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Spirit speaks–All Sons and Daughters 
“Your Spirit speaks, it moves in me
And I’m awakened to Your love
You’re drawing me onto my knees
And I’m astounded by Your love

You spoke life into my lungs
You are the air I breathe
You are the air I breathe
Still You move inside of me
You are the song I sing

You are the song I sing, Jesus
You cover me with arms that reach
And I’m amazed by Your sweet grace
You set me free, You washed me clean

And I’m forgiven by Your grace
You spoke life into my lungs
You are the air I breathe
You are the air I breathe

Still You move inside of me
You are the song I sing
You are the song I sing, Jesus
With every breath I breathe

With every song I sing
I want to shout it out
Lord I am listening
To every word You speak
I’ll go where You will lead
To love the least of these
My greatest offering”
All Sons and Daughters

“Through Your own merciful dealings with me,
O Lord my God,
tell me what You are to me.
Say to my soul,
I am your salvation.
Say it so that I can hear it.
My heart is listening, Lord;
open the ears of my heart
and say to my soul,
I am your salvation.

Let me run toward this voice
and seize hold of You.
Do not hide Your face from me:
let me die so that I may see it,
for not to see it would be death to me indeed.”
Saint Augustine

“The human mind is perpetually busy trying to control things, trying to figure things out, 

clinging to the latest idea, 

grasping at the nearest straw.

 It works very hard trying to make sense of things by endlessly seeking to put everything into categories and boxes and systems of thought. 

Sometimes even God himself gets relegated to a category or a box in my mind rather than being free to be God in my life. 

It seems that my mind will go to great lengths to fix things, control things and defend against anything that would disrupt my carefully fully constructed equilibrium…

It’s not that the mind is bad; it’s just very limited in its capacity to move us toward the union with God that we seek. The intellect can set the stage but cannot provide the drama of true encounter. 

Our experience with human relationships tells us this: thinking about someone one is not the same thing as being in their presence. Knowing facts about someone, studying the details of their life, admiring them from afar is not the same as being in relationship with them or allowing oneself to fall in love.” Ruth Haley Barton in “Invitation to Silence ”

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I was struck as I read this: “Relationships develop when people spend time together. Spending time with God ought to be the essence of prayer. However, as it is usually practiced, prayer is more like a series of email or instant messages than hanging out together. Often it involves more talking than listening. It should not be a surprise that the result is a superficial relationship.”                        from “The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery” by David G. Benner

Life *is* busy. And just like my body can survive on fast food, my soul can survive on prayer texts and email messages.

But God is looking forward to a long conversation with me–one that will take more than a few minutes grabbed on the fly, and one where my attention is not so distracted that I never get around to actually having a dialogue with Him about what is really on my heart. 

Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me. John 15:4

Come away My beloved…

I don’t share the following quote lightly. The next few days are some of the busiest of the year for me. But this encourages me to find and take the time in the midst of serving and participating, to do the one thing I need to do.

“It is tempting to always keep busy; there’s so much to do and there are so many in need.
But the point of all this running around is to support the real work of life.
“You are anxious and worried about many things,” Jesus once told Martha, who was “burdened with much serving.” And then he said, “There is need of only one thing.” Mary, Martha’s sister, instead sat at his feet, and today she washes them with oil.
It’s not easy to know how to direct our energies, but if our busy lives, even lived in service to others, never allow us to stop and be with the ones we love, then our purpose is defeated.
It is Holy Week, a time for contemplation. So take a break from much serving and find the one thing that is most needed.”
Amy Andrews in “A Book of Grace-filled Days”

Preparing to prepare

November 28, 2016 — Leave a comment

Advent is a time of waiting and preparing. I tend to plunge into it thoughtlessly, in the post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas rush. So I found a reflection on preparing for Advent at Creighton University’s Online Ministries very helpful.

