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Wednesday’s Word: Sincerity

 

I am not afraid. I am going to talk because I know my own heart. (Job 9: 35)

 

Sharing what’s in our hearts takes courage. Knowing what’s in our hearts to begin with takes courage, too.

 

When we’re afraid of being judged, criticized, or rejected, we’re not likely to expose our deepest feelings. There’s nothing wrong with putting our best foot forward, but when we consistently put on a false front we can lose ourselves. We bury those parts of ourselves we wish weren’t there without even realizing that we’re cutting off a very real part of who we are. No matter how many friends we have, if all they ever see is our false front, we may still feel isolated.

 

Negative feelings don’t go away just because we don’t acknowledge them. Buried alive, they sometimes leak out sideways. Just ask those we live or work with. The irony is that we need to face our shadowy secrets and accept that they are part of us before we can let them go. This isn’t always easy. Growing in awareness of God’s unconditional love helps us feel safe enough to face our true selves. Encouragement and emotional support from people we trust also helps.

 

When we dare to face the truth, however unflattering it may be, we often find relief. Sharing this truth in a safe environment—in a confessional, a counselor’s office, or the home of an understanding friend in whom we can confide—is healing. We can grow, communicate sincerely, and develop genuine relationships when we, like Job, aren’t afraid and we know our own hearts.

 

Prayer: Lord, grant me the courage to be honest with myself.

 

Reflection: What’s going on inside your heart today?

 

Wednesday’s Words: Fruit of the Spirit

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23a (NRSV)

 

Love. Joy. Peace. We all want them. The irony is that many of the ways we try to get love, joy, or peace of mind work against us.

 

We try to earn love—or at least admiration and attention—by trying to impress others or make ourselves indispensable. It doesn’t always come off so well…especially if others are trying to do the same thing. We end up competing, feeling envious, or self-righteous—not very lovable qualities.

 

We pursue happiness only to find it elusive. After all, if the things we bought made us happy, we wouldn’t have to keep buying more things. If we think we can’t be happy until others to do what we want them to, we might spend the rest of our lives waiting.

 

It’s easy to think serenity would come if only life were problem-free, but when one problem gets resolved, sooner or later another pops up.

 

The paradox is that we open ourselves to the fruit of the Spirit when we stop forcing things to go the way we want them to. When we can accept life as it is on any given day, peace and patience flow naturally. When we aren’t wearing ourselves out trying to earn love or achieve happiness by satisfying the demands of self-will , we are free to enjoy what we do have. Without self-imposed pressure, we can afford to be kinder, gentler, and all the rest. Life can be better by when we make room for the Spirit. Let’s get out of our own way.

 

Prayer: Come, Holy Spirit, and fill my heart.

 

Reflection for sharing: Which fruit of the Spirit are you most longing for today? What do you need to let go of to make room for it?

 

 

Wisdom and Love

 

At that time Jesus was filled with joy by the Holy Spirit and said, “Father, Lord of heaven and earth! I thank you because you have shown to the unlearned what you have hidden from the wise and learned. Yes, Father, this was how you were pleased to have it happen.” Luke 10: 21

 

There’s no IQ test to get into heaven. Most of those called by Jesus weren’t learned. In fact, Jesus seemed to have the most run-ins with the religious experts of his day.

 

While being familiar with scripture and the tenets of our faith is a good thing, it’s easy to confuse knowing it intellectually and living it. Jesus said the most important commandments are to love God, others, and ourselves. A superior intellect isn’t needed to live a life of love.

 

God invites us all to participate in his heavenly banquet. In the parable of the great feast, when the invited guests chose not to attend, the king invited the sick, the disabled, and anyone else his servants came across on the highways and byways. (Matthew 22: 1-14) These guests weren’t given an entrance exam. All they had to do was accept the invitation and respond accordingly.

 

We respond accordingly to God’s invitation by treating our host, ourselves, and all other guests with respect and love. If we have intelligence or any other gift, let’s use them, by all means—not to build up our own egos, but to help us love.

 

Prayer: Lord, teach my heart the wisdom of love.

 

Reflection: How can your abilities help you reach out to others in love?

 

 

Easter Sunday


 

 

 

“[H]e has been raised, just as he said.” Matthew 28: 6

 

 

 

The tomb is empty. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!  A joyous Easter to all!

Holy Thursday/Good Friday


 “Father,” he said, “if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me. Not my will, however, but your will be done.” Luke 22: 42

 

In his agony, Jesus was honest with his father. He didn’t want to suffer, but he was willing to suffer as he accepted his Father’s will.

 

We don’t have to deny our pain to God. We don’t have to pretend we welcome pain when it comes our way. It’s okay to ask God to relieve our suffering—and that of our loved ones.

 

On the other hand, if we pray and circumstances don’t change to our liking, we don’t have to turn our backs on God. It’s better to let God know how angry or hurt we are than to write him off.

 

Although Jesus didn’t look forward to the events of Good Friday, he willingly accepted them. He could do that because he knew his Father loved him. Jesus was able to trust that his Father’s plan was best, regardless of how he personally felt about it. If there were an easier, softer way for the ultimate good of his Son and the rest of humankind to come about, God would have chosen it.

 

When we are suffering, may it strengthen us to know that, horrifying as the crucifixion was, it was not the end of the story. The pain came to an end. The glorious outcome endures for eternity.

 

Prayer: Father, thy will, not mine, be done.

 

Reflection: Each day, no matter how difficult, ends. God’s love endures.

 

HAPPY EASTER

 

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He Is Risen!

 

Wednesday’s Word: Victory

iStock_000003550839XSmallAnd on that cross Christ freed himself from the power of the spiritual rulers and authorities; he made a public spectacle of them by leading them as captives in his victory procession. Colossians 2: 15

 

A victory parade? Crucifixion looked more like defeat. God’s idea of success is very different from ours. What was Jesus’ victory? He accomplished His Father’s will in spite of all the opposition the world could muster.

