Friday, June 1, 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



Friday, April 20, 2018

131

o lord
may my heart
never become
too proud
may my eyes
never be raised
too high

do not let me get
too full of myself
or take myself
too seriously

help me to stop
trying to be
such a big deal
but instead be
totally content
being a little deal
so that you
may be big

for only then
will my soul
be at rest
only then
will my heart
be still and quiet
only then
will i be able
to find myself
content in your
loving embrace

Thursday, April 19, 2018

must

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. ~Luke 9:23


There is a must in the life of faith that is not fraught with guilt, not stuffed with ought and should. Instead, it is born out of affection and delight.  It is get to rather than have to.  It is pull rather than push.  It is not begrudging and coercive and forced, but a genuine expression of a heart that has been captured by love, the fruit of intimate union.  Thus, it cannot be quashed, contained, or subdued, but flows from our inner being like a river toward the sea.  It propels us into life with energy and vitality that mere duty cannot provide.  It does not beat us down or wear us out, but, by its very nature, reorders, renews, and transforms.

Somehow we must learn how to move from one must to the other.  The state of our lives, and our ministries, depend on it.  For our must will incarnate itself in one form or another.  It can take the shape of joy and peace and gratitude, or it can take the form of gloom and sadness and despair.  Which do you think Jesus would prefer? 

O Lord Jesus, help us live our lives like you did, by the must of love.

Monday, April 16, 2018

one thing

one thing
is needed
one thing
you still lack
one thing
i will seek

if this life
is meant
to be about
one thing

then why
do i seem
to miss
the point
so often

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

walk

This is what the Lord says: "Stand at the crossroads and look, ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.  But you said, 'We will not walk in it.'" (Jeremiah 6:16)

Walking is essential in the life of faith, there are no two ways about it.  It is impossible to follow Jesus without walking.  Thus, it is not intention that counts, but action.  Intention is meaningless without movement.  The best made plans are worthless without us eventually putting one foot in front of the other and beginning to move in the direction of our hopes and dreams.  The desire for a deeper, more intimate life with God will never be realized unless we take that step to make time and space to pray.  Wanting to pray isn't the end, praying is.  The path is only traveled by walking it.  So let's get a move on.  Even as we continue to stand and look and ask (as Jeremiah has told us), let us figure out what walking in the good way looks like today.  And then let us walk.  Obedience is the process by which intention becomes reality.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

spiritual practice

As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. (Luke 24:15-16)


Never underestimate the value of spiritual practice in life with God.  We are not told exactly what kept the disciples from being able to recognize Jesus.  Maybe it was the chaos of the last few days, maybe it was all that was swimming around in their hearts and minds at the moment, or maybe it was something bigger than that.  Who knows?  But we are told what helped them to finally realize who it was that stood before them--the breaking of the bread.  Spiritual Practice.

Spiritual practice is the thing that keeps us rooted and attentive and aware.  It keeps us awake and alert and open to God, and whatever he might be up to at any given moment.  It is not an end in itself, but is a necessary means to a beautiful end--union with the God who made us uniquely and loves us dearly.  Spiritual practice is not meant to manipulate, control, or manufacture.  It is merely something that makes space within us and among us, so that when Jesus finally does come up and walk along with us, we will actually be able to recognize him.

Yet somehow, given the demands of this life, it is something that is easily pushed aside.  And when it is, it makes us less and less able to notice the One who walks among us.  That is probably why John Wesley once wrote: "O Begin!  Fix some part of every day for the private exercises.  You may acquire the taste which you have not: what is tedious at first will afterward be pleasant.  Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily.  It is for your life; there is no other way: else you will be a trifler all your days."

Monday, April 2, 2018

through the tears

woman, why are you crying
who is it you are looking for
~john 20:15

sometimes
the pain of the cross
so blinds our eyes
that we cannot see
the resurrection
standing right in front of us

we become 
so consumed with
our sorrow and sadness
that we forget
for a second
or a season
that this life
is not about us

o god
give us the grace
to look beyond the tears
and find you


Saturday, March 31, 2018

holy saturday

But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment. (Luke 23:56)

We make a great mistake if we skip over Holy Saturday in anticipation of Easter Sunday; for there is great care and intention in the timing of it all.  Space and time for rest and reflection are such necessary parts of the spiritual journey--and ones that are often neglected.  How can we possibly hope to grasp the depths and the beauty of what God is up to if we don't make time and space to consider it?  The fact is that God does some of his very best work when it appears that nothing is going on, and if we are not paying careful attention we are likely to miss it.  So let us make time and space this day for rest and reflection, knowing full well that God is up to something even in (and especially in) the in-between times.

