Our Fire-tending God

I had a hurried time in the Word one day this week, catching just a few snatches, a short Psalm, but even a few snatches are powerful when the Spirit applies them to the heart.  I read Psalm 93:

The LORD reigns…the world is established; it shall never be moved…The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods lift up their roaring!!
Mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty!  Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore.”

And I scribbled these words in my journal before scooting off to breakfast and on with the day: How will this truth live in my thoughts and actions today and bring life to damaged belief systems?

I struggle with varied nagging fears.  It is my nature not to trust completely and to feel instead that it’s up to me to insure my well-being, and that of those I love.  This is problematic when circumstances are clearly outside my control!  I have been thinking about these things and on this particular day I got a little object lesson in how senseless and peace-robbing my fears are, and how trustworthy and holy-making is God’s Word at work in my heart.

Jim was burning brush in the backyard—a great mound of it left from his landscaping work… It has been so very dry here this summer. Fire bans were in effect while forest fires raged in record breaking ways nearby. But the rain has returned and cooler temperatures allow for burning once again. Still there is always a risk. And the crackling of fire, the smoke, the consciousness of its heat and potential make me wary… Well, so I took lunch out to Jim as he stood sentinel by his blazing inferno.  And we sat together at a short distance to eat. But I could not relax, could not enter into our usual discussion of life and faith… I kept straining to see if the fire was within its parameters and had not reached to lick up dry grass and spread out of control…It wasn’t my job. Jim was in charge. He was mindful. (And he is after all a trained fire fighter!)  But I felt an undue responsibility and it robbed me of a peaceful lunch and  meaningful conversation. But I recognized it, and that’s a start.

Well, the day was too lovely to be holed up indoors so after lunch I brought my current project out to sit and keep Jim company–stitching a pine needle basket. There’s nothing quite so peaceful and therapeutic, especially on such a day when there’s  just enough sun to be warm and enough cool to feel refreshed, enough autumn in the air to luxuriate in the remains of summer!  A perfectly restful idea, EXCEPT for the presence of that crackling blazing fire.

Could I actually relax and attend to MY business and let Jim attend to his as if there were no fire crackling nearby, no smoke lazily rising, no threat of catching the world on fire! I almost chose to stay inside rather than wrestle with my fears.

It seems a silly example but for my heart it was a moment to rest in  a bigger reality. God is the Fire-tender. (He is Himself a consuming fire!). His domain reaches infinitely beyond my own. He has given me a calling within it along with its attendant duties; these are my domain. He intends for me to carry them out at peace with the world–to stay calm and carry on, so to speak, to mind my own business, looking to Him for the wherewithal to do so and let Him mind His. When I do my task with inner peace and quiet joy, confident in His superintending care, I honor Him as a very good King. I am a subject; He the King. How blessed are the subjects of a wise King, as Queen Sheba commented in observing King Solomon’s impressive court.   And what  glory contented subjects bring to their King.

And with these thoughts fed by the morning’s reading of the Word, I sat and stitched…and let the fire be somebody else’s business.  The LORD reigns.  Forever.  Period.  The noise of a flood (or a fire!) may be in my ears, but HE reigns.  It can do no harm but what He allows.  This was a relevant object lesson for me.  I can trust Him to manage the fires in my life—the burning away of dross, the disciplining of His children for the sake of our holiness.  My response?  I can REJOICE in GOD even as I tremble at His Word.  Abiding in Him I can ask, knock, and seek,  confident that He hears, that He knows, and that He will grant what is in line with His purposes.  There is great peace in such an arrangement.

If you were to ask Jim whether I have fully learned this lesson of trust, he would let you know I’m still querying him about the smoke drifting past the window as the roots continue to burn day and night…I still remind him to check on things (as if he needed my reminder), and to be honest, I’m still a little on edge about this fire business in the back yard. I’ll be relieved when it has burned itself out completely.   But there it is, my object lesson about needless fears.  Were God only a consuming fire and not perfect LOVE, were I not His by means of a covenant He established and I have entered into by faith, I would do well to fear the FIRE.  But as it is, He is committed to my good, bringing all that He is to the task, for His glory’s sake.  He is a covenant keeping God.  I can rest in this… and go on stitching my little pine needle baskets to His glory…

So whatever you are doing today, do it to the glory of God—with quiet confidence that He reigns in all the raging world around, as you fulfill His purposes for you in the here and now.



“…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God…” Rom. 5:1,2

More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Rom.5:11

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” Rom.5:17

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,  keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Jude 1:20-21

All that Matters in the Messy Moments

You’ve no doubt had those moments–when harsh reality hits and the world stops spinning for just a bit, or for weeks and months…  You didn’t see it coming, you had hoped and prayed it never would.  But it is here and is not welcome. It could be a death, a crash, a conversation, a crisis.  But in the moment life lies shattered at your feet.  This is not what you’d planned.

