Saturday, November 30, 2013

advent 2013

11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:11-12)

 It is amazing how easily we can get lulled to sleep at times.  And if you think it is easy for us, imagine the people of God trying to stay awake through four hundred years of God's silence.  I guess that's why the season of Advent is so significant, because it asks us to stay awake and to wait in eager expectation, anticipating Christ's return at any moment.  It is an actively passive waiting, if that's possible.  We cannot control how, or when, or where He will come, so, in that sense, it must be passive.  We can, however, control how we will wait.  Therefore, it must also always be active.  We must stay on our toes, or on our tiptoes one might say.  We must be on the edge of our seats, and not settled back into the comfort and ease of our La-Z-Boy.  We must stay ready, both watching and waiting.  That is the kind of wakefulness that Advent calls for.  We must keep our spiritual wits about us.  We must be careful to do the things that keep our souls most awake and alert, whatever those things may be.  Because, ultimately, Christ will come.  And when he does, will he find us ready?  Let us pay careful attention therefore, during this time and this season, for the many ways in which he comes.  He will, in fact, come to us today.  And, if we are paying careful attention, maybe we will see him, and hear him, when he does.  One can only hope.

If you are interested in following the church calendar on this blog, you can start Here and work your way forward.  The first theme of the Advent season on here is Attention

Also, if you are ever interested in leaving a comment, please do.  I would love to hear how God is working within you.

Grace and Peace,
Jim

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

news

In case you're interested, as on this morning my new book Becoming is available on Amazon.com.

His Peace to you,
Jim

Thursday, October 10, 2013

welcome

Hi.  Welcome to Room to Flourish.  My guess is that you've ended up staring at this webpage because there is a yearning within you to encounter God on a regular basis.  Well, that's exactly why this blog exists; to make space for you to meet with God, to be with Him, to listen to Him, to pray to Him, to be touched and shaped and molded by Him.  For those of you that are familiar with the Blue Book, it is all (plus some seasonal additions) posted on this blog now.  And if you were hoping to get your hands on a physical copy of the book, this blog will have to do for now, as we are in a bit of a "sabbatical period" with the book; seeking God's guidance and direction on its future.

Start wherever you want, with whatever theme seems most helpful or appropriate to the season, or life circumstance, you find yourself in these days.  If you are a follower of the liturgical calendar, you might want to start in the archives at December 2012 when Advent 2013 begins (Sunday, December 1st this year) and go from there; following the various seasons through the liturgical year.

Anyway, thanks for coming to this site, I pray that it does exactly what its name implies; I pray it gives you Room to Flourish.

His Peace to you,
Jim

Saturday, October 5, 2013

the word made flesh, day 7

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.

Opening Prayer:
Almighty God, who came to us long ago in the birth of Jesus Christ, be born in us anew today by the power of your Holy Spirit.  We offer our lives as home to you and ask for grace and strength to live as your faithful, joyful children always.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. (A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants)

Psalm for the Week: Psalm 85

Scripture for the Day: Isaiah 53:1-12

Reading for Reflection:

After this, four hundred years of silence.  God doesn’t call and when we do he won’t answer the phone.  You can almost imagine him nursing his wounds, wondering where it all went wrong.  And then an idea comes to him.  Here is Kierkegaard’s version of the story:

 
Suppose there was a king who loved a humble maiden.  The king was like no other king.  Every statesman trembled before his power.  No one dared breathe a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all opponents.  And yet this mighty king was melted by love for a humble maiden.  How could he declare his love for her?  In an odd sort of way, his kindness tied his hands.  If he brought her into the palace and crowned her head with jewels and clothed her body in royal robes, she would surely not resist- no one dared resist him.  But would she love him?

She would say she loved him, of course, but would she truly?  Or would she live with him in fear, nursing a private grief for the life she had left behind?  Would she be happy at his side?  How could he know?  If he rode to her forest cottage in his royal carriage, with an armed escort waving bright banners, that too would overwhelm her.  He did not want a cringing subject.  He wanted a lover, an equal.  He wanted her to forget that he was a king and she a humble maiden and to let shared love cross the gulf between them.  For it is only in love that the unequal can be made equal. (as quoted in Disappointment with God)

 
     The king clothes himself as a beggar and renounces his throne in order to win her hand.  The Incarnation, the life and the death of Jesus, answers once and for all the question, “What is God’s heart toward me?”  This is why Paul says in Romans 5, “Look here, at the Cross.  Here is the demonstration of God’s heart.  At the point of our deepest betrayal, when we had run our farthest from him and gotten so lost in the woods we could never find our way home, God came and died to rescue us.”  We don’t have to wait for the Incarnation to see God as a character in the story and learn something of his motives.  But after the Incarnation there can be no doubt.  (The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge)
 
 
Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Song for the Week: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus


Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set our people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
 
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone,
By thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

Closing Prayer:
Come, Lord Jesus!
     You are my righteousness.  You are my goodness, the cause and the reason for goodness.  You are my life and the light of life.  You are my love and all my loving.  You are the most noble language I can ever utter, my words and all their meaning, my wisdom, my truth, and the better part of myself.  Amen. (Preparing for Jesus by Walter Wangerin Jr.)

