March 13 | Monday Today’s Reading | Galatians 6:2-3
Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are important when they aren’t, they’re fooling themselves.
My earliest memory of attending a funeral was when I was around six or seven. It was a “home funeral,” and the house was packed. I remember being a little scared, so my aunt took my hand and led me into the kitchen. She asked if I was hungry and then showed me cake after cake, loads and loads of food, all supplied by family and friends. I remember feeling immediately comforted and as the funeral stretched into the third day, more and more food came. Where I am from, food is love – a concrete, quiet way to say, “I’ve got you. I’m here with you.” It was my first funeral and I learned a whole lot about community.
Here at HPC, I have the honor of coordinating the Meal Train, a meal delivery service for those who are going through a significant life event – a family celebrating a birth, a family experiencing an unexpected death, or people caring for their sick family members. With each Meal Train, I see God’s love in the volunteers that sign up to bring a meal, time and time again without much fanfare, and I am in awe of them and am so thankful. Likewise, my eyes are opened to the importance of showing up for one another, of sharing each other’s burdens, of living in community, and of remembering how fragile life is, whether it is the beginning of a new life or the ending of another.
Holy God, just as you show up in our lives, may we have the courage to show up in the lives of others. In our sharing may we know your presence.
Written by Susan Sawning
Today’s Reading | Ephesians 3:16-19 Tuesday | March 14
I ask that he will strengthen you in your inner selves from the riches of his glory through the Spirit. I ask that Christ will live in your hearts through faith. As a result of having strong roots in love, I ask that you’ll have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, together with all believers. I ask that you’ll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God.
It’s impossible not to see God. God is everywhere and in everything; we just spend much of our time ignorant of this reality. We see but we do not perceive. Instead, our attention is focused elsewhere. We put ourselves at the center of our life, and that self gets in the way of seeing God. We become alienated beings, exiled from our own spiritual core. But this core holds a self that is much more real than any identities we wrap tightly around us.
To see God, we have to get out of our own way.
I am trying to learn how to do this through contemplative practices, like meditation. To do this is to engage in a crucifixion of the “I” in order to make more space for God. We die to ourselves so that we can be reborn in Christ. It’s kind of scary. But did you know the Latin root of “consciousness” means “knowing with”? Perhaps consciousness is a shared experience. The question becomes: shared with whom? In contemplation, we experience ourselves as being known by God, an experience that transcends knowing. We are no longer the center of our experience. God is the subject of all predicates.
God came to us as a human to teach us to find God incarnate in this world; in our neighbor and in ourselves. Matter and spirit are not separate. Christ dwells in us, and we in Christ.
Dwell in us, God, that we may dwell in you. Be present to us, God, that we may be present to you. Amen.
Written by Angie Andriot
March 15 | Wednesday Today’s Reading | 1 Kings 19:11-13
The Lord said, “Go out and stand at the mountain before the Lord. The Lord is passing by.” A very strong wind tore through the mountains and broke apart the stones before the Lord. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake. But the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there was a fire. But the Lord wasn’t in the fire. After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his coat. He went out and stood at the cave’s entrance. A voice came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”
Through my life there have been significant moments that I remember as meaningful. Graduation, the launch of my family’s (now closed) winery, ordination, my wedding day, the birth of Naomi among many others, easily stand out as significant. I recognize a feeling of being blessed quite easily in these moments. I remember them as gifts.
Most of life arrives more quietly though. I remember the joy of late nights in the library studying and writing. I could look up from my study carrel and watch the sun set over Lake Michigan. I remember working after hours with my Dad to transfer wine from tanks to barrels. I remember driving my packed car from Michigan to New Jersey to start seminary. I remember putting together invitations for the wedding day with Emma. I remember the day when a bunch of men from Highland came to my home to help move furniture so we could begin making a nursery.
Small, thin, quiet. God comes among us continually. I keep trying to cultivate an attention, a patience, to see the small ways, thin places, quiet moments as God is opening grace onto grace into life.
Tune our ears to listen, that we may know you, O God, in the silence and in the small, quiet voice, Amen.
