Tag Archives: spirituality

I know. Ash Wednesday over, Lent begins. I’m not ready.

The long, cold winter has so consumed my psyche that I was unprepared to accept the arrival of March.  We seem so far away from the typical spring images that usually accompany March. 

And accompanying that, I was surprised when I realized that Tuesday was Mardi Gras, which meant that Wednesday was Ash Wednesday and today is the first day of Lent!  Oh my goodness, how the time flies.

This has caused me to struggle wondering why Lent has snuck up on me.  I suppose one reason is the weather, but a second is that I have not had to prepare for the season as I have the past 10 years.  This is a season as a parishioner, not as a pastor.

I admit to feeling a bit guilty because I have no plans, no identified fasting plan or any 40-day practice.  The 40-day period of giving up something or doing something as a spiritual practice has always been a challenge for me.  This places me in an awkward position:  Is it too late?

Committing to the year-long Bible reading plan, I have already implemented a very structured practice.  This is not just sitting down and reading a novel, this is study.  My 40-day challenge is realistically a 365-day challenge.

Therefore I should not feel so guilty, should I?

Add to this study, though, is an additional reading I have just completed.  Based on a friend’s recommendation I have read through Ruth Haley Barton’s Sacred Rhythms(2006).  

The nine chapters take one through a process to establish the spiritual practices that develop–or maybe a better word is enriches—one’s spirituality.

Barton offers a personal viewpoint on the practices while providing the rationale, the scriptural basis, and the encouragement needed to reorganize one’s life to be more mindful of one’s own spirituality.  

The chapters outline the various practices as solitude, scripture, prayer, honoring the body, self-examination, discernment, and Sabbath.  

John Wesley also identified the individual acts of piety as means to strengthen one’s spirituality, also.  The United Methodist Church’s website lists these as “. . . reading, meditating and studying the scriptures, prayer, fasting, regularly attending worship, healthy living, and sharing our faith with others” [Accessed on March 7, 2019 at umc.org].

There are differences, I realize, but Barton confronts the problems that our culture faces in this 21stcentury that Wesley could not have imagined.  Wesley’s acts of piety do still apply, but having Barton explain how today’s technological world and demanding family life do not have to interfere with these practices.

Therefore, as I continue working through the year-long Bible reading plan, I am going to reread Barton’s book with a pencil in my hand to make additional notes.  My Lent will be to review, release today’s world, and to work on developing a 21stcentury plan, or as she calls it, rule of life for myself.  

I may still be unprepared for Lent in the traditional sense, but I must forgive myself and acknowledge that whenever and however I work to improve my personal spiritual practices is the ultimate goal. Isn’t that what Lent is?

Please join in prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,

You are my teacher.  

You are my healer.

You are my redeemer.

Forgive me for letting the world step in the way.

Forgive me for worrying that I am not perfect.

Forgive me that I procrastinate in growing spiritually.

Thank you for the words of others who teach.

Thank you for the words of those who help me heal.

Thank you for the words of scripture that are timeless.

Guide me in my understanding.

Guide me in making better time for scripture.

Guide me in adding scriptural practices

     that work for life eternal.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit,

With Jesus Christ your son,

And you, our Lord, I Am.  –Amen

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5th Sunday Worship with the Word and Song: Prayer

This is the script from Sunday’s service.  Focusing on a theme, PRAYER, the service design is to use scriptures and hymns to carry the theme.  Having used the book, 100 Favorite Bible Verse, by Lisa Guest, I have been able to weave the verses into three sermons.  Thanks to her for the effort she has put forth and her comments.  They have certainly spoken to me during this winter month.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

**Opening scripture & thoughts:  Psalm 100a psalm for giving thanks.

Shout to the Lord with joy, everyone on earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness.
Come to him with songs of joy.
I want you to realize that the Lord is God.
He made us, and we belong to him.
We are his people.
We are the sheep belonging to his flock.

Give thanks as you enter the gates of his temple.
Give praise as you enter its courtyards.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
The Lord is good. His faithful love continues forever.
It will last for all time to come.

