Heart and Soul

But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Deuteronomy 4:29 NKJV

But from there.

There is where we find ourselves. At the least, feeling stranded in our homes. At the worst, embattled by the fight for life against a spreading illness.

I just can’t speak to the latter. The reports leave me speechless. But from there, I must not be voiceless. I can pray fervently for loved ones on the front lines. I have to call out for God’s help.

And I cry out: Pray with me.

While we wave to the delivery people — pray with me.

While we wash and spray and mask — pray with me.

What do we pray? Pray to seek God.

And pray to seek God with all your heart and soul.

You might not be all that familiar with the interiors of your heart and soul. They may seem too rundown to explore safely. Or they may seem to be too cluttered to be of use.

But from there is a place to start. From a heart and soul dependent on daily routine, mirroring a calendar jammed with notes and appointments that aren’t relevant anymore, now that much of your world has closed down around you. From a heart and soul given little attention in day-to-day life, that may seem too fragile to comprehend the strain and stress of others around you. From a heart and soul that you may not have spent much time wandering through, not while there were trends and goals to chase.

As you pray to seek God with all your heart and soul — in whatever shape they may be — seek to find His face, and seek to find His hand.

Why God’s Face?

If we find ourselves experiencing a sense of isolation as we pass each other wearing masks, that experience may actually derive from a pre-existing condition: our lack of intimacy with God. We may know God only by rumor. Maybe we know Him by brief introduction, and over the years, we’ve fallen out of touch. One way or the other, we can find ourselves unfamiliar with God.

But from there, seek God’s face so that you can discover the joy of God smiling on you, singing over you, seeing you. (Numbers 6:25, Zephaniah 3:17, Genesis 16:13, Psalm 16:9,11 NIV)

Seek God’s face, so that your face will begin to turn to His. So you can begin to fix your gaze on Him, since we tend to walk in the direction that we’re looking. Seek God’s face, so that you will know how to approach God.

As you approach, God is drawing near to you, and to your need for peace and joy.

I keep my eyes always on the LORD. Because He is at my right hand, with Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8 NIV

Why God’s Hand?

If we find ourselves constantly monitoring the news for signs that people in charge are acting to relieve the concerns of this situation, we will find that good efforts are being made.

Still, if we measure these leaders by their responses to this crisis, at some point we will eventually find them faltering, and our anxiety will rise. For example, when nonessential businesses remain open, it seems economic concerns have outweighed public health. When we read that hospitals continue to lack protective equipment for staff, we may begin to see inaction in addressing the lack of resources. At these points, anxiety becomes dismay.

But from there, seek God’s hand, because He acts in righteousness and in power unlike anyone else.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NIV

Unlike people at any level, God is immune to incompetence. He possesses the unlimited power of Creation, intervention and communication. (Psalm 8:3-4, 1 Kings 19:11-12 NIV) And unlike people at any level, God is immune to corruption. He acts in compassion and grace, reserving just judgment for a future time. (Psalm 103:8, 1 Peter 2:23, Numbers 23:19 NIV)

Our hearts and souls remain in need. But from there, it is God that we must seek.

In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3 NIV

My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord;
In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up. Psalm 5:3 NKJV


Be still and …

We entered the room, looking for a sign.

At the church women’s conference, each room had directions posted for activities encouraging devotion in different ways. We had been given only a few minutes to be here, because there was so much to do.

On one wall, a mirror was hanging over a sofa. Using dry-erase markers, someone had transformed it into a sign, using big, beautiful, bold capital letters to spell out: “REST.”

There were a handful of us in our group. All of us entered the room, and all of us sat down. One of us boldly capitalized on the huge opportunity spelled out for us — and entered into beautiful rest.

We sat in different places, but more or less at the same vantage point. And we entered into a conversation filled by our work: describing the care that we give to our work, meeting the standards we’ve personally set for our work.

She sat on the sofa, under that mirror, and became a reflection of its message, as she entered into the space between words. A space that had already been set aside for us to do what was needful.

We all enjoyed discovering the activities of a conference.

She found a retreat.

She silently closed her eyes, then leaned back.


She stretched out her legs and laid her hands to rest.


Soon, we all heard the signal that it was time to move on.

Surely there’s so much to do. But we’ve been given a short time to be here.


Gift Receipt

When I get a gift, I get distracted by the look of it — the colors, patterns, shine, and the ribbon handles. It’s just so pretty, so fun. And so I linger.

Soon, someone is saying: “Just open it!”

And I tend to collect those gift bags.

I stash them away, and I keep them so long. When an occasion presents itself, I pull them all out and look them all over. I wonder when and if the clutter will prove useful.

The difficulties of 2018 were gift bags for me. No, not so pretty, not so fun. But still I linger.

The look of things has been so distracting. My memories are colored by every disappointing circumstance. My mind has grown weary as the pattern of troubles has extended, becoming repeating and increasing trials. My energy has dimmed, and I’ve fumbled in trying to handle so much of what came my way.

I stash it away; who wants to hear about all that? And I wonder how any of this will prove useful.

But then I wonder: Am I forgetting to pull out the gifts that those circumstances brought?

