Monday, April 27, 2015

One little bite

When I spend weekday afternoons with our two year old grandson and his infant sister, I often bring him what he calls a "Momo cookie," a special treat homemade by this doting grandma.   Often a mess happens when he takes it and tries to cram the entire cookie into his mouth all at once.

"Take one little bite at a time," I advise this small fellow with both cheeks bulging.  "You don't want to choke."

I can hear God chuckling.
"Who's talking?" He asks me.

All too often,
       I see a situation in front of me,
an enormous problem,
or a journey a little bit daunting.
I am overwhelmed,
thinking that I have to conquer it
                                    all at once
               that which is way too big for me,
that which God never intended
         to attempt by myself.

Take one little bite at a time,
            the LORD reminds me,
no matter what
        is on my plate today.
Take one bite.
Choking is not necessary.

One thing I love about reading God's Word is that through it God helps me to think about a situation differently, to gain His perspective on it, and to seek Him through it.  I may not be able to avoid or alter a situation, but I always have a choice in how to approach it.  And that would start with Him.

"Follow Me into it."

It is not a time to panic
               or choke,
not time to despair,
but just another opportunity to grow in Him,
        trusting God one bite at a time.

But seek first
His kingdom
         and His righteousness
and all these things
     shall be yours as well.

                   Matthew 6.33

Seek Him first
    and He will navigate you
    through it.
Even this.

One bite at a time.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Remember when ...?

It was years ago now when we were working our way through a particularly hard season in our family's life, seeking God in it, seeking God through it.  In the midst of those days, I took two of our daughters back to college for the fall semester.  Before I headed back home, I attended church that morning with them.  The pastor was working his way through a series on the minor prophets in the Bible.

At one point in the sermon, he said, "And when you get to the end of this, you will have a story to tell of God's faithfulness."  Those words touched my heart.  I wrote them down on an index card which I posted at the kitchen sink upon my return home that evening.

The next morning, our youngest daughter scurried into the kitchen to grab a bite of breakfast before the school bus lumbered up our street.  She paused to read my little note, and then turned to me.  "That's not true," she stated.

"What do you mean?" I asked, a little alarmed by her response.

"Mom, every day is a story of God's faithfulness."

I had no idea at that time how true I would find those words of our child.  We were not yet even close to being through this particular journey.  I clung to those words.  And every day was truly a story of His faithfulness.  Every day He revealed Himself in one way or another.  We did not need a rear view mirror to witness His Presence with us.  We were not just seeking a resolution or an answer, but seeking God through it.

I have told this story before, but I was reminded of it this morning while reading a passage in the book of Judges in the Bible.

...there they repeat the triumphs of the LORD.
                               Judges 5.11

Despair is only a lapse of memory.

"Remember when....?"
          is not just a fond memory
but a chronicle of God's mighty work.
Keep His faithfulness before you.

Every day is a story of God's faithfulness.

Almighty God is still working in you,
    and through you,
    and all around you.
You are not alone
                         in this.

Remember when.....?

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Road Not Taken

Several years ago as I was taking one of our daughters back to her apartment down in the urban core, I missed the ramp into the city and ended up on another highway out of the city.  It was not the way I intended to go, certainly not a road that was anywhere on my radar, and I was a bit dismayed at how much longer our journey would take.

I looked for the first opportunity to turn around.  To my surprise, the first exit we came to was a road surpringly close to our house.  "This would be a much more direct route to take," I said out loud. "I never knew it was here."  We turned around and headed back into the city.

I dropped off our daughter at her apartment and returned home by taking that newly discovered way, cutting several minutes off my return journey.

Am I so set in my ways?  Is my mind so closed that I do not even consider how God may be trying to re-route me?  Not a detour at all, but a better route all along?

The road not taken might simply be "trust God in this."

It may not be my plans working out,
           but His deeper purposes.

And I remind myself
that the unexpected is never random at all.
         God knew this.

And a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way...

                       Isaiah 35.8

I have only to be faithful
       in following Him into it,
even that which I do not understand,
a place
        -- or route-- of His own choosing,
                                      not mine.,
a way of His protecting,
a way of His providing,
a way of realizing
                   who God is.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth,
         do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
           and rivers in the desert.

