Day 56 – You Are Not Alone

1 Peter 1:1-3: To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia,  Asia, and Bithynia, who have been chosen an destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood:  May grace and pace be yours in abundance.

Devotion:  My aunt loves to travel.  She talks of vacations in Paris, Rome, Ireland, Athens, Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, or Duran, if she had the money.   My uncle, on the other hand, is a homebody.  She says, “His idea of a vacation is taking his soda to the back yard.” She dreams of adventures in far off lands.  He dreams of comfortable chairs, quiet neighborhoods, and cool breezes.  Like most Americans, they take the family on an annual vacation in the United States.

Exile is not a vacation, a sabbatical rest, or a time of renewal.  Exiles are persons who were physically forced to depart the comfort, familiarity, and safety of their homeland for a time of detention in strange, new lands.  Their involuntary relocation felt like a death march to a territory filled with disbelief, discontinuity, and a loss of dignity.  Exile was an experience the people of God knew too well.[1] 

In his letter, Peter was writing to encourage God’s children scattered to the four corners of the earth as aliens in a frightening world.[2] He reminded them that heaven is the believer’s true home.  Therefore, sanctifying souls must endure the hardship of exile until God gathers them together in the everlasting Kingdom.  Exile is not permanent, nor should we grow accustomed to the new world.  We are not on vacation, nor are we trying to escaping the daily demands of life.  Rather, we are to wait in our captive deportation for the anticipated arrival of our Liberating King. 

Dear soul, do not be disheartened by the world even if you find yourself surrounded by the impassible interior mountains of Pontus, the ethical dilemmas of Galatia, the shifting political terrain of Cappadocia, the unscrupulous and greedy leaders of ancient Asia, and the scholarly philosophers of Bithynia.  You are not alone!  Our triune God is with us.  God chose us, the Spirit is sanctifying us, and the blood of Christ is forgiving us because of Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection.  You are not alone! You are surrounded by a host of other sojourners, known as the Church, who are experiencing the same discontinuity of community and chaos in the dispersion.  Obedience to Christ will give us the abundant blesses of grace and peace needed until you reach your true, final home.

Prayer: God our Father, the world is a strange place filled with disjointed messages, disheartening ideas, disturbance experiences, and disagreeable people.  Grant to your Church the ability to obey Jesus Christ by the work of your Holy Spirit, that we might experience the abundance of grace and peace until we reach our final home with you.  We pray in the name of Jesus, who reigns with you, Father, and the Holy Spirit, as One God forever and ever.  Amen. 

Prayer Exercise:  “Praying with Mandalas,” page 293, in Patricia D. Brown, “Paths to Prayer: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God,” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003). ISBN: 0-779-6565-0. Copyright © 2003 by Patricia D. Brown.  All rights reserved.  

[1] Isa. 45:14, 52:2; Ps. 149, Lam. 3:7, Jer. 32:2, Zech 9:11

[2] Gal. 4:21-31; Phil. 3;20, Jam. 1:1

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Day 55 – Enduring Ashen Grey

John 8:12: Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’.


O, ashen, barren tree,
Split with summer’s heat,
Wounded by rapid growth,
Drought, wind, and winter freeze.

Branches broken high above,
Hanging barely by the bark.
Dangling, lifeless leaves,
Providing sustenance no more.

Birds abandoned your canopy,
Head for warmer winters south.
Anticipating spring’s return,
The song silence drowns out.

What will you do to endure,
The grey clouded skies above?
Dormant and decaying inside,
Like the soul filled with doubts.

Do not fret, O friend of mine,
Thou the darkness linger on.
Brighter days will come again,
In the joyful array of Light.

Prayer: God our Father, thank you for coming in the dark days of winter as the Light of Life in Jesus Christ.  Shine, Holy Spirit, upon all who dwell in darkness of sin, sadness, and the shadow of death, in the name of Jesus.  Amen. 

