Archive for August, 2019

I am inspired by those who do the things that many of us would shrink away from.

The other day I wrote about doing the hard things here. After it published the emails and pm’s and dm’s started to roll in with the same message :

“I think you wrote that for me because …”

I am thrilled that my wordy hobby might be used for a greater purpose, in other’s lives.

These communications I received … they were from people who shared such inspiring stories of doing the hard things … and so, I just couldn’t end the topic there.

The person going back to school, part time, knows this will open opportunities … even though it is going to be hard.

The one who is struggling with moving beyond a weight loss plateau knows that they will enjoy more energy … even though it is going to be hard.

The one who is struggling with anxiety knows that going out with friends will be fun … even though it is going to be hard.

The one who is returning to work after many years, knows that they will benefit from earning money and learning on the job … even though it is going to be hard.

The one who is sending her first born off to university, knows that the education and experiences for her child will be amazing … even though it is going to be hard.

The ones who are struggling in their marriage, know that counselling will help them figure their way through their struggles … even though it is going to be hard.

In my years working in special education, I have seen so many who do hard things. For those with special needs, doing hard things is an everyday exercise. Learning to sit quietly in a classroom or to not eat except during breaks are common hard things for these students. Then there are those who have to do the hard things like not give in to their obsessions or compulsions.

This summer I began volunteering, weekly, for an organization that I have admired. I knew that I would have to be the one to make efforts to get to know people. I knew it was going to be hard … and it was. My first day, I knew no one nor their ways of doing things. After each week I would say, “it was hard … but it’ll get better” … and it has. It would have been SO easy to quit after the first day … but I had to persevere, because I need to do what is hard.

We all need to do what is hard in our lives. There is mutual understanding in that reality. But we never set out to do such things on our own. God goes with us, wherever we go, whatever we do.

“Be strong and courageous;
do not be frightened or dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you
wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9


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The fiftieth anniversary of the lunar landing was just last month. Before it happened, it was viewed by many as impossible, too risky, too costly, too hard.

On June 6 of this year was the seventy-fifth anniversary of the D-Day landings, a sacrifice that is still known as the beginning of the end of WW2.

This November will mark the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a tumbling by ordinary citizens of the Cold War and communism.

These are examples of efforts that were hard, risky or costly that resulted in a “giant leap for mankind.” 

Doing the hard things is … hard. It takes perseverance, determination, time, risk, and effort. It makes us uncomfortable, nervous, sweat and our hearts race.

It is easier to just stay where it is safe, easy and predictable.

“An individual develops courage by doing courageous acts” — Aristotle

Many of us have prayed for patience, only to learn that there is only one way to attain patience … by being in situations where we must be patient.

It is the same for developing our strength or courage … to attain such we must be in situations that require us to do what is uncomfortable, even fearful, or hard.

The more often we do the things in life that are hard, the stronger we become.  

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Some of us will say, I cannot do those hard things, because they make me anxious, and I struggle with anxiety. And sometimes, we need to take a break and fill our cup before we can dip our toes in the water.

But, to attempt to do something hard, even in a small way, can create an amazing sense of encouragement and strength, to the one who is anxious.

According to neuroscientist, Philippe Goldin, “Exposure is hands down the most successful way to deal with phobias, anxiety disorders, and everyday fears of any sort. Simply repeatedly exposing ourselves to the thing we’re afraid of — ideally in a positive way — gradually brings down the physiologic fear response until it’s gone, or at least manageable.”

Baby steps are still moving away from where we are to a new location.

We all face opportunities in our lives to do hard things. For some of us it is a new job or career, for others it is returning to study, for others it is saying no, or getting on a plane, or picking up the phone, or telling someone you love them, or … walking out your door.

Let’s do the hard things, at least one hard thing each day … one small step for man.

“For I am the LORD, your God,
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you,
Do not fear; I will help you.”
Isaiah 41:13 

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I saw it, knew it was happening for real, just last week as I was driving home in the early evening.

Summer is fading.

Of course it has been fading since it’s first day in June, but now it is not just the lessening of evening light, but also how the leaves on the trees are looking tired, spent of their life … the sky looks like it’s deep summer blue is fading in the sun … the summer flowers slowing in their budding.

