Sunrise and sunset Your rhythms offered for all every morning, every evening without fail.
Breathe in and out Sight, sound, touch, taste, smell every day, every night without fail.
As long as we are here we are still together every moment, every hour without fail.
Attentive to work or rest laughing or crying Your words remain faithful without fail.
Celebrations and sorrows Ordinary and miraculous Life here and there; profound gifts without fail.
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made and all their host by the breath of his mouth. He gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle; he put the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him, for he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. – Psalm 33:6-9
God, as we embark on our Monday beginnings, we welcome your assistance and presence. Let our steps be ordered by your Spirit even when we are unaware. Where work is started, let it bring good to our lives…the “good” that honors the life you give us today. Where rest is embraced, may it bring peace. When tears of sorrow or joy need release today, let them flow like fountains; watering our souls and reminding us how wonderfully you’ve created the world. Every beginning is an offering from you. We are grateful; we receive. Thank you for loving us. We need you, Lord, and we trust you completely. Amen.
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” – Mark 8:34-38
Jesus says these words right after he and Peter have a very tense moment. They exchange some heated words. Jesus is giving his disciples a heads up about what he is soon to face: arrest and crucifixion. It sounds like pure evil and failure to Peter; he disagrees with the approach Jesus is taking. After an immediate response that rebukes Peter, Jesus pauses to offer this word…this teaching. Just so we know – the way we enter the abundant life involves surrender.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
God works in our lives and in the world differently than we often expect. Part of following Christ is humbling ourselves enough to listen, to watch, and to discern how God is guiding us. It often means receiving teaching or instruction that is beyond our understanding – but that we choose to accept and trust God with it. In truth, the teaching of Jesus is often over our heads! It rubs up against what we want to hold onto, or even what makes sense in the world. It causes us to squirm a bit and hope no one notices how much he shows us that we simply ignore.
Denying ourselves can be giant steps of bold surrender. It can also be tiny steps of faithfulness for today. It can be a step. Today. We all have different things in our lives that could use some surrendering. For Peter (see Mark 8:31-33), it is surrendering his attitude and confidence that he can adequately judge what Jesus needs to do. Peter is basically telling Jesus, “You have this wrong…let me tell you how we’re going to handle this situation.”
We do kind of have a problem with thinking we know what God needs to do and how it needs to be done. Surrendering is not placing our brains on pause or acting recklessly with our resources. It is, however, being fully aware that we need to listen for God’s guidance and to follow it with humbleness and trust. Surrendering – or yielding – means we make space in our lives for God to speak.
What does that look like? What it looks like for you is probably different than it looks like for someone else. How are you providing space for God to speak into your daily life? What wisdom are you reaching for to give you guidance? Is it the wisdom of God or the loudest voices that are pushing their way into your vulnerable moments?
Denying ourselves during the season of Lent is intended to develop spiritual muscle for the journey of faith. That muscle serves us in times of vulnerability. It helps us realign our minds and spirits; it sets our feet on solid ground. Whether the practice of surrender comes in denying ourselves a food we crave or spending 15 minutes a day being quiet and unplugged from technology, every step we take toward God is a way of saying, “I yield my way to your way, Jesus.”
God, we are all in different situations, but we share a deep need for you. We get caught up in our ways of handling life’s challenges and we often miss how you are moving among us. When we seek you today, please reveal yourself in whatever way each person needs to experience you to know that you are right here, walking with us. Strengthen us for the journey. We yield our lives to you. We love you, Lord, and we trust you completely.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2
A late-night fatality revealed to me the burden I was choosing to help carry. My Paramedic partner set up with me all night as sleep couldn’t come while I was processing the trauma and death of an accident scene. It was more than just this call; it was also the reality that we would respond to many of these 911 calls. We would help many, save some lives… and many would also not survive.
My partner couldn’t take that burden away from me, nor fix it so I would not have anything to carry. What my fellow Paramedic did that night was bear the burden with me.
Listening and being with one another when we are carrying heavy loads allows us to experience grace. We are given the space to speak the jumbled and jagged feelings that come with being human. We are heard.
In those moments of sharing, we are freed from the oppressive weight, and it gives us strength to continue the journey. It is not magic; it often does not remove the burden, but it is lighter, and we are no longer alone.
