Daily Devotions

May these days grant us blessings and peace through our unity in devotions, study, and prayer.  May God grant you good health and may grace abound. 

Pastor Kathy

Monday, March 23, 2020

As you read today’s writing and reflection, you may want to light a candle.

 

Shelter

By Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

But should you grant us joy once more

in this world and its radiant sun,

then the past let us gratefully recall

and to you entirely our lives devote.

 

May warmly and brightly glow the candles

you have brought into our darkness today;

if it be possible, bring us together again.

We are sure: your light illuminates our night.

 

When silence profound now spreads itself around us,

may we yet hear that full voice

of the world unseen around us,

the hymn of praise sung by all your children.

 

By benevolent powers wondrously sheltered,

we, confident, await what may come.

With us God abides, evening and morn,

more surely still with each dawning day.

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as he sat in his jail cell, knew well what it was to be sequestered. As we find ourselves sheltered at home, feeling isolated, cut off from the familiar, we can rest securely, as did Dietrich, that God is the one in whom we can find ultimate shelter, the one with whom we are intimately connected, the one who is there with us to bring light into our darkness.

 

God of Light, shine the light of your love into our hearts as we watch and wait with grateful hearts as each day dawns.  Amen.



+++

 
Tuesday, March 24, 2020

As you read today’s writing and reflection, you may want to light a candle.

 

Light

By Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

In me it is dark, but in you there is light.

I am lonely, but you do not leave me.

I am faint hearted, but with you there is help.

I am restless, but with you there is peace.

In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience.

I do not understand your ways, but you know the right way for me.

 

It is very difficult for us to understand all that we are facing at this difficult time.  We may feel overwhelmed, frustrated, alone, angry.  God gets it.  God understands and does not forsake us.  Even when we have unending questions with few answers, we can trust that God abides with us and watches over us.  Dietrich, even in his imprisonment, continued to share the Gospel, the Light of Christ with those around him.  Let us reach out to one another granting the assurance of God’s presence with us.

 

Almighty God, your ways are higher than our ways.  Thank goodness!  As we struggle in our human understanding of things, our human managing of our lives, may we remember that you are the one with the ultimate wisdom and power.  Help us to open ourselves to that wisdom and power with trust in you.  Amen.

 

+++

 
Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Today, you may want to contemplate on the cross, or perhaps have a small piece of bread as you reflect.

 

Faith

By Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

We receive only as much faith from God

as we need for the present day.

Faith is the daily bread we receive from God.

With God, one does not just mark time,

rather, one walks on a path.

 

Just think of how frightening, how challenging, how disheartening it was for Dietrich after his arrest and imprisonment.  He must have had days when he felt empty, yet he persevered.  When it feels like all of our resources have been tapped, God is there to grant faith for the day.  Faith is not something we have to muster on our own, but is a gift from God granted in the measure we need.  We need only let ourselves be the vessels, the conduit of that faith for the sake ourselves as well as those around us.God is walking with us, watching over us every step of the way.

 

Faithful God, when our spiritual tanks are running on empty and our faith is wavering, fill us anew with the power and strength of your Holy Spirit, providing us with the daily bread of faith to endure as we continue down the path wherever it may lead and through whatever we may face.  Amen.

 

+++ 


 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

I invite you, if you have them, to hold a prayer cross or wrap yourself in a prayer shawl for today’s reflection.

 

Prayer

By Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

Prayer is a person’s strength.

To pray is to draw breath from God.

To pray means to confide in God.

Prayer is the heart of Christian life.

 

As you reflect on today’s writing, take a deep breath in and let it out slowly.  Many who are sick struggle to do that very simple task.  Do it again, remembering and giving thanks that your breath is a gift from God.  When we pray, as Dietrich says, we draw breath from God, the same breath that God breathed into humanity at the time of creation.  When we pray, we unite our breath with that of all humanity with whom we are connected as God’s created beings.  We bring all that we are and have before God, trusting that God hears our prayers, even when prayers are hard to muster or difficult to speak.

 

God from whom we draw the breath of life, we give you thanks that we can come to you in the fullness of whom you created us to be, and that you are faithful to hear us and continue to be near us.  Amen

 

+++

 

Friday, March 27, 2020

As you begin today, you may want to take a moment or two to simply look at yourself in a mirror.

 

Who Am I?

By Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

Who am I?  They often tell me

that when I step out of my cell

calmly and cheerfully and firmly

like a manor lord from his mansion.

 

Who am I?  They often tell me

that I speak freely and cordially and

clearly with my guards,

as if I were the one giving orders.