Prayer Exercise:  “Prayer Walk,” page 209, in Patricia D. Brown, “Paths to Prayer: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God,” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003). ISBN: 0-779-6565-0. Copyright © 2003 by Patricia D. Brown.  All rights reserved.  

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Day 54 – I Don’t Like You; I Love You!

John 13:34: Jesus said, “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

Devotion:  My kindergarten son wrote his first complete sentence: “I like dad.”  I was very proud of him, and astonished at his maturity.  He has struggled to learn his alphabet, numbers, and articulate his thoughts.  So, a deep sense of pride welled up within me for my son when I saw his first sentence, notwithstanding the fact that he wrote it across his sister’s bedroom wall.

Too many Christians in the local church are stuck on this elementary spiritual state: they like each other but they do not love one another.  How many churches do you know that are filled with “friendly” people but the members are not friends?  Friendly people keep a protective distance from others while friends authentically enter into the lives of one another.  Friends care for each other in holistic ways (i.e., compassion for hurts and pains, common courtesy, respect, willingness to sacrifice for the betterment of others, time spent listening and sharing, building up each other, giving generous space for opposing views, etc.).  Friends do not find people “just like them” (how boring!) but they find people who will love them for who they are and who they are becoming in Christ.

Jesus Christ commanded that his disciples love one another (Greek agape, self-sacrificing love).  The apostles were vastly different from one another with a hodgepodge of working class fishermen, financial experts, Publicans, a traitor, and zealots. Yet, Jesus’ new command summarizes the old commands into a single call to universal service.  The command came from Jesus’ Trinitarian experience! Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”[1]  Christ’s followers display the Trinity’s reciprocating love as Christ’s a witness to the world.  God chose to display this witness in the local church!

What message would the world recognize about God if local Christians stopped liking one another but started loving each other?

Prayer:  Our Father in Heaven, thank you for becoming our friend in Jesus Christ. Now, make us friends with believers in the world by the work of your Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

Prayer Exercise:  “Emmaus Prayer Walk,” page 214, in Patricia D. Brown, “Paths to Prayer: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God,” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003). ISBN: 0-779-6565-0. Copyright © 2003 by Patricia D. Brown.  All rights reserved.  

[1] John 15:9-10

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Day 53 – Jesus Enjoyed Life!

Luke 10:21: “At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.’”

Devotion: Jesus enjoyed life.  He loved his family.  He delighted in his discipleship[1] and gathering disciples.[2] He took pleasure in attending parties,[3] wedding banquet, Sabbath suppers, and raising the dead.[4]  He savored solitude.[5]  Jesus was happy when he healed people.[6]   Jesus embraced children with a holistic love.[7]  God’s son relished thirty-three years of relationships on earth before the excruciating experience the week of his crucifixion.  Jesus’ death and resurrection was the most important event in human history, and his Second Coming will define history forever.  However, should the suffering of our Savior overshadow the fact that Jesus enjoyed life?

One might say Jesus came to enjoy life since God is a God of relationships (the Father loves the Son and Holy Spirit, who reciprocate love as Trinity).  The Father incarnated the Son, Jesus Christ, as the Lamb of Bethlehem, by the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of bringing joy to life.  Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they (my disciples) may have life, and have it abundantly.”[8]  Yes, Jesus came for multiple reasons: to reveal the Father,[9] give his life as a ransom for many,[10] to do the Father’s will,[11]  to bring division,[12] to serve,[13] etc.  Pleasure was also part of the plan.

As Christ’s followers, shouldn’t our lives match that of our Savior?  Should our lives solely reflect the final somber week of Jesus’ incarnation or can our lives be filled with the ecstasy of the Spirit which Jesus experienced in prayer?  Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! (Psalm 32:11)

Prayer:  Our Father in Heaven, you delighted in making us for the pleasure of your own good will in the joy of the Holy Spirit.  Give us a glimpse of your goodness that our hearts might sing, mouths praise you, and bodies dance, in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

Prayer Exercise:  “Jesus Dance,” page 311, in Patricia D. Brown, “Paths to Prayer: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God,” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003). ISBN: 0-779-6565-0. Copyright © 2003 by Patricia D. Brown.  All rights reserved. 

