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How

These "Pearls of Wisdom" pages are somewhere to share the insightful articles, podcast episodes, etc that I come across on a regular basis. I hope they are meaningful in your "with God" life as well. Of course many of these posts will include elements of all three categories of pearls.

 

In Dallas Willard's "Vision, Intention, and Means" model of transformation, How is the Means. All are necessary questions in our lives. How provides the bridge of hope between the desire for What can be and the achievement of it.

There is a key point to all of this, and everything you read in the articles or podcasts on this page should be considered in reference to one thing: relationship with God and others. This life we are invited into is a relational one. It is how God exists within Himself in Trinitarian form: in a relationship of love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Mankind was created as an expansion of that relationship for much the same reason that a couple with a healthy marriage decides to have children - so that they have more family with which to share their unified love.

General

Live Life to the Full: (General) This link to Renovare.org article by Dallas Willard is worthwhile even if all you get from it are two quotes or ideas: "Grace is not opposed to effort. It is opposed to earning. Effort is action. Earning is attitude." and, discussing how to put on the new person, "Appropriate action is key. True, as Jesus said, 'Without me you can do nothing.' (John 15:5) But it is also true that if we do nothing it will be without Him." The article goes on to briefly discuss how we can put on the new man by engaging in spiritual disciples, which themselves prepare us for right action at the right time. Our faith is an active one, not to earn but to engage ("with", always "with").

The Habit Wizard: (General) This link to a BecomeNew.com video by John Ortberg where he hosts an expert on habits Bradley Wright. There is one simple message in this short video that offers the best way to incorporate a habit: start small. It is okay to dream big, but if there is a road ahead to get there, the best way isn't to jump right in exerting maximum effort right off the bat. Start small, establish the habit, and build upon that. In this video, Bradley Wright offers an example of how he started a health habit that he built up in his life.

And here it is on YouTube:

How to Become the Happiest Person Alive Part 2 / Eating and Drinking Episode 5: (General) Link to Spotify episode of the John Mark Comer Teachings podcast.

The points I would like to highlight in this episode probably should fall into his fighting lies with the truth series. There are a few truths here that I think are very important to understand and put into practice. The alternatives are joy-stealers in our lives.

1) Trust the outcome to God. I fail at this on a regular basis. When I hear it again I say "oh yeah!" but then I forget it again. I have seriously considered, and should, put up index cards in places I would see them regularly, "trust the outcome to God". What does that mean? We do our best with God: pray and ask for guidance, plan with God, take a step in faith with God, actually do the thing with God. And try to do things with excellence, with God. But we do not control the outcome with God. That's not in our control. Nor should we try to control it.

2) What do you fill your mind with? I used to listen to a lot more news than I do now. It didn't help my mindset. I used to listen to depressing music frequently. That just fed my tendency toward melancholy. I used to think about things that happened to me that seemed unfair to me, how I was a victim in those circumstances. It made me angry. But I also read good books and listened to good sermons and read the Bible and prayed. All of which helped, some, providing a little bit of balance. 

Fast forward to today. I listen to far less news and replaced that with podcasts of a religious and uplifting nature, things like you see on this site: John Mark Comer, More to the Story with Andy Miller III, Renovare, etc. I find I am far less anxious. I still listen to some sad music, but far less of it, and have included more uplifting music as well. My days of a tendency toward melancholy seem like a distant memory and feel foreign to me now. I don't even think about the unfairness of life anymore, in a way that is a given, but so much of life is beautiful if I stop to look. There is so much to be thankful for. Thankfulness has replaced my anger. That is not to say that I never hear disquieting news, or have a down day, or get irritated. I certainly do sometimes. But that is not the governing mindset. Once again, I should have listened to this passage earlier:

Philippians 4:8-9

"Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." And He certainly is.

3) Your body is a part of you. It is not a bad thing. We are not "brains on a stick". Treat it well. I didn't do that for most of my life, either. Now I am working on changing that. Sleeping more, eating better, figuring out what I can do for exercise with my body type and physical limitations, etc.

4) Celebration is a spiritual practice. An important one. It teaches us joy and helps us to remember the good that God provides in our lives. You guessed it, I'm still not good at this one, either. I improved some, but I want to celebrate better.

Here is a video of Part 1 and Part 2 together on Vimeo:

The Secret of the Easy Yoke: (General) Book excerpt by Dallas Willard. I read the book this is from and it is excellent. The secret of the easy yoke isn't really a secret - it is too obvious for that. But it is certainly counter-cultural. It isn't what we want to do. Look at your own life or look around and you'll see this is true. Dallas reminds us that Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, even needed to attend to spiritual practices so that He was of such a character as to meet the demands of His ministry. And if HE needed spiritual practices, then how much more we? Remember, spiritual practices are simply means by which we spend intentional time with God - they are relational in nature. But they also train us up to be the kind of people from whom fruit of the Spirit is expressed naturally. This article explains it well.

How to Create a Rule of Life Based on the Six Streams: (General) Link to Renovare.org article by Chris Webb. This is a very practical and helpful article for anyone not sure how to go about developing a plan for spiritual practices in their daily, monthly, and annual rhythms. It is a step-by-step plan, concise, and easy to follow. If you want help with developing what has historically been called a "Rule of Life" (Rule like ruler, think of a trellis that a vine grows on, not Rule like dictate), then this is a good and simple way to start. Don't worry about getting it all figured out on the first try, this is to help you get started and Chris encourages you to experiment with it, especially as you learn more.

The Cross: Self-Denial in the Age of Self-Fulfillment / Practicing the Way Vision Series Episode 9: (General) Link to Spotify episode of the John Mark Comer Teachings podcast. There is one very important over arching point that I want you to hear in this episode:

There is a cost to following Jesus.

 

Our relationship with Jesus will lead to following Jesus. We are called to make disciples, and that assumes that we are disciples ourselves. But to be a disciple, Jesus says that we are to take up our cross and follow Him. Matthew 16:24-25 (NASU)

"Then Jesus said to His disciples 'If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.'"

Consider that in context of this next passage:

Luke 14:27-28 (NASU)

"Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?"

Jesus is making it clear that it will cost us to follow Him. It will cost us the life we would have wanted before we met and fell in love with Him. But have you noticed that in our society we are getting more of what our fallen selves thought we wanted and it is leading to more anxiety and depression and suicidal ideation than ever? We are trying to be, and are more free to be, what we are calling our "authentic selves" (what we think is our true selves but really is our unredeemed desires). But instead of making us free, it is making us slaves to sin, to a lifestyle opposed to what God calls good and beautiful and true. And we are more miserable than ever  because of it.

 

It turns out there is also a cost to not following Jesus.

But as we grow closer to Jesus, we change. We want different things. We want the things that Jesus wants. We want a different kind of life than we would have wanted before Jesus. It doesn't mean that there aren't remnants of those fallen desires still lingering in us. There are. It is those lingering desires, the ones that stand opposed to the good and beautiful and true, that we must die to.

