It’s a privilege to be poor????

It’s a privilege to be poor????

Biography of a Soul…notes to a seeker.

Like St. Teresa of Avila, whose Abbess instructed her to write her Autobiography of a Soul, creating a map to follow toward the heart of God, I offer a Biography of a Soul, notes to encourage and equip your heart to seek God’s heart.

Like Screwtape to Wormwood, I make practical suggestions about how to continue toward God’s good will. Read on, won’t you?

Mary Cassatt, The Two Sisters, Public Domain


My Dear Seeker,

Jesus came to bring good news to the poor. The best news the poor could receive is that the resources they are lacking are now provided. The poor have no money to purchase what they need; they have no power to influence the system; they are faceless, invisible, abused, and exploited. The poor need provision, recognition, and protection. Jesus is our provision. Jesus is our power. Jesus is our protection. That is good news. In Jesus’ economy, being poor comes with privileges.

In order to receive the good news of Jesus, we must confess our poverty. This admission is a very humbling experience. It means admitting to ourselves and to others that we can’t take care of ourselves, we need help. It means we must rely on another to supply what, in our mind, we think we should be able to supply for ourselves. Sometimes it means admitting that we have particular needs or desires that we think (or wish) we didn’t. Admitting our poverty requires our ego to die. We can’t pretend that we are wealthy or powerful or that we have it all together. In this dying, we receive the gift of poverty.

To us who are the privileged poor, Jesus says, “do not worry about what you will eat or what you will wear.” Why? “Because your heavenly Father knows what you need and will supply your every need out of his abundant riches.” (Luke 12) These promises are sweet, pretty, and very poetic. They bring great comfort and are easy to believe when I am not in touch with my poverty. But when I am out of resources and in real need, I find myself wondering if they are practically and literally true. My soul cries, “I don’t see how you can provide, the need is too great.” Doubt pushes out faith and the vacancy in my soul is filled with fear.

Fear, the great thief, whispers,

  • “Will you have enough? Maybe you should withhold, God will understand.”
  • “Don’t be too generous, remember you have lots of bills to pay.”
  • “Ignore the pleas of that homeless man on the street, he’d just use the money for drugs.”
  • “You need to put that extra money aside for the future instead of taking the widow out for a nice dinner, her husband probably left her plenty of money. Who’s going to take care of you in your old age?”
  • “Why don’t miracle provisions happen for you, as they do for him? He must be more faithful than you. No wonder God doesn’t provide for you, you’re not obedient, you don’t deserve his kindness.”

On and on, fear wages its campaign of dread and worry.

In this cycle of fear and anxiety, be glad that Jesus knows our process intimately and interrupts fear’s tirade. Immediately after telling his followers not to worry, he adds these tender and gentle words, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” He knows that in the face of potential lack, our natural tendency will be fear. Jesus knows that we will forget his promises of provision and will think it is up to us to strategize our solvency. And this forgetting keeps us living in fear. We need to live in the place of trust, in the arms of the good shepherd, Jesus. Picture yourself, a little lamb, being carried in the strong and gentle arms of the one who loves you and gave his very life for the privilege of holding you close. “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

With you on the journey,

Debby

The Wilderness of Life

I was interviewed by Rev. Albert Hahn about entering the Wilderness during Lent. It turns out I spoke more about life’s wilderness experiences. Please watch this and hopefully be blessed. Check out his facebook page for more resources.

Jesus’ Mission Statement!

Biography of a Soul…notes to a seeker.

Like St. Teresa of Avila, whose Abbess instructed her to write her Autobiography of a Soul, creating a map to follow toward the heart of God, I offer a Biography of a Soul, notes to encourage and equip your heart to seek God’s heart.

Like Screwtape to Wormwood, I make practical suggestions about how to continue toward God’s good will. Read on, won’t you?

