More – Part 2 of 2

Last time we talked about the concept of ‘enough’ being foreign.  Living in a culture of excess the ‘deficiency mentality’ reigns supreme. This mentality convinces us it doesn’t matter how much we have in our possession; we are still lacking.  (See the last post on how the Israelites exemplified this perfectly.)  We can’t do more until we have more.  However, God counters with the idea that if we don’t use what we receive, there is no reason for Him to afford us more.  If you remember my COVID pantry example, I was challenged to use what I currently had when physically detained from adding more items during lockdown restrictions.  Let’s look at a New Testament example. 

After Jesus predicted His own death in Matthew 16, Peter was repelled by the thought.  In fact, verse 22 says he took Jesus aside and rebuked the Lord!  In his passion, Peter declared, “God forbid it, Lord!  This shall never happen to You.” (NASB) We understand Peter’s response as one of genuine love for Jesus and the thought of harm coming to Him was more than Peter could bare. Perhaps, Peter felt his time with Jesus was too short.  After all, it had only been about three years since Jesus called Peter to follow.  Maybe he just wanted more time with Jesus. 

The response from Jesus is puzzling as He turned towards Peter in verse 23, “Get behind Me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s purposes, but men’s.’”  Why such a strong reaction to Peter’s loving and genuine concern?  

The next verse explains Jesus’ reaction, “‘If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.’”  No doubt, Peter was devoted to Jesus, or his reaction would not have been as strong if his loyalties were elsewhere.  However, through the lens of a deficiency mentality, Peter was caught up in the reality that Jesus would soon be absent.  The two would no longer have the one-on-one relationship they had enjoyed up to this point and Peter realized this great personal loss.    Because Peter’s focus suddenly shifted inward, a rebuke from the Master was in order.  To realign Peter with God’s purposes, Jesus instructs him to do three things: deny, take, and follow. 

An additional side of the deficiency mentality reveals we are unwilling to deny ourselves anything.  The focus is constantly on the one thing that we cannot or should not have.  It could be as simple as a second piece of chocolate cake!  Denial is uncomfortable, but for our good.    In this verse, Jesus specifically told Peter that his unwillingness to deny himself, or the thing he wanted which was more time, aligned him with Satan rather than with Jesus.  Therefore, the need for a strong rebuke! 

Jesus continued by telling Peter that after he had denied himself, he must “take up his cross.”  Each of us has situations and circumstances we cannot control that cause pain or some type of discomfort.  However, this is more about obedience than denial and following the example Christ set before us when He quite literally hoisted the cross on His own back.  Jesus boldly faced the suffering to come because it had already been ordained by the Father.   All of this transpired for our benefit as He carried the very thing that would bring His own death.  Regardless of what life throws our way, we must make the choice to follow His obedient example. 

Finally, Peter was instructed to follow. Following Jesus begins with surrendering the deficiency mentality and embracing Jesus as enough!  By accepting His Lordship over our lives, we release our will and our plans to become like Him.  In return, we are no longer lacking, and all our deficient areas become full!    Jesus says in John 14:23, “‘If anyone loves Me, he will follow My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him.’”

These three markers still apply.  To overcome the constant drive for more, we must deny ourselves, take up our own cross, and follow the Lord. When we do this, our focus shifts from our own desires and perceived lack, to wanting more of HimThe goal is to give God more access to our lives so He can do more within us.  When God does more in us, He can do more through us.  As believers, we make the choice to reverse our deficiency mentalities from wanting more stuff to wanting more of Him.  In turn, Jesus receives our obedient offering and uses us in more ways than we could ever imagine.  Ultimately, we both want more!

Below are a few verses to help refocus a deficiency mentality:

Luke 9:23 “And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”’

2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, this person is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, the new things have come.”


More-Part 1 of 2

We live in a culture of excess.  The concept of ‘enough’ is foreign.  At the risk of revealing my age, I remember having only three channels on television when I was a kid.  If the annual showing of a favorite holiday special or movie was broadcast at an inconvenient time for my family, I had to wait until the next year!  There was no rewinding the amazing basketball play because dad stepped out of the room.  Skipping unwanted commercials was unfathomable!  After all, this was our ‘run-to-the-frig-for-a-snack time,’ and then race back to the couch to see who was the quickest!  Even so, those three channels were enough.

Today, we have endless streaming content with rewind capabilities.  Those beloved holiday movies are now accessible in any season.  If we need a viewing break, we can simply pause live television.  As new technology is seemingly revealed daily, the idea of ‘enough’ is still foreign.  We continue to want more. 

This concept of never having enough creates a ‘deficiency mentality.’  In other words, it doesn’t matter how much we have in our possession, we live with the notion that we are lacking. What we possess is inadequate and if we had more, or if things were different, then our circumstances would also be different thus improving our overall sense of wholeness.  We want to be generous and if we had more money, then we could give more to missions restoring our obedience to God.   If there were more hours in the day, we could volunteer at the homeless shelter fulfilling our moral obligation.  Happiness seems to be on the horizon if only we had more influence which would lead to a more fulfilled life.  We find ourselves making the excuse that because we don’t have enough, we cannot do anymore.  If we don’t use what we receive, there is no reason for God to afford us more; be that time or money or wherever we feel a shortage. 

