Thursday, December 31, 2020

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 30, 2020

My Newest Book


JUST RELEASED!!!  Been working on this book for a number of years and glad it is finally available on Amazon.  Schola Caritatis: Learning the Rhythms of God's Amazing Love
It contains the stories, practices, and content of the Spiritual Formation class I've been teaching for the last 10+ years.  Spread the word!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

it is finished

If “It is finished” the way Jesus says it is (John 19:30), then why do I tend to live as if it is not?  Why do I continue to live with the feeling that somehow I still have to earn God’s favor?  Why do I still live as if my value and my worth were still up for grabs?  Why do I continue to live my life desperately trying to prove that I am worth loving?  Why do I continue to allow fear and insecurity and anxiety to control me and rob me of joy and freedom?  Why do I still live so much of my life out of need, rather than out of love?

If “It is finished,” then all of this has already been settled.  Everything is just grace and gratitude.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that it really is finished.  Help me to live in the joy and freedom of that truth today.  Amen.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

say yes to love

In biblical times, marriages were basically arranged.  But the participants did have some say in the final outcome.  If the groom-to-be was on board with the arrangement, he would go to his future bride’s house and offer her a cup of wine.  It was his way of saying, “I choose you.”  And if the bride was also in agreement with the arrangement, she would then drink the wine, basically saying, “And I choose you.”

After that, the groom would then go back to his father’s house and begin to build a room onto it, where he and his new bride would live.  When all the work was finally completed, the father of the groom would give the okay and the groom-to-be would then make his way back to his future bride’s house.  At that time the bridesmaids, who had been watching and waiting for the groom’s return, would announce his coming.  Then the bride-to-be would go out to meet her groom and everyone would process back to the groom’s house where the wedding feast would begin.

One of the really beautiful parts of this whole process was what the groom would say at his proposal, after the wine had been offered and accepted.  He would say, “Bride to be, in my Father’s house there are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am.”

These are the very words Jesus chose to use in order to tell his followers what one day awaited them—a celebration.  A wedding feast.  You see, God wants intimate union with us.  Union so deep that only the delights of marriage can begin to capture it.  He wants more than just a dutiful, distant relationship.  He wants passion.  He wants longing.  He wants unbridled affection.  That is the kind of life God wants both for and with each of us.  All we have to do is say, “I do.”  All you have to do is say yes to love.  

(from my new book Into the Heart of God: A Journey with Jesus through the Gospel of John, which will hopefully be out in the next few weeks.) 

Friday, September 11, 2020

what is your why

What is your why?  Have you ever stopped to think about that?  Have you ever stopped to consider why it is that you do the things you do?  Whys matter.  They really matter.

Just look at Jesus. (John 13:1-17)  He was getting ready to leave this world.  He was staring at loneliness, abandonment, betrayal, sorrow, suffering, torture, and even crucifixion.  Of all the times when it might seem appropriate, or at least understandable, to do something for yourself, to be motivated by need, he was still thinking of others.  He still chose to be motivated by love. 

All power and all authority had been given to him by the Father, so he set it aside.  He chose to put a towel around his waist, pour water into a basin, and stoop down to wash the disciples’ feet.  Why on earth would he do such a thing?  How on earth could he do such a thing?  The answer to the first question is because of love.  And the answer to the second is because he didn’t need anything from them.  Therefore, he was totally free to love and to serve. 

And the scary thing is that he calls each of us to do the same.  Oh, not merely to wash feet, although that very well may be part of it, but to be free from need in order to love, whatever form that may take.  You see, freedom is not just the ability to do whatever we want to do, it is the ability to become all that we were meant to be—to live and to love the way God intended.

So let’s begin to pray to that end.  Let’s pray that God would give us the strength and the grace and the courage to let our why be love, instead of need.  After all, if it was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for us.  Right?

Lord Jesus, help me to be like you.  Help my why always to be love.  Amen.

 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

it all starts with abiding

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32, ESV)

Believe it or not, the first step towards freedom is abiding.  If we ever have any hope of living a life that is whole and free, it will be because we have learned to abide in Jesus and in his truth.  If it is, in fact, the truth that sets us free, then we better get so familiar with the truth that it simply becomes a part of who we are.  Otherwise, we will constantly be blown around by every wind of opinion and agenda that comes along—and, believe me, there are a lot of that these days.

