Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Homelessness and Poverty


Homeless God-Man,
We pray for those who, like you, 
have no place to lay their heads.

We repent for ignoring your beloved ones,
And writing them off as worthless.

We don’t understand why people who struggle
With mental illness,
Disease,
And poverty
Must also suffer through the shame and embarrassment
That comes with the lack of basic resources.

We repent of our complacency
And pray that you will work through us,
So that we may show all people
The same radical, 
creative love you have shown to us.
Amen



Written by Rev. Trent Elders


__________
The above prayer shared from:

Monday, September 10, 2018

Storms a comin'

Caution
Concern
Worry
Bottled water sold out
Bread-less shelves
Lane reversals
Storms a comin'

Lord,
we are getting prepared.
We are doing our best not to panic.
We are trying to respond thoughtfully and cautiously.
We are trying not to react irresponsibly.
But the storms a comin'

I pray for safety.
I pray for protection.
I pray for all who have and will be impacted.

Help us remember the least of these.
Help us remember the most vulnerable.
Help us truly embody loving our neighbor
and sharing with all who have need.
The storms a comin'

We place our trust in you.
Amen.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Every Perfect Gift

James 1:17-18

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Generous,
Perfect,
Father of Lights,
Consistent in Character,
Fulfill-er,
Purposeful,
Birthing Mother,
Word of Truth,
Fruit Planter,
Fruit Picker,
Creator,

thank you for your generous giving!
Thank you for every act of generosity
inspired by your acts of generosity.

Fulfill in us
your fruitful purpose
that we might share
generously
planting, birthing, growing
your Good News
in the lives of others,
in the life of the world.
Amen.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

God's NEW Thing

Isaiah 43:16-18 (The Message Translation)

This is what God says,
the God who builds a road right through the ocean,
who carves a path through pounding waves,
The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—
they lie down and then can’t get up;
they’re snuffed out like so many candles:
“Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.

Lord God,
you are new and ever re-newing!
And your newness scares us.

We prefer
old, comfortable, well-worn
like an old pair of jeans,
even if they don't really fit our changing bodies that well any more,
like an old rutted road,
even if it's become hard to drive down,
like an outdated operating system,
because we know where the settings are,
like an old grudge,
because even the pain has become comfortable,
like an old addiction,
because we're afraid letting go will be too painful.

We want predictability.
We want to know what to expect.

Newness is scary;
we're afraid of change,
even healthy change.

Remind us, O God, that
YOU are the One making new.
YOU are the One creating and recreating.
YOU are the One drawing us into newness.

And YOU can be TRUSTED.
The stories of the scriptures demonstrate
over and over and over
consistency of your compassion for your creation.
YOU keep covenant when we fail.
YOU deliver when we enslave.
YOU forgive when we turn away.
YOU are faithful when we break faith.

The Newness you create
will extend from your
consistent character of compassion,
seen in Christ.

Teach us to trust you,
enable us to let go of the past,
And open our hands to receive your new gifts
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Back-to-School Prayer


Learning is a gift from God.

As we begin this new school year, we give thanks that God has given us the ability to learn many things in many ways.
Loving God, sometimes a new school year seems exciting or scary or both.
Help us remember to show our thanks for your gifts of learning by doing our best every day.

We ask that you bless our schools, teachers, classmates and friends.
We ask that you bless those who prepare our lunches, those who drive us to school, and those who keep our schools clean and safe.
We ask God's blessing on this new school year, that it may be a time when we appreciate and fully use God's gift of learning.

Amen.


----------
The above prayer shared from

Monday, July 23, 2018

Prayer for Inner Freedom

Lord,
what most often stops me
from achieving freedom
is my tendency to be caught up
in fears and expectations
about what I ought or should be.

My usual automatic responses
tie me down and inhibit me
from exploring new areas of growth.

I ask and pray for a greater sense
of inner freedom and that
I might reach the fresh and challenging
possibilities that You, O God,
want me to realize.

Amen.



____
The above adapted from sacredspace.ie

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Saturday Devotional

Montreat Conference Center 2018 Middle School Conference

Review highlights of the day, creating a word-picture of what you have experienced. 
Ask:

 What is one image that stuck with you today? (something you saw)
 What is something you heard from stage that made you think?
 How easy or hard is it to put pieces back together?

