Hanging By A Thread

Can a mother forget the baby 
at her breast and have no compassion 
on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will 
not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on 
the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.
Isaiah 49:15-16

I just was having a bad day.  Nothing really seemed to fall into place.  My husband got some bad news from work which makes me worry about him and our financial situation.  And then we decided to go get my car washed.  My husband was vacuuming the back of my hatchback.  I decided to walk around the back in order to reach the passenger front window.  Unbeknownst to me he had pushed the button to close the hatch as he walked away.  I walked square into the corner of the door with the top of my head.  My husband was completely unaware as he was now on the opposite side of the car.  I bent over holding my head trying to 1) not cry like a baby and 2) stay conscious. 

I cried out to him like a mewling lamb.  My first reaction was to blame him and then I apologized, saying it was just an accident.  But that was the last straw for me that day.  I  wanted to sit down and sob.  It has taken so much out of me to stay in tune with God during the trials and tribulations of the Covid pandemic that I just wanted to give up.  No more joyful grasping for God.  No more peace resting in His Word.  I just was done.  

Come to me, all you who 
are weary and burdened, 
and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

And God whispered to me, “I’m still here. And I still love you.  And I know you are having a hard time.  Come and talk to me.”  

I still find it so hard to pray when I’m truly struggling.  But God is so compassionate to us.  He knows when we are holding on by a thread.  He will take even the tiniest snippets of prayer from us to help us hold on.  Like the mother in the Isaiah verse today, He longs to hold us in His arms if we would just run to him – or even crawl.  

The process of sanctification this year made me realize quickly that I was shrinking away from not only God but my husband at that painful moment.  I didn’t want to burden my husband any more than he already was. But after a little while, I shared with him how I was feeling.  I know it’s hard for men to see their beloved wives in pain and not be able to fix our ills.  But he gave me what I needed — a listening and compassionate ear, and a hug.  

That’s what God wants to do for us too.  Although we shouldn’t turn our prayer time into a litany of complaints, we should bring him our pain.  

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, 
holy and dearly loved, clothe 
yourselves with compassion, 
kindness, humility, gentleness 
and patience.
Colossians 3:12

I like this visual of clothing ourselves.  The fruits of the spirit are God’s way of giving us that spiritual hug and listening ear.  He is compassionate, kind, gentle and patient with us.  And Jesus was certainly humble.  When we encase our minds and hearts in these gifts and then turn those fruit outward toward God’s people, we get them back tenfold. 

My husband is a godly man.  Because of this, God used him to give me the compassion and gentleness I needed that day.  And I was able to pull myself back on track. 

I could have easily given in to my despair.  I mean my head was killing me and felt like I had a concussion.  Nothing I could do would fix any problem around me.  But I have learned to grab hold of the promises of God for my rescue. 

Be on your guard; stand firm 
in the faith; be courageous; 
be strong.
1 Corinthians 16:13

My head still hurts a few days later but I can almost (almost) laugh about it now.  I’m glad I don’t have to keep apologizing to anyone for losing it – since I pulled back my anger almost immediately.  My husband felt bad enough as it was.  And my compassion toward him helped me to stay in line with God’s Word.

I thank God for His promise to never forget me, always hold me tightly and guide me with the fruits of His spirit. 


Join me starting January 11 for my next series! Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help create a vision of you! The words we speak and think and pray have a great impact on our life. We will embark on a journey of praying changes into our lives. New Year’s resolutions have nothing on what God can accomplish when we ask for miracles to transform us!

The Best For You

This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
    who teaches you what is best for you,
    who directs you in the way you should go.
18 If only you had paid attention to my commands,
    your peace would have been like a river,
    your well-being like the waves of the sea.

Isaiah 48:17-18

We’ve all probably heard it from our parents at one time or another.  And if you are a parent you are most likely guilty of saying the same – “I just want the best for you.”  As your child (or you as a child) rolls their eyes.  As humans we seem to have the propensity to want to cut our own path through the jungle and trip over our own mistakes.  We grab random vines thinking it’ll help us swing through our problems or create fabulous opportunities.

