Daily Riches: Jesus Calls Us To the Chutes, Not the Ladders (Mark Ralls and D. L. Moody) *

“We may easily be too big for God to use, but never too small.” D. L. Moody

“There is a game for children that has been around for generations, and I expect almost every reader has played it at one time or another. . . . The game is Chutes and Ladders; since it is a game for little ones, the rules are about as simple and straightforward as you can get. Spin the wheel and move around the board. As you go, you wish for ladders and hope to avoid the chutes or slides. Land at the base of a ladder—All Right!—you get to climb all the way to the top, advancing beyond where even the highest spin can take you. Land at the top of a chute—Oh No!—you must slide all the way to the bottom, back toward the square where you started. Chutes and Ladders gives us some insight into the culture in which Jesus lived. Scholars tell us that first-century Mediterranean culture operated under the binaries of shame and honor. This basically means that people’s behavior was shaped by two things: the threat of being publicly shamed and the promise of being publicly honored. It is difficult to grasp the emotional power of one’s reputation in the ancient world. Our individualistic culture has muted its force. To be shamed was a terrible setback. To be honored moved you forward in the eyes of everyone who mattered most to you. It was akin to Chutes and Ladders. One evening Jesus tells two parables while he is a guest at a dinner party that includes the most honorable folks in town. Sitting there, Jesus cannot help but grin as he observes that this dinner party has all the social subtlety of a junior high cafeteria. Everyone is jockeying for a seat at the cool table. . . . So what does Jesus do? He stands up and tells all those guests a little story . . . . ‘Here is a little tip,’ Jesus says. ‘The next time you are invited to a wedding, do not take the best seat in the house. What is going to happen if someone more distinguished than you shows up? Hard to imagine, I know, but it could happen. When it does, you will find yourself at the top of the chute, and you will have to slide from the seat of honor all the way down to the seat of shame. Oh, what a long, lonely walk it is, from the first table to that one in the back, right beside the swinging door of the kitchen!’ To sharpen his point and to make sure we do not confine his advice to dinner parties, Jesus adds this: Those who make their own honor the goal of their lives will be ashamed of themselves in the end, and those who are humble, repeatedly putting others first, will experience the true, deep, and lasting honor of the kingdom of God. . . . these parables go much deeper than practical advice. They speak to the general arc of our lives. What if the point of our lives is not about climbing all the right ladders of achievement and prestige and power? What if our true purpose is to slide down as many chutes as possible to offer compassion and service and love to all those on the rungs below? While our culture may operate under different rules than honor and shame, we still live in the land of Chutes and Ladders. We fool ourselves into thinking that contentment lies on the rung just above us. So we reach for ever-new heights and climb as fast as we can. The rest is simple math. The more time and energy we dedicate to this all-consuming endeavor, the less we notice those who reside on the rungs below. We forget those we have passed along the way. It is just as true that we will most likely miss Christ himself. Born in the back room of a barn, spending his days bending his back to touch the hands of lepers, to caress the cheeks of widows, to place children on his knee, this humble Savior rode a donkey through the gates of Jerusalem and then knelt before his disciples to wash their feet. The only time he chose to ascend was up a hill called Calvary, where he bore our sins and carried our sorrows on his bent and holy back. On Easter morning, we discovered that his humility is what God truly honors. Climbing up, we are likely to pass right by the Son of God, who is intent on coming down. According to Jesus, we have completely misunderstood the point of the game. We are out there looking for ladders, when Jesus is calling us toward the chutes. We are climbing up, when he is calling to come down. If we dare to follow, he promises that in the end we will find deep blessing and true honor.” Mark Ralls

“When he had finished washing their feet,
he put on his clothes and returned to his place.
‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them.”
John 13:12 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you listening to Jesus about the Chutes?
  • Are you climbing up, whereas he was always bending down?
  • Jesus’ humility (his “downward mobility”) was for the purpose of showing compassion to those at the bottom of the Chutes. Isn’t he a beautiful person? Is this the person you’re making known with your life?

Abba, keep me off the Ladders . . . for the sake of compassion.

