Thursday, March 30, 2023

Sleepless in Suffering? Here's a Sleep-Aid...

Sleepless nights.

I hate them!

Obviously, they occur for a variety of reasons, but if experiencing some form of trial, suffering, heartache, disappointment...well, you're assured a few.

This week brought me, so far, exactly two.

I fussed with a headache, one night, that wouldn't leave me alone. 

Along with the headache, I had one of Sunday morning's worship songs on repeat in my head, over and over and, I dislike the song.

Then, the to-do-list took over with a life of its own (not the "ta da" list, which might have put me back to sleep more quickly, if I'd only recounted the wonderful ways the Lord has moved lately).

Of course, that left me open for a few "what ifs" to claim some space, and some hints of "how-is-this-ever-going-to-work" to find a place, too.

I tried praying. Labored to do so; but all that other, confounding stuff kept concentration at bay (I know my husband hates it when I take his name in vain with an "at bay," but, sorry babe, it fits).

I'd love to be more like Jesus (in a LOT OF WAYS), who slept peacefully in the back of a bouncing boat on a stormy Galilean sea.

Yet, there's always something running interference, right?

Sleeplessness feels so unproductive to me...

I simply CAN NOT stay in bed, so, as typical I roused myself out from under the warmth of my covers, and snuggled under a blanket in the family room, while knocking out a few of those nasty "to-do's" - they also took my mind off the headache.

As, I began to sense a little onset of sleepiness, I picked up my Bible to add another layer to the settling of my soul, and within a verse or two ran headlong into this one:

Hebrews 5:7

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save from death, and he was heard...

Interesting verse on which to land.

It "dawned" on me, as dawn approached, that even Jesus had some sleepless nights.

One in particular.

As we are moving toward the final week of Jesus' life, and Easter Sunday, this verse holds an important lesson, for us to grab onto as we further develop our theology of suffering...not to mention, our sleepless nights.

As Jesus steadily walked toward His passion (from the Latin, pati: to suffer), He spent one sleepless night with His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane.

There, He taught, not just them, but you and I, the go-to-first-before-anything when we are struggling:


Whatever else is going on, pray.

If you have to get up and pray out loud, do it.

If you need a pen and a piece of paper to stay focused, grab them.

If you need Scriptures or some form of written liturgy, find it.

Whatever it helps for you to concentrate AND PRAY, engage with a plan...

...but, above all else, 

prayer is THE "go-to-sleep-in-peace medicine" for the aching heart, restless mind, and unsettled soul.


Let's dig into some key words in the verse above (underlined) to get some clues and how-to's...


Remember, Jesus left heaven behind and came to live in skin (Phil 2:5-11). His humanness meant that He experienced all the trials and struggles we face, including sleepless nights. As was His custom, He always went straight to the Father (Luke 22:39). 

I discovered our English translations often fall short of the meaning of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The word used here literally means "to carry to someone as an offering to be placed on the altar as a sacrifice." When used, the speaker not only leaves the offering behind on the altar, but arrives with a "heart torn with anguish and suffering." The Ancient Greeks recognized a soul in which conflict is raging, and a battle is taking place. 

There in the Garden of Gethsemane, Mark (observing from the top of a tree) uses words regarding Jesus prayer-time as: greatly distressed, troubled, very sorrowful. As Jesus prayed to the one who was able to save Him from death, the Father allowed Him to see a bigger picture. So, "for the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2b)," Jesus said with His whole heart, 

"Not my will, but Yours." 

Mark 13:46

Because of His surrender-of-heart, you and I (we are Jesus' joy, by the way) need be eternally grateful!

Prayers and Supplication

Two words, two different types of prayer. 

The first (simple prayer) designates specific requests from a heart of genuine vulnerability. It says, "THIS IS WHAT I WANT...."

The second (supplication) always suggests a "crying prayer." 

Prayer number one is offered with stillness of heart; not so,  supplication. 

Supplication rises to the ears of the Father with loud, raised voices and tears ( 

Supplication goes a bit deeper, as well. The suppliant comes as one waving an "olive branch," to express desperate desire for an urgent request. Also interesting, since Jesus "HAPPENED" to be praying in an olive grove...ponder that...

Do you read the depth of Christ's humility and the profoundness of His praying? 

