Archive for November, 2015

The Good Days


I was probably seven and he might have been eight.  It was a sunny summer day and mom had scooped us ice cream cones.  He was usually the ornery one and I was the compliant child.  Not this day, though.  Maybe that’s why I still remember.

Mom handed us the ice cream and I hatched a plan – ice cream on our heads!  Yes!  This was going to be awesome!  I mean, who wants to eat ice cream when you can smash it on top of your head?!

I told Danny my plan and out on the porch we ran.  1…2…3…plop.  Upside-down ice cream cones smack dab on top of our heads.  Just as it started to melt down our faces, out came mom.  She was really mad but it was really funny.  We just laughed and laughed.

When I think of all the difficulties and pain Danny faced in life, that is what I think of.  When I prayed for him, that was the memory I would remember.  When I think of Dan, scarce a thought slips by without the ice cream scene replaying.

And I laugh.  I still laugh because it’s still funny.  So few things in Dan’s life were fun.  There are so many things I don’t understand about how my only brother chose to live his life.  It is hard for me to make sense of any of it.  Sometimes the nonsensical just makes more sense I guess – especially when you’re forever little kids at heart.  I suppose that’s what he was.  That is what I am.  No matter how old we get,  it is what brothers and sisters are when it comes to one another.

Eat an ice cream cone.  Remember Dan that way.  Surely you will smile.

“You can love without fully understanding.” ~Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It


Read Full Post »


Two days ago my oldest daughter fell and sprained her ankle.  Enter: Mom.  I have never actually seen a woman who is nine months pregnant escorting a hopping child and two hyperactive rascals behind, but I can imagine that it is probably quite a sight to see.

After a day’s worth of ice packs, doctors, x-rays, and picking up crutches, she is getting along pretty well.  I don’t think I could walk with sticks but she seems to have figured it out for the most part.  Still, her good sport spirit and adaptive nature is not what surprised me the most.  Her sisters are.  Remember those two little rascals I mentioned following in tow earlier?  They have become her “servants.”  The littlest one always says she is going to be a butler when she grows up.  I’m starting to think she’d make a good one.  Truly, my six and eight year-old have waited on their big sister hand and foot.  She even has a bell to ring when she needs something.

I say I’m surprised because I generally rely on the oldest for help.  She is my sidekick.  The little ones generally do not have much interest in anything besides playing ponies or bathing Barbie.  I suppose it is my fault for not asking as much of them.  It makes me happy to know they are willing to help when they are needed.

The helpful atmosphere in my home the past couple days got me to thinking about the hurting brothers and sisters we are facing right now.  The Syrian people are related to us by a bond called humanity.  They are injured, oppressed, and running for their and their families’ lives.  I may not be very well-versed in foreign affairs or political gains, but I know human need when I see it. I am a Christian, after all.  It is a call second only to sharing the gospel for me to recognize and respond to the needs of others.

I try to see the other side of this thing.  I understand why people are afraid.  But all I can I keep thinking of is how disappointed I would be in my children if they were not willing to help each other.   I keep thinking of how proud I am of them for taking care of their sister when she needs assistance.  And then I look up at the news and I see a staunch unwillingness to serve people in desperate need in the name of self-preservation.

Isn’t that just like us?  It is me-first in the not so united kingdom we call the United States of America.  In the kingdom of God, however, it is what I say five times a day to my now living it out children – others first.

Do others have the potential to hurt us deeply despite our kindness toward them?  They do.  Might they take great advantage of our generosity?  They may.  Can they even go so far as to return evil for good?  They can.  Is there any way to ensure appreciation and reciprocation of the good we do to others when they are in need?  Absolutely not.  But that is not even a relevant argument when loving and serving people comes out of a wellspring of gratitude one has for Christ.  Get this, Christians.  We are not called to help others only when it is safe, convenient, cheap, or easy.  As David said, “…I will not make a sacrifice to the Lord which costs me nothing…”  My Bible says to love your enemies, do good to them, and pray for those who persecute you.  I cannot do that from behind a bullet-proof barricade in my basement.

