You know my heart.
And You know all the chaos of my world right now.

Nothing is “normal”
And it may never be “normal” again
Because even when life is in a pattern –
which becomes our “normal” –
it gets shattered.

A phone call
A test result
A financial bump in the road
A repair
An argument
A weight gain
A visit to the doctor

And “normal” ceases to exist.

But Lord,
This abnormal normal has been going on for months
And there appears to be no end in sight
We are all stumbling from report to report,
Recommendation to recommendation
And, yes, from argument to argument

And these uncertain times bring forth other uncertainties
For me, they involve travel and borders and being stuck between two worlds

For others it is economics
Or health
Or prolonged time with people they don’t really like any more
Or politics
The emotional climate of our nation
The spiritual climate of our nation
Lack of hope
Death of compassion
Famine of love for others

Chaos, Lord
It feels like chaos
Because in so, so many ways it is!

What is true?
How do you know?
Who do you listen to?
What should I be very concerned about?
What can I let go?
How can I manage better?
Who should I be managing?
What should I be managing?
Where do I find answers?
What timeline should I expect?
How is this going to work out?

And suddenly this Truth looms:
While there are definitely storms out there,
and I am surrounded by the wind and the waves of the unknown,

The more the wind howls, the more I try to control it.
The higher the waves crest, the more I seek ways to manage.
The fiercer the storm, the tighter my grip.

And when I do that, the storm in me strengthens and outstrips the storm of my circumstances.


Open hands, Lord.
That is what is required in the storm.
Open hands.
Lifted arms.
Upraised face.

Everything in me wants to do the opposite.
Drop down.
Curl in.
Hold tight.
Head tucked.
Eyes squeezed shut.

Holding on.

Manage my emotions.
Manage my finances.
Manage events.
Even manage my people.

But that was never, ever what You called me to do.
That is the equivalent of the Captain of a mighty ship asking a toddler to take over the helm.
The Parent asking the preschooler to manage bill pay and the budget for the family.
The Coach letting his kindergartner call the plays of the biggest game of the season.
And unnecessary.

I am the child.
You are my Dad.
You, the King of the Universe, are my Father.
You, the Sovereign Ruler of all things, call me Beloved.

All You have ever asked me to do is to trust You.
In the storms
In the calm.
And everywhere in between.

Lift my face.
Lift my arms.
Hold ALL of my life with open hands.
Every detail.
Every circumstance.
Every relationship.
Held up to You, without a grip.

And as I stand tall, it is a posture of praise.
With all I have.
And all I am.
To praise You in it all.

Key word:
All of it in Your hands.
All of me singing Your praise.

And then You guide my steps.
You take the wheel.
You call the plays.
You function in Your economy.
You lead me in Your higher ways.
You parent me.
You shepherd me.

Even in the mystery.

You, Who can see it ALL.
You, Who knows every motive, every heart, and every personality that crosses my path.
You, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.
You, the Glue that holds all things together.
You, the Creator Who “works out all things in conformity to the purpose of Your will”.
You, the Great I AM, Who Was and Is and Is to Come.

You, Who control the ALL.

So I come to You with open hands.
Lifted arms.
Upturned face.

Am I soaked from the storm?
Is my hair whipped from the wind?
Is the boat pitching and yawing and generally being topsy-turvy?

But I laugh at the wind and revel in the rain.
Because this boat cannot go under.
It cannot be torn apart.
It is impossible for it to fail.

Not because I am holding it together.
But because YOU are.
And even if everything falls apart here in this life
I have a firm, rock-solid, unbreakable guarantee:

The sake of Your name
The glory of Your reputation
The promises You have made
The fact that I am Yours – and You are mine.

This life may beat me up
Your enemy may try to destroy me
The fact of sin in the world and its ugly consequences will mess with me

However, this is a moment in the spectrum of eternity
My whole physical life is no bigger than a blip on the screen
A flower quickly fading
Grass that is green today and dead tomorrow

But my eternal life started the moment I asked You to be my Savior
Which means I can approach all of my circumstances from a posture of praise instead of a huddle of hopelessness and fear.

This is the abundant life
The joy-filled life
The sweet life

Not gripping tightly
Not needing to know all the answers
Not seeking to control
Not managing it all

But riding the wind and waves with a song of praise on my lips
Sometimes sung through tears
Sometimes wrung out of the depths of my soul
Sometimes forced by an act of the will from my mouth

But You are worth it
Worth clinging to
Worth living for
Worth knowing
Worth serving
Worth praising

Always, always, You are worth it.
So I will live in this posture:
Arms high.
Head up.
Hands open.

Check the Tank

I have a question for you today:
How’s your gratitude tank?
Is the needle where it needs to be, buried past the full line?
Or is it sunk on the other side, lower than the E?

If salvation is your helmet and faith is your shield;
if truth is the belt that holds you together and your heart is covered in Christ’s righteousness;
if your feet are ready to take ground for the gospel and you are in the Word, sharpening that sword;
if prayer is the covering that ties all of the armor of God together –

– then gratitude is the oil that lubricates all of life.
The fluid that oozes through every crack, all of the joints, each of the hinges of your world;
that softens the friction that is the daily grind;
that allows the gears to keep turning the wheels of forward progress in the journey of faith.

It is much, much easier to allow the grit of your circumstances into the cracks
where it rubs and wears and irritates.

It is much, much easier to focus on what you lack, the holes in your life, what you are missing instead of fixing your gaze on all that you have, all that has been mended, all that you have been given.

I think that, perhaps, the opposite of gratitude is not ingratitude as much as it is bitterness.

We forget to be thankful.
And instead focus on our problems.
Which pulls our gaze from the Master and His goodness.
And makes us hone in on the temporal
The things that will fade
The stuff the will burn
The situations that irritate
The people that annoy
The circumstances that are challenging at best and devastating at worst.

