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UNZIPPED

At times, life accelerates so quickly we get unzipped; at that point, even the simplest things are bewildering. The first step to recovering equilibrium is always the same; above all else I must trust the sovereignty, oversight and goodness of God. While I may get confused about who I am or what I must do, the Lord of Heaven and Earth is never disoriented or perplexed. Circumstances may make me feel trapped, but the Alpha and Omega is never boxed in by the temporal. Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the Universe, in Your Mighty Hands my soul safely rests. May Your peace rule my heart at all times.

HIDDEN TREASURES

A stroll on a sandy beach provides hidden treasures placed there by the creative forethought of God. The ebb and flow of tides opens the treasury of the seas for those who stroll along the shore. God sees to it that each day offers the same to all mankind, wherever we are on earth; hidden treasures carefully placed by the Hand of God. The angels had it right: "Glory to God in the Highest, good will toward men." Lord of Constant Wonders, teach me to slow my pace and pay greater attention to Your quiet handiwork. Open the eyes of my heart to Your daily divine deposits.

A FAST FINISH

Junkyards, with their messy spread of old or wrecked cars can be eerily fascinating; so many stories are connected to the rusting heaps as they sit in inert silence. People often end up in the same condition, inanimate objects wasting away as a result of past wrecks or inattention. God created us with the capacity to finish our race with the same potential we start with. Will I finish as a decrepit rust-bucket or an antique classic? I choose the latter. O Lord My Creator, help me run well to the finish line. Infuse me with Your power that I may charge ahead till my last breath. May the full extent of my purpose here be completed.

SPEED BUMPS

I really do loathe speed bumps, so I avoid them as much as possible. Understanding their purpose and safety value doesn’t seem to help my attitude toward them whatsoever. Over time I have devised numerous workarounds to circumvent them or limit wheel contact. Commentary on their size, placement, justification and frequency is seemingly obligatory. Slowing down when I’m ready to roll just bothers me. Father, I think I understand; thank You for the necessary slowdowns of life. While I may never come to appreciate earthly speed bumps, I will not resent Your placement of required pauses.

VANQUISHED FEARS

God is never limited by my circumstances. The same Sovereign Lord who hung the stars like ornaments is more than able to deal with my issues. The biggest mountains look miniscule from a few miles above the earth’s surface; I must trust the Almighty One who looks down upon my needs from heaven while holding the universe in the palm of His hand. Father, You tower over every lack and rule over all things. When I consider Your Awesomeness and the smallness of my problems my fears are vanquished. I am so grateful for Your long-suffering forbearance with my sagging heart.

CHURNING CHALLENGES

I marvel at the skill of professional whitewater kayakers, perhaps because they demonstrate that extreme dangers and incredible adventures inhabit the same space. To simply follow human instinct apart from divine purpose and guidance is like being thrown into cascading rapids. To navigate the churning challenges of relationships, health, prosperity, ambition and mission, I need God’s constant help. Seeking Him should never be a last resort. Father in Heaven, Giver of Life, I realize skillful living requires Your will, Your way, Your timing, Your path and Your choices. I yield this day to Your Hands.

JOY TO THE WORLD!

To the brokenhearted…JOY! To the falsely accused…JOY! To the misunderstood…JOY! To the disappointed…JOY! To the repentant sinner…JOY! To the imprisoned or condemned…JOY! To the lonely…JOY! To the rejected…JOY! To the abandoned…JOY! To the widow and widower…JOY! To the newborn or elderly…JOY! To the calloused heart…JOY! To those proclaimed terminally ill…JOY! To those trapped in darkness…JOY! To those with waning hope…JOY! To the cowardly or brave…JOY! To the guilty or just…JOY! To the rich or poor…JOY! JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD HAS COME!

O NIGHT DIVINE

Shadowy figures slowly come into focus as a weary young couple stares into the darkness of early nightfall, searching for a place to stay. Their long, dusty journey has brought them to the hills of Judea, to the small town where King David had been born so many years before.Empty, uninviting streets belie the importance of this glorious moment. All the company of heaven peers down as the hordes of hell shrink back in disoriented confusion; what child is this who is to be born this miraculous eventide? Soon, blazing light will rip away the shroud of darkness and the Savior of the world will be revealed. O holy night, O night divine.

DIVINE DISCERNMENT

Making well-informed and thought-through decisions is wise, but there is no dependable substitute for divinely guided discernment. We need good judgment to distinguish between inspired thoughts and selfish fantasies since they often appear the same at first glance. The immature mind, driven by personal desire, can be easily confused. Imagination is a gift from God, but it, like everything else, must be brought under surrendered obedience to God. Lord of Creation, teach me to truly submit my thoughts to You today. Help me calibrate my silent meditations to Your perfect path.

WORDS

The words we speak cause life to spring forth or inflict painful withering. It is true, “death and life are in the power of the tongue”. We cannot walk back careless words once they are spoken, nor can we reconstruct the timely moments we miss. Therefore, our mouth must be bridled, trained and guided by God’s Word and Spirit. As did the angels in their yuletide announcement long ago, our words should bring good tidings of great joy to all. O Lord My Master and Teacher, make my mouth an instrument of Your Love. Atune my heart, and the words that proceed from it with the Word of Life.

GREATER STILL

The troubles of this life can pile up quickly, temporarily blocking my view of the greatness of God. Yet, just one speck of tearful surrender to the Lord Almighty sends towering troubles tumbling down, for no matter the fierceness of invading darkness, the Lord our Light is greater still. Though armies of hatred surround us from the heights, the weakest cry to the heavens scatters our foes to the four winds, for our God is greater still. My Lord and King, I now face this new day with renewed strength for the battle. In Your Relentless Mercy, You have again poured out Your love, for you are always, and forever, greater still.

