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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

surrender

Opening Prayer: Forgive me, Lord Jesus, when I live as if this live was about me, rather than about you.  Give me the grace and the strength and the courage to truly surrender myself to you.  Amen.

Scripture: Mark 8:35

Journal: What does it mean to completely surrender to Jesus?  What would this look like in your life?

Reflection: Do I really have the desire for change in my life, if I constantly resist that change?  Do I really want to follow Jesus, if I continually refuse to surrender to him?  If I constantly try to manage and control my own life?  If I refuse to embrace the powerlessness and dependence necessary to be truly led by him?  If I refuse to be still and listen.  If I refuse to respond to his will and his direction, rather than forcing my own?  If I refuse to become nothing, so that he might become everything?  If I refuse to become forgotten, so that you can be remembered?  If I refuse to become small, so that you can become big?  If I refuse to be hidden, so that you might be seen?  If I refuse to become no one, rather than always trying to be someone? 

The answer: probably not.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to know what it looks like to lose my life in order that you might save it.  Then give me the strength to do just that.  Amen.

Monday, April 12, 2021

resurrected

Opening Prayer: Risen Jesus, the women went to the tomb that first Easter morning, fully expecting to find you there, but you had risen.  And now, Risen One, you are likely to show up at the times, and in the places, we least expect it.  During this season of Eastertide, help us to be alert and attentive to however, wherever, and whenever you might choose to show up.  Amen.

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:3-8

Journal: How are you remaining open and attentive to however, wherever, and whenever the risen Jesus might choose to show up?

Reflection:


     resurrected

a road
a beach
a locked room

there is no telling
how or where or when
you might show up next

you are wild and free
not bound by expectations
not coerced by demands

you will not be
controlled or contained
you cannot be
conjured or contrived
nor will you
be manipulated

you come and go
as you please 
all we can do
is stay ready
open and alert
to however
and wherever
and whenever
you might choose
to show up

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you are alive!  Therefore, help us to look for you in all the areas of our hearts and lives, for we can never tell when—or where or how—you might show up.  Amen.

 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

weaned

Opening Prayer: My heart is not lifted up, O Lord; my eyes are not raised too high.  I do not concern myself with great matters, or things too wonderful for me.  But I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.  O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, both now and forevermore.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 131:1-3

Journal: What do you need to be weaned of in order to experience the stillness and quietness that God desires for you?

Reflection:

Me: Lord Jesus, my desire to be noticed and valued is insatiable.  It makes me feel so needy and helpless most of the time.  It keeps me running from person to person, from activity to activity, and from achievement to achievement, trying to satisfy something deep in my heart and soul. 

Jesus: How is that working out for you?

Me: Not very well, I’m afraid.  It just leaves me frustrated and exhausted, which turns me into the worst possible version of myself: fearful, manipulative, controlling, insecure.  It seems like no matter how hard I try, it is never enough.

Jesus: That’s because those things were never meant to fully satisfy you; you can never get enough of them.  They will always leave you wanting more.

Me: Well then, what am I to do?

Jesus: Come to me.  Still your feet and quiet your soul.  Stop trying so hard to be somebody and simply find your value, and your rest, in me.  Become like a weaned child in the loving embrace of its mother: at rest, at peace, and totally content.  You must truly believe that I am enough for you, and then you must let me be.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Still my feet, O Lord, and shut my mouth.  Calm my spirit and quiet my heart.  Let me climb up into your great arms of love and rest in the beauty and the wonder of your loving embrace.  Wean me off of the oxygen of applause and attention and let me breathe the life-giving breath of your Spirit instead.  Amen.

Friday, April 9, 2021

recognizing jesus

Opening Prayer: Risen Jesus, come and walk alongside me.  Help me to see your face, hear your voice, and sense your presence in the comings and goings of this day.  Amen.

Scripture: Luke 24:13-35

Journal: When and how have you recognized Jesus in the past couple of weeks?  What helped that happen?  What hinders it happening more often?  How can you live in such a way that you are always watching for him and listening to him?

Reflection: Apparently a significant part of living the resurrection life has to do with being able to recognize the Risen Jesus when he is standing right in front of us. (Luke 24:15-16) We are told that the travelers on the road to Emmaus were kept from recognizing him, but we are not told who, or what, kept them.  Was it somehow Jesus himself that was hiding in the encounter until it was the right time to reveal himself?  That’s a definite possibility.  Or was it their circumstances, their distractions, or their own state of being that kept them from being able to tell it was Jesus?  Who knows, maybe it was their own opinions, preferences, and agendas that kept them from being able to recognize his presence.  Maybe they were so full of themselves that they had no room for Jesus; we are not told.  All we know is that recognizing the Risen Jesus is essential to being able to enter into the resurrection life with him.

