Archive | December 2014



The woods were so frightening! Was that a giant black widow in the web above my head? Maybe a bear was behind the tree, or even a skunk. The loaded gun felt weird tucked under my right arm and balanced with my left hand, and knowing it was ready to shoot caused me fear also. I had always heard that Indians could walk so softly that no one could tell they were in the woods, so I tried my best to make no sound. Behind me, in single file, my grandpa and grandma were also walking quietly. My grandpa must love me a lot, I reasoned, to take me hunting for the first time in my life, and let me lead the way! If I got off the trail at all, he would whisper a quiet encouragement to guide me left or right, back to the trail. I didn’t have to look back to know he was there; for one thing, he was my Grandpa and would never leave me alone in this fearsome place! For another, his quiet words of command to stay on the path, though like a gentle whisper, were evidence that he was there. I didn’t know which was greater, my fear, my excitement, or my pride.

That happened more years ago that most anyone who reads this can conceive, yet I can still feel that experience as though it happened yesterday. I was maybe eight years old, but he gave me such a gift that day as he did what no one else had ever done: he showed he trusted me to handle a gun, lead our way, and listen for his voice.

Now, so many decades later, it is the end of another year and a time to look back at this past twelve months. Did you walk an unknown path, knowing your heavenly Father was behind you, never leaving you, or did you doubt His faithfulness? His still, small voice is a command to our heart if we are about to get off the path; did you listen for it? Sometimes it is a red flag of warning if you don’t want to listen–it probably means you want to do you own thing! Did you act in a manner that He found faithful to His wishes? If so, you have done well.

Some days I feel like that eight-year-old, ready to take on the world. Other days, I feel a hundred and twenty, dreading to put one foot in front of the other! But one thing I know, every day has something to teach me. There is not a day that goes by that I do not discover something new. And because of that, I can look forward to 2015 knowing that I still have so much to learn: so much about Jesus, so much about  myself, and so much about what my purpose is in living. He has plans and a purpose for me, Jeremiah wrote, and I find it only by being in the center of His will.

You may be thinking, not me. Nope, not after the mistakes I’ve made. Not after the way I messed up last year. Not after the sins I committed, when I flagrantly yelled at Him, “Let me do this on my own!” Yet Isaiah 57:15 tells us, “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.'” There is such hope for the backslider! All you need is a humble spirit of sorrow for what you did when you got off the right path, confess it to Him (1 John 1:9), and you are forgiven! You can start 2015 out with a clean record! How much better can it get?

Do  you have goals for 2015? It seems only once in a great while that a “New Year’s Resolution” is actually kept for the year. But a goal, ah–that’s different. That’s a commitment to stay on the path that God has for you, so that you can be more like Him. What does that look like, to be like Him? Do you actually hunger and thirst to be righteous? Do you want to let others go before you? Do you mind if someone gets credit for  what you’ve done? Do you let someone else have the last word? Do you love others more than you love yourself? Yikes. That stabs. Do you keep the church’s sticker off your back windshield so that if you cut someone off in traffic, they won’t know which church you attend? My license plate says “EL EWE.” LU. I know that no matter how I drive, someone is going to recognize that I am associated in some manner with a certain university and church, and that God’s reality in my life shows in my driving. Ouch. It causes me to drive better, I will say that!

So what about 2015? Can we make some commitments that we will handle this year better than 2014? That we won’t waste as much money, perhaps eat healthier to keep our temple in better condition, that we’ll treat our family as we treat our boss, etc? We could fill up a dozen pages. But let’s go back to a few posts to the “Do Not Fear” and pull out the two greatest commandments: Love the Lord with all that we are, and love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. We can reduce our huge list to two things. And we can trust Him to be behind us every step of the way, whispering if we start to get off track, and loving us. What a God to walk with in the next year!

