Featured Post

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 ...

Thursday, December 29, 2022

loving like jesus loves

A few days ago a friend asked me, “If you could ask Jesus one question, what would it be?”  And as I thought about it, a question rose up from within me.  In fact, it surprised me a bit.  My only explanation is that it came from God; he knew the deepest question of my heart better than I did.  How kind of him to show it to me.

“How can I love like you love?” was my response.  Like I said, I can take no credit for it.  It was just something that arose from a deep and beautiful place in me.  And it was so right!  In fact, the older I get the more it seems like the only question that really matters.  And when it came out of my mouth, I could feel a yes deep in my soul. 

The problem is that it’s so far from my daily reality.  My failures to love seem much more abundant than whatever small successes I might have.  Even the idea of loving like Jesus loves seems almost impossible to me, apart from a work of Divine Grace.  Yet, it is definitely one of the deepest longings of my heart and soul.  But how in the world does that happen?  How can I possibly begin to love like Jesus loves?  I guess the answer is as simple as it is complex: I must let Jesus do the loving in and through me. 

Which brings me to my verses for the day—Luke 7:11-17.  It is the story of a widow who just lost her only son.  Can you imagine the pain?  What a double dose of pain and heartache and tragedy!  First you lose your husband, and then you lose your only child.  Losing one of the two would have been bad enough, but this just seems like piling on.

And here is the verse that stopped me in my tracks: “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her.” (Luke 7:13) Not only had Jesus revealed to me the deepest question of my heart, but he was also revealing to me how to go about the journey of loving like he loves. 

You see, ninety-nine percent of the time my initial thoughts are about myself, and how things affect me.  Sadly, even when I run into the tragedy and despair of others, my initial thoughts are usually something like, “What can I do?  What do I need to say?  What would be wise and helpful?”  And when I do that, I fail to really see the person in front of me at all, much less allow my heart to go out to them.  Loving like Jesus loves, first of all, involves a shift.  A shift from me worrying about what I am going to say or do, to really seeing them and letting my heart go out to them.  A simple shift, but a profound one.

It’s like Jesus is saying to me: “Jim, just allow me to love others through you, that’s how you love like me.  Train your eyes to really see those around you, and then, instead of worrying about how to respond, just let your heart go out to them.  Make it about them, not about you.  If you can do those two things, you will be well on your way in the journey of love.”


Wednesday, December 28, 2022

the art of staying out of the way

The older I get, the more I am coming to believe that ministry is really only about two things: showing up and staying out of the way.  When I was younger, I failed to fully appreciate the value of either, but after 40+ years of ministry I think I’m finally beginning to see the beauty and the value of both.

The value of simply showing up can never be underestimated.  Showing up says, “I care.”  Showing up says, “I’m committed.”  Showing up says, “You are valuable.”  And most of all, showing up says, “You are loved.”

A few days ago, I traveled a couple of hours to attend the funeral of a good friend’s mom, who had just ended a twelve-year battle with cancer.  And as I approached my friend in the receiving line, he said, “Why should I be surprised?  You always show up, and you have for the last ten years.”

Showing up is not a one-time thing.  It takes constancy and consistency.  It takes time and effort.  It does not come fast or easily.  And in a world that is broken and chaotic and ever-changing, showing up is a light in the midst of the darkness.

But showing up doesn’t stand alone, it must be combined with staying out of the way.  When I was younger, I felt like I always had to be something or do something or say something, but the older I get the more I realize that much of that being or doing or saying actually got in the way of what God was trying to do.  Luckily, he is big enough to use even my needy bumbling and fumbling to accomplish his purposes, most often in spite of me.  But the realization I have made over the last several years is that the need I have to be or to do or to say is often more about me than it is about God.  In fact, if I would just show up and stay out of his way, he would do things that I never imagined. 

