Category Archives: Blog

The Struggle Is Real

All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today. ~Pope Paul VI


The Grand Canyon is growing 0.4 mm/year if you imagine it growing at a constant rate. But, of course, it isn’t. The Grand Canyon suffers from earthquakes and volcanic activity. It has seen major flooding in its long life. Some floods may have changed it in as little as ten hours. During other seasons it wore away at a minuscule rate.

Do you ever feel like the Grand Canyon?

All of the relatives are getting along, then Aunt Cathy dies and everyone wants a piece of her stuff.  The fighting and bickering that ensue damage the family and Christmas is never the same.

Your child received perfect scores all through Elementary school, but now in Middle school the grades are falling, the attitude is changing, the language sets your teeth on edge, and no one wants to be in the house with her.

You loved your job. The boss was perfect, so understanding and congenial. But she was promoted and her replacement is the meanest snake in the pit. You hate your new boss. You hate work. You’re even beginning to hate your co-workers.

Jesus gets it. He’s been a solid rock beaten by the winds and scorned by the rains of Satan.

His ministry began with healing and teaching and praising. God was on his side. He was baptized and told so.

. . . the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:22 NIV

But that “life is good” moment was met with fasting, thirst, fatigue, and temptation.

Satan went after Jesus with everything he had.

And when Jesus didn’t succumb?

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. Luke 4:13 NIV

Things got better for a while.

The relatives came back for Christmas. The daughter kissed her parents and hugged her sister. The coworkers held a meeting and worked out all the problems.

But sometime later . . .

The flood came crashing over the lava walls and in ten hours chaos reigned. That’s the way of Satan. He doesn’t give up, just waits for a more opportune time.

But that’s OK, because Jesus said,

. . . I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 ESV

JESUS doesn’t leave for an opportune time.

He stays forever fighting beside you.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV

Ripe Repentance

Repentance means you change your mind so deeply that it changes you. ~Bruce Wilkinson

John’s preaching was often direct and harsh. He called his audience a “brood of vipers.” He chastised Herod for sleeping with his brother’s wife. And he warned the people they were going to be cut down like a barren tree.

Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Luke 3:8-9 ESV

In fear the people asked what they should do. They didn’t want to be cut down and thrown into a fire.

John responded:Share your food; share your clothes. Don’t cheat people. Don’t threaten and accuse people. Be content with your pay.

He says that that is the fruit of repentance.

Repentance is a big word we don’t hear very often. It means actually change to show that you’re sorry for what you’ve done.

We often force little children to apologize to their friends, but the behavior that follows shows whether they apologized or repented. If another toy is taken, another smack given upside the head, another hateful word spewed- then they only apologized.

What about you?

Do you eat lunch with your coworkers but think about feeding them crow?

Do you wish your brother well on his promotion, but view him in a new shade of jealous green?

Do you buy the cheapest canned vegetables for the food pantry while you purchase organic produce for your own family?

Is there an axe at the root of your tree?

Ripen some repentance before it’s too late.

 “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:5-9 ESV

I Don’t Know ‘Bout That

Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark. ~Rabindranath Tagore

Excited fear.

I feel it in the pit of my stomach when I hope something is true, but maybe, just maybe, I got it all wrong.

You get a call from another company about a job, but it’s above your level of expertise. Was it an elbow nudge from God saying Go for it?

You’ve made it through the second month of pregnancy, longer than ever before. You don’t tell anyone the news, but your whole body glows with anticipation. Is this finally the blessing?

The visa you’ve been applying for makes it to the last hurdle. Will you leap over this final obstacle and be a missionary? Is God really going to send you?

The shepherds were out in the field. It was late. It was dark. It was surreal.

An angel appeared and the night was lit bright as day with the glory of the Lord. The angel’s message? “The Messiah has been born.” (Luke 2:9 ff)

The legend. The myth. The anticipation. The excited fear.

The shepherds have just been told that what they have waited for all their lives has just come true.

