God of all creation – Guide our steps into this day Ground our feet in your peace Set our eyes on eternity Wash away our anxieties.
For you, Holy God, are the great redeemer The healer, the justice maker You – the restorer of all things To the way you created life to be.
Guard us from our own distractions Judgments against our neighbors Public slander of strangers Untended wounds within us Flowing out into your streets.
Lift us to your higher rock Fill us with mercy and justice Spirit of compassion and love Wisdom that resides in the deepest Silence where our hearts Come. Help us
Listen Rest Listen
And wait for you to show us The way of faithfulness now.
We love you, Lord, and we trust you completely. In your presence, we are full of your joy. You are the creator of this day; you have given this time in history the blessing of your presence. We yield ourselves into your hands, in the name of the resurrected Christ, Amen.
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” – Mark 11:22-25
Jesus was responding to his disciples’ amazement when they realized his words had true power. He cursed the fig tree when it had no fruit to offer and the next day it was withered! (Mark 11:20) They cannot fathom this uncontainable spiritual power. Maybe we can’t comprehend it either.
We are a people that value preparation and proof. We forgive after we see repentance. We strike before someone strikes us. We are preemptive, proactive, decisive, and “powerful”. Or are we? Sometimes we even call this active way of being ahead of the game being “faithful”. Jesus describes faith differently.
Faith is not belief in ourselves. Faith is believing in God. Faith is not dependent on our taking matters into our own hands. Faith is yielding matters into God’s hands. Letting go of our limited way of getting things done, and acting with faith that God is the one who actually moves the mountains. Our spiritual power is found in prayer. It is a profound act of faith. It is a vulnerable place to be.
Jesus seems pretty powerful even when he is rejected. When faced with public scrutiny and accusation, he simply continues. His mission was not to please the crowds or the authorities. It was to do what God gave him to do. That meant showing up in places that “faithful people” didn’t typically go. It meant offering mercy to those with stones in their hands, and to those crouched in shame and fear as condemnation is hurled against them. It meant teaching what God wanted people to hear. Humbly. Boldly. With Love. And a lot of prayer.
My grandfather Lester was a farmer. A man of great faith. He believed God was faithful most of all. He planted and tended the land. There were good years and hard years. Sometimes a field failed to produce a crop for unknown reasons. Occasionally weather and disease ruined entire harvests. P.E. Lester farmed and tended the land in all of those seasons. When resources were lacking, he and Grandma made sacrifices so the family had what they needed for the basics in life. They shared with their neighbors.
Grandaddy was certain of a greater vision. He knew his faithful tending would change the land and thus the harvest over time. He knew that most of it would be seen in other generations. His days were filled standing in the context he was given, and serving faithfully from that place. All the while, trusting that God was doing what he could not. He believed every seed would produce when it was given the right soil and the right environment. Grandaddy’s part was farming. The harvest, however and whenever it came, was in God’s hands. That faith grounded all of his work.
It is no surprise that his favorite chapter of the Bible was Hebrews 11. It begins like this: Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.This is what the ancients were commended for. – Hebrews 11:1-2
A wise person who I only knew as a partner in prayer once shared with us, “we are not held accountable for what good things we do in the world. We can do many ‘good things’ in the world. We are held accountable, however, only for what God gives us to do.” That is what Jesus did. (John 5:19-20; John 12:49)
I’m accountable to do what God has given me to do. Moses was to lead a people out of slavery. Joseph was to marry Mary and raise a family. Paul was to plant churches and write. Martha was to show hospitality. Mary Magdalene was to proclaim the resurrection. Lydia was to provide financial support. The stories go on and on. Yours too. How are you standing in faith while you do what God has given you to do today?
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. – Hebrews 11:39-40
Lord, thank you for the ways you bring forth your fulfillment in due time. Forgive us when we march ahead of you. We are so eager that sometimes we forget to trust that you are working all things for good. Stir us when we become complacent or fearful. We do trust you, Lord; and we love you. Help us today to simply move steady on with you. Thank you for not giving up on us! Amen.
Psalm 15 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the Lord; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things will never be shaken. (NIV)
At a time when it often feels like everything is being “shaken”, the words of this ancient prayer land differently for me. I’m reading it silently and then out loud. My pen is underlining words to sear the wisdom a little deeper.
