Grace upon grace


 

From [Christ’s] abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.
John 1:16 (NLT)

 

Let us then approach
God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy
and find grace to help us
in our time of need.

 

Hebrews 4:16 (NIVUK)

 


More about grace …

 
We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

 

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

 

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

 


 
More about grace …   from the blog
 
God of grace
More to come
Precious dust

Looking forward looking back

 
With 2019 around the corner, let me share an overview of the posts that attracted the most visits to the Prayer Matters website over the past year.

For some reason, these blog posts keep on giving.

Top 10

  1. 3 Prayers for endings and beginnings
  2. Give me a heart of flesh
  3. Theme: God makes all things new
  4. Circle me, Lord
  5. In the school of prayer with Ann Lewin
  6. In the school of prayer with Eddie Askew
  7. Theme for January 2018: Heart
  8. 3 Prayers for Wayfarers
  9. Theme: Shelter under his wings
  10. Theme: Ever sustaining
     

Hopes for the new year

I hope for more regular subscribers in the new year, and for the blog to continue to minister to our Presbytery and beyond.

 
In closing, a powerful blessing by Joyce Rupp, originally published in 2004, and as inspiring as ever.

Feel free to pass the blessing on.  Maybe this post will reach the top 10 in 2019, just as the final post in 2017 made the No. 1 spot in 2018.
 


Blessing for the New Year

 
I hope for you in this new year

… that the single, most significant dimension of life
is your relationship with the Source of Goodness
who never ceases to sing love songs to your soul

… that you find meaning, purpose, and vitality
in what you do daily

… that you treasure your loved ones
and let them know how dear they are to you

… that you make choices and decisions
that reflect your truest self

… that you look in the mirror at least once a day
and smile in happy amazement

… that you remember relationships are what count above all else –
more than work or money,
or all the material things we spend so much time tending

… that you live in an uncluttered manner,
enjoying the freedom to be content

… that you keep your sense of humor
when things don’t go the way you want

… that you find adventure in each new day
and marvel at the wonders of creation
which constantly present themselves to you

… that you never give up on yourself
when others turn away or do not understand

… that you are attentive to the health
of your body, mind and spirit

… that you take risks and accept
the growth-full challenges that come to you

… that you draw on your inner strength and resiliency
when you are in need

… that you carry peace within yourself,
allowing it to slip into the hearts of others
so our planet becomes a place
where violence, division, and war are no more

 
by Joyce Rupp. Posted on Joyce Rupp’s website.
 


 
P.S. “Looking forward looking back” is also the title of the Anniversary booklet we published this year, celebrating the 375th anniversary of the Scots Church in Rotterdam.

Ding! Dong! Curiosity


come on in …
 

My Christmas reflection

from the lessons and carols service in Rotterdam on Sunday, 23 December 2018.

 
I love books, especially books full of ooh! and aha! moments.

This book, How to be an explorer of the world is one of them. It’s full of practical projects designed to reconnect us with the wide-eyed wonder we had as children.

Wonder in the little things, the seemingly simple things of life.

But if you get up close and personal you discover they are far from simple. Each living thing is a wonderland.

Take a new-born baby … in many ways like any other baby, in need of love and nurture; in so many ways, wholly unique and unpredictable.

Take the geranium in my kitchen or the orchid collection in Romina’s living room; in many ways like other plants, in need of care and attention; in so many ways, wholly unique.

Just like children exploring the world, discovering things for the first time, it’s good to have some ‘firsts’ of our own on a regular basis … to set ourselves up for regular doses of wonder.

The key is curiosity.

Like Mary’s curiosity that kept her from opting out in her encounter with the angel and that prompted her visit to Elizabeth.

Like the shepherds, confronted by an army of good news angels, who left their flocks to search for the baby in a manger.

Like the wise men, who were curious about the meaning of the star that appeared out of nowhere and set off to honour the new born king of the Jews they read about in their ancient writings.

Naturally there were risks and no doubt they were afraid. How did they overcome the fear and come into action?

Somehow they let their curiosity and not their fear dictate their response. They found the faith and courage to explore the world that God was bringing into being, partly through their willingness to play their part.

May God bless us all with a good dose of curiosity this Christmas, so the familiar and the fearful do not trap us in a ‘that’s the way it is’ and ‘that’s the way it always will be’ mindset. Instead, may we find the grace to go deeper and maybe find new, more life-giving ways to celebrate Christmas and so discover anew the wonderland that Christmas is meant to be – whatever our age, whatever our circumstances.
 