Friday, March 30, 2018

good friday

you took up
our calamity
you carried
the heavy burden
of our pain
you were nailed through
for our rebellion
you were beaten to pieces
for our perversion
the many blows
that brought us wholeness
were reigned down upon you
you were torn apart
that we might be
sewn back together
by your wounds
we are healed
that is what makes
this friday good

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

dying to self

"I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."  Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.  Then he said, "Follow me!" (John 21:18-19)

We try to control everything, don’t we?  Even our dying.  So when Jesus calls us to die to self, we immediately spring into action and start trying to figure out how we can do that.  The problem is that we are the ones trying to figure it out.  Thus, we are the ones trying to choose (or control) how and when and where we will do this.  Which is actually is a large part of our problem  
    
Apparently, as you can see in this interaction with Simon Peter, we do not get a say in that process.  God does not ask for our vote and then act accordingly.  Dying to self is all about surrender, not control.  Therefore, he is the one who gets to determine what this dying needs to look like, as he did with Jesus.
    
Dying to self—as modeled by Jesus—is neither selective nor discriminating.  I do not get to choose who or whether, the call to “Follow me” takes all judgment and discretion out of my hands.  Mine is just to die and to die and to die again.  Not out of begrudging obedience, but out of the deepest possible affection.  That is the goal—loving submission to whatever God desires.


Thank you, Lord Jesus, for showing us what dying to self really looks like.  May we be more like you today.  Amen.

Monday, March 26, 2018

glorify your name

"Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say?  'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this very reason that I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name!" (John 12:27-28)


Here is the true lesson of prayer: life is not about us. 

It is so tempting, as we pray, to ask God to save us from this hour, whatever this hour may be.  To pray that God would deliver us from the hard things of this life.  But Jesus does not do this.  In fact, he does just the opposite.  If the hard things are the things that are apt to glorify God the most, then by all means bring them on.  God's glory is the point, not our comfort.

It would be wise of me to learn this lesson as well.  I need not to pray that God would take away my suffering, or make my circumstances better, or easier.  I need to pray that He would be glorified, whatever it takes, whatever the cost.  Holy Week is evidence that it is the most difficult things of this life that tend to bring the most glory to God.  Maybe that is because it is so easy to glorify ourselves when things are going well.

So next time my soul is troubled, what will I say?  Will I say, "Lord save me from this hour," or will I say, "Glorify your name!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

palm sunday 2018

o jesus
as holy week begins
i find myself
anxious and afraid
of all that will
be required of me
in the days ahead

help me
lord jesus
to not just focus
on the dying
but also on
the being raised
to new life

help me to
always remember
that in the end
life wins

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

strongholds

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are no the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  we demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)


I used to think that strongholds were certain behaviors that I just could not overcome.  But now that I'm a little older, I think it goes way deeper than that.  Sure the behaviors are destructive, and not at all what God wants for me, but the real problem lies underneath.  For underneath every behavior is a goal, and under every goal is a belief.  And every belief is fueled by a narrative.  If we are willing to dig down far enough, we will eventually uncover the reason for the behavior, and the narrative that fuels it.  If we truly desire to change; if we truly desire to eliminate the dysfunctional behavior, we cannot merely cut it off at the surface (for it will eventually grow back), we must uproot it completely.  We must uncover the narrative that lies underneath.  That is the stronghold. 

In order to destroy the strongholds in my life, I cannot just decide to behave differently.  I don't know about you, but I've tried that over and over and over again.  It just doesn't work--at least not for long.  Real change comes when I begin to change the way I think.  I must uncover the narratives that drive me to certain behaviors, and then I must make space and time for the Spirit of God to reveal the truth, which sets me free. I must change my narratives in order to change (long term) my behavior. 