During the COVID pandemic when food supplies were in danger and we were unable to go out for groceries, I learned more than a few lessons about my deficiency mentality.  One of those lessons was using what I already had in my abundantly stocked pantry.  For months, I had weekly foregone this stockpile and continued to add more.  Embracing the challenge, I began to create and prepare meals that used up this excess.  New recipes were created leaving me with a sense of accomplishment. The Lord had made provision long before the crisis arose.  This simplistic example reiterates the truth that God provides, yet at times, He will withhold His provision until we use what we already have in our possession. 

Even from a Biblical perspective, we have always wanted more.  The Bible begins with such a story in the Garden of Eden.   Eve wanted more than the garden, so she disobeyed God by eating the fruit thus forfeiting her close communion with God.  Ultimately, she wanted more to the detriment of what she already possessed.  How many times do we do the same?  We ask for more from God before fully utilizing what we already have.  The worst part is we genuinely feel deserving and expect God to relent.

When the Israelites were finally released from Egyptian captivity, they found themselves faced with many challenges in the desert.  The book of Exodus, chapter 14, tells of their miraculous deliverance by God who parted the Red Sea which allowed them a means of escape. Moses and Miriam lifted up beautiful worship songs to God offering thanksgiving in chapter 15.  At the end of that chapter, they encountered water that was bitter requiring Moses to cry out for God’s intervention.  The water became sweet and in verse 26, the Lord declared, “If you listen carefully  to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” (NIV) What an amazing promise!  Their responsibility: to listen, pay attention, and keep His decrees.  If they abided by those three principles, then God would provide them with MORE!  He promised to keep them free from all the afflictions they had witnessed while in Egypt. 

However, it didn’t take long for the complaining to begin again as Exodus 16 opens with them lamenting and romanticizing their Egyptian life!  In verse 3, all they remember is how they, “. . . sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted. . .” Yet, they were enslaved.  Suddenly, no one remembered the harsh slave masters or the sun bearing down on them as they worked.  They wanted more than the freedom of desert life. 

So, God, in His loving kindness and mercy, told Moses in verse 4, “‘I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.  In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.’” This time, His provision came with testing.  Parameters were set in place.  Even so, what transpired was amazing in the fact that verse 18 reveals it didn’t matter how much manna they gathered, it was always enough.  The only rule: they couldn’t keep the excess and could only use what was given daily.  The temptation to hoard was strong and those who disobeyed, woke up the next morning to find the manna spoiled (vs.20). It was difficult for them to trust there would be a sufficient amount for the next day.  Some gathered more manna than they needed to ensure their needs would be met the next.  However, God was divinely providing daily by giving them more.  The test was in the trusting. Like the Israelites, God refuses to give us more than we need to show us He is all we need.  He is enough.

The deficiency mentality of the Israelites is often easy to identify, but how comfortable are we with this same theory?  Like Eve, we feel as if God is withholding something, or we identify with the Israelites and their fear of not having enough.  Jesus says in Luke 9:23, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (NASB) In order for Jesus to be enough, we must follow His example.  Watch this space for part two as we dive deeper into this verse. 

In the meantime, here are a few verses to help refocus a deficiency mentality:

Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”

Colossians 3:2 “Set your minds on things that are above, not on the things that are on earth.”

Galatians 5:16 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”


The Hope of Christmas

Hope is a word used carelessly.  The phrase “I hope you have a good day,” escapes my lips daily.  At the time the sentiment is sincere but quickly fades from my memory as my own life steps into the spotlight.

Webster defines hope as, “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, a person or thing that may help or save someone.”  For example, “Their only hope is surgery.” It goes on to say that hope is “grounds for believing that something good may happen.” Another example is, “He does see some hope for the future.”

The following quote is from the Encyclopedia of the Bible; “Hope has been defined as ‘desire accompanied by expectation.’ Hope, however, is not always expectant.  One may have hope with little or no expectation.” To hope with little or no expectation at all seems to be more of a cultural definition rather than a Biblical one. 

Hope is an emotional word, yet it no longer carries the same weight. Why? Our heartbreaks and our past disappointments have tainted the word hope and therefore weakened its intent.  We have all hoped for things that did not happen.  These hurtful experiences have turned us away from any kind of expectation and suddenly our experiences become our filters.  Now, we no longer hope for anything because it hasn’t worked in the past.  For example, think about your coffee pot.  Each morning you put a filter into the top before adding the coffee grounds.  The purpose of the filter is to keep the grounds out of the coffee.  However, when the filter falls over, all the grounds pass through into the pot.  You expected a delicious cup of coffee, instead the filter failed to do its job of keeping the grounds out of your cup.  If our experiences act as our filter and that expected cup of coffee is our hope, then no matter how many times we pour water into that filter which has fallen over, the result will always be the same, a defiled cup of coffee or depleted hope. 

This holiday season reminds me of the true definition of hope.  His name is Jesus and He is the hope of Christmas seen in the babe, the blood, and the cross.

The Christmas story is familiar but what I often forget is the reassurance given to us long before the actual birth.  My favorite scripture, Jeremiah 29:11 promises, “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (NIV)  Even when we don’t feel hopeful, there is always a plan, and it is for our good.    

