A Prayer for Love

Love has to be one of my favorite topics to talk about. It’s all about hope, caring, selflessness, compassion and togetherness. Yes, you can and should love yourself, but there’s so much more to love than just loving yourself. Today we’re talking about love because it’s this year’s theme for the National Day of Prayer which is this Thursday.

Prayer is important  and awesome because we can do it anywhere for anyone, we don’t need their permission, nor do we need to know exactly what’s going on in their life to pray for them. All we need to do is lift them and their life to God. So it’s great that we take time each year to have this day and to focus the nation on prayer. But I’m thrilled that love is the topic they’ve chosen to focus on, because even though Easter was just over a week ago, it seems like the world has already forgotten the message of Easter: a message of hope, forgiveness and life.

Prayer is an important and valued part of our spiritual life and of our relationship with God, and love is taking it the next step. Love is something you can do without any hint of spirituality or directly connected to your faith.  Love is something everyone knows they need, and more people are willing to accept love than they are the words of faith that they don’t know they need, but really do need. Love can be the first step towards building relationships and sharing faith or it can be a continuation of that faith. Love is a universal action and concept that doesn’t require us to speak the same language or have the same culture or be of the same faith, it just asks us to give and care without judgment or ulterior motives.

So as you spend time in prayer this week I encourage you to ask God for opportunities to love, and to look for opportunities to love others in this week, and even beyond National Day of Prayer.

“Love one another. Just as I have loved you.” John 13:34

Victories and Dependence

Dependence is an interesting topic, especially as it relates to victories. In many cases we’re dependent on something outside of ourselves to make a victory happen, whether the weather, availability or, most often, someone else. It can be frustrating because we’d like to just move forward and get to the victory, but few victories are possible without going through challenges, and those without challenge don’t seem like much of a victory.

Something we’re dependent on is the planet we all share. It can be hard to remember that we are on a planet or what’s beneath our feet each day because we see what we’ve built on it, how we’ve covered it and made it our own. And yet without that planet, the nature that grows from it, we would be dead. It’s hard enough when nature takes over for a brief while, I can’t imagine what it would be like to have the earth falling apart around us like it does in some movies and knowing our days were very clearly numbered.

Yes, Earth Day is a good reminder (Earth Day was on Monday) but the fact is that the world is important every day to us, which is why we have to care for it. Doing something like donating to a company that helps with reforestation, saves endangered or critical animals, or make a conscious choice to choose the greener option the next time you’re making a purchase big or small, even if it costs a little more. That small investment can pay back in a big way for our planet and our future.

But back to the topic of dependence, you can’t get away from being dependent on at least one other thing for victories typically, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stack the deck in your favor by doing the research, having second and third plans, having people and resources you could tap into if the first options don’t work out, and especially being willing to take your time and make changes/roll with the punches without panicking. I believe just about all victories can be brought to fruition, they just depend on us to keep a level head, positive outlook and keep taking action to move things forward, even if it’s baby steps.  What will you do this week to gain more victories for yourself and the world we all share?

Getting Organized

Spring is a great time to get organized because the light is starting to shine really well into your home for longer times during the day making it more obvious what needs cleaning and what’s been sitting for too long. So today I thought I’d share a few ideas for getting and staying organized.

The big thing that many people are talking about when it comes to organizing right now is the question of “does it bring you joy?” Organizing like so many other things has many options and perspectives, and the question of joy is just one of many ways to decide what’s important enough to you to keep. You can also question how long it’s been since you used/wore it, if it helps you be productive, if it serves multiple purposes, does it work/is it broken, or if it’s functional. If you’ve gone through those questions and you’re still on the fence about keeping something, asking whether or not it brings you joy certainly can be the deciding factor.

Once you’ve decided what you’re keeping you have to decide how you’re going to keep/store it, for example by date or color or theme or family. There isn’t a right or wrong here, with the exception of not having any system. It may take a little work to find out what system works best for you, so I would try a system for a month or a season (about 3 months), and by then you should be confident as to whether it works for you or not.