That's where the taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ comes in.  I must dig down to what I really believe, to the narrative that I am allowing to guide my thinking, and hold it up to the light, to the truth of Christ--the narratives of Jesus.  For only then will I be able to know what the truth really is.  And only then will that truth be able to set me free.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

will you really

will you really
lay down your life
for me

will you really
lay aside
all privilege
and power
and preference

will you really
place yourself
totally and unreservedly
in my hands

will you really
empty yourself
of self
that you might
be full of me

will you really
surrender all
that you have
and all
that you are
to my rule
and my care

will you really

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

trust me

dear jim

here is what
you need to do today

hold all things loosely
and cling to me tightly

i got this

love
jesus

Monday, March 12, 2018

simon of cyrene

as they were
going out
they met a man
from cyrene
named simon
and they
forced him
to carry the cross
matthew 27:32


sometimes we don't
have a choice
whether we will carry
the cross or not

it is simply
forced upon us

but we do always
have a choice
as to how
we will carry it

and that choice
can make all the difference

Thursday, March 8, 2018

liturgy

So I spent a weekend with some wonderful folks in Geneva, IL a couple of weeks ago.  And it was delightful.  They were all a part of the body of believers that gather at Saint Mark's Episcopal Church, or "Saint Markers," as they affectionately call themselves.

Saint Mark's is an extraordinary place, with sacred worship spaces, warm and inviting people, a deep and rich communal life, and a beautiful and thoughtful liturgy.  I had been to a few Anglican and Episcopal churches before, so the dance that I saw (and had the privilege of entering into) at Saint Mark's was not totally new to me, but one I don't often get to enjoy.  There was a sense of awe and wonder and reverence at Saint Mark's that I have not often experienced in my forty-one years of following Jesus.  We stood and we sang and we knelt and we prayed.  We bowed and we read and we listened and we passed the peace.  And at the very center of it all was the Cross of Christ and the Table of our Lord.  We came to the rail and knelt at the altar and opened our hands to receive the Body and drink the Blood and remember the death of our Savior; and thus enter into the mysteries of the Holy Sacrament.  It was rich and wonderful time.

It got me thinking about liturgy in general, and how each of us has the opportunity, if not the obligation, to write our own, both for ourselves and for our own communities of faith.  We are the ones--with God's help and guidance--who get to determine what we will do in our worship.  We get the privilege and the responsibility to listen closely to God, and to how he made us, and to craft a liturgy that makes us alive and vibrant as we live our lives with, for, and before him.  We get to decide what best expresses our worship and adoration.  We get to decide when we will kneel and when we will pray.  We get to determine when (or if) we will sing and when we will dance.  We get to be the artists of this incredible masterpiece of worship; all aimed at glorifying the One who breathed us into being.  We are the ones who are given the freedom to decide what our lives--both together and separately--will look like.  Oh, it might not look exactly like it does at Saint Mark's, but it will be a beautiful and thoughtful and intentional expression of who God made us to be.  So let's pick up that pen and start writing.

Friday, March 2, 2018

the hard way

narrow is the gate
and hard is the way
that leads to life
and those who
find it are few
(matthew 7:14)

there is a gate
and then a way
let us not
confuse the two

we enter
by the narrow gate
and then travel
the hard way
that leads to life

sometimes
i suppose
we are noble enough
or brave enough
or crazy enough
to actually choose
this hard way

but sometimes
the hard way
chooses us
we are neither asked
nor consulted

and when it does
choose us
there is no escape
there is only
a choice
to resist or embrace
the way upon which
we find ourselves
traveling

resisting
leads to anger
and bitterness
and embracing
leads to life
which will i choose
i choose life

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Journey to the Cross



If you are looking for a companion for Lent (for yourself, your family, your friends, your staff, etc.), my Lenten devotional guide Journey to the Cross is available on Amazon.  Spread the word.  This year, Lent begins on February 14 (Ash Wednesday).

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

i see you

I have a friend who used to play high school football for the team I have been fortunate enough to hang out with for the past fifteen years.  Back in his day, one of his favorite phrases to repeat during practice, as he tried to encourage his teammates who were working hard but not getting much recognition, was, "I see you."  He would see a young defensive back do something that helped the team in a hidden sort of way and say, "I see you, Dom.  I see you."  And it never failed to bring a smile to the face of the one who was seen.