Think about the creation of a Mosaic. 
What all does it take to make a masterpiece truly come together?

Colossians 3:12-17 (The Message):
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.
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.

What would you share about this week with others? 
What are some ways will you do that? 
What may have changed in you this week that you want to continue?

Thank you, God, 
for the blessings and 
challenges of this week together.
Amen.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Friday Devotional


Review highlights of the day, creating a word-picture of what you have experienced.
Ask:
 What is one image that stuck with you today? (something you saw)
 What is something you heard from stage that made you think?
 How does it feel to see or talk about things that are broken?

Think about the fragments of a Mosaic. Consider that each broken piece has a story to tell.

Romans 8:31-38 (The Message)
So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t
hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing
himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t
gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with
one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for
us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment
sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between
us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred,
not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the
worst sins listed in Scripture:
They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.
None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—
nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low,
thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love
because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

In the face of sin and brokenness, there is nothing that can separate us from God’s love. Earlier in Romans 8, Paul goes so far as to say that even in the worst of situations, God can and is working for good in all things.

Brokenness is never the final answer.

Close by naming some of the instances of brokenness,
asking God to re-create, redeem, and renew them for good.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Thursday's Devo


Review highlights of the day, creating a word-picture of what you have experienced.
Ask:
 What is one image that stuck with you today? (something you saw)
 What is something you heard from stage that made you think?
 How does it feel to hear you are created and loved by God?

What are some things it means for a work of art, to be called a “living” thing?

Isaiah 43:1-3a, 5-7 (The Message)
But now, GOD’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob,
the One who got you started, Israel:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am GOD, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. . . .
“So don’t be afraid: I’m with you. I’ll round up all your scattered children,
pull them in from east and west. I’ll send orders north and south: ‘Send them back.
Return my sons from distant lands, my daughters from faraway places.
I want them back, every last one who bears my name, every man, woman, and child
Whom I created for my glory, yes, personally formed and made each one.’”
What are some times/ways you feel God’s presence with you?

Remember that no matter what, God is with them.

Thank you God
for creating and claiming us in love.

Close by saying:
"You are a beloved child of God!
Sealed by the Holy Spirit!
Claimed as Christ's own forever, and
nothing anyone can ever say or do
can change that."

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Middle School Youth and Prayer

Lord,
This week
again I am privileged
to travel with Middle School students
to a youth conference.
Many people might not use the word
privilege in the same sentence with Middle School,
but I certainly do!

For 4 days,
I get to walk alongside
6th - 8th grader students
thinking about faith,
wrestling with Bible stories,
experiencing the depth of God's love,
singing our hearts out,
and playing HARD.
I love it!

This has become an annual pilgrimage for me.
The Montreat Middle School Conference is my favorite by far.

Over the next few days
we will gather in the evenings
for devotion and prayers.
Lord,
I take this time seriously
as we wonder aloud
grow in faith
and pray to you!
Thank you for this privilege.

________

Wednesday night Devo

Review highlights of the day, creating a word-picture of what you have experienced. 
Ask:
 What made you smile today?
 What are you most excited about for this conference?
 What are you most nervous about for this conference?

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (The Message)
God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit.
God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s
Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself
is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is:
Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the
Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:
wise counsel; clear understanding; simple trust; healing the sick;
miraculous acts; proclamation; distinguishing between spirits;
tongues; interpretation of tongues.
All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one
Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.
What might we bring to the conference this week to make the mosaic of your back-home group, their small groups, and the conference as whole really come to life?

Ask for God’s guidance and blessing on each of the individuals in your group, that you
might come together to be a living mosaic with others this week.

Close by saying
“God, each person in this group is uniquely and wonderfully made by you!"

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Praying with Augustine of Hippo

Lord,
I make this prayer mine today...


God of life
there are days when the burdens we carry
are heavy on our shoulders and weigh us down,
when the road seems dreary and endless,
the skies gray and threatening,
when our lives have no music in them,
and our hearts are lonely
and our souls have lost their courage.
Flood the path with light,
turn our eyes to where the skies are full of promise;
tune our hearts to brave music;
give us the sense of comradeship
with heroes and saints of every age;
and so quicken our spirits
that we may be able to encourage
the souls of all who journey with us on the road of life,
to your honor and glory. Amen.