And as our gaze lingers on what is wrong, that seed of ingratitude sends out tiny tendrils into our hearts
The beginnings of the root of bitterness
Fed by the fertilizer of comparison
And watered by a critical spirit and an unthankful heart

And suddenly, everything you have and everyone you know loses some of their luster, some of their glory, some of what you loved about them.

What once was a refreshing giggle turns into an irritating guffaw.
What once was a home you loved turns into a burden you carry.
What once was a precious bundle of unspeakable joy in your arms turns into a millstone around your neck.
What once was a cherished friendship turns into an obligation.

Because of the disappointment caused by sin – yours and others.
And the whispers of the enemy.
The truth that this life is filled with trials.
And the fact that sometimes God doesn’t make sense to us –
These pieces of grit, both large and small, impact the gears of our lives.
When they have not been washed away by gratitude or at least lubricated by the oil of joy that remembers the goodness of God even in the darkest times –
Then the gratitude tank is empty
And the roots of bitterness begin to grow.

We forget that we are incredibly blessed children of God
Joint heirs with Jesus
Clothed in righteousness
Bound for heaven
Created in the image of God
Designed for eternal things
Made for His purposes and His glory

We forget that Jesus willingly poured out his life in our place
Taking the guilty verdict that He did nothing to deserve
As well as the spit in his face, the punches and slaps, the mocking and the torture
That should have been ours

We forget that He said, “Forgive as I have forgiven you, not keeping track, not remembering wrongs but for MY sake, forgive them.”
We forget that He has lavished on us all that we NEED for life and godliness, lavished on us good gifts, and empowered us by His own Spirit, the very Breath of God in our lungs.
We forget that He has called us first to love
ALL people
Masked and unmasked
“Right” political party or “wrong” political party
Smelling of garbage or smelling of roses
With a history full of mistakes or one to be proud of

We forget that WE are loved like that
That while we were yet sinners, Christ died
That we have been saved ONLY by amazing grace
And that we are not any better than any other human on the planet

We forget that God has carved our names in His palm
That He rejoices over us with singing
That He calls us “Beloved” and “Mine”
We forget that this life is blip on the radar compared to the eternity that awaits
And we forget that we are no more or less worthy of His love than anyone else

There are none righteous.
There is no human perfection.
There is no one who deserves God’s love. His favor. His blessing.

And yet, if you are a Christ-follower, if you have been born a second time into the family of God, you have it.
His mercies new every morning.
His grace that is sufficient for every trial
His love pouring through you as a conduit so that you CAN love that person even when you CANNOT love that person.

You have all of that – and more.

So how’s that gratitude meter?
Do you need to repent of an ungrateful heart?
Do you need to rip out any roots of bitterness? Even the tiny tendrils? Especially the tiny tendrils?
Do you need to confess a lack of love for someone?
Do you need to refocus your gaze?

Here’s one more thing to be thankful for:
You don’t have to conjure up any of the love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness or self-control that you need in order to be grateful.
Those are fruit of HIS Spirit in you.
All you have to do is tell Him you want them.
Seek His face.
Seek His Kingdom and His glory.
Keep your eyes fixed on Him.
Making prayer like breathing.
Making His Word a continual feast.
If you will do that – fall in love with the God who loves you madly – He will do the rest.

And that, indeed, is something to be thankful for!

What Do YOU See?

He was trying to get to where God had called him to be.
Had started the journey weeks earlier.
But every time he turned around, there was a roadblock.
His friends thought this trip was a bad idea.
They even told him that God said it was a bad idea.
Or, at least, that God had shown them what fate awaited him at the end of the journey.
He traveled part of the way by ship – and that ship ran into a FOURTEEN-DAY storm before it was eventually shipwrecked.
Thankfully, it wrecked near an island and no lives were lost.
But then, on the island, he was bitten by a poisonous snake!

Have you figured out that the man was Paul?
He was heading for Rome.
Because he desperately wanted to share the good news of Jesus there.
You can read about his journey to get there in Acts 27 and 28.

But here’s the thing:
I fear that if we were to encounter as many obstacles today as Paul did then, our incredibly poor theology of suffering would have caused us to throw in the towel.
“There are so many roadblocks! This must not be the will of God!”
“If this was of the Lord it would be easier.”
“Look at these circumstances! God MUST be saying “no” to this.”

Our theological equations tend to run like this:
Good circumstances = Good God = this must be what He wants me to do.

But as I read my Bible there is only one part of that equation that is true.
God is a GOOD God.
No matter what my circumstances are.
He is a GOOD God.

And He has a good plan.

But in story after story in the Bible, His chosen ones, His heroes, the people He chose to record for our benefit, rarely enjoyed favorable circumstances.

I think of David.
Anointed by God to be the next king before he could shave.
And then things looked promising for that fulfillment!
He killed a giant in the name of the Lord.
Was shoulder tapped to play the harp for the current king.
Was beloved by the people.
Even married the king’s daughter!
But then, suddenly, he became a fugitive.
Forced to hide out for YEARS in the wilderness and among the enemies of God’s people.

By today’s theology, he was out of the will of God. Or in sin. Or he hadn’t given enough tithes and offerings. Or God didn’t love him. Or was against him.
All of that was untrue!
David was in the CENTER of the will of God even while he ran for his life.
Even when he was camping out in caves instead of reclining in the palace.

Or I think of the disciples.
How many times did Jesus say to them, “Get in the boat” and then a storm came?
Sometimes when Jesus was with them; sometimes when he was still on shore.
But more than once, the center of the will of God found them in a violent, terrifying, we-gonna-die storm!
Were they out of the will of God?
Absolutely not.

All of these people – Paul, David, the disciples – were EXACTLY where God wanted them to be.
In storms.
In a shipwreck.
Being attacked.
Being hunted.
Being tempest-tossed.

Why were they there if they were in the will of God?
Because God didn’t love them?
Because He had turned His back?
Because He had forgotten to be kind?


They were there because God had a bigger purpose than their comfort in mind.
He had lessons to teach them.
Lessons to teach the people with them.
And lessons to teach us!

They were there because miracles only happen when impossibilities define the circumstances.

