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Friday, June 29, 2018

dwell in the land

Opening Prayer: O Lord, I am so prone to worry and fret and struggle, when you offer me a much better alternative—trust and enjoyment and delight.  Help me to live the way you desire me to live today, rather than the way I usually do.  In your name and by your power I pray.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 37:3-4

Journal: Where are worry, fret, and frustration getting the best of you?  How will you begin to trust, enjoy, and delight instead?

Reflection: 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.  (Psalm 37:3-4)
     The land that we are in, is the land that we are in; there is not much we can do to change it.  What we can change is how we choose to dwell in that land.  We can fret and worry and brood and be frustrated, or we can trust and enjoy and delight and commit.  We can try, in futility, to change (or fight) our circumstances, or we can embrace them and change our mindset instead.
     The words of this ancient prayer are our invitation to do just that.  Eugene Peterson says that, "The Psalms train us in the conversation with God that is prayer."  They help us to become all that God desires us to be.  So if we take these words and bury them deep in our hearts and souls, and utter them often from our lips, they will begin to take shape and produce fruit within us.  They will actually begin to do what they say.
     In them we will begin to hear the whisper of the One who made us saying: "Stop fretting and simply enjoy the place where I have put you.  You cannot escape it, you might as well embrace it.  Delight in me, as I delight in you.  Trust me with all that is on your plate and all that is in your heart.  I will carry it so that you don't have to.  Calm and quiet your soul, even in the midst of the chaos, and find your rest in me."


Closing Prayer: Believe in the Eternal, and do what is good—live in the land He provides; roam, and rest in God’s faithfulness. Take great joy in the Eternal! His gifts are coming, and they are all your heart desires! (Psalm 37:3-4, The Voice)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Opening Prayer: To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.  Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.  No one whose hope is in you, O Lord, will ever be put to shame. (Psalm 25:1-3, NIV)  

Scripture: Psalm 25:1-3

Journal: How are shame and self-contempt affecting your life these days?  How do you fight them?  How successful has that been?  How do the words of this ancient prayer offer you help and hope?

Reflection: Make no mistake about it, the battle against shame and self-contempt is never-ending.  Their continual assault on our hearts and souls will never stop, at least this side of heaven.  Because shame and self-contempt are two of the main weapons the enemy uses to triumph over those of us who struggle through life on a regular basis.  The reason they are so effective is that, to a large degree, they are unrecognized.  Somehow the enemy has convinced us that the voices we hear, telling us how miserable and worthless we are, come from ourselves rather than from him.  What a brilliant strategy—to turn us against ourselves.  Which then leads to further shame and self-contempt.  It is a never-ending downward spiral.
     That’s why I find so much comfort in the first few verses of Psalm 25.  The words of this ancient prayer give me hope that this battle can—and will—be won.  They also give me help in the fighting of this battle.  The words of Psalm 25 give me weapons to use when I feel overwhelmed, beaten up, and defeated.  They empower me when it feels like I am at the mercy of forces far greater and more powerful than I.
     All I have to do is use them—by praying them.  All I have to do is recognize the strategy of the enemy, lift my soul to the Lord, and trust in him rather than trusting in myself, or the world around me to tell me who I am and what I am worth.  To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.  In you I trust, O my God.  When I lift my soul to the Lord, and trust only in my God, then shame and self-contempt begin to lose their grip on me.  Then I am free to be the person that God created me to be.  Thanks be to God!


Closing Prayer:  Help us, O Lord, to lift our souls to you.  Help us, this day, to walk in the truth of your love rather than the lies of the enemy.  Amen.

Monday, June 25, 2018

being and doing

Opening Prayer: O Lord, my God, I get so busy doing all of the things that I “need” to do every day, that sometimes I lose touch with who you have called me to be.  Help me, O Lord, to only do that which helps me to become more and more who you want me to be.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 37:3-8

Journal: What is the tension between doing and being in your life right now?  Are the things that you are doing on a daily basis helping you be who God made you to be?