For More: The Selfless Way of Christ by Henri Nouwen

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Cynthia A. Jarvis & E. Elizabeth Johnson. Feasting on the Gospels–Luke, Volume 2: A Feasting on the Word Commentary. Westminster John Knox Press. Louisville, 2014.

Nouwen, Henri. The Selfless Way of Christ: Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life. Maryknoll: Orbis, 2007.

*One of the great things about making the rules, is that you can break them when you want. I thought that what Mark Ralls wrote was worth breaking my rule to limit posts to 400 words.

 

Daily Riches: How Success Demands Self-Care (Michael Hyatt and Jack Nevison)

“Here’s the hard truth: Time is fixed. It can’t flex. You get 168 hours no matter how important you may think you are. But here’s another truth: energy can flex. You can’t give yourself more time. That’s true. But you can bring a sharper, more energized you to bear on the time you have available. . . . Productivity is less about managing time and more about managing your energy. Most people get this entirely backward. As a result, they work more and more, less and less efficiently. The research shows that after a certain amount of time we’re just chasing our tail. Jack Nevison crunched the numbers from several studies on long work hours, and here’s what he found: there’s a ceiling for productive work. He calls it the law of fifty, and it stands in stark contrast to the hustle fallacy. Push past 50 hours a week, and there’s no productivity gain. Zero. In fact, it could go backward. One study found that 50 hours on the job only yielded 37 hours of useful work. Push that up to 55 hours, and it drops to 30. In other words . . . there’s an inverse relationship between how much you work and how productive you are. You’re not a robot. You’re a person who needs rest to be at your best. As you think about self-care, you have to acknowledge that your self is at the center. . . . I’m asking you to acknowledge the fact that your self is central. Your health, your relationships, your children, your hobbies, your work. . . . At the center of all these is you. You’re all you have to offer these various facets of your life. If you’re not nurturing yourself, if your self is not thriving, then the influence you bring to these other dimensions is going to be less than what it could be.” Michael Hyatt

“I discipline my body and make it my slave,
so that, after I have preached to others,
I myself will not be disqualified.”
1 Corinthians 9:27 NASB

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you feel like a slave?
  • Do you sense that God made you for something more?
  • Hyatt’s principles could come from a book on spiritual formation. Can you use them to give yourself permission to practice self-care?

Abba, may I bring my cared-for self (my best self) into every situation.

For More: “Self-Care As a Leadership Discipline” by Michael Hyatt

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Daily Riches: Moving At Brick-Making Speed (Walter Brueggemann)

“In our own contemporary context of the rat race of anxiety, the celebration of Sabbath is an act of . . .  resistance . . . . It is resistance because it is a visible insistence that our lives are not defined by the production and consumption of commodity goods. Such an act of resistance requires enormous intentionality and communal reinforcement amid the barrage of seductive pressures from the insatiable insistences of the market, with its intrusion into every part of our life . . . .” Walter Brueggemann

“The departure from that same system [the exploitation of modern day ‘brick-makers’] in our time is not geographical. It is rather emotional, liturgical, and economic. It is not an idea but a practical act. Thus the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is an act of trust in the subversive, exodus-causing God of the first commandment, an act of submission to the restful God of commandments one, two, and three. Sabbath is a practical divestment so that neighborly engagement, rather than production and consumption, defines our lives. It is for good reason that sabbath has long been for theologically serious Jews, the defining discipline. It is for good reason that Enlightenment-based autonomous Christians may find the Sabbath commandment the most urgent and the most difficult of all the commandments of Sinai. We are, liberals and conservatives, much inured to Pharaoh’s system. For that reason, the departure into restfulness is both urgent and difficult, for our motors are set to run at brick-making speed. [But] To cease, even for a time, the anxious striving for more bricks is to find ourselves with a ‘light burden’ and an ‘easy yoke.'” Brueggemann

“And Pharaoh’s slave drivers beat the Israelite overseers they had appointed, demanding,
‘Why haven’t you met your quota of bricks yesterday or today, as before?’”
Exodus 5:14 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • The Sabbath calls on you to stop, even if you prefer “brick-making speed.” How else will you practice “neighborly engagement?”
  • Many brag about working 80-hour weeks, or never taking vacation. Does it make sense to you that anyone would brag about living like a slave? . . . as if life were all about making bricks?
  • If Sabbath-keeping in our seductive culture requires “enormous intentionality and communal reinforcement”, is there any hope that you’ll succeed at it? What can you do?

