December 30, 2011

God has visited His people. Now what?!

“Christmas morning” came and went. The baby grew to become a man. He was about His Father’s business and people began to glimpse what the Kingdom of God was about…

Some were elated—a widow’s son is raised from the dead and the people proclaim: “God has visited His people!” (Lk.7:16).

Others were confused—John the Baptist, imprisoned, asks: “Are you the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Lk.7:20). 

And yet others are infuriated—the Pharisees and experts in the law see their whole way of life threatened with extinction. Who does this man think He is?!

Already the spokesmen for this Kingdom are being rounded up and put to death… These were radical times. The old wine and its skins were not sufficient to hold this new wine. Jesus came asking pointed questions of those who thought themselves closest to God and most knowledgeable in His Word.

Everyone had questions, but His were the most penetrating of all…

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Lk.6:41

"Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?” Lk.6:46

Good questions. Easier to answer when they’re addressed to someone else! So I sit here looking at the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They were the Bible experts of their day. True, they only had the Old Testament, and were particularly adept at interpreting the books of the Law. They had analyzed and dissected and critiqued the Law boiling down its inconceivable standard into minute external details one might attempt to keep…They had created a standard of righteousness all their own. When John the Baptist came to help them get ready for a paradigm shift, calling them to repentance from dead works, they would have none of it. They knew they were right; why repent?! And so Luke says, they “rejected the purpose of God for themselves not having been baptized by [John].” (Lk.7:30)

OK, so now here comes Jesus proclaiming the GOOD NEWS of the Kingdom of God and what is their reaction? To the Pharisee, even the Good News is heresy! In their careful study and dissection of the Law, they missed the very point of it. It was to be for them a tutor to bring them to Christ (Gal.3:24), a standard so high they would repent in dust and ashes of their inability to keep it and be ready to welcome a Saviour with a plan of redemption!! But no, they missed Him. They judged Him, condemned Him, and sentenced Him to death. They were not ready to part with their own plan of ‘righteousness’ or to debate its adequacy. They were far too busy examining the dust specks in others’ eyes to see how blinded they were by the log booms in their own!!

And here comes Jesus with His pointed questions…


Do I know anyone remotely like those Bible experts who might benefit from a reminder of the truly Good News Jesus was bringing?!

‘For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."’ Rom.1:17. Without a lifestyle of repentance and the necessary log removal there is no seeing to help a brother with his ‘speck’. Without cultivating an honest and good heart, there is no soil to grow a healthy crop from the seed of the Word (no matter how much of it I know!) (Lk.8:15)

I am reminded of these things today as one gifted with the eye of a critic, and involved in reading and reviewing works of others…Always good to come back to the heart of the Gospel—a God who loved and died and gave the gift of righteousness not based on merit—and who patiently continues to extend mercy, not based on merit, and who calls me to critique with an eye to restoration, not condemnation. He is after all, the One who came to seek and to save the lost, not denounce and condemn them to the death they deserved! This Jesus who grew from the baby in Bethlehem brought a profoundly different way of living, and it began with hard questions…

I commend to you a fresh reading of Luke’s Gospel and the questions of Jesus as we all commence a new year of seeking first ‘the Kingdom of God and His righteousness’ (Mt.6:33).


December 22, 2011

Losses and Gains

I will keep it short today, these ponderings, for the sake of the reader who, like me, finds the ‘to do’ list growing and has yet one more trip to make to the store for ‘stocking stuffers’ and last essentials…while the days grow fewer for ‘getting ready’ to celebrate Jesus appearance on the earthly scene.

I found the Christmas story in an unexpected place this morning—reading the book of Philippians.  This is the time of year when letters come re-capping the losses and gains and accomplishments of another year.  It’s always a little bit of a challenge for me not to begin comparing our story with others’ and feeling either ashamed or envious in response.  Of course there are always other letters that are full of sadness and hard things.   These remind me how good we have it.  But always, there’s this tendency to compare, to turn others interests into self-interest…

This morning I was reminded of my calling, of Jesus’ attitude, and Paul’s.  The verses themselves are very familiar, but the attitude a rather rare one.  And read in the flow of a whole letter, and with the backdrop of nativity scenes and carols playing, they are freshly poignant: 

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,  being born in the likeness of menAnd being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

There He is, the baby in the manger—not threatened that He will lose His identity, or be overlooked or thought lowly—committed to the interests of others, ME in fact.  Willing to lay aside all His divine prerogatives to take on the identity of a human being and a lowly one at that, and ultimately to submit Himself to shameful mistreatment and finally death at the hands of His enemies.  He was looking out for the interests of others, ready to die for their good.  And in this context comes that verse: so now “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” 

These annual letters are ‘God stories’.  He is working out His good pleasure in each of us and invites us to join in by learning Jesus’ attitude.  It’s not so much about pedestal building or maintaining as it is of giving ourselves in the best interests of others, losing ourselves in the service of our Father….

The book of Philippians is replete with this theme.  “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  Paul had all manner of accomplishments to tout but he recognized they were liabilities if he put his confidence in them.  He consigned them to the compost pile in favor of finding his identity in Christ’s righteousness and laying down his own life for others’ benefit.

And that is the Christmas story, lived out again in the life of each of us as we choose to be about our Father’s business.  I commend to you a fresh read-through of Philippians this Christmas time.  And I close with Paul’s blessing, as my Christmas wish for all of us. 

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”





December 16, 2011

And glory shone around!


The music, the light, the glory of the Christmas season—I love it! Snatches of lyrics trot through my mind in endless succession like that illusive horse pulling the ‘one-horse open sleigh’ --a song that threatens to undue me if I hear it one more time!! I’ve never taken such a sleigh ride and I suspect I would be freezing and opt to stay home and have hot chocolate or perhaps linger under the mistletoe…while the chestnuts roast on our open fire. Ha! that’s another set of lyrics I’ve had more than enough of for a whole year! But while ‘Silver Bells’ and ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ and such modern ‘classics’ vie for airtime, it’s the old ones that hold the glory of the Season.

They tell the story of what happens when God appears on the human landscape— to ”certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay”-- when a long dark night is punctuated by stunning lights and angels and an earth-shattering birth announcement!  The glory of the Lord shone around them and their world would never be the same.  They hightailed it to Bethlehem to find this living, breathing, swaddled-in-cloth Savior and spread the word.  “Veiled in flesh, the God-head see.  Hail the Incarnate Deity.  Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel!”

If the folks asleep in Bethlehem that night ‘sprang from their beds to see what was the matter’ the news went way beyond a reindeer-drawn sleigh driven by Saint Nick out doing last-minute parcel deliveries.

“Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee!!!”  Age-old prophecies were being fulfilled this night on their very doorsteps, if only they had ears to hear the news. “For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen  upon thee.” (Is.60:1,2)

But ‘how silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given…’ (O Little Town of Bethlehem)  How many local residents even knew what was happening that night?  It would be years before Jesus’ glory would begin to be unveiled…and His neighbors were the ones most likely not to recognize it.  And as for the rest of the world?  Only a few ‘wisemen came from country far; to seek for a king was their intent, and to follow the star wherever it went’(The First Noel)….It would be years yet before the significance of this night’s glory would be flung to the far reaches of the world.

And who would believe it?  Isaiah predicted the whole situation: “Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.” (Is.53)

Here, the glory of the Lord was all wrapped up in swaddling clothes…then in a carpenter’s apparel, then in the garb of an itinerate teacher…then hanging naked on a wooden cross…who would see it?  It was announced with great fanfare and drama in the beginning: “GLO………RI-A   IN EXCELSIS DEO…” by ‘angels from the realms of glory, wing[ing] their flight o’er all the earth’ [Angels from the Realms of Glory] but what of the glory now?  ”how silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given.  So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven, no ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in” [O Little Town of Bethlehem]…inviting all who would follow:

“I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (Jn.8:12)

This God-man came into the world with his glory largely veiled, or I suppose we’d all be dead.  After all, the shepherds were left quaking and ‘sore afraid’  at the mere announcement of his coming when ‘the glory of the Lord shone around them’. (Lk.2)  No, the glory of Jesus was of a more subtle sort.  John described it this way: ”And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jn.1:14  Before His coming there was the Law, impossible to keep, bringing condemnation, showing the gulf that existed between man and God.  But with Jesus, there came grace, God’s unlikely, untimely, unbidden favor---peace on earth and good-will toward man.  A perfect melding of grace and truth was the glory Jesus shone with ‘and from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.’ (Jn.1:16)

And every Christmas we again string lights and light candles and listen to music that celebrates the glorious reality that “God with man is now residing.”  Where is He?  Lo, the star over Bethlehem has given way to a Body of Christ-followers who ‘shine like stars in the universe.’  It is in the likes of you and me ‘in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation’ (Phil..2:15) that His glory is now seen, in these earthen vessels shining with a glory not their own, revealing the Light of the World!  And as we shine, wise men are drawn to come and see this great King who has been born to us--the Light of the World and the Glory we long to see.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2Cor.3:18

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.  Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”.Jn.17:22-24


May His glory shine in and around you this Christmas season!

