The Power of Deception

wisteria1This morning at breakfast, I happened to mention to my husband how much I had been enjoying the beautiful vine with luxuriant purple flowers that adorns our back fence.  Previously unnoticed, it is draping along the top of the fence behind our stand of cannas.   Since purple has always been my favorite color, these blooms have been a delight these past few weeks, particularly now (autumn) when a few other plants have already passed their prime.  To my great surprise, when I asked him the name of that vine, my husband responded that it was an invasive plant that he needs to eradicate as soon as possible, as it will overtake all the other plants in the yard and choke the life out of them.   I was properly horrified!   “How can that be?,” I thought to myself.  

The spiritual lesson instantly registered in my heart:   more often than not, deception initially presents itself as something attractive, innocent, life-enhancing, and even beautiful.  However, as it progresses, it proves toxic and chokes the life out of everything around it.  Its appeal causes us to ignore prudent investigation of how it operates or what effects it may ultimately have on our lives.  After all, if we initially recognized deception as deception, it would (by definition) no longer be deception, would it? 

Although we hardly need to re-visit the oft-cited example of Eve yielding to the lust of the eye, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life in the Garden of Eden,  we certainly would benefit from applying the same lessons to our own lives, communities, and cultures.  Even a cursory glance at the news reports  exposes the rampant hatred, malice, selfishness, lying, and exploitation that run completely counter to Scriptural principles of integrity and personal accountability for our misdeeds.  Our media reflect who we are:  it appears we worship ourselves, our own conveniences, our own opinions, and our sexuality.  We accuse others of the very things of which we ourselves are guilty.   Are we even recognizable any longer as a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles?   

While no one may deliberately purpose in his or her heart to deceive and exploit others (at least not initially), when we fall prey to deception, we find ourselves choking in the throes of our own demise.  What initially seemed appealing, or even beneficial, proves toxic.  This principle holds true both personally for individuals and corporately for nations.   

I praise God that He is the source of hope for me, for my family, for my community, and for my nation.  Jesus is faithful to unmask deception in our lives and deliver us from every darkness.   Repentance is a gift we desperately need God to give us; happily, He gives that gift quite willingly, as He does not want us to perish!  I pray He exposes deception in my life, unmasks anything toxic, and empowers me to repent; He is able to deliver me and heal me, and He is my only hope!  I pray similarly for my country and its leaders.  

Jesus, send Your Word and heal us, and deliver us from our destructions!  (see Psalm 107:20)

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  2 Peter 3:9 NKJV




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The Power of the Trickle

water_dropletI am learning that we should never underestimate the power of the trickle to erode strongholds in our lives and to flood us with God’s goodness.   Most things begin with small cracks in the fabric of our everyday routines. Typically, nothing changes dramatically overnight, and even the apparent dramatic changes are, in fact, the fruit of a protracted period of systematic beating against walls of resistance to what God desires to establish in our lives.

We read in Ezekiel 47:  1-12:

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The Power of Trans-Generational Partnership


SYNERGY:  1 + 1 > 2

The principle of synergy consistently characterizes God’s economic system:  He is capable of making more of what we have (or think we do not have) and seems to function above and beyond the physical and mathematical laws He Himself has created. The feeding of the five thousand and scores of other miracles recounted in Scripture illustrate His creative and multiplying power.  When we contemplate the power of partnership between generations, this principle of synergy proves particularly powerful.

According to our linear, western rationale, one generation succeeds and ultimately supersedes the previous one.  Certainly, the flower children of the sixties scorned the “establishment” built by their parents’ generation and demanded a fresh brand of freewheeling independence. They rejected the lessons of the past and attempted to develop a completely different culture. However, identifying  another’s mistakes does not necessarily mean we should completely discard everything about another person or group of people.

In contemplating the gifts of my children and their generation, I can readily see a sense of daring, love for adventure, and intolerance for hypocrisy and pat answers.  These young people are fervent about pursuing their dreams; they are also quick to identify the failings of their parents and grandparents without losing the idealism young people need to fuel their passions.  

On the other hand, those of us who are older and more experienced might prefer to take fewer risks and instead adhere to systems we feel have worked well in the past, even when facing new challenges that might demand different modes of operating.  Some of us have lost our passion and perseverance; we may be exhausted and disheartened at the lawlessness of our culture and tempted to separate ourselves entirely from what we see happening around us.

