EARTH: Uproot Sin by Francine Rivers

February 19, 2019

From: Earth Psalms When you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.”  God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else.  Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.  These desires give birth to sinful actions.  And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15) Where I live, Scotch broom blooms everywhere in spring. It spreads like a low thicket over pastureland, and even burning doesn’t kill it. Scotch broom smells wonderful, but it’s a problem when left to grow at will. Tiny seeds blow hither and yon, and soon there are sprouts along roads, in backyards, and in the “green space” meant only for native plants. If the sprout isn’t removed [...]

PRAYER: The Underlying Rhythm Of Lectio Divina by M. Basil Pennington

February 18, 2019

From An Invitation to Centering Prayer If we are to practice lectio Divina effectively, we must travel back in time to an understanding that today is in danger of being almost completely lost.  In the Christian past the words action (or practice, from the Greek praktikos) and contemplation did not describe different kinds of Christians engaging (or not engaging) in different forms of prayer and apostolates.  Practice and contemplation were understood as the two poles of our underlying, ongoing spiritual rhythm: a gentle oscillation back and forth between spiritual “activity” with regard to God and “receptivity.” Practice – spiritual “activity” – referred in ancient times to our active cooperation with God’s grace in [...]

BLESSING: A History Of Blessing by Pierre Pradervand

February 18, 2019

From The Gentle Art of Blessing Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out. (Deuteronomy 28:6) Blessing is a millennial art.  In the religious context, blessings have existed throughout centuries across almost all cultures.  Lay forms of blessings also permeate our culture in the form of housewarming parties, the European custom of mounting an evergreen on the gable of a new house once the roof has been erected, the rice thrown on newlyweds, and so on.  In some regions of the Swiss Alps, shepherds today sing out a blessing through a very primitive kind of wooden megaphone to the four cardinal directions.  North American Indians have tribal blessings for numerous occasions. Caitlín [...]

PRAYER: Septuagesima—Prayer Of The Church

February 18, 2019

From The Lutheran Church Let us pray for the whole people of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs. Brief silence For the church, that all who labor in her vineyard, whether for a moment or for a lifetime, may receive the reward prepared for her, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy. For those who labor in the church as leaders, our pastor(s); and all deaconesses, teachers, and other servants, that they may remain faithful to the Holy Scriptures in all they say and do, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy. For all of our congregations, especially this congregation, that we would repent of quarreling and testing the Lord’s bountiful goodness and receive from him all good things that he gives us, let us [...]

POETRY: Today Is The Day by Anna Beth Fore

February 16, 2019

From: A Voice for My Soul Let the heavens rejoice, let the Earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them! (1 Chronicles 16:31-32) This is the day that you have made, and you want me to rejoice and be glad. Regardless of my circumstances, Lord, Help me rejoice in you and not be sad. This is the day that you have made, and it may be that it is my last. Help me be present in every moment, to slow down and not move so fast. This is the day that you have made, and you have prepared it for me. Open my ears to hear your voice, and open my eyes so that I will see. This is the day that you have made, and you give me new [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: I’ve Got Jesus. Why Do I Need The Spirit? (Part 3) by Francis Chan

February 15, 2019

From: Forgotten God My hunch is that most of you reading this book have basic knowledge about the Holy Spirit; but when it comes to experiencing the Spirit in your life, it’s a different story.  Take a moment and ask yourself this question: When was the last time I undeniably saw the Spirit at work in or around me?  If it was recently, consider taking a few minutes to reflect on what the Spirit of God did and how you saw him at work.  Thank God for his active presence in your life, and praise him for the way he is leading you even now. If you are having trouble recounting a time when the Spirit was at work in or around you, perhaps that is because you have been ignoring the Spirit.  Perhaps it is because you have a lot of head [...]

MYSTICISM: First Vision—On The Oright Of Life (5) by Hildegard of Bingen

February 15, 2019

From: Hildegard of Bingen’s Book of Divine Works, With Letters and Songs A wing emerges from each side of the figure’s neck. Both wings rise above the ring and are joined there because the love of God and the love of our neighbor – if they proceed through the divine power of love in the unity of faith and embrace this faith with the greatest longing – cannot be separated as long as the holy Godhead conceals the immeasurable splendor of its glory from human beings and as long as human beings abide in the shadow of death.  For they are bereft of the Heavenly garment they lost through [...]

