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“Finally I am knowing in my depths that God is for me and with me and in me. …This is the most important kind of knowing in the human experience, and it comes only as we are quiet enough to let the faithful presence of God holds us in our brokenness until our brokenness is healed by love. 

This self is smaller, in one sense, than the ego identity, because it does not need to be big in order to prove itself to the world. 

This self is truer, because it does not rely on image management to find acceptance in the world. 

This self is softer, because it does not rely on hardened defense structures to keep itself safe in the world. 

This self is freer, because it knows itself to be finally and ultimately held safely in a Love that is unchangeable and real.

This Love does not lose track of us no matter what dark places we must walk into. It is a Love deeper than any abyss that we might fall into. It is a Love with the power to heal any brokenness we might encounter.” 
Ruth Haley Barton in “Invitation to Silence ”

A song about talking with God…

“Help Me, Thank You”
by Jason Gray

“The two best prayers I know
Either one is always apropos
Like my oldest friends
They know just what to say

Some days my cup of blessing fills
Other days I trip and when it spills
I’m not guessing either way
I know just what to pray

Help me, help me, thank You, thank You
Whether you’re riding high or feeling low
These are the two best prayers I know
Help me and thank You

The more life I live I find
The two prayers intertwine
Like my fingers do
When I bow my head to pray

Blessings can be so confusing
Winning when I think I’m losing
The wounds of yesterday
Might be my saving grace today

Help me, help me, thank You, thank You
Whether you’re riding high or feeling low
These are the two best prayers I know
Help me and thank You

With eyes wide open at the wonder of it all
Or with broken wings when I’m spinning in free fall
‘Hallelujah, deliver me’

They’re rising up inside of me
Rolling off my tongue
Before I thought to bid them come”

“The point of prayer is not to get answers from God but perfect and complete oneness with Him.”

Oswald Chambers

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“Prayer is living with openness to God. Our life becomes a prayer, and our prayer becomes our life as we begin to live with this openness as the core posture of our hearts” David Benner

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“May it be the real I who speaks. May it be the real Thou I speak to.”
C.S. Lewis

I recently discovered the duo “All Sons & Daughters”. Their song “Christ Be All Around Me” is a variation on the Lorica prayer.

I find the lyrics both comforting and encouraging as we settle in to the journey of this new year. The music video, which has the lyrics, is a excellent way to experience the song. Enjoy!

“Christ Be All Around Me”

As I rise, strength of God
Go before, lift me up
As I wake, eyes of God
Look upon, be my sight

As I wait, heart of God
Satisfy and sustain
As I hear, voice of God
Lead me on, be my guide
Be my guide

Above and below me
Before and behind me
In every eye that sees me
Christ be all around me
[x2]

As I go, Hand of God
My defense, by my side
And as I rest, breath of God
Fall upon, bring me peace
Bring me peace

Above and below me
Before and behind me
In every eye that sees me
Christ be all around me
[x2]

Oh oh, oh oh
Christ be all around me
Oh oh, oh oh
Christ be all around me

Your life, Your death
Your blood was shed
For every moment
Every moment
[x4]

Above and below me
Before and behind me
In every eye that sees me
Christ be all around me
[x2]

Oh oh, oh oh
Christ be all around me
Oh oh, oh oh
Christ be all around me


I look to God because He first looked at me.
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

John 1:48

The Eyes of my heart
“Every day
I see more of Your beauty
Every day
I know more of my frailty, Lord
And I can only hope that I’ll be changed
Even as I look upon Your face
For the eyes of my heart
They’re on You for ever, they’re on You forever
Yes the eyes of my heart
They’re on You for ever, they’re on You forever
Every day
I see more of Your greatness
Every day
I know more of my weakness, Lord
And I can only hope that I’ll be changed
Even as I look upon Your face”
Tim Hughes

The Reckoning, a song by Andrew Peterson

“I can see the storm descending on the hill tonight
Tall trees are bending to your will tonight
Let the mighty bow down
At the thundering sound of your voice
I can hear the howling wind and feel the rain tonight
Every drop a prophet in your name tonight
And the words that they sing
They are washing me clean, but
How long until this curtain is lifted?
How long is this the song that we sing?
How long until the reckoning?

