Spring Forth into the New

Green shoots are springing up everywhere as we look around outside in this new season. Some plants that appeared dead have sprouted new growth, and isn’t it a delight to look upon evidence of new life? This can bring hope, hope as new life is seen in the natural world and hope as new life is in us as God’s children.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)

As a friend said to me recently, the past year was a rough year. Certainly we all dealt with the usual challenges in life, but also had to face the pandemic, turmoil in our country, and, in Texas, a rare deep freeze. The Lord has seen us through it all, wouldn’t you say? Thankfully, we can emerge from this time with stronger faith, with more resiliency and endurance, for we have seen again that God is good and that He has brought us through. God is always faithful to be with us and to bring us through.

It is time to shake ourselves off and move forward. It is time to step into all the Lord has for us ahead. It is time to giddy-up and go!

Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19 NKJV)

In order for us to go on into the new, we must move past the past that would hold us back. What is holding you back? Are you still reeling from what’s happened this last year (and may still be happening) to your family, your ministry, your job, things you care deeply about? Are you caught in a place of fear, sorrow, pain, hopelessness? Are you worn down and worn out?

The scripture above commands us to leave the past behind. Easier said than done, right? Sometimes our focus is on those things we no longer can do anything about resulting in regret, discouragement, depression, or overwhelming sadness or grief. We are to process with the Lord that which is hindering us or stopping us from moving ahead. We are to trust in God as our Healer, the Lifter of our Head, and the Restorer.

Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10 NKJV)

Then we move on. We are open to the new thing the Lord is doing; we are looking for it to spring forth. Even where there has been wilderness or desert in our lives, we trust in God to make a new way. We are not stuck any longer. A road in the wilderness! Rivers in the desert! Jesus is the Way. As we put our hand is His, He leads us forward showing us the path. He directs our steps. He makes the crooked places straight. We are simply to trust Him.

In chapter 1 of the book of Joshua, God calls Joshua to become the new leader of the Israelites and is given his assignment: to lead the people across the Jordan to Canaan to claim the land as an inheritance. God’s words to Joshua ring true for us today as we say “yes” to God’s call and to God’s assignments as we advance His kingdom.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:8-9 NKJV)

It’s time to move forward in the light of His glory and grace. It’s time to spring forth into the new!

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Feeling Stumpy?

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

When I was a teenager, I enjoyed buying sentimental gifts for my parents, especially gifts that might bring a tear to their eyes. Although my motive may have been misplaced, my intention was to use those gifts to express my affection for them. When my parents sold their home a few years ago, I inherited one of those gifts: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. In a typical burst of sentiment, I had given this children’s book to my mom and dad on the occasion of their joint February birthdays, when I was eighteen years old; my dedicatory message to them is inscribed inside the front cover.

This poignant story recounts the relationship between an apple tree and a boy. The young boy climbs the tree, swings from the tree’s branches, and even carves a heart into its trunk to signify his relationship with the tree. Later, he carves another heart into the bark with the initials of himself and his young sweetheart. Ultimately, the boy grows into manhood and sets off to make his way in the world. When he needs money, he sells the tree’s apples; in need of a home, he uses the tree’s branches for lumber to build a house. Throughout this tale, the tree persists in referring to the aging man as “Boy” and continually waits in expectation of his next visit. Ultimately, the “boy” asks the tree for her trunk to construct a boat. The tree lovingly acquiesces and is consequently reduced to an old stump in the ground. The story closes with the boy’s return as an elderly man; the tree welcomes him but explains that she has nothing left to give him. He responds that he only needs a place to sit and rest. The tree invites him to sit down and rest on her, as an old stump is indeed good for that. He accepts her invitation and takes a seat on the old, barren stump. The last line in the book reads, “And the tree was happy.”

The image of the old stump suits the way I have regarded myself this year — barren, depleted, isolated, and exhausted. At times, I have felt abandoned (although I could not exactly say by whom) and alone (despite a loving family surrounding me). I have felt increasingly useless and have speculated whether I have anything left to offer anyone. Such thoughts have plagued me during this pandemic season complicated by spiritual and political unrest in our culture.

Nonetheless, as Christmas approached, the promise of the “stump Scripture” somehow rang in my spirit: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1 ESV) From the apparently dead stump of Jesse — a stump defeated by sin and affliction — God visited humankind and caused the Messiah to spring forth. Indeed, in God’s mysterious economy, hope arises in seemingly impossible circumstances.

