New Year’s Resolutions

I will sing of loyalty and of justice;
    to you, O Lord, I will sing.

Psalm 101:1

Count how many time the word “I will” or “I will not” begins sentences in this psalm. There are very many! The sacred writer of this prayer is so filled with a desire to be faithful to God that he makes a long lists of “does” and “don’t” for himself.

It’s still early in the New Year, so we can still make “New Year’s Resolutions.” As you read the verses of this psalm, what kinds of things in your own life come to your mind that you can make better? When you feel these desires for goodness, this is the Holy Spirit nudging you to find the peace that comes when we do what God wants.

Psalm 101

Here is a sample of a seven-syllable breath-prayer
from today’s reading:
Studying the blameless way v. 2
For more information about this creative way to pray, see Bible Breaths.

This is the Second Week in Epiphany
Winter in the north.  Year C
Wednesdays are dedicated to the Psalms

Seasons of Grace – A Calendar for 2019

Solar and Sacred Seasons
Some adjustments to make the church year simpler.

These Firestarters are from a new edition of The Bible Through the Seasons being developed for families with children. For the Firestarters in the original edition, I recommend the ebook.  You will have the entire program of well over a thousand Firestarters with you on your phone or tablet.  More information…

Hunger for God

In every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and most of them lay in sackcloth and ashes.

Esther 4:3

 

AnimFireStarter

Remember King Herod? He was the one that was so jealous of Jesus being born because he was going to be king and replace Herod. Well, Haman in this story had evil plans like Herod. Herod wanted to kill all the children two years old and younger; Haman wanted to have all the Jews killed.

The story of what would be done about this begins to be told as Esther and Mordecai make plans. But the first thing they do is not sit down and figure it all out. Instead, they want all the Jews not to eat for three days and three nights as a way of preparing for the strategy of what they would do with God’s help.

Denying oneself food or drink for a time is called fasting. It might seem hard to do—certainly three days and nights is a long time without food. But you can skip a meal sometime with the thought of wanting the experience of hunger for food be a hunger for God and for what God wants. Fasting is very spiritual. It lets us know that we depend upon God for our life, for God has given us the very food we eat. When we fast, we are reminded of a spiritual hunger that we need to feel for God, with the faith to know that God is going to respond to us by communicating what God wants us to do in all the situations in our lives.

Esther 3—4

Here is a sample of a seven-syllable breath-prayer
from today’s reading:
Fasting and cleansing the heart 4:3
For more information about this creative way to pray, see Bible Breaths.

This is the Second Week in Epiphany
Winter in the north.  Year C
Tuesdays are dedicated in this season to the Book of Esther

Seasons of Grace – A Calendar for 2019

Solar and Sacred Seasons
Some adjustments to make the church year simpler.

These Firestarters are from a new edition of The Bible Through the Seasons being developed for families with children. For the Firestarters in the original edition, I recommend the ebook.  You will have the entire program of well over a thousand Firestarters with you on your phone or tablet.  More information…

 

Words of Comfort and Hope

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
    to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;

Isaiah 61:1-2

Jesus used this passage from Isaiah as part of his very first sermon he preached in his home town of Nazareth. What a moment it must have been for Jesus which you can read about in Luke 4, from verse 14!

God had given Jesus the mission to be the one that would bring these words of promise into something really happening in Jesus. When you and I live with the power of God’s love in Jesus that God wants to share with us, then the promises of today’s reading will happen for you and me. No one is left out from having the Spirit of God being poured out upon him or her. All that matters is to do what Mary, the mother of Jesus did in her acceptance of being Jesus’ mother: just say Yes!

Isaiah 61

Here is a sample of a seven-syllable breath-prayer
O’er me, the mantle of praise v. 3
For more information about this creative way to pray, see Bible Breaths.

This is the Second Week in Epiphany
Winter in the north.  Year C
Monday are dedicated in this season to the prophet Isaiah

Seasons of Grace – A Calendar for 2019

Solar and Sacred Seasons
Some adjustments to make the church year simpler.

These Firestarters are from a new edition of The Bible Through the Seasons being developed for families with children. For the Firestarters in the original edition, I recommend the ebook.  You will have the entire program of well over a thousand Firestarters with you on your phone or tablet.  More information…

The Baptism of Jesus

John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Luke 3:17

My Dad didn’t go swimming very often. When he did, he swam very stiffly—wishing he were out of the water as quick as possible. Why? He told me that one time when he was a boy he was saved by his older brother from nearly drowning.

Baptism has something of that same idea of death about it. By going down into the water, we express a dying; by coming out of the water we rise to new life. It’s a powerful symbol of death and resurrection. It all begins with John the Baptist and especially with Jesus.

Except for the story of the loss and finding of Jesus in the Temple when he was twelve, we don’t have much written history about Jesus as a boy or a young man. He was quietly growing in Nazareth. He had friends in his neighborhood and a regular family life. All of this quiet privacy would come to an end with Jesus being baptized by his cousin John in the Jordan. Picture the event in your imagination…Jesus in a crowd, waiting his turn for baptism. Jesus makes himself like everybody else.

Place yourself there and be baptized. Notice the feelings of death and being born again after death that this sacrament expresses. You needn’t be afraid of what might come against you in scary things, as my Dad was frightened by the water. Trust that God is right how raising you to new life.

