Daily Prayer Reflection: Do we hide in darkness?

Everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says: "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light." Ephesians 5:14
We are rarely in complete darkness. Even when I stumble around at night, eventually my eyes adjust and I can see enough to find my way around the house. In the same way, our spiritual lives are not ever in complete darkness no matter how troubled we might feel. Christ, our light, is always at our side. If we keep our eyes closed and choose to wallow in solitary darkness, that is our choice, but one that is completely unnecessary. All throughout the Scriptures, we are promised light, and we know that God fulfills his promises.
Too often, we walk around with our eyes closed creating our own darkness, instead of calling on the name of Jesus to give light to our lives, our fears and our worries. We would rather carry them around and it is a symptom of our unbelief. I know I am guilty of this myself. If we truly believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior, why carry around our burdens and stumble in self-imposed darkness? "Arise, O sleeper!" Basically - wake up already! God is here, Christ is alive and he brings us His light. Why in the world would we close ourselves to that?
Today, let's put all our cares, worries, concerns and doubts out into the light of Christ and pray that He may lead us in the Truth and free us from all our burdens. Amen!

Daily Prayer Reflection: Do We Watch What We Say?

LORD, I call to you; come quickly to help me; listen to my plea when I call. Let my prayer be incense before you; my uplifted hands an evening sacrifice. Set a guard, LORD, before my mouth, a gatekeeper at my lips. Psalm 141:1-3

Do you ever have those moments during the day where you want to take back something you've said? Ideally, if our lips are being used in prayer, they're less likely to utter those things that make us hit our foreheads in disbelief of the things that sometimes come out of our mouths. Now, I don't know any of us who spend our entire day engaged in vocal prayer - so perhaps this little psalm prayer should be our first!

We sometimes forget the power our words have to wound one another. Even the slightest utterance, if taken the wrong way or spoken in a moment of frustration, can leave lasting scars that lead us no closer to Christ. Do we spend enough time in prayer to know when the words that are on the tip of our tongue are not of the Spirit...or are perhaps being used by an entirely different spirit?

Perhaps we might utter this prayer a little more often, or one of our own, asking the Lord's intervention. Let us pray that the Lord might keep us from speaking unless they are words that do Him justice, and keep us out of trouble!

Daily Prayer Reflection: Do We Thank God Honestly?

You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you for ever. Psalm 30:11-12

When we are in the midst of our own misery, it sometimes feels as though it will never end. Yet, even out of the greatest suffering, God brings joy and hope. I know in my own life, though it was a miserable walk through the most trying time of it, in the end I only recall the peace and hope that God had placed in my life...through friends, through the gift of Himself. I cannot imagine how one deals with sorrow and suffering without the hand of God walking them through it and lifting them up.

As much as I cherish that experience, I also know just how easy it is to fall back into the slightest bit of despair when life is not going your way. The challenge for us today is to remain aware of the transforming power of God in our lives, and to constantly give honest thanks to Him for all He has done and continues to do. It is not of our own power, or anyone else's, that we are brought out from situations of darkness and sadness - let's honestly give thanks that the Lord never abandons us, even in what seems to be the worst times of our lives. Even better, let's not be shy to share that work of God in our lives...

Daily Prayer Reflection: Do we lose sight of Jesus in our busyness?

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me." The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." Luke 10: 40-42

Continuing on our theme of "busyness" this week, we have the story of Martha and Mary. It's a story I, and I'm sure many of you, know well. For my part, it is because I tend to be more of a Martha, always scurrying about, "serving." I am at first somewhat mystified when Jesus says that Mary has the better part, and then I hear him saying it to me. "Come, rest, be with me, listen to me, then go."

We busy ourselves, even with the best of intentions, but sometimes we end up spinning our wheels and getting frustrated because we have forgotten that even our action should rest in the Lord.

Today, take a moment, even in the midst of chaos, to sit at the feet of Jesus and see what a difference that can make.

Daily Prayer Reflection: Are we really too busy to worship?

