The Initiator of Our Belonging

Whether we find ourselves in exile, an outcast, or seeking refuge of any kind, these words of Isaiah cause us to exhale deeply and remember that our God is interceding and intervening on behalf of our identity. Savor a word or phrase from this passage and come back to it often this week. Notice what happens within your spirit, your breath and your shoulders as you dwell with these words. May God’s shalom wash over you.

Isaiah 62:1-5 NLT

Because I love Zion, I will not keep still.

Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent.

I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn,

and her salvation blazes like a burning torch.

The nations will see your righteousness. World leaders will be blinded by your glory.

And you will be given a new name by the LORD’s own mouth.

The LORD will hold you in his hand for all to see—a splendid crown in the hand of God.

Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.”

Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,”

for the LORD delights in you and will claim you as his bride.

Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem,

just as a young man commits himself to his bride.

Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.

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 God yearning for you; delighting in you. Where have you noticed this in your life? Where do you most long for God to delight in you? Bring these reflections into your prayer.

Rest quietly for a few minutes in any consoling words or pictures given to you.

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Dressed From the Inside Out

Everyday, essential wisdom - that’s what we find in these few verses from Colossians. These are truths to linger in; truths we need to make room to soak into our soul and heal us. It can be tempting to take a willful approach to dressing ourselves in the character of Christ. Yet the kind of clothing mentioned here is the kind the Spirit forms in us over time, from the inside out. Certainly our willing cooperation is needed in dressing in God clothes. Often we need someone to see and recognize these qualities within ourselves. Their eyes and voices help us grow into our God clothes.
Love looks beautiful on you!

Colossians 3:12-17 NLT
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

Colossians 3:12-17 TMG
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

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? (Agitated, confused, peaceful, joy-filled, hopeful, anger, nothing, etc.?)

Would you be willing to speak to Jesus about these feelings? You might express your gratitude, doubt, wonder, love, confusion, etc. to him. Linger in the presence of Jesus.

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Do You Love Me?

Once again, we witness Jesus giving himself to his disciples. He intimately knows how weary these fishermen are. He knows they need to rest and be restored before they are sent out again. So he gives of himself, his body, symbolized by the bread to feed and nourish his friends. Christ feeds these dear ones with his presence as a tangible embodiment of his love. The natural response is to deepen the bond of loving trust. The conversation Jesus shares with Peter serves to strengthen the connection between nourishment and love. We love the One who satisfies our soul.

John 21:12-17 (NLT)

“Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish. 14 This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead.

15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”

“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”

“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.

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.

How do you hear the tone of Jesus’ voice here? What do you notice? How does it affect your experience of prayer with Jesus?

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

The Father Loves You Dearly

Plain talk: the Father loves you dearly.
It's that simple.
For many of us, it seems to take nearly a lifetime or an unbearable sorrow or an excruciating trial to come to know this in the depths of our being. Yet this is the love which heals, comforts and transforms us at our core where head knowledge becomes heart knowledge. Be extremely gentle and compassionate with yourself in the process. We cannot make ourselves get there. Yet we can, moment by moment, surrender to the love of the Father and rely on God's love to take us there.

John 16:25-33 (NLT)
 “I have spoken of these matters in figures of speech, but soon I will stop speaking figuratively and will tell you plainly all about the Father. 26 Then you will ask in my name. I’m not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf, 27 for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God. 28 Yes, I came from the Father into the world, and now I will leave the world and return to the Father.”
29 Then his disciples said, “At last you are speaking plainly and not figuratively. 30 Now we understand that you know everything, and there’s no need to question you. From this we believe that you came from God.”
31 Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe? 32 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

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? Pause to listen to it. Bring it into your prayer

Is there a place where you are feeling scattered or alone? What do you need from God in that place?

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

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Making Yourself At Home in God's Love

Remaining in love and obedience can seem like an odd pairing of commands, especially according to the standards of the world. Yet there is deep wisdom in these words of Jesus. He knows that to obey is to listen -- really listen and hear the heart of his Father in the words of his Father. By remaining at home in his Father's love, Jesus heard the will of his Father. That love fueled his choice and power to act in love, ultimately laying down his life for his friends, including us.

John 15:9-17 (NLT)
  “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

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 feelings – either comfortable or uncomfortable - are rising up in you as you listen to this text? Gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus. Listen for how he meets you in these feelings.

Sketch or color a picture of what “remaining” might look like for you.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God’s compassion for you.

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Love Each Other

Still gathered around the supper table, sharing the Passover meal, Jesus has more to say to his endeared and deeply love disciples. Like a parent consistently gathering the children around the table to share nourishment and life together, Jesus emphasizes what he most wants them to know. Love each other. Love the ones you are with. Love the ones before you. Discover what love means in the real: the good, the bad, the messy, the ugly, the joys, the sorrows, the pain.

John 13:31-38 (NLT)
As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. 32 And since God receives glory because of the Son, he will give his own glory to the Son, and he will do so at once. 33 Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going. 34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
36 Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?”
And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.”
37 “But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.”
38 Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What did you hear as you listened to the text? Did a word or phrase stand out in particular? Meditate on this word, phrase or picture. Is there more God wants to say to you?

This passage might guide you into an examen form of prayer. Where did I receive/give the most love today? Where did I receive/give the least love today? Prayerfully reflect and answer these questions without judgement and bring them into conversation with God.

