Practicing the Presence of God #abideinChrist

practice the presence of God

Over the 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus trained His disciples to practice His presence.
He was with them . . . then He wasn’t.
They were alone then He appeared.
Sometimes they saw Him physically and sometimes they did not recognize Him until He did a familiar action, like break bread or pray, but they began to realize the relationship they had with Jesus would be practiced differently.

He told them He was leaving and sending the Holy Spirit to be their counselor and comforter. He promised always to be with them even if they couldn’t see Him. “Don’t be afraid, Surely I am with you always.” God’s commands are often tied to God’s promises to encourage and strengthen us.

Jesus last two visual teaching moments were about a vineyard and a fishing net but they symbolized the same great truth. Abide with me and I will bring a harvest (of fruit) and an overflowing net (full of fish). Cooperate with me and I will take your willingness and weakness and add it to My will and supernatural power and bring about God’s fullest blessing of influence, responsibility and opportunity to make a mark for the glory of God.

Abiding is the practice of saturating ourselves with God’s word and being in the continual fellowship of God’s presence.  When we fail to abide, a believer becomes captive to his circumstances where thinking is based on emotions of the moment and his actions are based on the impulses of his old nature. Apart from Christ habitual sins easily consume us until they are compulsions repeated addictively that give us a name- greedy, gossip, angry, worried. When our gazes glance away from Christ we get distracted by the things of this world and become afraid by the things we can’t control. And when we realize where we’ve ended up…awareness hits, we’re ashamed and we hide when we really need to turn quickly and return to our loving God.  I love the encouragement from Brother Lawrence in his magnificent little book “The practice of the Presence of God,” and include three things he said about abiding.

On knowing himself and know his God he confessed: “I regard myself as the most wretched of all men, stinking and covered with sores, and as one who has committed all sorts of crimes against his King. Overcome by remorse, I confess all my wickedness to Him, ask His pardon and abandon myself entirely to Him to do with as He will. But this King, filled with goodness and mercy, far from chastising me, lovingly embraces me, makes me eat at His table, serves me with His own hands, gives me the keys of His treasures and treats me as His favorite. He talks with me and is delighted with me in a thousand and one ways; He forgives me and relieves me of my principle bad habits without talking about them; I beg Him to make me according to His heart and always the more weak and despicable I see myself to be, the more beloved I am of God.”
― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

On the love of God he gave this truth: “The difficulties of life do not have to be unbearable. It is the way we look at them – through faith or unbelief – that makes them seem so. We must be convinced that our Father is full of love for us and that He only permits trials to come our way for our own good.

Let us occupy ourselves entirely in knowing God. The more we know Him, the more we will desire to know Him. As love increases with knowledge, the more we know God, the more we will truly love Him. We will learn to love Him equally in times of distress or in times of great joy.”
― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

On Prayer and meditation he gave this encouragement: “When the mind, for want of being sufficiently reduced by recollection at our first engaging in devotion, has contracted certain bad habits of wandering and dissipation, they are difficult to overcome, and commonly draw us, even against our wills, to the things of the earth.

I believe one remedy for this is to confess our faults, and to humble ourselves before God. I do not advise you to use multiplicity of words in prayer: many words and long discourses being often the occasions of wandering. Hold yourself in prayer before God, like a dumb or paralytic beggar at a rich man’s gate. Let it be your business to keep your mind in the presence of the Lord. If it sometimes wander and withdraw itself from Him, do not much disquiet yourself for that: trouble and disquiet serve rather to distract the mind than to re-collect it: the will must bring it back in tranquility. If you persevere in this manner, God will have pity on you.”
― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

I say three but I mean four, on abiding he clarifies: “He does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.”
― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

To order this Christian classic follow this link:

The Practice of the Presence of God

And watch for how the Fury practices the presence of God in the FURY series books by J.L. Kelly to see abiding in action in a Christian Character.

The FURY Series by J.L. Kelly. An Intense Epic Where Two Worlds Collide.
The FURY Series by J.L. Kelly.
An Intense Epic Where Two Worlds Collide.

Witness Through These Words

Thanks for following along with me this Lent
in the Witness Through These Words blogs.