Getting organized continues with how you’re storing stuff. One of my biggest frustrations when it comes to organization is that most of us aren’t really well equipped to store the things we do want to keep. Much of the furniture that’s available is built to store a wide variety of items, which can be great because it means you can reuse it in a multitude of ways and get a lot of life out of it. Typically furniture is also designed horizontally rather than taking advantage of all the storage potential there is vertically. However if we were to change out from using some of the bookcases and dressers and instead used more custom shelving (even simply shelves) for our books, toys, clothing, shoes, office items, and kitchen items we’d be able to better store items, know what we have and have more space in our rooms as well.

Staying organized is just like many other things, if you keep after it consistently you’ll stay on top of it. Maybe that simply means seasonally going through things, or being more conscious about what you buy and whether or not you really need it (a.k.a. making fewer impulse purchases). It definitely means that you take the extra seconds or minutes to put things where they really belong neatly rather than throwing things in a pile and leaving it for “tomorrow.”

What are your organization tips and challenges?

We Are Healed

Today is Easter Monday, it’s the day after Easter Sunday when Jesus rose from the dead. It’s another day of celebration, just like every day is because Jesus has saved us from our sins. There are so many things we could talk about on Easter Monday, but the passage that stood out from of all of those that I read over the past day or so that came through apps, emails, sermons and other sources is Isaiah 53:4-5:

“Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”

Easter is all about hope, it is the promise of a blessed future, it is one of the biggest and best gifts anyone could ever get. But sometimes we forget the connection between Easter and Good Friday and that’s the forgiveness we’re given, the clean slate, the opportunity to heal from our past. There is pain and suffering in our world, something that will continue until we’ve finished this life. We talk plenty about the suffering, but we don’t talk about what should come next as much, and that’s healing.

I know that Jesus is God’s son and therefore could never be only human, but during the 30 some years that He spent on earth He was ‘fully human and fully divine’. So the days following Easter and the Resurrection were important for multiple reasons. First because Jesus had to prove that He had risen, that He wasn’t dead and that Salvation has been realized. Second, I think it was important for Jesus to have some time to say goodbye to those who had come to mean so much to Him on a very personal level, and have some time to heal from what was undoubtedly a very traumatic experience for Him and those who loved Him.

Yes, it’s important to move forward in our lives after bad things happen, but there’s no shame in taking time to heal, and getting help if you need it. Sometimes that help means reaching out to other people, other times the only one that can help us find any peace or begin to heal is God. If we’re honest about it many of us have something in our past or even our presence that needs some healing. If that’s the case for you I would encourage you to accept the healing that Easter brings and begin to work on healing your hurts.

It Is Finished

Today we take a moment to be quiet and remember the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for all of us. It’s humbling and sobering that death is the only way to be saved, and not even our death, but the death of another. Jesus’ death on the cross is one of the final steps of His mission on earth. He has worked through childhood, teenage years, young adulthood and 3 years of active teaching and ministry. The events leading directly up to Good Friday include visiting the Temple and ranting against those trying to take advantage of people there to worship, riding the streets of Jerusalem on a donkey with the crowds shouting ‘Hosanna,’ one last Passover supper with His closest friends, betrayal by one of those friends, trial in front of the spiritual leaders, trial before Governor Pilate, carrying His cross to be crucified and then the actual crucifixion and death.

Jesus lived more in his 30 some years that some of us do in 3 times that many years. He certainly endured more in these weeks and days than almost all of us ever will. Jesus had a closer relationship with God than any of us ever could, and yet on this His darkest day He felt like some of us do, that God had forgotten Him, was ignoring Him, or didn’t care any more about Him.

The book of John in the Bible shares that Jesus’ last words were “It is finished,” and for 3 days He was dead. It seemed like the story was over, there was no victory to be had. Everyone was shocked that He died and that it didn’t seem like He was who they thought He was, who He said He was.

In some ways His work was completed, He had finished the task He came there to do, dying for our sins. Being free from our sins is a huge deal, it’s not something we can do for ourselves and not something just anyone can do for us. It’s not something that can be taken from us, it’s a gift to us at the price of Jesus’ life. But Jesus went and did one better, He rose Easter Sunday morning and gave us the gift of eternal life.