A prayer

It may seem naive,
   in a world of grief,
      to choose to live in joy;

It may seem foolish,
   in a world where solemnity is power,
      to sing and dance to a different tune;

It may seem cruel,
   in a world of suffering and injustice,
      to speak of light and celebration;

But you have come, Jesus,
   to bring joy into our grief,
      light into our darkness,
      singing into our mourning;
   and it is an act of healing and proclamation
      to believe and embrace the joy you offer.

Joy to the world!
   The Lord is come!
      Hallelujah!

Amen.

written by John van de Laar, published on the Sacredise.com website.
 


 
From the blog
Nature bringing joy

In the clouds


(Photo: Irene Bom)

 

Let me encourage you with these words, as Paul suggests:

 
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord for ever.

Therefore encourage one another with these words.

 


A prayer

Not when the mountains shake,
or the seas roar,
or the clouds part to reveal You,
Holy One,
but here and now,
on this one ordinary day,
we will wait and watch
for You will surely come to us.
Amen.

by Ann Siddall
posted on the Stillpoint Spirituality Centre and Faith Community website.
 


Get inspired

Cloud Appreciation Society Manifesto

More to come


Rotterdam café in festive mode  (Photo: Irene Bom)
 
 

Peter writes,
 
“… prepare your hearts and minds for action! Stay alert and fix your hope firmly on the marvelous grace that is coming to you. For when Jesus Christ is unveiled, a greater measure of grace will be released to you.”

 

(1 Peter 1:13, The Passion Translation)

 


From the blog
 
Prepare = action
Pause for breath …

Prepare = action


(Photo: Irene Bom)
 

A prayer that reminds us that prepare is a verb.


Make us count

Lord,
we have pulled out the Advent wreath,
the Christmas tree, the poinsettias.
We dusted off the hymns, unsung for a year,
and unearthed the words of your prophets.

Yet, in your eyes,
these efforts are for nothing without the regular, persistent,
deep pursuit of justice for all people.
Our efforts are hollow without consistent work toward peace,
reconciliation, and participation in your mission for creation.

In our hearts, we do long to be your people,
to carry out your mission, to be lights in the darkness —
proof that no darkness can overcome your truth.

Awaken us to action.
Stir us to courage.
Rouse us to prepare a way in the wilderness for your coming,
clearing the brush of oppression, racism, injustice, and hopelessness —
so that all may see your light and perceive your coming.
Amen.

~ written by lutheranjulia, and posted on RevGalBlogPals.

Baby steps


Markthal, Rotterdam  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

“Baby steps build the
  strongest foundations.”

(Michelle Ward, life coach)

 
 

Call to Worship for [the start of] Advent

[also for the middle of Advent]

 
What will set us journeying in search of the Christ this Advent?
How far are we prepared to go out of our way
to look for the signs of His coming,
and to prepare a path?

How will we travel through this season?
Will we be burdened by responsibilities and tasks,
loaded with others’ expectations, overwhelmed by their needs?
Will we be full of joy or weary of grief?

What will guide our steps in these weeks?
Will we follow a thread of longing,
the hint of an alternative pathway,
the words and music of the gathered community?

Sisters and brothers in Christ, Advent awaits us.
Let us place our feet on the road and begin the journey.
May we find in familiar words, rituals and customs
the birth of the new thing that awaits us.

 
written by Ann Siddall, and posted on the Stillpoint Spirituality Centre and Faith Community website.
 


 
From the blog
See also the series of posts with a journey theme from August 2017.

3 Prayers for Advent


 

To kick off this month’s theme, Prepare, here are 3 short prayers to ready our hearts for Christmas and for Jesus’ Kingdom to come, now and in the future.

 
(Links to additional resources for Advent included below.)
 


Prayer of Invocation

(inspired by Matthew 11:3-5)

O God,
we come today echoing John the Baptist’s question to your Beloved Child:
“Are you the one who is to come?”
Give us eyes to see and ears to hear the answer for ourselves:
In the work of justice: Christ!
In the practice of mercy: Christ!
In good news for the poor: Christ!
In the vision of peace: Christ!
Make us ready, with open hearts and joyful spirits,
to follow in Christ’s Way.
Amen.

by The Rev. Susan A. Blain, and posted on the United Church of Christ’s Worship Ways website.
 


Prayer of Confession

It is never easy for us to confess our sins, Waiting God.
There are the hurts we have caused to our families and friends,
     which we would like to forget.
There are those we believe are impossible to love,
     and so we don’t try.
There are people who live on the edge of our society,
     and we ignore their cries for help.

