Swearing and Slouching
SUNDAY, August 13
Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
Psalm 17:1-7, 15
Eighth grade history class is where I first realized that I was set apart, noticed because of my faith. A few boys in class began to playfully tease me, saying, “I’ll pay you a quarter if you’ll either swear or slouch.” Again and again, day after day.
The psalmist writes “Though people tried to bribe me, I have kept myself from the ways of the violent through what your lips have commanded. My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled” (vv. 4-5, NIV).
I realize that 14-year-old boys aren’t who the psalmist had in mind, but we each have opportunities to hold to God’s paths in spite of pressures to conform. It’s true: the wonders of God’s great love are infinitely greater than all the quarters in the world. (And I never earned a penny that year!)
God, thank you for sharing your wonders with us. You are our refuge in all things. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: ACCESS TO EDUCATION FOR ALL CHILDREN
Whispers and Shimmers
MONDAY, August 14
1 Kings 19:9-18
I was on a trail run around ten years ago when I first knew the presence of the Lord undeniably. I know the exact place and consider it holy ground whenever I run, walk, or ski there. As I rounded the corner that day, I felt light on my feet, all went silent, and the world around me shimmered. I just knew that God was near. I remember thinking, “If you came for me now, that would be amazing.” It was pure peace.
God’s sweet presence was in the middle of the woods for me, on a mountaintop for Elijah. Elijah felt hopeless, alone among humanity. He was in hiding, and God came and whispered the future, assuring him that this was not the end. “Go,” God said. “I’m not done, with you or with the 7,000 who (by the way) are with me, and also with you.”
God, you are near. Always. Thank you for whispers and shimmers that remind us. AMEN.
TUESDAY, August 15
“We’re going to end our time today differently. You’re really good at putting a positive spin on things, looking at the bright side. But today, I want you to grieve before God,” said my spiritual director. What a horrible way to end an hour of spiritual direction! I thought. But grieve I did, groaning without words. And God showed up with words that I keep close at hand, words that will never leave me.
We are assured that the Spirit is always present, ready to use words when we have none of our own. God searches our hearts, and he knows our shattered dreams, our broken relationships, and the unfamiliar paths that lie before us. He doesn’t just know us—he knows us through the lens of the Spirit, and he knows us according to his will.
God, how grateful we are that you know all and pray for us according to your perfect will for us. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: SAFETY IN SCHOOLS AND ON CAMPUSES
WEDNESDAY, August 16
Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21
Some of my most meaningful ministry moments have taken place within the walls of our county jail. Background checked, pockets emptied, and having passed through two sets of secured doors, our team enters the gymnasium at County every eight weeks. We’re given one hour, during which we lead a worship service and pray with the men individually. The judgments we make from afar are put to shame at the tearful stories we hear, the pleas made, and the prayers offered face-to-face in Jesus’s name.
There is good news, friends—good news for all! Our God is compassionate, slow to anger, and rich in love. Our God upholds those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. Our God is faithful, and he is near. He hears our cries, whether from a pew or a prison cell, always and no matter what.
God, we are undeserving of your grace, every single one of us. Thank you for your love. AMEN.
THURSDAY, August 17
The name “Israel” can be translated a few ways, one of which is “He who wrestles [struggles] with God.” I am glad to know I’m not the only one, that I’m in good company. For years, I didn’t want anyone to know that I questioned, had doubts, and wrestled with understanding, trusting, even believing God. Especially as a pastor.
And then I considered the psalms. The beautiful, honest, raging, hopeless, vengeful, faithful, trusting psalms. It would make a fascinating study to number the range of emotions present in these songs. How freeing it is to cry out to God in similar ways, wrestling honestly, knowing that God can handle all of our emotions.
So let us wrestle, trusting that he who loves us exactly as we are also loves us enough not to leave us as we are. I’m comforted to note that, similar to most of the angsty psalms, my cries most often end in joy and peace as I lean into God’s presence.
God, you know. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: TEACHERS AND THEIR CLASSES
The End of the Story
FRIDAY, August 18
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all” (v. 32).
This verse always trips me up. As a mom whose firstborn is a son, I can’t even grasp it. Of course God knew the end of the story—that in the end, Jesus would rise victorious, rejoin him in the heavenlies, and forever sit at his right hand. So how painful could it be? After all, “Neither death nor life…will be able to separate us from the love of God” (vv. 38-39).
And yet. Jesus’s words on the cross haunt me. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). The pain, suffering, and weight of the world’s sin were unbearable, if only for a moment.
I take comfort in this, because we too know the end of the story.
God, thank you that we will never be separated from your love in Christ Jesus. AMEN.
SATURDAY, August 19
“Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”
As a young believer, I loved this quote. As I mature in faith, however, it leaves a sour taste in my mouth as we more and more omit the name Jesus in conversation in our culture, lest we offend. In reality, our faith doesn’t lie in a nebulous higher power; we have faith in a triune God, in Jesus coming to earth, living among us, taking on the sin of the world, and conquering all, even death. It is in Jesus Christ that our hope lies.
“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (v. 10). Believing and speaking—both are essential. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (v. 13).
How beautiful indeed are the feet of those who bring this good news to others!
Lord Jesus Christ, you are everything. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: SCHOOL COUNSELORS AND MENTAL HEALTH STAFF