 

Who am I?  They often tell me

that I am bearing these days of misfortune

with equanimity, smiling and proud,

like someone accustomed to victory.

 

Bonhoeffer seemed to struggle with his identity during his imprisonment.  He, in this writing, based his identity on how he thought others saw him.  During this time of social distancing, when we are not such public creatures, when we are probably not functioning in the same capacity in our jobs, or relating to people in the more familiar, even habitual ways, we may wonder what our identity is now.  Who are we?  As individuals?  As families?  As church?  One thing is sure.  God sees us as God’s beloved children created in God’s image.  In baptism we are named and claimed by God, with the promise that we are sealed by the promised Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.  It is a gift, an identity that can never be taken away.  Let us live into that identity.

 

God our Creator, we give you thanks for creating us in your image and for the gift of relationship with our fellow human beings.  During this difficult time, help us to remember that we are united in and through you, celebrating and claiming our baptismal promise.  Amen.

 

+++

 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

You may want to have that mirror handy again and/or light a candle for today’s reflection.

 

Darkness

By Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

Am I really that which others say I am?

Or am I only that which I know about myself?

Restless, longing, sick, like a bird in a cage,

gasping for breath as if someone were strangling me,

hungry for colors, flowers, for the song of birds,

thirsting for kind words, for human nearness,

trembling in anger at arbitrariness and petty insults,

driven by anticipation of great things,

helplessly worried about friends infinitely removed,

too weary and empty for praying, thinking, creating,

exhausted and ready to say farewell to everything?

Who am I?  This one or the other one?

Am I this person today and a different one tomorrow?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others

and a despicably pathetic weakling before myself?

Or is what is left withing me like a vanquished army

fleeing in disarray before the victory that has already been won?

 

Who am I?  Such lonely questions mock me.

Whoever I am, you know me, and I am yours, O God!

 

Bonhoeffer again struggles with his identity.  Who is he?  The one who others see (as from yesterday’s reflection)?  Or the one known only to him?  It is very tempting to want to make ourselves look good on the outside while we are crumbling on the inside.  We want to appear strong and keep a positive attitude. It can be so very difficult to open ourselves up, to share with others in our struggles.  Who am I?  We are God’s.  God knows us outside and inside, and loves us still.

 

God of Love, as we face all the challenges before us, help us to remember that we are not alone, that you abide with us always, especially through those around us.  Help us to bear one another up in love.  Amen.

 

+++

 

Sunday, March 29, 2020

If you have photos on your phone or a photo album available, flip through the pictures as you begin this reflection.

 

Friendship

By Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

There is hardly a feeling that makes us happier than to sense

that we are able to be something for others.

Nor is it numbers that matter here,

but intensity.

Ultimately the most important thing in life

is precisely our human relationships.

 

Can you imagine what it was like for Dietrich to be in prison, locked away from his family and friends?  Perhaps we can, these days.  Yet he did not have the technology we have today to keep him in touch with others.  He wrote letters, what we now call “snail mail,” but as that name implies, it took time for those letters to be written, sent, and received.  He didn’t have photos of friends and family to decorate the walls of his cell; no hundreds of pictures to swipe through one by one.  Sure, he developed relationships in prison, friendships that also helped to encourage and sustain him, but it likely wasn’t the same as those at home.

 

As we are physically separated from one another, let us give thanks to God for all the ways we have been granted to keep in touch, and let us make good use of them for the sake of all of our relationships, our emotional and spiritual well-being.  If you are feeling lonely, chances are that one of you friends is, too.  Send a text or email, or even snail mail.  Make a phone call.  You’ll both have your spirits lifted.  By the way, I do believe God does instant messaging, so no reason not totake advantage of that.

 

God of Love, you created us as social beings designed to be in relationship with one another.  During this time when we may seem lost and alone, may we remember that you are ever present with us, and that you have given us the gift of family and friends who are only a call away.  Help us to keep our friendship alive and fresh by using the resources available to us to share our concerns, to offer words of encouragement, to laugh, and to share the love we have received from you.  Amen.
 

 +++

 

Monday, March 30, 2020

If you want, do a few simple exercises to remind us of the strength God gives us in our physical bodies.

 

Strength

By Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

The essence of optimism is not this or that view of the present situation,

but strength,

the strength to hope where others yield to resignation,

the strength to keep one’s head high when everything seems to go wrong,

the strength to endure setbacks,

the strength always to claim the future for oneself instead of yielding to its opponent.

