Sunday, May 31, 2020

the truth will set you free

If the truth sets us free (John 8:31-32), then when we are not free it must be because we are believing something that is not true.  Makes sense, right?  But the big question is: What is it?  What am I believing that keeps me living a life of fear and bondage?  Identifying that belief is key in the process of change and freedom.

I guess it’s different for everyone, but for me one of the main things I believe that simply is not true is this: What people think about me and say about me determines my value and my worth.  It is a belief that buried deeply in the fabric of my being and one that has far-reaching implications.  For instance, when I believe that my value and worth are determined by what people thing and say, comparison is constant.  It becomes a way of life.  Worth and value are a scarce commodity that must be competed for.  Secondly, insecurity is rampant.  My entire sense of well-being is determined by people opinions and reactions to me, which change daily.  Which then means that anxiety is prevalent.  I must always worry about how others are perceiving me.  Next, rest is impossible.  How can I rest if my value is constantly on the line?  And finally, performance is predominant.  I must always be “on.”  I can never let up.  Who I am is constantly determined by what I do.

There are a lot of things you can call such a life, but free is not one of them.  This is ultimate bondage.  Only when I change my belief, only when I truly believe that my worth and value are determined not by what I do, but by whose I am, everything changes.  I am valuable because of the One who made me uniquely and loves me dearly.  That is not something I can lose.    

Lord Jesus, thank you that you want us to be free men and women.  And thank you that you made us in such a way that the truth sets us free.  Help us, then, to know what is true and what is not.  Help us to see the things that we believe that are simply not true.  For until we see those things and expose them to your truth, nothing will ever change in our lives.  We will live lives of fear and bondage rather than lives of freedom and truth.  Help us, Lord Jesus, for we cannot do that apart from you.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

quiet me

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

Quiet me, O Lord, with your great love and rejoice over me with happy song.  Hush my mouth and my heart, so that I might be content to rest in your Divine Embrace.  Then all I do, think, and say will be a direct result of your great affection; the fruit of a life in intimate union with you.  Amen.

Friday, May 22, 2020

down

O Lord
here we go again
as you take me down
into the dust and dirt
the muck and mire
to make me more into 
the person you want me to be

it is a hard
but necessary trip
this downward journey
meant to accomplish 
something wild and wonderful
difficult yet life-giving
in me

for it takes a lot
of humiliation
i am told
to equal an ounce of humility
and humility is the mark
of those who know you best
and love you most

so whatever it takes
Lord Jesus
to make me more like you
i’m in
have your way with me

you emptied yourself
and made yourself nothing
for me
seems the least i can do
is return the favor

your glory was your pain 
and in dying 
you brought new life
so help me to be open
to that same downward path
lest i just become another old fool 
unwilling to accept 
that the road to life 
actually leads downward

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

meek

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5, NIV)  

Meek has always been a bit of a slippery word for me.  I’ve never been quite able to get a handle on it.  And yet, here it is, at such a crucial point in Jesus’ teachings, just as he is highlighting the qualities that most characterize those who live in the kingdom of God.  I don’t know about you, but that seems pretty significant to me.  Oddly enough, even as significant as it seems, the word is used only three times in the entire New Testament.  Once here in Matthew 5:5, once in Matthew 21:5 when it describes Jesus coming into Jerusalem “gentle and riding on a donkey,” and once in 1 Peter 3:4 describing how God desires a wife’s spirit to possess “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

So exactly what is meekness?  Well, maybe the best way to begin is by talking about what it is not.  It is not aggressive, it is not demanding, and it is not prideful.  It is not arrogant, it is not pushy, and it is not showy.  It is not needy, it is not fearful, and it is not insecure.  It is not rash, it is not harsh, and it is not reactive.  It is neither possessive, nor obsessive.  It does not seek to impose or impress.  It does not try to control or manipulate.  It does not seek its own way or work its own agenda.  It is not opinionated, not argumentative, and does not need to be right.

But what is meekness?  Is it humility?  Is it gentleness?  Or is it something else altogether?  Maybe the reason it’s so hard to define is that it’s all of those things, and more.  It is a quality of being, a spirit, and an attitude that displays itself in a peaceful, calm, and contented demeanor.  It is a state of heart and mind.  It is not being full of yourself or thinking too much of yourself.  The Greek word for meek is pra├┐s, which means mild, humble, and gentleness of spirit.  The dictionary defines the word meek as humbly patient and overly submissive; gentle and kind.  J. B. Phillips says that the meek are “those who claim nothing.”  And Eugene Peterson says they are those “who are content to be just who they are—no more, no less.”