                          Isaiah 43.19

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

DYB, part two

God calls us not to success
               but faithfulness,
not to a reasonably good effort,
                but to our best
    in whatever He places before us.

"Over the gate at University of Pennsylvania, there is a motto.  It reads, 'In the dust of defeat as well as in the laurels of victory there is a glory to be found if one has done his best.'  There are many men and women who have done their best, but who have not succeeded in gaining the laurels of victory.  To them, as much honour is due as to those who have received these laurels."

These words were not spoken by a wanna-be or a justification by someone in last place, but spoken by Eric Liddell who won a gold medal in running at the 1924 Olympics and left his running career to serve as a missionary in China.  Liddell's story was popularized by the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire.

In a biography about his life God's Joyful Runner, a story is also told about journalists surrounding him after his Olympic victory, waiting for him to proclaim some kind of overtly religious claim for his overwhelming gold medal performance in the 400 meter race.

"The secret of my success over the 400 meters," Liddell responded to the reporters, "is that I run the first 200 meters as hard as I can. Then, for the second 200 meters, with God's help, I run harder."

DYB.  Do Your Best.

The matter is not running hard enough for God, as if we are performing for His approval, but simply running as hard as I can for His glory.  The latter is a great delight.

In whatever God places before you today,
        no matter what,
        no matter where,
        no matter a cheering crowd
                  or in total anonymity,
do your best.
                  It matters.
                  It matters a lot.

Do you not know that in a race
all the runners compete,
but only one receives the prize?
         So run that you may obtain it.
Every athlete exercises self control
                                 in all things.
They do it to receive a perishable wreath,
              but we an unperishable.

                         1 Corinthians 9. 24-25

Whether an athlete
         or an accountant,
crossing the finish line first place
       or mopping up a mess,
behind the scenes
         or leading a nation,
there is a glory to be found,
         and that would be His.

Run hard, my friend.
Do Your Best

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"No Events Today"

I snapped on my phone this morning to quick check  my email, the weather, and my calendar.

"No events," the screen indicates.

I can hear God chuckling. 
"Just wait."

The most profound things in life
      won't be found on any calendar,
but that which is unforeseen,
                and divinely appointed.

What will God place on my radar today,
who will He put on my path,
what needs will open up,
what blessings crouch beneath the surface,
what eternally-scheduled designs
             does God have up His sleeve?

I may not be able to see it coming,
        but God is never surprised.

God always works in deeper dimensions
           than I can ever see.

When I do not present my day before God,
        but seek His day for me,
there are no interruptions,
no accidents,
but just His purposes unfolding.

No events?
   Just watch what God will do,
extraordinary things
         with what we see
         as an ordinary day.

But I trust in You,
                O LORD,
I say, "You are my God."
My times are in Your hand.

                      Psalm 31. 14-15

Monday, April 20, 2015

No matter the course, DYB

Today is the 119th running of the Boston Marathon.  I will not be there :) Runners have always had to qualify with an incredibly fast time to run Boston.  Twice I made that time by the skin of my teeth.  But that bar has been raised impossibly higher.  One must run now even faster than the qualifying time, faster now by more than a full minute to achieve a spot in this elite competion, which according to Matthew Futterman in the Wall Street Journal, is like being invited to "the table of cool kids in the eighth grade cafeteria."

I smiled this morning at the thought of a marathon.  With the exception of a few slow attempts, I have not been able to run at all in the past eighteen months since I ran the Chicago marathon with an already emerging tendinitis.  Recently, one of our daughters asked me, "Aren't you sorry you went ahead and ran it?"

No darling, not at all.

The marathon itself is not difficult.  It is the fun part.  The hardest part of any marathon is not the weather or that insurmountable hill in the middle of the course or even the blister that emerges at mile six of the race.  The hard part of any marathon is the months and months of training in the cold and rain and early mornings when it would be a lot nicer to stay inside with a cup of coffee.  The hard part is when you are out there alone and hurting and no one is on the sidelines cheering you on and handing you Gatorade.  I know that painful solitude.

