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Psalm 8

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Psalm 8

Dear God, one of the nice things about this passage is that David recognizes the extent of your majesty through your love for humans. It’s one thing for you to be great and powerful. It’s another thing to take time from that and truly love us. You are interested in us. You are interested not only in us as humanity, but you are interested in us as individuals! That’s amazing!

So what do I do with that love? How do I respond to that kind of majesty? Well, sometimes I get it right and sometimes I get it wrong. Sometimes I stop, deny myself, take up my cross, and follow you. I stop to worship. I stop to reach out and love my neighbor. But other times I find you too inconvenient. I lethargically watch TV (and not necessarily good TV) when I could be reading or writing. I spend my money on something self-indulgent instead of giving it to someone in need. I sleep a little later or scroll through Facebook instead of spending my daily time in prayer. I’m sorry for all of that.

Father, help me to embrace this idea of your love for me. Help me to not foolishly see it as something to take advantage of (assuming I can get what I want from you because you love me), but as opportunity for relationship and growth. You have done all of these wondrous things, and yet you love me. Thank you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2019 in Psalms

 

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Psalm 139:13-14

Psalm 139:13-14

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

Dear God, I recently asked people on Facebook what things they do to pursue relationship with you. As I consider my own list of activities, I think the one that is the most deficient is worship. I don’t spent enough time in worship of you. I don’t adore you enough. I don’t really stop to try and wrap my head around what and who you are. This passage reminds me of that. David is just spending some time acknowledging who you are, and who he is by comparison.

Father, you are the source of all of my joy. You bring me peace. You exude from everything around me, and yet I often walk right by you and don’t notice. You see the entire board while I only know how to move my pawn. You have entire world to love while I can’t even love my neighbor. You are everything. I am but a small, minuscule piece of the puzzle. I am foolish and cannot are. You are all-knowing and omnipotent. Please forgive me for my doubt. For the things I do and the things I leave undone. Thank you for caring about me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for guiding my heart on a path that draws closer to you little by little.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2019 in Psalms

 

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The Woman at the Well – John 4:13-26

Woman at the Well
The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image itself was created by Diego Jourdan Pereira and is called “Woman at the Well.”

John 4:13-26 [NLT]
13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
15 “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”
16 “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.
17 “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.
Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— 18 for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”
21 Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!”

 

Dear God, I’ve heard this story so many times that I want to see if I can enter it through the image created by Diego Jourdan Pereira instead of starting with the passage.

Knowing what I know of the story, what is it that I see here?

  • First I suppose I have to admit that it’s a little hard for a left-brained person like me to make out everything in this image.
  • I see the woman first. She is the center of the story, and she is holding a pitcher in which she can carry the water she’s come to get.
  • There’s the well. It has water at the bottom and rocks surrounding it at the top.
  • Jesus has his back to us and is sitting on the well. Okay, maybe I am noticing something interesting that Mr. Jourdan Pereira did here–he kept the woman the center of the story. Jesus is looking at her just like we are.
  • I never imagined Jesus sitting on the actual well itself talking to the woman. That’s interesting.
  • Jesus seems to have the holiness halo around his head that a lot of Catholic artwork does for the Holy Family and saints. (Bustard’s commentary mentions that “the circle of Christ’s halo is repeated in the well, connecting the water with the Living Water.)
  • I can’t tell what it is, but there seems to be a subtle cross that is upside down and crooked just above Jesus hands–between him and the woman.
  • I suppose those are mountains in the distance behind her.

I really like the idea that this image and this story are all about the woman. It’s not about Jesus needing water. It’s about Jesus entering this woman’s life and world. She is holding her pitcher, in need of some water. She came to the well for the water, but what she found there was Jesus sitting on the well. He’s in the same place as the water for which she came, but he has a different water to offer her.

Of course, there is the story itself. What is the living water of which Jesus speaks? The first thing he has to do is get her sin out on the table. She is going to be ashamed of it, and she’ll get mad, change the subject, and try to fight back by drawing a line between them: We Samaritans think this while you Jews think that. But Jesus changes the premise of her argument and tells her that all of it is wrong: Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.” (verse 21)

Then he has to teach her about worshiping “in spirit and in truth.” (verses 23 and 24) We’ve put so many constructs on what worshiping you looks like, when the truth is that you are so much bigger than our constructs.

