Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Dangers to Faith

 Dangers to your faith. I was struck with this phrase in my daily devotional. Hindrances, hang-ups, but 

dangers? Are they what I think they might be? After all, satan is subtle, deceptive:


“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring

lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand strong against him and be strong in 

your faith.”  I Peter 5:8-9 NLT

When I was in high school, I went out to my car at the end of the day to head home. I turned the key just like every other day, only this time it would not start. When I called my dad, he decided to send out a wrecker. This totally embarrassed and annoyed me. I was just out of gas! But the back story is key. You see, this was not the first time this had happened. My dad had been dealing with me about watching my gauges, making time for routine maintenance, and paying attention to warning signs that would indicate a problem. It was best to be preventive than be neglectful and cause major issues, or to find myself stranded somewhere (there were no cell phones in those days!). He continued to remind me that vehicles need three things to run efficiently…gas, oil, and other fluids, and it was my responsibility to make sure my car had those three things. I was simply ignoring that responsibility and all the signs. So now? I was dealing with the consequences…it turned out to be much more serious than just being out of gas. Does anyone know what a cracked engine block is? Well I do unfortunately, and I learned at a young age. It was a costly repair and one that left me without my car for about a week. And something simple like noticing my oil light, could have prevented this.  Did it place me in any immediate danger? No. This time I was just inconvenienced. But failed brake lines could have. Again, simple things looked at carefully during routine maintenance checks could prevent dangerous situations…if I would be aware of the dangers, pay attention to the warning signals, and take the time for regular maintenance checks.  

Our spiritual lives can often feel that way…like we’re coasting along, no problems, believing everything is fine.  We mindlessly travel this faith journey, not sensing any immediate spiritual dangers. We are not looking for them. But neglect and just plain ignorance can be dangerous, especially when our “great enemy” is lurking about just waiting for an opportunity to pounce. We’re easily lulled into passivity and lassitude. Or perhaps a tiny temptation presents itself when we’re most vulnerable. 

It is our responsibility to “be on guard’. We have to be aware of the dangers to our faith and do what is necessary to provide satan no open door to our hearts. 

I don’t know what dangers to your faith there might be, or where you may be tempted to be lax in your faith journey. I just know the Scripture admonishes us to be alert, watchful, vigilant, to see our faith strengthened and steadfast. We are to be continually “growing in grace and the knowledge of our Savior” (2 Peter 3:18). Are you growing? Do you know more of Jesus today than yesterday? A year ago? What hardships or challenges may have sidelined you, or brought you up short of His grace and peace and joy? What has dulled your senses to the glories of Christ? 

Don’t be ignorant of the dangers to your faith. Don’t disregard the warning signs. It may be as simple as a subtle shift in thinking, an annoyance, a distraction, an unresolved offense. It may be physical pain or even a tragedy that shakes the very foundations of all we believe. It happens when we least expect it, catching us off guard. Just be aware. Stay in the Word. Stay connected with your church and community of believers. Stay sensitive to the Spirit’s quiet promptings. Stay in worship mode - prayer, gratitude, giving, worship and praise music, service to others. 

Don’t find yourself stranded along your faith journey.

Friday, October 28, 2022

How "R" You?

Some days I just want the day to end. I want to go to bed, wake up and just get a new day started. Have you been there? Are you there now?

I’m in a season of caregiving for my mother-in-law, and some days are just hard. It’s a constant struggle to keep her comfortable, be patient and compassionate; not take the cutting remarks personally; to not be able to do anything right; handle the negativity, the lack of joy. She struggles with Jesus not taking her home, but instead letting her linger in her condition. I get it. That’s hard too. I don’t know what I will be like when my homegoing draws close, but I know what I want it to be like. So I commit daily to being Jesus to her, sometimes moment by moment. Do I fail? Yes, sometimes miserably…thus the desire to just see the day end and be able to start over!! I’m learning lessons again, being stretched in my faith again, being pressed to prayer again in ways that only this wonderful time could bring my way. 