The coming of hope was foretold by Isaiah as he declares in chapter 9, verse 6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. . .”   The proof of this prophecy comes when the King is born heralded by the heavenly host to the shepherds and to the Magi several years later.  These shepherds were ordinary men going about their ordinary day when suddenly, there is an interruption.  God uses the ordinary to display the extraordinary and He humbles the extraordinary so the ordinary may be revealed.  The Magi were men of privilege and highly revered, yet they too were humbled and led by a star to an ordinary child. 

His blood promises us redemption as seen in Ephesians 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood. . .”  We are reconciled to himself as seen in Colossians 1:19-23a, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel…” The proof comes with the shedding of that blood and in the working of it to cleanse and to purify.  The blood, an ordinary substance, common to all man, achieves extraordinary results when shed for sinners. 

We cannot have Christmas without the cross and the promise of hope it brings through eternal life.  Hebrews 9:12 says, “He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.”  Death is an ordinary event destined for all, yet because of His death we can have an extraordinary eternal life.

The babe, the blood, and the cross all work together to reveal the hope of Christmas.  It is not dead, nor does it slumber.  The first chapter of I Peter, verse 3 tells the good news, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in his great mercy h has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without words and never stops at all.”  -Emily Dickinson



As odd as it may seem, gratitude is a word we take for granted.  My opinion of mankind is we all have a general understanding of this word; however, the execution may be lacking.  For the sake of argument, let’s define gratitude.  Webster’s definition is, “the state of being grateful; thankfulness.” 

Saying thank you is something we teach our children early.  As parents, we want our kids to understand nothing in their lives comes without a cost and anything given to us out of such sacrifice needs to be appreciated.  For example, even a simple request for a glass of milk is not provided without sacrifice.  God made the cows that produce the milk and a farmer somewhere milked that cow very early in the morning.  The milk was then processed and pasteurized at a dairy, bottled, shipped, and distributed to a retailer.  Those cartons of milk were then unloaded off the truck and put in the refrigerators of the local market.  Grocery workers monitored the expiration dates of each carton and scanned them in the check-out lines.  Parents purchased the milk for their kiddos and drove it home to their own refrigerators.  Each household budget made provision for that gallon of milk based on the jobs represented in each family.  Obviously, I have left out many steps and this is a very elementary example of sacrifice and gratitude, but you get the point.  When a child asks for a glass of milk and it magically appears, what happens behind the scenes needs to be appreciated. 

The best way to achieve true gratitude for all things in life is to go back to our original definition.  Being grateful is not an event in time, it is a “state of being.”  This suggests to me that gratitude is a place we can actually live.  Rather than looking at situations and circumstances in life as individual events, we can and should, really take up residence there in gratitude.  Instead of being grateful for something or someone, we can abide in gratitude. 

Our own lives can become an expression of gratitude when we look beyond ourselves and our own needs and realize there is nothing that comes to us without coming first to the Father.  He is the one who makes all things possible.  When we embrace “the state of being grateful,” every act, no matter how small, is acknowledged and truly appreciated.  Suddenly, our world is open to new revelations!  We become aware of each breath and each beat of our hearts in a new way.  Our eyes joyfully view the sunrise differently.  The sound of the crunchy fall leaves beneath our feet triggers satisfaction and contentment.  Being grateful is having our whole being emersed in gratitude. Gratitude should be our state of being rather than a character attribute.


Come to Me

I have two lovely daughters.  The memories of birthday celebrations are many and all wonderful.  One day stands out for me personally because Jesus used it to arrest my attention.  It was her 21st birthday, my baby!  I wanted everything to be just right as I always did for both girls.    The week before I had spent almost every spare moment in preparation.  Every gift was wrapped beautifully and I was proud of my handiwork.  The table was set in a lovely winter scene because she is our winter baby, born on the first day of winter.  With her birthday so close to Christmas, I had spent the last 20 years trying to make the celebration of her birth separate from our Christmas traditions.  Never was a gift wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper and still isn’t, that would never do!

That year was extra special because, with her upcoming wedding, I knew it was the last one of its kind.  The last celebration as it had always been.  The beginning of the end and the beginning of the beginning.  From now on, we would celebrate her life in different ways. 

The cake had been baked as per her request.  Each year, she always choose something different for her birthday treat and I looked forward to the challenge of completing it as requested.  Not because she was overly expectant or demanding, but rather it was a wish that I wanted to grant out of love, not an obligation.  Birthdays and holidays in our household have always been a big deal.  My motto is, “Life is an event that deserves to be celebrated!”  We make it happen! 

The day before, I baked, frosted, and decorated her cake and was pleased with the results.  I was impressed with how my planning and preparations were going to pay off for the big celebration the next day.  In reality, I had overinflated my abilities and allowed my attention to become distracted by all the pretty lights and shiny things.  

On the morning of her birthday, as is tradition, I made donuts and upon tasting the frosting realized that something was very wrong!  After testing all of the ingredients, I got to the powdered sugar and discovered the culprit!  Who knew powdered sugar could spoil?!  Then it dawned on me that I had used the same powdered sugar for her perfect birthday cake!  Everything had to be thrown out!  I decided to start all over again.  I made another batch of donuts which didn’t take too much time and was preparing to begin on a new birthday cake when my daughter walked into the kitchen.  She knew how disappointed I was and I knew she was as well. 