If we haven’t yet lived through such moments, we’ve surely seen them: Babies die; marriages self-destruct; dreams unravel; children depart; heroes fall; and, if we are honest with ourselves, we fail, miserably.  It is in the messes of our lives that we discover where our hope lies.

Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Rom.8:24,25

It is in the crushing of our hopes that we discover how we have defined success. For me, I had thought never failing, or at least avoiding mistakes, was tantamount to success.  Keeping my nose clean, making only the best choices, and training my children to do the same–in hopes of us all living happily forever and always– was my definition of success.  But it’s not God’s.

 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. Gal.5:6

He’s not so concerned that we fail (nor is He surprised!).  His concern is that we repent.
It is not the sister caught in a sin that He resists, but the one who refuses to call upon her Saviour.
And it is not the good-deed-a-holic that impresses Him, but the one who believes.

Faith in the One who is our very Life is what matters.  And growing and fortifying that faith is God’s priority for His children.  Without it we cannot please Him.  Without it we haven’t got a life.

“…but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. Jn.20:31

So He allows us to make mistakes, to bring heaps of trouble on ourselves, to parent badly, to  make poor choices and even to live with the consequences.  Though He can, and we pray and plead that He will, God doesn’t always prevent disasters or circumvent consequences, or override our choices.  But He always uses them for our good and His glory.

It’s not that He doesn’t see or care.  It’s just that He has a bigger purpose in mind than our perfect track record or our seamless happiness.  If your own story doesn’t bear this out (yet), pick a Bible story, any story, and slow it down to feel the moments as they play out.  Stop the video as Naomi’s husband and sons die, one by one, leaving her alone in a foreign land…

Listen in as the gate clangs shut on Joseph’s prison cell. He’s done nothing to ‘deserve’ this; he’s been faithful; but here he sits.

And how was Samson’s mom feeling the day he married Delilah?  She’d followed God’s instructions and raised him as a Nazarite, but he wanted this girl so badly…

John the Baptist, faithful forerunner to Jesus, knew of faithfulness unrewarded.  He lost his head in prison.

Peter knew failure.  He had betrayed his most valued friend– His Lord and God!  Talk about disillusionment, what would it have been like to watch the One you’d trusted to save you be crucified Himself?

Messy moments. Painful moments–moments that were impossible to comprehend in the moment.   But each was a masterpiece God was creating.  We see this in hindsight.  But only the eye of faith could have imagined it.

  • A Moabite, Naomi’s daughter-in-law is planted in the family line of Jesus displaying the glorious grace of God that outshines the Law’s demands.
  • Joseph emerges from the dungeon to sit at Pharaoh’s right hand with the power to save God’s people from starvation!
  • Samson regains his faith and his strength and conquers God’s enemies by the laying down of his life.

We would not have scripted these stories this way.  At least I wouldn’t have!  But each is a story of redemption and of faith.  God saves the day. Messes are made to serve His purposes.  Faith is made strong.

[A little side note, do you know what Joseph was commended for?  “By faith, Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.” Heb.11:22 He would not live  to see his beloved home again but he died believing God would be faithful in taking His people back home to their own land one day…]

This is God’s heart for HIs children—that they would believe and so see His great glory.  This is our destiny and it is the overarching story of our lives.  All else pales in importance.

I read the story of Lazarus’ death today.  There was a crisis.  Lazarus lay dying. Mary and Martha sent for Jesus to come and heal Him.  He delayed, on purpose.  And Lazarus died. Why? Martha couldn’t understand it:  “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  She knew Jesus could heal him.  But what she did not yet know was that He could raise the dead.  He delayed for the sake of his friends and followers, so that they might believe and behold the glory of God.Jn.11:14,21,40

Our most painful moments may be the ones through which God is most greatly glorified.

Peter rebounded from his painful failure to write us this encouragement:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,  so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. I Pet.1:3-9 ESV

Faith is the victory that overcomes the world–faith in the God who sees where we cannot, faith in the God who is good when it’s NOT all good with us and ours. And as I sweep up my own pieces, wipe away tears and look around for Bandaids to patch my heart, I hear the distant strains of a symphony.  It is faint, just barely audible.  It’s the sound of hope, a better hope, dreams yet unimagined.  God is orchestrating circumstances for His own glory and for the refining of His children.  Ours is a God who redeems.  I will set my hope on Him.


