! My friend Julie then commented, “Oh those kids. They have a whole new way of looking at things. Maybe that’s why Jesus said what he did about children.” Her words soon became my inspiration for today’s reflection. (Thank you, Julie!)
Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven belongs to little children and people like them. Today, let’s be attentive to God in the world by looking around us with fresh eyes. Let’s look at life anew with the innocence and joy of a child. When was the last time you inspected a blade of grass with wonder? Looked at the clouds and thought of heaven? Sat in a sanctuary and truly felt small? Romped playfully with your dog? Regarded a loved one as your hero?
When was the last time you stopped to thank God for creating this everyday miracle of life? When have you thanked God for remaining with us and delighting in our enjoyment of its goodness?
May we let God open our eyes to see the beauty, wonder, awe, and joy of everyday life – and God’s loving presence within it all.
Our readings for tomorrow will be John 7:37-38 and Revelation 22:17.
Photo by Karen
Bible verses found at https://classic.biblegateway.com/
THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – Friday, March 12th
Read 1 John 3:1-7.
Little children, let no one deceive you.
Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.
1 John 3:7 (NRSV)
In this passage, John is writing to churches in conflict because of false teachings. This excerpt from Sermon Writer explains a bit more…
Truth is important. Jesus said, “The truth will make you free” (John 8:32). The opposite is also true. Living according to untrue principles can rob people of their freedom. Apparently the false teachers have taught that doing what is right is unnecessary… But John takes the other side. To be righteous and worthy of fellowship with Christ, we need to practice righteousness––not just give it lip service.1
Our spiritual invitation for today is to Let no one deceive us as we strive to live a righteous life.
Let no one deceive us? How does one do this? Finding real truth in our world can be challenging, with the abundant and conflicting information provided by so many sources of news, social media, and even conspiracy theorists. In a similar way, the Bible offers all sorts of conflicting messages, stories that are difficult to believe, and even words we would rather not consider. What should we believe? How might we discern the truths we are to live out? How do we live righteously?
Some biblical passages will most likely remain a mystery to me; part of my living in faith is learning to be at peace with that mystery, to acknowledge that God and God’s purposes are sometimes beyond my understanding. But a few years ago, Pastor Michael talked about biblical truth in our group study session. One point that has stayed with me is that we can first strive to live by the eternal truths – those words that will make sense, ring solid and true, and foster goodness and love – throughout all of time.
We can claim such verses as “(nothing…) will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35), or “Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11), or “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23) as eternal truths. We can understand and trust the words that reflect the loving goodness of God and our role in sharing that goodness.
When the meanings or intentions of other verses are less clear, we can examine these words in light of the time and culture of the writings. We can glean lessons and insights by seeing the symbolism of words, or find subtle or deeper meanings in the stories passed along. We can read and learn more about the history and the intent of the books that were compiled for the Bible. I especially love learning about the symbolism in some of the hard-to-believe stories that help me make sense of their meaning and purpose.
Most of all, we have the Spirit to guide our reading, to reveal what we are to know, and to live accordingly. The Spirit will always guide us to love, serve, trust, hope, learn, pray – and yes, discern – what is our righteous truth for living. The Spirit serves as our trustworthy source of truth for these ever-changing and often confusing times. Always.
May we let the Spirit guide us in our understanding and discernment, so that we may live righteously in eternal truth and love.
Our reading for Monday will be Matthew 20:29-34.
Bible verses taken from https://classic.biblegateway.com
THE LET OF LENT – Thursday, March 11th
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them,
“Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
John 8:7 (NRSV)
Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another,
but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.
Romans 14:13 (NRSV)
Today our spiritual invitation is to Let us not pass judgment. I am sharing a post from February of 2018 for our reflection, REMOVE: Friday, February 16th – Simply Soul Searching…
Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5 NRSV)
I have written of this before, but this passage always has me asking, “Why couldn’t Jesus just tell us to remove the speck in our own eye before we remove the speck in our neighbor’s eye? Why do I have to have a log when my neighbor only has a speck?”
Jesus is pointing out the difficulty we have in seeing our own flaws. But could Jesus also be showing us that our judgment of the faults of others reveals how much our own faults are troubling us?
