The Heart of the Matter

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For the past couple of weeks, I’ve had this strange sensation in my neck.  To me, it feels like my pulse is a bit off of rhythm, like occasionally it skips a few beats, or does a few too many in a row.  It isn’t a constant thing, and it was pretty random until Thursday.  On Thursday afternoon, this thing, whatever it was, happened multiple times all afternoon long.  It doesn’t hurt, but it was kind of freaking me out so I got in to my doctor later that day.

They took my blood pressure, we did an EKG, and ran some blood tests.  Everything came back perfectly normal and my physician isn’t concerned… aside that I need to exercise more.  

While on the one hand, I’m comforted by the knowledge of what it isn’t, I also don’t necessarily have an answer either.  I found myself yesterday second guessing the way I even described the problem.  Maybe it’s not my pulse I’m feeling, but a twitch in my neck.  Maybe it’s all in my head and I’ve just had too much caffeine.

 

As we enter this season of Lent, we are going to be exploring some of the ways that both the United Methodist Church and our congregation have found ourselves searching for explanations and diagnosis.  And we are going to be honest about some of the symptoms that we see, the realities of our lives together. 

In the larger denomination, we are in the midst of a time of disunity that really reflects the culture we find ourselves in.  And the UMC is also numerically declining… we have lost a million members since 2006!  But simply looking at those symptoms, like the strange feeling in my neck, doesn’t automatically tell us what the problem is.  Is it that our older generations are dying out?  Are we having less children?  Is there too much competition?  Are we irrelevant?  Theologians and church leaders keep offering their explanations and no one seems to be able to put their finger on “the answer” to the problem.

 

Bishop Thomas Bickerton wrote the book that is the backbone of not only our worship series this Lent, but also our life group conversations we’ll be having.  (Quick plug: if you haven’t signed up for one yet, you can join this morning’s classes at 9:45, go to Java Joes on Monday nights, or join the one here at the church on Wednesday evenings!)   He thinks in many ways that we are like the church in Ephesus who had forgotten who they were called to be. 

Our scripture this morning comes from a letter Paul wrote to this church and at this time, the church was just on fire for God.  They had started as a small group of committed people and when Paul showed up and ministered among them, the Holy Spirit started working.  God did amazing things through them… impacting the entire city.  Temple prostitution, idolatry, magic, all of these things ended because people instead turned to Jesus.  When the Ephesians experienced the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ, God accomplished abundantly more than what those first twelve disciples in Ephesus could have asked or imagined!  

Kind of like the United Methodist Church.  We started with a small group of people at Oxford University who wanted to know God better.  They were committed to the gospel and to Jesus and their faith took them across an ocean to start a church.  John and Charles Wesley could never had imagined the way that God would use them, but their little bands started healing the sick, taking care of the poor, preaching to those who would never have set foot inside the church, and before you know it, the UMC was a world-wide denomination!

You would think that kind of energy can be sustained forever, but it takes work.  We can get ourselves in ruts and we forget the power that got us started in the first place.  In the letters to the churches of Revelation, one of them is written to the people of Ephesus and God praises the work and the labor and endurance of the people, but God also says that they have let go of the love they had at first.  They are urged to remember the high point from which they had fallen.

Maybe the United Methodist Church, maybe our church, has let go of the love we had at first.  Maybe, like the Ephesians, we have a spiritual problem.

 

Bishop Bickerton points to what he calls the “Five I’s” to help us discern a bit about our spiritual reality and where we might be lacking the love of God.   

He notes that the church is a bit low on our INSPIRATION – that we tend to grumble and complain more than we focus on hope.  We need to remember where God is leading us and get excited about it again!   

He sense a lack of INTEGRATION  between what we say and what we do.  I actually have been fairly proud of Immanuel in this sense, because not only are we willing to talk about things that are happening in the world, but so many of you are out there caring for the homeless, visiting the sick, and living your faith.  

Bickerton also points to the dangers of ISOLATION.  Once you disconnect from a community, it is hard to find ways to become part of the group again.  On the back table as you leave, you’ll notice some names and some cards.  We want to reach out to folks whom we haven’t seen for a little while with a phone call or a card… and if you recognize a name out there and are willing to make a connection, take a card and put your name down!

The fourth I is INDEPENENCE.  This world tells us that we have to do it ourselves, but the church reminds us that we are better together.  We don’t have to do it alone because we all can do our part.  

