Monday, December 31, 2018

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.


Sunday, December 2, 2018

Get ready for Advent

Watch and Wait: A Guide for Advent and Christmas

Just wanted to remind you that if you (or any of your friends, family, or coworkers) are looking for a companion to journey with you through the seasons of Advent and Christmas, you might want to try Watch and Wait.  It is available on Amazon.

Friday, November 16, 2018

wait

Opening Prayer: I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.

Scripture: Psalm 130:1-8

Journal: What are you waiting for these days?  What is God doing in you as you wait?

Reflection: Waiting is no easy thing.  In fact, it takes quite a bit of effort.  But effort in a much different way than we are used to.  There is a letting go that is necessary in waiting: a letting go of control and opinion and agenda; a letting go of strength and power and adequacy.  Waiting is the place where we have to come face to face with our inability to make things happen for ourselves.  Thus, it can be an incredibly humbling process. 
     But waiting is not only about letting go, there is also a taking hold that is necessary.  We must begin to embrace—rather than deny—our own vulnerability, dependence, and weakness.  For the scriptures clearly tell us that “When we are weak, we are strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10)  Waiting puts us in a place where we must confront our own nothingness and find that it is not an enemy, but a friend.  It has something of incredible value to teach us, if we are willing to listen.  
     Therefore, waiting is never passive, but always active.  It involves the movement from clenched fists to open hands.  For clenched fists can never receive anything.  And, in the end, waiting is always about receiving.  It is about realizing that we cannot control or contrive or manipulate God into giving us anything, we must simply learn to wait with open hands to receive whatever he decides to give, whenever he decides to give it.  Thus, our hope is not in our own efforts, gifts, and abilities, but in his grace alone, which is always sufficient.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: 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.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

you prepare a table

Opening Prayer: You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.  Thank you!

Scripture: Psalm 23:5

Journal: How is God preparing a table for you these days?  What does that look like in your life?  What does that knowledge do in your soul?

Reflection: They say that you can’t rush a good thing.  And in this life, I have found that to be profoundly true—especially in the case of a good meal.  And yet we get so impatient.  Our hunger drives us to want that meal now.  Unfortunately, in the spiritual life, there are no drive thrus.  It is, and will always be, a slow work.  The best things always are.  
     The key to being patient in our waiting lies in our trust of the one who is preparing the meal.  If we are able to trust in the goodness of what is to come—and the heart of the one who is preparing it—it will allow us to wait in joyful expectancy, rather than in irritable frustration.  We must believe that God is at work—always at work—preparing an incredibly beautiful meal for us; one that will surpass all of our greatest hopes and wildest dreams.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord God, help me to truly believe that you are at work—always at work—preparing a table for me that is beyond all I could ask or imagine. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

practices

Opening Prayer: Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
     He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
     Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1:1-6)

Scripture: Psalm 1:1-6

Journal: What dysfunctional patterns in your life stifle your movement towards God?  What spiritual practices encourage and enliven it?  How will you disrupt the dysfunctional “practices” and engage the enlivening ones?  Where and how does meditation fit into that?

Reflection: Simply stated, there are things that we do regularly in our lives, whether we recognize them or not, that help our relationship with God, and things that hinder it.  We are all a messy combination of the two—good and bad, functional and dysfunctional.  There are old habits and patterns that stifle our movement towards God, and things that are intentionally done to encourage and enliven it.  These things (both good and bad), because of their regularity and because of their effect upon us, are most accurately called practices.  Practices are the things we do regularly that determine the quality and direction of our lives.
     Psalm 1 illustrates this—and highlights it.  It points out that the key to living a beautiful, vibrant, dynamic life with God, is to recognize and disrupt the dysfunctional practices, while identifying and engaging in the fruitful ones.  The problem is that, since we rarely call our unhealthy patterns “practices,” and thus, don’t normally attempt to disrupt or destroy the negative patterns before we start engaging in the positive ones, we make little progress.  The disruption of these old ways is an essential part of the process.  Why else do you think the Psalm begins with what not to do, rather than what to do?  
     If we just try to lay a bunch of new practices over the top of the old ones, rather than trying to get rid of them completely, we will have limited success at best—and will most likely drive ourselves crazy in the process.  First, we must identify and disrupt the ways in which we consistently choose to engage in practices (or behavior) that keep us from God, before we can then set new patterns and practices that actually encourage and enliven our movement towards him.  Only then will we begin to experience the beauty of being like a tree, instead of being like chaff; planted by streams, rather than blown about by the wind.  

Prayer

Closing Prayer:  Lord God, uproot those things and those patterns within me that keep me from moving toward you and being wholly yours.  And give me the grace and the strength to engage in practices and that help your life to grow bigger and bigger in and through me.  Help me to meditate on you, O Lord, and on your word, and not be so consumed with myself and my stuff.  In the name of Jesus I pray.  Amen.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

enough

Opening Prayer: 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)

Scripture: Psalm 23:1-3

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

Reflection: 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 and 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, then I can be really 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.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: God, my shepherd!  I don’t need a thing. (Psalm 23:1, The Message)


Thursday, November 8, 2018

fitting

Opening Prayer: Praise the Lord.  How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting it is to praise him.

Scripture: Psalm 147:1

Journal: Where and how does the word fitting describe your life and faith these days?  What about the words good and pleasant?  What situations or activities or practices make you feel most “at home?”  What about praise?  How will you make praise a regular part of your life?

Reflection: 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.  That’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. 

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are my true home.  It is good and pleasant and fitting that I should make my home in you.  Help me to do just that, as you make your home in me.  Amen.