Tomorrow is the American celebration of Thanksgiving. Like many holidays, we’ve come very far from the original intent of the pilgrim feast. It’s now a time to travel to one’s family, or to invite friends together to share an extravagant meal. For Christians, it is often seen as a time to give thanks to God for what He has done in the past year, a time to stop and consider the blessings that have come from His hand.


But there is a more basic aspect of the holiday that is often forgotten: the simple focus on God’s provision of a good harvest. The British refugees had arrived to a new land in late November, and suffered a harsh winter [half of those who had arrived on the Mayflower had died by spring]. As the pilgrims settled in, Native Americans shared seeds and fishing knowledge. As the first anniversary of their arrival approached, the pilgrims set aside a time to feast and give thanks for the crops and other food.

2012 10 6 nj nh ma fall usa 260

Now we live in an age of what I call ‘industrial food’. Storage and transportation and agribusiness separate us from the simple but profound miracle of God’s creation of fruits and vegetables and grains and meat. Bananas magically appear in our supermarkets regardless of what latitude we live on. A bad rice harvest in one part of the world is made up by a good harvest in another. Apples are sold in May as well as October, bred for long term storage. Still, food remains one of God’s greatest gifts to us–why else do we feel the urge to take pictures of special meals and post them on social media? Or watch hours of cooking shows?

2012 8 5 marseille 008

This Thanksgiving I want to pause and take some time to thank God for His amazing provision of food that has sustained me throughout this past year. As I do this, I have to resist the temptation to think it’s trivial to be thankful for strawberries and cheese. I need to remind myself that food is one of God’s great delights, and a precious sign of His eternal faithfulness to us. Instead of taking these gifts for granted, I want to become, as Jesus counseled, like a child, and shout, “Thank You, Lord, for giving us food!

I will thank Him, as my friend Edwina did one meal, for the beautiful colors on my plate. I will thank Him for mangoes and salmon, for ginger and pears, for hamburgers and pulled pork, for breakfast waffles and chocolate tarte, for milk and cream and butter, for eggs scrambled or fried or boiled, for barley and wheat germ, for blueberries and bacon, for corn and fresh-squeezed orange juice that tastes like sunshine. I will thank Him for the energy and nourishment these give to my body, for their delightful scents and aromas, for the pleasure of all the delicious tastes I savor, and for the incredible variety He gives us to enjoy. How wonderful are the edible works of our creative, good, and loving heavenly Father!

What foods are your favorites?

He waters the mountains from His upper chambers;
the land is satisfied by the fruit of His work.

5 29 11 el jadida 017

He makes grass grow for the cattle,

2011 8 22 ben selle wedding 197

and plants for people to cultivate—


bringing forth food from the earth:

2011 6 12 elc one 160

wine that gladdens human hearts,

2012 8 5 marseille 101

oil to make their faces shine,

2012 8 5 marseille 133

and bread that sustains their hearts.


Psalm 104:13-15

Speaking of hope

November 18, 2015 — Leave a comment

“Think of yourself as a seed patiently wintering in the earth; waiting to come up a flower in the Gardener’s good time, up into the real world, the real waking.”


“Without hope the heart would break.”


We who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
Hebrews 6:18-19


May He come down like rain upon the mown grass,
Like showers that water the earth.

Psalm 72:6

11 2 10 dawn and dew 038


Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23


They waited for Me as for the rain,
And opened their mouth as for the spring rain.

Job 29:23

Buried seeds

November 11, 2015 — Leave a comment

Until 15 years ago, I lived in a four-season climate. Every month there was precipitation of one kind or another: winter snow, spring showers, summer thunderstorms, autumn rain. Now I live in a Mediterranean climate with a very different pattern of seasons. For six months, from May to October, there is what I call ‘sumter’–summer and winter melted together. It’s hot like summer but without any New England green. Because once the rain stops in April, the land turns brown, just like a cold winter.

I find sumter the hardest in September and October, especially if I’ve travelled to green in the summer. I leave this:
And come back to see this:

It’s discouraging to go to the local park for my morning walk. The path is dry and dusty. The forest floor is barren and dull. Under the eucalyptus trees there is nothing but 50 shades of brown. I know that sumter won’t last forever, but it feels like it will never end.


And then the miracle happens. The rain returns. It pours for a few hours one day, and then another. Within a week, the park begins its transformation. Overnight, little blades of grass sprout in the triangles of dirt in front of the trees on the path. Shoots appear among the brown.

After two weeks, the change is complete. The interior has suddenly become a lush carpet of green.

All it took to transform the landscape of death was life-giving water.
2012 10 6 nj nh ma fall usa 332

The contrast is so stunning, it’s hard to believe that only seven days separate these two realities.

But perhaps the most amazing part of the change is that the potential was there all along. Nothing new was planted; the seeds were waiting patiently in the dry dirt the whole time. For six months, they were dead in the soil. Then the rain came and the water soaked down and softened the seed casings. That is all it took. They sprouted up, just like that.


