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The Slow Growth of New Rhythm

This past spring I was invited to develop a Rule/Rhythm of Life, a plan for living in such a way that fosters love for God, love for my neighbor, and care for myself.

Since purposeful engagement and intentionality is what I’m being called toward and since distraction, sloth, and meaningless activity are my personal kryptonite, I was grateful for this invitation to be intentional about connecting with God, engaging with others, and honoring my identity as God’s beloved child.

What I found, however, is that making a “Rule” and making it my “Rhythm” are two different things. Both require the ministry of God’s Holy Spirit, but one happened with a few days of reflection; the other is taking much longer. 

If I want to be purposeful about my days, I need to get up and get going in the morning without getting distracted. And if I want to do that, I need to go to bed with a plan for morning and I need to go to bed at a time that allows for adequate rest. These are written into my Rule of Life — have been since the end of March — but they are oh-so-slowly becoming my Rhythm of Life. 

This morning’s sunrise run marked progress: I woke at six fully rested, pulled on my running clothes laid out last night, grabbed my Bible for Thursday morning prayer at 7:30 at the church, and headed off to the reservoir where for three miles I celebrated slow growth and new beginnings with God under a beautiful morning sky.

Now, I know that people see sunrises all the time. But I don’t. For me to be up, dressed, outside, and heading purposefully into my day by this time represents growth. I had to stop once or twice to take in the beauty and celebrate with pictures. And as I rounded the last bend, God greeted me with a tiny little rainbow right in front of me. I think many saw the sunrise today, but the rainbow just might have been God’s smile as he celebrated with me.


How about you? Where are you seeing signs of growth in your life? Remember to celebrate them with the Giver of new life. (He might even send a little rainbow to your party just to delight your soul.)


New Year? No Fear.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen 

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys to death and Hades.”                      (Revelation 1:5-6, 17-18)

“Fear not.” Beautiful words with which to begin a new year.

“Fear not.” 

Reading the first chapter of Revelation today, I took note of Jesus’ words: Fear not. I love these two words, because at one time in my life fear had a strong hold on me. For this reason, I love whenever I find Jesus or an angel of God telling people not to be afraid.

These particular passages remind me on this first day of a new year that I do not have to be afraid. An unknown year stretches ahead of me. Events will arise that I cannot foresee and have no control over. People I love will face difficult times. I myself might. But I have nothing to fear. 

Why not? Because Jesus, my Savior, the Messiah of Israel and King of the Kingdom of God, has done great things for me. He has done great things for you. Let’s draw near and see.

First, he loves me! He loves you. His first and every impulse toward us is love. His desire for us is for our well-being and our blessing.

I can trust his heart toward me. I will not be afraid.

Second, he has freed us from our sins. This is more than forgiveness — although he has done that, too. He has provided forgiveness for our sins, taken away our guilt, but more than that he has freed us from slavery to sin. Because of him we can live good and godly lives.

He enables me to live in victory and freedom. I will not be afraid.

He also has made his followers into a kingdom. Jesus has made a people of us. He has brought the Kingdom of God to earth and invited us into it. He has formed us who were not a people into his people, his kingdom, one over which he reigns.

I am a citizen in his kingdom. I will not be afraid.

And lastly in this passage, he has made us to be priests to God. I had to look into this a bit. But I found (here) that priests’ duties in the Bible were to serve as mediators of God’s presence. Priests made offering and sacrifices before God on behalf of the people, mediating man to God. They also mediated God to man by carrying the word of God to people through teaching the law, discerning his will, and pronouncing blessings. And now Jesus has made us to be priests. He has given us the privilege of this holy commission. We are called to be mediators of God’s presence. We are called to minister offerings of worship to God and to carry his ways and blessings to others.

I am chosen as a priest of God. I will not be afraid.

To top all this off, he lives. Forevermore. These weren’t just deeds  he accomplished long ago and then stepped aside. No, he lives — continuing forevermore all he began — continuing to love us, free us, include us as citizens in his kingdom, and allow me to minister to God. He isn’t going anywhere.

And finally, this Savior who loves me and cares for me and provides a people, a place, and a calling for me, also holds the keys to death and Hades. In his death and resurrection, he has defeated and is now master over them. With him I am safe — forevermore. 

My Savior lives forevermore as victor over hell and death. I will not be afraid.

What about you? Are you anxious about this new year? Are you fearful for yourself, your family, your community, or your country? If so, draw near this living One who loves you. Get to know him better. Ask him to lay his hand on you and speak his peace into you. And step into the new year with no fear. Listen to him say to you, 

“Fear not.”



