Monday, August 31, 2020


My daily devotional reminded me today that, "We have a God who specializes in impossibilities. His power is greater than our problems, our difficulties, our crises, our emergencies, our reverses" (Mendell Taylor's Every Day with the Psalms).

Today feels like a day of impossibility, and so I must proclaim that I need God.

Today may be a day of impossibility for you, so I must write about it.

When I was a child, I loved riddles.  We'd ask question like this paradox: Can God make a rock so big that He can't move it? It turns out plenty of people are still discussing this question and others like it. The question doesn't really have anything to do with God; He just happens to be the subject.  Instead, we seem to love thinking about what is possible and what is impossible.  As if we know.

A friend once explained knowledge to me this way: Imagine a small circle.  The area (the interior of the circle) represents everything you know. Everything you don't know is outside the circle.  The circumference (the line making the "outside" of the circle) represents the meeting of what you know and what you don't know. It is what you know you don't know, the tip of the iceberg so to speak.  If you were to next draw a large circle, the area (your knowledge) would increase significantly but so would the circumference (what you know you don't know).  Therefore, the more you know, the more you know you don't know. There are a lot of things I don't know.  I hope that means that I am growing in knowledge.

Today is the second week of my second year of college.  It's the second time in my life that I've been able to say that. Almost two decades ago I attended two years of university.  My life experiences have taught me a few things since then, but there is really only one fundamental difference this time: when I don't know something, I want to know. It's why my Goodreads' Read list includes books I wouldn't have picked up before. I actually read books on the subject I am studying that aren't assigned by my teacher.  My eighteen year old self would wonder who I've become.

I learned to read unassigned books during the years I wasn't in college.  It's how I compensated for what I felt was a failure. I thought it was impossible to correct the mistakes I had made.  I just didn't get it.

So, what's impossible today? I'd rather not talk about it, if you'll give me that grace.  But, I think of the words that I have struggled to believe for years:
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13, NASB)
I hear this verse thrown around like it's a lotto ticket. Well, that's a terrible simile because I would never throw around a lotto ticket, at least not a winning one. I would hold it close and guard it until I could cash it in. No, this verse is the battle cry of those who preach the prosperity gospel. Do you think a Ferrari would further your ministry? Believe in Him to give you a Ferrari. The truth is, I don't want a Ferrari. I told my husband he could never buy me a car with more than 6 cylinders, or else he'd have to get a second job to pay for all the speeding tickets.

This verse is not a name-it-and-claim-it verse.  It's a testament to the power of Christ.  The verse literally says: For each thing, I have the strength of the one strengthening me.  However, we read translations, not transliterations, and so we end up with the words we are more familiar with.  The difference here is slight, but I believe the transliteration makes the verse harder to pluck out in singularity.  Alone, it begs the reader to ask: what things?  The answer is in verse 12.  Poverty. Wealth. Hunger. Contentment. Abundance. Lack.  In that context, it's hard to think of this verse as access to anything you want.  The verse is not about the ability to have anything as much as it's about the ability to have faith. So, today, on a day that seems impossible, I can have faith because Christ is strengthening me.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Love is...

See that picture frame?
It's actually a fish tank mounted in the master closet.
Are you asking why? So are we.

Growing up, my parents hung a felt banner in our living room that said “Love Is A Decision.” As I recall, they (and by “they” I mean, probably, my mom with my dad sitting nearby) made it at a marriage retreat they attended long before I was born. As the third child, there were many things that occurred long before I was born, but I digress.

When I hear “Love is...” I think of Kim Casali’s comic strip by the same name. The simplicity of her drawings and her ability to capture every day moments has allowed her work to remain popular over the years. According to her website, these started "back in the late 1960s when she drew the little pictures as love notes for her husband-to-be."  If you are unfamiliar, you can see a collection of her drawings on the website,

Indeed, love is a decision.

That seems to be the heart of this verse, in one of the most famous passages on love ever written. When we think of 1 Corinthians 13, most think of the author's description of what love is, but consider these often glossed over verses:
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
(1 Corinthians 13:2-3, NIV)
In many ways, we can't help what gifts and talents we have.  The pianist cannot create what the sculptor can, but both can love. The prince and the pauper have the same ability to love, though they may not have the same access to any other thing in life. I love the way The Message paraphrases the above verse, "So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love." Love may be the only thing that we can always control.  We can always choose to act lovingly. A genuine act of love is never wrong.

So how about you? If you were going to draw a "Love Is..." style comic strip, what would it show? In mine, you would see a couple eating burritos in bed because:
Thanks to my husband for showing me this act of love this week. No shame here; I love breakfast burritos!

