Here I raise my Ebenezer

Well, since summer has been late to show its warm and sunny face I’ve had some extra time to shuffle papers and sort books and all those indoor organizing kinds of things that really must be done but somehow get put off… I have a closet full of books and papers from seemingly countless years of homeschooling. Considering that I have only one pupil remaining, and two years of instruction to go, it would seem that we don’t need ALL these books. And really, how many samples of handwriting, and weekly schedules and daily assignments do we need to keep? Let’s see, 5 kids X 12 years X 36 weeks X 5 subjects = A massive amount of ‘memorabilia’! Must I keep it all to prove we did something, learned something, and maybe had a little fun doing it?!

Why are some people pack rats anyway? Yes I treasure those forays into creative writing. I love the essays on sundry topics from pranks played on Mom to sailing mishaps to inventive reporting of mundane life experiences… They’re ‘keepers’. I love the artwork (and the doodles) which seem to multiply in proportion to the quantity of paper made available and the ‘dry’ness of the topic at hand… But really, where’s the limit?

So I had me a look at this business of being a ‘pack-rat’ and I found the proper terminology is “compulsive hoarding”… and what’s more, there is a specific syndrome called: Bibliomania – “a disorder involving the collecting or hoarding of books to the point where social relations or health are damaged.” Oh my. Well, my health isn’t in jeopardy yet (though I do seem to have a sore throat and snuffles today… and I did miss a social opportunity to go sailing on this otherwise splendidly sunny and breezy day in order to deal with books…) Hmm. As for the treatment? Anti-depressants and/or psychotherapy can be helpful.

I’m not into drugs, so bring on the psychotherapy! Just so happens I was reading a book (surprise!) and this quote jumped out at me:

“Your preoccupation with satisfaction is the corruption beneath your compulsions” (God’s Love Letters to You–Crabb, 86) 

Huh, what? Read that again… OK, so stretching the context (which I may or may not get back to), I got to thinking about my ‘preoccupation with satisfaction’, even re-worded it… my demand for perfection–to get it right, do it all. In terms of homeschooling, to use every resource to its fullest potential, to learn everything thoroughly, to cover all the bases… and to drive my kids crazy with my edits and demands for more and better and my “it’s-never-quite-good-enough”-ness. Gulp. So I save the books because we’re not quite through with them. So much good content. Wonderful presentation (or not). We could do this… We should go through this one…one day we’ll come back to this… Meanwhile my students have graduated with varying degrees of burn-out, feelings of failure, and a toxic mix of guilt and relief that THAT’s OVER WITH! And me, I hang onto the books and dream…and the papers that verify we learned something through all that!

Ha! Really, given a different personality this job would be a happy picnic. Picking up paper after paper full of memories of small people I got to live and learn with. Small people who were so very clever and such good writers. Each with his/her own angle on the world. Each a challenge and reward all its own. Small people who filled my days with meaning and my life with their delights…Were I not living for perfection, this would be enough, wouldn’t it?!

Why does a book unused have to be a sad thing? Maybe it was a lesson learned (namely, this is not for you; leave it!). A dog learns that lesson. Can’t I? And does a completed book have to feel so bittersweet? Do I really want them all still to be in 4th grade so we can read-aloud together and learn cursive just a little better… What if life is not about hitting perfection today but about lots of ordinary days where we give what we’ve got to the task at hand and celebrate the accompanying grace, in whatever measure it’s bestowed.

What if the process of living and learning and walking it all out by faith is what matters, not the product at all! Maybe the string of such days well lived is all the product that’s expected on my end. Otherwise, at which stage in this process of growing up can one be said to be ‘complete’. And which test will show it so that I can say ‘Whew, that’s done’. If I’m looking for perfection now, there’ll be no rest, no satisfaction, no commendations forthcoming. Only compulsions.

