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Monday, August 31, 2020


Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, it is no accident that the first way you chose to reveal your glory was by changing water into wine.  What does that tell us about you?  What does it say about who you are and what you are up to?  What does it tell us about what you most deeply want for our lives?  Lord Jesus, give our lives the fullness and the richness and the depth and the quality you desire them to have.  Then, when people taste your life within us, they will want it themselves.  Amen.

Scripture: John 2:1-11

Journal: Why water to wine?  And why did only the servants know what had really happened?  What does Jesus want to say to you through this passage?  What does he want you to see?  What does he want you to believe?  What does he want your life to be like?

Reflection: I once heard it said that God’s love is like fine wine; it is complex and robust and smooth and intoxicating.  And because it is like a fine wine, it goes unappreciated by most palates.  I think that is so true.  And maybe it partly explains why the first place Jesus chose to reveal his glory was by turning water into wine at the wedding of some friends.  Oh sure, it could have been simply because his mother asked him to, but I think it was more than that.  I think there is something about wine that is meant to give us a taste of God’s kingdom, his life, and his love. 

After all, wine occupies a pretty significant place in the scriptures.  It is present from the first miracle, to the Last Supper, to the final wedding feast of the Lamb.  It is used both to symbolize Christ’s redeeming blood and to help us visualize the life and movement of God’s Spirit within us and among us.  In fact, we are warned that if we try to contain its life and its fullness in old wineskins, they will simply explode.  I love that!  It fills me with such excitement and joy and hope.  Hope that I will one day be able to contain all of the fullness and life and love that God desires for me.  And that his life and his love would overflow from me in such a way that it would invite others into that fullness and life and love as well.  After all, isn’t that what the fullness is for in the first place?


Closing Prayer:  Thank you, O Lord, that your love is more delightful than wine. (Song of Songs 1:2) Help me to taste and see, today and every day.  Amen.

Sunday, August 30, 2020


Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, see me today and tell me what you see, so that I can know myself as you know me.  Amen.

Scriptures: John 1:43-51

Journal: What does Jesus see in you today?  What does he want to say to you?  Listen deeply to him and then write it down.

Reflection: Jim, you are such a magnificently beautiful mess.  And I love that about you.  I love the way you feel things so deeply and wrestle with them so profoundly.  For it is in the mess and in the struggle that you encounter me.  It is in the mess and in the struggle that you are transformed.  Thanks for your continual willingness to go there.  I know it wears you out at times, but it such a necessary part of your spiritual life and growth.  So keep wrestling and keep struggling, and keep being willing to articulate it.  Thank you for consistently putting it on a page.  The page is one of your best friends.  It is so often where our life together—and your life in community—is hammered out.  It is your way of prayer.  Stay faithful to it.


Closing Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that I am seen, known, and loved by you.  Amen.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

haughty eyes

Opening Prayer: Lord, my heart is meek before you.  I do not consider myself more important than others.  I am content to not pursue matters that are over my head—such as your complex mysteries and wonders—that I’m not ready to understand.  I am humbled and quieted in your presence.  Like a contented child who rests on its mother’s lap, I’m your resting child and my soul is content in you.  O people of God, your time has come to quietly trust, waiting upon the Lord now and forever. (Psalm 131:1-3, The Passion Translation)

Scripture: Psalm 131:1-3

Journal: Where do you see pride and haughtiness in you?  What is the difference?  What does it cause?  What does it look like to resist it?  How will you allow God to transform it?

Reflection:  “My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.” (Psalm 131:1) I don’t know about you, but I don’t typically use the word haughty a lot.  Thus, when I come across this word as I pray Psalm 131 each week, I’m not really sure what to do with it.  All I know is that having haughty eyes is something King David wants to avoid at all costs.  That’s probably because, as Proverbs 6:17 tells us, it is one of the things God hates.  Which are pretty strong words.