Read my other posts on LOVE.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Seeking Peach Cobbler

It turns out that there is no sexy way to take a picture of peach cobbler.

I bet those aren't words you expected to read today, but it's the truth, at least for this novice photographer. I love peach cobbler, but I almost never eat it.  The reasons abound, the least of which are the dessert's talents as a model.

My husband doesn't like peaches, and I don't really care for them.  Except in cobbler. It's hard to make a cobbler for one, so I don't make it at home.  I don't know of any restaurants that sell it near my home. Last month a local restaurant put up signs advertising "Peach Season." I thought for sure that this would be it; if only seasonally, I'd be able to get peach cobbler lovingly made by a trained professional.  They only offered peach pie.  How unfortunate.  Cobbler beats pie any day.

About two years ago my friend and I volunteered at an event hosted by a semi-local mega church.  We did some work for them, and they allowed us to attend their conference for free. It was a great trade off.  Since this church was about an hour from our homes, we decided to have dinner together on the last night before we left. We had a fine meal, but the whole time I couldn't stop thinking about two words that I had seen written on their menu: Peach Cobbler.  I decided to buy one to go.  That night, I sent my friend one of the most disappointing texts I have ever sent: This isn't cobbler. It a crisp.

There's nothing wrong with a crisp, or even a crumble, but it wasn't what I was looking for. I was seeking something very specific, and nothing else would satisfy me.  Similarly, the Bible is filled with instruction to seek God, to look for Him with the same passionate effort I seek peach cobbler:
  • But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29)
  • If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
  • Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:12-13)
  • But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)
  • God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. (Acts 17:27)
I have tasted peach cobbler in the past, so I desire it when I am away from it too long.  It is the same with God.  But what about those who have never tasted?  Romans 10:14 asks the same question this way, "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" We, who have tasted, are called to share with those who have not. That's what I'm doing here. I hope you find your own way.

*If you, like most, are confused by the difference between a cobbler, a crisp, and a crumble, HERE is a great explanation.

Friday, August 28, 2020

FMF: Loud

When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.
(Joshua 6:5, NIV)

It very well may be the strangest battle strategy of all time: Walk around the city for seven days. On the seventh day, walk around the city seven times, then shout. LOUD.

I find that when God asks me to do things that don't make sense there is usually one reason: it shows that I trust Him.  The faith of these believers was not in their weapons or their leaders' skills as warriors.  It was in God. It's not only about others; it stops me from thinking that I am more than I am.  Sure there would be a celebration that night.  For years when someone pulled out the trumpets they'd remember that time that God did what He did.  They were not boasting in themselves, they were trusting in God.

I feel like I'm walking around a city right now.  I don't know what's inside, but I know this is what God has told me to do.  With nervous excitement, I look forward to the day that God asks me to do something unlike what I've ever done before. On that day, I will walk around the city seven times and give a loud shout.  It won't be a scream of terror, but a proclamation like Philippians 1:6, that God is finishing the work He has begun in me.

This post is a prompt from Five Minute Friday and was written in approximately five minutes. For more information, visit

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Psalm 13

We love to road trip, but it's a test of patience.
There's comfort in knowing that even a king like David had some of the same issues us common folk have. Yep, David hated to wait, and in this psalm he asks God no less than five times how long?  If you've ever traveled with children (or impatient adults), you probably know too well the struggle some have with patience.  On a recent road trip to visit our friends in Ridgecrest, we experienced it...

Are we there yet?

How about now?

Are we close?

How many more freeways?
(Maybe that's only the kids in California)

David said it more poetically:

Lord, how long must I wait? Will you forget me forever? 
How long will you turn your face away from me? 
How long must I struggle with my thoughts? 
How long must my heart be sad day after day? 
How long will my enemies keep winning the battle over me? 
(Psalm 13:1-2, NIRV)

David was filled with sorrow because he felt like he had been waiting a long time, like he had been waiting so long that God might have forgotten him.  Have you ever felt that way?  David wasn't alone in these feelings.  In fact, his ancestors struggled with the same feelings:
  • Noah waited his fair share of time to experience and be rescued from the flood. Some believe that it took Noah 120 years to prepare because of verse 6:3, though other disagree.  However long it was, we know you don't build a boat that size overnight. (Read the full account here: Genesis 6.)
  • Abraham had been waiting ten years for God's promised son when he took matters in his own hands and slept with his wife's maid.  That did not turn out well. (Read the full account here: Genesis 16.)
  • Jacob waited seven years to marry Rachel, but because his father was a sneaky businessman he ended up working fourteen years. (Read the full account here: Genesis 29.)
I know that it only felt like God had forgotten David, but I also understand his doubts. In my head I know that God won’t forget me because He promises to be with us. In both Deuteronomy and Joshua, God promised that He will never leave us. God was with us on earth as a person when Jesus was born. Jesus promised that, after Him, the Holy Spirit would come and be with us forever. God can’t forget us if He is always with us. Sometimes it takes my heart longer to catch up.

