Monday, December 31, 2012

Devotional Classics, you've forever impacted my life.

It's hard to believe nigh on four years ago I started this journey into the depths of riches and community found at  What a life-changing experience this has been and continues to be as I complete the final assignment for my Certificate in Worship Leadership Studies.  Thanks, Dan, for dreaming and birthing such an incredible learning community.  I am forever grateful.

Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups, the revised and expanded edition edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith, is a compilation of devotional readings selected from the writings of the saints across the ages.  These writings "aim at the transformation of the human personality.  They seek to touch the heart, to address the will, to mold the mind.  They call for radical character formation.  They instill holy habits" [1].

These classic writings are divided into seven sections. Each section lays out a feast of the richest of foods for the soul, gleaned from men and women whose writings give us "perspective and balance" [2] and reveal the need and desire to be formed in our own lives by the love and goodness of God as manifested through the lives of the authors.  

In Preparing for the Spiritual Life, I am challenged to create space for intentional spiritual formation in my life.  While costly, it is far more prudent than the alternative. C.S. Lewis wakens me to awareness that demands are always being made on me and I must choose from where those demands will be met.  He teaches me how to come out of the wind, so to speak, and into the peace where I can be directed by the Voice of the One.  This quote from Dallas Willard I’ve written on a note card I carry with me to commit to memory:
Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10) [3].

The Prayer-Filled Life uncovers a gold-mine of thoughts on how to live a life of prayer.  I struggle to find moments of solitude and silence, but when I read Henri J. M. Nouwen’s piece on “Bringing Solitude into Our Lives,” I found a nugget of wisdom that had yet to occur to me: “But we do not take the spiritual life seriously if we do not set aside some time to be with God and listen to him.  We may have to write it in black and white in our daily calendar so that nobody else can take away this period of time [emphasis mine]” [4].  I realized that whatever appointment I wrote in my calendar I tended to keep, so I tried it out, penciling in at 6:00 a.m.  “Solitude and Silence,” and wouldn’t you know, I kept that appointment fairly consistently from then on!  And while I’m no longer regularly waking at 6:00 a.m. (different season requiring different schedule), the discipline wore a groove in me to rise, light a candle, and spend time in prayer and meditation as a way to center my day on the One from whom all life flows.

The Virtuous Life encourages me to develop holy habits that keep me in a lifestyle of dying to self and becoming increasingly alive in Christ.  These habits include obedience, perseverance in the race, goodness, love and know God, denial of self, sobriety, resisting and learning from temptation, devotion to God, temperance, communion with the Trinity, etc.  Richard Rolle’s “The Spiritual Flame” inspired the poem here, and I am quickened to develop these holy habits by this quote from Thomas a Kempis: “The beginning of all evil temptations is an unstable mind and a small trust in God” [5].

The Spirit-Empowered Life creates desire to connect more deeply with the Spirit of God who is alive and active in me so that, in the words of Thomas Kelly, I might conduct my “inward life so that [I am] perpetually bowed in worship while [I am] also very busy in the world of daily affairs” [6].  This discipline calls me to an inward life that is in perpetual peace being centered on the Spirit rather than on the tumult without. “For God himself works in our souls, in their deepest depths, taking increasing control as we are progressively willing to be prepared for his wonder” [7].

The Compassionate Life calls me to commit to a life of being the hands and feet of Jesus to those around me, not by imposing my thoughts and beliefs on others; rather, I do it through understanding and compassion and doing the good I can.  John Woolman puts it like this: “…where people are sincerely devoted to follow Christ and dwell under the influence of his Holy Spirit, their stability and firmness through a divine blessing is at times like dew on the tender plants around them, and the weightiness of their spirits secretly works on the minds of others [8]. Hannah Whithall Smith cautions against the constant burden of a life of compassion when it is lived out of obligation rather than love.  The solution to this is the complete giving over of self to Him in complete trust so that He can “work in you to will as to bring your whole wishes and affections into conformity with His own sweet, and lovable, and most lovely will” [9].

In The Word-Centered Life emphasis is placed on the Scriptures and the sharing of the Gospel. I love how E. Stanley Jones brings it down to three habits that Jesus demonstrated: read the Word, pray, and teach.  He also encourages me to “Enlarge the area of [my] conversion, taking in fresh territory every day” [10], challenging me to make sure I am intentional about adding to my basic faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love.  Madame Guyon takes the ordinary reading of the Bible and teaches me to slow down and take each word one-by-one and allow the truth and the meaning to sink into the very fibers of my being.

