Archive for April, 2010

Friday, April 16th John 21:1-8

April 16, 2010

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. John 21:1-8

The disciples went fishing after Easter. Of course they did. What else could they do? They were fisherman. They went back to what they knew.

How often have we done the same? How often have we failed to process grief in our lives, falling instead back into the mind numbing safety of our daily routines? How many lessons have we failed to learn because we were too quick to leave the uncomfortable times and places of our lives?

They went fishing but they soon discovered that their old lives weren’t going to work anymore. They didn’t catch a thing. They got skunked all night.

The next morning they saw Jesus standing on the shore.

There are three lessons I take from this passage into our time after Easter.

First, while the disciples discovered that they couldn’t go back again to their old lives, Jesus helped them to see why they wouldn’t want to! Jesus taught them how to fish on the other side of the boat – he had opened their eyes to eternal life and wouldn’t let them go.

Second, Simon Peter discovered forgiveness. He jumped in the water and swam to shore because he had experienced forgiveness from Jesus for his betrayal. He needed that love in his life, couldn’t get enough of it.

And third, as we go fishing (that is, as we live the lives that God has given us) we are blessed to know that Jesus has welcomed us into his boat.

Our task together is to take our fishing orders from him. He tells us to love one another, to make new disciples, to share bread and wine, to pray often, to trust him alone, to stay awake in the face of temptation and to cast our nets on the side of the boat that we least expect.

It worked for them. Why should it not work for us?

Let us pray: Guide us, our Savior and Redeemer, that we might do what you would have us, go where you would lead us, serve as you have served us and love as you have filled us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Thursday, April 14th John 20:19-23

April 15, 2010

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:19-23

How do we tell the story of Easter?

Sunday morning might seem a long way away as we come closer now to the ending of another week buts it is still only a couple of days away. I don’t know what this next Sunday holds in my life or yours, but I do know there are some things that I can count on.

Christians will gather in worship. Their very gathering is a living witness to the story of Easter. Coming together in the morning to remember and celebrate the living Christ is, in and of itself, a means of telling the story.

Once Christians have gathered, they will share words. Words spoken and sung which communicate forgiveness. Actions shared which communicate the accepting, welcoming nature of God’s love for all people. In this re-telling and re-membering of his body, the Easter story continues to be told.

Jesus came into the room of a fearful group of disciples and by his very presence he brought healing and peace into their lives. Just as his death swallows up death, so his presence swallowed up their fear and replaced it with rejoicing.

Then Jesus commissioned them to a very specific task. Breathing his Spirit into them, he invited them to speak from that Spirit the words which would bring his death and resurrection to bear in the lives of others. They were commissioned to speak with God’s voice. They were commissioned to speak forgiveness and cautioned that if they did not speak such words, in a very real way then people would not know that forgiveness.

If they – the disciples, then and now – hold back on speaking Easter words, then Easter words will not be spoken.

It really is amazing to think that Jesus would give his mission away to this same group of fearful friends who only so recently had wilted under pressure. I know we hear that all the time yet it only occasionally sinks in. God uses fearful disciples. God uses a broken church. God’s mission is accomplished by clay vessels.

This church, this people of God, is most like God when it is speaking words of forgiveness, thereby bringing peace into brokenness.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, we recognize this morning that we are your contingency plan. You truly do touch the world through fearful disciples. Heighten our sense of the majesty of the simple expressions of love which will be spoken and shared in worship this weekend. Use us in our gathering to be vessels of your forgiving love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Wednesday, April 14th John 9:1-11

April 14, 2010

As Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”

He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” John 9:1-11

What does it mean for us to tell the story of Easter? First we have to understand that there are two kinds of Easter stories. The first Easter story is the one given to the earliest, and all the subsequent, disciples of Jesus. It is the story of Jesus rising from the dead. A story of resurrection, new life, brand new beginnings.

But then there are the other Easter stories of our lives. The stories when we have experienced the transforming power of the risen Christ in real time, in real ways, that changed us for the better.

We – salt of the earth and city on the hill that we are – are called to tell both stories.

The blind man from John 9 experienced a power greater than himself doing for him what he clearly could not have done on his own. His story was his own. His healing was his own. Yet, in the telling of his story, he pointed beyond himself to the God who was truly the source of his healing. That is an important distinction.

Often we despair that we don’t have the same kind of dramatic, life altering events in our lives of which we hear others speak. It’s important to know that others might have their stories but only we have ours. While we can hitch a ride on others, our own personal experiences are as invaluable as we are. In the telling of our own stories, we point beyond ourselves to the one who has given us life.