Finally, INVITATON.   This is actually one of the goals of our church today. When we are excited and transformed by the work of God happening here, then we are going to want to pass it on, to reach out and bring people along with us.  

 

At Immanuel, we have had a vision that has sustained us for the last four or five years.  Say it with me:  In Christ, live a life of love, service and prayer.

But one thing our leadership has realized is that we are called to not just be and exist and look to our past, but to continue actively working towards our future.  What are we fighting for? also means What are we fighting to accomplish?  What will be different because we have loved, served, and prayed?  What is inspiring us to move forward?  What is going to challenge us in a way that we simply can’t do it alone and need to invite others to join us?  

As our leadership has discerned, we are feeling God pull is in a new direction and we are excited to share it with you over the coming weeks and months.  

But the heart of the matter, the deep question that faces not just us, but the UMC, and the Ephesians, is whether or not we really want to tap in to the power of God.  The love so strong, so wide, so long, so high, so deep, that God is going to do abundantly more than what we believe in our hearts is possible… if we know where we are going.  If we know what we are fighting to accomplish.    

Returning from Thin Places

There are places in this world that are “thin.”
It is a label given to places, in the Celtic understanding, where the barrier between the human and the divine, heaven and earth, is nearly imperceptible.
A place where we experience the divine more readily.

In biblical history, we see a number of these “thin places” or holy locations: like Mount Sinai or the temple in Jerusalem, or that mountain where Jesus was transfigured. Sometimes, it is the location itself that is key… sometimes it is the hearts of the people gathered who seem to transform it.

Perhaps you have known a “thin place.”
Experiences that have filled you with a sense of awe and purpose.
Sometimes people call these “mountain top moments”… even if they didn’t actually take place on a mountain because they are the peaks of our spiritual journey.
“Thin places” are where you have felt God’s presence more than any other.

As I think back in my own spiritual journey, I’ve had these kinds of experiences in large gatherings of faithful folks at retreats, and I’ve had them in silent moments at the top of mountains. I’ve also had them right here, in this sanctuary, in this building, as we have gathered to worship and praise God.

And what I have noticed is that it is always hard to leave those places.
You want to linger.
You can’t imagine normal life in the same way again.
The pull to stay is almost irresistible.
But eventually you have to return.
Return to your life.
Return to solid ground.
Return to the mundane and the thick and the muck and mess.

In our gospel this morning, we find Jesus returning from one of those “thin places.”
The Jordan River was a place of healing and transformation.
John the Baptist called people out to the river to repent and be baptized.
And when Jesus visited, that barrier between the heavens and earth grew so thin that the skies burst open and the Holy Spirit descended upon him.

But like us, Jesus can’t stay there.
He can’t set up shop there on the banks and wait for the world to come to him, any more than we can’t live here in the church for our whole lives… waiting for flocks of people to come into our doors.
No, he has to return to the rest of the world.
There is work to be done.

So, full of the Holy Spirit, like we often are after these holy moments, Jesus returns from the Jordan.

And there is something that happens in this returning, in this transition.
In between verse 1 where he returns from the Jordan and verse 14, where he returns to Galilee, there is a gap.

The wilderness.
A liminal space.
40 days of discomfort, of waiting, of transformation.
40 days of fasting and wrestling.
40 days of trial and temptation.
40 days.

Biblically, this 40 days reminds us of the great flood in Genesis, or the Israelites wandering for 40 years in the wilderness. Moses fasted for 40 days… so did Elijah.
This number 40 doesn’t have to mean a literal forty days… but it signifies the right amount of time it takes to get you ready for whatever comes next.

As Jesus returns from the Jordan, he needs to prepare himself for his ministry in the world. And the devil shows up to tempt him. As Jesus is shown all of the possibilities for what that ministry might look like, he has to figure out what kind of savior he will be. He wrestles with his calling. He takes time to focus fully on the presence and power of God that will sustain him in his work.
And in that time, Jesus is preparing himself to go and BE a thin space in the world.
To be the very presence of God, Immanuel, with the people.
And if Jesus, the very Son of God, needs this liminal time to get him ready to return to the world… don’t you think we do, too?

Every week, we gather in this church to worship and experience the divine. It has become for us a sort of thin place… [And soon, some of us will be worshipping in a new thin place].
And what we experience here… the friendships we make, the prayers, the support and accountability, the life-giving spirit… is good and awesome and holy.
But we can’t stay here forever.
Every Sunday, when the worship has finished and we take leave of the building, we have to return to the world.
We have to go out into Galilee, into Des Moines, into our mission field.
There is work to be done for the sake of the gospel.

