Sacred Struggle – Journeying through the Desert

desert

My parish choir sang a hymn on Ash Wednesday that described Lent as a “sacred struggle.”  What a beautiful and thought-provoking phrase.  It suggests that Lent is not a time for putting up a front of spiritual tranquility.  It’s not a time for pretending everything is rosy and perfect.

Think of Lent as a pilgrimage—a journey—and not necessarily an easy one.  It’s time to dig deep.  To walk in the desert with Jesus.

Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit out into the parched wilderness to be tempted, tested and prepared, just as the ancient Israelites wandered the desert so many years before, in preparation for their entry into the Promised Land.  We are called to make this same 40-day journey.  To be tested, prepared, and renewed.  To encounter God in new ways.  And to ultimately be transformed by the experience.

Let us approach this Lenten season as an opportunity to embrace that which is difficult.  To face temptations. To examine our personal failings. To reveal our doubts. To work through blocks and barriers to our faith.

Don’t be afraid to walk through the desert.  You are not alone in the journey.  When you encounter thirst and drought, cry out to God to quench your spirit.  Know, without a doubt, that God will answer.  “They were not thirsty when he led them through the deserts; he divided the rock, and water gushed out for them to drink.” (Isaiah 48:21)

A desert journey is not a time of punishment, but a time of strengthening.  Jesus left his time in the wilderness with a renewed and strengthened spirit to begin preaching the message that the Kingdom of Heaven was near. (Matthew 4:17)  Your time in the desert will lead you closer to that Kingdom.  To a place of deeper connection to our Divine Creator.  To a greater understanding of the gifts we receive – brought to fruition with the Resurrection of our Lord on Easter Sunday.

May your Lenten journey be blessed, as you come out of the desert with a renewed spirit. Amen.

A Sinking Heart

bleeding-hearts

There are times we move through life with our hearts on our sleeves.  Wide open to receive God’s amazing love.  Moved to listen and understand, we are part of the vast family of the children of God. We offer prayers of gratitude for belonging.  We reach out to our sisters and brothers in loving communion.

With our hearts on our sleeves… we sing, we laugh, and we love.

There are times that our hearts curl inward.  Nestled deep within our souls.  We enter into a period of searching and deep contemplation.  Our hearts are wrapped in mystery.  We long to hear God’s whisper.  We know there is something God wants to teach us and we cling to the quiet so we may uncover His truth.

With our hearts drawn in… we listen, we pray, and we learn.

And still other times our hearts just sink.  We are lost in the fragments of a broken world.  Hope eludes us and despair overwhelms us.  We cannot imagine a world in which God is present and working for good.  Our rational minds tell us that God is out there, but with plummeting hearts we cannot see Him.

With our hearts in the depths… we doubt, we cry, and we ache.

If our hearts are going to sink, let them sink into God.  Not an out-of-control free fall, but a falling in faith. This act of surrender will bring us closer to God than ever before.  We give up our pain, our flaws, and our doubts, confident that God is strong enough to bear it all.  The further we allow ourselves to fall, the higher God will lift us up.

If our hearts are going to sink… let them sink into God.

Allegory of Five Gardens (Part Five)

walled-garden

Long ago, in a land far away, there lived five sisters. The Master Gardener, who loved them all very much, gave each sister a gift – a small plot of land to plant a garden. With excitement and hope, they prepared the soil and planted seeds, giving them lots of water and sunshine until they sprouted into healthy plants. As time went on, the five sisters tended to their gardens in their own different ways.

Months later, the Master Gardener invited each sister, one at a time, to come and share with him how her garden fared. But the fifth sister did not appear. After waiting for some time, the Master Gardener went out in search of her, and found her sitting in her cottage, staring blankly at the walls.

“I come to ask about your garden,” he said. “How does it fare?”

“I have no idea. I prepared the soil and planted the seeds like you asked me to. And then I built a high stone wall around it to protect it from the rabbits and deer.”

“Tell me what grows in your garden?” the Master Gardener gently pressed.

“I really don’t know. I haven’t been in there in months. I just don’t see myself as a gardener. There are days I think about going inside, but it’s been so long now, that I don’t know what I would do in there.”

“My beloved daughter, I gave you this garden as a safe and sacred space. It is yours. All I ask is that you enter and sit awhile.”

