My hero, the leper (a prayer)

(Occasionally, I feel compelled to share with you from my personal prayer journal. This one I fearfully offer. Be gentle, you’re holding my heart.)

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Matthew 8:1-3

Lord, the way this leper trusts you has always amazed me. He models detachment. He’s a leper, he desires to be made clean he knows you have the power to do so, yet, he doesn’t demand it or hold you ransom. He strikes no bargains; just lays his request before you and lets you give him what you will.

Boy, that’s hard. In theory, he’s my hero and I want to follow his example. But in reality I am attached to the outcome. I want to write useful material for your people. You could use me if you choose. I kneel before you, risking my request. Give words through me or not. Help me remain at your feet.  Amen.


God, you are quick to respond. You spoke practical things I can do to remain in the trusting position for which I long. It seems God says the same thing over and again to the Israelites (and by extension me.) I guess they needed to hear it more than once. Their hard hearts needed retraining, new ways of being and believing. So does mine.

In summary, from Deuteronomy 7:

  • God will give you success. Success for me is measured by my continued listening during my prayer time, capturing the words in my journal and sharing them with my friends. I can cooperate with God by faithfully showing up each morning, and without self-judgement offer the words formed in my heart.
  • You must destroy existing idols, you’ll suffer unnecessarily if you don’t. Among the idols I must destroy are perfection, competition, jealousy because others seem more “successful” than I am. I can pray that God uproots this prideful selfishness and grows humility and love in my heart.
  • You are God’s chosen, not because of your strength or beauty (inflated ego) but just because God loves you. I am not the best writer, but I express the impressions the Spirit of God has written on my heart. I am loved and chosen by God, I do not need to impress others or myself.
  • You have been set free to obey, do so and blessings abound. Like God’s word which does not return void, God speaking through my unique voice will be a blessing, at least to me, if to no one else, because I have been faithful to God’s call for me.
  • Do not focus on your lack (deflated ego), but on God’s power. I am not the worst writer, God has given me gifts of communication and opportunities to practice and hone my skills. It is God’s grace and love that works in me and flows through my writings.


Sound familiar? Does it resonant with your experience? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

With you on the journey,


Jesus, Porsches and discipleship? Connected? How?

Porsche or Jesus?

How are Jesus, Porsches and discipleship connected? Here’s how.

You walk with Jesus, get to know him and trust him; watch him do wonders, listen to his authoritative teaching, even witness God’s power working through you. Then there comes a day when you approach Jesus with your heart’s desire.

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What is it that you want me to do for you?’ Mark 10:35,36

First of all, I love the approachability of Jesus. He was patient and generous with these two friends, who had no qualms about coming to him with a pretty selfish request. They must have known they would be welcome. This is where the maturing begins, trusting Jesus enough to come to him as you are, daring to ask for what you really desire. You don’t have to pretty it up, or pretend you don’t want it. “God desires truth in the inward heart.” (Ps 51). You must be real and raw. If you want a porsche, tell God about it. Start where you are. Go to Jesus with your heart in your hand. Enter the conversation. Key word: conversation; complete with give and take, speaking and listening. Don’t demand and then shut your ears.

This is God’s entry point into your heart. In telling God what you really want, you invite God to talk with you about the contents of your heart. Remember Jesus said, “Where your treasure is there will your heart be.” God uses this conversation to shed light on the true nature of your soul.

Back to Mark, “But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking.’” Jesus’ gentle reminder that they are limited in their vision, their power and their understanding. They think they know what would be best for them, but they hold only one little part of the story. They cannot comprehend the big picture, which is about so much more than their small wants and desires.

We ask Jesus for a porsche (or a husband, or health, or a child), his come back is, “My friend, you don’t know what you need.”  Period. We sit together with that big matzah ball hanging in the air between us (a Seinfeld reference, hehe). Staying in the conversation with Jesus, when a porsche does not materialize, forces us to look beyond the porsche to the nature of our relationship with God. Is God a vending machine, there to service my needs? Hopefully, this silence leads us to the realization of “I trust that God wills whatever is best for me. If God doesn’t give me a porsche, maybe having a porsche would not be what is best for me. hmm.”

