“I am struck by the reason given for Israel’s frequent slides into idolatry. We are told that, over and over, they forgot what God had done for them, and began to worship other gods.
Doesn’t it seem strange that turning away from God is blamed on a failure of memory? What about, “The children of Israel found the worship of a fertility goddess more interesting”? Or, “The children of Israel got tired of traveling all the way to Shiloh to worship the Lord, and longed for the convenience of an Ashera pole”?
But no, the Bible tells us they strayed because they forgot. Without the bright truth of Yahweh’s covenant before them, the prevailing beliefs of their time must have seemed reasonable, even practical.
I believe God knew this would be a struggle for His people, and that’s why so many of Israel’s faith traditions – the feasts, the fasts, the tassels, and tefillin – are devoted to remembering. It is why we were given Holy Communion, and the reason behind many of our Christian holidays.”
James Witmer


“Memory is one of the highest powers in our nature. By it day is linked to day, the unity of life through all our years is kept up, and we know that we are still ourselves. In the spiritual life, recollection is of infinite value.”
Andrew Murray


Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
Joshua 4:4-7


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“Like the Israelites, we could collect stones–small ones, that is–for each item of thanks that we listed in our prayer journal. We could put them in a glass jar that could be left out in plain view. Every day we would see it and remember what God had done for us. So I bought a set of jars, and we started filling them.” from Our stone jar

Post it: God at work

September 30, 2015 — 2 Comments

The humble post-it played a supporting role in a movie I recently saw, “Still Alice”, about a college professor who develops early-onset Alzheimer’s. To help jog her memory, Alice begins to post reminders to herself around the house, particularly in the kitchen and the bedroom where she will be sure to see them. Those reminders are themselves a poignant reminder–they show how important our memory is in the daily routine of our lives.


A few weeks later, I visited a church that had just finished a week of VBS for kids [does everyone know that acronym for Vacation Bible School?]. On both sides of the church, long sheets of white paper were hung up, covered in colorful post-its.


The youth pastor explained that the post-its were God-sightings from the week. Any time someone saw or experienced God at work, they made a note on a post-it and put it on the roll of paper. Now on Sunday the entire congregation was able to see the evidence of God’s presence and care.

I don’t know how long the church will leave up these sheets plastered with bits of testimonies, but I hope it’s longer than a week. With the start of school, and the pace of life returning to a faster hum, it’s a challenge to stop and take the time to consider the grace and faithfulness of God that is at work in our daily lives.

We run the risk of developing what Pope Francis calls “spiritual Alzheimer’s”, ‘a progressive decline of spiritual faculties where people forget their personal history with the Lord and lose their memory of the ‘first love’ of their encounter with Him.’

In the daily press of activity, it may not seem so crucial to remember what God has done. But when trouble comes, being able to remember His care and how He has worked in the past becomes vital. It encourages us to know that He is continuing to work, even if we aren’t aware of it yet.

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That’s what the psalmist did during a time of great distress when he felt abandoned and his soul would not be comforted.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
…Has His unfailing love vanished forever?
Has His promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has He in anger withheld His compassion?”
Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out His right hand.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all Your works
and meditate on all Your mighty deeds.”

Psalm 77:6-12

I think it’s significant that the deeds of the Lord which the Psalmist remember were not limited to events he experienced personally. Since we belong to a world-wide and historical communion of faith, learning about what God has done and is doing in the lives of others is just as important as what He is doing in our individual lives. That’s why it was a blessing for me to see the wall of God-sightings at the church. I was encouraged to witness all the different people who had been touched by His grace in a single week.


Not all the notes were about spectacular sightings. Sometimes, God works in a big way, doing a miracle like parting the Red Sea. Other times, we see a sign of His gentle faithfulness, like a hand on someone’s shoulder, or the simple beauty of a wildflower. IMG_5598
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
Matthew 6:28-30

A few God-sightings from my life recently include:
*Driving up a big hill just as a family from church was walking, so I could give them a ride

*Reading about how You have worked in a woman’s life here

*Listening to a friend share about how to draw closer to You

*Hearing gospel music playing at the vegetable stand

Where have you seen God at work in your world this week?
How do you want to make note of them?

