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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Surprised by Christ's Presence

Has Jesus ever startled you? Suddenly showed up in a place or situation you weren’t expecting? Join the disciples behind the locked doors in this passage and experience with them as they behold a living, breathing, healed Jesus. Receive His peace. Feel His breath. Ponder the power of healed wounds.

John 20:19-23 NLT

That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. 20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

For Reflection and Prayer:

If something captured your attention - a word, a phrase, an image - let this simmer in you and allow the Spirit to expand its meaning for you.

Notice any place of consolation or desolation that you experienced as you listened and allow the Trinity to minister to you there.

This text is full of tactile and sensory observations. How is it for you to place yourself in this story? Which of your senses are affected? Bring this affect into conversation with Jesus.

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Encouraged to Ask

Somewhere along the way, many of us became afraid to ask - afraid to ask for clarification and understanding, afraid to ask for what we need, afraid to ask for help, and afraid to ask because we might be shamed for asking. Jesus affirms our need to ask questions of one another, of him and especially of his Father. Let's bring our questions. Allow ourselves to be known in our questions. Feel our need and dependence on God. Listen for the Father's heart in the answer which comes and in the waiting for an answer which can seem like forever. Then let's watch to see what happens to our joy.

John 16: 17-24 (NLT)
Some of the disciples asked each other, “What does he mean when he says, ‘In a little while you won’t see me, but then you will see me,’ and ‘I am going to the Father’? 18 And what does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand.”
19 Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. 20 I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. 21 It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. 22 So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. 23 At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. 24 You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, a phrase, or an image that stood out as you listened? Linger there awhile with Jesus.
Consider your familiarity with grief and with joy and how the Lord feels present to you there. What do you notice? Do any invitations rise to the surface?

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Hope for Restoration

These words from Isaiah evoke a longing in us for restoration - to be back again in the garden with God as all was created and intended to be. This is the place where our soul longs to dwell and make its home with God. God has placed this hope in our hearts for what is to come and enables us to live in this hope right now, regardless of our circumstance.

As a new year is upon us, what are you hoping for? Who and what are you placing your hope in? And what hope for restoration has the Holy Spirit placed within you? May the Lord strengthen your hands and encourage you to stand so that you may walk upright in this hope placed within you.

Isaiah 35 (NLT)
Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days.
    The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
2 Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy!
The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon,
    as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon.
There the Lord will display his glory, the splendor of our God.
3 With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands,
    and encourage those who have weak knees.
4 Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.”
5 And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind
    and unplug the ears of the deaf.
6 The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!
Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland.
7 The parched ground will become a pool,
 and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land.
Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived.
8 And a great road will go through that once deserted land.
    It will be named the Highway of Holiness.
Evil-minded people will never travel on it.
    It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there.
9 Lions will not lurk along its course, nor any other ferocious beasts.
There will be no other dangers. Only the redeemed will walk on it.
10 Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return.
    They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy.
Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.

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.

What longing rose up in your heart as you listened? How do you feel this holy longing in your body? Gently bring this awareness into your prayer.

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

Liberation Comes

Isaiah reminds us poignantly that the "tidings of comfort and joy" proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds includes the promise of physical and spiritual liberation. This promise of freedom extends to all people: the poor, the brokenhearted, the captive prisoner, and the mourner.

Can we possibly imagine and join with Jesus in the liberation of our own hearts and those of our families, our neighborhoods, our cities?

Come, Lord Jesus. Come. Revive us again.

Isaiah 61:1-4. 8-9NLT
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me,
    for the LORD has anointed me
    to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
    and to proclaim that captives will be released
    and prisoners will be freed.
2 He has sent me to tell those who mourn
    that the time of the LORD’s favor has come,
    and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
3 To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the LORD has planted for his own glory.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins,
    repairing cities destroyed long ago.
They will revive them,
    though they have been deserted for many generations.
8 “For I, the LORD, love justice.
    I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
I will faithfully reward my people for their suffering
    and make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants will be recognized
    and honored among the nations.
Everyone will realize that they are a people
    the LORD has blessed.”

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

Reflect on your experience of liberation described in the text. Is there something you want to say to Jesus? Journal your conversation.

What rebuilding projects have you seen God do in your life or would like to see?