As the holidays approached and I meditated on this verse, my very beloved ninety-year-old father contracted COVID and was hospitalized. Following an initial rally and predictions of recovery after physical therapy, extreme weakness overtook him, and pneumonia set in. Our children and grandchildren were scheduled to join us a week ahead of Christmas to celebrate the holiday, and I sensed I should read The Giving Tree at our gathering. Deeply sorrowful at the prospect of losing my father after his heroic fight against the virus, I searched our stash of children’s books, to no avail, and consequently dismissed my intention of reading that book as maudlin and focused on preparations for the family’s arrival and the inevitable phone call from one of my sisters about my father’s worsening condition.

Our youngest son and his family arrived first, and the toddlers raced upstairs to play with their toys. During the course of the afternoon, I ran to their play area to retrieve something and, to my astonishment, discovered The Giving Tree lying on the floor of the game room. Our three-year-old book lover had apparently rifled through the book stash and happened to pull out that very book! Of course, I snatched it up and opened it to re-read my inscription to my parents: “To Mom and Dad, who never stop giving.” With a sense of wonder, I placed the book reverently on my bathroom counter, in case it should merit an official reading the next day.

That next day, all the children and grandchildren arrived, and one of my sisters called to report that our father’s breathing had become more labored, but that he was awake and could hear. She kindly offered to hold the telephone for him as we each spoke our final words of love and thanks to him. After that final tearful phone call, only a few minutes transpired before she called me back to report that our father had taken a final deep breath and transitioned into eternity.

My father was a hero in every sense of the word, a man of impeccable integrity, unparalleled wit, humor, and insight. He loved people and mentored many (albeit unwittingly). Even in death, he left a rich legacy of faith and faithfulness, honesty, authenticity, and humor.

What happened after that phone call? We celebrated Christmas, six days early, as the entire household had planned (not knowing the Lord had appointed that very day to call my daddy home to Himself). What a comfort it was to be surrounded by all our children and grandchildren! After everyone’s gifts had been opened and admired, I read The Giving Tree aloud, with our three-year-old grandson voluntarily clambering into my lap (particularly meaningful, as he was named in honor of my father) to follow along with the story’s illustrations. As I explained about new life springing from stumps and seemingly dead places, the message of Jesus Christ springing from the stump of Jesse increased in poignancy and vibrance for me, as God had truly given me a righteous legacy through Messiah, in parallel with the heritage given me by my earthly father — who now lives with Him and whose legacy lives forever with our perfect heavenly Father.

Where we are experiencing death and barrenness, we can be confident that the Lord is able to cause new life to spring from that stump. Just as the ancient olive trees in Israel, though gnarled and consumed, serve as the source of saplings full of new life, God is able to make His grace and power abound to us and transform our ashes into beauty. Indeed, He delivers us from destruction!

Yet if even a tenth remains there, it will be burned again. It will be like a fallen oak or terebinth tree when it is felled; the stump still lives to grow again.  Now, the “stump” is the holy seed. (Isaiah 6:13, TPT)

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Come Up Higher? You’ve Got to Be Kidding!

When someone asks me about my dreams for the future, I typically respond with enthusiasm, as I love to consider myself a visionary with exciting plans. After all, it is important to set goals and move toward fulfilling them. Progress is paramount, and no progress can be made without a plan.

If I am honest with myself, however, after an initial sprint up the rocky trail, I have a tendency to grow weary halfway up the mountain. In the interest of cultivating the virtues of contentment and satisfaction, I tell myself that I am quite pleased right where I am. Breathless from the climb, I pause to reward myself with a much-deserved break and admire the view. I even discover that the view is stunning and linger longer than expected, finding myself reluctant to resume the trek.  A thought nags at the back of my mind:  Am I actually that content with what I see, or am I growing complacent and less passionate about the dream of reaching the pinnacle?

Somewhat begrudgingly, I force myself to abandon this hard-won vantage point and resume the now-arduous ascent. I find myself wondering why the thrill of finishing the climb has so quickly lost its appeal? Am I too easily satisfied with the immediate reward and therefore less motivated to press on? Even more disturbing, am I too quick to re-evaluate and abandon God’s promises? Am I simply unwilling to press on to the finish? Am I yielding to complacency and passivity? Have I lost my vision by exchanging it for something beautiful but far less glorious than the finished work?

