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Disposable Prayer, John Wesley, and Dictionaries

PRAYER—Jesus, my Savior, let your love rule my heart without a rival. Let it dispose all my thoughts, words, and works; for then only can I fulfill my duty and your command of loving you with all my heart, and mind, and soul, and strength. Amen. John Wesley*
*Beacon Hill Press (2011-09-01). Year B: Ashes to Fire: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost (Kindle Locations 1997-1999). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

Another beautiful prayer. Life was calling, but I put it on hold and stumbled on some good stuff.  I found in this prayer an interesting possible connection to Thomas a Kempis’ “Imitation of Christ”. Wesley’s use of the word “dispose” here doesn’t mean throw away. It means he’s asking that God’s love would arrange his thoughts in proper order. a Kempis mentions the Latin proverb: Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit. “Man proposes but God disposes” (determines the course of events). The imagery is hard to miss. And I think it demonstrates how Wesley’s devotional life included not only intense prayers and Scripture reading, but also the great devotional writings of Christian history. The thought of God’s holy love rearranging our best thoughts, words, and works so that they more adequately represent God’s will is among the most beautiful images I’ve ever come across in a prayer.
It wouldn’t be possible if Wesley wasn’t deeply engaged in truly trying to live his faith, but also reading widely enough to learn from his faith forefathers. In this case, something made me curious and I found everything I needed to know in the Dictionary attached to the Kindle app on my iPad, where I was reading today’s Ashes to Fire selections! The two meanings of the word dispose and the example of a Kempis’ quotation of the Latin proverb were all there. Just a touch revealed more than I imagined. I just had to press and hold on the word, then click FULL DEFINITION.
How quickly I sometimes move through life and prayer. With that practice there isn’t enough time to allow God to dispose my thoughts, words, and works. But God is gracious and can show us so much more with just a touch. Even dictionaries become luminous sources of inspiration when we listen to those inner promptings and seek more. May His love truly rule our hearts without a rival. And may it lovingly rearrange all that is required to empower us to live in new ways. And as that old Latin proverb implies, it’s the only way we’ll be living in sync with reality. Because God is God after all…

PRAYER—O God, Infinite …

PRAYER—O God, Infinite Goodness, confirm your past mercies to me by enabling me for what remains of my life to be more faithful than I have been up until now to your great command to love as I have been loved. Let me not rest in any external devotion, nor trust in words or sighs or tears. Let me know and feel what it is to love you with all my heart. Amen

John Wesley

Beacon Hill Press (2011-09-01). Year B: Ashes to Fire: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost (Kindle Locations 1973-1975). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

PRAYER—O Lord, you have…

PRAYER—O Lord, you have set before us the great hope that your kingdom shall come on earth, and have taught us to pray for its coming; give us grace to discern the signs of its dawning, and to work for the perfect day when your will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven, in the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

John Wesley
Beacon Hill Press (2011-09-01). Year B: Ashes to Fire: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost (Kindle Locations 1799-1801). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

PRAYER—Lord, make me an…

PRAYER—Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love … O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood, as to understand, to be loved, as to love. Amen.

Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi

Beacon Hill Press (2011-09-01). Year B: Ashes to Fire: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost (Kindle Locations 1144-1146). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

PRAYER—Holy God, in you…

PRAYER—Holy God, in your compassion and mercy, your light breaks forth in our darkness and your healing springs up for our deliverance. Sustain us with your bountiful Spirit as we rejoice in your saving help, in the name of Christ, I pray. Amen.

Beacon Hill Press (2011-09-01). Year B: Ashes to Fire: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost (Kindle Locations 731-733). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

Morning prayer from Ashes to Fire. The bright sunshine in Chicagoland made this seem so appropriate…

Ashes to Fire prayer

An example the guides to prayer which are part of the Ashes to Fire devotional book. Let prayers like this ignite the fire of devotion in you…

PRAYER—O Lord, govern my life by your wisdom, so that my soul may always be serving you as you desire, not as I may choose. Do not grant what I ask if it offends your love, which must always be living in me. Let me die to myself, that I may serve you; let me live to you, for you are the true life. Amen. (John Wesley)*

*Beacon Hill Press (2011-09-01). Year B: Ashes to Fire: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost (Kindle Locations 467-469). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

God’s Grace Has Been Given to You…

1 Corinthians 1:4, 8-9 says “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus…He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
When I think of grace I think of olympic champions, nice ladies, and forgiveness. One thing all three have in common is a very great power held gently underneath. Grace is not just the unmerited favor of God. It is the power of a risen Savior pulsing through every fully-surrendered follower of Christ.  In this Lenten season it’s not all about weeping over our weakness in the flesh. This Lenten season is about overcoming the world, the flesh, and the devil by the grace of God! The power of the Holy Spirit becomes active in every believer from the moment we receive Jesus. That power keeps working in us until we surrender all and a deep transformation takes place. Then that power keeps molding us into the image of Jesus for the rest of our days. Nobody is perfect, before or after encountering this grace. But perfect love is poured out in our lives. And that love can do more than we often think it can. Believe your life can change. The Kingdom of God is at hand! Repent and believe the Good News! John Wesley said it so well:

As soon as the grace of God in the sense of his pardoning love is manifested to our souls, the grace of God as the power of his Spirit is at work within us. And now we can perform, through God, … all things in the light and power of that love. (John Wesley, Sermon 11)

Beacon Hill Press (2011-09-01). Year B: Ashes to Fire: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost (Kindle Locations 431-433). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

Recommended devotional guide

After Day 1 & 2 feedback from users I would encourage any Christian who wants to explore the Lenten and Easter seasons to pick up this daily devotional guide. It’s well-written. Takes you through the Daily Office plan for reading through the Bible, pulls highlights from these readings, and offers brief guides to prayer for each day. With your Bible in hand, you can go as deep as you want. On days you’re seriously pressed for time you can keep the discipline going by pulling from the highlights and praying. Along the way you have several opportunities to journal your progress and prayers. Inspirational Art. Prayers from past spiritual giants. A very complete portable guide to Spiritual Growth!
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Ashes to Fire Year B Devotional Guide

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Ash Wednesday

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Today begins a 14 week journey of faith called Ashes to Fire. It begins in the ashes of repentance and reflection. Ashes are an ancient symbol of death. The ancients had a much closer relationship with death than we do today. Hospitals, nursing homes, and funeral homes keep us separated strangely from our mortality. One thing we can’t separate ourselves from is grief. As Coldplay reminds us: sometimes you “lose something you can’t replace.” It became a tradition to make a physical statement of loss and reflection by covering oneself with ashes and even tearing garments or putting on obviously uncomfortable ones. No need to pretend or save face. Something or someone important has been lost. It’ll be a while before we’re restored to normal. Sackcloth and Ashes.
Physical death and grief are devastating realities. But so is spiritual death caused by sin. When we realize we’ve been on a wrong path sometimes we need a powerful symbol to validate a definite u-turn. Sin is anything that gets in-between us and God.
It could be just about anything: Disobedience to known commands from Scripture. Disobedience to the guiding voice of the Spirit or our conscience. Preoccupation with things of the world (entertainments, material goods, career advancement, even family) which keeps us consistently from being close to God. Unforgiveness toward the sins and imperfections of others. Lustful thoughts, overly sensual attitudes or dress, allowing are eyes to wander are also examples of sins. Pride of life or dress. Spiritual pride toward the outward sins of others. Spiritual hypocrisy of hiding our true motives. Half-hearted devotion or service to God. Unbridled anger. The list could be endless. But the results are similar. Spiritual death. Scripture warns us as soon as we become aware of sin we should confess it and deal with it before God and others.
But there is value in regularly and intentionally bringing both of these realities together in a public way. All of us will die someday and therefore must live sober lives. All of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. None of us are so holy as to not have areas of life which need renewal. So Ash Wednesday is like a big family meeting where everybody checks in with their commitment to God above all. It’s a solemn assembly that reminds us all that repentance is the only path to forgiveness. God is our only hope for eternal life. We admit that we are prone to drift away from Him if we just leave it in default mode.
And so we come. Apart from work and family and chores and entertainments. We come to God. We acknowledge we were born in sin and will die forever unless we receive God’s grace. Sin is serious business and we are having a going-out-of-business sale. Ashes on the forehead symbolize that we know we are dust and desire to have spiritual life, given by God. We kneel, we are marked with a cross. We rise in repentance. We pray for newness of life. We rehearse the great forgiveness that is ours. And we wipe away the ashes, anticipating a renewed walk with God. Just a simple ceremony. We could totally phone it in or fake it. Absolutely. Nothing magical about it. But for a few moments each year there is a fresh reminder of how deadly sin is and how amazing grace is. Why not do it for real? And should we stumble again before next year, we’ll remember how big a deal it is and know exactly what to do: repent, take it seriously, and be assured of forgiveness before sin swallows us up. We lose things we can’t replace. We break things we can’t fix ourselves. But God can. Ash Wednesday.
We begin in the ashes of repentance. By the grace of God we rise to seek Him more and grow in grace between now and Pentecost at the end of May. So let’s begin the journey with Jesus together.

Grace for Today

Ever get stuck in the mud, wheels spinning? Mud is yesterday’s treasures and worries eroded by time back to the dust from which we came. When our thoughts are drifting back, we fail to be fully present to today, the only day we can change. The Good Old Days weren’t as great as we thought. The bad old days weren’t as bad as we feared because we’re still here. Still living. But are we fully alive?
Every morning the mercies of God are new. Grace for today. It’s not enough to cover our preoccupation with the past. God’s plan is for us to give yesterday to Him and receive grace. Just enough grace for today. Today. Drop everything and embrace what God has for you today. Celebrate the past. Grieve the losses. But live in today. Let God put His Spirit in you, healing, restoring, and beginning a new work called today. Get on with living. So many others need to be set free. Embrace God’s mission of letting your light shine right where you are. In serving others your past will be fully redeemed for their benefit and your healing. Today.
(I’m indebted to Nooma #17 Today) you can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tQ82LSSeZ0&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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