Lent 2013

Nipsis: A Pre-Advent Meditation

Nipsis: A Pre-Advent Meditation [29NOV2013]

Readings: Psalm 140, 142 ◊ Isaiah 24:14-23  1 Peter 3:13—4:6  Matt. 20:17:28

Also Reading the Philokalia Vol. 3: Forty Texts on Watchfulness, St. Philotheos of Sinai

The season of Advent has become one of my favorite times of the year. I like the tone of the meditations; centering the attitude of my heart around the themes of waiting, preparing, hope, watchfulness, peace, joy, and love. The cycle of the year seems to grow heavy by the time that Advent arrives and entering into the season seems helpful in the recalibration of my spirit. Yes, I really like this time of year.

There are several prayer habits that I have made a regular part of my Advent devotions. One exercise is a lengthy Examen that I employ, asking the assistance of God the Holy Spirit to help me evaluate the personal rule of life I have been living with for the previous year. In the coming weeks, I will determine, by God’s grace, the changes that will make up the rule I will live with for the coming year. Another prayer habit I enjoy during this season is a renewal in my “watchfulness.” Reading today from The Philokalia, I was reminded of the importance and quality of our watchfulness (nipsis) as we wait for the return of our Savior King. I haven’t heard this word, nipsis, before and was prompted to do some research into its meaning and use. Here follows what I found:

Nipsis (Greek)— literally, the opposite to a state of drunken stupor; hence spiritual sobriety, alertness, vigilance. It signifies an attitude of attentiveness whereby one keeps watch over one’s inward thoughts and fantasies, maintaining guard over the heart and intellect. It is closely linked with purity of heart and stillness. The Greek title of the Philokalia is ‘The Philokalia of the Niptic Fathers,’ i.e. of the fathers who practiced and inculcated the virtue of watchfulness. This shows how central is the role assigned to this state.

Upon reading these words and as I prepare for my own recalibration of spirit, I remember again the words of Jesus; “Pay attention to how you listen” (Luke 8:18). This is a state of watchfulness, spiritual waiting and watching, always in a state of ready and preparedness. It is so easy to become distracted and/or to be so busy doing and going that we are lulled into a state of stupor, or worse, we fall asleep at the wheel. Jesus told his followers to remain alert, be prepared, and always watching for his return or coming. This is Advent, it is the season of The Coming. Here, in this time, we are reminded to assess the condition of our wait and watch…make adjustments where necessary and recalibrate the tuning of our heart.

“You are the Sovereign LORD, the strong one who rescued me…” (Psalm 140:7)

As I prayed and meditated this morning on the quality of my watchfulness (nipsis), I was prompted to write the following words in my journal:

Each day we awake to the crossroads of endings and beginnings. The path we choose determines the nature of our continuing journey. Endings have their rightfully earned places in our journey; however, beginnings are the fuel for our life. Beginnings bring hope and fresh-eyed expectancy—beginnings spark fervor and determination…beginnings are blank paper with much room to write, while endings are mostly finished stories that barely have room in the margins.

I awaken to my “new-day” beginnings with hope renewed. The sky is blue, and with sails billowing with the breeze, I cut away the lines that moor me to yesterday’s endings. I break the chains that join me to my heavy anchor releasing my soul to move out and into the infinite horizon of beginnings.

Today is a new day. Today I shall kiss yesterday’s ending good-bye as I embrace today and… begin again.

“I cry out to the LORD; when I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn. I pray to you, O LORD. I say, ‘You alone are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life… for you are good to me.'” (Psalm 142:2-7)

Lent 2013: Distractions: A Fix for my Desires

Lent 2013

Distractions: A Fix for my Desires

Lectio Divina: Luke 19:28-44

“…because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” (Luke 19:44 NRsV)

These tragic words fall at the end of the narrative in Luke’s Gospel describing the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Triumphal Entry, sometimes I wonder if that really is the best description of what takes place in this account, but I’ll save that thought for another time.

These are horrific words coming from the mouth of Jesus. The strange, if not ironic thing about this indictment, is that the people were recognizing something about Jesus, but they failed to recognize THE THING about Jesus. It is apparent in their accolades, greeting, and cheers, they wanted a savior, but they were not interested in a visitation from their God.

As I read this account, the tragedy here was not so much the “wrong want” as much as the big miss. I think it was natural—is natural—to wish to be freed from oppression and injustice. Desire for a leader to push back the Roman was an acceptable want. The heartbreaking reality is in the course of intently searching for a fix for their desires they missed the greatest blessing of all: God was in their midst.