-Attributed to Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Anniversary of a Death

Lord,
it's so hard.
Unbearable even,
and yet it comes every year
then anniversary of a death.
Even to write --
to think -- about it
brings a flood of tears and grief.

How do we make it through?
And yet,
it has been a year.
a year of
day by day,
hour by hour,
minute by minute,
tear by tear...

And yet,
every morning
the bird will sing.

Grief washes over me,
over us,
for certainly death and grief
are not isolating.
Grief and death are never experienced alone
but affect a whole family,
a whole community.

Today,
in my saddness
raw and fresh
as when I got the news,
I cry to you,
and yet,
just outside my window
I hear the birds sing.

Each new day
the birds will sing,
and that gives me
the courage to hold on
to faith,
to hope,
to memories,
to love,
to you.

Amen.




____
I write this reflecting on the anniversary of the untimely death a young adult in my church.

The phrase, "the birds will sing" comes from a post about grief:
https://network.crcna.org/lets-talk-about/birds-will-sing-morning
The author writes:
At these times, I have been so blessed to be a part of Christian community. When the loss is so great, I can rest in the arms of a loving God. Sometimes, that is all I can do in my grief. Breathe in God’s love, let the tears fall, and breathe in love again.
On Friday, May 25th, I attended the memorial service for Peter Borgdorff, the former Executive Director of the CRCNA. As I waited for the service to begin, I noticed the cover design of the program, drawn by one of his granddaughters. A number of years ago, Peter’s son passed away and he clung to God’s mercies to be new every morning. In his deep grief, he told his family and himself that “The birds will sing in the morning.”

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

"Wind in the Wilderness" by Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell

Lord,
I love words
the images that words can paint
the emotions that words can evoke
the beauty,
the power,
the wonder...

The below prayer 
written by Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell
is all of that...

Lord,
here my prayer 
this day:

"Wind in the Wilderness,
guide us through 
the tangled brush and the darkened paths. 
May we feel You 
when we are lonely; 
may we know Your presence 
when we are afraid. 

Guide us across 
the great barriers, 
through the deep valleys, and 
over the mountains of difficulty. 

Wind in the Wilderness, 
may we feel You 
when we need strength and courage. 
Wind in the Wilderness, 
guide us safely through. 
Amen."1

____
1 "Wind in the Wilderness" prayer written by Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell, http://rev-o-lution.org.

Monday, May 28, 2018

A Memorial Day Prayer for Peace

Lord,
on this Memorial Day
I remember,
and I pray for peace.

My grandfather died in war.
A college friend died in war.
So many lives lost in war.

I remember,
and I pray for peace.

I make this hymn text my prayer today:

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine;
this is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine:
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine. 
My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
but other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine:
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine.
I remember,
and I pray for peace.
Amen.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Here! I'm over Here!

Isaiah 6:5-8

And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” 
Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

Dear Lord,
"Here am I"
is a phrase said
by Isaiah, Samuel,
Abraham, Jacob, and others when called.

It's a willing response.
"Here am I!"
It is the very opposite
of Adam's response when called.
Adam was afraid and
hid himself because he was naked.

Here, Lord,
Isaiah claims
even confesses
his nakedness, his vulnerability:
"Woe is me!"
And when he hears your call,
he responds eagerly,
"Here am I!"

I imagine he's like a eager kid,
jumping up and down,
"Ooo! Ooooo! Me! Me!
Here! Here I am!
Pick me!
Send me!!"

Lord,
I too must confess
my nakedness, my vulnerability:
sometimes when you call
I say,
"Here I am!
Send someone else."
but most often I say,
"Here I am!
Let me do that too.
Lord, I'll take that off your hands.
I can do it myself.
I got this!"

That's not what you want either.

Lord,
teach me to partner
with you and with others
answering your call,
"Whom shall I send?"
Teach me to say,
"Here we are!
We will go with you, Lord!"
Amen.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Holy Holy Holy

Isaiah 6:1-8

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 

Holy,
Holy,
Holy
are
you
alone.

Lord,
God,
Redeemer
are
you
alone.

Word,
Breath,
Life
are
you
alone.

Light,
Wind,
Spirit
are
you 
alone.