Written by Associate Pastor Matt Nickel
Today’s Reading | Isaiah 2:2-3 Thursday | March 16
In the days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house will be the highest of the mountains. It will be lifted above the hills; peoples will stream to it. Many nations will go and say, “Come, let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain, to the house of Jacob’s God so that he may teach us his ways and we may walk in God’s paths.” Instruction will come from Zion; the Lord’s word from Jerusalem.
Years ago I was at the Douglas Loop walking along a sidewalk in front of the shops. The sidewalk was parallel to the street where cars parked but it was a little above the street. It was a time with less traffic and few cars were parked. A car pulled up and I noticed a young woman getting out of the car. I instinctively reached out to open the door for her. Then I noticed others had gotten out of the car and were standing in the street, turning their heads to talk in the area. It occurred to me it was their first visit and being African Americans I felt good that I had expressed a welcoming spirit. The lady I had helped thanked me and I smiled and walked on. Then I began asking myself “what made you reach out to greet and help someone you did not know?”
A week or so later at a Sunday School class our Associate pastor was teaching. The subject of the Holy Spirit came up. He said sometimes God speaks to us but we do not realize it until later. Then I knew why I had reached out to strangers. And I have never forgotten that experience. It taught me reaching out to others is always good to do and also to be listening for God’s spirit for guidance.
Thank you God, for teaching us your ways so we may try to walk in your paths. Amen.
Written by Betty Smith
March 17 | Friday Today’s Reading | Ephesians 2:8-10
You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.
Before we lost our huge elm tree to disease, the tree had become home to a pair of sharp shinned hawks. The first year, they were definitely new parents. Three of their four babies fell from the nest. The first one was too young to survive but the second & third were taken in by Raptor Rehabilitators of Kentucky and successfully raised & released back into the wild. The fourth baby fledged & then we watched the wonderful process of the training to catch prey.
The next two years showed great improvement in the hawks’ parenting skills & I realized that we were so privileged to be observing these refugees find a new way of life, after being forced from their countryside habitat by human development.
Welcoming human refugees is another great privilege & they, like the hawks, open our eyes to the daily miracle of life on this planet, earth.
Gracious God, may our faith be our eyes as we listen for your word. Amen.
Written by Helen Jones
Today’s Reading | Psalm 46:10 Saturday | March 18
“That’s enough! Now know that I am God! I am exalted among all nations; I am exalted throughout the world!”
There have been six peak times in my life when I have been still and experienced God. They happened in a dream, in the woods, in a prayer room at college, in a large clothes closet, in the balcony of the chapel in a church and in the shower! When I was in the seventh grade I dreamed the Holy Spirit came to me and asked me to devote my life to Christ. I said, “No.” I didn’t want that responsibility or such a commitment. I was afraid I would never be asked again.
Later as a teen counselor at a Girl Scout camp, in the “cathedral of the woods,” I felt God’s presence deeply; again, praying by myself in the small prayer chapel during college. The most intense was when I was a young mother of two, having put both little ones in pre-school, wondering what my role was now and whether God was real. I stopped talking to God and listened and in the silence, experienced brilliant light and sensed the word, “Truth.” That light happened several times during worship at the church I attended with my family. The final one was as I washed my hair in the shower wondering what God wanted me to do now that my children were in elementary school. The answer was, “Go to seminary.” I did and I’m glad I listened and got a second chance.
Dear Luminous One, as we pray to you, pouring out our list of wants and concerns, help us to stop and take time to listen to you, to have a dialog rather than a monologue; in Christ, Amen.
Written by Lynn March
March 19 | Sunday Today’s Reading | Matthew 9:29-30
Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, “It will happen for you just as you have believed.” Their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly warned them, “Make sure nobody knows about this.”
When has your heart opened to a deeper clarity about life and faith?
Is there a place in your life where you can sense God’s presence?
What are some of the more ordinary times in life where you trust that God is present?
Touch our eyes that we might see your presence in ordinary as well as complex times. Amen.