The focus of their search was no longer vertical, with eyes looking to and for God, but horizontal…toward an immediate and felt relief of their most obvious aches and pains. I think, had they been looking for and attentive to God, they may have realized their deeper needs over their felt needs and had both met…instead of having neither met.

Herein lies a broader lesson for me. The people onsite for Jesus’ triumphal entry had no realization of their true identity. They thought they were the people of God; yet, on another occasion Jesus had told most of them they were deceived even calling them sons of the devil (John 8:39-47). They did not know who they were, so they did not know what they needed…consequently, they were not looking for the right remedy for their true need—

And they did not recognize the time of their visitation from God.

I wonder how many times a day this happens to me. God is omnipotent, imminent, and transcendent. His Spirit is everywhere and sustains all things—even in me and sustains me as it did those ancient Jews present on the day of Jesus’ return to Jerusalem. How often do I not recognize my own personal visitations from God? Am I present to His grace and nearness, His voice of guidance and comfort, throughout my day? Too often, I might be found looking for an immediate fix for my most present desires; I’m probably looking for the wrong need in the wrong place. The truth is that I rarely understand any of my real needs without first opening myself to God and consequently I do not recognize the time of my visitation of God.

O Gracious and Eternally Present God,

Help me to be attentive and open to You always. I know I am easily distracted and often mistake what my needs are. I know, O God, that you are my sustaining Bread of Life and Eternal Living Water. Help my heart to remain focused upon You, so I might never miss Your visitation. I need You and You alone ever present and always the center of my days. Thank You for Your mercy and thank You for Your grace. All glory and honor to You reigns eternally together, The Father, The Son, and the Blessed Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Lent 2013: Abandoning the LORD — idol and idle worship

Lent 2013

Abandoning the LORD and idol or idle worship

Readings: Psalm 9, 139 ◊ Judges 1—21  Jer. 13:1—17:10  Matt. 21:43

…The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and worshiped the Baals; and they abandoned the LORD (Judges 2:11). …The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, forgetting the LORD their God, and worshiping the Baals and Asherahs (Judges 3:7). …As soon as Gideon died, the Israelites relapsed and prostituted themselves with the Baals… The Israelites did not remember the LORD their God, who had rescued them from the hand of all their enemies on every side (Judges 8:33-34).

…The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, worshiping the Baals and Astartes, the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. Thus they abandoned the LORD, and did not worship him (Judges 10: 6).

…In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25).

I think it is easy for us to hold this narrative at arms distance. We might be quick to say; “I don’t worship idols,” or “I do not forget or abandon the LORD.” I’m not entirely sure those arguments would be true for all of us.

Idol Worship

It is rather easy to make the ancient Israelites the bad guys of this story, but is not the story ours too? We distance ourselves from the offenses of the Israelites making distinctions between their ancient idols and our contemporary lifestyles. We might not see ourselves worshiping the god Baal, but during the time of the Judges, Baal was known as the god of nature. More particularly, Baal was the rain god, and subsequently the god of fertility since water was the source of life not only for humanity, but crops and livestock as well.

Asherah aka Astartes, was considered the mate of Baal and the highest-ranking female god. Known as the moon-goddess, she was also considered the god of love and war. The practice of Asherah worship was very sensual in nature and often consisted of ritual prostitution.

Personally, I don’t think it is too far of a reach to connect the idolatry of these ancient peoples to twenty-first century citizens. Nature worship, the War Machines and military complex, Sex Industry, Fertility gods (Wall Street, Financial Investment vehicles, Lottery, Gambling, and other get-rich opportunities), and a host of lesser gods (Entertainment industry, sports industry, and other personal hobbies) exist all around us. I think the reality of our situation is that we have not named these other gods of ours and personalized them.

We will push back against this indictment of idolatry saying, “But we have not abandoned the LORD!” Generally speaking, the ancient Israelites did not abandon the LORD either. In every instance that God turned them over to the care of their idols, when the Israelites were distressed enough, they would cry out for relief to the LORD, so they did remember Him. I think; once again, we are not different from those primitive worshipers who knew the LORD Almighty as their God, but chose to add a host of lesser gods to their collection.