So today I encourage you to reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made and how He has freed us from our past, closing the book on those chapters of our lives.  We don’t have to look back, we don’t have to let the past dictate our futures.  Maybe today is the day to let go of something that you’ve been holding on to for too long, or something that has been holding you back.  If Jesus was willing to go through death to free us for all eternity, surely we can work through the discomfort or fears that we feel about breaking from our past.  After all, Easter Sunday followed Jesus’ death 3 days later, so we should have hope that our free futures would be just as bright.

Standing in Sacred Spaces

As we head towards Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Passover and Easter Sunday, it’s a time when many people are planning to attend church, even if it’s not something they do on a regular basis. Some will make a point to check in with a TV or online church service, while many others will take the time to go to a physical church or synagogue. During this “Holy Week” people attend church more frequently than they normally do, some going 6 or more times. And that’s great, if you have the opportunity and feel moved to attend church you should.

But the Bible doesn’t talk about Jesus going to traditional church services. Yes, He did lead many spiritual sessions and taught in front of many crowds in a whole variety of places from boats to hills to water wells. But the two most notable times that Jesus spends specifically alone in God’s presence are the 40 days that He wanders the wilderness, and the hours He spends in the Garden of Gethsemane the night He was arrested. In preparation for the biggest hours and days of His short life Jesus takes time in a garden to stop, reflect, and pray. For Jesus this simple olive garden was the sacred space where He felt closest to God.

Yes, go to church this weekend, be with people who share the faith with you, celebrate the resurrection with other believers in the space you all call God’s home. But I also encourage you to spend some time in the places and spaces that feel sacred to you, where you have personally connected with God. Maybe that’s going to a church during an open prayer time where people are allowed to just come and go and say prayers or just sit in God’s house. Maybe that is a park or garden or other outdoor space where you go to be alone and let it be just you and God. Maybe it’s a dedicated spiritual space like a retreat center, monastic or other spiritual community that people spend their days and lives in and welcome the community as well. Whatever your sacred spaces are I encourage you to find time to visit them this week and connect with the God who gave you life, has forgiven you and has given you eternal life.

Life Fulfilled

Lent is only part of the story, and leads to the good stuff, the main event, the finale if you will. Lent is all the studying you do before that big test, all the prep you do before that big meeting, all the cleanup you do before the guests. It’s important because of what it leads to, what it prepares you for, not because of what it itself is.

Each day with each choice we make, each interaction we have, each step we take is all writing our story. As people of faith we have God helping to guide the story, leading us to meet the people we need to meet and be there for those who need to meet us, bringing us through the experiences we need and others need us to have, and generally supporting us through the humbling, sobering, heart breaking moments of real life.

And that’s what it comes down to. What would people say if they were to read your story? In one of my Lent devotionals that just finished were the following words:

“At the end of His life, Jesus says” ‘it is finished.’ He looked back on His life and decided to lay down His life. It as if this reflection now takes Him to a place of contentment where He can die. This is significant. Jesus died as He lived – fulfilled.” Mosaïek Church

Good Friday and Easter are both crucial because they do show that Jesus fulfills His life purpose and the promises He made when He came to earth. But technically Jesus only had to do the 3 days of Christmas, Good Friday and Easter to fulfill that promise: He lived, died and rose again. It’s those 30 some years in between those 3 days that Jesus intentionally chose how He wanted to spend His time, and as the quote above says, He chose to live every moment to the fullest.

I believe that what we read in the Bible is only a fraction of the amazing things Jesus did on earth, the personal interactions He had with people, the lives He touched. Jesus may have only been on earth for 30 some years, but He made the most of each day, experience, relationship, interaction and opportunity, especially the last few years. But even with all the ways that Jesus lived, I think the way He really filled in the moments were best seen when He took a moment to talk with someone one-on-one, or in taking time to love on the children, or never giving up on the Pharisees, and even in the moments when He was so very human like when Lazarus died or He took a nap on a boat.

Life is made up of countless moments big and small. Just like Jesus you’ve got a choice: you don’t have to live a fulfilling life, but if given the choice why wouldn’t you?

(This is a bit of the weekly devotional I sent out this week, click here if you’d like to learn more or subscribe)