A Heartfelt Prayer: Eyes Off Myself


IMG_2738Most days I begin by journaling. Here is a prayer from my journal. It is good for us as leaders to be open to God about our shortcomings. It is also good to remind ourselves who he is, to tell him how we feel about him. 

Good morning, Lord. I realize as I begin my journal today that I often begin with me—my shortcomings, my frustration, my depression, my anxiety, my concerns, my needs—me, me, me. Even if I had the most unfaithful yesterday in human history, it would be better to start this day (and every one) focusing on You. Even if I had the most amazing yesterday ever, I am not the focus of my life!

Thank You, Father, that You are good. I am not good in myself, but You are always good. You are consistent, reliable goodness. You don’t go bad like the strawberries on our kitchen counter this morning. You are always fresh and true. Your care for me doesn’t wear thin or grow old. You don’t get tired of who I am. (You may lose patience and grow angry with the ways that I walk away from You rather than towards You, but You do not grow weary of me).

You are always right, but not in a small, “I-told-you-so” sort of way…

To read the rest of this post, please visit The Leadership Institute blog. I am posting there at least twice a week these days.

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A Weighty, Shining Glory


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[Remember, while I only post here about once a month, I am posting twice a week over at The Leadership Institute blog. Come over and visit!]

Ps 105:3-4 NIV, “Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.”

The name of Jesus is a name I can glory in. I understand that two metaphors underlying biblical words for “glory” are weightiness and shining. Glorying in his holy name is acting in ways that make the name of Jesus more weighty in my thoughts, feelings, choices, and actions. I can let my heart choose joy as I seek the Lord. And I can let the person of Jesus shine in my heart and mind, exposing the darkness of fear, anxiety, and distorted desire.

Throughout this day, in each task, project, conversation or whatever, I can look to the Lord and trust in his strength. I say to my soul, “What do you need?” I hear the answer, “Many things.” I respond to my soul, “What do you lack in him?” My soul has to admit, “Nothing.”

I can keep looking today into his face of love, delight, interest, and companionship. Glorious!

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Celtic Prayers for St Patrick’s Day


On St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it would be nice to share here some simple, everyday prayers from the Christian Celtic tradition that have blessed me over the years.  They had prayers that acknowledged the presence of God in the simplest of human activities–milking a cow, stoking a fire, extinguishing a fire, rising and retiring, and embarking on a journey, to name a few. (And, again, remember that most of my blogging now is over at The Leadership Institute blog. You can subscribe to those posts on the linked page).

Below are some of those prayers:

(Excerpts from the Carmina Gadelica taken from The Celtic Vision. Edited by Esther de Waal. Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Publications, 1988. Page numbers in parentheses)

Rising Prayer (39)

Thanks to Thee, O God, that I have risen to day,
To the rising of this life itself;
May it be to Thine own glory, O God of every gift,
And to the glory of my soul likewise.

O great God, aid Thou my soul
With the aiding of Thine own mercy;
Even as I clothe my body with wool,
Cover Thou my soul with the shadow of Thy wing.

Help me to avoid every sin,
And the source of every sin to forsake;
And as the mist scatters on the crest of the hills,
May each ill haze clear from my soul, 0 God.

Smothering the Fire (77)

The sacred Three
To save,
To shield,
To surround
The hearth,
The house,
The household,
This eve,
This night,
Oh! this eve,
This night,
And every night,
Each single night.

Night Prayer (95)

I lie down this night with God,
And God will lie down with me;
I lie down this night with Christ,
And Christ will lie down with me;
I lie down this night with Spirit,
And the Spirit will lie down with me;
God and Christ and the Spirit
Be lying down with me.

Death Prayer (123)

O God, give me of Thy wisdom,
O God, give me of Thy mercy,
O God, give me of Thy fullness,
And of Thy guidance in face of every strait.

O God, give me of Thy holiness,
O God, give me of Thy shielding,
O God, give me of Thy surrounding,
And of Thy peace in the knot of my death.

Oh give me of Thy surrounding,
And of Thy peace at the hour of my death!

House Blessing (132)

Be Christ’s cross on your new dwelling,
Be Christ’s cross on your new hearth,
Be Christ’s cross on your new abode,
Upon your new fire
blazing.

Be Christ’s cross on your topmost grain,
Be Christ’s cross on your fruitful wives,
Be Christ’s cross on your virile sons,
Upon your conceptive daughters.

Be Christ’s cross on your serving-maid,
Be Christ’s cross on your knee of promise,
Be Christ’s cross on your coming generation,
Upon your prospering cattle.