I’d encourage you to read the whole piece. Here’s a taste of it:

There is “a time of emotional complexity that is part of this holiday season – with all of the expectations and challenges of family and relationships:  who we want to be with and who we struggle to be with. So, our hearts are a bit tender, if not completely defended from experiencing anything deeply.”


“We will re-enter the ancient tradition of a people longing for the coming of a Savior…we have to ask ourselves: “What is it I long for now?”  The answer won’t come easily.  The more we walk around with that question, and let it penetrate through the layers of distraction and self-protection, the more powerfully we will experience Advent.”


“These are very precious days to come into intimate contact with our own need for salvation.  It is a time to make friends with our tears, our darkness, our hunger and thirst. 
What is missing? 
What eludes my grasp? 
What name can I give to the “restlessness” in my heart? 
What is the emptiness I keep trying to “feed” with food, with fantasy, with excitement, with busyness? 
What is the conflict that is “eating at me”? 
What is the sinful, unloving, self-centered pattern for which I haven’t asked for forgiveness and healing? 
Where do I need a peace that the world cannot give?

Coming to know where I need a Savior is how I can prepare for Advent”

from “Preparing for Advent” Creighton University’s Online Ministries



Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

Isaiah 35:5-7

This year, setting aside time to reflect on the season of Lent and its practice of denial strikes me as unnecessary. Another year, I’ll probably have the time and the need to consider the mysteries of Lent. But for now I find plenty of opportunities for renunciation as I walk the path before me one step at a time, without making an interior pilgrimage, or rooting around in my soul.

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Every day I’m presented with the invitation of Jesus to take up my cross.

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And every day this same Jesus who is gentle and humble, invites me to put on His easy yoke, to drink the living water He offers me,

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and to be nourished by Him, the Bread of life.

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As I keep on this sometimes ragged, and often less-than-glorious journey, three quotes about God’s invitation have spoken to my heart.

The invitation to let go of my complaints and trust His safe embrace:
“ Jesus.. says, ‘Let go of your complaints, forgive those who loved you poorly, step over your feelings of being rejected, and have the courage to trust that you won’t fall into an abyss of nothingness but into the safe embrace of a God whose love will heal all your wounds.”
Henri Nouwen

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The invitation to listen:
“The first service one owes to others in the community involves listening to them. Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them. God’s love for us is shown by the fact that God not only gives us His Word, but also lends us His ear.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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And the invitation to a full life in the emptiest of places:
“If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.

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I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.


You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.”

Isaiah 58:9-11 The Message

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This is the journey, day by day, step by step on the dusty road of life.2013 2 22 dkej rabat volubolis meknes fes 262

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.

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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?

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
Psalm 42:1
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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.

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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?

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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.”

Time to set the table

June 17, 2015 — 1 Comment

He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.

Psalm 23:2-3

Bushwacking up a steep mountain isn’t easy. As I climb, I need to stop and rest. I need to eat and drink. I’m not a robot; my body is alive and I have to get rest and refreshment.


My soul isn’t any different. Living in this broken, fallen world is like climbing a high peak. The path is hard, difficult, and painful. Before too long, my soul becomes weary, beaten, discouraged.

And just as my body isn’t designed to go without food or drink or rest, my soul isn’t designed to go without spiritual refreshment. I’m not a robot. My soul is alive. I need to spend time with God to restore my soul. I need to drink His living water. I need to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’.

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But as we all know in this fast food age, it’s possible to “eat on the run”, get “take-out” or “a quick bite to eat”, wolf down an energy bar, or drink a meal replacement–all concepts that didn’t exist one hundred years ago. My body really doesn’t care how I get my calories. However I care. I don’t find it enjoyable to “grab and go”.

"Nutrition for sustainable energy"--how appetizing does that sound?

“Nutrition for sustainable energy”–how appetizing does that sound?

A good meal at a nice table with a loving friend–that satisfies me in a way a power bar doesn’t.
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When I take the time to set the table with a tablecloth, napkins, silverware, dishes and maybe candles and fresh flowers, it makes a difference. The very act of setting the table focuses me. It helps create a peaceful and calm atmosphere. It signals that the meal will not just be a quick pit stop to refuel my tank.

