#CoffeeTimePrayer: A painful choice

 

 

Reading: Ruth 1

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

Disappointments are constant. I know, it’s not really the chirpy Monday morning message most people are looking for. To live is to feel, and to feel is to experience pain. Our faith isn’t a safeguard against this, just the opposite, as Brené Brown recently tweeted:

We are all in different stages of labour.

For Ruth the Moabite, her pain – her labour – must have felt like it was at a critical point. Having lost her husband and his brother in quick succession, she was faced with losing both her sister-in-law and beloved mother-in-law as well. All the security and family she had come to know and love would be taken from her in one fell swoop. It’s hard to imagine someone like Ruth being impressed by a chirpy Monday morning message!

In a way, Ruth could have walked away from the pain of the delivery by returning to her own family. There she would find safety and security in her family’s house until she married again. But Ruth decided to stay with Naomi, her mother-in-law, and return with her to Naomi’s family. We often see in the book of Ruth little more than a romance, but Ruth’s decision isn’t motivated by the prospect of Boaz, who wasn’t even in the picture yet; nor just her love for Naomi. Rather, Ruth’s decision was based on her wanting to continue to serve the Lord.

In those days one’s tribal and cultural identities were inextricably woven with religion; all gods were “national gods”, and it wasn’t uncommon for a conquered people to adopt the gods of their conquerors. In Ruth’s mind, staying with Naomi and being part of her people equated to continuing to serve Yahweh, unlike her sister-in-law Orpah, who returned to her people and their gods (Ruth 1:15).

Ruth continued to “labour” in uncertainty and insecurity and poverty, trusting that Naomi’s God – her God – would care for them.

When we’re faced with hurt, we generally want to stitch up the wounds as quickly as possible. I’ve never been in actual labour myself, but I doubt you’d easily find women eager to draw out the experience. We want to expel pain rather than dwell in it. It’s a natural and good impulse.

But I wonder if we sometimes walk away from laborious experiences before we’ve allowed God to midwife them. Rather than deal with our hurts and their causes, we walk away, mistakenly thinking that we’ve dealt with the situation when in reality we’re still carrying it around inside us. A painful but powerful image is that of a woman carrying a stillborn child until labour.

Are we carrying pain around in us instead of allowing God to birth us to new life?

I know: definitely not a chirpy message! But I hope that as this week unfolds, we’ll take a moment to appreciate the relief of delivery, and turn to God to help us through the experience.


Prayer: Lord, I pray that you would bring me delivery from my pain. Help me to release that which burdens me and to experience new life. Amen.

#CoffeeTimePrayer: Being carried

 

 

Read: Jeremiah 10:1-5 NRSV

5 Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,
and they cannot speak;
they have to be carried,
for they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of them,
for they cannot do evil,
nor is it in them to do good.

A while back a friend and I went shopping at a nearby mall, and I volunteered to carry her two-year-old girl for a bit while she wrestled with the shopping trolley. Embarrassingly we’d barely gone a few shops before my arms were aching and I had to relinquish the little girl to the shopping trolley’s toddler seat. I wasn’t used to toting around an excited toddler, and my body quickly let me know it!

I’ve been going through a spiritual dry patch. It’s not impressive – nothing as fancy as a full-on spiritual crisis or a shadowed valley, nothing to write home about – but enough to let me realise, after a while, that my “body” ached from carrying this dry patch around. It’s just bad enough to make me drag-my-feet weary when it comes to spiritual issues: praying, Bible reading, church, relationship, life. It’s a constant “I don’t want to” vs “But I should”.

It’s exhausting, and I’m coming to realise it’s exhausting because I’m the one carrying instead of being carried.

My friend’s two-year-old won’t remember me carrying her that day, but she will recall the sensation of being carried far into her later years. But come adulthood, we often forget just what it feels like to be ferried about by (to our childhood eyes) mostly reliable adults, aloft and almost weightless and above all, safe.

When we feel heavy and weary and burdened, it’s usually because we’re carrying something around we’re not used to carrying around because we’re not supposed to be hauling it from place to place: unforgiveness, anger, doubt, apathy, fear, loneliness, legalism, religion. In the same way that the idols God spoke about are lifeless but for our moving them around and investing them with meaning and purpose, burdens lose their exhaustive power over us if only we would set them down – and instead be lifted up ourselves, safe and immersed in our Father’s arms.