But I’m afraid that too often, we come to a holy and thin place like this, we get filled up with the Holy Spirit, and then as soon as we step outside of the doors, the devil is waiting for us.
And the devil prays on all of our insecurities and temptations.
I fear, that most days, instead of holding on to the spirit of God… we instantly fill ourselves back up with worries and concerns, with politics and ideology, with work and school and family troubles.
We walk out the door and forget about what we have just experienced.
Back to the normal, mundane, ordinary world, as ordinary, normal, mundane people.

What if, before we left the building, we took a moment to get ourselves ready?

Sometimes I give you big challenges, but this morning, I want us to think small.
I want to challenge all of us to carve out not 40 days, not 40 minutes, but 40 seconds of space…
40 seconds of wilderness time… to help us return back to the world.
I want to challenge you, before you walk out the doors today, to spend just 40 seconds putting your trust in God.
40 seconds to remember who we are and whose we are.
40 seconds to lift up the temptations we know we will face and place them in God’s hands.

Our churches have work to do. We have a kingdom to help build. There are lives that are lost that need the love and grace and mercy of God.
And we cannot do it by ourselves.
We can’t do it without being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Here’s the thing… YOU are the temple of God. God’s Spirit lives within YOU.
And God wants you to be the hands and feet of Jesus out there in the world.
God needs your ministry and your work out in the world.

So let us get filled up with the Spirit.
And let us go out, to live as “thin places,” to be people who bring the love of God to every person we meet.
Amen.

Momentum for Life: Eating & Exercise

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About ten years ago, I was living in Nashville and was in the middle of my seminary journey. I was overwhelmed by studying and coursework and I was working full time at a local church as a part of an internship. I was burning the candle at both ends and learning a lot… but I was worn out a lot, too.

One afternoon, I stepped on the scale at my parent’s house… I didn’t have a scale myself… and I was blown away by the number listed right by my toes. It was the most I had ever weighed in my life.

I had been so busy doing all of this work that I hadn’t been taking very good care of myself. I was using food to get me through the day. I wasn’t taking time to exercise. And part of the reason I felt so worn out wasn’t all the work… it was that I wasn’t giving my body the right kind of energy to sustain the work.

I started preparing healthier meals in smarter ways – cooking up a whole crockpot on the weekend to last me through the rest of the week.

The next week, I started going to the gym with a friend of mine.

And suddenly, I discovered I wasn’t nearly so tired. I could focus more and tasks didn’t take as long. My mind was more nimble. And my soul felt more whole than it had in a long time.

 

We have been exploring Michael Slaughter’s acronym “DRIVE” over these past few weeks. He is inviting us to think about all of the things that give us momentum to keep following Jesus Christ.

D – for Devotion… for that personal one-on-one time with God in scripture and prayer

R – for a Readiness to Learn… for the ways in which we allow ourselves to be taught by God and one another.

I – for an Investment in Relationships with other people who are on this journey with us – through mentoring and being mentored and honoring our families.

V – for Vision… and understanding that we have a clear sense of where we are going… together!

And lastly E.

E is for Eating and Exercise… but when I look at this topic, it is really about how we honor and care for our bodies so that they have the energy and the focus they need to keep making this journey of discipleship.

 

Ten years ago, when I decided to focus on being healthier, I found a community of support online. There was a website that I visited every single day and I logged what I ate and how long I worked out and I found that there were kindred spirits who could encourage me or help me resist temptation or who needed MY help in their own journey.

I’m not sure I could have done it without them.

That sense of community is important when it comes to our bodies. Because we as Christians do not believe that we exist as individuals completely set apart from other people. This walk of discipleship is one that we take with others.

And Paul agrees. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he talks a lot about our bodies and what we do with them.

Before today’s reading, Paul writes about how the community should hold itself accountable for faithful living.

He doesn’t want us to live apart from the world – completely separate from those who engage in unhealthy activities. We can’t! It’s impossible to totally shut ourselves off from every sinful behavior we see.

But as we live in the midst of our communities, those of us who claim to follow Christ can hold one another accountable for what we eat and drink, who we sleep with, what we say.

Why should we do these things? What does it matter?

 

As we heard in our reading today:

It may be true that the body is only a temporary thing, but that’s no excuse for stuffing your body with food, or indulging it with sex. Since the Master honors you with a body, honor God with YOUR body! …

Or didn’t you realize that your body is a [temple, a] sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? (1 Cor 6:13-20)

 

As we think about the role of eating and exercise in our journey of discipleship, there are two basic ideas at play here.