Reflection: By far the most frequent question I am asked in the course of my dealings with people and their souls is: “What can I do to be more connected and intimate with God?”  It is always a bit of a tricky question, because they are really asking is: “How can I do my way into being?”  And as soon as we start down the road to doing, it is almost impossible to then find ourselves in the land of being on any kind of consistent basis.  
     But maybe Psalm 37 provides some insight.  Psalm 37 tells us that we have to find things to do that actually help us to be. We have to find things to do that have a being quality about them.  For instance, “Dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.”  Or, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  And finally, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.”  When is the last time you tried to dwell, or enjoy, or delight, or be still, or wait?  All of those are things to do that strangely enough involve non-doing.  It is the collision of doing and being, because how can I truly enjoy God, or delight in him, if I never hold still long enough to give him my full attention.  I guess that’s why they call these spiritual practices, because they help us practice (do) a way of life that encourages us to live (be) at attention. 


Closing Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to dwell and enjoy and delight and be still in you today. For that will make me more and more who you have called me to be.

Sunday, June 24, 2018


Opening Prayer:  Forgive me, O God, when I allow my circumstances, or the conditions of my life, to determine me.  You want way more for me than that.  Your love is really better than life.  And you, the God of all creation, are my help.  Let those be the things that determine how I live.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 63

Journal: What are your conditions these days?  How are they determining the quality of your life?  What if your life with God did that?  Fill in the blank: Because Your love is better than life________________.  Because You are my help_______________.

Reflection: Where you are is never meant to determine you; it is who you are (or rather Whose you are) that counts.  Who you are anchors you to something—or Someone—greater and keeps you from living at the mercy of your circumstances.  Circumstances matter, but they should never determine the quality of your life.
     Just look at the psalm for today.  David is in the Desert of Judah, a dry and weary land where there is no water, but the quality of his life is not determined by that.  The quality of his life is determined by the God who is far greater than his circumstances.  The quality of his life—and therefore his behavior—is rooted in two wonderful statements about his God.  “Because your love is better than life” and “Because you are my help.”  These two things determine how David sees his life and how he will respond as a result.
     Because your love is better than life: my lips will glorify you, I will praise you as long as I live, in your name I will lift up my hands, my soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods, with singing lips my mouth will praise you, on my bed I will remember you, and I think about you through the watches of the night.  And because you are my help: I sing in the shadow of your wings, my soul clings to you, your right hand upholds me, they who seek my life will be destroyed, they will go down to the depths of the earth, they will be given over to the sword, the king will rejoice in God, all who swear by God’s name will praise him, and the mouths of liars will be silenced.  
     David’s life is not determined by his circumstances or conditions, but by who his God is, and who he is in God.  May it always be the same for us.  May we, as David did, earnestly seek God, regardless of where we are, regardless of what surrounds us, regardless of what lies within us.  God’s loves is better than life.  And God, the Almighty God, is our help. 


Closing Prayer: O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

getting ready

Opening Prayer: O Lord, my God, as I come to you in this hour I realize that I am not ready to pray.  My heart and my mind are still so full of noise and distractions.  Settle me, O God.  Calm my mind and still my soul.  Plant me by the stream and let me become still and quiet and aware of your love and your presence.  Then I will be ready to be with you.  Then I will have fully arrived to this time and place.  Then my soul will finally be at home and at rest.  Help me to be still and know that you are God.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 1

Journal: How does Psalm 1 prepare you to pray?  How does it help you to pray?  What words or images are most helpful for you?  Why?

Reflection: The text that teaches us to pray (the Psalms) doesn’t begin with prayer.  We are not ready.  We are wrapped up in ourselves.  We are knocked around by the world.  The ways in which we are used to going about our business, using the language, dealing with our neighbors, and thinking about God don’t exactly disqualify us from prayer, but neither do they help much.
     The nonpraying world is a pushing, shoving, demanding world. Voices within and without harass, insisting that we look at this picture, read this headline, listen to this appeal, feel this guilt, touch this charm.  It is asking too much that we move from this high-stimulus world into the quiet concentrations of prayer without an adequate transition.  
     The nonpraying world is also an intimidating world.  We wake each day to a world noisy with braggadocio, violent with guns, arrogant with money.  What use is prayer in the face of governments, armies, and millionaires?  What motivation can we muster to pray when all the obvious power is already allocated to heads of state and barons of industry?
     In prayer we intend to leave the world of anxieties and enter a world of wonder.  We decide to leave an ego-centered world and enter a God-centered world.  We will to leave a world of problems and enter a world of mystery.  But it is not easy.  We are used to anxieties, egos, and problems: we are not used to wonder, God, and mystery. (Answering God by Eugene Peterson)


Closing Prayer: Be still my soul, the Lord is on thy side.  Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.  Leave to thy God to order and provide.  In every age he faithful will remain.  Be still my soul thy best, thy heavenly friend.  Through thorny ways lead to a joyful end.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

the death of i

Opening Prayer: Jesus, please make this life—my life—about you and not about me.  Amen.