[Our] Redeemer is strong; the LORD of hosts is his name! Jer.50:34

“…I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” –Jesus Lk.22:32

For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. I Jn.5:4

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. Ps.34:18,19


May I offer you a song in hopes that it will bless your heart as it has mine?
Listen here or go to YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMeFzFUbmJo

“Blessings” by Laura Story

Better yet, two songs ( :

We Believe
Listen on You Tube here:


In this time of desperation
When all we know is doubt and fear
There is only one foundation
We believe, we believe
In this broken generation
When all is dark, You help us see
There is only one salvation
We believe, we believe

We believe in God the Father
We believe in Jesus Christ
We believe in the Holy Spirit
And He’s given us new life
We believe in the crucifixion
We believe that He conquered death
We believe in the resurrection
And He’s coming’ back again, we believe

So, let our faith be more than anthems
Greater than the songs we sing
And in our weakness and temptations
We believe, we believe!

Let the lost be found and the dead be raised!
In the here and now, let love invade!
Let the church live love our God will save
We believe, we believe!
And the gates of hell will not prevail!
For the power of God, has torn the veil!
Now we know Your love will never fail!
We believe, we believe!

He’s comin’ back again!
He’s comin’ back again!
We believe!
We believe

–by Newsboys


When RIGHT goes wrong…

I cannot take the words back. They’re in print.  But they caused such pain.  What went wrong?  I’ve re-read them for content and I still stand by them.  They represent what I wanted to say, what I felt I needed to say.  I believed I was sending them in love, ‘for your good’.  But they cut like a knife; you’re bleeding.  Now what?

I have retraced my steps this week to think about what it means to ‘speak the truth in love’.  These thoughts have synced with my pondering of what it means to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  I’ve been thinking about each of these facets of me, wondering what it would look like to love God as He intends. For instance, if I am to love the Lord my God with all my heart what does this look like?

It’s one thing to love Him with the use of my mind; this seems to be my preferred mode. With my mind I study His Word.  With my mind I compose thoughts. Knowing the truth. Pondering the truth.  These things I enjoy doing.   But sometimes my heart gets left behind.

I can write right words without letting a heart of love control them.  Love is patient, love is kind.  It is not arrogant or rude insisting on its own way of thinking.  It is not driven by irritation or resentment.  (Words composed out of frustration are seldom words that effect the desired result!)  Words fired like rock salt  from a shotgun, though true, will only burn and wound.  These aren’t the wounds of a friend. 

I’m not big on mercy.  As those nearest me have already realized, it does not come naturally to me.  I’m all about TRUTH!  But without tender mercy truth only wounds, doing more harm than good.  Like a bleach bath for eczema, the proportions matter!  Too much bleach irritates, burns and destroys the skin it is intended to heal.

To love God with all my heart means I have to apply truth with kindness and gentleness, keeping truth and mercy in careful proportion.  Knowing and SAYING(!) what is right is not enough.  To love the Lord with all my heart means loving others in my dispensing of the truth they need to hear. It is not enough to say I’m speaking because I love them.  I must “speak the truth IN LOVE’’.  Love builds up. It encourages with the aim of motivating change for the other’s good.

Paul shows how this is done in advising Timothy how to negotiate with those who oppose him:  “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.”  Why?  Because the object is not to spout off the truth in offensive ways so that I can wear an “I’M RIGHT—YOU’RE WRONG” badge with self-congratulatory smugness.  (Love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”)  The object is to win over the ‘opponent’ to the truth.  To help him see rightly.  Caustic words don’t do that.  Gentle words may.  But ultimately it is God who grants the repentance that leads to a knowledge of truth.  Humble words delivered gently are much more apt to engender this coming to one’s senses and so escaping the snare of deception.  Isn’t this the object? 

Too often I have thought that being right and saying so would suffice.

But God speaks gently. He is kind. And patient. He leads me to repentance…by means of the Truth.


Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. Ps.19:14

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Eph.4:29

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
II Tim.2:24-26

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person. Col.4:6

God in the ordinary

There are a lot of very ordinary days, very quiet ones, at this stage in our lives.  Nothing to write home about.  A simple list of tasks accomplished represents the day, at least to all outward appearances.

What did I do today…

–pedaled 40 miles with my honey, to keep us in shape, body and soul
–peeled apples for a crisp
–made a quick dish of fresh applesauce with roadside apples
–beat up a pan of fresh hot buns for supper with company
–threaded my way around another row of pine needles out on the porch in the late afternoon sun,  shaping a wee basket, while the coolness of fall invited thoughts of Thanksgiving on the way…
–sat here at my laptop wondering what to say this week, what is the Lord teaching me?
–and got distracted from my ponderings to research hand eczema and what to do about its persistent and maddening itch!

These are the externals, this is what you would have seen if you were here today watching… pretty uneventful.

But then there are the quiet unseen things—the ‘aha’ moments of reassurance that I am just where God intends for me to be.  He has purposes for me here in these simple quiet days.  He doesn’t give all the answers to our questions and frustrations but He gives peace.   And that is enough for now.

Pine Needle Basket #2

Even in the ordinary days God is at work  directing, influencing, leading, sustaining, enabling—not just in my little world but in His whole universe! It’s sometimes just a matter of learning to see the unseen, to hear the inaudible, and to believe He is who He says He is.