It’s one thing to see our parents as fallible human beings that may not truly know what’s best for us but when we apply that same logic to God, we’re in for an Indiana Jones style bumpy and dangerous ride.

And we know that in all things 
God works for the good of those 
who love him, who have been 
called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

God has thoughts beyond our thoughts.  He knows the past and the future and he has big plans for each of us.  And when we lose sight and let go of God, we take a lot of unneeded weed- choked paths.  So much of this behavior seems to come down to a lack of trust that God really does teach us what is best for us – or we think maybe He just doesn’t understand what is best for us.

God sees tomorrow – all of your tomorrows – and he is able to prepare you for whatever is to come.

Charles Stanley, 30 Life Principals, #9 Trusting God means looking beyond what we can see to what God sees.

All trusting relationships are built on time spent together, learning each other’s character, experiencing trials and joys and seeing how each person either stands up or lets you down.  Have you assumed that God is going to let you down?  Have you decided that God already has let you down?  And yet, scripture reminds us of the promise that God is always teaching us what is best for us.  Maybe what you were hoping for was not what you needed.  Or maybe God needed you to experience that disappointment so you are tested for a future greater than you can imagine.

When we accept that:

  1. God is God and we are not (PS 46:10)
  2. God’s thoughts and ways are greater than ours (Is 55:9)
  3. And God wants the best for us (Is 48:17; Matt 10:29-31)

We can have a perspective change during our times that might seem hopeless and instead know that God is working for our good.  We just might not know exactly what that “good” is.

My BSGs are starting a new study called, “Everyday Theology.”  Now it might sound silly for a group of devout Christians to read a book that reviews the basics of our faith: scripture, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, salvation, etc.  But each time we open our Bibles and truly approach reading it from a learning point of view we find out something new.  The Bible is a living source of God’s Word which wants to guide us throughout our lives.

I used to be one of those Christians that had a very dusty Bible.  When I did open it, I would close my eyes and then randomly pick a page.  I figured that’s how it worked – God would point me to nothing short of a miracle of words.  But would you ever take the phone book (if any exist these days), open it up and phone a stranger expecting to trust them with whatever advice you were seeking?  It might be great advice but the likelihood that you would take it would be slim.

His Word holds great lessons for us to try and keep us moving in the right direction.  We should pore over it like a treasure map.  It’s a bit complicated because it has so much to accomplish.  But once we start using the map and trusting that it is right, we find ourselves better able to navigate the twists and turns of life.  And isn’t that a great way to start out a new year?

I want to encourage you today to read Psalm 119. It is a perfect example of how God provides order in the midst of chaos. It is the longest chapter in the Bible, composed of 22 stanzas with each stanza containing 8 verses. Each verse starts with the same Hebrew letter — pretty cool. Almost every verse contains one of the following words: instruction, decree, precept, statute, command, judgment, promise, and word. Here is an excerpt:

I have more insight than all my teachers
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the 
elders, for I obey your precepts.
I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
Psalm 119:99-102

Join me starting January 11 for my next series! Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help create a vision of you! The words we speak and think and pray have a great impact on our life. We will embark on a journey of praying changes into our lives. New Year’s resolutions have nothing on what God can accomplish when we ask for miracles to transform us!

Vessels of Good News

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it 
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish, 
so that it yields seed for 
the sower and bread for the eater, 
so is my word that goes out from 
my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire 
and achieve the purpose for 
which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:10-11

The Gospel is good news. Plain and simple. The actual word “gospel” is translated to mean “good story” or “good news” in Greek. But the question is – if the Gospel truly is good news, why is it so hard for us to talk about it? 

I’ll rewind a bit and start from the very beginning. For those who have always heard the word Gospel, but never heard the story of the Gospel, here it is:

1. God created us for his glory (Creation). 

2. Therefore, every human should live for God’s glory.

3. Nevertheless, we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (the Fall). 

4. Therefore, we all deserve eternal punishment (Hell). 

5. Yet, in his great mercy, God sent his only Son Jesus Christ into the world to provide for sinners the way of eternal life (the Cross). 

