Get Centered in the New Year with Centering Prayer: Spiritual Practice of the Month

One of the things that makes me laugh when I read love stories, whether adult or YA fiction, is that moment when the boy and girl or man and woman kiss for the first time and the woman’s mind just . . . empties. All those fizzing synapses get burned out by the sheer electric power of the meeting-of-the-mouths, and all thought ceases. Not just all rational thought, but all thought. Period.

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This is in some ways a lovely fantasy. The problem is, I don’t think this is the way it actually works. At least not to most women I know of. And this is not a drag on the guys we’ve been kissing. It’s simply to point out that, anecdotally speaking, women are capable of thinking of many things at once and even the most mind-blowing kiss does not negate this ability. Perhaps it’s our more bilaterally-symmetrical brains and the fact that our two brain hemispheres talk to each other more.

I remember an old episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Data the android gets a human girlfriend. It’s doomed to fail, of course, but the death knell of the relationship tolls when she kisses Data and asks what he’s thinking. He matter-of-factly reels off a laundry list of about 15 things, including the limit of pressure he can put on her lips without caving her face in with his superhuman robotic strength. Her face falls and she walks away. She knows what it means that she doesn’t totally occupy his thoughts: he doesn’t love her.

When I watched the show a teenager I thought this storyline was romantic and star-crossed and bittersweet, even if more than a shade past believable (specifically, actor Brent Spiner’s pasty shade of pancake makeup, back when extreme pallor was supposed to indicate “android” and not “hot teenage vampire”). Poor girl, always falling for the unavailable guy! Poor Data, longing to be human but unable to understand love.

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The skin tone dreams are made of.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it was a lousy idea for Ensign-of-the-Week to try to date a robot, and I have no idea whether it’s true for guys that physical contact makes your brain spontaneously combust, but I know for a fact that women can be kissing their significant other and enjoying the experience while simultaneously running through their grocery list, their best friend’s relationship woes, that upcoming project deadline, the sale at Zulily, and whether they have clean unmentionables for tomorrow. Sure, the kiss works better – a lot better – when your attention is undivided, but generally speaking, that single-minded focus happens because you decide you want it to, not by some sort of hormonal fiat over your gray matter. You can tell your brain to shut up, if you want, but you’re still giving yourself over to the moment with the full assent of your thought and will.

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Remember Ghost? I don’t care what the CGI and camera angles are telling you, Demi’s character is perfectly aware she’s kissing a dead guy borrowing the body of another woman. (For a gender-swap variation on this plot, read Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones.) She might not care, but that’s different from her brain turning completely to mush and disconnecting her from reality. Even if Patrick Swazye’s lips are literally glowing with light from heaven. (Which would give most anyone trouble, I think.)

What I am working up to saying, in a roundabout fashion, is that, contrary to years of received wisdom from Danielle Steele, Hollywood, and Team Edward, it’s hard to shut off your brain. It’s hard if you’re a woman. It’s hard if you live in a city, especially one of loud-talking, fast-moving overachievers like New York. It’s hard if you have any kind of stress in your life. It’s probably hard if you’re a guy, too, but I don’t have the same kind of personal experience with that situation.

So how to quiet all that noise in your head and just . . . be present? Especially during the first days of the year, which are – let’s face it – kind of like the hangover to the just-concluded holiday season. You know what I mean. Christmas and New Years are over but their detritus is still with you – your dried up Christmas tree, shedding needles faster than your Uncle George’s scalp is divesting itself of its hair, needs to be hauled to the curb (or, in the case of my tabletop Charlie Brown-esque model, smooshed back into its box and schlepped to the basement), the ornaments returned to their packing, and those peppermint bark and champagne-induced love handles need to be melted posthaste by some New Year’s juice cleansing and Soul Cycle. Oh, and you’re back to work and the kids are back in school, but the government is still shut down.

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How, amidst all this bustle and chaos, can you find time to be with God, to invite him to step through your busyness and defenses and consent to his presence the way you would to a kiss?