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Gal.5:6

I sometimes fault my students on working as if ‘getting it over with’ is the whole objective, rather than focusing on learning and enjoying the process. Hmm… seems I haven’t taken that too well to heart myself? Lifetime is an unending process; I may as well get used to the open-endedness of it and start recognizing the glory of each stage, as plenty good enough and cause for celebration! [Sorry kids; your mom’s a slow learner]

So we all ‘with unveiled face’ are called to turn from bondage to books or rules or any good thing that makes us think we can better ourselves…we’re called to turn to Jesus, who ministers to us His righteousness, by His own Spirit, as we look and live. This is how we are changed ‘from one degree of glory to another’ until we behold His likeness and are completed in the ‘twinkling of an eye’—graduated. And life as we’ve always hoped and dreamed it would be commences. That will be glory.

In the meantime? Books and papers serve as reminders of the trail of grace we’ve traveled. I began reading I Samuel this week. After all the ‘doing it their own way’ and resultant bondage of Judges, at last there is one who hears from God and begins to free the Israelites to enjoy their inheritance and to realize what a privilege it is to have God as their King. They toss their idols, confess their sin and decide to serve only the LORD. But watch out! It’s not over. Their oppressors rally intent on keeping them in bondage. They call on Samuel: “Do not cease to cry out to the LORD our God for us!” He does. God answers by thunder and the enemy is routed in confusion. And the next thing Samuel does is to set up a stone by way of reminder. He names it Ebenezer, ‘stone of help’ for he said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.”(I Sam.7:12) The territory lost to the enemy is restored and peace reigns…

Yes! I so want that. None of this bondage to stuff or guilt or ‘if only’ or ‘one day…’ or any such thing. Just a calling out to God that routes the enemy and restores the freedom that is my birthright, and the setting up of landmarks that remind me of His faithfulness.  Maybe that’s what this week is about, sorting and sifting through all these years of homeschooling fallout for a ‘stone’ that will cause me no regret, no anguish of heart, only rejoicing at all the way the Lord has led us and will lead us still–until we stand before Him at the commencement exercises to hear the words: “Well done thou good and faith-filled student. Enter into the joy of your Lord”. Let the wedding feast begin!


I close with these original lyrics to the familiar hymn: Come, Thou Fount
by Robert Robinson (1758)

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise….

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.


Not for Keeps

Listen to this sound reasoning. (I’m still reading in Judges)  Here the Ammonites are, itching to go to war against Israel to reclaim some lost territory, and Jephthah runs them through a short history lesson, reminding them of their defeat many years before and concluding with these words… “Will you not take what your god Chemosh gives you? Likewise, whatever the LORD our God has given us, we will possess.” (Judges 11:24) I like that! 

I’ve been thinking lately that contentment is the very safest place to be, contentment with whatever the Lord chooses to provide. After all, He knows me better than I know me. He loves me better too. He knows the desires of my heart when I’m not sure I even know what I want. And He’s committed to my best good all my days. What He gives me I’ll possess. And in truth, we have inherited a FORTUNE! We are of all people most fortunate:

And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making for yourself a name for great and awesome things, in driving out nations before your people whom you redeemed from Egypt? And you made your people Israel to be your people forever, and you, O LORD, became their God. I Chr.17:21,22

For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? Deut.4:7

The tricky part is when the possession is not ‘for keeps’. Few things are in this lifetime. We had a pastor years back who always reminded us to hold everything God gives in an open hand. Receive it with gratitude, enjoy it to the full, but don’t demand that it be yours for keeps. We are managers. God is the rightful owner. He would hold out his hand with an open palm to illustrate.

I’m holding out mine this morning… returning a gift I’ve enjoyed immensely for 8 years—a gift that has opened up my world to endless retreats and vistas, to unforgettable moments with God in His creation, enabling me to get beyond the self-conscious insecurity of being ‘out there’ alone and to enjoy the quiet– listening for God’s still small voice and giving no thought to my ‘alone-ness’. What a gift. What a Gift-giver! His was more than the gift of a mere dog; in giving me Louie He has taken my heart on a journey to Himself with every trail we’ve walked together. This has been a sweet season of fellowship with the Giver Himself.