6. Therefore, eternal life is a free gift to all who will trust in Christ as Lord and Savior and supreme Treasure of their lives (Salvation). 

John Piper

All that to say, the Gospel is indeed good news. It means eternal intimacy in the presence of God, forgiveness of sins and citizenship in Heaven where there will be no more sorrow or pain – ever. For those of us who have been saved by grace through faith and are living testimonies of the power of the Gospel, we are all vessels of this good news. 

As Isaiah writes in chapter 55, God is proclaiming and promising that the good news he has sent down to earth (salvation through his Son Jesus), will indeed be fulfilled and carried from nation to nation until Jesus returns again. 

As described in verse 10, God sent down Jesus like rain, to water a dry and barren earth. God has promised us that this rain would not leave the earth dry and barren, but that it would be fully watered until it is returned to its original perfect creation. Right now, we are still in the watering phase of God’s plan for creation. The land is still thirsty and in need of the living water, and thankfully, we as Christians know just where to find it. 

Those in Christ are not just blessed with knowing the truth of the Gospel, we are called to share it. As the Jesus’ Great Commission states in Matthew 28: 

Go therefore and make disciples of 
all nations,baptizing them in the 
name of the Father and of the Son 
and of the Holy Spirit, teaching 
them to observe all that I have commanded 
you. And behold, I am with you always, 
to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:19-20

We are vessels of good news and have the refreshing drink our thirsty world is gasping for. Sharing the Gospel may not always be easy, but it is always God’s will for us to share the good news of Jesus Christ. We are a part of God’s redemption story for this world. He uses us, ordinary people, to return to Creation what was robbed by sin. 

I challenge you today to change your perspective from one of fear and hesitation towards sharing the Gospel, to one of joy and anxious anticipation for sharing the good news of salvation. As believers, we exist to serve God – not the other way around. Start today by remembering that God is using you as a divine vessel of good news, created and saved to play an important role in His plan for our world. 

Relish in that promise today. 

The Sword of the Spirit

For I am the Lord your God,
    who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
    the Lord Almighty is his name.
16 I have put my words in your mouth
    and covered you with the shadow of my hand—
I who set the heavens in place,
    who laid the foundations of the earth,
    and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’”

Isaiah 51:15-16


When we picture warcraft during the United States Revolution we typically envision lines of soldiers from each side marching toward each other.  Here’s a description by the American Battlefield Trust:

“Under normal circumstances, 18th century combat entailed that two armies march toward one another, shoulder to shoulder, and usually in ranks of about three men deep. When the opposing sides were within range, orders were given to halt, present arms, to fire, and then to reload.

After several volleys, one side gained the upper hand, and they would begin to close the distance with the enemy, bayonets lowered. This typically culminated in a full out charge at close quarters; sabers, bayonets, and rifle butts were used to sweep the enemy from the field and claim victory.”

And how did one side get the “upper hand?”  The lines would break down either by death, injury or desertion.  The battle would be won or lost based on who could hold their line the longest.

We Christians have been in a similar battle since the time of Christ.  We link arms in communion and espouse the greatness of God to unbelievers.  We are tasked, by God, to go out into our communities and battle against evil through our works, our testimony, and our telling of the Good News of the gospel.  

However, from my, albeit, limited experience so many of us have chosen to desert our place on the battlefield.  I live in a very liberal state within the United States.  Church and Christians are not valued members of many communities.  In fact, we are frequently described as racist, hateful, bigots because of our adherence to the teachings in the Bible.  And that, I believe causes us to shirk our duties as soldiers for God.  

I know too many people who feel uncomfortable sharing the Word of God.  Some are afraid to even mention their faith in the course of conversations at work.  And yet, it is this responsibility that Jesus gives us.  We are not called to be closet Christians, afraid of what to say, how to say it and when to say it.  God himself promises to put the right words in our mouth at the right time.  We just need to be willing to do the one thing that we are called to do – obey Him.

My BSGs did a study on The Armor of God (Ephesians 6).  What stood out to me is the preparation we are admonished to complete before taking up the final Word of God.