This place of openness to God’s will is where the rubber meets the road. Jesus asks some significant and challenging questions. “Are you able…Are you able?” Mark 10:38

By the leading of the Holy Spirit we now realistically examine our motives, and without judgement, realize our sin-tainted values and intentions. Oh, dear friend, this is the purifying and necessary path to a mature faith. Not using God to get what we want, rather, wanting God to get what we need. And what do we need? Power to follow Jesus where ever he leads.

“(James and John) replied, ‘We are able.’ Mark 10:39. Jesus affirmed their ability to follow him where ever that might lead, he did not give them a porsche. Porsches will rust and decay, relationship with Jesus will increase and remain.

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Do you live in the house of love?

You are God's loved garden

Depending on emotional/relational fig leaves to keep ourselves safe is not a very good strategy. First off, they don’t provide much protection and when they die, they dry up and crumble apart, leaving us vulnerable to the pain, shame and hurt they were intended to guard against. What then can be done? Does God have a plan to protect and keep us?

Yes, thank God, there is a means of getting back to the garden. “God clothed Adam and Eve in garments of flesh.” Genesis 3:21 God replaced their fig leaves with the soft, supple, warm skin of an animal. God did not leave them naked and vulnerable to cold and hurt. (Sadly, though, an animal had to die to provide this covering, a foreshadowing of the crucifixion.)

Returning to the Garden, being restored to community, leaving the house of fear and entering the house of love requires us to give up our paltry attempts at self-protection and to trust God to be our covering. We can choose nakedness; we can be ourselves without pretense or fear (see here for a discussion of trust vs fear).

Such vulnerability does need wisdom, though. Jesus said in Matthew 7:6 that you should “not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.” Don’t give what is precious and valuable (your very self) to someone who is not going to honor and respect you. This is not to say you should be “hiding” your self in such situations, just use discretion in what truth you offer to the other. Jesus would not want you to be abused and trampled upon.

Living in the house of love, we choose dependent obedience; we obey God’s command to love and serve one another while depending upon the covering of Christ’s victory to be our protection. Remember the others we are in community with will (like us) tend to “clothe themselves in fig leaves.” It is not ours to force their “nakedness,” one must choose “nakedness.” It is ours to do unto them as Christ has done unto us. Such love-born actions alone can lead to trust and vulnerability.

We began these posts with a thought from St. Teresa of Avila. Let’s end them by making her thought our own.

As I pray, I am making a garden in which my Lord delights. But the soil of my garden is unfruitful and full of weeds. So Jesus uproots the weeds and plants good herbs…so that he may come often for his pleasure and to delight himself in the virtues growing in me.

This concludes the series of posts on God’s tending of us, a garden in whom our Lord delights. You can read them from the beginning by going to “How does your Garden Grow.” The thoughts were taken from the retreat Shaped at the Garden. You can contact me for more information about this retreat.

Keeping the love (part two)

Henri Nouwen says we can live either in the house of love or the house of fear

Remove Shame Cleanse the lepers: restore to community (part nine)

Henri Nouwen says we can live in either the house of love or the house of fear. The walls of fear’s house are shoddy attempts to keep our vulnerable self safe from danger, pain and displeasure. They take the form of emotional/relational styles of operating that are our best, but weak efforts at protection. They keep others at a distance, insuring our security. In my last post I began a list of some common “fig leaves.” Here the list continues. Do any of these seem familiar? Take hope, in my next post I’ll speak about how we can move into the house of love.

