First love


‘You yourself know what you need’  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 
In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Jesus said:

“I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”

Revelation 2:3-4 (ESV)

 
Here is a prayer written by Scotty Smith that helps us prayerfully consider if and how Jesus’ words might apply to us.
 


A Prayer for Keeping Our First Love First

Dear Lord Jesus,

Even as we first needed grace to respond to your love (Eph. 2:8-10), so we need grace to stay alive to your love, and to grow even deeper in our affection for you. Your love for us is the one constant in our lives—for you love us with everlasting, unwavering, unabated affection. Everything else changes—everything else is subject to whim and fancy. But, unfortunately, our love for you does ebb and flow.

Jesus, give us fresh grace to love you with an undying love. May the cooling of our affections for you bother us more than the fragile economy, our broken relationships, political upheaval in the world, concerns about our health, getting older, or anything else. Jesus, don’t let us get used to status quo, middle-class, business-as-usual love for you.

If, by the Holy Spirit, we hear you saying to us this morning, “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Rev. 2:4), may we welcome it as a great gift, and respond with humility, gratitude and repentance.

For it means you are pursuing us, and that you delight in us; it means your banner over us is love and your jealousy is current. That you are jealous for our love, Lord Jesus, is the greatest compliment you could possibly pay us. So very Amen we pray, in your glorious and grace-full name.

 
~ written by Scotty Smith, posted on thegospelcoalition.org (excerpt)
 


 
From the blog
Seed
In the school of prayer with Ignatius of Loyola
Forget not
 

The last may be first


Rotterdam shop window  (Photo: Irene Bom)
 

Opening Invocation

(inspired by Luke 14: 7-14)

Hospitable God, you invite us to a banquet
where the last may be first,
and the humble and the mighty trade places.
Let us share your abundance with no fear of scarcity;
let us greet strangers as angels you have sent!
Send your Spirit now
so that we may find a place at your table
and welcome others with radical hospitality.
In the name of Jesus, Guest at all our tables, we pray.
Amen.

 
written by Rev. Christopher Ney
Posted on www.uccfiles.com (download)
 


 
From the blog
Grace upon grace
Small talk
We are a body
 

First things first


Spotted outside Rotterdam Central Station  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 
Living alone during a pandemic, working from home since March 2020, one of the ways I stay alive is to be creative and share my work online. Through this blog, for example. Thank you.

Another creative outlet in 2020 was the 12 Song Challenge, hosted by resoundworship.org, with monthly assignments, attracting Christian songwriters from far and wide.

Our final challenge was to write a “family” song, and a number of people opted to build their song on Joshua’s words in Joshua 24:15: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

I’ve found a short prayer of dedication anchored in this self-same verse for this first post in 2021. May you, like Joshua, find the support and inspiration you need to serve the Lord in faithful and creative ways this coming year.
 


Prayer of Dedication

(inspired by Joshua 24: 1-3, 14-25)

Creating God, guide us to put first things first in our lives.
As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.
Christ our Lord, enable us to follow your example.
As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.
Spirit Alive, shine your light that our choices may be a reflection.
As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

 
~ by Katherine Hawker, posted on her Liturgies Outside the Box website.
 


Top 10 posts for 2020

 

Little eyes


(Photo: Irene Bom)
 

As we bring this month’s theme to a close, a very short story about a three-year old with a seasonal application and a prayer for children.

My father was once walking on the beach with his three-year old grandson when the little boy stopped, picked up a tiny fragment of a seashell, and began to examine it. My father bent down and, looking at the tiny fragment, he asked the boy, ‘How could you see such a tiny shell?’ ‘Because,’ said the boy, ‘I have little eyes.’

That is what we need at Christmas – little eyes – so that we may see, in a way we have never seen before, the wonder that lies in Bethlehem.

 
from To Taste and See, Exploring Incarnation and the Ambiguities of Faith by Thomas Mann, (p.52)
 


A prayer

Lord Christ,
we bring before you the world of children.
We bring their openness and friendliness,
their sense of enquiry and creativity.
Forgive our readiness to classify and divide,
to label and separate.
Forgive our voices of experience,
and our demand for their conformity.
Help us to understand and encourage them,
that their spirits may be lifted,
their imaginations quickened,
and their vision broadened,
for your world’s sake.

 
by J. Dickson Pope (adapted)
from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #409
 


 
From the blog
Theme: Still small voice  [prayer sheet]
God loves stories
Light on my path
 

Parental love

“I cannot forget him out of my mind,” an Afghani student said in a BBC World Service news report recently. The mix-up of ‘get’ and ‘forget’ means now I can’t forget this young man out of my mind.

In Isaiah 49:15-16 God says to his people who feel forsaken, forgotten:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

Here is a video by the Bible Project on the character of God, focussing in particular on his COMPASSION. Parental love is a recurring image throughout the video.

 


Great Caregiver Prayer

When we entered this world as tiny babies,
you gave us caregivers,
who watched and waited on us,
who fed and clothed us,
who taught us how to live.
We pause in this moment of silence to give our own thanks
for one special person who has changed our life:
For their work, and their love which has shaped us,
we give you thanks!

We pray today for caregivers;
mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers,
aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters and cousins,
neighbours and family friends,
all who care for children.
Give us the wisdom we need to do this work!
Open our ears and eyes to the real needs of those in our charge;
open our hearts and hands to meet these needs.
Give us endurance, and patience and hope,
and above all compassion,
treating each child as we would want to be treated.

You know us, God;
you know that there are places where we have failed as caregivers;
we also need your help to mend broken or strained relationships,
we need forgiveness, we need closure.
Grant us peace in our relationships.