The blind man didn’t explain how it happened; he merely bore witness to WHAT happened. In the face of disbelief and hostility, he stood his ground because he stood on the rock solid ground of his conviction that he had been touched.

The children’s song, “This Little Light of Mine”, captures the essence of Christian story telling. We who have followed Jesus to Galilee, seeking to represent him in the worlds in which we live, each have our own little light. Easter happens as those little lights shine.

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, we marvel at the stories of lives that were touched in your earthly ministry. We also worry sometimes, wondering why we don’t see more of that in our own lives. Heal us of our spiritual blindness that we can recognize the clear signs of your Kingdom which surround us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Tuesday, April 13th Philippians 1:27-28

April 13, 2010

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing.” Philippians 1:27-28

Why are we afraid to tell the story?

There was certainly a time when it was dangerous to be a Christian. Perhaps immediately after the crucifixion there were good reasons for the disciples to hide behind locked doors. They could very well have been next.

And there would come a day, after the destruction of Jerusalem in 67-70 AD, when the Christians bore the brunt of the blame. Ousted from synagogues and families, the scapegoats of the calamities wrought by Rome…there were good reasons to be afraid.

Throughout history there have been times of discrimination and hardship for those who bear the name of Christ in the world. Those days haven’t gone away. There are places in the world today, particularly places in Africa, were full-scale slaughter of Christians because they are Christians has been the order of the day.

The odd thing is…even in such places Christians tend to stand forth with boldness rather than cowering with fear, hiding behind locked lips.

We have no such fears. So why are we afraid to tell the story?

Paul encourages the Philippians to “live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” That’s nothing new. But it could very well be what brings us fear. Deep down inside we know that if we’re going to talk the talk we had better also walk the walk. Maybe the walk is as scary as the talk.

Christianity today is largely a voluntary affair. We don’t get many points out there in the land of malls and skyscrapers because we believe that Jesus has risen from the dead. There are times in fact when it is downright humiliating to be pegged as a Christian – especially one who is vocal about their faith!

It’s far easier to be quiet. To not rock the boat. To stand quietly, idly by…fearful that we might be confronted by a slave girl or two who might recognize us as followers of Christ.

So we compromise…ourselves…our faith…our Lord.

And then we wonder where the fire of the Spirit is in our lives!

A therapist friend of mine once told me about a friend of his who had come to a place in his life where he decided that “he wasn’t going to intimidated by anyone who wasn’t holding a knife or a gun.” I found that image tremendously encouraging – as far as it went.

For me, it is far easier to not be intimidated if I am not alone. Paul speaks to the Philippians as a community – not merely as individuals. Living their life by the Gospel is a community affair. It’s about people living their life together, encouraging and standing with one another. Christianity is a team sport.

That is just what we need to hear on this side of the cross. We, who hug the trunk in terror, fearful of venturing out on the limb where the fruit of our faith is to be found. The time has come to come together in renouncing the fears which keep us quiet!

Our boldness is evidence of God working the gifts of salvation within us. And when we finally open our mouths, we could very well discover that such boldness has the power to open people’s hearts.

Let us pray: Open our lips, O Lord, that we might proclaim the greatness of your mighty acts in the simple stories of our lives. Help us talk the talk. Encourage us in our striving to walk the walk. Keep us faithful in the Galilee’s where we live. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Monday, April 12th Mark 16:5-8

April 12, 2010

As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Mark 16:5-8

And so ends the Gospel of Mark. “They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

I wonder how long that fear lasted?

Eventually they must have told. Because someone wrote their story down. Because we know their story today. You can’t keep a secret forever – certainly not one that big! But, for a time, they were too afraid to say anything to anyone.

I wonder how those women felt the next day. Is that when they broke their silence? Is that when they told the other disciples to high-tail it to Galilee and meet Jesus there? Did they keep silent overnight…or did it take longer?

We’re living now in the Easter season. What are we going to do with the glorious news of Easter today?

Are we going to forget it, stuff it away behind the tight lips of our fear? Or will we carry it into our lives in a way that we have never done before? What’s it going to be?

Once, after preaching my heart out on the Sunday after Easter, my son leaned over with a big smile and whispered to me, “You really got into that one, Dad.” (I had been a little on the exuberant side…) I asked him what he thought about that. “I thought it was funny!” he said behind his toothy grin.