You see, truth is not relative, it is absolute.  If it were relative, then there would be no truth at all, only anarchy.  Jesus knew that.  And he knew the connection between truth and freedom.  Contrary to popular opinion, freedom does not come from determining our own truth—which is not truth at all—but by living in line with the truth from which, and for which, we were made. 

Thus, Jesus is the truth (see John 14:6), and as we abide in him, and abide in his word, we get to know what the Truth really is.  And then that truth sets us free.  But it all starts with abiding.  If I do not abide in him, and in his word, then I will never know the truth of his divine love and care and delight, and I will never experience the freedom for which I was made.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

haughty eyes

“My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.” (Psalm 131:1)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t typically use the word haughty a lot.  Thus, when I come across this word as I pray Psalm 131 each week, I’m not really sure what to do with it.  All I know is that having haughty eyes is something King David wants to avoid at all costs.  That’s probably because, as Proverbs 6:17 tells us, it is one of the things God hates.  Which are pretty strong words.

The word haughty, in the Hebrew, is ruwm, which means to be high actively, to rise or raise, to bring up or exalt (self).  It is very similar in meaning to the word most often translated proud, which is also in this psalm—gabahhGabahh means to rise, or soar.  So the goal of both words is basically the same—the elevation of self—but how it goes about accomplishing that goal is subtly different.  To see the distinction, it is helpful to see the core meaning of the two words in English.  To be haughty, the dictionary tells us, means “to have a big attitude and act like you are better than other people.  A haughty person acts superior and looks down on others.”  So the key difference between pride and haughtiness is that pride focuses too much on self, puffing up, while haughtiness focused too much on others, looking down.  Pride has too high a view of who we are, while haughtiness has too low a view of others.

Strangely enough, it is haughtiness, and not pride, that makes the list of “six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him” in Proverbs 6:17, which is probably because of how haughtiness causes us to treat others.  While pride can cause us to be far too focused on ourselves, haughtiness can cause us to be cruel, dismissive, critical, condescending, and even judgmental of the very people God has called us to love and care for.  It can cause us to belittle them and see them as incapable, inadequate, and insignificant.  It is bad enough when we have a distorted or delusional view of ourselves, but when it causes us to mistreat those who have also been made in God’s image, then it has gone too far.  That is when it really draws God’s ire.

Very wisely, David prayed against both, since one often feeds the other.  He prayed that he would not have an overinflated view of his own importance, or an underinflated view of the worth, value, dignity, and significance of others.  Only then could he be the leader God wanted him to be, a leader who cared more about God’s people than he did about himself.  A leader who was able to be still and quiet before his God, totally content and utterly dependent.  And maybe, just maybe, if I continue to pray his prayer, I will be too.  Well, a man can dream, right?

Lord, my heart is meek before you.  I do not consider myself more important than others.  I am content to not pursue matters that are over my head—such as your complex mysteries and wonders—that I’m not ready to understand.  I am humbled and quieted in your presence.  Like a contented child who rests on its mother’s lap, I’m your resting child and my soul is content in you.  O people of God, your time has come to quietly trust, waiting upon the Lord now and forever. (Psalm 131:1-3, The Passion Translation)

Sunday, August 23, 2020

psalm 23

Lord, my shepherd, you are enough; I don’t need a thing.  Help me to live like it.  

You invite me to stop scurrying around, trying to manipulate and control everything, and ask me to lie down with you in green pastures and sit still with you beside quiet waters.  For one of your greatest desires is the restoration of my soul to its creation intent.  

You invite me to walk through life in a new way, attentive to your voice, and concerned only about your name and your kingdom, rather than my own.  

Even though fear and anxiety are sure to rear their ugly heads again and again, I will not let them control me, for you are with me: you protect me, you provide for me, and you comfort me.  

You invite me to pull up a chair to your table, you soothe my head with healing oil, and you make my heart overflow with love.  

You relentlessly pursue me with your goodness and your love all the days of my life, so that I might live in your divine embrace forever.  

How could I possibly say no to all of that?

Friday, August 21, 2020

need

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2)

What do you need in order to be okay?  No, really?  And I’m not looking for the right answer here, but the real one.  Do you need success and achievements and notoriety?  Do you need affection and affirmation?  Do you need financial security?  Do you need others to think well of you?  Do you need to do a good job?  Do you need good health?  Do you need everyone in your family to be thriving and flourishing? 