The authors of the Sacramental Life section remind me that all of life is sacred; there is no such division of secular life.  Chesterton introduces me to the joy found in monotony.  Repetition is worked into the fabric of creation by the Creator Himself who delights in the “do it again” of the sun rising and setting bringing purpose to the everyday tasks and guards against them becoming mundane. Staying mindful of the One for whom these tasks are being done keeps me in an attitude of worship instead of drudgery (thanks, Brother Lawrence!). I love how Annie Dillard describes her experience of truly seeing past the “mind’s muddy river, this ceaseless flow of trivia and trash” [11] to the beauty of the Presence:

So I blurred my eyes and gazed towards the brim of my hat and saw a new world.  I saw the pale white circles roll up, roll up, like the world’s turning, mute and perfect, and I saw the linear flashes, gleaming silver, like stars being born at random down a rolling scroll of time.  Something broke and something opened.  I filled up like a new wineskin.  I breathed an air like light;  I saw a light like water.  I was the lip of a fountain the creek filled forever; I was ether, the leaf in the zephyr; I was flesh-flake, feather, bone [12].

Oh the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God these wonderful saints of God reflect!  I am richer.  I am wiser.  I am more in love with the God of the universe having read the writings of these fellow travelers into the heart of God.  And I have only merely scratched, no brushed, the surface of all that is contained within this book.  So while the assignment is to write a summary of Devotional Classics (a task I find impossible to do), it is more like a small drop of the nectar that Richard Foster and James Smith saw fit to include within.

I am so thankful to have read and re-read and will read again.

1 Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups, revised and expanded, edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith (New York: HarperCollins Publisher, 2005), 1
2 ibid, 1
3 ibid, 16
4 ibid, 82
5 ibid, 151
6 ibid, 174
7 ibid, 177
8 ibid, 231
9 ibid, 240
10 ibid, 285
11 ibid, 347
12 ibid, 346

Sunday, December 30, 2012


Blue Hole, so named for its deep, spring-fed waters, takes my breath away as I leap from burning rock of summer heat and plunge into its chilly depths.  Popping up above the surface, an invigorating contrast in temperatures creates a tug-of-war within my body that longs to repeat the adventure while at the same time insisting on avoiding it.

Dripping wet, I emerge from the river to do it again.


Because something happens to enliven this heart as I crawl up the rocky slope to "towering" cliff.  Something breaks when I step across the chicken line and with a "1-2-3" jump off and hold my nose.  

In the repetition of the day-to-day lived life of wake and sleep, eat and clean, wash and dry, teach and correct and repeat, the adventure my heart needs and somewhere longs for gets muffled, even numbed, as the layers of assumed responsibility pile on and the urgent takes a permanent shot-gun seat, nearly silencing the important voice that whispers to me of healing and beauty and simplicity and nurturing and dreaming and living.

Honestly, I prefer warm-to-hot water to bathe or swim in.  There is no shock to my system or need to "get used to" it or blue lips or chattering teeth or shivering limbs. But water comes in all temperatures and sometimes what I want is not necessarily what I most need.

And that is why I jump into Blue Hole every summer.  I need that invigorating wake up in my system that reminds me there is more to life out there than what has become comfortable because sometimes the comfortable is really not functioning very well and needs the uncomfortable to come and shake things up a bit to get me to what's best.

I don't swim it alone.  Families together swim and jump.  My children make the climb with me and in delighted peals and shouts and screams we splash into the Frio River.  Many others go before us.  Still more go after in a perpetual loop of jumps and screams and "do it agains."

There is the intentional connection of togetherness created in this moment that reminds me I am not in the adventure alone.  We prod and encourage each other, reminders that the plunge is indeed worth the shock and the heart-leaping-into-throat.  Community gives me perspective and helps refresh my memory on the important things in life and brings wholeness where I didn't know or remember I needed it.

And so I jump into Blue Hole again, listening to the cheers and laughter of those around me, joining in the calls and shouts to others in need of encouragement to take the plunge yet one more time.

For the Essentials in Spiritual Formation Certificate Studies with Dan Wilt

Friday, December 28, 2012


I yelled it loud, I yelled it long
From deep within
The song went on
Birthed in freedom
The moving Spirit
Flowing through
The Story

Wild adventure
Breathing passion
Ablaze with glory

Strength to draw on
Heart now tended
Burning hot
In singular flame
Trusting the restraint
And purpose

Drawing now
In centered focus
Compelled by love
No longer striving
In His power
Walking forward
Ever onward
In the midst of
Holy Fire

For the Essentials in Spiritual Formation Certificate Studies with Dan Wilt

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Blow, Wind, blow

The chaff, take it!  Blow it far away.
It's cluttered my life too long
Hindered my view
Crippled my gait
Kept me in perpetual cycles of guilt

Blow, Wind, blow!
And hold me in the howling waste
Until all is swept away, left clean
Then fill me with Your living voice
Your beauty that awakens breath

Help me remember
Present in this moment
The gifts so freely given

Away, fear, away!
My sails are lifted high
To catch this wind that blows
This boat so small
In sea so wide*
It's love I'm voyaging upon

My heart alive
Inspired to dream
Hope springs anew
As rhythms thrum
His heartbeat strong
Throughout this life reborn

And again and again and again
He never tires of blowing wind
Of chaff released
Of spirits lifted
Of life growing
Catching vision

Blow, wind, blow!

