Live. Really Live.

Today’s text forms a portion of Moses’ last words of instruction to the Israelites just as they are preparing to cross over and live in the promised land. Notice how the image we hold of God intersects with how we hear and interpret these words. Do the words inspire hope or fear? Thankfully, God has placed the Holy Spirit inside of us to help us know and choose that which brings life - real and abundant life.
Be very patient and gentle towards the questions which arise within and bring them into prayer.

Deuteronomy 30:6, 9-14,19-20 (NLT)

6 “The LORD your God will change your heart and the hearts of all your descendants, so that you will love him with all your heart and soul and so you may live!...The LORD your God will then make you successful in everything you do. He will give you many children and numerous livestock, and he will cause your fields to produce abundant harvests, for the LORD will again delight in being good to you as he was to your ancestors. 10 The LORD your God will delight in you if you obey his voice and keep the commands and decrees written in this Book of Instruction, and if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul.

11 “This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, and it is not beyond your reach. 12 It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?’ 13 It is not kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?’ 14 No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.

19 “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! 20 You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This[c] is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the LORD, you will live long in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, phrase or image which “shimmered” for you as you listened to or slowly read the text? Quietly reflect on it in your prayer with the Lord. Journal your conversation.

Was there any particular emotion which emerged as you listened to the scripture? Talk it over with Jesus in your prayer.

Using all of your senses, place yourself in this scene of Moses preparing the people for their entry into the promised land. Who are you and what are you witnessing or experiencing? Write out the story in your own words, allowing the story and conversation to be your prayer.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

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The Pressure to Find Our Vocation

The vocational call upon Elisha’s life appears to be a dramatically undeniable invitation and assignment from God. How many of us wish that our own call would be so crystal clear? Or feel internal or external pressure to find our sense of meaning and purpose in our vocation?
What if we approached this text and our lives with a posture of compassion and trust that the essence of who we are supercedes what we do? Let us pause and consider our vocation as first a way of being in this world. How do we want to be? Where is God inviting us to be?

1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21 NLT

Then the LORD told him, “Go back the same way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive there, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram. 16 Then anoint Jehu grandson of Nimshi to be king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from the town of Abel-meholah to replace you as my prophet.

19 So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field. There were twelve teams of oxen in the field, and Elisha was plowing with the twelfth team. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and then walked away. 20 Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, “First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!”

Elijah replied, “Go on back, but think about what I have done to you.”

21 So Elisha returned to his oxen and slaughtered them. He used the wood from the plow to build a fire to roast their flesh. He passed around the meat to the townspeople, and they all ate. Then he went with Elijah as his assistant.

For Prayer and Reflection:
What word or phrase shimmered as you listened to or read the text? Bring it into prayer with the Lord.

Reflect on your experience of being called into service. Is there something you want to talk over with God about it? Journal your conversation.

Rest in an consoling words or images which the Lord gave you.

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Wisdom From The Beginning

Wisdom personally knows of delight and unbridled joy in the company of the Creator and in all that the Creator has gloriously fashioned, arranged and made.
Wisdom understands us. Wisdom rejoices with us.
Call out to her as friend, as one who understands.
Long before you call out to her, she has been calling out to you.
Listen for her voice as she listens to yours.

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 (NLT)
Listen as Wisdom calls out!
Hear as understanding raises her voice!
On the hilltop along the road,
she takes her stand at the crossroads.
By the gates at the entrance to the town,
on the road leading in, she cries aloud,
“I call to you, to all of you!
I raise my voice to all people.
22 “The LORD formed me from the beginning,
before he created anything else.
I was appointed in ages past,
at the very first, before the earth began.
I was born before the oceans were created,
before the springs bubbled forth their waters.
Before the mountains were formed,
before the hills, I was born—
before he had made the earth and fields
and the first handfuls of soil.
I was there when he established the heavens,
when he drew the horizon on the oceans.
I was there when he set the clouds above,
when he established springs deep in the earth.
I was there when he set the limits of the seas,
so they would not spread beyond their boundaries.
And when he marked off the earth’s foundations,
I was the architect at his side.
I was his constant delight,
rejoicing always in his presence.
And how happy I was with the world he created;
how I rejoiced with the human family!

For Reflection and Prayer:
What did you hear as you listened or read the text? Did something particular catch your attention? Bring it into conversation with God.

