Monday, December 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



Wednesday, September 19, 2018

in

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7)

Thomas Merton once wrote that “Some people live for God, some people live with God, and some people live in God.”  Now, the for and the with are great, don’t get me wrong, but living in Christ should be the goal of us all.  And, as Paul so clearly states in these verses, living in Christ is his chief desire for us.  And not only living in Christ, but living continuously in Christ.  That is the key to life in the Spirit—continual union with God in Christ.  For if we continue to live in him, we will be rooted and built up in him, strengthened in our faith and overflowing with thanksgiving.  I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of life I’m looking for.


Live your life in me today, Lord Jesus, that I might live my life in you.  Amen.

Monday, September 10, 2018

narrative

beneath 
every behavior
lies a goal

and beneath
every goal
lies a belief

and beneath 
every belief
lies a narrative

a story 
that fuels us
that sets our feet
in motion

a story
we tell ourselves
that makes us
believe certain 
things are true

the problem is
that often they
are not

come Lord Jesus
way, truth, and life
and tell us 
the real story
the truth 
that will set us free

Thursday, September 6, 2018

silence

there is a pattern
woven into the
fabric of creation

first silence
then God speaks
and finally
things are set
into motion

why then
do we so often
start with action
rather than silence

action taken
without silence
is action taken
out of context

words spoken
without silence
are words spoken
out of context

for God alone
my soul waits
in silence

may that be true
of me today
O Lord

Saturday, September 1, 2018

blessed


Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3-12, ESV)


Blessed are those who are not full of themselves, for then there is room within them for the kingdom of God.  Blessed are those who groan over things not being as they were intended to be, for one day they will be made whole again.  Blessed are those who do not need to draw attention to themselves, for with no need to compare or compete, they make this world a better place.  Blessed are those who long to be more like Jesus, for he is the only one who can fill them up.  Blessed are those whose hearts go out to those around them, for, because of that, God’s heart goes out to them.  Blessed are those who remain untainted by the world around them, for, with less to distort their vision, they will have a clearer view of God.  Blessed are those who bring harmony to all of creation, for they resemble their heavenly Father.  Blessed are those the world puts down because they are so full of light, for their very lives constantly convict those walking in darkness.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

ever-present

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

It is such a beautiful thing that God is ever-present to us.  Thus, we never have to live in fear, even if the earth gives way or the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.  Regardless of what happens to us, around us, or even within us, God is always right there.  He is with us in ways we cannot even imagine.  How incredibly comforting that is!  I can't imagine any other way that we could possibly be still and know he is God apart from that wonderful truth.

Our problem, however, does not come with God being ever-present to us, but with us being ever-present to him.  That is our challenge.  For if he is present to us, but we are not present to him, what good does that really do?  How can that give us any sense of peace, or comfort, or even help?  Don't get me wrong, God is not dependent on us in any way, shape, or form, in order to move and to act, but he wants more for us than that.  For if we are not aware of him moving and acting, then we have missed a great gift.  In fact, we are still at the mercy of our surroundings, or emotions, our moods, and our circumstances.  If, however, we are ever-present to him, as he is ever-present to us, that changes everything.

In order for us to live life the way He intended it to be lived, we must learn how to be ever-present to God.  And maybe the words of this ancient prayer offer us just the help we need.  "God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble." If we plant these twelve words in our hearts, and repeat them over and over again with our mouths and in our minds (the scriptures call this meditation), they can function as a sweet companion throughout the day, helping us to be constantly connected and aware of the God we so often forget.  Give it a try today and tell me how it goes.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

gold

This is so good.  If you are looking for a great read, here it is: Clinging
One of the worst looking covers I have ever seen, but an incredible book.  Here's a taste:

     For each of us the way lies straight ahead.  There is, immediately in front of us, an assigned task, a call: some difficult, clear, utterly simple thing the Lord is asking us to do.  It is not a general admonition to whoever might happen to be standing about.  It is instead an utterly private request whispered, as it were, into each one’s ear.  What the Lord is asking me, He is asking no one else.  More than likely, it is a request with no particular glamour or notoriety attached to it.  And if I pay attention, the Lord leaves me in no doubt about it.  Especially if I ask in prayer, He tells me very clearly. (Which is why, sometimes, I don’t hurry to find out.)