Certainly, the view from the top of the mountain is far more breathtaking than the perspective from the halfway point, regardless of how lovely the pit stop view might initially appear. However, climbing higher has its price; the upward trail may involve affliction, buffetting, a stony or steep path, narrow passageways, or even unexpected encounters with wildlife. However, if I allow fatigue, complacency, and distraction to lure me into giving up before reaching the top, I will certainly miss the view from the pinnacle and fail to grasp the bigger picture. The ascent is doubtless worth the effort when I focus on the glorious view that awaits me above the treeline.

During this recent hike in Wyoming’s spectacular Teton Mountains, I found myself reflecting on my spiritual journey.  While it may sound glorious to have high aspirations, even dreams and visions, actually making the climb is often far from glorious.   Often such climbs are fraught with challenges.   Do I want to be a person who resists moving onward and upward, despite difficulties, or do I want to be satisfied with where I am and fail to reach the goal?  More often than not,  speaking with great enthusiasm and passion about a dream comes easily to me, but actually moving forward with realizing the dream is another matter entirely! 

In his letter to the Hebrews, the apostle Paul urges us to press on to the goal without wavering:  “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NKJV)



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The Need to Be Right: Does My Heart Need a Tune-Up?

Thirty years ago, I heard a relatively unknown Bible teacher  declare that “opinions are strongholds.”  At the time, I found this puzzling, as I failed to fathom that even a correct opinion could be a stronghold — a filter that might determine whether or not I accepted or rejected another person — or a filter that might prevent them from accepting me.  Over the past several years, I have come to understand the wisdom of that teacher’s assertion!

Of course, no one likes to be proven wrong.   At least, I have never met anyone who enjoys being on the wrong side of truth.  I honestly believe that most people have a hunger to be right and to be able to defend their positions on various issues, whether moral, spiritual, or factual.  However, when being right becomes my primary focus — as opposed to knowing the TRUTH (the Person of Jesus Christ, not a set of facts or defensible opinions), I risk alienating everyone around me.  A know-it-all who is always right (or who views himself or herself as always right ) is, after all, hard to live with! 

When it comes to politics, it seems our society has become increasingly toxic.   People I love have begun to set up camp with others of like opinions, camps from which they launch rockets of vitriol against those with whom they disagree. Under the guise of “righteous anger,” the discord and disputes have expressed themselves in the form of increasingly bitter voices and even shrieking accusations of those on the opposite side of the fence.  Indeed, the condemnation is flung as vehemently as a flurry of snowballs with stones at their core.   In this maelstrom of outrage, it is challenging to truly hear one another.   I have even seen posts by very dear friends (on opposing sides of the political continuum) who post self-satisfied memes implying that anyone supporting the “enemy” party could not possibly be a “real” Christian!

This acrimonious mud-slinging is surely grievous to the Holy Spirit.  According to Paul, “Every person must submit to and support the authorities over him. For there can be no authority in the universe except by God’s appointment, which means that every authority that exists has been instituted by God. [Romans 13:1, TPT].”  That means that somehow, in ways that are beyond my own understanding, every person in authority has been allowed by God to hold that position.  Whether I like someone or not, whether I voted for that person or not, I am obligated by God to respect his or her authority (irrespective of opinions or my agreement with various policies).  

Certainly, within the Church, I am free to hold different opinions and have civil discussions about those positions.  However, using my opinions as a limit test for accepting or rejecting relationships can become a toxic strategy.  

Paul explains the attitude I should cultivate toward persons in authority:

“Most of all, I’m writing to encourage you to pray with gratitude to God. Pray for all men with all forms of prayers and requests as you intercede with intense passion.  And pray for every political leader and representative, so that we would be able to live tranquil, undisturbed lives, as we worship the awe-inspiring God with pure hearts.  It is pleasing to our Savior-God to pray for them.  He longs for everyone to embrace his life and return to the full knowledge of the truth.

For God is one, and there is one Mediator between God and the sons of men—the true man, Jesus, the Anointed One. He gave himself as ransom-payment for everyone. Now is the proper time for God to give the world this witness.  I have been divinely called as an apostle to preach this revelation, which is the truth. God has called me to be a trustworthy teacher to the nations.