Holy Father, how we fail You, but how faithful You remain! Your word tells us that even when we are unfaithful, You stay faithful to us. You are willing to save anyone who calls on You, but how can they call unless they hear? And how will they hear unless we tell them? Give us boldness and courage to know You have our back, have ordained our path, and are accompanying us ever step. We love You, Lord. Thank You for the cross. Amen

The Gift of Christmas


The car was packed with Christmas presents we had so lovingly gathered: a wooden board with a Bible verse painstakingly burned into it by our son, something “crazy quilted” with scraps of fabric from our young daughter to her Grandmother, and new things I had found at garage sales or clearance sales during the year. The gas money had been counted to the penny: $48.03. In the 1980’s, that should get us home for Christmas.

We had so many needs for that $48, but going to N.C. from FL. seemed more important than any of them. We knew my dad would give us $20 toward the trip back–he always did–and just being with my parents for a few days meant we would eat well. Going to their home represented a time of leaning on parents again!

Christmas morning dawned beautiful and sunny. The chance of snow in eastern North Carolina wasn’t great but we had hoped. With children, gifts come first, so away to the tree we went. Mother and Daddy needed none of the presents we brought, but acted so glad to get everything. Daddy’s annual traditional gift was a $1 box of chocolate covered cherries, but he acted as pleased as if it was the first time he had gotten them!

It was now my turn. Mother handed me a card. When I opened it, I found it was a check made out for $1,000.00.  I could not believe what I was seeing. Then, for the first time I ever remember, I burst into tears as the reality of her gift hit me. I can still see the memory of opening that card, and the wonderful gift from my folks, which we so desperately needed.

Undoubtedly you have a special Christmas you could tell about as well. For all of us at least one Christmas stands out above all others, when our joy was over the roof or emotions, like mine, could not be contained. Did you ever wonder how God felt the night Jesus was born? No, it wasn’t December 25, but the night had a date, and the Gift was given. Did God feel joy? Anguish at what would come? Did He celebrate as the angel announced the birth? What would it have been like for Mary and Joseph to watch as shepherds drew near to worship the tiny Babe who lay so miraculously in her arms?
Have you ever looked–really looked–at people as you pass, and see them smelly, cursing, acting in ways that are despicable to you, and then think that if you could save even some of them, you would give your son’s life? I have. I couldn’t. My love is not great like God’s love. What amazing, unfathomable love that would give the gift of your only Son to enemies! When my son was deployed, I used to hear people openly insulting the military, the men who were fighting, and I wanted to shout at them that MY son was out there, putting his life on the line so they could scream their obscenities. What a heart of love God has–for the whole world.

Do you care about that baby in the manger? Has it occurred to you that if He had not grown up and gone to the Cross, His birth would not be celebrated? He came for a purpose, He lived His purpose for His Father’s glory, and then was killed. Satan must have felt he had won. What must he have felt when his minions reported on that third day that Jesus was alive again? Did he fly to the tomb to see also? He must have ground his teeth that the Christ he had thought was dead was alive again! Appearing to so many, with testimony from witnesses all over Jerusalem, it could not be discounted.

So–what is the best gift you ever received? Well, if you believe that Jesus Christ was God, come in human flesh, and have accepted His gift of eternal life then you have definitely received the greatest gift that could ever be had. And what if you don’t believe yet? What is holding you back? The shepherds, when they heard the  news, immediately said “Let us go..and see.” It was a step of faith for them. It needs to be a step of faith for anyone. If you haven’t taken it, please consider doing so. It is a gift that is being held out–just for you.

Thank You for the Christ-child, dear Father; for loving the world enough that You would send Your only Son, so that anyone–ANYONE–who believes on Him does not have to stand condemned, but can have eternal life. Thank You for the Cross, Lord. Thank You that all–ALL–our sins were nailed to it with a big stamp of “Paid In Full” for those who believe. Call our unsaved loved ones to You, please Lord, before it’s eternally too late for them. In Christ, Amen