 

First: life itself is a precious gift. These bodies are a precious gift from God.

On Wednesday of this week, we will gather once again for Ash Wednesday and the putting on of ashes reminds us that from the dust of the earth we were formed. We were made by our Creator who breathed into us the breath of life. Every life, every body has value.

And when God took on our human flesh and was born as one of us, Immanuel, he came so that we might have life and life abundant ( John 10:10).

The very concept of momentum reinforces the fact that we need energy to go the distance. We need a healthy system of food and relationships, active lifestyles and spiritual care in order to sustain long and abundant life.

A team of researchers discovered in 2004 that there were small communities around the world where people lived measureably longer. In what they termed “Blue Zones” folks reached the age 100 at a rate 10 times greater than the United States.

What was the difference? What made their communities healthier?

Nine characteristics were discovered… characteristics that I think echo what we have heard from Slaughter during this series:

  1. They exercise as a part of daily living
  2. They understand their purpose – they have a vision of what we are here to do
  3. They down shift – they find ways to relieve stress and take Sabbath
  4. They abide by the 80% rule – they stop eating when they are 80% full.
  5. They eat more plants – they sometimes eating meat only once or twice a week
  6. They have a drink with friends –moderation and community are key!
  7. They belong to a faith community – attending a church service four times a month adds 14 years to life expectancy (REPEAT!)
  8. They put their loved ones first – they care for their elders and invest in their children.
  9. They choose a healthy tribe – they surround themselves with people who support healthy behaviors

Do any of those sound familiar to our D.R.I.V.E. acronym?

By being part of a faith community that supports a healthy lifestyle, we can help one another, in the words of the psalmist, “experience Jerusalem’s goodness your whole life long…. And see your grandchildren.”

 

But we also have to remember a second very important point. Our bodies are a gift… but they don’t belong to us. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians:

“Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? They physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:16-20)

As Slaughter writes, “You cannot be a healthy influencer and agent of kingdom change if you are not demonstrating the reality of the kingdom of God within yourself.”

We have to live what we are teaching and preaching. Our lives, our bodies, witness to the faith we follow.

We are the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, after all. And if you are not taking care of yourself, you will not have the energy you need to serve where God calls you.

But this also means that advocating for health and the care of other’s bodies needs to be a part of our ministry.

One of my leadership commitments in the community is that I am on the board of the Des Moines Area Religious Council. Every month, we as a church contribute food and resources to DMARC for use in their 12 food pantries across the greater Des Moines area.

A few years ago, DMARC made a conscious decision to change the food it was providing to clients. Researchers from ISU had helped the organization to discover that rates of diabetes and obesity were much higher in the clients we served than the general population. So a very intentional shift was made to provide more whole grains, to focus on fruits in their natural juices and not in heavy syrup, or vegetables with no salt added. The shift means that the food we provide is a bit more expensive, but contributes to a healthier overall lifestyle.

 

I’m going to close with a confession.

I have personally not been living out these principles lately. I stepped on the scale this winter and found myself back up to where I was about 10 years ago. Actually, a couple of pounds higher.

We are entering the season of Lent… a time of fasting and transformation. A time to recommit ourselves to the journey of discipleship. A time of accountability.

People all around this world give up indulgences for this six-week season, but I, personally, have felt convicted by the reality that I cannot serve God if I do not have the internal resources and energy to do so. So my commitment this Lent is to a healthier lifestyle… and I hope you will help hold me accountable to that… to eating better and exercising more.

And I hope that you will think about the momentum of our faith journeys we have discussed over the past month. Do you need to spend more time in devotion? Do you need to practice humility and an openness to learning? Do you need to invest deeper in relationships with your family or community? Do you need to spend time discovering the vision of God’s future for your life? Do you need to re-evaluate your eating and exercise habits?

This is the perfect moment to shift gears. This is a perfect time to create a new habit. This Lent is God’s gift to you and to this church as together we follow Jesus in the walk of discipleship.

The Blue Couch #NaBloPoMo

Today’s prompt is:  Do you have a book in you? Fact or fiction? Related to your blog or totally different?

Well, the first part of the answer is that I have already worked on two books!

The first is an Advent study that is available here.  It weaves between the story of the magi and the book of Hebrews in order to show how the gifts brought to Jesus foreshadow the roles he plays in our lives.

