“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?”

‭‭Galatians‬ ‭3:1-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬


God is the means of blessing, the modern Judaizers say. Implied, but never stated, is that God Himself is not the blessing we seek. It’s therefore right, and actually His plan, that we use Him to get a better life. But “using God” sounds harsh, manipulative, so modern Judaizers speak of trusting God for good things, of claiming His promises, of meeting His terms to win the blessings we want. 

-Larry Crabb, The Pressure’s Off (Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press, 2002), 57. 

Modern Judaizers

What Would God Shout at You from a Cloud?

In the Gospel of Matthew, there are two instances where a cloud appears over Jesus and God shouts two brief, identical messages. I have often wondered what God would shout at me in a similar situation.
Honestly, I tend to think God would shout negative things at me. I imagine God telling me to stop doing something or to do more of something. In either case, the message would focus on the ways I’m falling short and have been inadequate.
I have struggled to imagine a loving and merciful God. It’s much easier to imagine a God who is either disappointed or really, really angry.
Bringing up this disappointed/angry image of God with people tends to strike a nerve.
What would God shout at you?   
Read the rest of this article at https://edcyzewski.com/2017/06/20/what-would-god-shout-to-you-from-a-cloud/

Imagine sitting down to write and your mind is completely at rest. Your thoughts are focused, your body is prepared but relaxed, and you have a reassuring confidence that the project you’re about to begin aligns with God’s calling on your life and the unique gifts and talents you’ve been given. Imagine what a rested, peaceful, focused mind is like as you begin writing. 

Such a scenario was a far cry from my experience as a writer over the years. Only until I started to pay attention to my body and my mind did I even begin to make some positive changes in order to inch myself closer to that ideal of writing from a place of peace, rest, and prayerful focus. It’s my conviction that prayer and writing both come from a similar practice: attentiveness. If we have spent our days, weeks, months, and years attentive to the wrong things, then meaningful prayer and writing will be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

-Cyzewski, Ed. The Contemplative Writer. Ed Cyzewski, 2016. Kindle Edition.

The Contemplative Writer

A water-bearer in India had two large pots, both hung on the ends of a pole, which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot always arrived half full.
The poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water-bearer one day by the stream:
‘I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologise to you. I have been able to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts.’
The bearer said to the pot, ‘Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.’
Thankfully, God uses cracked pots! You do not need to be perfect for God to use you. We want our lives to count for something. If you want to be useful to God, here are twelve keys:

<a href=”https://www.bibleinoneyear.org/bioy/commentary/2531/en”>https://www.bibleinoneyear.org/bioy/commentary/2531/en</a&gt;

Cracked Pots

The Vespers Office
To Be Observed on the Hour or Half Hour Between 5 and 8 p.m


The Call to Prayer

Let everything that has breath* praise the LORD. Hallelujah!

Psalm 150:6

The Request for Presence

O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you;* my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a barren and dry land where there is no water. Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place,* that I might behold your power and your glory.

Psalm 63:1-2

The Greeting

Your loving-kindness is better than life itself;* my lips shall give you praise. So will I bless you as long as I live* and lift up my hands in your Name.

Psalm 63:3-4

The Hymn God of Light

Holy Spirit, God of light, Fill us with your radiance bright; Gentle father of the poor, Make us, by your help secure; Come, your boundless grace impart, Bring your love to every heart. Lord of consolation, come, Warm us when our hearts are numb; Great consoler, come and heal, To our souls your strength reveal; Cool, refreshing comfort pour, And our peace of mind restore. Give to every faithful soul Gifts of grace to make us whole; Help us when we come to die, So that we may live on high; Ever let your love descend, Give us joys that never end.

Stephen Langton

The Refrain for the Vespers Lessons

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?* the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1

The Vespers Psalm With the Faithful, You Show Yourself Faithful, O LORD

With the faithful you show yourself faithful, O God;* with the forthright you show yourself forthright. With the pure you show yourself pure,* but with the crooked you are wily. You will save a lowly people,* but you will humble the haughty eyes. You, O LORD, are my lamp;* my God, you make my darkness bright. With you I will break down an enclosure;* with the help of my God I will scale any wall. As for God, his ways are perfect; the words of the LORD are tried in the fire;* he is a shield to all who trust in him.

Psalm 18:26-31

The Refrain

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?* the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?

