Steve Macchia

Hymn-Praying

This past Sunday I was in the middle of singing one of the worship leader-led hymns with our congregation and found my soul strangely warmed by the presence of the Spirit we call Holy.

I noticed my hands beginning to open up with a gentle gratitude to God. I closed my eyes briefly in hopes of capturing the fullness of the text I was singing, for perhaps the umpteenth time in my Christian life. I knew the hymn, each line holding deep significance for me. Right then and there I realized there was more for me in this hymn than I was able to capture at that moment with my worshipping community. The liturgy moved on, adding on to the hymn for the rest of the service.

I decided to return to the hymn later in the day and simply receive the text once more, praying the words one stanza at a time. I did just that. My soul was refreshed and renewed.

Perhaps something similar has happened to you recently. You’re singing your heart out with your fellow parishoners. You are struck by the words of praise, thankfulness, reflection or petition in one of the songs, hymns, or worship songs. There isn’t much time at that moment to capture the words fully. The worship continues, but the scent of his presence remains.

How about using that hymn later in the day or week to help you receive from the Lord and offer your heart back in worship, this time in your personal prayer closet? A spiritual practice you’re willing to try? If so, here’s the hymn that caught my heart’s attention and the words I returned to pray…may it serve as an encouragement to your soul as well.

Take My Life was written in 1874 by Frances Havergal, a poet, scholar, and deeply passionate lover of Jesus. Simply and sweetly she sang the love of God, and her writing invites us to do likewise. Let the words envelop you as you receive them as a gift of grace, a love letter from Jesus to you, a hymn-prayer from you to him.

Take My Life by Frances Havergal

1 Take my life and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days;
let them flow in endless praise,
let them flow in endless praise.

2 Take my hands and let them move
at the impulse of thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee,
swift and beautiful for thee.

3 Take my voice and let me sing
always, only, for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
filled with messages from thee,
filled with messages from thee.

4 Take my silver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
every power as thou shalt choose,
every power as thou shalt choose.

5 Take my will and make it thine;
it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart it is thine own;
it shall be thy royal throne,
it shall be thy royal throne.

6 Take my love; my Lord, I pour
at thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee,
ever, only, all for thee.

Embracing Your Belovedness

The story of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River is quite remarkable. His cousin John is conducting the ceremony. The text (Luke 3) tells us how the people were waiting expectantly for the Messiah, assuming it might be John. But, he corrects their inaccurate assumption by answering them, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

John’s words exhorted the people as he proclaimed the good news to them. They stood in line to receive their blessing.

Shortly thereafter, Jesus arrives riverside, ready to be baptized by John: unworthy to untie his sandals, but ready to facilitate his baptismal blessing. “And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3: 21-22)

You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased. A baker’s dozen of life-changing words from heaven. For Jesus. From the Father. In the form of a descending dove. The Voice. From heaven. Filled with affection. Received with joy.

When’s the last time you heard similar words from a loved one? Were you able to embrace the affirming expression of deep affection? Or, did you find yourself pushing back, unable to fully receive the words? Or, worse yet, perhaps you’ve never heard such affirming words from a loved one?

Knowing we are loved is life changing. Hearing the words is radical. Believing the sentiment is transformational. Delivering such words is a privilege. A gift and a joy all wrapped up as one.

Perhaps we don’t offer words of love because of the drought that exists in our own hearts. All of us need to know we are dearly loved. It begins with the words of the Heavenly Father to us, just as he delivered them to his Son, Jesus. Those words are ours to claim as well.

You are a dearly loved child of God. With you he is well pleased. Receive God’s love today and be transformed by the truth of that simple word. Then offer the love of God to all who cross your path today. I’m confident you’ll surprise many and please the One who delights most in your delivery.

Embrace your belovedness. Bless others accordingly. Start today.

The Forgotten Question

What shall we do next? Where shall we go? When shall we meet? Who shall we invite? How shall we get there?


What, where, when, who, and how are by far the easiest questions to answer in life. We request and respond to each of them multiple times each day. 


The question we oft-forget is “Why?” – and it’s the question that matters most, is hardest to answer, and easiest to ignore, neglect, or resist.


When a two year old persistently asks us “Why?” with endless vigor, we immediately (or eventually) become impatient. “Because I said so” can become our most frequent reply. A shallow response from an adult who knows better, but grows tired of the constant barrage of the same question. The one that matters most.


Consider as well that underneath every “Why?” are at least five deeper “Why”’s that we rarely plummet. So if we’re impatient with one “Why?” how do we handle multiple appeals for an even deeper response. Try it out…ask a “Why”  question and then ask “Why?” multiple times thereafter and see where it takes you. Hopefully to a deeper, richer place.


On a recent Sabbath walk in my neighborhood, I picked up ten beautiful leaves that had fallen to the ground. They were shades of green, red, brown, yellow, and orange. A swath of gorgeous autumn in my hands. At first, as I picked them up it was easy to answer “Why?” Because my eyes were drawn to their glow in the sunshine. I praised God for his glorious creation.


As I walked, I thought further about what I could do with the leaves. Who would appreciate them most? What were they symbolizing to me at that very moment? Where could I place them? How about photographing them and posting on social media?


