Monday, February 29, 2016

Day 16 of Lent: You are a Channel of Divine Abundance

We live in a world of divine abundance provided by the Creator.  Sadly, many of us still see the world in terms of scarcity and isolation.  We may perceive ourselves as lacking sufficient energy, insight, or resources to experience personal fulfillment and really make a difference in the lives of others.  Living with a sense of abundance results from seeing ourselves as connected to God, loved ones, and the wider community, regardless of outward conditions.

Faith awakens us to a deeper reality of God's energetic presence in our lives through relationships that sustain and empower us.  Faith in God as our companion enables us to risk giving to others generously, knowing that God will always supply our deepest needs.

Jesus performed his first miracle by turning water into wine in John 2.  He was faced with scarcity and worked a miracle to spare embarrassment for his hosts at the wedding.  God delights in celebration and works creatively in the world and in us.  God's energy is constantly flowing within our lives.  Living in God's abundance, we find that there is always more to share and enjoy and celebrate.

Think to yourself:
God's abundance flows through my life toward others.
I share God's abundance with everyone I meet.
I expect great things from God.
With God's help, I expect great things from myself in life's situations.

Abundant God, inspire us to live by your abundance.  Inspire us to believe more, to trust more, to love more, and to share more.  Let us bring our gifts to you, that together we may transform the mundane into the marvelous.  Help us delight in the loaves abounding and the wine flowing for all your children.  Amen.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Day 15 of Lent: You are Blessed to be a Blessing

You are blessed!  You are blessed because God is constantly present in your life, giving  you guidance, insight, and energy.  God gives you freedom and beauty where you might otherwise imagine a dead end.  Our spiritual practices awaken us to the dynamic flow of divine love and guidance in our lives and in the world so much that in each moment of life, we can catch a glimpse of God's vision for our lives today and the the planet in the years to come.

God's blessings are unique for each individual.  God knows what each of us need in life and provides what we need, not necessarily what we want.  Our lives are ordered by God as we seek to be drawn closer to God daily.

Even as God promised Abraham that he would be the Father of a great nation and that nation would be blessed so that they may be a blessing to other nations, our lives are used by God so that others may be blessed.  To be blessed is to experience the great joy of God's presence in our lives and to know the gift of a larger vision of what we may be like when we attempt to live out God's love in our lives as we are with others.

Being blessed is described in the message of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.  Jesus says that those who mourn, those who seek God's Kingdom, those who struggle for peace, those who work for justice for others, those who seek God's righteousness are blessed persons.  In Luke's Gospel, Jesus' list of attributes includes the poor and those who mourn in reality and not in a spiritual sense.  God has a preferential option for the poor expressed throughout the New Testament and including the family of Jesus who were not rich.

As we awaken to God's blessings in our lives, we can affirm with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel:
Just to be a blessing.
Just to live is holy.

Affirm for yourself:
God blesses me so that I can be a blessing.
I bless each person I meet.
I bless individuals in my life.

O Holy One, remind us that you are with us in each struggle in life.  Remind us that our pain if your pain, and our celebration is your celebration.  Your healing touch rests upon us, O God, to transform us to be blessings for others.  Amen.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Information About Our Lenten Resource Book

The daily devotionals that I am using each day during Lent are being taken from the book "Holy Adventure" by Rev. Bruce G. Epperly.  The book was published by Upper Room Books in 2008 whose website is  I would recommend the book to you to purchase if you would like to read more of the ideas presented in the book.  Many blessings to you on your Lenten adventure as you learn and pray and study and grow in God's Word and Spirit.

Day 14 of Lent: You Are Always Connected to God

In God we live and move and have our being. Acts 17:28

At the heart of your spiritual adventure is the affirmation that the creator God of the universe is also the personal God of your life.  The theological term for this is "divine omnipresence."  This means that God is everywhere and in everything, responding to each creature intimately and personally.  Whether or not we are aware of it, we live in a divine environment, where we receive divine inspiration continually and personally.

Jesus told his disciples when he was preparing to leave them that when he went away the Holy Spirit would come and he would remind them of all that Jesus said and taught and did.  Also, when the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit was Jesus' own spirit in a new form and new way of relating to humankind.  Where Jesus could only be with one person at a time when he was in human form, the Holy Spirit can be everywhere around the world at once.  The Spirit of Creation that formed the planet became the Holy Spirit to bring access to God to all who would seek God.