No slander. No slur. No wrong to a neighbor. Speaking truth from the heart. Keeping an oath even when it hurts. What a different experience we would all have if we intentionally practice what is contained in the five verses of this prayer! But not just a “different experience” …
The Scripture says there will be dwelling in the holy space.
The result is not that challenges and difficulty cease. The result is not being shaken by the difficulties that are part of this life. “Whoever does these things will never be shaken.”
Jesus urged his disciples to “abide” in him. Stay connected. Let’s dwell together. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) That is the way that leads us into the holy space.
A practice that may assist when we feel the desire to say or do what we know is harmful, is simply to name that with the Lord, and ask for help to not act in destructive ways. If the slurs and slander of another are not acted upon, the harm is not spread. Speaking to God or a trusted spiritual friend about our feelings allows us a holy space of confession. A space where Christ meets us and works on our hearts. We work it together. We clear what doesn’t need to set up dwelling; we let go so we can receive what is good.
The blessing in the holy space of confession is found in another prayer, Psalm 32. Read it here: https://bit.ly/holyspace
Keeping an oath may hurt, breaking covenant destroys. The LORD is the one who redeems. If life is shaking you right now, reach out for the one whose hand is already reaching for you. Your Creator can be trusted.
Lord, as we pray this prayer together with the words of Psalm 15, give us grace to live with you and in you. Thank you for receiving us as we are and restoring us to the wholeness you gave your life for us to have. We love you, Lord, and we trust you completely. Amen.
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. – Acts 8:4
Have you have been scattered? You begin somewhere and then everyone disperses? It often begins when we graduate high school and everyone moves along to their “next chapter”, whatever and wherever that may be. We all have different experiences; some being scattered many times, others finding a solid landing place that serves well for a lifetime.
When we are scattered, we carry something within us wherever we go. That’s what happened to Philip. It was in the early days of the church. Stephen had just been publicly stoned to death because he proclaimed the resurrection of Christ. All the people except the apostles, were scattered.
The people who killed Stephen were quite confident in their judgement of Stephen. They believed they were “protecting” God’s people and the faith. Saul, a devout and deeply faithful Pharisee, began strategically moving home to home condemning people for believing in Jesus. He placed them in prison. He was certain he was God’s messenger and agent; he justified these destructive actions. Saul was being “faithful”.
Philip was among the many who were scattered during this hard season in the early life of the church. He carries within him the faith and story of a Savior who came to earth to redeem, restore, and fulfill God’s kingdom on earth. It was a radical proclamation, and it was a story with tangible love and grace that many had never experienced.
This story was a personal transformation that Philip lived every day. People were healed in encounters with him. The Spirit led him to random strangers who were seeking for what they did not know. He had no campaigns, videos, or internet to spread what God had given him; he just had what was within, what had been given by Christ.
In our modern and widely accessible world of the 21st century, it may help us to pause and remember how powerfully God moves in the one-to-one conversations, when all you have is what you carry within your heart, mind, and spirit. You may even be scattered today. My work often takes me to other communities; sometimes it is like being scattered. It often feels like a holy scattering.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus about when the kingdom of God would come, he replied that it is not something that comes with your observation; “the kingdom is within you”. And then he turned to his disciples:
He went on to say to his disciples, “The days are coming when you are going to be desperately homesick for just a glimpse of one of the days of the Son of Man, and you won’t see a thing. And they’ll say to you, ‘Look over there!’ or, ‘Look here!’ Don’t fall for any of that nonsense. The arrival of the Son of Man is not something you go out to see. He simply comes. (THE MESSAGE – Luke 17:22-24)
Wherever you go today, I pray you carry within you the redemptive love and grace of Christ. Whether offered with words, actions, or the sheer gift of presence, may you be scattered to bless all who you meet upon the path. And may there be love however and whenever you return “home”.
Lord, we don’t always comprehend the fullness of your mysterious grace. We don’t have to understand it all. We walk by faith because we believe in you. Keep us humble enough to follow where you lead us today, and courageous enough to joyfully share whatever you have given us to offer. Thank you for the scattering that blesses. Thank you for the landing places that help us experience love as “home”. We love you, Lord. We trust you completely. Bless your people who are on the move today. Amen.
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, Teacher”, he said. Luke 7:40
There is nothing quite like Jesus knocking us off our high horse. Sometimes I get tickled at how quickly we humans (me at the front of the line) place ourselves in the role of God. Yes…God. Jesus serves at the will and direction of God. He walks the earth and embodies what it looks like and feels like to walk with and follow God. He doesn’t create his own plan and agenda. He seeks, listens, and follows. Hour by hour. Day by day.