The same thing is true when I take the time to stop and focus as I meet with God to restore my soul.

I have calmed and quieted myself, like a little child on its mother’s lap.
Psalm 131:2

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Recently, I’ve started lighting two candles at the beginning of my time with God. I had heard of this suggestion before but I never thought I’d be a candle person [but then I never thought I’d be a prayer walk person either!]. At Seven Fountains I bought two candle holders that had been made by prisoners. I like the reminder that there are two of us meeting together, God and me. And the act of lighting the candles is a signal that it is time to be still. I’m going to stay awhile. I will learn from Jesus and find rest for my soul.

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In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
John 1:4

What about you?
How do you settle yourself down when you turn to meet with God?

I have been meditating a lot lately on a simple sentence from the book of Psalms: “Be still and know that I am God.” [Psalm 46:10**]

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However, knowing who God is–that’s not so simple. Immediately I encounter two significant challenges. The first is the capacity of my mind, which is limited.

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The second is the ‘size’ and complexity of who God is. It’s like a fly trying to grasp what an elephant is like.

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The analogy of a fly for a human being who is made a little less than God [Psalm 8:5] turns out to be more appropriate than you might think. Because the lowly fly is another of the Creator’s incredible creatures.**

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When it comes to seeing, instead of having a single eye, a fly has three to six thousand visual receptors in a compound eye. Each receptor functions as an individual eye. What the fly perceives is like a mosaic created by all the receptors.**

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The downside of this arrangement is that a fly is short-sighted, unable to focus, and has limited color vision. But still, I think it’s impressive that a 6 millimeter-long creature can see anything at all. Perhaps just as impressive that I can contemplate the One who made me.

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I can accept that I may be slightly more incredible than a house fly, and that I have–let’s say–ten thousand mental receptors. Even then, the image I form of God is going to be partial and incomplete.

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Just like these pictures of an elephant that show the amazing variety of colors, textures, and shapes that make up the whole.

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Hard, soft, smooth, hairy, wrinkly, dusty, wet, gray, pink, ivory, pointed, round, curved, squat, long. These are all aspects of one creature.

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When it comes to who God is, a list of how He is described in the Bible would easily include a couple hundred words**:

King and Father,
Creator and Sustainer,
Shepherd and Rock,
Comforter and Convictor,
Redeemer and Judge,
Rescuer and Intercessor,
Almighty and Counselor.

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Given who God is in all His glory, how can we ever know Him? Thankfully, the multifaceted, complex, ineffable** God stooped down and took on human form in Jesus so we could see and touch and hear Him.

When the time came, He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, He stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, He lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. [Phillipians 2:6-8, The Message]


But that is only one glimpse of who God is.

Because of that obedience, God lifted Him high and honored Him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that He is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father. [Phillipians 2:9-11, The Message] Littletons, Seven Fountains crucifix 073

The season of Lent is a good reminder of how amazing God is in all of His fullness. Jesus humbled and Jesus exalted, the suffering servant and the Lord of lords, separated by death and coming again as the triumphant king.

I have a lot to learn.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” I John 3:16

Be Still by Stephen Curtis Chapman

the lowly fly is another of the Creator’s incredible creatures.**

What the fly perceives is like a mosaic created by all the receptors.**

a list of how God is described in the Bible**

ineffable**: too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words

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Speaking of listening

October 8, 2014 — 1 Comment

“To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements, or declarations.  True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known.   They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept.

“Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond.  Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings.  The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves.  Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality…”
Henri Nouwen


“The beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer


“Lord, teach me to listen. The times are noisy and my ears are weary with the thousand raucous sounds which continuously assault them. Give me the spirit of the boy Samuel when he said to You, ‘Speak, for Your servant is listening.’

