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Daily Devotional head

This month we are pleased to share quotes from A HEART EXPOSED: Talking to God with Nothing to Hide by Steven James, an original collection of image-rich prayers that reflect a heart laid bare before God and invites you to speak to God with nothing to hide. A HEART EXPOSED is now available in stores.

Today's Devotional:

here’s the irony: my obsession
with being my own person is what divorces me
from becoming my true, authentic self.

O King,
Let me weep and dance before your throne
as undignified and unashamed as David,
with a naked heart,
a wild tongue,
scarred emotions,
and earthy desires.

Break the chains of my respectable tidy language,
set loose my awe and my squirrelly playfulness.

I need the freedom and humility
to cry in your arms,
and the courage
to shout your praise.

Previous Devotionals:

September 1

here’s the irony: my obsession
with being my own person is what divorces me
from becoming my true, authentic self.

O King,
Let me weep and dance before your throne
as undignified and unashamed as David,
with a naked heart,
a wild tongue,
scarred emotions,
and earthy desires.

Break the chains of my respectable tidy language,
set loose my awe and my squirrelly playfulness.

I need the freedom and humility
to cry in your arms,
and the courage
to shout your praise.

September 2

sometimes i need answers from you
and sometimes i need mysteries.
why do you always seem to give me
the one i’m not asking for?

O God and Spirit of Eternity,
I came to you for comfort and guidance
and you told me tales
of tombs and blood.

I was hoping for a little encouragement here,
a little reassurance that I was being
good enough and trying hard enough;
but instead, you talked about
slaughtered lambs and unfaithful brides
and serpents and gardens of choices and tears.

One of us has things a little mixed up here.
That much is for sure.

September 3

as famished as i am,
as hard as i search,
i rarely find
the right kind of food.

Shepherd,
the wolf whispered to me
and I listened.
He led me toward the cliffs
where I’ve seen so many
other sheep follow him before.

You left the ninety-nine and came searching for me,
even though I left the pasture willingly.

I hear your voice and I look at the wolf’s
comforting grin.

And I’m torn about what to do.

September 4

fill the silence of my heart
with words that disturb me
enough to finally
bring me
peace.

To the one who speaks from the storm.

When you confronted Job
and showed him his smallness,
he placed his hand over his mouth.

What more is there to say?
You are God.
I am me.
Silence is the only response
eloquent enough to acknowledge
who you truly are.

September 5

Watch over us who are still in our dangerous voyage.

--a prayer of St. Augustine

Lord,
the river ripples before me,
promising new shores.

I feel the pull of the current,
the welcoming immersion,
but I’ve been clinging
to this rotting stump
for as long as I can remember,
and now I can’t seem to let go.

Be gracious enough
to tug me beneath the surface.

September 6

if God cannot be found in laughter
he cannot be found at all.

O Wind of Truth,
O Breath of Comfort,
O Spirit of the Living God,
you have sought me through
time and space;
captured, enraptured me with your love.
Now the earth chains lay heavy
around my feet.
What else can I do?
I blossom at your touch.

September 7

you are the wonder of spirit and flesh,
the story of an infant divine.
for a God without blood could never enmesh
a soul as blemished as mine.

To you.

Majesty,
Mystery,
Love and Desire,
Terror through History,
Wonder and Fire.
Grace for the outcast,
balm for my sorrow,
dreams wrapped in heartache,
hope for tomorrow.

Listening,
following
voice in the night,
Poet of Wonder,
Call to Delight.
Peace for the prodigal,
homecoming feast,
wedding for prostitutes,
love for the least.

Lamb of Eternity
Carpenter Bard,
Rebel to All Who Are
Trying too Hard.
Revealer of hypocrites,
peace to the sea,
madman from Nazareth,
brother to me.

September 8

“deliver us from evil”
more often than not
means “deliver us
from me.”

To the source of joy.

Every man who sleeps in the arms
of a prostitute tells himself
that he is special in her eyes,
when all he is to her
is a paycheck.

I’m also an expert at using other people
until we’re both used up.

I confess my self-centeredness to you.

Have mercy on me.

September 9

i need you to help me
position the knife
as i commit ego suicide.
again.

To the one who provides for my needs and inspires
my desires.

They say, “Discover your own truth.”
You say, “I am the truth.”

They say, “Find your way in the world.”
You say, “I am the way.”

They say, “Follow your dreams.”
You say, “Follow me.”

