A Heartfelt Prayer: Eyes Off Myself

IMG_2738Most days I begin by journaling. Here is a prayer from my journal. It is good for us as leaders to be open to God about our shortcomings. It is also good to remind ourselves who he is, to tell him how we feel about him. 

Good morning, Lord. I realize as I begin my journal today that I often begin with me—my shortcomings, my frustration, my depression, my anxiety, my concerns, my needs—me, me, me. Even if I had the most unfaithful yesterday in human history, it would be better to start this day (and every one) focusing on You. Even if I had the most amazing yesterday ever, I am not the focus of my life!

Thank You, Father, that You are good. I am not good in myself, but You are always good. You are consistent, reliable goodness. You don’t go bad like the strawberries on our kitchen counter this morning. You are always fresh and true. Your care for me doesn’t wear thin or grow old. You don’t get tired of who I am. (You may lose patience and grow angry with the ways that I walk away from You rather than towards You, but You do not grow weary of me).

You are always right, but not in a small, “I-told-you-so” sort of way…

To read the rest of this post, please visit The Leadership Institute blog. I am posting there at least twice a week these days.

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The Lasting Influence of Jesus

A simple house in a small village in the Dominican Republic. Unimpressive, but beautiful

Good morning on this Saturday. It’s been a restful one for me this morning. I’m grateful. I was looking through some old posts on this site, and came across this one from a few years ago about the remarkable nature of Jesus’s lasting influence in the world. It’s worth a revisit: 

“[Jesus] did not leave a book; He did not leave an army; He did not leave an organization, in the ordinary sense. What He left, instead, was a little redemptive fellowship made up of extremely common people whose total impact was miraculous. Though the members were individually unworthy, the fellowship which they came to share was so far superior to the sum of its parts that it was not only able to survive and endure, but finally to dominate and to save.” (Elton Trueblood. “The Salt of the Earth.” The Yoke of Christ and Other Sermons. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1958, p. 25.)

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Recent Popular Posts

Greetings! I find myself praying and trusting that you have experienced something of the fresh affection and deep delight the Father and the Son feel for you in this fall season. I’m feeling deep gratitude for some of these myself.

I’m sending along this little email to link you to blog posts over the last couple of months that have been most visited. I hope one or two of them will prove encouraging to you in your spiritual life and leadership:

  • Morning Prayer: Overcoming Powerful Enemies” – This is one of those posts from a while back that has ended up being a commonly found Google search item. I share about overcoming my own powerful enemies of anxiety, fear, self-doubt and low confidence, based on Psalm 118:17-19 NIV.
  • Unhurried Life: Help Get the Word Out” – Towards the end of summer, I asked friends of the blog to get the word out about my book, An Unhurried Life, via Facebook, Twitter, Amazon reviews, blog posts, etc. I was grateful for so many who took initiative and helped spread the word. We saw quite a few new readers get on board. If you didn’t get a chance to participate, but would be willing now, please click through for a few suggestions of how you could now.
  • An Autumn Prayer” –  As we entered September, I shared my autumn prayer from a year ago. It was a prayer for focus and simplicity.
  • Five Soul Care Questions” – If you’ve been reading the blog recently, you’ll know that I just finished a six-part blog series on this theme. I took the five key questions of Romans 8:31-39 and reflected on them. There was a very positive response to these.
  • When You Can’t Pray for Yourself” – I shared and reflected on a great word from F. B. Meyer in his book The Secret of Guidance. The substance of his counsel? When you can’t pray for yourself, pray for someone else.
  • Psalm 3: The God Who Sustains Me” – In Psalm 3, David says, “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.” I reflected on what God’s sustaining has been like in my journey. 

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Popular Posts of the Last Month

I continue to be grateful for those of you who take time to reply to your email version of these posts or post comments here on the blog. Thank you. Below are posts that have received the most attention in the last 40 days or so:

  • Solitude Just For Introverts?” – I spoke to the assumption that practices like solitude are only for introverts, and that extroverts would be better off practicing more communal or engaged disciplines.
  • Book Review: Reading the Christian Spiritual Classics” – I shared a few thoughts about this book edited by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel.
  • When Prayer is Realized” – I reflected on Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:16-19, imagining what a Christian community would look like if this prayer were deeply answered in it.
  • Practicing the Presence of God” – I listed here many different ways this spiritual practice has been identified in various Christian traditions and by various authors.
  • An Unhurried Life: Relaxed Outreach” – Adam Hartel, a current participant in The Journey, shares a story of how An Unhurried Life is helping him practice a more unhurried approach to reaching out to his community in Amsterdam.
  • An Unexpected Path to Freedom” – I shared a quotation from Anthony Bloom about how the journey of the Israelites from Egypt to the promised land via the wilderness is a metaphor for our own journey from spiritual slavery to spiritual freedom.
  • Playing Games With God” – I reflected on a quotation by Robert Mulholland about how our practice of faith can actually be more rooted in our false, old self rather than in a real, true self rooted in Jesus.

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Popular Posts of the Last Quarter

Below are among the most visited posts of the last three months. Two major events drove a lot of blog activity: 1) The publishing of my book, An Unhurried Life, in April and 2) the death of Dallas Willard in May.

