Tuesday, February 24, 2009

On the Road

This week I am traveling to see our daughter as well as speak at a women's retreat. Your prayers would be appreciated. I'm not sure of internet availability so keep checking but you may or not see any postings for this week. I am sure, however, I'll be gathering all sorts of wonderful illustrations of how God provides for us, God loves us and God takes care of us!

Thank you for reading. I pray that God is revealing himself to you in special and unique ways.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Two Steps Ahead

God answered...When you hear a sound
like shuffling feet in the top of the [trees]...
God will be two steps ahead of you...

I Chronicles 14:15a (The Message)

Riding high on energy generated from celebrating, David was feeling great. Confident in the knowledge that God had made him king of Israel he looked to the future with anticipation and expectation. Life was good. But it’s a given that bad things happen in life. When the Philistines discover David’s kingly coronation they shatter any illusions he might have had for the future.

Daily we are confronted with the highs and lows of living with the length of each episode varying. There are some who, when life is good, immediately begin looking for the downside because the good life "can’t last." Finding it difficult to enjoy the good, they wait for the bad.

David, however, was right to have confidence. God had selected him specifically for the job that He intended. There were, however, no indications as to the events of David’s future. The only certainty for the future was God’s promise of His presence. God will be two steps ahead of you. What was required of David was to expectantly wait and listen.

When we’re feeling attacked and the "good life" has seemingly disappeared it’s a challenge to listen for a sound like shuffling feet. Keeping safe inside our protective selves we don’t venture outside where the wind of God’s presence blows. God doesn’t promise a safe life. Like David, He offers a life full of unknowns–a combination of coronations and assaults.

But, step outside, listen, there’s a breeze blowing in the tree tops–God is two steps ahead of you.

Jesus, thank you for the life you have given me.
Help me to open the door and step outside to hear
your presence ahead of me.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Peaceful Striving

Strive for peace with everyone...
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God;
that no root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble...

Hebrews 12:14-15

Even with the briefest of glances one can see that the world isn’t pursuing peace. Newspaper columns and Internet sites bulge with stories illustrating the difficulty of finding peaceful solutions. While peaceful ideas abound we remain in an unpeaceful mess. Finding ourselves surrounded by battles at home, church, neighborhoods and countries we wonder is it possible to find peace in a world that ricochets from battle to battle?

The world of the Hebrew writer, written around A.D. 68, was fraught with turmoil, unrest, discontent, jealousy and vindictiveness. It appears that human nature has endured through the centuries! If this is the case, is there any hope for us, as 21st century Jesus followers? Absolutely!

Strive for peace with everyone. It’s not a suggestion but a command implying that the goal is attainable. Human nature, or that uncomfortable word, sin, causes us to fall short. Too often the natural instinct is not peace striving but defensive strategizing!

Perhaps there’s been a negative word said or the appropriate appreciation wasn’t given. Maybe a neighbor was nosy or a spouse cheated. When we perceive an injustice we can quickly become strategists for our defense. And we don’t stop with just the battle. Having conquered our enemy we continue tilling the soil planting the root of bitterness in order to remember how we were wronged.

Striving for peace with everyone seems impossible. Nevertheless, the striving indicates movement and like a regular routine of exercise a conscious choice of peaceful striving is required. The results initially aren’t always apparent but soon our spiritual muscles are strengthened and we will find that our impossible has become God’s possible.

Jesus, you lived a life of peaceful striving.
Help me to live each day in the same manner.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Map Reading

And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy
your desire in scorched places and make your bones
strong;and you shall be like a watered garden...

Isaiah 58:11a, b

Maps cover the table top along with the legal pad that has been glued to my hand. On its pages are lists of what should be done, could be done and finally the lengthiest, what must be done. Boxes piled high sit amidst an odd assortment of bits and bobs that haven’t made their way into a box. The moving vans are scheduled and yet I’m still not sure which interstate is best to get me where I’m going.

Traveling the Jesus road I often wonder what direction I’m headed. There isn’t a designated map for this trip. Having wandered into so many scorched places, certain that the road was lost, I feel frightened even to continue.

And yet, reality is in this present moment. I am certain that road signs have been directing me. Looking behind me I see that I have come out of the scorched places and discover that wandering its lonely desolation has given me an uncanny strength. I hardly recognize my previous weary wandering self!

I find that the road on which I am presently standing is wider with less cavernous holes. It’s a smoother way. I have no idea just how I arrived. And while I don't think I saw any particular sign along the way or heard any verbal directions it is apparent my way was guided. And now I find myself standing in a beautiful garden, amidst a pile of boxes.