And now, I must trust Him for the next leg of my journey. Today is but a bend in the trail I cannot see beyond. But mine is the Good Shepherd—he never grows old or debilitated, never changes, never fails.

He is the God who sees. Jehovah-jireh, which I’ve always understood to mean God Provides, literally means “Jehovah SEES”. He ‘looks after’ what concerns me. He takes note of everything—whether Abraham about to sacrifice his only son,(Gen.22:14) or Ishmael’s mother-to-be banished to the desert, (Gen.16:13,14)…or little old me bereft of my hiking companion and feeling that my big wide world has suddenly become restricted territory, my most delightful freedom lost…

I am reminding myself today of God’s good Hand—

For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. Ps.84:11

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Mt.7:11)
This is not talking about hiking companions but the ultimate Companion, the person of the Holy Spirit himself, mine for the asking, mine forever. How a dog’s death pales in comparison to the privilege of being in the care of such a One…

My God shall supply all Your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Phil.4:19) It’s not about my needs for my pleasure, but my needs for His service. What new direction does God intend to turn me. What’s beyond this bend in the trail? I can’t say; but His supply will be there.

Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. Ps. 34:9,10 Well, that covers just about everything. What more could I want? Should I want more?

So…as I vacuum up last dog hairs, and collect my thoughts and all the dog things—the brush, the leash, the blanket, the memories…I will hope through the tears for good things yet to come, for new seasons, new growth, new trails with my Good Shepherd. And I will thank Him for all his good gifts–the forever ones and the ones that are so very sweet, but not for keeps. He is my Father. He knows what’s best.

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.” (Ps. 36:7-9)


“So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” (Gen.16:13)

March on, my soul, with might!

I’ve just started reading Judges, figuring it would be good to take a break from the Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament and read again the story lines of people so obviously flawed, so hard-headedly inconsistent in their love of God, so… like me?

Judges is a sad book, hard to read as a parent. Would you have wanted to be Samson’s mother? She knew from the ‘get-go’ that her son had a special calling on his life. An angel told her so–perhaps the pre-incarnate Christ Himself. Samson was chosen to ‘begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.’ (Judges13:5) There was no training manual though. The father even asked for details: “…what is to be the child’s manner of life, and what is his mission?” The only instructions were that the mother was to watch her diet strictly and the child was to forego haircuts.

You know the story of Samson’s life—a pretty carnal guy. He wanted what he wanted. Got mad when he couldn’t have it. Acted impetuously. And he was strong, except in the control of his own desires. He started out on the wrong foot by all appearances, marrying a good-looking but pagan Philistine gal. Despite his parents’ protest he insisted that he had to have her and ironically, this was part of God’s plan for him ‘for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines’.

OK, so the story goes from bad to worse, though granted there are some epic slaughters of God’s enemies along the way. But at last Samson is rendered a blind weakling and put to forced labor for the enemy. What were his parents thinking now? But his life mission was not yet complete. He remembers the source of his strength and asks for one more chance: “O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once…” And in his death more of God’s enemies are killed than during his entire lifetime! He completed his mission. His name is recorded with the ‘greats’ of faith alongside David and Gideon, as one who through faith ‘[was] made strong out of weakness’.  And I, as a mother looking on, have to check my petty self-centered goals for my kids. They are God’s. Their mission in life is for His glory, not my comfort, pleasure or affirmation.  There’s a much bigger story here than my own gratification. God’s glory is the point of the story, the plot and culmination of which are in His hands as well.

