A Day In the Life…

February 28 written on a calendar

He was an itinerant preacher.
And he was having a really hard day.
A dear friend, a partner in ministry, had been in prison for a while.
He had done nothing wrong – other than speaking an unpopular truth.

But the preacher had just received word that his imprisoned friend had been killed.
A political prisoner, killed because the regime didn’t want to lose face in front of the constituents.

Receiving the news, all he sought was some time alone.
Time to grieve.
Time to pray.

He tried to get away.
But he couldn’t.
The needs were just too great.
Too many people, too much ministry.

And so he stayed put.
Ministering to thousands of people.
Putting their needs ahead of his own.
Living out these verses from Philippians 2: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit [through factional motives, or strife], but with [an attitude of] humility [being neither arrogant nor self-righteous], regard others as more important than yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”


The preacher was Jesus.
The political prisoner was John the Baptist.
And here is what that particular 36 hours looked like for Jesus:
– He received word that John had been beheaded by King Herod.
– He tried to slip away to a secluded place, to spend time with His Father.
– Instead, He was followed out into the wilderness by 5000 men plus women and children.
– He then spent that entire day healing the masses.
– That evening, the disciples tried to send the thousands on their way home. But Jesus knew they had traveled far from the cities on foot and instead asked the disciples to feed them.
– Which led to what’s known as “The Feeding of the 5,000” from a little boy’s lunch.
– After the crowds had been fed and the leftovers gathered, Jesus sent the disciples to the boat with instructions to cross the Sea of Galilee.
– He FINALLY got time that night with His Father.
– And when He rejoined the disciples, it was in the middle of the Sea. Between 3 AM and 6 AM. In the middle of whipping winds and crashing waves. Walking on the water to meet them. And then dealing with Peter’s pendulum swings between belief and disbelief.
– As soon as Jesus and Peter got in the boat, the storm ceased – and they continued on to the other shore.
– And there they met another crowd. And Jesus healed even more people.
(Read it all for yourself in Matthew 14, Mark 6 and Luke 9)

Whew! I love that that is all one story. We often tell it as several different ones. But really, it is a day in the life of Jesus.

Here are my personal take-aways from what happened that day:
– Jesus turned to His Father in his grief. Not outward to his disciples. Not inward to his own thoughts. But upward to His Father.
– Jesus balanced two immense needs – the need to be alone with His Father and the needs of the thousands who followed Him as He tried to get away. I am afraid, if it had been me, I would have said, “Hey, guys, not now. I’m dealing with some pretty heavy grief at the moment. Give me some time” – and felt justified in doing it. But Jesus laid aside his own interests, his personal agenda, and ministered. However, he then made the time to be with His Father. Both needs were met – and God the Father was honored in both. May I live that balance!
– Jesus, completely God but also completely human, needed time alone with His Father. If He needed it, I most certainly do, too! And this isn’t the only recorded instance of Him slipping away to have time with God. It was a pattern – and one I need to emulate.
– And then there is Peter… After seeing thousands fed, after hanging out with Jesus, he had enough faith to say, “Jesus, if that is you, tell me to come to you on the water.” He had enough faith to get out of the careening boat and onto the whipping waves. But then, the Bible says, “He saw the wind”. His eyes of faith got blinded by the facts – the data coming into his brain that said, “This is not possible” – and he went under. How often do I do that! I have a historical record with God, too. I have testimony after testimony in my own life of how He has come through, of things He has accomplished, of ways He has blessed. But I often allow the “facts” of some new situation – the empirical data surrounding it – to cloud my spiritual vision – and down I go, into a sea of unbelief. But, Jesus reaches out a hand to me, just like He did to Peter, never once allowing me to drown. How I need to remember that!
One final thought…one of the favorite lies of the enemy goes like this: “Well, great. That’s fabulous that Jesus did all that. But you’re not Jesus. Shoot – you’re not even Peter! So good luck with all that…” Here’s the Truth – I am not Jesus. But, according to Scripture (which is the only way to battle such lies):
– The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in me. (Ephesians 1)
– I have been given everything I need for life and godliness. I love how the Amplified Bible puts it in 2 Peter 1:3: “For His divine power has bestowed on us [absolutely] everything necessary for [a dynamic spiritual] life and godliness, through true and personal knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”
– I am in Christ and Christ is in me. (Colossians 1:27)
– God will complete the good work He began in me. (Philippians 1:6)
– And anything that God is calling me to do, I can do. Not because I am all that. But because I can do all things through Christ. Philippians 4:13 in the Amplified: “I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]”

