Does your Quiet Time need a jump start?

scrapbook front coverDo you ever struggle with your personal devotions (aka quiet times), family devotions, or small group worship times? Maybe you don’t know what to do. Maybe they have become dry or uninspiring. This scrapbook is here to help breathe new life into your time with God. It is chock full of fresh and creative ideas to reenergize and refresh personal or group devotions. From the brand new Christian and young child to the life-long saint, there are ideas and exercises for every level of experience with God. Co-written by a pastor and a spiritual director/retreat leader, it provides practical wisdom and resources as well as deep spiritual insight. From classical spiritual disciplines to the latest creative ideas, here are just a sampling of the 52 entries found inside:
-imaginative prayer
-writing a psalm (or poem to God)
-Bible videos
-art prayer
-multi-sensory reflection
-breath prayer
-contemplating creation
-journaling
-solitude
-listening to Scripture

The cost is $25, plus shipping (within the US) and tax, payable by check or paypal. We’ll mail to the address you give us. Click below to see a sample and then let us know how many you want to order!

Scrapbook Sample

 

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The God of the one who says “I got this, God”

Who is Jacob’s God?

The God of the one who has taken advantage of others to benefit herself.

Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.(Genesis 25:30,31)

Jacob’s God understands a person’s belief that it is up to her to take care of herself. Surviving and/or thriving is her only goal. By hook or by crook, she’ll do what she can to attempt to accomplish her agenda, keeping herself and her tribe safe and in power.

In this situation we find Jacob doing his thing, boiling a pot of soup. He’s not preferred by his father, he doesn’t know how to hunt and fish, but boy does he know how to cook! And so he does. He was the original “foodie.” I can picture the scene. Jacob’s choosing only the finest, most unique ingredients to make his lentil soup appealing to all the senses. He takes great pride in his ability to produce the perfect meal in both presentation and taste.

His oaf of a brother stumbles in, dirty from the hunt; he’s been so occupied with the stalking of game, that he forgot to eat and now he’s starving. He lives in the moment, he believes that unless he eats NOW he will die. His appetite is so strong that he is willing to sell his birthright for a cup of soup.

I doubt he was really on the edge of death and Jacob did too. I imagine Jacob had witnessed a similar scene many times throughout his life. Esau, the impulsive, hot-headed, now-or-never guy, wanting what he wanted and wanting it now.

This time, though, Jacob has a plan.

The birthright carried the honor of the family, the wealth and authority of the Father was passed on to the firstborn son. With such an inheritance a man was insured respect and possessions. The other children had no such guarantee.

Jacob wanted the birthright and took advantage of his brother’s temperament and hunger to gain it.

Jacob was blatant with his plan to take care of himself. I am usually not that obvious. I don’t cheat anyone out of their inheritance, but I do rush to beat the other shopper to the empty check out line at the grocery store. Me first, I’m important, my needs are paramount, my time is more valuable than yours. You, well, you can get in line. This taking care of self is so subtle and so insidious, it is rarely called out for what it is: a lack of trust.

We live in fear, it is hard to trust that we will be provided for, that we will be valued or accepted, that we will be satisfied or pleased.

We live from a scarcity mentality. Will there be enough to go around? Better make sure I get my share (and then some). We are the Israelites hoarding manna, the rich man building a new barn to store all his excess goods. We guard against tomorrow.

There is some wisdom in such preparation, of course. But the line is fine between wisdom and fear. Are we trusting in the value of our stock portfolio to insure our safe and secure future? Or do we remember there are no guarantees apart from God’s promise to transform us into the image of Jesus. And God will use all situations to bring about this promise. Our lack and our supply are equally capable tools in the hands of God to shape us.

For me, one of the ways the fear-based greed comes into play is in the area of food; it is not just energy to fuel my physical well-being, food must entertain me, occupy me, or comfort me. My day is ordered around trying to guarantee my palate’s satisfaction. I’m planning my lunch as I eat my breakfast. This is a very subtle way a God-given good, gets twisted into a temptation to take care of myself.

Things such as God’s presence, the company of friends, wisely spending my money, caring for my long-term health are sometimes not as important to me as making sure I can eat what I want. It’s up to me to insure my satisfaction. Sorry God.