The fifth sister did as the Master Gardener asked. She sat in her garden for a morning… and felt nothing. She returned for the next three mornings, and still nothing. On the fifth morning, she sat quietly in her garden and felt the sun warming her face. She watched a butterfly dance among the flowers. She breathed in the scent of earth and nectar and rain. She was overcome with a rush of feeling. A memory of the love she felt on the day she received this precious plot of land. Peace settled deep within. She vowed never again to wall herself off from her garden.

REFLECTION

A life of faith isn’t always easy. We wrestle with questions, doubts, and disagreements—matters that must be explored through deep prayer and examination of conscience. The process can be daunting. We witness those who claim to be Christian, yet do and say things that contradict the loving message of Jesus Christ. We see people use the name of Jesus to hurt and reject others. We don’t want to throw ourselves in with that lot. We don’t want to be anywhere near them. So we distance ourselves from the Church. It may seem easier to close ourselves off from the more challenging aspects of our faith. Avoidance is always easier.

Though our doubts may be justified, it’s our response to these doubts that can often drive a wedge between us and God’s love for us. But walling ourselves off from the love of God isn’t the answer. And the longer we do this, the more our faith becomes a remote and distant memory. Bring your questions to God. Bring your doubts, your anger, your dissonance. Trust that God loves you and will help you work through this time of uncertainty.

Just like the fifth sister, God only asks that you enter the garden and sit with Him for awhile.

Allegory of Five Gardens (Part One)

dry garden

Long ago, in a land far away, there lived five sisters. The Master Gardener, who loved them all very much, gave each sister a gift – a small plot of land to plant a garden. With excitement and hope, they prepared the soil and planted seeds, giving them lots of water and sunshine until they sprouted into healthy plants. As time went on, the five sisters tended to their gardens in their own different ways.

Months later, the Master Gardener invited each sister, one at a time, to come and share with him how her garden fared. The first sister approached with hesitant steps and slumped shoulders. She could barely look the Master Gardener in the eye.

“How does your garden fare, my child?”

“Not well, I’m ashamed to say. My garden is dry as dust. All the plants have withered and dried up and the soil is hard and cracked.”

“Do you know why?” the Master Gardener asked with gentle but questioning eyes

“Lack of water, I suppose,” she answered with a sigh.

“My dear one, you know that I have an abundant source of flowing water. You need only have asked, and I would have given you all the water you asked. Why did you never come to me?”

The sister paused before answering. “Lots of reasons, I guess. Sometimes I was just too busy. It seemed like the distance was too far to travel to get to the water. Other times I felt too unworthy to ask you for such a precious gift. After a while, I no longer remembered the water you had to offer.”

With a nod of understanding, the Master Gardener sent a steady rainfall to drench and quench her garden and bring it back to life. The plants and flowers responded immediately. The roots were strengthened, the leaves returned to a bright and vibrant shade of green. Flowers opened as the stems stretched tall to absorb the warm sunlight that followed the rain.

Tears of gratitude filled the eyes of the first sister, and she promised him she would never again forget about this precious gift that was hers for the taking.

REFLECTION:

Does your faith life ever resemble the dried up and withered garden of the first sister in this story? You’re stuck in a rut, uninspired, and unable to access the powerful connection you once felt to God – The Master Gardener. You feel more distant from God than ever before, unable to hear His whispers or feel His presence. Your faith life feels lifeless.

You are not alone. We all go through spiritual dry spells from time to time. Some ending quickly, others stretching out for a much longer time. God has given each of us our own personal Garden of Eden, lush and beautiful and overflowing with the abundant blessing of God’s love for us. But like any garden, it needs nourishment. God gives us the Living Water of Jesus Christ to nourish our spirit and bring us to new life.

Being in a spiritually dry place is not always a bad thing. God may be preparing us for something or reminding us of our dependence on His gift of grace. We need to live through the dry time in order to more fully engage in the fruitful spirituality that is to follow.

What’s important is to recognize those times when we are depleted or dry, for they can sneak up on us. “O God, my God! How I search for you! How I thirst for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. How I long to find you!” (Psalm 63:1) The next time you find yourself in the dry garden of faith, let your prayer become a conversation with God.

Dear Lord, my spiritual garden has become dried up and wilted. Why do I feel this distance? What is getting in the way of a closer intimacy with You? In Your wisdom, reveal to me the path that has led me to this place of thirst and dust. Remind me of Your gift of grace, that I may seek life giving water and come alive again.

