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Friday, June 30, 2017


Opening Prayer: I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. (Psalm 34:1-5, ESV)

Scripture: Psalm 34:1-11

Journal: How have you tasted God’s goodness lately?  How have you tasted his goodness in a hard circumstance?

Reflection: Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.  What an invitation!  God desires for us to taste his goodness.  Sometimes that taste will be sweet to our mouths, and at others it will be a hard pill to swallow.  You see, God’s goodness is not contingent on my circumstances turning out according to my preferences.  In fact, even if things turn out as badly as they possibly can, it does not change the fact that God is good.  The words of this ancient prayer remind us of this: “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.  I will not just praise him when all is well and live is good; I will also praise him when the shit hits the fan and life is as hard as it can get.  At those times our invitation into God’s goodness is simply to take refuge in him.  To find our comfort and peace in the tenderness of his loving embrace.  To let him be our companion in the pain.  Why else would he follow taste and see that the Lord is good with blessed is the man who takes refuge in him?  The fact is that we are good at proclaiming God’s goodness when the operation is successful, or the test comes back negative, or we land that new job, or we ace that exam.  But we are not so good at proclaiming (and tasting) his goodness when the child does not survive, or we lose the job we love, or the cancer comes back.  But there is something of God’s great goodness to be tasted even in the most painful and devastating of circumstances.  The circumstances themselves are not good—not good at all—but, even still, God is!  Just taste and see. 


Closing Prayer: The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. (Psalm 34:15-20, NIV)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

in his strength

Opening Prayer: Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. (Psalm 105:1-4, NIV)

Scripture: Psalm 105:1-4

Journal:  Whose strength do you most often operate in?  What impact does that have on your life?  What would it look like to look to the Lord and his strength?  How will you seek his face today?

Reflection:  One of the greatest temptations of the spiritual life is to live it out of our own strength, by our own efforts.  It is such a subtle thing.  We can start out so well-meaning, so connected to God and determined to live in perfect union and harmony with him.  We start out seeking his face and then, throughout the course of our days, or our lives, we slowly drift away.  The content of our lives takes center stage and causes us to lose our focus.  We begin, once again, to live by our own gifts, our own strengths, and our own agendas—without even realizing it.  It is such an easy trap to fall into.  We are just going about our lives without even giving it a second thought.
     That is until we pray the words of this ancient prayer.  And then we realize that we have not really been seeking God’s face at all.  It was not a malicious thing, we just somehow lost our way.  “What, exactly, have we been seeking?” we ask ourselves.  But we have no answer.  Thanks be to God for the prayer book of the bible, through which we learn the dynamics of life with God.  Eugene Peterson once said that “the Psalms train us in the conversation with God that is prayer.”  And one of the things they train us to see is how easy it is for us to lose our focus, unless we are constantly engaging in the words of these ancient prayers.  Then we remember.  Then we are called back.  Then we stop seeking after whatever it was that may have distracted us for the moment, and turn back to seeking our God.  And when we do, it brings deep joy to our hearts, and his.
     O Lord, help me to seek your face this day.  Help me to live out of your strength and not my own.


Closing Prayer: Hallelujah! Thank God! Pray to him by name! Tell everyone you meet what he has done! Sing him songs, belt out hymns, translate his wonders into music! Honor his holy name with Hallelujahs, you who seek God. Live a happy life! Keep your eyes open for God, watch for his works; be alert for signs of his presence. (Psalm 105:1-4, The Message)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


Opening Prayer: Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.  Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord. (Psalm 25:6-7)

Scripture: Psalm 25:6-7

Journal: How do you see yourself, according to your sins or according to his love?  How do you think God sees you?  Why?  What is the difference?  What effect does it have on your life?

Reflection: In the end, how will we be remembered?  How will we be remembered by our families?  How will we be remembered by our friends?  How will we be remembered by our world?  And, most importantly, how will we be remembered by our God?
     That is what makes the words of this ancient prayer so wonderful.  Even King David dealt with these questions, and prayed about them.  We are all such a mixed bag; our lives a crazy combination of good and bad, beauty and ugliness, successes and failures.  My guess is, if you are anything like me, that when you think back on your life, it is far easier to remember the disasters than it is the glories.  They are somehow firmly etched in our hearts and minds.
    The beauty of this Psalm is that it reminds us that God does not see us in that way.  He does not remember us according to our sins and rebellious ways, but according to his love.  He sees us the way he dreamt us to be.  He sees the beauty, not the tragedy.  He sees our wholeness (in him), not our brokenness.  He sees our righteousness (in Christ), not our sin.  That’s how he could say that David was “a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), rather than an adulterer and a murderer.  In fact, the name David even means beloved in Hebrew, which tells us exactly how God really saw him.
    Just imagine what could happen if we began to see ourselves in the same way?