God's inspiration aims at bringing wholeness, beauty, and justice for everyone and for the universe.  God inspires humans to act on behalf of others so that God's Will can be done on earth even as it is done in heaven, as we pray weekly in The Lord's Prayer.

Today, affirm that you are God's child.  You are beloved of God and you live and move and have your being in God's holy adventure for you.  Embrace this affirmation with your thoughts and experiences throughout your day.  Live to seek this affirmation through your connectedness with the whole of God's beloved universe.

God of the universe, inspire us to experience all things at the center of your love and all things as divine.  Breathe in us so that every breath is a prayer and blessing, every breath a healing breath for ourselves and our planet Earth.  Let every breath be prayer and praise.  Amen.

(Ideas taken from Holy Adventure by Bruce G. Epperly)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Day 13 of Lent: You Are Meant to Grow as God's Beloved Child

Stories of faith inspire us.  We are inspired by the stories in the Bible.  Yes, the commandments, counsels, affirmations are all very important but the stories teach lessons that we remember because they involve humans and are part of the human story.  As we place ourselves in the stories from the Bible that we hear, we realize that despite our human limitations we have hope because we are children of God.

We are beneficiaries of God's divine wisdom distributed to us by others who have learned and shared what they have learned as they have served and sought God over the centuries.  The wisdom of saints and popes and missionaries and common folk such as you and me have enriched our lives and taught us what it means to be children of God.  We are always in process, always on a journey, always finding new meaning to life because of our discoveries.

God calls us to deeper and abundant life.  Moment by moment, God gives us a dream and the inner passion and imagination to make the dream come true.  We are lured by our imaginations to look beyond the familiar world we know and find the truth that is hidden in the small and wondrous things of life.

God created us to grow and love and evolve so that we can see the world in new and surprising ways.  We are partners in God's holy adventure for us and we can claim the adventure as our own, building on the dreams God gives us.

Say to yourself:
I am constantly growing in faith and insight.
With God's help, I have energy and insight to respond to any problem.
Behind every failure, God has placed a new dream for me.
God inspires me with new possibilities.

O God, you call us to venture into deeper waters.  Help us let go of the past that we might create with you the dream of tomorrow and the hopes for the future.  Let your love flow in and through us to give birth to the dreams that await our commitment to bring them forth.  Amen.

(Ideas taken from Holy Adventure by Bruce G. Epperly)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Day 12 of Lent: Christ's Mind Is Within You

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 2:5

We can share in Christ's mission in the world because Christ's spirit and mind are essential to our identity.  God's energy and wisdom within us gives birth to and guides each moment of our lives.  Although our moment-by-moment creativity shapes the character of God's presence in our lives, there is always a Christ-like movement in our experience as children of God.

Paul describes a deep connection between God's Spirit and our own: When we cry, "Abba! Father! it is that very same spirit that bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.  Romans 8:15-16)  God's voice speaks through our thoughts, emotions, and actions at our deepest level of our being.
The mind of Christ inspires our lives and motivates us to do those things that we are urged to do as children of God.  We are connected to God by the Spirit of God that indwells us from our baptisms throughout our lives.  We see our reflection in God's Spirit as we seek to identify with the suffering and hope of humankind.

Reflect on the ministry of Jesus and think about who he identified with--prostitutes, farmers, fishermen, revolutionaries, Roman sympathizers, little children.  Christ's mind urges us also to be concerned for and about those in society who are often overlooked and neglected, and sometimes even abused and oppressed.

Think about these ideas:
Christ's mind speaks through my mind.
In Christ's mind, I am connected with all things
Christ's energy flows through my body, mind, and spirit.
I experience Christ's wisdom as I live and act on his behalf.

O Gracious God, help me experience the world as Jesus did, hearing your voice in the wind, smelling the fragrance of love in anointing oil, experiencing energy in touch, tasting your goodness in meals of companionship, and seeing your wonder in the least and the lost.  Bless my mind and all my senses that they may give you glory as they bless the world through thoughts, words, and acts of love,  Amen.  

(Thoughts taken from Holy Adventure by Bruce G. Epperly.)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Day 11 of Lent: You Can Grow Through Consciously Confronting Life's Temptation

As God's messenger to humankind, Jesus experienced the fullness of human life, including conflict and temptation.  

We also experience life's challenges as we grow from childhood to maturity.  We discover that life is complicated and our greatest gifts can also be sources of our greatest temptations.