Idle Worship

What does it look like to us that we would abandon the LORD for other gods? What is the context of this in our contemporary lives? How often are we guilty of not remembering the LORD our God? I think that for many of us, at least those of us who profess Christianity as our faith, the moment we walk out of our local church we forget the LORD. Others of us might keep God in the forefront of our minds even in the context of our home life, but the moment we walk out of the bubble of our homes each day we “forget” Him. Our attentions become directed elsewhere and our focus is realigned on the business of the day…often on the gods of happiness and personal survival who are often disguised versions of those ancient Baals and Asherahs.

The primary covenant command of our God was that we are to love him with all of our heart, all of our soul, and all of our strength. There was to be “no other god” but the LORD Almighty who is One God. Our attention and efforts are to always be “set aside” or sanctified holy unto the LORD our God. While many of us will agree to these covenant stipulations (Israel did too) and believe we are currently living in agreement with them, we will make the distinction that we live in a world that is both secular and sacred. How can this be? We will profess that we embody the Living Spirit of God—the Spirit of God indwells the heart/life of the disciple-believer of Christ. We profess that where God is, that is sacred or holy ground. If then, we embody the Spirit of God, wherever we go and whatever we do as Spirit-filled people, the place we are and the “thing we do” is sacred… or it should be… if we are living as God intended.

Have we become idle worshipers? Is our faith so passive and fragile that we succumb to the lesser gods that society surrounds us with? I think a sad truth is that we have bought into the self-deception that many of these lesser gods are not so bad. As long as we talk with more passion about the LORD that will mean we keep these lesser gods in check. Unfortunately, as is the case with radiation, small doses are just as lethal as the massive doses… one just takes longer to kill than the other.

Another story included in the Book of Judges is the life of a man named Samson (Judges 13:1—16:31). Samson, like us, became an idle worshiper and took his position and his relationship with God for granted. He assumed all was well because he “knew” the LORD. He gambled his very life on this relationship, but he did very little to maintain the health of it. Near the end of Samson’s life a tragic thing happened; he presumed one too many times that God would be with him in spite of his passive relationship (idle worship) with God. What happened follows:

When he [Samson] awoke from his sleep, he thought, “I will go out as at other times, and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him (Judges 16:20).

What a tragic statement; “He did not know that the LORD had left him.” Do we deceive ourselves as Samson did? Do we make assumptions about our relationship with God thinking it is healthy when we surround ourselves with lesser gods…even if telling ourselves we do not? How high is the LORD in my priority list of life? Do I truly love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength or do I excuse myself by proclaiming “I’m trying to get there…”? The choices I make each day express my trust and my understanding of God. My faith and what I base my faith in, is made manifest by how I live out my days.

I, Yahweh, search the heart, test the motives, to give each person what his conduct and his actions deserve. (Jer. 17:10)

“I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matt. 21:43)

The Lenten season is a time to take real inventory of my life and relationship with God. It is a time to turn fully in the direction that takes me toward Him alone. Now is not the time to be an idol worshiper or an idle worshiper. He calls. We answer. What will our answer be?

Our Prayer

Yahweh, you examine me and know me, you know when I sit, when I rise, you understand my thoughts from afar. You watch when I walk or lie down, you know every detail of my conduct. God, examine me and know my heart, test me and know my concerns. Make sure that I am not on my way to ruin, and guide me on the road of eternity. (Psalm 139:1-3, 23-24)

Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come unto you.

Lent 2013: By Faith

Lent 2013: By Faith 

Readings: Psalm 56, 57 ◊ Jeremiah 1:11-19  Romans 1:1-15  John 4:37-42

Also Reading from Daily NRSV: Joshua 18:1—Judges 3:6

I’m thinking about faith. More to come…

Our Prayer

Light and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord. Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice! O let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleading. My soul is waiting for the LORD. I count on God’s word. My soul is longing for the Lord…  Merciful God, we are baptized into the depth of your dear Son. May we die to all sin and selfishness and eagerly await the dawning of our joyful resurrection; by the merits of the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lent 2013 Second Sunday in Lent

Lent 2013

Second Sunday in Lent

Readings: Psalm 27 ◊ Gen. 15:1-12,, 17-18  Phil. 3:17—4:1  Luke 13:31-35

Prayer for 2nd Sunday of Lent

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the  unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday can be very busy at times…for me. I am thankful for God’s grace and even more so when I fail or fall short of fully reflecting that grace that is so abundantly poured out upon me. I am glad for the moments of space that are available in my life that I can “pull back” and reset my heart on God’s True North. I am grateful for the mercy my friends and family extend to me. I am blessed and privileged beyond anything I could ever deserve to experience favor and love from God through the actions and friendship of others. Praise be unto God for it all.

