On coffee and prayer

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Last night, amidst hungry mosquitos, noisy cicadas, and several very loud trains rumbling past just feet away, I got to spend 3 hours over coffee with a new friend. Our friendship, as of right now, is about 6 hours old – all spent over coffee, talking and laughing over the cacophony of passing trains at our favorite coffee shop. Sometimes, God gives us the gift of instant friendship and for me, this is one of those times.

The hours she and I have spent have been filled with the things that make my soul sing: funny stories, sarcastic jokes, and deep theological discussions. Last night’s conversation reached its pinnacle, not in our laughter, but as we sat in awed silence for a few minutes, contemplating a beautiful, mind-blowing truth.

Hebrews 7 is, quite simply, a stunning passage – incredibly rich, deep, and surprising, like a really good cup of coffee. I could spend paragraphs taking it apart, examining it, taking us back to the Old Testament to explore a short, but profound story. But there is one verse that has always stood out to me, and it was this very verse that ushered my new friend and I into a few moments of holy, silent awe:

Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. ~ Hebrews 7:25 (ESV)

That’s right. At this very moment, Jesus Himself is praying for you, and me, and my new friend, and Houston, Beaumont, Rockport, Sierra Leone… Jesus is praying for us!

That’s such an amazing thought, but let’s take it a little further.

How often do we pray for other people? Our friends, our family, our coworkers, and strangers in faraway towns? Most of us pray for others pretty regularly. It’s what those of us who believe in the power of prayer do. We trust that God cares about the intimate details of our lives and the lives of those we love, and so we bring Him our fears, our worries, our pains, and our desires, and we do that for the people we care about. It’s a beautiful system, if you think about it.

But here’s where Hebrews 7:25 blows that all out of the water. When we pray, we are bound by certain limitations – time, understanding, less than full knowledge of a given situation, our own sinful nature and desires, and even by language. BUT, Jesus isn’t bound by any of this. More than that, Jesus transcends all time, all understanding, all knowledge. He has no sin in Him. And He speaks the very language of God because He is God.

Photo by J. Khuansuwan

This means that when He is praying for us, we know that Jesus is praying the most perfect prayer possible. He knows that situation you’re concerned about – beginning, middle, and end – so He knows exactly how to pray and intercede on your behalf in a way no human ever could, no matter how much they love you.

And, the prayers that Jesus prays for us will always be answered in the affirmative. Paul puts it this way: “All the promises of God find their yes in Him” (2 Corinthians 1:20, ESV).

As if that wasn’t enough, “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26, ESV). When we can’t find the words to pray, the Spirit digs in deeper than our words ever could.

I have clung to these promises in the last few weeks, when national and world events have left me without words in my heartbreak. When I have been too weary to pray for my neighbor, the Spirit has brought my intentions to the throne of God. When I’ve not known what to ask God for in my own life concerning my own future, Jesus has asked on my behalf.

What I’m learning (besides that I will never fully grasp how much God really loves me this side of Heaven) is that prayer is not the burden I sometimes feel it is. Rather, like so much else in my walk with Jesus, prayer isn’t about me at all. It has always been, and always will be about Jesus – He paved the way for us to God, He taught us how to pray, and He does the praying for us that we can’t do for ourselves. All we need to do sometimes is just sit quietly, bathing in the knowledge that the God who asks us to bring Him our burdens is already carrying them for us.

So what does this mean for us? When I got home last night, the following quote was all over my Twitter feed, and I think it perfectly captures what I’m trying to say here:

If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. ~ Robert Murray M’Cheyne

The fact that Jesus is praying for you right now means that you have absolutely nothing at all ever to worry about. He knows what you need. He knows what you want. He knows what is the absolute best thing for you. You can rest in that, knowing that when you pray, not only does God hear you, but with His whole being – Father, Son, and Spirit – He is there praying right along with you! How great is this God we serve!

How does understanding that Jesus is constantly praying for you change your outlook on life today?

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God is in Control…?

Imagine the following scene:

An author sits down at his desk to write a story. It’s a story he’s been thinking about and planning for a long time. In his imagination, he’s carefully chosen the main character and knows everything about her – where and when she lives, what she looks like, what she does for a living, what her family is like, what she enjoys doing, and what she hates. The author knows all of the periphery characters as well, and has in mind how all of these characters will interact throughout the story, and what effect they’ll have on each other.