Therefore, put on the full armor 
of God, so that when the day of 
evil comes, you may be able to 
stand your ground, and after you 
have done everything, to stand. 
Stand firm then, with the belt of 
truth buckled around your waist, 
with the breastplate of righteousness 
in place, and with your feet 
fitted with the readiness that 
comes from the gospel of peace. 
In addition to all this, take up 
the shield of faith, with which you 
can extinguish all the flaming arrows 
of the evil one. Take the helmet 
of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, 
which is the word of God.
Ephesians 6:13-17

Once we have studied and learned the character and promises of God we need to pray to have Him send us out into the world and speak His words.  Each morning when we rise, we should ask God to place someone in front of us that day to whom He needs to say something.  And be watchful and ready for that moment.  He will give you the words to speak.

Do not merely listen to the word, 
and so deceive yourselves. 
Do what it says.
James 1:22

A few years ago, I held on to that promise of God’s words when my daughter and I were in a great battle.  We were pushing and pulling constantly.  She was off at college and her faith was growing by leaps and bounds thanks to the organization Athletes in Action.  But each time we would talk it would end in a fight or tears.  I finally prayed to God to give me His words to bring this battle to an end.

The mother-daughter battle is a timeless one.

One day as we talked, the Holy Spirit gave me these words to say, “I’m so glad your faith is growing.  I can see that you have learned how to give a lot of grace and forgiveness to your friends and teammates.  I know that I fail you frequently in trying to not hold on too tight to you.  What I’m asking for is some of that same grace and forgiveness.”

God’s words, spoken through me, began our path toward reconciliation.  I just needed to stop trying to speak my thoughts and my desires and instead let God do the heavy lifting.

God needs us to fill our spot on the battlefield line.  He can give us all the tools we need – including the right words to say.  We just need to show up and hold the line.


Join me starting January 11 for my next series! Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help create a vision of you! The words we speak and think and pray have a great impact on our life. We will embark on a journey of praying changes into our lives. New Year’s resolutions have nothing on what God can accomplish when we ask for miracles to transform us!

Strength Through His Promises

Say to those with fearful hearts, 
“Be strong, and do not fear for 
your God is coming to destroy your 
enemies. He is coming to save you.”
Isaiah 35:4

Peace Through Strength

A simple three-word statement can mean so many different things to so many different people. I was in high school and then college when President Ronald Reagan served his two terms as President of the United States. During this same period of time my political ideals began to mature and form. I was squarely aligned with conservative political principles and beliefs. I was what was known as a “Reagan Youth.”

Peace through strength was a common plank in the foundation of conservative beliefs. The political and strategic approach in those days was to build up superior defenses, troop numbers and weapons capabilities that created a deterrent for any foreign enemy considering a challenge. This led to the arms race and the escalation of tensions between the two most powerful and wealthy super-powers of the day. Our strength was determined by holding a tight grip on the sure demise of the enemy.

Those were the days of the Cold War. The U.S., under Reagan’s strong conservative stance was clearly and ideologically opposed to the Red Communist Russia– the “evil empire”. Mikhail Gorbachev was the leader of the Soviet party and the target of Reagan’s famous words while standing at the Berlin Wall – “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” President Reagan, understanding the opportunity at hand, called into focus his years of theatrical training and vocation, captured the world’s attention and started what would begin the eventual decline and crumbling of the Russian empire and it’s stranglehold on the Eastern bloc. 

But the Lord is faithful; 
he will strengthen you and 
guard you from the evil one.
2 Thessalonians 3:3

While many of my political beliefs, alignments and passions are similar today as they were 35 years ago, my perspectives have changed. Peace through strength has a different meaning to me now.

Peace doesn’t hold the same overarching meaning of “World Peace” and lack of foreign wars. Peace has become more personal and internal. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom and includes the notions of completeness, wholeness, fulfillment, harmony and well-being. 

That type of peace is not of my making but is delivered from the strength of God’s powerful promises and proven acts of salvation.