Wouldn’t it be great if somehow we were able to train ourselves to look for him and listen for him in every event, encounter, and conversation?  My guess is that if we could actually do that we would see him and hear him much more often.  And what we would see and hear would probably be much different from out preconceived thoughts and notions of what should happen in any given situation or circumstance.  Only when we are truly open and truly free can we even begin to hear his voice, rather than our own, and to see his hand, rather than forcing ours.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to recognize you.  Help me to be able to see you and hear you in the midst of all the circumstances and conversations that will fill my day.  Help me to look for your hand and listen for your voice.  Help me never to miss you because I was so preoccupied with my own thoughts, concerns, and insecurities.  For only then can I hope to be a non-anxious presence in this anxious and fearful world.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

shift

Opening Prayer: Risen Jesus, what a joy to enter into a season that celebrates new life!  Help us to pay attention to all that is being born, or raised to new life, both within and around us.  Amen.

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:17

Journal: Where do you sense new life within and/or around you?  How will you embrace it and celebrate it?

Reflection:

        shift


we must be intentional
about the shift
from lent to eastertide
or else we will continue
to be consumed by
what needs to die
and neglect the beauty
of the new that is
already being born

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that because of the resurrection we are able to move from asking, “What must die within me?” to asking, “What beautiful thing is being born within me?”  

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

consumed

Opening Prayer: Risen Jesus, if I am going to be consumed by anything today, let me be consumed by you.  Amen.

Scripture: John 20:10-18

Journal: What is consuming your heart and mind and attention these days?  How is that keeping you from being able to recognize the Risen Jesus?

Reflection: It is possible to get so consumed with what’s going on in our lives that we miss the fact that the Risen Jesus is standing right in front of us.  Just ask Mary.  She was so full of her own grief and sadness and pain that Jesus was standing right in front of her and she didn’t realize it.  Which just goes to show that when our inner space gets so full of our own worries and cares and concerns, there is just not room for anything else.  Our vision gets so blurred and distorted that it keeps us from being able to see Jesus standing right in our midst.

The sad reality is that we allow many things to consume our hearts and minds other than Jesus.  And when we do that, we lose our ability to recognize him.  We can become consumed with our hurts and our sadness and our pain, like Mary was, that it only turns us in upon ourselves.  Or we can allow our fears and our worries and our anxiety to have free reign within us, which makes us the worst possible version of ourselves.  Or we can even allow “good” things to consume us—work, success, achievements, endeavors, and even ministry.  And when we allow these “good” things to consume us, they are good no longer.  They just become diversions and distractions from the one thing—Jesus.

So instead of allowing all of these other things to consume us, let us be consumed by Christ Jesus instead.  Let us fix our hearts and mind on him.  Let us never neglect him—the one thing—for the many things.  For whatever consumes us, other than Jesus, becomes a hindrance rather than a help.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to never let the concerns and cares and joys and struggles of this life consume me and keep me from being able to recognize you.  Amen.

Monday, April 5, 2021

what's it going to take?

Opening Prayer:  Lord Jesus, the cry of Easter is “He is risen!”  Help us to really believe that, not just for that day way back then, but for every day.  Amen.

Scripture: John 1:1-18

Journal: Where do you find yourself in the Easter narrative?  Who can you most relate to?  Why?  What do you carry with you to the empty tomb?  How does that affect whether or not you will believe that Jesus is risen and wants you to be as well?

Reflection: I have to believe that in John’s account of the resurrection (John 20:1-18), the mention of him getting to the tomb first involves something more than just letting us know that he was faster than Simon Peter.  That sounds petty to me, and the Scriptures are never petty.  They are, however, inspired and intentional.  There is a reason John mentions it.  Maybe it is to show us that his eagerness to get to the tomb, was followed by a hesitation to go in.  Simon Peter may have been a little less eager to arrive at the tomb; he certainly would’ve had good reason to be.  Or, then again, he may have, indeed, just have been slower, who knows? But once he arrived on the scene, he went right in.  And then there’s Mary, who stood outside the tomb weeping; still convinced that someone had stolen the body, rather than believing that Jesus had risen from the dead.  She, like Thomas later on, was unable to “believe” until she encountered the Risen Jesus outside the tomb.

So whether it was John in his eager hesitation, or Peter in his reluctant boldness, or Mary in her weeping confusion, or Thomas in his doubting demandingness, Jesus met them all exactly where they were.  And that is the beautiful thing.  They were all different.  Each had processed his life and his death a little differently.  Each carried different ideas and wounds and baggage and hopes and dreams to that tomb on the first Easter morning.  Thus, Jesus showed up to each of them in exactly the way they needed him to.  John needed to see to believe, Thomas needed to feel to believe, and Mary needed to hear Jesus tenderly call her name in order to believe.