In her article, “How to Be Less Critical,” Brené Brown writes,
One way to become more aware of how we judge is to understand why: We’re often motivated by a need to compare ourselves favorably with the people around us. We tend to judge others in areas where we feel most vulnerable or not good enough… In these moments, we take unconscious refuge in the thought, “At least I’m better than someone.”1
What we find annoying in others is something that annoys us in ourselves! I do this when I make excuses or blame outside factors when I am late for an appointment, but then question why another person isn’t more responsible with her time. I do this when we buy a second Christmas tree instead of donating that money to a community shelter, but then become critical of those greedy politicians. I may feel a bit uncomfortable and frivolous about the tree, but at least “I’m not as bad as they are.” My specks increase from the flaws themselves into: flaws + blame + comparison + judgment of others = logs!
Jesus doesn’t say we are only to remove our log. He invites us to remove our log in order to more clearly see the speck we are to remove in others. Imagine helping one another as beloved children of God. In humbly and honestly pointing out our own logs and how God is helping us to remove them, other dear ones might recognize and find help for their own. A speck in any eye is painful, and Jesus wants to free all of us from that pain and irritation. Jesus also knows a greater truth: as we remove our own log, the other person’s speck will no longer be such a concern to us- because we are no longer irritated by our own.
When do you find yourself most critical or judgmental? What “speck” do you find most irritating or annoying in others? How might God be revealing something in yourself- something God is ready to help you remove?
May we let God reveal everything that is not pleasing in us, let God then cleanse us from those things, and let God guide us to serve one another with gentleness, mercy, and truth.
Our reading for tomorrow will be 1 John 3:1-7.
Bible verses found at https://classic.biblegateway.com/
THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – Wednesday, March 10th
Read 2 Peter 2:1-10.
Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5, NRSV)
Trusting that we are precious in God’s sight, today our spiritual invitation is to come to God and Let ourselves become a holy priesthood. Doesn’t “holy priesthood” seem so lovely and sacred to your soul? Well, I had no idea how challenging this phrase might be when I selected this verse! I began researching the meaning of priesthood and I found MANY differing ideas about what priesthood is or should be!
But one article I found resonated with me. Here are a few excerpts…
The Ubuntu philosophy is derived from the Nguni saying Ubuntu ngumtu ngabanye abantu (“a person is a person through other people”). Ubuntu is… a profoundly personal philosophy, calling on people to act in a spirit of participation, cooperation, warmth, openness and dignity. There is a connection between Ubuntu and the Lutheran understanding of “the priesthood of all believers…” (in which) Martin Luther affirmed that all baptized Christians have equal access to God through prayer because all of them come to God through the mediatorial work of Christ (1 Timothy 2:5).
That is the spirit of Ubuntu at work in building what Martin Luther King Jr., in “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” called a beloved community: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly…” We all partake of a royal priesthood saved by God’s grace. In practicing Ubuntu, we realize that each of us has a role to play, which must be held in balance, no one dominating the other. A priesthood of equal believers.1
And when we read verses 1-3 of Peter’s words in this passage, we are encouraged to become such a holy and united community by doing this:
Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Malice, guile, insincerity, envy, and slander are all attempts to prove ourselves better than another. Through bringing others down, deceiving or tricking others, making ourselves look better than we are, resenting when others succeed, or talking about someone badly, we are comparing ourselves and competing with one another to reveal who is best. These ways are the opposite of the principles of Ubuntu and of Christ Jesus.
Our priesthood is a calling; a calling to live in that spirit of Ubuntu, that spirit of Jesus, that spirit of “participation, cooperation, warmth, openness and dignity.” We are not a royal priesthood because of anything we have done or any special merit on our part; we are a royal priesthood because of what God in Christ has done for us. We are not a royal priesthood to be elevated and set apart; we are to be part of a beloved community.
May we let God shape us into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, by removing those selfish tendencies in us that would seek to elevate ourselves – while diminishing our call to mutuality, compassion, and unity.
Our reading for tomorrow will be Matthew 7:1-5.
1Ubuntu and the priesthood of all believers – Living Lutheran
(William Flippin Jr. is the director for evangelical mission of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod.)
