Grateful Listening to Scripture


IMG_0834The other morning, as I was enjoying my morning reading of the lectionary passages for the day, I found myself very grateful. I journalled this little prayer of thanks:

“Thank you, Jesus, for enabling me to read these texts with an ear to hear your voice, rather than with a sense of needing to fulfill my “spiritual formation” duty. I sometimes fall asleep to this simple reality. Thank you for awakening me to remember that spiritual practices are simply a way of offering you the gift of my attention…of my abiding in you. Thank you for reminding me that my deepest and truest hungers and thirsts are satisfied in you. Too often I begin in a place of hunger and thirst for your living presence and present voice, but then devolve into a sense of duty, obligation and lifeless focus on my faithfulness or my unfaithfulness, neither of which brings life. Only your faithfulness does this. It sounds simple to write this prayer, but I can so easily become focused on my side of our relationship in such a way that I forget your initiative and interest that always precedes mine. Thank you, and Amen.”

I’ve realized along the way that sometimes I come to the scriptures as a listener, but sometimes I come to the scriptures seeking answers to the questions I have crafted, solutions to the problem I have identified, blessings the ideas I’ve hatched. It’s too easy to fool myself that I’m seeking God’s kingdom first when I’m really seeking God’s kickstart of mine.

Click here to make any Amazon purchase in support of this blog.
This does not add to the cost of your order, but provides a referral fee to this ministry.
You can bookmark this link for future Amazon purchases.
[Click to learn more]

Confidence in the Presence


1236548_10201539270944834_736709727_n

I love finding meaningful insights in little lines of scripture where you don’t expect it. For example, I recently read this line in my morning scripture reading:

Colossians 4:17 NIV, “Tell Archippus: ‘See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.’”

It made me think that I could paraphrase it for myself…

Read the rest of my post at spiritualleadership.com/blog/

Click here to make any Amazon purchase in support of this blog.
This does not add to the cost of your order, but provides a referral fee to this ministry.
You can bookmark this link for future Amazon purchases.
[Click to learn more]

Creativity as the Fruit of Wholeness of Soul


AJF_SJF_Mission22I was talking with a trusted counselor recently about my personal journey towards emotional healing. One comment he made was that creativity is a sign of soul integration. When we less and less at odds within ourselves, one of the fruits of that inward singleness is a surging of creative energy. I’ve found that as I use less and less energy for activities like appearance management, self-protection and wrestling with inner conflict, that energy becomes available to me for far more eternally profitable work.

I’ve certainly found that to be true in terms of writing (both in An Unhurried Life and my work now on a second project). I’ve also found this to be true in speaking and training settings. It is no waste of time to give serious attention to the reformation and transformation of our souls. It is one of the most fruitful activities you can engage as a leader.

Click here to make any Amazon purchase in support of this blog.
This does not add to the cost of your order, but provides a referral fee to this ministry.
You can bookmark this link for future Amazon purchases.
[Click to learn more]

Knowledge As Idol


A fountain at the San Juan Capistrano Mission

A fountain at the San Juan Capistrano Mission

I’m quite grateful for my roots in the Evangelical tradition. I have received a deep appreciation for and knowledge of the scriptures that bless me (and I think others) every day. But there are times when such knowledge becomes more an idol than a gift. Listen to this quotation from one of the novels of George MacDonald in which one character highlights this problem to another:

“[Donal Grant answers Lady Arctura’s question, ‘How could all the good people be wrong?’] Because the greater part of the teachers among them have always set themselves more to explain God than to obey him. The gospel is given not to redeem our understandings, but our hearts; that done, and only then, our understandings will be free. If the things be true which I have heard from Sunday to Sunday in church since I came here, then the Lord brought us no salvation at all, but only a change of shape to our miseries. It has not redeemed you, Lady Arctura, and never will. Nothing but Christ himself for your very own teacher and friend and brother, not all the doctrines about him, even if every one of them were true, can save you.” (MacDonald, George. The Shepherd’s Castle. Ed. Michael R. Phillips. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1983, p. 97.)

Here, MacDonald’s character speaks to the difference between ideas about God and living encounter with God. The irony is that many who call themselves followers of Jesus have made an idol of their Christian ideas of doctrine or theology. They worship at the altar of theological accuracy rather than offering their religious intellect at the altar of Jesus Christ himself. One can tell the difference between the two by the kind of fruit that is borne.

Knowledge as idol can be recognized in the company of haughty arrogance, self-importance, impatience and contempt for those who don’t share their position, and harsh ridicule. I’m pretty sure none of these are fruits of the Spirit. I have recently had some self-appointed discernment experts send me some pretty ugly emails. Lucky me. I guess all it takes is writing a book and gaining a little bit of visibility to discover a sign painted on my chest.

