Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Yom Kippur blessings

Readings for YOM KIPPUR: The Day of Atonement

Micah 7:18-19: You cast all our sins into the depths of the sea!

 Who is a God like you,
       who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
       of the remnant of His inheritance?
       You do not stay angry forever
       but delight to show mercy.

 You will again have compassion on us;
       you will tread our sins underfoot
       and cast all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.


Psalm 103: As far as the east is from the west…

 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
       slow to anger, abounding in love.
 He will not always accuse,
       nor will he harbor His anger forever;
 He does not treat us as our sins deserve
       or repay us according to our iniquities.
 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
       so great is His love for those who fear Him;
 as far as the east is from the west,
       so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

 As a father has compassion on His children,
       so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him;
 for He knows how we are formed,
       He remembers that we are dust.



Isaiah 38: 13-17: God only intends wholeness from the brokenness

I waited patiently till dawn,
       but like a lion he broke all my bones;
       day and night you made an end of me.
 I cried like a swift or thrush,
       I moaned like a mourning dove.
       My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens.
       I am troubled; O Lord, come to my aid!"
 But what can I say?
       He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this.
       I will walk humbly all my years
       because of this anguish of my soul.
 Lord, by such things men live;
       and my spirit finds life in them too.
       You restored me to health
       and let me live.
 Surely it was for my benefit
       that I suffered such anguish.
       In your love you kept me
       from the pit of destruction;
       you have put all my sins
       behind your back.



Isaiah 61: Her deliverance shines out like the dawn!

For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, 
and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest,
Until her deliverance shines out like the dawn, 
and her salvation as a burning torch.
The nations shall see your deliverance, 
and all rulers shall see your glory;
Then you shall be called by a new name 
which the mouth of God will give.
You shall be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, 
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.



Kol nidre: O God, forgive my lacking vows!

One aspect of the evening prayer on Yom Kippur is an opening prayer that begs God’s forgiveness for the failed vows between the individual and God: the person asks God to forgive the fact that she or he could not keep the vows that s/he spoke before God, that previous year.  

Bread upon the water: You have cast all my sins into the depths of the sea!

Another powerful ritual of Atonement is the enacted casting of one’s sins away: at sunset or after sundown, the person walks to the ocean or to a flowing river or stream, and takes bread, rips the bread into pieces, and prays – quoting Micah 7:19: “Lord, you are a God of compassion. You will tread our sins underfoot, and cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” The person then casts the bread out into the water, in the Presence of the Almighty, asking Him to bear the burden of the sin, and giving it to Him…

It symbolizes, of course, our repentance and the divine bearing of sin [the divine Atonement – only God can carry sins away, into the depths of forgetfulness].  

A prayer for the symbolic casting of bread on the water

Dear Father, thank you for your compassion,
  You have trodden my sins underfoot,
   You have cast all my sins into the depths of the sea,
    Where you choose not to remember them against me –
  Abba, here is a mystery: How can you, the all-knowing God,
      Not remember my sins? Ah, it is not that you cannot remember,
        For you are the One who heals me:

      It is rather that you choose not to remember!
  Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Abba, here I stand beside this river,
  And I give you all that weighs me down…
Jesus, you came as the Bread of Heaven
   Come down to give life to the world:
  You said that the bread you would give
   Is your flesh for the life of the world –
   And that the one who eats of this bread
    Will live forever.
  You said that this bread was your body,
    Broken for us, broken for me,
     To take away the brokenness I incurred…
 Oh, Jesus! In this moment be my Bread:
  Be my bread to feed my soul,
  And in yourself take away the weight of my sins:
 You said that you cast my sins into the depths of the sea –
  So I cast my burdens upon you this moment…
Take them, Lord Jesus Christ, Bread of Life!
 Take away my leaven, take all the leaven of sin from the loaf,
  And let me live again, renewed, for you!

Bread of Heaven, be my bread, be my Savior
Who takes away the sins of the world,
Who bears the burden of those weighed down,
Whose wounds bring healing, pure and free!
O Breath of Heaven! Lighten my darkness…
Pour over me your holiness, for you are holy
And I am needy! Breath of Heaven, bread of life
I cast myself upon you, like bread upon the waters,
Forgive me for where I’ve failed your intent,
And let me return after many days,
Like new bread returned: without leaven, whole, pure and true!
Abba! This is pray, in tears, yet in humble rejoicing…
  In Jesus’ name – Oh, let your Spirit reign over me
  To lighten me, guide me and fill me,
   My Living God!
Thank you for your Atonement, I take it, like a child
 Thirsting in the desert, water for my soul,
  Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!