---and some final thoughts on this great glory---

“…the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2Cor4:4

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” II Cor 4:17,18

December 9, 2011

Got Containers?


She was destitute, about to lose her own children to bondage…She didn’t know what to do but she knew who to turn to—the man of God would help. This widow was at her own wit’s end but not at the end of her resources. Elisha’s help started with the question: “Tell me what you have in the house?” (II Kings 4) It wasn’t much but there was a bit of oil tucked away in a jar. It was all that she had, and it was enough--that oil.

But first the gathering of jars, the getting out of her house and her helpless inactivity and seeking her neighbors’ favor: “May I borrow an empty jar, please?” She recruited her sons to the task of scouring the neighborhood in search of recyclables… the more the merrier. And then, as per Elisha’s instructions, she closed the door, pulled the curtains I suppose, and with just her two sons watching began to pour her ‘little’ treasure into the neighbor’s jars... And it just kept coming, filling the jars as fast as her sons could hand them to her till there was nothing left to contain the oil. Then it stopped. There was all she’d need to pay her debts and live happily ever after in freedom with her two sons at her side. All she had was all she’d ever need.

What do I have in my ‘house’, all tucked away and dwindling? As God’s own child indwelt by His very Spirit, all He’s given is all I’ll ever need for life and godliness (II Pet. 1:3). His Spirit residing within may seem a small thing but if I’ll open my doors to opportunity, if I’ll start looking for containers and quietly begin pouring my ‘little’ store into them it will be like streams of living water flowing from me to fill whatever containers I’ve gathered. Question: Am I collecting containers?

Now, it took a bit of faith on the widow’s part to just go ahead and follow those simple instructions. There’s no record of skepticism, or of her making excuses that her little store of oil could never amount to much. We don’t see her staring into the depths of her jar waiting to see the supply grow. She just collects a bunch of ‘vessels’ (any sort will do) and following instructions, starts pouring. What if she hadn’t gone scavenging for those jars or had settled for just what she had kicking around the house? She’d have missed the abundance of the supply God intended to give. He intended for her and her children to be debt-free and supplied for life! But the oil only flowed till the available jars were filled and then it stopped.  “According to your faith be it unto you.”Mt.9:29

Without the pouring out, the supply remained a dwindling bit. But given empty vessels to fill, there proved to be plenty. Why would I expect to realize the power of the Spirit in my life without seeking out empty receptacles and starting to pour out my little trickle? It would be like plugging in a lamp but forgetting the lightbulb and the lightswitch! The electricity is there all right, but the circuit is incomplete and the power lies dormant. Screw in a light bulb and flip the switch and ‘Voila’, radiance!

Jesus’ own illustration is of a vine and branches. The sap flows as we stay connected to the vine. As we absorb His life and listen to His Words, we will know His heart. But it will be in the ASKING that the fruitfulness will come: Ask whatever you wish [when you’re immersed in My Word] and it will be done for you. By this my Father Is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (Jn.15:7,8) The proof is in the (fruit) pudding as they say. The actual disciple is the one who follows the instructions—abide in me, let what I say abide in you, and ask!

Ask for empty containers. Where can this oil be poured? Where’s an empty spot I can fill? What do you want to do in the lives of people I touch with this drop of oil I have? I may not have much, but I can go into my prayer closet and begin to pour…and I can take what comes of it and follow-through. James puts it bluntly, “You do not have because you do not ask.” He goes on to add, you don’t get what you ask for because you ask for selfish reasons! (James 4:2,3) John says much the same thing: “And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”  That’s the part I’ve memorized, but what he says next clarifies that our asking isn’t about us, it’s about God working through us to bless another. The very next verse says: “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life… (I John 5:15,16)

As believers, boundless power is at our disposal, the power that raised Jesus from the dead! (see Eph.1:19,20)  But it’s tucked away like a little store of oil in ‘jars of clay’ to insure that the neighbors know this power belongs to God and not to us! (IICor.4:7) We may not look like much but watch out world, when we start looking for empty containers to fill… because all we have is all we’ll ever need when God is in it!

God bless you in your scavenging of containers; may He pour you out a blessing that cannot be contained!


“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” Matt.6:6

Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. Jn.16:25


**Read the  widow’s story for yourself in II Kings 4 at **

[I’m indebted to Andrew Peterson and his lyrical song: “All You’ll Ever Need” for the seed thought behind this blog, though I’ve interpreted his idea in a slightly different light…]

December 2, 2011

The Gospel Distilled


It’s here again, the advent season.  Our Christmas boxes came out of hiding this morning, whether I was ready or not to decorate.  It’s time.  Truth is I wasn’t ready.  The pre-season-clutter-removal hadn’t happened over the weekend and now geometry and physics were demanding a tutor’s attention…and my face hurt with an untimely sinus infection…No, I didn’t feel like decorating even if the magic day had arrived, and even less like dissecting polygons or wrapping my mind around how simple machines work.  I felt like ‘losing it’ over a shuffle of misplaced school papers,  a discouraged student, and a gray day.   And so I did.  I vented all my ‘righteous’ wrath, with all the reasonable justifications for doing so.  Only made my teeth ache worse and my student sag further.

Then I snatched some leftovers for a subdued lunch and breather…

Of course, it was quite evident that I was in no position either to compose a blog or to help a struggling pupil write an essay discussing principles governing Christian conduct!  Oh brother.  Why did this come due today?  But there it was, this very topic I’ve been pondering, the simplicity of the Gospel.  Here stood an opportunity to give evidence to the power of the Gospel—’Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief’.
(I Tim.1:15) And always, always He stands ready to forgive us our sins and put them as far away as the east is from the west.  Not only that, He stands waiting to dispense ‘grace in time of need’.  Now that sounds really trite I know, but what did I need?  I needed grace--to admit my wrong-headedness, to breathe a prayer for help to carry on and to equip my student to do her work.  All this is a by-product of the Gospel.  The heart of it is that God is now with us for life.  He is there in the stormy moments and the hurricanes.  God with us, because of the cross, because the hostility engendered by our sins is taken away in the death of Jesus.  He has brought us peace with God and now He resides with us forever…

Mind you, this didn’t all pass through my mind at that moment.  Actually I fumbled through an apologetic moment and a prayer, got some essential schoolwork wrapped up, and headed for a catnap with my hot wheat pillow and favorite blankie…still wondering what today’s blog would be about.

And while I slept it percolated… You see, last night a young mom in our Ladies Bible study group, gave an impromptu but poignant testimony of what her salvation means to her. 

The topic was facing the storms of life without fear.  Different ones recited their personal experiences of tough times they’d gone through and the difference God had made.  When this young mom, who is also young in the Lord, spoke up she gave us all a fresh perspective.  She said all of life before knowing Jesus was a storm, and always one to be faced alone! Now with God in her life, she would never have to face such aloneness again.  No matter what she would yet face she would not have to face it alone and that for her is a world of difference.  Her unfeigned earnestness said more than I can convey in words   God is with us, and will never leave us ever.  This is enough.  What a refreshing reminder of the heart of the Gospel.

And as I roused from my catnap, this afternoon, my face still aching, now my throat hurting too, it hit me.  All that matters is that God is with us.  This is the heart of the Gospel.  Our sinfulness is no longer a barricade between us.  His love has conquered and nothing can separate us from it, neither wind or weather, sickness or death, pain or persecution.  God is with us, forever.  And that is enough.  Stop your whining and get decorating.  There is indeed something to celebrate and no time to lose!


gold clip“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us."

November 24, 2011

Thank Goodness!

“Thank Goodness!” Countless times I’ve said this with little consciousness of its meaning. It’s usually uttered with some sense of relief that something has worked out well, (at least from my perspective!) but with no real acknowledgment of who I owe my thanks to…

Yesterday I came across this historical tidbit, President George Washington’s 1789 proclamation creating the first official American “Thanksgiving Day”. I’m impressed by its bold statement of the need to acknowledge God as the source of all good things. Allow me a patriotic moment and have a read-along:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have … requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God”… Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection…, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence…, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed... for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us…

Wow! How far we’ve slipped in the acknowledgment department!