Bible verses found at https://classic.biblegateway.com/
THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – Tuesday, March 9
I call upon you, O Lord; come quickly to me;
give ear to my voice when I call to you.
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.
Psalm 141:1-2 (NRSV)
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
Philippians 4:6 (NRSV)
I once worked as a service representative for the telephone company. Even though the work was challenging, I usually felt a sense of peace and joy when I could help customers resolve a problem and brighten their day. This was a different type of ministry, not one in which I could talk about my faith, but one in which I could share kindness, understanding and often, compassion.
But oh my. There were difficult times when I would try to help callers who were very angry and frustrated! Service representatives are given techniques to calm and settle irate customers by responding with understanding and gentle reassurance. Still, there were times when I could not seem appease or help the customers in any way. Our interactions were futile as they refused to listen to any reasoning, to understand the points I was making, or to quiet enough to hear of possible solutions; they only continued to make impossible demands. I must honestly note that in these situations, I soon lost my patience and any desire to help them.
We are so fortunate to have a wonderfully compassionate God who can handle our anger! God can take any of our prayers of frustration, anger, or blame, and gently glean our true intentions from our misdirected rage. I am so very thankful that God is infinitely more patient and merciful than I could ever be. God will never abruptly hang up on us or turn our phone service off (not that I admit to any of that. 🙂 ). God will always be ready to hear and to help.
But today our spiritual invitation is to Let us pray as incense before God, as an evening sacrifice, without worrying, and with thanksgiving. In these phrases we understand prayer as pleasant… permeating… gentle…lingering… surrendering… grateful… sacrificial… humble.
When we learn to come to God in adoration and trust, we then can pray with a more receptive posture, ready to hear and heed God’s guidance and assurance. Our angry demands transform into honest questions. Our frustrated requests change into the hope of finding solutions together. Our closed minds open into new possibilities. I am upset but how can we work together? How can we resolve my concerns as a team? Am I willing to let you find the answer, or do I want a say in it? How have I contributed to the problem? Is there anything I need to learn in this difficult time?
God knows all of our fears, intentions, angers, frustrations, and sorrows better than we know ourselves. God will answer our prayers better than we can imagine – if we let God do the imagining.
May we let our prayers become as incense before God, as an evening sacrifice, presented without worrying, and with thanksgiving. May we always come to God with a ready, hopeful, and receptive stance so that God can truly work in us and through us – for our goodness and for God’s glory.
Our reading for tomorrow will be 2 Peter 2:1-10.
Bible verses found at https://classic.biblegateway.com/
THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – Monday, March 8th
Let me abide in your tent forever, find refuge under the shelter of your wings.
Psalm 61:4 (NRSV)
Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here;
let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
Mark 9:5 (NRSV)
When my son was six years old, our family saw the Disney animated movie, Tarzan, at the theater. As Phil Collins sang, “You’ll Be in My Heart” during the final credits, he came down the row to give me a hug. This was such an unforgettable and tender moment! Since then, that song has held a special meaning for us.
Years later, we sat on the front porch and shared our parting words of blessing and love, as he and our son-in-law were about to move to California. We knew that distance and time would keep us separated for longer than we would like. I worried about their safety as they would drive across the country; my tears were fresh and full. But I repeated the familiar lyrics, “You’ll be in my heart… just look over your shoulder…” Our love would keep us connected – always. (I get emotional again when I remember this moment. With the pandemic, we have been unable to see each other for over a year and a half now.)
Our spiritual invitation for today is to Let us abide in the goodness of God. In Psalm 61, the writer asks to abide in God’s tent forever, to find a refuge in God’s shelter. And in Mark 9, after Peter witnesses the incredible moment of Jesus’s transfiguration, he too, wants to remain with this goodness of God. “Let us make three dwellings!” But soon he is following Jesus, James, and John back down the mountain.
Oh, those precious moments when we wish to “stay here forever!” They are the moments of love, joy, peace, clarity, beauty, or inspiration. They are the times when life feels so perfectly right, when we feel deeply connected with others, when we are very aware that we are experiencing a rare and incredible gift. We want to stay and abide in all the goodness God is shining upon us.
