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Building Trust

Our last family pet died a few years ago. Lately I’ve been feeling that it was time to adopt another fur baby. I called around to see if there were any kittens available but wasn’t having much luck. Then I got a call from my vet. They had several cats all around one year old that had been living outdoors being fed by an elderly gentleman in the next town. When he died, the neighbors complained to the local animal control that these cats were roaming wild. The cats were rounded up and taken the vetrienarian’s office to be put up for adoption. I stopped in to see the cats not knowing what to expect. I wanted a cute kitten who would curl up in my lap and fall asleep only to wake and want to play. Adopting an adult feral cat is a very different story.

When I first met Mirabel, I fell in love. She was a petite calico with golden eyes and a sweet personality but very scared and skittish. I knew it would take time for her to come around but my husband and I were willing to give it a try.

For the first month she was in the house, we never saw her. She lived under a couch in the living room and refused to come out. At night, when the house was quiet and we were asleep, she would eat and use her litter box but otherwise stayed hidden.

After that first month we noticed that she would sneak thru the living room on her way to her food dish. If we made eye contact, she would run. At least, we could catch a glimpse of her. Patiently we waited for her to come around. By the second month, she was walking thru the room in front of us and started to play with the little toys that we had scattered around. She still didn’t like to make eye contact and certainly wouldn’t tolerate any human touch. Each evening I would tempt her with treats trying to get her interact with me. She was definitely interested and slowly but surely, she began to creep closer to me as I held out the treat. Only If I put the treat down and withdrew my hand, would she come forward to eat. Several weeks went by and she came closer and closer but still no contact.

Then our daughter and her fiancé came to visit with their dog for four days. Mirabel spent that time hiding in the basement. We had moved her litterbox there already so she was very comfortable but I  know she missed our evening treats together. When our daughter and fiancé left and took their sweet dog with them, Mirabel came back and this time was actually sniffing my hand. The next evening, she laid her head in my hand and I was able to scratch behind her ears. She wasn’t purring yet, but closes her eyes and seems to enjoy the touch.

The next day we left for an eight day road trip through New England and Canada that we had planned months earlier. Our son stayed home and cared for Mirabel. He said that she wouldn’t come near him but did eat twice a day and used the litter box daily.

When we returned home, Mirabel wouldn’t come near me for two days. I knew she was traumatized by the dog and then having us disappear for a week. I was heartbroken that she apparently didn’t trust me anymore. On our third night home, she cautiously came towards me as I was sitting on the couch. She saw the treat in my hand but wasn’t having any of it. It took another hour before she would come close enough to take the treat that I had left on the floor. After several hours she let me scratch her neck and played with her mouse toy at my feet. Success! I still can’t pick her up but we have established a bond.

So why the long rambling story about a feral cat learning about her new home? Because it reminded me of a favorite Bible verse. Mirabel’s gradual acceptance of us gave me a bit of insight into my own relationship with God. We are not born into God’s family. We are adopted. A friend of mine had adopted a child as an infant. From the moment that baby came home from the hospital with them, they were a family. They told the child at a young age that he was adopted but that didn’t change the family dynamics. Their son knew he belonged. It can be a rocky transition for an older child. I have other friends who have fostered with the goal of adoption. These children are dropped off with their clothing in a plastic bag and nothing else but painful memories that they are trying to process. They are not sure where they belong and it will take time to develop trust and finally love between the child/teen and foster/adoptive parent. We come to Christ in much the same state, beat up by the trials we have endured and not inclined to trust this God who offers what sounds too good to be true. Even those who accept Christ as a child have to grow into that adoption and will struggle with the doubts and fears that come with that growth. Only through the Holy Spirit can God begin the transformation of our souls to prepare us for our eternal destination. And it will take time, a lifetime of time. Our God is so patient, waiting for us to come to Him asking for forgiveness and inviting Him to begin the restorative work that only God can do for us. He stands at the door and knocks waiting for that invitation.

