Welcome to the JCPC Daily Reflections Blog. Reflections are daily devotionals authored by JCPC pastors, staff and members and provide insight, guidance and comfort to help you make it through each day. If you’d like to receive Reflections each day via email, provide your email address.
Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922) led an unsuccessful expedition to cross Antarctica in 1914. When his ship, aptly named Endurance, became trapped in heavy ice in the Weddell Sea, it became an endurance race just to survive. With no means of communicating with the rest of the world, Shackleton and his crew used lifeboats to make the journey to the nearest shore-Elephant Island. While most of the crew stayed behind on the island, Shackleton and five crewmen spent two weeks traveling 800 miles across the ocean to South Georgia to get help for those left behind. The "failed" expedition became a victorious entry in the history books when all of Shackleton's men survived, thanks to their courage and endurance.
The apostle Paul knew what it meant to endure. During a stormy sea voyage to Rome to face trial for his belief in Jesus, Paul learned from an angel of God that the ship would sink. But the apostle kept the men aboard encouraged, thanks to God's promise that all would survive, despite the loss of the ship (Acts 27:23-24).
When disaster strikes, we tend to want God to immediately make everything better. But God gives us the faith to endure and grow. As Paul wrote to the Romans, "Suffering produces endurance" (Romans 5:3 ESV). Knowing that, we can encourage each other to keep trusting God in hard times.
Prayer for Today
Heavenly Father, I need Your help to keep going, even when it's tough. Amen.
In January 1943, warm Chinook winds hit Spearfish, South Dakota, quickly raising the temperatures from -4° to 45°F (-20° to 7°C). That drastic weather change-a swing of 49 degrees-took place in just two minutes. The widest temperature change recorded in the USA over a twenty-four-hour period is an incredible 103 degrees! On January 15, 1972, Loma, Montana, saw the temperature jump from −54° to 49°F (-48° to 9°C).
Sudden change, however, is not simply a weather phenomenon. It's sometimes the very nature of life. James reminds us, "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow" (4:13-14). An unexpected loss. A surprise diagnosis. A financial reversal. Sudden changes.
Life is a journey with many unpredictable elements. This is precisely why James warns us to turn from "arrogant schemes" (v. 16) that do not take the Almighty into account. As he advised us, "You ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that' " (v. 15). The events of our lives may be uncertain, but one thing is sure: through all of life's unexpected moments, our God will never leave us. He's our one constant throughout life.
Prayer for Today
Father, forgive me for the times I worry over things I couldn't anticipate or can't control, and help me to find my rest in You. Amen.
This coming Ash Wednesday I will be preaching a sermon entitled, Peaks and Pits. What is reflected in the title is that life and faith have both peak experiences and experiences that are the pits. Take this week in the liturgical life of Christians. On Sunday we celebrated what is known as Transfiguration of the Lord Sunday. Jesus ascended a high mountain with James and John where he was transfigured right before their very eyes. The gospel of Matthew says that "his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as the light." Certainly this was a peak experience for James and John.
A couple of days from now we will be worshipping together on what we call Ash Wednesday. Rather than faces shining like the sun, we will be placing the sign of the cross on your foreheads with ashes. This is the pits or as Ecclesiastes reminds us "All go to the same place; all come from dust and to dust they return." Peaks and pits; so our lives of faith are lived.
By now you have heard that our 10th annual Prayer Vigil will be held this coming Friday and Saturday. We are inviting you to walk the journey of Lent through prayer. I believe that the Psalms provide us with a road map for the journey of prayer as we traverse the peaks and pits of our lives.
One way to think about praying The Psalms is to think that we travel through them. One Psalm leads to the next; 6 travels to 7 and then to 8; 22 travels to 23. There is an ascending, then descending, then ascending quality that appears when you read The Psalms in a progression so to speak. We travel through the psalms and perhaps they travel through us; up and down then up again as we travel this path of life.
Vincent Van Gogh's picture of the peasant's shoes reminds me of the journey the psalmist in each of us will travel on our journey of faith; a journey well worth praying.
