Hold On

Why do we expect a life free from ugliness?
Why do we think that we should ease through life surrounded by comforts?
Why do we think that we should be exempt from pain?
God promised, after all, that life will be hard, that life will be full of trouble.
And He promised that it would all be okay in the end.
He didn’t promise that we would see the end while still in this world, but He promised that it would be okay.
Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end. ~ John Lennon
So many died while still hoping for Messiah, still believing that He would come.
He came
And He did.
So many of us will die while still hoping for God to come and make everything beautiful again.
He is coming
And He will.
But not only that.
If that weren’t promise enough for you.
Not only has He promised that everything will be okay, but He promised that while it is still not okay, He will never leave us.
So hold on. Be still and hold on to those promises with everything in you and you will find that joy and peace that goes beyond anything that is happening around or inside you.
Hold on.
You who are watching her die before your very eyes.
Hold on.
You who are hurt by the one who should protect.
Hold on.
You who are frightened by all you see around the world.
Hold on.
You who feel like your life doesn’t matter.
Hold on.
Hold on.
He will never leave you. And someday it will be okay.

Art credits: dead rose photo by Deb Knoles; Christ on the Cross photo by Asta Rastauskiene; Nativity by Antonio da Correggio; Tulips in sunlight photo by Kirk Sewell Photography

The Absurdity of Jesus

Once upon a time, there was an American who took a hike in the Smoky Mountains.
He was a couple of days down the trail when he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.
Now by chance a State governor came along the trail, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.
So likewise, a conservative talk show host happened upon the American as he walked down the trail, and he too passed by on the other side.
Also a local pastor, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
But a middle-eastern man, dressed in military fatigues and carrying a sub-machine gun, looking much like the pictures of ISIS soldiers, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds…
Much of what Jesus says is ridiculous. Completely unreasonable and absurd. Crazy, even.
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and to the evil.
Then the King will say…, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father…For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a refugee and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.
It doesn’t make sense and it is uncomfortable and it is hard. It is so very hard.
The idea of praying for those who want to bomb me is ludicrous. The thought of welcoming people who might be preparing to hurt my children is absurd. It makes my heart freeze and my stomach hurt.
I am frightened and I want to obey Jesus only when I can see the outcome, only when I know that I will be blessed, not blown to smithereens, in return.
There are so many commands of Jesus that I skip right over. I look at them, read them, and decide that they are not for me. Following Jesus is hard, and I am a coward.
Which means, if I am honest with myself, that I am no better than those I am frightened of.
while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…
And God reached down to earth for me. He became a refugee, a stranger, for my sake, to bring me back to Him.
God, help me.
Give me courage, give me strength. Give me faith to trust that in Your ridiculousness, You know what You are talking about.
Help me to love You enough to obey You. To obey all that You command.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever.
Help those who do not love You, including myself who does not love You enough.
Emmanuel, God-with-us, help me. Help your Church.

Art Credits for Good Samaritan paintings in order: David Teniers the younger; Maximilien Luce; Russian iconPelegrín Clavé y Roqué; Rvalette; Domenico Fetti; All Saints Church wall painting

The Brilliant Colors of Jesus

Autumn is my favorite time of year.
The cool, crisp air striking your skin, the blazing bonfire scent filling you up with every breath, the crunch of leaves underfoot. Most of all, the leaves. The dazzling display of fiery colors that fill your sight in every direction.
Those radiant colors that inspire poetry and art are, I recently discovered (or perhaps rediscovered as I feel sure I probably learned this at one time during my elementary school career), actually the true colors of the leaves. The green that we see for most of the year, the green that fills up our springtime and summer, is just the tree-feeding chlorophyll covering up the brightness. It is not until the tree is no longer making food, not until the leaves are beginning to die, that their true colors blaze out.
I want that.
Oh, how I desperately want that.
As I age, as my body moves closer to death, I want for the colors of this life to begin to fade away and the colors of Jesus in me to blaze out.
From the moment we choose life in Jesus, we are changing.
Little by little, day by day, the green of this world starts to fade.
Little by little, choice by choice, the light of the life to come begins to shine.
The older I become, the more I want people to look at me and see Jesus. I want the colors of me, the colors of my natural self, to fade away. I want the brilliance of Jesus to take over.
At the end of my life, my body will be bent and wrinkled, dry and withered. My prayer is that by then my own self will be so one with Christ that when people look into my eyes, they are taken aback with the dazzling display of Jesus that fills their sight.
What are some of the lessons that Mother Nature is teaching you about our common Creator? She speaks loudly if we will only listen.
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. ~ Romans 1.20