     And I cannot accomplish this thing God asks without grace.  The call, this request is completely beyond my grasp, quite impossible—without His help.  Yet even as He asks it, He makes it clear that His grace will be poured out.  He will not leave me abandoned or alone.  He does not ask the impossible.  Our God does not play tricks.  Or, to put it another way, when He asks the impossible, we remember that nothing is impossible with God.

     But why are we surprised by this?  We knew from the beginning that prayer would bring us closer to the mind of God, more able to know His thoughts and do His will.  We knew that, yet when by a kind of radar we sense it, when we feel ourselves being moved and led in a given direction, we feel awe, we are afraid.  Afraid perhaps that we are acting, actors in a drama we did not design.  Somehow the story has been set in motion and the characters are mainly two: God and I.  It is a dance!  It is a suspense story.  It is leading to an unknown destination.  It is once-upon-a-time, and now, and what-is-yet-to-be, all at once.  It is now and forever, and yet it is not a dream.  It is happening and it is real.

     And now there is no turning back.  The commitment has already been made: The escalator is ascending, the elevator door is closing, the plane is moving down the runway.  Something very definite has been set in motion, is gathering momentum, is picking up speed.  It seems we can hardly stop now, especially when the journey is starting to get interesting!  Even so, we are fearful.  Now that the cabin door is closed and the motors are revving, the shudder and the trembling are perhaps not so exhilarating as we had thought.

     Yet, we have signed on for this.  We are here by our own consent.  Even if there should be pain interwoven with this commitment, some intimation of suffering to come, there is, at the very same time, a knowing—we know Who it is that’s asking and this intimate sense of a God who loves us is present even when He is leading us into the furnace or the deep.  Our God will not betray us.  He is just and fair and tender.  He does not forget us in the time of trouble, He that keeps Israel does not slumber or sleep.

     So we go on, straight ahead, with no more sense of direction than just to make the next step and the next.  We are not out to make high jumps, to take the next three steps at a time.  There is no longer much question of spiritual ambition or advancing in prayer.  We have no sense of height.  We can’t tell whether or not we are ascending.  If we are climbing (and we are), we sense that only in our muscles and bones.  The climb is costly.  But it does not feel upward.  It is not high.  It is neither consolation nor desolation.

     It is ascent, but not ecstasy.  In a sense, it is deeper than ecstasy, or perhaps one could call it the ecstasy of every day, a union that continues while everything else is also happening, existing within whatever activities are necessary, an abandonment known only to us and God, ecstatic only in that it is so very complete.

     This abandonment is the very heart and essence of Christian prayer, and it has nothing in common with strategy and second-guessing.  It is the pray-to-win mentality turned inside out, and yet it is not s pray-to-lose mentality.  It is the prayer that has moved beyond intending, directing, steering, second-guessing God.  It is the dancer moving completely in the rhythm of the partner, prayer that is utterly freeing because it is completely at one.  Utterly beyond asking, beyond the anger that rattles heaven’s gate.  Prayer that does not plead, wants nothing for itself but what God wants, it is the will-not-to-will, rooted in grace, that makes it possible to be abandoned, free, and then (by some further miracle) able to act with a semblance of coherence and freedom even when completely surrendered to and possessed by the loving will of God. (Clinging by Emilie Griffin)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

arise

song of songs 2:10-13

neither mood
nor circumstance
get the privilege
of determining
your season

that right
is reserved
for me
i am
he who calls
and determines
and declares
i am
the one who
sets the seasons

and i say
arise my beloved
my beautiful one
and come with me

winter is past
the rains are over
flowers appear
in the land
the season of singing
has arrived

so arise
get up
it’s time to leave
wherever you have been
and come with me
to the beautiful place
and the beautiful season
i have set for you

for i am
your Lover
your God
and there is
no other

Sunday, August 12, 2018

one

How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.  For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. (Psalm 133:1, 3)

When we live in loving community with those around us, we truly reflect the glory and the beauty of the Three-in-One God.  That is why unity leads to the bestowing of God’s blessing and life, for it is life the way it was intended to be.  Thus, community (as is worship) is merely the invitation to enter into the joy and gladness and delight of the life of God himself.  What an invitation!