Therefore, I encourage the men to pray on every occasion with hands lifted to God in worship with clean hearts, free from frustration or strife [1 Timothy 2:1-8, The Passion Translation]. 

Moreover, nowhere does Scripture exhort me to pray that people in authority would come into alignment with my own opinions or preferences.  Nowhere does it exempt me from the obligation to pray fervently for those in positions of authority for whom I did not vote.   What I do know is that the same loving God Who has poured out His mercy on me does NOT desire that anyone perish (see 2 Peter 3:9), but that every person would come to repentance.  

Is there someone in governmental (or church) authority that you hold to be a liar, a criminal, or a reprobate, someone you dislike?  If we are honest, most of us could name at least one or two such people.  Let’s take up the challenge to pray fervently for those people and ask God to give us HIS heart for them.   If we pray with humility and passion, I doubt our rage and bitterness will remain.   Yes, we WILL know the truth — not a set of facts, but the Person Whose Name is Jesus — and we will be free!  (See John 8:32)

Father, cleanse me of unrighteous and bitter attitudes towards those with whom I disagree.   Forgive me for failing to be consistently praying for those in authority in my church, my community, my state, and my nation.  Quicken me to have YOUR heart for all those in authority, and may YOUR mercy triumph over MY judgment, in Jesus’ Name!

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Holy Release

During the past couple of months, I have made an ongoing, concerted effort to function from a platform of peace and not allow myself to be tormented by the prevailing atmosphere of anxiety that has been threatening to overwhelm our nation and even our world.  Resting in God’s Presence to drink in His peace takes WORK, particularly when the tide of sorrow and suffering is rising around us.  (Resting in peace certainly does NOT mean I am lying around in a bathrobe popping chocolates in my mouth!)  Dwelling in His peace entails a serious examination of my thought life and heart attitudes, combined with a willingness to allow the Holy Spirit to correct and re-align my mind and heart to agree with His Word and character.  More often than not, this process is exhausting and messy!

On Friday, May 29, I happened to be on the phone for a regularly scheduled prayer call.  Toward the end of the brief call, I felt strongly prompted to pray a release over the things and people for whom we had been praying.  This sense of release also applied, I felt, to some personal concerns of those on the call (including my own needs).   I felt a strong impetus to speak the release of the Lord for those people and circumstances from specific hindrances and into the future the Lord would appoint for them. It was not a lengthy prayer, and the call concluded with additional prayers and mutual encouragement from the others on the line.

The fact that we were in the midst of the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) was not lost on me.  In fact, the Lord promised His disciples that, if they WAITED for the promise of the Father, they would be immersed in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). He also informed them that they would receive power from this experience — power to be His witnesses even beyond their regular circles of influence (Acts 1:8).  They waited, not knowing when this (probably strange-sounding) promise would be fulfilled.  Suddenly, when the Feast of Shavuot arrived, what had been promised came to pass in the form of a mighty wind of God’s empowering Presence (see Acts 2).  That experience became the ignition and fuel for Peter’s famous testimony that released thousands into an encounter with the truth and power of the Gospel.

We are always released FROM something INTO something else.  The timing is of pivotal importance, as the wrong timing can lead to disastrous results.   For example, oddly enough, the Spacex launch that had been planned for May 27 was delayed at the last moment, as conditions were not optimal for a successful launch.   Instead, the fabled craft was launched a couple of days later (the final day of the Feast of Shavuot!).  

Without any intention to assert that anyone deliberately delayed the timetable to ensure the launch could happen during Shavuot, the coincidence strikes me as interesting, as the Lord often uses physical examples to illustrate spiritual principles.  In this, case, the prayer of release I felt prompted to utter on that very ordinary Friday morning proved significant on several levels.   First, the next morning I learned of an unexpected but specific answer to one of the items for which we had prayed, and it struck me that this breakthrough was a clear response to the Pentecost prayer of the previous day.  Over the course of the next two days, multiple other releases came to pass (some of which had been “back burner” prayer requests over the course of several months!).

Meanwhile, I discovered later that day that the Spacex had finally been gloriously launched.  As I pondered the intricate and mind-boggling design of the equipment that powered the release of that massive spacecraft from the launch pad and propelled it into space, I saw a picture of the principle of release — God’s power to release us FROM things that restrain us (our past, our sin, our pain, or even roles we have outgrown) and INTO new realms of experiences and new vantage points.   

