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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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.

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?

Sounds of Freedom

Again this Christmas, we celebrated the coming of Jesus and we remember again the purpose of his coming: to restore us back to God. In this Psalm, we are given a front row seat to hear the voices of a people who are freed from captivity and brought back home to God. Let us find our own voice within this crowd and join the cry for freedom.

Psalm 126 (AMP)
When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion (Jerusalem),
We were like those who dream [it seemed so unreal].

Then our mouth was filled with laughter
And our tongue with joyful shouting;
Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
 
The Lord has done great things for us;
We are glad!
Restore our [b]captivity, O Lord,
As the stream-beds in the South (the Negev) [are restored by torrents of rain].
 
They who sow in tears shall reap with joyful singing.
 
He who goes back and forth weeping, carrying his bag of seed [for planting],
Will indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

Footnotes:
Psalm 126:4 I.e. the remaining exiles.

For Reflection and Prayer:

What word, a phrase, image, or feeling caught your attention as you listened? Bring it into your prayer with Jesus. Journal what Jesus says in response to you.

How have you experienced being restored from captivity?  Reflect on your experience; either your lifetime or this past year. Bring your reflections before God in prayer.

Perhaps your longings reveal a desire for new freedom. Ask God to give you courage to listen and discern what they may be revealing. Ask God to meet you in your longings.

Does a spontaneous response arise within you to God? To sing or dance or make music or write or any kind of art form? What ways of expression of worship flow from your marvelous design?

Living Large

Psalm 138, a resounding "thank you" to God, reminds us again just how good the Good News truly is. God is ever the initiator. And we always have the choice of our response. The moment we accept God's invitation by calling out, God steps in and "makes our life large with strength" (TMG).

May you be encouraged by these words of testimony spoken by those around the table:

"It's so no all up to me"
"The Lord will work out his plans for my life - I'm resting in that"
"Thank you God for cutting off this shackle in my life"
"Both hands hold me"
"I really like being alive in Christ"
"For me it used to be that if it was not all good, it's not good. Now I am thankful"
"I'm anticipating the Advent of God's grace afresh this year"
"I can fall and rest in God's presence"

May the Spirit meet you as you dwell with Psalm 138.

Psalm 138 (NLT)
1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with all my heart;
    I will sing your praises before the gods.
2 I bow before your holy Temple as I worship.
    I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness;
for your promises are backed
    by all the honor of your name.
3 As soon as I pray, you answer me;
    you encourage me by giving me strength.
4 Every king in all the earth will thank you, LORD,
    for all of them will hear your words.
5 Yes, they will sing about the LORD’s ways,
    for the glory of the LORD is very great.
6 Though the LORD is great, he cares for the humble,
    but he keeps his distance from the proud.
7 Though I am surrounded by troubles,
    you will protect me from the anger of my enemies.
You reach out your hand,
    and the power of your right hand saves me.
8 The LORD will work out his plans for my life—
    for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever.
    Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

For Reflection and Prayer:

What word, a phrase, image, or feeling caught your attention as you listened? Bring it into your prayer. Journal what Jesus says in response to you.

What gratitude arises out of your whole heart towards God? What are you most thankful for in this season? Consider the smallest of things you are grateful for and make your own gift list.

Where have you experienced God making your life “large with strength”? Is there a place now within you which cries out for this again to God? Bring it into your prayer.
 

Hope of Glory

To them (and us) God has chosen to make known
among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery,
which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Colossians 1:27


The Hebrew word for glory is kabod and it's root signifies "weighty", that is, something of real substance. God's glory is more to be contemplated and experienced than to be comprehended analytically.

Consider the weightiness of Christ in you, the hope of glory as you meditate on this Psalm.

To the praise of His glory...

Psalm 8 (NLT)   Dialogue of Love with God
O LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!
    Your glory is higher than the heavens.
2 You have taught children and infants
    to tell of your strength,
silencing your enemies
    and all who oppose you.
3 When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
    the moon and the stars you set in place—
4 what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
    human beings that you should care for them?
5 Yet you made them only a little lower than God
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You gave them charge of everything you made,
    putting all things under their authority—
7 the flocks and the herds
    and all the wild animals,
8 the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
    and everything that swims the ocean currents.
9 O LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

For Reflection and Prayer:
glory - kabod (Hebrew) –  root “weighty”
glory – doxa (Greek NT) – “reputation”

What word, a phrase, image, or feeling caught your attention as you listened? Bring it into your prayer. Journal what you hear the Holy Spirit saying to you.