Mary Cassatt, The Two Sisters, Public Domain


My dear Seeker,
Towards the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, he entered his hometown synagogue and was given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah from which to read. Luke says,


He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”


In this proclamation, Jesus was announcing his mission statement. Isaiah had prophesied these amazing promises centuries before, and now Jesus is declaring that he is their fulfillment. Jesus himself is the good news that the poor need to hear; he is the captive’s release and the blind’s sight; he is the freedom that the oppressed seek and the means of favor in God’s eyes. All these are accomplished in Jesus. All these are accomplished in Jesus for you.


Ultimately, the fulfillment of these prophecies will be concrete and literal, but penultimately, their good work begins in you, and in me.


God is a very individual and personal God. It is God’s intention to personally bring you good news, release, sight, freedom, and favor. Wow! Consider what this means in your every day, walking around life. Savor the possibility.


(My dear friend, I realize that I’m having a difficult time thinking about what to write to you regarding these promises. I know they are true and sure at all times because I know Jesus is true and sure at all times, but my experience sometimes suggests that they are true and sure only sometimes. I wish my experience could declare their trustworthiness without a doubt, but it is only my faith that I can make such a declaration. And so, it does. “Oh Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”)


Oh, Holy Spirit, bringer of wisdom and discernment, will you speak your truth through my words right now? I so long to impart only what is of you; form my thoughts after yours, inspire images, form sentences that bring to this page what would bring life and liberty to me and to my friend. We need your help. Amen.


With you on the journey,
Debby

Most Important Lesson

Biography of a Soul…notes to a seeker.

Like St. Teresa of Avila, whose Abbess instructed her to write her Autobiography of a Soul, creating a map to follow toward the heart of God, I offer a Biography of a Soul, notes to encourage and equip your heart to seek God’s heart.

Like Screwtape to Wormwood, I make practical suggestions about how to continue toward God’s good will. Read on, won’t you?

Mary Cassatt, The Two Sisters, Public Domain

My dear Seeker,

Pay attention because I’m about to share with you the most important lesson you’ll learn in your life of discipleship. This truth is the foundation upon which you must build your life. Are you ready? Here you go – This life is a gift. A gift. Do not pass over this lesson quickly, thinking you already know it or thinking it is too simple to give much attention. I know you, you desire a life radically different from the one you have previously lived, you long for a mind made new, more readily thinking God’s thoughts; you yearn for a heart shaped by mercy and justice; that offers kind and trustworthy actions that bring glory to your Lord. The life of a faithful follower of Jesus is possible only because God gives it to you. You cannot “white knuckle” yourself into transformation. The Jesus-likeness you desire happens when you make yourself available to receive God’s grace.


Think of your heart like a balloon, empty of any ego or drive for perfection, ready to receive a breath that will fill it and give it shape. God’s love is the breath that will inflate your soul. As God’s love and character are poured into your heart, your life will take the form for which you were created. Your life will become like Jesus. Your part in this process is to remain receptive to this inpouring.


This life is a gift—what a profound thought. You cannot earn this life, you do not merit it. You receive it. All gifts proceed from the resources of the giver. Your God is rich in mercy and kindness and gives life to you in abundance. You need only want it and then be willing to set aside your pride and your belief that you need to do something to deserve it. This belief forces you to perform in order to be worthy of God’s love or to protect God’s reputation. It’s outcome is the opposite of what you desire. It separates you from God. Duty performed, not fueled by affection, displeases God. Nothing but love and desire for God and an awareness of your need of God are required of you.

Any duty you perform, not fueled by affection for God, displeases God.

DB


I’m not saying there is no effort on your part. There is, it is not easy to receive this gift. The hard work you must do is to slay your pride and deny yourself as a god in your life. This work requires vigilance and a great faith; even these, though, are gifts of God’s grace if you are willing to receive them. Your effort is to remain receptive out of your love response to God and to realize that apart from God’s grace, you can do nothing.


