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.


Following Jesus requires you to grow up



We’re talking about responses to Jesus’ invitation to follow him into the Kingdom Life. Surprisingly, he discourages the over-eager one, and today, he admonishes and invites the overly responsible one. Check it out.

To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Luke 9:39,40

This guy sounds like he’s doing the right thing, right? being the responsible child, taking care of the family duties. After all, it is in the law, “honor your father and mother.” But Jesus will not take second place in the affections or loyalties of anyone who wants to follow him. His must be the primary voice to which one listens.

Following Jesus requires you to grow up.

When I was asked to be a pastor at our church in San Francisco, I was proud and terrified. Neither responses were very pastor-ly. Proud, because my heart’s desire to be seen as useful for the kingdom was validated, (honestly, though this pride was ego-driven); and terrified because I was sure I wasn’t good enough for the role and naming me as pastor would bring shame to our church.

The word I received from the Spirit as I prayed over the call was that it was time to “put aside childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11 The fear-based need to be seen as valuable, and the shame that convinced me I was not, were emotional reactions born of childhood wounds. My old beliefs about myself, and about how I needed to relate to the world threatened to keep me locked in fear and death; and closed the door on my offering any gift to the world.

You see, some are reluctant to follow Jesus because they are caught up with the things of death. We all have habits, ways of thinking, behaviors, addictions that breed death, not life. Yet these are precious to us, and we attempt to negotiate with Jesus about how we want to handle or process them. Jesus will have none of this. “Leave the dead things behind. Follow me, I want to use you to announce life, to bring my presence to the world.”

Jesus invites you into discipleship and into partnering with him in his mission to proclaim the kingdom of God. Do you resist because you are too attentive to the things in you that are dead, and of your old life? habitual ways of thinking about yourself, learned from childhood wounds; assumptions about your lack of competence; a conviction that you have nothing to offer of value? These are deadly lies. Do you give them too much homage? Like a Buddhist who sets up a home shrine to honor her dead ancestors, do you give allegiance to things that are dead and buried with Christ in your baptism?  With God’s help and the new life of Christ in you, choose to let these dead things remain dead.

We’ll explore a third response next time. See you then!

With you on the journey,

Foxes and their holes

Foxes and their holes

Jesus invites us to follow him and we respond. Here’s a look at one type of response.jean-blackmer-38927

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

This guy is so enthusiastic about following Jesus. He’s ready to give follower-ship all he’s got. He’s eager, quick and ready to make a promise and a commitment. Jesus, though, requires a realistic assessment of self and of one’s words. The young, the naive, the quick or emotional words of commitment and promise need to be awakened to what will be required in this relationship. It will not be easy, enthusiasm will not soften the rock you will have as your pillow. Jesus wants us to be open-eyed about the cost of this discipleship.

How many hearts are broken because an emotional promise was made that could not be kept once the fire of attraction died down?

Working as a youth ministries intern at my church is how I supported myself in college. My slightly older co-worker Mark and his wife Charlotte took a liking to me and invited me into their circle of affection. They were cool and they chose me. I felt pretty cool. 

One day they announced to me, rather casually I thought, that they had decided to love me unconditionally and then began to pour words of affirmation upon me. After this announcement, they would seek me out, their only objective was to tell me they loved me. 

This should make me happy, right? But it didn’t, instead It freaked me out. I felt smothered by their attention and began to withdraw. Where I used to be warm and receptive, I was now cool and elusive. I wasn’t purposefully pouring water on the flame of their love, I was just wounded and not able to handle such loving demonstrations. 

Not surprisingly, their love cooled. In retrospect, I give them a huge break, they were probably 24 years old, very good intended and very human. But when they let my reactions to their movements toward me modify the way they acted toward me, I became more convinced of the false truth I feared; I was not worthy of love. Their eager but faltering attempt to love as Christ loved, solidified my self-hatred. 

What if they would have just loved me?

I certainly am not without fault. After months of praying for the faltering marriage of a friend, I remembered Jesus’ explanation to his disciples that sometimes a situation needed more just just prayer, it needed prayer combined with fasting to be effective. So I earnestly promised my friend I would fast and pray for the healing of his marriage. Well, I didn’t. As Jesus said, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”  Their marriage ended. And I felt slightly responsible about its demise.

