Thursday, August 31, 2023

The Bible Tells Me to Rejoice Always. I Don't Feel Like It.

Have you ever done a thing, just because you know it's the right thing, and not because you really feel like doing it? Then, afterwards, the thing you dreaded, brought LIFE to your soul?

This week, I recalled my years volunteering as a candy-striper at the local hospital just around the corner from my house.

I worked twice a week through my high school years delivering food trays, making beds, emptying bed pans, pushing the book and magazine cart around the floor room to room, and sometimes rocking babies. 

I would come home from school and dress in my little jumper and crisply ironed white shirt...BUT, truth is I never "felt like going." 

It was voluntary. 

I didn't have to go.

But, I did.

And, when I came home following my shift, I was ALWAYS GLAD!

Ultimately, every shift brought renewed LIFE to me.

We have this mandate in Scripture: 

Rejoice...for this is God's will for you...

Some days, there's nothing I want to do less than to rejoice. 

This morning "feels" like one of those mornings as I sit praying for friends experiencing some incredibly tough stuff.

In fact, there are So! Many! Hard! Things! I feel discouraged for them...

...and, when "hard things" arrive in bundles, faith weakens and wanes. 

I wonder, "How much more can they take, Lord?"

The Apostle Paul knows this to be true (stoned, beaten, shipwrecked, left adrift at sea - 2 Corinthians 11:25).

He processed through it, and, in the end found the secret to contentment.

If we spend any time in the book of Philippians, we can filter the letter down to this one word:

I landed on Phil 3:1 this week as a focus for an online bible study I lead once a month.

I loved the word "safeguard." 

The word found its etymology in military origins. 

A guard of troops got assigned to high value targets as a precautionary measure to allow secure passage through battle zones during war. They were called a "safe guard."

I've said it before, I'll repeat it again: every word in our Bible matters. 

Every word is relevant.

In the midst of the hard journeys of some of my friends, whom I love, and consider it a privilege to walk alongside, they would tell you they understand why Paul used a word relating to "war." 

They'd give adamant nods to the "BIGNESS" of the battles, the seriousness of the skirmishes, and the difficult fight for faith to remain steadfast as the attacks grow more and more personal.

So, Paul gives all of us instruction for those times we just don't "feel" like rejoicing: rejoice.

Always (not just when you feel like it). 


Rejoicing is your safeguard through the battles, for protecting and, even, growing your faith.

In spite of how you feel, live out the expression of joy with gratitude - thank Him for all He has done in your life; worship Him through adoration, expounding on the character of God; and, speak truth (shout it if you have to) to your soul. 

I've seen it happen time and time again, my heart and my emotions start responding to the words from my head that are coming out of my mouth....and, pretty soon they all line up. 

The enemy of our souls wants nothing more than to steal the light from within Jesus followers, or put it out, and he doesn't care how much pain he brings in the process. 

So, even when I don't feel like it...I will listen to Paul...even if it's a simple, slow start...and, I will obey what the Spirit of the Lord whispered to him in the middle of the hard: 

I will 


And, I will watch for the Lord to do what He does best.

Bring life into the impossible and safeguard my faith.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Seeing With New Eyes


Of course this verse jumped off the page at me this week!

It drew my attention as soon as I read the word "eyes."

The past week has been all about my eyes.

Well, not just my eyes, but Bay's eyes, and my sister--in-law, Kim's eyes.

We all had lens replacement surgery performed by a dear friend of ours (yes, he's an ophthalmologist and specializes in these surgeries) in Oklahoma City.

We documented it with this lovely picture:

While it has only been a week since surgery, I am reading without glasses (something I haven't done since I was about 13) and I am seeing long distance, as well - -  Good-bye progressives!

I'm seeing more clearly now, just because my 70-year-old cloudy lenses were removed and replaced by brand new ones, allowing more light for better focus. 

Oh my! Big applause for modern technology, and a standing ovation to the Lord-of-all-wisdom-and-knowledge who granted this skill to doctors. 


It's interesting isn't it...

The gospels are filled with stories where Jesus healed the blind, so men could truly see HIM AS SAVIOR (they were healed physically in order to see spiritually)... 

...and, I dearly love the narratives where God even made seeing eyes blind so that the Word of the Lord could be read in countries off-limits to the Gospel. 

Then, I spent some time with the passage highlighted above...