It strikes me that there can be a similar cycle in our spiritual lives. Often we live in a spiritual drought, and seeds of hope and faith lay dormant in our heart. We live with a despair, or simply a deep discouragement over the way things are. The months and even years go on, and the landscape of our spirit looks the same as ever. It seems impossible that our lives will ever be different. The seeds buried in our hearts seem to have disappeared for good.


And then something happens. A soft spiritual rain begins to fall. The tiny seed of faith–no bigger than a mustard seed–is touched by living water. The hard protective shell becomes soft and then falls away. The seed sends down a shoot into the now-moist soil. A sprout of hope pokes up through our doubt and disbelief. Before long, death has been transformed into life. An old wound is healed. A relationship is reconciled. A debt is cancelled.


I need this vision of hope before me. I need to remember that drought, dryness, barrenness, even death are not permanent conditions. I need to remind myself that the rain will come, and when it does, the long-dormant seeds in my soil, seeds so long dry they look more like dust than containers of life, will spring up green, as if singing , “yes, this is what I was meant for.”
I need to cling to this hope no matter what. Because once the rain comes and the green grows and life returns, all my angst feels almost silly. Of course the rain will come again. Of course there is hope that God will work. But what if I had given up? What if I had thrown the seeds away? What if I had stopped listening to God? What if I had turned away?

  • Where are the areas of drought or deadness in your soul these days?
  • What seeds of hope do you need to hold on to?
  • As you wait, what encouragement can you draw from how has God been faithful to you in the past?
  • Where are new shoots coming in your heart?

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from God comes my salvation.

Psalm 62:1

A few months ago, I read a memoir of sorts, “Washed and Waiting” by Wesley Hill. I’ve called it the struggles of a saint, not because Hill is extraordinarily holy, but because saint means ‘one who is made holy’, and we, the beloved of God, made holy by Jesus, are called to be saints [Romans 1:7].


“The fresh start of the gospel is God’s Groundhog Day. Only everyone around us has a memory as well. And yet each day God gives me another chance. Each time each moment I come to God and ask forgiveness I am washed. There is never, ever, a refusal on his part.”


“Jenna described that dark time and told me something that has remained with me ever since: “I just wanted to be whole again, Wes, and I thought that by pretending it wasn’t there, the depression would just go away. But ignoring is not the path to redeeming. If I wanted this depression to be redeemed, I had to face it head-on.” I tried to swallow the lump in my throat, realizing those words were for me. Ignoring is not the path to redeeming.”


“Once Tara described an experience she had had while studying in England for a semester. She had been striving to understand and be what she thought she should understand and be. Finally one night, in a service at Coventry Cathedral, she relaxed and submitted to God’s wound-mending embrace. She felt that God loved her just as she was. I read Tara’s description of that night at Coventry several times, and I realized, with a cold, smarting sense of mingled sadness and helplessness, that I knew very little, firsthand, of what she was describing. My first thought as I got out of bed every morning was not, I am the beloved of God. I had not mastered the discipline, as N. T. Wright calls it, of looking to the cross of Christ and seeing evidence there that I am loved extravagantly and inexorably by the self-giving triune God.
…It has taken years for me to learn, bit by bit, this spiritual practice of meditating on the love of God and to understand that it is central to my struggle… I consciously began the daily effort to view myself as God’s beloved, redeemed by the self-gift of Christ.”


“When I cannot feel God’s love for me in my struggle, to have a friend grab my shoulder and say, “I love you, and I’m in this with you for the long haul” is, in some ways, an incarnation of God’s love that I would otherwise have trouble resting in.
…No longer was I simply struggling; I was learning to struggle well, with others, in the presence of God.”


“I’d suggest that living with unfulfilled desires is not the exception of the human experience but the rule. Even most of those who are married are, as Thoreau once said, “living lives of quiet regret.” Maybe they married the wrong person or have the pain of suffering within marriage or feel trapped in their situations and are unable to fulfill a higher sense of calling. The list of unfulfilled desires goes on and on.”


A friend said to Hill:
“Imagine yourself standing in the presence of God, looking down from heaven on the earthly life you’re about to be born into, and God says to you, ‘Wes, I’m going to send you into the world for sixty or seventy or eighty years. It will be hard. In fact, it will be more painful and confusing and distressing than you can now imagine. You will have a thorn in your flesh…that is the result of your entering a world that sin and death have broken, and you may wrestle with it all your life. But I will be with you. I will be watching every step you take, guiding you by My Spirit, supplying you with grace sufficient for each day.
And at the end of your journey, you will see My face again, and the joy we share then will be born out of the agonies you faithfully endured by the power I gave you. And no one will take that joy— that solid resurrection joy, which, if you experienced it right now, would crush you.’
God is the author of your story. He is watching, supplying you with his Spirit moment by moment.”

“…perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
G.K. Chesterton


“Real relationship takes place in reality, and the reality is that sometimes we will experience disconnection, silence, and confusion… We struggle with this notion because we have already adopted false presuppositions about how relationships should feel. We think that if we are not carried along by the euphoria of romantic love, then something is broken.

