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