You know that feeling of fear when you sense yourself falling into a downward spiral? A cycle where you’ve been before?
Regardless of what triggers it and regardless of what type of cycle it is—grief, sadness, frustration, rejection, overthinking, or any other type of pain—if you’ve been there before, you feel hopeless. Stuck. As if change is out of your control. There’s this sense of fear that I’ve been here before and hate the ride.
But what if…
What if that spiral doesn’t have to end the way you anticipate?
What if it’s not a downward spiral, but a forward cycle?
What if the pull down comes from misunderstanding how God designed the path to work?
What if instead of being a vortex of defeat it could be a cycle of hope? Continue reading
Sometimes I imagine a conversation between an Israelite woman and a foreign guest in the Promised Land. The Israelite woman (whom we’ll call Sarah) was among those who spent four decades in the wilderness, and her new companion (we’ll call her Fatima) has recently trekked the same territory. They are eager to swap stories and compare experiences:
Sarah: Remember the sandstorms?
Fatima: Yeah, there’s nothing like being sand-blasted by hot, wind-driven sand. We had some days we couldn’t journey at all until the wind died down.
Sarah: Exactly. We had to watch for when the cloud or the pillar of fire moved from over the tabernacle.
Fatima: What? (She gives a suspicious glance and wonders if Sarah is okay.) We didn’t have a tabernacle. And we definitely didn’t have pillar of fire with us.
Sarah: That’s too bad. I mean, there were days I wanted to go forward when we couldn’t and days I wanted to stay when we had to move, but all in all, I was thankful for God’s presence with us.
Fatima: And you say this…this presence was in a pillar of fire? Continue reading
Over the years, the Lord has used biographies to strengthen my faith and encourage my effort. Thus, biographies always have a place on my upcoming reading list.
Often, when I mention benefits of reading biographies in a teaching setting, someone will ask for recommendations. I’ve never really compiled a list, so I’ll usually just mention one or two that have been a recent blessing to me.
Well, today I have a recommendation: Where Only God Could Lead: the life story of Don Sisk.
This newly-released biography by Cary Schmidt is published by Striving Together, so I got a behind-the-scenes editorial pass to read it before it was published. I knew I’d enjoy it, but I didn’t realize just how encouraging and faith building it would be. Continue reading
I almost drowned once. It was at a friend’s birthday party, of all places. I think I was six. Thankfully, I was rescued, but I still remember that sense of helplessness as I was engulfed in the water and knew I couldn’t swim.
(Days later, I remember telling my sister, “I should have just gone down to the bottom and walked back to the shallow end of the pool.” Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy when you’re drowning.)
Do you know what it feels like to drown?
I’m guessing you do. Maybe you didn’t slip into the deep end of a pool, but you’re over your head in responsibilities. In grief. In fear. In need.
How do you even pray then? Continue reading
Do you ever feel that God has hidden His face from you?
Probably not. I don’t either, of course. (I don’t think respectable Christians feel that way.)
But sometimes the psalmists felt it. Their words describe it as an experience with a pain scale ranging from desperate to terrifying: 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
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.—Psalm 42:5
Hope is one of the greatest gifts of life. It is faith’s twin sister, and it is courage’s strength.
Christian hope is far more than a Pollyanna outlook; it is confidence in our sovereign God.
I recently read a statement by G.K. Chesterton: “Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances that we know to be desperate.” Continue reading
In the last 36 hours, I’ve made approximately 732 resolutions to always back up my computer hard drive. In the previous 36 hours, I didn’t think even once about my hard drive.
Yep, my computer crashed.
A very bad day.
Everything I can think of that I ever cared about is gone with that computer. (Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Except that most of what I’m thinking about lately is the irreplaceable files stored on that computer. Every couple of hours, I remember ones I had forgotten.) Continue reading
Have you ever faced a new day with an overwhelming sense of inadequacy? Truth be told, we are inadequate. We just forget that sometimes.
In a recent moment when I was faced anew with my insufficiency and my need for His sufficiency, I jotted down these thoughts—three reasons I always need God and three familiar promises God has given to meet them.
1. Because I can’t do it on my own, I need His strength.
Like the independent toddler, I like to “do it myself!” Or, sometimes, I just forget that help is available and assume I’m on my own. Until I realize (again) that I’m not strong enough—that to do anything worth doing, I need God’s strength. Continue reading