Maybe you have areas of your life like this? Places where it’s not obvious that you are undermining God’s promise to provide for you, but you are covertly insuring your agenda. Or maybe your fear is more in-your-face, such as a health crises or threatened financial setback. Either way, we need the help of Jacob’s God. The one who stays near, who reminds us that all will be well, whose words tell us we are more important than the sparrow, that we are destined for perfection and union. Let us cling to Jacob’s God in the face of our fear.

Read about the God of the Screw Up

The God of the unappreciated

Who is Jacob’s God?

The God of the one who isn’t preferred in life by his Father or significant authority.

When the boys grew up, Esau was a skilled hunter, a man of the fields while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. (Genesis 25:28).

Jacob’s God is the one who comes to your aid in situations where you feel overlooked or unappreciated. The places where your skill set doesn’t match the demands of the role or the preference of the one in authority; where you feel invisible or dismissed because your gifts or temperament do not align with the dominant culture.

Jacob’s God is the Rebekah who sees who you are and appreciates your talents even when the world doesn’t; the God who reminds you of your distinct value and promotes the expression of your gifts.

My whole life I have suffered under a a sense of shame, convinced I had nothing of value to offer the world. But at the same time blaming the world for not appreciating who I was. I orchestrated a move to a new high school in the middle of my senior year. I knew if I could start fresh in a different school, I’d be seen by my new friends as the cool, awesome girl I was. My old friends just didn’t recognize the gem they had in me.

It was okay for a few weeks, and then I began to run into the old me, the insecure me, the me I thought I had left behind. There was grace in this discovery though, for it moved me to seek a love that never is disappointed in me, the love of God given in Jesus.

Much later in my life I woke from a sweet dream given to me by the Holy Spirit, I am sure. It was a transformative moment in my life. The Lord spoke to my spirit and told me, “Debby, you are a treasure hidden in a field. Not everyone will appreciate the value that you bring, but some will. There will be those who stumble upon the gifts you offer and will be forever grateful for you. I value you, and have made you and have placed you exactly in the right place and at the right time.”

This word from God’s heart of love has kept me over the years, especially as I have offered my writing to the world. Not everyone gets my voice, but there are those who do so I must remain faithful to God’s call on me.

The world may not appreciate your unique set of skills and temperaments, but there are Rebekahs who do. God sends you love and appreciation in the ones who value your uniqueness. Let their esteem and support be enough. Often times the preferences of authority promotes the individuals who satisfy their selfish or blind partialities.

Listen to Jacob’s God, let the whisper of love and value give you strength to believe your visibility and viability. Be bold and trust that love.

Seriously, who is your Rebekah? To whom are you Rebekah-like? I’d love to hear from you. With you on the journey, Debby

The God of the Screw-up

“Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob.” (Ps 146:5)

Many times God self references as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the patriarchs of the faith. And often in the scriptures, when people describe the God they serve this is the title they use. But there are many times when God is known simply as the God of Jacob. I particularly like this shortcut to connection with God.

Why? Because Jacob was a screw up, sure he became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, but even that accomplishment was more by God’s gracious redemption than Jacob’s faithful obedience. The God of Jacob is my God, the God whose help I need because more often than not, I’ve screwed something up and made a hot mess of things.

Like Jacob I find myself in situations where I need divine intervention. Maybe the situation is the result of my own willful actions, or maybe I allow myself to be talked into something because I’m too insecure to say no, or there are those moments when I am the victim of someone’s else’s screw up. Whatever the source of the trouble, I need God’s help. I need the God of Jacob.

During this series, we’ll look at Jacob and the situations in which he found himself, the ones he orchestrated or was coerced into; and then we’ll consider how God helped him in these very real, very relatable circumstances and/or relationships.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

Who is Jacob’s God?

The God of the ones who need help being born (Genesis 25:26).

In the womb, Jacob grabbed his brother’s heel and was pulled into life. He arrived on the coattails of his bigger, stronger sibling.

Jacob’s God is the one who comes to help you when you don’t have the power to engage in life; when you feel you don’t exist or wish you didn’t. This is the God of the depressed; the one who feels defeated before she even begins; the one who fears that he will not be valued unless he is connected to one with more power or influence or charisma.

While in college I applied for a job to be a youth ministries intern at my church. Of all the job interviews I’ve had over the course of my life this is the one interview where I remember the question I was asked and my exact response. I almost cringe at the memory.

“What are your career ambitions? What do you hope to do with your life upon your graduation from college?”

“I want to be a Pastor’s wife.”