Isolation is about control.  They only people who try to control uncontrollable circumstances are the fearful; the insecure; the deceived; the anxiety-ridden.

I understand the issues.  Really, I do.  I know fear, insecurity, anxiety, and uncertainty are real factors in the refugee refusal rhetoric.  The problem I see for we Christians, though, is that neither fear, nor insecurity, nor uncertainty, nor anxiety is an acceptable excuse to forsake and forego loving and serving those broken and needy Syrian somebodies whom God has placed bare-faced in front of us.

Risk, courage, and personal sacrifice are the very fabric of Christianity, and, in days past, Americanism.  King Jesus is our example.  He, who wielded the most power of any man who ever lived on earth, forsook that advantage in order to save the lost, hurting, and dying.  My God was willing to die for me and, from what his book says, I believe he expects me to be willing, if need be, to lay down my life for his good purposes.  Self-preservation is not an option when Christ is our Lord.

Some will hate, terrorize, and kill us despite our love toward them, that much is true.  Our job isn’t to figure out who those ones might be.  Our job is to love people on behalf of Christ.  Who knows who might repent and receive the gospel as a result.  If it just so happens to be at our expense, the Bible says that is a blessing for us.  The question is, do we really believe it?

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. ~Matthew 5:10-16

Read Full Post »


In Exodus 6, a genealogy is inserted betwixt the repeated story line.  Most likely, the reason is to identify Moses’ and Aaron’s ancestral line as being true descendants of Israel.  It is so we could make no mistake in knowing that these men are surely physical sons of father Abraham.

The text points to Aaron and Moses and says, “These are they…with whom I (God) spoke; whom I called to deliver my people Israel; to speak to Pharaoh.”  These are surely those guys.  The Moses and Aaron.

Interestingly, in the genealogy we find that Moses’ mother was named “Miriam” and Aaron’s wife was named “Elisheba.”  Miriam is the same as “Mary” and “Elisheba” is as Elizabeth — just like Jesus’ mother and John the Baptist’s mother.  The gospel (spiritual deliverance) is foreshadowed even right down to the names of these related women in this great story of physical deliverance.  I just think that’s really cool.

The chapter concludes by restating God’s charge to Moses to ask Pharaoh to let his people go and Moses’ misspeech that was rooted in objection and doubt.

Isn’t it just like God to show us first who we are in him, call us to serve in a specific way, and then show us how we have failed in the past?  The good news is that He doesn’t stop there.  The gospel always lingers in the backdrop.  No matter how much we fight and fuss, God continues to pursue us until we learn to walk in his will.  He uses conviction and offers forgiveness when we misspeak and mess up.  He reminds us of our mission and he makes us fit to work his miracles – as we will see with Moses beginning in chapter 7.

God doesn’t give up on his guys.  God always grows them until they get his grace and display his glory.

Read Full Post »


I have never been a helicopter mom.  I am more of a fly the helicopter yourself and I’ll be here watching just in case you crash it mom.  Whatever the polar opposite of overprotective is, that is what I am.  Free range mom, maybe?  I’m not sure what the proper term is these days.

Anyway, most moms worry too much.  If I could be accused of anything, it would likely be not worrying enough.  I give my kids a lot of responsibility – probably too much – and I hope for the best.  I believe there are but three building blocks in childhood education: reading, respect, and responsibility.  Of course there is the overarching foundation of spiritual truths which hold it all together.  Teach these things and you have a fighting chance of producing a respectful, responsible adult.  At least that’s my philosophy and my goal.

The truth is, our children generally become what we are – at least partly.

In one week I will begin the ninth month of my fourth pregnancy – an unlikely pregnancy, that is.  One that I’ve prayed and waited for.  One that was never supposed to be.

