Jumping Through Hoops

Hi. I’m John. I hate jumping through hoops.

Who else is in the circle? Where’s the next 12-step support group meeting?

Meditating on this life challenge, it crossed my mind to add to my musing Hebrews 4:15:

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help. (The Message)

So I seriously asked myself, “What did Jesus know about jumping through hoops?” And the answer was, “Sit down, John. You’re going to be here a while.”

One simple answer to this question is another question: Which one?

  • Becoming human
  • Teaching humans
  • Being a human son
  • Waiting for the “GO” sign to serve humans
  • Human praying
  • Observing human religious practices
  • Submitting to human authorities

More could be listed. Just one of these shut my mouth. But here’s the one that stopped my being.

  • Providing humans salvation

When moaning counting hoops jumped to buy a house, consider the number of Old Testament prophecies Jesus needed to fulfill to even get to Passion week. Scholars debate the number, but it’s safe to say it was dozens. Hundreds of items to check off.

Did he keep a spreadsheet? Swipe his brow after #78? Celebrate every 100? Resist temptation to stop a couple short? Decide we weren’t worth it after all? “Are you kidding me, Father? Do you see what I see?”

It’s unfathomable. But, to give it a try, think more in detail about the hoop jumping he endured Passion week. To get you started, here’s a list of words:

  • Judas
  • Lies
  • Arrest
  • Betrayal
  • Shame
  • Cursing
  • Mocking
  • Rejection
  • Thrones
  • Trial
  • Spit
  • Slaps
  • Nails

I challenge you to keep adding to the list.

And after each one, pause.

Then in your pause, whisper a prayer.

And finally, allow the Master Hoop Jumper to enter the circle.

Maybe, just maybe, you’ll find that a support group of two is just enough.

And it’s offered whenever and wherever you are.

Photo by Paul Zoetemeijer on Unsplash

Sabbath Prayer

Before I slept I prayed

A simple request

Questioned selfish or communal

“Rain”

While I slept you replied

A gentle grant

Received familial and sacrificial

“Gladly”

After I slept I smiled

A pleasing sound

Whispered kept and fulfilled

“Clean”

Photo by Jack Finnigan on Unsplash

A Prayer for 2021 (Psalm 90)

My devotional on youversion today focused on Psalm 90 written by Moses. The writer zoomed in on verse 12, the reflective prayer opportunity in Moses’ words. I chose to read the whole chapter and then compare it in several translations. That’s when I came across the passage below from The Message.
Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well! Come back, God —how long do we have to wait?— and treat your servants with kindness for a change. Surprise us with love at daybreak; then we’ll skip and dance all the day long. Make up for the bad times with some good times; we’ve seen enough evil to last a lifetime. Let your servants see what you’re best at— the ways you rule and bless your children. And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us, confirming the work that we do. Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do! (Psalm 90:12‭-‬17 MSG)
These words seemed timely. I don’t remember reading them before from The Message. As I read them I was drawn to the action words of the prayer: teach, come back, treat, surprise, make up, let, affirm. Of those seven, I highlighted the four phrases that spoke most to me. I then wrote my own prayer, adding my 2021 focus. If I were to summarize that prayer, it would request, “Surprise me this year by showing off who you are.” What words in this passage speak to you? How would you word your prayer for 2021? Photo Credit: Ben White on Unsplash

Better Than Most

Yesterday through a podcast episode I was reminded of the value of gratitude, even more so the importance of writing it down.

When I woke up this morning, I had a WhatsApp message from a pastor in Egypt sharing an update and requesting prayer. I met him in 2018 on a couple of trips to Jordan. Anytime I hear from those Jordanian contacts I’m reminded of the differences in our worlds. West vs. Middle East. Levels of freedom, finances, housing, opportunities, health services-basically every facet of life.

As I prayed for him I was convicted of taking for granted these life blessings that are better than most people in the world. So I followed through with the prompting to write down what I’m grateful for, but I did it differently than before. I made a list of sentences that had a fill-in-the-blank. The sentence was, “My                     is better than most.” Got a little more real, more thankful, more humbling, more worshipful.

Here are some of my sentences:

  • My finances are better than most
  • My health is better than most
  • My home is better than most
  • My security is better than most
  • My freedom is better than most
  • My future is better than most
  • My family is better than most

What words would you use to fill in the blank? How blessed are you better than most?

(Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash)

Hanging Up on God

This week I’m reading through Genesis. Familiar stories. Yet, always new things to see-like watching a movie several times and observing or piecing something together you missed before.

This happened when I read chapters 32-33. If you want, pause reading this and read those two chapters. See what you observe.

Here’s the main thing I got this time: Jacob didn’t know what he didn’t know. Hate it when that happens.

He responded two ways: terror and prayer. Not a bad combo. If balanced. Well, probably should lean more to the latter.

When he heard his brother was coming with 400 men, he was terrified. He immediately got his mind working. But he paused to pray. Good move.

That prayer is a mixed bag. Nothing wrong with the prayer. He expresses his emotions, recognizes his family’s history of following God, reminds God of his promises, and pleas for rescuing from what he’s afraid Esau plans to do. The end. Back to work.