My son found it funny that the story of these three silent women got me all excited. I wonder what that says…

So, today is new day and I still have Easter and these three women on my mind. And I’m wondering, in my life and yours, what are we going to do with this story as we head back to the regular lives we’ve been living in Galilee?

Let us pray: The hymns still dance in our memories. It was a glorious day. We pray that you were pleased with our sacrifices of praise and celebration as we remembered your resurrection. Now we are the ones who have been to the empty tomb. Now we are living in the Easter season. Lord, what would you have us do with your story? In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Friday, April 9th John 8:31-33

April 9, 2010

“Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?” John 8:31-33

When you fully engage in the disciplines of Lent – or when Lenten disciplines become integrated into our living spirituality – again and again we will find ourselves struck by the depth and power of confession.

Confession is simply getting honest. With yourself. With God. With others.

Radical honesty is a hallmark of Lent. Lent is not a time for pretending, posturing or spin control. Lent is a time for honest reflection, repentance and rebirth. Incorporating this aspect of Lent into our daily lives means making a radical commitment to honesty.

Jesus tells those listening to him in the 8th chapter of John that if they continue to ground themselves in the word – that is, the truth of the scriptures revealed in the teaching of Jesus – they would know the truth and the truth would set them free.

Jesus is speaking here to people who already believed in him. He is talking to folks who claim to be on his side. But watch their reaction!

They immediately get defensive: “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

Sometimes we mindlessly get defensive at the slightest suggestion we have done something wrong. Harboring an inner suspicion of our own lack of value or worth, we bristle when anyone points out a real or perceived error on our part. Sometimes we get defensive because we feel the need to defend ourselves from attack. And sometimes we get defensive because we have something to hide. Which is it here?

Clearly they are being dishonest with themselves. They claim they are already free. What could possibly be further from the truth? Politically, they are vassals of an occupying Roman army. Socially, they are subject to the intense rules and regulations about dietary customs and social interactions of the Mosaic law. Their religious devotion binds them, it doesn’t free them.

If you skip ahead to verse 59 you will see their ultimate reaction to having heard Jesus expose the truth about their lives – they pick up stones to throw at him but he escapes and leaves the temple!

There’s an old line – “The truth will make you free but first it will make you miserable.”

How true it is! Yet if we try to escape the hard work of radical truthfulness, we miss the joy of real freedom.

Dishonesty takes many forms. Little white lies… spinning the truth around a little… shading what we say to protect ourselves, to make ourselves look better, to hide parts of our being or behaviors… stealing… ignoring that which our heart tells us is true – all of these are aspects of dishonesty. It is insidious. It sucks the integrity from our lives. It hollows out our souls.

When we realize the hole that dishonesty has dug in our lives we might need help to get honest again. We could very well need a circle of people who hold us accountable for truth seeking and truth speaking. Those people might be those closest to us. They certainly need to be people we trust.

Together with those we trust and our own radical commitment to be completely, ruthlessly and utterly honest, we can move into a new way of being.

We CAN know the truth and that truth CAN set us free.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, throughout this week we’ve been talking about ways that the spiritual disciplines of Lent can become a part of our daily lives – and each part has been about what makes our relationship with you work and grow. Listening to you in prayer and scripture reading, modeling ourselves after you in self giving actions, and seeking to be honest with you and in all areas of our lives….we can see how all of these hold the promise of a greater intimacy with you. And we can see how hard they are for us to do. So we ask for your help to encourage us on the way. Don’t let us settle for anything less than all that which you would have us know as your children. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thursday, April 8th Acts 2:42-47

April 8, 2010

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47

We’re talking this week about ways that we can incorporate the disciplines of Lent into our daily lives throughout the year. So far we have talked about the disciplines of prayer and listening to God through the Bible. Today the focus is on giving ourselves away.

Selfishness is a natural by-product of being human. We all have a primal urge to survive. When we feel ourselves threatened – emotionally as well as physically – our knee-jerk reaction is to take care of ourselves, to fight back, to run away. This tendency toward self-care, if not softened by compassion and trust, turns into selfishness.

Jesus recognized our need for self care and honored it. The center of his ethics of love includes self-care as he calls us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The way that Jesus combats selfishness is that he couples our need for self-care to expressing love by giving ourselves away.

The idyllic picture of the earliest Christian church portrayed in the second chapter of Acts is one marked by self giving. The mark of their fellowship was not only in what they received but also in what they gave. They shared their possessions. They gave their time in gathering for public worship in the temple and private worship in their homes.

