Mind The Gap

See, there’s often this space between the inner life of the soul– what we as Christ-followers believe and accept as true– and the everyday experience of interacting with the life around us. The beliefs we confess with our mouths and hang around our necks as labels often are not the things we stand on when life gets difficult…and sometimes we hardly even seem to notice the gap between. But that is precisely what the spotlight of unexpected difficulties is for, to rivet our attention on the fact that we are not real good at putting into practice what we believe.

I hear Jesus say “…your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:8) And I believe that God is all-powerful and all-knowing, will give me what I need. But when the unexpected collides with what I am pretty sure I need, my emotions and reactions point out just how far my life is from what my head believes. When you are looking right at concrete facts saying one thing, it is hard to fix your eyes on the unseen Truth that sounds so contradictory. But it’s there in the gap that you get the chance to grow, have the opportunity to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2), because it is either change what you believe, or change what you will do about it.

Again, I know this is the Word of God: “Do not fear or be in dread… for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) This I believe, and I can even feel it on most days. But when giants loom large and all I have are a few small stones, reason speaks louder than faith and there is that gap again. It is surprisingly difficult to believe Someone you cannot see or touch over the ogre right in front of you– hard for us to set aside the sensory evidence we have accepted as reality since we were born here. But this is what faith is all about. Paul explains it this way: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) In the gap between what we believe and what we experience, this is where faith lives and grows.

And I can read Paul’s declaration and hang on tight to its usefulness: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) But watching someone you love struggle with an illness seems like it must be in a different category of Things than Paul is talking about; what I am feeling and dealing with seems much bigger and miles away from that one simple sentence.  And in the gap I find myself wondering how much strength is actually available, and could it be that it means exactly what it says? I can do even this through Christ’s limitless power?

It appears that the gap is more a shortfall in my faith, in my perspectives…and while my spirit can make that leap into eternal matters, my senses still stick in the mud of this earth. And I hear Jesus saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) The question lingers…Do I believe this?…And how will I then live?

So we are back again to God’s plan: to grow us into the likeness of His Son and prepare us to live in His Kingdom forever, and in the gap is one very real way that we are called to be partners in the process. We can expect to be brought up short time and again, by that gap between the way this world works and the ways of His kingdom. ” For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

When life reveals to us the gap between what is true and the way we live, it is a call to go deeper, step out of the familiar and sensible and come “higher up and further in” (as CS Lewis used to say), till there is no gap at all but only the presence of God. This is growing in maturity as a Christ-follower, and this is the faith-journey that is leading us Home.


When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:11-12


The way may at times seem dark, but light will arise, if thou trust in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. That light may sometimes show hard things to be required, but do not be distressed if thy heart should rebel; bring thy unwillingness and disobedience to Him, in the faith that He will give thee power to overcome, for He cannot fail. ‘Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world,’ so keep close to Him, and the victory will be won. But do not, I beseech thee, neglect anything that is required, for disobedience brings darkness; and do not reason or delay, but simply follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit, and He will guide thee into all peace.

Elizabeth T. King


Measuring Hearts and Camels and Other Impossible Things

Commitment is costly–don’t let anyone tell you different. Saying yes to one thing means shutting the door to something else. Going one direction means turning your back on another possibility. Focus on something you desire, make it your priority, and you’ve already assigned lesser value to a myriad of other good things in life. And that is perfectly all right, because we were given free will in the Beginning, and told to use it well and wisely in order to have the best life. But somewhere along the line we picked up the notion that we should be able to have everything we reach for, without strings or consequences. Maybe it has to do with our losing sight of what choosing the best life looked like. Or maybe it’s this delusion we seem to have in general about limits: like I can always squeeze in one more appointment on my calendar, talk to one more person, work all day and make my house/kids/face/dinner photo-op perfect, and still have fun me-time with friends. It’s just a click away. And everyone else is doing it, so it must be possible, right? Being more-than-enough is pretty much expected, these days.