“Mom,” she said, “ I just want to be with you.  I would rather have you buy a cake than spend the rest of the day in the kitchen.  I would rather you be with me.”  Her words pierced my heart.  In a second I felt an odd freedom wash over me.  She released me from expectation, not hers, but my own.  It was the most loving thing she could say to me at that moment. 

I put down my apron and spent the rest of the day alongside her doing what she wanted to do going where she wanted to go.  It was a birthday we will not forget and makes a great story!   The store-bought cake was enough.  Our spending time together was the perfect gift. Walking away from the expectation was liberating. 

Jesus invites us in Matthew 11:28 to, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (NIV) In Luke chapter 10, Mary accepted the unspoken invitation from Jesus to sit at His feet while her sister, Martha, continued her work in the kitchen.  She was distracted by all the preparations that were needed to host the perfect meal.  In verses 41 and 42, Jesus lovingly calls, “‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”

Later that night, when it was time to light the candles and eat cake, I realized I could now fulfill for my daughter something she always wanted.  She often talked about buying a cake from the store and eating it with a fork, no slices, no plates, only a fork!  So, that’s what we did, just a store-bought cake and four forks.  This example can easily be over-spiritualized, yet had I not released my own expectations, we wouldn’t have this new memory.  Jesus will only invade where He is invited.  His sole desire is to be with you, not your expectations of who you think you should be, just you as you are at this moment.  Put down the apron and walk out of the kitchen into His presence. 


Speak to Me

“I mean, the Pastor doesn’t even speak to me!”  said the grocery cashier.  This line resonated in my heart all day following a brief conversation I had while making my purchase.  Somehow, the fact that I am married to a pastor of a local church surfaced in our conversation, and from that tidbit of information was launched a monologue centered on her decision to leave her church.  The statement above was the one thing she could not move beyond and therefore, the reason she felt she must attend somewhere else.  After thinking about this statement for some time and reminding my husband to be sure to engage people, I suddenly realized the importance of such a simple thing.

What this woman was really saying was she just wanted to be acknowledged by the pastor.  What he said to her really wasn’t the issue; it was more the act of speaking directly to her, which then validated her presence and existence. 

Many times, I pray for God to SPEAK TO ME.  When I am distraught with emotion and bogged down with worry, I desperately cry out and ask Him to SPEAK TO ME! Like David in Psalm 30:8-9, “To you, O Lord, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy; What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit?’” (NIV) I want to hear His gentle words of encouragement and compassion.  At times when decisions need to be made and answers need to come quickly, I beg Him to SPEAK TO ME! Verse 10 of that same chapter says, “Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me, O Lord, be my help.  I need to hear words of wisdom and direction.  During crisis situations and relational angst, I implore Him to SPEAK TO ME!  Earlier, in verse 6, David states, “When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” O Lord, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.” Instances like this require words of comfort to flow over my soul like honey.

When distracted, I lose sight of how He does SPEAK TO ME, not just situational, but constantly and all around me.  Nowhere else in the Bible are there more beautiful words chained together than in the Psalms.  When I desire to hear His voice and to receive the validation of my existence, I read these beautiful words in chapter 29:3-9,

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.

The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars. . .

The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning.

The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.

The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.”

I failed to ask if the cashier had even approached her pastor.  Were her expectations of his behavior realistic?  Was she considering the pastor’s own circumstances?  Perhaps, he was having a personal crisis.  Had she even attempted to make friendly conversation with this man, or had she just assumed it was his place to move first? Was her judgment of this man as “unfriendly” based on a one-time encounter or was her decision to leave coming from a deeper place of hurt?  The diagnosis of her pastor’s unfriendliness could be completely accurate and changes in his attitude may have been necessary, but he could have been completely unaware of his demeanor.  Some words of gentle encouragement could go a long way and open his eyes to his perceived behavior.  Her decision to leave the church could be based on a misunderstanding that could easily be rectified through loving communication. 

Perhaps, we spend too much time waiting to hear something specific, unconsciously drowning out all the rest.   Or do we allow ourselves to become immobilized when we cannot hear His voice because it is drowned out by the voices of others?  Maybe, we hear His voice, but not the words we prefer.    We can choose to ignore what we hear and continue to expect Him to speak all the while disregarding what He is saying.  Our movements and actions can then become rooted in our own expectations, motivated only by our wounded perceptions of God. 

Going back to Psalm 29, God has a voice that He utilizes over heaven and earth.  The beauty of this passage is reflected in certain words such as; over, powerful, majestic, strikes, shakes, and twists, all of which refer to the voice of the Lord and how He uses that voice.  How then, can we deny the fact that He speaks? 

He does SPEAK TO ME.


One Cup at a Time

I make tea in stressful situations.  When my girls were home working on difficult projects, I would make them a tea tray.  Even now, like clockwork, about 3 p.m. I need a “cupa,” as my British friend used to say.  Since the time my girls were little, I have always said there is never anything we can’t solve together over a cup of tea, and I am never too busy to brew a pot. I have just brewed myself a pot of tea. I must be solving the world’s problems today!

Tea is an ordinary drink consumed worldwide, yet tea is served with ceremony in many cultures.   When I would visit my grandmother, tea is what she served with lunch, every day, no matter the menu, even hot dogs!  Tea at her house was a staple and represented comfort and relaxation. I now have the cup she used.  On my first visit to Victoria, British Columbia as a young girl, I was completely astonished at how every business closed for tea in the afternoon.  The teahouse that my dad took us to on that trip is the birthplace of my love for the tea ceremony. 