Abba, help me to join the subversive, exodus-causing God, and his community, in resisting unjust powers in my day. Make me available for loving my neighbor.

For more: Sabbath As Resistance by Walter Brueggemann

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Thanks for reading, following and sharing these “Daily Riches!” Look for my upcoming book –Wisdom From the Margins: Daily Readings for more of these provocative quotes, verses, questions, and prayers.

Sources:

Brueggemann, Walter. Sabbath As Resistance: Saying NO to the CULTURE OF NOW. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2014.

Daily Riches: Praying For One Good Humiliation A Day (Richard Rohr, Krista Tippett and Francis of Assisi)

“Blessed is that servant who does not think himself better when he is praised and exalted by men, than when he is despised and considered simple and good-for-nothing, for what a man is in the sight of God, this he is and no more.” Francis of Assisi

Krista Tippett recently interviewed Richard Rohr: “So recently, I took a break. I got some rest that I needed badly, and I was staying at a retreat center, and …it was a meditation session I went to. And the person who was leading it read a passage from your book, Falling Upward and read the line— … ‘I have prayed for years for one good humiliation a day, and then I must watch my reaction to it,’ which sounds so uncomfortable. There’s nothing in me that wants to pray for one good humiliation a day.”

No, and there isn’t in me either. I just said that to that group of millennials two weeks ago. Some years ago, I started recognizing that I was getting an awful lot of adulation and praise and some people treating me far more importantly than I deserved. And I realized I was growing used to it, that the ego just loves all of this admiration and projection. And a lot of it was projection. And I didn’t want fame and well-knownness and guru status to totally destroy me, and so for me, this became a necessity, that I had to watch how do I react to not getting my way, to people not agreeing with me, to people not admiring me—and there’s plenty of them—and that I actually needed that. And so I do, I still, I ask God for one good humiliation a day, and I usually get it, one hate letter or whatever it might be. [laughs] And then what I have to do, Krista, is I have to watch my reaction to it. And I’ve got to be honest with you, my inner reaction—I’m not proud to tell you—is defensive, is, ‘That’s not true. You don’t understand me.’ I can just see how well-defended my ego is. And of course, even your critics—and I have plenty of them—at least 10 to 20 percent of what they’re saying is usually true.” Richard Rohr

“What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds,
for their ancestors also praised false prophets.”
Jesus in Luke 6:26

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you ever seen humiliation as something positive?
  • The next time you’re humiliated, “watch your reaction” as if from outside yourself. What do you learn?
  • Are you as defended against praise as you are against criticism?

Abba, undefend me.

For More: Falling Upward by Richard Rohr

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Thank you for sharing/following my blog! – Bill

 

Daily Riches: Glory Without the Big Splash (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.)

“How hard it is to see real glory when we think glory is all about making a splash! We miss the real thing…. John has a different view of glory. In his Gospel, Jesus changes water to wine at a wedding to make people joyful. He washes his disciples’ feet, hoping to model and ignite a heart of service in them. He feeds the disciples bread at the table where they reclined–including Judas–and then submits himself to arrest. In all three cases–the wine (chap. 2), the bathwater (chap. 13), the bread for a traitor (chap. 13)–the evangelist tells us that it was a sign of his glory. This is a glory he shares with his Father. Jesus makes lots of wine at Cana because he comes from a wine making family. Every Fall God turns water into wine in France and Chile and the Napa Valley. …Jesus on his knees before his disciples is just doing what he sees his Father doing, and the gospel finds glory here, because it is so much like God humbly to clean people up. …Jesus hands Judas a piece of bread because he just does what he sees his Father doing, and the gospel finds glory here, because it is so much like God to feed enemies even while you oppose their evil. The gospel finds glory where we are not looking–in the wine, and the water, and the bread, and even in the blood of Jesus. The Son of Man will die and fall into the earth in an event so devastating that it will seem to turn creation back into chaos; but Jesus says that this is the hour in which the Son of Man will be glorified. We grope for his meaning. Getting glorified on a cross? Is that like getting enthroned on an electric chair? Is it like being honored by a firing squad? …Jesus, the friend of sinners, was crucified between his kind of people in a godforsaken place where all the lights go out…. Yet the gospel wants us to find glory in this disaster, because Jesus Christ is pouring out his life for the world God loves.” Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