The Bible says there is one thing that God does forget: our sins. Isaiah 43:25 says that when we ask God to forgive us, God will forget our sins and take them away. David knew that only God could change his life this way. We too can trust God to change our lives through His love and forgiveness. This kind of love gave David joy:
But I trust in your faithful love.
My heart is filled with joy because you will save me.
I will sing praise to the Lord.
He has been so good to me.
(Psalm 13:5-6, NIRV)
Even though David was sad about the problems he was facing, he knew that God loved him. He knew that God had taken care of him in the past, and he trusted God to save him in the future. It's amazing that David had the faith to thank God even before his problems were gone. I pray God helps me to have this kind of faith also.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Love More

I was recently watching an old reality show. I've never watched it regularly, though I have seen a few episodes.  It featured a cast of women, a few of whom openly professed their faith in Christ. By the second episode, I was cringing every time they showed these believers. I'm sure they thought they were sharing Christ with their cast mates, but all I could do was pray that somehow God had used them. I could not see how.

We read about the apostle Paul facing an equally awkward scene:
Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
(Acts 16:16-18, NIV)
Let's get this straight, there is a wrong way to proclaim Jesus. It's part of the reason the body of believers is facing some of the challenges we have today. A friend recently told me about an encounter he had with an unbeliever. The unbeliever told him the biggest problem he had with church is the hypocrisy. I can't blame the guy for thinking this way. I, too, have been hurt by believers whose actions didn't match their statements of faith, and I know I have been the one to hurt others this same way. We've missed the proverbial forest for the trees.

What is the answer?  As it so often is, it's Jesus. When we draw close to Jesus we learn the compassion He had for those who were "like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36).   We learn the forgiveness He had for people like the woman caught in adultery, and we will say that we don't condemn people as we encourage them to "go now and leave your life of sin" (John 8:11).  The answer is not to judge more.  It is to love more.  More love for those who don't know Christ.  More love for those who've been proclaiming Christ wrong.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love,
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
(1 Corinthians 13:1, NIV)
May we love more and clang less.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Solomon's Rise and Fall

It's strange to think that it's been almost five years since I stopped working full time.  I had never known anything other than being a working wife and mother, and my career had been a blessing from God that generously provided for my family.  When I chose to walk away from it, I knew it was at God's prompting.  Oh, sure, I was intrigued by the idea that I'd have free time to pick up a hobby or have dates with my husband on his days off, but I was scared of as many things. I still hold a special place in my heart for those fourteen years that I worked in real estate.  I learned so many things and met great people, but those good things were always clouded with a darkness that is hard to articulate. When the time came, I knew that if I didn't leave then, what had helped develop me as a person would soon destroy me.

I think of Solomon, who worked in Biblical real estate.  He was born to a father who longed to build God a temple.  David was convicted that he lived in a home while God lived a tent.  (Read the account here: 2 Samuel.)  God's plans were not for David to build His temple, but rather for his son Solomon. David did as much as he could.  He collected the supplies, but it was Solomon who would build.

Solomon was blessed by God. Being born a prince, he had a good start in life. He had all the earthly blessings one could dream of: wealth, wisdom, and love. In fact, he found love over and over again. And again. And again after that:
King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done. On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods. (1 Kings 11:1-8, NIV)
It's hard to know when to stop building. If Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, he may have built hundreds or thousands of altars to false gods. All God wanted was for him to build one.  

God has given me a temple to build, just like He has given you one. It is a monument to God that will bring Him honor and glory.  We must be careful to hold fast only to God.  Otherwise what brings us up will evengtually bring us down.

Friday, August 21, 2020

FMF: Mercy

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
(Matthew 9:12-13, NIV)

"I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
(Matthew 12:6-8, NIV)

I love the bond that comes from teaching my children to love what I love.  My older son shares my affinity for 80s and 90s television and has seen a shocking quantity of cheesy sitcoms.  I recently quizzed him on which Full House catchphrase was his favorite: Have Mercy.  He literally said, "Because, John Stamos.  Do I need to say more?"

