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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, July 5, 2024

disappear

disappear into Me
and you will finally find
the intimacy and the union
you so deeply long for

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

bask

we can beg for mercy
but we must bask in grace
it cannot be earned
it cannot be achieved
it can only be received

grace is lavished upon us
all that’s required is openness
willingness to bathe ourselves
in his goodness and his love

Sunday, June 30, 2024

fly

come to the edge of the nest
hear the invitation of God
receive his gentle push
leave the safety and security
of what you have known
and take the leap into
the vast unknown
soar into the heavens
on the winds of his breath
take flight and become
all you were created to be

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

christmas in july

Okay, so I know it’s not July yet, but close enough.  I also know that the whole idea of new birth is gaining a ton of life in me these days.  Mostly because I feel like it’s what God is inviting me to―a quality and depth of life that I have not yet known.  In fact, it’s what he’s inviting all of us to.  It’s the way that he’s doing it that’s surprising, although it should not be.  The way to this new life is through my weakness, frailty, and vulnerability.  It’s coming through embracing my humanity.  It’s coming, as Sue Monk Kidd so beautifully writes, through the dung and the straw:

     “In the passage of emergence, as birthing begins, the soul becomes a nativity.  The whole Bethlehem pageant starts up inside us.  An unprecedented new star shines in our darkness―a new illumination and awareness.  God sends Wisdom to visit us, bearing gifts.  The shepherding qualities inside us are summoned to help tend what’s being born.  The angels sing and a whole new music begins to float in the spheres.  Some new living, breathing dimension of the life of Christ emerges with a tiny cry that says, I am.
     One of the best parts of the whole drama is that it happens in the dung and straw of our life, just as it happened in the dung and straw of Bethlehem. Birthing Christ is an experience of humility. Emerging to newness after the rigors of the cocoon isn’t a spiritual ‘promotion.’ There’s no presentation of a twenty-four-carat halo and a fancy new Christian persona without scuffs. If we’re consumed with holy pride, convinced that we’re spiritually ‘right’ and on a higher plane than others, we haven’t birthed a wider experience of the inner Christ but a new creation of the ego.
     The Christ life doesn’t divorce us from our humanity: it causes us to embrace it. It makes us more human. It humbles us. Genuine transformation always connects us to our essential nature, both sacred and profane. When we go through its passages, we plumb the depths of our humanity. We become intimate with what lies inside—the wild and untamed, the orphaned and abused, the soiled and unredeemed. We hold our falseness in our hands and trace our fingers over the masks we wear, like a blind person feeling the unseen faces of those she wants to know. We stare into the sockets of our pain and glimpse the naked truth of who we are.
     All this we bring with us into the new life. It ushers us into a new humility. Oh, yes, no doubt about it. We birth Christ, on a pile of ordinary straw.” (from When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd)

Christ wants to be born anew in us, but that new birth is most likely to come in our places of greatest weakness and vulnerability. In the dung and in the straw of our own humanity.  In our flaws and in our frailty, that's where his transforming power shows up best.

Lord Jesus, in this world we are most likely to find you in the dung and the straw.  Help us not to be afraid to look for you there.

Monday, June 3, 2024

come home

come home to yourself
not the home you have built
but the one built for you
strip away the layers
of accumulated wallpaper
and get down to the original
to what is true and real

it’s going to take a while
to undo the ego patterns
and unravel the illusions
and deconstruct the story
you have created for yourself
it will not be easy to strip away 
the manufactured self
the one that doesn’t really exist
but in the end it will all be worth it

the home you’ve been living in
is not really your home
but merely a construction of
your deepest wounds
and your greatest fears

so come home to yourself
if you have the nerve
God will be your guide
he is the only one who
can show you the way
but it will not be easy
stripping and undoing
and unravelling 
and emptying 
never is

let him take you there

Sunday, June 2, 2024

in God

God in us
the hope of glory
us in God
the intimacy of 
divine union

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

becoming bartimaeus

there is a beggar
inside each of us
dying to get out
longing to be set free
from the illusion of
strength and adequacy

a lowly pauper
waiting to be seen
and acknowledged
yearning to live out of
authentic dependence
neediness and weakness
instead of trying to
fool the world via
autonomy and control

but in order to make the leap
from falsehood to truth
we must be willing to
put on our beggar's clothes
and allow the deepest cry
of our hearts to be
Lord, have mercy on me

only then do we have
any real hope of finding
genuine transformation

Monday, May 13, 2024

wait for the Lord

What does it mean to wait for the Lord?  What does it really look like?  And why do we have such a hard time doing it?