My peace through strength today comes from the foundational strength I know from promises that have already been delivered in my life from Jesus. My peace occurs because I know that regardless of what happened yesterday, what occurred today and what unknowns will occur tomorrow I am forgiven, protected and preserved for all time. My grip is not focused on keeping others who oppose me away. My hands are both firmly attached to the vine who guides, leads and sustains me.

My strength and peace lie in him and no one else.

A Tug-o-War

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
    you will eat the good things of the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel,
    you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 1:18-20

Sometimes I feel like I’m in a bit of a tug-o-war with God.  He’s trying to get me over that line and I keep resisting – pulling back to my way of doing things.  Like a two-year old saying, “I can do it myself,” I resist the pull of God because I think I know better.  

Have you ever been in a tug-o-war and the other side decides to completely let go?  Your side is pulling so hard you all tumble to the ground.  Even though the other side knows they’ll lose they think it’s hilarious to see the results.  It’s a dirty trick.  Thankfully God promises to never let go of His end.  His grace and forgiveness keep me upright even when I pull on that opposite end with all my might.

When I am weak and give in to my earthly ways God gives me grace and forgiveness.  I want to resist and rebel.  He works in so many ways to pull me back toward Him.

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

The context of that verse is Paul writing to the people of Corinth and sharing a constant pain he endured.  He pleaded with God three times to remove the thorn in his side (we don’t know exactly what the thorn was).  And God replied that His grace is sufficient.  How many times have we complained, maybe just today alone, to God to remove something from our lives?  That’s not to say that He won’t.  But He reminds us that sometimes we must be weak to truly rely on Him.

Sometimes God does meet the need by substitution (ie health instead of sickness); but other times He meets the need by transformation.  He gives us His grace so that the affliction works for us and not against us.

Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Commentary, New Testament 

At times when we pray for God to remove something awful in our lives and He doesn’t perform the way we expect, we then enter into that tug-o-war game.  Pulling into our own ways of “fixing things” ourselves, complaining, or even turning our backs on God by letting go of our end of the rope.  We give in to our idols, our wants and needs.

We should remember the saying that God, through grace, gives us what we do not deserve, and in His mercy, He does not give us what we do deserve.  So, when situations do not turn out as we have directed God, we need to pray to God to help us see what He wants us to see.  To help us understand what He wants us to understand.

God does not require us to understand His will, just obey it, even if it seems unreasonable. Life Principle # 5

Dr. Charles Stanley, 30 Life Principles

When we allow God to pull us back toward Him, He showers us with His mercy and forgiveness.  He cleanses our crimson souls to be white as snow.  And another covenant agreement is balanced at both ends of the rope.

The Spirit of Christmas

“Turn to me and be saved,
    all you ends of the earth;
    for I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn,
    my mouth has uttered in all integrity
    a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
    by me every tongue will swear.
They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone
    are deliverance and strength.’”
All who have raged against him
    will come to him and be put to shame.
Isaiah 45:22-24
On coming to the house, they saw 
the child with his mother Mary, 
and they bowed down and worshiped him. 
Matthew 2:11

Glory to God the King!  I praise you, God, and bow down to you in thankfulness for your covenant with us!  Your promise to deliver us, through your son Jesus, is the great gift for all mankind. 

It has really hit home to me this year about the idols so many of us rely on for strength and deliverance.  We cling to our routines.  We put our trust in government officials.  We place our joy in dining out, going to the movies, gathering with friends.  Our peace rests in financial security.  And God comes and reminds us that no idol can bring us any of these.  He is God and there is no other.

In a God-like way it’s perfect that we can see a light at the end of this pandemic as vaccines begin rolling out and we celebrate the birth of His son.  God is the savior of Babylon – for those who believe.   And yet so many, even Christians, fail to truly grab a hold of this truth.  

I was talking with my BSGs the other day about the “spirit of Christmas” and how many rely on an outside source to descend upon them for this feeling.  My own parents sit alone in their home without any sign of Christmas to be seen.  I asked my mother the other day why that was.  And her response was, “We just don’t have any Christmas spirit this year.” Now granted, they aren’t Christians either.  They are just two of millions across the globe who have chosen not to bow down and accept God as the Almighty.  One of the BSGs describes her brother’s family in much the same way.  They wait to be lifted by the outside world.  They wait to feel joy in the material.  They wait to find peace in routine.