God also loves when His children care about the things He cares about.  Not once, but twice, Jesus quoted the same scripture to the pharisees. If Jesus told me something more than once, I hope I'd get the point.  (I'm feeling a little convicted even as I type those words because I'm sure there are things He tells me over and over that I still don't get.) The pharisees, however, did not seem to understand this passage:
For I desire mercy and not sacrifice,
And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
(Hosea 6:6, NKJV)
The sacrifice and offering system of the Old Testament worked well for the Jewish people, or so the pharisees thought.  In actuality, they were missing the point.  God didn't want bulls or doves or grain.  He wanted them.  Just them.

Here we find Jesus, perhaps speaking a little more tersely than He sometimes did, telling them they just don't get it.

Lord, help me when I don't get it.  Have mercy.

This post is a prompt from Five Minute Friday and was written in approximately five minutes. For more information, visit

You can read some other posts that deal with the topic of mercy HERE.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Devoted to Fellowship

As I sit down to write these words, I'm struggling with the thoughts in my head.  It has been five months since we began to address the concerns of COVID-19.  Whether you call it a quarantine, safe-at-home order, or self-isolation, these five months have been filled with challenge and change.  Many have had troubles like they've never had before.  In the early days, unprecedented food scarcity plagued my local markets. I waited in line and hoped to find what I most needed.  I told my sons things I've never heard myself say before: This is what you'll eat because this is what we have.  Almost overnight, it seemed a well had dried up.

Despite the struggles, I'll admit that there have been some welcome changes.  There are some norms I'm glad to be rid of. We don't seem to be in the same hurry that we once were, especially here in California where it seems people are always on the go.  The last five months have allowed us to collectively slow our pace, even halting our pace from time to time.  We've read books, made home improvements, and played games with our families.

There are also things I'm sad to have lost.  My older son was counted in the 1% of our national population who graduated high school this year without the traditions we've held for decades.  I recall my senior year with fondness, and I'm sorry that his ended so anticlimactically.

And then there are those practices that fall in to the grey area.  I find the majority of my life does not fall neatly into black or white, but lingers in the continuum of grey.  Please hear my heart as much as my words.  I miss church.  I do.  But, I've had this feeling for months now that we've desperately needed to let go of some of the things we do, or at very minimum, how we do them. Without the routine of Sunday morning, Wednesday night, monthly specials, I've asked myself why do we do what we do as the church?  Why do I do what I do as a part of the church?  Do our actions entice the common man or applaud the Christian elite? How would God design the church if He were starting it today?  I cannot answer that because He is not starting the church today.  However, I can look at how the early church behaved:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47, NIV)
I've been stuck on the first line of this passage for years: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship.  I understand being devoted to teaching, but I could not wrap my head around being devoted to fellowship.  I'm starting to wonder if fellowship is one of the things we've been getting terribly wrong in the church.  If other believers are anything like me (and I'm actually praying that I'm the only one), we've made shallow a very deep word.  Too often I've reduced fellowship to gathering.  We are tempted to call every church event that isn't a "worship service" or "Bible study" or "ministry opportunity" fellowship. The Greek word for fellowship is one that I've heard so often it's almost trite: KOINONIA. Lord, forgive me.

This thing we call fellowship is part of our sacred experience.  It is so much more than potlucks or picnics.  Fellowship has to do with sharing, participating, contributing, and unity.  As I think about this idea, I'm realizing my local church recently shared fellowship by passing out these communion baskets to the families of our church.  More than just the teamwork of purchasing supplies, assembling baskets, and distributing to 40+ homes, I can't help but think about the fellowship of communion.  These glass cups are decades old and, before being shelved away in favor of their disposable plastic versions, offered the chance to unite with God to countless believers. When we take communion we remember Christ and celebrate His sacrifice.

Like these communion cups, have we traded the long lasting means of sharing Christ for a cheap, disposable version?  Have we hidden away something of value for something easier?  I've asked a lot of questions today. In my heart I feel that these questions aren't for me to answer, at least not at this time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Because You Are Strong

I write to you, dear children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.
(1 John 2:14, NIV)

Here, where I live, we are one week away from the first day of school.  This time of year usually comes with a unique mix of emotions.  For many it is both dread and excitement as the carefree days of summer disappear for the structure of daily studies and reunion with friends.  Undoubtedly, this year carries with it an additional set of fears, frustration, and disappointment all before school has even begun.  Students are beginning the year knowing that this year will likely be all the work (plus some more) without the relationships that encourage them.  No funny faces will be made across the classroom when the teacher turns her back.  No notes will be passed in hallways between classes.  And parents will always be close by even though students are "in class."  The patterns that have been developed and mastered over the last five, ten, or twelve years are meaningless.