And then I was arrested by the thought. Why not simply enjoy their beauty, rather than post the photo on social media? To make sure my ‘friends’ were edified by what encouraged me? To point out my holy pursuit of a Sabbath walk and noticing God’s creation? To see how many ‘likes’ it will attain? To make it all about me?


I decided – thankfully and only by the grace of God – not to present the photo publically at all. To do so was filled with too many mixed motives, mostly surrounding my own insecurities. The deeper “Why’s” were calling forth a deeper response. One that would keep a sacred moment holy and not spoil it with self-prescribed grandiosity.


Now, I can hear your cynicism already…then “‘Why?” share this story at all? Good question!! Solely as an honest wrestling with a real life question, particularly about why we post anything whatsoever on social media (either rarely or multiple times each day).


The most-forgotten question for us today is “Why?” It affects every aspect of our lives: spiritually, relationally, physically, emotionally, vocationally, and financially. Pausing before speaking or doing or responding and prayerfully considering the “Why?” is always really good for your soul. 


Let’s ask “Why?” frequently, embrace it wholeheartedly, and prayerfully consider why before asking what, where, when, who and how. Observe with gratitude what happens as a result of plummeting the depth of “Why” (or why x 5) inside your heart, soul, mind, and life. 


Why? Because I said so :))! Haha…just kidding…it’s because your soul will find its deepest rest in God alone, not in pursuit of any other alternative self-focused affections which are considered more frequently to us, and are all too often absent of the most important question: “Why?”


Alexander the Coppersmith

I’ve read the Bible from cover to cover multiple times. But, for whatever reason, I hadn’t noticed Alexander the Coppersmith until recently.

Do you know who he is and why he’s referenced specifically in the Scriptures?

In 2 Timothy 4, Paul references this rather obscure metalworker by name…as “one who did me a great deal of harm.” He warns Timothy, “You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.” And offers this assurance, “The Lord will repay him for what he has done.”

Scholars have speculated about who this is…someone previously referenced in Acts (an idolatrous business man) or 1 Timothy (who shipwrecked his faith with blasphemy)? We simply don’t know for sure.

I find it intriguing to note that Paul calls him out by name. The early Church would have known who Paul was referencing. Alexander the Coppersmith was obviously a thorn in Paul’s side and he warns Timothy, his young son in the faith, to keep his eyes and ears wide open to the harmful ways of Alexander.

What could have been the harm he mustered up against Paul?

Perhaps gossip or slander, speaking ill of the Apostle? Or, acting out against Paul in either word or deed? Holding a grudge against Paul, thinking he had impure motivations? Perhaps being unwilling to mend fences and ultimately withhold blessings? Powering over Paul with corruption, coercion, or condescension? Or simply unwilling to embrace the Gospel message of grace in Christ?

Bringing harm against a brother or sister in Christ is often unfathomable to consider. But, it happens all the time. Perhaps you have your own “Alexander the Coppersmith” who has brought you a great deal of harm. It’s more frequent than it should be, especially within the walls of the Church.

Paul reminds us here that it’s ok to name your accuser, especially in a letter to a trusted confidante like Timothy. And in calling him to account, remembering that it’s God who will deal with him according to the damages inflicted. In that we can rest assured. With our hearts wide open to receive the grace and mercy of Christ, we entrust our own Alexander to the Lord.

In this day of harmful treatment of/among/to Christian leaders, we are comforted by heeding the words of the Apostle, “The Lord stands by our side and gives us strength, so that our message might be fully proclaimed…he will rescue us from every evil attack and will bring us safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” 2 Timothy 4: 14-18

Our With-ness is Our Witness

Our With-ness is Our Witness
By Steve Macchia

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. He was with God in the beginning.” (John 1: 1,2) The incarnation is God’s gift to us—the with-ness of the life of Jesus, promised prophetically for generations, came to live among us.

Emmanuel: God is With Us.

“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28) The angelic visitation to Mary assures her of the with-ness of God and the with-ness of the Spirit of God, in the forthcoming arrival of the mysterious and miraculous Christ child.

Jesus: God is For Us.

At the first nativity, not only were Mary and Joseph present, but soon there came shepherds who were visited by the heavenly host who appeared with the angel, praising God and announcing the Savior’s humble birth. They hurriedly went to Bethlehem to see this miracle that the Lord told them about.

Shepherds: God is With Us and For Us.

The shepherd’s with-ness at the birthplace of Jesus solidified their witness, for the shepherds responded by “spreading the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” (Luke 2: 17,18)

What was true then is true today. Our with-ness is our witness. When we are with God in worship or in creation, we speak of God’s promises and beauty. He is for us and offers his fullness to us. When we are with God in prayer, we offer our praises as we are assured of his attentiveness. When we are with God and among his people, we give voiced witness to our shared life of worship, love, and service.

However, when we are not with God, our witness is imperiled. We may speak of God “out there” but not out of an intimate with-ness. When we are not spending time with God, our witness is paled, lacking depth, perhaps merely a faint memory of old. He seems distant from us and no longer for us.

