Pray with me.

Hi. I am an imperfect blogger. But that’s ok. I wrote this post on Tuesday and then was interrupted before I could proof-read and publish it. So, whenever it says today, think Tuesday. Sorry about that!

The new academic year is in full swing and whether you are a student or not, this time of year is perfect for fresh starts and new habits. I am starting a new bible study and daily prayer habit today and I want to invite you to join me in diving deeper into scripture and developing or continuing reading the bible every day.

The study I’m using goes through John 1, 2, and 3 and is published by a website called She Reads Truth. She Reads Truth is an amazing ministry and resource that I have been following for a long time. They publish daily scripture verses and reflections that walk their readers through specific books of the bible or topics. I have done studies of theirs on the books of Ruth, Nehemiah, and Acts, Lent, Advent, and Hymns. Their wisdom, consistency, and boldness have changed my prayer life and experience of scripture. I encourage you to check out their website and see all they have to offer. They are even publishing a book soon and I am so excited to read it. Check them out at SheReadsTruth.com. (They also have a partner ministry called He Reads Truth, so if you are a man, check it out, or if you are a woman, send it to a man in your life.)

The study that I’m doing is titled: John 1, 2, and 3: A Love that Drives out Fear. I am really excited to dive in and grow in my conviction about Christ’s love for me. The study has a few scripture verses and a reflection to read each day. I started reading the first day this morning, so I’m already a day behind (the study started yesterday, on Monday), but they give a grace day on Sunday so that you can catch up if you get behind. There are two ways to read the study: on the SRT app or blog. I use the app because it checks off the days you have already read and it is a convenient place to keep all of the SRT studies I’ve done in one place. Most of the reading plans cost two or three dollars for two or three weeks of daily scripture selections and reflections. It’s not a bad deal in my mind and I want to keep supporting the ministry so that they are able to keep doing it.

So, before I send you off to go read the first day of the study, let me leave you with a few quotes I found convincing as I read today:

John begins by assuring us that his Gospel account (the book of John) is true. Then, he invites us down a path of holy concern to examine whether the message of the gospel has actually changed our lives.

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The Christian life—the life of salvation through the gospel of Christ Jesus—is a life that will constantly battle the darkness until Perfection comes.

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Lord, afflict us with your Truth, that we may be comforted. Shine light in our dark places. Let us never stop pursuing holiness.

Now, go read it yourself. Here’s the link again: http://shereadstruth.com/2016/09/26/light-and-darkness/

And, if you are a man: http://hereadstruth.com/plan/1-2-and-3-john/

I’m so excited to see who’s going to join me. Comment below if you’re going to read a long. I’d love to know who’s praying along with me!

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He Sends Us Out

Last time I wrote about my reflection as I read the story of Christ meeting Mary Magdalene and the other Mary on their way from the tomb. Christ had come to meet them as they left the tomb—he didn’t send them on a hunt to find him and he didn’t first appear to a large group of people. He came personally and immediately to these faithful women.

The story continues on, though. He did not stay with them, celebrating. He sent them on. And, after seeing the empty tomb, and even more after seeing Jesus face-to-face, they were able to shout, “He is risen! We have seen Him!” They had the important job of telling those who knew Him where they could see Him. They all hurried to the mountain to see and hear their Messiah.

And there, on that mountain, He meets His disciples:

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28: 16-20)

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What is amazing to me in this verse is that He didn’t wait until they trusted Him again, and He didn’t wait until they all believed (for some still doubted), but He told them right there and then to go out and make disciples. I hear him saying, “Even in your doubt, fear, or imperfections, go, make disciples, bring people close to me, and live in the way I have shown you” (my paraphrase.)

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Jesus doesn’t want me to wait until I have it all together to tell others about him. He wants me to go now, even with all the things that could hold me back, and tell people about Him. So, even on the days where I don’t feel qualified or prepared or trained to do mission work I am still called to go out, get coffee with one of the college women that I work with and share the ways Christ has worked in my life. And this call isn’t just limited to full-time missionaries like me. We are all called to step out of our comfort zone, take a deep breath, amidst the doubt or fear and make disciples—this could mean inviting a coworker to your church, buying a meal for a sick friend and showing them Christ’s love, or explaining to a family member why you are still celebrating Easter weeks after Easter Sunday.

And even in this challenge, this send-off, He gives us everything we could ever need: “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

In this short verse, I hear him saying to me, “I am your protector and comforter, I will always be there guiding you, protecting you, and loving you. Do not fear, do not worry, and do not be anxious, for I am there at all times. Pray always and you will know that I am near“(my paraphrase.)

