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