 

What looked like weakness actually brought us forgiveness and new life because our debts were nailed with Christ on the cross. Jesus did for us what we could never do for ourselves–free us from the bondage of our wrong-doing and the burden of guilt and same that goes with it.

 

“God, what does success look like to you in this situation?” I don’t know the source of this quote—if you do, please let me know. I love it because it reminds me to get over myself. Sometimes, success means refusing to continue a pointless argument. Sometimes it means being satisfied that one person got something out of something I wrote instead of worrying about the number of books I sold. Success can also mean letting go of my agenda and listening to someone who needs to talk.

 

These things don’t always feel like victory, and they may not look like it to most people. That’s okay. Every time I imagine what success looks like to God, I let go of my will and feel more peaceful in accepting things as they are. When that happens (and I wish it happened more often than it does) I can see my pride, self-will, impatience, being led away in Christ’s victory procession.

 

Prayer: Lord, what does success look like to you in this situation?

 

Reflection: How might your idea of success change today if you look at things from God’s point of view?

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Wednesday’s Words: Fruitful Pain

iStock_000003550839XSmall “The Lord says] “I will abandon my people until they have suffered enough for their sins and come looking for me. Perhaps in their suffering they will try to find me.” Hosea 5:15

 

“God whispers to us in our pleasures…but shouts to us in our pain,” as C.S. Lewis said. I don’t believe God wants us to suffer but our choices have consequences. Like a good parent, sometimes God allows us to experience the consequences of our actions so that we can learn and grow.   I don’t have the answer for all the apparent needless suffering in the world but I have seen God bring good out of painful situations. He is always at work, even in our suffering. I’ve experienced it in my own life.

 

After a tractor trailer hit my car, I was bed-ridden for months and left with chronic pain. The following year, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I don’t think God zapped me with the accident or M.S. to punish me. Instead, I believe He used the opportunities to teach my heart things it couldn’t seem to learn in any other way.   I had always prided myself on being a hard worker and how much I accomplished. I was always doing things for others—whether they wanted me to or not. After the accident and the MS, I could not physically do all that I used to do. That terrified me. My misplaced self-worth disappeared. I was scared that if I couldn’t do things for my family they wouldn’t want me around. That turned out not to be the case, but if it hadn’t been for the accident and the MS, I would never have known that.

 

While I would never have chosen either challenge, I can honestly say I am grateful for the experiences. As a result, my relationships have deepened. My self-esteem is no longer tied to how much I accomplish. I’m also growing in healthy humility that allows me to accept my limitations and ask for and receive help. I have a better understanding of others facing challenges. My sense of security no longer rests exclusively on my frail shoulders.   Because of pain, I’ve been led in new directions of growth. It’s a fascinating journey. I now believe there are two types of pain. There is wasted pain; when I choose to wallow in it I can. There is also pain that bears fruit, like labor pains that lead to new life. When I look to find God in the midst of pain, it always leads to growth…whether I see it at the time, or not. If God can bring good out of the crucifixion, He can bring good out of anything.

 

Prayer: Lord, help us find you in our pain.

 

Reflection: When has God brought good out of a painful circumstance in your life?

Saturday Spotlight: Habakkuk

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“Even though the fig trees have no fruit and no grapes grow on the vines, even though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no grain, even though the sheep all die and the cattle stalls are empty, I will still be joyful and glad, because the Lord God is my savior.”  Habakkuk 3: 17-18

 

Surrounded by violence, cruelty, and signs of coming destruction, Habakkuk trembled with fear. Even so, he chose to trust that God was in charge and would act when the time was right at the time He chose. Habakkuk’s testimony to joy isn’t based on circumstances but on who God is.

 

Our savior is bigger than any circumstances we face. Like Habakkuk, we can choose to praise God no matter what. While that might not change our circumstances it certainly can change our experience of those circumstances.

 

Once during an MS attack, physical pain made it impossible for me to function or even think clearly. I felt swamped in misery until a friend suggested spiritual warfare might be tempting me to despair. A new awareness switched on. I began to look at my situation from a different point of view. Alone at home, I turned on the radio. A song came on about praising God whether times were good or bad. “My heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be your name.” I sang along at the top of my lungs. A sense of victory flooded me. I didn’t have to be bullied by my circumstances. I could choose to praise the Lord no matter what. Nothing had changed, but everything had changed. I felt free.

 

Of course we all feel sad, or frightened, or hurt sometimes. We’re human. God gave us our feelings for a reason. We don’t have to pretend we aren’t in pain when we are. But while happiness is fleeting, joy runs deeper. Good times come and go. Just like Habakkuk, we have the freedom to be joyful anyway because our eternal God and savior remains.

 

Prayer: I will be joyful because God is bigger than my circumstances.

 

Reflection:  When has God gotten you through a challenge you couldn’t manage on your own? Were you able to see Him working in the situation at the time or only in looking back can you see it? How might that help you in future challenges?

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Meditations

But Jesus answered “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” (Matthew 4:4)

 

All Bible quotes are from the Good News Translation unless otherwise noted.

 

It is reassuring that Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors to be his followers. These were laymen, not Scripture experts. It is wise to seek guidance from religious scholars and clergy who have studied Scripture to avoid errors in interpretation. But the Bible is also a gift given to each of us, to use as a basis for prayer and meditation.

 

I’m not a Biblical scholar; I’m an expert only on my own experience. Following the Scripture passage is a brief meditation along with a question or two as a springboard for your own reflections. Please feel free to share your own thoughts or insights on the passage by adding a comment. All comments are moderated, so please allow some time for your comment to be posted.

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