The word haughty, in the Hebrew, is ruwm, which means to be high actively, to rise or raise, to bring up or exalt (self).  It is very similar in meaning to the word most often translated proud, which is also in this psalm—gabahh.  Gabahh means to rise, or soar.  So the goal of both words is basically the same—the elevation of self—but how it goes about accomplishing that goal is subtly different.  To see the distinction, it is helpful to see the core meaning of the two words in English.  To be haughty, the dictionary tells us, means “to have a big attitude and act like you are better than other people.  A haughty person acts superior and looks down on others.”  So the key difference between pride and haughtiness is that pride focuses too much on self, puffing up, while haughtiness focused too much on others, looking down.  Pride has too high a view of who we are, while haughtiness has too low a view of others.

Strangely enough, it is haughtiness, and not pride, that makes the list of “six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him” in Proverbs 6:17, which is probably because of how haughtiness causes us to treat others.  While pride can cause us to be far too focused on ourselves, haughtiness can cause us to be cruel, dismissive, critical, condescending, and even judgmental of the very people God has called us to love and care for.  It can cause us to belittle them and see them as incapable, inadequate, and insignificant.  It is bad enough when we have a distorted or delusional view of ourselves, but when it causes us to mistreat those who have also been made in God’s image, then it has gone too far.  That is when it really draws God’s ire.

Very wisely, David prayed against both, since one often feeds the other.  He prayed that he would not have an overinflated view of his own importance, or an underinflated view of the worth, value, dignity, and significance of others.  Only then could he be the leader God wanted him to be, a leader who cared more about God’s people than he did about himself.  A leader who was able to be still and quiet before his God, totally content and utterly dependent.  And maybe, just maybe, if I continue to pray his prayer, I will be too.  Well, a man can dream, right?    


Closing Prayer: “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things that are too great and too marvelous for me.”  Please help it to stay that way.  Help me, O Lord, to “still and quiet my soul, like a weaned child with its mother.”  Quiet, peaceful, content, and dependent; trusting and resting in the loving care of your Divine embrace.  Then all of my hope will finally be in you and not in me, “both today and forevermore.”  Amen.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

God is enough

Opening Prayer:  O God, you are enough.  Help me to live like I believe it.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 23:1-6

Journal: How do the words of Psalm 23 speak for you or to you today?  Write a paraphrase of the psalm this morning, as it speaks to where you are in life right now?

Reflection: Lord, my shepherd, you are enough; I don’t need a thing.  Help me to live like it.  You invite me to stop scurrying around, trying to manipulate and control everything, and ask me to lie down with you in green pastures and sit still with you beside quiet waters.  For one of your greatest desires is the restoration of my soul to its creation intent.  You invite me to walk through life in a new way, attentive to your voice, and concerned only about your name and your kingdom, rather than my own.  Even though fear and anxiety are sure to rear their ugly heads again and again, I will not let them control me, for you are with me: you protect me, you provide for me, and you comfort me.  You invite me to pull up a chair to your table, you soothe my head with healing oil, and you make my heart overflow with love.  You relentlessly pursue me with your goodness and your love all the days of my life, so that I might live in your divine embrace forever.  How could I possibly say no to all of that?


Closing Prayer: O Lord, help my life to always be lived out of love, not out of need.  Amen.

Sunday, August 23, 2020


Opening Prayer: Thank you, O Lord, that every step in our journey is under your watchful love and care.  Thank you that you are even able to use the hard and chaotic stretches to make us more and more like Jesus.  Amen.   

Scripture: Psalm 107:1-43

Journal: What is God saying to you through the scriptures today?  Which of these vignettes can you relate to most?  Write your own little part of Psalm 107.  End it with, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. He…”

Reflection: Some were so busy trying to become themselves that they forgot that the whole point of the spiritual journey was to forget themselves and become more like Jesus.  So they turned to him in stillness and in trust, and surrendered themselves to his loving care.  They had no idea exactly where it would lead or what it would look like, but they knew it was the path to peace and joy and freedom, finally allowing them to love, instead of worrying about being loved.