“Let me hear You speaking in my heart. Let me get used to the sound of Your voice, that its tones may be familiar when the sounds of earth die away and the only sound will be the music of You speaking.”
A. W. Tozer

One thing that impresses me as I read through the Old Testament is the two-way relationship that takes place between God and individuals. And the fact that the two-way relationship is between the all–holy, perfect Creator and an imperfect and rebellious human being. In spite of this, God is still willing to engage with these people.
Take Hagar for instance, a woman who has the flaw of looking on Sarah and her barrenness with contempt. Sarah in her turn treats Hagar so badly that Hagar runs away.

But an angel of the Lord encourages Hagar and says to call her son Ishamel which means God hears. After this encounter, she begins to call God “El Roi which means “God sees me“. Then she asks herself a question: Have I truly seen the One who sees me?

I stopped short when I read that because it showed me that it’s not only helpful to ask God questions but it’s also good to ask ourselves questions.
God sees me. Have I seen Him?
God hears me. Do I hear Him?
God acts. Do I notice?
God blesses. Do I thank Him?

Too often my life with God does not reflect this two-way relationship. Instead, I tend to view it more as a box of puzzle pieces for me to fit together. Some pieces are those hard-to-answer questions I’m trying to make sense of.
Other pieces are the seemingly contradictory aspects of God’s character: loving and just, accepting and judging, graceful and lawgiving. Still other pieces are the stormy spots of my life that seem to make no sense to me. I can’t understand why He would let me go through such a terrible trial.

What I want to do is to figure it all out and then sit back with the satisfaction of knowing every piece is in its place.

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But what I see in Genesis is that it’s not a puzzle but a tapestry with warp and woof. Hagar’s question reveals the dynamic that goes on between me and God: He hears me, He sees me. And then it is my turn to draw close and see Him. God speaks , and then I respond. He calls, and I act in faith. It’s a give and take like a weaver’s shuttle going back and forth through the taut threads on the loom. Without my response, God can’t weave in my patch because He doesn’t force Himself into my life. It is up to me to listen and trust and obey.


I don’t often see the larger picture as the Master Weaver chooses the colors and makes His pattern in my life. But day after day, month after month, year after year, the shuttle goes on, back and forth in our relationship.
And the tapestry He is weaving is even bigger than I can imagine. For my life is just one tiny spot in the master tapestry of the Master Weaver, which He began before time.
Yet, think how the smallest snag in a thread can bring a flaw to an entire piece of fabric. The beauty can be interrupted by a little jagged hole.

My tiny place counts. So does yours. Rather than thinking that it doesn’t really matter how I respond to God, I need to remember that I have an important spot in His magnificent, beautiful tapestry. I need to partner well with Him. I need to listen to Him and respond in faith.

What about you?
Where do you need to hear God and respond to Him?
What is He weaving into your life these days?

Speaking of questions

February 4, 2014 — Leave a comment

“Questioning God honors Him. It turns our hearts away from ungodly despair toward a passionate desire to comprehend Him.”
Dan Allender


“We act and live in confidence that someday we will see face to face, that we will live into the answers. For God’s grace embraces our questions as well as our answers and our blindness as well as our vision.”
Jean Blomquist


“You can find answers to the hard intellectual questions, but God gives us something better than answers. He gives us a rich sense of His presence. He gives us Himself. Answers satisfy the intellect, the presence of the great El-shaddai satisfies the soul.”
Selwen Hughes


God asks:
Why, when I called, was there no one to answer?
Is my hand shortened, that it cannot redeem?
Or have I no power to deliver?

Isaiah 50:2

Ask me a question

January 30, 2014 — 4 Comments

Over the past few months I’ve been working on a study guide for Walk with Me: Pilgrim’s Progress for Married Couples. The guide has just been released and you can download it here for free [don’t you love that word?].

Each of the nine sections focuses on a chapter from the book, with three sets of questions to choose from. There’s a set for general small group discussion, another set for small groups who want to take a deeper look at the material, and a third set for individuals or couples. [Take a peek at the introduction here.]