But then we are called to go on. At times, we are called to leave the exhilaration and serve in the normalcy. Other times, we are called to part with loved ones and hold them in our hearts until we are reunited. We may be called to leave our serenity and take on new challenges. Life never stands still.
You already know the good news in all of this. God abides with us, wherever we go. As the psalmist writes, we are forever sheltered under God’s wings. We may be nomads, but God is our tent. Most of all, the best of what we have experienced has changed us and remains with us, always. Love is eternal. Love will remain. Love will always be with us.
Just look over your shoulder…
Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. 1 John 2:24 (NRSV)
May we let God call us to new adventures, always trusting that God’s love will provide for us, remain with us, and abide in us, wherever we go.
Our Bible readings for tomorrow are Psalm 141:1-2 and Philippians 4:6.
Bible verses found at https://classic.biblegateway.com/
THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – Friday, March 5th
Read Psalm 27.
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
Psalm 27:14 (NRSV)
Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is that quiet voice at the end of the day that says, “I will try again tomorrow.” ~ Mary Ann Radmacher
Psalm 27 begins with the familiar words, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” The psalmist then goes on to name some very real threats, but dismisses each of them with his trust in God’s protection and strength. Evildoers will stumble and fall… armies and wars will not shake his confidence… he will be sheltered from trouble… he will be lifted up even if his parents forsake him. This is our spiritual invitation for today, to Let our hearts take courage, even when we face adversaries that threaten our well-being.
What adversaries do we have? What causes us to fear?
Some of mine are social, global, and environmental issues; some include my worry for the well-being, safety, and equality of my children and grandchildren; and some are health related, such as the possibility that my cancer will return. But there are also lesser “adversaries” that can seem just as intimidating or threatening. A lack of confidence as I write my book – will it be good enough? A concern that I will upset someone when I write of difficult or divisive topics – will I receive angry responses? I think we all can feel quite vulnerable when we put ourselves ‘out there’, don’t you?
When I was preparing this reflection, I learned that (except for the Apocrypha) the Bible does not include the word bravery, although the word courage is used quite often. Perhaps there is no significant reason for this, but I was blessed to discover the differences between bravery and courage. I hope you will be, too.
Here is an excerpt from one article:
Bravery is the ability to confront pain, danger, or attempts of intimidation without any feeling of fear. It is strength in character that allows a person to always be seemingly bigger than the crisis, whether he is indeed more powerful or lesser than what he is facing. Courage, on the other hand, is the ability to undertake an overwhelming difficulty or pain despite the eminent and unavoidable presence of fear. More than a quality, it is a state of mind driven by a cause that makes the struggle worth it. Unlike in the case of bravery, a person fueled by courage may feel inevitably small in the face of peril, pain, or problems. The essence of courage is not the feeling of being capable of overcoming obstacles, but rather the willful choice to fight regardless of the consequences and limitations.… Courage is a result of a deep understanding of the matter; a courageous person truly understands what they’re getting themselves into and who or what they’re doing it for. For instance, a courageous man knows he might die if he enters a burning building to save his son. He shivers at the thought of burning to death, but proceeds anyway – because of the love he has for his child.1
This excerpt certainly describes Jesus! And these words can describe each of us, too. We are called to keep helping one another, to keep working for what is right, to keep doing what Jesus calls us to do, even when we are intimidated or afraid.
There may be enemies all around us – real, imagined, or exaggerated – but how might we face them with courage? How can we take on difficult but important challenges despite our fear?
The psalmist encourages us to “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” The moment we pause to wait for the Lord, we will discover he is already with us. We continue on in faith, trusting we will find our guidance and strength in his presence, letting our hearts ‘take’ courage from God because we cannot generate it on our own. We move forward – not knowing what we may encounter – but knowing the One who is worth it all. We may be shaking in our shoes, but our souls will be centered in certainty.
May we let Jesus continue to call us to new and surprising challenges, trusting that he goes with us, providing everything we need to do the next right thing with unwavering courage.
Our Bible readings for Monday will be Psalm 61:4 and Mark 9:5.
Bible verses found at https://classic.biblegateway.com/
THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – Thursday, March 4th
Read Psalm 33:1-9.
Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
Today our spiritual invitation is to Let us stand in awe. When we think of standing in awe of God, we may think of reverently observing such majestic grandeur as mountaintops, sunrises, stars in the night sky, the planets and universe, waterfalls, oceans, canyons. We may think of gratefully experiencing such unforgettable times as mission trips, altar calls, concerts, births of children or grandchildren.
But perhaps God is most awesome in the ways God becomes small, in the ways God comes to us in our normal daily living. God is in the majesty, but God is also in the minute moment…
This morning I prayerfully journaled about several concerns that were upsetting me, and I wondered when we would finally have answers and brighter days. A few moments later, Jim and I were having our morning devotional time – and the reading spoke exactly to what I was feeling. The words gently instructed me to not just wish and wait for better days, but to be attentive to the goodness that still abounds, to savor the small sweetness of the present moment.
These moments of answered prayer or divine insight are when I am most filled with awe. I sense that God is SO close, listening to my small self, and assuring me of God’s amazing love and guidance. God is most likely always creating these “I am with you, I hear you, I will help you” moments! And how many of them do we miss?
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
(Psalm 139:1-10 NRSV)
How can we not be filled with awe?
God is the infinite, beyond-all-knowing, eternal, ever present, awesome Creator of the universe.
God is also the infant, fully-human Jesus, the Spirit moving within us, the words we hear or read or pray, the humble sacrifice of love, the lessons found in nature.
God is in the sheer silence but also the quiet whisper.
God is in the waterfall but also the dewdrop.
God is in the snowstorm but also the snowflake.
God is in the mountain but also the pebbles in the stream.
God is in the cathedral but also the cottage.
God is in the gospel choir but also the birdsong.
God is in the powerful sermon but also the inner question.
God is in eternity but also in this very moment.
May the Spirit help us to notice, appreciate, and be filled with awe today, as we find the presence of God in the majestic grandeur, as well as in the humble lowliness of our everyday moments.
Our reading for tomorrow will be Psalm 27.
Photo by Karen, Outer Banks, 2016
Bible verses found at https://classic.biblegateway.com/
THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – Wednesday, March 3rd
Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth.
Isaiah 12:5 (NRSV)
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.
Psalm 67:3 (NRSV)
…and again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him”…
Romans 15:11 (NRSV)
Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God,
that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.
Hebrews 13:15 (NRSV)
Years ago, I was attending a Christian concert when the woman next to me was overwhelmed with joy and lifted her arms to the heavens. I was touched by her enthusiasm – until she reached over and pulled my arm up, too. Evidently I wasn’t as visibly moved or excited as she thought I should be. After that moment, my growing enthusiasm was diminished by my greater annoyance. My praise turned into an inner pout. 😉
Our spiritual invitation for today is to “let (us) praise you… let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God…” God IS so incredibly good, and worthy of our praise. I like to think of praise as a mutual outpouring of joy and love. We thank and glorify God for who God is, and for all God does. Out of love for us, God accepts our praise and inspires more love, adoration, and awe in us.
But how do we best praise God, even those of us who are a little more inhibited (or a little more annoyed)?
I love the example of St. Therese of Lisieux. Very humbly, and with sincere love…
She loved flowers and saw herself as the “little flower of Jesus,” who gave glory to God by just being her beautiful little self among all the other flowers in God’s garden. Because of this beautiful analogy, the title “little flower” remained with St. Therese.1
Like St. Therese, we will praise God by living our lives in reverent gratitude and by being our true selves in God. We best praise God by living as God has created us to live; by genuinely shining as God has designed us to shine. Our praise can be singing loudly in the shower, or whispering thanks as we rock a grandbaby to sleep. Our praise can be writing beautiful poetry, or stumbling over simple words of prayer. Our praise can be serving one another through our unique vocations, or being still on our back porch. Our praise can be lifting our hands to the heavens, or standing in quiet joy. Discovering who and how God made us to be and live may be the most genuine and grateful praise of all.
God in perfect wisdom and creativity has formed us beautifully and uniquely. Today, may we let God reveal to us more of our true selves – and then may we praise God by being and living that way.
The Bible reading for tomorrow will be Psalm 33:1-9.
Bible verses found at BibleGateway.com