This belief, specifically about our relationship with God, is a kind of “prosperity gospel.” Prosperity gospels are not simply about receiving money (if you have faith then you will be wealthy), but can be prosperity gospels of excitement, experience, and “meaningful communication.” We expect God to give us the feeling we want in prayer, and if he doesn’t, we go searching for a way to resolve the problem. We demand an experience, and when God doesn’t play by our rules, we either blame him, question his presence, or we turn inward for ways to atone for our own sin (and therefore “buy back” excitement from God).”
Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel in “Beloved Dust”


“The tendency is to look for the marvelous in our experience; we mistake the sense of the heroic for being heroes. It is one thing to go through a crisis grandly, but another thing to go through every day glorifying God when there is no witness, no limelight, no one paying the remotest attention to us.”
Oswald Chambers

Ordinary time

October 21, 2015 — Leave a comment

Ordinary. It’s a word that for me comes with connotations of boring, even mediocre. Nothing special. Ho-hum.

In the liturgical calendar, that’s where we are now, smack in the middle of the long stretch between Pentecost and Advent. In our earthly life, vacations happens, the school year starts, and harvest-time arrives with brilliant colors [at least in the northeast of the United States]

2014 10 19 usa three foliage 2014-10-14 014

But life with Jesus can feel quieter and less spectacular during these days. We have no holidays, no celebrations or feasts. The weeks roll on, one after another. Routines which started off soft and malleable have turned into dry, uncomfortable ruts. We’re ready for a little excitement. Fireworks would be nice.

11 21 10 thai 4 loi krathong 051

Or a party. Music and dancing–that’s what we need. Anything but the same-old, same-old. We’re not even to the anticipation of Advent, that period of hopeful waiting that we trust will bring release. We feel stuck in the middle period, numb perhaps, not even suffering doubt or uncertainty.

an ordinary traffic jam

an ordinary traffic jam

When we read the gospels, life seems anything but ordinary. Healings and powerful preaching. Lives turned upside down and God’s kingdom come. The stories in the rest of the Bible aren’t that much different. We read of God’s spectacular work, His rescue and saving. There are stories of great failures too [try David for starters], usually followed by great grace.

What we don’t read about are the days of ordinary time. The tedium of habits, the long obedience. But they are there, hidden in the cracks of the story. “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.” [Luke 2:52] One sentence covers 18 silent years in Jesus’ life. The incarnate God who was born to angelic song and received visitors from afar went quiet, growing up in a small village of 50 houses, off the beaten track.

2014 4 5 En Route desert 133

An anonymous, unheralded life. Obscure and apparently unspectacular. Days lived in silent faithfulness.
Days of winter dryness without grass or beautiful wildflowers. Days without drama. Days without novelty. These are the days that Jesus knew. These are the days that the Father sees.


At this point, it’s hard to resist the urge to finish on a sparkly, spectacular note.

But another word comes to mind which describes this period of ordinary time:


A tree rooted in the soil–you can’t see it grow. Months, even years will go by and it seems like nothing is happening. But the tree is drawing its life from the soil, and responding to the warmth of the sunlight. It is alive: abiding, remaining.

2013 6 7 dublin ah 060

God is working behind the scenes for us. He is involved in our lives even if we are not aware of it. Our heavenly Father is always with us whether we feel His presence or not, because His love, deep and true, is not tied to how we feel about Him. In the midst of regular days and unremarkable hours, He is here, working His purposes.

vcca and lucy five 137

As the Father has loved me so I have loved you. Abide in my love.
John 15:7, 9

Ordinary days, rooted in love. Amen.

What God is doing

October 14, 2015 — Leave a comment

Along with reading the stories in scripture of how God has worked, I also find it encouraging to hear the stories of people who are living now. Reading memoirs is a wonderful way to see God being present with people in their struggles.

“Memoirs and autobiographies [give a] valuable kind of learning…not a definition of grace to be memorized, but the experience of grace as perceived through the window of another person’s life…”       Richard Lischer

Rose Marie [the mother of Paul Miller] grew up with a schizophrenic mother and began following Jesus as a teenager. But for many years, her life of faith was one of trying to control her circumstances and avoid painful memories as she describes in Nothing is Impossible:

“I kept God at a distance, building walls of self-protection and self-reliance. I said I was a Christian but my life said, “I can manage without God.” When crises came, the walls went higher. But there came a day when building walls did not work and I was left with, “I don’t believe God exists, or if He does exist, He is a dark cloud over my life— a cloud of fear, guilt, condemnation, and loneliness.” Into this dark cloud God spoke, not with an audible voice, but with life-giving words. God, for whom nothing really is impossible— not even changing a self-righteous, independent, desperately-trying-to-keep-it-all-together pastor’s wife— gave me Himself.”

Rose Marie is honest enough not to end her story there, in what sounds like a triumphant final victory. She continued to struggle, make mistakes, and fall back on using God:

“… when the youngest of the four rebelled and left home angry and bitter, eventually living with drug dealers, I realized that much of what I had done was motivated by wanting a perfect family that did not embarrass me. Her younger sister, our fifth child, was influenced by her and also went her own way. It was a very sad and humbling time. I had missed the fact that only God changes the heart. I was expecting all my work to do what only God can do.”

She continues her story to the present day, now in her 80s, working with women in London, and still discovering her never-ending need for God’s grace.


