The Power In Us

…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:13

How glorious would it have been to live when Jesus was physically here on Earth?  To sit at the Sermon on the Mount and hear His words directly from His mouth?  To be in a busy marketplace and bump into Him – turning to see directly into His face?  Isn’t it amazing how He spent so little time here with us yet the impact has been so astounding that even our days are marked by when He arrived?  And when He ascended, the gift He left behind is something for which we can never be thankful enough.

“If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  John 14: 15-17

When you study the Bible you see how Jesus and the Holy Spirit touched lives even before the time we say God became fully human.  Their presence is woven throughout the Old Testament.  So it’s not as though they were created suddenly.  God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit all spoke the world into creation and have placed their holy hands on our lives throughout history.

So, today specifically I praise God for the gift of the Holy Spirit and for being our constant intercessor, our inner voice, our God whisperer.  

It is the Holy Spirit that helps us to pray when we don’t know what to pray – because the situation has gotten so dire.  It is the Holy Spirit who whispers to us to get up and do God’s work.  It is the Holy Spirit who partners with us when we need rescue.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  Romans 8:26

I shared with my BSGs in the past that when I’m really stressed or worried I have a difficult time praying.  My mind is so jumbled and full of negative thoughts I can’t seem to quiet it down.  One of my BSGs responded saying, “I’ve just cried out, “help me!” when I don’t know what to say.”  That’s great advice.  It says it right there in Romans 8.  The Holy Spirit will help us pray.  Will give us the words to speak to God. 

Friends, God is so beautiful and loving that He didn’t leave us orphans.  He didn’t leave us grieving because He left us with a piece of Him inside of each of us.  I once heard a Christian teacher say that we don’t need to attain patience, kindness, love, etc.  We already have all those imputed through the Holy Spirit that lives in us because we believe.   We just need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us release those gifts.  To help us pray the words to fight back against the devil.  To whisper to us “love this person right now.”

We need to believe that God has given us the access to this awesome power.  And once we do that, we should pray to unleash it with all its glorious might.


Beautiful Creations

Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. Genesis 7:2-3

Like millions of other people, I’ve enjoyed watching the amazing fetes of strength and endurance on display during the Tokyo Olympics.  The way humans can push themselves mentally and physically to limit – just because they want to – is astounding.  No other creature on this planet puts themselves through so much hardship and pain just to reach a self-imposed goal.

But what really fascinates me when watching the Olympics is the beauty of God’s diversity.  In just one 200 meter heat you will see people of every color.  I saw a picture of two United States track athletes embracing in exhausted joy.  One had a creamy caramel color skin and another a jet black skin tone.  And just to the side was an athlete with skin as white as snow.  It was beautiful.   All colors of skin tone from the whitest white to cream and light tan to black as night.  And all God’s creation.

Today I praise God for His diverse creation.  For not making us all the same yet still having the same desires to be loved, liked, admired.  For being so different and yet still afraid of so many of the same things.  

I’m fortunate enough to live in a pretty diverse community.  In the United States, even though the news might make it seem different, there’s diversity in almost all communities.  And for the most part we get along gloriously.  The same can’t be said of every country.  I believe God made us so diverse because He loves beauty.  Yet He made us so much alike so that we could still relate to each other.

The young Indian family that lives to the left of me, the Chinese family that lives to the right, and the Filipino family that’s a few houses up all have the same desires that I do.  To have healthy families, good jobs, to enjoy a walk around the block or a backyard BBQ with friends.  There’s so much the same in all our differences.

When I was raising my kids just a few years ago that was the message our schools, families, churches and media wanted to get across to them.  Multi-culturalism was something to be celebrated.  It’s sad to hear that message change.  As a Christian we mustn’t fall prey to demonizing one of God’s creations over the other.  That’s sliding backwards into old territory.  

News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Matthew 4:24

You’ll notice in the Matthew verse that Jesus healed all.  He didn’t select who He thought was the better person based on skin color, country of origin, race or gender.  He loved all and called all to Him.  Wouldn’t it be a great message for the world to say Christians don’t favor or degrade any person, no matter those outward identities?  To remind the people that God made us all – wonderfully?  That black or white or brown or any variation can be healed by turning their lives over to Jesus?