"Holy God, Holy One, Holy Three! 
Before all that is, you were God. 
Outside all we know, you are God. 
After all is finished, you will be God."1

Alleluia!
Amen.



____________________
1 excerpted from "Triple Praise" a prayer written by Gail Ramshaw

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Little Child Among Us


Mark 9:33-37
Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Lord,
I am more certain now than ever 
that young and old need each other.
Certainly the young need the old to
teach, 
direct, 
guide, 
share wisdom, 
love, 
mentor, 
apprentice...

As I work with more and more congregations, 
I see the need the old have for the young. 
Just the presence of the young 
gives hope, energy, and purpose to the old.
the sharing of perspectives,
the asking of questions,
even the rolling of eyes
can push the old to be clearer, better, 
more faithful, more patient, more like Jesus
not so much telling answers
but asking questions together.

Lord,
in my 16 years of ministry, 
I am often moved by your Spirit 
through the voice of the Youth Sunday preacher, 
the question asked during children's Sunday school,
and the Bible study with middle schoolers 
at the Middle School Montreat Conference.

Lord Jesus,
you sets a little child 
as an example 
in the midst of your disciples
not for us to “worship” the child,
or even put the needs of the child first and foremost,
but rather to ask:
What are somethings we learn 
from the children in our midst?

Lord,
I am excited 
to lead a cross generational Sunday School class. 

Together we will 
tell stories of faith,
ask questions,
laugh,
play,
create,
and listen
to the voice of the Spirit
speaking through old and young.

Lord,
come speak to us
through young and old
and open us to hear.
Amen.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Peptalk for the Church

Peptalk for the Church by
Westminter Presbyterian youth group

Do not be afraid.
Love and care for another.
Always be truthful to yourself.
Be brave.
Spread the Word of God.
Never give up.
Trust in the Lord.
Do not be afraid of what might happen.
Remember that God is always with you.
God will ALWAYS be with you.
Never be afraid.

In the Toss of a Coin

A paraphrase of Acts 1: 15-17, 21-26 from LaughingBird.net ©2000 Nathan Nettleton

One day, after Jesus had been taken into heaven, there was a gathering of about one hundred twenty of his followers. Peter stood up and addressed them, saying: 
“Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled. What the Holy Spirit said through David about Judas has now happened. He was one of us, taking his place alongside us in this ministry, but in the end he was the one who showed the lynch mob where to arrest Jesus. 
“So we need a replacement for Judas — someone to stand with us as a primary witness to the resurrection life of Jesus. It should be someone who was in our company for the whole time Jesus was among us, right through from the day he was baptised by John to the day when he was taken into heaven. 
There were two nominations: Joseph Barsabbas, nicknamed Justus, and Matthias. The group prayed saying, “Lord, you know us all, through and through. Make it clear to us which of these two you are choosing to take on the task of ministry and leadership that Judas turned his back on.” And then, trusting God, they tossed a coin. On the fall of the coin, Matthias was declared to be the twelfth apostle.

Lord,
in the toss of a coin
it all changed.
Only you know 
how the story might have gone differenly...

Jo Dee Messina sings,

"Heads Carolina, tails California
Somewhere greener, somewhere warmer
Up in the mountains, down by the ocean
Where don't matter long as we're goin'
Somewhere together, I got a quarter
Heads Carolina, tails California"

I can't imagine how things might have gone
with just one decision made differently.

Just one example... Lord you remember...
The car was packed.
I was getting in
on my way to an interview
when I got the call.
A friend, a neighbor, 
a saint of a man in my congregation
was at the hospital.
He was very sick.
I debated briefly not going,
not going to the hospital that is,
so I called the committee chairman and 
told him I could not come
I needed to be pastor here at little bit longer.
Of course, he understood. 
Actually I think it made him wish I'd come all the more.
So instead of driving to an interview,
I drove to the hospital where over the next short hours
I sat with a beloved saint of God, my neighbor, my friend.
I held his hand as he died.
I was right where God needed me to be.

I never did go to that interview.
But I did not stay either.
Another call came.
God pointed me in a new direction.
And here I am.