Closing Prayer:  Lord God, help me to see myself as you see me; not tainted and stained beyond cure by my own sin, but beautiful and perfect and whole in the righteousness of Christ.  Amen.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

fully known

Opening Prayer: You know me like no other, for you made me.  O God, help me to know you even as I am known.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 139:23-24

Journal: What words of deep intimacy do you want to say to God today?  What does he want to say to you?


a prayer for intimate knowing

penetrate me o god
and know me intimately
test me as precious metal
and deeply know
my many thoughts and fears
see if there is any idol within me
anything that grieves you
or brings sorrow to your heart
and lead me in the hidden way
the way that is far too big
for me to see
the way that can only be seen
with the eyes of the heart
the way of eternity
the way without beginning
and without end
the way to my truest home
in you


Closing Prayer: O Love Unspeakable, come into the depths of my soul and ignite the flame of love, that its passion might consume my heart and engulf my life with its endless delight.  Amen.

Thursday, June 22, 2017


Opening Prayer: In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.  Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God. (Psalm 31:1-5, NIV)

Scripture: Psalm 31:1-5

Journal: What are the traps you typically fall into?  How do you try to avoid them?  How is that working for you?  How can God help change that?

Reflection: A few winters ago we had mice.  Not a fun experience.  And when you have mice, you set traps.  The good thing about mice is that once you do a little research (thank you Google and YouTube) you find out that mice are creatures of habit.  Two things are always true about mice.  First, since their eyesight is not very good, they always follow the exact same pathways, mostly using their sense of smell.  And second, they will always (100% of the time) take the bait.  They simply cannot, or will not, resist it.  So all you have to do to catch mice is to look for the evidence of their pathways and set a trap right in the middle of it.  Or, simply put some bait on a trap and wait for the magic to happen.
     Traps are an interesting phenomenon.  The definition of the word trap is a contrivance, device, stratagem, trick, or the like used to catch people or animals unaware.  Thus, setting a trap involves intention, strategy, and cunning.  You set a trap in order to catch something, or trick someone.  And the reason the trap works is because it is either hidden, unrecognized, or baited.
     In Psalm 31, David prays that God might help free him from the trap that is set for him.  Now maybe he is talking about a physical trap, and maybe he is talking about a spiritual trap.  Who knows?  Most likely, he talking about both.  Either way, it sounds like he had enough experience stepping into traps, and experiencing their effects, that he would like to avoid them in the future if at all possible.  Which means that he must become proficient in three things: recognizing, avoiding, and resisting.
     I don't know about you, but I can totally relate to David.  I have a tendency to step into traps as well.  Which I suppose also means that I am not so different from a mouse.  I, too, have a tendency to travel familiar pathways.  I also have a difficult time not taking the bait whenever it is right in front of me.  My bait, however, is not cheese.  My bait tends to be affirmation, importance, significance, and esteem (there are many more to add to the list, but you get the point).  And when I am hungry for one of these things I go looking for it.  I sniff it out.  Therefore, it is not terribly difficult to set a trap for me.
     It is a familiar scenario.  It starts with my insecurity welling up within me, which produces a need to be right and a hunger to be respected.  When that doesn't happen in the way I'd hoped, it often leads to frustration, anxiety, and even anger--making me the absolute worst possible version of myself.  It is a downward spiral from there.  And there you have it.  Boom!  The trap worked perfectly--once again.  I am such easy prey.
     Maybe you experience the same thing.  Oh, it may not be insecurity.  It may, instead, be control or power or pleasure, or any number of other things that sets you in motion, but the result is the same.  You follow familiar pathways, or you go looking for places to satisfy your hunger, and then boom!  There you are--trapped.  Again!
     So how do we battle this?  How do we keep from being trapped in the same old habits and patterns and dysfunction over and over again?  First of all, we need to be trained to recognize the traps that have been set in our paths.  This takes attentiveness, presence and prayer.  We must begin to walk with God in such a way that he is able to help us have eyes to see the reality of our situation.  After all, as David reminds us in Psalm 139:3, God is familiar with all our ways.  If we walk slowly and attentively with him through the course of our days (and our lives) he will teach us how to see the things that we normally miss.  He will help us to see the rope hiding beneath the leaves that is waiting to grab us by the ankles the minute we set foot in it.  Learning to live life with God, at his speed, will help us to recognize.
     Next, we must learn to avoid the places where the traps are typically set.  This is not rocket science.  We are not mice.  If you step into a trap, one of the best ways not to do it again is to avoid putting yourself in that position.  It's the old "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me" routine.  This is where it takes both wisdom and willingness.  We have to be wise in recognizing our patterns and their results.  And then we have to be willing to change those patterns.  Men, if it is impossible for you to be on your computer and not be led into sin, get rid of it.  If you continue to use it, you will repeat those damaging patterns--again and again.  Or if it is your phone, get rid of the smart phone, go old school.  The question is: "Are you willing to do whatever it takes to not fall into that trap over and over again?"  Will you do everything in your power to avoid it?  If it is a certain situation, or person, or circumstance that makes you become the worst version of yourself, you might want to reflect and pray about the dynamics of that relationship and change it somehow, lest you find the trap slamming shut on you again and again.
     And finally, we must resist.  This one is a little tricky because we immediately begin to assume that our success or failure ultimately has to do with our own willpower.  If that was the case, we would all be in big, big trouble.  You will not conquer the biggest enemies of your spiritual life with sheer willpower.  You will be easy prey.  The tricky part is that resistance is not so much about being determined not to take the bait anymore.  It is rather about realizing that there is something much better, much richer, much more satisfying than the piddly little bait we normally take, and feeding on that (on Jesus) instead.  It is about being filled with something so much better that we will lose our appetite for the things of the world because of the depth and beauty and riches of the things of the Kingdom.  It is not about stopping up our ears and refusing to listen to the Siren Song (Ulysses), as much as it is about being captured by a more beautiful song altogether (Orpheus).  It is about letting go of the lesser affections because you have been seized by the power of the Great Affection.  It is really about falling in love. 
     Unfortunately, even still, I have a tendency to not even think about the trap until after I have already stepped into it.  So I must continue to cultivate a more and more intimate life with God.  I must continue to live my life with God in such a way that I can learn to recognize, avoid, and resist the many traps that have been set for me.  Maybe constantly praying this prayer (Psalm 31:1-5) is a good place to start.