Spiritual leaders remind us that the closer we come to experiencing God's holy adventure, the more obvious our imperfections become to us.  As imperfect, evolving, and inspired children of God, we are constantly discovering that as we embrace greater complexity and creativity, we also experience greater challenge and temptation.  These temptations are the natural result of our personal growth and our openness to growing in stature and vocation.

Jesus experienced transformation as he heard the words at his baptism: You are my beloved Son.  Then he was driven into the wilderness for 40 days to experience testing and temptation.  He had to confront the totality of what it means to be human.  Jesus faced the temptations of comfort, power, and safety and conquers the challenges presented to him.  Jesus shows us the spiritual maturity as he discovered divine wisdom.

Our own struggles in life may seem complex but God gives us strength and grace to know that we do  not face them alone.  We find healing, direction, and wholeness amid temptations by praying about them.  When we open our lives up to God's care, we place our struggles with the one who understands and cares for us like a best friend would do.  God gives us wisdom, love, and light to guide us to do what is best for ourselves and others.

Think of these affirmations when you are faced with struggles and temptations:
God is with me in every struggle.
God guides me during my times of temptation.
I pray about my temptations and listen for God's guidance.
In situations of challenge, I seek God's guidance and follow God's wisdom.

O Holy God, who knows me better than I know myself, I thank you for your guiding presence in my life.  Lure me toward wholeness.  Inspire me to face the heights and depths of life, to explore all that I am in its ambiguity.  Let your light of  truth shine a light on all that I am and bring forth fruits of the Spirit from within my temptations.  In the name of the Healer, Jesus.  Amen.

(Ideas taken from: Holy Adventure by Bruce G. Epperly.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Day 10 of Lent: You are Growing in Wisdom and Stature

"Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and humankind." (Luke 2:52)

Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better.  That was a popular phrase of the positive thinking movement in the 1950s-60s.  People were supposed to look in the mirror each day and say that affirmation to oneself.  In so doing, they would gradually begin to look upon themselves as good and empowered individuals.  Years later, Saturday Night Live, had a character who did a similar thing, as he would look into the mirror and say to himself, "I'm good enough, and smart enough, and doggone it, people like me."  We all laughed at his antics but the meaning behind the saying was one to take to heart--to affirm ourselves each day giving thanks for the gifts and talents that we possess.

The first step in any adventure begins with imagining unexplored frontiers.  Jesus needed to know who he was as he began his journey on earth.  And each day he learned a bit more about who he was as a human being and as the Son of God.  He learned in the Temple with the scholars in the story from Luke quoted above and worried his parents as he stayed there to ask questions and talk to them about God.  He heard God's voice of affirmation at his baptism and received the Holy Spirit as his companion and then immediately went into the wilderness to be tested.  He emerged from that lonely experience renewed in his spirit as he went about healing and doing good for others he met.  Each day he learned more about more about who he was as a child of God and as God's Own Son.

Stature is a word we do not use much anymore.  It relates to the size of a person physically but also relates to the size of your personal universe and your ability to embrace experiences in life without losing your personal center.  Jesus grew daily by his interactions with others in the world.  Sometimes those others were Gentiles, persons that Jews despised and taught were unclean.  Jesus grew by his encounters as he healed the daughter of a foreign woman and the son of a Roman soldier.  Jesus told stories about Samaritans who were good, not something that most Jews would even say and he drank water with a Samaritan woman as he sat by a well, crossing many boundaries that Jews of his day would not cross.

We are challenged to imagine ourselves as persons of great stature as we lovingly embrace the pluralism of our time.  As we deepen our relationship with God, we transcend the narrow parameters and fundamentalism that keeps persons separate because of their difference.  We embrace our own stories as we enter into conversation with others who may not share our stories.  We are constantly changing as we learn acceptance and love for others despite our differences.

Say to yourself:
I am continually growing in wisdom and stature.
I embrace diversity and complexity with love and understanding.
I welcome God's wisdom into my life.
I embrace God's call to grow in acceptance of others who are not like me.

O Holy God, like the Teacher of Nazareth, we commit ourselves to grow in your wisdom and stature.  Awaken us to experience all creation as holy, and all creatures as companions on this good earth.  Expand our circle of concern, and energize us to acts of mercy and justice.  Let us, by your wisdom and grace, do something beautiful for you, O God.  Amen

Friday, February 19, 2016

Day 9 of Lent: God's Light Shines in Your Life

Divine revelation did not end with the closing of the biblical canon or a chosen set of scriptures.  - Those are the words of the author of our devotional book, Holy Adventure by Bruce G. Epperly.