As a culture, we’re really not into waiting—for anything.  And when we do it’s usually only because we have no other choice.  And if we’re honest, even when we do try to wait for the Lord, we’re really not waiting for him but for a favorable outcome or a change in circumstance.  Most of the time, our version of waiting for the Lord is just trying to use him to get what we want.  He is not the end, but merely a means to our preferred end.  And anytime we approach God not as the end, but as a means to an end, we’re not really approaching him at all.  We’re only trying to get our way or further our agenda.  And that’s not what waiting for the Lord is at all. 

Waiting for the Lord is just that—waiting for the Lord. Waiting for the Lord is laying aside our plans and schemes and agendas.  It is letting go of autonomy and control.  It is surrendering our wants and needs.  Waiting for the Lord is a refusal to try and manage, maneuver, or manipulate outcomes.  It is standing before God totally empty and fully open, willing to do whatever he asks and to go wherever he leads.  Waiting for the Lord is the determination not to charge ahead until we receive a word from him.

Waiting for the Lord is not just something we do until the Lord shows up.  Waiting for the Lord is God showing up.  It is through waiting for him that we are changed.  We are not waiting for transformation; it is in the waiting that God is transforming us.  We cannot do it ourselves.

Thus, waiting for the Lord involves a total dependence upon God.  It involves the realization that we cannot do things on our own.  For whenever we try to do it on our own, we cease to wait for the Lord.  That’s why the psalm says: “For God alone my soul waits in silence.”

Sunday, May 12, 2024

human

i've decided to give myself
the freedom to be human
which is of course what i am
although i have spent a lot
of time and energy trying to
convince people otherwise
because any fall from grace
definitely leaves a mark
especially if it's from a height

but being human is so much
better than the alternative
albeit incredibly messy at times
it can cause a good bit of
disappointment and hurt 
but isn't that better than being
someone who does not even exist

real love comes only when you
allow others to see all of you
not just the pretty parts
all your flaws and frailties
all your failures and foibles
all your weaknesses
and vulnerabilities

for it is not until others
discover your humanness
and embrace it themselves
that there can be real relationship
that they can love the real you

for until there is true being
their love was not about you 
but was about them 
and who they needed 
or wanted you to be
and that is not really love

so i've decided to give myself
the freedom to be human
because being anything
other than that is a burden
too great for anyone to bear

Thursday, May 9, 2024

clinging

help me not to cling
to how it was
because how it was
can keep me from
all that is to be

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

changes

the lines on  
my hands 

and my face  

tell the story 

time marches on 

it waits for no one 

 

seasons come  

and season go 

letting go becomes 

standard fare 

best get good at it 

 

children turn into adults 

knees get weaker 

eyesight begins to fail 

but God’s unfailing love 

and continual faithfulness 

endure forever 

Friday, April 19, 2024

wait for him

“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)

Eventually God leads each of us to the place where all we can do is wait for him.  It is as maddening as it is challenging, but the truth is that we can either embrace it and enter into it or we can drive ourselves crazy trying to avoid or escape it.  Which will we choose?

“O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love, and with him is full redemption.” (Psalm 130:7)

Monday, April 15, 2024

an old clay jar

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)

I am a mess!  I always have been and will be until the day I die.  But I’m okay with that because this old clay jar contains a treasure.  And I can’t embrace the treasure if I can’t embrace its container.  The jar is somehow an essential part of the equation.  