How glorious He is!  May the shaking we currently experience remind us of an impending “launch” and fill us all with holy expectation instead of fear, and may we experience release from hindrances and into His promises, in Jesus’ Name!  

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On the Road or Off in the Ditch?

“Pass through, pass through the gates, and go from old to new.  Prepare a new path for the people.  Build!  Build up a highway for them to come to me!  Remove every hindrance and unfurl a banner for the nations!”  Isaiah 62:10  (The Passion Translation)


Recently, I read a contemplative piece that caught my attention.   The author mentioned the frequency with which we lament that we are “going through some things” as a way of expressing the pressures we feel due to life’s circumstances.  He then reminded the reader that the point is that we ARE going THROUGH!  Suddenly,   I realized that I often assume I AM going where I need to go, and that I am proceeding along the correct pathway, when in reality, I am wallowing in the ditch alongside the road I thought I was navigating.  Indeed, in our contemporary usage, the expression “I’m going through some things” smacks more of self-pity than of the progress the word choice should indicate.

God invites us to transition; He invites us to leave behind baggage and sorrows of the past.  On occasion, He even directs us to abandon the activities and seasons that brought great joy to our lives, as He has appointed an end to those seasons and is calling us forward to as-yet-unfamiliar adventures.  How can God release new experiences to us if our hearts and hands are already overloaded with regret, sins, sorrows, business, and even nostalgic memories of bygone eras?  He beckons us to pass through the gates, proceed from old to new, and begin to encounter the next season He has ordained for us. 

As we pass through the gate and enter into new “land,” He commands us to prepare the path for others and build a highway (an easily navigated path) for them to come to Him, the King of the universe.  He instructs us to remove obstacles and hindrances that might lead to stumbling or needless delay and set up His banner of love for all people.   

Obeying these instructions requires that we ourselves make every effort to STAY on the highway.  That means we can ill afford to slip aside, fall into the ditch of depression, or lick our wounds.   The challenge is to recognize when we have slipped into that mindset of wallowing in the ditch while thinking we are still on the road.   (After all, deception would not be deception if we recognized it readily, would it?)  As one who tends to be overly sensitive to my own responses to my surroundings and excessively scrutinize my own heart, I can easily veer off into the soft grass and inadvertently tumble down into the stagnant waters of self-reproach, sorrow, and missed opportunities.  

Holy Spirit, reveal to me when I have strayed from Your highway and even failed to go through the gate through which You have appointed me to pass!   Restore to me the JOY of Your salvation, Father, and renew a right spirit within me!   Thank You, Lord, that You have called us to pass through the gates and build up the highway rather than  wallowing in failure or sadness.  You set our feet in a wide place and enable us to move forward.   Amen!  May it be so!



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Got Joy?

“I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.  Where?  Down in my heart.  Where?  Down in my heart…”1   Sound familiar?

As children of God, the joy that we always have through the Holy Spirit can be stifled.  We can let our own problems, perhaps magnified or intensified at this time of the pandemic, take us over.  We can forget that in Jesus Christ we can overcome.  We can forget that joy helps us overcome.

In this time (that will pass) of COVID-19, if we’re not careful, joy is supplanted by sorrow, fear, and worry.  I don’t know about you, but I find that it has been too easy to succumb to the things that can bury my joy.  Whether it’s tuning in too much to the news of the progress and devastation of the virus…or it’s seeing loved ones (via FaceTime) suffer even more with the added stress and worsening of their illnesses…or it’s being socially isolated, not able to be with others, including at church…

What are we to do?  How are we to handle all this?

Abide in the Word.  Pray.  Worship.  And trust God with it all.

It’s one thing to stay in the Word.  Many of us do that.  Prayer, like breathing, comes easily.  But worship?  Worship at home when we don’t feel like it?  How important is that anyway?

When I discovered last week that I had cut back on worship time, I realized how important worship is.  (It seems that I’ve had to learn this lesson more than once!)  In the worship, my focus is on God and there is joy!  As I behold the beauty of the Lord, as I recognize His sovereignty and faithfulness, as I delight in His presence, joy rises up within me.  It was never really gone, of course, but it had become somewhat hidden.

“Oh come, let us sing to the LORD!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the LORD is the great God,
And the great King above all gods.”                  Psalm 95:1-3 NKJV

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I will say, rejoice!”         Philippians 4:4 NKJV

“…the joy of the Lord is your strength.”     Nehemiah 8:10b NKJV

In order to be strong in this season and experience the fullness of His grace, let us rejoice!  Let us worship!  Let us glorify our King!