[1] Luke 2:49

[2] Luke 5:1-11

[3] Luke 5:27-32

[4] Luke 7:11-17, 8:40-56

[5] Luke 5:16

[6] Luke 8:26-39

[7] Luke 9:47

[8] John 10:10

[9] Matthew 11:27

[10] Matthew 20:28

[11] John 6:38

[12] Luke 12:51

[13] Matthew 20:28

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Day 52 – Do You Hear the Trumpet of the Lord?

Leviticus 25:1-24: “You shall count off seven weeks of years, so that the period of seven weeks of years gives forty-nine years.  Then you shall have the trumpet sounded aloud; on the tenth day of the seventh month – on the Day of Atonement – you shall the trumpet sounded throughout all your land.  And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants” (v. 8-10).

Devotion:  My daughter learned to play the trumpet.  We enjoyed listening to her play familiar melodies on her rented brass instrument, now that she is past practicing, “Hot Crossed Buns,” for one thousandth time.  Winter concerts became enjoyable, too.  Her insatiable desire to wake the family from our winter slumber with a trumpet blast, however, was something we have not grown to love.

The blast of a ram’s horn (Hebrew: yobhel, meaning jubilee) was essential to Israel’s worship.  The piercing sound proclaimed the onset of sacred time (time set apart for God).  God ordained the Sabbath (seventh day),[1] sabbatical rest (seventh year),[2] and the Jubilee year (seven times seven years).[3]  These festivals (along with other appointed festivals and at the beginning of your months) started with a trumpet call for all people – free and enslaved, rich and poor, male and female, Jew and non-Jew – to rejoice in the Lord who provides for human needs, protects God’s people, establishes justice, frees the prisoner, and stresses ownership of all things.[4]  This practice was to continue in perpetuity, until the Last Trumpet sounds for Christ’s Second Coming as the ultimate, unending Jubilee.[5]

Do you hear the ram’s horn blowing for you?  It summons you to lay down your weapons against God, and surrender to the truth of sacred time: you are a bankrupt sinner whom God yearns to set free through forgiving love.  You were an enemy of God by your rebellious will but the trumpet proclaims God’s festival celebration among the angels at the moment you repent.[6]  It is a trumpet of warning telling you that time is drawing nigh – For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and the with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.”[7] Don’t miss the ram’s horn for the ultimate Jubilee because you are asleep!

Prayer: God our Father, you call us to wake-up in Jesus Christ by the stirring of your Holy Spirit.  Open our ears to hear the Jubilee call by the blast of your trumpet in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

Prayer Exercise:  “Centering Prayer,” page 138, in Patricia D. Brown, “Paths to Prayer: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God,” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003). ISBN: 0-779-6565-0. Copyright © 2003 by Patricia D. Brown.  All rights reserved.  

[1] Exodus 20:8-11

[2] Leviticus 25:1-7

[3] Leviticus 25:8-55

[4] Numbers 10:10

[5] Revelation 11:14-19

[6] Luke 15:1-7

[7] 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

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Day 51 – Pitching His Tent among Us

John 1:1-18: And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth (v. 14).

Devotion:  My brother snored.  Actually, that is an understatement.  My brother SNORED.  He was more than a bedroom snorer or even a household snorer.  My brother as a neighborhood snorer: you could hear him a block away.  Sharing a room with him for most of my childhood must have made me deaf to his sleeping problem.

One time, my family went camping in a state park.  We pitched our tent, prepared the campfire, ate hotdogs, and roasted s’mores.  Then, we retired for the evening.  It was a busy weekend.  Campers filled every site in the park.  They were all gone the next morning when we awoke.  The rangers told my parents that my brother snored so loud that people packed up and went to other camp grounds in the middle of the night.