The best part is God listens to us, just as He listened to His Son in the Garden.

I'm convicted.

When struggling with sleep, or struggling in suffering, my first step from here on is prayer offered up as a sacrifice and left on the altar to be consumed by the Lord's holy fire. 

How I pray will depend on the desperation of my need. 


Prayer is always offered (Ps. 4:8 above) in 




I close with this quote from British Pastor, Iian Hamish McMurray:


Thursday, March 23, 2023

Silently Slipping By (and, a Little Civil War History)

(Be on the alert at all times...our theme for this week)

Please indulge me with a few random thoughts racing through my mind and a wee bit of history, as I pause my look at developing a theology of suffering... 

Bay and I just returned from twelve days in the south…a little over a week in Alabama, where we did some speaking, along with a few days of quiet rest overlooking Orange Beach. 

The remainder of our time was spent in Franklin, TN, where Bay was slated to speak at staff chapel for the Dave Ramsey Foundation, but because of a premature move into new facilities the event was cancelled at the last minute.  So, we decided to tour a little Civil War history, right in the heart of this cute little Hallmark-suited community. 

The Battle at Franklin is synonymous with Civil War carnage. 

(General John Bell Hood, Battle at Franklin)

Just over 160 years ago, one 5-hour battle left over 6000 Confederate soldiers dead (along with 6 generals) and 2000–plus US troops. Other than Pearl Harbor and 9/11 have that many Americans perished in such a short period of attack. 

It had to have been horrendous, as soldiers primarily fought under the darkness of a new-moon-night. The thick smoke left from cannons, fired onto the field from as far as a mile and a half away, hovered ghost-like in the air, while men engaged in hand-to-hand combat, up close and personal, over a mere two mile stretch of land. 

Our first visit to the Carnton Plantation, which immediately became a hospital at 4:00 PM on November 30, 1864, sobered us. 

(Carnton House, Franklin, TN)

Over 300 wounded men covered the floors of this 8-room home, with more men being tended outdoors. Still visible on the wood floors of the home of the McGavock family are the blood stains left in the places where doctors worked feverishly to tend the wounded. Apparently, as surgeons amputated arms and legs of soldiers, praying to spare their lives, the pile of limbs rose skyward, out the windows near where they worked, literally from ground to the second story windows. While our tour guide refuted this, other historical books speak otherwise. 

(Confederate Cemetery at Carnton)

Regardless…the devastation defies imagination. 

We wandered past the Carter house right downtown Franklin, where thousands of bullet holes, as well as, holes left by canon balls are still visible in outbuildings. Here the US Army took up headquarters, while the Carter family, along with the Lotz family (whose home still stands across the street), hid in the root cellar until the battle ended. The Carter son, Tod, fighting for the southern states (and hadn’t seen home in more than three years), led his men into battle “excited to be home.” Engaging in the fight in his own backyard, Tod took nine bullets, finally dying in the arms of his family. 

(The Carter Home, Franklin, TN)

(The Lotz Home, Franklin, TN)

But, there was one brief story shared by our tour guide, that has rattled around in my thoughts. 

Prior to the Battle of Franklin, the same two groups of soldiers met in conflict at Spring Hill. After several hours of battle, it became clear that the skirmish would end in a stalemate, and after losing nearly 700 American soldiers (between the two armies), the generals called for a retreat. 

The Confederate army, led by General John Bell Hood, steered his men toward another nearby plantation (Rippavilla) where they would rest for the evening and regroup for the oncoming battle at Nashville. General Hood was wakened in the night by one of his privates, alerting him to movement on the road not far off the plantation. He, however, dismissed the information, only to discover the next morning, that under cover of darkness, 20,000 US Troops silently slipped past them on to Franklin. Furious that General Schofield bested him, Hood determined to meet them there before they got as far as Nashville. 

Think about this: 20,000 soldiers silently sneaked past an army of almost 30,000.

And, with that move, the certain defeat of the Confederate Army was sealed. 

The US Army had plenty of time to set their defense before Hood could move his men North. 

It’s why many historians call the Battle of Franklin “the Last Sigh of the Confederacy.”


Why do I give you this little history lesson? 

