Thursday, April 2nd

By: Steve Smith
Romans 8:6-11
Reflection—v. 6 ‘to set the mind on the spirit is life and peace.’

The spirit is the way you feel like God is with you in your heart. The spirit guides you to be more heart-full–not harmful, but heart-full. Being spiritual is a very healthy way, I believe, to live. If God is working through you, you’re doing God’s work. For me personally, God working through me looks like God not letting me get into physical conflicts. I stay out of jail. I haven’t been to jail in seven years now, and that’s because I changed my point of view on a lot of things. I used to fight in Little Five Points every day. What changed is that I quit getting into fights. When I left the navy, I was a control freak—I always wanted to fight the meanest person around and I did. I went to jail several times. I had to change that. I worked to clear the garbage out—it was a trashy way of thinking. It was a dark spell, but with Christ you get that little light, and then the Holy Spirit grabs you, and you think ‘Whoa! That’s never happened before!’ But it happens a lot now. It’s almost like a 6th sense–where most people have five senses, God becomes your sixth sense. It’s not perfect perception, but the spirit is a kind of perception from God and it helps you to understand and get right in your life instead of walking and thinking in shadows. I think it’s good for our community to study this type of scripture because we can relate to what we might need to change. That way it’s not erroneous, and we’re more intelligent–it makes us a stronger community to be bonded in scripture.

Prayer God, guide us by your spirit to walk in your light!

Wednesday, April 1st

By: Maggie Leonard
Ezekial 37:1-14
Reflection—v. 10 ‘the breath entered them, they came to life and stood’

Breath prayer was an ancient spiritual practice of the church. One of the earliest of these prayers was known as the ‘Jesus Prayer,’ wherein early practitioners would repeat ‘Jesus, son of God, have Mercy on me’ in rhythm with their breath. At Mercy, Chad turned this phrase into a beautiful sung prayer. I typically think of breath prayers as shorter prayers, one or two words in length, thought in concert with each inhalation and exhalation. I find that praying in this way slows me down, helping me to focus and find calm. Interestingly enough, research has shown that changing our breath can also affect our nervous system. When we are stressed out, the sympathetic part of the nervous system is activated (think, the flight, fright, or freeze response) and we get stuck in this space with a faster heart rate and more elevated blood pressure. It is difficult for the brain to switch back to calm after experiencing stress. However, it has been shown that by taking long slow exhales, we can convince the brain that things are calm and peaceful, even in the midst of stressful circumstances. Long slow exhales can literally bring us calm and clarity. This is the place from which we can make good decisions. This is the place where it can become clear what we should stand for. God’s Holy Spirit fills us with breath and brings us clarity. Through prayer, may we discern this Lenten season where and with whom God’s infusion of love calls us to stand.

Prayer (take a deep breath and slowly exhale) Loving God, give us calm and clarity.

Thursday, March 12th

By: Chad Hyatt
John 3.1-17
Reflection—v. 3 ‘born again’

The encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus is a contrast between conventional and comfortable religious practice and the revolutionary demand of Jesus. Nicodemus ticks all the boxes as a member of the religious ruling elite. He even recognizes where and with whom God is present. But so do the crowds in Jerusalem. And Jesus doesn’t trust them, either. His support is vocal—at least ‘at night’ and in a private meeting. But Jesus calls for radical transformation. He says, in essence, that human beings need to start all over again from scratch. Their perspectives are so at odds it is like Nicodemus and Jesus are speaking different languages. What is at stake between the two is what it means to be faithful. It isn’t enough to see where God seems to be and then do nothing more. To be born anew is to see God mightily at work, yes—but then to join full-on in the work God is doing. Our churches are nearly empty. And we’re scrambling to attract more people back to the faith. But our faith doesn’t stop with filling a pew. Jesus isn’t working Nicodemus for a capital campaign or calling him to deeper doctrinal development. Encountering Jesus in the Gospel of John is to stand face to face with the missional movement of God’s love: Jesus has come from God into the world in order to save the world so that we might be sent out in the same way and for the same thing. Anything less than that, and we might as well start over. Or as Jesus says, it’s time to be born again.

Prayer Jesus, you call us to find you in the fullness of your love for the world; we are born anew.

Wednesday, March 11th

By: Chad Hyatt
Genesis 12:1-4a
Reflection—v. 2 ‘I will make your name so famous that it will be used as a blessing’

Our little community isn’t exactly what you might call famous. Our only ‘signage’ is some spray-painted graffiti by a beloved-but-angry member who wanted to describe for us exactly what ‘Mercy’ does in his opinion. But, hey, at least it says Mercy. Most of us will never be what our celebrity culture considers famous, but we can be known for the kind of persons and communities we seek to be. What if our names were used as a blessing? One of our blessings is the way so many of us have come to see our little community as ‘home.’ We’re loud and wild at times, but also kind and tender, too. Even so, we make a home for one another. It isn’t the work of any one of us. Rather, it is the work of all of us. Many of us who find no place of belonging much of any place else, find it here somehow. A flood of recent moments come to mind. I think of my friend, who has been in and out of the hospital a lot of late, who will tell any confused-looking doctor who will listen, ‘This is my family; say whatever you need to in front of them.’ I think of another friend or two, who find themselves occasionally in the care of other institutions, telling the folks in charge about their church and the calls we get to come and visit. I think about the particularity of love, which doesn’t look exactly the same for any one of us and is often very hard to discern, especially when relationships aren’t as healthy as you might hope but care is still necessary. I think about the friends that tell other friends to come and see what’s happening. And then that person remarks, ‘I like y’all’s hospitality.’ That’s the kind of famous all of our communities could be. And that seems like a blessing to me.

Prayer God of blessing, let our fame be found in our loving care for one another.