These 47 Words through Lent gave me a lot to think about each day and I hope they inspired you as God inspired me.
Soli Deo Gloria.

it's a new day choose joy

Remember, Easter is our chance to start a new.
To return to the Lord. To be, renewed.

God became flesh in His Son, Jesus Christ and at the cross, He took all the sin of humanity on himself, bearing it in His body until He became sin and offers us to count sin dead and buried with Him, believing that in the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus came back to life, conquering sin and death in resurrection to give us abundantly life today and eternal life tomorrow.  Believing by faith in this truth we make the great exchange with Jesus and receive His free gift of salvation. Now God no longer sees us as sinners, but as righteous in Christ.

I love how Steve Thomason taught that, “On Easter God hit the massive “Restart” button on the universe”, and we all have a chance for a mighty do-over, to begin fresh, free from guilt and shame and live loved.

I pray that my witness of these words through Lent was a springboard for your own meditations.

Sign up (on the left) to get notified by email of new blog posts as I continue to write as a witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Or follow my Pinterest board for short recaps of the blogs.

And FURY book two Echo is coming soon.

FURY Book Two ECHO by JL Kelly

ECHO should sound familiar. Book Two of the FURY series resonates with the aftermath of adversity after Jaclyn Cooper’s rescue and return. Recovering in her father’s house, her recent abduction feels like a bomb blast. The initial explosion of Eros leaving concentric circles of destruction. There is wounding shrapnel that leaves scars, explosive heat that burns like anger and a force of energy that leaves her strangely numb even as the nightmares echo like ringing in the ears. Then almost instantaneous there is the mysterious countering blast wind that fills the void with an equal and unstoppable force. Echo proves that God is the FURY of the blast wind, always counterbalancing and equalizing the force of evil in a believer’s life and through the Spirit’s sanctification, causing all things to work together for good.
In Book Two of the FURY series, Jaclyn Cooper is learning to accept the new normal of her life. To heal she must move through the stages of numbness and anger, to choose forgiveness over vengeance and realize the divine deliverance of God’s presence. God. With you there. Yes, even there. In the unimaginable horrible moment when He allowed the worst adversity to come against you.
Echo is the story of sacrifice, rivalry and revenge. It is the recovery process of finding the truth a midst the rumbling distractions of feelings and expectations.
Echo reminds us we all must remember. And in the Hebrew tradition, make present God by rehearsing our story in His story until we find the reality of the truth—God was always with us. Even there. When normal blew up and a new normal was formed.
Echo is the parable of how God turns evil’s wounds into victory’s scars.
FURY Book Two Echo continues the intense epic where two worlds collide in a gripping love story of rescue and redemption.
Echo is an intense and original perspective about the furious healing love of God.


Life. Day 47 of Lent. How to feel alive.

Life. Day 47 of Lent. How to feel alive.


Life. It’s really what it’s all about. Being alive. Feeling alive.
We know death when we see it. Simply it’s the absence of life.
And it makes most oddly uncomfortable.

If you are ever alone and just stop to sit still and be, instead of do,
usually an unsettling awareness begins to form.
It usually gets most people up and moving quickly, because its uncomfortable that feeling, of being aware of who we really are authentically, of being who we are instead of doing something to feel like somebody.

The problem is shame, that dawning awareness that something is wrong with me.

Man’s solution since the fall is to engage our ‘knowledge of good and evil’ to fix this uncomfortable feeling. We don’t like the growing awareness that something is wrong with us so fix #1 is to convince ourselves its not us but someone/something else who has made us feel this way.  Get rid of that someone/something and wa-lah problem solved.  But it’s not…

Fix # 2, we hide.  We cover up this awful awareness. We add on personality to mask the shame. By the time we are teenagers we’ve developed a distinct pattern of coping with this feeling. We are a personality type– each one of us. Hiding is the beginning of the ability to lie to ourselves and believe we can fix the problem our self and so we arm our self with ego and put on the mask of ‘its all good’.