We have a simple rule for school success in our home: Every class. Every page. Every assignment.

It is hard.  There are many distractions, many things that bring more immediate joy, and many things that are easier. It doesn't always feel like it, and actions may not always reflect this truth, but YOU ARE STRONG. Despite the uncertainty faced by students, teachers, and parents, God is here.  He will remain here.  And unlike those in our classes, He is not with us remotely; THE WORD OF GOD LIVES IN YOU. May you face each day with this knowledge and live accordingly, so that when it is done we will see and know that YOU HAVE OVERCOME THE EVIL ONE.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

God and the Golden Girls

While backing up the photos on my phone, I came across a screen shot I had taken in June 2019.  My good friend Melinda and I had decided to follow a plan that would have us read the New Testament over the course of the summer.  It reminded me of something interesting that happened last year.

My 2019 focus was to “Start with Worship." For those of you who need definitive labels, consider my focus a New Year's Resolution.  With that in mind I had started doing a few different things to focus on scripture. I already mentioned my daily Bible readings. That's also about the time that I started to attend a monthly (now weekly) women’s Bible study with my church. On one particular day, I found myself doing both of these activities: I read several chapters from the book of Mark for my daily readings, and I focused on a chapter from the book of John for my study group. But surprisingly, and this is what I love most about God, He he spoke loudest to me that day through an episode of Golden Girls.

Now, I don’t know why this surprises me because God seems to speak to me through the strangest and most unexpected things. So unexpected that they shouldn’t be unexpected anymore. This particular episode was a Christmas special where the Girls serve Christmas dinner at a local church.  The pastor makes a comment that it’s hard for him to satisfy the spiritual needs of those coming for dinner when they have so many physical needs as well.

I can’t argue with his statement since he was essentially quoting scripture. In James 2 we read a debate between the importance of faith versus deeds:
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
(James 2:15-17, NIV)
James does not tell his readers to go and have more faith. He does not tell them to commit to long prayer sessions every evening. Nor does he tell his readers to spend more time focusing on the scripture. While we should be doing all of these things, we are told that our faith should be expressed through our actions. Not should, must.

Since I've been struggling with what it means to use my passions to serve God (read more HERE), it seems right that I not ignore these words.  I trust that God will help me figure this all out long before I am a golden girl.  If you are still reading this, thank you for being a friend.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Psalm 9

A few day ago I spent some time thinking about what I like to do.  You can read that post HERE if you'd like.  High on this list is writing.  I have always loved to write, and I even have a copy of one of the first (if not the very first) poem I wrote.  It was terrible, and I'll save sharing that with you for another day.

This love for writing was a gift through school and continues to be a blessing in adulthood.  A well worded letter or email can make all the difference between communicating what you mean and make a problem worse.  However, when I was younger I'd be presented with assignments that people bemoaned.  I believe it was my freshman year of high school in which we studied poetry.  We wrote haikus, couplets, and acrostics.

If by chance you're aren't familiar with acrostics, they are poems in which the first letter of each verse (or the first letter of each stanza) spells out a word. Instead of spelling out a particular word, these letter can be in order of the letters of the alphabet… A – B – C and so on.  Acrostics are not uncommon in the Psalms, and it is believed that chapters 9 and 10 together are the first acrostic in the book.  I say "it is believed" because I don't speak Hebrew, so I will trust the experts on this.

Psalm 9 is filled with things David is thankful to God for. It begins like this: 
Lord, I will give thanks to you with all my heart. 
I will tell about all the wonderful things you have done.
I will be glad and full of joy because of you.
Most High God, I will sing the praises of your name.
(Psalm 9:1-2, NIRV)
Some of the ways that David praised and thanked God are strange to us today. For example, in verse 6 David thanked God that his enemy’s city was torn down. I’ve never thanked God for that, and I’ll bet you haven’t either. Let's not forget that that David was king of his country and, as a military leader, this doesn't seem quite so unusual.
Click to download PDF version.

On the other hand, some of the ways that David thanked God are much more familiar:
  • In verse 12 David thanked God that He “doesn’t forget the cries of those who are hurting.”
  • In verse 14 David said that “[he] will be full of joy because [God] has saved [him].”
  • And in verse 18 David thanked God that “God will never forget needy people.”
We are all different people, so we all have different things for which we thank God. What are you thankful for? 
I've made a simple worksheet to help guide you through a prayer of thankfulness.  Just like this psalm, I've made an acrostic using the word THANKS to spell out six areas in which we can thank God.  Double points if you can start your sentence with the same letter.  Just kidding - I don't think God gives out points like that.

