Practicing the Presence of God

By: Ian Wooldridge

Frank Laubach, who was an American missionary to the Philippines in the early part of the twentieth century, began an experiment in 1929. Calling it his “game with minutes,” Laubach made it his aim to simply think about God at least one second of each minute, everyday. In his words, “We try to call Him to mind at least one second of each minute. We do not need to forget other things nor stop our work, but we invite Him to share everything we do or say or think.”1

Then, in a letter he penned on January 3, 1930, he reflected on this new endeavor and expanded upon it:     

I resolved that I would suc­ceed bet­ter this year with my exper­i­ment of fill­ing every minute full of the thought of God than I suc­ceed­ed last year. 2

Talk about a New Year’s resolution.

As 1930 continued on, in more letters he wrote, Laubach reflected upon and recorded the joy of what he was experiencing by making God and His presence the focus of his constant attention:

Oh, this thing of keep­ing in con­stant touch with God, mak­ing Him the object of my thought and the com­pan­ion of my con­ver­sa­tions, is the most amaz­ing thing I ever ran across. It is work­ing… It is a mat­ter of acquir­ing a new habit of thought. Now I like God’s pres­ence so much that when for a half hour or so He slips out of mind — as He does many times a day, I feel as though I had desert­ed Him, and as though I had lost some­thing very pre­cious in my life.

It is exact­ly that “moment by moment,” every wak­ing moment, sur­ren­der, respon­sive­ness, obe­di­ence, sen­si­tive­ness, pli­a­bil­i­ty, “lost in His love,” that I now have the mind-bent to explore with all my might. It means two burn­ing pas­sions: First, to be like Jesus. Sec­ond, to respond to God as a vio­lin responds to the bow of the mas­ter. Open your soul and enter­tain the glo­ry of God and after a while that glo­ry will be reflect­ed in the world about you and in the very clouds above your head.

Laubach was in many ways inspired by a 17th century Parisian monk named Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence, in a similar way of making it his aim to live with keeping God in his mind continually, called this “The Practice of the Presence of God,” and a book of the same title was compiled with Lawrence’s thoughts, experiences, and wisdom on the approach.

Here’s how Brother Lawrence talks about the experience:

In order to know God, we must often think of Him; and when we come to love Him, we shall then also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure. 3 

There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God. 

He became so accustomed to having the presence of God in his mind and the focus of his attention, that he could write this:

In the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I posses God in as great a tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.

So, a question for you:

What do you think about most?

We too can know the fruit of a life that lives with the singular aim of thinking upon and hungering for the Presence of God in our minds and in our lives. Like Laubach and Brother Lawrence each attest to, the more that we think about God, the more we will see Him everywhere.

And the more and more that we make it our practice to simply keep God in our mind moment by moment, the more we find that our mind will rest on and pull itself back to Him as naturally as gravity pulls toward the earth.

So, the challenge and invitation for you as we move forward in this season and beyond is simply this: Think about God as much as you can.

Something that has helped me is to train myself to approach everything that I do as something to be done with God by my side. In your day-to-day, moment-by-moment, concrete level of reality, just cast your mind to Him.

Do it while you’re driving,
while you’re doing the dishes,
while you’re at work,
while you’re with your family,
while you’re doing email,
while you’re in the shower,
while you’re drifting to sleep,
while you’re waking in the morning…

You see what I’m getting at? No matter what, no matter where, no matter when, make it your practice to simply cast your mind to God. The more that we grow accustomed to this, the more that we will find God occupying our minds no matter what it is we may be doing, experiencing what Thomas Kelly described as “simultaneity,” that is, to be engaged with two things at one time: the external affairs and tasks of our everyday life, and deep continual conversation with God. Kelly writes:

On one level we may be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating, meeting all the demands of external affairs. But deep within, behind the scenes, at a profounder level, we may also be in prayer and adoration, song and worship and a gentle receptiveness to divine breathings. 4

I love that Brother Lawrence calls this experience “the practice of the presence of God,” because it’s just that — a practice. Your mind will drift; when it does, simply bring it back to God, in a constant directing and redirecting.

May you know the life that “prays continually,” as Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

May you know “the practice of the presence of God” as a foundational practice for you; as your constant conversation, continual prayer with God — that no matter what your life’s rhythm may look like from season to season, and from stage of life to stage of life, a mind gravitated and fixed on God through it all would be the thread that ties it all together, and would be the deep, gentle, and joyful undercurrent of your life.


  1. Frank Laubach, The Game with Minutes: A New Life Experience. (United States: MacAlester Park,1953).
  2. This excerpt and the following two are from Letters by a Modern Mystic (Martino Publishing, 2012). Originally published in 1937.
  3. This excerpt and the following two are from Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God (United States: Baker Publishing Group, 1967).
  4. Thomas Kelly, A Testament of Devotion (New York: Harper Collins, 1992).

Simplicity of Speech

By Ian Wooldridge
A gift that hopefully you’ve been able to receive during these times is the gift of simplicity. In other words, through all of the changes we’ve had to experience, hopefully you’ve been able to find areas in your life where you can simplify, and know more the benefits that come with the simple, spacious life. Check out the series that we just did here at OCC called “Breathing Room.” It’s filled with all kinds of direction that can help you with this.
We can apply the practice of simplicity to many things, but one of the biggest reminders that God is putting before me — by way of simplicity — is to consider the simplifying of my speech.
The Practice: Simplicity of Speech
Words are not bad. I once took a Linguistics class in college, and I’ll never forgot what one student’s answer was when our professor asked What is language for? His answer has always stuck with me:
We were given language to glorify God.
That’s pretty good, huh? And being at a public university made that answer even more shocking.
We use words all the time as we participate with God in His Kingdom. But, have you ever thought about the flip side of the effect that our speech can have when it’s not careful? Or maybe even why we speak the way we do? Or the motives behind what we say, or how we say it? This is where this practice can be very helpful.
Jan Johnson, in her book Abundant Simplicity (I can’t recommend this book enough), has an excellent chapter on the invitation to simplify your speech. It was her book in which I was first introduced to this idea, and this practice has probably been one of the biggest — if not the biggest — invitations into deeper life with God that He has brought into my journey so far.
As you can imagine, this isn’t an easy one. Until I first began this practice, I never honestly considered how or why I would use the words I used, or how wordy I really was. For the first time, I actually began to pay attention to the way I spoke; and my eyes were opened to just how unnecessary much of my speech was — not bad, just unnecessary. I came to learn that my speech revealed a lot about my heart and the insecurities that were left untouched there.
I found that I often would use my words to try to come across as smart,
or as more-caught-up and informed than I really am,
or more funny than I really am,
more clever,
more relevant and important,
or more fill-in-the-blank than I really am.
I found that I would often be wordy in an effort to manage perception and to appear a certain way: “impression management,” as Johnson calls it.1 Ultimately, I found that I used my words for control.
It seems to always come down to being a control issue, doesn’t it? And if control is at the root of our issues, that means trust issues aren’t far behind, either.
Instead of trusting God with my reputation and other people’s opinions of me — resting fully content in who He says I am and in His sufficiency in managing the events and outcomes of my life — I can be tempted to use my words for control and for “impression management,” with a preoccupation with how others may see and perceive me, and with how I want things to play out.
Johnson writes:
… this less-is-more approach [to speech] helped me see that I was using my words to convince colleagues to do what I wanted them to do and to impress friends with what I knew. I realized that my wordiness revealed a lack of trust that God would work without help from me. 2
This strikes a chord within me.
What may our wordiness reveal about us, deep down?
God may be calling us to give up the exhausting lifestyle of trying to do too much with our words, and instead to release any and all outcomes to Him — even our reputation and wants.
So, again, it’s a control and trust issue. But, ultimately, if it’s these things, then it’s really a heart issue.
In Matthew 12 and in Matthew 15, Jesus connects the mouth with the heart:
For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 3
But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart…4
Our words and word choices — not just what we say, but how we say it — reveals what’s going on deep down in the heart.
It’s quite insane just how much Scripture speaks of the invitation to tame the tongue. Just read the Proverbs — seemingly every chapter has something to say about the wisdom in giving thought to our speech.
Proverbs 15 points out that, “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.” 5
We’ve all seen the difference — in other’s speech, or in our own (I know I’m guilty!) — between answers that are weighed then delivered with surgical precision, and words that just gush out.
An illuminating moment for me, regarding speech, comes from 1 Samuel 3, where it says, “The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.” 6
What would it look like if none of our words fell to the ground — to not let one word go to waste?
Paul, in Ephesians 4, has a high call for us:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 7
What would that look like?
What if our speech was only helpful,
was only edifying,
was only building up of others,
was only beneficial to all who may listen?
That’s life-giving speech.
This doesn’t imply passivity — it implies that even in the hard conversations, even when we need to call something or someone out, even when we have to embrace conflict of any kind, we can have these conversations in a way that builds others up, edifying them and spurring them on in their life with God. We can help them and love them in this way.
So, your challenge is to give thought to your words by asking a few questions:
What am I about to say?
How am I going to say it?
Ultimately, why am I saying this?
What’s the motive?
Do I even need to say this?
Then, on your own, maybe try out this prayer prompt that Johnson offers in her book:
Ask God to show you what you would be like in conversation if you felt secure and content with God’s own self as your treasure. 8
Remember, it’s ultimately a heart issue. If God is the sole treasure of our hearts, we will come to grow — over time — in not relying on our words to manage perception or for control. Instead, we can use them to glorify God and love others.
Here’s the thing, though: we will always be on the journey here, figuring this out, stumbling a lot. And that’s OK.
At the end of each day, I usually take some time to review my day with God. More times than not, He reveals to me where I’ve been excessive with my words, not giving thought to them, using them to manage perception or for control. I still have a ways to go here.
But, here’s the best part: because He loves me, and is a Father who cares deeply about the life of my heart, he reveals to me why I wasn’t stellar with my words; in His loving-kindness, He gently shows me when and where I spoke excessively, and what issue in my heart caused such to happen, or what impure motives there may have been.
Then — as He always does and wants to do with you — He invites me forward into deeper life.
Jesus, in Matthew 11, says, “… I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” 9
So, remember to be so so so gentle and grace-filled with yourself, here — Jesus is!
More than anything, let the challenge of simplifying your speech lead you deeper into God’s love for you, and deeper into trusting in His care for you and the events of your life.
As we close, Johnson writes of George Fox:
It was said of Quaker founder George Fox that “the fewness and fullness of his words have often struck even strangers with admiration.”… Not only did Fox speak little, but when he spoke, his carefully chosen words welled up from a single-focused heart, creating a clear and compelling effect. It was obvious to others that he treasured both God and them. 10
A few words that I want to be characteristic my speech.
What words do you want your speech to be characterized by?