Nevertheless, here I stand right smack dab in the middle of God’s grace.  Still, I am apt to fear – free ranger and all.  Like I said, I am not one much for worry and I tend not to dwell on things out of my hands.  When it comes to a child – especially one never thought possible and nothing short of a miracle – the what if’s and the waiting sometimes seem to creep in, find a comfortable seat in the psyche, and overwhelm.

I have had three healthy pregnancies, three uncomplicated labors, and three beautifully healthy babies.  I guess I expected the same this time around.  But from thyroid issues to a (false?) positive birth defect screening to carpel tunnel to gestational diabetes – oh and let’s not forget that 70 pound weight gain – this one hasn’t been so non-eventful.  I find myself repeating the words of the physician’s assistant in my mind.

“The blood work you have five weeks ago showed your sugar was abnormally high.  Someone should have told you before this.  It’s hard to tell how long you’ve had gestational diabetes.  There is a chance the baby could be stillborn.  She may have undeveloped lungs and breathing problems.  She could be too large for natural delivery…”

While I still believe these things are unlikely, I find myself bracing for the worst.  I ask my husband my what if questions.  He quickly responds, “Whatever the Lord’s will is is good.  It will be ok.”

“Easy for him to say,” I think to myself, “He hasn’t carried this baby.  He hasn’t longed for her for years like me.  He probably doesn’t really understand.”  And in all my sinful worry, I fail to hear the truth.  I know he is right, but I am afraid of what his rightness might turn out looking like.  I am afraid to hope.  I don’t want to be surprised by the worst.  I want to be prepared.  I don’t want to be disappointed.  What I really want is control – control over circumstances in which I have no control.  I want to be sovereign.  I want to be god over my own life.  I know that cannot happen.  Even in all my non-policing mom-ish-ness, I am restless; agitated; fearful; faithless.

I need to pray.  Instead I pace.  I get up to write.  I lay down to rest.  I exercise.  I avoid.  Where is peace?  Generally I walk alone, but today I wake the mechanic and ask him to walk with me.  He gets up early and walks with me in the pouring rain.  His small talk calms me.  His willingness to sacrifice for me resets my thoughts.  His selfless love reflects my Savior’s and I rest.  He prays with me and I see Christ.  I lean on his faith and confidence in God’s will.  It is love that causes me to cease from sinful worry and unhelpful anxiety.  Love covers a multitude of sins.

Take note exasperated husbands and helicopter moms, herein lies peace.  Therefore, walk together.

Read Full Post »


God has miraculously called Moses and laid out his plan.  Moses has left his home and family, shared God’s words with the enslaved Israelites, and faced their powerful, oppressive opponent, Pharaoh.  So far, things have gone exactly how God said they would, yet Moses is already discouraged, questioning God, and accusing him of “doing evil.”

Although God had told Moses beforehand that Pharaoh would initially refuse to let Israel go, apparently Moses didn’t expect him to double the workload as a result.  Moses didn’t expect Israel, aka God’s people made up of his friends and family whom he was there to help, to turn on him when Pharaoh said, “No.”

These unexpected hardships have already broken Moses.  In chapter 6, God answers Moses’ prayers of exasperation and accusation with grace.

First, God reassures Moses that “he will see” what God is about to do.  He reminds Moses that Pharaoh is indeed going to let Israel go.  Next, God reminds Moses about who he is, what he has done, and what he is assuredly about to do.  God’s words to a discouraged and defeated leader are thus:

I am the Lord.  (6:2)

I made a promise to these people. (6:4)

I have heard their cries for help.  (6:5)

I have remembered my promise. (6:5)

Moses, tell them.  Tell them again that I am coming to bring them out of slavery.  Tell them I am the Lord.  Tell them I will deliver them.  Tell them I will redeem them.  Tell them I am choosing them – that I am their God and they are my people.  Tell them they will know me and I will keep my promise to them.

Wow.  This is some good news!  Especially for tired, burdened, oppressed slaves!

