Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Storms

When I was a little girl, one of our family’s favorite ways to spend a lazy, sunny Saturday afternoon consisted of driving to a nearby lake, renting a rowboat and doing some serious fishing. Mom sat contentedly taking in the scene, and my little sister and I dangled our hands in the water as Dad rowed us across the lake. 

One such afternoon, Dad decided to let Mom do a bit of the rowing. She gamely switched seats, awkwardly grabbed the oars and began to row.  My sister and I looked at each other as the boat took a rather circular path over the water. Dad called out instructions, but in spite of her best efforts Mom managed to row us right onto a large rock sticking out of the water. My little sister, eyes filled with terror, stood up and announced, “I’m getting out of here!”

Don’t we often feel that way when we’re in the middle of a frightening situation? When the storms of life come, and they come to all of us, our first thought is to find a way out. 

When the storms come, God uses them to bring us closer to Him and to make us more like Jesus.Some are inevitable, some come to test our faith and sometimes we are in need of discipline.  We cannot make it through the storms of life in our own strength. We must learn to surrender control to the One who loves us and holds all things in His hands. He has promised to work all things together for good. Our part is to surrender to His will and walk in obedience. 

Other times there may come to us a storm of someone else’s making - their actions causing them, and us, great grief and pain. We want desperately to fix the situation - to be the one who calms their storm and make things right. We cannot do what only God can do. He alone can change the heart. In this too, we learn to let Him have control.

When we submit to God’s will an amazing thing happens. We experience the inexplicable peace He has promised. We free Him to work in miraculous ways in our life and in the lives of those we love, and we draw ever closer to Him.

“Love divine has seen and counted
  Every tear It caused to fall,
  And a storm which Love appointed
  Was Its choicest give of all.” *

*from a talk by Elizabeth Elliot

"When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.
           For I am the Lord, your God,
           the Holy One of Israel, your Savior..." Isaiah 43: 2,3a


Friday, April 19, 2019

What Love Did

"From the very first day we were there, taking it all in - we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we're telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly this: the Infinite Life of God Himself took shape before us. We saw it, we heard it and now we're telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: we want you to enjoy this too. Your joy will double our joy!"  I John 1:1-4 (The Msg.)

In a day when truth seems as elusive as an early morning mist, subject to individual interpretation and the feelings of the moment - an honest word from someone who has seen and heard still stands.
These words from a man who shared three years of his life with Jesus Christ, that have remained with us across the centuries, plead with us to have ears to hear and an open heart.

John was not alone in his eye witness testimony. Many others saw the One who only days before had been put to death on a cross. Some wrote about it so that the world would know. How strange that we accept as truth countless historical accounts and yet view the evidence of Jesus' life, death and resurrection with skepticism. Perhaps some will give a nod to the truth that a man called Jesus did in fact exist, but what, then, will we do with Him?

On this day, we remember what Love did for us - for every single one of us.

"For this is how God loved the world . He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

The simplicity of truth very often trips us up. We cannot believe that something so profound can also be so simple. Surely there must be more to it than that, we think. Yet John, and countless believers from every walk of life for hundreds of years, testify to this one truth:

Jesus lived; He died; He rose again; He lives!


Friday, April 5, 2019

The Numbers Game

We live in a world of numbers.  Hold that thought for a minute while I take us back to a time long ago and far away.

My grandchildren look at me with wonder when I tell them we didn't have cell phones when I was growing up. They cannot imagine such a world. I sometimes find it hard to imagine myself. Wonder of wonders - we did.

However, I seem to have moved with surprising ease into a world where forgetting to take my cell phone with me brings on a mild panic attack. It began innocently enough with the desire to keep in touch with family and friends. After all, the grandkids are all on instagram and facebook. What could be easier than scrolling through my feed to see their posts?

Perhaps it begins that way for most of us, but somewhere along the way we become aware of such things as "likes" and "comments" and we find ourselves caught up in an unexpected contest. As a teenager it took the form of being in the "right" group. Who didn't want to be in the popular crowd (am I dating myself here)? The need for approval seems a bit obvious in that context, but I believe things haven't changed all that much.

Now our desire for approval has made its way to the internet. How many views will my youtube video get? Will it go viral? Will everybody like me? What about the post I wrote? Does it resonate with lots of people? Will it somehow make me "known"? If I get enough followers, will I be able to sell my work? If no-one responds, does it mean I'm a failure? On and on it goes.

I don't believe our need for approval is a bad thing. However, the places we go to find it can often lead on an endless cycle of trying and failing and trying again. All it takes is one unkind comment to send us spiraling into discouragement.

We were made to find our approval in the One who knows us better than anyone else. The One who sees into the very heart of us and loves us just the way we are. Incredibly, He loves us even when we aren't at our best.

When God looks at us He sees only one number - His one and only Son and through

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them."I John 4:16

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Exhausted Kindness

Have you ever had a single line from a song lodge itself so deeply inside you it echoed like the beating of your heart? I will tell you about the one that has taken up residence in my soul but first let's talk a little bit about prodigals and those of us who have consistently failed in our efforts to be all we believe the Lord desires for us.