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Whether it is watching the news or walking through our neighborhood, we see the plight of hurting and needy people. This prayer expresses the heart-cry that wells up in us, and reminds us that God sees and God knows.
“Ever-watching Father:
we pray for the suffering children whom we do not see.
We know that your eyes see their tears,
that your heart knows their sorrow,
that your hands can reach them now.
We remember that Jesus was once a child,
that poverty stole his bread,
that tyrants sought his life,
that his mother tasted tears.


We ask you to send friends for the lonely,
food for the hungry,
medicine for the sick,
saviors for the enslaved,
rescue for the perishing.

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Give us the wisdom to do our part,
share our possessions,
leave our comforts,
lend them our voice,
send them our food,
love them with more than prayers.
We call on you in the name of your child Jesus.
Tony Kummer

“We live on borrowed breath. We are alive in the most profound sense of the word–filled with the very breath that spoke creation into being. God looks upon humanity’s frame of dust and say, “I formed you, I love you, and I delight in you.” We are beloved dust.”
Jamin Groggin and Kyle Stroebel in “Beloved Dust”


“We must understand that God does not “love” us without liking us – through gritted teeth – as “Christian” love is sometimes thought to do. Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it. The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural outflow of what he is to the core – which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word “love”.”
Dallas Willard in “The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God”


“A person greatly beloved.” Daniel 10:11
  “Child of God, do you hesitate to appropriate this title? Ah! has your unbelief made you forget that you are greatly beloved too?… You were called by grace and led to a Savior, and made a child of God and an heir of heaven. All this proves, does it not, a very great and superabounding love?
Since that time, whether your path has been rough with troubles, or smooth with mercies, it has been full of proofs that you are a person greatly beloved. .. … Come boldly, O believer, for despite the whisperings of Satan and the doubtings of your own heart, you are greatly beloved.”
Charles Spurgeon

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
Psalm 42:1
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There’s a short video* going around that shows how powerful our words and actions can be on the people we interact with during the day. Based on the children’s book, “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” by Carol McCloud,* it illustrates the simple truth that we can build someone up with affirming words or tear them down with unkind words.

It’s a lesson even a kindergartener understands. An impatient word can suck the life out of me; an encouraging word brings a lightness to my heart that can last the whole day.

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After I watched the video clip, I realized that’s one reason why I need and want to spend time with God. As I read His Word, He tells me how He cares for me. When I listen to Him, I’m getting my bucket filled. My cup overflows. And because my bucket leaks [thanks in part to the accuser who takes delight in saying bad things about me], I need to hear from my Father every day.

Do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand
Isaiah 41:10

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
” Isaiah 46:4

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands;
your walls are ever before Me.

Isaiah 49:15-16

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

Jeremiah 31:3


“The Lord your God is with you, He is might to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

Your sins are forgiven…
Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Luke 7:48, 50

“Why are you troubled and why do doubts rise in your minds?
Look at My hands and My feet.
It is I myself!
Touch Me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.

Luke 24:38-39

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through Him.
” John 3:17

Hope does not disappoint us,
because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit,
who He has given us.”
Romans 5:5

Which one of these blessings is God speaking to you today?

With whom can you share His encouragement?

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Video clip on how to be someone who fills buckets

Have you filled a bucket today?

The following quotes are from “How to Really Love Your Grandchild” by Ross Campbell. [If you substitute ‘person’ for ‘child’, you’ll see how these principles apply not only to children, but to any person in your life.]

“The question before us is whether children fully receive the love that is there. The world throws into place many obstacles that can keep children from feeling the love they must have…A child stands in the confusion and wonders, Where is the place for me? What will happen to me? Am I loved?
…always be asking yourself these questions: Does this child feel profoundly, unconditionally loved? When and how can I express my love and support for this child again?”


