The Upper Room Devotion for Thursday, September 7, 2023, was written by Gael Stuart Phaneuf of Colorado.
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. 25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
I was six years old and sleeping soundly when I was shaken awake and yanked out of bed by my panic-stricken mother who was saying, "There's a fire." her trembling hands pulled a shirt over my head and we ran outside and away from our appartment. We stood at a distance, and I heard my mother softly murmuring prayers for God's protection as firetrucks roared in and the crew began fighting the blaze. Clutching her hand, I looked up to see smoke pouring from many windows of the building from which we had just escaped. My heart pounded loudly, and I remember praying, "I pray the Lord my soul to keep." I did not have a lot of prayers to draw upon at that age, by my mother's murmurings and the security I felt as she pulled me close brought me great comfort.
In my adult life, when I face unexpected and sometimes terrible events, I often experience something similar. The Holy Spirit surrounds me, calming my racing heart just as my mother did so long ago, and I again whisper, "I pray the Lord my soul to keep." In today's scripture reading, Jesus said he would ask the Father to send a Companion who would never leave us. God sent the Holy Spirit with a promise to be with us always. We are never alone in this challenging life.
Pastor Anthony's Thoughts
All of us will face a hardship or tragedy that shakes us to our core. It may not be a fire like Gael's describes in the reflection, it may be the sudden loss of a job, or a shocking diagnosis. In all our life's ups and downs, the Holy Spirit is with us, whispering encouragement, offering us guidance, and at times correction. When we find ourselves enduring hardship and tragedy we can, like Gael, access the power and peace of God through prayer. Our words do not need to be eloquent or volumenous, they merely need to be sincere and trusting. Like Gael's simple prayer: "I pray the Lord my soul to keep," our earnest prayer amidst our hardships are carried, by the Holy Spirit, to our loving God. Take courage, knowing that the Holy Spirit walks with us each and every day.
Loving God, thank you for holding us always through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.