The second is a lectionary based study that is available for Lent 2015 and can now be preordered! It takes a broad view of salvation and discusses a variety of atonement theories along the way.

 

IMG_2460There is a book that someday I would like to write, however, that is more autobiographical in nature.  As the post title suggests, it revolves around a blue couch, but more than that, it would be the story of my call and my relationship with my husband.  While in large part it is a book I would love to write, particularly for anyone who also is in a relationship with someone who doesn’t share their faith story, it is also a book that a) isn’t a complete story yet and b) might be too personal at the moment to share.

The blue couch is currently sitting in my office at home.  Together, we rescued it from being thrown away from an office building in Wisconsin.  We hadn’t been dating too long at that point, but were pretty attached to each other.  Since then, it traveled with us to college, moved with me to seminary, got destroyed by our kittens when we moved back home, but I just can’t seem to throw it away. It is a super high quality couch with real down feathers and although we have beat up on that couch, it is stick kicking!  (which might be a metaphor in and of itself for our relationship!) I’m trying to figure out how/when I might reupholster it… in blue of course!

What I am learning as I give up social media for Lent…

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#1 – I seek praise, sympathy, solidarity through social media.  The smallest, most insignificant thing could happen and my first instinct is to post it so that other people will comment and respond.  It is attention-seeking behavior that often slips into a self-centered focus.  Having to constantly fight the urge to post has led me to wonder what I’m getting out of those posts… and what others are as well.  Sometimes, it is an authentic search for community and others to share the journey with.  Sometimes it is  race to see who has the biggest sob story or frustration of the day.  These past weeks have reminded me of my insignificance.  No one  really cares what I had for breakfast or about a stubbed toe or that I shared an article.  I’m just not that important.  And I shouldn’t be.

#2 – Most of my news comes from social media. When I hear of breaking news, I search for the topic on twitter instead of turning on the television.  The variety of sources, the mix of images, video, stories, personal reflections, global perspectives is amazing.  I just don’t get the same depth of information watching one news channel go on for hours at a time about a single event, and when you flip stations between the networks, the information is often similiar with only slight colors of perspective.  As Ukraine and Russian and the Malaysian flight disappearance have made headlines, I have largely been out of the loop of what is happening in the world.

#3 – Many of my conversations with close, personal friends, happen on Facebook.  While texting is part of my communications toolbox, I rarely call or email these individuals.  I never realized how much I rely upon Facebook groups for keeping in touch with a circle of friends – whether they are colleagues or my girlfriends.  I had to write a clause into my lenten discipline that allowed me to continue using the Messenger part of Facebook (which meant I had to download the app), because I realized I would be completely out of the loop on conversations about health, upcoming events, and personal struggles.  Not being on facebook and able to follow posts on group pages has left me feeling fairly isolated from those I am most connected with.

#4 – I pray a lot through Facebook.  Whether they are shared prayer concerns among colleagues or simply reading the everyday struggle and hopes of friends, family, and colleagues, I am frequently moved to pray as I interact with posts and snoop on people’s lives.  Not having that source of prayer material at my fingertips, however, has led me to pay attention a bit more to the people around me… the guy sitting on the park bench, the people in line.  I find myself wondering what their story is, what they hope for…  I haven’t worked up the courage to ask yet, however.  I’m not sure if I’ve always been an “overhearer” of people’s lives or if this is something that a social media culture has developed in me and others around me.  And sometimes I wonder if that extension of ourselves into the public space is good or not.  I hesitate to lift up a prayer out loud on the bus, but I don’t when I’m commenting on a friend of an acquaintances post.  It’s something to ponder.

#5 – I enjoy watching sports with social media.  I enjoy the quick stats and the commentary that is often far better than what is on the television.  I like the sense of solidarity in amazing plays and in bad calls.  Yet, with the Iowa Hawkeyes basketball team being told to stay off of twitter because of the criticisms, I also recognize how brutal it gets out there.  The things we yell at the television in the quiet of our own homes now are the things we post online in public in the heat of the moment, without tempering our emotions and remembering it is, after all, just a game. 

#6 – I’m following the practice of celebrating Sundays as “little Easters” and not fasting from social media on those days.  In the past two weeks, I’ve largely used those days to dump pictures and a quick narrative of the highlights of my week, as well as to quickly skim my group pages, catch up where I can with friends, and have left very few comments.  I might have spent a total of 2 hours on facebook between those two days.  The time I spend in my typical week on social media must be astounding.  I’m sure there is an app somewhere to monitor it, but I’m afraid to look. 