Step inside my 20 year old brain and understand why I answered in such a manner.

I knew I had the gift and the ability to open the scriptures in ways that were insightful; my studies made the Bible accessible and applicable to life. But I didn’t believe I had the right to offer these insights to others nor the ability to communicate them effectively. I believed I needed a husband to whom I could feed my ideas and then he could use his power to preach them. I felt I had to be the woman behind the man, the one who he depended upon for inspiration. I had no right to exist as a voice for God.

This wasn’t necessarily about male/female roles, it was more about my sense of self. I remember doing what I could to escape being noticed, while at the same time longing to be seen. Developmentally, I was a toddler, fearfully peeking out from behind my parent’s back, wanting to engage with the world, but without the strength and skills to pull it off.

I needed the God of Jacob.

Jacob’s God is the midwife that catches you as you are birthed, who says, “You do exist, you may need help to emerge but help is available. Be not ashamed that you are weak in body or character. Jacob’s God hasn’t forgotten you. Jacob’s God will nurse you and tenderly strengthen you for the life prepared for you.”

God provided me with “bigger, stronger siblings” to pull me into the life he had planned for me; friends who called out the truth in me, a husband who cheered my voice, a pastor who believed in me and let me practice my gifts.

Call on Jacob’s God, let this holy brother and mother be your power and nurture. You have been born, your life is intended, cling to the God who makes a way for your life to emerge.

***

Some of what’s coming up in future posts: I know you’ll relate to some of these topics.

The God of the one who isn’t preferred in life by his Father or significant authority.

The God of the one who has taken advantage of others to benefit herself.

What you need to do today

nadim-merrikh-307897When I was young, more than anything else, I wanted to be a broadway dancer. I wanted dance lessons, but my parents gave me accordion lessons. Not quite the same skill set. I dreamed of dancing in the ensemble of a broadway show. I wasn’t interested in the lead, I loved the idea of teamwork and precision the line required. In theater, the production team sometimes issue a “cattle call,”  an open invitation for anyone who wants to audition to show up and give it their best shot.

Jesus issued a cattle call in Mark 8. It was an invitation to the whole crowd, not just his disciples. “Anybody want to come after me? Anyone?” All are invited to try out. Not just the spiritual (the disciples), but the crowd (those after Jesus’ works and wonders.) Doesn’t matter where you start on your journey of coming after Jesus. It is open to all, the protocol is the same:  Deny self, take up cross and follow. All can try out, but it is a tough regimen if you are going to make the line.

Be encouraged, Jesus calls you. You can start today, all over again, every morning his mercies are new. 

First comes denying self. Do I want Jesus more than anything else. If I am to deny myself, I must first identify what my self is after (other than Jesus.) To go after him, my agendas, my ambitions are not annexed into the assignment, but avoided altogether. Remember, somewhere else Jesus said, “Seek first my kingdom…etc etc.”

Jesus’ demands are not without reward. Seek him and the rest falls into line. All your worries will be addressed within the Kingdom of your loving Father. The promise is God’s joy over you, that’s worth it.

What are my “flesh’s” agendas and ambitions? A life of ease, satisfying my appetites, fame in my world. To avoid them I will need to take up my cross. This means I would: work and be busy with my assignments (in home and in heart), to eat healthily and economically; to offer with abandon the labors of my heart. All with eyes fixed on Jesus (source and goal of my faith.)

What are your “flesh’s” agendas and ambitions? What must you do to avoid them? 

Am I up for it? This morning’s Lectio Divina from Psalm 119 comes to mind as the only source of power if I am to make the line: Oh Lord, “give me life.” Both my power and plan come God’s power and plan.

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you that you see in me the potential for coming after you. Thank you that you give me clear cut definitions of what I am to do to follow you. Grant me the grace to rely on your generous power and your loving face to deny myself, take up my cross and follow. Thank you and amen.

 

a parable

A Parable  – Mark 10:46-52

I wasn’t always blind. I was made blind through the innocent act of my brother. He was attempting a job beyond his skill level and the job got away from him, blinding me. He didn’t intend any harm. He is not to blame, but nevertheless, his need to do the job without help cost me my sight.

You may ask, “Where was our father? Isn’t it the father’s job to guard us, keep us from danger, wisely judging when we were ready for the job?” My brother and I were products of his love, a love that loved well, but not always with wisdom. My father is not to blame, but nevertheless, his hesitancy in saying no cost me my sight.

