Baby Changes Everything


They came out of nowhere.
Everywhere we went.
“Oh, what a sweet baby! How old is he?”
“Three months.”
“Oh, he’s so tiny! Was he a preemie?”
“Yes, he was.”
“Is he your first?”
“No, he’s the sixth.”

Or some variation of that.

I was in Chicago this past weekend, attending Kid Min, a conference for those in children’s ministry. I went with my friend who has a tiny baby – so he, of course, came too.
And baby changes everything.

He changed how we went through security.
And how TSA officers responded to us.
He changed our seating arrangements on the plane, giving us seats together when we were slated to sit apart.
He changed the looks on passengers’ faces as we boarded the plane.
Some to smiles.
Others to scowls.
(Although the scowlers had nothing to worry about – he flew without a peep, sleeping the entire time, on both flights, bless the Lord!)
He drew every one of the 1700 attendees to us, wherever we went.
Some came boldly and asked their questions.
Others commented from afar.
Some just smiled.
And a few still scowled.

He changed the trajectory of one of the keynote speakers on her way to the front! We were sitting in the back on the aisle so that we could make a fast break if he needed something.
She was on her way up front, notes in hand.
But she nearly skidded to a stop when she noticed him.
And we went through the same conversation.

He even got us invited to sit with the founder of the company and his wife at breakfast the other morning.

Because baby changes everything.
People were drawn to him.
He opened up conversations.
He drew attention simply by his existence.
As he slept through the vast majority of these interactions.

My friend says he is “magic”. Because this same thing happens everywhere she goes.
Baby changes everything.

All this reminds me of that other baby, the One who REALLY changes everything – if we let Him.
The baby born in Bethlehem two millennia ago still has the power to change it all.
Some people are attracted to Him.
They are curious and want to know more.
Others scowl when they hear of him.
Still others admire Him from a distance but never engage.

But, if we let Him, Baby changes everything.

If we allow Him to have full reign in our lives, it is irresistible to those around us.
They see a difference in us from the rest of the world.
Because, unknowingly, they see Him in us.
He is irresistible.

When we allow Him to have full reign.
Who He really is.
As revealed in Scripture.
Not as we want Him to be.
But as He is.

I could have taken a life-like doll to the conference and gotten a way different response.
People may have been drawn at first, especially if it was a convincing fake.
But they quickly would have seen through my act and rejected the story I was purporting to tell.

And in much the same way, we can give lip-service to the Baby, saying the right things but not dealing with Him as He is.
Not allowing Him to transform our lives.
Not allowing Him to change our patterns of thought.
Our behaviors.
Our words.
Our actions.
We can attempt to re-create Him as we want Him to be.
But it doesn’t work.
Because I cannot change Him.
Instead, He must change me.

That Baby who came two thousand years ago is known by many names.
But one of them is The Word.
John, his best friend while he walked the earth, said it this way: “The Word of God became flesh and lived among us.”
And Charles Swindoll, another dear friend of the Lord’s, says this to us today:
“God did not give us His Word to satisfy our curiosity; He gave it to change our lives.”

The Word of God, the Baby who grew to be a man so He could die in my place, is manifested in the Living Word of God, the Bible.
And it addresses every single issue we face today.
Every. Single. One.
Slaughter of the unborn.
And the treatment of those in poverty.
Disaster relief.
Dealing with those in authority.
What it means to be a man.
What it means to be a woman.
What it means to be a family.
How to live our best lives financially.
And every other “-ally” that you can think of.
How to love.
Who to love.
When to love.
And why to love.

The Word that became flesh and The Word that is written down by men as God told them what to say are both as applicable and effective today at changing lives as they ever have been.
If we let them.
If we purpose to not just claim a fake version of who and what they are, but instead allow them to be the living, breathing, life-altering entities that they are.
If we will choose to be not just hearers of the Word but doers of it as well. (James 1)
If we will stop conforming to the pattern of this world but instead be transformed by the renewing of our minds. (Romans 12)
If we will allow The Word to be living and active, like a two-edged sword, piercing our own hearts and revealing all that is in them – and then allowing Him to change us into His likeness instead of recreating Him in ours. (Hebrews 4; 2 Corinthians 3)
If we will intentionally, daily, do business with the real Baby instead of any fake we have established in His place.
Checking our motives.
Our words.
Our actions.
Holding them up to the litmus test of the Word in the flesh and the Word on the page.
Allowing His Spirit to speak.
And choosing to obey what He says.
Forgiving the unforgivable.
Even when I see the unforgivable in me.
Loving the unlovable.
Even when they don’t want to be loved.
Shining in the darkness.
Even when it feels like it is growing.
Pressing on, even when we are weary.