GRACE: “Garbage, Dust, Bastard, Alien Devil” by Lee Strobel

February 14, 2019

From: The Case for Grace Here was a child not much older than a toddler, cast adrift in a frightening and dangerous place that was predisposed to reject her – a world without grace.  “You must have been panic-stricken,” I said. “Not at first.  I thought, I’ll stand here on the platform, and my uncle will come for me.  But when evening came, the trains stopped.  The trainmaster came out and asked me what I was doing there.  I told him I was waiting for my uncle – and that was the first time someone called me a toogee,” she said, almost spitting out the epithet. “What does that mean?” “It’s a very nasty word, like using the n-word today.  It basically means half-breed or child of two bloods, and yet it’s more [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: What Does It Mean To Be Contemplative? by Leighton Ford

February 14, 2019

From The Attentive Life For many of us when we hear the word contemplative, we think of a monk, sitting for hours, eyes closed, hands folded, lost to the world around.  Of course such a monk is indeed a contemplative.  But the idea of being contemplative is much bigger. Contemplate is a two-part word, compounded from the Latin con (meaning “with”) and templum (temple), thus to observe things within a special place, and especially to observe in the presence of a deity.  So a contemplative is one who looks at life in the presence of God, or we might say with the eyes of God, or through the eyes of Christ – at any time, not just at special times; anywhere, not just in certain places; toward anyone, not just “special” people. [...]

GRACE: Creator by Preston Sprinkle

February 14, 2019

From: Charis Transcendence Genesis 1–2 explodes out of the gate with an awe-inspiring account of creation.  God fashions the sky, forges the Earth, forms Adam and Eve, and breathes cosmic firestorms into existence.  Both chapters ripple with action and drip with intimacy.  Most of all, Genesis 1–2 pulls back the curtain and reveals the main subject of the Bible.  These chapters are fundamentally about God. God is preeminent.  God is ultimate.  God is the main subject of Genesis 1–2 because God is the main subject of the entire Bible.  I love how Rick Warren began his bestselling book, The Purpose Drive Life.  “It’s not about you,” Rich said.  “It all starts with God.”  And Moses, the author of Genesis, agrees.  [...]

BELONGING: Why Do We Need To Belong by John O’Donohue

February 13, 2019

From Eternal Echoes Why do we need to belong?  Why is this desire so deeply rooted in every heart?  The longing to belong seems to be ancient and is at the core of our nature.  Though you may often feel isolated, it is the nature of your soul to belong.  The soul can never be separate, its eternal dream is intimacy and belonging.  When we are rejected or excluded, we become deeply wounded.  To be forced out, to be pushed to the margin, hurts us.  The most terrifying image in Christian theology is a state of absolute exclusion from belonging. The most beautiful image in all religion is Heaven or Nirvana: the place of total belonging, where there is no separation or exclusion anymore.  A Buddhist friend once gave a definition of [...]

POETRY: Fifth Sunday After Epiphany by Blessed John Keble

February 13, 2019

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God. (Isaiah 59:1-2) “Wake, arm divine! awake, “Eye of the only Wise! “Now for thy glory’s sake, “Savior and God, arise, “And may thine ear, that sealed seems, “In pity mark our mournful themes!” Thus in her lonely hour Thy Church is fain to cry, As if thy love and power Were vanish’d from her sky; Yet God is there, and at his side He triumphs, who for sinners died. Ah! ‘tis the world enthralls The Heaven betrothed breast: The traitor Sense recalls The soaring soul from rest. That bitter sigh was all for earth, For glories gone, [...]

BIBLE: The Beauty Of God’s Love by Brother Roger of Taizé

February 13, 2019

From Seeds of Trust While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head.  But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way?  For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.”  And they scolded her.  But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her?  She has performed a good work for me.  For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.  She has done what she could; she has anointed my [...]

PSALMS: Sweeter Than Honey (Part 2) by C. S. Lewis

February 12, 2019

From Reflections on the Psalms As everyone knows, the psalm specially devoted to the Law is 119, the longest in the whole collection.  And everyone has probably noticed that from the literary or technical point-of-view, it is the most formal and elaborate of them all.  The technique consists in taking a series of words which are all, for purposes of this poem, more or less synonyms (word, statues, commandments, testimonies, etc.), and ringing the changes on them through each of its eight-verse sections – which themselves correspond to the letters of the alphabet.  (This may have given an ancient ear something of the same sort of pleasure we get from the Italian meter called the sestina, where instead of rhymes we have the same end [...]

GRACE: The Free Gift by Charles R. Swindoll

February 12, 2019

From: The Grace Awakening For the next few minutes let’s think about heresy.  To begin with, answer this question: What would you consider the most dangerous heresy on Earth?  Stop and think before you answer.  The one I have in mind is not so bold and ugly that it would make angels blush.  This one is subtle, rather attractive.  For a long, long time it’s been a favorite of many.  Actually, it has been around since the Garden of Eden.  Let me give you a few hints: It is a philosophy found in numerous self-help books, many poems, and most rags-to-riches biographies. It is a recurring theme in political speeches and commencement addresses. It flourishes in academia. It feeds our pride, it fuels our self-centered bent, it pleases [...]