hopeful or hopelessShe was young, finishing high school, and so in love! Her boyfriend had joined the Armed Services, and she put her time in waiting for him to return. But while waiting, someone stepped in, and her mom told her she needed to marry. With dread, buckets of tears, with no skills for housekeeping, hygiene or parenting, she did as her mom said. When children came, she thought every act of defiance was because she was a bad mom. Finally, she broke. Not taking the children because she didn’t know how she would feed them, she left for a few days. But she was stopped from going back, and it was only one full day until she realized, bad mother or not, her kids were her life. One year, then two, passed. She couldn’t get her children back, and there was no hope. Jobs were scarce, and life was an endless tunnel of pain. Every child she saw was hers, and to see someone hurt a child was beyond pain. Finally, knowing life would always be this way, she bought two big bottles of sleeping pills and took them all, then laid down on her bed. The next morning she woke in ICU. Someone had found her. The nurse bustled over. “I see you’re awake! We lost you so many times last night, they were ready to give up!” What she thought was great news, made the girl go further into depression. When you’re on the bottom and can’t even control death, a new low comes into your life. That is hopelessness.

The pastor spoke quietly. “Everyone falls into one of two categories” he said. “You are either hopeful, or you are hopeless.” What a truth! Although most could only grasp the words on a superficial level, I knew there would be many in the huge congregation who understood exactly what he was saying. I knew of a woman who lived with such verbal abuse that I was amazed she had not turned to alcohol or drugs to kill the pain; another leads the life of wife to a womanizer, as the term is; another’s husband is so wrapped up in pornography that he allows his child to see it; and so many more horrific situations. Do you fall into any of these? Why does the victim stay? Because, although the life seems hopeless to us, there is a tiny flame inside that “hopes” a miracle will happen and they will some day escape.

On the other hand, there are families where everything seems to be great. The women lead useful, stay-at-home lives, caring for the children and home, and Dad brings home enough that the income covers the outgo, with some left. They have tons of hope! Where did the original road start? In their parents’ home? In their wise choices?

I know a girl who married someone who was Romeo and Sir Lancelot rolled into one! That is, until the morning of the marriage when he said, “I can’t go through with this.” Everyone figured “cold feet.” For over twenty years he has abused her verbally in front of the children, with words that no woman should have to hear. But she, like the girl in the opening true story, had no skills, and couldn’t take the children. Another young lady came to  me to talk: she had married her “sweetheart” almost two years before. She is a Christian, and he supposedly was as well. However, when she came, she broke down as she admitted that the night of their marriage, he had rolled on his side and gone to sleep. In almost eighteen months, he had not consummated the marriage. There was no marriage, and I felt she had every right to get out. She did, and eventually married again. She and her pastor husband have two beautiful children, and I think of her often.

But there’s the flip side: the ones for whom no bell tolls, no tunnels end, and life is more than they can cope with. To end it seems so much the better, and they do.

Where, then, is the hope? We who know Jesus Christ as Lord know the scriptures that tell us He came to this world as a babe, because there was no other way to redeem lost mankind. He had to live among us, talk our language and live with us in order to reach us. And He did. He is the “hope of the world; the hope of all mankind; the hope of the Gentiles; the God of Hope” and many, many more! We have assurance that this life is temporary, that the trials here are because people prefer to choose their own way, rather than listen to the Creator God. He is our Hope, our Peace, and breaks every barrier down. No, life will not be a bed of roses–in fact, I can’t imagine more things more uncomfortable that laying in a bed of roses! Ouch! But neither can I imagine anymore a life where He will not take the useless and base things of this world, and turn them into something beautiful if we ask. The Bible tells us that He will give us “Beauty for ashes.” “The oil of joy for mourning.” How can one not “hope” with promises like that from the God whose promises have not failed yet? But you have to seek Him to find Him, and draw near to Him, so that He draws near to you. He will not force His presence where it is not wanted.

Hope for the Hopeless… He is!

