Thursday, December 28, 2023

Ready, REST, Go!

On this, still dark, but snow-glistening-from-full-moon-morning, I'm keenly aware we're a mere three days from 2024. Wahoo!



I've said it before, but, I dearly love fresh starts and new beginnings (not enough that I'll stay up to kiss in the New Year). 

By the time the ball drops in, oh, let's say, Newfoundland, I'll be tucked in bed and sound asleep - - - - - - - - is there a ball drop in Newfoundland (?). 

I love the anticipation of what's to come.

There's an air of excitement that surrounds a New Year, a birthday, the first day on a new job, welcoming a new season, a new school year, moving into a new house....

These are God-ordained-rhythms that are like hitting a re-set button, or re-arranging your computer/phone/tablet back to it's default mode - these moments grant us a renewal, a do-over, a clean-slate. It's an opportunity to turn a new page, start a new chapter, or turn over a new leaf.

Opportunities like this are sigh-worthy; besides, they instill in us a renewed energy for doing things a little differently, a bit better, or, to correct our course, and make disparate decisions.


Yet, just yesterday as I was whining a little bit, the Lord reminded me that week-after-week, He gifts me with just such a begin-again; but, I don't take advantage of it.

I stare it in the face, look at it in ink on my calendar, and jump right in and make, what should be a celebration, an ordinary moment on my schedule (except for dressing up and spending the first half of the day at church).

Every week, I wake up to a new morning and another rhythm that offers me a do-over into the next few days of work.

With the morning light, I unwrap a package called Sabbath, say "thank you," and put it down. 

In fact, I've begun taking that gift for granted...


I take advantage of corporate worship, celebrating the Lord-of-the-Sabbath, then come home and forget this truth:

Sabbath was made for ME!!!!!

There are still things on the to-do-list needing marked off.

This is a free day, where I can get a jump start on the week.

I even lie to the Lord and to myself, "You know, don't you, that organizing, preparing, and marking these things as "DONE," really is RESTFUL TO ME? Right?" 


With that, I have now committed two sins: I've ignored the fourth commandment and I've lied.

I don't at all take full advantage of this do-over-gift-of-God. 

I seldom take the time to sit as I do for a birthday, or a New Year, and reflect on the week and wonder at how I saw God at work; the highs, and the lows, and the lessons learned; or take a meaningful moment and prepare my mind, heart, and soul for what's to come in the new week. 

Yet, from the beginning our Lord planned this HUGE PRESENT just for me that sits on my breakfast table every Sunday: 


Exodus 20:8-11

And here's what the Lord's been trying to teach me over and over again:

I keep the Sabbath holy, when I honor it with ReSt!

What does that really mean in God's economy; according to His way of thinking; His desire for us, His kids?

I don't think it means a Sunday afternoon nap - though it could. 

I don't think it means sitting stiffly in our Sunday-best, hands folded, doing nothing; nor does it mean staring all day into nothingness. 

Recently, I dug into the verse (partly because I'm re-reading a great book on Sabbath). 

There are three key words:

Holy, meaning set apart.

Rest, meaning to cease, to settle, to let go, to leave alone!

Work - to labor, to serve, to fulfill something by doing (mark those things "done" on the to-do-list)!

When the Lord gave us this commandment it was with the intent we'd take one day, set it apart, with hands off all the "stuff" we have to do on a regular basis, and leave it be!

There are six whole days to check the boxes on the to-do-list; but, one day (be it Sunday or another day - because for those in ministry, Sunday is aLwAyS a work day) God means for us to STOP and do something else (different from our normal WORK) that brings life to the soul. 


I've come to realize Sabbath, for my sake, is for the deepening of my joy, for the enlarging of my faith (Sabbath really is a trust exercise), the releasing of my pride (thinking I'm in control), and, maybe most of all, so that my heart stays steadfast and courageous as I spend time in God's AWE-INSPIRING Presence. I certainly don't want to "lose heart" because of my OVERWHELMING NOTIONS ABOUT BUSY-NESS.

