To Be Understood

St. Francis of Assisi taught us well in his prayer-poem-song, Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace. One stanza speaks of our desire to seek to understand another before being understood ourselves. It is a noble desire and one which becomes increasingly possible as the realization of God's infinite understanding of us personally. lodges deep within our own heart and soul. The gift of being experientially loved, known and understood by God becomes a gift and it changes us from the inside out. Our natural response becomes one of worship and a humility forms within us which seeks to truly listen and understand another.

May you pause and savor anew today, being loved and understood by the One who made your heart.

Psalm 33NLT
1 Let the godly sing for joy to the LORD;
    it is fitting for the pure to praise him.
4 For the word of the LORD holds true,
    and we can trust everything he does.
5 He loves whatever is just and good;
    the unfailing love of the LORD fills the earth.
6 The LORD merely spoke,
    and the heavens were created.
He breathed the word,
    and all the stars were born.
7 He assigned the sea its boundaries
    and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs.
8 Let the whole world fear the LORD,
    and let everyone stand in awe of him.
9 For when he spoke, the world began!
    It appeared at his command.
13 The LORD looks down from heaven
    and sees the whole human race.
14 From his throne he observes
    all who live on the earth.
15 He made their hearts,
    so he understands everything they do.

20 We put our hope in the LORD.
    He is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD,
    for our hope is in you alone.

For prayer and reflection:

What phrase or word spoke to you as you listened/read?

How does it feel to have God understand everything you do? Dwell with this thought in your prayer. You may want to journal your conversation with God.

What emotion does this Psalm raise within you?

Is there anything you want to ask or say to Jesus about this text?

Amen: Agreeing Together

The week of the long walk to the cross is underway. The text slows down remarkably, and we are given glimpses into the last intimate moments of instruction and wisdom mingled with love and compassion that our Rabbi Jesus offers to his disciples.

This text may invoke a longing to be in agreement with God through prayer: that place where our innermost desires become unified and we long for the same thing. As we become more like Jesus, these desires increasing shift from being externally imposed on us to springing up from a well within.

As we enter into prayer, we may ask ourselves, "am I having faith in God or the outcome of my prayer?"

Mark 11:20-25 (NIV)

20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”

22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

For Reflection and Prayer:

What word(s) or phrase(s) in the passage call out to you?

What prayers has God placed in your heart? What doubts do you have about these prayers? Bring these into conversation with God.

Where are you noticing that your desires are aligning with God's desires? Journal what you notice.

Is anything (or anyone) blocking your freedom to come to God in prayer? Invite God to show you - offering and receiving forgiveness as the Holy Spirit prompts.

Letting Go

The rich young man who wanted to gain eternal life seemed surprised by Jesus' command that he sell all his possessions and give them to the poor. Like him, we too likely have that “one thing” left to release. If only we could simply follow the law, obey the commandments, and keep our “one thing” tucked close to our heart too. But then we see that love look in Jesus’ eyes, and we know we need to choose. They can’t both be our deepest love.
It may sometimes be that we are not aware of what we are holding onto, but, if we become honest with ourselves, we begin to realize that something is holding us back from deeper intimacy with Jesus. If we could simply return Jesus’ gaze, rather than try so hard to become godly, perhaps our grip on that “one thing” would loosen as He lifts us into His arms and into greater freedom.
One thing you can be sure of is that no matter what it is you struggle to let go of, God will never let go of you.

Mark 10:17-31 (The Message)
As he went out into the street, a man came running up, greeted him with great reverence, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus said, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God. You know the commandments: Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, honor your father and mother.” He said, “Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept them all!”
Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! He said, “There’s one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me.” The man’s face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.
Looking at his disciples, Jesus said, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who ‘have it all’ to enter God’s kingdom?” The disciples couldn’t believe what they were hearing, but Jesus kept on: “You can’t imagine how difficult. I’d say it’s easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for the rich to get into God’s kingdom.” That set the disciples back on their heels. “Then who has any chance at all?” they asked. Jesus was blunt: “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it.” Peter tried another angle: “We left everything and followed you.”
Jesus said, “Mark my words, no one who sacrifices house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, land—whatever—because of me and the Message will lose out. They’ll get it all back, but multiplied many times in homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land—but also in troubles. And then the bonus of eternal life! This is once again the Great Reversal: Many who are first will end up last, and the last first.

For Reflection and Prayer:
1. Is there a word, a phrase, or an image that stands out to you? Stay with that and see what else Jesus may speak to you.

2.Take some time to name the “one thing/s left” that makes your heart feel heavy when you consider leaving it behind? Ponder this with Jesus for a while.

3. Are there any ways in which you feel you are vulnerable or tempted to try gain God’s kingdom on your own? If you are comfortable, ask Jesus some questions about this. Can you see how He is gazing at you? Listen to what He might have to say to you. 
Do you sense Jesus’ gaze upon you?  Do you notice what your hands hold closest to your heart? Are you ready to be free of the weight you carry?

When Faith Meets Jesus

It’s a wonder, isn’t it, how available Jesus makes Himself to us? — to all who move toward Him in faith.

In this passage, the dust on Jesus’ sandals speaks the truth of His weariness, and yet when a Greek (Gentile) woman, desperate for her little girl to be freed from an impure spirit, falls at His feet and begs for His healing touch, He listens and responds by driving out the demon.  His authority met her unbridled faith in Him and “She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.”
According to Jewish law this Gentile woman was an “outsider,” but not according to Jesus. She called to Him as her Rabbi, and He answered her, bringing freedom to her child.

His ears are open to the prayer of any who call upon His name in faith. This woman approached Him in her own unique way. How do you tend to approach Jesus?  What do you notice when you do? Does any particular word or image come to mind regarding your encounter with each other?

“Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the presence of faith.”  (author unknown)

 Mark 7:24-30 (NIV)
Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre.  He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.  In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet.  The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

For reflection and prayer:
1. As you listened to the passage, were there any words, phrases, or images that stood out to you?

2. Try to imagine what it would be like to not be able to keep your whereabouts a secret? Dialogue with Jesus about this mutual experience.

3. This Greek (Gentile) woman of faith came to Jesus by falling at His feet and begging. What are some of the ways that you come to Jesus? How does He seem present to you in these encounters? What do you notice about His posture toward you?  And yours toward Him? Are there any word(s) or image(s)  that capture this for you?

Invited to be Known

In our office space hangs a breath-taking painting Jean chose many years ago entitled, "Who Touched Me?" Jesus is portrayed looking towards the nondescript faces of the crowd; searching and seeking to know the one who risked trusting him.  As a community and in our retreats we often return to this passage and lean in to hear Jesus' invitation to us personally. He longs to know us intimately and for us to know ourselves in his presence. Reach out again today to touch him and allow yourself to be known anew.

Mark 5:21-34 NIV
When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
Place yourself in the story. Is there a particular character you are drawn to?

What do you notice? What is stirring within you?

What did you hear as you listened to the text? How did it affect you?

Journal your conversation with Jesus about what you noticed, heard or experienced.

What is it like for you to tell Jesus your whole truth? to be fully known before him?  How does he meet you there?

Because of the Lord's Great Love

As the new year begins this Scripture reminds us to continually call to mind the truth of who God is for us. Often our thoughts can take us into places of despair or discouragement. Remember, God's mercies are new every morning. Each day is a new beginning.

Lamentations 3:19-24 NIV

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yes this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."

  • Lord, what are you pointing at for me in this passage?

  • How is my heart being spoken to in this moment?

  • Where might this word intersect with my life right now?

  • If there is nothing that comes, stay with the sense of being present to God, held close to his heart.