 Peace be upon Israel! O LORD God Almighty, bless your People with peace.



Monday, September 17, 2012

Providential shark: And God appointed a w... er, shark!

Man adrift on ocean led to rescuers by a shark

A pretty neat story of Providence, fresh off the newswires:

A man who survived while adrift in the Pacific for 106 days is crediting a shark for helping to save his life.

Toakai Teitoi, 41, a policeman from the Central Pacific island nation of Kiribati, had been traveling with his brother-in-law on what was supposed to be a short voyage, beginning May 27, from the Kiribati capital of Tarawa to his home island of Maiana. But the mariners decided to fish along the way, and fell asleep during the night.

When they awoke they were far at sea and adrift in their 15-foot wooden vessel. They soon ran out of fuel, and were short on water. "We had food, but the problem was we had nothing to drink," Teitoi told Agence France-Presse news service.

Dehydration was severe. Falaile, the 52-year-old brother-in-law, died on July 4. That night, Teitoi slept next to him, "like at a funeral," before an emotional burial at sea the next morning.

Teitoi shared scant details of the ordeal after arriving in Majuro, in the Marshall Islands, on Saturday. He said he prayed the night Falaile died, and the next day a storm arrived and, over the next several days, he was able to fill two five-gallon containers with fresh water. Days and weeks passed, however, and Teitoi, a father of six, did not know whether he'd live or die.

He subsisted mostly on fish and protected himself against the searing tropical sun by curling up in a small, covered portion of the bow.

It was on the afternoon of Sept. 11 that he awoke to the sound of scratching against his boat. A six-foot shark was circling the boat and, Teitoi said, bumping against its hull. 

The shark woke him and alerted him to a passing boat! So awesome... of course, we have to credit God for sending the rain in answer to Toakai's prayers. But little did he know that he would need a shark to wake him up and point him in the right direction! So, God answered his prayers with a storm and also with a wild animal -- a rather dangerous one, too, lol.

It reminds me of a story where wild lions protected a little girl, in Africa -- frightening off her kidnappers and then surrounding her until help came.

A group of lions rescued a girl of 12 from her kidnappers in Ethiopia.

The abductors wanted to force the girl into marriage. While kidnappers were transporting the girl to a different village, a group of lions crossed their road, chased them off and protected her until Ethiopian police rescued her.

The men had held the girl for a week in the remote south-west of the country, repeatedly beating her, before the lions chased them away. "They stood guard [for half a day] until [police and family] found her and then they just left her like a gift," police officer said.


It also reminds  me of the Book of Jonah, where the theme of the book is Providence.

The recurring meme of Jonah is the faithful appointment of God -- from great to small. God appoints a massive storm, a great fish... and then a little worm. Lesson: The heavenly Father is in the macroscale -- in the storm -- and in the microscale -- the little worm. And Abba is at work in things that take away the comfort of Jonah: Storm, whale and worm were all irritants to him, but they played a faithful part. :-)

Be encouraged! Trust God, even while on the ocean for many days... needing water, needing intervention, needing things not even known. He knows, though. And He cares!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

His Mysterious Ways: Leaves of Grace

Jane Sexton, from Piedmont, SC, writes of a time when her faith was tested...

She says, "I was at my wit’s end, broke, and running out of time. What was I going to do?"

Listen to her amazing story, shared from Guideposts special online story:

A Leafy Answer

by Jane Sexton

Just thirty-two cents in our bank account, I thought when I awoke one breezy fall morning, my stomach tightening. How am I ever going to pay the babysitter today?

My husband, Boyd, and I had just moved back to South Carolina from Tennessee with our five-year-old, Mindy, and baby, Meredith, to be closer to my mom. Boyd had found a good job as a HR manager, but wouldn’t be getting paid till the following week and the moving expenses had drained our bank account.

I was taking a class in the afternoons to renew my teaching certificate since I’d taken time off to stay home with our girls for the last few years. Mom had graciously loaned me the money for the class, but I still needed to pay the babysitter, a wonderful older lady who was happy to watch the girls for only five dollars. There was just one catch. She insisted on being paid up front each day. It had seemed completely doable when I first talked to her, but now five dollars might as well been five hundred.

Lord, I really need five dollars today! I prayed.

“I thought it would be easy to come up with the money,” I told Boyd when he came home for lunch at noon. “But now I don’t know what to do. And I can’t miss my class this afternoon.”

“Pray about it,” he said as he got ready to head back to work. “I know you said you need to rake the leaves out of the ditch in the front yard today. Maybe something will come to you while you’re doing that.”

