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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 ...

Saturday, October 27, 2018


The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. (Psalm 23:1-3)

Sometimes we can become so familiar with something that we stop recognizing and appreciating its beauty.  I think that’s definitely true of the twenty-third Psalm.  The words have become so familiar that we skim right over the surface of them, without allowing them to get inside of us and penetrate us to the core of our being.  We do this at our own expense, because the words of this ancient prayer are chocked full of beauty and life.

The Lord is my shepherd,” begins the familiar refrain, “I shall not want.”  And we need to stop right there and begin to consider the depths of what has just been said.  We need to give these words the time and the space and the attention they deserve.  And if we do, they will do a work in—and then through—us.  After all, what does that really mean anyway?  What does it really mean that the Lord is my shepherd?  And how is it even possible for me not to want?

The word for want in the Hebrew is chacer, which, at its core, means to be lacking.  So if the Lord truly is my shepherd, whatever that may mean, then I will not be lacking.  I will not lack provision, I will not lack affection, and I will not lack worth and value.  He is enough.  He is enough for me, and I am enough in him.  How incredibly freeing!  But do I really believe this?  Do I really believe God is enough?  And am I able to trust in, and rest in, his enough-ness?

For if I do not really believe God is enough, I will never be able to lie down in green pastures or be led beside quiet waters.  I will be too busy and frantic trying to provide for myself, and prove to myself and my world that I am worth loving.  I shall not want always precedes being able to lie down in green pastures and being willing to be led beside quiet waters. If I can come to terms with the enough-ness of my God, and, therefore, the enough-ness of myself (in him), then I can really be free from want.  Free to love and to serve those in my life and my world without needing them in some sadly dysfunctional way.

The kicker is that I must truly believe that God is enough for me.  And I must truly believe that God is enough in me.  And I must truly believe that God is enough through me.  That alone is the only thing that can restore my soul.

So, I have to ask:  Is God enough for you?  I mean, really?  What does the enough-ness of God do within you?  How does it free you?  How does it give you rest, and restore your soul?    

Thanks be to God, our Good Shepherd, that he is enough.  Even to the point where we can not want.

Monday, October 22, 2018


"Praise the Lord.  How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!" (Psalm 147:1)  

So I leave today to lead a silent retreat for a group of “twenty-somethings” living and working in Knoxville.  And as I do, I have long been aware of a strange dynamic that takes place within me whenever I leave to go and do whatever it is that God has called me to go and do.  There is a definite sense of excitement (most times) about the people and the place and the time that we will spend together.  But there is also a sense of sadness, even when I am really excited about where I am going and what I am doing.  I have always attributed this sadness to the constant sense of anxiety that I live with on a daily basis; my thorn in the flesh, if you will.  Or, should I say, one of my thorns—at least Paul only had one, right?

But today as I was praying Psalm 147, God met me in a really sweet way.  He gave me a bit of an epiphany.  One of my dear, and very wise, friends always says, when praying the Psalms, we should “Listen to the words of the ancient prayer and listen for the prayer of God that rises in our hearts.”  Well, today what rose in my heart was the word “fitting.”  For some reason that word just leapt off the page.  So I stopped, and I asked God what it was about that word that made it his word for me today.  And as I meditated on the word fitting, and began to dig down a little deeper (quarrying instead of strip mining it), I discovered that the Hebrew word translated as fitting (in Psalm 147:1) is probably most accurately translated to be at home.  As in, we are most at home, most ourselves, most who we were made to be, when we are praising God.  It just fitsThat’s when it hit me: I love to be home.  When I am at home I am most at peace and most at rest—most myself in a really beautiful way.  And I hate to leave home; that’s where the sadness comes in.  And thus, this sadness is not a bad thing.  In fact, it is a very, very good thing—the Genesis 1 kind of good.

That’s when God began to really answer the question of why this word (fitting) was my word for the day.  You love home.  You love being at home.  And that is a very, very good thing.  I actually made you to be at home; that’s what life with me was intended to be.  And the way you feel when you are at home is the way I made you to feel all the time—in me.  I am your true home.  And you do not have to be at your house to be at home in me.  That can take place wherever you go and whatever you do.  All you have to do is choose to be at home in me.  Choose praise.  Choose joy.  Choose gladness.  Choose life.  Choose to make your home in me, just as I have made my home in you.  Now that is good, and pleasant, and fitting!”