His words mirror the words that we believe in the United Church of Christ...There is still more light to be revealed.  It also mirrors the words of one of the mottoes of the UCC-God is Still Speaking.  

We are receiving light from God as we live in this world and try to live out the call of God in our lives to be like God, to be more like Jesus Christ, to be motivated and challenged the God's Holy Spirit.  We are receiving light as we do God's Will in the world and share God's love with our neighbors.

Sometimes we forget our identity as God's light in the world.  We often live by fear, defensiveness, guilt, and scarcity.  We may doubt our abilities and hide our gifts.  God's light continues to shine in us and through us, however, forming our lives even when we are unaware of its power.

The early Quakers believed that God's inner light was the deepest reality of all persons.  This led them to oppose slavery and war and to treat Native Americans with respect and fairness.  It helped them champion prison reform also.  Make a commitment to experience the world from the perspective of God's holy light.  Look for the light hidden in everyone you meet.  Take a moment to see yourself as a partner with God in bringing God's light to those you meet.

Tell yourself:
I am the light of the world.  I shine for God.
Others are also lights of God's world.
God shines in my life.
God also shines in the lives of others.

Holy Light, shine brightly in my life.  Let your light in my life burst forth, warming my heart and the hearts of all I meet.  Let every breath be praise and every word be love.  In Christ's name.  Amen.  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Day 8 of Lent: You Are Created in God's Image

In Genesis 1, the first Creation story, each time that God created something, God called it good.  As God created the animals, each one was good.  Then when humans came to be, humans were called good also.  We have been created in God's image.  We have been created to be adventurers in God's holy adventure, celebrating and guiding our planet's evolution.  Like the God who gave us birth, we experience the fullness of our calling in partnership with the created world.

The Genesis vision of the image of God is purposely vague.  We are invited to celebrate and explore our unique gifts and qualities as human beings.  No one definition of the divine image is complete or final.  Our whole bodies, minds, spirits, relationships, and communities reflect God's constant and loving artistry.  "We live and move and have our being."  (Acts 17:28)  We are reflections of divine wisdom, creativity, and holiness.

We are reflections of God's intimate care and loving presence.  God's image is not restricted to a certain health condition, body shape, or intelligence.  We reflect God's Spirit as it dwells in us and gives us energy to serve God and our neighbors.

See yourself in a new light, and claim your identity as God's beloved child of love and light.  Say to yourself:
I am created in God's image.
Others are also created in God's image.
My life reveals God's light and love.
I experience God's light and love in others and in particular aspects of my life.

O God of Light, whose love brings forth universes, galaxies, and this earth, shine brightly in my heart.  Let your light shine in me with passion and creativity.  Let your vision transform my vision and liberate my imagination of the new world that we are creating together with your grace.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Day 7 of Lent: God's Surprising Love

"God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  Words of Saint Paul expressing the love of God for all humans.  God was willing to experience the sufferings, sin, and imperfection of humans in order to understand what it must be like to be human.

God created a beautiful world which remains good but humans cause the planet to suffer in many ways.  Humans impose their will upon others and damage the creation so that the planet suffers and the inhabitants of the planet suffer as well.

In the interdependence of life, we cannot escape the consequences of our own or others actions.  We can take steps toward healing and wholeness through commitment to self-examination, forgiveness, and spiritual growth.  We need God's transforming grace to establish communities of spiritual friends and guides as we attempt to follow the light of God in our lives.

Jesus told three parables about God seeking humans and wanting to bring them to himself.  The parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost sons portray God's unconditional love for humankind.  In each someone seeks the lost thing so long that when they find what they are looking for, the reaction is great rejoicing and celebration.  God is the shepherd who leaves 99 sheep behind in order to find one lost sheep.  God is the woman who sweeps her house and searches until she finds her one lost coin.  God is the father who looks down the road each day hoping to see the figure of his son walking toward him.  God is the hound of heaven who will not give up until those lost come to find him.

We need to remind ourselves again and again that:

God loves me completely, regardless of what I have done or thought.
God forgives my mistakes and helps me begin again.
God is helping me find the best path in life.
God is liberating me from limitations, addictions, and alienation.

God of love, awaken us to your holy adventure in our daily lives.  Help us to pause and notice your presence in all things.  Help us to discover holy moments in which our smallest actions may be the answer to graceful encounters that feed and sustain our spirits.  Let us breathe in your love for us.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Day 6 of Lent: God Delights in Your Creativity.

