UCC Daily Devotional

Breathe

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! – Psalm 150:6a (NIV)

It was a scary “no news is good news” kind of trip to the hospital. My chest pain was not a heart attack—could have been several other things—stress test was fine. “Now we have a baseline.” Sounds good, but all the time I was there, my blood pressure was bananas. Every time I heard the machines wind up, I felt my anxiety rise, too. I had to remind myself to breathe.

I came home with a change in prescription, and I finally started doing what my primary care provider had told me to do a while ago: check my blood pressure every day. Twice a day, actually. I poured over the manual for the monitor. If I had to do this thing, I wanted to do it right. I strategized the best location in my house and read more instructions. Don’t take it as soon as you get out of bed. Check. Move around and start your day, but if you eat breakfast first, you have to wait 30 minutes. (Just like swimming?) Okay.

Above all else, sit quietly for five minutes before you use the machine.

Trying to settle myself in the chair, a timer set, I realized I was holding my breath, dreading the sound the machine would make and the numbers I would see on the screen. Maybe, I thought, I should try breathing. In through the nose, out through the mouth. One breath at a time. My breath became prayer, asking for God’s presence and a sense of calm. I felt my chest rise, and my breath deepen. When the timer went off, I was ready.

Prayer

O God, I have breath, and I will praise you. Thank you. Thank you. Amen.


Written for the United Church of Christ Daily Devotional.

Reflectionary, UCC Daily Devotional

A Place for the Lord

“I won’t enter my house, won’t get into my bed. I won’t let my eyes close, won’t let my eyelids sleep, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the strong one of Jacob.” – Psalm 132:3-5 (Common English Bible)

Psalm 132 remembers David and his hope to build a temple. His journey to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem showed him both its awe-inspiring energy and the blessing of its presence. The ark represented the presence of the Lord, and David pictured a physical structure to honor and protect it. We read in the psalm the strength of his desire. He would not go home, or let himself rest, he said, until he could make that place.

We may tend to think of that “place for the Lord” as the church, a building set aside for particular activities of worship, and education, and perhaps care for the community. But in this chaotic and complicated pandemic season, when social distancing meant church was on a screen for many of us, we may have had to find some other dwelling place for God. Was it a corner of our minds? A room in our hearts? Did we find it in the work of our hands, or a fragment of song on our lips? Or did we search and remain unsatisfied?

David found himself distanced from his dream. To build the temple was not his work to do. He would pass the plans down to his son, Solomon. As we near the end of two years disrupted by the pandemic, we may identify with David’s longing. When will we connect with God? And how? And where?

Prayer

Holy One, send word of where you are that we might find you. Amen.


Written for the United Church of Christ Daily Devotional.

Reflectionary, UCC Daily Devotional

The Doorway

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. – John 13:1 (NRSV)

Jesus gathered the disciples for a dinner we have come to call the Last Supper, a story we tell every time we gather for Communion. We ritualize the different events in John’s Gospel on Maundy Thursday with the washing of feet (or hands for the more cautious among us). In one version Jesus serves his followers, and in the other he serves himself to us as the bread of life and the cup of blessing.

With my Cousin Jack

The way we tell those stories brings us to a threshold between what was and is to come, like a doorway between memory and possibility that is right now and yet not. We tell our own stories like that. I remember my father at an airport handing me a crisp $100 bill to take my son out to lunch. I remember his cousin, years later, making sure to sit with me at a family wedding to put me at ease. I remember eating a holiday meal with my godmother after she moved into a nursing home, an effort that cost her more than I knew. Every time I tell their stories we stand in the doorway together.

The Gospels tell us Jesus ate meals with his disciples again after the Resurrection, which makes it odd to call that Supper “Last.” It gives me hope for meals to be eaten somewhere beyond the doorway, farther than I can see now, with nothing of past love lost.

Prayer

Gracious God, we thank you for love that lasts until the end and beyond. Amen.


Written for the United Church of Christ Daily Devotional.