The Cry of the Church

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me. O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me. O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your Name. May your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

The Prayer Appointed for the Week

I thank you, heavenly Father, that you have delivered me from the dominion of sin and death and brought me into the kingdom of your Son; and I pray that, as by his death he has recalled me to life, so by his love he may raise me to eternal joys; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Concluding Prayer of the Church

Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that I, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of public worship, and grant as well that my Sabbath upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

-vineyard church of ann arbor presents: The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle


The Divine Hours

A Reading

Jesus taught us, saying: “Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Matthew 10:29-31

The Refrain

And they will say, “Surely, there is a reward for the righteous;* surely, there is a God who rules in the earth.”

Psalm 58:11

The Morning Psalm

If You Would but Listen

You called on me in trouble, and I saved you;* I answered you from the secret place of thunder and tested you at the waters of Meribah. 

Hear, O my people, and I will admonish you:* O Israel, if you would but listen to me!

There shall be no strange god among you;* you shall not worship a foreign god.

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and said,* “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”

Psalm 81:7-10 

(Tickle, 2001)

The Morning Office

James B. Torrance notes that probably the most common view of worship is that it is something “we, religious people, do—mainly in church on Sunday. We go to church, we sing our psalms and hymns to God, we intercede for the world, we listen to the sermon . . . we offer our money, time and talents to God. No doubt we need God’s grace to help us do it. We do it because Jesus taught us to do it and left us an example of how to do it. But worship is what we do before God.” Torrance’s questioning of this view might catch us off guard. Isn’t worship all those things we do together when we gather before God—pray, sing, preach, and so on? If this is not worship, then what is it?

Yet Torrance describes the above view as unitarian rather than trinitarian because the agent of worship is the self. The emphasis falls on our decision, our faith, and our response. When we become the primary agent of worship, it is difficult to resist the belief that worship is primarily about us: our feelings, our experiences, even our gifts and talents. It is then difficult to resist the idea that wherever we feel closest to God is where we ought to worship. If I feel the grandeur of God on a mountaintop, then why do I need to sit in some stuffy church sanctuary? Or why do I really need to gather with other people to worship? This view leads to the idea that the church might be valuable but it is not necessary. It may be an important source of support, but it is secondary to the individual and his or her relation with God. Such an understanding, however, is deeply flawed (Newman, 2007).


Posted in scripture, Spiritual practices

“I will never forget you.”

Isaiah 49The Voice (VOICE)

True peace begins with knowing God. Those who listen and live by His teachings find that wholeness and goodness flood into their lives. The wicked, however, face a different reality; they live with constant danger and problems.

49 Listen to this, everyone—near and far:

    The Eternal One singled me out, even before I was born.

He called me and named me when I was still in my mother’s belly.

2 Even then, God was preparing my mouth to speak like a sharp sword.

    He kept my purpose quiet, kept me safe in the shadow of His hand,

He crafted me into a sharp-tipped arrow and tucked me away in His quiver;

3 God said to me, “You are My servant, Israel.

    Through you, I will be glorified.”

4 I said, “I’ve worked hard for nothing.

    I spent my strength, and what have I accomplished—nothing,

Yet my justice and reward are secure with my God, the Eternal One.”

5 And now the Eternal who watched, shaped, and made me His own servant

    from the womb has determined to restore Jacob’s family;

Israel will be made right with the Eternal again.

    For God has counted me worthy and He has been my strength right along.

6 Eternal One: As My servant you will do even more than this,

        even more than restoring Jacob’s family to Me

    And making Israel right with Me again.

        I will make you a light for the nations,

    And You will illumine them until My salvation reaches to the ends of the earth.

7 This is what the Eternal One, the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel,

    told to the one who is despised and loathed by the nation,

To the servant of national leaders.

Eternal One: At the sight of you, kings will rise and princes will bow down,

        for I, the Eternal, faithful and true, the Holy One of Israel, have chosen you.

The Eternal has this to say:
8 Eternal One: When the time was right, I answered you;

        on the day you were delivered, I was your help.

    I will watch over you, and give you

        as a promise, a binding covenant to the people.

    Through you, My gift to the people, the land of promise will recover.

        Ancestral ground, once deserted, will be entrusted to them.

9 Through you, My gift to the people, I will declare to the prisoners,

        “Come out. Now you are free”;

    To those who are held in darkness, “Come out into the light.”

        They will find sustenance wherever they are—

    Along the roads or in the open hills—

        with peace of mind, in comfort and security.

10 Wherever they are, they will be fine, never hungry nor thirsty.

        They will be protected from oppressive heat and the burning sun

    Because the One who loves them—as a mother loves her child—will be their guide.

        God will lead them to restful places, rejuvenating springs of water.