Having more than I could handle in each day, means that I’ve received a daily delivery — primed awareness of God’s sovereignty. When I could not take another step forward, I’ve paused long enough to speak and cry out to God. What I could not lift, I handed over.

When I had so many overwhelming tasks, God reminded me to let Him overwhelm me more: His love, His faithfulness, His might, His wisdom, His ways.

I love to celebrate the small gift, like the Christmas card I got from a student who actually wrote a personal message. And I have to remember to share the huge gifts: my receipt of God’s omnipotent Presence, and His loving personal message for each day. I receive them in prayer, as I drive down the street; in opening my Bible, as I unwrap God’s promises tagged just for me; in praise, as my wail of frustration becomes a hymn pouring out my heart.

My abundant need has been met by these abundant gifts, and I need to put them to use, telling everyone I know how good God has been to me — how He’s been so good. I need to keep my gifts on display, because their beauty outshines their packaging.

My gift bags have a corner; they don’t need ongoing inspection. When it’s useful, I can speak to someone’s circumstances, to their baggage, because I can share the gift I’ve received. I’ve been encouraged to encourage; I’ve been strengthened to strengthen.

When I submit to God’s will that we do so daily — slowing down long enough for a smile, a word of praise — I can’t always track how the Holy Spirit delivers that comfort. I don’t know how it will be received.

But I do know that every good and perfect gift comes from God. I don’t want to overlook anything God sends my way, and I pray for God to clear the clutter.

Giving My Thanks

So, our house was full.

Walking from the front door to the living room, there were family antiques that Mom taught herself how to restore. Standing in the dining room, there was inherited china on display. If you walked the hall to our bedrooms, you found turn-of-the-century framed photographs of relatives on the wall, next to mid-century school-year photos pinned to a bulletin board. Shelves of scrapbooks and albums cataloguing recent personal history were crammed next to textbooks that spanned a century.

If you sat by the kitchen while the food was cooking, or at the dining table once it was done, you’d hear which relative was known for the recipe. We smelled and tasted their legacy on Sundays and holidays. 

And on any day of the year, we could tour our history – thumbing through the albums, and sitting where our people had sat. Here, an upholstered bench dedicated to talking on the telephone; there, a sturdy hardwood chair reserved for a large-scale relative. In this way, we were trained to never forget the people that we’d never met. 

We knew security and peace because we knew loving care. We knew joy because every season was celebrated. We knew melancholy and grief because of our mother’s lament for the loss of youth, and its innocence, and the people she loved in those times.

There was a sense of a people in our home, more than the five who lived there. And Someone more.

There were crosses over doorways. By my father’s side of the bed, there was a rosary and a cross made of palm leaves pinned to the wall. And at our table, we bowed our heads and said a blessing.

On New Year’s Eve, we’d turn off the TV for a family prayer. Later, we’d turn it back on in time for the countdown. My father would pop a cork with his signature toasts, and we’d hear car horns and firecrackers in the distance.

But first came my mother kneeling with her forehead on the seat cushion of the sofa, praying out loud over us, and thanking God for her family, starting with the loved ones who’d gone on. She would wipe her eyes, and then we would each take a turn praying from our hearts too.

And our hearts were full. 

Now, we pray for God to restore us. To help us know what to frame, what to keep, and when to tell the stories to the next generation. We pray for God to reveal His imprint on our lives through the stories that we tell, about ourselves and those who came before us. To testify how God has preserved us, though we be as fragile as the china, and sometimes as tattered as the photographs. 

We pray for the transparency to show Your hand upon us, sustaining and providing for us in spite of ourselves. To show Your daily transformation of us, and our lives crammed with personal concerns. Help us to dust off the lessons You’ve taught us, and those we love, and to walk in Your wisdom.

Knock at the door of our hearts with others’ testimonies; remind us to listen and learn how You have moved mightily in their lives, and to celebrate Your glory in their stories.

May we meet You in these shared stories. May we know daily family reunion with You. 

Help us never to forget.

At the Altar

Turn down my performance,

Turn up Your praise!

Turn up Your praise … turn up Your praise ….

It was an amazing program.

I stopped and chatted with some of the people who came together to celebrate the music that my mom had enjoyed, arranged, directed and composed. We were gladdened by the strength of her memory, and the joy of sharing it.

Walk, talk. Swipe through my purse for my car keys. Stop, talk … swipe. Swipe. Sigh. Swipe … swipe.

As the church was locked up, we stood outside in the darkness, still talking, laughing.

Swipe. Grr. Swipe.

Turn down my performance,

Turn up Your praise!

Turn up Your praise … turn up Your praise ….

I methodically began to unload my record-heavy purse on the trunk of my sister’s car.

Two paperback books – check.

(Mom’s writing. Great opportunity to share.)

A plate, a dish towel – check.

(Fun skit. You kinda had to be there.)

Usual essentials – check.

Except my keys.

We called my cousin, whose face is pictured in my mental dictionary, right next to the phrase “faithful steward.” Minutes after she’d driven away, she was back to open the church up again. Voiced no irritation. She walks in patience.

I searched the pew where I’d sat. Then I stepped up on the altar, looking around where the microphone had been.

Left, right.


Removing the plate and books again, I kneeled and turned my purse upside down, shaking it. Plop, flutter, flutter. Kch, kch.

