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An Advent Prayer

December 13, 2019 | Comments Off on An Advent Prayer

This prayer was taken from The Four Mondays of Advent. King Jesus, I await the day when you will return in glory to bring justice for the oppressed and vindication for the righteous. When the burdens and sorrows of the world make my soul downcast within me, give me hope; help me to wait well. And, if you see fit, let my life point others to you. Show me my faults and my errors. Give me a spirit of contrition over my sins. Lead me to repent of my wrongdoing. And help me yield to the transforming work that you want to do in my life. By your Spirit, help me to love you and love neighbor. Let me be an agent of mercy, peace, and hope in this world in your name and for your glory. Amen.

Traditions

December 5, 2019 | Comments Off on Traditions

CREATING TRADITIONS On Christmas Eve, our family typically attends an early evening church service and then returns home for a not-so-traditional holiday meal of pizza and cupcakes. We have a quick birthday party for Jesus before setting out a plate of milk and cookies and tucking our boys into bed for the night.  On Christmas morning, we exchange gifts in our living room and then emerge from a pile of discarded wrapping paper and boxes to share a breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls, bacon, and orange juice, just as I did when I was a child. These are our simple traditions. While traditions can be fun, they can also be formative. It’s not always easy to see precisely how they shape us from one year to the next, but the Bible helps us understand how certain traditions can be instrumental in our spiritual development. When God set apart the people of Israel for himself, he put certain traditions at the center of their life together. And when Jesus set apart the church to be his witnesses in the world, he established a tradition that would bind them together around his death and the hope of his return.  ANCIENT TRADITIONS To …

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O Ye of Little Bread

July 3, 2018 | Comments Off on O Ye of Little Bread

Scarcity. Shortly before I was born, my parents experienced it at the gas pump as the Middle East oil supply plummeted.  Long lines of cars circled gas stations as drivers hoped to get a few gallons before the tanks ran dry. Growing up, the only scarcity I recall was the lack of milk and bread on the shelves in an Alabama grocery store the day before a snow storm. Now, the closest I get to scarcity is when the last homemade pumpkin chocolate chip muffin disappears from the freezer.  My children whine and ask me to make more as if we have no other viable breakfast options.  Meanwhile, I pour them a bowl of cereal or pop a slice of bread in the toaster. Economic scarcity has been, well, scarce in my life.  And yet, I recently realized that I have been operating with a scarcity mindset for the past six years.  It took a familiar story in a children’s Bible to help me see the truth and reframe my situation. Seeing Scarcity After a long day of teaching a crowd, Jesus saw that the people were hungry.  The disciples asked Jesus to send the people elsewhere to find a meal, but Jesus instead …

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Master Craft: Building Walls

June 25, 2018 | Comments Off on Master Craft: Building Walls

Intention #4: Break Down the Walls When it comes to building walls, I am a master.  But don’t hand me a nail gun and a two-by-four.  That’s not my sort of wall. No, I am an expert at building invisible walls. About a decade ago, I built a rebar-reinforced concrete wall between a Children’s Pastor and myself.  I had been tasked with aligning the Vacation Bible School curriculum our church had purchased with the church’s philosophy of ministry and theology.  In my recent-seminary-grad-zeal, I may have gone a bit overboard in my changes and found myself drowning in the amount of work and responsibility I had assumed. The night before VBS started, I discovered a tremendous amount of work had gone undone because I had assumed a certain team had responsibility for it.  I had no idea that another team existed for that task.  I was furious that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I blamed the Children’s Pastor for poor leadership and lack of communication. And out of my frustration, I built a wall between the two of us.  I didn’t want to work with her ever again.  I wasn’t eager to learn about my missteps in handling the …

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A Tool to Use or a Gift to Steward?

May 17, 2018 | Comments Off on A Tool to Use or a Gift to Steward?

Intention #3: Write Often Discipline.  I’m not a fan.  And yet discipline is a crucial aspect of my third intention: write often. I doubt anyone would describe me as a disciplined person. For the twelve years I studied piano, I never practiced on a consistent schedule.  Scales?  Pass. Instead, I crammed the few days before a recital or competition with hours of ruthless practice. I’ve never really had a “daily quiet time.”  During my freshman year of college, my routine looked like this: leave Spanish class, buy a Coke and a muffin, head back to my dorm room, listen to an Elizabeth Elliot message, read the Bible for seven minutes, journaled for seven minutes, and pray for seven minutes.  But when my schedule changed, so did my quiet time rhythms. Discipline Brings Freedom Older and wiser, I now know that discipline can bring freedom.  The jazz pianist who practiced the scales, the cadences, and the rhythms can improvise with ease.  The person who read the Bible and prayed consistently knows God deeper and reflects his character effortlessly. Discipline begins at a young age.  Our parents and caretakers discipline us to train our character.  Our teachers discipline us to train our …

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The Check-In Prayer

May 10, 2018 | Comments Off on The Check-In Prayer

Intention #2: Inquire of the LORD Recently I discovered a new type of prayer: The check-in prayer. Typically I default to one of three prayers: The Gratitude Prayer Dear God, thank you for the joy that my planter of tiny succulents brings me. Amen. The Wisdom Prayer Dear God, I don’t know how to encourage my friend as she walks through this crisis. Help me, please. The Intercessory Prayer Dear God, my friend has a book proposal due in a few months. You have called her to be a wife, a mom, a program director, and a writer. Help her find the time to write. Amen. I pray in these ways because I believe God gives. He gives beauty and words and time. He gives life and breath and food and shelter. He gives courage and direction. He gives help and healing and wholeness. What else do I believe about God?  And how do my beliefs shape how I pray? Prayer is tricky. We’re never quite sure how to do it. We’re not quite sure how it works. Still, we know we ought to talk with God. So we pray. I noticed the check-in prayer during my study of 1-2 …

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