Peter was one of those quick to declare guys. After the last supper, he promised he would follow Jesus wherever Jesus went, even lay down his life for him. Jesus knew him so well, Jesus knew Peter wouldn’t keep his promise. Jesus told him the truth about his fickle nature (Peter would deny Jesus three times before breakfast); and yet loved him to the end and beyond.

We need to own our desire and our lack; let our hearts be moved with zeal to follow Jesus and yet be acquainted with our inability to do it well. Jesus will not be surprised by our shortcomings. He prays for us and welcomes our attempts. When we fail, we fall, and with each failure, let us fall into the arms of God’s grace and begin again, wiser and more humbly.

Let the hot flame of love burn low, so its embers can sustain the heat necessary for warmth and provision.

Next time another possible response to Jesus’ invitation to follow him. See you then!

A sure way to get where you are headed!

annie-spratt-223429We all need a “Rule” to live by that supports our intentional life in the Lord; a guidepost that points us toward our destination, a map that would help us return to the path when we veer off course. I wrote one once and the first sentence of this rule reads, ”In order to learn to live and love like Jesus I must apprentice my life to the mentorship of Jesus.”

Will you join me in exploring this sentence, not just reading it? Let’s unpack it and see what help it holds our our journey toward God’s heart of love.

To learn – suggests we don’t know how to do it. There will be practice required. Like any new skill mistakes are inevitable. Remember learning to downhill ski? Plenty of bruises from that endeavor!

To live and love like Jesus – this is our goal, the end of our life, the target we aim for. Jesus is the model and the example of humanity perfected. The more we become like him, the closer we are to becoming who God created us to be. We need to learn to express the character of Jesus’ life and the quality of his love through our own unique and distinct personality and temperament.

Apprentice my life – An apprentice is one who, because she desires to learn a trade or skill, attaches herself to one who is a master at the trade so that she can acquire the needed skill and knowledge. We know what we want to know and we know we aren’t able to get what we want or need on our own. To be an apprentice requires a humble submission and an admission of two things: our desire and our lack.

Mentorship of Jesus – Jesus is the experienced and trusted expert at life and he has agreed to train us and advise us. He’s the source and the final authority. We submit to his life giving, and death defying instructions.

It’s like enlisting the the military and going through boot camp or like being a contestant on the biggest loser. We trust and submit to the experts in order to help us accomplish what we long for, but can’t bring about ourselves.

The opening sentence of the Mentored Life requires a response; a decision must be made, a commitment must be undertaken, a direction determined.

Are you willing to submit to Jesus’ mentorship and follow him and his teaching? Does this opening sentence to the Rule I wrote resonate with your heart?

In my next post we’ll talk about potential responses! Please stay in touch.

With you on the journey,



When the storm is rocking your boat

Thoughts on Matthew 8:23-27

robson-hatsukami-morgan-134756OK, I’ll get in the boat with you. A boat is not my comfort zone. I’m a landlubber, never really lived near the sea. Water is good for drinking and bathing, not for transport, but I’ll risk it to be with you. The boat is small, there’s only room for a few of us. I’m grateful to be counted among the ones who care enough about you to leave behind a comfortable and secure lifestyle and to let the past and identifying relationships have no power over me. You have searched me and admitted me to your fellowship.

And what the heck? I told you I didn’t want to get in the boat. Look at those storm clouds building, the wind rising, the raindrops falling. This little boat cannot withstand the torment of such a storm. We are rocking, water is coming over the sides, there is no hope, even the fishermen among us are afraid. And where are you? Sleeping! Sleeping? Really? How can you sleep through such a tempest? I’m dying here, don’t you care?

jean-pierre-brungs-36491Jesus, wake up, save me, I’m doomed.

Debby, you’ve trusted me with your lifestyle, you’ve trusted me with your identity, will you trust me with your life? I purposely invited you onto this boat to show you were your trust in me is small, where you doubt my power and my love. You bravely entered this place of fear and you wisely came to me when it seemed overwhelming. Trust me now.