“Sydney J. Harris said, ‘Love that is not expressed in loving action does not really exist, just as talent that does not express itself in creative works does not exist; neither of these is a state of mind or feeling, but an activity, or it is a myth.’
Love is primarily active, something that must be experienced. That’s true for all of us. But it is truer for children than we can begin to imagine. Children do not think conceptually, as adults do. They don’t grasp love as an abstract idea; they grasp it as a personal experience.”


“Children (much like the rest of us) have emotional tanks that must be filled. They need love, acceptance and security to live and function well. At regular intervals, someone must fill that tank. You and I certainly need reassurance from time to time; we cannot live without the expression of love. But we can go a bit farther and for a longer time than children. Think of a child’s tank as small, running through its “fuel” rather rapidly and needing more. Therefore, several times a day, (the child]) should receive your love in some way. A warm smile and a hug count as a trip to the emotional “filling station.” A warm, encouraging word is more fuel for their tank.”


“The truth is that gifts, nice as they may be, are never a substitute for genuine love. They can’t fill the emotional tank in the way that eye contact, touch and focused time can do. I think it’s wonderful that God created love to be a free thing, something that anyone in the world can give. No one need ever spend a cent, yet he or she can give love lavishly and to overflowing. Emotional needs, you see, require emotional solutions. The only gift you can give (a child) that makes a difference is yourself, and that’s measured not in dollars and cents but in hours and minutes, and the genuine proof that these children matter more to us than anything else.”

Because the world is a broken place, filled with broken people, it’s not easy being a child. Other children, tired and pressured adults, unhappy siblings–just about anyone a child relates to can be a source of tension and anxiety.

But the reverse can be true as well. Every time we interact with a child, we have the opportunity to make a positive difference in his or her life. And “How to Really Love Your Child” is a kind of primer on how we can best do that, applicable to anyone who relates to children, not just parents. If you have a child or a grandchild, a niece or a nephew, or even a child you interact with regularly in your neighborhood or church, you will find this book helpful.

how to really love your child

I read this* while on vacation with five children and found it immediately practical. The insights are clear yet very profound. It only took me a few hours to read the book but I reflected on it for several days and discussed some of the ideas with the other adults.

wonderful Vermont beach

wonderful Vermont beach

The chapters that were especially helpful for me were on the love a child needs and the anger a child expresses. The first reminded me how vital it is for a child to feel loved unconditionally.
“There is no way to over-love a child; none of us, for that matter, can ever receive too much genuine love. Children need so much of it…”
In the press of daily life, it is so easy to forget or overlook this. A child constantly needs to experience love in action.

The second reminded me that at times, when a child is angry, he or she is not always so easy to love. Campbell gives some real-world advice on being with a child who is whining or crying (which as we know happens just about any time you are with a child!), It was comforting to read that some of my impatience in those situations is normal and yet can be overcome.

a peaceful moment playing together perfectly

a peaceful moment playing together

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
Mark 10:13-16

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Who are the children in your life?
What can you do to love them this week?

I read the “How to Really Love Your Grandchild” version–and have a loanable Kindle copy if you are interested.

A nice companion to Campbell’s book is “Finding Home: An Imperfect Path to Faith and Family” by Jim Daly. This memoir is a powerful story about how love and its absence can affect a child, and how a loving adult can make a difference to a child.

From “When Sorry Isn’t Enough” by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas:

“When we apologize, we accept responsibility for our behavior, seeking to make amends with the person who was offended. Genuine apology opens the door to the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation. Then we can continue to build the relationship. Without apology, the offense sits as a barrier, and the quality of the relationship is diminished. Good relationships are always marked by a willingness to apologize, forgive, and reconcile.”


On repenting:
Another “step down the road of repentance is implementing the plan. A plan that is not implemented is like a seed that is not planted. Making the plan work requires thought and action. I have often found it helpful to write on an index card the changes I am trying to implement and to post them on the mirror where I shave in the mornings. It is a way of keeping them on the front burner of my mind. I am more likely to make the changes if I am consciously aware of what I am trying to do differently today.”