EARTH: Seeking The True Light by Francine Rivers

February 12, 2019

From: Earth Psalms Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world.  If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12) Every evening, moths gather outside the window of our downstairs family room. They beat against the glass, trying to get to the lamp inside. Sometimes after our dog Sarge has gone out, he stalls at the door, playing with them, and they manage to flitter inside and dash themselves against the light bulb. Remember the bug zappers that were once popular?  The false light attracted moths and insects, electrocuting them when they came close. People can be like moths, going after false light.  The prophet Isaiah begged the [...]

PRAYER: The Process Of Lectio Divina by M. Basil Pennington

February 11, 2019

From An Invitation to Centering Prayer A very ancient art, practiced at one time by all Christians, is the technique known as lectio Divina – a slow, contemplative praying of the scriptures which enables the Bible, the Word of God, to become a means of union with God.  This ancient practice has been kept alive in the Christian monastic tradition, enabling us to discover in our daily life an underlying spiritual rhythm.  Within this rhythm we discover an increasing ability to offer more of ourselves to God, and to accept the embrace that God is continuously extending to us in the person of the Son, Jesus Christ. Lectio (reading / listening) The art of lectio Divina begins with cultivating the ability to listen deeply, to hear “with [...]

BLESSING: Everyday Blessing by Pierre Pradervand

February 11, 2019

From The Gentle Art of Blessing Many spiritual teachings and numerous mystics stress the importance for the spiritual disciple to develop a constant awareness of the divine.  The Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh suggests this be done by striving to live in the present.  One of the great classics of Christian mysticism, The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth-century Cistercian French monk who worked in the monastery kitchen, stresses this practice as a privileged way of developing such awareness.  Such practices may not be excessively difficult in an ashram in the Himalayas, a monastery in Montana, or with fellow pilgrims during the Muslim hajj to Mecca – or even during your morning [...]

PRAYER: Prayer Of Confession Based On The Parable Of The Wheat And The Tares by Moira Laidlaw

February 11, 2019

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? From whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, [...]

POETRY: As I Come Into Your Presence by Anna Beth Fore

February 8, 2019

From: A Voice for My Soul You have made know to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in  your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11) As I come into your presence, Lord, please reveal your will to me. Please open up my heart and mind so that we share a deep intimacy. As I come into your presence, Lord, uncover your secret mysteries. Show me your truths in new ways that bring joy, as when a blind man sees. As I come into your presence, Lord, fill my heart with thankfulness. Remind me of all your promises and the ways that my life you bless. As I come into your presence, Lord, please help me hear your voice. Fill my lips with words of praise as in your presence I rejoice. As I come into your presence, [...]

MYSTICISM: First Vision—On The Oright Of Life (4) by Hildegard of Bingen

February 8, 2019

From: Hildegard of Bingen’s Book of Divine Works, With Letters and Songs Another golden ring surrounds the head of this appearance, for the Roman Catholic faith, which has spread throughout the entire globe, began out of the most brilliant glow of the first dawn. Only faith grasps in deepest reverence the abundance of this love, which exceeds all understanding: the fact that God through the Incarnation of the Divine Son redeemed humanity and strengthened it through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Thus the one God is known in the Trinity – God who was God in the Godhead eternally and without any beginning.  In this circular image you see above the head also another head, which is like that of an elderly man.  This signifies that [...]

GRACE: The Orphan—God’s Grace Goes Far Beyond Forgiveness by Lee Strobel

February 7, 2019

From: The Case for Grace Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption.  Of all the gifts of grace, adoption is the highest. (J. I. Packer) Stephanie Fast has never known her father.  She suspects he was an American soldier – possibly an officer – who fought in the Korean conflict that started in 1950.  There’s even a chance he’s still alive somewhere.  There’s no way to tell. I managed to track down Stephanie, that fleeting voice from the radio, and flew from Denver to meet her in her tidy townhouse in a wooded neighborhood in the Pacific Northwest.  She’s petite at five-foot-three, her black hair falling in soft waves past her shoulders, her almost eyes animated.  Her husband, Darryl, a [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: Prime Time by Leighton Ford

February 7, 2019

From The Attentive Life Our Root System Prime is that hour of the day when we pray not to get it over with, but to make everything a prayer. (David Steindl-Rast) We pray the work. (Mother Teresa) One of my fond memories of Mepkin Abbey is of a monk on a rickety old bicycle, his robe flapping around him, pedaling off toward his morning duties in the vegetable garden.  Others were headed for their tasks in the kitchen, the library, or the gift store.  It was off to work for them after observing Prime, the hour of deliberate beginning of the day. Prime has been called, “the drum roll of the day,” a reminder to work not just to get it over with but for its own sake.  Too often we rush into things and hurry through them, and Prime [...]

