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Sunday, March 29, 2020

if you are willing

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, teach me how to pray.  Thank you that you can do all things.  Give me the strength and the courage and the grace to ask, like the leper, if you are willing.  And help me to fully accept whatever answer you may give, knowing that you love me deeply and will care for me fully, at all times and in all ways.  Thank you that, regardless of my circumstances, I can fully trust in you.  Amen.

Scripture: Mark 1:40-45

Journal: What are you begging God for these days?  How are you praying for that particular person, thing, or circumstance?  What has been God’s answer thus far?  How would “if you are willing” change the nature of your prayers?  What do you think God is up to in that?

Reflection: A man with leprosy came to him and begged on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” (Mark 1:40) 
     Okay, I have to be honest, I’ve never been a big “name it, claim it” type of guy when it comes to prayer.  That mentality just seems to be a lot more about “my will be done” than it does about “Thy will be done.”  I think that’s why I love this scene in Mark’s gospel so much.  It is such a great example of how to come humbly and submissively before the throne of God with a desperate plea. 
     This needy, hurting, broken man comes to Jesus, falls on his knees, and begs for healing.  But it is the way he does it that I love.  I love his posture, I love his request, and I love how Jesus responds.  It offers such a great image for prayer.  It makes me wonder if Jesus would be really pleased if we all approached him in this way.  It was raw and passionate and real, yet held no demand.  It carried no sense of entitlement or obligation.  And it did not seem to be wrought with a sense of trying to manipulate God into doing what the leprous man wanted.  It was simply a broken person, in great need, falling on his knees before the God who made him, and begging that God to intervene on his behalf—if he was willing.  That is the key.
     “I know you can,” states the requestor.  “That is, if you are willing to.”  Almost as if to say: “I know you can, O God.  I know you are able.  I know you have the power to help.  But I need to ask, in your great wisdom, if you are willing.”  What a great prayer!  It puts the ball clearly in God’s court.  It leaves our circumstances completely under his control and care.  It reminds us that it is his will that counts the most, not our own.  No one knew this better than Jesus: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)  And Paul had the same experience when he pleaded with the Lord to take away his “thorn in the flesh,” but the only response he received was: “My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Cor. 12:9) 
     Years ago I had the privilege, with a group of friends, to sit under the teaching of a wise and wonderful man; a man who was well into his nineties and had been following Jesus for over seventy years.  He was intimately familiar with the ways and the practices of prayer.  During one of our sessions together, one of my friends asked him to describe his prayer life, and I will never forget what he said.  Part of his answer had to do with how he prayed for certain things and people.  “When someone asks me to pray for something,” he said, “I don’t immediately begin praying for exactly what they asked me to, I take it to the Lord first and ask him how he wants me to pray for that person or circumstance.  Then, after I have received an answer from the Lord, I pray.  That way I am able to pray in line with his will, not merely the will of the one who had asked me to pray.” 
     And there you have it.  “If you are willing, you can make me clean,” said the man who was covered with leprosy.  And Jesus’ response was priceless: “I am willing.  Be clean!”  Thanks be to God.


Closing Prayer: Lord God, keep my heart, my life, and my prayers in line with your will, this day and every day.  Amen.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

repent and believe

Opening Prayer:  Lord Jesus, thank you that it’s time, the kingdom of God is at hand.  Help me to repent and believe the good news, today and every day.  Amen.

Scripture: Mark 1:14-15

Journal: Which one do you struggle more with, repentance or belief?  How were they meant to be held together?  What is the state of each in your heart and life?  How will you repent and believe the good news this days?

