Friday, October 23, 2020

FMF: Disappoint

In You our fathers trusted;
They trusted and You delivered them.
To You they cried out and were delivered;
In You they trusted and were not disappointed....
Be not far from me, for trouble is near;
For there is none to help.
(Psalm 22:4-5,11, NASB)

God does not disappoint, but sometimes He delivers in unexpected ways.

Let me tell you about my friend Sam.  He is in the process of becoming a pastor, but he also works at a cemetery.  He marries and buries, as all pastors do, in the most literal of ways.

One day he found himself working graveside for the funeral of a man who had killed his wife and child before killing himself.  The man's parents sat graveside and waited.  No one showed up, not even the pastor who was supposed to officiate the ceremony.

Where were this man's friends?  Where were the parent's neighbors?  Where was the "man of God" who was supposed to be ministering to them?  They had all disappointed.

Enter Sam.

I picture the scene like this.  In his maintenance uniform, he approaches the mourning couple.  He tells them that he works for the cemetery, but that he is also a pastor.  He then proceeds to read Scripture with them and pray for them.

Sam would probably squirm if he knew I was writing about him today.  He'd probably squirm just knowing his good deed had been told to me.  But in writing this story, I am not really bragging about Sam.  I am bragging about Sam allowing God to work through him.

That day he was God's representative, and God did not disappoint.  Even when everyone else did.

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Happy Birthday to My Son, and His Hair

Mini Golf at the Mall of America.
You can't see his hair, but I promise it's there.
There are some things a person never forgets.

One of them, for me, was that Monday morning 18 years ago when I woke up with a terrible feeling I had never experienced before: I was in labor.

That eight mile drive to the hospital felt like a million, but we made it. By the end of the day I was holding a beautiful baby boy with a dark brown comb-over. Months later we'd finally get brave enough to cut his hair and find underneath those dark brown locks was blonde hair. And, eventually, that hair would gradually change back to a medium brown. Of course, one day he will grey or bald, depending on whose genes dominate.

The story of my son's life reaches far beyond his hair, though his hair hides a lot of stories.

There was the time a barber tried to calm him down by giving him a lollipop before the haircut was over.  Pro tip: don't do that.  Kids don't like hair on their lollipops.

There was the time I tried to cut his hair the night before school starts, but I forgot to put the attachment on the razor.  I'm glad mohawks were in style that year.

In the big picture, hair is nothing.  Yet God pays attention to even the number of hairs on our heads:
Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7, NASB)
Today, as that beautiful baby boy legally becomes a man, I can't help but thank God for all the years He let me wash, comb, (pay others to) cut his hair, and love him the best I could.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Who Stole my KitKats and Faith in Humanity?

“You must not steal." (Exodus 20:15, NCV)

I sometimes hear people refer to the Ten Commandments as a basic law of morality.  To this I wonder: have you ever met a person before?  I mean, seriously, people are terrible.  No, not always, of course.  Sometimes we do these really awesome things, but then other times... yikes!

Yet, we retain this idea that people are basically good. For example, most people would say it is wrong to steal. Most would even say that they don't steal because it is wrong. Unfortunately, as I learned again this week, one's ideals do not always match their actions. People steal.

I've had things stolen from me plenty of times. When I was a young girl, someone stole my Glo Worm. I forgot it somewhere and went back for it that evening, but it was already gone. In 2002 someone stole my car. My husband and I were out of town for a work conference, and one evening my husband somehow forgot the keys in our car with the windows down. This is quite uncharacteristic for him, and in the middle of the night he realized his error.  He went out to to get his keys, but the car was already gone. A few years ago I watched an elderly gentleman reach into an open drawer, remove a pair of scissors, and walk away with them. Most recently? Last week someone stole my KitKats.

To be clear, I'm not talking about a KitKat bar. I'm not talking about two KitKat bars. I'm talking about two cases of KitKats, 72 bars, which I had just purchased for $50.

Are they easily replaced? Sure.

Was it a valuable lesson? I guess so.

Do I feel personally violated? Definitely.

I guess my first mistake was assuming that because my church has been closed for six months that people do not enter the building. The doors get left open as we move from building to building in the course of a day's work, and, of course, people have keys. I suppose I got too comfortable, and I made a bad decision.

I want to give people the benefit of the doubt. My husband rolls his eyes when I rationalize: maybe they thought it belonged to them, maybe they thought it was abandoned, maybe they thought it was going to waste. In this situation, there is no way to rationalize someone taking these candy bars.  That's what makes it so frustrating. This wasn't Jean Valjean stealing bread to feed his family. These were KitKat bars. Gimme a break! (See what I did there?) To me, experiences like this prove the Ten Commandments are such a lofty code of conduct.