Friday, October 4, 2013

the word made flesh, day 6

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.

Opening Prayer:
Almighty God, who came to us long ago in the birth of Jesus Christ, be born in us anew today by the power of your Holy Spirit.  We offer our lives as home to you and ask for grace and strength to live as your faithful, joyful children always.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. (A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants)

Psalm for the Week: Psalm 85

Scripture for the Day: Matthew 1:18-25

Reading for Reflection:

     God in Himself is the transcendent One.  As such he exceeds and explodes all of our human thought categories.  No human mind can capture Him.  He who is light in himself is darkness for the human mind.
     How, then, can he communicate himself to fleshbound human beings in a way calculated to grasp us and grip us and lift us up into a lifegiving personal relationship with him? 
     The first way God chooses to bridge the gap is creation.  He creates our universe, the bewildering variety of touchable, seeable, hearable, palpable beings, so that we can stand before star-studded heavens, before sunrise and sunset glories, before Yosemite and Coldwater, the might of the Pacific in storm, before the complexity of the atom and DNA and the human body, and know something of that Maker:  his majesty, his intelligence, his beauty, his power.  In a real sense, “the world is charged with the grandeur of God.”  Creation is the first preaching of the good news.  The universe is truly a sacramental universe, disclosing Him.  He is the radical secret at the heart of the universe.  And so it has been for me in my experience.
     But he chooses to bridge the gap in a more significant, personal way.  He chooses out of many nations one people and in the years of their history discloses—progressively from Abraham and Moses on, but most specifically in Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Hosea—his holiness, his desire for human beings, his longstanding, faithful love for his rational creatures.
     And yet this is not enough.  He must say it in a way no one can miss.  He must lay his heart open to us and give us the supreme argument of love.  He must pour out his inmost identity in an ultimate symbol worthy of himself which would convince us even in our cynicism.
     Thus the final way he gladly chose to reveal himself is in his own Son, existing before the stars, who would become a limited human being with a body like me, an emotional life like mine, a thinking loving spirit, and a developing identity—consciousness like mine.  So Jesus began life as an infant and grows up in a backwater town, takes up the carpentry trade, is called at the Jordan ford and teaches and heals and forms a small group of followers, dies and rises.  And precisely through this short life of carpenter and teacher, God the Father is revealed to the world in stunning clarity.  Jesus then is the great sacrament, symbol, revelation of the very depths of the incomprehensible God.  What Jesus reveals is the Father’s love for us humans:  a self-giving love unto death, an unconditional love accepting our flawed condition, forgiving endlessly our weakness and malice. (A Traveler Toward the Dawn by John Eagan, S.J.)
 
 
Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Song for the Week: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus


Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set our people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
 
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone,
By thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

Closing Prayer:
Come, Lord Jesus!
     You are my righteousness.  You are my goodness, the cause and the reason for goodness.  You are my life and the light of life.  You are my love and all my loving.  You are the most noble language I can ever utter, my words and all their meaning, my wisdom, my truth, and the better part of myself.  Amen. (Preparing for Jesus by Walter Wangerin Jr.)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

the word made flesh, day 5

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.

Opening Prayer:
Almighty God, who came to us long ago in the birth of Jesus Christ, be born in us anew today by the power of your Holy Spirit.  We offer our lives as home to you and ask for grace and strength to live as your faithful, joyful children always.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. (A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants)

Psalm for the Week: Psalm 85

Scripture for the Day: Colossians 2:9-15

Reading for Reflection:

“Guide our feet into the paths of peace, that having done Your will this day, we may, when night comes, rejoice and give You thanks…”  We begin the work that is before us this day, asking for the grace to do it well and to the glory of God.  We dress children and get them to school, we find our places and undertake the tasks for which we have been dreamed into being.  We do the work that is before us, the gift of study or play, the tasks and assignments, the places to go and the people to see.  We begin to sense that our work can be changed from job and task into service and act of kindness, from struggle for gain into the offering of gift, from slow death into life-giving co-creation.  The work itself can become something more as we come to see ourselves as co-laborers rather than pawns, as hands and feet of God rather than merely the shoulders and backs of the marketplace.  We keep our eyes open for the One Who Comes among us in our daily rounds.  (Living Prayer by Robert Benson)