So the next time you are in a storm…
Are attacked…
Are falsely accused…
Are facing roadblocks…
Are in a sinking boat…

How will your theology interpret you circumstances?
Will your circumstances inform your view of God?
Or will your view of God put your circumstances in perspective?

Will you remember and remind yourself that you only see an inch where God sees infinity?
Will you remember and remind yourself that this life is just a dot on the radar screen of eternity?
Will you choose to trust the God who made you?
Will you choose to focus on His goodness instead of your grumpiness or grief or gut-wrenching pain?

Will you see the storm? Or the One who controls it?
Will you see the evil king? Or the enemy who is controlling him?
Will you see your circumstances? Or will you see the One who loved you enough to die for you?
The One who rose for you?
The One who lives inside of you, giving you power and strength and the ability to go on?

Paul, David, the disciples, and so many others in Scripture had to learn and demonstrate the lesson of perspective.
They had to choose to lift their eyes from what they could see to the Face of the One who sees all.
Paul put it this way:

“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4)

Where is your gaze today?
The things we see that will soon be gone?
Or the things we cannot see that will last forever?

Preaching the Word to Myself

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I write encouraging blog posts and put awesome quotes up on Facebook, if I use social media to post wise and pithy and correct things –
but don’t post or say or write those things from love, with love, in love, because of love, I am only as useful as the loudest noise pollution that exists.

If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.

If I have all the answers to all the questions – masks, cures, racial tensions and reconciliation, the role of government, who should govern, how people should behave, even what the Bible says about ALL of these things –
but don’t love YOU, (with NO caveats or conditions – no matter who you are, what you look like, which side of the aisle you are one, how hateful you are acting, how much I disagree) – if I don’t LOVE you, I am nothing. NOTHING.

If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Even if I sacrificially give of my time, talent and treasure; even if my actions are correct; even if I am perfectly aligned in my deeds with the Word of God, but I don’t love EVERYONE, (with NO caveats or conditions – no matter who you are, what you look like, which side of the aisle you are one, how hateful you are acting, how much I disagree, how sinful your choices are or how much you don’t align with Scripture) –
I have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind.
Even on social media.
Even when what you posted makes my blood boil.
Even when I cannot see it from your point of view.
Even as I engage with you in respectful conversation.
Even as we disagree.
Love is patient and kind.
I may evaluate your choices against the Word of God and understand that they don’t align with HIS thoughts and therefore, are sinful. But even then, I am patient and kind. Even then. Because “It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance.” (Romans 2)

Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
Under any circumstances.
Regardless of my emotions.

It does not demand its own way.
It does demand God’s way – but His way is to love the sinner enough to die in his place – and to hate the sin with the same level of passion.
But it is never about my rights.
My feelings.
My point of view.
It is not about me.
It is about God. His point of view.
And about loving as He loves:
passionately for the sinner even as He is passionately against the sin.

It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.
Love forgives. Again and again and again.
Speaking up against injustice?
Yes. That is love, too.

But always forgiving the perpetrators.

Every time.
Whether they asked for it or not.
Whether they deserve it or not.
You have been forgiven much.
You must forgive.

It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
Loving the good actions, good results, good efforts.
Hating the bad.

But always loving the people.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
This is a fight.
Not against people.
Against the enemy of our souls.
Who is seeking to divide and conquer.
Seeking to destroy and devour.
Seeking to make the Church act like the world so that no one wants to be a part of the Body of Christ.
And he is succeeding.
Because we are letting him.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
Human wisdom always, always, always fails.
Godly wisdom, based on His Word, will never fail.
This world will burn.
The end will come.
And when the time of perfection comes, we will recognize how much He loves every tribe, tongue and nation of the world.
Every color of skin.
Every language.
Every culture.
And how much we didn’t love as we should have.
How much I didn’t love as I should have.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.
I put away having to lash out at you because you didn’t understand.
I put away seeing you as the enemy.
I put away speaking the Truth without love and not speaking the Truth because of a misguided idea of love.
Instead I spoke and thought and reasoned the Truth in Love.
Saying the hard things.
But checking my heart first to see why I am saying it.
I put away seeing you first by your labels.
I can and will respect your labels. I can and will celebrate who you are and how God created you. The ways that are like me. And the ways that are not.
But first, and always, I will see you as someone created in the image of God.
Deeply loved by Him.
And in desperate need of knowing Him.
I put away my rights.
And lay down my life for you.
Because He laid down His life for me.

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
The puzzle pieces are complex.
But Creator of the puzzle never asked me to figure it out.
He asked me to do three things:
Love Him.
Love others.
And make sure they ALL knew about Him.

The ones who look like me.
And the ones who don’t.
The ones who share my culture.
And the ones who don’t.
The one who “get it”.
And the ones who don’t.
The ones who encourage me.
And the ones who infuriate me.
The ones that the enemy is freely, openly, blatantly using.
And the ones that he is freely, hiddenly, subtly using.
The ones who bear His name.

And the ones who don’t.
I have three jobs.
Am I doing them?
If I am focused on loving Him, the conduit between the Holy One and myself will remain open, unhindered by willful sin, and His love, wisdom, grace, mercy, compassion and joy will flow back through me and splash onto you.

If I am focused on loving you as He loves you, we will both be transformed for His glory. It will get messy because we are both sinners. But He will give me all I need to love you – and all you need to love me.

And if I am loving Him with all I am and loving you with all HE has, then telling the world will be easy. Because they won’t understand that kind of love.
And they will ask why.
And then we can share all that He is with them.
So that they, too, can love Him.
Love others.
And go tell the world.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13 (NLT)
Eternal things:
His Word.
And the souls of people.
Everything else is ashes and dust.

Will you love God?
Will you love the people He has created?
Love them until they ask you why?
The greatest of these is love.


“God!”, I cry out. “It is the seasickness that is getting to me
I have lost the horizon
And I cannot steady my legs on this ever-shifting sea
The deck of the ship of my life plummets down into the depths one moment
Only to reverse to climb a steep wave the next.”