I began to wonder, more than healing the blind and taking away sight-for-a-season, is the greater miracle this:

God making seeing eyes see.

That's what lens replacement surgery did for the three of us last week.

That's exactly what Paul is praying in Ephesians 1:18: "Lord make spiritual eyes see even better." 

If you have a chance, read the context for this verse in Ephesians 1:15-23. Because, this is really what Paul wants "enlightenment" to do for Jesus-folk:

1.   Paul wants us to see God with new eyes. The entirety of Paul's prayer in Ephesians 1 (and 3) is about knowing our Lord with deeper intimacy. When we know Him more fully, we trust Him more completely. When we trust Him more completely, we REST in Him. 

Life is a regular Sabbatical of Sabbath Rest when we see with new eyes.

2.   Paul wants us to see God's power at work within us with new eyes. The very same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead is at work in His followers (ponder that!!!!!). Everything we do throughout our day should be an act of service unto the Lord for His glory; and, whether you and I are aware of it, or not, He's making it happen! He regulates the necessary power in and through us to accomplish His purposes. 

God's power at work in us makes a difference in this world one life at time. May we see Him at work with new eyes!

3.   Paul wants us to see the Gospel with new eyes. No other combination of words that man could ever make up in his mind has the power to change lives like the good news of Jesus Christ. The story of Christ's death for ME (& you) matters...and Paul never got over it. He, with new-eyed-vision, and single-minded purpose, continued to move the gospel message for more and more to receive and experience. 

The more we "see the gospel with the eyes of our hearts enlightened," the more we will focus on making sure the gospel is clearly spoken to the lost. 

4.   Paul wants us to see heaven with new eyes. As a Jesus-follower, this earth is not our home. We are aliens and strangers, here for a season. We only have one passport...a passport to hope. 

When we see heaven with new eyes, that hope becomes an anchor for our souls.

What really is the bottom line of seeing with new eyes? 

What changes when we subject ourselves to the Great Physician's tender hands for lens replacement surgery within our hearts?

WELL...when we see with new eyes, we comprehend things with more wisdom; and, that causes us to interpret life differently; and, when we think differently, we respond differently...


That's exactly why Paul was praying for the eyes of the heart to be enlightened.


Another thought to add from a situation that occurred this week, but is a story for another time. Here was the lesson, though. Sometimes we go through life thinking we KNOW a truth for certainty, that we are RIGHT on what the Scripture teaches, or, perhaps, the way we INTERPRET circumstances. Truth is that we often need to pray this prayer of Paul’s for the eyes of our hearts to be enlightened. We may not really be seeing things through the lens of God’s eyes and need our “lenses changed.” We need His perspectacles. We need to gaze on truth til TRUTH lives in us with absolute clarity and certainty. 

“Not my truth, but YOURS, LORD, be spoken always!”

Thursday, August 17, 2023

The Best Laid Plans That Go Awry...Just Might Be God's Plans, After All

Ever had a day that just didn't turn out at all what you expected?

As I'm typing this entry for the next blog, that's the kind of day I've experienced. 

From wake up til right now, it's all gone south. 

Some days are like that.

I could certainly be discouraged and frustrated, because it has meant that what I hoped to accomplish on the day's agenda did not happen (except maybe this post - 🤔)...

Meanwhile, my husband is telling me that he thinks he's about two-weeks ahead of schedule (a little inside joke)...

I'm not laughing.

But, I do have this one practice at the end of every day that often changes everything...

....and, yes, it did this one!

This "practice" is an improvised version of an ancient spiritual discipline (one that encourages looking back and evaluating the day for the benefit of "carpe diem" (seizing the day; making the most of the present and giving thought toward tomorrow). 

In my variation of the practice of Examen, I begin with review.

First, what went well in my walk with Jesus and for what am I grateful (I look for at least three things for which to be thankful)?

Secondly, how can I do better tomorrow (can I redeem today by learning from it for the future's sake)?

Finally, where did I see the Lord; hear His voice; sense His smile; or became aware of His presence?

That's what I just finished doing; and, here's the value: 

Today didn't look like what I intended, but it was exactly the day the Lord wanted me to have. 

In spite of not ticking things off my to-do-list or life going according to plan, today held some very sweet moments; some lovely, spontaneous, meaningful connections with dear friends; a random, well-timed verse of Scripture that spoke volumes to my heart; and, a vacation-in-a-cup (coffee) on the back porch in my hammock-chair, while simply reflecting on what was great about this mixed-up, perfect day. 