A classic example of this involves the 20 years I spent on a high school football sideline.  On the sideline, staying out of the way is an art form.  In fact, there are several things that can happen if you don’t stay out of the way, and they are all bad.  More times than I can count, I have been responsible for talking to players when they were supposed to be on the field or distracting them while they were supposed to be paying attention at practice.  One time I even got one of the game officials (who was a good friend of mine) in trouble because he was talking to me rather than paying attention.  I have also been directly responsible for a sideline warning or two because I wasn’t paying attention to where I was standing.  Luckily, I’ve never been directly responsible for a penalty.  But when you are in the way, and not paying attention to what's going on, there is the distinct possibility that you might get run over by players making sideline tackles or try to get out of bounds, so you have to pay attention and stay on your toes.  Thus, staying out of the way is an active process.

One of my favorite stories about this involved a good friend who was a Young Life leader at our high school.  One day at practice, our running backs coach came to me and said the head coach wanted to see me.  This rarely happened in the middle of practice, so I knew something was up.  As I walked out on the practice field, he pointed over to the sideline and asked, “Is that guy in the blue jacket a Young Life leader?”  “Yes sir,“ I responded.  Then, with a growing grin on his face, he said, “Would you please tell him how we come to practice?  I keep trying to get kids to come over to my huddle, but they are too busy being a part of his huddle to pay any attention.”  So I had the privilege of talking to my Young Life leader friend about the art of staying out of the way.  It is so easy in life and ministry to start making things about ourselves rather than about our God.

Years ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to sit with a couple who had just lost a child.  Since that was also something we’d experienced, we gladly stepped into that painful, awful, sacred space with them.  We told them our story and our experience and hoped it would offer them some peace and hope and comfort.  But as we walked away from the time, I had this overwhelming sense that I had made the time more about us than about them.  In my desire to be helpful and comforting, and wise, I had missed the opportunity to just be with them in their grief and listen to what was going on in their hearts.  To this day I long for a do-over (click here), for the ability just to sit with them and be with them, rather than feeling any need to be or do or say anything significant.  For the chance to not be so focused on my own needs and fears and insecurities that I get in the way of what God is trying to do.

Not getting in the way of what God is trying to do is a significant part of ministry.  The best leaders do not take up all the room but make space for God (and for others) to speak, move, and act.  Hopefully next time I will remember that.

Friday, December 23, 2022

what occupies my inner space

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

What do I allow to occupy my inner space?  Whatever it is, will determine how I live.  

Do I let my fears and insecurities and inadequacies and needs consume me, or do I dwell on what is good and excellent and true and beautiful?  All too often, I’m afraid, it is the former rather than the latter.  I tend to focus on my shortcomings and gaffes and mistakes and failures, instead of focusing on the victories and progress and growth going on within and around me.  

Mary chose to focus on what God was up to within and around her, and it made all the difference.  She treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  O Lord, help me to do the same.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

the new thing

isaiah 43:19

the new thing
hardly ever
reveals itself
at the beginning

it is much more
subtle than that

it is conceived in us
long before it is
born into the world

we must carry it
around a while
deeply within us
to give it time
and space to
form and grow
into what it is
to become

so pay careful
attention lest you
miss the beauty
being done in you

Saturday, December 17, 2022

now that's a prayer

 I think I need to pray this prayer every day.

A Liturgy Begging the Grace To Accomplish What Is Beyond Me

O Spirit of the Living God, who raises
your people from death to life,

the comforting of your children
in their hard journeys through the valley
of the shadow is, from beginning to end,
your work, not mine.

I am neither wise enough, nor compassionate
enough, nor tempered enough by present griefs,
to form prayers adequate to serve these your
people in the face of an enemy so formidable
as death.

I am wholly unfit to enter the holy sufferings of
others, to give guidance or true comfort,
to speak words of consolation that would name
the wounds of dying and grieving hearts,
or wrap them in compassionate
embrace, or remind them
that there remains a firm, eternal hope
which will outgrow and outlast death itself.

If this is not your work, then I would not have it
be mine.  For I would not bid the grieving hang
their sorrows or their hopes on any words that
cannot bear their weight.

So then, take this meager measure of anything
I might give, O God, and bless it
for the benefit of your people.
Breathe spirit and life into these flawed forms.
Let my insufficiencies be met
by the power of your grace.

