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Book of the Month: Schola Caritatis: Learning the Rhythms of God's Amazing Love

  Starting a new feature for the next several months called Book of the Month.  I will present one of my books and tell you a little of the ...

Sunday, September 25, 2022

waiting and trusting

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me up out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:1-3)

The connection between waiting and trusting is an undeniable one.  In fact, it is impossible to wait for the Lord, much less wait patiently for him, if we do not trust him.  Quite often, our biggest excuse for not waiting for the Lord is that we do not have enough patience to do so, but our ability to wait, or our lack thereof, is not as much about patience as it is about trust.  Our ability, or willingness, to wait is directly proportional to our level of trust.  If we do not truly believe that God's heart toward us is good and that he will take care of us, then waiting becomes impossible, because we will always be busy trying to arrange and control our lives and our circumstances.  Thus, if we cannot, or will not, wait for the Lord, then we do not have a patience problem, we have a trust problem.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

wait for the Lord

Wait for the Lord
does not mean
wait until you get
your desired result
or wait until
your circumstances
change for the better
or wait until
transformation 
takes place
it simply means
Wait for the Lord

for in the waiting
there is a becoming
that could happen
in no other way
so stop straining
and start waiting

Saturday, September 10, 2022

how to hear God's voice

Slow down
Shut up
Be still
Wait

I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” (Psalm 131:2)

Thursday, September 8, 2022

ulterior motives

“Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48) 

It’s sad how often I come to Jesus with ulterior motives.  And it’s comical to think that somehow, I’ve convinced myself that he doesn’t see right through it.  And yet, like Judas, he loves me anyway.  Amazing Love!  How can it be?

Lord Jesus, you kiss us with the kiss of divine affection, and yet we kiss you with a kiss of betrayal or manipulation or demand.  Forgive us.  Help us to give you the love and adoration you deserve, this day and every day.  Amen.


Sunday, September 4, 2022

let him kiss me

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

There is a big difference between kissing someone and being kissed by them.  One expresses my desire for intimacy and affection, and the other expresses the desire and delight of the One who loves me.  It feels really good to be desired, doesn’t it?  It does something beautiful in us.  That’s why I’m so glad that this line of poetry from the Scriptures is worded the way it is: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.”  For in this Divine Romance, he is the active one, not me.   He is the initiator; I am the recipient.  He is the pursuer; I am the pursued.  He is the lover; I am the beloved. All I can do is open myself up to his passion and his embrace, which requires a beautiful vulnerability. 

So, kiss me with the kisses of your mouth, O Lord, and give me the courage and the passion to receive them.

Friday, September 2, 2022

speed kills

“Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” (Proverbs 19:2, ESV) He who hurries his footsteps errs. (Proverbs 19:2, NASB) Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes. (Proverbs 19:2, NLT).

Who, or what, determines the direction you go each day?  And who, or what, determines the pace at which you go that direction?  These are big questions, but questions, I’m afraid, that we spend far too little time reflecting upon.  Somehow, we have bought into the lie that bigger and more and faster are better.  We have gotten so caught up in trying to do everything, that we actually accomplish nothing of eternal significance.  The most important things, and processes, in life cannot be rushed.  They cannot be manufactured; they can only be grown over time.  If we want to know God deeply and well, it is just going to take time.  “A long obedience in the same direction,” as Eugene Peterson so beautifully stated. 

Simply put, hurry is the enemy of spiritual life.  When asked what someone must do to have a relationship with God that is vibrant and fruitful and alive, Dallas Willard once said, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”  Or, as the psychologist Carl Jung once put it: “Hurry isn’t of the devil, hurry is the devil.” 

In other words, speed kills.  Speed breaks down and burns out.  Speed is reckless and sloppy.  Speed keeps us from being able to see what we need to see and hear what we need to hear.  It keeps us from being able to notice and pay attention.  Speed makes us miss the point; it keeps us from being able to enter into what God is doing, both within us and around us.  Ultimately, speed is all about us, and not about God.  If we do not watch our speed, eventually we will end up in big trouble.

Jesus, though he did so much, was never in a hurry.  That is why he was able to enter into conversations with people even though he was being pulled in a million directions.  He let the Father determine what he did and did not do, who he did and did not spend time with.  It wasn’t determined out his own of need—or theirs, for that matter—but out of the larger purposes and direction of the Father. 