But it is costly, oh yes. No one talks about the toll it takes on heart and mind and sleep and self-image. A wise woman once said that “perfectionism is slow death by self” (Ann VosKamp), and I would be the first to raise my hand and attest to the impossible weight of trying to be good enough, to get everything right enough, in order to have the life I thought I needed. The hard truth is that I will never be enough– that I am indeed limited by the hours in a day, by the physical needs to eat and sleep and play, by the particular frailty of the way I am wired, by the circumstances of the life I have been given. And Jesus’ gracious invitation offers healing and freedom to every heart looking for a better life: “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) I could trust an invitation like that…let go of all my striving in order to find rest. Leave behind this busted-up heart for an easier way. It would be so worth it. The Musician-King wrote it in one of his songs, that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” (Psalm 34:18) When we are ready to give up, at the end of what we can do, then we are finally in the right place to find Him near and big enough for every need.

And that would be me at the end of my rope, because grace costs too, for all it is freely given. It means stripping off pride, feeling the shame of your humanity in all its not-enoughness. It costs in tears and broken dreams of what you thought your life would look like, shattered ideas of who you are, burst illusions of control… but if it was all a house of cards anyway, what do you really have to lose? And Jesus keeps talking about the impossibility of camels going through the eye of a needle, and aren’t we all just as silly, trying to get what we long for by our own efforts? Grace says the best life is a gift, because Jesus was willing to pay for it entirely– an impossibly crazy plan to rescue our run-ragged hearts. “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.(Ephesians 2:8-9) I could trust a sacrificial love like that…banish fear and run into the arms that accept me completely. It’s more than okay to mourn your own need, to turn in a new direction and leave the past behind when it means finding what you’ve been looking for all along. All you have to do is say yes to Someone who loves you enough to move heaven and earth to rescue you. Terrifying? Absolutely, but so worth it.

The Church-planter Paul tells us over and over again that this is what we were made for, the wisest choice. Because when we choose Jesus, He is everything we could have hoped for in life, and all His plans are for our best life: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.(Ephesians 2:10) On this side of surrender, it doesn’t seem like that big of a leap after all. It has been so worth it.


This is love
Bending skies to heal the broken
This is love
Bleeding life into the grave
Hear the sound
As our hearts cry out forever
Singing hallelujah
Breathing in a brand new world

Empires, Hillsong Umited


…may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Ephesians 3:18-20

At Home in Him

We’ve been talking for months about knowing God and becoming who we were meant to be, finding our identity in Him alone. Because at the heart of us all is a desire to be seen, to be known and accepted…to be loved deeply and truly. And we will go to any lengths for our whole lives, trying to prove our worth, justify our lives as significant, or at least hide the fear that we may never amount to anything.

And I can’t help but think of an obscure Quaker woman named Elizabeth, who lived in the mid-1800’s, known by all accounts for her gentle spirit and the light she shone into the lives around her. Her collection of letters to family and friends reveals a young woman who desired to please God in the small things of life– at home with her family and in her sphere of influence– to encourage others to greater depths of faith and perseverance. Elizabeth died at age thirty-four, in childbirth, and left only that small quiet legacy of good deeds and a life well-lived. I guess what stands out are the glowing memories of others who were touched by her life, and the realization of the everyday ways her life mattered.*

There is truth here, as we study how knowing God gives us a framework for living. It’s natural to apply our knowledge of God to big concepts like sovereignty, the problem of pain, personal free will, accountability, and the breadth of eternity; but if we fail to apply our theology to the everyday, then we are missing something basic and important. God is real. And life is full of heart-breakingly real struggles. And we are real and fragile people with such needy spirits. Our knowledge of God has to affect real life, if we are going to trust Him for the next life. Even the word points us to it: know Himyada… understanding by the everyday experience of someone….what moves a person, drives him, makes him who he is….the intimate knowing of someone’s heart and mind from moment to moment, so that you can finish each other’s sentences, the way an old married couple does.