So, here is this very brief offering to simply say what I just did.

You may be having one of these kinds of days.

It's no mistake!

And, it's going exactly as the Lord planned it to go (especially if everything about the day is out of your control, as mine has been). 

How do I know?

Here's the random verse that popped out of nowhere into my thoughts and, as it floated around, I grabbed onto it for all it is worth:

I can plan all I want. 

I can fill out to-do-lists, time-management worksheets, and long-term goal-planning outlines, but...
...there is NOTHING I can do about long lines out the door of the post office or road construction.

There's nothing I can do about the grocery store being out of a needed ingredient for a company dinner, and going to two other spots before I found what I needed.

There's nothing I could do about a problem that arose with my credit card, or the time it took to sort it out.

And, I had to take the time for an immediate approval needed on an itinerary change for an upcoming overseas trip. 

AND the midst of it all: I read a convicting chapter on God's love in a great book while waiting on road construction (and the Lord spoke!); I enjoyed conversation in line at the post office with friends I'd not seen in a long time; discovered such a thing exists as friendly customer service; and, I am one step closer to the women's retreat in Greece where I'll be speaking (coming up fast in October). 

So, if you're having ONE OF THOSE DAYS that aren't going quite as planned, well, look for what HIS PLAN might be instead!

You could be surprised that you've had a absolutely perfect day after all!

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Listening in Silence (and Next Steps)

I love that so many of my grands are at the age where they enjoy discussing spiritual issues. 

We're at that place where they start by asking the questions which spur on the exchange. 

It used to be that I'd initiate conversations to try and catch a little bit of an understanding of what circled around in those little brains.

Like this brief discourse that popped up in a memory on Facebook from nine years ago (NiNe!):

 Or this one from ten years ago with my grandson, Ethan:

If that's all we remember about Easter, that's pretty OK! Easter is a big deal and it changed everything for those who are Jesus-followers.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my older grands sent me a text message and wanted to know the following:

We had a great back and forth on that one.

Maybe it will be a blog one day... 🤔

But this week, one of the grands reached out to Papa for the spiritual discussion. 

Over the course of their phone chat, this grandson admitted that he struggled hearing the Lord's voice, saying, "I pray, and pray, and pray...and, nothing!"

Oh, how I appreciate this kind of honesty and vulnerability!

We aren't always going to hear the voice of God.

Even Jesus didn't - remember the Garden of Gethsemane?  (Bay actually preached on this a couple weeks ago, and here's his message: God Where Are You? Go to about the 31-minute-mark). 

This brings me to the follow-up to last week's blog post. I left you with the promise I'd make a few practical applications for hearing God's voice when we are in a place of "stuck," and need to take some next steps in a new direction, because, well, we've already "stayed too long circling that mountain (Deuteronomy 1:6, 2:3)."

Over the years (and, it's been a lot of years!), I've learned a couple things that are always worth re-visiting when I'm in need of God's voice: not physically audible (although that would be okay by me), but audible to my heart. 

1.  Stay close enough to know God's voice. 

If we are to step into the Lord's invitation to "come and follow," we have to know His voice from all the other voices calling our names. In John 10, Jesus tells a story about sheep and shepherds to His followers. As the parable unfolds, we become aware how important the intimate relationship is between the two. We learn that the shepherd always leads his sheep (never pushing from behind), and the sheep willingly follow after him, because they KNOW HIS VOICE! 

It doesn't escape me that this takes TIME and CONSISTENCY! 

The more I'm with a person, and hear their voice, the quicker I recognize it from anyone else's! Remember: God's voice is very unique. It's a "whisper" to the soul. 

With that in mind, we can't hear His voice with ear-buds in our ears as we listen to music, or a podcast; or be glancing at social media or TikTok at the same time. Multi-tasking and bundling are great in other arena's, but NOT THIS ONE!

It's critical to take time with JUST-the-Master, and not just doing all the talking (praying)....but listening for His still small voice.

2.  Seeping your spirit in God's Word is key.

The Lord can use a variety of things to speak to our souls (I mean, He did use a donkey one time according to the Old Testament), but His primary way is through His Word. Find a translation that is easy to read (good ones: New English Translation - NET; New Living Translation - NLT; English Standard Version - ESV; and, even, The Message) and open the cover daily! 