That’s why he was able to stop in the middle of a crowded street to hear the story of a nameless, bleeding woman, even though he was in route to heal a dying little girl.  That’s why he was able to wait four days after he heard his friend Lazarus was on his deathbed.  That’s how he could show up at a pool filled with hundreds of desperately needy people and only heal one of them.  That’s how he had time to go through Samaria to have a long conversation with a woman at a well, who no one else in her town would talk to.  That’s how he could respond to his disciple’s statement that “everyone in town is looking for you” with the statement, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also.  That is why I have come.”  That’s why he could wait until the fourth watch of the night to go out to the disciples on the raging sea.  And I could go on and on.

Jesus did not allow hurry to take his life captive.  And neither should we.  If we want to have any hope of being his presence and his hands and his voice in this dark and desperate world. It will be because we took the time to be with him, and listen to him, first.  And if we never slow down, that is not possible.

Slow us down, O God, so that we can do the work you have given us to do, and not merely our own.  Amen.

 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Jesus made them

“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of them to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.” (Matthew 14:22)

Did you catch that?  Jesus made the disciples get into the boat.  He knew full well what he was sending them into and yet he made them get in the boat—without him—and head to the other side of the lake.  He was totally aware that he was sending them into the middle of a huge storm.  Why on earth would he do such a thing?  Maybe because he was trying to accomplish something in them.  

Thus, he was both intentional and purposeful.  He didn’t see them as he watched from the mountainside and think to himself, “Oh dang!  I didn’t see that coming.”  No, he was actually trying to accomplish something in them that could be accomplished no other way.  He was leading them beyond where they were.  Jesus always calls each one of us beyond where we are, so why should that be a surprise?  He sent them into the storm so they would come out of it knowing him better.  He sent them into the storm so that at the end of the whole episode they would be standing in awe with their mouths wide open saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

A wise saint once said that “There is an intent of God behind the content of life.”  The painful content of this life entered the world as a result of the fall: storms, floods, hurricanes, death, disease, diagnoses, violence, abuse, addiction, depression, anxiety, fear, and the list goes on.  Jesus did not create the storm, he just sent them into it.  He used the storm to give them a bigger and better picture of who he was.  God is big enough to even use life’s most brutal and evil content, to accomplish his intent.  He uses it to invite us to a deeper and more beautiful life with him. 

It happened with the disciples, and my guess is that it has also happened with you.  When was the last time God sent you into a massive storm just so you would see and know how big and awesome and wonderful and loving and powerful he really is?  When was the last time you stood in awe saying to yourself, “Truly you are the Son of God”?    

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

busyness

        Mt. 25:13

we wear our busyness
like a badge of honor
a measurement of
our value and worth

but that badge
will not help us
at the midnight cry
when the words ring out
Here’s the Bridegroom!
Come out to meet him!

then there will only be regret
not that we had fallen asleep
but that we had been
too busy to notice

we did not have time to buy oil
there was too much else going on

therefore keep watch
because you do not know
the day or the hour

Saturday, July 30, 2022

the bizarro world

The Psalm 131 I know and love: “My heart is not lifted up, O Lord, my eyes are not raised too high.  I do not occupy myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.  But I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.  O Israel, put your hope in the Lord now and forevermore.”

The Psalm 131 I usually see: “Look how hard I try, O Lord, to do awesome things and make everyone think I’m awesome—for you, of course (wink, wink).  If anything great and marvelous is going to happen, I must be a part of it.  I am a driven workaholic, and proud of it.  So I keep running and I keep pushing because everything will fall apart if I don't.  O God, aren’t you glad I’m around to do your work for you?  Lucky you!”

To truly follow Jesus, I must lay down my pride, my agenda, my opinion, my need to be right, and my sense of indispensability.  I must let go of my need to be needed and my desire to be applauded.  After all, is trying to be liked by everyone really kindness at all, or just needy manipulation in a clever disguise—self-love?

Still and quiet my soul, O Lord, and wean me of all that is no you.  Forgive me when I get things backwards and begin to think that this life is all about me, rather than all about you.  Amen.

