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

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

Sunday, 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

Thursday, February 8, 2024

lent is coming up

 




If you are looking for a companion for Lent (for yourself, your family, your friends, your staff, etc.), my Lenten devotional guide Journey to the Cross is available on Amazon.  Spread the word.  This year, Lent begins on February 14 (Ash Wednesday).

Sunday, February 4, 2024

you prepare a table before me

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.” (Psalm 23:5)

“I have prepared this table before you in the presence of your enemies.  It is no surprise to me that you find yourself here.  It is as intentional as it is purposeful.  I am doing a beautiful work in you.  I will use it all—even the work of your enemies—to invite you into a more intimate friendship with me.  I anoint your head with oil because you are my dearly loved and greatly honored guest.  I have been saving you a place right beside me all along.  So, come to my table, be with me, and enjoy me as I enjoy you.   Come to the place where your cup will always be filled to overflowing with my goodness and my unfailing love.”

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

the illusion of control

“One thing you still lack.  Sell all that you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22)

Control is an illusion.  Which makes it absurd that we spend so much time and energy trying to achieve it and/or maintain it.  Oh sure, we might think at times when things are going along well that we are steering the car, but nothing could be further from the truth.  We’re merely wearing ourselves out trying to manage, manipulate, and control that which is unmanageable, impervious, and uncontrollable.

It’s like one of those rides at the amusement park where the car is on rails and the steering wheel is not even connected to anything.  Yet we keep turning the wheel, trying to convince ourselves that our futile efforts are somehow influencing our direction.  Why not just let go and enjoy the ride?  Why fight it?  Why not embrace it?  God is in control, and we are not.  We just need to trust him.

Following Jesus is about surrender, not control.  And surrender always involves an emptying.  Emptying myself of whatever it is that I may be full of at the moment.  Because when I am too full of me, there is no room for Him.  A cup that’s already full can receive no more; it first must be emptied.  If I am preoccupied with myself, it is impossible to then be occupied by God.  

That's probably why the rich young ruler walked away sad.  It’s also probably why it’s so hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God; they have so much more to let go of.

Lord Jesus, thank you that you are in control, and I am not.  Help me to surrender to your will and your way, to your plans and your agendas, rather than clinging to my own.  Empty me of everything that is not you. 

Saturday, January 27, 2024

storms

“And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.” (Mt. 14:32)


                        storms

at the mercy of the wind and waves
is not how you intended this life to be

circumstances were never meant to dictate

only a deep trust in an unfailing love
can give us a firm place to set our feet
even when everything around us is in chaos

 

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

“Let actual circumstances be what they may, keep recognizing Jesus, maintain complete reliance on Him.” ~Oswald Chambers

Thursday, January 18, 2024

dwelling

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1)

Dwelling is super important.  That’s because it does not just involve a physical activity but is a state of being.  When you dwell somewhere—or with someone—you are not just physically present, but you are also mentally present, emotionally present, and spiritually present as well.

The Hebrew word for “dwell” is yāša, which means to sit down or to reside in.  Thus, dwelling is about staying.  It is about living with and in.  It is a word that’s used over a thousand times in the Old Testament, which shows us how important it is.  That’s because who or what you dwell in determines so much about the state of your existence. 

If you dwell in the shelter of the Most High, you will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  Dwelling in God always results in a soul at rest, regardless of your circumstances.  And a soul at rest is a soul that’s the very best, God-breathed, version of itself. 

But if you dwell in someone or something else, you are in for a rocky ride.  You will always live at the mercy of who or what you are dwelling in.  If I have a tendency to dwell in my fears, anxieties, and insecurities—which I do—then it will have a horrible effect on my quality of life, not to mention the quality of my relationships.  But if I am able to dwell in the shelter of the Most High, I am able to live out of his love rather than out of my need.  

Who or what I’m choosing to dwell in at any given moment is what matters most.  But dwelling in the shelter of the Most High does not come easily, it takes practice.  It doesn’t just happen automatically.  We must learn how to arrange and cultivate our lives in such a way that we are continually turning and returning to our God.  Praying the words to this ancient and beautiful prayer is a good place to start. 

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1)

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

the work of God

“But this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9:3)

We are a people who continually ask, “Why?”  Whenever something goes wrong—or right, for that matter—we want to understand the reason for it.  We are hell-bent on assigning blame or taking credit, whichever it may be.  Who knows, maybe that makes us feel more in control somehow.

The problem is that life is not always that cut and dried.  It is not always as black and white as we want it to be.  Therefore, in the absence of a compelling cause and effect, we make up reasons for why certain things have happened.  Someone has to take the blame when things don’t turn out the way we think they should.

“Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  There must be a reason, right?  Someone must’ve done something to someone for this situation to have turned out this way.  All the while, scared to death that if this can happen to him or her, it could happen to anyone—even me.  Tell me how to avoid these things happening in my life, please!

But Jesus doesn’t appease the crowd.  He doesn’t offer an easy solution.  He simply tells them to trust that in all things God is at work.  “Horrible things are going to happen in this life, things that cannot be explained by a simple cause and effect relationship.  They are simply the result of living in a fallen, broken world.  But know this: I am always at work.  The things that happen in this life can serve to display the work of God if you are willing and open and receptive to them.”