You are saved by grace, yes. But you also live by grace. Your every breath is God’s gift to you. You remain alive because God is continuing to prepare you for eternity, training you in worship and equipping you for reigning with him. Each day you live in dependence on God’s gifts of life and love for you, you are being shaped into the likeness of Jesus; day by day, changed in character and actions until the day comes when you shall see him and when you see him, you will be like him.


Remember your childhood and the intense longing you had for that special toy you wanted for Christmas? Remember how you were convinced that without it under the Christmas tree your life would be empty and miserable. Remember how that desire caused you to beg your parents for it? Caused you to attempt to modify your behavior so that you’d more likely be in a position to receive it? (“He knows if you’ve been naughty or nice…”)


Even now, desire the life of a faithful disciple as much as you wanted that toy; beg your heavenly parent for it, dispose yourself to receive it, and trust that it will be yours. God is waiting for you to ask and is eager to respond.


With you on the journey,
Debby

Learning Life

Biography of a Soul…notes to a seeker.

Like St. Teresa of Avila, whose Abbess instructed her to write her Autobiography of a Soul, creating a map to follow toward the heart of God, I offer a Biography of a Soul, notes to encourage and equip your heart to seek God’s heart.

Like Screwtape to Wormwood, I make practical suggestions about how to continue toward God’s good will. Read on, won’t you?

Mary Cassatt, The Two Sisters, Public Domain

My dear Seeker,

You’ve decided that Jesus is the one you from whom you want to learn life. Good choice! Like any other skill or object you’ve determined to master, life must be learned. Life learned? This may seem contrary, but it is true. Life, ultimate life, must be studied and practiced. You were given biological life by the grace of God, and you were taught how to handle this gift by the influence of your parents and culture. Of course, your own temperament played a part in how these lessons were incorporated and interpreted, but for the most part, you were passive in this process, you received and responded.


But now you are becoming your own agent of choice. You are wise enough to go to the source. You asked the creator of life to teach you how to live. You have much to unlearn and much to learn about this life you are seeking. God will be a faithful teacher. Jesus is your model, your instructor, and your friend.


In the past, you looked to tutors who were less faithful and true. Parents who, although they loved you the best they were able, did not love you perfectly and placed expectations on you that squelched your spirit. You learned to hide your true life. The church, intended to train you in the love and freedom that is yours as a beloved child of God, instead taught you the life of a slave, filled with shame and rules that must be obeyed out of fear, you learned to hate your true life. Relationships, meant to provide the experience of intimacy, acceptance, and mutual respect, instead convinced you that only perfection in body and personality could be desired and honored. Knowing your own imperfection and finding flaws in the other, fostered the fear of rejection, you learned to wear a mask to conceal your true life.

Parents who, although they loved you the best they were able, did not love you perfectly and placed expectations on you that squelched your spirit. You learned to hide your true life.

DB

You looked to these teachers to give you life, but they delivered death. Each death-dealing “lesson” you learned, each disappointment you suffered created a wall that surrounded your true self and separated you from the source of life, God’s love. But God’s love was not content with this divide, so the trinity conspired to break down this wall of separation.


The flesh and blood of Jesus eliminated this barrier and you have been brought near to the God of life. God’s grace has returned you to the place of a student, ready and eager to learn. And now Jesus will teach you. Forget what lies behind and attempt to maintain the posture of a little child who is learning things for the first time…

With you on the journey,

Debby

Intention

Biography of a Soul…notes to a seeker.

Like St. Teresa of Avila, whose Abbess instructed her to write her Autobiography of a Soul, creating a map to follow toward the heart of God, I offer a Biography of a Soul, notes to encourage and equip your heart to seek God’s heart.

Like Screwtape to Wormwood, I make practical suggestions about how to continue toward God’s good will. Read on, won’t you?

Mary Cassatt, The Two Sisters, Public Domain

My dear Seeker,

You have asked me to give you some guidance about your walk with Jesus. I think your intention is to be better able, as it has been said, to see him more clearly, love him more dearly, follow him more nearly, with each passing day.