I’ve been considering some familiar verses in Proverbs: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” (Prov.3:5,6) And of course the preceding ones that give the context: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

Following my own understanding will likely NOT lead me in a straight path. Things I perceive as good, may in fact be very bad ideas. Things I oppose, may be a part of a bigger plan God is weaving... But if in all my ways I will learn to acknowledge Him…I’ll be led in straight paths, ‘where the good way is’, the walk that will bring rest to my soul (Jer.6:16).

I was chewing on that word, “acknowledge” this week. What does it mean? A standard dictionary would say it means: to recognize the existence of, to express recognition of, to express gratitude for, etc. Sort of a “Yes, Lord, I see you there. Thanks.”   But when I looked up the actual Hebrew word, there’s more to it.  [Don’t miss the wonderful resources   BLUELETTERBIBLE offers ad-free!]

The word translated ‘acknowledge’, is “yada”. It means ‘to know’, to learn to know, to perceive, find out and discern…It involves knowing by intimate experience, learning to recognize… God desires that we “acknowledge Him” in all our ways…learn to see His hand at work, begin to perceive Him in everything. Reminds me of Paul’s challenge to the Philippians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling because it was God who was at work in them to accomplish His good pleasure (Phil.2:12,13). This is our God, the One that is at work often unseen, but inviting us to see with spiritual understanding the work that He’s doing.

He longs for His people to understand His way of working. Psalm 95 has that haunting finish to an otherwise joyful celebration of God’s excellence: “For forty years I loathed that generation and said, ‘They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.’” He accompanied them through the wilderness. Did they not comprehend He was there though unseen? That they were ‘the apple of His eye’, the object of His unflagging devotion? Did they really think they’d been abandoned just because they got thirsty? They did not understand His ways, that though they might be physically in a wilderness, He was committed to providing everything they truly needed and to using their walk with Him as a testimony to the nations around them, for His own glory.

So I come back to my own life, the everyday-ness of it. Acknowledging His active presence in my every moment is a beginning. In the mundane, in the traumatic, in the slow grind, in the delightful…do I perceive He is with me, in me, for me, working out His purposes for His great glory. Will I acknowledge Him in this moment, as I write, as I read…present, working, shaping all things for His great glory? This is holy ground. My actions become a kind of worship. This body a living sacrifice offered as I type, as I put wood on the fire, as I help Rachel with grammar, as I create a pumpkin pie and pop the turkey in the oven shortly…when I acknowledge Him in all my ways, in all the moments of my days, life becomes worship of a God who is forever Good, and forever worthy of my gratitude.

“Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving…let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!” Ps.95:2,3

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” Ps.136:1

May [we] be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God… Col.1:9,10


P.S. I highly commend to you Ann Voskamp’s faith-stirring devotional on “Why every day begs to be Thanksgiving”. Beautiful, as her posts always are.

And for a musical accompaniment to these thoughts on acknowledging God, try this glorious hymn sung by Fernando Ortega: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation.

Oh, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING! no matter what piece of the globe you reside in!

November 18, 2011

Walking by Doubt

It’s an age-old battle, the same temptation that lurked in the wilderness when the food and water ran out: “Is God among us or not?!” the people cried. Never mind that He had promised to provide all their needs—His name was after all Jehovah-Jireh. Never mind that they hadn’t gotten around to asking for the obvious: “Lord, we need some water. Lord, we’d like to have some meat, but we are content with this manna if that’s all You want us to have right now.” They were guilty of walking by doubt.

I know a person similarly prone. But this is not the way she wants to live, so this week she is making an about-face and dwelling on things that remind her of her Sovereign Lord’s right to rule and direct as He sees fit--in her life and all the ‘world’ around her. She is committing before the people of God (and her readership) to walk by faith in the God whose ways are beyond comprehending but who deigns to fill her with Himself and the very power of the resurrection, (Eph.3:16-18) and who has promised to flow like living water from her life (Jn.7:38) as she believes in His Son and abides in His words…

Toward that end, I’ve been looking closely at Habakkuk. He knew what it was to be alarmed by circumstances spiraling out of his control. He didn’t just sit there in shocked disbelief. He cried out to God about everything—Lord, there’s violence and destruction, strife and contention everywhere. The wicked are getting away with it. There’s no justice. How long do I have to keep on calling to you about these things?!

God’s answer wasn’t just what he was hoping for. No, problems weren’t going away any time soon. In fact, his own nation was about to be plundered by their worst enemy, the Babylonians. Talk about violence! “They gather captives like sand. At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh. They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it. Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!” (Hab.1:9b-11)

Habakkuk’s reaction was to take all this in and reflect on what he knew to be true of God. Conclusion, ‘we shall not die’; this is meant as judgment(1:12). But still, it just doesn’t make sense?! How can an infinitely holy and pure God let this happen, let His own people be overrun by evil greater than their own? Habakkuk determined to stand and watch to see what God would answer. I love this confidence in dialog. He knew his complaints were heard even if he didn’t understand the timing of the answers and didn’t like what he did hear. He kept listening.

God’s answer: Get a pen and paper; write this down. Write clearly, this is important. Ready? And then, among other things this: the righteous shall live by his faith.’ (Hab.2:4) Yes, there was a certainty of judgment coming on God’s own people but following that were the WHOA’s (actually Woe’s) pronounced over God’s enemies. These were to be recorded. Judgment was sure. God’s people would be delivered. But in the meantime, they would have to live by their confidence in God’s Word, not by subjective feelings or impressions.

A similar prophecy had come to Israel under Isaiah’s ministry regarding the coming invasion of the Assyrians. God’s word to them was: “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.” Is.7:9 ESV Oh boy! This is a potent antidote for my waffling tendency to doubt! Stability will never come with my eye on circumstance, only when it’s fixed on the Lord who is Himself unchanging.

One morning this week I was reflecting on what it takes to strengthen faith. The Word of God taken to heart was clearly the top priority. (‘Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God’, Rom.10:17). But it seems to me that I am lacking an overarching mindset that is essential to absorbing the Word in a transformative way. How do I ward off doubt when things don’t appear to be heading the right direction?

What do you do, for instance, when people make dumb decisions (well, that’s how you perceive them anyway, and consequences follow and it looks like God’s not got this under control)?  I was reading in I Kings this week, (my ‘regular’ reading, when I’m not doing bunny trails elsewhere), the story of Rehoboam inheriting his dad’s (Solomon’s) kingdom. He followed a bad piece of advice in setting policy with his subjects and next thing you know, POOF, they’ve given allegiance to somebody else and he’s lost the bulk of his kingdom. Oh NO! what’s happening!! If I’d have been his mom I’d have been in deep distress! But Scripture records: “It was a turn of affairs brought about by the LORD that He might fulfill His word.” (I Kings 12:19) There were far-reaching effects of Rehoboam’s foolishness but none that escaped the Sovereign plan of God. And lest crestfallen Rehoboam attempt to undo things and fix his mistake or fight his consequences he was warned: don’t do it ‘for this thing is from me.’

Now, those simple phrases give me great encouragement. They supply the missing ingredient to a mindset of faith. To walk by faith is to trust God’s sovereignty over every circumstance. No wonder it’s His will that we give thanks in every thing, (I Thess. 5:18) because He is in control and will use it for good. Even the bad things He makes to fit His design, for His Kingdom’s sake. The Lord would preserve a remnant despite the foolishness and sinfulness of faithless kings. From the tribe of Judah would come the King of Kings, first as a Lamb to die for the likes of foolish kings and doubting commoners and then as King, to invite them  to join His invisible Kingdom until it comes into plain view. He is the sovereign King weaving His plan, fulfilling His purposes in everything.

So no matter what the situation ‘seems’ I can trust Him. Habakkuk had this one nailed down. He had gone to God with problems to big for him. God’s answers were likely not the ‘salvation’ Habbakuk was hoping for-- this being carried off into captivity by a merciless enemy. Things were definitely going to get much worse before they got better. But God had a plan and it was enough for Habbakuk to know that the Sovereign God was accomplishing His purposes in His people. He does what seems an uncanny thing at this point. He recites a list of potential disasters…let me see, how bad might things get…as the backdrop for his dramatic statement of trust: “Yet will I rejoice in the Lord. I will take joy in the God of my salvation. Jehovah God is my strength.” He rested in the knowledge that God had everything under control and not only that, but that God would care for him and enable him to have the sure-footedness of a deer, to scale the heights and find there his refuge. This God is the author and finisher of my faith too.  How can I walk by doubt when He invites me to ‘tread on my high places’?

