Life in the Rearview Mirror

The new normal… Let’s be honest, there’s nothing normal as we head toward the end of 2020 and the upcoming holiday season. “Normally” this would be a time of hope, excitement, and fun gatherings ahead. But instead, we face continuing itchy-mask outings and difficult days characterized by discord and uncertainty. So many of us long for “normal.” We want things to go back to the way they were in February 2020, or October 2019, because no matter how hard things were then, at least we understood our known normal. Living in the unknown of today’s isolation ramps up incredible anxiety and stress, and even a lack of hope.

Unfortunately, looking back wishing for “what used to be” is like driving a car with our eyes fixed on the rearview mirror.

Driving requires attention to the road ahead––with only occasional glances to what’s behind in the mirror. We all know this, but on life’s highway our route unfolds as we go and the unknown nature of what lies ahead poses challenges. Some see the road ahead as the great unknown waiting to be discovered. Others experience it like a pitch-black backroad in the middle of a raging downpour. Whatever our road looks like today, none of us has a device telling us to turn now or exit in a few miles. So here are three practical driving tips to help in these times of prolonged uncertainty.

First, we have to keep our eyes on the road ahead if we want to continue moving forward. You may feel overwhelmed by the view through your world-size windshield. You may cautiously venture out as new opportunities open up. You may feel like 2020’s “Zoom reality” requires you to go fast and furious day in and day out. Though we all experience this Covid time differently as we travel the highways of life, we can’t remain accident-free if we continually focus on the road in the rearview mirror.

Second, it’s important to keep perspective of where we’ve already travelled––in both good times and hard times. Our past history will remain a part of our story. We can learn and grow from our past experiences, but we cannot change them. And sometimes it’s difficult to acknowledge that our past truly is behind us. We have to remind ourselves that we cannot truly move forward if we constantly look back. Keep two hands on the wheel with eyes fixed on the road ahead. And no U-turns.

Third, we need to be mindful of who we see around us. Some people will speed by. Some people we will pass. Some people will weave in and out of our life, and others will stay next to us for many miles. As we navigate our course, switch lanes, and take new roads, we must stay alert. Each decision of a lane change or new direction should align with our desire to continue moving forward.

Why do we focus forward and continue to press on? Because we find hope in what’s ahead. Better put, we find hope in who’s ahead of us: Jesus. Jesus alone provides hope for tomorrow. He promises new life and he ushers in freedom from fear of the unknown.

Jesus is hope for the hopeless.

God confirms: I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)

Since Jesus remains the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), we can trust in Him and His promises. He lightens our burdens and offers the gift of hope.

Friends, wherever you are on your journey today, know that you can find hope for tomorrow. If you’re struggling with anguish, sorrow, fear, or anxiety, turn to the Psalms and read the words of other people who struggled through dark times (Psalm 31, 41, 91). These writers chose to end their thoughts on a hopeful note even in their uncertainties. We can too when we place our hope in the one and only everlasting God.

“Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.” Proverbs 4:25

“Be strong and courageous, all you who hope in the LORD.” Psalm 31:24

Please, No More!

The first day of autumn––when the hours of daylight and nighttime are equal in most of the Northern Hemisphere––occurs next week. But for most of us, the fall season has already fallen upon our schedules. Summer vacations (in whatever form they took this year) linger behind us and in social media posts. Kiddos returned to school, whether in person or virtually. We continue to wrestle with daily news of injustice, political unrest, and natural disasters. And now we struggle with getting back into a healthy, life-giving rhythm of life.

But how can we move forward into fall when we continue to grieve the loss of so many aspects of our used-to-be “normal” life?

Like many of you, I thought this fall would usher in the return of normal work hours in offices and schools, eating in restaurants, gathering with friends and Bible study groups, and attending church together within the full community. But COVID-19. It feels like we’ve lost so much this year. And unfortunately, 2020 continues to rebuke our previous hopes and desires for “normal” as day after day we encounter challenges drenched in words we now loathe like unprecedented and pivot.

If I’m being honest, some days I want to cry out to Jesus, “Please, no more! I don’t want to lose anything else!” On hard days like this, I take comfort in these words written by someone who likely felt a lot of what we feel this year:

I am deprived of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is.
So I said, “My endurance has expired; I have lost all hope of deliverance from the Lord.”

I remember my affliction and my wandering, which is a bitter poison. I continually think about this, and I am depressed. But this I call to mind; therefore I have hope: The Lord’s great love never ceases; his compassions never end. They are fresh every morning; great is your faithfulness!

“My portion is the Lord,” I have said to myself, so I will put my hope in him. The Lord is good to those who trust in him, to the one who seeks him. It is good to wait patiently for deliverance from the Lord.

(Lamentations 3:17–26)

No matter our circumstances today, no matter how dire and desperate our tomorrows become, we can always find hope in Jesus. He remains victorious and we share in his victory today (and always) as we dwell with him.

So back to the original question: How can we move forward when we continue to grieve the loss of so many aspects of our used-to-be “normal” life? And how do we share in Christ’s victory and find strength in his presence today? One way is to connect with him in prayer––moment by moment and day by day. We don’t have to create eloquent, longwinded prayers. Short prayers help usher in power and peace. In my April blog, I shared some short prayers to aid in times of fear, doubt, and anxiety:

  • Holy Spirit, I am weak; you are strong; be strong in me.
  • Holy Spirit, I am afraid (full of anxiety, struggling with depression); you are my confidence; be courage in me.
  • Holy Spirit, I can’t understand what’s going on and I’m frozen in place; you are my Shepherd; lead me step-by-step through this dark valley.
  • Holy Spirit, I don’t know what to say to others who are hurting; you are the Author of all life; give me the words and speak through me.

As this year of turmoil and forced isolation continues, I added two more to my list:

  • Jesus, I can’t do this; you can; do it through me.
  • Jesus, I need joy; you are joy; be joy in and through me.

Friends, wherever you find yourself in this season, Jesus invites you to live into the peace and power of his resurrection life. Accept his invitation. Turn from the brokenness of this world and seek the hope and assurance of his everlasting presence. He stands with you in all things. So regardless of yesterday’s trials, you and I can choose to sing today: Great is your faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see!

May we focus on the hope of new mercies today.

A Message for Weary Souls

These days evoke bone-deep exhaustion. As this over-the-top-difficult year wears on and hopes for a summer reprieve or a maskless fall fade, some days I struggle to muster up positivity. I’ve heard I’m not alone. Apparently many of us wrestle with the lack of normalcy, inability to plan a way forward, and uncertainty of how long “this” will last. Even people who affirmed at the beginning of the pandemic that the downtime provided a much-needed time of rest, now confess their longing for the dark tides to recede. But any potential conclusion remains hidden.

After five months in this COVID-19 world, I’m not just physically and mentally weary. My soul is weary.

Two weeks ago I started pressing into my need for soul care. While most of us know how to  proactively care for our physical or mental health (whether we choose to or not), we often don’t understand how to care for our souls. We haven’t been taught the dangers of letting the soil of our hearts go unattended. We ignore the warning signs. And then one day we feel dry and lifeless, with no idea how to reignite our hardened heart.

If any of this resonates with you, take courage! Sit with me and listen to the words a loving father shared with his child:

My child, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. (Proverbs 4:20–27)

Three pearls of soul care wisdom we can gather:

1) Above all else, guard your heart. If we think of “above all else” as a statement of priority or hierarchy of competing influences, what could “above all else” mean in your life today? Before you start work in the morning… Before you give in to a temptation that keeps calling your name… Before you listen to the lies of condemnation from yourself or others insisting you’re not good enough… Above all of these things, proactively build a hedge of protection around your heart. The word for heart here in the original Greek indicates the “internal life” of a person or the whole person. In other words: your soul. And the NET translation says to guard your heart with all vigilance. Guarding our heart takes priority and requires effort. And just a note: guarding our heart doesn’t mean shutting it off to other people, God, or emotions. Guarding our heart means opening ourselves up to God and proactively choosing to soak our souls through choices characterized by the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control).

2) Everything you do flows from your heart. Why is soul care so important? Because letting our guard down impacts every aspect of life. The state of our soul affects us internally through what we think and feel. And the state of our soul impacts us externally through the decisions we make and the actions we take. Spend a moment praying through this statement: Everything I do flows from the core of my being. If your core is saturated with life-giving practices, the outflow of your thoughts, feelings, and actions will reflect a well-watered soul. If your core isn’t watered with life-giving practices, the outflow of your thoughts, feelings, and actions will reflect a dry and hardened soul. What constitutes life-giving practices? These vary by person and by season. Practices could include listening to praise music or an app that has sounds like ocean waves or birds at a lake. A 15-minute break for silence and solitude may bring life to your soul. Reading one psalm a day or praying through verses like Proverbs 3:4–5 or Proverbs 4:23 may offer the living water your soul desires. Taking a nature walk or spending a few hours at an arboretum or the zoo might light a spark in your soul. Be creative, start small, and commit to consistency as you discover what brings life to your soul.

3) What goes in also comes out. We often don’t realize the direct correlation between what we feed our hearts and minds, and the way our hearts and minds react. Recently, my husband and I watched a series about the history of drug trafficking in Colombia. Although informative, the series was filled with harsh realities, including violence and foul language. As the series progressed, I started experiencing repercussions. My dreams became restless. Words I heard in the shows permeated my mental dialogue. And a dark sense of despair regarding corruption and wickedness in the world began to weigh me down. You may not have such visceral reactions, but all of us feed our inner being––our soul––with things we watch, read, do, and listen to. Just like we feed our bodies, so too we feed our hearts and minds. Just like someone who desires good physical health pays attention to what they eat, so too we need to pay attention to what we feed our soul. Consider taking a two-week challenge. Spend the first week taking stock of your soul diet; and in the second week focus on altering your soul diet to emphasize life-giving practices. Keep a journal of your thoughts, actions, and reactions and then pray through notable differences or changes between weeks. When it comes to our souls, being aware of goes in is just as important as recognizing what comes out.

Friends, weary souls warn of our need for life-giving practices. And no matter how long our dry spell, it’s never too late to press into soul care. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.


Sheroes of the Bible

last two months unfolded like an archeological dig. Week after week, I joined a group of women to unlock stories of the past, dust off musty translations, and peer into golden lives of unlikely sheroes. Who are these sheroes? “She heroes” of the Bible. Women easily overlooked, discounted, and even scorned by current-day Bible teachers and readers. Yet current-day sheroes of the faith––my fellow female theologians, pastors, preachers, and ministry leaders––have been digging deep to uncover and dismantle the misconceptions of these remarkable lives. Courageous lives revealing truths so important that God memorialized these women in Scripture until the end of time. Women like:

  • Hagar the runaway foreign slave––the ONLY person in all of Scripture to give God a name. And what did she call Yahweh? El Roi: the God who sees (Genesis 16). God saw her in the dark wilderness of pain, betrayal, and abuse.
  • Tamar, daughter-in-law of Judah, who to this day receives insults for her actions (Genesis 38). Yet Judah proclaims, “She is more righteous than I” (v. 26). Clearly we need to go deeper to understand her story, especially since Tamar is one of only five women included in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1), and both King David and his son named their daughters Tamar in her honor.
  • Rahab the prostitute––an unlikely woman in the lineage of Christ if all you focus on is her vocation (Matthew 1). Yet Rahab’s seedling faith proved more steadfast than the faith of Israelite spies, and her legacy lives on in the Hall of Faith alongside Noah, Abraham, and Moses (Joshua 2, 6; Hebrews 11). Let’s not discount the fact that the writer of Hebrews doesn’t have time to detail the faith of Gideon, David, Samuel, or the prophets––yet Rahab rightly receives her airtime.

Through our sheroes dig, we uncovered powerful sheroes like Deborah the warrior judge who also served as Yahweh’s prophetess (Judges 4). We’ve peered into the stories of women cast aside as unworthy, like the unnamed “sinful” woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears (Luke 7:36 – 50).  And we’ve sat at the feet of Jesus with Mary of Bethany (Luke 10:38–41), and then watched as she later anointed Jesus with expensive perfume (Mark 14:3–9). Each story has a message for us today as we learn from the faith walk of these sheroes, and borrow from their courage.

Before their encounter with God, many of these women endured broken lives. And story after story prove that all of these women faced times of trial and testing of faith. What makes them sheroes is not that they rose up and made a name for themselves. What makes them sheroes is that within their ordinary lives, they aligned with God and exalted his name.

In the words of Jesus as he praised Mary of Bethany, “She did what she could do” (v. 8).

She did what she could do.

Truthfully, that sums up what God asked of all of these sheroes. It sums up what Christ asks of each one of us. Do what you can do. In your ordinary life, align with Jesus and do what you can do.

Mourn with those who mourn. Stand with those who need support. Encourage the downcast. Love others generously. Demonstrate grace in all circumstances. Give what you can give. Do what you can do. And in all things: pray, pray, pray.

My beloved sisters, God sees you and he loves you. Align with Jesus and exalt his name by the way you live each ordinary day. In doing this, you too are sheroes of the faith.

You can find more information about the Sheroes of the Faith series, including links to videos, at

Robbed of My Right of Passage

Like many of you, I entered 2020 with great expectations. After all, this is no ordinary year. It’s 2020: The Year of Perfect Vision. A year of spiritual growth. A year of culminating achievements. A year of celebration. A year of new beginnings.

But then Covid-19. And just like that, all plans came to a screeching halt.

Lots of big days have been cancelled, postponed, or altered. Weddings. Graduations. Family reunions. Hospital births (yes, even these look different because of coronavirus). Virtual meetings and socially-distanced gatherings try to fill the void and allow family and friends to celebrate together. But no matter what alternative festivities arise, there’s one group of celebrants who feels the loss of their special day more than others: Graduates.

