Tag Archives: mercy

John Wesley and New Birth

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, May 22, 2017

John Wesley statue

John Wesley and New Birth

John Wesley and his brother Charles were instrumental in leading one of the great revivals of recent centuries.

When John was in his teens and a student at Oxford University, he and his brother Charles began to follow Christ with great enthusiasm. Although ordained as an Anglican minister, John began to preach to large crowds out of doors. He continued this itinerant preaching ministry “to large assemblies of poor, working-class people throughout the British Isles. His preaching tours took him (chiefly on horseback) more than a quarter of a million miles; he delivered forty thousand sermons.” [1]

That was a lot of miles traveled, and a lot of sermons preached. Talk about an itinerant minister, a circuit-riding preacher! This excerpt comes from a sermon titled “The New Birth.” After showing some examples of various kinds of sins, John Wesley takes the next step: “It is fitting that we try to draw some practical inferences from all this.” [2] Wesley highlights Romans 8:33: “Who will be the accuser of God’s chosen ones? It is God who pronounces acquittal; then who can condemn?”

Wesley’s words pack a punch, indeed: “All the sins you have committed from your childhood right up to the moment when you were accepted as his sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:5) are driven away as chaff. They are gone. They are lost. They are swallowed up. They are remembered no more. You are now “born” from spirit (John 3:6).” [3]

He closes with “Just love God who loves you. That is sufficient. The more deeply you love, the stronger you will feel.” [4]

Yes, some will quibble with Wesley’s statement of forgiveness, grace, mercy and love. Some might say, “There is great danger in becoming overconfident about our salvation!” However, as we pour out our hearts before God, God will understand us completely. God knows there is no perfection in this life, only progress towards becoming more and more like our Lord.

Dear God, please help us leave behind the sin that so persistently clings to us. Thank You for Your mercy, grace and forgiveness. May we follow Your ways in all of our lives, every day a new day, a fresh day. In the risen Christ’s name we ask these things, amen.



Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000, 337.

[2] Ibid, 340.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 342.

Miss Sayers, Law, and Grace

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, April 14, 2017

grace and mercy crssing

Miss Sayers, Law, and Grace

Dorothy L. Sayers is one of my favorite authors—hands down. I found her mystery books when I was a teen, and saw the BBC adaptations shortly after. Marvelous characters, witty dialogue, and impeccable writing. (And, that was just her mystery novels.) However, she was much, much more than “only” a mystery writer. A medieval scholar, essayist and literary critic, she was well able to accomplish any literary task that came to hand—with brilliance. Daughter of an Anglican clergyman, she dove into the study of theology.

This excerpt comes from her theological essay called “Creed or Chaos.” Here Miss Sayers discusses societal sinfulness. She understands her own sinfulness well.

“…An intelligent understanding about sin is necessary to preserve the world from putting an unjustified confidence in the efficacy of the moral law taken by itself.” [1] Miss Sayers is quite firm: as she said, law is “always prohibitive, negative, and corrupted by the interior contradictions of man’s divided nature.” [2] She has a decided view of humanity as sinful and depraved.

Looking at myself, for instance. I also have a decided view of my depraved human nature, in my sinful self/Self. I realize that moral law AND God’s law both would condemn me to an eternity separated from God.

Yet, there is grace. Miss Sayers is equally firm about God’s grace. “The law must be rightly understood, or it is not possible to make the world understand the meaning of grace.” [3] Grace. Amazing grace. (As I also think, mercy plays a large role in this drama, too. Otherwise, there is little reason to keep on keeping on.)

Dear Lord, gracious God, what a marvelous reading for a Good Friday night. When I was already considering my sinfulness tonight, discovering Miss Sayers’s article was a gracious, helpful and loving thing. Thank You for her deep insight. Thank You for Your grace and mercy.



Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 236.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Dorothy Day: One who Served Well

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, April 9, 2017

SERVE do something for those who can't repay

Dorothy Day: One who Served Well

A good many people know of Dorothy Day, of her love for the poor and her lifelong work in social settings that were gritty, ugly, even heartbreaking. She began as a journalist, converted to Catholicism, and started publishing a small newspaper called “The Catholic Worker” which shook large parts of the American society. (Especially the managers and owners of different companies and corporate leaders.)

However, some people do not know about how increasingly important Christianity had become to Ms. Day. “Her Christianity was deeply formed by prayer and study of the Gospels.” [1] Plus, she always strives to live exactly the way that our Lord Jesus lived, showing compassion, care and mercy to all she could, in such desperate and hopeless situations.  It takes someone with a strong stomach and constitution to read the words Ms. Day writes in her memoir.