As I waited for Mirabel to come to me, I thought of how I have pulled away from God when I didn’t like unpleasant circumstances. That fragile bud of trust that was opening in my heart would often snap shut when hurt, pain or fear swept over me. At such times I repeat this verse to myself.

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
    therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
    Blessed are all who wait for him!

Isaiah 30:18

I remember stumbling across this verse a while ago and being struck by the thought that God longs to show me kindness. I thought that I was doing a great job in my Christian walk but verses like this help me to see that I am still learning how to live in this newfound trust. And the promise of that last verse. It says that as we learn to trust God’s timing in our lives, God blesses us!

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!

I share this today as a part of my own journey and hope you find it encouraging too. We spend our earthly time learning to trust that those everlasting arms really can catch us. Adoption is not an easy process but a child can learn to trust when a parent uses love and patience to build a family.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God!

1 John 3:1


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Do Something!

25 years ago two teenagers ordered a pizza just so they could ambush and kill the delivery guy. They said that they wanted to know what it would be like to kill someone. True story.

I was a new believer back then and had just started teaching Sunday School to the littlest ones. I remember thinking, what can we do to prevent such mindless violence and cruel death? This is not the world that I want my children to grow up in. There must be something that we can do as a society to prevent these tragedies. The only thing that was open to me was to serve in the Children’s Ministry at my church and I thought, “Well, it’s a start”. I have continued to serve in both Children’s Ministry and later Youth Ministry. I found that I truly enjoyed working with the kids and hoped that I was helping to lay a solid foundation for that next generation to grow on.

Over the years, I have watched the violence grow and compassion fade. I have watched the news and read the stories of attacks on the elderly, minorities and children. I continued to play games with my Sunday school classes. I talked with teens as they struggle to find their place in this crazy world. And always, I prayed over these children asking God’s protection upon them as they grow in their understanding of God and His everlasting Love.

There was another school shooting this week. Last week there was a mass shooting in a supermarket and a fatal shooting in a NYC subway. The news is filled with video of children running in terror, families crying and grim police officers fighting back tears during press conferences. And the airwaves are filled with the public outcry of “Do something! When will they do something!”

I get it. We, as a society, need to step up and find solutions to the proliferation of firearms and ways to strengthen and improve our mental health system. This is what our government can and must do.

But what about us as individuals? What can we do?

I think back 25 years ago and my reaction to a senseless killing of a pizza deliveryman and I feel the same way today. I continue to look for the opportunities to talk with kids and teens and let them know that there are adults who care and will listen without judging them. I continue to open my heart to them. I try to simply be there for them. Sure, it’s a struggle some days. My job can be demanding at times and my own family needs have to take precedence other days but I continue to watch for the doors that God will open when He has work for me to do and then pray for the strength to do it.

I urge all adults to volunteer to help our kids. Volunteer at church, at local schools and with organizations such as Big Brother, Big Sister. Be a foster parent. Coach a Rec team in your town. If you cannot commit to anything this big, start small. My neighbor’s little one started soccer lessons last year. Anytime he sees me outside, he’ll ask me to see a new skill he has learned. I compliment him and tell him how well he is doing. It’s that simple. Just notice them and let them know you see them.

Continue to urge our politicians to do something but we can do something too. Look around you and find the places where you can plug in and interact with the young people in your neighborhood, your church, your life.

The biggest difference you can make will start with the smallest gesture of kindness to a child.

Maybe we are not all qualified to serve in Congress but we can help to open a child’s heart to God’s love. And in that way, we can change the world.


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A Hard Prayer for a Hard Night

We recently had a medical scare in our family in which we were powerless to do anything but wait on test results. Anyone who has had to sit in a hospital bed and wait for results in the morning can tell you that is a hard night. Even while telling myself that God is in control it was a hard night.

I wasn’t alone. We had the support of so many family and friends who joined us in prayer to ask for healing from God. Asking for a miracle.

