Tag Archives: obedience

Visions of Sugarplums

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand. ~Woodrow Wilson

Sugarplums were deceitful. They were candy-coated seeds and nuts, most likely intended as indigestion remedies.

But in their heyday, children probably considered them like today’s kids do M&M’s. They were candy.  So when Clement Moore tells us that the children have visions of sugarplums, they were dreaming sweet dreams.

We tell sweet dreams to others. Sometimes we also tell our nightmares to our bunk mate or roomy.

Seldom do we tell our visions, though.

Because you just never know how people will take them. Will they believe you? Do you believe yourself?

Peter was having visions while he was praying. He followed through on the visions’ directives and traveled to Caesarea to welcome Gentiles into the kingdom.

When the Jewish apostles and believers heard about it, they believed the vision because it matched what Jesus had told them while he was still on Earth.

I have had visions as well. I don’t often throw my visions out to the public because, like Peter, I’m just a bit unsure how it will be accepted. You may ask how I know if a vision is true or from God?

I think Peter gives us some guidelines.

If the vision sounds outlandish or perhaps even against the normal “rules” of the church, does the vision occur more than one time?

If it does occur more than once, go to the second criteria: does it follow God’s word? If so, you can be reasonably sure you have a vision from God.

The last criteria is where you have to step out in faith.

When you follow the vision, does it lead you to success? Do others believe you?

God gives visions to his followers so that great things can be accomplished for the kingdom. Visions freed the Israelites from slavery. Visions kept them from entering losing battles. And visions declared that Gentiles were part of the kingdom as well.

What if Peter hadn’t obeyed the vision?

How will the kingdom be affected if you don’t obey?

You will never know what might have been, but you will always know what isn’t.


‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Acts 2:17 NIV

What’d You Say?

Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. ~C.S. Lewis

I teach English to ESL students. We start with body parts: eyes, ears, mouth, face. After a while the students know so many words that I forget how strange our language must seem to them.

“You have to face the music.” “I couldn’t face my friend.” “Face it. You’re never going to see her again.”

One student’s mouth dropped open, and he slowly drew a circle in the air around his face. “Face the music?” he asked.

I tried not to laugh as I explained the abstract imagery.

God must suppress a lot of giggles as well.

He sent Ananias to heal Saul from his blindness, and Ananias explained why that didn’t make sense.

“Lord, I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

Have you ever explained something to God?

I can’t take that job right now. It would mean a pay cut and we’re barely making it on my salary as it is.

I can’t be a missionary; I only speak English.

I can’t share my testimony; they’ll kick me out of the church if they find out everything I’ve done.

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.”

This is where I would be tempted to try explaining again why the Lord’s instruction is flawed.

This guy thinks he is so much your man that he imprisons and kills Israelites. There’s no way he’s going to tell Gentiles- people who don’t follow you to start with- that Jesus is the Messiah.

But instead, Ananias heads off to Straight Street to lay his hands on Saul.

Have you walked down Straight Street lately? It’s been updated and renovated.

It’s where you do just fine with the salary you receive. It’s where you speak in love and everyone understands. It’s where your background fades away as you move forward into the kingdom.

What crazy thing is God asking you to do?

Will you trust him?


Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open. James 1:2-8 MSG

Deaf or Just Hard-of-Hearing

None so deaf as those that will not hear. None so blind as those that will not see.
~Matthew Henry

I just spent a few days with some family members who are on the other side of the green field. You have to make sure they are looking at you when you speak . . . loudly. Otherwise, you won’t be heard.

I’ve been very public about my own hearing issues. Perhaps I’m not so far away from that side of the field myself.

Jesus encountered some hard-of-hearing people, too.

In Luke 14:35, Jesus says, “Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Then in 15:1, we find out who has the ears to hear.

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathered around to hear him.”

By now Jesus has a large following. His name is out there. He’s twittered, posted, and chatted for years and his platform is huge. 5,000 men show up for his luncheon. Women and children flock to meet him and call him blessed.

So why is it that the ones listening aren’t the leaders of the community? Why don’t they have ears to hear?

Because Jesus says some hard things.

He says that everyone is invited into the kingdom. Every sheep is brought safely into the fold. Every brother is loved, every sinner forgiven, every child wanted.

He treats everyone the same.

She sits alone at the church potluck, surrounded by groups of laughing people who have more in common with each other than with her.

He stands alone at the conference, his body contorted with spasms but his mind free and frisky.

She sits, eyes lowered, with her ratty-tattered children waiting for your hand-out.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-2 NIV

Are you listening to Jesus or are you muttering about the welfare check, the useless riff-raff, the immigrant?

Jesus tells his listeners three stories of lost things being found.

‘But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” Luke 15:32 NIV

Can you hear him? Do you have ears to hear?


Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24 NIV

Yogurt Deodorant

In our digital age, the Golden Rule is not enforced online. ~Whitney Wolfe

Several years ago I noticed something was changing. I wasn’t hearing things correctly. It became very apparent the day I brought home yogurt for my son.

“Here’s your yogurt.” I set it on the counter in front of him.

“Thanks?” He looked confused. “Where’s my deodorant?”

“What do you mean?”

I had no clue. The boy had asked for yogurt. Here was the yogurt. Was I supposed to read his mind that he needed deodorant?

It turns out I didn’t need to read his mind, I just needed to listen carefully. He hadn’t asked for yogurt, but he did need deodorant.

In Luke 8, Jesus tells the people to consider carefully how they listen.

Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.

 Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”

He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” Luke 8:18-21

How do you listen carefully?
By putting God’s word into practice.

Is someone trying to sabotage you at work?  Is your ex trying to turn the children against you? Does your neighbor threaten court proceedings for the tree on your border?

Jesus said to pray for our enemies.

Does a friend’s constant chatter about her new car make you want to slash her tires? Do you stay away from the baby showers because you’re angry with God for withholding a child? Maybe you schedule your car for a tune-up so you don’t have to meet the “Happy Pappies” for breakfast to talk about another trip abroad.

God tells us to rejoice with others.

You mutter all the way to work about your children making you late again. -Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.

You call the church fellowship committee to say that you can’t be a part of this weekend’s event. Something came up that sounds like “cap on the pouch.” -Let your yes be yes and your no be no.

Take care of widows and orphans. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Don’t look lustfully or covetously at another. Honor your father and mother.

How carefully are you listening? Are you putting the Word into practice?


Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:22-25 NIV

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

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

Fresh Bread Obedience

“I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you.”  ~Annie Dillard

I used to read The Little Red Hen to my Kindergarten students.

You probably know the story. The hen wants to make bread, but first she has to put the work into it. She asks for help, but everyone has other things, better things, to do.

It didn’t take long for my students to catch on to the repetition: “Not I,” said the dog. “Not I,” said the cat. “Not I,” said the duck. “Then I will,” said the Little Red Hen, and she did.

And then the bread is ready to eat.

“And who will eat the bread?” asks the Little Red Hen.

You know the answer; don’t you?

How many of us are the dog, cat, or duck? The bread smells wonderful, but the sweat that it takes stinks.

You know what it is going to take to help that single mother- your free nights turned into babysitting, your extra cash spent buying kids’ underwear and socks, your family Thanksgiving expanded to “outsiders”.

Or what about that college kid that seems so lost? You just got your own kids out of the house, but here is this one needing laundry, meals, rides to the pharmacy.

Maybe your story is an older neighbor who needs their lawn mowed, leaves raked, a hot meal, a sidewalk shoveled. He sits in the dark, a glowing television his only companion.

Genesis 11 and Joshua 24 gives us just a hint about what might have been.

Abram’s father, Terah, gathers together his family and sets off for Canaan, but they stop in Harran. Abram is with his father for 135 years before Terah dies. Joshua 24 tells us that Terah worshiped other gods.

Somewhere along the way, Terah didn’t do the work. Was he the intended one for the Promised Land? Was God asking him to begin a new nation? Did God instruct Terah, only to lose him to other gods?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that Terah never saw Canaan- the land of future promise. He never got to eat the bread.

It was given to someone who was willing to put in the work.

Has God called you to work?

What is your answer?


28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered. Matthew 21:28-31 NIV

Rich Obedience

money-932401__180My younger son is an optimist. When he was little and I would tell him he couldn’t do something, he would respond, “Yes I can. Watch!” I had to start rephrasing my commands to say, “You may not do such and such.”

That same son is a risk-taker. He always climbed the tree the highest, rode the skateboard the fastest, and built the fire the biggest.

Because of his optimism and his need to take risks, he learned to apologize afterward rather than to ask permission beforehand. That is how a mole ended up in his pocket, a copper wire blew a fuse in the living room, and a spider bit his finger.

The Israelites also decided that it was better to apologize than to ask permission. They built gods to worship, they made treaties with the enemy, and they kept treasures that were intended for the Lord. When they were called on it, they cried and pleaded for forgiveness. And God offered it.

My younger son just turned 17, and though I am sure he will still take some risks that I would not approve of, he mostly does what is right. He has learned right from wrong and most often chooses the right. He has earned the title Stead, with all of its rights and privileges.

The Israelites, too, learned through the years of wandering in the wilderness. They learned what pleased God and what displeased. They grew up and earned the title “God’s Chosen.” They still took risks and landed on the side of wrong, but they also often landed on the right. And because of that God offered them all the rights and privileges of the Promised Land.

The problem is that they often believed they had earned their riches all alone. They forgot the times that they screwed up, needed forgiveness, were given better than they deserved. They thought the risks resulted in their riches.