Fix #3, we work to fix it.  To relieve the sensation and hide the truth that something is wrong with us, we set about fixing everything and everyone except the condition worsens, the defenses strengthen, the lie grows stronger and the emptiness grows deeper because fixing it is really just arm wrestling with ourselves. We can’t fix it.

Fix #4, we fill it. To fix this feeling of emptiness because we still believe the lie since we mask the shame, we stuff things into our life to make us ‘feel better’. We find hobbies and habits. We eat and smoke and drink. We enjoy shopping and sex and other temporary pleasures. We seek after power and prosperity. We rule and we control and we get really good at it.  But we never can quite fill our own emptiness.  Because built into this emptiness is a ‘way of knowing’ that makes it very unlikely we will even see our problem, much less agree that the problem exists.

The things that people do that we think of as sinful are a result of this emptiness that can not be filled. No one likes to feel empty.
We all want to feel alive.

We ache, deep, deep down under the false filling and the fixing and the armor of our personality, in the soul we ache to feel alive. This is the problem with the human race, its not just bad behavior we traditionally have called sin, the problem with the human race is emptiness because we are separated from God. We are empty of the thing that makes us most who we are and make us feel fully alive. We are empty, dead inside and it drives us all towards something, anything that will soothe the uncomfortable awareness that something is not right.

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you,” Augustine once determined.

And there comes a moment for each of us too, when we realize even though we are faking it and fixing it to feel alive, we are really dead inside. This is why our quest to feel alive is so intense.
Who wants to feel dead? No one wants to feel dead.
And it is this death in me that makes it so uncomfortable, even painful, for me to be alone with me, to just be instead of do.

Jesus died to exchange the life in Him for the death in me.

Jesus said “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

When people talk with words like redemption and salvation and being saved they are speaking about this exchange. Death for life. Our death for His life, His death so that we can be alive.

Jesus came to offer you this great exchange. To die to forgive me for who I am, not just what I have done.  Jesus death and resurrection sets me free from who I have become- the fixer and filler and faker hiding from my awareness of the dead emptiness inside of me.
Jesus opens the door to make a connection again to the source of life.  Christ says I can be born again. And I must be if I want to live.

I want to live. I want to feel alive.
If you ache to fill that emptiness then tell God, your source of life, the cry of your heart. Receive the free gift of eternal life by faith, trusting in the finished work of Christ death on the cross for you, where He exchanged your sins for His righteousness. Jesus called that being born again. Born again, I am born from the breath of my Father God and not the womb of my mother. This is a spiritual birth and I am reconnected to the source of Life.  Born again we are spiritual men and women again, with the Holy Spirit deposited into our very being.

We are alive!

Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'”  But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” John 7:37

The word “innermost being” is the Greek koilos, meaning hole or empty place. It is often translated belly or womb. In Jn 7, Jesus is describing a spiritual empty place in the heart of man, not a physical belly or womb. This empty place is the source of thirst and the divine solution to this hunger/thirst is to fill it with living water from the Holy Spirit.

Born again, we are filled with the Spirit of God. Filled we can overflow with this aliveness and influence others with the love and power of God.

Today, maybe you are a Christian and you still feel that aching emptiness. Maybe you’ve agreed with the faking, filling and fixing that goes on as we try to ‘feel alive’ apart from God in the ‘old man’ style of self-sufficiency.  Maybe you’re still uncomfortable being and only comfortable doing. May I suggest you stop fixating on the outward behaviors of your life and fix your focus on Jesus Himself.

Abide with Christ. And let Him fan into flame that passionate animation of abundant life connected to Him. Abiding allows the Spirit of God to fill us and fulfill us as we find passion and purpose living as we were made to be. Abiding with Christ we are aware of grace instead of shame.  We find love and we realize we are loved exactly as we are as God continues to transform us into what He was ordained for us to be.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Live loved.

#Silence. Day 46 of #Lent. The tomb of Christ.

Silence. Day 46 of Lent. The tomb of Christ.

hans holbein the-body-of-the-dead-christ

In the silence of Saturday our focus is on the Tomb of Christ.
This is no ordinary grave. It is not a place of corruption, decay and defeat. It is life-giving, a source of power, victory and liberation.
A day between the horror of his sacrificial death and the joy of His resurrection, the day is full of watchful expectation. Just as the Sabbath is our rest and reflection day, our foretaste of our final eternal rest with God, so this silent Saturday is our foretaste of anticipation when mourning is transformed into joy.
The day embodies in the fullest possible sense the meaning of xarmolipi – joyful-sadness, the bittersweet emotion that is the wonder of the holy week.