I do not understand how tea brings me such peace or how the tea ceremony can make me feel so special and fulfilled.  After all, it’s just boiled water poured over a bunch of leaves!  Doesn’t sound so special, does it? Yet, what comes from the natural resource of water and something nature provides can be extraordinary, if you take the time.

Isaiah 53:2 says, “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.” I love the analogy of nature here and how the shoot is soft and tender.  Usually, nothing comes from parched ground, but in this case, something miraculous happened.  “He had no beauty or majesty. . .” Unless you are consuming tea in a fine tea house or with the queen, I would say tea has no beauty or majesty in and of itself, “. . . no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” 

How often do I forget that God has provided us with something so ordinary, a Son.  The commonality of His birth and His appearance is just a plain old cup of tea in one of my chipped cups.  Who He is, is the breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful tea ceremony, full of rich flavors and bouquets that take an ordinary life and make it extraordinary? My needs and desires are steeped in His glory.  His Holy Spirit washes over the shriveled tea leaves of my offering and from it comes a glorious cup of surrender with praise and worship wafting from the surface with an aroma that is pleasing to only Him.  It is there, in the middle of that cup of tea, with or without the ceremony, that I am at peace one cup at a time.


Pain for Today

God has always challenged me to write what I know. So, here is what I know today. . .

I am in some pain, physical pain. This is not a statement to evoke pity. It is my daily reality as I have consistent back pain.  Perhaps you can relate.  There are times, however, when my back issues decide to have more of a presence in my life and make more of a statement. Last week was one of “those” weeks.  Again, perhaps you can relate!

When I have a flare-up like this, I know what to do. First, resist the urge to panic because those emotions never lead to healing. Second, get to the chiropractor so he can help address the source of my issue. Third, apply ice and heat, rest, and wait it out. Eventually, I will be able to stretch and exercise again as I am accustomed to, but for the time being, I must put those things aside and pay attention to what my body is telling me. This week is much better and I am back at my normal routine!

God speaks to me during seasons of pain. Sometimes there are great revelations and other times not so much. However, He always knows where I am on the journey. He never loses sight of me even though I may lose sight of where I am.

When faced with issues that are not physical, the process is the same; take the pain to the source of help and don’t panic! Allow Him to adjust it. As He does, I do the work by digging in and applying the truth of the Word to those areas that are painful or causing me pain. I ask questions like; What does He say about my current situation? Where is there a similar situation in the Bible? How did Jesus model and address this type of struggle? Then, I wait for my strength to be restored as I rest in Jesus.

Seems simple, but many times it is not. However, it is most certainly possible. Healing always comes, sometimes more quickly than other times because He is a faithful and loving God.

So here is what I know today, I am known, and He knows right where I am! If He knows this about me, He knows it about you.


Do You Hear What I Hear?

When I was young, my favorite Christmas movie was The Little Drummer Boy.  I also loved a song in the movie called, “Do You Hear What I Hear” by Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne. Perhaps it was the haunting melody of the song that soothed my soul or maybe the concept of the second verse;

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy

Do you hear what I hear?    

Ringing through the sky shepherd boy

Do you hear what I hear?

A song, a song

High above the tree

With a voice as big as the seas

With a voice as big as the seas 

Now that I have you humming Christmas songs, read the verse again. A simple question is asked, yet a simple answer cannot be given because I do not hear what you hear.  We all hear differently.

During heated discussions, we may assume others hear and understand what we are saying in the way it is intended, but the reality is many times they do not.  When I say to my spouse that my feelings are not hurt by his actions, does he hear the quiver in my voice?  It is there and, in my opinion, screaming loudly for all to hear, yet does he hear what I hear?  If I am asked to do a favor for a friend and the request is followed by, “It’s okay if you can’t,” is it really okay?  Did I hear that correctly? 

What about when God speaks to us.  There are many examples in the Bible that seem clear enough!  Adam heard God’s voice in the Garden of Eden when He asked, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9) Moses heard God’s voice when he received the Ten Commandments, “Then the Lord said to Moses. . .” (Exodus 34:27-28). As Jesus was baptized, John the Baptist and those crowded around the Jordan River heard God’s voice respond, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

Unfortunately, I have never heard the voice of God audibly, nor have I known anyone who has, yet I do hear Him.  When our girls were at home, I would hear Him on my morning walks with our oldest daughter, Ashlee, as she shared her hopes and dreams, and what God was doing in her life.  I could hear Him as I watched our youngest daughter, Paige, during ballet classes.  She was so graceful and there was such peace and fluidity in her movements that I could hear God gently whisper the same to me.  I hear Him now as I listen each Sunday morning to my husband, Bill, preach the Word of God.  I know this one seems obvious, but the journey to arrive at this place has been a wild ride!  As I listen, I hear once again the promises made in the quiet secret times with the Lord.  I remember the voice that I heard all those years speaking life, freedom, and hope.

My place in life is not the same as yours!  The promises made to me are mine, not for anyone else.  Each one of us has a unique call from the Lord with talents and gifts to sustain that call.  I cannot hear for anyone else. What do you hear when you quiet yourself before the Lord?  How about when life is not so quiet, what can you hear?  He is speaking, but the question is not “Do You Hear What I Hear?”  The question for each of us should simply be, am I listening?


