Tag Archives: God

Christmas Lights

Christmas LightsOne of the many things I love this time of year are the lights. Maybe it’s because winter can be so dark, with night coming early and the overcast days. It can also be dark in an emotional way too. You miss family members who live far away or who have passed on. Or money becomes tight as bills come in and your Christmas list grows. Or you find yourself all alone at Christmas.

There is something about Christmas lights that make me pause and forget the sadness and darkness that can accompany this time of year. I like to sit on my couch and just look at them, sparkling all over my Christmas tree. Usually I have a hot cup of tea in one hand and soft music playing in the background. As I sit, I feel the tension inside me slowly loosen. Light reminds me there is hope, even in the darkness. Light is hope.

As I prepared for Christmas this year (and for this blog post), I realized there are many references to Jesus being light, especially when it comes to His birth.

“Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death…” Luke 1:78-79

“The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:4-5

“The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” John 1:9

Light is most noticeable in the darkness. You can’t help but see it, your gaze automatically turns toward it. Light warms the heart and drives away fear. So this Christmas, as you gaze at the lights, remember there was one special light that came. The Light of all lights, Jesus Christ.

What if God Answered all Your Prayers?

PrayerWhat if God answered all your prayers from 2013? What difference would that have made in your life? What significance? Perhaps there would have been an increase in your comfort of living, maybe a pay raise. A couple more “good days” and safe trips around town. A close parking spot, a sunny day for that trip to the beach. But what life changing or world changing events would have happened if God had answered all your prayers? Maybe not a lot, because we didn’t ask for those.

This is a sobering thought I’ve had for the last couple weeks. I’ve realized that if God had answered all my prayers, it wouldn’t have made much of a lifetime impact. Is praying for a pay raise bad? No. Is praying for a sunny day (or in my case, a rainy day) bad? No. But I’ve begun to realize that we pray more often about small things, and don’t go much further than that.

What if I also prayed for my church, that it would be healthy and grow and have a significant impact on my community? What if I prayed for my children, that someday they would have a faith that would not be afraid? What if I prayed that God would make me into the woman He desires me to be, even if the process means poverty and trials and many dark valleys? What if I prayed for my husband, that he would be a godly man?

I’m now looking at 2014. What will I pray for? I want to extend my prayers past myself and my comfort zone. I want to pray for more than a nicer home or food or job promotion or a higher amazon ranking. Those are not bad things, but I don’t want my prayers to be only those things. Because in the end, if that is all God did in my life, then I didn’t live much of a life. And I want it to be more.

The Heartache of Saying Good Bye

PetsI had to put my dog down a couple weeks ago. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. To own an animal is to have a small piece of your heart wrapped inside a furry creature. And when they die, that piece of your heart goes with them.

I’ve had Rory (my dachshund) for ten years. She’s been through everything with me: all our moves, the births of three of my children, the ups and downs in life. Apart from God and my husband, she has been the only constant thing I’ve had. She loved to sit on the couch with me when I wrote or watched TV. And when I wasn’t on the couch, she would sit on her over sized pet bed and keep watch over our family.

A couple years ago, she developed a skin condition that made her lose her hair and smell really bad. We took her to multiple vets, but no one knew what was wrong with her. We could either pay hundreds of dollars and have extensive testing done, or just wash her every week with a special shampoo. Since we didn’t have hundreds of dollars in our bank account, I chose the shampoo. Every week for the last three years I have bathed Rory, scrubbing the dead skin away and conditioning her poor irritated body. It wasn’t fun, but it was my way of showing love for her.

This fall, she began to have problems with going to the bathroom in the house. I thought it was because I wasn’t letting her out fast enough and tried to be more diligent. Then on my birthday, she went to the bathroom in front of me (something she would never have done, she was such a proper little dog and always went outside). It was then I realized she couldn’t control herself anymore. Since we live in a rental house, she couldn’t stay inside any longer. With tears, I went and made a place for her to live in the garage.