Because this life is not all there is.
Because one day I will see that Baby who is the Son of God face to face.
Because, if we will allow Him to, Baby changes everything.



Chaos Central

I was awakened by the noise.
It was a dull roar.
People were everywhere, all frantically engaged in tasks.

On one side of the room, a woman dug through a closet, pulling out articles of clothing. Some she rejected outright, tossing them over her shoulder. Others she held in front of her, arms extended with a considering look. Constant motion. Constant evaluation.

In another corner of the room, a woman knelt on the floor, surrounded by maps, guidebooks, and itineraries. She was taking notes, frantically flipping between pieces of paper, scratching her head and muttering, “Where? When?”

And then there were two others, people I recognize as friends, in another corner, standing back to back with scowls on their faces and folded arms. While there were no words spoken, the very air around them was icy and thick with tension.

In yet another space, a woman sat rocking in front a blank computer screen. As I looked closer, I realized it was a Word document, all ready to go, with the cursor blinking but no words on the screen. She looked dazed, overwhelmed and lost in deep thought.

Standing in the midst of all this was another woman, this one with a long, long list in her hands. It looked like something you would see in a movie about Santa Claus, a long scrolling document that piled onto the floor. She had a pen in hand and was muttering, “How am I going to get all of this done??”

And then there was the money counter. Sitting on the floor, she was surrounded by bills, bank statements and a tiny pile of cash. She kept sorting the cash into piles and then checking her documents, a calendar and a tally sheet. She was shaking her head, muttering, “Never quite enough to do it all, is there?”

Scattered around the room were boxes and bags, all with labels on them. One said, “Friend”. Another said, “Daughter.” A third said, “Good Neighbor.” There were even boxes labeled, “Tell the World” and “Ministry”. So many boxes and bags! They all looked very heavy as they cluttered up the spot.

I tell you, it was chaos.
No wonder I woke up!

But as I scanned the room, I heard a familiar voice call my name.
“Bring them to Me”, He said softly.

I didn’t have to ask what He meant.
We have been friends for a very long time.
So I started to do as He asked.

One by one, I went to each person in the space. Each box. Each bag.
And I led or carried them to the throne in the center of the room.
Where He sat, with arms wide open.

I must say, some of them fought back!
They resisted my attempts to bring them to Him, struggling in my arms as I took them captive.
But, one by one, they all came.
And one by one, I laid them at His feet.

Now you would think with all that I just described it would be a huge pile.
But it really wasn’t.
As I brought each item, each person, each thought to Him, they actually began to shrink.
Or did He just get bigger?

Either way, when I had finished, the room was still.
And as I looked into His smiling eyes, all of those things grew dimmer and dimmer until I could hardly tell they were there.

Where there had been chaos, now there was joy.
Where there had been confusion, now there was peace.
Where there had been worry, now there was comfort.
With a sigh, I went into His open arms, laid my head on his chest, and relaxed.


I fly to Chicago for a conference on Thursday.
What should I pack? What should I wear? I want comfortable clothes but I also want to make a good impression. What will travel well? Will I be warm enough? Or too hot?

Where should we go in Chicago? We have a very limited time window to do some sight-seeing and some restrictions to what we can do. How should we go? Train? Uber? Cab?

I have friends in conflict with each other. More than one set, actually. I want to be a peacemaker but I don’t want to interfere. I need wisdom to know what to do, what to say, and what not to say.

And then there is this journey as a writer. What to blog about? How can I reach your heart? And what are my next steps in the journey towards being published? What is wise? What risks should I take?

I have 48-hours to accomplish everything I need to do before I get on the plane. Be ready for Sunday. Be ready for the conference. Be ready for life here and there, both now and when I return.

And, of course, money. There is never enough, is there? Should I purchase that? Give to this cause? How am I going to pay off that debt? And save for retirement? How can I do that?

Finally, there is life. The daily grind. Responsibilities. Roles. Obligations. Burdens I willingly accept – but burdens nonetheless.

These things – ALL of these things – and more – are why I MUST have a daily time with God.
I have to.
Because I cannot do one blessed thing about one blessed thing in my life.
I cannot be wise without Him.
I cannot be protected without Him.
I cannot have peace without Him.
I cannot have strength without Him.
I cannot fill all of my roles without Him.
I cannot do life without Him.