Writing to believers who were already familiar with the Ten Commandments, the New Testament author James expounds:
A person who follows all of God’s law but fails to obey even one command is guilty of breaking all the commands in that law. The same God who said, “You must not be guilty of adultery,” also said, “You must not murder anyone.” So if you do not take part in adultery but you murder someone, you are guilty of breaking all of God’s law. (James 2:10-12, NCV)
So, in the midst of my feelings of hurt, anger, and frustration, I must remember that I too have broken God's law.  I am no better than the person sitting somewhere 72 KitKats richer.

Friday, October 16, 2020

FMF: Hold

So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some men and go and fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill, holding the walking stick of God in my hands.” Joshua obeyed Moses and went to fight the Amalekites, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held his hands up, the Israelites would win the fight, but when Moses put his hands down, the Amalekites would win. Later, when Moses’ arms became tired, the men put a large rock under him, and he sat on it. Then Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ hands—Aaron on one side and Hur on the other. They kept his hands steady until the sun went down. So Joshua defeated the Amalekites in this battle.
(Exodus 17:9-13, NCV)

In the battles of life, we all have different positions.  Some of us fight in the trenches, and some of us coach from the sidelines.  It's likely that at different times in our lives we will hold a variety of positions.

Moses' job in fighting the Amalekites was definitely unique.  He was the team stick-holder.  Baton twirler?  Nope, he held up a stick.  Stick up, team wins.  Stick down, team loses.

As time passed, Moses grew tired, as anyone would.  This is not unexpected, but when it happens at a bad time - say when you are fighting a war - it can certainly be discouraging. Fortunately, Moses came prepared.  He brought with him two partners, Aaron and Hur.

Aaron and Hur saw Moses' needs and tended to them.  They placed a rock under him so he could sit down.  Then, they literally carried his burden.  They each stood on either side of him and helped him lift his hands to God.  Together the battle would be won.

In my life, the Aarons and Hurs are the friends who choose to stay near me, to go to the mountain top with me.  They say: your burden is my burden; we will get through this together.

Leave me a comment telling me who the Aarons and Hurs are in your life.  I'd love for you to call them out by name.  And then, if you are feeling brave, let them know how they hold you up.

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Ever Changing Church

When I stopped working in youth ministry over a decade ago we had just entered into a technological age that would change our future. The question of how to handle teens and their cell phones was a significant, albeit not life shattering, issue being faced. These teens had not grown up with a cell phone in their hands, though they were receiving them early in life, and so techniques like setting a basket at the door where everyone left their phones worked. It was a mostly effective solution to a new problem. As long as there has been a church, there have been problems needing to be worked out.  This is clearly evidenced in Acts 6:
The number of followers was growing. But during this same time, the Greek-speaking followers had an argument with the other followers. The Greek-speaking widows were not getting their share of the food that was given out every day. The twelve apostles called the whole group of followers together and said, “It is not right for us to stop our work of teaching God’s word in order to serve tables. So, brothers and sisters, choose seven of your own men who are good, full of the Spirit and full of wisdom. We will put them in charge of this work. Then we can continue to pray and to teach the word of God.”

The whole group liked the idea, so they chose these seven men: Stephen (a man with great faith and full of the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas (a man from Antioch who had become a follower of the Jewish religion). Then they put these men before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

The word of God was continuing to spread. The group of followers in Jerusalem increased, and a great number of the Jewish priests believed and obeyed.
(Acts 6:1-7, NCV)
For the church in Acts 6, the problem was more than logistical.  The church was struggling to understand how people of many traditions (here, Greek and Hebrew) could (or if they even could) come together to truly be one body of believers.  So the leaders of the church came up with a simple plan: have some other men oversee the solution to the problem.  They delegated.

If you have ever worked with a person who used "delegation" as a means to pass off anything they don't want to do, please don't think that's what the church leaders were doing.  They were plenty busy with their work - a very effective work by the ways their numbers were growing - and so they thought it would be best to let another group of leaders oversee food distribution.

