Stare at this picture to gain confidence in the middle of your worst day

Your confidence begins with something that happened about 2,000 years ago this week.

Before Good Friday. Before Easter.

It starts with a sentence in John 18:

When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground

Well they should fall to the ground – he’s God in a body on earth. You ought to have some kind of awesome reaction.

But he’s been God in a body on earth for years, and most people do not draw back and fall to the ground in his presence. Plus, these guys obviously do not believe this is God – they’re here to arrest him!

Look for the unlikely signs around you

And as soon as the falling to the ground is over, they get right back up and go about their arresting business, as if nothing happened. So this isn’t worship – you don’t worship one second and arrest the thing you’re worshipping the next.

It’s as if the falling down is involuntary. Like it isn’t their own reaction. Like it’s imposed on them from the outside.

This comes at a huge moment. It’s where Jesus goes from coming and going on his own to being under the total control of his opponents. No more escaping and slipping through their hands like he’s been doing for years. Now he’ll be theirs and they’re going to pour hatred and anger all over him and get rid of him. And this is the moment that’s the beginning of that.

There’s another angle on this, though. At the same time this human drama is going on, another one, a bigger one, is happening using the same events.

Look for the big picture

God has his own business he’s up to. He’s going to bring to climax all of history up to this point and demonstrate his justice and mercy and love. He’s going to pay for every sin committed by every human being who has lived or will ever live – billions and billions of people and all their sins. How heavy is that? Far heavier than the hatred and anger of the people doing the arresting. It’s a holy, awesome, righteous, mighty, unspeakable work. And this arrest is the beginning of that.

And so the official crowd of soldiers and religious leaders comes face to face with the God-man on earth who is going to accomplish this majestic, heroic deed that they don’t have a clue about. And at the moment he’s pointed out as the one who’s to do it, identifying himself using a phrase signifying his eternal deity, they all draw back and fall to the ground.

For a moment, involuntarily, they all react to who he is and what he’s about to do with his death and resurrection. It’s a supernaturally imposed reaction. Like someone or something knocks them down.

Look for the unlikely moment that shows God is still in charge

It’s the moment when God shows us he’s in control of all of this. What is coming is not just outraged hate having its way. The arrest and falling down are not opposites. It’s all part of the same thing. God is as in control of the arrest and killing as he is in the falling down reaction. The falling down proves it. It’s like God is saying:

I’m here and I could change all this as easy as I knocked all those guys down, but since I don’t then you know that even though this looks bad, it’s all me and under my authority.

He’s in the same place he’s in when other horrible things seem to take over. Right there. In the middle of your worst day.


Noticed any unlikely moments recently?

The one change that would make “The Bible” series even more awesome

The change?

Cast really old actors to play the really old characters

Have Maggie Smith play Abraham’s wife Sarah in episode one. Only make her even OLDER than Violet in Downton, since that’s still younger than Sarah was when she got pregnant. Maybe Betty White would be better. THEN make her have a baby.

Same with Abraham and Moses–uber geezers.


God loves destroying stereotypes

What do we think of eighty and ninety-year-olds today (okay, with the exception of Betty White)? They’re OVER over-the-hill. Cute and sweet at best.

But when God started something BIG and NEW, he turned really OLD people into heroes. If he can do that with them and all their feebleness, imagine what he can do with you.

What stereotype about yourself or your situation would you like to see destroyed?

The simple mental picture that will forever change what you expect of God (and yourself)

If you’re like me, it’s easy to feel swamped, confused, like you’re walking in mud.

You dwell on your undone, unfinished stuff. You do all you can in relationships but still experience frustration and misunderstanding. You seem to always put out effort and not get results. You think something is probably wrong with you. If only you could get your act together. If only you worked harder, smarter, longer.

Maybe it’s your expectations . . .

Your expectations of what you do and what God does.

Here’s a simple mental picture that can fix that:

                                                                                                                                      Photo by RiverEdge Dental 


The dentist chair

How does picturing the dentist chair clean and whiten your expectations of God and of yourself?

The dentist chair reminds you it’s a partnership, but with sharp dividing lines for the roles. Get your role mixed up with the dentist’s role and you’ll be swamped, confused, walking in mud, and mumbling to yourself about getting your act together. And your teeth will hurt.

You know the roles:

You have to show up

but someone else does the real work.

You put yourself in someone else’s hands

but you’re still deeply involved.

You’re not the one in control

but you can resist and fight and hinder the one who is.

In the dentist’s office you know you’re not the expert. You would never say, “Give me that sucky thing – I’ll do it.”

But you’re not passive, either. You don’t just flop and expect things to happen.

You keep the appointment. You cancel things to be there. You don’t run away. You do what they say. You open wide. You spit. Your whole body tenses up. You’re super-sensitive to what’s going on. You go home and learn unnatural habits like running wax string between your teeth.

Yes you’re definitely involved. There’s a cost. But it’s not enough.

What are you trying to make happen that only God can make happen?