I know I will encounter discouragement 
     in this labor
I know I will often experience the creative
     process as an impossible struggle against
     self and darkness.

Even  so, be at work in and through me, O Lord.

I will sometimes falter, lose heart, abandon
course, and be tempted to turn to diversions
and old comforts that cannot sustain.

Even so, be at work in and through me, O Lord.

On my best days I might be too confident in my
own abilities to recognize the depth of my need,
but more often I will be too empty, too spent,
too crippled by my brokenness to believe I have 
anything to give.

Even so, O Lord, be at work in and through me.

In the end, this is my sole means of stewardship:
     to repeatedly ply the imperfect talents with
     which you have entrusted me, daily offering
     to you my poverty, begging you to fill the
     hollow forms of my offerings.

O Holy Spirit, meet, fill, and quicken now,
these insufficient gifts.  Inspire prayers that
would shepherd and comfort your people—
even in their dyings, even in their griefs—
voicing their mortal laments and their eternal
hopes, gently turning their gaze to the promise
of coming resurrection, to the hope of
a world remade, and to the splendor of the
King who soon returns to redeem all sorrows.


(Every Moment Holy, Volume II by Douglas McKelvey)

Friday, December 16, 2022

i am not the light, he is

He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the Light.  The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” (John 1:8-9)

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I think I have to be—or I desperately want to be—more than I really am.  And when I do this, I become the absolute worst version of myself.  I try to be the light, when I can only be a witness to the light.  Jesus is the true light that gives light to every man, and when I try to be that myself, I get in the way of what he is doing.  I take up all the room.  I make it about me.  Trying to be something I am not is always a sure-fire way to hinder, rather than help, what God is trying to do.  So every now and then I need to be reminded of my place…and his.  Grateful to John for doing that for me today.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

the overshadowed life

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” (Luke 1:35)  What a wild and intimate and exciting and terrifying journey Mary is being invited on.  It is a journey that thrills her even as it troubles her.  “What does this mean?  How will this be?”  And the beautiful answer she is given is that she will be overshadowed.  Her life will no longer be about herself, but about her God.  She will be the one through whom he will enter his creation.

Being overshadowed means two distinct things.  First, it means that her life is secondary.  From here on out, her life will be hidden.  She will always live in the shadows of the bigger story that is being told, and she needs to not only be okay with that, but she needs to embrace it. 

And secondly, it means that the Holy Spirit will envelop her, the same way the cloud enveloped the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. (Luke 9:34) She will disappear into him, and he will envelop her—what a beautiful picture of the life God invites each of us into. 

All of us, like Mary, are invited to be hidden in him and enveloped by him.  The only question is: What will we say?  Will we, like Mary, say yes to this incredible, yet demanding, invitation into the very heart and life of God?  Will we say, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said.”?  Will we have the courage and the strength and the grace to live the overshadowed life?  

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

alive to God

“What is required is a constant aliveness to God—an aliveness present when you talk, read, watch, or examine something.” ~St. Theophan the Recluse

Advent is here, and once again we have a beautiful invitation from God to enter into the watching and waiting of the season as we prepare for his coming.  But just how do we “prepare the way” (Isaiah 40:3) for the coming of the King into our everyday lives during this season?  

One way is by paying attention, which is a lot harder than it sounds.  A vital attentiveness to God’s movement and God’s presence is required.  An aliveness to God, and to his Spirit, must be nurtured and nourished within us.  This aliveness is nurtured by prayer and nourished by love.  So let us be diligent in the days ahead to make relentless time and space to pray and to love. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

paths of righteousness

There’s a line in Psalm 23 that hunts me down every time I read it.  And while I would love for it to be about God making me lie down in green pastures and leading me beside still waters and restoring my soul, that’s not the verse that haunts me.  It’s the one right after that: “He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” 

Now, I’m not exactly sure what these paths of righteous look like, but they certainly don’t sound easy and comfortable.  They don’t sound like paths that allow me to coast; they actually sound like the exact opposite.  They sound difficult and challenging and exacting.  They sound like paths that are going to require a great deal from me.  They will most likely require all that I have and all that I am.  I suppose that’s why Jesus said that “the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life.” (Matthew 7:14)

But even though they do not sound like easy paths, they do sound like right paths.  They sound like the kind of paths that will make me more and more into the man God desires me to be.