They say, “Live your own life.”
You say, “I am the life.”

They say, “Find yourself.”
You say, “Come unto me.”

It is astonishing how much
depends on which voice
I choose to listen to.

September 10

Turn to me and have mercy on me,
for I am alone and in deep distress.

--A prayer
of King David (Psalm 25:16,
New Living Translation)

Adopter of Orphaned Souls,
I want to close my shades
shut out the day
retire into myself
and hide in the secret corner of my shame.
Where else can I go?

Dawn retreats out of reach
and topples off the edge of the world,
then grief opens its mouth and I step inside
and slide willingly down its throat.

Where are you when I need you so much?
Where have you gone?

I cry out to you, hoping you’ll
find me and take me home,
hoping I won’t have to wait
forever to see you smile again.

September 11

Wherever the Holy Spirit is present,
people of clay are changed into people of gold.

--from Homilies on the Acts
of the Apostles 4
by Chrysostom

To you.

I’m used to poking around
the rubble of my crumbled dreams,
but now I see that you’re the one
smashing them to pieces.

You’re the one holding the sledgehammer
in one hand
and an invitation to the palace,
in the other.

September 12

how can i avoid despair
when i dare to peek at the truth
without the veil of
grace?

To the invisible one.

People say you’re beautiful,
and I imagine your beauty is unsurpassed,
stunning and glorious and sweet.

But still,
I’ve never seen your face,
only glimpsed your reflection
in clouds and stars and
infants’ eyes.

With beauty beyond my grasp,
let me be content
experiencing your presence
rather than seeing your face.

Let that be enough,
for now,
until I have heaven-born eyes.

September 13

left to myself
i drift away from you
and toward
myself.

Mysterious and Triune God,
I create images of you in my mind,
but my vision of you is blurred
by my perception of myself.
I have a heart tainted with selfishness
so I see you through the lens
of what I want you to be
and not the lens of who you really are.

Unclutter my faith.

Give me a broader,
truer understanding of who you are,
even if it will be more frightening
and more comforting
than I can stand.

September 14

my heart is not as daring as your
desire, and so i shrink back again
into the quiet twilight
of hesitating faith,
where i slowly fade to black.

Promised Savior,
you love to whisper through the stillness,
but I’ve noticed that you’re also pretty good
at shouting to me in the storm.

Following you isn’t that strenuous,
as long as you don’t ask me to step out of the boat.

But you do.

September 15

cramped as i am in this
broken womb-world;
i once again begin
squeezing through the birth canal
toward the thing i fear most ---
life.

Redeemer,
I look into the face of
the grinning skull that I will one day
be reduced to, and in my empty
eye sockets I see the
dim reflection of
today.

With every step I take,
remind me that death
is on my heels,
but that you are in my heart.

September 16

we are sky children
lost in the valley,
looking for the trail
back up the hill.

To the one holding the key.

Somehow I’ve managed to convince myself
that all of these chains I drape over my soul
are really necklaces to happiness.

It’s hard to have perspective
when the prison feels so much
like home.

September 17

you make me more and more uncomfortable
until i’m finally ready
for your kind of comfort.

Mighty God,
the harder I try to hold you down,
the more you wrestle from my grip.

You’re such an elusive lover.
You don’t try to tame or be tamed,
control or be controlled ---
it’s as if you only want to set me free
so that I can choose on my own
to leave you or to love you.

What kind of love is that?
A love that actually trusts the beloved?

Hold me again.

I’ll stop trying to tame you,
trying to control you,
and instead I’ll let you teach me
the truth about the liberty of love.

September 18

Lord of the broken oak branch,
Lord of the avenues,
Tweak and restartle me, guide my hand.

--from NEGATIVE BLUE by Charles Wright

To the Nazarene.

I dance through life.
I have my favorite partners:
now delight, now regret, now relief,
now despair.

But this time, as the music stirs,
I see your hand outstretched,
inviting me into the new song,
the glory song.

How long will you be willing to stand
on the dance floor
waiting for my answer?

September 19

Eternity is a seed of fire whose sudden roots
break barriers that keep my heart from being an abyss.

--from DIALOGUES WITH SILENCEby Thomas Merton

Lord,
make my sin as loathsome to me as it is to you,
and drown my ambition
in the sea of your will.

September 20

you are the great puzzle-solver
who is constantly working
to piece me together.

