Category Archives: Surrender

Settling and Centering

Reposted from Scotty Smith’s blog site:

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Ps. 46:10-11

Sovereign Father, whenever I hear the command to “Be still,” my default mode takes me back to several elementary school teachers who consistently told me to “Sit still!” They had to, because I was a squirmy, restless little person. I had a hard time staying in my seat. But you’re telling me to be still, not sit still—and there’s a world and gospel of difference.

You’re not impatient or frustrated by your children—never irritated or exasperated with us. I’m not disrupting your classroom, but I do have a disrupted heart, and you notice and you care. I don’t feel anxious or fearful—though I’d freely acknowledge it if I did, before such a loving God as you. I do want to slow down on the inside, however.

I know that you’re with me and for me. I know this because of everything you’ve done for me in Jesus. You’re a fortress of comfort, for broken people like Jacob and me; you’re a haven of rest, a strong tower of grace, a fountain of mercy.

When I’m still, I remember that you are God, and nothing and no one else is. That’s the best news of this or any day. You have no competition—counterfeits, but no competition. There are demigods, semi-gods, wannabe gods, but only you are God.

Kings and nations are not God, for one Day you will be exalted among all the nations. The nations are like droplets in your bucket. Storms and environmental disasters are not God, for you will be exalted in the earth. You send the earthquake and harness the hurricane for your purposes.

Neither are our circumstances God, nor the opinions of others; nor is getting older, nor the choices of people I love, the mistakes I make and the sins I commit. In fact, the second most comforting news of the day is that I’m not God, though at times my attitude, prayerlessness, and unbelief would indicate a measure of self-worship.

Father, be exalted in the daily-ness of my today. Let me see your hand and heart at work in everything. I don’t want to be a practical atheist about anything, not any little thing. You are working all things together after the counsel of your will. You are working in all things for the good of those who love you, and that means me, but only because you first loved me in Jesus.

I probably won’t sit still, but because the gospel is true, I will be still. With palms up in surrender and praise, I enter this day. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ excellent and exalted name.

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Desert Cure

He turned rivers into a desert, flowing springs into thirsty ground, and fruitful land into a salt waste, because of the wickedness of those who lived there.  He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs; there he brought the hungry to live, and they founded a city where they could settle.    Psalm 107:33-36

I wish I could say that I’ve stepped foot onto an actual desert.  But then again, thinking about standing atop a living dune of sand with nothing but mirages glistening in every direction is not my idea of a pleasant experience.  Life seems to beg for mercy in the desert, crying out to but a dew drop to quench the thirst — to give life.  And yet, it’s beautiful.  Adorned with brilliance and elegance, sculpted upon an ever shifting canvas of sand, the desert is a place of renewal, dependence and discovery.

The desert is a place that whispers no words, but instead churns more questions than answers.  It’s a place that gives no breaks and no hint of relief.  A desert can be personal, God makes certain of that!   It’s hand-made, different for each one of us — and trust me, everyone will encounter a desert at some point.

The desert experience is found throughout the Bible in many of the familiar stories.  Joseph’s desert was him being betrayed and spending years as a slave.  The Israelites wandered throughout the desert for forty years.  David ran from Saul in the desert.  Paul spent his converted life wrestling with sin in his desert.  Lazarus became an example to all of new life that comes from the desert.  And Jesus stepped into the desert for forty days to reenact our own desert journeys by fasting and facing the temptations of Satan.  All of these experiences face the reality of their own desert while holding tight to the hope of God’s Word and promises.

It becomes a place where all that once sustained you is no longer there to satisfy the cravings of the flesh.  It’s a place of spiritual purging that cleanses the soul and dries out the tongue that no longer thirsts for junk.  Instead, it defines the true thirst of our hearts.  The desert becomes the best place for God to wilt away the false selves and bring life to an authentic self.

Lord Jesus, in my desert are many mirages.  My eyes fail me, my senses deceive me to think that what my mind thinks is there is true.  But I know you are the only Truth to trust and it is not found by my senses.  It is found in the faith of knowing who you are in me and I in you!  While I’m in my desert may I encounter the gift of your presence each day.  And in your presence, as I am so thirsty, may I drink from the abundance of your well of living water!  It is in knowing you are with me in the desert I experience your protective love that gives me the strength to continue in this journey.

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.   Psalm 63:1

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Do Through Who?

. . . Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!  Romans 7:24b-25

I had a bitter-sweet relationship with swimming as a child.  While on one hand I loved getting into the pool, floating on tubes and challenging myself a little closer to the deep end, on the other hand I was deathly fearful of water.  There could be any number of reasons why I disliked it so much, but one thing was true — the thought of drowning petrified me.

This fear was perhaps generated by the story of me nearly drowning when I was three.  I think I remember, but then again I’ve heard the story so many times my imagination could very well have drawn the picture for me.  Story goes that one day while playing at the beach, my oldest brother was playing with his friends a good distance from shore.  No one I’d rather play with than my brothers at age three.  My mom set up camp a few yards from the water and got me situated at waters’ edge with my toys.  Mom turned her head for just a second — the very second I decided to go play with my brother.  The water didn’t have to be too deep to be too deep for me.  With that said, mom looked up to find me bobbing like a cork, feet in mid-air.  As any mom would do, she ran with all of her might to snatch me from the water.  She rescued me!  I naturally held my breath while bobbing, but had mom not been nearby it would have been over.

From that point forward, either a curse or a life saver, I had to wear those arm floaties.  I hated those things!

Life seems to dish out some unexpectedly deep waters to step into at times.  My life has had it’s fair share, with current rip currents and breakers that are strong enough to lose your footing.  As I reflect, I’m reminded of the many things I’ve used to rescue me.  When I’ve appeared to be drowning I’ve stepped up onto people, places and things that were temporarily strong enough to get my nose out of the water.  But even so, they crumbled under the sand and left me searching again.  The more I do, the more I try to rescue me, the more my feet dance in the sky.

Like Paul, I’ve found myself so often asking, “What will rescue me from this I do not want to do?”  But then, I realize, Paul never said “what will rescue me?”  Paul said “Who.”

God rescues!   Strong enough to rescue me from that Hawaiian sized wave of life that crashes down with such a force I wonder if I’ll ever surface again.  So, bobbing with my feet in the air . . . I wait . . . I hold my breath . . . I trust . . . I live . . . I do . . . through . . . who?  Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ my Lord!

For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be the glory forever! Amen.   Romans 11:36


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Passive Attentive

Dear Lord Jesus, I can think of many things in my life, both past and present, that by definition fall into the category:  destructive.  Whether it be patterns of negative behavior or attitudes from the flesh, I know I have what it takes to single-handedly make a mess of everything.  This is no surprise to you.  I’m so thankful you are a God of restoration!

However, the sealing off of negative thoughts and inconclusive moments in my world have been conduits of passive aggressive behavior in my relationships.  You have spoken to me this morning as clear as the sun is shining and answered my prayer.

Awareness of your presence and the familiar tone of your voice are but refreshments to my weary mind and aching heart.  I am guilty of being passive attentive to your Spirit within me and when I neglect to listen, my doer listens to other things.  I hurt, others hurt, I no longer trust, others cannot trust — it’s not your plan.

I know I need to listen to you in all things, becoming actively attentive to your Spirit within.  Remind me of the power I have in you!  In your precious and Holy name, Jesus Christ, Amen!

We love because he first loved us.  If anyone says, I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  I John 4:19-20

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Allow or Try

When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.   Colossians 3:4

My whole life I have tried hard to be something I am not.  I wished it weren’t so, but the amount of energy I have spent in my futile attempts to live at being the best Christian I could possibly be has fallen just short of exhausting.  It has robbed me of experiencing the life God has intended and exchanged it for dependence upon false fulfillment and a crisis of identity.  My heart rejoices in knowing this treasure of realization has been discovered, but is coupled by sadness as with it has been a lifetime of destruction.

Lord knows I have tried and in my efforts only found the worthless jewel of failure.  But why?  Kudos to me for getting back upon the horse each time, but why am I so apt to fall off so many times over?  Are my efforts in vain?  Am I not good enough?  Am I just that horrible of a Christian?  Even Paul cries out about himself, “What a wretched man I am!” (Romans 7:24)

But I am reminded of the life I NOW live!  A life not of worthlessness, but instead — victory!  Not because of anything I can do, but because of everything He has done.  It is not me trying to measure up to certain standards or conditions in order to demonstrate the life I ought to live, but instead finding the correct Who in which to use as a reference point to measuring up.  See, my reference point is no longer me trying to live a certain way and hiding failure from those I love, instead it is allowing Christ who is MY life live out who He is through me so that I may be a glory-carrier!