Saturday is the day of the pre-eminent rest.
Christ observes a Sabbath rest in the tomb. His rest, however, is not inactivity but the fulfillment of the divine will and plan for the salvation of humankind and the cosmos. He who brought all things into being, makes all things new. The re-creation of the world has been accomplished once and for all. Through His incarnation, life and death Christ has filled all things with Himself He has opened a path for all flesh to the resurrection from the dead, since it was not possible that the author of life would be dominated by corruption.

Paul tells us that: “God was in Jesus Christ reconciling the world to Himself” 2 Cor 5:19 Eternal life and light Himself penetrated the depths of Hades. Christ who is the life of all destroyed death by His work on the cross. That is why the Church sings joyously ” Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son; endless is the victory, thou o’er death hast won.”

The solemn observance of silent Saturday helps us to recall and celebrate the great truth that by faith we are buried with Christ, seeing in Christ’s burial our own burial of all of our sins, of our past life. Our sin is dead and buried with Christ. Like burning a bridge we can’t go back. The victorious life is hindered by the memory and rehearsal of past failures. We can not live the abundant life when we continue to cultivate a root of bitterness over past injustices done to us by others or of our own sins we feel are unforgivable—all must be given over to Jesus today to be good and buried with him. To participate in Christ’s burial is to put away once and for all the old ways of thinking, the former wrong emotions and habits and attitudes toward God and others and our self in order to be completely free from the past to live a new resurrected life. As we choose to live as though buried with Christ, the power of His work on our behalf makes us realize that the memory as well as the influence of former habits has lost its power and is truly dead and buried.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”
1 Cor 15:16-17

#Darkness. Day 45 of #Lent. It’s three o’clock on #GoodFriday

Darkness. Day 45 of Lent. It’s three o’clock on GoodFriday

jesus on cross

It’s three o’clock,
Light rolls back,
the sky turns black, thunder groans across the horizons.

It’s three o’clock,
“Ichabod!” a dismayed mother calls her son home,
Unable to give reason to the swollen, angry black sky.
She covers her head with her shawl,
the air heavy with the chill of darkness
“Get in the house,” she pulls and threatens, “Get in now!”

It’s three o’clock.
A bleary bartender twists away from a prattling patron,
to notice the sky. Is startled, but only for a moment.
“Pour me another!”
He turns back to the wine, the world, the aching addicts.

It’s three o’clock.
Quick! The Sabbath comes in three hours.
“Break their legs,” the Centurion commands the soldiers.
They smash their bones with fist-thick clubs.
Impatience hears no agony.

It’s three o’clock.
In darkness the Nazarene sags into His agony.
Crowned with the curse.
Betrayed, beaten, battered to a cross.
The Cup empty of the dregs.
His heart is brim full—
Gasping to finish.
Accepting all.

Yours and mine. Every sin.
Stuffed in his holy frame.
Every choice, from everyone
They fill him.
And the shame and guilt no longer can hide.
They become His.
He becomes sin.

It’s three o’clock.
Wrath finds its vengeance.
The earth shakes.
A curtain rips.
A spear pierced side sheds its Passover blood,
and the cleansing water pours forth.
The final sacrifice is accepted.
And Jesus the King of the Jews has died.

Tenebrae – Latin for darkness

Nothing reminds us of the weight of sin like darkness.

Does cold exist? In fact cold does not exist. According to the laws of physics, what we consider cold is in reality the absence of heat.

Does darkness exist?  Darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in reality the absence of light. Light we can study, but not darkness.

Evil does not exist. It is just like darkness and cold. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happened when man does not have God’s love present in his heart” Albert Einstein

Meal. Day 44 of Lent. Christ our Passover Lamb.

Meal. Day 44 of Lent. Christ our Passover Lamb.

