Thursday, July 27, 2023

Jesus At a Distance

It seems lately, my devotional-thought-life is made up of random bits of information (mostly quotes that seem to resonate), puzzle pieces of life's moments, meaningful lyrics to songs, and small threads of Scripture that the Lord leaves for me to tie together/put into place.

That has been true this week. 

Well, actually, this week's "just-a-thought" began at the Thrive retreat a couple weeks back.

At this retreat, the Lord brought me a divine appointment.

It came in the form of an attendee who "happened" to walked through the door of my makeshift counseling office.

Unbeknownst to this tired and weary global worker, I had been praying specifically for her for a couple weeks, even though I didn't know her name.

God knew, though, and cared enough He put us together.

Here's the back story. 

Thrive's office staff copied from their data base the anonymous prayer requests of the ladies who would be attending the upcoming retreat, so they could be very intentional and specific as they lifted up the women coming to Copper Mountain.

The CEO sent me the same list for the same purpose.

As I prayed over each request, one in particular jumped off the page. 

This particular lady shared information that resonated with my background.

Even though she served in an undisclosed country (meaning she worked in a country where there is deep opposition to the Christian faith), there were commonalities shared from her life experiences that matched some of my life experiences.

I knew I didn't necessarily have helpful words for her, but maybe the fact of these shared experiences could be an encouragement to her.

So, I began praying each time I read over her request that somehow the Lord might seat us at the same meal-table, or put us together in some discussion group, or casual meet-up. 

I knew He could do that. 

I also knew I could not arrange it, because, remember I didn't even know her name. 

But, as I said, God did.

Those who sign up for counseling are assigned by the lead counselor as she prays over each name...then, as the women arrive, those who hadn't signed up are given a second opportunity to do so. 

This gal had not signed up.

She was offered an appointment upon arrival at the resort, but turned it down.

After she signed up for a massage and a pedicure, our lead counselor watched her as she turned to leave the room.

In the middle of the stairs, she stopped, turned around, and came back to the sign-up-table.

"Maybe I will take an appointment after all," she said.

So, I was next on the list - the only counselor who had a space left - the last available appointment on the final day of the retreat. 

Accident? No.

Coincidence? No.

A God-incident? Yes!

What a great time we had sharing our stories together.

What a JOY to my HEART to see the Lord answer my prayer so sweetly.

What a relief to her HEART to have a counselor to whom she didn't have to explain EVERYTHING...because I got it.

And, when she left my room, together we had come up with some next steps and a way forward....we were both overwhelmingly encouraged.

OK. Here's the bit I have carried with me.

It's a puzzle piece that I believe we all (sometimes) unknowingly leave in the box without touching, or picking up, or examining how it fits into the overall picture of our lives.

As she shared, she straightened out her arm, hand at a right angle, saying, "I've come to realize I've been stiff-arming God. I don't completely trust Him in these situations of my life. They've been hard, and a part of me wants to trust Him, while another part of me, does this, telling Him to 'stay back.' I've been keeping the Lord at a distance; and, it's time to invite Him closer." 

Powerful words.

True words.

I do that, too, with pieces of my life.

Then, came the next little bit this week, in the form of a quote in a chapter of a book I'm reading. 

In The Holy Wild, Mark Buchanan says this:

"If we [keep Jesus at a distance and] don’t trust His character, we can’t fully rest in Him. If we don’t fully REST in Him, we will never RISK for Him.”

("and faith is finally, this: resting so utterly in the character of God - the ultimate goodness of God - that you trust Him even when He seems untrustworthy..." Mark Buchanan)

Convicting words. 

And, I definitely want to be a risk-taker-for-Jesus, whatever He might ask of me....bold, available, willing to say "YES" all the way to the end.

Also, this week (meaningful lyrics in a song) friend, CJ (who led the worship at this retreat) sent me a link to this song by Casting Crowns. The words are powerful, true, and fitting to what I've just shared.

They summarize and speak practically to all the words I've written, but better....and shorter (smile). 

Here's a link to the song, that include the lyrics: Jesus At a Distance.

PLEASE, take a listen. Please.

Sit with them.

Evaluate them.

Like my new friend serving Jesus globally, like myself, where might you be stiff-arming-Jesus, silently telling Him to back off...

As the lyrics do their convicting work, make a list, write out a prayer, lament your losses, remind yourself of who your God really is, and invite Him near.....then, 


Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him!

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Sabbatical: An Invitation to Come Away

In January, our ministry board of directors determined that we'd set aside a 90-day-period expressly for a Sabbatical.

That began this week.

It crept up on me, and though I knew it to be around the corner and on the calendar, I wasn't prepared.

Because of my lack of intentionality, I've found myself somewhat frustrated.

What I think of a Sabbatical, and the reality of it, are currently at war within me.

What I want is to see nothing on the calendar.

What I want is no to-do-list.

Actually, I think what I want is to disappear for 90-days.