“the Son of Man came not to be served
but to serve others”
Matthew 20:28

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you still hoping to make a “big splash?”
  • Are you looking for the glory of God in unexpected, unnoticed places?
  • Are you trusting and expecting God to work gloriously, although perhaps subtly, in your day? your situation?

Abba, open my eyes to your glory all around me.

For more: Feasting on the Gospels: John

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Thanks for reading/sharing my blog. I appreciate your interest! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: What People Need Most From Their Pastor (Ruth Haley Barton)

“Sabbath-keeping is the primary discipline that helps us to live within the limits of our humanity and to honor God as our Creator. It is the kingpin of a life lived in sync—with the rhythms that God himself built into our world—and yet it is the discipline that seems hardest for us to practice. Sabbath-keeping honors the body’s need for rest, the spirit’s need for replenishment, and the soul’s need to delight itself in God for God’s own sake. It begins with the willingness to acknowledge the limits of our humanness and then taking steps to live more graciously within the order of things. …There are limits to my relational, emotional, mental, and spiritual capacities…. I am not God. God is the only one who can be all things to all people. God is the only one who can be two places at once. God is the one who never sleeps. I am not. This is pretty basic stuff but many of us live as though we don’t know it. …There is something deeply spiritual about honoring the limitations of our existence as human beings, physical and spiritual beings in a world of time and space. There is a peace that descends upon our lives when we accept what is real rather than always pushing beyond our limits. There is something about being gracious and accepting and gentle with ourselves at least once a week that enables us to be gracious and accepting and gentle with others. There is a freedom that comes from being who we are in God and resting into God that eventually enables us to bring something truer to the world than all of our doing. Sabbath-keeping helps us to live within our limits because on the Sabbath, in so many different ways, we allow ourselves to be the creature in the presence of our Creator. We touch something more real in ourselves and others than what we are all able to produce. We touch our very being in God. Surely that is what the people around us need most. – Ruth Haley Barton

Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.”
He said this because there were so many people coming and going
that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.”
Mark 6:31

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you “acknowledged the limits” of your humanity and taken steps to live within the order of things? What steps?
  • Can you “rest” in God? Can you be gentle with yourself?”
  • What message are you sending to others who observe your lifestyle?

Abba, ground me as I rest in you.

For More: Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton

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Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! – Bill

Daily Riches: When Ego Is Celebrated (David Benner, Parker Palmer and Sogyal Rinpoche)

“Our society is dedicated almost entirely to the celebration of the ego, with all its sad fantasies about success and power, and it celebrates those very forces of greed and ignorance that are destroying the planet.” Sogyal Rinpoche

“Ego is a usurper. We are neither the center of the universe nor should ego be the center of our being. At some deep level of spirit we know that we were meant to live in alignment with forces transcendent to our self. We long to be able to put our trust in someone or something greater than us. To refuse to find our place in relation to that which transcends the ego is to be lost within the illusion of being in control. To not become free in relation to something or someone beyond self is to become un-free in relation to tyrannizing powers within self.” David G. Benner

“I believe [in], what Thomas Merton calls ‘true self.’ This is not the ego self that wants to inflate us (or deflate us, another from of self-distortion), not the intellectual self that wants to hover above the mess of life in clear but ungrounded ideas, not the ethical self that wants to live by some abstract moral code. It is the self-planted in us by the God who made us in God’s own image–the self that wants nothing more, or less, than for us to be who we were created to be… True self is true friend. One ignores or rejects such friendship only at one’s peril.” Parker Palmer

“But you said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’”
Isaiah 14:13,14

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Think of someone you know with an oversized ego. Can you sense the danger?
  • Are you in touch with “the self-planted in you by the God who made you in God’s own image?” If not, can you ask God for help with that?
  • In what ways are you “living in alignment” with the transcendent One who created you, rather than “refusing to find your place” and insisting on control?