The next time you have the chance to watch an international sporting event take a moment and say a praise to God.  For His amazingly diverse creations.  For being a God who simply loves beauty and welcomes all into His kingdom.


We Belong

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. Galatians 4:6-7

For a long time, I just didn’t feel like I “belonged.”  As a child, I didn’t have a group of friends to hang out with.  My one friend, a neighbor around the corner, frequently left me out of activities with her other friends.  And when I got into high school I felt more like I was on the edge of my friend group.  Fast forward to adulthood and I never quite fit in with the boozy softball coach crowd, the gossipy PTA crowd, or even the Girl Scout leader gang.  

And when I married I was an outsider to a large, wonderful family.  Yes, they welcomed me but I couldn’t share in all the stories from long past because I never lived in the town they were all from.  My own family consists of myself and my parents – who I see and speak with infrequently.  

I spent a lot of time in prayer over the years asking God to work His changes in me so that I could feel like I belonged, somewhere, anywhere.  As my faith has progressed I’ve come to realize that I first need to accept being a part of the most important family of all – God’s. I praise Him today that He sees us as His sons and daughters.  We are His beautiful children whom He loves unconditionally.  We belong to Him.

That’s been a hard message for me to soak in and accept.  When I stand in the mirror I’ve asked God to help me see what He sees.  To love myself as He loves me – no matter where else I may have felt rejected. 

And it’s funny how God’s ways work.  When I focus on God’s love, gifts and promises the more I feel that sense of belonging.  He places me with new people and new situations that He has prepared for me.  I slough off the old negative feelings and instead give all glory to Him who loves me and who draws me closer to Him.

I recently heard a lesson about belonging. As Christians we are admonished to “remember our last name.” Like children of our earthly parents we are to go about our lives remembering who we belong to and who we represent. That really hit home. When I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior I became a part of a special family. One where I’m expected to remember my last name and act like I belong to the Lord Most High.

It’s amazing how God gives us the next steps when He sees we are ready — when we start acting like He expects us to.  He brings in new people to our lives when He knows we can openly accept His new ways.  I find myself so incredibly blessed by, not only the women that have been populated in my sphere, but the men.  Strong Christians who love people.  Faithful Christians who serve others.  Young, old, every race and quirkiness. And I feel like I belong.


Change Maker

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. 2 Corinthians 7:1

Like everyone else on this blue planet I’ve had my share of relationship problems.  From friends to family and love relationships to work ones I’ve had my share of angry words and uncomfortable silences.  In the past, I would rush in to trying to solve whatever problem had arisen.  I couldn’t allow a quiet, cooling down period.  I needed to work out the disagreement right now.  I tried using my own solutions –whether it meant apologizing, arguing my point, denigrating myself, or even pretending nothing happened.

When I finally started taking my most important relationship seriously all that changed.  When I placed God above everything in my life it helped to prioritize all my other relationships.  It also meant I turned to God in seeking solutions to interpersonal interactions. 

I recently have been turning to God about a friendship that has had its ups and downs.  Instead of fretting over it and attacking it with my old gusto, I’ve given it over to the Almighty.  I’m asking Him to let me know when to speak and when to stay silent.  When to apologize and when to stand firm.  And I have found His solutions to be so different than ones I would’ve dreamed up. His solutions have love for others first and foremost.

Today I praise God for being a change maker.  For taking us broken, imperfect beings and turning our lives upside down.  When I started taking Him seriously, He started making some serious changes in me.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.  James 4:7-10

Besides the amazing gift of salvation, the promise that we are changed is quite possibly one of the greatest “selling points” of believing in Jesus Christ.  My old way of doing things?  It caused me a lot of heartache, despair, worry, and loneliness.  And when we truly accept that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior we can’t help but be changed. We need to embrace it, ask for more of it, and look in anticipation for it!