As I worked on the questions, I was reminded of all the questions Jesus is asked in the gospels.

Questions, questions

  • “How do you know me?” Nathaniel asked.
  • “Where do you get that living water?” the woman at the well asked.
  • “Who are you?” the Pharisees asked.
  • “How can we know the way?” Thomas asked.
  • “What is truth?” Pilate wanted to know.

Sometimes, a question is used to accuse: “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” the Jews asked Jesus.

Or a question can be a way to find an easy out, like Peter’s question to Jesus: “How many times must I forgive my brother?”

They can carry a complaint like Martha’s, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone?”

I think the best questions are those designed not to find an answer, but to start a dialogue. It’s an asking that doesn’t try to push the other person away. With God, good questions help us come closer to Him, whether they are questions of doubt or mystery or confusion or despair.

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God’s questions for me
And when I ask an honest question, I open myself up to being asked one in return. When the lawyer asked Jesus “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered by asking, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” He didn’t give the dead-end answer. He invited the lawyer into a give and take.

When the chief priests asked Jesus to tell them by what authority He was teaching and healing, He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me, John’s baptism–was it from heaven, or from men?”

Back and forth, back and forth, the dialogue goes. A question is asked. A question answered, sometimes with a question that enlightens us far more than the easy answer we were looking for.

However God chooses to answer our questions–even when He keeps silent–He want us to stay with Him. Our honest questions never drive Him away because He is always waiting for us to take another step closer, even if that means drawing near to Him in our confusion.

Probably every journey of faith starts with a question, a mystery. And sometimes they end with a question too. “Why have You forsaken me?” God was silent and withdrawn from His son, and still Jesus had a question for Him.

What about you?
What question do you want to discuss with God? When will you start the dialogue?
And what question do you think He will ask you in return?

[Edited from the archives]

For pity’s sake

December 11, 2013 — Leave a comment

In Walk with Me, as Peter crosses the Swamp of Selfishness, he falls into a sinkhole of self-pity. Instead of trying to get out, he settles into the mud. Perversely, he savours his feelings of woundedness and isolation. Perhaps he sings a song our daughters learned when they were young: “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I guess I’ll go eat worms.”

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Self-pity is such a seductive feeling, an emotion that feeds on itself. The more I nurture my self-pity, the bigger the sinkhole becomes. I begin to feel that no one else has ever suffered like me before. No one has gone through such hard struggles like I have. I actually take pride in my pain.

That is a very dangerous place to be, and that is exactly where Satan would like me to stay. My enemy tells me to nurse my hurt, hold my grudge, care for myself because no one else will. He tells me to shut myself off from people so I can avoid feeling pain, to give up hoping, to stop trusting God, to act for myself. If he got his way, Satan would keep me wallowing and self-absorbed forever.

In contrast, Jesus invites me to come out of the hole and sit with Him at His feet. He wants me to lay down my burdens and tell Him what the trouble is.

So last week when I found myself being swallowed up by a sinkhole of self-pity, I resisted the impulse to stay in the swamp. Instead, as I spent time with Jesus, I began to open up about one area in my life. I told Him how difficult and awful it has been, and how hopeless it feels to me. As I shared the emotional tatters of my life with Him, I discovered that self-pity is hard to sustain when you’re sitting at the feet of Jesus.

It’s not that Jesus gave me an instant fix. Far from it. But instead of sending me away, He told me to come closer. Instead of judging me or lecturing me telling me to buck up, He lamented with me and comforted me.

In the presence of His strong compassion, my weak and whiny self-pity vanished. I stopped demanding that He make things better right away and simply acknowledged with Him that the world is not the way it should be. Jesus sadly nodded His head. More than any of us, He knows how true this is.

This quiet pondering is one of the lessons of Advent. In the rush to Christmas, I want to skip over the suffering and head straight to hope and joy and light.

Yes, all that is coming, but first I need to lament the brokenness of the world.
He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted.