And that’s the crazy thing, that the Creator always wanted us to know Him in this face-to-face way. Walked into the Garden each day in the Beginning and loved the way His children came running to greet Him, treasured all the things they had to say to Him– the way we hang on every lisping word of a toddler, cherish the sturdy dimpled limbs, and celebrate every gleeful discovery of the world. And when we grew up and ran away, He followed, just to make sure we would be able to find our way back to Him when we got tired of living on our own.

It sounds like a big challenge to produce a life “worthy of the calling you have received.” (Ephesians 4:1) But Hosea the prophet writes down what God is saying, showing His heart for us: “…I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6) This is a God who finally wraps Himself in skin and walks into everyday life to show us Who He Is in living color, to bring us Home: God Himself walking in the dirt of the world He has made, listening to our voices and living our lives and carrying all our sorrows. This is where we experience Him then, in the mundane, and the blessings, and the rugged reality of everyday life.

And He says it is making me new, knowing Him like that– changing the way I think and act and live. Just like life together changes an old married couple who keep on loving each other. I see the spiritual legacy an ordinary Quaker woman left behind, and it is both inspiring and challenging, because she was not aspiring to greatness, only trying to follow her Lord Jesus with single-minded devotion. I see how we can fill our heads with intellectual knowledge of God, but our experience of Him must be built in the everyday world, one day at a time, as Elizabeth learned. God is not calling us just to study Him, but to know Him, and this is what makes a life worthy.

God’s heart for people shows me how to forgive those who are angry and hurtful. His love shows me what it means to be patient with little ones who only know their own needs. His becoming flesh-and-blood reminds me there is joy and fulfillment in serving, in giving up my rights. His words teach me how to trust when I am worried, protect from the fear that stalks in the darkness, caution me to stay close when other voices clamor for attention. This is theology that matters; this is a life that matters. So I walk beside Him and imitate what He does, just to see Him smile, the way a child adores a beloved papa. And it will happen in the smallest of ways, decisions made in the moment that gradually change who I am and how I think, from the inside out.

I need a theology that intersects with everyday stuff, because right here is where I need God’s help, and because right here is where deception and discouragement and fear come sneaking in. Because in Him I discover who I am and what this life is for. Because wherever He is, there is my heart at Home.

*Memoir of Elizabeth T. King


 It is poor religion– is it not?– which can not bear little trials, and keep in a meek and quiet spirit under petty provocations and discouragements! And yet how many fail! How I do!

Elizabeth T. King


Keep me within Your shadow–
Lord tether my heart to Yours.
I want nothing without Your presence;
All I want is You.

Street called mercy, Hillsong United

The Most Important Thing for Women to Know

“I know all the right things in my head, but when it comes down to it, I am not really convinced God loves me.” She said it quietly across the table, almost hesitantly, as if afraid to say it out loud. But I understand, and have said it myself, that it is not His power or ability that we doubt, so much as His heart. And it’s like we are all back in the Garden standing beneath a tree with the whispering in our heads…. Maybe God isn’t who He says He is… and maybe He is not really good… and what if His love is not something we can trust, after all? It is the place we are stuck, that one moment in history working itself out in our individual lives over and over again, and our experiences in this world confirm that true love is an iffy business, and trust is a risk.

Even after we have been to the cross and have been re-created, we are often left with the lingering fear. Because knowing your sin and being forgiven is only a starting place in many ways, and feeling safe and truly loved is something different that might take a lifetime to gain. And we can explain all the practical ways to learn about God, but the only way for a woman to know for sure that she is loved, to sink that Truth deep into her heart, is to connect what she is learning about God to everyday life, put her theology into practice, till the old whispering lies have faded and she can hear a new voice saying, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” (Zephaniah 3:17) 

We talked about Mary’s anointing of Jesus, the way she has become the example of lavish, unrestrained giving, holding nothing back in her adoration. What lies beneath her gift often goes unnoticed, because we (along with the disciples) get completely sidetracked by the value of her perfume.  But Jesus considered her a friend, knew her as well as He did any of the Twelve, knew her heart and her struggles, and the whole thing is really about relationship and what she believes.