Waves break over me, trying to tug me off the deck and into the icy waters
I am gripping the lifeline
But my hands are weary
Scraped raw from holding on

And oh, so exhausted

I long for calm seas
Still waters
Gentle rocking waves instead of angry breakers

I long for You to calm it all
Take away the storm
Silence the fury
I know You can
But I don’t know if You will

And then You are there beside me
You hold out Your hand with a smile on Your face and a twinkle in Your eye
“Let’s take a walk”, You say.

I am reluctant to let go of the rope
Loathe to relax my grip
Fearful that if I let go the whole ship will fall apart
Or I will be swept out to sea.

And You smile again as You say,
“Are you really the one keeping your feet on this deck?
Is all of your effort to hang on making you safe?
Why are you putting your energy into fears? Control? Wondering?
Let go.
Take my hand.
Let’s take a walk.”

My fingers hurt as I uncurl them from the rope.
They have cramped from holding on so tightly.
But I take Your hand and Your fingers slide between mine, holding tightly.

Just as we connect, the ship tosses violently.
So that we are thrown toward the raging waters.

But even as we fly through the air towards the depths, I hear You laugh.
With delight!
You say, “Watch this!”
And instead of going under, we land lightly on our feet.

The waves are still crashing.
The wind is still whipping.
The sky is still ominous.
But we are standing.
Somehow standing.
On the water.
In the middle of a storm.

You squeeze my hand and look into my face with a grin.
“How cool was that?” You say with a chuckle.
I smile back into Your eyes and lean my body against Your strong arm, my hand still firmly gripped in Yours.

“Let’s take a walk”, You say again.
And I nod as we set off among the breakers, strolling across the wildly surging sea.
The storm hasn’t changed.
And maybe it never will.
But I am released from my fears because You hold my hand.

As we walk through the tumult, You lean down and say,
“Storms are just opportunities for more adventures with Me, love.
Keep watching. You’ll be amazed at what I can do.”

On Diffusers, Thermostats and Temples…

I was made to be a diffuser.

I love essential oils.
And I love my diffuser.
You see, the diffuser takes water that has drops of essential oil in it and turns it into mist.
That mist shoots straight up out of the diffuser and into the air.
But then, after a point, it slowly drifts down from the air and swirls with the air currents, permeating into the room.

I was made to be a diffuser.
A diffuser of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.
A diffuser of grace
Unconditional acceptance and love
A diffuser of Christ-likeness

Essential oils sitting in the bottle don’t do anything.
They don’t freshen the air, repel bugs, boost body systems.
But added to the diffuser, they can do all those things.

But for the diffuser to work, it has to have the elements all brought together.
Essential oils

And for me to diffuse the love of God and His character to the world I need:
His power
The Living Water of the Word
And the oil of the Holy Spirit.

I become a diffuser when I take in Living Water, the Living Word of God.
Through reading, through studying, through listening.
One of the symbols of the Holy Spirit in Scripture is oil.
So as I take in the Living Water, God the Holy Spirit adds understanding and meaning and purpose.
He also brings the power source to the whole mixture.
And I am able to pray and praise, lifting high the Lord, shooting straight to heaven, to the heart of God.
Coming boldly before the throne of grace to receive help in time of need. Praying according to the will of God.

But, as the prayer and praise go up, they also change the atmosphere around me.
They change me.
My attitude.
My perceptions.
And even the spiritual dynamic around me.
Just like scorpions and mosquitos hate the oils I diffuse, the enemy hates the praise I lift.
The critters scatter.
And so does he.

And as the spiritual world is impacted, the physical world is changed.
I am empowered to be a difference maker.
To touch hearts and minds and lives.
So that those people can touch hearts and minds and lives.
And the fruit of God’s Spirit is diffused around me. Through me.

I was made to deliver the scent of Christ.
To repel evil, sin and the enemy.
To lift high prayer and praise every chance I get.

I was made to be a diffuser.
And so were you.

I was made to be a thermostat.

I don’t have one of those in my apartment here because there is no HVAC system in the building.
Instead, we rely on open or closed windows, more or less clothing, more or less blankets.
But the temperature of the apartment is never regulated.
It fluctuates wildly depending on the weather outside.

I have written about this before – how we can be a thermometer, reflecting the temps of our circumstances, or a thermostat, setting the temp and turning up or down the heat as needed.

Now more than ever Christ-followers NEED to be thermostats.

Sometimes a thermostat turns up the heat.
Cries out for justice for the oppressed.
Pleads for people to understand.
Says the unpopular yet true thing.
While always speaking the truth in love.

And sometimes the thermostat brings in cool air.
Calming words.
Soothing truths.
Not responding to the post.
Or choosing words carefully when responding so that the temperatures are brought down and listening can happen.

If I had a thermostat in my apartment, I would use it to regulate the temperature as I saw fit.
Because I would be in charge of it.
But the thermostat itself would not be the one to choose whether to go up or down.
It would only respond to my directions.

It’s the same way for a human thermostat in a world that is both brutally cold and completely engulfed in flames at the same time.

I am just a tool. Just a thermostat.
But I must allow the Hand of the One in charge of all things to set me.
To tell me when to turn up the heat.
And when to leave it alone.
When to add cool air.
And when to do nothing.

When I choose to take over and try to change the temp by my own wisdom, or out of my emotions, it ends in disaster.
Because I am a tool in the hands of the Master, not the Master Himself.
But when I allow the Holy Spirit to control my tongue, my words, my responses He can use me as a thermostat to bring change.

I was made to be a thermostat.
And so were you.

I was made to be the temple of the Living God.
And the moment I became a Christ-follower who asked Him to take my punishment and be my Savior, I became His temple.
His Holy Spirit indwells me.
He resides in me.