Obviously, this is unrealistic.

I totally comprehend the purpose of Sabbatical.

It's meant to be a stringing together of several days of Sabbath-rest...

The goal: to restore the soul... bring life-giving refreshment that fills and renews. climb out of the daily sameness, and busyness, that have put us in deep-rutted-routine, and step into DIVINE-DIRECTED-DIFFERENT.

Like a Sabbath, Sabbaticals are NOT vacations. 

I simply can't disappear, and eliminate things that have to be done.

That's a vacation, and a vacation will never gift me what a Sabbatical will.

A while back, I read the following, and had to look it up to re-reflect:

"We're busy people. The main experience of men and women (and even children) in North America is busyness, having far more to do any day, every day, all day, than we can possibly get done. We simultaneously scurry and slog through breathless, breakneck schedules. We flounder in a welter of meetings and errands, demands and delays, expectations and obligations. It's joyless. It's endless. Our leisure itself has become an anxious, rushed, fitful business. Our rest is restless. 

Maybe we implicitly acknowledged this reality when we stopped calling our time away from work a holiday and started calling it a vacation. What was once time set apart for God-ward and God-filled refreshment, a holy day, became merely an evacuation, a vacating, a vacancy, a vacuity. It's an interval to flee, escape, avoid real life for a while...

But, will a vacation help? Mere vacations are just that, an emptying that often leaves us empty, a reprieve that brings short-term relief but no lasting refreshment... 

(Mark Buchanan. Your God is Too Safe)"


A vacation is not what I'm looking for (though, there's nothing wrong with including one in Sabbath-rest)...

What do I really want? I want the God-ward and God-filled refreshment.

I desire the holy season that's set apart for the Lord to re-fuel me.

So, while still tackling those to-do's, I'm purposely looking to step out of some of my daily seek some different God-directed-paths (and get out of the ruts of automatic living) that will lead to new spiritual insights and heart-adjustments, better emotional and physical health, along with occupational and relational growth. 

So, why am I taking the time to discuss this in a weekly blog?

Maybe, just maybe, if I took more time for daily pauses (Selah-moments), weekly Sabbaths, and a few extended Sabbaticals now and then, the idea of disappearing would not seem so desirable.

And, I figure that notion isn't exclusive to me. 

I'm pretty certain we all feel the same from time to time.

The answer for us all: 

The spiritual discipline of slowing down. 

The spiritual discipline of "sabbatical."

(1/2 day, whole day, week, month, more...)

Let's look at Jesus...

In three-years, He established His ministry, trained disciples, healed the sick, carried out the will of His Father, debated and shed light on the failings of religious leaders, taught the masses the meaning of the coming Kingdom and did it all with an attitude of peace-filled-calm.

He was never anxious, remained unbothered by interruption, sauntered from place-to-place and always looked out for other's interests, even with His eyes ever fixed on Jerusalem and the coming cross.

He didn't pay attention to sun dials or schedules.

But..."as was His habit," He withdrew to quiet places to be renewed and refreshed. 

How much more do we need these seasons?

All of us do!

And, they shouldn't have to be "others-mandated," but regular rhythms of holy habits.

I'll be working on my own...and, I have a feeling they will show me what is truly in my heart.

The Lord is calling us all, "Come away my beloved... Find rest for your soul in God alone." 

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Slow of Heart? or a Burning Heart?

This week I'm speaking and counseling at a retreat for global women from around the world who've gathered at Copper Mountain Ski Resort.

What an incredible setting for women who are tired and need to process their overseas experiences.

I love everything about this kind of ministry:

   - the shared experiences of having lived in a different culture

   - the instant connections made

   - the privilege of listening to and holding the stories of these precious gals

   - the silliness and the laughter

   - the tears and the tender hugs

   - the quieted hearts as women melt into the Lord's presence during private personal sanctuary time

   - their worship as they sing to the Lord in their heart language

   - constant chatter over meals

   - the deep appreciation for gifts that show up at their tables each morning

   - and, genuine gratitude for meaningful Bible teaching

As I prepared each morning for my speaking sessions, I began with my own personal reflection time.

I turned to where I left off reading through the Psalms.

This particular morning, it seemed the Lord opened my eyes to a passage of Scripture that I'd not really noticed before. 

AND, it was a fresh insight, with a little different slant, to what I'd planned to be teaching on in the next session.

As I explored the verse, researched some of the Hebrew words, and unraveled its meaning in context with what came before and what followed, I knew I had just had a personal encounter with the Spirit of the Living Lord.

It was as if He'd bent low and whispered new information into my ear...information I found myself getting so! very! excited! to share!

It reminded me of the encounter Jesus had with His disciples on the road to Emmaus (Read Luke 24:13-35).

You know the story. 

As these grieving men walked together with the Lord, their eyes were blinded and they did not recognize Him. 