Reflection: “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.  “The time has come,” he said.  “The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:14-15)
     “It’s time!  No more delay.  Everything is ripe and ready.  The king has finally entered his kingdom.  Therefore, repent and believe the good news.”  They are the very first words that Mark records of Jesus, so they must be really significant.  And they are not a mere suggestion, but a call. A command.  If you want to be a part of this kingdom, you must repent and believe.
     Repent means to change your mind, your way of thinking.  The Greek word is metanoeō.  It is a combination of two words: meta, which means afterwards, and noeō, which means to think.  Thus, repentance is the call to think differently or afterwards.  Or, in other words, to change the way we think.  It is a key element to following Jesus. When we come to him, we must begin to think like he thinks, which then calls us to live like he lives.
     Believe means “to have faith in something or someone.”  The Greek word is pisteuō, which means to be fully convinced of.  Thus, belief isn’t just what we say we believe, it is what we are most convinced is really true.  Which is best evidenced by the way we live our lives.  What we do will tell us a lot about what we really believe to be true.
     But notice Jesus doesn’t just say either repent or believe, he says repent and believe.  It must always be both.  They are vitally connected to each other, you cannot separate one from the other.  But, unfortunately, we do.  
     Often we try to repent, without really believing, and that is totally useless.  Without belief, without being fully convinced, our change is short-lived at best.  It has no depth or substance or power or rootedness to it.  It is the seed planted in shallow soil.  
     And at other times we might be tempted to think that we can believe, without actually having to repent.  That is equally as useless, and even more dangerous, because it makes us like the Scribes and Pharisees.  When we fall into this way of thinking, we somehow convince ourselves that we have no need of repentance, either because of our own self-righteousness (Matthew 5:20), or because we have somehow convinced ourselves theologically that God no longer requires it (John 8:31-47).  
     But Jesus is very clear: both repentance and belief are necessary and essential to life in his kingdom.  You cannot have one without the other.  It is always a both/and kind of arrangement, not an either/or.  And the sooner we realize that, and embrace these two necessities, the sooner we can live life the way Jesus intended it to be.


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, repentance and belief are such key parts of life in your kingdom, but I am good at neither.  Have mercy on me, Lord Jesus, and give me the strength and the power and the courage to be able to repent and believe the good news, whatever that may look like and whatever it may cost.  Amen.

Friday, March 27, 2020


Opening Prayer:  Thank you, O Lord, for the invitation to return to you.  For only by returning to you—continually—can we become all that we were created to be.  Amen.

Scripture: Hosea 14:1-9

Journal: What does returning to the Lord your God look like in this season of your life?  What is he inviting you to?  Where do you sense something blooming and blossoming within or around you?  Are you able to fully appreciate its beauty?  How is it a beautiful reflection of him?

Reflection: “I will be like dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. . . .  He will flourish like the grain.  He will blossom like a vine. . .” (Hosea 14:5, 7) 
     The book of Hosea ends with a simple invitation: “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God.”  And if we take God up on that invitation, it tells us, in rich imagery, what the results will be: flourishing and blossoming.  If we return to the Lord, we will become all that we were intended to be.  A flower’s entire purpose is to blossom.  It is the culmination of a long and arduous process—and a beautiful one at that.
     Years ago we planted lilies by our mailbox.  When we planted them, we knew that it would take a while for them to bud and bloom and blossom.  For months we would go to the mailbox to get the mail and see nothing, just the barren landscape of winter.  But then one day, suddenly it seemed, the green sprouts poked their heads out of the ground and we were able to watch them grow each day.  It was the first hint we’d had that something was going on under the surface of the soil all of those days and weeks and months.  But once those green shoots finally appeared, the anticipation began to grow, until the day when they finally opened their heads to the sun and blossomed into all they were intended to be.  It wasn’t until then that we were able to fully see and fully appreciate their true beauty.
     And Hosea promises us the same.  He promises us that if we will return to the Lord our God—not just once or twice, but always again—we too will see a day when we become all that he intended for us to be.  We too will bud and blossom and flourish.  We too will show the world the beauty and the majesty that we were meant to reflect.  It is what we were created for.
     Which begs the question: What does returning to the Lord your God look like for you these days?  How is God inviting you to become all that you were intended to be?  And where in your life are you seeing a blossoming?  Where in your life is the Lord growing you into something beautiful and alive and vibrant?


