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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 ...

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.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

'mon

 


“Bop, ‘mon.” 

They are words uttered fairly often around my house these days, and words I dearly love.  They come from my almost two-year-old grandson, Cannon, as he reaches out to take my hand in his and lead me to some unknown destination.  It doesn’t matter where we are going, and it doesn’t matter what we are going to do once we get there.  It doesn’t even matter that my granddad name is supposed to be “Pop.”  I like “Bop” all the better, because it is coming out of his precious mouth.

The destination usually involves blocks, or trains, or the piano, or all of the above, but the destination is not important, it is the invitation that captures my heart.  It is simply the invitation to ‘Mon (come on) and be with me.  So I ‘mon, and I take his hand, and I let him lead me.  And whenever we get where we are going, I enjoy his presence and breathe in his fragrance and listen to his words and watch his fingers and run my hands through his hair and I kiss his cheeks.  It is the best!  May I never be too busy or too self-consumed or too distracted or too preoccupied to accept.

It is the same invitation I’m sensing from God these days: “Jim, ‘mon.  Come and be with me.  Take my hand and let me lead you to an unknown, but incredibly beautiful destination.  I want to be with you and I want you to be with me.  I want you to savor and enjoy and delight in this life we have together.  I want you to breathe in my fragrance and watch my hands and listen to my words of delight and affection.  You do not know the destination, but the destination isn’t really important.  It’s the being with me that matters.  So ‘Mon.” 


Saturday, March 12, 2022

die and become

dragon skins and fig leaves
myers-briggs profiles
and enneagram numbers
they are all just the same thing

cherished illusions
survival strategies
manufactured selves
protective coverings

subtle creations
of our own deepest
wounds and fears 
and needs

camouflage
costumes
disguises

that is until the shell 
is cracked open
and we let go 
of the pretense
leaving the husk behind

it takes great courage to let go
because it feels like our death
which in some ways it really is
but to continue to live falsely
is a worse fate even still

for only when we let go
and die to all that is false
will we be truly free
to become all that God
dreamt us to be

Friday, March 11, 2022

wait

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.” (Psalm 130:5)

Until we learn how to “wait for the Lord,” there can never really be any real hope of genuine transformation, because we will constantly be trying to do it ourselves. We cannot manufacture or manipulate the process of holiness.  We must learn how to stop trying to make things happen and learn how to let things happen.  Until we stop trying to force or manipulate or control the process, we are destined for a life of frustration, futility, and failure.  Only God can transform, and only when we learn what it means to “wait for the Lord” can transformation become a real possibility for us.

Forgive me, O Lord, when I fail to wait for you; when I try to make things happen rather than letting them happen; when I try to force and control and manipulate things—or speed them up—rather than allowing them to unfold at your speed.  Help me to learn what it means to truly wait for you.  Amen.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

our father

“Our Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9)

The guiding image for prayer, Jesus tells us, is that of God as “Our Father.”  It is an image of strong, tender, and unfailing love.  Thus, our Father-God has a special affection for the sound of our voice; it brings him deep joy and gladness.  He longs for us to be near to him so he can breathe in our scent, delight over our features, run his hands through our hair, and press his lips to our cheeks.  It seems like that alone would be enough reason for us to want to pray.

O God, more than anything else you want us to know you as our Father.  Not a distant, disinterested, stern, or angry father, but the Father we always dreamt about in our wildest imaginations.  A Father that loving and strong, tender and true, present and attentive.  That is the kind of Father you are, and we are so grateful to be your children.

 

Friday, March 4, 2022

from i to I

“I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Any self that we create, contrive, or manufacture can only be a false one, because our truest self—the one made in the image of God—cannot be achieved, but only bestowed.  The problem is with all of the false selves that have so covered over the true self that we no longer have any idea what is real and what is make-believe.  We have lived with the mask for so long that it has become who we are.  Thus, what feels most true about us is likely only a survival strategy that has served us well to gain the applause, security, recognition, or safety we so desperately desire.