Jesus said that He came to give us life, and life to the full; joy, and joy in abundance. His way, the way of the good and beautiful and true, leads to joy. So, yes, we must lay down the remainder of our fallen desires in order to follow Him as fully as we can. But doing so leads to true life, true joy, and true freedom. And John Mark Comer explains this beautifully in this episode.

Here is that sermon in video form on Vimeo:

"The Golden Triangle" of Spiritual Transformation: (General) Link to Renovare.org article by Dallas Willard. How do we become Christlike, to be transformed in our inner person to the point where we naturally do what Jesus would do if He were we? Dallas Willard provides the three "sides of a triangle" of spiritual transformation: faithful acceptance of everyday trials through trust in God, interaction with the Holy Spirit in and around us, and faithful practice of spiritual disciplines.

Become Like Jesus / Practicing the Way Vision Series Episode 3: (General) Link to Spotify episode of the John Mark Comer Teachings podcast. There is one very important point that I want to highlight in this episode and it starts somewhere around the 35 minute mark, though I would invite you to listen to the whole episode:

John Mark Comer says that some of the greatest transformational life change happens on the other side of dealing with your pain instead of self-medicating and escaping it. Don't run from your pain. Invite Jesus into it and work on it together. You might need a counselor, and that is okay. I would advise a Christian one. I have a spiritual director who is also my counselor. He is excellent. I recommend him. His name is Adam Hoover. We meet once per month for an online session. He can be reached at adam@compasscounselingpa.org.

Drugs, alcohol, pornography, casual sex, getting lost in video games, etc are all means of escaping pain. It could be pressure from work, failing relationships, lonliness (chronic in our society), sexual or gender confusion, financial pressures, etc. Even physical pain. Don't run. Deal directly with it, with help if you need it. James 1:2-4 tells us that struggles and trials work to form our character for the better if we let it, but it won't do its work if we run. There is hope. Life change is not only possible, but is probable, especially if we lean into practices that invite God into our daily routine.

James 1:2-4 from The Message:

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way."

Here is the sermon in video form on Vimeo:

God's Invitations to be Transformed as We Age: (General) Link to Renovare.org article by Alice Fryling. You likely know this but may need a reminder: God does not abandon us as we grow older. Transformation is a life-long process, including our elder years. This article offers helpful suggestions on how to partner with God in His ongoing work in your inner being even as we grow older.

Simpicity

Simplicity

Being More Pedestrian: (Simplicity) Link to Renovare.org article by Mark Buchanan. This idea is very interesting to me. In the Garden of Eden, the mode of getting from one place to another was walking. The Garden of Eden represented created perfection. It wasn't until after the fall that other forms of transport were created. In Genesis 3:8, Adam and Eve hear the sound of God walking in the garden. Even though there were all manner of animals walking around in the garden, they knew what God's gait sounded like. We understand this because we, too, are able to identify people we know based on their gait, without even seeing them. (At my previous job I sat near the hallway. Without turning to look to see who was walking down the hallway, I knew which of my fellow coworkers were approaching due to their gait.)

 

Just like the pace of walking versus, say horseback, car, plane, train, etc, we know that spiritual formation takes time. Growth and depth take time. Human gestation, growing into adulthood, it all takes time. So Mark Buchanan asks, what if God moves at about 3 miles per hour? What if the exhortation to walk by the Spirit includes literal walking? Walking invites slowing down, it invites thinking about things. Today we drive, fly, etc. Certainly it saves time and there is good that comes from that. But it doesn't afford the same time to think about things. Do our lives move at a speed that leaves God walking behind?

Someone made a short film about slowing down and walking called Godspeed.. They believe it is also the pace of relationally knowing and being known. The funny thing is that we intuitively know that slowing down is good for our souls, and we want it. But we need to learn how (The video below is just for the trailer).

Simplicity: a Practical Guide: (Simplicity) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt by Adele Calhoun. There is no substitute for simplicity. As I age, I am finding simplicity to hold a charm so strong that it is like a gravitational pull. I still have much in my life that I can really live without, and I am working on that. Perhaps the practical suggestions found in this excerpt can help both you and I. The questions and practices are the best part so don't skip them.

Ecclesiastes Episode 2: The "Teacher" vs Jesus: (Simplicity) Link to the Bible Project Podcast: Wisdom Episode 4. In this episode they quote Blaise Pascal. This is true, and haunting. God is a God of the present because it is the only place where we can experience relationship with Him. Living a life of simplicity helps us to be present to the present, where we can find God. Here is the quote:

"We do not rest satisfied with the present. We anticipate the future as too slow in coming, as if in order to hasten its course; or we recall the past, to stop its too rapid flight. So imprudent are we that we wander in the times which are not ours and do not think of the only one which belongs to us; and so idle are we that we dream of those times which are no more and thoughtlessly overlook that which alone exists.

 

For the present is generally painful to us. We conceal it from our sight, because it troubles us; and, if it be delightful to us, we regret to see it pass away. We try to sustain it by the future and think of arranging matters which are not in our power, for a time which we have no certainty of reaching.

 

Let each one examine his thoughts, and he will find them all occupied with the past and the future. We scarcely ever think of the present; and if we think of it, it is only to take light from it to arrange the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means; the future alone is our end.

 

So we never live, but we hope to live; and, as we are always preparing to be happy, it is inevitable we should never be so.”

Artful Discipleship: (Simplicity) Link to Renovare.org article by Carolyn Arends. The reason that I include in simplicity an article on engaging in art as a means of practicing the art of being with, with God and perhaps with God together with others, is not only because it requires slowing down. But if you are to take up engaging with art to help connect to God, and maybe others, too, then you will need to clear something else out of your schedule. And I invite you to do just that. The beauty of art is the longing call of a Lover; come away with Me, spend time with Me, slow down and hear Me, beauty is a sign of My goodness, a sign of My love for you. This article provides some practical suggestions for how to engage with art to engage with God.

Say No to Say Yes: (Simplicity) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. Richard Foster's pie chart word picture to James Bryan Smith that shows how much time we have in our lives to do things is simple, repetitive, and necessary for us to understand (not the word picture but the fact that we have only so much time and we need to prioritize that time). We say yes to so many things, and especially if you are doing good things, that we overpopulate our schedules. But this leads to hurry, burnout, crankiness (at least for me), and it robs us of some of our ability to love well, and, most importantly, we often sacrifice some of the most important things in our lives when we say yes to too much. So we need to learn to say no to the things that we need to say no to in order to say yes to the things that are better.

Solitude

Solitude

Falling in Love with God: (Solitude) Sermon/message by Travor Hudson. I think the lead-up is important or the suggestions made at the end of the video will not carry the impact and memorability that it otherwise would, so do not skip to the end of the video until after you have seen the whole video at least once. Then, may I suggest, take notes on the three points he brings up and remember them. Put them into practice. "At the heart of the universe is a deep love that desired us into existence." (Paraphrased)

Overcome Approval Addiction By Living in Secret: (Solitude) Episode of the Become New podcast hosted by John Ortberg on BecomeNew.com.