I think I hear them,” my son said, kneeling next to me, as I kept peering, not seeing. Not sure I was really hearing.

Kch, kch. He revealed the twisted pocket, the only pocket in the purse. Where my search began. Where my expectations are usually stored. The pocket that still held my keys. Kch.

I made my angry face. He helped me pull them out.

Turn down my performance,

Turn up Your praise!

Turn up Your praise … turn up Your praise ….

My sister told her I’ve-done-that-too story. My cousin told her I’ve-done-that-too story. I’m not sure either one ever made someone drive back and re-open a church just for that. But I was grateful for their compassion.

With what I just happened to be carrying at that moment — doing what I normally do, as best I can, just wasn’t enough.

With that particular jumble … ok, and with jumbles I’ve had before – what I can do and what I can understand just wasn’t enough. Not enough to even simply keep moving.

Before my cousin drove away (again), she pointed out something: that I couldn’t really have done all that necessary shaking out, to begin to see what was twisted out of place, to get to the bottom of anything, while I was still out in the darkness. I couldn’t really even see what I was doing.

But once I was at the altar, I got the help I needed.

OK, yeah. So I didn’t leave my stuff there. When I walked from the altar, my purse was still heavy.

But … I was still so much better off.

In the jumble I carried weariness, aches. So much frustration twining through.

In the shaking out I found relief, fellowship. Unlimited divine intervention flowing through and glorified.

When I emptied it all out at the altar.

Turn down my performance,

Turn up Your praise!

Turn up Your praise!

Turn Up Your Praise!

At the Altar

September 2010 photo of lunch-hour pipe organ concerts by my mother Izola Collins

Lyrics from ‘Turn Down, Turn Up’ by Cheryl Crayton. Copyright February 2018

Lightness of Being


Some said they’d noticed that she seemed to be getting tired.

Others were just amazed because she didn’t seem to be slowing down much at all.

Whenever someone shared that they had begun to think it would soon be time, I listened carefully, curious to see what they had seen.

Each time, I heard only those seasonal things – the observations of aging that relate to movement, appearance, etc. The things already familiar to her children; we had been taking note and sharing notes for years.

She had a temper, and folks still called her sweet. I’d seen her fully charged, and I’d seen her weary. And this was true for all the years, traced from my childhood to the current day. I’d seen her revved-up and revved-down. Fragile and formidable.

Many times over the years, she’d share childhood memories, with the joy of remembering and recreating them to share with us. Often, she’d lament that she couldn’t go back to the days when she was the baby of the family. What she always called the innocence of youth.

Sometimes the tone of world-weariness puzzled me, because these were my sweet years of early memory. And after the three of us left home and my father passed away, she admitted to some loneliness and depression. These were most visible in the years right before a seemingly destructive storm relocated her to my home. There she became part of my boys’ sweet years of early memory. Her distress at being relocated from her lifelong hometown gave way to the affirming thrill of discovery, as she began to navigate a new town.

And when she was able to restore her home and move back, she continued to flourish, her faith deepening as she saw her own restoration and that of her hometown around her.

More and more in every conversation, I would hear her say how blessed she was. All the more after an accident led to long recovery from a broken ankle, instead of a fall that would have likely been fatal. In recent years, when she praised God, she did so with increasing awe that he not only cared for her, but that he still found purpose for her here.

She was childlike joy packaged in a woman who was a walking tour-de-force. That was quite a gift. That’s quite a legacy.

Her funeral was amazingly both triumphant and warm, and I was thankful to see each and every one who came to show they cared. My sister and brother, as we loved and lived through this moment together, asked how I was doing. I could honestly say that while sorrow shows up – that each time, it finds my heart filled to standing-room-only capacity with joy. And it is just as quickly crowded out, retreating back through the door.

Joy that so many would celebrate my mom, and celebrate her so well. Joy that I had her so long – long enough to share with my children – and that I had her in the first place. Joy at the forceful impression she made on who we are, those of us in her family and in her community.

So when I asked myself whether I saw any indications right before she died, I only saw … a lightness of being.

In those seasonal changes of aging, I saw the coziness of one who remains warm in winter. She could watch an old TV show and laugh, as though it hadn’t been on earlier that day. She listened pleasantly as I thanked her for encouraging me in a work dilemma, even though her pause made it clear she didn’t recall speaking into the situation with words graced by God’s perspective.

Most of all, each time we spoke, it was how she marveled that she was still here, and that God was so good to her. The words were not new, but the wonder had grown. This was the lightness of being that I saw. And it was the best indicator of a life transition that there ever could be. Because she was genuinely prepared to go home, thankfully more than she realized.

What lightness of being we know, when we allow God to be sovereign. When we begin to trust and give Him glory so.

The lightness of joy.

Turn to dance

On point


1. law —

   Staying on the topic.

2. fashion —


3. military 

    Taking the lead role.

4. dance 

    Staying on your toes.

Let’s turn to dance.

I took ballet as a preteen. After seeing my friend in recital, I got my mom to enroll me in lessons, and soon, I was dancing on Broadway 

 Broadway Avenue, our city’s version of Main Street, two afternoons a week at a storefront school. 