Closing Prayer: Thank you, O Lord, that blossoming is exactly what you had in mind for us when you breathed us into being.  You did not have to make us that way, but thank you that you did.  Help us, O Lord, to return to you each and every day, so that we might become all that we were intended to be—beautiful reflections of your life, love, and creativity.  Amen.

Thursday, March 26, 2020


Opening Prayer: O Lord, keep us from doing, just for the sake of doing.  Keep us from springing into action, simply because we have no better alternative.  Keep us from manufacturing and creating, when should be sitting still and depending on you to move and to act.  Keep us from spinning our wheels, just for the sake of spinning them.  We can do nothing apart from you, O Lord, so help us to be still and wait for you.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 130:5-6

Journal: What do you think about waiting?  How does it make you feel?  Why are you resistant to it?  How are you embracing it?  What do you think God is up to?

Reflection: I noticed a monk, ski cap pulled over his ears, sitting perfectly still beneath a tree.  There was such reverence in his silhouette, such tranquil sturdiness, that I paused to watch.  He was the picture of waiting.
     Later I sought him out.  “I saw you today sitting beneath the tree---just sitting there so still.  How is it that you can wait so patiently in the moment?  I can’t seem to get used to the idea of doing nothing.”
     He broke into a wonderful grin.  “Well, there’s the problem right there, young lady.  You’ve bought into the cultural myth that when you’re waiting you’re doing nothing.”
     Then he took his hands and placed them on my shoulders, peered straight into my eyes and said, “I hope you’ll hear what I’m about to tell you.  I hope you’ll hear it all the way down to your toes.  When you’re waiting, you’re not doing nothing.  You’re doing the most important something there is.  You’re allowing your soul to grow up.  If you can’t be still and wait, you can’t become what God created you to be.”  (When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd)


Closing Prayer: Lord, help us to know that waiting is not merely doing nothing, but it is doing a very important something.  Therefore, help us to wait on you, O Lord, more than a watchman waits for the morning.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

blocking and walling

Opening Prayer: Thank you, O God, that your heart for me is so deep and so full of love that you cannot allow me to settle for less than the life and the love you created me for.  You would rather block my path of wall me in than allow me to run off in search of other lovers.  All so that you could lead me into the desert and speak tenderly to me.  Thank you that you love me that much.  Amen.

Scripture: Hosea 2:2-15

Journal: Where is God blocking your path or walling you in these days?  What do you think his purpose is?  How is he trying to allure you?  What tender things do you think he wants to saw to you in the desert?

Reflection: “Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.  She will chase after other lovers but will not catch them; she will look for them but not find them.” (Hosea 2:6-7)
     What are we to think about a God who would block our path or wall us in?  Unless, of course, that blocking or walling was ultimately for our good.  Otherwise, it would just seem cruel and heartless and spiteful.  
     But we know better than that, for we know your heart.  We know that you made us out of love, for love—to love and to be loved beyond measure.  Therefore, any blocking or walling has to be for our greater good.  It has to be your way of alluring us.  What if the whole reason you led us into the desert in the first place was so that you could speak tenderly to us?  What if this blocking and walling was all part of this alluring?  That would change everything.  That would show us that you love us too much to allow us chase after lovers that cannot possibly satisfy the deepest longings of our heart.
     If that, O God, is why you block and wall, then, by all means, block and wall away!


Closing Prayer: Thank you, O God, that you love us too much to just let us go.  Block our path, wall us in, lead us into the desert, do whatever it takes to lead us back to you.  Amen.

Monday, March 23, 2020

stopping lessons

Opening Prayer: Remind us, O Lord, that it is in returning and rest we shall be saved, not in going and doing.  For going and doing can only be fruitful if we are abiding in you first.  Help us to always remember that.  Amen. 

Scripture: Isaiah 30:15

Journal: How are you at stopping and resting?  Do you think they are valuable?  Do you think God actually wants you to do them?  How is God asking you to stop and rest?  What is he asking you to let go of so that you can?