  1. Jan Johnson Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace (InterVarsity Press, 2011).
  2. Ibid.
  3. Matthew 12:34b, NIV.
  4. Matthew 15:18, NIV.
  5. v28, NIV, emphasis mine.
  6. v19, NIV, emphasis mine.
  7. v29, NIV.
  8. Johnson, Abundant Simplicity.
  9. v29b, NIV.
  10. Johnson, Abundant Simplicity.

I Stopped Reading the Bible

By: Corey Willoughby

Ok…first things first: I haven’t stopped reading the Bible. Just wanted to clear that up right now. It would be pretty disheartening if a pastor, your pastor or any pastor, stopped spending time in the very thing that should be the greatest influence in their life. So maybe now is a good time to complete that sentence…

I stopped reading the Bible in a year, every year.

Now that we’ve settled that, let me ask you a question: What are some things you know you need to do, it’s just hard to actually do it? Exercising…dieting…organizing that room…

Go ahead…take a few moments to write out a short list.

Any surprises? If you were to make this list in a month…or if you had made this list three months ago…would there be any repeat offenders?

The thing with lists like these is they have the tendency to make us feel guilty or unaccomplished or lazy. These feelings especially come to life when we start comparing ourselves to what we see others doing (or at least posting about on social media…I mean, if they posted it, it has to be true, right??). We’ve all experienced it and we’ve all fallen prey to the “Comparison Game.” It even happens to us in our spiritual lives, doesn’t it?

Ok…one more list…last one, I promise. Write down a few things that answer this question: What things do you do out of a feeling of obligation rather than genuine desire?

If you were to think of this from strictly a spiritual perspective, I think for some of us, reading the Bible might fall into this category. As Christians, one of the things we know we need to do but often have a difficult time carrying out is consistently getting into the Bible…spending time in God’s Word. The research shows us that this continues to be an ongoing dilemma for believers. Surveys have been done by Pew Research Center, Lifeway Research, Barna, and more showing that when it comes to spending consistent time in Scripture, we leave a lot to be desired. Reminder—these surveys are targeted to professed believers…people who say they are Christ-followers.

Now, I say that reading the Bible may fall into the obligatory-actions category for some of us because, as the research shows, many proclaimed Christ-followers admit to rarely, if ever, consistently reading the Bible for personal spiritual growth. Enter my ceasing to read the Bible…

If we’ve spent any amount of time in church, we have most likely heard it preached the importance of daily spending time with God. Call it personal study time, Jesus-, devotional-, quiet time, or any of the myriad of other names…whatever you call it, most of us don’t do it. But for that person who says, “I want to read the Bible more, I just don’t know where to start…” it will inevitably come to someone suggesting that person follow a reading plan. Through the ever-increasing resources available to us today, the number of reading plans out there is constantly growing. A reading plan is a scheduled approach to reading Scripture. They can take you through a book of the Bible or help you make your way through the Psalms or learn more about what Scripture says about a certain topic. These plans span from a single week, to 30 days, to a year.

Let me be clear: There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a reading plan to get into Scripture! I am not against reading plans at all. In fact, there will be several plans linked at the end of this article to help you get started, if that’s what you need. I, a pastor of 15 years, have used countless reading plans throughout my life to keep working my way through Scripture. I’ve read the entire Bible starting in Genesis 1 and going through Revelation 22. I’ve gone through the Bible chronologically, both in the order that things happened and the order in which it was written. Some plans paired up Old Testament passages with New Testament ones. Other plans included the Psalms and Proverbs every day. All this to say, I have nothing against Bible reading plans.

Where the rub came in was the moment when I realized that my participation in the reading of God’s Word had become more about checking off the day’s scheduled reading and not personally engaging in relationship with the Creator God who wrote it. You ever had a moment like that? A moment when you just stopped and asked, “Why am I doing this?” In his letter to the church in Colossae, the Apostle Paul wrote, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” and “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:17, 23-24 [ESV])

We have these reality check moments more often than we think, or at least we should. Those moments when we stop, reflect, and really think about our motives behind doing something. Am I working out because I want to be in better shape or because I want to impress someone else? Do you work hard at your job because you want to perform well or because you want to be noticed and acknowledged and maybe rewarded? The same can be applied to our walk with the Lord. Do we post all the verses, memorize and quote the Scriptures, say all the right things because we want to honor God and point others to Him or do we want people to think highly of us?

For me, I had turned what should be a soul-nourishing experience into a checklist object; something to mark off like when I get an item in the grocery store off my list. I found a sinful pride in saying that I had read through the whole Bible so many times. Doesn’t mean I loved God any less. Doesn’t mean I didn’t care about God’s Word. But I was absolutely not fully internalizing what I was reading. A change was needed. I needed a fresh approach, a rejuvenation of the investment I was making into my soul. Not because I deserve more from the time I “sacrificed” in reading and prayer, but because God deserves my very best…and that’s not what He was getting from me.

Billy Graham, the world renown evangelist, said the following:

“The Bible is not an option; it is a necessity. You cannot grow
spiritually strong without it.”

The theologian, priest, and Augustinian monk Martin Luther said of the Bible:

“The Bible is the cradle wherein Christ is laid.”

And, lastly, Augustine of Hippo:

“The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home.”
Scripture is important! For us believers, it is necessary in knowing who God is and who God desires us to be. There is no better way for us to invest in our spiritual bank than to continue making deposit after deposit through spending time with God and in His Word. So how do you do it? How does one make this happen? Well, I can’t answer that for you and I can’t make you do it. What I can do is encourage you to fully dive in to what God has to offer; to trust in the promise of James 4:8 that says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (ESV). And I can share with you my approach to this sacred time with God.

Like many of you (I assume…and yes, I know what they say about assuming), I find that once I get into the rhythm of my day, it’s hard to slow down. That’s why, for me, spending time in Word and prayer has to happen at the very beginning of my day. I have been in this habit for over 15 years now that my Bible reading time happens in the morning before anything else. My normal is to wake up at 5:30am so that I have the time to spend uninterrupted. Do not read this as, “Oooo…so spiritual” or “Well, he’s a pastor, so…”

I hate mornings…don’t like ‘em…never have. Even when I wake up early to get on the boat to go fishing…still don’t like mornings. I’m a big supporter of Proverbs 27:14 that says, “A loud and cheerful greeting early in the morning will be taken as a curse!”

But God deserves my mornings. Why? I know that my boys will be up soon and then it’s game on! If I am not intentional in getting up early, slowing down to spend time with God will not happen. I have to make it a priority. And if you claim to be a follower of Christ, it needs to be a priority for you, too. I don’t say that to incite guilt or sound like I know what’s best for everybody. I say that because God says it. He gives us this directive in Matthew 6:33, Psalm 119:105, Mark 14:51-52, and John 15:1-5. (Actually only 3 of those passages are on topic…you can figure out which isn’t…look at that…we’re already getting into Scripture.)