Thanks again for sharing the journey with me.  Won’t it be something when we can see how all the things God allows are woven into a shining tapestry for the glory of our Great King?!  It’ll be a sight for sore and straining eyes!


“For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the deer, and sets me on my high places.”
Ps.18:31-33 NKJV

November 11, 2011

Remembering the old, old story…


Lest we forget…The record is history. They died, laying down their lives to preserve our freedom. And this day, on the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year of our century at the 11th minute of the 11th hour, (11:11 on 11/11/11) we pause to remember…

There was an infinitely greater sacrifice made, another Life laid down to actually purchase our freedom and all history was changed—the Good News of it has been disseminated throughout the world ever since—but somehow, the news doesn’t seem so fresh anymore. The transformative dynamic of it seems to have ebbed, at least in North American culture. We’re starting to look around in alarm and wonder what’s happened as the younger generation bids ‘adieu, I don’t need you’  to church, and a rising radical tide proclaims religion in general, and Christianity in particular, to be a danger to the human race. The average person on the street is unaware of any radical hope offered in the Gospel. Why is that?

There are a number of directions one could head in answering this question. And maybe it is different for every group of believers. Some possible answers are: It’s because there are no signs and wonders happening. Others say, it’s because there’s sin in the church. A case could be made for insufficient love between believers (which is to be the hallmark of who we are!) Maybe we just live in the ‘end times’ and this cold state of affairs is inevitable…Or maybe we’re just not being obedient to share the Gospel with the ‘lost’?!

But rather than ‘passing the buck’ I thought I’d start with my own appreciation of the Gospel. Does it resound powerfully in my own soul? Is it transforming the way I live? If not, why not?

I sat riveted to a sermon at my son’s church recently. The passage roughly in view was I Tim.4:1-7. The title: Facing Down Falsehood. The pastor proceeded to present a compelling case for living by grace rather than rules, and seeing the glory of the Gospel as far exceeding the self-styled ‘salvation’ of either legalism or lawlessness. He suggested that when we comprehend the extent of God’s love for us personally, which is at the heart of the Gospel, we will be drawn to live out the obedience that pleases Him. This obedience will not be circumscribed by rules and standards but freely given out of love, and directed by God’s very Spirit residing in us, transforming us into the image of Christ. It is for such freedom that we were set free. This is the Gospel.

He clarified: “Morality grows out of trust in God’s radical grace as expressed in Jesus Christ. Acceptance does not grow out of morality. To get these two confused is to miss the Gospel!”

Paul was always warning believers not to shift away from the hope held out in the Gospel, not to fall for another Gospel, not to be taken captive by wrong thinking or intimidated by impressive testimonies…but to hold fast to Christ. He urged the Colossian believers to stand firm against anyone adding requirements to the Christian life. And he spent a good bit of energy extolling Christ in whom all the fullness of God dwells, and who is our source of fullness!

He also realized that it would take super-human strength to ‘get it’. So he prayed that the believers at Ephesus would be strengthened by the Spirit to comprehend this incomprehensible, unconditional, beyond anything they’d experienced, sort of love. (Eph.3)

God so loved us. That’s where the Gospel starts, and believing it is where the power of the Gospel begins to be unleashed.

God loves me. Christ died for my sins. In believing in Him, I count myself dead to sin, (crucified with Christ), forever forgiven, granted access to God, and indwelt by the living Christ. This is incredible. It is from this foundation that I can begin to practice true Godliness—and really to live out the fruit of the Gospel, Christ in me, the hope of glory!

The pastor went on to illustrate what this pursuit of Godliness looks like for the one who is living by faith in the Gospel. (Perhaps this is where we have failed to produce a Christianity that is compelling in our generation?) Here is his illustration:

Let’s liken the pursuit of Godliness to the goal of crossing the Atlantic Ocean. You’ve got three options:

--You can get a rowboat, stock up, and get rowing. You’ll never make it.

--Or you can get a lifeboat. Blow it up; plop yourself in and pray, hoping that the currents will take you over. You will never make it.

--Or you can get a sailboat and learn to sail. Catch the winds of the Spirit, of grace, and enjoy the freedom of knowing what godliness is all about.

This is what the Gospel is all about, not rules, not requirements, but living from a place of forgiveness and love, learning to listen to ‘the music of the Gospel’. It will take effort and time and patience, he said. It will seem hard only because it will seem like you’re doing nothing. (If you’ve ever sailed you get this!) “But the music of the Gospel will transform you. It will make you dance.” ( And I loved this part) “The law will tell you what the dance steps are and are not. It will guide you, but it will never make you dance. Only grace will.”

Then in closing he urged us to Nourish yourself on the truths of the faith, the Good News. That’s how you fall in love. That’s how it happens. You hear the voice of love coming to you from God continually and finally when you say, ‘You mean me?’ your heart opens to love. You begin to trust the Gospel and your life begins to change. Draw life from the Gospel. Be strengthened by God’s acceptance of you in Christ; it is your food and drink. It’s what will give you strength to live in freedom.”

So that’s where I’m at today… reviewing the truths of the Gospel and praying for God to give it new life in my heart. I don’t want this to be a purely cerebral exercise, but I have to start somewhere. If the Gospel story has become old and crusty to me, how can I expect it to be of compelling interest to my neighbor? May God revitalize our understanding of the Gospel—and may its power be unleashed in our lives for His glory.


And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in [your] mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and [be] not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard… (Col.1:21-23)

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2Tim.2:1)

[quotes from Doug Schroeder, Crossroads Community Church,  Calgary, AB. Oct.30,2011]

November 3, 2011

Anti-Reflective Aids

Reflective journaling has its place but sometimes it’s good to be jarred out of it and into the present…

I picked up a little bottle yesterday wondering what it was…thinking it to be drops for ingesting, a potion of some sort.  Had to chuckle when I read the label: “Anti-Reflective…”   Ha!  Just what I need sometimes, something to make me less reflective and more ‘present’ in the moment!

Well, turns out it was actually Lens Cleaner and nothing to do with altering moods or any such silliness conjured up by my overactive reflective mind! It did give me pause to think though that the ‘lenses’ of my soul can get fogged sometimes and there’s nothing like a good cleaning out of negativity and doubt and fear and all those grimy substances that dim my faith.  The Word has the power to do that when the Spirit applies it at the point of need. Jesus loved and gave His life for His bride, the Church, for this very purpose:  “that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word…”  (Eph.5:26)

Well I was having my morning ‘bath’ in the Word in bed this morning, gathering up the thoughts flitting about in my mind since early dawn, applying doses of the Word to them…jotting down some pertinent verses, some fresh convictions… about a time to clap one’s hand over one’s mouth lest foolishness get out!…(Prov.30:32)  and other such things.

And who do you suppose came trundling in with his new toy truck and a big grinning: “GRANDMOM!” to disperse all my reflections like leaves blown away by the wind?!  My very own ‘Anti-reflective’ aid!  Here he was with all his morning cheer to have a a cuddle, a chat, a story and a song.  Next thing you know we were re-enacting Jesus and his disciples in a storm at sea while Jesus lay sleeping … How perfect to have a blue, poofy  comforter to play the part of the waves.  The wind blew (Grandmom’s own special effects), the boat rocked (Chase helped with this part) and the waves splashed (the part that made him break into squeals of delight) and there we were in our own boat caught in the storm! 

“Wake up, Jesus!” came his little animated voice.

And I got to play the “Peace, be still” part.  Or in child’s lingo: ‘Why are you afraid? Everything’s OK when Jesus is in the boat.’

Ah, yes, good reminder for child and Grandmom alike, and what a fine lens cleaner.  My view gets beclouded by circumstances all too often, all those ones I can’t control—you know: kids, spouse, parents… I can’t even control my own tongue!  But here I am calling on Jesus in the middle of the storm: “Save us, we’re perishing!” and here He is bringing peace…Everything’s under control.  We’re all in good hands. 

Thanks Chase for the morning wake-up call ( :




October 28, 2011

The shining within…

It is the season of dying things…gardens, leaves, mosquitoes…and of funerals.  Our ‘small group’ lost a member this week.  Funerals have a way of bringing life as we know it to a halt and making us look at the life just beyond this one, the life we have a hard time keeping in view as being really real and accessible in the snap of a finger…The fellow who left us was born in 1965, making him younger than me.  He was a whole-hearted believer.  He was confident too that God would heal him, but the time-frame wasn’t what we earthlings had hoped for. 