The author knows the story itself too. How it starts, the climax of it, and how it will end. He knows these things because he’s been thinking about this for so long. All that’s left to do is to sit down and write it.

He pulls out some paper and a pen (he’s old school), and he starts to craft an amazing tale of joy, heartbreak, sin, and redemption (fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, mon…Oh, sorry, I got a little carried away there). It’s setting up to be an epic adventure. But then, all of a sudden, his main character starts to rebel. He writes a line, and finds her arguing with him about what he’s written. He writes another line, and watches as it gets erased right before his eyes.

“Look,” he says to his character, “I know what I’m doing. I know this story, just trust me.” The character apologizes, promises to cooperate, and hands back the pen. But as he continues to write, from time to time, his character again tries to take matters into her own hands, rewriting parts, erasing other parts, and adding things that make absolutely no sense in the broader arc of the story.

How do you imagine this story will finish? Probably in complete chaos!


That, in short, is Israel’s story. God blessed the nation of Israel with His very presence, He guided them, cared for them, and provide for them, but time and time again, they rebelled and did whatever they wanted. The book of Judges sums this up really well with its last verse:

In those days, there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. ~ Judges 21:25

I can’t speak for you, but I can say this: It’s my story too. I’ve spent my entire life trying to control whatever I could, including God and everyone around me. From time to time, I’ve come to the realization I’m doing that, either because someone points it out, or, much more frequently, because things start to dissolve into chaos.

Whenever this happens, I get angry and find someone else to blame, never owning up to the fact that the only common denominator in these patterns is me. Eventually, I get so tired or things just get so bad that I confess my sin to God, ask Him to forgive me, and ask Him to take back the control of my life. But in time, the cycle starts all over again.


The book of Judges is a series of stories about how Israel kept taking back control of the pen, trying to write their own story, only to find themselves living in a chaotic world where “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes”. When they realized what they’d done, they would cry out to God and God, in His great mercy and unfailing love would send a rescuer – a judge – to deliver them out of their enemies’ hands. The judge then led the nation in a battle of some sort against whoever the oppressor du jour happened to be, Israel won, and “there was peace in the land for ___ years” while said judge lived.

But shortly after God gave the Israelites victory, they started doing their own thing again, and the cycle continued (often with really gruesome consequences…the Bible is NOT Rated PG!!).

The people of Israel knew the pattern they were in. They had books written about it and orators telling the stories of the past to current generations. They knew, but they kept thinking that somehow, this time would be different. It wasn’t for them, and it isn’t for us.

Whenever we think we know better than God and we grab the pen out of His hand to try to write our own story, we’re just repeating history.

But God wants so much more for us than control. He longs to give us a life of abundance, of peace, of joy, of adventure. He knows you better than you know yourself. He knows the story He wants to write on your life. And He knows that if we’ll just keep our hand off the pen, it’s going to be so good!

So how do we stop grabbing the pen? It’s simple: We trust God.

[Hahahahahaha!!! I’m hilarious! Ok. Sorry. I’m fine now.]

While that’s true, it’s nowhere near simple. If it were, we wouldn’t keep finding ourselves with ink all over our hands.

We all know we’re supposed to trust God, but some of us, myself included, have a really hard time doing that. We have things in our past that God allowed that we can’t understand because we don’t yet know the end of the story.

The Bible tells us that God is good, kind, overflowing with love for us, and that He does everything He does for our good and for His glory. But if you’re anything like me, these are facts stored away in your mind that you pull out whenever a friend is going through a hard time. But they’re not true to you because they haven’t made the trip from your head to your heart.

This was exactly my problem, I (very) recently (re)discovered. So I’m going on a search… I want to KNOW God, not just know a whole bunch of facts about Him. I want to be in relationship with Him, to take my place as His beloved daughter. I want to know Him so well that I have no problem letting Him write my story. So because I’ve been stuck in that maddening cycle for so long, I need to do some things I’ve never done before. And maybe you do too…

So, let’s help each other out:

How have you successfully moved knowledge about God from your head to believing God is who He says He is in your heart?

Bad theology vs. God’s goodness

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You are good and do good; Teach me Your statutes. ~Psalm 119:68

In the last week, I overheard two different conversations that went something like this:

“[Insert bad thing here] looked like it was going to happen, but I prayed and [insert bad thing here] didn’t happen. God is so good!”