I cannot live the Christian life, only one person can do that and that is Christ!  So as long as I continue striving to live up to a standard of doing what the Bible says, doing all the right things, treating everyone a certain way, being to everyone what they think I should be, then of course, I’m going to fail.  Because I have to learn how to allow Christ, as my life, to radiate through me!  I have to learn more about what it means to allow Christ to live His life through me.  When I do — my actions no longer reflect a neediness, my attitude no longer drips with pity, my relationships reflect Christ’s love and my life springs with uncontainable glory!

Lord Jesus, I devote myself to allowing your life to live through me!  It says in your word (Romans 6) that through sin the parts of my body are offered as instruments of wickedness, but when I offer myself to you, I offer the parts of my body as instruments of righteousness.  This, I know, is how I live ‘Christ is my life!’  Today, and everyday, I offer the parts of my body as your instruments.  May I pause at the door frame of sin and allow you to live through me!

For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.   Romans 6:14

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If He Does Not

But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.    Daniel 3:18

Children teach us so much about ourselves.  Regardless of their age, children have a sense — or maybe a trying spirit — that tests their boundaries and their place in the order of things.  I’m reminded of this often through the lives of my children, nephews and niece — nine total!  It’s always interesting to me when a request from a parent (usually made to get action) is made to one of them and the response is nothing like what was requested.  It’s because, deep within them, they have a better idea!  So they think!  They have crafted, through their better understanding of their own state-of-affairs that what was being requested was somehow optional to the growing interest of whatever they are actively participating.  It forces the question, “Who’s the boss here?”

I find, in my own life, that I often act the same way towards God when He is trying to lead me down paths I’m not so comfortable walking.  I always seem to have a “better” plan, a “smarter” idea and a more “reasonable” response.  I forget that the outcome of His leading is nothing but good!  And so I ensue.

The confidence I have in knowing that “all things will work together for His good,” as He says in Romans, will become just that — good.  I place my faith, hope and trust in those words that it will be good and press on, as did Paul, toward that end.  But, I’m learning that the measurement of good differs.  What is good?  What is His good?  What is my good?  Good is suddenly looking a little less good and more not so good — not to be confused with bad.

And so enters, without question, the stories of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego along with Daniel.  The good in these real stories is but one thing — serving and worshiping the one true God!  It was not a popular choice and to everyone other than them it appeared to be a bad choice.  But doing what is right, serving the One who lives within me — Christ in me — while it doesn’t appear to be the most popular or notable thing to do IS THE measure of good.  It, beyond all things, is of greater importance and value.

This is why when the heat was turned up, the fire of life burned fiercely before their eyes and Daniel could smell the foul breath of the jaws of imminent death they were all at peace.  With confidence that God would deliver them from fire and lions, they stated ever so clearly, “But if he does not.”

All things do work together for good — but is my measurement of good on a scale I understand or on a scale measured only by my God?

My Father, let this sink in to the depths of my being.  Show me, teach me, stir in me the goodness you measure so that when things do not look so good on the path ahead by what my eyes see that I would know to look more deeply with the eyes of your Spirit within me.  May my faith in you become so strong that I say too, “But if He does not . . .” and be at peace.

. . . for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.   Philippians 1:30

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Confident Trust

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”   Matthew 11:28-30

Troubles, like stones, come in many shapes and sizes.  Some are as huge as boulders, while others are as sharp as daggers.  Some are used to step from place to place — perhaps to higher and drier ground, while others are used to carve and sharpen.  But then there are those that weigh a ton — sink to the bottom, as others skip across the calm waters to disappear after the dance.

It’s funny, too how we collect stones!  I can’t tell you the number of times one of my son’s has filled his pockets with rocks.  I’ve often wondered how many could possibly fit in there before his belt no longer served it’s purpose!  That many rocks and stones gets heavy to carry around.  But it’s not unlike how we treat our troubles.  We tend to collect those too!  Hoarding them on the inside, burdening ourselves and others around us with the weight.

But this was never God’s intent!  There was never a doubt we would encounter troubles — in fact, James said we would and they would be “trials [troubles] of many kind.”  But what do I do with the many I encounter?  I think, like the collector, I want to carry them around with me.   I want to show them off like war wounds from the battlefield.  Why in the world would I want to do this?  Well, simply because I make my troubles all about me instead of living them through Christ in me.