Reflection: Does it seem bizarre to you that we, for some unfathomable reason, would be unwilling to rest?  That we would have to be “made” to lie down in green pastures (Psalm 23:2)?  Why is it so hard for us to stop?  Is it because we don’t want to, or because we just don’t know how?  I think we need stopping lessons.  
     Imagine how terrifying it would be if, when we were being taught to ride a bike, we never learned how to stop.  In that case, we would have only two options available.  We could either keep on going (forever), or we could crash.  Unfortunately, choosing option number one always leads to option number two—to keep going and going and going is not a sustainable solution.  
     I remember when my wife and I tried snow skiing for the very first time.  I mean, it looked easy enough, right?  And since we had a chalet right on the slopes we decided to forgo any type of lessons and just go for it.  We put on our boots and our skis, went out of our chalet to the slope that was just outside our door, and took off down the hill.  Going is a breeze, right?  It is all physics and gravity.  But as we picked up speed heading down the hill, both of us realized that we didn’t know how to stop.  I’m guessing that was probably lesson number one in ski school.  And so we began to look for the softest and safest place to crash, which we did—skis and poles going every which way.  I think even my gloves came off.  It was not pretty, nor fun.
     Stopping is an essential part of life.  That’s probably why God made it a part of our weekly rhythm.  It’s what Sabbath is all about.  In fact, the Hebrew word for Sabbath (shabath) simply means to stop.  God worked six days and then God stopped, and he rested.  Why would we think that we, who were made in his image, would be any different?  In fact, God tells us that it is “in returning and rest we shall be saved.”  Somehow it is in returning to God and resting in him and his work and his care that we actually find our own salvation.  It is not something we have to work for or achieve or earn, but something that can only be received freely.  Thus, we can stop and rest.  In fact, we must.
     Which is funny because somehow I think we see stopping and resting as a weakness.  In our culture they are not held in high regard.  We are so resistant to stopping and resting because they force us to be dependent on something, or Someone, else for our salvation and our honor (Psalm 62:7).  Which makes us trust in God, rather than in our own gifts and efforts, and we do not like that.  We do not like things being out of our control.  But ultimately, whether we like it or not, the biggest things in life are out of our control.  And if nothing else, the last few weeks has been ample evidence of that.  So we must begin to learn to rely on God, to trust in him; which means that we are going to have to learn how to stop.  Stop relying on ourselves, stop trying to do it all ourselves, and stop trusting in ourselves.
     Learning how to stop begins with belief—really being convinced that God is both strong and loving, just like he says he is (Psalm 62:11-12).  He is both able and willing to help us.  Learning how to stop comes from really believing that we really are his beloved.  Our worth and value is solely determined by him and his great love for us.  We do not have to do anything to earn it, he loves us simply because we are his.  Thus, we do not have to constantly try to prove to ourselves and our world that we are worth loving.  And finally, learning to stop means that these truths begin to take shape in our lives.  They give us the freedom to slow down, to make space, to breathe.  The freedom to be the best, God-breathed, version of ourselves.  They allow us to run at a pace that is healthy and sustainable, pumping the brakes when life seems to be getting out of control.  They help us to operate out of love rather than out of need.  And they help us to acknowledge the fact that everything is not up to us, but up to God.  We are not meant to do everything, just the things he has specifically called us to.  


Closing Prayer: Lord, teach me how to stop and rest.  For unless I learn that first, I will be of no lasting value to your kingdom.  I will be trying to force my agenda, rather than operating by yours.  Amen.

Saturday, March 21, 2020


Opening Prayer: O Lord, thank you that you want more for us than simply surviving, you want us to flourish.  Help us to never settle for anything less than that.  Amen.

Scripture: Genesis 26:12-22

Journal: Flourishing or surviving, which best describes your life right now?  Why?  How can you move from surviving to flourishing?