His looking into my eyes, speaking these words into my soul, settles the storm raging within me. What else can I do but trust you. I’m glad to be with you, even if it means death.

And then you stand up and tell the wind and the sea to quiet down, your words restrain the storm. You speak and it is still.

Thank you and amen.

Dear friend, if your boat is rocking, run to Jesus with your fear and accusations against him. Let him tenderly show you the ways your trust has failed. His nearness and words will calm you and the storm.

With you on the journey,


The Invariably Variable Jesus

The Invariably Variable Jesus

Thoughts on Matthew 16:13-19

Who does the world say you are? A good teacher, a religious leader, a whack job.

Who do I say you are? Only the Father can tell me who you are. Father, I sit in the quiet, ready to hear you whisper. Jesus, you are invariably variable. You are to me what I need, all I need.

When I first came to know you, you were Peace. My soul was so unsettled, my identity so fragile and tossed about, I needed the peace that the world cannot give to allow me to get my bearings. Thank you for that.

When I was about to commit spiritual suicide you were Fierce Love, ready to bear my anger so that trust could rise from the ashes.

Who are you today? Companion, friend, enjoyable presence. I feel disrespectful naming you thus. But that is what is whispered and I receive it gladly. I do not know what tomorrow will bring, I do know you will be for me what I need when it appears. Thank you for that.

Simon Peter called you Christ and you blessed him.

You use a play on words in this blessing. There are two variations of the word Peter/Rock in the Greek language. Petros – the masculine form and Petra, the feminine form. Petros is always used to indicate a small piece of a rock such as a person might throw. While Petra is a mass of rock.

“You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church. brina-blum-112497

In the Greek it reads “You are Petros (a small wobbly, easily movable stone) and on this Petra (the unmovable, solid mass of rock) I will build my church.”

Simon Peter called you Christ, today I call you friend. Will you change my small, wobbly, easily movable heart into a solid heart, one capable of building up and encouraging the people you have given me to love? Thank you and amen.

Who is Jesus to you today? Jesus will be who you need/what you need as your day unfolds. Look for him and listen to the Father’s whisper in your heart. 

With you on the journey,


There is a wolf nipping at your soul

There is a wolf nipping at your soul


Thoughts on Matthew 7:15-20

Beware of false prophets who appear as sheep, gentle and peaceable but on the inside are ravenous wolves, ready to devour to satisfy their hunger. Beware of those who claim to be forwarding the kingdom, but are in fact forwarding their own agenda.

Of course, the Spirit inspects my soul before looking outward. Oh, Lord, please keep me true. Let the me I present match the me that beats inside my heart and let it be authentic and honoring of your Lordship and the people you love.

Jacob presented himself as his brother in order to steal Esau’s blessing. Isaac was fooled. Barbara pretended to care about me to gather information she could use as power. I naively fell for it. I have offered concern for others as a means to accomplish my goal, forgive me and check me so I do not do this again.

inma-ibanez-24380 cherries.jpgYou have said “we will know them by their fruits.” A cherry tree only grows cherries. Some cherries are rotten, ruined by insect, weather or disease. My hope is to produce “cherries” in accordance with your law of love. My crop is not always bountiful and sometimes my cherries are rotten, tainted by pride, greed, fear. Some are immature, sour to the taste because they have not gathered the sweetness that develops as they remain connected to the tree.

Lord, be the master farmer who tends this cherry tree of yours. Guard me against external harm that would ruin my fruit, and against silent, but deadly disease that seeks to destroy the sweetness of your Spirit’s work. Offer through me life and sweetness.

And teach me to pay attention to the fruit other people’s ministry bears in my life. Does it promote a stronger connection to you? Does it increase the Spirit’s fruit in my heart? Does it move me to love others in word and deed? If so, blessings on that life-bringer. And let me share with them the gift they have given me. If not, grant me the grace to let them go without judgment. Thank you and amen.

Dear friend, learn from my example. Let me be your cherry tree, and let the Lord be the farmer who tends your fruit.

With you on the journey,


Ego’s death march (I wish)

Ego’s death march (I wish)

photo by Ben White

pray in secret?

