On Being Human 7: Presence

The night had a bite. That crisp, dry cold that quickly whisks away any moisture (however little) that might be on your lips or nose. The sky was just letting go a fresh, dry, powder snow. Bundled up, I made my nightly walk down to the barn to bring in the horses, feed them evening grain and fresh water, and close up the stable against the winter elements. I finished the evening chores and bundled back up to head back to the house, and the chill seemed to steal my breath as I gasped at the fresh half inch of fresh snow that fell while I was busy in the stable.

Everything looks different with a fresh coating of snow. It seemed I had new eyes as I saw my familiar surroundings that cold winter night. I noticed the silhouettes of the leafless trees outlined in snow against the midnight-blue sky, the stars piercing the darkness of the night, the snow seemingly falling from the darkness overhead. It all called out to me, afresh. Then it hit me—the stillness, the quiet, the silence that seems to accompany a snowy winter night—and it stopped me in my tracks. It seemed I couldn’t take it all in: the stark and brutal beauty of the bitter cold, the snow-covered landscape, nature in its barren rest; the freshness filled my every sense.

Standing in the stable drive, halfway between the stable and my home, I was awestruck. Nature in all its beauty, power, and force had arrested my attention, and I sensed afresh my connection to all that was made. In that moment I came to my senses; aware that I was present, that I belonged, and that I was welcome to be a part of the landscape on that winter night, standing on the gravel drive along our horse pasture. I was overjoyed, and I spontaneously raised my hands to receive all the moment had and to take it all in. My voice broke the still and silent frozen air as I whispered, “Thank you.”

A Prayer for Being Present

Creator and Maker of all, open our ears so we might be aware and appreciative of your creation and alive to you and all who bear your image today. Help us have eyes to see you in that which is around us, ears quick to hear you in stillness and in the words of others, and hearts soft to your touch and full of compassion toward all that moves your heart. May we come to our senses today, wholly centered on the here and now.

May we be fully conscious of the truth that you are near, here and with us. We ask this in the name of your Son, Emmanuel, God with us. Amen.


On Being Human 6: Authenticity

Authenticity demands a vulnerability that too few have the courage and trust to reveal.

For the past eleven years, my wife and I have had the privilege of working in dog rescue. We have offered our home as a temporary oasis for no fewer than fifty dogs over the years until we could find a family who would adopt these canine refugees. One of the ways we gauge each dog’s transition from uncomfortable to at ease with our home and its occupants is when our foster dog lies on its back. This cockroached position of revealing its belly is one that demonstrates a trust and level of comfort that tells the story that they have transitioned well.

For a dog to show its belly is a position of great vulnerability. A dog on its back is revealing its soft underbelly, putting the dog in a position of trusting that no foe will take advantage of it. For humans, as babies and as young children, our vulnerability is apparent to all. As a result, laws, expectations, and social safety nets are established to ensure that infants and children are protected and cared for. But as we become older, most of us tend to hide our soft underbellies. Our vulnerability is something we don’t show; we cover it up, often revealing it to few people, if anyone.

Despite this, the fact remains: We are all vulnerable. To grow into a deep humanity means growing in our authenticity and demonstrating a vulnerability that is too rare in our world. Through prayer, a good friend, God-given discernment, and courage, we can reveal our true selves.

A Prayer for Healing and Vulnerability:

Mighty and gracious God, slow to anger and quick to forgive,

Thank you that we can come to you with our honest and vulnerable hearts.

Thank you for sending Jesus that we might find in your presence welcome, a hearing, grace, mercy, healing, and adoption.

Forgive us,

Heal us,

Cleanse us,

Empower us,

That we might be able to represent you, our speaking, moving, and active God.

Send us out and lead us in this new beginning. Amen.


More Than A Day

The day we often refer to as Easter is only the beginning. Easter is not a day; it is a season of fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost. In contrast to the fast of Lent, Easter is a season of feasting. A celebration and time in which we focus on Christ risen among us and the new life he has won for us to put on.

Easter is a time when we are called to remember that we are raised to new life, just as Jesus was raised to walk out of the tomb after three days. As we enter each day of the 50 days of Easter, may we do so conscious of our new lives as daughters and sons of God; full of God’s Spirit, we are privileged to reveal love, mercy, grace, goodness, peace, patience, and many other good things toward all God has made. This is why we rejoice!