Easter Monday

I woke up on Easter Monday. It was a special gift to sleep in and have the day off on a Monday. Having worked in and gone to public schools my whole life, I had never had the Monday after Easter off before. But now, working at a Catholic school, I am blessed with a day to celebrate, rest, and rejoice in Jesus’ resurrection.

I got out of bed, put a kettle of water on the stove and prepared a cup of tea. Warming my hands around a mug of black tea, I opened my bible to the Gospel for the day and read, “So Mary Magdalene and the other Mary departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Hail!’ And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee and there they will see me.’” Matthew 8-10

As I sat there, curled in my chair, reading this familiar verse, I thought about what it would have been like to be there that day. If I were one of them, I would have approached the tomb that morning with apprehension, expectation, and questioning. Could He really do what He said He would? Is He going to come back on the third day like he told us?

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But there these two women were: they had come to the tomb, found it empty and now were leaving the tomb with both fear and great joy. They knew he had come back and they had to share the news. They were leaving to tell the other disciples and were excited to bring the good news.

They didn’t expect to see Him so soon, but He couldn’t wait. And He didn’t make them wait to see Him again. He didn’t come back, hide Himself, and then send His disciples on a hunt to find Him. He could not wait to meet them. He met them on the road as they left the tomb. They did not have to look for Him—He came seeking them. And He met them, individually and personally on the road. He didn’t make his first appearance to a big crowd saying, “I told you so.” He came in a small way, a personal way, a quiet way, a powerful way. He came to these two women to confirm their hope and quiet their fears. He came to them saying, “Do not be afraid.”

He came on the road, on their way from the tomb to these women to show them who He is and at the same time he saw deeply who they were.

Sometimes (ok, more than just sometimes) I think that I have to search for Christ, to run around hunting Him down, thinking that he has hidden himself and it is up to me to find him. But, he is here, looking for me. He is ready to meet me as I walk away from the tomb—unsure, fearful, but full of joy. He comes to meet me in a personal powerful way. I don’t have to search; I don’t have to wait; He comes to me.

The First Week of Advent

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It’s hard to believe that Advent is here already, but this past Sunday was the first Sunday of this season of preparation. Even the weather has been tricking me into thinking that it isn’t that late in the year. Up until last week, it has been sunny and 60 degrees in New Jersey and that makes it hard to believe that it is almost the holiday season.

Advent, the season of preparing for Christ’s birth, is a season that is overlooked by most of our world. We are so excited to celebrate Christmas (whether religiously or secularly) that we skip straight to the holiday. Even in November, stores are decorating their windows, people are putting up Christmas trees, and Christmas music is playing on the radio. Don’t get me wrong, I love all these things, and the last thing I want to do is to be a scrooge about Christmas. The desire to celebrate the holiday that marks Christ’s birth is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a great thing. The problem is that in our excitement about Christmas, we skip over Advent and the period of waiting where we prepare for the Christ Child to enter this world.

The Catholic Church sees Advent as an important season of preparation and waiting: “The coming of God’s Son to earth is an event of such immensity that God willed to prepare for it over centuries.When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 522a,524a). This season not only prepares us to celebrate the feast of Christ’s historical birth, but also his presence in our world today and his second coming in the future. It is a season that prepares us for Him in the past, present, and future.

Prior to Christ’s birth, the world waited thousands of years for His coming. After his birth, the world has waited thousands of years for Him to come again. We only have to wait four weeks to celebrate his coming, and yet we still want to skip straight to His birth. I am challenging myself this year to enter into the season of Advent as an important time of preparation and waiting. I don’t like waiting, but the Lord builds it into our lives for a reason. Waiting stretches us and prepares us for the good things that are coming

Advent started this past Sunday. As it begins, I want to share some ways to enter into the season. Some of these I have done myself and some I have seen others do.

Scripture

Advent is a perfect season to dive into scripture. There are so many parts of scripture that talk about waiting, especially about waiting for Christ. There are a lot of good books and resources out there to guide you through reading scripture. This year, I am doing a bible study through an app and website called She Reads Truth. They have done several Advent scripture studies (which are available on their app or website) and this year’s study (called Advent: Born Is The King) is specifically about how people in the Old Testament waited for Christ. I highly recommend any of their studies and Advent is the perfect season to commit to reading more scripture. Also, their is a very similar site, called He Reads Truth, with the same Advent study.