What my EMS partner did for me in that very early season of my Paramedic days, helped me understand that unless I processed this along with the way, I wouldn’t be able to make the 1000’s of more calls that were waiting ahead in my career. I had my own pain being in the middle of others’ trauma and death. I would have to heal as I went along.
When I reported for my next 24 hour shift and opened my locker, I discovered a large paper rolled up and placed inside.
That was 1982 and the poster still hangs where I can see it often enough to not forget this way Christ calls us to be in the world. We need each other, and sometimes that is just listening to the deep of another’s heart. Vulnerability is hard. And it is healing. Listening takes time and it is a form of serving. Healing happens when both are present.
Jesus is the one who removes burdens. We are the ones who carry our loads and are blessed if someone else is there to help us bear the weight. Who is there for you? Don’t hesitate to let them near enough to assist. Jesus promises to help us, and sometimes that promise is fulfilled by the person God places in our path.
Recently a friend created a piece of art for me; it sits on my desk, always in sight. She didn’t know of the gift I’d been given so many years ago. But God knew…and perhaps never wants me to forget.
Lord, thank you for making sure I never forget who I’m called to be on earth. Thank you for the friends who help me bear the heavy loads in my life, and the special ways they are present. Whenever life is hard, please equip us to step into those moments and love as deeply as you love us. You call us to do it more and more. Perhaps it heals us all. Amen.
My neighbor’s front porch was the space I didn’t ever want to be without. She would be sitting in the swing, and I would make the walk across the street. In the country this is a short journey. It was long enough to stop my rushing; short enough to always be just a few minutes away. My hill was steeper than hers, but I walked downhill first, then up her drive and climbed the steps to land safely on the swing beside her.
There we shared the stuff of life. We laughed. We cried. We made fun of life and dared the disappointments to unravel us. We spoke of holy things but remained solidly grounded in our lives on earth; we didn’t attempt to ascend further. Her kitchen was my wonderland but the swing on her front porch was my safe and sacred space. Maybe for her too.
Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2
Today is her birthday. Her long life on earth ended 15 years ago and our porch visits a few years before her death. We took our conversations up in other places; I learned it was not the porch I cherished so much; it was her. I remember every day and every visit with much gratitude! I still draw from the conversations and laughter we enjoyed – the way you do when a true friend steps into your heart. The blessing never stops giving. Even when they are not physically with you, your heart holds them close just the same.
You don’t have to have a front porch to experience the gift of true friendship. It may be rare, but it is available: to both offer and receive. In a season where the wonder and tinsel are showing up in many places, don’t forget to find your sacred space in the comfort of a trusted friend. Sometimes just a conversation makes much of life fall reasonably into place, at least for a little while.
God, thank you for the friends that share the journey. Thank you for the ways you keep making your presence with us known on earth.
“Is it raining?” “No…the leaves are falling.” How beautiful is the sound of falling leaves and all that the woods speak as we walk along the path.
The prophet, Malachi, writes about God’s interactions with the people of Israel. The people have grown weary of dealing with evil and seeing wickedness prosper. They complain and God responds:
“You have spoken arrogantly against me,” says the Lord. “Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’ “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.’”
Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name. “On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not. – Malachi 3:13-18
When we are surrounded by reports of awful acts in the world or standing face to face with insults and language that attempts to reduce us to dirt, it helps to simply stop and listen to the one who created us. What I love in this brief glimpse into Malachi’s story, is that there are some people among the Israelite crowd that choose to do something different than stay in their weariness and complaint. They talked to each other. They remembered God’s character and faithfulness. They chose to trust God and stay on the path of holiness. And God noticed.
We don’t always feel like God’s treasured possession, but that IS who we are called to be. As messy or weary as we may feel on any given day – what we ARE is God’s treasured possession. As strong and powerful as we may think we are on any given day – what we ARE is God’s treasured possession. These are truths we embrace, receive and acknowledge because they remind us of who God is and who God created us to be. We don’t have to manufacture this; it IS because of God’s presence in our lives.
As you start your Monday morning, may you know that the path of righteousness leads to fullness of life for you. Remember the One who created you and guides you in the way you are to walk through this day. You are God’s treasured possession and no circumstance or person, nor any power operating in this world can take that away. Be loved!
How has God reminded you that you are loved and treasured? Write it down. Remember it in times that weariness is present. God is with you.