Where have you recognized God’s glory? Around you? Before you? Inside you? Pause and allow yourself to be captivated by God’s glory. Be still and savor God’s glory.

Where are you currently seeing the “work of God’s fingers” or wish you would see evidence of them? Bring this into your prayer and listen for God’s words back to you.

Write your own love poem of admiration to God.

Our Fight Song

Our fight song sounds much different from the popular methods of the world for we do not battle in the flesh. There is One who fights for us. As we learn to be still, pray, trust, speak truth, worship and dwell with God, we experience God doing battle on our behalf.

For many, this is a go-to Psalm for spiritual battle, oppression and contending prayer. Learn this song, and sing it often.

His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

Psalm 91 (NLT)

1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the LORD:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
4 He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
7 Though a thousand fall at your side,
    though ten thousand are dying around you,
    these evils will not touch you.
8 Just open your eyes,
    and see how the wicked are punished.
9 If you make the LORD your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
    you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
14 The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”

For Reflection and Prayer:

What word, a phrase, image, or feeling caught your attention as you listened? Bring it into your prayer.

Reflect on how or when have you experienced God fighting battle for you or sheltering you.

If you were to form this Psalm into a song, how would it sound? What elements, rhythm, tone, theme, melody, harmony, voice and/or form would you use? How would God’s voice to you sound within it?

 

God's Loyal Love

God’s Loyal Love

        God
        Of all,
        Divine
        Spirit of our
        Lives,
        Only
        You
        Are
        Loyal
        Love.
        Only You
forgiVe our guilt as far as the
        East is from the West.

© Brenda Henry

Psalm 103:1-12 (NET)
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
With all that is within me, praise his holy name!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
Do not forget all his kind deeds!
He is the one who forgives all your sins,
who heals all your diseases,
who delivers your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with his loyal love and compassion,
who satisfies your life with good things,
so your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.
The Lord does what is fair,
and executes justice for all the oppressed.
The Lord revealed his faithful acts to Moses,
his deeds to the Israelites.
The Lord is compassionate and merciful;
He is patient and demonstrates great loyal love.
He does not always accuse,
and does not stay angry.
He does not deal with us as our sins deserve;
He does not repay us as our misdeeds deserve.
For as the skies are high above the earth,
so his loyal love towers over his faithful followers.
As far as the eastern horizon is from the west,
so He removes the guilt of our rebellious actions from us.


For Prayer and Reflection:
Is there a word, a phrase, or an image that stands out to you? What else do you notice as you and Jesus stay with that?

What kind deeds of Jesus come to your mind as you listen? Or, what is it about God’s loyal love that captivates you?

What comes to mind when you consider God’s justice?

The Gate of Our Hearts

If we believe that we are the temple where God's Holy Spirit dwells, what might the gate which allows entrance to our hearts be like? Is it elegant and ornate to passerby's? Is it fortified with locks, chains and bars of iron? Can the gate be opened? And who will open it?
Ponder anew and enter that gate today. And may God give us the courage to trust his goodness and enduring love when we cannot see or feel it. 

This is what the Lord says...I will smash down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness-secret riches...Isaiah 45:2-3

Psalm 100 (NIV)

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
     Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
 Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Footnotes:
Psalm 100:3 Or and not we ourselves

For Reflection and Prayer:

What word, phrase, image, or feeling caught your attention as you listened? Bring it into your prayer with Jesus. Journal what Jesus says to you in response.

How does your soul want to respond to God in worship? What forms of worship seemed heartfelt to you in the past? Are there different (to you) forms of worship which you feel drawn to now?

When has God shown his goodness or enduring love to you? Perhaps you want to journal the details. Savor and linger with what the Holy Spirit brings to mind.

Bring to God your own thanksgiving list. What do you notice?