Father, thank You for Your promise of hope for a fallen world. We cannot change our government, our parents, our intelligence, even our race or our appearance, but we can change the way we view You, view life, and we can hold fast to the way we trust You. You have promised wisdom to those who ask it, Lord, and for Christmas, I ask for wisdom to share the hope that lies within me–hope for a better tomorrow. Amen




© Laukas | Dreamstime Stock Photos


DONOTFEARAs the group sat in a circle around the room, everyone spoke of their experiences raising an adopted child. We sat and listened, occasionally looking at each other obliquely, as we heard all the terrible situations they were enduring. These people were going through fire in many cases. It was not a support group, but a group formed of parents who had adopted, and had been invited by the state to come together and tell what raising a non-biological child could entail. They were, in effect, warning those of us who had been approved for adoption how traumatic it was going to be.

Finally, as the time was winding down, my husband and I joined the conversation. “We have two young biological children,” we informed them. “Children who were prayed for before conception, wanted as much as any of you wanted the child you adopted. We have nurtured them, loved them, and not exposed them to anything we felt would be harmful to their well-being. In spite of all of this, our children are going through the same problems you are having with your adopted children. This may shock you, but we feel that perhaps what you think of as a result of a child being adoption, is not the case. We believe that what you are seeing is a child, acting like a normal child!” Although the parents were almost unable to grasp what we had said, it relieved the fears of many of them (to the aggravation of the state workers, I might add!) that they would never have the family they had desired. They had thought all their problems were the result of adoption.

Fear today has become a daily, constant companion, have you noticed?! The economy has left millions concerned for their jobs, concerned whether their income will pay the bills, and dreading–or living in fear of–unexpected repairs to cars or homes, or medical emergencies. Not only the economy, but life in general has become fearsome. Relationships are being subjected to turmoil because unhappiness at home, for whatever reason, creates an environment where we want something different–and the kids live in fear that mommy and daddy will divorce. There is no end to fear. The story above illustrates for me what we see happening in America through situations that all around us. In other words, we zero in on what we think is the reason for our problems, when in fact it probably isn’t. Fear that most people still have huge racial hang-ups may not be the case as much as it is just the few who are causing problems the rest of us do not feel at all. Most people are open to living agreeably with their neighbors, but if you are of another ethnic background it is easier to believe everyone is against you. And fear of not being accepted by those you admire creates a lifestyle of engaging in activities to make you look like Hollywood’s version of what is acceptable, leading many down an empty path of searching for something that isn’t going to be fulfilling.

That is not how God intended us to live. We are to love our neighbor, which is not Hollywood’s take on love, but showing through our actions the type of love that Jesus portrayed while He was on the earth. He ate, walked, healed, and loved the sick, the wounded, the outcast, the afflicted. We want to love those who can love us back. Shame on us.

God’s plan for us is not fear, it is peace, love and a mind that is not swayed by wrong values. Do we believe that? Do we practice that in our lives? Do we stress about money? Yes… then trust Him. He will not give us what we want, but He will definitely provide our needs if we trust Him. And, as He told Joshua time and time again, “Do NOT fear!” Fear is not His best for us, whether it’s the economy, raising our children, facing obstacles in our family situations, relationships at work, our job…. keep going. We are not to fear. We are to rely on the plans and purposes He has for us, and rest in His everlasting arms. They hold us up, and we can relax in them.

Wow, you’re getting preachy, you say! Yes, sometimes life is not all dessert, but meat. Check out God again–this time with your heart. The thing that amazes me is that people say the Bible is full of “do’s” and “don’t’s.” Christ said there are two things that are important: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as [much as you love] yourself. Two things, and we have peace. Then let us go do them.

God, forgive us for taking the easy way out. For answering back in anger, for not seeing truth where it is, for wanting an easy life. You didn’t promise us that, and Jesus certainly didn’t experience that! Give us the faith to trust You as we go about our daily routines. Please–help us to glorify You. Amen



let it go

She looked at me with hate, viciously grinding out her words,”I’d like nothing more than to kill you!” I confess I stood for a moment in stunned silence; how many people hear this said to them? Not only said, but truly meant. That was rough. What was rougher was that this was my only sister.