High school. College. Graduate and post-graduate. Seniors and scholars at all levels worked for years to accomplish something worth celebrating. For some, their graduation represents a “first” achievement for someone in their family. For all, graduation signifies a valuable “right of passage” as one arduous-yet-worthy season ends, and a new season of great anticipation begins.

Walking across the stage affirms the culmination of incredible dedication. The official act of receiving a diploma shouts to the world, “You did it!” But with no stage, no diploma in hand, and no procession to the Pomp and Circumstance March, it’s hard to feel the same sense of accomplishment and closure. It’s like watching a grand fireworks display that ends without the customary finale. You’re left wondering, “Is that it?”

How do I know? I’m a 2020 graduate. This is the year of my doctoral graduation.

A wise man once said that the gap between expectation and reality equals disappointment. Years of hard work and the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears led up to what was supposed to be an unforgettable moment in time when I would receive my doctoral hood and descend the stairs as Dr. Dahl. So when plans changed, I had a choice to make. I could lament the new reality, or I could embrace an intimate opportunity. I chose to lay down my expectations and, with a thankful heart, sing a song of praise.

Praise changed my perspective of graduation day, and blessings flowed through my stay-at-home ceremony. Instead of the seminary president bestowing my doctoral hood over my shoulders as others looked on, my beloved husband lovingly “hooded” me in our backyard in a moment I will never forget. And instead of me walking across a stage or in a procession, I later walked a quiet, wooded trail with Jesus. Over and over my excitement overflowed, “We did it!” Even now I tear up thinking about my special day and the tremendous affirmation of accomplishment from the two most important people in my life.

Did my graduation look and feel different? Absolutely. Did I miss having my family and friends by my side? Of course. Was I robbed of my right of passage? Not at all. My eyes remain fixed on Jesus, and I’m still joyfully running my race with Him.

So to all my graduating friends and any graduates out there who may feel a sense of letdown, I want to affirm: WELL DONE! Congratulations on your incredible achievement! What you completed this spring is worthy of celebration, even if your celebration includes only an intimate few. I pray that 2020 remains a year of blessings and new beginnings for each one of you!

“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1–2).

The Week After Easter

I heard someone lament last week, “We’re not having Easter this year!” He meant because people aren’t gathering in-person. But I thought, would we not have Christmas because we can’t go to church? Nothing could have stopped the celebration of Easter from ringing throughout the world, even stay-at-home mandates.

The Easter message––that Jesus came to set us free and give us new life––does not change. Even in the confines of a pandemic.

For those who recognize Easter as the holiest day of the year, the fanfare and refreshing of spring normally usher us into a season of thanksgiving and great hope. But this year… This year is not like years past. This week after Easter is a tricky one.

We’re drenched in Covid-19 uncertainty and bad news, and it doesn’t feel good. So friends, will you pause with me for a moment to remember the significance of last week? Last week we followed Christ’s steps from Palm Sunday to Easter. We started in the Hosanna procession with flowing palms and cheering and songs. We left the crowd and joined the 12 disciples for the Last Supper. We stopped outside the tomb and mourned Christ’s crucifixion. And finally on Sunday we reached Resurrection Day – the day lauding Christ as King and His eternal victory over death and destruction.

But this week, many of us struggle to drum up a spirit of celebration in the midst of daily deep sorrow and pain in the world – your world, my world, our neighbor’s world, the whole world. And, for some, Easter services on TV seemed a lot less holy. How do we connect with God in these dark days? How do we try to muster up a desire to continue celebrating the Easter message after Easter Sunday? God’s Word encourages: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb 12:2–3).

Fix our eyes on Jesus. Remember why He came, and why He died. Why did He? Because He wanted His people––you and me––to live with Him forever. Because He had a plan from the beginning to speak the final Word, and reign with love and compassion and goodness and grace. Because He alone is God, and He walked through life on earth so we could learn how to live as He did.

No one could have foreseen the magnitude of coronavirus strife. Except Jesus. Jesus knew that days like these were coming. He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33). Jesus came. Jesus died. Jesus rose again, and He invites us to joyfully receive His gift of life after Easter. Take heart! Be courageous in the darkness, knowing that the King of Kings, Almighty God, the Promised Messiah indwells you by the power of His Holy Spirit. And when you struggle with fear and doubt and anxiety (and we all do), here are some things you can pray,

  • Holy Spirit, I am weak, You are strong, be strong in me.
  • Holy Spirit, I am afraid (full of anxiety, struggling with depression), You are my confidence, be courage in me.
  • Holy Spirit, I can’t understand what’s going on and I’m frozen in place, You are my Shepherd, lead me step-by-step through this valley of the shadow of death.
  • Holy Spirit, I don’t know what to say to others who are hurting, You are the Author of all life, give me the words and speak through me.

Friends, I’m praying for you as we continue our journey after Easter. I pray that each day, even if only for a few moments, you’ll fix your eyes on Jesus. Sneak into a quiet place (a closet or bathroom will do!) and sit with Jesus without agenda, just focusing on Him. Allow His peace to fill the quietness. Read John 19 and 20, and imagine yourself sitting outside the tomb on that dark Saturday, wondering, “Jesus, where are you? What’s happening?” Then lay those same questions about these times of grief and mourning before Him. And through faith and trust in Him, take one more step forward. Because of Easter, today is a day filled with the promise of hope and new life. Fix your eyes on Jesus and join the ongoing celebration of Resurrection Day. He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Your Christmas Wish

Each year growing up, I made a list of things I wanted for Christmas. I’m pretty sure “a horse” topped the list every single year (and no, I never got one). I definitely knew that in order to get what I truly wanted, I had to be nice, not naughty. Looking back, that’s probably why I never got the horse. Anyhoo… As adults, we don’t worry about making Santa’s NICE LIST so we can get what we desire most. Instead we embrace Christmas as a season of giving, good cheer, and hope for the new year. And as Christians, we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior.

Reconciliation to Almighty God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the greatest gift we’ll ever receive!

At the beginning of the New Testament in Matthew 2:11, we’re told that the three wise men brought extravagantly valuable treasures to the stable where baby Jesus rested with Mary. Upon seeing Jesus, the Magi bowed down and worshiped Him, presenting Him three gifts associated with kingship: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These men of high position recognized this child as Heir to the Throne.

Interestingly, Jesus’ birth is the only time in His earthly life that we hear of Him possessing earthly treasures. And we’re not told what Mary and Joseph did with these expensive gifts. However, in the next story of Matthew’s gospel he writes about Joseph’s dream warning him to leave Israel with Mary and Jesus, and escape to Egypt. They likely left most, if not all, of what they owned behind (Matt 2:13).

Although Christ is fully God and rightfully owns all of creation, He is also fully man. And approximately 30 years after the scene in the stable, Jesus affirmed His lack of earthly, material wealth. He proclaimed, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” Jesus’ words seem to indicate that not only did He travel light, but He didn’t maintain His own homestead. Rather, His treasures, literally and figuratively, are stored up in heaven (Matt 6:19–21).

As we learn about Jesus, we see that He embodies the greater gifts in life: love, community, authentic relationships, boldly speaking and living God’s truth, and spiritual health through intimacy with God the Father and the indwelling Holy Spirit. Christ’s desire was and still is to share these gifts with others. In Matthew 20:29–34, Jesus encountered two blind beggars on the side of the road who called to Him as the Son of David (a reference to Jesus as Christ, or Messiah). Jesus stopped and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Imagine! The Promised Messiah stopping and asking you, “What can I do for you today?”

These two men asked for their eyesight, and with compassion Jesus healed them. They followed Him, presumably receiving both physical and spiritual sight.

So, what does this mean for us during this season of giving? Two things.

First, FREEDOM.  We don’t have to fixate on––or stress about––finding perfect gifts for others this Christmas. We also don’t have to be consumed with anticipation of what we might receive, nor with disappointment by what we don’t get. For those of us walking with Christ, we have the freedom to live unencumbered and without fear or stress because we’ve already received the best gift imaginable––life with Christ, both now and forever. Embrace the gift of Christ this Christmas! Receive Him anew with delight! Receive Him anew with joyful anticipation of a deeper walk together in the coming year as you pursue Him through His Word and prayer.

Second, AN INVITATION. This season, you’re receiving an invitation from Jesus to seek the greater gifts in life. He’s inviting you to join with Him and with His church. Jesus wants us to experience love, community, authentic relationships, boldly speaking and living God’s truth, and spiritual health through intimacy with God the Father and the indwelling Holy Spirit. This invitation is for EVERYONE!

I invite you to join with me in this: For the next few minutes, sit with Jesus. Set aside the hustle and bustle. Lay down thoughts of material gifts and treasures. With an open mind and open hands on your lap, sit with our Savior.

  • Think about what the greater gifts in life are for you.
  • Think about your greatest hopes and your deepest desires.
  • Think about who He is and why He humbled Himself and came as a baby in the manger.

Now imagine you’re sitting by the roadside, and you hear that Jesus is coming.

  • Imagine Him stopping in front of you.
  • Imagine Him taking you by the hand.
  • Imagine Him asking you, “Beloved child, what do you want me to do for you?”

This isn’t a genie offering wealth or prestige. This is your Savior, offering the best of life with Him. In prayer, look into His eyes and speak your heart. He would love to talk with you.

Friend, I’m praying for you in this season as Jesus offers you freedom from the world’s perspectives, and as He invites you to seek the greater gifts.

What is your Christmas wish?

Running the Race of Life

As Thanksgiving approaches, many of us are gearing up for our favorite running day of the year. Even non-runners love the annual Turkey Trot where young and old alike jog in anticipation of the great feast ahead. Then you can eat all the turkey dinner you want AND have a second helping of dessert guilt-free. Okay, maybe that last part is just my tradition.

Unfortunately, I can’t run this year due to a back injury. Doctor’s orders.

As I’ve lamented and longed to run again, a new picture has emerged: Life as a race with hurdles and PR’s (personal records). Scripture says:

“Since we are surrounded by such a great group of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from wicked people, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1–3)

Step by step, here’s what encourages me:

  • We’re surrounded by a large group of people who have gathered to cheer us on––like the crowds on race day. We’re not alone. And we’re stronger together. Others are standing with us, praying for us, and willing to run alongside us when needed. It’s very apropos at Thanksgiving to say thank you to those who support us, to praise Jesus for those who surround us, and to reach out to others to ask for help. God’s plan entails US––WE are in this race together.
  • Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles: Individually we have a part to play in our training and our race days. And the first step is to offload everything that weighs us down, keeps us stuck, or gets us off track. Otherwise, our race of life will feel like the Boston marathon with a full military backpack. The word used here for “throw off” means to jettison something far away from you. Don’t just set your burdens and temptations down––jettison them and keep running!
  • Where do we run? God affirms that our race is marked out for us. This means we’re not running blindly or randomly. Jesus has put out mile markers so that we can continually stay on course. Again, we have a part to play in this race. Our part is to not give up… to keep going… to wake up each day and look to Jesus. And if we don’t know what to do next, perseverance means continuing to do the last thing we know aligns with His will.
  • Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. This is more than looking around for clues. It’s keeping our eyes locked on the One who waits at the finish line. Jesus has written us into His story. He provides opportunities for growth and success. He invites us to join the race as we grow in faith. However, it’s impossible to run a long distance in a straight line if you only look down at your feet, or if you’re fixated on the distractions around you. In order to get to each new milestone, we have to know the way. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
  • Who for the joy set before Him… His joy is you. His joy is me. Jesus endured the pain, shame, and spiritual darkness of the cross in order to pave the way for you and me to spend eternal life with Him. He wants us to run this race joyfully in light of His love for us and His delight in sharing life ever after.
  • He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God: Jesus finished His race on earth. Unlike the priests of old whose work was never done, Jesus finished the work given to Him by God the Father. Completing His ultimate work of providing eternal salvation, He now invites each one of us to join His continuing mission through His Spirit. Jesus calls us to run the race of life wearing His jersey.
  • Consider Him… so you will not grow weary: When we’re tired or confused or distracted or defeated, our motivation to continue stands before us. He smiles and cheers and coaches us. Jesus is our greatest supporter and our greatest fan.

We all have a race to run. If only every day was like an early morning run when the bright sun reflects off a rising mist and the fresh air smells like fall. If you’ve ever experienced it, you know that nothing compares.

But for most of us, our days include challenges and obstacles. Setbacks and fears. The lure of distractions and temptations that lead us off course.

And for some of us, the path forward remains a mystery. Our run has slowed to a walk. Our clear course has eroded into a rough path in dark woods. We pray for a breakthrough to the other side of something––but we wait for the when, where, and what.

Friends, whatever race you’re in right now, take courage! You are not alone. Throw off your burdens and come to Jesus (Matthew 11:28). Believe that He places markers on your path. Talk with Him in prayer and ask for wisdom. Keep your eyes locked on Him, not on distractions and pitfalls. Trust Him as you take one step at a time. And know that I’m running alongside you in spirit, praying for you along the way.

This Thanksgiving, may we band together like a team of runners in Jesus jerseys. I pray your path in this season will be marked by delight and joy for the race of life we run together!

Waiting Out the Wait

I’m not good at waiting. Most of us aren’t. We live in a culture of instant response and immediate gratification. Even waiting out a storm can drag on. “Right now” has become the norm and expectation. But immediacy in all aspects of life is a relatively new phenomenon. In the not-too-distant past, responses and news of current happenings travelled at a snail’s pace. But as pre-iPhone kids, this created anticipation each week as we looked forward to the Sunday paper’s section of cartoon strips. My favorite: the beloved Snoopy by Charles Schulz. I still remember the picture of Snoopy laying atop his red doghouse with ears relaxed and eyes closed. The caption read:

“The best things in life are worth waiting for.”

Such wisdom, yet counter-cultural today. We all want the best things in life. But let’s hurry up and get to the nitty-gritty:

1) What are the best things?

2) How long do we have to wait?

3) How can we possibly lay back and relax when we don’t know the answers to questions 1 and 2?


