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The more present I am to the moment, the more attentive I become to all that surrounds me. I begin to see people—I mean really see them. When I am attentive to others, I am surprised by gracious interactions with those close to me as well as those who just grace my life for a moment. Someone smiles as I pass by. An acquaintance asks if he or she can pray for me. A friend sends an email asking how I am doing. A loved one ends a phone call with the words, “I love you.” All of these touch me with God’s love—if I am present to the moment to receive them.

~ Glenn Myers

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SLOW DOWN FOR A SABBATH REST

For many years keeping a Sabbath to me meant going to church, spending some time with my family, and squeezing in as many “projects” as I could. That’s not a bad way to spend a Sunday, but it wasn’t enough to teach me how to live in God’s peace.

The writer to the Hebrews teaches us that New Testament Christians need a Sabbath rest: “Be careful!… Anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work… So make every effort to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:1,8-11).

Seven years ago I started being intentional about setting aside a day of prayer for spiritual rest and renewal. Ray Ortlund was my spiritual mentor at the time and he got me taking a one or two day retreat every three months. Gradually, I built that up to one day every week.

What I do on My Sabbath

On my Sabbath I do no work – that’s the key. I try not to be productive. I have no agenda except to spend the day with Jesus, doing whatever we want to do together. Usually, the best way for me to connect with Jesus is in quiet solitude. (Sometimes all or part of my Sabbath is spent with my family or on a community retreat.)

My Sabbath may include sleeping in or getting up before sunrise. I may stay holed up in my prayer room or go for a hike in the hills or go to a retreat center. Wherever I go, usually I fast from media and sometimes from food too to help me to pray.

I always spend some time in God’s Word on my Sabbath day. I pray a Psalm, do Lectio Divina (a special way of meditating on a passage from the Bible), or practice Abiding Prayer (slowly and deeply meditating on a verse from the Bible). But I save Bible study for another day since being studious is not restful.

I need to engage my heart with God so I focus on being with Christ and conversing with him. In my journal I process my experiences, confess my sins, or write down what I sense God is saying to me.

Setting aside extended time to unhook from normal activity and noise and connect with Christ is such a blessing! Sabbath teaches us to live in the “easy yoke” of Jesus everyday! (Matthew 11:28-30).

When we make the Lord our Shepherd, learn to lie down in his green pastures, and take the time to drink from his still waters then we will say with David in Psalm 23: “He restores my soul!”

Sabbath time is good for the soul!

~ Bill Gaultiere, Ph.D., Soul Shepherding Ministry

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Sitting here with you in the quiet, Lord,
I know you are by my side, that you are near,
but sometimes, it’s not easy to raise my eyes to you,
to look you into your face…

Sometimes it’s something I’ve done or failed to do
that keeps me from looking you in the eye.
I easily forget that you look upon me, always,
with eyes of mercy – especially in times
when I need your forgiveness and pardon.
Sometimes I lower my eyes to avoid your gaze
just when I’m most in need of your merciful glance…

There are times, too, when I don’t look up
because I feel so small before you:
insignificant and of no account,
unworthy of your notice.
And just then is when I need to remember your word,
that you keep me as the apple of your eye!

How you see me, Lord, and how I see myself
are so often so different.
Are you and I looking at the same person?
You see me as your own, your child, your beloved,
while I look at myself as, well,
so much less than that…

You see my faults and failings, too,
but first you see in me the work of your hand,
what you love.
You look upon me
and see someone in whom you delight
while all I see are my sins and imperfections.
I focus on my failures,
on the times my eye has left my master’s hand
and you, Lord, are the Master of my soul…

Cataracts of self-doubt cloud my vision
and I fail to see what you see in me so clearly:
the image of the One in whose image I was made…

Sometimes, Lord, I’m unable to lift my head
to raise my eyes to your face
because I’ve sunk so deep in my own pain and sadness,
my chin bent low on my chest.
I fail to look up because I fear what I might see
or fear there may be no one there to see…

But apart from your gaze, Lord – I’m nothing.
That you hold me in your eyes is life to me!
Apart from the warmth of your glance
I would perish in the lonely cold…

Whatever keeps my head bent low,
reach with your gentle hand beneath my chin
and lift my head from off my chest…
Open my eyes
that I might see and know the warmth
of how your eyes look for mine…

Lord, let your face shine upon me!