A Prayer for Us During Easter

O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

[Contemporary Collect for Easter Day, The Book of Common Prayer]


Lenten Prayers 4

There are two more prayers for us to pray during this time before we remember the final week of Jesus’s life. These prayers for Lent seem to capture well many of the themes we have looked at during Lent this year.

Lenten Blessing*

Father, help us be formed in the likeness of your Son, Jesus Christ, who willingly came to our world, lived a perfect life, and died that we might live a new life. May we be filled with his never-ending love, nurtured by the truth of his living word, and guided through his perfect example. Amen.

Dawn to Dark, p. 242

Daily Prayer*

O God, whose blessed Son steadfastly set his face to go to the city where he was to suffer and die; let there be in us this same devotion which was in him. Forgive us, we beseech thee, our many evasions of duty. We have held back from fear of men. We have ranked security and comfort higher than justice and truth; and our hearts condemn us. But thou, O Lord, who art greater than our hearts, have mercy upon us. Purge us from the fear that is born of self-concern. Beget in us the fear that we may be found wanting in loyalty to thee and thy purpose of good for mankind. Fill us with the compassion of him who for our sake endured the cross; that we may be delivered from selfishness and cowardice; and that, dedicating our lives to thy service, we may be used of thee to help one another and to heal the hurt of the world; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Dawn to Dark, p. 243-244

*The first prayer is an opening prayer. It is suitable for you to pray first thing in the morning, as a prayer of blessing over a meal, or as a call to worship in a public setting. The second prayer is intended to be prayed throughout the day as a way to join your heart with your sisters and brothers who make up the body of Christ.


Lenten Prayers 3

We are just past the halfway point through the season of Lent. The journey to stay the course of our fasts, prayers, and humbly confronting our limits and weaknesses becomes more difficult. The need to persevere and humbly walk with our Lord through this wilderness is part of our task in this season. The following prayers may help us in our endeavor to faithfully follow.

Lenten Blessing*

Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, who sent the prince of peace to reconcile us to creation, ourselves, one another and you. O God, may we find our joy in your word this day and in your Son, who brings us new life. With faith and patience, may we faithfully continue our Lenten journey toward Easter. Amen.

[Dawn to Dark, p. 242]

Daily Prayer*

Christ Jesus, even when we can feel nothing of your presence you are always there. Your Holy Spirit remains constantly active in us, opening little ways forward to help us escape from our dead ends and to move us towards the essential of faith, and of trust. Amen.

[Dawn to Dark, p. 243]

*The first prayer is an opening prayer. It is suitable for you to pray first thing in the morning, as a prayer of blessing over a meal, or as a call to worship in a public setting. The second prayer is intended to be prayed throughout the day as a way to join your heart with your sisters and brothers who make up the body of Christ.


Lenten Prayer 2

As we continue to observe the season of Lent, will you join in offering the following prayers this week? The first prayer is an opening prayer. It is suitable for you to pray first thing in the morning, as a prayer of blessing over a meal, or as a call to worship in a public setting. The second prayer is intended to be prayed throughout the day as a way to join your heart with your sisters and brothers who make up the body of Christ.

Lenten Blessing

Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, who sent us the gift of the Messiah. Help us be ready to celebrate the great mystery of Jesus’ suffering and death offered on our behalf. Help our love grow, our devotion deepen, our faith increase, and our awareness of your presence heighten as the feast of the resurrection draws near. Amen.

(Dawn to Dark, p. 242)

Daily Prayer

Praise and glory to you, Jesus Christ our Saviour, for you do not call the righteous but us sinners to repentance. You draw us away from the easy road that would lead to our destruction. You call us instead to seek God’s kingdom, to strive for what is right and to lay up our treasure in heaven. Amen.

(Dawn to Dark, p. 243)


Lenten Prayer 1

The following prayer is one you could add to your daily prayers this week as you continue to keep a blessed and holy Lent.