Before Snoopy, President Woodrow Wilson (28th President of the U.S.) reportedly proclaimed:

“All things come to him who waits––provided he knows what he is waiting for.”

Well therein lies the rub. Many of us find ourselves in a time of waiting, waiting, waiting. We want something new or we want change. We wait for something to happen, but we don’t know what will come next or when. We don’t know exactly what we’re waiting for. We just know we’re still waiting. As Christ-followers, the waiting becomes a crucible for refinement because the “right now” aspect of our culture doesn’t reflect the way God works.

The “best things” in life vary for each person, although often they aren’t “things” at all.  My recommendation for anyone focused on question #1: bring this question to Jesus. Ask Him directly, “What are the best things You want me to seek right now?”

For those of us wrestling with question #2, let’s consider the differences between: passive waiting, active waiting, and patience.

Passive waiting. This type of waiting can feel like we’re perched on Snoopy’s doghouse, but we’re definitely not laying back or relaxed. We feel stuck. Life circles around us and keeps making decisions without us. We no longer control life––it controls us. This feeling of helplessness or lack of direction can breed discouragement, frustration, and depression. We may make rash decisions thinking that any action is better than no action. But whether we sink in quicksand or run in circles, we don’t go anywhere good. Our reality check: many aspects of life ARE out of control––at least out of OUR control. We can’t control other people or their decisions. We can’t control certain circumstances. We can’t control the passing of time. But we can take comfort in knowing that God IS in control. And we CAN and SHOULD take action as we wait. This leads us to: actively waiting.

Active waiting. We can turn times of waiting into positive periods of progress and anticipation because we CAN take important steps. We can control our thoughts, our decisions, our interactions––continually assessing how they reflect our hope and God’s grace, love, goodness, and excellence. We can control the stewardship of our time, talents, and financial resources––all of which have been entrusted to us. We can press into Jesus and trust that since He’s in control, our most important step is to keep in step with Him. We do this through time in His Word as we seek Him with an open mind and humble heart. We do this through moment-by-moment prayer. And going back to question #1, of all the “best things” we may seek in this life, nothing eclipses life in Christ. But this requires patience.

Patience. Waiting and patience go hand in hand. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22–23) cultivated by the Holy Spirit as we open our heart, mind, and life to Him and allow Him to do His transformative work in us. We can’t manufacture patience. We can’t give it to ourselves. Ironically, when we pray for patience, we often encounter progressively difficult situations. I once shared with a wise counselor my desire to grow in patience, and she responded, “Be careful what you ask for.” Why? Because God won’t give you patience like a coat to wear. Rather, He’ll lead you into situations which require patience, and only by working through those situations with Him will the fruit of patience begin to grow.

At different times in life, we all have to wait. We may wait as God strategically works behind the scenes to prepare what’s next. We may wait because the Spirit has work to do in us to prepare us for what’s next. We may wait because the fruit of patience is growing. We may wait because Jesus continues to work in the lives of other people. We may wait because we live in a fallen world and Christ’s plan of redemption for people and things takes time.

Regardless of why we wait––be encouraged! Active waiting, though difficult, stretches us and prepares us for the best things in life. Active waiting strengthens our resolve and reveals the best path in the race marked out for us (Heb 12:1–2).

Friends, I pray that in times of waiting you’ll boldly seek the One who IS in control. Join Him in what He’s doing today even if you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. May your time of active waiting be for His glory and your flourishing.

“I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and revere and put their trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:1–3)

What CAN I do?

Many of us have experienced seasons of illness and injury––either our own or someone we love. Often these excruciating times of pain, fear, and doubt engulf us like a suffocating suffering. We wake up every morning in painful uncertainty and lay down each night in the same state. Daily we withstand a raging storm––everything circles around but nothing is clear. Movement requires pushing against unyielding barriers. We want to hope for complete healing. We want to throw off the heavy chains encasing us. We want to be released from physical and emotional burdens so we can regain strength and enjoy life again.

But sometimes the hope we cling to feels as secure as a thin thread precariously leading us through the dark tempest. We wonder why the God of resurrection and new life won’t speak a word of healing or reach out His hand to touch us.

I struggle too.

For six years now I’ve been fighting through chronic pain from recurring injuries. The last six months have been particularly hard. Not only does chronic pain make even the simplest daily tasks more difficult, but it prevents me from engaging in my most favorite thing: RUNNING.

Running is my happy place. Running is my time with Jesus when I soak up His inspiration and compose my best work. Running is my primary stress release. So the inability to run stifles my creativity and outlook, and it opens the door to frustration and even depression.

A few weeks ago––after unfruitful months of specialists, procedures, and therapy––I was blessed with the opportunity to spend a long weekend with my sister who’s a physical therapist. On our first day together, she graciously assessed my injuries and treatments. I lamented about my inability to do basic daily tasks without pain. I mourned over my inability to run. And my sister wisely responded, “Yes, there are many things you can’t do right now. But what’s important is to focus on what you CAN do. Ask yourself each day, ‘What CAN I do?’”

Hmmm. What CAN I do?

Simple. Profound. Since that day I’ve pondered the depth of this question. I’ve considered what this means for my daily physical challenges. I’ve meditated on the implications for my spiritual journey. I’ve wondered what impact this question might have for all of us who struggle as Christ-followers in this fallen world.

What CAN I do?  What CAN you do?

My encouragement for you today is to sit at the feet of Jesus and talk with Him about this question. Ask Him: Lord, what CAN I do?

If your challenges relate to physical limitations, relational strife, emotional grief, vocational uncertainty, or overwhelming daily responsibilities: Lord, what CAN I do today?

If you struggle with spiritual reality, how to interpret the Bible, or how to know for sure where your life is headed: Lord, what CAN I do today?

No single answer emerges from this focused yet open-ended question. That’s the beauty and the power: Lord, what CAN I do?

  • Maybe what you CAN do is take a walk outside or slowly take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Maybe what you CAN do is view the project you’re working on today as an offering to God.
  • Maybe what you CAN do is choose to forgive, or apologize for your contribution to a disagreement.
  • Maybe what you CAN do is reach out to someone who knows your grief so they can come sit with you as you mourn.
  • Maybe what you CAN do is pray and fast for a friend in need and then send them an encouraging text.
  • Maybe what you CAN do is to set a timer for 30 minutes and sit quietly before the Lord with no agenda but to be present and listen.

What CAN I do?

The answer will be different for each one of us. But for all of us, the response ushers in freedom and an opportunity to join Christ and others in our journey forward. Even if pain persists, our praise and endurance will transcend our challenges. Even if our circumstances don’t change, our mindset will. Even if we physically can’t run again, the race marked out for us will lead to victory.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  Hebrews 12:1–3

Friend, I’m praying for you today as you ask: What CAN I do?

“Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

Amen! Let it be!


Sometimes There Aren’t Words

Sometimes there just aren’t words…

when we sit with others in their grief.

when others try to comfort us in ours.

Sometimes there just aren’t words…

when life comes crashing down around us.

when darkness and despair close in.

Sometimes there just aren’t words…

when anxiety and doubt and shame condemn us.

when regrets of the past rear their heads and gnash their teeth.

Sometimes there just aren’t words…

when betrayals bite and false denials scream.

when the unrelenting hand of fear squeezes with clenched fingers.

Sometimes there just aren’t words…

when the world goes crazy.

when people don’t seem to care.

Sometimes there just aren’t words…

when circumstances confuse.

when no one remains but us.

Sometimes there just aren’t words.

But in those times…

the Holy Spirit speaks what we cannot (Romans 8:26–27).

Jesus lifts us in prayer, crying Abba (Romans 8:31–39).

our Heavenly Father holds us close and whispers,

  Be still, let go, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

For the LORD your God is a mighty savior. He delights in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. (Zephaniah 3:17 NLT)

Those who dwell in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God, and I trust Him. (Psalm 91:1–2 NLT)

Sometimes there just aren’t words… But in those times there is Someone who speaks. Jesus alone calms our fears, wraps us in His mighty arms of comfort, and speaks words of true hope and healing. He is love and He loves you. He affirms, “I am with you.” Take refuge in Him, precious friend.


Welcome to My Messy

My life is messy. Let me just start today by putting the truth out there. Of course, you wouldn’t know my life is messy just by looking at me. Like all of us, I know how to keep going in hard times and I cope when I need to. I used to guard the truth of my life, and I would continually makeover appearances of my exterior life so people wouldn’t ask questions about my internal struggles. Although not everyone goes to extreme lengths to conceal what they fear might look “off,” most of us don’t want others to see our behind-the-scenes messy truth.

Since I’m being honest about my messy, let me ask you…

Do you ever avoid talking to people––even your closest confidants––because you really don’t want to share what’s going on behind the scenes in your life? It’s hard enough being real with friends in our “normal” chaos. But under waves of fear or doubt, we don’t know if we should stand on our own or cry out for help. And sometimes that demeaning voice whispers in our ear, “You’re not good enough” or “Your problems aren’t as significant as what others are dealing with.” So we justify our decision not to “bother” anyone else with our struggles.

Whether we recognize it or not, we live in a constant battle for self-worth, fighting against isolation.

In order to inter-lock shields of faith and take an anti-isolation stand, my friend Elizabeth and I have a monthly “first Monday” date for sisterhood prayer and praise. Though we text, talk, and email regularly, first Mondays align and empower us as we seek Jesus and His will. Elizabeth remains the greatest prayer warrior I’ve ever known, and we’ve walked this journey of life together for almost ten years. But…

On first Monday a couple of weeks ago, Elizabeth and I were texting confirmation of the when and where. We both have been under tremendous stress with craziness all around. Elizabeth said she wasn’t feeling well, but I told her I’d really like to see her if she was up to it. Then she texted, “I hate to show up like a hot mess! I’m trying hard to get it together. I don’t want to be a burden.”

My response: “You’re not a burden and the whole reason we get together is to join in prayer.” She said she’d come by, but she promised not to stay long.

As we sat side-by-side a few hours later, Elizabeth shared the burdens wearing her out. One by one she laid down her load of heavy work bundles, packs of personal challenges, and discouraging harnesses on her health. From the releasing of this cumbersome weight sprang peace and freedom. And then my precious friend confided, “I didn’t want you to see my mess.” What?! Does she remember who she’s talking to? The words flowed quickly from my lips:

“Are you kidding? Welcome to my messy! My life is full of mess, and you and your mess are ALWAYS welcome here with me!” And I proceeded to take my turn in off-loading the bundles and packs and harnesses of my messy life.

Friends, we all have messy. Sometimes our messy extends from overloaded schedules and responsibilities, and sometimes its rooted in shame, fear, doubt, or comparison. We struggle with keeping enough order in our life so we still qualify as “normal.” But there’s no such thing as normal! Don’t fear the messy places in life. We shouldn’t pretend our messy doesn’t exist or get caught up in overcompensating for it. What can we do with our messy?

Acknowledge it.

Accept it.

Address it––by sharing it with a trusted confidant who will help us navigate the murky waters of messy.

Thankfully we’re not defined by what people see or the degree of messy we experience. Our self-worth comes solely through Christ’s love for us and our identity in Him, both of which are perfect and priceless. These transcend our messy and allow us to find strength, purpose, hope, and transformation as we walk our spiritual journey with God and others.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, “Abba, Father.” For His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering.  (Romans 8:14–17 NLT)

Despite your messy, you are God’s beloved child. Press into Jesus with your messy, and intentionally step closer today to at least one friend with whom you can be transparent. Real life requires real relationships. I pray you’ll encourage others and invite them into your journey with: “Welcome to my messy!”

Your Life through the Keyhole

Have you ever seen a really old door on a house or stone wall with the thick iron hardware that creeks every time it opens? Back in the day, big heavy doors stood as formidable barriers that couldn’t be breached by force. Yet many of these doors were no match for prying eyes. The huge iron keys required to unlock the latches were so wide that you could actually put your eye up to the keyhole and look through to the other side.

Nowadays we have small metal slits for slender keys, and sometimes only touch pads, so we can’t peer through keyholes to catch a glimpse of something beyond. But imagine walking up to a castle wall and looking through one of those big iron keyholes into a secret garden or a magical hidden world. What might you see?

Now what if I told you that this keyhole view is how we view our life each day?

It’s as if we’re looking at ourselves, other people, and our circumstances through a tiny window. We can see clearly, but our vantage is severely limited. We can’t see what’s happening to the left or the right. We can’t see what’s happening up above or below. We can’t see anything happening behind the scenes. There’s so much going on outside our view that we’ll never truly comprehend everything about anything.

It suddenly makes me feel very small and uninformed about my life.

Thankfully, all of us can turn to someone who sees and knows everything beyond our keyhole view. God. Elohim the Creator. Yahweh the covenant-keeper. The Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. He created time and lives outside of it. He looks down upon the past, present, and future and sees it all at once.

God transcends our keyhole view and has a complete perspective of our entire life.

And praise the Lord, one of His greatest joys is to lovingly shepherd us through every season. Day by day, Jesus offers His hand as He calls, “Come, follow Me.” Through sun-filled days on the highest mountain peaks. Through the darkest hours in seemingly endless valleys. Jesus sees all and navigates accordingly.

Jesus. The Master Strategist who orchestrates life. Nothing surprises Him. Nothing catches Him off guard. He never takes a coffee break. His love never fails and His mercies renew every morning. Jesus knows every detail about you and your life, including every detail about everyone who will ever touch your life in any way. And He watches over you every second of every day, ready to cover you with His mighty wings.

We may be skeptical at times. We may have doubts about how much God loves us or what He’s willing to do for us. But we see the proof in what He’s already done: He died to bury our sins once and for all; and He rose again to offer us new life in Him. Life everlasting!