We all long to be seen.  We all long for someone to look our way, look deeply into our hearts and souls, and say, "I see you."  It does something wonderful within us. 

Jesus was a master at seeing people.  Everywhere he went he saw people; really saw them.  Not just their outward appearance, but way down into their hearts.  He knew oh so well how deeply we all long to be really seen and really known.  So he took time to see people, and to let them know they were seen.  Whether a woman at a well, or a man by a pool, or a bunch of brand new disciples who had just started to follow him, he saw them all.  And he let them know that.

And he sees you.  Wherever you are.  Whatever is going on in your life right now.  Whatever the state of your heart and soul.  Whatever your level of loneliness or desperation or pain, he sees you.  And he wants you to know that.  You are not alone.  He is with you.  He loves you.  He sees you.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

they make it

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.  As they pass through the Valley of Weeping they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.  They go from strength to strength until each appears before God in Zion. ~Psalm 84:5-6


It appears that this pilgrimage we have set our hearts on, this journey through the Valley of Weeping to the place of springs and pools, is, to some degree, what we make of it.  Notice in the text that it is not God who makes one turn into the other, it is us.  "They make it a place of springs," says the psalmist.  It is those who travel the road who get to choose.  They determine how they will travel, and the attitude or perspective they will take as they do so.  I suppose they could weep and weep and weep as they travel along this highway.  Or they can simply choose to make it a place of springs.  They can choose to see it for what it is; an opportunity to be made more and more into the image of God.  It all depends on how they (we) choose to travel.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

trust

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.  As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore. (Psalm 125:1-2, NIV)


If being shaken is the number one way on knowing whether or not we are really trusting in the Lord, I’m in big trouble.  I mean, I get shaken all the time.  My anxiety shakes me.  My insecurity shakes me.  My circumstances shake me.  The list goes on and on.  Does that mean I am not really trusting in the Lord?  Maybe, maybe not.

I think the thing I’m learning about trust is that it is not a one and done type of thing, but a continual process.  I might be able to trust God fully with one thing and then not really trust him with something else.  I might be able to trust him one minute, and then not the next.  The key seems to be in the turning—turning back to him, time and time again.  The word for trust in the Hebrew is batach, which means to hie for refuge.  To run to him again and again and again.  Don’t get me wrong, I do think that there is a way to live in God to the point where we are able to trust him in all things; I just haven’t arrived there quite yet.


So for me, as I learn to live more and more in him, it is a process of running to him in every situation and circumstance.  It is a choice I must make each and every time something comes along that disrupts my life or challenges my faith.  Who knows, maybe through running to him over and over and over, I will eventually learn to never leave.  I will eventually learn that I cannot handle this life on my own, and I should stop trying to do so.  Maybe someday trust will be something I do naturally, rather than something I have to remind myself to choose.  In the meantime, I guess I will just keep myself running back to him.



O Lord, it is easy for me to say that I trust you, but my anxiety and insecurity continually tell me otherwise.  Help me to REALLY trust in you, for only then will I REALLY have your peace.  Amen.

Monday, February 12, 2018

seasons

live fully where you are
and do not yearn for another land
lest you miss the treasure
that is buried in your own
lest you miss the One who
buried it

this field
this place
this season
holds treasure to unearth
if we are willing to search for it

so find the treasure that is buried
in every place and every season
even if it be a difficult one

for the difficult treasures
are the most valuable
holding the promise of
deep and lasting change

he has made everything
beautiful in its own time

so unearth the beauty
of the season
hallow the ground
upon which you stand

Saturday, February 10, 2018

calling

mark 1:35-39

if we start
with what
we make a 
grave mistake

for our what
must be formed
by our why


and our why
must be formed
by our who

and our who
must be formed
by our prayer

that is the
grand design

Thursday, February 8, 2018

a new land

Genesis 13:17-18 : "Go and walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you."  So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the Lord.