Now miracles come in many forms. As Christians, we are told to look for miracles and even to expect miracles from God. We have come to expect miracles as an answer to our fervent prayers, especially when it comes to health concerns. Personally, I have always struggled with this. Not that there is anything wrong with asking God for healing. On the contrary, we have examples of this throughout the Old and New Testament. God encourages us to come to Him with all our fears and concerns and to ask for what is most dear to our hearts. But it is important to realize that this is not for God’s benefit. He already knows what you will pray for before the words even leave your lips. God asks us to pray in this way as an exercise for us to learn how to trust God.

 Prayer is a very intimate thing and involves trusting the One you are praying to. I think children have a much easier time talking with God then adults do. Children have a natural ability to trust that sadly fades over time. By adulthood most of us have become jaded and now struggle to string together a few words just to thank God, just to praise God for who He is. We have to relearn what it means to pour out our heart to God through the miracle of prayer and in doing so, we grow in faith and trust of the One who loves us most.

But does God really answer our prayers? Does He really hear and then perform miracles? Or are miracles now relegated to olden times? If you believe that, then you will miss the miracles that happen every day.

If you woke up this morning and were able to open your eyes and get yourself out of bed to face a new day, you’ve had a miracle.

Have you invited Jesus to bring about a rebirth in your spiritual heart which was cold and dark until He arrived? That it the biggest miracle of all!

So what then, am I to pray for? A miracle? Healing? Maybe just letting God know how scared I am while repeating over and over that I trust Him?

I am learning to pray boldly while trusting God (and this has to be one of scariest things I have ever done).

Dear Lord,

I love you. I don’t understand what You are doing but I trust You.

Please _____________(heal/take away this issue/find me a job/fill this hole in my life/ fill in your own need).

 But Lord, I trust You and accept what You will put in my life. This is the scary part Lord, just being willing to accept whatever You will give me.  I know that you have a purpose for all that You allow to happen to me, but sometimes it’s not very pretty. Some of the things that you have brought my way have been hard and ugly.

 Yet I will follow You,Lord, where ever you lead me. Over mountaintops, into deep valleys, over stormy waves, into the lion’s den. I’m not saying I will be happy about it, but I will follow, trusting you for rescue when needed. In the footsteps of the Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I will follow not knowing the outcome, not even knowing what the journey will be like, just knowing that you are leading and letting that knowledge be enough. I trust You, Lord.

Amen

And a miracle did happen. Even though the condition was not removed, we were given treatment options that are much better than we expected. God is good, even when our circumstances aren’t. Remember that and pray the hard prayers.


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It’s Advent Season

It’s that time of year when the church celebrates Advent. Those four Sundays leading up to Christmas that help us reflect on who Jesus is and prepare us to celebrate His coming to earth for our redemption. We will light 4 candles, one each Sunday, to remind us of the hope, peace, joy and love that God brought us in the form a tiny baby. After all, the human condition is hopeless without Jesus. We would spend the rest of eternity separated from God unless we can trust in the work that Jesus did when he was here on earth. Without Jesus, we can never truly know peace. I have known times of peaceful rest before I became a Christ follower but never that peace that passes understanding as Paul describes it (Phil.4:7). And joy! Again, we have all had joyful experiences but that joyful feeling is based on the circumstances that you are in. Jesus gives us a joy that is not dependent on what is happening around us but rather on the Holy Spirit within us. Lastly love. While I have been blessed with a strong loving marriage, both my husband and I would be the first to say that we never really experienced love until we realize that there is a deeper love that God showers us with. His love, also called agape love, is beyond human capacity but helps us to learn to stretch beyond our own meager boundaries.

Advent is often referred to as a time of waiting and as well as reflecting. Waiting for the child who would come to redeem us, the Savior who would save the world with His perfect sacrifice.

This is where I struggle. Waiting is not easy for me. I blame it on Amazon Prime. I just placed an order for 8 gifts and was told I would have to wait 7 days for one of the gifts. Even though the other gifts would arrive with 24 to 48 hours, I was really put out that I was being asked to wait! I have been spoiled rotten by Amazon.