OPEN MY EYES

The invention of lenses, magnifying glasses, spectacles, telescopes and microscopes changed mankind’s perception of life on earth. Seeing something previously unseen can radically change our perspective. The promises of God contained in Scripture are a lens through which we peer into the unseen, activating a divine perspective of life. Nothing can transform the ordinary into something truly remarkable like the eye of faith. Father of Light, I do not want spiritual eyes that cannot see. Open my eyes to even the smallest detail of Your will. Show me Your Glory and turn my darkness into Your resplendent Light.

THE FAST LIFE

As a child I neither liked nor disliked road trips. They were simply different than my normal routines and required dealing with loads of new information. Many hours were spent assimilating quickly passing scenery into my little world. Life can come at you very fast; things change, that’s it. Sometimes it feels like I am still a five-year old with my arm out the window of a car trying to grasp the wind, a lot of action and movement, but little to show for it. Having a Solomon moment here, so the conclusion: ”Fear God and keep His commandments.” Lord, that is enough. I am ready for another day.

THE TEST

Cultivating relationships with others is one of God’s principle means of developing divine qualities in us.  As we learn to be truly grateful for this process we make huge spiritual strides. After all, how would God provoke me to change without others? Raw truth, without the test of practical application, would leave me fundamentally unchanged. So the many obstacles of loving interrelationships are no accident. Actually, these challenges have God’s fingerprints all over them. Lord, thank you for the relentless test of walking in love. Guide me through the maze of forgiving, blessing and lifting others.

CHALK IN HAND

A new day has arrived and I stand at an empty slate board with chalk in my hand. Shall I simply rewrite yesterday’s leftovers or do I should I seek a fresh start? I choose to turn a new leaf; the past is never the roadmap for the future. Nothing may be taken for granted when facing new opportunities. God’s will and ways must be sought afresh. Only fresh manna can sustain us in the wilderness of life, only the “cloud by day and the fire by night” can point us in the right direction. Lord of New Beginnings, I am willing and ready. Speak to my heart this day. Strength will rise as I wait before You and miracles will manifest as I step forth in Your power.

MY RESCUE

Upon being cast into an angry sea the only hope is to cleave to whatever floats and hope for rescue. It may be the sea itself that ultimately deposits the lost soul on shore or perhaps the timely kindness of a passing stranger that brings relief. Most likely, however, rescue will be at the hands of those who have long before, made it their heroic mission. Life can be a terrible tempest, but the Lord declares: “Call on me in the day of trouble and I will rescue you”. O Lord, my Champion and My Rescue, by whatever means You choose, I cleave to Your Grace, Mercy and Providence; You never leave nor forsake the objects of Your love.

STIRRED AND PLIABLE

What are the signs of a hardening heart? There are many, such as indifference to spiritual issues, prayerlessness and refusal to listen to God or obey His promptings. A heart beginning to crust over is far more comfortable around spiritual cynicism or unbelief. Perhaps the most ominous sign is when we cut ourselves off from passionate believers, seeking rather to associate with those of little or no genuine faith. O Lord My Creator, You formed me for Your will. Keep me stirred and pliable; work me over like moldable clay. Thank you for the power of fellowship and the witness of burning hearts.

DEATHBLOW TO DARKNESS

It is unsettling to think about the wickedness is in this world. At the very same moment I am striving to do good, someone is seeking to do harm. This would lead to fear if I did not know that in spite of the dark forces of evil I am not unarmed. The heaven-sent weapons of our warfare are mighty. When the enemy rises to attack me, thinking there are no troops on guard, the One Who Never Sleeps Nor Slumbers rises to my defense. O Lord My Victor, with You on my side the battle is checked and eternal victory is sure. To call upon Your Name is to bring a deathblow to every work of darkness!

THE VOICE

While having dinner at an unusually loud restaurant, I noticed a young couple seated in a corner booth. It was obvious they were on a first date, but the surrounding cacophony didn’t seem to bother them one bit; it was as if they were all alone. The lesson is simple; we hear what we are dialed-in to hear. Life can be very noisy at times, but with desire and concentration I can hear God’s voice. If I treasure His words more than all others I will have a steady stream of His wisdom. Lord God, You do not hide truth from Your children. You store up wisdom for those who seek Your voice and guidance for those who follow Your ways.

SOLID ROCK

“On Christ the solid rock I stand”; words from the great hymn are resounding in my heart today. While living in Costa Rica many years ago we experienced a significant earthquake. After the first violent jolts, the aftershocks lasted for weeks. It is deeply unsettling when the earth shifts, and that which has always been stable heaves beneath. These are moments of authentication. When everything is shaken in our lives, in whom will we trust? Lord God, Rock of Ages, You are the only Firm Foundation; no weapon formed against us can prosper. Your Hand of Protection will never loosen its grip.

PULL AWAY

I waste a significant portion of every day, not by lack of activity, but by pursuits doomed to failure. I can speak from experience; rabbit trails are exhausting. Only truth, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, can reliably reveal those things that truly matter. This is why contemplative prayer and study is so necessary. It is there, in those quiet moments of listening, seeking and prayerful self-examination where true progress is made. Lord of Life, it seems I am still a rookie, but You patiently instruct me nonetheless. Help me pull away from needless treks into the wastelands. Lead me beside still waters.

AGAINST THE CURRENT

At times it is as if I am swimming in a steady current. I can swim with it and move faster or I can swim against, but I soon fatigue and the current slowly moves me again in the direction I had struggled against. The goodness of the Lord remains intact in spite of my resistance, God is working in me and moving me toward my created purpose. This is at once comforting and exasperating. But why would I go any direction other than that which He desires? Father, I get it, yielding is the only solution. Thank You for keeping me on course and not giving way to my foolish meanderings. Grant me grace to yield.