So we backtrack to discover how she gets to this dinner-time story, and we see her sitting at her brother’s bedside, watching him die… and Jesus ignoring her summons. We see her grieving at home when He finally comes asking for her. We hear her honest acknowledgement of bone-deep pain and loss: “…if you had been here, my brother would not have died. (John 11:32) Some struggles break you to your knees, and oddly enough, if you are looking for Truth, that is often the best place to find it. “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

It’s not so much a matter of looking in the right place as it is how much you want to find the answers; and in the wilderness– in the dark places of the soul– when your need is most desperate, there is nothing you want more. Mary is desperately searching for answers and she finds them in the Son of God standing right beside her, weeping. God’s Words echo down six hundred years with His promise: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” (Isaiah 49:15-16)

So here at the dinner table, with the fragrance of incense filling the room, we find Mary at Jesus feet, like she was the first time we met her… and her sister Martha is still doing what she does best by serving everyone. But this time Mary comes in worship, and in complete confidence of Jesus’s love and acceptance of her unexpected outpouring.

When she wrestled honestly with God’s plans for her life, because she could not understand what He was doing or how this could possibly be for the best, it was in her relationship with Jesus that she found her answers. He was incomprehensibly Other-than-human, and still the close friend who sat and talked for hours in their living room. He was powerful enough to raise the dead, and still able to feel their pain. He had His eyes on an eternal Plan for the universe, and He heard His friends in Bethany asking for help. It was her sister Martha who said it straight out, in the midst of her own grief, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:27) And they stood together, those two sisters, and watched their brother walk out of his tomb, while their Friend stood beside them and looked ahead to His own soon-coming fight with Death.

In this dinner-time story we see a woman who knows Jesus as Friend and Savior; who can live out her faith in confidence to serve Him, even when it goes against cultural standards; who knows above all that she is loved and accepted by the One who matters most. In a matter of days, Jesus will demonstrate unequivocally what God’s love looks like, in all its world-changing power. As the Disciple John will write later, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) All our names, written forever on His palms as a sign of His love.

See, the more we get to know God and see Him at work in our lives, the more we know His love, and the more we realize we can trust Him– and this is what every woman needs to know above all. God loves us…”He loves us, oh how He loves us”…this is the song we will keep on singing.


So amazing to think about my life;
And after all that I’ve walked through,
I still see that
All I’ve ever known is Your love, Jesus.
Doesn’t matter the ugliness of the past;
Doesn’t matter the pain of the past;
This is how great Your love is,
How redeeming Your love is…
All I’ve ever known
Is a love that runs to the ends of the earth
Just to find me.

Coming Through, Kim Walker-Smith


This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins….And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.

1 John 4: 10, 16-18

Dying to Run Well

With all this talk of what we believe, it might be easy to think that is all there is to living out our faith: just believe what is true and right and good, and off you go, running fast and straight. But Jesus said it clearly to anyone with ears to hear, that receiving His Words was only the first part of a process. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24) We can listen and learn and accumulate understanding as if we are stockpiling treasure, but growth will not happen until our hearts and wills are engaged to put what we believe into practice– and this is where things get sticky. I heard a preacher say once that “Transformation occurs when we bring truth to bear on our souls….[it] is an active engagement, not a passive by-product.” (Rob Reimer) Change from the inside-out is more akin to battle…or the messy hard work of remodeling…or the labor pains of birth…actually, Paul says it is a death by execution. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.” (Galatians 5:24) 

It’s easy to skim over that sentence, make it symbolic and spiritual because it is hard to hear in that matter-of-fact tone, and it is definitely not the kind of thing I want to write on my To-do list for today. The thing is, the passions and desires of my sinful nature live fully and messily in this everyday world, and we can pretty much guarantee they will not go quietly to an execution. There is no tidy way to go about this process, and Paul doesn’t really make it optional. It will take God’s radical interior makeover of my heart to make me want Jesus more than I want my happiness/comfort/convenience….to make me begin to shed those hindrances that so easily entangle a runner’s feet.

