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Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. . . Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other. . . discover beauty in everyone. Thoughts from Romans 12, The Message, by Eugene Peterson.

The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread. ~Mother Teresa

Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit. ~Peter Ustinov

This week I am reading and studying a book on forgiveness… Embodying Forgiveness: A Theological Analysis, by L Gregory Jones. In the introduction, Mr. Jones states that

“forgiveness is not so much a word spoken, an action performed, or a feeling felt as it is an embodied way of life in an ever-deepening friendship with the Triune God and with others. As such, a Christian account of forgiveness ought not simply or even primarily be focused on the absolution of guilt; rather, it ought to be focused on the reconciliation of brokenness, the restoration of communion – with God, with one another and with the whole Creation.”

I believe that to practice forgiveness as an embodied way of life, that practice must come from the center of ourselves, by loving God and loving one another. In order to love and live in communion with God and others, we must practice and develop the craft of forgiveness, an on-going process of unlearning sin through forgiveness, and of learning, through specific habits and practices in community, to live in communion. As followers of Jesus Christ, as members of the family of God, our priority should be to offer love, compassion and the creative and free gift of new life in Christ, in the face of the sin and evil we all experience in the world.

For a deeper and godly love to radiate from the center of who we are we must, through words and action, bring God’s reconciliation through Christ to bear on our own lives and in the concrete situations in which people around us find themselves. In some situations, that love in action may require heroics and possibly suffering. In other situations, it may require patterns of reconciliation and reconstruction. But in whatever situation we find ourselves, to respond to sin and evil with love will involve us in “seeing forgiveness as an innovative gesture, patterned in Christ, that breaks apart those habits and forces that diminish and destroy. In this sense, forgiveness is an invitation to imagine and embody a future, a future revealed in God’s Kingdom that is not bound by the past or condemned to repeat it.” (p. 90)

In order for God’s love to touch the center of who we are we must daily experience His forgiveness for our own mental, spiritual, emotional and physical restoration. Only then can we love others from the center of who we are.

Be still, and know that I am God…..

There is peace in brokenness, when we know that that the song continues to play even if at the time we cannot hear it.

I think one of the greatest diseases of the modern west is the need to fix things with immediacy. Very rarely can we find a patient patient. Sometimes I think that when suffering comes, and we cry out to God saying “fix me!” or “fix this!” he says “I am doing…..”

I believe the song that God sings is one of hope, peace, and true joy, and that our suffering can cause us to loose sight and sound of that, but being still and totally honest before God will allow us to again hear the melody.

This week take some time to tune in….

Espresso Scripture, by Ben Norton, 2009.

For the past few days along with my daily reading and meditation in the Word, I have been reading the book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning. Let me share some reflections about living by grace, experiencing the love of God.

  • The disciple who is living by grace, rather than by some set of laws, has undergone a decisive conversion… turning from mistrust to TRUST. The foremost characteristic of living by grace is trust in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on the cross… As a child of God, I am beloved, loved by the Father and am free to trust.
  • The tendency in legalistic religion of any sort is to mistrust god, to mistrust others and consequently to mistrust ourselves. Our focus then becomes an internal focus, rather than a focus on God.
  • We need a new kind of relationship with the Father that drives our fear and mistrust, anxiety and guilt. A relationship that permits us to be hopeful and joyous, trusting and compassionate.

The gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ calls us to sing of the everyday mystery of intimacy with God. To sing of the spiritual roots of such commonplace experiences as falling in love, telling the truth, raising a child, teaching a calss, forgiving each other after we have hurt each other, standing together in the bad weather of life, of the unexpected serendipitous moment, of the radiance of existence.

Of such is the kingdom of heaven. Of such is the homely mystery of genuine religion in which grace abounds and walks around the edges of our every day experiences

Trust defines the meaning of living by grace… the active expression of God’s love.


In Sunday School, children are sometimes taught this acrostic:

J – Jesus first
O – Others next
Y – Yourself last.

Is this formula too childish, too simplistic to be true? Certainly it runs utterly against the grain of our culture, which advises us to look out for “number one.” Even in our spiritual communities we often hear people give advice to others who are spending their lives serving Jesus to, “take time out for yourself…  if you don’t, you’ll burn out.” How do you think Mother Teresa would have responded to such a suggestion?