What about you?  Where do you find yourself on this Easer morning?  Where do you see yourself in the story?  What do you carry with (or within) you to the empty tomb?  What is it going to take for you to really “believe,” again and anew?  Whatever it is, Jesus wants to meet you there.  Because he is risen, and he wants you to be as well.

Prayer

Closing Prayer:  Lord Jesus, help me to really believe that you are risen, and you want me to be risen as well.  Amen.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

who will roll the stone away?

Opening Prayer: O Lord, God of life and love, God of resurrection power, you alone can roll the stone away.  You alone can deliver us for the darkness and bondage of the tomb.  Give us your resurrection life this day, so that we may live in the light of your love.  Amen.

Scripture: Mark 16:1-8

Journal: What “stone” can you not roll away these days?  What does it look like to invite Jesus, and his resurrection power, into that situation or circumstance?  Who will roll the stone away?

Reflection: “Who will roll the stone away?” (Mark 16:3) Do you ever find yourself asking that question?  Have you ever found yourself in a situation or circumstance in which you knew that you could not handle it in your own strength?  Frankly, I live my life trying to avoid those situations at all costs.  And when I do that it keeps me from being able to experience the resurrection power of Jesus.  But every now and then, no matter how hard I try, something will crash into my life, reminding me once again, how helpless, powerless and dependent I really am.  Then I find myself asking, “Who will roll the stone away?”

That’s why you have to love the women who headed to the tomb on that first Easter morn.  They went to the tomb, knowing that they could not roll the stone away, yet they went anyway.  “We will go,” they must have thought, “even though we know we cannot move the stone.”  Now that’s faith!  And when they arrived, their faith was rewarded, for God had done the undoable.  He had rolled the stone way himself.  He had done for them what they could not possibly do for themselves.  And isn’t that what life with God is all about?

Prayer

Closing Prayer: O God, please help me, for I cannot move the stone.  But you can.  Please do so, that I might live the resurrection life you have called me to.  Amen.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

stilled and quieted

Opening Prayer: I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 131:1-3

Journal: Where in your life are you choosing busyness, frenzy, activity, and chaos, and where are you choosing to still and quiet your soul?  Why?

Reflection: The stilled and quieted life is, first of all, a life.  We cannot live a frenzied, hurried, chaotic existence for six days a week and think that the seventh would be any different.  Our inner landscape is not made that way.  The pace and the momentum of our lives will not allow it.  You can’t drive up to a stop sign at 90 miles an hour and expect to be able to stop on a dime.  Stopping is not that easy.  It is not instantaneous.  Stopping is a process, one that most often begins with slowing.  Thus, it takes time and space and thoughtfulness and intention—and practice.  Stopping requires discipline and commitment, and a change in the way we see and understand both our lives and our identities.  It takes us accepting and embracing of who we are and who we aren’t.  There can be no proving, earning, impressing, jockeying, or achieving in the stilled and quieted life.  Those activities are incompatible with stillness and rest and peace.  They stir up the waters of our soul and make them muddy again.  Any little hint of movement in the direction of ambition and achievement causes enough commotion to make us have to start the whole slowing down and being still process all over again.  The need to be big must die.  The need to be great must be starved out.  In other words, we must die to self, so that we may live unto, and into, God.  Once we do, it will give birth to all that is good and beautiful: depth and quality and peace and humility and service and love.  The choice is up to us.  Will we choose the stilled and quieted life today, or will we continue to live a life that is consumed by hurry and commotion and fear and need and insecurity?

Prayer

Closing Prayer: My heart is not lifted up, O Lord, my eyes are not raised too high.  I do not concern myself with great matters, or things too wonderful for me.  But I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.  O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, in the now and forevermore.  Amen.

Friday, April 2, 2021

good friday 2021

Opening Prayer:  Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you were willing to die on the cross because of your undying love for us.  Help us, this day, to pause and reflect on all you have done for us.  Lord have mercy!  Christ, have mercy!  Lord, have mercy!  Amen.

Scripture: John 19:37

Journal: Spend some time focusing your eyes, and heart, on the crucified Christ.  What does it stir up within you?  What do you want to say to him?  What does he want to say to you?

Reflection: “They will look upon the one they have pierced.” (John 19:37)

“Reflect carefully on this, for it is so important that I can hardly lay too much stress on it.  Fix your eyes on the Crucified and nothing else will be of much importance.” ~Teresa of Avila

Prayer

Closing Prayer:  When I fix my eyes on you, Lord Jesus, the Crucified One, and I see what you were willing to endure on my behalf, because of love, I am overwhelmed and overcome with love for you in return.  My heart is filled with humility, gratitude, and thanksgiving.  Please help it to stay that way.  Amen.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

forgotten

Opening Prayer: O Lord, help me to always remember that I am dust, and to dust I will return.  Help me to know that my days are like grass; I will flourish like a flower of the field and then, one day, the wind will blow over me and I will be gone, and my place will remember me no more.  That will help me to keep everything in proper perspective.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 103:15-16

Journal: What do the words of Psalm 103:15-16 do within you?  What do they stir up?  What do they disturb or disrupt?  What do you think about the idea of being forgotten?

