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Abundant Harvest

MEDITATION:

Written by L.B. Cowman (1870-1960), an American writer. This is an excerpt from her book “Streams in the Desert.”

One day in early summer I walked past a beautiful meadow. The grass was as soft and thick and fine as an immense green Oriental rug. In one corner stood a fine old tree, a sanctuary for numberless wild birds; the crisp, sweet air was full of their happy songs. Two cows lay in the shade, the very picture of content. Down by the roadside the saucy dandelion mingled his gold with the royal purple of the wild violet. I leaned against the fence for a long time, feasting my hungry eyes, and thinking in my soul that God never made a fairer spot than my lovely meadow. The next day I passed that way again, and lo! the hand of the despoiler had been there. A plowman and his great plow, now standing idle in the furrow, had in a day wrought a terrible havoc. Instead of the green grass there was turned up to view the ugly, bare, brown earth; instead of the singing birds there were only a few hens industriously scratching for worms. Gone were the dandelion and the pretty violet. I said in my grief, “How could any one spoil a thing so fair?” Then my eyes were opened by some unseen hand, and I saw a vision, a vision of a field of ripe corn ready for the harvest. I could see the giant, heavily laden stalks in the autumn sun; I could almost hear the music of the wind as it would sweep across the golden tassels. And before I was aware, the brown earth took on a splendor it had not had the day before.  Oh, that we might always catch the vision of an abundant harvest, when the great Master Plowman comes, as He often does, and furrows through our very souls, uprooting and turning under that which we thought most fair, and leaving for our tortured gaze only the bare and the unbeautiful.

PRAYER:

Written by Julie Palmer, a contemporary singer, songwriter, and prayer ministry leader.

Father, please grow in us a harvest for the world. Come sow a seed of hope within our souls Lord, that we might yield goodness, patience, and kindness in abundance. Sow a seed of peace in our lives Lord, that we might bear the fruits of forgiveness, compassion, and righteousness. Come sow a seed of love in our hearts Lord, that others would reap the blessings of family, friendship, and community. May each seed of hope, peace, and love grow within us into a harvest that can be feasted on by all. Amen.

A Present Kingdom

MEDITATION:

Written by DeLano Sheffield, a Business Resource Specialist for Goodwill of MoKan and a diversity coach.

God may call you to do the same thing that you did yesterday. Awe does not need the sensational to occur in order to be awe. We only need the recognition of a present kingdom—a regularly present, not waiting till early Sunday morning, kingdom; a really large kingdom that is powerful enough that not even Hades can prevail against it or our finite minds either. We see the beginnings of Peter’s repentant (yet often impulsive even after salvation) heart in Luke 5:4-11. His actions and speech give us all the good preaching points of a heart turning to God: Peter’s turning things over to Jesus, falling to his knees, and recognition and knowledge that something was different about this carpenter where even the fish and the nets obey him. In our theological musings and three-point expositions, we miss the practicality and significance of the moment. This is not in the temple. It isn’t even on dry ground. What is ordinary in this moment and common for every person in the Gospels and in the time following is that the kingdom is so large that its king will not be relegated to certain places or practices. He flips everything on its head. He sent the perfect rule-keepers away sad. And he gathered and called frail children, flawed hearts, and weary souls to him. He made it clear—early in his work—that he had say over everything (carpentry, His father’s business, water, and wine etc.) And when we rub again the vastness of what God does in any economy that we think we have all figured out, he will show us that we will need to repent and turn our conclusions there also. God’s kingdom is massive.

William Beebe is given credit for a story about Teddy Roosevelt: At Sagamore Hill, after an evening of talk, the two would go out on the lawn and search the skies for a certain spot of star-like light near the lower left-hand corner of the Great Square of Pegasus. Then Roosevelt would recite: “That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda. It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It consists of one hundred billion suns, each larger than our sun.” Then Roosevelt would grin and say, “Now I think we are small enough! Let’s go to bed.” How does catching fish translate to a fisherman at work telling a carpenter “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”? Peter realized that God is so great that he can point to a place in the water to catch a large amount of fish, and he realized just how small we are. When the boat started to sink Peter realized that he was drowning. Inevitably, you and I will go back to work tonight or tomorrow morning. It will be working in the home taking care of the household, or on an assembly line, teaching, managing, etc. And in the monotony of repetition, we will begin to think some form of our own “This is it. This is the best it can be.” But that is not the kingdom that we are turning toward. Is it really possible that “the earth is the Lord’s” includes your work tasks? Peter’s example reminds us to go where God calls us—primarily to learn just how small we are, and also the wonderful gift of how present God is also.

PRAYER:

Written by DeLano Sheffield, author of today’s meditation.