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.  For he is more patient and loving and kind with us that we could ever deserve; turning the lights on for us slowly, over time, because he realizes that we could not handle, or live, the truth all at once. —Jim Branch, August 22, 2020


Closing Prayer: Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord.  Amen.


Saturday, August 22, 2020


Opening Prayer: My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2)

Scripture: Psalm 62:1-12

Journal: What do you really think you need in order to be okay?

Reflection: What do you need in order to be okay?  No, really?  And I’m not looking for the right answer here, but the real one.  Do you need success and achievements and notoriety?  Do you need affection and affirmation?  Do you need financial security?  Do you need others to think well of you?  Do you need to do a good job?  Do you need good health?  Do you need everyone in your family to be thriving and flourishing? 

So, let me ask you again, what do you really need in order to be okay?  The real answer to this question has so much to say about the way we live our lives, because need is not the best foundation to build a life upon; it is tenuous and shaky and ever-changing.  It can fill us with agendas and demands and expectations, often leaving us anxious or depressed or angry or frustrated or all of the above.  Thus, when we build our lives around what we need—or what we think we need—we place ourselves at the mercy of mood, whim, and circumstance.

But when we finally realize that all we really need is “God alone,” everything begins to fall into place.  Oh, not in circumstantial terms maybe, but in terms of our inner landscape—the state of the heart and soul.  The saints called this detachment.  It is the ability to be okay regardless of what is going on around us.  It is not allowing our well-being to get too “attached” to things that can, and will, change, but fully attaching our well-being to the One who never changes—God alone.  Only then will we be the people he created us to be, and only then will we be able to love the way he created us to love.   


Closing Prayer: Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.  My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge.  Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:5-8)

Monday, August 17, 2020


Opening Prayer: “Your path led through the sea, O Lord, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.” (Psalm 77:19)  Help me to resist the temptation to go around, because when I am willing to go through the sea, or through the mighty waters, when I am willing to trust myself completely to your love and care, then you can do amazing things in and through me.  O Lord, help me to trust in you.  Amen. 

Scripture: Psalm 77:13-20

Journal: How are you being tempted to try and go around the sea these days, rather than through it?  Where do you think God wants you to go?  Will you?



   psalm 77:19

if i’m honest
i must admit
that there are times
i would rather just
go around

it’s easier

but your path is 
rarely the easy one
your path always seems
to lead through the sea
through the mighty waters

through must be 
better than around
because through is
the place of dependence
the place of surrender
the place of trust

so may i never miss
the beauty and goodness 
of the way through
by constantly trying
to find a way


Closing Prayer: O Lord, give me the grace and the strength and the courage to go through the sea, and through the mighty waters, even when I cannot see your footprints.  Help me to live a life of unflinching trust in your unfailing love.  Amen.

Friday, August 14, 2020

the ultimate versus the almost

Opening Prayer: O God, you are the fountain of life.  You are the only one who can fully satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts.  Help us to refuse to settle for anything less.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 36:7-9

Journal: Where in your life are you settling for the almost instead of pursuing the ultimate?  What fountains are you drinking from other that God?  What would it look like to drink from his river of delights and feast on the abundance of his house?  Will you?

Reflection: A wise man once said that we will get what we are willing to accept.  In other words, if we are willing to settle for what almost satisfies, we will never be able to experience that which fully satisfies. We sacrifice the ultimate for the almost.  We can either drink from God’s river of delights and feast on the abundance of his house, or we can eat and drink from that which the world has to offer, but we cannot do both.  The problem is that, in this life, the almost is so much easier and so much more accessible than the ultimate.  And once we have settled for the almost, it is hard to turn back.  We become addicted to the ease and the immediacy of it.  

But God offers us so much more than that, if we would simply refuse to settle for less.  He alone is the source of life and love and fullness.  He is the only one who can fill us to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:19) He alone is the fountain of life; everything else is just a cheap imitation.   