Joni and Ken tells the story of Joni Eareckson Tada and her husband Ken, and how once they were married it wasn’t quite ‘and they lived happily ever after.’ As the years went on, Ken became overwhelmed by caring constantly for Joni. As she lived in extreme, chronic pain, he sank into depression and emotionally they drifted away from each other. Eventually they found their way back to God and to each other.

“When I wake up an hour or two from now — and I know I will — please let me see You, feel You. I need You, Jesus! Let me know that You’re there and that You’re with me. You have said You will never fail me or forsake me. Please, Lord … may I sense that tonight at some point?”
Later that same night, when [Joni] woke up again, pain seemed to fill the whole room. The atmosphere was thick with it, like a heavy fog off Chesapeake Bay, with dark spirits darting in and out of the mist, taunting, jeering, whispering nonsense. More frighteningly, she could feel her lungs filling up.
She called Ken, and he came to her, stepping into the dim illumination of the bedside lamp. It was the third time that night she needed him, but there he was once again, so patient, so kind, so ready to help, deep love and concern written across every line of his face. He turned her body to another position, pushed on her abdomen, helped her blow her nose. Spoke words of quiet encouragement. Stroked her hair. Chased away the demons with words of prayer as he worked.
Suddenly, Joni turned her head and looked up at him, eyes wide with wonder. It took him by surprise. Was she hallucinating? What was she seeing? “You’re Him!” she said. “I … I don’t understand, Joni.” “Ken … you’re Him! You’re Jesus!” Fresh tears began to flow, and he dabbed them from her face with a tissue. “I’m not kidding. I can feel His touch when you touch me. I can see Him in your smile. I can hear Him in the tone of your voice . Right now! I mean it,” she said with a sob. “This is what I prayed for. You are Jesus!”

“Jesus had never said, “I am the power cord; you are the iPhone.” He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches.” If [Joni] wanted that life — and she did — there couldn’t be any disconnect. Abiding was what desperate people did who realized they had no life, no power, no resource within themselves.”


Life Lessons from the Hiding Place might be better titled, “Life Lessons after the Hiding Place” because it is the story of Corrie Ten Boom’s life after she was released from the concentration camp. She faced a life without much hope: she was a single 52-year-old woman, who had suffered the loss of her father and sister, and who now faced the challenge of making a new life in war-ravaged Europe while sensing a call to continue what she had been doing before the war: sharing the love of Jesus, and telling how He had ministered to her in the concentration camp.

“As Corrie recounted [her experience], one of the neighbors said, “I am sure it was your faith that carried you through.”
“My faith? I don’t know about that,” replied Corrie. “My faith was so weak, so unstable. It was hard to have faith. When a person is in a safe environment, having faith is easier. But in that camp when I saw my own sister and thousands of others starve to death, where I was surrounded by men and women who had training in cruelty, then I do not think it was my faith that helped me through. No, it was Jesus! He who said, ‘I am with you until the end of the world.’ It was His eternal arms that carried me through. He was my certainty.
“If I tell you that it was my faith, you might say if you have to go through suffering, ‘I don’t have Corrie ten Boom’s faith.’ But if I tell you it was Jesus, then you can trust that He who helped me through will do the same for you. I have always believed it, but now I know from my own experience that His light is stronger than the deepest darkness.”

Other memoirs I’ve posted about in the past:
Rich Mullins: Like an Arrow Pointing to Heaven

Little Black Sheep by Ashley Cleveland

Isobel Kuhn Omnibus

What memoirs would you recommend?

“I am struck by the reason given for Israel’s frequent slides into idolatry. We are told that, over and over, they forgot what God had done for them, and began to worship other gods.
Doesn’t it seem strange that turning away from God is blamed on a failure of memory? What about, “The children of Israel found the worship of a fertility goddess more interesting”? Or, “The children of Israel got tired of traveling all the way to Shiloh to worship the Lord, and longed for the convenience of an Ashera pole”?
But no, the Bible tells us they strayed because they forgot. Without the bright truth of Yahweh’s covenant before them, the prevailing beliefs of their time must have seemed reasonable, even practical.
I believe God knew this would be a struggle for His people, and that’s why so many of Israel’s faith traditions – the feasts, the fasts, the tassels, and tefillin – are devoted to remembering. It is why we were given Holy Communion, and the reason behind many of our Christian holidays.”
James Witmer


“Memory is one of the highest powers in our nature. By it day is linked to day, the unity of life through all our years is kept up, and we know that we are still ourselves. In the spiritual life, recollection is of infinite value.”
Andrew Murray


Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
Joshua 4:4-7


blog 038

“Like the Israelites, we could collect stones–small ones, that is–for each item of thanks that we listed in our prayer journal. We could put them in a glass jar that could be left out in plain view. Every day we would see it and remember what God had done for us. So I bought a set of jars, and we started filling them.” from Our stone jar

Post it: God at work

September 30, 2015 — 2 Comments

The humble post-it played a supporting role in a movie I recently saw, “Still Alice”, about a college professor who develops early-onset Alzheimer’s. To help jog her memory, Alice begins to post reminders to herself around the house, particularly in the kitchen and the bedroom where she will be sure to see them. Those reminders are themselves a poignant reminder–they show how important our memory is in the daily routine of our lives.


