a meditation on Psalm 21

*photo credit: Scott Webb

….For the king trusts in the LORD. The unfailing love of the Most High will keep him from stumbling. — Psalm 21:7

It is indeed God’s love, and our embrace of it that will keep us from stumbling in all kinds of ways–morally, relationally, and in our faith. If we believe deeply in God’s love, not just that, his unfailing love (we cannot lose it), we will be unconvinced to sin, strengthened in temptation, relationally open and tender, putting our egos to the side for the sake of others. We are loved, unfailingly, so what is there to fear? Why would we rely on our own strength or our own wisdom when the Creator of all things, the Sustainer of all breath, and the Redeemer of all that is lost, loves us unfailingly? There is no reason we would. So, our fault comes in not embracing the truth that we are loved by God and that that love keeps us.

Holy Vulnerability: Spiritual Practices for the Broken, Ashamed, Anxious, and Afraid

Today’s the day! A new book was born into the world! If you ever experience shame, anxiety, fear, or get stuck in your own brokenness, consider this book a companion.

Have you ever noticed that when you begin to spiral into shame, act out in anger, or curl up with anxiety, you feel the effects in your body? And then you do stuff to cope with what you’re feeling–overdrink, overeat, binge on Netflix, bite your nails, scroll mindlessly through Facebook or Instagram. I’m convinced that we are not alone–as much as we may feel we are–in these moments and that it is precisely in these moments that God seeks to join us, to heal us, to transform us. But we need to invite him in.

In the book, I share these six spiritual practices that will help you bring your whole self before God so that you can experience his presence:

Surrender Your Body
Pray Common Prayers
Laugh Out Loud
Dig in the DIrt
Encourage Others
Eat Together

Diving in will take courage. But you’re not alone.

Get the book on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or wherever you buy books! Oh, also, it’s available on Audible too.

Overcoming Fear?

My new book, Holy Vulnerability: Spiritual Practices for the Broken, Ashamed, Anxious and Afraid, comes out on July 6, 2021, and I wanted to introduce some of the ideas in it here each week over the next few months.

The idea for Holy Vulnerability came to me on an international flight a couple years ago. I had boarded the plane and started to unpack all I “needed” for the long ride–headphones, neck pillow, iPad for movies and books, hard-copy book (in case my battery ran out on the iPad), anxiety medication, crossword puzzle book, pen, glasses, etc. You know, all the stuff one “needs.” Well, the guy sitting next to me didn’t have anything with him other than his boarding pass. I was pretty convinced he’d forgotten his bag with all his accoutrements in the terminal. And then I realized with a rush of embarrassment that I might not actually be able to live through the flight without all the things in my backpack. Sounds silly, I know, but for someone with anxiety, it’s pretty normal. I started to panic at the idea. Without all my stuff, I would be overwhelmed by fear. My stuff was the way I coped with my fear. And this fear, by the way, isn’t something I can simply overcome through thinking or praying. I’ve tried it. This fear is something I experience physically–my hands drip with sweat, my insides jump, my legs shake. It’s a bit hard to explain if you’ve never experienced this, but if you have, you know what I mean. You can’t just think it away.

I have been trying to overcome my fear of flying for years. But for some reason, this particular experience got me wondering if overcoming was really the right goal. When I look at Scripture, I see God instructing his people not to be afraid, but it’s not because there aren’t scary things in the world. Rather, he instructs us this way because he is with us in the midst of the scary things (see for example, Psalm 23:4; Joshua 1:9; Deuteronomy 31:6; Isaiah 41:10). But I still have had no success in just deciding not to be afraid, even knowing God’s promises and embracing them as much as my mind and heart know how. So, I thought I needed to try something else.

Because so much of my fear seemed to express itself in my body (shortness of breath, heart racing, hand sweating, shaking), I thought maybe my body needed to be involved somehow. So, I decided to learn more about the body’s role in my fear, my coping practices, and in my relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Turns out, all of these are really connected. And what I discovered applies not only to fear, but to sin, anxiety, and shame too.

How have you experienced your body in the midst sin, anxiety, fear or shame?

The Body of Christ

My fingertips scrape against the bread
that cringes and cracks as each solemn
soul reaches out to tear its piece.

Her shaking hand pulls the bread
with urgent need as our eyes meet and I whisper
“the body of Christ” into the air between us.

She can’t break the bread
and my hand touches hers,
offering quiet help, silent prayer.

Now, two hands on the bread,
we rip, a piece is loosed, and then
suddenly we remember.

New Blog Content

Hello!  I have been writing on this blog for just about a year now and decided last week during an extended time of solitude and reflection that it’s time to chart a new course.  I have renamed the blog “Moments of the Soul.”