What season are you in? Life has a way of throwing rocks at us, beating us down. Some would call it being dealt a terrible hand, or perhaps fate. No, even when life happens, God is still in charge. He is still so very good. Some things are easier to deal with than others, no doubt. But we all have those things that discourage, disappoint, defeat, demean, disillusion, even make us doubt the God that made us, that saved us, that walks with us. Oh those devilish “D” words!!  

When the heat is on and the emotions are raw, it’s tough to remember the God who loves us beyond what we can understand and that He has not abandoned us to ourselves or our situations. I sat down this week, completely deflated (another D word!) and tried to get myself together. I was dull with trying to push back against how things were making me feel. I picked up my journal and leafed back through the last year or so.  God had been so very good. His timing was perfect at every turn. I walked through some of the tough decisions and challenges, making a point to read the Scripture and prayers I had recorded. I came away with some “R’s” to replace those “D’s”.

REST!  How “R” you? You may need to rest. One of my sons recently shared a conversation he was having with his daughter about a relationship issue. He encouraged her to “do the right thing, then rest in Truth.”  What sound admonishment. It’s one thing to know God’s Truth.  It’s quite another to rest in it, letting it guide our thoughts and behaviors, letting it control our concerns with outcomes. Resting in Truth is freeing. It brings all the promises of God to our disposal. But we have to know Truth and appropriate Truth for it to work its wonder in our lives and daily ups and downs. And biblical, authoritative Truth is relative to every situation. 

REACH!  How “R” you? You may need to reach. Hurtful people, painful times, are just the times to practice in an even more intentional and determined way the kindness of Christ. Once pummeled, it’s challenging to respond and react with grace, kindness, humility, goodness. But we have to keep reaching out, even to those that don’t appreciate it, don’t want it, don’t respect it, are oblivious to it. And we do that because the love of Christ compels us to, it honors Him. It ministers grace and peace and joy to our own hearts. It makes a difference. If not in the other person, in us. 

REFOCUS! How “R” you? You may need to refocus. Satan loves to distract. There it is, another D word!  Become quickly acquainted with Satan’s ways and wiles, seducing our attention away from the sacred, away from the Savior’s sweet grace and the awareness of His presence with us. When the doubts surface…and they will…do not believe the lies. You are loved. You are enough. You are His beloved child. You are forgiven. You are able. He makes all this possible. One distraction leads to another and before we know it we are far removed from the joy, the peace, the wisdom, the strength, the grace we need and enjoy, because the distractions have crowded out time in His Word, time being quiet in His presence, soaking in His nearness and love. Often even good things can distract, keeping us busy, leaving us wondering what happened. Where is the joy?  Where is the peace of mind and grateful heart? Where is the determination to do the right thing? Where is the strength to stay the course? It can evaporate in the distractions. Refocus your heart and mind on the person of Jesus. Go back to the priority of praise and prayer and time in the Word. This will get you through. 

REJOICE!  How “R” you? You may need to break out in praise! Rejoicing is easier when things are going well, when what we normally view as “blessings” are flowing. It’s in our nature to smile and laugh and be joyful in the absence of obstacles, challenges, problems, difficulties, pain, heartbreak, loss. And we don’t often think of those things as blessings. This is when we have to step back and separate how we feel from what we know to be true!! We may not be able to change what is happening at any given moment, and we don’t have to deny or dismiss how we feel. But we have to choose to be joyful, to praise God always. To lift our hearts and hands to Him in grateful, genuine praise. Not because we’ve been spared life’s blows, but in spite of them. Hard times, waiting times, happy times, alone times, all.the.times.!!  Rejoicing always changes our perspective and lifts us above the oppressive clouds and enables us to see the Son again!  