If you have read this blog for any time at all, you know that my decade-long experience in marathoning taught me things far deeper than running itself.  At every point, God met me -- in pain and sweat and reluctance and even in secret joys.  As it says in Eccleiastes 9.11, "the race is not to the swift."  The point is not speed or even accomplishment, but a life redeemed by God --no matter how God uses you.

In one marathon, I saw a little boy proudly holding up a sign, "Win, Dad, win."  I chuckled, because most likely, winning for that daddy would mean simply crossing the finish line.

When our daughters were young, we used to emphasize that more important than being the best is DYB -- doing your best.  You might not be able to be the first to cross the finish line, but you can ALWAYS do your best.  No matter the course, DYB.

Fulfill your ministry, right where you are.  A bike-racing friend once confided to me, "We came to the point that we realized that we did not have to win the race to bring God glory."

Do everything you can to make the most of the race that God has set before you.  That course may change from day to day, and in some cases even hour by hour, the place and purposes of God's own choosing.

God calls us to be faithful,
     no matter the course
         He has set before you today.

Therefore, since we are surrounded
by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us also lay aside
every weight and sin
which clings so closely,
and let us run
        with perseverance
the race that is set before us,
   looking to Jesus...

               Hebrews 12. 1-2

Let us run, my friend.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

And what exactly am I supposed to be doing here?

As a result of my husband's job, we were largely a nomadic family, pulling up our stakes and our roots every few years, and moving to a new place.  "Oh, you're just used to it," people would always respond, most often said by those who never moved.  I heard a similar refrain when living in frigid Chicago, "Oh, you're just used to the cold."  The bitter air still freezes your lungs, my friend, no matter how long you live there.  And moving still hurts down to your bones, no matter how many times you do it.

You gather up your strength, hold on tight to the LORD, and walk through that door.  God has purpose in it. An adventure awaits, not one that I can possibly know, but one of His choosing.  Do everything you can to make the most of it within your own limitations or expectations.  Fulfill your ministry there.  God has strategically placed you.

And I have found
that I don't have to know His purposes
for God to use it.

If anyone asks you,
"Why are you untying it?"
you shall say this,
      "The Lord has need of it."

                         Luke 19.31

Heeding God's voice,
       following Him into
    what He has placed on my heart
does not mean that I
        must always understand
        what God is doing.
He calls me to be faithful,
  even when it doesn't
    make sense to me,
  even when it might be uncomfortable,
  even not in my skill set.
"The Lord has need of it,"
        is all I need to know.

And what exactly am I 
       supposed to be doing?
Why exactly am I supposed
                      to be here?

Divine dimensions,
are too intricate for me to comprehend.

"Trust Me in this"
and do all things
        Soli Deo Gloria,
glory to God alone,
and let Him deepen it all.

Even here.
Even in this.

Not just a different mindset,
but a different reality
and a radically different outcome.

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep,
and said,
"Surely the LORD
            is in this place,
and I did not know it."

                   Genesis 28.16

We do not know what to do,
    but our eyes are upon You.

                    2 Chronicles 20.12

Friday, April 17, 2015

Limited Data

I am coming off somewhat of an internet fast.  Last month, there was a little too much month left when I received an alert that we were down to just ten percent of our remaining data.  And so, I jumped off the grid for everything but the absolute necessary business, and I took advantage of wifi wherever it was available.

What was draining me?

The basic problem was that my phone was defaulting at all times to my limited data, so even when I was at home or in a place where my phone should have recognized wifi, I was using up my limited allotted data for the month.  I didn't realize it until it was too late.  Those tiny little GB's of data disappear incredibly fast, even for the most mundane of tasks such as checking email or the weather, and in hyper-speed for anything like items with streamed video.

But when I am linked to wifi, there is available data, all I need and more.

The significant difference is on whom am I depending.  What is my default?  Have I checked it lately?  

Am I looking to God for my strength?  Am I seeking God for His wisdom in this situation?

I am always limited in what I can do.
But God is not.
There is never any lack in Him.

How do I know?  Because the Bible is stock full of people like me, getting to the end of ourselves, realizing our own limitations and learning to depend on God.  Who is my source?  He who is all powerful, the Almighty is His name.