Another way to read scripture is to read the Catholic Church’s daily readings. You can find this readings on the USCCB website. I like to read the daily readings with a reflection, and I love the blog Blessed is She. I also used the book In Conversation with God last Advent and it has wonderful and thought-provoking reflections.

From shereadstruth.org.

From shereadstruth.org.

Prayer

Advent is a great season for extra prayer. Not only should we prepare our homes and lives for the Lord, we also need to prepare our hearts for his coming. One great resource for this is the Liturgy of the Hours. The Liturgy of the Hours is a set of prayers that are said each morning, day, evening, and night by Priests and Religious all over the world. These prayers include psalms and readings for each day and time of day. You can buy a book with all the prayers, or you can use this site to read them. If you’d like to read more about these prayers, here is a more in-depth explanation.

Another good book for prayer is Jesus Calling. It is a book with daily reflections for the whole year, but it would be a perfect resource for prayer during the Advent season too. In fact, you can download the reflections for all the days of advent from the publisher’s website here. You have to submit your email address, but once you do that, you will be sent a link where you can download the Advent days of Jesus Calling.

Decoration

I love Christmas decorating. It is one of my favorite times of the year when the boxes come out of the basement and the house becomes festive with lights, greenery, and ornaments. But, sometimes we decorate for Christmas before we event think about Advent. Try decorating for Advent this year, before you get carried away for Christmas. Use the colors purple, navy blue, and rose to remind yourself that you are still in a time of waiting. Advent wreaths are also great reminders of the season of waiting. In fact, they are the perfect decoration for waiting because you have to slowly light the candles, one each week, until all four candles are lit. Advent wreaths are easy to make, all you need is four candles. You can add branches, a wreath or other decorations, but don’t worry about making it fancy. Another Advent-specific decoration is the Jesse Tree. I’ve never made one of these myself, but I think they are a great way to reflect on biblical history while waiting for our Savior. Each day, you add one ornament that is a symbol of a story or event in the Old Testament. All of these stories relate to the coming of Christ and remind us that the world waited for Christ just as we are waiting to celebrate Christmas.

So, in this first week of Advent take a moment to reflect. Are you celebrating Christmas or Advent now? How can you embrace this season of waiting and preparation? How can you prepare your heart for the coming of our savior?

God Bless!

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

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22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said,“why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14:22-33

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I started my first week of teaching middle school this week. So many things are changing in life right now. Part of me wants to retreat to the safe harbor of stability that I have left behind, but a deeper part of me seeks the Lords stability and steadfastness. Without walking into the ocean, we can never know the true depth of the Lord’s love for us. I often struggle with accepting that the Lord is calling me deeper into knowing him by bringing big changes into my life. I can choose to embrace the ways that the Lord is calling me out of my boat and into the waves.

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This prayer is especially on my heart this week: 

Lord, 

Lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior.

 

 

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown, where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep, my faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours, and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed, and You won’t start now

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

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He loves you

We are blessed to be loved by an incredible God.

“Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” John 12:3

In today’s gospel, we hear the story of Mary Magdalene pouring out a costly ointment to anoint the feet of Christ. Not only does this story remind me of the way that Christ asks us to love him, but it also reminds me of the way he loves us. God loves us totally and completely, without calculation of the cost. There is nothing that can keep him from loving us. If you haven’t watched this video before (or even if you have) stop and watch it now:

He loves you because he loves you because he loves you because that is what he is like. 

As we enter into holy week, this is the perfect time to reflect on Jesus’ love for us. This week recounts for us the greatest love story that has ever existed. This week is the story of a God who loved us so much that he sacrificed his divinity to come and suffer on earth for our salvation. It doesn’t get any loving than that. We, as humans, aren’t even capable of that kind of love. We can sacrifice our lives, but we can’t give up our divinity for anyone else.

His love comes to set you free. 

This post was inspired by the words and video from a previous post, so if you haven’t read it, you should:

https://thayesblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/incomprehensible/

Praise of God the Creator

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All of these look to you

to give them food in due time.

When you give it to them, they gather;

when you open your hand, they are well filled.

When you hide your face, they panic.

Take away their breath, they perish

and return to the dust.

Send forth your spirit, they are created

and you renew the face of the earth.

May the glory of the LORD endure forever;

may the LORD be glad in his works!

Who looks at the earth and it trembles,

touches the mountains and they smoke!

I will sing to the LORD all my life;

I will sing praise to my God while I live.

May my meditation be pleasing to him;

I will rejoice in the LORD.

May sinners vanish from the earth,

and the wicked be no more.

Bless the LORD, my soul! Hallelujah!

Psalm 104.27-35