In view of our different perspectives, do we truly understand that parents, grandparents, and children carry a corporate anointing for partnership and that we need each other?  While it is easy to rest on our respective strengths and discount what we perceive to be the flaws in another generation,  we would be wiser to actively cultivate their partnership to effect lasting transformation in a chaotic world that desperately needs to know the love and power of Jesus Christ.

Ruth, a Moabite widow, refused to abandon her Hebrew mother-in-law (Naomi) when the latter made the decision to return to her hometown of Bethlehem.  She committed herself to Naomi, to Naomi’s people, and to Naomi’s God.  As the story unfolds, we find that Naomi was not the only beneficiary of this partnership.  Not only did Ruth work to provide for Naomi, but Ruth herself ended up marrying Boaz, a wealthy, kindhearted relative of Naomi’s deceased husband.   Ruth gained a family and a heritage, and her son with Boaz is recorded as an ancestor of our Messiah.   

Similarly, there was partnership and mutual affirmation between Elizabeth, the future mother of John the Baptist, and Mary, the future mother of Jesus.  Mary heard from the angel Gabriel that her older, formerly barren relative was pregnant, and she went to visit her.  The yet-unborn John the Baptist leaped in Elizabeth’s womb, and Elizabeth recognized Mary as the mother of her Lord.  She uttered a prophetic blessing on Mary, who then broke into a prophetic song of her own magnifying God and affirming what He was doing to save His people.  

As a mother and grandmother, I am asking God for specific ways to partner with the younger generations.   I want to collaborate with the Holy Spirit to affirm and honor the gifts He has deposited in them; I love encouraging them to pursue their callings and their dreams.  I NEED them, and I believe they need us, the more experienced generation, as well.   We can certainly learn from one another.   Surely one generation plus one more generation add up to more than two!   Who knows what God will do when we cease dismissing and criticizing one another and begin to actively cultivate righteous partnership?

Psalm 145: 1-4 (NASB) 

I will extol You, my God, O King, and I will bless Your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.


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Moans from the Marianas, or Pleas from the Pit

Have you ever discovered yourself at the bottom of an emotional or spiritual pit?  When life becomes overwhelming, challenges accumulate, and disappointments meet you at every corner, the pit may appear to be a safe place.   Personally, I have sought refuge in an emotional pit to avoid further barrages from adversarial people and situations — even to hide from myself.  What have I learned?  Such pits are far from protective; they are seemingly bottomless, like the Marianas Trench (the deepest point on earth).  Invariably, the walls of the pit close in on me, and I find myself profoundly alone.

What does God say about the pit?  In Psalm 139, verses 7-12 (NKJV), we read:

Even the Marianas Trench is not too deep for the Spirit of God.  He rescues us from our self-destructive isolation pits, our pits of self-pity and despair, our pits of hopelessness and futility.  The words of the psalmist declare:  “He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps.”  Psalm 40:2 (NKJV)  Jesus hears my moans in the Marianas Trench and my pleas from the pit.   He hears my self-reproach and even my silence.   He breathes His life into me and pulls me out of the places where I have become stuck; He establishes me on the Rock of His Word and directs my steps anew.  Whereas the devil’s idea of a pit stop is the darkness of despair, God’s idea of a pit stop is more like that of a race car driver — a pause that refreshes, re-tools, and re-fuels us in His Presence.


Diana Ross used to sing, “Ain’t no mountain high enough; ain’t no valley low enough; ain’t no river wide enough to keep me from you!”  The fact is, the songwriters had it backwards:   There truly ain’t no mountain high enough, or valley low enough, or river wide enough, to keep the Lord of Heaven and Earth from rescuing you and me.  No pit is beyond the reach of His Spirit, and He loves to shower us with the rain of His goodness.   Are you groaning under the weight of your sorrows?  Invite Him to touch you now, lift off the heaviness, and grant you a HOLY pit stop in exchange for your Marianas Trench!

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I Am Not Your Mother, but…

I love this story about a baby bird that hatches from its egg while its mother is away imgresfinding food.   Greeted by an empty nest, the hatchling has no idea where his mother is or what she looks like.  He consequently sets about searching for her.   When he asks various animals in turn, “Are you my mother?,”  he repeatedly receives a negative answer.  In the end, the little bird is catapulted back into his nest by a power shovel, just in time for his mother’s return to the nest.  Unfortunately, real life does not always match P.D. Eastman’s plot line!

As a mother of five children born over the course of just under nine and a half years, I was thrilled with my little brood.   Had I wanted to have more children, I could have continued that process.  Although I desired to be their mother and wanted each of my own children, I was patently unprepared to parent all their friends and the friends’ friends. After all, I was not THEIR mother!