Reflection: FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is a very real thing in our day and age.  It drives people to do all sorts of things, often at the expense of their own health and wellbeing.  But I wonder if the true essence of FOMO involves a much deeper fear.  Maybe what’s lurking beneath the surface of FOMO is really FOBF (Fear of Being Forgotten).

And then we come to a verse like Psalm 103:16 that tells us that being forgotten is just a part of life.  We should expect it.  In fact, we should embrace it.  Being forgotten creates some of the most fertile soil possible in our hearts and souls.  Because when we are willing to be forgotten, and even to embrace it, somehow God becomes the point rather than us.  That is not meant to demean or devalue us, but to set us free.  It helps us keep things in proper perspective.  It shows us that we are not essential; the world is not going to fall apart if we are not around.  In fact, when we stop being around, the world will get along just fine without us.

Being forgotten grows the fruit of humility and dependence deep within us; two things that are essential in life with Jesus.  Two things we must become if we want to become like Jesus, who “made himself nothing.”  Or, as the NKJV says, "made Himself of no reputation.”  Ultimately, what life with God demands of us is not merely to “become less that he might become greater,” (John 3:30) but to become nothing that he might become all.  We are called to be forgotten, so that He, and only He, will be remembered.

Prayer

Closing Prayer:  Lord Jesus, I am willing to become forgotten for you.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

glorify your name

Opening Prayer: Forgive me, Lord Jesus, when I am content to give you part of me, rather than all of me.  And all of me is what you require.  Give me the strength and the grace and the courage to totally surrender myself to you.  Amen.

Scripture: John 12:23-33

Journal: Where in your life have you reduced the gospel from all to some?  What does absolute surrender and total abandonment look like? 

Reflection: I don’t know about you, but I am amazed at how often I pray, “Father, save me from this hour,” rather than, “Father, glorify your name!”  It shows me where my true allegiances lie.  I am much more committed to my own comfort and ease than I am to God being glorified in my life and world.  It’s really pretty sad.

Life with God is about absolute surrender and total abandonment.  My problem is that I want a little bit of surrender and partial abandonment, which is impossible.  Surrender doesn’t really happen if I am holding anything back.  And abandonment that is partial, is not really abandonment at all. 

Jesus is trying to move me form a “less of me, more of him” mentality, to a “none of me, all of him” mindset.  That’s why he said, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground AND DIES,” rather than, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and becomes less.”  The death of self is a necessity in glorifying God.  Jesus did it, and calls us to do the same.  We must die to self, in order to live in God.  There is no half way.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: O Lord, forgive me when I care more about my own comfort than I do about your glory.  Give me the courage to pray, with Jesus, “Father, glorify your name!”  Amen.

Monday, March 29, 2021

abundance or scarcity

Opening Prayer:  Help my life, Lord Jesus, be nothing more than a grateful response to your Divine Love.  Amen.

Scripture: John 12:1-8

Journal: Where do you see yourself in this story?  What does it stir up within you?  What is the main difference between Mary and Judas?  Are you operating more out of abundance or scarcity these days?  Why?

Reflection: When we have been captured by the abundance of Divine Love, we have no choice but to offer abundance in return.  What else can we do?  We have been so overcome and overwhelmed that the only possible response is overflow.  It is the way we were made.  If we live out of abundance, we will offer abundance.  If we live out of scarcity, all we can offer is scarcity. 

Mary is a prime example.  She is so overwhelmed and overcome by the love of Jesus that her heart overflows with a grand and extravagant gesture of uninhibited love in return.  That’s the way love works.  “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) Thus, she takes the treasured contents of her alabaster jar and pours it all out on the feet of Jesus.

Judas, on the other hand, is operating out of the scarcity of self.  Therefore, all he has to offer is criticism.  He does not understand the heart that has been seized by the power of the Great Affection.  Thus, his heart is a mass of fear, anxiety, and insecurity.  That’s what pours out.  His life has become nothing more than a desperate grasping for what he cannot ultimately reach.  It’s is quite a contrast: abundance or scarcity.

What about you?  Where do you see yourself in this story?  Which person best describes your life these days?  Are you living out of the abundance of God’s unfailing love, or out of the scarcity of your own limited resources?  And if you are not sure, just take a look at what’s overflowing from your life; that will give you a pretty good indication. 

