Preparing to listen

28 Mar

Good morning,

I am so easily pulled off task.  Yesterday even though I began this blog, I didn’t finish.  Although I now have bulletins for tomorrow morning at both churches, tomorrow night’s hymn sing and Holy Thursday service. Yeah!

The scripture lesson points to a tradition that we should consider more in our lives.  A time of prayer and fasting before a decision is made about mission and ministry.

Friday,  The inauguration of the gentile mission        Acts: 13:1-3

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

It is a great way to make decisions.  I think of how often we run ahead with our ideas and hope that is works.  Are we afraid that we can not discern the voice of God?  Do we convince ourselves that what we are doing is “God’s will” when we rarely quiet our own minds to listen.

In the reading for today the church is continuing to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.  In some towns people try to kill them, but they preserve and some people come to believe in the power of God’s grace.

Saturday,  The appointment of elders in the churches  Acts: 14:21-23.

21 After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, then on to Iconium and Antioch. 22 There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.” 23 And after they had appointed elders for them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.

I think even to be intentional enough focus our lives on God in each moment of our lives is a type of fasting.  To lean only on the prompting on God.  To find the balance of God’s living presence is to find strength for our lives.   Peace

Courage

26 Mar

The scripture on fasting comes from the story of Esther.  It is one of the few books in the Bible whose story is about a woman.  Probably you know the story of Esther, selected for her beauty, is place in the harem of the king.  She risks her life to save God’s chosen people, her people.  To support her and give her courage her uncle, Mordecai, carries her message for the Jews to fast for three days.

I think this fast is a offering to God.  It is an intercession of Esther behalf to keep her safe on her dangerous mission to the king.  And Esther finds courage to risk her life, knowing her people have given up eating and drinking for three days (it is always understood that they are still drinking water.)

Thursday,  An absolute fast                  Esther 4:12-17

12 When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, 13 Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” 15 Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.” 17 Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.

There is a single-mindedness in this passage.  We have become such a diverse people, I wonder if we could ever have the kind of joint activity, particularly fasting.

Blessings and peace,

When in trouble. . .fast

25 Mar

This morning’s reading is from Nehemiah.  He has just hear that the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and the gates set on fire.  The chosen people of God are in trouble.   Nehemiah response is to fast and pray.

I think about Gandhi’s response to the violence in India was to fast and pray.  Maybe we misnamed the event when we called it a hunger strike.  For a hunger strike, you just stop eating.  To fast, you humble yourself before God, focusing your mind, body and spirit towards the Divine with nothing to distract you.

Wednesday,  A normal fast                              Nehemiah 1:4-11

When I heard these words I sat down and wept, and mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven. I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments; let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Both I and my family have sinned. We have offended you deeply, failing to keep the commandments, the statutes, and the ordinances that you commanded your servant Moses.Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples; but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are under the farthest skies, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place at which I have chosen to establish my name.’ 10 They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great power and your strong hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man!”

So, what do we do when we are in trouble?  Nehemiah was fasting because his people were in trouble and he was their leader, but what do we do when trouble is knocking on our door?  I know that many of us prayer, and seek a good friend to talk to, but I wonder what would happen if we also choose to fast for time.  This would not be like our appetite deserting us when we are upset, but an intentional focusing on God.  To opening lay out the hurt, and pain, and problem before God, fast and pray, and then look for the healing that God’s presence can bring.

Just wondering. . . Peace

 

24 Mar

Good morning,

Many culture have had the tradition of what was called a vision quest by First Peoples.  Men, usually it was men, went into the wilderness, to fast and open themselves to communication from the Divine.

This is an interesting and slightly strange passage.  Daniel has fasted for three weeks (he doesn’t even bath!! Really!!).  It seems as though the being given Daniel the vision couldn’t get there for three weeks.

I will be honest that I never really understand these kinds of passages.  I think the writer is trying to convince their listeners by upping the intensity of how the vision can into being.

So, here is what I know.  If we are willing to surrender our lives to God; time, food, work (maybe not bathing); then we can be more open to God’s voice in our lives.

Tuesday,  a partial fast     Daniel 10:1-14

In the third year of King Cyrus of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. The word was true, and it concerned a great conflict. He understood the word, having received understanding in the vision.

At that time I, Daniel, had been mourning for three weeks. I had eaten no rich food, no meat or wine had entered my mouth, and I had not anointed myself at all, for the full three weeks. On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is, the Tigris), I looked up and saw a man clothed in linen, with a belt of gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the roar of a multitude. I, Daniel, alone saw the vision; the people who were with me did not see the vision, though a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled and hid themselves. So I was left alone to see this great vision. My strength left me, and my complexion grew deathly pale, and I retained no strength. Then I heard the sound of his words; and when I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a trance, face to the ground.