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

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What If...You Did Not Fear Rejection?

What will you choose if you do not fear rejection? Would you be free to choose life? To believe the evidence of renewal you see? The work of God's outstretched arm? Pay attention this week to the subtle places where you notice your fear of rejection. Be kind, gentle and non-judgemental of this fear. Welcome it and allow it to tell you it's story. Bring it into your prayer.  Talk it over with God. Listen for God's response to you. Allow Jesus' words to soak into your spirit:
"I don't reject you"
"You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you"

John 12:37-50 MSG
All these God-signs he had given them and they still didn’t get it, still wouldn’t trust him. This proved that the prophet Isaiah was right:
God, who believed what we preached?
Who recognized God’s arm, outstretched and ready to act?
First they wouldn’t believe, then they couldn’t—again, just as Isaiah said:
Their eyes are blinded,
    their hearts are hardened,
So that they wouldn’t see with their eyes
    and perceive with their hearts,
And turn to me, God,
    so I could heal them.
41 Isaiah said these things after he got a glimpse of God’s cascading brightness that would pour through the Messiah.
42-43 On the other hand, a considerable number from the ranks of the leaders did believe. But because of the Pharisees, they didn’t come out in the open with it. They were afraid of getting kicked out of the meeting place. When push came to shove they cared more for human approval than for God’s glory.
44-46 Jesus summed it all up when he cried out, “Whoever believes in me, believes not just in me but in the One who sent me. Whoever looks at me is looking, in fact, at the One who sent me. I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won’t have to stay any longer in the dark.
47-50 “If anyone hears what I am saying and doesn’t take it seriously, I don’t reject him. I didn’t come to reject the world; I came to save the world. But you need to know that whoever puts me off, refusing to take in what I’m saying, is willfully choosing rejection. The Word, the Word-made-flesh that I have spoken and that I am, that Word and no other is the last word. I’m not making any of this up on my own. The Father who sent me gave me orders, told me what to say and how to say it. And I know exactly what his command produces: real and eternal life. That’s all I have to say. What the Father told me, I tell you.”
I say whatever the Father tells me to say.”

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.

Consider the context and tone which you are hearing this text in. Who has God revealed his powerful arm to? Who has seen God’s power? How have you seen God’s power?

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 Fragrance of Love Poured Out

Seated among his dearest friends, Jesus displays his vulnerability and receives the grace of love poured out upon him by Mary.  In a hushed and poignant act of intimacy, Jesus risks living openly and vulnerably with both those who are trustworthy and those who are not. Love is costly, both to give and to receive. The extravagance of this gift is noted in the text but what of the smell itself? The whole home was filled with the fragrance of nard which in a Hebrew home would have been associated with the temple and death. Jesus, what does this poured out love on you look like and smell like in our own homes?

John 12:1-11 (NLT)
Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. 2 A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. 3 Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.
4 But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, 5 “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” 6 Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself.
7 Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
9 When all the people heard of Jesus’ arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead. 10 Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, 11 for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus.

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. Journal what you hear and your response.

This passage lends itself well to immersing yourself in the story. It is filled with sights, sounds, smells and tastes. Notice what captures your attention and stay with it for a while. Savor your interaction with Jesus and rest in any consolation he brings.

The intimacy of this family reunion is palpable. What longings rise up in you as you observe this family with Jesus? Write about them in your journal.

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When Love Looks Like Delay

I am drawn into this intimate family scene involving Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Jesus. How profoundly they must have known and trusted the love of one another that the women sent word to Jesus of their brothers' dreadful sickness. What must it have been like for these women and the very sick man to wait for days for Jesus to 'care enough' to come and respond to their urgent need? I can feel the angst and helplessness they likely felt - waiting, hoping, trusting that Jesus would come. Did they feel ignored, betrayed, or abandoned as they waited and watched their brother slip away? This passage invites us to get very real with God as we identify and name our own places where God does not seem to respond to our urgent need. Be gentle with yourself as you bring those times into your prayer with God. Notice how God's compassionate love meets you. If it is overwhelming to be in this place of need, gently return to a safe and loving place you have experienced God's presence before. Allow that memory to strengthen you into the permanence and steadfastness of God's love.

John 11:1-10 (NLT)
A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. 2 This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. 3 So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.”
4 But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” 5 So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, 6 he stayed where he was for the next two days. 7 Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.”
8 But his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?”
9 Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. 10 But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light.”

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

Rest in quiet trust in Jesus’ loving presence. Savor any consoling words or pictures given to you.

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When Compassion Clothes Shame

In the midst of the religious exposition and exploitation of a highly vulnerable woman, we witness Jesus' embodied compassion in action. He is literally and figuratively teaching us how he goes about clothing the naked vulnerability of shame. We hear and see how Jesus responds in word and action to accusers.

This passage may trigger a traumatic response in those who have been exploited in similar ways. If this is you, be most compassionate with yourself. Ground and care for yourself in this present moment by placing your feet on the ground, tapping your arms and taking some deep, calming breaths. If you can, seek to find a safe place in your prayer where you most connect with the loving compassion of Jesus. Always you have freedom to step away from the prayer if that is what you need.

John 8:1-11 (NLT)
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
11 “No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

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 feelings – either comfortable or uncomfortable - are rising up in you as you listen to this story? Gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus. Listen for how he meets you in these feelings. Ask for what you need. Ground yourself in the present moment.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God’s compassion for you.