What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will live with them and move among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people." 2 Corinthians 6:16

Having just come back from Rome, it is easier to envision the masses of images and idols that served as objects of worship for the ancient people. Yet, in our own day and age, we lift up our own graven images and objects that take the place of God. Where are we on Sunday - church or in front of the TV? How about daily? How many of us take the time each day to worship God (and I don't mean just recite a few prayers, call it good and move on...)? I know I am guilty of that all too familiar "Sorry, Lord, I was busy!"

Busyness, as we touched on earlier this week, can be a great block to God's grace in our lives...or at least our openness to receiving the grace He offers. Busyness can be just as much an 'idol,' and perhaps worse, as it is often a figment of our imagination. How can we possibly be too busy for God? God promises to live with us, to move among us...and we're too busy for that?

Worship doesn't need to be a static practice, done only in the brick and mortar building of a church, with prayers that have been prescribed by others. Worship is a way of living, not just an action. Taking time to worship each day can be as simple as realizing that God is with us in our busy lives, as simple as offering our work for the day to Him, opening it to His blessing and His will.

Today, let's ask ourselves if we are really too busy to worship or if we've just forgotten how. If it is the latter, and let's hope it is, then let us also pray that God might send forth the wisdom of His Spirit to infuse our hearts with the knowledge and desire to live our lives in worship of Him.

Come Holy Spirit!

Daily Prayer Reflection: Are we working in vain?

In vain is your earlier rising, your going later to rest, you who toil for the bread you eat; when he pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber. Psalm 127:2

We work harder and longer hours than ever before, trying to make ends meet, trying to live up to some standard set by some person we don't even know. We do all this to what end? The cry in Ecclesiastes comes to mind - "Vanity of vanities!" What does all this toiling accomplish? Is it even toiling or idle busyness that keeps us occupied all hours of the day and night? Television, internet, even books and socializing to some extent, can distract us from what we really need.

Where are we making time to rest in the Lord? It seems absurd in a culture obsessed with "doing" that sleeping might actually be a time for the Lord. Yet, studies continue to show that it is essential for our health that we provide ourselves that rest, that time of rebuilding physically - so why is it so outlandish to think that is a time for rebuilding spiritually as well? God often comes to us in our dreams, and God can work in us however and whenever He wishes. It just might be that it is easier for Him to do His work when we have finally stopped doing what we think is our work.

As we work today, pray that our work might be an outward use of the gifts God has given us to share, that our work may be rooted and strengthened by the work God is doing in us. And tonight, let's give ourselves a little more time to rest in and with the Lord...

Daily Prayer Reflection: Are we consumed with seeking signs?

[This generation] seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Johan became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. Luke 11:29b-30

Signs, signs everywhere there's signs... Have we become a culture obsessed? There is definitely a pocket of people in a frenzy over the end-times. This hurricane, that fire...could it be the onset of the end times? Let's not forget the Mayan calendar ends in 2012! Isn't this just a new twist on the Garden...seeking to have the full knowledge and power of God?

As a people of God, our sign is the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus told us that we know not the day nor the hour, but that we must live our lives ready for that time. We constantly seek signs of his will for us, but I think what we truly seek is reassurance. We want to know that we are walking down the right path, that Jesus is at our side, that we are not alone. Yet, if we do not seek Christ, if we do not deepen our relationship and grow closer to the heart of Jesus, we cannot understand the "signs" he does give us. We cannot recognize the whisper of Christ if we are not seeking to be close to his Word. We cannot feel the nudge of His breath if we are not living in the Spirit.

Today, let's take a moment to let the breath of God into our hearts more fully and consider this: are we more interested in seeking signs or seeking Christ?

The Frugal'n'Fab ATL Challenge: Eating on $30/week

The challenge? Eat for a whole week on $30. Read more about the challenge many Atlanta bloggers are participating in over the week. Frugal'n'Fab gives it a slightly different spin, reminding us that so much of the world eats for far less than that (try $1/day). In fact, she may begin a weekly Wednesday challenge, but you'll have to read her blog for that!

The question to you is this: could you live on $30 a week for food? How about $1/day? Would you even be willing to try? Stay tuned for our own Genesis Ministries challenge in the month of November. If you have suggestions for the exact details of what our challenge should be, leave 'em here!

