Work as an offering

A prayer

God of work and rest and pleasure,
grant that what I do today may be for me
an offering rather than a burden;
and for those I serve, may it be the help they need.
 
A New Zealand Prayer Book (adapted)
from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #53
 


Original version
 
God of work and rest and pleasure,
grant that what we do this week may be for us
an offering rather than a burden;
and for those we serve, may it be the help they need.
 

 
From the blog
The work of our hands
Within the ranks of caring angels
In the school of prayer with Brother Lawrence
 

Sacrifice of praise


 

Lent is almost upon us, but not quite yet, so I’ve opted for a call to worship featuring sacrifice with a twist: a sacrifice of praise for our matchless God.


Call to Worship

based on Psalm 113

King of all the earth,
Creator of the universe,
Holy Triune God,
From everlasting to everlasting, you are Lord.

We will give thanks to you, O Lord, with our whole hearts,
for your glory is above the heavens;
From the rising of the sun to it setting,
we will praise the name of the Lord!

You raise the poor from the dust and lift the needy from the ash heap,
transforming them with glory and honor;
From the rising of the sun to it setting,
we will praise the name of the Lord!

You bring fruitfulness from barrenness
and give homes to the solitary;
From the rising of the sun to it setting,
we will praise the name of the Lord!

Who is like our God, the One
who looks down from the heights on the heavens on the earth?
From the rising of the sun to it setting,
we will praise the name of the Lord!

This is our God, the Holy One.
Come before him with thanksgiving
and offer him the sacrifice of praise.
 

~ excerpted from a longer prayer posted on Oratio Contemplativa.
 


 
From the blog
To dance with God
Mightier than the crashing waves
Theme: Rejoice in the Lord always  [prayer sheet]
 

The First and Last

 

I wrote this song in 1999, but it really came into its own last year, more than 20 years later – sung in church as an encouragement to my congregation during lockdown, and accompanied on the ukelele at the bedside of someone who was dying. Now it’s my privilege to share a recording of this song with you, with my friend, Margriet, singing harmony.

 

THESE ARE THE WORDS
by Irene Bom

These are the words of the First and Last
The one who came, who died, who rose again
These are the words and the words are true
These are the words of Jesus to you.

I know, I know what you’re going through
I know, I know ’cause I’ve been there too
And be sure my love will carry you
all the way, all the way through.

These are the words of the First and Last
The one who came, who died, who rose again
These are the words and the words are true
These are the words of Jesus to you.

Fear not, fear not, there’s no need to fear
Fear not, fear not because I am here
And be sure My love will keep you strong
every day, all the day long.

 

Vocals: Irene Bom and Margriet van Overbeeke

Inspiration

This song is inspired by Jesus’ words to the church in Smyrna, as recorded in Revelation 2:8-10.

These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know … Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. … Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

 

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
 

It’s a boy


(Photo: Irene Bom)
 
 

A Christmas greeting in the form of a song, recorded with my friend, Margriet, on backing vocals and percussion. You’re welcome to sing along.

 

EMMANUEL
by Irene Bom

1. Sing a song, a song of joy
Come along to see the boy
A baby boy who from heaven came
Emmanuel, Emmanuel is His Name

Chorus:
Emmanuel – God is with us
Emmanuel – God is with us
Emmanuel – God is with us
God is with us – Emmanuel

2. Shepherds heard the angels sing
Bringing news of a baby king
So they went without delay
To see the baby in a manger where he lay

(Repeat chorus)

3. Wise men came from afar
They were led by a star
They brought him gifts, gifts of joy
Gold and myrrh and frankincense for the boy

(Repeat chorus)
 


Extra Extra
Musical notation for Emmanuel.
More Christmas songs for all ages.
 

Joseph and Mary: A Poem

 

I wrote this poem in 2007, during my third year of training for the ministry. I probably wrote it in transit, on the train to or from my day job as a software developer.

The poem is a conversation between Mary and Joseph as he grapples with the implications of her decision to say yes to God’s plan.

I do hope, like Mary, you find support from the significant others in your life when you say yes to God’s plan for you. We cannot do it alone.

 


Joseph and Mary

by Irene Bom

Joseph:
How could you agree
When there’s so much at stake?

Mary:
My-beloved-is-mine potentially,
Reckless it may be,
But the risk is mine to take.

Joseph:
Are you insane, Mary?
What did the angel say to sway you?

Mary:
Such wisdom, it’s agony.
I glimpsed the future briefly.
He said dreams are coming true.

Joseph:
What am I to do, tell me?
I had my hopes pinned on a quiet life.

Mary:
I don’t determine your destiny,
But the load is heavy.
It would be easier to carry if I’m your wife.

Joseph:
Your mind is clearly
Made up, and I have no say.

Mary:
I’m dazzled, I’m dazed, I can see
I’m an embryonic community.
Join us, embrace the future. Stay.
 


From the blog
Prepare = action
God loves stories
Theme: Called into community  [prayer sheet]
 

In the darkness


The view from my kitchen balcony  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

A reflection on blessed darkness, including the darkness of the womb where “the Christ-child was made ready for the journey into light”.


Advent in the dark

We wait in the darkness,
expectantly, longingly, anxiously, thoughtfully.

The darkness is our friend.

In the darkness of the womb,
we have all been nurtured and protected.

In the darkness of the womb
the Christ-child was made ready for the journey into light.

It is only in the darkness
that we can see the splendour of the universe –
blankets of stars, the solitary glowings of the planets.

It was the darkness that allowed the Magi to find the star
that guided them to where the Christ-child lay.

In the darkness of the night,
desert people find relief from the cruel relentless heat of the sun.

In the blessed desert darkness
Mary and Joseph were able to flee with the infant Jesus
to safety in Egypt.

In the darkness of sleep,
we are soothed and restored, healed and renewed.

In the darkness of sleep, dreams rise up.
God spoke to Joseph and the wise men through dreams.
God is speaking still.

Sometimes in the solitude of the darkness
our fears and concerns, our hopes and visions
rise to the surface.
We come face to face with ourselves
and with the road that lies ahead of us.
And in that same darkness
we find companionship for the journey.

In that same darkness
we sometimes allow ourselves to wonder and worry
whether the human race is going to survive.

And then, in the darkness
we know that you are with us, O God,
yet still we await your coming.

In the darkness that contains both our hopelessness and our hope,
we watch for a sign of God’s hope.

For you are with us, O God,
in darkness and in light.

 
~ from the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand (abridged). Posted by James Hawes, on Sunday Papers.
 


From the blog
In a new light
Sister moon
3 Prayers while waiting