I love you, God, and I know that you love me. When I need strength, my heart dwells on your presence and I have it. When everything seems so uncertain, be my solid rock. Protect me from the forces that want to harm me. Let your Holy Spirit run through me so I am not the force that harms someone else. You strengthen us to help rescue each other from each other. You are the rock that is always steady and strong. May I mirror that steadiness. Shield me from unloving thoughts that lead to unloving acts. Let me be a place of safety as I also seek safety in the presence of those who follow you. Amen.
I take shelter in you, God. When all around me is scary and tumultuous, you are my refuge. Speak to me today. Speak words of both comfort and conviction. Sometimes courage looks like running away to confront the powers another day. Sometimes it looks like standing in harm’s way. Speak to me so I know which is appropriate. Our country looks like the bottom is falling all. What can I possibly do? Nothing good without your guidance and strength.
See me. See all of me. Examine my heart and motives. If they are not in line with your will, show me. I want to be righteous and not wicked, but I know that I am sometimes both. Help me be more good than not. Help me forgive those who are not.
Your heart hates violence. We do so much violence in your name. It has to make you sick. We are so wicked to each other. It must pain you, Father, to see your children killing each other. I could not bear it if one of my kids killed another. My mind cannot even fathom. Yet, you see it every single day in more numbers than is imaginable.
We deserve fiery coals heaped on our heads, yet you pile love and mercy upon us. Instead of scorching hot wind filling our cups, we drink in your breath of life…because you are good.
You love good deeds and right hearts. Help me see your face in the face of every person I encounter today. If I do not, then I know my heart is not right. Amen.
Psalm 4 (1-2)
Answer my prayers, God. You know the true nature of my requests.
Continue to make me right in your sight. You love me regardless, but I want to be better for you.
Rescue me from the relentless feeling of anxiety and despair that threatens to consume me when I feel surrounded by uncertainty. You have rescued me before. I know that you will do it again.
You listen when I cry out. Hear me again. Surround me with the love that a proud parent shows their beloved child.
Restore my hope when it waivers. Bring me victory when I feel defeated, whether or not I truly am. When others try to steal my dignity, my hope in your goodness strengthens me.
Please do not let my actions be fruitless and let that fruit be ever sweet. Help me see clearly amid all the fog of our times. Help me understand. AMEN.
O Eternal, you are strong. Through your patience, you reveal your strength. Give me some of that patient strength today. I feel at the very edge of everything.
I am glad because of you and you not leaving me to myself. Glad am I for you, but I cannot sing your name today. I can speak it. Maybe even shout it. But today, I cannot sing.
I have everything I need, yet I want more. Always more. Still, I cannot think of something I want. I just know that I am not at ease with the state of everything. I wish for fear and stress to be reduced, eliminated even. I wish that the world hadn’t gone to hell in so short a time. But then again, was it really so short? Have we not been going down this path since the beginning? Was it not for this very reason that you brought Jesus into this world? Was Christmas revealed to us if not for such a time as now?
God, you never withhold your love from me, for which I am extremely thankful. Hear my prayers today. Hear and respond so I can listen and respond as well. Give me the voice to sing your name again. Give me the heart to want to do it. AMEN.
Praying the Psalms
Lord, I pray for those who do not believe you exist. I pray for those of us that do believe you exist but live as though you don’t. Help me see the ways in which I behave wickedly and foolishly. Stir in me a desire for wisdom and goodness.
It makes you sick to see the horrible ways we treat each other. We hurt each other based on race, gender, sexuality, and a host of other categories that make us think we have the right to wield power and control over others you’ve created. We don’t want to make you sick. Forgive us for the ways that we have hurt and continue to damage your beloved creation. We ask your grace as you patiently and constantly reveal to us the ways in which we can treat your creation and its creatures with compassion and love.
We want to do good. Too often, we do not. Forgive us.
You see everything. You witness it all. We can hide nothing from you, not even in the deepest parts of our hearts. We still try. We turn our backs on you and determine to do our own thing, go our own ways rather than your way. The outcome so often bears rotten, rancid fruit.
Please reveal to us what really matters to you. When it is revealed, give us the courage to walk that road, often the narrow and less traveled road. We devour each other trying to satisfy our hunger for you. We take the wrong paths. We search in the wrong places. So, we end up devouring the easiest things at hand, each other.
The reality we build up around ourselves is far too often not the reality you want for us. We ignore you and find ourselves lost. We show the world a brave face, but we are scared. Without you, we have false courage. Our hearts race at the thought of being without you.
There are those who try to take away our hope. They laugh at us. They mock us. Sometimes we are the ones trying to steal other people’s hope. But you are the strongest shelter in the heaviest storm, and nothing can be stolen that you give freely. You surround those who are poor, needy, and troubled with your sheltering love. Surround us today.
We feel bound to the awfulness of this world. Make a new day of deliverance. When we recognize that you have broken all of our bonds, we rejoice. We are delighted. We pray for release in the name of Jesus the Chainbreaker. AMEN.
I pray that those who need to hear your name do hear it. Let those who’ve heard it before hear it again.
Your magnificent glory shines far above the skies but today I pray that we see it shining here below the clouds with us. People are broken and despairing. They need that glorious light now more than ever.