Yet, as He opened the Word and interpreted the Scriptures to them, He revealed Himself as the Christ, the One come from God to save their souls.

As Jesus concluded His interpretation to them, their eyes were then opened and they recognized Him.

Immediately He vanished from their sight. 

I loved their response: 

"Did not our hearts burn within us as He talked to us (v. 32)..."

The fun part of this is that the Spirit of Jesus still does the same thing.

He loves speaking to us and interpreting Scripture for us.

He delights in my listening and understanding and connecting the dots to what's happening in my life.

Besides that - it is one of the best gifts I can receive.

Jesus speaks my love language, and not much is as exciting. 

Jesus is still Lord of the Burning Heart. 

However, as I type this and glance at the Scriptures on the screen opened next to me, I notice something else. 

In verse 25 as they were explaining to Jesus about His own crucifixion, burial, and "rumored resurrection," Jesus explicitly tells them  that they are "slow of heart" to not believe what the prophets had spoken about Him.

What a contrast!

The same is true for me. I can either be "of the Burning Heart" or "of the Slow Heart."

I know what Jesus hopes for me, because it always results in deeper intimacy with Him, and I will be richly blessed.

The thing is some mornings I come expectant, ready, available and listening for His voice...

And other days, it's as if I don't ever expect to meet Him on my "Emmaus Road," even though I've met Him there before.

This all changes when I begin by asking the Lord to open my blinded eyes to His Presence and wait expectantly. 

What about you? 

Do you experience a "Burning Heart" (the kind conversation with Jesus gives) or are you more of a "slow heart" kind of person (slow to believe)? 

What an invitation the Lord extends to us: "Come and draw near and I will draw near to you!"

As near as your heart. 

Thursday, July 6, 2023

When It Feels Like Family Can Never Be Fixed

(Just can't seem to get everyone together for pictures...this is most of us!)

 I am grateful for family!

The beautiful bits...

the messy moments...

the sweet connections...

the mountains of food...

the common conversations and the deep discussions...

the loving laughter...

the spiritual refreshment...

(We had two family members baptized in our pond this summer!)

the tenderness of hugs...

the competitive games...

the early morning coffee-sipping...


The past couple of weeks have been full of family at my house. 






I love having all my chicks gathered under my wings (um, under my roof).

All just seems right with the world.

I'm extremely proud (in a good way, as in pleased-beyond-measure) of my family.

Yet, we are not perfect.

We've had our share of struggles, heartache, problems and pain. 

So, this morning, as I sit to write my weekly blog, my heart aches for those who don't have a sense of similar "rightness..." 

Whose hearts feel like they hold a 400-pound-boulder within...

Who weep through nights that seem never-ending, and understand the concept of praying-without-ceasing because they live it second-by-painful-second.

I've been there, as well, and remember those days clearly...and, no doubt, will face some again (because that is life).

Nothing illustrates what is in my mama's heart better (when my kids seem to be struggling) than this incident that occurred many years ago.

I don't share it often; but, it is a clear indication of what's inside me.

With the Christmas season upon us, one of my adult girls faced a conglomeration of difficult challenges and decisions. 

She decided to attend a normal seasonal-friend-party to get her mind off the looming problems, and the evening included a ginger-bread-house-building contest.

As she drove home with her "house," the wobbly construction collapsed on the seat of the car next to her.

I'll not forget her walking through the door, tears streaming down her face, saying, "Well, here's a perfect example of what my life looks like right now." 

As she went to bed that night, I decided I would "fix" her gingerbread house.

I whipped up icing fit to be the perfect glue, then attempted the impossible of putting it all back together.

Have you ever tried to put crumbling cake into some semblance of order? 

As I said, ImPoSsIbLe!

The lesson learned, however? HuGe!

Jesus whispered to my heart, "You can't fix her life-problems any more than you can put a ginger bread house back together; but, I can reconstruct it all into something beautiful and of great value." 

And...He did! 

When our kids are little, we are pretty capable of fixing boo-boo's, setting their feet on the right path when they toddle off-track, and making certain they experience minimal pain.

Not so when they become adults. 

We train them up the best we know how; is no accounting for what will happen as life happens and they make their own choices.

This morning as I sit typing, I think back to what I learned through many different seasons of family difficulty that have brought us to this current place of "rightness" (for the moment).

So, what did I learn when it feels like family will never get fixed?

Here are truths that have come out of those seasons:

* I can only see the here and now; but, God...GOD SEES, KNOWS, and is ORCHESTRATING the there and then. Trust Him.

* His Word brings comfort, peace, and direction in the difficulty. Lean into the Word of God.

* Just as the Lord uses circumstances to conform me to His image, so He is doing with my family. Give the DIVINE-Potter permission to do work with the clay He holds in His hands.

* Our stories matter. The Lord will use everything for our good and His glory. Hang onto HOPE!

Above all, fix your eyes on Jesus - He is the PERFECTOR! 

(Hebrews 12:2)