The LORD is my strength and my song.
                    Exodus 3. 15

If any of you lacks wisdom,
let him ask God,
who gives to all men generously
         and without reproaching,
and it will be given him.
                    James 1.5

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Use your words

Our two-year-old grandson is quite verbal, but at times, his communication diminishes to actions and mere noises.  When there is a shift in his behavior or demeanor, he will either tell me what he would like or needs, or he will resort to whining or actions that tell me, like Miss Clavel in the book Madeleine, "something is not right."  With a two-year-old, sometimes it is hard for me to know what is the problem and what is an appropriate solution.  Does he want to play?  Does he need a snack to carry him over to supper? Does he just need a little quiet time in my lap with a stack of books to read outloud?

The dilemma is usually solved by telling him, "Use your words."  That phrase is not so much for my own information as it is for him to identify and realize what the problem is and how to approach it.  Even at that age.  Instead of yelling or crying or throwing toys on the floor, just tell me.  I will help you with it.

God asks the same of us,  "Use your words."

That is why God invented prayer.

"Talk to Me.  Listen for Me.  I will help you with it."

It is not just that God will show me what to do, how to respond, how to navigate this situation, how to pray about it, or even how to pray, but to pray.

Use your words.  Not the scripted words of another person, but the cries of your own heart to a God who loves you more than you can know.

Praying is an ongoing conversation, a deepening relationship.  And through it, God guides my heart not just to what is really the problem, but what is really the opportunity, He realigns my vision to see and identify not just my own troubling need, but a sensitivity and love for those He places on my path everyday and the grace and wisdom to respond. Praying does not just sharpen my awareness of what is around me;  it increases my trust in Him.  I can depend on Him.

"...prayer cannot be fruitless," Andrew Murray wrote in his classic With Christ in the School of Prayer, published in 1895, "its blessing will show itself in our life."

It is not whether or not that God will answer, but how.

"...prayer will never go unblessed," Murray states.

Use your words.

Have no anxiety about anything,
but in everything
by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God,
which passes all understanding,
will keep your hearts
and your minds in Christ Jesus.

               Philippians 4. 6-7

teach us to pray...

            Luke 11. 1

Monday, April 13, 2015

Tomorrow's Forecast

Spring comes silently, God's paintbrush transforming our world from a gray and dreary landscape into one that takes our breath away with brilliant color.

But these visible changes are also accompanied by volatile weather.  Crisp mornings turn into warm humid afternoons. Storms appear suddenly, and sometimes violently, shaking up our plans for the day.  We are often caught by the unexpected in this season of life.

What appears on today's horizon?  I need to be ready for anything... and flexible for God's purposes in it, that which I may not be yet aware, that which I may not be able to see yet.

On a recent day as I was driving an unfamiliar route home, a sign in front of a church caught my eye.

"Tomorrow's Forecast:
Our God Reigns."

I chuckled.  I had just been musing over what I needed to do about a particular situation.  God has already gone before me.  He is already in control.  Even tomorrow, our God reigns.

No matter what is ahead, how volatile the situation, how unexpected my path, what the upheaval... or the weather, that is a reality on which I can depend.  A forecast that never changes.  No matter what.

The LORD reigns;
    He is robed in majesty;
the LORD is robed,
    He is girded with strength.
Yea, the world is established;
it shall never be moved;
Your throne is established of old;
You are from everlasting.

                      Psalm 93. 1-2

Our God reigns.
Today and tomorrow
     and the rest of your life.
                       Even in this.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

I just can't always see it from here

One of my brothers commented last week about a powerful worship service that he had just attended.  "You know, everything stood in the way of us going," he said.  "It would have been much easier to have skipped it. It took a lot to get us there.  But I am so glad we went."

And then he mused, "It always seems like the times it is hardest to go that it is the most significant."

It may not be about a great message or the fellowship of believers.  But it is about what God does in our hearts.  Worshiping God always changes us.

Even when we are not aware of it.