Lord,
it wasn't a coin toss... 
but it might have been.
Heads Carolina, tails California.
Where don't matter long as we're goin'
Somewhere together, Lord
I got a quarter
Heads Carolina, tails California
Amen.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Practicing Gratitude

Lord,
recently I heard someone talk about gratitude
not as an attitude, but as a practice --
a daily lived out disciplined practice.
Similar to all those years
I practiced piano or trumpet...

So, I'm trying to practice gratitude.
Practicing saying, "Thank you."
Disciplining myself to make lists of things
for which I am grateful.

Here's one for today:
Thank you, God, for work that gives me joy.
Thank you for the ability and opportunities I had today to help someone else.
Thank you for a delicious dinner fixed by my wife of vegetables and quiche!
Thank you for my son's willingness to help set the table without being asked.
Thank you for the joy of watching him swim at swim lessons.
Thank you for the quiet of the night that gives me space to think.
Thank you for the gift of family and time to celebrate together.

Yes, Lord,
it's an incomplete list.
But hey that's what practice is about...
learning the rhythms, the notes, the sound,
the feel of the keys beneath my fingers,
working on the hard places and enjoying the successes...

So Lord,
in my practice of gratitude,
teach me the rhythms of thanksgiving,
the notes, the sounds of Thank you,
help me feel the joy in my body,
working through the hard places of life and
savoring the graces.

Let it be, dear Lord, let it be...

Friday, May 4, 2018

Holy Spirit fall on me

Acts 10:44-48
While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

Holy Spirit,
The Bible book is entitled,
"The Acts of the Apostles",
which, of course, it is.

But it seems to me another title could be,
"The Work of the Holy Spirit",
and maybe like Mark's gospel,
it could begin with the words,
"Beginning the work of the Holy Spirit
in the world through the Word
in the lives of people and communities."

Today I pray, O Spirit, fall upon me
enable me to
hear the Word,
follow the Word,
live the Word,
and share the Word
with those I meet today.

I end my prayer with a hymn:
Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.

Amen.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Birthdays!!

Lord Jesus,
Late April, early May
is a season of birthdays in my family:
my son, my mother,
my mother-in-law, a niece,
and one my grandmothers.
That's a lot of celebrations.
That's a lot of cake!!

Birthdays for me 
are a reminder of your gift of life.
Each year on my birthday
my parents retell the story of my being born.
And each year I look forward to hear it again,
my own nativity.
It's a story of wonder, laughter, and miracle.

I've continued the tradition with my son.
Year after year, I tell the story of his birth;
the story is filled with wonder, amazement,
fear and trembling, and miracle.

Lord Jesus,
soon it will be the church's birthday, Pentecost
-- the day you sent the Holy Spirit in power
and gave birth to the church.
Year after year, we tell the story again;
it's a story of wonder, amazement, laughter,
fear and trembling, and miracle.

We celebrate.
We sing.
We wear red to symbolize the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes, we even eat CAKE!!

Thank you, God, for life!
Thank you, God, for birthdays!
Amen.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Journey to Jerusalem: Scattered


Journey to Jerusalem: Scattered

Acts 8:1,4

That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria.... Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word.

Lord,
gathering and scattering
is the weekly rhythm of worship.
Gathered by the power of your Holy Spirit
the community comes together
to worship you in spirit and truth
Then your same Spirit scatters us--
sending us forth into witness and mission
driving us into the wilderness
scattering us to be the leaven of your grace
in the dough of the world.

Gathering and scattering
is the rhythm of worship;
it's the rhythm of life.

Lord,
you know that
left to my human tendency
I love comfort, familiarity,
status quo,
the way we've always done it...
So like a mother eagle,
you push us out of the nest,
out of our comfort,
out of our security,
so that we will fly!

Today I found out that
two of my trusted colleagues
in ministry are moving.
For the past year,
answering your call has meant
gathering together regularly,
praying together,
sharing ideas together,
encouraging one another...
But now in the wisdom of your Spirit
you are scattering us...
one to California,
one to Tampa, Florida,
others to remind here.

On the Journey to Jerusalem, Lord,
we meet other disciples on the way.
Gathered in their company
we learn and grow and
seek to follow you more faithfully.
But when the time comes,
by the guidance of your Spirit,
we are scattered,
and in our going in different ways
you use us to proclaim your Word
from place to place.

So walk with us, Lord,
on our various paths
until the day we meet
at last at your Heavenly Banquet
Homecoming Feast!
Amen.