 

Bonhoeffer had every reason to become despondent in his imprisonment.  He likely understood that his future was bleak, yet he was able to be optimistic in the manner of strength.  It isn’t about putting on rose colored glasses and saying that all will be well and all will be well.  Rather it is to remain hopeful, to endure setbacks, to look for and give thanks for the glimpses of God’s kingdom and the moments of grace in each day.

 

Almighty God, grant us your strength, bring us hope and endurance as we face the challenges of the day.  Open our eyes and our ears to hear and see your work among us, the good even in the presence of things gone wrong, the moments of blessing and grace.  Give us grateful hearts and open hands to receive all that you graciously grant to us.  Amen.

 +++

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

As are in devotion, you may want hold onto a prayer cross or wrap yourself in a prayer shawl.

 

Suffering and Prayer:  The Two Golden Paths

By Fr. Richard Rohr

 

“Faith demands living with a certain degree of anxiety and holding a very real amount of tension.  We have to be trained how to do this.  The only two things that are strong enough to accomplish this training are suffering and prayer.  These two golden paths lead to a different shape of meaning, a different-sized universe, a different set of securities and goals, and always a different Center.  Only suffering and prayer are strong enough to decentralize both the ego and the superego.  The practice of prayer, we can choose to do ourselves; the suffering is done to us.  But we have to be ready to learn from it when it happens and not waste time looking someone to blame for our unnecessary suffering.  That takes some good and strong teaching, too.  As I love to say, ‘It is the things that you cannot do anything about and the things that you cannot do anything with that do something with you.’”

 

Wow, are we being taught!  There is certainly enough anxiety and tension to go around as we come face to face, not with one another, but with suffering:  physical ailments; the pangs of deep fear, loss, or loneliness; grieving for things to get back to “normal.”  For many of us, we left speechless as we watch the images of the suffering coming to us from around the globe vianews reports.  We are plagued not only by a deadly virus, but also a whole host of emotions revolving around how to deal with it; an abundance of people playing the blame game in the midst of our suffering.

 

I really appreciate Fr. Richard’s statement, “It is the things that you cannot do anything about and the things that you cannot do anything with that do something with you.”  During the last few weeks, I have discovered a number of ways that the coronavirus has done something, changed something with me.  First, I’ve had to learn about some different technology in order to attend virtual meetings or provide online worship.  I realized how many things I had taken for granted before all of this: technology when it works; being able to go the grocery store and find fully stocked shelves; ordering things online without a huge back order; giving hugs to friends; the time to gather in person for worship – just to name a few.  I also learned how much fun it is to hold family reunions via Zoom.  My nieces and nephews, usually busy with family sporting events, school activities, and the like now have time to spend catching up on one another’s lives, to reminisce and to laugh together.  I have received emails of gratitude and the assurance of prayers; prayers that have become more fervent.  God’s Holy Spirit seems so very present in all this.  Grace abounds!

 

Compassionate God, in the midst of suffering, we lift our prayers to you in the assurance that you hear us.  Though we are physically separated, may your Holy Spirit continue to call, gather, and enlighten us as one in the Body of Christ.Amen.

 

+ + +

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Today, you may want to have nearby an item that evokes for you an image of power.

 

When You Have No Control

By Fr. Richard Rohr

 

“Jesus named control and domination as the false form of power.  ‘Among pagans it is the kings who lord it over them…This must not happen with you!’ (Luke 22:25-26).  But then he continues by unapologetically contrasting it with true power: ‘You who stand faithfully with me through trials…You will sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel’ (Luke 22:28,30).  The power that Jesus trusts and offers is precisely the power that comes to us through the suffering of powerlessness, the power that is found when you have no control at all.”

 

As I reviewed yesterday some of the things I have learned through this crisis, I didn’t specifically talk about how the loss of control can teach us a lesson.  We don’t have to be “control freaks” to know what it feels like when we lose a sense of control in our lives.

We’ve been told to stay home, no gatherings over ten, how many jars of peanut butter we can buy at one time, whose job is/is not essential, etc.  Yet the most frightening is the lack of control in knowing if/how/when the coronavirus strike us, a friend, or family member.  We are, in so many ways, no longer in the driver’s seat.

 

We may be held captive by our human powerlessness, but we are set free by the power of Christ our Savior, the one who was well acquainted with human suffering.  He had friends die.  He saw those who were ill, even to the point of being outcasts, coming to him for healing.  He witnessed the poverty of the person and the soul.  It is this same One who suffered on the cross and died, yet the grave did not hold him.  God raised Christ in power that his strength, his power would be revealed, not only in Jesus, but in and through each one of us who call him Lord.