I propose he hung up on God. We’ve all done it. Dialed up, checked in, checked out. A one-way conversation. “Hey God! Here’s my situation. Remember what you said? I’m counting on you. Gotta go.”

Suppose Jacob didn’t hang up. Suppose he paused and listened. Suppose he asked questions like, “What should I do? Will you calm my fears? Am I missing anything? Am I thinking straight?”

Is it not possible that given the opportunity God could have saved Jacob a lot of work and emotional stress? And maybe that whole night of wrestling could have been avoided. And think of the fear he placed on his family. Terror does that when you hang up on God.

Application: When you don’t know what you don’t know, ask God a bunch of questions before you do anything. And wait for the answers. Stay on the phone.

(Photo by Dewang Gupta on Unsplash)

Prayer for Assumers

I pray you’re better at this than I am. It’s a work in progress. Unfortunately, it’s a thing for many professing Christians. I’m talking about assuming.

There are many reasons why we do it, but none of them are good. Assessing society, it seems unlikely Christians recognize assuming’s impact when we make assumptions based on…

…where someone goes to church, or that they don’t. (In 2020, are they attending in person or online.)

…how someone is dressed.

…how they respond to current events.

…what they drive.

…where they live.

…where they went to college, or that they didn’t.

…what we read, hear, or observe about them.

…what they are or aren’t passionate about.

…how they view past history, or that they don’t.

…what we believe the future does or doesn’t hold.

This prayer by author Stephen Mattson was on my Facebook feed today. It spoke to me because I had already confessed more than one assumption today-assumptions made in church of all places. As I said, a work in progress.

I’m grateful God’s mercy and forgiveness are unending-something assumers should add to this prayer.

God Hears Loser’s Prayers

Part 5 of Skye Jethani’s book What If Jesus Was Serious is entitled “A Prayer for Losers.” He writes devotionals based on Matthew 6:1-15 where The Lord’s Prayer is found in the Sermon on the Mount. Rather than quote any passages from the devotionals, I’ll share the doodles from the heading of each one.


Each of these six could produce excellent meditation. Up for it this weekend? Or maybe look at one a day this next week.

However you engage them, believe God hears the prayers of all us losers.

Prayer: Like Riding Shotgun

Prayer. It’s a subject that raises many emotions, beliefs, and practices.

About it, a friend told me this today:

I believe the Father and Son want a conversation. I’ve struggled with prayer having been raised in a church where everything was so formal. When I began talking to our Father like he was riding shotgun in my truck, I began to feel the difference.

Now that’s an image to check out how one’s prayer life is going.

  • Is anyone riding shotgun?
  • If so, who?
  • Is it any person of the Trinity?
  • How balanced is the conversation?
  • How much listening is happening?
  • How long is the trip?
  • Does the conversation ever stop?
  • If so, what stops it?
  • What happens in the conversation lull?

Suggestion: use this imagery the rest of this week. See what changes in your praying. Who knew prayer could be like riding shotgun?

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Sinitta Leunen

Make a Difference

Recently I was given a book of Puritan Prayers and Devotions entitled The Valley of Vision.

This photo is an excerpt of the prayer I read before sitting down to my desk to start work this Monday morning.

Only a few minutes in, I went to find a pencil in my collection of unused writing utensils. The first one I grabbed had the engraving “I Am Someone Who Makes A Difference.”

I saw a connection that we could all use. May we all pray to submit ourselves to make a difference in our God-given disposition. May we walk, therefore, confidently, purposefully, and observantly to make a difference.

He’s Not the Dry Cleaner

I picked up my dry cleaning yesterday. It was actually two separate tickets, so that says something about the lack of urgency of my dry cleaning routine. When they say, “It’ll be ready tomorrow by five,” I courteously reply with thanks. If I wanted to reply in kind I’d say, “No rush. See you in a few weeks.”

There is the rare occasion when I realize I need something that quick. A wedding or funeral demands a quicker pickup. So I’m more in the “I’ll see you then” mode.  I’m in need, and I’m expecting them to deliver.

If we aren’t paying attention, we can treat God like the dry cleaner. We pull up in the drive-thru lane, drop off our needs, say thanks, and go about our day without much urgency.  No big deal. Unless it’s that rare occasion. Then we might actually be more demanding of him than we are the dry cleaner.

To be clear, He isn’t the dry cleaner.

He doesn’t say, “You tell me when you need it, and I’ll get right on that.” He’s not a business owner needing your business in order to keep the doors open. He’s not in the business of keeping you satisfied.

But here’s a question: What about those desperate times when you are truly in need of support, or connection, or at least an acknowledgment that He’s there? We understand in that moment He isn’t going to completely solve our issue, but can He at least let us know He’s on the job.  We aren’t an irate customer; more like a hurting son or daughter.

Recently I found myself torn between treating him like the dry cleaner, fully knowing He isn’t, and like my heavenly Father.  I won’t share all the dialogue, but suffice it to say it was more than a short conversation in the drive-thru.

And what He did was what He promises to do. He heard my cry.  He didn’t totally solve my issue, but He gave me what I needed to get back on the road.  His answer to my question, “What are you doing?” was, “Whatever it is, I’ll give you the strength for it.”

And that was enough-especially when I stopped acting like His customer and more like His child.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Waldemar Brandt