First of all, let me remind you of how this desire brings your Lord the greatest delight. When God looks out over the world God created God’s eyes take in innumerable sights and activities that must grieve God’s heart – war, greed, death, loneliness – sadnesses beyond our measure. But imagine how the Father heart of God must rejoice when he looks at you and sees his daughter wanting nothing better than to love and obey him to the best of her ability. And what she lacks in ability, she trusts that God’s Spirit will supply. You and your desire to love God and love God’s world is a bright spot in the cosmos now. Do not minimize the impact of your desire. It is a big deal.

Do you find it hard to imagine that you, little you, can bring delight to God? The reason for this is that you forget who you are. I remind you that you are God’s beloved child. You’re a parent, think back and remember the joy that filled your heart when your son would take comfort from no one but you? When your daughter would follow you around the kitchen imitating your actions? When your company alone was their preferred companion? Remember this joy and magnify it at least by 1000 to get a glimpse of how your God feels toward you. Dear one, try to remain God’s beloved child.

Also, please remember that your desire to know God on a more intimate level is not your idea! It originated in God’s own heart. You are just responding. When you were created, God planted a kind of homing device in your soul. You know yourself well enough to know that there has always been an urge for a greater and grander life. This urge is God’s strategy to drive you to seek God. Nothing else will satisfy. Only God can settle you and convince you that your life is important. You have been “hooked” by the great fisherman and you are being reeled in. The difference is that you have been caught in order to provide you a feast, not to be a feast! God is so eager to share God’s life with you. Let yourself be grateful that the magnet heart of God is calling you home.

Notice thus far, how frequently you are called to remember or are reminded of some truth about God and about you. Remembering is essential for your faithful walk with Jesus. Remembering brings to mind something from your past, allowing yourself to reexperience the event, the thought, or the emotion. To remember is to keep truth alive. To remember causes you to once again own reality. Take time in your regular prayer to recall truths you learned from the heart of God; take them from the shelf of your mind and sit with them, feel their import, let them hydrate the dry places of your soul. Few things in life are as enjoyable and bonding as friends sitting together remembering their common history. God wants to do this with you. If you faithfully remember such truths as God’s tenderness toward you, or the joy of obedience, or the comfort of Jesus, or the available power of the Holy Spirit, you will be able to live faithfully in the present. Remembering will wake your soul to the very presence of the Trinity. And in the presence of the Holy God of absolute Love, you will say yes to the life of a disciple of Jesus. If you remember well and often, you will live well and delight God.

I am quite honored to share with you the thoughts the Holy Spirit gives me about walking with Jesus. I am not an expert on the topic. In fact, I am a feeble guide. And yet you have asked, so I trust that somehow our Lord will use my life and my words to lead you into the Kingdom. Join me now in prayer. 

Holy Spirit, you who bring to our mind all that Jesus taught, you who bring illumination to our hearts, come now with your power and your testimony. Reveal through these printed words the vision of a life of a disciple who is learning to live and love like Jesus. Make these words alive, may they teach, encourage and equip. We engage with them as one of your tools to transform us into the likeness of Jesus, for the glory of God.  in whose name we pray.  Amen.

With you on the journey,

Debby

My Mournful Selves are Welcomed

A fierce mouse with a tiny, but sharp sword came home with me last night (from MSK*). His name is anger though he’s not full of rage. He’s just an irritant, that won’t let my soul settle. Poke—uncertainly about treatment. Poke—don’t know what to eat. Poke—damn, cancer continues on; how long? Poke, poke, poke.

I woke this morning with my head on sorrow’s shoulder. She was a green, alien creature, with duck-like webbed feet and hands. I lay quietly in her surrounding arms. It felt comforting. I could relax.

Falling asleep again, I dreamt of a foster boy, returned to my care after his rejecting forever parents didn’t want him. It broke me. Ripped from my heart was the hope that good will reign, my body fell to a heap as I wept tears of anguish. 