So, let me ask you again, what do you really need in order to be okay?  The real answer to this question has so much to say about the way we live our lives, because need is not the best foundation to build a life upon; it is tenuous and shaky and ever-changing.  It can fill us with agendas and demands and expectations, often leaving us anxious or depressed or angry or frustrated or all of the above.  Thus, when we build our lives around what we need—or what we think we need—we place ourselves at the mercy of mood, whim, and circumstance.

But when we finally realize that all we really need is “God alone,” everything begins to fall into place.  Oh, not in circumstantial terms maybe, but in terms of our inner landscape—the state of the heart and soul.  The saints called this detachment.  It is the ability to be okay regardless of what is going on around us.  It is not allowing our well-being to get too “attached” to things that can, and will, change, but fully attaching our well-being to the One who never changes—God alone.  Only then will we be the people he created us to be, and only then will we be able to love the way he created us to love.   

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.  My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge.  Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:5-8)

Monday, August 17, 2020

through

   psalm 77:19

if i’m honest
i must admit
that there are times
i would rather just
go around

it’s easier

but your path is 
rarely the easy one
your path always seems
to lead through the sea
through the mighty waters

through must be 
better than around
because through is
the place of dependence
the place of surrender
the place of trust

so may i never miss
the beauty and goodness 
of the way through
by constantly trying
to find a way
around

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

streams

john 7:37-38 

every now and then 
i catch a little taste 
of a larger flow 
that dwells within 

an underground river 
of life and love 
that holds the key 
to all my soul desires 

but why only a taste 
and why only now and then 

is it me or is it you 
have i not yet learned 
how to tap into the flow 
or are you simply 
trying to allure me 
is it your way 
of drawing me 
is it the hope 
of what could be 
or what will be 
beckoning me 
to become 

the hope of the eternal 
welling up from within 
drawing me onward 
ever onward 
into you

Friday, August 7, 2020

being a non-anxious presence

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. (Jeremiah 6:16)

In the midst of the crazy and chaotic times in which we live, what does the world really need from us, the people of God?  Another argument or opinion?  Another agenda or platform?  Another voice of anxiety or anger or frustration or suspicion?  There are an abundance of all of the above, it seems, so why just add another one to the fray?  No one seems to be listening anyway.  In fact, it’s hard to listen when everyone is speaking. 

So what does the world really need from us?  How about a calm, loving, non-anxious presence?  People who are willing to listen, not only to each other, but also to the times, to our lives, and to our God.  People who aren’t trying to protect or attack or defend, but who are looking to love.  People who are not driven by anxiety or insecurity or control or demand, but are driven by compassion.  People who are willing and able to sit still long enough, and be quiet long enough, to have any idea where the Spirit may be leading, or what the Spirit may be up to.  People who are not merely reacting to fears or circumstances or scenarios, but are prayerfully open to whatever the Spirit of God may be doing in and through the chaos.  People whose first response is not to jump, but to pray.  And then, and only then, are willing to act.  That is what the world really needs.

So how do we become that?  How do we become people who are rooted and planted in the love and wisdom of God?  We stop.  We sit still.  We look.  We pray.  We shut our mouths and open our ears.  We listen to God and we listen to each other.  We discern together what he is saying and what he is doing.  And when we arrive at some communal sense of what God is saying and what he is doing, of where the good way is, we walk in it.  We go and do whatever he says.  We love.  We serve.  We live.

Never let me forget, O Lord, that this life is about you and not about me.  Because when I forget that one truth, I end up frustrated and fearful and angry and anxious, rather than loving and caring and compassionate and at peace.  Make me more like you today, so that I’ll be better able to express you in the world.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

moving from micro to macro

What a strange few months it has been.  I don’t know about you, but for me, in these days of global pandemics and calls for social justice, it has been so easy to “miss the forest for the trees,” as the old saying goes.  It is easy for me to become so focused on my own little world and how these things affect (or don’t affect) me personally, that I fail to see the bigger picture.  I fail to step into a higher calling.  I become so concerned and consumed with my own well-being that I fail to see, or even think about, the greater good.  Granted, seeing the greater good, and understanding exactly what it takes to get us there, is way more complicated than I might imagine, but it seems like it is an endeavor that is worth the time and effort and conversation.