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable [are] his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
For of him, and through him, and to him, [are] all things: to whom [be] glory for ever. Amen.”  (Rom.11:33-36)

I read another mother’s story in Judges this morning. There’s a song extolling her: —‘I, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel’(Judges 5:7) And what a time it was—God’s people lived in oppression and fear, helpless under the enemy’s dominion. But Deborah, a mom who listened for God’s direction, spoke up. And the scenario was tranformed. “The leaders took the lead..the people offered themselves willingly” and the enemy was routed. It was God’s doings of course. He had pity on his people in their helpless misery and raised up one judge after another to rally the people to their own defense. With their God in command they were strong. Without Him they were bait for the enemy. 

Reflecting on this era in Israel’s history, I wonder how closely it parallels ours. Here was a generation that had grown up ‘not know[ing] the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel’. (Judges 2:10) The drama of the exodus from Egypt, the miraculous provision in the wilderness for 40 years, the mighty conquests in the Promised Land under Joshua, these were all ‘old-school’, foggy history. This was a new generation, intrigued by new gods, influenced by the pagan cultures that surrounded them—cultures that they were to rise up and destroy, cultures left to test their loyalty to God and give them opportunity to learn to fight! Instead they served them. They let the fear of false gods displace their rightful fear of the only one true God.

Gideon was a child of this time. His story is told in such lifelike dialogue it makes me smile. When the angel of the Lord appears to him announcing “The Lord is with you” , he quite frankly (but politely) asks: “Please sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us?”  (and why aren’t we seeing all the amazing miracles that our fathers told us about?)  Have I never heard this question asked? Have I not wondered the same thing? How does God answer?: “And the LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hands of Midian; do not I send you?” (Judges 6:14) GULP! But that’s not what I was asking?! “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel?…” Well, it’s the standard answer, the same one you and I have, “I will be with you…”

It seems every new generation is given opportunity to walk in the strength of the Lord and see His mighty works.

If we aren’t seeing God at work, why not? Have we bowed to the gods of this world while they wreak their agenda on our families, our society, our world as we cower thinking there’s nothing we can do to stop them? God’s word is living and still pertinent when it says: “I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the A____ in whose land you dwell. But you have not obeyed my voice.”    Oh. Ouch.    It struck me this morning as I read this that to fear is to accord a kind of worship. When I cower in fear I am doing homage to other gods…not a good starting point for walking by faith in God’s strength…

So, if our generation, our kids’ generation, is to see the Hand of God at work in our surroundings, in our lifetimes, where do we start? From what I see in Judges (so far), it starts with a renewed estimate of who our God is and what His desire is for us. It starts with walking in the confidence that He is indeed with us and ‘mighty to save’!

The rest of Gideon’s story, the part where the amazing miracles begin and the oppression of the enemy ends, reveals an essential sequence: It reads like this: “And God said…” ,… “and Gideon did so.” There’s a listening and an acting on what is heard. The results? Well, they’re up to God. Maybe kingdoms will be conquered, or justice enforced. Maybe lions’ mouths will be shut and fires quenched. Then again, maybe we’ll be mocked and imprisoned, killed with a sword or sawn in two… (Heb.11) but whatever it will be, God’s might will be made known in and through us when we walk faithfully with Him.

For whatever generation we belong to there is a calling that remains unchanged: You are my witnesses, and my servant whom I have chosen that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses, declares the LORD, and I am God. Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work and who can turn it back?” (Is.43:10-12)

And boy, I think this book of Judges is maybe not so sad after all.  The more I read the more I see this theme of God pursuing His people, not content to let them write Him off as irrelevant or optional.  He pursues them and rescues them again and again from their captors, allowing their circumstances to wean them from other gods and make them desperate enough to call on Him for deliverance.  And He is ultimately the victor—their lives make Him look good!  Will He not do the same for us and ours?

WOW! March on, my soul, with might! (Deborah’s song, Judges 5:21)


‘Work, for I am with you,declares the LORD of hosts…’My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not’.”  (Haggai 2:4,5)

“He trains my hands for battle, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, And Your right hand upholds me; And Your gentleness makes me great.” (Psalm 18:34,35)

Hit Between the Eyes–Facing up to wrong beliefs

What do you do when faced with a lifetime built on the wrong paradigm?

