Today, Lord, How many faces will we see? How many words will we read? How much time will we spend with our family and friends? As our fingers type and swipe Bring us, Love, into Your Light. Yours is the Face we want to see when we strike a messaging key. Love listens. Love learns. Love forgives a wrong turn. Love seeks to always find something good – something kind. Love never wants to turn away from what His people have to say. Love gives us space to make a fuss refusing to give up on us. So, today, Lord, may Your Face fill the space between us and our friends. May Your Love from above be our button marked “Send.”
“I want to pray, but I don’t know how.” “Who has time? I sure don’t.” “I just do it while I’m doing things.” Common thoughts for an uncommon practice. Uncommon because prayer is a sacred encounter with the One who created us. A listening for holy whispers. A transforming power to change direction, change one’s heart, and change the world. It’s God’s way of intimacy with us. It’s One being one with us. Leading us. Convicting us. Loving us. So let’s learn about it. I’m SO excited about the series we’re doing at Luke on Sunday mornings: Being with Jesus to be sent out. Each week, along with the sermon, we’re receiving a WayCard. The WayCards contain specific ways to experience intimacy with the One who thinks we’re His best idea ever. For these first ten weeks we’re learning how to be with Jesus. Our being with Him informs out doing for Him. If we don’t get this order right, being before doing, we end up like a chicken running around with her head cut off. Busy, but dead. The following weeks we’ll experience being sent out in ministry of service, finances, and relationships (with particular focus on strengthening our marriages). It’s a breathtaking experience to be with Jesus and to be sent out by Him to help build His kingdom. So, let’s learn how to do it together! You are our King, Lord. We stand in awe that you want to come close to us. Help us create space in our busy lives to love You,. . . to serve You, . . .to just be with You. We adore You, O Christ, now and forever. Amen.
STOP! Please. Before you place any more food in your mouth today, would you take a moment to hear my heart. Yesterday three children came to our LANDers after-school program with their hands on their stomachs. “Please, Ms. Leslie, I’m starving,” one moaned. With tears in her eyes she cried, “I didn’t get to eat breakfast or lunch today. They couldn’t feed us at school. Please let me have snack early today.” As I frantically placed food in their empty hands my precious Frank called a high ranking political servant and asked what was happening. He stated the horrific obvious. “It’s happening all over the country. The government’s shut down.” Blame is of absolutely no benefit here. Democrat or Republican? I could care less. It is our children that grab my heart. They are totally dependent on us to get it right. And so far, we haven’t. Several weeks ago Nancy Hill, an elder at our church, preached a powerful word about prayer. She stated an absolute truth. “Prayer is the easiest and most powerful tool we have at our disposal.” She’s absolutely correct! Blame helps no one. Prayer, on the other hand, releases strong Power, great Wisdom, and a Compassion that weeps and raises the dead. PLEASE. Whether a deal is made today or not, I invite you to place no food in your mouth for the next twenty four hours. Let your growling stomach bring all children across the world to mind. Let the pangs of hunger awaken your soul to pray protection for them. Our children our counting on us to get this right! In our emptiness, Lord, fill us with Your Wisdom, Your Power, and Your Compassion. We adore you O Christ, now and forever! Amen.
Do you ever feel alone? No one understands your pain? No one gets what it’s like to be you? Too much to carry. Too heavy a load. Too tough to handle. Wherever you are – whoever you are – this is for you. God gets you. You were His idea. You were His thought. He thought you were such a good thought that He made you. Very intentionally He made you. You weren’t a mistake. You were an inspiration! He loved the idea of you so much that He crafted you and placed you on this planet to be in a relationship with Him and with those around you. You know that chair you’re sitting in right now – floor you’re standing on – bed you’re resting in? God is more real than any of those, and God is right there to offer you greater support. It’s hard to have a meaningful relationship with someone you can’t see, isn’t it? Right now you can’t see the specific spot on which your body is resting. But you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is supporting you. You can’t see the One who thought you were one of His best ideas ever. But you can see what He created. Take just a second to look at one finger. It’s amazing! It bends, extends bleeds, feels, lifts, points and touches. It contains bones, tissue, tendons, nerve endings, blood vessels and a print that identifies you as you. All that in a few short inches! He’s an amazing God! He loves your finger. He loves that it makes a print – an impression that no one else in the entire world can make. And He loves you! He loves that you are right where you are, making an impression that no one else in the entire world can make. The people around you? They’re there for you to love. No one can love them like you can. That’s why you are there. It will be hard sometimes. Love takes courage and guts. You have to choose to be patient and kind. To not keep a record of their wrongs against you. But the one who gave you that fantastic finger is right there with you. That’s why He’s there. To help you do what He created you to do. Love. You can do it. And most of all . . . so can He! We’re leaning on You, Lord, because You are strong enough, wise enough, powerful enough to catch us when we fall. We adore You, O Christ, now and forever. Amen.