R. Thomas Ashbrook asks: “What might it mean to live fully and freely in the life of the Trinity, knowing and loving God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as they know and love each other?”  I think part of what it might mean is that we begin to live like that with each other as well.  That joining in the Dance of the Trinity means that we dance with each other that way as well.  It is merely a reflection of who he is, and who we are in him.  God cannot help but bestow his blessing because his very life is flowing in and through and among us.  Which is good and pleasant indeed.


Friday, August 10, 2018

alive

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)

The bottom line to this life of faith is that Jesus is always about making us alive.  It’s just who he is.  He breathed us into being at the beginning, he raised us from the dead at the cross, and he breathes new life into us each day by his Spirit.  Everywhere Jesus goes he brings life.  Everything he touches comes alive in his hands.  Everyone he calls forth from the tomb—even the tomb of doubt, or despair, or depression—is raised up from the dead.  If you don’t believe it, just look at the gospels.

Therefore, if we are in relationship with Jesus—if he is living in us and working through us—the question is not if but where.  Where and how.  Where and how is he making us alive?  Today.  What is being raised up, or renewed, or resurrected within us these days?  Where is there new life blooming?  Because where we are most alive, Jesus is at work within us.

Lord Jesus, help us to pay attention to the places we are most alive.  For where we are most alive, you are at work within us.

Friday, August 3, 2018

parenting

no matter how much
i might like to try
i do not get
to write this story

all i can do
is try not to hinder
the becoming
but make good space
and wait expectantly
for its beautiful unfolding

Monday, July 30, 2018

goals are the enemy of rest

So I found something out on my latest vacation.  It is something I can’t believe I didn’t recognize years ago, especially after coming back from vacation after vacation more tired than I was before I left.  What I found out is this: Goals are the enemy of rest.  I know, I know, it sounds so countercultural, or certainly counter-intuitive.  But think about it.  When was the last time you really rested?  And what were the dynamics that made it possible?  And what are the things that have been obstacles to rest in the past?
    
My typical pattern is that I go on vacation with a plan, a list of things I’m hoping to accomplish.  That should tell me something right there.  Don’t get me wrong, they are good things, really good things.  They are things that I enjoy and things that have the potential to bring me rest.  But somehow when they become a list, they take on a life of their own.  All of the sudden I am trying to rest—I’m working at rest.  Thus, the rest is gone right out of it.  Now I’ve just got a bunch of goals, a bunch of things to do.  And when the things on my list don’t get done, or somehow my goals are blocked, I get frustrated.  By the way, that’s what happens when our goals get blocked—we get frustrated.  If you are ever frustrated and don’t know why, just ask yourself what goal you have (spoken or unspoken, acknowledged or hidden) that is being blocked.   
     
Take the last few days, for instance.  We had the opportunity to spend a few days at the beach.  Immediately I thought, “Oh great, a chance to get a little sun, read a little, exercise a little, and be still and quiet.”  All good things, yet when those good things subtly become my goals, I’m setting myself up for failure.  All of the sudden I am working at accomplishing my goals, rather than truly resting.  I don’t know, maybe folks that are wired differently from me don’t have this struggle.  But I sure do. 
     
All of the sudden, getting a little sun becomes work; something I’ve got to do.  And the rest of it drains right out.  Then it rains and I find myself frustrated.  Or that quiet reading under the umbrella by the beach that I had envisioned in my mind is interrupted by the bazillion people that are now crowded around on every side, talking loudly enough for folks five umbrellas down to be able to hear them, and blaring their music from their wireless speakers.  Strike two.  And that run on the beach I had envisioned is interrupted by the pulled soleus that has been nagging me for the past few months, and now decides to flare up again.  Strike three.  Awesome!  (Not awesome in the sense that “this is wonderful,” but awesome in the sense of “of course, this always happens to me.”  Funny how the same word can have two completely different meanings depending on the tone they are uttered in)
     
So somehow I have to figure out how to take the work out of rest.  Somehow I have got to learn how to be intentional about making the space and time for rest to happen without turning it into a goal.  Because goals really are the enemy of rest.  Somehow I have got to start holding things loosely, taking things as they come, and enjoying whatever the present moment has to offer.  Which is not easy for me, being the anxiety-ridden person that I am.  But if I ever hope to have any deep sense of rest, it will only come when I learn to stop doing and start being.  Just being alive and present.  Breathing and breathing out.  Living and savoring time and space, rather than always filling it.  Just enjoying, as one of the saints of old once said, the sacrament of the present moment.  It’s going to take some practice, but hopefully one day I’ll get there.  Hopefully one day I will actually go on vacation with no list.  A man can dream, right?