My mishmosh of memories from class include the gleam of tap shoes, doing the hustle (this was the ’70s), and the unyielding height of the barre.

Decades later, I still remember the lessons on pirouettes. 

Before the spinning starts, you have to choose a focus, a focus spot where you want to go. And with every turn, you have to refocus. Otherwise, the effort takes you far off course, leaving you disoriented, confused … sometimes even hurting and ill. But with discipline to refocus at every turn, there’s guidance and grace.

Staying on your toes, as defined by a believer in Jesus Christ, is not about mental agility or physical prowess. It means realizing that your statement of faith is a daily necessity, before leaving the bed. Worth interrupting your own agenda setting, grocery-list making, physical assessment and dream analysis — to seek to abide in God first. Thinking about who God is and why you worship Him. 

Even before we turn our wide-ranging thoughts into requests before God, we need to turn from all that’s on our mind, so we can speak directly to Him … about Him

And long after we’ve sat up, stood and shuffled from the bed, we need to be ready to interrupt all those things again — not only to seek God’s agenda at every turn, but to abide with Him more and more often during the day.  

We need that, and God delights in it. Reason enough.

Ongoing spiritual warfare provides even further reason.  Before we engage in battle, we need to choose that same focus, and then constantly refocus.  Otherwise, our thoughts, words and actions become confused and take us far off course, stranding us in our pain and hurting others.

Turn, turn, turn. To prayer. To praise. To petition. To devotion.

To stay on point as God defines it, turn often to God’s Word — 2 Chronicles 20:15 b, Ephesians 6:10-18 — for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 

To stay on point, keep your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Find guidance in grace. God makes it available to you daily, and it was never meant to be hoarded or rationed out. 

To live on point is to live extended to the utmost —  the utmost patience (1 Timothy 1:16; 2 Timothy 4:2); the utmost perseverance (2 Timothy 2:15, Philippians 1:20) and the utmost generosity (2 Corinthians 8:3-15) — all with a willingness to go beyond your personal resources. 

The history of dancing en pointe traces a movement to a dance style that disregarded the body’s natural alignment; it was a way of dancing that followed the fashion of its time. S
piritually speaking, living on point follows an everlasting standard, based on God’s nature instead of the stances that come naturally to us. 

Our natures, when placed in God’s hands, are redefined and then refined daily. He provides us with extensive practice to develop a strength that reaches beyond our own ability.  

God has taken on our perfection as a lifetime project.

To stay on point, turn and take God’s extended hand.

The Sharpest Sword

I had seen what it could do. Now it was my turn.

We were at a festival that celebrates the Renaissance period of history, with food and events that match the theme. While chewing on a huge turkey leg and watching a jousting match, we’d gotten a fresh surge of energy, and now we were exploring the shops.

My husband had admired the range of swords, and a worker at the shop invited him to try out his favorite. Behind the shop were bundles of reeds standing up in water barrels. They’d been soaked overnight, and the thick bundles were now dense and heavy.

First, the shop worker took aim. And swung, slicing in one steady, fluid movement. He showed us the swiftly dissected bundle, and reviewed what made the sword so effective and efficient. After giving us a lesson on careful use, he then handed it off to my husband, who readily did the same.


Now I had the sword in my hand.

I’d been fed. I’d been taught. The sword was sharper than we could have imagined. All I had to do was understand what it could do, and then choose to use it.

There’s a sword that is so sharp it can divide bone and marrow, soul and spirit. You have this sword. And it’s been placed in your hand.

You’ll want to be fed first. The good news is that God’s Word is a sword, and at the same time, God’s Word is a daily bread. You’ll want to be fed with that daily bread. Meaning that you’ll want to taste and see that the Lord is good, first sampling what God has to say to you, and then coming to savor it. And then, when you’re ready to read more than a verse or two, and begin to choose larger portions, you’ll want to sit down to make a meal of it, and then another. You’ll become filled with His love and His wisdom for your life. And you’ll realize with each meal that the joy of the Lord is your strength.

You’ll want to be taught. You can get a lesson on careful use of the word of God, if you seek a conversation with God.

Your prayers may begin with seeking God’s intervention in the circumstances of your life.

As you pray, you will want to remember how God has already intervened in your life, and take time to be thankful. Not only will gratitude honor God as He is due, but thankfulness will renew your mind as to what God can and will do.

As you recall what God can do, God can reveal to you that what He has done reflects who He really is. As you seek to give God a role in your life, God can help you recognize that His role reaches beyond intervention, to sovereignty; that God was meant to be Lord of your life.

And as you realize, in greater and greater detail, who He really is, you realize that all of what He is, is what you need and want most. Realizing that God himself is what your heart is missing, your prayers can then become about seeking His presence – God himself.

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 KJV

Understand that God’s Word can divide soul and spirit – defining your spirit as your truest self, which is restored fully by your saving faith in Him; and defining your soul as your mind and emotions. Just as marrow gives life and function to the body’s joints, your thoughts and feelings were never meant to reign over your life, but to be given life and function by your spirit. Your soul, which needs daily healing and restoration, needs to be led by your spirit, which is the essential innermost substance of your existence. And your spirit by faith has a perfect connection to the perfect leadership of God’s Holy Spirit.

