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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Reckoning With That Which Lasts

Painting a panoramic picture of those who trust in God, Jeremiah asks us to reckon with that which lasts. What are those things in our lives which are like a curse; chaff that is easily blown away? What provides an enduring anchor for our lives that not only gives us meaning but also holds us when life gets hard, ravaged and raw? Sit with these words long enough to allow wisdom and discernment to emerge for this season of your life. These words are not meant to keep us stuck in fear or shame but to guide us into the wisdom and freedom of a life anchored in God.

Jeremiah 17:5-10 TMG

“Cursed is the strong one who depends on mere humans,
Who thinks he can make it on muscle alone and sets God aside as dead weight.
He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie, out of touch with the good earth.
He lives rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows.
“But blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God.
They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers—
Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.
“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.
But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind.
I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things.
I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a specific word or phrase which was impressed upon your heart or mind as you listened to the text? Reflect on that and bring your reflection in your prayer.

What emotions were stirred in you in this time of listening? Gently notice them, name them, feel them and simply offer them as your prayer to God.

What longing does this passage stir in you? In the quiet, simply be with that longing between you and God.

Journal your prayer that flows out of your meditation and contemplation of this passage.

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When Fear Wins the Day

As painful as it is to hear the details of Jesus’ trial and witness the injustice of the entire process, Jesus seems to want us to understand how fear operates in real life and real systems. When we are guided by fear in our choices and decisions, truth can become blurry and we can be easily deceived. Perhaps our question for today is, do I know when I am being guided by fear or guided by love? How do I know the difference?

John 19:7-16 (ESV)
The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

12 From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 13 So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

For Prayer and Reflection:

Was there a word, a phrase, or an image that stood out as you listened? Linger there awhile with Jesus.

Place yourself in the story. Where are you standing? What do you see? What do you smell? What else do you sense? Notice any feelings that surface and follow it deeper if you feel led.

Consider encountering Jesus within the question, “Where are you from?”

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What is Truth?

Pilot's question deserves serious reflection for all of us. How do we know what is true? What has Jesus been showing us about truth with his life? There is much to notice in this passage about the process used to discern truth in the trial before Pilate.
How do you listen for truth? How do you recognize it? We cling to this hope which Jesus promised...that when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide us into all truth...He will take from what is mine and make it known to you (John 16:12-14).

John 18:28-40 (NLT)
Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”
31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”
40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

For your reflection and prayer:
As you listened, was there a word, a phrase, an image, or something else that stood out to you? Notice what it stirs in you. Have a conversation with Jesus about this.

If you were a character in this story, which one are you drawn to? Enter the story and observe the unfolding of events from that person’s perspective. What are you noticing and wondering about? Journal your experience of the story.

Slowly savor any consoling words or images which God gives you in this time of prayer. Simply rest in God’s presence with them.

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The Ministry of Absence

In John 17, Jesus puts words around the necessity and purpose of his leaving. He has more he wants to teach us by his absence. This can be painfully difficult for us to understand or appreciate.

Henri Nouwen has said a few wise words about the ministry of absence:
"there is a ministry in which our leaving creates space for God's Spirit and in which, by our absence, God can become present in a new way." (The Living Reminder)

Wil Hernandez says in his book, Mere Spirituality:
"Knowing when to be present or absent can understandably be a challenge. Still, we need to learn how to creatively navigate our way through this tension so we can best cooperate with God. To be a hospitable soul host with, to, and for others calls for a spacious heart - a heart able to create and offer both interior space for one's self and exterior space for others, as well as a discerning heart that wisely knows who to exercise "creative absence.""

This is a matter for our prayer.

John 16:5-15 (NLT)
“But now I am going away to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going. 6 Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you. 7 But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. 9 The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. 10 Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. 11 Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.
12 “There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 14 He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’

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

Was there any particular emotion which emerged as you listened to the scripture?
Journal about it. Where do you sense that emotion in your body? What does that emotion tell you about your need?

Reflect on your longing for an Advocate. Where are you needing someone to defend you or fight for you? Bring these longings into your prayer.

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

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Called By Name

Most of us can recall the sound of our name being called as a child - by a loving or frustrated parent, a delighted grandparent, a patient or anxious teacher, an exasperated sibling or playmate, an inspiring or demanding coach. Each call out told us something about our self. Were we welcome, delightful, acceptable, worthy or capable in that moment? Did that calling compel us to respond in trust and courage to that voice?
Listening for the voice of Jesus will ask us to examine how we hear him call us by name. Is the voice of love, hope and life calling us forward?