But can they really trust the messenger? Did they really hear what they thought they heard? They head to Bethlehem to see if these are angels of God or messengers of lies. Were they having hallucinations or were the Heavenly Hallelujahs real?

They don’t say anything until they see for themselves that the baby is in the manger just as they were told. Then their fears are transformed into faith that they just have to share.

“When they had seen him, they spread the word. . .” (Luke 2:17)

Listen to God. Then go check it out. See if what you think he has said is truly for you. And after you kneel at the manger, let your excited fear turn into ecstatic faith.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6 NIV

Leaping and Listening

Why is it that when we talk to God we’re said to be praying but when God talks to us we’re schizophrenic? ~Lily Tomlin

I was about seven months pregnant with my first son, when my husband left for a weekend church retreat. Friday and Saturday passed with no movement from my active little fellow. I became concerned.

Sunday morning I sat in the pew, waiting. My husband walked to the podium and began to preach.

The baby inside me jumped and turned in a silent “Hallelujah dance.”

He had heard his father’s voice and responded.

Mary and Elizabeth are both stunned to find themselves pregnant. Elizabeth has tried to have a baby for so many years she has stopped counting. She has probably stopped praying.

Mary is not married, isn’t even sure how a baby is made, and yet here she is– pregnant.

In fear and confusion, Mary heads to her cousin Elizabeth’s house. She knocks on the door, raises her eyes to meet Elizabeth’s gaze, and offers a hesitant, “Shalom.”

The baby inside Elizabeth leaps when it hears the sound of Mary’s voice. . . Mary so recently touched by the Holy Spirit . . . Mary so longing to know everything is going to be alright.

And Elizabeth knows what her child has heard. She is filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaims, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! . . . Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:42, 45)

Elizabeth was in tune with the Spirit. She was listening for its call, watching for its coming.

Did you give $10 to the homeless man at the Spirit’s urging? Did you call that friend you haven’t heard from in years? Did you stop to pray for the passenger in the passing ambulance? Did you carry groceries for the mother with three children pulling on her pants? Did you encourage the humming teen in the checkout line to keep singing praises?

Do you know when you hear the sound of God approaching?

Are you listening for his voice?

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.  Proverbs 3:6 MSG

I Will

Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

He always wanted to be a missionary, but J. Oswald Smith was susceptible to sickness and disease. One mission assignment after another ended with his return to the States to recover from some new malady. So in the 1950’s, Smith gave up on being a missionary and began serving at a church in Toronto.

He gave up on being a missionary, but not on being mission minded.

He spoke to his members about the great work that needed doing, and they raised $282,000 for missions in one year alone.

He began helping other churches raise funds for missionaries. He helped one church in Boston go from a $3200 missions budget to a budget exceeding $200,000 in only six years.

How many more people heard the Good News of Jesus because of Oswald Smith than would have ever heard it by listening to him alone?

Last month I thought I should offer to host the community Bible study that I attend. I prayed about it, but felt a definite “no” being given.

Why in the world should I not host the study? We have a large house with no children left in it. It is a central location to many in the group. And it’s a Bible study, for goodness sake!

But I put aside my arguments and listened to God.

Another woman, growing in the faith, offered to host. It was a big step for her who so recently had spoken of the tongue lashing her father gave her for teaching Bible class at church.

What do you feel called to do? Is it what God is asking you to do, or is it just what you want to do?

Ask God what he wants.

His answer may not make sense at the time, but you can be sure it is the right answer.

 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24 ESV

Do I Have to Yell?

I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening. ~Larry King

When my father first met my sister-in-law, he spoke very loudly. She isn’t hard of hearing . . . just foreign.

We’ve all done it. Someone doesn’t understand something you say, so you say it louder. They heard you. They just didn’t get it. No need to yell.

This morning I told my husband I wanted him to think on something before answering me. “Don’t just jump the gun and say ‘No.'”

Should I pick up some extra hours – read that as pay – by working evenings this month. The kids are out of school and can take classes during the day hours. FYI, I work on Beijing Time.