In Ezekiel 37, a prophet in ancient Israel shares his vision of what God will do with His people regardless of what state they are in. He gave an eyewitness account of divine restoration far beyond human capacity when God restored dry bones, in a valley of death. In Psalm 23, another prophet named David shares the relationship with God that preserved him and his life, regardless of the valleys he walked through. Here I share my witness to what God can do. I relay to you that hope is never lost, when you place your hope in God.

What happened when it was my turn with the sword? I said I was ready. And I focused – more on what I had learned, than on what was before me.

I took aim, and sliced steady. The bundle fell to the sharp sword.

Take your turn.

Sweet, Sweet Peace Cake

InTheMixIt was potluck time at my new job.

God led me to a nice cake recipe. Then, while I was buying the ingredients, God led me to a nice cake mix.

I asked Him, so which is it? Should I put the recipe things back on the shelf, and just get the mix? But God was leading me to get both. I wondered what the point was, when God already knew what would be needed. Then I had to wonder what the point of wondering was. Since God already knew what would be needed.

I didn’t really know how things were going to turn out, yet He was preparing me with whatever was needed, however it was needed. And He was preparing me that He might just change things up. If that’s what was needed.

I faithfully followed the recipe directions. And in the end, when the recipe cake didn’t work out — even when I gave it so much extra time to come together — God had already provided what I needed. I was thankful, no doubt. But I did wonder. I wondered why He didn’t just tell me to skip my efforts to make that cake.

It baked and baked and baked. I mean, it got as done as it was ever going to get. Then the time came to let it go, and start over.

So I did.

I put together what I had left (the glaze icing from the recipe), and the new thing He’d already made available (the cake made from mix).  And because He’s the one who did the cooking, I don’t mind saying it was good.

I really didn’t need to be concerned about the finished product. As I went to bed, I reminded myself that my assignment was to serve up what He’d put together for me, and that I wasn’t actually in charge of my coworkers’ tastebuds. The next morning, that same thought made me smile twice as much: when some said they really enjoyed it, and when others politely told me they didn’t prefer the ingredients in the glaze.

It was as done as it was ever going to get.

Funny thing God’s been showing me, long before I made that cake: That His glory is not in us being able to say we’ve ourselves done everything from scratch, or as we originally intended. Instead, we find His glory when we take what He’s given us, and share it with others. When we serve that up, we see His delight.

This is sweet, sweet peace.

Taste and see that the LORD is good.

Return and Rest

Pasture     He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.

I smile, and breathe a deep sigh of ease, looking at a picture of my husband and younger son relaxing in our back yard.

It is surely one of those green pasture moments. My son is playing with his pecan-tree-branch walking stick and our fuzzy small dog. My husband is sitting on the porch steps, savoring every spoonful of his ice cream cup. And the sun sets slowly enough to illuminate everything.

And this is another green pasture moment. I sit on the plane, headed to vacation. Both sons sit behind us, still enjoying their reunion after the firstborn’s return from freshman year in college. Husband has his audio book and a nap. I have time to play with my phone, to actually change the wallpaper all by myself, to find the golden sunset picture. To be soaring here and there, all at once.

The next day I am praying to God, glad for rested sleep and strengthened body, the fullness of the day previous and the newness of the current day, letting thank you fill me until I feel it in my soles. This is green pastures too, taking a longer gaze at my Shepherd.

And in my prayer I trust him with the times He’s led me through and rested me from. As I pray, I am freed from wearying myself all over again when I remember them, and how they tried me.

And I trust him with the times He’s leading me to, where my soul will be called to remember Him and His green pasture. To return to rest not only in summer, but daily, and throughout each day. Not to commit entrance to his green pastures to memory, but to frequent His presence, to seek Him and enter fully into His rest at all times — instead of being stranded by the situation. To feast in His presence in the presence of my enemies: distraction, frustration, offense, pain, weariness and fear.

To become rooted there. Tended there. To be reminded that nothing in God’s green earth bears fruit from great concerted effort, but rather yields it.

In the eyes of Truth


Oh what needless pains we bear. When we’ve been misjudged by a friend. When our dedication doesn’t shape our job evaluations. When someone you love turns away with a wound you didn’t inflict. When a stranger responds to you with indignation or contempt. And you’re left saying, why?

When we finally remember to pray, our monologue prayers can be just as confused. We ask to be vindicated. To be justified. To be found innocent for all to see. We try to cling to and defend our value, as we long to be seen for who we are. To be reassured that’s who we still are.

But believers, there’s a better Way.

We can resist being caught up in the drama that seems ongoing, and we can pause to listen … to hear Jesus’ decisive last word that it is finished.  We need not establish that we know the truth, because we can recall that we know, and are known by, the Spirit of Truth.

When we believe on Jesus for reconciliation with God, the Spirit of Truth alights on us. We are removed from condemnation, and found righteous and acceptable. God says to us as He said to His firstborn: This is my Child. And … He is beloved.

Beloved! Beloved means that being loved by God has recharacterized us, redescribed us, renamed us.