Thanks to the conspiracy of the Holy Spirit and the books that have dropped into my life this week, I’ve been reminded of a paradigm shift that is incomplete in my life–one of those belief systems that dies hard and must be weeded out root by root… Mine has been the upbringing of a self-righteous Pharisee. No blame intended, it’s just what I latched onto as a means to satisfy my need to please…

Little by little the Spirit shows me what he sees and what I need to confess and reject. I’m still trying to frame clearly in words this insidious belief system that sabotages my heart. It’s something to the effect of believing that doing the right thing, avoiding mistakes, treading cautiously so as not to slip and fall, living wary of potential failure… all these things are indispensable to maintaining a ‘right-eousness’ that will not only qualify me for the Kingdom but guarantee me an A+ standing. Yep, I got Jesus ‘on board’ at an early age too, as that was clearly the ‘right’ thing to do in my religious community, and I might need His help along the way…. Cultivating a relationship with Him was clearly requisite to maintaining my ‘righteousness’ (and bolstering my insecurities). So I did, as much as a self-righteous sinner can. But I’ve always been goaded by stories that depict great love and adoration, great mercy, forgiveness and compassion. The self-righteous generally are.

Consider, for instance, the publican and the Pharisee going up to pray. Who gets a hearing? Not the “I thank thee that I am not like that lout of a man”, but the miserable repentant sinner who pleads: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”(Luke 18).

And what’s this with the prostitute kneeling at Jesus’ feet weeping and washing His feet with her tears, trusting His compassionate heart to forgive: “Her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Lk.7:47) I have long secretly envied her heart-felt extravagance.

“Little love” is not enough to empower a life of self-forgetful service and whole-hearted sacrifice! Anything short of my life a ‘living sacrifice’ is insufficient worship to offer. But giving up my fabricated ‘righteousness’ and dogged self-preservation feels like a life-sentence. Hmm… ‘death to self’ could it be? What would that look like?

I’m reading a book I borrowed from my dad-in-law entitled: Living Sacrifice (Roseveare). It’s been one of those times in my life when books conspire to nail me between the eyes with my condition. Whether Owen Meany* (see last week’s blog) and his sense of destiny to give his life to save others, or Helen Roseveare’s reflections on lessons learned as a missionary in the Congo/Zaire, or the book I have yet to mention that came in the mail this week for me to review…All point to a love that is not only willing but glad to surrender its life for another. If these are not enough hints, there’s Paul’s joyful letter to the Philippians, in which he extols the privilege of suffering for Christ’s sake. It has been granted to us that ‘for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for his sake…’ (Phil.1:29).

Paul himself experienced the rigorous life of the true Pharisee with its confidence, zeal, and blamelessness and declared it all a net loss, garbage in comparison to the worth of knowing Christ, sharing His righteousness, His resurrection power and His sufferings. It was the goal of Paul’s life to be like Christ, humbly obedient to the point of death. Where does that kind of self-forgetful zeal come from?

My guess is, love. And Paul’s own words in his letter to the Corinthians confirm it: “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. II Cor. 5:14,15

This kind of self-sacrificing love is unfamiliar territory for the self-righteous—wise in their own sight, self-sufficient, not cognizant of the grace in which they live and breathe. Thinking they have little to be forgiven, they love little. I wonder if you saw “The Passion of the Christ” (Gibson, 2004) when it came out? I watched alone those moments of Christ’s trial when the pious Pharisees and chief priests in all their regalia were standing smugly by and I was struck with my own culpability. But then with awe I realized that this repugnantly self-righteous lot were among those for whom Christ came to die. His piercing words to them throughout His ministry–calling them ‘white-washed sepulchers’, blind guides, children of the devil—were not meant to condemn but to confront them with their sinful selves so they could repent and be saved.