My heart feels heavy as I see these annual changes, heralding the end of summer, the beginning of autumn. I do so love autumn, with it’s cool nights and warm days, it’s colored trees and harvest moon. I love the celebrations in our family of birthdays and anniversaries. I love the renewal of schedules, the opportunities of re-starts and the new experiences to come for those I love.

Yet … my heart feels heavy …

It’s the light, the reduction of light that makes me feel the seasons change … just like I feel them (in a more positive ‘light’) when winter is being traded for spring and the light is increasing, winning the hearts of all who it touches. This is the reality when one is solar powered … and aren’t we all solar powered?

“Let there be light”

The first words of God that are recorded, give us insight into the importance of light, as it was also the first thing God created.

This light is not just the light of the skies, but also the light of the Holy Spirit, living within us. When we say yes to Christ, God gives the command to “let there be light” in our sin-darkened souls, and we illuminate his light to the world.

That is not a light that dims … no matter the season.

“May it be a light to you in dark places,
when all other lights go out.” 
 J.R.R. Tolkien

“The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:5

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Ever feel crushed? Like the breath of life is being snuffed right out of you?

Haven’t we all?

This summer I have been aware of new things ripening. Not really new things, so much as renovated, renewed and strength that comes afresh from ones once stripped, pressed and crushed.

The other day I was watching a clip from I Love Lucy. Lucy had gotten a job stomping on grapes. As is common in her sketches, it was hilarious. Later that day my son introduced me to a worship song that had been sung throughout the summer at camp, called New Wine (video clip, below).

Wine is stalking me with deeper meaning.

As I listened to the lyrics, I smiled.

The making of wine has many stages. One cannot awake one morning and simply say, I am going to produce wine and have a glass by evening.

It is said that there are five main parts of the wine making process including: harvesting, crushing and pressing, fermentation, clarification, and aging and bottling … these don’t even include the processes involved in growing the grapes. The total amount of time from planting a new plant to uncorking the bottle can take five years (or more if aging is desired).

The grapes represented in a bottle of wine have been often been grown on hills, in the hot sun, cut off the branches with sharp blades, then crushed and pressed. It is what has developed inside of them, what has been pressed out of them, that is their finest fruit.

I look back at those times on the hot, parched slopes … when I thirsted for a fertile valley.

Those times that seemed to be death by a thousand deep cuts, draining my soul of it’s life source.

Those times when I was crushed, pressed … the times that dropped me to my knees.

Those times when I felt like a prisoner in a glass house … visible from the outside, but locked in tightly, with no one to pop the cork …

Then, the day came, the cork was released, and I was poured out … the new wine, made from crushing and pressing.

It is a new season. The strength, power and freedom of today is due to the crushing and pressing of many yesterdays. The new wine, made in … “your careful hand. When I trust You, I don’t need to understand”

It means we’re getting back on the altar
Let’s sing this to render everything, Lord
New wine out of me
Jesus, Jesus, bring new wine out of me

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While on our vacation, on the Oregon Coast, we love to walk the beach. Usually we walk one way on the beach and one through the town.

I love this image (left) that I took one day that we walked through the town, then through a hotel to the beach. We had to walk through this dark corridor to get to the beach. We have walked this corridor numerous times over the years, but I have no recollection of what that corridor looks like. I didn’t even realized there were windows there until I looked at the photo. You see …

when the place I am headed is so beautiful
I just keep my eyes straight ahead.

I don’t worry about what is to my left or right, or who or what might be behind me. My eyes are focused on where I am going … not where I have been, or other places I could go.

I think this is what Proverbs 4:25 might be telling us:

Focus your eyes straight ahead;
    keep your gaze on what is in front of you.

It is so easy to do this on my walk to the beach, because I have memories of what awaits me there. But, in our lives, we have similar memories, for we catch glimpses of the glory (holiness) of God, his perfection, his unfading love and pursuit for us, our souls.

Isaiah 4:2 reminds us “in that day the Branch of the LORD (that is Jesus) will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel.”

He, Jesus, is always straight ahead of us. It is on him, straight ahead of us, where our gaze should be, with no need to glance to the left or right, or behind us. All we need is in him, straight ahead.

Turn 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.

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How will we enter this new week? Are you sliding into it? wandering? hesitant? excited? fearful? reluctant?