Prayer for Today
Merciful God, travel with us on the paths of our lives. Lift us up, we pray, when we are in the pits and fill our souls with awe and wonder so that we sing your praises when we are at our peaks. Then may the echoes of our praise descend to our pits to remind us that you are here with us. Amen.
Some years after the tragic loss of their first spouses, Robbie and Sabrina fell in love, married, and combined their two families. They built a new home and named it Havilah (a Hebrew word meaning "writhing in pain" and "to bring forth"). It signifies the making of something beautiful through pain. The couple says they didn't build the home to forget their past but "to bring life from the ashes, to celebrate hope." For them, "it is a place of belonging, a place to celebrate life and where we all cling to the promise of a future."
That's a beautiful picture of our life in Jesus. He pulls our lives from the ashes and becomes for us a place of belonging. When we receive Him, He makes His home in our hearts (Ephesians 3:17). God adopts us into His family through Jesus so that we belong to Him (1:5-6). Although we'll go through painful times, He can use even those to bring good purposes in our lives.
Daily we have opportunity to grow in our understanding of God as we enjoy His love and celebrate what He's given us. In Him, there's a fullness to life that we couldn't have without Him (3:19). And we have the promise that this relationship will last forever. Jesus is our place of belonging, our reason to celebrate life, and our hope now and forever.
Prayer for Today
I'm grateful that I belong to You, Jesus. Thank You for a life of hope for now and forever. Amen.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
-I Thessalonians 5:18
"Oh no!" I moaned, clearly broken-hearted for this kid we were discussing. "Oh no, no, my friend," Pastor Rafael assured me, "It was good. I tell you."
We took this amazing trip up to Beech Mountain last weekend to ski and snowboard. Half the group was from JCPC and half from Casa Brasil, our nested Portuguese congregation we host weekly in the Youth Garage. Rafael, their pastor, and I were checking in about our first day on the slopes. Some of JCPC youth were taking lessons that day and most of his kids. There are limited instructors available and while one group got in before lunch, one was delayed till 2:30. In my mind, that was sad and the kid was missing half a day. I immediately empathized. But I empathized from a place of privilege, a place of expectation.
Pastor Rafael challenged me. He told the youth, no! We are so blessed to be here. Blessed to be on a mountain, to have snow, to have snow gear rented and borrowed, on a trip others helped to pay for so we would have this experience and fun. We were blessed even to be here. We should feel fortunate and happy. "Gratitude," he said to me. He reframed it so beautifully and naturally. He was right. When I'm at my worst, I stand in lift lines and bemoan that they move slow and the runs are much shorter compared to out West. I complain about people struggling to navigate the chairlifts or how many hours I spend tying and buckling boots for kids, keeping up with winter layers. However, at my best, I'm grateful for the time outdoors and away from screens and noise. I'm grateful to watch my kids try new things and stick with it and find joy in one another and in making new friends with newcomers and our Brazilian group.
As we celebrated communion together on Sunday morning, I was full of gratitude, re-oriented from my expectations of entitlement. Rafael's wife, also an ordained pastor from Venezuela delivered the prayer in Spanish. How blessed am I to have studied and been taught enough to understand her? Rafael broke the bread and blessed it in Portuguese. How blessed am I to still have more to learn and to live in a place where I do know the language so well? And then I poured the cup and blessed it in English. How blessed am I to have a job and a calling to serve young people of all backgrounds who come through my doors?
If you're searching for Lenten practices, things to incorporate in your life or give up, consider giving up entitlement and embracing thankfulness, a reframing of every disappointment into an exercise in gratitude. I'll be joining you. Thank you. Gracias. Obrigado.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me be a person who takes moments of disappointment to count my blessings. Amen.
So, what do you do when you can't sleep at night? From time to time, I find myself awake in the middle of the night. When I cannot get back to sleep, I have a few things I try. Sometimes I will recite some verses from scripture I've memorized such as Psalm 23 or Psalm 121. Other times I will pray The Lord's Prayer. Those familiar words seem to have a calming effect on me. But sometimes I am still awake.
