First Steps – August 7, 2017

How do you deal with heavy burdens?  Henri Nouwen, a Christian mystic, shared this experience of a time when he was carrying multiple burdens.  In his book, A Spirituality of Homecoming, he wrote about a time where he was depressed about everything and while lecturing in Arizona, visited the Grand Canyon.  There, he said, “I saw this multimillion-year-old canyon and its place in an even older creation and thought that if that whole time period were represented by one hour, then I probably was born in a tiny fraction of the last second.  Looking at the Grand Canyon, this enormous abyss of beauty, I thought, ‘My dear, why are you overcome by these problems?’  My depression fell away.  In the face of all this, what are you worried about, as if you were carrying the burden of the world?  Something has gone on before you and something will go on after you, so why don’t you enjoy the brief time you’ve been given?”

For Nouwen, seeing the Grand Canyon was like seeing a wound in the earth.  For him, just seeing the enormity of the Grand Canyon and walking around it was like entering the vastness of God’s divine love.  He realized he could acknowledge his burdens and not be paralyzed by them.

I don’t know if you are carrying heavy burdens or if you have ever visited the Grand Canyon.  The real remedy for our burdens is the love God.  When I find myself in the same place as Nouwen, I think on two verses:

Cast your cares on him, he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).
Come all who are weary and heavy burden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).


I invite you to read the Bible with me – This week’s reading:
Monday – John 11
Tuesday – John 12
Wednesday – John 13
Thursday – John 14
Friday – John 15

Please pray for:
* The St. Paul UMC Capital Building Campaign.
* The United Methodist Church.
* Our Nation and Leaders.
* Teachers and Students as they return to school.

First Steps – July 31, 2017

David Muskens, in his book Forty Days to a Closer Walk with God, says, “As I am fully present to God, I become the kind of person who is wholly present to others. I can give no greater gift. When I am present I am considerate, giving undivided attention to the pern’s words and feelings at the moment. People deeply need this gift of being appreciated and attended, especially in times of distress. The first task of ministry is to be present to people in their need.”

To be loving and present to another, first means I need to be present to God. When I’m present to God, I find myself in the right frame of mind and disposition of the heart to want to be present to another. What we do vertically (with God) influences what we do horizontally (with others). Therefore, cultivate the vertical so that you can help the horizontal. This week, look for ways to be fully present to God and watch what happens to the people around you.


I invite you to read the Bible with me – This week’s reading:
Monday – John 6
Tuesday – John 7
Wednesday – John 8
Thursday – John 9
Friday – John 10

Please pray for:
* The St. Paul UMC Capital Building Campaign.
* The United Methodist Church.
* Our Nation and Leaders.
* St. Paul Youth who are participating in Global Missions.
* Teachers and Students as they prepare to return to school.

First Steps – July 24, 2017

How do you prepare for prayer? At first glance, why would we prepare for prayer? The important thing is praying—speaking and listening to God. On that level, one doesn’t need to prepare because the most important thing is to pray. However, because prayer involves both speaking and listening—and not just our wish list, then preparing for prayer could be just as important. It can create the right disposition of the heart so that one can hear the voice of God.

In that light, let me offer two possible ways of preparation:

The Use of an Icon or Symbol. Often I will hold a cross or focus on an image (picture, stain-glass window, etc). Just focusing on the image for a few minutes, allows me the mental and emotional space that is needed. It helps me quiet myself. I find that I’m more ready to pray when I do this.

The Repetition of Words. It doesn’t have to be a chant, although the purpose of chanting is to create a prayerful space. It can be something so simple as “Lord have mercy” or “God is good.” Say it slowly, over and over, for a minute. Allow it to move your heart to a place that is ready to speak and hear from our Creator and Redeemer.


I invite you to read the Bible with me – This week’s reading:
Monday – John 1
Tuesday – John 2
Wednesday – John 3
Thursday – John 4
Friday – John 5

Please pray for:
* The St. Paul UMC Capital Building Campaign.
* The United Methodist Church.
* Our Nation and Leaders.
* St. Paul Youth who are participating in Global Missions.
* Teachers and Students as they prepare to return to school.