For years, I’ve read through the book of Psalms every month. It got so that the day of the month became synonymous with me for the first few words of, or a verse from, a corresponding Psalm.
But this year, wanting to mix up my reading a bit, I took a break from Psalms for a few months. It’s hard, though, to leave such a well of worship, so I’m back to reading through Psalms monthly. (I’ve include the schedule I use at the bottom of this post.)
As I reentered the daily intake of Psalms, what surprised me anew was the intensity of David’s emotions. Whether it was in his longings for God, adoration of God, cries of fear, resolve to praise, or any other expression of his heart, he articulated them with acute intensity. Continue reading →
Some years ago, I attended a church retreat in which one of the sessions was a Q&A with the keynote speaker with the questions submitted anonymously.
If you’ve ever answered an anonymous Q&A, you know what a challenge the questions can be. The upside is that people are generally more transparent in what questions they are willing to ask. The downside is that it’s difficult to know the context or slant of the questions.
One of the questions in that particular retreat had to do with fighting a besetting sin. I can’t remember the specifics of the question (other than the obvious note of discouragement in it), and I can’t remember the full answer from the speaker. But I do remember the final two sentences of his answer: Continue reading →
One of the most shocking biographies I remember reading was that of William Cowper.
Even if you don’t recognize his name, you’ve probably sung his hymns (including “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood”) or used the phrase he coined, “God moves in a mysterious way.”
It’s been years since I read his biography, but in recent research, I came across his name and reflected for a few minutes on some of the most extraordinary and meaningful aspects of his life.
Cowper’s salvation testimony is remarkable because he was saved as a direct result of admittance to a mental asylum after failed suicide attempts. The doctor who treated Cowper was a born again Christian who shared the gospel with him. The night and day difference in Cowper’s life after his salvation is undeniable.
Most of us would be very comfortable with Cowper’s testimony if it ended there. But it didn’t. Although he didn’t struggle mentally to the same degree after his salvation as he had before, he did battle mental illness (including severe depression and two more mental breakdowns) for the rest of his life. Continue reading →
Have you ever read a fictional or biographical book minus the first chapter?
I remember as a young child sitting in the book closet of our home (I never realized until I just typed that phrase that we had a “book closet” rather than a “linen closet”! I’m thankful my parents cared that much to keep us stocked with good reading!) and reading Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John.
The book so profoundly affected me that as seven year old, I determined I was going to be a wood carver…and for several years saved money to purchase carving tools. In hindsight and judging by my decidedly un-artistic abilities, it’s probably good that this dream never materialized into mangled pieces of wood. But I digress.
One aspect I remember most about reading Treasures of the Snow was its missing cover and front pages. The story begins with a Christmas Eve scene in the Alps of Switzerland. In the first chapter, the main characters and their relationship both to one another and to the plot of the story is set…but I missed some of these pages. Without these important details, I struggled to make sense of following pages.
It’s too bad to miss the beginning of a book you’re reading. But what if you miss the beginning of the story you’re living? Continue reading →
Hope is a noun and a verb. It is what we have, and it is what we do. We who know the Lord already have hope, but we must also choose hope.
I recently did a Bible study on the word hope, and I was amazed at what I found. With 121 verses with this word (and 12 more verses when you add forms of the word), hope is all throughout Scripture. I prepared a Sunday school lesson from the study, and I had to leave out more verses than I could include!
Through my study, I compiled a list of thirteen practical ways we can choose hope. Continue reading →
Funny thing about the biblical commands to “be strong.” They have nothing to do with our strength. In fact, they only make sense when we realize that our strength is insufficient.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:—Isaiah 40:30
The strongest of us are weak, and the sooner we realize that the better. I love the quote by Charles Spurgeon: “When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord.” Continue reading →
Earlier questions had received similar answers, and Natalea and I were running out of questions for entertaining the six-year-old in the car. I had given him and his mother a ride home from church, and we were stopped at the store while she made a quick trip in.
In the hot car with a restless six-year-old, quick was seeming pretty long.
“I know! Let’s play a game—let’s see who can see your mom first when she comes out of the store!” (Yes, I know that is a boring game. I was at the bottom of the barrel—“I Spy” was next.)
But to my surprise, this was the moment Nicholas finally had something longer than a grunt to say. Continue reading →
Ten years ago this weekend, I drove to our church’s youth conference with excited trepidation. In the back of the van were five hundred copies of the premiere issue of Stepping in the Light magazine.
Bound in each magazine copy was the compilation of four years of dreaming, much prayer, six weeks of intense labor (and sleepless, teary nights), and all the money I had been given for my high school graduation.
That night, we would be giving the magazine out—one per family—to the teen girls for whom I’d prepared it. I was thrilled with the way it had turned out…but I couldn’t help but wonder how it would be received.
This much I knew, we needed two hundred subscriptions just to pay for the printing and mailing of the next issue. I expected somewhere between two and three hundred, and I hoped for more. Continue reading →
I started taking piano lessons when I was about seven. And I started practicing my scales the very same day. Not just one scale, all of the major scales. My teacher (who ate ice cream during the lesson) wrote the letter of every scale out for me in a notebook. He sent me home with the notebook and told me to practice.
I knew right away that I didn’t like practicing scales. But I also knew that the more diligently I practiced the pieces I was assigned, the sooner I “passed” them and moved on to other pieces.
And so I labored over the scales. Over and over, day after day, I read/sang the note names in a tone-deaf fashion while I worked to program my fingers to coordinate: “C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C [weary breath]; D, E, F sharp, G…”
Every lesson, I dreaded the beginning—playing through my scales. And every week, when I finished my lesson, I left with instructions to work on those horrid scales. Continue reading →
Seven years ago, I stood under a star-studded sky in central Texas and made a decision. With a tinge of dramatic anticipation, I looked to Heaven and prayed my own paraphrase of Jeremiah 26:14: “Lord, do with me as seems good in Your sight.” And then I offered a particularly painful area to Him.
But the outcome of that decision wasn’t quite what I had hoped.
I learned early on that spiritual decisions make spiritual turning points. And turning points are usually exciting. There is a surge of joy in Holy Spirit-prompted surrender, and there can be a rush of anticipation in the biblically-rooted change sure to follow.
So seven years ago, when I knew that I needed this surge of joy and longed for a fresh sense of grace, I made a decision to surrender.