“Yes, we have lived with the poor, with the workers, and we know them not just from the streets, or in mass meetings, but from years of living in the slums, in tenements, in our hospices…We have lived with the unemployed, the sick, the unemployables. The contrast between the worker who is organized and has his union, the fellowship of his own trade to give him strength, and those who have no organization and come in to us on a breadline is pitiable.” [2]

Ms. Day could not turn away from these horrible situations, duplicated time and time and time again. Instead, she suggests that people of all levels of society show strength and fortitude, through the most desperate places, happenings, and lack of resources. Why not give downtrodden, down-and-out Americans, a real opportunity? And, enough food, shelter and dignity to hold mind and body together?

Dear Lord, help me to sit with this example of Dorothy Day for a while, and then to act. To do, to listen, to walk with, to accomplish needed and valued gifts and activities. And at last, my Judge will be the King from Matthew 25. I know what my marching orders are. Lord, give me the strength, the willingness, and the love and mercy necessary. Amen.



Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 211.

[2] Ibid, 212.

Peace and Social Justice, Part Two

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, June 15, 2016

act, do, walk

Peace and Social Justice, Part Two

Yesterday evening’s panel discussion at the Muslim Community Center in Morton Grove was a wonderful opportunity to gather together and share insights into different faith streams. Yet, five similar viewpoints on Social Justice. How each of these faith streams—forms of spirituality—religions—has an impact on society and the outworking of kindness, mercy and justice.

As someone invited to be the representative of the Christian point of view, I had specific understandings of Social Justice (from my faith stream). I was fascinated to see how much overlap there was between all five forms of spirituality.

This goes to show how much diverse people of different ethnicities, various cultures, and widely scattered nationalities all around the world have so much in common. All faiths seek to better society, whether in small ways or large, whether dealing with one person or many.

I do not mean to be political. Jesus did His best to steer clear of politics. I really strive to follow His excellent example. I quote from my remarks made yesterday. “Different rabbis or teachers had different opinions on what was the greatest of all commands. Some of these teachers wanted to know what Jesus considered the “most important” of the laws in the Mosaic law code, which was (and is) the official Jewish rule book.

“In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 12, Jesus does not name one of the “big 10,” the Ten Commandments. Instead, He responds with the Shema. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” from Deuteronomy 6:5-6.

“Jesus does not stop there! No, He makes another definitive statement. “31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Did you follow that? Jesus made “the greatest command” into a two-part command.

“Love God, love others. Two sides of the same coin.

“’When we hear these words, we know that we are close to the center of Christianity, that we are close to the heart of God. The cross of Christ, the most important symbol of the Christian faith, has two dimensions: a vertical love to God and a horizontal love towards our neighbors.” [1]

“The simplicity, truth and wisdom of love is at the heart of the Good News of God, the message of Social Justice. Think about it. If we truly love, what else is necessary?”


Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza  And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] ·  “The Hinge, The Two Great Commandments,” Gospel Analysis, Sermons from Seattle, Pastor Edward F. Markquart, Grace Lutheran Church, Seattle, Washington.

Pray As I Consider Sin—and Peace

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Psa 51-2 wash me, cleanse me

Pray As I Consider Sin—and Peace

Ash Wednesday. I prepared ashes for the congregation. I taught bible study this morning—on peace. And, I finished the sermon (shorter meditation, really) for this evening. Sermon on Psalm 51. On iniquity, transgression, and sin. On God’s forgiveness and mercy.

As I mentioned in my meditation, understanding our sin (and sinfulness) prepares us to receive the forgiveness that comes through Jesus Christ. And, yes. Each person in the service this evening who wished received the cross of ashes on their forehead.

I have also been thinking about the Pursuing PEACE Project. My personal journey around the Chicago area, asking people about their individual definition of peace. I am honing the information I will present. I want to be open to the individual stories, listening with an open heart.

Listen. Share. Pursue PEACE. (I will begin posting photos tomorrow. Stay tuned!)

However, the concepts of peace, forgiveness and mercy are becoming combined in my mind. If you like, what young people might call a mash-up. Sprinkle with honesty and openness. Season with genuineness and willingness to understand. That is what I am going to try to do in this Lenten season.

Yes, I still have the cross of ashes on my forehead. Yes, I thank God that I have peace with God through Jesus Christ. And, yes, I very much wish to see what other people have in their minds and hearts concerning peace.

I will close this penitential blog post with a prayer from my blogging friend, Rev. Bosco Peters (http://liturgy.co.nz). Through the cross of Christ, God have mercy on you, pardon you and set you free. Know that you are forgiven and be at PEACE. God strengthen you in all goodness and keep you in life eternal. Amen.


Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Everyone is God’s Beloved

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, December 19, 2015

God loves you, nothing can change that

Everyone is God’s Beloved

When I think about my fear, my anxiety, my insecurity, my anger at myself and at others, what can possibly take those negative feelings away? God. More specifically, God’s love. And, knowing that God loves me. Me, myself. Exactly the way I am. I don’t have to change. I don’t need to become something different. God loves me exactly the way I am right now.

Once I start getting used to this earthshaking idea (Imagine—God loves me! I am God’s beloved!), I can start to explore the idea that God also loves other people. Perhaps just as much as God loves me.

Can God really and truly love everyone? Can each person be beloved by God?

That’s what Henri Nouwen says, in the reading for Saturday. “ … When you discover yourself as being the beloved son or daughter of God, you suddenly have new eyes to see the belovedness of other people.[1]

The Advent Action for Saturday is: “Make a list of the blessings and benefits that have been given to you by God, your Savior. Take a few minutes today to give thanks for one of these undeserved blessings. If possible, pass this blessing on to others.” [2] What a marvelous way to express this feeling of being God’s beloved.

Dear Lord, loving God, thank You for Your love. You are so generous with Your love, mercy and kindness. You shower me with undeserved blessings each and every day. What’s more, I am not even aware of many of these blessings. Forgive me for being so oblivious. And, thank You for being willing to overlook these flaws and faults. Thank You so much for loving me.


Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

(also published at www.matterofprayer.net

[1] Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from Henri J. M. Nouwen (Linguori, Missouri: Redemptorist Pastoral Publications, 2004), 42.

[2] Ibid, 43.

As Human As You or Me

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, July 2, 2015

Jesus as human - stained glass

As Human As You or Me

What if the New Testament were written more like the books of poetry from the Hebrew Scriptures? Certainly a change in perspective, that’s for sure. As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be using a book named Praying the New Testament as Psalms all this month. (Desmond O’Donnell and Maureen Mohen wrote the book.)

For the next few days, I will be looking at several psalm portions written about differing aspects of our Lord Jesus. Today, I wanted to consider Jesus as Human. Fully human.

Yes, I know these points of doctrine and characteristics of Jesus in an intellectual way. True. But expressed in the form of a psalm? Powerful.

“Knowing that Jesus can sympathize with my weaknesses/and that mercy and grace are there for the asking;” [1] As I read this portion, I could not help but think of the person of Jesus—the very real, very physical Person. (The Second Person of the Trinity, remember.)

Mercy! Grace! I need them both so much. And, I am ever so grateful that our Lord Jesus is accessible, any time. Any place. Wow.

Dear Lord Jesus, thank You. That’s all I can say.


Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

[1] Praying the New Testament as Psalms, Desmond O’Donnell, OMI, and Maureen Mohen, RSM, (United States of America: ACTA Publications, 2002.), 24.

The Problem with Forgiveness?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – January 23, 2015

FORGIVE forgiveness a lovely idea

The Problem with Forgiveness?

The problem with forgiveness—is me.

Yes, this post contains more about forgiveness. Such a huge topic. Huge in God’s eyes, and a gaping hole in mine, too. Gaping in the sense that I sometimes find it so hard to do.

My, my. I am oh, so grateful for God’s forgiveness to me! I can sing God’s praises all day long for forgiveness, grace and mercy, abundantly poured out upon me. But the minute I am expected to extend just a little bit of that forgiveness towards some other person . . . especially towards someone I particularly dislike, or someone I just can’t forgive? Well, then. Forgiveness might be out of the question.

It reminds me of a story. A story that Rabbi Jesus told (check out Matthew 18:21-35).

Once there was a man, a servant of a powerful king. Somehow, he found himself in the position of owing the king a huge amount of money, more than the servant could ever pay back. The king had the servant dragged before him. The servant groveled and pleaded and threw himself on his face. The king relented, and forgave the servant his huge debt.

On his way home, the forgiven servant meets a fellow servant of the king. The second servant owes the forgiven servant a small amount of money. However—the forgiven servant forgets completely about the abundant forgiveness, grace and mercy the king extended to him. The forgiven servant has the second servant thrown into debtors’ prison, immediately.

When the king hears about this from the other servants, the king is outraged. Upbraids the forgiven servant, and tells him that the forgiveness is cancelled, and he is now going to prison until the huge debt is paid off. All because the formerly-forgiven servant forgot all about the incredible gift of forgiveness, grace and mercy he had been given by the king.

Wow. Right between the eyes, Jesus. Upside the head, with a two by four. I get it.

You want me to forgive. No matter what. That parable’s enough to make me throw myself on my face, in front of You, and stay there for a long, long time. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Lord.

Forgive me.

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blog, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.

