Thursday, December 31, 2015


In the corner of the computer screen, a number starts flashing.

What, 5 minutes? What? Auuggggh!


Deep breath. Repeat. Again. Click.

Skim. Click! Skim. Click! Skim. Click!! Sk-

“This section of the test has ended.”

That last mutter was out loud. Quiet.


Deep breath, sit up, on to the next section.

Once the certification test is over, the one needed to retain my new job, I don't know what number I'd stopped at, only that I'd barely passed the midway point of that section. And that all sections must be passed to pass the test. I ask the receptionist how to set up a retake. She gives me a number to call, and I thank her for her pleasant test-side manner.

I call and get the details for re-registering. But then I remember, this is my opportunity to ask God for more.

“I hope that I passed this test, and I don't have to do this again.” This I make sure to say and pray out loud, and my husband amens.

Funny. Multiple-choice tests used to be like my video game: aim, fire, pkrrr, goal hit!

As a couch potato, I wonder: Is this what it's like to be an athlete, and then one day you're sucking for wind, and the finish line seems farther away than it used to be?

Three days later, I'm clicking online for the score report.

In wonder, I read and re-read. “Passed...Passed...Passed...Passed...Passed.” With a score just above the minimum needed on the section where time just ran out.

Back when tests were my video game, I knew where that ability came from, and prayer was part of test-taking: before, during and after. Prayer was about seeking God's blessing, leaning on Him, and thanking Him then.

It's interesting, though, how much more our dis-ability engages us in seeking God, in leaning on God, and in thanking Him in awe and wonder.

There will be tests in this new year. There will be trials. But the most seasoned of us test-takers will come to know God's providence, and His nature, all the better.

Jesus came to show us how to take these tests, and why. As we do so, and choose to trust God for the results, His nature will become ours, more and more. Like Jesus, we will seek to speak what God has to say, to those around us. Like Jesus, we will expect to be about our Father's business.

Like Jesus, we will seize the time given, addressing our earthly countdown with an eternal mindset.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Receive the Gift

It was ready. Long before I toyed with agnosticism at age 10. Long before I ever chose my adult value system and methodical reasoning as substitutes for seeking, exploring and following singularly triune Truth.

Long before I was lovingly anticipated or lovingly welcomed into the world, and long before I had ever disappointed, hurt or angered anyone, the gift was already ready.

And long before I had a name, my name was already on it.

It was my salvation, prepared long before I entered the world. My salvation came with redemption, justification and sanctification.

Salvation meant I would be freed from ties to sin; I would not be sin's servant. Redemption meant sin would not own me because of my debts, my transgressions, because those were now paid off and forgiven. The wages of sin – death – would be replaced by an inheritance, as a new child of God. And my value, set by God treasuring me, could not be reduced.

Justification meant that long before God's enduring law had defined what I lacked, God was ready to share his holiness with me. Sanctification meant that sharing God's holiness would immediately and ultimately redefine me.

All these riches, gifted to me in Jesus' name, were prepared long before I ever existed. Long before I knew my need, and long before I was ready to receive them.

All these riches are labeled by multisyllabic words. They only begin to define God in the human mind. When all is said and done, we must know for ourselves that God is love. And that He loves passionately and compassionately – long before we ever choose to love Him.

If you have yet to receive them, receive them today. By faith, turn from sin and all its shortages to receive your God, the giver of every good and perfect gift.

If you received these gifts long ago, invest them today. Recall that they were never meant to nestle back in tissue paper, and that the lid will not set back in place. Because these gifts were never meant for storage out of sight, out of mind.

Our actions and words will reflect God's ways, while presenting a reminder that God's ways are not our own – or they will be unproductive, bearing little fruit. We can choose day by day to invest and be further enriched by our gifts, or let distraction and discouragement stash them aside.

You are part of your Father's business. You – and those you either pass or do business with – are your Father's business. When you were commissioned to the work of sharing Jesus and His gospel with the world, you became His empowered hands and feet in the world. With each day, your face continues to take on resemblance to Him, and so you represent Him where you go.

Receive God's immeasurable gifts. Invest them to His glory. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015


It's been a year, marked from Thanksgiving to Thanksgiving.
It's been full. It's been fast. To measure the time, I stop to count my blessings.

I can do that starting with my thumb. I think with joy of what is so precious to me.

I can do that with my pointer finger. I think with joy of what is so precious to me.

I can do that with all my fingers. And before I get to my pinkie, I know I have more blessings than I can count. But I have to.

Because God is just so good.

I turn to my other hand. I can count with those fingers, just in this past year, times of intense strain, struggle, sorrow, grief, fear. I touch fingertip to fingertip, hands together. And I thank You, Lord.

You've been so good to me. Through times I would never have chosen. Through times I would trade nothing for.

Together I touch my gathered fingertips to my face, and I praise You for every comfort and every comforting. You are the same in all seasons, Lord, for in everything you give me life abundantly, above more than I can ask or think.

In every year I can recall, and in years that others recalled for me, I can count more and more blessings like these. As I do, I find myself fully in gratitude's grasp.