Reflection: Flourishing or surviving, which word best describes your life right now?  And why?  And how do you move from one to the other? 
     I recently got an email from some dear friends who described in detail how they were attempting to be intentional with their hours and their days in the midst of this “hunkering down” that we are all being asked to do as a result of the coronavirus. You see, they wanted more than simply to survive this season of life, they wanted to thrive and grow and flourish.  And they believed in their hearts that God wanted that for them as well.  So they put their heads and their hearts together, prayed, asked themselves some great questions about what they most deeply wanted out of this particular season of life, and then set some things in motion.  
     It was so encouraging!  And it challenged me to examine my own heart and life.  It caused me to ask myself some hard but great questions about what kind of days I really wanted these to be.  Because flourishing, for the most part, doesn’t just fall on our heads; it takes us arranging our lives in certain ways, in order to make it more of a possibility.  And that takes intentionality.  Circumstances, or living in survival-mode, may have blocked our wells, and it is going to take some work to open them back up again.  They are not going to magically unblock themselves.  And the needs and duties and demands of this life are going to crowd us and keep us from having the elbowroom our souls need in order to bloom and blossom and grow.  Room to flourish doesn’t just happen by chance, it must be sought out and arranged for. 
     The question is: How will we do that?  What is the life we most deeply want to live, and how are we going to move in that direction?  How will we be intentional about flourishing, rather than just surviving?  What does room to flourish look like these days?


Closing Prayer: Give us room to flourish, O Lord.  And give us the wisdom to know how to intentionally arrange our lives so that it is more of a possibility.  Amen.

Friday, March 20, 2020

get over yourself

Opening Prayer: Forgive me, O God, when I mistakenly believe that I am essential to all you are doing in the world.  For when I truly believe that, I have stopped being myself and have started trying to play you.  Amen. 

Scripture: Psalm 131:1-3

Journal: Are you able to honestly pray this psalm?  Why or why not?  If you honestly pray this psalm, how do you think it will take shape in your life?  What will your life look like?  What resistance do you feel to praying it?  What is God saying to you through it today?

Reflection: O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.  But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.  O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.  (Psalm 131:1-3, ESV)
     I don’t know about you, but every now and then I have a tendency to overestimate my own importance, to somehow begin to believe that I am essential to things going well in the world.  It makes me unwilling (or unable) to stop and take a breath because “if I don’t do it, who else will?”  It is a skewed and flawed perspective to say the least.  For when we operate out of our own need, rather than out of God’s deep desire, we are not really loving people at all, but merely manipulating them.  They become pawns (objects) in our pathetic quest for self-importance.
     The truth is that I am a non-essential in the grand scheme of things.  God doesn’t need me at all.  In fact, God doesn’t need any of us.  God uses us not because he needs us, but because he loves us.  He uses us because it gives us, and him, pleasure.  And when we finally begin to realize that, we are finally able to be of real service to the kingdom; for then it has stopped being about us and started being about him.  In fact, as the voice of Jesus so beautifully reminded us in 2 Corinthians 12:9, it is actually through our weakness and powerlessness that his strength and power are most fully on display.
     I think that’s why praying this ancient prayer (Psalm 131) is so very important.  It reorients us.  It keeps our hearts from becoming too high (gabahh in Hebrew) and our eyes from being too lofty (ruwm).  It keeps us from thinking more of ourselves than we should.  It helps us to get over ourselves a little bit.  It keeps us from getting too obsessed with our own little contribution to what God is doing in his great big world.  It keeps things in perspective.  
     When we are finally able to honestly pray this prayer, we are finally to the point of being really useful to God, because it has become about him once again and not about us.  For ironically, if it doesn’t have to be me, then it actually can be me.


Closing Prayer: O Lord, how can I possibly calm and quiet my soul like a weaned child with its mother if I do not fully trust that you are God and I am not?  Help me to fully come to that realization this day.

Thursday, March 19, 2020


Opening Prayer: Thank you, O Lord, that you stopped and rested, and call us to do the same.  Help us to embrace, rather than resist that call.  Amen.

Scripture: Genesis 2:2, Exodus 20:11

Journal: How are you at stopping?  How about resting?  What cause you to resist it, and why?  What would happen if you truly engaged both stopping and resting?  Will you?  How?