Raise me up, Lord, from whatever keeps me down.
I want to raise my eyes to you
to keep my vision trained on you
and on your hand, leading and guiding me
to serve you, the Master of my heart…

Even now, Lord, as I sit with you in prayer,
lift my eyes to your eyes, my heart to your heart
and let your face shine upon me
as when I lift my face to the summer sun
and its light warms my cheek…

Even now, Lord, in the quiet of this time and place,
let me see the gift of your mercy smiling on me
and help me know, help me believe that you see in me
your own, your child, your beloved…

Let me see in myself what you see, Lord,
and keep me as the apple of your eye…

~ Austin Fleming, Priest of the Archdiocese of Boston

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God is love. Now experience it.

God is a fountain, a pump that keeps pumping, spilling, filling, the love that transcends the physical, that’s endless, eternal, that satisfies thirsts that have nothing to do with water.

~ Ann Voskamp

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Silence sounds
like the space between night and day,
the glance of love that needs no words,
the full moon rising over the lake,
the morning dew on the quiet grass,
the first rays of the new day’s sunlight,
a mystery too deep for words.

~ Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB

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Praying 10 minutes today

Find a quiet time and place to pray… take a few deep breaths…
be still… and know that God is near…

A word to reflect on:
I will listen for what the Lord, has to say:
surely he will speak of peace
to his people and to his faithful…
– Psalm 85

I do listen, Lord.
Especially when I stop to pray:
I listen…
I strain to hear your voice,
a word of your wisdom and counsel,
your consolation and compassion…

I trust that you call to me in the stillness,
that you call me by name,
and if my ears don’t hear you I pray my heart does
in this quiet time and place…

In my prayer I find a respite
from the noise that fills my day and I believe
there’s more to be heard in pure silence
than in a thousand words…

Could it be, Lord,
that the first word you speak to me is
the silence?

And if it is, I’ll take more time to ponder, to wonder
what I hear in the silence,
what I hear from you,
what echoes in my mind and heart…

The silence breathes your presence, Lord,
like an old friend whose quiet company
speaks volumes more than any conversation…

But some days, some nights,
I need a word,
I want a word from you,
I need to hear your voice…

When you speak to me, Lord,
open my heart to hear you,
open my soul and let your word echo within me,
open my mind to your wisdom and counsel,
open wide whatever closes me off to your voice
and the word you speak to me…

And when I hear a word from you,
help me test its truth, and even more,
help me trust it comes from you
and not from me…

I listen for your voice in the scriptures, Lord,
and I find joy when a verse, a phrase, a word
hits home
as though you spoke it just for me…

I listen for your voice, your message
in what I hear from those around me,
in what I hear in the church’s prayer,
in what I hear from those who truly care for me…

I listen for your word in what I read and study,
in how the seasons change and turn
and in any thing of beauty that appears along my path…

Some days, Lord, not often enough,
I listen for a word of challenge you might speak:
a word to stand me up, hold me to account,
and draw me closer to you
and to my neighbors and their needs…

Whether I hear it or not,
I know you speak peace, Lord:
surely peace is on your lips each time
you break the silence with your voice
and bless my ears with its sweet sound…

Peace you speak, and courage;
pardon and forgiveness; hope and healing:
your words all layered in mercy, linked
from your lips to my heart by love
that calls me by name and by no other…

In some way, Lord, in some way of your choosing,
let me know that your heart speaks to mine
and let me hear, if only in the silence,
that my waiting for your word is not in vain…

In this moment of prayer let my heart be quiet,
quiet enough to hear the silence speak,
still enough to hear your voice, O Lord…

I’m listening for you
and for whatever word you have for me this day
and I pray you’ll let me hear it…

I know you are near, Lord, that you are here,
that you are with me…

Speak, Lord, I love to listen to your voice.
See, Lord: here I am.