Don’t stop here!  I encourage you to keep talking to God and thanking Him for everything He does. Some people find it very easy to be thankful and for others it can be hard. It does not always come easily to me, but like everything else, we can improve most behaviors with practice.  The more we thank Him, the easier it becomes. 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Psalm 8

Here I am camping on Lake Cachuma in 2017.
Though I don't do it as often as I'd prefer, I love to camp. I've camped in a tent less than ten times in my life, and I've camped in cabins about the same amount. Whether in a tent or cabin, there is a different rhythm to life when you leave your home and spend time in nature.

When we camp, we don't go to far outside of the city. This can make it hard to see the stars in the sky. We certainly see more than at home, but not nearly as many as we'd see if we camped farther away. A few years ago when I went camping with my church, my pastor showed me an app he had on his phone. He pointed his phone at the sky and the app recognized which constellations we were looking it. It showed me what my eyes couldn't see.

When I look at a star, I sometimes wonder who else is looking at it too. There's a strong likelihood I was influenced by An American Tail. My heart recalls the hope and sorrow with which Fieval sang, "And even though I know how very far apart we are / It helps to think we might be wishin' on the same bright star." David, however, looked up to the sky and thought about God:
I think about the heavens.
I think about what your fingers have created.
I think about the moon and stars
that you have set in place.
(Psalm 8:3, NIRV)
David looked up to the sky and saw it for what it was: God's creation. A few years ago I made a sculpture as part of an art program I was teaching at my son's school. We started with a piece of wood, a metal hanger, pantyhose, and some paint. That sculpture (and I use the word sculpture loosely) will never be on display at the Louvre. It doesn't look like much to most, but it is very special to me because it is my creation. It is something I made. David was amazed that the same God who made the universe also made Him. Just like the moon and stars, we are also God’s creation. In Genesis 1, after each day of creation, we read that what God made was good. But when we read about God creating people, we read that He said it was very good. My sculpture sits in my living room next to a sculpture my son made in that class. My son is also my creation, but when I compare the two, there is no question about which one I love more. My sons are my most special creation.

David was impressed by the kind of love that God had for him. David knew that God thought about him. It's easy to think that God cared about David because he was someone important. After all, we know that David was a king and he did some really cool things.  But he didn't esteem himself above others. David didn’t ask, “Why am I so important to you, God?” No, David knew that God thinks about all people. That includes you and me. He wrote:
What are human beings that you think about them?
What is a son of man that you take care of him?
(Psalm 8:4, NIRV)
It's amazing that any time we need a reminder of God's love for us, we can look up to the sky and see the stars - or at least one really close star during the day.  The signs of God's love are everywhere if stop to look for them.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

The People in My Neighborhood

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.  (Galatians 6:10, NIV)

This week in my group Bible study, we discussed the idea of using the gifts God has given each one of us. I've been enjoying The Weekly Faith Project, but this week's study challenged me deeply. The author approaches the idea from the standpoint that we should be serving where the things that bring us joy meet the needs of those around us. That intersection should be our passion.

Things that Bring Me Joy
I was hesitant to literally make a list of the things that bring me joy because I couldn't understand how the things I like to do are related to serving God. (If you can already see where I'm going, please stop rolling your eyes at how widely I missed the point.)  I have a very narrow view of what it means to serve God, at least in practical application.  When I think of the women at that Bible study, I think of women who have served God by loving me: by leaving me special voicemail messages, giving gifts to my children because they were thinking about them, by allowing my family to repeatedly use their home, and by simply sharing one of a kind friendships over the years.  None of these are traditional means of ministry, and yet each woman (and their spouses, too) has uniquely served God by showing my family these kindnesses. As the Spirit spoke and my heart was convicted, I jotted down a quick list.  I like writing, cooking, traveling, gathering, organizing, and meeting people.  Obscure as they are, these are things I love.

The Needs Around Me
Again, I was hesitant to make a list of needs because I didn't want to write down generic, universal needs.  It turned out that most of the other woman also thought of these things that we all need: love, forgiveness, acceptance, and so on.  For me, writing down these types of things made me painfully aware of the fact that I was not immediately tuned in to the needs of those around me.  If resources were fully available and I had to chose a way to serve someone right now (and I mean literally right now), I'm not sure I'd know what to do.  Perhaps that is because this is hypothetical, but it seems more likely to me that I wouldn't know what to do because I am not in touch with the needs of those around me.  It makes me sick to my stomach to think about this. So I took a step back.  Who are the people around me?