Then there was this gem:

I don’t even know where to begin, but what these conversations, and this truly horrifying if real (and pretty hilarious if not) post have in common is this: Really, really, bad theology.

A quick Google search on “verses about God’s goodness” returns about 670,000 results, and the first return lists 61 verses that mention God’s goodness. A quick search of these verses reveals not a single verse that says God is only good when He saves us from a near miss, heals us the way we expect, or blesses us with a new car. No, God’s goodness doesn’t always manifest itself in these ways, but so often, the good times are the times we remember to praise Him for being good.


Last weekend, I flew to Pittsburgh and back to visit a friend. My flight out of San Antonio was delayed so badly by storms in New Orleans that I missed my connection and got to spend a fun-filled night in Chicago’s lovely Midway Airport. (In case you’re wondering, 9 hours of no sleep and hearing “Caution, the moving walkway is ending” over and over and over again is enough to make a girl lose her mind!)

On the way home, I flew through Nashville, and again, was waylaid by storms. But when we finally took off and got up to our cruising altitude, I got to witness the intense beauty of of a line of thunderstorms from high above. I watched for nearly an hour as lightning lit up the clouds, forking back and forth as tiny towns below felt the full brunt of a line of severe storms. (I took the video below – trust me, it doesn’t do it justice!)

As I watched, I imagined families huddled in basements and closets, parents comforting scared little ones as storms raged around homes for hundreds of miles. But from 30,000 feet and 60 miles away, it was incredibly beautiful!

Then, something else caught my eye. I looked up above the clouds and was met with an inky black sky dotted with millions of stars!

From my viewpoint, they were shining brightly, but the people under the storms couldn’t see the stars. All they could see was the lightning, the rain and hail, and the heavy winds. For them, the world was swimming in chaos. But just above the chaos was a calm, dark sky, full of millions of points of light.


Just a few days ago, a church van carrying 14 senior adults returning from a retreat was hit head-on by another car, and 13 of those church members died.

When I heard the news, it all came back to mind – the conversations I’d overheard, the storm I watched from high above, and that sky filled with stars. 10 miles up the road from me, a church family is hurting as badly as a family can and this week, they will bury 13 of their own. A church family.

Isn’t God supposed to be good? Doesn’t God’s goodness mean this kind of thing isn’t supposed to happen, especially to Christians?

But the God of the Bible isn’t conditionally good the way our limited minds want Him to be. In spite of the bad theology floating around out there, God is good

  • when the accident happens
  • when the baby is born with a birth defect
  • when the cancer wins
  • when house burns down

Even when we’re hurting, even when we suffer, God is still good.

Our circumstances don’t change God’s goodness, but God’s goodness can change how we react to our circumstances. Our reaction to the hard things in life can make or break our faith, and our reactions to the hard things in life will always reveal our theology – good or bad.

The danger of bad theology is that when the bad thing does happen, our faith can’t stand up against the doubt, the fear, the anger, and the grief that is sure to come. Bad theology puts our faith at risk, because bad theology makes us question God’s character.

Here is the truth we absolutely must cling to if we’re going to maintain a right view of God, fully trust Him in every situation, and develop a strong, firm faith:

Even when…God is still good.

Bad theology can break our faith. Good theology that believes in an unconditionally good God results in a faith strong enough to stand against whatever life throws at us. Even [insert bad thing here].

Where have you seen God’s goodness in the middle of the storm?

Doubt, fear and flannelgraph

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This morning in staff prayer, my pastor tagged to the message series we started this weekend on doubt. He read the story of Peter walking (at least for a moment) on water with Jesus, and asked us to consider where we are wresting with doubt.

To be honest, this was always one of my least favorite stories when I was growing up. Peter looks too happy to be sinkingAs soon as Drew started reading the story, I immediately flashed back to my Primary Sunday School class, Flannelgraph board and all! (Shout out to Flannelgraph – RIP.) I remember the look on FGPeter’s face, the way his arms reached up toward Jesus, the FGWaves next to him, the other FGDisciples still in the boat watching their flat friend sink.

I remember my teacher telling us that Peter doubted so Jesus reprimanded him for his lack of faith. That bothered me. A lot. I knew that God was already out to get me, and I knew He was sitting in Heaven just waiting for me to mess up so He could punish me. But I had thought Jesus was nicer than God. Jesus healed people. Jesus held children on His lap and kissed babies. Jesus raised people from the dead and loved everyone. Somewhere in my 2nd grade brain, Jesus was the nice version of God.