Prayer

Closing Prayer:  Lord Jesus, help me to live this day out of your abundance, rather than out of my own scarcity.  Amen.

 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

as it is in heaven

Opening Prayer: On earth as it is in heaven.  Yes, please!  Give me a vison, O Lord, for what this could, and should, look like in my life, in my ministry, and in the world.  Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 6:10

Journal: What does this verse stir up within you?  How does it touch your deepest hopes for life and family and work and friendships and ministry?

Reflection: “On earth as it is in heaven.”  What an absolutely beautiful, albeit often overlooked, phrase.  And what a beautiful prayer; one that I am going to start praying for the people in my life and world today. 

What a beautiful vision for what life and ministry could, and should, look like.  Everything becoming all it was intended to be: true shalom, wholeness, flourishing. 

And we are invited to be participants, as well as agents, in that process.  Living whole lives and bringing that wholeness, health, and peace into our world.  Rolling back the effects of the fall and ushering in a way of being that is closer to what God had in mind. 

Thus, “On earth as it is in heaven,” becomes for us a model for life, a model for prayer, and a model for ministry.  Thanks be to God!

Prayer

Closing Prayer: On earth as it is in heaven, O Lord.  Make things on earth the way that they are in heaven: whole, joyful, and free.  Amen.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

redeemed

Opening Prayer:  Thank you, O God, that you alone can redeem us.  Forgive us when we continually try to redeem ourselves.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 103:4

Journal: What “pit” do you need to be redeemed from?  What would it look like to be “crowned with love and compassion?”  Where in your life are you trying to let go, and where in your life are you desiring to be let go of?

Reflect: There is a big difference between letting go of the things we hold onto and being released from the things that hold onto us.  Both are a necessary part of the spiritual journey, but the dynamics of each is quite different.  Both involve the idea of release—on the one hand releasing, and on the other, being released from.  But one places the ball firmly in our court—by the grace of God—and the other involves something that is completely out of our hands.  For example, you can let go of something that has a hold on you, but that still doesn’t let you go.  It still doesn’t offer you true freedom; that takes a power outside of yourself.  To some degree you control letting go, but you have little to no control over being let go of.  That takes an act of God.

That’s where redemption comes in.  In its purest form, redemption means to be bought back out of the bonds of slavery.  It means to be released, to be set free.  Thus, redemption is a work of God, not something we can do for ourselves, which puts us in a place of powerlessness, helplessness, dependence, and vulnerability.  A place where God does some of his very best work.  Redemption has nothing to do with how strong and capable we are.  It has nothing to do with how hard we try.  It depends totally on the strength of our God.  What if most of our problems in the spiritual journey come from trying to do for ourselves what only God can do for us?  

For instance, Psalm 103 doesn’t say, “I pulled myself up out of the pit," or "I figured out how to climb out of the pit,” but, “He redeems my life from the pit and crowns me with love and compassion.” (Psalm 103:4) Thanks be to God, who does something for us that we cannot do ourselves—he redeems us!

Prayer

Closing Prayer:  O Lord, when will I ever realize—and admit—that I can’t, but you can.  For until I realize—and admit—that, I will never make any progress in this journey of faith.  Lord, have mercy.  Amen.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

if you are willing

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that your perspective is much bigger than ours; you see things that we cannot see and you know things that we do not know.  And thank you that you are good and loving, and can be fully trusted with our lives and our prayers.  Help us to fully trust you today.  Amen.

Scripture: Mark 1:40-42

Journal: What are you begging God for these days?  Are you willing to ask him if he’s willing?  Will you trust him even if he’s not?

Reflection: God wants more for us than we even want for ourselves.  That’s why our prayers so often fall short of God’s deepest hopes and dreams for us.  He sees the bigger picture that we cannot see.

I think that’s why I am so intrigued by the words of the leper: “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  What an incredible prayer that would be.  “I know you can, but will you?  I know you see what I cannot see and know what I do not know, and I trust that you are good and always working for the ultimate good in my life.  So if you are willing, great.  If not, then I trust that you have something better in mind for me—although it might involve some pain and struggle.”

What if God would have given Mary and Martha what they wanted when they sent word to Jesus that their brother Lazarus was sick?  They would have gotten a healing, but would have missed the awestruck wonder of him being raised from the dead.  Jesus had something far better in mind.

Jesus had something far better in mind for them, and Jesus has something far better in mind for us.  Therefore, our prayers should reflect that.  I’m not saying not to tell God what you want, that would be disingenuous.  He knows your heart.  What I am saying is that we approach God like the all-seeing, all-knowing God that he is.  Acknowledging that we really do not know what is best for us in the long run.  He has perspective that we do not have.  He knows that, even in the face of death, “To live is Christ and to die is gain,” (Phil. 1:21) while we live as if, “To live is gain and to die is Christ.”  He sees things through a whole different set of lenses, which makes, “If you are willing” such a great prayer.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Give us the courage and the strength and the grace, Lord Jesus, to ask you if you are willing.  And then to fully trust you, whatever the response.  Amen.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

descend, detach, depend

Opening Prayer: My heart is not lifted up, O Lord, my eyes are not raised too high.  I do not concern myself with great matters, or things too wonderful for me.

