Friday, August 31, 2018

the blue book is now available on amazon


Exciting News!  The Blue Book is now available on Amazon!  And not only that, but it also has a bunch of new content!  I've been working for the past year or so to write an opening reflection for each chapter and I'm really excited about the end result.  I hope you will be too.  So please spread the word.  Tell your friends that the strange blue devotional book that has always been so hard to find, is hard to find no more.

*Update: Thanks for the great response!  Glad to see the book still seems to be helpful to so many in making space to hear God's voice and know of his great affection.  Since the book has been released on Amazon I do, however, find that I miss the contact with many of you.  I miss hearing the stories of how God has used the book in your life or ministry.  So, if you have the time, I would love it if you would just leave your comments here, or drop by Amazon and give a review.  And, as always, feel free to email me with your Blue Book story if you'd like.  I love hearing them. Blessings, Jim



Thursday, July 12, 2018

absorbed

But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about! ~Romans 13:11-14, The Message


Absorbed.  Ouch!  Hits me right between the eyes.  If I am honest, I have to admit that not a day goes by when it doesn't happen to me.  At some point each day (or multiple points each day) I get so caught up in what's either in front of me, or ahead of me, that I lose touch entirely with God's presence within me, and what he is doing around me.  I don't know that I would have called it dozing off, because it appears so active.  But that's exactly what it is.  It is getting so consumed with myself, and my agenda, that I fall asleep on God.  I get distracted and sidetracked by the things on my list and fail to even ask what might be on his.  I think that's probably the definition of absorbed.

So how do I combat this tendency?  How do I wake up to God and fall asleep to myself?  How can I be up and awake to what God is doing?  I think the answer is easy; and really hard.  I pay attention.  I begin my day with God and I set alarms within my day that will bring my heart and my soul and my mind back to God in case I fall asleep.  I set something on my phone or I stick something in my car to remind me of his love and his presence.  I plant a word or a phrase or a psalm in my heart and let it take root there for the day.  I remember it every time it comes to mind, and recite it to myself.  I say the words of the ancient prayer and listen for the prayer of God that rises in my heart.  I set concrete times within the day where I will stop and return to him, just as the saints and poets and pilgrims have been doing for centuries.  I frame my day with the prayer; the prayers the Church has been praying since the beginning of time.  For this is not a new problem. 

And if I do all of that then maybe, just maybe, when I lay my head on my pillow at night, I will be able to smile. I will think back and be grateful for an awareness of God's presence and his work that has helped me to align myself more and more with his will rather than just my own.    





Sunday, July 8, 2018

thanks

Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth.  Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.  Know that the Lord is God.  It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.  For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues to all generations. (Psalm 100:1-5)

So, Psalm 100 is my psalm for the day.  As a matter of fact, it has been my Sunday psalm for a couple of months now.  Little did I know that it would be the Psalm for my birthday.  My 58th, to be exact.  And I can't think of a more appropriate prayer for this day.  My friend Robert always says, before he starts reading a psalm, "Listen to the words of the ancient prayer and listen for the prayer of God that rises in your heart."  Well, this psalm IS the prayer of God that rises in my heart today.  I am so incredibly grateful, so glad.  I'm so grateful for 58 years of life and love.  So grateful for 36 (in August) years of marriage to my best friend and the love of my life!  So grateful for my three incredible (grown) children and my one wonderful daughter-in-law.  So grateful for deep and wonderful friendships.  So grateful for the opportunity to make a living doing the things I love the most.  So grateful for the sweet (and totally undeserved) way that God continues to draw me further and further into his great heart of love.  If all of that doesn't make a person "shout for joy" and "worship the Lord with gladness" nothing will.

Friday, July 6, 2018

wait

waiting is a funny thing
on the one hand
when we are made to wait
it feels like we are wasting time
but on the other
it is not the wasting of time at all
but the ripening of it

waiting accomplishes something
a hidden agenda
divine purposes
a growing and readying
a preparation for the time
when all will be right
for the unveiling of all
that has been taking place
in the dark and fertile soil
of our becoming

waiting for the Lord
does not mean
trying to figure out
what we can do
while we wait
it just means waiting
thus there is no wait and
only wait alone
when we add the and
we stop waiting altogether

who knows
maybe God is trying
to get us to the end of ourselves
for we typically only wait
as a last resort
after we have
exhausted all other
alternatives

wouldn't it be great
if somehow we learned
to wait first
rather than immediately
spring into action
for if we were to do that
it seems like
we would save ourselves
a lot of wasted motion

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

bothered



Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. (John 11:32-38)



It is hard to read John 11 and not get the impression—especially when you study the words carefully—that Jesus was bothered.  Oh sure, he was heartbroken.  He was moved to tears by all of the pain and suffering he witnessed around him, especially the sorrow of his dear friends, Mary and Martha.  I believe it was the tears of these beloved sisters than moved him to tears himself.