Dallas Willard referred to it as reputation management. John Ortberg calls it approval addiction. In this episode John Ortberg explains what Jesus was getting at when he told others not to call attention to their good deeds. By doing so, we are looking for admiration or approval of others. So if we do good things for that reason, then we have received our reward when others praise or admire us. But there is a danger that we may need this approval and become essentially addicted to it. To avoid that, or to overcome it if we have that need for the approval of others, we should practice doing good in secret, so that no one but God knows of it.

Here is that episode on YouTube:

An Open Empty Space: (Solitude) Link to Renovare.org article by Richard Foster. In this article, Richard Foster touches on the why, but focuses on the how of retreat for solitude and silence with God. He encourages simplicity. Keep the schedule clean and uncluttered, perhaps carry this simplicity into focusing on a verse or phrase instead of reading or studying through pages of the Bible. This article is from 1991, so I might add to turn off your cell phone notifications as well. Above all, maintain the space to listen for the calm, quiet voice of God.

You Are What You Contemplate / Bridgetown Daily: (Solitude) This link is to a Spotify episode of the Bridgetown Audio Podcast. The message is given by John Mark Comer. Solitude is often associated with silence and contemplation. Philippians 4:8-9 encourages us to contemplate the good, beautiful, and true. That was written nearly 2000 years ago. Today, scientists have learned about neural plasticity and that our brains are rewired by what we set our minds on over and over. Dwell on the good, beautiful, and true, and our minds will begin to wander there by default (for most of us). This episode gets into that a little more, and, of course, encourages us to dwell on the good.

Facing the Fear of Solitude: (Solitude) Link to Renovare.org article by Richard Foster. Would you like a few simple ideas of how to build small experiences of solitude and/or silence into your day. This article includes a few practices to experiment with, without having to carve chunks out of your day.

Praying With Our Eyes: (Solitude) Link to Renovare.org article by Vivianne David. Okay, if you count yourself among my fellow Evangelical Protestants, are you ready for something that is likely new to you and may feel a little out of your comfort zone? Remember how I said that there are an innumerable variety of spiritual practices that can help you spend time with God? This one is called Visio Divina. I've only ever tried it a few times, and the instructions I was given were different than in this article, which goes to show that there isn't necessarily a right and wrong way. And before you say that it isn't for you, I invite you to give it a try. Part of the fun of spiritual practices is experimentation, and sometimes it takes several attempts until it becomes less awkward. Give this one a try, More than once.

An Unconventional Gratitude: (Solitude) Episode of The Next Right Thing podcast. It's hard to describe this one. It is a simple practice that you may want to try. It reminds us that we are not God, that we do not have control of all of our circumstances, but that we can invite and be thankful for things that are offered to us like compassion and hope and mystery, and that we can offer many of these same things to others.

Savoring God with Jan Johnson and Steve Fawver: (Solitude) This link is to episode 121 of the Renovare Podcast hosted by Nathan Foster.

1) Unlike how I understand eastern meditation, Biblical meditation is not emptying your mind, but instead thinking on something.

2) Jan gives a great example of the difference between study and meditation. Study is cutting the candy bar in half and observing all that you can observe. Meditation is taking a bite and letting it settle on your tongue for a few minutes. One teaches us about, the other settles in. It is observational vs experiential. Study allows us to really get into something. Meditation allows it to get into us. While study is good, I do not know of anywhere in the Bible where it tells us to do so. Meditation, on the other hand, is repeatedly commanded in the Bible about itself. We are invited specifically to meditate on the Bible. Jan says meditation leads to obedience, study doesn't necessarily do that.

3) Steve Fawver provides a helpful tip that heading into a time of meditation is to take a moment to acknowledge the presence of God, invite the Holy Spirit to speak to you, and then to start with a short passage of scripture and listen for what stands out (if anything does, prayerfully roll the passage around in your mind slowly a few times).

Look for the Glory: (Solitude) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. In this episode, James invites us to look around us for the beauty and power of God. He speaks of the heavens (outer space as seen in the night sky or though pictures sent back from probes) as one great example. But it can be a wonderful soul training practice to train ourselves to look for the beauty and the majesty of God around us - it will remind us of His presence, power, and goodness.

Sabbath is a Way of Life: (Solitude) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt by Dallas Willard. Sabbath, a holy rest, need not be limited to one day per week. In this article, Dallas Willard discusses three practices that we can do any time to help us enter into the Sabbath rest: Solitude, Silence, and Fasting. These three allow us to be in the presence of God. He also reminds us that Sabbath is a gift from God to us since man is not made for the Sabbath but Sabbath is made for man.

Prayer

The Role of Temptations: (Prayer) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt by Thomas a Kempis. Thomas a Kempis provides a few really good points in this excerpt:

1) Temptations can be used to humble us. God does not cause temptations, but He can use them for good. They can show us that none of us are impervious to temptation, and that it is always possible to slip up, and therefore we must be vigilant.

2) I love this "how" advice when we encounter temptation. You will find other ways to resist temptation elsewhere on this site, but the reason this falls under "prayer" is this quote: "We must not despair when we are tempted but, instead, seek God more fervently, asking for his help in this time of tribulation." He refers to temptation as tribulation. And indeed it can be. Part of us wants to engage in sin, sometimes badly. So we need help in those times. And sometimes turning to God includes turning to another Christ follower for help and/or confession. Alcoholics Anonymous knows this and we should follow their lead on this point. As such, Cain was wrong - we are indeed meant to be each others' keepers.

3) Finally, for this third point I want to include a full paragraph that speaks directly into our culture today, even though the material is from the 1300's or 1400's. In direct contrast to what our culture thinks is the path to liberty and peace. The first point also hearkens to AA. The second is a spiritual practice called simplicity. The third point stands in direct opposition to our society's search for fame and power and influence. To the fourth point, John Mark Comer translates Jesus' invitation to "come and die so that we may find life" as presenting two choices:

a) Deny ourselves and follow Jesus

b) Deny Jesus and follow ourselves.

One leads to life; one doesn't.

It turns out "Whatever makes you happy" is no way to live. As opposed to leading to freedom and peace, we find ourselves trapped and afraid. If you don't believe me, just look at the rates of anxiety and depression in our culture.

With all this as the present context, Thomas a Kempis tells us:

"Finally, I want to teach you the way of peace and true liberty. There are four things you must do. First, strive to do another’s will rather than your own. Second, choose always to have less than more. Third, seek the lower places in life, dying to the need to be recognized and important. Fourth, always and in everything desire that the will of God may be completely fulfilled in you. The person who tries this will be treading the frontiers of peace and rest."

Fixed-Hour Prayer / Prayer Episode 4: (Prayer) Link to Spotify episode of the John Mark Comer Teachings podcast.