Jesus, you are the guide through the scorched places!
Thank you for making me strong along the way.
Now I am going to enjoy the beauty of this moment’s garden.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Floating Attitude

So then it depends not on human will
or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

Romans 9:16
For children it’s almost instinctive, adults less so. Initially, floating on one’s back in the water seems easy and restful. In reality, the older we get the more difficult it becomes. It seems to be a matter of our wariness to trust the supporting nature of water. We begin analyzing the process of floating and before we know it our legs sink. Children, however, know how to trust the buoyancy and enjoy the moment.

Living each day with a floating attitude is a challenge. Consciousness awakening with the dawn, our minds whirling, we begin "analyzing the process"–figuring out how to get the most out of the day, what projects need listing, who needs calling, some existing problem that "depends" on our ability to solve. Sensing our sinking legs we begin struggling and our floating attitude is lost.

No matter the situation nothing is dependent wholly on us. God didn’t structure our existence to be that independent or self-focused. Instead, He designed us to be able to float, buoyed by His mercy and love, not our effort of will. We begin sinking for lack of trusting the supporting nature of God’s character.

God has an end result in mind for each of us. How quickly we get there depends on our willingness to trust the floating process, in other words, to be childlike. Allowing our human will and exertion to drown and giving ourselves up to the buoyancy of God’s mercy, we’ll enjoy the process and arrive at our Godly destination, rested.

Jesus, what You ask of me is my trust.
Instead I try to figure everything out on my own.
Help me to learn how to float, truting the buoyancy of You.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Knowing the Depths

For the Spirit searches everything,
even the depths of God.

I Corinthians 2:10b

A mother once said to her child, I know you better than you know yourself. Being known–it’s comforting and terrifying. Comforting in that whoever you "are" is evident and hopefully accepted; terrifying because in the depths is stuff that you don’t want known!

How the Father, Son and Holy Spirit exists as three and yet one is a theological mystery. But, how they relate to each other is consistently revealed to us. Their intertwining relationship, where one leaves off the other begins, brings comfort. With no beginning or end, one is encircled and there is nothing to fear.

Psalm 139 says that God’s knowingness is what got us started in the first place! While we may not be conscious of our beginnings, there is comfort in knowing that God was attentive. As the bones began to solidify and nature, personality, quirks, were taking shape, to become you, God saw that what He was creating was good.

With these infinite abilities, why are the depths of God known—accountability and relationship. Living accountably and in relationship with trustful friends, gives our life clarity, wholeness and vision. God being in relationship with the Holy Spirit, who searches everything, even God himself, means we know a God that can be trusted.

God sets the example of willingness to be known to the depths. It’s the kind of life he wants with us—a willing acknowledgment that nothing can be hidden because He knows us better than we know ourselves.

Jesus, I am known by you.
Nothing can be hidden.
I give you all that I am
and pray that with Your help
I will become all you want me to be.

Image--The Trinity, El Greco, 1577

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Friendly Chatter

I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Job 42:2

Everyone knows about Job and his problems. There’s no question, Job had it tough and on top of losing wealth, wife, children, family, and health, Job had a bunch of friends who thought they knew just what Job needed and they eagerly shared their bits of wisdom.

No wonder Job couldn’t get out of the depression pit! While he sat wasting away, well meaning friends fed him with words giving him the vastness of their finite knowledge. Amidst the advice, Job's spirit begins to break down and wonders Does not he see my ways and number all my steps? In other words, hasn’t God been paying attention to the good life I’ve been living?

And so, after several more "friendly" religious debates and moral lectures God breaks in with, Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth...and He keeps going! (read Job 39-41) God has heard enough.

"Friendly" wisdom can go a long way. The trip-up is that sometimes we glom onto this wisdom first. While well meaning, it’s sometimes "friendly" wisdom that can drown out the words of the One who laid the foundations of the earth.

Here’s a bit of "friendly" advice! When you find yourself with Job, questioning the nature of things, move away for awhile from “friendly” chatter and listen. The One who laid the foundation of the earth will speak words of assurance; promising to take care of everything, allowing nothing to stand in the way of His plans for you.

Jesus, thank you for friends who are there
when I need them. But help me to listen first
to Your wisdom because You are the One
who knows the plans You have for me.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Seek and Find

You will seek me and find me.
When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you...

Jeremiah 29:13-14a

God is like a person who clears his throat while hiding and so gives himself away. Here is a very contemporary viewpoint, after all it addresses the "hiddenness" of God and finding God has posed a challenge for thousands of individuals in the 21st century. However, Meister Eckhart, a German mystic from the 13th century, wrote these words in response to the question, Where is God?