Find a quiet place to spend some time alone with God. Pray for inspiration and ideas to reconnect with God in a personal way. Read Scripture, attend a retreat, talk to a friend or your priest or pastor. Be gentle with yourself and have faith that this season of dryness will pass. Remember, even the most dead-looking plant is often only dormant, waiting for the first light of spring to come to life again.

Finding Purpose in the Journey

staircase MLK

How often do you find yourself asking the age-old question: What is my purpose in life? We know that God is calling us, just like Jesus called the disciples to come and follow Him, as I wrote about last week. But how do we know what God is calling us to do? Where’s the roadmap…or the specific set of instructions?

I should be honest and say I don’t really have an answer to that question. But I do have a theory. For some reason, God doesn’t choose to reveal Himself to individuals in the same way. I believe those people who hear a more distinct calling—like the 12 disciples—are quite rare.

For reasons beyond our understanding, God wants the rest of us to embark on our journeys without really knowing where we’re headed. In many ways, this “not knowing” becomes the greatest stretch of our faith.   There’s a plaque that used to hang in my old office with the following quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” What better way to show our trust in God than to set out on this blind journey, confident that He will reveal Himself to us when the time is right? That He will reveal our purpose when we’re ready to hear it. So for those of you who come up blank when you ask yourself, what is my purpose in life? It’s ok. Maybe you’re not supposed to know what your purpose is just yet. Maybe it’s enough to say you’ll know it when you see it.

So…what do we do in the meantime?

To quote a popular phrase, “Keep on keepin’ on!” Just because God has chosen not to reveal His plans for you just yet, that’s no reason to go running back to the security of your fishing nets. For now, let the journey become your purpose. Let the journey become your calling. Commit yourself to leaving the seashore and following Jesus, wherever He might lead you. Commit yourself to taking the next step on the staircase. To the belief that Jesus is leading you to your destiny.

The next time you see a spider web, think about—comparatively speaking—how far that spider had to travel to complete the web. If you stretched all the tiny little lines and squares of the web out into a straight line, imagine how long it would be. But a spider doesn’t travel in a straight line. I read this in a book, once, and it really stuck with me: to make a web, a spider must continually return to a center point. Like a compass that always points North, this constant return to center is what enables the spider to create that intricate and beautiful spiral shape we are so familiar with.

So a spider is really taking a series of little journeys, always coming back to center. I challenge and encourage you to do the same. Keep your relationship with God at the center, and venture out on an endless series of little journeys…with each one, learning more about yourself and more about your purpose in life. This allows you to keep moving, even when you don’t have all the answers. And I absolutely believe that’s the way God wants it. He wants us to venture out on the journey without knowing exactly where it will lead. He wants us to be open to it. He wants us to learn, to make mistakes along the way, to keep on keepin’ on. And this becomes so much easier to do when you know you can always come back to the center—to God.

The only thing that God does NOT want is for us to give up the journey entirely. For it’s what happens on this journey that will give our lives purpose.

Leaving Our Nets Behind

The Fisherman

Matthew 4:18-22 tells the beautiful story of Jesus calling two sets of brothers, Simon and Andrew and James and John, to drop their fishing nets and follow him. This reading is one of the gospel stories I remember most distinctly from my childhood. Not because I liked the story—although I did enjoy it—but because something about it made me supremely uncomfortable. It always boggled my mind how quickly those men dropped everything to follow Jesus. Twice Matthew uses the phrase “at once,” suggesting that they didn’t stop to think about it for even a moment.

As a kid, I wasn’t prone to doing anything spontaneously, preferring to think things through before making my move. And so I marveled at how these brothers were able to do that. I often wondered…what else did they leave behind? Their mothers? Sisters? Were they married? Did they have other commitments? If they weren’t fishing, who was providing food for their families? All of these musings really pointed to the one question I couldn’t bring myself to ask—the question that was at the root of my discomfort with this story:

If I was one of those fishermen, and Jesus called me to follow him, would I drop everything “at once” and go? There was a part of me that always wondered if perhaps I wouldn’t be able to do it. That I just didn’t have it in me.

Have you ever felt the same way? That you might be one of those people…clinging to your fishing nets, unable to let them go and follow Jesus. What holds us back? What are the nets that we’ve become tangled up in…that tie us down and prevent us from being free to follow Jesus? It’s important to reflect on this question, for if we can’t identify these nets, we can never be free of them.