So if I stopped following a reading plan, what do I do? How do I approach the Bible now? Right now, I am working my way through a book or two at a time. Each day is different. One day may go through three chapters while the next, maybe just one. There is no rush…only a hope for increased attentiveness and contemplation.

I recently came across an approach to reading Scripture that I’m loving (but need to get better at implementing each day). This method is from Leroy Eims and it looks like this:

Every time you read Scripture, ask yourself the following…

  1. What does this passage say to me?
  2. Where am I falling short?
  3. Give specific examples.
  4. What am I going to do about it?

(The Lost Art of Disciple Making, Leroy Eims, p78)

So here’s my challenge to you:

  • Schedule your time with God…a time when you can give Him full attention and focus. We schedule almost every part and aspect of our lives…why not schedule our time with God? Now we’re not talking about 3 hours of silence and solitude and meditating. If you can give God 10 fully-focused, uninterrupted minutes…that’s awesome!!!
  • Examine what you currently prioritize, especially first thing in the morning. Is your phone, email, etc. more important to get to than the God who is eagerly awaiting your company?
  • Just start reading…anything from any book in the Bible.
As I said, below is a link to several reading plans to get you started, if you need that. These plans come from a church in New York and provide several different approaches. My hope and prayer is that these plans will kickstart your hunger to know God more and will help set a pattern and routine of consistently getting to Scripture. But beware the pitfall that commonly comes with following a reading plan. A lot of times life just happens and we miss a day. Then we miss another. Then it’s been a week…a month…we feel behind…

Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up. Jump back in. You can do this. You should do this. God is there and is ready to spend time with you!


State of the Heart

By: Ian Wooldridge

Allow me to nerd out for a minute.

I love football. Especially college football.

Believe it or not, I once played QB, and even had a few opportunities to play in college.

(Of course, this was when I was about thirty pounds heavier, and had just a little bit more muscle than I have now.)

So, I particularly love to watch the offenses go to work; and I have some favorites from college football over the years.

Again, allow me a minute for nerding out:

I loved the Graham Harrell, Michael Crabtree Texas Tech days.

Or, the Marcus Mariota-led Oregon Ducks from a few years ago.

How about the Pat Mahomes-led Texas Tech offense from 2016? It seemed like he threw for at least 500 every week.

Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, USC, mid-2000s — enough said.

And how could we forget the national champs from last season? Joe Burrow absolutely lit it up. Nobody could stop that LSU machine.

Some of you are like Who are these people? What are you talking about?

“Go sports ball!” as my wife says.

So, I’ll go ahead and spare you.

I just loved watching these offenses because it was a brilliant display of what happens when everything is firing on all cylinders; when the system is running at peak performance; when everything, as the expression goes, is operating like a well-oiled machine.

Of course, there’s not always perfection, or flawlessness, or zero mistakes — but how awesome is it to watch when the system is running perfectly?

Speaking of mistakes, I remember this one time, junior year of high school, during the third quarter of a football game. We were up big, so I thought, man, coach — let me get a designed QB run play!

Aside from the occasional QB sneak at the one yard line, I didn’t get a whole lot of run plays called for me.

(I guess that’s what happens when the majority of the defenses on your schedule have future D1 athletes who are all faster than you.)

Anyways, my chance had come — finally, a run play for me. Only one problem:

I called the play wrong.

As a result, we lined up in the wrong formation. So, when the ball was snapped, and I ran my bootleg out to the left, I had zero blockers in front of me.

5 yard loss.

I called the play wrong, we lined up wrong, therefore something was wrong with our system — it then yielded the appropriate result: loss of yards.

There’s a saying in the business world, often attributed to W. Edwards Deming, which goes something like this:

“Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results that you are getting.”

I’m not too business oriented, but I love this principal, and I’ve found it to be quite eye-opening as a principal for life, too. So, I apply it to my life as a general rule. I’ve found it to be super helpful in re-orienting my life around my deepest values, desires, passions, and priorities — namely, abiding with Jesus — when I find myself drifting off course at times.

So, are there results in our lives that we’re not liking?

Stressed all the time?
Anxious and on-edge all the time?
Irritable all the time?
Tired and drowsy all the time?
Low-grade anger and frustration all the time?
Not inspired or motivated?
Feel like we just never have enough time to do the things we really want to do?

Our system — our lifestyles — are “perfectly designed” to give us the results we’ve been getting.

Now, some things are out of our control in life; things happen that are hard, and there are consequences and outcomes that follow. I fully know and get that.

But, we do have the power to make choices, and when we live deliberately and intentionally, we find that we actually have a whole lot more power than we realize in co-shaping a life with God that abounds in vitality and spiritual buoyancy, in a settled love, joy, and peace.

So, is there a practice that we can apply to help us sort out the “system” that is our lifestyle? To help us recalibrate and dial back in when the results we’re yielding aren’t exactly life-giving?

The answer is, of course, yes.

The Practice: Self-Inventory

In Proverbs 14 we’re told that “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways…”1

About every month or so, I undergo what I call a “state of the heart” — or, in other words, I take a little self-inventory of my day-to-day activities and habits and rhythms, and I consider the effect that all of it has on my heart — therefore, my formation. In other words, as the Proverb says, I “give thought” to my ways.

The reality is, the things we do everyday have a say in our formation — in the “results that [we] are getting.”

Josh Porter, in partnership with Bridgetown Church, shows us what this practice can look like. They use the language of taking a “habit audit” to practice self-inventory. Porter writes:

The things we do also do something to us. You are, in one sense, the cumulative effect of your habits. Your habits are the outworking of that which you love, for better or for worse. If you are a human being, you love something. The question is, what do you love? The answer is revealed in the things that you do. The habit audit is a practice designed to inventory our habitual routines and rituals that together make up the sum total of our lives… in order to better understand what you love and, thus, what is forming you.2

In his book You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, James K.A. Smith writes, “We need to recognize the power of habit.” 3

Or, again, as Porter writes, “The things we do also do something to us.” 4

Everyday, whether we realize it or not, we are being formed by the things that we do, by the things that have our attention most; and these things directly affect the “system” that is our life.

John Mark Comer, a huge hero of mine, writes:

In the end, your life is no more than the sum of what you gave your attention to. That bodes well for those apprentices of Jesus who give the bulk of their attention to him and to all that is good, beautiful, and true in his world… we become what we give our attention to, for better or worse. 5

So, then, the invitation inherent in taking a “habit audit,” or in taking self-inventory, is to regularly check up on if we are living in alignment with what we truly love and desire most — because our daily habits, routines, and rhythms will reveal that; they’ll reveal what, per-capita, has our attention most.

And, if upon evaluation we find that we’re not living in alignment with what we say we truly love and desire most, then — in the context of God’s loving-kindness, grace, and gentleness — we course correct, under His guidance and care.

Taking a “habit audit” — or self-inventory — is simply an opportunity to course correct our habits, routines, and rhythms into alignment with what we deep down, truly love and desire most; to evaluate where we put our attention most. Or, to “better understand what you love and, thus, what is forming you,” 6 as Porter states.

Hear me, real quick: There’s so much grace in this! Whenever I take self-inventory of my life in this way, I’m always reminded that God never condemns us into transformation — He invites us into it.

He’s a fathering God. He doesn’t condemn us into newer, deeper life
He woos us into it.

So, there’s no guilt with any of this — just healthy conviction.

With all of that said, here we go! Here’s what a “habit audit,” or taking self-inventory looks like for me, and what it could look like for you:

When I decide to take self-inventory, I sit down with my journal and look back at my past week. I then evaluate the activities — or, the habits, routines, and rhythms — that made up the pattern of each day, from the morning when I first wake, and all the way through to bedtime. Then, I write each of the activities or habits down, and also how much time or money I spent doing them. You can actually, throughout the week, do this as you go, too, as one way to take note of your habits and activities. If you’re like me, you will quickly discover that you do indeed have habits at work, whether good or bad.

Without any judgement, shame, or guilt, I then simply write down the habits, routines, and rhythms, or activities that are making up my days.

If it helps, Porter gives an example in his teaching of what your journal entry or Notes app entry may look like while taking a “habit audit” of your day-to-day life:

  • 15 minutes making coffee
  • 30 minutes on social media
  • 1 hour working out
  • 2 hours of TV shows
  • 2 hours and $30 at a restaurant with friends
  • 1 hour and $25 shopping online

So, as you can see, it doesn’t need to be too extensive. Simply write down the activity, and then how much time or money you spent on it. 7

Now, after I write down the activities or habits that are currently making up the patterns of my days, I then run each habit, or activity, through this one question:

What is this habit doing to my heart?