And now, the Psalmist asks,  “Why must I walk around mournfully because of the oppression of my enemies?”  —Psalm 43

Why must I walk around mournfully because of the oppression of my enemies?

Here’s why

These mournful feelings are why—the anger, the sorrow, the brokenheartedness. They accompany me as I sit in prayer. I picture them. The comforting alien carrying the heap of a broken heart on a litter in her arms with the fierce mouse, teeth bared, placing his paw on the alien’s back offering solidarity and strength. 

Together, we ask for your light and truth to lead us to your holy hill, your dwelling place. (v3) 

I raise my head and see, the brilliance of your light shining through the truth of your cross. Your light welcomes my united, mournful, and desperate self.  

To enter your dwelling place, my companions and I shape ourselves into the form of a cross. Like a square peg in a square hole, the whole of myself must conform and fit into truth—Yes, Injustices exist, tears flow, hearts shatter. But, the cross changes their shape. 

My mournful selves transmogrify into trinkets on a charm bracelet. Your light shimmers off of anger’s sword, like gleaming gold, it glistens in sorrow’s moist tears like little diamonds, and broken heart’s litter becomes a square of woven cashmere.  

I approach your altar, place the bracelet upon it, bow, and wait. 

God’s voice: “Do not be cast down, my precious one. I hold your life within my home. Remember to hope in me. I promise praise shall rule and you shall rise with joy.” (v5)

With you on the journey, 

Debby

*MSK is Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Treatment Center.

The Official vs. the Bleeding woman

The official bowed low, the woman snuck up from behind.

The official begged Jesus to touch his daughter. The woman wanted to touch Jesus herself.

The official’s daughter was dead, and dead is dead. The woman was alive, but her constant bleeding was leaking the life out of her.

Jesus walked after the official. Jesus stopped and turned to the woman. 

The official asked on behalf of his daughter. The woman didn’t ask at all but heard Jesus call her, “Daughter.”

Jesus took the official’s daughter by the hand. To the woman, Jesus spoke the word courage.

Where am I dead? Where is life leaking out?

There are parts of my heart’s desire that I can boldly, without hesitation, and in the company of others ask of Jesus. Places that are dead and need Jesus’ touch. Generally acceptable requests for touches of healing and mercy. 

And there are parts of my heart that I hide because I am ashamed. I know only Jesus can heal them, but I cannot bring myself to admit them in public. That would be too embarrassing. 

Both needs are legitimate. Whether to his face or behind his back, what matters is coming to Jesus for the touch that heals. 

I ask, Where am I dead? Where is life leaking out? 

It’s easy and important to go public when asking for relief from something that has happened to me, when I am a victim, such as my cancer. In this, I am asking for intervention, a separation from the death that has invaded. It had nothing to do with my character or choices.

Not so easy to bring publicly the healing I need that results from my own leaking blood, the death choices I make that drains the life out of me. An example is my preference for isolation versus community, born of a desire to satisfy my appetite for particular foods, drinks, or mindless activity. It’s embarrassing to admit I’d rather go home, put on my lounge pants, eat pizza and drink wine than share an evening with friends. 

Let those questions reverberate within….

A guidebook for devotions

Many of you remember and some of you purchased, (thank you by the way) the book my friend, Dick and I wrote, The Quiet Time Scrapbook. We sold them all out! So we made a few revisions and changed the title and if you weren’t able to buy the original, now’s your chance to buy the revised edition.

guidebook cover jpeg

It is now titled Guidebook for Personal Devotions and you can look at a sample by clicking the link below.

Guidebook sample

The cost is $24.99, plus shipping (Within the US: $3.99 for the first copy plus $.50 for each additional copy). Sales tax will be applied to NY customers.

Payment: By check or card (via a secure Square.com invoice we’ll provide).

We’ll ship to the address you provide once your payment has been received. Click above to see a sample and then let us know how many you want to order!

 

 

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