What is humankind that you think about us? Our strength, stature, and time is short and yet you have clearly shown us that our capacity is just short of the angels. Forgive me for thinking higher of myself than I am. And forgive me for thinking lower of myself also. And forgive me for agreeing with anyone else who thinks in either direction about me or others also. Your Son’s presence shows us that while he has every reason to think of himself higher, he did not consider equality with you as plunder. And we need your Son if we ever intend to see as well. In the bludgeoned, crucified, resurrected, reigning one’s name we pray; Jesus the Christ,  Amen.

Good Things Take Time

MEDITATION:

Written by Veronica Neffinger, a contemporary author.

Did you ever realize how good things nearly always take time? As children, waiting can seem like agony. We don’t want to think about the hours that must slowly slip by until school lets out, until summer comes back around, or until our favorite uncle comes to visit again. As adults, our impatience is little lessened, albeit perhaps better concealed. In our culture of immediacy, having patience is even more difficult and out of reach. We are used to multitasking and packing each day with so much busyness that we seldom have time to hear our own voices. This impatience for results, for productivity, is, I believe, something that we, as Christians, must learn to surrender, will have to learn to surrender if we are going to keep growing. Have you ever noticed that good things nearly always come about because of a process; oftentimes, a long process? Conversely, it seems many bad things are those that happen in an instant: a car crash that turns your life upside down, a quick word hurled out in anger that breaks a relationship, a split-second decision to give in to peer pressure. Now, of course, not all split-second decisions lead to negative consequences, but there is a striking parallel here: As we are jumping from one thing to the next on a continual cycle of busyness, spiraling away from deep understanding and hovering on the periphery of thought, God is seeking to work against the entropy we have created, making the disparate parts of our life into something beautiful. God is very comfortable working slowly (or what appears as slowly to us). We all want this transformation God promises us in His Word, but are we willing to wait for it? After the moment of salvation, God desires to sanctify us–to make us holy–but this takes time and daily repentance, submission, and prayer, all things that themselves require us to be in for the long haul if we hope to see fruit. God does not take His sweet time making us more like Himself because He enjoys seeing our impatience; He is patient in perfecting us because, for any truth to truly take hold in us, takes time. Although we are creatures who have no problem proclaiming an opinion in an instant, we also recognize that dearly-held beliefs are not easily relinquished. In His infinite mercy, God takes upon Himself the process of gently wrestling our most dearly-held but harmful, selfish, and just plain false beliefs from the intense grip we have on them. Our stubbornness to begin the growing process is often a reason why we do not spring forward in our Christian life in leaps and bounds. But that is okay. God knows our frame, and His patience and lovingkindness never fails, even when ours does.

PRAYER:

Written by Lori Freeland, a contemporary author.

Lord, I can’t move. I can’t sit still or stand. I can’t breathe. I think I’m dying. Everything’s falling apart inside me and around me. I don’t know what to do.  Please wrap your arms around me and don’t ever let go. Slow my racing heart. Clear my spinning head. Calm my frantic lungs. I need Your patience to breathe through this moment and make it to the next. Thank you for being a God of the moment, a God who cares, a God able to guard my heart and mind. Amen.

The Desert

MEDITATION:

Written by Os Hillman, a contemporary speaker, author, and consultant on faith at work.

The desert holds a special place in God’s Word. The Scriptures portray the desert as a place of inspiration and exaltation – a place where people met God in a powerful new way. King David wrote the 63rd Psalm while in exile in the Desert of Judah. He was hiding from his son Absalom, who wanted to replace him as king of Israel. For Joseph, a deep pit in the desert was the first stop on a 13-year journey through desolation and despair. That 13-year desert experience served to break Joseph’s self-will and self-confidence. It taught him that he could not control anything and that he needed to rely on God to manage the events in his life. Joseph’s desert trial prepared him by scorching the youthful pride and arrogance out of his young life so that when he was 30 years old he could rule Egypt at Pharaoh’s side in a spirit of humility and servanthood. Before becoming king of Israel, David was a shepherd. Part of his training for leadership involved hand-to-claw combat with the beasts of the wilderness, including the lion and the bear. Elijah learned the principles of spiritual leadership while in the wilderness of Gilead. And Jesus was tempted and tested for 40 days in the desert before He began to preach. Perhaps God has given you a dream, but now it seems that your dream has withered and died under the scorching desert sun. It seems that God has gone away and is not listening to your prayers. But I want you to know that your dream still lives. God is with you, even if you can’t see Him, hear Him or sense His presence. He is preparing you in the desert.

PRAYER:

Written by Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821),  the first native-born citizen of the US to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.  She founded the first American parish school and established the first American Catholic orphanage.

Unite me to Thyself,

O adorable Victim.

