Toward a Spirituality of Fall (Part 2)

The leaves are still on the tress – but not all of them. And here in my corner of God’s creation the weather today and the past few days is fall-like: cold, windy, grey. This morning I had to break down and turn on the furnace!

The turning of the weather means not enough light and water for the trees to photosynthesize. As the chlorophyll disappears the trees begin to live off their stored food, the leaves change color from greens to reds, browns, and yellows. And eventually most of them fall.

In the Scriptures a similar of rhythm of planting and harvesting, picking and pruning appears. After the harvest there is still work to do to prepare the fields and sometimes plants and trees for the next cycle of growth and fruitfulness. Jesus in John’s Gospel speaks about pruning of the vine:

“He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.” (John 15:2 NRSV)

One of the truths that fall brings home to me is that some seasons of following Jesus are filled with excitement and progress and fruit. And others? There are seasons of gleaning and storing and pruning. In every season the trees are not the movers – they are the objects of the changing weather.

Fall more than any other season reminds us that the fruit in our character, lives, and ministry are not our work. It isn’t all us, all human effort. Like the trees, we are objects of the Holy Spirit’s tending and pruning. While we have work to do and prayers to pray and faith to keep, we are not the ones who bring the rain and sun and the wind.

We are the garden – not the gardeners.

Categories: Faith Journey | Leave a comment

Life Journal (10/2/2015) – God Beyond What Is

Scripture     Psalm 147:5-6

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
    his understanding is beyond measure.
The Lord lifts up the downtrodden;
    he casts the wicked to the ground.


  • The greatness of the Lord – in power, in understanding both
  • What does God’s power do? It lifts up the downtrodden and casts (down) the wicked
  • Image of God is of higher than us, immeasurable
  • “Our’ Lord is great


The Psalms always speak something to me. It is as if God crammed my entire range of human experience – good and bad, high and low into 150 poems. These verses contrast the greatness of God, the immeasurable understanding of the Lord, with our human condition where the (presumably) good are downtrodden and the wicked lifted up. The greatness of God alone can overcome and reverse this reality.

Of course it suggests that – as we know – the wicked do prosper and the good are sometimes downtrodden. To generalize a bit, our circumstances may not, and often are not, what our human desires and perceptions think they ought to be. But the Lord is both above these realities, wiser than them, and more powerful than they.

How do I lean into God’s greatness today? How do I open myself to the udnerstanding that is beyond my ability to comprehend? That is the real challenge – not the very real challenges that confront me today.


Great God, today I choose to live in your abundant power and not in my own. Today I will open mind and heart to the your understanding that is beyond my understanding. If I feel downtrodden, may I know that you will uplift. if I am troubled but what seems unfair, unjust, evil – may i remember that the power that lifts me and lifts all who rely on you will also put down the power of the wrong and the supposed understanding of the wrong. In the name of the One through whom you do these things – Jesus, our savior. Amen.

Categories: Faith Journey | Leave a comment

Life Journal (10/1/2015) – Household Gods?

Scripture     Zechariah 10:1-2

Ask rain from the Lord
    in the season of the spring rain,
from the Lord who makes the storm clouds,
    who gives showers of rain to you,
    the vegetation in the field to everyone.
For the teraphim utter nonsense,
    and the diviners see lies;
the dreamers tell false dreams,
    and give empty consolation.
Therefore the people wander like sheep;
    they suffer for lack of a shepherd.


  • Teraphim seem to be ancestor-worship objects that were consulted for advice and direction
  • Contrast between asking the Lord and asking “idols” – ancestors, household gods, seers/diviners
  • Contrast between what the Lord gives and what these others give – rain, plants vs. nonsense and lies
  • Implication that the people follow the teraphim and dreamers – and therefore are leaderless. Does this mean the leaders are responsible for this situation? Or that the Lord is the shepherd and they are following someone else who cannot and will not provide?


