Daily Prayer :: Water

Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

December 2, 2021– The Best I Can Do

Today’s Bible reading

“Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
I am not listening.

Your hands are full of blood!” — from Isaiah 1

More thoughts for meditation

Me: God, why do you have to be like that?

God: …

Me: …

God: …

Me: We worked really hard on those festivals. They were for you.

God: Your life together is not a kindergarten craft project. I made it clear what I wanted from you, and you gave me this?! Don’t tell me that was for me.

Me: …

God: …

Me: But, but, it was for you. We made it.

God: And I made you. Is unmaking you the only thing I can do?

Me: This is the best we can do, take it, please.

God: No.

Could God be so cold as this? That depends, is Isaiah just overreacting? The prophets did not withhold their harsh criticism and they were widely received as ones who spoke the very words of God. The people who heard Isaiah’s prophecy did not wonder whether God was serious or not. They repented and changed; or ignored the prophets, persisting in their disobedience and reaping their just rewards. 

God does not save us from ourselves if we refuse to change. God invites us into a new way of life. God’s ways are not our ways and that is the point. Our ways inevitably cover our hands in blood. God does not test our capacity to conform to arbitrary standards. God crafts a new way of living — a communal understanding of our destiny, a reason to share from the abundance of creation, and a love that binds us all together in the shared trust of a shared parent.

Suggestions for Action

Consider the alternatives to your faithfulness. How often do you forget who you are and do things you would never do? Here’s another chance to repent. Choose God’s way again today, right now. A very reliable way to not be bogged down in your turning back is to confess out loud to a trusted Christian friend.

Bonus: Learn more about Isaiah with the Bible Project Chapters 1-39, Chapters 40-66

December 1, 2021 — DOES God make everything better, though?

Today’s Bible reading

“I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.” — from Lamentations 3 (Traditionally written by Jeremiah)

More thoughts for meditation

Me: Jeremiah, you should probably forget all that negativity.

Jeremiah: What’s that now?

Me: The affliction, wandering, bitterness, gall. Just let it go.

Jeremiah: How could I do that?

Me: You just said how. The Lord’s great love, compassion that never fails, gotta stay positive.

Jeremiah: I don’t understand.

Me: God makes everything better.

Jeremiah: Oh really?

Advent gives us the opportunity to hold impossible tension. The almighty Creator was born as all humans are born, with soft bones capable of passing through a pelvis — vulnerable, unaware, reliant on his mother. Jesus was born into a world dark with dangers and a life threatened from the very start. Salvation’s light came into the darkness and immediately fled. The affliction, wandering, bitterness and gall belong right next to the Lord’s great love. Throughout the history of his people, and certainly in the circumstances of his own birth, Jesus shows that that impossible tension cannot be dispersed with any power of positive thinking or other technique, nor ought it to be erased at all. It is the pattern of creation, the pattern of God’s faithfulness to Israel, and the pattern of our living, dying and rising savior. 

Suggestions for Action

Hold some tension in your body. You are always doing this, but it might be nice to do it on purpose for once. In one hand grip tightly in your fist some grief you currently bear. You could write it down on a piece of paper and close your fist around it or just do so symbolically. What bitterness is at the surface? In the other hand grip your fist tightly around some joy you now know — some bit of gratitude, conscious elation, hope in goodness. Be specific with both and hold the tension long enough to want to let go, but then hold it a little longer. Grip long enough to feel your gripping muscles strain in your forearms, then hold it a little longer, and then let go. Perhaps the physical sensation will help you pray and reflect as you endure the impossible and hope for a baby savior.

Bonus: Learn more about Lamentations with the Bible Project

November 30, 2021 — So what?

Today’s Bible reading

Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you,
just as you say he is.
Hate evil, love good;
maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy
on the remnant of Joseph. — from Amos 5

More thoughts for meditation

Me: Amos, are you implying that God is not with us as we say God is?

Amos: Sure doesn’t look like it.

Me: But God is our God. We love God.

Amos: God’s son said if you love him you will keep his commandments.

Me: God’s love is unconditional.

Amos: So what?

Me: So God loves us no matter what.

Amos: And?

Me: And that’s it.

Amos: …


Amos: …

Me: That’s not it?

Perhaps? It certainly feels like that sometimes. Unconditional love is, by its essence, unfathomable. It goes on forever so it can’t be measured, and, as a result, can’t be very well understood. Cognitively or experientially, the infinite love of God doesn’t make that much sense. We don’t think love into our lives, we don’t perform love into our lives — we can love love into our lives. Doing love is the way of knowing love, and knowing Him-Who-Is-Love, who very truly has come and made his dwelling among us.

Suggestions for Action

Amos had a few very practical ideas for how we could be faithful to God. He, more than any other prophet, called us to address the injustices in our communities. There are many ways to do this. Don’t think about it too long before you resolve to do something you know to do today. How can you love your neighbor by addressing some injustice today. There is likely something you have done before that you could do again. There is likely a project with which you are connected (like one of our Compassion Teams) with which you can check in. Go to the website and put an event on your calendar. Go to the last email thread and spin up the dialogue again. Follow through on an assignment you already have. Or discover a new way to love and serve, and then do it. The doing is key.

Remember Mother Jones today at our sister blog, Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body

November 29, 2021 — Why so mad?

Today’s Bible reading

“I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.” — from Habakkuk 3

More thoughts for meditation

Me: Habakkuk, Are you angry?

Habakkuk: Hell yes!

Me: You should probably tone it down a little. Your anger is scary and it doesn’t sound very Christian.

Habakkuk: Excuse me?

Me: … Um, well, I know you’re in the Bible and all, but I don’t think you should be so angry. God loves those people invading you too.

Habakkuk: That’s what you’re going to do to me? Do you hear me talking about decay in my bones and my trembling legs? This is some scary stuff, here. What do you do when you’re feeling like that? Say nothing?

Me: …

Habakkuk: …

Me: Um … yeah. I usually say nothing.

Your anger is allowed. God’s anger is ever present in the thousands of lines of poetry we call the books of the prophets. The prophets are not ashamed of their own feelings. Let the bones that have been crushed, rejoice! (Psalm 51) Number your calamities, cast upon high your cares, cry out, make your complaint clear —  these are essential elements of authentically saying your prayers. 

Suggestions for Action

Don’t say nothing. Don’t make what others say nothing. Connect with someone in your pain or their pain. Check in on someone you know to be suffering. Weather their anger and other emotions which might be more comfortable if denied. Endure your own. Involving someone else today would go a long way in allowing God to be very actually with you, and not relegated to some compartment in your brain, or, even worse, a building that you visit religiously. Be real with someone today so God can be real to you.

Bonus: Learn more about the book of Habakkuk with the Bible Project

Today we remember Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and long obedient rabble rouser. Learn more at Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body.

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