10 But then a hand touched me and roused me to my hands and knees. 11 He said to me, “Daniel, greatly beloved, pay attention to the words that I am going to speak to you. Stand on your feet, for I have now been sent to you.” So while he was speaking this word to me, I stood up trembling. 12 He said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me twenty-one days. So Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, and I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia, 14 and have come to help you understand what is to happen to your people at the end of days. For there is a further vision for those days.”

Daniel was humbling himself for his people.  I think today I will pray for our leaders.  I think with the current complexity of our world and its demands it is difficult to be a leader of any kind.

I pray you find peace and joy in the midst of this day.

Surrender

23 Mar

Greetings,

Yesterday classes focused on prayer.  The on going and life changing conversation with the Divine.  We talked about how the strengthen our prayer life.  I don’t think we came up with any incredible revelations, but there is a desire to encourage one another.

This week we will be considering the discipline of fasting.  I think it is the lest popular and most misunderstood of the disciplines that Foster covers in his book.

I think, as with all disciplines, fasting begins with a conversation and openness to God.  Let God lead you into what would be important for you to surrender.  My sons where always willing to given up vegetables for Lent, but never video games.  Sometimes I don’t think we even know what is controlling us and keeping us from yielding to God.

To seek God’s presence and prepare for his public ministry Jesus surrendered everything and went into the wilderness for 40 days.  Without schedules, distractions, excuses, or the demands of others Jesus sees the reality of the things that draw us away from God’s presence and makes us vulnerable to the evil of our world.

Sunday,  The example of Christ                     Luke 4:1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written,

‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you,’

11 and  ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

The reading for today is enumerates how the people of God have gotten the idea of fasting wrong.  They give the outward appearance of fasting, but do not live as God’s people where it really matters.

Monday,  God’s chosen fast                                          Isaiah 58:1-7

Shout out, do not hold back!
Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet day after day they seek me
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments,
they delight to draw near to God.

“Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,
and oppress all your workers.

Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

According to Isaiah, it is living in ways of compassion, generosity and justice that pleases God.

It so easy to lose track of the work of God for the least and lost.

I pray that God will open our hearts today to see the fast that God desires in our lives.

Peace

Learning

21 Mar

Good morning,

I read through the chapter on prayer in Celebration of Discipline this morning.  I was struck again about the simple concept of learning and practicing and refining your prayer skill.

I think we usually just ‘send up a little prayer’ when the inspiration strikes us.  We may even spend time in prayer on a regular basis, but I wonder if any of us really practice prayer like a skill.

I don’t know if I can figure out how to evaluate whether or not I am improving my prayer ‘skill.’

The disciples had Jesus to ask question of and learn from like in the passage below.  Again, we hear the frustration of Jesus.

Saturday,  The prayer of command           Mark 9:16-29

16 Jesus asked the disciples, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.” 19 He answered them, “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” 23 Jesus said to him, “If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.”24 Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!”25 When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You spirit that keeps this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!” 26 After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand. 28 When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”

29 He said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.”

I want to try to increase my ‘prayer skill.’  I agree with Richard Foster about listening to God to learn what to pray about and how to proceed with that prayer.  For me, pray has become a kind of dance; quieting myself to listen to the Divine Presence and feeling my way into the next move in the dance.

I lift all of you to the radiance of God’s brilliant grace to be healed and holy.

Peace,

Mary

guidance

20 Mar

Good morning friends,

I often feel like I need a ‘minder.’  Someone to watch out and tell me when I do stupid stuff – which is quite often.  I mixed up the scripture readings.  No one would have know had I not put each day at the top of the reading in BOLD print. So, here is yesterday reading today.  I hope you enjoyed today’s reading yesterday.

Let’s move on.  The reading I am using today is Jesus in the garden.  I think this prayer has been romanticized throughout the years.  Even the paintings of this scene seem antiseptic to me.  Jesus is in Jerusalem, everyone is plotting against him, working to use him for their own purposes, and Jesus is trying one more time to show his disciples the power of the love of God.  I think he goes to the garden to find the strength for the hours to come; to see through what his boldness in announcing the kingdom of God has produced.

Thursday,  The prayer of guidance       Matthew 26:36-46

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. 38 Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” 39 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” 40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? 41 Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

Can you imagine how frustrated and tired you would be if you had explained to your friends that you were going to be killed, asked them to pray with you, and all they did was fall asleep!  I think Jesus was ready to walk to his death just because he was so frustrated with the whole situation.  Try reading the last verse again in a completely disgusted voice.

Through it all Jesus looked to God.  I think he might have felt like a failure, wondering if all the healing and food and teaching would be wasted.  But, his focus is on God and the trust that God will give him the strength to endure the worst our world has to offer.  I think prayer really changes things – it is the link with the Divine Presence that was with Jesus in the garden and with us on each step of the journey.

Peace

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