On asking for forgiveness:
“When an offense occurs, immediately it creates an emotional barrier between two people. Until that barrier is removed, the relationship cannot go forward. An apology is an attempt to remove the barrier. If you discover that the person’s primary apology language is requesting forgiveness, then this is the surest way of removing the barrier. To that person, this is what indicates that you genuinely want to see the relationship restored.
“A second reason that requesting forgiveness is important is that it shows that you realize you have done something wrong—that you have offended the other person, intentionally or unintentionally. What you said or did may not have been morally wrong. You may even have done or said it in jest. But it offended the other person. He or she now holds it against you. It is an offense that has created a rift between the two of you. In that sense it is wrong, and requesting forgiveness is in order, especially if this is the person’s primary apology language.”

Summer comes with many benefits: more time to relax, travel, go to the beach, or simply enjoy the sunshine outside on the deck or porch or terrace or in a park. This can also mean more time to read a good book and this month I’ll be sharing a few five-star recommendations from my summer reading. I’ve called this mini round-up “Beach reading for the soul” even though the two books don’t directly address our relationship with God. Instead, they focus on our relationships with other people–which is also a key aspect of our soul. Six of the Ten Commandments, and the second great commandment of Jesus deal with how we relate to those around us. Following Jesus includes loving the people in our lives, and these two books help us as we seek to become more like Him who loves perfectly.

The first book is “When Sorry Isn’t Enough” by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas.

chapman cover

Here are a few questions that will help you decide whether you want to read this life-changing book:
*Have you ever needed to apologize to someone?
*Has someone ever needed to apologize to you?
*Have you ever apologized to someone but your apology didn’t seem to make a difference to the person?
*Has someone ever apologized to you but it didn’t seem adequate to you?
Yes? Then this is the book for you.

Following his Five Love Languages approach, Chapman and his co-author Thomas discuss five different styles of apologizing:
* “I’m sorry”
* “I was wrong”
* Restitution
* Repentance
* Asking for forgiveness

Now that you know the five styles, you might be tempted to think you don’t really need to read the book. However, as we are all aware, just because we know something doesn’t mean we put it into practice. And our knowledge tends to be me-focused. I know what works for me, and I generally think that should be true for everyone else too. I often fail to take into account that other people are wired very differently and have different needs.

That’s one reason why this book is so profound. As Chapman showed with the five love languages, if you really want to affect the other person, you need to understand how best to communicate with them. Whether you are trying to express love or trying to apologize, you can end up wondering why the other person doesn’t appreciate your efforts. It’s like talking in Chinese to someone who is fluent in Arabic. A lot will get lost in translation.

The book comes with a form you can fill in to discover your own apology language[s]. There’s also a free online version available [see link below]. I’d definitely recommend doing this. Answering the questions helped me gain greater understanding of how the different apology approaches can effect different people.

Another valuable part of the book is all the powerful real-life stories of people who have wrestled with apology and being reconciled. It’s very helpful to read how other people have struggled to deal with the hurts and offenses that are bound to come into relationships. The material also gave me fresh insight into my relationships. In one case, it prompted me to apologize to someone for what I had done decades ago. The person and I have had a great relationship for some time now, but my apology made a real difference to them and it brought us even closer.

Along with the great examples, each apology style comes with a list of specifics statements you can use when you apologize. For example:
“‘I’m sorry that I was so insensitive. I am sorry that I violated your trust. I’ve created a roadblock in our relationship that I want to remove. I understand that even after I apologize, it may take awhile for you to venture down the road of trust with me again.'”

I found having these written down in black and white was a real help. Just as we need to practice speaking a foreign language, we may have to spend some time practicing how to apologize. There’s also a very helpful list of what *not* to say when apologizing.

I read the book on the plane as I traveled to the states.