Reflection: Okay, let’s face it, we suck at stopping.  We’re terrible at pressing pause, and apparently no better when pause is pressed for us.  Exhibit A, the coronavirus.  One thing I have really noticed in the wake of this outbreak is our blatant unwillingness to stop.  We either can’t, or we won’t, I’m not sure which.  And that’s a problem, for a multitude of reasons.  Not the least of which is that our unwillingness to stop puts the very lives of others—particularly the most vulnerable among us—at risk.  But it actually goes deeper than that, because stopping is woven into our DNA.  It is essential to our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  And when we refuse to stop, we work in direct opposition to the way we have been made.  
     Look no further than Genesis 2:2-3 and Exodus 20:11 for ample evidence.  After God himself had created the heavens and the earth, and all within it, he stopped.  The Hebrew word is shabath, which means “to stop or cease.”  God himself stopped.  But that’s not all God did, he also rested.  The Hebrew word for rest is nuwach (Exodus 20:11), which means “to settle in.”  God not only stopped, but he also settled in to the stopping.  He lived there for a day each week, and invites us to do the same.  This stopping and this settling in is a part of who he is, and since we are made in his image and likeness it is essential for us as well.  It is deeply woven onto the very fabric of our being, and when we refuse to do it, it tears at the image of God that was breathed into each of us.  It is essential to the living out of God’s very good (Genesis 1:31) creation.
     So what are we to do?  Maybe we are to embrace, rather than resist, this pause that has been pressed for us.  Maybe God is trying to get our attention.  Maybe he is trying to teach us something.  Maybe we can use this time to allow him to teach us a few things about the way he designed life to work.  Maybe we can practice stopping and settling in, so that when life gets back to a sense of normalcy we might actually be better for having learned the lessons this season is trying to teach us.  If we will continue to battle the obsession (if not addiction) to go and to do, maybe we will begin to learn how to be.  Then we might actually become more like the people he intended us to be.  And that would indeed be very good.


Closing Prayer: He us to stop, O Lord, and settle in.  For when we do that, we become more like the people you created us to be.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

do not fear

Opening Prayer: O Lord, do not allow us to let fear overwhelm and consume us.  Give us the strength and the courage to not let it determine the state of our hearts and minds.  For living in fear makes us the very worst version of ourselves.  Help us, O Lord,  instead, to live our lives in love and faith and trust.  Hold us fast in your righteous right hand.  Amen.

Scripture: Isaiah 41:10

Journal: How and where are you living in fear these days?  What effect is it having on you?  What in this passage gives you the courage or the strength to trust in God?  How will you do that in the days and weeks ahead?

Reflection: Okay, I have to come clean.  For the past several days I have been living my life in a lot of fear.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of the known, yet uncontrollable.  Fear that I will not be able to provide for and protect the ones I love.  Fear that my resources (physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially, etc.) are going to run out.  
     And when I live in fear, I get ultra-reactive. “Oh no!  What am I going to do?  What if this happens?  What then?  And what about this and this and this?”  It is an all too familiar inner dialogue, one that drives me to a very dark and desperate place.
     Luckily, however, God doesn’t leave me there for long.  For into the midst of this chaos and panic and confusion comes the voice of reason.  A voice that typically finds it source in the Word, and then quickly finds its way deep into my heart and soul.  It is the voice of hope and the voice of encouragement and the voice of love.  It is the voice of peace and the voice of courage and the voice of truth.  It is the only voice that can drive away the fear.  It is the voice of God—the one who made me uniquely and loves me dearly.
     It is the voice of the One who says: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)  It seems like God always has the right thing to say.  And I, for one, am so grateful.


Closing Prayer: O Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.  Amen.

Monday, March 16, 2020


Opening Prayer: He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. (Psalm 91:1-2, NIV)

Scripture: Psalm 91:1-16

Journal: What is causing you fear or distress these days?  What would it look like, in the midst of it, to dwell in the shelter of the Most High and rest in the shadow of the Almighty?  Will you?