Abba, I want only to be who you created me to be. No more and no less.

For more: Care of the Soul by David Benner

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a comment. –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

 

Daily Riches: The Only Thing That Matters (Brennan Manning)

“The apostle Paul may have understood the mind of Jesus better than anyone who ever lived. He sums up his whole understanding of the message of Jesus in Galatians 5:6 when he writes, “the only thing that matters is the faith that expresses itself in love.” According to Paul’s criterion … the person who is the most Christlike, closest to the heart of Abba, is not the one who spends the most time in prayer. It’s not the one who has the most PhDs. It’s not the one who has the most responsibility entrusted to his care. It’s not the pastor of the biggest megachurch. No, it’s the one who loves the most. That’s not my opinion. Those are the words in Galatians 5 that will judge us. According to that mysterious substitution of Christ for the Christian, what we do to one another, we do to Jesus.  …Jesus expected the most of every man and woman, and behind their grumpier poses, their most puzzling defense mechanisms, their coarseness, their arrogance, their dignified airs, their silence, and their sneers and curses, Jesus sees a little child who wasn’t loved enough–a least of these who had ceased growing because someone had ceased believing in them. How have we gotten it so screwed up?” I was speaking to the Navigators not long ago and they asked, ‘Do you have a word for us?’ I said, ‘Yes, I do. Instead of being  identified as a community that memorizes Scripture why not be a community of professional lovers that causes people to say, ‘How they love one another!’ Why do we judge Jesus’ criterion for authentic discipleship irrelevant? Jesus said the world is going to recognize you as His by only one sign: the way you are with one another on the street every day. You are going to leave people feeling a little better or a little worse. You’re going to affirm or deprive them, but there’ll be no neutral exchange. …We’re denying to the world the one witness Jesus asked for:

“Love one another as I’ve loved you.” Jesus, in John 15:12

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Are lots of people in your church working really hard to become “professional lovers?” Is your pastor regularly calling for that?
  • Your church is probably great (as are the Navigators), but have you settled for something other than loving the least?
  • What would this look like in a church? How would you have to change?

Abba, let me be known for love.

For More: The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

 

Daily Riches: A Life Uncluttered By Ambition (Wayne Simsic, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, St. Francis)

“Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Responding to God’s presence like a child who trusted completely in a loving Parent, his relationship with God was spontaneous, uncluttered by ambition and calculation. Rather than promote his own agenda or hide behind fear, anxiousness, and other barriers to trust, [Saint] Francis humbly accepted the mystery of his life and relied on the guidance of the Spirit.” Wayne Simsic

“At some point when we’ve made ourselves available for service to God–for some kind of ministry or other–the question will arise, ‘Is this the best use of my time?’ It’s at the same time an unsurprising and provocative query. And just look at what underlies that question: ego, drivenness, a sense of hurry–striving. But in truth, as Francis demonstrated, it’s not necessary to keep busy. It’s necessary to ‘trust completely.’ It’s not necessary to accomplish anything. It’s necessary to ‘humbly accept the mystery of my life.’ It’s not necessary to be productive. It’s necessary to ‘rely on the guidance of the Spirit.’ My time is not so valuable. I’m not so necessary as I think. Any equation will be essentially unchanged by my absence. The way of St. Francis, ‘spontaneous, uncluttered by ambition and calculation’ rebukes my anxious way–my craving for an agenda, my insistence on significance. And Bonhoeffer’s insight is critical: ‘keeping quiet’–seemingly doing nothing, accomplishing nothing, producing nothing, is not only essential, but if ignored leads only to fruitlessness and folly. The ego always lurks nearby, insidious, subtly undoing the best intentions. Both St. Francis and Bonhoeffer insisted upon, and themselves lived, a contemplative life of faith–a life of ‘keeping quiet’ and ‘making time for God.’ Only such lives create a spaciousness where God can meet us in our folly, take us again into the clutch of his parental love, and purify us–making us useful after all.” William Britton

“I do not even judge myself.”
1 Corinthians 4:3
 .
Moving From the Head to the Heart
  • How often are you aware of unconscious forces that affect your behavior? (e.g., ambition, drivenness, ego)
  • Does your behavior show that you grant too much importance to being “productive?” (Are you ever hurrying, obsessed with “calculation?”)
  • How can you practice humbly accepting “the mystery of this life” and relying on the “guidance of the Spirit?” How might that redefine “success?”

