Nov 4 2015

Starting the Day Off Right

_DSC2359I have the privilege of teaching a Sunday School class each week. For the past few months we’ve been studying John Ortberg’s book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted.  In our session this past Sunday we were challenged by Ortberg to take seriously the apostle Paul’s injunction, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)  He makes a big deal about Paul saying “whatever you do” and included a number of everyday instances where we ought to consider how we might do things “in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  One of those things was waking up.  How might we begin a new day as Jesus would?  We had a good discussion on this and there are certainly a lot of different things we might do. I happen to believe, however, that the best way we can start a new day is by praying.  I suspect Jesus would concur.  We might begin a new day by simply offering thanks for the gift of another day to live.  We might also offer our gratitude for mercies made new with the rising of the sun. (See Lamentations 3:22-23)  It would also be wise to ask for wisdom and guidance for the tasks ahead of us that day.

_DSC2590Over the years I have also found it helpful to read prayers or devotional thoughts at the beginning of a new day. There are lots of great resources available.  One of my favorite authors is John Philip Newell.  He has written a number of books that provide prayers for both morning and evening.  One of those is Sounds of the Eternal: A Celtic Psalter.  Here are a couple of morning prayers from this volume: “As daylight breaks the darkness of night, as the first movements of morning pierce the night’s stillness, so a new waking to life dawns with us, so a fresh beginning opens. In the early light of this day, in the first actions of this morning, let us be awake to life.  In our soul and in our seeing let us be alive to the gift of this new day, let us be fully alive.” 

Another one of Newell’s prayers reads: “Early in the morning we seek your presence, O God, not because you are ever absent from us but because often we are absent from you at the heart of each moment where you forever dwell.  In the rising of the sun, in the unfolding color and shape of the morning open our eyes to the mystery of this moment that in every moment we may know your life-giving presence.  Open our eyes to this moment that in every moment we may know you as the One who is always now.”

_DSC2545In many of Newell’s prayers he incorporates elements of Creation and uses them to lead us into prayer. This is something each of us can do as well.  I encourage you to pay attention each morning to what is going on in the natural world about you and allow what you see and hear to direct your prayers to the Maker of heaven and earth.  I really can’t think of a better way to start one’s day.


(The pictures shown above are some I’ve taken early in the morning this past week.  The top one was taken in southern Indian’s Hoosier National Forest and the bottom two were taken not far from my home in Henderson, KY.)

Jan 19 2011

Created For Work

trumpeter swans 504The Sunday School class I teach has been studying John Ortberg’s latest book, The Me I Want to Be.  The last couple of chapters we’ve looked at have to do with our work or vocation.  At one point Ortberg writes, “God says in Genesis that human beings are to ‘rule’ over the earth, or to exercise ‘dominion.’  We often think of these words in terms of ‘dominating’ or ‘bossing around.’  But the true idea behind them is that we are to invest our abilities to create value on the earth, to plant and build and write and organize and heal and invent in ways that bless people and make the earth flourish.”

Although some people view work as drudgery we were created to work.  This may even be a part of what it means to be created “in the image of God.“ (Genesis 1:26-27)  The God who works made us to work as well.  Now obviously work can be understood in a variety of different ways but the truth remains that we are all supposed to use the gifts and abilities God has given us in fruitful service one way or another.

frosted cow parsnip 360Marcus Aurelius once wrote, “When you arise reluctantly in the morning, think like this: ‘I arise to accomplish a human task.  Should I then complain, when I am about to do that for which I was born, and for which I was placed on earth?  Or was I created to pamper myself under the blankets, even if that is more pleasant?’  Were you born, then, to enjoy and, generally to feel, but not to act?  Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants, the spiders, the bees who all perform their own tasks and in their own way helping to let the cosmos function?  Don’t you then want to do your work as a human?  Don’t you hasten to do what is befitting your nature?”

Aurelius’ words remind us that even plants and animals have work to do.  God has fashioned them and given to them what they need to do this work.  Pay close attention to nature and you will see this is true.  In the same manner, God has made each of us to work and given to us what we need to do the work He created us for.   Our lives will be fuller and the planet healthier if we will “invest our abilities…in ways that bless people and make the earth flourish.”


(I took the two pictures above last winter while visiting Yellowstone National Park.)