WEDNESDAY, MARCH 9TH
A TIME OF INSTRUCTION
As we come to Jesus for our time of Wednesday instruction, our mentor revisits a familiar teaching, but one we will never tire of hearing. We lean closer, hoping to hear it anew…
Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11 NRSV)
What an incredible instruction this is. We have already received abundant blessings from God, and now Jesus is instructing us to ask, search, and knock for more. What would you like to ask for today? What are you searching for? Where would you like a door to open? Spend some quiet time with Jesus as you ponder these questions.
So often I hesitate to ask God for my own specific requests, because my prayers feel greedy (I have already been given so much), unnecessary (God knows our inmost being), short-sighted (God’s perfect will is better than my requests), or – dare I admit this? – futile (when fervent prayers don’t bring desired outcomes). My prayers then can become fairly generic, as I limit my requests and ask for such things as basic guidance, God’s will to be done, or “our daily bread”. And honestly, that seems to be more than enough.
But in this passage, Jesus instructs us to ask. He encourages us to search. He assures us to go ahead and knock. He shows us that God wants to hear our prayers, our deepest longings, our dreams, our hopes. Jesus also knows that when we articulate our deepest desires through prayer, we not only open ourselves to a greater inner awareness, but we then discover how often God does move and work in our lives.
Jesus goes on to say that God knows best how to bless us. We can pray freely and imperfectly, trusting that God will sift through our requests and give us what is GOOD. In this we find another good gift – the gift of deeper faith – as we see how our requests were answered in even greater ways than we could imagine.
When we ask, search, and knock, we will receive, find, and be answered – always with the generous, loving presence of God.
TUESDAY, MARCH 8TH
A TIME FOR A STORY
In our time with Jesus today, we ask for a story. We have learned to love these stories, these parables, because they are simple tales that open us to deeper meaning, underlying symbolism, and at times, uniquely personal significance for us. Jesus gladly obliges…
What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches… To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened. (Luke 13:18-21, NRSV)
Let your creativity flow for a moment. Do you find beauty and depth in Jesus’s simple words, that God’s kingdom could be compared to a tiny seed or a bit of yeast? What earthly item or substance would you use to describe this kingdom of God? Do you marvel that the love of God, so far beyond our comprehension, can be revealed through a simple mustard seed or a small amount of yeast?
Jesus is a wise teacher, who chooses to reveal God’s kingdom to us in ways we can comprehend. But he also describes the kingdom of God with these simple, common examples found in nature and our world, because this is where the kingdom is! The kingdom of God is here and now. God’s presence is within all of creation. When we understand this, we begin to realize how generously and humbly God has come to us all.
In her book, The Humility of God, Ilia Delio writes,
Too often we are wrapped up in lofty, intellectual speculations about God… In the meantime, God is present to us not only in the mundane but in the poverty and humility of ordinary life… To see the extraordinary ordinariness of God is to see with a different set of eyes, the eyes of the heart and to know God by a different logic, the logic of love. 1
If we start looking for God in the small things and the little moments, we will begin to see more of God. I think of the way the miracle of life becomes more incredible when we observe a tiny cell under a microscope. A seaside beach becomes more amazing when we look at a tiny grain of sand. Snowflakes are astonishing when we see the crystal formations in their tiny structures. In the same way, when we look more closely and intimately for God, we will discover more of God’s immense magnificence.
Yes, God is infinite mystery beyond our human knowing, but we need not be intimidated. God starts small – in our quiet prayer, in our heartfelt longing, in our simple understanding. God is in every moment of our daily living, and God is even within our frail flesh! And each small recognition, each little awareness of God’s loving presence, will become the seed that grows, the yeast that infuses and expands, into every moment of this, our incredible and eternal existence.
1Delio, Ilia, O.S.F. (2005). The Humility of God ~ A Franciscan Perspective. Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press.
Photo by Joshua Lanzarini on Unsplash
Bible verses found at https://www.biblegateway.com/
MONDAY, MARCH 7TH
A TIME OF COMFORT
Today our time with Jesus gives him the opportunity to comfort us. He begins by telling us this story.