Nearly twenty years ago, I flew to Chicago to attend a close friend's wedding.  I spent the night at my parents' house nearby.  The next morning, I thought about just hanging out with mom and dad, which would have been the most convenient thing to do.  But they were still asleep when I realized that I could still make the early church service.  I didn't really want to go by myself, but the pocket of time was there, and every justification of convenience and comfort was obviously only a cover for complacency.  I grabbed my mom's car keys and headed out.

Because I was a few minutes late, parking was difficult.  By the time I entered the church, the pews were full, and the service had already started.  I found a single seat in one of the back rows of the balcony.

A special speaker replaced the regular pastor that morning.  Because I forgot to pick up a church bulletin, I had no idea who he was.  But within minutes of his reading Luke 14. 25-33, the parable about counting the cost, I scrambled to take notes.  Without a bulletin, I jotted down notes in the margins of my Bible surrounding the passage. And I swam in the words of Jesus, calling us to a life of simplicity, contentment and generosity.  What are my inner attachments?

At the end of the service, I saw a discarded bulletin and realized that I had just heard John Stott, a renowned British theologian, pastor and teacher.  His quiet servant heart profoundly impacted me that morning.

As I drove back to have coffee with my folks, I was so glad I went.  Oh, what I would have missed, I thought.

The notes are still marked in my Bible:   "John Stott 2/18/1996."

Little did I realize when I was in such a completely different season of life, that the notes from that worship service nearly twenty years later would still have a fresh impact on my heart.  I read that Scripture passage this morning.  I absorbed those scribbled notes still in the margin.

Oh, what I would have missed.

Worshiping God
and dwelling in His Word
       changes me
and impacts everyone around me.

It matters.  It matters a lot.

I just can't always
                see it from here.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The 11th commandment

One of our daughters at age five was reciting the Ten Commandments in preparation for her Sunday School class.  She counted them down on her fingers as she recited to make sure she remembered each one.  As she neared the end of the list, she hesitated for just a moment, trying to remember these basic instructions for life.

"Thou shalt not..." she stopped for a few moments and thought.  "Thou shalt not..." and quite suddenly it came to her.  Her eyes twinkled.  "Thou shalt afraid."

Oh, sweet young one, who has so much life ahead of you, always remember that.  And me, the one who has carried cumbersome fears for far too long, I need to recite and repeat daily. 

I wrote her words down in ink on the back pages of my Bible.  Just so I would remember them.

And while "thou shalt not be afraid" is not part of the official ten commandments documented in Exodus 20, the entire Scriptures are laden with that same command and with that same encouragement.

Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and of good courage;
be not frightened,
neither be dismayed;
for the LORD your God is with you
                           wherever you go.

                 Joshua 1.9

And in the words of Fellowship Memphis pastor John Bryson:  "What would you not be afraid to do if you knew God was in it?"

When I trust God in a scary situation,
                             fear cannot stick to it.

When my backpacking husband goes off on his adventures, each and every item in his pack is absolutely necessary.  Anything more would make the pack too heavy for the trek.  As I go into my own day, into the adventures God has in store, fear is not one of those necessary items.  Fear only gets in the way.  There is no room for it, nor do I have the energy to carry that extra load.  And I find that it is not the actual scary situation that trips me up or brings me down, but fear itself.

What do I miss out on
    because fear weighed me down?

How can I trust God in this?
How differently would I view
          this "ordinary" day,
this difficult relationship,
this uphill path,
this paralyzing decision,
this scary situation,
         if I knew God was in it?

When I get to that fearful point of "I can't,"
I realize that is exactly where God wants me to be,
because He can.

God says, "Look to Me,
I've got you.
No room for fear."

Though the fig tree do not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
     I will rejoice in the LORD,
     I will joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
He makes my feet like hinds' feet,
He makes me tread upon my high places.

                        Habakkuk 3. 17-19

Thou shalt not....
                          be afraid.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Outloud Every Which Way I Can

When one of our daughters was in the throes of teenage angst, I approached her as she cried one evening and asked, "What's the matter, sweetie?"

To which she replied, "I don't know!"

Things just seemed dismal and overwhelming in that season like the cold greyness of an endless winter.

I challenged her to "find the joy" -- to seek out and look for and be sensitive to just one "joy" in her day.  It helped her to not deny the hardships, but to refocus on the reality of God's Presence through it.