However, God used one event to completely transform my attitude.   During my fifth pregnancy, a pleasant little boy lived next door us; apparently he preferred our house to his own, most likely due to the availability of multiple playmates.  As the months of my pregnancy wore on, I was lumbering around the house like a beached whale and often needed to lie down for a few minutes during the afternoon.  This neighbor boy would walk home from school every day with our oldest son, run next door to drop his backpack at home, and return to our house until dinner time.  Sometimes he would stay for dinner as well.  He was well-behaved and polite, but, as a responsible adult, I did not think it wise to be asleep while other people’s children were in the house.   One particular day, I was exhausted and desperate for a quick nap;  when my eldest son came through the door after school and made a beeline upstairs, I instructed our second child to please inform the neighbor (when he knocked on the door, which he surely would in a few moments) that I simply could not have him play at our home that afternoon.   A few moments later, I was lying down when the doorbell rang.  Through the fog of half-sleep, I heard child number two run to the door and open it; not one to mince words, he declared, “Go home!  My mom doesn’t want you here!” and proceeded to shut the door.   My heart was filled with remorse at his choice of words.   Nonetheless, as I explained to my son that diplomacy was important, I was also grumbling silently to God that I would’ve birthed a pile of nine-year-olds myself, had I wanted a pile of nine-year-olds.   The Holy Spirit wasted no time in correcting my attitude:   He spoke distinctly to my heart at that moment and instructed me to get up off my bed  when that neighbor rang the doorbell the next day, smile at him, welcome him, and receive him as if he were my own.

From that day on, I did exactly that.  In fact, that little boy was the first of  numerous “sixth” children in our family.  To this day, I treasure fond memories of him (he is now 35!).  Moreover, nine months after that particular day when the Lord so clearly reprimanded me for my attitude, that little boy’s mother died unexpectedly of a pulmonary embolism.  Can you imagine the guilt that would have shrouded me, had I not received this child and made him feel welcome after school in our home?  

I may NOT be someone’s mother from a physical point of view, but God calls me to be available like a mother whenever He sends me someone He has called to be a part of my life.  Everyone needs to be welcomed, included, listened to, and loved.  My sixth children have truly blessed me in ways that words fail to describe — and I consider myself the richer for the experience!  “Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!”  (Psalm 68:19, NKJV)


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The Orphan Spirit — A Motherless, Fatherless Generation

20160518_170852A friend of mine once commented on the fact that she and most of her friends had never really been parented or mentored as children.  Her words struck me speechless. After all, the people to whom she was referring (including herself) still had two living parents who were part of their lives, at least to some degree.  She continued by explaining that most of her generation were children of parents who had been pre-occupied with discovering who they themselves were; as a result, they had had little time or energy for training and mentoring their children.

As a child born in the fifties, I was raised with traditionally minded but forward-thinking parents who strongly encouraged me to pursue an education and a career (which certainly could include being a wife and mother).  They also modeled a well-developed work ethic and strong moral fiber.  They loved me unconditionally and gave me more than just a glimpse of the Father heart of God.  I assumed my family was typical of most families — yet I soon found out that mine was the exception!

Certainly, my parents were not perfect, nor was their generation patently virtuous. However, during my childhood, there were certain general standards for ethics, integrity, and morality that were well established in our communities.  As a result, when some of us had an itch to rebel, everyone knew it WAS rebellion.  That, in fact, was the whole point:  rebelling against what some young people perceived to be the restrictive, traditional standards of their parents’ generation.   If there had been no standards to rebel against, I am not certain that said “rebels” would have found insurrection so attractive.

A few decades later, our society is increasingly amoral.   Amorality and widespread tolerance of all manner of behaviors, with no boundaries at all, can tend to produce a generation of insecure, unstable, powerless young people who have no idea who they are.  Many of them have no vision, dreams, or goals, and no confidence in their potential.  Perhaps their parents never DID find themselves and were paralyzed in terms of giving their children affirmation and guidance.   Perhaps their parents abandoned them or were patently incapable of caring for them (due to financial constraints, emotional or work-related stress, addictions, etc.) — or perhaps the children left home and subsequently found themselves stuck in a rut and unable to return.

Whatever the specific cause in a given individual’s case, I find we are surrounded by a host of motherless, fatherless children; often these “children” are adults who have no hope, no direction, and no understanding of their inherent value to God or anyone else.  Often they have abandoned any dreams they had as children and have no positive experience with healthy community or family relationships.   Certainly, even those of us with living parents can feel like abandoned orphans, at least part of the time.