Daily Prayer Reflection: How far does our mercy extend?

But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as (also) your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you. Luke 6:35-38

It's a tough day for mercy for some, I imagine. This morning, the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize was announced and I truly believe the news shocked the majority of the world. There are those who will revel in the excitement of this announcement, and others who will spew venom. It is the latter half that this morning's prayer seems aptly fitting for.

It is no accident that the Holy Spirit led me to this passage this morning - I myself was astounded by the news. As I sat with these words of Christ, the question that kept popping in my head (after the "Whaaat?" from the headline), was "how far does my mercy extend?" coupled with the reminder that it is not for us to judge the heart of another. Actions...sure. But we won't go into the specifics here - I want to focus on the heart of the prayer.

How far does mercy extend? Are we able to set aside our own judgments to let God work through us? Are we too quick to jump to conclusions and spew forth our opinions, whatever they may be? In this passage from Luke, Jesus reminds us that it is easy to love and forgive those who love us, those whom we love. The greater task of our Christian walk is to extend that same charity and mercy to those we do not have affection for, for those who may offend us at every turn.

In the end, the only actions we can truly control are our own. As much as we can influence others and pray that they may act wisely, we cannot act for them. Let our actions always reflect God's endless mercy and forgiveness. We can be skeptics and critics, but let it be of actions and not the core of a person, and let our criticism always be bathed in charity. Let us remember always that God is the one and only judge, and we are best left sometimes to hold our tongue and extend our hearts.

Daily Prayer Reflection: What Are We Asking For?

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened...If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” Luke 11:9-10,13

Ask and you will receive... I think this may be one of the most hopeful and yet disheartening verses of Scripture for many people. Hopeful, because Christ makes us a great promise. Disheartening because we stop reading after two lines and misunderstand him. So many times I've been asked 'why, if we pray and are faithful, do our prayers go unanswered? God promised to answer, that we would receive what we asked for honestly in prayer!'

If we read the full passage here, however, we see that what Jesus promises us, what it is that we should be asking for, is the Holy Spirit. Ask for the Spirit and you will receive. Seek the Spirit and you will find it. Knock at the Spirit's door, and he will answer. Ahhh...that's right, God is not a genie. We don't simply make our wishes and demands known in order to have him grant them. God most certainly answers all our prayers...it's just that he answers them according to His will, not ours, so sometimes the answer is "no"...or at least, "not yet."

The great lesson of this passage for me today is that what we should be asking for with more desire is the Holy Spirit - that is the great gift that God has for us...his own Spirit that lives with us and in us. Through the Holy Spirit, we grow closer to the will of God so that our deepest desires mirror his more closely. After all, what God desires for us is what in the end is most fulfilling. So...what are we waiting for? Ask, seek and find!

Come, Holy Spirit!

Daily Prayer Reflection: How do we get past a prayer block?

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples." Luke 11:1

Of course, if you continue reading this passage, it leads us to Luke's version of what has become known as the staple Christian prayer of the Our Father. Many saints over the years have provided their prayerful guidance in the use of that prayer. Jesus leaves us with great direction in teaching us, through his disciples and the apostles, that prayer. But, what do we do when rote prayer becomes all we can offer? Is that enough?

The beauty of the "rote prayers" of Catholicism is that they are there when that IS all we can offer. It is no mistake that Jesus gave us words to pray, knowing that there would be times when we would be lost, feeling weary and without direction. It is no coincidence that the Church continues in the footsteps of Christ, through the saints and apostles of prayer, to give us other prayers to help us begin our conversation with God when we are at a loss.

Yet, it is not the Our Father or those prayers I wish to focus on today. While they are meaningful and good prayers, it is the question of the disciples in the passage above that peaks my interest. When we are down and out and feeling disconnected, how do we move past that block to prayer? Does pulling out an "oldie but goodie" standard prayer move us? Or do we use it as a crutch to fulfill a perceived obligation to pray?

