Monday Beginnings

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.

Resuscitation

There was no 911 system in place. No professional EMS response unit to summons. So, this is how Paul responded when a young man fell to his death while Paul was preaching. 

Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. – Acts 20:9-11

I always laugh when I read the story of Eutychus falling out of the window. I’ve been in that precarious situation of falling asleep during a talk that lasted too long! Maybe you have as well. 

There are other stories of resuscitation in the Scriptures. Both prophets, Elijah and Elisha, whose stories are written in I and II Kings, responded in situations where the breath of life had ceased. You can read the accounts here:   https://bit.ly/3yKT3cx

As a former Paramedic, I read these stories with intrigue and wonder. In one of our 1990’s  textbooks, Pediatric Advanced Cardiac Life Support (PALS), the quote in the opening cover page included a verse from Elijah’s story of resuscitating a young boy! He is staying at the home of a widow and her son dies. Elijah is distraught, especially since this woman has offered her home and hospitality to him when he needed a place to be.  Elijah responded out of his angst and care, but also with God’s healing power: 

Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” – I Kings 17:21

These stories of physical resuscitation are real accounts of God working through people who have placed themselves in the service of the Lord. These miracles helped everyone (prophets included!)  to experience God’s faithfulness. 

What came to mind as I read the story of Eutychus today, was not about physically falling into sleep or ceasing to breathe. What came to mind was the resuscitation that so often comes, just as miraculously, at the presence of someone else.  

It takes human beings to perform CPR to resuscitate someone whose lungs have ceased to breathe, and heart has stopped its beating. And it often takes human beings to ignite the flame of our spirits when the spark is low or, perhaps, even gone. Albert Schweitzer framed it well: 

At times our light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. – Albert Schweitzer 

Schweitzer’s quote has been meaningful to me for many years. Particular people come to mind that have offered that spark in my life, often without knowing it, and even more often – when I didn’t even know how much I needed it.

Who rekindled you by offering that spark?  Take a moment now to thank God for their presence in your life and ask the Lord to give them the blessing they may need today.  It was God who gave Paul and Elijah and Elisha the healing needed in the situations they faced, and it is God who gives us the spark to share with someone else. Your prayer has power because God is faithful. Prayer is answered in surprising and miraculous ways. We never have to know how or why; we are just faithful to pray. 

Lord, we are intrigued by the way you empower us to restore life to one another. Human to human, at your careful guiding. It comes in so many ways we often don’t recognize it. Thank you for the people you place in our paths when we need a spark to rekindle the flame. Nudge us when we are the ones to share that gift with someone else. Please bless those who need a refreshing breath for life today; may it be provided in just the way it is needed. Thank you for your faithfulness. Amen. 

TODAY: Proverbs 27:1

Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring forth.

– Proverbs 27:1

When I was growing up we had a houseboat on Barkley Lake. That is where we spent hours running trot lines, learning how to water ski, and spending time with other families up and down the slip. It was adventure and rest; discovery and learning. This all began with our parents and another couple renting a houseboat for their vacation each summer. Those experiences led to the purchases; our boats were docked right across from one another. We were neighbors on land and water. When we were at the lake, it was all just about that moment.

The name of our houseboat was, TODAY. It often inspired conversation and intrigue. My mom was the one who suggested it and we all agreed, not fully understanding what that name might hold for us and our family. I still remember the peacefulness of watching the moon on the lake at night, early morning fishing, and the fun of learning to ski. Each day its own blessing, each day its own challenge. All a gift.

Today is our blessing. May the Lord walk with you; with us.

Lord, thank you for this day and all you offer with it. Help us to appreciate the gift of this moment that was newly created by your hand, and will never be again. Please allow us the joy of your presence; it is the greatest gift. May our steps today be directed by you in every way. Amen.

Today

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything. – James 1:4

Facing the wind, 2021

I encountered this bird on Amelia Island last year. I have never forgotten the moment. He stood there for the longest time. The wind blowing in his face. His feathers all ruffled and worn. He was shaking. Every few seconds I thought he would blow over or give up and fly away. To my untrained eye he seemed determined to stand in the wind and gather up courage and focus for the day. I wondered if this was his morning prayer.

When I think of what it takes to stay the course when we are tired or frustrated or feeling like what we’re doing is not making a difference, I think of the way James teaches about challenges and trials. It frames my attitude and thought process. If there is something waiting for us after a season of perseverance, James reminds us that it is worth the waiting. It is worth the patience, diligence and whatever else you are mustering up to walk through each day. Something more than eye can see is happening. Perseverance comes with a blessing. It is something we trust and hold on to when the days are hard. Hold on today; prayers are all around you.

Lord, thank you for being with us when we are living through seasons of challenge. Please bring patience enough for today, and hope that fills the spirit and offers peace. Protect and guide, as you have promised to do; your wisdom is our greatest source of help. We trust you completely, Father, and we love you. Thank you for your faithfulness! Amen.