As essentially all of John Mark Comer's teaching podcast episodes, this one is also great. There is one thing I want to highlight in this one, however. At around the 30-minute mark, he mentions a possible reason why we might find prayer stale. And that is because we do not bring our full and honest selves with our full and honest truth about where we are and how we feel and what we want to God. We clean it up and sterilize it to what we think is proper or what God might want to hear. Stop it. God knows the truth anyway, and He wants our honesty and for us to bring our full selves to Him. Later he gets into lament Psalms and how they can teach us to pray bringing our full selves to God in openness and honesty. Pray this way.

Here is that sermon in video form on Vimeo:

Part 4: Midday: Pray for the Lost : (Prayer) Link to Spotify episode of the Bridgetown Audio podcast.

I love this idea: a small break in the middle of the day to pray for a person, or a few people, in your life who do not have a relationship with Jesus, that they would be found by Him. The decision is theirs, but we can still pray for them, that God would present Himself to them in such a way that they would recognize and be apt to accept. It is a practice I want to learn. I set a recurring alarm on my phone to help me remember until it is habit.

Here is that sermon in video form on Vimeo:

How to Intercede Like Jesus: (Prayer) Link to Renovare.org article by Jan Johnson. This article is about praying beyond the circumstance (though for it as well) and into praying that the person may find connection to the life of God through the circumstance. There is an incredibly insightful comment about Jesus' prayer for Peter when He confronts him about his coming denial, which has profound implications about what God wants for us. These insights alone make the article a great read.

Turning Your Thoughts Into Prayers: (Prayer) Link to Renovare.org article by Jan Johnson. Do you know about breath prayers? They are tiny prayers that last as long as taking a breath, often a phrase or a short sentence, or even just one word. They can be used to remind us of the presence of Jesus (like if we just pray "You are here"), if we or a loved one is in crisis ("Help!"), to change our attitude in a given situation ("help me listen to hear his heart"), or other reasons. This article helps a little on ideas how to employ them.

When I was working a very busy job, I would go through entire days without even acknowledging the presence of God at work. At the end of the day I would go home disheartened with myself and ask God for help to get better at acknowledging Him. That help came in the thought of setting my alarm three times per day to remind me to stop, take a moment or three, and acknowledge God and offer to Him whatever was in my heart at the moment. I would often do this at my desk, eyes closed, head bowed, palms up. I worked in an open environment where coworkers and clients were all around. At first I was pretty self-conscious about it, but when no one looked at me weirdly, I grew more confident. I didn't take much time, I had a job to do after all, but still it was enough to remind me that I am never doing this life, or this job, alone, reliant on just my own skill.

Prayer: Listening to God: (Prayer) Link to Spotify episode of the Rule of Life podcast. Prayer isn't just talking to God. He speaks to us as well. Prayer, in many ways, is simply communication with God (and sometimes isn't even that - see Prayer: Being with God). God speaking to us is not limited just to the written Bible. As they point out in this podcast, when the Bible uses the phrase "the Word of God" it is referring to Jesus Christ. We call the Bible the word of God because it was co-authored by the Holy Spirit. But God is infinite and He knows how to communicate with us so that we can hear Him. But also we need to learn to tune our ear to Him. This podcast gets into some of the manifold ways that God speaks, as well as practices to do to help tune our ears.

How to Find God in This Moment: (Prayer) Link to an episode of the Become New podcast with John Ortberg. There are a few excellent points mentioned in this podcast episode, which is about being present to God in the here and now. Here and now is really the only place where we can be and experience God. But we often find ourselves in the future (daydreaming about it or imagining what can be different), or in the past (reliving it or imagining an alternative reality of "what if I made this choice instead of that one"). But God is only here, in the present, because the others are imaginary or are history. Therefore the guest invites us to be present to the presence of Christ in the present: rephrased as "present to the presence in the present".

The guest (Roger Bretherton) points out that when we feel like God is elsewhere, it is often us, not Him, that is elsewhere.

John Ortberg later brings up Dallas Willard's statement that God can only bless us where we are at, not where we wish we were. I have read Larry Crabb and he has a similar statement that God only meets us where we are at, and not where we pretend to be. Bottom line: if we want to be with God, we need to be present where we are at. This, of course, does not mean that we do not consider our past or plan for our future, only that we do so with an anchor in the present. Here, John speaks to how he often imagines a Hallmark Christmas that he'll enjoy with his family and how he will be warm and wonderful and funny as he helps to create magical memories to last a lifetime with his family. But then he isn't that person but this person; this person who is short-tempered and sour. He doesn't have that family but this one. Not that magical moment but this awkward one. God is found in this, not in that. This exists. That doesn't. God is here, not there. If we faithlessly discard this moment because it is not that moment, then we are discarding the opportunity of being present with God in this moment. That moment doesn't exist, this one does.

 

Brilliant observations!!!

Here it is on YouTube:

How to Deal with Uncertainty: (Prayer) Link to an episode of the Become New podcast with John Ortberg. I link this for one reason: the answer he gives on how to deal with uncertainty. This is from a series on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.

We live in a world of uncertain circumstances. Accidents happen. The wrong people get elected into office. The right people get elected then turn into the wrong people. Businesses get bought by other businesses. Layoffs occur. Gas prices go up and down. Inflation, stagflation. Our money loses value due to inflation, and gains value in the stock market before it loses it again. Friends stick by us and friends betray us. We just never know how life will go. We live a life of uncertain circumstances. But there is one certainty we have: the Way, the Truth, and the Life - Jesus Christ (the whole Trinity, really).

So the answer? Uncertainty is a certainty. Embrace it. Don't bother seeking certainty in circumstances. Seek the One certainty instead, God the Father, Son, and Spirit. Jesus put it this way in the Sermon on the Mount (though John Ortberg ties it to the first beatitude):

“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:31–34 (NASB)

Here it is on YouTube:

Prayer: Being With God: (Prayer) Link to Spotify episode of the Rule of Life podcast. We often think of prayer as talking to God. And that is certainly one way to engage in prayer. But it isn't necessary. Prayer is being with God, being open in communication. It can include talking to God, listening for God's voice, or being intentionally present with God with no agenda at all simply focusing on Him. This episode talks about some of the latter as well as simple prayer practices.

The Best Gift: (Prayer) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. In this episode James gives us a prayer practice to use for the people in our lives that require extra grace: the difficult coworker, the black sheep of the family, the rebelling teenager, etc. It invites us to remember to bring the love of Christ and to see the other person as one whom God values greatly.

Breath Prayer: (Prayer) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. In this episode James gives us a prayer practice to use to turn our mind to, or to center our attention upon, God. It helps to make us more aware of His presence. It is a very short prayer that can be utilized when we only have a few seconds or a few minutes of down time, or can be used to begin a longer intentional time with God. Here James Bryan Smith explains what a breath prayer is as well as provides practical how-to tips for using breath prayers.