Wrestle with these questions this week:

What is the source of the deepest and most lasting joy I know?
How does this joy compare to the fleeting frivolities that advertise themselves as being the source of true happiness?
In times of crisis, confusion or depression, distress and grief, what does it mean to be able to “rejoice in the Lord always?”

Consider the possibility that the best time we can take for ourselves is our time of contemplation and prayer before God, our time in conversation with the Holy Spirit. Could it be that our “burn out” is directly related to our neglect of our relationship and conversation with Jesus Christ?

Prayer for Illumination:

Author of grace and our Eternal Guide, Jesus,
As I make my pilgrimage through this life,
shed your light upon my way; keep me from slipping or going astray.
Speak to me in the recorded witness of community and church
that through the Spirit’s interpretation of the Scriptures
I may find direction, strength and joy;
through Christ Jesus, Shepherd of my soul. Amen.

Music for Contemplation

This fall Christian musician Todd Agnew released a new album called “Need.” In that album, the first song is titled “Joy Unspeakable.” Let me share the lyrics of this song and a link to listen to this album:

Album “Need” by Todd Agnew

Joy Unspeakable

I’ve found His grace is all complete.
He supplies my every need, mm…mm…
While I sit and learn at Jesus’ feet,
I am free…indeed.
What kind of joy is this?

It’s joy unspeakable…
all You’ve done for me.
It’s indescribable…
just a taste of Your glory.
And it’s unnatural…
not to tell the story
of all You’ve given me.
My words are incomplete.
It’s joy unspeakable.

I’ve found the pleasure I once craved.
It’s joy and peace within….within.
What a wondrous blessing, I am saved
from the awful gulf of sin.

It’s joy unspeakable…
all You’ve done for me.
It’s indescribable…
just a taste of Your glory.
And it’s unnatural…
not to tell the story
of all You’ve given me.
My words are incomplete.
It’s joy unspeakable.

I’ve found the joy no tongue can tell.
How its waves of glory roll!
It’s like an overflowing well…
springing up within my soul.

It’s joy unspeakable…
all You’ve done for me.
It’s indescribable…
just a taste of Your glory.
And it’s unnatural…
not to tell the story
of all You’ve given me.
My words are incomplete.
It’s joy unspeakable.

It’s joy unspeakable…
joy unspeakable…
What kind of joy is this!?

Sunday, First Week of Advent; Isaiah 2: 1-5. The Mountain of the Lord

1 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

2 In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains;
it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

3 Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

4 He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

5 Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.

Monday, First Week of Advent; Isaiah 4:2-6… the Branch of the Lord

2 In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel.

3 Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem.

4 The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit
of fire.

5 Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy.

6 It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.

Tuesday, First Week of Advent; Isaiah 11:1-10… The Branch from Jesse

1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD –

3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;

4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.

5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.

7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.

9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.

Wednesday, First Week of Advent; Isaiah 25:6-10a… the Lord Almighty

6 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.

7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;

8 he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.
The LORD has spoken.

9 In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

10 The hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain; but Moab will be trampled under him
as straw is trampled down in the manure.

Thursday, First Week of Advent; Isaiah 26:1-6… A Song of Praise

1 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
We have a strong city; God makes salvation
its walls and ramparts.

2 Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter,
the nation that keeps faith.

3 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you.

4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.

5 He humbles those who dwell on high, he lays the lofty city low;
he levels it to the ground and casts it down to the dust.

6 Feet trample it down—
the feet of the oppressed, the footsteps of the poor.

Friday, First Week of Advent; Isaiah 29:17-24… the Humble Rejoice

17 In a very short time, will not Lebanon be turned into a fertile field
and the fertile field seem like a forest?

18 In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll,
and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.

19 Once more the humble will rejoice in the LORD;
the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

20 The ruthless will vanish, the mockers will disappear,
and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down-

21 those who with a word make a man out to be guilty, who ensnare the defender in court and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice.

22 Therefore this is what the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, says to the house of Jacob:
“No longer will Jacob be ashamed; no longer will their faces grow pale.

23 When they see among them their children,
the work of my hands, they will keep my name holy;
they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob,
and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.

24 Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding;
those who complain will accept instruction.”

Saturday, First Week of Advent; Luke 1:26-38… The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God.”

38“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

(Scriptures taken from the New International Version)


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August 2020