And the beautiful, glorious thing is that I do not have to!
He is always willing to take my burdens.
His arms are always open to receive my concerns.
He has all the wisdom, protection, peace, and strength that I need.
Not to mention all the other resources that He has promised in His Word.

All I have to do is humble myself before Him.
Admit that I cannot.
But that He can. (I Peter 5)
And then bring every thought captive to Him. (2 Corinthians 5)
Not just during my morning time with Him.
But throughout the day.

Praying before I answer the phone.
Praying my way through a conversation.
Praying as I drive.
Praying through every meeting.
Every decision.
Praying like it is breathing.
Constantly in, out, in, out.
As necessary to my soul as oxygen is to my lungs.
Not long, wordy, eloquent speeches with just the right words to capture His attention.
But simply constant communication with my Dad.
Inviting Him into my day first thing.
And clinging to His hand through every moment of it.

When I do that, my heart goes from chaos to calm.
Regardless of what is happening around me.

Because, when I do that, I am constantly surrendering to the Prince of Peace.
Exalting Him instead of my problems.
Focusing on His goodness instead of my concerns.
And letting Him do what He does best – being God Alone.
God Most High.
The Almighty.
The King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Of all things. Including me.

My prayer for you – and me – today is that we will have the grace to “take every thought captive to Christ”, to “pray without ceasing” and to “Humble ourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift us up in due time, casting all our anxiety on Him because He cares for us.”

The Throne Room



I sit back and relax as I look around.
I smile.
Pleased with what I see.

For the most part.

But something is off.
Out of place.

I realize the chair I am sitting in is not the most comfortable piece of furniture in the place.
But it is the only furniture.
A large, padded throne, in the center of the space.
And it is mine.
So I am sitting on it.
No matter how uncomfortable it is!

I wiggle a bit, looking for a more comfy position.

But then I feel a hand on my shoulder.

And it suddenly comes to me.
I don’t own this chair any more.
In fact, nothing in this room is really mine.
I am the steward of it all.
But I have not been the owner of this place for a long time.

I look into the eyes of the One who is standing beside the throne of my heart.
And my seat suddenly becomes unbearably painful.

He doesn’t say a word.
He just gazes at me.
Warmth and love in His eyes.
But no smile on His face.
Instead, a gentle sadness.
Not because I have disappointed Him.
But because of the pain it causes me when I usurp His rightful place.

I am not even sure how I managed to get myself back up here.
Onto this throne.
Because I surrendered it – and all the contents of my heart – to Him a long time ago.
No wonder it is unbearable to sit here!

As the realization of what I have done – again – washes over me, I slide to the floor in a heap.
It dawns on me that my robes, once brilliantly white, are splotched with stains.
I hadn’t really noticed them until now.
But when I become aware of Him, aware of His presence, they become impossible to ignore.
They are the stains of sins that I have committed.
It is filth picked up by my own choices.
Things I have watched.
Things I have said.
Things I have done.
And the things I have not done that I knew He was asking me to do.
And suddenly it is all very clear.
Where I am wrong.
Where I have allowed old thought patterns to creep in.
Where I have allowed new influences to take over.
Where I have slipped out of alignment with Him.
His Word.
And His ways.

Those slow, subtle things that have put distance between us.
And caused me to re-throne myself as Queen of My Heart.

I also become aware of the heavy weights I feel.
Burdens strapped all over me.
Some large, some small – but none placed there by His hand.
These are items I have picked up along the way.
Problems to be solved.
Relationships in arrears.
Concerns about things that are beyond my control.
(Which, really, is everything.)
Evidence of my propensity to worry.
To sin by forgetting. Failing to remember that He is in control, that I can trust Him.
All these things are weighing me down.

He has not spoken yet.
He does not have to.
This is not the first time I have kicked Him off the throne of my heart.
Fortunately, He refuses to ever leave me, to throw up His hands in disgust.
But He also refuses to force Himself into first place in my life, to take the throne by compulsion or coercion.
So, each time He quietly waits until I notice that He is off the throne and I am on it. Again.

But now, I slip off the burdens I have been carrying and lay them at His feet.
Along with the tattered, stained garments of self-righteousness.
Judgement of others.
Where I have taken matters into my own hands.
And where I have doubted Him. His character. His heart.
Splotches of selfishness along with scattered stains of pride.
So much pride.