Reflection: Psalm 91 has long been a staple in communities of prayer.  It is a Psalm that is typically recited nightly as a part of Compline (evening prayers).  It is particularly suited as an evening psalm, offering those who pray these ancient words the comfort and assurance and rest necessary to see them peacefully through the night.  
     This side of heaven, life will always be filled, to some degree, with danger and uncertainty.  It is simply unavoidable.  No matter how much we try to make it otherwise, this world is not a safe place.  Which can either lead us to live our lives in fear, or it can call us to live our lives in trust.  It all depends on what we really believe to be true about our God.  Is he really strong?  Strong enough to save us from all the forces of this dark and chaotic world that threaten to defeat and destroy and undo us?  And is he really loving?  Does he love us enough to care for our well-being?  Does he love us enough to do whatever it takes to keep us safe and secure in the midst of the turmoil?
     Psalm 91 gives a definite answer to these questions.  And the answer is an emphatic “Yes!”  God is strong enough—to be our shelter and refuge and fortress.  And God is loving enough—to cover us with the feathers of his wings and to allow us to find rest in the shadow of his embrace.  Thus, we do not have to fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.  Whatever the plague or pestilence, he is faithful to guard and protect and deliver us.  He is our shield and our rampart. 
     So let us run to him and not try to navigate this dark and broken world on our own.  Let us put our trust in him and not rely on our own abilities and resources.  For if we say we trust in him and then proceed to try and do everything on our own, we give evidence to the contrary.  Let him be your refuge today.  Let him be the One upon whom you rely.  Let him be the God to whom you go to find shelter from the storms and dangers of this life.  You will not regret it.


Closing Prayer: He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.  His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.  (Psalm 91:4, NIV)

Sunday, March 15, 2020


Opening Prayer: How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
     Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
     But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13:1-6, NIV)

Scripture: Psalm 13:1-6

Journal: What do you do when it seems like God is nowhere to be found?  What and how do you pray?  How do the words of this ancient prayer offer you hope, or challenge?  How is God asking you to trust him today, even in those areas of life where it is hard to see exactly what he is up to?



standing at the base of the canyon
looking up
how immense the walls
towering far above
and how deep the floor
dark and hopeless
it seems an impossible climb
out of this pit of sadness
groaning and despair
how can i possibly reach the other side
where life can continue
once again?

how can i do this?
i cry into the chasm
how can i do this?
it just doesn’t seem possible

i need someone
who knows the way
through the pain and darkness
the despair and loneliness
back to life again
who could possibly know the way?
only one who has been there
who has been to the depths
and made it back alive
only one who has seen rock bottom
and survived even still

i need someone who knows the way
and can walk beside me
through the darkest night
back into the light again

only you can offer hope
you alone
hold the possibility
that in spite of all the pain
life can one day begin again
only you can offer hope
that the canyon rim
can someday be reached

only you know the way
so reach down
from on high
and take hold
of this broken heart
reach down
to the bottom of this abyss
and lift me up
take me
in your strong and tender arms
and make my shattered life
whole once again
Pieces by Jim Branch

Author’s Note:  I wrote this years and years ago in the midst of some of the deepest groaning I could ever imagine.  And as I read it again, 25 years later,  I realize that you do eventually get to the other side of the canyon; life does return to "normal" again, but it is an entirely "new normal" as one of my dear friends, who knows the depths of the groan, likes to say.  What stands out to me most on this side of it all...is gratitude.  Jackson, I am so incredibly grateful for the gift of our few days together...and what God did in me (us) as a result.


Closing Prayer: Long enough, God—you’ve ignored me long enough. I’ve looked at the back of your head long enough. Long enough I’ve carried this ton of trouble, lived with a stomach full of pain. Long enough my arrogant enemies have looked down their noses at me.
     Take a good look at me, God, my God; I want to look life in the eye, so no enemy can get the best of me or laugh when I fall on my face.
     I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms—I’m celebrating your rescue. I’m singing at the top of my lungs, I’m so full of answered prayers. (Psalm 13:1-6, The Message)