1  George William Cooke.  In Barry Bobb’s All God’s People Sing, Concordia Publishing House, 1992.


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Ordinarily Extraordinary Amid the Extraordinarily Ordinary

DishesSometimes we become restless, bored, and dissatisfied with the seemingly incessant pace of ordinary life.   One of my former professors once stopped for the night at our home on his way across the country.   He had only known me when I was a university student in a specialized academic context.  When he visited us, my husband and I were in the throes of keeping our five young children properly fed, clothed, and out of danger. My days primarily consisted of preparing meals, grocery shopping, washing and ironing mountains of clothing, supervising outdoor play, and taking various toddlers to the bathroom.  That didn’t count homeschooling the homeschooled ones and helping the public-schooled ones with their homework assignments.  To top it off, we had moved from a beautiful, mountainous European nation to a dry, barren wilderness town in the Panhandle of Texas.  We were culturally, physically, and spiritually challenged.

As our professor friend prepared to resume his journey after less than 24 hours in our home, he inquired how I managed to survive in that environment.   I responded by explaining that I really didn’t have time to engage myself in any academic or cultural pursuits beyond my own routine of caring for the children.  “Do you find it fulfilling?,” he asked.  “I know it is my job at this point in my life,” I replied.

The fact was, I longed for significance.  Although I was familiar with the old adage, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,”  I failed to see any evidence of such greatness in my life.  Despite the fact that I adored my children, I began to wonder who I was.  The days were a blur of activity, yet I wondered whether I was pleasing God or not.

I had much yet to learn about the extraordinary nature of God and how He intervenes in our ordinary lives.  I did not understand the extraordinary power He imparts to our lives as ordinary people in our ordinary places.  The story of leprous Naaman the Syrian warrior in 2 Kings 5:1-19 illustrates this point well.  Naaman made the trek to visit the prophet Elisha for the purpose of requesting healing from his leprosy.  To Naaman’s astonishment and annoyance, Elisha advised him simply to wash in the Jordan River seven times, and he would be clean from the leprosy.   Naaman was clearly disappointed and even angry at this proposed solution to his problem, as he had expected the prophet to pronounce powerful words from God;  he had hungered for a more dramatic encounter.   Washing in a river seemed rather banal, as he could have done the same at home and spared himself the trouble.   However, Naaman’s servants persuaded him, saying, “My father! If the prophet had asked you to do something really difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So, doesn’t it make even more sense to do what he says, when it’s only, ‘Bathe, and be clean’?” (2 Kings 5:13)

The story concludes with Naaman’s change of heart to obey the prophet’s directive to wash seven times in the Jordan River.  He was then completely cleansed of the leprosy that had afflicted him.  

This story grips my heart, as I realize that the Lord often injects His extraordinary power and presence in the humblest and most ordinary aspects of my life.  As I reflect on various scenarios of life with our children, I see certain glimpses of God’s glory, glory of which I was unaware or to which I was blinded at the time.  Their gifts, their quirks, their enthusiasm, their questions, their beautiful smiles and whimsical antics were expressions of God speaking of His extraordinary creative power.

He often works in ways we do not see.  He does not always trumpet forth His plan in advance.  He works extraordinary wonders in our daily, ordinary lives.   Our Lord is ordinarily (typically) EXTRAORDINARY and reveals Himself in our extraordinarily ORDINARY lives.   How wonderful He is!  Many of the miracles He works use very normal props:  loaves, fish, a stick, a rock, a word of hope.  Often, He has not exaggerated or dramatized His work in my life; He has simply done what He wanted to do, sometimes in the quiet, secret places of my daily routine.

Lord, open our eyes to see Your glory in the smallest things, in the most ordinary moments!  May Your Presence infuse our very being and transform us to experience Your miracle-working power in the apparently powerless places of our days!

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The God of the In-Between

Book.twowheelsgroverIn view of our need to get some exercise beyond wrestling matches with the vacuum cleaner during this season of isolation, my husband and I decided to venture out on our bikes.  For various reasons, I had not actually ridden any bicycle (apart from a very tedious stationary bike) for twenty years.   Although I feigned interest, I was secretly hoping that we would end up postponing this outing, as I lacked confidence in my balance of late (largely due to multiple successful but traumatic eye surgeries).  