How to Pray While Drowning in Doubt: (Prayer) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt by Tish Harrison Warren. In the church traditions that I have experienced, common prayer may not have been shunned exactly, but it certainly wasn't encouraged. Pray someone else's prayer? Isn't that cheating? At minimum it isn't genuine, right? But there is something about agreeing with prayer that has been carefully considered and carefully worded that can kind of buoy us in prayer at times. Many people find this practice to richly connect them with God. This may be a practice that is helpful for you. Here are two examples. The first the prayer of John Wesley each morning, and the second a part of the Anglican Prayer of Compline referenced in the article:

I am no longer my own but yours,

put me to what you will,

rank me with whom you will;

put me to doing,

put me to suffering;

Let me be exalted for you or brought low for you;

let me be full,

let me be empty;

let me have all things,

let me have nothing;

I freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the Covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

(Amen)

***

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suf­fer­ing, pity the afflict­ed, shield the joy­ous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

Session 3 of the 2019 Holy Spirit Conference: (Prayer) Link to episode of the Bridgetown Audio Podcast. This episode is on hope as it relates to disappointment. The speaker is not encouraging us to ignore our feelings of disappointment. Feel them. But don't get stuck there. People who know Christ are called to a life of hope, and making disappointment and ally can rob us of living in hope. There is a prayer exercise toward the end of the episode that is designed to help us release our disappointments to God so that we can live into the hope that He offers.

Bridgetown Daily: Gethsemane Prayer: (Prayer) Link to Podbean episode of the Bridgetown Audio Podcast (It was removed from Spotify and this is where I found it). This short episode is a helpful how-to on presenting to God our feelings and desires without filter. John Mark Comer uses the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as the example and then leads a short prayer exercise to put it into practice. If you have trouble coming to God unfiltered, then this may be helpful.

Part 2: Finding God in All Things: (Prayer) Link to Spotify episode of the Bridgetown Audio Podcast. This episode of the podcast walks us through a Prayer of Examen. This is an Ignatian practice from the Jesuit branch of Catholicism. It can be a wonderful way to see God at work, and to train us to look for God at work in and around our lives. John Mark Comer uses Psalm 139:23-24 as a frame of reference for introducing the practice.

I attended a church for a time that viewed anything Catholic with a skeptical eye. Their motives were good - they didn't want to introduce error into their thinking or in the thinking of those who attended their church. But we all have theological errors. Unfortunately, sometimes that meant throwing out the good with the bad. As with anything, including my comments on this site as well as the blogs and podcasts here, take the good and discard the bad. The biggest question we need to ask is do we love God and those He loves (people), and do we seek relationship with Him and to follow Him. The Prayer of Examen is a way we can pursue that relationship with Jesus, and you do not need to be Catholic to practice it.

I like a quote given in here. "You can pray fast, or you can connect with God. Pick one." It is probably more accurate to say that we can pray fast or connect with God as deeply as our souls need. Pick one. A quick prayer connects us with God, just not in the way our souls long for.

Here are the steps in this version of the Examen from this episode:

1) Give thanks / gratitude

* For God's blessings/benefits. (Don't forget the blessing of His presence and friendship.) This is to help us release our desire for control. We get to see life as a gift.

* We learn to see the goodness in our lives. We ask God to help us see the good in our lives.

* We slow down and pay attention to and enjoy the goodness in our lives.

* We learn to move at the speed of God's love.

2) Pray for light.

*Ask God to help us see reality clearly, without the cloudy lenses of the messages of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

3) Review.

* Think over your day for a few minutes. Notice what made you happy, or sad, or anxious, or confident, the wins, the losses, where did you feel close or distant from God. Where was I living in the flow of the Spirit, where was I out of that flow.

4) Repent.

* Confess the times where God's Spirit shows you that you were thinking, fantasizing, or acting outside of the path of God's good life. Times you sinned, were selfish, or lacking faith. Times you turned away from seeking God and tried to secure your own outcome apart from Him. This step may involve offering apology and asking for forgiveness from another person.

5) Renew.

* What changes do you want God to help you make in your life? How are you going to join with God in helping to bring that about?

But keep in mind Richard Foster's advice when it comes to spiritual disciplines, or what we call Practicing With: "Do as you can, not as you can't."

Fasting

Scripture

Scripture

The Jogging Monk and the Exegesis of the Heart: (Scripture) Link to Renovare.org article by James Bryan Smith. He marries a humbleness of spirit, and openness about how he fails to live up to his own expectations, and a scholarship that doesn't sound academic. This is a beautifully written piece that reminds us how to read the Bible. It is easy to get caught up in seeking to understand the text historically or exegetically, but remember that the Bible is first and foremost written to us for relational purposes. James Bryan Smith writes about how he knew that, forgot it in seminary, and how he relearned it again.

How to Cultivate a Listening Life: (Scripture) Link to Renovare.org article by Jonathan Bailey. I certainly noticed a difference between reading the Bible and listening to the Bible shortly after I invested in a lifetime subscription to the Dwell app. I picked a one-year through the Bible listening plan (the chronological plan), the preferred translation for this kind of listening (the NRSV), and my preferred reader (John from England). I could even choose background music if I wanted (which I don't, so I turned it off). A few things I don't think I ever noticed before in passages that I am familiar with stood out. I literally am learning new things from listening to the Bible as opposed to reading it. Further, it is a different way of experiencing the Bible as well.  Based on my personal experience, I recommend adding the practice of listening to the Bible if possible. The author usually does it while doing other things. I like to do it right before I go to sleep. Do I do it every day? Well, let's just say that I hope to have that one year plan done in three years.

Why Sinai Matters with Dr Carmen Joy Imes: (Scripture) This Spotify link is to episode 178 of the Wesley Seminary Podcast hosted by Dr Aaron Perry. In this episode Dr Imes makes an important observation that we may have misunderstood a couple of things in the Old Testament.

1) The command about not taking God's name in vain may be interpreted to mean that Israel, having been rescued from Egypt by the Lord, is to now bear His name well as a light to the surrounding nations. So not taking His name in vain may actually mean that they were commanded to represent Him well. Of course, representing Him well would include not using His name flippantly or as a curse word, but the command is so much more.

2) She points out that we often think of the law as ineffective because it didn't work - we still needed Jesus. But she points out that the law was effective, it just didn't change the hearts of the people of Israel, and that is what Jesus came to accomplish, together with the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

3) She has the opinion that when Jesus is teaching His disciples to pray and says "Hallowed be Your name", that He may have had in mind the fact that His followers bear His name, and that the prayer is that they bear His name well. 

By the way, listening to this I was inspired to read the book (Bearing God's Name: Why Sinai Still Matters authored by Carmen Joy Imes) and it was excellent!

Everything is Meaningless with Dr Larisa Levicheva: (Scripture) This Spotify link is to episode 137 of the Wesley Seminary Podcast hosted by Dr Aaron Perry. In this episode Dr Levicheva, who studied Ecclesiastes, lets us know that the word for "vanity" in "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity" is actually a Hebrew word with one meaning being "breath". She looks at the meaning of Ecclesiastes as live each day as a gift, live contentedly, live to the full. You will enter life with no possessions, and you will leave life with no possessions. There are a lot of insights into how to live life to be found in Ecclesiastes.