 “I’ve been praying,” I said. But it doesn’t feel like God is listening.” I kissed Boyd goodbye then laid the baby down for her nap.

 “I guess we should rake those leaves,” I said to Mindy. “Let’s go outside and you can help Mommy.” I handed Mindy her little rake then grabbed mine and headed for the ditch. Lord, I need that money now! I prayed. Please! I continued to pray while I struggled to get the muddy leaves out of the ditch.

Stopping to lean on the rake for a break, I looked down and noticed something strange in the pile. “I wonder what that could be,” I said aloud. Mindy squatted down next to me as I bent to examine the unusual-looking leaf. I gingerly picked it up out of the pile and wiped off the mud. That’s when I saw that it wasn’t a leaf at all. It was a wet, muddy, folded five-dollar bill.


Pretty neat! Reminds me of a time when my brother Gerald prayed for a miracle on a snowy Chicago day: The Miracle of the Lost Lens.

God has His ways -- but they are mysterious, no question.

Isaiah 55:8-11 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."


Monday, September 10, 2012

Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you

Psalm 55:22 -- Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you...

Genesis 49:23 -- The archers bitterly attacked him, shot at him, 
              and harassed him severely, yet his bow remained unmoved; 
   his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob 
     (from there is the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel), 
    by the God of your father who will help you, 
    by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, 
  blessings of the deep that crouches beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. 
The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents, 
up to the bounties of the everlasting hills.

Psalm 35:35 -- Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion

Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion – to you our vows will be fulfilled!

Psalm 65

Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion;
    to you our vows will be fulfilled.
You who answer prayer,
    to you all people will come.
When we were overwhelmed by sins,

    you forgave our transgressions.
Blessed are those you choose

    and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house,

    of your holy temple.

You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds,
    God our Savior,
 the hope of all the ends of the earth
    and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power,

    having armed yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas,

    the roaring of their waves,
    and the turmoil of the nations.
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;

    where morning dawns, where evening fades,
    you call forth songs of joy.

You care for the land and water it;
    you enrich it abundantly.
 The streams of God are filled with water
    to provide the people with grain,
    for so you have ordained it.
10 You drench its furrows and level its ridges;

    you soften it with showers and bless its crops.
11 You crown the year with your bounty,

    and your carts overflow with abundance.
12 The grasslands of the wilderness overflow;

    the hills are clothed with gladness.
13 The meadows are covered with flocks

    and the valleys are mantled with grain;
    they shout for joy and sing.


Devotional thoughts:

Verse 3: When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.


The language here expresses the feeling which all may have, and should have, and which very many do have, when they approach God, that, although they are deeply conscious of sin, God will so graciously remove the guilt of sin, and lift off the burden, cleansing the soul by his grace, as to make it not improper that we should approach him, and that he will enable us to do it with peace, and joy, and hope.


How can one who is overwhelmed by sins approach the holy God with praise? The clue is in the last part of the verse: You forgave our transgressions. And, the next verse goes even further: Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!

The child of God can come to the throne of the Most High with praise, in the joy of full belonging, because the Holy God is the One who has acted to forgive her sins, and has already declared favor for the child approaching Him: we are chosen to draw near to Him.

This divine choice is God for us. As Jesus taught us: "You did not choose me, but I chose you, and ordained that you should bear much fruit." God for us, granting us salvation in Christ – such great salvation! And it is “not by works, so that no one can boast. It is by grace we have been saved, through faith – and this not from ourselves, it is fully the gift of God!” Eph. 2:8-9

It is in this divine choice and declaration of pardon that the chosen child comes to God. It is thus that we come to Him in praise: Fully known for who we are, and fully chosen in spite of that reality. And so we praise!

And thus, our lives become thanksgiving. Truly it is said,

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16


Sunday, September 02, 2012

A prayer for Labor Day from St. Athanasius

Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8

The merciful and compassionate Lord has given nourishment to those who fear him. Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever throughout the ages. Almighty God and Our Lord Jesus Christ, whose name is above all things, we give you thanks and praise because you have given us a portion of your goods and nourishment for our bodies. We pray and beseech you to give us in like manner heavenly nourishment. Make us fear and reverence your law, and grant that we may never disobey your precepts. Write on our hearts your law and your justice. Sanctify our mind, our soul, and our body through your dear Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, to whom with you belongs glory, dominion, honor, and adoration forever and ever. Amen.

Athanasius, quoted by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette in Blessings of the Table: Mealtime Prayers Throughout the Year.

We are the work of His hands -- our labor is a gift, let us give it with thanksgiving and honor God with the return. 

He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God. Psalm 50:23