I could do the same at St. Patrick's Day, or National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, if I celebrated either. On any date, I could measure off a year of God's goodness, both humbled by his touch in my life, and enthralled to witness it in others'.

Our lives are graced by seasons, given to help us mark the times, but wonder has no season.

Jesus began his ministry on this earth with this message:
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1: 15b

The kingdom of God is within your reach. Give thanks and receive God --  again today, and then every day you're given.

The time is at hand.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Sweet, Sweet Peace Cake

It was potluck time at my new job.
God led me to a nice cake recipe. Then, while I was buying the ingredients, God led me to a nice cake mix.
I asked Him, so which is it? Should I put the recipe things back on the shelf, and just get the mix? But God was leading me to get both. I wondered what the point was, when God already knew what would be needed. Then I had to wonder what the point of wondering was. Since God already knew what would be needed.
I didn’t really know how things were going to turn out, yet He was preparing me with whatever was needed, however it was needed. And He was preparing me that He might just change things up. If that’s what was needed.
I faithfully followed the recipe directions. And in the end, when the recipe cake didn’t work out — even when I gave it so much extra time to come together — God had already provided what I needed. I was thankful, no doubt. But I did wonder. I wondered why He didn’t just tell me to skip my efforts to make that cake.
It baked and baked and baked. I mean, it got as done as it was ever going to get. Then the time came to let it go, and start over.
So I did.
I put together what I had left (the glaze icing from the recipe), and the new thing He’d already made available (the cake made from mix).  And because He’s the one who did the cooking, I don’t mind saying it was good.
I really didn’t need to be concerned about the finished product. As I went to bed, I reminded myself that my assignment was to serve up what He’d put together for me, and that I wasn’t actually in charge of my coworkers’ tastebuds. The next morning, that same thought made me smile twice as much: when some said they really enjoyed it, and when others politely told me they didn’t prefer the ingredients in the glaze.
It was as done as it was ever going to get.
Funny thing God’s been showing me, long before I made that cake: That His glory is not in us being able to say we’ve ourselves done everything from scratch, or as we originally intended. Instead, we find His glory when we take what He’s given us, and share it with others. When we serve that up, we see His delight.
This is sweet, sweet peace.
Taste and see that the LORD is good.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Return and Rest

     He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
     I smile, and breathe a deep sigh of ease, looking at a picture of my husband and younger son relaxing in our back yard.
     It is surely one of those green pasture moments. My son is playing with his pecan-tree-branch walking stick and our fuzzy small dog. My husband is sitting on the porch steps, savoring every spoonful of his ice cream cup. And the sun sets slowly enough to illuminate everything.
     And this is another green pasture moment. I sit on the plane, headed to vacation. Both sons sit behind us, still enjoying their reunion after the firstborn's return from freshman year in college. Husband has his audio book and a nap. I have time to play with my phone, to actually change the wallpaper all by myself, to find the golden sunset picture. To be soaring here and there, all at once.
     The next day I am praying to God, glad for rested sleep and strengthened body, the fullness of the day previous and the newness of the current day, letting thank you fill me until I feel it in my soles. This is green pastures too, taking a longer gaze at my Shepherd.
     And in my prayer I trust him with the times He's led me through and rested me from. As I pray, I am freed from wearying myself all over again when I remember them, and how they tried me.
     And I trust him with the times He's leading me to, where my soul will be called to remember Him and His green pasture. To return to rest not only in summer, but daily, and throughout each day. Not to commit entrance to his green pastures to memory, but to frequent His presence, to seek Him and enter fully into His rest at all times -- instead of being stranded by the situation. To feast in His presence in the presence of my enemies: distraction, frustration, offense, pain, weariness and fear.
     To become rooted there. Tended there. To be reminded that nothing in God's green earth bears fruit from great concerted effort, but rather yields it.

