Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” John 11:25-27
Dear God, what would you like to make sure I believe? For example, the Jewish people at the time were supposed to believe in the future coming of the Messiah. Jesus wanted Martha to believe he was that person. I guess the equivalent of that today would be the second coming. But since that won’t be a vague event, but something that will knock me over the head with Jesus appearing in the east, trumpets, and all of that, I don’t know that that will be left up to my interpretation. So is there any part of theology that you want to make sure I believe?
Actually, now that I read this a little closer, Jesus is also asking if she believes in the peace of knowing she and those she loves will endure into the next life. I actually believe this, I think pretty soundly. Probably since I was taught it from an early age. I wonder what death would be like if I didn’t believe it.
I spoke with a woman yesterday who just lost her mom from a long illness. I’ve seen my wife go through the loss of both of her parents. I know we’ve talked a lot about their current existence together with you. Those losses have been very hard for her, but there’s a foundation of peace as well thanks to this good news. We can be reconciled to you and dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Father, open my eyes so I can see. Help me to not only learn and know what you want me to know but also share that with others. Help me to be in Christian community to the point where I am learning from you through others. I pray that you will raise up voices in the lives of those I love, like my children, who will be your presence and words to them. Do the same for me as well. Help me to be everything you want and need me to be for your glory’s sake. And thank you for the peace of knowing I get to physically be with you and those most precious to me for all eternity.
I’ve got a witness not too stable It wouldn’t get me very far I’ve got one hand on the table And one in the cookie jar I’ve got sins that need eviction From a temple that’s a wreck I’ve got a chain of contradiction Hanging around my neck So I go down, I go down, down I go down on my knees
I feel the bitter winds grow colder They are dancing with my pride I’ve got a chip on my shoulder Bigger than a mountainside And these claws of human nature Hold me tight within their clasp I’m not worthy of forgiveness But I just had to ask So I go down, I go down, down I go down on my knees
Feed my hunger – slake my thirst For a spiritual rebirth Light my darkness Move in me Make me more than what you see As I go down on my knees
When I’ve all but killed the fire And my soul’s in desperate need But I wallow in the mire of complacency That’s when I go down on my knees I want to taste the fruit I’m missing And yet I feast only on the bread My desire’s alive and kicking But my drive is dead So I go down on my knees
Feed my hunger – slake my thirst For a spiritual rebirth Light my darkness Move in me Make me more than what you see As I go down on my knees
You bear the weight of condemnation Cleansing with the blood of truth So with my humble acclamation I want to give myself to you So I go down, I go down, down I go down on my knees I go down, I go down, yea I go down on my knees I go down, I go down, down I go down on my knees
Dear God, I think Wayne Kirkpatrick is an underrated songwriter. I remember when this album coming out 30 years ago and noticing that he wrote a lot of the songs. The lyrics are great and obviously written by someone who knows what working out their faith with fear and trembling through the trials of life is like. I put Ashton’s first two albums on yesterday while I worked out and was brought back to some really great songs from my past. So I thought I would start today with her first single that shot up the charts of Christian music, “Down on my Knees.”
To look at the lyrics of this song, it’s all about the internal (and outward) hypocrisy and struggle against our nature that we experience as Christians. The first verse just exemplifies Paul’s words in Romans 7 when he talks about struggling with sin. In verse 15 he says, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” I think anyone who has submitted themselves to discipleship and following you has felt these internal emotions. Kirkpatrick definitely has, and Ashton did a great job articulating it:
I’ve got one had on the table and one in the cookie jar.
I’ve got sins that need eviction from a temple that’s a wreck
I’ve got a chain of contradiction hanging around my neck
These claws of human nature hold me tight within their clasp
I’ve all but killed the fire and my soul’s in desperate need, but I wallow in the mire of complacency
I want to taste the fruit I’m missing, but I feast only on the bread
My desire’s alive and kicking, but my drive is dead
So what do I do with all of this? That’s when I come here in prayer to you. That’s when I go down on my knees and humbly repent and ask you to:
Feed my hunger
Slake my thirst
Light my darkness
Move in me
Make me more than what you see
And when I do that, here’s what you do:
You bear the weight of condemnation
[Cleanse me] with the blood of truth
Father, sometimes this life in you is just about slogging away each day–each moment. Slogging against my lethargy and self-indulgence. Seeking your forgiveness and your strength. Asking you to move through me in to the world in ways that I’m not capable of on my own, yet they will help you to enter the world and let your kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is in heaven. So, please give me this day my daily bread. And forgive me as I forgive others. Help me be strong against temptation. Deliver me from Satan’s plans. For the kingdom, power, and glory are yours, now and forever.