“We walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

We may not know what tomorrow brings. But we can know who will be protecting, providing for, and walking with us on the journey. Jesus. We don’t have to worry about having a limited view as we peer through our keyhole. Jesus––our almighty God––sees everything. He alone holds the ultimate power to prevail in every situation. And He has prepared the way for us beyond what we can see. Turn to the One who leads the way!

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scoring its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2–3

In what ways do you strain to see through the keyhole of your life? How might Jesus be inviting you to turn to Him for hope and the way forward?

How Not to Hate the Wait

Our pace of daily life quickens. For instance, do you remember when email emerged as a life-changing breakthrough––speeding up and expanding communication beyond what we ever imagined? Some of us older cats do. But today, many view email as an archaic nuisance, like snail mail. Why not just text or chat?

In our world of one-click shopping and on-demand streaming, much of life no longer unfolds over time. We expect immediate results. We want what we want when we want it. We require instantaneous life. We hate waiting.

Thankfully, we don’t have to wait for anything. Or do we?

Yes, often God asks us to wait. But His concept of waiting entails hope and expectation, not delay and nuisance. God’s waiting bears fruit. When we wait and dwell with God, His strength becomes our strength. This waiting opens the door for the Spirit to continue His work of transformation in our lives. This waiting allows God’s plan to become our plan, and even our deliverance.  

Psalm 31:24 “Be strong and courageous, all you who wait––who hope––in the LORD.”

Psalm 37:7 “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him.”

Psalm 40:1 “I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry.”

Isaiah 40:31 “Those who wait––who hope––in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint.”

Psalm 37 demonstrates how we grow in our walk with God. It’s a progression, and the waiting underscores spiritual maturity.

  • First, as we begin to get to know Jesus, we learn that He’s always trustworthy (v3).
  • Then, as our trust in Him grows, we begin to delight in Him and rejoice with thankfulness because of His grace, forgiveness, and protection (v4).
  • Our delight leads us to commitment as we devote our lives to following Him and becoming His ambassadors in this world (v5). Harder challenges may begin to emerge.
  • Finally, as we look for direction forward, He tells us to be still––to let go of all that we hold onto and all that we trust outside of Him––and to wait (v7). In this time of waiting, we lay our ambitions at the foot of the cross. We allow Christ to prepare us for the work He’s calling us to. And we allow His indwelling power to transform us from the inside out.

Isaiah 40:31 reveals the results of our waiting. Strength emerges as the hallmark of those who wait and hope in the LORD. Whether we soar to new heights of an amazing new journey, or run the long haul of a life marathon through new terrain, or walk the slow, hard roads of daily life challenges––we will not tire. We will not grow weary. We will not give up. Our trust, delight, commitment, and waiting strengthen us. And they impact our faith journey as God lives through us and uses us mightily each day in our circles of influence.

In this chaotic and quickening world, waiting can feel like surrender to a foe. The world’s expectation of waiting breeds anxiety and fear. Emotions ratchet up as the focus becomes all that could happen while someone refrains from taking matters into their own hands. In doing nothing, they resolve themselves to someone else’s will. Misfortune watches intently, ready to pounce.

But this doesn’t reflect our expectation of waiting. We wait for our good and holy God.

When we wait for God, we give Him space to work in and through our lives. When we wait for God, we listen and watch and move toward Him in prayer. When we wait for God, we allow Him to be God.

We wait with expectation rooted in His power, faithfulness, and love. Waiting for God doesn’t garner resignation. It elicits hope as we trust that our God––the Master Strategist, Creator of the Universe, and our Heavenly Father––continues to put things in place as He works all things to good. In His timing, our path forward develops and unfolds.

Next time you struggle with waiting, pray through the scriptures above. Praise God for your journey through trusting, delighting in, committing to, and waiting for Him. Praise God for his strength in you, and His perseverance through you, which allows you to soar and run and walk the journey of life in His care and provision.

Don’t hate the wait. Praise Him in the process and let your life be a beacon of hope to others.

Do you have a story of how God has worked through your waiting? Your story could be a great encouragement to others––we’d love to hear it!

Unanswered Prayers

When someone dies, we struggle with the “why”. Why didn’t God answer our prayers? Why didn’t God answer the prayers of everyone else? Why was this life cut short? As Easter approaches and we solemnly remember the Last Supper and the gruesome events that unfolded, the “why” questions of the disciples are laid bare.

Jesus was taken by force from the garden. He was tried for false crimes, beaten to the edge of life, and brutally hung on a cross to die in agony and ridicule.

His disciples and followers watched it all. They had grown up in the Jewish tradition of prayer. And Jesus, their esteemed rabbi, taught them how to pray with new expectation (Matt 6:9–13). Jesus revealed that God knew each one of them intimately. God loved them dearly. Not only is God the Almighty YAHWEH of Israel, He is their adoring Heavenly Father, their Abba.

So imagine their confusion and grief as Jesus’ friends and family watched the horror of events. Their prayers for Jesus’ deliverance and rise to power in Israel went unanswered. God remained silent. What about God as His loving Father? And what about Jesus’ words to them, “I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it” (John 14:13–14).

“Ask Me for anything and I will do it.” But You won’t heal someone who’s doing Your good work here on earth? You won’t allow a young mother to live a few more years? You won’t spare a young child with a bright smile and an even brighter future?

On that dark weekend two thousand years ago, what the disciples didn’t know was God’s plan. They waded through darkness, watching evil and injustice seemingly prevail. They didn’t see God’s work of resurrection and new life. They perceived an untimely stripping of Jesus’ earthly ministry, not comprehending the heavenly throne and Christ’s new work through the Spirit––work which now continues throughout all generations until He returns.

Jesus told His disciples, “Anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. They will do even greater things than these” (John 14:12).

Jesus, one man on earth, then multiplied His good work infinitely through the saints. The Holy Spirit indwells and works through believers for the glory of God and the redemption of all.

It’s true that God didn’t answer the disciple’s prayers for Jesus’ deliverance and rise to power in the way they expected. But God was not silent. He was not MIA. God’s awesome plan of redemption for all people and all things ignited and set a new course for human history.

And our Heavenly Father’s awesome plan continues today in and through His people.

So what about our prayers that seem to go unanswered? Specifically, what about prayers for healing and deliverance that end in death? If God doesn’t answer these “good” prayers that would bring glory to Him, why would He care about any of our other prayers that pale in comparison? Why pray for a new job, a new relationship, or healing from a cold?

Remember Jesus’ words, “Ask anything in My name.” God desires that our hearts would align with His as we grow in Christlikeness. So we pray for His will to be done. We make our requests known, willingly leaving the results to Him and committing to trust and praise Him regardless of outcome. This is how we glorify the Father through prayer. We join Christ in presenting our requests, we trust that He cares for every aspect of our lives (1 Peter 5:7), and by faith we believe that His good and perfect will be done. Even if we don’t understand this side of heaven.

We can’t see the innerworkings of God’s awesome plan of redemption. But in faith, we trust He’s sovereign and active.

And we hold fast to the promise of eternal life with Christ. So what if…  

What if when Christ-followers die, they aren’t whisked to heaven to fly around on angel wings until Christ returns to earth? What if their work in God’s plan of redemption continues from a new heavenly vantage? What if what we pray for on earth is answered, but it manifests in heaven? We know life on earth will end for all of us, but we also know that’s just the beginning. Now we see in part as if through a keyhole, but then we will see through an open door.

We’ve talked in previous blogs about our work in the new heavens and new earth. God’s invitation to join in His redemption plan goes beyond our earthly existence. And Christ affirms He has prepared a place for us in our Father’s house. So why should we think that between the time we leave this life and the time of Christ’s return we will merely be waiting, waiting, waiting… Whatever our part in God’s heaven work, it is worthy of hope and praise!

This Easter weekend, let’s praise and sit in awe of the one true God who promises to raise us to new life through His resurrection power. But let’s also praise Him for the work He asks everyone to join in that plan––both here on earth and beyond. Remember, Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father in Heaven, holy is Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” On earth as it is in heaven.

Friends, our struggles through pain, despair, and confusion of losing loved ones are real. But there’s hope in the darkness. “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).

In our mourning, let’s cling to faith. Let’s pray through Scripture and align our hearts with God’s. Through the Spirit’s strength, let’s offer praise to Jesus for His promise of eternal life. Let’s praise Him for His plan of redemption whereby the lives of men and women and boys and girls continue to impact others in this world, far beyond their last moments with us.

Jesus is the God of resurrection and new life! Although we may never understand the “why” this side of heaven, we know that His awesome plan includes each one of us and those who have gone before us. No life is wasted. Christ’s impactful and redemptive work through His people continues on earth and in heaven.

Who Do You Say I Am?

Most of us know the greatest stories ever told. Noah, his ark in the flood, and the promise of the rainbow. Moses parting the Red Sea as the Israelites escaped from Egypt. The baby Jesus lying in the manger with shepherds and wise men paying honor to the newborn King. The empty tomb on Sunday morning.

Often in stories our focus is on the action or the players or the outcome. But the stories of the Bible have another purpose––to turn our focus to the Author of life. To fix our minds on God.

Renowned theologian A.W. Tozer said, “What you think about God is the most important thing about you.” Why? Because what we believe about God affects everything. It affects how we interact with Him. It affects what we believe about ourselves. It affects how we treat others. It affects the decisions we make and the actions we take. It affects what parts of our life we invite Jesus into.

If we believe God is distant, we’ll take matters into our own hands. If we believe God is angry, we’ll walk on eggshells, or avoid Him, or maybe even lie. If we believe God is uncaring or too busy for us, we’ll struggle with finding purpose in life.

If we believe God forgives, we’ll approach His throne of grace with confidence, thankfulness, and relief. If we believe God heals, we’ll stop covering our wounds and allow His healing hand to touch us. If we believe He’s the giver of new life, we’ll unlock the dark places of our past and allow His light to dissolve the shadows and scatter the demons.

God’s desire is that each one of us would truly KNOW Him.

In any relationship, getting to know someone intimately takes time. But God has all the time in the world, and He’s inviting you to sit with Him, learn from His Word, and converse with Him through prayer. Even Jesus’s disciples went through a process of getting to know Him as they heard His teachings, asked questions, travelled with Him from town to town, and shared meals together. In Mark 8:27–30, their conversation turned to what people thought about Jesus. As Tozer said, what people think about God is most important.

Then Jesus asks His closest friends point blank, “What about you? Who do you say I am?”

Today, Jesus asks us this same question. And we may have different answers. Some of us, like Peter, can proclaim: Jesus, You are the Christ, the promised Savior, the Son of God!

Some of us may cling to God’s self-revelation in Exodus 34:6-7, affirming: You are Yahweh, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. Thank you for your forgiveness and mercy.

Some of us may pray John 14:6: You are the way, the truth, and the life! Open my eyes and my mind to You, and grant me new life!

Some of us may cry out Psalm 23: You are my Shepherd. In Your grace, walk me through these dark valleys of the shadow of death. Bring me safely to the other side.

Some of us may be like the desperate father in Mark 9:24: Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief!

Some of us may affirm 1 John 4:8: God, You are love. Heal my broken heart and my broken life with Your unfailing love.

And some of us may not know what we believe about God or Jesus. To you Jesus says softly, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Walk with Me and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt 11:28-29)

Friends, whether or not we know the greatest stories, the Author of life wants us to know Him. And not just know about Him, but truly know Him personally and intimately as His beloved sons and daughters.

Who is the Author of life? God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, God the Holy Spirit

I encourage all of us to carve out some time today for a conversation with Jesus. And as He asks, “What about you? Who do you say I am?” be honest and open your heart to Him. If you’re not sure how to respond, begin to pray through some of the Scriptures above, or other passages that have been important to you in the past. Allow the power of the Spirit to speak to you through His living Word.

We cannot trust God with all of life and follow Him down unknown paths until we KNOW Him. I’m praying for your time with Jesus today.

Fear or Faith at Work?

What’s the most challenging aspect of living out your faith at work? Some of us work at home or with other Christians, so being salt and light, and talking about our faith, come naturally. But many of us work in places where talking about Jesus and faith are discouraged. And some workplaces are downright hostile to Christians, so speaking openly could mean the end of our employment.

For all of us, shining the bright light of Jesus in a very dark place can feel scary––even dangerous.

The average worker faces situations and decisions every day that test the boundaries of WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?). Fear is real. We’re afraid of talking about Jesus to people who disparage Him. We worry we’ll be misunderstood or make others feel awkward. We don’t want to become alienated, looked down upon, or reprimanded. We don’t know where to start a conversation about our faith.

It’s no fun living like a double agent with different personas at work v. at home. So how do we overcome fear of living out our faith at work? Do we have to talk about Jesus in order to be a witness at work?

Here are three critical truths about faith at work, with encouragement from Acts 1:8, which I hope will empower you to head to work this week with new insight and courage:

  1. Witnessing is not evangelizing.
  2. Jesus is already working at your workplace.
  3. Your workplace is God’s powerful venue for transformation.

Jesus declares, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses… to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Witnessing is not evangelizing. Most of us know about evangelism––and like a trip to the dentist, we’d rather not go. Evangelizing entails proclaiming the good news of salvation in Christ through God’s grace. Conversely, witnessing is about who we are in Christ. It entails sharing what we’ve seen or experienced first-hand. Witnessing includes the way we interact with others and the way we conduct our work. Thus, we go to work each day empowered by Christ’s Spirit. And we begin to live out our faith in Jesus as His witnesses through: authentic relationships we cultivate, prayer and care for others, and our excellent work. All of these then give us the credibility to share how Christ has transformed our life and how He can transform someone else’s.

Jesus is already working at your workplace. Jesus is Lord over all creation, and as such He is Lord of your workplace. He’s already working there. Now He wants you to actively join Him. Once you put your faith in Christ, He lives in you through the Holy Spirit. So you go to work each day not in your own strength trying to do the right thing. Rather, you go to work with the power of the indwelling Spirit whose desire is to join in God’s work there. Find courage in His strength. Ignite the power of prayer in your workplace. Ask Jesus how He wants you to join His work in other people’s lives, and through the work itself.