Closing Prayer: Help me, O Lord.  Free me from the traps I normally fall into.  And help me to live in love and freedom. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, your love for us is complete and extravagant and unconditional.  It is all about giving rather than getting.  May our love for one another be the same.  Amen.

Scripture: Ephesians 5:21-33

Journal: How is God drawing out your beauty or strength these days?  How are you doing that for others?  How are you doing that in your family?  Your marriage?  How has Christ loved you?  How is that a guide for how you love others?

Reflection: Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.
    Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.
     Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.
    No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband. (Ephesians 5:21-33, The Message)


Closing Prayer: May we, O Lord, love those in our very own families with the same love and kindness and compassion with which we have been loved by you.  Amen.

Monday, June 19, 2017

to do

Opening Prayer: Lord God, let me be full of your life, your Spirit, and your delight today.  Help me to trust you and to find my rest in you.  Help me to wait patiently for you and not run anxiously ahead of you.  And, by your mercy and strength, O Lord, help me not to fret.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 37:3-8

Journal: What words from Psalm 37 bring you to life inside?  Why?  What words challenge you?  Why and how?  Which ones are most descriptive of your everyday experience?  Which are least?  How will you nurture the good and starve out the bad?

Reflection: I am a list guy.  As much as I might try to deny it, it is true.  I like to make lists and I like, even more, to check things off.  I have even been known to write things on my list that I have already completed, just for the joy of checking them off.  I know, I know, it is a sickness.  I guess one of the reasons for this strange compulsion is that I have spent most of my life in one kind of vocational ministry or another, which is a life and a calling that seldom leads to being able to check things off a list.  Being involved in the lives of people isn't that neat and tidy.  It is often messy and is relentlessly ongoing.
     Unfortunately, because of this obsession with lists, I can sometimes treat my spiritual life with the same type of attitude.  Read the scriptures.  Spend time with God.  Pray.  Check, check, and check.  Not very conducive to the life of God growing within me.
     Who knows, maybe King David had the same problem.  But maybe he learned the wisdom of discerning what things actually need to be on the list and what things don't.  Take Psalm 37, for instance.  In verses 3-8 there is a "to do" list.  But it is not just any to do list; it is a list that gets right to the heart of what life with God is really all about.  Just look at the things David says to do: trust, do good, dwell, enjoy, delight, commit, trust (once again), be still, and wait patiently.  Now that's a list I can get excited about.  That is a list that is actually far more about being than it is about doing. 
     And look at the one thing he says not to do--fret.  For fretting leads only to evil.  Fretting actually dries up the life of God within us.  It fills us so full of ourselves and our problems, worries and dilemmas that it leaves no room within us for the movement of God's Spirit.
     So if you are looking for a little spark, a little guidance and direction in your life with God, why not take David's words to heart?  Allow the words of this ancient prayer to take up residence within you.  Allow them to teach you the movements and rhythms of God's grace.  That is what the Psalms do.  In the words of Eugene Peterson, "The psalms train us in the conversation with God that is prayer."
     Check?  Check.     


Closing Prayer: Get insurance with God and do a good deed, settle down and stick to your last. Keep company with God, get in on the best.
     Open up before God, keep nothing back; he’ll do whatever needs to be done: He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon.
     Quiet down before God, be prayerful before him. Don’t bother with those who climb the ladder, who elbow their way to the top.
    Bridle your anger, trash your wrath, cool your pipes—it only makes things worse. (Psalm 37:3-8, The Message)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

like grass