No question about it, putting what we believe into practice might be the hardest thing we ever do. Bending mind and will and emotion to conform to ideas that go against your very nature (no matter how lovely and true they are), will not feel like a good choice in the heat of the here-and-now. It will require the battle gear of Faith’s shield and Scripture’s sword, determination to run this race well, and a steady focus on the end goal of pleasing our Father the King; it will require running this faith-race of life the way Jesus did…in complete trust of His Father’s love and plans. “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

It is not a coincidence that Paul sandwiches his gory, earthy observation about the cost of living out our faith between detailed explanations of what it means to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. He knew that the only way we would ever have what it takes to put Self to death was by depending on our Divine Helper. He ends with this challenge: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25) The very One who made us alive again and calls us to follow Him, also makes His home with us and enables us to run this race. If I believe that, and am willing to plant my feet on that bedrock of Truth to wrestle with my wild emotions and destructive thoughts till they bow in obedience to that Divine Power, Jesus promises to make it happen.

Paul says that living in Jesus’ presence not only enables us to throw off the old ways of thinking, but also causes new habits to spring up: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”  (Galatians 5:22-23)….Jesus’ own character traits taking the place of what has died, and enabling us to run the race like He did. Let’s just be careful not to confuse what is good with what is easy.

My free will, and His power and sovereignty, working together to produce transformation on the inside? It is Mystery, and it is Truth. This is way too big for my To-do list for today– but it is on God’s agenda for me, so the only question is how well I will cooperate. Lord, help me to grow in my understanding of You and to put it into practice, even when it means the death of Me and what I want. I want You more.


Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.

Philippians 2:12


 The greatest burden we have to carry in life is self. The most difficult thing we have to manage is self. Our own daily living, our frames and feelings, our especial weaknesses and temptations, and our peculiar temperaments– our inward affairs of every kind– these are the things that perplex and worry us more than anything else, and that bring us oftenest into bondage and darkness….You must hand yourself…all over into the care and keeping of your God, and leave them there. He made you and therefore He understands you, and knows how to manage you, and you must trust Him to do it.

Hannah Whitall Smith

The Weight of Caring

As a child I learned that verse about “Casting all your cares on Jesus, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) The repetition in the King James version made it kind of sing-song and easy to remember, and it was vaguely comforting, but it seemed too lightweight to handle life’s difficulties– just a general reminder that someone cared about what you were going through. Paul’s prescription for anxiety seemed much more practical for everyday life: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:5) And doesn’t everyone long for peace in return for worry?…the kind of peace that passes all our understanding of the present circumstances? I lived here and taught here and claimed the promises of Scripture for decades.

Until one day this year when it wasn’t enough. Not that it isn’t true, every word of it, but sometimes it isn’t about anxiety or fear so much as the growing weight of grief over situations that have no resolution, and the weariness of wrestling with hard circumstances in hope and praise and faith, day after day. ..the struggle to see truth, hold on to truth in this world, when nothing makes sense. When the heart grows heavy with sorrow till you feel like giving up, sometimes what you really need is Someone big enough to carry the burden for you, so you don’t have to any more.

And suddenly that old verse from the past came back to me in light of Easter. “Because He cares for you” takes on new layers of meaning when you are looking at the very rugged reality of a bloody cross and an abandoned tomb. From this vantage point, it is clear we are not talking about a bland platonic caring in the general sense. See, this is how much Jesus cares, that He comes down to us in fragile flesh, and lives amid our brokenness; that He weeps and laughs and eats with us; that He takes the weight of suffering and ugliness for all of us from Beginning to End so that He can make everything new. This is a love that is measured in suffering– one that embraces our own without hesitation or effort– a love that stands alone in its intensity. It is no coincidence that the Latin word for suffering is passio, from which we get our word, passion. Isaiah the Prophet described Jesus’ passionate love this way: “Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering…..He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5) This is a God who cares about our emotions and our experiences intimately, and He is telling us to cast all our care on Him, because He can carry it for us.