So, the next time something happens in your life that you don’t understand, the next time something unwanted or unwelcomed crashes into your neatly ordered existence, do not look for someone to blame, but hold onto the fact that God can use whatever it is to display his work in your life and in his world.  Just remember these words: “This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in your life.”

O Lord, my God, you are Lord and I am not.  You can, and will, use all the things of this life to mold and shape and transform me into the person you dreamt me to be, even the hard things.  Help me to trust in you.

Friday, January 12, 2024

vulnerable

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

Vulnerability is essential to the spiritual life.  When we are vulnerable, we live out of a posture of helplessness, dependency, and defenselessness.  Our guard is down, our mask is off, and our worst foot is forward.  Vulnerability makes us aware of just how weak and how fragile and how flawed we really are. 

But it provides some of the richest soil for God to grow his life in us.  Vulnerability is God’s way of showing us that we cannot manage, manipulate, and control life on our own.  It is through our weaknesses, our flaws, our failures, and our thorns that we experience the sufficiency of his grace.  Thus, our neediness is a place for God to display his power and his love. 

And yet we do whatever possible to keep from looking or feeling vulnerable.  We mask our inadequacies, we rationalize our failures, and we cover up our deficiencies whenever possible.  But when we do this, we miss a great opportunity to experience God’s grace, power, and love.

So let us embrace our vulnerability rather than hide it.  For in our weakness, God does some of his very best work. 

Lord Jesus, your grace really is sufficient for me, so I do not have to be.  Forgive me for trying to carry on the charade that I am strong and adequate when I am really weak and inadequate.  Help my vulnerability become a place of your strength.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

you anoint my head with oil

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.” (Psalm 23:5) What a beautiful invitation!  God, our Good Shepherd, invites us to his table, the table he has prepared for us, to join him in an intimate and soul-nourishing meal.  It is a table of love, it is a table of joy, it is a table of abundance.  It is a table where our cup constantly overflows with the goodness and life and love of God.

And whenever we come to this table, he does something incredible.  He anoints our head with oil.  This anointing is one of great love and affection.  To anoint someone’s head was a gesture of hospitality and esteem, of honor and respect.  When someone’s head was anointed, it meant that they were a special guest at the table.  Anointing was a symbol of joy, abundance, and refreshment of heart—which all leads to an overflowing cup. That is the life God wants for us and with us.

Unfortunately, many of us run to other tables to try and find the life and the love and the worth and the value that only the Lord can give.  The result of this is not abundance, but scarcity.  Human honor and affection has its limits; God’s does not.

So don’t run around from table to table trying to find the love and the value that only God can give.  Instead, come to his table, the one he prepared for you.  Taste of his great affection.  Receive his fragrant anointing and allow your cup to overflow with his life and his love.

O Lord, anoint my head with oil today, so that I can know my true value and worth.  Then I can be an instrument in inviting others to the table that overflows with your life and your love.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

epiphany, 2024

“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures to him and presented him gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” Matthew (2:10-11)

Did you ever wonder why the Magi and the shepherds were able to notice God showing up in the world, and the kings and rulers and leaders were not?  Is it because the people in positions of power and influence were just too busy to notice?  Were they too consumed with their own kingdoms to pay attention to God’s?  Were they too distracted by what they were up to, to care about what God was up to?

I guess the moral of the story is: Don’t get so consumed with your life and your world and your struggles that you lose sight of your God.  That is the surest way to miss what he is up to.

Lord Jesus, epiphany is all about seeing you.  Help us to do just that.  Help us to live our lives in such a way that when you do show up, we notice, we worship, and we open our treasures to you.


Friday, January 5, 2024

the yes of the soul

"Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus.  In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God's Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident.  God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us.  By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge--a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete."  (2 Corinthians 1:20-22, MSG)

 There is a yes deep in your soul, planted there by Love.  It is in this place that you are invited to live.  It is a place of beautiful harmony, deep resonance, and holy communion.  It is where the yes of your soul meets the yes of its Maker.  Live in that yes today.

Lord Jesus, help me to find the yes of my soul and live in it.

 

 

 

Monday, January 1, 2024

a new year's prayer, 2024 edition

It’s been a crazy year.  Lots and lots of emptying: physical, spiritual, relational, and vocational. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for always meeting me where I am and always leading me where I need to be.  It hasn’t always been fun, but it has always been good.

Here’s my New Year’s Prayer, 2024 edition:

Forgive me, O Lord, for not being all you made me to be.

Forgive me for being about me rather than about you.
Forgive me for being driven by need rather than by love.
Forgive me for trying to be the point rather than making you the point.

Forgive me when I have let my fears and insecurities get the best of me.
Forgive me when I have been a wounder rather than a healer.
Forgive me when I have allowed, mood, whim, and circumstance to determine my life.
Forgive me when I’ve sought the praise of others before I’ve sought you.

Make me more like you, Lord Jesus, in this new year.
Empty me of everything that is not you.
And fill me with your wholeness, your life, and your love.
Fill me with your kindness, your goodness, and your humility.
Make me into the husband, father, grandfather, friend, servant, and man you want me to be.

This is my New Year’s Prayer.

What's yours?