Thursday, December 26, 2019

why to shepherds

why to shepherds 
and not to kings

was there something about your coming
that was only able to be perceived
by those who were aware of their own need
those not jockeying or posturing or climbing
those not too busy or too consumed or too caught up
in their own spinning

the preoccupied had no room for you
no eye to see the shining star
no ear to hear the heavenly host
no feet that hurried to the manger

not a lot has changed 
in two thousand years
the lowly are still more attentive
the humble more open
the empty more willing to receive

when you come today
(and you will come)
will i even notice
or will i continue to 
be swept up in a frenzy of activity
unable to see the star 
shining in the night sky
unable to hear the heavenly anthem
echoing in the world 
within and around

oh to be content 
to be a shepherd
rather than constantly trying
to be a king

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

a christmas prayer

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  we have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

O Living Word, now made flesh, become flesh in us this day, and thus be born into this dark and broken world once again.  Amen.

Monday, December 23, 2019

a new thing

See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." ~Isaiah 43:19

God: I am doing a new thing, something deep in your heart and soul.  Something so deep that you may not even be able to perceive it yet, but it is there.  I am waking something up in you.  I am coming alive in you in some brand new way.  All you have to do is pay attention, be open, make room for it to grow and take root, and then fully receive it.  I will do the rest.  What do you think about that?

Me: Yes, please!

Monday, December 16, 2019

overshadowed

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” (Luke 1:35)

What an absolutely beautiful phrase: The power of the Most High will overshadow you!  It is the essence of the spiritual life; Mary shows us that.  The angel comes to her and says that the power of the Most High God will overshadow her, and her response is simply, “I am the Lord’s servant.  Let it be to me as you have said.”  She recognizes that her life is not about her, but about God.  He is the one writing the story, and a far bigger story than she can possibly imagine.  A story in which he is the focal point—his holiness, his character, his love—and she is simply the willing recipient.  We would do well to follow her lead.  

For some reason, we continually try to make it all about us.  We are deeply resistant to the idea of being overshadowed.  And the world in which we live reinforces that resistance.  Our world encourages us to never let anyone or anything overshadow us.  Be heard!  Be seen!  Demand that those around you take notice of you!  Yet the life of the Spirit encourages the direct opposite of this.  Be last.  Be lowest.  Be least.  That is the life Jesus calls us to.  That is the life in which the work of the Spirit is on full display.

Mary was willing to be overshadowed.  The Greek word used here is episkiaz┼Ź, which means to cast shade upon, or to be enveloped in a haze of brilliance.  It is the same word used to describe what happened at the Transfiguration when the disciples were enveloped by the cloud (Luke 9:34).  Simply put, Mary was willing to disappear into God, to be completely enveloped by him.  She was willing to give up all rights and expectations and demands for herself because, ultimately, she was the Lord’s servant—his desire, his life, and his glory was what really mattered.

What about me?  Is it the same for me?  Am I willing to be overshadowed by the power of the Most High?  Am I willing to live the overshadowed life?  Am I willing to disappear into God, that he may live his life in and through me?  Thanks be to God that Mary was willing to be overshadowed.  I pray that I will be as well.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

he sighed


There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hands on the man.
     After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus out his fingers into the man’s ears.  Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue.  He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him “Ephphatha!”  (which means, “Be opened!”).  At this the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
     Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone.  But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it.  People were overwhelmed with amazement.  “He has done everything well,” they said, “He even make the deaf hear and the mute to speak.”(Mark 7:32-37)

There is so much I love about this story!  I love that there were some people who cared enough to bring their friend to Jesus.  I love that these people were so certain that Jesus could do something to help, or to heal, their friend that they begged him to place his hands on the man.  I love that somehow they thought that if Jesus just touched him, then something magical would happen.  They were right.

And I love that Jesus took him aside, away from the crowd.  For far too long, and in the worst possible way, this man had been the center of attention everywhere he went—and not the kind of attention that is normally seen as positive.  He had been the object of points and stares and whispers.  The target of shame and disgust and scorn.  He had been seen through the eyes of judgment, the eyes of disdain, and the eyes of pity.  And now Jesus simply wanted him focused on the Eyes of Love, so he took him aside, away from the crowd.  There is a lesson to be learned here: If you want to have an intimate and healing encounter with Jesus, it is most likely to happen away from the crowd.  Our problem is that typically we play to the crowd far more than we focus on Jesus.

I love that Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears, and then spit and touched the man’s tongue.  Jesus identified the very areas that had brought this dear man so much pain and brokenness and ridicule, and put his hands right on those very places.  That’s how Jesus works.  He gets his healing hands of love and he places them directly on our most wounded, broken areas.