You can see how their lives were infused with an attitude of gratitude. Their giving was a freely chosen response to God’s love.

The fast paced consumer mentality of our age tells us we want what we want when we want it. When that selfish stance toward life comes into our spirituality, we end up focusing only on what we are receiving with hardly a thought to what we are giving. Such a stance is childish and immature.

Christianity is a team sport. It is a communal faith. It is not only about a personal relationship with God but also about a network of personal relationships with other Christians. We express our common faith through giving ourselves to one another – sharing our possessions, giving of our financial resources, giving of our time, showing up for worship, supporting and encouraging one another through the difficulties of life.

During Lent, many people practice various forms of self-denial. One reason for that discipline is what it teaches us about our radical dependence on God. Another reason is what it teaches us about the power of letting go and giving away. This attitude of giving can become more than a Lenten discipline.

Where is the focus of your faith? When it comes to your participation in a local congregation and the practice of your faith on a daily basis – are you a person concerned mainly with getting your own needs met, with what is in it for you? Or do you focus yourself on what you can give to others out of your own abilities and resources?

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, there is a fine line between taking care of ourselves in a healthy way and mere selfishness. During the season of Lent, our focus on discipleship teaches us about the self giving nature of your love. We know that such self giving is a mark of a healthy, mature, faith…keep us walking on that path toward maturity. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Wednesday, April 7th 2 Timothy 3:14-17

April 7, 2010

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Some things (like going to the bathroom) are best done when we feel like doing them. Other things (like saving money) are best done over time in a methodical, disciplined manner whether or not we might feel like it. Listening to God speak to us through the Bible is like saving money. It is best done over time in a methodical, disciplined manner.

The Bible is God’s gift to us. Certainly God can speak to us through music, through many types of literature. There is no end to the ways that the Spirit can tweak us with signs of God’s presence and loving power. But there’s nothing that speaks with the authenticity, or the authority, of the Bible.

Together with prayer, listening on a daily basis to “the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” is a crucial discipline for spiritual growth.

So how do you do it?

After a few years of personal experience and working with others in growing their understanding and appreciation of the Bible, I have come to understand that the biggest hindrance is the idea that we have to “understand” all that we read in the Bible. People begin to read in a burst of spiritual enthusiasm and good intentions…and then quit because they “just don’t get it.”

But that really isn’t the reason why they quit.

The real reason isn’t that they didn’t “get it”, it’s that they didn’t “do it”! Their plan was faulty. They thought that reading the Bible was something they would do as long as their enthusiasm lasted. When they came to a day where they no longer felt like reading the Bible, they quit.

I’ve come to believe that the real key to using the Bible is just that – using the Bible. Nothing beats actually spending time reading (or listening if you get a Bible on tape for your car) to the Bible.

First, you begin with a goal, a specific, measurable, attainable goal. “I will read the entire Bible this year.” “I will read the New Testament from Matthew through Revelation three times in six months.”

Second, you create a means of marking your progress. You draw a chart that you fill in, a calendar that you mark off, or some other means of keeping track. For a few years, I used the “Daily Walk” Bible which is divided into daily readings that took me through the Bible in a year. Whatever works for you, the point is that you mark your progress toward a goal.

Third, you do it. You don’t worry about not understanding, you just concentrate on filling in your chart, doing your daily reading. You might also have opportunity for more disciplined Bible study if you are in a Sunday School class, a small group Bible study or, after you’ve been at it for a few years, you might be doing more intentional study on your own. But it’s best to begin at the very beginning – putting in the time, doing the work, to develop a sense of familiarity with the scope and sweep of the Bible’s stories.

I remember one day when I was driving down the road on the way to visit someone in the hospital. As I wondered what was going on with me and in me as I was preparing for my visit, a Bible story from John 9 popped into my head. It asked the question I was asking. Jesus spoke words which encouraged me. Had I not made the investment of growing in my use of the Bible, I wouldn’t have had that story in my “spiritual bank”, available to me when I needed it.

Just do it.

Let us pray: Your Word can be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. It can also be a complete mystery leaving us feeling inadequate and uninformed. Certainly there are Christians who live an entire lifetime and never develop much familiarity, appreciation or understanding of the Bible. But their spiritual lives are impoverished and they are missing out on one of the means of knowing you better. Create a fire in us to listen to you through the words of scripture in a daily, disciplined way. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Tuesday, April 6th Matthew 6:7-8

April 6, 2010

“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:7-8

“What do people say when they pray?”

