Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Momentary Prayer

Father, I so quickly forget.

I’m sorry.

I quickly take the reins and try to make things happen, mainly because I’m so scared that no one else will.

I’m terrified that no one good and strong is on my side.

I’m so used to being on my own, trying to make things happen, that I hardly know anything else.

Have mercy on me, Jesus. I’m so tired.

Jesus, the One who holds all reality together, who holds the entirety of my story within your praying life;

Jesus who knows all my fears, desires, memories and attachments;

Jesus, the One who knows it all and who loves me most –

 

I trust you.

Not for anything heroic, Lord.

I’m much too weak and foolish for that. I have no idea what I want or need, let alone have the means to make anything substantial happen.

All I have is this moment, and in this moment, weak, naked and afraid, I trust you simply because you’re good, tender, strong and kind.

Father, I abandon myself to you, never to be abandoned again. I don’t need to know what tomorrow holds; all I need is right here, right now – with you.

Make a way for me - here and now and throughout this day - a simple, solid way of walking with you.

May I not be so quick to forget;

May I be quick to remember your love, quick to trust it.

May I be slow to worry, slow to anger, slow to fear, slow to run.

 

May I be wholly yours in this moment.

Abba, I belong to You.

As I Lay Dying . . .

As I lay dying . . .

I regret not accumulating more stuff;

I regret not filling my time with more busyness;

I regret not using my friendships to advance myself;

I regret all the time wasted on relationships;

I regret not making myself sound and look better;

I regret trying new things;

I regret risking the risk of trusting God;

I regret wasting time with my children;

I regret not being more impressive and intelligent;

I regret all the books I haven’t read;

I regret letting love slow me down;

I regret not worrying more;

I regret all the time wasted on fairy tales;

I regret being over doing; becoming over attaining;

I regret letting family get in the way of my career;

I regret listening to God instead of taking charge;

I regret waiting instead of making things happen.

 

Said no one ever.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reflections on 2014: Year of Surrender

You crown the year with your generosity, richness seeps from your tracks,

the pastures of the desert grow moist, the hillsides are wrapped in joy,

the meadows are covered with flocks, the valleys clothed with wheat; they shout and sing for joy.  (Ps 65:11-13 NJB)

 

At the end of 2013 I noted that the predominant theme of that year had been the fundamental relational shift into becoming a disciple (learner/apprentice) of Jesus. As I looked into 2014 I felt led toward specific practices of surrender and trust as I sought to grow in my discipleship. There were three prayers that were fundamental in guiding me in this (prayer 1, prayer 2, and prayer 3, respectively). These have helped me greatly root my mind, heart, soul and body in the rich pastures of the Kingdom of God.


Looking back over 2014, by God’s goodness I think I have grown in surrender and trust! The main way I have noticed growth has been indirect. As I sought to practice the presence of God in intentional trust, I’ve experienced less anxiety, fear and anger as I’ve walked through the circumstances of the year. Sometimes I’ve even experienced surprising amounts of joy and peace!


Some circumstantial highlights of 2014:

  • I walked around 1000 miles in 2014 in my morning exercise routine (3.2 miles a day 6-7 days a week) and have been able to maintain my ideal weight.

  • I got my first tattoo (celtic cross on my right shoulder for my 44th birthday), a symbolic event for me.

  • Celebrated 20 years of marriage and 25 years following Jesus!

  • Three trips out of state (special anniversary trip, trips to Oregon and British Columbia)

  • I had an unexpected “inguinal double-hernia repair” surgery, which was fun.

  • We unexpectedly replaced one of our vehicles with a newer car.


**these events are not special in themselves, but represent events and circumstances where for the first time I tried practicing the presence of God in them, as opposed to just going through them my “normal” way - without God and without hope in the world.


The biggest surprise to me is how responsive God has been. Corresponding to my growing trust, God has been more communicative with me, responding in provision and abundance in relational, financial and emotional ways. This excites me about the future and reminds me of a phrase the Lord gave me early in the year - who knows what trust can do?


This renewed confidence in God’s care has provided freedom for me to start dreaming again about the future. Anyone who knows my story knows this is a huge deal! I haven’t dreamed about the future since coming to Louisville in 2001! Dreaming about the future requires confidence that I will be cared for and that there is a unique place in God’s world for my unique gifts and talents.


In the spring of 2014 I began writing down a “job description,” a vision of what I would like to do with the rest of my life if I could. I’m not quite ready to share the details here yet, but I have been slowly letting close friends and family in on it as a matter of conversation and prayer. I am being increasingly urged (inwardly and outwardly) to take the dream to the next level and begin pursuing it in 2015. The big idea of it is, I want to help people follow Jesus full time.


Looking forward to 2015, I am moving forward with my job description on the assumption that it is a dream planted by God, so I can begin to look for possible plots of ground where it can take root and grow. I think 2015 will be a year of vocation, or a year of redeemed desire.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Christmas Prayer and Blessing

Christmas 2014

Beloved friends on the path of LIFE with Jesus and his people,

May Emmanuel envelop you into his constant care and companionship;
May your heart be engulfed in everything of God everywhere
May your thoughts and feelings be held by the steady hand of Abba
May your body be made ready to respond when he calls to you from your everyday;
May your soul be filled full with all his fullness, overflowing into all your relationships near and far.