Every evening when she came home from school and swim team practice, she would have a little gleam in her eye.  The "joy" varied from day to day -- a great grade on a test, a good place to sit in the lunchroom, and as an extrovert the biggest treat of all, a new friend.  And most of the time, that one joy multiplied into many.  In the grand scheme of things, these instances would probably be considered insignificant and very forgettable details, but the exercise pulled her through a tough spot.

The actual effort was not just spotting something favorable or "looking on the bright side of life," but verbally recognizing and acknowledging God's blessings outloud.  Not just thinking about something good, or even being thankful for it, but thanking God for it.

Words matter.  They matter a lot.

My father grew up in a staunch German household where emotions were hidden away in a bottom drawer somewhere and words were like a limited wartime ration, never to be wasted.  For the most part in my growing up years, he was largely a silent presence.  He was also a research chemist who could happily spend weeks in a laboratory, never even speaking to another human being.  

I can remember asking him at one point, "Dad, why do you never tell me that you love me?"  And he immediately replied, "Well, you know that I do."

Is that how I treat God Almighty? 

I have trained myself lately not just to recognize a blessing, but to acknowledge it verbally outloud.  Not just recognize something good or "find the joy" in a difficult situation, but acknowledge God's hand in it.  Not just being thankful, but thankful to God.

Jesus performed miracles intentionally to point others to God.  There was always a deeper loving purpose in His acts of redeeming and restoration.  Point others to God.   A blessing is never just for you alone, but bears more dimensions than can be comprehended.  He has given you a story not just to be hidden away in a drawer, but used in the lives of others to the furthest generation.

We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD,
                        and His might,
and the wonders which he has wrought.
...that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should
            set their hope in God...

                          Psalm 78. 4, 6-7

This is not just a blessing.
This is a blessing from God Himself.

Let my words
    not just acknowledge His goodness,
but let my life acknowledge 
                     the reality of God.

Praise the LORD!
For it is good
    to sing praises to our God.

                   Psalm 147. 1

Every which way I can.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

New York Times news alert

Throughout my day, alerts appear in my email inbox about breaking news in the world, items that someone deems too important to wait.  I am made aware of those events even as they are happening.

But there are even more profound alerts that I want on my heart radar.  O LORD, make me sensitive to those around me in my goings.

Anxiety in a man's heart
        weighs him down,
but a good word
        makes him glad.

               Proverbs 12.25

I have no idea of the desperation and deep burdens another is carrying...or even dragging along, too heavy even to carry, often secret things or hidden wounds, invisible to others.

How can I love God and love others today?  It can be as profound as a kind word to a friend...or to a stranger...or even a family member.  Encouragement is always in my power to do.

Yesterday, I took two of our grandchildren to a program at the library.  Past experience has taught me that desperate moments happen when least expected.  I came prepared with a sandwich bag of several little crackers in the shape of letters, little distractions easily dispensed.  And like the mom in the movie One Fine Day, I reached into my purse and pulled out just what was needed at that desperate moment.  A cracker is not much, but it did the trick, just enough to keep a two-year-old going and engaged.

I need to keep ready in my purse and pocket and heart a bag of encouragement for others, prepared and equipped to pull out in the most unexpected places.

One of the things I miss about running is the encouragement of strangers lining the road in a race.  They dispensed strength when I was ready to quit, probably never knowing how much they helped me to keep going.

God puts weary runners on my path today for me to do the same, even someone who may appear  to have it all together but has a heart that is unraveling at lightning speed.

The Lord GOD has given me
  the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know
    how to sustain with a word
him that is weary.

                   Isaiah 50.4

Am I ready
          and aware?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

"Key of G, boys"

My mom was a violinist.  It was not just an occupation, nor an ability, nor a ministry, even though it was all those things.  It was how she related to the world.  She lived and breathed music.  It was not an idol; God had her heart.  But it was her way of loving God and loving others, her very own dialog with the world.

And as a result, she never knew a stranger.

There are many things my mom forgot-- her purse, a needed coat, even where she set down her coffee cup, but her violin was always at her side. Always.  She carried it with her everywhere.