Abba, in the midst of my folly, meet me in your love, and purify me.

For More: The Wisdom of St. Francis by Wayne Simsic

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Thanks for reading and sharing my blog! Please pray for God’s blessing on this ministry. – Bill

Daily Riches: With Passion Withheld and Devotion Impaired (Margaret Clarkson and Walter Brueggemann)

In the course of her life, Margaret Clarkson became intimately acquainted with pain. She suffered initially with “migraines, accompanied by convulsive vomiting, and then arthritis—two ailments that accompanied her continually. In Destined for Glory, she related sadly that her mother told her that her first words were ‘my head hurts.’ At age three …she contracted juvenile arthritis and became bed bound. She recalled the pain as well as the bald spot worn on the back of her head from lying in bed so long.” …And that was just the beginning of a difficult life of loneliness, financial strain and disappointment. Through it all, Clarkson also developed an intimacy with God, and a transformative perspective on Christian ministry. Her hymn “So Send I You” has been called the greatest missionary hymn of the twentieth century.

.

“So send I you–to labor unrewarded,
To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown,
To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing,
So send I you to toil for me alone.

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“So send I you–to bind the bruised and broken,

o’er wandering souls to work, to weep, to wake,

to bear the burdens of a world a’weary

So send I you to suffer for My sake.

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“So send I you–to loneliness and longing,
With heart a-hungering for the loved and known;
Forsaking home and kindred, friend and dear one,
So send I you to know my love alone.

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“So send I you–to leave your life’s ambitions,
To die to dear desire, self-will resign,
To labor long and love where men revile you,
So send I you to lose your life in mine.

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“As the Father has sent me,

So send I you.”

“So Send I You” by Margaret Clarkson

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“But we confess…
we love you imperfectly;
we love you with a divided heart,
with a thousand other loves
that are more compelling,
with reservation and qualification,
and passion withheld and
devotion impaired.”
Walter Brueggemann

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“As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”
Jesus in John 20:21

Moving From Head to Heart

  • I was trying to imagine how this hymn would be received in church today. Can you?
  • “To leave your life’s ambitions, to die to dear desire, self-will resign, to labor long and love where men revile you”–is there room in our idea of ministry for this today? What emotions do these words stir up in you?
  • Are we hoping to be useful to God “with passion withheld and devotion impaired”–as “a privileged people?”

Abba, may I give myself for you, as you gave yourself for me–without reservation.

For More: Prayers for a Privileged People by Walter Brueggemann

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my my blog. Thanks! – Bill

Daily Riches: Take a Deep Breath and Relax (Peter Scazzero and Dallas Willard)

“When we sleep, God works. God wants to sow this seed into the soil of your heart and mine. If we can slow down and receive this one truth of how He works, thirtyfold, sixtyfold and a hundredfold, fruit will come forth (Mk. 4:20). Our personal lives, our marriages, our leadership, our sermons, our churches will be transformed. God holds the universe together. We don’t have to. God holds the oceans in His hand. He gives drink to every living creature. …He grows the grass and waters the trees. He cultivates every plant and flower. …God invites us to lay aside our bread of anxious toil and receive sleep as His beloved. He alone ‘builds the house,’ not us. God illustrates this with the creation and growth of a child. We engage in one brief moment of sexual intercourse and He then takes over to grow a fetus, a baby, and eventually an adult human being who engages the world (Ps.127). God does 99.9999% of the work. The kingdom of God grows ‘all by itself’–even when we sleep (Mark 4:26). Take a deep breath. Sit at Jesus’ feet, remembering that His love brought you into existence and sustains you today. He is working all over the world at this very moment building His kingdom–apart from you and me. Ask Him what small, small part He may have for you to do today.” Pete Scazzero

“Suppose our failures occur, not in spite of what we are doing, but precisely because of it.” Dallas Willard

“Unless Yahweh builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless Yahweh guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.”
Psalm 127:1,2

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Think about how relaxed Jesus was. Are you relaxed? If not, what does that say about you?
  • It’s probably counter-intuitive for you to think of your seemingly imperative labors as “vain.” What is God saying to you in the quote from the Psalm?
  • Could your striving and laboring actually be hindering God’s work? Explain how that could be. What needs to change?