That may seem like a vague question, but if you sit with it long enough, you’ll be able to answer it quite well.

Then lastly, to complete the practice, by God’s grace, if any activity is revealed to not be good for my heart — if there’s a habit that is causing the “system” that is my life to be off in some way — I seek to take that habit out. And, if possible, replace it with a habit that gives life.

For example, as I’ve shared in a previous blog, coming to the decision to not engage with my phone or technology in my waking or winding down hours, and to instead replace those habits with Scripture and prayer, came as the result of honest self-inventory.

I call this little “habit audit” or self-inventory practice, for me, my “state of the heart,” because as Proverbs 4 tells us, the things that take up the most residence in our hearts are the things that will take up the most residence in our lifestyles.8 So, I want to be really intentional about how my heart is. What’s really cool is that God is so invested in the life of my heart, too. So doing this with Him, I’ve found, is paramount for me.

So, taking a “habit audit” or self-inventory is a good and helpful way that I’ve found to check up on the life of my heart, and if the things I do everyday align it more to God’s heart, or further away.

As we continue in quarantine, while also nearing the potential reopening of our cities, now could be a really good time to take self-inventory and check the state of your heart, too, posturing it more to receive and give God’s love in the days of anticipation and transition to come; to check up on that “system” of yours called your life, and to see if there are ways you can partner with God in knowing healthier results — or, as Jesus would call it, bearing fruit.

To close, St. Augustine, in his Confessions, wrote “How can you draw close to God when you are far from your own self?”

May you know the power of the self-examined life — that, in beautiful ways, it can lead us deeper into the fathering love of God.


  1. Proverbs 14:8, NIV.
  3. James K.A. Smith You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Brazos Press, 2016). 4 Again from, emphasis mine.
  4. John Mark Comer The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World (Colorado Springs: WaterBrook, 2019).
  5. Again from
  6. Ibid.
  7. See Proverbs 4:23.


By: Ian Wooldridge

For those of you who know me well, you know that the book of Psalms — if I had to pick a “favorite” book from the library of Scripture — would be my favorite book.

I’ve always been captivated and mesmerized by the scope of the book, and have always felt this deep invitation into the depth of God’s heart as I meditate on and read the words in the Psalms.

David, and the other authors, seem to paint a picture of relational intimacy with the living God that goes far beyond head knowledge. They write from deep, experiential interaction with the presence of God — and sometimes, even, the lack thereof; as in, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? 1

I love the honesty, and the raw, uncensored vigor that David and some of the other authors take straight to God with many of these prayers and songs — their humanness —as they lament and express their hearts in the midst of their trial or hardship.

The Psalms have seen me through a fair share of really hard seasons, too.

Something particular, though, has always resonated with me as I’ve read the book of Psalms. Several of the Psalms seem to display a pattern, or a structure, that looks something like this:

Beginning tends to deal with:

  • Pain
  • Heartache
  • Confusion
  • Distress
  • General sentiments, like Why, Lord?! and Where are You, God? or How much longer?

Ending tends to — whether circumstances have changed or not — concentrate on remembering:

  • How God’s love has shown up before
  • How God’s faithfulness has shown up before
  • How God’s power has moved before
  • How God’s goodness has never changed
  • God is still trustworthy, and worthy of praise
  • The great things God has done, and how He has moved in the past

I love these particular Psalms that give us this pattern, and how the breakthrough comes by going back; the breakthrough comes by remembering.

AJ Sherrill writes:

There is something mysterious about the past that we are meant to import into the present. Remembering God’s activity in past activity somehow opens us to receive God’s activity on the present. It is accessed through faith. Faith is built through hearing stories of God’s faithfulness, remembering the wonders done in ages gone by, and seeking a fresh outpouring based on how God has manifested in times past… remembering means bringing the past forward into the present… the Spirit of God takes what happened in the past and brings it powerfully forward to meet us in the present. 2

When we look at Psalm 77, for example, we see the writer, Asaph, begin with “I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me… and I would not be comforted.” 3

Encouraging, right?

Asaph continues with, “Has God forgotten to be merciful?” 4

But then, in the following verses, a resounding resurgence of heart begins to swell:

“Then I thought,” writes Asaph, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out His right hand… I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles long ago… Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” 5

Asaph remembered God’s activity in the past, and it unlocked a kind of assurance about God’s activity in the present, and how He will continue to do what He’s always done in the future. When we remember who God is — and remember how He has acted from His character before — we reorient ourselves with reality:

The Lord is our shepherd, we lack nothing.6

I’ve come to learn from my own experience that remembering how God has moved in my life in the past gives me joy in the present, and peace about the future.

The Practice: Remember

When we remember, a couple things can happen for us:

1. We’re given joy in the present

Psalm 126:3 says it like this:

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. 7

Notice that it doesn’t say “The Lord is doing great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” No, it says that the Lord “has done great things,” and thus, “we are filled with joy.”

The joy comes by remembering who He has shown Himself to be in the past, and letting that remind us of who He is and what He’s like now.

When we reflect upon His character by remembering the great things He’s done for us in the past, we’re not just reflecting on something of old — we’re reflecting on what His character is like now.

Or, again, as AJ Sherrill puts it:

The God who revealed is the God who reveals; the God who created is the God who creates; the God who acted is the God who acts. Past meets present. 8

So, how has God moved in your life? How has He shown His goodness, power, or love in your personal history? In your story?

He’s still authoring your story, and His character towards you is unchanging.

2. We’re given peace about the future

We find David in Psalm 31 at a not so good place:

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in distress. Tears blur my eyes. My body and soul are withering away. 9

Then, several verses later, after some more lamenting, comes the breakthrough moment:

But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, “You are my God!” My future is in your hands. 10

Why is David trusting God? How is he able to be at peace with his future?

By remembering what God is like. The psalm continues:

How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues. 11

David is simply recalling how God moves, because He knows how God has moved:

Praise the Lord, for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love.He kept me safe when my city was under attack. 12

When we remember how God has moved in our own, personal stories, we can have peace about the future because we know that as He’s done before, He will do again — that no matter what we may encounter, we can be confident that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him,” as Paul writes in Romans 8. 13

Greg Pinkner once simply and aptly said:

“God is committed to your soul.”

We can be confident that no matter what we may encounter — even a pandemic — that God, out of His commitment to our souls, will work it all for our good, out of His great love for us. Nothing we could ever encounter in life is outside of the realm of God’s redeeming power, love, and grace.

So, with David, we can confidently say,

I am trusting you, O Lord…
My future is in your hands.

So, what could it look like to practice remembering?

In 1 Samuel 7, we’re told a story about how God delivered Samuel and the Israelites from the hand of the Philistines when “the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites.” 14

So, God delivered Samuel and his army from the hand of the Philistines when they tried to engage the Israelites in battle — God gave them victory.

What happens next?

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up… He named it Ebenezer saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” 15

Ebenezer is a term that means “stone of help.”

So, don’t think Scrooge — think help.

I think a really cool opportunity for you could be to have a kind of Ebenezer set up in your life — a “stone of help.” Most recently, for me, in my study, I’ve kept a small piece of paper on my desk where I’ve simply written down the things God has done in my own personal history — times when He’s delivered me, and brought me through. Every time I see these things, I’m simply reminded of His character, and what He’s like; and that He still moves in the same way now. This is especially helpful in harder seasons.

So, as we close, here’s your invitation: create an Ebenezer, or a “stone of help”, and put it somewhere where you can see it everyday. Again, for me, it was simply a piece of paper, with the things God did written down. Whatever it looks like for you, you’re invited to try it out. Every time you see it, you’ll be reminded of God’s character, and what He’s like.

Similarly, in Joshua 4, Joshua and his comrades set up “memorial stones” to commemorate God parting the Jordan River so they could cross over safely to the other side. Joshua then declared to all of the Israelites:

In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. 16

Consider having your own, personal, memorial “stone of help” to be reminded of how God has led you through the waters on dry ground, too — and that He’ll do it again.


  1. Psalm 10:1, 2b, NIV.
  2. AJ Sherrill, Expansive: Stretching Beyond Superficial Christianity (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017).
  3. Verse 1, NIV.
  4. Verse 9, NIV.
  5. Verses 10-11, 13-14, NIV, emphasis mine.
  6. Psalm 23:1, par.
  7. This is from the NIV.
  8. Sherrill, Expansive.
  9. Verse 9, NLT.
  10. Verses 14 and 15a, NLT.
  11. Verses 20 and 21, NLT.
  12. Verse 21, NLT.
  13. Verse 28, NIV, emphasis mine.
  14. Verse 10b, NIV.
  15. Verse 12, NIV.
  16. Joshua 4:21-23a, NIV.