Friday, November 11, 2022

My New Advent Book is out!

If you're looking for a companion for the journey through Advent this year (for yourself, your team, your church, your staff, your small group, etc.), maybe Order My Steps is for you.  It is the first in a series of devotionals I am working on that will lead through the church liturgical year.  If you're interested just click HERE .

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

cease striving

Cease striving and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10, NASB)

“Stop.  Just stop.  Stop trying desperately to prove you are worth loving and just let yourself be loved.  Let me love you.  Let me cradle you in my embrace and let me whisper words of delight and affection in your ear.  You are so busy, so full of striving.  Just be still for a moment and know that I am God.”

Monday, November 7, 2022

one thing

luke 10:42

how can you say
that I am your one thing
when you spend all of
your time and energy
pursuing something else

Friday, November 4, 2022

that step

mt. 14:29

oh that step
that first step
away from comfort and familiarity
away from safety and security
letting go of what is seen and known
and stepping out into the great unknown
where all we have to hold onto
is a voice calling out to us
inviting us into the deep
to a new level of intimacy and trust

always calling us beyond where we are
and where we have been
into something new and beautiful and alive

but it always starts with that step
that wonderfully awful step
both into and away from
that step down and out of the boat

give us the courage
and the strength
and the grace
to take it
so that we might
leave the old behind
and be taken hold of
by you in a new way

Wednesday, November 2, 2022


“You hurled me into the deep” (Jonah 2:3) not to harm me, but to deepen me, and awaken me to your presence, your will, and your direction.  You hurled me into the deep in order to change me into the person you dreamt me to be, to restore the Divine Image in me.  If we are not changed by these moments of chaos and crisis, then what are they for?

Thus, this hurling was not malicious and hurtful, but intentional and redemptive.  It was a severe mercy, a tragic tenderness, and an exacting kindness.  So, thank you.  Even though it was incredibly difficult to go through, you accomplished something good and beautiful in me as a result. 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

sometimes it takes a storm

Sometimes it takes a storm.  Maybe that’s why Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him. (Mt.14:22) It was eerily similar to the last time (Mt. 8:23-27), except this time he was not asleep in the bow of the boat but was nowhere to be found.  Could they still trust him, even if they could not see him?  The fact is that Jesus knew exactly what he was doing; he was about to grow their faith exponentially.  Unfortunately, faith rarely grows without chaos.

Jesus knew full well the intensity of the storm he was sending them into, but he also knew full well how profoundly he was going to meet them in the midst of it.  He did not cause the storm; it was simply the result of living in a fallen and broken world.  In this life, storms are going to come.  It’s inevitable.  But it was not the storm he was interested in, but the coming to them in the midst of it part.  He wanted them to know his grace and his power and his love and his provision in ways they could only know by having gone through it.

The only question was, would they really trust him, even when all hell broke loose?  Will you?

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

from rock to stumbling block

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “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 a matter of seconds, Simon Peter went from rock to stumbling block—from helping people find the way, to being in the way.  Can you relate?  I certainly can.  There is a definite art to staying out of the way, an art that requires a good bit of wisdom, some silence and reflection, and a ton of humility.  And rule number one about staying out of the way is: it’s not about you.  When it becomes about me, I have moved, like Peter, from rock to stumbling block.

The problem is that sometimes it’s really hard for us to tell the difference between the two, because we are always a crazy combination of pure and impure motives.  There is a desire within us to see God’s kingdom advance, but there is also a desire to be the ones who are given the credit or recognition for advancing it.  And the ugly truth is that sometimes our own impure motives (to be needed, to be impressive, to be significant, etc.) are veiled underneath the guise of it all being about Him. 

There is a really fine line between helping people find the way and actually being in the way.  Which makes me wonder how often I actually become a stumbling block by asserting myself in a situation, or conversation, in such a way that I actually hinder what God is trying to do, rather than helping it.  When is it all about Him and when has it become far too much about me?