My wife and I were talking this morning about death and afterlife. We discussed the difference between those who believe that we are dormant until Jesus comes again and those who believe we enter the afterlife immediately (whether it be heaven, hell or even purgatory). We finally concluded that all of this is problematic because we are putting our earthly construct of “time” onto the construct of your timelessness. My personal belief is that I don’t know how it will all happen, but I’m confident that I’m not capable of understanding it on this side of death because it is through death that I will cross through the veil.

Okay, now I’m rambling. I guess the point I am getting from this story this morning is that you are there to meet us where we are, get us to discuss our sin and deal with it through your grace and your call to holiness, and then worship you in spirit and in truth, which is possible because you are the Messiah. How’s that for a summary?

Father, help me to really worship you today. I started this day with a secular song in my head and I played it while I made my breakfast. It was a nice love song. Then I decided that I needed to prepare my heart for this time with you so I put on some Christian songs that would lead me into worship and bring me into a place of wanting to spend this time with you. Thankfully, it worked. So, like I said at the beginning of this paragraph, help me to worship you today, but to do it in spirit and in truth. Help me to deal with my sin in a humble way before you. Help me to do what you would have me to do for your glory.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

 

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Peter & John — 1 John 5:13-21

1 John 5:13-21 NIV
[13] I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. [14] This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. [15] And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. [16] If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. [17] All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death. [18] We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. [19] We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. [20] We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. [21] Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

Dear God, These are all interesting last words. If I were to bullet point this last section of 1 John, I guess I’d do it like this:

* Through Jesus you get to be saved.
* Pray according to God’s will and it’ll all be good.
* Pray for others about their sin (I want to come back to this one in a minute).
* Beware of Satan.
* Keep yourselves from idols (fascinating last words that seem to kind of come from nowhere).

Praying according to your will is an interesting thing. In a recent speech, a politician referenced the gospel verse that talks about praying for something and you granting it. But he left out the part about praying for it “in your name” or “according to your will” so the passage was used completely out of context. It can be very hard to pray according to your will because your will might call for suffering. It might call for us to go down a road down which we do not want to go, or see our friends or family go. But that’s the encouragement—that we pray according to your will.

The other thing I really want to touch on from this passage is praying for others. Every week in the Catholic Church, the penitent prayer includes asking “you my brothers and sisters to pray for me to the Lord our God.” I always try to take that moment to pray for the people around me, whether I know them or not. It’s an interesting request to put into a prayer that is said every week. I’m sure that the person who originally decided it should be inserted was thinking about this passage.

Father, one of the things I want to do today is spend a little time in worship. I was thinking about it while I was driving last night. I have been spending time in scripture. I have been spending time praying for others. I have NOT, however, spent time just worshipping you and proclaiming how great is my God. So I endeavor to do that today. You are so great and powerful. Who can possibly stand in your presence. I love you, Father.

I pray all of this in Jesus’ name and ask that you make all of the answers to my prayers according to your will,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2019 in 1 John, Peter and John

 

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Emails to God – Supporting My Wife Going Catholic, Part 5

For those of you keeping up with this series that I’m doing to correspond with my wife’s blog, there is no Part 4 on my part because I didn’t really have anything to add to that part of her story. For those of you who don’t know what this is about, my wife joined the Catholic church this last Easter, and she is doing a 6-part series on how this came to be. I am doing companion pieces to her posts to give a view of what was happening with me and the family from my perspective as we all went through this process.

When last we left off, Megan had started visiting our local Catholic church, we were doing family worship times with our teenage children, but that was starting to fizzle out, and after I told a friend that I was feeling a little disconnected from Megan spiritually, he told me that I needed to “suck it up and go to church with my wife” as opposed to going to a nondenominational church that met in the bowling alley.