REVISIT!  How “R” you? When is the last time you took a moment to revisit God at work in the details of your life?  Go back often to the times and places you saw the faithfulness of God. Revisit the miraculous moments, the lessons learned, the victories, the dark times. It will serve to strengthen your resolve to trust Him more. It will give you reason to rejoice again. You will see Him strong and faithful on your behalf and be reminded that He does not change. I keep a journal and I do this often. In dark times, these journals take me back. All the raw emotion, the sharp pain, the wondering and waiting. But I also see where the Lord has brought me from and it gives me a fresh perspective on where I am now. By His great grace, I am and will be ok because He is great and good. He has been faithful in the past. He will be faithful always. 

How “R” you, really? I pray you can rest, reach, refocus, rejoice, and revisit God’s greatness and goodness, especially if you’re in a rough spot. You may find some additional “R’s” of your own to encourage your heart. I hope you are good. 

But when we’re not, Jesus still is. 

Thursday, February 17, 2022

There Was Jesus

The darkness quickly settled over me again, like it sometimes will.  My whole life. It’s been there. Hiding. Waiting. Waiting for my most vulnerable moments. Moments I should be stronger. More Christlike. More patient. More forgiving. Less angry. Less hurt. More, and less…of everything. 

But Jesus. Sweet Jesus.  He knows.  He always knows, and meets me where I am.  When I’m too tired. Too frail.  Too weary.  When it’s all too much. When I just want to be done. When I just want it all to go away. 

But then…it has never been about me holding onto Him. Reaching, begging, crying, straining to get a grip…no, it has only and always been about Him holding me. It’s about Him cradling me, His child, with great grace. With unfailing love and mercies that truly are new every morning like His Word says, and I know why. Because—-I.need.them.  

This time was no different. You would think by now I could ward it off, see it coming. Prepare myself, prevent it somehow. Do something. 

But no, most times I just can’t. Sometimes before I can call out in prayer, or go to the Word, or take a deep breath, there it is again. Enveloping me in it’s hideous blackness. Causing me to hate myself. My failure. My frailty. My lack of faith. Descending on me, ruthless to seal the defeat with hardness. Wanting me to just say it. There’s no hope. 

What I know?  That He relentlessly comes to me with gentle nudges to listen, to obey, and to wait as He ministers to me. Gentle nudges to turn the worship music up—LOUD. Gentle whispers to grab my Bible, and even if I can’t read it, to hold it—tightly, closely. Gentle stirrings to just wait, weep, and let His love caress me. To let His song sing over me, drawing my heart’s gaze upward. To let the groanings of my soul make their way heavenward until I am resting. Quietly just resting. Resting in Grace. Being held. Being healed. 

As He sings over me I know I will sing again, maybe even today. I will find the circumstances under my feet as I lift my heart and hands to Him. The current moment of darkness does not define me. Does not control me. Will not gain the upper hand because…

I belong to Him. His love for me is almost unbelievable. But I DO believe. And He comes to me and proves His love and faithfulness all over again. I am able to pick up the Word and read it’s comforting message. An empowering message. A message of love and untold compassion for one He died for, one He lives through by His Sweet Spirit. For one He holds and carries and forgives and embraces. 

There will be other dark seasons. I know. I have lived a thousand of them. But because I belong to Him, I am not alone in the darkness. I may struggle to breathe. I may struggle to pray. I may struggle to open myself again to love and to give. But I will. Not because I’m able to somehow get a grip. No, it’s about Jesus’ grip on me. 

The darkness has no hold on me. 

Because of Jesus. 

“He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom; He snapped their chains. Let them praise the Lord for His great love and for the wonderful things He has done for them.” 

Psalms 107:14-15

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

When is the last time you stopped to anything?  I mean really took a moment to soak in the awe and beauty of….something?  A softly falling snow. A wild daffodil smiling at the sun. A mountain mist.  A wistful waterfall.  A glowing red sky.  An ocean swell.  

Beauty all around us, but are you capturing it? Captivated by it? Or missing it?

 “See beauty and we know it in the marrow, even if we have no words for it:  Someone is behind it. Beauty Himself completes.”  AnnVoskamp

The catch?  We have to “see” it.  To know genuine undeniable beauty, to know it in our bones so that it moves us and mesmerizes us...draws us to worship Beauty Himself, we have to see it.  And there’s so very much that gets in the way.  