And in the backdrop of my daily-nesses lie the grand truths that make it all worth living.  I woke up with these lyrics in my mind:

…Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.1

And snatches of these verses too which I looked up to get straight:

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.2

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own. 3

And on a very ordinary days these are thoughts to ponder that go far beyond the ordinary!


Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly.  Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory my dwell in our land.


1    It is Well with My Soul –Horatio Spafford

2   Rock of Ages Augustus M. Toplady

3   And Can It Be that I Should Gain –Charles Wesley

The Tenth Leper

Ten lepers cried  out to Jesus for mercy.  They could not come near so they called out from a distance—“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”

Jesus heard, and He had mercy.

He sent them to the priest to diagnose their condition.  Only the priest could declare them clean and sanction their re-entrance into society.  On the way their leprosy vanished. They were new men, on the surface anyway.

But only one had a heart change.  He came running back to the One who alone could see beneath his skin and give him a whole heart.

This story is told to children as a lesson in being thankful.  We should always say ‘thank-you’.  I read it one morning this week to my granddaughter.  She was called to breakfast before I could deliver the moralistic punch line. It’s probably just as well.  But I was left pondering this story.  What does it teach us?

This tenth leper was more than just thankful.  When he looked down at his hands and recognized he’d been healed, he made an ‘about-face’ and “praising God with a loud voice”, he rushed back to Jesus and ‘’fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.”  He was a man transformed from the heart into a worshipper of the one true God.  He had been doubly an outcast, both a leper and a despised Samaritan, but Jesus being no respecter of persons had extended mercy to Him.  His response was a demonstration of his faith and because of it Jesus declared him ‘saved’, made whole.

It seems to me in reading this story that there is more here than a mere physical healing.   For the other nine lepers this was the case; they were happy to trot off to the priest and be declared fit for society.  But this one returned to Jesus and was declared ‘saved’—fit for fellowship with God!  If I read correctly between the lines of this story, he was not only healed of leprosy, he was forgiven–made clean inside and out.  He had only to cry out for mercy and then to acknowledge the One who extended it as His rightful Lord.

Leprosy in the ancient world was regarded as a judgment of God for a person’s sin.  It was incurable, loathsome and progressively deadly.  It was a scourge that made an outcast of its victim.  The leprous person was to ‘wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose’.  He was to ‘cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean” lest he come in contact with anyone unawares.  He was sentenced to live alone. “His dwelling shall be outside the camp.”  (Lev.13:45,46)  Leprosy is an apt description of the incurable nature of sin.  From almost imperceptible beginnings it spreads destructively till its host is destroyed, without ability to free himself.

No wonder Jesus made a point of healing lepers, demonstrating that even the grossest of sins is not beyond his reach to heal and forgive. This is a poignant reminder in light of the scandals being unearthed by the media these days.  Christian men, trusted leaders,  are among those whose private lives have been exposed by the hackers of a website promoting adulterous liaisons.  Sin cannot stay hidden anymore than leprosy’s infective virus can remain symptomless.

“The sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later.” I Tim.5:24

But in the wake of sin’s exposure there is hope that the lepers so exposed will cry out for mercy and find forgiveness, and that those sinned against will find the grace to forgive, knowing how much they themselves have been forgiven. ( Luke 17:3,4)

Like leprosy, sin is a great leveler. Leprous Jew and Samaritan alike lived as outcasts from society. Even so no one of us stands ‘better off’ than another and beyond need of mercy. ( ‘All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory’)  Apart from God’s mercy we are all lepers for life, disfigured from God’s original design, cast out of the garden and out of fellowship with God and with others.  None can stand tall at the Cross, worthy of Jesus’ favor.  But all can cry out for His mercy.  All can find forgiveness and newness of life.

In the boundless mercy and acceptance offered in the Gospel is a haven where strength is found to say ‘no’ to sin and “yes” to the Spirit who points us to the way of escape and  to Christ. There is no hope for the weak to pull themselves out of the mire of sin anymore than for a leper to heal himself.  But in Christ there is mercy and strength and forgiveness again, and again as we learn to walk humbly with our God.

These then are the things I read between the lines of this simple children’s story:

  • I am never so weak and helpless that I cannot call out for mercy, nor so ‘together’ that I don’t need it!
  • It is never too late to do an ‘about face’ and fall at Jesus feet in awe-filled gratitude. He has freed me from the ravaging clutches of leprosy so that I can live near Him, rejoicing in His abundant forgiveness, forever. This is the right response to His mercy.
  • Not only is being thankful a good idea,  it’s a declaration of faith in God, and a worshipful posture.

Have I bowed at Jesus feet in awe-filled thanks lately?


Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.  Jer.17:14

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9

…and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Acts 15:9

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!