 Closing Prayer: O my soul, taste and see that the Lord is good; this day and every day.  Amen.

Thursday, August 13, 2020


Opening Prayer:  Streams.  You didn’t say “stream,” you said “streams.”  Streams of living water will flow from within us, if we will just believe in you, Lord Jesus.  Help me to believe.  Help the streams of living water to flow.  Help me to experience the fullness of life and love you created me for.  Amen.

Scripture: John 7:37-38

Journal: How aware are you of the streams of living water that flow from within?  Is that a part of your everyday experience with Jesus?  If not, why not?  How do we drink?





  john 7:37-38


every now and then

i catch a little taste

of a larger flow

that dwells within


an underground river

of life and love

that holds the key

to all my soul desires


but why only a taste

and why only now and then


is it me or is it you

have i not yet learned

how to tap into the flow

or are you simply

trying to allure me

is it your way

of drawing me

is it the hope

of what could be

or what will be

beckoning me

to become


the hope of the eternal

welling up from within

drawing me onward

ever onward

into you


Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am thirsty.  Oh so thirsty!  Help me to come and drink.  Amen.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

the slimy pit

Opening Prayer: O Lord, thank you for the slimy pits in our lives, they teach us that we cannot do it on our own and force us to trust in you.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 40:1-3

Journal: What is the slimy pit in your life?  How do you typically try to climb out of it?  How well is that working for you?  What does it look like to let God lift you up out of it, set your feet on a rock, give you a firm place to stand and put a new song in your mouth?

Reflection: I wonder why it is that I keep trying to climb out of the slimy pit on my own.  It never works; at least not for long.  Before I know it I am right back down there again, wallowing around in the muck and the mire, beating myself up for not being able to do better—frustrated, disheartened, and defeated.  Same old song, different verse. 

     You’d think I would have learned by now; I can’t get out of the slimy pit on my own.  I need help.  I need God.  Only he can lift me up out of the slimy pit, set my feet on a rock, give me a frim place to stand, and put a new song in my heart.  I wonder why it is so hard for me to admit that, stop trying to do it on my own, and turn to him?  Why do I keep trying to do it the hard way?

     Lift me up, O Lord, set my feet on a rock, give me a firm place to stand, and put a new song in my mouth.  I just can’t do it on my own. 


Closing Prayer: Lift me up, O Lord, set my feet on a rock, give me a firm place to stand, and put a new song in my mouth.  I just can’t do it on my own. 

Saturday, August 8, 2020

will i wait?

Opening Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to resist the urge to do, when you have actually called me to be.  Help me to resist mindless activity, so that I might finally begin to understand what it means to wait and to trust.  Help me to find my hope in you today, not in myself.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 33:20-22

Journal: What are the scriptures saying to you today?  What do they stir up within you?  If you had to write something that was the opposite of Psalm 33:20-22, what would it say?  How does that help you to better understand the passage and to better integrate it into your life?

Reflection: We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.  In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.  May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” (Psalm 33:20-22)


I rush in desperation, trying to get everything done, because life is only what you make of it.  The Lord only helps those who help themselves, so I must stay busy and keep at it; my life and my success depends on it.  One day, if I work hard enough and perform well enough, everyone will think I’m awesome.  And that’s the goal, right?

Which one will I live by today?


Closing Prayer: O Lord, will I wait for you today, or will I rush ahead?  Will I be still and know that you are God, or will I dissolve into a flurry of mindless activity?  Will I trust in you this day, or will I trust in myself?  Will I rest in your unfailing love, or will I desperately try to make myself worth loving?  The choice is mine today.  Help me to choose you.  Amen.

Friday, August 7, 2020

a non-anxious presence

Opening Prayer: O Lord, thank you that in the midst of all the chaos and craziness going on in our world, you are still God.  You are still good, you are still sovereign, and you are still loving.  Help us to know what it means to be a loving, caring, non-anxious presence in these times of unrest and uncertainty.  Amen.