Well before the 13th century Jeremiah also spoke about God’s hiddenness so it would appear that we are not alone. The question of where is God has been an eternal quandary. Many of us expect God to just show up when needed keeping the action to one side only. It is an expectation that allows us to be sedentary.

What Jeremiah promises and Meister Eckhart understood was that God shows himself to those who actively seek. If we stood motionless in our attempts to find hidden friends during childhood games of hide and seek we would have missed the joy of discovery. It’s a given–one can only find if one first seeks.

God longs to be found and His being found is a concrete promise. In seeking God we may find ourselves led to unexpected places, locations we never imagined, people we never considered. But, if we seek with all our heart, He will not be silent. When we least expect it He will clear his throat, revealing His presence, giving us the joy of discovery.

How will you seek God today?

Jesus, thank you that you
are not a god that stays hidden and silent.
Help me today to seek you, finding you
in the places I least expect

Monday, February 9, 2009


Jesus prayed,
"Father, forgive them;
they don’t know what they’re doing."

Luke 23:34a (The Message)

Ask someone if an unforgivable event has happened in their lives and you may find yourself looking in the face of at least one of these emotions–pain, anger, hurt, sorrow, bitterness, doubt, frustration, resignation, hardness. It’s the look of the unforgivable, unforgiven.

There will be those faces, however, that register peace and contentment. Here is the summit of the unforgivable, forgiven.

There’s no doubt about it, forgiveness can be the face of Yosemite’s Half Dome. Seemingly impossible, we can’t begin to imagine how to set a course much less prepare ourselves to achieve the insurmountable. Fortunately, hundreds have climbed "Half Dome." Routes have already been discovered and set, waiting for us to begin our climb.

Beaten, publically humiliated, hanging exposed for all to see, Jesus knew exactly what it took to climb "Half Dome". For three years people hadn’t been able to get enough of him. He was at the top of his game! Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, the disciples disappearance and Pilot’s judgment, quickly turned it all upside down. Immobile, weakened and alone Jesus prays, Father, forgive them.

Forgiveness begins with this prayer. It tells us Who will meet us at the base of the climb. Paralyzing emotional pain can stop us from finding our way up our forgiveness "Half Dome" but our Father knows the route. The prayer of Jesus points us to the first foothold on the wall, Father, forgive them.

Don’t worry if months pass and this is your only prayer. The rest of the route will be revealed one foothold at a time.

Jesus, you lived out the route to forgiveness.
Help me to rest, knowing that I don’t have to
work out the way on my own.
I trust You to show me the route,
one foothold at a time.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Silence and Speech

And the Lord came and stood,calling...
And Samuel said,"Speak, for your servant hears."

I Samuel 3:10

Years ago a group of friends started recalling the prayer language we had heard as children. With the majority of us having been raised in faith communities that emphasized the importance of personal, extemporaneous prayer, our collective memories were extensive and yet oddly familiar. We discovered that most of the prayer language of our youth had a particular structure and usually entailed lots of talking. Some of the vocabulary used required a dictionary along with numerous spiritual proclamations and revelations. There were a few eye blinking opportunities for silence. Basically, prayer seemed complicated.

Prayer shouldn’t be complicated, complex or contorted! It is a God conversation consisting of simple, plain language--a conversation that should probably begin by saying nothing at all.

Samuel’s prayer of Speak, for your servant hears is about as simple as it gets and yet it is perhaps one of the most poignant prayers that we can speak. It is one of those “says it all” prayers for the believer. No matter one’s circumstances, environment, mood or situation here is a simple prayer that can be prayed no matter the season of life.

But, it does have a requirement that makes this prayer a difficult one–silence. And, in an age of talking heads, iPods, and cell phones silence is a rare commodity. In order to hear there has to be a willingness to listen and in order to listen, silence is an absolute necessity.

God calls our name every day. We have only to pray, Speak, for your servant hears.

Jesus, thank you for calling out to me.
Speak--I am listening.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Spinning the Wheel

Before I was afflicted I went astray;
but now I keep your word.
Psalm 119:67

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen--nobody knows but Jesus. Trouble and difficulty was well known to the black American singers of these words. Brutal days of arduous labor and nights of aching limbs were what made up their existence in the 1800's. Nevertheless in spite of the injustice, unfairness and inhumanness of their world they never stopped singing about their troubles and praising the God who helped them.

Troubles have a way of waking us up from our spiritual slumber. The long term memory suddenly kicks into gear and while we may not have talked with God recently, read the Bible consistently or lived our lives particularly faithfully, we are desperate for help.

When we get our help and trouble has again moved on, too often we find ourselves moving on as well. But then, like a wheel of fortune, it stops on trouble and looking up we discover that we are a long distance, once again, from the Help we need.