Knowledge that builds up rather than puffing up is good friends with kindness, patience, gentleness, and genuine care for others. It knows what is truly central and what is peripheral. It remembers that the greatest commandment is not “have all the right answers as defined by your little theological neighborhood,” but “love God with all you are and all you have” and, of course, “love your neighbor.” There is a variety of knowledge that is miles from that command. 

Click here to make any Amazon purchase in support of this blog.
This does not add to the cost of your order, but provides a referral fee to this ministry.
You can bookmark this link for future Amazon purchases.
[Click to learn more]

Morning Prayer: Living in Jesus’s Life


Icon of the trinity

Icon of the trinity

[Good Saturday morning to you. Remember that I am blogging twice weekly over at The Leadership Institute blog, but only occasionally here. I'd love to have you come visit our leadership community blog. We posted a video there of my conversation at The Church at Rocky Peak last weekend on the theme of An Unhurried Life. You might enjoy viewing it at your leisure.

Meanwhile, here is a journal entry from a morning a little while back. I enjoy starting my day often reading, reflecting on and responding to some passage from the daily lectionary. I find the scriptures very nourishing in this way.]

Passage: John 14:18-31

Reading 1

Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. (John 14:19, 20 NIV)

“That day” will be after Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and ascension. The word that so captures me is simply “in.” There is something already true that I will one day “realize.” Real-ize. I don’t make it real. I simply wake up to the fact that all of this mutual indwelling really is the bottom line of my life.

Reading 2

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23 NIV)

Obedience and love go together. In the past, I wanted to figure out which caused the other. I’m not as captured with that question as I once was. Now I’m happy to see obedience as an expression of love and love as a fruit of obedience. I’m not interested in which is the chicken, which is the egg, and which came first.

I feel happy to be loved by the Father. I’m amazed at Father and Son making themselves at home in me. I am never alone, even when I am without human company. Obeying the teaching of Jesus is my way of remaining in him, in his counsel and direction. It doesn’t make much sense to name myself a “follower” but fail to follow. How can I be a “Christian” if my life is quite distant from Christ?

Reading 3

Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” (John 14:21 NLT)

Today, help me to see myself in you, remaining in your mentoring and counsel, following your lead in each task, conversation or engagement. I want to be close enough to see what you would reveal to me, not only for my benefit, but for the good of others with whom I might share. Today, I want to live in the conscious awareness of being beloved by both Father and Son.

I have learned by experience that there is life when I follow you, and emptiness and flatness when I wander away, even for a little while. Thank you for your Spirit’s presence to remind and empower me. 

Click here to make any Amazon purchase in support of this blog.
This does not add to the cost of your order, but provides a referral fee to this ministry.
You can bookmark this link for future Amazon purchases.
[Click to learn more]

No Life in Pretending and Hiding


8972007161_e92a2a8e68One of my morning habits lately has been to read and reflect on the lectionary passages for the day and journal any insights, questions, thanks, praise or prayers they might stir in. (I use a website lectionary and read the passages there).  This morning, a few lines from Psalm 32 were what I needed on this cool and overcast Orange county Saturday:

Ps 32:3-5 NRSV, “While I kept silence, my body wasted away
 through my groaning all day long. 
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
 my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
 Selah. Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
 and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’,
 and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
 Selah.”

Two selahs. This is worth really stopping and listening well. I need to let this soak in. When I pretend there is nothing wrong in or with me, I cease to abide. I wither and groan. I feel distant from divine favor. My strength dries up. Everything good that comes from communion with God evaporates. Pretending is life-draining.

But, as soon as I acknowledge what’s wrong, I come into the light, experience forgiveness and reconciliation, and enter back into the place of divine life, favor and grace. It’s about my connection or disconnection, nearness or distance from God. Humble confession restores my branch-connection to the vine.

Click here to make any Amazon purchase in support of this blog.
This does not add to the cost of your order, but provides a referral fee to this ministry.
You can bookmark this link for future Amazon purchases.
[Click to learn more]

Thomas Kelly on Unhurry


runner_new_york_city_blog_2614In my morning spiritual reading recently, I came across this in Thomas Kelly’s A Testament of Devotion:

“In some we regret a well-intentioned but feverish overbusyness, not completely the depths of peace, and we wish they would not blur the beauty of their souls by fast motion.” (Thomas Kelly. A Testament of Devotion. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1941, p. 43.)

There is an overbusyness–a variety of hurry–that blurs the beauty of who God has made us. This is a holy and living unhurry, rather than the sludgy, sluggish unhurry of laziness, procrastination or acedia. We keep thinking that the more we do, the more we will produce. But there are plenty of things we might do that aren’t actually productive at all. Go slow enough to express the beauty of your soul—the beauty of the image of God.

Click here to make any Amazon purchase in support of this blog.
This does not add to the cost of your order, but provides a referral fee to this ministry.
You can bookmark this link for future Amazon purchases.
[Click to learn more]