Opening Prayer: Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. (Psalm 103:1-5, ESV)

Scripture: Psalm 103:15-17

Journal: What words from Psalm 103 bring you to life?  What words challenge you?  How does it make you feel that your days are like the grass?  What does that produce in you?

Reflection: No matter how hard I try to deny it, I am not indispensable.  I might try to convince myself and my world otherwise, but the truth remains.  One day I will be gone, either from this job or this life, and those who are left will remember me for a while, but, in the end, I will be like a flower of the field.  I will be gone and my place will remember me no more.  That truth should not be a surprise to me.  I am pretty sure that my old office at the church has probably forgotten me three or four occupants ago, or even been turned into a classroom or a storage closet.  And the Young Life club at Powell High School that I invested almost ten years of my life building and guiding, has never missed a beat in my absence.  In fact, it continues on, going strong.  And I'm pretty sure the kids who come to club these days don't have any idea who I am or that I was once a part of what God was doing there.  And I think that realization is supposed to produce something really good in me.  King David certainly thought so.
   Years ago I was finishing up a month-long program assignment at a Young Life camp in Colorado. At the end of our time together my Camp Director (who was a dear friend that knew me well) pulled me aside for my evaluation.  "You did such a great job." he said.  "The creativity and quality of your work were simply outstanding.  I do, however, have one observation.  It seemed like you felt like you had to be present at everything in order for it to go well.  I wonder if you trust God much more in your presence, than you do in your absence."  And he was absolutely right.  Somehow I had convinced myself that in order for God to really work, I had to be a part of it.  Who knows, maybe I was afraid it wouldn't go well if I was not around, and maybe I was even more afraid that it would.
    The painful reality is that we tend to take ourselves, and our contributions to the work of God's kingdom, way more seriously than we probably should.  It is a grace and a gift that God chooses to use us for a time, and while are here (wherever here may be) God desires us to be fully engaged and invested.  And we are.  The problem comes when we begin to believe that we are somehow essential to God's long-term effectiveness in our own little corner of the world--and maybe in one way we are.  But in a much larger way, we are not.  We are only one tiny piece of a great big whole.  That is not to minimize our contributions, or our efforts in the direction of his kingdom, it is simply meant to remind us that God is the key component, not us.  God is the Eternal One, not us.  God is the focal point, not us.  And that is not meant to demean or diminish us, it is meant to set us free.
    A couple of days ago I was reading an article in our local newspaper about one of the co-head coaches (the wife of a husband-wife duo) of the softball program at the University of Tennessee.  In the article, as she was describing why the softball program was so successful (currently the most successful program in the entire athletic department) she said, "I don't know how to say this, but neither of us need this.  We want to do this, but it's not like we have to do this.  I think that is what makes it so fun for us.  I think that is why I can do what I do now, and I don't get all crazy about it.  I want to win.  I love to win, and I am super competitive.  But it's not like if I don't win a championship I won't die happy.  I am out here every year trying, but it's really all about growing these young women.  That is what's important to me."  And there it is.  It is all about operating out of a place of desire rather than a place of need.
    God desires that our lives and our ministries flow out of joyful desire, rather than needy dysfunction; out of the overflow of his love and affection, rather than the scarcity of our own need to be significant and to make an impact.  And somehow remembering that he is from everlasting to everlasting and we are like flowers of the field is meant to free us up to do just that.  For if we are driven by our own need, rather than by his immense love, things turn ugly really quick.  For it is not we who are essential, but him.  Only him.  Thanks be to God!