It made me realize how, once I accepted Jesus as our deliverer, I no longer need idols to feel “saved.”  I no longer need idols to experience the joy of Christmas.  My “spirit of Christmas” comes from above and within and I’ve been holding on tightly to that gift. 

We are such comfort-seeking souls!  I think of a soldier at war during Christmas.  Laying in a foxhole or cave in a foreign land.  There’s no twinkly lights or Christmas tree laden with gifts.  There’s no Christmas ham and glazed carrots.  There’s just cold, and the distant sounds of gunfire.  And yet, the Christmas spirit still is there – in the small pocket Bible or the verses kept close to his heart.

This Christmas is not unusual in that there is strife in the world.  This Christmas is not unusual that many are in dire financial need.  This Christmas is the same as it was on that day that Christ was born – He has come to be our deliverer.  That’s all the Christmas spirit I need. 

He Will Provide

Listen diligently to me, and eat 
what is good, and delight yourselves 
in rich food. Incline your ear, 
and come to me;hear, that your soul 
may live;and I will make with 
you an everlasting covenant,
Isaiah 55:2-3
Jesus said to them, “I am the 
bread of life; whoever comes to 
me shall not hunger, and whoever 
believes in me shall never thirst. 
John 6:35

As so many of us prepare to enjoy delicious Christmas meals and beautifully wrapped gifts it’s easy to overlook that most of what we call “Christmas” isn’t necessary.  Stripped down, Christmas is about one thing – God’s promise to deliver us the greatest gift, His son Jesus.  

This year our “Christmas” seems a bit different.  We are missing family and friends.  But the promise I wanted to share with you is this, he always provides for us.  Even in times that seem bare, He provides.  In fact, the opportunity to truly appreciate what we do have is when situations seem the most difficult.  It’s lessons like that which Jesus passed along to us through His bloodline.

He will provide in the most God-like ways – a stranger lends a hand, a paycheck bonus comes at the right time, an offer of food from a neighbor when you need it most.  And the covenant agreement we need to uphold and hold on to is to trust in that promise.

I pray every day that what I write in this blog is what someone, even just one person, needs to hear from God.  And the other day I was thinking about which Isaiah verse to use for Christmas.  That day, my friend Betsy shared a story written by her sister for her local church.  As she read it, all I kept hearing was “He provides.”  I asked if I could share her beautiful family story here.  Betsy’s family bloodline has passed down some amazing lessons.  I hope you enjoy it!


A Privileged Life Growing Up   By Rachel Mueller

I’m the oldest daughter of an Episcopal priest.  I found growing up totally immersed in the culture of the Episcopal Church something very special.

This photo was taken July 2, 1953 for the Glendale California News Press  announcing that my father was to be the new rector of St. Luke’s of the Mountains, La Crescenta, California and it introduced our family to the community.  One of five and the oldest, you will see me pictured to the right of my father and holding my favorite Madam Alexander doll.  My younger two brothers and two sisters completed our family – yes, five children in six years, something my mother said raised eyebrows at our new church!  We lived in the large rectory, which was next door to the church and suited our big family perfectly. Apparently while constructing this new house, there was some opposition on the vestry to its size.  And supposedly the previous Rector said, “Well, who knows?  The next Rector might have five children.”  Perhaps the Search Committee went looking for a priest with five children to justify their new building.