___________
Track and share your miles by clicking here.

At Westminster Presbyterian Church, we are committing to journey the 6,284 miles from Columbia, SC to Jerusalem, Israel in our walking, running, swimming, cycling, etc.

You are invited to track and send your miles to our church office, we will post those miles online and on banners in the sanctuary and in our fellowship building.  Together we will make our journey to Jerusalem!

I challenge you:

  1. How many miles is it from your community to Jerusalem?
  2. Invite others to make the journey with you.
  3. And pray together along the way.
  4. Warning: the journey will be painful; there will be suffering; we will witness betrayal, denial, and death.  And yet, resurrection awaits us!
  5. See you in Jerusalem at the empty tomb on Easter morning!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Journey to Jerusalem: Child of God


Journey to Jerusalem: Child of God

Lord,
I revel in knowing that
I AM A CHILD OF GOD.

It is a truth that my parents instilled in me.
Because of their love,
demonstrated and told to me
over and over and over again.
I know that I am
"Beloved!"

Yesterday in worship,
we celebrated baptism.
Three children stood with their family
and received the gift of baptism.

As the bapitzer,
I said the same thing
to each one,
"Child of God,
I baptize you
in the name of
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
with water pouring from my hands
washing over their heads
and dripping onto the floor.

And then with my thumb,
I traced the cross of Christ
on their forehead and said,
"May the blessings of
God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
be with you
this day and everyday.
Amen."

Lord Jesus,
it is an important reminder.
On our way to Jerusalem,
as we face difficulty,
as humanity does its worst,
as sin and evil seem to take charge,
we need to remember the truth:

"I am a Child of God,
sealed by the Holy Spirit,
marked with the Cross of Christ forever,
and nothing anyone can say or do
will ever change that."



Young or old,
Lord Jesus,
remind us all
that NO MATTER WHAT
we belong to you,
we are loved by you,
we are made in your image,
we are children of God,
and we are beloved!

That's what I want my son
to grow up knowing
to the core of his being.
That's what I want the three I baptized Sunday
to know to the core of their being.
That's the truth
you reveal to the WHOLE WORLD
in Jesus' living, loving, suffering, dying, and rising again:
"We are the beloved Children of God,
sealed by the Holy Spirit,
marked with the Cross of Christ forever,
and nothing anyone can say or do
will ever change that."

THANKS BE TO GOD!!
AMEN.





___________
Track and share your miles by clicking here.

At Westminster Presbyterian Church, we are committing to journey the 6,284 miles from Columbia, SC to Jerusalem, Israel in our walking, running, swimming, cycling, etc.

You are invited to track and send your miles to our church office, we will post those miles online and on banners in the sanctuary and in our fellowship building.  Together we will make our journey to Jerusalem!

I challenge you:

  1. How many miles is it from your community to Jerusalem?
  2. Invite others to make the journey with you.
  3. And pray together along the way.
  4. Warning: the journey will be painful; there will be suffering; we will witness betrayal, denial, and death.  And yet, resurrection awaits us!
  5. See you in Jerusalem at the empty tomb on Easter morning!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Journey to Jerusalem: In This Together


Journey to Jerusalem: In This Together


Lord,
One word keeps coming up lately.
I heard it while on spiritual retreat.
I heard while teaching Bible study recently.
I witnessed it and its devastating power.
The word -- Isolation.
One of Evil's weapons -- Isolation.

Lord,
sometimes we call it, "Independence,"
but that's a lie.
For we are most able to be fully human when we acknowledge
our dependence on you
and our interdependence on one another.

Lord,
I've seen it in the spiral of depression.
Isolating from others.
Drawing back from those who really care.
Pulling away from support systems.
Alone. Lonely. Isolated.

Lord Jesus,
that's why Emmanuel is so powerful.
Emmanuel means, "God is WITH us."
Your Incarnation is a felt physical reminder,
"God is WITH us."
The Psalmist knows the truth:
"Even though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil,
for
THOU ART WITH ME" (from Psalm 23)

On this Journey to Jerusalem,
we are NOT alone;
we are NOT isolated.
You are WITH us.
Indeed, even you traveled this painful way to the cross
surrounded by others --
disciples, family, friends, betrayers, deniers, crucifiers.