Thankfully God always gives us an example to follow when He asks anything of us. We can see the art of waiting and the gift of patience in the actions of Mary and her cousin Elizabeth played out in the Christmas story recorded in Luke 1 and 2.

Elizabeth is the older cousin of Mary. She and her husband Zechariah are an older, childless couple who have given up on raising a family. One day, while serving in the temple, Zechariah is visited by an angel who tells him that he and his wife will soon have a child. Though he is skeptical, Elizabeth soon conceives a child. Her lifetime of waiting has taught her to trust in God’s timing and that faith makes the wait bearable for her.

Six months or so later, the same angel Gabriel, appears to Mary telling her of the miraculous birth that she will have. He tells Mary about her cousin is already in her sixth month of pregnancy. Mary’s reaction shows her great faith and trust in God. “I am the Lord’s servant”, Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38)

Mary’s visit to Elizabeth served several purposes benefitting both of them. For Elizabeth, she would have a younger woman there to help her as the pregnancy progressed. It is generally believed that Mary would have stayed until her cousin gave birth so she could assist in household chores and even with the birth. We are told that Elizabeth was past the age of child-bearing so this would have been a difficult pregnancy and birth and I am sure that she was grateful for Mary’s help. Mary would have so much to learn from Elizabeth. She was probably a young teen with little experience in need an older woman’s support. It also must have been a relief for Mary to get away for a bit as her pregnancy progressed and be out of the sight of town gossip’s who would have made things difficult for her. God provided the ultimate support group for these ladies at their most difficult times.

But my favorite part of the Christmas story is the part that shows how Mary had grown in patience. Maybe she had learned the art of waiting from her older cousin.

When the baby is born, God sends the angels to shepherds outside the town to tell them that the Savior is born. These shepherds, living their lives outdoors with their sheep, weren’t the most hygienic people to show up at a newborn’s bedside. Mary reaction to seeing the shepherds has long held a fascination for me.

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart: Luke 2:19

I expected her to be scared, panicked, confused and she may well be feeling all these things. Yet she treasured and ponders what has just happened. She is trusting God and waiting on His perfect timing. Throughout the scriptures, when Mary shows up, she exhibits this same trust in her God. Mary has learned the art of waiting and teaches us today with her gentle grace. Amazon may continue to torment me but I am learning to wait in all things!

We all live in a continual season of Advent as we await His return. Let Elizabeth and Mary show us how to wait on God with hope, peace, joy and love securely held in our hearts. Let this advent season continue into January and the rest of our earthly lives as we learn to grow in our use of the gift of patience, given by the Holy Spirit and exemplified by human examples.


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Too Good To Be True

Everyone loves the Psalms. They are inspiring, encouraging and comforting. True, sometimes they can be downright confusing but that is only because the Psalmist shows his frail human side as a contrast to the God that he is praising with his songs or psalms.

We find that the psalmist, whether David or another, often refers to God by his covenant name of LORD or Yahweh. This is a personal name that God had given to his people Israel many generations before. It’s use reminds the people that this God is not some deity who judges them from the heights of Heaven but rather, the One who loves them. It speaks of His holiness, justice, grace and mercy. It is a name of comfort during a time of civil unrest and world-wide persecution for Israel.

As we read the Psalms, we remember the promises or covenant that God has made to us. He promised Abraham that he would become a great nation. He promised Noah that he would never again destroy the earth. He promised David that he would bring a King from his family line. God has promised that he will never leave us, will always protect us and has abundant grace and mercy for all.

It sounds too good to be true.

 We often see Israel’s prophets displaying doubt, fear and sometimes digging their heels in, refusing to follow God. You can almost hear them thinking – “This is too good to be true, LORD. Surely you don’t mean the promises you have made”. The Psalms, written during David’s roller coaster of faith life or during the exile show us just how hard is can be to accept God’s promises of abundant life during times of darkness. Yet God never reneges on any of his promises. His covenant stands firm even though the world seems to be in chaos.