"You are my child, my beloved; with you I am well pleased."  Mark 1:11

Some Christians see God as one to be feared, a being that is hard to please and who will punish you if you do not do exactly as God has planned.  They think that God has planned all the events of your life without your input and God is overbearing, hard to please, and harsh.  Many may have developed this picture of God due to having parents who were this sort of person.  Also, some churches, denominations, and pastors have portrayed God in this way over the years because they were taught this is so and they perpetuate this myth.

To affirm that God is loving and kind and cares about our lives is adventurous thinking.  It is a radical approach.  It affirms that God gives us time and space to dream about what life could be like both for us and for all of humankind.

What if God seeks delightful creative companionship for your life?  What if God delights in the world and in you?  Consider the possibility that you are created to be a co-creator with God.  The words spoken to Jesus at his baptism are also spoken to each of us who desire to be in relationship with God.  "You are my child, my beloved; with you I am well pleased."

God loves you and delights in you.  Your creativity is motivated by love and delight, as is divine creativity.  We are meant to give joy and beauty and love to those around us.

Many of us need to experience healing in our relationship with God.  We need to let go of destructive images of God and embrace the gift of divine creativity.  We need to know that:

God delights in our creativity.
God loves me and you just the way we are.  We are God's beloved children.
God delights in our gifts and talents we use to serve God and others.
Our lives bring beauty to those around us.
Our lives bring beauty to the situations we encounter.

O God, who delights in all creation and whose wisdom moves the universe, let your wisdom-spirit dwell in us, inspiring us to dance and play and create in wonder and beauty and love.  With wisdom as our companion, let us bring your vision of what life can be like to birth in us, in our neighbors, and in the world around us.  Amen.  

Monday, February 15, 2016

Day 5 of Lent: God Constantly Inspires Us

Divine inspiration takes many forms.  We are inspired by God daily and constantly.  Every breath is a Pentecost moment in which you and God are prayerfully healing the universe.

The apostle Paul described God's Spirit in terms of "sighs too deep for words" in Romans 8:26.  Deep within the unconscious, God moved within our lives, quietly inspiring us to become partners in personal and global transformation.  God's spirit shows up everywhere, sometimes dramatically but most often in terms of subtle spiritual whispers.

God is inspiring you with every breath.
God inspires you as you inhale life giving energy.
God is inspiring you in each life situation.
God is inspiring you in your work situation.

Breathe on us, divine Spirit, and give us new life.  Breathe in us, Holy Spirit, and inspire us with wisdom and beauty.  Breathe in us in every breath, so that we will know life in abundance and share life in its wonder.  Amen.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Day 4 of Lent: We Are All Part of God's Holy Adventure

The whole universe reflects the subtle and constant creativity of God.  God gives us space to create, even as God creates within and alongside us.  You life has a place in God's vision of the universe.  Your life is not determined fully by God or anyone else, but neither is it random or accidental.  Within each moment of your life is a dream that arises from the interplay of many factors, including your decisions, your family of origin, the environment and culture in which you live, and many other influences.  God is at work to give you a vision of what this moment can most fully be.  God has many dreams for your life, and each dream is lived out one moment at a time.

Every moment is the right moment for personal transformation.  In every moment, God weaves together persons and possibilities to create a world of beauty and meaning.

Queen Esther found the courage to act on behalf of her people who were doomed to death by the question--"Who knows if you were not chosen for such a time as this?"  And she was chosen to be the one person who could use her abilities to save the lives of her people.

Who knows if YOU are not chosen for such a time to act on behalf of others in our world, to bring about justice and peace?

Divine wisdom is at work in your life right now.
Divine creativity is at work in your life right now.
You can experience divine guides in your situations of life.
You can awaken to divine inspiration in your moments and encounters.

For just such a time as this, O God, give us vision and courage to live your dream for our lives.  Let us be bold and adventurous in action.  Let us speak for justice and act of healing for just such a time as this.  Amen.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Day Three of Lent: God is Still Creating

God is still speaking.  That is something we believe and teach.
God is still creating.  That is something we affirm daily as we live our lives in partnership with God.
If we actively respond to God's invitation to be God's partners in healing the universe, we will discover that God continually proposes new possibilities for us to embody and then responds to what we have done.  Like a good parent, God rejoices at our creativity and delights in our inventiveness.

Think about your relationship to God and how God may be leading you to act on behalf of the world around us, the Creation, and those who live on this planet with us:  Say too yourself-
God is constantly creating the universe and my life.
God and I are partners in God's new creation.
Divine creativity is revealed in some aspect of my life.
Divine creativity is revealed in a particular situation.