But I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my souls within me.

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, both now and forevermore. (Psalm 131:1-3)

Scripture: Psalm 131:1-3

Journal:  How is God asking you to descend these days?  What is he wanting you to detach yourself from, so that you can be free?  How is he asking you to depend more and more on him?

Reflect:

          psalm 131


          descend
          detach
          depend

          it’s the
          Jesus way

Pray

Closing Prayer: O Lord, give me the courage to descend, so that you may be lifted up.  Give me the strength to detach from the things of this world, so that I may be attached to you alone.  And give me the grace to depend on you, rather than trying to depend on my own gifts and abilities.  Make me more and more like Jesus each and every day, that he may live his life in and through me.  Amen.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

freely justified

 Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for your grace and mercy.  Help me to live my life in light of both of those things today.  Amen.

Scripture: Romans 3:21-26

Journal: How do you try to justify your existence?  What would living in response to the free justification offered through Jesus look like?

Reflection:  Who, or what, determines the purpose, the path, and the pace of your life?  Are you living life trying to justify your own existence, trying to prove to yourself and your world that you are worth loving, or are you living your life in response to having already been fully and freely and unconditionally loved by Jesus?  There is a huge difference.

Nowadays, it seems like we have allowed our culture and our world to determine these things—particularly our pace—rather than our God.  For some odd reason, we tend to take a lot of pride in how busy we are, in how full our schedules are, and how fast-paced our lives have become.  Bigger and more and faster have become the top measurements of success and worth and value, even in the Christian culture, much to God’s chagrin, I am afraid.  It seems that we have forgotten that life was always intended to be the result of the overflow of the life of God within us.  And the life of God within us requires time and space and silence and breath to grow and flourish.

We must, therefore, return to the ways and the values of the kingdom.  We must recapture a life that is not constantly trying to justify its existence, but one that is a living response to having already been freely and fully justified by the love and grace of Jesus.  We need to live in the joy and the power and the freedom and the overflow of the life of God that is welling up within us.  That is the way life, and ministry, was designed to work.  For when we have nothing to prove, we are finally free to love.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that I no longer have to justify my own existence because you have fully and freely justified me.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

torn to pieces

Opening Prayer: Help us to trust you, O Lord, when life is hard and we feel like we are being torn to pieces.  Help us to trust that, even in the chaos and brokenness, you are doing a good work in and through us.  Help us to trust your heart, even when we can’t see your hand.  Amen.

Scripture: Hosea 6:1-3

Journal: How has God torn you to pieces, so that he might heal you?  How has he injured you, so that he might bind up your wounds?  How is he reviving and restoring you?  How is that helping you to live more and more in his presence? 

Reflection: If you are looking for easy, then life with God is probably not for you.  God is never, it seems, about easy, or convenient or comfortable, for that matter.  God’s heart for us is so good and so loving that he will not let us settle for less than who he made us to be.  In fact, he will stop at nothing to make us exactly who and what he had in mind before the foundations of the world, even if it involves some tearing and injuring.  His deepest desire is that we would live our lives in his presence.  Thus, he might tear us to pieces, so that he can heal us; and he might injure us, so that he can bind up our wounds.  Because somehow, mysteriously, through that process of tearing and healing and injuring and binding us up, he is working to revive and restore us.  Which means that life with God is not for the faint of heart, but it is for those who want to be whole and alive and free.  For those who want to be congruent with his creation intent.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Thank you, O Lord, that your heart for us is good.  Thank you that we can always trust that you are working good in us, no matter what happens.  Revive us and restore us, O Lord, no matter what it takes.  Help us to live every minute of our lives aware of your peace and your presence.  Amen.

 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

lost and found

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are people who are constantly in need of your grace.  Thank you that you are always more than willing to offer it.   

Scripture: Luke 15:11-32

Journal: What does this story stir up within you today?  In what ways have you been found by God recently?  In what ways are you still lost?  What is the Father’s invitation to you in that today?

Reflection: The fifteenth chapter of Luke could easily be entitled, Lost and Found.  Whether one hundred sheep or ten coins or two sons, in each case one is lost and is in need of finding.  And, as the dust settles on the chapter, we are left with one lost son standing before his father, but not the one we might imagine.  This lost son actually thinks he is found, which is the point of the whole chapter.  Jesus is talking with the Pharisees, making a point about who is lost and who is found.  And in this particular story the “lost” is found and the “found” is actually lost.  It is an interesting dynamic, to say the least. 