I had a great reminder of this over the weekend. My husband and I took some time off to rest in Cape May, NJ. This town at the southernmost tip of the state is a launching point for migrating birds traveling north in the spring to nest and south in the fall looking to escape a snowy winter. We spent the weekend with camera and binoculars in hand, searching for whatever we may find. There are always many raptors overhead, migrating warblers in the trees and water birds on the coastline and in the salt marshes. This year we had an exciting find of a migrating pair of white ibis traveling with a junvenile, probably their young from spring nesting. They are not usually seen this far north, so we were excited to try and photograph them. We first noticed them flying overhead but couldn’t get a good shot. We continued our walk around the trail – about a 40 minute stroll- ending up near the start of the trail. As we looked out over a lake crowded with swans and ducks, we noticed the Ibis trio sitting on the railing of an old dock halfway down the lake. We thought we were imaging it at first! Had the birds really stuck around and now we could get pictures of them? We tried to get a few shots using a telephoto lens. The shots were a bit blurry but it was better than nothing. The time was getting late and we had to leave but we were so happy that the birds had stuck around for a little photoshoot. It had seemed too much to think that they would still be there 40 minutes later, yet there they were- posing on that dock railing for us. Even crazier, we were able to return to the same spot about 4 hours later. As we started the trail we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. There on the same dock railing was our little Ibis family! It seemed too good to be true! this time we were able to get much closer and get the shots that you see here.

God’s promises show us that the unexpected, the seemingly impossible are God’s handiwork. Just when you think that things will never work out, He will open doors that you hadn’t even realized were there. And you will get to photograph that elusive bird that shouldn’t have even been in New Jersey. This is the very essence of the covenant that God has made with us. He will move mountains and make straight paths where we see obstacles. And if we get discouraged, He will send reminders that will make us laugh, such as a sweet bird family whose bills are way too long but they will sit still for over 4 hours just so I could get a picture.


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Whales and things

Can you call it a whale watch when you don’t see any whales? Technically, I guess you can because that is what we were doing- watching for whales to show up. But they didn’t, not that day. The seas were calm and the skies were clear. You couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day to enjoy a boat ride. I didn’t even mind that the whales which the captain said had been in the area a day earlier, didn’t show up. We had fun and even got free tickets for another whale watch tour next time we were in the area.

I did start to get a bit nauseous when the boat sped up, causing it to rock a bit. I remembered a very successful whale watch several years earlier during a rain storm with rough seas. Everyone else stayed below in the cabin to stay out of the rain. But my husband and I wanted to see whales so we braved the wind and rain to stay on top with the captain and a naturalist who was leading the tour. We had a blast watching a group of whales as they flipped their tails at us. One even breached right alongside the ship! But the rough seas took a toll on everyone. Most of the other passengers were seasick and I have to admit that I had bouts of queasiness throughout the ride. It was the naturalist who gave me the best advice. She told me find a fixed spot on the horizon and focus. Within minutes the dizziness left me and my stomach calmed down. I used that technique again and again whenever I felt a bit of motion sickness creeping in.

We were on vacation last week and intentionally didn’t watch any news programming, but it was hard to tune the national and international news out. During the week we did the uneventful whale watch, hiked the nature trails and walked the beaches of southeastern Maine. We delighted in the unique environment of tidal flats and forests that grow right up to the rocky beaches. We enjoyed lobster rolls, lobster bisque and even mini lobster tacos. I got to hold a newly caught lobster – he was small and was thrown back in to live another day. We saw two sea birds that were new to us- a gannet and many Wilson’s Storm Petrels while sailing.

And yet, we couldn’t stay away from all that was happening this past week. News from Afghanistan has been heartbreaking. A major storm devastated many states causing 4 confirmed hurricanes in my home state of New Jersey and flooding large parts of the state. We were very lucky with only minor water in our basement which our son quickly took care of for us. There was even controversy over local BOE school board candidates that found its way into my daily newsfeed as much as I tried to ignore it. Every time I felt the news stories start to spin out of control, I searched for a spot on the horizon to recenter myself again and restore the vacation vibe I was struggling to keep going. I will tell you my secret- the horizon spot I was focusing on is Jesus. Focusing on the person of Christ is something that I wish would just come naturally to me but I always need a reminder. Focus on Me, He whispers to me daily and I thank Him for that nudge. Sometimes I hum that old hymn to myself:

“Fix your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face.

