The Light Has Come

Seven hundred years before Christmas, the Prophet Isaiah wrote, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2) And our hearts leap at his words, because we know that darkness– have lived and worked here all our days, pushing back against it to build a life here for the people we love. Some days we feel like we are actually gaining ground in making the world a better place. And we string up the lights at Christmas, and make as much joy as we can for one another in the strength of that hope, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if there really were an ending to the long night, a light as certain and overwhelming as the dawn? And right here in the bright bustle of the holiday season, all our dreams and fears intersect. We are decking our halls and making merry with gift-giving, but our hearts long to hear the old familiar tale of a baby in a manger and shepherds under the stars. Remember, it whispers, a light has dawned.

So we light our small candles in the dark tonight, and remind ourselves of the true message of Christmas: that we are not alone in the dark. We have a Savior and He has come to us, and a new age has dawned. Isaiah knew the names we would call Him, long before He was born: “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) But his mother called Him Jesus, “because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) We could never have guessed it would happen this way, this mystery of God’s grace that lights our darkness. As one contemporary writer puts it: “Our God who breathes stars in the dark– He breathes Bethlehem’s star, then takes on lungs and breathes in stable air. We are saved from hopelessness, because God came with infant fists and opened wide His hand to take the iron-sharp edge of our sins.” (Ann VosKamp)

Isaiah exults in the dawning glory of God over a land struggling in chaos and injustice. “For unto us a Child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.” (Isaiah 9:6) And we rejoice in this at Christmas, because we have seen Jesus, and the way He lived and died for us here. His friend John wrote, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5) This is the best gift, this promise of a happy ending, and life that does not end with the here and now. The Light of the World is here with us, and the darkness cannot extinguish it, no matter how grim the world may seem, at times. If Light was dawning on the world on that first Christmas when Jesus came, it will blaze like lightning when He finally comes to set everything right.

So tonight we hold our candles in expectation and we sing, looking forward to the day when His radiant dawning light wipes out all the darkness everywhere, forever. This is the hope of Advent, whispering in our hearts: He has come for us; He is coming again for us. And the angels sing it back to us in the Christmas sky, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)


A child has been given,
The King of our freedom;
Sing for the light has come!
This is Christmas.
Come and adore Him,
And bring gifts before Him;
Joy to the world,
Worship the Son!
This is Christmas.

We Have A Savior, Hillsong


And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelation 21:3-5

Prayer That Changes Me

When I was younger I envied Jesus’ disciples who could see the expressions on His face and hear the sound of His voice, share a smile or a sandwich. But when you really think about it, what could be better than to have His Spirit living beside us and in us, as close as our next breath? As intimate as our hidden thoughts. As powerfully at work in our hearts as He is in the fiery explosion of the stars. I can’t help but think Who am I to have a conversation with the One who spoke the world into existence?

And how could we fail to be changed as mortal beings, if we are sharing life with the immortal Creator? It is rather like being in a divine incubator, and us growing under the careful attention of His presence. It is slow, over many years, but if you watch closely you could see the inner self gradually healing from its wounds, the mind’s eye growing straight and true, the heart filling with God’s own love and goodness– and us turning into the creatures we were meant to be from the Beginning. Our elders have always told us this, to be careful of the company we keep, because we become like those who have our attention. The Church-planter Paul explains this to the believers in Corinth in full expectation of their becoming: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 3:18)

Often what we label as prayer is only a reciting of requests (as if it were a necessary sacrifice of time in order to get the desired results?) and perhaps all of us have veered into that dead-end alley, one time or another. It is at least a starting place. But the Biblical word pictures of prayer are much more vivid and dramatic: Jacob wrestling all night long with the angel of the Lord, Paul challenging the believers to take up arms with him in prayer against the forces of darkness, Jesus’ story of a woman pounding persistently on the judge’s door in the middle of the night. By these accounts, prayer is more like the heavy labor of the soul, the work that reshapes us. Because there is this frequent clash between what I experience here and what God says is true; this constant pull between the old self and the new self; this divide between who I am now and who I want to be. And He is calling us to be brave enough to seek for answers, to not be satisfied with where we are, but to see more of His glory. If I want to experience the presence of the Almighty in life-changing prayer, I had better be willing to roll up my sleeves and step out into the unknown and unexpected.

And He promises to meet us there, when we trust Him enough to pour out our hearts to Him. He says we will find Him when we seek His help, His ways….says we will not be disappointed when we wrangle emotions into submission to His will. The prayer that changes me isn’t afraid to be vulnerable in its need. Big-brother James tells us straight out: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5) I can invite God’s resources into my everyday life because He has already given me an open invitation to ask. But the Musician-King David sings it best: “Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” (Psalm 34:5) The prayer that changes me wants to see His face more than anything His hands can give. Only the truly hungry spirit can say with Jacob: “I will not let You go unless you bless me.” (Genesis 32:26) It’s clear that prayer is as much about the condition of my inner life as it is about the condition of my outer circumstances.