Luke 3:15-17; 21-22

Here is a sample of a seven-syllable breath-prayer
from today’s reading:
Clearing the floor of my life v. 17
For more information about this creative way to pray,
see Bible Breaths.

This is the Second Week in Epiphany
Winter in the north.  Year C
Sundays are dedicated to the Gospels from
The Revised Common Lectionary

Seasons of Grace – A Calendar for 2019

Solar and Sacred Seasons
Some adjustments to make the church year simpler.

Freedom at Last

 Then he (Pharaoh) summoned Moses and Aaron in the night, and said, “Rise up, go away from my people, both you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord, as you said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you said, and be gone. And bring a blessing on me too!”

Exodus 12:31-32

Pharaoh, the big boss in Egypt kept refusing to let the people of God leave his country. Remember? And because he was so stubborn, God kept sending plagues (scary things) his way.  The last plague does it.  The first boy born to every Egyptian family dies and Pharaoh sets God’s people free.  It took a long time for Pharaoh to obey God: but he finally he got the message.

The reading for today is the basic one that shows how God wants people to be free. The Exodus is the grand story of how God through Moses lead the people on dry land through the Red Sea which split in two, and on into freedom. There is the Passover meal and the bread eaten without leaven or yeast…the people were on the move and they couldn’t be waiting around for the bread to rise. That’s why our communion bread is often unleavened, to link Holy Communion with that meal eaten before the journey to freedom.

One more thing…God moved at night! Think about this fact as you drop off to sleep each night. In Psalm 121:3 we praise God, for “He who keeps you will not slumber of sleep.”
The blood of the sacred lamb, Jesus, which was shed for you and me, has made us free way down inside ourselves!

Exodus 12:29—13:16

Here is a sample of a seven-syllable breath-prayer
from today’s reading:
Ready to go at Your will 12:34
For more information about this creative way to pray,
see Bible Breaths.

Saturdays are dedicated to the Sabbath Torah portions
read in synagogues throughout the world.
This plan follows those traditions that take a third of the portion
over a three year cycle, this year, the second part.
For more about the Torah portions and thoughtful commentaries, visit
The Jewish Theological Seminary.

Seasons of Grace – A Calendar for 2019

Solar and Sacred Seasons
Some adjustments to make the church year simpler.

These Firestarters are from a new edition of The Bible Through the Seasons being developed for families with children. For the Firestarters in the original edition, I recommend the ebook.  You will have the entire program of well over a thousand Firestarters with you on your phone or tablet.  More information…

Christ at Five

“Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know
that it was necessary for me to be in my Father’s house?”

Luke 2:49

The image in this Firestarter, is one that I have had on the wall of my room since I was a young boy. It depicts Christ at the age of five. Gaze at the picture and notice what lies at Jesus’ feet…then notice what happens to Jesus’ face as he looks up to heaven to feel connected with his heavenly Father.

You might imitate the picture and do what Jesus does: sit in silence with your hands open on your lap, your eyes lifted toward heaven to your Father and God. Jesus trusted in his Father when he saw those scraps of wood in Joseph’s shop fall into the form of a cross; he thought of what this might mean in his future. You too: lift your eyes to heaven in an act of wonder and trust about whatever the future is going to be like for you. Whether it will be harpy or sad, easy or difficult, marked by joy or some sadness, what matters most of all is that God is with you and will be with you, as the Father of Jesus was with him. So pause, rest, let yourself sit like Jesus in that picture, and be one with Jesus who trusts his Father-God in everything.

Luke 2:41-52

Here is a sample of a seven-syllable breath-prayer
Being in my Father’s house v. 49
For more information about
this creative way to pray, see Bible Breaths.

This is Epiphany Week
Winter in the north.  Year C
On Fridays we read the Gospel of Luke

Seasons of Grace – A Calendar for 2019

Solar and Sacred Seasons
Some adjustments to make the church year simpler.

These Firestarters are from a new edition of The Bible Through the Seasons being developed for families with children. For the Firestarters in the original edition, I recommend the ebook.  You will have the entire program of well over a thousand Firestarters with you on your phone or tablet.  More information…

What to Do When Things Go Wrong

It is better to suffer for doing good (if this could possibly be God’s will)
than for doing evil.

1 Peter 3:17

Here are some great lessons for what we can do when someone is unkind to us or who treats us unjustly. When others are mean to us, when we are not mean in return, but rather are kind, the meanness of the others stands out as a dark blotch against the shining light of your goodness.

Think long and quietly on the last verse of today’s reading: Christ also suffered when he died for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners that he might bring us safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.

1 Peter 3:13-18

Here is a sample of a seven-syllable breath-prayer
from today’s reading:
Better to suffer for good v. 17
For more information about this creative way to pray,
see Bible Breaths.

This is Epiphany Week
Winter in the north.  Year C
Thursdays in this season are dedicated to the the letters of Peter

Seasons of Grace – A Calendar for 2019

Solar and Sacred Seasons
Some adjustments to make the church year simpler.

These Firestarters are from a new edition of The Bible Through the Seasons being developed for families with children. For the Firestarters in the original edition, I recommend the ebook.  You will have the entire program of well over a thousand Firestarters with you on your phone or tablet.  More information…