GRACE: You Can’t Make God Love You by Preston Sprinkle

February 7, 2019

From: Charis There are many Christians in the church trying to make God love them.  They spend their lives doing, serving, witnessing, fasting, judging, performing, and feeling the unbearable weight of condemnation when they fail at these things.  They are Charis-less Christians who atone for their sin by grinding out good works from a checklist.  Such was the life of my friend Brad Sarian. Brad was, in his own words, a modern-day Pharisee.  He grew up in the church, read the Bible, prayed every day, shunned the very appearance of evil, and had near-perfect church attendance.  When his Christian schoolteacher asked the class on Monday how many went to church, Brad shot up his hand like clockwork.  “Yes, ma’am, I went to church [...]

POETRY: Tears by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

February 6, 2019

Thank God, bless God, all ye who suffer not More grief than ye can weep for. That is well— That is light grieving! lighter, none befell Since Adam forfeited the primal lot. Tears! what are tears? The babe weeps in its cot, The mother singing; at her marriage-bell The bride weeps, and before the oracle Of high-faned hills the poet has forgot Such moisture on his cheeks. Thank God for grace, Ye who weep only! If, as some have done, Ye grope tear-blinded in a desert place And touch but tombs,—look up! those tears will run Soon in long rivers down the lifted face, And leave the vision clear for stars and [...]

BIBLE: “I Will Never Forsake You” by Brother Roger of Taizé

February 6, 2019

From Seeds of Trust Jesus said to his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.  This is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  You know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you.  I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.  In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.  On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14:15-20) Jesus knows the human heart.  He knew that his death on the cross would be a scandal for his disciples.  That is why, [...]

PSALMS: Sweeter Than Honey (Part 1) by C. S. Lewis

February 5, 2019

From Reflections on the Psalms In Racine’s tragedy of Athalie the chorus of Jewish girls sing an ode about the original giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, which has the remarkable refrain ô charmante loi (Act I, scene iv).  Of course it will not do – it will border on the comic – to translate this, “oh charming Law.”  Charming in English has come to be a tepid and even patronizing word; we use it of a pretty cottage, of a book that is something less than great or a woman who is something less than beautiful.  How we should translate charmante I don’t know; “enchanting”? – “delightful”? – “beautiful”?  None of them quite fits.  What is, however, certain is that Racine ( a mighty poet and steeped in the [...]

GRACE: Some Practical Expectations by Charles R. Swindoll

February 5, 2019

From: The Grace Awakening Most of you are familiar with the story of Rip Van Winkle, the man in the children’s fairy tale who went to sleep for twenty years and awoke to a very different world from the one he had known before his two-decade slumber.  All the while he was asleep, wonderful changes were taking place around him about which he was totally ignorant.  Like Rip Van Winkle, many of us are slumbering under the oppressive opiate of those who would keep us from experiencing the marvelous grace-filled life available to those of us who would be made fully alive to its liberating potential.  Wake up!  Sleep no longer!  The grace awakening is upon us.  And what can you expect upon rising from your uninformed stupor?  Let me [...]

EARTH: The Miracle Of Prayer by Francine Rivers

February 5, 2019

From: Earth Psalms Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:16) Rich used to take customers, friends, and family members salmon fishing in Alaska and British Columbia. Before heading out in a small boat, he and his companion always checked the gear, such as nets, gaff, compass, and map. His most memorable trip was with our eldest son, Trevor.  They were so excited one morning that they jumped right in the boat and headed out.  They fished, mostly catch-and-release, and cruised in and out of dozens of small inlets and bays.  When they were ready to head back toward the lodge where they were staying, a dense fog bank fell upon [...]

PRAYER: The Prodigal Father by M. Basil Pennington

February 4, 2019

From An Invitation to Centering Prayer As Jesus spoke a very mixed crowd gathered around.  On the fringes were the big shots, the Pharisees who had all the answers, the scribes who knew the law, and the priests, the holy ones.  They looked down on the motley crew pressing in to hear Jesus – a sinful crowd that did not know the law. What was more painful to Jesus was the fact that many of the poor little ones who were listening to him readily believed that they were indeed the sinful ones.  They knew their sins too well.  They longed to hear words that would bring them peace. Jesus told them then this story. A rich man had two sons.  The older was a very righteous lad, painfully faithful to his duties.  He knew he was the firstborn [...]