Friday, July 20, 2018

kiss

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!  For your love is better than wine. (Song of Songs 1:2)


"You have seen the way we must follow, the order of procedure.  First we cast ourselves at his feet, we 'kneel before the Lord, our maker,' deploring the evil we have done.  Then we reach out for the hand that will lift us up, that will steady our trembling knees.  And finally, when we shall have obtained these favors through many prayers and tears, we humbly dare to raise our eyes to his mouth, so divinely beautiful, not merely to gaze upon, but--I say with fear and trembling--to receive his kiss; for Christ the Lord is a Spirit before our face.  And we who are joined to him in a holy kiss become, at his good pleasure, one spirit with him." (On the Song of Songs by Bernard of Clairvaux)

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.


Sunday, June 24, 2018

how to listen

butt in seat
turn off phone
quiet the noise
come to stillness
pay attention
open ears
wait
wait
wait

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

the death of i

     Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  The man who loves his life in this world will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant will also be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.
     "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'?  No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name!" (John 12:23-28)


to live in the i
is to never become
what we were
intended to be

the i must die
else there will
always be only
a single kernel

however if the i
falls to the ground
and dies
more is possible

the single kernel
becomes many seeds
death becomes
the avenue to new life

life that is about
more than just i

so let us learn
to die to i
that much more
might be born

for like jesus
this is why
we have come
to this very hour

now is the time
father glorify your name

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

context

here and now
is but a tiny speck
of beauty and struggle
in the ocean of eternity

thus the present moment
although pregnant with God
is but a small part
of an enormous whole
a tiny thread
in a grand tapestry
of life and love

no moment
or circumstance
or experience
can be understood
while separated
from the whole

every time
and every season
is only rightly seen
when taken in context

when viewed through
the lenses of
all God has done
and all that he
promises to do

in life and faith
context is everything




Friday, June 1, 2018

approval

approval
is an illusive creature
a mythical beast
that can never be fully captured
regardless of how continuous the pursuit

every time we think we have him
he somehow wiggles free from our grasp
and disappears from our sight once again
it is an exhausting pursuit
that never stops

for approval is a fleeting thing
sweet to the taste
but unsatisfying to the soul
it is turkish delight
all sugar and no substance

until given by the one
who made us and loves us
a free gift that cannot be
achieved or wrestled away
but only bestowed and received
when we are finally willing enough
or exhausted enough
to stop the chase and accept the gift
then and only then
will we find rest and peace







Saturday, May 26, 2018

loved

We love because he first loved us. ~1 John 4:19


There may be no more important verse in all of the scriptures than this one.  It lays the foundation for how everything else lines up.  It reminds us that the only way we can truly love God is to be completely captured and transformed by his love first.  Our love for God can never precede the reality (and experience) of our being loved by God.  For we can only love God—and others, for that matter—in direct proportion to how well we understand and experience the depths of being loved by him.  That is how our lives—and our souls—are designed to function.  We love because he first loved us; not, God loves us because we first loved him.  All too often we get it backwards.  Being loved always has to come first, otherwise we have no genuine love to offer others—only our desperate need to be loved.
  
Which begs the question: Do I love God because I have first been seized by the power of his Great Affection?  Do I love him because I am should, or do I love him because I do?  Is his love the driving force behind my life?  Is is—as J. B. Phillips once beautifully said—the “springboard of all my actions?”  Is his love the reason for my obedience?  Is his love the motivation for my service?  Is it the fuel for my ministry? 
   