Be Christ’s cross on your means and portion,
Be Christ’s cross on your kin and people,
Be Christ’s cross on you each light and darkness,
Each
day and each night of your lives,
Each day and each night of your lives.

Journey Blessings (154-55)

May God make safe to you each steep,
May God make open to you each pass,
May God make clear to
you each road,
And may He take you in the clasp of His own two hands.

May God shield you on every steep,
May Christ keep you in every path,
May Spirit bathe you in
every pass.

Encompassing (161)

The compassing of God be on thee,
The compassing of the God of life.

The compassing of Christ be on thee,
The compassing of the Christ of love.

The compassing of Spirit be on thee,
The compassing of the Spirit of Grace.

The compassing of the Three be on thee,
The compassing of the Three preserve thee,
The compassing of the Three preserve thee.

In what life situations might we develop simple prayers to acknowledge God’s presence, welcome His generous grace and offer ourselves to Him? Booting up a computer? Taking our morning shower? Sitting down to a meal? Preparing a make a phone call or send an email? How might you deepen your own moment-to-moment awareness of the real presence of Christ with you?

 

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Morning Rhythms


morningrhythms

One of the practices that I find especially soul-nourishing is reading the daily lectionary in the mornings. The lectionary provides four readings: 1) a psalm, 2) an Old Testament reading, 3) a general reading from the New Testament and 4) a gospel passage. The daily lectionary provides a cycle of readings that last three years and covering a large portion of the whole Bible. I use a simple iPhone/iPad app by Jim Coates called “Daily Office Lectionary.” You can find daily readings on the “Revised Common Lectionary” page on the Vanderbilt Divinity Library webpage. I find reading the lectionary on iPhone or iPad a helpful way to engage the scriptures first rather than email, Facebook, web browsing and such. It has a way of redeeming what can become a distraction for me.

After I read, I will usually take a few moments to reflect and journal on a particular reading that captures my attention. As a writer, I am also a extensive journaler. Below are a few excerpts from my morning prayer journal from some mornings in June 2014:

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Perfectionism Paralyzes


Perfectionism is damaging to the human venture because it cuts the nerve of all effort. If I refuse to participate in an operation until I can approve every part of it, I shall wait forever. This is the meaning of the initially mystifying aphorism to the effect that the ideal best is the enemy of the concrete good” (Elton Trueblood. The Validity of the Christian Mission. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1972, p. 46)

Isn’t that a great word from Elton Trueblood? To read a my reflections on it, come on over to The Leadership Institute blog. I’m blogging there a couple of times a week.

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Spiritual Leadership: Lessons from Spiritual Direction


Here is a great summary of what makes a good spiritual director. These qualities are also useful for those of us in any form of spiritual leadership. You can easily change out the words “spiritual director” for “Christian leader.”

How is God growing these qualities in your own life and ministry?

The lines in bold come from Kenneth Leech’s revised version of Soul Friend (Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing, 2001, p. 84-85.)

“From the tradition, the spiritual director appears, first as a person possessed by the Spirit….”

The consensus among Christian spiritual writers is that the best mentors of the spiritual life are those who are uniquely gifted by God in this way. Those whose lives are growing in holiness and in intimacy with God are the ones who we can trust to give good spiritual guidance. A godly spiritual director is one in whom Christ is making Himself more and more fully at home.

TO READ MORE OF THIS, HEAD ON OVER TO THE LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE BLOG.

God’s Measureless Faithfulness


rainbowThe other day, in my morning lectionary reading, I came across a psalm line that captured my imagination.

He remembers his covenant forever,
      the promise he made, for a thousand generations…”
Ps 105:8 NIV

God has no problem with remembering. I can forget things moments after I’ve heard them or seen them. I am, sadly, pretty good at forgetting. It’s why I’m all the more impressed and impacted by the idea that God would make a promise that would still be on his mind a thousand generations from now.

Somehow, a thousand generations feels longer than forever. I can’t imagine 30,000 years. If my three sons have children, who have children, and this pattern continues for 998 more cycles, we could be in the year 32,014 (not allowing, of course, for the culmination of all things coming sooner). Even then, the Lord would remember a promise he might make to me about my generations to come. Isn’t that measureless faithfulness? Talk about an unhurried God.

And so it isn’t hard to imagine that God still has in mind promises he mades to Adam, or Abraham, or Moses, or David, and ways in which I am, today, a beneficiary and heir to the benefits of those promises, not by blood but by faith.

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There are promises Gem and I feel God made to us many years ago early in our marriage. Some of them have not yet been fulfilled. I wonder if some of them might not be fully fulfilled for generations. Would I be O.K. with that?