I HOPE your ice is slowly melting

I HOPE your dead place is coming alive like this dead and discouraged unemployment office in Madrid came alive when a small flash mob materialized.

I HOPE you know that just as everything can go horribly wrong in only five minutes, so in five minutes your face can be lifted up.

I HOPE you know that a tiny bit of joy you contribute can go deeper and farther than you’d ever imagine.

I HOPE you see that where and when you contribute your little piece of joy can magnify it and make it mean more.

I HOPE you realize that just as George Harrison never knew a little song he created while walking in a garden would surprisingly encourage unemployed Spaniards forty-three years later, so something you do today can live.

I HOPE you know you have the power to leave any situation better than you found it. How do I know you have that power? Because you are a human being created by God in his image and that’s what he does.

Maybe I appreciate this more because there was a season long ago when I spent a lot of time in an office like this with no one to sing to me.

Please sing.

(if you’re reading this in your email or reader and can’t see the video, please click over to the blog HERE to view it.)

How to pray for a sofa

We’re shopping for a larger sofa. We’re praying about it.

Sometimes at furniture stores I see the pilot/co-pilot theater sofas with built-in cupholders and slide-away snack trays. And they massage you. A corner of me wants to give up and veg out in front of the flat-screen on one of those sofas for the next ten years.

We’re not praying for that.

Our current sofa seats three max. There is one comfortable chair in the room, and a few other look-better-than-feel chairs. So we have comfy seating for three or four. When all our family visits there are twelve.

And every Sunday night we host between seven and seventeen friends for food, conversation, a Bible study, and fun. We use kitchen chairs and even plastic patio chairs. It’s fine, but not conducive to relaxing.

We are praying for that.

It’s not so much what you pray for, but why. Why do you want it? What do you want to see happen?

We want to fulfill the purpose of our home for our family and for friends. We want people to be able to relax and  connect with each other and with God. Yes this can happen even with three-legged stools and wooden benches. But we don’t want words like stiff, straight, and hard to be any part of their experience in our home, even with such an un-spiritual thing as a sofa.

The more confidence you have that the thing you want is for God’s purposes and the benefit of people, the more confident you pray.

What’s one thing you’re praying for now, and why are you praying for it?


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Which peace on earth do you want most?

Peace on earth. It’s part of the message of Christmas.

I get it wrong.

When things are calm and all the pieces are in place; when I see check-marks on the to-do list; when there are no interruptions and things are going the way I planned; early in the morning in my favorite chair with my coffee and Oswald Chambers; I call that peace.

That’s not peace. That’s peacefulness.

Peace is when the bottom falls out, you’re scared, nothing is working, you can’t believe they think that about you, this day will never end, you’re not going to make it, and hell is frozen. And you aren’t freaked or angry or resentful. You feel the potential for panic, but you don’t give in to it. The storm is on the outside, the calm is on the inside.

It’s not peaceful but there’s peace.

That’s the peace of Christmas. That’s the kind of peace Jesus came to bring.

Peacefulness depends on circumstances.

Peace depends on my trust in the absolute adequacy and sufficiency of Jesus for every circumstance, problem, fear, emotion, interruption, project, and relationship.

Of course, you can have both together. But sometimes it takes lack of peacefulness to prove peace.

I hope you experience more peace than peacefulness these days.

How to feel better today

Last week I felt like complaining and did. It felt good.

However later it felt blah. Nothing positive came of it. Complaining didn’t fix anything. It helped my wife a little because it helped her understand how I felt about some of our hopes and dreams, but it also was a downer for her.

Last night I felt like complaining but didn’t.

It was very hard to not complain. I was complaining big-time in my head and the pressure to let it out with my voice was like the teapot every night on the stove when it rumbles inside right before it busts out in a piercing whistle. You get a warning before it busts out.

So last night I shut up before the piercing whistle. I forced myself to keep it all a secret between God and me. It was an act of trust and intimacy with God. In some feeble way I was able to let it be enough that he knew, and to let him handle the satisfaction that I craved from venting externally.

I just shut up. On the outside it was very simple–just don’t. But inside it was a raging battle.

I’ve had success with this before, but later always go back to the easy way of depending on myself and acting by how I feel.

This morning I woke up with a sense of peace and power. A renewed confidence. There’s a lot to do but I don’t feel any pressure. All the stuff I felt like complaining about is the same, but it looks and feels different.

It’s as if God says, you want peace and power and intimacy with me–prove you trust me and you’ll get it.

I think this is basic, daily living by faith. Kindergarten stuff.

I try to jump to grad-school stuff  before I’ve learned the alphabet and counting to 20.

Every day you’re offered many little doorways that open with the key of everyday trust. Good things are in the rooms through those doors.

What adventures have you had in venting or trusting?

Don’t over think God’s ‘big’ plans for you

I walk out the front door with the dog.

I think, this morning I’ll just let her go where she wants. Sometimes I have a preference for going to the right and moseying around the ponds, or left and walking the streets by the condos. This morning I think I’ll let her pick.