~ Austin Fleming, Priest of the Archdiocese of Boston; Pastor in Concord, MA

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Lord, listen to your children praying. Listen to our words, but don’t stop there. Listen to what there is way down deep inside of us – the fear we mask with false bravado; the doubt we disguise with narrow-minded fervor; the pain we hide from the world behind smiles that fool the unobservant.
Lord, listen to your children praying, and forgive us for being childish instead of childlike. Forgive us for not playing fair; for wanting to take our toys and go home when things don’t go our way; for making fun of those who are different. Forgive us for wanting always to be the center of attention; for pointing and laughing at others who struggle or stumble; for taking seconds and thirds and fourths before others have had even firsts.
Lord, listen to your children praying. Lord, send your spirit in this place. Send your spirit to calm our fears and to confront our prejudices. Send your spirit to open our minds and to awaken our compassion. Send your spirit to breathe new life into the church you have called and commissioned to carry your gospel into the world.
Lord, listen to your children praying. Listen to our prayers of petition. And listen to our prayers of gratitude.
Lord, listen to your children praying. Send us love, enough for ourselves with plenty left over to share; send us power, along with the wisdom to use it well; and send us grace,to heal the wounds we bear, especially those self-inflicted. Lord, we pray because we believe you are listening.Thank you. Amen.

~ James Benedict

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There are men and women who make the world better just by being the kind of people they are. They have the gift of kindness or courage or loyalty or integrity. It really matters very little whether they are behind the wheel of a truck or running a business or bringing up a family. They teach the truth by living it.”

– James A. Garfield

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How good we are at wearing masks, at playing roles, at pretending. We fool strangers, we fool our friends . . . sometimes we even fool ourselves. But we never fool you, O Lord. All our best tricks are of no avail. No amount of smoke and mirrors can keep you from seeing us as we truly are. You even see through our worship when it is simply a facade behind which we attempt to hide our greed and selfishness and self-righteousness. You see through the pious phrases of our prayers, when they are no more than a sneaky effort to get you to do our will. You see through our acts of charity when they are merely an attempt to buy a good reputation. Forgive us we pray. Then open our eyes, that we may see clearly who you are and what kind of people you are calling us to be. Open our eyes to the wonders around us in the created world and in the human community. Enable us to see your artistry in the curved stem of the tender sprout, in the red patch on the blackbird’s wing, and in the dance of light on the surface of the stream. Help us see your spirit at work where people have learned to love in spite of the obstacles of race, class, age and culture; where kindness is done in secret and without the expectation of reward; and where people who have the power to exact revenge choose instead to offer forgiveness and pursue reconciliation. As we remember so many of the ways in which we are blessed, we also are aware of the ways in which we and others still suffer. The world is a broken place, polluted, filled with violence and injustice, fear and famine, sorrow and sickness. We pray for those who live where hatred is flourishing, fueled by political and religious differences. We pray for those whose lives have been devastated by disasters, whose patience is wearing thin as they wait for relief. We pray for those called to leadership and those who bear the responsibility to see that those in need are helped. We pray for those who work in dangerous and unpleasant places to bring aid to others who have nowhere else to go. Lord, guide us into to the rich storehouse of your Word and help us find there the wisdom we need to live faithfully and the courage we need to follow you wherever you lead us. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

~ Keith Drury, Associate Professor of Religion at Indiana Wesleyan University

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In a remote Swiss village stood a beautiful church. It was so beautiful, in fact, that it was known as the Mountain Valley Cathedral. The church was not only beautiful to look at – with its high pillars and magnificent stained glass windows – but it had the most beautiful pipe organ in the whole region. People would come from miles away-from far off lands-to hear the lovely tones of this organ.

But there was a problem. The columns were still there – the windows still dazzled with the sunlight – but there was an eerie silence. The mountain valley no longer echoed the glorious fine-tuned music of the pipe organ.

Something had gone wrong with the pipe organ. Musicians and experts from around the world had tried to repair it. Every time a new person would try to fix it the villagers were subjected to sounds of disharmony – awful penetrating noises which polluted the air.

One day an old man appeared at the church door. He spoke with the sexton and after a time the sexton reluctantly agreed to let the old man try his hand at repairing the organ. For two days the old man worked in almost total silence. The sexton was, in fact, getting a bit nervous. Then on the third day – at high noon – the mountain valley once again was filled with glorious music. Farmers dropped their plows, merchants closed their stores – everyone in town stopped what they were doing and headed for the church. Even the bushes and trees of the mountain tops seemed to respond as the glorious music echoed from ridge to ridge.

After the old man finished his playing, a brave soul asked him how he could have fixed the organ, how could he restore this magnificent instrument when even the world’s experts could not. The old man merely said it was an inside job. “It was I who built this organ fifty years ago. I created it – and now I have restored it.”

That is what God is like.