 

Almighty God, while we may experience that things are spiraling out of control, we know that you are ultimate source of power.  Help us to move from the driver’s seat to the place of simply being passengers on a journey (albeit a bit bumpy right now) with you at the wheel.  May we, by grace, find a way to put our trust in you. Amen.

 

+ + +

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Do you like to draw or scribble?  Take some time to doodle some circles.

 

Jesus Built Circles, Not Pyramids

By Fr. Richard Rohr

 

“Pyramids are always pyramids of sacrifice.  Whether it is the hundreds of thousands of slaves creating monuments to Egyptian kings, the sacrificial victims offering their hearts to Aztec gods, or the underpaid maids and janitors in the tourist hotels of the world, someone always has to give his life or her life so that someone else can be ‘special.’  When that specialness is idealized and protected, instead of avoided and made unnecessary as Jesus taught, we have the destructive and dark side of power.  Jesus struck at the nerve center of all of these when he empowered honest human relationships instead of degrees of religious worthiness.  Jesus built circles instead of pyramids.

What they could not forgive him for, even on the cross, was that he announced the necessary destruction of the holy temple.  ‘Not a stone will stand on a stone.  Everything will be destroyed.’”

 

It certainly seems as if the “temples” of society are beginning to crumble around us.  Institutions and systems by which we have built our lives, resources on which we have depended are failing us in many ways.  There has been, in some ways, the experience of an “evening out” factor.  People in places of power, places of prestige, on the top of the heap, the pinnacle of the pyramid are contracting the virus, too.  Yet, that “evening out” in other respects has not taken place.  We still have those who are poor being the most vulnerable.  As I was writing this, Donna Jonasen’s Facebook post on the Mount Hope page popped up, and I think it proves the point:

 

Hope Ministries delivered food to EIGHT Hope Ministries families this afternoon. (Thank you to Edward and Christi Sheehy for helping Linda and me get these orders packed and delivered!) One household has 15 people living in a three bedroom flat— 3 families, 11 children, 4 adults. That’s ELEVEN children. Under one roof. Home from school for the duration. Can you imagine? Thank goodness our shelves were stocked after receiving generous donations from Holy Trinity! Besides food, we were able to deliver some basic clothing items to a mom and her teenage son who lost everything in a fire last week. Covid-19 does not stop other tragedies from happening. And.... as a special treat for the children, we added handmade knit Easter baskets and bunnies filled with candy - made and donated by Ann Eggers. (Thanks, Ann!) Our families are so incredibly grateful! Every one of them asks for help very tentatively- expecting us to say that there is nothing we can do to help right now. And when they find out that we can, indeed, supply some of their food needs, they are simply astounded. These families are incredibly resilient. They have such positive attitudes in this situation- facing this crisis along with all the other stresses in their lives. And taking the time to express their thankfulness that someone cares.

 

We give thanks for the blessings we all have in the midst of this crisis and for those generous spirits, hearts, and hands who help tear down the pyramids and instead draw circles of care around others by sharing resources.  I often have heard said, that when we draw circles around Jesus, he will always be on the outside, because our circles are drawn to exclude certain others.  May our circles, then be ever expanding, not to exclude, but to include.  We are all in this together and Jesus is with us.

 

All-Encompassing God, while we see destruction around us, help us to build one another up, not for personal gain, but out of true love for those whom you love, all of our brothers and sisters created in your image.  Let us be fervent in prayer, and faithful to the Gospel.  Amen.

+ + +

Friday, April 3, 2020

Today, you may want to have nearby an item that evokes a sense of God’s love.

 

We Must Love Them Both

By Fr. Richard Rohr

 

“I doubt whether a single cultural myth or national story is now possible.  That is frightening as we experience the fractured results while groups divide, encircle and defend…The rifts and chasms are irreparable.  Many are unable to offer one another basic respect, engage in civic dialogue, or honor what God is apparently patient with: the human struggle…But I am still advised by Thomas Aquinas, who said, ‘We must love them both: those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject.  For both have labored in search for their truth and both have helped us in the finding of our own.”

 

In his naming of the division and lack of respect for one another, one might guess that Fr. Richard was writing in light of the recent political battles or the current pandemic, but he wasn’t.  He wrote these words back in 1994.  Still, they are very appropriate for us this day.  It is not easy, first to be faced with the possibility of becoming ill, perhaps even gravely ill to the point of death, but then to have the added burden of seeing such division in our world compounds our daily challenges.  And, we have to admit that we, directly or indirectly, can be pulled into the great divide.