Peter at least got out of the boat, I argued – he had faith to do that. So why did Jesus then tell him off for doubting? Why, my 2nd grade brain wanted to know, was Peter getting the short end of the stick when he did what none of the other disciples had faith and courage to do? Why was Jesus being mean to Peter after what he had just done? Why was Jesus not the nice version of God in this story?

These are valid questions for a 2nd grade brain and 2nd grade-level faith to wrestle with. But the problem is, “several” years removed from 2nd grade, there’s still part of me that believes some of these same lies. When Drew asked us to think about our own doubts, I didn’t have to think very long or hard. I know what I doubt.

I doubt that God is good.

Even now…Even with a great job, a great home, some money in the bank, amazing co-workers, the unbeatable weather and incredibly beautiful scenery and flowers of southBluebonnet Sheep Texas, and a commute that consists of baby goats and sheep, horses, and donkeys rather than the stand-still traffic of Central Jersey…Even now, I doubt that God is good.

My doubt in God’s goodness manifests itself in fear: I’m afraid to trust that I really am in a good church with co-workers I can trust. I’m afraid to believe that all the goodness I have in my life right now will last much longer. I’m afraid to let myself be fully happy. Really, I’m just waiting for that proverbial other shoe to come along and ruin everything.

And there may, in fact, be a shoe. I’m not naïve enough to think there’s not. But I’m allowing my fear and my doubt to steal my joy. I’m allowing my fear of God and my doubt that He is good color my perception of the gifts He’s given me here. I’m allowing my fear of the shoe and my doubt that I can ever really let myself enjoy the good things God has put in my life steal happiness from today.

I know it’s dumb, and I know it’s wrong, but I’ve lived with this fear and doubt since long before 2nd grade, and they’re really hard to shake. I have evidence lined up for miles for why I’m right to think and feel this way. But then I run into these words, and that evidence doesn’t stand up quite as well:

For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever,
and His faithfulness to all generations.”

Psalm 100:5

These verses leave no room for doubt, and His great and enduring love leaves no room for fear.

Doubt, in and of itself, is not wrong. In fact, in some ways, doubt is a good thing – a sign we’re thinking, working out our faith, and really seeking after God and all He is and all He has for us. But the kind of doubt I’ve allowed to creep in many, many times in my life isn’t the good kind. It’s the kind that makes me withdraw from God, makes me question His character, and leaves me feeling worn out and hopeless. It’s the kind that just makes me tired.

But Jesus has the answer to all of this:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

In other words, “Stop fighting Me. Trust My heart for you. Allow yourself to rest in My goodness.”

Jesus isn’t the nice version of God. Jesus is God – in the flesh, Emmanuel, God with us. He is God, and the love we see in Jesus is the very love of God Himself. God is good – we see that in the way Jesus tenderly loved the people around Him. And He tenderly loves us. God is good. All the time. Even, and especially, when we doubt. And my no-longer-2nd-grade brain really needs to grasp that concept…

jesus_walks_on_waterSo I’m inviting God into my doubts, asking that He would help me trust in His goodness and in His love for me. I’m asking Him to help me trust that even if everything does fall apart (again), He is still good, He still loves me, and my faith in Him, even when it’s small, is valuable and precious to Him.

And so is yours. So go ahead and doubt, question, wrestle. It’s ok, God can handle it. But I say to you what I have to keep saying to myself: Do not, even for a second, believe the lie that God is out to get you, that He is anything less than good, and that He doesn’t love you. He gave His own Son for you and bought you back from death with His blood. There is no greater good or love than that! If you believe nothing else right now, I pray God will help you believe that.

What doubts are you wrestling with today? How can you invite God into your doubts?

When God slams a door

Today I’m writing over at The Back Row, a great site for humor and healing. You can also follow them on Twitter for some fun lists and biblical advice. This article, in particular, is some of the best writing I’ve seen on the questions of suffering and God’s sovereignty. Check them out! 