Matt left for work and I continued my quiet time. The daily devotional book I read was about slowing down, the book I picked up this weekend at the library sale was about finding your focus and sticking to it, and then, out of nowhere, a friend texted me a devotional about rest.

Evidently God needed to yell for me to get it.

Do you hear God yelling?

Are you praying for a friend’s failing marriage while you feel guilty that you haven’t spoken to your own husband for a week?

Did you get an email about a retreat the same day your best friend suggested you get away for a while?

Did the four-year-old most precious thing in the world wrap her arms around your neck while they announced at church that they need teacher’s in Bible class?

God knows how to speak your language. Are you listening?

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Luke 6:47 ESV

Bless the Lord

Your entire life only happens in this moment. The present moment is life itself. Yet, people live as if the opposite were true and treat the present moment as a stepping stone to the next moment – a means to an end. ~Eckhart Tolle

In the South, it’s legal to kill you with kindness.

“Make sure the lid is on before you shake the juice. Bless your heart.”

“Don’t pick up spiders. Any spiders! Bless your heart.”

And my favorite: “If you throw rocks at each other, it’s going to hurt. Bless your heart.”

All of these are said because the offenders are idiots, but bless their hearts they can’t help being stupid. Their mama  does some idiotic things as well.

There have been times in life when I stubbornly resisted what was going on around me. I ignored the passing of time because I just knew things would be better next year. I added more to my plate even though I couldn’t finish what was already there. I worried over things that might happen and never noticed what was actually happening.

I’ve learned something after years of stupidity.

Enjoy what is right in front of me. Bless my heart.

Enjoy a broken septic system? Look at it as a challenge to use less water in every situation. Imagine how many people wish they had a little clean water to wash their dishes in. I am truly blessed.

Enjoy emergency surgery? Notice how many people bring meals, send cards, call to check on you. What a blessing to have friends.

Enjoy an increase in the cost of insurance? Patiently wait and watch how it gets taken care of in unexpected, miraculous ways. All blessings come from God.

Are you standing in the middle of a mudslide?

A wrecked car? Cancer? Aging parents? Rebellious children?

Whatever the situation is, accept it. This is your life. This is your weight. This is your falling down house. These are your rowdy children with runny noses. This is the only time you will ever be here again. Enjoy it.

And look for the blessing. Before it’s too late.

Bless your heart.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
    or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
    that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:33-36 ESV

Doing the Right Thing

Sometimes it is better to lose and do the right thing than to win and do the wrong thing. ~Tony Blair

I don’t like rules. I view them as flowers to a happier state of being. Some gardens grow daisies, others produce roses or violets, but they all bloom in shades of gray.

For instance, if someone can clearly see all directions and no one is coming, why should they have to sit through a traffic light? Yet, there I sat in the middle of nowhere in the middle of no one.

Doing what is right isn’t always easy. Knowing what is right isn’t either.

One day Jesus and his buddies were walking through a field of grain. They were hungry, so they pulled off a few heads of grain and started munching. Not such a bad thing, right?

Except it was Saturday. The day that God had said don’t harvest.

The rule followers started throwing the book at Jesus.

“What are they doing? God isn’t going to put up with this! They’re putting us all in danger. Run! Run! . . . Wait. It’s the Sabbath. Walk, walk, but not too far.”

Jesus knew where this fell on the continuum of gray.

“Remember David, THE King of Israel? He and his men were hungry so they ate the bread that was set aside for God and the priests. That was allowed; surely this is, too.”

Some people liked that answer- the ones who needed to eat -but others weren’t so happy. If they couldn’t trust the rules to keep them safe, what could they trust? God’s box was clearly outlined, and they needed him to stay in it.

Do you have two children who both need discipline? Will a spanking send one over the edge of despair and leave the other one seething in vengeful spite?

Do you have two coworkers who need a helping hand? One is overwhelmed by the demands of the boss, while the other spends the day on Instagram and Snap Chat?

Do you see financial struggles but notice that medical bills have drowned one person, while excessive Amazon surfing has plunged the other?