As we flew over the ocean, I was reminded of God’s approach to forgiveness:
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:12

And outside my window was an illustration of how He loves us:


For Your unfailing love is as high as the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Psalm 57:10

The book is an easy read. I finished it well before we landed. But I’m going to be applying it for the rest of my life. As the parable of the unmerciful servant teaches, if I am going to follow Jesus, I need to practice giving and receiving forgiveness. The book is an indispensable resource for that and I’d recommend it everyone.

Take the free online apology profile here

“To materialists this world is opaque like a curtain; nothing can be seen through it.
A mountain is just a mountain, a sunset just a sunset;
but to poets, artists, and saints,
the world is transparent like a window pane––it tells of something beyond…
a mountain tells of the Power of God, the sunset of His Beauty, and the snowflake of His Purity.”
Bishop Fulton Sheen


“You say grace before meals. All right.
But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime,
and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing,
walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”
G. K. Chesterton



For if we have no real interest in praising Him, it shows that we have never realized who He is.
For when one becomes conscious of who God really is, and when one realized that He who is Almighty, and infinitely Holy, has ‘done great things to us,’
the only possible reaction is the cry of half-articulate exultation
that bursts from the depths of our being in amazement at the tremendous, inexplicable goodness of God to men.
Thomas Merton



“…to receive it and to recognize its divine source are a single experience.
This heavenly fruit [like a peach] is instantly redolent of the orchard where it grew.
This sweet air whispers of the country from whence it blows.
It is a message. We know we are being touched
by a finger of that right hand at which there are pleasures for evermore.”

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For several years now, every morning I spend a few minutes writing down things I am thankful for. I don’t find it difficult to come up with a half dozen or more every day. The items range from the profound like how God is working in my life to the mundane like enjoying a good box of chocolates.

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But today I remembered that making a note of what I’m thankful for isn’t the same as actually giving thanks to the Giver for these gifts. I may spend a few moments appreciating the delights of Massachusetts ice cream or a friend’s invitation to go walking. But I’m forgetting to consider that my gracious Father has given these delights to me.



And in that forgetting, I’m missing out on another gift. For when I do take another moment or two and pause to say ‘thank you’ to the One who has given me such rich gifts, I’m reminding myself that God loves me. He has not only created me, He sustains me with the commonplace and the spectacular.


If I find a box of the world’s finest chocolates at a rest stop, I will certainly be thankful for the unexpected treat. But how much more I will enjoy them if a friend, knowing how much I like chocolate, gives me a box , and perhaps includes a thoughtful note with it. When I take a bite, I am not just appreciating the wonderful taste. I’m also feeling loved.

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C.S .Lewis knew this and wrote:

“One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun. If I could always be what I aim at being, no pleasure would be too ordinary or too usual for such reception; from the first taste of the air when I look out of the window…down to one’s soft slippers at bed-time…These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’ in the woods of our experience.”

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My long list of thanks is a display of my Father’s love and faithfulness to me, as well as His power, creativity, and abundance. The gifts He gives show that He is thinking of me. They express His care for me. And they tell me something of His character. Yes the gifts are wonderful, but how much more the Giver.


Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, Your justice like the great deep.
You, Lord, preserve both people and animals. How priceless is Your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house; You give them drink from Your river of delights.
For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.

Psalm 36:5-9


What gifts have you been given by Giver this week?
How do they express His love and care for you?

From Bill Gaultiere:
“The Psalmist prophesied, “[The Lord] raised up for his people a horn [the Christ], the praise of… the people close to his heart” (Psalm 148:14). I read this and my heart melts within me… “The people close to his heart.” I am close to the Lord’s heart! In Christ God draws close to me, to love me — even now in this moment. I belong to the Lord! So do you!
Jesus said, “Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; abide in my love” (John 15;9). Abide. Eleven times in his gospel John described our intimacy with Jesus as abiding. What does it mean to abide in Christ?