A few nights ago, I was still awake after trying these. I remembered reading in my daily devotions about the importance of gratitude. So, I decided to go all the way back to the beginning of my life and start remembering the things for which I was thankful. As I remembered each one, I prayed a prayer of Thanksgiving to God. Going through my whole life took a while -- maybe an hour or more. I may have even drifted off to sleep as I was praying. However, when I had finished, I experienced a sense of peace.
Last night, I found myself again awake. I went to my normal routine of scripture and prayers, but I was still awake -- so I went Plan B. I got up and went into another room, sat by the fireplace, and began reading the Bible. I had picked up Eugene Peterson's translation of the Bible -- The Message. I decided to start reading Paul's letter to the church at Rome. Paul's letter to the church at Rome is his longest -- sixteen chapters. I don't know how long it took, but I ended up reading all of Paul's letter to the Romans. I can't remember if I've actually done that before. By the time I finished, I was not only ready to climb back into bed and doze off, I felt like I had been given an unexpected gift. It seemed like the words of scripture were inside of me -- like seeds planted to grow and mature in time. Sometimes it pays not to be able to sleep!
Prayer for Today
Thank you, God, for the wonderful words of life found in the Bible. May your Word be planted in our souls and grow to maturity, so that they guide us to live fully the lives you give each one of us. In the strong name of Jesus the Christ, we pray. Amen.
The new year has moved quickly for us. At the start of the new year, I know I often have ambitions for things I'd like to accomplish, new practices I'd like to take on, or things I'd like to do differently. As I begin to transition from February to March, I am reflecting on what has happened in 2020 so far and looking ahead to what's ahead and some questions I'm asking myself:
Do you feel that each day is overscheduled? Have you ever had to collect your scattered self so that you could make an important decision? Do you ever lay awake at night thinking about all you have to do? Do you ever ask why your life is so full?
I also asked myself these questions this past summer as I spent some time at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico on a pilgrimage and retreat. Simplicity may sound like an oasis in the desert during this time of year. I would like to invite you to join me this summer as we pilgrimage to Ghost Ranch Presbyterian Retreat Center in the high desert of New Mexico.
We have several options for spiritual renewal and retreat the week of June 14-19 available to us. Jamie Traylor and I are going to share more with you this Sunday during the announcements and will be available afterwards to answer any questions. There are experiences for all ages and stages in life.
Living simply is not about deciding to get your life under control but about giving control of your life to God.
I think that in times like these, God calls us to assess our situation and take some time to retreat for a few hours, a day or a weekend to reflect and prepare for all that the busy seasons of the year require. I would invite you to reflect on when Jesus talks about wealth and worries in Matthew 6, his message is simple: seek God, trust God, and receive God.
In the midst of all of the busyness, how can we focus our lives on seeking God, trusting God and receiving God?
How might these responses effect the way we enter into this day or then next busy season of our lives?
Here is just a glimpse of what an oasis in the desert can look like at Ghost Ranch:
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, may we who have plenty live simply. Guide us so that we will seek you, trust you and receive you each day.
In Christ's Name, Amen.
During a time of prayerful reflection I awakened to a sense of self-realization. Namely, I rush through life. I know I'm slow to this realization even though many people, including some of you, have told me that I'm always busy and rushing from one meeting to the next. Now, I am not seeing this as a flaw per se because I know that I was built to be a striver. Naturally, when I read Jesus' parable about the talents I see myself as a servant who invests his talents in order to produce more, increase the yield and at times Carpe Diem.
Then again, I shy away from the parable of the man who builds barns to store all that he had produced; saving for a rainy day. What did it benefit him the day that his life was required of him? Funny teacher that Jesus; he gives us parables that travel on both sides of the street of life. Perhaps you can't travel the path of life without traveling both the striving and the pausing.
In two weeks you are invited to travel the path of prayer here at JCPC during our 10th annual prayer vigil. For those who have prayed during past vigils I have heard it was a time to slow down, reflect, pray for the needs of others as well as one self. All good things! This year I want to encourage you to bring a special focus that is often under-prayed; namely your blessings.
