Trust in God–even in the hard times

Editor’s note: Thank you to Pastor Paul, for sharing the following devotion: 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, 
so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  –-Romans 15: 13

In my late teens I had a great struggle with the Christian faith in which I had been raised.   After rejecting Christianity as both irrelevant and untrue, I found myself in a terrible disquiet of heart.  How could I live in a world without God; a world with neither moral nor spiritual guideposts?

After many turns and twists of mind and heart, I came back to a faith which for the first time was mine.  In was at this time I memorized this hymn, “Praise the Savior,” which remains for me forever associated with my new-found joy in knowing the Savior:

 

Budding leaves--Trust in God--Julie McCarty - Cropped CopyPraise the Savior, ye who know him
Who can tell how much we owe him?
Gladly let us render to him,
All we are and have.

 Jesus is the name that charms us,
He for conflict fits and arms us,
Nothing moves and nothing harms us,
While we trust in Him.

 Trust in Him, ye saints, forever,
He is faithful, changing never,
Neither force nor guile can sever,
Those he loves from him.  

Keep us Lord, O keep us cleaving,
To thyself and still believing,
Till the hour of our receiving,
Promised joys in heaven.  

Then we shall be what we should be,
Then we will be what we would be,
Things that are not, nor now could be,
Then shall be our own.
(Words: Thomas Kelly, traditional German melody)

 

Prayer:

Dear Lord,
be with us in the times when it seems that we are alone in a dark world.
Give us light for our paths and hope for our journeys.
May your Holy Spirit give us the gifts of unquenchable hope and joy.
As we pray with whatever faith there is in us,
give us courage to believe and the strength to follow you
whether we see you or not.
Amen.

 

Pastor Paul Harris has been serving at Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan, Minnesota since 2000. His special emphasis is adult education, and he is also known for his dedicated ministry to the people of Tanzania. 

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Start with Thanks

Finding our spiritual heart is a journey made of all our days, even when we are unaware that we are moving.   Do you remember when you first contemplated the concept of prayer?  I remember sitting in church as a small child of three or four trying to decide the best way to fold my hands in prayer.  The adults around me were no help because none of them did it the same way.  I didn’t think just putting your hands in your lap looked right – I was told a lady’s hands always belonged in her lap whenImage sitting.  Of course I was a tomboy who didn’t sit much, so it was a bit lost on me.  Still it seemed too ordinary for something like talking to God.  I tried putting my hands flat together.  But I got distracted by all the different formations I could do with my fingers and decided I needed something that would help me pay better attention.  God deserved my attention.  Because I grew up in a Presbyterian church, raising hands high to God in prayer was something I knew nothing about, so at that preschool moment, it wasn’t an option.  I put my hands together with my fingers interlocked.  I felt connected to myself, as if all that was in me was flowing together.  I looked up at the sunlight splashing across the stained glass and knew I had found my best way to put my hands in prayer.  I said a silent thank you because my Sunday School teacher had just told us that prayers should always start with thanks. 

So many decades later, I have been exposed to all sorts of prayers and ways to pray in all sorts of houses of worship.  I wish I could fling my hands high and pray, to reach out to God.  I have tried.  But I find myself feeling self-conscious in the unnatural movement and lose my focus on the prayer.  And so God and I commune, my fingers interlocked and I start with thanks.

I have read many books, blogs and articles.  I have listened to many songs and shared many conversations about prayer.  I pick up little pieces as I go and like the tomboy I was, I stuff them into my prayer pocket.  Reminders of my encounters with the God in others. 

How has your prayer life evolved?  Did it start like mine in a wooden church pew in a small town church with sparkling stain glass?  Did it come to you in a Sunday School class or a youth group outing?  Has it traveled to you on a lakeside path or on a noisy street corner?  Did you encounter it during quiet minute on a winter’s afternoon, the sun hanging low in the sky?  Did it come in a quiet whisper in a commuter train or stuck in traffic?  Did it prop you up in a hospital waiting room or comfort you in the face of grief?

I didn’t know all those many years ago, when I couldn’t even see over the pews, that I was starting a hand holding relationship of prayer and listening with God.  It hasn’t always been steadfast, I have often not held up my end, but like any relationship that really matters, when I return, we pick up where we left off.  I start with thanks.

Come to me, all who are weary

Today’s reflection is written by Easter Lutheran member, Laura Ring:

Snow-laden trees--photo from Laura Ring

“Come to Me, all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus (Matthew 11:28)

This is the verse that came to me as I looked at the evergreens laden with the heavy, wet snow from the February storm. So often after a storm, the clouds dissipate, revealing the blue sky and the bright sun. As the sun shines to slowly melt the snow the branches will become free of their heavy load, permitting them to stand tall and point heavenward.

The same is true for God’s children. We have burdens that weigh us down and Jesus commands us to come to Him to find rest for our souls. When we do, the Son shines brightly in our lives, enabling us to be free to stand tall and look heavenward.