I tend to protect my vulnerable self by…

6. Co-Dependence  I gain a sense of value by being needed by others; when others don’t need me or appreciate me, I develop resentment and bitterness. Like the elder brother – Luke 15

7. Dependence  I am always in need or in crises. Like the man by the pool – John 5

8. Sexualization  I use my sexuality or flirtatious nature to avoid real intimacy in relationships. Like the woman caught in adultery – John 8

9. Spiritualizing  All of life’s issues are described in spiritual terms. No emotions acknowledged, hiding behind God, assigning God more than his due.  Like the Pharisees and the man born blind – John 9

10. Hyper Emotionality  The opposite of intellectualizing, intense emotions areexperienced and expressed as an attempt to garner sympathy and to avoid theissue at hand. Like the Gerasene demoniac – Mark 5

11. Verbosity  If I keep talking, I can distract you (and me) from my more vulnerable self. Like the young Debby Bellingham (see Proverbs 21:23 and others)

12. Busyness  My never ending list of things to do keeps me from slowing down enough to allow my deeper issues/fears to come to the surface. Plus it proves to everyone how important and efficient I am. Like Martha – Luke 10

13. Control  Micromanaging my life and the lives of those around me gives me a sense of safety. I am prepared for anything that might come along, nothing will take me by surprise. It is an attempt to keep fear at bay. Like Moses in Exodus 18 or Martha in Luke 10

14. Withdrawal  Literally shutting down, absenting myself from relationships,conversations and even myself. I become zombie-like, unreachable. If you can’t reach me, perhaps you’ll give up trying and I’ll be safe. Like Elijah in 1 Kings 19

15. Consumer  Using any substance to extreme. Moving from one “high” to the next in an attempt to numb my soul to it’s fear and shame. Like Esau in Genesis 25:29ff

We’ll talk about getting back to the garden in my next post.

This material is taken from the Shaped at the Garden Retreat. For information about this retreat, please contact me or check out the upcoming events.

Keeping the love

Your greatest longing and greatest fear are one and the same

Remove Shame Cleanse the lepers: restore to community (part eight)

You are a very complex creation, a living oxymoron. Your greatest longing and your greatest fear are one and the same – to be thoroughly loved. You long for it because it is what you were created to experience. You fear it, because to be loved completely requires complete transparency. This is scary. If you are completely self-revealing I could learn some shameful thing about you that might change my mind about how lovable you are. Yikes. Better to hide the ugly and unattractive. But this hiding pollutes love, this hiding creates doubt, this hiding builds walls. Your greatest longing goes unrealized because of fear.

Hiding, born of fear and shame is our inheritance from Adam and Eve. They ate the one fruit they were asked to not eat, and their eyes were opened; they saw their nakedness, and hid because they were afraid. Fig leaves couldn’t hide their shame from God or from themselves, but that didn’t stop them from trying.

We carry on this family tradition. We have our own fig leaves, our own ways of hiding our vulnerable self. Modern day fig leaves usually take the form of emotional and relational styles of being and interacting. Following are a few common ones.  Any sound familiar? If none of these are your go-to fig leaves, don’t worry, I’ll continue the list on my next post.

I tend to protect my vulnerable self by…

1. Avoidance  Emotionally and/or physically. I am afraid of rejection; I’ll find ways to deflect from any personal attention. One tactic I use is to be a good listener; always being the one asking questions. Like the woman at the well – John 4

2. Intellectualizing  I tend to focus on tasks and reasoning to approach most of life’s situations; I analyze and talk about feelings in an emotionless manner. Like Nicodemus – John 3

3. Projection   I ascribe to others the emotions/attitudes that I would like to ignore in myself or I don’t like about myself. For instance, I will perceive/accuse others of putting me down because I feel very inadequate about myself. Like the Pharisees and Jesus – Matthew 12:22

4. Blaming  I am too insecure to assume responsibility for matters; I fear handling the consequences if I am responsible. I often appear angry. Like Pilate – Matthew 27:11-26

5. Splitting  I idealize some people or things while ascribing all the bad to others: I think in black or white, there is no room for gray. Like Judas – Mark 14:4-11

The list continues on my next post.

This material is taken from the Shaped at the Garden Retreat. For information about this retreat, please contact me or check out the upcoming events.

The great coverup

Remove ShameCleanse the lepers: restore to community (part seven)

It’s obvious we are not living anywhere near the Garden of Eden and God’s intention for our lives and relationships. What went wrong? Our continued study of Genesis gives us the answer – after the ‘fall’ Adam and Eve “clothed themselves in fig leaves.” (Genesis 3:7)

Previous to the fall, they enjoyed unadulterated fellowship with God, each other and all of creation; they were “naked and not ashamed.” In perfect partnership and according to God’s direction, they tended the garden and cared for the animals. They knew only freedom and joy.