Life-giving heavenly Bread,

feed me,

sanctify me,

reign in me,

transform me to Thyself,

live in me;

let me live in Thee;

let me adore Thee in Thy life-giving Sacrament as my God,

listen to Thee as to my Master,

obey Thee as my King,

imitate Thee as my Model,

follow Thee as my Shepherd,

love Thee as my Father,

seek Thee as my Physician

who wilt heal all the maladies of my soul.

Be indeed my Way,

Truth and Life;

sustain me,

O heavenly Manna,

through the desert of this world,

till I shall behold Thee unveiled in Thy glory.  Amen.

The Long View

MEDITATION:

Written by Padre Pio (1887-1968) an Italian Capuchin friar, priest, and mystic.

It helps, now and then, to step back, and take the long view. The Kingdom of Heaven is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us. No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the Church’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything. This is what we are about. We will plant the seeds that one day will grow, We water seeds already planted knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but everything is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are the workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future of our own. May that future be filled with grace, peace, and hope.

PRAYER:

Written by Wendy Blight, a contemporary author, Bible teacher, and speaker.

Dear Lord, I don’t know who or what will cross my path today. But I do know that You are my Rock and my Fortress. You are my Shield and my Strong Tower. Help me to anchor myself to You today. Teach me how to stand strong in You and choose only Your way today. Help me walk by Your truth and not my feelings. Help me to embrace anything that comes my way as an opportunity to see You at work and as an opportunity to point others to You. Thank You that You love me and nothing can ever take that away from me! Even if I fail today and fall short, You whisper Your unconditional love deep into my soul and remind me that Your mercies are new every morning. That truly amazes me, Lord. Thank You for meeting with me today. Would You wake me again tomorrow with the same sweet whisper of Your love? I can’t wait to meet with You again. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Christian Vision

MEDITATION:

Written by Randy Frazee, a contemporary pastor, author, and teacher. This is an excerpt from his book “Believe 365.”

Can you remember the first time you donned a pair of polarized sunglasses? If you’re like me, you took them off and put them back on several times because you couldn’t believe the difference they made in what you saw. Cutting down on glare gives objects clarity and makes colors more vivid. As Christians, what we believe – or the internal lens of our mind—impacts how we live and who we become. For example: If you view God as personal and involved in your daily life, you will experience more joy. If you see people as God sees them (belief in humanity), you will become gentler toward others. If you believe that everything you are and own belongs to God (belief in stewardship), you will more naturally offer your time and resources to help others. Jesus desires to give us new internal lenses by transforming our minds. He does this as we firmly establish ourselves in what we believe. You [can] begin a journey of renewing your mind. As you meditate on what you believe, you will adopt a worldview that profoundly reduces glare and reveals clarity about how you should act to become more like Jesus. Soon others will notice the vivid difference. Hopefully, you will too!

PRAYER:

Written by Victoria Riollano, a contemporary author, speaker, and professor.

Dear Lord, I thank you for that you are omnipotent. You have all power and glory in your hands. I thank you that you hear my cries and that you know exactly what I need. Father, I thank you for helping me to see again. Help me to see your heart, your plan, and your goodness. Even when I don’t understand, help me to praise you beyond what my natural eyes can see. I trust you for every step. In Jesus name. Amen.

Allegiance to God

MEDITATION:

Written by C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), a British writer and theologian. This is an excerpt from his autobiography “Surprised by Joy.”

There are men, far better men than I, who have made immortality almost the central doctrine of their religion; but for my own part, I have never seen how a preoccupation with that subject at the outset could fail to corrupt the whole thing. I had been brought up to believe that goodness was goodness only if it were disinterested and that any hope of reward or fear of punishment contaminated the will. If I was wrong in this (the question is really much more complicated than I then perceived) my error was most tenderly allowed for. I was afraid that threats or promises would demoralize me; no threats or promises were made. The commands were inexorable, but they were backed by no “sanctions.” God was to be obeyed simply because he was God. Long since, through the gods of Asgard, and later through the notion of the Absolute, He had taught me how a thing can be revered not for what it can do to us but for what it is in itself. That is why, though it was a terror, it was no surprise to learn that God is to be obeyed because of what He is in Himself. If you ask why we should obey God, in the last resort the answer is, “I am.”

To know God is to know that our obedience is due to Him. In his nature, His sovereignty de jure is revealed. Of course, as I have said, the matter is more complicated than that. The primal and necessary Being, the Creator, has sovereignty de facto as well as de jure. He has the power as well as the kingdom and the glory. But the de jure sovereignty was made known to me before the power, the right before the might. And for this I am thankful. I think it is well, even now, sometimes to say to ourselves, “God is such that if (per impossible) his power could vanish and His other attributes remain so that the supreme right was forever robbed of the supreme might, we should still owe Him precisely the same kind and degree of allegiance as we now do.

PRAYER:

Written by Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury.