Prayer: Lord, lead our paths in ways that honor you. We trust you and we love you. Amen.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
- Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew 5:4
Sitting on the granite tombstone of my great grandfather; it always seemed so big. On this day it was a seat that held me up when my body was overwhelmed with grief. My shivering from the freezing cold had subsided under the heaviness of my crying.
I was broken. There in the middle of the deep Golden Pond woods where no one could hear, I lay my flowers on my brother’s grave and sat on the tombstone of my ancestors. And cried. I couldn’t stop. Every breath was too deep and too hard. How would I ever be able to stop?
She walked out of the woods and straight to the flowers. The dirt still looked fresh on his grave, even though the frozen ground and flurries held the space. She smelled the flowers, as if to acknowledge their beauty. And then, she held me. She stared right at me, and my heaving sighs stilled. She didn’t look at me with fear as if to jump quickly away if I made a move. She held my eyes. Her compassion surrounded me. My tears stopped. My breath became so slow and present. She wasn’t leaving. I couldn’t move.
She kept holding my gaze. As if to say:“Why are you crying? He is not here. He has gone on. You will see him again.” Her presence was comfort for my breaking heart. Her compassion immeasurable. She lingered.
Just as quietly as she arrived, she turned and walked slowly back into the woods. It has been a long time since that moment. I still remember her compassion. When I pause to think of this kindness, I am deeply comforted. People also reached out to us during those early months of our grieving. And still…nearly 42 years later, people are still reaching out to say, “I remember”. Whether it is a word or a faded picture or a story he left on their lives; presence of spirit brings comfort.
On All Saints Day we remember the people of faith who have gone before us. In our church we will celebrate them with banners and singing and joy in worship. When we gather this Sunday, we will share Holy Communion with the shared belief that one day we will all feast together at the heavenly banquet. It is a glimpse into heaven on earth. One of our most holy days.
I got up from my great grandfather’s tombstone and stood over the dirt where my brother’s body is buried. The flowers were beautiful even though I knew the cold January air would only hold them for a little while. I walked slowly back to my car. Comforted and in peace.
I knew there would be more days of mourning, some of which would still leave me holding my stomach and heaving with tears. But this moment with God and a doe who came to visit me in my grief is also part of my story, and it never stops giving peace.
God, please bring comfort to your people who are grieving. Open our minds and spirits to receive you in whatever ways you offer your love and compassion to us today. Help us to celebrate the lives of all who have gone before us, and to honor the lingering gift of their love. Amen.
What to do when someone you love is grieving: You don’t have to have the perfect words to say. Sometimes presence is enough. Often, it is enough. Write the letter. Make the call. Stop by. Offer your hand. Give a hug. God takes care of the rest. Trust.
The weather icon cautions me that fog awaits the day and I know instinctively it is good. Low visibility reminds me that God still sees the long view. I learned it several years ago from my neighbor in the country. “We know the sun is rising even though we can’t see it.” She loved to say it; it was a mantra for her and it became one for me. We are people that need to be reminded!
I ran to see the fog and was shocked to see the sun piercing through the shroud as if to say:
I’ve changed my mind. The fog will not linger. The lift is now. Caution is replaced with courage. Clouds are being swept away.
It happens like that sometimes. Life does. A solution emerges with the same immediate announcement of a light bulb in a pitch black room. Or that subtle inching, nudging….even squeezing into our lives like a little whisper that persists until it is shaping us into a way of being we didn’t see coming.
The fog is a friend when it comes. Reminding us in ways we can experience. Slow down and pay attention. Take a breath. Remember that the sun has not been taken away. We are being shielded while new light, new voices, and new revelation are being formed. Welcome the day; it is the careful provision of our Creator.
God, thank you forbeing in the fog with us and never losing sight of the long view. We welcome your new day! We love you and trust you. Amen.
God of heaven, God of earth God of all we know and all we cannot fathom: Draw us in at midday Give us pause in whatever we are doing To say “thank you!” To say, “help!” To say, “glory!” for all you reveal and do with our broken, messy, beautiful, courageous lives. Where pain is so great words will not come bring peace to the silence. Where joy is so strong that we move ahead too fast bring wisdom to trust your timing. Where grief is overflowing offer comfort in just the way it is needed. Wherever you find us, in the middle of this day Lord God of heaven, remind the whole world of your presence. Set our feet on solid ground and shine your Light on the path before us. We ask because you are so faithful to give and we have no good apart from you. Thank you, Lord, for holding your world with grace and love. Amen.