“And I know you hear the cries of every soul tonight
You see the teardrops as they roll tonight
Down the faces of saints
Who grow weary and faint in your fields
And the wicked roam the cities and the streets tonight
But when the God of love and thunder speaks tonight
I believe You will come
Your justice be done, but
How long until this curtain is lifted?
How long is this the song that we sing?
How long until the reckoning?
You are holiness and grace
You are fury and rest
You are anger and love
You curse and you bless
You are mighty and weak
You are silence and song
You are plain as the day,
But you have hidden your face—
For how long? How long?

“And I am standing in the silence of the reckoning
The storm is past and rest is beckoning
Mighty God, how I fear you
How I long to be near you, O Lord
How long until this curtain is lifted?
How long is this the song that we sing?
How long until the reckoning?
And I know that I don’t know what I’m asking
But I long to look you full in the face
I am ready for the reckoning”

“…perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
G.K. Chesterton

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“Real relationship takes place in reality, and the reality is that sometimes we will experience disconnection, silence, and confusion… We struggle with this notion because we have already adopted false presuppositions about how relationships should feel. We think that if we are not carried along by the euphoria of romantic love, then something is broken.

This belief, specifically about our relationship with God, is a kind of “prosperity gospel.” Prosperity gospels are not simply about receiving money (if you have faith then you will be wealthy), but can be prosperity gospels of excitement, experience, and “meaningful communication.” We expect God to give us the feeling we want in prayer, and if he doesn’t, we go searching for a way to resolve the problem. We demand an experience, and when God doesn’t play by our rules, we either blame him, question his presence, or we turn inward for ways to atone for our own sin (and therefore “buy back” excitement from God).”
Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel in “Beloved Dust”

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“The tendency is to look for the marvelous in our experience; we mistake the sense of the heroic for being heroes. It is one thing to go through a crisis grandly, but another thing to go through every day glorifying God when there is no witness, no limelight, no one paying the remotest attention to us.”
Oswald Chambers

Ordinary time

October 21, 2015 — Leave a comment

Ordinary. It’s a word that for me comes with connotations of boring, even mediocre. Nothing special. Ho-hum.

In the liturgical calendar, that’s where we are now, smack in the middle of the long stretch between Pentecost and Advent. In our earthly life, vacations happens, the school year starts, and harvest-time arrives with brilliant colors [at least in the northeast of the United States]

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But life with Jesus can feel quieter and less spectacular during these days. We have no holidays, no celebrations or feasts. The weeks roll on, one after another. Routines which started off soft and malleable have turned into dry, uncomfortable ruts. We’re ready for a little excitement. Fireworks would be nice.

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Or a party. Music and dancing–that’s what we need. Anything but the same-old, same-old. We’re not even to the anticipation of Advent, that period of hopeful waiting that we trust will bring release. We feel stuck in the middle period, numb perhaps, not even suffering doubt or uncertainty.

an ordinary traffic jam

an ordinary traffic jam

When we read the gospels, life seems anything but ordinary. Healings and powerful preaching. Lives turned upside down and God’s kingdom come. The stories in the rest of the Bible aren’t that much different. We read of God’s spectacular work, His rescue and saving. There are stories of great failures too [try David for starters], usually followed by great grace.

What we don’t read about are the days of ordinary time. The tedium of habits, the long obedience. But they are there, hidden in the cracks of the story. “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.” [Luke 2:52] One sentence covers 18 silent years in Jesus’ life. The incarnate God who was born to angelic song and received visitors from afar went quiet, growing up in a small village of 50 houses, off the beaten track.

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An anonymous, unheralded life. Obscure and apparently unspectacular. Days lived in silent faithfulness.
Days of winter dryness without grass or beautiful wildflowers. Days without drama. Days without novelty. These are the days that Jesus knew. These are the days that the Father sees.

IMG_4537

At this point, it’s hard to resist the urge to finish on a sparkly, spectacular note.

But another word comes to mind which describes this period of ordinary time:

Abiding

A tree rooted in the soil–you can’t see it grow. Months, even years will go by and it seems like nothing is happening. But the tree is drawing its life from the soil, and responding to the warmth of the sunlight. It is alive: abiding, remaining.

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God is working behind the scenes for us. He is involved in our lives even if we are not aware of it. Our heavenly Father is always with us whether we feel His presence or not, because His love, deep and true, is not tied to how we feel about Him. In the midst of regular days and unremarkable hours, He is here, working His purposes.

vcca and lucy five 137

As the Father has loved me so I have loved you. Abide in my love.
John 15:7, 9

Ordinary days, rooted in love. Amen.