And now I am crying.
Head bowed.
Body slumped.
Engulfed by shame.
Stripped of every burden.
And the filthy rags of my so-called righteousness.
But also filled with weariness.
Frustration with myself.
With this battle.
These never ending burdens.

Laying in a heap before Him, I cry out my confession, an apology.
“Create in me a clean heart, Oh God! Renew a right spirit in me!
Forgive me for carrying things that clearly belong to You.
Forgive me for not trusting You with the burdens of my days.
And forgive me for forgetting that You are God and I am not.
Please forgive my selfishness. My pride.
Anything that separates me from You.
Keep me from hidden sins as well. Give me Your eyes to see my world – and myself.
Restore unto me the joy of my salvation.
I know I am always Yours – but take this distance between us away!
Forgive me for allowing it in the first place!
Create in me a clean heart, Oh God!”

And, instantly, two strong hands reach for mine.
He lifts me to my feet, beaming a smile.
He wipes the tears from my eyes.
I look down and realize that I am once again clothed in spotless white.
The stains and the burdens have all disappeared.
The guilt and shame as well.
I am restored.
And free.

He holds me close in His arms as He once again settles onto His rightful place on the throne. The arms that stretched out wide at Calvary wrap tightly around me, holding me close.
The Voice that spoke the world into existence whispers my name.
He kisses the top of my head and whispers, “Beloved, let’s begin again. A fresh start. Stay close to me. Keep Me here on the throne and all will be well.”


How I wish that scene was a one-time event in my life.
How I wish it was a “one and done” process in this battle with sin.

And in one sense, it is.
Jesus died once for all mankind.
Once to take the penalty for our sin, the wrath of God upon Himself on the cross.
It is why He cried out, “It is finished!” on the cross.
The war has already been won.

But my battle with sin is not “one and done”.
It is an ongoing process.  And will be until Jesus comes back again or God calls me Home.
The battle is a sometimes daily reinstating of God on the throne of my heart.
And sometimes it is hourly.  Or even heartbeat to heartbeat at times.

The goal of the Christian life is not perfection on this earth.
Because that is not possible.
We will wrestle with sin until we are finally delivered from these sinful bodies and this sin-soaked world.
The goal is for there to be longer and longer periods of time where God IS the King of My Heart.
Where I have not kicked Him off the throne.
And where there is no distance between us caused by my sin.

The flip side of that goal?
For there to be shorter and shorter gaps between when He convicts me of a sin, whispering to my conscience, and where I confess it and begin again in a new direction.

These two things – lengthening the gap of time where He truly is in charge of me and shortening the gap between the time He convicts and time I confess, beginning again – these are the hallmarks of maturity in Christ. And they are the keys to victory.

Making one long and one short is how you beat sin.
All sin.
How you break an addiction.
Conquer a habitual sin.
Add a spiritual discipline.
Gain the day-in and day-out victory.

One day at a time.
One heartbeat at a time.
One confession at a time.

Who is on the throne of your heart today?
If it is not the King of Kings, what are you waiting for?
Call out to Him.  He’s waiting for you.


The Prayer That Never Fails

I hailed a cab the other day in a new-to-me city.
I gave the driver the address and settled back in the seat.
But then I leaned forward and said, “You need to take 2nd Avenue across the river, turn left at the third stoplight and then make a left onto Delaney Street.”

The driver peered into his rear view mirror.
“Lady, that won’t get you where you need to go.”
But I ignored him, sat back and waited for him to follow my directions.

I had surgery the other day.
As they wheeled me into the operating room, I grabbed the surgeon’s gloved hand, stopping the progress of the gurney.
I said, “OK, Doc. The incision has to be less than four inches and this operation needs to only take an hour and half, no matter what. You have to use the scalpel I provided and be sure to only give me the medicine I brought with me. You got all that?”

I boarded a flight the other day.
As I shuffled through the line at the door of the plane, I noticed the captain standing there.
I stepped out of the line and cornered him.
“OK, sir, here are my instructions. Takeoff cannot be too steep because I don’t like them steep. I know we are in the middle of a city and you have to avoid some tall buildings, but I am confident you can get us off the ground at a more comfortable angle. After we are in the air, I expect absolutely no turbulence. And when we land, you need to make sure that there is very little bumping when then wheels touch down. I will probably be dozing and it is in my best interest if you make it as smooth as possible. I know you’re capable of all this – you have an amazing track record. So I’ll keep believing good things about you – if you meet all of these requirements. Have a nice day!”

