Christmas Countdown: Day 8

Dear Lord,

I pray for something almost totally forgotten, something chucked to the wayside, something that’s gotten written off as last year’s model.

I pray for hope.

People can laugh at hope, scorn hope, write hope off as child’s play, and even try to kill hope, but I need hope, God–and not just any hope.  I need hope that’s not going to let me down.  I need hope for something that’s really coming.

I need Your hope.

Lord, I remember waking up one time from a nightmare and realizing, for the first time, really, that You are the One, the only One, that stands between us and Satan.  You are the one shield.  Without You standing guard, we would be dragged away forever.  And yet, we don’t realize it because we don’t think about it.  Millions and millions of people go every day without seeing that You are the barrier between us and the consequences of everything we are.  Every second we live is a shout-out to salvation, a chance to forever stand behind the shield of who You are.

You ask for worship, and we think You are selfish.  We don’t see we would be worshiping our Shield.  You ask for obedience, and we think You are demanding.  We don’t see that You are the Wall between earth and Hell.  You ask for allegiance, and we ask for the right to get away from You.  You ask for love, and we ask to leave the boundaries of Your kingdom to plunge into Hell.

You are so patient with us, Lord.

Because, for every second we’re alive, second after second after second after second, You give us hope.

It’s so available we forget about it.  It’s so free we think it’s cheap.  And it’s so holy we think it’s inaccessible.  What a mess we are.

But you still offer it to us.

You still wait.

Wait for us to choose You before our lives are over.

I have Your hope, Jesus.

My prayer is that I don’t keep it to myself, or live my life so poorly that others don’t want to receive it.

I pray for hope for anyone who reads this and is longing for the very substance of the unseen: the reality of You.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1, KJV)

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see you lie!
Above your deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by.
Yet, in your dark streets so shines the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in you tonight.

O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks (modern translation)

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Photograph by Kimberly Jones, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/owlpacino/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

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Christmas Countdown: Day 7

Dear Lord,

You know how much I love A Christmas Carol.  I don’t know why it’s called that, really, since it doesn’t have a lot to do with singing, but I love it anyway.

Tonight I pray for charity.

Not the kind of charity that mindlessly gives things away or a charity that frames receipts of all “generous” gifts given.  Instead, please give me a charity that gives intentionally and freely.  Help me to plan ways to give and help me to give whenever spontaneous things spontaneously happen–You know everything, Lord . . . every opportunity You’ve given me to give . . and every time I’ve withheld.

Make my charity like Ebenezer Scrooge’s on Christmas morning.  I want to see Your world through eyes of love, to hear it through ears of hope, to participate in it with thankful hands and feet.  I don’t want to give out of obligation or penance.  I want to give so I don’t burst from the fullness of the Gift You’ve given me.

I want to be Ebenezer Scrooge at the end of the book, only, I recognize I have so much more that’s been forgiven me, so much more charity to share with anyone who holds out empty hands.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

Christmas Countdown: Day 6

Dear Lord,

Create for me a heart of sacrifice to replace my selfish one.

I want to molt from who I was into who you want me to be.

I want to sacrifice what matters to me for what matters to You, because You matter most.

I want to sacrifice everything I hold close that needs to be cast away: what tempts me, what misleads me, all the grudges I nurse, all that I want to hoard for myself and keep away from others, whatever turns my eyes from You to stare at Hell instead.  Before I ever sacrifice anything worthy or beautiful, I want to sacrifice these ugly things, these unwanted things, these things that seek to do me in.  I want to burn them on Your altar of forgiveness so that I can pour my life out as a living sacrifice to You, who poured Your eternal life out for me, Jesus.

Lord, I want to sacrifice everything I’m not supposed to be for all that You see in me.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

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Photograph by Kris, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/krislitman/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

Christmas Countdown: Day 5

Dear Lord,

Christmas is about fellowship.

Fellowship with You.

Your gift at Christmas was placing yourself in our world in such a way that we could love you not only as God but also as human.

God: inaccessibly holy.  Yet You brought your inaccessible holiness to a stable one night . . . for the purpose of dying . . . for our holiness.

Help me this Christmas to fellowship.

I want to fellowship with You.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

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Photograph by Meghan Nash, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/megnphotography/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

Christmas Countdown: Day 4

Dear Lord,

Peace, I pray for peace.

I don’t pray for “peace” in the way that means people who are suffering keep quiet and the oppressors win.

I pray for real peace: knowing I am safe in Your hands.

The world is so without peace.  We are so without peace that we don’t even know what peace is.  We think it’s social tranquility, or compliance, or getting lots of stuff, or fulfilling dreams that are over as soon as we turn into dust.  We don’t understand that peace is nothing we can order or mass produce or legislate or will.

Help me, Jesus, to remember that peace is friendship with You.  Not with the world, not with friends, not with family.  Every friendship in my life can be ruined or taken away . . but never the friendship You give through You.

But I am so prone to spending the least time with You.  I am so susceptible to filling my head, to consuming my time with, to breaking my heart over all that does not bring peace.  Why, Lord?  Why is it so easy to live comfortably in unease and distress and so difficult to trust in You, when I know You as the one who came through when it mattered most: at the cross?

I pray for peace.

That is, I pray for friendship with You.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

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Photograph by Meghan Nash, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/megnphotography/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

Christmas Countdown: Day 3

Dear Lord,

Today I pray for grace.

Grace is a two-way street: grace taken, grace given.

It’s so easy for me to expect grace from You and not give it to others . . . because a lot of times, when I ask for grace, I can see what “underlying circumstances” “led” me to do whatever I did that I now regret.  But with other people, I don’t get to see the rationalizations of their mind, and so it’s much harder to give grace.