         “God is like a shepherd who, 24/7, protects and provides for His stupid sheep.  It’s not a flattering description, but like sheep, we find our selves drawn to unhealthy waters.  Sometimes we get ourselves turned upside down and can’t get right side up without the Shepherd’s help.  . . .          God has been faithful to generations before us, He shows Himself faithful to us, and He will be faithful to every generation to come.  Clearly, we have no excuse not to obey the Psalm 100 command!  Let us worship the Lord with gladness!”  (p. 215)


*UMH Hymn 437:  This Is My Song


**Scripture & thoughts:  Philippians 4:6-7

Don’t worry about anything. Instead, tell God about everything. Ask and pray. Give thanks to him. Then God’s peace will watch over your hearts and your minds because you belong to Christ Jesus. God’s peace can never be completely understood.


UMH Hymn 496:  Sweet Hour of Prayer


The Congregation’s Prayer:  from Guest’s notes


Prayer is an amazing privilege, Lord, yet too often I take it for granted.  Forgive me, and fuel in me a desire to establish and maintain an ongoing conversation with You.  I do want to learn to pray always and about everything and to do so with thanksgiving.  Please teach me, so that each day I will see You more clearly, love You more dearly, and follow You more nearly. 

“. . . Pray.  Pray about everything.  Pray all the time.  Pray with thanksgiving.  . . . Knowing that worry is our default mode, Paul urged God’s people to pray for God’s presence with us and for the people He puts in our paths.  . . . Don’t worry, pray about everything, and experience God’s peace.”  (p. 35)

Private Prayer:

  • Remember to pray daily for relief from the drought
  • Remember your own supplications and praises

Lord’s Prayer:  Please join in the prayer Jesus taught us using trespasses.

**Matthew 6:9-13:  “This is how you should pray.

“‘Our Father in heaven,
may your name be honored.
10 May your kingdom come.
May what you want to happen be done
on earth as it is done in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 Forgive us our sins,
just as we also have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 Keep us from falling into sin when we are tempted.
Save us from the evil one.’


   Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

   Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done

   On earth as it is in heaven.

   Give us this day our daily bread.

   And forgive us our trespasses,

   As we forgive those who trespass against us.

   And lead us not into temptation,

   But deliver us from evil.

   For thine is the kingdom,

        the power

             and the glory, forever.  –Amen


OFFERING:  Guests should not feel the offering is their responsibility.   Members prayerfully give to support the church’s ministry.


*DOXOLOGY no.  95: Please stand as you wish and sing.


*PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING:                                             the Pastor

Thank you, God, for allowing us to share our offerings with you.   May these offerings work in your behalf as we continue to share your love.   –Amen


UMH Hymn 600:  Wonderful Words of Life


Scripture & Thoughts:  Psalm 46


God is our place of safety. He gives us strength.
He is always there to help us in times of trouble.
The earth may fall apart.
The mountains may fall into the middle of the sea.
But we will not be afraid.
The waters of the sea may roar and foam.
The mountains may shake when the waters rise.
But we will not be afraid. Selah

God’s blessings are like a river. They fill the city of God with joy.
That city is the holy place where the Most High God lives.
Because God is there, the city will not fall.
God will help it at the beginning of the day.
Nations are in disorder. Kingdoms fall.
God speaks, and the people of the earth melt in fear.

The Lord who rules over all is with us.
The God of Jacob is like a fort to us. Selah

Come and see what the Lord has done.
See the places he has destroyed on the earth.
He makes wars stop from one end of the earth to the other.
He breaks every bow. He snaps every spear.
He burns every shield with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be honored among the nations.
I will be honored in the earth.”

11 The Lord who rules over all is with us.
The God of Jacob is like a fort to us.


from Guest’s comments:

         God is able to call forth powerful winds, part a sea, ad ravage a nation with plagues.  Yet He calls us to know Him not in the spectacular and loud, not in the dramatic and powerful.  He calls us to be still.  We are to find quiet—internal as well as external—is we are truly to know that He is God.  Faith grows during our quiet communion with Him.”  (p.55)


UMH Hymn 395:  Take Time to Be Holy


**Scripture & Thoughts:  James 5:13-16


13 Are any of you in trouble? Then you should pray. Are any of you happy? Then sing songs of praise.

14 Are any of you sick? Then send for the elders of the church to pray over you. Ask them to anoint you with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer offered by those who have faith will make you well. The Lord will heal you. If you have sinned, you will be forgiven.