I set out on a narrow way many years ago Hoping I would find true love along the broken road But I got lost a time or two Wiped my brow and kept pushing through I couldn’t see how every sign pointed straight to you
That every long lost dream led me to where you are Others who broke my heart, they were like Northern stars Pointing me on my way into your loving arms This much I know is true That God blessed the broken road That led me straight to you Yes, He did
I think about the years I spent just passin’ through I’d like to have the time I lost and give it back to you But you just smile and take my hand You’ve been there, you understand It’s all part of a grander plan that is coming true
Every long lost dream led me to where you are Others who broke my heart, they were like Northern stars Pointing me on my way into your loving arms This much I know is true That God blessed the broken road That led me straight to you Yeah
And now I’m just a-rollin’ home Into my lover’s arms This much I know is true That God blessed the broken road That led me straight to you
That God blessed the broken road That led me straight to you Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, mm, mm
Songwriters: Marcus Hummon / Jeff Hanna / Bobby Boyd
Dear God, this is a love song, but I think it has a great message from a macro level. We all have broken roads in our lives. I’ve certainly had things that didn’t turn out the way I wanted. When I’m in the midst of the valley this is the concept I put my faith in: sometimes this is the only path that leads to where you need me to be.
I’ve mentioned in these prayers before the time I told a friend about some of my frustrations and he said, “It’s hard when we are disappointed with God.” It was the struggle through that concept of being disappointed with you that brought me to a reality that I didn’t truly trust you. I still had a baseline of expectation that I expected you to meet. I was willing to accept some potholes in the road, but I wasn’t ready to deal with mudslides that collapsed the road out from under me. But I’ve walked and traversed the broken road long enough now to at least come to some level of peace about accepting my circumstances and then seeking your direction as to how I should respond. I’m still sad. I still mourn loss. I’m not “okay,” but that’s okay. That’s part of my formation too.
Father, every long lost dream leads me to where you are. So take my dreams and be glorified through my life and the lives of those most precious to me, regardless of what it costs me.
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:1-14
Dear God, sometimes I just need to get back to the basics. We layer a lot of theology onto things, but with Jesus it. One back to some simple things. Jesus is part of you come to earth. Essentially, you sent a piece of yourself to do something remarkable. What did you do? You simultaneously gave us instruction and reconciled all of us to you.
I’ve told people before that when I get to heaven I am going to learn that a lot of my theology is wrong. It’s not anyone’s fault. It’s just that theology is complicated and a lot can get innocently skewed over the years. That said, I think the Jesus part is important. The redemption part. Ah, there’s the word redemption again. You purchased me back through Jesus. Everything else is just me figuring out how you want me to use the rest of my days.
Father, help me to major in the majors. Help me to die to myself, take up my cross and follow you. Help me to know how to parent my children. Help me to know how to be a member of my extended family. Help me to know how to do my job, engage with my community and husband my wife. Break me, melt me, mold me, and fill me. Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. 2 Peter 3:8-10
Dear God, I was talking with my wife recently about Christians’ conflicted relationship with the end times. On the one hand we say, “Come on back Jesus.” On the other hand we see something that we interpret as a sign of the tribulation or whatever and we freak out. For example, if we see someone we perceive to be the anti-Christ, shouldn’t that excite us? Doesn’t that mean you’re getting closer?
It came up because she told me she had talked earlier that day with a friend who was freaked out by the recent lunar eclipse. It was the biggest one or whatever for 600 years and it will be another 600 years before it will repeat. So why does that thought cause fear and trepidation in the hearts of the faithful?
My theory is that we aren’t scared that we are losing our window to evangelize or make a difference. What is at stake is our comfort. Tell a slave or a suffering person that the end is near and they will be grateful. Tell a comfortable, fat and happy American Christian the end is near and there is resistance. There is fear of the unknown.
Father, the best thing I know to do with all of this is to take my eyes off of it and put them on you. I can’t get caught up in the future because it distracts me from this moment. Show me what you want me to do in this moment. Show me the work you have for me to do today. And help me to be what you need me to be for your kingdom so that it might come and you will might be done on earth as it is in heaven.