A day in my life won’t be filled with thousands being fed directly from my hand or me miraculously stopping storms.
But it can be filled with time with my Father.
Ministering to the hungry and hurting.
Laying aside myself, laying down my life, in order to serve.
Trusting God in the storms.
Being available for wherever He leads and whatever He asks me to do.
And then watching Him do amazing things!

Imagine if every Christ-follower had days like that…


On Being a Stranger in a Strange Land…

Image result for calpis soda

It had been quite the day.
16+ hours of flying.
Setting off on a new adventure.
Moving to Japan.
Taking all my worldly goods – or at least those I thought I couldn’t live without – in four large bags.
Arriving at Narita Airport in Tokyo only to discover that I was not ready.
I had somehow missed the memo on getting the correct paperwork for my visa.
I ended up being escorted to a room filled with Japanese men in uniforms, all looking very unhappy.
White walls.
A language I barely had begun to learn.

And then a gentleman in a suit, bowing profusely, taking over (much to my relief.)
Turns out he was one of my bosses from the Board of Education in the town where I would be teaching and living.
And he sorted the whole thing out for me.

An awkward, mind-boggling beginning.

Then, as we made our way to the van with ALL my luggage, he kindly turned to me and said, “Maybe you are thirsty? You like a drink? Perhaps you like cow piss?”

My jet-lagged, beleaguered, beyond-weary brain could only manage a weak, “Excuse me?” as he offered me a soda.
With the Calpis logo on it.
Oh. No, thank you.
No cow piss – or Calpis – for me, thanks.

That was the start of learning what it really meant to live as a “stranger in a strange land”.
I had traveled before.
I had even stayed an extended time – like weeks at a time.
But now I was living cross-culturally.
The good, the bad and the ugly of it all.
Sometimes I was the good, the bad or the ugly.
And sometimes it was an experience, a belief-system or a misunderstanding that became the good, the bad or the ugly.

But as time wore on, it became less and less of a cross-cultural experience.
I learned more of the language.
My apartment became home.
I found friends and a couple of churches with worship services in English.
I figured out how to avoid potentially disastrous situations.
And I successfully navigated others (with the help of those new friends.)

By my third year of living and working there, life was “normal”.
My Mom even commented that my e-mails had less and less in them about the culture or about my experiences.
Because the strange land was not so strange any more.
I had adapted.

But then something would happen.
A big thing.
A small thing.
To me or to someone I knew.
And it would suddenly hit me like the sharp kick of wasabi – I live in JAPAN. This is NOT home. I am NOT Japanese. This is NOT my culture.

Sometimes it was a good thing that would trigger it.
Like watching the Olympics on TV and hearing the U.S. National Anthem.
For the first time in my life, it made me cry.
It was a reminder of my real home, my real citizenship.

And sometimes it was a horrible thing.
Like being so packed in a train car that it was impossible to count how many people were touching me. I lost track at a dozen. And then being groped by one of those people – but having no idea who it was.

A stranger in a strange land.
Not my home.
A temporary home, filled with blessings.
Laughter with friends.
Students who loved me.
Deep, life-changing conversations.
But not my home.

I find myself in much the same place here these days.
In Maryland.
Where I have lived for a total of 41 of my 46 years.
But this is not my home.
I am a stranger in a strange land.

