Today I need to understand God’s will for a particularly long list of items. It does seem to be that kind of January here in the United States.
Today’s Jesus Always reading said: “Seek to align your will with Mine and to see things from My perspective.” We always want to do this. But we all know that far too many Christians have been complicit with evil throughout the centuries. It’s no different today.
So what do we do to align our will with God and to see things from His perspective? Bible study is essential. I have studied the Bible since I learned to read 61 years ago. I know what it says and what it does not say.
I want to avoid the problem presented in Romans 1:21-23: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image of corruptible man.”
With Romans 1:25, I pray: “O, merciful God, help us not exchange the truth of God for a lie, and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen.”
The prayer is a good start. God will not leave us alone when we genuinely seek His will with plans to do it. Once we have done this, the Holy Spirit within us will help us. He is our Counselor who will teach us, walk with us and lead us into the path of doing God’s will.
Instead of striving so hard, we can rest in God’s spirit. The fruit of God’s spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Anything that is the opposite of this is not God’s will.
Today is the church’s commemoration of the baptism of Jesus. Our Lord, who had no sin, went to the Jordan River for a ceremony typically used to mark repenting from sin and starting a new life.
His baptism was unusual. One eyewitness was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. As John the Baptist saw his relative Jesus approach the river, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God.” John told the crowd that Jesus was the man had had been talking about when he said someone greater than himself was coming. Indeed, John told them, this was the whole reason that he had started baptizing people … “that he might be revealed to Israel.”
Matthew the tax collector reported that John didn’t want to baptize Jesus. “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” John said. Jesus responded, “Let it be so now. It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus was obedient, and so was John.
Dr. Luke, who conducted many interviews to put together his account, said Jesus was baptised among many others. As Jesus came up from the river water, a dove flew down from Heaven and landed on Him. A voice said, “You are my son, whom I love. With you I am well pleased.”
John the Baptist later told his followers, including Andrew, that God had promised to point out the Messiah. God told John the Baptist to look for the man who had a dove fly down and rest on him after baptism.
Selecting a single word as guidance for the year is popular. I first heard the idea from Gretchen Rubin, whose podcast on it from last year is here. Many others also promote the idea, including the One Little Word project and Happiness is Homemade.
The process differs. For me, it’s about prayer and listening. Several words came to mind for 2021: Forward. Joy. And the one I am going with: Impart Grace. (Two words isn’t cheating, right?)
In her book “Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace,” Jan Johnson mentions that she strives to make every interaction about imparting grace to others. It’s a beautiful thought.
One needs to maintain a deep well of God’s presence to do this. So it’s a perfect marriage of Christian mindfulness, daily work and divine appointments (a meeting with another person that God has arranged).
The pandemic has made filling up with God’s presence easier, as I’m home and quiet more often than not. So as the vaccine makes it possible for the world to reopen again, I hope to go forward and impart grace.
What’s your word this year?
I’ve just read my 2020 journal entries and composed my Good Riddance list. We’ll burn the list … our worst of 2020 events … this evening. But is this enough to say good-bye to such a year?
It’s a start. 2020 featured my mother’s funeral, the death of a pet (Clarence, the sweetest cat on Earth, RIP), COVID infecting four family members, and lots of time in the house. We cancelled four vacations, and we didn’t get back all the money. I didn’t get to see my granddaughter in New York nearly enough. Especially hard at Christmas.
Re-reading the journal, I found a lot of blessings. For one thing, I’m seemed to clean the house a lot. More important, I did follow through on my efforts to use the year as an extended retreat. I took plenty of on-line workshops and read useful books. I followed my own Liturgy of the Hours, and I felt more consistently in prayer with Jesus.
Someday we will all look back on this time and … what?? I hope I can be grateful for the good. Do spend some time today counting your blessings, burning your Good Riddance list, and practicing the presence of God.
In 1985, I had a baby at the same time that my then-husband developed a severe psychosis. I had a feeling that I would be raising my son alone. (I was right.) So I named him after the man I trusted could help me: Joseph.
Today we celebrate Joseph of Nazareth, the man God depended on to help raise Jesus. The Bible tells us that Joseph was “just.” This doesn’t only mean that he was fair. He was aligned with doing God’s will, no matter what. Even when devastated by what he thought was Mary’s betrayal, he wanted to do the right thing.
And he did. He married Mary. He named Jesus. He woke up in the night and took his family to Egypt based on a dream. He brought them back to Nazareth. He lived with Jesus for an unknown number of years. He taught Him, and he learned from Him.
When the neighbors were astounded at Jesus’ teaching, they asked, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” Yes, he was. And I think there was a resemblance.
Not only is today Super Bowl Sunday and Groundhog Day, it’s also the Presentation of Our Lord on the Christian calendar. Today is a feast to commemorate Joseph and Mary taking the infant Jesus as a first-born son to the Temple for the ceremony commanded by God through Moses to induct him into Judaism.
Simeon and Anna were at the Temple, as they had been for thousands of days, waiting to see the Messiah. They recognized him.
This feast is also called Candlemas, and it involves blessing candles and lighting them. Try lighting up your candles to symbolize the light of the world arriving in His own temple.
This is also a good day to pray from the poor, migrants, immigrants and refugees, the Holy Family being one of this number.