Scripture: Jeremiah 6:16

Journal: How is your soul responding to all that is going on around you these days?  What does it do within you?  How does that affect the ways you relate to others?  What would it look like to be a loving, non-anxious presence in the lives of those God has called you to care for?  How do you get there?

Reflection: Stand at the crossroads and look, ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. (Jeremiah 6:16)

     In the midst of the crazy and chaotic times in which we live, what does the world really need from us, the people of God?  Another argument or opinion?  Another agenda or platform?  Another voice of anxiety or anger or frustration or suspicion?  There are an abundance of all of the above, it seems, so why just add another one to the fray?  No one seems to be listening anyway.  In fact, it’s hard to listen when everyone is speaking. 

     So what does the world really need from us?  How about a calm, loving, non-anxious presence?  People who are willing to listen, not only to each other, but also to the times, to our lives, and to our God.  People who aren’t trying to protect or attack or defend, but who are looking to love.  People who are not driven by anxiety or insecurity or control or demand, but are driven by compassion.  People who are willing and able to sit still long enough, and be quiet long enough, to have any idea where the Spirit may be leading, or what the Spirit may be up to.  People who are not merely reacting to fears or circumstances or scenarios, but are prayerfully open to whatever the Spirit of God may be doing in and through the chaos.  People whose first response is not to jump, but to pray.  And then, and only then, are willing to act.  That is what the world really needs.

     So how do we become that?  How do we become people who are rooted and planted in the love and wisdom of God?  We stop.  We sit still.  We look.  We pray.  We shut our mouths and open our ears.  We listen to God and we listen to each other.  We discern together what he is saying and what he is doing.  And when we arrive at some communal sense of what God is saying and what he is doing, of where the good way is, we walk in it.  We go and do whatever he says.  We love.  We serve.  We live.


Closing Prayer: Never let me forget, O Lord, that this life is about you and not about me.  Because when I forget that one truth, I end up frustrated and fearful and angry and anxious, rather than loving and caring and compassionate and at peace.  Make me more like you today, so that I’ll be better able to express you in the world.  Amen.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

from micro to macro

Opening Prayer: You are our king, O God.  Help us, as your people, to care about the things you care about—righteousness and justice for all.  And help us to know how that is meant to play out through our lives and in our world.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 72:1-19

Journal: How was the king meant to reflect God?  What were his main responsibilities?  What does that mean for us?  How can we keep the big picture in mind rather than getting caught up in our own little lives?  What difference would it make in the world?

Reflection: What a strange few months it has been.  I don’t know about you, but for me, in these days of global pandemics and calls for social justice, it has been so easy to “miss the forest for the trees,” as the old saying goes.  It is easy for me to become so focused on my own little world and how these things affect (or don’t affect) me personally, that I fail to see the bigger picture.  I fail to step into a higher calling.  I become so concerned and consumed with my own well-being that I fail to see, or even think about, the greater good.  Granted, seeing the greater good, and understanding exactly what it takes to get us there, is way more complicated than I might imagine, but it seems like it is an endeavor that is worth the time and effort and conversation.

     We are living in a time and a season where things like wearing masks and canceling sporting events and being asked to stay at home have become a part of the landscape, as has our willingness or unwillingness to adhere to each.  Should bars stay open or should they close?  Should there be football or should there not be?  Should schools reopen or should we only have online learning?  Questions abound.  How on earth are we, as God’s people, supposed to even begin to answer these questions?   

     And what about social justice issues?  How have we allowed people who are made in the image of God, with beauty and dignity and purpose, to be cast aside or held down or belittled or marginalized?  And how do we keep creating systems that make it almost impossible for them to thrive and grow and flourish?  When the well-being of one part of society is defended and maintained at the expense of another, should that not repulse us and call us to action? 