If I never carry around in my body the death of Jesus, how can the life of Jesus ever be fully revealed in my body?  I can never fully appreciate the risen-ness of Jesus if I try to escape, or discard, my brokenness and need for Jesus.  I must somehow learn to embrace this old clay jar before I can fully appreciate, and reveal, the love and power of the Risen Jesus to a world that’s in as desperate need of him as I am.

Lord Jesus, help me never to hide my messiness or brokenness, because it only gives you the chance to reveal your love and your resurrection power.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

burn

Luke 12:49-50

What is the fire
you have given me to light? 
Do I burn with holy longing
for you alone? 
Do I spread the flames
of your consuming love
to all who cross my path? 
Do I long to see people’s lives
consumed by those flames
until it is only you they live for? 
And am I willing to undergo
whatever baptism necessary
to get me to that holy place?

Thursday, April 11, 2024

the great regret

after the great regret
there has been a lot of life
God somehow used death
once again
to bring about new life
it’s kind of what he does

Monday, April 1, 2024

alive

Since, then, you have raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your hearts on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:1-2)

Notice that Paul says, “Since you have been raised with Christ,” and not, “Since you will be raised with Christ.”  That means resurrection life is a current reality, not just a future hope.  Because of the resurrection of Jesus, he now invites us to experience resurrection life with him.  We do this by setting our hearts and minds on things above, rather than on earthly things.  We do this by focusing on what is alive within and around us, rather than what is dead and dying.  We do this by recognizing the Risen Jesus whenever and wherever he appears to us, rather than allowing mood, whim, and circumstance to keep us from being able to see him and embrace him in his risen form.  He is the only one who is able to usher us into the life of risen-ness he invites us to.  The only question is, will we take him up on it?

Saturday, March 30, 2024

holy saturday 2024

The silence must’ve been deafening as they sat idly by.  Their world had stopped spinning; nothing could be done.  A forced solitude had taken hold of them, meant to accomplish eternal purposes.  Space needed to be made; space to reflect, space to grieve, and space to hope.  That’s what this day is all about.

There is a certain powerlessness to Holy Saturday that is really good for us.  We can’t produce, manufacture, or control resurrection; we can’t hasten it or hurry it along.  All we can do is wait.

So, today, ask God to help you to stop.  Ask him to help you stop doing and to start being.  Ask him to help you to stop talking and to start listening.  Ask him to help you to stop initiating and to start waiting. 

O Lord, there is still some emptying that needs to be done.  Give us the patience, the courage, the strength, and the trust to make room for that to happen.  Help us to learn how to wait for you during this holy day of waiting and resting.  Sunday will come soon enough, but there is still something you want to do in us first.  Prepare our hearts, Lord Jesus, for your resurrection.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

a ride (palm sunday)

a long season of lent
is finally coming to an end
but the beginning of the end
involves a ride

a ride into the depths
of death and dying
a painful but necessary journey
a dying that must take place
to make room for living
for in the kingdom of God
death always leads to new life

so now Jesus turns
to each of us and asks
will you ride with me
it will not be an easy ride
in fact it will demand all
it will require absolute trust
and total surrender
but this death will be
the doorway to new life

so what do you say
will you ride with me

Friday, March 22, 2024

i am weak

if God’s power
is best displayed
in weakness
then why do we
go to such lengths
to hide ours
from each other

doesn’t that keep
us from being able 
to see him work

Monday, March 18, 2024

humble us

O Lord, our God, forgive us when our pride, arrogance, and self-centeredness keep us from turning to you in humble obedience and dependence.  Forgive us when we get too full of ourselves and too big for our britches to realize that apart from you, we can do nothing.  Forgive us when we fall in love with our own opinions and observations and stop listening to your voice and seeking your face.  Forgive us when we begin to think that we can handle this life on our own, or make things happen for ourselves.