The precious stone, like quartz, reflects its natural beauty when light shines through it.  When Christ’s light shines through my troubles, the beauty of who I am reflects Christ in me!  God wants me to live through my troubles, not live my troubles over and over.  He wants me to live who I am!  He wants me to relax in His Peace and stop reliving my suffering.  Resting in Him will truly transform my fears into confident trust!

Lord Jesus, I store up my stones like a chipmunk prepares for winter!  Your burden is light, but when I’m carrying my troubles I’m weary.  You’ve promised me rest in you and I’m unloading my pockets of the stones I’ve collected.  Big or small, I’m skipping them across your Peace, watching them dance upon your Grace and trust as they disappear in your Care.

“No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life.  As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”    Joshua 1:5

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Figure Eight

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.  II Corinthians 4:8-12

I remember, when I was a young boy,  doing some pretty crazy things with my dad.  Things like fearlessly fishing while alligators surface and sink endlessly around our little boat.  I remember him letting me steer the van while sitting on the engine cover between the seats.  I remember him cutting half-gallon boxes of ice cream in half, setting it in a bowl, sticking a spoon in it and letting us eat it at our own pace because that was dinner!  But topping the charts for me were the many trips we made to the Tampa Downs — a night under the stars, the dirt track, mobile bleachers, the smell of funnel-cakes and billions of flying insects distracted by the flood lights that attempted to help the drivers avoid collision.  It was warm, it was muggy, it was loud, it smelled of danger . . . it was awesome!

There were two important events on these race nights.  The demolition derby and the figure eight.  The demolition derby involved many cars — nothing shiny, and most could barely run.  They were lucky to have doors and it was considered high class to have a windshield.  Numbers were skillfully placed on their sides with their favorite can of spray paint because by the end, it would be hard pressed to tell them apart otherwise.  The bigger the dent, the louder the applause!  It was the craziest thing I could possibly think of attending.  What kid . . . what boy, in their right mind would turn down the chance to see people wreck into each other — on purpose!!!  The derby was the release of vehicular testosterone until the last car still running won the night.  It was the fight for the death, a modern gladiator event with swords on wheels.  My favorite, however, was not the derby.  It was the figure eight!  Twenty or so cars, all without a method to stop, circle and loop the dirt track in the shape of an eight until one car remains.  Their demise you might ask?  The center of the eight at the intersection.  It’s a place of random introductions and incidental accidents — the risk was at an all-time high.  The crowds went wild and I was no exception!  Most never saw it coming, hit broadside — while others fought to navigate around the multi-car pileup in the way of moving on.  It was intense!

Never did I think that those race nights would come back to me so clearly.  The last few days, however, my heart has been reflecting on how much my life feels like a figure eight.  Any one of those cars on that dirt track could represent an aspect of my life.  And like you perhaps, I have never had more than two or three cars on it at a time — only one if I were lucky!  Lately, however, I’ve found myself at a full line-up at the races!  Which cars will collide?  How many will wreck?  Look at the size of those dents!!  Seemingly helpless to the outcome, I sit and watch as all of my cars in the race meet, one-by-one, at the intersection — dented, disfigured, demolished.

Watching the world I’ve come to understand and know so well pile-up in a heap of twisted metal and ruin can only be described as nothing short of disorienting.  But this is the view from within God’s chrysalis.  Hanging upside down, suspended from the Tree of Life offers a view unlike any other.  During this period of transformation, I’ve been experiencing the collision of what I once knew and all things new.  But there’s nothing pleasant about this demolition — it’s painful!  But in that quiet place of retreat, in the holiness of God’s darkness where He dwells, there is peace in the midst of the pangs of renewal.  There is comfort in knowing my God sustains me!

Lord Jesus, the race is loud, the screeching, twisted metal and crushing glass startles my heart.  The demolition is unsettling at best.  May I be anxious for nothing — but instead, consider it pure joy when I encounter the pangs of all things new!

For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn — conflicts on the outside, fears within.  But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us . . .      II Corinthians 7:5-6

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Holy Dark

But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.  Romans 8:24-25

My sweet niece was getting ready for school this morning in the room next to mine when I overheard her conversation with her mom.  Quite frankly, being in the next room over was no privilege since her 5 year old demands were being made at the top of her lungs.  I burst out into a sudden, unexpected and uncontrolled laugh and I quickly tried to douse my reaction.  But, according to her, she was going to have pigtails this morning — no I mean – she was GOING TO HAVE PIGTAILS!!  There were no options, no waiting, no “ifs”, “ands” or “buts” about it.  She clearly did not wake on the patience side of the bed.

