Devotion

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Writing Prompts: Jeremiah 23:9-15 – Psalm 33 – Romans 9:1-18 – Gospel of John 6:60-7

For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. – Romans 9:17-18

On hearing this, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” – John 6:60

Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. – Psalm 33


 

Here I am, Lord; I have woken to a new day of hard lessons. I have pushed back the curtain of the night and let in the sleepy dawn; and here I am, with You. I learned to pray this way by listening for You in the hour before the Light. I learned to pray this way by listening for the quiet voice that could bring peace to my own hurting heart.

This is how we pray: first, for the people I love. I pray for my family, far across the sea.

Second, I pray for the people I don’t know, but who can surely use more love.

And then third, dear Lord, I pray for all the people that I wish to hate. I call them first, “Your children – Your children! – who have wronged me.” Then I stay with You until I can say, “My brothers and sisters, who are hurting, and have hurt others in their pain.”

Hard lessons indeed, O Lord. It is hard to look for the driver behind the glass façade in the furious traffic, and to hope their day gets better as they swing angrily from lane to lane. It is hard to remember every person I meet knows what it is to love and lose that love; to watch a dream get dashed; to be too kind, one time too many; to be flattened by the relentless churn of the day. To understand that their lives, their strife, their frustrations, so often have nothing to do with me. I am like a pebble that the tide of their emotion swept elsewhere, without noticing – but I shall be a pebble that loves the sea, dear God. A pebble that rests on whatever shore it has been cast, and looks up at the sun and sings for the beauty of the strange new land it’s in.

Let me always sing for You, O God. You taught me how to pray and how to sing, and ever since I have known You, they have been one and the same. I have songs for You that no one else shall ever hear; songs I will always rise with the birds and the tide at dawn to sing. Songs that are uncertain and faltering, for they are new; songs not yet polished with practice and precision.

For I am not perfect, God. I am both a slow and an impatient student. And I believe that You place hard lessons and hard people in my path to teach me, time and again, that You are here. You have called me by my name; You have said, “Come, and follow me.” The memory of Your quiet voice tugs at my spirit, and every hard lesson is an opportunity to return to You, and become so close to You that I no longer remember whose was the voice that called, and whose was the voice that answered.

Was it I, God? Did I call You first, once upon a time, in prayer and desperation, saying, “Please, my God; please have mercy, and love me…”

Or was it You who called to me, saying, “Here: these are My children; and you must have mercy, and love them for Me.”?

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