In the last couple of weeks I have heard many stories, from many individuals. Stories of struggles with the church, health, finances, marriages, children, loneliness, anxiety and apathy.

The weight of those stories, heavy. They are stories without easy answers that can be attained and tied up with a bow. They are stories that can leave us exhausted, immobile, frozen from fear.

But this is a new week. A fresh start. What will we take into this week? What will we bring into this day, this new week that might mar what it’s freshness has to offer?

We enter into the new with the dust of the old.

What is the dust we are carrying into this clean new week? Have our worries and our sorrows left us singing a dirge? Are we starting the week with prayers of pleading, prayers of need and desperation?

I have started too many weeks this way. I have forgotten that my every fresh start should begin, not with pleading, but praising. I need to start afresh with thanks for his sacrifice, for his incomparable love for me.

If anyone is worthy of praise and thanksgiving, it is the resurrected Christ. We need to start our week with what God has done through Jesus, in mind. We may feel like very brittle, breakable, clay jars but within us we carry the power of the Spirit of God.

Let us begin this week praising God, allowing the dust of last week to fall from us.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our (light and momentary)* troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

light and momentary* (troubles)
This definition of our troubles is not a statement due to lack of sensitivity, but of eternal perspective. It could be referenced to statements of how short our lives are on this earth, such as you are but a vapor (James 4:14).

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Anyone else out there like to make plans?

I don’t just like to make plans, I like to construct plans that are made in consideration of anything that could go wrong or alter the outcomes from how I envision them. My plans are on my timeline where words like wait and patience are banned.

When I think of my planning and of what the Bible teaches, my mind goes to Jeremiah 29:11:

“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.”

Sometimes it is assuring to me that God is a planner, just like myself.

But, God’s plans are not always that same as mine, nor is his timeline.

Unlike myself, who plans while squinting into the foggy future, God has wide eyed sight of the end from beginning, and everything in between.

Proverbs 19:21 is an even better (in my estimation) biblical representation of how I need to think about my planning for the future,

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

The Pulpit Commentary gives a great understanding of what is being said in that verse:

“The immutability (unchanging) of the counsel of God is contrasted with the shifting, fluctuating purposes of man ”

Whereas my planning is temporal, God’s is eternal.

It is not that I/we should not make plans, but that we acknowledge, in our planning, that God needs to not just be involved and consulted in our planning, but also that we ensure that we acknowledge that he is in control … for he truly is.

“As children bring their broken toys
With tears for us to mend.
I brought my broken dreams to God
Because He was my Friend.

But then instead of leaving Him
In peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help
With ways that were my own.

At last I snatched them back and cried,
“How could You be so slow”-
“My child,” He said,
“What could I do? You never did let go.”

(author could be
Loretta P Burns, Robert J. Burdette
or anonymous)

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As our household moves toward empty nest, I find myself frequently assessing my parenting years (not that they have come to a close, but referring to those years of parenting children).

We have three fantastic, adult kids. They are all contributing members to society, who have deep empathy with and compassion for “the least of these”. Each one is fiercely independent, in their own way. They also all still connect with me, face to face, by phone, by text … a reality I view as a blessing to be thankful for every day.

As they move forward into their own lives, I find my self-assessment, as a parent, falling below the passing line.

There was a time when I (arrogantly) patted my parental back, praising myself and my efforts for the good job I was doing as a mom. I thought all the successes that they were achieving were because of the investment I was making in them. I never would have said so, out loud, but my inner arrogance was great.

Now, the season of reevaluation has come, and I see that much of what I took credit for, was not due to my efforts. I also see that there were things I missed and areas where I went wrong.

I look back at how my focus on self-reliance, has missed the mark on teaching them of the blessing of community.

In teaching them the importance working toward a goal, I missed teaching them to soak in what the journey holds.

I preached the message of working hard, but I missed teaching them the value of Sabbath (literally or metaphorically).

In my instruction to invest in a home and education, I missed showing them the delight and natural education of travel.

In thinking I was shielding them from time of my own time of weakness and sadness, I missed out on the opportunity of showing them that it’s okay to admit weakness, to ask for help.

In my refusal to see ‘the church’ as perfect (which it is not), I have given license to see more flaws than good in the bride of God.

It would be so easy to wallow in my failures as a mom. It would be so easy to say I am a complete failure.