Abiding is Affectionate
Some Bible teachers want to reduce abiding to obeying the Lord’s commands…but obedience is more the outcome of abiding rather than the essence of it…Abiding in Jesus is a way of relating and being with him, remaining in his love continually. Abiding is “intimate and organic” (John 15:5, MSG).

…Our primary identity is not what we do — it’s our abiding in Jesus. This is a revolutionary statement with deep spiritual and psychological implications for our identity, well-being, and way of life.

With John we can say, “I am the disciple Jesus loves!”… (John 13:23 and 26; 20:2; 21:7 and 20.) We can learn to live in greater intimacy with Jesus — at first, just for moments, but as we grow in God’s grace it becomes more our way of being so that as we do whatever we’re doing we’re abiding in Jesus and the Father, finding our support, significance, and strength as we lean on Jesus’ chest.”
Bill Gaultiere writing at Soul Shepherding

je te fiancerai icon jesus john

If you’d like to read Paul Miller on love, he’s written two books. The first, Love Walked Among Us, focuses on Jesus [and covers some of the same material as the Love Course]. His second book, A Loving Life, looks at love in the life of Ruth. Here’s a little taste of each:

“When I think of how Jesus loved people, the word “cherish” comes to mind. When we cherish someone, we combine looking and compassion—we notice and care for that person. We don’t shut him or her out… Love begins with looking…The Samaritan sees a person. The priest and the Levite see a problem. They are too distracted, preoccupied, or agenda-driven to identify with him.”
Paul Miller in Love Walked Among Us


“Jesus’ life doesn’t give us a love formula. Religion and pop psychology often reduce love to specific behaviors, thus simplifying love so we don’t have to work at it. We like clarity. ‘Just tell me what to do.’ But Jesus deals with people as they are.”
Paul Miller in Love Walked Among Us


“You endure the weight of love by being rooted in God. Your life energy needs to come from God, not the person you are loving. The more difficult the situation, the more you are forced into utter dependence on God. That is the crucible of love, where self-confidence and pride are stripped away, because you simply do not have the power or wisdom or ability in yourself to love. You know without a shadow of a doubt that you can’t love. That is the beginning of faith—knowing you can’t love. Faith is the power for love. ”
Paul Miller in “A Loving Life”

Review of Love Walked Among Us
Review of A Loving Life

Summer is a great time for book lovers. We look forward to having time to relax with a good book at the beach or in the mountains or curled up in a chair at home.

But sometimes our summer plans involve driving [or flying] long distances to get to the beach or the mountains. Or we still have to commute to work. Or we go for long walks after being cooped up all winter.

If you’ll have some listening time this summer, here’s a great recommendation: Paul Miller’s Love Course. As he did with prayer in The Praying Life, Miller unpacks what it means for real people, like you and me, to love like Jesus. How do we enter into the compassion, honesty, oneness, dependence and passion of Jesus?

The outline is simple, but the five-part series is filled with powerful, life-changing truth drawn from the master of love, Jesus.

The course is free to download. You don’t have to listen to the parts in sequence–in fact, I’d suggest you start by choosing one or two lessons that interest you most. But you may soon find yourself downloading the entire course.

There are also excellent manuals you can buy for each part as well which are designed for personal study or a small group.

“O Love of God, descend into my heart;
Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling,
And scatter there Your cheerful beams.

Dwell in the soul that longs to be Your temple;
Water that barren soil overrun with weeds and briars
And lost for lack of cultivating.
Make it fruitful with Your dew.

Come, dear Refreshment of those who languish;
Come, Star and Guide of those who sail amidst tempests.
You are the Haven of the tossed and shipwrecked.

Come now, Glory and Crown of the living,
As well as the Safeguard of the dying.
Come, Sacred Spirit;
Come, and make me fit to receive You.”