On that day, when evening had come, I said to my disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took me with them in the boat, just as I was. Other boats were with us. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But I was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke me up and said to me, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” I woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. I said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:35-40, NRSV, revised*)
Envision yourself sitting with this caring friend, who wants to comfort you today. In what ways might you need his comfort? Do you sense storm clouds of trouble developing in your life, or find yourself actually weathering a storm right now, or still hurting from a storm that has recently passed through? Can you sense the serenity of Jesus? Where do you need his calming presence? Where would you ask Jesus to command peace and stillness in your life?
Jesus certainly didn’t have an easy, care-free life. Even before his terrible suffering and death, his life was filled with challenges and hardships. Jesus was interrupted and tested by those who wanted to accuse and find fault with him. He was confronted with the many needs of the poor, lame, blind, sick, and hungry. He was often surprised by the lack of understanding from his disciples. Today we are reminded of the time he was awakened on a boat that was quickly being overwhelmed by a terrible storm.
And yet, today Jesus is comforting us with his peace. Our mentor tells us that we do not need to be afraid. How can he say this, when he – of all people – has endured so much?
Jesus was able to have peace and even to command peace, in his circumstances and despite his circumstances, because his peace came from beyond all of that. Jesus’s peace came from God, a peace beyond our comprehension that permeated his spirit. His peace came from his trust in the One who would never leave him and always love him. And Jesus offers this same peace for us today.
Through Jesus, we too, can learn to seek God’s help in every moment, to trust God in all circumstances, and to feel God with us through every trial. Through Jesus, we can receive and share that same peace within the storm. Through Jesus, we can rest peacefully as we place ourselves into the tender care of God.
The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:5b-7, NRSV)
*The name of Jesus and his pronouns have been adapted by Karen into first-person.
FRIDAY, MARCH 4TH
A TIME OF BLESSING
Friday times with Jesus may soon become our favorite times – as we come to receive a blessing from our teacher and mentor. Today Jesus says to us,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven...
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:3,6 NRSV)
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.” (Luke 6:20-21, NRSV)
Abide in his presence and words of blessing for a few moments. Is there anything that you are especially lacking at this time? Are you feeling more of a physical poverty or a spiritual emptiness in any way? Could you be feeling a physical hunger or a spiritual longing? What blessing might Jesus be giving you through this lack?
Each gospel writer adapted Jesus’s words to convey different meanings for their intended readers, but I sense that Jesus would be satisfied with both blessings. Whether we are poor, or poor in spirit, Jesus promises that God will provide all the gifts of God’s kingdom. Whether we are hungry, or hungry for righteousness, Jesus promises that God will fill us. Whatever we are lacking, God will supply. This blessing offers us so much reassurance!
And I have found another blessing: our need can actually draw us closer to God. I have been so fortunate to have lived in financial security and spiritual peace for much of my life. But in a few difficult times – a short-term but worrisome lack of finances, a guilt-ridden and heartbreaking divorce, a frightening and uncertain time of cancer – I found myself desperate for God. I earnestly sought God for guidance, peace, forgiveness, and hope. All the time. And I felt God’s deep, abiding love holding me and helping me. All the time.
Our blessing for today is to know that God is truly aware of our needs and will satisfy them. What blessing do you seek most today, what are you hungry for? What is your deepest longing, your heart’s desire, your greatest need? Our mentor Jesus reassures us and promises us that God will fill us with all good things. The kingdom of God is here. The gifts of God are ours.
We are so very blessed. All the time.
THURSDAY, MARCH 3RD
A TIME OF SHARED STRUGGLES
Today we come to our mentor as he shares one of his trying times with us. Jesus invites us to listen and learn that we are not alone in our daily challenges, struggles, and frustrations. He has endured such difficulties (and worse) himself, and he will help us with ours.