What does this observation mean for the Body of Christ?  The Scripture clearly mandates inclusion of the outcast, the lonely, the widow, and the orphan (see Deuteronomy 24:17, 19-21).   God wants us to incorporate them in our families and care for them as if they were our own.   He “sets the lonely in families; He leads out the prisoners with singing;…” (Psalm 68:6a, NIV).   Psalm 68:5a declares that He is a “father to the fatherless.”

In the sea of ministry outreach opportunities, sometimes the best thing we can do is the simplest thing:  be a loving “parent” or “sibling” to one another.   God demonstrated that ministry model when He declared Himself to be our Father; He also said that He, the Lord, our Maker, is our Husband; Jesus is our elder Brother.  The Lord Himself is a better father to us than the best earthly father could ever be, and He loves each one of us as a well-beloved, precious child made in His image.   THAT news should serve as the foundation of how we treat one another, both inside and outside the walls of the our church gatherings:   sometimes people just need a mommy to love them and listen to them, to give compassion and hope; other times, they need a daddy to understand, forgive, and walk alongside them through challenges.  Simple old-fashioned kindness works wonders, particularly when repeated in a relational context over the long haul.

Father, give us YOUR heart for the orphans — the fatherless and motherless children and adults who surround us.   Empower us to bring healing to those who have been disappointed or damaged by authority figures in their lives.  Work miracles of restoration in simple acts of care and kindness as we include one another in this process of discovering true life in You — in Jesus’ Name!

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Abiding in Christ or Living in a Deserted Camp?

After a recent visit to Shiloh in Israel, I began to meditate on what it means to abide in Christ.   I have always thought of abiding as residing or remaining somewhere; that definition, in fact, is correct.   However, abiding in Christ does not necessarily mean we remain in the same physical or spiritual place forever.   When the Israelites were traveling through the wilderness, they encamped according to very specific instructions from the Lord; not only did they set up camp when the pillar of cloud or fire stopped before them and break camp when the cloud or fire moved, but they also adhered meticulously to a set process He had given them for moving the tribes forward and transporting the components of the tabernacle.   I would imagine the process would become fairly routine during the seasons when they moved frequently after shorter periods of residence in a particular location.   However, the tabernacle remained at Shiloh for 367 years.   Personally, if I had lived in a place that long, or my ancestors had lived in a place for centuries, I am not certain WHAT it would take for me to understand the signal to move on!   That order to disencamp would become even more challenging if God had worked miracles in my life during my residence in that place.

Since my parents moved frequently, I never lived more than three years in one house (at least, not until much later as a married woman).  As a result, I never associated home with a particular place, but rather only with my family.  My sense of abiding was completely relationship-based.   I experienced feeling of jealousy toward friends who actually had a home town, who were really “from” somewhere.   However, in retrospect, God used my childhood to teach me something significant about abiding in Him.

As a child, I remember being fascinated with a place near my aunt’s cabin in the Colorado mountains called “The Deserted Village.”  When we hiked over there, we could only imagine real cabins on the few nearly-buried wooden foundation beams that remained in the ground; most of them were nearly covered with grass and weeds.   Still, I loved fantasizing about what life was like for the children who had lived there a couple of hundred years ago.  I stood in that bygone village and concocted scenarios of a life that no longer existed in a small settlement that had since evaporated.  Would I have considered pitching a tent there, only because I found the place intriguing?   No, as my parents and siblings and I lived in a house in another state.  The idea of corporate life there was captivating, but the thought of being alone there was terrifying.

That deserted village has a spiritual application. Often the Lord works wonders in our lives during a certain season; we hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and sense His anointing in a particular spiritual activity or a certain period of our lives.   When the instructions come to move out of that spiritual place and abandon that camp, we resist.   After all, it was a good place, a place God Himself had called us to inhabit!   However, abiding means to dwell in HIM, to sit on our Daddy God’s lap.  That means that we need to move with Him to the new places He is establishing for us to occupy.   If we insist on remaining in the glorious seasons of the past, we will miss the new adventures He has in store for us in Christ, and we may find ourselves living in a deserted camp.

Psalm 84, verses 5-7 expresses God’s heart for the man who does not insist on remaining stuck in the same place, the one who instead is willing to follow Him:  As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a spring; the rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.

Father, help me to remember the mighty works You have done in past seasons of my life, but do not allow me to dwell there!  Empower me to pursue You and leap into Your lap as You move me forward to new vistas and fresh challenges, in Jesus’ Name!


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