Here are a few signs I typically look for.  Yours may be a bit different, but these are pretty strong indicators for me: when I become too invested or start caring too much.  When I become too attached, too consumed, too possessive, or too tied to a certain outcome.  When I get too defensive, too opinionated, too certain, too sure, or too needy, those are always good indicators that it has become more about me than about God. Just like Peter, my agendas and opinions and insecurities can definitely get in the way of what God is up to.

What about you?  When can you tell you have moved from rock to stumbling block?

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

trying too hard

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

O Lord, give me the courage and the strength and the grace to:
Let go of the ways I try to feel significant or important
Stop doing things that are just a veiled attempt at climbing or jockeying
Stop trying to manipulate reactions, responses, or compliments out of people
Stop trying to make people think that I’m better than I am
Stop trying to win people’s attention or affection
Resist the desire to impress
Stop taking up all the space
Leave room for you

Friday, October 14, 2022

i am

The woman said, "I know that the Messiah is coming.  When he comes, he will explain everything to us."

Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:25-26)

One of the things you hear a lot from people is, “The first thing I’m going to do when I get to heaven is to ask God___________.”  I suppose we think that God somehow owes us some sort of explanation for the way things have happened in this life. 

But I think the conversation with the woman at the well, shows us that God is a lot more interested in offering us his presence than he is in offering us a bunch of explanations.  We ask for answers, and he gives us himself.  We say, “Well, what about___________?”  And he says, “I am.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

his eyes

“You are right when you say you have no husband.  The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you have right now is not your husband.  What you have said is quite true.” (John 4:17-18)

What do you think was the look in the eyes of the Savior as he uttered these words to this lost and thirsty woman?  Was it a look of disdain and judgment and disgust?  Or was it a look of compassion and longing and tenderness?  How you answer that question tells you so much about what you really believe to be true about God.  And that is significant. 

If we are consistent with the Jesus we see in the rest of the Gospels, I think it had to be a look of love.  Rarely did Jesus ever look at the lost and broken with a look of disdain, so I think it had to be a look of desire and of invitation and of delight.  Because I do not think he said these words to shame her, but to awaken her.  It was his way of saying to her, “You have not yet found your beloved, and he is the one standing right in front of you.”  Because more than anything else, the story of God is the story of a lover in constant pursuit of his beloved.  Do you believe that?  Do you believe it for this woman?  And do you believe it for yourself?  

What do you think the eyes of Jesus hold as they look at you?  How could it not be love?

Monday, October 10, 2022

just do it

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

In the midst of chaos—evil men advancing and enemies attacking and armies besieging and war breaking out—David asks for one thing, and it’s probably not the one thing you would expect.  Instead of asking God to intervene, or make it all go away, he asks that he might “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”  He does not ask for his circumstances to change; he asks for his perspective to change.  He asks for his practice to change.  For he knows that if he can learn to dwell in God’s house and gaze upon God’s beauty and seek God in his temple, then everything else will take care of itself.  What a beautiful prayer! 

The only problem is that it’s really easy to talk about doing those things, and to write about them, and maybe even to pray them, without actually doing them.  Take it from me, I’ve become an expert.  There are many days when I pray this very prayer and think about its beauty and write about its wisdom and its depths, without actually taking the time to stop and dwell and gaze and seek.  And if I fail to actually do these things, they cannot bear fruit in my life.

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.”  If we don’t actually do it, we never reap the benefits or taste the pleasures and treasures of intimacy with God.  Which is so sad for us, but even sadder for God.  God longs for us to know the depths and breadth and heights and passion and intimacy and pleasures of his unfailing love.

It’s almost like God is waiting for us to bask in his love and express our love for him in return, but all we do is talk about it or think about it or write about it.  We never really enter into it, so that he’s left saying, “Are you going to kiss me or what?  Are you going to dwell and gaze and seek, or are you just going to sit there?  Are you just going to think about it, or are you actually going to do it?  Don’t just talk about loving me, love me!  Just do it!

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
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

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


        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


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?