Ironically,
while crying out, "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
you were not isolated...
Your mother looked on in grief.
Your disciples watch in horror.
The thieves crucified with you were there
-- repentant and unrepentant they were there.

No, Lord, we are in this together.
We are walking this hard path together.
We are facing the uphill battle together.

"Be strong and bold; 
have no fear or dread of them, 
because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; 
he will not fail you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

"And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

Thanks be to God!
Amen.


___________
Track and share your miles by clicking here.

At Westminster Presbyterian Church, we are committing to journey the 6,284 miles from Columbia, SC to Jerusalem, Israel in our walking, running, swimming, cycling, etc.

You are invited to track and send your miles to our church office, we will post those miles online and on banners in the sanctuary and in our fellowship building.  Together we will make our journey to Jerusalem!

I challenge you:

  1. How many miles is it from your community to Jerusalem?
  2. Invite others to make the journey with you.
  3. And pray together along the way.
  4. Warning: the journey will be painful; there will be suffering; we will witness betrayal, denial, and death.  And yet, resurrection awaits us!
  5. See you in Jerusalem at the empty tomb on Easter morning!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Journey to Jerusalem: Climbing the Mountain


Journey to Jerusalem: Climbing the Mountain


Exodus 19:16-25
On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain, and a blast of a trumpet so loud that all the people who were in the camp trembled. Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God. They took their stand at the foot of the mountain.

Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently. As the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder. When the Lord descended upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, the Lord summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people not to break through to the Lord to look; otherwise many of them will perish. Even the priests who approach the Lord must consecrate themselves or the Lord will break out against them.” Moses said to the Lord, “The people are not permitted to come up to Mount Sinai; for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and keep it holy.’” The Lord said to him, “Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you; but do not let either the priests or the people break through to come up to the Lord; otherwise he will break out against them.”

So Moses went down to the people and told them.

Lord,
Mountains have always had special meaning to me.
As a little boy, traveling over the mountains
meant a visit to Grandparents
in Danville, Kentucky or Kingsport, Tennessee
either way required going across the mountains.

Then in high school,
there were those powerful Spirit-filled
times in Montreat, North Carolina.
Then in college and beyond,
hiking in those same Blue Ridge Mountains.

I remember one time
crossing the dam in Montreat at Lake Susan;
my family and I bumped into
Dr. Cliff McLeod, the pastor who had baptized me.
Cliff asked us why were visiting...
then he says,
"You know Montreat is the first stop on the way to heaven!"

Indeed, Lord, many of us feel that way.
Even Billy Graham, one of your faithful servants,
now seated at your Heavenly Banquet,
lived most of his days in the Montreat Mountains.

In Celtic Christianity, these are known as "Thin Places"--
places were the distance between
heaven and earth, sacred and ordinary, divine and human
are thin.

Mount Sinai was certainly a "Thin Place."
Your glory rested on the mountain like a cloud of smoke and fog.
Your voice thundered.
Your presence was undeniable.

On our Lenten Journey to Jerusalem
we are climbing another mountain
one that lead up to another Thin Place:
to Jerusalem,
to Mount Zion,
to the Mount of Olives,
to Calvary.
Your presence, Lord,
was clear in those places too--
the footsteps, healing touches, bodily presence of Jesus.
the voice of love, the voice of teaching, the voice of challenge, the voice of Jesus.
the cross of Christ, the Lamb of Sacrifice, the blood of glory.

This year, Lord,
thin the hardness of our hearts
that the distance be thin
between your loving presence
and our grateful obedience.
In the name of the one
who IS the Thin Place,
Jesus Christ. Amen.





___________
Track and share your miles by clicking here.

At Westminster Presbyterian Church, we are committing to journey the 6,284 miles from Columbia, SC to Jerusalem, Israel in our walking, running, swimming, cycling, etc.

You are invited to track and send your miles to our church office, we will post those miles online and on banners in the sanctuary and in our fellowship building.  Together we will make our journey to Jerusalem!

I challenge you:

  1. How many miles is it from your community to Jerusalem?
  2. Invite others to make the journey with you.
  3. And pray together along the way.
  4. Warning: the journey will be painful; there will be suffering; we will witness betrayal, denial, and death.  And yet, resurrection awaits us!
  5. See you in Jerusalem at the empty tomb on Easter morning!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Journey to Jerusalem: With Hearts held high


Journey to Jerusalem: With Hearts held high


Today I went hiking
with a group on a men's retreat.