I have lived here so long that it is easy to forget that fact.
It also doesn’t help that I have not yet seen with physical eyes the country of my spiritual citizenship, what Jesus called “The Kingdom of Heaven”.
My eternal citizenship. My forever home.
And so I can very often just bounce through life like the Tigger I am, cheerfully bounding from one task to the next, one experience to the next.
But then something will happen.
Sometimes something wonderful.
And sometimes something awful.
But it will remind me that I am not Home yet.
This is NOT my home.
I am NOT a citizen of this world.
This is NOT the culture of my (second) birth.

Like the conversations I had a couple weeks ago.
Several in one week about death and dying.
One with a friend who has a dreadful diagnosis – and a cheerful smile.
She came to see me the other day to encourage me.
Although I am not the one with the diagnosis.
She used her limited supply of energy to drop by my office with a card and some gifts, to tell me she believes in me.
And we chatted about heaven.
About hope.
About death not being the end.
We chatted.
And we laughed.
About something that terrifies those who do not share our citizenship.
Because both of us realize that we are strangers in a strange land.
Not from here.
And not staying here permanently.

We share a common nationality. We are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. We are both sojourners, people traveling through, because this world – the Kingdom of This World – is not where we are from, nor is it where we are headed.
Our bodies live here.
But, by grace through faith in Jesus, our souls are heaven-bound.

Which leads me to some questions for myself:

Why do I expect people who do not share my citizenship in The Kingdom of Heaven to act and think like they do? Why am I disappointed when they don’t understand?

And since citizenship in God’s Kingdom is open to ALL people, why do I not share that good news more freely with those who have no hope? If I really believe that all of this life ends in one of two destinations, Heaven or Hell, why am I not more boldly proclaiming that Heaven is available to all who will put their trust in Jesus?

As I live out my days as a foreigner here, do I look like – sound like – act like – a person who is not from here? Do my actions, my words, my updates and posts reflect that I am a stranger here?

What can I do to help myself remember my true Home, my citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven, more consistently?

My prayer today:
To the Eternal King, the One Who Sits Upon the Throne, God Most High;
You are holy, perfect, just and good. You are merciful, gracious and kind.
I come boldly before Your Throne of Grace, not because I am worthy, but because I claim the gift You have given, forgiveness for my sins because Jesus took the penalty for them on the cross when he died.

Today I once again pledge my allegiance to Your Kingdom.
I bow before You, laying down before Your throne all that concerns me today.
I ask that You would give me Your eyes to see Your agenda, Your desires, Your plan, Your will. Help me to only pick up what concerns YOU today.
I ask that You would cause Your Kingdom to come on earth, even as it is in heaven.

I thank You that, as my Sovereign King, You will provide all I need today – both the physical, material things like food, and the deeper, intangible things like love for my neighbor and forgiveness for those who have harmed me.
May I live this day in the Truth of what and who I am – a citizen of Your Kingdom, deeply loved and on a mission for You, the King of all Kings.
For Yours – and not mine – is The Kingdom, The Power, and the Glory forever and ever.


Love Believes the Best

Image result for to be a christian is to forgive the inexcusable

I have no idea what his name was.
But I took one look at him and just knew he was bad news.
1989. Spring Semester at the University of Maryland, College Park. We were gathered in a mid-size classroom for the large-group meeting for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.
I had been to a small-group Bible study a couple times but this was the first monthly gathering I had attended.
And there he stood.
Dressed all in black.
Black leather jacket. Black t-shirt. Black jeans. Black boots.
With chains hanging from his belt loops.
Slicked back hair.
And sunglasses on at 7 PM. In a basement classroom.
Leaning against a side wall, not talking to anyone, one foot propped on the wall behind him, arms folded across his chest.
His whole demeanor said, “Leave me alone.”
And I did – because he was obviously bad news.
I thought to myself, “Wow, that guy really needs Jesus. Good thing he’s here tonight!”

About 15 minutes later, I was completely flabbergasted when he grabbed his guitar, lost the shades and stepped up to the mic to lead worship.
He had been praying.
For me.
For us.
For the meeting.