Friday, July 22, 2022

on his terms

“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 to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:18-19)

We tend to live life on our terms, when life with Jesus is really about living life on his terms—a life of total and complete surrender, not merely using him to make ourselves bigger.   If we are truly following Jesus, we don’t get to determine the nature, content, or direction of our lives, that role belongs exclusively to him.  We can either follow him, or follow ourselves, but we can’t do both.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

rubbish

All the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life.  Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung.  I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. (Phil. 3:7-8)

Life with Jesus always challenges our addictions.  It asks us to let go of the things and the patterns and the ways we have grown used to and familiar with, in order to receive something new and beautiful from him.  Most people, in fact, miss the new because they are unwilling to let go of the old. 

Help us, O Lord, to drop any plans and agendas and comforts and preferences that keep us from be fully and completely yours.  Help us to consider them rubbish—dog dung—compared with the surpassing value of knowing you.  For how can I ever expect to be made new, if I am unwilling to let go of the old?    

Saturday, July 16, 2022

why me

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44)

Why me, O Lord?  

Why did you choose to lay your hand of love on me?  Why did you give me this amazing life?  Why did you grace me with deep intimacy and love?  Why do you continually draw your mouth close to my ear and whisper words of delight and affection?  Why did you give me this beautiful and loving and incredible woman to share my life and love with?  Why did you give me such wonderful children, and now grandchildren, to love and be loved by?  Why did you bless me with such deep, rich friendships and such vibrant, life-giving ministry over the last 45 years?  

And why on earth do you desire relationship with me in the first place?  Why do you allow me to share your very life?  Why do you choose to actually live your life in and through me?  Why do you allow me the intimacy and the privilege of sharing in your suffering?  Why do you want me to live in ecstatic union with you?  

Why me, O Lord, why me?

Sunday, July 10, 2022

clothe me

“I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God.  For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness....” (Isaiah 61:10)

We spend most of our lives trying desperately to look a certain way, in order to convince ourselves and our world that we are actually worth loving.  This “dressing ourselves,” as John so beautifully described it (John 21:18), takes many forms—appearance, performance, possession, etc. 

The problem is that anything we can dress ourselves with—no matter how beautiful or expensive or hard earned—is really nothing more than “filthy rags” or “fig leaves.”  It is merely a covering, a hiding place, camouflaging what really lies underneath.  Thus, we spend our lives living falsely, desperately hoping that we will never be found out.  Needless to say, living this way is utterly exhausting.

The beauty of the gospel, however, is that we do not have to dress ourselves; God offers to do it for us.  All we have to do is take off all of the falseness and pretense, stand naked before our God, and allow him to clothe us.  God says, “I will dress you.  Let me clothe you in the garments of salvation and a robe of righteousness; they fit you perfectly.  They make you who you were created to be.  Thus, when you allow me to dress you, instead of constantly trying to dress yourself, it will result in you living a life of joy and delight, rather than a life of fear and shame.”

Forgive me, O Lord, for always trying to dress myself.  Forgive me for trying to make people believe that I am something more than I really am, which really makes me less.  So much less.  Forgive me for all of the ways I pretend and posture and project.  Help me, O Lord, to have the courage to stop dressing myself and allow you to dress me.  Clothe me, O Lord.  Amen.

Friday, July 8, 2022

sufficient

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is make perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

“My grace is sufficient for you.  It really is.  Whatever you are going through, whatever burden you are carrying, whatever situation you are struggling with, whatever thing you cannot fix.  Whatever uncertainty you are facing, whatever battle you are fighting, whatever challenge is before you.  Whatever demon you can’t conquer, whatever pattern you can’t break, whatever hole you have dug for yourself, there is always hope because my grace is sufficient for you.  I can take your weakness and your powerlessness and your brokenness and your vulnerability and display my power.  Trust me.” ~Jesus 

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

survival mode

psalm 90:12

when our goal
is simply survival
we have missed
the point of life

we have settled
for much less
than the life
God wants with us

we have allowed
our fears and
our agendas and
the expectations
others have put upon us
to determine our course
the tail has officially
begun to wag the dog

for no matter
how it feels
there is a choice
a choice to live
and grow
and thrive
and flourish
rather than simply
tread water

 

Monday, June 27, 2022

taken hold of

“I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14

Take me to you, imprison me, for I
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
~John Donne

If we truly have been taken hold of by God, if we have been ravished by the One who loves us like no other, then we will do everything in our power—strain and press and wrestle and fight—to take hold of the life and the love he offers to us.  We will simply have no choice; our hearts will not allow us to do otherwise. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

hiding to hidden

the movement of spiritual life
is as simple as it is profound
it is the movement 
from hiding to hidden
from hiding from God
to hidden in God