After the fall, Adam and Eve were afraid. They hid themselves and made fig leaves to cover their nakedness. Heeding the serpent’s voice and choosing to do the one thing God has asked them not to do changed their outlook; suddenly they became self conscious, for the first time they noticed their own nakedness. Their attention and focus shifted to themselves. Their gaze moved from God, each other and the garden to their own naked bodies. They became aware of their vulnerable state and knew they had disappointed God. Out of this shame, they attempted to hide behind self-made fig leaves.

We’ve inherited this pattern. We are very self-aware, in many ways we cast ourselves as the primary character in the play of life; it’s all about us, we are the center of the universe. And sadly, because we are afraid who we are will disappoint God or others we hide and cover up. Our fear and shame causes us to use emotional/relational styles of fig leaves to cover ourselves and hide our nakedness. Fear and pretense kills the spiritual and ideal community God wants to us experience.

We can no longer enter relationships without fear and shame being present to some degree. You must earn my trust. I must grow to believe that you are a safe person with whom I can be my vulnerable self. Until then, I’ll keep myself protected and guard against the pain of disappointment by hiding behind my own version of a fig leaf.

In my next post we’ll talk about a few of the more common emotional/relational fig leaves we use to protect our vulnerable self.

This material is taken from the Shaped at the Garden Retreat. For information about this retreat, please contact me or check out the upcoming events.

Trust takes a dive

Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee; All things pass; God never changes. Patience attains All that it strives for. He who has God finds he lacks nothing:God alone suffices.               -St. Teresa of Avila

Return to Innocence – Raise the dead: animate and reenergize what once was alive (part four of four)

A few years ago, I was vacationing in a tropical locale. I got bored just sitting on the beach and decided to pursue a little adventure. I took a scuba diving class. Have you ever done this? If you haven’t let me tell you how it works. I spent the morning in a three foot deep swimming pool learning how to use the equipment, wearing the tanks and practicing breathing underwater by using the mouthpiece. Easy-smeashy, right?  Break for lunch, delightful. In the afternoon, I get on a boat, am taken out into the middle of the ocean, I gear up with the wetsuit, the tanks, the fins and, unlike the practice in the swimming pool, the crew put weights on the straps of my tanks! Weights! With all the equipment and the weights I am so heavy I need help standing up. Then, aided by the crew, I am walked to the edge of the boat and asked to jump into the deep, deep sea. I am so weighted down I can barely stand up, and now I’m expected to jump into the bottomless ocean? How can I trust that I won’t sink down, down and down to my drowning death? I am freaked out.

Here’s where trust must kick in. If I’m going to enjoy the adventure of scuba diving I have to put into practice what I learned and believed to be true in the pool.

If you are going to live the adventurous life of a follower of Jesus, with all its beauty and health, you must put into practice what you know to be true. Trust is learned by trusting. You cannot reason your way into faith, you can only take an informed leap into it.

Practical steps into faith (as taught me by a scuba diving lesson)

1. Desire truth – “The scuba gear is trustworthy, I will be able to breath underwater. I want to scuba dive” translates into “God can be trusted and I want to trust God.” Feed your desire for a life that depends on God’s supply of the air you need to sustain your life.

2. Develop supportive community – “Look, that woman isn’t sinking and she’s got equal amounts of gear and weights on her” translates into “look at the people around me, both personally known or known by reputation who have taken great risks of faith and are surviving, even thriving. I’ve trusted God in the past and God came through.” Live in a community of faith where you can admit your fears and be reminded of truth.