I am now a beggar. I don’t know how to beg. I used to walk this thoroughfare as a sighted, important person. The beggars on the side of the road were inconsequential to my journey, white noise. Now I am one of them and must learn to beg without even eyes to watch them, to see how it is done.

Yet somehow within me there is an optimism, muted, but real. Not Pollyanna-ish, but a hope that all can be well. Some might call it denial. I don’t. I feel it is a confidence, no that’s too strong a descriptor; it is more a trust in Good. All will be well somehow.

The hubbub of the crowd along the thoroughfare is constant, but I sense its voice changing. It is becoming more focused in its attention. There is someone important coming toward me on the road. I can tell by the tone of the crowd. I hear that the one coming toward me is Jesus. I’ve heard of him. I’ve heard how he has healed. I’ve heard how he sees people the crowd or the important people do not see. Maybe he can hear me.

I yell out toward him, calling his name, reminding him of his heritage and begging, not for alms or aid, but for mercy. I can get alms from any passer-by…but they have no mercy for me. I long for Jesus to see me and realize that my dilemma is not my fault, to maybe use his reputed healing power to heal me. “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.” My voice persists, in fact it builds. I’m aware of the crowd trying to quiet me. But instead they are quieted as I sense Jesus has stopped. My voice alone is heard – almost a whisper now in the hush. “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me. I am Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus. I am in need of your mercy.”

In the quiet, I hear your call, your call to come to you. Your desire for me advances to me through the crowd. “Come.” Unchecked, I spring up and rush to you, groping arms outstretched because I’m not sure what’s in front of me, unaware of the crowd, who in retrospect I realize must have parted to make a way for me to follow your call. I come to you and fall on your chest. My head is buried in your embrace. I smell your closeness. I feel your arms. I sink into your strength. I hear your voice, “What do you want?”

“I want my life back. I want a ministry. I want to be used for your work, for your sake, for the Kingdom.” You hold me while I weep into your shoulder. Minutes passed. (Maybe hours, maybe seconds, I don’t know. Time stood still.)

When you finally speak you commend me and say to me that my trust in you, my faith in your power to restore has made me well. I am not aware of any faith on my part. I know only my need to be near you in my desperation. Yet, when I open my eyes, while still tucked in your embrace, I see the crowds watching me lean on you. I can see again. And I see the people observing me depend on you. They see my clinging to you. And you say…”This is your ministry now; let them see your utter dependence on me, let them see your continued leaning on me, clinging to me, relying on my mercy. This is your life and your ministry now.”

I physically let go of clinging to you, so I can follow as you lead. Yet I carry this truth with me. My true self will always be clinging to you. I will let them see my need of you.

How to live near the Kingdom of Heaven

Thoughts on Mark 12:28-34

An earnest, seeking scribe, listened to Jesus’ wise words and asked Jesus the question that was on his heart. “Which commandment is the first of all?” Today some religious people’s test of piety is where one stands on certain issues, say abortion, or sexuality or even smoking. It was the same in Jesus’ day. Religious people broke into groups that favored one commandment over the others – us vs them.

On behalf of all earnest seekers throughout history the scribe asked the important question, out of all the commandments which is the primary one that contains and informs the others? 

Notice Jesus’ answer. It begins with “Hear.” If you’re going to ask a question of Jesus, then you better be ready to listen to his answer. This scribe was. He asked not for the sake of argument, or to prove Jesus wrong, but because he truly wanted to hear from Jesus how to order his life.

“‘The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’”

Contained within his answer is the picture of a united divinity, the Lord our God is one; a united fellowship, the Lord our God is one;  and a united person, love God with every part of your being, your heart, soul, mind and strength.

And then Jesus gives a bonus answer, “The second is this, `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

That sums it up. And the earnest scribe got it. He heard Jesus’ answer to his question, he acknowledged that what Jesus said was true and that to keep these two commandments meant more to God than any ritually performed acts of worship or service.

Jesus observed that the scribe answered wisely. This is the only time this phrase is used in the entire NT. The scribe listened well. He received Jesus words as the words of life. He was close to the Kingdom.

In such a manner is the Kingdom approached, by earnestly seeking Jesus to learn how to live, by allowing him to be Lord and his words to determine the way I live. Yes, this is my prayer. Thank you and amen