One way is to practice centering prayer. This ancient practice is designed to shut down distractions from inside and out, to help you become completely open to God. Here’s how it’s done:

First, find a quiet place and get comfortable in a seated position. Then, breathe. Slowly, in and out, becoming aware of your breath as it flows in and out of your body. Feel the rise and fall of your chest, your breath slowing, your body gradually loosening, your thoughts slowing down to the pace of your respiration.

Now, choose a focus word or phrase, something that will help anchor you in the moment, a word that resonates with you and where you are with God. For me, the word is often “Holy.” Begin to repeat the word in your head as you breathe, so that the word falls into place with the rhythm of your body.

Then – and this, for me, is the hardest part! – try to empty your mind of thought. You’re trying to achieve inner silence, a total openness to God and God alone. This takes practice! Almost certainly a billion little thoughts will zoom in like industrious bees. Rather than trying to swat them away with your mental fly swatter, simply notice them, without guilt or frustration, and go back to your anchor word for a time. Repeat it until you reclaim your focus and inner stillness. When you’re ready, let the word go and try to empty your mind again and simply be with God. Pray as long as you feel able to sustain your centered state.

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If you need a bit more support, there’s a Centering prayer app! You can use it to frame your practice with music and scripture or to set a timer. The organization that created the app, Contemplative Outreach, also offers online communities and workshops for those interested in centering prayer.

Title photo credit: Ilya Naymushin / Reuters via theatlantic.com

Find me on Instagram @ravishedbylight.

Everything I Know About Love, I Learned from “Bachelor Nation” (Book Review)

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In tribute to my church’s current series on God and Dating, I’m continuing to review some of the books I’ve read relating to love, romance, dating, and marriage.

Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure isn’t really about dating, in the sense that it’s not a “how-to” primer, the way The Four Man Planwhich I wrote about last week, is. But entertainment journalist and author Amy Kaufman definitely uncovers some of the secrets to making people feel the pulse-pounding onslaught of love (or maybe just lust) – whether or not they’re there for the “right reasons.”

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Let it be said, right off the bat, that the Bachelor producers come off in this book as beyond Machiavellian. They make the author of The Prince, the scourge of the Medicis, look like a rank amateur. They are manipulative, scheming, ratings-grubbing, and drama-mongering. And they are obviously geniuses at what they do, because, well,  we’re still watching.

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An Actual Bachelor Producer

Well, I’m not. Anymore. Mostly because it’s faster for me to skim the recaps.

What were my “right reasons” for beginning to watch the voyeuristic marvel that is the Bachelor franchise? Way back in 2002, my husband and I had a new baby that Would. Not. Sleep. After four months of stumbling around like zombies on Ambien, we gave up and sleep-trained her – an esoteric process otherwise known as “let the baby cry herself to sleep, already!” The problem was, we were in a very small apartment and had nowhere to go away from the crying. So, we turned on the tv, and lo and behold! Like a light shining out on our desperate existence, there was Chris Harrison! And the Bachelor! And 25 Bachelorettes!

Reader, it was the distraction we needed. We were hooked like big, bug-eyed catfish and stayed hooked through the second season, when the lovely former cheerleader Trista graced our screen and flitted out with a proposal from Fireman Ryan, he of the sweetly terrible – I mean just horrendous – poetry. We watched their wedding, when the couple bizarrely decided they only needed to recite thirteen-and-a-half out of fourteen lines of Elizbeth Barrett Browning’s sonnet, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

People, you just cannot truncate a sonnet of its final couplet. It becomes a painfully unfinished thing.  It’s like . . . if Pygmalion hadn’t wanted to bother with styling Galatea’s hair and just left her brainpan open. IT CANNOT BE DONE.

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Etienne-Maurice Falconette, The Walters Art Museum
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Trista and Ryan, ABC

Sorry, had to get that off my chest.