It’s a pretty straight-forward question – one we ought to be able to answer. If spending time in prayer each day is an important discipleship skill, we ought to have some sense of what to say.

And we also have to learn to listen.

I go with the 2/3’s, 1/3 plan here. 2/3’s of the prayer in my life is listening and 1/3 is talking. I guess that comes from the old “we have two ears and one mouth, use accordingly” principle.

Listening prayer is simply listening. It is spending time, consciously aware of God’s presence, wondering about life, listening to myself, trusting God to come to me in my internal reflections.

But then there is the other 1/3. What do we say? How do we make sure we aren’t just filling the air with meaningless prattle and empty syllables? Here’s one idea:

The following ten step prayer form comes from Herb Miller’s book, “Connecting with God,” (Abington Press, Nashville, 1994. Pp.66-67.) Print this out, put it in your Bible and begin trying it.

1. In preparation, set aside fifteen minutes in a location where you can be physically relaxed and there is little likelihood of interruption. Read one or two chapters from the Bible, listening for what God says to you. This helps erase distracting thoughts from the blackboard of your mind…

2. Close your eyes and give thanks for three personal blessings of which you are especially conscious today. This helps you move toward God by moving away from a sense of your own self-sufficiency.

3. Ask God to help three other persons whom you feel need God’s help today. Ask God to help your pastor(s). This helps you move toward God by moving away from a sense of your own self-sufficiency.

4. Ask God to forgive your mistakes and sins, and give you the strength to forgive others.

5. Ask God to help one person you find it hard to like. Ask God to give that person insights into his/her personal problems, and ask for the power to let God’s love flow through you to him/her.

6. Ask that you be sensitive today to the needs of one person with whom you can share God’s love in word or deed.

7. Ask for insight into your personal problems.

8. Ask for help in achieving your personal goals.

9. Ask that God tell you the most important thing you need to do today in order to “seek first His kingdom.”

10. Conclude by listening intently (for the remaining time) to what God might say to you.

Give it a try – all you have to lose is your fear that you don’t know what to say when you pray!

Let us pray: Dear Lord, hear us as we pray. Speak your Word through our sighs as we struggle through our first baby steps into developing a prayer life. Encourage us to make the time that we can take to be with you each day in prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Monday, April 5th Matthew 6:5-6

April 5, 2010

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:5-6

Lent has ended; Easter has come. We’ll spend the next 50 days thinking about post-resurrection life. But before we move on, let’s think a bit about what Lent taught us.

So how did you do? Did you climb the lofty heights of spiritual supremacy? Did you scale the cliffs of sublime humility? Did you taste the manna of religious ecstasy? Did you make it through a single week without kicking the dog?

The best ideas in the world eventually turn into work. So it is with Lent. If Lent teaches us anything, it is that following Jesus in a disciplined way requires discipline. There is an unalterable “one day at a time” character to our relationship with God.

This week I want to talk about spending time with God on a daily basis – how to work mini-retreats, little Lents, into our daily lives.

Today the reminder is to create moments of quietness on a daily basis.

Jesus invites us in Matthew 6 to “go into our room and shut the door.” Originally Jesus spoke these words to discourage spiritual pride and showing off. That is hardly our problem today when it comes to prayer – we are far more apt to simply not do it then we are to do it loudly, grandly and publically!

In our day, creating quiet moments of prayer falls more into the category of taking care of ourselves, tending our relationship with God and finding our center.

Parents of young children understand this principle – the room they most often retreat into is the bathroom. Ask any young mother and they will tell of a time when they cowered behind the locked doors of their bathroom – toddlers and others banging on the door looking for those precious items that mothers alone keep constant and vigilant track of – praying for the strength to make it through another day.

How do we find those moments?

We get up a little earlier in the morning. We designate a quiet place in our home and use it. We turn off the music in the car. We ask our secretaries to hold our calls. We discover the bathroom at work is just as private as the bathroom of a toddler’s parent. We walk at lunch. We make some time and take some time to sit quietly with God.

Use that time to lift up concerns for others or just wait on the Spirit to feed you in the quietness of your meditation. I absolutely guarantee that there are nothing but positive benefits on the other side of doing this discipline three to five days a week!

Can you find some quiet time in your day today?

Let us pray: Thank you for this new week, Lord. Thank you for the opportunities you will give us this week to stretch and grow as people of faith. Give us fresh insight into the growth places in our lives and help us try on new disciplines that will enable us to enjoy our relationship with you in positive, life affirming, life giving ways. In Jesus’ name. Amen.