Which makes the moral of the story this: If you do not know you are lost, then you have no idea you are in need of being found.  Thus, a significant part of the spiritual journey involves a continual recognition of our lost-ness.  One of the biggest dangers, for those of us who have once been found, is to lose touch with the ways we are still lost—and they are many.  It is knowing our extreme need that makes us aware of the ridiculous magnificence of grace.  For even though we have been found, we all still get lost in our lives from time to time.  Thus, we are in need of being found over and over and over again.  It is a humbling place to be, but a really good place to be.  In fact, this place of dependence and need creates some of the most fertile soil for God to do his work in and through us.

The interesting part is that we are not told how this story ends.  I guess that’s because we have to write that part.  Will we go into the father’s house and join the celebration, or will we stay outside?  Will we be found, or will we remain lost?  The choice is up to us. 

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are people who are constantly getting lost in our lives.  Thank you that you specialize in finding us.  Find us this day, whatever that may mean, whatever it may look like.  Come, Lord Jesus.  Come and find us.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

do you want to get well?

Opening Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you want me to get well.  Thank you that you want healing and life and freedom to define me, rather than brokenness and sin and dysfunction.  Give me the courage and the strength and the grace to “Get up! Pick up my mat and walk.”  Amen.

Scripture: John 5:1-9

Journal: Do you want to get well?  What will getting well look like?  How is Jesus telling you to “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk”?  What does that look like?

Reflection: It was called the House of Mercy for a reason, for it was one of the most broken places in all the city.  There a great multitude of disabled people used to lie: the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.  And one man, in particular, had been there for thirty-eight years.  That’s a long time!  John does not tell us his name, but does tell us that the man was an invalid (astheneia), literally meaning one without strength.  Luckily for him, Jesus always shows up in the broken places—both then and now.

Jesus saw (eidō) him sitting there on his mat.  Oh, how long had it been since this man had been truly seen?  How long has it been since you have been truly seen?  Yet, Jesus saw into him, as he does into you.  He didn’t just see the brokenness of his body, but, more importantly, he saw the brokenness of his heart and soul.  And when he saw him and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, Jesus asked the man a question: “Do you want to get well?”  Or, literally, “Do you want to be whole?”  Which, on the surface, seems like a ridiculous question, but, in reality, is anything but that.  It is actually quite profound.  Not only profound then, but also profound now.  For all of us, like the strength-less man, are, deep within, resistant to change.  We have grown oddly comfortable in our brokenness, our dysfunction, and our sin.  So when Jesus asks us that question, he is really asking us: “Do you really want to get well?  I mean, really?”  He doesn’t ask this to shame us, but to awaken us to a quality of life and wholeness and freedom that he desires for us; one that life on the mat can never achieve.

“I have no one to help me,” replied the broken man, “whenever the water is stirred up someone else gets into the pool ahead of me.”  A telling answer to a profound question.  Luckily, Jesus was there to help.  He was there to make the broken whole again, even if the broken are resistant to the responsibilities of a changed, whole life.

“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk,” Jesus told the man.  “If you really want to be well, I can make you well.  But it will mean that you have to get up from where you are, pick up your mat, and walk.  If I make you well, you can’t simply return to life on the mat again.  You can’t simply return to your old ways of being and seeing; everything must change.  Life with me requires movement.  I want you to be healed and whole and free.  And immediately the man was healed; he picked up his mat, left his old ways, patterns, and dysfunctions behind, and started a whole new life. 

The bottom line in the spiritual life is that something must die within us, in order to make room for something beautiful to be born.  What is that for you?  What needs to die within you?  How do you need to get up?  What mat do you need to pick up?  What life do you need to leave behind?  And what beautiful thing does God want to do within you as a result?  God wants to do a work of healing, wholeness, freedom, and beauty within you, the only question is: “Do you want to get well?”

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you always show up in our broken places, offering healing and wholeness and freedom.  Show up in our broken places this day. Whatever that might look like.  Amen. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

life from death

Opening Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you always bring life out of death.  Amen.

Scripture: John 12:24

Journal: What needs to die in me during this season, in order for something beautiful to be born?

Reflection:

“Unless a kernel of wheat
falls to the ground and dies,
it remains only a single seed. 
But if it dies it produces
many seeds.” (John 12:24)

The main question
that Lent tends to ask us
is this: What needs to die
in me during this season,
in order for something
beautiful to be born?

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Jesus, please do not allow the fear of something dying to keep me from the joy of something new being born.  Amen.

Monday, March 1, 2021

crucified with Christ

Opening Prayer: Give me the courage and the strength and the grace, Lord Jesus, to be crucified with you, so that I no longer live, but you live in me.  It is the only way to true life.  Amen.

