Articles by Ann Fitzgerald regarding the power of prayer,
the daily reading of the Bible (The Word of God)
along with seasonal church related observances
Articles by Ann Fitzgerald regarding the power of prayer,
the daily reading of the Bible (The Word of God)
along with seasonal church related observances
Happy new year. Are you ready to step into 2019? I always hope that the new year will have a magic wand so that I will be able to carry through with my well-intentioned resolutions. Resolutions aren’t so bad as they carry opportunities to experience God’s grace and to practice self-compassion. And there are other things that resolutions offer such as a cleaning out the mental clutter of past due goals, impossible ambitions….and last years list of resolutions. New goals are set, daily walking, healthy eating, meeting deadlines, less spending, more saving, answering e-mails, being nicer, and so many more hopes of becoming a better human being.
Jesus walked among people and was familiar with our hopes dreams, disappointments and shame and showed us a better way, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be give to your as well” Matthew 6:33. This verse is not another lofty new years resolution but a message of grace and gentle admonition to pursue God’s presence in our lives as we would pursue the warmth of the sun in the morning and the cool of the shade at noon. Seeking God’s righteousness is to recognize His authority in this world and humbling ourselves as an errant child to a loving parent receiving healing and restoration of our soul. (from 1 Chronicles 7:14) and then, we can be assured that our pursuits in this life follow.
In this time of new beginnings, I can think of no greater hope than that God knows me well, understands my human strivings, and promises his continual prescience in my life.
The best way to seek out the kingdom of God is, of course, to immerse ourselves in scripture. Writing out scripture, writing out our thoughts and questions about what we read, responses and prayers to God are all ways to seek out God’s presence in our life. Writing slows our thoughts, clears our minds and gives a place to discover new direction in our lives. Just grab a tablet, a pen or two, a bible and dive in. Here are several verses to begin the search. Malachi 3:1, Jeremiah 29:13, Psalm 9:10, Psalm27:4 Psalm 63:1, Psalm 37:4, Psalm 139:1-2, Acts 17:27, Hebrews 11:6, James 4: 8,….. Search further in concordance, or google “Seeking God”.
Ann Fitzgerald ... December 31, 2018
The sky is gray and dry leaves still cling to limp branches outside my window. Wintry coldness seems to silence the air and I burrow deeper into my candle-lit room as I write out Christmas cards. The table is covered with red, green, white and candy cane striped candles changing size and shape as they burn down into sculptures of melted wax. And isn’t that what Christmas is all about? A flicker of light born into the darkness of a stable in Bethlehem and giving light to all the world? Jesus was that light, a small bit of a child born to a young virgin named Mary in an obscure place where animals lived. Yet, not far away, and not such a quiet flicker, did armies of angels explode in glorious light singing hallelujahs to the proclamation of such a birth as this.
This light of God is the light that overcomes a darkness deeper than that which is seen in the poverty and the violence of this world, but it is the darkness of the soul. The bible tells about this darkness in Ephesians 6:12, “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” The proclamation of Christmas, then, is of a Light even brighter than that which can be perceived with human eyes, with brilliance that pierces the deepest recesses of darkness. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:5 NLT
And Jesus is this light of which we speak and Jesus is God in person, in the form of a man, lived as a man without sin but crucified as a criminal. Jesus, entered into the darkness through death, but death could not hold him and He rose again victorious over death and so we are now known as children of the light. “We are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and the night.” 1 Thessalonians 5:5 ….and this is the story of that small baby born in Bethlehem.
Does Christmas time draw your heart and mind in a dozen directions like it does mine?
Jingle bells filled the room as Christmas made its loud arrival bringing with it all the glittery promises of a perfect holiday, and though I treasure the traditions of Christmas I can be easily distracted from daily habits of prayer and scripture meditation. Even hearing the Christmas story can become mundane in a season so full of exciting anticipation of that perfect Christmas morning. I love the Christmas story of baby Jesus sleeping quietly on that perfect starry night in Bethlehem. I have heard it, read it, watch small children act it out, watched t.v. specials recreate it, sang songs and written poetry about it. However, I think there can be a risk when repetition breeds familiarity dulling the clarity of this most important of stories. How can we experience the Christmas story in a new way this year?
