Wednesday, May 17, 2017


We were ordinary.
We trod through the days like any
We worked some, slept some and ate some.
We loved, wondered like any.

Yet, we were extraordinary.
Responding to God’s great invite
made days seem celebrant
and actions deliberate,
though it only be work, sleep and food.

We were loved in such a way
that often we wondered at ourselves.

What Vision fired life deep in an ordinary existence!!

An Unexpected Discipline - Work

I may be able to see work as discipline - to get there, to do my best, to grow my skills - but is it a spiritual discipline?  Does it cause me to move towards God or cause me to become more like God?  As a point of confession, the stress of work can cause the opposite in me.  Too much stress, too many demands, not using my best strengths can do me in.  So, I have to ask myself if I can see work as a spiritual discipline, under duress or not?

Proverbs 12:14 says, "..the fruit of a man's hand will come back to him."  Some versions say, "A man's work will be rewarded," but a closer look at the original language really helps to see that the intention is not "reward" as I might have thought.  It really means that productivity begets productivity; integrity begets integrity; use of skills births new skills.  This is not "reward" as in monetary gain or advancement, but in character gain.  

When work is developed that way, then it would be a spiritual discipline.  Maybe I need my view of work to be adjusted so I can look at the spiritual discipline of work not just in crisis, but in the development of my soul.  

It seems best to start with God, who worked.  He worked in the creation story (Genesis 1) and he thought so much of work that He gave Adam some work to do.  In a sinless environment, work was a benefit and it did not become "toil" until after the Fall. (Genesis 3).  And God continued to give work to people even after the Fall. He gave skills (Ex 36), success at work (Gen 39), and controlled promotion at work (Ps 75).  So, work must contain great spirit-possibilities since God is so committed to it.

Remarkably,  He is still working today.  These are some of the most hope-filled verses to me about His work:

"For God is working in you...."  (Phil 2:13)
"He (God) will complete the work began in you..." (Phil 1:6)
"We are co-workers with God..." (1 Cor 3:9; 2 Cor 6:1)

That is so comforting to hear!  Suddenly, I realize I am not doing this alone.  It's a blessing to know that the attention, activity and power of God are at work in my life, even at work.  No matter what effort I am making at work, God has another agenda to let me join in the process of making me into Jesus' likeness.

Another part of the spiritual discipline of work is in my effort to join in with God.  No matter what I thought the objective was at work, it quickly becomes clear that my goals at work are more than the mere tasks and objectives set by the job.  Colossians 3:23-24 provides an alternative view of work. We are to " hard and unto the Lord...?" The critical word here is "unto."  It is a word that can mean for, unto, towards or forward.  Working "for" the Lord.  Okay. But I think using the word "towards" or "forward" might better portray the nature of the spiritual discipline of work.  I am to work in such a way that I move toward God - that I grow spiritually toward Him. 

Now I can think of aspects of my job differently.  My performance is undertaken so that it moves me closer to Him.  My relationships at work, especially the relationship with my boss, is to facilitate me looking more like God with each interaction.  The quality of my work is to move me into greater relationship with Him.  That throws a monkey wrench into my views about performance, relationships, and quality.  I know how to pursue performance so that it drives me in the opposite direction from God.  I have had difficult relationships at work in which my solutioning didn't look anything like God.  

Pause.  Suddenly, I can see that work is totally a spiritual discipline.  A job is not merely a task designed to make money.  It is intended to produce godly character and display ultimate truths about God and it even develops my relationship with God.   I never expected that the entire work experience would be a spiritual discipline!

How do I get intentional about work's spiritual aspect then?  I can invite Jesus into the tasks of my job; I can partner with him in activities.  I can use my breaks to refocus my heart towards God throughout the day.  Work definitely can be a place to develop and demonstrate my integrity before the Lord.  I can see my performance as a place for the display of the gifts God has given, whether as abilities, spiritual gifts or the gift of the sanctification process.   I can listen and look for God's truths in all work activities.  

One more area where  work is a discipline is that it gives a place for Sabbath.  It frames Sabbath, giving it place and purpose.  When people are without a job, the full effect of rest completely evades them.  This is why retirement is not a topic in the Bible.  Rest is only needed or significant in light of work. The spiritual discipline of working hard grows our desire and need for the full force of Sabbath.  