Because it dawned on me this week that little by little, under the guise of “darkness” when I'm not paying attention, idols like warring soldiers, march right past me in order to set up a place in my heart. 

Counterfeit idols who want to win the war for who rules my soul. 

Little wants that become big wants as I let them quietly pass by me. 

These might even be “good” things, I’ve noticed…

For example, I set a goal this past year to be the healthiest version of me I possibly can be as I age…

…BUT, when my desire for achieving better health outweighs my desire for receiving more of the God-of-Good-Health, it sets itself up to take the throne of my heart from the Lord. 

We all struggle with idols that war against us and do their best to slip by us.

We seek the healing more than the Healer.

We want the provision (& finances) more than the Provider…the peace and comforter more than the Giver of both.

We (me, again) want the results in ministry for the glory of God, even more than we want the Lord Himself in our lives. 

Idols are subtle.

They are silent.

They sneak past us without us even seeing them.

And, when they do, they have plenty of time to set us up for a wretched battle.

But, like Gideon, before we can even think about the fight, the idols have to be identified and torn down with repentance. 

Then slowly, consistently, and with a plan in place, we can win the war. 

Thursday, March 16, 2023

A Bridal Bouquet of Encouragement

Jesus warned His followers (us) that we aren't promised a rose-garden-kind-of-life. In fact, He said:

"In this world you will experience sorrows, troubles of many kinds, and great difficulty, BUT you will also be comforted, discover peace, and find courage - - because I have overcome the world (Peg's paraphrase of John 16:33)."

I love the way Eugene Peterson paraphrased this verse:

“I've told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I've conquered the world.” (John 16:33, MSG).

So, I guess I wonder why I'm surprised when trouble crosses my threshold?

Even more, why am I confused thinking I deserve something different?

Tough-times are simply the way of life. 

But, this week, I've been mentally cataloguing some of the hardships, trials and struggles I've experienced.

You know what has made these times bearable?

Of course, the Sunday school answer is "Jesus." 

After all, John 16:33 makes it clear that because He has won the war over all of life's distractions, the possibilities of our attaining peace amidst the pieces of life are assured.  

After all, He is the Good Shepherd (see last week's post).

Yet, there's something else.

I've found a common denominator in all the painful trials of life: 


That's right, people...the very thing that can be the number one thief of joy in our lives is also one of the very things the Lord uses to bring endurability. 

As I remember the past "stuff," what comes to mind are the people who walked with me through it. 

I'll use the first memory the Lord brought to mind.

Bay graduated from college, with a hopeful career in the NBA ahead of him. 

We began making plans for, not just a new career, but a home, a community, and a family, because now all that looked "affordable." 


(I do love those two words!)

The Lord soon revealed to us a different plan. His plan. One that never crossed our minds...

With a phone call from an assistant coach, and a soon to follow visit to Southern California, we were challenged to consider stepping out of the NBA for a "season" and helping to make a name for the Athletes in Action branch of Campus Crusade for Christ, along with learning more about sharing our faith: basketball being the venue.

I don't have space, or words, to share the entire way the Lord clearly showed us this was, indeed, His will, but instead of taking the offer given by the Seattle Supersonics, when Bay was drafted the 19th player in that year's draft, off we went to Southern Cal.

First stop...Campus Crusade headquarters in Arrowhead Springs. 

Once there, nothing really went as planned.

Just prior to our move, I'd discovered we were expecting our first child. 

Unfortunately, just fresh into this pregnancy I began battling pneumonia. 

Unable to take real cough medicine, I substituted whatever the doctors suggested to prevent coughing up a lung (which it sounded like I might do with every hack). 

In the meantime, we were attending amazing orientation classes, learning from some incredibly godly men (like Bill Bright, founder of Cru) and women, and walking up and down hills going from meeting to meeting.

So it was, in the midst of worshiping, growing spiritually, and understanding more about evangelism, I began to bleed.

We called a doctor, who recommended bed-rest, but within hours in the midst of yet another class, I excused myself due to severe cramping, and soon realized, I had miscarried our first baby.

In the meantime, as we rushed to the closest hospital in San Bernardino, I lost a significant amount of blood, needing a transfusion. So, there I stayed, hospitalized for a couple of days. 