The gospel says that we, who are God’s beloved, created a cosmic crisis.  It says we, too, were stolen from our True Love and that (as with Menelaus and Helen of Troy) he launched the greatest campaign in the history of the world to get us back.  God created us for intimacy with him.  When we turned our back on him he promised to come for us.  He sent personal messengers; he used beauty and affliction to recapture our hearts.  After all else failed, he conceived the most daring of plans.  Under the cover of night he stole into the enemy’s camp incognito, the Ancient of Days disguised as a newborn.  The Incarnation, as Phil Yancey reminds us, was a daring raid into enemy territory.  The whole world lay under the power of the evil one and we were held in dungeons of darkness.  God risked it all to rescue us.  Why?  What is it that he sees in us that causes him to act the jealous lover, to lay siege both on the kingdom of darkness and on our own idolatries as if on Troy—not to annihilate, but to win us once again for himself? (The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge)
 
 
Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Song for the Week: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus


Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set our people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
 
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone,
By thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

Closing Prayer:
Come, Lord Jesus!
     You are my righteousness.  You are my goodness, the cause and the reason for goodness.  You are my life and the light of life.  You are my love and all my loving.  You are the most noble language I can ever utter, my words and all their meaning, my wisdom, my truth, and the better part of myself.  Amen. (Preparing for Jesus by Walter Wangerin Jr.)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

the word made flesh, day 4

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.

Opening Prayer:
Almighty God, who came to us long ago in the birth of Jesus Christ, be born in us anew today by the power of your Holy Spirit.  We offer our lives as home to you and ask for grace and strength to live as your faithful, joyful children always.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. (A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants)

Psalm for the Week: Psalm 85

Scripture for the Day: Philippians 2:1-13

Reading for Reflection:

This Word which created the world, this reason which controls the order of the world, has become a person and with our own eyes we saw Him (John 1:14).  (The Gospel of John by William Barclay)

 
     While God does not ask any of us to bring Christ into the world as literally as did Mary, God calls each of us to become a Godbearer through whom God may enter the world again and again. (The Godbearing Life by Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster)

 
     God presents himself to us little by little.  The whole story of salvation is the story of the God who comes. 
     It is always he who comes, even if he has not yet come in his fullness.  But there is indeed one unique moment in his coming; the others were only prepar- ations and announcement.
     The hour of his coming is the Incarnation.
     The Incarnation brings the world his presence.  It is a presence so complete that it overshadows every presence before it.
     God is made human in Christ.  God makes himself present to us with such a special presence, such an obvious presence, as to overthrow all complicated calculations made about him in the past.
     “The invisible, intangible God has made himself visible and tangible in Christ.”
     If Jesus is truly God, everything is clear; if I cannot believe this, everything darkens again.  (The God Who Comes by Carlo Carretto)
 
 
Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Song for the Week: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus


Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set our people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
 
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone,
By thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

Closing Prayer:
Come, Lord Jesus!
     You are my righteousness.  You are my goodness, the cause and the reason for goodness.  You are my life and the light of life.  You are my love and all my loving.  You are the most noble language I can ever utter, my words and all their meaning, my wisdom, my truth, and the better part of myself.  Amen. (Preparing for Jesus by Walter Wangerin Jr.)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

the word made flesh, day 3

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.

Opening Prayer:
Almighty God, who came to us long ago in the birth of Jesus Christ, be born in us anew today by the power of your Holy Spirit.  We offer our lives as home to you and ask for grace and strength to live as your faithful, joyful children always.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. (A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants)

Psalm for the Week: Psalm 85

Scripture for the Day: Hebrews 1:1-13

Reading for Reflection:
 
Jesus Christ is the eternal Word who became flesh and lived among us.  The personal revelation of God became, in the words of the Chalcedon Creed, "at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man."  This act on humility continues, the Word becomes flesh again and again, through the testimony of Scripture.  Stated another way, the Holy Spirit who dwelt fully in Jesus Christ and who inspired the apostolic witness to Him now inspires our reading of it:  through the dynamic work of the Spirit, God's Word meets us in something that is not dead but "living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword" (Heb. 4:12). (The Trivialization of God by Donald W. McCullough)
 