In the end it really doesn’t matter which way we go. The issues of our walk will be the same.

She has to take care of her doggie bidness and she needs a little exercise. That’s the same if we go left or right.

How bullheaded will she be? Will she try to stop every five feet to root something out of the grass? Will she follow every impulse and distraction, or will she show some discipline? When I tug the leash will she come with me or will she insist on her own way? Will this be a pleasant, cooperative walk or a battle? When it’s a battle her walk is shorter. These issues are all the same if we go right or left.

She turns left and I’m fine with that. Isn’t going to affect the important stuff.

Ding-ding Mr. Dogwalker! Is this just about the dog?

We walk and go through the rhythm of the doggie constitutional, plus all the sniffing and tugging. I start thinking of how easy it is to spend a lot of energy micromanaging my understanding of God’s ‘big’ plans for me, but how most of the time he’s probably more concerned with the quality of our walk. I imagine him thinking the same thing that I thought when I walked out the front door.

Left or right, why don’t you pick? Either way, our relationship is the biggie and you’ve got to deal with the issues of that relationship no matter which way we go.

Since our walk together is what counts, why do you act like the destination and the scenery is the main thing?

Are you going to be bullheaded? Will you always be distracted by trifles? Will you constantly test the limits of the leash as if it’s not there to keep you from running out in the street in front of a car like you’re prone to do? Will you always want more – over here! over here! – never having enough?

Or can you stay calm and rest, and be content and trust? And make this whole walk personal, just between you and me, no matter where it leads?

If you take care of our relationship I can take you anywhere I want, and it will be what you want, too. Is that good enough for you?

Are you frustrated with discovering or following God’s big plans for you? Is the quality of your walk with him enough?

Something is very wrong with our Christmas tree

We slowly stepped around it in the field at the tree farm. You know how you’re looking for which side will go against the wall? This tree had no bad sides. Brenda wanted slim but full, and the whole thing looked perfectly full top to bottom. The branches draped in a circle on the ground without a bare spot anywhere.

Brenda loved it. “It’s so beautiful!”

We got it home and in water and turned it this way and that to see which angle was best. It still didn’t matter–all sides were equally full.

We wrapped it in lights and hung the silver and gold balls. Then put on the harp and cross ornaments.

Brenda goes, “Hmmm.”

We hung the little plastic icicles. Stood back and looked. Moved some things around. Stood back and looked some more.

“Something’s missing,” Brenda said.

I said, “Maybe it needs some contrast, something red or green thrown in.”

“Nooooo,” She said, “I like silver and gold like we always have. Do we usually have more lights?”

“No. Exact same lights.”

We both began realizing what was wrong.

The tree is too perfect.

Too full, too symmetrical, too straight.

It’s boring. It needs some nooks and crannies, some branches sticking out here and there, some bare spots, a live squirrel popping it’s head out, something. It doesn’t look real.

Living things have strengths and weaknesses, holes and surprises. You think you want everything fixed, running smooth and predictable, but when you get it you’re disappointed.

You’re not wired for a perfect life.

As I go through my imperfect life today and this week, with imperfect people and surprises, with my own bares spots and my own awkward branches sticking out, I hope I can remember this perfect tree that has something very wrong with it. I hope you remember it too.

And when a squirrel pops his head out . . .

I think I find most help in trying to look on all the interruptions and hindrances to work that one has planned out for oneself as discipline, trials sent by God to help one against getting selfish over one’s work.

Then one can feel that perhaps one’s true work–one’s work for God–consists in doing some trifling haphazard thing that has been thrown into one’s day. It is not a waste of time, as one is tempted to think, it is the most important part of the work of the day–the part one can best offer to God.

After such a hindrance, do not rush after the planned work; trust that the time to finish it will be given sometime, and keep a quiet heart about it.

Annie Keary

Can you think of a recent imperfect day or occasion that was beautiful because of the imperfections?

Have you met your Squanto?

My wife said the little story I told her of how Squanto helped the Pilgrims was something every third grader learns.

And then forgets.

Squanto taught the Pilgrims to grow corn which would save their lives. He showed them how to fertilize the corn with fish. Since they couldn’t catch fish he taught them that, too, plus how to stalk deer, plant pumpkins, harvest maple syrup, and sell beaver pelts.

He was an Indian who spoke English and who needed a reason to live after all his family died. He’d had a tragic, adventurous life as a victim of kidnapping and almost slavery. He lived in Europe for years and finally returned to his homeland finding his family dead and gone.

Then a friend introduced him to these clueless foreigners.

The Pilgrims didn’t ask for Squanto. Didn’t go looking for him. Didn’t even know they needed him.

Sometimes the crucial key is kept a secret from you

Like a turkey cooking in an invisible oven.

When you finally get it, your thanksgiving increases.

Maybe that’s the plan the whole time.

When have you experienced a Squanto, realizing later that this thing has been prepared for you over time?