God I love life. I love how wine becomes the blood of Christ and bread breaks into His broken body. Jesus, the Christ, the Living Lord and Loving Savior sits at our table and becomes our banquet. Heads bow. Hands open. We sip. We chew. We remember. . . . . what He did, what He is doing and what He will always do. Starving souls are satisfied. Weary hearts find rest. I love watching water drip down the head of an infant on an altar. God begins the conversation and declares across the universe, “This one is mine. I knew him before he was born. I formed him in his mother’s womb. Nothing absolutely nothing can take him away from My love.” And, the people of God respond. “We promise to live lives that will lead him to Your love.” I love how a man and a woman come together in holy union and end up reflecting the image of God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit become One. A relationship is created to create. Likewise, man and woman become on. And a relationship is created to create. A relationship of giving, not taking. A relationship of receiving, not demanding. I love how God’s breath created a universe that takes our breath away. Its magnificence makes words meaningless. You are amazing, God! Thank you for life . . . . a glimpse of eternity with You. We adore You, O Christ, now and forever. Amen.
We crave to keep our comfort zones. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. Everyday for sixteen years I have driven past Rodeo Drive blissfully oblivious to a “world of without”. As I cling to my things and yearn for yet more, God interrupts my “world of with”. He does it brilliantly. He chooses to use something that is precious to me. Children. They dance into my world through The LANDers, our church’s after-school program for children who have no adult supervision after school. Three of these priceless treasures are brother and sisters. The brother joyfully jumps out of his seat whenever help is needed. His younger sister eagerly runs into my arms the minute she lays eyes on me with the biggest hug and happiest “Ms. Leslie!” Their older sister looks and sings like an angel. When the day ends all three, aged 8-12, join their two high school sisters and sleep in one room. Five children share one bedroom in a dilapidated two bedroom trailer. They inspire and convict me. Crash my comfort zone, Lord. Crash it! Open my eyes to the poverty I comfortably cruise by. Break my heart. Please break it. May their basic needs loom larger than my unneeded wants. Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us. Help us to not fear uncomfortable. Help us embrace the scratchy, rough circumstances you place in our world as opportunities to see something we’ve not been able to see. We adore You, O Christ, now and forever. Amen.
Catastrophes. Crises. Concerns. They insist on being a part of our days. They are exhausting. Distracting. Anxiety producing. Had any of those lately? I sure have. You can’t control them. And you want desperately for them to not control you. But they refuse to be ignored. They tug at your heart and taunt your expectations. “I thought things were okay.” But they’re not. “Everything seemed great.” But it’s not. And so we worry. Fear manifests itself in high blood pressure and sweaty palms. We wonder how things will possibly work out. Solutions sneer and stand beyond our grasp. Then suddenly, unexpectedly enters God. The enormous, all powerful, all knowing, everywhere present God makes His presence known to you and to me. And the demons of despair tremble. A promise shouts across the universe. “ALL THINGS – ALL THINGS” – ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD FOR THOSE WHO LOVE THE LORD!” Romans 8:28 A new reality reveals itself. God is in control. Perfect Love proclaims, “I love you. I’ve got your back. And the ones you love? I’ve got theirs too. Trust me. Keep talking with me about it. I will give you strength to persevere. Wisdom to see what others can’t. And a peace that passes understanding. I will use this for good. As wretched and wrecked as this situation seems, trust Me. I will use it for good.” Help us, Lord. Help us look to You in trust, rather than to circumstances in fear. We adore You, O Christ, now and forever. Amen.
It tastes better than a cup of coffee, a glass of warm milk, or a hot fudge sundae with nuts and whipped cream. A couple of nights ago I realized regretfully that I had forgotten to attend our Study/Prayer Group. Totally bummed I continued the myriad of tasks before me as a gnawing anx began tugging at my soul. Breaking away from my ‘to do’s’, I went outside to walk and wonder. “What is it God? What do you want me to hear?” A spiritual practice came to mind from a recent reading. Centering Prayer. The early desert mother and fathers (ie. 4th century women and men monks who totally captivate my admiration) practiced contemplative prayer as a lifestyle. Today centering prayer provides a means to encounter their transforming experience. I’ve heard about it. But never tried it. That night I tried it. No amount of M&Ms and Diet Coke could have brought the peace and pleasure I experienced in 20 amazing minutes. Recognizing my complete lack of culinary skills this is one of the best recipes I could possibly share with you. Centering Prayer Serves: one weary soul PRESET a timer for 20 minutes CHOOSE one of the words below or your own sacred word of one or two syllables. God, Abba, Jesus, Mary, peace, shalom, prayer, love, stillness, joy … SIT comfortably with eyes closed. and silently, slowly repeat your word. WHEN a “thought, feeling, impression, memory or external stimulus attracts your attention gently return to the sacred word…as if the word were a feather floating softly onto a pillow.” (The Tree of Life, Models of Christian Prayer) SPEAK slowly the Lord’s Prayer at the end of the twenty minutes. YIELDS: one refreshed, centered soul submitted to the Holy Spirit It’s twenty minutes, Lord. It feels impossible. Stir in our hearts a way to do what doesn’t seem doable as we seek to be what we haven’t been for Your glory. We adore You, O Christ, now and forever.