Morning Meditations: Hebrews (Day 2)

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,  and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”  (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Again I am amazed at your plan, Yahweh. Your love and your wisdom are beyond understanding, that you conceived of such a plan and carried it out. In Jesus — coming in flesh and blood to live among and experience all the evils of this world in a frail earthly body like mine, being made like me in every respect, and suffering the wrath of my enemy — in this Jesus, you have destroyed the devil and his power of death and destruction.

And I am no longer afraid! I am not a slave to fear. You have conquered the enemy and have conquered death and you have set me free. You have given me liberty!

I receive your gift and live in your freedom!

Called In, Sent Out (Mk 3:13-19)

Meditating on Mark — Mark 3:13-19

(I’m reading slowly through the book of Mark, seeking what I can learn about God and about being a follower of Jesus from each passage. I’m also letting my imagination get involved and trying to crawl into each story, to let it speak to me as it will and to respond from inside. I’ve decided to share some of them here as I go along and would love to hear your comments and reflections on the same scriptures.)

“And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.” (English Standard Version)

Jesus and the disciples.jpg

I find myself yearning to do great things for God. Oh, I don’t mean great things as in preaching to thousands in stadium events around the world or writing best-selling books that move people closer to God. The great things I long for are everyday great things like speaking and acting in love every day in every relationship and initiating and making the most of conversations that lead the people around me closer to God. I long to bear fruit for the kingdom of God, fruit that will last (from my favorite chapter of the Bible — John 15). I want to be like the disciples here: sent out to preach and teach and heal and to have authority even over the demons that plague people I meet.

My hand shoots up and my heart cries out, “Pick me, Jesus! Pick me to send! Use me, Lord!”

But today I noticed these words: “that they might be with him”.

When Jesus called the twelve, he called them for the purpose of sending them out. He was soon to entrust to them, and to the hundred or so other followers around him, the impossible task of taking the Good News from God into the entire world — the people all around them, the people all around the world, and the people who would come with every succeeding generation. He called the twelve for ministry — to go and to do. He called them to commission them. He called in them to send them out. 

But first he called them to be with him. There were days and months and years of being with Jesus before they were sent out. And that time was spent simply being with Jesus. During that time they learned from him. They listened to him and questioned him and watched him. They saw what he did and how he did it and they learned why he did it and for what purpose. During that time their hearts and minds were transformed, shaped for the sending.

Oh, God, thank you for this reminder! I want to go and do and make a difference in my world. Help me remember to stop and “be with you”. I want to, I need to, spend time with you. I need to know your heart and to be transformed by you. I need to be empowered by your Spirit. I know this comes only by being present with you — conversing with you and reading your Word. 

I come to you, Father, today, to be with you. I will live a life of being with you. I’m yours to teach, to transform, to equip. And I am yours to send in your authority to bear fruit for your kingdom. Call me in, Lord, and send me out!

Stiff-Necked or Stretched Out (Mk 3:1-6)

Meditating on Mark — Mark 3:1-6

(I’m reading slowly through the book of Mark, seeking what I can learn about God and about being a follower of Jesus from each passage. I’m also letting my imagination get involved and trying to crawl into each story, to let it speak to me as it will and to respond from inside. I’ve decided to share some of them here as I go along and would love to hear your comments and reflections on the same scriptures.)

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.   (English Standard Version)

The Man With The Withered Hand

It doesn’t seem that anything grieved Jesus like this silence, this refusal. These men had heard Jesus teach and seen him perform miracles. They absolutely knew that he spoke truth, yet they refused to yield to it. They saw miracles and refused to believe. In fact, in this instance, immediately after witnessing this miracle with their own eyes, rather than following Jesus, they began to plot his death. 

I can’t imagine anyone doing this. Who could be so stiff-necked? But then, with little effort, I can feel that hardness of heart. I can remember in my body the refusal — refusal to be moved, feet planted, legs stiff, shoulders squared, hands shoved in pockets, chin up, jaw set, eyes hard, and heart unyielding. I’ll do it my own way, thank you. Don’t tell me what is right; I’ve got this figured out. 

Today I ponder the contrast between the man with the withered hand and the Jewish leaders. I think it was this: The man’s simple response. See, the leaders hardened their hearts, refused to respond, and both they and Jesus became angry. But the man stretched out his hand. That’s all he did. He simply reached toward Jesus. But in so doing he responded to Jesus’ call and he was healed, and I’m pretty sure the atmosphere in that room changed as undoubtedly both he and Jesus rejoiced.  

Oh, Lord, it isn’t just the Scribes and Pharisees. Sometimes it’s me, too. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me. I don’t ever want to grieve you. I don’t want to have a stubborn heart. Guard me from hardness; keep my heart soft. Keep me pliable in your hands. Give me always a responsive spirit. I stretch out my hands and my heart to you. Teach me, shape me, soften my heart. Let me always hear your voice and let me always respond. Oh, patient and loving God, I don’t ever want to grieve you.