“The present state of the world, the whole of life, is diseased. If I were a doctor and were asked for my advice, I would reply, “Create silence! Bring people to silence. The Word of God cannot be heard in the noisy world of today. Create silence.”
Soren Kierkegaard


Early in the morning I’ll seek your face,                                             
“I find my life in the fullness of your joy,
Every stress and anxiety it is gone,
when I enter your rest when I enter your rest.
I find my life in you, when I enter your rest,
my peace is complete, when I enter your rest,
oh my faith is refreshed when I enter your rest,
I am surrounded by the power of your love.”
“When I Enter Your Rest” Joann Rosario

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Time to set the table

June 17, 2015 — 1 Comment

He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.

Psalm 23:2-3

Bushwacking up a steep mountain isn’t easy. As I climb, I need to stop and rest. I need to eat and drink. I’m not a robot; my body is alive and I have to get rest and refreshment.


My soul isn’t any different. Living in this broken, fallen world is like climbing a high peak. The path is hard, difficult, and painful. Before too long, my soul becomes weary, beaten, discouraged.

And just as my body isn’t designed to go without food or drink or rest, my soul isn’t designed to go without spiritual refreshment. I’m not a robot. My soul is alive. I need to spend time with God to restore my soul. I need to drink His living water. I need to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’.

Seven Fountains crucifix, Safari 056


But as we all know in this fast food age, it’s possible to “eat on the run”, get “take-out” or “a quick bite to eat”, wolf down an energy bar, or drink a meal replacement–all concepts that didn’t exist one hundred years ago. My body really doesn’t care how I get my calories. However I care. I don’t find it enjoyable to “grab and go”.

"Nutrition for sustainable energy"--how appetizing does that sound?

“Nutrition for sustainable energy”–how appetizing does that sound?

A good meal at a nice table with a loving friend–that satisfies me in a way a power bar doesn’t.
ric may 072

When I take the time to set the table with a tablecloth, napkins, silverware, dishes and maybe candles and fresh flowers, it makes a difference. The very act of setting the table focuses me. It helps create a peaceful and calm atmosphere. It signals that the meal will not just be a quick pit stop to refuel my tank.

The same thing is true when I take the time to stop and focus as I meet with God to restore my soul.

I have calmed and quieted myself, like a little child on its mother’s lap.
Psalm 131:2

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Recently, I’ve started lighting two candles at the beginning of my time with God. I had heard of this suggestion before but I never thought I’d be a candle person [but then I never thought I’d be a prayer walk person either!]. At Seven Fountains I bought two candle holders that had been made by prisoners. I like the reminder that there are two of us meeting together, God and me. And the act of lighting the candles is a signal that it is time to be still. I’m going to stay awhile. I will learn from Jesus and find rest for my soul.

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In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
John 1:4

What about you?
How do you settle yourself down when you turn to meet with God?

“We are invited to make a pilgrimage into the life and heart of God. God’s desire is that we should live in Him. He sends among us the Way to Himself…

“Jesus offers himself as God’s doorway into the life that is truly life…

“Jesus matters because of what He brought and what He still brings to ordinary human beings, living their ordinary lives and coping daily with their surroundings. He promises wholeness for their lives. And sharing our weakness He gives us strength and imparts through His companionship a life that has the quality of eternity. He comes where we are, and He brings us the life we hunger for.”
Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy

“Our ancestors knew that traveling a pilgrim’s path and seeing the world with new eyes awakens our wonder. It’s not so much a journey of finding God, but rediscovering the God who finds us.”
Melissa Lauber


“Solitude: The choice and practice of being alone, being apart from the press of the usual human connections. One effect of solitude will be that we will be able to love, help, hear and be with people more fully than ever before.”
Dallas Willard