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

The world has been spinning out of control since that day in Eden when disobedient man rebelled against a loving God and we are still rebelling today. Yes,all of us, all the time.

The world is still spinning wildly and I am often dizzy and nauseous by what I see and hear but there is help on that horizon were Jesus waits for me to focus on Him. Then, suddenly, I realize that He is right here in my own heart and the grace and glory of His presence is enough to center me while the world still spins. Fix your eyes on Jesus and see the world grow dim.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:2-3


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25 years is a long time

Troy – summer of ’96

It’s been 25 years since I last held my infant son Troy in my arms. He died of rare complications from Marfan’s Syndrome. I still struggle to wrap my mind around it all. I try to imagine him in Heaven waiting for me to join him and sometimes I get blessedly lost in that daydream. I know the promises that Jesus gives me for eternity. That assurance makes it all almost bearable. But then I must return to the here and now and deal with grief and loss and painful memories. It would be so much easier if I could just be lost in dreams of a place where there are no tears or pain or illness and Marfan’s Syndrome doesn’t exist.

There’s so much Christian literature that deals with the purpose of pain and suffering and I won’t bore you with that. But I read something today that made me stop and think.

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

John 21:20-22

Jesus’ answer is telling. “Focus in the job I gave you, Peter, even if you don’t like that job. Don’t worry about what I am doing in anyone else’s life. Deal with your own issues because everything that I put in your life has a purpose. That’s what it means to follow me.”

I don’t blame Peter for his question. We all tend to look at what else is going on when we don’t like what we see in front of us. Sometimes the lessons God is teaching us are simple and joyous. Others may be painful and force us to look at parts of ourselves that we would much rather avoid. Each experience that God puts in our path is meant to stretch us and grow us into something that will be much different from who we are right now. And that new person will be just the person God has planned for us to be all along. We will have to follow Jesus as Peter did for this to happen. During the difficult days, know that he is right beside you – guiding you, holding you tight, leading you always. During impossibly painful times, those times when grief or illness or paralyzing fears and doubts cause you to lose your focus on Jesus, know that He is still there.  Lean into Him and He will take you closer to God’s heart as He prepares you for eternity.

I would much rather focus on good things and my memories of Troy are treasured faded snapshots of him gazing at me in his gentle way, his slow little smile with sweet blue eyes and strawberry blond hair. I try to focus on that and not think of the last time I held him. But on the anniversary, I can’t stop my mind from wandering down dark alleys that threaten to rip me apart. So, I reach for Jesus, knowing that He has a purpose in this even if it is beyond me right now.

“…if I believe that God is good, then I need to accept whatever happens to me in life as a gift. And allow Him to take some of the things that hurt, allow Him to take some of the things that sting, some of the things that I think are going to kill me- allow Him to take those things and make of me the person He wants me to be. It may not be the person I want to be, but it’ll be the person He would want me to be.”

Rich Mullins

A quote that brings perspective. Our lives are not about us, but rather it is about what God wants of us and that really turns things around. In John 21, Jesus tells Peter his plan for him when he says. “Feed my sheep”, and then reminds Peter of the love between them. Truly, walking in love is the only way we can follow the path that Jesus beckons us to.

Peter’s journey is our journey too. I can be as headstrong as the wayward apostle was. But as I learn to listen and follow God, I find unexpected twists and turns in my paths. Some of those twists were agonizing, others were fun diversions. With hindsight I can now see how the breaking of my heart (and pride) allows me to experience deeper love and trust as it heals. God is teaching me big lessons with even bigger eternal consequences.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

25 years- today I will allow myself to daydream a bit. Though I yearn for the day of reunion, today I let God heal a bit more of the bleeding parts of my soul. And tomorrow I will ask Him to teach me, to grow me, to stretch me yet again, trusting in His love for me- trusting in the plans he has for me.