Living next door to the church, we were very much aware of all the church activities on a daily basis.  There was always something,  be it the regular church services, a wedding, funeral or special events.  My father believed his family was an extension of him, so we were taught to answer the telephone properly; in my case “St. Luke’s Rectory, Rachel speaking” and to take messages in detail and often answer questions such as the times of the church services, or dates of meetings.  In a way our parents used us as extra employees — we gave out keys, opened doors, passed the cookies at vestry meetings,  set up the tables and chairs for parish events, washed the coffee cups after church on Sunday,  went with our father to visit people in the hospital, took food to orphanages, helped relocate refugees (first the Dutch Indonesians, then Cubans, and later Vietnamese), and helped load real sheep into our station wagon for the live Nativity outside the front of the church at Christmas.  Anything going on at the church was dinner table conversation, including who was sick and in the hospital, or just died, or had a baby.  The doorbell rang morning, noon and night with someone wanting something, or wondering “Where’s Fr. Sadler?”  It was a constant in our life.  The parish got to know us, and we quickly learned the names of all the parishioners.

In contrast to many clergy today, our father always wore a black shirt (not grey, or blue or some other color) and his clerical collar.  I don’t remember ever seeing him not wearing this “uniform” until years after he retired.  Even on his day off he was dressed in “the collar”.  He  was very active in our community which made him well known, which in turn brought great benefits to our family. He was usually the clergyman on stage at our school graduations, there to give the invocation or benediction, which made me very proud.  Everywhere we went folks would stop him to say hello and show us special kindness.  We were often invited to parishioners’ home to swim on hot afternoons.  We were treated to Disneyland when it first opened.  There were always special gifts of food and goodies at holidays – items that weren’t part of our regular family fare.

The most important lesson I learned from my father was “God will provide.” So many wonderful things happened to us, I thought we were very wealthy.  It wasn’t until I went away to college that I learned what salary my father actually made.  I couldn’t believe it.  On paper we were poor.  But our lives were rich and much more interesting than those of my friends.   For example, we might suddenly have some homeless folks at the dinner table.  My mother would just say “Rachel, please set the table for three more.”  We often would never see those people again but the memory and lesson of hospitality remain.

 I could fill a book with stories of wonderful things that happened to us as a result of living in a family grounded in love, trusting that “God will provide” and accepting life as it comes; but enough for now.


And he said to his disciples, 
“Therefore I tell you, do not 
be anxious about your life, what 
you will eat, nor about your body, 
what you will put on.  For life is 
more than food, and the body more 
than clothing. Consider the ravens: 
they neither sow nor reap, they 
have neither storehouse nor barn, 
and yet God feeds them. Of how much 
more value are you than the birds!
Luke 12:22-24

Always With Us

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you 
are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
Isaiah 43:1-3

Around the holidays we inevitably start seeing helpful news stories on how to deal with our families at social gatherings. How to handle the uncle who drinks too much.  What topics not to bring up around your opposite political leaning parents.  And yet we still attend these family events.  Why? Because they are our family and we still love them.  It’s amazing what we will put up with when it comes to family.  

That idea of “blood being thicker than water” keeps us closely tethered to our loved ones.  It reminds me of those pre-school ropes with little fabric rings the children hold on to so they don’t wander off and get lost.  The teacher admonishes the children to grab hold of their ring tightly so the little family stays together.  And if Jimmy gets distracted and starts to head in a different direction, the group pulls him back in.

Now imagine God as our head of household.  He provided the roof over your head, the food for the feast and the gifts about to be received.  He created that uncle, your parents, and even that really weird cousin.  And He calls you His child.  He calls us to grab hold of our place on His family rope so we don’t get lost.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, 
neither slave nor free, nor is there 
male and female, for you are all 
one in Christ Jesus. If you belong 
to Christ, then you are Abraham’s 
seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:28-29

We drink too much.  We gossip.  We steal.  We withhold forgiveness and mercy.  We look to the world for guidance.  We work so hard to let go of God’s tether and yet He sticks with us.  He still shows up.  He never leaves us.  We are his. He is Immanuel — God is with us.

I was reading a prayer by Charles Spurgeon called “The Presence of the Word.”  He describes God’s Holy Word as always being with us.  The divine teachings through the Bible are at our fingertips, on our mind and at the ready whenever we need Him.  

“Oh, let it (Your Word) be in us a living seed that will produce in us a life acceptable before God…..Lord, we ask that your Word may chasten us whenever we go astray.  May it enlighten us whenever for a moment we get into darkness.”