As the month passed, she went downhill. Her skin condition became really bad, she was disoriented half the time, and she could hardly move. I then had to make one of the hardest decisions so far in my life: to let her live this way until she was in a lot of pain, or to let her go.

For a week I battled the decision. I couldn’t put my dog down. It hurt too much to think about her being gone. But I also knew to let her live like this was selfish on my part. It was time to let my friend go.

I sat outside and watched my dog sunbath in the driveway. She could barely move by then. Instead, she just sat there and enjoyed the sun. Autumn leaves fluttered across our lawn and God spoke to me. Not in an audible way, but in a quiet, soul touching way. The leaves made me think of seasons. Life is seasons: youth and life, hard work adulthood, then the twilight years when the leaves fall from the trees and the world prepares to rest. God watches over all the seasons, His hand is a part of each one. And when fall comes, He is there to gently bring to life to rest.

There is nothing to fear in death, although death itself is the antithesis of life. God has power even over death; nothing escapes His gentle hands. And so I knew that He would hold Rory and carry her over to the other side. What happens to animals when they die? I don’t know. But I do know God, and He is love. He loves all of his creation. He will do what is best for it.

Rory is gone now. I cried when that day came, and still cry. It means I have a heart, and part of it is gone. I like to think she is running through a field of green grass with that kind of hop and jump a dachshund has when they run. But wherever she is, she is with God now, free of the groans of creation. And there is no better place to be than in the hands of God.


Jesus Wept

WeepingI wrote this post two years ago and still find comfort in the truth I discovered during a dark time in my life: that God still cares about us even when He is working everything for good.

If you have been a Christian for any amount of time, you are told that all things work together for good and God’s glory. The suffering that comes into your life will make you a better person. Just give it to God.

Then you find yourself hit by life. The pain is far beyond what you thought it would be: It goes right to the core of your heart. And suddenly those platitudes you have heard uttered by Christians give no comfort whatsoever. You see no good in what you are going through. And you see God as a stoic being, moving around the pieces of life like a chessboard. You are only a piece to be moved around so God receives the glory.

I felt like this a couple weeks ago. I knew all things work together for good. I knew that my life is not my own, but for God to use for His glory. But I felt like God didn’t feel for me. That God was up above, moving around my life with a look of disinterest. I was only a means to an end. And my suffering meant very little in the grand scheme of things.

Then I read began reading the book of John. And God showed me a picture of himself. Yes, He is orchestrating all of our lives for good and yes, He does all of this for His glory (for when God receives glory, we bask in the warmth). But He is not looking down on us with a stoic expression. He is moved by our hurt.

Sometimes He weeps.

As a child, it was a contest to see who knew the shortest verse in the Bible. And in case you didn’t know, it is “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35). But I never understood the full power of that verse until a couple weeks ago. As I read John 11, I felt moved by the story of Martha and Mary and their brother Lazerus.

Lazerus is deathly sick. So his sisters send word to Jesus. They know Jesus can heal their brother. They have seen His power and miracles. But Jesus never comes. And so Lazerus dies. Can you feel their shock, their feelings of betrayal? Why did Jesus heal so many others but never came to help them, His friends? They bury Lazerus, probably along with their hope.

Now let’s look at Jesus’ point of view. Jesus receives word that Lazerus is deathly ill. But He has a plan: a plan for good and God’s glory. So Jesus waits. And waits. Until Lazerus dies. Then he tells his disciples they must head back to Judea so he can awaken Lazerus.

However, you do not see an unemotional Jesus in this chapter. Look how He responds when he sees Mary and the others who are grieving with her: “When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.” (John 11:33). Jesus was moved by the grieving he saw.

They head out to the tomb. And at this point Jesus weeps. He sees the grief and hurt of the people around him. My friends, God sees the hurt and grief going on inside of us too. He is not callous to our battered hearts and lives. Even while God is using us for good and for His glory, I believe He is also weeping with us. We have a God who has also suffered. “Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.” (Hebrews 2:18).