Monday, June 13, 2022

known

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

God always invites us beyond where we are.  Thus, as we lean in to the invitation deeper into his heart, it is both incredibly exciting and absolutely terrifying.  Because as we go deeper into his heart, he asks us to let go of deeper and deeper things, some of which are so deep that they feel like part of who we are.  But they are not.  They are merely the deepest and most subtle ways we have lived falsely, and moving deeper into the heart of God means that we learn to be our truest, Christ-like selves.  So sometimes this call to wholeness means giving up our idea of what wholeness even looks like in the first place, which is letting go at one of its deepest levels.  It is all a part of the journey to “know fully, even as we are fully known.”  The two go hand in hand.  

God does not want us to settle for less.  Whatever it takes to strip away the false and bring about the true, is what he will do.  He loves us too much to allow us to live lives that are less than what he dreamt them to be.

Lord God, seeing you and knowing you is such a process.  It does not happen all at once.  Lead us on this amazing journey of knowing and being known, until that day when we are able to see you clearly and know you—and ourselves—fully.  Amen.


Thursday, June 9, 2022

watch how i did it

“For this you have been called, 
because Christ also suffered for you, 
leaving you and example, so that 
you might follow in his steps.” 
(1 Peter 2:21)

watch how i did it and do it like that
watch how i came into this world
watch how i spent the first thirty years of my life
watch how i lived
watch how i listened
watch how i loved
watch how i prayed
watch how i obeyed
watch how i emptied myself
watch how i suffered
watch how i did it and do it like that
~Jesus

Saturday, June 4, 2022

fig leaves

if we are unwilling
to remove our fig leaves
God will gladly do it for us
but it won’t be pretty

for he loves us too much
to allow us to go on
living falsely

Thursday, June 2, 2022

stretch out your hand

“Stretch out your hand.” (Mark 3:5) 

It is what you told the man in the synagogue, and it is what you tell me.  But what does that mean, Lord Jesus?  What are you really asking of me?  Are you asking me for the courage to be vulnerable and weak and powerless, so that your power might be on full display?  Are you asking me to trust in your goodness and mercy, even when it demands that I do something that is impossible unless you give me the strength?  Are you asking me to have faith in your desire, and ability, to transform the parts of my life that are twisted and distorted and not at all what you intended them to be?  Or are you simply asking me to obey, whether I understand what you are up to or not?

Whatever the case, Lord Jesus, it is what you ask me to do: "Stretch out your hand.”  Give me the wisdom know exactly what that means, and the strength and the courage and the grace necessary to be able to do it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

telling the truth

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —
~Emily Dickinson

 

Telling the truth always begins with telling it to yourself.  Until we have come face-to-face with our own sin and need and dysfunction, we can never properly enter into the sin and need and dysfunction of others.  There is a deep humility required—a realization of our own extreme brokenness.  That realization creates a right spirit as we enter into someone else’s pain and struggle.

Unfortunately, throughout the centuries truth has been used as a weapon, rather than a help.  But truth was never intended to bludgeon, it was meant to love.  So telling the truth should be something that draws, rather than something that repels.  Or as Emily Dickinson so beautifully put it, “The Truth must dazzle gradually.” 

Therefore, we must first live the truth before we run to tell the truth.  The truth must dazzle with our lives before it can dazzle with our words.  That’s why people were so drawn to Jesus; he embodied the truth he proclaimed.  He was not a living contradiction, and we should not be either.

Dazzle us gradually, Lord Jesus, with your truth, for it is truly beautiful.  And once we have been captured by that truth, give us the wisdom to know how to tell it to others—not only with our words, but with our lives as well.  Amen.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

the way of letting go

“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high.  I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.  But I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.  O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 131:1-3)

When we are finally willing and able to let go of our own self-importance, our sense of indispensability, and or need to be needed, only then will we have the courage and the strength to put our plans and agendas aside and give God the space and the time to do whatever he wants to do.  Life becomes about him and not about us. 

Only when we are weaned from need will we be truly able to love, trusting fully in God’s unfailing love and power and care.  Only when we are finally able to be stilled and quieted, “like a weaned child with its mother,” is our hope really in the Lord and not in ourselves.  Thus, a stilled and quieted soul is the fruit of truly open hands.