It's easy to think that leaders might have considered this work beneath them.  Reading that they didn't want to "serve tables" sounds almost dismissive.  However, by looking at who they chose to do this new work, we can see that it was something they considered essential and important.  Of the seven men, two have significant descriptions. First, Stephen is described as "a man with great faith and full of the Holy Spirit."  Why would you chose this kind of man to be a DoorDash driver food server unless it was a faith-related activity?  You wouldn't.  Clearly, the work being done was to feed their spirits as much as their stomachs. Second, Nicolas was Greek.  He would be a familiar face to the widows they served and would be able to resolve any miscommunication that arose.  He was greasing the wheels, in the best possible way. All seven of these men are described as good, faith filled, and wise.

In this case, church leaders didn't let tradition blind them to need.  They responded with How can we fix this? instead of But it's never been a problem before.   As the church grows and as times change, new problems arise that have serious implications; I think most of us have learned that this year.  However, when we've moved past the problems we faced in 2020, there will be new problems we couldn't have anticipated.  In some ways that is encouraging because it allows us to have hope.  We can look back and see that we've overcome many things before, so we can overcome whatever comes before us next.

Friday, October 9, 2020

FMF: Help

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."
(Matthew 7:7-8, NIV)

"You do not have because you do not ask God."
(James 4:23b, NIV)

I'm not good at asking for help.  I never have been.

About fifteen years ago my husband and I went camping with another couple.  We chose a location that was only a few hours from our home and near a moderate size river.  One afternoon we were playing in the river.  My husband, who cannot swim, stayed close to the shore along with our friends.  In my confidence I wandered out a little farther.

There was this strange moment that I still remember and, very likely, always will. I was suddenly uncertain if I retained control of my body.  The river was stronger than I had given it credit.

From his safety near the shore, my husband must have recognized a look in my eyes that even I did not.  "Are you ok?" he asked.

"Yes," I told him, trying to convince myself as much as him.

I was embarrassed by my need for help.  Embarrassed.

Somehow, and maybe only through the grace of God, I got back to safety.  I was shaken, but not swept away. I thought about what could have happened if I had been swept down stream. I immediately knew my response had been foolish. Though my husband was no swimmer, there were three adults who could have prevented what literally could have killed me.  They could have helped me if I had asked.

From time to time we find ourselves in the middle of the rivers of life.  We get caught up in situations we didn't expect, and we are unwilling to ask for help. May we all be a little less foolish next time.

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Psalm 22

I woke to the first cool moment I had had in 36 hours. At 5 AM it was already 73°. For this lifelong Southern Californian, warm summers are no surprise. But yesterday? It had been one of those nearly unbearable days for this too practical girl who long before had decided having an air-conditioning unit put in her home was too expensive because we only use it a few weeks each year. I stand by my decision even though I hate myself each time we have a heat wave. So there I was, in my bed after a miserable night, trying to capture the last few minutes of sleep-like activity. I finally gave up pretending and headed to my kitchen to begin the early morning process of opening all the windows and turning on the fans to try to capture as much cool air as possible. As I pulled back the curtains I noticed the sun's red glow. I thought of a conversation had just days before in Bible study about how God‘s fingerprints can be seen in the beauty of nature. As I continued to open windows I couldn’t help but notice, again and again, the sunlight's deep red hue on such an overcast day. By 8 o’clock I was ready to leave the house to run an errand. It was at that time that I noticed the unmistakable sign that I had missed that morning: White ash covering my dark car. The overcast skies and red sun were not just a fluke of nature; they were a result of wildfire season.  I had missed the signs.

It's not hard to miss signs in the Bible.  If we read the Bible, we may read verse by verse instead of chapter by chapter, and even then sometimes a chapter is not enough to study at one time.  We tend to spend long periods of time considering small details instead of investigating how those details relate to the larger text. Before I began my journey through the Psalms, I often skipped them because of their poetic nature.  It's not that I thought they were unimportant; they were less preferred text.

As a result, I missed a key detail of the Psalms.  I was already familiar with the idea that Jesus talked about the Psalms, but never realized how much the Psalms talked about Jesus.  For those of you needing a brief history: The Psalms were written between 500 and 1,000 years before Jesus was born. They were essentially a songbook for the Jewish people. They would read and sing Psalms when they were together. The Psalms helped them to celebrate happy times and to feel better when they were hurting. 