Punishment and Peace

Isaiah 53:5 “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (NIV)

In this brief passage from Isaiah 53 in what is known as the Messianic Prophecy, several words, descriptive words jump off the page.  First, it says He, meaning Jesus, was pierced.  As Webster defines, to pierce means, “to run into or through as a pointed weapon does; to make a hole through.”  Let that sink in for a moment.  Often, we read this passage as we have hundreds of times and blow right past some of these words.  It’s easy to do.

As silly as it sounds, when I hear the word “pierce” my mind immediately recalls the day I took my oldest daughter to get her ears pierced.  She was a little nervous so I promised I would get another piercing in my ears, and we would do it together.  It was a successful day for both of us and I wore that second set of earrings proudly knowing I had supported her that day in more than just an emotional way.  By choosing to have my ears pierced again, I was bonding with her in the physical experience of pain as well.  One thing is for sure, those holes have never closed either!  They are a reminder to me of a special moment shared together. 

Jesus was pierced in the most violent and vicious way for you and me.  Likewise, His piercings did not dissipate as seen in John 20:27 when Jesus appears in the upper room to His disciples speaking directly to Thomas, “‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop doubting and believe.’”  Remember, he is the one forever memorialized as a doubter!  The nail-scared hands and feet of Jesus bear witness to the ultimate bonding of physical pain that we did not have to endure.  They are a reminder of a moment we shared with Him because we were His only thought as He hung on the cross. 

Back to Webster’s to learn more about the word crush, “to squeeze or force by pressure so as to alter or destroy structure; to subdue completely.”  The last part of this definition gives me great pause. When God created the world, including Adam and Eve, He gave them some initial instruction in Genesis 1:28, “God blessed them and said to them ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”  They were given the freedom in the Garden of Eden to rule completely over God’s creation.  It was a position of authority and power given to them by the Creator himself.  Jesus allowed Himself to be crushed or subdued.  All glory and splendor were minimalized in a single moment on a cross where our sin became the sweat of His brow.  He had all authority from the Father and could have escaped at any time, yet He made a choice.  Not only that, but He refused to subdue the actions and will of those around Him.  The crushing of the cross is a reminder of a moment we shared with Him because we were His only thought as He hung on the cross. 

Finally, the last phrase in this passage that arrests my attention is, “the punishment that brought us peace was upon him. . .”  There is a definite difference between punishment and discipline.  I remember my mother explaining this difference.  When I was disciplined, she would remind me that I was not being punished because punishment was without love.  Rather, discipline was full of love.  As a child, I recall it didn’t feel very loving.  As an adult, I recognize this difference.  To separate me from my parents, sister, or friends through “grounding” me for a time was the absolute worse type of discipline for me.  To be cut off and isolated from the laughter happening in the next room was pure torture!  When my sentence was complete and I could again join the rest of the family, no one acted as if I had been absent.  I was included in whatever was taking place as if nothing had happened.  No one mentioned my offense any further and I would be at peace with my family once again. 

What Jesus endured was unloving punishment for a guiltless crime.  There was no love in the whip that shredded His back.  The taunts from the crowd to “crucify him” were void of care or concern.  The soldiers beat him with closed fists full of hatred and disdain.   Isaiah prophesies in verse 3, “. . . he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”  Jesus was punished by the people He came to save.  The punishment Jesus endured is a reminder of a moment we shared with Him because we were His only thought as He hung on the cross. 

It is ironic how being pierced, crushed, and punished can equal peace. More than that they offer us healing in the deepest places of our souls.  Jesus shares many things with His followers, but this journey was never part of the plan.  The cross is the ultimate moment where we should have shared His physical suffering and yet, we find ourselves shielded instead. 



Some of my favorite pieces of advice are. . .

Life is hard!

Move on.

Get over it.

Nothing lasts forever.

Why?  Because life is just hard!!!

Obviously, I am being sarcastic (insert eye roll).  I truly don’t like these nuggets of negativity.  However, from time to time I am guilty of launching them myself.  Mostly, it’s because I really don’t know what to say to someone who is struggling.  Generally, they aren’t asking me for anything more than a listening ear, but I still feel compelled to respond with some type of “encouragement.”  Turns out, these phrases are not encouraging.

Life is hard.  Well, duh!  Thanks for that tidbit!  I fully realize that life is indeed hard and I’m fed up with it at the moment.  I honestly want to move on, but I am not sure how.  Getting over it is taking forever and it sure feels as if it will last forever! 

Who’s with me?  Show of hands, please! 

These phrases are usually generated in response to an expressed hardship be it by someone else or perhaps our own.  Hardship is what’s being addressed here which comes at us in all shapes, sizes, and duration.  It’s an interesting word, hardship.  The teacher in me sees this compound word and wants to break it down. So, let’s do that.

Thanks to Webster, the word hardship as it pertains here means, “something that causes or entails suffering of privation.”  Again, the teacher now needs to look up privation, “the state of being deprived, especially: lack of what is needed for existence.”  My favorite definition that Webster provides is the kid’s definition, “something (as a loss or injury) that is hard to bear.” 