Sabbath

Sabbath: Stop, The Rhythm of Creation: (Sabbath) Link to Spotify episode of the Rule of Life podcast. I really, really like what PracticingtheWay.org is doing with spiritual exercises. They take on a deep dive into nine different practices, three of which are out as I write this. In this episode, they are looking at the first "step", or basic thing required for sabbath: stop working. There are several good points, but here are a few I want to comment on:

1) Mankind started with rest. Take a look at the Genesis 1 account of creation. Personally, I believe in a literal 6-day creation. I think it is the simplest explanation of creation, and it agrees with the Genesis record. On day 6 mankind was introduced into creation. His first experience? Day 7 God rested. Man's first experience was rest and delight. On day 7 God delighted in His work and Adam was invited to be a part of that delight. So man's first experience was rest and delight in a day spent with his Creator.

2) If you want to have a meaningful relationship with God, you need to make time to intentionally be with Him, just like in any healthy relationship. To do that you need to learn to stop. You need to find a way to simplify your life and declutter your schedule.

3) Sabbath is a gift for mankind, not "just another law". The rhythm of Sabbath was built into creation and observed long before it was one of the Ten Commandments. The commandment about sabbath is simply to "remember" it (i.e. it already exists, just keep it holy. don't forget about it - Israel just came out of captivity at the time of the Ten Commandments and Egypt did not permit them to observe the sabbath. Further, "holy" simply means set apart for God).

4) We are embodied souls, or ensouled bodies. In other words, both our souls and our bodies are important. God created both to be good. We need to engage both in relational practice with God. We talk about "muscle memory", how our bodies continue to do things even when we aren't focused on them. For example, there are many times when I am driving that I am thinking through concepts, not thinking through my driving. Yet somehow I neither get lost nor get into an accident. Similarly, our bodies can respond to things even before we process it - we see a snake and our body reacts in preparation of "fight or flight", and remains on high alert for a time even after we learn that it is just a garden hose we tripped over and not a snake after all. Similarly our bodies respond in relational circumstances, too. In order for our minds and bodies to respond in love, joy, peace, patience, etc, we need to develop practices that engage the mind and body, one of which is the stopping of our hurry in life during the day of sabbath. Our bodies must be involved in our relational practices with God. 

5) Even though we are commanded to remember the sabbath, in the western church we have largely forgotten it. If we are going to recapture the practice, it is likely that we won't find much help doing so in our churches.

6) Change is slow and painful. We are likely to fail, a lot, on our way to making sabbath a practice. Don't lose hope. Keep heeding the call to sabbath.

Here it is on YouTube:

Community

Community

Become New: Meet the Forgiveness Expert: (Community) Episode of the Become New podcast with John Ortberg. The link takes you to the Become New website whereas the video below is to the episode on YouTube.

I believe that forgiveness, as you will also see elsewhere on the Our God Bathed Life website, is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. The story of forgiveness related on this video is amazing, but not uncommon when it is attempted from the heart. Do you have a relationship that is flailing and you think that hurt that is undealt with may be at fault? Maybe with a spouse, another family member, a friend, a close coworker, someone you go to church or school or a civic club/group with? Someone that you have allowed differing politics or theological viewpoint or competitiveness to interrupt relationally? Someone who you offended or has offended you? Perhaps the exercise presented in this video is worth considering. Living our God-bathed life isn't just about our relationship with God, though that is the most important relationship, but also about our relationships with God together with those He loves (people). Jesus even encouraged that even if we are before bringing offering to God and while doing so remember that someone has something against us, put the offering on hold and seek reconciliation with the one we have offended. God is more pleased with compassion than sacrifice:

“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering."
Matthew 5:23–24 (NASB)

“But if you had known what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,’ you would not have condemned the innocent."
Matthew 12:7 (NASB) where Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees who were condemning His disciples for picking heads of grain and eating on the Sabbath. His quote is from Hosea 6:6 (KJV).

How to Release Resentment: Steps for Forgiving Others: (Community) Link to Renovare.org article by Nathan Foster. Nathan offers practical advice for steps we can take to release resentment we have toward others. Even though he misappropriates the Matthew 5 section (it is a common misconception that this has to do with our anger and resentment, but it is speaking about helping someone in our life release theirs when we were the offender) it still can be applied the way he uses it since we ought not carry it either. I like how he points out that we often feel justified in our anger and resentment when we have been wronged, nevertheless it is still doing damage to ourselves to hold onto it. He also reminds us that, as a commandment, it is also a choice to forgive. Our feelings might take a while longer than our choice, and we may have to keep choosing forgiveness even for the same offense since we often take it back, but forgiveness is still a choice. He points out that there are times when we may need a counselor or clergy to help us with this, so do not feel embarrassed it you need help.

In Believing the Best: (Community) In this link to Renovare.org article, Amy Carmichael discusses disagreement in community. As I write this it is election season 2024. We have become a fractured country as it involves our politics. Hopefully we can move past all that someday soon. Let it not take place in our families and our chosen communities, and perhaps we can influence the larger community, state, country, world.

 

Remember when a gunman went into an Amish school and killed a number of their children? How did the Amish respond? They responded by forgiving him and extending compassion to his family. Of course the gunman had to go to jail, but he did so having caught a glimpse of grace. Maybe this would pave the way for him to seek forgiveness and reconciliation with God and his family and community. The Amish mourned, forgave, and extended compassion. The non-Amish observers in the wider community were speechless. For a moment they got to see an image of Christ's love as reaction to a tragic event. Who does that? Jesus does. And he said we would do greater acts than he did. I think because the Church is the body of Christ today. So much more can be done with so many more. Though that requires that we live as He lived, think as He thought, and treasure people and community like He did.

This article is a great reminder of what is important.

One Torch Lights Another: (Community) Link to Renovare.org article by Robyn Wrigley-Carr. There are a couple of very important points in this article. The first is the idea of one torch lighting another, that one person can make a difference in how another follows Christ. The second is Baron Von Hugel's "three Elements of Religion: the ​“Intel­lec­tu­al Ele­ment” (the­o­log­i­cal, ratio­nal), the ​“Mys­ti­cal Ele­ment” (expe­ri­en­tial, devo­tion­al) and the ​“Insti­tu­tion­al Ele­ment” (church involve­ment, sacra­ments, com­mu­ni­ty and tra­di­tion)". All three are necessary for a vibrant relationship with God (of course if one element is missing of necessity, like for someone physically unable to partake in the Institutional Element, then God will provide the grace necessary). But for nearly all Christians, we must attend to all three elements for our spiritual/relational health.

Part 1: Practicing the Way of Jesus Together in Portland: (Community) This Spotify link is to an episode of the Bridgetown Audio podcast.