I started visiting St. Mary’s in late March. Frankly, I have never enjoyed Sunday morning worship so it didn’t matter that much to me. Also, as I’ve said before, I don’t have the problems that some Protestants have with Catholicism. I grew up in an ecumenical home, and after visiting a couple of times I found that I actually enjoyed the services more than I expected. My biggest hesitation was the more liturgical format, but, to my surprise, I didn’t mind it at all. In fact, after a few weeks, I got into the rhythm and kind of enjoyed it.

There is a local CPA in town who does the annual audit for the nonprofit where I work. He also happens to be a deacon at St. Mary’s. He had seen me at mass a few times and we talked about it in his office one day. He encouraged Megan and me to go through the RCIA (Right of Catholic Initiation for Adults) process to see if joining the church might be appropriate for us. I talked to Megan about it, and she had already thought about it, so we agreed to check it out.

On this point, I’ll disagree with Megan’s post a little. She said I had no intention of joining the Catholic church as I entered the RCIA process with her. That’s not true. I went into the process as open-minded as I could and willing to go through Catholic confirmation if I felt like that was what God wanted for me.

The classes were interesting. I knew that there would be parts with which I disagreed (as I do with any denomination), but I also didn’t think that was a big deal. I told Megan at the beginning that I was going to do my best to keep my mouth shut and not show any public disagreement because I didn’t want to be the person in the room that thought he was smarter than everyone else. For the most part I was able to do this. There was one night where the leader forced my hand a little, but for the rest of the time I was able to be a silent support in the class and not take away from anyone else’s experience as they sought out God and His call for them. I can say that I perceived that everyone involved in the leadership was very Godly and earnest in their love for Him. That’s all that mattered to me.

In the end, as I explained to one of the leaders about why I didn’t go through the final confirmation, I found that I agreed with 85% of the theology; 10% I didn’t agree with, but it didn’t matter; and then there was 5% that I didn’t agree with that was the deal-breaker. The interesting thing, however, was that it was NOT a deal-breaker for me, but a deal-breaker for them. If I couldn’t believe in this one particular part of the theology then they would not want me to join. I was okay with that, but my response seemed to vex the RCIA leader a little. I still don’t think he quite understands why I continue to attend mass every Sunday with Megan. The plain answer is that I think it is important that we worship together, and this is where she feels called to be.

There is one other reason I didn’t join the Catholic church. This became clear to me one night when the leader told me that one difference between Protestant churches and the Catholic church is that when you join a Protestant church you are joining that local congregation that may or may not be part of a particular denomination. When you join the Catholic church, however, you are joining the world-wide Catholic church and not just St. Mary’s Parish. Taken a step further, when you join the Catholic church, it is a life-long commitment to be Catholic. Frankly, I’m not willing to say that I am going to be a part of any particular denomination for the rest of my life, be it Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, or Catholic. I have found that my journey in corporate worship has taken me to different churches and different styles throughout my life, and that is simply a commitment that I cannot make.

One last thing. I don’t know if she’ll tell this part of the story, but I want to mention it briefly because it plays into the part of her post about rejection for this decision from different corners of her world. About a month before her Easter confirmation she received a letter from a “friend” of her mother’s. I came home from work and noticed she was upset. We were about to leave the house together, and when I asked her what was wrong she told me that she would tell me in the car. When we got in the car she read me the letter. It was someone who claimed that she knew Megan’s mother’s heart about this matter and that her mother, who had died two years before, would not be happy about this. The person wrote awful things about Catholicism and then didn’t have the courage to sign the letter completely, only giving her first name. I had to pull the car over while she read, I was so offended by what I heard. I knew Megan needed to understand that this letter was from hell, so I took the letter from her, crumpled it up, and drove to the nearest gas station where I threw it away to get it out of our lives as quickly as I could. I then told her that her father would scoff at the idea that this woman know’s Megan’s mother’s heart on this issue, and that it was full of lies. I think my response helped. Frankly, I consider it to be the most supportive thing I did for Megan through this entire process.

So to sum up, it is now spring of 2012, Megan and I are wrapping up going through the RCIA process. I am a little surprised that Megan is going to be confirmed, but supportive. Easter is coming, and she is wondering how her family and friends will respond.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2012 in Supporting My Wife Going Catholic

 

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