“The word “retreat” is an ambiguous word in current English. Even businesses have retreats for their staff, but with a different meaning and method. For many, the word “retreat” means conferences, church camps, seminars in the morning and free time in the afternoons and evenings, etc. Even if there is a spiritual context to the “retreat”, people take it for granted that there will be plenty of time for group interaction, friendly conversation, and relaxation.
This is very different from the kind of retreat that Seven Fountains is meant for.  Here, “retreat” means what Jesus said one day to His disciples: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31   This is the atmosphere that we wish to create at Seven Fountains: a place where people can get away from their busy lives, have time and space to be quiet, and be with the Lord restfully, silently, and with devout intimacy.
Consequently, a retreat for us means a time of personal prayer, in an atmosphere of genuine silence, with a single-minded purpose: to seek and find the Lord.
Surely this style of retreat is not the only one! In the Church, and in modern society, there are many types of retreat; many styles; many purposes. We have chosen one definite style that, in the tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola, has helped bring people closer to Jesus Christ.”
Seven Fountains

Most of our life happens in the routine of the day-to-day. Whether comforting, boring, easy, or thoughtless, the whole point of a routine is that we know what we will do and what we can expect. This is true for our relationship with God as well. Our regular spiritual practices anchor and sustain us in our daily life.

But God enjoys delight and celebration and making things new too.* There’s a place for special, out-of-the-ordinary times like deep sabbath, a night at the prayer spa and a church retreat.*


At the beginning of this year I experienced another kind of special time–a private retreat. Typically this would mean going away to a retreat center for a weekend, but instead I did it a little differently. Several mornings while I was staying with family in Thailand, I went by myself to a nearby retreat center.


I had worshipped at Seven Fountains on previous visits. I had even stayed overnight once after a transcontinental flight [in a very foggy jetlagged state which is not conducive for doing much except sleep]. But this was the first time I went there to be alone with God.

A spiritual director suggested I might walk through the prayer labyrinth. Although I had heard of it before, I had never come across it in all my wanderings through the grounds. But frankly the idea of praying while following a path has never appealed to me. [‘Labyrinth’ turns out to be a bit of a misnomer because it is not a maze. There is a single path to the center and back.]

Seven Fountains crucifix, Safari 056

However being out of one’s routine includes the opportunity to try new things. So when I found a booklet about the labyrinth at the welcome center, I decided to give it a try. I asked for directions and discovered the labyrinth was just beyond a sign I had always dutifully obeyed.

"Do not enter without permission"

“Do not enter without permission”

Since I am writing about the experience now, four months later, you probably won’t be surprised when I tell you doing this walk turned out to be one of the most profound spiritual experiences of my life. The time I spent with God there [which I did at a snail’s pace] was so meaningful that I returned three more times.


Although I don’t think Jesus ever walked a prayer labyrinth, I think it is significant that the gospels record that he went away by himself to talk with the Father:

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35

But Jesus often withdrew to wilderness and prayed. Luke 5:16

After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Matthew 14:23

Solitude, wilderness, a mountainside–these are not part of my daily routine. But I am so thankful I was able to get away by myself and spend uninterrupted time with my Father. It changed me and months later I am still reaping the benefits.

I don’t know how often it would be good for me to do this. Should I should make it a routine?!? But I manage to go to the dentist once a year for a check-up, and to the doctor for an annual physical. I celebrate my birthday and our wedding anniversary every year too. So I think I can mark one day or one weekend a year to go off alone with God. Or following this year’s approach, I could even make a month of Saturday mornings or Sunday afternoons into a retreat time every January. Whatever I decide, I know God will be ready to meet me.

What about you?
How often do you go away on retreat?
Where have you gone to meet alone with God?

**You might enjoy:
God’s amuse bouches
Time to put on dancing shoes
Making things new
The prayer spa
Deep sabbath
Getting away together

And if you ever end up in Chiang Mai, plan a special time at Seven Fountains

Do not despise your place, your gifts or your voice, for you cannot have another and it would not fulfill you if you could.
John Ortberg


Rabbi Zusya said,
“In the world to come I shall not be asked ‘why were you
not Moses?’
I shall be asked, ‘why were you not Zusya?’”


“I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been born in God’s thought, and then made by God is the dearest, grandest, and most precious thing in all thinking.”

This is a prayer of contentment.”
C.S. Lewis


How has God crafted you to glorify Him and enjoy Him?