Think about how God's creative action is at work in you and in the world around you.

Holy Wisdom, creating all things in light, growing all things in darkness, encompass us with your creative power.  Speak within our bodies, minds and spirits.  Enlighten and enliven our hearts.  Let the glow of your holy light flow through us, bringing wholeness and enlightenment to others.  Let your divine creativity inspire us to the creation of a new and just humanity, whose works bring life to this good earth.  Amen.

(Taken from Holy Adventure by Bruce G. Epperly)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Lent, Day Two: God is Our Companion in Every Situation

"Nothing is all creation can separate us from God's love in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:39)

Are you a risk taker?  Are you a spiritual risk taker?  Do you take risks on the side of those who seek justice, need mercy, desire kindness?  Do you seek to trust God with all of your life?

The apostle Paul was a risk taker who knew what it meant to trust God with his life.  He was beaten, imprisoned, persecuted, and faced with death as he struggled to let others in his world know about Jesus Christ.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even our fears.  Inner calm in the face of suffering, threat, tragedy comes from trusting that God is with us no matter what comes our way.  In life and in death, we are in God's eternal care.  God will enable us to find a way and God will bring a deep calm amid the storms of life.

God's love is constant and intimate.  God knows us better than we know ourselves and experiences our struggles as we face challenges in life.  God will not abandon us but will guide and open up new possibilities each step of the way.

I have been taking art lessons from a very generous and talented teacher for the past few years.  Nothing that I have produced is worthy of exhibition anywhere.  Just stepping out to attempt drawing or painting or sculpting takes courage because someone else will see what you have produced.  To accept the challenge of a new experience takes courage because we stretch ourselves to do something that we have never done before.  We may discover hidden talents when we attempt to reach beyond the everyday experiences.

You are the artist of your experience.  Take a moment and ponder something you have avoided doing because of fear of failure of looking silly.  Take a chance---paint a picture, go horseback riding, lead a discussion group, tutor a child.  Every journey begins with the first step, however small.

Amid the storm, you are with us, O God.  Help us to sense your calm presence when our hearts are anxious and afraid.  Help us to experience your strength giving us strength and your power giving us courage in the quest for justice and healing.  Amen.

(Thoughts taken from Holy Adventure, by Bruce G. Epperly).

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday, the First Day of Lent

Today begins the 40 days of Lent.  Today many will gather in worship in churches to receive the ashes of repentance upon their foreheads and they made a new dedication to spiritual practices that they hope may draw them closer to God.  Many will give up something as a sign of their dedication and others will add something to their lives, perhaps a spiritual practice such as prayer or Bible reading or a act of piety done often.  Either way, Lent offers us a time to reflect upon our lives and our thinking about life as we encounter God in ourselves, our neighbors, and in the world around us.

Our devotional book, Holy Adventure by Bruce G. Epperly, offers devotions for 41 days.  Each devotion has as theme.  This is the first one, for the first day of Lent, as we enter the challenge of what it means to be wholly and totally given to something outside of our normal way of being.  Read each devotion with a perspective that perhaps God is speaking to each of us through the words being shared.  Allow God to speak to you in your thoughts and spirit so that you may become who God would have you to be as we continue through Lent and emerge into the sunshine of Easter Sunday.

Day 1

"God Loves the Whole World, No Exceptions"

How big is your God?  Is God big enough to embrace the complexities of your life?  Is God big enough to embrace the stranger and the enemy?

"For God so loved the world..." John 3:16a

God's love is for all of humankind, but not only for humans but for all creation, for all beings that inhabit the planet.  Does God love dogs and cats?  Does God love other creatures on the planet?  Does God love the enemies of our country?  Does God love the poor, the dirty, the persons possessed by addiction and crime?  Can God reach out to Islamic fundamentalists, American entrepreneurs, Pentecostal preachers, and college professors?  Does this loving God love the entire world in all of its diversity?

Think about these thought-provoking questions and reflect upon what it means to believe in a God who loves the entire world, with no exceptions.  Think about what that means to our own lives as we encounter others who may be persons that we think we have nothing in common with.  Think about what it means to embrace in our minds those for whom we have little regard and some whom we may disdain.

Think about these affirmations and see if  you can embrace one or many as your own:
God loves the world, no exceptions.
God loves me.
God loves me yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
God loves (fill in the name of a family member or friend).
God's love embraces both friend and enemy.