CHASING THE WIND

The seemingly universal mantra “Follow your dream” is constantly declared from kindergartens to Ivory League classrooms, from kitchen tables to pulpits, from boardrooms to backyards; but is it sound advice? Dreams can become nightmares. For the person of faith, dreams, like every other human desire, must be bathed in holy surrender to the Giver of Life. I refuse to substitute an earthly dream for my heavenly calling. God’s dream for my life must become my relentless, singular pursuit. Lord God, Your will does not diminish my life. Pull me this day deeper into Your purpose and plans.

SWEET SPOT

My heart is far too easily pulled into the gravity field of worldly distractions and daily responsibilities. The pressures of living for eternity while constantly tethered to earthly activity can empty the soul of the kind of passionate following that God deserves. As a new dawn approaches my challenge is to faithfully fulfill my earthly duties without ignoring celestial directives. Almighty Lord, only a heart that lingers before You will find the right balance. In Your mercy, guide my steps this day. Help me find that perfectly positioned sweet spot of feet on the ground and heaven on the mind.

HEAVEN AWAITS

Yesterday’s quota of bricks dutifully met, its residue is still with me. Mud and straw are again before me, but I am ready. I am no slave to the things I must do, for I am a son of promise, as are all who faithfully serve our Lord and Savior. I remain in this world, yet not of it. Though my feet still trod the foreign soil of this earthly trek, greater things are yet ahead, prompted by the inexhaustible benevolence of the Greater One. Heaven awaits. Lord, teach me faithfulness through daily obedience, each moment submitted to Your care. Grant me grace this day to build an enduring legacy of submission to Your pleasure.

MIXTURE

My love for God and the people He loves is authentic, but still contains a polluting mixture of conditional, self-centered, human love. While at times I genuinely wish to be entirely free of this mixture, I know it is still only a half-hearted aspiration. Yet, progress is being made, and for every millimeter forward I am grateful. So today is an additional workout day, another round on the treadmill of life for training my heart to be in tune with God’s heart. My Lord, My God, again I ask You to forgive my reckless treatment of Your Divine Affection. Help me to be vigilant to not mix selfishness into Your Perfect Love.

PRAYER

I truly admire the ease with which some people pray. I generally require an impulse; circumstantial prompting is almost always the cause of my most sincere prayers. Thankfully, as I have matured the impulses need not be as intense and they seem to arrive with greater frequency. The biblical charge is that we “pray without ceasing.” The disciples were so aware of the difference between the Savior’s prayerfulness and their own that they asked for instruction on it. Lord, I too, need continual instruction. Guide me to a place of constant praise, surrender, thankfulness and invocation.

CARRY ON

Complacency is a trap that we set for our own selves; we give ourselves permission to fail by yielding to its appeal. While there are times to hold fast, in spiritual matters, standing still too long soon becomes backsliding. In battle, disobeying your commanding officer by retreating without orders is a punishable offense. On the other hand, obedient, purposeful living produces a powerful momentum that pushes us through deserts, floods, storms, peaks and valleys. Lord God, You are my King and Commander, help me to “set my face like flint” toward Your will. Quicken my whole being to Your plan. Give me strength to carry on without complaint.

TRUTHFUL LOVE

While wisdom and gentleness with others who disagree is a good approach to resolution, truth must be spoken and advanced in spite of resistance. Love demands truthfulness. Fearing what people think above the fear of them being harmed by ignorance or deception is evil and a dangerous trap. No matter how delicately delivered, truth is, at once, freeing and offensive. I welcome the truth only when I am prepared to receive both its benefits and its discomforting demand that I respond with change. Sovereign Lord of Love and Truth, help me know Your life-giving truth and boldly declare it to others. Let kindness rooted in Your Unquenchable Love always be my motivation and method for proclaiming truth to others.

THE BATTLEFIELD

Over my lifetime things have clearly changed in society when it comes to spiritual things. I grew up in a neighborhood wherebelief in God was pretty much the only reality. Our collective worldview left little room for spiritual choices other than personal devoutness or denominational identity. But, even in such a pro-belief atmosphere, choosing moment-by-moment surrender was just as intense as now. In the final analysis, it is not our external environment that makes the difference. Father, deliver me from failed excuses and strengthen me for the daily inward battlefield.

FROM SORROW TO DANCING

The pain of great loss is bitter, but even more so when accompanied by betrayal. Whether in lofty halls of power or the steaming jungles of a rain forest, every human heart is tested by these flaming arrows. It is impossible to construct a barrier against the probability of a broken heart. Though avoidance is impossible, there is a pathway out of agony. While others are distanced by our deep sorrows, “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted.” O Lord Our Helper, You comfort our hearts and drive our grief far away. You reassure us in our pain, wipe away our tears and turn our sorrows into dancing.

LOOSE LIVING

There is an unexplainable freedom in the painful discovery that nothing in this life is permanent. The human soul was created to live in eternal covenant and longs for things that last; so much so that we stubbornly ignore the temporariness of this world. We pretend that earthly things are more transcendent than they can possibly be, then feel shocked when they are not. Eternal Father, You alone are boundless. You have set eternity in our hearts that we may rightly measure this life. Help me hold temporary things of this world loosely while gripping eternal things with all my might.

USEFUL KNOWLEDGE

We live in the “Information Age”, but information alone is useless. In fact, without good judgment, knowledge can be very destructive. Understanding, on the other hand, enables me to know what to do with what I know. Wisdom, the kind that God alone endows, brings knowledge and understanding into proper alignment with His perfect application, positioning me for His best. Oh Lord, from Whom all true knowledge, understanding and wisdom flow, grant me daily enlightenment and grace for the right response to that which You reveal. Deliver me from information overload and lead me into truth and light.

A STRONG FINISH

A cemetery is not only a place of honoring those who have passed; sadly, it is also a depository of unspent potential. The apostle Paul predetermined he would not leave anything unfinished when he departed this life. I was with my spiritual father, Costa Deir just before his earthly race was completed. Though dying, he was still writing, preaching, counseling, praying and mentoring, all from his in-home hospital bed. I was enlightened in his death as I had been in his life. Eternal Father, help me finish strong, leaving no potential unspent. Lord, may advancing Your Kingdom consume my last reserves.