A Friend Like That (Mk 2:1-12)

Meditating on Mark in Lent — Mark 2:1-12 

(I’m reading slowly through the book of Mark, seeking what I can learn about God and about being a follower of Jesus from each passage. I’m also letting my imagination get involved and trying to crawl into each story, to let it speak to me as it will and to respond from inside. I’ve decided to share some of them here as I go along and would love to hear your comments and reflections on the same scriptures.)

And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven. . . But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

What kind of people cause such a scene? The house was packed with people who had arrived before them. The good seats were already taken. In fact, all the seats were taken. Even the doorway was filled with the later arrivals, too late to squeeze into the house and settling on listening and peering in from outside.

And then these men came. They were too late, the house packed with even the SRO tickets sold out. The show had already begun; Jesus was teaching.

But these men didn’t let that stop them. They were going to get their friend in front of Jesus. They knew what Jesus could do, they wanted their friend well, and they weren’t going to wait. Right in the middle of the teaching, interrupting the great teacher himself, not caring that they were interrupting, not caring what he would think or how their disruption would annoy the others, they removed the roof and got their friend in front of Jesus.

Mark 2 1-12

Can you imagine what the others in the room thought? What were their reactions? Hey, we were here first! Wait your turn. Who do you think you are?

And how did Jesus respond? Was he startled at the unexpected interruption? At what point did Jesus realize what was happening? What was his reaction — at first to the noise and disturbance and then to the realization of what was going on? I can imagine a slow grin appearing on his face and a twinkle in his eye as he saw the crazy bold faith of these friends. I imagine his delight at their tenacious love and faith. I imagine him thinking, “Now, this is a story that will be told for eternity.” And then he healed the man and the crowd, astounded at what they had seen, praised God.

Jesus, give me friends like this, friends who will go to great lengths to bring me to you.

And, Jesus, let me be a friend like that.

Fill me, Holy Spirit, Power of God, fill me with this kind of bold love and faith. Move through me to bring people to Jesus. And move in healing, Jesus, that people would be amazed at what you do and glorify God.


If You Will, You Can (Mk 1:35-45)

Meditating on Mark in Lent — Mark 1:35-45 

I’m reading slowly through the book of Mark during Lent this year, seeking what I can learn about God and what I can learn about being a follower of Jesus from each passage. I’m also letting my imagination get involved and trying to crawl into each story, to let it speak to me as it will and to respond from inside. I’ve decided to share some of them here as I go along and would love to hear your comments and reflections on the same scriptures.

If you are willing

And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.                                                (Mk 1:41-42, English Standard Version)

“If you will, you can. . .” This man came to Jesus with plenty of faith — faith, that is, in Jesus’ ability. What he was lacking, though, was faith in Jesus’ heart. He seemed to have no doubt that Jesus could heal him, but he wasn’t sure if Jesus would want to. 

“If you will, you can. . .”

After all who would blame Jesus if he didn’t want to? No one else wanted to be near this man, or the many like him. No one else wanted to chance making themselves unclean by getting close enough for an accidental touching, a chance brushing up against. No one else wanted to risk infection with the disease themselves.

Everyone stayed safely away. No one touched him. How long had it been since anyone had touched this man? Did he remember what did it feel like to be touched by another? Had he resigned himself to living the rest of his life without human touch?

But Jesus was moved with pity and did the unthinkable. Jesus touched him. There was no reason he needed to. He had healed many with his touch. But he also had healed many with only his words. Some, in fact, were in another location, perhaps another city, when Jesus spoke and made them well. But that’s not what he did in this story. Moved by compassion for the man — heart as well as body — he reached out and placed his hands on the man, unclean as the man was. And the man was healed.

If anyone else had touched the man, the person would have been made unclean. But not Jesus. When Jesus touched this man, the opposite happened. Jesus wasn’t made dirty; the man was made clean.

And this, friends, is the story of the incarnation, the story of our salvation.

Moved with pity, God, through Jesus, stretched out to touch us in our defiled, sinful, unclean state. And rather than God becoming defiled by our sin, we were made clean!

If we had a God with desire to heal us but lacking the ability to do so, we would be lost. And if we had a God with the ability to heal us but without the desire, we would be just as lost. But thanks be to God! Our Creator is our Redeemer! Our God has both the ability and the desire to save us!

Oh, God, glory to your name! You haven’t left us without hope, for you have everything we need for salvation. You, Lord, have both the ability and the desire to make me clean!