Going through a bitter divorce, she and her ex wanted nothing more than to hurt each other. The easiest way to do that is to tell lies, right? Or push buttons (spouses always know where to push the hardest)! In her case, her husband told her lies about having a relationship with me (there was none), and she believed him.  Maybe you’ve been there. The problem was, because she believed him, which involved me, now she wanted to hurt me. And what better way than to do it through my children? She called my adult children and told them (I can envision her dramatic anguish at having to tell them what she knew) what she had found out, which had not a grain of truth in it at all. She had “evidence” (I never knew what, probably a forged letter), and–of course–it destroyed more relationships for many years. For more than two decades, losing not only my sister, but the closeness that had been built between two of my daughters ate me totally alive, but finally, through time and much hurt, I had to “let it go.” I couldn’t fix it, but I had to move on before it killed me.

My story is no different than thousands of others. I have come to learn that the majority of people have something in their past that is like an albatross around their neck. Maybe it was marrying the wrong person while on the re-bound, and never really having a marriage. Maybe it was having a child outside of marriage, and later having to watch a boy/girl friend abuse the child. Maybe an abortion, which continually haunts you. Maybe you gave a child up for adoption. I know what you feel: every child you see may be him/her, right? And it will always be. Somehow you have to come to the point where you “let it go” and trust God’s love for the child to be working out His plan for your child. I have lived long enough now to know most of us have to be tested by fire. Relationships are destroyed, homes are destroyed, and in the end we are tested to see whom we love the most: ourselves or the Lord.

Israel had the same problem. Adopted by God and raised as a cherished child, she became a great nation, only to fall into sin that destroyed the relationship. God had to put her through the fire in order to try to re-establish the relationship, finally sending His only Son to bear not only the sins of Israel, but the sins of those (us) who were grafted in–the Gentiles. Read Deuteronomy, the last several chapters. It sounds like the USA today!

Soon the first of 2015 will be upon us, and thousands will be making a resolution to start a new life with the new year! Putting behind us those things which bring pain, those things which cause us to harbor bitterness (which gives Satan a foothold in our lives), those things which have hurt us so badly but do not hurt the other person–now is the time to “let it go.” We don’t want to spend the rest of our lives with those feelings “frozen” inside of us, like cancers, eating us alive from the inside out! We want to be free to experience the joy God is so willing to give us. We want to exchange the sadness we feel–or have felt for years–for happiness that only comes when our lives match up with the guidelines He has laid for us.

Last night at a basketball game, I was impressed at how close the guys could come with the ball to that line that marked the court. It could bounce within inches, but they deftly caught it and kept within bounds! We need to have such spiritual tenacity that we don’t let the balls we juggle each day fall and bounce away, where we step outside the lines to grab one. That only comes with diligence and practice. Spiritual exercise, the Bible calls it. Do you know how to do it? I haven’t been very good at it either. But I know Jesus promised that if I would ask (in this case, that He help me), I would receive; if I knocked, the door would be opened; if I seek, I will find! (Matthew 7:7). So, how about if we both “ask” for God’s joy to replace the sadness of our past? And while we’re at it, we can seek that joy and find that it is only in Him–He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! Not a popular statement in this day of “tolerance,” but what will you say when you die and find you were wrong?

I can almost hear your thoughts: “but He gave me a rock, when I asked for a piece of bread,” “He took my (mom, dad, whatever),” “He did this, He did that… He is not to be trusted.” And because He didn’t do life the way you wanted it done, you withdrew your trust–you decided to punish Him by withdrawing your love. Just like my sister: you were hurt, so your revenge is to hurt back. Sadly, that’s no solution at all, and the ripple effect goes far and wide. It really is time to “let it go.” Trade in your sadness for obedience and joy before it’s too late.

Holy God, the years have passed in a blur, with no solutions to the problems that have been the result of trying days. But I have enough faith in You to know that Your purpose and plans for me are not to harm me but to give me life. If I could control You, You wouldn’t be God, You would be just like man. Thank you for being the sovereign power of the universe, the great I AM, the Creator, the Sustainer, the Redeemer. I ask for freedom from past choices that I made, past consequences that were from the actions of others, and ask that You be my joy, not another person, not this short life. Help me, Lord, to let it all go, and embrace the freedom that is found in You! Amen