The same is true among the people of God. What right do we have to bear witness about those we have never shared a meaningful with-ness? Such words become gossip, assumption, judgment, or prejudice. What do we make of such witness: believe it to be true or question it’s veracity?

To say we bear witness without with-ness rings shallow at best. But, when we are with and for another, meaningfully connected to each other, sitting side-by-side, arm-in-arm, or better yet face-to-face, then we have invested enough to bear witness to the truth of another. Spoken without judgment or condemnation, choosing instead to honor and affirm.

In this week before Christmas let me encourage you to be with God and also to be with others. Fully with and for one another. Lending a listening ear. Offering an eye of compassion. Speaking a word of love. Sharing a helping hand. And then bearing witness to what you experience in your with-ness.

With credit to Dave Friedrich, pastor of Church of the Cross, Boston MA, I close with the following poem by Malcolm Guite, entitled O Emmanuel.

O Emmanual
by Malcolm Guite

O come, O come, and be our God-with-us
O long-sought With-ness for a world without,
O secret seed, O hidden spring of light.
Come to us Wisdom, come unspoken Name
Come Root, and Key, and King, and holy Flame,
O quickened little wick so tightly curled,
Be folded with us into time and place,
Unfold for us the mystery of grace
And make a womb of all this wounded world.
O heart of heaven beating in the earth,
O tiny hope within our hopelessness
Come to be born, to bear us to our birth,
To touch a dying world with new-made hands
And make these rags of time our swaddling bands.

In the coming days, as you approach Christmas with family and friends, may you cling to the desire of God to be with you, and in return I pray you will choose with-ness and intimacy for the sake of your soul and for the good of others.

In with-ness and witness of joy in the Incarnate Jesus, who came to be with us and who sacrificed himself to demonstrate that he’s for us.

Steve Macchia
A grateful disciple of Jesus

Thanks to God for My Redeemer

In honor of our Salvation Army colleagues, this hymn was written by August Storm, who attended trade and agricultural schools before joining the Salvation Army where he served as finance secretary at Army headquarters in 1892. His poetry appeared in the Swedish War Cry Magazine. This hymn is great for personal, family, and community prayer and reflection this Thanksgiving.

Thanks to God for My Redeemer
by August Ludvig Storm

Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide!
Thanks for times now but a mem’ry,
Thanks for Jesus by my side!
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
Thanks for dark and stormy fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
Thanks for peace within my soul!

Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare!

Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heav’nly peace with Thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow.
Thanks for all eternity!

Heartfelt Prayers: Act of Petition

Praying

Act of Petition

Give me yourself, O my God, give yourself to me. Behold I love you, and if my love is too weak a thing, grant me to love you more strongly. I cannot measure my love to know how much it falls short of being sufficient, but let my soul hasten to your embrace and never be turned away until it is hidden in the secret shelter of your presence. This only do I know, that it is not good for me when you are not with me, when you are only outside me. I want you in my very self. All the plenty in the world which is not my God is utter want. Amen.

— St. Augustine

Reflection:

Behold — Where are the eyes of your heart drawn into this prayer?
Believe — How is your faith strengthened in this prayer?
Belong — Who are you recalling as you pray this prayer?
Become — What is God inviting you to receive and thereby become as you pray this prayer?

Heartfelt Prayers: We Bless You

Praying

We Bless You

O LORD God Almighty, Father of angels and men, We praise and bless your holy name for all your goodness and loving kindness to humanity. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and for your unceasing generosity to us throughout our lives; But above all, we bless you for your great love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ. We bless you for bringing us safe to the beginning of a new day. Grant that this day we fall into no sin, Neither run into any kind of danger. Keep us, we pray, from all things hurtful to body or soul, and grant us your pardon and peace, So that, being cleansed from all our sins, We might serve you with quiet hearts and minds, and continue in the same until our life’s end, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. Amen

— John Wesley

Reflection:

Behold — Where are the eyes of your heart drawn into this prayer?
Believe — How is your faith strengthened in this prayer?
Belong — Who are you recalling as you pray this prayer?
Become — What is God inviting you to receive and thereby become as you pray this prayer?

Heartfelt Prayers: Receive Grace

Praying

Receive Grace

O God, seeing as there is in Christ Jesus an infinite fullness of all that we can want or desire, May we all receive from him, grace upon grace; grace to pardon our sins, and subdue our iniquities; to justify our persons and to sanctify our souls; and to complete that holy change, that renewal of our hearts, Which will enable us to be transformed into the blessed image in which you created us. O make us all acceptable to be partakers of the inheritance of your saints in light. Amen.

— John Wesley

Reflection:

Behold — Where are the eyes of your heart drawn into this prayer?
Believe — How is your faith strengthened in this prayer?
Belong — Who are you recalling as you pray this prayer?
Become — What is God inviting you to receive and thereby become as you pray this prayer?

Heartfelt Prayers: The Serenity Prayer

Praying

The Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.

— Reinhold Niebuhr

Reflection:

Behold — Where are the eyes of your heart drawn into this prayer?
Believe — How is your faith strengthened in this prayer?
Belong — Who are you recalling as you pray this prayer?
Become — What is God inviting you to receive and thereby become as you pray this prayer?

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