Friday, May 27, 2022

with open hands

There is a certain movement to the life of the Spirit within us; a movement that has been written about by the saints and poets and pilgrims for centuries.  It is the movement from clenched fists to open hands.  It is a movement that involves letting go of the things that fill and dominate and consume and control our inner space, so that we can make room for the Spirit to speak, move and act. 

It all starts with a willingness to see, and then to release, what is old and tired and broken down and worn out, in order to receive what is new and beautiful and vibrant and alive.  You would think that it would be an easy choice.  You would think that we would be eager to let go of such things, but you would be wrong.  Opening our hands requires great courage and conviction.  We are far too attached to what is comfortable and familiar, even if it is also destructive and dysfunctional.

Give me the courage, Lord Jesus, to completely open my hands to you.

 


Wednesday, May 25, 2022

opening our hands

jesus opened his hands
to the will of the father
and calls us to do the same

we can either 
open them voluntarily
or he can open them for us
but one way or another
it’s going to happen

letting go is one of
the most significant
movements of life with God

if we never learn to let go
if we never open our hands
we can never hope to receive
what the father wants to give us
after all only empty hands can receive

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

get a move on

“Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity.” (Heb. 6:1) 

There is such a beautiful and terrifying invitation in that statement; something we all deeply want, yet something we are afraid to move toward.  Most likely that’s because what it’s going to take to get to that next level of maturity is costly.  It is not nearly as costly, however, as it is incredible.  It is oh so worth it! 

We live in a world that seeks minimum investment for maximum return.  Unfortunately, spiritual maturity doesn’t work that way.  Maybe that’s why so many seem stuck or stagnate in their lives with Jesus; they are simply unwilling to invest, or endure, whatever it takes to get to the next level of maturity—especially if it involves moving downward rather than upward.  And make no mistake about it, spiritual maturity almost always comes about as a result of descent rather than ascent.  It’s the Jesus way. 

The strange thing is that when we finally muster the courage to follow his leading, wherever that might be, we find that the way downward is actually the way to freedom and life, if we are willing to take that step.  What does stepping toward maturity look like for you these days?

Lord Jesus, give me the courage to take that next step toward spiritual maturity, whatever it may look like.  Amen.

Friday, May 13, 2022

so good

 Have always loved this piece.  It's really beautiful and a little terrifying.  I don't know about you, but I tend to choose what is comfortable and familiar, rather than what will mold and stretch and form me into the image of Jesus.  Luckily, he will not let me get away with that for long.


I built my house by the sea.
Not on the sands, mind you;
not on the shifting sand.
And I built it of rock.
A strong house
by a strong sea.
And we got well acquainted, the sea and I.
Good neighbors.
Not that we spoke much.
We met in silences.
Respectful, keeping our distance,
but looking our thoughts across the fence of sand.
Always, the fence of sand our barrier,
always, the sand between.

And then one day,
--and I still don’t know how it happened—
the sea came.
Without warning.

Without welcome, even
Not sudden and swift, but a shifting across the sand like wine,
less like the flow of water than the flow of blood.
Slow, but coming.
Slow, but flowing like an open wound.
And I thought of flight and I thought of drowning and I thought of death.
And while I thought the sea crept higher, till it reached my door.
And I knew then, there was neither flight, nor death, nor drowning.
That when the sea comes calling, you stop being neighbors
Well acquainted, friendly-at-a-distance neighbors,
And you give your house for a coral castle,
And you learn to breathe underwater.

Breathing Under Water by Sr. Carol Bieleck, RSCJ


Tuesday, May 10, 2022

stigmata

could it be
that the deepest
union with Christ

comes not through ecstasy
but through suffering

him knowing my pain
and me knowing his

Monday, May 9, 2022

one thing

“You still lack one thing…” (Luke 18:22)

It is easy to say that Jesus is our one thing, but it is much more difficult to live as if that were true.  All we have to do is look carefully at our lives, they will tell us the truth.  Whatever we spend most of our time and energy thinking about, consumed with, worrying over, building, defending, and protecting—that is our one thing.  And any “one thing” that we put before Jesus is a disordered affection.  Jesus demands to be our first and truest affection, not just one of many.  That’s exactly what he is trying to tell the rich young ruler: “If you put anything before me, then it is your God.  So take your pick, the choice it up to you.”