I believe the answer can be found not in where we cast our nets, but in where we cast our eyes. Imagine for a moment, you are standing on the shore. The air smells of salt and seaweed, a warm breeze flits across your skin as you drag your net along the water’s edge. Jesus approaches you and says, in a quiet yet compelling voice, “Come along with me.”

Where do you direct your gaze when Jesus speaks to you? Are your eyes cast downward, unable to look directly at His face? Do you feel too ashamed or too unworthy to look him in the eye? I believe this feeling of unworthiness can be the single biggest impediment to living a life with meaning. And it’s absolutely without foundation. God loves us and accepts us exactly the way we are. The fourth Psalm says, “O God, you have declared me perfect in your eyes.” Does this mean we’re perfect? Of course not. Only God is perfect. So what does this line from Scripture mean? Years ago I attended an evening retreat where the presenter said the following: “God has a plan and a purpose for you, and He made you exactly the way He needs to you to be.” You can disagree with that statement, feeling you have far too many flaws for God to ever want to use you for much of anything – but you’d be wrong.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” (And if you saw my garden last summer, you would know how wholeheartedly I embraced Mr. Emerson’s theory about weeds!) You may think of yourself as a useless weed, unworthy when you compare yourself to the beautiful flowers around you… but God knows who you truly are, and what you can accomplish, if you would simply drop your net and follow Him.

Psalm 139 says: “O Lord… you made all the delicate, inner parts of my body, and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous – and how well I know it.” If God made each and every one of us so wonderfully unique and flawed and complex, why wouldn’t he want to use us for an important purpose? I believe if you stood on that seashore and told Jesus you couldn’t follow Him because you weren’t good enough, He would laugh gently and say, “Silly child, my Father made you this way for a purpose. Come… let’s see what you can do.”

Finding God in the Construction Zone

construction zone
For the past few months, I’ve had to pass through a major construction zone on my way to work in the morning. The road is being torn up, sidewalks are temporarily gone, and the two lane road is funneled down to one. It’s a huge hassle that has the potential to start my day with stress and irritation.

Each morning, as my car is inching its way past this road work, I see a woman bravely walking through the mess. Wearing a bright pink track suit and a big smile, she weaves her way past bulldozers, police cars, traffic cones, and broken chunks of asphalt. I can see that this morning walk is part of her daily routine, and she’s not going to let a little construction stop her. I admire her. If it were me, I would immediately use this as an excuse to stop walking for the 8-10 months it might take to finish the road!

Does your life ever resemble a chaotic “construction zone”—filled with mess and upheaval? What happens to your faith life during this time? Do you find it difficult to pray, to find quiet time to be alone with God? Or maybe you’re so focused on the problem at hand that you forget about God’s presence in your life.

Last year I was scheduled to go on a weekend retreat with some women from my parish. Some unexpected things came up at home and I felt I couldn’t “afford” the time away. At the last minute I cancelled my reservation in order to stay home and take care of things. In doing this, I was failing to take care of myself. It resulted in my feeling more stressed and overwhelmed. I often wonder if I had gone on the retreat, would my approach to solving those problems been clearer and more effective?

Unlike the determined woman I see each morning, I think I would be quick to put off my morning walks until the construction was finished. How often do we set aside our faith until a time when conditions are more ideal for prayer and communion with God? Once things have calmed down in my life, I’ll get back to praying. Right now I just have to get through this.

What a silly, backward approach to life! It is precisely our faith that will sustain us through those “under construction” times. A few minutes of quiet prayer can make all the difference. Inching your way through the chaos with Jesus by your side can make the journey less burdensome and arduous.

God is here for us, waiting to guide us safely through to the other side. We only need to lean on Him.

I think of Jesus, facing the sick, hungry, and needy…believers numbering in the thousands. He would often slip away from the crowds, to retreat into the wilderness to pray. But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.” (Luke 5:15-16)

Jesus knew that he needed time to be alone with God. I imagine he would come back from those moments of stolen prayer refreshed, with a renewed sense of purpose, confident that he walked this journey with his Father. It was vital to the continuation of his ministry. We can and should follow his example. Keep on walking. Bring Jesus with you. Let God guide you.

Eventually they’re going to finish repairing the road I travel to work each day. I look forward to seeing this woman walking on a smoother path. It gives me hope that she persevered through the muddle and will now have an easier road to travel.