  • Notes from Knowing Christ Conference” – Following Dallas Willard’s passing in May, many of the pages of notes, including my 20 posts from this February conference in Santa Barbara, have been, by far, my most visited pages on the blog. This page lists a link to all 20 posts from that conference, as well as a downloadable Word document of the whole.
  • Morning Prayer: Overcoming Powerful Enemies” – This post from December is a journal reflection from Psalm 118 I wrote in the midst of finishing my manuscript for An Unhurried Life.
  • Dallas Willard: An Unhurried Life” – I mention in the first few pages of my book that a couple of comments Dallas made on the theme of unhurry were significant catalysts for writing An Unhurried Life. In this post, I share a few reflections on participating, with Gem, in Dallas’s memorial and graveside service on May 14.
  • The Sin of Overwork” – Here I shared a quotation from Reginald Somerset Ward on this theme. Many highly engaged Christian leaders are quick to feel the guilt of underwork or possible laziness, but not the guilt of overwork.
  • An Unhurried Life: A Month in Review” – This is a post listing blog reviews and radio interviews related to my book.
  • Being in God for the World” – This is a post sharing a very powerful quotation from Robert Mulholland’s book The Deeper Journey. 

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Psalm 145: Always Praiseworthy

Verse 2: “Every day I will praise you
and extol your name forever and ever.”

David says, “Every day, for the rest of my life, I will praise You and extol Your name.” Every day, David will remind himself of just Who You are, and acknowledge You with his words, his singing and his life. I want to do this for the rest of my life as well, King Jesus. You are more than worthy of every expression of praise I have strength to give. When I focus my life on any part of me—my concerns, my devotion, my work, my requests, whatever—my life is diminished. When I turn my attention to You, my life is enriched and revitalized. I am so slow to learn this. You are always worthy of my praise. Always. Always. Always.

(Yesterday, I arrived in Jarabacoa in the Dominican Republic for the Journey Gen 1 with a group of mostly pastors here.  I’d be grateful if you’d pray for our time together through Thursday midday. I am hopeful that Jesus will continue the deep work of personal transformation and ministry discernment that began here two years ago.)

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A Tribute to Dallas Willard

You may or may not have heard that this morning, Dallas Willard lost his ongoing battle with cancer but won the realization of the eternal life in Jesus he so beautifully described and embodied. I cannot find words to express how deeply our lives and our work at The Leadership Institute have been touched by his.

In February, I was grateful to attend the “Knowing Christ” conference held in Santa Barbara. Dallas and John Ortberg shared the teaching role. It was such a powerful experience. I ended up with twenty posts of my notes and reflections from those days. I gathered up all the links and put them on one page. I offer them to you as a tribute from us at The Leadership Institute to Dallas’ life and work.

As a starting point, the most read of those twenty posts was Dallas’s “Eternal Life Begins Now.” It was the opening presentation and I broke my notes from that one into four parts. It is so very rich and insightful.

On behalf of the team here at The Leadership Institute, grace be with you.


P.S. – An Unhurried Life is preparing to ship from Amazon, but the Kindle version is live now. I share in the first few pages that a couple of insights from Dallas Willard served as catalysts for this project. (It is possible now to purchase other ebook formats at ivpress.com).

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is the hollow space between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Here, we may remember the burial of Jesus. It isn’t the agonizing pain and suffering of the cross, nor the exuberant joy and celebration of the resurrection. It is the quiet, uninspiring, soldier-guarded grave that we remember.

Good Friday is Christ dying. Easter is Christ risen. But Holy Saturday is just Christ dead and emtombed. From those first disciples’ perspective, it’s a day when all hope is lost. It’s a meager day. In some traditions of the church, no services are held. It is a liturgically sparse day.

The gospels have much to say of the Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday story, but precious little to say about Holy Saturday. Matthew tells the story of the chief priests and Pharisees meeting to discuss how to deal with Jesus’s claims that he would rise again after three days (27:62-66). They decide to guard the tomb so nothing like that happens. Luke happens to mention that the disciples rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment (23:56b). What else could they have done that day?

Maybe there aren’t many Holy Saturday services (as opposed to early Saturday celebrations of Easter in larger Protestant churches) because we want to feel something: pain or pleasure. Holy Saturday is a day when the disciples live not in the sharp pain, but the dull ache of loss. The grave is, obviously, a lifeless place.

On this Holy Saturday, it may help to think about any places in which you feel lifeless. A hope or dream has died. Zest or gusto for life has waned. Perhaps today you can let these places in your life be buried with Him, resting and waiting for the power of God’s Spirit to raise Him (and you) up. Perhaps today can be the dark backdrop against which the bright joy of Easter stands out.

(from a April 2010 post)

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Good Friday Timeline

A couple of years ago, I did a little research to post a timeline of the events of Good Friday. It helped me reflect with gratitude on the grace of Jesus towards me that day:

  • About 8am: “Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified (Jn 19:16)
  • 9am: It was the third hour when they crucified him (Mk 15: 25)
  • About 10am: The soldiers mocked him, …[calling] out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” (Lk 23:36-37)
  • About 11am: Criminal: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus: “Today you will be with me in paradise” Lk 23:42-43
  • Noon: At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour (Mk 15:33)
  • 3pm: Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Mt 27:46
  • A little after 3pm: Jesus: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” He then breathed his last Lk 23:46
  • About 6pm: Joseph of Arimathea takes Jesus’ body down, wraps it in linen and places it in a tomb (Lk 23:50-53)
(I found About.com’s Christianity page a helpful resource here)

Top Ten Posts of 2012

Top-10-ListThanks for your interest in this blog over the year. It’s hard to believe I’ve got over 1,400 posts here. Over the last year, here the the most visited ones, #10 to #1. (I’m not including static pages like my bio, calendar, etc.)

The “Ministry Burnout Statistics” post from June 2009 is still the most visited page, with more  hits than #2-4 combined. The “Hiatus for Israel Trip” in March is an odd one in that all I wrote there was that I wasn’t going to be posting much because I’d be in Israel for two weeks. I think it got so many hits because of concern about conditions in Israel. The title looks like I might be talking about holding off on planned visits, but I’m not sure.

May you have a 2013 full of new experiences of the unhurried grace, mercy, peace and love of Jesus.