3. Practice the Presence – When I finally did get the courage to jump into the ocean, trusting the equipment that had been provided, I made sure I remained close to the instructor. True, this nearness was initially caused by fear; if something went wrong, I wanted to be close so he could save me. But as I relaxed and began to forget about the equipment and just enjoy the adventure, it benefited me to remain close to the instructor. He was practiced at seeing underwater. He pointed out beauty and unique sights that my unformed eyes would never have seen. I gained more profit by remaining close. So it is with God, let God be your companion. It is okay if your first motive is fear, hang in and relax, God will train your eyes to take in the sights and wonders of this life, unnoticed by those who remain distant or independent from God’s loving presence.

4. Remember well – “What was true in the pool is true in the ocean.”

A Return to Trust

..demons love darkness and hiddenness. Inner fears and struggles which remain isolated develop great power over us. But when we talk about them in a spirit of trust, they they can be looked at and dealt with. Once brought into the light of mutual love, demons lose their power and quickly leave us.         Henri Nouwen The Road to Daybreak

Return to InnocenceRaise the dead: animate and reenergize what once was alive

(part three of four)

OK, we’ve established that unhealthy fear equals death and wise trust equals life. So how do we cooperate with life? How do we return to trust?

We are bound to trust, what matters is who and what we trust. From this decision point comes either death or life. Jeremiah 17:5-10 announces our reality.

5 Thus says the Lord: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. 6 They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.

We are not cursed because we trust in mere mortals and flesh and blood, rather because we trust in mere mortals and flesh and blood we are cursed. That’s reality. People will always disappoint us. Depending on imperfect people to meet our needs will leave us empty and dry. Others are busy trying to get their own needs satisfied, they cannot offer us the complete nourishment and relief we need to thrive.

This first step in learning to trust is to admit and repent of this practice. (Repent means to think about things in a completely different light and as a result of this new thinking, change our habits and our practices.) Such a repentance also makes room for true relationships to grow. When I quit seeing you through the very narrow lens of being the answer to a particular need of mine, I can see the whole of you. You are not my fix, you can become my friend.

7 Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. 8 They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.

Trusting the Lord is born out of remembrance. Returning to what we know is true. God is faithful. God’s salvation is thorough. God provides streams of living water that hydrate and nourish our lives. Even in difficult seasons of life, we’ve witnessed God’s provision. Recall and re-experience what your life was like when your heart was turned away from God, remember the darkness? the lostness? the fear? Remember the joy of being found, of coming home. God never changes. He is always and constantly loving and good. Practice trusting this and act accordingly.

As I mentioned before, God is a god of reality and the truth is that fear is deeply embedded in our psyche and our being. We may mentally agree with the Biblical statements about God being all loving and good, yet we cannot generate a feeling of security and confidence in God’s trustworthiness. This is not news to God! The next step of learning to trust addresses this issue. It is a difficult process and may take most of our life to accomplish. We must allow God access to the areas of mistrust in our hearts and souls.

9 The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse— who can understand it? 10 I, the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.

It’s like your soul is a piece of saran wrap that has been rolled up into a ball. It is practically impossible to smooth out, doing so requires great patience and persistence. Both of which God has in abundance. Slowly, steadily the Holy Spirit will enter a place of fear within your experience, shedding light on the ways you distrust God, offering an invitation to trust. The decision is yours, to trust God or to trust yourself; you will bear the fruit of this decision.

Practical steps of implementing this trust will be addressed in the next and final installment of the article Return to Innocence.

(This material is based on the Shaped at the Garden retreat. For information about this retreat contact me or refer to the upcoming events section.)

Fear – our emotional fire alarm

Return to InnocenceRaise the dead: animate and reenergize what once was alive (part two of four)

Jesus tends the garden of our soul by resurrecting our true selves, the self that wisely trusts because it is free from fear or worry. (see part one)

When you find yourself not trusting, ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?”

Usually pain of some kind is the answer. Fear is our emotional fire alarm, saying “Danger, slow down, let’s make sure we’re safe here.” Healthy fear can help us unhealthy fear can paralyze us.

Unhealthy fear is like a muscle-bound, well-armed, overprotective body guard. Originally employed to keep us safe, he now keeps us a prisoner to guarantee our safety; reasoning only when we are locked away from any danger, whether it be physical or emotional, can we hope to be kept safe and avoid pain. Trust is the key to this prison, but this key is so infrequently used, it has grown rusty and is often hard to locate.