Closing Prayer: Men and women don’t live very long; like wildflowers they spring up and blossom, but a storm snuffs them out just as quickly, leaving nothing to show they were here. God’s love, though, is ever and always, eternally present to all who fear him, making everything right for them and their children as they follow his Covenant ways and remember to do whatever he said. (Psalm 103:15-18, The Message)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

delight versus fret

Opening Prayer: Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: he will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.  Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret. . .it leads only to evil. (Psalm 37:3-8, NIV)

Scripture: Psalm 37:3-8

Journal: What are you most full of today, delight or fret?  How do you delight yourself in the Lord?  How do you allow yourself to be delighted in by him?  How are the two related?  What do you most often fret over?  How can you lessen the hold fret has over your life?  Have you prayed and asked God to do that?

Reflection: It is impossible to understate the importance of delight in the spiritual life.  Delight is the very lifeblood of our lives with God.  It is the thing that gives life and energy and vibrancy to our souls.  It is the end result of the activity of God’s Spirit within us.  God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,” says Paul in Romans. (Rom. 5:5)  Delight is when God’s Spirit so captures our hearts with his great love and affection that it changes everything about us.  Thus, we come to delight in him as we recognize his deep delight in us, which fills us to overflowing so that his Divine Love spills out of us into the world around us.
     The word delight (‘anag) is used in a couple of different ways in the Old Testament.  The literal translation is to be soft or delicate.  Thus, when we delight in God, we become soft to him.  We are pliable in his hands, open and vulnerable to his touch and his voice and his Spirit.  The other way the word delight is used in the scriptures is to be filled with deep gladness.  When we delight ourselves in the Lord, we find our deepest joy and gladness in who he is, and in his great affection for us.  This, in turn, breeds so many other great things in the life of faith: trust and rest and surrender to his will and his direction.  When we delight in our God, we recognize, and are convinced of, the depths of his heart for us, allowing us to truly trust in him.
     In contrast (in Psalm 37), is the word fret.  The word fret is used a couple of different ways in the Old Testament as well.  To fret (charah) literally means to blaze up or grow hot.  Under this usage of the word, when we fret we get angry with God and become hardened to him, rather than soft.  The other way the word fret is used is to be filled with worry or doubt.  When we fret, we become consumed.  We allow worry or doubt to so fill us up that there is no room for God to do anything of value within us.
    So how do we live in such a way, as to cultivate and nurture delight, while minimizing and weeding out fret?  Maybe a starting point would be to begin to immerse our hearts in the words of this ancient prayer.  To reflect on it and chew on it and meditate on it and pray it until it begins to take root within us.  Maybe by praying these words over and over, we might actually begin to do them; or, better yet, to become them.  Maybe by praying these very words we will become more convinced of his love and, thus, more able to delight in him.  It seems like a good place to start anyway.


Closing Prayer: Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
    Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm. (Psalm 37:3-8, NLT)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

blessed to bless

Opening Prayer: How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. (Ephesians 1:3-6, The Message)

Scripture: Ephesians 1:3-10

Journal: What words of life and blessing have you received from God lately?  How does he want you to speak words of life and love and blessing to those in your life and world today?  To whom?