God wants us to do what is right. Jesus showed us what is right can vary according to the situation.

If you aren’t sure what is right, don’t try to box God in. Ask him for direction about where he wants to put the boundary lines.

And if he doesn’t answer, wait a little longer at the red light. It will change soon.

Seek good, and not evil,
    that you may live;
and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,
    as you have said.
Hate evil, and love good,
    and establish justice in the gate; Amos 5:14-15 ESV

What’s In a Name?

A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble. ~Charles Spurgeon

It’s been nearly thirty years, but the memory is vivid.

I sat at the round Formica kitchen table. Pap on my left, Matt across from me. The tv attached to the wall was silent while we ate lunch.

“Why do they call you Abe?” I asked. “Your name is Howard. How do you get Abe out of that?”

Matt’s grandfather peered at me through large brown glasses. Wisps of white hair floated above a mostly bare scalp. He set down his sandwich and frowned.

“Because I have a big nose.”

I laughed.

I hate that I laughed.

It was obvious I had hurt his feelings.

Never in a million years would I have hurt that precious man of God. He was kindness and love wrapped up in gentle quietness.

He was an old man, but my laughter brought back the pain of a child.

Names define us.

Americans spend months choosing just the right name for our children. Some cultures don’t name the child for weeks or months after it is born. The child must deserve the name it is given.

My own name means “Harvester of the Moon.” My Chinese friend chose to call me “Autumn Song.” My father called me “Heifer Foot.”

Which one would you choose?

Do you wear the name tag “Loser?” What about “Rejected,” “Unacceptable,” “Disgusting?”

Do childhood nicknames stab your heart?

Do overheard whispers ring in your ears? Fat. Lazy. Stupid. Worthless.

Do you introduce yourself but think, What a liar.

What if you instead heard “Loved,” “Forgiven,” “Longed For,” “Special,” “Beautiful.” These are the names God the Father has given you.

Will you come running when he calls your name?

The nations shall see your righteousness,
    and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name
    that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
    and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
    and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
    and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
    and your land shall be married. Isaiah 62:2-4 ESV

Hopefully Devoted to You

There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in – that we do it to God, to Christ, and that’s why we try to do it as beautifully as possible. ~Mother Teresa

It was 34 degrees with a light breeze, the best weather forecast for the week. I layered my long johns, 2 pair of socks, scarf, earmuffs, hat, and gloves and then stepped out on the beach.

Heading south I walked into the sun, a glare on the water blinding my view. A couple walking their dog stopped to chat with another dog owner. I kept walking, clipping along at a pace sure to warm my blood.

Sea gulls and pelicans floated above the water, gliding and squawking over my head. I stopped to watch a lone gull peck at a fish.

A large group of gulls gathered in a tidal pool dipping and splashing for their daily bath. They seemed to be enjoying their personal hygiene ritual. I shivered and walked on.

Mark is a personal trainer at my gym. I was listening to him coach a member while I squeezed weights with my thighs.

“Were you sore last time? Good, good. You should always be sore.”

I couldn’t help myself . . . “Are you sore?”

He looked over at me, surprise etched on his face.

“Yes. I’m always sore. You aren’t getting stronger if you aren’t sore.”

He went on to tell us that the last time he didn’t work out was five years ago when he ate some bad oysters.

Five years. Daily workouts. I shook my head and moved on to leg presses.

What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning? Your kids? Your job?

Do you rise early so you can run before work?

Maybe you stay late after school to work on lesson plans.

Do your hands ache from too much knitting, your eyes from too much reading, or your legs from too much walking?

Do you spend every waking hour thinking about the way words flow together, singing until you’re hoarse, or painting into the wee hours of morning?

Devotion costs us. It costs physical comfort- like bathing in freezing cold water or exercising until you are sore. It costs us sleep, opportunities for other pleasures, and time for other pursuits.

Devotion takes time, energy, effort, even money.

But it rewards with excellence, knowledge, ability, and excitement.

What are you devoted to? How can you tell?

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body has finished with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.  1 Peter 4:1-2 NIV