So here's what the Lord's been teaching me this week, as I enter a month that always brings me a long list of, often crazy and chaotic, end-of-year-work:

Are you ready for what's ahead? Ready, or not:

Take a day of ReSt!

Leave it all behind for just one day!

Then, go forth with renewed energy, enthusiasm. and a right perspective. 

Those things won't come any other way....


Enjoy this Sunday's Sabbath (after all, it is New Year's Eve) but, perhaps, determine to honor the Sabbaths ahead, each one God brings us in 2024! 

In fact, let's you and I (especially the "I") jump into the excitement, fresh-start, the anticipation of a new beginning, and the do-over of EVERY WEEK, just as God intended (then maybe, we won't let the dregs of our work-days become disabilities, instead of having the perspective of celebration (almost like entering a new year)!

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Peace on Earth, Good Will To Men

Tis the season....

For a lot of things...

Baking Christmas treats.

Buying gifts.

Singing carols.

Watching ridiculous Christmas movies with predictable endings. 

Hanging lights, tinsel, garland, bangles and baubles on sweet smelling trees.

Signing greeting cards...

...and, for some, ringing bells in front of malls, big box stores, and groceries, which always remind me of the hymn I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (in fact, I hear the bell-ringers, and immediately I begin humming).

Did you know I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day was written by Longfellow during the heat of the Civil War?

It almost makes the song more significant and relevant today, knowing the current situation in Ukraine and Israel, when I hear these words:

And in despair I bowed my head

There is no peace on earth, I said

For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It isn't surprising, during a season when the Prince of Peace entered the world as a tiny baby, that folks pray for "peace on earth" to reign, more than any other time of year!

We all long for peace; 

and, we all have different ideas about how peace can be achieved.

One of those random "ideas" ran across my social media this week in the form of a little video promoting gun reform. 

I watched the "story" unfold with eyes ever widening, my mouth hanging open, and my head shaking, "NO!" 

The one-minute (exactly) "advertisement" (I'm not sure what to call it) offended me deeply.

No, it wasn't the encouragement for our country to make strides in the arena of gun control that offended me - not in the least. 

What offended me were the insinuations: words, accusations, allegations - never spoken; but, loudly proclaimed. 

The gist of the video is that if you are a passionate, sold-out, committed, praying Jesus-follower, then all you ever do is offer up "thoughts and prayers," but never act in a way that transforms government or saves lives. 

This ad pointed blaming fingers at folks who pray. 🙏


The scene unfolds. 

A child falls into a swimming pool.

The mother rushes to the side of the pool, and falls to her knees praying. 🙏

The father comes out, looks at the child face down in the pool and also prays. 🙏

Neighbors stop by, some even sit in the pool, sipping an umbrella drink, and all of them look deeply concerned, and say, "We'll be praying for you."  🙏

Or, maybe, they give a passing glance as they say: "Thoughts and prayers!"  🙏

In the meantime, the child drowns.



Here comes the transition.

My offense left me irritated ALL! WEEK! LONG!

There was no peace in my heart whenever this blatant post popped into my head over the last few days.

..........UNTIL, the Lord got a hold of my heart with deep conviction (see what the Lord used below). 

It's irritation like mine, going unchecked, unconfessed, and given over to the Lord that leads to the line in the above song that says, "for hate is strong and mocks the song, of peace on earth, good-will to men."

As personal irritation grows into anger; and, anger grows into hatred; and, hatred, turns to retribution; and, retribution becomes...well, whatever it becomes...THERE WILL NEVER BE ANY PEACE. 

That's why Jesus, the Prince of Peace, came.

He came to start with my heart.

Jesus came to give me, what I could not gain on my own, PEACE WITH GOD.

This is the greatest gift EVER!