O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed, give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give, that both our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments and also that by thee we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may pass our time in rest and quietness, through the merits of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Thankfulness

MEDITATION:

Written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), a German pastor, theologian, author, anti-Nazi dissident and founding member of the Confessing Church. This is an excerpt from his book “Life Together.”

In the Christian community, thankfulness is just what it is anywhere else in the Christian life. Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good. Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious. We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?

PRAYER:

Written by Colleen Hanycz, a contemporary academic, lawyer, and President of Xavier University.

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.
Loving Creator,
We asked for strength, and you gave us difficulties to make us strong.
We asked for wisdom, and you gave us problems to solve.
We asked for prosperity, and you gave us purpose and brains to use.
We asked for courage, and you gave us fears to overcome.
We asked for patience, and you gave us situations where we were forced to wait.
We asked for love, and you gave us troubled people to help.
We asked for justice, and you called us to be just and to lead with integrity.
Lord, we have received nothing that we asked for or wanted.
And yet, we received everything that we needed.
For this, we give thanks. Amen.

Rule of Life

MEDITATION:

Written by Stephen Macchia, a contemporary leader of spiritual formation and author. This is an excerpt from his book “Crafting a Rule of Life.”

Fix your attention on God and you’ll be changed from the inside out. God is the one who brings out the best of you. That’s a truth worth pursuing with our whole hearts. God lovingly invites us to pursue our shared calling as a Christian community and our unique vocation as individual disciples. There is only one Moses, one Ruth, one Peter, one James, one John—and only one you. We are all on a common pursuit of loving God, loving one another, and loving others in Jesus’ name. We do so in slightly different ways—reflected in the tens of thousands of denominational niches worldwide—but more importantly, we call ourselves Christian and mean it from the bottom of our hearts. Our commonality is a beautiful gift to reflect on and is our delightful inheritance. We are set apart and called to be the people of God, “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that we may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). But even though we all live our lives in a wider community, we also find ourselves in daily pursuit of a life that’s uniquely set apart for God’s distinct purposes—evidenced in our personal rule of life…A rule of life allows us to clarify our deepest values, our most important relationships, our most authentic hopes and dreams, our most meaningful work, our highest priorities. It allows us to live with intention and purpose in the present moment. All of us have an unwritten personal rule of life that we are following, some with great clarity, others unknowingly. We wake at certain times, get ready for our days in particular ways, use our free time for assorted purposes, and practice rhythms of work, hobbies, worship, vacation, and so on. There is already a rule in place that you are following today. Isn’t it time to give up our unwritten rule and prayerfully write one that more closely matches the heartbeat of God?

PRAYER:

Written by Roy E. Dickerson (1886-1965), an author.

Who am I really? What do you see in me that you would move heaven and earth to capture my heart? My life feels like a collection of other people’s expectations and disappointments. I do not even know anymore who I truly am. Reveal to me my true identity, my true place in your story. Give me grace to hear your voice; shut out all other voices, and let me hear from you alone. Amen.

God Is For the World

MEDITATION:

Written by Rich Villodas, a contemporary pastor and author. This is an excerpt from his book “The Deeply Formed Life.”

God is for the world, period. This truth makes or breaks our understanding of mission. To deny this assertion is to see God in a fundamentally different light than the light revealed in Jesus. Yet that different light is the default mode of much of Christianity. We are often known for what we are against rather than what we are for…But any conversation regarding the nature of God must begin with him being for all. Mission for a Christian must begin not with human fallenness but with God’s posture toward the world. When we see people with a “Make America Great Again” hat, we can see them from a posture of God’s commitment toward them or from the perspective of our own boundary making. When we see a woman of color with a #blacklivesmatter T-shirt, we can see her through the lens of God’s heart of mercy toward her or reduce her entire humanity to a hashtag. When we see an immigrant, we can see him through the lens of God’s tender love or through the lens of fearful scapegoating. God’s posture toward the world is always for us: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16). This is the definitive Bible verse declaring God’s committed love toward us. By entering into human history, God made a very clear declaration, saying in effect, “I don’t want to exist without you.” Does God exist without us? Of course. Does God want to exist without us? Not a chance. God is for us. This is the foundation of mission. How can mission that is consistent with Jesus be established on the grounds of judgment, disgust, and “othering”? Actually it can’t. Missional presence takes on the posture of the God and Father revealed in Jesus. God didn’t need creation or company, but out of divine generosity, he brought creation into existence not to subject it to bondage but to have it feast at the table of goodness. To affirm that God is for “us” is to confess with clarity who is “us”. If by “us” we mean fellow Christians—especially those who believe as we do—then that “us” is much too confined. The “us” that God is for always extends to all people and to the entirety of creation.

PRAYER:

Written by Leslie White, a contemporary author.

Dear Lord, today may I be a faithful light that points the way to You, the true light of the world. Amen.