Our prayers are also directed today for caregivers
around the world who face special challenges;
for those many caregivers
who are caring for orphans from the tragedy of AIDS;
for caregivers who are without food,
walking long distances with children in their arms;
for caregivers in war-torn countries who are trying desperately
to protect their children from bombs and guns.
So many dangers in this world, Lord,
and you know them all.
Bring peace to our troubled times,
justice for those who are oppressed,
hope to those who are hopeless.

God, you love us with a father’s love,
you care for us more tenderly than any mother,
you are the Great Caregiver.
Help us this week to be aware of your love,
your gaze upon us,
encouraging us, sustaining us,
directing us.
Amen.

~ written by Carol Penner, and posted on Leading in Worship.
 

With you I can leap


‘Tree art’, Rotterdam  (Photo: Irene Bom)
 

A prayer

I cannot dance, O Lord, unless you lead me. If it is your will, I can leap for joy. But you must show me how to dance and sing by dancing and singing yourself! With you I can leap towards love, and from love I will leap to truth, and from truth I will leap to joy, and then I shall leap beyond all human senses. There I will remain and dance for evermore.

~ by Mechtild of Magdeburg (1210-1280)
from 2000 Years of Prayer compiled by Michael Counsell, p. 123
 


 
Mechtild of Magdeburg wrote this prayer while she served in the Béguinage at Magdeburg in Germany, as part of a community of lay women who combined a life of corporate prayer with service in the wider community.

One of the churches in our Presbytery, the English Reformed Church in Amsterdam, is located on the site of a Béguinage established in Amsterdam in the 14th century.

Although no Béguines live in the Begijnhof today (according the wikipedia the last Béguine died in 1971 at the age of 84), still the courtyard offers a place of retreat in the midst of a busy city. Somehow it’s hard to imagine the Béguines of old leaping and dancing there, but why not?
 


 
From the blog
Wilderness woes
Come rest
2017: Advent Joy #1
 

Lord of the dance


… and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.  (Isaiah 55:12)

A litany

In the beginning ……
The dance began to swirl and ponder.
In the beginning, all was dark.
And the dance cast forth bright light.
In the beginning, the earth burst forth with wondrous things,
creatures of all sorts, mountains and hills,
vast seas and rivers, valleys and desert areas.
And the Lord of the Dance saw that it was good
and blessed it all.

In our beginning, God blessed us.
And the dance went on,
through our lives, into all that we have done.

Sometimes the dance was slow and plodding;
at other times it was sprightly and fast.
Yet in the midst of it all,
the Lord of the Dance is with us.

This dance, called Life, is everywhere —
in the light and in the dark.
It is in places of hope and in places of deepest sorrow and tragedy.

How shall we dance our dance for God?
We shall live lives of hope and peace,
bringing the good news of Jesus Christ
and all that he taught to us,
so that others may join the dance.
Praise be to the Lord of the Dance,
the Lord of Creation, the Lord of Life!
Amen.

 
~ written by Nancy C. Townley, and posted on the Ministry Matters website. http://www.ministrymatters.com/
 


 
From the blog
On Writing Prayer-Poems
Call of the wild ones
Consolation joy
 

More food for thought

 

According to euronews.com, there are multiple benefits to eating locally and in season. For example:

  • reducing our carbon foot print
  • protecting local land and wildlife from mass-scale agriculture
  • minimizing our exposure to preservatives
  • reconnecting our body with nature’s cycles
  • enjoying nutrient dense food

 

Another benefit is that we get to share in the joy of harvest on a regular basis.


From the blog
Food for thought
Environmentally water-wise
From parched to satisfied
 

The fruit of lips


A GDR family savours a banana  (Artwork ** by Irene Bom)

 

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

 


A prayer

Blessing and honour, thanksgiving and praise
more than we can utter,
more than we can conceive,
be unto Thee, O holy and glorious Trinity,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
by all angels, all men, all creatures,
for ever and ever.

 
by Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626)
from The Open Gate by David Adam, p.48
 

A more contemporary/inclusive version of this prayer:

Blessing and honour and thanksgiving and praise
more than we can utter, more than we can conceive,
be to you, most holy and glorious Trinity,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
from all angels, and all people, all creatures
for ever and ever.

from churchofengland.org
 


 
** The photographs used for this collage come from a National Geographic article on the fall of the Berlin Wall. The collage (together with the quote that inspired it) is from a 100-day project on Instagram channel irene.bom, beginning in April 2020.
 

Seed


(Photo: Irene Bom)

 
Reflecting on Jesus’ parable of the sower, Uli Chi writes:

… there are two kinds of uses for seeds.

One use is to make something that can be appreciated and enjoyed for its own sake – for example, grains of wheat ground into flour to make bread. We regularly (and rightly) give thanks for that kind of seed.

But there is another, darker purpose for seeds, one which Jesus focuses on in this parable. That darker work finds its fulfillment not through the seed’s life but through its death.

As Jesus himself says, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)

[from depree.org]

 


Opening Prayer

(based on Matthew 13:1-9)

O God,
We gather together in Your presence with expectation,
hungry for an encounter with You,
eager to hear Your Word.

Open our eyes and ears to the presence of Your Holy Spirit.
May the seeds of Your Word scattered among us this morning
      fall on fertile soil.
May they take root in our hearts and lives,
      and produce an abundant harvest
      of good words and deeds.

We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ,
our teacher and our Lord.
Amen.

~ by Christine Longhurst, posted on re:Worship
 


 
From the blog
Who do you work for?
Hot-hearted in serving thee
Theme: Called into community  [prayer sheet]