So for all the harassed and distracted…the disillusioned and the disappointed…the tired of trying, and the waiting for answers…anyone who is overcome with the intensity of caring in this sin-broken world, there is this invitation to cast it all upon Jesus, into the care of the One who was broken by us and for us. And maybe in some mysterious way, when we feel overwhelmed by the brokenness of this world, we draw closer to the heart of Jesus–participate with Him somehow, and touch His suffering– this passion that is powerful enough to re-shape Creation. Perhaps that is what the Church-Planter meant when he proclaimed “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11)

After a difficult year of uncertainty and anxiety and loss, here at the beginning of a new season, we can cast all our caring on this Savior who carries us, and just rest here in the light of Easter. And hope is pushing its way through to the surface, under the warm Spring rain, because the reality of Jesus’ resurrection is the answer to all those impossible situations we care about. Easter is only the beginning.


This is grace: God joined us on the floor of this earth. God did not stay far from our pain. He did not judge it from a distance. He did not pity it from the other side of the universe. He became it.

KJ Ramsey, This Too Shall Last


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Where Feet May Fail

It’s hard to run some days, and that’s all there is to it. Some days it’s all you can do to stay on your feet, and every step is an effort. It’s okay on days like that to take it easy on yourself, because any steps are better than none. It’s all right on those days if you don’t cover much ground, and if your legs feel like lead. The important thing is that you keep your eyes on Jesus, “the Champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Just don’t wander off the path trying to make your heart feel better… or go looking for your own solutions… or wish for an easier, wider trail. There is danger out there in the woods, and Darkness has a way of closing in before you realize it, and one of these days you’ll wake up lost and confused, wondering how you got there and wishing you hadn’t.

It happens on an ordinary day like this, when running is hard and an ordinary person like you or me takes her eyes off the end-goal. Nothing big or dramatic at the time, but one step leads to another, and in the long run it makes all the difference in this world– and in the Next.

So keep your eyes on Jesus who loves you more than life, and take another step. It will not always be this difficult, I guarantee it, because the path is always changing and you are always growing, and taking the right step now will make the following one easier. Just do the next thing and do what is right. And lean hard on your strong Helper. “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved…” (Psalm 18:2-3) He is right there beside you, before you, behind you, and He has already made a way through these circumstances for you.


You are my one desire,
You are the holy fire that burns in me;
The Lover of my Soul,
You don’t let go–
You’ve made Your home in me.
You are my everything,
All I need is in You.
And all I have,
All I am, is in You.
It’s in You.

My Everything, Jesus Culture


You make Your saving help my shield, and Your right hand sustains me; Your help has made me great. You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.

Psalm 18:35-36

Trusting Love

Originally published on February 3, 2012.

If I had a nickel for every time someone told me “I have trust issues,” I would be rich right now. And besides, don’t we all, in one way or another? Especially after this last year of world-wide upheaval and craziness. When I look around at all the ways our broken hearts hurt each other…and the sting of rejection each of us has felt for not being Enough …and the sheer insistence on self-promotion and self-interest and self-wellbeing in every area of life, the real question is how any of our scarred, let-down, betrayed hearts could be healed enough to trust. And it is a vital question, because our very lives depend on it. I keep thinking of how Jesus pulled a little child close and told the disciples: “…unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3). If it takes the innocence and inexperience of a small child, we are all of us coming much too late to the table.

But what if trust is not a matter of how much we know of life’s ugliness, but how well we know we are deeply loved? What if it is not about keeping a heart whole, but about giving up trying, and accepting the brokenness and the weakness as the reason to run to Someone Bigger? It is the humility and transparency of a child that brings us to the Kingdom; the utter unselfconsciousness of knowing our need and knowing that we belong to Someone who will take care of us. In the kingdom, trust equals surrender to the King, and it makes me think that often our trust issues are more a matter of how well we know HIm and what we believe about Him.