I’ve reflected on this moment all morning.  I’ve thought how not so very different I am with God and my circumstances.  I chart a way to get through the rough terrain of life and declare what I need, when I need it with no waiting expected.  When we’re five years old, we thought we were the boss of everything.  Funny how some things just never change.  But, truth is, I know the Boss — and I’m not him!  And so I wait.

I wait with anticipation, expectation and birth of a transformation unlike anything I’ve ever known.  In Romans 8 it speaks of all creation waiting with eager expectation of God’s glory and similarly, I wait for my wings.  But until then, something is happening.

As I wait in this holy darkness it almost feels like God is absent.  Everything I’ve known of Him seems nowhere near.  It’s quiet, it’s blindingly dark, it’s disorienting, it’s Mysterious.  I search for the “lights” that I have become so accustomed to leading me and in this holy darkness those lights are not allowed.  It’s a liquifying of the knowledge and reliance of my “creation” and the experience of the crumbling of who God is and the system that makes it work for me and my ego.

This place of darkness is not an evil place — it’s that place an inch beneath the soil where the seed waits to become all that God has designed it to be.  It’s that place in a mother’s womb where life begins and is nurtured.  It’s that place where God wanders and wonders and where His fingertips run along the seams of my heart.  It’s that place, in the darkness of the tomb where God transformed!

For me it has been as though I’ve been walking with Him in this dense forest.  It’s become so dense the light of the sun has been kept from the forest floor.  What once was day has turned to an eery darkness.  I want to panic, I want to run, but I have no idea where I am.  I feel lost among the trees, but lost I am not.  This darkness is part of God’s journey.  It’s not even a detour, nor is it a wrong turn.  It’s The Way and I’m on it!  Hallelujah!  There is no way I’ll find my way back alone and everything that I’ve ever trusted and leaned against is nowhere in this holy dark.

So, I let go and turn to the Boss to lead The Way.  If I can only trust Him and truly let go all glory will be revealed.  Too often I panic like many do when they find themselves in the pitch of darkness.  I need to understand the need to surrender and journey through and make my way to the real light ahead.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.    Romans 8:18-21


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Pressure Of Performance

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.  Colossians 2:9-10

Backing off a 100 foot cliff with nothing but a rope was not my idea of having fun.  I would have much preferred the more scenic route.  Leading a group of young people that day into the back country of Colorado was a first for me — worse, I was in charge!  On the event list was rock climbing, white water rafting and my favorite . . . rappelling!  Adventure plus high octane risk of death was never my cup of tea.  But this day, I was facing it — head on.  I knew I was going to need to find a part of me that never showed face.  I was going to need to go beyond the extra mile and risk it all — go first!

The moment I took my first step backwards and stared into the eyes of 25 teenagers, I knew I was gonna die right there in front of them!  My level of self-confidence swung like a pendulum from “You can do this!” to “Are you kidding me?  You’re gonna die!!”  There was no in between where there was time to convince or justify — it was all or nothing.  The sounds of my heart pounding could be heard throughout the canyon that day from the pressure to perform.

I’m glad, and maybe a bit proud, to say that I made it to the bottom of that rock ledge and would have done it all over again.  It was a great day for me to be the student.  I wish, however, that the pressures of performance had sweet endings like that all the time, but they don’t.  The constant attention and effort required to measure up, meet expectations and “be” is riddled with living in bondage.  The energy consumed by the physical body, the spiritual body and the toll upon the mind and emotions is at times, overwhelming.  Truth is, with man, I will never measure up and I will always disappoint.  How sad it must be.

But thank heavens I serve a God that takes me as I am!  Bad ideas, stupid words, dumb decisions, mighty mistakes and the list goes on — God still, despite it all, accepts me and considers me COMPLETE in Christ!  That certainly takes the pressure off!  I get to be me!

Lord Jesus, I am so mindful of those around me and what they think of me.  You knit me together like that!  So, I work hard at measuring up.  Continue showing me that all that matters is in You and You alone!  Reveal in my heart as I turn and see Your face as I back off ledges in my life that You are my reason!

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

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