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

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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?’”

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“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

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

And the man of all sorrows, He never forgot
What sorrow is carried by the hearts that He bought
So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God
The aching may remain but the breaking does not
—-Andrew Peterson [lyrics from his song, The Silence of God]

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I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
       along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
       I will turn the darkness into light before them
       and make the rough places smooth.
       These are the things I will do;
       I will not forsake them.
Isaiah 42:16

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Many of us are in an ideal place to begin Advent, but we don’t know it. It can be tempting to think that, because we are struggling these days, we can’t enter into Advent without a big change in our mood or without distancing ourselves from our real experience. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Advent is about letting God come to us. We do the letting and God does the coming. .. We are tempted to prepare for Advent by cleaning everything up first – by, in effect, saving ourselves first. Our opening to Advent is to realize we need saving and to accept the saving love of our God.
—Creighton University Advent devotion

What we should marvel at is not the few instances where God strikes down many people,
but that He withholds his divine wrath from us most of the time.
Aubry Smith

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“If we can judge God’s word instead of be judged by it,
if we can give God as much or little as we like,
then we are lords and He is the indebted one,
to be grateful for our dole and obliged by our compliance with His wishes,
if on the other hand He is Lord, let us treat Him as such.”
Hudson Taylor

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C.S. Lewis on the mystery of communion:
“The command was ‘take, eat.’ Not ‘take, understand.'”

Were you there?

June 4, 2014 — 4 Comments

Two years ago, I started following a plan to read through the Bible chronologically. One reason I started doing this was so I wouldn’t avoid unpleasant parts. There are passages in God’s Word that puzzle me and disturb me, and left to my own, I skate past them.

Now I haven’t been following this plan faithfully. Most of the time I focus on studying an individual book of the Bible. But every so often I come back to the plan. At my snail’s pace, I’m almost done with the Pentateuch section.

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This explains why I recently read the sobering story of Numbers 16–a chapter I would prefer not to read.

Korah, [a Levite], Dathan, and Abirham, along with 250 other men rose up against Moses and opposed him, saying he had gone too far and was setting himself above the Lord’s assembly. Korah, not satisfied with being just a Levite, wanted to be a priest too, like Aaron.

The next day there was a showdown at the Tent of Meeting. The Lord wanted to put at end to the entire assembly, but Moses and Aaron interceded. God relented and had Moses warn the assembly to move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abirham.

And then comes one of the saddest verses in the Bible: “So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abirahm. Dathan and Abirham had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents.” [Numbers 16:27] The image of those little ones standing with their parents plucks my heart.

Then the earth split apart and swallowed them and their households. They perished.

It’s hard not to be disturbed by that story. God’s judgment sounds too harsh. And many people have said, “I could never believe in a God who would kill innocent children.” I can sympathize that it’s difficult to accept this.

But there’s a Native American proverb that says, ‘Never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.” [or shoes or flip flops or babouches]. So when was the last time you tried to make a holy nation? When was the last time you led 603,550 men [Numbers 1:46] through the Sinai peninsula? And that doesn’t include the women and the children which would make a grand total of about two million people.

The closest I’ve come to this experience is the time I co-led ten teenagers on a week-long backpacking trip in the White Mountains. All we had to contend with were mosquitoes, poorly marked trails, bad food, and rain. There were no enemies trying to kill us. But it still wasn’t easy. There were blisters and some dicey interpersonal dynamics. People got grumpy. People complained about decisions we made. At the end of the week it was a relief to finish the journey and go back to our soft beds.

There’s another saying people are fond of: “Who am I to judge?” Usually we ask that question when a person is doing something that has no effect on our own life. But if a leader makes a decision we disagree with that effects us, we’ll change our tune to: “I could never follow a leader who…” When we read a story of God’s harsh discipline or judgment, we’re tempted to question His wisdom.

But it’s funny how I’ve never complained about God sacrificing His Son to save me. On Good Friday we sing, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” I wasn’t there, but I don’t grumble about God’s mercy. I don’t doubt His grace. I don’t question His wisdom in sending Jesus to die for me.

I still don’t fully understand why the little ones of Dathan and Abirahm had to be killed. I don’t understand God’s instructions to destroy all the people of Ai (Joshua 8). But I’m not God. I don’t have the whole world in my hands. I’m not all-powerful. I’m not all-knowing. And I’m definitely not all-loving. I walk by faith, not by understanding.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?”