Charles Spurgeon

If we make the mistake that the Bible was written long ago and has little or no connection to our life, we have attempted to untethered ourselves from God.  He is always with us through His living Word.  The Bible is meant for us right now — to be His constant voice and sense of being part of His family.  

My son, keep your father’s command
and do not forsake your mother’s 
teaching.
Bind them always on your heart;
fasten them around your neck.
When you walk, they will guide you;
when you sleep, they will watch 
over you;
when you awake, they will speak 
to you.
For this command is a lamp,
this teaching is a light,
and correction and instruction
are the way to life.
Proverbs 6:20-23

When we keep the Word of God tethered to our heart and mind, He is sure to be always with us.  You might say, “I’m not good about memorizing scripture.”  But here’s a little secret: So much of our lives are already seeped in God’s Words and commandments.  We can all probably list a few of the 10 commandments right here and now.  And if we were to stick with those the rest of our lives and truly follow them, we’d be closely tethered through eternity.

But His Word has so much more wisdom and comfort available to us.  The first verse I truly memorized was:

Be still and know that I am God.
Proverbs 46:10 

And it’s funny.  As soon as I decided to try and remember that verse it started popping up everywhere!  God was with me, guiding me, encouraging me to remember.  Like a parent cheering on a baby taking her first steps.

He promises to never leave us.  We were called to Him by name.  We are His.  And when we feel the pull of that blood to bring us back home, we need to show up — be the other half of the covenant.  Our family is not complete without you.

Therefore go and make disciples 
of all nations,baptizing them 
in the name of the Father and 
of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 
and teaching them to obey everything 
I have commanded you. And surely I 
am with you always, to the very end 
of the age.
Matthew 28:19-20

Anchored In Joy

And foreigners who bind themselves to 
the Lord to minister to him,to love the 
name of the Lord, and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath without 
desecrating it and who hold fast to 
my covenant—these I will bring to my 
holy mountain and give them joy in my 
house of prayer.
Isaiah 56:6-7

These months of Coronavirus lockdowns and limitations have led to varying degrees of modified social gathering, decreased family contact and less human contact than any time in my 55 years on this earth.  Certainly, the psychiatrists and social scientists will write about this period of time for decades to come. The scientific themes and research will revolve around isolation, depression, anxiety and the overall physical decline of those who were compromised and the most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.

There is no question that decreased physical contact and changes in routines and habits can throw all of us off our game. So many have lost their solid hold on the anchor lines of routine, comfort and familiarity. But did our dependence on other people for our happiness and joy make us vulnerable in ways we never expected? 

Happiness or Joy?

During the last nine months, I’m confident in saying we all have experienced the side effects of these pseudo government-imposed quarantines, confinements and solitude from limited human contact. Not many of us think it has been good for us and others, the social animals amongst us, think it has been the work of the devil himself.

Personally, I have learned some very valuable and lifelong lessons from this pandemic imposed by the changes to our day-to-day lives. Most importantly, my joy is not dependent on those around me and what they bring to the game. My joy comes from within and from above.

Praise the Lord! For he has heard 
my cry for mercy. The Lord is my 
strength and shield. I trust him 
with all my heart. He helps me, 
and my heart is filled with joy.
Psalm 28:6-7 

While happiness is temporary and fleeting, joy is deep, sustainable and long-lived if based in the promise of God’s plan for lives. Happiness is equivalent to a thread that can bind items together but has little strength under pressure and strain. Joy is a thick, tightly-woven and multistrand rope created to anchor and restrain heavy items like a ship or a barge.  When joy is fixed in our soul and anchored to Jesus’s love for us the anguish, the discomfort, and the turmoil we feel during a pandemic doesn’t knock us down to our knees. 

Joy is my equalizer that levels the panic and threat level and brings everything back into focus. I am not dependent on other people for my joy and my peace. My anchor rope is fixed to my Father who has promised strength, protection, salvation and joy.

Until now you have asked for 
nothing in My name; ask and 
you will receive, so that 
your joy may be made full.
John 16:24