Give yourself room for the word to affect you. What are you feeling or sensing? Gently bring this awareness into your prayer.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

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The Spirit Poured Out

Might you imagine this wondrous moment on the Feast of the Harvest (Feast of First Fruits) when the Holy Spirit is poured out on every kind of people? What might it have been like for the outsiders to become insiders? For those unable to access God’s presence through the temple worship? To have God’s very Spirit filling, indwelling, empowering them?
As you pause to pray with the text, make space to notice your own longing for God’s presence. How does that longing reveal itself to you?

Acts 2:1-21 NLT
On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

5 At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. 6 When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.

7 They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, 8 and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! 9 Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” 12 They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.

13 But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!”

14 Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. 15 These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that. 16 No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:

17 ‘In the last days,’ God says,    ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.

18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy.19 And I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below—blood and fire and clouds of smoke.20 The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red    before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives.21 But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

For Reflection and Prayer:
What caught your attention-a word, a phrase, an image or emotion-as you listened to the text? Have a conversation with Jesus about what you heard.

Was there a particular feeling you experienced as you listened to the story? Bring that feeling into your prayer. How do you need Christ to meet you in that feeling?

Reflect on your own experience or longing for the Holy Spirit coming to you.

Be still and savor any consoling words or pictures in your prayer.

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Imagining Resplendent Glory

The book of Revelation invites us to imagine glory with descriptors such as sparkling, precious, illuminating light, splendor, resplendent, and translucent. These are phrases used to describe the most precious of stones, often only available for viewing at the most notable museums. Yet this glory is available to each of us even today. We can pause and turn our eyes towards those moments which pulse with God’s glory such as the sight or sound of sparkling waters, or dew drops at dawn, or the twinkle in a kind eye, or the compassionate smile of a stranger. Each instance, if we seek it, can enlarge our hope of the glory to come. It will be a glory without end.


Revelation 21:10-11, 22-26 NLT
So he took me in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God and sparkled like a precious stone—like jasper as clear as crystal.

22 I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. 24 The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. 25 Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. 26 And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city.

Revelation 21:10-11, 22-26 TMG
He took me away in the Spirit to an enormous, high mountain and showed me Holy Jerusalem descending out of Heaven from God, resplendent in the bright glory of God.

The main street of the City was pure gold, translucent as glass. But there was no sign of a Temple, for the Lord God—the Sovereign-Strong—and the Lamb are the Temple. The City doesn’t need sun or moon for light. God’s Glory is its light, the Lamb its lamp! The nations will walk in its light and earth’s kings bring in their splendor. Its gates will never be shut by day, and there won’t be any night. They’ll bring the glory and honor of the nations into the City.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What did you hear as you listened or read the text? Did something particular catch your attention? Is there a feeling that you notice? Enter into a conversation with Jesus.

Bring all your senses and imagination into this time of prayer. Journal about your experience.

What longings rise up within you? Bring them into your prayer. Rest in any consoling words of pictures God gives you.

A Witness to Every Tear

A Witness to Every Tear

Tears of grief,
of suffering, of pain, of irritation, of cleansing, of release, of joy.
Each one witnessed, acknowledged, known,
allowed to be, to flow, to gush, to trickle.
Each one a story - leaving a trail back to God.
What will it be like to no longer fear our tears
or stop them up because of shame?
What if our tears are the bridge which beckons:
”God, come near.
God, come see my hurt, my pain, my suffering, my tribulations.
I allow your compassion to see me as I am
and I open myself to your kindness,
your consoling love.
I let you console me.”

Revelation 7:9-17 (NLT)
After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10 And they were shouting with a great roar,

“Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throneand from the Lamb!”

11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. 12 They sang,

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

13 Then one of the twenty-four elders asked me, “Who are these who are clothed in white? Where did they come from?”

14 And I said to him, “Sir, you are the one who knows.”

Then he said to me, “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white.

15 “That is why they stand in front of God’s throne and serve him day and night in his Temple. And he who sits on the throne will give them shelter. 16 They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. 17 For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
What words or image shimmered as you listened? Stay near to this gift and listen deeply with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Consider God’s sheltering presence over you and within you. Rest where he leads you.