A few weeks later, I visited a church that had just finished a week of VBS for kids [does everyone know that acronym for Vacation Bible School?]. On both sides of the church, long sheets of white paper were hung up, covered in colorful post-its.


The youth pastor explained that the post-its were God-sightings from the week. Any time someone saw or experienced God at work, they made a note on a post-it and put it on the roll of paper. Now on Sunday the entire congregation was able to see the evidence of God’s presence and care.

I don’t know how long the church will leave up these sheets plastered with bits of testimonies, but I hope it’s longer than a week. With the start of school, and the pace of life returning to a faster hum, it’s a challenge to stop and take the time to consider the grace and faithfulness of God that is at work in our daily lives.

We run the risk of developing what Pope Francis calls “spiritual Alzheimer’s”, ‘a progressive decline of spiritual faculties where people forget their personal history with the Lord and lose their memory of the ‘first love’ of their encounter with Him.’

In the daily press of activity, it may not seem so crucial to remember what God has done. But when trouble comes, being able to remember His care and how He has worked in the past becomes vital. It encourages us to know that He is continuing to work, even if we aren’t aware of it yet.

03-17 Lucy and Mimi 176

That’s what the psalmist did during a time of great distress when he felt abandoned and his soul would not be comforted.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
…Has His unfailing love vanished forever?
Has His promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has He in anger withheld His compassion?”
Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out His right hand.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all Your works
and meditate on all Your mighty deeds.”

Psalm 77:6-12

I think it’s significant that the deeds of the Lord which the Psalmist remember were not limited to events he experienced personally. Since we belong to a world-wide and historical communion of faith, learning about what God has done and is doing in the lives of others is just as important as what He is doing in our individual lives. That’s why it was a blessing for me to see the wall of God-sightings at the church. I was encouraged to witness all the different people who had been touched by His grace in a single week.


Not all the notes were about spectacular sightings. Sometimes, God works in a big way, doing a miracle like parting the Red Sea. Other times, we see a sign of His gentle faithfulness, like a hand on someone’s shoulder, or the simple beauty of a wildflower. IMG_5598
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
Matthew 6:28-30

A few God-sightings from my life recently include:
*Driving up a big hill just as a family from church was walking, so I could give them a ride

*Reading about how You have worked in a woman’s life here

*Listening to a friend share about how to draw closer to You

*Hearing gospel music playing at the vegetable stand

Where have you seen God at work in your world this week?
How do you want to make note of them?

IMG_1602 - Copy

Whether it is watching the news or walking through our neighborhood, we see the plight of hurting and needy people. This prayer expresses the heart-cry that wells up in us, and reminds us that God sees and God knows.
“Ever-watching Father:
we pray for the suffering children whom we do not see.
We know that your eyes see their tears,
that your heart knows their sorrow,
that your hands can reach them now.
We remember that Jesus was once a child,
that poverty stole his bread,
that tyrants sought his life,
that his mother tasted tears.


We ask you to send friends for the lonely,
food for the hungry,
medicine for the sick,
saviors for the enslaved,
rescue for the perishing.

refugee camp 004
Give us the wisdom to do our part,
share our possessions,
leave our comforts,
lend them our voice,
send them our food,
love them with more than prayers.
We call on you in the name of your child Jesus.
Tony Kummer

“We live on borrowed breath. We are alive in the most profound sense of the word–filled with the very breath that spoke creation into being. God looks upon humanity’s frame of dust and say, “I formed you, I love you, and I delight in you.” We are beloved dust.”
Jamin Groggin and Kyle Stroebel in “Beloved Dust”


“We must understand that God does not “love” us without liking us – through gritted teeth – as “Christian” love is sometimes thought to do. Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it. The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural outflow of what he is to the core – which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word “love”.”
Dallas Willard in “The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God”


“A person greatly beloved.” Daniel 10:11
  “Child of God, do you hesitate to appropriate this title? Ah! has your unbelief made you forget that you are greatly beloved too?… You were called by grace and led to a Savior, and made a child of God and an heir of heaven. All this proves, does it not, a very great and superabounding love?
Since that time, whether your path has been rough with troubles, or smooth with mercies, it has been full of proofs that you are a person greatly beloved. .. … Come boldly, O believer, for despite the whisperings of Satan and the doubtings of your own heart, you are greatly beloved.”
Charles Spurgeon

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
Psalm 42:1
2013 6 9  432
There’s a short video* going around that shows how powerful our words and actions can be on the people we interact with during the day. Based on the children’s book, “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” by Carol McCloud,* it illustrates the simple truth that we can build someone up with affirming words or tear them down with unkind words.

It’s a lesson even a kindergartener understands. An impatient word can suck the life out of me; an encouraging word brings a lightness to my heart that can last the whole day.

cjs 2 111

After I watched the video clip, I realized that’s one reason why I need and want to spend time with God. As I read His Word, He tells me how He cares for me. When I listen to Him, I’m getting my bucket filled. My cup overflows. And because my bucket leaks [thanks in part to the accuser who takes delight in saying bad things about me], I need to hear from my Father every day.