Moses obeys God.  He tells them again of God’s plan to rescue them.  But Israel did not listen.  They did not believe.  They were broken and bullied.  Hope is hard when you’ve been down as long as these guys.  Nevertheless, Matthew Henry warns us, “First, disconsolate spirits often put from themselves the comforts they are entitles to, and stand in their own light.  Secondly, passions oppose strong consolations.  By indulging ourselves in discontent and fretfulness, we deprive ourselves of the comfort we might have both from God’s word and from his providence, and must thank ourselves if we go comfortless.” 

With their unbelief and discouragement at his true and faithful words, again Moses is ready to despair.  How is Pharaoh going to listen to me if even my own people won’t?!  In this way, one discouragement begets another and Moses begins to follow Israel’s lead rather than Israel following his as would have been proper.  Matthew Henry has a good word concerning our leaders in this way: “The frowardness and untractableness of those that are called Christians greatly discourage ministers, and make them ready to despair of success in dealing with those that are atheistical and profane.”

How often the discouragement of hardships causes us to disbelieve God’s promises!  When the whole world is saying, “No” “Impossible” “Give up” it is extremely hard to believe God’s promises of “Yes” “All things are possible” “Don’t give up.”  But we must!  Because children of God walk by faith, not by sight.  Leaders for God walk by faith, not by sight.  Christians walk by faith, not by sight.

Children, Leaders, Christians, never forget –

He is the Lord – here called El-Shaddai – a God all sufficient; a God that is enough and will be so.

He has made a promise to us – his people.

He is not deaf to our prayers and needs.  He hears our cries for help.

He remembers his promise and will keep it.

Child, do not be discouraged.

Leader, do not be discouraged.

Christian, do not be discouraged.

Leader, tell them He is the Lord.  Tell them again that He is coming. Tell them He will deliver them.  Tell them He will redeem them.  Tell them He is choosing them – that He is their God and they are His people.  Tell them they will know Him and He will keep his promises to them.  Child, believe.  Christian, believe.

That’s the good news.  Do not be discouraged if they do not believe you at first.  Just make sure you believe God.  Be encouraged because we know how the story ends.

Read Full Post »


My ten year-old walks into the room with a smile.

“What happened to your hair, Mia?”

“I cut it.”


“I wanted to look like you.”

My heart smiles.

“You do look like me.  You looked like me before you did that.  You can’t not look me.  You are mine.  But your hair is crooked.”

“I know.  I tried.”

“I will fix it.  Next time ask me to help you please.”

I read Proverbs 31:10-31.

An excellent wife who can find?
    She is far more precious than jewels…She seeks wool and flax,
    and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
    she brings her food from afar…Strength and dignity are her clothing,
    and she laughs at the time to come…Her children rise up and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,
    but you surpass them all…”

I am the little girl holding scissors not meant to cut hair.  As my days begin I take to cutting.  Oh, how I long to look like her!  At day’s end I see only a crookedness when I face the mirror.  Another poor attempt to emulate her.

I study the exemplary woman with my husband.  He reminds me of my crookedness.  We fight about past failures.  I feel defeated.  I find my scissors and attempt to fix my long-lived faults once again.

I sit sewing and the antagonist whispers repeatedly, “What happened to you?”

“I tried to cut off what was ugly but I did it wrong.  I wanted to look like the woman in Proverbs 31.”


“I wanted to be like Jesus.”

He laughs at me.

“Your path isn’t straight at all.  Look back.  It’s crooked.”

I begin to cry knowing I am about to go and face her again; knowing she is all that I am not.  I want to close the book.  I want to forget what she looks like.  She is like the photo-shopped models on the magazine cover.  How can I ever become her, Lord?  Maybe the Enemy is right.  Maybe I don’t look anything like her.  Look at me.  I just wanted to be like her.  I wanted to be like you.  So often I’m nothing but a crooked mess.

His grace smiles on me.  He face shines on me.  He lifts up his countenance upon me and gives me peace.

