Naming Our Shame Story

Today’s short text is set near the end of a 500-year story. The Hebrew people were rescued from starvation by entering into Egypt only to be delivered out of the ensuing Egyptian slavery into freedom. On the eve of taking possession of the promised land, the Israelites, are about to taste and eat of its abundance.

As you enter this story in prayer, your own story of shame may surface - or it may be the shame story of your people, your family, community or nation. Gently hold whatever emerges in your prayer before God who continually leads us out of narrow places (Egypt) in our minds, hearts and habits into His expansive places of freedom (the promised land).

Those who the son sets free, will be free indeed…John 8:36

Joshua 5:9-12 (NLT)
Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the shame of your slavery in Egypt.” So that place has been called Gilgal to this day.

10 While the Israelites were camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, they celebrated Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month. 11 The very next day they began to eat unleavened bread and roasted grain harvested from the land. 12 No manna appeared on the day they first ate from the crops of the land, and it was never seen again. So from that time on the Israelites ate from the crops of Canaan.

For Reflection and Prayer:
If there was a word, a phrase, or an image that sought your attention as you listened, stay with it and listen deeper with Jesus.

If you noticed any place of tension, or some other sensation, in your body as you listened, gently follow it with Jesus.

Journal about your longing or experience of shame being rolled away in your life. Give that story a name.

Quietly rest in the presence of the Lord with any comfort or consolation given to you.

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For What Does Your Soul Thirst?

Thirst - physical, emotional, relational, spiritual - we all have it, even before we feel it. Jesus, the one who offered streams of living water to slake our thirst, he felt thirst too. Vulnerable, naked, poured out - he speaks of his thirst on the cross. He goes before us, identifying and naming our human condition, without shame. It’s ok to be thirsty. What if we entrusted our thirst to him?

Isaiah 55:1-9 NLT
“Is anyone thirsty?
Come and drink—
even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
it’s all free!
2 Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
You will enjoy the finest food.
3 “Come to me with your ears wide open.
Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.
4 See how I used him to display my power among the peoples.
I made him a leader among the nations.
5 You also will command nations you do not know,
and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey,
because I, the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.”
6 Seek the LORD while you can find him.
Call on him now while he is near.
7 Let the wicked change their ways
and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them.
Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.
8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

For Reflection and Prayer:

What caught your attention as you listened to the text? Have a conversation with Jesus about what you heard.

Was there a particular feeling you experienced as you listened? Bring that feeling into your prayer. How do you need Jesus to meet you in that feeling?

Reflect on where you are noticing your thirst or hunger for God. What is truly nourishing it? Offer up your need in prayer.

Be still and savor any consoling words or pictures in your prayer.

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Pastor Laura VanNorman preached on Jesus’ words, “I thirst”. Listen here for a poignant teaching and reflection on two of Jesus’ last words before his death.

I Will Take Care of You

“I will take care of you” - oh, how we long to hear the essence of these words in one form or another. How often do we silently base our hope on someone doing just that for us? A parent, a spouse, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a sibling, a friend, a child? These are weighty expectations.

This is a weighty story of Joseph, his family and the God who is bigger than family relations, the weather, economic conditions, and earthly kingdoms. As you pray with this passage, invite God to deepen your knowing - knowing the God who truly takes care of you.

Genesis 45:1-15 (NLT)
Joseph could stand it no longer. There were many people in the room, and he said to his attendants, “Out, all of you!” So he was alone with his brothers when he told them who he was. 2 Then he broke down and wept. He wept so loudly the Egyptians could hear him, and word of it quickly carried to Pharaoh’s palace.

3 “I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them. 4 “Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. 5 But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. 6 This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. 8 So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt.

9 “Now hurry back to my father and tell him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me master over all the land of Egypt. So come down to me immediately! 10 You can live in the region of Goshen, where you can be near me with all your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and everything you own. 11 I will take care of you there, for there are still five years of famine ahead of us. Otherwise you, your household, and all your animals will starve.’”

12 Then Joseph added, “Look! You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that I really am Joseph! 13 Go tell my father of my honored position here in Egypt. Describe for him everything you have seen, and then bring my father here quickly.” 14 Weeping with joy, he embraced Benjamin, and Benjamin did the same. 15 Then Joseph kissed each of his brothers and wept over them, and after that they began talking freely with him.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Using all of your senses, place yourself in the story. 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.

Does a word, phrase or image catch your attention you as you listen to or slowly read the text? Gently reflect on it in your prayer. Journal your conversation with God.

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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Truth To Sink Our Roots Into

These words penned by Jeremiah are like bedrock which can hold our roots of faith. They affirm our identity, sense of belonging and purpose. Give yourself the gift of a slow steep in these phrases. What affirmation do you most long to hear from God today?

Jeremiah 1:4-10 NLT

The LORD gave me this message:
“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.
Before you were born I set you apart
and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”
“O Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”
The LORD replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the LORD, have spoken!” Then the LORD reached out and touched my mouth and said,
“Look, I have put my words in your mouth!
Today I appoint you to stand up
against nations and kingdoms.
Some you must uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow.
Others you must build up and plant.”