But it is what comes next that I love the most: Jesus looked up to heaven and then he sighed.  “Okay, so what’s the big deal?” you might ask.  “So he sighed, so what?  What’s so significant about that?”  Well, I’ll tell you what is so significant about it, it wasn’t just any ordinary sigh.  This was not a bored sigh, or an indifferent sigh, or even a delighted sigh.  It was actually more of a groan, the kind of groan that is talked about in Romans 8 and 2 Corinthians 5.  A groan as in the pains of childbirth.  This wasn’t any old sigh, it was a groan that came up from the core of Jesus’ being.  It was a groan of sadness and pain and frustration; a groan that bemoaned the fact that life was not intended to be this way.  It was a groan that recognized the deep brokenness and pain of God’s once beautiful, completely whole creation.  It was the groan of a God who is heartbroken over our brokenness—a God who groans right along with us, until the day when everything will be made whole and new.

Now that’s a God I can get excited about.  No wonder the people responded the way they did: They were overwhelmed with amazement and said, “He has done everything well.  He even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”  Thanks be to God!

I stand amazed, Lord Jesus, that you care enough about my pain to groan.  I stand amazed that you care enough about my pain to reach out your healing hands of love and touch the most broken places in my heart and life.  Touch me with those hands today, that I might offer your healing touch to others in my life and world who desperately need to know you care.  Amen.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

no pain, no gain

Simone Weil once said: “There are two things that pierce the human heart.  One is beauty.  The other is affliction.”  If you are like me, you are ready, willing, and able to sign up for the beauty part right here and right now, but not so sure you are up for the affliction part.  I mean, what kind of person would wish, or welcome, pain upon themselves, right?

Somehow we need to get over the notion that pain is some kind of cosmic accident that is always bad and should be avoided at all costs.  This way of thinking hinders our growth and maturity in significant ways, because pain always has intent.  God subjected us to this kind of a life in order that we might be liberated from bondage to decay and be brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:20-21)  Pain has purpose.  Somehow it is through affliction that we come to know real love, and it is through bondage that we come to know true freedom.  God uses our pain and sadness to deepen and widen us, so that we might be able to receive even more of him.  Thus, avoiding pain is avoiding God, and embracing pain is embracing what God is trying to do in and then through us.

The crazy thing is that God actually uses our pain and our unmet longing to arouse and expand us within.  Just listen to the words of Eugene Peterson: “All around us we observe a pregnant creation.  The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs.  But it is not only around us; it is within us.  The Spirit of God is arousing us within.  We’re also feeling the birth pangs.  These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance.  That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than it diminishes a pregnant mother.  We are enlarged in the waiting.  We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us.  But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.” (Romans 8:22-25, The Message

So help us, O God, to stop running.  Give us the grace and the courage to stop trying to avoid and escape pain and suffering and brokenness at every opportunity.  Help us to actually embrace it, so that we will receive the gifts that it has to offer—becoming more like you in the process.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Get Ready for Advent

Watch and Wait: A Guide for Advent and Christmas

Just wanted to remind you that if you (or any of your friends, family, or coworkers) are looking for a companion to journey with you through the seasons of Advent and Christmas, you might want to try Watch and Wait.  It is available on Amazon.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

prepare


There is a preparing (Isaiah 40:1-5) that must be done in Advent, but it is not the type of preparing that one might expect.  This preparation has more to do with stopping and slowing down and coming to stillness.  It has more to do with sitting and pondering and reflecting.  This preparation has more to do with being than it does with doing.

For we cannot manipulate God into coming; we cannot demand or manufacture the how and when and where of that coming.  All we can really do is prepare the way; it is up to God to do the rest.  Fortunately, if we are faithful to do our part—whatever that may be—he is faithful to do more than his.  “And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,” say the words of the ancient text.  That is the promise of Advent.

So let us make space, make time, be still, be quiet, watch, wait, listen, and pay attention—for these are the “activities” of Advent.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that the how and where and when of your coming is not up to us, all we are called to do is to prepare the way.  Help us to know what that is supposed to look like during this season of Advent.  Amen.

Monday, December 2, 2019

God will come

The promise of Advent is that God will come (Isaiah 35:1-10), not just once, but always again.  It’s just who he is.  He cannot stay away from his beloved.  And when he comes, he will bring life. 

But in the meantime we wait.  We do not, however, wait as people without hope.  We wait in the full assurance that he will, indeed, come.  It is not a question of if, but a question of when.  Therefore, we can strengthen our feeble hands and our knees that give way.  We can thrive in our waiting and hoping and groaning, rather than merely trying to survive.  We can live in hope instead of fear.

We can live in the assurance that one day this wilderness in which we live will be turned into a place of pools; dry sand will become bubbling springs.  That is simply how the life of God within and among us is—it gushes forth.  It is not a trickle, as it sometimes feels like in this life, but a torrent.  It is a wellspring of life and love.  Jesus called it living water, David described it as a cup that continually overflows, and Paul described it as being filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

We get but a tiny taste of that on this side of eternity, but one day we will get it in full.  One day we will be filled with a fullness we never imagined possible.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait.

Thank you, O God, that you are, and have always been, the God who comes.  It is just who you are.  Fill our hearts and souls and minds with the joy and the hope of that coming, so that we might live our lives in this world in a way that anticipates, and even participates in, the life to come.  Amen.



Sunday, December 1, 2019

Just Released





















Hi friends.  Thought you would want to know that my new book Teach Us to Pray has just been released on Amazon.  Tell your friends!