John 10:1-10 NLT
“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! 2 But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”
6 Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, 7 so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. 9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Listen  In a comfortable, quiet place, slowly and carefully listen to or read the Bible passage. Notice any words or phrases or images that seem alive to you at the moment. Allow yourself to stop and hold them in your heart before God.
 
Meditate  Repeat the words or phrases slowly to yourself. Or linger with the image. Allow them to interact with your inner world of memories, ideas or concerns. Ask yourself what meaning they may have for you.
 
Conversation  Share what you are discovering with the words and/or images and how they touch your heart with Jesus. Ask Jesus what the Father is saying to you through this prayer time.
 
Contemplate  When words or pictures are no longer needed, allow yourself to rest on Jesus’ lap. Feel the strength and tenderness of the Father’s love for you. Allow it to pour into your heart and fill you up. Linger here, resting in God’s compassionate care for you.
 
Cooperative Action  Ask Jesus to show you what the Father wants to do from this prayerful reading time with you. If you desire it, ask him to cause that change to happen by the Spirit’s power and your obedience working together from this point.

How Do You Recognize God's Voice?

Now able to physically see, we can only imagine the sensory overload of all the many sights previously 'unseen' by the healed blind man. He likely had developed a highly attuned capacity to hear as a result of his physical blindness. It is interesting that Jesus continues to seek this man out. Jesus seems to be deliberately assuring the healed man of his presence and training him in learning how to recognize his voice. Even today he comes alongside us to help us learn to recognize his voice and see what was previously unseen.

John 9:35-41 (NLT)
 When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36 The man answered, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.”
37 “You have seen him,” Jesus said, “and he is speaking to you!”
38 “Yes, Lord, I believe!” the man said. And he worshiped Jesus.
39 Then Jesus told him, “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.”
40 Some Pharisees who were standing nearby heard him and asked, “Are you saying we’re blind?”
41 “If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see.

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 Jesus. Journal your conversation.

Is there a particular feeling you experience as you reflect on these words? Welcome this feeling into your prayer and have a conversation with Jesus about it.

Remember words which Jesus has spoken to you in the past. How did you hear them? How did you know that it was Jesus speaking to you? What was the tone of his voice? What was the fruit of those words spoken to you?

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

Light Which Leads To Life

Spiritual darkness can feel overpowering and all together frightening. The daily news serves up a verbal and visual charred feast of such darkness. We might wonder, "how long O Lord"? How are we to pray? Will our individual voices and choices make any difference?  Yet we hope in the One who is in the process of restoring all things. Through trusting and walking intentionally in the spiritual light which is given each day, we participate with God in that process. Where are you discovering the light which leads to life? May we keep asking for eyes to see the light.

John 8:12-20 (NLT)
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.”
13 The Pharisees replied, “You are making those claims about yourself! Such testimony is not valid.”
14 Jesus told them, “These claims are valid even though I make them about myself. For I know where I came from and where I am going, but you don’t know this about me. 15 You judge me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone. 16 And if I did, my judgment would be correct in every respect because I am not alone. The Father who sent me is with me. 17 Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact. 18 I am one witness, and my Father who sent me is the other.”
19 “Where is your father?” they asked.
Jesus answered, “Since you don’t know who I am, you don’t know who my Father is. If you knew me, you would also know my Father.” 20 Jesus made these statements while he was teaching in the section of the Temple known as the Treasury. But he was not arrested, because his time had not yet come.

For your reflection and prayer:
As you listened, was there a word, a phrase, an image, or something else that stood out to you? Notice what it stirs in you. Have a conversation with Jesus about this.

Place yourself in the story and enter into it as it unfolds. Who are you? Who is interacting with you and around you? What are you seeing, smelling, sensing, hearing, touching? Write about your experience in the story and allow it to be your prayer.

In this passage on discernment, where are you noticing light which leads to life? Reflect on what you notice.

Slowly savor any consoling words or images which God gives you in this time of prayer. Simply rest in God’s presence with them.

Our Need For Approval

Our need for approval is a core, essential aspect of our humanity and it helps form the attachment bonds which shape the trajectory of our lives. Jesus, who comes in the name of the Father lives rooted in the essence of who the Father is. He is a living demonstration of a life immersed in his own belovedness. Until we know the deep, deep love of God we will compare, compete and rank ourselves and others. How can we understands these abrupt words of Jesus apart from knowing the unconditional love of his Father? Today's text is given in two different versions. Immerse yourself in the crowd of hearers and notice where the Word comes alive for you.