PEACE WITH GOD leads me to deal with my own momentary lapses of irritation, and make them right before the Father...before I do something wrong before man.

It's why Jesus said this:

We will only be peacemakers when we fully walk in peace-with-God.

One day, Jesus will return and when He does He will right all wrongs.

Evil will see an end.

Hatred will cease. 

Mocking will become WORSHIP.

In the meantime, what we all need is PEACE WITH GOD.

This is the peace that only Jesus can give. 

And, so we must close with the final few lines to I Heard the Bells:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep

God is not dead, nor doth He sleep

The wrong shall fail


With peace on earth, good-will to men.

God is not dead; and, He longs for us to first find peace with Him, so one day we will be able to fully enjoy peace on earth.


This morning as I read this prayer, the Lord began to show me MY HEART.

I am responsible for me, especially and always, first to deal with every irritation that comes my way, so I will walk in peace-with-God as a peacemaker.

From Every Moment Holy, Volume 1:

I bring to you, Lord, my momentary irritation,

that you might reveal the buried seed of it - not

in the words or actions of another person, but

in the withered and hypocritical expectations

of my own small heart. Uproot from this

impoverished soil all arrogance and insecurity that

would prompt me to dismiss or disdain others,

judging them with a less generous measure than 

I reckon when judging myself.

Prune away the tangled growth

of my own unjustified irritations, Jesus,

and graft to my heart instead your humility,

your compassion,

your patience,

your kindness,

that I might bear good fruit in keeping

with your grace.


Thursday, December 14, 2023

The God Who Sustains

 “Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you (Psalm 55:22)…”

We just arrived in Casa Grande, Arizona (at daughter and son-in-love’s house, “The Mace Place”) after 10 days in the Philippines (Manila for three days and Sorsogon City for the rest of the time).

We enjoyed a great trip (!) and two words floated to the top of the many descriptors that came to mind as I personally debriefed on board our United flight to San Francisco: 



Over and over again, Bay and I felt blessed beyond measure:

Blessed relationally, as we deepened our friendship with a young man we knew from the days we lived on campus at Grand Canyon University in the early 2000’s.

Blessed with new friends who generously fed us, looked out for us, fed us, served us, fed us and made us feel welcome over and over (warning: if you ever travel to the Philippines know that the food just keeps on coming…).


Blessed with meeting the Director of Tourism for Sorsogon Province, the Attorney General and his wife (Mrs. Asia-Pacific), and, even the Governor.

Blessed with comfortable places to stay and rest in between speaking events.

Blessed with rapid adjustment to the time difference (+15 hours) and very little jet lag.

Blessed with immeasurable spiritual blessings as the Lord poured out His anointing over us each time we spoke and allowed  the message He placed on our heart to be relatable to the “audiences” (even without translators)!

Blessed with seeing first-hand the Spirit of the Lord move in the hearts and lives of the folks we ministered to at the churches, the Pastors and Leaders Conference, a young adults group and a “revival” service (in the city of Irosin, about an hour from Sorsogon).

Part of the blessings God poured out on us were made manifest in light of the above verse from Psalm 55.

After we arrived in Sorsogon, Bay woke up one morning with a sore throat, soon after came the sniffles, and, eventually a cough developed. 

Bay often gets these same symptoms amidst a lot of speaking, but this time it differentiated itself with a rough case of laryngitis.

We prayed and prayed for healing of his voice.


Always, BUT GOD...

The Lord put it on our hearts to keep the folks (coming to the conference) together instead of breaking them up into men’s and women’s groups, as we usually do.

Because we followed through with this tidbit of inspiration, we were able to tag-team with one of us speaking, while the other rested, and then we’d switch the next session.

Day after day (!) Bay’s voice seemed to strengthen for his portion of the conference, and then by night, we would wonder if he’d be able to speak at all the next day.

The Lord, indeed, sustained him! 

As I observed this happen session after session, I noted it as nothing short of a miracle!