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Lessons from a Firefly

We’re in the middle of an early summer heat wave. At the end of the day, as the sky slowly darkens, I stand on the back deck and listen to the quiet. Just the sound of the neighbor’s air conditioner and a lone frog croaking in the distance. Glittering little lights over the lawn and in the trees tell me that the fireflies have arrived. The darker it gets, the more points of light are flickering across the yard and back towards the tree line.

As a child, it always seemed like there were armies of fireflies each night. My sister and our friends would try to catch them in mayo jars with holes punched in the top. We would each catch a dozen or so and watch the flashing lights within the glass. By the morning they would all be gone, having crawled out through the air holes.

I read that we have less fireflies these days due to habitat loss and light pollution. They need open fields to find mates. The males will climb up onto a blade of grass or out on a tree limb to flash their light to attract a mate. The females will then retreat to the woods to lay eggs in the protection of the leaf litter. They need the combination of meadows bordered by woods to survive but suburban sprawl has built on the meadows and cut down the trees. Fortunately, my yard has a large grassy area with a small but thick wooded area behind it and the fireflies are making the most of it.

Light pollution is an issue too. House security lights, street lights, parking lots and even cars driving by all combine to disrupt the insect’s flashing rhythms. It’s difficult for the tiny insects to attract mates when they have to compete with manmade lights.

As I stood there on the deck, enjoying the cool down of the evening and watching the beautiful the little lights dancing over my backyard, I thought about what Jesus told us about light.

That’s a tall order, letting your light shine. Sometimes, I feel like that little firefly flashing a light in a vanishing habitat. The world is a dangerous place for him and he is vulnerable. As a Christian, I can relate to that. Between the current political climate and the foolishness and sometimes downright nastiness of some Christians, our habitat and ability to influence the world has dramatically shrunk. I cringed when I saw signs that read, “Jesus Saves” among the crowd at the Capitol building on January 6th. I really can’t blame anyone if they refuse to listen to me talk about Jesus these days. Sadly, many other teachings are starting to look attractive when compared to this rabid, distorted Christianity. Now my little light is often lost among the light pollution of other voices clamoring for attention in a world that confuses truth with half-truths and lies.

It’s full dark outside now and I step outside one last time before turning in. I can’t get over how much brighter the fireflies look now! I think there are even more of them flitting over the grass and through my gardens. Maybe that’s the secret. The Gospel shines and the darker the situation is, the brighter it can shine. I remember hearing that when missionaries were kicked out of China in the 1950’s, western Christians feared that the message would go dark. What we found was that it simply went underground and thrived in the dangerous, repressive atmosphere the Communist party created.

I am not one for arguing apologetics. I shrink back when Christians twist the Gospel into a message of condemnation but God doesn’t. He will shine His light through those who care more for His will and less for their own agenda. Maybe our lights are brighter than we think. I forgot that we have a God whose habitat is the entire world that He created and the light of the Son outshines the many competing stars in the sky. In my weakness I forgot that His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Flash away little firefly- there’s more to you than you realize.


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Choose Gratefulness

Sometimes you can read the same verses over and over again and miss the obvious. Other times you read it through once and something will jump out at you that you may have never noticed before.

I am reading thru the book of John and have been reveling in the stories of Jesus’ miracles, healings and teachings. Today, I am reading about the feeding of the five thousand followed by walking on water and then teaching on the bread of life- that’s a lot to pack in! But that’s when I noticed what I hadn’t seen before. Scripture records that Jesus gives thanks before the miracle and that must be an important detail because it is mentioned not once, but twice in the passage.