I did everything right. I know I did…

  • I prayed
  • I read Scripture
  • I prayed boldly and consistently
  • I sought wise counsel
  • I prayed God’s words back to Him
  • I obeyed everything I thought God was asking me to do (even the weird stuff)
  • I prayed contemplatively
  • I trusted
  • I prayed with gratitude (for everything I could think of)
  • I checked my motives
  • I asked others to pray with me
  • I worshipped with all my heart, soul, and strength
  • I prayed humbly

I did everything I knew to do, and then asked if there was anything else. And as I did these things, I saw God act. I saw signs that I was headed in the right direction. I saw confirmation of what He was asking me to do, and I said, “yes, Lord, whatever You want”, and I meant it.

Read the rest…

How to get God to give you want

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Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart. ~ Psalm 37:4 (NASB)

It’s been cross-stitched, painted, sung, and posted to Instagram over top of pretty pictures of mountains and baby feet. It’s one of the most quoted – and misquoted – verses in the Bible, and we should probably take a quick look at it, just in case we’ve been missing the point all of these years…

There are some words in this verse that often trip people up, so we’ll start by taking a look at them:

  • Delight: The Hebrew word used here is ‏עָנַג‎ (anag), and it’s actually a root word meaning “to be soft or pliable”, “delicate”, and in this case “to have delight”.  It’s used again in verse 11.
  • Desires: This Hebrew word is מִשְׁאָלָה (mishala), and translates exactly as you’d think it would: desires or requests. This word is only used one other place in the Bible: at the end of Psalm 20:5.

Knightville 003

The second thing we need to do is read verse 4 in the context of the entire Psalm.  Go ahead, we’ll wait for you. 🙂  We also need to read Psalm 37 (and really, any Scripture) within the context of the Bible as a whole. (Don’t worry, you don’t need to go read the whole thing right now!)

So let’s put these pieces together and see what we have…

This oft abused verse is NOT saying that God will give you whatever you want, whenever you want it, no matter how much you enjoy Him or “delight” in Him. We know that because that goes against other teachings in the Bible, and even Jesus’ own words (see, for example, John 16:33. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find myself asking God to give me tribulation very often, and yet…)

Christ Cathedral Hartford2

So if that’s what it’s not saying, what IS it saying?

First, this verse reminds us to love God with everything in us (Deuteronomy 6:5). When we love someone or something, we take delight in it, we take delight in spending time with it. Just ask spouses, parents, and foodies about their love for the objects of their deepest affections. So we take delight in God by loving Him, genuinely desiring Him above everything else, and therefore, staying in step with Him as we walk. And, remember that the root word is referencing something that is soft and pliable. In other words, not hard, stubborn or demanding our own way.

It gets a bit harder when we move to the second part of the verse, but here’s where that context thing comes in. We know from the rest of the Psalm that David is encouraging the people to trust and obey God (v.3), to rest in Him and wait on Him (v.7), and to humble ourselves before Him (vv.11-16). None of these things come naturally to us as human beings, so David is telling the people, again, to stay in step with God as they walk.

Taking all of this together, we find a more likely interpretation of this verse than that God is our Heavenly Santa Claus:

When we love, obey and trust God with all we have, staying in step with Him, His desires become our desires.  (Note, please, that it’s that HIS desires become our desires, not the other way around! If that were the case, we would be God instead…)

And we know from Romans 8:28 and John 14:3 He will always work His will for our good, and for His glory.

Knightville 003

So how do we get God to give us what we want? We need to humble ourselves before Him, love Him, trust Him, obey Him, and allow His desires to become our desires. Only then can we make requests of God that will be for our good, for His glory, and will be things He gives as good gifts.

How have you seen the truth of this verse play out in your life as you’ve walked with God?

Let’s talk about…Rejection

There is very little in this world that can make us feel worse about ourselves than online dating or the job search process. (Ok, swimsuit shopping is pretty high on the list too, but I digress.)

If you ever feel like you’re getting cocky, I suggest you give one of those a try.  Trust me, it will do the trick. Rejection is an inherent part of searching for dates and for jobs.  You reach out to that cute guy from Brooklyn, but he doesn’t reach back. You find the perfect job for your skills, knowledge, experience, and interests, but after the initial interview, you never hear from them again…

Rejection isn’t fun.  It’s not something we actively seek out. Not like ice cream or the perfect spot on the beach. Or the Funnel Cake booth at the fair.  Rejection is something we try very hard to avoid.  Rejection is the root canal of life.