Anyway, back to the book. Here, in no particular order, are the 10 secrets to falling in love a la Bachelor Nation. (Have no fear, I will also list more broadly applicable secrets for the rest of us who like to visit Reality TV Land but wouldn’t want to live there.)

  1. Alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol. So much alcohol. Because people without inhibitions can be coached to do anything!
  2. Sleep-deprivation. Also not known to promote rational, self-protective behavior.
  3. Isolation. You know all those women can’t leave the house, right? Not even to run to CVS for toothpaste.
  4. Complete lack of privacy. Cameras everywhere! Eventually, contestants can’t keep their guard up all the time any longer and that’s when things really get rockin’.
  5. Ruthless editing. By manipulating camera angles, cuts, and voice-overs, and splicing together exactly the words they want someone to say, the producers can make a perfectly pleasant one-on-one date seem like an encounter between Attila the Hun and the Roman army. Or vice versa.
  6. The same interrogation techniques used by police when they’re trying to get someone to confess to murder. “Oh, come on, Ashley. You know you’re for falling for Justin. We’ve been in this room for 15 hours without daylight or water or even those little 100 calorie cookie packs from the vending machine. Why don’t you just cry a little and say you’re ready to marry him and we can all go back to our tequila?”
  7. Pursuant to numbers 4, 5 and 6: An iron-clad contract. Everything you say and do can and will be used against you in the court of reality television. Even if you didn’t actually say or do it.
  8. Boredom. There is nothing to do in the Bachelor/ette mansion. No books, no tv, not even jenga. Eventually, there is nothing to do to entertain yourself except fall in love, form Survivor-like alliances, and acquiesce to whatever cunning narrative the producers want to tell the viewing audience. They want you to wear a tiara and a ballgown? Sure, what else have you got to do?
  9. Using women’s biology against them. Did you know that when a bunch of women stay in the same place for an extended time, their menstrual cycles start to sync up? The Bachelor producers sure do. Mass outbreaks of crying, moodiness, and exhaustion make for must-see-tv!
  10. The producers conspire against you. They cultivate your friendship and then they lie, lie, lie. Say Rudy tells Tania – to her face! – that he doesn’t know how he feels about her but he does think she’s great in the sack. The producer whom Tania trusts the most will then assure Tania that Rudy is a deep, sensitive guy who is already halfway to the altar.
  11. Did I mention the alcohol? Because I think they might fill the swimming pool with it.
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The Bachelor Pool: Powered by hormones, mixed drinks, and impaired decision-making.

Now, for those of us who have no designs on the Fantasy Suite, here are Bachelor-inspired dating insights for normal people:

Love is many things, but among the most measurable is a neurochemical state. The culprit is dopamine, “a stimulant that gives us motivation, energy and focus” (Kaufman 135). When you’re in love, dopamine floods your brain and you feel elation, drive, even obsession. The Bachelor puts its contestants in situations that prime them for dopamine surges. Maybe we can’t all have twenty-five people vying for the favor of our attention, but there are some things we can do to stimulate dopamine production on our way to finding that fairy-tale ending:

  1. Go looking for love. Just the expectation that you might meet someone drives up your dopamine levels. Proximity to other people looking for love can also increase dopamine production.
  2. Put yourself in novel situations. Combine your romantic quest with new experiences. Try new things in order to meet new kinds of people. And when you’ve met someone, try new things with them.
  3. It’s even better if the new thing is something you’re slightly afraid of. Conquering fear or facing imagined danger with a potential or actual romantic partner will bond you even more. The Bachelor calls these “adrenaline dates” (Kaufman 133) – rappelling down a cliff, zip-lining over a forest, swimming with sharks, dashing to Macy’s on Black Friday. The surge of endorphins on top of all the other hormones will increase your feelings of connectedness and euphoria.
  4. Keep your clothes on. Also known as the “Don’t Give Away Your Goodies For Free” postulate.* Why? Because when you’re in a state of heightened dopamine – which everyone at the beginning of a relationship is – it’s hard to distinguish between lust and love. The instant sex enters the picture, your dopamine system basically explodes your brain. It conspires against your reason, wisdom, and self-preservation. You can go instantly from a superficial interest in someone to feeling like he is the Romeo to your Juliet, the Lancelot to your Guinevere, the Jason Mesnick to your Melissa Mycroft. And we all know how well those stories turned out.**

 

*I heard a mom tell her teenage daughter this on the subway. It was probably the funniest #overheardinnyc moment I’ve heard yet, even if the daughter didn’t feel the same way.