May his Spirit bring you a deeper experiential confidence in God's loving care,
May his great love enable you let go of outcomes,
free of getting your own way and getting people to do things;
May you be free to think new thoughts and feel new feelings and dream new dreams.

May we grow closer together as broken and beloved friends in partnership with Jesus in living lives of constant creative goodness.

Emmanuel has come! 
God is with us, forever!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Labor of Love

"Labor of Love," by Andrew Peterson

It was not a silent night

There was blood on the ground

You could hear a woman cry

In the alleyways that night

On the streets of David's town



And the stable was not clean

And the cobblestones were cold

And little Mary full of grace

With the tears upon her face

Had no mother's hand to hold



It was a labor of pain

It was a cold sky above

But for the girl on the ground in the dark

With every beat of her beautiful heart

It was a labor of love



Noble Joseph at her side

Callused hands and weary eyes

There were no midwives to be found

In the streets of David's town

In the middle of the night



So he held her and he prayed

Shafts of moonlight on his face

But the baby in her womb

He was the maker of the moon

He was the Author of the faith

That could make the mountains move



It was a labor of pain

It was a cold sky above

But for the girl on the ground in the dark

With every beat of her beautiful heart

It was a labor of love

For little Mary full of grace

With the tears upon her face

It was a labor of love


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Emmanuel’s Pace


Emmanuel’s Pace
In coming to our place

Slowly, slowly
So slow and steady
Not without the help of human hands
Hands that he himself made
to bring him in.
We had to deliver him, before he could deliver us.

It took nine long months to come to the stable
Thus begins the steady and slow growth
The process of the perfect God-man
Infinite in patience and tender power

Triune slowness
Teaching us how to be human
How to wade through time and not lose our souls

So slowly did he come
only a few noticed
the poor, the smelly and the marginalized
All the power brokers
too busy and fast
caught up in themselves
Aren’t able to see or care
It’s still the same today.

A weary world rejoices
Lost in hurry, worry and procrastination
We stop, look and listen
See how God does it.
Master of time, taking his time;
It’s still the same today.

If we can learn to walk his pace
staying before his face
perhaps we shall be born anew
a new human race.


A Prayer:
Emmanuel, as Christmas draws near, the pace around me quickens. Traffic picks up, lines get longer, patience runs thin. More rush, more to do and less time, more longing and less thanks; instead of rushing to keep up, help me have the courage to slow down even more. I need deep anchors in silence and solitude in order to stand against the rushing tide. Help me go deeper instead of faster. For your sake and the good of my own soul, I pray.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Pledge of the Apprentice (Expanded)

Back in January, I posted a shorter version of this pledge (which is actually a prayer). Here is the longer version that has grown as I’ve prayed it. With a few exceptions, this pledge has ushered me into every day of 2014. It has kept me focused and moving in a good direction, and I hope it blesses you, too!


It seems especially relevant to me during this Advent season, to think of apprenticing myself to this Jesus lying in a manger. Learning from him begins with attending to the way he came. Each season of the Christian year gives us meditative access to an aspect of the life and activity of Jesus.


Below the official pledge are a few more affirmations that I work through on a daily basis.


Pledge of the Apprentice


By the grace of God, I apprentice myself to Jesus in order to live eternally now;


to become the kind of person, from the heart, who does what he did and says what he said in his confident, peaceful manner. I commit myself to learning this. He is the One who knows how to live, the Master and Maestro of all of life, the smartest and best person to ever have lived.


In warm response to his love, I intend to be with him, learning to be like him, living my life as he would live it if he were I. Through the Holy Spirit I intend to do the necessary and appropriate things (means of grace) for apprehending and opening to this new kind of life.


I do this for the sake of God and the good of my own soul and the good of those around me;


to work with Him and participate in Him, as he extends the loving rule and reign of His kingdom throughout my life into others’ lives.


I do not do this to earn or merit anything; rather, it is my simple but passionate cooperation in Trinitarian Life, Presence and Power.


Miscellaneous Related Affirmations


I will trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding, wisdom and resources; In all my ways I will acknowledge and submit to him, trusting in him to make my paths straight and life-giving. I will not be wise in my own eyes; forgive my arrogance, Lord!

I will fear the Lord and turn from evil, trusting him to meet every single one of my needs, to bring health to my body and nourishment to my bones (adaptation of Proverbs 3:5-8).


I let go of outcomes, large and small, as well as leaving in his hands everything that concerns me.


I let go of doing things in order to be seen by others; as best I can with Jesus’ help I will do all things with a simple and fond devotion to God.


I surrender to the goodness and love of God, the atmosphere of “Abba” that surrounds, saturates and satisfies me.


I stand with these particular feet in God’s unshakable kingdom, as a disciple in whom Jesus dwells and delights.