 

Our God, however, is a God of oneness and unity.   Yet, unity does not imply uniformity.  We are created as unique individuals with different personalities, skills, and ideas.  Our diversity is a blessing, but we often miss out on that.  Our desire for power, control, authority, notoriety, or being right can blind us from seeing those others who hold different ideas, have different skill sets, look different from ourselves, etc. as less than or wrong.  It becomes easy for us to lose sight of them as God’s created beings whom God loves; brothers and sisters created in God’s image.

 

Perhaps, if we could do as Thomas Aquinas suggested, “love them both; those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject,” the world would be a different place.  I’m with you in knowing it’s a difficult thing to do.  It’s not something we do easily by our own abilities, but if we call upon God to help us, maybe, just maybe, the task would be a little easier.  We can be the catalyst for the spread of love, because Jesus first loved us and continues to love us.  We are/can be one in and through him.

 

God of Love, you created us to be in relationship with you and one another.  Sometimes in this chaotic world, however, our ability to see one another as loving or worthy of love seems lacking and human relationships become strained.  Help us to see others through your eyes and love one another as Jesus first loved us.  Amen.

+ + +

 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Today, you may want to have nearby an item that evokes for you an image of strength.

 

Dynamis, Our True Self

By Fr. Richard Rohr

 

“A biblical definition of the Holy Spirit is dynamis, which means ‘power’ or ‘strength.’  We are talking about the power that gives us the certainty that God is drawing us near and that we are associated with the Holy…If we ‘work our way through’ our compulsion and emerge again on the others side, then we stand before the depths of our self.  There we find a purified passion, a chastened power, our best and true self.  Tradition has called this place the ‘soul,’ the point where the human being and God meet, where unity is possible, and where religion consists not only of words, norms, dogmas, rituals, and visits to church, but becomes a genuine experience encounter.”

 

We have, in many ways left behind some of the words, norms, dogmas, and certainly rituals and visits to church in this time of isolation.  Perhaps the blessing of that is being in a time and space to come face to face with God more intimately, not relying on the things and rituals of religion to take us there.  In our devotion and prayer, we can open ourselves fully to God, let our souls be fully exposed to our Creator, warts and all.

 

God’s Spirit, God’s power, God’s strength resides in us.  When our human strength falters, it is God’s strength that buoys us up.  It is God’s power that allows us to sort through all the messiness of our lives to find our true being, our true self in the eyes of God.  Let us embrace this time, not resenting the things that are not, but appreciating the things that are as God’s children, and employing God’s strength in the challenges of the day.

 

Holy God, you reside in us through the presence of your Holy Spirit.  May we draw upon the Spirit’s power, the Spirit’s strength to face whatever may befall, giving thanks that you are always with us.  Amen.

 

+ + +

Sunday, April 5, 2020

As you begin the reflection today, ponder the question, “Where is God?”

 

God Is Participating with Us

By Fr. Richard Rohr

 

“The enfleshment and suffering of Jesus tell us that God is not apart from the trials of humanity.  God is not aloof.  God is not a mere spectator.  God is participating with us.  God is not merely tolerating human suffering or healing suffering.  God is participating with us in it.  That is what gives believers both meaning and hope.”

 

As today is Palm/Passion Sunday, the enfleshment and suffering of Jesus meet us face to face.  He knew trials and tribulations up close and personal.  Jesus was/is God in solidarity with humanity for the sake of the world God loves.

 

The suffering of the world, the need for its healing, its redeeming, its reconciliation is evident in every newscast, every article we read, in the conversations that we engage or overhear.  As we witness such pain, so many trials and challenges, we know and trust that just as God was with Jesus on his journey to the cross, God is with us, as well.  God weeps with us.  God hurts with us.  God knows our pain.  And in that knowing and trusting of God’s participation with humanity, we find hope.  We know that we are not misunderstood or forsaken by God.  We can place our worries and fears, wonders and concerns in God’s hands trusting God to care for us through those who are in human form – first responders, nurses and doctors, all essential workers, family and friends.

 

God of Suffering, as we begin Holy Week, we give thanks for your son who knew human suffering.  His journey to the cross for our sake brings hope, for we know you love, a love that looked death squarely in the face.  May the promised gift of your Spirit’s presence in and through us and our brothers and sisters continue to bring us meaning and hope.  Amen.