Your workplace is God’s powerful venue for transformation. God’s redemptive Kingdom work continues “to the ends of the earth” today. This includes transformation of believers, non-believers, organizational values, and culture. This is the work He asks us to join. In addition, Christ uses the workplace as a crucible for refining our character and stretching our faith muscles as we resolve to stand up for what is good and right. There’s purpose in the challenges you face at work. Pause, pray, listen for the Spirit, reflect on His promptings. Then take action accordingly.

When we trust in Jesus as Lord of our workplace, and view our work as an extension of His, purpose and strength replace fear. Be encouraged! You go in the power of the Spirit as His witness to join in the work He’s already doing.

Why Work?

Cultures flourish and deteriorate based on how they answer these questions: Why do people exist? Is there some greater meaning to life? What’s our purpose in the here and now?

Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” If we’re honest, we all want to know the why.

So what if someone told you, “You were born to work.” Seriously? We understand the need to work, at least in terms of providing financial means for individuals and their families. And clearly “born to work” isn’t referring to living in captivity, so there must be another interpretation. But finding transcendent value and purpose in everyday work––that doesn’t compute. Especially for those of us whose daily grind wears us out. Especially when people at work cut us down. Especially when we’re not using our gifts and we don’t like what we do.

Why work?

Early twentieth-century author Dorothy Sayers answered this question and challenged the church and Christians everywhere to view work as the primary way we live out the Great Commandment to love God and love others (Matt 22:37–39). In her article “Why Work” (which you can find online), Sayers proclaims that work “should be looked upon, not as a necessary drudgery to be undergone for the purpose of making money, but as a way of life in which the nature of [humanity] should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself to the glory of God.”

Translation: We’re created by God to glorify Him through our work. And work is meant to be a joy-filled way of life.

Sayers continues: “The habit of thinking about work as something one does to make money is so ingrained in us that we can scarcely imagine what a revolutionary change it would be to think about it instead in terms of the work done.” In other words, the value of work is not calculated by how much money it generates. Rather, the true value comes in the way we do our work––the quality of the work itself and our interactions with others.

Our daily work is a reflection of who we are as Christ’s image-bearers.

God’s Word lays the foundation for a His perspective of work. We don’t have time to dig deep into Scripture, but here’s the progression:

  • Gen 1:26–28 confirms that all humanity is created in the image of God (Himself a worker throughout Scripture), and God commands His image-bearers to continue His work on earth by creating culture: “Let us make humanity in our image…”
  • 2 Cor 5:17–21 declares that once we put our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior, we’re transformed into image-bearers of Christ by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. And He calls us to join in His work: “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation…. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors…”
  • Col 3:17 affirms that we glorify God through our daily work, and our work becomes a witness to the watching world: “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

Summary of the progression:  All humans are image-bearers of God. Christ-followers are image-bearers and ambassadors of Christ. The work of Christians glorifies God and witnesses to the world.

In Sayers’ day, the label “Christian work” erroneously applied only to work conducted in and for the church, and thus Christian/church work was deemed more valuable to God than “secular” non-church work. Sayers took issue with this unbiblical dichotomy, proclaiming, “The only Christian work is good work, well done. Let the Church see to it that the workers are Christian people and do their work well, as to God: then all the work will be Christian work.”

Her point: Excellent work done for the glory of God is “sacred” work. The context of the work doesn’t matter.

Getting back to our original questions:

  • Why do people exist? To glorify God and live in relationship with Him.
  • Is there a greater meaning to life? Yes, and that meaning is detailed in God’s Word.
  • What’s our purpose in the here and now? To glorify God by loving Him and loving others well. And one of the primary means of loving God and loving others is work––whatever that work may entail, and regardless of whether or not we get paid to do it.
  • Why work? Excellent work honors God and gives us credibility in the watching world. Through our work, we’re a vessel of God’s Kingdom expansion. We demonstrate God’s love for others when we work with integrity and care for those we work alongside. And God uses our work as a means of providing for families, communities, and society as a whole.

Amen! Let it be!

We covered a lot of ground today, and I hope you’ll take some time to pray through the concepts and passages included. One thing I know for sure: Embracing a biblical perspective of work will change your life.

So now, dear friends, I joyfully send you into your day armed with truths about work. Have a fabulous day in whatever you’ll be doing!

Greatest Gift: A Partridge in a Pear Tree

What’s your favorite Christmas carol? I can’t pick just one because many carols bear fond memories of my dad. Each year growing up, my family sang in church choirs and caroled through neighborhoods with a large group of singers. Today, I still sing along every chance I get (out of earshot from others, mind you).

One of my all-time favorite classics is the “12 Days of Christmas” as sung by John Denver and the Muppets. Corny, maybe. But it always ignites a smile. And you can’t deny the endearing chutzpah of Miss Piggy. For Christmas carol junkies like me, click here to watch it on YouTube.

Recently, I found out that a dear friend of mine doesn’t know the words to 12 Days of Christmas! How is that possible? He’s a musician! But then I realized that many people didn’t grow up singing Christmas carols and never had the opportunity to memorize every word to every song.

Sad but true.

Also true: Even for someone like me who can sing every word to the carols (whether in tune or not), I don’t always know the full message.

Like 12 Days of Christmas. All those years singing its catchy lyrics and I never knew the meaning behind the words!

Here’s what I found out. There are two disputing camps: one says the song means nothing and one says it does. Go figure. The camp affirming this carol’s intrinsic meaning indicates that in post-Reformation England, Roman Catholics were prevented from openly practicing their faith. So this old folk song helped children remember tenets of their faith.

The hidden meaning of the gifts given by “my True Love” (God) are:

  • A partridge in a pear tree – Jesus Christ
  • Two turtle doves – the Old and New Testaments
  • Three French hens – faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13)
  • Four calling birds – the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
  • Five gold rings – the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament)
  • Six geese a-laying – the six days of creation before the first Sabbath rest
  • Seven swans a-swimming – the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, showing mercy (Romans 12:6-8)
  • Eight maids a-milking – the eight Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor, mourning, humble, oppressed, merciful, pure-hearted, peacemaking, persecuted (Matthew 5:3-10)
  • Nine ladies dancing – the nine fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)
  • Ten lords a-leaping – the Ten Commandments
  • Eleven pipers piping – the eleven faithful disciples
  • Twelve drummers drumming – the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed

Each verse in the song comes back to one gift: the partridge in a pear tree. Jesus Christ. The baby in a manger. Our Savior who came quietly into the world to offer full forgiveness and restoration with our True Love, God. Jesus is the greatest gift of all.

Whether or not this folk song taught children about their faith, it can teach all of us to pause and consider the blessed gifts we’ve been given as children of God.

And one gift stands above them all: Christ.

Jesus is the gift we celebrate this Christmas season. In Him alone we find hope, everlasting love, and new life. May we sing praise to our True Love and His Son Jesus this Christmas!

“But to all who have received Him––those who believe in His name––He has given the right to become God’s children.” John 1:12 (NET)

May I pray?

Jesus, sometimes You’re overlooked at Christmas. Even though “Christ” is the root of “Christmas”, we often get caught up in gifts and songs and celebrations instead of You. As we go through this year’s 12 days of Christmas, help us to turn our thoughts and praise to You. You’re the reason for the season. May we rejoice in our True Love who has given us the greatest gift of all. Amen.

No More Masks

As the days grow shorter and golden leaves fall from trees, we pack up Halloween decorations in preparation for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Although a few costumes may linger in photos on the fridge, everything else is set aside for another year. However, there’s one thing that few of us ever put away: the everyday masks we live behind.

We all have masks of one sort or another.

Reasons vary. For some, our masks protect us from going too deep or being too real. For others, masks allow us to live more boldly as the alter ego we espouse. Still others crave physical and emotional connections, and we’ll do just about anything to keep others interested.

Whatever our reason for donning a mask, we use it to hide the truth.

Hiding the truth means we have secrets. Some are small. Some ignite fear. Some seem insurmountable. Some tear at our heart and prevent us from moving forward in life. Often we go to great lengths to hide the truth. Even if it means hiding behind a mask. Even if it means pretending to be someone we’re not.

We hide secrets because we’re afraid to let people know the real us. We don’t want people to know about our real life.

So we lock our secrets away and put on a mask. We put on a happy face. We pretend that we have it all together. We talk like we know what we’re doing, even though our confidence melts the minute we get home. We say everything is fine. We don’t let anyone get past the surface of who we are or where we’ve been.

Some of us wear our masks indefinitely.

Then one day someone we truly respect looks at us and says, “Who are you?” And the truth is that we don’t really know. We’ve been pretending to be someone else for so long that we’ve lost our identity.

We don’t know what we like. We don’t know what we want out of life. We’re numb and tired and empty. We’ve been trying to be who others want us to be. As the old Cheap Trick chorus sings, we’re desperate for real connection with others: we want them to want us, we need them to need us, and we’d love them to love us.

Desires for being wanted and needed and loved are normal. But we can’t lose ourselves as we pursue these desires. We can’t give ourselves away. We can’t wear masks to hide the truth. We can’t pretend to be someone we’re not just so others will like us and accept us into their crowd.

Thankfully, someone loves us just the way we are. Jesus.

No matter where we’ve been, no matter what we’ve done, no matter what has happened to us, Jesus loves us for who we are, right where we are. He created us and has specific plans for each one of us. He knows everything about us. He knows every hidden secret. He sees behind the mask. And He can turn all things to good if we turn to Him.

Jesus is calling you to come out from behind your mask.

He wants you to know that you’re never alone. He is with you, right now. And He doesn’t want you to be anyone else. He wants you to be you: the beloved child of God Most High who is wanted, needed, and loved by Him.

The only thing to hide behind is the love of Jesus. If we’re willing to approach His throne and receive His grace, we can say with confidence:

“You are my hiding place; You protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory.” Psalm 32:7 (NLT)

Jesus loves us like no other. He is our strength. He is our hope and our shield. When we stand with the Lord, we don’t have to be afraid of being ourselves.

We find freedom in living out our truth.

Living out our truth begins with pressing into Jesus. And it then grows in our relationships with others. Yes, it’s scary to reveal our truths and our secrets to others. And I’m not suggesting we reveal all of our deepest secrets to everyone. Not everyone is safe. But Jesus is safe. Start with Him. And then seek out one person who you feel is trustworthy. Go slow, and be real. You don’t have to lay everything on the table. But be intentional about genuinely desiring to know and be known. And commit to being a safe person for them. Pray for God to lead you, and as you build trust in each other, begin to lay down your mask more and more.

How we lay our mask down for Jesus and for others will be different. Jesus knows everything about us already. He is our safe place. And when we walk with Him, He’ll lead us in growing deeper, authentic friendships with others. This is what sisterhood and brotherhood are all about––walking the journey of life together sans masks.

Let’s put our masks aside and take a courageous step toward living in the freedom of our truth. #NoMoreMasks

What’s Your Superpower?

If you were approached by a genie wanting to grant you one wish for any superhero power, what would you ask for? It’s a strange question, but seriously, take a moment and think about it. What superpower would you want and why?

My first thought: ask for something I could use in the battle between good and evil––like the ability to open people’s minds to understand truth versus lies. But this superpower risks grave repercussions like when someone asks, “Do you mind staying an extra hour?” or “How do these jeans look on me?” No, I don’t think opening people’s minds to full truth is a superpower for which I want to take responsibility.

After careful review, which took more time than I care to admit, my superpower wish would be… drum roll, please… to fly!

Can you imagine? I never really thought about having the ability to fly. But now that I am thinking about it, how cool would it be to straighten a dashing cape, push off, and jet into the blue horizon? Talk about the ultimate rush! I would love it––as long as we’re merely playing around. But because we’re now superheroes with this power (yes, I’m making the assumption that you’d join me in this superpower), we’d have to fly in the infamous battle of good v. evil. Have we thought this through? Once we take the first leap to go save someone, how would we know where we’re going? Internal GPS wasn’t an option with the “one wish” plan. Neither was the ultrasonic hearing that allows us to distinguish the voices of those in distress. And jiminy cricket, the commercial airliners aren’t respecting our airspace! Maybe having only one superpower with no augmenting side-powers isn’t enough.

All kidding aside, many of us wish we could fly in life.

Just once, we’d like to truly soar. To break free of limitations that keep us down. To break free of everything that holds us back. Physically or metaphorically, we want to fly!

We may pursue moments of escape, of adventure, of thrill and adrenaline. But even if we were to skydive, hang glide, or float in a hot air balloon, we’re not mounting up on wings like birds. We’re not soaring. Gravity pulls us down and we’re falling. Back to reality. Short-lived experiences of escape, whatever they might be, don’t allow us to rise up. They don’t help us break free. To truly rise above real life, we must learn to soar.

God teaches us how.

“Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will mount up and soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

We soar by tapping into God’s power. By allowing Him to be the wind beneath our wings that lifts us to new heights. By placing our hope securely in Christ because His steadfast character will never change. By walking with Him day-by-day as He guides us through our dark valleys to the other side.

We soar by resting in Him so He can renew our strength and prepare us for the season ahead.

Those who trust in God enough to wait for Him and learn from Him will soar like never before. And nothing compares to flying the mountains and valleys of life with God Himself.

We can fly!

Work in Heaven?

As Labor Day approaches, most Americans anticipate a well-deserved day off work. For many of us, the daily grind has become just that––a complete grind––and we regularly count down the days to weekends, holidays, vacations, and even retirement (5,406 days for me). But what if work isn’t supposed to be a grind? And what if our work doesn’t end with our time on earth?

Have you ever considered what the Bible reveals about work in heaven?

