Spiritual Growth

Discover how to grow into the person you were made to be.

Work Meditations - Series Title Image

Bread for the Journey

In the old hymn we sing:
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own.
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

The place where we “tarry” in the hymn is “the garden”—a metaphor for prayer, and a good one. The writer suggests that we walk with Jesus in a place lush with beauty, reminded of God’s care in the roses and the melody of birdsong.

But consider where the hymn was written. It came from the pen of C. Austin Miles, a pharmacist and editor, whose great-granddaughter asserts that he wrote it “in a cold, dreary and leaky basement in Pitman, New Jersey that didn’t even have a window in it let alone a view of a garden.”

Work is like that. We want to hold the world of beauty in our hearts, but we find ourselves in a leaky basement, a sterile elevator, a windowless office. Even if we enjoy working in a setting of natural beauty, work itself imposes more scurrying than tarrying, more urgent productivity than quiet contemplation.

Work Meditations - Series Title Image

Have Mercy on Me, a Worker!

Do you remember smiley-face stickers and gold stars? In elementary school, some of my teachers loved putting them on papers before handing them back.

We still get stickers now, as adults, especially at work: praise from colleagues, feedback from bosses, promotions, raises, and more. Whenever I fail, it’s like I’ve lost a sticker, or been given one with a frowny-face.

In my experience, working with gracious colleagues, the frowny-face is internal. It’s not that someone else gets mad at me when I fail, it’s that I get mad at myself. My own inner critic is a hard taskmaster, one that’s performance-oriented rather than growth-oriented.

Think about the last time you tried for something important at work, and it didn’t go well. Who was your worst critic?

How Jesus Responded to Suffering

It’s in his story of suffering that we see who Jesus is—the kind of person he is, and the kind of Messiah he is. In particular, we can learn about Jesus from his attitude toward his own suffering while it happens. Looking at the passages in Luke about Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, and passion, there are four aspects of his attitude toward suffering that emerge:
• I’m ready for this.
• I don’t have to fight this.
• I can love others in the middle of this.
• There’s something better on the other side of this.

Hard-wrought Joy

It is the joy of Jesus himself that we enter into as we abide in his love. This is the work of the Spirit. It is not a joy that we manufacture; it is a joy that we receive. And, just like Jesus, we enter into it through laying everything down at God’s feet. We die with Christ, and we share in his resurrection life.

How Waiting Works

When we offer our waiting itself to the Lord, we remember that we need him even more than whatever else we are waiting for. In that moment, waiting becomes worship.

Spiritual Hydration

One news story after another has revealed lurking cases of abuse in faith communities that, from the outside, looked vibrant and whole. These stories can be disorienting. They leave us asking difficult questions. How can I know if a new church community is a safe place? When is it right to extend my trust to the leaders of a church? If I’m serving in leadership, how can I tell whether my own community is a good place for people to find their spiritual footing?

Discovering Your Spiritual DNA

Part of growing up in God is discovering our spiritual DNA, learning and reckoning with what we have inherited—good and bad. When we make that reckoning, we start to make a map of our distinctive spiritual heritage. Like the genome sequences, that map can help us chart new discoveries in spiritual life that bless everyone around us.

The End of the Year: A Prayer Exercise

The end of the year can be heavy, both symbolically and emotionally. It’s a chance to anchor ourselves in time and consider making a new start. That means the end of the year is a great opportunity for spiritual reflection. Here’s a 20-minute prayer exercise to help you bring your year to a close in the presence of God.

I’ve Always Known Jesus. How Do I Share My “Testimony”?

There might not be a clear moment of crisis when we shifted from one kind of life to another. But we can still give testimony to how God is at work in our lives. When I was in student ministry and shared my story, I discovered that people responded to genuine vulnerability and honesty more than to a slick rhetorical presentation. It wasn’t about whether I “said things right,” it was about whether what I was saying connected to who I really was as a person. When the experience of Jesus that we describe matches what others see in our lives, that’s true witness.

Hope and the Hedonic Hamster Wheel

Taking time to marvel is a way to step off the hamster wheel. Instead of feeling like we’re missing out, or looking to the “next thing” that might scratch that hedonic itch over and over again, it dawns on us that we are already surrounded by marvelous, normal things. Instead of taking things for granted, we feel thankful. Wonder catalyzes gratitude.