Would You?

He looked in her eyes and asked, Would you?
He showed her the beginning, the imagining of dread,
the fear for her baby, the images in her head.
He showed her the disappointment, how time and again
she would hope and then lose, how hope starts to wane,
and asked, Would you?
He showed her the middle, the losing of hair,
the nausea and mouth sores, the exhaustion she’d bear.
He showed her the baby, the years she would miss
and the husband she’d leave and how he’d come adrift,
and asked, Would you?
He showed her the end, the terrible pain,
the loss of her own self, how her mind would be changed.
He showed her how hard it would be to let go of
her life, showed the grief of all those that she loved,
and asked, Would you?
Then He looked in her eyes and showed her one man.
One man who would see the result of God’s plans,
the plans that would turn her pain into glory,
the plans that would turn her night into morning.
He showed her the one who would see what she went through
and the result of his seeing would make him become all new.
He showed her the one who would see her pain, the one
who would watch and see Jesus the Son.
He showed her brief pain lift him out of the slime
and give his soul over to God for all time,
and asked, Would you?
She looked in His eyes and said, Yes.


The beautiful idea behind this poem came from my Dad.

Nothing More than Feelings

I don’t always feel God’s presence.
In fact, I might even say that I don’t often feel His presence.
He feels far away
I don’t always feel joy and peace.
I can feel lonely and depressed, irritated and angry, and then feel guilty that I feel those things when my life is so good.
I don't feel joyful
Feelings. So fickle.
The question is not whether God is still there when I don’t feel His presence.
The question is not whether God’s peace and joy are still inside me when I can’t feel them.
God promised His presence
He has already promised never to leave me. He has already promised that nothing can separate me from His love.
He has already promised that I can have joy in all circumstances. He has already promised that His peace is beyond understanding.
God promised His joy
Will I believe it?
When darkness closes in, will I believe that the light is still there?
Will I trust God’s Word more than my own heart?
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? ~ Jeremiah 17.9
It’s hard in a world telling us that feelings are what is real. We are taught that whatever we feel, whatever we think, this is truth.
Regardless of what I think or feel, however, there is Truth that is above all else.
God promised His peace
And that Truth tells me that I am held closely by God no matter what.
Yet now He has reconciled you to Himself through the death of Christ in His physical body. As a result, He has brought you into His own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before Him without a single fault. ~ Colossians 1.20-22 (Italics mine)
He has already done this, and this will never change. No matter what my feelings tell me.