A Few Ways to Nurture Joy

By: Ian Wooldridge

I’m pretty excited about the latest addition to the Wooldridge apartment: a bell.

Yes, a bell.­

Like the one you ring?

Yes, like the one you ring.

But not just any bell: a celebration bell.

It may seem like a weird addition to hang on an apartment wall, but my wife Jordie and I are after something: nurturing celebration.

So, if anything worth celebrating happens in our lives — no matter how “small” — we ring the celebration bell in a moment of grateful defiance against the illusion and apathetic posture that we all can fall into if we’re not careful: that life is anything but sacred.

Blue Bell ice cream usually follows.1

Celebration can seem like a hard word to come across these days, huh? Not that our 24/7 news cycle really had a lot of headlines and news updates that screamed joy and celebration in the first place, but especially now, it doesn’t help. Celebration just feels kind of distant, doesn’t it?

Like it’s something that we’re supposed to do after the pandemic,
orafter quarantine,
or after we can start meeting in big groups again,
or after we can go eat that awesome meal at our favorite restaurant once more.

If we’re not careful, celebration can be squashed right out of our lexicon as we continue to progress in this season. The more that we speculate, and the more that we keep up with the numbers and updates, our human proclivity to bend towards negativity and pessimism can strongly be reinforced. Instead, we have to counter this by nurturing the celebration and joy part of our brain.

Yes, there is a celebration and joy center in your brain. Check out what Jonathan Grant writes — this is too good:

Neurologists have shown that while most brain development stops sometime in childhood, the brain’s ‘joy center’ — located and observable in the right orbital prefrontal cortex — is the only part of the brain that never loses its capacity to grow. 2

Grant continues:

As Dr. James Friesen and his colleagues explain: When the joy center has been sufficiently developed, it regulates emotions, pain control and immunity centers; it guides us to act like ourselves; it releases neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin… without sufficient “joy strength” we spend the rest of our lives trying to fill the deficit. 3

Our brain literally has a “joy center.”

How cool is God?!

And not only that: this “joy center” can be nourished, nurtured, and cultivated, therefore grown and expanded.

Again: how cool is God?! And what an invitation!

But it’s just that: an invitation. Henri Nouwen once said:

Joy is essential to the spiritual life. Whatever we may think of or say about God, when we are not joyful, our thoughts and words cannot bear fruit… Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. 4

Joy doesn’t happen to us — we get to grow it. So, I want to explore a few ways that you can begin to nurture celebration and joy, right where you’re at; a few ways that you can fuel that “joy center” in your brain.

The Practice: Nurture Celebration and Joy

1. Have a Celebration Ritual

I know the word “ritual” gets a bad rap, but practice and repetition are essential to developing growth of any kind. For my wife Jordie and I, we like to ring our “celebration bell.” It helps keep us on the lookout for God’s hand in our lives, and how to respond with gratitude and celebration.

Like I said in a previous blog, we’re weird — and we love it.

What could your ritual be?

A special meal? A moment to pause, close your eyes, and pray? A dance party with your favorite playlist?

C’mon, there has to be something!

Whatever that looks like for you, pursue that, and get in the habit of pausing to celebrate when God moves in cool ways in your life.

2. Fill Your Mind With the Good, True, and Beautiful

I love what Paul says in Philippians 4: Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him… by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. 5

The legendary N.T. Wright, in his commentary on this passage, writes this:

The command [in Philippians 4, verse 8] to think about all the wonderful and lovely things listed here, runs directly opposite to the habits of mind instilled by the modern media. Read the newspapers: their stock-in-trade is anything that is untrue, unholy, unjust, impure, ugly, of ill repute, vicious and blameworthy. Is that a true representation of God’s good and beautiful world? How are you going to celebrate the goodness of the creator if you feed your mind only on the places in the world which humans have made ugly? 6

It may not be a newspaper for you (what are those?), but what is your newsfeed, news app, or media habits filling your mind with? It may be a wise and healthy choice to not just examine what is filling your mind, but how much of it is filling your mind. Just as the “joy center” can be nurtured, the opposite is true, too: it can be suppressed.

How about trying some good news every once in a while? John Krasinski could help you out with that. 7

Wright continues, with a challenge:

How are you going to take steps to fill your mind instead with all the things that God has given us to be legitimately pleased with, and to enjoy and celebrate?8

Friends, let’s be intentional about what’s entering our minds — not just now, but beyond this season. This is how we nurture that “joy center.” What steps could you take?

3. Work Gratitude Into Everything

In an article called Learning from Jesus’ Jewish Prayer Life, Lois Tverberg describes a Jewish pattern of prayer that encourages people to gratefully “bless the Lord” at all times and for any occasion:

What was this wonderful style of prayer? It is the habit of “blessing” the Lord. It is an attitude of continual thankfulness toward God that expresses itself through brief prayers that acknowledge him as the source of every good thing. It ultimately comes from the Scriptures, when Moses admonished the Israelites not to forget the Lord [Deuteronomy 8:10-11]. 9

This “blessing” is the Hebrew word barak, which, Tverberg continues, is “a brief ‘prayerlet’ that reminds you to stop and praise God for every good thing.” 10 The prayer — from before the time of Jesus, during the time of Jesus, as He would’ve practiced it, and even to now — begins with this line: “Blessed are you, oh Lord our God, King of the Universe.” For short, it’s often prayed “Blessed is He…” and then you continue with what it is that you’re pausing to thank God for; and it’s meant for any and all occasion. 11

What could that look like for you? Where could you stop and bless the Lord throughout your day? Maybe it’s when…

We see an open parking space:
Blessed is He for this parking space.

(When we thank Him for the “small” things — like an open parking space — we begin to see His hand in our lives more; His hand that was there all along.)

When we have a good meal:
Blessed is He for this food and for this flavor.
When we catch a stunning sunrise:
Blessed is He for this sunrise.
When we notice a bird and hear it sing:
Blessed is He for that bird over there.
When we’re caught up in a beautiful melody:
Blessed is He for good music.
When the rain comes and refreshes the earth:
Blessed is He for the rain.
When we’re with people we love:
Blessed is He for the people in my life.
When we’re enjoying that tree, or that view, or that mountain, or that park:
Blessed is He for nature.
When we drive our cars or ride our bikes:
Blessed is He for this means of transportation.
No matter what, no matter when, no matter where:
Blessed is He…

I think there’s a lot that we can learn from the “Jewishness” of Jesus, here. Again, how could you be more intentional with regularly thanking and blessing God for the good, true, and beautiful throughout your day?

Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 12

The more that we look for things to be grateful for in our lives, the more that we’ll see God’s hand, His beauty, and His presence in our lives — even for something as “small” as that parking space.

John Mark Comer once said, “Work gratitude into the fabric of your being, practice it constantly — all day long!”

You’ve probably seen it to be true: deeply joyful people tend to be deeply grateful people.

So, there we have it:

a celebration ritual,
filling your mind with things to celebrate instead of things to curse,
and being on the lookout for things to be grateful for.

A few things that will help nurture that “joy center” in your brain.

A few invitations to keep in mind that will, overtime, help us to become the kinds of people who are filled with celebration, and joy, as naturally as a tree bears fruit13 — who deeply enjoy life with God, even when it’s hard.



  1. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough all the way.
  2. Jonathan Grant Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age ( Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2015).
  3. Ibid.
  4., emphasis mine.
  5. Philippians 4:4,8. MSG.
  6. Tom Wright Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters – Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon (New Testament for Everyone) (United Kingdom: SPCK, 2011).
  7. You can find the Some Good News YouTube channel at They’re pretty fun!
  8. Wright, Paul for Everyone.
  12. This is from the NIV.
  13. See Luke 6:43-45, and then check out Galatians 5:22-23. Notice that joy is a fruit of the spirit. Joy isn’t something that we necessarily should try really hard to have; it’s a natural result — like a tree that naturally bears fruit — over time, of rooting ourselves deeper and deeper in the soil of life with Jesus (that is, abiding in Him, to use Jesus’ language in John 15:5).


By: Ian Wooldridge
A hero of mine1 once posed a question:

“If you had one word to describe Jesus, what would it be?” 2

Go ahead, think for a moment. What would your word be?

All good words, of course, and all that are descriptive of Jesus.

Want to know what said hero’s one word to describe Jesus was?



If you’re like me upon first hearing that, a gong went off in your soul that reverberates with all kinds of invitation. When we think about Jesus, we usually think of Him in terms of what He did for us — which, of course, is necessary. The Good News of His Gospel changes everything — here and now, and into eternity. Praise God! This is everything. It all begins here for us. Our freedom starts here.