Meekness is the quality of being at home with your true self, comfortable in your own skin.  It is an ability to be yourself in a way that allows others to fully be themselves.  It is the quality of being content and at peace, whole and free.  Thus, the meek are described as blessed.  And why wouldn’t they be?  After all, if you are meek, then there is no need for jockeying or posturing or performing.  The pressure is off.  You are free to love and to be loved.  Free to be gentle with yourself and with others.

I suppose that’s why the meek will inherit the earth, because they don’t need it to make them worthwhile.  They have no need to try and take it by force or by storm.  The world will always resist those who try to take it, but will always be open to those who gently and kindly and meekly love it and serve it.  And that blesses everyone.

Monday, May 11, 2020

lament

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) 

Why on earth would those who mourn be blessed?  I mean, mourning is something we neither welcome nor enjoy, right?  So what could possibly be so good about it?  That is unless that very grieving and mourning is the substance of what’s preparing the way for something new and good and beautiful to be born. 

Mourning almost always involves some sort of letting go, and none of us is very good at that.  We don’t do loss very well, so we have to grieve it.  Grief and mourning is the process by which we let go of what was, in order to embrace what is to come.  We cannot have one without the other.  Release always comes before receive.  Therefore, the refusal to let go is a refusal to grow and change.  It can leave us angry and bitter and frustrated.  

That’s where lament comes in.  Lament is the spiritual practice of mourning, grieving, and letting go.  Lament celebrates what was, grieves the fact that it is no more, and opens us up to what is to be.  Lament is how we keep from getting stuck hanging on in desperation to what has been, but is no more.  And as long as we hang on to the way things have always been, there will be no room within or among us to imagine, and be open to, the beauty of what things can be.  That’s why so many of the psalms are prayers of lament.  They invite us to face our loss and our sadness, they invite us to grieve the pain of that reality, and they invite us to make space for trust and for hope.  

That’s why Jesus tells us that those who mourn are blessed.  For not only will they be comforted in the life to come, but they will also be comforted in this life as well.  Their grieving will make room for new possibilities.  In God’s economy, death always leads to new life.  It’s almost as if Jesus was telling us: “Do not refuse to let go of what is gone and cannot be regained, for it will keep you from taking hold of all that is to come.  And what is to come is more beautiful than you could ever imagine."  Thanks be to God!    

Thursday, May 7, 2020

not ready

psalm 130:5

if nothing else
waiting tells us
that we are still 
not ready
for what is to come

not ready 
for an answer
we cannot yet fully live
not ready 
for an existence
we cannot yet maintain
not ready 
for a life
we cannot yet sustain

there is a ripening
that still must take place
the fruit is not yet ready
to be plucked from the vine
it needs more time 
to become
so we wait

the process of becoming
cannot be hastened
nor can it be shortened
time must run its course

so for now we wait
and still we wait

Monday, May 4, 2020

dwell

“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” (Psalm 23:6)

I think God is trying to teach me about dwelling.  I know, I know, two months of “sheltering at home” can have that effect on you, right?  But I haven’t sheltered well at home.  Oh sure, I’ve had my moments.  But I have also had times when I was restless and stir crazy and distracted and frustrated and even bored.  I don’t think that’s the kind of dwelling God had in mind.

Somehow this season is giving me an opportunity to practice dwelling, if I will embrace it.  Dwelling (or abiding) seems to be such a large part of life with God.  In fact, the word dwell is used over 1,000 times in the Old Testament.  So learning to dwell with him and in him seems of utmost importance.  Yet, for the most part, I am resistant to it.  And if I am resistant to dwelling in my own house, how in the world can I ever hope to get any better at dwelling in his?

I guess the truth is that I’m finding I’m a lot more consumed with doing than I thought I was, and a lot less comfortable with being.  O Lord, help me!  Help me to embrace, rather than resist, this time and this season.  Use it to teach me how to dwell in you.  Use it to teach me to be.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

pray yourself in me

Teach me to pray, O Father, and I will pray.
For how can I pray, unless you teach me?
When I presume to know the your ways,
I do nothing but show my ignorance.

So show me you will, O God,
That I might align myself with it.
And show me your desires, O Lord,
That they might become my own.

Save me from my own limited perspective.
Save me from my opinions and preferences.
Save me from my own hidden agendas.
Save me from myself.

Give me, this day, O Father,
The very words you want me to pray.
Otherwise I will just sit in silence
And wait for you.