When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him, “Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.” Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.” But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. But many Israelites—those for whom the Kingdom was prepared—will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the Roman officer, “Go back home. Because you believed, it has happened.” And the young servant was healed that same hour. Matthew 8:5-13
Dear God, so faith is more important than sinlessness. I find this story interesting because we are talking about a sick slave here and Jesus doesn’t seem to care about the slave part. He had a goal and a mission. He had a limited amount of time. T
here were all kinds of societal issues of the day he didn’t address. I guess it is significant to examine what his priorities seemed to be: Faith, love, no hypocrisy, repentance, caring for poor, etc. He didn’t seem to even notice Rome or its power over everyone. He was grassroots, bottom-up, not top-down.
Father, help me to start with the basics Jesus taught and then build everything else in my life upon those things. Help me to create a foundation of repentance, faith, love, caring food the poor and no hypocrisy. Then I can put up walls that includes loving my family and those around me. I can put on a roof that sees me serving my community. And ultimately I will have a house that represents you to the world and invites them in to build the same for themselves—from the ground up.
Dear God, I was in church last night and the deacon preached about being redeemed. It made me think that I’ve never really thought about that word. It’s definition, I mean. Here’s what I found on Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
It made me think about the children’s storybook, Corduroy.
We read that book to our kids and, at one point, we were walking our own little girl through a PetSmart and she saw a stuffed Doberman with a missing eye. We tried to show her a similar one with both eyes, but she wanted the flawed one. Of course, we bought it for her and named him Corduroy. I can still picture our two-year-old daughter sitting in her stroller, holding a stuffed Doberman as big as she was. Our daughter is grown and gone now, but that toy is still in our home. I’ve told it that as long as I have a home it has a home. It might be a little silly, but I’ve always loved what that “dog” represents.
So I thought of all of this yesterday when the deacon started talking about Jesus redeeming us. Redeeming is what someone does when they pawn something and then go back for it. Redeemed is what someone does when it claims something (I redeemed a lottery ticket). I redeem my luggage when I claim it at the baggage claim. Something is sitting there waiting for its redemption. It’s lost all of its own agency and any power it has over the situation. It needs redeemed.
So here I am. A flawed bear, sitting on a shelf wondering if anyone can love the flawed person I am. I am that Doberman waiting for a little girl to claim me. And there you are. You knew I needed redeemed, but you had to come and do it yourself. And you love me the way I am, but you also know I’ll be more “comfortable” if you help me deal with some of my flaws.
All any of us have, really, is hope. We have the hope that Jesus gives us if we will recognize it. Jesus takes us off of that shelf, loves us the way we are and then gives us what we need to be complete. He redeems us. I am sorry he had to pay such a high price for my redemption. I am sorry I am not what I would consider to be worthy of the redemption. But I am grateful that you think I am worthy and that you have redeemed me. Thank you.
14 My own people laugh at me. All day long they sing their mocking songs. 15 He has filled me with bitterness and given me a bitter cup of sorrow to drink.
16 He has made me chew on gravel. He has rolled me in the dust. 17 Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. 18 I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!”
19 The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words.[a] 20 I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. 21 Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends![b] His mercies never cease. 23 Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”
Dear God, I think I have journaled about this passage and its associated image before, but I ran across it today and it reminds me a bit of my attitude towards this Thanksgiving. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like we have much to be grateful for. Our health is a mess with the pandemic. I talked with a woman yesterday who has known 7 people who have died from COVID-19. I stopped counting a year ago at 10. Our politics are a mess. The new COVID-19 vaccine mandates are causing pain. Inflation is rising. People cannot find housing. Businesses and other employers cannot find enough employees. Other than a solid stock market that seems to be divorced from the reality on the ground, causing the rich to just get richer while the gap between the haves and have-nots grows, there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of good news. Even in my personal life, there are some tragic circumstances for which I am not grateful.
Then I remembered earlier today the first U.S. Presidential Proclamation for a National Day of Thanksgiving. It was October 1863. Written by Secretary of State William Seward, Lincoln released this proclamation, establishing the last Thursday in November to be set aside for Thanksgiving:
Washington, D.C. October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States of America.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State
It’s really quite remarkable. The proclamation above and Prince’s depiction of the passage in Lamentations bear a striking resemblance. Of the image, Bustard writes:
This image shows a couple walking through a storm, which is symbolic of the suffering, pain, and destruction documented in the book of Lamentations. The husband clings to his wife as they move in faith through the storm. In the midst of the raindrops three elongated figural forms (alluding to the Trinity/Holy Spirit) create a covering over the couple. The woman clutching her abdomen is a symbol of hope and renewal as it represents the imminent arrival of a child. The presence of the Cross is created by the subtle placement of the woman’s finger overlapping the rod of the umbrella. It is by faith they walk, and the Holy Spirit amplifies their love through the storms of life.