THANKSGIVING

Ten lepers were cured, but only one returned to express gratitude. King David found it necessary to remind himself of his many blessings. Our tendency to focus on what we lack in life robs us of enduring gratefulness. Giving thanks should not be corralled into moments when we feel obliged; gratefulness and praise must become our lifestyle, thankfulness and praise a forethought, not an afterthought. God of all Blessings, Sustainer of All Life, Giver of all Grace, I thank You and praise you for Your Unceasing Goodness.  You are my Light and Salvation. To You be glory forever and ever, amen.

HAPPILY DEFEATED

As a twelve-year-old Boy Scout, I was almost defeated by distance. Our troop was taken on a 20-mile hike in the heat of summer. We learned that we could go much farther than we believed possible. I have since learned “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength”. All but one thing; I cannot out distance His love. After repeatedly passing through impossible circumstances as “more than a conqueror” I am utterly overcome by His Love. Loving Father, I am not a wandering exile, You call me by name, You claim me as Your own. I am happily defeated by Your immeasurable love.

INCORRUPTABLE GLADNESS

Every season of life brings its own joys and disappointments; however, letdowns seem to accrue more easily than gladness. The Psalms reveal King David as a man of profound faith, yet he found it necessary to remind himself of God’s blessings and to command his own soul to praise the LORD. Even a quick inventory of things for which I can be thankful ignites my heart, releasing joy and praise in every circumstance. I must lift my eyes from the temporal pains and look to the Giver of Life. O Lord my God, my heart is jubilant as I contemplate Your Goodness, which bestows incorruptible gladness.

PATHWAY TO POWER

Our true measure of strength is best discovered in times of deep trouble or in times of great accomplishment. Should we falter in either we discover what we had previously imagined as strength is revealed as something far less. The tests of life are not our enemies; they are our instructors, our coaches.  Metal is forged in the furnace and so are we. The journey of moving from human muscle to divine fortitude is the pathway to God’s unlimited power. Dearest Father, You are The Lord Our Strength, Our Rock, Our Fortress and Our Deliverer. Forgive my attempts to make it on my own.

LAND MINES

Cold tile floors and bare feet are an unpleasant wintery mix. Warm socks properly applied are a welcome and easy fix. This is a teachable moment, reminding me that little problems become big problems if not addressed, yet, are easily overcome if proper care is taken. Delayed prayer, deferred forgiveness, ignored relational issues; all these are life’s land mines. Postponement does not deal with problems, it only makes them worse, dangerously hiding them until they explode. Lord, help me catch the little things that spoil my soul. Remind me to be proactive when facing dilemmas.

TREK THROUGH THE DESERT

Flying over the Sahara Desert, the world’s largest at 3.3 million square miles is an amazing and daunting sight. It seems to go on forever, but every desert has its boundaries; though at times it may feel like it, wastelands do not go on endlessly. The lesson here is simple, never give up through a long desert trek. God’s love and provision are limitless, carrying us through even the most extensive wasteland. Lord, Your goodness and mercies accompany my journey and green horizons await me. I will not despair for You are always with me. Your Presence is my daily oasis.

THE LORD'S REBUKE

I do not resent the Lord’s rebuke. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like it at the time, but I realize that His discipline is a necessary expression of His unfailing love. Without His restraining hand and supervision I would run wildly off track and would surely settle for less than His best. He will have none of that. The Love of God keeps a constant eye on every move, chases us down when we stray and pulls us back from ruin. He takes hold and never lets go. Holy Lord, You are my Father, Your corrections are blessings and Your Holy Hand of discipline proclaims Your delight in us as Your children.

THE CURTAIN RISES

Nightfall is like a stage curtain’s drop after the last scene of a play. With daybreak, the curtain rises on what is now ahead. The audience must give thought to, but not dwell on the last scene. Attention must now be given to what is unfolding ahead. I usually let each day begin fresh, but already I realize that I am still dwelling on some of yesterday's concerns. This will not do. Anxiety about the past or the future can obstruct necessary moves forward and neutralize God's daily whisperings. Blessed Father, I must hear from You today. Forgive my moments of worry as I now cast my cares upon You. I will listen carefully for your directions.

ANCHOR POSITION

We each tend to romanticize the distant past; sometimes wishing we could have lived in Biblical times or at moments of great spiritual revivals. But in doing so we may mischaracterize the critical time in which we live. There are many different types of athletic relay races, but they all employ a similar strategy, the last leg is considered the anchor position; the finisher must go fastest. What if we are in the last leg? What if God has chosen us “for a time such as this”? Is this our Esther moment? Heavenly Father, help me stay focused on the race at hand. Make me a fast finisher and grant me grace and strength to run with an undivided heart.

WINDOW SHOPPING

All of us have spiritual imagination. It brings a joyful sense of purpose to think about what it would be like to serve God on a greater level. We see people in the Bible or others we admire and visualize ourselves doing the same things. But spiritual imagination is a lot like window-shopping; nothing really happens until we step through the door. God offers us things like good works, spiritual disciplines, sacraments and steps of faith to propel us through the door, turning window-shopping into action. Glorious God, pull me in. Use me today in greater measure. Deliver me from fear of stepping forward.

GOODNESS GRACIOUS

The more I understand of the grace of God the more I am amazed by it. The manifold grace of God is saturated with truth, life, mercy, patience, power, persistence and limitless love. My brokenness invites it, my pride resists it and my future depends on it. I, of necessity, count upon a limitless supply of grace yet often struggle to offer it freely to others. I’m still a greenhorn I suppose, but heaven will offer sufficient time to fully grasp it all. Gracious Lord, open my heart to receive and offer Your grace without measure and without restraint. Help me to offer Your Grace openly and freely to others.