I left that place and came to my hometown, and my disciples followed me. On the sabbath I began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard me were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at me. Then I said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And I could do no deed of power there, except that I laid my hands on a few sick people and cured them. And I was amazed at their unbelief. (Mark 6:1-6, NRSV, revised*)
Sit for a few minutes to abide with Jesus. How do his words touch your soul today? Can you relate to his struggle? Have you ever felt discounted or discredited? Have others made false assumptions about you based on your past, or your culture, or your social status, or your appearance? Does it help you to know that Jesus fully understands your hurt or frustration?
Jesus’s story may have reminded us of painful times when our abilities have been doubted, our actions were criticized, or our intentions were questioned. I recall when, as a young adult, I was training to become a customer service representative. My dear cousin died suddenly one night, and my grief was immense. This must have reflected in my work, because the next week my supervisor pulled me aside to share her skepticism about my ability and her concern about my attitude. She then suggested that I resign. Fortunately, I found the courage to tell her that I wanted to stay, and I ended up being a competent and caring service representative for seven more years. What she had observed and judged was not my normal, capable self.
Jesus understands our sadness and frustration when others do not see our gifts or our potential. He has experienced the ways people can make mistaken assumptions about us. Jesus knows that others will not know our whole story, will not see our inner spirit, will not trust our ability.
But he does.
Jesus knows what is going on beneath the surface of our appearance. Jesus is saying, I can use you. I need you. Your past does not determine your present. Your present does not determine your future. You are of great worth, and I want you to come along with me today. We have work to do – together.
*The name of Jesus and his pronouns have been adapted by Karen into first-person.
ASH WEDNESDAY, MARCH 2ND
A TIME OF INSTRUCTION
Today we come to Jesus for our time of instruction, a teaching time to grow in wisdom and relationship. On this Ash Wednesday, Jesus begins to talk about his first call to the disciples early in his ministry…
As I walked by the Sea of Galilee, I saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And I said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed me. As I went from there, I saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and I called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed me. (Matthew 4:18-23 NRSV, revised*)
Sit quietly as time allows and let his words sink in. How is Jesus calling you today? What does it mean for you to follow Jesus? What is in your net – what would Jesus want you to drop – as you choose to follow? What is your hope as you spend time with Jesus as your mentor this Lent?
Abide in his presence with gratitude, thankful that you have also been called.
There are several other times when Jesus invited people to follow him – but with additional stipulations.
~ Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:21-22, NRSV)
~ Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24, NRSV)
~ Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21, NRSV)
These invitations seem more difficult, don’t they? As we read these, we recognize that to follow Jesus includes sacrifice and surrender. We will make some tough choices as we deepen in our relationship with him. Yet, as we follow him more closely, as we spend more time with him, and as we mature in our friendship and love for him, we will find that we are no longer afraid or hesitant to do so. We will actually come to understand that these challenging invitations are really invitations to deeper peace, trust, love, and joy.
But today, Jesus is calling us “as is.” Today, we can begin anew. On this Ash Wednesday, Jesus is simply inviting us to draw closer, to learn from him, to be loved by him.
May it be so.
*The name of Jesus and his pronouns have been adapted by Karen into first-person.
(Monday, February 28th)
My usual spiritual practices during Lent are efforts to mature as Jesus’s disciple through obedience and discipline, stretching myself in sacrifice and service. But as this Lenten season nears, the ongoing troubles in our world have brought on a melancholy weariness along with a lack of inspiration, and I feel my soul wincing at the thought of any increased effort or discipline. I long to simply sit with Jesus and listen to what he has to say, to have him as my mentor and friend. Do you feel the same?
Perhaps this is as it should be. The reason for any spiritual practice should be to draw close to Jesus; he wants to deepen in relationship with us. In a recent podcast, Emily P. Freeman describes this purpose, quoting a few words from Mike Cosper in his book, Recapturing the Wonder:
“Any approach to the Christian life that seeks self-improvement as the end goal will fail. A life of prayer, fasting and spiritual disciplines can easily be a life of empty religious effort if the goal isn’t communion with God. We don’t need self-improvement. We need to come home.”1
This Lent, I will use each reflective writing time as a mentoring moment with Jesus. I want to listen to his stories and absorb his wisdom, to hear his sage teachings as well as his shared struggles. I want to come to Jesus for encouragement and comfort, for words of blessing and hope, from a mentor who cares and loves me. I hope that this season will help me draw closer to Jesus, feel his love, and settle in his embrace.