The symbolism of the Passover

Passover-lamb #lent

Passover is the retelling of the great story of how God redeemed the Jewish nation from enslavement in Egypt. The celebration centers around the Passover lamb which was sacrificed and its blood put over the doorposts as a sign of faith after the Lord told then He would Pass Over the home during the last plague killing every firstborn in Egypt.

The Passover lamb was to be a “male without defect.” When the lamb was roasted and eaten, none of its bones were to be broken.    It was customary during crucifixion to break the leg bones of the person after a few hours in order to hasten their death. The only way a person could breathe when hanging on a cross was to push up with his legs, which was very exhausting. By breaking the legs, death followed soon by asphyxiation. The soldiers broke the legs of the other two men, but did not break Jesus’ legs since He was already dead.

The New Testament reveals Christ is our Passover Lamb whose blood was shed for us and whose body was broken for us.

During Passover week, Jesus came into the city of Jerusalem five days before the lamb was killed in the temple as the Passover sacrifice for the sins of the people of Israel. Five days before the lamb was to be sacrificed, it was chosen. Jesus entered Jerusalem on lamb selection day as the lamb of God.

The day Jesus was crucified was the day of the Passover celebration and the day that the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed. For the previous 1,200 years, the priest would blow the shophar or ram’s horn at 3:00 p.m. – the moment the lamb was sacrificed, and all the people would pause to contemplate the sacrifice for sins on behalf of the people of Israel. At 3:00, when Jesus was being crucified, He said, “It is finished” and gave up His spirit to His Father.

As the Passover lamb was sacrificed and the shophar was blown from the Temple and the sacrificial Lamb of God died, the veil of the Temple-a three-inch thick, several story high cloth that marked the Holy of Holies- tore from top to bottom. Christ sacrificial death represented a removal of the separation between God and man.

The festival of unleavened bread began Friday evening at sunset. The Jews would take some of the grain – the “first fruits” of their harvest – to the Temple to offer as a sacrifice. In so doing, they were offering God all they had and trusting Him to provide the rest of the harvest. It was at this point that Jesus was buried – planted in the ground. Paul refers to Jesus as the first fruits of those raised from the dead in 1 Corinthians.

As such, Jesus represents the fulfillment of God’s promise to provide the rest of the harvest – resurrection of those who follow the Messiah. In the Seder, the Passover dinner, three matzahs are put together representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The middle matzah is broken, wrapped in a white cloth, and hidden, representing the death and burial of Jesus. The matzah represents Jesus, who was striped and pierced, which was prophesized by Isaiah,  David, and Zechariah. Following the Seder meal, the “buried” matzah is “resurrected,” which was foretold in the prophecies of David.

It was during the Last Supper, a Passover seder meal, that Jesus proclaimed that the meal represented Himself and that He was instituting the New Covenant, which was foretold by Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah. The celebration of this covenant has become the ordinance of communion in the Christian Church. At the end of the meal, Jesus took the unleavened bread, broke it, and said that it represented His body. Then He took the cup of wine, which would have been the third cup of the Seder meal – the cup of redemption. Jesus said that it was the new covenant in His blood “poured out for you.” It is through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we are declared clean before God, allowing those of us who choose to accept the pardon by faith of his redemptive work through his cross, burial and resurrection, to commune with Him – both now and forevermore through the eternal life He offers.

Fifty days later, on the anniversary of the giving of the law Pentecost, God left the earthly temple to inhabit those who call on the name of Jesus through His Holy Spirit and issued the Great Commission that we might spread the good news of the gospel to the world.

To learn more about Christ our Passover lamb visit this site.

Pray. Day 43 of Lent. A Must.

Pray. Day 43 of Lent. A must.

Prayer Power

“Only when a man flounders beyond any grip of himself and cannot understand things does he really pray. Prayer is an interruption of personal ambition and no person who is busy ever has time to pray.” Oswald Chambers

Prayer is not part of the natural life. If you struggle to keep focused and prayer is work, hard work for you, that is because it is not natural, ordinary, worldly-minded way of doing life.