Take it!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


I want to be loved like that.
Where burdens are lifted
and life is gifted.
I want to be loved like that.

Where peace abounds
and commitment is sound.
Where unity reigns
and relationship gains.
I want to be loved like that.

So, I love like that…
I minister to you and present a new way.
I seek your best and assure my stay.
I give up myself and receive your play.

For I have learned that when given,
love is measured out, pressed down and returned.

I want to be loved like that.

Monday, May 15, 2017

An Unexpected Discipline - Love

While discipline and love are often held together in the context of parenting, I don't think those two are held together when thinking about love otherwise. We tend to be indulgent with our love;  we may want to be indulged when we think about being loved. I may want to use love as the vehicle to discipline someone else, but does love somehow enter me as a discipline?  And not so much just to change my behavior, but as a way to forge my identity, too.  

Any discussion around love has the potential for being large and long - many a book is written proof!  Instead, I want to look at what the Bible says about love and its implementation in me that provides a way for me to move towards God and His purposes for me, which essentially makes it a spiritual discipline.  I will just cover three, although there is much more.   

1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Ahh!  The love chapter, which gives us hope about God and good instruction on the verb-nature of love, as opposed to a modern feelings-nature of love, which might be why we had not thought of discipline being embedded in love.  The strength of such love is in its action-orientation makes it easy to see the disciplines that appear or are driving forces of love:

Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love is not envious, boastful or arrogant.
Love is never rude.
Love keeps no record of wrong.
Love celebrates justice and truth.
Love bears all things,
trusts, hopes and endures all things.

We are glad for this set of verses because we see God's love for us.  We relish and find comfort in it, as well we should, but Paul's letter to the Corinthians is the context.  It was a letter written to a group of people not behaving very well towards each other.  He really meant this to be the way for them to love.

And me?

What if I inserted myself as the one who was to be acting in these loving ways?

I am patient.
I am  kind.
I am not envious, boastful or arrogant.
I am never rude.
I keep no record of wrong.
I celebrate justice and truth.
I bear all things;
I trust, hope and endure all things.

That would be a discipline!

Another way love is a discipline is in how I love God.  From the above, I should press my definition for love for Him as an action-oriented verb.  Jesus tells how that love-action should look in reference to loving him.  John 14:15 - If you love me, obey my commandments.  

Let's be clear.  Keeping Jesus' commandments does not cause me to love him (nor him to love me).  Rather, if I love Christ, I desire to obey him.  Obedience becomes the action which represents the condition of my heart.  Out of commitment and desire to please the One I love, I obey.  I am glad to obey. I seek to obey.

Here is my favorite analogy:  I love my husband.  His desires interest me.  He hates onions, so, even though I really like onions, I never cook with onions.  I even go so far as to read labels of any prepared food for any trace of an onion.  I'm  on alert for onion presence in any dish.  I am thrilled to do so; it is not a burden for me.  He receives my care of avoiding onions as an act of my love for him.  

Does your love for God cause you to be vigilant to obey?

Surely,  loving God is a spiritual discipline, too.  

The Bible offers one more discipline of love: servanthood. The sacrificial, purposeful service to God and others is an act of love. Servanthood (servant/serve)  is mentioned over 400 times in the Bible.  It is a basic role, which provides an identity to God's people.  Jesus both comes as a servant and calls his people to serve.  He sets the standard.  John 6:38 - For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.  

It is that act of love which defines our identity and role with the Master Servant.  Jesus gives example after example for us whether as "small" as a gesture towards the "least of these" to how our gifts and assignments are managed as a sign of our service to him.  Our servant status speaks to the commitment, loyalty, and passion we have for Jesus.  We always want to be like the ones we love!

So, the spiritual discipline of love requires that I practice servanthood. That surely is a discipline, especially for someone who comes from the "Land of the Free." I have served others willingly for the cause of Christ and his kingdom in me and them.  As an act of discipline, I have yielded my will to what God has asked of me.  Servanthood causes me to move towards God and to mold me into his likeness, the ultimate goal of a spiritual discipline.

Still, I do need more discipline in order to call myself a servant to God and others.  Jesus' example for servanthood redefines who I am.  There lies the greatest discipline of love. When a person is able, out of the passion of service towards God, to forget herself entirely and only do the bidding of the Lord, then servanthood would be complete. Jesus said it clearly,  “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."  (Matthew 16:24)

 That would be more discipline!