But there is something more going on here.  Jesus was bothered.  You can especially see it in John’s use of the words “deeply moved” in verses 33 and 38.  On the surface they look like nothing but sadness and sorrow, but underneath they communicate much more.  The word used here in the Greek is embrimaomai, which literally means “to snort in indignation.”  Jesus was indignant.  He was not pleased.  He was frustrated.  Or, at the very least, he was really, really bothered.  He was bothered to see his friends in great pain.  And he was bothered again when the some of the onlookers said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

I guess the real question is: What, exactly, was Jesus bothered by?  Was he bothered by the lack of faith being exhibited around him?  Was he bothered by the way it caused those around him to question the goodness of his heart?  Or was he bothered by the fact that "it didn’t have to be this way?"  This (a world of death and suffering) was never his intention in the first place.  And, who knows, maybe it was all of the above.  All we do know is that Jesus was bothered.  And you know what?  I’m glad.  Something deep within me wants a God who is bothered by death and suffering and sorrow and pain.  I think being bothered is a necessary component of compassion.

You see, compassion is not just pity, or even empathy.  Compassion is to be lovingly bothered.  It is to love someone enough to be deeply affected by their hurt and pain, but also to be bothered enough to do something about it.  To enter in somehow.  Compassion is love in action.  And it is the “bothered” part that keeps us from merely being heartbroken for someone, and moves us to action.  Compassion, as it was in this case for Jesus, hates the effects of the fall, and moves in the direction of trying to reverse them (with God’s help) whenever possible.  It is not merely being grieved about the world, but also being willing to do something about it.  Jesus was filled with compassion, and wants us to be as well.  What are you bothered about these days?  How has it moved you toward loving action?

Lord Jesus, forgive me when I am not bothered by what I see around me and within me.  Thank you that you were bothered; bothered enough to get involved in offering people the healing and the wholeness they desperately needed.  Help me to do the same.  Amen.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

dwell in the land

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.  (Psalm 37:3-4)


The land that we are in, is the land that we are in; there is not much we can do to change it.  What we can change is how we choose to dwell in that land.  We can fret and worry and brood and be frustrated, or we can trust and enjoy and delight and commit.  We can try, in futility, to change (or fight) our circumstances, or we can embrace them and change our mindset instead.

The words of this ancient prayer are our invitation to do just that.  Eugene Peterson says that, "The Psalms train us in the conversation with God that is prayer."  They help us to become all that God desires us to be.  So if we take these words and bury them deep in our hearts and souls, and utter them often from our lips, they will begin to take shape and produce fruit within us.  They will actually begin to do what they say.

In them we will begin to hear the whisper of the One who made us saying: "Stop fretting and simply enjoy the place where I have put you.  You cannot escape it, you might as well embrace it.  Delight in me, as I delight in you.  Trust me with all that is on your plate and all that is in your heart.  I will carry it so that you don't have to.  Calm and quiet your soul, even in the midst of the chaos, and find your rest in me."


Believe in the Eternal and do what is good--live in the land He provides; roam, and rest in God's faithfulness. Take great joy in the Eternal! His gifts are coming, and they are all your heart desires. (Psalm 37:3-4, The Voice)

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

shame and self-contempt

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.  Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.  No one whose hope is in you, O Lord, will ever be put to shame. (Psalm 25:1-3, NIV)


Make no mistake about it, the battle against shame and self-contempt is never-ending.  Their continual assault on our hearts and souls will never stop, at least this side of heaven.  Because shame and self-contempt are two of the main weapons the enemy uses to triumph over those of us who struggle through life on a regular basis.  The reason they are so effective is that, to a large degree, they are unrecognized.  Somehow the enemy has convinced us that the voices we hear, telling us how miserable and worthless we are, come from ourselves rather than from him.  What a brilliant strategy—to turn us against ourselves.  Which then leads to further shame and self-contempt.  It is a never-ending downward spiral.

That’s why I find so much comfort in the first few verses of Psalm 25.  The words of this ancient prayer give me hope that this battle can—and will—be won.  They also give me help in the fighting of this battle.  The words of Psalm 25 give me weapons to use when I feel overwhelmed, beaten up, and defeated.  They empower me when it feels like I am at the mercy of forces far greater and more powerful than I.

All I have to do is use them—by praying them.  All I have to do is recognize the strategy of the enemy, lift my soul to the Lord, and trust in him rather than trusting in myself, or the world around me to tell me who I am and what I am worth.  To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.  In you I trust, O my God.  When I lift my soul to the Lord, and trust only in my God, then shame and self-contempt begin to lose their grip on me.  Then I am free to be the person that God created me to be.  Thanks be to God!

Help us, O Lord, to lift our souls to you.  Help us, this day, to walk in the truth of your love rather than the lies of the enemy.  Amen.