Recently, after an interaction with a difficult person, I drove home praising God and giving Him all the glory.  I said, “Thank God you have changed me Lord!  Thank God I’m not the person I used to be!” Instead of angry, unattractive thoughts, I could only think of how good God is and how much He loves me.

I’m still working on my relationship with our amazing Triune God.  But I know that when I get that right I can look forward to getting a lot of other things right.  There’s so much that still needs to be changed in me and I know Jesus is the just the man for the job.


The Perfect One

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him Hebrews 5:8-9

My BSGs have decided we can whittle down any Bible study to one word: “Obey.”  We joke now about how if we want any blessing, to hear His Word, to see our lives transformed well, all we need to do is “obey.”  Easy enough, right?  Just ask a few thousand Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years.

In a study we are in right now the question was asked: “What happens between childhood and adulthood that causes children and adults to respond differently to God?”  We all knew, and had experienced, the various reasons.  My friend Caroline shared that a child’s faith is so pure and beautiful but an adult’s return to faith takes on a different and deeper beauty.  We all agreed a child’s faith has yet to be tested.  Yet to be disappointed and hurt.  

I came to my Christian faith as an adult.  I believed in God throughout my childhood.  I don’t know why – some amazing work of God reaching into my child heart and mind telling me He was there.  But I fell away from that quiet, pure relationship as I got older.  I didn’t understand how His ways were so completely different than the world’s.  And now, as an adult I’m learning something that has set my feet more firmly on the path to Him.  He is perfect.

Today I praise God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit for their perfection.  For when we accept that basic truth, we can turn back to it over and over when we consider disobeying Him.  Because we have to examine why we choose to disobey His Word.  Is it because we think we know better?  We don’t trust Him?  Or maybe we just haven’t taken the time to listen to Him?

When things go off kilter in our lives and we also accept that God is perfect we then must also accept that what is happening has a purpose.  Which means we need to lean in closer to listen and obey.  We need to rest in the peace that He’s “got this.”  We don’t need to run ahead of Him and solve every problem on our own.  We don’t need to stay awake night after night brewing and stewing over our children, our job, our relationships.  We take it to Him and say, “You have the perfect solution.  Show me.  Lead me.  And I will obey.”

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

For so many of us this is our hill to conquer.  Our place of greatest need.  To acknowledge His perfection and our imperfections.  To accept that we need to humble ourselves and accept His correction or wisdom.

I may no longer rest my head at night with the same pure, unquestioning faith that there is a god.  But my adult-sized faith has been set in the kiln.  My relationship with God has become a beautiful piece of art.  In His perfection He is transforming my heart into something worthy of His love.   


M’ Lord

"The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” Psalms 23:1

I love a good British murder mystery.  In fact, much of my time during the lockdowns of 2020 were spent doing puzzles while watching the folks across the pond “do each other in” in any number of mysterious ways.   And as I write this, I’m deep in a modern day mystery set in a British lord and lady’s castle.

As an American, I find the hierarchical system of British life fascinating.  There is a definite caste-like system with every day, less educated people almost bowing their heads to those who are “Oxford Educated” or come from some land owning blood.  And while I don’t pretend that fiction is complete reality the theme does run throughout novels and television, whether set in modern times or not.  

At times this deference arises out of fear – fear of losing a livelihood usually – and other times out of thankfulness for generosity.  While other times it just simply stems from an ingrained respect for our “betters.”  

The other day I heard a Christian teacher ask, “How many of us accepted the gift of salvation but have yet to accept Jesus as your Lord?”  

And of course, God kept making this point with me the last few days.  On day 2 of my new Bible study the concept of having a healthy “fear” of the Lord was the topic.  

“The way we relate to the Lord demonstrates the respect we have for Him.”

He Speaks To Me

So today I praise God and His Son Jesus for being my Lord.  For being the type of Lord who provides for our needs.  For being a gracious landowner and allowing us to be its tenants.  For being the type of Lord that is above reproach and deserves our deference.  He is the Lord above all lords.  

At times of peril we can seek His protection behind His castle walls.  At times of abundance He will join in with us in celebration.  And when we grieve He grieves with us.  