Despite the fact that I had learned to ride a bike without training wheels when I was five, the challenge seemed daunting.  After all, after six decades of life, one’s perspective changes!  Moreover, the surfaces to be navigated near our house are often irregular and far from level.  As my husband aired up the tires,  I dubiously inspected the dusty gear shifts on the ancient handlebars.  Tremulously, I mounted the bike and wondered if I would make it around the block. 

However, when I began to pedal (quite vigorously, due to my fear of tumbling to one side!), the old thrill returned!  As my husband sped on ahead of me, I shifted the gears quite easily and streaked on in his wake.   Suddenly, I was in a different world — remembering the freedom I had felt as a young person riding a bike around my neighborhood, to classes at college, and even as an adult around Lake Dillon in the Rocky Mountains.   I stopped wondering whether or we would ride back home via the same route.  Instead, I meditated on what the end goal of this test ride might be and contemplated what adventures might lie before me.  

Exhilarated, I nearly forgot myself as the bike lurched with a sudden change in pavement.  Forced to look down just beyond the front wheel, I noticed gaping cracks in the sidewalk and changes in the level of its surface.  A squirrel unexpectedly darted in front of the bike and barely avoided certain death.  With a fresh resolve to pay more attention to my immediate surroundings, I purposed to abandon my reveries.  

That deliberate focus on the immediate challenge, however, robbed me of any sense of purpose.   Even as my husband continued to pedal swiftly on, I was distracted by what I would or would not encounter on the ground directly ahead of me — so much so, that I lost him and didn’t know what direction he had taken.  (Of course, it turned out he waited for me at a crossroads and had been keeping an eye on me the entire time!)

The situation reminded me of two specific lessons:  

When our children were young, we enjoyed a book entitled Two Wheels for Grover, a story of Grover’s hesitation (despite the encouragement of others) about learning to ride a bike and how he conquered his fears.  I could certainly relate!   The fact was, the lessons learned in the past about overcoming challenges are available to me still, and I certainly felt confidence and strength return once I dared to confront the task!

Secondly, I love the truth about God being the God of the first and the last, the Lord of the “already” (the things that have already been established in the past) and the “not yet” (those things He has yet to fulfill).  What a glorious juxtaposition of what He has completed and what He has yet to complete (yet regards as completed)!  His fulfillment of His plans and purposes is in process based on what Jesus did at the Cross.  Healing, freedom, and deliverance from earthly sorrows and pain are provided for by the Cross  and Resurrection, but some aspects of that Kingdom-appointed fullness have yet to be manifested this side of Heaven. 

Somehow this truth connected to the bike ride for me!  I dared not turn to focus on what I left behind me, as I would surely lose my balance and topple over.  When I focused inordinately intensely on where I was headed, I risked overlooking hazards in my immediate path.   When I was absorbed in looking directly down in front of the bicycle, I did not appreciate the ride and failed to gain the greater perspective of the journey.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that, if God is the Lord of the “already” and the “not yet,” He must also be Lord of the “in between,” the journey from where we have already been to where we are headed.  HE is the stability of my times, and HE is able to sustain me, alert me, and carry me to new places.  He is my compass and strength as I travel on these heretofore-unknown roads.  

As we read in Isaiah 33:6, “He will be your constant source of stability in changing times,
and out of his abundant love he gives you the riches of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.  Yes, the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure! Yes, the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure! (The Passion Translation)

Father, thank You that, “You know every step I will take before my journey even begins. You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way, and in kindness you follow behind me to spare me from the harm of my past. With your hand of love upon my life, you impart a blessing to me…Wherever I go, your hand will guide me; your strength will empower me.  It’s impossible to disappear from you or to ask the darkness to hide me, for your presence is everywhere, bringing light into my night. There is no such thing as darkness with you.  The night, to you, is as bright as the day; there’s no difference between the two.”  Psalm 139: 4b-5, 10-12


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Battling for Breakthrough: Lessons from the Dirtmeister

Historically, I have considered myself a meticulous housekeeper;  however, since the last child graduated from college and various volunteer commitments began to fill my days, I have become less rigorous in actually executing my formerly meticulous practices.  Lately, a careful observer would certainly have noticed an impressive layer of dust on the ledge above the front door, and the blinds only looked clean at night.  I excused myself by reasoning that I am home far fewer hours now than when I was shepherding a tribe of children and their young friends; moreover, I reasoned, most people would consider my home clean and inviting, as I am assiduous in cleaning bathrooms and the kitchen, and I am a neatnik by nature.

