Sunday, December 31, 2017

the blue book is now available on amazon

Exciting news!  The Blue Book is now available on Amazon! And not only that, but it also has a bunch of new content!  I've been working for the past year or so to write an opening reflection for each chapter and I'm really excited about the end result.  I hope you will be too.  So please spread the word.  Tell your friends that the strange blue devotional book that has always been so hard to find, is hard to find no more.


Saturday, December 16, 2017

hope

Opening Prayer: Enliven us, O God, with a great hope.  The hope of your coming.  The hope of your redemption.  The hope of your healing.  The hope of freedom.  May we be agents of this hope in your world.  Amen.

Scripture: Zechariah 9:9-12

Journal: What hope does the Zechariah passage cause to rise in your heart?  What images enliven you?  Why?  What does it look like to be agents of this hope in the world?

Reflection: Hope is a force of God that enlivens us to life.  We can easily miss the radical significance of this definition to our lives.  Hope is often described as the expectation that desires will be fulfilled or as a feeling of assurance about current and future circumstances.  When someone thinks positively or believes deeply about desired outcomes, so this line of reasoning goes, then hope happens.
     However, hope is more than a positive attitude or elevated feeling of assurance.  Like faith and love, hope is a force.  Yes, it functions within individuals to transform their lives.  But hope also resides and functions outside an individual’s attitudes and feelings.  The very character of hope as energy that comes to us from God means we encounter hope as a transforming force that we do not control.
     Hope’s mission is to save us from a false sense of aliveness.  Rather than fulfill whatever fantasies claim our hearts, hope rescues us from a diminished life.  Its mission to us is congruent with its mission to the world: to enliven all to life and to save the world from a false sense of aliveness.
     The opportunities to experience hope are as close to us as we are to our neighbors and our bodies.  God has given us the capacity to pay attention, imagine, and enter into the wonder of life together.  This capacity is also our God-given assignment.  God created us to be a home for hope, to discern its work, and to be a people of hope. (“The Work of Hope,” by Luther E. Smith, Weavings)

Prayer

Closing Prayer:
O Expectancy,
born of fertile wonder,
belabored by narrowed hope;
craning curious lives forward,
You are the brother of holy surprise.
Come startle awake
our dozing apathy, our complacent dreams,
that we may behold your borning, Advent cry.
Amen. (Behold! By Pamela C. Hawkins)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

abundance

Opening Prayer: Bless our God, O peoples! Give him a thunderous welcome! Didn’t he set us on the road to life? Didn’t he keep us out of the ditch? He trained us first, passed us like silver through refining fires, Brought us into hardscrabble country, pushed us to our very limit, Road-tested us inside and out, took us to hell and back; Finally he brought us to this well-watered place. (Psalm 66:8-12, The Message)

Scripture: Psalm 66:12

Journal: What has the road to abundance looked like for you in the past few weeks and months?  Where are you in the midst of the fire or the water?  What is it doing in you?  What is God doing in you?

Reflection: “You let people ride over our heads; we went through the fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” 

     If I were making a roadmap, I don’t think I’d have drawn it up quite that way.  I mean, who in their right mind would cause the road to abundance to go right through the middle of the fire and the water.  But that is exactly what you did, O God.  Somehow you knew.  Somehow you knew that in order to fully appreciate—and fully arrive at—this place called abundance, we must spend some time in the flames or the waves, or both.  Somehow they are a necessary part of the journey.  Short-cuts are not allowed.  They only make our ultimate arrival less than it would have been.  I mean, who can fully appreciate much until they have had to survive on little.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: What a strange and wonderful life this is with you, O God.  A life where the road to abundance leads through the fire and the water.  Give us the grace and the courage and the strength to reach the destination you have chosen for us.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

yielded

Opening Prayer: Today, O Lord, I yield myself to you.  May your will be my delight today.  May your way have perfect sway in me.  May your love be the pattern of my living.
     I surrender to you my hopes, my dreams, my ambitions.  Do with them what you will, when you will, as you will.
     I place into your loving care my family, my friends, my future.  Care for them with a care that I can never give.
     I release into your hands my need to control, my craving for status, my fear of obscurity.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen. (Prayers form the Heart by Richard Foster)

Scripture: Luke 1:5-23

Journal: What about this passage speaks to something within you today?  Why or how?  How can you relate to Zechariah and Elizabeth?  How is their “story” like your own?  How does the reality of God meeting them in the midst of their doubts and fears speak to something deep within you?