I need to name the darkness.
…to proclaim release from darkness for the prisoners.


I need to hear once again, “Comfort, comfort My people, speak tenderly to Jerusalem.”

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I need to listen to songs in a minor key, songs tinged with despair and longing.
“O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”

What about you? What are you pondering this Advent?

“A great benefit of Sabbath keeping is that we learn to let God take care of us — not by becoming passive and lazy, but in the freedom of giving up our feeble attempts to be God in our own lives.”
― Marva J. Dawn


“God rested on the seventh day… Rest, therefore, is seen in the Bible not as a sign of weakness or laziness, but as a divine activity as a sign of his wisdom and holiness. If resting is important to God, I don’t think we can minimize its importance for us as humans.…

We were designed for Camel travel, not supersonic jet behavior. Except for the last 50 years, humans have been able to live within the limits set for the human body. Today, however, we are exceeding these limits, not just barely, by a huge margin. We need the principle of Sabbath keeping.

Real resting takes time. Extended time. Unfrustrated time. Idle time. It also demands that you have nothing waiting in the wings. You have to disconnect, disengage, Let go, and forget what you were doing before and what waits for you after. You have to completely separate yourself from your regular routine.”
–Archibald Hart


“Worry: The Sabbath is an invitation to rest emotionally and mentally from things that cause worry and stress, such as budgets, major decisions, and planning the week ahead. At the end of the Sabbath, from a place of rest, we can engage in some of the decision-making that needs to be done in the week. How can you say “No” to worry on the Sabbath?”
Developing a Sabbath Practice


“Since the definition of “work” involves trying to effect change, I am embracing one simple fact: Sabbath is the cessation of trying to effect change in my environment.  This is primarily a mental discipline, and means that I must cease thinking: 1) that things are not okay as they are, and 2) that I need to take steps to change things.”
–Ruth Everhart

Jesus, as a mother you gather Your people to You:
You are gentle with us like a mother with her children.
In Your love and tenderness, remake us.

Often You weep over our sins and our pride:
tenderly You draw us from hatred and judgment.
In Your love and tenderness, remake us.

You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds:
in sickness You nurse us and with pure milk You feed us.
In Your love and tenderness, remake us.

Jesus by Your dying we are born to new life:
by Your anguish and labor we come forth in joy.
In Your love and tenderness, remake us.

Despair turns to hope through Your sweet goodness:
through Your gentleness we find comfort in fear.
In Your love and tenderness, remake us.

Your warmth gives life to the dead;
Your touch makes sinners righteous.
In Your love and tenderness, remake us.

In Your compassion bring grace and forgiveness:
for the beauty of heaven may Your love prepare us.
In Your love and tenderness, remake us.”
Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1109


But for right now, friends, I’m completely frustrated by your unspiritual dealings with each other and with God. You’re acting like infants in relation to Christ, capable of nothing much more than nursing at the breast. Well, then, I’ll nurse you since you don’t seem capable of anything more. As long as you grab for what makes you feel good or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast, content only when everything’s going your way?
I Corinthians 3:1-4 [The Message]


Nursing infants gurgle choruses about You;
toddlers shout the songs that drown out enemy talk,
and silence atheist babble.

Psalm 8:2 [The Message]

The balanced dance

October 23, 2013 — Leave a comment

A few years ago in early fall, we stayed at a wonderful cottage in New Hampshire. Being a natural early bird, I had the pleasure of taking the morning shift when 2-year old Lucy did her rooster imitation, usually a few hours before the other adults in the house were ready to meet the day.

Lucy had recently started to dress herself, and one chilly morning she picked out a tank top and shorts to wear. I found a pair of socks for her which she put on and then took off. A long sleeve shirt ended up with the same fate. I showed her what I was wearing: jeans and socks, a long sleeve shirt over a tee shirt over a tank top. Later on the cooler porch, I added a sweater.

I asked her, “Won’t you be cold?” She shook her head.

I said firmly, “You are going to be cold.” She pretended not to hear me.