Listening Prayer – An Experience of Lectio Divina

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 in God’s tender embrace. 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 listening time with you. If you desire it, ask him to cause that change to happen by the Spirit’s power and your cooperative action working together from this point.

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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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Come Holy Spirit

God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:5

Today’s text reminds us of the Father announcing his affirmation and blessing upon his son Jesus at his baptism as the Holy Spirit descends upon him like a dove. However mysterious is the action of the Holy Spirit, it does seem that the Father wants our communities to bear witness to the Spirit’s presence and action in our lives. Sometimes we need others to lay hands on us, pray with us and help us see the Spirit who has been given to us.

Acts 8:14-17 (NLT)

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted God’s message, they sent Peter and John there. 15 As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit. 16 The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8:14-17 (TMG)

When the apostles in Jerusalem received the report that Samaria had accepted God’s Message, they sent Peter and John down to pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit. Up to this point they had only been baptized in the name of the Master Jesus; the Holy Spirit hadn’t yet fallen on them. Then the apostles laid their hands on them and they did receive the Holy Spirit.

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.

Reflect upon how you have experienced the Holy Spirit in your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you where you may have missed the Presence. Journal what comes to mind.

Where are you longing to witness the Holy Spirit at work in your life? Bring this longing into your prayer. As the prayer comes to a close, give yourself some time to surrender in quiet trust that the Spirit is in you and with you.

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Hope for the Homecoming

Amid tremendous darkness and despair in a time of exile, Isaiah speaks to the hope that is ours. The text gives us pause to wonder, what might our coming home to God be like today? And on that glorious day when Christ comes back in person to dwell with us here on earth? Notice the longings which rise up within you as you pray with this passage. Ask the Holy Spirit to enlarge your hope.

Isaiah 60:1-6 NLT

“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see.

For the glory of the LORD rises to shine on you.

2 Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth,

but the glory of the LORD rises and appears over you.

3 All nations will come to your light;

mighty kings will come to see your radiance.

4 “Look and see, for everyone is coming home!

Your sons are coming from distant lands;

your little daughters will be carried home.

5 Your eyes will shine,

and your heart will thrill with joy,

for merchants from around the world will come to you.

They will bring you the wealth of many lands.

6 Vast caravans of camels will converge on you,

the camels of Midian and Ephah.

The people of Sheba will bring gold and frankincense

and will come worshiping the LORD.

For Your Reflection and Prayer:
What word, phrase or picture stood out to you as you listened to the text? Bring this into your conversation with God.

Which emotion rises up within you as you meditate on this passage? Where do you feel it in your body? Gently welcome it and bring it into your prayer.

Rest in any consoling words or images given to you in your prayer.

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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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All the Light We Need to Live In

Waiting in Advent is an invitation to keep looking for the light. This life of faith asks us to trust that our God will be faithful to provide all the light we need for where we are right now, in this present moment. Sometimes we are given glimmers of light upon the horizon and even then we do not always perceive it with our eyes. Sometimes it is a knowing in our spirit. And sometimes it seems as if it is only the Spirit which propels us to follow it. This is the vulnerable life of faith. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit will provide all the light we need to live in.

Isaiah 42:1-9 (TMG)
“Take a good look at my servant. I’m backing him to the hilt.
He’s the one I chose, and I couldn’t be more pleased with him.
I’ve bathed him with my Spirit, my life. He’ll set everything right among the nations.
He won’t call attention to what he does with loud speeches or gaudy parades.
He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant, but he’ll steadily and firmly set things right.
He won’t tire out and quit. He won’t be stopped
until he’s finished his work—to set things right on earth.
Far-flung ocean islands wait expectantly for his teaching.”

GOD’s Message, the God who created the cosmos, stretched out the skies,
laid out the earth and all that grows from it,
Who breathes life into earth’s people, makes them alive with his own life:
“I am GOD. I have called you to live right and well.
I have taken responsibility for you, kept you safe.
I have set you among my people to bind them to me,
and provided you as a lighthouse to the nations,
To make a start at bringing people into the open, into light:
opening blind eyes,
releasing prisoners from dungeons,
emptying the dark prisons.
I am GOD. That’s my name. I don’t franchise my glory, don’t endorse the no-god idols.
Take note: The earlier predictions of judgment have been fulfilled.
I’m announcing the new salvation work.
Before it bursts on the scene, I’m telling you all about it.”

Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.” John 8:12

The City doesn’t need sun or moon for light. God’s Glory is its light, the Lamb its lamp! The nations will walk in its light and earth’s kings bring in their splendor. Rev. 21:24

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.

Reflect on your own experience of light and darkness. How do you experience Christ with you in darkness and in the light? Bring this into your prayer.

Savor any consoling words or images given to you. Pause to rest in God’s care.

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