Truly, it was more than just a “coincidence,”  it was what we often refer to as a GOD-INCIDENT.

It could have only happened because of a promise like that in Psalm 55:22…

Got a burden? A lot on your plate? A heaviness you just can’t shake? A weight that seems too much to carry? So much on the to-do-list that everything seems overwhelming? 

Cast it on the Lord. Throw it down (literally or metaphorically!) and leave it at His feet. Give it to your very personal God who offers a promise to us that is always YES (!) and AMEN (!)…

What’s the promise? SUSTAINING.

"Sustain" is the Hebrew word: kul - to support, to contain, and to provide.

The word is actually a shepherding term. 

It’s a picture of a Good-Shepherd who takes care of a sheep in need by putting him in an enclosure where the little one can be given what he needs: food, medical care, rest, protection, training…

Only by placing the sheep, or the lamb, in a fenced pen can the shepherd supply all his needs!

The Lord knows what we need…

...and, when we ask, He does the sustaining, because He is, indeed, a more-than-generous God:

Who gives "life more than abundantly."

Who fills nets to full and overflowing.

Who feeds more than 5,000 from two fish and five loaves of bread (with 12 baskets of left overs).

Who sustains the sick with a voice and added energy for the moment and beyond...

Our only “to do” —— 


But, you and I must be certain to take our hands off…and not take back what we've given away!!!

Then, we can watch Him work to do that which He does BEST!

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

When God's Voice is Silent: A Psalm

Last week I looked at the voices that we sometimes listen to, which will steal away our joy, sure as anything! 

Then, I began digging into Psalm 13.

Even King David, a man after God's own heart, struggled with voices that robbed him of "life to the full," right into deep despair...where he even wondered if life was worth living. 

I love the relevancy of Scriptures. 

Here is Psalm 13, all 6 verses, printed out for you.

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I take counsel in my soul

and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;

light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,

lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”

lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;

my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the LORD,

because he has dealt bountifully with me.

This psalm was probably written as David ran from King Saul, hiding in caves, scrounging for food, his only friends, scoundrels. 

David listened to the voice of his enemies.

His foes are insolent and gloating.

They make up stories about him, all lies (Ps. 7) and make his life utterly miserable (Ps 10). 

It's obvious David has tried to figure out a way to end the running, but nothing he has tried to date has worked.

So, he lives with anxiety and sorrow.

His hope is dissipating.

His joy is just about gone; and, there is no peace to be found in his soul.

His faith (as expressed by the metaphor about "no light in his eyes") is weak.

Hmmm....sounds like last week's blog in a very poetic form.

David shows us, however, how to get right back on track...

In the first two verses, he laments.

He goes to the throne of his very personal God, and cries out his complaints.

God is OK with that and gives us permission to do so.

He asks God, "How long?" 

We want to ask that, too, sometimes...

David doesn't really want an answer, not even an explanation, he is simply venting.

Lament allows us to vent in a very safe place...God's presence.

His cries stir his prayers (verses 3-4).

So should ours.

He tells God what He really needs (which is exactly what we need):

  • Comfort.
  • Joy.
  • Encouragement.
  • Soul-revival.
  • God's voice in David's ears.

Then, all of a sudden, somehow, someway, God gives David a "but" - His still small voice whispers in David's soul, and DAVID HEARS GOD'S VOICE. 

David is reminded of God's mercy, His lovingkindness, His covenant promises (all wrapped up in two English words: steadfast love; one Hebrew word: hesed).

David is reminded of God's answered prayers in the past ---- God's faithfulness and the bountiful way God has dealt with him., David's doubts are turned to trust; and he begins to sing songs of rejoicing. 

I love how David sings his way through sorrow and suffering, teaching us to do the same.

When voices of trial try to steal away our hope, joy, and peace...sing all the louder!

Raise some hallelujah's...

Now, lean into the Lord to hear His voice of comfort, restoring light to your eyes.