There is a Self, however, that was dreamt into being before the foundations of the world.  One that is who we truly are but has been so scattered and shattered and smothered and covered by sin and fear and doubt and insecurity that it is no longer recognizable, or even accessible.  A Self that is dead because of sin, until it is raised to new life again by the One who breathed it into being.  And then painstakingly restored to its creation intent through the long, slow work of the Holy Spirit within us, who peels away all of the false layers and cherished illusions that have accumulated through the years.  This is the work of sanctification—becoming who and what we were intended to be.  This is the work of spiritual formation—God restoring us to the good and beautiful works of art (masterpieces) he created long ago. 

     For it is only in Christ that we become all he intended us to be.  It is only when we are willing to die to all that is false, that room is made for the new and the true to be born.  All of the i’s of my own doing must be confronted and released, so that God can reveal to me the I that I really am.  My I becomes Christ; “It is no longer i who live, but Christ who lives in me.”


“As far as the Law is concerned I may consider that I died on the cross with Christ.  And my present life is not that of the old ‘I’, but the living Christ within me.” (JBP)

“My old self has been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (NLT)

“I have been crucified with Christ.  My ego is no longer central.  It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God.  Christ lives in me.” (MSG)

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

immediately

“Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she had been freed from her suffering.” (Mark 5:29)

We want things immediately, don’t we?  We want them as quickly and as easily—and as painlessly—as possible.  Unfortunately, the very best things in life, particularly in the spiritual life, rarely work that way; they take time.  They are often a part of a long, hard process that is necessary for our becoming.  Thus, while immediately might seem preferable, it is seldom best.

So when we run across the word “immediately” in a passage like Mark 5, it can create a bit of a false narrative if we are not careful.  A narrative in which we begin to believe that all healing must happen immediately, which fails to recognize that this particular healing had been twelve years in the making.  The bleeding woman, it seems, had to make a twelve-year journey “to the end of herself” before she was desperate enough to reach out for the healing touch of Jesus.  Something of great value was going on during those twelve years of exasperation and frustration.  God was up to something much deeper and much bigger and much more beautiful than she could imagine.  A short-cut would have circumvented that possibility altogether.

And so it is with each of us.  All too often we want our “healing” to happen immediately, as well.  We want to avoid the long and the hard.  The only problem is that when we desire what is easiest over what is best, we open ourselves up to the possibility that we might miss a much deeper work that God is trying to do.

Forgive us, Lord Jesus, when we demand that you act according to our timetable.  Forgive us when we accuse you of not caring, or of being absent, because you have failed to act immediately.  Help us, O Lord, to know that you are always about doing a deeper work.  You are more interested in our becoming than you are in our being comfortable.  Thank you for that.  Amen.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

chaos

“God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46:1-3)

O Lord, we thank you that the lostness and brokenness of this world is no surprise to you.  Regardless of what is going on around us, or within us, you are with us.  You are our refuge, our strength, our fortress, and our ever-present help.  Have mercy on us!

"The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (Psalm 46:7, 11)

Monday, February 21, 2022

timing

eccl. 3:1

they say that
timing is everything
and how right they are

there is indeed
a time for everything
and I season for
every activity
under heaven

but how can we know
what that time is
unless we are told
for our timing is usually
much different from yours

so guide us 
O Lord
into your timing
lest we try to
impose our own

Saturday, February 19, 2022

surely

“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6, NLT)

You can’t outrun God; he is a relentless pursuer.  Oh sure, you can try, but eventually, no matter how hard you run, he will catch up with you.  It might take pain and suffering, or exhaustion and depletion, or exasperation and frustration, or breakdown and burnout, but eventually his goodness and his unfailing love will overtake you.  The thing that’s so mystifying is why we are so resistant to that in the first place.  Why do we have so much trouble moving from pursuer to pursuee?  Why are we so resistant to a love that cannot be earned, bought, or achieved? 