**Also, because reportedly the number one reason would-be contestants get turned down for the show? Previously undiagnosed STDs.

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Want to learn more about love? Join Vineyard One NYC for our sermon series on “Biblical Dating in the Digital Age.” Find us at vineyardone.nyc or stream our services Sunday mornings at 10:30am EST on Facebook Live.

A Math Nerd’s Dating Manifesto: The Four Man Plan (Book Review)

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In the annals of crazy-pants things to do with your time, our church’s decision to have a sermon series on God and dating feels up there. For one thing, the Bible has no advice whatsoever about dating, although my husband did notice that wells seem to be a good place to meet your future spouse (Zipporah) or your future spouse’s marriage broker (Rebecca). Also, dating seems to be the kind of topic about which you can talk endlessly and come to very few solid conclusions or universal recommendations. There are too many variables at work: individual temperament, family history, cultural zeitgeist, shifts in gender roles and expectations, not to mention “the economy, stupid.” (Poor economic conditions discourage people from getting married, particularly women.)

Let’s get real: if there were a surefire way to find lasting romantic love, it would already be free to Prime members. (And the rest of us would have to save up our order for weeks or throw in extra q-tips until we reached the free shipping threshold, not that I’m bitter or anything.)

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Still, in the interest of research for said sermon series (and not at all for the pure entertainment), I’ve been reading books about dating. I’ll share my thoughts about some of them here in the next few weeks.

First up is The Four Man Plan: A Romantic Science, by Cindy Lu.

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First of all, Cindy Lu is an awesome name that reminds me of that time when the Grinch gave back Christmas. Just because of that, I’m tempted to believe anything she says.

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The Four-Man Plan is billed as THE BEST HOW-TO-DATE-BOOK EVER, which given the author’s wicked sense of humor, has to be at least somewhat of a joke, along the lines of “THE MOST DRAMATIC ROSE CEREMONY EVER” or “THE MOST PEOPLE AT ANY INAUGURATION EVER.”

Important to know: This book is only for heterosexual women. Women, according to Cindy’s own story and the case studies in her book, can successfully use the Four-Man Plan to date up to 16 men at a time on their way to finding their Three-and-a-Half man, or, in Cindy’s math, THE ONE. (You really have to read the book to understand the calculations.) Men, of course, have never needed much encouragement to spread themselves around. (See: All the Biblical patriarchs.)

The gist: Cindy says that by assigning men mathematical values (from 1/4 to 3 1/2) and keeping track of them on a grid with 16 squares, the odds for finding a fulfilling relationship are ever in your favor. In practice I can’t imagine having time for that many men – When would you sleep? Go to work? Binge-watch Netflix? – so it’s good to know that 16 is a ceiling, not a goal.

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Snow White’s 4MP grid (from the book and website)

By juggling suitors, all of whom are fully aware of your actions (no being a Sneaky Susie), and never sleeping with more than one at a time (the math won’t allow it), you will spur men’s innate competitive nature, which means they will invest more energy and thought in pursuing you; you will open yourself up to becoming simultaneously a more adventurous and more patient dater (because you will not be fixated on getting any one person to put a ring on it); you will not be ruled by your fickle and, frankly, not very bright, hormones; and by virtue of having lots of guys to compare to each other, you will begin to understand better both yourself and the kind of guy that will fit with you.