11 I will make their going easy, level the mountain road

        and smooth the path that leads them home.

12 Look! Even now, they are coming from lands far away,

        some from the north, others from the west, these from the land of Sinim.

13 Oh joy! Be glad—sky! Take joy—earth! Burst into song—mountains!

    For the Eternal, moved to compassion, has comforted and consoled His people.

There are many kinds of love—and not enough words to tell the differences. Hebrew has a word for “love” that is related to its word for a woman’s womb. English has no such word. It is too bad, for it is difficult to describe womb-love, the bearing-and-birthing love of a mother, the kind of love that the Lord has for the people of God’s promise, Jacob’s children. God shaped this people as His own and bound them with no ordinary promise. God loves them in the same way a mother loves the child growing in her womb. It can’t be said so neatly and completely with one “love” word, but that is the idea that threads its way through this text.

14 Zion: The Eternal One has abandoned me. God has walked out the door;

        my Lord left me alone. He has forgotten all about me.

15 Eternal One: Is it possible for a mother, however disappointed,

        however hurt, to forget her nursing child?

    Can she feel nothing for the baby she carried and birthed?

        Even if she could, I, God, will never forget you.

16 Look here. I have made you a part of Me, written you on the palms of My hands.

        Your city walls are always on My mind, always My concern.

17 Now sweet Zion your children are running pell-mell back to you

    Just as fast as those who destroyed you are leaving.

18 Raise your head, lift up your eyes,

        and watch your heart’s desire come—

    All your children, gathered and returning to you. As I live, so I promise.

        You will wear them with pride all like shining ornaments;

        you will put them on as a bride on her wedding day.

19 Because of all of your destroyed land—the barren fields and abandoned farms—

        you are now too small, too cramped for all your citizens;

    And those who tried to swallow you whole will be far, far away.

20 The children you mourned, those born in exile, will return and say,

        “It is too cramped and crowded for us;

    We’re going to need more room if we are to live here.”

21 You’ll say to yourself, “Where in the world did all these people come from?

        Could these really be mine?

    I thought I’d been desolated, left empty.

        Where have you all been? Where did you come from?”

22 This is what the Lord, the Eternal, has to say:
Eternal One: I will lift My hand and signal every nation that holds your people

    And they will bring your children back again:

        boys bundled in their arms, girls riding on their shoulders.

23 Kings will tend the children of Zion, and their queens will nurse and nurture them.

        These greats will humble themselves before you.

    They will bow and lick the dust off your feet,

        and in the course of it all, you will remember that I am the Eternal.

    Whoever trusts in Me will never be put to shame.

24 Jerusalem: Can the spoil of war be taken from the mighty?

        Can the captives be freed from the hand of a tyrant?

25 Eternal One: Hard to believe, but it shall be so.

        The captives will be taken from the hand of the mighty,

    And the spoil of war will be rescued from the tyrant.

        I will liberate them from their captors and contend with your enemies.

    I will save your children.

26 I will turn your enemies’ violence back on themselves,

        and they will suffer their own atrocities:

    They will feed on their own flesh and drink their own blood like wine.

        Then every person on earth will know for certain that I, the Eternal, am your Savior.

    I am your hero, the strong One of Jacob from whom you come.

        I will rescue you, whatever the price.

The Voice (VOICE)

The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

Posted in Spiritual practices

Homeless Hospitality

“The very idea of hospitality requires not only a ‘hospice,’ a home, but also a particular kind of giving and receiving. An empty self is unable to conceive of the fact that he or she has something to give, something to offer. Such a self is also, oddly enough, unable truly to receive. As Cushman indicates, the empty self consumes in order to feed or fix the emptiness. But consuming is different from receiving. Consuming has about it an air of desperation as the consumer seeks to create a persona or satisfy a fabricated need. Genuine reception requires gratitude, the ability to see someone or something not as a product but as a gift. It therefore requires a person, and a culture, that is not interiorly empty or placeless but is capable of giving thanks. And giving thanks is a way of indicating that we are not our own creators. While it has become something of a cliché, Blanche Dubois’s ‘I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers’ captures a truth about our lives. Truly receiving gifts from others is a way of acknowledging our dependence on others, and so also a way of accepting that we are not our own creation, even if that creation feels, for all the reasons Cushman discusses, interiorly empty. 

“Instead of a fragmented and empty self, then, hospitality draws us into a richer context where we must make sense of ourselves as ‘guests’ and ‘hosts,’ acknowledge our dependence on others, and learn to live with gratitude” (Newman, 2007).