This eternal life we’ve embarked on has no such limitations.  It goes on and on, but the best of it begins just where life as we know it stops.  There’s the bump in the road that causes so much grief—to the ones left waiting for their turn.

Paul saw life clearly in this respect, perhaps because he was given a glimpse of life in the heavenlies.  He came right out and said it: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better”. (Phil.1:23) He had no delusions about life here being something to cling to for selfish reasons.  He had already dedicated his life entirely to the cause of the Gospel, intent on honoring Christ in His body, whether by life or by death.  Life here wasn’t about himself. (gulp)  Consequently, he was ready and waiting to go be with the One who was His Life.  And at the same time, he was content to ‘do his time’  imprisoned in his physical body if it would mean an opportunity to serve His Lord by building up His Body here and now.

Maybe I don’t fully share his perspective because my life here and now still has some ‘perks’ for me.  I’ve woken this morning for instance, in the home of my grandbabies!--here to visit for a week, and hear sweet baby talk and the patter of little feet racing to and fro for the sheer joy of it!
And there’s still beauty in this world. The drive yesterday was awesome, in the true sense of the word.  The dark evergreens are scattered with brilliant splashes of gold.  And reds and oranges punctuate the world before it fades to winter’s sleep.  Really quite remarkable that trees go through this surprising metamorphosis—leaves don’t just turn brown and crumble into nothingness. First there is the parting brilliance. For our brother this brilliance wasn’t seen in a supernatural gift of physical healing, but in the confidence that he would see us all later.  He went out declaring his to be a win/win situation--either “supernatural or see-ya’ later”.

Ha!  is that what is meant to happen in the fall of our lives?  We don’t just descend to the grave.  First we are alight with the hope of the world beyond, a glimpse of things eternal, a faith that overcomes our fears and lights our faces…the indelible mark of the Spirit of God housed within and breathing life eternalO death where is thy sting? Grave where is thy victory?

This is where all the ‘good things’ of this life point isn’t it?  The innocence of babies, the carefree laughter of children, the beauty of nature—all are meant not to bond us to this world but to point us to the next, to point us to the place His glory dwells in its fullness.  A glory from which all the beauty and wonder and sweetness in this life is derived.  Ahh let me keep my bearings, celebrating this fall season and its glory, but not clinging.  Ready to live or die as pleases my Maker, for His glory…
I need to remind myself often of Paul’s perspective: our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body…” Phil.3:20,21

And I couldn’t help being reminded of it when I saw this picture taken by my sister.  It is of an old old house that stood all our childhoods abandoned on a neighboring acre… hidden from our view amongst trees…It stands clearly in view in this photo because all the surrounding trees have been cut down-- a housing development is moving in and this house is the last to fall, thus the picture just before the devastation… Reminds me of Paul’s words, and with them I close.

…though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal…

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens…For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling…so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by lifeHe who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.  So we are always of good courage.  We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight  (IICor.4:16ff)

Do you see the brightness in that window?  As if something were shining from within?  May such be true of us—shining with the treasure inside all the days of our lives!


October 20, 2011

What manner of child shall this be?!

What is a mother to do? How is it that our gene pool can extend so far as to produce progeny so unlike us, so extraordinarily different, so wired as to cause us to shake our heads in wonder (and bewilderment)…

Not just once this has happened, but by the fifth time a mother should have her response figured out! Nevertheless, here is #5—defying my innate tendencies, pushing the edges of my cautious hesitance, chomping at the bit to do things that haven’t been done, to try things for which I haven’t paved the way, to go where no Skelton (or Weaver) has gone before…

What is a mother to do?

Some mothers are gifted with vision and drive and are go-getters themselves. They’re ready to champion any cause their child shows interest in, to knock on doors, to lead the way, or at least be outstanding cheerleaders! Others of us can relate more to the wallflower motif…the church mouse…the sheepish schoolgirl. My husband used to tease me about having grown up in a ‘sheltered environment’. I always protested. Now I live happily in his pumpkin; he was right. Fear and self-interest live here too, uninvited but quite at home. But then came Rachel.

She’s a dreamer of many dreams, of places she’ll live, occupations she’ll hold, ministries she’ll start, impacts she’ll make on her world. She is not the wallflower sort. Her motto is: “Stand out; don’t fit in!”. All she needs is a foothold up, an assist with the nitty gritty details, a place to start. “Mom, how do I…”   “Mom, what do you think…”  “Mom, aren’t you so excited!”… “Mom, when can we…”

For a mother whose favorite pastime is being at home in the predictability of her own routine these questions are all a stretch. Anticipation, excitement and pretty much all things untried and unknown (except maybe trails and ice cream flavors!) are routine killers. They put my mind in overload mode, useless for anything but worry and anxiety.

What happens as I field these questions is that I put myself in her shoes and imagine ME having to do what SHE is cut out for. Once upon a time I held a Candy-striper job at a big General Hospital in my county. I was young and inexperienced then. And yes, sheltered. People smoking was beyond my comfort zone even (which is what coworkers did on breaks in those days). I liked the idea of sorting the internal mail (mundane, orderly, methodical) but doing drop-offs and pick-ups throughout the hospital… using elevators with silent strangers… going up and down and who-knows-where?...I did not like. To this day I have scary dreams of elevators going not only up and down but side-ways in a disturbing random way, where one never really knows where they are going!

Volunteering and being useful was a nice idea, but finding my way alone to the sundry collection points all throughout the hospital in quest of urine and blood samples for the lab, I did not like… I was too inexperienced and too myself I guess, to recognize what I needed or to communicate it…I didn’t ask for help. I didn’t express my troubles. But one day I mustered enough courage to escape! I walked into the volunteer office and QUIT that bad experience and when my mom picked me up that day, I told her what I’d done and burst out crying, to her (and my) complete surprise. It was left in my mind an unresolved trauma. I still don’t fancy hospitals. And to this day, I don’t think my poor mom has any idea why I quit. For she herself is a go-getter.

And now our roles are reversed and I am the mother with the daughter beyond comprehension. But as I agonized this morning over my unfitness for this job it struck me that without her I would not have to face my fears or shun my self-centeredness. I would be left with myself in my pumpkin--unchallenged, undeveloped, and unchanged. Perhaps this is why God gives us children. Some show us who we are.  Others, who we are not.  But each one is God’s instrument to shape us into all He wants us to become.

I have a fresh appreciation for Mary and Elizabeth today…each given a child like no other, a child who would so outstrip her achievements as to be incomparable. A child for whom she could not pave the way, only watch and marvel and treasure all the wonder in her heart…Even the neighbors wondered what little John would become. Not only did he not take his father’s name, but he lived an eccentric life besides. It is recorded that people took notice of his birth saying: “What manner of child shall this be!” And the hand of the Lord was with him. (Lk.1:66)

That’s the key isn’t it… the Lord’s hand is at work in these unpredictable wonders that we call our children. He’s with them and for them and using them as His instruments of righteousness for His glory and our wonder!

And tucked in with the gift of each child comes the assurance: “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Lk.1:37) He’s in the details I can’t fathom, and I can rightfully follow Mary’s fearless example: “and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Lk.1:47)  So for today I will rejoice…and get on with that job resume Rachel’s needing help with! God’s mercies are new every morning, his grace enough to enable us to do the ‘impossible’!


“His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation…” Lk.1:50

October 14, 2011

He Restores my Soul…

I guess I did not anticipate the upheaval this trip would bring to my soul—There was grace for the going, grace for the doing and the being there (though not without some fear and trembling).  There were ‘travelling mercies’--companions along the way to shorten the journey with conversation,  and empty seats when silence was preferable, smooth and timely flights (well, we won’t count the first turbulent leg, a lesson in NOT starting the day with a hearty breakfast before a flight!) But anyway, the trip was all it needed to be.  The many prayers offered upheld my comings and goings.  It was the return to ‘normal’ that caught me off guard.

I arrived home on the verge of Thanksgiving weekend (celebrated early here) feeling flat, fatigued and disjointed in spirit. I was eager to be home,  why then this discontent with everything?!  Why did the house not feel like home? Why did the weather have to be so wet?  Why is it getting dark so early—where did summer go?  And how on earth am I to parent these kids into adulthood?  And who’s this man I married anyway?!  I was home but not at home. Since when am I so sensitive to change? How did I morph into this monster under such a little bit of pressure and transition. Yikes!