Some Days Are Just Ugly

There are some days when it is easy to love.
Loving each other
Happy Baby
I am able to surrender to the Spirit which causes peace to fill me up and overflow into the hearts of my daughters, my husband. I have the supernatural strength to stay calm in the midst of tantrums, kind in the midst of misunderstandings, and joyful in the midst of hurt.
Then there are days like today.
Yelled at by Mommy
Days when something ugly wells up inside of me. Days when I want to be mean. Days when I feel resentful towards those I love best.
I hate these days.
What is this darkness, this nastiness that overwhelms me and threatens to spill out into the hearts of those I love?
My daughters cry to be held, fuss about wearing clothes, throw tantrums because school is hard, and my desire is not to comfort them but to scream like a crazed woman with fire in my eyes.
My husband makes an innocent comment and my desire is not to hear his loving intentions but to deliberately misunderstand and hiss a disparaging remark.
I intentionally fight against the changing of my mood. I want to savor, to wallow in my blackness.
I hate these days.
I get so tired of fighting this battle within me. I get so weary of fighting my very self. I long for the day when I finally look like Jesus, when my desire is to love rather than hate, when my heart is all light with no shadow at all.
As ugly as my heart can be, I am grateful that God refuses to give up on me. I am thankful that He does not save me and then leave me as I am. I am astounded that He is filling me up with Himself, crowding out the ugliness until there is nothing left but Beauty.
I try not to feel impatient.
Yet I know. I know. I know that I belong to Jesus. He gave Himself for me and therefore sin has lost its hold on me. I can hold on to that knowing even when I cannot feel it. Little by little, sin’s grasp is slipping away because Love has taken hold and nothing dark can hold on in the light of this fiercest Love.
As the recent hymn says, “No power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand; ‘till He returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”
No scheme of man. Not even my own schemes. Nothing can separate me from Love Himself.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Seeking God’s Will

I have to give my two year old a lot of specific instructions throughout her day.
Two year old
I have to tell her which arm to put in which arm hole, how to get a blanket pulled over her legs, where each toy should go when cleaning up.
Needs lots of help
And she’s two, so I’m okay with this.
My seven year old, however, I expect to have a general idea of what I want from her.

Seven year old

More independent
I would feel disappointed if I had to give her as many minute directions as I do her younger sister. As my eldest matures and as our own relationship grows, one of my hopes is for her to know me well enough to know what I want from her without me having to detail it out.
Age gap
Help each other
I have spent much of my life wanting to know God’s will for me.
Seeking God's will
I wanted to know what college to attend, which career I should pursue, whom I should date, whom I should marry. Much of my relationship with God was consumed with begging Him to tell me what He wanted me to do.
I told myself that I was seeking God’s will in order to please Him and bring Him glory, but in truth I wanted to know His will in order to protect myself. I wanted to be sure that I would be successful, that I wouldn’t make any mistakes that would cause me lasting pain.
I am learning.
I am learning that God’s relationship with me is much like my relationships with my daughters. The more I know God, the more our relationship grows and the less He has to direct my every move.
Only asking God to tell me about His will does not constitute a growing relationship. That amounts to not much more than a dictatorship.
When I am with my husband, I don’t want either of us to order the other about. I want us to understand each other deeply so that orders are not necessary.
And so it is in our union with God, a person both loving and beloved. He does not delight in having to always explain what His will is; He enjoys it when we understand and act upon His will. Our highest calling and opportunity in life is to love Him with all our being. ~ Dallas Willard in Hearing God
In recent years, rather than seeking God’s will for my life, I’ve spent my time seeking God.
I seek to know Him, to understand Him, to love Him more. In that loving, I trust that He will let me know if there is something specific I need to hear. I trust His Spirit in me to guide me when either I am beginning to head in the wrong direction or there is a specific thing He wants me to do.
And He does. He fulfills that trust.
I have a long way to go. I have not yet grown to the point of having an easy, conversational relationship with God throughout every day. But I want that. Oh, how I long for that kind of relationship with the One I love.
Rather than praying “God, help me to know Your will so that I can do what you want me to do”, my new prayer is “God, help me to know You more so that I can love you more.”
Seeking God
That is a prayer I believe He delights in answering.
And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever. I Chronicles 28.9