During my prayerful reflection time in which I realize how I rush through my day another epiphany happened. I awakened to the blessings that have supported me, uplifted me, and called me to strive on while I took a break to welcome these gifts. Wow! These blessings are God gifts, God winks, and God nudges I too often take for granted as I press on through the day, the week, and the years. Yet each day is glued together with these inspirational blessings. So join me at the prayer vigil and we will count our blessings as we walk the two sides of the road of life together.
Prayer for Today
Awaken in us the many blessings we experience in our day, O Lord, and inspire us with these gifts so that we can take on the challenges of our day with faith, hope and love. Amen.
Physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, I curled up in my recliner. Our family had followed God's leading and had moved from California to Wisconsin. After we arrived, our car broke down and left us without a vehicle for two months.
Meanwhile, my husband's limited mobility after an unexpected back surgery and my chronic pain complicated our unpacking. We uncovered costly problems with our new-to-us, old home. Our senior dog suffered with health issues. And though our new pup brought great joy, raising a furry ball of energy was far more work than anticipated. My attitude soured. How was I supposed to have unshakable faith while traveling on a bumpy road of hardships?
As I prayed, God reminded me of the psalmist whose praise didn't depend on circumstances. David poured out his emotions, often with great vulnerability, and sought refuge in the presence of God (Psalm 16:1). Acknowledging God as provider and protector (vv. 5-6), he praised Him and followed His counsel (v. 7). David affirmed that he would "not be shaken" because he kept his eyes "always on the Lord" (v. 8). So, he rejoiced and rested secure in the joy of God's presence (vv. 9-11).
We too can delight in knowing our peace doesn't depend on our present situation. As we thank our unchanging God for who He is and always will be, His presence will fuel our steadfast faith.
Train up a child in the way to go: and when the child is old, the child will not depart from it.
Sunday night, as youth group was wrapping up, i went over to say thank you to some of our moms standing by the kitchen. They are moms that come for retreats and lock-ins and Sunday night programs and recent mission trips. They are irreplaceable and each have seniors graduating this year. I wanted them to know how amazing they are and say thank you for the baby shower that night. They each shook their heads and smiled and said, "Nope. We can't take credit. The kids did this."
They were wrong of course. Sort of. Their parents did this. Their church did this. If you've ever made a pledge to JCPC or donated to the youth ministry in time or treasure, look in the mirror. You did this. These young people have become people not just willing to do the work we set before them, but mature young people who see needs and have hearts to do what is both needed and kind supportive, to go above and beyond. They mostly kept the entire event a secret. They made decorations and games and got the word out to other youth to bring gifts and cards. There was food and a task for each person.
If you're wondering what it means to teach our young people to be disciples, it's more than a passing familiarity with scripture and doctrine. It's more than knowing what the Books of Order and Confession are or words like narthex and chancel. It's much more than serving on committees. It's more than just going to the shelter or on mission trips. It's when they take those lessons into their hearts and begin to look out for opportunities to show the love of Christ, grab the hand of a friend, and say, "let's get to work," while we watch from somewhere near the kitchen and smile, ready to pitch in with the work they have been called to do. Because what is Church but the recognition that God calls us to train our children and then to follow their example? Let's train them up and let's follow their lead. Join me.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to do my part to train up our young people in your ways. And when the time comes, make me humble and inspired to follow them where you call. Amen.
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. . ."
-John 14:6a, NIV
"Truth" seems to be a very popular and sometimes controversial topic these days. One of the most helpful books I have read on this topic was written by Lewis Smedes. It was called A Pretty Good Person.
Smedes, who was an ethics professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, talks about what it means to tell the truth. His professional career focused on deciding what was right and wrong from a Christian perspective. Interestingly, one of the sources of wisdom he turned to in helping explain what it meant to tell the truth was Aristotle. Smedes conveyed Aristotle's definition of telling the truth in this way: it is telling the right truth to the right person at the right time in the right way for the right reason. Each part of that definition speaks to some aspect of telling the truth well.