We can run, but we cannot hide; surely his goodness and his unfailing love will pursue us all of our days.  Which means we can either stop running and do it the easy way or we can keep running and do it the hard way.  The choice is up to us. 

O Lord, forgive us when we start running so hard and fast for you, that we stop running with you.  Thank you that you never stop running after us.  Amen.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

lost and found

it is possible
to lose track
of who you are
due to the image
you’re trying to project

after a while
it becomes impossible
to tell one from the other

that’s how we
lose ourselves
in this life
without even
knowing it

the only path
to discovering
your truest self
is the downward one

Friday, February 11, 2022

sit and listen

“She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all of the preparations that had to be made.” (Luke 10:39-40)

Waiting and listening are two of the most important “activities” of spiritual life.  Unfortunately, we are not very good at either.  We are far too easily distracted by all of the preparations that have to be made.  The problem is that unless we sit and wait and listen to Jesus, how will we ever know what it is that he wants us to do?  Are we somehow operating under the illusion that apart from him we have anything of value to give?

Saturday, February 5, 2022

kenosis

small
smaller
smallest

low
lower
lowest

less
lesser
least

this
is the
Jesus way

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

journey to the cross



Ash Wednesday is only a month away.  If you're looking for a good companion for your church/staff/leaders/small group/family/friends to journey together through Lent and Easter, Journey to the Cross is available on Amazon!

Monday, January 31, 2022

and puts them into practice

“I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice.  He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on a rock.  When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.  But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation.” (Luke 6:47-49)

Thomas Kelly once said that “Practice comes first in religion, not theory or dogma.”  Jesus would certainly seem to agree.  It is not just the hearing of his word that counts, but also the doing of it.  We typically encounter God through the avenue of the spiritual practices.  The only problem with the spiritual practices is that in order for them to work, you actually have to do them.  You can think about them and talk about them all you want, but they will really never do you any good until you start doing them. 

As G. K. Chesterton once said, “The difference between talking about prayer and praying is the same as the difference between blowing a kiss and kissing.”  The spiritual practices are the way we make time and space to encounter God, and unless we actually do them, chances are that blowing a kiss is as far as we’ll ever get.  Is that okay with you?

Saturday, January 29, 2022

trajectory

“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, both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 131:1-3)

The great temptation of our culture is to move “up and to the right.”  The only problem with that is that Jesus calls us to do the direct opposite.  While we are more concerned with up, high, and great; he is more concerned with down, low, and least.  Life in the kingdom is about the trajectory of our lives matching the trajectory of his, yet few seem willing to really do that.

How do we wean our souls from this obsession to being bigger and greater and more?  Maybe the same way King David did it—by prayer.  Maybe when we let the words to this ancient prayer seeps down into the core of our being, it changes us.  It makes us want the things God wants and makes us pursue the things that he pursues.  For only then can we ever hope to be set free from acting out of ambition and need, and be able, instead, to begin acting out of humility and love.

O Lord, help me never to get too full of myself.  Help me to stop trying to climb higher and become bigger.  Those are not the things of your kingdom, but the things of this world.  And I want to be like you, not like them.  Have mercy on me, O Lord, and give me the courage to join you on the downward journey.  Amen.

Friday, January 28, 2022

from rock to stumbling block

“Get behind me Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23) 

In the matter of a few short verses, Simon Peter somehow managed to go from “rock” to “stumbling block.”  I mean, how in the world does something like that happen?  Well, in this case it happened through a subtle but severe shift in thinking.  It happened when Simon Peter stopped “having in mind the things of God” and started “having in mind the things of men.”  It happened when he stopped denying himself and became full of himself.  It happened when he stopped taking up his cross and, instead, started trying to force his own agenda.  It happened when he started trying to save his life, rather than being willing to lose his life.  That’s all it took.