Resources:

Proverbs 3:5-8; Psalms 16 and 23; Matthew 5-7; John 13-17; Colossians 1:9-23; 3:1-21; Romans 5:1-4; 12:1-2


Brother Lawrence, Practice of the Presence of God


Dallas Willard Articles:

How Does the Disciple Live?

Living a Transformed Life Adequate to Our Calling

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Some Thoughts on Giving Thanks

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. (Ps 100:4-5 ESV)

The command today to “give thanks” comes to each of us as we are, in this moment, formed into the people we are becoming by processes and choices spread throughout the year. As it came to me this morning, I had to once again admit that I don’t easily and naturally give thanks. As I started to have a conversation with God about it, I followed several streams of thought in my journal that helped me get my head and heart around it and thought it might benefit others as well. The pressure to “give thanks” gave way to an easy and hopeful posture before God of seeking to live in the kind of world with Him where giving of thanks would be easy and natural.

First, I realize that the disposition of my soul, particularly the bent of my will, will determine how I receive/perceive/interpret this holiday. Most of what happens today is not under my direct control, nor am I in direct control of my emotions. What is within my control, my influence, are my thoughts and interpretations. My interpretation involves what I think about (thoughts) and what I seek (will). I can position my body in particular ways, think particular thoughts, seeking to trust God with each moment as it is and not what it “should be.”

Second, the command to “give thanks” feels foreign and mostly external. My internal and external world is not yet prepared and ready for this! I have spent most of my days prior to this one in self-will, seeking above all to get my own way, to get my own needs met regardless of the cost. Thus, I lack capacity to understand and enter into giving of thanks, at least at some level. I am ready and ripe and prepared to seek my own way. I am not yet prepared and ready and ripe to trust, though I am seeking that and on the path that leads to that.

The fact is, giving of thanks is a byproduct of living in abundance, our experience of God’s care for our daily, specific needs. If we identify more with lack and “going without” then the command to give thanks comes as merely an annoying external prod, a corset of expectation attempting to force a shape upon our lives from outside that is unfitting and unnatural.

If, however, we identify more and more with a growing experiential confidence in God’s loving care, then the command to give thanks resonates with a deep internal reality within us. We find that we are ripe for it, ready for it. It is natural and easy, part of Jesus’ “easy yoke” and “light burden” (Matt 11:28-30).

Thus, we should not force ourselves and others to “be thankful” (God have special mercy on us parents, we are especially guilty of this with our kids – “be thankful, or else!!”). We start, instead, with where we are (this is always where we start!), admitting our need to grow in trusting God’s care. This is the indirect route to giving thanks, and it is the only way that is safe, light and easy. We take steps to actually trust him with the actual moments before us (as opposed to those “ideal” moments that flood our minds on holidays like these).

The moments in which we are called to trust God are filled with our actual everyday realities and broken relationships and circumstances. Being present to God in these moments, we can then name what is good in the here and now and give thanks for it, even if it feels pathetically small and insignificant (please, for your sake and the sake of those around you, avoid “heroic” expressions of thanks that are filled with platitudes and niceties but have nothing to do with what is broken in your world or the world around you).

Thank you, Father, that although parts of my body are not working right and I’m experiencing pain, that many parts are working and that for the most part, I can still do what I would like to do.

Thank you, Father, for my job. Sometimes it’s maddeningly annoying, but I thank you that you are there with me.

Thank you, Father, for my family, where I came from. I wish things had been different, but it is what it is. Thank you that nothing is irredeemable.

Practice the presence of God, as old Brother Lawrence called it, trusting God with each moment as it comes and what fills these moments. Stop trying to fix or change the moments that come, rather receive them and give thanks for what you can.

With this in place, we can say what giving of thanks “does for us.” It provides space to celebrate, space large enough even to include our enemies (we find plenty of these at home). It also sanctifies the two “F” words that are usually a part of every Thanksgiving – Family and Feasting. These two things can be and often are profound and ongoing sources of shame and pain. Giving thanks can bring them into the presence of God, place them under his care, his rule and reign, thus redeeming them, re-interpreting them through the lens of his goodness.

Like a turkey must be prepared beforehand if it is to be eaten on Thanksgiving day, so our souls need to be prepared if we want to be ready to be thankful. In our house, we have to thaw a turkey days in advance and soak it in Brine to get it ready for cooking, ready for celebratory use in the Holman house. We are like that; in ourselves we are “radically unsuited for joy” (John Ortberg, Living in Christ’s Presence) so we require training in order to become people who are “suited for joy.” If you tried to cook a rock-solid frozen turkey on the day of Thanksgiving, you might get the outside crispy, but the inside will remain cold and hard. So it is with us when we try real hard to give thanks.

We seek to grow in giving thanks, not by “trying hard” to give thanks, but by becoming the kind of people who live in God’s world where giving of thanks is part of easy deep breathing and loving.

“In the end, when all else has passed away, there will remain only love, the love that overflows your heart, O God, and animates the distant reaches of space and time. I seek fuller immersion in that great river, trusting that the small endings of daily life are true access points through which I can participate ever more fully in the fulfillment of your design for all that is. Amen.” (Reuben Job, A Guide to Prayer For All Who Walk With God, p. 383)