John 5:41-47 (NLT)
“Your approval means nothing to me, 42 because I know you don’t have God’s love within you. 43 For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me. Yet if others come in their own name, you gladly welcome them. 44 No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God.
45 “Yet it isn’t I who will accuse you before the Father. Moses will accuse you! Yes, Moses, in whom you put your hopes. 46 If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. 47 But since you don’t believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”

John 5:41-47 (MSG)
“I’m not interested in crowd approval. And do you know why? Because I know you and your crowds. I know that love, especially God’s love, is not on your working agenda. I came with the authority of my Father, and you either dismiss me or avoid me. If another came, acting self-important, you would welcome him with open arms. How do you expect to get anywhere with God when you spend all your time jockeying for position with each other, ranking your rivals and ignoring God?
45-47 “But don’t think I’m going to accuse you before my Father. Moses, in whom you put so much stock, is your accuser. If you believed, really believed, what Moses said, you would believe me. He wrote of me. If you won’t take seriously what he wrote, how can I expect you to take seriously what I speak?”

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

Is there a particular feeling you experience as you reflect on these words? Ask Jesus about it in your prayer.

Consider who has crossed your path in this last while. Reflect on the type of welcome you gave another and/or the type of welcome you received. What do you notice? Where have you observed Christ in that interaction? Talk with him about what you noticed.

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

The Life You Say You Want

At times we may approach the bible as a self-help manual."What do I need to do to be saved?" We might pick apart the text deciding what fits, what's impossible, and what we can and must do. Often this approach leads to despair, continual shame and self-loathing. What if we approached this sacred text honestly and humbly as we are? What if we simply gave ourselves to wonder, allowing the stories to soak in like morning dew watering the seeds of life God has already planted in our heart? Such a gentle, beneficent pace can give us the space we need to grow in the discernment and wisdom needed to discover the desires of our heart, those desires planted deep within by God.

   Do we know what our heart truly wants? Do we need the Spirit's help in sifting through our wants and desires? Do we need to hear ourselves say aloud, what we truly want? And what do we need from God to help us choose life? We can courageously take these questions into our prayer with God. Always, we can listen and live into the answers.

John 5:31-40 TMG
If I were simply speaking on my own account, it would be an empty, self-serving witness. But an independent witness confirms me, the most reliable Witness of all. Furthermore, you all saw and heard John, and he gave expert and reliable testimony about me, didn’t he?
34-38 “But my purpose is not to get your vote, and not to appeal to mere human testimony. I’m speaking to you this way so that you will be saved. John was a torch, blazing and bright, and you were glad enough to dance for an hour or so in his bright light. But the witness that really confirms me far exceeds John’s witness. It’s the work the Father gave me to complete. These very tasks, as I go about completing them, confirm that the Father, in fact, sent me. The Father who sent me, confirmed me. And you missed it. You never heard his voice, you never saw his appearance. There is nothing left in your memory of his Message because you do not take his Messenger seriously.
39-40 “You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want.

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

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

Where are you currently finding life? Where is life being drained from you? Bring this refection into conversation with God.

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

Where Are You Seeing God At Work?

The beloved John continues to bear witness to the complex, crazy-making, critical culture created by scrupulous rule following. He contrasts these Jewish leaders with Jesus who is focused on watching for his Father's initiative and action. His words invite us to consider where we see life and renewal happening in and around us. His ways invite us to participate in God's life giving work through observation, contemplation, prayer, discernment and action. Begin with stopping to see. Where are you seeing God at work around you?

John 5:16-23 (NLT)
So the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. 17 But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” 18 So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God.
19 So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. 21 For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants. 22 In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, 23 so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him.

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

Give yourself room for the word to affect you. What are you feeling or sensing? Without judgement, gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus. What does Jesus say to you?

What are you seeing the Father doing? Where are you seeing God working?

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

On Pilgrimage to Worship

The text recounting the pilgrimage of the Magi is still relevant for us today. This group of wise ones paid attention to the light they did not fully understand and they courageously set out on pilgrimage to worship a King guided by a starlight. This starlight seems to appear and reappear, eventually hovering over the presence of Christ, where they were overcome with joy and responded by bending their knee in worship.