Abba, I will trust in your work, not my work, to “save the day.”

For More: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazzero

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! – Bill

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: How Good a Christian Are You? (Gregory Boyd)

“John [the apostle] sums up the matter bluntly. ‘Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars’ (1 John 4:20). To truly love God includes loving others with the same love God has for us and the same love God has for them. This is part of what it means to be a participant in the divine nature. It is, in fact, what it means to be Christian (Christ-like). ‘Whoever does not love,’ John wrote, ‘does not know God, for God is love’ (1 John 4:8). Our capacity to love—to fulfill the greatest two commandments—is the definitive evidence that we are in fact abiding in Christ and participating in the perfect love of the triune God. Christians sometimes try to assess how they or others are doing on the basis of such things as how successfully they conquer a particular sin, how much prayer and Bible study they do, how regularly they attend and give to church, and so forth. But rarely do we honestly ask the question that Scripture places at the center of everything: Are we growing in our capacity to love all people? Do we have an increasing love for our sisters and brothers in Christ as well as for those for whom Christ died who are yet outside the church? Are we increasing in our capacity to ascribe unsurpassable worth to people whom society judges to have no worth? If there is any distinguishing mark of the true disciple from a biblical perspective, this is it!” Gregory Boyd

“If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers,
it proves that we have passed from death to life.
But a person who has no love is still dead.”
1 John 3:14
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Moving From the Head to the Heart
  • With what criteria do you measure how you’re doing as a Christian?
  • Do you focus on your beliefs? …the opinions of others? …abstaining from big sins? …approval by your church? …practicing spiritual disciplines? …tireless service to Christ?
  • What would change if you mostly asked yourself, “Am I growing in my capacity to love all people?”

Abba, I’m not too bad at loving those that love me (except when I’m not), but loving others that dislike, disregard or disrespect me–that’s where I need to love like you do. Help me learn that Lord. May that be my “practice.”

For More: Repenting of Religion by Gregory Boyd

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! – Bill

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

 

Daily Riches: What Drives Us (Henri Nouwen)

“When you keep going anxiously to the mailbox in the hope that someone [outside the monastery] …has thought about you; when you keep wondering if and what your friends are thinking of you; when you keep having hidden desires to be a somewhat exceptional person in this community; when you keep having fantasies about guests mentioning your name; when you keep looking for special attention from the abbot or any one of the monks …then you know that you haven’t even started to create a little place for God in your heart. When nobody writes anymore; when hardly anyone even thinks of you or wonders how you are doing; when you are just one of the brothers doing the same things as they are doing, not better or worse; when you have been forgotten by people – maybe then your heart and mind have become empty enough to give God a real chance to let his presence be known to you.” Henri Nouwen

Psalm 46 emphasizes God’s presence with us in chaos and crisis. We can relax in their midst (as Jesus did in his day) – receiving rather than grasping, and relinquishing control to God as a modus operandi. Our response in chaos and crisis, rather than being overwhelmed, can be to remember our limits and trust. The difference between striving, which here is condemned, and working hard, which elsewhere is commended, depends on what is in the head and heart in each case. Once might resemble the other, but the kind of peace found resting in God’s presence, striving cannot give. In its posture, pace, and motives, striving falls short. The mention of Jacob’s God is ironic since Jacob’s ‘preconversion’ name means ‘to grasp’ (cf. Gen. 25:26). It also encourages, since God condescends to use and bless Jacob – and by extension, us. This passage is my permission to ‘relax’ when it comes to work, finances, parenting, marriage – even spiritual formation. I can talk, walk and drive slowly. I can cease striving for control, healing, satisfaction, meaning, companionship, success and happiness – in other words, in all things.” William Britton

“Cease striving and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.

Yahweh of hosts is with us;

The God of Jacob is our stronghold.”