For the Essentials in Spiritual Formation Certificate Studies with Dan Wilt
*song by Garrett Viggers "Brendan {Celtic Saint}"

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A little surprise

In this season of being trained to walk by faith, God gave me a little surprise yesterday.

I was shopping with my youngest daughter.  This year we're doing gifts a little differently. To simplify things, we are not buying gifts from big box stores unless it's for supplies to make a gift.  Instead, we are choosing to buy from local stores, thrift stores, artists, and organizations that support fair trade artisans.  Or we're making gifts.

We were in a thrift store and a gift came to mind for my oldest girl.  I walked around awhile until I found the rack it might be on and begin to rummage through the items.  I had a picture in my mind of what I was looking for, and I now know it was a picture from the Holy Spirit because as I got to the item, I knew immediately it had been the voice of the Lord leading me to that store and to that item, specifically.

I took it with me to the check out counter and as I looked down, I noticed that on the inside was written the initials "SH," as if it were hand-picked for my daughter as those are her initials.

I'm thankful for the reminders that He sees and He knows and He cares and He trains me in fun ways to walk His paths by faith.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

This season

It's hard for me to understand this season.  It's unlike any I've ever encountered.  Course, probably each new season is that way and if I looked back I might have said the same thing.  But there really is something different, in a harder sort of way.

This one is requiring a different kind of trust, a deeper faith.  Plenty of balls have dropped for me, way more things fallen through the cracks than I care to count, and through it all I fight to believe that God is working and has a plan.

Because a lot of days I feel thwarted on every side to accomplish the tasks that I used to get done with minimal effort.  Even if it took maximum effort, I could get them done.  These days I can't even muster up effort.  It's just not there.

My friend says that it's the undoing of a performance way of life so that I can get to living life.

I waiver back and forth with doubt and doesn't James talk about what that's like?  A man blown and tossed about by the sea.  Yep, that's me.

It's just that everything looks so...different than I anticipated or thought it would...really, thought it should.

Somewhere in all this blowing and tossing and back to re-grounding in trust and faith, I hear a voice whispering that all my undoing is setting the stage for great trailblazing back to an ancient path of peace and faith and trust in the voice of the Holy Spirit saying, "This is the way.  Walk in it."

See, even though I've known Jesus for most of my life and followed His ways and known His voice, I still find myself walking a whole heck-of-a-lot by sight.  And I think He keeps telling me that a day is coming where if we don't know how to walk completely by faith, we will flounder in ways that will have unprecedented repercussions.

But He's so good and kind and gracious that He is relentlessly training me to walk by faith, and He's starting with seemingly inconsequential things like grocery shopping and gift shopping and calendar planning and home schooling.

Gift shopping...occasionally God will highlight a particular gift (usually a book) for someone and I purchase it with the hopes that I have heard correctly, particularly if it's a book I know nothing about.  My aunt has been the recipient of more than one of these books and has always come back to tell me how timely the gift was.  Once I purchased a book for a friend after a nudge from the Holy Spirit but then never gave it to her because I wasn't sure, in the end, if I had really heard correctly.  A year or so later, she was visiting and "randomly" mentioned that she was reading said book and how much it was ministering to her.

So, yesterday, I was looking for gifts and came across a couple of books that I felt a nudge to buy, but then I kept doubting...and not because of the cost because that was minimal...not really sure why I doubted.  And then I came across the title of that book I had bought but never given to my friend and it was as if the Lord was saying, "Remember?  That was a lesson and now I'm bringing it to mind so that you can have peace that this is My Voice.  No need to fear or doubt or worry.  You're hearing Me."

Hearing Him.  That's really what it all boils down to.  Bill Johnson says, "The life is in His voice."


Join me on this journey from sight to faith?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Oh, the chaos

At least that's what it feels like.  Everywhere I turn, there are projects that I need to do.  I had the kids help straighten the house yesterday and they were done in 15 minutes while I was still taking care of something that needed my attention and I still didn't finish it.

The story of my life.

And somehow I tie up into the value of my day and of my worth in what gets accomplish.

I know that is so twisted and I hate that about my perspective.  I think it's slowly changing, though.

One woman who prayed for me had this picture:  God taking my face in His hands and shifting my view from jobs and how well they were/were not getting done to the job do-er and his/her beauty as a person.

It's a hard shift but so very necessary and I've been doing better about seeing my kids in this way but not so much myself.  There's something broken there that needs healing.  The lie says that I'm as valuable as I am productive, which these days is not much.  The truth says that I have value simply because I'm loved by God.

And while my head knows that to be true, I'm still behaving out of the lie and therein lies the chaos, I think.

So, this morning I've lit my candle, had my mug of tea, and cried out for the Shalom peace of God to come bring wholeness and healing to this chaotic thinking that skews worth.  I cry out for you, too.  You who know you can't ever do enough to meet the need and feel the failure day after day.  That's chaos and it's not ours to embrace.

Today, together, let's embrace Shalom that says His peace has come to shatter this darkened way of thinking and to bring life to the broken places.  Let's let Him take our faces in His hands and show us beauty and worth in His us.