At its heart, prayer is pouring out our desires and emotions to God, stripping away all the masks– because we know He sees us clearly already, and who wants a relationship that is based on something false? And when we can stop hiding ourselves, we are in turn able to see Him more clearly; when we have nothing left to say but the groanings of our hearts which only the Spirit can hear, then we can hear His words to us; in that space where Self lets go of everything but God, there is room for the greatest change.

Not that we need only pray for the big things in life. The Musician-King sang in wonder that the Creator would “see me when I travel and when I rest at home…know everything I do… know what I am going to say even before I say it.” (Psalm 139:3-4) He is right here with me in the middle of every step of every mundane day, making holy the common ground of life as surely as He did to that flaming bush for the Shepherd Moses. And maybe as we learn to talk about every little thing with Him, we are taking the small steps that will enable us to tackle the bigger issues in time. Conversations with Someone we cannot see might seem awkward, or maybe will come in starts and stops, or even feel like duty at times….doesn’t the beginning of anything new feel like that? But our prayers grow up with us, as we persist. Prayer that changes me is, above all, the constant everyday process of bending my human will into agreement with God’s Spirit. We can hardly fail to be transformed, if we are sharing life with the immortal Creator…every part of us becoming beautiful in His light.


True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that– it is a spiritual transaction with the Creator of heaven and earth.

Charles Spurgeon, The Power of Prayer in The Believer’s Life


On my bed I remember You; I think of You through the watches of the night. Because You are my help, I sing in the shadow of Your wings. I cling to You; Your right hand upholds me.

Psalm 63:6-8

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

Giving Thanks

The cobalt glass on the windowsill.
The tree slowly turning to flame across the way.
The smells of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger.
Crisp, juicy-sweet apples.
Hugs that let me know I am not alone.
These are things I am thankful for today–
The offerings of praise lifted up
To recognize Your beauty, Your goodness,
painted across the canvas of Your creation.
I can taste and see that You are good,
And I will lift up my worship against the Darkness,
Hold fast to the Truth that has overcome.
There is hope that waits for the Morning,
And thanks-giving is our battle song.


I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth….I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

Psalm 34:1, 4-5


…’God is good’ is not a stale one-liner when all’s  happy but a saving lifeline when all’s hard….And every time I give thanks, I confess to the universe the goodness of God.

Ann VosKamp

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

Who Are You?

We are born connected, us women….wired for relationships and emotional sensitivity from the very first day. We are children of the first Woman, who was shaped from the stuff of the only other creature like her, and given the name Helper-who-is-just-right. Like her, we are made to live in relationship to others, and it is in coming alongside others that we find our highest satisfaction and purpose. It is our strength, as women. Maybe that is why we so often define ourselves by those relationships and the roles we fill in the lives of others: daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother, grandmother. I know who I am in those frameworks, and it makes me feel safe and loved.

Where does that leave me then, when those roles shift and dissolve, relationships grow or fade or get hopelessly tangled with time, as relationships tend to do… how do I find myself in the muddle, or hang onto a sense of Self that is slipping away in the current of changing circumstances? Who am I, on the inside, when I am alone and quiet at the end of the day– and isn’t it easier just to keep covering up that silent question with rushing around from one thing to the other and shopping and media?

Maybe all that connectivity blinds us to the bigger reality, that man and woman were made to be Image-Bearers, to reflect an invisible God to the rest of creation and rule over it on His behalf. Before I ever connected to any people, or took on any roles in their lives, I belonged to the Creator, was fashioned by His own hands and heart. As the Musician-King David wrote, “…You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb….my frame was not hidden from You when I was being made in secret.” (Psalm 139:13, 15 ) Even more, designed purposefully and skillfully to be in this place at this time in history to do His work here. David speaks plainly of the Creator’s knowledge of each person: “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!” (Psalm 139:16-17)

So where else would I discover who I really am, except from the One who made me and knows me best? I am His craftsmanship– it is He who decided everything from the color of my hair to the details of my personality. When I look at others to tell me who I am, to define me and give my life meaning, am I not putting their perspectives above His? Superimposing the definitions and values of the Created over the blueprint of the Creator King? How easily the strengths we have been given as women can slide down into simple idolatry.