I include this episode because it spells out a few basics pretty clearly about the "how" of doing community within a local church. These are 5 commitments that Bridgetown Church asks their congregation to do as it relates to being a community:

1) Practice the way of Jesus. Typically called spiritual disciplines, but what we call "practicing with".

2) Be a part of a small group. In the larger Sunday service it is easy to stay surfacy in our communication and relationship with others. Being a part of a small group allows us to get deeper.

3) Come to Sunday worship service. We still need to come together as a corporate body.

4) Get involved in serving at your local church or with a partner of your local church. This helps to make you a part of something bigger as well as meeting the serving needs of the church and its partners.

5) Give financially to the church. This teaches us generosity as well as trust in God's provision. Also, the reality is that the church does need finances and God works through His people. We are God's Plan A and He has no Plan B.

Generosity

Generosity

The Point of Education with Dr Gary Hartenburg: (Generosity) This Spotify link is to episode 261 of the Wesley Seminary Podcast hosted by Dr Aaron Perry. I love how Dr Hartenburg points out how Aristotle believed that we ought to live life in such a way that we have leisure time. He defines leisure time as things that we do for no point other than that they are good to do in and of themselves. He gives examples of contemplating God or listening to and appreciating a great work of music.

Irrelevance with Mimi Dixon: (Generosity) This link is to episode 3 of the Renovare Podcast hosted by Nathan Foster. How do you define success? Visibility? Power? Influence? Finances? What about obedience? What about a ministry where all of the above are small but you've followed the lead of the Holy Spirit? What if you've followed the Spirit's lead and the results are small? Is that success? This podcast episode wonders about the value of irrelevance and is something for consideration as it relates to how we would define success.

Conversation with Matt Tebbe and Ben Sternke: (Generosity) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. When I first heard this episode I was driving but thought, "Wow! I want to read that book!" So I just got it for my Kindle.

One of the two authors that wrote the book is describing another pastor who has a forty-year-old wife who has terminal cancer. When he was considering how to love her well, he realized that he had a choice: he could either order his internal world in such a way as to protect himself or he could become vulnerable to the suffering and pain that will come in being fully present to his wife. He chose pain and love and presence over protection. Love opens itself to suffering if that is needed to love well. That's how Jesus ended up on a cross. James Bryan Smith adds that love is to desire and act for the good of someone else, to want and will and choose the good of another.

Additionally, one of the authors makes the important point about inviting God into our mess: those parts of us that are as of yet unredeemed. They may be sins, or situations that happened as a result of our failures, bad relationships, etc. We often feel like we need to clean those things up so God can work, but God wants to be a part of all of it. He wants to be invited into the mess. We don't have the power to clean it up. He does. And He wants freedom for us.

Hospitality

Hospitality

Gunn on One: Jason Avant's Surreal Story - From Gang Member to Philadelphia Eagles WR ro Activist: (Hospitality) You notice something right away in this interview: God responds to the prayers of Jason's grandmother.

This interview has a little of it all. "What", "Why", and "How". What is the vision of what can be in someone's life, the "after" picture of the work of the Spirit in someone's soul. "Why" being the inspiration to get to that picture, and the work of God in Jason's life is certainly inspiring. But "How" is what I settled on. Notice the role his grandmother played by choosing to live in the situation she did, affecting not just Jason but the others that she wanted to shelter, even though they were living against her wishes for them.

As for the "with" practices, this also covers so many. The hospitality of Jason's grandmother from taking him in to praying over him regularly to speaking the higher calling of the Spirit into his life. The woman who put herself in a potentially dangerous situation for the benefit of her own son and for his friend, Jason. His "preacher's son" roommate who convinced him to go to church with him. (One note here, notice that when Jason had the negative influence on the preacher's son, how the preacher's son became humble and did not decide that his wrong actions ruined his potential for positive influence. He took the chance and invited Jason to his church. And Jason went. And met God in a deeper way because of it.) Prayer is seen in Jason describing what he needed while he played in the NFL; he went to church every morning at 6 AM to pray for an hour, then scripture as he spent 30 minutes in the Bible, before going to Eagles practice. Then community and generosity as Jason turned outward living his life for others together with God.

This is a powerful story. Also note: our stories of God's action in our lives are powerful. We don't place our hope and trust in Jesus so that we can go to heaven when we die, though that is our eternal destiny when we do. We place our hope and trust in Jesus because He is near, and we can have a relationship with Him, and that relationship can change our lives, and our life change can bring hope to others. We share our stories as an act of hope and of love.

Radically Ordinary Hospitality / Eating and Drinking Episode 1: (Hospitality) Link to Spotify episode of the John Mark Comer Teachings podcast.

This is a wonderful idea, admittedly one I do not take part in, but I feel like that needs to change. I want that to change. I need to change that in my life. This episode is spent explaining how Jesus won people: by eating and drinking with them around the dinner table. I never really noticed this but it is all over the gospels (John Mark points out that it is especially prevalent in Luke's gospel). It is simple. And it is attractive to the world around us. In a sad commentary, John Mark references one author who was a part of the LGBTQ community and she commented how her community does hospitality far better than the Christian community. That needs to change.

Here is the sermon in video form on Vimeo:

Justice Summit: Session 1: (Hospitality) Link to Spotify episode of the Bridgetown Audio podcast.

There have been several words and phrases that originally meant something different, but have been so adapted by politics so as to change the meaning in our cultural setting. Understand that this phrase is meant in its classical context and not in its current political one. Social justice is something Jesus invites us into: caring for the poor and marginalized, invitation into community for those who have been left out and forgotten, widows and orphans in the vernacular of the Old Testament,m but includes so many more today: the homeless, the mentally handicapped, the elderly who are shut in or forgotten in homes for the elderly, the very poor, etc. Jesus tells us that what we do for these, we also do for Him. But it is also true that what the Holy Spirit prompts we do but fail to do, we also fail to do for Jesus.

In this lecture, Tyler Staton does a very good job redefining social justice back to its classical terms and helps to explain what the Holy Spirit is inviting us to become a part of today.

Here is the lecture in video format on Vimeo:

How God Started a Prison Ministry: with Reverend Bernadette Haddad: (Hospitality) Spotify link to episode # 226 of the Wesley Seminary Podcast hosted by Dr Aaron Perry.

Throughout this site you will see warnings not to take too much on: live simply, learn to say no, develop margin in your life so that you can be interruptible, etc. I could definitely be faulted for taking that theme too far. I do so because I think that we have a problem of "hurry sickness" in our society. For example, this morning I went out to breakfast. I was in no particular hurry and had two hours to get breakfast, which I was getting at a drive through so I could remain in my heated seat with my sore hip. On the way someone pulled out in front of me and then proceeded about ten miles per hour below the speed limit. I commented out loud to the driver, though they couldn't hear me, "that bad, huh?", translated as "you were in that much of a hurry so as to dart out in front of me mildly dangerously but not in so much of a hurry as to drive the speed limit". I was displeased, though not fuming. Why? I wasn't in a hurry. I had a lot of extra time. What was the problem? Hurry sickness is real.