We upstarts in the United States tore ourselves away from the concept of bowing before lords and ladies.  To almost a fault we have no respect for “position.”  I wonder if that makes it harder for us to bow our heads to the one who deserves our utmost respect?  When we get told to “obey” it tends to raise our hackles.  

As a Christian I need to put aside any cultural history I may have in my genes and remember that God sits above me, deserving of all glory and honor.


A Gentle Touch

“I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” John 4:17-18

The story of the woman at the well speaking to Jesus is one of my favorites.  It’s a highlight in the series, The Chosen.  I cried as I watched the scene unfold.  I realized I was so emotional for a number of reasons.  First, that Jesus sought the woman out.  That He waited for her in the heat of the day to speak to her.  That He loved this one, insignificant woman so much that He wanted to heal her.  But also, from the woman’s point of view, the pain she had, honestly, brought upon herself which then resulted in overwhelming shame.  And lastly the joy in her voice of the gift of forgiveness and grace given freely by Jesus.  

When you read the verse or watch the scene in the series there’s a quiet gentleness.  Jesus probably didn’t have the thought in His mind, “I need to confront this woman with some hard truths!!”  He spoke the truth but plainly, without condemnation.  Most likely it pained Him to see one of God’s children suffering.

Today I praise God for His gentleness.  There have been times when I got a good, swift kick from God.  But on a daily basis, when I struggle to obey and trust Him I feel His gentle ways.  I ask Him to put His hand on my shoulder and lead me.  When hard times fall on us, God uses those times to love us even more, if that’s possible.  He also uses those times to show us His Holy ways.

I was talking with a friend last week about a very difficult time in her life.  After a devastating miscarriage she turned to her church family in desperate need.  And she was rejected.  So, she grabbed hold of God.  About five years later she found herself face to face with a number of the women she had sought comfort from and had rejected her.  She at first was distraught to see them.  But her trust in God led her forward.  What she found was God’s gentle way of completing her healing.  One of the women herself had just recently gone through a miscarriage.  And in that conversation wounds were healed.  

My friend discovered the strength God gave her through her ordeal.  A new strength she could show others.  A perfect opportunity to now be His hands and feet and help heal broken hearts.  She said to me, “God is so gentle.  He guided me through the hard trial and brought me full circle.”

It’s a lesson for us all when we say we want to “be like Jesus.”  When those around us are hurt, broken, angry, outraged, and more, we need to be gentle.  There’s plenty of other people around us willing to pile on to our pain.

God knows just the right time to speak hard truths to us.  But thankfully He seems to most frequently use His gentle touch.


Free At Last

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

There’s been a lot of talk (and screaming) about slavery the last few years.  Some people stating that relatives of people who were enslaved in the United States prior to 1862 – over 150 years ago – should receive financial contribution from people who have never owned a slave.  The details of this idea get quite complicated.  Which new government department will receive millions or billions of dollars in funding to manage this program?  How would it be proven someone was a relative of a slave? Would people whose relatives didn’t live in the United States prior to 1862 be required to contribute?  I saw one estimate, based on a city government’s financial proposal, that in the end the recipients would actually receive a paltry sum.

Is slavery bad?  Absolutely.  Does it go on still today in many forms? Yes.  As a Christian we should all know the dirty secret of slavery.  Our individual submission to sin causes the most destructive and widespread slavery of all – placing our souls in shackles.  In some cases, that sin leads to what we think of as “traditional” slavery – the illicit sex trade, illegal employment practices, and more.

There’s really only one answer to eradicating slavery – Jesus.  So today I praise God that He and He alone offers us freedom.  The true freedom we all need.  Freedom from the slavery of sin.

For me, I still have to work daily with God on not willingly putting back on the shackles of fear and worry and doubt.  Of pride and selfishness.  Of allowing my flesh to rule my life. Giving in to those sins causes me to treat others in very non Jesus-like ways.  When I focus on myself, I take my eyes off serving others and helping them out of slavery.  When my feelings are hurt, I want to hurt others.  When I’m really worried or afraid I might pour myself another drink.