NO FRAUD ALLOWED

A relationship with God must be absolutely genuine. In our earthly interpersonal connections, we are accustomed to holding back, all the while, doling out our true person in controlled spurts. There can be none of this with God. He knows us because He made us, therefore we cannot fool Him. In simple terms, there must be no fraud with God; cover-ups end here. What deliverance and freedom we can know and experience in unrestrained surrender and openness! Lord, You created my inmost being, You knit me together in my mother's womb and You call me by name. I am happily Yours.

FULL ABANDON

Doing God’s will does not depend upon perfect conditions. In fact, negative circumstances are practically a requirement for things done in faith. If something is easily within grasp faith is not essential, but seeing and doing the impossible requires taking action on what is not yet seen. As I step forward in faith I usually have only fragments of clarity, not the whole picture. Trusting God to pull the pieces together while navigating through obstacles is both cleansing and exhilarating. Father, thank You for the unique joy faith brings. Grant me grace to live in full abandon to Your will.

HERE WE GO AGAIN

A seasonal shift brings change in the air; almost unperceivable at first, then obvious signs emerge. I love how God works in both Nature and in my life. There is always something afoot. Just as I settle down new seasons arrive unannounced and everything begins to change; grace for where I have trod recedes, grace for what is next appears. I can uselessly complain or I can take hold of what is ahead. There is no future in the past. Lord of All Creation, acclimate my heart to what now approaches. Grant me increased capacity to accept a new measure of grace for this new season. More of You, less of me.

WORK IN PROGRESS

It is convenient to assign blame to everything else, but what comes out of me is merely spillover from what is inside. This is unsettling. After so much time and so many attempts to transform myself, I again must face the truth, I am still a work in progress and only God can finish the work. I am sure God can fix me, but when I think there must be an easier way I stumble off the right path only to end up slogging through mud. Father, my words are insufficient, so I offer a borrowed prayer as my own: Have Your own way, Lord, have Your own way. You are the Potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after Your will while I am waiting, yielded and still.

BY FAITH

The simple biblical phrase “by faith” opens a universe of understanding and divine power. By faith, I may confidently approach the Throne of Grace, despite feeling unworthy to do so. By faith, I can freely love others without the terrorizing fear of rejection or misunderstanding. By faith, I can dance through the Valley of the Darkness of Doubt with a magnificent, indestructible and irreplaceable remedy. Victorious Lord, Your faith launching promises grant me uncluttered assurance, release unbounded joy and thrust me forward in the way of everlasting! By faith, I enter this day in peace and power.

JUST THE TWO OF US

While dining in an airport restaurant, I noticed a young mother and her infant child. Though hundreds hurriedly passed by, for them, they were the only ones present, each transfixed on the other. Her obvious delight in interacting with her child made me wonder, does God delight in nurturing us?  Then I remembered: “He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Father, I am so humbled and amazed to think of You singing over us as You nurture our created purpose. Sweep me into that moment where there is only You.

HOLY CONSTRAINT

Why do we wear ourselves out to get what can never satisfy? Chasing greener grass can be a positive motivator, but mostly it is a diversionary tactic of the enemy of my soul. I realize now more than ever that God fences me in and surrounds me like a wall. This has, at times, felt unfairly restrictive, yet I know I need His holy constraint. What divine joy, what genuine freedom there is living within the confines of the Father’s love. Blessed Shepherd, grant me the wisdom and discipline to show restraint. With Your goodness, You hem me in. Forgive my attempts to squirm away from Your grasp.

BARRENNESS INTO BLESSEDNESS

Several significant stories in Scripture are about barren women who could not give birth to a child of their own. In each instance, God turned their barrenness into blessedness as they bore children by the handiwork of God. The human heart is also made to birth new things. It should be a place of divine revelation and creativity, but the heart can grow dry and barren, becoming as desolate as a desert. Lord of All Creation, open the windows of heaven and make streams in the wilderness of my heart. I praise You for Your Presence that floods into my barrenness and brings forth new things.

INTENTIONAL LIVING

Life must be lived intentionally. A lazy drift down the river of life may seem appealing, but the wise choose a straight path. If I had put forth as much effort into choosing the right things as I have making excuses, I would be much farther along. Yet, I have another run at obedience to God’s will and ways; the sun will soon rise upon a new day and wisdom already is calling out. Blessed is the person who listens. Yes, Lord, I hear Your whisperings. Guide my choices and keep me from drifting out of my lane. Your instruction is more precious than rubies, nothing in this world can compare.

THE HOLY GRASP

Sunset, midnight, daybreak, high noon, the steady Hand of God turns the earth and all its inhabitants through another day. His grip is sturdy, forceful, capable and secure; my life is firmly in His Holy Grasp. As Master Artisan of the universe, nothing is missed, not one prayer unheard and not a single cry for mercy ignored as He rotates His object of love in His Blessed Hand. Lord God, Father and Creator, You behold my distracted unreadiness, yet in Your Blazing Lovingkindness, You do not turn away in disgust, instead, healing my woundedness You bring me through every trial and keep me safely in Your Hand.

STILL WATERS

Sometimes a lake can be so still everything above is nearly perfectly reflected upon it. This is what God wants of me; I too must be still and allow Him to be mirrored upon my life. My issue? Ripples. What God sees of Himself in me is too often distorted by every shifting wind. I must not allow passing circumstances to constantly ruffle me. Rather, I must permit His abiding peace to calm my soul so His majesty can be seen. This is my daily battle. Father, in Your peace I have calmed myself and quieted my ambitions; I am content in Your care. Glorify Yourself in me, make me like still waters.