Do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand
Isaiah 41:10

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
” Isaiah 46:4

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands;
your walls are ever before Me.

Isaiah 49:15-16

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

Jeremiah 31:3


“The Lord your God is with you, He is might to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

Your sins are forgiven…
Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Luke 7:48, 50

“Why are you troubled and why do doubts rise in your minds?
Look at My hands and My feet.
It is I myself!
Touch Me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.

Luke 24:38-39

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through Him.
” John 3:17

Hope does not disappoint us,
because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit,
who He has given us.”
Romans 5:5

Which one of these blessings is God speaking to you today?

With whom can you share His encouragement?

cjs 2 109

Video clip on how to be someone who fills buckets

Have you filled a bucket today?

The following quotes are from “How to Really Love Your Grandchild” by Ross Campbell. [If you substitute ‘person’ for ‘child’, you’ll see how these principles apply not only to children, but to any person in your life.]

“The question before us is whether children fully receive the love that is there. The world throws into place many obstacles that can keep children from feeling the love they must have…A child stands in the confusion and wonders, Where is the place for me? What will happen to me? Am I loved?
…always be asking yourself these questions: Does this child feel profoundly, unconditionally loved? When and how can I express my love and support for this child again?”


“Sydney J. Harris said, ‘Love that is not expressed in loving action does not really exist, just as talent that does not express itself in creative works does not exist; neither of these is a state of mind or feeling, but an activity, or it is a myth.’
Love is primarily active, something that must be experienced. That’s true for all of us. But it is truer for children than we can begin to imagine. Children do not think conceptually, as adults do. They don’t grasp love as an abstract idea; they grasp it as a personal experience.”


“Children (much like the rest of us) have emotional tanks that must be filled. They need love, acceptance and security to live and function well. At regular intervals, someone must fill that tank. You and I certainly need reassurance from time to time; we cannot live without the expression of love. But we can go a bit farther and for a longer time than children. Think of a child’s tank as small, running through its “fuel” rather rapidly and needing more. Therefore, several times a day, (the child]) should receive your love in some way. A warm smile and a hug count as a trip to the emotional “filling station.” A warm, encouraging word is more fuel for their tank.”


“The truth is that gifts, nice as they may be, are never a substitute for genuine love. They can’t fill the emotional tank in the way that eye contact, touch and focused time can do. I think it’s wonderful that God created love to be a free thing, something that anyone in the world can give. No one need ever spend a cent, yet he or she can give love lavishly and to overflowing. Emotional needs, you see, require emotional solutions. The only gift you can give (a child) that makes a difference is yourself, and that’s measured not in dollars and cents but in hours and minutes, and the genuine proof that these children matter more to us than anything else.”

Because the world is a broken place, filled with broken people, it’s not easy being a child. Other children, tired and pressured adults, unhappy siblings–just about anyone a child relates to can be a source of tension and anxiety.

But the reverse can be true as well. Every time we interact with a child, we have the opportunity to make a positive difference in his or her life. And “How to Really Love Your Child” is a kind of primer on how we can best do that, applicable to anyone who relates to children, not just parents. If you have a child or a grandchild, a niece or a nephew, or even a child you interact with regularly in your neighborhood or church, you will find this book helpful.

how to really love your child

I read this* while on vacation with five children and found it immediately practical. The insights are clear yet very profound. It only took me a few hours to read the book but I reflected on it for several days and discussed some of the ideas with the other adults.

wonderful Vermont beach

wonderful Vermont beach

The chapters that were especially helpful for me were on the love a child needs and the anger a child expresses. The first reminded me how vital it is for a child to feel loved unconditionally.
“There is no way to over-love a child; none of us, for that matter, can ever receive too much genuine love. Children need so much of it…”
In the press of daily life, it is so easy to forget or overlook this. A child constantly needs to experience love in action.

The second reminded me that at times, when a child is angry, he or she is not always so easy to love. Campbell gives some real-world advice on being with a child who is whining or crying (which as we know happens just about any time you are with a child!), It was comforting to read that some of my impatience in those situations is normal and yet can be overcome.

a peaceful moment playing together perfectly

a peaceful moment playing together

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
Mark 10:13-16

Lucy & Clara MFA, Franks & Littletons 116

Who are the children in your life?
What can you do to love them this week?

I read the “How to Really Love Your Grandchild” version–and have a loanable Kindle copy if you are interested.

A nice companion to Campbell’s book is “Finding Home: An Imperfect Path to Faith and Family” by Jim Daly. This memoir is a powerful story about how love and its absence can affect a child, and how a loving adult can make a difference to a child.

From “When Sorry Isn’t Enough” by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas:

“When we apologize, we accept responsibility for our behavior, seeking to make amends with the person who was offended. Genuine apology opens the door to the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation. Then we can continue to build the relationship. Without apology, the offense sits as a barrier, and the quality of the relationship is diminished. Good relationships are always marked by a willingness to apologize, forgive, and reconcile.”