At the reception when my youngest brother was married, the hired band was struggling up on stage.  It was not so much a band as a group of individual musicians all doing their own thing and trying to make it come together.  It wasn't working at all.

As they were assembling for their second set, getting their music and instruments ready, Mom slipped away from her table and approached the stage.  She pulled out her violin, turned to the struggling musicians, and called out, "Follow me.  Key of G, boys!" And she began to play a lively tune.  And they followed her right into a standing ovation.

We all find ourselves in places of mystery, inability, and utter anxiety.  Not just what do I need to do, but even HOW to do it.  We get ahead of God in this, putting all our effort in making it work, instead of laying it before Him and listening.  Everything, not just what we consider the big stuff.  Because in God's eyes, every detail is profound.  Every note. And as my grandma always said, "It's not what you play, but how you play it."

God's got this.  We have only to be faithful in following Him into it.  It is not just that things will fall into place, but God engineers the very details.  Even in those things we cannot yet understand.

And watch what God will do with it.

"Follow Me.  Key of G."

...nor be of anxious mind...
your Father knows
that you need them.
seek His kingdom,
and these things
shall be yours as well.

            Luke 12. 29-31

"Nor be of anxious mind?"
God's got this.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The morning after Easter and what do I do with all these left-over jelly beans

It is the morning after Easter.  The dishes are cleaned up from our cobbled-together feast yesterday, my few Easter decorations have yet to be stored away on the attic shelf, and a lone bag of jelly beans is still squirreled away in a drawer. Back to reality.

But I can still hear the deep multi-layered sheer joy of the worship service yesterday, like whoa, we have been holding back.

Back to reality?
The reality is
       Jesus has changed my life.

And that rejoicing should resound in every dimension of what I see and touch and do.  Something is different here.  And that would be my heart.

Easter is not an annual event that I should pack up and dismantle for next year.  But the core of who I am.

Not pack it up,
     but go forth in His grace,
worshiping Him
             in all you do.

I have been crucified with Christ;
it is no longer I who live,
       but Christ who lives in me;
and the life I now live in the flesh
I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me
            and gave Himself for me.

                     Galatians 2. 20

Nothing will ever be the same.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


Easter is not just a holiday,
nor a spectacular event that happened a long time ago,
but a life changer.

Because the tomb was empty,
you can lead a life that is not.

But the angel said to the women,
"Do not be afraid;
for I know that you seek Jesus
who was crucified.
He is not here,
   for He has risen,
as He said.

              Matthew 28. 5-6

He is risen.
He is risen indeed.
Because He lives,
   that changes everything.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Not Plan B

I read recently the story of a middle aged woman who was overwhelmed by the inability to rewind her life, to go back and do life differently, burdened by regrets of past choices and the heaviness of guilt that haunts and handicaps.  She looked at her peers.  How did her friends handle it?

She discovered that her friends fell into two categories:  the first group like herself carried regrets and guilt around like a too-heavy suitcase, the second group surprised her.  They were what she would consider "religious."   And so as an unchurched, non religious person, she was curious about what coping mechanisms religion provided.  She attended a church service with a friend.

And she was totally astonished.  Because church was not about covering up and coping, nor about laying on even more guilt for being imperfect, but all about forgiveness.

Her believing friends were not smoothing over the guilt of their lives; they sought God's forgiveness.  Forgiven, released and free to live.

"I had no idea that forgiveness is what God is all about."

Very suddenly, that what she had considered a vague and meaningless term, "Jesus saves," translated into a profound reality.  She has no ability to rewind regrets and wounds and every terrible action, but Jesus can save her from drowning in those wrongdoings.

That is why He came to earth:  to save us quite literally.  

The word sin in today's culture has been misused and abused.  The meaning is still the same, but if you substitute the word "selfishness," it is translated into a language everyone of us can understand.  We are all selfish.  We have all been wounded by the selfishness of others.  And there is something terribly wrong in the world as a result.  We all know it.

And that is why Jesus came.  His death on the cross was not plan B.  

"The cross did not happen to Jesus," says Oswald Chambers in his book My Utmost for His Highest. "He came on purpose for it."

