You can only go halfway into the darkest forest;
Doubt. Pain. Addiction. Abandonment. Corona virus. Uncontrolled irritation and anger. Deep wells of depression. Memory’s fog. Hope-less. Deepening and irreversible decline. Lost. Scared. Frightened. Which way out?
Halfway may have been a long way. Where is halfway? When is halfway? Don’t despair, for you stand at the exact point, where you need to be to come home. Home is still here. Home waits for you with open arms when you walk out of the dark.
O God, I place my hand in yours. Guide me, once more, into the light. Lead me to your Peace. So be it.
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Thought for the Day: I have always felt a special fondness for the word, Beloved. The Greek word is: Agapetos, that has at its core the word: Agape, the specific word in Greek that is assigned to divine love or self-sacrificing love. What does it mean to be assigned to the community that has as its parameters and purpose the love of God? In my sermon this morning, I will focus on a verse found later in this chapter of 1st John. In just this chapter, the word beloved appears three times, and the word love (agape) more than twenty-five times. Since there are only 21 verses, that’s a lot of love. It is an amazing chapter, one that needs to be central in the reading of any Jesus-follower. And my one take away this day (though there are a ton within this single verse) is the importance of choosing to love as a way of touching and sensing God. God first loved us, but when we actively choose to love in response to that act in Christ Jesus, we become a nativity of the divine, and through that experience, we find intimacy with God. In simple terms, if you want to know someone better, you might want to try doing what they like doing.
Prayer: It might be a bit more challenging right now, but we are trying to love one another as you have taught us, O Lord. Continue to provide us lessons and opportunities to grow in love, and in doing so, grow in our relationship with you. Amen.
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Thought for the Day: It was Will Rogers who said, “An onion can make people cry but there’s never been a vegetable that can make people laugh.” Will Rogers might be right in regard to there never being a vegetable that can make people laugh, but my kid Zach would laugh hysterically each time I’d say the word, “Kumquat!” Maybe it’s because kumquats are a fruit and fruits are so much funnier than vegetables. I only share this because memories can be a wonderful source of laughter, especially when we are feeling out of sorts and not very connected. I have a feeling there are a number of memories that in this moment, just bringing them to the forefront of your mind, will put a smile on your face. And if that doesn’t work, just say the word, “Kumquat!” My kid may still laugh.
Prayer: In times of difficulty, when life challenges us at the core, touch us with your Spirit of Joy, O Lord. Provide us with a story that provides life and laughter. Amen.
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Thought for the Day: Lately, is seems the entire world is changing on a daily basis. One day we are going to work and everything appears normal, the next we are social distancing, then we find ourselves under a stay at home order and now we are wearing masks and gloves when we venture out of the house. All these changes are enough to make a person become stressed and anxious.
Where can we go to settle our thoughts, our minds, our lives?
Here are some tips I suggest:
Spend time in prayer. God has broad shoulders and can carry whatever is bothering you, turn it over to him. Spend time in relationship and talking to God about your day.
Remind yourself, this is only temporary. We will see an end to this pandemic. We will get back out in public and see one another.
Call someone you know who might be feeling down and try to cheer them up. Most times you end up cheering yourself up in the process.
Get outdoors. Go for a little walk and look for signs of God’s presence; a flower about to bloom, the gentle breeze, the warmth of the sun, the birds singing etc.
Name 3 blessings each day. It may seem difficult at first, but over time you will see these blessings easily and then have to pick only 3!
We are not in this alone. We have each other to reach out to and lean on, either on the phone or perhaps in a zoom meeting! There is a lot of positive going on all around us. Look for that positive energy.
Prayer: Loving God, in the midst of all the chaos, let us seek you. Allow us to find ways to settle our anxiety and stress in this time. Be with each of us as we go about our days not knowing what each new day might bring. Remind us you are in control. We know you will never leave us or forsake us Lord. Amen.
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Thought for the Day: Yesterday in my Wednesday Study and Prayer Times, I referenced this story from Matthew’s Gospel. The unclean spirit has left the person, but then upon finding no other place to rest, it decided to return to “my” house… the person from whom the unclean spirit originally had come. The possessive pronoun is interesting and it makes me wonder what kind of stuff have I unknowingly given permission to feel ownership in my life? And I’m not talking good stuff. Where have we consented to things (or people) who do not have our best interest in mind, yet we have allowed them to take up residence within us? Maybe it is driven more by guilt or shame, allowing something from the past to stay rent-free within our heads or hearts. We are intended to be a dwelling place for love, and all the other stuff claiming ownership has not been given any authority from God who is the true guardian of our being. Many will line up and claim us as their dwelling, but we must make it clear that our lives are a sanctuary for divine love.