Now grandparenting is a tricky business, especially when the parents are getting much needed sleep. I quickly considered the cost-benefit ratio between Lucy bursting into a powerful tantrum that would wake up the entire house, and letting her wear only the tank top and shorts [even if it might put me at risk of being considered a negligent caregiver].

I opted for choice number two and we went to play and have breakfast. Later I felt her fingers which were like icicles. She was nonplussed, though I did manage to convince her to put her crocs on her equally cold feet.

I found it hard to believe Lucy didn’t mind the cold. Perhaps she didn’t feel how cold her arms and legs were. Perhaps after a hot summer, she didn’t like the feel of clothes on her skin. Perhaps…well who can fathom the mind of a two year old?

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The next morning I got smarter. This time she chose a sundress complete with thin straps and I acquiesced with a shrug. But once we were downstairs and she asked me to tell her a story, I made up one about a little girl named Lucy whose cold fingers wanted her to wear a long sleeve shirt and whose cold toes wanted her to put on socks.

Amazingly, the story worked. After some negotiation about which long sleeve shirt to wear [a striped one was nixed by her as was a nice white fleece, but one with little flowers was deemed acceptable], I felt very pleased with my renewed parenting skills. Lucy was even willing to put on leggings in addition to socks. Suddenly the little sundress was appropriate for a brisk New England morning.

Because I loved Lucy, I wanted to prevent her from feeling discomfort or pain. If she had been older, I might have let her experience the consequences of her choices even when they weren’t pleasant. But with a 2-year old, much of what I said was designed to help her avoid harm. “Hold my hand when we cross the street.” “Don’t stand up on the chair. You’ll fall over.” “Be careful eating the noodles. They’re hot.”

Often on that weekend, Lucy would remind me, “I used to be a baby, but now I’m a big girl.” In many ways, she was right. She no longer wore diapers, she didn’t need to be carried, she could dress herself and feed herself.

Since I didn’t want her constantly asking me for help, I was happy to let her make decisions for herself whenever possible. I let her decide what she wanted to eat and what she wanted to play with. I let her choose which long sleeve shirt to wear. But she still needed to rely on my wiser judgment about choosing a long sleeve rather than a short sleeve. And I didn’t mind when she needed to hold on to me while she put on her pants.

It was a balanced dance between the two poles of dependence and independence. When would I assert my authority over her and when would I let her exercise her free will? When would I give her autonomy and when would I dictate what needed to happen?

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Later, Papajack and I played Ping Pong with Lucy. He held her up to the table and showed her how to hold the paddle. When her mother came, Lucy instructed her, “You hold the paddle like this and push away from you.” I smiled as she parroted what she had just heard. She sounded so authoritative, as if she had been playing all her life.

There are some similarities between my relationship with Lucy, and God’s relationship to me–and some differences too. I’ve progressed beyond being a spiritual two-year old. I’m less apt to throw tantrums. Most of the time, I don’t accuse Him of not loving me, or blame Him for being too restrictive, or chafe against His discipline. I’m more willing to follow His direction because over the years, I’ve learned He always has my good in mind.

And yet there are still times when I sound like a directive child, telling God how to care for me or what He should do in a situation, as if He has no idea. When He doesn’t answer my requests, I can still whine and complain.

I continue to make bad choices and fail to follow His guidance, just as Lucy ignored my warning not to run too fast down the hill. And just as she came to me for sympathy when she fell, I also turn to God after my willful failures.

Sometimes He lets me experience the consequences of my bad decisions, and sometimes He saves me from them. But no matter how petulant or obstinate I behave, He is always there, waiting to love me and comfort me under the shadow of His wings.

As the perfect loving parent, He never gives up on me. He continues to shepherd me so I can become who He created me to be, fruitful and flourishing in the light of His love.

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What about you? How has God been shepherding you? Where have you been listening to His direction and where have you been ignoring it?

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! I John 3:1

[edited from the archives]