My husband’s response: This seems very empowering for women. But I don’t have the same opinions about what motivates men or what men are looking for as Cindy does.

My response: If I ever had to date again, I might try this method. It sounds like a way to reduce a lot of the angst and pressure, particularly for Christian singles who are feeling anxious about marriage. I’m all for formulas, and this one almost makes dating sound fun and confidence-building and not like something I would maybe do as an alternative to getting my bunions shaved.

The takeaway for church folk: Not written from a Christian perspective – or any particular ideological or theological bent – but from a practical one. Cindy is concerned not with how we think men should be, but with how she has experienced them to be, which is why I think my husband had trouble relating to her portrayal of men. There are definitely Christian men who – like my husband was – are only looking to date one woman at a time with an eye towards marriage. The plan actually accommodates those men; it just instructs the woman to let the man initiate that discussion, not bring it up on her own.  (This aspect of the plan seems practical and smart and also kind of icky and disempowering, all at the same time. I’m not fond of it, but I can see why it might work.) Cindy also mentions that singles who are planning on abstinence til marriage can still use the plan. In fact, that person will have more space available on her grid for potential dates (because in Cindy’s schema, a sexual partner has a higher “value” and thus takes up more space).

Resources: You can go to Cindy’s website to find testimonials, blog posts, and (if you buy the book) a private Facebook group with 4MP coaches. Or join Vineyard One NYC on Sunday mornings at 10:30 am EST on Facebook Live to check out our sermon series, “Biblical Dating in the Digital Age: How Would Jesus Swipe.” (I’ll let you in on a little secret: The subtitle is a big misdirect. Jesus would totally be a Coffee Meets Bagel guy.)

 

The Dandelion Days of Summer and God’s Unconditional Love

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If you have allergies like I do, and like my kids do, the arrival of warm weather in New York is like a birthday party and a mildly horrific movie wrapped up into one. We love the sunshine, taking out bikes and scooters, shrugging off the coats and sweaters. We love far less the itchy, swollen eyes, stuffy noses and clogged throats, eczema, sneezing, and chemical dependency on every over-the-counter remedy in the known universe.

The other week as I tromped to the drug store in search of antihistamine eyedrops with my son (13) and younger daughter (6), I was struck by how utterly and completely themselves they both were. Deise (pronounced “Daisy”) was in ecstasy over the dandelions populating our neighbors’ lawns. She wanted to pick all of them and bring them home. She kept saying, “They’re so beautiful! Look how beautiful they are!” Daniel, however, was impressed neither by his sister’s enthusiasm nor by its objects. “They’re weeds,” he pointed out. “They’re an invasive species and they’re bad for the rest of the plants. You shouldn’t pick them.”

 

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If you know my kids at all, these reactions typify their personalities. Deise lives in an enchanted world of play clothes and pretend. She’s been sleeping at night in a multicolored tent in our living room, surrounded by the stuffed animals that “I love so so much, even though I know they aren’t real.” I took her to her piano lesson not too long ago and the trees by her teacher’s apartment were in full bloom. She was enthralled and spent time gathering not only tree blossoms but more dandelions. She named each one of her blooms: Blossom, Berry, Cherry, Pitter, Patter, Packer, Mrs., Droopy, Goldilocks, and Bitter (because it was small). She also picked up individual petals from the ground and gave them the catch-all name “Hatchling.” She is the embodiment of joie de vivre.

(Her names reminded me of the classic children’s book Make Way for Ducklings, with its eight siblings Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack.)

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Daniel, my chess player, mathematician, and pessimist, is interested in facts, strategy, and planning for worst-case scenarios. (Also, Marvel comics.) When Daniel looks at a dandelion, he sees not “scope for the imagination,” as Anne Shirley would say, but an invasion waiting to happen. His response to dandelions is to leave them alone lest anything worse come to pass.

(Sophie (16) wasn’t with us that day, but if she had been, she would’ve had a snippet of a Broadway song and a playfully sarcastic comment for all parties. Her spiritual gift, like her father’s, is snark.)