#7 – I use Facebook and social media equally for work and for personal matters.  Conversations with friends and co-workers happen simultaneously.  I’m more aware of that fact as I try to occasionally use it for work-related items (like updating our facebook page for Imagine No Malaria), but the distinction is so blurred that I have tried to avoid it or batch post.  I think it would be worth it to do some hard work of creating new lists on facebook to better discriminate what I post and to whom so I could use it for both in a better way. 

#8 – this is NOT going to be a permanent fast.

Prayers from the kitchen sink

We must — at some point along our Lenten journey — be candid about death. Lent begins with the reminder of our mortality, with the ashes from which we are knit together, and the season reaches its climax in the crucifixion of Jesus… Even Jesus, praying at Gethsemane before his death, asked his friends to keep him company. “Then he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here and stay awake with me.'” (Matthew 26:8, NRSV)

Lord, tonight as I stood at my kitchen window washing dishes I thought of my mom and dad.

I’m excited to be traveling with them soon and I can’t wait to see the joy as they hold their newest grandson in their arms.

But to say I don’t worry about them would be… well, untrue.

It surprises me that I feel old somedays.

I know things change and life moves and sometimes it just moves way too fast.

And a scary realization is that if I’m getting older… if I’m an “adult”… then my parents are getting older, too.  (sorry, mom.)

Between Brandon and me, we’ve had lots of conversations and what-ifs about our parents lately. 

Help me to slow down, God.

Help me to take a deep breath.

Help me to not take so much for granted.

In Your last nights, You asked your friends to stay by your side.

The ones who had traveled with you.

The ones who knew you so well.

All you wanted was time. company. love. relationship.

Why is it so hard for us to make time for those things in our daily lives? 

We know we want them.  We know how important they truly are to us.

But the phone call isn’t made.

We fill our schedules instead of our hearts.

How on earth has it been this long since I talked with my dad?

We hurry and work and sweat and stress… and for what?

What if we lived as if we were dying?

That’s a silly cliche, I know.

And to be honest, God, if we moved beyond the trite statement and really took your words seriously…

well, I fear that if I truly died to my self and lived for you that everything would be different… and that’s scary.

You ask us to die… and you ask us to love… but what if we love so much that we don’t want to die?

What if we love people and don’t want them to go?

What if we don’t want things to change…. or if we want them to change in ways that might require less time for the work of ministry so that we can spend more time with family and the very companions you have brought into our beautiful messed up lives?

Help me to understand how to love… and live… and what it might really mean to die.

Prayers from the ego

Jesus and the devil have a contest of wills in the desert (Luke 4:1-13). At one point, “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.'” (4:5-6, NRSV)

… the devil said to Jesus, “All of this can be all about you.”

In your prayer-writing today, wrestle with God against the temptation to see life as “all about you.”

Breathe in God.
Breathe out my tendency to waste time.

Breathe in God.
Breathe out my doubts and regrets.

Breathe in God.
Breathe out fretting over my figure.

Breathe in God.
Breathe out the dirty dishes on the counter.

Breathe in God.
Breathe out the successes I had this week.

Breathe in God.
Breathe out my ambitions.

Breathe in God.
Breathe out tunnel-vision of a busy day.

Breathe in God.
Breathe out a selfish definition of “busy”

Breathe in God.
Breathe out time spent talking when I should have been listening.

Breathe in God.
Breathe out the stuff that fills my cupboards.

Breathe in God.
Breathe out goals and dreams.

Breathe in God.
Breathe out tomorrow’s to-do list.

Breathe in God.
Breathe out what I want people to think of me.

Breathe in God.
Breathe out me.

Breathe in God.
Breathe out me.

Gradually,  may I be filled with what you desire.  May I decrease as you increase.
Breathe in God.
Breathe out me.

Prayers from the silence

Psalm 62:1 & 5 (NRSV): “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.”

After waiting on God, write a prayer that arises from the silence.

God, I’m trying to wait for you.
I’m trying to focus on you.
But I am so easily distracted.

The cats are playing in the bathtub. (yes, the bathtub)
My husband has fallen asleep watching an e-sports match and is snoring.
The screen is too bright and I should have shut it off.

For God alone my soul waits…
Heck, I can’t even get the silent part right.

I have a feeling, Lord, that you wait for me more than I wait for you.
I know you are my hope and salvation.
But I take it for granted.

Clear the chaos and the clutter
Clear my eyes so I might see
All the things that really matter
Help me be at peace and simply be.