Reflection: "We are chosen, blessed and broken so as to be given.  The fourth aspect of the life of the Beloved is to be given.  For me, personally, this means that it is only as people who are given that we can fully understand our being chosen, blessed and broken.  In the giving it becomes clear that we are chosen, blessed and broken not simply for our own sakes, but so that all we live finds its final significance in its being lived for others." (Life of the Beloved by Henri J. M. Nouwen)
     You, yes you, are God's Beloved.  You are his masterpiece; his work of art.  You bring him deep joy and great delight.  You make his heart skip a beat every time he thinks of you--which is all the time.  You bring a smile to his face and a song to his lips.  Our God, the Father of Jesus, is very, very fond of you.
    Now go forth into the world and speak words of life and love and blessing to everyone you come in contact with.


Closing Prayer: You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! (Psalm 139:13-18, NLT)

Friday, June 9, 2017


Opening Prayer: O Jesus, let me be full of you.  Amen.

Scripture: Romans 15:13

Journal: What words would you use to describe your soul these days?  What are you full of?  What would it look like to be overflowing with hope?  What are you overflowing with?

Reflection: We are all full of something.  Somedays it is anxiety and insecurity, somedays it is pride and arrogance, and somedays it is something a little more noble than that.  If I am completely honest, however, I must admit that almost always I am full of myself. The problem is that there is a spiritual principle in play here: Whatever you are full of is what will pour forth from your life.  If I am full of anxiety, then anxiety is what will overflow from me.  If I am filled with arrogance, then arrogance with overflow from me.  But if I am filled with Jesus, then Jesus will overflow from me.  It is that simple.  Saint Bernard wrote about it years ago: “The man who is wise, therefore, will see his life as more like a reservoir than a canal.  The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives, the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself.  Today there are many in the Church who act like canals, the reservoirs are far too rare.  You must learn to await this fullness before pouring out your gifts, do not try to be more generous than God.”


Closing Prayer: May the life of God within us fill us to overflowing, that we might drench all who come across our paths with his love and his joy and his peace.  Amen.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

with jesus

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to set aside all of my lists and my plans and my agendas for this next hour, and help me to simply spend time with you.  For you want my attention and my affection far more than you want my frenetic activity.  Capture my heart with your presence and then guide my steps with your Spirit.  Amen.

Scripture: Acts 4:13

Journal: How would you describe your life with Jesus these days?  How is it marking your everyday life?

Reflection: “And they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”  What a great line!  It is so hopeful.  I don’t know about you, but most days I feel about as ordinary and unschooled as they come.  I mean, these guys were fishermen for crying out loud!  And they were standing toe to toe with some of the most distinguished scholars and theologians of their day—and amazing them at that.  That is the hopeful part.  It isn’t what I know, or what I can do, that makes me useful to God and to his kingdom; it is simply being with Jesus.  That is not meant to belittle the value of education, but is meant to underscore the importance of devotion.  When I spend quality time with Jesus, he gives me everything I need.  That time with him is what gives me the inspiration and the strength and the power I need to have an impact on those around me, no matter who they are.  So before we run off to our books and our strategy meetings and our “to do” lists, let us first make time and space to simply be with Jesus.


Closing Prayer: I ask you, Lord Jesus, to develop in me, your lover, an immeasurable urge towards you, an affection that is unbounded, longing that is unrestrained, fervor that throws discretion to the winds!  The more worthwhile our love for you, all the more pressing does it become.  Reason cannot hold it in check, fear does not make it tremble, wise judgment does not temper it. (The Fire of Love by Richard Rolle)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


Opening Prayer: Let me hear joy and gladness, O God; let the bones you have broken rejoice. (Psalm 51:8)

Scripture: Psalm 51:17

Journal: What are your places of deepest brokenness these days?  What is God trying to do in and through those?  How is God meeting and healing your brokenness?  How might he use it to offer life and hope to others?

Reflection: Most of us flee brokenness at every opportunity.  But the truth is that our unique brokenness is meant to be an invitation into the heart of God.  Our brokenness, yours and mine, is meant to help us encounter God in an intimate and transforming way.  All of life, and particularly our pain, is an invitation to know God more deeply.  Our unique brokenness is an avenue through which God can get his hands on us and do a deep work in us, and then pass us along in a fruitful way to those in our lives and world.  Therefore we must embrace our brokenness, rather than run away from it.  We must receive it, own it, and know it deeply before it can teach and transform us as the Spirit offers hope and healing.  Only then will we be able to fruitfully give it away.  And the gift our brokenness offers to those around us is immense.  For it is those places where we have been most deeply broken that actually have something of value—by God’s grace—to offer our world, even if it is simply our compassionate presence. 