That last one is the most poignant.  Life and its hardships are hard to bear!  Paul says in Acts 20:23, “I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.” (NIV) Two things strike me, first he knows what is ahead; hardships AND prison.  Second, the Holy Spirit warns him.  In order for there to be a warning, there has to be a witness!  The Holy Spirit was with Paul therefore, he knew exactly what was ahead because of the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Hardships are no match for the Spirit. 

It’s difficult to simply “move on”  when we are bearing or living out hardship.  We are reminded in 2 Corinthians 12:10 where Paul again writes,  “. . . for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  That doesn’t sound like something I want to move past too quickly!  Ever notice how the Bible is full of opposites?  This is a prime example.  When we are weak, we can ride the wave of His strength up and over whatever hardship we are facing.  It’s the only way we can “move on.”

Maybe, what we need to “get over” isn’t the hardship itself, but rather who we think we are.  Our friend, Paul, continues in 2 Corinthians 6:1 exhorting the church in Corinth, “As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.”  Did you catch that phrase, co-workers?  Jumping down to verse 4, he continues, “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;”  The list continues, but the point here is we are God’s co-workers and His servants.  If we face hardship, it isn’t without  His knowledge or oversight.  When we come to know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are no longer our own, we are His servants and co-workers.  Hardship just comes in the job description.   

Listen, I get it!  Life isn’t your favorite rollercoaster today.  It’s not always the cheesecake that you dream about on your next cheat day, but it really isn’t going to last forever!  God promises this in Revelation 2:3, “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.”  Did you notice the past tense verbs?  This verse acknowledges the hardships that the church in Ephesus had faced and lived to tell the tale!  Hardships can be endured and if they could do it, then so can you and I. The words “persevered” and “endured” denote conclusion. 

So, guess what?

Life is hard, we know it is, but the Holy Spirit is always with us.

You can move on from weakness to strength.

Get over who you think you are.

It really isn’t forever after all.

Our hardships can reflect the grace and mercy of Jesus if we will just let them.


What do you need?

Children tend to be needy. When our girls were too little to speak, we taught them how to use their hands to communicate their needs using sign language. I am convinced this helped discourage temper tantrums and frustration because they were able to answer questions such as, “What do you need?”

Sometimes, there were needs beyond their sign language skills. After we had been through their limited vocabulary it became apparent they were needing something they were unable to communicate. Then the guessing game would begin! I would show them different food options or toys in hopes of fulfilling their request. Occasionally, I could pacify them through distraction or actually providing what was being requested, other times only a nap would solve the problem for both of us! The ultimate goal was for them to feel satisfied they were being heard, not frustrated by their unmet needs.

Last summer, I had a conversation with Jesus concerning my own unmet needs. After expressing at length my requests and petitions, I was lovingly interrupted. Ever been interrupted by Jesus? All of a sudden, He stopped me and lifted my face towards His much like I would do with my girls when the pathway of communication was deteriorating. He asked me this simple question, “What do you need?”

The frankness of the question startled me. Afterall, I had been going on and on about what I needed and wanted. Wasn’t He listening?! With my lip somewhat protruding in a pout, I answered louder than I anticipated, “I need to know it will all be okay!!!” Shocked at my tone, I waited.

His response was quiet and gentle, “Isn’t it always?” Surprised, I sat back in my chair. This was unexpected because my petitions required a better response. I wanted specifics! My soul was open before Him and being questioned in return was not acceptable. I had used up all my sign language ability and was one sign short of a tantrum. Maybe I didn’t express myself clearly because if I had, surely there would have been a different answer.

A few moments passed and I meekly answered His question with a half-hearted, “yes.” More silence followed. Perhaps He was giving me some “nap” time to calm myself. In the stillness I realized my expressed neediness does not always mean I will receive what I want in return. Timing is key and possibly I was not ready. Try as I might when I just could not understand what my girls needed or wanted, I would give up. However, Jesus is always ready to not only listen, but He never gives up!

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

More silence passed after my response. Again, I was surprised by His words, “Then that’s all you need.” I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who knows what I am asking, needing, and wanting even when I cannot communicate clearly. Invariably I don’t know what is best, yet He always does and has the power to provide.

What do you need, friend? Do you just need to know it’s all going to be okay? When we belong to Jesus, even the not-so-okay things can be okay because we belong to one who really does know what is best. When we acknowledge this, He’s all we truly need.

Let’s recap:

Jesus: “What do you need?” Me: “I need to know it will all be okay!!!” Jesus: “Isn’t it always?” Me: “Yes.” Jesus: “Then that’s all you need.”

Make Him all you need.


Wisdom Over Worry

Are you worried today?  Probably a silly question in the current state in which we are living.  May I be honest?  I wrestle with worry.  Sorry, if you were under the impression that somehow, I just might have it all together.  I do not.  Most of the time, “it” has me!  How is that for honesty?!

Humans are captivated by what we hear and see.  When I hear a beautiful symphony, my mind floats along with the notes to how our Creator cares for us enough to allow us to “create” on His behalf.  On sunny warm days, I find myself enthralled at the generosity of God who lavishes us with lovely things to see and behold. 

The opposite of this is also true when I become aware of physical pain and suffering; I am captivated.  When others are exposed to dangerous and harmful things, such as natural disasters or unexplained illness, my attention is captivated.  If I am not careful, that captivation centers my focus only on what I see, which is pain and suffering and the unexplained. 