Suddenly I was faced with exchanging ‘worlds’ again--my mind caught up in the one, but needing to be present in the other.  I did not anticipate the pre-occupation with Alzheimer’s and wondering if and when I’ll be next, the flashbacks to moments that still trigger an anxious unsettledness to rise, the continual nagging of unresolved situations that beg answers but defy solutions…the wondering how to be involved with this ongoing need, and still focus on my present world. 

Snippets of journal reflect my waffling responses to this week of transition…”God of my Father, care for him today.  Give courage and faith to Mom to see beyond the present with hope, and to make critical decisions before there is a crisis—work in each of them what is pleasing in Your eyes—preparing them for glory—preparing us the same.”

’Be anxious for nothing’…could likely be I’m throwing my own strength (my area of weakness) at this situation rather than trusting that God will direct my thoughts and steps in His time…”

I looked again at Solomon’s request and God’s gift of a wise and discerning mind… heard again His promise to all who lack wisdom…

And I noted the “virtuous woman’s” response to winter’s coming: “She is not afraid of snow for her household—strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” (Prov.31:25) Ah, sweet confidence, the quiet confidence of wisdom.  Willing to rest in God’s provision even when the winter storms have not yet revealed their full fury, trusting there will be sufficient clothing…

I read David’s testimony: “In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, ‘Flee like a bird to your mountain’!…The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see…” (Ps.11:1,4) 

And as I appeal to my Ageless Father, reminding myself He is a ROCK-- always strong, never changing, never moving away, leaving, or fading in vigor…I find my soul being restored day by day.  The process was begun in response to a poignant movie about aging love and loss (“Lovely,still”).  It was just what I needed to pry open the floodgates held so bravely closed these past couple weeks and let out the grief to a listening ear.  And day by day the restoration has come by returning to the unhurried rhythm of home-made days, by not retreating (as much as I’d like to!) from the regular round of fellowship—of prayer hike, of church, of Bible study.  By rest and by exercise too—deep corpse-like naps and vigorous pedaling in fall-fresh air and sunshine—my soul is being restored.

And the season of my soul brightens.  My house is home enough.  The weather fine enough.  Autumn has a bracing beauty of its own. And my family—they are mine and I am blessed in each of them.  There’s grace enough for everything when the Lord is my Shepherd…

He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me…

…you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Ps.23)


Thanks for your companionship on the journey—for His name’s sake.

October 6, 2011

Smiling in the Face of Fear

I’m enroute home in stages,  scheduled to fly out of Anchorage in a few hours, having spent the night here with kind friends.  My body made the mistake of waking up early and my mind of dashing into conjecture about unseen possibilities and missed planes…Bother!


Now in flight.  ( I didn’t miss it!)…

So began my day of travel home, distracting idle fears with composing a blog, banishing butterflies with busyness.  It’s been a stressful week and a half; I think I’ve collected a few more gray hairs and now I’m ready to unwind.  The surge of acceleration at take-off got me started with tears welling as I thought of what I’m leaving behind, not knowing when I’ll be back or what the situation will be…

I have faced fear this week and stumbled upon two simple strategies to disarm it.  (Thank you Lord!)  It has been disconcerting to me to find I can’t keep fear and anxiety from rising in my heart.  They happen. Especially in the face of the unknown, the unexpected, and the uncontrollable they rise to haunt me.  In a household shaped by Alzheimer’s disease this trio is inevitably present.  What will happen next?  What is he thinking as he walks toward me with that furrowed brow and unfriendly look?  When we’re out walking can I get him to turn around and head back home without calling for help or will he keep right on going into the bush unheedful of my warnings?  What does one do to manage such adult strength tied to a mind unable to reason and full of fears itself?  Every day is a potpourri of the unknown, the unexpected and the uncontrollable. 

But I found that though fear may rise in my heart I don’t have to give it a face or a voice.  I can still smile--a beaming broad smile with a friendly greeting attached.  And in this face that reads: “I like you”, his suspicions are felled and the fierce countenance softens…And I begin to think he likes me too ( :

I learned too the value of singing.  I may be quaking inside as I go about my business unsure of what’s going to happen next, but I can sing anyway—a hymn or chorus quietly…and in the process of voicing words of faith and confidence, my heart is ransomed from the grip of fear.

A smile and a song—simple but effective tools to banish butterflies. It is as though these tangible acts persuade my heart that it is safe and everything will be ok.  Not only my heart, but my dad’s is calmed and reassured.  Everything is going to be ok.  He may not understand the words, but a smile speaks and a song comforts.  This has been my experience.

Ha! I even tried smiling to myself in the night when I woke.  Have you ever tried smiling when worries are on your mind?  It’s counter-intuitive.  But it makes the  worries feel a little silly.  It seems to triggers happy thoughts, grateful reminders of good things… and where did those butterflies flit to anyway?!

So, though I haven’t attained to the fearless posture of the war horse—“he laughs at fear and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword” (Job 39:22), I’m learning to take baby steps.  And when this toddler looks at her Shepherd and sees His smiling face, it’s not so hard to whistle in the dark and sing a happy song.

The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Num.6:25,26


Thanks to all who prayed for me on this journey.  I felt very much buoyed up and sustained, and I’m confident that God is making a way where we are still uncertain of the best path. My mom is a marvel, a testimony to God’s daily grace.  I could not walk in her shoes!  I tried only to smooth the path a little and walk a few steps with her.  There are good things to come; we see the glimmerings.  And His mercies very literally are new every morning!  For this I am grateful. 


September 30, 2011

The Worth of Words

I’m noticing in my reading this week the dramatic effect that words can have, depending on their source. The contrast is clear in two instances recorded in II Samuel 20.

First, “There happened to be there a worthless man… And he blew the trumpet and said…” People followed him, as people will, and soon a whole city was at risk of destruction for harboring him.

In contrast, was a wise woman who said: “Come here, that I may speak to you…Listen…” and by her wise advice destruction was averted; the whole city was saved. This woman impresses me. She saw what was coming and used words of wisdom directed to the right people to bring a halt to the impending plan of destruction. You can read the details of the account for yourself, but the principle catches my attention—the impact of words, wise or worthless.

Moses’ story continues to intrigue me. He was a model of meekness--at least once the Lord got through with him (Num.12:3). When he hesitated to say ‘yes’ to God’s assignment for him, God questioned him: Moses, who made your mouth? “Is it not I, the Lord? therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak. And when Aaron had to be conscripted to help, God promised to be with both their mouths and teach them both what to do.

Moses’ words seemed to go unheeded and yet they were God’s assignment for him: “Let my people go” was his slogan, though ignored. God backed up his words with His own display of power and eventually broke through Pharaoh’s resistance and the deed was accomplished. The children of Israel were shooed on their way with plunder besides! But first there were the words, wise God-given words.

Those are the kind I need.

No use talking, arguing, trying to persuade or influence without my words being God-ordained. I like David’s last words; that ‘sweet psalmist of Israel’ , in II Sam.23, attributes to God his good words: "The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue.” Isaiah did likewise: The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple. (Is.50:4) This is what I want to be true of me!

I have no great testimonial to the effectiveness of my words this week. Mostly I’m at a loss to know what to say. What do you say to your mom when her best beloved of over 50 years is fast losing his mind and is unreceptive to her best efforts to take care of him?…when your efforts to take care of her are perceived as threats to the only way of life she can conceive of… what do you say? Is “I love you, I really do” enough?

Wise words don’t just materialize out of nowhere. James describes the kind of heart that births them—one that is meek and ‘easy to be entreated’, gentle and merciful…(3:17), one that asks with confidence for the wisdom needed and harbors no doubt or unbelief that God will give what’s needed (1:5-8). That’s the kind of heart I want. I don’t wish to come to the end of my days defensive and unreasonable, stubborn and unmanageable to my own detriment. Am I cultivating traits I want to have when my defenses are down and my mind a haze? What will bubble up then--the wise or the worthless?


Lord, teach me to number my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom. (Ps.90:12)

September 22, 2011

The God who is and was and is to come…

Sometimes you become the answer to your own prayers…It was this way for Moses I guess.  One fine afternoon on the backside of nowhere he gets a call, “Moses, Moses!”

“Here I am”, he says. And the next thing you know God is saying, actually what matters is that “I AM” here.
I’ve seen my people’s afflictions.
I’ve heard their cries.
I know how they’re suffering.
I’ve come down to deliver them…
Now you come, I'll send you to do the job.