This week marks the beginning of a new month, May. In the southern hemisphere we’re settling in for the first proper month of winter; our neighbours in the northern hemisphere are waking up to summer. Wherever we are, and no matter how heavy we feel, unburden yourself to God and enjoy the sensation of his uplifting you.

Holy Week Mini-Devotions: Easter Sunday

 

 

Read: Psalm 118:1-2, Jeremiah 31:1-6

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
2 Let Israel say:
“His love endures forever.”

Listen: Blessed Assurance – Elevation Worship

Readings: John 20:1-18; Matthew 28:1-10; Colossians 3:1-14

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Pray:

Lord,
Today we stand in the Garden of Gethsemane to find it empty.
You are not there.
All that is left is the light of the moon, holding midnight at bay.

Lord,
Today we stand on the Hill of the Skulls to find it still empty.
You are not there.
All that is left is a sunrise, conquering the darkness of the night.

Lord,
Today we stand outside your tomb to find it still empty.
You are not there.
All that is left in it is darkness, conquered by your light.

Lord,
Today we stand in your light. We are no longer empty
because you are here.
You are what’s left. You live forever.

Holy Week Mini-Devotions: Palm/Passion Sunday

Read: Psalm 118:1-2

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
2 Let Israel say:
“His love endures forever.”

Listen: All Glory Laud and Honor; The Passover Song.

Readings: Matthew 21:1-11, Matthew 27:11-54

8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”


21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.

“Barabbas,” they answered.

22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

Pray/meditate:

Lord, far too often it is we who cry “Hosanna in the highest!”
before demanding the release of Barabbas.
Far too often do we spread fronds over your path,
only to leave you naked on the cross.
Far too often we crown you king
with a crown made of thorns.

We are so fallen, Lord.

We started this Lenten season in ashes,
mindful of those things we value above you
and your service,
mindful of our weaknesses
made perfect in your strength,
mindful of the sinful world
and the light of your kingdom in it.
This week we end Lent in blood:
in your sacrifice given and found perfect,
in your victory over the power of sin and death,
in your restoration and our redemption
(undeserved, often unwanted, but freely given.)

You have risen, Lord.

As we walk this week between the “Hosanna!”
and the “Crucify him!”,
help us to remember all that we’ve forgotten about grace.
Help us to remember the service of your life,
the sacrifice of your death,
the glory of your resurrection,
the power of your ascension,
and the promise of your Kingdom.
As you died, may we die to ourselves;
as you rose, may we rise to life in you.

We are lifted up, Lord.

Amen.


I’ll be posting more devotions on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

#CoffeeTimePrayer: Listening for Jesus’ voice

 

 

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Source.

Today’s reading: John 10:3-5 (NRSV)

 

3 “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

For the past few weeks, our women’s Bible study has been working through Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Mind. One of the lessons we’re learning is just what Jesus describes in John 10:3-5: learning to listen to Jesus’ voice and not to follow the voice of strangers. But I think we can go one step further and commit to not even recognising strangers’ voices.

You’re not good enough. Things will never change. Aren’t you tired of hoping they will? God doesn’t care. You’re such a bad person – a bad mother/a terrible husband/a lost cause. If we recognise these thoughts or their variations it’s because we’ve grown familiar with the enemy’s voice. Often we assume these thoughts – these lies – are just our own voices swirling back at us; another lie!

Learning to recognise and listen to Jesus’ voice is the only way to “unlearn” our recognition of the enemy’s voice. When we focus only on the voice of our Shepherd, other, conflicting voices will fail to reach our ears.

How do we do that? By listening to the voice of our Shepherd through prayer, the study of the Word, contemplation, fasting and worship.

We’re about halfway through Lent. If you haven’t set aside anything special, now may be a good time to pick one of the above practices (or others) and commit to them for the remainder of this Lenten season with the intent of growing more familiar with Jesus’ voice.

We don’t seem to have a problem hearing out the enemy and his poisonous monologues. Similarly, we won’t be able to learn Jesus’ voice unless we listen!

Prayer: Dearest Shepherd Jesus, I listen for your voice. I confess that your voice is the only one I’m interested in hearing! Help me to learn to listen to you, to find your voice in my heart, my prayers, my study and my meditation. Amen.