And even still Christ calls to self-righteous me, to relinquish my rubbish and rely on His righteousness alone. And again, by faith, I trade in my bankrupt agenda for His and trust Him to put His great love in my heart. I can’t serve Him without it.

It’s got to be by faith. Everything else reeks of self and sin. “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Rom.14:23 I do want to ‘get it right’ but my motives are so skewed. Jesus is not only the founder of my faith, but its perfecter (Heb.12:2) It’s not about the perfection of what I do but of my faithresting my whole case on Christ from beginning to end. “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” (Col.2:6) It doesn’t just start with believing I’m a hopeless sinner and He’s my Saviour. It continues that way. He saves me from myself every day by passing day, and my only hope of walking worthy of my calling is by faith, that He is able…thus the fear and trembling of ‘working out my own salvation’ (Phil.2:12) for it is this awesome, holy, perfect, almighty God that is in the process of redeeming my life and making it an instrument of redemption…

Larry Crabb goes so far as to state: “Without an ongoing consciousness of sin, any sense of nearness to [God] is counterfeit. But with consciousness of sin, the fire of purifying holiness will sustain your faith.”(God’s Love Letters to You,44) I’m still chewing on this one.

Helen Roseveare’s stories viewed apart from such a work of God only make me squirm. Such self-sacrificial service was her response to Jesus’ love and death for her, ‘a way to express to God [my] great love for Him.’ When she speaks of this ‘insistent demand in our heart to express to Him our love’ I hesitate in self-examination. But the last enigmatic straw is this willingness to suffer, the costliness of such a love. She speaks of it as the ‘privileged opportunity of sharing in His love’, of ‘jointly demonstrating’ it to others…

Am I willing to give my whole heart, soul, mind and strength for His purposes—the loan of all I am, for His glory, without advance notice of the implications, and without life-time guarantees? This is going to have to be a process He works out in me too, by faith. When I glance through the Hebrews 11 crowd, that great cloud of witnesses to the life of faith, I am stretched.

  • choosing mistreatment with God’s people rather than ‘the fleeting pleasures of sin’
  • considering ‘the reproach of Christ’ greater wealth than Egypt’s treasures because of the reward in view…
  • enduring ‘as seeing Him who is invisible’
  • refusing release ‘so that they might rise again to a better life’
  • ‘of whom the world was not worthy’
  • ‘for the joy set before Him’ enduring the cross

    All of them were looking ahead to another reality—an unshakeable Kingdom, which made their present losses of no account. Not living under persecution or great hardships it is easy to get lulled into clinging to present comforts and shunning discomfort. I’m challenged by the perspective Larry Crabb champions in his recent book God’s Love Letters to You (Thomas Nelson, 2010) These devotional excerpts certainly don’t read like conventional ‘love letters’. They continuously point to a greater hope than the present, a bigger purpose than present ‘blessings’–God’s sort of ‘tough love’–designed to prepare us for Kingdom living. For instance:

“The greatest danger My people face today is prosperity, blessings that reinforce the false hope that nothing serious will ever go wrong in their lives if they just keep believing, expecting, trusting, and smiling….When every expectation of how your life should turn out is shattered; when I seem to you like an indifferent, cold sovereign, a promise breaker, a useless God, an abandoning parent, rejoice! You are ready for the unveiling, to meet Me as I am.” (47)

“When your life hits a bump that I could smooth but don’t, will you continue to think I should surrender My wisdom to yours and do what you think best?”(50)


“My people in Judges never repented. They remained in love with their own sense of well-being, with no understanding that love, real love, the love that defines Me, involves suffering the loss of well-being for the sake of another….You…are inclined to depend on Me for the good life of blessings and to mistake that dependence for love. You’re more afraid of losing the good life than of losing (or never gaining) a close relationship with Me. You do not yet see that being with Me is your greatest blessing, no matter what else may be happening in you life.”(20)


“Know this: those who live by faith will struggle in ways that those who live to make their lives work will never know. It is that struggle, to believe despite desperate pain and confusion that a good plan is unfolding, that will open your eyes to see Me more clearly. Is that what you want? Will you pay the price?