John tells a different story in his Gospel: In the middle of the night, while all the earth was sleeping, God came in the flesh as Babe of Bethlehem by pitching is tent among us.  God came to tabernacle among us in Jesus Christ – to dwell with us in complete harmony.  He caught us all unawares as he came to draw all people to himself.[1]  He did not come to drive people away.[2]  He came as the glorious light of Trinitarian community which he yearned to extend to humans in exhaustless companionship.

In the darkness of the world, let us remember that Jesus came as the True Light.  He was the fullness of God’s Light (Divine revelation).  Jesus was not a reflection of moonlight, the dim beam of a flash light, the flickering of a campfire, or the tail of a shooting star. Looking into him we see the fullness of God’s grace and truth; and we see ourselves (helpless, hopeless, and nude).  Do not hide out in the dark, snoring!  Wake up, and come to the one who has come to you.  Pull up a chair, warm yourself by the fire of Spirit, and join in the everlasting songs of praise.

Prayer: God our Father, thank you for coming to us in Jesus Christ, when we could not come to you because of our sin.  Thank you for pitching your tent among us, and not driving us from the land.  Shine your light upon, inside, and around us to reveal your divine self, and your invitation to true community.  Call us from the darkness of this world into your bountiful light.  We pray in the name of Christ. Amen. 

Prayer Exercise:  “Novenas,” page 85, in Patricia D. Brown, “Paths to Prayer: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God,” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003). ISBN: 0-779-6565-0. Copyright © 2003 by Patricia D. Brown.  All rights reserved.  

[1] John 12:32

[2] John 6:37

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Day 50 – Union with God in Christ

John 17:20-21: Jesus prayed, “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Devotion:  Union with God in Christ is the goal of Christian spirituality.  The goal of Christian living is not self-improvement (i.e., being the best spouse, parent, neighbor, worker, or citizen).  Transcendental meditation (emptying oneself for spiritual enlightenment) is not the goal of Christian spiritual practices, for baptized believers are called to be filled with God the Holy Spirit.[1]  Scripture memorization is not the goal of Christian maturity, but it is a helpful practice towards union with God in Christ.  Membership in a counter-cultural movement, or political ideology, is not the goal of Christian spirituality, for Jesus prayed, “I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.”[2] Being one with the Father, as Jesus Christ is one with God, is the goal of the Christian life.

Seeking oneness with God requires submission and surrender to the revelation of God in Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus knew believers could not be one with God, and the community of the faithful, without God’s miraculous intervention and transformation that occurs in Christ.  Sinful humans want to be the center of all things, as the serpent tempted our First Parents.[3] Christ came to redeem the righteous order of the universe: God first, others second, ourselves third.  As the Father was working in Jesus Christ, so now the living Spirit of God abides and aligns the believer in the image and intimacy of the Trinity.

One of the petitions of Jesus’ prayer was that God would make believers one in Christ as a witness to the world.  This is a grand request: to make future believers one.  Jesus asked the Father to lay-out and construct a Church that revealed the divine image and intimacy of the One-in-Three, Three-in-One Godhead.  The Savior asked his Father to create a community of believers who would exist for one purpose: being one. God fashioned a people in faith.

The fruit of God’s formative work was world-wide witness.  Our congregational unity testifies to our Christian maturity (God in us) and God’s work in the world, just as Jesus’ oneness with the Father was a witness to the Apostles.  How can bitterly divided people tell a fractured world about the unifying love of God in and for Christ?  Unity for global evangelism will require that the Church move beyond tolerance to transformation, from happy friends to harmony, from liking one another to self-sacrificing love.

My pastoral friend expressed it best in her benediction: “Go in peace and live in unity with God, with yourself, with others, and with all of Creation.”  Amen and amen.

Prayer: Father, make me one with your people, and your people one with me, in Christ as you are one with your son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

Prayer Exercise:  “Benediction and Blessing,” page 123, in Patricia D. Brown, “Paths to Prayer: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God,” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003). ISBN: 0-779-6565-0. Copyright © 2003 by Patricia D. Brown.  All rights reserved.  

[1] Acts 2:4, Ephesians 5:18,

[2] John 17:15

[3] Genesis 3:5

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