We are living in a time and a season where things like wearing masks and canceling sporting events and being asked to stay at home have become a part of the landscape, as has our willingness or unwillingness to adhere to each.  Should bars stay open or should they close?  Should there be football or should there not be?  Should schools reopen or should we only have online learning?  Questions abound.  How on earth are we, as God’s people, supposed to even begin to answer these questions?   

And what about social justice issues?  How have we allowed people who are made in the image of God, with beauty and dignity and purpose, to be cast aside or held down or belittled or marginalized?  And how do we keep creating systems that make it almost impossible for them to thrive and grow and flourish?  When the well-being of one part of society is defended and maintained at the expense of another, should that not repulse us and call us to action? 

Israel wanted a king, so God gave them one.  The king was to be an extension and a representative of God to his people.  The king’s job was to lead and to guide, to provide for and protect and defend.  The king was to be about God’s reign, God’s rule, and God’s kingdom on earth, not his just own.  One of the main ways the king was supposed to do this was by assuring justice (mishpat) and righteousness (tsedeq) for all (see Psalm 72).  Justice meaning that the standards of the kingdom were to be applied equally and fairly to everyone.  And righteousness literally meaning to be straight, or that everyone and everything would be as it was meant to be; everyone is given the opportunity to be exactly who and what God intended them to be—in right relationship with him and in right relationship with one other.

The main way you could tell whether a king was doing his job or not, was by how well the poor and vulnerable and marginalized were doing (the anavim).  If the anavim were flourishing and prospering, then the king was doing a good job; he was being God’s leader and representative to the people.  And if the anavim were not prospering, if they were not being treated rightly and justly, then the king was failing in his role and needed to be replaced.  Everything hinged on how well the poor and vulnerable and weak and marginalized were doing, which might be something we need to pay attention to these days.

In the midst of any health crisis, particularly COVID-19, it seems like the most vulnerable are always the poor, the newborn (and unborn), and the elderly.  What if we made our decisions about openings and closings, masks or no masks, sports or no sports, school in person or online, based on what is most beneficial to the most vulnerable among us?  Would that not be the most God-like (king-like) thing to do?  Especially in the midst of a virus that can so easily and unknowingly be passed along from one person to another.  What if we stopped making it about our own individual rights and wants and preferences, and started making it about what was most loving and caring to everyone, even the poor and the elderly?  Now don’t get me wrong, I am a huge football fan, and I want there to be football.  I just don't want it to be at anyone's expense.  Would it be too much to ask to miss a football season if it was in order to save the lives of those who are weakest and most vulnerable among us?

And what about social justice?  Living where I live and doing what I normally do, I can go for months without even thinking about it, but others are not so fortunate.  What if my level of contentment with where things are in the country and the world, as far as justice issues are concerned, was dependent upon those who have to deal with them on a daily basis?  What if I was never content until they were content?  What if I refused to flourish until they were free to flourish?  What if we all cared about everyone being treated with the dignity and respect and kindness and equity and love that we hope to be shown ourselves?  What if it is wasn’t enough just to be aware of what the issues are, but to actually be a part of doing something about them?

You see, when we focus on the micro, we tend to get ourselves in trouble; it brings out the absolute worst in all of us.  Things become combative and defensive and argumentative, and even violent.  We just start spinning around in our own little lives, worrying about our own needs and wants, and we miss the great big story God has called us (all of humanity) to take part in.  But when we are able to shift our focus, our seeing and our thinking, to the macro—to the bigger picture, to the greater good—God begins to do amazing things.  God works in and through us, and the world becomes a better place to live…for everyone.


Monday, August 3, 2020

the fruit of waiting

All around us we observe a pregnant creation.  The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs.  But it’s not only around u; it’s 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’s why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting 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 the expectancy. (Romans 8:22-25, The Message)

Waiting is such an interesting phenomenon.  It is a spiritual practice that appears to be passive, yet is far more active than we would ever imagine.  It is a season in which it seems like nothing of value is going on, when the truth is that big things are going on that we know nothing about.  It is a time when it looks like God is up to absolutely nothing, when, in actuality, God is doing something more than we dare to ask for or dream about.  In fact, it is through seasons of waiting that God does some of his very best work, if we are careful not to miss the journey for the destination.
     