Which means I have the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire that led the Israelites at work inside me.
I have the glory that Isaiah saw filling the temple filling my innermost self.
I have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead working in me.
I have the breath that Ezekiel saw bring dead bones to life filling me.
I have the Word that spoke creation into existence speaking to my heart.
I have the Wind of God that blew through the upper room, transforming the disciples from frightened followers to empowered leaders, blowing through my life.

I am the temple of the Holy Spirit.
God lives in me.

I have been given everything I need for life and godliness.
I have the God who does “exceedingly, abundantly” inside of me.
I have the God who walked on water, raised the dead, healed the blind and made the lame walk at work in me.
Through me.
And in spite of me.

I am the temple of the Living God.

Why doesn’t that fact have more power in my life?
Why do I look in the mirror and despise the temple?
Why do I look at others who are also temples and despise them?
Why do I allow anything unholy to even come close?
Why do I forget that I have been bought with a very high price, that I am redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus, that He ransomed Himself in my place?
I am the temple of the Living God.
And so are you if you are a Christian.

If we really believed these things –
that we are diffusers of the work of God,
that we are thermostats with the power to change the temperature when set by the hand of Almighty God,
and that the same power from both the Old and New Testament dwells in us –
how would we change?

And how would we change the world?

Revisiting Us vs. Them

I initially wrote this blog in 2017. The eternal truths in it are still exactly the same today.

I am an “us” in so many ways.
Except for when I am a “them”.

And so are you.
It all depends on who you talk to.
And the topic.
Who your friends are.
And who you would never call “friend”.

Because it is all about labels, categories and boxes.

I am a woman.
I am a plus-sized woman.
I am white.
I am middle-aged.
I am single.
I have no children.

I am politically conservative.
(If you and I have the same definition of that word.
For some of you, I am not conservative enough.
And for others, I am disgustingly conservative.)

I am a military brat.
I am patriotic.
(Depending on how you define that word.
And where you stand in the current cultural conversation on what that means.)

I am employed.
I am a home-owner.
I am rich.
(Depending on how you define that word.
And your understanding of how the world – the whole world – works.)

I am a person with hidden health issues – things that aren’t immediately obvious from looking at me.
But I am also a person who has been blessed with good health – relatively speaking.

I am an “us” if we match.
In race.
In gender.
In ideology.
In opinion.
In understanding.
In circumstances.

I am a “them” if we don’t match.

And, oh, how we love our “us-es” and our “thems”.
We bash the “thems” on social media.
Or perhaps just in our conversations with other “us-es”.
Sometimes overtly.
More often, covertly.
We let our emotions run our words and we spew.
Gaining momentum – or at least vindication – from those who think like we do.
Act like we do.
Feel like we do.
Look like we do.

Or sometimes we just stew.
Letting a “root of bitterness” worm its way into our hearts.
Where it grows into a plant of hatred.
Sometimes shown.
But often hidden behind a veneer of social justice.
Or, “That’s just how I feel”.
Or, “You couldn’t possibly understand.”

And you are no longer YOU.
You have become a “them” to my “us”.
A category.
A lump.
A box.

But what if…
What if God looks at the world completely differently?
What if He has only one “us” and “them” for the entire human race?
Because He does.
He divides humanity only one way:
Eternal beings, made in the image of God, dearly loved, bound for heaven.
Or, eternal beings, made in the image of God, dearly loved, bound for hell.
Based solely on what they did with the gift of grace offered by Jesus dying on the cross.
Accepted the gift.
Rejected the gift.
The only two categories that matter to God.

That simple.
And that important.

It is all through Scripture.
From the beginning when God said, “Let us make man in Our image”.
Every person, everywhere, created in the image of God.
An eternal being that will live forever. No, not your body – but your soul.
You are a being with thoughts, feelings, emotions, and will.
Designed for community.
And we were a completely unified “us” – until sin came into the world, separating us from God, creating the category of “choosing to be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb” and “choosing not to be”.

It is echoed throughout the Old Testament.
God made a group of people, the Israelites, His “chosen people” as a vessel for bringing His Word into the world. Both His written Word and the Living Word, the Messiah. They were a living object lesson of Kingdom of God.
But He also made provision for any “them” to join the group that chose to do so.
A non-Israelite could become one by choice.
A picture of the eternal “us” and “them”.

Beyond that, He allowed many of the “thems” that are highlighted in the Old Testament to be of questionable virtue, questionable heritage.
A woman who tricked her father-in-law into having sex with her so that she could have kids.
A prostitute from a completely different race.
And a woman from yet another ethnic group that sacrificed their children by burning them on the altar of their god.
All in the genealogy of Jesus.
All “thems” who became “us-es”.

And then in the New Testament, Jesus went so far as to include every kind of outcast – every “them” for his culture.
Prostitutes and other notorious sinners were his friends.
“Half-breed” Samaritans, despised by the Jews because of their bloodlines, were welcomed.
Men who had betrayed their countrymen by siding with Rome, and then cheated their fellow Jews as they collected taxes, were welcomed.
The woman caught in adultery.
And women and children in general.
People wracked with diseases that kept them apart from the community.
Jesus talked to ALL of these “thems”. Ate with them. Lived with them. And provided The Way – Himself – for “them” to become “us”.

And finally, the New Testament writers after the cross reiterated this concept as well.
Paul wrote in his letter to the church in the region of Galatia: “There is [now no distinction in regard to salvation] neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you [who believe] are all one in Christ Jesus [no one can claim a spiritual superiority]”.

And again, in his letter to the believers at Colosse, he writes that they, as Christ followers, “…have put on the new [spiritual] self who is being continually renewed in true knowledge in the image of Him who created the new self— a renewal in which there is no [distinction between] Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, [nor between nations whether] barbarian or Scythian, [nor in status whether] slave or free, but Christ is all, and in all [so believers are equal in Christ, without distinction].”

One us.
One them.

Follower of Christ.
Believing in the saving work He did on the cross and through the empty tomb.
And therefore bound for heaven.

Or not a follower of Christ.
Rejecting His work on the cross.
And, therefore, bound for hell.