Romans 11:33-34

“Set the peace of God as a sentinel in my heart and mind.
Great King of glory and grace, guard and protect my heart
from the lies of Satan,
the whisperings of gossip,
and the cynicism of naysayers.
I pray with hunger and hope,
in your most trustworthy name.” Amen.
Scotty Smith

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Only be careful,
and watch yourselves closely
so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen
or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.

Deuteronomy 4:9

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Be sober-minded; be watchful.
Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion,
seeking someone to devour.

I Peter 5:8

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Do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

“We are so easily led to look at life as a great whole, and to neglect the little today, to forget that the single days do indeed make up the whole, and that the value of each single day depends on its influence on the whole.
One day lost is a link broken in the chain, which it often takes more than another day to mend. One day lost influences the next, and makes its keeping more difficult.”
Andrew Murray

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“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all a patter and a pitter.”
The Hobbit,J.R.R. Tolkien

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“We are built for the valley, for the ordinary stuff we are in, and that is where we have to prove our mettle.
Spiritual selfishness always wants repeated moments on the mount. We feel
we could talk like angels and live like angels, if only we could stay on
the mount. The times of exaltation are exceptional, they have their
meaning in our life with God, but we must beware lest our spiritual
selfishness wants to make them the only time.”
Oswald Chambers

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Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:23-25

Speaking of time

September 11, 2013 — 2 Comments

   And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

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Where, except in the present, can the Eternal be met?
C.S. Lewis

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The end of all things is near.
Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,
as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.
If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides,
so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.

I Peter 4:7-11

God walks ‘slowly’ because He is of love. If He is not love he would have gone much faster. Love has its speed. It is an inner speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed. It goes on in the depth of our life, whether we notice it or not, at three miles an hour. It is the speed we walk and therefore it is the speed the love of God walks.

Kosuke Koyama

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Let me come with these donkeys, Lord, into your land,
These beasts who bow their heads so gently, and stand
With their small feet joined together in a fashion
Utterly gentle, asking your compassion.

Richard Wilbur/Frances Jammes

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Dear God, we pray for another way of being,
another way of knowing.
Across the difficult terrain of our existence
we have attempted to build a highway
and in so doing have lost our footpath.

God, lead us to our footpath.
Lead us there where, in simplicity,
we may move at the speed of natural creatures
and feel the earth’s love beneath our feet.
Lead us there where, step-by-step,
we may feel the movement of creation in our hearts.
And lead us there where, side-by-side,
we may feel the embrace of the common soul.
Nothing can be loved at speed.

God, lead us to the slow path;
to the joyous insights of the pilgrim;
another way of knowing;
another way of being. Amen.

Michael Leunig

Speaking of Advent waiting

December 9, 2012 — 1 Comment

The house lights go off and the footlights come on.
Even the chattiest stop chattering as they wait in darkness for the curtain to rise.
In the orchestra pit, the violin bows are poised. The conductor has raised his baton. Continue Reading…

A few weeks ago, I talked about how sometimes we don’t see something because it is blocked from view.

But other times we don’t see something even when it’s right in plain sight. Continue Reading…

For the real amazement, if you wish to be amazed, is this process. You start out as a single cell derived from the coupling of a sperm and an egg; this divides in two, then four, then eight, and so on, and at a certain stage there emerges a single cell which has as all its progeny the human brain.
The mere existence of such a cell should be one of the great astonishments of the earth. People ought to be walking around all day, all through their waking hours calling to each other in endless wonderment, talking of nothing except that cell.

Lewis Thomas

 

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You made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.

St Augustine

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Since You are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of Your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for You are my refuge.
Into Your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

Psalm 31:3-5

Rest in this:
It is His business to lead, command, impel, send, call, or whatever you want to call it. It is your business to obey, follow, move, respond, or what have you…
The sound of “gentle stillness” after all the thunder and wind have passed will be the ultimate Word from God.

Jim Elliot

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The more we get what we now call “ourselves” out of the way and let Him take us over,
the more truly ourselves we become.
There is so much of Him that millions and millions of “little Christs,”
all different, will still be too few to express Him fully.
He made them all.

He invented—as an author invents characters in a novel—all the different people that you and I were intended to be.
In that sense our real selves are all waiting for us in Him.
It is no good trying to “be myself” without Him.
The more I resist Him and try to live on my own,
the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires.

C.S. Lewis