I was talking with a friend today who faithfully scribes scriptures every day and is finishing writing out her 4th gospel word for word. She told me that she finds herself so much a part of the stories in scripture that she seems to be in Israel, at times crying during lent and rejoicing with the disciples at Easter. Writing scripture, by hand, (pen and paper) and word by word, slows us down giving time for our mind to connect with out heart as the Holy Spirit sheds new light on words or phrases that we may have read many times before. Perhaps the scribing of the Christmas story would be a fresh way to hear the Christmas story this year. Who knows? Maybe writing out the Christmas story by hand will become a favored tradition.
Here are some scriptures to get started. Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7, 11:1, 40:1-11, Micah 5:2, John 1:14, Luke 1 and 2, Matthew 1:18-38, 2:1-12, John 3:16, Romans 6:23, 2nd Corinthians 9:15,Galatians 4:4-5, 1 Tim 1:15-17.
Ann Fitzgerald, December 11
Father, have mercy on us who are so small in such a big world. Have mercy on us when we become bewildered in the face of disasters and turn away in horror. Have mercy on us and show us how to care, how to grieve for families lost and communities destroyed. Have mercy on us and show us how to help those beyond our physical reach. Teach us Lord, to pray.
Here is an example of how to pray God’s word into intercession for victims of disasters:
Psalm 46:1-3 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its water roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”
In your own words this psalm can be personalized for people for which we pray. Here is an example:
Father, give strength, hope and courage to the victims of fire this past week. Spirit, help them know that you are their refuge and strength and that you are with them in this trouble. Take away their fear even though the earth has given way to deadly fire.
Other bible verses that can be used to pray in times of overwhelming suffering.
Psalm 57:1,2 / Psalm 46:10 / Proverbs 3:25-36 / John 16:33 / 2 Corinthians 4:8,9 / 1 Peter 5:10 / Psalm 91:2 / Psalm 93:4 / 2 Corinthians 5:1.
Take time to pray for your brothers and sisters who suffer in such a time of trouble. Prayer is the greatest work that needs to be done.
November 25, 2018
“ Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and don’t prevent them. For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 19:14 Living Bible
When life gets complicated read a child’s book or sing a Sunday school song because it seems that simplicity often holds the most profound truths in life. That is certainly true in this wonderful little thanksgiving song. I hope you recognize it.
If I were a butterfly,
I’d thank you, Lord, for giving me wings;
And if I were a robin in a tree,
I’d thank you Lord, that I could sing;
And if I were a fish in the sea,
I’d wiggle my tail and I’d giggle with glee;
But I just Thank You Father, for making me – ME!
Refrain: Cause you gave me a heart and
You gave me a smile
You gave me Jesus, and
You made me His Child
And I just Thank You, Father
For making me – ME!
If I were an elephant,
I’d thank you, Lord, by raising my trunk;
And if I were a kangaroo,
I’d hop, hop, hop, right up to you;
And if I were an octopus,
I’d thank you, Lord, for my good looks;
But I just Thank You, Father, for making me – ME! refrain
If I were a wiggly worm,
I’d thank you, Lord, that I could squirm;
And if I were a crocodile,
I’d thank you, Lord, for my big smile;
And if I were a fuzzy-wuzzy bear,
I’d thank you, Lord, for my fuzzy-wuzzy hair;
But I just Thank You, Father, for making me – ME! refrain
Sing along with the video:
The Butterfly Song - Words and Music by Brian M. Howard
Ann Fitzgerald November 18, 2018
I sat down with fresh coffee and my favorite pen to write out prayers of praise and thanksgiving to God for his gracious hand in my life. And so I began to write a list of things for which I’m thankful but by the time I got to blessing #105 I realized that there must be more to thanking God than counting my blessings one by one. I decided to thank God for and in everything in my life. I rummaged through the past hurts and broken dreams, laboriously dragging them to my thank you list. And I went further still, with trembling hands I printed out in small letters ‘thank you, my Father, for those painful and frightening things that are in my journey this very day.’