Thursday, May 11, 2017


I muse.
I meditate.
I contemplate.
I can never know the fullness of who You are,
yet I need to.
I don’t know if I can fulfill Your call on my life,
yet I want to.
I don’t understand this day,
yet this day understands me.
I hungry and am satisfied.
I contemplate.
I meditate.
I muse.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

An Unexpected Discipline - Plenty

There are perils to plenty.  Wait!  It's America:  we are full to the brim with the desire to be overflowing with plenty!  Even if we come through times of having less, we not only hope for plenty, but see it as a blessing of God to have plenty.  God is also bountiful in his language to us about provision and plenty.  He has given us the whole world!  There are perils? 

There is an inherent discipline awaiting us in plenty.  And the greatest discipline is in our relationship with God.  We rarely forget God in our place of need, hurt and loss, but in plenty is where the test really comes.  The testing of our commitment, obedience and focus really comes in the lap of plenty and not in the pit of need.  

In which are we most hungry for God?  
In which do we seek after the purposes of God in our lives? 

The apostle Paul speaks well of the solution for our lives in both areas.  "Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned to be content in whatever state I find myself.  I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have plenty.  I have learned to be content in whatever situation I find myself, whether with a full stomach or empty, whether in plenty or little." (Philippians 4:11, 12)

How does he do this?  How many of us "hunger" for more (food, goods, power, status) whether we are with or without! Luckily, in verse 13, he tells us how contentment is achieved in his life.  It's a verse that is often used completely out of context, but Paul is making it clear about what drives his contentment:  "For I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me."

Essentially, he is saying that satisfaction in life cannot come from life itself.  Plenty is not the answer.  It warps.  It passes. It can never "fill" our truest need, which is for Christ himself.

In the Old Testament, God knew the Israelites would struggle with the good and plenty he was going to give them in Canaan, their land of promise.  It was their greatest expectation of God - that he was going to give them land teeming with abundance.  And he wanted to give it to them. Yet he understood there would be a discipline in finally getting to have and hold that land of plenty.

Just before they enter through the river Jordan, Moses gives God's message of plenty laced with a message of warning in Deuteronomy, chapters 7-9.  He reminds the Israelites of the promises of God which were going to be fulfilled for them in Canaan - plenty, productivity, proliferation.  Yet, with each there were parallel reminders.  Food isn't everything.  Real life comes from God.  Don't confuse the gifts with the Giver, the provision with the Provider.

He warns them.  Don't forget so as to disobey him, as in to get off track of what is right living.  Don't become proud and forget God, and to think this plenty had been achieved on their own power.  Don't worship things instead of God.

He then instructs them about the discipline needed to live with plenty:

     1)  To remember what God had brought them out of.  To remember the miracles God had worked to bring them this far.  If they had any power and possibilities, it was God who had given them.

   2)  To retain humbleness and not elevate self over others and over God himself. 

   3) To trust God, especially in view of the feelings of self- satisfaction, self-sufficiency and self-dependence, which can arise with plenty. 

     4)  To bless the Lord for what He had given.

It's an interesting thought to contemplate what it means to bless God.  Doesn't he have it all already?  To bless is to kneel before God, to salute and praise him for the blessing you received.  God wants to join in the joy of the blessing.  He doesn't just intend to be available to save a bad day or even to receive a note of gratitude, but to join the glory of the riches he provides.  Why else does God have such a history so as to "encamp" (abide) with his people historically and presently? He wants to join in the meal, the fellowship, the peace, the comfort.

This is the discipline of plenty.  To place yourself in right position to keep God first and foremost when you are in the greatest place of comfort and ease.  It doesn't mean to deny yourself the plenty, but to use it rightly as a platform for keeping God and his advancing kingdom first in your life.

Shakespeare has an interesting take on living in plenty: "Contentment is a crown few kings enjoy."  We are surely heirs in the kingdom.  Let's enjoy the privilege and be content with the good gifts of God, whether little or much.  

Paul has a piece of guidance to give his young mentor, Timothy, about contentment, "Godliness with contentment is great gain."*  This statement causes me to consider how to hold the qualities of God together with the abundance of my life today.  How do I develop and pursue God's standard for my life within the great gift of plenty? 

*(1 Timothy 6:6-10)