Jesus wept. What a powerful verse. Those two simple words opened my eyes. I no longer see God as a stoic being above me, moving around the pieces of my life with a calloused hand. Instead I see a God who weeps with me.


Blessed are the Poor

Budget“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Matthew 5:3. (emphasis mine)

I started reading the Beatitudes today and the first one jumped out at me, probably because I’ve been struggling with finances the last few months. Each month I look at what we need, what needs paid, what we have, and ask what can we do without or what can be pushed off until the next month.

Ever been there? Pretty soon, after a couple months of living like this, you start to feel stretched out and stressed. I pinch every penny until it screams (and I start screaming along with it). We are living as frugally as we can, but I start to secretly wish for more. I wish for twenty bucks to take the kids swimming or out for ice cream. I wish I didn’t have to scrutinize every price tag and ask if the need is so great that we simply can’t live without it. I look longingly at what other people have and ask God why I can’t have that too.

You know the one thing I haven’t been doing? Talking to God about it. Instead, I’ve been treading financial waters, trying to stay afloat, keep our family going, and getting angry at everyone around me.

I have probably read the Beatitudes a thousand times, and know God blesses the poor, but today it hit me. There is nothing in that verse that says God will raise us above our need. Instead, it is our need that points us back to Him. We come to the end of ourselves (sometimes doing everything in our own power first, like I am apt to do), just to find He’s been there all along, waiting.

God has never let my family starve. He has always made sure we had a roof over our head (even when it looked like we would lose everything). He has provided for our needs. So why am I worrying? Perhaps it is because I have become discontent. Dan and I work hard, and in America there is this assumption that if you work hard, you will reap. But that is not reality. Reality is Dan is in ministry, not for the paycheck, but for the people. And I don’t write for a paycheck but for the joy of storytelling.

Being poor is not a virtue most people pursue. But it is one God honors. It is easier to realize our need for God when we are poor. We have nothing else. No distractions.

So instead of looking at what I don’t have, today I will turn my gaze on God instead and be thankful for what I do have.


When God Says No

When God says NoMonths ago I started reading a book. For the life of me, I cannot remember the book or the author. But the author made a statement that has stuck with me ever since: It is easy to have faith when God says yes and everything happens the way you want it to, but it takes a deeper faith when God says no. The moment I read those words, I wanted that kind of faith.

I should know by now to be careful what I wish for. In order to develop a faith strong enough for God to say no, I have to let Him say no. And that’s not easy. In the last few months, I think that is about the only word I have heard from God: no. In big things, like selling our house, to little things, like finding Philip’s lost glasses. I have asked…and not received. After a while, it has weighed down on me and made me ask what is faith really?

I think we subconsciously view faith like this: if I have enough faith, God will do it. If I don’t, then it’s my own fault. And that has paralyzed me. I am a woman of little faith. Some people have the gift of faith. Not me. I have always been a logic, scientific kinda gal. I need to see it to believe it, figure it out, understand how it works, and then I will accept it. So because of my natural inclinations, does that mean I will see less of God’s blessings? Because I don’t have enough faith?

Then it hit me today: that kind of thinking is the same kind as hoping I am good enough for heaven. People who strive to be good enough for God always have a fear in the back of their mind, “Am I good enough?” Same with faith. “Do I have enough faith?” And when a loved one dies, or the bank takes the house, or you lose your job after praying hard on your knees, you can’t help but think you didn’t have enough faith, so God didn’t provide.

But in the end, doesn’t that place everything on ourselves? That we need to first have faith, then God will work?

Perhaps our view of faith is wrong. It is not about what God does, but who He is. Because if our faith is set on what He does, then we are going to be disappointed. But if our faith is set on who He is, then we will be confident no matter what happens because we know that He is in control. When He says no, we will not be shaken. We will  believe He has a reason for saying no, a reason we may not see or understand (after all, if we truly understood everything God did, then He wouldn’t be much of a god, would He?).

I still have a ways to go in developing this kind of faith, a faith placed squarely on God. But I want it. And I will continue to pursue it.