Chickens spend their day scratching the dirt to uncover bits of grain or bugs. It seemed to me that if I thank God only for those things that seemed good to me it was rather like scratching in the dirt for small seeds of human valued blessing. When I spent time listing my blessings, one by one, I began to realize that I was thanking God only for those things that I could touch or in some small way find meaning in their existence. I asked God to forgive me for the hours, the thoughts, the use of my mind and my gifts that have been wasted on chicken scratches of thank yous.
St Paul was no stranger to torture and imprisonment during his journeys preaching and teaching the good news and many of his letters were written from prison. Paul knew what he was saying when he wrote, “to be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making music to the Lord in your hearts and give thanks for everything to God ….” Eph 5:20 (NAS). When scripture tells us that, “we are to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds” James 1:2-4 (NIV) I think it means more than the list of blessings we might find scratching the ground.
I might not be able to fathom thanking God for all things like St Paul, but maybe I could start by thanking God for the long line at the DMV
November 11, 2018
Give thanks in everything for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1st Thessalonians 5:18
November and 'thanksgiving' are synonymous. Thanksgiving lands on the 22nd this year but the actual thing we are celebrating has become rather vague and the piece about giving thanks receives little more than an honorary mention at many overloaded tables across this country. I can’t deny that I love the feasting, the guys gather around the football game and, hey, it’s a great kickoff for the holidays.
But God wants us to be in a continual thankful state of mind. I am the least of one to write about thanking God in everything and for everything as admonished in 1st Thessalonians 5:18.
It is not an easy thing to recognise God’s control in this life knowing that He is LORD of all and active at all times giving meaning to the events that we cannot understand. It is by faith alone that we can thank God in everything, remembering the Old Testament prophet Isaiah’s words, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8,9).
St. Paul writes to us in 2nd Corinthians 5:7 “We walk by faith, not by sight.” I pray that I can become a faith walker as I grow and learn to acknowledge God’s sovereignty and love.
I love November and the great feasting that comes with thanksgiving but I desire more than a few minutes of thanks for the great things I see, I want to thank God continuously throughout the year, moment by moment for things I see and for things that require faith alone.
Starting a prayer journal is one way to begin to thank God continuously and mindfully for everything, good and bad. Try recording 10 things for which you are thankful every day of November and see where that takes you. Write out bible verses about thankfulness for study and for meditation. And remember that the Holy Spirit dwells in each of us wanting and willing to teach us and to lead us into all that God wants for us.
Here are a few bible verses to begin a journal of thanksgiving.
1 Thessalonians 5:18; Colossians 3:17; Hebrews 13:15
Her little legs, not quite used to walking, were pumping as hard as a small locomotive as her black curls bobbed up and down on her head. Children always catch my attention and this one held me captive as she raced past the glass doors pushing a small wooden cart with a handle designed to help toddlers balance. A smile spread across the width of her face as her eyes widened in determination to see the world before lunchtime.
The danger of passing cars or the possibility of running into a stranger didn't occur to her and she didn't know how to turn the cart anyway, but Daddy was close behind and so she was safe. When she pushed forward, he followed; as she embraced the world, he focused on her steps. She didn't look back to see if he was there, she didn't notice when he reached down to turn her little cart in a different direction. He loved her and she knew it. He directed her steps and she knew it. He picked her up when she was tired and wrapped her in a soft pink blanket. He fed her when she was hungry and sang to her when she cried. He would not abandon her and she knew it.
I might have asked her how she knew that he loved her so? I might have asked, “How are you sure he will never leave you alone? She might have answered,” I am a child. I do not have words to tell you how I know that my Daddy loves me so but I can tell you that when I call the name, Daddy, it is his face that I see”.