But how often do we think of Him in terms of what He was like?
In terms of the kind of life that we’ve been freed into?

Here’s why this is important. Paul, in Galatians 2 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” 3 In 2 Corinthians 3, he says, “So all of us… can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”4 John, in 1 John 4 says “So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.” 5 In case you’re not catching my drift yet, John, one more time for the win:

“Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” 6

Eugene Peterson approaches this dynamic in this way:

… Jesus as the truth gets far more attention than Jesus as the way. Jesus as the way is the most frequently evaded metaphor among the Christians with whom I have worked for 50 years as a North American pastor. In the text [John 14:6] that Jesus sets before us so clearly and definitively, way comes first. We cannot skip the way of Jesus in our hurry to get to the truth of Jesus as he is worshiped and proclaimed. The way of Jesus is the way that we practice and come to understand the truth of Jesus, living Jesus in our homes and workplaces, with our friends and family. 7

In other words, we tend to settle contently with just believing in the right things about Jesus, as opposed to dedicating our lives in hungry pursuit of living life as He would live it if He were us — aka, the way of Jesus — and fully experiencing what life with Him is meant to be like.

This may be a foreign concept to some of us, but for first-century Jews, it was common knowledge.

A rabbi, or teacher (there were/are many, and this is what Jesus was) had disciples (or students). Once apprenticed as a student under a rabbi, the student would then imitate everything that the rabbi did.

Literally, everything.

Joshua Moss writes, “The disciple-rabbi relationship was an established institution in the time of Jesus, and it ought still to be a part of the believer’s relationship to Jesus now.” 8 Then, commenting on Matthew 10:24-25a, which says, “Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master. Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master,”9 Moss continues:

Here Jesus shed some light on the relationship between disciple and rabbi. The disciple was, by definition, a student, but what kind of student? The above reference indicates that the disciple was like a rabbi’s “apprentice.” Just as an apprentice carpenter would observe, learn from and imitate the master carpenter until he could make tables, plows and other items with equal precision and excellence, the rabbinic disciples were to observe, imitate and study all their rabbi’s ways, that they, too, might become masters of the Word of God, able to handle it with equal skill and compassion. Of course we can never attain the goal of equality with Jesus, but by the same process of continual imitation and study, we should strive toward that ultimate goal of being as much like him as we can be until we see him; then we shall be like him.10

He goes on: “A disciple’s actions were expected to be consonant with his master’s doctrine…We accomplish this by emulating him in all that we undertake.”11

Over time, the more and more that the student would emulate the way — or lifestyle — of the rabbi, the student became more like him. The very character and inner disposition of the rabbi would translate to that of the student’s, and from the inside out, the student would become like the rabbi. As the student continually took on the rabbi’s likeness, they naturally began to live as the rabbi lived, doing as he did.

The student’s way became the Rabbi’s way.

The invitation for us — as disciples, as students of our Lord Jesus — is none other than the very character, power, and disposition of Jesus Himself. The way He walked is meant to be the way we walk. Now, this topic is WAY too broad for one blog post, as people write books that explore this idea.12

But there is an aspect of Jesus’ character that I want to highlight for us in this season; an aspect of His character that we can naturally have — more and more over time — as we walk with Him and disciple to Him: He carried a profound peace and a profound joy that wasn’t tied to circumstances.

Or, as Willard would say, He was relaxed. (This makes me smile every time!)

All of this stemmed from the full-blown trust in and reliance upon the Father that Jesus walked with. This is important to consider in a season like the one we’re in. We can know His peace and His joy, even now, as we walk with Him — no matter how long all things COVID-19 carry on.

So, here we go: is there a rhythm — or a way of doing things, or a practice — from the lifestyle, or the way of our rabbi Jesus that can posture our hearts more and more in trust, and can therefore unleash a kind of peace and joy in our lives that is characteristic of none other than Jesus Himself — a kind of peace and joy that isn’t tied to circumstances?

Yes: Scripture internalization.

Ezekiel 3:3 says, “…eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.”13

Jesus definitely “ate the scroll.” The Scriptures permeated from Jesus, and He would’ve had them internalized in such a way that they were ever on His heart and lips. He even recited Scripture in two crucial moments that bookended His ministry: when facing temptation in the desert, and when on the cross.

I love what Timothy Keller once tweeted:

If Jesus didn’t think he could handle life without knowing the Scripture inside and out, what makes you think you can?

So, as Jesus Himself modeled, the invitation that I want to pose this week is the practice of memorizing and reciting Scripture:

internalizing it,
eating it.

Because of the season we’re in, I think a good place for us to start with this practice would be to start with a passage that is all about God’s perfect capability to meet every one of our needs — and don’t we need to be reminded of that right now?

The Practice: Memorize and Recite Psalm 23 Daily

Psalm 23 begins with a glorious statement about reality for those who follow Jesus and are friends with God:

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing.”14

In God, we have all we need.


I love what Dallas Willard writes in his book about the 23rd Psalm: “We are blessed to live in a world where there is a fully self-sufficient, generous God who wants to provide what is best for us and loves us more than we could ever imagine.”15

This is the space we inhabit, the reality we live in. David knew this, and so can we. The more and more that we keep the truth of this reality in front of our minds and deep in the reservoirs of our hearts, the peace and joy of Jesus will be nurtured and grown as trust in God is nurtured and grown.

The Psalm continues with another glorious statement about reality for those who walk with God:

Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me.16

No matter the valley we could ever find ourselves in — even the one we’re in now— God is with us.

He is with you.

Every moment of every waking hour — even as we sleep — we have the gift of His presence.

Then, the Psalm ends with this beautiful description of what life with God is like:

You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 17

In the Scriptures, to be anointed was a big deal. It meant that you were being chosen and delighted in. Lloyd Ogilvie, former Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, writes:

‘Anointing’ in the Hebrew-Christian tradition means the blessing of the Lord, the healing of the Lord, the appointment of the Lord, and the joy of the Lord. To be anointed by Him is to have Him place His loving hand upon us and fill us with His Spirit. Cup is the portion — literally in Hebrew ‘my life’. God makes our lives overflow. When He anoints us with the oil of His healing, our inner heart is filled with a joy that we cannot contain.18

Each and everyday, God rests His loving hand upon us, and fills us up to overflow with His love, joy, and peace to any and all that we may come into contact with.

How good is that?!

And furthermore, His goodness and love will follow us — the Hebrew radaph, which literally means to be pursued and chased by.

How cool is this?! All that is good about the nature of our loving Father:

His kindness,
I could go on…

All of that and more — from the depths of His beautiful, unsearchable heart — is literally chasing us everyday, pursuing us like the one that left the ninety-nine. 19 Sit in that reality for a moment.

How good is this?!

Now, here’s what I’m saying: let yourself be overcome by this pursuit, each and everyday. Then, we will “dwell in the house of the Lord,” enjoying His friendship, moment-by-moment, “all the days of our lives… forever,” as the natural result.

So, here’s the challenge, or the invitation for you: memorize Psalm 23, and recite it at least one time daily. Pick a time in your day that will work best for you. Ideally, it will be a quiet moment, where you could maybe even open up your hands — palms up to God — in a physical posture of receiving His shepherding care and love.

The more that we internalize the truths and the reality of life with God that this Psalm contains, peace and joy will flow as trust is nurtured. Like Jesus, we can carry these things fully — not fazed by what life brings — because we know Whose hand is upon us, and that He has all we need; we know Whose loving and delighting gaze is fixed on us; we know Whose presence is as near as the very air we breathe.

So, here’s to being relaxed.

Who’s with me?



1. That would be Dallas Willard.


3. Galatians 2:20, NIV, emphasis mine.

4. 2 Corinthians 3:18, NLT, emphasis mine.

5. 1 John 4:17b, NLT, emphasis mine.

6. 1 John 2:6, NLT, emphasis mine.

7. Eugene Peterson The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2007).

8. Joshua Moss,

9. This is from the NLT.

10. Moss,

1.1 Ibid.

12. Check out anything by Dallas Willard on this, but if there was only one book that I could recommend for the rest of my life, it would be John Mark Comer’s The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World (Colorado Springs: WaterBrook, 2019). This book changed my life!

13. This is from the NIV, emphasis mine.

14. This is from the NIV, emphasis mine.

15. Dallas Willard Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2018).

16. Psalm 23:4a, NIV.

17. Psalm 23:5b-6, NIV.


19. See Matthew 18:12.

Nowhere to Be but “Here”

By: Ian Wooldridge 
Jesus and I often meet at a special place everyday.

Now, this place is in my imagination. The scene looks like this:

It’s a cool, serene morning.

Light breeze. You know, that gentle, comfortable springtime kind of breeze.

