Sunday, December 31, 2017

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



Saturday, December 16, 2017

receiving

The challenge of the Christmas season is to receive the God who comes, and not try to control, determine, or manipulate the how, where, or when of that coming.  But receiving is difficult.  It is not a comfortable posture for us.  We like the position of control, and the posture of receptivity is one of openness, vulnerability, and dependence.  It requires that we let go of our own plans, schemes, and agendas and trust, instead, in God's care, provision, and direction.  And that is a scary place to be, just ask Mary, or Elizabeth, or Zechariah, or Joseph.  The Advent and Christmas seasons are filled with people that had to learn how to receive, to let go, and to trust.  Sure this receptivity is difficult, but intimacy demands it.  We cannot have intimacy without a willingness to let go of control and simply receive what is being given.  And intimacy with the One who comes--the One who breathed us into being--is what we all most deeply long for.  So let us watch and wait and hope and trust and open our arms and our hearts to receive God, however, whenever, and wherever he might come.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

pregnant with god

So Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  (Luke 2:4-7)

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Advent is the season where we, like Mary, are pregnant with God.  It is the time in which God has, indeed, done a new thing within us, but we cannot yet see, or know, exactly what it is.  It is a season where we must carry around this "new thing" in the depths of our being until it is ready to show itself and be born into the world.  Thus, this new birth cannot be forced.  We do not control the where or the when or the how of this coming, we simply wait and watch in joyful anticipation, knowing that this new thing will come in its own time and in its own way and in its own place.  Therefore, we must resist the temptation to determine, or manipulate, or control this new birth.  We must avoid trying to manage outcomes.  For this birth is from God, and only he can determine the right time and the right place for this new thing to be born.  And when it is finally time for it to come forth, to arrive in the world, we must be willingly to embrace it and all that comes along with it.  From that moment on we are forever changed.  We must welcome the new, in all of its glory, and let go of the old, in order to make room for this new life to take shape within us and among us.


What beautiful and mysterious thing are you doing within me, O Lord?  And will I have the trust and the patience to wait and let whatever it is grow in me until it is ready to be born into the world?  Give me the faith and the grace and the courage to truly wait for you.



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

advent waiting

Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1)


Advent is not about trying to create or produce or build something, it is about waiting for God to reveal something.  It is about resisting the urge to do and embracing the urge to be.  It is a time where we wait for the Lord.  We do not wait for the Lord to show up and do something, for he was never absent.  He is always present (Psalm 139:7-12), always working (John 5:17), always speaking (Psalm 19:1-14).  We wait for the Lord because he is already doing something and we just need to be able to see and to hear what that is.

Help us, O Lord, to live our lives always and only in response to you.  Help us to do nothing, or initiate nothing, that you have not already begun.  Give us the desire and the ability to join you in what you are doing.  Show us where you are at work, O God, and let us join you in that, whatever that may look like.  In the name of Jesus, the One who comes, we pray.  Amen.


Be up and awake to what God is doing! (Romans 13:11, The Message)

Monday, December 4, 2017

ready

Roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that's coming when Jesus arrives.  Don't lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing.  You didn't know any better then, you do now.  As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God's life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. (1 Peter 1:13-16, The Message)


Two words that seem to be coming up often, as the season of Advent begins, are awake and ready. One of them (awake) has to do with a way of being, and the other (ready) has to do with a mode of operation--what it takes to live a life that is awake and alert.  It is like the parable of the oil and the lamps.  Staying awake is only one part of the equation, albeit a very important part.  We must also be ready.  Or, better yet, we must also make ourselves ready--constantly.  Preparations must be made in advance, so that when the time of the arrival comes, we will have oil for our lamps.  During Advent we watch and wait, but that is not a passive thing.  The kind of watching and waiting we are called to do is an active, expectant, anticipatory waiting.  It is a waiting in which our souls stand on tiptoe, knowing that the arrival is imminent, and that we must be ready, whenever and wherever and however it comes to pass.  That is why we must roll up our sleeves and put our minds in gear, so that we will be totally ready to receive the gift that's coming when Jesus arrives. 

Come, Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

toiling in vain


Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.  Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.  In vain you rise early and stay up late toiling for food to eat--for he grants rest to his beloved. (Psalm 127:1-2)


This life is a constant battle between being whom and what God made us to be—in all of its truth and all of its beauty—and trying to be something, or someone, other than that.  It is the difference between receiving a self (a true, God-breathed self) and trying to manufacture one.  It is the difference between being organic (or authentic) and being synthetic.

    
We are builders by nature, even when it comes to the self.  We are always, it seems, trying to build a life, a career, or a reputation—trying to make a name for ourselves—when who we are has already been whispered into us before the foundations of the world.  We just need to find out who that is and be that.  A dear friend once said, “I think I’ve been asking the wrong question most of my life.  I’ve been asking, ‘God, what do you want me to do?’ when I should have been asking, ‘God, who do you want me to be, and help me to do whatever helps me to be that.’”

    
That’s where this Psalm comes in.  It is a reminder from God about the order and essence of real life.  Whenever we start building (even a self to be), our labor will most likely be in vain.  The true self is God-built.  We just need to discover who that is and what that looks like in the world.  When we start trying to make something of ourselves, we just end up creating layer upon layer of falseness, “putting on coats against the cold” as Frederick Buechner once called it.  And that is the definition of toil—laboring in vain.


    
Give me the wisdom, O Lord, to know the difference—this day and every day—between who you truly made me to be and what I have merely tried to manufacture as a result of my own fears and insecurities.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

word within

The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. (Deuteronomy 30:14)


If we let the word of God take up residence within us, it will become something.  It is alive.  In fact, “It is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword,” the writer of Hebrews reminds us.  We do not have to try and make it into something, it already is something, and will become something more in us as we give it time and space.
     
The problem is that while we may indeed read the word of God, we do not typically allow it the time and the space to become—to live and dwell within us.  We do not give it room to have a life of its own.  Therefore, more often than not, the seed of the word falls on the hardened path of our own busyness and activity and comes to nothing.  What a tragedy.
    
If we truly desire intimacy with God, if we truly want to hear God speak to us, we must learn how to plant his word in our hearts and souls in a way that it comes alive in us, and then works its way out into our lives and our world.  We must, as Eugene Peterson so beautifully said, turn our eyes into ears.  We must come to God’s word fully realizing its personal and specific nature, fully realizing its potential to speak deeply into our hearts and lives.  And we must make time and space for it to do so.  It will not happen by accident.      



This commandment that I’m commanding you today isn’t too much for you, it’s not out of your reach. It’s not on a high mountain—you don’t have to get mountaineers to climb the peak and bring it down to your level and explain it before you can live it. And it’s not across the ocean—you don’t have to send sailors out to get it, bring it back, and then explain it before you can live it. No. The word is right here and now—as near as the tongue in your mouth, as near as the heart in your chest. Just do it! (Deuteronomy 30:11-14, The Message)