Even so, as the months flew by, I felt an increasing concern that the house was screaming for attention, and I simultaneously began to dread the length of time it would take to clean everything properly.  Thus began my experience with staying home to avoid exposure to COVID-19.  Finally, my months of procrastination screeched to a halt:  unable to tolerate the ever-expanding pile of cleaning chores at home, I carefully made a list and grouped various tasks into categories that could be tackled over the course of several days.

Last Friday morning, I faced the most daunting task:  two days of vacuuming everything in the house:  blinds, shutters, window sills, baseboards, floors, carpet, and area rugs.  I had remembered that our vacuum cleaner was heavy as well as powerful, but somehow I did not recall it being THIS heavy!  I speculated how much time might have passed since I had last dragged this veritable “dirtmeister”  all over the house, up and down the stairs, all the while disconnecting, attaching, and re-attaching the various vacuuming tools for different surfaces.  This machine, however valuable and effective it might be, had never felt this ponderous!  I wondered to myself whether I simply had somehow morphed into an elderly, feeble lady since my last rodeo with this vacuum cleaner.

In addition to its impressive weight, the machine kept tipping over backwards when I attempted to pull it along behind me.  To make matters worse, the tube accessories that connected to the hose flew apart quite often (except when I wanted to pull them apart to attach a different tool).  Suddenly I found myself vacuuming with a tool attached to nothing.  As the hours of battle wore on, the level of my ire was growing.   That night, with calves aching from dragging this megaton machine around the house, I collapsed into bed.   Perhaps I needed more rest and more regular exercise, in view of my new weakling status.  I consoled myself with the thought that I had vanquished at least half of the house.  As Scarlett O’Hara valiantly declared in the film Gone with the Wind, I asserted, “Tomorrow is another day!”  

The next day continued in the same vein; I tackled the master bedroom and was hopelessly losing the hose behind me and jerking on the recalcitrant beast when it refused to move forward.   Apparently, I started addressing the vacuum as if it were alive, yelling, “Come OVER here!  Stop breaking!”  Unbeknownst to me, my husband came downstairs to check on me, as he had actually overheard my yelling from the upstairs office on the other end of the house!  

At some point in the throes of this battle, I remembered a parenthetical comment my husband had made during the first day of this wrestling match.  I suddenly decided I might as well check the dirt bag to verify whether or not it needed to be emptied.  As I unzipped the cloth bag containing the dirt collection bag, I was aghast to see a bulging vacuum bag that was inflated to the point of bursting (mercifully, it had not done so!).  After laboriously disconnecting it, I lugged it out to the trash — horrified to discover that it weighed as much as a newborn baby!

A few moments later, still aghast at the volume of dirt packed into that bag, I fitted the dirtmeister with a clean bag and re-initiated my quest to finish vacuuming the house.  To my astonishment, I was no longer an elderly weakling!  The machine followed my lead quite readily without toppling over, and I lifted it over obstacles with ease.   (The hoses still fell apart, and one of the tools broke, but I persevered.)

The lesson was not lost on me:   how many times to we long for breakthrough into a new season without realizing we are encumbered in entering it?   How often do I exert an earnest effort to do what needs to be done without considering that I may be carrying detritus around with me that actually impedes my progress into the new season (in this instance, a clean house and a new sense of order in our personal space)?  Oddly, I had wondered for a day and a half why the battle was so fierce and the burden was so heavy — not realizing for a moment that the greatest source of the problem was my own baggage, baggage that belonged in the trash!

Jesus Himself invites us to come to Him when we find ourselves overwhelmed and weighed down by things visible and invisible:. “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me.  I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.” (The Passion Translation) Father, expose any hindrances to my spiritual growth that I may be lugging around with me.  Show me what to do to divest myself of things that should be consigned to the trash bin — dead things from past seasons, sins You already forgave, pain You want to lift from my heart.   Help me to be willing to respond quickly to Your revelation so I will be able to move more easily into breakthrough. Empower me to recognize and discard the harmful burdens of the past.  Be glorified in and through Me, Father!  

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