     Israel wanted a king, so God gave them one.  The king was to be an extension and a representative of God to his people.  The king’s job was to lead and to guide, to provide for and protect and defend.  The king was to be about God’s reign, God’s rule, and God’s kingdom on earth, not his just own.  One of the main ways the king was supposed to do this was by assuring justice (mishpat) and righteousness (tsedeq) for all (see Psalm 72).  Justice meaning that the standards of the kingdom were to be applied equally and fairly to everyone.  And righteousness literally meaning to be straight, or that everyone and everything would be as it was meant to be; everyone is given the opportunity to be exactly who and what God intended them to be—in right relationship with him and in right relationship with one other.

     The main way you could tell whether a king was doing his job or not, was by how well the poor and vulnerable and marginalized were doing (the anavim).  If the anavim were flourishing and prospering, then the king was doing a good job; he was being God’s leader and representative to the people.  And if the anavim were not prospering, if they were not being treated rightly and justly, then the king was failing in his role and needed to be replaced.  Everything hinged on how well the poor and vulnerable and weak and marginalized were doing, which might be something we need to pay attention to these days.

     In the midst of any health crisis, particularly COVID-19, it seems like the most vulnerable are always the poor, the newborn (and unborn), and the elderly.  What if we made our decisions about openings and closings, masks or no masks, sports or no sports, school in person or online, based on what is most beneficial to the most vulnerable among us?  Would that not be the most God-like (king-like) thing to do?  Especially in the midst of a virus that can so easily and unknowingly be passed along from one person to another.  What if we stopped making it about our own individual rights and wants and preferences, and started making it about what was most loving and caring to everyone, even the poor and the elderly?  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a huge football fan, and I want there to be football.  I just don't want it to be at anyone's expense.  Would it be too much to ask to miss a football season if it was in order to save the lives of those who are weakest and most vulnerable among us?

     And what about social justice?  Living where I live and doing what I normally do, I can go for months without even thinking about it, but others are not so fortunate.  What if my level of contentment with where things are in the country and the world, as far as justice issues are concerned, was dependent upon those who have to deal with them on a daily basis?  What if I was never content until they were content?  What if I refused to flourish until they were free to flourish?  What if we all cared about everyone being treated with the dignity and respect and kindness and equity and love that we hope to be shown ourselves?  What if it is wasn’t enough just to be aware of what the issues are, but to actually be a part of doing something about them?

     You see, when we focus on the micro, we tend to get ourselves in trouble; it brings out the absolute worst in all of us.  Things become combative and defensive and argumentative, and even violent.  We just start spinning around in our own little lives, worrying about our own needs and wants, and we miss the great big story God has called us (all of humanity) to take part in.  But when we are able to shift our focus, our seeing and our thinking, to the macro—to the bigger picture, to the greater good—God begins to do amazing things.  God works in and through us, and the world becomes a better place to live…for everyone.


Closing Prayer: O Lord, our God, help us to not get so caught up in our own little stories that we forget the Grand Narrative you have invited us into; a narrative that cares for all people, especially the lowly, the oppressed, and the marginalized.  Help us to be agents of justice and righteousness in the world, so that it more closely reflects what your kingdom is supposed to look like.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

fret or trust

Opening Prayer: Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry on their wicked schemes.  Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. (Psalm 37:7-8)

Scripture: Psalm 37:3-8

Journal: Fret or trust, which one best describes you these days?  Why?  How do you move from fret to trust?

Reflection: You can wait and trust, or you can fret, but you can’t do both.  The two are mutually exclusive.  Once you start to fret, waiting and trusting go out the window.  That is because fretting has much more to do with trusting in yourself, or your circumstances, than it does with trusting in the Lord.  And the only way you can ever hope to be still and wait for the Lord is if you trust completely in his love and his care and his provision.


Closing 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.  (Psalm 37:3-5)

Monday, August 3, 2020

the fruit of waiting

Opening Prayer: For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. (Psalm 62:5, ESV)

Scripture: Romans 8:22-27

Journal: What are you waiting for these days?  What do you think God is trying to accomplish in you as a result?

