July 21, 2014

Love Prevails

By Peter Velander |
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The Upper Room Disciplines is a best-selling book of daily devotions published annually by Upper Room Books. Each week’s readings are reflections on scripture passages from the lectionary for that period. On Mondays the first reading for the week will be posted. We’d love to hear what you think about the week’s readings and prayers. Just sign in and add your comment in the Comments section following this post.

 

Read Genesis 29:15-28

As often happens, the story of God’s people reads more like a soap opera than holy history. It is fitting that we begin our week together witnessing some of the best and worst of human behavior because God meets us in these and all circumstances.

How can we not admire Jacob’s devoted love for Rachel—a love that works hard and waits patiently for seven years to be together with his beloved? We all desire that kind of devotion from another human being.

We also recognize the scheming of someone like Laban. Many people take advantage of others’ best intentions. Whether Laban’s trickery is born out of compassion for his older daughter or of simple greed, he uses Jacob’s love for Rachel to create an opportunity for himself.

And how do we explain the oddest part of the story? Veil or no veil, it seems Jacob should have recognized the woman he has desired for so many years. Perhaps a little overindulgence at the celebration left Jacob vulnerable to Laban’s scheme.

Jacob’s love prevails but not with a happy ending. The years that follow bring growing animosity between Rachel and Leah, which fills their home with conflict, struggle for acceptance, and competition for attention.

Humans, with their mixed motives, make for messy love. Relationships with people we believe we can trust sometimes turn sour. Perhaps you can recall moments in your life that have been tainted by jealousy, deceit, or broken dreams.

It is in this messy world that God meets us. When we are untrustworthy, God is true. When we are impatient, God is long-suffering. When we experience disappointment, God brings hope. When human love fails, God’s love prevails.

Redeeming God, my ability to love is imperfect. Fill me with your Spirit that I may grow closer to your example of perfect love. Amen.

 

Peter Velander is executive director for strategic initiatives at Upper Room Ministries. He is a member of Trinity Lutheran Church, Bellevue, Tennessee.

 
July 17, 2014

What Is That in Your Hand?

By Trevor Hudson |
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A Christian legend relates the thought that God sends each person into the world with a special message to deliver, with a special song to sing for others, with a special act of love to bestow. No one else can bring our message, sing our song, or offer our love. Only we can. This legend reminds us that each of us has something of value to offer to the life of our world – something that can make this world a much better place.

* * *

So what’s that in your hand? Answering God’s question could open up an exciting journey for you. Think about it for a moment. God wants to use whatever resources are already in your hand to bring hope and healing to a hurting world – just as God used Moses’ resources 3,200 years ago. But first you need a willingness to converse with God around this question. Are you ready?

Begin by being honest with God about some of the excuses you make when you sense God is calling you to make the world a better place. Getting real about your resistances often clears the way for a deeper engagement with God. Once you have done this, imagine God whispering to you, “As I promised to be with Moses, so I promise to be with you. My presence and power will always be available to you. No difficult experience can separate you from me. And whatever you bring in your hands, I will use.”

With the assurance of God’s promise echoing in your heart and mind, speak with God about what you bring in your hands. Name your abilities; give thanks for them; offer them to God. Reflect on the richness of your life experience. Tell God about the pain you have gone through. You could find hidden there the seeds of the important things that God has for you to do. Above all, share with God your feelings of inadequacy, because this will be the area where you most experience God’s power as you step out to follow God’s calling.

Let me remind you one last time that God has something beautiful for you to do in this world, just like the legend suggested. Sharing that message, singing that song, and offering that act of love will bring tremendous fulfillment. It will also enrich the lives of others. May answering God’s question help you know that you already possess whatever you need to make this legend come true.

Questions for reflection:

  1. What is your favorite excuse to avoid the challenges of trying to make the world a better place?
  2. Name one ability that others value and appreciate in your life.
  3. Describe one resource that you bring to others because of your unique life experience.
  4. How would you like to have God use you to make a creative difference in our world?

 

This article is an excerpt from pages 37, 45-47 of Questions God Asks Us by Trevor Hudson. Copyright © 2008 by Trevor Hudson. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books.

Trevor Hudson is a Methodist minister, pastoral therapist, and sought-after speaker. He is part of the pastoral team at Northfield Methodist Church in Benoni, South Africa. A gifted teacher, Hudson encourages people through stories from his own spiritual journey.
 
July 14, 2014

Our Father

By Danny Wright |
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Danny Wright
The Upper Room Disciplines is a best-selling book of daily devotions published annually by Upper Room Books. Each week’s readings are reflections on scripture passages from the lectionary for that period. On Mondays the first reading for the week will be posted. We’d love to hear what you think about the week’s readings and prayers. Just sign in and add your comment in the Comments section following this post.

 

Read Genesis 28:10-19a

Most of us have stretched the family rules to play our “cards” in our own favor. We tend to revert to our own best interests and try to make everything turn out as we desire. When we get caught, we may have to shuffle out of sight to avoid the fallout. The heavy heart weighs more with each step.

Jacob is putting the miles between himself and the heartache and havoc he has spun. He searches for a place to put the loathsome journey on pause and try to escape to anywhere but here and now. When he finally stumbles upon that “certain spot,” he sprawls out on the ground and grabs a rock for a pillow. As he drifts off to sleep, the craziest thing happens. He dreams of a ladder with angels ascending and descending while God stands and stares at the weary traveler. The same God that Jacob had referenced as “your God” when talking to his father, Isaac, now promises divine presence to the deceiver and guarantees a future beyond his wildest dreams and any of his best deserving.

Grace is like that. It always comes to us when we least expect it and where we never would have found it for ourselves. Grace is more than a dream. It is a gift and a reality infused into our existence. Our God is the giver of every good gift and does not need a GPS to find us when we are on the run. Jacob didn’t have a pillow, but I sure am glad he packed that oil.

God, may we forget our pillows, carry the oil, and be ever ready to sleep long enough for you to wake us in your grace. Amen.

 

Danny Wright is married to Melissa, and they have two daughters and live on the near east side of Indianapolis. He is a founding member of the Moria Project, an intentional Christian community, and is associate minister at New Paradigm Christian Church. He also serves as a chaplain for three Midas stores.
 
July 10, 2014

Struggling to Forgive

By Mary Lou Redding |
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Jesus, you gave us some commandments that are really tough to obey.

I’m struggling with not offering a gift at the altar if you remember that a brother or sister has something against you.

You said we should first be reconciled to our brother or sister, and then come and offer our gift.*

Lord, I’ve been angry with ________ for a long time.

I’m still not sure I’ve totally forgiven.

How do we reconcile? It’s been so long. What can I do?

Maybe this is just the way things are . . . and may remain.

God, please forgive me for the times I’ve failed to forgive others.

Have mercy on me for not even recognizing when I’ve wronged someone.

And please help me to continue to love, even from afar, until healing comes to both of us. Amen.

 

*”So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” –Matthew 5:23-24, NRSV

 

This article is an excerpt from page 22 of Prayers for Life’s Ordinary and Extraordinary Moments, compiled and edited by Mary Lou Redding. Copyright © 2012 by Upper Room Books. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books.

 
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