Beach

It’s probably of little comfort, but rejection is universal. Ask Thomas Edison, J.K. Rowling, and Abraham Lincoln. Yes, they’re all famous (and yes, two of them are dead), but they didn’t find their fame with their first attempt. Failure and rejection were their song for years before they finally got it right.

You know who else was rejected? Yup. Jesus. (Sometimes the Sunday School answer actually works!)

In Luke 4, we find Jesus headed back to His hometown to visit some friends and family, and to give the Sabbath message at his home church.  It should have been a fun homecoming, but instead, it ends with His old friends and neighbors trying to toss Him off cliff to His death!  Not really the kind of welcome one would expect if one were, say, the Savior of the world.

When we’re rejected, it doesn’t do a lot for our self-esteem. And if we’re rejected after praying specifically for something, it can make us question our standing with God, His goodness, and if He even hears us when we pray.  It hurts deeply.

In spite of its sting, however, rejection can be a good thing. It’s so easy to think of it as punishment, as a reflection of who we are, or as God holding out on us. But if we see rejection as God’s answer to our prayers instead, we begin to see His great love and care for us:

  • Rejection closes a door we were never meant to walk through.
  • Rejection protects us from something that could harm us or pull us away from God.
  • Rejection helps us see God’s will more clearly.

If you’ve experienced rejection or failure recently, it’s ok to grieve, and it’s even ok to be angry and hurt. (Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!) Take your grief, anger, and sadness to Jesus – He knows those feelings first hand, and He knows exactly what to do with them.  Let Him hold you for a while, then thank Him for His deep love and care for you, for His protection, and for His guidance.

Funnel Cake

Don’t give up. Keep praying that God’s will would be done in your life as it is in Heaven. Keep worshipping, keep serving wherever you can, keep looking for the Funnel Cake in the fair of your life.  It’s there, and when the time is right, God will make that clear.

Rejection is never the end of the story. It’s simply another chapter in the epic tale of your life that is written for your good, and God’s glory!

How has God used rejection in your life to bring you closer to Him, make you more like Christ or change your perspective?

6 thoughts on my father

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This week’s list is all about this guy! If you know him, you’ll understand. If you don’t I sure hope you get to meet him someday, ’cause you’re missing out!

My father is in the midst of a “nice off” with two of his neighbors.  It all started this winter when Neighbor #1 (aka The Snowman) began plowing my parents’ driveway whenever it snowed more than a couple of inches.  The Snowman lives two doors down, and although he’s been to the house several times, we still don’t know his real name. Men aren’t big on details, it turns out.

By way of repayment, my father, who noticed The Snowman did not own a lawnmower, took over mowing duties at his house. Neighbor #2 (whose name we do actually know), having seen my father mowing The Snowman’s front lawn, appeared one afternoon and mowed my father’s front lawn.

It’s all just so beautifully ridiculous.  And it’s the perfect picture of loving one’s neighbor.


Last weekend I met an aunt and uncle of mine for the first time. Most people will probably think that’s a bit odd, or think there were circumstances that prevented us from meeting earlier in my life, but no, that’s just how extended family works with us.  I have countless cousins I’ve never met either. It’s what comes of my father growing up in a large family that was torn apart by divorce, alcoholism and anger.

But to meet my father, you would think he grew up in a Christian home with parents who loved him, his 5 siblings and each other to death, and loved God even more.

My father is one of the gentlest, sweetest, most godly men I know, but all of that came later in his life. God had a plan for him – and for our family – and so my father met Jesus in his early 20’s.  He and my mother just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, and their only slightly shorter walk with God. Thanks to that divine intervention early in their marriage, my brother and I got to grow up knowing Jesus from Day 1.


Music has always been a big part of life in our house. I remember my parents playing old records on this stereo system that was clearly built in the 50’s and was so large, it served as a table for much of my childhood.  Barry Manilow, the Gaithers, and even a bit of Elvis from time to time poured through the rooms of the house like a vintage wine.  Later came CD’s of Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, and Pachelbel’s Greatest Hit.

My mother sang in the church choir when I was growing up, but my father always said the choir director paid him to usher instead. That doesn’t mean my father doesn’t sing. He sings.  A lot.  And he’s even pretty good at it – with one little catch: He gets the tunes right, but the words? Well, let’s just say, he’s a creative soul.  He sings about cats, cookies, the weather, and once, a particularly hilarious ditty about salmonella, all to the tunes of songs you would otherwise know.