I began to think, really think, about who I encounter in my daily life.  I broke it down into a few categories:
  • The people closest to me are the people I care most about and love deeply.  They may be friends or family, and some of them are people I don't see regularly.  These are the people I would feel comfortable asking for anything if I needed it.
  • The next closest group of people are casual friends, those who most of us would call acquaintances.  Some I have not known very long, and so the relationship is not very deep.  Some I have known a long time but because of the nature of our relationship we are not deeply bonded.  For most of my life, colleagues would have fallen into this category, but to varying degrees.
  • Beyond them are the most distant person who can still be called a friend.  They are people I know of, know in part, and have met sometimes repeatedly with no significant relationship being formed as a result.  I'm calling them friends of friends, although sometimes these people are relatives who I have an undeniable connection to despite essentially being strangers.
  • The last group of people I know are the random people I meet - maybe once at a party, as a client, or sitting next to them in a waiting room.  The other group of people I include here are the regular strangers we see - the guy in the grocery store who restocks produce, my dry cleaner, or the couple who walks their dog past my house.
As this image of who I know began to form, I heard the theme song from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood in the background.  There were no strangers to Mr. Rogers, only friends he hadn't yet made.  While that idea of a neighborhood might be oversimplified, it doesn't have to be as complicated as we sometimes make it.

I return to the original question: what are the needs of those around me and how do I use what I enjoy to meet those needs?  I'm not sure I'm much closer to the specific needs of those around me.  I'm not sure I want to list them here even as they come to mind.  For now I am content with knowing that my eyes have been opened to another way of serving God. I pray my eyes see the needs of those around me and that I act every time I can.

Click HERE for other posts inspired by this devotional.

Friday, August 14, 2020

FMF: Right

“Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.... If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it" (Exodus 23:2,5, NIV).
This once wild horse lives with other state rescued
animals (including donkeys). Learn more HERE.

At nearly forty years old I still get confused about what is right and wrong.  That feels silly to write because, of course, I know what most would consider right or wrong.  It's wrong to murder, obviously.  Almost everyone agrees on this; and it's what's known as mala in se, a crime that is wrong in and of itself.  It is universally wrong.

But what God has asked His believers to do is not universally accepted as right behavior.  Exodus 25 challenges some preconceived notions about what is right.  If I see someone who hates me, I must still help them.  It reminds me of Proverbs 25:21-22 which tells me to feed my hungry enemy and, by doing so, I will heap burning coals on his head.  Apparently, God likes that.  That verse always confused me.  Is it revenge generosity?

In part, I get confused about right and wrong because of verses like Romans 12:2.  If God has a good and perfect will for my life, there are a lot of ways I can go wrong.  That scares the perfectionist in me.

I feel a little lost today.  I want to do right, and yet it proves to be harder with each passing day.  I pray that God gives me wisdom as I continue to seek Him in all my decisions.

And I pray I can lift up someone's donkey today.

This post is a prompt from Five Minute Friday and was written in approximately five minutes. For more information, visit

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Psalm 7

Tag.  It's one of the most popular games of childhood.  It can be traced back at least 150 years, but it's origins may go much farther back.  It's popularity persists because of it's simplicity: no equipment is needed, and there are hundreds of variations to suit players' preferences.  One basic variation is to create a place that is “safe.” For those of us who tire easily, this place of rest is a must for any game.

If only life were as simple as a game of Tag.  We know it's not, but when I read Psalm 7 I couldn't help but think of life as a game of Tag.  David wrote:
Lord my God, I go to you for safety.
Help me. Save me from all those who are chasing me.
(Psalm 7:1, NIRV)
David had a lot of enemies.  Remember when David encountered Saul in the cave?  If you don't, you can read it here: 1 Samuel 24.  I see David holding up that piece of Saul's robe as if to say, "I could have tagged you, but I chose not to." David wasn't always this victorious.  He had his share hard times, but David knew that only God could keep him safe. Just like when we play Tag, sometimes life has us running around a lot. It’s hard, and it makes us tired.  We want a safe place to rest. God was that safe place for David. David didn't take advantage of God's protection of him.  Even though God helped David, he still tried to do what God wanted him to do. In fact, in verse 5 David said that if he had done anything bad to his friends it would be ok for his enemies to chase and catch him.