I often think of Amy Carmichael, a pastor’s kid in the mid-1800s, who grew up involved in ministry to the poor of Northern Ireland– a girl who knew the presence of God from childhood.  When she was 20 she heard the missionary pioneer Hudson Taylor (founder of China Inland Mission) speaking in England, and followed God’s call into missions work herself.  Not to China, but to India, where her heart was torn open at the discovery of young girls sold into prostitution in the Hindu temples. The Dohnavur Fellowship that she began there, soon became orphanage and school and home to eventually over a thousand children that she rescued, all of whom called her Amah (“mother”). It is an inspiring story, but what stands out about her most is the intimacy of her relationship with God and how it shaped and defined her life.

Amy was sickly and weak all her adult life, never married, a prolific writer from her bed where she was often confined, loving and self-giving, and brave as a lion when it came to rescuing a child who needed help.  She once said that missions work was “a chance to die”….to self, to comfort, to all but the love and life of the Savior.  And in that hot, dusty, hard place in southern India, she found the love of God a never-ending fountain of Living Water, enough to quench her own thirst and enough to heal the hurting children she loved.

Despite the poverty and disease and children bearing unthinkable things, Amy could say “…cruelty and wrong are not the greatest forces in the world. There is nothing eternal in them. Only love is eternal.” She devoted her life to pursuing her Savior and loving others as He had loved her. She saw the reckless love of God that leaves Heaven to find the lost sheep; she knew His heart, and could not say no when He said Go to far-away India to rescue the little ones sold into slavery. That same endless love runs to the ends of the earth for me, to redeem my life from the darkness. And I hear the Beloved Disciple John’s words: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.” (1 John 4:9)  How could we not trust a love like that?

Amy Carmichael spelled out faith like this: “…we trust all that the love of God does; all He gives, and all He does not give; all He says, and all He does not say.  To it all we say, by His loving enabling, I trust.  Let us be content with our Lord’s will, and tell Him so….The more we understand His love, the more we trust.” (Edges of His Ways, p.175) Giving up control to someone else is easy when that Someone loves you more than His own life, when you know Him well enough to put all your doubts to rest.

I choose to trust You today, Lord; help me to trust You more.  Not only what You bring to my doorstep, but also the things You say No to.  I trust that You are good and that You love me deeply, and that the things You give me are what I should have this day, no matter whether they seem happy or sad.  Even when things don’t make sense, I choose to say I trust You just because I know Your love.

**For more about Amy Carmichael, read A Chance to Die, by Elisabeth Elliot.


I wait for You now
Like the desert waits for the rain;
Like a child at the end of the day
I know You’ll come through.
I trust what You say,
As a treasure no one can take;
Every word so steady and safe
You always come through.
And all You’ve ever shown
Is love that’s willing to go
To the ends of the earth for me.
And all I’ll ever need
Is who You are to me
This love that’s willing to reach
To the ends of the earth for me.

Coming Through, Kim Walker-Smith


For this reason I bow my knees before the Father…that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith– that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  

Ephesians 3:14, 16-19

Worshiping Changes You

Originally published June 22, 2012.

I remember starting out on this lifestyle of worship all those years ago, and how in the long day of worship seminars with different speakers, this one thought planted itself deep and grew a harvest in our hearts: “Leading worship on Sunday morning is the culmination of a week of personal worship; your heart should find its way easily into God’s presence so that when you are in front of others you can take them along in the path you know well already.” It was valuable advice from a veteran lead-worshiper, and a perspective that changed who we were as people.

It is no great wonder that when we focus our hearts and minds on knowing God it tends to spring up in deep wells of praise and thankfulness. What we couldn’t predict at the time was how the spiritual practice of focus and giving thanks would affect the way we thought about life, and hardships, and personal purity…how worship would drown out depression and grumbling, and soak into every fear-filled corner…how the practice of living in God’s presence would bring purpose and beauty to the treadmill of the mundane and transform it all into sacred…and isn’t that the way all of us Christ-followers should live together? As worshipers focused on the One who matters most?