For example, in telling the right truth, we may realize that we know something that is true, but it may not be our information to share. This is where confidentiality guidelines may apply. Also, we may know a truth, but it may not be our truth to share with a particular person who "can't handle the truth". Someone may have entrusted a truth to us to give to one person, but it would be wrong for us to share it with another. When it comes to telling the truth at the right time, this takes into account what is going on in the life of the hearer. What we may need to share is true, but the timing may not be right. When it comes to sharing truth in the right way, there are times we can share truth so that it builds up, or so that it tears down. And finally, for the right reason means that we share truth that would reflect our love of God and neighbor, as well as for ourselves.
Now some of us may find that too complex or difficult, but more often than not, I have found these guidelines helpful when it comes to knowing the best way -- the right way -- to tell the truth.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, you sent us your son, Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life. In scripture we are also told that we shall know the truth, and the truth will set us free. Help us, Lord to know the truth, to be set free by your truth, and to speak the truth in life -- as you would have us do so. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Consider the word wonder in this passage from Deuteronomy:
We cried out to God, the God-of-Our-Fathers:
He listened to our voice, he saw
our destitution, our trouble, our cruel plight.
And God took us out of Egypt
with his strong hand and long arm, terrible and great,
with signs and miracle-wonders.
And he brought us to this place,
gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.
So here I am. I've brought the first fruits
of what I've grown on this ground you gave me, O God.
It seems that we live in a culture that is not easily impressed. We are inundated with so much information and sensory experiences that we may be numb to experiences of awe and wonder. Do we minimize feeling awe and wonder out of pressure to know it all? Or a fear of feeling small? Am I too busy?
Spending time with my 5-year-old brings me a reminder of what awe and wonder look like. On Saturday morning when Will woke up, he asked me if anything had happened outside yet. When I said no, it looked like the forecasted snow might come after 9 or 10 a.m. So a little while later around 9:30 am, I asked him if he'd like to check out the window for an update. We were both in awe of what we saw and for hours after that. The snow was falling during breakfast. Will could not wait to get outside to touch it and play in it and he was outside most of the day. He only took a mid-day break to dry his clothes and eat lunch.
We each have our own images and associations with the word wonder, informed by our life experiences and our hopes. Today, as you read these verses from Deuteronomy and the fulfilled promise that God would lead Israel from being a wandering people to being a people with a home and a plentiful land on which to live, we might image what awe and wonder was like for them.
As we consider the word wonder and its meaning for us let's also remember those who are still waiting. Waiting to experience signs and wonders and land that is theirs.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, you know the tests and trials we face. Walk with us through this wilderness. Come to us with ministers of healing and visit us with messengers of hope, so that we may return to you in faith, believing the good news of the gospel. In Christ's Name, Amen.
My private prayers are nothing like my written or spoken public prayers. Much of the time my personal prayers are jumbled, silent, difficult to start or gushing out without much of a filter. They can resemble word salad. This picture is worth a thousand words regarding my private prayers and perhaps yours as well.
For those of you who may have worries or concerns related to participating in our upcoming prayer vigil, take heart. We will provide you with resources to help turn your private prayer word salad into a deeply meaningful and connective time with God through prayer. Here are some examples:
We will have a prayer list that compiles all the prayer people submit on prayer cards through February. We take the guesswork out of wondering of what/whom to lift up in your prayers.
We will have a prayer booklet that will provide helpful guidance using scripture.
The prayer labyrinth will be set up in the great hall if you like to pray while you are walking.
The sanctuary will be open to you if you prefer to remain seated during your prayer time.
One of our eagle scouts has created a natural walking path if you prefer to pray outside in nature while walking.
We have several benches outside for you to use if you would like to be seated outside while praying.
Our 10th annual prayer vigil is held at the beginning of Lent, the weekend following Ash Wednesday so that we can pray our way through Lent. I hope you will join us:
Friday, February 28 from 6:00-9:00 p.m. or
Saturday, February 29 from 9:00 a.m.-4:00 pm.