REPUDIATION OF DOUBT

I am far more familiar with the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” than the “Mountain of Transfiguration”. Like an unwelcome stranger hanging too close, apprehension is the constant companion of faith. Faith is not exercised with an absence of doubt, rather, each step forward in faith is a repudiation of doubt. Ultimately we must learn that faith does not rely upon circumstances, it is reckoning upon God’s unwavering Promises. Lord God Almighty, stormy gales, sinking sands nor impenetrable walls can match Your command. Take my hand as I traverse shadowy trails and bind my heart to Your unfailing promises.

SAY LESS, DO MORE

We live in an era when there is a growing chasm between words and actions. It seems the proliferation of so many gadgets for 24/7 communications has worsened the problem. The sheer volume of things said so easily to so many contributes to falsehood. There is no duplicity in God, what He says, He does. He ”watches over His Word to perform it.” It is time to say less and do more. Lord of Truth and Action, help me to live by deeds rather than mere words. Purge from me all that is false. May my love for others be honest and my words bathed in wisdom, grace and truth.

INNOCENSE LOST, RIGHTEOUSNESS GAINED

While standing in line at a checkout, an elderly gentleman motioned to a sleeping infant and asked me: “wouldn’t you love to have a conscious that clear?” Innocence cannot be retrieved once lost. Yet for those who come to know the boundless mercy of God and the inexhaustible sufficiency of our redemption, something even more wonderful is revealed, we are granted “righteousness consciousness.” In the divine exchange, our Savior took upon Himself our condemnation and bestowed upon us His right standing. Most Merciful Father, in Christ alone there is peaceful rest in Your transforming arms.

FOLLOWING THE FIRSTBORN

Love must be both the impulse and trajectory of all we do. Any other motivation will fall short of the purpose for which God places us on the earth in the first place. We are to be His hands, His face and instruments of His amazing love to all around us. “God so loved the world” did not cease with the giving of His Firstborn; we too, are to imitate our Elder Brother in like manner, offering ourselves as manifestations of His passion for His creation. My God and Maker, You are Love. Make me a faithful follower of the example Your Beloved Son. Glorify Yourself in me and through me.

REST STOPS & DEAD ZONES

Rest and comfort seem similar but are actually quite different. Rest prepares me for what is next; comfort settles me into what has been. Everyone needs comfort, but too much of it feeds selfishness and feelings of entitlement, leaving us maladjusted for sacrifice. Rest stops are for those going somewhere; comfort zones become dead zones. The flesh defines rest as relaxation; Biblical rest is rooted in inward peace from God, and ceasing from doing things our way instead of God’s way. Father, teach me to enter Your rest and to esteem your Spirit’s comfort above all other comforts.

UNWASHED HANDS

As surely as eating with unwashed hands can lead to sickness, spiritual ignorance leaves us susceptible to infection within our soul. Unfiltered pursuits and self-indulgence belong to the perishing, but wisdom and discernment are provided by knowledge of God. These powerful gifts furnish us with protection from both external and internal corruption. The disciplines of servanthood and faithfulness create a barrier against falling away. O Lord My Protector, grant Your Wisdom this day. Guard my heart and actions with Your Word and Spirit. Make me a source of life to others.

GOING FOR GREEN

Why does grass always seem greener at a distance? Too much time is wasted thinking of distant pastures beyond where God plants us. How much of what we desire is merely imitating what others desire? The aspirations of those around us influence us to want what they want. While this can be a positive motivator, more often than not, it is the fountainhead of sorrow. Far better is a relentless pursuit of what pleases God. Shepherd of My Soul, Wellspring of True Joy, teach me to surrender every earthly appetite to You alone. Teach me to drink deeply from still waters.

THIN ICE

The call of God on my life has always exceeded my known resources, proven capabilities and personal character. I have come to understand this is the way it must be; otherwise, I would foolishly lean too heavily upon myself. It is the daily walk on thin ice that keeps me alert and dependent upon divine intervention. My weakness invites God’s grace. So I begin another day shrouded in frailty but anticipating a new measure of grace and victory. O Lord my God and Father, You are not put off by my shortcomings. When I am weak You are strong. Blessed Master, use me this day for Your glory.

OUT OF DARKNESS...AGAIN

Most of my morning prayers have the same starting point: seeking forgiveness and additional grace. Today’s requests are eerily similar to every other day. Each sunrise to sunset is filled with hacking my way through twisted vines of self-absorption to return to the path of obedience to God’s ways. It still surprises me how easily I get off track, the slightest turn plunging me into a ravine of darkness. Yet even from the bottom there is always light above and God’s help is constant. Father, thank You for Your lifting hand, Your love pulls me through the steep climb again and again.

NOT HOME YET

Material things and personal benefits are easily taken for granted. I know this because when something to which I am accustomed is no longer is available, I always feel surprised and disappointed. Presumption, it seems, is a constant nemesis and a headlong path to exaggerated self-importance. God’s answer? Shifting sand, inconstant circumstances, tidal changes, bizarre weather; nothing in this world endures exactly the way it is right now. In this way He reminds us this world is not our home. Lord, upon You the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. You alone are the forever constant. Thank You for the reminders.

DUTY TO DELIGHT

A sense of Christian duty drives much of what I do, so each day I dutifully recommit myself to do the right things. This seems fine on the surface as a child of God but there is a more noble way. While a sense of duty is appropriate, God seeks those who delight to do His will. His eyes move to and fro over the earth searching for those who with grateful, love-filled hearts turn toward Him and make His will their first priority. Father, I desire to permanently join the ranks of those who move from duty to delight. At the end of my course may I be found faithfully marching in cadence with the truly God-enamored.

FROM FAKERY TO FAITH

As a child I spent a lot of time dreaming up impressive scenarios where I was a heroic character doing great things; usually fighting some powerful foe. The life of faith is not one of ineffectual daydreaming of imagined outcomes. Biblically formed faith reaches for concrete, yet unseen reality; each step ignited by a divine spark. Only actions first bathed in Holy Promises will be sufficiently purged of silly desires or the darkness of doubt. Father, teach me to rest assured in Your Providence while straining toward Your will. You alone kindle true belief and You alone can carry me safely to triumph.