We know that the Bible represents one continuous story from Genesis through Revelation, and God’s story starts in a Garden (Gen 1–2) and ends in a City (Rev 21–22). This Garden to the City progression illustrates cultural creation and development: also known as “work.”

Three important truths shape a biblical view of work. If we don’t believe these truths, or if we don’t live and work as if we believe these truths, our lives and our work will be negatively impacted:

  • God is a worker, and as imagers of God we too are workers. God worked to create the earth and everything in it. So too He created humanity as His image-bearers to continue His work through talents, skills, and passions He cultivates in each one of us. We are created to create––to develop––to manage––to expand––to work. And God calls us today to join His work in the world (Eph 2:10).
  • Good life-giving work existed before the Gen 3 curse and continues today. Discussing the impact of the curse on work will have to wait for a future blog, but what cannot wait is emphasizing that good work––work done with excellence––exists today, and good work pleases God no matter what type of work it is.
  • Our view of work should reflect our view of heaven––and more specifically our view of the Holy City described in Revelation. This is where I want to challenge us today.

First, God confirms that the good work of His image-bearers throughout history will be integrated into the eternal, Holy City. Rev 21:24–27 confirms, “The kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it…. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it.” This means the work we do today creating, developing, managing, and expanding has eternal impact through the culture we make, the cultural artifacts produced, and the people we support and influence.

Second, when we think about the eternal City to come (Rev 21:1–2), we know for sure that God will dwell with His people and there will be no tears, no death, no mourning, no crying, and no pain (Rev 21:3–4). God said, “I am making everything new” (Rev 21:5), indicating that His work of creation and development will continue––but in the context of the New Jerusalem. And just as God chooses to do much of His work on earth today through human agents, we should anticipate that much of the work in the new earth will be done via the creative talents and skills of His image-bearers.

Third, God reveals specifics of the Holy City which allow us to grasp a greater vision of work through eternity. Yes, beautiful music will resound from a heavenly choir (and probably an orchestra), but in addition, many of us non-musicians will likely continue the good works of our Creator. Think back to how God gave the plans for the tabernacle to Moses, and then His people executed these plans. David too had plans for the first temple in Jerusalem, and Solomon employed craftsmen, stonecutters, and artisans to create it. Now consider these aspects of the New Jerusalem:

  • City foundations decorated with every kind of precious stone––including sapphire, emerald, topaz, and amethyst (Rev 21:19–20)––will need civil engineers, stone masons, jewelers, and miners to build them
  • The great high wall made of jasper, gold, and glass (Rev 21:18) will use architects, glassblowers, and metal smiths to create them
  • Twelve gates covered in pearls (Rev 21:12, 21) and streets of pure gold (Rev 21:21) will need designers, metal workers, and divers to fashion them
  • The river running down the middle of the great street (Rev 22:1-2) will have promenades needing workers and artisans to construct them
  • The Tree of Life which bears different crops of fruit every month (Rev 22:2) will need horticulturists, gardeners, and farmers tending and distributing them
  • Leaves of the tree of life used for healing of the nations (Rev 22:1-2) will use doctors, pharmacists, and nurses to develop and administer them

Truly the New Jerusalem is a City of Delight! And all of these features of the Holy City signal that good work will continue through eternity because our God, the Creator, never changes. And since we, His servants, will reign with Him for ever and ever (Rev 22:3–5), we must consider that the good works prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10) encompass more than just what has been prepared for us today.

Friends, your work is valuable. Your work has eternal impact. Your work contributes to culture and supports families and communities. And the people you interact with through work encounter Christ’s disciple each day.

I encourage you to take some time today to look at your work from an eternal perspective. Does your view of work reflect your view of heaven? How would you describe your work to Jesus? How would Jesus describe your work to you?

As a final note, Rev 19 describes the white horse Jesus will ride when He returns, along with the horses of heaven’s armies. This indicates heaven has stables. Oh what joy! I’m hoping the Holy City has stables too, and that my eternal work is at the barn!


Better to Have Loved & Lost?

Think about a time when you wholeheartedly loved someone and felt adored by them. As you think about that person––spouse, parent, boyfriend or girlfriend, sibling, child––how would you describe that love? What emotions or feelings come to mind?

I think of: expectation, joy, excitement, purpose, belonging, peace, contentment, hope.

As human beings, we cannot live healthy, abundant, prolonged lives without love. We are created to love. We long for love. We will do crazy things to show our love. But at some point in our lives, we will all lose love. What then?

  • A husband sits silently, mourning the end of 50 years with his beloved bride.
  • A young mother whispers goodbye to her newborn after seven short days together.
  • A twelve-year-old weeps over her father’s coffin.

“‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

Is that true?

Alfred Lord Tennyson, 19th century British poet laureate, penned these famous words after the death of a loved one. Most of us who have experienced the loss of someone we desperately loved would begrudgingly agree. Even on our hardest days, cherished memories mix with sorrow. Although the dagger of loss cuts deep at times, nothing compares with our time together and the love we shared. Those can never be taken from us.

But what if we “lose” someone to divorce or breakup? Then is it better to have loved and lost? What if we loved someone but they didn’t truly love us back? What if they used us? What if they hurt us––mentally or physically? Is it better to have loved and lost? As someone who has experienced all of these, I admit there is no clear answer.

What I can say without a doubt: There is a love that will never fail us.

Even though life bears loss, pain, and regret, there is love waiting to hold us tight. Even though there will be times when we fiercely desire intimacy and belonging, there is love calling us to draw near. No matter where we’ve been, what we’ve done, or what has happened to us, there is someone who loves us passionately and unconditionally. He loves us no matter what. He loves us right where we are for who we are. Who is He? Our Savior, Jesus Christ. He died for us so that we can live beyond death and experience His eternal love.

In my darkest days, I have clung to God’s Word. Love is used over 600 times in the Bible, and here’s a taste of what God tells us about love:

  • God is love. (1 John 4:8)
  • This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
  • This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. (1 John 3:16)
  • Whoever loves God is known by God. (1 Corinthians 8:3)
  • Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good. His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)
  • I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)

God’s love is eternal. God’s love is unchanging. God’s love is sacrificial. God’s love is perfect.  God’s love is poured out for you and for me through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Friend, if you’re longing for love past or future, know that you’re not alone. Embrace your desire as a hope for the eternal love of God––love which heals; love which brings new life; love which He wants to share with you today. Reach out to Jesus in prayer and press into His love. Cling to God’s Word and be lifted by the truth of His love. And by His strength, may you dwell in the richness of His eclipsing love.


2018: The Year of Open Doors

As we approach the mid-point of the year, most New Year’s resolutions are a faint and distant memory. High hopes for 2018 smacked into overloaded schedules and the realities of our daily To Do’s. Many of us are slogging into summer, yet we still muster hope for new opportunities and renewed purpose.

What if the remainder of this year could become a doorway to new opportunities for each one of us? What if 2018 could still become “The Year of Open Doors” for you?

The idea of a year possessing special meaning is nothing new. In Chinese culture, each year is themed on one of twelve zodiac animals, and many people still believe the characteristics of each animal impact the years and people they’re associated with.

Jewish culture too is rooted in “special years,” although today many of the customs have been set aside. According to the Old Testament, every seventh year was celebrated as a sabbatical year in which fields were left dormant and all debts were released (can I get an Amen!). And every 50th year was a Year of Jubilee––an entire year with no agricultural work (in an agricultural society), and a year during which all land reverted to its original owner and all indentured servants were set free. Now that’s worth celebrating!

In Western culture, we don’t corporately assign specific meaning to one year or another. Instead, we ring in each new year with a countdown, large gatherings with lots of good eats and drinks, and the annual resolution of better choices to induce new habits. Many of us also include prayers for new opportunities leading to new direction. But often we keep our prayers to ourselves as we wait on God.

Over the last few months, my prayers for “new doors of opportunity” to open have intensified.

I’ve been knocking, knocking, knocking but they remain closed. My doors are associated with my work in the “faith and work” space, and these are God-size doors that only He can open. Although I cannot do anything to open these new opportunities myself, the way I join God in this effort is to continue networking/equipping/knocking as I faithfully seek Him and lay these doors before Him.

A month ago, I enlisted several friends to begin praying with me.

I gave them a list of specific doors I’m knocking on and I asked them to join me in prayer for these doors to open. Then last week, my friend shared an article about 2018 being “the year of the open door.” Although I do not readily espouse contemporary prophesy, what came to mind was the idea of corporately recognizing this year as a “special year” and praying for open doors together as a community of Christ-followers. Even the apostle Paul recognized the significance of open doors when he wrote, “I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me” (1 Cor 16:8–9).

So what if, as the Body of Christ, we pray in unison each day for new doors to open––doors which, when opened, will bring glory to God?

What if we rejoice in God’s goodness and power, and His ability to open doors we can’t? What if we delight in God, His strategic plan, and the good work He prepared specifically for each one of us (Eph 2:10)? What if together we lay our requests for open doors on the altar as we worship Him? What if we faithfully approach the throne of grace each day together in prayer, and intercede for one another? What if each time we knock on one of our doors, we use our knocking as a prompt to pray for others who are also knocking on their doors?

What if 2018 becomes “Our Year of Open Doors”––a profoundly special year in the calendar of our lives? Are you in? I am!

I realize that confidentiality is often required when praying for our closed doors. But we can still be praying in unison because Jesus and the Holy Spirit, who also intercede for us before the Father (Rom 8:26, 34), know all the details! So, for anyone who wants to kneel together and inter-lock shields of faith, please let me know how I can be praying for you. For me, please pray for the 8 closed doors I’m laying before God.

Thank you, sisters and brothers, for jubilantly celebrating “The Year of Open Doors” through corporate prayer. I expectantly anticipate our joyful festivities at the end of the year––not to ring in another non-descript annum, but rather to praise God for all of the amazing new doors He opened June–December in “Our Year of Open Doors.” I can’t wait to share our details of all that God did!

Until then… PRAISE and AMEN!!!

Sit Among Your Weeds

Today I start with a confession: I’ve been struggling. I know situations won’t always turn out the way I think they should, and often things are much more difficult than expected. But for the last six weeks my life has been like wading through a sulfur mud pit, taking on darts from a hidden adversary. I’m not one to air my dirty laundry for all the world to see, but I admit that my challenges encompass overwhelming obstacles, disheartening misunderstandings, and nagging frustrations:

  • damage to my car
  • a vandalized fence
  • discord in key decisions
  • new doors of opportunity remaining closed
  • heirloom crystal pitcher––broken
  • favorite blue shorts––ruined
  • expensive new spring bulbs and plants––dug up and eaten by rabbits and squirrels
  • a health scare without decisive resolution
  • worry about aging family members
  • a revolving door of contractors making repairs in our home, continually fixing what other contractors messed up

Weeds are the straw that broke the camel’s (my) back, so to speak. The last little burden that became unbearable. But from my weeds emerged a transformative message from God…

It all started when weeds infested our newly sodded lawn. Unfortunately, new sod can’t be treated for weeds until the grass takes root––about two months after coming out of dormancy. So although the sod was laid in early December, no weed treatment could be applied until end of April. And although grass in Dallas goes dormant in the winter, weeds do not. So for five months those weeds had a heyday!

I spent hours upon hours trying to pull up these unsightly weeds, hardly stopping their progression. But slowly I became aware of the Spirit nudging me every time I thought about the menacing weeds.

After two weeks of wondering what the Lord was trying to say as I uprooted and mulled over weeds, I visited a friend and mentioned the Spirit’s prompting. She prayerfully considered my ordeal, and then she responded with a quote from Teresa of Avila: “Learn to sit amongst the weeds with God as Gardener, not the self.”

  • Learn to sit among the weeds. Learn to sit among my weeds.

She then referenced Jesus’ parable of the weeds (Matt 13:24–30) in which a man sowed good wheat seeds into a field, but his enemy came behind him and sowed weeds into that same field. God allowed the weeds to be planted and take root, and as both wheat and weeds grew, the man had to wait––living with the weeds in his field until harvest time.

  • Learn to sit among the weeds with God as Gardener, waiting for Him to pull them up.

When I returned home, I took a beach chair out to my front lawn and I sat among my weeds.

I prayed and journaled. I admitted my embarrassment of unsightly weeds. I laid down the burden of trying to pull up weeds day after day after day. I released my frustration of the contractor suggesting sod be laid in December instead of March. And I realized that my weeds were representative of many challenges and frustrations in every aspect of my life.

Life is full of weeds.

Confession opened the door to understanding. God allows weeds to take root and spring up in our lives. Some weeds need to be removed. But some weeds become a daily reminder to turn to, trust in, and wait on God.

For the first time, I found peace with my weeds.

As I sat and watched them slowly sway in the breeze, three truths arose:

  • I’m a gardener, but I’m not the Gardener. God the Father is the Gardener of the world, including my life––and yours. All we have and all we are come from Him and are for Him. He makes the garden we live in grow. He also allows weeds to intermix with our circumstances. So in every aspect of life, our attention needs to fix on the Gardener, not the weeds and not ourselves. He provides wisdom, discernment, and instruction. Each day, as we walk with Him in the garden and become more attentive to His promptings, we learn to focus on Him above all stresses and distractions. Weeds no longer stand as a consuming daily ordeal.
  • Our treasure is Jesus Christ, not anything tangible. Jesus confirmed, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). I love beautiful gardens and a lush, manicured lawn. And although fragrant blossoms, vibrant colors, and delicate textures evoke praise for the Creator, my one true treasure is my Savior. For all Christ-followers, His life is the eternal gift bestowed upon us. He is our Treasure today, tomorrow, and forever. We cannot allow ourselves to be consumed with temporal things, even those that are for a good purpose.
  • There is no perfect shalom this side of heaven. Shalom is a Hebrew word often translated as “peace”––but it means more than that. Shalom depicts the way things are supposed to be in God’s perfect creation without sin and death. In this life, we will all have good times and hard times, but things will never truly be the way they are supposed to be. We won’t experience God’s perfect shalom until we reach our eternal destination with Him. But even among our weeds, we get a glimpse of His sovereignty and promise for vibrant life everlasting.