When The Tall Trees Rest

She was an artist and a poet. But more than anything she was a friend. Her art began with trees reaching high into the sky. They are all praising God at the move of her paintbrush. I marveled at her creative process. I am so grateful for every painting and every poem. She left us with such beauty, and it never stops blessing my days. 

It is Susie’s art and poetry that I saw when we were by the river yesterday. A tree had fallen. A big rip from an old trunk still standing on the bank of the river. A hard fall, based on the jagged edges of the trunk. It must have been loud in falling; it must have shaken the ground. The tall, strong and beautiful tree lay quietly in the flow of the river’s current. Ah…the tall tree is resting. 

Today we celebrate the life of another friend. Nothing will be able to contain her life. No words or prayers. No song or Scripture. But everything will point to the Creator who gave her to us for a little while. Everything will praise the One who placed the Holy Spirit within her and created a channel of intentional love.  Every breath we breathe is mingled with the same breath God breathed into her. She is a tall tree resting now. So deeply loved. I do wonder if Susie is talking with her; welcoming her friend into the eternal peace, eternal joy, eternal rest. 

the roots of tall trees
go 
deep
search
crumble granite
penetrate core
impelled
by the knowledge
that they are
the linchpins
that hold this
entirety
together

– Susie Sims Irvin, The Tall Trees



Lord, for all who mourn today, please bring peace and comfort. For all who need healing, place your hand on their eyes and bodies, restore gently and completely. For the one who is searching, may your spirit guide them clearly to discover you. Let no one who needs a friend remain alone today.
Please keep us growing, Lord. Keep us reaching tall to find you; digging deep with roots that sustain us in the long journey. And for all you hold in your arms today, Jesus, thank you for the gift of their presence. Thank you for the tall trees in our lives. Amen. 

Harpeth River, May 2022. Melinda Britt photo credit

Trusted Teacher

Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.  – Jesus in the Gospel of John 15:4-5.

Jesus gives some last instructions and words of wisdom to his disciples before he is arrested. He reminds them that the time they have shared together and all that he has been teaching them has prepared them for all that is to come. There is a caveat to the work ahead.  If the disciples want to be involved in what God is doing on earth, they must abide in Christ. They must stay as close to Christ as a branch is with a vine. That’s pretty close.  

Abiding doesn’t mean performing for approval. A branch does not perform and then look back to see if the vine approves or not. Nor does a branch disconnect from the vine and do anything that replaces the nutrients, power, and life that the vine gives.  When a branch disconnects from its vine, it eventually dies. Abiding in Christ means living in and with that connection. It is life itself, breathing in and breathing out moment by moment. It is not a program or mandate; it is a way of being alive. 

There is freedom abiding in Christ. We are not alone. We do not have the world resting on our shoulders. We are in this life with Christ. We are drawing from the strength and love of the one who came to earth for us! Not to harm us, but to show us what it looks like when the love of God is fully in human form. 

Jesus, our trusted teacher, came to help us experience a different way.  Our trusted teacher came to save us from distorted truths and a hijacked religious hierarchy that had lost connection with God’s loving intention for our lives on earth. Jesus came to redeem all these things and to fulfill the kingdom of God on earth. What a gift our Creator gave the world – and continues to give us every day. 

The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. – Jesus in the Gospel of John 10:10

We seem be in a constant stream of focusing on a group of people and literally tearing them apart with our opinions, judgements, and disappointments.  We’ve seen it happen with law enforcement, teachers, doctors, nurses, and numerous other groups.  A mistake by one person becomes a condemnation of everyone. An error that needs forgiveness and justice becomes a pass to never trust anyone again. 

It may be that the noise of it all begins to make us think there are no trusted sources in a world that really needs wisdom to navigate through the circumstances of daily life.  Hear the good news:  Jesus is a trusted teacher. Jesus is the son of God; the Messiah the prophets said would come; the resurrected Christ that is with us even now.  The teaching he shared while he was on earth is trustworthy.  It is a teaching that sets us free.  The way God continues to teach and guide us through the Holy Spirit is trustworthy. Abiding in Christ helps us remain tethered to that stream of wisdom. 

I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. – Jesus in the Gospel of John 15:11

Check out more of what Jesus said by reading the 15th chapter of John: https://bit.ly/3wT9pkf

Three simple ways to practice “abiding” in Christ right now:

  1. Read from the Gospels several times a week or even daily. Start small. Ready for five minutes. Read a chapter. When you finish all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), start back and begin again. We need to be reminded daily of these teachings. It provides focus and food for our spirit. 
  2. Ask God to hold you close to the vine of Christ. Simple & powerful prayers: 
    “God, please keep me close to Christ today”. 
    “Lord, help me to walk faithfully through this day.”
    “Jesus, come right away; I need help!”
    “Christ, you are my vine; I am your branch; let it be.”
  3. Do one small act of kindness for someone. It can be as simple as saying, “I love you” to people in your household; taking a bouquet of spring flowers to a friend or stranger; thanking someone for their service (waiter; store attendant; co-worker; teacher; etc.); listen to the one who needs to simply say their things. Anonymous kindness strengthens the spirit. Known kindness strengthens relationships. It’s always good to intentionally be kind to others. How can you be kind to someone today? 