What I felt as I watched Daniel and Deise respond so differently to the same environment, and even as I waded in to stop them squabbling over their different perceptions, was an overwhelming wash of love, acceptance, and delight in them, exactly as they both are. And I also felt God’s love for them – unconditional, perfectly knowing, perfectly celebratory of their uniqueness, gifts, and potential.

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I think this is how God loves each one of us: whether we are imaginative and sunny or rational and gloomy, an Anne Shirley or an Eyore.

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Sometimes I think we are afraid that he has rankings in his head, that he prefers one type of personality or one set of talents over another, and that whoever we are is far down the list. But the truth is that God delights in each one of us exactly as we are. Zephaniah 3:17 tells us that:

. . .  the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

If your insecurities are snarling at you today, spend some time meditating on this Scripture passage and letting its truth sink in. You are as beloved by God as the brightest summer bloom. You bring God joy! What could be more beautiful and freeing than that?

Lent Day 46: The Blessings of the Week

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PREPARE

Today is a day to review your journey with Jesus over the past week. On the day before the resurrection, spend time retracing with Jesus his journey to the cross.

OPTION 1

Look over the week’s devotionals and/or your journal entries (Day 41, Day 42, Day 43, Day 44, Day 45). What stands out to you?  How has Jesus been present to you this week? Where do you sense Jesus inviting your attention so that you may go deeper with him?

OPTION 2

If looking over the entire week feels too overwhelming, reflect on one or more of these themes from the week’s devotionals:

1) Through his arrest, trial, and crucifixion, Jesus’ enemies attempted to strip everything from him: his humanity, his dignity, his followers. They failed because Jesus had an unshakable certainty, given to him by the Father, in who he was and how much he was loved (Matthew 3:16-17). To what extent do you also have this certainty? What experiences have brought you such certainty or contributed to its lack? Is there any part of yourself or your past you need to bring to God for healing?

2) As you read about Jesus’ experiences, what resonates with you and why? How might Jesus be speaking to you through his path to the cross and subsequent new life?

OBEY

In this time of waiting for Easter and the “joy that comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5), allow Jesus’ sorrow to enter your own heart. What is one thing that you sense brings both you and Jesus sorrow? Bring that pain to Jesus and ask him what he has to say to you about it.

“Leap of Faith” is a devotional series on the Gospel of John for the Lent season. All readings are available on the Vineyard One NYC app, along with additional resources for Bible reading, worship, and prayer (IPhone app here; Google Play app here).

 

Lent Day 41: “No Power Unless Given From Above”

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PREPARE

Close your eyes and quiet your thoughts. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you walk with Jesus through his time of trial.

READ

John 19:1-16

REFLECT AND PRAY
Jesus endures horrible abuse and torture at the hands of his enemies. He is now a prisoner, brought here by the plotting and scheming of the religious leaders, no longer able to roam free to teach and heal the masses.
1) Put yourself in the place of one of Jesus’ followers. What emotions do you imagine you would have felt while seeing all of this? What conclusions might you have come to about Jesus, yourself, Pilate or the religious leaders, or about what was going to happen next?
2) ” Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin” (v.11).
In this situation, who believes they are in control? How do they demonstrate what they believe to be their superiority? How do Jesus’ words show them – and us – another perspective?
3) Think back on a difficult time in your life. How has Jesus used it to show you he is in control of your life, health, dreams, and hopes?
OBEY
Give thanks to Jesus, who chose to endure great suffering because of his love for us. Share the story of Jesus’ love with someone this week.
Guest writer: Mercy Perez

 

“Leap of Faith” is a devotional series on the Gospel of John for the Lent season. All readings are available on the Vineyard One NYC app, along with additional resources for Bible reading, worship, and prayer (IPhone app here; Google Play app here).

 

Lent Day 36: United in Joy

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PREPARE

Start with a time of quiet praise. If you feel led to do so, listen to a worship song (like “Wonder” by Amanda Cook) that will help you enter into your time of reflection and prayer.