“You do look like me.  You looked like me before you did that.  You can’t not look me.  You are mine.  But you have some crooked places.  I will fix it, child.   Do not worry.  Ask me for help.  You can’t do this by yourself.”

I wipe my tears and I go to hear more of her; to see more of her.  I hand him the scissors and I pray.

“Make my way straight.  I want to look like you.”

Read Full Post »


God had called Moses out of Midian, away from his family, and back to the place he’s run away from as a criminal refugee forty years earlier.  God has listened to Moses’ objections, dealt with his refusal, and answered his doubts.  Moses has spoken to his people, the Jews, about God’s plans to deliver them, and brought his brother, Aaron, on board with God’s orders.  Finally, in Exodus chapter 5, we find Moses and Aaron approaching Pharaoh and asking that God’s people, which just so happen to be their people, too, be given leave from their slave labor for three days.

Moses and Aaron tell Pharaoh – the most powerful ruler in the world at the time – that God himself wants them to hold a feast in the wilderness and then they’d be right back.

Consider that request for just a moment.  It is quite absurd when you think about it.  Imagine going to the highest authority you can possibly think of and telling him that God himself needs to “borrow” thousands of his subordinates – who just so happen to be all your friends and family – for a few days.  As a dictator set on accomplishing goals and dealing out work, are you really going to oblige these two nobodies?  Pharaoh’s reply is not at all surprising:

But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” ~Exodus 5:2

Who said I should let all my workers leave?  God?!  Um.  I don’t think so.  Why should I obey this so-called “God?”  I don’t know him.  No slaves are leaving their work.

God is just about to show Pharaoh exactly who he is, but first God’s prophets try to tell him.  Again, Moses and Aaron petition Pharaoh.  They warn, “…what if God sends pestilence or sword…” because of your disobedience to him?  All the while, they knew that that was exactly what God was about to do.

Still, not surprisingly, Pharaoh disregards them.  He accuses them of being lazy liars and trying to get out the Israelites out of work.  Flexing his worldly power in defiance, he sends his own plague upon them by failing to give straw to make bricks.  The leaders of the task were beaten for failing to produce the same amount of bricks as when they were given the straw.  The leaders went to Pharaoh crying “injustice” upon deaf ears.  Next, they went to Moses and Aaron, cursed them, and complained of the hardship their request to leave had brought.

Moses went back to God completely discouraged and doubtful.  He asks, “Why?”  “Why have you done evil, God?”  “Why did you send me, God?”  “You haven’t delivered anyone at all, God.”

Even though God had told Moses up front that Pharaoh would initially refuse him, Moses was unprepared for this seeming failure.  The world hit him with a blow he wasn’t expecting – no straw and beatings as a result of his request – and instead of blaming the evil ruler for his evil, he automatically defaults to blaming and accusing God of evil.


Moses understands God’s sovereignty.  He knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that God is in control of all things.  Therefore, evil dealt in response to his obedience to God – from both his enemies as well as his friends – is unbelievably difficult to understand – even when you’ve been told the future by God himself beforehand.

Been there, Moses.  I feel you.

What are we to do when our obedience to God is met with worldly injustice, evil treatment, pain, suffering, and even accusation from the very people we are seeking to help?

Moses asks why, accuses, and blames God.  These are the most human, natural responses, but they are what we ought not to do.  Instead, we must try to remember God’s plan and trust in him no matter what happens as a result of our obedience – and that’s scary.  It includes many unexpected hardships.  It requires an extra helping of courage and a great resolve to put away our natural instincts to duck and run from obedience to God when things go wrong.  If we find ourselves in this kind of situation, let us remember the words of Matthew Henry:

“What strange steps God sometimes takes in delivering his people; he often brings them to the utmost straits when he is just ready to appear for them.  The lowest ebbs go before the highest tides; and very cloudy mornings commonly introduce the fairest days.” 

Read Full Post »