Whatever Is Necessary

What do we do with the truly awful things of this life? With a loss of love, with a deep constant pain, with a fear that pervades our depths?
 It is dangerous to attribute it all to our not loving God enough, although perhaps we could say that is often the case.
Our faith is, as CS Lewis once said, often only a house of cards.
He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down. ~ CS Lewis A Grief Observed
We walk around, believing that our foundation is solid, but in truth we are playing at faith. Our house needs a good breath of wind, for if it is never allowed to fall, it can never be rebuilt to last for eternity.
If my faith is only steady enough to endure this life, wouldn’t I want God to blow it down with whatever wind is necessary so that I can endure to the end?
I’m not sure.
I think I want this, but fear holds me back. Fear of what God, in His infinite love and wisdom, might deal out.
He never promised to be gentle.
Is any pain at all worthwhile if it brings us closer to Him, closer to the sort of life with God that Jesus lived?
The given answer should be yes, but I hesitate and pull back at the brink of giving it.
Which means that I do not yet desire God above all else.
Not truly.
Do many of us?
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We give our hearts over to so many things other than God. . .As long as our happiness is tied to the things we can lose, we are vulnerable. ~ John Eldredge Walking With God
If God is truly enough, if He is what we need for happiness, for contentment, then we should be able to let go of those we love, endure that deep pain, rise above the pervasive fear, because we still have Him.
It is God who remains when all else is gone. It is God who fills us up with Himself so that we do not need anything or anyone else.
In truth, when we lose, when we hurt, we have more of Him than we have in the comfort and in the ease. That in itself should make us turn from the easy way.
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. ~ Philippians 3. 7-12
If only I could believe that. Truly know it and live it.
But without the pain of learning it.

Lord, Have Mercy


Lord, Have Mercy

a spoken word poem
(for email subscribers, click here to listen to the audio of this post)
(it’s better heard than read)


Lord, have mercy
Again I am trying
And again I am failing.
I preach ways of love
Yet all the time I am flailing.
I yell and I threaten,
My daughters are quailing.
I blame all but me:
The crankiness of these
You gave me, my own lack of sleep.
I cast stones away Yet from Thee
I can’t flee.
Into Thy hands
My heart, it won’t change,
My faults stay the same,
My thoughts won’t rearrange,
My emotions I can’t exchange.
You alone can make me new,
You alone can cleanse me all through.
If You want my heart to resemble You,
Only Your hand will do.
Thee I adore
Out of Your amazing grace,
You are willing to give chase
And work to mold me into one
You are proud to call a son.
You give me life
and joy in my strife.
You are beauty, You are art
You are holy, set apart.
You are worthy of all praise.
Your glory is set ablaze
Like the fire of sun’s rays.
To You no face is raised
And all heaven and earth obeys
You, the Ancient of Days.

The Stakes Are High

From my high school band director days:
Mrs. Giger! My bassoon solo actually sounds good now!!
Well, I’m glad. What did you do differently?
I finally followed your advice to practice the song. And it worked!!
It is something I’ve been trying to teach my seven year old. Working hard at a challenging task brings such a sweet reward.
Any excellent and beautiful ending is the result of working hard at something difficult.
We know this in our adult lives ~ we feel most satisfied after a day full of meaningful challenges that we tackled wholeheartedly; challenges that ended with accomplishment.
Why do we think that life should be different?
If this life is preparation for the life to come, why would we expect it to be easy? Shouldn’t we expect it to be more like boot camp?
…suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope
We think that life should be comfortable, full of the things and people we desire.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
We are offended and outraged when things don’t go as planned.
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.
We decide that this is too hard.
Life is too lonely, too full of hurt, too saturated with grief.
And this loneliness, this hurt, this grief can have purpose.
For it was fitting that (God), for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.
Eternity is high stakes. We shouldn’t be surprised that the preparation can be grueling.
Each day we have a choice. We can choose to accept what we are given and let God use it to mold us or we can dig in our heels and choose to look for the easy way, the way of least pain and effort, the way of bitterness and discontent.
Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. ~ C. S. Lewis
Life is. We can fight against it and live in a state of war. Or we can surrender to God and be molded into someone who is perfectly ready for eternity.
The stakes are high. Are you ready for the challenge?