Times up! To keep spinning the wheel, hoping for it to hit better times, is a gamble. Trouble has more spaces than fortune. There comes a point, if we want to live free, that making a decision to stay put and live in the presence of the Help that knows our troubles will stop the spinning wheel.

The answer to why me isn’t nearly as important as whose am I? Answering this question will make a difference in how you live your life when trouble again appears.

Jesus, you never ran away!
Through the good and bad of your earthly life
you stayed put, doing exactly what your Father wanted.
Help me to stay put in your presence.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cloud of Witnesses

…since we are surrounded
by so great a cloud of witnesses…

Hebrews 12:1b

Most of us have an interesting story about how we came to be a follower of Jesus Christ. With a few exceptions most of these accounts have at their core individuals who influenced us. There are grandmothers who taught us to pray, Sunday school teachers who taught us Bible stories, and parents who dragged us to church in spite of our resistance. They make up a part of our cloud of witnesses; people who faithfully pointed to the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.

It is important to remember our witnesses. They represent stories of others who influenced them; thus carrying on the legacy of faith. Our life of faith today is or should be a reflection of those who influenced us. For some the impact was as small as a grain of sand and for others the significance of how they helped shape us, lives with us daily. Nevertheless they made a difference in our lives.

When Jesus appears at the river Jordan he too has a cloud of witnesses behind him. For thousands of years faithful individuals pointed to the promises of God and of course Jesus was the embodiment. He in turn pointed the way to God.

While we may think fondly of our “witnesses” it is important to also think of ourselves as “witnesses.” Every day is yet another opportunity to faithfully point to the faithfulness of Jesus. It is how the legacy of faith continues and the cloud of witnesses multiplies.

Jesus, thank you for each
witness that you brought into my life.
Help me to carry on the legacy of faith
by being a faithful witness to others

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ready and Receptive

Jesus answered him, “What I am doing
you do not understand now,
but afterward you will understand.”

John 13:7

Plopping down in front of the computer and clicking the icon, I sat, potato-like, waiting while the e-mails downloaded. Emotions were below low and I was confident that this time God really didn’t know what he was doing! Up popped the e-mail of a trusted friend...Several nights ago, I was awakened and felt strongly that I needed to pray for all of you...then the Lord reminded me of this verse. God’s Spirit had spoken and my friend had heard and responded.

Many of us find ourselves at odds with two facts: We believe that the Holy Spirit wants to speak to us but we don’t know how to become Spirit listeners. The very idea makes us feel muddled and confused because we’re never quite sure whether what we’re sensing or feeling is the Holy Spirit talking.

There is, however, an important component of Spirit listening–we have to be ready and the readiness makes us receptive. In order for my friend to be reminded of a verse, she had to know the verse in the first place! In order to be ready we have to spend the time necessary getting to know the Speaker. Being ready gives us the ability to respond to the voice of the Spirit when we encounter our own challenges as well as those who join our travels.

To be a Spirit listener takes time and commitment. We may not always understand the message initially, but, when we hear the Spirit’s voice we can be assured that understanding will come eventually.

Jesus, help me to be ready
in order to be receptive and able
to hear the voice of Your Spirit.


Monday, February 2, 2009

The Healing Balm

But God’s not finished.
He’s waiting around to be gracious to you.
He’s gathering strength
to show mercy to you.
God takes the time to do everything right.

Isaiah 30:18 (The Message)

All good things come to him who waits originated with the French tracing back to the 1500's. While it seems that waiting has been an issue for generations it would appear that the origins of all good things come to him who waits has a much longer history than France. The inability to wait and allow good things to come can probably be traced back to our initial parents–Adam and Eve.

Throughout any given day we are asked to wait, forced to wait or wait by default. Waiting seems to be an itch that becomes more irritated with our scratching. We just don’t want to wait for the medication to do its job.

Isaiah’s definition of waiting isn’t particularly comforting, in fact, it promises a lengthy scenario! Not only is God waiting to be gracious to us, but he takes... time to do everything right. Nothing can be hurried or impulsive when the promise of everything turning out right is at stake. It’s all there--graciousness, mercy and rightness–the healing balm for the waiting itch. What is required of us is to stop scratching, allowing time for the balm to do its good work.

Creatures of habit find it difficult to change. But, in order to experience the right, gracious, mercy of our Father who isn’t finished with us, waiting is necessary. By remembering everything that was right from our past we rediscover our belief, the healing balm, that God is gathering strength for our waiting future. But, we do have to stop scratching!

Jesus, thank you for loving me enough
to wait until everything is right.
Help me to wait for all that is
gracious, merciful and good.