In a way, I will also be “giving up” something for Lent. I will be giving up my need to achieve a sacrificial discipline or to pursue my sanctification. Instead, I will let go of my usual Lenten pursuits in order to lean in, listen, and love. And maybe… becoming more like Christ will be the natural outcome of absorbing more of his presence.
I hope you will join me for these weekday Mentoring Moments with Jesus. We will begin on Ash Wednesday, March 2nd, and continue each weekday through Lent. We will embrace his comfort (Monday), hear a story (Tuesday), listen to his instruction (Wednesday), share his struggle (Thursday), and receive his blessing (Friday) and then sit quietly to consider his words and feel his presence. My own short reflection will follow.
Plan to grab a cup of your favorite beverage, put your feet up, and spend some time with Jesus, our mentor and our friend.
See you on Wednesday!
1Emily P. Freeman in her “The Next Right Thing” podcast, February 1st, Episode 211, The Daily Examen.
During these winter months of chilly and often dreary days, my hope of seeing a beautiful sunrise has been my motivation to walk each morning. As I observe the quiet reverence of the early morning glow, soon followed by the glorious joy of the first bright beams, my soul is filled with peace and gratitude. For me, the sunrise signifies that a fresh and full day has come for us to enter and enjoy. We have the entire day before us to live well, to love, and to relish. Each new day holds great potential, with an ample capacity to be filled with good things.
This idea of potential has been lingering with me this week. Our potential is a gift; it is the capability to learn and grow, to deepen and expand, to discover and to share. As I think about the potential of a new day, the potential for my life, the potential within me, questions come to mind. Jesus tells us that he has come to give us abundant life (John 10:10); does he see greater potential in me than I do? Am I using each day fully, am I using my interests and abilities to their full potential? Am I noticing all that God is revealing? Am I doing all that I am meant to do?
So, in my journaling time earlier this week, I asked God about my potential…
God of my potential, what would you have me know today?
You have carried this word (potential) in your soul for a few days now. Today I want you to know this: Do you see that your potential is only limited by your capacity for it? And then, do you see that I am always and ever expanding that capacity within you?
“Do not conform to this world…” Do not make potential a measure of success, but a gift for me to fill.
Thank you, God.
Can we live each day, not striving to achieve our fullest potential, but instead, being present and attentive to God’s expanding work within us? Can our potential expand as we actually narrow our vision, solely asking God to increase our capacity for more of God’s goodness? Can we live, not according to worldly measures of success, but out of the abundance of Christ?
Can our potential become less self-driven and more God-given?
Today, Paul’s prayer is for me. I hope it blesses you, too.
I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20:16-21 NRSV)
(A REFLECTION AND A BENEDICTION)
Monday, February 14th
As I write this Valentine’s Day post, my treasured relationships with family and friends are especially on my mind and in my heart…
This weekend, we finally had our Christmas family gathering! We have planned and postponed several family vacations and holiday gatherings in recent years, so this was the first time most of our family had been together in almost three years. I savored the moments, feeling so very grateful to have our dear ones gathered together once again.
In this pandemic time, I have been grateful for Jim, my husband and friend, as we explored new ways of living and being together, serving as each other’s only company for much of the time.
My heart has been with our mothers as they continue to age, for our siblings who help care for them, and for our siblings who have concerns of their own.
I have worried for our daughters and their families as they have endured the difficult challenges of school and daycare closures, additional work loads, and the almost daily undoing of plans. I have worried for our sons as distance and disease kept them so very isolated from us for so long.
Our spirits have been uplifted by our grandchildren, as we proudly admire the way our older grandsons have matured into wonderful young men, and as we happily delight in the innocent joy of our younger grandsons and granddaughter.
In recent months, we have begun reconnecting with friends, now that we have been vaccinated and boosted. I have relished our times together, grateful for the conversations and laughter that we have missed, relieved by the sense of normalcy returning.