Father, the passage in Lamentations ends with the words that have been made into a praise chorus. I sing them in my heart now, to you: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, never every morning. Great is thy faithfulness, oh Lord. Great is thy faithfulness.” Your faithfulness is great. Thank you for being my rock and my shelter. Thank you for everything you have given to me. Thank you for your mercy.
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
Dear God, what do I do about this? You know I have love in my heart. You know I have forgiveness even. I have mercy for how someone is and the lens through which they enter the world. But there is a group of people in various areas of my life where the relationships are broken. And they fall into different categories. Well, maybe they don’t. I’ve told each of them why I’ve done what I’ve done and why I feel the way I do. Some are defensive and don’t want to even consider they’ve done something wrong. Others simply see the situation differently than I do, probably because we are each working from different pieces of information and using what we know as the basis of our viewpoint. For my part, I’m willing (at least I think I am) to hear what I’ve done wrong and have an opportunity to apologize.
So what do I do from here? Where do I go with your peace filling my heart? Maybe I go to hope and the hope you offer me. Our small town does an annual church-to-church walk Christmas service in December, and I’ve been given a speaking assignment at one of the spots this year. I was assigned “Celebrating Hope in Christ.” The three other stops are “Celebrating Peace in Christ,” “Celebrating Love in Christ,” and “Celebrating Joy in Christ.” I received the assignment this morning and it immediately stumped me. Hope in Christ? What do I have to say about that? But maybe this situation lends itself to that hope. I have hope that you will move the world in the direction you want to move it regardless of how wrong or right I am. I have a hope that you will provide for my situation beyond anything I can imagine working. When I think now about Zechariah’s (John the Baptist’s dad) prophecy after he is allowed to speak again, it is all about hope. When I think of Mary’s song, “The Magnificat,” it is layered with tons of hope. Simeon and Anna, at the temple when Jesus was circumcised, had hope. There is a hope that this is all worth it. All of this pain counts. You are using it. You are redeeming it. You are breaking us, melting us, molding us, and filling us. We just have to press into you and worship you, and the hope will start to flow because we will stop looking at our own lives and be only about your will. To quote another song, the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of your glory and grace.
Father, thank you for my hope. Thank you for giving me hope through all of this. I trust in you. I believe in you. I love you. I worship you.
Dear God, this is such an interesting story, and the artist’s interpretation of it is something I would not have considered. It really is a bit like a plot you’d see in a movie. In this case, Stander is comparing Eglon to Jabba the Hut. Ehud is James Bond. There’s a toilet. A lock and key. A watch to indicate the amount of time the servants waited for Eglon to finish what they thought he was doing. There is the line, “Lefties have rights too.” I’m not exactly sure what the device on the left is, but it looks like some sort of press. And then there is the 007 with the gun logo on the bottom left. Yeah, I guess it’s all there.
So what else is in this story that’s not in the artwork? Howa bout the Israelites crying out. They also sent a tribute to Eglon through Ehud. They have a gun instead of a sword. And the artist doesn’t show the violence done to Eglon. It tells the parts of the story around the violence. And then the story in Bustard’s book stops before it gets to the part where Ehud leads them to freedom from and dominance over the Moabites. It doesn’t mention the 80 years of peace or the fact that after Ehud died the Israelites went back to their old ways.
In this case, I wonder what their old ways looked like. Worshiping physical idols? Not worshiping you? Not loving the poor? It’s a little vague, but I am, once again, reminded that we read these stories quickly, but they last over the course of a lifetime. People lived and died during this 80-year period.
Father, I’m not sure where they application is for me, but I do know that Stander’s art here made me think of the secret agent-style tale that this is. There is everything from clandestine attacks to snarky comedy. It’s amazing what’s in the Bible. I guess my request from you as I conclude this time is to ask that you please show me how I am like the Israelites without Ehud and make me like an Israelite who lived under Ehud’s leadership.