Most believers know that when Jesus was on the cross He said some things. Depending on your denominational heritage, these sayings may be a part of your Good Friday experience.  One of the things He said was “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That wasn’t just Jesus calling out to God. He was quoting the first words of Psalm 22. The Psalm begins like this:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why do you seem so far away when I need you to save me?
Why do you seem so far away that you can’t hear my groans?
My God, I cry out in the daytime. But you don’t answer.
I cry out at night. But you don’t let me sleep.
But you rule from your throne as the Holy One.
You are the God Israel praises.
Our people of long ago put their trust in you.
They trusted in you, and you saved them.
They cried out to you and were saved.
They trusted in you, and you didn’t let them down.
(Psalm 22:1-5, NIRV)
Jesus was going through the hardest time of His life, but even as He called out to God, He put His trust in Him. He knew God would not let Him down. Even in the details of His death, Christ modeled perfect faith.  It's no coincidence that Jesus recited this Psalm.  I believe He wanted those those who heard Him to draw their attention to Psalm 22 which would help confirm His claims of being Messiah.  If the Psalms were written hundreds of years before Jesus was born, how could they talk about Jesus?

Sometimes God gave His believers special information they couldn’t know on their own – we call this a prophecy. There are hundreds of prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament. They talk about His family, His birth, and as we read in Psalm 22, His death:
A group of sinful people has closed in on me.
They are all around me like a pack of dogs.
They have pierced my hands and my feet.
Everyone can see all my bones right through my skin.
People stare at me. They laugh when I suffer.
They divide up my clothes among them.
They cast lots for what I am wearing.
Lord, don’t be so far away from me.
You give me strength. Come quickly to help me.
(Psalm 22:16-19, NIRV)
That sounds a lot like what happened to Jesus: His hands and feet were pierced, people watched him and laughed at him, His clothing was divided, and the guards cast lots for His robe.  Read the gospel accounts of Christ's crucifixion and let me know what you think.  What other signs do you see (that maybe others miss) that point to who Jesus is?

Monday, October 5, 2020

Psalm 20

Some trust in chariots. Some trust in horses.
But we trust in the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall down.
But we get up and stand firm.
(Psalm 20:7-8, NIRV)

The Psalms are filled with imagery that helps readers to better understand God. In Psalm 20, David, the warrior king, talks about one of the things he knew best: horses.

When I was about ten years old, I went horseback riding in Arizona with my Girl Scout troop. There were several horses, and one much smaller pony. All the girls wanted to ride the small horse because it looked like a pony, and I got the chance. I've never been a slim girl, and I was extra thick in that just before puberty time when my body was storing resources for the the growth that was about to occur. As the horse trotted along, I was sure it was struggling under my weight. My body-conscious self underestimated the strength of that creature.

Horses are beautiful animals, and they have worked together with people for thousands of years. Horses help people do lots of things; they can be trained to work with farmers, police officers, and even with actors in movies. These animals are smart, strong, and can run as fast as a car. David appreciated the horse, but they were nothing compared to God.

A horse can pull the weight of more than 10 people, but God is stronger. Jeremiah 32:17 (NLT) says that God “made the heavens and earth by [His] strong hand and powerful arm…”

Horses can be friendly, but God loves us more. John 3:16 (NIV) says that God loved the world so much “that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Let's not forget that God created everything. That includes all the animals even horses. That makes God more powerful than any earthly force, including a horse.

Is it any wonder that David put his trust in God instead of horses or chariots? It's easy to put our trust in things other than God. Yes, we should trust seatbelts and airbags to keep us safe in our cars, but we should trust that God's will for our lives "is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:3, NASB).

Friday, October 2, 2020

FMF: Breathe

Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.”’”

So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
(Ezekiel 37:9-10, NASB)

The Valley of Dry Bones.  It's a great section of Scripture to be studying this time of year.  It screams Halloween.  

Ezekiel is shown a vision of a valley of bones - just bones - that have been left unburied and have become dry. God instructs Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones.  Now, I don't know about you, but I've always wondered if the prophets were at all uncomfortable with their jobs.  We know that Jonah was.  He so detested the people God told him to prophesy to, that he went as far as he could the other direction.  For him, "as far as he could" turned out to be not very far because he ended up in the belly of fish that spit him up on the shores, having received time to repent and allowing him to go where he was supposed to go in the first place.  But I digress.

Ezekiel's vision didn't even have him speaking to people. He was told to prophesy to bones. Ezekiel was faithful.  In his vision he called out to the bones and they began to rattle.  They came together with layers of life until finally they appeared to be bodies.  Yet, something remained missing.

So God told Ezekiel to call the breath back into these bones, and God breathed on them.

God explained to Ezekiel what he had just seen. The bones represent God's people, and they are without hope.  Their divided nation would come back together, and God would live among them again.

Indeed, God can do miracles where there appears to be no hope, a word I need to hear today.

For anyone who feels like they are in a valley of dry bones today, pray with me:
Breathe on me, Lord. Amen.

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