Taste and See

Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
    no shadow of shame will darken their faces.  Ps. 34:5

Could that which we taste and see actually bring this kind of joy and freedom? Surely, we are shaped and formed by what we give our senses to.

As you pray with this Psalm, ask the Holy Spirit to shift your gaze upon God and taste of God's presence in your circumstances right now. The good news is that God has the power to work this transformation of joy and freedom from shame in us.

Psalm 34

I will praise the LORD at all times.
    I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the LORD;
    let all who are helpless take heart.
Come, let us tell of the LORD’s greatness;
    let us exalt his name together.
I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me.
    He freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
    no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
In my desperation I prayed, and the LORD listened;
    he saved me from all my troubles.
For the angel of the LORD is a guard;
    he surrounds and defends all who fear him.
Taste and see that the LORD is good.
    Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
Fear the LORD, you his godly people,
    for those who fear him will have all they need.
Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry,
    but those who trust in the LORD will lack no good thing.

For Prayer and Reflection:
•    What phrase or word spoke to you as you listened/read?
•    When have you particularly felt God’s presence in times of joy or in times of desperation?
•    How do you “see and taste” the Lord?
•    Talk to Jesus about this text. What do you hear Him say?

An Earnest Search

I wonder if the evidence of an earnest search for God is to know the security of His hand holding us up, even as we seem to be looking elsewhere. I wonder if our thirsts and longings might sometimes be satisfied before we even realize it. It’s a provocative question, isn’t it?—Am I already resting on the fulcrum of my earnest search? Am I already settled into “Oh, God, you are my God”?
What do you sense in your earnest search?

© Brenda Henry

Psalm 63:1-8 (NLT)
O God, you are my God;
    I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
    my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
    where there is no water.

I have seen you in your sanctuary
    and gazed upon your power and glory.
 
Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
    how I praise you!
 
I will praise you as long as I live,
    lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
 
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
    I will praise you with songs of joy.
 
I lie awake thinking of you,
    meditating on you through the night.
 
Because you are my helper,
    I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
 
I cling to you;
    your strong right hand holds me securely.

For Prayer and Reflection:
Was there a word, phrase, or an image that captured your attention? What is its invitation to you?

Imagine yourself in one or more of the postures represented here (searching, thirsting, longing, gazing, praising, lying awake, singing, clinging, etc.). What is Jesus' posture towards you as you sit with him in that?

What satisfies you?

 

My Delight

Pause. Remember. Savor. Delight.

What might it be like to be the focus of someone's delight? Can you imagine being enjoyed simply for being you? no earning? no striving? no perfecting? Just being.

This text invites us to return our gaze upon the One who gazes upon us with all delight. Notice that gaze upon you afresh today.

Psalm 16 (NIV)

Keep me safe, my God,
    for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
    “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
    I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
    or take up their names on my lips.
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, a phrase, image, or feeling that shimmered as you listened? Bring it into your prayer with Jesus. Perhaps you want to draw or color your prayer.

Ask God, "How are you delighting in me right now? What do you see in me that brings you such joy?" Journal what you hear or see.

In your prayer, picture your boundary lines. Where is God? Have a conversation about your needs with God. Where and how are you noticing God’s provision and care for you?

Reflect on your day, asking the Holy Spirit to bring to your mind where you experienced the most joy. Where did you experience the least joy? Bring your reflections and ‘noticings’ into your prayer with God. Is there more that God wants to say to you through either or both experiences?

Our Identity As Beloved

It is significant for our life to be able to absorb that as Christ is, so we also are in relationship with God. We are beloved. God is so pleased with us and takes great joy in us as we take steps that demonstrate our desire for God.

In this passage, as also with us, hearing and experiencing who we are as God's beloved as God's Spirit whispers into our soul, gives us courage and capacity to know how to stand in the face of deception, temptation, fears and anxieties. God's love and Spirit grounds us in our identity.  God's Word speaks truth to us and God's angels minister to us.

Mark 1:9-13 NLT
One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting part and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a  dove. And a voice from heaven said, "You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy."

The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What did you hear as you listened? A word? A phrase?
How is your heart being spoken to at this moment?
What is God's invitation for you through what you heard?
What is your response/question?