It gives me courage to keep on walking.

God Picks Us Up When We Fall

girl on bike
For three years my office window looked out over a church parking lot. People used it for all kinds of things. A practice course for school bus drivers in training, a path for neighborhood walkers, an unofficial commuter lot, a place for truckers to park and eat lunch. But my favorite thing to see was parents using the parking lot to teach their children how to ride a bike. What a sweet distraction from my day’s work. I could see the fearful looks on the faces of the young riders. I could hear the parents’ promises floating up through my office window.

“I won’t let you fall!”
“I promise you won’t get hurt.”

I remember my husband and I saying these exact words to our boys when they first learned to ride, and I’m very sure my dad made the same promises to me. It’s what you have to say to get past the fear in your child so they can take that leap.

If we’re being honest… these promises are not exactly iron-clad. It’s likely our would-be cyclists WILL fall. There’s a chance they COULD get hurt. Not too badly, you hope, but anything could happen.   What you might more honestly say is this:

“If you fall, I’ll be there to pick you up.”
“If you get hurt, I’ll be there to soothe your pain and dry your tears.”
“I will ALWAYS be there, no matter what.”

For me, there’s no better way to describe God’s role in our lives. But it took me some time to come to that realization. I used to pray exactly like those scared kids teetering on a bike for the first time. “Please, dear God, don’t let anything bad happen to me… EVER!” I was so afraid of getting hurt that I held myself back from new experiences and new challenges.

Life has taught me that it doesn’t work that way. We all fall. We all get hurt. It’s part of engaging in the world around us. Living up to our potential involves a certain amount of risk. This knowledge could easily leave us paralyzed with fear. Afraid to lift our feet from their firmly-rooted spots on the ground and peddle like mad.

But the beauty of our faith is that God is ALWAYS there for us. To offer comfort. To dry our tears. To ease our pain. To pick us up no matter how many times we fall.

This knowledge is what frees us to get on that bike and go. To fly. To take a leap of faith. To push ourselves toward our sacred destiny. It’s what God wants for us.

One beautiful spring day my son took his brand new bike out for a ride. A run-in with a nasty pothole landed him in the emergency room with a broken wrist, a mild concussion, and many cuts and scrapes. I smothered him with love for weeks after that, giving him all the comfort and gentleness a mother could give (which is a LOT!) His wrist healed, his bruises faded, and his headaches went away.  His worst fears (and mine) about getting hurt had been realized…and overcome. And so, too, we heal from the potholes and pitfalls of life. And we do so with the strength of an amazing God who will never let us fall so far or so deep that we can’t get up again… and keep on riding.

Unanswered Prayers

piano
Please, dear God, don’t let him make any mistakes.

This was my hastily whispered prayer three years ago when my eleven-year-old son sat down at the piano to perform in the spring recital.  He was playing a difficult piece – one that he had been working on for months.  I knew he was nervous.  I held my breath as he began to play.

Despite my plea to God, there were several noticeable mistakes in his performance, including one heart-stopping moment where he seemed to lose his place in the music before picking it back up again.  My heart fell.  My son is a deeply sensitive boy and a perfectionist.  I knew he would be devastated by these mistakes.  And he was.  No matter how many times my husband and I told him he did a great job and we were so proud of him, he would not hear it.  With choked back sobs and tears of frustration, he could not get past it.

He wasn’t the only one who was frustrated. I had a bone to pick with God.  “Come on!!  It was a simple request!  You can move mountains and part seas!  Was it really so impossible to help a boy get through one piano piece?!?”  I felt rejected and a little bit betrayed.  I couldn’t understand why God refused to say “yes” to this simple prayer.

Fast forward two years.  We were back at the same music studio for another piano concert.  My son had chosen an even more challenging piece to perform.  He knew it by heart and he was ready. Before he began to play, his teacher got up to say the following words about my son: “When he chose this piece to learn, as his teacher my first instinct was to talk him out of it, because I thought it would be too difficult for him. But he was determined and he worked hard. And he taught me a valuable lesson. Never again will I tell a student what they can’t do.”

The lights dimmed as my son began to play. He did a beautiful job…his fingers flying over the keys as the melody filled the room and my heart. His performance wasn’t perfect. There were some wrong notes and another prolonged pause as he tried to find his place again. I sighed deeply. So close! I guess we’re in for another rough afternoon.