I have a suspicion that God longs to lead each of us to a new and beautiful land, if we would simply be willing to follow.  But all too often our refusal to let go of the old, safe places and patterns and ways and habits and seasons keep us from being willing, or able, to fully embrace and enjoy all that he is trying to do in and through us.  Fear or comparison or complacency or cowardice takes hold of us, and keeps us from entering into this new place or vocation or season.  Thus, we end up sacrificing our future because of our past, and we lose out of all that God has in store.  Could it be that he is trying to nudge us into a new way of seeing and of being?  One that will make us realize that we can either lead safe, comfortable lives, or we can fully enter into all that is being offered us.  May we all embrace the new land and the new season that God is offering us.  O God, give us the grace and the courage to do so.  

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

a god directed life


Mark 1:35-39 - Very early in the morning, while it was still dark.  Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.  Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him they exclaimed, Everyone is looking for you!"
     Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else--to the nearby villages--so I can preach there also.  That is why I have come."  So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

Jesus is up till the wee hours healing; the whole town gathered at his doorstep.  And yet, early the next morning, while it is still dark, he sneaks away to a solitary place to pray.  And somehow, during that time of prayer, his direction is set for the day ahead. 
    
So even as his disciples come to him, imploring him to come back because “Everyone is looking for you!”  Jesus responds with clarity:  “Let us go somewhere else, to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also.  That is why I came.”
    
Somehow, in his time with the Father, he is reminded of who he is and why he came.  He is guided by something far bigger than whim and opinion and circumstance.  And so, in spite of enormous pressure for him to return to Capernaum, he heads elsewhere.
   
And the lesson that follows is so important for us to understand.  The lesson is that prayer comes first.  It is prayer that helps to remind us of who we are.  And it is who we are that helps us to know why we are here.  And it is why we are here that is meant to determine what we are to do.  The order is significant: prayer, who, why, what.  When we get this out of order we operate at the mercy of opinion, pressure, and circumstance, not the Spirit.  For if we are not clear about our who and our why, we will never be clear about our what.

Maybe the reason we do not really know who we are is because he have not really learned how to pray.  God is dying to tell us, if we will just listen.


O God, help my what to always be determined by you—not me, not others, not needs, not circumstances.  Guide me this day.  Remind me of who I am and of why I am here.  I pray this in your name and for your glory.  Amen.


Monday, February 5, 2018

he sat down

hebrews 10:11-12

day after day
every high priest stands
performing his duties
offering sacrifices
again and again
because his work
is never done

but when jesus
our great high priest
offered his sacrifice
he sat down
at the right hand of god
because his work
was completed

why is it
that we spend our lives
constantly trying to achieve
something that has
already been 
accomplished 
for us

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

flip this house

unless the Lord
builds the house
~Psalm 127:1


sometimes
in order to build
a more beautiful house
the old one must be
taken down to the studs

the soul is no different
god wants to do something
good and beautiful in us
but a little deconstruction
might need to be done first

so when it seems
we are being stripped to the bone
we can rest assured
it is not absence or spite
but thoughtful intention

a renewing
of his image within us
a restoration of glory
the hope of
what is to come

Sunday, January 21, 2018

cast your cares


Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you. ~1 Peter 5:7


I’m not quite sure why this one is so hard—this casting of our anxieties on the One who cares for us.  It sounds so easy, in theory at least.  But it is oh so hard in practice.  Because it seems like no matter how well I start out, the anxieties always end up right back in my hands, or on my heart.  What is the secret to giving them to God, and then leaving them with God?  I guess if I had the answer to that question I would be a rich man.

I certainly don’t have a formula, but the verse itself, and those preceding it, might give us some helpful hints.  The Greek word used here for cast is epiriptō.  It means to throw upon.  The only other time it is used in all of the New Testament is in Luke 19:35 where it tells us that the disciples took off their garments and cast them upon the colt so that Jesus could ride into Jerusalem.  So it would appear that this casting is comprised of two parts—a taking off and a putting upon.  In other words, we cannot successfully cast our cares upon the One who loves us if we are unwilling to completely let go of them ourselves.  We must take them off in order to cast them upon.  Maybe this is where (one of the many places) we have trouble.  We want to give our burdens to God, but we still want to hold onto them, and control them, ourselves.  Obviously, this does not work.  We must first take them off, as the disciples took off their garments in order to cast them upon the colt.