Reflection: All around us we observe a pregnant creation.  The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs.  But it’s not only around u; it’s within us.  The Spirit of God is arousing us within.  We’re also feeling the birth pangs.  These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance.  That’s why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother.  We are enlarged in the waiting.  We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us.  But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful the expectancy. (Romans 8:22-25, The Message)
     Waiting is such an interesting phenomenon.  It is a spiritual practice that appears to be passive, yet is more active than we would ever imagine.  It is a season in which it seems like nothing of value is going on, when the truth is that big things are going on we know nothing about.  It is a time when it looks like God is up to absolutely nothing, when, in actuality, God is doing something more than we dare ask for or dream about.  In fact, it is through seasons of waiting that God does some of his very best work, if we are careful not to miss the journey for the destination.
     The problem is that we often get so focused on the desired results of our waiting, we forget that the bigger, more valuable part of waiting may well involve what God is doing within us as we wait.  That’s the part we miss.  And, yet, it is the only part we can really do anything about—we can pay careful attention.
     I think that’s why I like this section on Romans 8 so much.  It reminds us that waiting is not as much static, as it is dynamic.  It is always intended to accomplish something, not only around us, but within us.  Through waiting, God is arousing and enlarging and expanding and growing and stretching us.  We just can’t allow ourselves to get so consumed with what we are waiting for, that we miss what he is trying to accomplish in us.    
     It reminds me of the last scene in the movie Field of Dreams.  Ray has been on an epic adventure, trying to figure out what the voices he has been hearing mean and who they have been leading him to.  At first, he thinks the whole journey is about Shoeless Joe Jackson, and then about Terrance Mann, and then about Moonlight Graham.  Until finally he recognizes that one of the players playing in his field is his dad, as a much younger man.  And when he recognizes his dad, he says, “It was you,” thinking that the entire journey had been about easing his dad’s pain.  But no sooner had his the words been spoken, than Shoeless Joe, standing out by the cornfield responds, “No Ray, it was you.”  The whole journey had been about Ray’s healing all along.
     I don’t know about you, but so often, in my waiting, I make the same mistake.  I think the entire thing is about someone coming around, or something coming about, when what God is really trying to get me to notice is what he is doing in me as a result of the waiting.
     So today, instead of focusing on that thing or that person or that event you have been waiting for, focus instead on what God is doing in you as a result of the waiting.


Closing Prayer: Thank you, O Lord, that our waiting is never in vain; you are always up to something within us and around us.  Help us to pay careful attention to what you are up to, so that we never grow weary and lose heart.  Amen.

Sunday, August 2, 2020


Opening Prayer: Thank you, O Lord, that there will be sheaves.  There will be a harvest, as long as we are faithful to continue sowing the seed, even if the sowing be in tears.  Help us to dream about that day, so that we do not grow weary and lose hope.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 126:1-6

Journal: What sheaves do you see, either within you or around you, that have been the fruit of sowing in tears?  Write them down and allow the remembrance of them to bring you joy.  How are you sowing in tears right now and what does it do within you to know that one day you will return, carrying sheaves with you?

Reflection: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.  He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:6)  This pilgrim song—a song of ascent for those who journeyed up to the temple in Jerusalem to worship—was meant as a reminder that even in the midst of our darkest, most desperate, most trying times, God is still at work.  God is faithful, and able to turn our captivity into abundance, able to bring joy from our tears, and able to bring about fruit from any and every circumstance in our lives, no matter how broken and painful.  Even in the darkest of times, his seed is still producing a harvest of righteousness and goodness that will one day be revealed.  And when it finally is, our mouths will be filled with laughter and tongues with songs of joy.  One day we will return from that far off land, the land in which we have labored and suffered and toiled, and we will return rejoicing, carrying sheaves with us.  Thanks be to God!


Closing Prayer: The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. (Psalm 126:3)  Thank you!