READ

John 17

REFLECT AND PRAY

Jesus says of his disciples: “I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy . . . I have revealed you [the Father] to them, and I will continue to do so.”

1) Name one thing that Jesus has revealed to you that gives you joy. It can be something about you or another person, something about God, or something about creation. What is the first thing that comes to your mind?

2) What words, images, or phrases stand out to you when you think of God the Father? Who are the people in your life who have revealed different aspects of God to you?

OBEY

 

Jesus’ prayer here is for his disciples throughout all time and for the unity of the church. Pray along with the Jesus that we all will be one, joined in his grace, the Father’s love, and the Holy Spirit’s communion (2 Corinthians 3:14).

“Leap of Faith” is a devotional series on the Gospel of John for the Lent season. All readings are available on the Vineyard One NYC app, along with additional resources for Bible reading, worship, and prayer (IPhone app here; Google Play app here).

 

Lent Day 32: The Blessings of the Week

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PREPARE

Today is a day to review your journey with Jesus over the past week. Ask Jesus to be with you as you do so. Invite the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts, emotions, and memories.

OPTION 1

Look over the week’s devotionals and/or your journal entries (Day 27, Day 28, Day 29, Day 30, Day 31). What stands out to you?  How has Jesus been present to you this week? Where do you sense Jesus inviting your attention so that you may go deeper with him?

OPTION 2

If looking over the entire week feels too overwhelming, reflect on one or more of these themes from the week’s devotionals:

1) How have you lived in Jesus’ light this week? In what areas of your life have you been able to love as Jesus loved, to remain in his love, and to obey his commandments?

2) In what situations has Jesus been inviting you to give up control or the struggle for understanding and simply trust him? How has Jesus proved himself trustworthy in this past week?

3) How has Jesus helped you in your times of failure?

OBEY

Give Jesus thanks for how he has journeyed with you this week. Then, take him up on his promise to “do whatever you ask in my name.” Step out in faith and bring the “desire of your heart” (Psalm 37:4) to him.

 

“Leap of Faith” is a devotional series on the Gospel of John for the Lent season. All readings are available on the Vineyard One NYC app, along with additional resources for Bible reading, worship, and prayer (IPhone app here; Google Play app here).

 

Lent Day 31: “Remain in My Love”

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PREPARE

Find a place and time to be alone with God. Ask Jesus to help you love as he does and to keep you connected to him, your source of life.

READ

John 15:1-17

REFLECT AND PRAY

1) Think of what a grapevine looks like. Obviously, if a branch is detached from the trunk, it will die and not bear fruit. It’s just the same with us and Jesus. In order to be truly alive and bear fruit (Galatians 5:22-23), we need to remain in him and his love by keeping his commandments. (What are his commandments? Read verses 12 and 17 to be reminded.) However, just like with branches, sometimes He needs to clean us and take away what is not good. Ask God to remove whatever is not allowing you to bear fruit.

2) To remain in Jesus we must learn to love like he does; his love is the kind described in 1st Corinthians 13:4-8. The only way to bear fruit is to love. Without love, we are nothing, even if we apparently do good deeds and have amazing ministries (1st Corinthians 13:13). Today, as you pray, ask God to increase your love for others.

OBEY

Ask God how you can truly love someone this week. How can you love the way that Jesus loves us, in a sacrificial manner? Maybe it looks like buying lunch for a homeless person; maybe it looks like taking out someone you don’t really like at work for coffee; maybe it looks like helping your spouse or roommate with their chores when you are already exhausted; maybe it looks like spending time with a friend who is going through a hard time. In sum, do unto others what you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12).

– Abraham Aldama

 

“Leap of Faith” is a devotional series on the Gospel of John for the Lent season. All readings are available on the Vineyard One NYC app, along with additional resources for Bible reading, worship, and prayer (IPhone app here; Google Play app here).