Tag Archives: reflection

Trying to Keep God’s Statutes

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, November 9, 2017

Psa 119-8 keep statutes, bible

Trying to Keep God’s Statutes

As I return to the anthology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s shorter writings, I was drawn up short by his reflections on Psalm 119:8 –

I will keep Your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.

Bonhoeffer is struck by the words “I will.” He does not want to misinterpret them, or especially to try to take or use those words in a perverse way. As he says, “We must first unlearn the way in which we say ‘I will’ before the Holy Spirit can teach us to say it in a new and right way.” [1]

Oh, you and I can twist and manipulate words and phrases in any number of ways. Especially through justifying our actions (either beforehand or after the fact) and making ourselves to look pure and guiltless. “In matters of piety, the ‘I will’ can cause the greatest harm: ‘I will be devout, I will be holy, I will keep the commandments.’” [2]

I know God understands my motives and (even) needs to justify myself, and cause myself to be viewed as the good guy. However, aren’t you—aren’t I fearful of separation from God, even when God might be angry with us? Isn’t using self-righteousness as a defensive weapon hurtful to our own insides? In particular, our spiritual and relational insides?

Plus, I know I am basically sinful. (Remember Romans 3:23—I just gave a mini-series from Romans for my sermons on the “Solas” of the Reformation for the month of October.) I thank God that I am accepted in His sight, and the Scripture is a great resource to assist me to follow God. So, we “pray for a steadfast heart that keeps itself in God’s commandments, and we know that this can only be achieved by grace.” [3]

Yes, following God’s statutes seems, at first glance, all about Law. Unflinching and rigid, Law comes down on the necks of those who attempt to follow it. However, we follow God’s ways because we want to be delivered from this burden and bankruptcy of the Law. Then, by a marvelous gift of God, everything is grace. God’s grace makes it all possible. It’s grace that frees us from the Law, “grace puts us on the way [of God], and it is grace for which we pray from step to step.” [4] Hallelujah, what a Savior.

@chaplaineliza

 

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] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 112.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 113.

[4] Ibid, 114.

Follow the Way, with Psalm 119

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Exod 13-21 lead the way, fire

Follow the Way, with Psalm 119

As we continue with Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s reflections on Psalm 119, I needed to stop short and consider the next verse at some length. Or rather, consider Bonhoeffer’s thoughts on verse 3.

Who never do any wrong,

but always walk in His ways.

As Bonhoeffer introduced his comments, “God will not allow us to go on any way on which He Himself has not preceded us. The way upon which He calls us to go is the way He has made and that He protects. So it is really His way.” [1]

I love many of Bonhoeffer’s writings. However, I suspect there might be a bit of black-and-white thinking here, both in the psalmist’s thought patterns as well as Bonhoeffer’s. If a person follows after God, they will “never do any wrong.” If a person follows after God, they will “always walk in His ways.” Period. No question about it.

So sorry, but I cannot agree. I am vividly aware of my sinful self, and my fallen nature. Sure, I strive to walk with God day by day. Certainly, I freely admit I am not sinless. However, I strive to sin less and less each day. Each month. And, each year. This verse makes it sound like a follower of God is immediately transformed into sinless perfection. So sorry, but I simply do not think so. (With humble apologies to certain of my seminary classmates, who lean towards Wesley’s doctrine of perfectionism.)

Yet, I fully agree with what Bonhoeffer said about the Lord going before us, as the Lord went before the nation of Israel, leading them in the wilderness, with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. (Exod. 13:21-22)

God does know the whole way. There are no surprises to God. “Whoever sets his foot on this way finds that his life has become a journey on the road. It leads through green pastures and through the dark valley, but the Lord will always lead on the right pathway (Ps. 23) and He will not let your foot be moved (Ps. 121:3).” [2]

I pray that God will be with me throughout my journey, whether I am a prodigal, turning from the way God intends for me, or whether I walk hand in hand with my Savior, even through the dark valleys of life. Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

 

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] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000. 104.

[2] Ibid, 104-05.

Busy Day—Need to Pray

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, December 2, 2016

god-wants-to-talk-to-you

Busy Day—Need to Pray

Upon reflection, make that a busy evening, plus a busy day. A great deal of running, fetching, errands, and emails.

Started off the day on the computer. Went to the gym and power-walked. Did stuff at church for several hours. Dropped off two flyers at the local counseling center this afternoon (for the Prayer Gathering on Monday, Dec. 12 and the Blue Christmas service on Monday, Dec. 19). Then, a stop at the tree-lighting in the park downtown, and rushed off to a Holiday Concert (at my daughter’s school). Ended up doing several more errands.

Not a dull moment.

Lord, did I take one moment to think about You? To come before You with my praises as well as my pain? Well—I took a couple of minutes to pray, at my good friend Josh’s Daily Prayer website. (In case anyone is curious, it is www.dailyoffice.org ) But, I am afraid that was it, as far as prayer is concerned.

In retrospect, it was a good day. I had several excellent conversations. I enjoyed myself very much at the concert. (Especially hearing Corelli’s Christmas Concerto.)

However—Lord Jesus—I need to talk with You more. I don’t care how or when I communicated with You in the past, but I need to do more of it. Can You help me? That is my petition right now. Please.

@chaplaineliza

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

Glad Tidings, No Matter What

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, December 27, 2015

o come to us Emmanuel

Glad Tidings, No Matter What

What kind of situation do I come from?