What’s keeping you from “seeing” clearly?  What’s today’s death of distraction?  A crying toddler that you can’t seem to console?  A mountain of paperwork?  Finances out of control? Relationship on the rocks? Does looking ahead look daunting?  

Exhausted much?  Mentally drained much?  Disillusioned much?  

Stop and smell the coffee.  Stop and see the daffodils bobbing their bells in the breeze.  Catch a glimpse of that bright, beautiful cardinal flitting through the tree branches, flashes of red in the gray.  And remember, Jesus is there.  Beauty Himself is there.  You’re not alone.  

I can’t explain how it makes a difference but it does.  Maybe it’s because Beauty is so full of Love.  And Love compels and completes.  

The madness may not go away anytime soon.  The paperwork will be waiting.  The toddler will still be throwing a tantrum.  The finances will always need attention.  The relationship matters and requires work, lots of work.And the future couldn’t be more uncertain.  But Jesus wants you to know He’s there, waiting for your wistful eye to cast it’s gaze upon Him and be stirred.  Strengthened.  Encouraged.  Awed.  Lifted above all the noise to a moment of immeasurable peace. A moment with Him.  

“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:

That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, 

To gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.”  

                                                                          Psalm 27:4

In a moment, the Maker can make your day with His unexplainable beauty.  

Don’t miss it.  

Friday, February 12, 2021

 “Let me hear joy and gladness.”  Psalm 51:8

The challenges continue.  I wrote in my journal this week, “He’s still parting the waters!”  And God truly is still doing some amazing things, even amidst the clamor of life; Covid is still here, closures continue, educators, parents and students are exhausted and frustrated. Schedules are fluid and there is little structure and routine.  All of society seems on edge. 

But I don’t always see the amazing.  All of society aside, some days I’m consumed with what seems like an episode of Survivor…all the distractions and demands of an ordinary day that push me to my limits physically, emotionally…and spiritually.  I hear nothing but noise.  The noise of a culture consumed by selfishness, lying, laziness, disrespect.  

It’s often hard to return personal assaults with continued grace and patience and kindness….with love, the way Jesus loves me.  But it’s what He wants.  People, young and old alike, are frustrated and hurting for a variety of reasons. They’re often stressed and depressed.  People need the Lord, and I may be the only way they’ll ever see their need and find His amazing love for them.  I can’t let the negative noises be the loudest, tempting me to return unkindness with unkindness, or to begin to only think of myself. 

Psalm 51:8 is in the heart of a chapter about David’s great remorse over his grievous sin of adultery and murder.  He cries out to God for forgiveness and healing, for God’s Spirit to continue to be upon him.  David met with the consequences of his sin, but he met them with that forgiveness and healing that God made available, always makes available to his children.  He met the consequences with God’s promises and His unfailing love. 

Perhaps my sin wasn’t as grievous as David’s, but it grieved God just the same.  The consequences may vary, but sin is sin.  It needs confession and forgiveness.  And I’ll say it again because it is a wonderful thing…God ALWAYS makes it available. 

      “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (I John 1:9)

A few days ago I was hearing anything but joy and gladness.  But God met me where I was with His wisdom, His answers.  That day It came from one of my wonderful sons who listened to my hurt and frustration through tears, then chuckled and said, “Mom!  Don’t let their attitudes and actions change yours! Keep doing the right thing. Let God do the rest.”  He was right.

Today it came directly from this passage of Scripture.  “LET ME HEAR JOY AND GLADNESS!”  As I asked my Father to drown out the negative noises it became clear to me that with His help I can hear joy and gladness above all the clamor.  But it depends on what I’m listening to, what’s gaining my ear.

