Monday, March 30, 2009

Preparation in Prayer

In the Christian tradition, the weeks (approximately 40 days, but that's another discussion) between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday are known as the Season of Lent. It is a time particularly devoted to prayer, confession, self-denial and service, a time to prepare our souls for intense and personal remembrance of Jesus' death and resurrection.

While speaking recently with Jason M, he shared some from his journey through Lent. With his permission, I'd like to share it also with you:

Before Nehemiah rebuilt Jerusalem, he prayed, and his was a prayer of repentance. During this Lent season, let this passage fill you, for God is at work in Salt Lake City, and he is building His church. However, we should approach this in humbleness and not in pride, and what better way to humble ourselves than to repent and expose our authentic hearts to His awesome presence like Nehemiah did:

"Then I said: 'O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his commandment of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my Father's house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying "If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if you exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to a place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name."
They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.'
I was cupbearer to the king."
-- Nehemiah 1:5-11

How are you preparing your soul?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mighty Warrior

"The Lord is with you, mighty warrior."

These words were on my mind as I entered the hospital to visit a friend today. He does not look like our culture's perception of mightiness; he is quite weak, and cannot currently speak. Even a task like raising his arms is often too much. But God is with him, and I saw a mighty warrior.

"The Lord is with you, mighty warrior." Judges 6 introduces a man named Gideon as he threshes wheat in a winepress due to the country being pretty much overrun by their enemies. Gideon was hiding fearfully; he didn't look much like the mighty warrior he was called to be by the angel of the Lord. But "mighty warrior" was not about physical strength or courageous feelings; it spoke of a much deeper, soul-level identity. God saw what we could not.

My friend today communicated with me the best he could. These are very difficult times, but his trust in God gives him courage and strength. A battle is being fought there, and I am so grateful to know that the Lord is with this mighty warrior every step of the way.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


I had a plastic penny bank when I was a kid. It was perhaps ten inches tall, shaped like a little girl, very durable. That is where my penny collection started. It was just for pennies; other coins were kept somewhere more useful, more accessible. I didn't keep other coins long-term.

The penny bank was full before I entered junior high. The stash was eventually transferred into a bigger plastic bank shaped like a Coca-Cola bottle, and more recently into a sturdy bucket which started as a container for dog biscuits. I've had some of these pennies for thirty years.

Consider a penny - a small, lightweight little thing. Hardly noticeable at all. But they add up.

My penny collection is measured now in weight, not pieces. It has reached thirty-eight pounds. Lifting the bucket carries potential for injury if done incorrectly. It causes some painful toe stubbage, too, when I'm not careful.

My bucket of pennies is a lot like bitterness.

A lot of slights are really rather small - a sarcastic comment, an unreturned call, an off-hand remark, a dismissive look. But, like my pennies, so many of these low-value items gather and become baggage that gets in the way of life, often causing pain to us and to others.

But we can shift the metaphor, too, and my bucket of pennies is also like gratitude.

Most gifts are small, like pennies - a friendly smile on a difficult day, a door held open for you as you carry a cumbersome package, a note in the mail, an older friend reading with your child. My bucket of little pennies is worth around $63. Like so many pennies, we can collect little gifts of gratitude and see their value together.

What are you collecting, and what are you choosing to let go?