I think the essence of this refusal to completely let go of our worries, cares, and burdens involves two things.  First, it involves an underlying belief that somehow we can manage our anxieties on our own—maybe even better than God can.  Control is a big issue for us, especially when we are being required to let go of it.  Somewhere along the line we have to become convinced of our own helplessness to truly be able bear the weight of these burdens.  That is the essence of the verse that precedes this invitation to cast our cares upon Him.  It calls us to a posture of humility.  It tells us that in order to fully give God our concerns, and let go of them ourselves, we must humble ourselves.  There is no other way.  We must admit we can’t do it and we must stop trying.  A lowering is required—a descent.  And in our culture, boy how we hate to descend.  We must come face to face with the fact that we cannot manage life—or our anxieties—on our own.  And that is a hard pill to swallow, much less admit.  Thus, maybe pride lies at the bottom of our inability to fully give our worries and cares to God.

The other thing that lies down there, in that dark place, is our lack of trust.  In our heart of hearts we doubt that God is either able or willing to take our burdens from us.  Or even worse, we are afraid of what he might do with them if we did.  We are afraid that if we give him full control of the things and the people that matter the most to us, things might not turn out quite like we’d hoped or planned.  In essence, we doubt the goodness of his heart.  It is not a new struggle.  In fact, it goes all the way back to the garden.  One of the most common strategies of the enemy is to get us to doubt the goodness of God’s heart—thereby making us believe that we must take matters into our own hands.  Which would mean that we are forever destined to a life of trying to manage and control outcomes that we have absolutely no ability to manage or control.  Or, in other words, endless anxiety.

Somehow we must choose a different way.  We must walk the path of trust.  We must become convinced of the goodness of God’s heart.  We must truly believe that God (as Psalm 62:11-12 tells us) is both strong and loving.  That he is both willing and able to carry our burdens, and to care for our lives.  In other words, if we are ever to succeed in the art of casting all of our anxieties on him it will be because we have become 100% convinced of the fact that he deeply cares for us.

Help me, O Lord, to cast all of my cares on you because you care for me.  Help me to see every happening, every circumstance, every event, conversation, and moment as an invitation to know you better and love you more.  You are my help and my hope.  You are my all.  Hold me in your strong and tender arms this day, that I might not fly from Thee, but stay close to your heart of love.  Amen.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

yeast

be on your guard
against the yeast
of the pharisees


no yeast
not even a trace
nothing that taints
or mars 
or contaminates
will be tolerated

sweep every corner
clean every nook
and cranny
for if any is present
it will work its way
through the whole lump

search the dark
and hidden places
of your heart
expose every area
of your soul
to the light

let nothing reside within
that is not of him
let nothing live on
that must be eliminated
for he wants all of you
and will not settle 
for anything less

Sunday, January 14, 2018

staying

"Martha, Martha," Jesus said, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42)


This morning I had a bit of an epiphany, which is totally appropriate given the season, I suppose.  I realized that I normally do not have trouble coming to Jesus to sit at his feet and listen to what he says, as Mary did, I just have trouble staying there.  Even when I am worried and upset about many things, as Martha was (and as I am pretty regularly), I know the answer--take it all to Jesus.  My problem is that once I take it to Jesus, and find some measure of comfort and presence and peace, I do not stay there.  I allow my anxieties to lure me back into the dark country of fear and angst once again.  My problem is not in the coming, but in the staying.  I guess that's why Jesus went to such great lengths in John 15 to tell us the spiritual value of staying (abiding).  Coming is easy, but staying is much more difficult.

"Why do you allow anxiety and fear to constantly beat the hell out of you?" he asks.  "You know the answer.  You know the way to peace and love.  And yet, so often you don't go there, or stay there.  Come to me; that is the beginning.  That is the easier part.  For when you come, I will meet you with my love and affection and care.  But don't just come, that is only a small part of the battle.  You must also stay.  So often you come, but you do not stay with me, even though I am always with you.  You turn right around and allow anxiety to lure, or to drag, you back into a dark and fearful land.  Come to me, and stay with me, then you will know--and live inside of--my peace.  For you will be living in me, even as I live in you.  