The dawn has already begun its ascent over the eastern horizon, and the day’s first gleams of light greet us from afar, signaling all kinds of excitement and anticipation for the new beginnings and opportunities that a new day brings.

(Isn’t cool how each new day is a gift in this way?)

Anyways, back to my imagination.

Jesus and I are walking a path that is winding through this spacious, green pasture — almost like a park. Along this trail are some tall, strong trees, and every so often, clusters of delicate and dazzling wildflowers pop out their heads in stunning display, yet still retain their subtle and graceful allure.

It’s quiet — except for birdsong.

I’m walking next to Jesus, and He’s moving so slow.

One, step, at, a, time.

And there’s just so much delight in His face. The way He looks at me makes me feel like I’m the only person in the world. There’s always this deep, affirming, proud, and loving smile that He looks at me with. I know I’m delighted in.

His arm is around me.

Again, we’re moving so slow. Painstakingly slow.

It’s like, C’mon, Jesus.

But then I remember that it’s this same Jesus who watches and listens to the birds; this same Jesus who stops to notice the flowers along the way1

this same Jesus who’s just present.

Sure enough, right on cue:

“Hear the birds! Ah, isn’t it all a miracle? And Ian, these flowers! Look how pleasant, unadorned, and yet stunning they are. Isn’t it all just so good?!”

We’re stopped at this point, and Jesus — with His arm still around me — is looking up at the birds as they coast here and there and sit on branches and sing, and also, at the same time, He’s pointing at the flowers along the ground next to the trail.

“Ian,” He continues, now looking at the bird that landed on the branch just above our heads, “these birds, they don’t worry or concern themselves with how they’re gonna make it, or how they’re gonna get through the day, or if they’re gonna have enough, or what the future may bring. Yet, your heavenly Father takes care of them everyday.”

Then, He shifts His gaze down, and continuing to smile, says,

“and these flowers — look how beautiful they are! They don’t dress themselves up or labor or spin to achieve such radiance. Yet, they’re here one day and then gone the next.”

Slowly, He then turns and looks into my face.

Love, joy, and peace are in His eyes.

I’m undone.

Then, He unconcernedly and as calming as a gentle stream says,

“These birds, and these flowers. The Father takes care of them all — and how much more valuable are you, my child?”

Then, He puts His arm back around me, and we continue — slowly — along the path again, enjoying friendship and delighting in one another.

Cut scene.

This is usually where my little imagination prayer exercise ends.

But the other day, as Jesus and I were continuing along the path in my imagination, He said a few more extra words to me:

“You have nowhere to be but here.”


Here with Him — present to Him and present to the moment.

So much power and potential and life is wrapped up in this otherwise normal word:


I remember opening my eyes after praying, and writing that phrase down in my journal, particularly emphasizing that last word:


After I wrote it down, two distinct dynamics of that word came to my attention, and sunk themselves deep into my heart:

One, that abiding with Jesus in moment-by-moment, interactive friendship is the only place I need to be everyday; and two, from that place, that being present to the moment — with Him — is where the joy is, no matter the circumstance.

The Practice: Being Present to God and to the Moment

Whenever I read the Gospels, I’m always drawn to look for Jesus’ lifestyle cues.

As in:

What are His patterns?
What are things that He usually does, and how does He do them?
How does He seem to go about His days?
Are there any rhythms that He seems to be displaying?
How does He interact with people? With the Father? With everyday life?

Since Jesus is my teacher, and I His student (or disciple), I want to imitate and mirror His way of doing things. Simply put, I want to take on His lifestyle as my own.

Now, what strikes me most when I’m on the lookout for “Jesus lifestyle” cues as I read the Gospels is how radically present Jesus was.

First and foremost, He was present to the Father. He lived in a state of utter dependency on Him, and walked in such a way that kept Him in constant communion, and in constant conversation with His Father. His whole life was postured this way.

We’re invited into the same posture.

In John 15, Jesus says, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” 2

This word “remain” that Jesus uses is one that implies a constant staying with or a constant connection to. Nothing less is Jesus’ invitation to us, daily.

And of course, we have this passage in Luke 10, where Jesus and His disciples stopped in for the night at Martha’s house. She kindly opened up her home to them, so of course, she was busy to and fro with cleaning, prepping, and getting things ready — “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made,” as the passage tells us. All the while, Martha’s sister Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.”

Naturally, Martha gets frustrated and says to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!

Then Jesus says in response, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” 3

Few things are needed — “indeed only one.”

Or, as Jesus says in Matthew 6, right after telling His disciples to consider the birds and the flowers, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 4

One thing is needed: walking with God, remaining with Him, moment-by-moment. Everything else will flow from this place. Or, as Frank Laubach puts it,

I seem to have to make sure of only one thing now, and every other thing “takes
care of itself,” or I prefer to say what is more true, God takes care of all the rest.
My part is to live in continuous inner conversation with God and in
perfect responsiveness to His will. 5

When we recognize and respond to and enjoy the very presence of God in every square inch of life, in every moment of our day, joy is given form.

And this is a joy that isn’t tied to circumstances: we remember that the One who knows our needs is right here with us, and He’ll take care of us.

I love how John Eldredge puts it:

“You don’t have to nail down the course of your life. You get to do something far more exciting: you get to walk with God. 6

So, Jesus was present to His Father.
He was also present to the moment.

It’s really hard to imagine a rushed, frantic, hurried, multi-tasking, frazzled Jesus.

Try it for a moment!

He seemed to live life in the slow lane, with this honed in ability to just notice:

Notice the birds
and the flowers
and people
and what was going on around Him
and what the Father was doing or saying in any given moment.

It’s hard to notice these things with your eyes down.

Because Jesus walked with such a full and radical trust in the Father, He was freed up to be present to the moment, and whatever it would bring. The more we learn to trust that God will take care of us, we’re freed up more to the joy of each moment, too.

And being present doesn’t just open us up to more joy, but it opens us up to more of life and people and what’s going on around us, too — to the opportunity that each moment can bring.

I love what Brennan Manning says:

To be fully present to whoever or whatever is immediately before us is… an act of radical trust — trust that God can be encountered at no other time and in no other place than in the present moment. Being fully present in the now is perhaps the premier skill of the spiritual life. 7

I can get behind that.

When we’re present to the God who is always with us by seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness and His presence — moment-by-moment — we can trust, as Jesus says, that God “will give you everything you need.”

And when we’re present to the moment — to the now— we’re able to actually notice all that is around us:

flowers —

And joy is never far behind what the now can bring.

Like Jesus, let’s be present to the God who is always with us, and let’s be present to the people — not just with our ears, but our eyes and attention spans as well — who are made in His image, who are in front of us everyday.

In this season of uncertainty, yes, there’s valid reason for stress, or worry; there’s justifiable reasoning for these things. I’m not denying that.

But what if we took Jesus’ words about us having everything we need if we just seek Him first really seriously?

Like they were actually a statement about reality?

Let’s just sit with them again, one more time here as we close:

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.

Let’s go for this, friends: walking with God — present to Him, and present to the moment— trusting Him every step of the way, one day at a time, knowing the fullness of His joy. 8

We have nowhere to be but here.



  1. See Matthew 6:25-34. I’d encourage you to block out a good, little window of time to not just read this great passage, but to sit with it as well.
  2. John 15:4-5, NIV.
  3. See Luke 10:38-42, NIV.
  4. Matthew 6:33, NLT.
  5. Excerpt from Letters by a Modern Mystic (Martino Publishing, 2012). Originally published in 1937.
  6., emphasis mine.
  7. This is from his book Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God (New York: HarperCollins, 2000). Emphasis mine.
  8. See John 15:11.

What If You Had a Sabbath Day?

By Ian Wooldridge – April 2, 2020

A couple years ago, I woke up in Jerusalem.

I left my hotel room, went down to the lobby, and then went out for a walk on the streets.

Something felt strange, though.

Everything just felt different. It’s like the air itself was clearer. I couldn’t explain why, or put any words to it — something just felt lighter.

Like everything and everyone just took a really deep breath.

Then someone who I was traveling with said, “It’s Sabbath day for them!”


I remember thinking, “I dig this.”

No one was working,
shops were closed,
noise was at a minimum,
and many of the Jewish people weren’t out on the streets coming and going and doing like they had been the six days before:

now they were just being.

It was as if the universe hit pause, and I was able to see first-hand how the Jewish people practiced the art of the Sabbath Day. I had been introduced to Sabbath before my time in Israel, but there was just something so compelling about being in Jerusalem on the Sabbath that I left with a new vision for how I could take up this invitation, woven into the oldest story ever told.

The story goes like this:

In the beginning, God worked.
Then, He rested.

Genesis 2 says it this way:

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”1

When God chose to rest, it’s not like He needed sleep because of how tired He was; or that He needed to take a break because He was just so worn out from universe-making.