Scripture: John 12:23-28

Journal: How is God calling you to put the “I” to death today?


the death of i

to live in the i
is to never become
what we were
intended to be

the i must die
else there will
always be only
a single kernel

however if the i
falls to the ground
and dies
more is possible

the single kernel
becomes many seeds
death becomes
the avenue to new life

life that is about
more than just i

so let us learn
to die to i
that much more
might be born

for like jesus
this is why
we have come
to this very hour

now is the time
father glorify your name


Closing Prayer: Father, glorify your name!

Friday, June 8, 2018


Opening Prayer: How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. (Psalm 133:1-3, NIV)

Scripture: Psalm 133

Journal: Do you typically think in terms of “I” or in terms of “we?”  What will it take to make the leap from I to we?



the leap
from i to we 
is a large one

it takes courage
and conviction
to lay aside
our opinions 
and preferences
for the sake of unity

living as we
invites us into 
the very life of God
to live like the trinity
a life of fullness and blessing
that cannot be attained 
by flying solo

we puts an end
to individualism
and isolation
in favor of
and commonality

so jesus asks us today
will you lay aside i
so you can receive
the blessings of we
will you take the leap


Closing Prayer: How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in peace! It is like the finest oils poured on the head, sweet-smelling oils flowing down to cover the beard, Flowing down the beard of Aaron, flowing down the collar of his robe. It is like the gentle rain of Mount Hermon that falls on the hills of Zion. Yes, from this place, the Eternal spoke the command, from there He gave His blessing—life forever. (Psalm 133, The Voice)

Thursday, June 7, 2018

open door

Opening Prayer: O God, God, my Father, I have no words, no words by which I dare express the things that stir within me.  I lay bare myself, my world, before you in quietness.  Brood over my spirit with your great tenderness and understanding and judgment, so that I will find, in some strange new way, strength for my weakness, health for my illness, guidance for my journey.  This is the stirring of my heart, O God, my Father.  Amen. (The Growing Edge by Howard Thurman)

Scripture: Revelation 3:7-13

Journal: How are you like the church at Philadelphia?  How does the message to that church speak to you?  How does it encourage you?  How does it challenge you?  Is there an open door before you these days?  Where is it and what would it look like to walk through it?

Reflection: Nothing is more inviting than an open door; especially a door that has been opened by God.  And that is the image we have before us today.  God has set an open door before us, which no one is able to shut.  No one!  What does that mean?  What is this mysterious door?  And what is the invitation that this open door beckons us to?  
     The church at Philadelphia was a delight to God.  It was small in number (and apparently in power), but large in stature.  In fact it is the only church mentioned in these seven letters that God had absolutely no criticism of.  In fact, even in the midst of significant trial and opposition God commended them for keeping his word and not denying his name.   
     My guess is that this is where the open door comes in.  It is the open door of ministry opportunity.  The same door that Paul writes about, and requests prayer for, in Colossians and 1 and 2 Corinthians.  Somehow their faithfulness to Christ, even in the midst of strong opposition, had proven them worthy of such a door of opportunity being held constantly open for them.  As in, “The man who is faithful in the little things will also be faithful in the big things.” (Luke 16:10, JBP)   

We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. ~Romans 5:2 (The Message)


Closing Prayer: Come, Lord, and speak to my heart.  Communicate to it your holy will, and mercifully work within it both to will and to do according to your good pleasure. Amen. ~Thomas A Kempis

Tuesday, June 5, 2018


Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, you whose eyes are like a flame of fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze, you who searches the mind and the heart, may we always hold fast to your ways and your standards, and never let the culture around us determine what we will do or how we will think.  Let our thoughts and our deeds, Lord Jesus, always be determined by you and you alone.  In your name.  Amen.