 
     Books of theology tend to define God by what He is not:  immortal, invisible, infinite.  But what is God like, positively?  For the Christian, Jesus answers such all-important questions.  The apostle Paul boldly called Jesus "the image of the invisible God."  Jesus was God's exact replica: "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him."
     God is, in a word, Christlike.  Jesus presents a God with skin on whom we can take or leave, love or ignore.  In this visible, scaled-down model we can discern God's features more clearly. (The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey)
 
Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Song for the Week: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus


Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set our people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
 
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone,
By thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

Closing Prayer:
Come, Lord Jesus!
     You are my righteousness.  You are my goodness, the cause and the reason for goodness.  You are my life and the light of life.  You are my love and all my loving.  You are the most noble language I can ever utter, my words and all their meaning, my wisdom, my truth, and the better part of myself.  Amen. (Preparing for Jesus by Walter Wangerin Jr.)

Monday, September 30, 2013

the word made flesh, day 2

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.

Opening Prayer:
Almighty God, who came to us long ago in the birth of Jesus Christ, be born in us anew today by the power of your Holy Spirit.  We offer our lives as home to you and ask for grace and strength to live as your faithful, joyful children always.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. (A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants)

Psalm for the Week: Psalm 85

Scripture for the Day: Colossians 1:15-23

Reading for Reflection:

Christ is the human face of God.  Jesus is the autobiography of God.  In Christ, God was spelling himself out, expressing himself.  Jesus was the audible, visible Word who expressed the heart of the inaudible, invisible God.  (F. Dale Brunner from Theology, Notes, and News - October 1999)

 

     The first verb Mark used to describe Jesus' action is "came."  Jesus came to be with us.  God's first move is to be among us—Immanuel, God is with us.  God comes to us long before we come to God.  We may think we are in pursuit of God, but in reality we are only responding to a God who has been pursuing us.  (Embracing the Love of God by James Bryan Smith)

 
     At Trafalgar Square in the city of London stands a statue of Lord Nelson.  Resting atop a tall pillar, it towers too high for passersby to distinguish his features.  For this reason, about forty years ago a new statue—an exact replica of the original—was erected at eye level so everyone could see him.  God also transcends our ability to see; the eyes of our understanding cannot discern divine features.  But we have set before us an exact representation, "the image of the invisible God." To know God we must look only at Jesus. (The Trivialization of God by Donald W. McCullough)

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Song for the Week: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus


Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set our people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
 
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone,
By thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

Closing Prayer:
Come, Lord Jesus!
     You are my righteousness.  You are my goodness, the cause and the reason for goodness.  You are my life and the light of life.  You are my love and all my loving.  You are the most noble language I can ever utter, my words and all their meaning, my wisdom, my truth, and the better part of myself.  Amen. (Preparing for Jesus by Walter Wangerin Jr.)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

the word made flesh. day 1

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.

Opening Prayer:
Almighty God, who came to us long ago in the birth of Jesus Christ, be born in us anew today by the power of your Holy Spirit.  We offer our lives as home to you and ask for grace and strength to live as your faithful, joyful children always.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. (A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants)

Psalm for the Week: Psalm 85

Scripture for the Day: John 1:1-14

Reading for Reflection:


Incarnating
by  J. Barrie Shepherd
 
Becoming
putting on
clothing oneself
assuming flesh
bearing the bone and blood
mortality that bears us all
through what we call
for better or worse
this life
how did he do it?
Was it like
climbing
clumsy
into
heavy clanking armor
slipping on
a skin-tight wet suit
taking on oneself a body-cast
of stiff unyielding clay?
Or
was there more of
taking off
a shedding
of the iridescent skin
of fair eternity
a love-filled
laying to one side
of glory, majesty and power
before the naked plunge into the
depths to seek a treasure long encrusted
by the sifting sands of night?
(Weavings, Volume XXVI, Number 1)


And God ripped His Heart from His very chest and He transplanted that Heart into one like us, wrapping it in flesh and bones and giving Him a face and a name.  And God's Heart lived with us.  He walked with us, talked with us, laughed, and cried with us and we saw what God's Heart looked like…it was pumping with the blood of grace and truth.  (from John 1:1-14 JLB)

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Song for the Week: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus


Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set our people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
 
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone,
By thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

Closing Prayer:
Come, Lord Jesus!
     You are my righteousness.  You are my goodness, the cause and the reason for goodness.  You are my life and the light of life.  You are my love and all my loving.  You are the most noble language I can ever utter, my words and all their meaning, my wisdom, my truth, and the better part of myself.  Amen. (Preparing for Jesus by Walter Wangerin Jr.)