Closing Prayer: Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice. (Psalm 51:16-17, The Message)

Monday, June 5, 2017


Opening Prayer: Grant, O Infinite God, that I may ever cling fast to Jesus Christ, my Lord. Let His heart reveal to me how You are disposed toward me. I shall look upon His heart when I desire to know who You are. The eye of my mind is blinded whenever it looks only at Your Infinity, in which You are totally present in each and every aspect at once. Then I am surrounded by the darkness of Your unboundedness, which is harsher than all my earthly night. But instead I shall gaze upon His human heart, O God of our Lord Jesus Christ, and then I shall be sure that You love me. (Prayers For A Lifetime by Karl Rahner)

Scripture: Romans 12:14

Journal: What does it mean to you that you are blessed by God?  How does that affect your life?  Are the words that come out of your mouth each day more blessings or curses?  Why?  What does it mean to bless and do not curse?  How will you do that today?  How will you offer words of life and blessing?  To whom?

Reflection: To bless, in Latin (benedicere), means “to speak well of.”  Therefore, to live a life of blessing means to allow the voice of God to speak deeply to our hearts and souls, to receive those words of blessing in the depths of our being, and then to be a blessing to (or to bless) those who come across our paths.  That is the way this life is supposed to work.  We are blessed in order to be a blessing.  But in our haste to be a blessing, we cannot fail to listen deeply and to fully receive the words of life and blessing for ourselves.  Otherwise, we will never have anything of depth and substance—and even authenticity—to pass along.
     If I do not, first, truly believe that I am God’s beloved, then I will never be able to give words of life and blessing to those in my world who so desperately need it.  I will be far too needy myself.  And when I am needy, I cannot truly give anything of value because I am so anxiously trying to grasp some sort of blessing for myself.  The life of love and compassion has turned into one of comparison and competition.  And in that case, I cannot bless, I can only curse.  And clearly, I am told by Paul—even with my enemies—to bless and do not curse.
    O God, help me to be so convinced of my worth and value in your eyes, that I am able to freely and lovingly bless those in my life and world—both friend and enemy—rather than curse.


Closing Prayer: O Lord Jesus, you have blessed us in order that we might be a blessing.  Never let us forget that.  Amen.

Friday, June 2, 2017

your story

Opening Prayer: Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. (Psalm 107:1-3, ESV)

Scripture: Psalm 107:1-43

Journal:  What is your story with God these days?  What is God up to deep within you?

Reflection: "Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story. . ." (Psalm 107:2, The Message)

All prayer is prayed in a story, by someone who is in the story. ~Eugene Peterson

"They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven." (Psalm 107:30)

     Somehow it seems like I am always able to find my story in the stories of Psalm 107.  In this case, God allowed me to take a step back and look at the story of the past six years.  That's right, it has been six years since this particular leg of our journey began.  At this time, six years ago, we were in the midst of a huge transition from 18 wonderful years on the Young Life staff, to the next thing (whatever it may be).  In the midst of the turmoil and uncertainty of those days, I could never have imagined the beautiful work that God was doing at the time.  Now, six years later, it is much easier to see.  And to tell you the truth, when I think about it, it's really overwhelming.  I cannot imagine being in a place that is a better expression of how God has wired me and who he has made me to be.  The things I get to do and the people I have the privilege of being with are so incredible.  I even have the wonderful privilege of still getting to do a lot of things with Young Life; things that I wouldn't have had time and space to do in my old role.  Pretty amazing.
     As I think back on it all, I probably would not choose to go through that painful process again, but I would definitely not trade the destination.  Isn't that the way it so often is in this life?  What a lesson; one that we all know by heart.  The very best things that God does within us, often come from the times that were most difficult for us.  Psalm 107 is exhibit A.  I can think of no better words to describe life for us these days than, "He guided them to their desired haven."  Indeed he has!  And we are so grateful!  Grateful to him, and grateful for you and the role each and every one of you has played in that process over the past six years.  Here's to the next six!  God definitely knows what he is doing. Thanks be to him! "Let us give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men." (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31)

Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord." (Psalm 107:43)


Closing Prayer: Thank you, O God, for the ways you lead and guide.  The process, at times, can be really painful, but the destination is always oh so good.  Amen.