“The price is this: you will tremble in agony as you live in a sinful, self-prioritizing world. You will learn to wait in emptiness and frustrated desire for My plan of love to reveal itself…”(53)

And so, God loves, and we believe, as we bank on His righteousness being sufficient. And we wait for our full redemption, ‘prisoners of hope’, confident that God is working in us to make us like His Son and love the world through us in the meantime.

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe” (Heb.12:28)

God be merciful to me, a sinner,


*My book review of: A Prayer for Owen Meany is at:

Destined to be a GRAND Mom…

“Grandmom” has taken on new meaning for me. My firstborn’s firstborn is learning to talk and now can utter this magic word. Magic, because it addresses ME! The ‘me’ who was once ‘destined’ to be a single woman missionary and Bible translator…the ‘me’ who never dreamed of having kids, let alone grandkids, who never babysat or dared to hold a baby lest it cry and never dreamed of finding the man who would change my destiny!

From time to time you hear a person say they’ve ‘missed their calling’. They find themselves in a future they hadn’t seen coming with a job description they feel ill-prepared for. Or they’re looking over the neighbor’s fence, so to speak, and envying his lot. Or maybe the ‘good old days’, the leeks and garlic of Egypt suddenly seem more appealing than the present wilderness (or bewildered-ness?!).

Sometimes I feel like that. And sometimes I reflect on how different life might have been. But I am SO glad I do not hold the Master Plan. The ‘calling’ that is mine I might have missed–this calling that at once delights me and intimidates me…

I’ve been pondering destiny this week. Perhaps it’s a side-effect of my summer reading project, a novel entitled: A Prayer for Owen Meany.* Here was a kid that believed in destiny. He set his face like flint to face what he believed his own destiny, no matter how fearful. He believed his hands were God’s and God would accomplish His purposes through his life. There are no ‘accidents’. Come what may, it was his destiny and he would accept it as such. He had faith in a sovereign God. Despite what could be viewed as tragedy woven through the course of his life and finishing him off at a young age, he dies clearly a hero. He ‘finishes his course’ confident that he has fulfilled his God-ordained destiny. There is triumph in spite of all the story’s sadness.

In contrast to Owen Meany is the attitude of his life-long friend who struggles to believe that anything he might decide to do would matter. He is forever indecisive, waiting to see what will happen next… He feels life happens by chance and ‘luck’. The book is in fact his story of coming to faith, because of Owen Meany. All five-hundred plus pages went down this past week on our drive to visit the grandbabies…and have been stirred into my thoughts on calling and destiny…

I guess we are at a time in life where it is not altogether clear where we are headed or what is next. Once-upon-a-time it was quite straightforward—school, college, marriage, special training for missions, babies, missions, furlough travel, homeschooling…but now all that is ‘history’ as they say and we are nearing half-a-century of antiquity ourselves. What’s next? Have I made my ‘mark’ on the world? Have I walked in all those ‘good works’ prepared for me from the foundation of the world? (Eph. 2:10) Is the way I walk ‘worthy of my calling’? (Eph.4:1) Is the fruit of my life fruit that ‘will remain’?(Jn.15:16)


If you’ve read my mind here for long, you know I ask more questions than I find answers for, and today’s are no exception. I sat on a slope laden with pine-needles this morning, inhaling the essence of wild rose and hot pine, watching an osprey soar to alight on a towering pine tree, listening to the roar of the river rushing white far below… and reading in Isaiah. Big picture words. Strength-giving words. Words of destiny and assurance. And pondering what it means to live life without a blue-print, yet in the personal care of the Designer of Heaven and Earth!