Scripture: Revelation 2:18-29

Journal: How are you like the church at Thyatira?  What does the vision of Jesus as having “eyes like a flame of fire” and “feet like burnished bronze” do within you?  How does the message to the church at Thyatira speak to your life right now?  Are there things I tolerate in myself that cause God great sadness?

Reflection: Being tolerant is generally thought of as a positive virtue in this day and age.  And in terms of being loving, caring, and accepting of those around us, that would seem to be a good and right thing.  After all, didn’t Jesus eat with tax gatherers and sinners?  Wasn’t it Jesus who said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13)  Jesus seemed very at home with, and embracing of, people from all walks of life, people who were lost in an abundance of ways.  So we too, as his people, should always have a loving openness to people in this broken and hurting world.
     But here in the letter to the church at Thyatira there is a different kind of tolerance that Jesus gives a pretty strong warning against.  It seems that the people of this church were subtly being seduced into thinking that certain practices were okay, when the truth of the matter was that these very practices, ones they thought would have little to no impact on them individually or corporately, would actually impact them significantly—over time.      
     Thus, the message of Jesus to the church at Thyatira seems pretty simple, “Watch out what you tolerate, because, in the end, it can lead you miles away from your desired destination.”  Oh it might not seem like a big deal at first.  In fact, it could be a very subtle thing, only one or two degrees different from the intended course.  The problem is that one or two degrees difference, over time, amounts to a pretty significant difference in the long run.  In fact, it is an easy way to get lost.  And Jesus doesn’t want us lost, he wants us home.  Therefore, he warns the church—not just the one at Thyatira, but of every time and every place—what an enormous impact tolerating a few things can have on our lives.


Closing Prayer: Disturb us, Lord, when we are too pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little, when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore.  Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.  Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wilder seas where storms will show Your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.  We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes; and to push back the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.  This we ask in the name of our Captain, who is Jesus Christ. ~Sir Francis Drake

Sunday, June 3, 2018


Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, the cost of following you is indeed high.  Forgive us when we try to rationalize or water down that call.  Help us to have the courage to truly follow you no matter where it might lead, no matter what it might cost.  In your name and for your glory.  Amen.

Scripture: Revelation 2:8-11

Journal: How are you like the church at Smyrna?  How do the things said to that church speak to something in your heart or life today?  How is it an encouragement to you in whatever you may be suffering these days?  What is your biggest trial or tribulation right now?  How is God working in and through it?

Reflection: The cost of following Jesus is high.  It is easy to lose sight of that fact in the country and the culture we live in.  For most of us following Jesus in America has cost us very little, especially compared to those who live in other parts of the world.  It seems that our culture is much like the one of the church in Laodicea rather than Smyrna.  That is probably why we can tend to be a little on the lazy and lukewarm side in our journey of faith; we have gotten far too comfortable.  
     So it is a little hard for us to imagine what it would be like to get a letter from Jesus telling us, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer.”  That would get our attention, wouldn’t it?  How would you deal with that news?  What would it do within you?  Would it cause you immediate distress or resolve?  Would it make you determined to stand firm in the midst of the coming trial, or try to figure out how to escape or avoid it in any way you could?  Would it cause your faith and trust in Jesus to be strengthened, or would it cause you to question the goodness of his heart?  What if following Jesus was to cost you everything?  It does you know.  What is your reaction to that?
     You have to wonder how the church in Smyrna received this hard and challenging word, as well as the call that followed, “Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.”  I’d like to believe that they handled it with all of the courage and resolve that Jesus hoped they would, realizing that this world was not their home, but only a temporary stop on the road to eternity.  Realizing that their life was not about them, but about God’s Kingdom and his glory.  Resolving that no cost was too great to pay because of their immense love for their Lord and Savior, Jesus.
     What about us?  How have we somehow escaped the notion that following Jesus costs us everything?  What has following Jesus cost you lately?  How have you responded to that?  Are you willing to give everything to him the way the church in Smyrna was being called to?


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that you are the first and last, who died and came to life again.  Give us the strength and the courage to be faithful to you in all things.  Amen.