“LORD, my heart is not proud my eyes are not haughty. I do not get involved with things too great or too wondrous for me. Instead, I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child with its mother’ my soul is like a weaned child” Psalm 131.
What a wonderful Father we have and a comfort to know that He watches our every step, knows every danger we face and provides for our every need so that we can fulfill his command to us to go into our community and into the world with the energy and eagerness of a child learning to run. See Matthew 28:16-20
October 7, 2018
... about risks,..... about complacency.... about God's call....
I like GDLC (Gloria Dei Lutheran Church). It is a friendly place and welcoming to anyone who steps through the doors.
I like GDLC. We run a food bank and feed anybody who knocks on the door.
I like GDLC. We have a preschool with a director who welcomes anyone who peeks in the window.
I like GDLC. We visit our members who are sick and unable to come to church.
I like GDLC We have great worship music on Sunday morning for anyone that walks through the doors.
I like GDLC We have a pastor who faithfully preaches strong scriptural sermons every Sunday for anyone who walks through the doors.
I like GDLC We offer bible study 3 times a week for anybody that comes through the door.
Is this what Jesus has called us to do? Go ye therefore into a nice building and huddle around the warmth of the altar welcoming everybody that comes to the door, feed the hungry within the confines of the parking lot and teach the children who can bring themselves to church. …. And lo I am with you always.?
Really? Jesus said to his disciples “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations. baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you…. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20
Jesus called us to be his disciples, to follow him and to become like him in every way. When Jesus left this earth He sent us out as His disciples to the whole world with the message of salvation, and to make disciples, and to teach them things that He has taught us. This is a journey into places we know little but that Jesus walks with us always.
The current bible study, (“In the Dust of the Rabbi” by Ray Vander Laan) has stirred my thinking about my walk with Jesus in this journey we travel toward God’s kingdom throughout the world. The 2nd session of this study offers ways to walk with Jesus and to become like him. Please see the grey box on page 61 to read about these ideas.
And may the peace of God go with each of us.
September 30, 2018
Sometimes life is like that. The haunting sense of loneliness can touch our lives in the middle of a crowd or in the silence of the wood. I recently had a day like that, surrounded by life in my urban neighborhood I felt lonely so with journal in hand I sought refuge in a familiar setting.
Living on the outside looking in.
Refuge in a coffee shop
In the middle of a crowd,
In the middle of noise and nothingness
Seeking a place, seeking…
In the middle of the crowd, Lord
Help me hear your voice,
In the middle of the silence, Lord
Help me hear your voice
In the middle of life, Lord
Help me live in you, Lord.
“One with many friends may be harmed, but there is a friend who stays closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24 CSB)
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.” (John 15:4 CSB)
September 13, 2018
Grant me, O Lord, to know what is worth knowing,
To love what is worth loving,
To praise what delights you most,
To value what is precious in your sight,
To hate what is offensive to you.
Do not let me judge by what I see,
Nor pass sentence according to what I hear,
But to judge rightly according to what I hear,
But to judge rightly between things that differ,
And above all to search out and to do what pleases you,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
September 2, 2018
Leaving home seeking…
Returning home humbled…
…always celebrated on our return…
When God’s heart is our home
Jesus tells the story in Luke 15:11-32 we identify as the “Parable of the Prodigal Son.” One son stayed home and the other took his Father’s gift and walked away.
What was he seeking? His fortune? he already had that. A different identity? a 2nd son lacked the prestige of the 1st. Fun? perhaps. We only know that he took his inheritance and set off on a pilgrimage hoping to find something new. Thomas Hawkins (Every Step a Prayer: Walking as Spiritual Practice) speaks about a pilgrim as “one who seeks to go beyond their normal routines by disrupting everyday patterns, hoping to encounter something new that fills them with awe or wonder.”