I was reminded of the below song. It is a reminder of our Mountain Top experiences of God. As we leave the mountain top, we leave encouraged, strengthened, renewed.

On our Journey to Jerusalem,
let us go with hearts held high.
We follow Jesus who goes before us.
We walk with the believers of every time and place right beside us.
And even our broken cups, God fills to overflowing.

"Walk Down This Mountain" by Bebo Norman

It's a better place
Standing high upon this mountain
I've seen your face
‎Full of the light that holiest height can show
‎Blessed hand is why you you've given
‎But you've been given all you'll ever need
‎To know

‎Chorus:
‎So walk down this mountain
‎ With your heart held high
‎ Follow in the footsteps of your maker
‎ With this love that's gone before you
‎And these people at your side
‎If you offer up your broken cup
‎You will taste the meaning of this life

‎Well it's a common ground
‎And I see you're all still standing
‎ But just look around and you'll find
‎The very face of God
‎ He's walking down into the distance
‎He's walking down to where the masses are  (Chorus)

‎We're standing in a place of peace
‎ And this is how the world should be
‎ How the world should be
‎(Walk down this mountain with your heart held high)
‎How the world should be
‎(Walk down this mountain with you heart held high)
‎How the world should be
‎(Walk down this mountain with your heart held high)
‎How the world should be . (Chorus)

Click below to hear the song:


___________
Track and share your miles by clicking here.

At Westminster Presbyterian Church, we are committing to journey the 6,284 miles from Columbia, SC to Jerusalem, Israel in our walking, running, swimming, cycling, etc.

You are invited to track and send your miles to our church office, we will post those miles online and on banners in the sanctuary and in our fellowship building.  Together we will make our journey to Jerusalem!

I challenge you:

  1. How many miles is it from your community to Jerusalem?
  2. Invite others to make the journey with you.
  3. And pray together along the way.
  4. Warning: the journey will be painful; there will be suffering; we will witness betrayal, denial, and death.  And yet, resurrection awaits us!
  5. See you in Jerusalem at the empty tomb on Easter morning!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Journey to Jerusalem: IN BODY & SOUL


Journey to Jerusalem: IN BODY & SOUL

Again this year I invite you to join on the Journey to Jerusalem.

Add a physical journey to our spiritual Journey of Lent...

  • a journey that starts with the Ashes of Wednesday,
  • a journey that wanders through the 40 wilderness days of Lent,
  • a journey that includes betrayal, denial, and suffering,
  • a journey that rises to a climax at cruel Cross,
  • a journey that grieves the Silence of Saturday, &
  • a journey that erupts in HALLELUIA on Easter Sunday.

There are 6,284 miles from Columbia, South Carolina to Jerusalem, Israel.

The Journey begins on Ash Wednesday, February 14 at 7pm
LET'S GO.
Track the miles you walk, run, cycle, swim, etc.

In worship at Westminster,
here on my blog almostdailyprayers.com, and
in our daily activity,
together we will make the Journey to Jerusalem,
a journey that leads to the cross and the empty tomb of Jesus Christ.

Our Lenten journey begins today on Ash Wednesday.  During Lent and especially during Holy Week, Christians have made pilgrimage to Jerusalem one of our spiritual disciplines.  When traveling to Israel became less possible because of cost and distance, pilgrimage became more of a spiritual act and less a physical act.

This year I am challenging you to make the pilgrimage physical again.  At Westminster Presbyterian Church, we are committing to journey the 6,284 miles from Columbia, SC to Jerusalem, Israel in our walking, running, swimming, cycling, etc.

You are invited to track and send your miles to our church office, we will post those miles online and on banners in the sanctuary and in our fellowship building.  Together we will make our journey to Jerusalem!

I challenge you:

  1. How many miles is it from your community to Jerusalem?
  2. Invite others to make the journey with you.
  3. And pray together along the way.
  4. Warning: the journey will be painful; there will be suffering; we will witness betrayal, denial, and death.  And yet, resurrection awaits us!
  5. See you in Jerusalem at the empty tomb on Easter morning!