On repenting:
Another “step down the road of repentance is implementing the plan. A plan that is not implemented is like a seed that is not planted. Making the plan work requires thought and action. I have often found it helpful to write on an index card the changes I am trying to implement and to post them on the mirror where I shave in the mornings. It is a way of keeping them on the front burner of my mind. I am more likely to make the changes if I am consciously aware of what I am trying to do differently today.”


On asking for forgiveness:
“When an offense occurs, immediately it creates an emotional barrier between two people. Until that barrier is removed, the relationship cannot go forward. An apology is an attempt to remove the barrier. If you discover that the person’s primary apology language is requesting forgiveness, then this is the surest way of removing the barrier. To that person, this is what indicates that you genuinely want to see the relationship restored.
“A second reason that requesting forgiveness is important is that it shows that you realize you have done something wrong—that you have offended the other person, intentionally or unintentionally. What you said or did may not have been morally wrong. You may even have done or said it in jest. But it offended the other person. He or she now holds it against you. It is an offense that has created a rift between the two of you. In that sense it is wrong, and requesting forgiveness is in order, especially if this is the person’s primary apology language.”

Summer comes with many benefits: more time to relax, travel, go to the beach, or simply enjoy the sunshine outside on the deck or porch or terrace or in a park. This can also mean more time to read a good book and this month I’ll be sharing a few five-star recommendations from my summer reading. I’ve called this mini round-up “Beach reading for the soul” even though the two books don’t directly address our relationship with God. Instead, they focus on our relationships with other people–which is also a key aspect of our soul. Six of the Ten Commandments, and the second great commandment of Jesus deal with how we relate to those around us. Following Jesus includes loving the people in our lives, and these two books help us as we seek to become more like Him who loves perfectly.

The first book is “When Sorry Isn’t Enough” by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas.

chapman cover

Here are a few questions that will help you decide whether you want to read this life-changing book:
*Have you ever needed to apologize to someone?
*Has someone ever needed to apologize to you?
*Have you ever apologized to someone but your apology didn’t seem to make a difference to the person?
*Has someone ever apologized to you but it didn’t seem adequate to you?
Yes? Then this is the book for you.

Following his Five Love Languages approach, Chapman and his co-author Thomas discuss five different styles of apologizing:
* “I’m sorry”
* “I was wrong”
* Restitution
* Repentance
* Asking for forgiveness

Now that you know the five styles, you might be tempted to think you don’t really need to read the book. However, as we are all aware, just because we know something doesn’t mean we put it into practice. And our knowledge tends to be me-focused. I know what works for me, and I generally think that should be true for everyone else too. I often fail to take into account that other people are wired very differently and have different needs.

That’s one reason why this book is so profound. As Chapman showed with the five love languages, if you really want to affect the other person, you need to understand how best to communicate with them. Whether you are trying to express love or trying to apologize, you can end up wondering why the other person doesn’t appreciate your efforts. It’s like talking in Chinese to someone who is fluent in Arabic. A lot will get lost in translation.

The book comes with a form you can fill in to discover your own apology language[s]. There’s also a free online version available [see link below]. I’d definitely recommend doing this. Answering the questions helped me gain greater understanding of how the different apology approaches can effect different people.

Another valuable part of the book is all the powerful real-life stories of people who have wrestled with apology and being reconciled. It’s very helpful to read how other people have struggled to deal with the hurts and offenses that are bound to come into relationships. The material also gave me fresh insight into my relationships. In one case, it prompted me to apologize to someone for what I had done decades ago. The person and I have had a great relationship for some time now, but my apology made a real difference to them and it brought us even closer.

Along with the great examples, each apology style comes with a list of specifics statements you can use when you apologize. For example:
“‘I’m sorry that I was so insensitive. I am sorry that I violated your trust. I’ve created a roadblock in our relationship that I want to remove. I understand that even after I apologize, it may take awhile for you to venture down the road of trust with me again.'”

I found having these written down in black and white was a real help. Just as we need to practice speaking a foreign language, we may have to spend some time practicing how to apologize. There’s also a very helpful list of what *not* to say when apologizing.

I read the book on the plane as I traveled to the states.


As we flew over the ocean, I was reminded of God’s approach to forgiveness:
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:12

And outside my window was an illustration of how He loves us:


For Your unfailing love is as high as the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Psalm 57:10

The book is an easy read. I finished it well before we landed. But I’m going to be applying it for the rest of my life. As the parable of the unmerciful servant teaches, if I am going to follow Jesus, I need to practice giving and receiving forgiveness. The book is an indispensable resource for that and I’d recommend it everyone.

Take the free online apology profile here

“To materialists this world is opaque like a curtain; nothing can be seen through it.
A mountain is just a mountain, a sunset just a sunset;
but to poets, artists, and saints,
the world is transparent like a window pane––it tells of something beyond…
a mountain tells of the Power of God, the sunset of His Beauty, and the snowflake of His Purity.”
Bishop Fulton Sheen


“You say grace before meals. All right.
But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime,
and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing,
walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”
G. K. Chesterton



For if we have no real interest in praising Him, it shows that we have never realized who He is.
For when one becomes conscious of who God really is, and when one realized that He who is Almighty, and infinitely Holy, has ‘done great things to us,’
the only possible reaction is the cry of half-articulate exultation
that bursts from the depths of our being in amazement at the tremendous, inexplicable goodness of God to men.
Thomas Merton



“…to receive it and to recognize its divine source are a single experience.
This heavenly fruit [like a peach] is instantly redolent of the orchard where it grew.
This sweet air whispers of the country from whence it blows.
It is a message. We know we are being touched
by a finger of that right hand at which there are pleasures for evermore.”