Reflection: Waiting is not a very popular attitude. Waiting is not something that people think about with great sympathy. In fact, most people consider waiting a waste of time. Perhaps this is because the culture in which we live is basically saying, “Get going! Do something! Show you are able to make a difference! Don’t just sit there and wait!” For many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go. And people do not like such a place. They want to get out of it by doing something.
     It impresses me, therefore, that all the figures who appear in the first pages of Luke’s Gospel are waiting. Elizabeth and Zechariah are waiting. Mary is waiting. Simeon and Anna, who were there at the temple when Jesus was brought in, are waiting. The whole opening of the good news is filled with waiting people. And right at the beginning all those people in some way or another hear the words, “Do not be afraid. I have something good to say to you.” These words set the tone and the context. Now Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary, Simeon and Anna are waiting for something new and good to happen to them. (A Spirituality of Waiting by Henri Nouwen)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: 
Dear God,
I so much want to be in control.
I want to be the master of my own destiny.
Still I know you are saying:
     “Let me take you by the hand and lead you.  Accept my love and trust that where I   
       will bring you, the deepest desires of your heart will be filled.”
Lord, open my hands to receive your gift of love.  Amen. 
(With Open Hands by Henri Nouwen)

Saturday, December 9, 2017

waiting for help

Opening Prayer: Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.  For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.  Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you. (Psalm 33:20-22)

Scripture: Psalm 33:13-22

Journal: How are waiting and trust related to each other in your life and heart?  Where are you waiting, in trust, on the Lord?  Where are you not?

Reflection: Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting. It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for. We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus. We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory. We are always waiting, but it is awaiting in the conviction that we have already seen God’s footsteps. Waiting for God is an active, alert – yes, joyful -waiting. As we wait we remember him for whom we are waiting, and as we remember him we create a community ready to welcome him when he comes. (A Spirituality of Waiting by Henri Nouwen)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: From high in the skies God looks around, he sees all Adam’s brood.  From where he sits he overlooks all us earth-dwellers.  He has shaped each person in turn; now he watches everything we do.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

advent waiting

Opening Prayer: I wait for the Lord, my souls 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.  O Israel, put your hope in the Lord. (Psalm 130:5-7)

Scripture: Psalm 127:1-2

Journal: What does waiting for the Lord mean for you these days?  How are you doing it?

Reflection: Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1)
     Advent is not about trying to create or produce or build something, it is about waiting for God to reveal something.  It is about resisting the urge to do and embracing the urge to be.  It is a time where we wait for the Lord.  We do not wait for the Lord to show up and do something, for he was never absent.  He is always present (Psalm 139:7-12), always working (John 5:17), always speaking (Psalm 19:1-14).  We wait for the Lord because he is already doing something and we just need to be able to see and to hear what that is.


Be up and awake to what God is doing! (Romans 13:11, The Message) 


Prayer

Closing Prayer: Help us, O Lord, to live our lives always and only in response to you.  Help us to do nothing, or initiate nothing, that you have not already begun.  Give us the desire and the ability to join you in what you are doing.  Show us where you are at work, O God, and let us join you in that, whatever that may look like.  In the name of Jesus, the One who comes, we pray.  Amen.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

waiting for redemption

Opening Prayer: Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
     If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
     I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
     O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. (Psalm 130:1-8)

Scripture: Psalm 130:1-8

Journal: How are you longing for redemption?  How are you waiting on the Lord for it?  How will you put your hope in the Lord in the meantime?

Reflection: There is a deep yearning within each of us for all things to be made right, to be exactly who and what they were intended to be when they were whispered into being.  Unfortunately, this side of heaven, what we experience is something far less than that.  Our world is woefully and irreparably broken.  Things have gone—and continue to go—terribly wrong.  They are spinning out of control and, as much as we might try, there is very little we can do about it.  Things are just too far gone.  We can’t fix it ourselves.  
     Where is the hope?  Where is the hope that somehow, someone might be able to redeem this mess?  Where is the hope that somehow, someone might make things back into the way they were created to be?
     And it is not just what we see around us that is the problem.  It is also what we see within us.  We are not immune to, or innocent of, this brokenness.  In fact, if we are really honest, we contribute to it in a major way.  Our “record of sins” is no shorter than the next man.  “Oh they may not be quite as extreme,” we tell ourselves, but who are we kidding.  Our list is so long—and getting longer by the minute—that we cannot possibly make it all right again.
     Thankfully we do not have to.  That is where God comes in.  He is the one that is filled with unfailing love.  He is the one that, in spite of our own ugliness and brokenness, offers full redemption.  We just have to put our hope in him.  We just have to wait for him like a watchman waiting for the morning.  For he will come, and when he does, we will be forgiven.  He will fully redeem us—and the world—from all our sins.  Thanks be to God.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: We await your redemption, O Lord, your full redemption.  More than watchmen wait for the morning, we wait for you.  Our list is long, O God, oh so long.  We have no hope of redeeming ourselves, our only hope is in you.  Our hope is in your unfailing love.  Redeem us, O Lord, from all of our sins.  Make us right and whole once again.  Make all things into what you intended them to be.  Lord, have mercy.  Amen.