But that is not the end of the story.

That is what Easter is all about.

Stay tuned for tomorrow.

For God sent the Son
into the world,
not to condemn the world,
but that the world
might be saved through Him.

                  John 3.17

Friday, April 3, 2015

Business as Usual

There are some businesses closed for Good Friday, and some schools closed for vague reasons.  But for most, it is business as usual.  It is one holiday -- "holy day" -- untouched by commercial enterprises.

It is viewed by most as a day to get prepared for Easter, organizing the menu, buying the food, setting the table, and trying not to consume all the jelly beans.

And yet in a very real sense, it is a day of preparation, because without Good Friday, there would not be Easter.  Without Christ dying on the cross for our sins, there would not be a Resurrection.

For by a single offering,
He has perfected
          for all time
those who have been sanctified.
...Where there is forgiveness of these,
there is no longer
     any offering for sin.

                     Hebrews 10. 14, 18

Christ took care of it all.

And for that,
    we can thank Him today.

But He was wounded
    for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
upon Him was the chastisement
          that made us whole,
and with His stripes
                  we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray,
we have turned each one
            to his own way,
and the LORD has laid on Him,
the iniquity of us all.

                   Isaiah 53. 5-6

God loves us
                that much.
Business as usual.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Real Deal

I was looking at Target for an Easter card to send to our young grandkids.  Chicks and rabbits and "lots of fun" didn't quite convey what I want to tell them about the Resurrection.  And then, when I spotted the Ninja Turtle Easter card, I moved on.

It reminded me of an experience, now about twenty-five years ago.  Grant, a little neighbor boy, was spending the afternoon with our kindergarten-age daughter and me while his mom ran some errands.  After lunch, we sat on the couch to read some books.  Our girls' Beginners Bible was sitting on the coffee table.  I began to read to these two five-year-olds the Biblical account of Easter.  The stories are written with few words, but the meaning is translated to the level of a young child.

Quite suddenly, Grant sat upright and said with an astonished voice, "I had no idea Jesus had anything to do with Easter!"

Make no assumptions.  Make sure those in your life -- children as well as adults -- know that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the real deal.  It is not just another "story;"  it is the truth on which God's love was shown, the final sacrifice for our sin, and the hope on which we stake our lives.

Jesus said to her,
"I am the resurrection and the life;
he who believes in Me,
         though he die,
yet shall he live,
and whoever lives and believes in Me
shall never die."

                 John 11. 25-26

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

15 minutes can save you 15 percent

We have seen and heard the little gecko so often speak about insurance quotes that the commercials now say, "Everyone knows 15 minutes can save you 15 percent on car insurance."

As I go about my own day, I realize my own need for God's guidance into it.  There is a clear difference to my day and its outcome when I take the time to listen to the LORD and read His Word first thing.

That time alters my thinking and refocuses my eyes on God.  And as a result, well, even 15 minutes saves me a lot more than 15 percent of my day.  What if I was 15 percent more efficient in my use of time, what if I slept 15 percent better, what if I was even 15 percent more sensitive to God's guidance as I go through my tasks?

I cannot count how many times that God has impressed my thoughts with what I have forgotten -- before I leave the house.  A thought from the LORD turns me in a different direction, and I avoid the traffic jam.  What I consider a delay or an interruption actually turns out to be the most fruitful part of my day.  Oh, the things I would have missed.  Oh, the time I would have saved if I had listened first.

Where did that thought come from?  I never thought of it that way.  I didn't see that before.  Something came on my radar.  I would have missed that entirely.

I am not alone in this.  God's Presence changes everything.

Your Word is a lamp to my feet,
and a light to my path.

              Psalm 119. 105

I am not a mathematician, but in a 24 hour period of time, 15 percent is 3 hours and 36 minutes.  Even in a 12 hour day, 15 percent is 48 minutes.

What if I was able to add just 48 minutes to my day?  God can do even more than that.

It is not a matter of "read these verses, get a prize."  But seeking the LORD, and He will do a lot more than saving you time.  He will change your life.  And impact everyone around you.

My times are in Your Hand.

                  Psalm 31.15