His anguish is evident in his sorrow. His deep pain and courage take him into that quiet place of prayer and seeking again and again. The hope and delight of Christ show up when he proclaims God’s justice and love. Jesus sees the potential. Jesus desires to show people the kingdom God is fulfilling on earth. He wants it for everyone. He connects the dots of how God works over long periods of history. Some receive it. Some reject it. Some wait to see what happens next. Many are unaware at all; no one is living it in front of them. How could they know?
I am struck by the encounters Jesus has in Luke 7, particularly with two people. First, the Centurion whose son is ill and at risk of dying; read his story here in Luke 7: https://bit.ly/centurionstory And secondly, the “sinful woman” who shows up unwanted nor invited. Perhaps she comes spiritually ill and at risk of dying. It’s not precisely clear; she just comes. Read her story here in Luke 7: https://bit.ly/unexpectedmercy
Two totally different people. One is highly respected by many people. The other evokes feelings of disgust and words of condemnation simply by her presence. Jesus notices something about both, and he responds.
The Centurion and the sinful woman have two things in common: 1. Something in their lives is happening that they cannot fix. 2. They believe that God can fix it. (Jesus calls this faith)
With the Centurion, all his great work and reputation are not enough to cure his son’s illness. He can command many things in this life, but he cannot control this. Although he is not Jewish, nor is he known by others as a “follower” of Jesus in this context, he recognizes who Jesus is and the reverence he is to be given. He knows that at the command of Jesus, his son will be restored.
There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”So Jesus went with them.
He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” – Luke 7:2-8
Unlike the Centurion who has a stellar and well-earned reputation, the sinful woman’s life must be a complete mess. Even so, she still knows exactly how to approach Jesus. She comes with the hospitality that is due this important guest. The hospitality that is part of being human – extending true care and love. The same grace and hospitality Abraham offered the “visitors” who came to his tent at Mamre. Genesis 18:1-5 read it here: https://bit.ly/holyhospitality
The woman also comes with great emotion and love; she is completely humble before him. Are her tears the tears of shame and sorrow or are they, rather, expressions of deep gratitude for what she has already received? Either way, she comes vulnerable and trusting of the one for whom her hands and heart reach.
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” Luke 7:36-39
Simon, the Pharisee who has invited Jesus over for supper, is confident about the woman’s sin. He knows from his lifelong study that sin doesn’t belong. His inner voice is questioning the credibility of Jesus simply because Jesus allows her to be this close to him. Simon is concentrating on assessment and right judgement, something he is expected to do. Jesus must love Simon so much. He offers to teach him something he doesn’t yet know about God.
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, Teacher”, he said.
I never get tired of the spiritual lessons that are offered us in the midst of ordinary life. Whether reminding, sharpening, or revealing something we’ve not seen before…the Spirit of God is faithful to teach us.
Both of these stories end with something that leaves the people (and us) pondering the response of Jesus. He never goes to the Centurion’s house to heal his son, but his son is healed. He never points out the sin of the woman, but he announces that it is her faith that saves her, and she departs with peace.
And what about Simon? Jesus meets him where he is: a faithful religious leader exercising wisdom and judgment, yet missing something critical. Jesus tells him a story where he can think and discern. And then Simon receives a teaching from Jesus that will assist him in his work and ministry should he choose to use it:
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon,“Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet,but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.You did not give me a kiss,but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.You did not put oil on my head,but she has poured perfume on my feet.Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:44-47
Jesus responds to Simon’s inner thoughts…Simon never actually speaks them out loud. But Jesus hears his inner voice. The woman never blurts out the sin that is still being held against her, but her devotion and love speak all that Jesus wants to hear. She needs to express these acts of love and devotion to Christ. Her forgiveness is maturing into love.
What mattered for the Centurion was not how good he was or how respected he was by his community. Reputation and personal integrity are wonderful things to have, but they couldn’t heal his son. What made his encounter so profound was his deep reverence for who Jesus is, God in the flesh. He believed Jesus could do what he could not, and he reached out in faith.
We don’t need the details of the “sinful woman’s” story because her actions to and with Jesus are where he encourages us to focus. She loves him with gracious hospitality. She loves him without restraint. She loves him completely. While Simon is not able to see it, even with his educated and devoted life, Jesus teaches him to look for something different: the way she loves. When he sees the way she loves, he will see she is forgiven and accepted by God.