What if each of us took seriously the calling to be a worshiper, and learned to tread that path into the presence of God so easily that no matter where we were or who we were with, we could lead others along in the paths we know well already? That is what it means to be a people who know God and make Him known.


In the silent times : seek God… In the painful times : praise God… In the harried times : hallow God… and in the terrible times : trust God. And at all times — at all times – Thank God.

Ann Voskamp


Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You. I will praise You as long as I live, and in Your name I will lift up my hands.

Psalm 63:3-4

About the New Year

I keep hearing about resolutions and good habits and starting the New Year off right from every direction, and it all seems quite fitting in the bright first days of the year with the calendar pages still white and clear. There is an energy and ambition to the beginning of a year, and a hope that it will turn out better than last year, or at least different– or maybe make us different people in the process.

But some years look like obstacle courses right off the bat, and it’s hard to look forward to better things when big hard things are staring you in the face. To be honest there have been plenty of years that I wished were over before they began– felt run over and wrung out in the harsh light of everyday circumstances– and I know how hope for Something New can fade, can turn and wither before it even has the chance to bloom. Those blank calendars can look pretty grim with only our griefs and worries written in.

But this is the truth about new years and blank calendars, in Jesus’ own words: “…do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34) Considering that He has just finished talking about how His Father provides for every living thing and even counts the hairs on your head, we can confidently add this to our contemplation of tomorrow’s troubles, that each day will also be filled with God’s new mercies. Here’s another truth about new years: we simply do not know what twists and turns of the path they will hold. I never could have predicted the way this past year unfolded, in its sorrows or in its  joys; and maybe I would not have chosen much of it on my own, yet if I had to go back I don’t know if I would give any of it up, either. It’s probably a good thing that the only thing in our circle of control is the immediate present, and all we are asked to do with it is to trust Jesus and to obey His words. One step at a time, one day at a time, and know that God’s resurrection power will bring healing to any troubles we find.

And therein lies yet another truth about new years, that one step leads to another, and it is in the small mundane decisions of everyday life that the course of our year will be determined, as well as the quality of our days. Because no matter whether circumstances are good or bad or indifferent, the choices we make in them are shaping us. The  Wise King warns us to take that responsibility seriously when he says “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23) In other words, be careful what you grow in your own yard because it’s the place you have to live…and watch where you step. If we are following Jesus, we know the destination will be a good one in the end.

In case you can’t see a happy ending, remember that doesn’t mean there is no such thing. It is God who writes your ending, and you are still in the middle of the story. He is the one who is making beautiful things out of your dust, and your story isn’t finished until He says it is. Looking ahead with hope is just another way of trusting the Author that your story is still in process and that He is the One who is redeeming everything according to His plans. A sister-mentor says it like this: “Hope is not the belief that things will turn out well, but the belief that God is working through all things, no matter how things turn out.” (Ann VosKamp) Whatever else these blank calendar pages will hold, they will all be held in His loving hands, and we will be okay. He promises “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God….” (Isaiah 43:2)

So as I look at this new year and contemplate resolutions, and what one word should I pick as a focal point, the thought that keeps recurring is that Jesus’ presence is all I really need. If I can see His hand at work in each day, and be thankful, then no trouble can truly overwhelm me. If I can hear His voice of wisdom to guide me through what lies ahead, and His own power to give me strength, then I know we will make it through whatever comes, and He will continue to grow and change me. The Prophet Isaiah promises, “Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21) So yeah, that is what I want most in this New Year. Spiritual eyes to see Emmanuel, God with us, making all things new, starting with me.


“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 1:19-20)


“Looking for the beauty of Christ in the everyday isn’t some quaint exercise in poetry. It’s a critical exercise in not being dead — of being resurrected.” (Ann VosKamp)