TOES IN THE WATER

It is said: “opportunity knocks”, but I would add: “it doesn’t stand at the door knocking very long”. While maturity and experience offer the potential of more accurate discernment, they can also make us increasingly adverse to risk. Too much over-thinking, calculation and caution can keep us from moving forward. Love requires risk, faith demands bravery. There is no escape from Egypt’s hold without stepping into the Red Sea’s waters; there is no inheritance of The Promise Land until our toes touch the Jordan’s sands. Father, help me make the most of the opportunities You bring. O Lord My Guide, keep me moving forward.

SALT AND LIGHT

I never lived on a farm but have tilled a lot of soil and sown a lot of seeds. I have never been a rancher but have rounded up and cared for a lot of sheep. Farmers and ranchers are often described as “salt of the earth” people, reliable, trustworthy, hard-working folks. Our lives as believers should be carried out in like manner. We don’t need a big stage to do our greatest work; it is in the trenches of daily sowing, caring, loving and serving where our lives shine brightest. Glorious Caretaker of My Soul, make me a faithful instrument of Your work. Help me be salt and light to others.

JUST ONE

The walk of faith carries us down many solitary paths. Daily, personal obedience can often seem lonely since it is custom designed by God specifically for each of us. Even those closest to us may not be able to follow along. The human soul can feel secluded and abandoned, even while surrounded by throngs of others. Yet, it can also be fully satisfied solely in the presence of just one; “THE ONE.” Heavenly Father, help me today to walk in private fidelity.  Keep my eyes upon You and my heart free from disappointment when others cannot tread hallowed ground where only I am called to stand.

WHATEVER

Gladness is easier to embrace than letdowns; yet, both have enduring value if I have the right perspective. Frankly, the multitude of unrelenting challenges life brings has done more to strengthen my character and soften my heart than the many joys I have known. The magnitude, multitude and frequency of problems press me deeply into God’s hands. While I certainly do not prefer additional difficulties, I realize that they come invited or not, but God turns everything into good for those who trust Him. Father, keep me from the snare of my own preferences. Whatever comes, You make all things well.

UNMASKING THE UNKNOWN

Many years ago we awoke to a swarm of termites in our bedroom. It is very unsettling to discover that something so destructive can be all around yet unseen and undetected. Experiences such as this feed paranoia and undermine confidence. Like termites in the wall, fear of the unknown can quietly gnaw away our stability. But there is good news; while I can easily be fooled, nothing is unknown to God. There is no such thing as abstract, unseen knowledge for Him. Father, You are the only reliable source for unmasking the unknown. Grant me Your wisdom, increase my discernment, uncover harmful deceptions and let truth and light guide my way.

UNBRIDLED MOCKERY

I notice an increase of coarse talk everywhere. Justified criticisms that should be delivered with a coating of humility are now expressed with swift mocking and harsh judgment of motives. Unbridled tongues are harmful and dangerous for both the speaker and hearer. Love grows when a fault is exposed and forgiven, but dwelling on it destroys any chance of reconciliation; a floodgate is difficult to shut once opened. Gracious God, forgive my loose talk. I do not want to become a fool through unchecked mockery of others, nor gain Your wrath for unfairly judging those You made in Your image.

THE AROMA OF HEAVEN

It is a delightful mystery how an aroma can transport me to a different place. Fragrances bind with events, places and people. A passing scent can return me to my great grandmother’s home, awaken a lost memory or activate an emotion. Interestingly, in both the Old and New Testaments our prayers are likened to incense before God. What seem like feeble earthly prayers are received as a heavenly fragrance before the throne. O Lord my Creator and Sustainer, I marvel at Your ways. May my daily prayer offerings combine with those of all Your saints, filling heaven with sweet fragrance.

SURE FOUNDATION

You never know how strong someone is until they are seriously tested under heavy pressure. I have often been amazed at the fortitude of some when the really difficult tests come and equally amazed at the weakness of others who seemed so powerful until tested. Like buildings, the visible structure of someone’s life can seem outwardly beautiful, but it is the foundation that will determine its survival in upheavals and storms. Lord of All, You are my Rock and Sure Foundation. All that has been built on sinking sand within me must go. On the bedrock of Your Word I dwell safely.

DAILY INTRUDER

What divine protection and transformational power belongs to the generous heart! Greed is a daily intruder, a bothersome and dangerous squatter. Long ago, I committed my heart to live to give, to live to lift, to live to bless, yet earthly cravings’ relentless pursuits still attempt to throw me off track. Time, talent and treasure are gifts placed into our hands by the Almighty. We are to be His hands extended to the needs around us. I am deeply thankful that this world is losing its grip on my soul. Lord, grant me a generous spirit today and deliver me from every vestige of selfishness. Help me open my heart and hands to others.

EYES UP

I have only seen parts of the Leonids meteor shower; over 500 meteors per hour can be seen during its annual passage. What a great reminder that there are powerful things hurtling by every day that are easily missed. How often do I simply slumber through amazing opportunities? Keeping our noses to the grindstone without so much as a glance above can rob us of God’s greatest wonders. Lord of All Creation, awaken my senses. Help me to be more observant and responsive to what You send by. Holy Spirit of God, prompt me to lift up my eyes from my daily toils to see My Maker’s Glory and Power.

FRIENDS

I am blessed with many friendships. I have close friends, distant friends, common interest friends and spontaneous friendships. Friendship is as beautiful as a dazzling sunrise or sunset, constantly transforming.  There are difficult ones, easy ones, life-long friends, covenant friends and the list goes on. Friendships are uplifting, challenging, provoking, inspiring, demanding and instructive. If friendships are enriching, then I am rich beyond measure. Lord, thank you for my friends. Thank You that like our father Abraham, we too, can even be a “friend of God”. Help me today to be a better friend.