BUT...the out-pouring of love, the comfort from our new teammates, the support from the Cru staff (including a gift of the bouquet from Bill & Vonette Bright's daughter's wedding that same afternoon), helped do exactly what John 16:33 promised: bring comfort, peace, and courage for the journey. 

The Lord definitely ministered to me through His Word bringing huge doses of Hope.

However, the folks He brought into my life strengthened my soul deeply. So much so, I still sense the spirit of peace that washed over me and helped me KNOW WITHOUT QUESTION, God would truly use this bad for good. 

Why this story?

Because. Because of 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

Just as the Good Shepherd comforts us in all our afflictions, He wants to use our story of comfort to comfort others.

The Lord will turn the tables on trials, so that we can be Jesus' arms and feet, hands and mouths, bridal bouquets and words of encouragement to those in need. 

What a blessed opportunity to see redemption in the midst of our messy HARD. 

The Lord allows us to share in suffering with Him, that we might receive His soul-soothing comfort, and, then, turn around and generously give it away.

Who in your world right now, needs the comfort with which you've been comforted?

Maybe you've been put...

to be the PRESENCE OF GOD!

The Gospel in action.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Bummer, Lamb!

There's a story...

It must be true.

I read it on the internet, so... 😳 

Yet, true or not, it drives home a point; so here goes:


Every once in a while, a mama sheep (ewe) will give birth to a lamb and reject it. 

There are a lot of possibilities as to why; but, suffice it to say, that if her baby is returned to mama, she will simply kick it away, again.

Once she's made up her mind about the lamb, Mama Ewe never changes it. 

Shepherds tell us that this little lamb will hang its head so low that it almost looks as if the neck is broken.

The lamb's spirit (obviously) has been!

Shepherds call these rejected lambs, "bummer lambs," and, unless there is a "good shepherd" watching their flock, that little cast away babe will die.

Awwww-but, a good shepherd gathers up that baby and carries him home, where he will hand feed, keep warm by the fire, wrap with blankets, and hold that wee one so close to his chest, that the little bummer-lamb will feel his heart-beat. 

He will speak softly into the little lamb's ear and care for him until the babe is capable of living in the field with the rest of the sheep.


The sheep never forgets the Shepherd, because his experience with the Shepherd tells him, the Shepherd can be trusted!

He is, after all, a "GOOD" Shepherd. 

So, when the Shepherd comes to the field and calls for the flock, who is the first to come to him?

Of course! The bummer lamb. 

He knows that voice intimately. 

He knows he is loved.

He has experienced that love fully.

He KNOWS and trusts the shepherd.

In the midst of everything, he is content. 


Sometimes, we feel just like the bummer lamb. 

Those who were supposed to love us, reject us...and, if it's not a loved one, life, itself, has a way of kicking out at us, bringing immense pain and turmoil.

Sometimes, we pick ourselves up and go back to try again, only to be pushed away another time.

So, we hang our heads, spirits broken, and wander off into a corner with all the emotions of a bummer lamb. 

We don't understand the why, but we can get to know the WHO...

Near to us all, with an outstretched arm, stands a Good Shepherd, who wants to bring us into His home, to warm us by His fire, to comfort us close to His heart, and whisper words that will heal our broken souls...


It's a big ask for someone beat down and abandoned. 

It's not easy for a lamb that's walked a hard road.

Trials, hardships, difficulty, suffering, all make us want to crawl into a corner and isolate.

Trust doesn't come easily. 

That's why throughout Scripture, those who've experienced the same kind of HARD, write about the Good Shepherd who can be trusted. 

They've risked reaching for His outstretched hand, taken a chance on getting to know Him, and proven Him to be all that He says He is. 

Those who've KNOWN Him, written about Him, and proved Him faithful want us to know we can experience the same. 

They key is in the word "KNOW," as in INTIMATELY!

The Apostle Paul, in all his letters, but especially in Philippians wants us to understand that "knowing Jesus" is key to having a strong theology of suffering and surviving all life throws our way.

It's an invitation, really...not just from the Apostle Paul, but from the Good Shepherd, Himself.

He wants us to know Him...

For as we know Him, so goes our ability to trust Him.

As we trust Him, so is our love for Him.

As we love Him, so is our ability to run to Him, when we hear His voice.

And, when we hear His voice, our souls settle into whatever life may throw our way...