OK, so Moses has to get involved, tongue-tied and disabled though he perceive himself to be, HE’s the man for the job…

I’m feeling a little like that today.  The call came a couple days ago.  I’ve got the plane tickets.  The suitcases are standing at attention waiting for me to make up my mind about a multitude of details.  I woke up a little early this morning and my mind started whirring restlessly.  So I got up and sat here pouring over some names of God, looking for one to be just the one I need to hang onto for this journey.

My dad’s an increasingly unmanageable patient these days with a lone caregiver (my mom) who is increasingly frazzled and stretched beyond capacity…something has to be done.  The Lord has seen their affliction, heard their cries, and is well-acquainted with their suffering… I have prayed.  And now am being asked to step into the picture with my very own skin, to get involved in the answer to my prayers. Who am I for such a task?  How am I going to do any good?

To keep anxious thoughts and ad nauseum pending decisions at bay this morning, I filtered through the names of God looking for one that might grab me and hold me tight as I pack and as I go*…Which of God’s many names is custom-fitted for my situation?

What am I in need of?  El Shaddai (God Almighty) ought to cover it…or The Lord my Shepherd (Jehovah Ra-ah)…These are so familiar.  My heart felt kind of numbed with doubt though…so I kept on…  The Lord my Confidence (Yahweh Kesel) caught my eye. Yes! this confidence that gives strength to internal muscles, this confidence.  Yes, I need that: “for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” (Pr.3:26) That sounds good. 

Jehovah Shalom (The Lord my peace).  Yes, I need that too.  “Thou wilt keep Him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee”  would come to mind later in the day as I was out walking...
An unfamiliar name rang sweetly:  Jehovah Shamah.  This is the name given to the new Jerusalem as the book of Ezekiel closes out.  It means “The Lord is There”.  Yes, that’s all I really need, to know the Lord is there too, not only here with me on my cozy turf, but there also where I go, to face the unknown with confidence and grace.

But ya’ know, when God spoke through Moses to His people, the two names He chose were these: “I AM who I AM”,  and “Yahweh, the God of your fathers”.  This was His covenant name, the one He wanted them to remember ‘throughout all generations’ (Ex.3:15). He is my father’s God too, the one that has held his hand through all the years and the one that holds mine now, the great I AM.

Incidentally, I was looking yesterday at Jesus own I AM’s…the same words are translated “It is I”.  “It is I, be not afraid”-- “I AM, be not afraid”(Mt.14:27).  Isn’t that it?  Because He is, I need not be afraid.  All that’s left is to believe on the One that God has sent, not merely to save me and take me to Heaven, but to be with me in the meantime.  This is the real work I’m called to, to believe, and keep believing in the God who is.  And I’m back at the burning bush hearing God’s response to Moses’ “Who am I that I should go…”.   and God saying, “but I will be with you…” 
Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come… Rev.1:4

*I was gleaning some of these names from Knowing God by Name by Mary A. Kassian—a women’s Bible study book.

September 16, 2011

Did you enjoy the fajita?

Arguing with my heart today…I read a sweet little book this past while—an allegory written to show the heart of God for his little orphans.  A line stood out to me, made my heart jump in eagerness for it to be true.  The character representing Jesus had just shared little Willie Juan’s lunch with him, consuming it with obvious relish and attention even though it was but a humble home-made fajita.  The line was this:

“When you get to heaven, Little Friend, which is where I live, Abba will not ask you how many prayers you said or how many souls you saved. No, he’ll ask, ‘Did you enjoy the fajita?’ He wants you to live with passion, in the beauty of the moment, accepting and enjoying his gifts.” (Patched Together—Manning,60)

I like that.

But that’s not the sole criteria for accepting such a statement as true.  What of the ‘judgment seat of Christ’?  the giving an account for every idle word? the “What have you done with your few minas—how did you invest them?”

This sort of welcoming Father’s heart that just sweeps me up in arms and enjoys what I have to share is SO much more inviting than my own imagined version of a reserved conditional sort of welcome…or a rewards ceremony where I sit it out in the bleachers just glad to have made it to the event!

Can it be supported in Scripture? 

I waver between basking in God’s pleasure despite my shortcomings and taking serious stock of my situation and wondering if I’m fooling myself to assume He’s entirely pleased.  I don’t really want to think about it, but if my love of God is shown in love for my neighbors… well, these are concrete persons living beside me.  This is a measurable sort of love.  Do I love my neighbors in the same quality and quantity as I love myself?  (grimace)  And if not, hmmm…Will I just get a sympathetic  pat on the head and a ‘nevermind what I asked of you.’  What’s that verse about ‘trembling at His Word’? But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. (Is.66:2) 

Oh, I’m eager to listen for His voice, but honestly, I want to hear good stuff—something congratulatory, comforting… Instruction too is ok if it’s not anything too challenging, too scary, too far from my comfort zone. 

And what of this business of reveling in blessings but being loathe to pass them on?  Enjoying ‘the fajita’, so to speak, but not wanting to share it for fear it will all get eaten and I’ll go hungry, or for fear the sharee won’t like it...  Is this why gratitude seems hardly a sufficient response to so much goodness dished out on my behalf?  I’m pretty good at receiving, not nearly so good at generosity…

‘Between the time a gift comes to us and the time we pass it along, we suffer gratitude.’—Lewis Hyde

And so goes my heart-to-mind talk with myself. Ha!  I was reading this morning in a little book on spiritual practices for the modern pilgrim.*  The author referred to “the athlete view of spiritual life” as opposed to a more receptive, less ‘disciplined’ view, where my job is to make space, to be receptive for the Spirit to work.  Interesting concept.  I obviously tend to be the ‘athlete’, at least in my mind!  Try a little harder, pen more lists, spend more time…But it does seem that when I get all through with my mental strivings, or maybe smack dab in the middle of them, when I least expect it, God speaks to my heart precisely what I most need to hear.

It was like that this morning.  I was digging into a  couple phrases that caught my attention from II Samuel 13.  The passage reads like a soap opera.  David’s reigning as king now but on the domestic front things are a mess!  It seems his own sins have come to nest in his children’s lives. David’s firstborn rapes his own half-sister.  Then after scheming for two years her own blood brother avenges her shame (and sets himself up to be heir to the throne?)  by murdering David’s first-born.  And twice in this passage you read the words: “Don’t take it to heart.”  Once addressed to the sister who’s just been violated and will now hide in shame for the duration of her life.  Once addressed to David whose beloved son has just murdered his firstborn son!  “Don’t take it to heart” !!! How does that work?

Oh, and the beautiful girl whose life is left in shambles is told to ‘hold your peace’.  Really?  This hardly seems like an appropriate response.  So I went looking at these two phrases throughout Scripture. [Incidentally, is a SUPER resource for such studies.  Try it out sometime!]   There are things that should and things that should not be ‘taken to heart’.  As the source of the ‘springs of life’ the heart has got to be guarded with discrimination. (Prov.4:23) 

For instance, Moses warns the Israelites to remember who their God is so they don’t go chasing idols: “Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.” (Deut.4:39)

But Pharaoh, when he should take to heart the plagues as signs of the one true God, refuses to do so and instead hardens his heart. (Ex.7:23)

I won’t take your through all my rich gleanings... but what are the things I take to heart when in fact only what God says deserves to hold sway there?  Reminds me of something Brennan Manning said in that sweet little book I mentioned earlier:

Live like the beloved of Abba…Your courage in living as Abba’s beloved can give others the strength to do the same. For in the end only one thing remains—Abba’s love… Define yourself as one beloved by God.” (124)

Which brings us back to my mind and my heart arguing…ah, and that other word study: “Hold your peace.” Now this was interesting.  Definitely a range of reasons to hold your peace and definite occasions not to!  Queen Esther on the one hand was brought to her position for ‘just such a time as this’ and strongly encouraged not to ‘hold her peace’ lest she and her family be destroyed (Esther 4:14).  But there are times when the fight is the Lord’s and our job is to ‘hold your peace’. (Ex.14:14)

Okay, so I’m buzzing along through all these references to  charash, the Hebrew verb meaning: hold your peace, be silent, be dumb, be speechless, be deaf…keep quiet, and I’m loving it. ( I love words in their settings and all the nuances of written language! And when their God’s words, it’s even better!) And then I come to God’s answer for my restless debate between heart and mind.  For there is a verse that refers to God holding His peace, God choosing silence as the best expression of His love.  I have read it many times before,  (Oh that reading were believing!) and various translations render it in different ways. 