Ludicrous examples.
Completely made up.

I have taken cabs in strange cities and gotten to my destination without telling the cabbie where to go or how to get me there.
I have had half a dozen surgeries in my life and never once told the surgeon how I expected him or her to do the job.
And I have flown thousands upon thousands of miles without ever giving the pilot my specifications.

Do I want the cabbie to take the best route, the quickest one, the least expensive?
Of course.
Do I want the surgeon to do his or her best, using the right tools at the right time in the right way?
Of course.
Do I want the aircraft pilot to give me a smooth flight with as little inconvenience to my sensibilities as possible?
Of course.

But I know that they know more than I do.
Have experiences I do not have.
Possess abilities I do not.
But even as I put my faith in these folks, I also realize they are human.
Capable of mistakes.
And perhaps even dishonest in their dealings.

And yet I often put more faith in them than I do in the Living God.
That truth shows up when I pray.

When I pray, I tend to tell God what to do.
Demanding what must be done.
Instructing Him on the future.
What is best for me.
For others I know.
Giving Him detailed instructions to follow and then getting mad if He doesn’t align Himself with my desires.

When I pray that way, I am forgetting.
Forgetting that He is not me.
He is “not a man that He should lie”. (Numbers 23)

Forgetting that He is all-powerful.
He is outside of time.
He sees the end from the beginning.
He is all-knowing.

Forgetting His deep love for me.
That He sees me as His precious child.
That He has an un-thwart-able plan and a purpose for me.

When I forget all of that, my prayers turn into laundry lists of demands.
I may even glorify those demands by claiming that I am claiming.
His promises.
Declaring His Word.

But I’m not.
I’m not really claiming a promise when I am doubting that He knows what He is doing.
And showing that doubt by enunciating what His next move MUST be.

I am not declaring His Word when my motive is to escape as much pain as possible.
Showing that I believe life is about me. My comfort. My ease. My pain levels.

I am not trusting Him for Who He is when I am treating Him like a vending machine.
Showing that I think He thinks like me, acts like me, is like me.

I’m not honoring Him or His Word when I make prayer an equation.
My Faith + A Bible Verse + Earnestness = My Desired Result

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, the first thing He taught them to do was to give glory to the Father. “Our Father in heaven, Holy is Your Name!” (Matthew 6)

And the very next thing He taught them to say – to pray – was, “May Your Kingdom come; may YOUR WILL BE DONE here on earth as it is in heaven.”

In the prayer that Jesus taught, first came the acknowledgement of Who God is.
Next came surrender to HIS agenda – and not just His agenda for me, but for His Kingdom.
After that came the asking.
But not before.

I understand that “Thy will be done” is a terrifying prayer.
If God is not Who He says He is.
If He is not to be trusted.
If He is not all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present.
If He is not good.
If He does not love you with a sacrificial, merciful, undying love.

Then it is a terrifying prayer.
And you better not pray it.
You better give Him a laundry list of expectations because you are better than Him and know more than what He knows.

But if He is completely good, it is the safest prayer to pray.

If He is the All-Powerful, Most High God, it is the most freeing prayer to pray.

If He loves you so much that He would send His Only Son as a substitute for the punishment due you, it is the most grateful prayer to pray.

If He is your Daddy, who delights in you and rejoices over you with singing, then it is a life-giving, worry-smashing, joy-causing prayer.

It is the ultimate declaration of Who He is.

Don’t get me wrong.
I am not telling you to stop talking to Him about your needs, your desires, your pain.
Or that of others.
But do it in the right order. With the right heart. The right attitude. The right surrender.

Because there is one prayer He always, always answers.
In the best possible way.
Even if it doesn’t feel that way at the time.
Even if the end result differs from what I want.
Author Jan Karon calls it, “The prayer that never fails.”

“Thy will be done.”

Because of what You know, Thy will be done.
Because of Your great love for me, Thy will be done.
Because You are You and I am me, Thy will be done.
Because of what I have seen You do in the past, Thy will be done.
Because I can trust You with my future, Thy will be done.
Because You are for me and not against me, Thy will be done.
Because of Who You are, Thy will be done.

Do you have the courage to sincerely pray “the prayer that never fails”?
I dare you!
Take God at His Word.
And see what happens.