I do wonder about this.
With what reverence and humility do we approach God? Have we left space for God to teach us as we are going about our lives?
How do we approach the one who, in the beginning, created every living creature and thing on earth and called it good? How do we come to the one who literally gives us our breath and will hold us when our breath on earth is no longer?
Do we come to Jesus ready to learn and see something more than we’ve known?
What are we looking for in ourselves or in others?
Step 2 from The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous echoes in my ear: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
Both the Centurion and the “sinful woman” believe that God is the power that restores what is broken. It is Jesus, who just happens to be in the neighborhood. Perhaps Simon is coming to believe as well. Powerless to see anything but sin, he opens himself to be taught by the Christ who dines at his table. “Tell me, Teacher”, he said.
Holy God, please tell us too. We need to learn from Jesus too. We need a power greater than ourselves to restore us to sanity. We need you. Amen.
Alcoholics anonymous big book (4th ed.). (2002). Alcoholics Anonymous World Services.
Someone’s walking beside you One you cannot always see They arrived before you made your steps They’ll be there when you continue you on your journey You are not alone. Sometimes it’s the person in the grocery store Reminding you of something you’ve forgotten – the story of BREAD.
Another day it’s the vulture waiting on the roof To alert you: every death is followed by new birth Or the neighbors who pause to see what you cannot and share it. An old friend; a very new friend Someone is walking up beside you Offering peace Offering hope Offering love Wait for it.
As the light arrives When you are given the gift to see Receive and be grateful These are blessings of our Creator. For all the days we do not see Or hear the footsteps No presence felt or known Even still… someone is walking up beside you. Wait for it and keep moving forward.
I grew up ending each day on my knees praying for my uncles who were serving in the Vietnam War. Their names were mentioned at meal times. We spoke of them throughout the days. POW bracelets were given to my older cousins at Christmas. Joyful reunions between tours; tears when they departed once again. They all came home, and nearly all died early deaths related to the experiences and sacrifices they made while serving in the military.
Last week I had the honor of being with a group of veterans who gathered at Franklin First United Methodist Church. Dr. Fred Kimbrell, a retired army surgeon, convened the group for fellowship and a program called QPR: Question.Persuade.Refer. It is a suicide prevention class. My joy was teaching. Of course, they taught me far more than I taught them!
I was amazed at the willingness of this group to learn how they can help prevent death by suicide. Their desire to be equipped to help someone who is struggling was inspiring. And yet, it should not be a surprise. These are men and women who step into some of the hardest places of life and serve in whatever way is needed. They do not “outgrow” their commitment to help and serve. It is who they are and the way they live in this world. They serve on our behalf in the military; they serve with us in civilian life.
Words don’t always come easy, and gratitude has many expressions. However we are able to say, “thank you” to our veterans today, let’s do it. Let’s not wait; do not let this day go by unnoticed.
Holy God, we know that nothing is hidden from your sight, and nothing we ever do diminishes the love you offer us. The men and women who serve on our behalf have sacrificed in ways we will never know. In times of war and peace, they give themselves in service for our country. The stories they hold within their hearts and minds are known by you. You hold the deepest wounds and the greatest triumphs with the same love. We humbly and boldly ask that you bless our veterans with healing, peace, and grace. Give them strength when it is needed, humility in moments where it is warranted, and wisdom to guide each and every step. Guard them with the shield of faith that only your Spirit can provide. We give thanks for each of them. For their lives, their service, their families, and their sacrifices. By your grace, Creator God, please lead us all into a world of peace where the call for war is no more. Amen.
Would you like to know more about suicide prevention? In our community we are teaching QPR: Question, Persuade. Refer. This short certification class will equip you to recognize and respond when someone is struggling and at risk for death by suicide. Like CPR for situations of cardiac arrest, QPR saves lives and we are committed to doing what we can to equip our community to respond. Follow this link to be informed about upcoming classes. Or comment on this post and I’ll follow up with you to help you find a class. https://findhopefranklin.com/qpr/
Find Hope Franklin is committed to bring hope and help to neighbors with mental health needs. Suicide prevention is one of our Mayor’s intentional efforts to reduce the stigma and provide help. Whether you are looking for a resource for yourself or someone else, Find Hope Franklin is a source created for you! https://findhopefranklin.com
The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all of my heart. He helps me and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. – Psalm 28:7
I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe an extra hour of sleep or time to walk Oreo before the sun was bright. Perhaps it was simply the cooler morning air beckoning me outside. Or maybe someone’s prayer whispered in the dark. Whatever happened – I woke up with joy. Even a sense of relief.