Music is unquestionably a gift from God, and I’ve always been grateful that my parents passed a love of music on to me. I may roll my eyes at some of the words, but I love so much to hear my father sing!


If you ever want to meet someone with the gift of evangelism, let me know, and I’ll introduce you to my father.  I don’t know how he does it, but he is one of few people I know who can ask someone “so, if you were to die tonight, do you know for sure you would go to Heaven” and actually get an answer.  It’s probably because he’s so gentle and sweet and godly.

Time and time again, he has come home from work, the barber, the hardware store, and who knows where else with stories about his conversations with complete strangers that ended with a new brother or sister in Christ. He has this openness to God’s leading that I both admire and envy, and God has blessed him with so many opportunities to reap what someone else has sown.  This gentle, sweet, godly man is bold when it counts, and for him, what counts is the Kingdom.


 

You haven’t ridden the Tilt-a-Whirl until you’ve ridden it with my father. Trust me…

One of my favorite things to do is just to sit and watch my father laugh. Sometimes it takes a little while for him to get started because he doesn’t always get jokes right away, but once he does, he can’t stop himself. First he laughs at the joke he just got, then he laughs at himself for just now getting said joke.  He laughs on the Tilt-a-Whirl like no one you’ve ever known, and that alone it makes it my favorite ride too.  He laughed so hard he cried at this Mr. Bean sketch the first 10 times he saw it, and now, thanks to him, none of us can sing that song in church without busting up and causing a general ruckus in the rows around us.

Some people guffaw loudly when something strikes them as funny.  Some people cackle.  My father? He has this wheezy laugh that might make you think he was having some sort of lung issue if it weren’t for the fact that his eyes twinkle between scrunched up lids, and his whole body bounces up and down in a joyful dance.

More often than not, if there’s something funny going on, chances are quite good I’m not laughing so much at whatever that is. I am laughing at my father laughing.


I know that many, many people will say this weekend that they have the best father in the world.  And I know that many, many people this weekend will grieve that either they don’t, or their that father is no longer with them (and if that’s you, as I know is true for far too many of my friends, my heart breaks for you on days like today). But I know that God has given me the absolute best father in the world.  He’s perfect for me, and my Heavenly Father knew that before either of us were born.

The Heavenly Father who loves us both more than we’ll ever know how to love each other, hand-picked my earthly father for me and me for him.  He knew we would enjoy Tilt-a-Whirls, talking about Him and the work He’s doing around us, watching fireworks every chance we get, going for bike rides along the canal, and searching the night sky for planets and constellations. Our Heavenly Father, who knows us better than we know ourselves, knew we would need each other, and in His grace and love, He put us in the same family. And I couldn’t be more grateful.

Happy Father’s Day, My Dear! I love you more than all the words in all the dictionaries in all the world could ever say.

What’s on your list about your father? What’s on your list about your Father?

A prayer for the anxious heart

I noticed something this morning that I’ve never seen before. What follows is my prayer in response to God’s kindness. I pray that you will be encouraged too…

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time, He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties in him, because He cares for you. ~ 1 Peter 5:6-7 (ESV)

Father, I just noticed for the first time that this is all one sentence. It’s not 2 separate thoughts…

  • “Humble yourselves” – I’ve been asking You to humble me, keep me humble, etc., but I’m actually supposed to do that myself. I need to make the conscious choice, every moment of every day, to live humbly before You and the people You put in my path.
  • “under the mighty hand of God” – What other option is there, really, than to understand Your might and my frailty, and to therefore take on a position and posture of humility. To do or think anything else is to attempt to exalt myself above You, and…
  • “so that…He may exalt you”that’s Your job, not mine.
  • “at the proper time” – You, who are not bound by time, know the proper time for everything. And, You know my heart. You alone know when I have truly humbled myself before You, so You alone know when I am ready to handle being exalted by You, without being in danger of putting on even an ounce of pride.
  • “casting all your anxieties on Him”Anxiety is a type of pride. Pride, that most wily of sins, disguising itself in so many forms. When I am anxious, my focus is on me and my problems. But when I honestly and completely humble myself under Your mighty hand, I recognize that only You can do anything about what I’m choosing to be anxious about. It’s all about You and Your glory, not mine, and this is…
  • “because He cares for you.” – It is Your love, kindness, and gentle care for me that begs me to trust You. It’s Your care that assures me that I can trust You.