Each day I turn to God and commune with Him He gives me strength to shake off those shackles.  Each day when tempted to fall back into my sin I can proclaim with Him that I am free at last no matter my physical circumstance.  For some, an extra $100 or so either given out of their pocket or given to their pocket might feel like enough. But for me, no amount of money can ever replace God’s gift of freedom.


Back to Bethel

From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord. Genesis 13:3-4

I heard a great sermon the other day about Genesis 13.  I love how God lets us view people in the Bible with an almost cinematic touch.  We reach deep into their thoughts, their trials, their sins, their joys.  We can sit back and know they are about to fail or conquer.  But like any good director, God places seemingly insignificant artifacts and occurrences into the story that, in order to get the beautiful breadth of the story we need to look again and dig deeper.

That’s the advantage of being in a church which hosts a good teaching pastor.  They find the nuggets and carefully remove the outer layers, revealing the gems.

And so, I learned the other day about Bethel.  About coming home.  About retracing my steps to bring me back closer to God.  Two little sentences in the Bible showing me where to go when I feel lost.  When I have gone off track.  I praise God today for Bethel – for His welcoming home.

Many years ago, I wrote a short poem for my mother in law.  The gist of the poem was that like a bird finds its comfort in a beautiful birdhouse, so I find my home with her.  A lot of people feel that way around her.  She brings you in and gives you rest and comfort.  In Abram’s case, after he had made some disastrous decisions while in Egypt, he made the wise choice to go back to God’s house – Bethel.  It’s where he had built the first altar to honor God.

He didn’t just show up there, he entered back into communication with God.  And he was surely welcomed.  

Our human nature is to grow up and out of our parents’ homes.  To plunge into the world of adulthood, seemingly going it alone.  But for many who come from loving, healthy homes they know they can always come back for advice and aid.  

Our relationship with God is unique.  He wants us always tethered to Him.  He desires to be constantly asked about who to marry, where to work, how to handle difficult relationships.  He wants us to join His home gym, giving us strength to make it through trials and tribulations.  He longs to have us sit around His dinner table sharing our day – our joys and our pains.

And when we wander too far away, we need to remember to retrace our steps.  We need to follow our hearts back to Bethel.


Busy or Fruitful?

Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7:20

For much of my life I sought busyness.  If I wasn’t “doing” then I was not worthy.  It didn’t matter what that doing was, I just needed to do something.  When I quit working to be a stay at home mom my greatest fear was to be seen as worthless.  A non-contributor.  And yes, I know I was doing the important work of raising a child.  But having grown up through the 70s and 80s, being a homemaker was not a goal any of my friends wished to attain.  

When my husband would come home from work and ask me, “What did you do today?” I took that as a judgment of my worth.  I felt the need to provide an hour by hour list of all the important things I had accomplished.  

Fast forward to 2020 – yes, the Great Lockdown.  I see that time as a sifting of sorts.  If you weren’t tied to a Zoom-based job you either embraced staying at home working on little projects around the house, completing endless puzzles, catching up on all those books you’d ignored, jumping in to Bible studies or you were going mad with boredom and itching to “do something important.”

What does this all have to do with praising God?  I realized the other day that I need to be thankful to Him that He never asks us to live a life of “busyness.”  I praise Him for instead expecting us to live a life that bears good fruit.  Quality over quantity.  He is not a task master.  He doesn’t have verses in the Bible about accounting for every hour of our day.  Yes, He doesn’t want us to be idle.  But that means not wasting our precious time doing things that don’t produce good fruits.

Time spent in mediation is not idle.  It helps me commune with Him.  Time spent in study brings me closer in line with what He wants of me.  Time spent in nature helps me appreciate and praise Him.  Time spent with my husband during a round of golf brings us closer together and strengthens our marriage.

But busyness distracts me.  It physically causes my heart to race thinking I need to accomplish something – anything.  It darkens my heart when I equate my doing with my worth.

Jesus came to change our hearts.  To remind us that our wrong intent is just as bad as our wrong doing.  And knowing that releases my heart and mind to live in a peaceful state.