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Vol. 13 - Prayer of Presence
March 22, 2012

The coming of a new season is always refreshing. Here in Holland the sun warmed up exactly as we celebrated the spring equinox, and now the leaves seem to be appearing fast enough to watch the growth happen.

I am emerging from a sort of winter hibernation. Last fall I found myself buried under responsibilities, largely due to my leadership role in the pastor search process at my church. Our search ended successfully at Christmas and then I began a sabbatical—an intentional break from my volunteer activities to allow for the rest and refreshment I needed. One of the signs that this need has been met is a renewed desire to write. So in this next season you can expect a renewed frequency in the publishing of Refresh Your Soul along with activity on my blog, website and at Conversations Journal. A warm welcome to all the new Refresh Your Soul readers since the last edition.

Inside this issue:
Prayer of Presence
Contemplative Music Recommendations
A challenge to humility (a Lenten devotional)

Prayer of Presence

One of the pleasures that comes with spring is the invitation to head outdoors. Playgrounds suddenly come alive with children playing. Woods fill with contented people and their dogs, and all around there is more energy in the air.

The sun and warmth also extend an invitation to be present and available to God in fresh ways. Consider a change in location for meeting with God this spring. Take a morning or evening walk. Settle on a bench in the sun for a while. Talk to God as you work in the garden or enjoy a bike ride. Any activity can become a holy encounter as we make ourselves available.

Moving through a sequence of spiritual postures may also offer a freshness to your prayer life this season. Here is a suggestion on how to do this:

Presence Begin with a prayer that says, “Here I am, Lord, present to you.” Start with recognizing that God is here with you, and choosing to be present to God just as you are.

Awareness In the quiet of God’s presence, become aware of the state of your heart and of your soul’s need today. Express it to God, either with or without words.

Openness In the awareness of your need, affirm that God is enough. Open yourself up to his grace. Grasp hold of God’s reality, insight and strength through his Word. Express your willingness to trust him in the challenges you are facing.

Availability “I’m available as you would desire.” Hold the persons or situations that burden you before the Lord, affirming that he knows their need and is just as concerned about them as you are. Having received God’s grace, continue your day with confidence in the strength he gives as you live for him.

Recently I interviewed my friend and former colleague, Troy Cady. He captures these postures in the story behind his practice of writing a simple prayer each day. I'm sure you'll enjoy reading it.

Contemplative Music
recommendations for entering God's presence

As we closed off our first Getaway with God in December, one of the requests for follow-up was for recommendations of contemplative music. For the retreat I'd pulled various contemplative songs from my cd collection and arranged them in playlists within iTunes. Music played almost constantly in our meeting room, providing an inviting atmosphere in which to reflect and pray.

There aren’t many cds that you can simply pop in and play without being distracted by changes of style and volume, but creating playlists of your own to match different moods can be a very helpful way to enter into God’s presence. Here are some of the cds I drew from for the reflective Getaway playlists:

* Watermark - A Grateful People, Constant, The Purest Place
* St Thomas Music Group - Taize Collection
* Alberto & Kimberly Rivera - Draw Near
* Fernando Ortega - Beginnings, O Love Divine
* Chris Tomlim - Arriving

Would you like to recommend a contemplative cd? Add it along with a description @ contemplative music.

A challenge to humility
a Lenten devotional

John devotes four chapters to the final conversations Jesus shared with his disciples, and these contain the heart of Jesus’ concern for his body, the church. The wisdom imparted during Jesus' final evening would be seared forever into the minds of his men. To begin, Jesus teaches them servanthood. Instead of teaching with words, Jesus models it. This poignant story is recorded in John 13:1-17.

The meal was already in progress and there had been no one humble enough to do footwashing duty. So Jesus did it himself, stooping down twelve times, painstakingly rinsing the travel dirt from between toes and then drying those calloused walking feet with a towel.

Simon Peter objected, appalled at the thought of his Lord and Master stooping to do such a thing to him. Understanding would come later, after the horrors of the next twenty-four hours were behind them all.

Jesus offered this humble gift to each one, then pulled his outer garments back on and returned to his place at the table. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you (John 13:14).”

In the hot and dusty climate of Palestine, footwashing was a sign of hospitality. It was the responsibility of the servants but sometimes, rarely, a host or loved one might take up this duty as a demonstration of deep love or extreme devotion.*

Deep love. Extreme devotion. Jesus poured these out on his disciples. Then asked them to do the same after he was gone.

Footwashing is not mentioned again in the Bible and it doesn’t appear in Early Church documents. It seems that the apostles understood Jesus' act as an example of servanthood rather than as a command to institute a new ordinance. The Lord’s Supper became a lasting ordinance from this evening together. Humility emerged as a lasting virtue.

The disciples had a rough weekend ahead of them but they emerged from it as humble servants, ready to stoop at the feet of their brothers and sisters in Christ. After the Resurrection we see no more vying for position from the Twelve. No more demanding their rights. No more haste in pouring out rebuke.

Instead we see humility in their actions and in their teaching:
- Humble yourselves that God may lift you up (I Peter 5:6).
- In humility value others above yourselves (Phil 2:3)
- Clothe yourselves with humility (Col 3:12).
- Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom (James 3:13).
- All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble and oppressed” (1 Peter 5:5).

A footwashing service is a lovely ritual and is sometimes included as a part of Holy Week celebrations. But living in humility is the greater activity to which we are called as followers of Jesus Christ.

Take a few moments today to read John 13:1-17 and to reflect upon Jesus’ invitation to you as an individual and in community. Talk with Jesus about your experience in embodying humility…or your lack thereof. Ask for God’s help in growing in this virtue and for insight into how you can model humility in your life as a member of Christ’s body.

* John C Thomas: Footwashing in John 13 and the Johannine Community

Enjoy this devotional? Accompanying Lenten devotionals on Love, Unity and Victory will be posted @ Refreshed during the remaining days of Lent and Holy Week.

With warm greetings,

Elizabeth de Smaele
MMus, MDiv, CSD
Amstelveen, The Netherlands

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