Father, You care for me, You know what’s best for me, so I don’t have to be anxious about anything. Anxiety and humility can not coexist. You invite me to humility.  Saying “yes” to Your invitation frees me from fear, and puts me exactly where You want me to be – in the care of Your mighty hand.

Oh Lord, Your wisdom leaves me in awe! Thank You!

On snipers and nudges

I lay on the couch, snuggled under a quilt, listening to the wind and playing a game on my Kindle to pass the time before I had to get ready for the party. The party I didn’t really want to go to, but knew I should. (It’s always the same story with me – I want to be invited, but I never want to go. Ah, the life of the socially anxious introvert…)

Just laying there, moving jewels around on the screen, crushing rocks, vaguely thinking about the party, listening to the wind. The very picture of peace and contentment…

Then, “It would just be easier if you were dead”.

Ah, my old friend. You’ve returned after a bit of a hiatus. Haven’t heard from you in a while. Can’t say I’ve missed you…

(Now before you go calling the authorities on me, allow me a moment to explain. Yes, I am clinically depressed, and yes, I do have suicidal thoughts with frightening regularity. But no, I am not suicidal per se. Thoughts only, not actions. I promise. Oh, and my counselor says I’ll be fine.)

I’ve heard that voice and that sentence more times than I can count. I still remember the first time I heard it. I was six. It floats in when I least expect it, when my defenses are down, drops the bomb, and floats out again. And since my defenses were definitely down in that moment, I’m not surprised it showed up.

But this time, it’s different. I’m different. This time, while I can’t say I was ready and waiting for the attack, I was at least prepared to respond.

“God,” I asked, “why does the Enemy want to destroy me?” It wasn’t an angry question, or even a fearful one. It was just a matter-of-fact, almost conversational question. I had no doubts about where the voice was coming from. In fact, God and I had been talking about it just a few hours earlier. And that right there was what made me different…

 


 

After finally succumbing to some nudging on the Holy Spirit’s part, January has been all about spiritual disciplines for me. Regular times of prayer, purposeful Bible reading, and saturating my heart and mind with good teaching have been my habits. Frequent conversations with God about whatever happens to be on my mind have also become habit again.

And these new habits allowed me to bring this latest development up with my Father right away. My Father who is for me. My Father who loves me. My Father who is listening for me to call His name. My Father who had been forming my habits and preparing my heart for this moment. My Father who I had just told I didn’t want to go to the party.

The answer came quickly and quietly, and it wasn’t particularly earth-shattering: “Think about what you’re doing. You’re helping kids get to know Jesus. Of course the Enemy wants to destroy you.”

 


 

It’s a reality I’ve come to understand with greater clarity over the last year: ministry is dangerous work. Sure, I get to go to work with some of my favorite people everyday, wear jeans and comfy sweatshirts and have meetings on couches. But I know that underneath all of that ease are landmines and a sniper’s rifle aimed right at my heart every moment of the day. (Dramatic much? Eh, maybe a little, but there’s a reason we’re told to put on the full armor of God, ya know?)

And anyone who decides, regardless of job title or position, to work for God, lives the same dangerous life day in and day out. Anyone, in any career, who has come to understand that the work she does, she does for God and God alone, ends up on the same spiritual frontline. Right there, in the Enemy’s crosshairs. An easy target.

But there is a beautiful, thrilling truth that renders the Enemy’s weapons useless and makes this work we do awesome: In Christ, the victory has already been won. Shots fired in our direction may wound from time to time, there’s no doubt about that, but they cannot ever destroy. We belong to the victorious Lamb and He has called us to work for Him!

 


 

So I agreed with God that yes, what I’m doing probably does make me an attractive target, and I settled back in with my game. But He wasn’t finished with the conversation just yet. I felt another little Holy Spirit nudge, this one about how I’ve been spending my time. I sighed and closed the game. Mindless entertainment was risky for me right then, and although it was enjoyable, I knew I needed to go do something productive. Eat dinner, write, clean my room (nah, not that 😉 ), something other than allowing my mind to wander off its spiritual leash.

And thus I’ve stumbled onto February’s assignment: Practice being intentional with my time.

Oh Father, you do make me smile…

 

What has God been nudging you about lately?