Mother Teresa spoke of seeing God in all of God's disguises.  She believed that "every person is Christ for me...I see God in every human being."  Today's practice involves simply going through your day with the awareness that God is present in every person and encounter.

Namaste is often said by Hindus meaing, "The spirit in me greets the spirit in you."  Look deeply at the persons you encounter today and think what it would mean for your spirit to greet their spirit as you consider the exchange you may have with them on this day.

Loving and creative God, we thank you that you have called us to be lovers and creators like you.  Give us the vision and the energy to love as you love, embracing the lost and lonely, and the vulnerable and antagonistic...Let us go forth on this adventure with your blessing, blessing all of creation in love and care.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Holy Adventure--Introduction, Part Two

So, today is FAT TUESDAY, the day before Ash Wednesday.  In the Middle Ages, this was the day to use up all the fat you had stored in your house because all through Lent you were not going to be able to cook any cakes or biscuits or sweets of any kind.  This custom continued until the early 1900s mainly in adherents to the Roman Catholic faith.  People would give up a certain food for the Lenten period to show their devotion and dedication to the faith.  Fat Tuesday is a day of celebration and frivolity followed by the austere attitudes of piety to be displayed throughout Lent until Easter Sunday.

Many people do not realize that the Sundays in Lent are not a part of Lent.  There are 40 days of Lent but Sundays do not count as part of them so if you give up a food or custom for Lent you can have it on Sundays but not the other days of the week.  That should have chocolate lovers everywhere who routinely give it up for Lent.

Yesterday, I introduced you to the book I have chosen for my Lenten devotions, Holy Adventure by Bruce G. Epperly.  Today I am going to give you the main ideas from the rest of the introduction and then tomorrow will begin the 41 days of adventurous thinking proposed in the book.  Today, the author gives six affirmations that provide a spiritual pathway to choosing God's own adventure for your life.

1. You are created in the image of God.  You embody the traits of a God who is loving, just, and innovative in response to the world.

2. You are the light of the world.  You are a child of light, radiating God's wisdom and love.

3. God inspires you in every moment.  God is a fountain of possibility and inspiration for your life.

4. God is always with you.  This means that your life is always centered in the One True Center in whom we move and have our being.

5. Your life truly matters.  The quest for meaning has always been a challenge for humans.  If God is truly present with you every day you live, then your life has meaning for you and for the world.

6. Our lives are woven together for wholeness of self and for the universe.  We are God's partners in mending the world.  We are co-creators with God and called to heal the world by the living of our lives.

A Prayer for our Adventure for the Next 40 Days:
Holy God, like Abraham and Sarah, we do not fully know where the adventure will lead.  But we do know that your love and inspiration never ends.  As we begin this journey of spiritual growth, inspire us to live by your vision.  Awaken us to new ways of living out our faith.  Give us courage when the way is uncertain.  Give us open hearts so that we might bring beauty and love to those who journey beside us and to this good earth.  In the name of Christ we pray.  Amen.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Holy Adventure--Lenten Study

I am going to use a book entitled, "Holy Adventure" by Bruce G. Epperly as my devotional book for Lent this year.  It has devotions given for 41 days so it is just right for Lent and for sharing thoughts about Lent.  I am going to share each day's thoughts on this blog so if you want to use it as part of your Lenten devotional material, please check back each day and you can read what I have shared from this book.

Today and tomorrow, I will share some from the introductory chapters that precede the 41 devotions he gives.  He sets the stage for the rest of the book with these chapters and helps prepare us for the remainder of the book.

Many of us have played games, either in books or in board games or on the computer that were "Choose Your Own Adventure" in format.  Years ago when I was a teacher, and computers were just beginning to be created for individual use, the school where I worked purchased a Commodore Computer that used cassette tapes for input into it.  We would put on the "Oregon Trail" game and my students would play it to make believe that they were traveling over the Oregon Trail in a wagon train.  They had to make decisions as if they were part of the traveling group and each decision would lead them on a path where other decisions were necessary.  It was a great game to teach logic, decision making, and geography, which was part of the social studies class I was teaching.

The author of our book, whom we will call Bruce, trying not to be too familiar but it is easier to type than Rev. Epperly each time I use it, begins with such an idea, that we choose our adventure as we go through life daily.  He uses stories from the Bible to illustrate his points and at this point he directs our attention to good ole Abraham and Sarah, the first travelers called to follow the God of Israel.  Abraham heard the voice of God telling him to go and he went, not knowing where he was going at  all.  "When we pause to listen and take the first steps on God's adventurous path, everything changes!", Bruce says.  We all are on the adventure of a lifetime and God invites us to travel with God as our holy companion.