Is that not frightening?  Could it really be that easy to lose our bearings?  Could it really be that easy to get sucked into the world’s way of being and seeing?  And the really scary part is that, oftentimes, the shift takes place without our even knowing it.  Therefore, we must pay careful attention, lest the very same thing happen to us. 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

but when he saw the wind

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink. He cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’” (Matthew 14:30)

You were doing great, what happened?  Why did you allow your surroundings to determine the state of your heart?  Why did you let your fear overpower your faith?  Did you not think I would take care of you? 

I know the wind is strong, but I am stronger.  I know the waves are big, but I am bigger.  Do not be afraid of them.  Do not let fear make you its puppet.  Chaos does not have the final word, peace does.  Fear does not have ultimate control, love does.

Just keep your eyes focused on me, my child, and all will be well.

Lord Jesus, when the storms come and the winds are blowing, when the waves threaten to sweep me away, help me to keep my eyes focused on you and not on the chaos that is going on within and around me.


Wednesday, January 19, 2022

so we actually can make this stuff up

“But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ and cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage; it is I.  Do not be afraid.’” (Matthew 14:26-27)

So the disciples had convinced themselves that Jesus was a ghost.  Interesting.  They had created a story that was not even there.  Circumstances clouded their vision, producing fear and keeping them from being able to recognize that it was actually Jesus who was standing out there on the sea.  I wonder how often this is the case with us. 

I wonder how often we allow our response to circumstances to create a narrative that simply doesn’t exist.  I wonder how often we create stories for ourselves and for others that are only the creation of our own fearful minds and insecure hearts.  Because of sin, we are prone, like the disciples, to misinterpretation.  We create stories for ourselves and for others that are not even there.  In other words, because of sin we have become unreliable narrators, even of our own story.  Sin has kept us from being able to see clearly. 

Which makes me ask, what is the story I am telling myself right now?  And is it even true?  Where have I convinced myself that something is true, when it is really not?  Where have I allowed circumstances to keep me from recognizing Jesus? 

Lord Jesus, help me to realize that the storms and chaos of this life can keep me from seeing and recognizing you.  They can even cause me to make up stories about myself and others that are simply not true.  Help me, Lord Jesus, to live in your truth, because it is your truth that sets me free.  Amen.

Monday, January 17, 2022

i deserve better

luke 7:2-10

i deserve better
is the ultimate deception
poison to the soul
for it produces 
spirit of entitlement
rather than 
heart of gratitude

it erodes joy
and befriends bitterness
it chooses pride
over humility
it abides in darkness
rather than light
it feeds on lies
rather than the truth
leading to bondage
rather than freedom

it is the broad road
that leads to destruction
avoid it at all costs

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

lies

“How long will you assault a man?  Would you all throw him down—this leaning wall, this tottering fence?  They fully intend to topple him from his lofty place; they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse.  Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.” (Psalm 62:3-5)

The number one assault on our soul’s ability to find rest in God alone comes from the lies of the enemy.  Somehow, we have bought into the notions that: God’s love must be earned, and our worth must be achieved.  So much so, in fact, that it has made rest an impossibility.  If our salvation and our honor depend on us, instead of on God alone, then we will go through life desperately trying to prove to ourselves, to our world, and even to our God, that we are worth loving.  And that definitely doesn’t lead to rest.

In fact, the enemy has done such a masterful job of convincing us of this fallacy that we even experience a good amount of shame over the idea of rest.  Can you believe that?  Feeling shame about something God has actually commanded us to do.  How messed up is that?

Thus, it is extremely important in the spiritual life to pay careful attention to the lies we are buying in to.  How do we do this?  One way is by constantly meditating on the truth.  When we know the truth of God to the depths of our being, then we will be able to spot even the most subtle lies when they rear their ugly heads.  And once we recognize the lies, we will be able to fight them.  We will be able to respond to the lies with the truth, which is the only thing that can set us free.  If we are not free, it is because we are believing something that is not true.

O Lord, our souls will never be able to find rest in you alone as long as we continue to buy into the lies of the culture and the enemy.  Help us to identify these lies and to fight them with your truth, for your truth will always set us free.  Amen.