Tag Archives: Bible

22 Ways to Be (a Little More) Present

Be present.

What can this actually look like? How can we be more present to God (who is always, ever present with us)? How can we, in general, be present to our lives—to our experiences, to our loved ones, to our work and our world?

Here’s a list of 22 ideas, but a big, giant caveat on such lists: No one person can do all of these things at once! And I’m not suggesting that you do – because I certainly don’t (and can’t). Peruse a list like this with your soul listening to the Holy Spirit. What one thing might you want to focus on? Or what new idea springs to your mind as you consider this? Go with it.

paints Live a little more.

• Make it a goal to laugh more today! Laugh and smile with someone you love.

• Pause from busyness to enjoy beauty: nature, music, art, ideas. Just 5 minutes can transform your mindset for the rest of the day.

• Immerse yourself in a creative endeavor: Cook a meal with gusto, write a letter to a friend (on actual paper), scrawl out a drawing, sing your heart out in the shower.

• Enjoy your work. Value the tasks or employment God has put on your plate today, be it housework, office work, or whatever. Find meaning it in – sacredness – and find joy in utilizing your skills and efforts to get a job well done.

• Move a little more. Get that heart pumping. Use that body God has given you. Exercise (and try to enjoy it).

• Pause to be grateful for your life. Say thank you. Say it again. And again.

Love a little more. Continue reading

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The Second Advent

This week in my TCW Advent devotional calendar I encourage readers to focus on the theme of waiting. We often tend to think of the people in the Old Testament awaiting the Messiah — and this is a crucial aspect of Advent. But traditionally Advent is also about our waiting. We too are part of the great Story!

colorful lightsThe word advent means “coming” or “arrival.” While God’s people in the Old Testament waiting the coming of the Messiah, we await the Second Advent: the culmination of our hope. This Second Advent will usher in Jesus’ kingdom of peace and justice!

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4). 

Focus this week on your own waiting, your own hope. Jesus shall reign!

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Liberty

What does it mean to shine as a light of the world? How is justice part of that life proclamation? What does Jesus reveal about a light-shining life? Consider this excerpt from my new Flourishing Faith book Shine Your Light.

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chains“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

Jesus, here, identifies himself as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies and teachings about God’s justice, compassion, and welcome. Quoting from Isaiah 58:6 and 61:1-2, Jesus launches his ministry by proclaiming this as his mission. Following directly on the heels of his baptism and temptation in the wilderness, Jesus boldly declared that this is what he’s all about. According to Jesus, God’s concern for justice and his compassionate love for the vulnerable are essential to our understanding of the “good news.”

How often do you hear these kinds of ideas reflected in the way people normally talk about the gospel? Have we lost sight of a critical component of Jesus’ teaching and proclamation? Do we really understand how central these values of compassion and justice are to the good news? . . .  Continue reading

Hollowed Out, Fired Up

What is justice? A good place to start with this question is with its antithesis: What is injustice? We know it when we see it. We feel it deep down. It unsettles us. It hollows us out. It fires us up.

RubyIt’s so wrong. So horrifying. So against-all-goodness.

Racism. Abuse. Violence against the vulnerable. Genocide. Trafficking. Slavery. Oppressive poverty. Disease and death caused by environmental degradation.

This list could go on . . . and on . . . and on . . .

And it overwhelms us. Its weightiness can stop us in our tracks, can freeze us into inertia.

Can any one person actually fight these huge, systematic global problems? Is there really anything you or I can actually do? Continue reading

Grace, Hope, and Presence — Meet Charity Singleton Craig

Readers, I’m so happy to introduce you to my friend Charity Singleton Craig. Charity is a writer-buddy of mine who is a big blessing in my life! Along with her day job, Charity edits for The High Calling, writes for TweetSpeak Poetry, and crafts great essays on her blog (CharitySingletonCraig.com) and other places. 

Charity, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

charityI am a writer who tells stories of grace and hope. I recently got married for the first time at age 42, and I’m also a step-mom to 10-, 12-, and 14-year-old sons. My life is all about transition these days.

This month we’ve been exploring how we can experience the presence of God. What’s one way God has “shown up” in your life recently?