Bill Hybel say, “The holy spirit gave me a leading so direct that I couldn’t ignore it, argue against it or disobey it. The leading was to explore, study and practice prayer until I finally understood it. I obeyed that leading. I read 15-20 books on prayer. I studied almost every passage in scripture on prayer in the Bible. Then I did something absolutely radical: I prayed. . .The greatest thrill has been the qualitative difference in my relationship with God. . . I’ve gotten to know God a lot better since I started praying…God will reveal himself to you, breathing more of his life into your spirit… Through prayer God gives us peace. . . People are draw to prayer because they know that God’s power flows primarily to people who pray…and that changes circumstances and relationships…when we work, we work but when we pray, God works.”

Prayer is a practice. It’s a personal discipline, yes. But for some, it becomes not just a habit but a sacred addiction. As Brennan Manning says, “In a significant interior development you will move from a should pray to I must pray.” May that be your prayer today.

Teach us to pray, the disciples ask the Lord and His answer was the outline of the Lord’s prayer, which is really the disciple’s prayer from Luke 1:1-13. The passage is a way to form your own prayer, filling in your words as you move through the verses.

We should pray without ceasing, which means we have an ongoing spiritual conversation with God all day.  Especially at critical times. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6-7

“Worry means there is something over which we cannot have our own way and in reality is a personal irritation with God,” Chambers explained. Worrying it out in prayer does something to the inner spirit, it allows us to hand the burden over and trust that God is a reliable keeper of the problem as well as a keeper of the soul. We release it and accept the presence of His peace. And we keep thanking Him that He is there, no matter what is happening, God is here with us.

The missionary knows this as does the mother. We find the secret to quieting the soul in unsettling times is not indifference but the knowledge that God is present with us, that He loves us, and that He is aware of what is happening and will give us the grace in which to stand up under the present situation whether it be a martyr’s death or an infant’s colic.

Prayer doesn’t necessarily changes things as prayer changes us to handle things.

When we pray sometimes things remain the same but we begin to be changed.

Why Pray?

We need it. Prayer will change me.
Luke 11:1, Ps 107:13-28, Romans 8:26, James 1:5

We must do it. Prayer will change others.
Luke 18:1, Matthew 6:8, John 14:12-13, 1 John 5:14-16

We are empowered through it. Prayer will change circumstances.
John 15:7, Luke 11:9-13 James 5:16

Prepare. Day 42 of Lent. Just as I am.

Prepare. Day 42 of Lent. Just as I am.

prepare the way of the Lord

A People Prepared for the Lord- A Sermon,
Delivered By C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
On Lord’s-day Evening, March 13th, 1887.

“To make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”—Luke 1:17.

John was the herald of Christ; he was to prepare the way for the coming King, but from this text it appears that he was to do more than that. He was not only to make the road ready for the Lord, but he was also “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
That was a great work, a task in which he would require strength and wisdom greater than his own. He would need that the Spirit of God, who was to be given without measure to the coming One, should also be in a measure within himself, if he should really “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
This is not at all a usual expression; at first sight, it hardly looks to us like a gospel expression.

We sang just now,—
“Just as I am—
and waiting not To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come.”

We sang over and over again those words, “Just as I am, Just as I am,” and we are prone to protest against the idea of being prepared for Christ; we preach constantly that no preparation is needed, but that men are to come to Jesus just as they are.
Yet here is John the Baptist set apart “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
The fact is, dear friends, that to get men to come to Jesus just as they are, is not an easy thing.

To get them to give up the idea of preparing, to get them prepared to come without preparing, to get them ready to come just as they are, this is the hardest part of our work, this is our greatest difficulty.
If we came and preached to men the necessity of preparation through so many weeks of fasting during a long Lent, or through so many days of scourging and penitence, they would attend to us at once, for they would be willing enough to make any preparation of that kind; but, when we say to them, “Come just as you are now, with nothing in your hand to buy the mercy of God, with nothing wherewith to demand or to deserve it,” men want a great deal of preparing before they will come to that point.

Only the grace of God, working mightily through the Word, by the Spirit, will prepare men to come to Christ thus, prepared by being unprepared so far as any fitness of their own is concerned. The only fit state in which they can come is that of sinking themselves, abandoning all idea of helping Christ, and coming in all their natural impotence and guilt, and taking Christ to be their all in all.