We are born connected to others and the world around us, true. But we are born to be connected to the God who loves us and names us His, first of all, and it is in Him we find out who we really are. We find out who He made us to be– how He sees us– and who we are becoming as we follow Him. And the Church-planter Paul writes about how it is so much more than we ever would have dreamed: “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)

So lift up your head and look the world square in the eye, you beautiful creature. You are known intimately by the God of heaven and earth. You are loved with a Forever-love. You have been chosen for a purpose that cannot be taken away.


He whispers in my ear, tells me that I am fearless.
He shares a melody, tells me to repeat it.
And He makes me whole, He reminds my soul-
I am all He says I am…
And He says I am His own.

All he says I am, Gateway Worship


And 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.

Ephesians 3:18

Of Leaky Boats and Honest Faith

I gave up on church-going faith a long time ago. It just wasn’t big enough to carry me and all my baggage. Mind you, I loved it dearly, because it was a part of me from my earliest remembrance: the hymns that I knew by heart, the words of Scripture that convicted and encouraged and told me what life was supposed to be like, the kind smiling faces of the people who believed it, the gathering together many times a week, the long prayer lists of needs that we lifted up to the Heavenly Father…all these things framed my life and shaped my thinking from the beginning. And every bit of it was good.

But at some point everyone will find themselves in the middle of a storm, and when the darkness closes in, you just have to ask the hard questions, lean right into this Truth you’ve known all your life and find out if it is big enough to carry you. Because if the words God says are true, then they should make a difference in everyday life– or else what good are they? If they are real and living, like He says they are, then they need to apply to me and the real situations I am in, and to be as powerful as they were when He first said them to people long ago. Going to meetings won’t stop the waves from crashing into the boat. Doing all the good work won’t keep the creeping fear at bay, or help me sleep at night. Singing the songs and going to fellowships won’t change my home-life. When your boat threatens to go under, then you begin to see what really matters, and there is only the raw cry of need: Find me, change me, meet me here or I won’t make it through. If I have to pretend that everything is all right in order to fit into my faith, then I’m the one who is adrift in a leaky boat. The Musician-King David had no trouble being honest and raw about his need, and he knew that mere church-going wasn’t anywhere near enough. “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning….” (Psalm 130:5-6)

I see friends struggling with faith in wilderness places, and I get it. When the walls are crashing down and gut-wrenching prayers seem to go unanswered, it makes you wrestle with what you believe about the Person in charge of all this and how willing He is to get involved… in a way that a pedestrian list of public prayer requests never will. It makes me think that faith is a deeper, wilder, more frightening leap than we are led to believe. But when life brings you here, there is no turning back from the questions, and I can hear the Musician-King still singing, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46:1-3) If God’s help and strength is more sure than the earth beneath us, then it is big enough for what I am facing, and at some point I need to stop seeing those as poetic words to read in church, and either choose to believe them, or not.

Once I stop relying on the church-going stuff and really start listening to what God is saying to me, I hear Him saying everything I need to hear. The Church-planter Paul recorded God’s promise to him when he was going through hard things: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) And I have to decide whether that answer– that promise– is big enough for the problems I face. Is it just a good church-going verse to memorize? Or is it a truth that is actually sturdy enough to hold up when I come pounding on the door in the middle of the night, with needs big enough to swallow us whole, and gritted-teeth reminders of the promises He made? Paul shared the hidden riches he discovered in his own hour of need: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Somehow the way God met Paul in his storm made the pain worth it, in the long run. That speaks volumes to the needy heart.

So maybe there is a strange mercy in the storms that drive you to examine what you really believe God is doing, and what you are expecting from Him. And maybe the bravest thing you can do is to leave behind the faith you’ve always had, trade it for something bigger….finally give up on the tidy organized church-going-things that you can do yourself, and fling yourself heart and soul on the One who can do all things. Jesus’ words still ring through the raging storms with all authority, “Peace, be still.” (Mark 4:39) Not even the blessed existential peace of shalom, but the nitty-gritty everyday command to hush the clamor, stop the shrieking of chaos, still the frenzied activity… because the Lord your Maker has come to you. And some days that kind of practical peace is exactly what we need.

The wind and waves obeyed Him because they were His; it was that simple. Seems to me that our lives would be simpler too, if we had that relationship with our Maker; if we listened to what He said and obeyed just because we are His, bowing down to His power in complete trust and worship. I am gradually learning that this is a deeper faith: to fasten my eyes on Him and trust that His words are for me, that He is right here with me. It feels a little like stepping right out onto the waves, but I do believe His Kingdom is real life, and I choose to bend everything I see, and feel, and think, to fit with that Reality. Nothing safe and tidy about it, but honestly, it is finally big enough to carry me.


Teach my eyes to recognize You;
Teach my lips tp glorify You.
Guide my feet so I can find You,
Wherever You are.
Be my way; I’m lost without You.
Be my light, shining through
My every breath, my every move,
Till every thought is You.