I took one look at him and decided.
I chose to believe the worst about him.
Instead of believing the best.
And I was dead wrong.

His name was Mr. Bowers. And I could not stand him.
Unfortunately, I had no say in the matter.
He was my 6th grade teacher.
And his major crime was that he was my first and only male teacher in elementary school.
He was not a warm and fuzzy teacher by any stretch of the imagination.
Not funny like my 5th grade teacher.
And not beautiful and kind like my 2nd grade teacher.
Oh, how I hated him.
I decided from the moment I saw him that he was not going to be a good teacher and it was not going to be a good year.
And from September to December, it wasn’t.
My grades plummeted.
And going to school was a misery.

I chose to believe the worst about him.
Instead of believing the best.
And I was dead wrong.

The second half of my 6th grade year was much better.
Because my parents sat me down and we had a conversation.
My Mom nailed it.
She told me that I had a lousy attitude and that it needed to change.
In other words, I was the problem. Not Mr. Bowers.
No – she didn’t use those words – but that was the truth of the matter.
I told her I didn’t know how to change my attitude.
And she told me to pray and ask God to change my heart.
I did – and as I started praying for my heart to change, I began to see him differently.
He was still a man.
Still wore the same polyester suits.
Still had a “just the facts” approach to teaching.
But I had new eyes for the situation.
And it showed up in my grades.
They went back up – and the rest of the year was much more pleasant.

Mr. Bowers didn’t change.
I did.

Mr. Bowers and Mr. Guy-Who-Led-Worship both fell victim to my assumptions.
I looked at both of them and decided to believe the worst.
Which is the exact opposite of love.

In a letter to the church at Corinth, Paul told the believers that he had a “more excellent way” to show them. And then he proceeded to describe the goal, the way God loves us, the way God defines love. Part of it says, “Love believes all things, hopes all thing, endures all things.” (I Corinthians 13) In other words, love chooses to believe the best.

Love looks past the surface and makes a choice.
It chooses to look past the skin color of the person.
Or how they are dressed.
It chooses to look beyond their attitude, demeanor and even their words.
It chooses to not focus on their political party affiliation.
It even chooses to not focus on the past.
And instead, it chooses to look at that person – and whatever they did or whatever I think they will do – through the eyes of God.

Love remembers that that person is created in the image of God.
Meaning they have emotions. Make choices. And most of all, are beings with eternal souls.
Love remembers that Jesus died for that person. If they choose to accept that gift, then He died for them. Regardless of what they have done in the past, they can be forgiven by God. The sin that they perpetrated against me has been punished by Christ’s death on the cross. If they choose to not accept that gift, then they will pay for eternity for the sin perpetrated against me.

But regardless of where they stand with Him, He loves them.
And He offers them forgiveness.
The same forgiveness He offers me.
Because He has forgiven me – I can choose to forgive them.
Love chooses to believe that God can change hearts – and that changed hearts can lead to changed actions.
And most of all, love chooses to believe that I am no better than that person in the eyes of the Only One Who Matters.

Love believes the best.
It sounds naïve.
But it is not.
Because this kind of love, God’s love, is not an emotion.
It is a choice.
In Matthew 10 Jesus sent his disciples out on a mission in the middle of his time with them. He instructed them to go out to the areas around them and to tell those people what they had learned about Him and about the Kingdom. But he told them as they went that they were to be “as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.” He told them people would hate them, persecute them, and treat them badly. But he also told them that He sees it all, knows it all – and that there would be an accounting given when all stand before God.

Here’s the idea:
It is not my job to protect myself.
It is my job to be wise.
Believing the best does not necessarily mean that person has earned back my trust.
It does not mean that I love their sin.
It does not mean that I don’t call sin, sin. Not based on my standard of right or wrong – but based on God’s standard as revealed in Scripture. I cannot say I am better than you because of your sin – because we are both separated from God by our sin if we don’t know Jesus.
Believing the best DOES mean that I choose to view them through the eyes of God.
I choose to love as He loves.
I choose to live as Jesus lived – loving every person who crossed His path – even when loving them meant speaking hard Truths.
Living with a heart that is open to love. Not seeking to protect myself. Not seeking my best interest. But seeking yours. Seeking theirs.