So please pray that no matter where I am, or what I do, I will learn how to always know and experience the joy of being at home—in Him. 

(By the way, I wrote this Saturday morning just before I went to lead a retreat...that was wonderful.  God is so good.  Praise him!)

Thursday, October 18, 2018


psalm 62:5

when the world is pressing in
and my heart a jumble of
anxiety and weariness

i look to You
i come to the quiet
where your fullness resides
where my best self is kept
and i can breathe again

my soul can stop
and i can lay my head
upon your great big heart
and find my rest in You

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


May you know the Lord as your shepherd today. The one who makes you lie down, leads you into quiet stillness, and restores your soul. The one who guides you in right paths for his name’s sake. The one who protects you and keeps you, who comforts and watches over you, and who is with you in the darkest valley. The one who prepares a table for you, anoints your head with oil, and makes your cup overflow. The one who pursues you relentlessly with his unfailing love and care all the days of your life.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, and I will be exalted on earth. (Psalm 46:10)

I will be exalted in the heavens.  And I will be exalted on earth.  I will be exalted in your life and I will be exalted in your family.  I will be exalted in your work and I will be exalted in your church.  I made you to participate in that process, not to compete.  I made you to exalt me, not yourself.  And the best way you can do that is to be yourself; to be the person I dreamt into being before the foundations of the world.  For, ironically, when you try to be more than yourself, you become far less.     

So be still, and know that I am God.  Stop trying so hard.  Stop trying to impress and compete.  Stop trying to perform and achieve.  Stop trying to look and sound like you know more than you do.  Stop living in fear that others will get the recognition from the world that you so deeply desire.  Stop trying to lift yourself up above others, and above me.  It is not the reason I made you.  And if you keep it up, it will wear you down and burn you out.  I want so much more for you than that.
You are my masterpiece, not the Master.  You are a work of art never to be repeated.  Be who you are, and let me be who I am.  In fact, being who you are is a living example, a walking testimony, of who I am.  The masterpiece does not exalt itself, but the one who created it.  A beautiful painting does not say to the world, “Look at me!  Look what I did!”  No, it is simply a beautiful expression of the One who painted it.  And a song cannot take credit for having been written, or sung.  No, it is content to be the glory of the One who brought, or sang, it into being.  Be content to be my song to this broken and hurting world.  For when people hear the music, they will be drawn to its Source.  And I will be exalted in the heavens. And I will be exalted on earth.

Monday, October 8, 2018

unshaken faith

The Lord is our refuge and strength, and 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 the waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46:1-3)

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

It is pretty easy to have faith when everything is going your way, or when God is answering your prayers in the way that you hoped he would.  But what about the times when the answer to your deepest, most desperate prayers is different from what you were asking and hoping for?  It is easy to have faith in God when you get a yes, but what about when you get a no?  And inevitably, in this life, that happens to each of us.  So it really is not a question of  if, but of when.  And when it does happen, what will your faith look like then?  Will it be shaken, or will it remain strong?

Thus far in my journey with Jesus, I can remember two different times when God's answer to my deepest, most desperate prayers was a resounding no.  No, he would not let things work out like I was begging and pleading for him to.  No, he would not give me what I was asking for.  But what he would give me was himself.  The greatest truth of our faith is that even when the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, even when the waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging, God has not abandoned us.  The Lord Almighty is with us in some mysterious, wonderful, intimate, and powerful way.  The God of Jacob is our fortress.  And it is this with-ness that changes and transforms us.  At least it has me.

The two times I got a no from God were the hardest, but most transforming times in my life.  Because God did not leave me to travel the hard and painful road alone, but he traveled it with me.  As a matter of fact, he traveled it before me.  How else could he possibly know how to be with me in such a sweet and intimate way, if he had not traveled the road of pain and suffering himself?  God, the Lord Almighty, was right there with me.  Right in the middle of the pain and the tears and the struggle and the mess, giving me his strength and his comfort and his healing and his presence and his tears and his love, when I could not possibly find them on my own.  What a gift!