Practice Makes Perfect? Following Lenten Practices

matterofprayer blog post for Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lenten word cloud

Practice Makes Perfect? Doing Lenten Practices

Lenten disciplines can be a blessing! But I find Lenten disciplines also take time and effort. And sometimes, diligence. I’m pretty good at the time-part. Yes, I’ll willingly spend time doing a set spiritual practice. I’m also fairly good at the effort-part. God knows I am willing to serve, to lend a hand, to lift someone or something up in prayer. And, I certainly pitch in to write a bible study or sermon if needed.

However—it’s that diligence-part that frightens me. Well, not exactly frighten, but diligence makes me hesitate. Take a deep breath, and consider. The thought of diligence causes me to take a step backwards. Maybe two steps. As two of my children used to say when they were toddlers and preschoolers, I’m shy of diligence. I could say that I’m a chicken, at heart. (Chicken-hearted, perhaps? No, that doesn’t sound good, either.)

It’s a good thing that there are so many helps today. Bible studies, Scripture verses-of-the-day, prayers that come straight to a smart phone or as tweets on Twitter. These helpful tools make things a good deal easier than they were even as few as twenty or thirty years ago. Even then (when I first made my baby-steps toward spiritual disciplines and practices), there were booklets or even books of Lenten devotions. Also Lenten prayer calendars, similar to my 40 Days & Ways to Serve.

(Shameless plug: if you haven’t signed up for the calendar of service, it’s not too late! You can sign up now at the right of this very blog post, and I’ll rush it straight to your email box!)

As a part of my Lenten practice, I am using one of these devotional booklets, a selection of snippets from the collected writings of Fr. Henri Nouwen. I find it helpful. Inspiring. But then, Nouwen’s books have been amongst my absolute favorites for many years.

But let’s turn back to diligence—even though I wish we wouldn’t. I get uneasy when I consider diligence too long. I went to Webster’s Dictionary to find out exactly why, and I turned to a related word: “diligent.” Not surprisingly, the meaning makes me duck down in my seat. “Perseveringly attentive. Industrious.” God, the definition of this word makes me shrink. And perhaps, even want to hide myself under the blankets. True, not all the time. But enough to make me wonder. (Light bulb moment: maybe this is something to bring up with my spiritual director next time we meet! Food for thought.) My Lenten practices are going pretty well, considering. I hope and pray yours are, as well.

Speaking of prayer, let’s pray! Dear God, thank You for practices to help each of us get closer to You. Thank You for this time of preparation before Easter. Forgive us when we fall short, or fall asleep, or fall away from You—and bring us back. Hold us close, and help each one know how special each of us is to You. In Your mercy and by Your grace, Amen.


God? Wooing Me?

matterofprayer blog post for Saturday, February 1, 2014


God? Wooing Me?

The other day, I prayed using an excellent book on spiritual direction and prayer that I’ve mentioned before. (The author is the Rev. Martin Smith, a skilled spiritual director and now a retired Episcopal priest. His book The Word Is Very Near You is subtitled A Guide to Praying with Scripture.) As I read several pages, he gave the example of prayer using virtually any passage of Scripture, from the Old as well as the New Testament.

Sure, it’s easy to pray using the Gospels, or the Epistles, or Psalms. And, Proverbs and the historical books of the Hebrew Scriptures can be used for prayer with a minimum of difficulty. However, Fr. Martin gave an example from Song of Songs. I must admit, I have not even looked at Song of Songs for at least ten years. Not since I read the whole Bible cover to cover. (I’ve done this five times. True. Not as many as some prayer- and Scripture-reading giants I know, but still. I got a really great overview of the whole Bible because I did this.)

The verses that were suggested were 2:10-11. I looked at the two verses, and considered. Reflected. Okay, I thought. Fr. Martin suggested it, so I’ll give this a try. Accordingly, I settled down and prepared myself for a time of prayer and meditation.

The thoughts that gradually came into my head were deep and loving. Wow, God. You want to woo me into a relationship with You! Really? Really?? I’m not used to that kind of language from You, God. I know—that is, I think I am in a relationship with You, already. But by meditating on these verses, I get the sense that God wants to show me another facet of relationship. Perhaps, draw me deeper, into a whole new level. The companionship, the easy rapport. Is that it? Is that what God wants me to begin to understand?

I’ll need to get used to this idea, God. I’m not dismissing it, no! Never! Just getting used to it, that’s all.

Let’s pray. Dear God, thanks for the suggestion to pray using Song of Songs. (Fr. Martin has such excellent ideas!) God, please forgive me for doubting You, for being hesitant to think of You in such realistic, down-to-earth terms. Thanks for your boundless, deep, generous love for me—for us. Help us to be so aware of Your love for us that we naturally show love for one another. In Your mercy, God, hear our prayer.