Lenten Devotional: Fifth Week of Lent (Sun., Apr. 7 – Sat., Apr. 13)


Sunday, April 7

This week’s theme: Omnipresent

Psalm 139

On the grounds of Maui’s Palapala Ho‘omau Congregational Church lies the gravesite of Charles Lindbergh. He was a man of extreme contrasts: a national hero, then a Nazi sympathizer; a consultant on war tactics, but also an environmentalist concerned with preserving species like the humpback whale. It was those gentle giants that brought him to Maui.

His simple gravestone has only two chiseled inscriptions:

Born Michigan 1902, died Maui 1974

If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea

The latter comes from Psalm 139, attributed to David, an epic song celebrating the omnipresence of God. It serves as the source of our theme this week.

Let’s continue our journey . . .

▲ Visio Divina — Guided Meditation

God’s love toward you can be seen everywhere.

But how often do you stop and notice how God is with you?

Begin right now and enter the picture.

There are many trees, but what do you first see? 

Stay with that part of the picture. What colors are vivid?

What shapes do you now notice? What textures?

Spend a few minutes pondering the image.

Take note of what thoughts come to mind.

What are you feeling?

Now gaze at the entire picture.

As you begin to leave your time of prayer, think about how to become more aware of God’s presence in your life every day.

Close your meditation with a prayer asking God to help you keep seeing with the eyes of the heart.

Monday, April 8

The deepest knowing

O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. . .. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. — Psalm 139:1–2,4

There is a distinct difference between believing in God as an abstract concept — the spark of the Big Bang — and believing that God is personally involved in our lives. This is the most breathtaking quality of Psalm 139. Not only is God omnipresent, but as David said earlier in Psalm 8, our Creator is personally aware of our tiny lives every second of every day.

God knows us better than we know ourselves. God’s compassion for us is deeper than what we have for ourselves. Paul spoke of this in Romans, chapter 8, saying, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”

Seen in one light, the journey of mindfulness is a discipline to align ourselves with this inmost knowing and compassion, the wellspring of fullness and joy.

O God, align ourselves with the deepest knowledge of how to live our lives. Amen.

Tuesday, April 9

Here, there and everywhere

Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? … If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me . . . — Psalm 139:7, 9–10a

When David asks, “Where can I flee from your presence?” there are many of us who might echo this phrase with frustration. We would prefer to hide dark thoughts and actions completely. We may do so from others, but we can never hide

from God.

I’m not talking about an overwrought conscience. I mean that gentle, loving Presence that breathes through us, looks through our eyes, and beats with our hearts. We can resist its pull toward harmony and light, or we can surrender and find the ancient path that God lay out for all of humanity.

The more we resist God’s purposes, the more we struggle. In her own inimitable way, a Twelve Step friend of mine put it this way: “In my willful stubbornness, I used to believe that the Universe was conspiring against me. Now, as I learn to let go, I believe the Universe is conspiring for me. Every day brings surprises!”

Thank you, God, for your continued presence in all aspects of our lives. Amen.

Wednesday, April 10

The light shines in the darkness

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. — Psalm 139:11–12

There is no teacher like experience. For years, when faced with the struggles, griefs and tragedies of people I pastored, I lifted up a variation of John 1:5 — that God’s light shines in the darkness and the darkness will never overcome it. We may not see the resolution as we stumble in the shadows, but God is still with us.

Then came the bleakest time of

my life, a season of brokenness and self-destruction. It was like a freefall through darkness, only to discover that God’s arms were waiting to

catch me.

This is one of the truths in Psalm 139. God is present even in our periods of despair, working to heal and restore us. As one of the promises in Alcoholics Anonymous says, “We came to believe that God was doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.”  What a comforting truth to live with!

O God, who is present even in our trials, we give you praise. Amen.

Thursday, April 11

Reverently created

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made . . . — Psalm 139:14a

These words are a powerful declaration that reverence is reciprocal. When David joyfully exclaims, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” translate the word “fearfully” as “reverently.”  When we do, just think of the power of this verse. The One we revere has shown that same honor to us in the intricate way we are created!

Clearly, we are called to return this reverence for all of Creation, especially with our fellow human beings. We need to recall and cherish the imago dei, the image of God within each of us. How often our world forgets this divine identity that lies within each of us! Instead, we continue to divide ourselves along fault lines of class, race, nationality and political ideology. None of us seem immune to this sin.

When you are tempted to judge another person, remember this acronym: SNAP — Stop, Notice, Attend and Pivot.  Stop the judgment. Notice what you are feeling, thinking, saying to yourself. Attend (pay attention) to what triggered this emotional response of judgment — a previous experience, a painful memory, a fear or resentment. Pivot to consider that this person who is provoking judgment in you is also made in God’s image.

O Spirit, thank you for the reverence you showed in creating our unique, one-of-a-kind lives. Amen.

Friday, April 12

Even at the end

I come to the end — I am still with you. — Psalm 139:18b

For years, in addition to my parish duties, I served as a hospice chaplain. It was such a privilege to attend to God’s children in the final hours of their lives. I was there to comfort them and their families, but they often blessed me far beyond my expectations.

All of us are equally precious to God, but I can say something without reservation. There are good deaths and bad deaths. I am not discounting tragedy, just sharing an observation about those who died with a consciousness that God’s love enveloped them.

I think of Marsha as she called her grandchildren to her bedside less than 24 hours before she died. With her baldness gleaming from rounds of chemotherapy, she placed her frail hands on each of their heads and gave them a blessing of love, words that would linger throughout their lifetimes.

I think of Ruth just hours before her death. I was holding her hand when she turned, recognized me, and said, “Don’t worry, Pastor Krin. I’m going across the Jordan to meet the Lord.”

Loving God, as we or our loved ones near the end, may we be filled with your love that transcends time. Amen.

Saturday, April 13

A daily reprieve

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. — Psalm 139:23–24

Before we enter Holy Week with a celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, it is fitting to remind ourselves of these final words from Psalm 139.

Spiritual growth continues throughout our lives. This is often the problem with creeds and doctrines. As my Millennial son, Pieter, says about his circle of friends, “We are reluctant to make statements of faith because they calcify that part of our brain that seeks new understanding.”

In my own recovery process, there is a truth from the AA Big Book that guides me. “What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”

To me, this perfectly describes the journey into mindfulness. By practicing a reverent and grateful awareness of God’s Presence, we banish fear, resentment and stress. We return to the serenity and joy that is our birthright. It is a process that certainly gets easier, but we practice it one day at a time.

Loving God, keep us from getting ahead of or behind your guidance. Help us rest in your Divine Presence. Amen.