October 31, 2014

Saints of God

Today we take a break from our contemplation of the Lord’s Prayer to consider the witness of those saints of God who have gone before us. There’s a good old hymn, by Lesbia Scott, which reminds us that saints are like you and me. Another blogger weighs in on this hymn here.

I sing a song of the saints of God,
patient and brave and true,
who toiled and fought and lived and died
for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
and one was a shepherdess on the green;
they were all of them saints of God, and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.
They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,
and his love made them strong;
and they followed the right for Jesus' sake
the whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
and one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
and there's not any reason, no, not the least,
why I shouldn't be one too.
They lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store,
in church, by the sea, in the house next door;
they are saints of God, whether rich or poor,
and I mean to be one too.
As we celebrate All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween), All Saint’s Day, and All Soul’s Day this weekend, we remember those who have gone before us into Glory. We remember our family, friends, and even those we never knew who were witnesses to faith in God. We follow their leading in each of our individual Christian journeys.
Maybe this little pumpkin prayer (inspired by Oriental Trading, modified by me) will help us remember how to live as a saints of God.

October 26, 2014

Deliver us from Evil

So far in our exploration of the Lord’s Prayer, possibly the best known prayer in the world, we have paused to remember that God is our ‘daddy’. God is also holy and we are to allow ourselves to be conformed to God’s Kingdom and God’s will in our lives. For this God gives us what we need every day. In order to be more closely aligned with God, we must forgive ourselves and others. We also have to let go of those things that keep us from being fully in relationship with God. There's a lot to think about in this prayer that we often just recite!

In this part of the prayer, after acknowledging that we are easily tempted, we turn to God for protection from evil. Since the Garden, there has been evil abroad in the world. However, “God has overcome the world.” When Jesus was tempted by Satan, he declared 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'(Math. 4:4 NIV). In times of trial, Jesus recognizes the Lord as His source of deliverance. Likewise we are to depend on God when evil is at our door. We can ask for God to be our protection from being ‘lured’ by temptations that are not in line with God or that are truly evil. Being consciously aware of the protection of God can take the form of dedicated prayer.

Part 1
One way to focus on prayer, aside from all the suggestions already in this series is to use Anglican Prayer Beads. It really isn’t hard to make your own. If you don’t want to string the beads, you can purchase them and learn to use them in prayer. One set of directions and prayers is here.

Part 2
Yet free us from not being in the Present is how the Aramaic translation puts the petition for safety from evil. And it is true that when we are too focused on either the past or the future we are not living into the full life and protection of our Holy God and Father. There’s an old Chinese saying by Lao Tzu that puts it in perspective.

If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
Matthew 6:25-34 says essentially the same thing, Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Like the Anglican Prayer Beads, a Holding Cross can help you focus on the present and on the presence of God. A Holding Cross is a specially shaped cross, but you can sit and focus on any cross you have, concentrating on being in the moment with God.
Next weekend is All Saints Sunday when we remember all the saints of the church, both famous and every day men and women who have gone before us in the faith. Then we’ll resume our study of the Lord’s Prayer with the closing doxology

October 19, 2014


"Temptation" Some synonyms are lure, enticement, attraction, invitation, pull, inducement, appeal, excitement, desire. Temptations are things that draw us away from God. They can be big things, but more often they are the little distractions that coax us away from time with God.

The prayer says “lead us not into temptation”. The modern translation says ‘Save us from the time of trial (or testing)’. Does God lead us into temptation or test us to see if we ‘pass’? Or is it our own decisions that let us slip into some habits that seem innocent and maybe more exciting than the relationship with God that is being focused on in the Lord’s Prayer? Temptations might be things that look good and important. Not too long ago on the internet a saying circulated “More than needing schedule and productivity, this week will need a Savior and prayer. God’s not asking you to produce, he’s asking you to pray. God’s not asking you to climb ladders, He’s asking you to kneel and let go.” (Ann Voskamp)

Sometimes we forget that God is in charge of everything we have, like our daily bread and the sunrise and even the trials and yes the temptations. So we can turn them back over to God. We can, as the little saying goes, “kneel and let go.”

Part 1

Make a Prayer rock. This is simply a rock wrapped in cloth to remind you of what to do with your temptations. There’s a little poem that goes along with it that you can tie onto the rock, if you want.

I’m your little prayer rock and this is what I’ll do.
Just put me on your pillow till the day is through.
Then turn back the covers and climb into your bed
And WHACK … your little prayer rock will hit you on your head.
Then you will remember as the day is through
To kneel and say your prayers as you wanted to,
Then when you are finished just dump me on the floor,
I’ll stay there through the night-time to give you help once more.
When you get up the next morning CLUNK…I stub your toe
So you will remember your prayers before you go.
Put me back upon your pillow when your bed is made,
And your clever little prayer rock will continue in your aid.
Because your heavenly Father cares and loves you so,
He wants you to remember to talk to him… you know

Part 2    Help us not forget our Source
In the Aramaic translation, we pray “help us not forget our Source”. When we give in to temptations, we do tend to forget Who the Source of all things is. When we let go of the temptations that lead us away from that Source, we are return to unity and union.