No Other Name (Unhindered)


O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh faints for You, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Psalm 63:1-2

Reminders for The Race

There is just this to say, to those running hard in the faith-race and maybe losing perspective:

You are never too far along to shed your skin and be made new. And neither is anyone else.  Because “we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) He is still calling people closer to Him and He will not stop till the final breath. Don’t give up on our ability to change, in the Creator’s hands.

God’s promises are not too big for ordinary people to lay hold of. His resurrection power is at work in this world, and in us, whether or not we have eyes to see it. He is the Creator of all this ordinary who says “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3), and promises that He is working every last little thing into His good plans for us, and the ordinary will all be made extraordinary, in the end. That’s why Jesus came down here, remember? “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

The words He gave us are not simply inspiring thoughts and lofty ideals. No, they are  breathed out by His Spirit into the concrete limits of ink and paper, and yet by His power remain “living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword…and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) They are wisdom and reality, meant for us to take hold of and put into practice, despite what society may call normal and our experiences may tell us to settle for.

Just because you haven’t found your happy ending, doesn’t mean there is no such thing…and let me tell you this: your story is not over yet. Life in this world may have wounded and disappointed, time and again, and I know what it is to build walls against the hurt, and to learn to walk carefully, but how can you live Real and still keep the deepest places walled up?  There is a choice there, and you have to know there is Someone who intends to be those protecting walls for you– the sooner you learn to run to Him as a safe place to hide, the healthier your heart will be.

The Musician-King knew all about loneliness, and grief, and betrayal, and his songs are about his own real life journey: “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God, and I trust Him….He will cover you with His feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” (Psalm 91:1-2, 4) God defines what is right and good and beautiful and true with the Person of Jesus, and all this is His Story, from beginning to end– the Hero who slays the dragon, rescues the girl, and brings her home to His Father the King to live happily-ever-after.

See, when you are still in the middle of your story, where the action and the conflict is, it is easy to forget that all of us Jesus-followers get happy endings. What you see now is only a few chapters so far, and all the characters aren’t even fully developed yet. The Author is the only One who sees the entire story from Beginning to End– so don’t get sidetracked, muddling through the pages, and conclude this is all there is. I’m with the Church-Planter Paul, on this one: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) 

So pick yourself up when people disappoint, and life hurts… and keep on running. Fasten your eyes on Jesus, pour out your heart to Him, and don’t give up. “…Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) 

Remind each other of this, and keep on keeping on.


Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25


Your vow’s a covenant unbroken
You’ve made it known through history
Your love will never be unfaithful
Never walk out on me…
I have no reason to doubt you
Who You’ve been You’ll always be
And though the future’s still unfolding
With everything I’ve seen
How could I not believe?

You are a promise keeper
Your word will never fail

Promise Keeper, Hope Darst

When You Feel Like Giving Up

It’s hard to say which is more difficult for a person: to step out into the unknown by faith to do what God is calling…or to wait in the silence by faith for what He is going to do. Both require eyes to see beyond the pressing circumstances. Both call for trust in His goodness and hope in His promises. Both can feel like they are stretching you right in two. But there is something particularly ragged about reaching the end of yourself– when you pour out the longings of your heart till there’s nothing left but raw vulnerability– and waiting there for God to show up and do what you cannot.

Just ask Hannah how she felt when she wept and prayed in the temple at Shiloh year after year, till she was so brokenhearted that old Eli thought she had lost her senses. Or Naomi packing up the remnants of a life, with nothing but a foreign daughter-in-law to show for her years; “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.” (Ruth 1:20-21) And then there is David, hiding in the desert caves from the King he had pledged his life to serve– the man who had welcomed him into his palace and his family, and now wanted to kill him. His song resonates with all those who wait: “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1) And each of these found in the depth of their need that God’s plans were abundantly more than they could ask, and His presence with them sufficient for their needs.

Perhaps in our desire to avoid pain we sometimes fail to see the Love that presses hard, the implacable mercy of the One who will stop at nothing less than the complete transformation of our souls. Maybe when we are finally empty of ourselves, and our own voices fall silent, there is room for Him to come in all His fulness and speak His answers into our stillness. Maybe in the waiting we finally realize what we want most of all, and can ask for the right things. And when we do reach the end of ourselves, we often find that the desert places are rich with the secret blessings of His presence.


“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

PSALM 73:25-26


“How often have I found myself asking for relief for those I love, just simple blessed relief from the grinding pressure of the stones: but would not another, a braver, deeper kind of prayer help them far more?…Let us pray alongside our Lord as He makes of mortal souls, through pressure, something that will be used for the life of the world…”

Amy Carmichael

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