It’s not a new way, but he has been showing up in His Word. With all of the transition going on in my life, I haven’t been experiencing devotions or quiet time at the same time each day like I have in the past. Instead, I reach for the Bible app on my iPhone when I can’t sleep and find Psalm 127, or I listen to a sermon while I am running and hear about Moses’ impossible calling, or I read to our sons out of the Teen Guys Bible Devotional at dinner. I am not just finding truth in those instances. I am finding God and Him guiding me precisely in the way I need in that moment.

We often tend to think of amazing spiritual moments when we talk about experiencing God’s presence – but we can also encounter him in “little” ways. In normal life. In regular circumstances. In average experiences. Do you agree? How have you encountered or interacted with God in “normal” life?

Lately, my encounters with God have all been in normal life. Recently, I was pulling weeds in the flower beds for the sixth or seventh time this summer. It feels so pointless, pulling the same weeds over and over. In that moment, God appeared, reminding me that sin can sneak up if I am not continually rooting it out of my life, teaching me that caring for things or people requires leaning in close and getting dirty, and calling me to persevere when life feels tedious. All of that, right there on my knees in the landscape.

You’ve journeyed through cancer. What encouragement would you have for readers going through similar difficulties for ways they can experience God’s presence during fear, pain, or heartache? Continue reading

Joy Weaves Through

loomLike a brilliant golden thread, joy weaves in and out of our lives. It weaves through the bright days—the orange and yellow moments. The poppy-red delights. The verdant, green, fresh-growth days.

It weaves through the gray days—the blah-blah, mundane moments.

And it even weaves through the dark. Through indigo grief. Through rusted, worn-out umber seasons. Through thunderous, slate gray periods of anger or bitterness. Through jet black discouragement, heavy-weighted with a sense of hopelessness.

A shock of brilliant joy dances through it all. Woven in and out.

Because, for the Christian, joy has a name.

And he has other names too.

“I am the bread of life” (John 6:35).

“I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me . . . rivers of living water will flow within them” (John 7:37-38).

“I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).

 “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

We can choose joy in our life when we purposefully cultivate habits of worship, of gratitude, of intimacy with God. But we cannot manufacture joy. It’s more than a feeling or a state of mind. Continue reading

What (Really) is Joy?

laughingJoy. Can you picture it? What image comes to mind? What memory from your life? What does it sound like? Feel like? How would you define or explain it?

Merriam-Webster defines it as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune; a state of happiness or felicity; a source or cause of delight.”

The dictionary is onto something here. Joy certainly is associated with these feelings—and I love the idea of “felicity” and “delight.”

But joy, for the Christian, is something that runs a lot deeper than feelings or emotions. Dallas Willard explained joy as a “pervasive sense of well-being.” Something deep down within us, throughout us, that touches each part of who we are, echoing that we are well. In fact, in Christ, we are well even when life is going completely wrong. This is circumstance-defying joy.

In my research for Restore Your Joy, I came across something really cool. Here’s a short quote from the book: Chairo  is an important New Testament Greek word that means ‘to be glad and full of joy.’ Chairo is most often translated as ‘rejoice’; chara, a related word, is translated as ‘joy.’ Both are closely linked etymologically to charis which means ‘grace.’ As linguistic cognates, these three words ‘share the same root and therefore the same core (fundamental) meaning.’” 

Isn’t that awesome? Joy, rejoicing (worship), and grace are linked in their core meaning—they’re interconnected in the soul of the Christian. Joy can be present even in dark times because grace is there even in dark times. Grace itself defies the darkness—illuminates it and pushes the shadow into the corners. The brilliant grace of God forgives fully, offers hope, picks us up, renews our strength, affirms our worth, and empowers us to live fully. Continue reading

Joy’s Prerequisite

This month of May — of springtime and blooms, of rain and fresh growth — we’ll focus on JOY here on my blog.

Joy, at times, comes naturally . . . instinctively. Smiles and laughter bubble up from somewhere inside us — from a spring of deep joy.

At other times, joy requires effort. The spring has run dry. Joy seems absent — like it fled away and is long gone. When life hurts, joy is not easy.

Restore Your Joy-2My new Flourishing Faith book Restore Your Joy looks closely at what Scripture says about joy: how it’s different than happiness, how it’s something we chose, how it’s something we can cultivate and grow. Joy, in fact, can supernaturally defy our bleak circumstances.