In all the clamor of our world and particularly in social media, remembering God’s view can be difficult.
It has to be a choice.
When my emotions are engaged.
When I go, “How in the world can he think that?!?” or “How dare she post that?!?”
When I feel misunderstood.
Or justifiably bitter because of the sin of others.
That is when I have to choose.

I have to take my eyes of off now and put them on eternity.
I have to remember that that person – no matter who they are – is someone for whom Christ died.
And we are either going to live forever together as residents of heaven or they are going to burn forever as a resident of hell.
If the Bible is true, there is no other choice of destination.
It is either eternal life or eternal death.

I have to decide in that moment – and every moment – who I am.
Because I am a “them” to many, many people.
But before I am ANY category, label or box, I am a follower of Christ.
And He has given me two jobs to complete in this world:
Love God with all my heart, mind, and strength.
And to love my neighbor – ANY neighbor – as myself.

Because “they” need to know that this life is not all there is.
They need to know that heaven is real – and so is hell.
I have the information they need so that they can choose eternal life.
Will I really let our differences – their “them-ness” – keep me from sharing it?

Will I be known by my love?
For the “thems” that are Christ-followers and yet different than me?
As well as for the “thems” that do not yet know Him?

Because Jesus said that is the hallmark His followers – His love poured out.
On both the “us-es”.
And the “thems”.

And a P.S. for 2020:

If you want to know what the Bible says about how to love your neighbor as yourself, check out the post before this one. It is addressed to ALL Christians and particularly my white brothers and sisters. Biblical love is not a feeling. It is choosing to live according to the mandates of God’s Word and to walk in the ways that Jesus walked. In EVERY situation, for EVERY time and place and in EVERY culture.

To (White) Christians Who Are Asking, “What Can I Do?”

Like you, I have seen so many posts on social media about race in recent days.
I have seen posts from black friends who say that silence is consent and we must speak up.
And I have seen posts from other black friends who have said that they don’t want to hear from the white folk on this matter. They don’t want more words, they want action.

I have seen posts calling for violence.
And I have seen posts decrying it.
I have seen posts that express the helpless frustration so many feel in the face of the horrors of racism.
So many people grasping for words. Trying to comfort. Trying to express empathy. Or sympathy. Or sorrow.

But often, among my white friends, I have seen this sentiment: What can I do? How can I help?

In many ways, I am unqualified to write about that.
I am a white girl, raised in suburbia in the United States.
In so many ways, I cannot say, “I understand.”

But in other ways, I have had just a taste of what my loved ones have experienced.
I have lived as a minority in two different cultures, first in Japan and now here in Guatemala.
And I have also been with my black friends when they have been treated differently than I have been treated.

But my biggest qualification in writing this piece today is that I am not going to give you my thoughts on what you should do.
My thoughts are not worth very much at all.
Instead, I am going to go to the source, the place where every answer we need can be found.
God’s Word holds the keys for ALL of life.
It is up to us if we apply them.
If you are not a Christ-follower, you will not have the power to do any of these things. Nor will you find God’s Word to be the best guide.
But if you claim the name of Christ, here is what the Bible has to say about all of this and what YOU can do to help:

  1. Repent. That literally means to turn and walk in a different direction. We have ALL sinned. We are ALL prejudiced in some way. We have ALL looked at someone else and made a snap judgement about who they are based on our past experiences, how we have been raised, the media and our own fears. To say that you hold no animosity in your heart to someone who is different than you is to lie. That difference that triggers sin in you may not be black/white. It may fall into some other category completely. But we ALL have seeds of racism in our hearts. Because we are sinners. Because we do not love as Jesus loved. Because there are people we fear, denigrate and avoid.

Beyond your own heart, beyond MY own heart, there is a need for national repentance. We need to confess that our ancestors have blown it. Big time. And not just the slave owners. But every white church that has made a person who is different than them feel unwelcome has blown it. Every Christian who has divided the world into camps of “us” and “them” has blown it. We, as a nation, have blown it. And it is biblical for us to get down on our faces and confess the sins of others! Even if you feel completely sinless in this, you need to repent on behalf of our nation. Daniel did it for Israel. So did Moses. Two godly men who fell on their faces before the Lord, not for their own sin but for the sin of their people.

  1. Apply what Andy Stanley calls “The Platinum Rule”. The “Golden Rule” says “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Platinum Rule says, “Do unto others as GOD has done for you.” So what has God done for you? He have given you life. He has spoken over you with words of life, words of rejoicing, words of comfort and love. He has forgiven you time and time and time again. He has not treated you as you deserve or as you have treated Him. Instead, He has lavished grace, mercy, and love on you, even while you were being ugly in every way. What in the world would our world look like if we lived that rule? First at home. But then at work. And in the shopping centers. Everywhere our feet take us. And especially on social media.
  2. Listen. Do what James says and “Be QUICK to listen, SLOW to speak and SLOW to become angry.” Have the conversations. Say, “I don’t understand but I want to. Can you help me?” Hear with your heart. And don’t apply rhetoric when you do. Don’t be quick to say, “Well, that wasn’t my fault.” Instead, hear the heart of the person talking. And then ask the Holy Spirit to give you the words to say. It might be “I’m sorry for your pain.” It might be “I’ll pray for you.” It might be “What can I do to put feet to my prayers?” And it might be, “I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?” Let God tell you what you need to say. AFTER you have listened with your whole heart.
  3. Teach. Please, please, please teach. Teach by words. But more than that, teach by example. Deuteronomy 6 says that we are to teach the children God’s Word and His ways from the time we rise to the time we go to bed. And yes, some of that will be words. But they will learn what you DO far more than what you SAY. Do you actually love your neighbor as yourself? What do you say about people of other races – or any other difference – in front of them? What do you say about other genders? People who are different than you? Even people who are walking in known sin? Do your children hear condemnation? Or do they hear grace? Do they hear that prayer changes hearts and people need love? Or do they hear scorn, derision and hatred? It is true that children rarely allow differences to stop them. They will play with anyone. They will talk to anyone. They will love anyone. We are the ones who teach them – by our actions far more than our words – that certain people are bad and that we are superior to them. What are you teaching your kids? And if you don’t have your own children, what are you teaching the children in your life who are still watching you, whether you birthed them or not?
  4. See. Don’t be “color blind”. Be color celebratory! We have so much that we can learn from each other. So much that is good that can be shared between cultures. Between races. Between people. Don’t say, “I don’t see you as a black person.” Say, “I celebrate who you are as a black person! Teach me, show me, help me to understand.” Just like you want to be known, so does everyone else. We all want to be accepted for who we are, as we are. God has gifted us with all sorts of differences so that we together can make a beautiful tapestry of grace and love. A monochrome tapestry would be very, very boring. But one filled with diverse experiences, languages, cultures, and ideas, all woven together by a skilled Hand – that is a glorious sight! We will get to live that sight in the future. John saw it in his vision and recorded it in Revelation 7: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
  5. Choose to not be offended. According to I Corinthians 13, love is not easily offended and keeps no record of wrongs. So, when a person who is different from you has trouble trusting you, don’t be offended. Remember the pain they have experienced and love them enough to let go of your own pride. Do you deserve their distrust? Maybe not. But love means putting their needs and interests ahead of your own. Love means forgiving hurts and slights, even unintentional ones. Love means seeking to understand. And love means you choose for it to be very, very difficult to offend you.