But there is a flip side to that coin. What about when we have enough margin to say yes to things. One article on this site is "Say No to Say Yes". God is present and active in our world. As any good Father, He loves to do stuff with His kids - meaningful stuff especially. And He has meaningful stuff that can offer purpose to each and every one of us. He calls "Come with Me" when He offers this invitation. This link is to a story of a pastor who was having a "bad church day" and was looking for something else meaningful in her life, another way to serve with Her Father. (I prefer "serve with" as opposed to "serve" because that is what we are doing, "serving with" our heavenly Father. He doesn't really need us to serve Him, He is all set and needs nothing, but He loves it when we "serve with" Him.) Anyway, He did indeed have something meaningful for her to do with Him. It started with her prayer, and then saying yes to an invitation.

Do you feel like God must have something more for you? Chances are good that it involves joining Him in something He is doing. Pray, and listen for an invitation, though you may need to seek one out. "Keep knocking, keep seeking."

Helping Children Notice God: (Hospitality) Link to Renovare.org article by Lacy Finn Borgo. While I am not a parent, I do enjoy being around children, as I suspect most people do, even people who say they do not. In this article, Lacy offers practical ways to open conversations with your young children about God. I like that these ideas are simple and hopeful. I didn't know it but a few of these I do already when speaking with children about any topic.

Following Christ in Our Work: (Hospitality) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt by Dallas Willard. If I understand correctly, men, moreso than women, tend to compartmentalize their lives. This includes compartmentalizing our work apart from the rest of our lives. In some ways this can be good and helpful, a police detective that sees the dark side of humanity being able, at least to some degree, to leave that at the exit of the police station before heading home can help to shield his family from what he experiences. But compartmentalizing the career is also what can prevent an invitation of the flooding of the Holy Spirit into our work. But our work is meant to be good. It was one of the original commandments at creation: be fruitful and multiply. "subdue" (creatively care for through work) the earth. This was meant to be done in creative connection to, and empowered with, God. That hasn't changed. Our work is how we help to care for the earth, people, animals, in creative union with God. This is true whether we produce in manufacturing or building, repair as an auto technician or plumber, entertain as a singer or actor, share knowledge as a teacher or professor, help others find meaning and purpose as a pastor or philosopher, care for the soul as a counselor or psychologist, or any manner of work.

But what if we didn't separate our work from our God? What if we invited the Holy Spirit to baptize our work into the kingdom of heaven? Might we become a walking invitation for others we encounter in our work to step into the kingdom as well? Maybe we are meant to be ambassadors for Christ not just outside of work, but to those we work with and do business with. If you haven't already, consider asking Jesus to partner with you in your career, and ask to partner with Him in His work at your place of employment. Heavenly Father, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth, in me, in my career, as it is in heaven.

Helping Children Come Away from Distraction to Enjoy God: (Hospitality) Link to Renovare.org article by Grace Pouch. I know this article is about helping create and encourage spaces where kids can escape from distraction to focus on intentional time with God, but the how-to of paring down and curating a simplified space is a beautiful one for kids and adults alike. I am working on this. I am far from there. Simplicity carries a beauty of white space that helps us slow down and hear the voice of God.

The First Thing Necessary for Salvation: (Hospitality) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt from Watchman Nee. There is something so amazingly simple and obvious in the practice of Watchman Nee's evangelism, that I am shocked that I so rarely hear about it at all. (Perhaps it would be helpful to re-read John 16:7-11 to see the three-fold general convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit in this world. Remember that conviction is not the same thing as condemnation.) In this excerpt, Watchman tells us about a conversation with a man who realized that he needed a Savior, but did not want to become a Christian until he had first taken his fill of the temporary pleasures of a sinful life. Nee had the perfect response, “You can tell the Lord all you have told me. He is the Friend of unre­pen­tant sin­ners like you.” Read the article to see how the conversation goes. Another story tells of a girl he spoke with where she said that she wanted to believe but could not find the faith to do so. In that case, too, he invited her to come before God in prayer with him as they asked God for faith for her. Prayer need not be complicated, and we don't need to have words of insight, the Holy Spirit is present and will help (though the other person remains free to choose). Also, I think that the point about a cry of the heart is a good one. While not all conversions are highly emotional, I agree they are relational, Nee says "meeting Jesus", not a dispassionate mental agreement with a fact. One more thing: we all have different viewpoints on theology, and there are a couple of things in here that I don't see the same way (like most of the articles I post), but just like anything, including the things I write, take the helpful and leave the rest.

Hospitality: Making Space for the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely: (Hospitality) Link to Renovare.org article by C Randy Shrock. This is an attitudinal "how", but I include the article because it is a good reminder. Notice what made the difference in Randy's life. Someone made time for him, listened, included him in what they were doing, and spoke words of encouragement and belief in him. So many are disconnected, discouraged, talked down to by either themselves or others, feel worthless. These simple things that we can all do for each other made a world of difference in the life of this young man. One of the best things I have done was to take an active listening course back in my early twenties, so some thirty years ago. If you ever get the opportunity, I highly recommend it.

Hiding What They Seek: (Hospitality) Link to Renovare.org article by Carolyn Arends. I forget where I came across this, whether audibly or in print, but something was talking about how the younger generation is looking for authenticity in a world of fake - fake news, fake social media accounts, everyone only showing their shiny side up on their real social media accounts, politics that is 99% spin, etc. Fake is even invading the church experience. So many churches all across America are populated by people throwing on their "Sunday Best", be that fashion or facial expression, pretending to have it all together even when they say they don't (just listen to the "sins" they confess like "not spending enough time in the Bible" or "failing to pray enough"). Carolyn tells the story of an authentic experience of prayer that a group of public high school students and teacher experienced on a trip to Mexico to help the disadvantaged, and how the reaction of these unchurched people surprised her. The article is an encouragement not to remove Christ from the worship experience in seeker-friendly churches.

Helping Children Make Room for God with Lacy Borgo: (Hospitality) This link is to episode 24 of the Renovare Podcast hosted by Nathan Foster. I don't have children of my own but I love her approach to spiritual practices with children. It is an invitation and not a command, which I believe in for anyone since we are gifted free will with our lives by God. One of the beautiful practices she has with her own children is to ask them where they saw God that day as she is tucking them into bed - she calls that a thin space between our world and the world of heaven. Some really good ideas here (I think :-) ).

Helping Children Enter into Life with God with Lacy Borgo: (Hospitality) This link is to episode 42 of the Renovare Podcast hosted by Nathan Foster. Lacy makes the argument in this podcast that we are to help children have an experience of, and relationship with, God. She encourages focusing on the relational and letting/helping children grow into right theology. I don't remember her saying this but it likely has to do with the idea that God meets us where we are, and He invites us into relationship without forcing one. She encourages wonder and creativity and imagination to help kids connect with God.

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