As you read, reflect. Don't just read so you can check a done-box ✅. 

READ FOR LIFE CHANGE. How? (Click on link for a simple worksheet that might be helpful for beginning).

Read (I read until something seems to resonate within me).

Rewrite (put what it says in your own words). 

Relate (how does what you've just read relate to what you are going through RIGHT NOW!).

RESPOND (what do you think comes next because of what you've read...end in a prayer).

When we take the time to walk through this process, and write down what we think might be stirring within our hearts, we begin to HEAR HIM...

This is a great way to begin, and doesn't have to take more than 5-minutes if that's all the time you have.'s hard to build a relationship on 5-minutes a day (ask the grands who are beginning to date) 😀.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Becoming Unstuck and Finding God's Rest.

Back in 1986, the Lord spoke to me through a verse in Deuteronomy that confirmed in my heart His specific calling to Kenya as missionaries.

As random as could be, this Scripture popped up at a time where I'd been challenged to seek a Word-from-the-Word regarding the will of God for such a big life change. 

I'll not forget the moment, for it caught me off guard and, rather, took my breath away.

I don't think I doubted God's ability to give me affirmation in this way, but I certainly know I doubted my ability to hear.

When my mentor suggested I seek the Lord in this way, she instructed I not do anything more than simply just read where I currently left off reading in my quiet-time. 

This wasn't magic.

There were no special formulas or incantations.

All that was required was a simple prayer for God to speak to my heart from His "logos" with His "rhema." 

To hear meant listening carefully, to be open to His voice, keeping my heart in a neutral place no matter His Word to me (in other words, not coming to the Scripture with a preconceived answer). 

Rhema: God's timely, spoken word (logos) 

received in our hearts 

in a very personal 

and specific way

These are the kind of words that make our "hearts burn within us."


Bay and I happened to be on a short camping trip.

We'd ridden horses up into his outfitting area and placed our tent in a location, not just spectacularly beautiful, but where few others ventured.

However, about the time we set everything up, the afternoon monsoons crept in and rain hammered our tent.

What better time to begin seeking God's voice, while closeted away from the storm.

So, I followed the simple instructions given to me, offered up a prayer, and began to read where I left off in my Bible.

I opened to Deuteronomy, chapter 1.

I got to verse 6 and stopped, because somehow what Moses recorded from God's mouth to him, seemed fitting to me (again, the passage is so random, it's almost humorous). 

The Lord said to us..."You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn, continue on your journey, and go..."

Only through God's sweet Spirit could that brief Word have so resonated with my heart as if the Lord spoke it directly to me (for my own reassurance ---- and, later, He did the same with Bay pointing out a completely different passage from Psalm 67). if that wasn't enough, the Lord repeated it to the Israelites (and to me) in the next chapter of Deuteronomy, as well (vs 3):

‘You have circled this mountain long enough. Now turn...and go..."

Why share this memory? 

Because I landed in Deuteronomy this week and these verses stood out, again, but for a different reason in a different season, and I've shared them no less than three different times with someone else.  

Sometimes, we can get stuck in the same place (it's as simple as that):

Stuck in our heads (our thoughts circle around one desolate place and another - by the way, that happened to be the literal meaning of the name of the mountain, "desolate.") 

Stuck in worry.

Stuck in fear.

Stuck in negativity.

Stuck in bad relationships.

How does this happen? 

Not many of us like the "c" word - CHANGE!

New steps are uncertain; and, uncertainty is, well, worthy of a few sighs of sadness, at the least.

Uncertainty is uncomfortable.

Yet, there comes a time, where the Lord speaks these words over us:

"You've been here long enough, circling this wilderness - it's time to "turn" and move on, take some next steps in a new direction."

As Oswald Chambers says: 

If we don't "turn and go," pretty soon, that desolate, wilderness of stuck can begin to define us.

It didn't define God's people, because they listened when God spoke and moved (even if they did grumble along the way - ugh!).

However, we don't call the Israelites those "wilderness wanderers." 

That is NOT who they are.

Instead, we call them by their identity in the Lord: GOD'S CHOSEN.

They changed their course, sought the next steps, and went as God directed.

They followed Him and found their promised land. 

It's a place of soul-rest.

It's waiting for us, as well.

P.S. Come back next week for Part 2 and a little "practical" how-to-find-our-way-forward.