David did not like when people did bad things. For all of David's flaws (and there were plenty), David was called "a man after God's own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14).  David desired for all people to do what was right in God's eyes, and he thought that people who tried to do wrong to others would be caught in their own tricks. I love this imagery of a person digging a hole and then falling into it: 
Whoever is full of evil
plans trouble and ends up telling lies. 
Whoever digs a hole and shovels it out
falls into the pit they have made.
The trouble they cause comes back on them.
The terrible things they do will happen to them.
(Psalm 7:14-16, NIRV).
Instead of making trouble, David wanted to be like God. The Bible tells us a lot of things about God: God is love, God is kind, and God is fair. We should also try to have these qualities as a way of showing our love to God. David finishes this psalm like this: 
I will give thanks to the Lord because he does what is right.
I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High. 
(Psalm 7:17, NIRV)
God always does what is right. Like David, we can put our hope in God and rest when we are near Him even if we are flawed.  Through Christ, we can be forgiven of our wrong doings and enter God's rest.

For more thoughts on hope, I encourage you to read this recent post: Psalm 5.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Year Four

And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff.
(Luke 4:28-29, NASB)

Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.
(John 10:39, NIV)

Jesus‘ ministry was only three years long.  They were years filled with crowds, chaos, and capture attempts.  There was controversy, conflict, and betrayal.  By today's standards, Jesus was chronically homeless. He paid his taxes from money found in a fish.  He was not understood by the religious elite, and He was rejected in his hometown.  His years of ministry were concluded by the events of Gethsemane, loneliness, and ultimately crucifixion. If the story stopped there, Jesus' ministry would be considered a total failure.  But we know the story doesn't end in year three.  Instead year four - and all of the years after it - are marked with resurrection.

Many of us are living in year three.  Things seem to be going from bad to worse.  Our friends feel distant.  Authorities are working against us.  Our prayers are being answered in ways that break our heart.  We are asking ourselves what could possibly happen next.

Resurrection could happen next.

Friday, August 7, 2020

FMF: Progress

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:15-16, NIV)
The Weekly Faith Project: A Challenge to Journal, Reflect, and ...
Current Bible Study:
The Weekly Faith Project.

Paul certainly as a lot of applicable advice for those he wrote to, and sometimes I miss the forest for the trees.  In Paul's first letter to Timothy, he encourages Timothy to be "diligent" in growing the spiritual gifts he's been given "so that everyone may see [his] progress."

I usually think about progress as something for myself.  I want to better myself.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Here, Paul affirms - once again - that we are not meant to live our our faith in solitude.  Our faith encourages the faith of others, and their faith encourages us.

I attend a weekly Bible study for women.  For the past thirteen weeks we've been talking about faith.  Who knew there was so much to study on faith!  After three months we are just finishing what faith IS, and we are beginning to study what faith DOES.

Faith makes progress.

Faith should never be happy with its current standing but always works hard to better the believer and those around the believer.  It changes the importance of my faith to think that my decisions impact more than just me.  When I lack the desire to do what is right, thinking of someone else may give me strength.

This post is a prompt from Five Minute Friday and was written in approximately five minutes. For more information, visit

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Psalm 5

What do you hope for?  During my life, my hopes have changed according to the desires of my heart.  In high school my hopes often revolved around boys, especially that I might be asked to a dance or other similar event.  In my young adulthood my hopes were often focused on employment, that I would get a raise or that I'd have certain perks from my work. These days my hopes are a little less tangible: I hope my kids are growing in maturity, that my husband and I grow continually closer to each other, and that my friends are well. None of these hope are intrinsically bad, but as I studied Psalm 5, I began to see how much I have misunderstood the biblical concept of hope:
Lord, listen to my words. 
Pay attention when I mourn.
My King and my God,
hear me when I cry for help. I pray to you.
Lord, in the morning you hear my voice.
In the morning I pray to you.
I wait for you in hope. 
(Psalm 5:1-3, NIRV)
Usually when I say hope, I mean that I am wishing for something to happen.  In Psalm 5:3, the word translated as "hope" is "tsaphah" which means "to look out or about, spy, keep watch."  Yes, hope is something much deeper than wanting something.  It is a trust something is going to happen. David  knew God was going to answer his prayers because he trusted God. “I wait for you in hope” really means that David is watching for something he knows is going to happen.   

When we plan to have visitors at our home, I sometimes find myself passing repeated by the front window of our home, waiting to see their car pull up. I know my friends are coming; I’m just not sure exactly when. That is the kind of hope that David had. He knew that God would answer his prayers, but he didn’t know when or how. As long as I'm being honest, I'll admit that my hopes don't always revolve around God.  I don't eagerly stand at the window of my life and watch for God's appearance.  How different my life would be if I started each day watching for God!