The problem is that we often get so focused on the desired results of our waiting that we forget that the bigger, more valuable part of waiting may well involve what God is doing within us as we wait.  That’s the part we miss.  And, yet, it is the only part we can really do anything about—we can pay careful attention.
     
I think that’s why I like this section on Romans 8 so much.  It reminds us that waiting is not as much static, as it is dynamic.  It is always intended to accomplish something, not only around us, but within us.  Through waiting, God is arousing and enlarging and expanding and growing and stretching us.  We just can’t allow ourselves to get so consumed with what we are waiting for, that we miss what he is trying to accomplish in us.    
     
It reminds me of the last scene in the movie Field of Dreams.  Ray has been on an epic adventure, trying to figure out what the voices he has been hearing mean and who they have been leading him to.  At first, he thinks the whole journey is about Shoeless Joe Jackson, and then about Terrance Mann, and then about Moonlight Graham.  Until finally he recognizes that one of the players who has been playing baseball in his field is his dad, as a much younger man.  And when he recognizes his dad, he says, “It was you,” thinking that the entire journey had been about easing his dad’s pain.  But no sooner had these words been spoken, than Shoeless Joe, standing out by the cornfield responds, “No Ray, it was you.”  The whole journey had been about Ray’s healing all along.
     
I don’t know about you, but so often, in my waiting, I make the same mistake.  I think the entire thing is about someone coming around or something coming about, when what God is really trying to get me to notice is what he is doing in me as a result of the waiting.
     
So today, instead of focusing on that thing or that person or that event you have been waiting for, focus instead on what God is doing in you as a result of the waiting.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

becoming less

“My heart is not lifted up, O Lord, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.”(Psalm 131:1)
     
The truth be known, most of us do concern ourselves with great matters.  In fact, we pursue them.  We like to be right in the middle of the action.  We have a need to leave our mark, air our opinions, show our wisdom.  It is what gives us value and worth.
     
The only problem is that that’s not the way the life of the Spirit was meant to be lived.  Life with Jesus is not a life in which we are constantly trying to make a splash, to achieve great things, to make a name for ourselves.  In fact, Jesus did quite the opposite, and calls us to do the same: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself and made himself nothing,.” (Philippians 2:5-7)
     
King David knew this also, that’s why he did not concern himself with great matters or things too wonderful for him.  He knew the value of humility.  He knew that true spiritual leadership was best exercised by becoming less and making yourself nothing, not by becoming more and constantly trying to make yourself something—which is counter-intuitive in the world in which we live.  In life with Jesus, less is more and small is big and last is first and poor is rich and weak is strong and low is high.  The path to spiritual greatness comes through humbling ourselves.  Thus, humility, or becoming less, is not just something to be embraced, but something to be pursued.
     
That’s why the word David uses in Psalm 131:1 that is most often translated “concern myself with” or “occupy myself with” is halak in the Hebrew, which literally means to walk.  Therefore, probably a better translation of what David is saying is that “I don’t walk after, or pursue, great things or things too wonderful for me.” Which sounds like a small thing, but is really anything but that.  In fact, it is a subtle, yet monumental shift.  No longer is becoming less merely something I have to embrace, as the circumstances of life do their work on me, but it is actually something I am called to actively pursue, just like Jesus did.
     
Thus, the height of the spiritual journey is not about discovering who we are (although that’s important), or even becoming who we are (which is significant as well), but about making ourselves nothing for Jesus.  Life with Jesus, like John the Baptist told us, is about becoming less that he might become all.

Monday, July 20, 2020

from activity to receptivity


Show me your ways. O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25:4-5)

Which word best describes your life, activity or receptivity?

The life of the Spirit is not one of incessant activity, but of continual receptivity.  That means we don’t merely charge off in a direction and hope that God comes along for the ride, we actually start by stopping.  We ask God, as David did, for his wisdom and direction and guidance, then we listen for his answer.  Only then do we spring into action.  Otherwise it is just activity for activity’s sake; which does no one any good.

“When we pray without listening,” Eugene Peterson writes, “we pray out of context.”  That is because it all starts with God, not with us, even in prayer.  Ours is to maintain a stance of humble receptivity, to continually realize that, apart from God’s leadership and guidance, we don’t really know what to do.  Thus, the first movement of the spiritual journey, Bernard of Clairvaux reminds us, is to “cast ourselves at his feet” and to “kneel before the Lord, our maker.”  Only when we start there do we have any real hope of living the life God most wants us to live.  