We can make friends with our circumstances, because we know, trust, love, and lean into a Shepherd who is always, at all times, forever (!) for us...

We have a Good Shepherd who can turn everything into good.

Just like He is.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Haven't Gotten Past the Word "Put"

"Put for the gospel..."

Paul's words for life.

Words I shared in last week's post.

However, I simply can't move past that word: 


In my quest for settling a solid theology for suffering, I'm leaning into some of the most comforting thoughts!

1) The Lord makes use of all our heartaches and hardships, persecution and problems, trials and tribulations to develop our character and deepen our walks of intimacy...

Warren Wiersbe once said:

"The same God who used Moses' rod, Gideon's pitchers, and David's sling, used Paul's chains."  

 2) He uses EVERYTHING for our good and His glory... We can't see the "there and then" in the "here and now" (and, may never see it until heaven), but ALL THINGS are useful to the Master.


   3) No matter the circumstances, the Lord's presence is always with us, and He promises He will NEVER leave us! 

4) All our difficulties are for a season - there's always an end - and, in light of eternity what we endure is "momentary."

Last week, I discovered yet another comforting thought...

What if?

What if the Lord wants to use whatever present hardship I will ever face to promote the gospel through me, as His ambassador for the Kingdom?

What if my current struggles are my brand of chains? 

Let me share how I saw this played out in Rome at the recent conference I attended. 

On the last morning, before my final speaking session, the ladies are asked to share a particular story of how the Lord met them personally.

One very moving story stuck with me all the way through our debrief, and all the way home. It illustrates how God "puts" us...for the gospel...for His sake...and for other's sake. This is "Jane's" story...and, it's "Mary's" story, as well (names changed for protection).

A few year's back, Jane's life changed drastically following a car accident that left her with brain trauma. It frequently leaves her with vertigo, nausea, debilitating headaches; and, loss of balance is common. In the fall, Jane had signed up for the retreat in Prague, but was unable to attend due to severe, recurring bouts of vertigo. When the Rome retreat opened up, she, again, registered to come, and the Lord made a way. Jane was excited to meet with one of the massage therapists, the Chiropractor, and the Physical Therapist that were signed up to come on this particular retreat (BTW, first time I've been on a retreat where we've had a PT and Chiropractor) to see how they might advise her going forward.

The first night of the retreat, the craziness of travel, the noise of our chattering attendees, the bright lights in the conference room began to cause increasing dizziness in Jane, and she felt a desperate need to leave, but couldn't move due to her symptoms. Her small group leader, seemed to notice, and lightly touched her arm, saying, "You need to leave, don't you?" Mary, then guided Jane out of the room, and helped her get settled. 

How did Mary know? I'd spent an afternoon with Mary earlier in the week as she shared her story with me. Last summer, Mary was in a boating accident that left her with stroke like symptoms on the right side of her body, and, yep, a traumatic brain injury. It has taken Mary months of rehab to get to the place where she can walk without help and go back to a massage therapist! She, too, had been signed up to go to the Prague retreat, but had to cancel...

Not only was Jane in Mary's small group, but Mary was her massage therapist, as well. Mary's accident "put" her in a position where she could minister to Jane in ways that NO ONE else could on our team. Because of her trials and struggles in recovery, she had an "in" to encourage Jane to keep on persevering, to have hope...and, to continue trusting Jesus for each step into every tomorrow.

But, there's more to the story. Jane did get to meet with the physical therapist (receiving exercises to continue at home), and several times with the chiropractor on our team. She had an hour long prayer session with one of our volunteers, a fresh new hair cut, and a pedicure. As Jane stood to share how the Lord met her in such a unique way, she said, "Not only have my symptoms subsided substantially over the week, and my balance improved greatly, but in every way God has met me and brought encouragement to my walk with him, to have peace about my health, and to carry on with the ministry where He has 'PUT' (yep, there's that word) me!"

"There is circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me, until first of all, it has come past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose, which I may not understand at the moment. But, as I refuse to become panicky; as I lift up my eyes to Him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart; no sorrow will ever disturb me, no trial will ever disarm me, no circumstance will cause me to fret. For I shall rest in the joy of who my Lord is..."

-author unknown-

Consider yourself "put."