The son returned home and was met with great celebration. Thoreau has written that “to go for a walk is to become a pilgrim, a wayfarer who leaves the safety of home in search of holy ground. Yet whatever long, winding roads wayfarers travel, their steps usually lead them back to their own doorsteps” (ibid). And in that arrival we are always changed.
I don’t suppose every walk I take to be a pilgrimage, but when I am intentional of my steps and aware of God in my journey I will always find myself returning home to my Father’s loving embrace....August 16, 2016
"In the Garden" is a favorite hymn of mine and was inspired by the gospel of John, chapter 20. It reminds me that the human story began in a garden, that Jesus prayed in the garden and that God continues to call to us to walk in the garden with him. I have focused this summer’s writings on walking using the small book, “Every Step a Prayer; Walking as Spiritual practice” by Thomas R Hawkins and I hope that you discovered some new insights along the way. I can see now that every step is sacred and the journey we are on is holy when God guides our steps.
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses
And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known
He speaks and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing
I'd stay in the garden with Him
'Tho the night around me be falling
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling
August 26, 2018
Listen to the song
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”. Matthew 10:16 NIV
When you open your eyes let them be eyes that see true colors, unfiltered by this world’s light and let your words be original words not rehearsed lines from last years script. Watch expectantly with your new born eyes for sights that you have not seen and listen for the newness of sounds just spoken. The sky might have been just as blue yesterday as today and blue the day before as well. What does that matter but that the sky you see today has been born anew for you.
You are an original, a one of a kind and never to be copied creation of God who loves you and delights in the wildness of your innocence. He sees hope for the nations when we live freed from the world’s expectation and lifeless good form to become living witnesses to His grace and transformation.
Greeting the world and living daily in authenticity to the person God created is difficult and can be met with skepticism and disapproval from people we meet on a daily basis. Walking a different path from the world’s perception of goodness, embracing those that the world tells us to avoid and being vulnerable in every meeting is not an easy choice but it is the way that Jesus walked and it is the way we must follow if the world is to know of God’s great love....August 5, 2018
“By the blessing of the upright, a city is raised up; but the words of the wicked tear it down.” Proverbs 11:11 CEV
There was a time that San Jose had more trees than people. There was a time that streets were safer and people friendlier. But today I walk past garbage in the streets and am saddened by the homelessness of this community. I fear walking at night. I hate to admit the extent of my grumbling as I look for better places to walk.
But God does not look for nicer places to walk and is intimately aware of every person along the way. Because God lives in the heart of every Christian, each path we walk holds potential for God to transform another life. Through history many well-known transformations have taken place on the road ‘as they walked.’ Jesus touched the eyes of the blind, the skin of the leper, a soldier’s daughter as he walked along the road. The disciples met the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus, Saul’s transformation to Paul, and Philip’s meeting the Ethiopian eunuch all took place ‘as they travelled.’ There are countless more examples throughout the centuries of people meeting Jesus ‘on the road’.
The paths we tread are the places of spiritual transformations. When we learn this and become aware of God’s presence in every place along the path, when we open our hands and humbly allow God’s work to be done through us then San Jose will surely be blessed.
Ezekiel followed his heart back to a place of ruin to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and God renamed the city “The LORD is here” (Ezekiel 48:35 NIV). Can you imagine San Jose with the name of “The LORD is here?” Can you imagine the power of God’s people when they walk and when they pray?
Pray that God’s presence is made known in any place and any time that you commune with God. Walk On.... July 2018
Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8, Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things”. (NIV).
We have just returned from 16 days in Colorado. Much of that time we were in or near the Rocky Mountains that I love so dearly. It was easy to meditate and to write about the beauty of God’s creation while sitting in the cradle of Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park. This cannot take away from the magnificence of the giant sequoias or the rhythmic return of the waves along the beach. These are the things that make the psalmist write psalms. God has created all things beautiful for our pleasure. The following poem is written by a favorite poet of mine. She writes about loving this world as her life work. I think this would be a very good career choice.
by Mary Oliver
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.