Bruce asks these questions for reflection which would be good for all Lenten travelers to consider:
1. What restlessness of spirit awakens you at night?
2. What dreams in your life are still unfulfilled?
3. What ideals can you reclaim that you have sacrificed for comfort or success?
4. What seeds of new life lie dormant beneath the busyness of your everyday tasks?
5. If you were to claim an adventure in companionship with God's holy adventure right now, where might it take you?

Think about these questions and if any of them can be answered in your mind or spirit, think about how God might speak to you about your life and goals and plans for the future.

Read Genesis 12: 1-9 and reflect upon God's call to Abram and how God is calling you for your future.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Can You See God?

"Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, open the eyes of my heart, I want to see see you high and lifted up, shining in the light of your glory, pour out your power and might, as we sing holy, holy, holy,...I want to see you."

I have had that praise chorus stuck in my head the last few days as I have been thinking about the Gospel text for this next Sunday, the Sunday we call "Transfiguration Sunday" in the Christian tradition.  It is the last Sunday of the Season of Epiphany and the Sunday before the beginning of Lent.  Each year we examine this supernatural revelation of who Jesus is, revealed to his disciples to help them know a bit about who he was for them.  For modern Christians, this text speaks to us about our need to seek the God who announced how special his son was to the disciples who followed him and how this man can be revealed to our lives too, in many special ways.

Jesus took the three people closest to him up the mountain where he wanted to pray.  Peter, James, and John were the "inner circle" of the disciples, the ones who were privy to many of the inside secrets of faith that Jesus would share with them.  Perhaps he included them because he needed some of his followers to know what to pass on to future generations in the Jesus Tradition that makes up a large part of the Gospels we read.  These three men were with him as he was on the mountain in prayer when suddenly something fantastic and incredible and unbelievable happened.  Jesus' appearance was changed before them and he was joined by two figures from Hebrew history whose end of life on earth was different than others.  Moses ended his life as he crossed into the countryside away from the people of Israel and was never seen again.  Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire.  Both men represent the Law and the Prophets, figures that the Israelites considered righteous and holy.

Peter was so awestruck with this divine revelation that he wanted to live on the mountain with them.  He suggested that a "booth" or tent be built for each one of them so that they could remain there.  Perhaps these dwellings were a bit like shrines so that these disciples could behold and adore the personages before them bathed in light.

Jesus could not answer Peter in regard to his suggestion because a voice from heaven spoke from the cloud around them words that Jesus had heard at his baptism.  This time, however, the words were directed at the disciples who were present--"This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him!"  The disciples knew that Jesus was a special man and teacher and could work miracles but now they had been told directly that he was the Son of God.  They were nonplussed and could not speak and told no one about this special experience they had.  After all, who would believe them anyway?

How do you experience the presence of God in your life?  Does God come to you in silence, in nature, in the power of the thunderstorm or in the silence of a snowfall?  Does God make himself known to you in the face or voice of a child, in the last breath of a loved one?     Can you "see" God in the world around you as you live among and with others and experience the range of experiences that are common in life?  Can you hear God's voice speaking in response to God's commandment to "Listen to him!"as God spoke to the disciples?

We are the church of the Still Speaking God, in the United Church of Christ.  We believe that God is still speaking and will always be speaking to those who want to hear God's voice.  We believe that there is a continuing testament of God's Word that is given daily to those who are seeking to do justice, and love mercy, and walk humbly with God.  That Word of God is not written on paper but is written on the hearts of those who seek to know and serve God and their neighbor daily.

Transfiguration is a word that means change of appearance.  It is closely related to the word Transformation, which is about a change of being.  Even as transfiguration was known by the way Jesus looked, transformation is revealed by the way a person acts or conducts oneself.  We are being transformed daily as we look and listen and watch for signs that God is speaking to us.  Then, when we act according to God's Will for our lives, we continue to be transformed, day by day, little by little, until finally we leave this life and experience the greatest transformation ever, one that grants us entrance into the eternal life prepared for those who seek to follow God in this life.

"From glory to glory he's changing me....his likeness and image to perfect in me, the love of God for the world."  Another song from the past that speaks to our thoughts today.  May God always be at work in you to bring about God's Will and Way for your life.  And may God open your eyes so you will see Jesus in the world around you as you hear God's voice speak to your spirit.