Do you long for greater joy? For deeper joy? For joy to be a characteristic of who you are, flowing from your life in Christ? Then join in the conversation this month. And let’s begin with a short excerpt from Restore Your Joy that reflects on one of the most preposterous passages of Scripture . . .

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“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2).

What?! Is James urging believers to live in a Christian la-la-land that’s out of touch with reality or that denies our actual human experience of pain and hurt?

Certainly not.

family handsThis goes much, much deeper. Underlying the choice to consider a trial a source of joy is an essential ingredient of the Christian life: trust.

A belief that God is sovereign, God is in control, and God is love enables the Christian to find light in darkness, joy in sadness, and hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.

“Only love empowers the leap in trust, the courage to risk everything on Jesus, the readiness to move into the darkness guided only by a pillar of fire,” wrote Brennan Manning. “The love of Christ inspires trust to thank God for the nagging headache, the arthritis that is so painful, the spiritual darkness that envelops us.”

When we’re in the headache or the pain or enveloped by darkness, our trust may be reduced to a very simple confidence. Julian of Norwich describes how she turned to God in a period of confusion; Continue reading

Meet Nancy Sleeth

As we wrap up our April focus on creation care, I’m privileged to introduce you to Nancy Sleeth. Nancy is the co-founder of Blessed Earth and the author of Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life and Go Green, Save Green. Nancy and I spoke about environmental stewardship and the discipline of simplicity.

Nancy-SleethbwLet’s start out with what may seem like an obvious question: Why is environmental stewardship something Christians ought to care about?

I believe that we get our marching orders from the Bible – and the Bible is clear that we need to be good stewards of the earth. First, in Genesis 2:15 God gave his first job to humanity: to tend and protect the planet. There’s no expiration date on those marching orders. It’s still one of our prime directives: to be good caretakers of the earth.

Second, Scripture is clear that we need to love God. That’s what Jesus told us to do: to love God and love our neighbors. One way that we show our love for God is by loving what he loves. And very clearly in Genesis 1 he says not one time, two times, three times, four times, five times, but six times that it was good! So we know that God loves his creation. One important way we can show our respect for God and show love for God is by loving what he loves.

So often the idea of caring for the environment is linked with politics—and I think for some Christians, this political association brings up a lot of heated feelings and mistrust. How can Christians of different political stripes find common ground when it comes to creation care?

The really good news is that we have a book that’s eternal. It is neither left nor right—it’s just simply God’s Word. And that’s where we’re supposed to turn when we need to make decisions about how to live out our lives as followers of Jesus. Instead of worrying about whether something is left or right, we should be worrying about whether it is a biblically-based action. In everything we do, we want to be following what Jesus has called us to do.

Christians can find common ground by focusing on what the Bible has to say about living a life that is close to the life that Jesus led. Jesus is calling us not to be hoarding material things but to live a simple life in which our primary desire is to follow God. It’s not focused on accumulating things but focusing on relationships with people. Continue reading

Meditate and Act: Creation Care Week 4

As we focus on how creation care has direct implications for the lives of others–especially the global poor– consider this Scripture to guide a time of meditation and pick an action step to try.

Meditate: Matthew 22:37-39

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”–Jesus

 

Respond with Action:

Meaningful Meal: As a family or on your own, fast by eating a very simple meal such as rice and a bowl of broth or some beans. Use the experience to think more deeply about the daily experiences of the global poor. Conclude your meal by reading or praying through a passage (such as Isaiah 58) that illustrates God’s heart for the poor and vulnerable and God’s desire that his people stand up with justice and compassion.

 Pray: We can’t always see the effects of our lifestyle upon others. For example, we may not see how our energy consumption contributes to emissions that pollute rivers and fish with mercury that then threatens the life and health of the unborn. This is just one of many examples! So we can ask that God open up our eyes. Pray a daily prayer: Today show me one way to love the poor and vulnerable through my care of creation. And as God shows you one way to be a better steward, consecrate your act by praying: Lord, I care for creation out of love and obedience to you. And I make this small choice as a way of loving others in your name.

Research: Read more about the effects of environmental degradation upon the poor. I highly recommend the document you’ll find here from the National Association of Evangelicals. (Take time to click on and read the whole pdf.)