Lent 2013: Devoted Things

Lent 2013

Devoted Things

Readings: Psalm 55 ◊ Hebrews 5:1-10  Joshua 7—17  John 4:1-26

O LORD, open my lips ~ and my mouth shall declare your praise. Blest be the LORD our God, ruler of the universe ~ Now and always for ever and ever.

Delight in the Lord’s teaching and study it night and day ~ Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.

My heart and flesh cry out for the living God! O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.

I was reading today from the Book of Joshua and had my attention grabbed by these words that follow:

“I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you… Sanctify yourselves. There are devoted things among you; you will be unable to stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” -Joshua 7:12-13 NRSV

I suppose there is a need for context here. The story that takes place in this account from Joshua is this; Israel had crossed over the Jordan River into the land of Canaan. God had instructed them to take over by force the towns and nations of the people who occupy the land. One of the instructions to Israel had been to keep the gold and silver for the treasury of God and to destroy (burn up) all other things.

The city and all that is in it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction… As for you, keep away from the things devoted to destruction, so as not to covet and take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel an object for destruction, bringing trouble upon it. But all silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are sacred to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord. -Joshua 6:17-19 NRSV

Achan, one of the fighters for Israel, kept some of the booty from the battle of Jericho.

But the Israelites broke faith in regard to the devoted things: Achan son of Carmi son of Zabdi son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things; and the anger of the Lord burned against the Israelites. –Joshua 7:1 NRSV

Now, in this case, I believe the devoted things were the items that had either been set aside for destruction or set aside for the LORD’s treasury—this is how the narrative reads. There is obvious application for us even if we stop here. God had given instruction and there was willful disobedience. Achan had been deceived by the lust of his own eyes and the greed that burned within him led him to succumb to an act that sinned against God. Achan’s sin against God had repercussions that extended beyond just himself; his sin affected the lives of his household and the lives of the people of his entire nation. And there are more applications I’m sure with a literal interpretation, but there were some ideas that came to me beyond a “first look” at Achan’s sin and this is where I started to fixate a bit on the word “devotion.”

When I started doing some exploration into the root meaning and eytomology of the word devotion, I found that it was steeped in pious or religious application. Regarding the use of the word in the original language, Hebrew, (charam) is associated with many religious uses; devotion, ban, exterminate, dedication, consecration, sacred, sanctuary, and temple are just a few of the mentioned applications (click the link for more examples).

Devoted / ha·che·rem  from  charem / (Hebrew) Strongs 2764a ::: definition—devoted thing; devotion; ban


devotion (n.)

Early 13c., from Old French devocion ”devotion, piety,” from Latin devotionem (nominative devotio), noun of action from pp. stem of devovere ”dedicate by a vow, sacrifice oneself, promise solemnly,” from de-“down, away” (see de-) + vovere ”to vow,” from votum ”vow” (see vow). 

In ancient Latin, “act of consecrating by a vow,” also “loyalty, fealty, allegiance;” in Church Latin, “devotion to God, piety.” This was the original sense in English; the etymological sense, including secular situations, returned 16c. via Italian and French.

Perhaps it is just the way my mind works or maybe it has to do with the way we have incorporated the word (devotion) into our language today, but I started to think about how easily we are distracted by our devotions… And, I’m not talking about those devotions where you sit down for a few minutes to pray or read a short passage of Bible verse. I am considering the other things in our lives that consume our energy and attention, the things and activities that steal our devotion from God. So much of our time, energy, resources, and attention is devoted to making money, purchasing objects, pursuing activities that steal us away from the real object of our devotion, God. We pay homage to Him; perhaps we offer Him a tithe (tenth) of our income (after tax of course) and we give Him a couple of hours on Sunday of our undivided attention (it is undivided isn’t it?), and occasionally we’ll participate in one of the annual community outreach thingies. This counts as devotion doesn’t it? By comparison, a car, house, or credit card payment gets far more devotion from us than does our God… in many case.