Sunday, January 7, 2018

eyes

In the spiritual life, where we fix our eyes is everything.  If we allow our eyes—and thus, our hearts—to be consumed by our own surroundings and struggles and circumstances, we are in for one wild ride.  But if we are able, by God’s grace and strength, to fix our eyes on the bigger picture, and not on whatever trouble we may be experiencing at the moment—if we are able to take out eyes off of ourselves and fix them on Jesus—then everything changes.  Oh, the circumstances themselves may not change much, but the spirit we have in the midst of those circumstances, and our quality of life as a result, will change immensely.  I guess that’s why the scriptures talk so much about it:  I lift my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven. (Psalm 123:1)  So we fix our eyes not on what is see, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrew 12:2-3)

It is really not that complicated—in theory at least.  But it is a little more difficult in practice.  For when my eyes are consumed with myself, and my little life and my little world, I find that I am filled with insecurity, anxiety, and fear.  It is a downward spiral that is incredibly difficult to break free from.  I don’t know about you, but I have the tendency get stuck inside myself at times.  But when I am finally able to fix my eyes on God instead, something beautiful happens within me.  Somehow he gives me the ability to climb out of the dark pit of self and come into the light of love.  It is an invitation that is always open to me.  Look at me,” says my God, “and you will be able to experience the joy and the life and the peace that I desire for you, rather than trying so hard to provide it for yourself.”  I pray that he will give us all the grace to do that more and more.


O God, sometimes I get stuck inside myself, consumed with my own life.  When I do this my life is filled with insecurity, anxiety, and fear.  But you want more for me.  Fix my eyes on you, O Lord.  Let love conquer insecurity, let peace replace anxiety, and let trust overcome fear.  In the name of Jesus I pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

truth

It seems like a significant part of living the life of faith involves trying to figure out which voices to listen to.  It can be really confusing.  There are so many different voices vying for our attention these days, both within us and around us.  At times it can be really hard to figure out which ones are telling the truth.  The problem is that often the voices in our lives that are most dominant and prevalent are the very ones that are least reliable. 

Therefore, it is imperative that we figure out how to give space for the good voices (truth) to take root and shape within us, while minimizing the space and the impact of the bad (lies).  But telling the lies from the truth can be difficult.  Sometimes the differences are very subtle, and their arguments very convincing.  We can easily get sucked into believing some things are true simply because it feels like or seems like they are.  But looks (and feelings) can be deceiving.  We need much more than that.  We need something more substantial, something more solid and stable. 

That is where the Word comes in.  And that is where the practice of immersing ourselves in the Word of Truth comes in.  If we are continually immersing ourselves in the truth, then it will be a lot easier to recognize the lies when they come a long, no matter how convincing they are.

Jesus is a perfect example of this.  On the glorious day of his baptism he hears the voice of his Father speaking the beautiful truth of who he is: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well-pleased.”  (Matthew 3;17)  And immediately after that he is led into the desert to be confronted with the other voices, voices that are trying to get him to believe something very different from that.  Voices that are trying to get him to doubt the truth of who he is.  “If you are the Son of God,” they whisper, “then prove it.”

But Jesus is not swayed by the lies.  Why?  Because we knew the truth.  Just listen to the way he answers each of the three temptations.  He answers each with the words: “It is written.”  Jesus was so familiar with the Voice of Truth that he was easily able to differentiate it from the subtle lies of the enemy.  And if we are to have any hope of being victorious in that same battle, we must do the same.  We must immerse ourselves in the Word of Truth so that we can be able to identify and overcome the lies of the enemy.  For if we “abide in his word, we are truly his disciples, and we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free.” (John 8:32)  Let’s not delay, our freedom is at stake.


O God, I must confess that at times it is easy to believe the lies because they are so loud and so prevalent within and around me.  Help me, instead, to listen to your voice and to believe your Truth.  And help that Truth to set me free.  Amen.

Monday, January 1, 2018

new years

o lord, in this new year
help me to be more concerned

with being than with doing
with what you want than with what i want
with loving than with judging
with making myself nothing than with trying to be something

with descending than with ascending
with obscurity than with notoriety
with being hidden than with being seen
with serving than with being served

with compassion than with competition
with contentment than with comparison
with fruitfulness than with productivity
with the things of god than with the things of this world

with what you think than with what others think
with making you awesome than with making me awesome
with growing smaller than with becoming larger
with being least than with being the greatest

with the one thing than with the many things
with silence than with noise
with giving than with having
with your kingdom than with my own

this is my new years prayer