Beloved friends, this is the true preparedness of heart for coming to Christ, the preparedness of coming to him just as you are; and it was John’s business thus “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” That is also my business at this time. May the good Spirit, who dwelt in John the Baptist, work through us also, that some here may be made ready for Christ, “a people prepared for the Lord”!

Ask. Day 41 of Lent. Thanks for Asking.

Ask. Day 41 of Lent. Thanks for Asking.

2 blind beggars

As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed Him. And two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd sternly told them to be quiet, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” And Jesus stopped and called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Lord, we want our eyes to be opened.” Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.

Matthew 20:29-34 is a layered story.
One that arrests you if you let it.

First of all, it’s about beggars – the pure ragamuffins among us, the poor in spirit and the actually poor of people, who are in need. Spiritually we need to never forget that is the blessed state we should migrate our minds back to as we seek to live humbly.
So we find two blind beggars, they’re sitting by the side of the road, and they find out that Jesus is coming their way, so they began shouting.

This is where it gets uncomfortable for a crowd. Especially a churchy kind of crowd who either are very concerned about not missing a word that Jesus would say or other churchy folks who just don’t like things out of the box and people misbehaving.
Well these two guys are yelling at the top of their lungs, trying to get noticed. This is what desperate people do. People who are at rock bottom and see a way out, they break the rules of society, they go anti-social and anti-politically correct and they don’t even know it and least of all care about it, because, ‘Hello!’ they are desperate.

Most of us self-sufficient strivers would be embarrassed by this display of neediness, and if we had kids with us, we’d pull them close and cover their curious eyes, if we were with friends we’d give each other the look as they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us.”

I was thinking, wouldn’t it be cool if someone in the crowd got it. If instead of shhhh-ing them they said, “Hey, come with me. This Jesus he can heal you and I’ll get you to him. Take me hand.”
But this crowd tried to shut them up and push them out. It’s uncomfortable to have desperate people screaming for help. It’s uncomfortable to have people with such obvious needs, being so obviously needy. And maybe this crowd had seen these guys for years and they’d given and given until they were annoyed. Who knows. But these desperate beggars, they got rowdy and shouted louder. I like these two ragamuffins. They know they have a need, a great need and a once in a life time opportunity.

And then we read two awesome words: Jesus stopped.

Then Jesus stopped and asked them a dangerous question. It was only the second time he’d ask this question. Earlier he’d ask James and John the same thing, when they were scheming and dreaming and fixated on being great and sitting to the left and the right of Him. (Mark 10:36) It shows me there is always an endless amount of layers in the Scripture, overlapping subtexts, from past to present, linking A to B and this person to that person, and one lesson to another. I’m sure this question re-asked, got James and John’s attention because it cuts to the very heart of the matter.

“What do you want Me to do for you?”

Do you ever get that one? The bold request to put your finger on it, exactly, what it is you want Jesus to do for you. To name it specifically. It’s a crazy intense kind of heart probing question. But these two guys knew exactly what they wanted, and it wasn’t all that spiritual. “Lord,” they said, “We want to see.”

Jesus felt compassion for them, touched their eyes, and suddenly they could see. They were delivered, “Made Well” and received their sight. Then they ‘followed him‘.

What exactly do you need from Jesus today?

Sometimes it makes my heart pound when I imagine Jesus asking me, “What do you want me to do for you?”

I think the question cuts through all the motives and the spiritual grandeur. It takes the wide and makes it impossible to fit into the narrowness of the request. It wants us to name it specifically, with honesty and authentically what we need.
And thinking it through I find I’m just as needy as these ragamuffin blind beggars and what I really need isn’t something Jesus wants me to whisper quietly to Him now. He wants me to be blessed and to have His divine favor rest upon me, so this poor in spirit Christian needs to open her hands and beg.

I can hear it. I really just heard you say it or think it. Beg?