When I consider the Christmas reflection Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, I cannot complain. By no means can I complain. Bonhoeffer was imprisoned by the Nazis. I read a portion of a letter he sent to his parents before Christmas 1943. He considered the occasion of the Christmas celebration within the prison as opposed to other places.

Can I possibly understand what Bonhoeffer really meant? I mean, really and truly? I must be honest. I have only a small idea what it’s like to be in misery and suffering. Just a little bit. I am struck by this sentence: “For many people in this building it will probably be a more sincere and genuine occasion than in places where nothing but the name [of Christmas] is kept.” [1]

That sentence did, indeed, pull me up short. How do I consider Christmas? Do I keep the holiday in a sincere and genuine way? Or, am I shallow, uncaring and inconsiderate? (Not considering my Christmas observance in a judgy, condescending manner, but instead in a thoughtful, contemplative one.)

Bonhoeffer’s contention is that a prisoner in a cell may well have a better understanding and more sincere appreciation for Christmas. So much better and more sincere than that of some people here on Chicago’s North Shore.

Dear Lord, help me to make room for You here. Help me to be open to Your work, Your will and Your ways.

Thanks.

@chaplaineliza

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] God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, trans. O.C. Dean, Jr., compiled and edited, Jana Riess (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2010), 70.

Pray. Be Obedient. Listen!

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, December 11, 2015

girl praying

Pray. Be Obedient. Listen!

I love words. I love the etymology of words. So, when I read today’s selection in the Advent reflection book, I “geeked out” over it. (As the young people might say today.)

Henri Nouwen said, “The word ‘listening’ in Latin is obedire, and audire means ‘listening with great attention.’ That is where the word ‘obedience’ comes from. Jesus is called the ‘obedient one,’ that means ‘the listener.’” [1]                                                                                                                                                                   Ah, dear Lord. Such a great idea, for us to keep our minds on You this day. So many things can distract a person from paying attention to God. So many things can keep us from stretching our necks out. Help me to listen to You, and to You alone, dear Lord.

@chaplaineliza

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] Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from Henri J. M. Nouwen (Linguori, Missouri: Redemptorist Pastoral Publications, 2004), 26.

As We Begin to Pray

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Chicago Botanic Garden, October 2013 - photo credit Kevin Jones

Chicago Botanic Garden, October 2013 – photo credit Kevin Jones

As We Begin to Pray

My daughter, her good friend and I spent some time after dinner at the Chicago Botanic Garden. It’s a garden, and so much more! Also a living plant museum and research center, the Botanic Garden is almost 400 acres of stunning, landscaped areas, different smaller gardens, and greenhouses. Plus, this gorgeous place with its lagoons, woods and open areas offers a wonderful stopping point for migratory birds. All throughout the year, there are countless things going on at the garden.

Our family is blessed to have a family membership to this marvelous garden—my father-in-law has given us the membership for many years as a Christmas present. It’s one of our family’s favorite things to do on a weekend. Go to the garden.

As you might imagine, August at the Botanic Garden was busting out all over! Myriad different flowers and blossoms, in every shape, color and kind. So wonderful for us to amble through the various walkways, with one vista lovelier than the next.

And then, several hours later, to turn to my prayer website, dailyoffice.org. I have read this opening statement to Evening Prayer countless times: “The Lord Almighty grant us a peaceful night and a perfect end.” However, I was particularly struck by the stunning natural beauty we saw tonight at the Botanic Garden. And then, to cap it off with Evening Prayer? What a peaceful way to end an absolutely lovely evening.

I was curious about the formal definition of Evening Prayer, or Compline, as it is properly named. Here is a helpful definition. “The ancient office of Compline derives its name from a Latin word meaning ‘completion’ (completorium). It is above all a service of quietness and reflection before rest at the end of the day.” [1]

So, Lord. Here we are, at the end of the day. What a perfect ending for a lovely day. Thank You for the beauty of the earth, the wonder of Your creation. Thank You for Your magnificent growing things, as well as the creatures of the water, field and air You have made—like hummingbirds! (Which we saw tonight! My first hummingbird, ever, in real life!) Lord, I’d like to praise You for the infinite variety in Your creation. Help us to be excellent stewards of this stunning beauty and variety. In Jesus’ loving and creative name we pray, Amen.

@chaplaineliza

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

Visit the website http://dailyoffice.org/ to find out more about Morning and Evening Prayer!

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] https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-worship/worship/texts/daily2/night/introstructurenotes.aspx

Meditation and Reflection, the Ignatian Way

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, May 29, 2015

Trinity - Celtic

Meditation and Reflection, the Ignatian Way

Tonight we look at the next step in a different way of praying, using Ignatian prayer and meditation. I’m using Inner Compass, the book by Margaret Silf. As she says, this meditation and prayer time can be done each night, and can draw the happenings of the day together.

The fourth step in this examination is Reflection. “Reflect peacefully on what has been happening to you and in you today, trusting that your prayer for the light of His Spirit has been granted. Let God show you whatever He may want to show you.” [1]

Silf gives many questions, bullet points of reflection and meditation. Asking things like “How were you drawn to God today?” “Did you bring Christ to those around you?” “Did you come across someone who was lonely, sad, discouraged or in need?” “Did you feel the absence of God in any part of your day?”

These, and many more, are useful prayer points. Points to ponder, and discuss with God.

Certainly, these and many more are points we all need to consider. May God give us discernment, staying power, and openness of heart and mind as we consider. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

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] Silf, Margaret, Inner Compass: Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1999), 59.