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Worship in the Everyday Ordinary

A cursory reading of the spontaneous and glorious worship described in John’s vision or Revelation is filled with hard to grasp imagery and metaphor. These descriptions might overwhelm our understanding and possibly shut down our curiosity. Yet in this season of Eastertide where we live in the joy and possibility of renewal in the now, this text and our questioning of it might be just the place where God meets us today. How might we make room for the spontaneous moments of worship in our everyday ordinary? What beauty or glimmers of gratitude in the small things are worthy of our stopping to notice and simply offer our voluntary praise and thanks?

Revelation 5:11-14 (NIV)
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Did a word, or phrase or picture shimmer for you as you listened to the text? Journal or artistically express what you noticed.

Place yourself in this scene. Who are you? What are you witnessing? What are you thinking? What are you feeling? Is there anything you want to say to Jesus or do for him? What does he in turn say to you?

Savor any consoling words or pictures God gives you. Simply rest in God’s presence.

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Practicing Resurrection

On the tide of Easter morning, those who went to look for Jesus found an empty tomb. Some discovered him along the way, others went to look again, others were surprised that Jesus was the one to seek them out and find them. These companions of Jesus, women and men, inspire us to keep looking for the risen Christ. Where are you seeing signs of new life in your everyday life? Which practices help train you to keep looking?

Isaiah 43:16-21 NIV
This is what the LORD says—
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
who drew out the chariots and horses,
the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word or phrase that stood out for you – that spoke just to you? Note it here, and then write 2-3 sentences about it.

What did you notice was your inner response as you listened? (longing, agitated, curious, confused, peaceful, joy-filled, hopeful, frustrated, anger nothing, etc.?)

Would you be willing to speak to God (Father, Son, or Holy Spirit) about these feelings? Allow God to see you as you are. Ask for what you need. Linger in God’s presence.

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Naming Our Shame Story

Today’s short text is set near the end of a 500-year story. The Hebrew people were rescued from starvation by entering into Egypt only to be delivered out of the ensuing Egyptian slavery into freedom. On the eve of taking possession of the promised land, the Israelites, are about to taste and eat of its abundance.

As you enter this story in prayer, your own story of shame may surface - or it may be the shame story of your people, your family, community or nation. Gently hold whatever emerges in your prayer before God who continually leads us out of narrow places (Egypt) in our minds, hearts and habits into His expansive places of freedom (the promised land).

Those who the son sets free, will be free indeed…John 8:36

Joshua 5:9-12 (NLT)
Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the shame of your slavery in Egypt.” So that place has been called Gilgal to this day.

10 While the Israelites were camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, they celebrated Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month. 11 The very next day they began to eat unleavened bread and roasted grain harvested from the land. 12 No manna appeared on the day they first ate from the crops of the land, and it was never seen again. So from that time on the Israelites ate from the crops of Canaan.

For Reflection and Prayer:
If there was a word, a phrase, or an image that sought your attention as you listened, stay with it and listen deeper with Jesus.

If you noticed any place of tension, or some other sensation, in your body as you listened, gently follow it with Jesus.

Journal about your longing or experience of shame being rolled away in your life. Give that story a name.

Quietly rest in the presence of the Lord with any comfort or consolation given to you.

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For What Does Your Soul Thirst?

Thirst - physical, emotional, relational, spiritual - we all have it, even before we feel it. Jesus, the one who offered streams of living water to slake our thirst, he felt thirst too. Vulnerable, naked, poured out - he speaks of his thirst on the cross. He goes before us, identifying and naming our human condition, without shame. It’s ok to be thirsty. What if we entrusted our thirst to him?

Isaiah 55:1-9 NLT
“Is anyone thirsty?
Come and drink—
even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
it’s all free!
2 Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
You will enjoy the finest food.
3 “Come to me with your ears wide open.
Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.
4 See how I used him to display my power among the peoples.
I made him a leader among the nations.
5 You also will command nations you do not know,
and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey,
because I, the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.”
6 Seek the LORD while you can find him.
Call on him now while he is near.
7 Let the wicked change their ways
and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them.
Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.
8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

For Reflection and Prayer:

What caught your attention as you listened to the text? Have a conversation with Jesus about what you heard.

Was there a particular feeling you experienced as you listened? Bring that feeling into your prayer. How do you need Jesus to meet you in that feeling?

Reflect on where you are noticing your thirst or hunger for God. What is truly nourishing it? Offer up your need in prayer.

Be still and savor any consoling words or pictures in your prayer.

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Pastor Laura VanNorman preached on Jesus’ words, “I thirst”. Listen here for a poignant teaching and reflection on two of Jesus’ last words before his death.