2011 9 13 usa three 090


For several years now, every morning I spend a few minutes writing down things I am thankful for. I don’t find it difficult to come up with a half dozen or more every day. The items range from the profound like how God is working in my life to the mundane like enjoying a good box of chocolates.

2 27 11 chocolate 40

But today I remembered that making a note of what I’m thankful for isn’t the same as actually giving thanks to the Giver for these gifts. I may spend a few moments appreciating the delights of Massachusetts ice cream or a friend’s invitation to go walking. But I’m forgetting to consider that my gracious Father has given these delights to me.



And in that forgetting, I’m missing out on another gift. For when I do take another moment or two and pause to say ‘thank you’ to the One who has given me such rich gifts, I’m reminding myself that God loves me. He has not only created me, He sustains me with the commonplace and the spectacular.


If I find a box of the world’s finest chocolates at a rest stop, I will certainly be thankful for the unexpected treat. But how much more I will enjoy them if a friend, knowing how much I like chocolate, gives me a box , and perhaps includes a thoughtful note with it. When I take a bite, I am not just appreciating the wonderful taste. I’m also feeling loved.

2011 6 12 elc one 243

C.S .Lewis knew this and wrote:

“One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun. If I could always be what I aim at being, no pleasure would be too ordinary or too usual for such reception; from the first taste of the air when I look out of the window…down to one’s soft slippers at bed-time…These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’ in the woods of our experience.”

2015 3 7 rabat jardins exotique 2015-03-05 031

My long list of thanks is a display of my Father’s love and faithfulness to me, as well as His power, creativity, and abundance. The gifts He gives show that He is thinking of me. They express His care for me. And they tell me something of His character. Yes the gifts are wonderful, but how much more the Giver.


Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, Your justice like the great deep.
You, Lord, preserve both people and animals. How priceless is Your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house; You give them drink from Your river of delights.
For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.

Psalm 36:5-9


What gifts have you been given by Giver this week?
How do they express His love and care for you?

From Bill Gaultiere:
“The Psalmist prophesied, “[The Lord] raised up for his people a horn [the Christ], the praise of… the people close to his heart” (Psalm 148:14). I read this and my heart melts within me… “The people close to his heart.” I am close to the Lord’s heart! In Christ God draws close to me, to love me — even now in this moment. I belong to the Lord! So do you!
Jesus said, “Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; abide in my love” (John 15;9). Abide. Eleven times in his gospel John described our intimacy with Jesus as abiding. What does it mean to abide in Christ?

Abiding is Affectionate
Some Bible teachers want to reduce abiding to obeying the Lord’s commands…but obedience is more the outcome of abiding rather than the essence of it…Abiding in Jesus is a way of relating and being with him, remaining in his love continually. Abiding is “intimate and organic” (John 15:5, MSG).

…Our primary identity is not what we do — it’s our abiding in Jesus. This is a revolutionary statement with deep spiritual and psychological implications for our identity, well-being, and way of life.

With John we can say, “I am the disciple Jesus loves!”… (John 13:23 and 26; 20:2; 21:7 and 20.) We can learn to live in greater intimacy with Jesus — at first, just for moments, but as we grow in God’s grace it becomes more our way of being so that as we do whatever we’re doing we’re abiding in Jesus and the Father, finding our support, significance, and strength as we lean on Jesus’ chest.”
Bill Gaultiere writing at Soul Shepherding

je te fiancerai icon jesus john

If you’d like to read Paul Miller on love, he’s written two books. The first, Love Walked Among Us, focuses on Jesus [and covers some of the same material as the Love Course]. His second book, A Loving Life, looks at love in the life of Ruth. Here’s a little taste of each:

“When I think of how Jesus loved people, the word “cherish” comes to mind. When we cherish someone, we combine looking and compassion—we notice and care for that person. We don’t shut him or her out… Love begins with looking…The Samaritan sees a person. The priest and the Levite see a problem. They are too distracted, preoccupied, or agenda-driven to identify with him.”
Paul Miller in Love Walked Among Us


“Jesus’ life doesn’t give us a love formula. Religion and pop psychology often reduce love to specific behaviors, thus simplifying love so we don’t have to work at it. We like clarity. ‘Just tell me what to do.’ But Jesus deals with people as they are.”
Paul Miller in Love Walked Among Us


“You endure the weight of love by being rooted in God. Your life energy needs to come from God, not the person you are loving. The more difficult the situation, the more you are forced into utter dependence on God. That is the crucible of love, where self-confidence and pride are stripped away, because you simply do not have the power or wisdom or ability in yourself to love. You know without a shadow of a doubt that you can’t love. That is the beginning of faith—knowing you can’t love. Faith is the power for love. ”
Paul Miller in “A Loving Life”

Review of Love Walked Among Us
Review of A Loving Life