Psalm 46:10,11

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Life in a monastery doesn’t eliminates the desire to be exceptional, noticed and admired. Do such desires lead to striving in your life?
  • Can you differentiate between working hard and striving?
  • Are you learning to “relax” as Jesus did in the midst of chaos and crisis?

Abba, the “God of Jacob” is perfect for me.

For More: The Genesee Diary by Henri Nouwen

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If you liked this, please share it! – Bill

Daily Riches: Hooked On Productivity (Jan Johnson, Evelyn Underhill and Eugene Peterson)

“We mostly spend [our] lives conjugating three verbs: to want, to have and to do. Craving, clutching and fussing, we are kept in perpetual unrest.” Evelyn Underhill

“My jabbering prayers have been full of what I want, what I think I should have, and what I want God to do. …Instead of fussing, striving, and monitoring, we surrender ourselves to God over and over again. For those of us who are hooked on productivity, this approach is radical. …Letting go of the need to perform for God sets our hearts on things above and turns our backs on self-importance. Instead of trying to have an accomplishment-driven relationship with God, enjoying God’s presence points us toward:

  • resting instead of productivity,
  • being silent instead of talking,
  • listening instead of giving advice,
  • empowering others instead of preaching to them,
  • asking questions instead of knowing answers,
  • surrendering instead of gritting your teeth,
  • giving instead of consuming,
  • striving for brokenness instead of upward mobility, and
  • gearing down to simplicity instead of gearing up to empire building.” Jan Johnson

“In our religious striving, we are usually looking for something quite other than the God who has come looking for us.” Eugene Peterson

“Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you “kept in perpetual unrest?” Are you “hooked on productivity?”
  • If so, what do these things say about your need to seem important to others? …to seem important to God? Could that be what you’re “usually looking for?”
  • The Scripture reminds us that God does not require or want our anxious striving. The list above spells out what a relaxed, trusting life might look like. Look at that list again. Is God speaking to you about anything there?

Father, May I rest instead of striving.
walk instead of racing.
receive instead of grasping.
listen instead of speaking.
endure instead of quitting.
May I trust instead of worrying.
appreciate instead of griping.
forgive instead of blaming, and
above all, may I love.

For More: When The Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer by Jan Johnson

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: The Crucible of Interruptions (Mark Buchanan and Walter Rauschenbusch)

“Jesus … lived life with the clearest and highest purpose. Yet he veered and strayed from one interruption to the next, with no apparent plan in hand other than his single, overarching one: Get to Jerusalem and die. Otherwise, his days, as far as we can figure, were a series of zigzags and detours, apparent whims and second thoughts, interruptions and delays, off-the-cuff plans, spur-of-the-moment decisions, leisurely meals, serendipitous rounds of storytelling. …Purposefulness requires paying attention, and paying attention means … that we make room for surprise. We become hospitable to interruption. I doubt we can notice for long without this hospitality. And to sustain it we need … a conviction in our bones that God is Lord of our days and years, and that his purposes and his presence often come disguised as detours, messes, defeats. ‘I came to you naked,’ Jesus says. ‘I came to you thirsty.’ ‘When, Lord?’ we ask, startled. When He wore the disguise of an interruption. Think a moment of all the events and encounters that have shaped you most deeply and lastingly. How many did you see coming? How many did you engineer, manufacture, chase down? And how many were interruptions? The span between life as we intend it and life as we receive it is vast. Our true purpose is worked out in that gap. It is fashioned in the crucible of interruptions.” Mark Buchanan

“Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro … and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness … and he looked, and behold, [a] bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, ‘I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.’” Exodus 3:1-3

Moving From Head to Heart

  • What if Moses hadn’t “turned aside?”
  • Imagine yourself living as Jesus did, with “zigzags and detours …” etc. How would that feel?
  • Can you become more hospitable to what happens in “the [vast] span between life as you intend it and life as you receive it?”

Abba, “Grant us, we pray you, a heart wide open to all this joy and beauty, and save our souls from being so steeped in care or so darkened by passion that we pass heedless and unseeeing when even the thornbush by the wayside is aflame with the glory of God.” Walter Rauschenbusch

For More: The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

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