One way to keep connected to the Source of all life is to start a Thanksgiving diary. Just like the name implies, this discipline involves writing down at least one thing we are thankful for each day. Remembering our blessings helps us move past temptations and turn to God. Ann Voskamp, in her blog AHolyExperience.com offers monthly suggestions for finding 3 things each day to be thankful for. She calls it the “Joy Dare” and you can download it.

Next week we consider the protection God offers when we turn to Him rather than depending on ourselves.

October 12, 2014


Forgiveness: asking for, receiving, and esp. offering it can be difficult. Yet we are instructed by our Lord to do just that. Indeed we are to forgive 70 x 7 times! (Matthew 18:21). We are to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44) and “bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13). If we can “forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14)

When you listen to the news it can be hard to find forgiveness in your heart for the evils of the world. How do we forgive those who murder children or who cause genocide and wide-spread anguish? Is it any easier to forgive the person who steals your peace of mind by roaming the woods and threatening lives with gunfire? What about the man or woman who thinks differently than you do or who cuts you off in traffic? Perhaps you have a personal story of someone who has caused you or your family harm-how do you forgive them?
Remember, forgiveness is not about excusing the wrong, but about freeing yourself from being trapped by the memory of that trespass. I have known people who are unable to forgive even little things and it binds them to the past and ruins friendships and makes their lives very unhappy.

Part 1
Because forgiveness is really a difficult thing, it can help to have something concrete to work on while praying for forgiveness.

One thing you can do is find a selection of twigs and small branches. Make them into a wreath, using a foam circle or just weaving them together free form. As you make the wreath pray for those you need to forgive. Start simple…with the person who cut you off at the grocery store.
You could also purchase a vine wreath from a craft store and attach the names and/or actions that you are working to forgive.

Part 2
The Aramaic translation of this line really hit home when I first read it. “Untie the knots of failure binding us, as we release the strands we hold of others’ faults” it says. Isn’t it very true that when we are unforgiving, we are really holding onto the “strands” of whatever they did to wrong us? The other person may not even know we feel hurt, but as long as we keep tying those knots, we’ll never be free.

There are many things in the world that we think we cannot or should not forgive. As I said above, forgiving is not about excusing the wrong, but really it is all about freeing yourself from being tied to the pain and anger of the memories. Sometimes, too, it is about forgiving ourselves. Too often we can be harder on ourselves than on anyone else…So if you need to ‘untie the knots…and release the strands of [our own] faults’ as you pray for forgiveness, do it.

Tie knots in a rope, one for each thing you need to forgive or be forgiven for. Use the knotted rope as a prayer aid. Pray over each knot, and as you are able to let go of that issue, untie the knot.

In writing this I started to wonder if my own unforgiving attitude toward those who have ‘trespassed against’ me is any less harmful than the fanaticism that kills others because they do not believe in the same way or agree with a certain leader…? An uncomfortable thought, isn’t it? Holding onto the “knots of failure” and the “strands of others’ faults” doesn’t solve anything. Paradoxical as it sounds, it is only in loving and “praying for those who persecute you” that we find freedom ourselves.
Next week we’ll move on to looking at Temptations!

October 5, 2014

Daily Bread

The phrase “Give us this day our daily bread” in the Lord’s Prayer, as many commentators point out, starts the portion of the prayer relating to our personal needs. The first part of the prayer is dedicated to declaring God’s goodness and glory. In the second half, we recognize our dependence and our response to the goodness of God.

What might “daily bread” mean? Is it just the food we eat? Or is it all the sustenance of life that is provided for us day by day? Perhaps both? Daily bread is also the relationships we share with each other that nourish and refresh us.
Part 1
Make bread or a treat to share with someone ‘just because’, or take someone to lunch, as a way of recognizing that the daily bread is a food, but it is also the relationship of fellowship around a table.
If you want to start a round of Amish Friendship Bread, you can find the recipe here from my book, A Sampler of Bible Beauty. (For the book, it's called "Naomi's Friendship Bread", but the recipe is the same.)

Part 2
Grow through us this moment’s bread and wisdom from the Aramaic translation offers a broader perspective by asking God for bread and wisdom. This is important because God gives us the discernment we need to determine how to meet our own needs and how to reach beyond our comfort zone.

Give or send a card to someone who might be lonely or to a service person to let them know you are thinking of them. You could even make the card if you are feeling crafty.

Take cookies, or bread, to your local fire or police station because our first responders don’t get thanked often.

Of course there are people in the world, and even in our cities and towns, that don’t have enough actual bread, rice, beans, or any food to make it through from day to day. I recently heard of the SNAP Challenge. The goal is awareness of the reality of getting enough food on only $4.50/day/person. That is the amount men and women on food stamps are allotted. Think about it, that’s $31.50/week/person. For some in our country, the amount many of us spend on a fancy coffee is all they have to live on all day long!

You might decide to make an impact in the war against hunger by donating to a food pantry or some other organization that is working to end hunger. One is the Rachel Ray show challenge to fund 9 million meals. For each dollar donated, 10 meals are provided. There are plenty of local options as well, no matter where you live.
Next time, we’ll consider our response to the Holy and Loving God who provides for us and how we too often break the relationships within the community and between ourselves and God by not being able to forgive.