And not only joy, I woke up with songs! Songs of gratitude. Songs I could not fully explain. I remember riding with my grandfather Lester on the country roads of Western Kentucky when I was very young. It was a rare occurrence. Usually when Grandma was out of pocket for some reason and I had the gift of time with him. We were always going to check on a field or livestock, pick up seed or grain; working.
He would make up songs and sing them as we drove down the road. They seemed like songs of joy to me. He didn’t have a singer’s voice particularly, so he wasn’t singing to hear himself. But he sure did love to sing as we drove down the road. I was mesmerized.
It was as if a song was in his heart and he just had to let it out. They were songs about whatever was going on in life. And silly songs. A lot of silly songs! Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised if his way is somehow being cultivated in me.
In my kitchen cabinet there is a shelf full of random coffee cups. You know…those cups you receive as gifts or pick up somewhere along the way. Every morning when I open it up I have this little decision to make of what coffee cup “feels right” today.
With a song in my heart and on my lips; with gratitude for God’s kindness and presence; with love that often cannot be contained, I reached into that cabinet and grabbed this cup…
What is the song in your heart today? Whether lament or gratitude; praise or love you can’t contain…it’s always good to sing! And by all means, cherish today; it is a gift and will not come again.
May God’s peace be in you today. May you sense how deeply you are loved by your Creator. May the grace of Christ surprise you with a song that rises within you and offers you joy. Cherish today.
Before I begin – You have created Before I brush my teeth – You have established the day I watch your sun rise It changes every moment The beauty is too great for me to capture You are creating, moving, establishing I stand in wonder.
Forgive me when I begin the day with dread or fear or arrogance instead of gratitude and awe. Thank you for the sun rise that reminds me: “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being“.
Forgive us when we enter life’s moments with condemnation, pointing fingers at our neighbors; many of whom we do not know, and judging those we do. Forgive us when we want so much to be on the side of whatever is “right” that we have no more space to love. Or learn. Or listen for what you may be saying.
Your sunrise reminds me how quickly you create and establish new things. Every second of every moment moving mountains, changing minds bringing spirit, removing idols crumbling, building, shedding, breaking, healing, restoring, transforming…. And we stand in awe of You.
Help us position ourselves for humble following however and wherever you lead today. We love you, Lord. We trust you, Christ. Thank you for not giving up on us. We welcome your new day! Amen.
The crowd must have been intrigued when Jesus started speaking words of blessing. Many of them had come to know of a God that is all condemning. Grace and mercy were in short supply in the 1st century. Rhetoric and false proclamations were rampant. Fear, greed, and the need to be in “control”, were everywhere.
In the middle of great tension and chaos – Jesus, the Messiah, shows up with a different message. He, himself, shows up with an attitude and countenance that people have not seen or experienced. Jesus shows up with good news for many who are ready and in need of good news. The Christ comes to offer truth:
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 5:3-11
These blessings are still true today. Where mercy is given, mercy will be received. The hunger and thirst for holiness, will be filled. Where grief is heavy and raw, the Lord will bring comfort in just the way it is needed. When a person comes with peace among you, they are present as a child of God. Even when insults and falseness are spread about those following Christ, these words are no hindrance to the fulfillment of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
Where do you find yourself today? As one in need of a blessing, or one who is equipped to offer it to someone else? Perhaps both; or maybe to simply remember these words that Jesus wanted the people to hear. Words of truth and blessing that Christ wants us to hear again today.
Lord, we forget how different your ways are in our world. The other voices around us are so loud! Thank you for speaking into our lives with truth that brings peace. Thank you for reminding us of how you bring grace and justice; it is so different from the ways we expect it to come. Today, where there is need of blessing, please bring it with abundance. Enter into those crevices and corners of our pain and despair; make yourself known to the brokenhearted. And Father, where you have equipped us to be an avenue of your blessing, we surrender ourselves into your hands for that purpose and for your glory. We love you Lord, and we trust you completely. Thank you for the blessings that Jesus continues to offer our lives. Amen.