Let me end this with a story, a confession of sorts, a truth:
You don’t know what lives in your own heart.
But God does.
And He will show you. So that you can deal with it.

I lived in Japan for three years back in my mid-twenties.
During that time, I was molested on the train by Japanese men.
I was spit on by a Japanese man.
I had a Japanese man openly compare me to the pornography in his hand.
And I had both men and women cross to the other side of the street to avoid me.

I thought I had dealt with all of that.
I thought I had forgiven.
Because, after all, I know and love a lot of Japanese men, women and children.
And I know in my head that it is wrong to hate.
Wrong to hold on to those pains.
That fear.
Those experiences.

I thought all that was in my past.
But then, in 2015, 20 years after I first moved to Japan, I flew to Papua New Guinea to visit my friends there.
And I had to fly through Singapore.
When I got to the airport, it was late and I had 19-hour layover.
So I needed to find a safe place to rest. Thankfully, there was a hotel in the airport. But the entrance from the airport was on a lower level, down a dimly lit corridor, with very little around it.
As I walked towards it, I realized there was an Asian man following me. Just him and me in this dark, unfamiliar place.
I have no idea where in Asia he was from.
And I have no idea what his intent was.
But I was suddenly filled with fear. Panic. And a deep, deep loathing.

It startled me.
And I was horrified at the depths of depravity in my own heart.
That man was not the one who had molested me or spit on me or treated me like an object.
But the sin, the unforgiveness, and the scars in my own heart drove my thoughts all over the place.
Yes, the prejudice I carried, based on past experiences, caused me to judge that man and find him guilty of something he did not do.

It happens to all of us.

But thankfully, as a believer in Jesus, I have the Holy Spirit inside of me.
And He gives me the power to live differently.
The power to love.
To forgive.
To repent.
To recognize my own depravity and ask God to change my heart.
To do all the things the Bible says I am supposed to do if I claim the name of Christ.
All things we are supposed to do in light of the deep divides in our country.

Impossible humanly speaking.
But with God, all things are possible.

Even Now, It IS the Day Before

Sunrise Day Before

I have nothing to say.
Usually, when I write my blog, I am bursting with an idea.
A truth that God has laid on my heart to share.
A funny story that has a spiritual application.
Or a piece of Scripture that is resonating in my heart.

Today, I have no one thing that is just leaping out of my brain and on to the page.
But I do have one idea that I am holding on to for dear life.
That, no matter what my circumstances look like today, it is the day before.

I initially wrote this blog in January of 2016. I modified it slightly today. But it still holds true. I need to live EVERY day like it is “The Day Before”.

The day before…

The day before God showed up in a burning bush Moses had done the same thing he did for 40 years – keep sheep in the wilderness.

The day before David was anointed to be the next King of Israel he was just a boy, out in the fields, tending the sheep.

The day before he killed Goliath he was just the kid brother sent by his father to check on the older boys at war.

The day before Mary found out she was to be the mother of God she was just a girl dreaming of her new life with her fiancé.

The day before Jesus healed the lepers, the lame, and the blind they had been in the same state that they had been in for days, months, years – outcast, crippled, disabled, “other”.

The day before Jesus was crucified the disciples thought it was going to be another Passover like the decades of Passovers they had celebrated before.

The day before Jesus rose the disciples were grief stricken and shocked, just as they had been since Thursday night.

The day before Jesus returns will be just like any other – shopping, eating, drinking, working out, going to work – and then it will all be over.

God is the God of surprise, and of the miraculous intervention!
When His time is right, nothing can stop the forward movement of what He intends to do.
His plans cannot be thwarted.
The question is, am I on board with God?
In step with God?

Careful to obey?
Careful to follow?
Letting His Spirit guide my life?
Letting His Word be the bottom line by which I live?

Because I have the freedom to make the choice to not follow, not believe, not love, not seek God.
The day before David seduced Bathsheba, he was a bored king in an empty palace because he had sent men to war instead of going himself.

The day before Cain killed Abel, he was a jealous older brother, bothered by the fact that God had not accepted his offering.

The day before Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it he was a weary leader, frustrated by the constant unbelief and complaining of his people.

The day before Peter denied ever knowing Jesus, he was a cocky, self-sure man, certain of his own faithfulness.

The day before Aaron made the golden calf for the people to worship, he was a worried older brother, wondering what was taking Moses so long on the mountain.

So today may be an “ordinary” day.
Or as ordinary as days get in these extraordinary days.

But it is a day where I must choose one way or the other.
Just like I MUST choose every day. Regardless of my circumstances.  How the world has changed.  How I feel.  Those things do not matter.  What matters is what I choose today.