Lord Jesus, don’t let me fool myself; show me what my one thing is.  And if it is anything other than you, then please give me the strength and the courage and the grace to leave it behind and follow you.  Amen.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

disruption

when i really
come to believe in
the goodness of
your heart

i will be convinced
that disruption is
not about frustration
but invitation

 

Monday, May 2, 2022

beyond

the wild unknown beckons
calling me beyond

beyond where i’ve been
beyond what i know
beyond where i am

inviting me to a place of
new life and new growth
and new freedom

but the comfortable
and the familiar
hold me in their grip

keeping me stuck in
a decaying orbit of my
own complacency

what will it take
to break loose
to shake free
from the chains
that bind

so that i can finally
accept your invitation
beyond

Friday, April 29, 2022

how to become your truest self

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” (Psalm 130:5-6)

We spend far too much time in this life trying to fortify a manufactured self, rather than allowing God to peel away all of the accumulated layers of falseness, so he can show us what is most true and beautiful.  This cannot be done by trying, but by trusting.  It will not happen by endless effort and willpower and activity, but by learning how to wait for the Lord.

The secret to becoming our truest selves always involves waiting for the Lord.  If we do not wait, we will never become who and what we were meant to be.  We can’t force or contrive of manufacture of control our own transformation, it is a work of the Spirit.  All we can do is wait—make time and space to sit openly before him as he does the work, in his own time and in his own way.

One hint, however: our truest self will always result in us looking more and more like Jesus, who “made himself nothing,” rather than trying to make himself something. (Philippians 2:7) Thus, only when we stop trying to “make ourselves something” and start trying to “make ourselves nothing” can we ever hope to find our truest selves.  We find our lives by losing them. (Mt. 10:39) We find our truest self, by letting go of all of the false selves that we have somehow convinced ourselves through the years are true.  And, irony of ironies, it is not until my life stops being about me that I can ever hope to discover who I truly am.  In the kingdom of God, we always have to “die to become.”

Help me, O Lord, to learn what it means to wait for you.  And help me to resist the temptation to think everything—even my own transformation—is up to me.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

deeper and narrower

“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” (Ps. 42:7)

The depths of God is constantly calling out to the depths of man, inviting him deeper into the beauty and the mystery of who He is.  God does not want us to settle for less of a life than the one he created us for, but, unfortunately, oftentimes we do.  We grow content and comfortable with the safe and familiar, and are afraid of what it might mean, or what it might take, for us to enter into the life and the depth and the freedom God offers us.

Thus, there comes, for each of us, a moment of decision, when we must decide whether we will follow the voice of the One calling us deeper and narrower, or settle for a life that’s a mile wide and an inch deep.  There is definitely a process involved that leads us to this moment, but there always comes a moment when a decision must be made.  A moment when we must choose to move, to cross the bridge to the other side, to take his hand as he leads us toward a new and unknown land, or to stay where we are.  A moment when we must choose between the comfortable and the familiar or a new life and a new birth.  It’s one or the other, we can’t have both.  So, what will it be?

O God, thank you that your depths is constantly calling out to my depths, inviting me further into the beauty and the mystery of who you are.  Give me the strength and the grace and the courage to say yes to that call.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

old and new

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

As long as we continue to cling to the old, we will never be able to take hold of the new.

Show me, Lord Jesus, all of the ways I am still clinging to the old, in order that I might actually be made new.

Friday, April 22, 2022

living with open hands

Life with God is about learning to open our hands.  The only problem is that hands—particularly the hands of the soul—tend to open slowly, often one finger at a time.  It is a long process, requiring much time and space and focused attention.  A process that requires as much patience as it does diligence.

While life (particularly spiritual life) typically moves from orientation to disorientation to reorientation, our knee-jerk reaction to disruption and disorientation is to revert back to—or strive to achieve—some old form of orientation, rather than allowing it to usher us into something that is new and beautiful.  And when we do this, it is almost always destined for failure, frustration, or, even worse, stagnation.  We cannot cling to our old ways and think that growth can still be a possibility.