He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. (Psalm 25:9)


Sunday, July 19, 2020

one or many

One of the greatest temptations of the spiritual life is to pay attention to the many things, rather than the one thing. (Luke 10:38-42) That is because the many things are often good things, in and of themselves, they are just not the best thing.  And we are so easily distracted, it seems, by the urgent, at the expense of the important.

That is why we must make time and space each day to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to what he has to say.  That is why we must start by stopping; in order to remind ourselves of what is important and what is merely urgent, what is essential and what is tangential, what is focal and what is peripheral.  It is the only way we will really have a chance of living the life God most deeply wants to live in and through us.

Lord Jesus, why do I allow myself to get so worried and distracted by the many things, when only one thing really matters—you.  Help me to choose the one thing today—to sit at your feet and listen to what you have to say.  Amen.

Friday, July 17, 2020

don't settle

Jesus looked at the man and loved him.  “One thing you still lack,” he said.  “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

“I know that may sound demanding, and maybe even a little harsh, but it is what will bring you to life inside.  I made you for so much more than the life you are experiencing.  I long to give you more than the life, and the lesser loves and treasures, you are willing to settle for.  Raise your aspirations!  Stop just trying to slide by on the minimum requirement.  Stop just trying to feel better.  Stop running to broken wells that cannot satisfy.  I love you far too much to allow you to settle for less than all the life and the fullness and the love I made you for.  Come, follow me.”

Lord Jesus, show me where I am settling for less.  Show me where and how I am just trying to get by.  Show me the things, or the people, that I am putting before you, and give me the grace and the strength and the courage to let them go of them so I can truly follow you.  Amen.


Thursday, July 16, 2020

while he was still a long way off

“While he was still a long way off.” (Luke 15:20) While he was still a long way off, he was seen by the eyes of love.  While he was still a long way off, the heart of the Father leaped within him.  While he was still a long way off, the Father left the house and ran out to embrace, and to kiss, his son.  All of that happened while he was still a long way off.  He didn’t even have a chance to give the Father his speech.

What is it about us that feels the need to put conditions on unconditional love? Even the son did it: “I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.”  Luckily his sonship was not dependent upon his worthiness.  And you know what?  Neither is ours.  Thanks be to God!  

Thank you, Heavenly Father, that you love us even while we are still a long way off.  I, for one, have not yet arrived; I still get it all wrong far too often.  My life is still a mess at times.  Thank you that all of that doesn't keep you from loving me, running to me, wrapping your arms around me, and kissing me.  I certainly do not deserve it.  It is all grace and I thank you for that.  Amen.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

seen

Hagar was on the run. (Genesis 16:1-14) Life was not going well at all.  She was young and she was pregnant and she was alone.  She had been cruelly mistreated by her mistress, Sarai, and was so miserable and so desperate that she had run away.  She had no idea where she was going, but knew that anything would be better than the affliction and oppression and browbeating (‘anah in the Hebrew) she was receiving at the hands of Sarai. 

So when the angel of the Lord found her near a spring in the desert, he asked her the million dollar question: “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”  It was a question that the angel surely knew the answer to, but one that Hagar needed to know the answer to as well.  For in the midst of her pain and loneliness and desperation and confusion, she needed to fully realize that she was not alone.  God was with her.  God, the Living One, had seen her.  He had seen her plight and had seen her mistreatment and had seen the desperate state of her heart.  “I see you, Hagar.  I see both where you have come from and where you are going, and I am with you.  Do not fear.  Do not be discouraged.  Do not be dismayed.  I see you, and I will take care of you.  I am your God and I love you more than you could ever imagine.”

And you have to love Hagar’s response.  “You are the God who sees me.  I have now seen the One who sees me.”  Somehow in being seen, Hagar had seen the One who sees her, knows her and loves her.  And, somehow, seeing the One who sees her had changed everything.