Scripture: Galatians 2:20

Journal: What does it mean for you to be crucified with Christ?  What does that look like?

Reflection: To be crucified with Christ means that I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  It means that my life is no longer about my own preferences, but about his preferences.  It means that life is no longer about my own direction, but about his direction.  It means that life is no longer about my own dreams, but about his dreams for me.  It means that life is no longer about me, but about him.  To be crucified with Christ means to surrender complete and total control to him alone; I no longer live, but Christ lives in and through me.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Forgive me, Lord Jesus, for being so resistant to being crucified with you, or being crucified at all, for that matter.  Lord, have mercy!  Amen.

 

Friday, February 19, 2021

unseen

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that you are always at work, even in the most difficult and trying of circumstances.  Help me to trust the unseen things you are doing in me, knowing that they are the things that are eternal.  Amen.

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Journal: What is God doing within you these days?  How is he using the circumstances of your life to achieve for you and eternal glory?  How will you keep your eyes fixed on the unseen rather than the seen?

Reflection: In the spiritual life, it is the unseen that is important, not the seen.  It is what God is doing under the surface, in and through us, that matters the most.  The things that look hard and bad on the surface, are quite often the things that are the best in the long run, for they “are achieving for us an eternal glory” that we cannot yet see.  They are producing unseen qualities deep in our hearts and souls that will, at some point, make themselves visible.  They are making us more like Jesus.  Those are the things that are eternal.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Help me to trust you, Lord Jesus, no matter what.  Amen.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

perspective

Opening Prayer: Remind me this day, O Lord, that this life is about you, not about me.  The quicker I can learn that truth, the better.  Lord, have mercy!  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 103:14-16

Journal: How do these verses help you keep things in proper perspective?

Reflection: It’s amazing how quickly things can get out of perspective when we actually start believing that this life is about us, rather than about Him.  That’s why we need a constant reminder that we are dust.  Not we are like dust, but we are dust.  We are like a flower in a field that is here one day and gone the next.  And, to add insult to injury, our place remembers us no more.  Ouch!  That realization is not meant to demean or discourage us, but to set us free.  It is meant to remind us not to take ourselves too seriously.  God is the only One who is from everlasting to everlasting.  This life is about his kingdom and his glory, not our own.  And the sooner we can realize that, the better. 

Prayer

Closing Prayer: O Lord, help me to stop always making things about me.  Please!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

uncovering my iniquity

Opening Prayer: When I kept silent my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me, my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.  Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, “I will confess my transgression to the Lord”—and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. (Psalm 32:3-5)

Scripture: Psalm 32:3-5

Journal:  How is God’s hand heavy upon you these days?  How are you living falsely?  How have you twisted or distorted God’s truth?  How does living falsely wear you out and run you down?  What would it look like to undercover your iniquity?  What is the result?

Reflection: Iniquity is the perversion of God’s good and perfect intentions for my own benefit.  It is twisting his truth to meet my needs.  The reason I typically try so hard to cover up my iniquity is because I am determined to hide my falseness.  And when I do that, it takes its toll on me.  It is not until I am willing to bring my falseness and manipulation and distortion of God’s good and beautiful truth out into the open that I ever have any hope of living at peace with both him and myself.  That’s because God is actually willing to forgive the iniquity of my sin.  And that’s something worth rejoicing about!

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Thank you, O Lord, that you forgive the iniquity of my sin.  Wash me clean this day and help me to rejoice in your forgiveness.  Amen.

Monday, February 1, 2021

unconditional trust

Opening Prayer: Help me to trust you, O God, regardless of what is going on in my life.  Regardless of what suffering comes my way.  For you are God and I am not.  Have mercy on me!  Amen.

Scripture: Revelation 2:8-11

Journal: What does your level of trust in the Lord usually depend on?  What would it look like to trust him no matter what?

Reflection:  It’s amazing how much my trust in God is conditioned upon my own ease and comfort.  The minute things get hard I’m like, “What the heck!”  But trust in God cannot be conditional, or it is not trust in God at all, but only trust in our own circumstances.  In the hard times, our faithfulness, and our confidence in God’s goodness, is put to the test.  It shows what we are really made of.  It shows who, or what, we really trust.  Do we really trust in God, or are we simply using him to serve our own purposes?  Is life about him, or is life about us?

If we live in constant fear of what we might suffer, or in constant bitterness over what we already have suffered, the answer is readily apparent.  Our trust in God is totally conditional.  Thus, we don’t really trust him at all.

Help us, O God, to trust you in all things—no matter what.

Prayer

Closing Prayer:  Help us to remain faithful to you, O God, even when things are not going our way.  For you are always faithful to us.  Amen.