Right now, in our world we are surrounded and bombarded with visible signs of terrible things.  Worry is ruling our days and interrupting our sleep.  It is even disrupting our days not only in our actions, but in our thoughts.

Here is what I know, worry is equated with the visible, but wisdom is equated with the invisible.  Certain things are very visible in our world right now, unpleasant things, however, what can be unseen are the results of wisdom.

James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (NASB) Wisdom sees the unseen and knows what to do.

The Lord has captivated me with this verse.  How many times do I just casually “forget” to seek wisdom from God?  This verse says that if we lack, we can ask and it will be given GENEROUSLY!!! There is no mention of worry.  If I were to define worry it would be this, “Worry is a lack of wisdom!” 

Where can we find wisdom? The Word.

Here is what God says about wisdom:

            Exodus 31:3 – Bezalel (temple craftsman) was filled with the spirit of God in wisdom, understanding, and knowledge

            Deuteronomy 34:9 – Joshua was filled with a spirit of wisdom

            1 Kings 4:29 – Solomon was given wisdom and great discernment

            Psalm 49:3 – our mouths can speak wisdom

            Psalm 111:10 – the fear of the Lord begins with wisdom

            Proverbs 2:10 – wisdom will enter your heart

            Ecclesiastes 7:12 – wisdom is protection, it preserves those who possess it

            Ecclesiastes 7:19 – wisdom strengthens a wise man

            Luke 2:52 – Jesus kept increasing in wisdom

            Romans 11:33 – there is  a depth of riches in both wisdom and knowledge

Where do we find worry?  The world. 

Paul speaks to the Corinthians in this way, “And when I came to you brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would NOT rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NASB)

Wisdom over worry. 

Grief is Never Easy

Grief strikes when you least expect it, sometimes over the things you least expect. Everyone loses something or someone at some point. No one is spared.  Grief is never easy. 

At times grief strikes like a hammer and attempts to crush the soul.  Other times it gently passes through the mind not intending to destroy.  Grief wears no timepiece and is ambivalent towards how long it will reside or to the degree of intensity.  Its arrival cannot be controlled and is seemingly wild and untamed in nature when allowed to roam.  If denied appropriate freedom and stifled instead, the duration of grief is extended leading to a steady decline.

So then, what is grief?  According to the dictionary, grief is a “keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.”  Despite its bleak description, grief indeed has a place and purpose in our lives. 

Grief has a shape.  Grief has a purpose.  Grief has an advocate.

The shape of grief may be seen in several different forms such as tears or weeping, illness or affliction from the strain, and physical changes to the body.   Jesus suffered such grief after receiving the news that his friend, Lazarus, had died.  His grief took the form of tears as seen in John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” (NASB) The Savior was not merely crying but weeping, a sure sign of sharp sorrow.

At times, grief may be confusing.  The idea of entertaining such raw emotions seems contrary to our culture and society.   Phrases such as “buck up and get over it” or “rub some dirt in it” and “move on,” can be common responses from others who cannot or refuse to empathize. 

I believe the purpose of grief is to reveal the treasure of releasing what has been lost.  But what does that look like? After grieving the loss of my parents I embraced this great loss and grieved, and in turn the Lord brought me to unexpected place of genuine joy. This paradox of losing in order to gain came as a result of watching my mother battle breast cancer and the storing up of precious jewels that I will be admiring for years to come.  In her treasure chest, now passed down to me, are jewels of faith, hope, love, courage, thankfulness, and even joy all displayed in her example.    However, until I fully released my loss into the Master’s hand, I could not begin to truly embrace or put to use the jewels she left behind.  In Psalms chapter 30, verse 5 states, “For His anger is but for a moment, his favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” (NIV) My belief is that the release of loss sometimes can only make its way through “mourning” where the distress of grief delivers pure unadulterated joy.  Dad would always tell me, “Tomorrow is a new day!”  He was right!  The morning will always come and the mourning will eventually go.

In the garden of Gethsemane, tears were present as Jesus cried out to God to allow the cup to pass from Him.  One can only imagine the extreme grief our Lord was experiencing at that moment as His sweat became like drops of blood (Luke 22:44).  These results physically demonstrate deep anguish and mental suffering.  Previously, verse 42 reminds us that even in grief, we have an advocate as Jesus cries out, “saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”  As Christ wrestled with His own grief of what was to come, His unconditional love for us was the jewel that outshined that grief. 

The treasure chest is full of jewels of all different shapes and sizes.  For Lazarus, the other side of grief was filled with life and hope!  This miracle inspired great belief in those who witnessed his exit from the tomb.  On the other side of the mourning is indeed great joy in experiencing what has been lost, even if only for a short time, and how that thing, or person, changes us forever. 

Life is richer for me because of my parents and their great faith continues to inspire and encourage me.  The Garden of Gethsemane gives us the gems of perseverance and unconditional love as Jesus released himself and His own will into the Father’s hands amid crushing grief. 

In God’s economy, nothing is ever really lost.  Although it may seem your grief will never end and has no design, you are not alone.  He exists to give shape and purpose to your life, and He goes before you as your advocate.   Greif is only a tool in the Master’s hand to mold and shape His vessels. 

Where are you grieving today?  How is your grief shaping you? What jewel will you allow the Lord to extract from the treasure chest just for you?

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