Funny – it can be cheaply traded in for being bedazzled. There was a gadget that came out in the ’70s, and grew more popular in the disco-ball ’80s. It promised to add rhinestones and glitzy sequins to any item of clothing or accessory you already had. Once bedazzled, the wearers would be sure of basking in the attention of people noticing their sparkle.

I think most of us settle for being bedazzled, when we overlook the more priceless item of being beloved. We’re eager to be seen as shiny, to be recognized for the inherent qualities we treasure. But we end up beguiled by the effort to represent ourselves, missing out on the authentic glow of those qualities that God has stored up in us on the inside.

When someone finds fault with us – especially when they continue to do so – it’s like they’re just picking off our sparkles. And we are busied by the work of defending ourselves, either out loud or mentally. Existing flaws seem trouble enough without people taking a dim view of us, with flaws that they imagine.  If we’ve been faithful in some area, we want at least to not be devalued in the eyes of another in that area – particularly if it’s the eyes of a loved one.

You ever notice how sometimes when your back is turned, you can become aware of someone looking your way? Your senses tune into that person. If you’re bold enough, or well enough acquainted, you’ll turn and return the gaze.

There’s a gaze we often have our backs to, and that we sometimes tune out.

God looks upon us. His gaze is as steady as His love for us. If we’re emboldened to turn and focus on God, we see in His eyes who we really are. The nonbeliever sees someone ardently pursued by God and in urgent need of Him. The believer sees the irrevocably Beloved of God.

To be Beloved by God is to be-Valued by God. To receive God means to receive how He values you, and He values you as precious. To receive God means to receive his Spirit of Truth, which is an inner light, and a light round about you, that never dims.

To receive God means to receive being identified with His son, Jesus. And you will receive favor among men just as Jesus did, but you will also be unfairly rejected just as Jesus was.

So what really matters, and must come to matter most to us? That God has received you. That you are loved by God. You are valued and viewed by God the way he values and looks at Jesus – someone greatly worthy to be treasured, embraced, honored, anointed and authorized to represent all that He is.

Because that’s how God chose to see us, we are invested with all that value.

Beloved, let us reflect on what His light reveals:  our reflection, in the eyes of Truth.

And a happy new year

new year 2015 a     My family has a way of stretching out what’s known as a seasonal greeting.
At the end of the midnight countdown, wherever we are, we all join in to imitate my father. Thirty years ago, we began doing it in his memory — emphasizing that first syllable like a bleat from a bugle horn: “HAP-……………………!”
     Then dramatically, emphatically, holding our breaths — until the rest just has to come rushing out.
“…-PY New Year!”
     Sometimes happy sounds like something  whimsical, wish-ful and wistful, because happy sounds elusive. It’s had various meanings through history, from a luck-based status (as in happenstance), to drunkenness, to impulse and obsession (i.e. gadget-happy).
      Sometimes the commercial energy of our economy’s retail sector at this time of year can prompt a misplaced celebration of the gimmes. And the gimmes represent the most familiar connotation for happy — having what you want.
     When we begin to learn about joy as revealed in Scripture, we often start by contrasting it to being happy. We think of being happy as something fleeting, based on whim. We come to know that joy is something else. That joy is something you can have, and be strengthened by, even when times are not happy — times of grief or sorrow.
Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fair, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.     Habakkuk 3:17, 18 KJV

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.      Psalm 30:5b KJV

     There’s more, and it comes rushing out from the meaningful words of Scripture, which offer more meaning for happy.
    When the Psalms and Proverbs speak of being blessed, their Hebrew wording includes esher, or ashar. Ashar means “to go straight, make progress, be on the level, to lead on, to be made right, and to be made happy.” (http://www.beithashem.org/SeedsOfFaith/June2002a.php)
     Esher is the noundefined as blessedness and/or happiness.  Here we can find a conjunction of meaning.
     We discover in the Bible a definition for happy that is rooted in blessed, in language that is based on the Giver instead of the gimmes.  Picture if you will a little kid, who seems happy because cotton candy is now in hand. That’s a gimme image. Now step back a bit for a different scene: a little kid already delighted in anticipation of the parent buying it. That’s a Giver image, of the happiness in having a Father who you trust to give you good things.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.     James 3:17 NIV
     He’s a Giver of good things.
     Before the countdown begins, our family has another tradition, led by my mother. The TV and its party sounds are silenced, and whoever can kneels in prayer. We take turns thanking Him aloud for the great things He’s done. We ask Him to tend what is on our minds and in our heart. We entrust him with the days to come.
     HAP………py new year! It’s really more than a greeting. It’s a blessing, emphatically reminding all who have ears to hear that happiness truly awaits. It’s in the fullness of that conjunction of meaning between blessed and happy.  It’s like a bleat from a bugle horn, ultimately sounding praise for God who dramatically has revealed His goodness to us throughout all time.
For more on a happy new year, turn to:
  • 1 Kings 10:8     Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom.
  • Job 5:17     Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty:
  • Psalms 144:5      Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.
  • Psalms 146:5     Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:
  • Proverbs 3:13, 18     Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.
  • Proverbs 16:20     He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he.
  • Proverbs 28:14     Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.
  • Proverbs 29:18     Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
  • John 13:17     If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
  • James 5:11     Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
  • 1 Peter 3:14     But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;
  • 1 Peter 4:14     If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.