But …

For myself, and any fellow moms (and dads), who might be giving ourselves a failing mark in parenting …

if we still have breath in our lungs,

it’s not too late

Though the empty nest is the symbol of the end of the most active parenting years of our lives,

it is not too late
to teach our kids
that failure
is an opportunity
to try again

And so, just as a failing mark on a test or report card is a wake up call, so is acknowledging our weakness an opportunity to try again, to refresh our attitudes and efforts, to try again.

“I love the Lord because he hears my voice
    and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen,
    I will pray as long as I have breath!”

(Psalm 116:1-2)

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I have been writing a story, a book, this summer. It is something I started years ago and I am finally taking the time to clear it out of my head. To be honest it is also a personal challenge for me, as it requires self control and commitment.

I have been writing a story, a book, this summer. It is something I started years ago and I am finally taking the time to clear it out of my head. To be honest it is also a personal challenge for me, as it requires self control and commitment.

As I have never written a long story (or book), this is new ground for me to wander along. I have been surprised at how productive I have been and how much has been written (now just over two hundred pages) and how I have been quite consistent in writing every day … until this week.

All of a sudden I have been dragging my butt to the sit at the table with my computer. All of a sudden I sit at the computer and stare (and surf through social media). I can’t even say it is due to a writer’s block, because I know exactly where I am going with the story. My problem is …

I want to get
to the end of the story

I know what will occur in the lives of the characters who I have gotten to know so well. I feel like they are friends, a part of me … and I just want to get them to the end.

As I sat, staring at the computer screen the other day, I realized how that describes me and my approach to life so often.

I love living forward, looking to the next event, the next vacation. I also love to look at the end of life and my hope of eternity. The eternity that is spoken of in Revelation (21:3-4):

“They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain,for the old order of things has passed away.”

There is even more that I look forward to in living this life.

I look forward to seeing the pieces of broken lives come together. Like a happily ever after story, I look forward to resolution to their pain, their loneliness, their suffering. I look forward to their happily ever after.

I dream of the day when loved ones are healthy, thriving and walking with God.

I dream of the days of the kingdom of God …

But …

Like a story in a book, that is not just about the beginning and the end, but the minute details of the process of moving from beginning to end, so it is with our lives.

Psalm 37:23 tells us that “God delights in every detail of our lives.” He is not rushing to the happy ending when he looks at us in the midst of our messy lives, he is in the details, in the minutia of our daily living. He is here, now.

“The kingdom of God doesn’t come by counting the days on the calendar. Nor when someone says, ‘Look here!’ or, ‘There it is!’ And why? Because God’s kingdom is already among you.” Luke 17:20-21

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There are numerous things that get harder as we age, but I am learning that there is one thing that can actually get easier.

I thought of this recently, when saying good-bye to a friend. As I spoke the words, I realized how they easily rolled off my tongue, how much more often I speak them and how saying them now comes with little requirement to hear them back.

Just three little words, yet, they come forth with ease, meaning and a burning need to speak them … now, while I can.

I love you

I am not certain of when it happened, or why, but those three words have been falling out of my mouth, in increasing frequency. Though they are words that have often been shared with my family, I have sensed a need to speak them to others … and not for the purpose of hearing them echoed back in my own ears … but simply because I need to hear myself affirming those around me that they are loved … that loved is how I define them.

As I think about it, I think that maybe God has been working on my heart.

All of our lives is a constant refining process. We begin deeply loved by our Creator. He loves us, just as we are, even though we are saturated by sin. But, he doesn’t leave us to decay from sin, he works within us to purify and refine us, purging us of what can destroy us, even though it might hurt for awhile.

As I look back I can see evidence of that refining process. Those times that left me crying out for help, for relief. Those times when all I could say was why? Those times when the life hurt, when loneliness was great, when I didn’t have any answers.

No one wants to be refined, but we all want the results of the refining process.

Through refining we become a combination of harder and softer. We become more aware of our reliance on God. We become more aware of who God places in our lives.

We become more aware that our need is greater to give love than to receive it … and that in giving it, we receive it.

Love is the tool as well as the product of the refining process of God in us. As he works through us, our weakness to truly love is exactly what he uses to refine us, strengthening us to love others … not in our strength, but in his.

“If I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2b)

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other.” (Romans 13:8)

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:12)

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