Lord, when your ways are so different from ours, it is probably going to be hard for us to see. Please draw each of us and all of us near to you so when you teach us, we are able to comprehend. We want to abide in you, and we need you. We love you, Lord, and we trust you completely. You are our trusted teacher; our Savior; our friend. Amen. 

My Trust in the Lord – Psalm 11

Winter’s Last Dance?

My grandfather always said to wait until after Easter before counting on winter weather to be finished.  Like any good farmer, he held even that with open hands, often reminding us that God is the one who created the world, and we don’t control the sun and the rain.  A farmer works on faith and prayer in all efforts. A good approach for a Monday morning!

Was this winter’s last dance?  I don’t know, but it was beautiful. 

I am always fascinated by how quickly nature adapts to changing conditions. I don’t see resistance or hear complaint. Life persists fully and confidently forward.

Monday Prayer
Lord, you are our dwelling place. Wherever we are and whatever the conditions of the day, we need you to order our steps. Give us courage to walk into the week with confidence of your presence, and trusting that in your presence there is fullness of joy and life everlasting. We believe in YOU. Where life is overwhelming, please come quickly Lord to assist. Thank you for your faithfulness in all seasons. We pray in the name of the resurrected Christ, Amen.

You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; and in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
– Psalm 16:11

Monday Prayer

The morning peace arrives differently for all of us. But it still arrives. God is faithful. I pray God shows up for you in exactly the way you need today. 

God bring peace to bedsides where people are making transition. Let the presence of the resurrected Christ standing guard with them be very clear today. 

Bring peace to the people we love who are healing. Let their cells receive nutrients and care; let their blood flow richly through their bodies; fill their lungs with your breath of life and sooth the rhythm of every heartbeat. Free their minds from anxiety and fear.
Thank you for equipping the medical teams with your healing grace. May their compassion and skill be guided by you.

Give strength to the ones who are weary but still face the day of long hours. Equip every person for each call and task. Cover them with safety and give wisdom in decisions.  

Please grant rest to those who have a holiday and slower pace. Give them joy and restoration however they need it. 

Where hope is needed, merciful God, please provide the flame that causes us to catch our breath and say, “it must be the presence of Lord with us!”  

Thank you for the creative ways you respond when we ask for help. Open our spirits to see you and receive. We trust you, Lord, and we love you. Thank you for being right here! 

Breaking Open

The first time I traveled to Central America I was studying: “Spirituality in Third World Countries”. It was 2004. Nicaragua. I stood in streets filled with waste, spend the night on coffee farms to learn their practice and got my taste of making tortillas over a wood stove. I also rested in beautiful places and watched the sunset in Leon.

I learned about the fireworks and made peace with the rooster’s adamant heralding of the morning. I shared conversations with strangers and made new friends. We met with religious and political leaders and witnessed firsthand the realities of another culture and people. Something broke open in me during that experience and it’s been breaking open ever since.

My heart has grown. My mind has been sharpened. I have learned hard things and have watched beautiful cultures turn into dark spaces of suffering, while others emerged with hope, strength, and humility. My spirit has been pruned and shaped for something much bigger than me. I hope, on most days, it is shaped and breathing in a way that honors my Creator.

A lot of things break us open. Experiences leave us wide eyed and surprised. Grief and sorrow take our breath away and make it hard to live through the next hour. Beauty breaks us open. Love breaks us open. God breaks us open. Marriage, divorce, death, birth, illness, strength…all so incredibly intimate; breaking us wide open while also making us whole.

If you are breaking open today – may God give you peace to know that you are not alone. Help is on the way. Ask!
If you are celebrating a joy you can’t contain – I hope you see Jesus’ hand reaching out and inviting you to dance. Do it!
If you are surviving one day at a time – know that the plans God has for you are for good and not for harm .Trust this!

We are given life to live. Live fully. When beauty is present, make time to appreciate it. When you or someone you love is hurting – sit in the valley with them; your presence is enough. We are doing this life together – the sorrow and the joy; it is a gift. Above all, remember that you are loved.

A few photos this morning as a prayer offering.

Lunes por la Mañana en Guatemala

Rooster calls across the dark morning tell me to rise, a new day has come. Before the people move or I can launch my mind to the work ahead, every bird, animal and plant is making a clear claim of praise for the faithful rise of the son. Villancico; song of praise. Santa Maria is invisible; the clouds shield any human sight of her presence.  Nublado.

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

Morning Prayer
God, thank you for the creation that never ceases to praise you for the morning’s arrival. You have ordained another day; you speak it into being for all creatures.  And whether we wake with heaviness or joy – you are here with us. Please walk with us wherever our steps trod today, we need you. Clear our minds of fear and shame. Remove the weight of worry. Fill our spirits with your grace and mercy. Remind us that we were created with your love, and we cannot destroy what you are making whole. Where we are broken – keep mending and restoring. When we are moving too fast – redeem within us your pace. Wherever love needs to pour over our wounds, we welcome your presence however you come. We trust you completely. Let it be. Amen.