How about you? Has God told you no before? How did you react? Was it hard? Did your faith grow from the experience?

What is Faith?

I have been thinking about the meaning of faith lately and came across an old post of mine. Here it is and I hope to follow up on more thoughts on the matter next week:

Here is a quote I came across a couple months ago: Faith is not believing God can, but that God will!

But what if He doesn’t?

I couldn’t help but look at those words and ask what about the people who have lost loved ones? Or parents who prayed and prayed for their child to live, but their child died anyway? Or the man who lost his job and eventually his home?

Did they not have enough faith? Did they not pray enough? Or is faith something more?

Last year I found my faith stretching beyond anything I had ever known. For the first time in my life, I believed God could do anything, not just with my head, but with my heart. That faith carried me through some of the darkest moments of my life… until nothing happened.

God didn’t come through.

I couldn’t believe it. It was the biggest letdown ever. I had prayed, prostrated myself before God, and thought for sure that God was behind us. But He didn’t show up.

I felt alone and devastated. Was my little kernel of faith just not big enough? Mentally and emotionally I felt like I was being sucked down into a vortex of darkness. Could I trust God anymore? And what is faith really?

It was the story of three men that made me start to think there is more to faith than just believing God will do something. The men’s names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Most people know them by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were three young men taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar and sent off to Babylon where they served him.

In Daniel chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar creates a statue of gold and commands his people to bow and worship it when the music starts to play. The music plays, and everyone bows… except for those 3 men.

They are brought before Nebuchadnezzar. He tells them he will give them a second chance. But if they fail to obey and bow down, he will throw them into the blazing furnace. “And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?” (Daniel 3:15)

Here is their response: ”O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.

But even if He doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18).

Did you catch that? These men knew God could save them. They had faith. But their faith wasn’t based on what God would do; it was based on God Himself. That is why they could say even if He doesn’t. Even if God did not save them, they would still follow Him and not bow down. They completely put their faith in God to do whatever God was going to do, even if God’s plan did not include saving them.


Do I put my faith only in what God is going to do? Or simply in God Himself? Do I trust God so much that I place myself in His Hands and know that no matter how dark the outcome, He has a reason for it?

That is a different kind of faith than the quote up above. A faith that has allowed Christians in the past to face torture and death. One that allows me now to see beyond my current circumstances. A faith in God alone, not in just the outcome we want from Him.

Can Suicide Separate Us From God?

Stormy skyThis week brought shocking news: the son of Rick and Kay Warren (author of the Purpose Driven Life) committed suicide. Within days, this news has spread, raising a lot of questions and discussion about suicide and Christians. I want to share with you two years ago I went through a very dark time in my life, a dark night of the soul. And unless you have experienced this, you have no idea what it is like to be suicidal.

My life was already full of cracks by the time my husband was fired from the church we were serving at. I was like a piece of glass with multiple fractures. We had been laid off from one church, lived on unemployment for almost a year, experienced loss of health and almost the life of our son, burned out by ministry, forced to move every few years, and now this. I remember the shock to this day: walking around in a numb state until my insides shattered into a thousand pieces. I was broken beyond repair and I entered the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Those months after my husband lost his job were the darkest in my life. Even though I was still around people, I felt such intense loneliness it hurt physically. Depression hung on me like a black shroud. At one point, I remember visualizing myself curled up in a ball, naked, laying on a rock in the middle of a raging storm out in the ocean, with the wind and the harsh rain pounding down on me. All alone.

StormI couldn’t hear God anymore. Up to that point, I could always hear God, feel Him near me. But not anymore. I would look up to see only black raging clouds. I knew God was around somewhere up above those clouds, but I couldn’t see Him like I used to. And my spiritual hearing was gone, like being hit by a blast wave that leaves you deaf.

The depression went on for months. I felt like I was drowning. I was still fighting to stay afloat, but there was part of me that wanted to give up and sink down into the waters and be done.