Prayer for Today
Through your Spirit, help us as we pray, Loving God, for we don't know how to pray the deepest of prayers but it is your Spirit who prays with us and through us. Amen.
I dropped my forehead to my hand with a sigh, "I don't know how I'm going to get it all done." My friend's voice crackled through the phone: "You have to give yourself some credit. You're doing a lot." He then listed the things I was trying to do-maintain a healthy lifestyle, work, do well in graduate school, write, and attend a Bible study. I wanted to do all these things for God, but instead I was more focused on what I was doing than how I was doing it-or that perhaps I was trying to do too much.
Paul reminded the church in Colossae that they were to live in a way that glorified God. Ultimately, what they specifically did on a day-to-day basis was not as important as how they did it.
They were to do their work with "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" (Colossians 3:12), to be forgiving, and above all to love (vv. 13-14) and to "do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (v. 17). Their work wasn't to be separated from Christlike living.
What we do matters, but how we do it, why, and who we do it for matters more. Each day we can choose to work in a stressed-out way or in a way that honors God and seeks out the meaning Jesus adds to our work. When we pursue the latter, we find satisfaction.
Prayer for Today
Jesus, forgive me for the times I stress over what I'm trying to accomplish. Help me to instead seek to accomplish things for Your glory. Amen.
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
"You're one of those Christians, Brian, what should I do?" It wasn't the first time I'd heard words like that, and it wouldn't be the last. It came from a hall mate of mine when I was in college at Chapel Hill. A down the hall acquaintance had gotten into some relationship trouble with his girlfriend. He'd made some bad mistakes and knew maybe the relationship was over. He knew he really didn't deserve a second chance. And he wasn't asking me as a close friend. He wasn't asking me as one dude to another. He was asking me with pleading eyes because he seemed to expect I was some sort of expert or amateur in the subject of grace, something of which he was clearly in need.
I did not feel like an expert, but I realized very much in that moment I had to know at least a little more than nothing, a certain familiarity of personal experience in my faith that he was searching for in that vulnerable moment. He had pegged me - one of those Christians. And in his estimation, that made me qualified to give him the advice he needed. I cared enough to listen. Maybe I cared enough to share some wisdom. I don't remember what I told him. I don't know if it was any help. I do know how humbling it felt to be asked and how much I prayed in that moment that the Spirit would give me the words he needed.
When we declare ourselves as believers, whether by the clothes or symbols we wear, the words we speak, the social media we share, we are marked, for better and for worse. Scripture tells us that we should always be ready to give an account for our faith, but it's truthful in its warnings that this will not be easy. Do we live in such ways that people approach us and accusingly say, "You're one of those Christians, what should I do?" And do we pray, worship, and study scripture so we are prepared to give a worthy answer? I don't know if I was ready to answer my hall mate that day.
But I've spent a lot of time since then trying to be ready for that same question. Who in your life might ask you? Who is already asking you? What will you say? I hope we will study together in worship and our small groups and always be ready to answer. This Sunday is Scout Sunday, and their motto is Be Prepared. Come join us as we prepare together.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me be worthy of the calling you place on my life by always being prepared to tell people about my faith and ready to answer the questions I'm asked in humility and wisdom. Amen.
Monday evening, Brian and I were invited to meet with Scout Troop 2000. Johns Creek Presbyterian Church members Steve Simpson and Rick Zellmer represented Troop 2000. Steve began the presentation by reminding the scouts and their leaders of the history of Johns Creek Presbyterian Church. Steve noted that we had just celebrated our 25th anniversary as a church. He also talked about the long relationship this church has had supporting our scouts. Steve then presented a check in the amount of $2500 to Johns Creek Presbyterian Church from Troop 2000 in celebration of the 25th anniversary of our church. Steve said the amount represented $100 for every year the church had been in existence.