O Come Let Us Adore Him

Let us rejoice in God who delights in us.

The candles wait to be lit.

An Advent wreath sits on display in our living room all year long. I bought the candles 25 years ago this Christmas, and they’re still in use.

More often than not, it’s the middle of this season when I remember that it’s time. Time to make time, together, to read a few verses, sometimes sing a song. To light a candle and see it shine.

Venite, venite. That’s Latin for “O come ye.” No, I never studied Latin, but I sang choir in middle school, and our teacher – my mom – taught us things like that. We’d sing “venite adoremus”  and then interpret it, singing “O come let us adore Him.” The translation would be veni, veni for the song our family sometimes sings for Advent: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Translated from Hebrew, Emmanuel is “God with us.”

Veni, veni Emmanuel.

If you’ve invited God into your life … do you trust Him to actually show up?

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20

Once He does, will He be welcome to move in? Each time a family friend or relative has come to stay at our house, there’s been only so much room that we found for their things, as we edged around our own clutter. Our interests furnish and yet disorder our lives, and our concerns add to the disarray.

Even if you deem the items and affairs of your life as attractively organized – when Jesus comes knocking, ready to redeem your life, you might still have to consider whether you’ve really made any room for him to even get inn.

His taste might not match your signature style. He might want to redecorate.

What if there were parts of your life that He was ready to tear down, to renovate and build something stronger, and more beautiful? What if – instead of remaining a creature of habit — you were to be rebuilt to His code and to his taste?

Yeah, that’s a lot. But then again, at some point you’d have to ask … whose house is it?

Venite, venite. O come, let us adore Him.

God will show up. And He will edify you. He builds on a grand scale in the life of each believer, replacing a spirit of fear with a spirit of power, love and of a sound mind. The one whom God loves is set free from condemnation by a true Judge, and defended by the Almighty. Is cared for faithfully and prospered by the presence of the God who delights in His people. Is guided by God’s omnipresent wisdom.

As we come to know God, we come to know Him as the God who is with us. Exult in knowing Him.

My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.   Psalm 34:2

And exalt time spent with Him.

Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD.  1 Chronicles 16:10  (See also Jeremiah 9:24, 1 Chronicles 16:35; Psalm 105:3; 1 Corinthians 1:31; and 2 Corinthians 10:17.)

Rejoice at His advent in your circumstances, and the epiphany of His place in your life and the lives of those you love.

Light the candles.

Advent 2014a

Power of Praise


Real Talk Ministries tweeted today: “God’s people will worship Him regardless of what their circumstances are.” To ready our minds to understand and celebrate that, we need to review that “regardless.”

We do regard our circumstances, and we were made to be alert and observe what goes on around us. 1 Peter 5:8 advises: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.

People throughout Scripture called out for justice, just as people heeding current events of today. Right after God’s word explains how we suit up for spiritual battle, which we usually think of as our own personal trials, Ephesians 6:18 reminds us: And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

And yes, people throughout Scripture called out in their personal pain, just as people facing struggles do today.

People of God are not called to denial. We are called to acknowledge our circumstances, and then to seek God’s response, already in awe. We pray expectantly, expecting God to act.

When we say God’s ways are above our ways, we’re not shrugging our shoulders in resignation. We’re keeping an eye out to see God to act on a grand scale.

We stay on the lookout, because we know that God’s grand-scale moves are not always obvious to those who aren’t looking for Him in a situation. Jesus — God’s grandest move yet, from the perspective of humanity — showed up in a stable, spent a few years on the run with his family, and altogether about 30 years in obscurity.

And the wait for this Messiah stretched beyond any one person’s lifetime. Yet still the faith of some allowed them to wait.

When we regard our circumstances, they can be our distraction, or serve as the education of our faith.

God’s people, once we truly come to know Him, will worship Him because of circumstances. Either we will praise Him for abundance of comfort, or the abundance of His comforting. Either way, we eventually realize we are so greatly blessed in every circumstance.

Romans 12:12 calls us:

Be joyful in hope,

patient in affliction,

and faithful in prayer.

And how do we do that – ensure that our hopes are not wistful, our afflictions are not fretful, and our prayers are not doubtful?

Praise Him,

Praise Him,

Praise Him.

Try it.

A 23rd Psalm Attitude

pupy sweater

My dog Al came looking for me. I was the only one upstairs, and he’s like a sheep herder’s dog, checking up on the flock.

Nah. He’s more like a sheep himself. After gazing into my face, he leaped into my lap and curled up there.

He’s a good sheep – for a miniature schnauzer.

I wanna be like Al.

My dog leaps into my lap because he knows he has a place there. He leans his head back all the way, just to gaze with adoration at my face. I want a 23rd Psalm attitude like my dog Al.

Whatever we’re eating, he wants some. He’s there, as close to the stove, table or dish that we’ll allow. Yes, his dog dish is full, but he’s still eager, for the crumbs we’ll surely drop. After we’re done, he’s allowed to leap up again, where he’s eager to even to sniff the fragrance of what we had.

He knows that staying close means sharing even more in what we’re enjoying.

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.