I share my findings with you:

“I, I am He who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, … and have forgotten the LORD, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, and you fear continually all the day because of the wrath of the oppressor, when he sets himself to destroy?” (Is.51:12,13)

“I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the LORD of hosts is His name. And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand,…saying to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” (Is.51:15,16)

“Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments… Your God reigns!(Is.52:1,7) (The JOY of the Lord is your strength; you are clothed in His righteousness)

“Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced…
For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth He is called. For the LORD has called you…”

“In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear;…If anyone stirs up strife, it is not from me; whoever stirs up strife with you shall fall because of you…no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed…this is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication (righteousness) from me, declares the Lord.” (Is.54:14-17)

“…for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children.” (Is.49:25)

“But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced;…Behold, the Lord GOD helps me; who will declare me guilty?(Is. 50:7-9)

I love Isaiah. His writing is so powerful and comforting. But speaking of destinies… I wonder how he viewed his?! He was willing to go and preach to the people of Israel but was told ahead of time that they would not listen and his words would seem to be in vain. (Is.6) Still He was chosen to speak and spend His life pleading with Israel to listen to God’s words… He died not seeing the fruit of his life, perhaps little knowing that he would give to the world the prophecies concerning Christ and bring hope to countless generations!

Who am I to question my calling and wonder about the worth of my destiny? It is God who is at work in me, giving both “the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Phil.2:13) He has the blueprint. He is the builder. I can trust Him with the process.

And when I wonder if I am ‘up to it’, this GRAND calling, I read again Solomon’s words:
“Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in…So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”
(I Kings 3:7-9) I am reminded of my source and why I’m called to pray without ceasing! My competence or incompetence is not the issue. Even Paul acknowledged this:

“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.” (II Cor.3:5)

This God who calls the foolish and the weak (I Cor. 1:26ff) to show off His power is fully able to accomplish what concerns me.

I have gradually been making my way through a little book with yellowing pages called: The Saving Life of Christ by Ian Thomas (Zondervan,1961). Its emphasis is on the untapped nature of the life that is ours because we are in Christ, created in Him to be ‘the human vehicle of the divine life, inhabited by God for God.’ ‘What you are is totally irrelevant…if only you will recognize the principle that it is God that works in you…’ Citing the lives of such as Jacob and David and Elijah and Isaiah, he states that ‘it is in the school of destitution—the bitter school of self-discovery—that finally you graduate into usefulness, when at last you discover the total bankruptcy of what you are apart from what God is!’ (63) He suggests that while living in the past tense of remembering what the Lord has done, or the future tense of His soon coming, ‘we forget that He is the eternal I AM, the eternal present tense, adequate right now for every need!’

I appreciated his thoughts today regarding vocation. Referring to Moses’ life he remarks that it is not man’s ability but his availability that qualifies a man for God. Our commitment isn’t to a need or a job so much as it is to God. He is looking for restful availability and a prompt response to His every impulse. God calls me to ‘Be still, and know that I am God’. In other words, ‘quit the panic! Just let God be God!’ These are all reminders that I need as I reflect on my ‘job description’. In another chapter on our completeness in Christ, Ian Thomas suggests: ‘Relate everything, moment by moment as it arises, to the adequacy of what he is in you, and assume that His adequacy will be operative…” (Thomas,16). Boy! I sure want to get the hang of that!

How GRAND this Mom shall be is only limited by how yielded she is to the God who is her strength. What place she will have in her children’s and grandchildren’s lives is then subject to her Designer’s specifications. I find comfort in knowing I’m not left to my own resources; I love these words in Hosea: I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from me.” (14:8)

So let the (grand)children come!

“For the LORD comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.” (Is.51:3)

 And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God in all that you undertake. Deut.12:18

*By way of disclaimer, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (William Morrow and Co., 1989) is not a ‘Christian’ book per say, and being a ‘coming-of-age’ novel centered around two boys’ lives, contains language, sex and some violence, but a great deal also to chew on regarding faith, religion, and God’s sovereignty. It is set in the era of the Vietnam War, so expect also controversial American politics. That being said, it is an unforgettable and very skillfully written story. (For a fuller review see my book review blog at: )