Spiritual speaking (which in turn impacts all the rest of our lives) we are living oxymorons in relationship to trust. We say God is good and loving and yet we resist trusting him completely. Why? Why is it hard to trust God? Why do our actions not match our words?

Three reasons:

1. Lack of perspective – Eliza and the peas. Peas were good provision for her, and needful for her, but she wasn’t crazy about the flavor, so she trusted her taste buds more than her providers. So it is with us. We know what we want and think we know what we need, therefore we resist anything that doesn’t square with our expectation. God has long-term, life-providing, strength-building provision for us, we don’t recognize it because it tastes like peas, not sweet potatoes. (See part one)

2. We’ve been injured – In the past trust lead to rejection and pain, experiences we made a vow to avoid at all costs. Most of us had, as they say in the psychological literature, “good enough” parents; parents that more often than not were available to meet our needs, provide and protect, so fear is not the foundation of our life.  But it is still a powerful factor in keeping us “dead”.

3. Lack of Control – Need I say more? We all believe in the myth of control. If I’m in charge, I can manage the situation and insure that neither me nor anyone I love is hurt in any way. If I trust, I give another power over my life and am at risk of being hurt.

Unhealthy fear = Death. The good news is that if fear is a learned condition, it can be unlearned. Jesus came to resurrect trust in our lives once again.

More about this in part three of Return to Innocence.

(This material is taken from the Shaped at the Garden retreat. For more information about participating in this retreat, contact me or look in the events category.)

Do you have trust issues?

The thought of the blessedness we hope for, of the love our Lord bore us, and His resurrection, kindle within us a joy which is neither wholly spiritual nor wholly sensual; but the joy is virtuous, and the sorrow is most meritorious.
St. Teresa of Avila

Return to Innocence
Raise the dead: animate and reenergize what once was alive

(part one of four)

Jesus sent his twelve disciples off on a missionary journey with the instruction and the authority to “Raise the dead.” (Matthew 10:7,8) The good news of salvation brings us the ultimate resurrection, “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11) We will be alive forever. Resurrection, though, is not just for the hereafter, it begins now. Currently God is in the process of bringing back to life the various parts of our true self that have been killed off. He is resurrecting our innocence.

Our innocence – the pure state into which we were born, without guile and agenda. As infants we assumed good would come to us to meet our needs, we didn’t need to manipulate or coerce our provision and/or protection. Basically we trusted. Trust is the essence of innocence.

Sadly, our innocence and our trust has been mortally wounded.  How many times have you said or heard it said, “I have trust issues.”

Yet, we still trust. Trust is our default. Our problem is not whether or not we will trust, it is who and what we will trust.

Trust is the assumption that the other you are in relationship with intends your good, will provide your needs and offer you protection. We are born trusting but life quickly teaches us that we cannot trust completely.

Eliza, my granddaughter loved her sweet potatoes. As an infant, she’d eagerly open her mouth anticipating the next bite of the delicious treat. One day the babysitting instructions I received from her mom was to introduce peas to her diet. She sat in her high chair expecting the usual and desired sweet potatoes. Her reaction to peas in the spoon rather than sweet potatoes was quick and definite. She screwed up her face in shock, spit out the peas and then refused to open her mouth for the next bite.

What once had always provided her a known pleasure suddenly delivered an unknown displeasure. The spoon was now suspicious. Would it contain the desired sweet potatoes or the dreaded peas? Her recent experience taught her to distrust the spoon and her mouth remained closed.

Like Eliza, we have learned the spoon is not trustworthy; shutting our mouth to the spoon we put our trust in our closed mouths. Experience taught us that we needed to be wary of the other. We began to build a relational style of operating that included guardedness and doubt. We learned fear. Fear is the opposite of trust.

The good news, though, is that if fear is learned, it can be unlearned!

More about this in part two of Return to Innocence.

(This material is based on the Shaped at the Garden Retreat. For information about this retreat, contact me or visit the upcoming events page.)