Because my safety and security does not lie in my wisdom. Or my street smarts. Or my strength.
My safety lies in the One who holds it all together. The One who holds me together.
And He said, “Love as I have loved you.”

How did He love me?
“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
God looked at me on my worst day and loved me anyway.
He looked past the external.
Past the labels.
Past the sin.
And chose to “believe all things, hope all things, endure all things” for me
Knowing what a stinker I am.
Knowing that I will fail over and over again.
He chose to love me.
And then He said, “Do what I have done. Love others like I have loved you. Because your love for others will show the world that you belong to Me.” (Kathy’s paraphrase of John 13)
There were no caveats in the statement.
He didn’t say, “Love them when they love you.”
Nor did he say, “Love only people like you.”
He didn’t say, “Love those who agree with you.”
And He didn’t say, “Love those who haven’t hurt you.”
Or even, “Love those who promote your agenda.”
He said, “Love as I have loved you.”

Love believes the best.
Even when you hurt me, I will choose to believe that it came out of a place of your hurt.

Love believes the best.
When you say something that makes my blood boil, I will seek to understand where you are coming from rather than attacking you.

Love believes the best.
When we find ourselves viewing the political landscape very differently, I will choose to listen before I speak – and when I speak, it will be in love. Not attacking. Not screaming. Speaking the Truth in love.

Love believes the best.
I will not decide you do not – or cannot – understand because you are different than me. And if, after conversation, I come to the conclusion that you really don’t understand, I will not treat you differently. I will choose to reject the lie that people like me are the good guys and people not like me are the bad guys.

Love believes the best.
So when you fail me, intentionally or not, I will forgive.
Not because I am wonderful – but because I have a wonderful God who has forgiven me.
Not because you do or do not deserve it – but because I do not deserve His forgiveness.
Not because I like you or do not like you – but because I am deeply loved by Him even when I am at my most unlikeable.

I will be wise in how I conduct myself.
But I will be innocent in my thoughts and actions towards you.
Towards “them”. Whoever “they” may be.
Not by my own power.
Because I don’t have that kind of strength in me.
But by His Spirit living in me, I will love as He loves.
So that “they” will see Him in me.
And prayerfully, they will want to know Him.
Which will change their hearts.
And in turn, will change the world.

On Living in Betterwhen…

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It’s been years since she said it.
But it still rings in my ears.

It was a Thursday morning when she came into my office at the church, where I work in full-time, vocational ministry.

She came for some other reason, now forgotten in the passage of time.
But we started chatting.
And somehow she ended up asking me, “Kathy, what do you want?”
My mouth engaged before my heart told it to shut up and I blurted out its deepest cries:
“To lose weight and to be married.”
I don’t know if that was what she was expecting – but it was the brutally honest truth.
And then she said the thing I will never forget.
She said, “Kathy, God is not enough for you.”

The anger was instantaneous.
How dare she!
Didn’t she realize who I was, what I did for a living? (And how those two things were intertwined?)
After all, I worked full-time for God! How could He not “be enough for me”?
But before I could scrape together a sweetly scathing reply, the Holy Spirit intervened. He whispered to my soul, “Listen to her. This is from Me.”
And so I just said, “What do you mean?”
And while she tried to give me some perspective, she didn’t give me what I wanted. She didn’t change what she had to say. She simply repeated it: “God is not enough for you.” And the Holy Spirit didn’t let up, either, even as I stood there completely befuddled.

She left shortly after that.
And I was left mentally scratching my head, wondering.
At the end of the day, when it was finally quiet, I sat down at my computer and started journaling, trying to process what she had said and what the Holy Spirit wanted to say.
As I journaled, He gave the clarity I was seeking.
He whispered, “You live in Betterwhen, beloved.”
“Huh?” I replied.
“You live in a constant state of believing that life will be “better when”. Better when you are married. Better when you lose all the weight you want to lose. Better when your finances are better. Better when.”