Listen to the noise of need.  Sometimes it expresses itself in hurtful attacks, disrespect, selfishness, rejection, sneering, unkindness.  React with kindness.  React with grace.  Take it to Jesus.  And when you take it to heart instead of taking it to Jesus?  Those times you blow it? Take that to Jesus too and find Him ready and willing to forgive and restore and move you forward by His grace.


What are you hearing?

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Positive.  The word no one has wanted to hear this year.  We test, we wait, and then we have tried to move forward with all that “testing positive” has meant.  

Perhaps like me you are sharing the pain and grief of a loved one lost.  Maybe you are burdened by the major adjustments that have had to be made.  You’re trying to handle the separation, the isolation, the sanctions in place.  There has appeared to be no rhyme or reason at times to much of what this year has brought.  Juggling it all has been exhausting.  

Society is not functioning the way it has been, and it may never again. 2020 changed everything.  How do we respond to that? How do we move forward?  The emotions are raw, the frustration is real, the pain and grief can be overwhelming.  

But wait. God has a “positive” that works in our favor. Grabbing hold of the Truth of His great love for us will get us through.  It overshadows all the negatives and envelopes us in peace. His love has given us great Truth and beautiful, powerful promises that make a way.  

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  John 14:27 

Be comforted.  Be encouraged.  Be expectant!  This is the time to lean into Jesus and see Him do some amazing things. We are living in unprecedented times.  But it only means the time for Jesus to come for His children is nearer than ever.   These times may bring great persecution, great suffering, great confusion.  But they can also bring great joy!  

Don’t be deceived; be discerning.  Allow the Word of God and the Spirit of God to guide

you and provide the wisdom needed to see things clearly and respond in the way God

would have us to.


Don’t be afraid; be full of faith. Do not allow yourself to believe that God is not aware, is

not at work, is not with you, just because you may not be able to always see it or feel it! 

It’s just not true. Give Him every chance to make His peace and presence known.  

Don’t dismiss all the other “positives” that have come out of this time...look for them, dwell on them.  They’re there if we open our eyes.  Focus on being grateful.  

Don’t just resign yourself in defeat and discouragement to something you cannot 

change.  God has a bigger and better plan. Choose to search it out and seek Him in it 


His peace is available.  And we need it...peace for the “positives”. For those of us that have trusted Jesus, He is our peace.  Make it a reality every day.  Live in it.  Share it.  Praise Him for it. Let it settle your heart, calm your fears, and bring you renewed hope and resolve in 2021.   

That’s a positive we can gladly accept and rest in.  

Saturday, July 4, 2020

America the Beautiful

I listened to a song this morning, a beautiful and moving song...a recent rendition of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” with Home Free and Air Force Singers.  I found myself praying as I listened, “Oh God, we need your blessing on this land more than ever before in my lifetime!”  

As the chorus sounded -
“And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free”..., well, pride wasn’t what I was feeling.

I’ve never sensed an egotistical arrogance in these words anyway, but rather, much like what a parent would feel as he looks at the wonderful man his son has become.  He beams, and his heart floods with joy to see the hard-working, loving individual that cares and provides for his own family and others, unselfish and good. He sacrifices and gives back, grateful for who he is and all he has. He loves God. He loves people.  And the parent is “well-pleased”, proud.  

The Father expressed this for Jesus, His only beloved Son, at Jesus’ baptism. God the Father spoke from heaven saying:  “this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17). It brought joy and honor to the Father to know that the beloved Son was willing and committed to fulfil His plan and purpose in providing redemption for all mankind, even though it cost Him dearly.  It was love personified, and the Father was “well-pleased”.  

That’s the emotion that the song had always stirred...thoughts of humility and blessing and gratitude. You could say I was proud, or “well-pleased” with my heritage.  I didn’t do anything to deserve being born in this country. Yet I was, and I have enjoyed and appreciated so much of it’s beauty and opportunity, it’s freedoms.  I was taught to appreciate them.  Maybe some have not been.  Or maybe they’ve only seen a side of America that doesn’t foster that sentiment.  