“Clinging creates a shrinking within the soul,” writes Sue Monk Kidd, “a shrinking of possibility and growth.  The need to cling to ‘how it was’ can be overpowering.”  God wants so much more for us than that.  In fact, he is always calling us beyond where we are, not back to where we were.  Clinging to the old always seems to result in an inability to welcome the new and beautiful.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

quiddity

do you think the trees ever ask

how long, O Lord,
do we have to stand bare

how long must we wait
before new life begins to
well up within us once more

or do they just lift their arms
patiently to you and wait
trusting that life will appear again
just like it always does

Sunday, April 10, 2022

believe and know

“Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)

Years ago, a young couple who are dear friends of ours were going through a significant life struggle.  The pain and desperation were both devastating and overwhelming.  When I asked the husband how he was dealing with the struggle and the heartache, he replied, “At first I was tempted to get mad at God, but then he said to me, ‘We’re past that now, aren’t we?’  And he was right.”  He had come to understand God, and God’s goodness in a deep and profound way.  He didn’t just believe that God was good, he knew that goodness.

I think that’s what Simon Peter was saying right here.  After all, many of Jesus’ disciples had “turned back and no longer followed him,” but Simon Peter had stayed.  What was the difference?  I think the difference was that Simon Peter, just like my young friend, not only believed in the goodness of God, but he knew it—he had experienced it firsthand in a deep and profound way. 

To believe (pisteuō) means to be fully persuaded of, and to know (ginōskō) means to become intimately acquainted with.  One without the other will not suffice.  It is not enough just to know intellectually.  In order to truly believe, we must also know relationally.  We will never be convinced of the goodness of God’s heart until we have experienced that goodness firsthand.  It is this relational knowing that anchors our intellectual believing in a deep trust in, and experience of, his goodness.  That’s why Simon Peter just couldn’t walk away; he knew better.  His response was not, “I have no other choice,” but, “I know, I know, I know, that you are good, whatever this life may bring.”  May we be the same.

Friday, April 8, 2022

yield

“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.” (Mt. 27:50, ESV)

If you look up the word yield in the dictionary, it will say “to give up or over; to relinquish or resign; to surrender.”  And if you look at the Greek word used here by Matthew (aphiēmi) it means “to let go, let alone, let be; to give up.”

True confession time: I am not a great yielder.  I am not good at letting go of my rights, privileges, preferences, plans, or agendas, for the sake of another.  In fact, whenever I see a yield sign on the road, my knee-jerk response is, “If I get there first, then they will have to yield.”

Yet here in Matthew we see our Savior yielding up the most precious thing of all, his very life.  He lets go of his rights and privileges and preferences for our sakes.  And then he has the audacity to tell us that if we really want to follow him, we must do the same.

Oswald Chambers said it well when he said: “He never asks us to decide for Him, but to yield to him—a very different thing.”  Life with Jesus is not about conquering, but about yielding; something he tried to get the disciples to understand time after time.  And now it’s our turn.

Lord Jesus, teach us what it means to yield up our lives to you the way you did for us.

Monday, April 4, 2022

poor in spirit

“Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 5:3)  

What does it really mean to be poor in spirit?  The word poor in the Greek is ptōchos, which means “to crouch; to lower oneself; to take the posture of a beggar; to be lacking anything.”  It is both a realization and a choice.  Thus, those who are poor in spirit have chosen, like Jesus did, to make themselves nothing.  And since they are not concerned with building their own kingdom, they can be fully given to the kingdom of God.

Forgive me, Lord Jesus, when I try to raise myself high rather than crouch low.  For only when I learn to crouch low will I be truly blessed.

Friday, April 1, 2022

a fertile emptiness

philippians 2:7

if you really want to be like me
the way you say you do
then let go of every way
you try to make yourself something
and make yourself nothing instead
just like i did

                              ~jesus

Monday, March 28, 2022

qāvâ

“Wait (qāvâ) for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)

 We cannot force or manipulate or contrive our way into transformation, it is only something that can be done to us.  In other words, we cannot work for it, we must wait for it—which drives us crazy.

In the words of a wise saint: “Waiting is the missing link in the transformation process.”  No wonder so few of us experience real and lasting change; we hate to wait.  We are terrible at it.  We want to be in control of the process, but we aren’t.  All we can really do is make time and space for transformation to occur, the rest is up to the Spirit of God, who likes to do things in his own time and in his own way.

Maybe that’s why we need to be strong and take heart in the waiting, lest we get impatient and try to take matters into our own hands.  Because no matter how hard we try, we can’t make ourselves be born, only God can do that.