We too are on pilgrimage to recognize the presence of Christ before us. Right here. Right now. In this present moment. In what is in us and before us. It is a long journey often fraught with distractions, fear, shame, worry and harassment along the way. Yet the star still guides and the Christ is eager to be found by us.

God has chosen to make known...the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27

 

Matthew 2:1-12 (NLT)
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”
3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. 4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:
6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
    are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
    who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”
9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.

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 Jesus.

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

Consider the starlight God has provided for you. Where has it led you in the past? What markers help you discern that this starlight is from God?

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

Counseled By Loving Eyes

Counseled by loving eyes which look upon us with compassion
Eyes which say, "choose life"
Eyes that understand our deepest needs and fears
These eyes are not critical, cruel or cunning
They do not evoke fear of punishment
Rather they convey love, hope and kindness
Because of unfailing love, they delight in us learning to walk in the ways of life.

Turn again to see God's loving gaze upon you.

Psalm 32:8-11 NIV
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
9 Do not be like the horse or the mule,
    which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
    or they will not come to you.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
    but the LORD’s unfailing love
    surrounds the one who trusts in him.
11 Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous;
    sing, all you who are upright in heart!

For Reflection and Prayer:
What did you hear as you listened to the text? Did it stir up a feeling within you as you listened?
What do you hear about God in this passage?
What do you hear about yourself in these words?
What is your prayer that emerges from these words? What might you ask God to do in you?

How Do You Hear God's Voice?

The Lord's voice can become a powerful force in our lives - not in a fear inducing, paralyzing or threatening way - but in a gloriously transformative, healing and liberating way.
Can we imagine that learning to listen and hear God's voice could bring such depth of life, wholeness and peace?
Or be as simple as slowing and quieting enough to listen?
To pay attention?
Or to even believe that using our own voice can be one of the means to discern God's voice?
Pause again today, to listen...

Psalm 29NLT

Honor the Lord, you heavenly beings[a];
    honor the Lord for his glory and strength.
2 Honor the Lord for the glory of his name.
    Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
3 The voice of the Lord echoes above the sea.
    The God of glory thunders.
    The Lord thunders over the mighty sea.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is majestic.
5 The voice of the Lord splits the mighty cedars;
    the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf;
    he makes Mount Hermon[b] leap like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord strikes
    with bolts of lightning.
8 The voice of the Lord makes the barren wilderness quake;
    the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord twists mighty oaks[c]
    and strips the forests bare.
In his Temple everyone shouts, “Glory!”
10 The Lord rules over the floodwaters.
    The Lord reigns as king forever.
11 The Lord gives his people strength.
    The Lord blesses them with peace.
Footnotes:
29:1 Hebrew you sons of God.
29:6 Hebrew Sirion, another name for Mount Hermon.
29:9 Or causes the deer to writhe in labor.

For Reflection and Prayer:

What word, a phrase, image, or feeling affected you as you listened to the text? How did it affect you? Bring this into your prayer with Jesus.

This text is rich in metaphor and imagery. Does one metaphor in particular reflect a place or season of your spiritual journey now?
Does God have more to say to you about that season or place? Do you have more to talk over or say to God?

How does God’s voice come to you? Sound to you? How do you discern God’s voice from other voices?

Words of Comfort

Spoken tenderly, God's voice comforts and calms us in times of abandonment, distress, fear, shame and sadness. The One who comes to dwell with us calls us home and holds us close. This is the Voice we are listening for, the One who knows us intimately by name. This is Good News for all people.

In this season of Advent, you are invited to be still and listen to how God's tender words are coming to you.

Isaiah 40:1-11 NLT
 “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God.
2 “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned.
Yes, the LORD has punished her twice over for all her sins.”
3 Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!
4 Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills.
Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places.
5 Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together.
    The LORD has spoken!”
6 A voice said, “Shout!”
    I asked, “What should I shout?”
“Shout that people are like the grass.
    Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field.
7 The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the LORD.
    And so it is with people.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”
9 O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops!
Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid.
Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!”
10 Yes, the Sovereign LORD is coming in power.
    He will rule with a powerful arm.
    See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.
11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
    He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.
    He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What phrase or word spoke to your heart as you listened/read?

Remember a time when God brought comfort especially to you. In your prayer revisit that experience of comfort.

What does God's tender voice sound like to you? What tone is used? any gestures? Be still and allow God to speak tenderly to you. Journal what you hear.