16 So admit to one another that you have sinned. Pray for one another so that you might be healed. The prayer of a godly person is powerful. It makes things happen.


from Guest’s comments:

         “The power of prayer is one of the mysteries of our faith.  We go through dry seasons when God seems distant and prayer seem pointless, so we skip it all together.  We may feel discouraged from praying for a specific person or situation for months, if not years or decades.  We may also enter a season of great pain and loss when we simply can’t pray, and we rely on the faithful and faith-full prayers of our sisters and brothers in Christ.

         “Then come those prayer times when God seems to be in the same room with us as we pray.  . . .

         “In between these two extreme experiences are those regular prayer times, those acts of disciplined obedience that we do out of love for our Lord.  We pray because He calls us to; we pray because we love Him. 

         “. . . pastor David Jeremiah points out, “The surest way not to get an answer to prayer is not to pray!”  (p. 49)


UMH Hymn 527:  Do, Lord, Remember Me


Closing Prayer: 


Thank you for the privilege of prayer, and forgive me when I take for granted the awesome truth that I am able to speak to You, the sovereign King, the Creator of all, the Healer of my soul, anytime and from anywhere.  I am grateful for those seasons of prayer when You answer quickly and obviously, and I am grateful that you understand those dry times I go through.  So, Father God, please keep me disciplined and expectant as I pray.  (p. 49)


The Benediction:  Go in peace & be the Church for others.


**All the scriptures were from the New International Reader’s Version (NIRV).


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The Promise Box

given on Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Promise Box:  Received as a Gift

Years separated us.  Occasionally we ran into each other, but usually there was not enough time to say more than hi, exchange a pleasantry, and then good-bye.

Strange considering we had spent hours each school day together.  We experienced so many things in common during the years we worked together.  But then circumstances forced our work to go in different directions.

Then, with little warning, work threw us back together again.  Reconnecting was easy; we knew each other well.  In no time the old daily rhythms returned; and it was easy to find little ways to say thank you.

At Christmas, gift exchanges in this setting are discreet.  No big to do about it, yet the gifts are simple and perfectly suited.  Mine was an antique, a small, worn, faded, well-used little box—the Promise Box.  A gift filled with uplifting words.  The gift was “daily manna,” as the box said.

The Promise Box:  Opened, Yet Unopened


When I received the gift, I recognized it immediately.  I had seen them in catalogs and in stores, and it always caught my attention.  Yet I had never picked one up.  Why?

In my head I told myself that I did not need another little gizmo sitting around the house.  I did not need the additional spiritual boost since I worked with the Bible every day in one manner or another.

In my shopping alter ego, this was a clever item that would certainly be a tiny addition to my devotional life.  And if nothing else, this little “daily bread” item can certainly make a nice little gift.

So why had I not ever bought the daily bread gift box?

I opened the Christmas gift; there was the box!  What a surprise, and this was an antique version.  My friend, even after all these years apart, knew the perfect gift.  A gift fit for a worn out, brain-dead soul who needed some renewal.

But, I did not open and use the daily manna—I was too busy, too stuck in a rut, too set in my ways.  I even shared with her how this could be used.  I opened the gift; I just did not open the Promise Box.

The Promise Box:  Indeed Manna from God

I did not open the Promise Box until this week.  This week, after Lent and Easter, I wondered what I should do for the services the next few weeks.  I was dried up.

How should I tackle the problem?  I had no time to take off for a planning retreat, and my small retreat three weeks ago went to other timely priorities.   What now?

To begin, I opened up my drawer and my files.  I found my dump file, other articles I had clipped and put away.  A little brainstorming started creating a list of ideas.  Then my eyes caught site of the Promise Box.  I literally grabbed it, opened it up and pulled the first card out:

2 Peter 3:14                  King James Version (KJV)

14Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.