GOD OF WONDERS

Nehemiah states: “They were not mindful of Your wonders.” While waiting for a flight I noticed three young boys poised at the window watching all the runway activity. The wonder of their new experience prompted me to think: “Have become indifferent to the wonder of modern flight?” Frankly, I have. Sadly, I often do the same with wonders of God. How dare I. Having seen so many blessings, miracles and wonders, at times, I take them for granted. Mighty Father, God of Wonders, forgive my inattentiveness to the wonders you bring past me daily. Help me see with eyes of innocence, expectation and fascination.

HEART EXAM

A heart demarcated by God cannot ignore the helpless or persecuted; the Lord Himself takes up the cause of the needy and broken. If I do not speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves or work for the good of those being unfairly crushed then I deny the very essence of the Shepherd of Our Souls. God is holy and just, but He is equally kind, caring and gentle; all these are necessary characteristics for a child of God. Lord, You are Good and Merciful; release Your benevolence and goodwill through me to others. You have my heart, give me wisdom to act fairly and a voice devoid of selfish motives.

SURPRISE, SURPRISE, SURPRISE!

There are no surprises for the Alpha and Omega; He who was, and is and is to come is fully prepared to handle whatever happens. So often I confidently act on what I think I know only to be tripped up by ignorance or deception. God alone is completely devoid of the blinding fog of falsehood, there is nothing hidden or unknown to the Almighty. I am therefore utterly dependent upon His wisdom and amazing grace. O My Great Physician, I welcome Your daily examinations and treatments. Deliver me from my many appeasements of human frailty. My surprises are divinely managed in Your Sovereign Care.

TRUTH MAGNET

What a joy it is to discuss the ways and will of God with someone who has spiritual hunger; they will have already been sprinkled with divinely planted seed ready to be nourished. A humble heart is a magnet for truth and according to God’s Promise a “seeker” is a “finder”. While each of us struggles at times with understanding and wisdom, God not only assures treasures to seekers, but also opens doors to knockers and bestows gifts to those who ask. Lord, we may seek and find precisely because in Your Great Love You seek us first. You withhold no good thing from a heart following after You.

FIXED

At times it seems I give myself permission to fail before beginning, inwardly bracing for a negative outcome from the start. I wonder how much more could be accomplished if I did not waste so much time inventing excuses? The person whose heart is truly yielded to God should not behave in a manner such as this.  This provides more evidence that my journey of authentic surrender is yet incomplete, but today is another chance to climb higher. O Lord, My Lord, another day, another embrace of the Cross; cover-ups and excuses end here. My eyes and heart are fixed on a strong finish.

GLIMPSE OF HIS GLORY

The mighty works of God are beyond comprehension, measurement or telling. My very best attempts to give voice to His Greatness fall wildly short, barely passing as inadequate introduction to a prologue of a divine narrative yet to be fully written. It is best, then, to utilize words proclaimed in Holy Writ: “Lord You are great and greatly to be praised!” My soul sings, the chords of my heart fiercely vibrating, my mind swirling as I catch  a glimpse of His Glory, Majesty, Wisdom and Power. O Lord Our Lord, You have set Your Glory in the heavens and Your Majesty in all the earth.

FRESH LIGHT

It is dark outside, but light is crawling over the face of the earth headed straight for me. I cannot live in yesterday’s light, I must now turn my thoughts from past things and step into the brightness of this new day. I am one day wiser than ever before. I have never known more nor been more experienced than at this very moment. This fresh start, offered by God Himself, comes loaded with potential for me to be further transformed into His image. Lord God Almighty, thank You for a brand new opportunity to know You better and to do Your bidding. You are sending fresh light, my heart is prepared with joyful anticipation.

GOOSE ON THE LOOSE

People have a natural tendency to simply follow the herd; it is easier to go with the flow of whatever is popular, faddish or commonly admired. The steep price of a drift along lifestyle is failure to find your divinely created purpose. We are each carefully knit together for God’s specific will and can never rise to God’s best going along with the crowd. I must continually find that sweet spot of being IN the crowd but not OF the crowd, Lord, protect me from wandering aimlessly. Keep my pace in cadence with Yours. Teach me to be comfortable in the gaggle but to be willing to fly at the front of the formation.

KUDOS AND CRITIQUES

Over a lifetime I have received a steady supply of accolades and criticisms. Both are needed in life, the first granting encouragement and relief, the second bringing needed perspective and potential to be better. In either case, it is wise to not breathe in too deeply when kudos or critiques are in the air. It is far better to allow the Holy Spirit and Holy Writ to filter commendations, condemnations or anything in between. Lord Almighty, Your voice speaks in so many ways yet always brings life and hope. Help me hear You always in everything. I long to hear Your Words of Life Everlasting.

INSIDE OUT

A serious pursuit of godliness requires an equally serious avoidance of worldliness. We too often measure spirituality with false scales. While being wisely selective with our public vices we are less so with our private attitudes and perspectives. In reality, it is the thoughts and intents of the heart where the greatest battles must be waged; our actions will ultimately align with the condition of our heart. Lord God, You know me inside out, You are not fooled by human facades. Plow my heart with Your Word and Spirit and leave nothing unturned. Refresh my inward man That I may outwardly glorify You!

DAILY REPLENISHING

Things in life must be replenished. Clothes must be washed, pets must be fed again and again, homes must be repaired; so why do we think we must be filled with God’s Spirit or surrender to His Sovereignty only once? Many seem surprised to learn that daily replenishing is necessary for the people of God. Yesterday’s blessings perish quickly. Today I must again dig deep, remind my heart of God’s faithfulness and recommit to His will and ways. Lord Almighty, I renew my vows to You. Fill me afresh with Your Presence. I again put my hand to the plow and resolve to finish my course with fervor.