Eternal One,
you shaped my soil-skin
moist beneath your fingers.
Now I feel your breath pass across
my graveyard heart.

The early days of creation
were only a prelude to what
you do for formless, vagabond
souls like me,
when your Spirit comes
to hover,
and create.

September 21

the crust around my heart
begs for the hammer.
be gracious to me;
swing harder this time.

Creator of Curiosity and Wonder,
you call for us to be celebrators of all that is good,
admirers of all that is just,
proclaimers of all that is true,
pursuers of all that is pure,
participants in the great mystery,
citizens of the great kingdom,
servants of the gracious, loving,
terrifying, Prince of Peace.

Being fully human looks different
than I expected.

September 22

the only pathway
that is not a mirage
is faith.

Dearest Jesus,
all too often I give you a small part of my life
and then set about convincing myself that
what I’ve given you is enough.

I could use some more of your presence,
some more of your mystery,
rising out of the water around me,
glistening in the sun, splashing wildly
through my life.

Sometimes I turn to food or sex or work
to
fill my soul.
Why do I expect the visible to heal the invisible?

A soul this damaged can only be bandaged
by your hand.

September 23

i’m not sure whether to
ask you to soften the path
or to cover it with
sharper thorns
so that i’ll finally leave it
and follow
yours.

God,
when I first started this journey
I expected the rain of your
presence to be gentle,
but when I stepped into the storm
I found that every drop was both freezing
and somehow
laced with fire.

Baptisms don’t come easily
to wayward souls
like mine.

September 24

if the wise touch you with their minds,
and the clowns with their smiles;
then make me the biggest fool
in the carnival of your kingdom.

King of the Path,
Lamb of the Cross,
Sacrifice of Heaven,
Prince of Fools,
Wonder of the Stars,
Weaver of Eternity,
remind me how
wonderfully,
awkwardly,
frighteningly,
gloriously
I am made,
and how alive
and in love with you
I can actually be.

September 25

time has become my shackle
rather than my walking stick.
free me so that we might walk together
toward dawn.

To the one who is the way.

Though I’m on my way to heaven,
I’m still traveling through the land of lostness.
You called it the valley of the shadow of death,
which means it is also the pathway
to the light of life.

The tendrils of darkness tug at my feet,
but I turn my eyes to the
promised land.

And take another step through the valley of today.

September 26

o poet king,
forgive me for bothering
you earlier today.
i didn’t know my life stanza
was already written on your hand.

To the one who deserves my allegiance.

Here’s something that’s hard for me to remember:
the God who is,
is.
And that means you’re right here, right now.

And you were there in sixth grade
when I got into that fight,
and in eighth grade
when those kids were making fun of me,
and in high school
when I felt so lonely and lost, like I didn’t fit in.
All along, you were there.

All along.

Remind me that I’m never alone,
and that, because of your glorious return,
I never will be.

September 27

living, breathing deity,
immigrant from heaven,
you spin the future on your finger,
but when you cry, you show
just how human
you really are.

To the only one who sees the world as it is.

I ask for clarity;
and if not clarity, purity,
and if not purity, forgiveness ---
not because I am so blind,
but because I’m so unwilling to open my eyes.

Where I’ve strayed, draw me in,
where I’ve stumbled, lift me up,
and where I’ve lifted myself,
knock me down
until I see your world
and your love
with clear, unclouded eyes.

September 28

the great mystery:
you chose to step into our story.

the great tragedy:
we killed you for caring so much.

Comforter,
reach down with your mercy,
the night stretches before me,
the pain is so deep.

I feel the scars of my past
spreading across today.
Wrap me in your might,
pierce me with your glory,
startle me with your
unsettling love.

September 29

if i can’t find the strength to
shout my hallelujah,
maybe someday i’ll find the courage
to whisper it.

To the God who pursues.

Our world is groaning around me
and my heart groans with it.

So many tears and questions,
so many stillborn children,
so much cancer and divorce,
so many orphans and so much poverty.
Closing my eyes doesn’t make
the wailing stop;
doesn’t turn the grief into joy.

I hear your Spirit groaning with me,
taking the cry of my heart to your throne.
Hear our groans.
Have mercy on us.

September 30

i tend to want to make my relationship with you a
democracy
when in reality it’s a dictatorship
in which you allow me to act as i please.

Lord,
I regret many things,
but I do not regret this moment with you.
For it will have been a lifetime well-spent
to have lived this single moment
aware of your presence.