Thoughts on Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Alms, prayer and fasting, all to be done. Done quietly, obediently, without drawing attention to self. Hmm. My prayers are done in the quiet of my heart and home, but then I share them with others in my blog and hope many people read them are are blessed. (In fact, I wish more people read them than are currently doing so.) How do I honor my mission to hear your voice of love and share it with others, and your instruction about praying secretly in my closet?

I guess the key is the motive behind letting your “piety” be seen by others. Jesus describes those whose intention is to show off their piety so that others are impressed by their righteous practices. The impression they make is the reward of their righteousness; it is temporary, not eternal, it corrupts their character rather than purifying it.

My intention is to let your love penetrate my heart, transform it and then to let your light shine through me. I am not perfect in this process. I am a human, tainted by sin, and all I do is touched by the stain. I am a work in progress. The enemy of my soul uses this crack in my vessel to shut me up. Since part of me wants the attention of others, I should not publish my prayers. It is my ego, my selfish ambition driving me, hoping others will think highly of me.

The enemy uses the truth against me and against God’s kingdom. It’s true, my motives are not 100% pure, but I will not be 100% pure until I reach perfection in heaven. So am I to not share the good news of God’s good work in me now? No, I must share it. It is in fact proof of the gospel. God takes an imperfect vessel like me, pours his truth into it and then uses it to encourage other broken vessels to let God love them.

Ego be damned. God is bigger than my selfish ambition. His love overshadows my puny need for attention. God be glorified.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:9,10

His power is made perfect in my weakness. Shine, Jesus, shine. Use my impure self to show off your generous grace. And melt my ego in the process. Thank you and amen.


photo credit: Noah Silliman

Friend, don’t let your tainted motivation keep you from the good God has given you to do. Own your brokenness and your beauty and run the race set before you, even if you limp as you run. 

With you on the journey, Debby

plucking weeds

plucking weeds


photo credit Amelia Bartlett

Thoughts on Matthew 5:21-32

It all begins in the heart, for bad or good. Murder, adultery are the fruit of a bad seed. Uproot the seed and the fruit will not appear. Easier said than done. Living in the country has taught me how expedient it is to whack off the top of the weed rather than dig out the root. Expedient, yes, efficient, no. We had a poison ivy expert come and give a quote on removing the poison ivy and other invasive weeds on our property. He said it is a long, slow, labor intensive process. It takes years to rid a parcel of land of poison ivy. Roundup shrivels the leaves, but it doesn’t kill the plant.

Jesus says poisonous, death-dealing fruit such as murder and adultery need to be plucked out, not just suppressed.

In my little parochial world I do not have much worry about committing adultery or murder, but what fruit do the seeds of lust or anger bear in my life? Let’s pause and let you examine me, Holy Spirit.

The word that comes to my mind as I sit quietly with the question is pettiness. Ouch. Dictionary.com defines petty as “behavior characterized by an undue concern for trivial matters, especially in a small-minded, spiteful way.” How am I petty? Irritated that Jack doesn’t load the dishwasher the way I think it should be loaded. Frustration with B’s disregard for my time schedule. (he says he’ll be here in 25 minutes and shows up an hour later.) Pettiness raises her head because I don’t have anyplace I have to be, so it really doesn’t matter if he shows up at noon or one o’clock!

I know I can’t not feel the emotional reactions I have to these situations. Feelings are feelings, they are amoral. But what they can lead to is definitely a moral issue. Lord, pluck out the anger that produces such pettiness in my life. Heal the wounded place that demands my way, my time, me, me, me. Plant your great love within my heart. When I notice pettiness emerging I will bring my soul and the source of my pettiness into your presence. In your light small-minded, spiteful thoughts diminish. It’s a long, slow, labor intensive process, but you are on the job. Thank you and amen.

Your invitation to dazzle!


Thoughts on Matthew 5:13-15

Salt and light. That’s who you are. You may not always feel very salty or very bright. But Jesus names you and invites you to flavor and dazzle the world. You are salt, may you bring out the best in the people you encounter today and the earth God has given you to tend. You are light, shine so that others can see their beauty and their brokenness. All for God’s glory, point to Jesus! Amen.