Prayer: There is no question that I need you to dwell more fully within my life, O God of Grace, yet there are things that are taking up space that should not be provided one more minute in my life. Through the Spiritual Disciplines, give me the tools to relinquish what isn’t of you so that I can know more of your love that is the source of all transformation. Amen.
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Thought for the Day: Saturday Vigil is one of the busiest days of the year for me: moving many lilies into the sanctuary, changing out the altar cloths from purple or black to white, colorful, or springlike. One year it meant bringing a beautifully-created well into the sanctuary and adorning it with green cloth and lilies.
But this year, it was already done.
Sunday morning had a different sense, one that is usually ignored on Easter morning: a slow ascent of the sun, a gentle drift from night to day, a stillness with no planes, cars, or people bustling toward their trip to church or out to eat.
Was it a morning like this?
Next year, when the world is back to it’s business and social distancing a thing of the past, we may look back fondly on this past Sunday’s Easter – an Easter with empty parking lots, closed restaurants and mini-egg hunts on individual front lawns, and say, “I remember when.” This is a special time that speaks to the quiet communion that occurs in that early morning light; the same communion that takes place when one puts bare feet in the waves; the same communion that takes place when most people are still asleep and we are awake. It is a first-hand experience of the day the rock was rolled away from the tomb, when no one was getting ready for church then, either.
Prayer: Your presence comes to us in quiet surprises – in empty tombs, little children, and still small voices. And as we summon the courage to look beyond the traditions set for us as to how to celebrate our communion with You, enhance our awareness – guide our hands to touch the wounds from the nails; so that we come back to believe that even in this moment You are right here with us. Amen.
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Thought for the Day: I read these words, and though Paul said that God is able to do more than any of us can imagine, I want to say that I can imagine a lot. Though for Paul, in a time of personal risk, these words suggested a great deal of trust. It is one thing to speak of a leap of faith, yet Paul was referencing God’s creative capacity to put together people and gifts and wisdom in such a way as to create something that no one person could have created. I believe this is where the Spirit is often at work — piecing together the right mix for the moment. Of course, as one who believes that every person has free will and thus can decline the Spirit’s invitation, this process can be slowed or hindered in the moment. This is where God’s patience and persistence is so important.
Prayer: Lead me! Guide me! Allow me, O Lord, to serve you wherever you believe I can be of the greatest help. Amen.
Remember that Bruce does a Wednesday Study & Prayer Time at 11:00am and 7:00pm (it lasts about 20 minutes or so). It is a Zoom Call or on FacebookLive. Check it out!
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Thought for the Day: I don’t wish to dwell on this too much, but I will because it is important. Take a close look at the angel’s charge put before the two Marys. They are to announce the resurrection of Jesus, and then in the last sentence the angel makes it crystal clear that this message – the central proclamation of the church – is given to them from the angel. Just in case you happen to know someone who is still raising a stink over women in ministry, it is difficult to read anything but one with heavenly authority calling two women to preach the Good News. Of course, I’m still in favor of a few of us guys coming alongside these women in this good work. God always seems to challenge the human propensity of “only one way of doing things” by throwing into the mix someone who shakes up the system as it was… and usually this new person does it better than those who had allowed things to get stale and flat. I would have loved to have sat at the feet of one of those Marys as she shared the Gospel of Jesus.
Prayer: The sun is rising on Easter morning, but your people are not where they usually are. Merciful God, you have given life and hope to this world. In the midst of this current struggle, provide us the voice of one who speaks clearly of your love being re-created within humanity this day. Amen.
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Thought for the Day: We as human beings attempt to limit and hold back what is coming. So much effort is put forth in trying to keep the inevitable from becoming reality. I think about all that happened during the Civil Rights Movement, and though the right side of history was crystal clear, there were so many who believed they could stop justice and righteousness from happening. They clearly delayed it, but God’s ways always prevail (civil rights are still a work in progress for far too many). Pilate appeared confident in the soldiers he assigned to the tomb, yet they were keeping watch for anyone approaching the tomb. The last thing they expected was for something to come from the tomb. So often in history people have felt so confident in their capacity to keep things the way they have been, even when the way they’ve been looks nothing like Jesus. They build an army using the fear of change and the demonizing of the other, and it might delay God’s work in the world for a time. But at every moment in history when they’ve confidently sealed and guarded the tomb, they’ve been looking the wrong direction. God’s new life always emerges where hate and fear are not looking. On this Dark Saturday, let hope have us glancing in the direction that no one else seems to be looking.
Prayer: Let hope prevail within us, O God, even when the tomb is closed and guarded. Let hope be our strength as we continue to believe in your ways of love, mercy, justice and compassion. While some feel confident in their capacity to hold such things at bay, we trust your Spirit to make us participants in your new creation. Amen.
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