So, today as I was journaling about the different kinds of love I feel – the different ways that I love the people in my life – I ended my reflections by asking God this question:
God of deep love, what would you have me know today?
Loving Wife, Mom, Grammy, Sister, Daughter, Friend,
Love comes in all different forms, doesn’t it? You experience the adoring, intimate, and partnering love of being a wife, the proud, sacrificial, and protective love of being a mom, the joyful and affectionate love of being a Grammy, the supportive, companioning love of being a sister, the caring, patient love of being a daughter, and the sharing, companioning love of being a friend.
Do you know that I love you in ALL of these ways?
Isn’t this so incredible to imagine? What a gift we have in our God, who loves us in every way! On this Valentine’s Day, we all can feel beloved by the One who loves us – perfectly and completely.
Thank you, God.
Your love is an infinite love.
Yet we are unaware
that you are here among us
and we lose our expectation –
of your presence and your promise
that you will always care
and miss your love that still abounds
in constant revelation.
Your love is an intimate love.
You know our deepest soul
and you long to partner with us
in prayerful exploration
of hidden things you will reveal
as you help to make us whole
in our journey of discovery
and mutual adoration.
Your love is a protective love.
You watch and guard and wait
for all of us, your children,
always carefully attending.
There is no place you will not go,
no sacrifice too great;
the immensity of your kindness
is beyond our comprehending.
Your love is a delighting love.
May we, your children grow
in joyful hope and peaceful love
from your genuine affection.
As you desire to be with us
we ask that you will show
us more of you; that we will keep
becoming your reflection.
Your love is a companioning love
and we have come to find
your patience and your goodness
as our trusted, faithful friend.
As you continue on with us
may we so humbly bind
ourselves as true companions
sharing love that has no end.
Photo by Karen
Monday, February 7th
When I was a freshman in college, I shared a dormitory room with four other young women. One of our roommates, Linda, was a bit more “carefree” than the rest of us. She smoked nonstop, never made her bed, left her clothes on the floor, enjoyed a good party, and exaggerated her stories. Linda was wild and hilarious, living life on the edge, and she definitely made our college year more exciting. When one of us questioned the wisdom or safety of her actions – or at times, our own 😉 – Linda would often assert, “You’re here for a good time, not a long time!”
Recently these words came back to my mind for reflection. We are here for a good time, not a long time.
No matter the number of our earthly days, I imagine we all feel as if life will never be long enough. Although we rejoice that we are indeed eternal beings, we can agree with Linda that we are here for “not a long time” in this present life.
But what would be our “good time”?
God has created us as unique and diverse individuals, so our answers to this question will also be unique and diverse. For some, a good time may be to live wildly and fearlessly. For others, a good time may be to live peacefully and safely. Still others may find the good time through community, while others through solitude… some by making good differences, others by sacrificing generously… some while hiking in nature, others while cleaning up city streets… some in taking new adventures, others in relishing daily routines.
How would you define a good time as a guidepost for your life? What qualities, dreams, and goals would be included? Are there any non-negotiables or must-haves? Your definition of a good time could be based on the experiences you have, the emotions you feel, the accomplishments you achieve, the places you travel, the sensations of well-being you enjoy, the spiritual insights you discover, the relationships you treasure, or the legacies you leave. At the end of this earthly life, is there anything you would really regret not doing? What would you be most thankful to have experienced or accomplished?
For your good time, what would be your next priority?
Jesus came to give us abundant life (John 10:10); God delights in our joy! As beautifully diverse and unique individuals, there will not be one all-encompassing answer to what comprises a good time, an abundant life, a life of joy. But as we define our own good time in a variety of ways, may we increasingly allow God to help us define it, too. May we live each day so that our good time will glorify God, the Giver of good life itself.
As our own good time becomes more God-serving than self-serving, we will find that this truly abundant way of living is the best good time of all.
What we are is God’s gift to us. What we become is our gift to God. ~ Eleanor Powell
God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well. ~ Voltaire