Yes.  Beg. It’s the spiritual word for people who realize their spiritual poverty. It’s the mature way the sanctified ‘Ask’. We get in the humble posture, we agree we can’t do this or get this need met on our own. We lift our empty uncapable hands out and up to God. And we beg, out loud, in fact loudly in this case would be from a pounding heart of a body that is suddenly urgent to express a need, a great need, feeling like this is a once in a life time opportunity to get that need met because we heard Jesus ask us the question, “What is it you want me to do?”

We need to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable with the fact that we need help.

Everybody is desperate to know that Jesus still stops for them.
Everybody is desperate and needy, especially the ones who look like they aren’t. Everybody has a need that Jesus wants us to express specifically.

Jesus ASKS “What is it you want me to do?”

Lord, we are the crowd who sometimes get in the way of the needy. We hush people up. Shame on us. Help us to love the ragamuffins, to be more comfortable with the uncomfortable, to lead people to you, not shut people down and keep them out.

We are also the beggar, poor in spirit, and how blessed to know that you stop, Jesus, you see us and Ask us what we need. Lord let us speak out loud our need. Let us shout it once we realize, let us beg you for it. And let us not forget the answer came with your infamous ‘follow me’.

Thanks so much for stopping to ask us, Jesus.

Walk. Day 40 of Lent. Be inspired.

Walk. Day 40 of Lent. Be inspired.

Walking to Improve creativity

Like the Greek philosophers, many writers have discovered a deep, intuitive connection between walking, thinking, and writing.

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live!” Henry David Thoreau once wrote in his journal.

What is it about walking, in particular, that makes it so inspirational to thinking and writing?

The answer begins with changes to our physical chemistry. When we go for a walk, the heart pumps quicker, more blood and oxygen circulate not just to the muscles but to all the organs, including the brain. Many experiments have shown that after or during exercise, even very mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Walking on a regular basis also promotes new connections between brain cells.

The way we move our bodies further changes the nature of our thoughts, and vice versa or thoughts change the nature of how our bodies move. Sports Psychologists who specialize in exercise music have found what many of us already know: high tempo music motivates us to move faster.  But did you know that walking at your own pace creates an unadulterated feedback loop between the rhythm of your bodies and your mental state that you cannot experience as easily during any other kind of movement.

Walking is defined by an ‘inverted pendulum’ gait in which the body vaults over the stiff limb or limbs with each step of locomotion.  When we stroll, the pace of our feet naturally vacillates with our moods and the cadence of our inner speech; at the same time, we can actively change the pace of our thoughts by deliberately walking more briskly or by slowing down. And because we don’t have to devote much conscious effort to the act of walking, our attention is free to wander and to overlay the landscape with images from our mind.

This is precisely the kind of mental state that studies have linked to innovative ideas and strokes of insight. Stanford published a set of studies that directly measure the way walking changes creativity in the moment. The bottom line is this- walking is a great activity for brainstorming ideas but not so productive for laser-focused thinking.

Where we walk matters as well. A small collection of studies suggests that spending time in green spaces—gardens, parks, forests—can rejuvenate the mental resources that man-made environments deplete. So parks will be more productive to your creativity than city streets. Psychologists tells us that attention is a limited resource. It is continuously drained during the day.  A city scape populated with activity volleys our attention around. While walking in a park allows our mind to drift peacefully from sensory experience to another as the landscape changes. If you are overstimulated, go for the serene setting of a nature walk. If you need stimulation, a walk in the city will give you a variety of sensations for your mind to explore.

The reflection found on a walk reveals the relationship of walking, thinking and expressing ourselves. After a brisk walk when I return to my desk I find similar aspects in walking and in writing.  When I walk my mind decides the map, my footsteps following the mental path I’ve laid out for the stroll as my body makes that ‘inverted pendulum’ gait. Similarly, writing forces my brain to review its ideas, plot a course of story and transcribe the imaginative thoughts into narrative and descriptive passages through the guiding hand of the strokes on my keyboard.

Of course the delight of a good walk is always the inner conversation you can have with God.
The rambling prayer that skips and lingers, circles back only to look ahead. And somewhere in the walk I usually pause or smile or have that ‘ah-ha’ moment when my spirit and mind bump into the Divine. Glory. Right?

Want to be inspired, go for a walk.