Forgive us, God who comes near to us.
When we have lost our way, show us yours.
Lead us in humility down the streets of your kingdom.
Teach us your truth,
     so we might be able to keep your Word,
     revealed to us in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

by Thom Shuman. Source: re-worship.blogspot.com
 


Prayers of the People for All Ages

We have listened to God’s Word.
Now let us come to God full of hope for all our needs:

For a real sense of excited anticipation of the coming of Jesus
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord hear our prayer

For peace in our homes, our schools and our communities
as we approach the Christmas season
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord hear our prayer

For peace and harmony in countries torn apart by war around the world, that weapons be remade into garden tools
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord hear our prayer

That we always learn to be alert and aware of God’s presence in our daily lives
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord hear our prayer

God of light,
we bring these prayers to you through Jesus Christ our Lord
Amen.

~ from Children’s Liturgy of the Word, First Sunday of Advent Year A. Posted on re:worship.blogspot.com


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

These days there is so much material available online to accompany us on our journey through the season of Advent.

Here are a few examples:
Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Pray as you go Advent retreat
Abbey of the Arts online Advent retreat

I also commend our 2017 Advent series on Faith, Hope and Joy, featuring meditations by three ministers in our Presbytery.

 

In the school of prayer with Ignatius of Loyola


Signs used in the 2018 Good Friday service in Rotterdam  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 
I recently wrote this little song inspired by a good day in Zacchaeus’ life, as recounted in Luke 19:1-10:

You see me in all my shame and glory
I hear you speak my name
What joy! my Lord and Saviour
to meet you face to face
I am changed from the inside out
by your gift of grace.

The Examen

One spiritual practice that helps us reframe our experience – both the shame and the glory – is called the Examen, a contemplative prayer developed by Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), founder of the Jesuits.

The basic format

  1. Become aware of God’s presence.
  2. Review the day with gratitude.
  3. Pay attention to your emotions.
  4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
  5. Look toward tomorrow. Ask God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges.

(Source: www.ignatianspirituality.com)
Visit the website for a more detailed outline.

Consolations and desolations

Here are some practical guidelines, taken from Gary Neal Hansen’s chapter on Ignatius in his book, Kneeling with giants: Learning to pray with History’s Best Teachers.

“In … the examen, we focus on the task of discernment by examining what Ignatius calls the ‘motions of the soul’ – the inner nudges that draw us toward God or away from God. He calls these tuggings ‘consolations’ and ‘desolations’, things that give a sense of the gracious presence of God or the seeming absence of grace, the absence of God.

The process is quite simple: we give thanks to God and quiet our hearts to reflect on the past day or week. In God’s presence, we bring to mind both the consolations and the desolations, in prayerful silence or writing them in a journal. We ponder their significance. We close with a prayer thanking God for being present in our experiences, offering ourselves to God anew. … the examen can be done individually or as a gentle, conversational way to pray with a friend or in a group. It can be especially helpful for married couples who want to pray together … It is also a delightful way to deepen prayer with children.” (p. 104)

 
More practical guidelines, this time from Chris Heuertz’ book, The Sacred Enneagram:

“The heart of the examen uses memory to explore the day searching for a ‘consolation’ – a moment, memory, or experience in which we felt God moving toward us or in us. Our consolation can be something as mundane as our first cup of hot coffee in the morning, something as sweet as an interaction with a child we love, or something as profound as a personal eruption of grace (such as receiving forgiveness from a friend, noticing growth in our faith journey, or realizing in a deep way that we are loved). Whatever the consolation is, once it is discerned we allow ourselves to be held by it, listening to what God may be trying to say to us through it. This step of the prayer also invites us to find the courage to search for a ‘desolation’ – a moment, attitude, or experience in our day in which we found ourselves moving away from God’s love and presence. Perhaps it’s those voices in our head – shame, guilt, doubt, regret, disappointment, or fear – that we mistake for the voice of Love. The person who hurt us isn’t the desolation, but rather the resentment we might feel toward that person; the family member who constantly annoys us isn’t the desolation, but rather our impatience with them; the painful memory we’ve tried so hard to forget isn’t the desolation, but rather our inability to receive healing for it. Whatever the desolation is, we acknowledge it as an invitation to grace so as not to be overcome or overwhelmed by it.” (p. 230)

 


Tip

Go to the Index for more posts in this series, as well as other series.