These words strike at my constantly returning tendency to seek solutions that I want – answers that please me. I don’t have any household gods or consult dream interpreters. But I do seek solutions where I am most likely to get the answer I want, to receive the result I long to hear.

The Lord is the only source of wisdom and of blessing that is reliable – the Lord does not life, the Lord does not offer empty advice or promises. The things we set-up as sources end up disappointing us: jobs, other people, our own smarts. The list of “household gods” is nearly endless.

If I am wandering it is because I am letting the teraphim lead me and not the Lord. if I am disillusioned it is because I am listening to diviners and dreamers rather than the Lord.


Lord of the Storms and the Rain, give me what I need today. Turn my heart away from familiar and unhelpful ways and toward you. Attune my ears to your voice and not the voices that say what I want and promise what I covet but offer, truthfully, nothing. Amen.

Categories: Faith Journey | Leave a comment

Life Journal (9/30/2015) – You Will Perish

Scripture     Luke 13:1-5

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”


  • Jesus is speaking about two specific, contemporary events: one a human-enacted atrocity and the other (apparently) an accident
  • “Worse sinners” and “worse offenders” – are they the same thing?
  • Unless you repent — you will perish just as they did. What does he mean


Sometimes Jesus is hard to understand. This passage is one of those times for me. On the one hand, Jesus seems to say that events, both human and natural. are not a good indicator of the sinfulness of those who are caught up in them. And then he says “if you don’t repent you will perish as they did.’ Huh?

Reading the whole chapter and thinking about his words here, I don’t think he means that those listening are being punished because he isn’t saying the others were too.

Perhaps he means that repentance is what makes life and death make sense? Not from our perspective but God’s. The only way to live fully and die peacefully is if our entire life is oriented toward God? The fact that Jesus goes on to talk about the kingdom makes me wonder.

Regardless it is true that life’s difficulties often – ok always – turn me back to Christ or draw me nearer to him. Whether my life is cut short or I live decades more, I want my face and life and future to be turned toward Jesus and his kingdom.


Lord of Life, all will perish and all will suffer regardless of what they deserve or don’t. You are the constant, the one to whom our turning matters. Help me to see today through your eyes and not to see through my tendency to judge or evaluate. Amen.


Categories: Faith Journey | Leave a comment

Life Journal (9/29/2015) – Fear Leads to the Dark Side

Scripture     Luke 12:4-7

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight.But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.


  • Jesus says “Don’ fear… you should fear… don’t fear”
  • Is this really about fear – or about why we shouldn’t fear anyone in the this world?
  • Contrast between the first verses (4-5) and the second (6-7)
  • Is the contrast between those whom we fear who don’t value us anway and God, who should be feared because of his great power but actually cares more for us than we acknowledge?


The Jedi Master Yoda famously warns ‘Fear is the path to the dark side;” Jesus might agree. This little passage is interesting because it is not what it appears to be about  at first glance. Jesus contrasts those whom we tend to fear – those who have power over us in this life – but rather fear God because he can kill not just your body but also your soul.

But Jesus’ advice here is really “Don’t be afraid!” Weird. Not at all what you’d expect based on the intro. His point to me is  – “Here is the One whom you should really fear. But you are valuable to him, more than you know. And so don’t be afraid at all.”

So much of the gospel is about not being afraid if we look at its message without our preconceptions or the stuff we overly on it.


Lord, I know your power exceeds any power I can imagine. Yet that power is applied to my good, not my destruction; to my benefit rather than to my harm. Teach me anew how not to fear but to live in the freedom from fear and the freedom of knowing how much you value me. Amen.

Categories: Faith Journey | Leave a comment

Life Journal (9/28/2015) – Overtaken By Myself

Scripture     Zechariah 1:1-6

In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah son of Iddo, saying: The Lord was very angry with your ancestors. Therefore say to them, Thus says the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the former prophets proclaimed, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.” But they did not hear or heed me, says the Lord. Your ancestors, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your ancestors? So they repented and said, “The Lord of hosts has dealt with us according to our ways and deeds, just as he planned to do.”