But this morning an array of emotions stirred in me.  Humility, gratitude, sadness, anger, shame, bewilderment.  I was more perplexed than pleased. This year, 2020, the year the world went mad, it just all seems so surreal.  So much change, yet so little change.  So much prosperity and greatness, yet so much poverty and perversion of justice and everything that is right and good.  So much opportunity and possibility, yet numbers still hopeless and disadvantaged.  Such shows of sacrifice and courage and consideration and healing, yet so much hurt, hostility, and unrest.  I hate the division and destruction.  I hate there are those that don’t know peace, only anger and bitterness.  I hate there are those that cause it.  

Yet at the same time, I love the show of the human spirit. Love is powerful. Forgiveness is powerful.  Mercy is powerful.  And I believe God is moving as people allow these powerful forces of God to be at work in and through them. When it is easy to look around and be afraid and confused and disheartened, I want to see that God is doing a great work in all of this. His Word promises that “He works all things together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose”(that all-famous Romans 8:28).  And He also proclaims that His purposes will be accomplished; “The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand” (Isaiah 14:24).  

I want to be a part of that work of faith over fear, of a compassion that compels merciful actions, and a love that just won’t quit because someone doesn’t want or understand my love for them.  

The problem is not the American ideal. The problem is the human heart.  And the human heart needs a Savior no matter the country.  And even the person that has experienced the love of Jesus needs a fresh perspective every now and then, a fresh measure of the great grace of God to wash over us and open our eyes and ears of understanding.  We need patience.  We need to listen.  We need supernatural, divine intervention.  We need God’s protection, God’s provision, God’s wisdom, God’s immeasurable, unexplainable, undeniable love flowing to us and through us to others.  We need His grace and mercy moving in our own hearts to be able to show it to others.  We need His ways and His wisdom like never before guiding the choices we make and the actions we take.  It is not an easy time to be a believer.  To be black.  To be white.  To be a Native American.  To be Asian.  To be Muslim.  To be Jewish. To be hispanic.  To be mixed.  To be human!  

But it can still be all that God would have it be.  It can still be beautiful.  As followers of Jesus, we have a stewardship in the country, in the place in which we live.  God would have us be faithful in this stewardship, being responsible and respectful, prayerfully aware of our world and its great need, trusting Him to see us through what He brings us to.  We may be called on to sacrifice and submit to the authorities over us.  We may be called on to contend for the faith and freedoms that are God-given...and we MUST know what those are and aren’t.  It’s time to think about what it means to be Human...not just American. 

My mother-in-law said this morning when I wished her a Happy 4th of July, “I shudder to think what next year’s Independence Day will be like.”  It may be very different. I may have to make some adjustments, ones I don’t like.  I may have to do things a little differently.  I am grieved to think that I may not be able to worship and fellowship freely, share Christ openly.  Even though the reason it is happening is supposed to be for the greater good, the way I worship and fellowship is being affected, changed.  The way I live my life, the way I work and shop and enjoy family and community events is changing. It’s a strange feeling that makes me uncomfortable. Is it temporary?  Time will tell. In the meantime, Satan is often getting the upper hand in the division and distance and disunity being created.  

In Luke 7, Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw a grieving widow about to bury her only son.  Without being asked or sought out, Jesus approached the pall, touched the man, and he lived again.  “Then fear came over everyone, and they glorified God saying, A great prophet has risen among us, and God has visited his people” (v.16). God has visited his people!  Some versions render this, “God has come to help His people.”  What a wonderful, glorious thought!  Oh God, visit your people again.  Bless your people once again.   

How I need it, a glorious, powerful visit from God bringing help and healing in a troubling time. I pray for it, look for it. Jesus brings true freedom and blessing.  And I celebrate it, today and everyday.  But today, enjoy all the food, the family fun, the fireworks, all of it ...I am.  But also take some time to reflect, be grateful.  And pray.  Pray for others.  Pray for peace and unity.  Pray for protection of freedoms.  Pray about how you can be involved in making a positive difference. 

Pray that God will visit His people again.