Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. —Jeremiah 17:7-8
If ever there has been a time for us to focus on trusting and being deeply rooted in the Lord, it has been this past year. A tree needs to be deeply rooted to tap into a source of life-sustaining water if it is to survive storms, drought, fire, and pest infestations. Of course, being deeply rooted doesn’t mean the tree will avoid these threats, nor does it guarantee that it won’t endure some damage over the years. The same can be said for all of God’s faithful.
Jesus never promised to shield us from hardship, just as trees planted near water aren’t shielded from acts of nature. Maybe you have known times when you thought you might topple from the weight of pain, loss,
anxiety, sickness, or loneliness. Yet you didn’t. You are still here, and now your rootedness in God is deeper than ever. If bad weather threatens you now, continue trusting in the Lord and trusting in your rootedness to Jesus.
FOR ACTION: Do something physical today to symbolize rooting yourself in God. Sit on the bare earth for prayer time. Walk barefoot under a tree, reflecting on it’s rootedness. Get down on the ground to play with a child. Prepare a meal that includes root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, yams, beets, etc). Thank God for the rootedness that keeps you connected to our Creator.
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God. —Psalm 31:5
Americans in the year 2021 like to be in control; we are not people who naturally surrender our lives to God. It has not been easy to give up control over so many aspects of our lives this past year: when our children can go back to school, when we can visit family members across the country, when we can open our business again, or even when we can get together with friends in person and inside again. Maybe we have been too busy chafing about not being in control to surrender ourselves more freely to God and how God is working among us in this time of a worldwide pandemic. God IS redeeming us, even amidst the inconveniences and heartache of this year. More home-cooked family meals, less hectic schedules, deeper connections to neighbors and local friends, the discovery of a new hobby or time to pursue an old one—all of these might be ways that God is redeeming us.
FOR PRAYER: Pray for deeper freedom to commit your spirit fully to God, and pray for the ability to see all the ways God is gracing you in your surrender.
Changing for the Good
Cease to do evil, learn to do good. —Isaiah 1:16-17
As much as the coronavirus has caused tremendous disruptions to our lives, it has also given us the chance to take stock of how we live, as individuals and as a society. Last spring, coal plants shuttered, airlines grounded their planes, and millions of cars stayed parked. Almost immediately air and water pollution levels dropped dramatically across the globe. Health experts believe that the reduction of smog in China alone saved more lives than the virus caused deaths there. It may be easy to overlook or rationalize the damage that modern life is inflicting on our planet. Coal is a cheap energy source, some people need to fly to New York for business, and often driving to work is quicker than public transportation. The fact is, those rationalizations allow us to “do evil” to the earth. When the coronavirus forced us to reconsider how we do things, we learned to do good in ways we might never have otherwise.
FOR REFLECTION: In what other ways has the pandemic led to changes that are good for us individually, as a society, or the earth?
Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. —Luke 6:37-38
In this season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, today’s Gospel gives us ideas of what we might fast from besides the traditional chocolate, coffee, or alcohol. We can fast from judging others (“That mom doesn’t have her act together—her son’s shirts are always stained” or “How ignorant is he that he voted for X candidate?”).
We can pray for the freedom to forgive others who have hurt our loved ones or us. Finally, we can take
opportunities to give to others with more generosity and freedom. We might do it spontaneously (“We’ve got extra pie, let’s share with our neighbor.”) or intentionally (buy gift cards to a fast food restaurant to give out to panhandlers).
FOR ACTION: What can you commit to doing this week to heed Jesus’ words in the passage above?
Listening to the Beloved
Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” —Mark 9:7
In the Transfiguration story, God speaks to Jesus’ apostles with words that are still directed to us today. God didn’t threaten them with punishment or try to enforce obedience as to a military commander. God invited them to listen to one called the “Beloved.” If you think of someone“beloved” in your life, aren’t you more willing to listen to them, watch how they act, and try to live as they do than someone whom you fear?
FOR REFLECTION: What words of Jesus from the Gospels are you invited to listen to or pay attention to today?