It’s less an I need a mattress ASAP kind of rest and more a
stopping to celebrate,
to delight in,
to “sit-back-and-relax” and enjoy the good work I’ve done
kind of rest.

The kind of rest we read about in Genesis 2 is of an entirely different kind than society or culture may define it:

Genesis 2 paints the picture of Sabbath rest.

The word rested in that Genesis 2 passage is the Hebrew word shabbat, where we get the word Sabbath. The word simply means to cease, to stop, and to rest. It can also mean to celebrate or to delight in.

When God chose to rest, we’re given a picture of how work and rest go hand in hand with each other. We don’t work to the point of exhaustion just to make it to the weekend where we can lay on the couch and watch Netflix all day and then do it all again. That’s not exactly the kind rest that the Sabbath rest of Genesis 2 is getting at.

The Sabbath rest picture of Genesis 2 is a stopping to celebrate kind of rest:
God rested and celebrated the work that He had finished.

So, before we look at this week’s practice, I want to make a disclaimer:

I am not prescribing that Sabbath is a once-per-week, 24-hour day that you must observe. I’m not after legalism, for that’s not what life with Jesus is about. In Jesus, the spirit of Sabbath is something that we walk with all week long — it’s a moment-by-moment, interactive, abiding friendship. But, I will say this: we can get so caught up in our doing that we never actually are being with Jesus. We have all the intention in the world for carving out time to follow Jesus — we just never really get around to it.

So, I’m going to propose a question to you — an idea that may sound crazy.

Take it or leave it, all invitation.

Buckle up, here we go:

What if you had a Sabbath Day?

I know. You’re like…. what?

In this blog, I simply want to propose the wisdom that my wife and I — and so many others — have found in taking an actual once-per-week, 24-hour Sabbath Day. Again, that’s not prescriptive; but just follow me here for a bit.

Having a regular Sabbath Day may not be a “law” that we have to follow; but it stands as wisdom in a world where bigger, faster, more! is the water we swim in — where hurry and overload is accepted as “normal.” So, I just simply want to propose an idea to you — an invitation; that’s all.

In Exodus 16, Moses records, “They must realize that the Sabbath is the LORD’s gift to you.” 2

Whether it’s practiced in a full, 24-hour day or not, the concept of Sabbath is a gift: a way of doing life that prioritizes being with God over doing for Him — for our doing will always flow best from our being. 3

So, before we dive in, a heart-to-heart real quick: I’ve tasted and seen how abundantly good a once-per-week, 24-hour Sabbath Day has been to not propose the idea; I’ve tasted and seen how having a Sabbath Day has driven me further into love for and delight in God — in a way that frames how I approach the other six days of the week — to not propose the idea. Again, it’s all invitation. But, this practice has changed my life. It could change yours, too.

The Practice: A Sabbath Day

Over the course of the next several weeks, as events are being cancelled and as we’re told to stay home, most of us will be finding ourselves with some unforeseen down time and margin.

Embrace this.

So much of what otherwise was filling our schedules has been at least temporarily removed or put on halt. What an opportunity to evaluate if our current (before COVID-19) schedule gave us life, or took from it. So, what better time to run our schedules by this litmus test, and ask:

Does my schedule reflect my deepest passions and desires?
Do I keep my calendar or does it keep me?
Am I living reactively to my schedule or am I proactively co-creating my life with God?

Now, this is where the practice of a Sabbath Day could be a breakthrough for us. So, really quickly, what could that look like? Again, the Hebrew word shabbat that we get the English rested from in Genesis 2 means to stop, to cease, to rest, and also can be translated as to celebrate or to delight in.

So, right here, we’re given the two primary foundations for which to build this special, set-apart day upon:

Rest and worship.

So, on our Sabbath Day, we run everything we do through this filter: is this restful and worshipful? If the answer is yes, we do a lot of that. If the answer is no, there’s other times for that. And this will look differently for everyone. Whatever is restful and worshipful for you — if it draws you deeper into rest, and deeper into enjoyment of God,

do a lot of that on your Sabbath Day. 4

Now, while a Sabbath Day may look different from one person to the next, there are some things that a Sabbath Day is not. As alluded to earlier, society has its own working definition of “rest” that stands in contrast with what makes a Sabbath Day so awesome:

First, a Sabbath Day is not the same thing as a day off. For example, when my wife and I have our Sabbath Day, it’s not just a pause from the work we get paid for; it’s a pause from other work, too — a day when groceries, errands, the budget, etc… are already all taken care of. It’s a day when we don’t even do that kind of work — and I love going to get groceries!

Second, as alluded to earlier, society gives us a working definition of “rest” that looks a lot like escapism. The kind of rest we practice on our Sabbath Day isn’t meant to be a time where we escape from life in God’s good world by turning to a culturally acceptable vice of choice; it’s when we celebrate and delight in our life with God. So, the invitation of a Sabbath Day is to fill your soul with things that nurture joy and delight in God and His world.

Also, there’s another reality to Sabbath that’s just too good to miss.

When Moses is giving the Sabbath command in the Deuteronomy account, he says: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”5

I love my rhythm of Sabbathing every week because it’s a day when I remember that we’re not in Egypt in anymore.

We’re not what we produce
or achieve
or get done.
Sabbath Day is when I remind myself again that I work from love, not for it.
It’s when I remember that the first, truest thing about me is that I’m loved and delighted in by a good Father. 6

And let me tell you: I need to be reminded of that regularly.

As we close, here’s the cool thing about having a Sabbath Day:

It’s like a cup that overflows into the other six days of the week.

As Walter Brueggemann writes, “People who keep Sabbath live all seven days differently.”7

Stay with me here, because this is pretty awesome.

In the Genesis 2 passage — when it says that God blessed the Sabbath day — that word blessed is the Hebrew word barak. In Genesis 1, this special word is used a couple times: when God blesses the animal kingdom and humanity, and tells them to “be fruitful and increase in number.”8 And then, we get to Genesis 2 where the word barak is used again.9

That’s right: it’s used for a daySabbath day.10

A Sabbath Day has a life-creating essence to it. It spills life into the other six days and we find that the rest of the week is filled with more

unhurried delight
and the ability to be radically present to the moment.
We find that Sabbath Day life pours over
into our marriages,
our relationships,
and yes, our work.

By taking up this six days on, one day off rhythm, we discover too that our days begin to take on sacred, life-giving rhythms of their own:

We learn when the best time is for us to rise in the morning,
or when to turn email off for the day
or put the phone down for the day
or when to take a break
or when to let work stay at work because work will always be there
and when to wind down for a deep, restoring sleep.
Now, as we end, remember: Sabbath is more than a day. Sabbath is a reality we live in if we follow Jesus — we carry the Sabbath spirit all day, all week long as we follow Him.
Jesus says in Matthew 11 that His “yoke is easy” and His “burden is light” and that in Him we “find rest” for our souls.11

But, if you’re like the rest of us, we often get so lost in our doing that our lives aren’t actually ever being with Him at all. We tend to just buzz around, only skimming the surface of the depth of life we actually have in Him. Having a Sabbath Day has been the biggest game-changer for helping me descend into those depths. I’ve tasted and seen the fruit that I can’t not propose the idea.

Again, it’s all invitation — you don’t have to do any of this. No worries!

Either way, may you realize that His easy yoke and light burden isn’t just an apt metaphor or pretty language— may you taste and see it as the very moment-by-moment, concrete level reality of your life.

A regular Sabbath Day helps me know life like this.
It could be a game-changer for you, too.


  1. Genesis 2:1-3, NIV.
  2. Exodus 16:29a, NLT, emphasis mine.
  3. See Luke 10:38-42. Thomas Merton once commented on this passage, saying that our work for God will always be best as an outpouring from our first being with In essence, we are to carry the fruit from our contemplation (our being with God) out into the world as our doing for God. I agree! After all, it’s Merton. Legend.
  4. This filter to run your Sabbath Day activities through wasfirst brought to my attention by John Mark Comer in his book Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human (Grand Rapids, Zondervan: 2015). It’s been super helpful ever since.
  5. Deuteronomy 5:15, NIV, emphasis mine.
  6. See 1 John 4:19; also see Matthew 3:16. I love this Matthew passage because the Father declares love, delight, and affirmation over the Son before He begins His ministry or “achieves” anything.
  7. Walter Brueggemann, Sabbath as Resistance (Westminster John Knox Press: 2014).
  8. Genesis 1:23, 28, NIV.
  9. Genesis 2:3.
  10. This reality of the blessed nature of the Sabbath Day was first brought to my attention, again, by John Mark Comer in his book Garden City. You really just need to go read that book!
  11. See Matthew 11:28-30.

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