Brian and I accepted the check on behalf of Johns Creek Presbyterian Church. We thanked the scouts for their generous gift. We told them how important the scouts were as ministry partners making a difference in our community. I also mentioned to them that the total of $2500 had another significance. I shared with them that last fall we counted how many lives were touched on a weekly basis during the school year by the partnership ministries of Johns Creek Presbyterian Church. I told them that the number we had come up with was 2300 -- which was very close to the 2500 dollars given by the scouts to our church.
I then told them that because of their generous gift, we will be able to better support all of our ministry partners as together we continue to make a difference in Johns Creek. I wish everyone could have been there, both to receive that generous gift and to see our Great Hall filled with scouts and their leaders. Not only are we shaping leaders for the future, we are providing the opportunity for community and service in the present. This Sunday is Scout Sunday. We will be recognizing all of our scout troops in the worship service. I hope you will make a special effort to be here to show your support for these fine young people, their families, and their leaders.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, help us to join together and to make a difference in our community and throughout your world. In the strong name of Christ we pray. Amen.
Have you ever put your hands or feet in wet sand and noticed the impression that you left? Take a moment to remember what that felt like and what it looked like. The places where you have traveled in your life, you have left an impression, a mark.
The words of these Old Testament prophets give us some guidance about ways that we can leave an impression that reflects God.
"But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." (Amos 5:24)
"He has told you, O mortal, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)
Do others see the face of Christ in the impressions or marks that we leave behind? What can you do this week to leave an impression that reflects God's love, justice, kindness, and humility?
Last week I had the privilege of going to Charlotte for continuing education for a couple of days. During that time I explored the ways that the arts and movement can help us deepen our connection with God and invite us to grow in our faith. I walked on several labyrinths while I was there and the movement during prayer was helpful for me to quiet my rapid internal dialogue and listen to God.
Following that experience I spent my weekly time with our senior adult Bible study group where we are currently studying Old Testament prophets. This week's study of Micah brought new meaning to a very familiar passage. The author, Carolyn J. Sharp's words struck me, "We live in that place between trust and lament, just as the prophet (Micah) did. Our broken world cries out for transformation today no less than in the days of Micah... the challenges facing us are daunting. But Micah shows us a way forward. He urges us to offer prophetic leadership, to engage Scripture faithfully, and to rely on the power of God that can be a paradox to us at times. Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God! These simple words can empower us for a lifetime of discipleship."
What will you do to leave an impression in the coming days or weeks?
Prayer for Today
God of Truth, Let our faith show in how we treat others. Let our worship reflect who we really are. In Christ's Name, Amen.
Our 10th annual Prayer Vigil is scheduled at the end of the month. Our Ash Wednesday will be held on the evening of February 26 and the Prayer Vigil will be held on Friday, February 28 from 6:00-9:00 p.m. and Saturday, February 29 from 9:00 a.m-4:00 p.m. If you have participated in the past you will recognize that we have changed the format. This year we will still be praying, but the time frame has moved away from a 24 hour prayer vigil.
I'm excited about the vigil this year in that we are including the large prayer labyrinth in the Great Hall. Many of you have shared with us the deep experiences you have walking the labyrinth so we wanted to include it in this year's vigil. We will also be hosting prayer in the sanctuary for those of you who prefer this sacred space for your prayers. Each Sunday in February you will find index cards in the worship bulletin on which to write your prayer requests. Alice Ann Nilsen will compile the cards and create a list of prayers for you with which to prayer during the prayer vigil. I imagine you will also be praying prayers dear to your heart. Walking or sitting mark your calendars to participate in the 10th annual prayer vigil.
When I pray it can either be sitting or walking, but what both have in common is who and what I hold dear in my heart through prayer. My oldest sister lives in Indiana and her grandchildren live in Arkansas and Colorado so she yearns more physical time with them. She posted this picture on Facebook this week and I want to share it with you. It touched my heart and speaks to the heart of prayer.
Prayer for Today
Keep us mindful, O Lord, of the ones we hold dear. Remind us that they are as close to us in prayer when they are far away because each resides in our hearts. Amen.