So just remember, the next time the earth does give way and the mountains do fall into the heart of the sea, God is not far off, but is right in the midst of it.  The next time you do get a no from God, do not let it shake your faith, for even if he is not giving you what you are asking for, he is giving you himself.  He is with you, loving you and caring for you and holding you and comforting you and strengthening you, and yes, transforming you more and more into the beautiful creation he dreamt you to be.  So stand firm, he's got this.  Better yet, he's got you.

Friday, October 5, 2018


So my yard is a disaster right now.  My neighbor, Charlie, and I own a pond that lies between our two houses.  When we bought the house 17 years ago the pond had just been built, and looked wonderful.  But through the years the water level and quality diminished, and it just turned into a mucky, marshy mess that is impossible to maintain.  Anytime you try to mow or weed-eat you sink up to your knees in mud.  So after fighting a courageous battle--spanning roughly 15 years and a couple of different next door neighbors--I finally gave up.

That was until Charlie moved in next door.  I could just see it in his eyes every time he looked at it.  Only a shell of its former self, the pond had, for the most part, turned into nothing but a bog.  But when he looked at it, he saw something different altogether.  Because he saw it, not for its problems, but for its possibilities, which I had lost sight of long ago.  All I carried around was a distant memory of what it once looked like, and an unwillingness to go to the expense, or the trouble, of trying to make it beautiful again.

So a week or so ago Charlie came over as I was mowing my front yard and told me about his vision for the "pond."  He was so excited as he tried to give me a little glimpse of the beautiful picture that lived inside his head and heart.  And, to be honest, I was reluctant.  Captured by his energy and enthusiasm, but reluctant nonetheless.  I think I had just settled.  Sadly content to allow that part of our property to always be less than what it could be; mostly because I didn't want to go through the fuss and the muss that it would take to make it something better.

Well, long story short, two days ago the project began.  And as it has unfolded, I have been totally overwhelmed by the mess it has made.  I do not know what I thought it would look like to undertake a project of this magnitude, but I certainly didn't expect this.  I mean, my yard, which I have always prided myself in maintaining, is a disaster area--not to mention the three beautiful azalea bushes that were some of the early victims of the carnage.

All I can see is the mud.  Everywhere!  But when Charlie comes down, and takes it all in, it is always with a smile on his face, because he doesn't just see the mud, he sees the potential.  He sees the possibilities.  He doesn't just see what it is right now, he lives with a vision in his mind about what it will someday become.  And I really love (and long for) that.

There are several areas of life for me right now that are very similar--firmly in process.  They are muddy and messy and unfinished  And it is really easy in those areas to only see the mud and not to see the beauty of what someday will be.  I think I need to learn a lesson from my neighbor, Charlie, and not get so overwhelmed by the way things look right now, but to be guided by a bigger, more beautiful vision.  A vision that is able to see past the mud and the mess and the madness, to the magnificence of the dream that God is dreaming for me.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

listen to him

While he was speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.  Listen to him!" (Matthew 17:5)

Listen to him!  What great words.  What a great answer to anyone who might come our direction for wisdom or advice: Listen to him!  Don't listen to me.

But all too often, my pride--or my insecurity, it's hard to tell which--enters in and I feel like I actually have got something of value to say.  The only problem is that whoever is sitting, or standing, before me at the moment doesn't need what I've got to say.  What they really need is what He has to say.  So the best answer I could possibly give is: Listen to him!

Several years ago I was at a major decision point in my life.  And as I sought God for clarity, I was really torn as to what I should do.  The stakes felt really high.  Saying yes to the opportunity in front of me would mean a major disruption for my family--moving, changing schools, etc.  I went back and forth; one day I would feel one way and the next day, the other.  I was in agony.  Luckily a dear friend and wise mentor was coming to town for a visit, and I thought surely he could help me figure it all out.  Yet when I asked him what I should do, he very wisely said, "I have the utmost confidence in your ability to hear God in the matter."  Or, in other words, "Listen to him!"  The exact words I needed to hear.

Henri Nouwen once said: "The loud, boisterous noises of the world make us deaf to the soft, gentle, and loving voice of God.  A Christian leader is called to help people to hear that voice and to be comforted and consoled."

As leaders we are NOT called to tell people what to do.  Rather, we are called to tell people to get away from the noise and chaos, to retreat into silence and solitude, and then to simply Listen to him!