Ton of bricks moment. As in, I felt like they had just been dumped on me.
Because He was right. (Imagine that!)
That was my constant state of thinking.
“Today is OK, but life will be much better when I…”
It was a pattern of thought that I did not even realize controlled me.
And I had to be honest with Him.
I had to say, “OK – You are so right. But I have no idea how to change that.”
And again, an unexpected answer.
“This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

And that was the beginning of an internal shift.
A choosing.
Choosing to not look back and to not look ahead of this day as much as possible.

I have to say, that weekend was pretty hilarious – in retrospect.
I asked God to show me what that meant – and HOW I was to rejoice and be glad in it.
And He said, “Be thankful in all things. And all means ALL.”

The next day my toilet innards and my tub faucet both broke.
A dear friend came to help fix them.
And I managed to flood the upstairs bathroom while she went to get a part we needed.
Didn’t realize it until water started dripping from the kitchen light fixture.
And then my car broke down the next day.
That night – or rather, early that Sunday morning, I woke up around 2 AM with the worst cast of the stomach flu I have ever had – then or since.
And through it all, God said, “This is the day I have made. CHOOSE to rejoice and be glad in it.”
I will never forget that weekend – or what I learned.

I learned that being grateful is a choice.
And that it is daily job.
Choosing to be grateful for THIS day. No matter what it holds. There is always something to be thankful for. Always.
Not dwelling in the past.
And not living for the future when life will change.

Of course, I have to look ahead in some ways.
Events are coming, like Easter and VBS.
Calendar dates are approaching, like my niece’s graduation from college and my next birthday.
Financial obligations are here and need to be dealt with or planned for accordingly.
And there is always an opportunity to learn from the past.

But neither the past nor the future are where I choose to live.
I cannot change the past.
And I cannot control the future.
All I can do is make the most of this day.
Being grateful for where I am today.
Am I married? No.
But I am grateful for the freedom that brings me. Freedom in finances, in what to eat for dinner, in my schedule and even how much of the bed I can sprawl over.
Because today, this day that the Lord has made, I am single.
And it is a gift to be used for His glory.
Would I like to be married? Sure. (I think. OK, honestly, some days more than others.)
But no matter what my marital state, THIS is the day the Lord has made and I WILL rejoice and be glad in it.

I cannot control the future.
All I can do is make the most of this day.
Being grateful for where I am today.
Am I at my ideal weight (by anyone’s definition)? No.
But I am grateful that I am healthier today then I was when she asked me that question.
And I am grateful for how God has used this external, life-long struggle to shape me internally.
Because today, this day that the Lord has made, there is a number I don’t like, both on the scale and in my jeans – but that is not who I am.
I have learned that I am a beloved daughter of the King of Kings, a Princess who is dearly loved, not for her stats but because she is His.

I still find myself slipping into Betterwhen.
In fact, that was the inspiration for this post.
I found myself solidly there last night and this morning – before my quiet time.
But then God reminded me that I am His.
And He is mine.
And I do not know when I will see Him face to face.
Maybe today.
Maybe tomorrow.
And maybe years from now.
But whatever time I have is not to be lived in the future tense, wishing, waiting, hoping and dreaming.
I can have hopes and dreams – but they are not my Hope.
And life will not be perfect when fill-in-the-blank happens.
Single or married.
Fat or thin.
Rich or poor.
(Or whatever fills in your blanks.)

It will still be life. With choices. And struggles. Spiritual battles. Fighting temptation. Failing at times. Succeeding at others. But constantly walking with the One who gave me life. Today.
Because life is to be lived today.
And tomorrow is not promised.
Perhaps tomorrow I will wake up in the Land where life truly is Betterwhen.
Better when I see Jesus face to face.
Better when I am done with this struggle with sin.
Better when all that is wrong is made right.
But until then:

THIS is the day the Lord has made – I WILL rejoice and be glad in it!