The question that I think I’ve been fixated on today is, “Where is my devotion or what is my devotion?” I think we can take a closer look at the first-person application with Achan’s sin and make a comparison that strikes a little closer to home for us. In the case of Achan, he took things that were supposed to be set aside for the use of God and perhaps extended to the community of God’s people. He thought only of his own selfish desire. By thinking only about himself, his actions isolated and excommunicated him from the community… ultimately to the point that it caused his death. Are we guilty of this? Maybe I haven’t stolen God’s gold… or have I? Am I enamored by the “purple robes” I see others wearing? What might those “robes” look like in our contemporary society? I think the application really isn’t as far removed from us as I might have originally thought. Perhaps my fixation is not such an extrapolation or reach after all. I wonder how much we might be devoted to ourselves instead of devoted to God.

When the sin of Achan affected the community, Joshua, as their leader, went before God and fell prostrate before Him. He began to cry out and plead for God’s assistance and mercy. God responded by telling him to “Stand up! Why have you fallen upon your face?” and instructed Joshua to tell the people to “Sanctify yourselves” (Joshua 7:6-12). Perhaps in the midst of our misguided devotions today we need to take a step back from the harried lives we lead and “set ourselves apart” by renewing and realigning our devotion. Sanctify yourselves and your devotion for you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. Devotion.

“I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you… Sanctify yourselves. There are devoted things among you; you will be unable to stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” -Joshua 7:12-13 NRSV

The only “devoted thing” that belongs in my life is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Any other “devoted thing” will cause Him to be with me no more. Sanctify yourself. Yeah. That’s what he said.

Lent 2013: Unharden my heart, O Lord

Lent 2013

Unharden my heart, O Lord

Readings: Psalm 95, 103:2, 10-13 Hebrews 4:1-16  Joshua 1—6  John 3:22-36

I’m doing a lot of reading these days, even more than my normal heavy appetite. The net result of this is that I have a lot of influences and swirling thoughts. If my writing or thought processes seem disjointed, it might be because they are. Nonetheless, they are good and challenging thoughts—I am motivated and I am inspired.

“Solitude is one way we can imitate Jesus…” Emilie Griffith

As I consider this season of Lent and venturing into the “desert” to be alone with Jesus, there are a number of themes and postures that I intend to assume. One is an attitude of humility and another is repentance; both of these postures are necessary to keep my heart surrendered to the transformation of Christ in me. I’ve written several times in the past week or so about living noisy and distracted lives. This is the thorn in almost every American side. Our daily lives are often too busy with work and sleep getting most of our attention. How often do we make the space to get alone with God-Jesus? How long do we spend with him? Most importantly, what is Jesus telling or teaching me?

Everywhere is the evidence and handiwork of our God. Am I paying homage and tribute to the glory of God in my day? Is my professed relationship manifest in my daily travels?

“The cross is not the horrible end of a pious, happy life, but stands rather at the beginning of community with Jesus Christ… Those who are not prepared to take up the cross, those who are not prepared to give their life to suffering and rejection by others, lose community with Christ, and are not disciples. Discipleship is commitment to the suffering Christ.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer; Discipleship and the Cross from Meditations on the Cross.

A Prayer

Bless YAHWEH, my soul. Never forget all his acts of kindness. He does not treat us as our sins deserve, nor repay us as befits our offenses. AS the height of heaven above earth, so strong is his faithful love for those fear him. As the distance of east from west, so for from us does he put our faults. As tenderly as a father treats his children, so YAHWEH treats those who fear him.

O that today you would listen to his voice! Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways.

O God, help me to never be that man. Help me to cling always to your holy garments. May my love for you always be pure and righteously motivated.

Lent 2013: Working it Out

Lent 2013

Working it Out

Readings: Philippians 2:12-13

“So work out your salvation in fear and trembling. It is God who, for his own purpose, gives you the intention and powers to act.” -Philippians 2:12-13

Life gets busy… there are people to meet, things to do, and places to go. I get it and it’s true. Stuff happens and it seems to be happening at an ever-quickening pace. Today seemed busy for me, but my busy was good… although in the midst of my busy, there were several things that I needed to accomplish that I was unable to attend. What does this all mean?

I’m thinking about how easy it is for me to put things off and play catch up to them later. I realize this is sometimes necessary, but what happens when the things that get put off are the spiritual disciplines and exercises that draw us close and keep us connected to our God. You know, the One we claim “leads, guides, and directs us…” I believe that when we start playing “catch up” to our time lost that should have been spent with God, we are setting ourselves up for failure. Truly, I think in the midst of the fast paced, busy, and often interrupted lives we lead, it is a dangerous thing to lose our time alone with God. Yes, He is always with us, but our ability to “hear” him can become seriously impaired when we start to miss our time in solitude alone with Him. Henri Nouwen reminds us of the following:

“We are responsible for our own solitude. Precisely because our secular milieu offers us so few spiritual disciplines, we have to develop our own.” –Henri Nouwen

Even in the middle of our busy-ness and unplanned interruptions (are interruptions ever planned?), we can find ways to unplug from the harried pace we are on in order to reset and replug our hearts and minds back upon the person and presence of our God.