Friday, March 13, 2015

In the eyes of Truth

     Oh what needless pains we bear. When we’ve been misjudged by a friend. When our dedication doesn’t shape our job evaluations. When someone you love turns away with a wound you didn’t inflict. When a stranger responds to you with indignation or contempt. And you’re left saying, why?
     When we finally remember to pray, our monologue prayers can be just as confused. We ask to be vindicated. To be justified. To be found innocent for all to see. We try to cling to and defend our value, as we long to be seen for who we are. To be reassured that’s who we still are.
     But believers, there's a better Way.
     We can resist being caught up in the drama that seems ongoing, and we can pause to listen ... to hear Jesus’ decisive last word that it is finished.  We need not establish that we know the truth, because we can recall that we know, and are known by, the Spirit of Truth.
     When we believe on Jesus for reconciliation with God, the Spirit of Truth alights on us. We are removed from condemnation, and found righteous and acceptable. God says to us as He said to His firstborn: This is my Child. And … He is beloved.
     Beloved! Beloved means that being loved by God has recharacterized us, redescribed us, renamed us.
     Funny – it can be cheaply traded in for being bedazzled. There was a gadget that came out in the ’70s, and grew more popular in the disco-ball ’80s. It promised to add rhinestones and glitzy sequins to any item of clothing or accessory you already had. Once bedazzled, the wearers would be sure of basking in the attention of people noticing their sparkle.
     I think most of us settle for being bedazzled, when we overlook the more priceless item of being beloved. We’re eager to be seen as shiny, to be recognized for the inherent qualities we treasure. But we end up beguiled by the effort to represent ourselves, missing out on the authentic glow of those qualities that God has stored up in us on the inside.
     When someone finds fault with us – especially when they continue to do so – it’s like they’re just picking off our sparkles. And we are busied by the work of defending ourselves, either out loud or mentally. Existing flaws seem trouble enough without people taking a dim view of us, with flaws that they imagine.  If we’ve been faithful in some area, we want at least to not be devalued in the eyes of another in that area – particularly if it’s the eyes of a loved one.
      You ever notice how sometimes when your back is turned, you can become aware of someone looking your way? Your senses tune into that person. If you’re bold enough, or well enough acquainted, you’ll turn and return the gaze.
     There’s a gaze we often have our backs to, and that we sometimes tune out.
God looks upon us. His gaze is as steady as His love for us. If we’re emboldened to turn and focus on God, we see in His eyes who we really are. The nonbeliever sees someone ardently pursued by God and in urgent need of Him. The believer sees the irrevocably Beloved of God.
     To be Beloved by God is to be-Valued by God. To receive God means to receive how He values you, and He values you as precious. To receive God means to receive his Spirit of Truth, which is an inner light, and a light round about you, that never dims.
     To receive God means to receive being identified with His son, Jesus. And you will receive favor among men just as Jesus did, but you will also be unfairly rejected just as Jesus was.
     So what really matters, and must come to matter most to us? That God has received you. That you are loved by God. You are valued and viewed by God the way he values and looks at Jesus – someone greatly worthy to be treasured, embraced, honored, anointed and authorized to represent all that He is.
     Because that’s how God chose to see us, we are invested with all that value.
     Beloved, let us reflect on what His light reveals:  our reflection, in the eyes of Truth.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

And a happy new year

     My family has a way of stretching out what's known as a seasonal greeting. At the end of the midnight countdown, wherever we are, we all join in to imitate my father. Thirty years ago, we began doing it in his memory — emphasizing that first syllable like a bleat from a bugle horn: 
     Then dramatically, emphatically, holding our breaths — until the rest just has to come rushing out.
“…-PY New Year!”
     Sometimes happy sounds like something  whimsical, wish-ful and wistful, because happy sounds elusive. It’s had various meanings through history, from a luck-based status (as in happenstance), to drunkenness, to impulse and obsession (i.e. gadget-happy).
      Sometimes the commercial energy of our economy’s retail sector at this time of year can prompt a misplaced celebration of the gimmes. And the gimmes represent the most familiar connotation for happy —having what you want.
     When we begin to learn about joy as revealed in Scripture, we often start by contrasting it to being happy. We think of being happy as something fleeting, based on whim. We come to know that joy is something else. That joy is something you can have, and be strengthened by, even when times are not happy — times of grief or sorrow.

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fair, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.     Habakkuk 3:17, 18 KJV
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.      Psalm 30:5b KJV
     There’s more, and it comes rushing out from the meaningful words of Scripture, which offer more meaning for happy.
    When the Psalms and Proverbs speak of being blessed, their Hebrew wording includes esher, or ashar. Ashar means “to go straight, make progress, be on the level, to lead on, to be made right, and to be made happy.” (
     Esher is the noundefined as blessedness and/or happiness.  Here we can find a conjunction of meaning.
     We discover in the Bible a definition for happy that is rooted in blessed, in language that is based on the Giver instead of the gimmes.  Picture if you will a little kid, who seems happy because cotton candy is now in hand. That’s a gimme image. Now step back a bit for a different scene: a little kid already delighted in anticipation of the parent buying it. That’s a Giver image, of the happiness in having a Father who you trust to give you good things.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.     James 3:17 NIV
     He’s a Giver of good things.
     Before the countdown begins, our family has another tradition, led by my mother. The TV and its party sounds are silenced, and whoever can kneels in prayer. We take turns thanking Him aloud for the great things He’s done. We ask Him to tend what is on our minds and in our heart. We entrust him with the days to come.
     HAP………py new year! It’s really more than a greeting. It’s a blessing, emphatically reminding all who have ears to hear that happiness truly awaits. It’s in the fullness of that conjunction of meaning between blessed and happy.  It’s like a bleat from a bugle horn, ultimately sounding praise for God who dramatically has revealed His goodness to us throughout all time.

For more on a happy new year, turn to:
  • 1 Kings 10:8     Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom.
  • Job 5:17     Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty:
  • Psalms 144:5      Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.
  • Psalms 146:5     Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:
  • Proverbs 3:13, 18     Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.
  • Proverbs 16:20     He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he.
  • Proverbs 28:14     Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.
  • Proverbs 29:18     Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
  • John 13:17     If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
  • James 5:11     Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
  • 1 Peter 3:14     But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;
  • 1 Peter 4:14     If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.