The truth is, Lord, there are no underlying circumstances that cause people to sin.  People sin because they want to sin.  And whatever great excuses I think I have in my mind for what I do, I’m a sinner in no less need of grace than anyone else in the whole world.

Grace isn’t only a girl’s name.  Grace is a life lived in purposeful forgiveness.  Help me, Lord, to live in purposeful forgiveness.

If I’m sincere about taking grace from You, Lord, I’ve got to be sincere about giving it.  You make it clear as can be in your Word: no grace given, no grace taken.  You don’t give grace to people who withhold it from others, not on final judgment day.

Help me today to live grace out.  I feel like I “understand” grace, I can explain grace, I can even give examples of grace.  But none of that means anything if I don’t give grace.  And Lord, I know no one can give what they don’t have.  As I take grace from you, help me to give that grace to the world around me–even the most irritating, the most opposite-my-personality, the most offensive, the most unremorseful, the most angry people.  Even the people I want to hate.  Especially the people I want to hate.

This is about more than forgiving prisoners I don’t know in jail cells far away, though.  I want to give grace to the people in my life who insult me, hurt me, or simply annoy me.  I want Your grace to be so clear in my actions that those around me can’t help but be hungry for more . . . that they would seek the ultimate grace of all: friendship, “familyhood” with You.

If I really want to live in grace, Lord, everyone will know it, because I will love, I will forgive, I will care, and I will pour joy out on those who have caused me sorrow.

But even as I think about this, I think How in the world is this going to be possible?  I know me.  I am not anyone I aspire to be.  So how in the world can I work a miracle in my life and give the world around me grace?

Oh, no way.  That’s how.  There’s no way I can work any miracle.  I can’t even do ordinary stuff right.  Miracles aren’t happening if they’re coming by my talents.  No miracles here.  I live a botched up life like anyone else.

But that’s the whole point, isn’t it?  I need Your grace.  I need to take part in the miraculous.  I need to know I’m forgiven, I’m loved . . . when there’s nothing I less deserve.  And every time I realize I am locked in Your grace . . . I see that the miracle has already happened.  I don’t need to perform a miracle to give grace to others.  All I have to do is let You pour through me!  All I have to do, all I have to do, is release my fists of grudging rage and let the grace You’ve freely given me freely spill out into the lives of everyone I know.

Break my fists so that I don’t ruin the only thing in my life that gives me reason to live: Grace.

I don’t have to come up with grace.  I don’t have find it within myself.  And I don’t have to find a way to pay for it.  All I have to do is not withhold it.

You are grace.

I don’t want to dam up Your grace from my life, God.

And so my choice, my only choice can be

to open my hands to the downpour of grace

you want to give me

for free.

And when I look up and see that grace falling

forgiving others, loving them . . .

is something I don’t even have to handle.

Big splashes of grace are bound to soak anyone in my circle

when You begin to pour.

Thank you, Jesus.

In Your Name,

Amen.

Photograph by David Heuts, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/dheuts/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

Christmas Countdown: Day 2

Lord,

If there is one thing Satan most tries to steal at Christmas, it has to be love.

Love, any real love, will always draw us towards You.

Lord, if my family or friends frustrate me or irritate me in any way, help me to remember that my job is not to underline or highlight their faults, but instead to remember you have scratched all mine out.  If strangers treat me as I would not treat them, I want my instant reaction to be sorrow for them, that they are missing out on love, instead of escalating rage or retaliation.  Lord, when you opened your arms at the cross, you opened yourself to any and every pain the world brought to inflict on You, and rather than send destroying angels over the earth, You drank down the world’s hostility and bitterness and fury.

I pray my love will be more than words.  In John 1, You, Jesus, are told to be the Word, the Word of perfect follow-through.  Help me to follow-through on my love, Jesus.  It’s so easy to type a prayer, hope it helps others, and walk away without any will in my own heart to follow it.  Help me to remember that if I want to love, I have to fight Satan all day long.  Help me to remember he will engage me in battle with whatever he can find that angers me, so that I will be thrown off my course of love.  Help me to remember his goal is to stop me from sharing the supernatural love You gave me with anybody else, so that they will miss out on that love.

Nothing is worth that to me, Lord.  But help me to remember that in all moments of testing.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

It’s in the singing of a street-corner choir
It’s going home and getting warm by the fire
It’s true, where ever you find love
It feels like Christmas
A cup of kindness that we share with another
A sweet reunion with a friend or a brother
In all the places you find love
It feels like Christmas

It is the season of the heart
A special time of caring
The ways of love made clear
And it is the season of the spirit
The message if we hear it
Is make it last all year

It Feels Like Christmas from the The Muppet Christmas Carol, produced by the Jim Henson Company.

Christmas Countdown: Day 1

Dear Lord,

Photograph by Moyan Brenn

This seasons is so precious.  Help me not to ruin it with my selfishness, pickyness, or whinyness.  Help me to live the joy of Christmas out every single day, sharing not in the frustrations or materialism, but in the joy You are willing to hand out every day of the year.

This December, Jesus, bring 31 days of joy in my life: Just & Only You.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

And my heart is sayin’

All I need is You

All I need is You

All I need is You

And my heart is sayin’

All I need is You

All I need is You

All I need is You

And my heart is sayin’

All I need is You

All I need is You

All I need is You

All i need is You

All I need is You

All I need is You

–“True Religion”, Water’s Edge

Photograph by Moyan Brenn, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/aigle_dore/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.