It may be that wrong choices have taken us in a direction we never would have gone had we been wiser. We find ourselves so far from the Lord it seems we can never make our way back. Shame and guilt keep us from praying, and we drift farther and farther away.

It may not be something that dramatic. What of the ways we trip repeatedly over the same sins? Our prayers begin to sound like a song stuck on repeat - the same regret, the same confession, the same promise to do better - only to trip over the same failings yet again.

The common denominator is despair, and this is where the line comes in:

"Just when you thought you exhausted His kindness, His gentle compassion pulls you out of hiding..." ("Just When You Thought" - Joseph Habedank)

We somehow believe the lie that God has a limited amount of grace, and mercy. Broken by guilt and shame we run and try to hide from Him. We have looked at our failings and declared ourselves unworthy, and all the while He chases after us offering mercy and forgiveness.

The enemy of our souls delights to see us impoverished - living like beggars when all of heaven is ours for the asking. His calling card, some have said, is discouragement. If he can convince us we have gone too far, committed the unforgivable and forfeited grace, he will have won. He would like to blind us to the truth that nothing can separate us from the love of God. He wants to diminish Jesus' sacrifice in our eyes - as though our sin makes us the exception to redemption.

If you find yourself overwhelmed by feelings of unworthiness and shame, I pray you will let the glorious truth of this simple line minister to your heart. You cannot exhaust His kindness. When we come to Him in true repentance, His love and grace meet us right where we are.

"The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness." Jeremiah 31:3


Tuesday, February 19, 2019


Most evenings, in recent weeks, God writes across the heavens in bold, bright colors that are simply breathtaking. We rush outdoors to witness the panoramic display of rapidly changing hues - trying to capture it all with cameras that never seem to do it justice.

Sometimes, however, He sweeps across heaven with a gentle, quiet touch - pale pinks and grays hushing the air around us. No loud exclamations of glory - rather a sweet whisper to come away. Away from the noise that surrounds our every waking moment; away from the wild flurry of images on a screen; away from the relentless yearning for approval and recognition; away from the worry and fear buried just beneath the surface.

The Lord calls us with the irresistible invitation to be still and know. He told us - we would not find Him in the mighty wind, the powerful earthquake or the raging fire (I Kings 19:11-12). Instead, we will find Him there in the gentle whisper.

We long, when we suffer greatly and need Him desperately, to see Him move in a powerful, unmistakeable way. Our hearts cry out for Him to be mighty on our behalf - to move mountains and work miracles. He can do all those things; He does all those things. Yet some evenings He quietly whispers His presence into the very heart of us - and we know that all will be well. Whatever the circumstances, however He chooses to move - all will be well.

It is enough to know that He is near.

"Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him." Psalm 62:5

"He says, 'Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Seeing Truth

Several years ago I bought my first pair of perscription glasses. I disliked the idea of glasses (more than a bit of vanity perhaps), but I quickly discovered the benefits. I could actually read without squinting and holding my book at arms' length.

My glasses did wonders for my vision, but I learned something I hadn't thought about before. You need to clean them nearly every time you take them off and put them on. Often I would think I had a clear view of the world around me when I was actually looking at everything through dusty, smudged lenses. Without realizing it, I had adjusted to a distorted picture.

I find, these days, I need more than my physical glasses; I also need a good pair of spiritual "glasses" in order to see the world around me clearly. It isn't the blatant evils I need help seeing. It's the subtle lies which, over time, take on the appearance of truth.

Words like love and tolerance, when misapplied, can slowly blind me to what is real and true. Popular culture cannot be the lens through which I see truth. I must look at everything through the lens of God's word. Even the most well-meaning, loving people can have a distorted view of truth.

Never has there been a One who loves as Jesus loves. Yet He never separates that love from truth. It would have been devastating if He had. If we truly love, we want to do it the way He did. Withholding truth in the name of love is not love at all. Withholding love in the name of truth is not love at all. Both are distortions. I love you best when I tell you the truth - not my version of the truth or the current popular version of the truth - the truth found in the Word of God.

"Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church." Ephesian 4:14-15


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Gentle Shepherd

Some days they graze in other fields, but on the days they gather near the road we daily travel, a certain peace settles over my heart. I think, perhaps, it's because images of a gentle Shepherd fill my mind. 
In my imagination He watches over them, and they, knowing He is near, graze without fear. Should danger threaten, He will protect them. Should one fall, He will pick it up and carry it in His strong arms. If any stray, He searches until He finds them. As evening falls, He leads His little flock safely home. They know His voice and follow - trusting with their whole lives because He would give His very life for them. 
The Lord likens us to these sheep. We have gone astray, and He came to find us; He gave His life for us; He leads us to peaceful places and gives us everything we need. 
"Like a shepherd he tends his flock;
he gathers up the lambs with his arm;
he carries them close to his heart;
he leads the ewes along." Isaiah 40:11