God sees you too.  He sees your life and he sees your heart.  He sees what you are going through, whatever that may be.  He sees your joys, he sees your pains, and he sees your sorrows.  You are not alone.  And in being seen by him, he wants you to see him, the One who sees.  Thanks be to God!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

captive


God’s desire is that we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), and, yet, what we seem to be doing in this day and age is to take God captive to our own thoughts of him and make him obedient to us.  Forcing him to bend to our own will and reason and intellect, to our own thoughts and feelings, in an effort to create a God that is more acceptable to our world, to our postmodern culture, and to ourselves, than the God of the Scriptures.

It is the tendency of the intellect to say, “Unless I can understand it, unless it makes sense to me, it must not be true.”  Which takes God captive, and subjects and imprisons him to our own ability to understand and comprehend him.  Or, as I am more often guilty of, to make God the captive of our feelings.  It is the tendency of the emotions to rest our certainty and our perception of what is true on whether it feels right and true or not. 

The only problem is that any God who is created by us, is no God at all, but merely a fabrication, a creation of our own thoughts, feelings, and preferences.  The product of a manufactured theology meant only to suit our own tastes, an apologetic crafted to defend our own opinions, and a narrative spun to make God into who and what we want him to be, rather than allowing him to be the wild and free and untamable God that he is.  We must stop making God bend to us, rather than bowing down in awestruck wonder and dumbfounded amazement before him.  We must get back to taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 

Forgive us, O Lord, when we try to make you the captive of our thoughts and feelings, rather than taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.  Help us to hold fast to your word and your truth, by the power of your Holy Spirit, so that we will become more and more like you, rather than trying to make you more and more like us.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

i belong to you

“I belong to my beloved and his desire is for me.” (Song of Songs 7:10) 

The way of the Lord is the way of passionate love.  It is about fully knowing that we do, indeed, belong to the Beloved, and that his desire is for us.  Once we experience that, once we receive his kiss, the kisses of others simply will not do.  All other loves will pale in comparison to his love.  And it will change everything about us.
     
O my Beloved, thank you that I belong to you and that your desire is for me.  Help me to live from that place of love and belonging and delight, this day and every day.  Amen.


Monday, July 6, 2020

he kissed him much

“He kissed him much.”  That’s the literal translation of what the father did when me met his lost son in the middle of the field. (Luke 15:20) He didn’t just see him, he didn’t just run to him, and he didn’t just kiss him.  He kissed him much.

And every parent, or grandparent, gets it.  For, from the days our little ones were babes, they held a special and tender place in our hearts.  In fact, our hearts were so full of love for them that we simply couldn’t contain it.  And when they were younger we didn’t have to.  We just couldn’t keep our lips from their cheeks.  And we didn’t just kiss them once, we kissed them much.

But somewhere along the line they grew up.  Somewhere along the line they stopped being like little children, and kissing them much was not acceptable anymore.  And it left a void in our hearts.  It made us get creative, and learn how to “kiss them much” in other ways.  But every now and then something happens, an event or a circumstance comes along—a victory, an achievement, and accomplishment, a graduation, a wedding—and allows us the permission to kiss them much once again. 

I wonder how long it had been since the lost son had allowed his father to kiss him much.  Who knows, it might even have been a part of the reason he left in the first place.  Not because the father didn’t want to kiss him much, but because somewhere along the line the son stopped being willing to allow it.

It makes me wonder if it is the same way with us and God.  I wonder if, buried deep in the heart of our God, there is still an intense longing to kiss us much, but somehow we have gotten too old to think it’s still appropriate.  Perhaps that is even part of what Jesus meant when he told us that we must become like little children.  Perhaps God’s deepest desire is that we recapture the beauty and the innocence of allowing him to kiss us much.  Because something tells me that if we were able to recapture than innocence, it would change everything about us.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

the kisses of his mouth

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine.” (Song of Songs 1:2) 

Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth, O Lord, for once my soul receives your kiss, it will never want for another.  It will no longer relentlessly pursue approval, admiration, or applause; it will not constantly need to be included, invited, or sought after; and its state will no longer be dependent upon acceptance, achievement, or affirmation, for you, O Lord, will be all I need.  So kiss me, O Lover of My Soul, with the kisses of your mouth, and that will be enough.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

seeing beyond the mess

to gaze upon the
beauty of the Lord
~ps. 27:4

you will never reach 
the promised land
if all you can see 
is the shit on your shoes

you must learn to gaze 
beyond the muck
to be captured 
by a greater beauty
to be pulled along 
by a grace far bigger 
than all the mess