IMG_0817

There are moments in which eyes catch and hands graze, where God reveals his majesty and grace through intricacy, and where something causes me suddenly to lose my breath.  In these “moments of the soul,” I feel most alive and most connected to God.  So, my blog will be my way of capturing, through words and images, these incredible, breath-taking moments of experiencing the presence of God.

Thanks for transitioning with me!  Look for the first post tomorrow!

Daily December Devotional — Day 19

IMG_1248

Today’s Verses:

Luke 1:67-75

His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and
redeemed them.

He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David

(as he said through his holy prophets of
long ago),
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us –

to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our father
Abraham:

to rescue us from the hand of our
enemies
and to enable us to serve him without fear
in holiness and righteousness before
him all our days.”

Today’s Questions:

What does “redeem” mean?

Why did God come to redeem us?

To __________ mercy to our ancestors;

To _______________ his holy covenant;

To _______________ us from the hand of our enemies; and

To _______________ us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness.

Do you live like you have been redeemed – like you have been rescued and like you have been enabled to serve God without fear? Or, do you live like you are still waiting to be rescued and enabled?

Today’s Prayer:

Thank you, Lord God, for coming to redeem us! Thank you that you have redeemed me – that I am now in your hands, bought back, rescued, freed, and able to serve you without fear. Forgive me when I forget and live as if you never came, as if you never purchased me with the blood of Jesus. Forgive me when I act out of fear or wear my old rags instead of the righteousness of Christ. Help me get back on track when I get fuzzy on the mission – to serve you. You redeemed me so that I am able to serve you. I live to serve you, Lord. Use me. Empower me.

How to Hear God (Part 2)

IMG_1609

Based on John 10:27, we know that those who hear God:

  1. Have a relationship with Jesus. (My sheep; I know them)
  2. Are receptive to hearing from him. (listen to my voice)
  3. Are willing to walk in faith to follow him. (they follow me)

Last week I explored having a relationship with Jesus and this week, I’m exploring what it means to be receptive to hearing from him. The best way for me to understand this is to think about conversations with my daughter. What comes to mind is the difference between trying to have a conversation with her at the airport as we are about to get on a plane and trying to have a conversation with her at the beach while we are on vacation.

At the airport, I am pulling my suitcase and carrying a backpack and my purse. There are people rushing all around us to catch their flights. I’m trying to find our flight number on the big electronic board so we can get to the right gate. We arrived at the airport a little late and so we are in a hurry to make it in time for our seating area to board. The flight is a couple hours and we don’t have anything to eat. My daughter’s hand is in mine, but I’m practically dragging her, forcing her little legs to keep pace. If, in the midst of all this, she were to start a conversation with me, I would be distracted, half-listening and looking away, as I continued to chart our course to the gate, perhaps missing a word here and there, and asking her to speak louder so I could hear her over the noise coming from every direction.

On the beach, we are alone. The sun is rising and we can hear every step on the damp sand. We carry nothing, simply walking hand-in-hand, breathing deeply, with nowhere to be. I can feel the shape and temperature of her hand. When she lets go to throw a rock into the water, I feel the last touch and sudden emptiness. I notice she has a tiny scratch on her cheek and that she has grown taller. When I hug her, I flash back to the moment I held her first. If she were to say something, it would be effortless for me to listen, I have been so in tune with her already. I could look at her full-on and there would be nothing pulling me away. I would absorb every word and all the feeling behind each one. I would be able to respond with love and the fullest attention.

So much of hearing God is about getting out of the airport. Most of us live there – metaphorically, I mean. We rush around, distracted, fists wrapped around our baggage. I most often hear God when I’m in the busyness of life, but only because I have been with him in the slowness of time. Here are some things I do to be receptive to hearing God no matter where I am:

  • Set aside time to be with him. Alone. Where I feel every movement and notice his presence. Otherwise, I’m always in the airport.
  • Read Scripture every day. Not like it’s the newspaper or my Facebook news feed. My goal isn’t to get through it as fast as possible, but to read it and then just be quiet. I don’t have a major revelation every day and there are days when I am distracted, don’t understand, or feel disconnected from what I’m reading.
  • Pray. This looks more like a conversation than a grocery list. Sometimes I use a Psalm and just read it aloud slowly. Sometimes I just say, “Father in heaven,” and nothing more. Things that most often keep me from praying: unbelief, fear, pride, busyness.
  • Walk with expectation. I expect to hear from God every day. And I do, through Scripture, through other people, through circumstances, and through whispers in my soul.

Have you heard from God? What were you doing?

Is there something you could take out of your schedule so you can make time and space to hear God?