Do I live today full out for God, expectant about the ways He is going to work, fully trusting Him, eager to obey?

Do I live today saturated in God’s Word and prayer so that I will know the lies of the enemy when I hear them?

Do I live today with my eyes and ears wide open to the spiritual realities around me – knowing that everything – COVID-19, hunger, poverty, politics, race relations, all of my relationships – they are all spiritual battles first before they are anything else?

Do I live today committed to obedience, to keeping short accounts with God?


Or do I live today in apathy?

Not praying because I haven’t seen God do what I think He should do?

Not loving others because they don’t behave as I want them to behave?

Not working on behalf of others because of my own self-centeredness?

Not believing because what I need feels impossible?

Not trusting because I am allowing sin to have free reign?

Worrying because I don’t believe God are in control?

Allowing my emotions to run the day rather than Truth?

Following my heart rather than God’s Word?

Feeding a bad attitude because of an injustice rather than forgiving as God forgave?

Believing I know better than God do what is best in my life?

Dragging my feet in obedience or rushing ahead of God because God seem to not be listening?

You see, today is the day before.

Before what, I don’t know.
It could be the day before I blow it big because I yield to temptation.
Or it could be the day before God shows up in an extraordinary way, answering a deep cry of my heart.
It could be the day before Jesus’ return.
Or it could be the day before someone I love chooses to trust God with their eternity because I shared His love with them.

So how will I live THIS day? Because, after all, it is STILL the day before.

The Surrendered Life? or The Solve-It Life?

Solve It
He had only been king for a few years. The years had gone well, although he had started his reign with a fight already on his hands.
He won that battle and the people were glad he was their king.
But now he faced a bigger threat.
A stronger enemy.
That perpetual enemy of Israel, the Philistines.

So King Saul gathered his army and prepared to fight.
The problem was that the Philistine army far outnumbered the Israelites.
And both armies knew it very well.

The other problem was that Saul had very clear instructions from his spiritual leader and guide, Samuel, the prophet:
Wait for me to offer the burnt offering and peace offering before you go to battle.
When I come, I will offer them to God to ask his blessing on this battle.
Your job is to wait.

Samuel was a priest as well as a prophet. King Saul wasn’t either one.

Seven days passed.
The enemy army loomed.
While Saul’s army fled.
Each day men drifted away.
And still Samuel did not come.

And here is where Saul had a choice:
The surrendered life?
Or the solve-it life?

He faced a huge problem.
A looming enemy.
And a dwindling army.
From the human perspective he needed to DO something before things got worse.
But to DO something was to go against God’s command.
Because it was not lawful for him to offer the sacrifices.

A surrendered life meant choosing obedience.
It meant choosing to wait, even though the consequences seemed dire.
It meant looking at life with God’s eyes, not human perspective.

And a solve-it life meant disobedience.
Taking matters into his own hands.
Getting on with things so that no more soldiers fled.
After all, who can win a major battle with just a few men?
God had done it before: Sampson, Gideon, even Abraham had gone into battle with incredible odds stacked against them.
But would he choose to remember God’s faithfulness?
Or would he choose to let fear drive him?

Surrender his problem and his will to God?
Or solve his problem with his own wisdom and ways?

Saul chose to solve the problem.
He offered the sacrifices to God.

And no sooner had he finished, then Samuel showed up.

Here’s how it is recorded in I Samuel 13:
“Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him, but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?”

Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle. So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.”

“How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.’”

Unfortunately, that is not the last time that Saul chose the solve-it life over the surrendered one.
You see, he didn’t lose the kingdom immediately.
It happened over time.

But fast-forward to the next fight he had on his hands.
Sometime later, God told him to completely wipe out the Amalekite nation as punishment for their sin.
He very specifically told Saul to not leave anything or anyone alive.

And yet Saul kept the best animals alive.
And he chose to not kill the Amalekite king.

When Samuel arrived, he questioned Saul about the animals he heard.
And Saul claimed he had kept them in order to sacrifice them to the Lord.
But Samuel told him, “To obey is better than sacrifice.”

He also told him God’s message concerning his disobedience: “I am sorry I ever made Saul king.”

A solve-it mentality led Saul to lose both his kingdom and God’s favor. Later on in his story, it caused him to lose his mind. He suffered from a “tormenting spirit” that brought on fits of murderous rage and depression.

Because a solve-it mentality is a tidy, cleaned-up way of declaring, “I don’t trust You, God. I don’t believe You are capable of coming through for me. You aren’t fixing this; You can’t fix this; I don’t trust You to have my best interest at heart. So I’ll take care of this mess on my own.”

Solve-it says, “I can’t see, so I better figure out a way to light my path.”
Surrender says, “I can’t see but I will walk by faith.”

Solve-it says, “God couldn’t possibly win this fight, so I better help Him out.”
Surrender says, “God plus nothing is enough to win any battle I might face.”

Solve-it says, “Look at the facts.”
Surrender says, “Look at His face.”

Solve-it says, “Look out for number one.”
Surrender says, “He is the only One whose opinion matters.”

Solve-it says, “God might not come through.”
Surrender says, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”

Solve-it says, “God doesn’t know what He is doing.”
Surrender says, “My Creator is certainly qualified to be my King.”

Solve-it says, “You better make a Plan B.”
Surrender says, “God is Plan A. There is no Plan B.”

Solve-it says, “Look at the size of that storm!”
Surrender says, “Look at the size of my God!”

Solve-it always ends in disaster.
If not in the circumstances, always in your heart.
Because Solve-it is a form of idolatry.
Kicking God off the throne.
And installing yourself as your final authority.

But Surrender always ends in victory.
Because sometimes He calms the storm.
And sometimes He calms you.
But either way, you have the peace that passes understanding.
The favor of God.
The promise of heaven because you are trusting Him to save you.
And, in the end, the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” instead of “I’m sorry I ever trusted her with that responsibility.

So which will you live today?
The Solve-It Life?
Or the Surrendered one?
Only you can choose.