But Zephaniah 3:17 describes God as resting (being silent, speechless, quiet) in His love for His beloved.  First He is described as being ‘mighty in your midst’ and as One who saves.  Yes, He’s a powerful God and Saviour.  He’s described as ‘rejoicing over thee with joy’.  Yes, there is an exuberance too.  And He’s even said to sing over His beloved.  But in the middle is this resting, this silent love. “He will rest in his love.”  He isn’t hung up with all the objections that hold me back from believing His love could cover my multitude of sins.  He just loves.  This is a silent joy in ‘the possession of the object of one’s love, too great for words to express’(J,F, & B commentary).  It is perhaps like the rest of silent satisfaction after the six days of creation, when God looked and ‘behold it was very good’.

As Matthew Henry puts it, “The great God not only loves his saints, but he loves to love them."  Song of Solomon, if we can take it as a figure of Christ and the Church, implies that we captivate God’s heart. “You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes…” (SofS 4:9) 

As heirs with Israel of God’s grace we are destined to be “a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God…and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Is.62:3,5)  There is not a lot of room for argument here.  We are objects of an incredible and very personal love.  And I suspect that as we come to live in our true identity as ones well loved, the obedience that seems so scary will begin to flow quite naturally from our well-nourished hearts, constrained by such a great love, to do anything desired by the Lover.

I give thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise…for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. (Ps.138:1,2)

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
(I Jn.4:16)

Whew! If you got to the end of that you’re a wonder.  Bless you and be sure to enjoy the fajita!


“The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.  Do not forsake the work of your hands.” –Ps.138:8

P.S. A brief review of Patched Together by Brennan Manning is posted at:


*God in the Yard: Spiritual Practice for the rest of us--Barkat, p.41ff

September 9, 2011

What was it Like?

Do you remember when you became a Christian? Can you tell in a single sentence what it was like? It seemed a simple enough question to pose to a congregation of believers. But when individuals were pointed out to give an answer, my mind went scrambling for words. What was it like?

I’ve always considered my ‘testimony’ to be a rather boring thing, lacking the before’s and after’s of more dramatic accounts of meeting Jesus. In fact, my memory serves me so sketchily that I have few particulars of the occasion. Perhaps that’s why I am an inveterate journal keeper. I have boxes of assorted journals, mostly informal spiral bound versions, but way back in the beginning, there was a little black “One-Year Diary” with a little latch and a key. That was the first one. I guess I was about 10 then. And that’s the one I cannot find today. It’s the one I hoped would say what it was like when I prayed to ask Jesus into my heart. I know where it’s supposed to be. Its green twin from 1974 used to lie with it. But now just the green one is at hand. It talks of puppies and riding bikes, of picking strawberries and going to Girl Scouts…And laced throughout are mentions of reading my Bible…when I got up, when I was afraid after watching a movie, and when I was trying to ‘catch up’ with my OneYearReadThru plan… I was twelve then, growing up in a sheltered Christian community, Christian school, close-knit church, Christian parents and grandparents and cousins, aunts and uncles…What was it like in this context to ‘become a Christian’? I feel as though I’ve been one all my life.

But there was an evening at the altar one balmy summer’s night… It was ‘Campmeeting’ week. Nightly services for the faithful. Lots of hymn singing. Exuberant marching around the pews sometimes-- exulting in prospects like ‘Beulah Land’ and ‘marching on to glory with the faithful few’. Energetic preaching and always an altar call. Those were the days of real ‘altars’, well, long wooden backless benches up front where people knelt in rows to pray aloud after the service. And that’s where I ended up one such night with my two childhood friends, twins I’d known since Kindergarten. An old saint of a lady named Mrs. Wolfram knelt beside me and asked me if I’d ever asked Jesus to be my Saviour? I don’t remember just what she said, only the sense that Jesus had died for me personally and I could personally acknowledge this and he would be my Saviour.

Now I look back and wonder what I really acknowledged that night. Did I understand all the implications of depravity and repentance, of humility and grace? I doubt it. I was good little Lindy, the quiet pupil with straight A’s and little to add to the report card but “Linda needs to speak up in class.” I was a pleaser belonging to a community that excelled in measuring goodness by conformity to certain standards. Praying at the altar was the right thing to do. Asking Jesus into my heart was the obvious thing required of me in this setting. And that night I was ‘saved’ along with my friends who said their prayers somewhere along that bench. What was it like? Was I filled with rapturous wonder? Was I ecstatic? Was I transformed from that moment on? Thinking back I only remember being happy. My outgoing friends were more demonstratively so. We celebrated by running outside in the summer darkness to share our joy.

I woke up this morning with an old Sunday School song in my heart: “Happiness is…”  Do you know it?   It goes like this:

[Press CTRL and click to listen] [or, for the happy wordless version listen here.]

Happiness is to know the Savior,
Living a life within His favor,
Having a change in my behavior,
Happiness is the Lord.

Happiness is a new creation,
Jesus and me in close relation,
Having a part in His salvation,
Happiness is the Lord.

Happiness is to be forgiven,
Living a life that's worth the livin',
Taking a trip that leads to Heaven,
Happiness is the Lord.

Real joy is mine,
No matter if the teardrops start,
I've found the secret,
It's Jesus in my heart.

And that makes a pretty good summary of my own testimony. A simple one, more of a continuation in the path I’d been born into really. Not remarkable in most respects and yet… When I consider this God who humbly accepts such a child’s prayer, when she in all likelihood doesn’t comprehend His glory or her need... Who chooses her to have a heritage of believers preceding her and surrounding her…Who preserves her from being tempted or drawn into a world of sins she never samples…Who bears with her in her prideful self-righteousness, her silly legalisms, her deficient capacity to love well…When I consider this God inviting me to know Him and waiting as I grow into what that means… I see a remarkable story in the simplest of testimonies.

Later I would question my salvation when I compared my ho-hum existence to the enthusiastic inner joy and unconcealable delight my best friend found when she asked Jesus into her heart one night at Youth Group. What did she see that I’d missed? Every morning she’d bring to school a little snippet of paper with a verse on it that thrilled her, in hopes that we could exchange verses. Her enthusiasm was contagious. I prayed privately just case I’d missed something the first time around welcoming Jesus to re-ignite the joy of my salvation and was soon just as ‘fired up’ about the Word as she was. I look back now and see her friendship as His mercy, drawing me back to my first love

There were other strategic moments, quiet transactions with this God who was for me a wonderful shepherd. He met me in my insecure shyness and brought me gently along, to trust Him, to commit my days to Him as His bondservant, to do things I can only look back at now in wonder at what this quiet least-likely-to-leave-home girl would do with such abandon. Who’d ever heard of Alberta, Canada? How did I end up there for my last year of highschool, leaving the classmates I’d spent over a decade with, leaving family and beloved woods and sheltering church community…confidently following my Shepherd? This too is my testimony.

It’s a quiet one of circumstances woven to shape my life despite my inherent foibles. Of the Spirit bearing witness with my spirit that I am His child. And always, of this Shepherd drawing me to know how much He loves and forming in me a heart to love Him more. I haven’t had dramatic experiences, terrific revelations, or awesome visions. His Spirit moves quietly and unseen. I see my testimony in Peter’s words:

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” I Pet.1:8,9

And my mind scrambling to compose a succinct testimony to describe ‘What was it like’  is calmed and settled. This joy of being personally related to the One who knows me most and loves me best is inexpressiblenot meant to be circumscribed entirely with words and passed around like the latest news. It is not the ‘feeling’ of the moment that counts, but the long getting to know my first and best True Love. As the service ended that day, this song played and sang for me my heart’s own song:

“First Love”

[I highly commend it to you for a listen. May your heart sing along.]

Although I am changing You’re unchangeable oh God

You will be my first love, be my first love

And for all the changes that You lead me through oh God

You will be my first love, be my first love

Every morning when the sun comes up

And every evening when the day is done

You will be my first love, be my first love

Even when You fill my heart’s desires

Even when You are consuming fire

You will be my first love, be my first love

Although I am shaken, You’re unshakable, oh God

You will be my first love, be my first love

So let my idols crumble You’re unshakable oh God

You will be my first love, be my first love

May every day and every way I live bring glory to You Lord. (x3)

Be my first love. –Jeremy Horn


“Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears  we shall be like him, because we shall see him as He is.” (I Jn. 3:2)

May every day and every way I live bring glory to You Lord,