To recap the story, after the miraculous feeding of the crowd in Chapter 6, Jesus “withdraws” to escape the well-meaning people who are about to crown Him king. Funny really, they are still thinking in earthly terms of naming a king of Israel when they had just been served lunch by the King of Kings. We miss so much that God is doing because we get stuck in a wrong way of thinking. We miss the bigger picture of God’s love. We tend to throw away grace and mercy disregarding it as weakness rather than the strength it is. Jesus leaves the crowd with full bellies but empty hands as He escapes into solitude on a mountain as He often did when He wanted to pray. The disciples take a boat and go ahead to Capernaum, sailing at night. Another miracle is performed as He walks out onto the water towards them. The next day, the people who had enjoyed the unexpected feast, realize that Jesus is gone and head out to find him.

We are told that the people are still in the area where they had eaten the bread the day before. Scripture doesn’t tell us that Jesus performed a miracle. It only says that the people were “in the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. In verse 23 the people are said to be in the place where they had eaten after Jesus prayed. Two very short, very easy to miss verses that describe a miracle with the words “gave/given thanks”.

And maybe that is the miracle we miss- God’s response to grateful hearts. When we are able to give God all that we have with gratefulness, trusting that God will do whatever is needed to be done in our lives, only then will we be able to step outside of our own neediness and into the bigger picture that God is painting.

Think bigger!

It’s amazing, really. The disciples, along with the boy that Andrew found, give all they have to Jesus. Jesus takes all they give and through a simple act of prayer, blesses all the people present. Thankfulness before the miracle. Makes me examine my own prayer habits. Do I thank God, trusting Him to take care of me each day before the day has even begun? Do I pray with requests but no expectations? Do I live in grateful anticipation of what I know God can do? Yes, this is hard to do. In verse 26, Jesus chastises the people looking for him. He says that they have not come because of the miracle they witnessed. They came for the very simple reason that they had full bellies the day before but are now hungry again. Jesus uses the opportunity to teach the crowds that He offers so much more- the bread of life, a food that endures to eternal life. This will be a constant theme in both His public teaching to the crowds but also to His disciples for the next three years. Think bigger! Don’t limit God to your box of needs. Think much bigger!

And for our part, it starts with grateful prayer. Perhaps that is the real lesson of the Feeding of the 5,000. Start each day with grateful prayer, expecting Him to move in a miraculous way. Even Jonah, in the belly of that crazy fish, prayed gratefully before God rescued him. Granted, Jonah was still disobedient but he had one thing right. He thanked God first and then watched God roll up His sleeves and get to work.

This will take some rethinking on my part. I am not a morning person and struggle to start my day in prayer. Honestly, I am so much better with evening prayers! But if this is the example that Jesus sets and I claim to follow Him, then it’s pretty obvious what is needed.

Grateful prayers, grateful hearts and grateful expectations today and everyday.


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Heaven’s Child (for Troy)

I wrote this about 15 years ago and always think of it on Good Friday. Here’s an updated version

I tend to think of Mary

as a mother only can

standing on that hillside,

was she questioning your plan?

for You trusted her with your Son

an infant needing care,

then you made her watch him suffer

as her eyes filled with tears.

for that baby was a man now

and the hope at his birth,

had given way to your purpose

a mother’s tears fill the earth.

and did Mary say….

If he can’t be in my arms, I’ll put him in yours.

he was yours from the beginning, mine for just a while.

I held and I rocked him this precious Heaven’s child.

now though you are the Master

a father’s heartbeat I have felt,

and I know you were with Joseph

at the manger as he knelt.

and if Mary cried her tears

at the foot of Calvary,

how much greater was your sorrow

you could have stopped the tragedy.

you could have reached and stilled the hand

of the soldier with the nails

but you let the thing play out

with all the pain that it entails

and did Mary say…

if he can’t be in my arms

then I’ll put him in yours.

he was yours from the beginning

 mine for just a while.

I held him and I rocked him

this precious Heaven’s child

And this child showed us Love

beyond our abilities

the work that He finished

calls us into eternity

The mercy and grace of God

meet us at the cross

You gave all You are

so that I would no longer be lost

Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 20:30