When the recital was over I rushed over to my son to give him a hug. He hugged me back, smiled, and shrugged his shoulders. “Did you notice I lost my place for a few seconds there?” To my surprise, he wasn’t upset. He was ok with it. What a difference from the wrecked little boy of two years ago! My mind jumped back to that moment when I believed that God had denied my prayer. With sudden clarity, I realized how wrong I was. This was God’s answer. This year, this moment, this beautiful evidence of growth in my son. God had been holding him and shaping him and working in him all this time.

I understood. God didn’t say “yes” to my prayer that day. But he didn’t say “no” either. Instead, his answer was “grow.” A lesson in faith to be learned not just by my child, but by me.

God is always loving us and working in our lives, even if we can’t always see it in obvious ways. Think back to the “unanswered” prayers in your own life. Was God really saying no? Or was there a greater plan He had in mind for you?

Jesus’ Last Lecture

Jesus Last Lecture

A college professor is invited to give a hypothetical “last lecture” in which they answer the question: “If this is the last lecture you would ever give to your students, what would you say?” The professor is challenged with the task of packing in decades of wisdom and life lessons into one hour. In 2007, Randy Pausch, a professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University was invited to do just that. What was uniquely moving about this lecture, was that Pausch was dying of pancreatic cancer. His talk, entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” was delivered to a packed house of over 400 colleagues and students. This lecture became the basis for the New York Times best-selling book, The Last Lecture, co-authored by Pausch and published in 2008. It became his legacy to his children before he died in that same year.

As we move into Holy Week, I invite you to spend some time reading Jesus’ “Last Lecture.” (John 13-17) It was the day before Passover and Jesus, knowing that the hour had come for him to leave this world, gathered his disciples one last time. He washed their feet, in a beautiful example of how they were to minister to one another after he was gone.

And then he began to speak.

“Dear children, how brief are these moments before I must go away and leave you!” (John 13:33) I imagine the sense of urgency Jesus must have felt as he tried one last time to impart everything he wanted his disciples to learn before he would leave them.

For four and a half chapters of John’s Gospel—often referred to as the “Last Supper Discourse” or the “Farewell Discourse” —Jesus gives his disciples instructions, life lessons, and final words of wisdom. There’s so much rich and wonderful content in his words, it could never be covered in one short blog post. (It reads like a “Greatest Hits” of Bible quotes!) So I’ve chosen 7 lines from Jesus’ Last Lecture—one for each day of Holy Week—for you to ponder and pray about

MONDAY

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) This is it…really. The entirety of Jesus’ ministry and message summed up in one commandment. Love one another. During this holiest week of the year, how will we choose to love one another?

TUESDAY

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) One of my favorite lines in all of Scripture! Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house. Thomas replies: “Lord, we do not know where you are going; so how can we know the way to get there?” The answer is simple and profound. Jesus is the WAY. Our guide and our bridge to God and the Promised Land. All we need to do is follow Him.

WEDNESDAY

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:15-17) In this passage we learn about the Holy Spirit. Jesus promises his disciples that they will never be left alone, a promise that still holds for us today. The Holy Spirit is an Advocate or Helper that dwells within us forever…to comfort, guide, and lead us.

THURSDAY

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) Yet another beautiful gift from our Savior. Peace, not as the world gives—based on outward circumstances—but peace from within. Peace that is rooted in absolute trust in the faithfulness of God. A gift that becomes ours only in the act of receiving. How will we receive the peace of Christ this week?

FRIDAY

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) In these beautiful words we see Jesus’ message of discipleship. We are meant to bear fruit…to spread the love of Christ like branches stretching out from a vine. But we must remain connected to the source of our creation. Our dependence on God allows us to become an instrument of His love and peace.

SATURDAY

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13) After once again repeating his central commandment, Jesus foreshadows the great act of sacrifice that is to come on Good Friday. Jesus dying on the cross is an act of profound love. One that transforms the disciples to such a degree that they passionately preach his message, even to the point of their own death in martyrdom. How will we let Jesus transform us during this Easter season? How can we “die” to our own self-absorption in order to live renewed in Christ?

SUNDAY

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) The sorrow of the crucifixion and death of Jesus give way to the victory and triumph of Easter morning. We are a Resurrection People, born to new life in Christ. Alleluia, He is Risen!