A Prayer

Most gracious and eternal God, in your bounty you have sent us your Holy Spirit. May he teach us to think and do what is right, so that we, who without you cannot exist, may live in loving obedience to your will. Help us to be aware when we walk away from or become distracted from your presence. We ask this as we pray the words Jesus taught us to pray.

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Lent 2013: Fully Devoted

Lent 2013

Fully Devoted

Readings: Deuteronomy 26:1—30:20

“But if you will not obey the LORD your God…then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you… Because you did not serve the LORD your God joyfully and with gladness of heart for the abundance of everything.” (Deuteronomy 28:15, 45-47)

I proceed with my reading through the Book of Deuteronomy and find the words in chapter twenty-eight absolutely chilling. The chapter begins with God reestablishing His covenant promises with the people of Israel and declaring a blanket of blessing over their lives and livelihoods. All the people of Israel need do is enter into faithful relationship with God and follow the righteous path for living he has instructed for them. The way of blessing is fairly straight-forward, so God’s instructions continue with an explanation for what happens to the people who fail to enter into faithful relationship Him.

It is difficult to fathom the depth and breadth of the curses God announces to the Israelites, but there is something I have considered as I’ve thought about this narrative account. I wonder how much the curses were actual peals of punishment upon the disobedient as opposed to the promised, and natural, fruit of their sin and disobedience. I think the answer might be in-between, but I also lean toward these being natural (according to the rule of God’s righteousness) occurrences based on the legacy of disobedience and selfish promotion.

Several additional readings have been strongly influencing my reflections and meditations. These readings are from Oswald Chambers (The Relinquished Life), Thomas `a Kempis (The Royal Road), and various excerpted writings from Henri Nouwen. The common theme with all these writings is the desire for utmost devotion from us toward our LORD and God.

“There will always be many who love Christ’s heavenly kingdom, but few who will bear his cross. Jesus has many who desire consolation, but few who care for adversity. He finds many to share his table, but few who will join him in fasting. Many are eager to be happy with him; few wish to suffer anything for him. Many will follow him as far as the breaking of bread, but few will remain to drink from his passion. Many are awed by his miracles, few accept the shame of his cross.” –Thomas `a Kempis

Total and complete devotion is what God desires in us. We will be the victims and bearers of our own sin, if we are unwilling to deny self and follow Christ.

A Prayer

Most holy God of heaven, you who paint the shining center of the sky with the brightness of fire, illumine our hearts, banish sordid things,, release the chain of guilt, and make void our crimes. O God, hear my cry! From the end of the earth I call. Let me dwell in you tent for ever. For You, O God, hear my prayer. I will always praise your Name.

+ In the name of the Father, and in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Lent 2013: Grace in His Presence

Lent 2013

Grace in His Presence

“Steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O you righteous, and shout for joy all you upright in heart.” (Psalm 32:10-11)

Today was a day I spent basking in the graces of God’s Presence. In one sense there was nothing special about my day or my schedule, yet in another sense it was divinely special because of the sweet time reflecting on the marvelous, mysterious, bountiful, wonder, and grace of the God who is my Father and my Friend.

Prayerful recollection of the most recent years of my Jesus Journey were stirred today as I counted the many things I am thankful for and identified encounters and experiences that have enriched my soul and my humanity in general. It never ceases to amaze me how intricately involved God is in every area of our lives. I know He is near and I know His Spirit dwells within us and this awareness makes me hunger and strive to become even more aware and attentive to every “breath” of God in my life.

I am just incredibly grateful and overwhelmed with adoration for this omnipotent and transcendent God who cares so much to be imminent and intimate with me. Mind boggling it is.

A Prayer (from Henri Nouwen)

Dear Lord, show me your kindness and your gentleness, you who are meek and humble of heart. So often I say to myself, “The Lord loves me,” but very often this truth does not enter into the center of my heart. Let these weeks become an opportunity for me to let go of all my resistance to you love and an occasion for you to call me closer to you

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