I have earned the title of Christian, Child of God, Princess of Heaven . . . only because God in his great love chose to give it to me. All riches and privileges that come with the title are only mine at his pleasure, not from anything I have done. I have learned that God disciplines me as a mother disciplines her child. And he rewards me just the same.


“So it’s paramount that you keep the commandments of God, your God, walk down the roads he shows you and reverently respect him. God is about to bring you into a good land . . . Make sure that when you eat and are satisfied, build pleasant houses and settle in, see your herds and flocks flourish and more and more money come in, watch your standard of living going up and up—make sure you don’t become so full of yourself and your things that you forget God, your God . . . If you start thinking to yourselves, “I did all this. And all by myself. I’m rich. It’s all mine!”—well, think again. Remember that God, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth so as to confirm the covenant that he promised to your ancestors—as it is today.” Deuteronomy 8 MSG

Permission Granted

park-972173__180There are times in life when a still, small voice speaks to me. Sometimes it is clear and direct, sometimes it vibrates through a thick fog of possibilities. But however it is heard, the voice has a directive. God asks me to do something.

I have been told to be a teacher, to be a writer, to pick up someone on the side of the road, to spend money and to save money, to move and to stay put. Each time God has spoken, I have had a choice to make: Listen and obey or listen and then do what I want.

The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh were nearing the Promised Land when they noticed the land of Moab, east of the Jordan, east of the Promised Land, was good for pasture. They had a large number of sheep and wanted to stay put.

They approached Moses and asked to put down roots. Moses called them on it . . . Are you really going to let your brothers go into this land without you? They have wandered in the wilderness as long as you, waiting for the same reward as you, and now you would abdicate to run and do as you please!?

But they were willing to go ahead and do as instructed if that was what was required. Their honest willingness was all that Moses needed. He granted permission.

Now who is to say that it wasn’t good for the tribes to stay east of the Jordan. Gad and Reuben became so intertwined that they functioned as one tribe, and a warrior tribe at that. Having them to the east blocking the rest of the tribes from their enemies was a good defense. The half tribe of Manasseh likely asked to stay due to turmoil within the tribe. Separating the two sides allowed them to avoid fighting.

But we can’t say that their plan was better than God’s. God’s plan was that all Israel live within the Promised Land. But going into the land didn’t mean the other tribes were more faithful. They didn’t completely follow the Lord’s plan either. They made agreements with people in the land, they took wives from the natives, and they didn’t follow all of the rules set up for them.

So was it right for me to stop teaching? Or to take my time writing books? Or what about when I failed to pick up that woman on the side of the road . . . when I held on to my money or when I let it slip through my fingers . . . or what about the times I have begged to stay in an area . . . or to leave when I hear God saying stay?

I guess those are the answers I will only know in the great by and by. But I can be sure that as long as I ask God’s permission, he will be able to work it out. Waiting for his permission is the requirement.


“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:25-28 MSG

Prejudice: Answering the Call

tree-402953__180I am often dismissive of what people do for a living. I admire social workers because they get paid to help people, something I enjoy doing. I don’t, however, think as highly of baristas and waiters because they are just convenience workers, even though they are helping me.

I think people who are gifted at mathematics and science are especially smart, and I am in awe of them, but the first time I had a coach in high school teach an academically challenging course, I have to say I was doubtful. How could a PE teacher be smart enough for that? And I remember the first time I realized that my brother-in-law, the sports trainer, was intelligent. It just hadn’t occurred to me that he would be. I remember discussing a book with him and then actually saying, “So you’re really smart?” with great shock. Sorry, Mark.

A little over a year ago I met some friends for lunch. One was telling us that her daughter was thinking about studying theater when she goes to college. We all laughed and commented on her waitressing abilities. It was fully assumed that theater is a nice sideline or hobby, but it is not a career worth pursuing.

Another friend at the luncheon was deeply hurt because her own daughter is already a theater major. Certainly she is not under the delusion that it will be easy to make a living, but following the lead that the Lord provides is obedience, not foolhardiness.

God calls each of us to a different part of the world. We each have the same mission – Bring God Glory – but he asks us to do it in different ways and through different mediums. To choose a job only because it will make a lot of money, or win the respect of others, or make you famous, is to dishonor God.

In our family we joke that we have a preacher, an author, an artist, and a hippie environmentalist. No wonder we aren’t planning to retire.

But before you laugh too hard or shake your head in American materialistic haughtiness, look a little closer. All four of us are attempting to stay true to the calling of our Master, Lord, and Savior. In each of our situations we try to bring beauty and hope to a world of dark despair.

Perhaps you laugh, so does God Almighty, Creator, Artist Extraordinaire, Originator of Words, Grandiose Gardener, Flawless Farmer. . . the laughter of pride, love, and joy. Stand firm in that knowledge.


Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
Harriet Tubman