The question the disciples ask may be the first clue as to the real mode of jumping over any hurdles to prayer - ask God. One theologian, (Richard Rohr, I believe), said something to the effect of 'the more we talk, the less it is prayer.' I think sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking in order to pray, we've got to find the right words. Yet, time and time again in Scripture we are reminded that we are able to connect to the Father and Son by the gift of the Spirit. It is the Spirit moving in us that inspires us into communion with God. When we are struggling, it is the Spirit we invite in to change our hearts, to silence us if we need, or to empower us with words if it be the will of God.

Sometimes, our need to be vocal in prayer is its own hindrance to deeper prayer. Next time you are having trouble praying, simply open yourself and ask the Spirit to pray in and through you, teaching you to pray and converse more closely with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. May it lead you leaps and bounds beyond whatever prayer obstacle you faced!

Daily Prayer Reflection: Do we recognize the good in all God's creation?

The Lord is kind and full of compassion, slow to anger, abounding in love. How good is the Lord to all, compassionate to all his creatures. Psalm 145:8-9

Kind, full of compassion, slow to anger, abounding in love...how many people do we know who fit that bill? I'd like to think that many of us come so very close, and yet, in that moment of carelessness, the snide remark, the angry retort, the closed heart creeps in. Is it that we are not "good Christians"? I don't think so. I think in the end, it is that we are of human flesh and blood and those human weaknesses are exploited at times.

I wonder, too, if part of the problem is that we are so conditioned to decide who is "in" and who is "out" from an early age, that our attitudes toward people are more apt to let us slide in Christian charity to those who are "less worthy" of our compassion, kindness, gentleness and love. But we are not to be of this world, though we most certainly live in it. We are to pattern ourselves after Christ, who recognized the goodness of all creation as the work of his Father.

I remember on one retreat, as we were talking about forgiveness, someone shared this little pearl of wisdom - even Jesus on the cross called upon his Father's name and power, not his own, to forgive those who were torturing him and killing him. Perhaps, when we are unable to see the good in someone or something that is causing us distress, we can offer them back to the Lord, asking his blessing on them when we are ourselves are not up to offering our own.

And let us always pray that the Lord, creator of all, might break into our own human frailty at moments we need to see his goodness in what surrounds us.

Come, Lord Jesus, enter our hearts...

From Respect Life Sunday to Respecting Life Always...

Here is an uplifting story about a proactive initiative to help college age students faced with an unplanned pregnancy... Interestingly, Belmont is the home of Belmont Abbey College which has recently found itself in the midst of a tussle regarding the legality of the restrictions in its insurance coverage for employees. The College, in accordance with Catholic teaching, does not include coverage for abortions, prescription contraceptives or elective sterilization procedures. [Read more here]

Center Aims to Give Pregnant College Students True Choice
By Nancy Frazier O'Brien
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON —Lacy Dodd, a 33-year-old banking professional and mother of one, knows precisely where supporters and opponents of legal abortion can find common ground.

It's on nearly four acres donated by the Benedictine monks of Belmont Abbey in Belmont, N.C., where Room at the Inn, a Charlotte-based pregnancy resource center, hopes to build the nation's first campus-based maternity and after-care residence for pregnant college students.... [Read full story]

Daily Prayer Reflection: Who is in charge of our lives?

O search me, God and know my heart. O test me and know my thoughts. See that I follow not the wrong path and lead me in the path of life eternal. Psalm 139:23-24

Have you ever seen those bumperstickers out there that say "God (or Jesus) is my co-pilot"? I always laugh at first and then am reminded rather quickly that they are just a little bit off on their enthusiasm. God is not our "co-pilot" - God is the pilot. We're not just passengers along for the ride, but neither are we in equal position with God.

If we read any story in Scripture, we are constantly reminded that great trouble begins when we think we can take the lead and see if God will follow. The same still rings true today. Though it is a lesson often learned not with any little effort, there is great release in getting to the point in our relationship with God that we can turn the reins over to Him and learn to take direction. It is entirely freeing to realize we do not always need to know it all or be able to do it all. A burden is taken off our shoulders when we live with the knowledge that God will prepare our way, even in ways we would never imagine. We have to work in cooperation with God, of course, but even when we screw up, as we inevitably will, God will make it right again if we allow him room to move.

So today, take a moment to pray about who is in charge of your life...is God your co-pilot or the pilot?