Thank you for new life! I pray for those adding a new baby to their house today.
We are the mouths and souls through which you weald your power. Flow through us today and use the power of your loving presence to stop your adversaries. Stamp out the desire for revenge in me as well as in those who seek to get revenge against me. Vengeance does nothing for us expect further hurt, divide, and break us…and it moves us farther from your Way.
I ask your Spirit to continue to urge me to meditate on the wondrousness of your creation. When I gaze to the skies, I see you. In the moon and stars, the trees and grass, the biting winter air and the warm caress of the summer sun, in the blooming bud and the dying leaf…I see you.
So, why do you care about me? About us? We are so small an insignificant in the scope of this universe. Yet, you have made it plain to us that we matter to you. God, I pray for those who feel like they don’t matter to you or anyone. There is soul-crushing grief in many of us today. We feel like nothing matters…especially us.
Help us look around at this world and see the beauty even in the middle of all the ugliness. The ugliness isn’t truth. It is a distortion of the truth. The ugliness is a lie. Help us, help me, expose the lie. Let us see that there is always something beautiful worth hanging on to, worth sticking around for.
Thank you for Jesus. Thank you that, when I can see nothing beautiful around me, I can still see the beauty in your son, and that points me in the right direction.
Lord, guide us. Guide our hands and feet to nurture the offspring of your divine imagination. It is in that way that we can joyfully recognize your gift of creation to us. It’s hard to see it as a gift because it is literally trying to kill us. But there is still amazing beauty in the complexity of it all.
Thank you for pets. When the world seems lost, when everything in my day is going wrong, my dog still thinks I’m the person you want me to be. Please help me be the person my dog thinks I am.
Help us see the wisdom in trying to remain safe from things that can hurt us, even kill us.
There are so many of us. Remind us that we are all connected whether from across the world or even just across the street. What I do impacts countless others. And what they do impacts me. Quash the pride in my heart that lies to me and tells me that my choices are more important than other people’s choices. Get rid of the elitist attitude I have that lies to me and says I am more important than other people. Do away with the arrogance in me that lies to me and says that what I do is my own business because it doesn’t impact anyone else. These are all lies. Reveal these as lies with the light of your glorious radiance.
God, reveal the truth by the hearing of your name, your majestic name that is heard throughout the earth. Make known that name through the wonder of creation. Make known your name through me. AMEN.
In a world full of division and discord, it is important to hear some words about unity. This is the first in the series Somos del Senor: We Are From The Lord. I hope it brings you some ecouragement in these dark times.
Pastor Shane Russo
As I did sermon prep one morning, I encountered a familiar passage from Matthew that made me stop and consider a recent action I had taken. Here is the passage:
If you judge other people, then you will find that you, too, are being judged. Indeed, you will be judged by the very standards to which you hold other people.Matthew 7:1-2
So, what did I do that made me pause when I read this passage?
A number of years back, my sister-in-law bragged that her son knew the words to a country song, Something Bout A Truck by Kip Moore. If you click that link and listen to the song, you might see why I thought it was a bad idea to have a 7-year old singing this song.
If you don’t want to click, here’s the short of it: The song talks about drinking, making out, and smacks really close to teaching about glorifying sex with inebriated partners. I know, I’m probably overthinking it. I’m a pastor. It’s my job to overthink things.
I gave her a TON of crap for it. I told her in not so many words that her parenting was questionable. I, myself, was a parent at this point. It wasn’t anything like when I told her how to parent before I had kids. No, I had real cred now. She wasn’t as good at parenting as me and I let her know it.
Fast forward to about three weeks ago.
I was listening to Fireball by Pitbull (not the clean version) one day when my middle child says, “Daddy, is that Tequila?” I laughed and told him no but they both have catchy saxophone riffs. I never really listened to the words if I’m being honest. I just think that song is catchy as hell. So, of course we listened to it over and over for the next 30 minutes.
Now my kids are going around singing an even worse song than the one I gave my SIL crap for those years ago.
The issue isn’t whether it is good that either of us did it. The issue is that I couldn’t just keep my judgement to myself back then. And now it comes back to bite me in the behind.
The only podcast where you can start out intending to talk about unorthodox pastoral care practices and end up talking about satanism, hell, and the afterlife in general for 30 minutes!
This verse isn’t speaking to me. It is screaming at me. There have been a number of recent instances to which I’ve been witness where the parties involved would have been better off if they had remembered it.
One such situation began over a year ago. A colleague bull-rushed a program in at her church in the face of stern opposition. It wasn’t that her congregation didn’t want what she wanted. It was that they had distinct world views that made the implementation of the program fundamentally different. But she didn’t stop long enough to see the big picture. She showed no discretion.
Over a year later, she is still dealing with the fallout of running headlong into an environment and personality pool that she did not understand.
A little discretion and understanding would have protected her and the congregation.
I should have this very tattooed on my forehead. Seriously. I need to read this every day. I can imagine a scenario where discretion and understanding are not beneficial.
I am impatient. It’s in your blood. It is going to take a lot of energy and work for you to overcome your baked in impulsiveness. Do the work anyway.
I promise that you will never be sorry if you take some time to understand your surroundings and the people in them before forcing a solution.