Freedom from fear — the fear of going without — is the idea that opens this psalm. The rest details tender tending for a sheep. Al, who’s carried, petted, entertained at length by the members of his household, would relate.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

In this psalm and elsewhere in the Word, we get the heads-up that we will face tribulations, and we are glad to get the Word that we will know victory. But that victory is more than the relief we experience when our tribulations are over. It’s so much more, because God also provides us the rest, comfort and peace we need before, during and after those tribulations. He tends us tenderly with healing for our souls – our minds and emotions – and strengthens and soothes our bodies.

In the midst of all this providence we find in the next verse the reason for great trust: our undivided awe for God, who is omnipotent within us and around us.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

God acknowledges and addresses what we face. Enemies stand against us; and we are given time to receive and be strengthened by whatever we need in that day – our daily bread. Disease and injury threaten; and we are fortified, soothed and healed.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Because God is everpresent and eternally faithful, our faith endures. And we always have a place to turn to, a place with Him.

Surely Al knows he has a place to go – a place of goodness, lovingkindness. He has a place to abide, and an abiding trust.

He’s so eager to draw closer. He’s leaping at the opportunity.

Let’s take a leap of faith today.


Testing2015In the corner of the screen, a number starts flashing.

What, 5 minutes? What? Auuggggh!


Deep breath. Repeat. Again. Click.

Skim. Click! Skim. Click! Skim. Click!! Sk-

“This section of the test has ended.”

That last mutter was out loud. Quiet.


Deep breath, sit up, on to the next section.

Once the certification test is over, the one needed to retain my new job, I don’t know what number I’d stopped at, only that I’d barely passed the midway point of that section. And that all sections must be passed to pass the test. I ask the receptionist how to set up a retake. She gives me a number to call, and I thank her for her pleasant test-side manner.

I call and get the details for re-registering. But then I remember, this is my opportunity to ask God for more.

I hope that I passed this test, and I don’t have to do this again.” This I make sure to say and pray out loud, and my husband amens.

test2015Funny. Multiple-choice tests used to be like my video game: aim, fire, pkrrr, goal hit!

As a couch potato, I wonder: Is this what it’s like to be an athlete, and then one day you’re sucking for wind, and the finish line seems farther away than it used to be?

Three days later, I’m clicking online for the score report.

In wonder, I read and re-read. “Passed…Passed…Passed…Passed…Passed.” With a score just above the minimum needed on the section where time just ran out.

testingoldschoolBack when tests were my video game, I knew where that ability came from, and prayer was part of test-taking: before, during and after. Prayer was about seeking God’s blessing, leaning on Him, and thanking Him then.

It’s interesting, though, how much more our dis-ability engages us in seeking God, in leaning on God, and in thanking Him in awe and wonder.

There will be tests in this new year. There will be trials. But the most seasoned of us test-takers will come to know God’s providence, and His nature, all the better.

Jesus came to show us how to take these tests, and why. As we do so, and choose to trust God for the results, His nature will become ours, more and more. Like Jesus, we will seek to speak what God has to say, to those around us. Like Jesus, we will expect to be about our Father’s business.

Like Jesus, we will seize the time given, addressing our earthly countdown with an eternal mindset.

Receive the Gift

GiftIt was ready. Long before I toyed with agnosticism at age 10. Long before I ever chose my adult value system and methodical reasoning as substitutes for seeking, exploring and following singularly triune Truth.

Long before I was lovingly anticipated or lovingly welcomed into the world, and long before I had ever disappointed, hurt or angered anyone, the gift was already ready.

And long before I had a name, my name was already on it.

It was my salvation, prepared long before I entered the world. My salvation came with redemption, justification and sanctification.

Salvation meant I would be freed from ties to sin; I would not be sin’s servant. Redemption meant sin would not own me because of my debts, my transgressions, because those were now paid off and forgiven. The wages of sin – death – would be replaced by an inheritance, as a new child of God. And my value, set by God treasuring me, could not be reduced.

Justification meant that long before God’s enduring law had defined what I lacked, God was ready to share his holiness with me. Sanctification meant that sharing God’s holiness would immediately and ultimately redefine me.

All these riches, gifted to me in Jesus’ name, were prepared long before I ever existed. Long before I knew my need, and long before I was ready to receive them.

All these riches are labeled by multisyllabic words. They only begin to define God in the human mind. When all is said and done, we must know for ourselves that God is love. And that He loves passionately and compassionately – long before we ever choose to love Him.

If you have yet to receive them, receive them today. By faith, turn from sin and all its shortages to receive your God, the giver of every good and perfect gift.

If you received these gifts long ago, invest them today. Recall that they were never meant to nestle back in tissue paper, and that the lid will not set back in place. Because these gifts were never meant for storage out of sight, out of mind.

Our actions and words will reflect God’s ways, while presenting a reminder that God’s ways are not our own – or they will be unproductive, bearing little fruit. We can choose day by day to invest and be further enriched by our gifts, or let distraction and discouragement stash them aside.

You are part of your Father’s business. You – and those you either pass or do business with – are your Father’s business. When you were commissioned to the work of sharing Jesus and His gospel with the world, you became His empowered hands and feet in the world. With each day, your face continues to take on resemblance to Him, and so you represent Him where you go.

Receive God’s immeasurable gifts. Invest them to His glory.