  • Do not be like your ancestors… return to me
  • Ancestors – those who went into exile when Jerusalem fell?
  • “The Lord of hosts” repeated – why this formulation? What does this signify?
  • Is the genealogy of Zechariah a reminder that his ancestors as well as “theirs” were guilty?


As Pogo famously quipped “We have met the enemy and he is us.” I am my own worst enemy. It is easy to blame others, circumstances, luck for things that happen/ And sometimes it is true to be sure. But more often than not. more likely than  not – my crises are my doing. Or at least where I land when they strike is anyway.

I love the image of the words and statues of the Lord overtaking the ancestors of the people. Like a storm they tried to outrun – but a storm of their own making – it hits them no matter how far and hard they run.

I cannot outrun the consequences of my decisions. They will overtake me for good or ill. For that matter I cannot outrun circumstances beyond my control either.

I can, however, not try to outrun the Lord or run away from him – even when I am guilty of some transgression. Return to him, he says. And he will return to me he promises.


Lord of Hosts, you promised to return to those who returned to you. Even when the consequences of their disobedience came to fruition… so let me not run from you or need to return to you. Sometimes I know what it is to be overtaken by my sins or by my mistakes. May i trust in your word and in your grace even then. Amen.

Categories: Faith Journey | Leave a comment

Toward a Spirituality of Fall (Part 1)

Fall-Banner-at-Top (1)

I love fall (if you know me and are reading this post, you won’t need the reminder). For some fall is a time of dreariness and dread. Summer is over. Winter is coming. Fall just bridges the gap between glory and misery. But fall also can teach, inspire, remind. Today I am starting some posts about what fall does for my spirit.

The seasons are often seen as symbols for the stages of human life. The dread some friends feel for the annual return of fall is akin to the dread some feel as middle-age becomes real and old-age is in sight (I am definitely in middle-age myself).

But the leaves of fall remind us that there is beauty, there is purpose, there is significance in every stage of human existence. The leaves of fall re-attune our hearts to a different kind of beauty, in part so that when winter comes as it does to all of us. we will seek and see the beauty it holds as well.  The leaves on the trees will fall and die as autumn advances. The tree is still alive!

As the leaves change from greens to browns and reds and yellows, in whatever season we find ourselves may they remind us that God has given every stage of life its own beauty and rhythm. Enjoy the one where you now live. And if, like me, summer is past and you are in the fall of life, enjoy it all the more today!

Yours is the day, yours also the night;
    you established the luminaries and the sun.
You have fixed all the bounds of the earth;
    you made summer and winter.

Psalm 75:16-17

Categories: Faith Journey | Leave a comment

Life Journal (9/25/2015) – Words and Deeds

Scripture     Luke 8:1-3

Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.


  • ‘Soon afterward’ refers to Jesus’ feet being washed and his teaching about forgiveness and responding in gratitude
  • The good news of the kingdom of God — this forgiveness? Suggested by the context (before and after)
  • The women following him are named and and their statuses / social roles
  • What is the difference (if any) between “proclaiming” and “bringing” the good news? Is one words, the other deeds? Is it merely repetition for emphasis?


I was reading some pieces on worship this week. The most prevalent thought was the truth that those who lead worship best prepare by being spiritually connected and grounded themselves. The technical stuff comes second.

I’m reminded of that today in reading the story of Jesus’ missionary journey. The people who followed were not wowed by his teaching alone or captivated by this character and charisma. They were people whose lives had been changed! The disciples had been called and left lives and work they knew. The women named here had been transformed, healed, and remade by Jesus’ power and ministry.

They came not just bringing good news in words (which they did) but in their very selves. “If Jesus can do this for me… if this Master can master what enslaves and limits me… he can do that same for you.”

What has Christ done for me lately that I can share? And I have continued to live into that freeing power and that kingdom reality so that I have something to share – even if not in words alone?