Anything can become a weed that permeates life and becomes a drain: work issues, cravings and temptations, strained relationships, and even incessant small frustrations of daily life that pile up. Sometimes our weeds are sins to be uprooted. And sometimes our weeds are relationships, situations, or challenges that God allows in order to turn our focus and trust to Him.

Sit among your weeds.

Don’t obsess. Get comfortable and allow Christ’s shalom to penetrate their presence. Be attentive to His promptings. Lay your weeds before God and prayerfully wait. Seek Him on what to do or not to do. Focus on the Gardener, not the weeds. He is our Creator, our Protector, our Provider, our Guide. He is our Treasure.

What are the weeds in your life?


Consider My Bluebonnets

Have you ever seen a field of Texas bluebonnets? If you’re not a native Texan, you may not have heard of bluebonnets or appreciate the annual spring hubbub. I certainly didn’t. Until last weekend.

After 10 years in the Lone Star State, I went on my first bluebonnet drive––along with 100 others in our caravan of cars following the Bluebonnet Trail through Bristol and Ennis. Field after field after field emerged as we twisted and turned through the sun-drenched countryside.

Bluebonnets are to Texas what tulips are to Holland, azaleas are to Augusta, and cherry blossoms are to Washington, D.C. They integrate with culture. They draw annual pilgrimages. They display intricate artistry. But what makes the royal plumage of bluebonnets so remarkable is the fact that they are WILD. Bluebonnets are wildflowers. Dancing in the breeze along the road. Blanketing whole hills and fields. Brightening pastures and lining gravel driveways. These flowers aren’t planted or cultivated or pruned or fertilized. Rather, seeds are strewn in the wind and behold: exquisite beauty arises.

After the hourlong drive concluded, I broke off from the group, circled back along the route, and sat in a field among the delicate azure spires. I took a deep breath, surprised by the sweet floral aroma, and the words of Jesus came to mind: “Consider how the wildflowers grow…”

Luke 12:27–31 “Consider how the flowers grow; they do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, how much more will He clothe you, you people of little faith! So do not be overly concerned about what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not worry about such things. For all the nations of the world pursue these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, pursue His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”

“Consider” means: Turn your attention to; gaze and reflect upon; listen intently; think carefully about in order to make a decision.

Among the tiny swaying steeples, it was as if Jesus was whispering, “Consider My bluebonnets…”

Consider My bluebonnets…

  • Not even King Solomon in all of his glory was ever clothed as beautifully and majestically as these opulent wildflowers. My bluebonnets are created and cared for with love. How much more will you, My masterpiece, be cared for by the Creator of the Universe.

Consider My bluebonnets…

  • They don’t toil or spin or worry. You don’t need to worry. You are the beloved child of God Most High, and your Heavenly Father adores you. I adore you. I know what you need and I will provide. Rest in My presence and soak up the fragrance of beauty.

Consider My bluebonnets…

  • Don’t pine over what you don’t have. Don’t focus your efforts on the riches of this world. Instead, pursue Me. Run after Me. Seek Me first in every day, in every situation, in every struggle, in every doubt. I am with you. I am what you need first. Everything else will follow.

Whether considering bluebonnets or tulips or azaleas or cherry blossoms or lilies or roses or any other blooming kaleidoscope, turn your attention to… gaze and reflect upon… listen intently for… think carefully in order to make a decision about… Jesus.

He is Creator. He is Provider. He is Sustainer. He is Savior. He is Love. He is Hope. He is Compassion. He is Forgiveness. He is Life. He is mine and He is yours.

“Consider My bluebonnets…”

What is Jesus whispering to you?


A Promise from God

I’m honored to now be blogging on

Whether our requests are big or small, most of us have wondered at one time or another if God hears our prayers. Does God really care? He’s Creator of the universe. He’s busy dealing with wars and famine and asteroids and floods. He’s leading an army of angels, and He’s helping people who lost loved ones in tragedies. With everything going on in this crazy, mixed-up world, does God want to hear and respond to our prayers, even those for a new job, loneliness, a persistent cough, or help paying bills?

In a word: Yes!

God promises that His powerful Presence resides with His children through the toughest of times AND our day-to-day challenges. Zephaniah provides details of God’s commitment:

“The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

What does this mean for Christ-followers today?

God is with you. Always. Putting faith in Jesus Christ means believing that through His death and resurrection He paid the full price for all your sins––past, present, and future. Nothing separates you from the love and forgiveness of our triune God. You’ve been granted a full pardon through grace. You’ve entered into an eternal relationship with Him. He’s your devoted Father. He’s your unfailing Savior, Jesus Christ. He’s your Counselor and Provider, the Holy Spirit who indwells you. There is nowhere you can wander beyond His reach. He is with you always. Press into Him.

God is powerful, and He continues to save. As Easter approaches, we turn our eyes to the Cross. God gave His beloved Son as a sacrifice in our place so that we can spend eternity with Him. Christ saved us once for all! But He doesn’t stop there. He continually rescues each one of us from fear and the daily trials of life. God is still the God of resurrection, and He assures you that no matter where you’ve been, what you’ve done, or what has happened to you, you can walk forward in new life with Him. The NET Bible translates this, “He is a warrior who can deliver,” and the Good News Translation says, “His power gives you victory.” God takes action on your behalf, and He is worthy of trust in every situation. Trust Him.

God delights in you. God loves you passionately as His precious child. You’re created in His image, you’re created for purpose, and He truly delights in who you are. He loves you with all your talents, preferences, interests––even your hang-ups. You bring overwhelming joy to Him, and His desire is that you share life with Him each and every day. Love Him and delight in Him.

God quiets you with His love. He quiets you when you’re afraid. When you doubt. When you’ve got nothing left to give. When you struggle with shame, guilt, regret. God wraps you in His arms and holds you tight. He whispers through His Word. He comforts you with hope and shalom––His perfect peace. Be still, listen, and receive Him.

God sings over you with joyful songs. As a loving mother sings lullabies to her child, God sings over you. He rejoices as He watches over you. He blesses you. He holds you. He never grows weary as He expectantly awaits each new moment with you. Rest in Him.

Does God care for you? Yes! He intimately knows you and loves you. And He promises that His powerful Presence will reside with you, always.

Let’s Talk: How have you experienced God’s presence in your life?

May I pray? Heavenly Father, we don’t always understand how You truly care for us when our problems seem shadowed by everything happening in the world. We praise You that You’re so much bigger than we can ever fully comprehend! Thank You for adopting us and loving us as Your children, even when we don’t feel like we’re worthy. Thank You for rescuing us in our daily trials. Thank You for celebrating our lives and the plans You have for us, even when we can’t see beyond our circumstances. Help us to turn to You today and be filled with Your peace and hope. Amen.

The Intersection of Faith and Work

It’s my honor to be guest blogging on this spring.  I started with my first workplace blog…

We all work. Our workplaces may look different––office building, restaurant, school, home, gym, church, mall––but our work shares a commonality: intrinsic value to God’s Kingdom. Before you brush aside the idea of your daily work having eternal value, consider this: We all interact with people through work who have never heard the Good News or seen it lived out. Unfortunately, few workplace believers view themselves as God’s ambassadors called to the workplace. And many believers incorrectly believe that work is a result of the Genesis 3 curse. Consequently, work often remains something between drudgery and a means to a better life.

So how do faith and work intersect?

We long to discover our true purpose in life. Paul confirms that believers are God’s masterpiece––His poema––created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10). We step out in faith each day as disciples of Jesus Christ, but do we continue our faith walk at work? What if…

What if Jesus is already working in your workplace, and He’s inviting you to join Him?

What if joining Christ at work leads to the good works God prepared in advance for you to do?

What if you were designed with your unique skills, experience, and gifting to significantly impact the lives of your co-workers, both now and for eternity?

For most of us, embracing a workplace calling requires a change in perspective of God and of work. Enter four key truths:

  1. God is a worker. He’s a Creator, Provider and Sustainer. He’s a Gardener and Carpenter. He’s a Teacher and Counselor. From Genesis 1–2 to Revelation 21–22 God works.
  2. God created humans in His image and charged us to carry on His work (Gen 1:27–28). After creating the earth and everything in it, God proclaimed all good and very good. But by God’s design, creation was not finished. God blessed His human peeps and commissioned them to continue the work of forming and developing. Then and now, God desires and expects His people to create culture through work.
  3. God uniquely gifts and equips believers to live as “sent ones” in the world. Just as Jesus completed His work as a “sent one” (John 16:5, 17:4, 21–23), so too He calls us to carry on His work in the world as “sent ones” (John 17:18; Acts 1:8).
  4. As children of Almighty God, our work matters. Our work contributes to the common good, and we live out our faith in the way we work (1 Cor 10:31). Yet, one of the most important aspects of work is our workplace tribe. All of Jesus’ work was and is relational. Ours is too.

God calls all believers…

God calls all believers to live and work as His ambassadors in the world (2 Cor 5:17-20). Whether or not we have the gift of evangelism, we have daily purpose in living out our faith as contributing members of the workplace community. How? By working hard and with integrity. By building genuine friendships and loving others well. By treating co-workers, customers, and vendors with kindness and respect, and bringing the power of prayer into their everyday lives, even though they may never know it.

Through our care for others, the Lord will open opportunities for us to talk about the love and hope of Jesus. To openly pray for and with others. To share how Christ has transformed our lives and how He can transform theirs.

Friends, we step onto a strategic mission field each day we show up to work. Start a conversation with God and ask Him to reveal how He’s working at your work. Ask how you can join Him. Then boldly enter the valuable intersection of faith and work.

Which Way Did He Go?

Have you ever been watching someone in a mall or store and you glance away for a split second, and when you turn back that person is gone? It’s as if they vanished into thin air! Your eyes scan the area searching, searching… Anyone with kids experiences this regularly. Absence triggers panic as we frantically look for our lost ones. Peace doesn’t return until everyone is accounted for.

Kids or no kids, this same panic engulfs each of us when our circumstances swirl.

A lost job. A crumbling marriage. Bills that just can’t be paid. An ominous diagnosis. A bully that won’t quit. Pain too deep to share. Loneliness. Emptiness. Boredom. Regret and shame that won’t set us free. Our circumstances may vary but the fear, sorrow and despair we feel are real to all of us.

How do we rise above our real life circumstances to find peace and hope?

I heard a story recently about a class at a Christian college. Two chairs were side by side in the front of the auditorium with two men sitting in them. The professor told the class to stay focused on both men. But then the men got up and started walking in opposite directions. The students had to choose which man to follow because it was impossible to look back and forth when the men left the room and went into separate hallways. At the end of the exercise the professor told the class that these men represented Jesus and our circumstances.

The lesson: It’s impossible to fix our eyes on both Jesus AND circumstances. We have to pick one or the other. And if we choose to focus on our circumstances, suddenly it’s as if Jesus is gone.

Two opposite choices. Jesus leads us forward on a path of peace and hope. Our circumstances take us down a twisting road of uncertainty and fear. We know which path we’d rather choose, but how can we stay focused on Jesus? One way is to stop rewinding the tapes in our mind of what’s going wrong and instead believe Jesus is our loving Shepherd who leads us through the darkest times into the next season. Consider reading and praying through Psalm 23. Remember that Jesus loves us so much He died for us. The joy of spending eternity with us was His motivation for enduring His horrific circumstances.

Through Jesus’ strength we can endure our circumstances too.

No matter where we are in life and no matter where we’ve been, Jesus is ready to lead us forward. But we have to keep our eyes fixed on Him. No switching back between Jesus and our circumstances. We must pick just one.

Who or what are you focusing on today?

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2-3

Let’s talk: Why is it harder to focus on Jesus than our circumstances?

May I pray? Lord Jesus, it’s so easy to get caught up in the swirl of our circumstances. Help us learn to take a step back and turn our eyes and thoughts to You alone. Thank You that You are mightier than any problem we face. Your peace can calm every storm. May we trust You as our Shepherd leading us through the darkness into new life ahead. In Your powerful Name I pray. Amen.

Why “Do Good” For No Reason?

Have you ever felt like you were wasting your time trying to do something good? You go out of your way to lend a hand. You hold a door and smile, hoping to brighten a glum person’s day. You take the first step toward reconciliation.

And each time you wonder why you bothered. There’s no acknowledgment of the effort made. No appreciation. No reciprocation.

Even if we genuinely want to help others without expecting anything in return, it is hurtful when there’s no response or, worse yet, a bad response to our good efforts. Often “doing good” doesn’t seem to make a difference. So why keep trying?

On the wall of her home for orphaned children in Calcutta, India, Mother Teresa wrote this:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

In her song “Anyway” Martina McBride expresses similar encouragement to keep doing good:

You can spend your whole life building something from nothing. One storm comes and blows it all away. Build it anyway.

This world’s gone crazy. And it’s hard to believe that tomorrow will be better than today. Believe it anyway.

You can love someone with all your heart for all the right reasons. And in a moment they can choose to walk away. Love them anyway.

God is great, but sometimes life ain’t good. When I pray, it doesn’t always turn out like I think it should. But I do it anyway.

Truth is that the results we see and experience from our “good” efforts are not the full story. Doing good is about allowing God’s love to flow through us, not seeing a good outcome. By doing good we’re planting seeds in the lives of others. They may be in a dark or desperate place when we reach out a hand to help, and we may not receive any acknowledgement or appreciation. But we need to reach out anyway. Our gesture of kindness and love may be a spark that lights a new fire of hope in their life.

We also gain by doing good because our roots of trust in God grow deeper. Even when our prayers aren’t answered the way we think they should be, we allow God to transform us when we turn our focus from our circumstances to helping others.