Just a few little words, written in an archaic manner, what value could they possibly have for me at this time, at this juncture, for this Sunday.

I read on:

“The dearest idol I have known,

   What’er that idol be,

Help me to tear it from its throne,

And worship only Thee.”

The language is still uncomfortable.  But the message, I hear it.  I am still a bit uncomfortable because I needed to hear it.

The Promise Box:  Words from a Friend, Words from God

The Promise Box sat waiting for me.  The words recorded from the King James Version of the Bible are not easy to read with understanding, but pulled out of context, I could get the basic idea from them.  Yet the use of the phrase ‘without spot’ was not clear.

The small prayer that followed helped put the verse into perspective.  In all the rushing around of Lent and Easter, I had placed a part of my faith in suspension.  I was not using the Lectio Divina style of study to keep my life on a faithful track with God.  Even though I was not idle, the calendar had become an idol that was locking up my thinking.

The small, unassuming, antique gift from a friend needed opening.  The words she provided me in that Promise Box were words from God for a very frustrated soul.  Words given by a friend were indeed God’s words to me.

The work began.  First one should turn to the Bible and look up the context of the verse.  Reading it in context shifted the emphasis for a little while, but I read and reread the one verse in four different translations:  the King James, the Message, the New International, and the Common English Bible.  The context is one of those passages that can leave one uncomfortable because it is now over 2,000 years since Jesus’ earthly work ended.

Reading through the entire chapter of 2 Peter 3, the concern of a second coming of Christ is the issue.  Consider that this was written fairly close to Jesus’ crucifixion, the second coming was expected to be a very literal appearance of Jesus.  Many anticipated a second coming as a gigantic destruction of the world.  The event was anticipated at any moment.  Today, there is still not a physical second coming.

How did the timeliness of that thinking effect the early Christians’ daily lives?  Did they follow a strict religious lifestyle or did they get distracted and revert to an unfaithful lifestyle?  Why was it necessary for Peter to remind them that they were to be ready at any moment for the second coming?

These questions, Peter’s warning, and his summary statement found in verse 14:  So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.  (NIV).  Or maybe you hear it better in these words:  Therefore, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found by him in peace—pure and faultless. (CEB)

The Promise Box is simply the bits and pieces of the Bible written on small little slips clarified by a short prayer.  These words from a friend are one small addition of God’s word to help us in our devotions.  These words are like friends.  They are there to pick us up, to guide us, to encourage us, and to assure us of God’s constant presence whether it is in the Bible itself or on a tiny little card or from the words of a friend.

When life seems overwhelming and exhausting, we all rely on friends.  Why, then, do we fail to remember to rely on the words of God?  The Promise Box has been opened.  God’s words have made a difference to me in just this one week alone.  Why did I wander away from my own lifestyle that has worked?  Why do we all wander away and let this earthly life beat us down?  If the words from friends help, why don’t we rely on God’s words, too?

This week evaluate your own state.  Remember to use the Bible.  Sometimes it is difficult to understand, but do not give up.  Read it again, look at study notes and different translations.  God’s words are there and they will provide you the help you need at just the right moment:

So my dear friends, since this is what you have to look forward to, do your very best to be found living at your best, in purity and peace.  Interpret our Master’s patient restraint for what it is:  salvation.  Our good brother Paul, who was given much wisdom in these matters, refers to this in all his letters, and has written you essentially the same thing.  Some things Paul writes are difficult to understand.  Irresponsible people who don’t know what they are talking about twist them every which way.  They do it to the rest of the Scriptures, too, destroying themselves as they do it.  (the MSG)

The words may change, but the message remains the same:  make every effort to be found by him in peace—pure and faultless.  (CEB)

Dear God,

The demands of daily life wear us down,

We waiver, we break, and we cry out for help.

Thank you for the promises in your words,

thank you for the guidance of your words,

thank you for the teachers’ words of explanation.

Thank you, too, for friends who give of their hearts.

Help us to take the words and understand them.

Help us to share the words, too, so others may know

of the promises in your words.         –Amen

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