Lord Jesus, you didn’t just call – you changed. You didn’t just bring the words – you brought the reality and power of your kingdom. May I be as great a witness in my transformed life today as I am with words or even pious deeds. Amen.

Categories: Faith Journey | 1 Comment

Life Journal (9/24/2015) – Stirred Up

Scripture     Ezra 1:1

In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom, and also in a written edict declared:

“Thus says King Cyrus of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of those among you who are of his people—may their God be with them!—are now permitted to go up to Jerusalem in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem; and let all survivors, in whatever place they reside, be assisted by the people of their place with silver and gold, with goods and with animals, besides freewill offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.”


  • The Lord used Cyrus to fulfill what had been promised
  • Cyrus is not a Jew and yet he acts to rebuild the temple (why is there no “Temple of Cyrus” as there is of Herod?)
  • This scene is set quite particularly – in the reign of Cyrus and with reference to the prophecies of Jeremiah
  • Echoes of Exodus? the Lord stirs Cyrus’ spirit, the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart… the slaves in Egypt are liberated, the captives in the Persian Empire are… the Jews head for the Promised Land, the Jews head back to the place to fulfill God’s promises


This release and restoration under Cyrus begins with God stirring Cyrus’ heart to do so. So much depends on Cyrus being responsive, on Cyrus yielding to God’s direction. But it happens and the drama of the return of the exiles and the attempt to rebuild the temple begins.

As I am reflecting I am reminded of John Wesley who felt his “heart strangely warmed” and others in the history of faith who were stirred by God and did incredible things.

I need this today! I am in a bit of funk (ok more than a bit) where I feel overwhelmed by challenges and limited by what seem to be far too few resources to do what I need to do. But here Ezra’s history reminds me that it was the stirring of Cyrus’ heart that led to this shift in the fortunes of the exiles.
I am not Cyrus – but I can feel some exilic angst however. God is stirring the hearts of people to move, to shift, to guide. God stirred Cyrus that the words he had stirred in Jeremiah might come to be. I am no Jeremiah either – but today is a good day to trust that where God stirs my heart there are other hearts stirred and the means and resources to do what God calls to do will follow.


God of Jeremiah who stirred the prophet to promise deliverance… stir my heart to speak boldly and act as boldly in response to your stirring. God of Cyrus who stirred a great king to free your people and prove your faithfulness… stir others even where I cannot see or am not aware that your calling, your urging, your imperatives to me might come to be! Amen.

Categories: Faith Journey | Leave a comment

Life Journal (9/23/2015) – Sabbath Breaking

After a not-quite two-week hiatus, my daily devotional blog posts are back!

Scripture     Luke 6:1-5

One sabbath while Jesus was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”


  • Why were they walking through the grainfields? Premeditated sabbath-breaking? And why were the Pharisees there – wherever “there” was?
  • Jesus connecting himself to David
  • Jesus answers their question / challenge with another question!


Hmmmm. Is Jesus the lord of my religious, spiritual practices? Or not? It strikes me as I read this familiar story today that Jesus is saying that he is lord of what people need, what kind of rest and renewal and restoration the sabbath is meant to bring. And that the day matters not as much as the Lord who is honored and worshiped on that day.

What would Jesus have me to today to honor him? What does God want me to do today to draw nearer? How does the Holy Spirit speak to bring rest and renewal? What I think works may not be – often is not- what God wants to do and me to do to find sabbath rest, to receive grace, to know more deeply the divine love.

Who is lord of my sabbath.. I or the Lord of the Sabbath???


Lord of the Sabbath, you gave your people rest every seven days. May I rest today in you. You broke the rhythm of their week and work to remind then who is lord not just of the sabbath but of life. Show me today the ways, the paths, the channels of grace you want me to follow rather than to do what I want or what I prefer to receive your grace. Feed me soul as the disciples fed their bodies on that long-ago sabbath. And break my sabbaths to make them into your sabbaths again.

Categories: Faith Journey | Leave a comment

Blog at The Adventure Journal Theme.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,570 other followers