At the end of the day, we’re called to love others with the same love Jesus has for us. By doing good without expectation of anything in return, we’re living in His love and opening our heart to be filled with His joy.

So even if doing good doesn’t seem to make a difference, do good anyway. And let the love and joy of Jesus overflow in your life.

“‘When you obey Me you are living in My love, just as I obey My Father and live in His love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your cup of joy will overflow!’” John 15:10-11 (TLB)

Let’s talk: What is something you “do anyway” even though you’re not sure it makes a difference?

May I pray? Jesus, thank You for loving us, and loving others through us. Lift our spirits and encourage us today to do good, even if it doesn’t seem to make a difference. Help us to see others from Your loving perspective. May we joyfully reach out to help and encourage them, including our sisters in Christ. Amen.

When Enough is Never Enough

When was the last time you had everything you wanted? If we’re honest about it, the answer is never. We may have times of true contentment when we’re so thankful for the many blessings in our life. But then we walk by a store window or see an ad or catch a glimpse of something shiny going by.

Spend a little here. Save up for something big. Splurge to lift our spirits. Our focus turns to what we want. What we don’t have. Really, what is enough?

Envy, jealousy, covetousness (wanting what someone else has)–these may sound like “Bible words” but they’re actually emotions that permeate the human heart and mind. They ignite the continual pursuit of more. More than we have. More than we need. We justify our pursuits of more by saying we want to make sure we have enough. Just in case.

The problem is that we focus on what we want, what we don’t have, what others do have–and a bitterness develops against God. We feel like we should have these things. Especially if other people who aren’t interested in God have these things. We start doubting God’s goodness. We start wondering if He’ll really provide for us. We hear sermons saying that if we’re good, and follow God’s ways, and go to church He’ll bless us financially. But that’s not happening.

Is that really what God says?

Here’s what God says: “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” Proverbs 3:9-10

God says, “Honor Him.” First offer what you have as a sacrifice–your money, the best of what you have, your first receipts not your leftovers–and offer these joyfully to Him. First honor God. Then you will receive abundance.

But this isn’t a prosperity message. This is a heart issue.

If we’re giving to God expecting a multiplied return of cash, we won’t get it. Not from Him. God isn’t looking for a bribe or kickback. He doesn’t tell us to scratch His back and then He’ll scratch ours. God is asking us to honor Him by making a joyful offering from what we’ve already received. To praise Him with what He has given us, thus acknowledging that we wouldn’t have anything if it weren’t for Him.

God’s point is that when our hearts are aligned with Him, when we love Him enough to want to honor Him, when we joyfully offer the best of what we have even if it is small, we’re giving God our full trust and devotion. And whether or not we receive financial gain in return, our lives will be overflowing–through our love relationship with Him and the life of purpose we’re living.

We should work hard. God wants us to be engaged in our communities and society as a whole. And as our loving Father, He wants to bless us with gifts and surprises and fun things to enjoy. The question comes back to: What’s enough? What treasure are we seeking? Where is our focus? Is it on what we want and don’t have? Or is it on God?

Where our treasure is, there our heart and mind and focus will be as well. We can store up treasures in heaven and live joyfully in contentment with what we do have here on earth. Or we can store up treasures on earth and battle envy, jealousy, and covetousness because what we have is never enough.

What treasure is on your radar?

“‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’” Matthew 6:19-21

Let’s talk: What treasure is on your radar?

May I pray? Lord, we’re bombarded each day with messages of more, more, more! What we have is never enough by our world’s standards. Help us to step back today and see things from Your perspective. Sit with us as we take assessment of our blessings and praise You for all that we do have! Then please speak as we bring to You the list of treasures we have on our radar. May our first desire be to honor You with all that we have, and may we grow in our love for You as we joyfully give to You the best of all You have given us. Amen.

Cross the Starting Line – Just Start!

Have you ever been at the start of something new and felt butterflies? Whether it’s a race, a new job, the first day of school, a speaking engagement, or even a first date, we all feel those flutters of excitement mixed with fear. We’ve been waiting and planning for this day, but what if… What if we can’t keep up? What if we don’t have the right skills? What if we forget what we’re supposed to say? What if they don’t like us? What if…

So here’s a question: Is it harder for you to cross the starting line or the finish line?

This week I initially answered “finish line.” I considered the effort it takes to run the race, or do a good job on a hard project, or earn good grades. Getting to the finish line is no easy task.

But then I thought about how many of us fear what it might take to finish, so much that we never get started.

We may be able to push and pull ourselves all the way up to the starting line, but when it comes time to take that first step of faith and commit to moving forward, we stop dead in our tracks. We give up our dream. We stay in a situation that wears us down. We resign ourselves to our current lot.

All because we’re more afraid of the unknown than the known.

What are we afraid of? Not having the strength to finish? Not knowing where a new direction may take us? Going it alone into the unknown? What if…

What if our strength would grow as we stepped out in faith and pressed into God? What if the new path forward took us to places we never thought we’d see, allowing us to do things we never dreamed of doing? What if we could meet some of the most supportive and influential people in our lives by going in a new direction? What if…

What if the only thing holding us back from a new life filled with love, hope and purpose is our fear of crossing the starting line?

We will never know all of ups and downs that lead to the finish line before we cross the starting line. The only thing we can control is the decision to start. Consider this:

  • It’s never too late to start.
  • It’s never too late to start over.
  • You may not know exactly what the finish line is now, but that’s not a reason to stay where you are.
  • You will stretch and grow and change as you make your way toward the finish line.
  • You can always decide to stop later, but you’ll never know how far you can go if you don’t cross the starting line.
  • If you turn to God, He will guide you every step of the way, taking you places you never thought possible.

Don’t put it off. Don’t procrastinate any longer. Cross the starting line and see where you can go. Just start!

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

Let’s talk: Is it harder for you to cross the starting line or the finish line? What starting line is before you today?

May I pray? Heavenly Father, many of us want to get excited about “what could be”, but we’re afraid of what it might take to get there. We want lives filled with love, hope and purpose, yet up to now we’ve remained in virtually the same place year after year because we allow fear to stand in our way. Lord, help us to turn to You, trust in You, and walk forward with You. Give us the encouragement we need today to take a step of faith. May we cross the starting line to an unknown journey with new sisters in Christ, leading to a finish line that glorifies You. Amen.

Getting What You Ask For and More

If a fairy godmother was standing in front of you right now with sparks flying off her glittery wand as she tapped it in her hand, what would you ask for? What’s your #1 wish?

Would you be specific, like:
– winning The Voice
– meeting Chris Hemsworth (Thor)
– a new athletic, beach-rockin’ body
– public firing of the arrogant bully in your office
– winning the largest jackpot in Powerball history

Or would you leave it to her imagination and say something generic like fame, wealth, true love, or a job that makes millions and lets me travel around the world first class? (Okay, maybe that last one isn’t so generic)

This one decision will dramatically alter the course of your life from this point forward…

If only! If only we had someone powerful enough to grant us wishes who actually knows we exist and cares to ask what we want! That only happens in fairy tales. Right?

Not so fast. It happened to Solomon, and it happens to people today.

When Solomon was about 20 years old, Solomon became King of Israel in place of his father, David. David had been a mighty warrior and a strong king, but now he was dead and Solomon had the task of leading a nation which was constantly fighting with everyone, including itself. Solomon knew he needed help. What did he do? He went to God.

God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Sound familiar? The difference is, this isn’t a fairy godmother in a fairy tale. It’s the God of Israel asking. With the power to back it up.

Here’s Solomon’s chance to ask God for anything and everything! At 20 years old the sky’s the limit. But we have to remember–why did Solomon go to God in the first place? Because he wanted to be a good leader worthy of his calling. So this was Solomon’s #1 wish:

“O LORD God, you have let me succeed my father as king, even though I am very young and don’t know how to rule… So give me the wisdom I need to rule Your people with justice and to know the difference between right and wrong.” (1 Kings 3:7,9 GNT)

Wisdom. That’s what he asked for. Not American Idol. Not the lottery. Not the fastest, tricked out chariot or the most beautiful babe by his side. He humbled himself before God and, ironically, displayed wisdom beyond his years by asking for wisdom.

Fine, great story. But what does this have to do with us? First, let’s read how God responded to Solomon’s #1 wish:

“God replied, ‘Because you have asked for wisdom in governing My people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies–I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have. And I will also give you what you did not ask for–riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! And if you follow Me and obey My decrees and My commands… I will give you a long life.’” 1 Kings 3:11-14 (NLT)

Not only did God grant Solomon’s wish, but He also gave him all of the things that most people would ask for: fame, wealth, superiority over enemies. And God added one last “if”… If Solomon would continue to pursue God throughout his life, God would give him long life. Well, we know the end of the story. We know that Solomon’s unmatched wisdom, wealth, and burgeoning harem ultimately became obsession. Solomon turned away from God and began worshiping the gods of his many foreign wives, even after all that God had blessed him with. A bummer of an ending.

So, what does this have to do with us? We all want something. We chase and wish and post it on Pinterest. Sometimes we even pray, asking God to grant us our #1 wish and more. Why do people like Solomon get what they want but others don’t? We may not ever know “why”, but here’s what we can be certain of:

1. God is not a fairy godmother or genie waiting to grant our every self-benefiting desire. However, when we go to God for help, He is always there to meet us.

2. As our Heavenly Father, God wants to bless us with gifts–even more than we ask for. But first and foremost, God’s desire is to share a loving relationship with us each day. And He wants this to be our #1 desire too.

3. When our true wish is to honor God and carry out His calling on our life to the best of our abilities, He will equip us for this calling. He may not give us exactly what we ask for, but He will give what is best for our mission this side of heaven.

We can get all that we ask for and so much more. But often God will not fulfill our desires for things like fame, wealth, or a relationship that will pull us away from Him. He loves us too much. God has given us a written record of the story of Solomon to show what can happen even to the most faithful.

Don’t stop going to God and asking for what you believe you need. Jesus Himself told us to keep going to God and asking. The key is to look at our requests from a Father’s perspective to see if we should alter what we’re asking for. And always praise God for providing all that we need and so much more!

Let’s talk: What are you asking God for?

May I pray? Almighty God, thank You for Your unchanging love for us, Your blessed children. Help us to see our needs and desires from Your perspective, and to begin aligning our will with Yours. May we run to You today, spend time talking and listening in prayer, and grow in love for You as we become more like You. Amen.

What Would Your Last Words Be?

Rachel Barkey

If you knew you were going to die in the next few weeks and you were given the opportunity to speak to a large group of people, what would your last words be?

Many thoughts come to mind. Some of us would not want to talk to anyone, much less an auditorium of strangers wanting to hear what a dying person has to say. But some of us would see this as a last chance to make a difference in the lives of others.

This is the story of Rachel Barkey.

At age 37, Rachel was told her cancer had spread and she had 6-18 weeks, or 42-126 days, to live. As she put it, “Sounds like a long time when you’re waiting for Christmas or something on backorder. But when it’s the time you have to cuddle with your kids or spend with your husband, it’s terribly, terribly short.”

Knowing that the end of her life was imminent, Rachel prepared final messages for her husband, her young children, her family and friends, and people she didn’t know who struggled with the fear of their own death and the injustice of hers.

Here are some of the important truths she shared in her final speech:

  • The cancer does not define me. Neither does being a wife or mother. All of these things are a part of who I am, but they do not define me. What defines me is my relationship with Jesus.
  • In the midst of my sadness, there is a deep and abiding peace and hope. A peace and hope that I would like you to have too.
  • We are changed by what we know. Know God. Know yourself. Know the Gospel. Know your purpose.
  • God is good. He is in control and He is fair. When I try to make Him into a God who serves me, I sin.
  • In all of my roles, I have one purpose: To be like Jesus; to serve with joy.
  • Many people ask “Why?” Why is this happening to you, your husband and your kids? I don’t ask “why” because I know the answer. And here it is: We live in a sinful world. Bad things happen. But it was not supposed to be this way. And it will not always be this way. God has a plan. He has made a way for sinful people, you and me, to be with Him in a perfect world. The way is Jesus.
  • I am dying. But so are you. Neither of us knows if we will even see tomorrow. And perhaps the reason I am suffering now, the reason God is waiting to bring judgment to this world, is because He is waiting for you… for you to turn to Him.
  • In His providence, God has used the tough things in my life to draw me closer to Him. I am not perfect and I have the scars to prove it. 13 of them. And they serve as a physical reminder of a spiritual reality–that I can never be perfect on my own. I need a Savior. He took my shame upon Himself and rescued me.
  • Death is not dying. Death will not kill my soul. My soul is eternal, just like yours.

In the final weeks of her life, Rachel knew with certainty that God provides a way to heaven. A way to freedom. Jesus is the way. The truth is that we are all going to die, and none of us knows when our last day will be. What we do know is that God is waiting. He wants us to turn to Him, to leave the past behind and walk forward into new life with Him. If you have any uncertainty about whether or not you’re going to heaven, if you have any questions about who Jesus is and why someone like Rachel would go to great pains to speak about Him to total strangers before she died, watch Rachel’s final speech on her “Death is Not Dying” website.

Today, there is still time. Take a step toward peace, hope and true joy in the midst of your real life circumstances. Take a step toward Jesus.

“Jesus answered him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by Me. Now that you have known Me,’ He said to them, ‘you will know My Father also, and from now on you do know Him and you have seen Him.’” John 14:6-7 (GNT)

Let’s talk: What thoughts would you include in your final speech?

May I pray? Gracious God, we struggle when someone as young and vibrant as Rachel, who has everything to live for, dies so early and leaves a gaping hole in a precious family. We don’t understand “why”. And yet Lord, You blessed her with the peace of “why”, and the hope of Your salvation not only for her and her family, but for everyone she continues to reach through her lasting words. Jesus, I lift up those reading this today who are unsure about You and Your eternal gift of freedom. Pour out Your love and truth on them as they take a step toward You today. Amen.