Humble us, O God, and remind us of who we are and of who you are, so that we might, once again, return to you with our whole hearts in prayer and self-surrender.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

pruning

More is not always better, especially when you are talking about the spiritual life.  When it comes to life with God, quality always seems to be more important than quantity.  Jesus knew that, which is where the whole idea of pruning comes in. (John 15:1-2) 

Pruning is about decreasing quantity in order to increase quality.  It is about making space for beauty.  Pruning is the difference between growing a hundred good roses, as opposed to growing twenty-five great ones.  Thus, the act of pruning is about God cutting away the old and lifeless parts of us in order to bring about more beautiful fruit.  Which means that when God prunes us, it is to make us a more beautiful expression and reflection of his goodness, love, and creativity.

The word for prune, in the Greek, is kathairĊ, which also means to cleanse or to purge.  It is a necessary part of growth, both for a plant and for a heart and soul.  A thing can only grow if there is room to do so.  Space must be made.  Pruning is about making that space.

The saints of old understood this.  They often referred to this stage of the spiritual growth process as purgation.  It is one part of a three-fold pattern: purgation, illumination, and union.  Thus, the soul must first be purged of the many things occupying it, in order to make room for something more beautiful to come about.  The old state of being might have been okay for a time, or for a season, but in order for a new season to begin, the old must be done away with.  Autumn leaves must fall to the ground before the leaves of spring can arrive.  And so it is with a soul.

The great part is that we are not solely responsible for this pruning, it is in the hands of the Gardener.  He knows just how and where to do it, and he has very gentle hands.  He also has a vision of the beauty he is making room for.  All we need to do is to trust him, to be open and receptive and responsive to his divine touch.

Thursday, March 7, 2024

a pure heart

In the life of the Spirit, we see through the eyes of the heart.  Therefore, if our hearts are not pure and clean, our seeing is twisted and distorted.  The mess within us skews our vision and keeps us from seeing things—our world, ourselves, and our God—as they really are.

That’s why the words of this ancient prayer are so important: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Ps. 51:10) It’s also why Jesus tells us: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Mt. 5:8) For only when our hearts are pure, will our eyes be clear enough to see him accurately.

Thus, a daily purifying is necessary.  “Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow.” (Ps. 51:7) Each day we must confess and repent.  Each day we must turn from our sinful, broken, and self-consumed ways of being and seeing, and ask God, once again, to create in us a pure heart.  He is the only one who can do that.  We can’t clean it up ourselves.  God is the only one who can rid us of all that distorts, hinders, and deforms us, so that we can be made clean, whole, and new.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

shhh

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)

Hush now, my child; quiet your heart and your soul.  Simply be with me in silence.  Empty yourself of all else and rest in my loving embrace, like a weaned child with its mother.  Rest in the depths of my delight and affection.  That's what prayer is all about.

Monday, February 19, 2024

it's time

“The time has come.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:15)

O God, I sense that you are calling me deeper and deeper into the heart of Jesus these days, to become more and more like him.  I’m not exactly sure what I’ve been waiting for, but it’s time!  It’s time to surrender to you in a whole new/deeper way.  It’s time to know your love and affection at levels I’ve only dreamt about.  It’s time to take another step toward you and away from me.  Give me the strength and the courage and the grace to do so.  Help me, O Lord, to not delay.  It’s time!

Saturday, February 17, 2024

torn to pieces

Come, let us return to the Lord.  He has 
torn us to pieces but he will heal us; 
he has injured us but he will 
bind up our wounds.” (Hosea 6:1)

he has torn us to pieces
in order to heal us
to make us whole by
tearing away the false
till only the true remains

he will do or allow
whatever it takes
to accomplish this
for it is done out of love
with surgical precision

sometimes healing
takes hurting

Friday, February 9, 2024

a severe companion

“I am still quite anxious; I still have real attacks of anguish and sleeping is still a real problem. But I am quite, quite aware that this pain is given to me to purify my heart, to deepen my love for Jesus and to give Him every inch of my being. Whereas in the past the anguish seemed quite disruptive and often paralyzing, now I experience it a little more as a severe companion who wants to show me the narrow road. Once I have found that road and walk safely on it, the anguish might leave me, but right now I am trying simply to accept what the Lord gives me and trust that He knows when, how and where to give me new peace and new joy.” ―Love, Henri by Henri Nouwen