This empty, deathly feeling scared me. I’ve been depressed before, but usually the thought of my husband and kids drew me back. But this time it was not enough. I was afraid that I was going to give in to the desire and kill myself. It’s like standing on an edge, looking down, and having that wild feeling to throw oneself off.

There was only one thing that stopped me: I did not want to meet God that way. I did not want to take my life and stand before God and see the disappointment on His face. I could not take my life… because my life was not mine to take. It belonged to God.

That was the anchor I clung to during that wild tempest in my life. Eventually I dove into God’s word, especially the Psalms, finding comfort in the fact that I was not the only one who had ever felt that way. Psalm 42:5 says, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again—my Savior and my God!”

And even Paul writes about his discouragement: 2 Corinthians 1:8-9a “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves…”

The sentence of death. That is exactly what it feels like. But Paul goes on to say this: “…so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on who we have set our hope…” (2 Corinthians 1:9b-10)

I made a choice that day, a choice that I have stuck with ever since: my life is God’s and God’s alone, for Him to use, and for Him to bring me home when it is time. I still could not see God, could not hear Him when I made this choice. But I chose to trust that He would deliver me someday. And He did, through the prayers and friendship of my husband and two close friends. This is how God delivered Paul as well: “And He will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers…”

I am blessed to have come through a time like that alive. But what happens to a person who chooses to end it all? Is that person damned? Is his or her salvation no longer valid since the person took his or her own life?

I believe God’s answer is no.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow— not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” Romans 8:38

Not even suicide.

But I believe that person will miss out on all that God could have done in his or her life: all the people that person might have touched, all the people that person might have helped or comforted; the view of the rainbow after the storm.

And yet there are many living that are already missing out. A lot of people today are missing out on what God can do in their lives because they are too busy chasing their own dreams. It doesn’t take death to stop God’s work in our lives, just our selfish ambition and belief that our lives are our own to use and pursue what we want to.

I encourage you to love and pray for others. You never know if there is death lurking behind a smiling face. And pray for the Warren family, that they experience grace and peace. Our heart goes out to them with love.



The Problem with Death

DeathA few weeks ago, I read one Christian’s point of view on how the world began. This person laid out the different views out there, ranging from evolution to creation, to God using evolution in His creation, young earth, old Earth, and everything in between. This person concluded that there was not enough evidence to support anything; but what was important was the Maker, not how everything came to be.

I have heard this case before. I have strong Christian friends who believe God used evolution in His creation of the world. And lately, I have been rethinking my views. After all, there is a lot of debate on this issue, each with a valid point. But one thing keeps pulling me back from embracing the view that God used evolution: the problem of death.

My understanding of evolution is that through countless changes in both the world and species, what we see now came to be. And through that process there was a lot of death. Slowly, the genetics of the species changed, evolving to survive. What couldn’t live, died. What did live changed again, then died out so the new level of genetics could survive.

However, the Bible states death came through one man: Adam (Romans 5:12). Before Adam sinned, there was no death. Nothing died. And if there was no death, then there would be many species running around, each of them in a different state of evolution. The world would be filled with half-baked critters that were not done changing yet.

And where did they all go when Adam sinned and death finally entered creation? Did the imperfect die away? Yet that would contradict what God said when He finished creating: that everything was good (Genesis 1:31).

Ultimately though, the problem of death and the creation of the world has to do with our salvation. Through one man’s sin death entered the world, and through one man life came as well. We are all connected to Adam, and therefore we will die. But through Jesus we can have life. But if we are not connected to Adam, then can we be saved?

Imagine Adam and Jesus as doors on either side of a room. All who came through one door may go through the other door. But if you are not even in the same room, can you go through the other door? If mankind really did evolve, then are we all connected? What about those who did not fully evolve into humans, who were not Adam? Are any of us related to those pre-evolved humans? If so, can we be saved?

See the problem?

In the end, both faith and logical thinking are required for any belief about the origins of life. Yes, the Maker is important (if you believe in a Maker). But so is how He created the world. Life and death hinge on that.