We cannot start with loving God; we must start with being loved by God.  Until we begin to understand how deeply we are loved, we will never be able to love God in the way—and with the passion—he desires to be loved.  And we can never love others in a free, unconditional way.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

free

free
lord jesus
you make us free

free to love
rather than control or manipulate
free to give
rather than desperately grab
free to accept
rather than judge, mock, or criticize
free to let go
rather than hang on for dear life
free to be my true self
rather than some manufactured
or fabricated version
free to offer compassion
rather than compete for affection

ah free
what a great word


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

lay down your life

The laying down of a life (1 John 3:16) is a tall order; one that I’m not sure can be accomplished by grit and determination.  Because the laying down of a life—at least the laying down of it as Jesus calls us to—is not a one-time event, but a perpetual lifestyle.  I can’t consistently choose you over me on a regular basis; I need Divine assistance.  Only when I make this realization is it possible to make consistent progress in the direction of self-sacrifice.  I cannot make myself like Jesus, no matter how hard I try.  Only Jesus can make me like Jesus.  I must simply surrender myself to him and put myself in his hands.  He is my only hope of ever really living a life of laying down my life.  Which, in wild irony, is the only way to become my true self (by abandoning myself altogether).  Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

O Jesus, I am so terrible at laying down my life.  It runs so against my nature.  Yet that is what you call me to.  Teach me to love like you.  Give me your heart.  Make your heart, my heart.  Amen.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

write me

O God
every day
and in every moment
you are writing
a beautiful story

give me the grace
and the patience
to let that story unfold
and not try to force
or manipulate it

help me
to not get in the way
and to not get in a hurry
but to wait on you

for only you
can tell me
my true place
in your grand design

my story is yours
O God
write me


Saturday, May 5, 2018

give

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge your harvest of righteousness.  You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.  (2 Corinthians 9:10-11)

Giving is a little bit tricky.  Because, in reality, we can only give what we have been given.  If the sower is not given the seed in the first place, then he has nothing of value to sow in the fields (and the lives) to which he has been given.  Luckily, we are given the promise that if we are open and attentive to receiving it, there is One who is able and willing to supply, and even increase, this seed.

The problem is that, oftentimes, we try so hard to give that which we do not possess.  And when we do this, abundance simply will not happen.  We cannot produce abundance (an enlarged harvest of righteousness) on our own, no matter how hard we try.  We can only give--fully and freely--that which we have been given.  So it seems kind of important that we know exactly what that is.  For this seed wasn't given to us to hoard for ourselves, but to be scattered abroad in the fields of this world, that it might produce a harvest of righteousness.

O Lord, help me to learn to give fully and freely that which I have to give, and to stop trying so hard to give that which I don't.  

Saturday, April 28, 2018

transforming community

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. (Psalm 133:1-3, NIV)

     
When God’s people live together in true community there is a qualitative difference.  It is good and pleasant.  It is like precious oil poured on the head—fragrant, soothing, and healing.  It is like the dew of Hermon falling on Mount Zion—renewing, restoring, and life-giving.  It is the place where God’s blessing is poured out, and where life, as he intended it to be, is experienced first-hand. 
     
True community reverses the effects of the fall.  It is where we are able to go from “I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid” (Gen. 3:10) back to being “naked and unashamed.” (Gen. 2:25)  It is the place where we are able to recapture the intent of God’s “very good” creation.  Thus, it is no accident when King David—in Psalm 133:1—uses the same word (towb) to describe what happens when God’s people live together in unity that is used to describe the goodness of his original creation. (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31)  God’s desire for us is union, not isolation.  Union both with himself and with each other.
     
Unfortunately the leap from fear to love is a pretty big one.  Few seem willing to make it.  It is hard for us to muster the courage to come out of hiding, stop covering, and begin to relate to one another in loving vulnerability.  Paul put it so well in Romans 8:15 when he says, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.”  If we ever want to recapture the life of deep, true community that God desires for us—and that we desire for ourselves—we must choose to live in love, not in fear.  “For there is no fear in love.  But perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)
    
So let us come out of hiding.  Let us truly show up and be fully present with each other.  Let us stop trying to fix and judge each other, and simply be with each other and listen to each other in love.  Let us open up, rather than covering up.  Maybe then we will start to live the life God really desires for us to live.  And it will be like precious oil.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

stop

Stop!
Stop thinking it's all up to you.
Stop acting like it all depends on you.
Stop running around trying to manage and control everything.
Stop carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.
Stop eating the bread of anxious toil.
Just stop!
Be still and know that I am God.




Stop us, O God, when we go running off in a-million-and-one directions instead of being still and quiet and allowing your voice to speak to us and direct us.  For when we do not stop, look, and listen, there’s a good chance we are following ourselves rather than following you.  Amen.