We thank you, Father, for those days in the desert when through prayer and fasting, Jesus discovered your will for his life and overcame the temptations of the evil one. Help us during these days of Lent to come close to you and to listen to your voice. Give us strength to overcome the temptations to please ourselves and live life without you. Teach us your way. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Dawn to Dark, p. 243


Six Traits to Emulate: (6) Missional

A line that caused my heart to soar as a child, I read in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: “Aslan is on the move.” A hopeful, mysterious, yet purposeful sentence that tells the reader a hero is coming with the power to change things.

Likewise, our God is on the move. The mission of God is to bless all the nations through people he has chosen, redeemed, and made his very own. This missional aspect of God is part and parcel of what makes God, God. The actions of God are motivated by pure holiness, love, faithfulness, and goodness. God is on the move in our midst to bring about his restorative and redemptive mission.

Because we are made in God’s image, we discover we have this desire and unction to do something. It can reveal itself in ambition, courage, greed, and/or valor. We often find ourselves with goals and agendas and plans; dim shadows when compared to God on the move. Our souls are satisfied, hopes restored, and our lives filled with energy when we lay down our plans for the mission of God. When we finally hear the call, glimpse evidence of God’s activity, and join in the mission of the restoration of God’s kingdom, we uncover our identity as children of God, made in his image.

Maker and Messiah, we recognize your hand has both made us and made a way for us to return to you. We are your workmanship created for good works that will continue to reveal your kingdom reign. Yet in our everyday lives we have been more concerned with our own passions and pursuits, our own dreams and desires. We confess that we have sinned against you by putting our ways above your ways.

God, we need you to change our minds and mold our lives that we might again chase your heart and handiwork. Thank you, gracious and good God, our Savior. Amen.

[Dawn to Dark, p. 109]


Six Traits to Emulate: (5) Presence

 

 

Yahweh.

I Am that I Am.

Emmanuel.

God with us.

The way in which God has been revealed, from God’s names and the Scriptures, one thing we can know is this: God is present tense. God is in the moment. God is near. God is present. God doesn’t miss our point, fail to hear, or miss our moment because of being otherwise occupied with thoughts of the past or plans for the future. God is. God is here. God is now. God is here and now.

While we can’t be everywhere present, we can reflect the present-tenseness of God by being in the here and now. We can demonstrate God’s presence by paying attention to the present moment. I often find myself missing what others are saying (and not saying) because I am caught up in myself rather than being in the present tense. I focus on the past or the future to the neglect of being fully present in the here and now. Thus, I fail to emulate our God by being with others in the present.

The challenge for me (and maybe for you) is to settle into the present moment. There is a joy and freedom to being in the moment. There we find the Divine. There we find ourselves. There we find the opportunity to be with others. There, in the here and now, we find life.

May we be present today in each moment, here and now.

As we wake this day, we awake in your world and in your presence. Help us rise from the slumber of our own selfish whims and willful ways to a new alertness, being more fully aware of your purposes for this day. Help us desire to stay near to your heart, your concerns, and your love. Amen.

[Dawn to Dark, p. 83]


Six Traits to Emulate: (4) Faithfulness

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,

There is no shadow of turning with Thee;

Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not

As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

[Stanza 1, “Great is Thy Faithfulness”]

It is rare that I don’t hum the tune or think of the lyrics above whenever I give my attention to the attribute of faithfulness. It captures so clearly the nature of God and the depths and direction of his steadfast patience and loving dependability toward his daughters and sons. Our God is faithful.

One of the ways we bear the image in which we were created is to emulate this dependable, constant, and faithful manner. Keeping our word. Acting on our stated convictions. Following through on our promises and commitments. Matching our words to our actions in a whole and integrated way reflects the integrity of our faithful God. We can grow in this area when we fail to take shortcuts endeavoring to keep even the smallest of our promises and honor the most trivial commitment.

May our heads, hearts, and hands commit to being faithful, and may God help us reflect this attribute that he perfectly demonstrates.

One true Promise Keeper, you are the God who foretold of a deliverer and fulfilled it through Jesus’ coming and living among us, through his dying and rising triumphant over sin and death. This day may our lives find their confidence, direction, hope, meaning and commitment in your will and way. This we ask in the name of your Son, our Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

[Dawn to Dark, p. 71]