Almost three months after I moved to Southern California, I innocently asked a co-worker, who was a SoCal native, where would be the best spot to visit the ocean. “I have a couple days free, and I’ve been wanting to see the ocean. Where should I go?”
“You mean, you’ve never seen the ocean? Like, you don’t mean just not here in L.A., but no ocean anywhere?”
“I’m from Illinois. We don’t have the ocean there.”
“You’ve never seen the ocean? Never?”
Whatever, I thought to myself. It’s not like I’ve never seen anything that is memorable. I mean, look, she’s never seen unending acres of corn!
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 →
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 →
Her real name was Edna, but my sisters, brother, and I definitely referred to her as “the time lady.” This was no random nickname; she earned it honestly.
We met Edna the very first week our family began holding services at a local nursing home on Tuesday evenings. We were still working to learn and remember names a few weeks later when “the time lady” accosted us with an unforgettable conversation.
It just so happened to be the Tuesday after the spring time change. As we entered the large dining room where we held the service, we began greeting the folks who were gathered.
Edna was positioned close to the entrance at a chair near the wall. She had straight white hair and, as usual, wore a large pair of sunglasses. My dad greeted her cheerfully, “Well, hello there, how are you this evening?”
Edna didn’t waste time on small talk—not at a time like this. She got right to business: “What do you think our Heavenly Father thinks about them changing the time like this?” Her eyes narrowed and she leaned forward as she spoke. Continue reading →
I saw a date in the margin of my Bible this morning that made me start—2/26/04. It wasn’t just the date that took me by surprise, but the realization that it has been exactly ten years since that day.
I remember where I was when I wrote that date—on the top bunk in a guest room in Bowie, Texas.
I remember the verse I read just before I wrote that date. (I don’t actually have to remember that one—it’s right there in the margin of my Bible. But I remember it anyway.) Psalm 86:4, “Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.”
I remember what I did after I read that verse and wrote it in my journal. I stepped outside the guest house with a spiral notebook and sat on the back stoop to write an article for the magazine I was editing at the time. The article appeared in the June/July ’04 issue of Stepping in the Light, and it was titled “Sing, Little Bird!” The article provides some insight into that day: 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 →
It’s the fiction writer’s staple, but we seldom anticipate it to grace our own daily reality. In fact, our low expectations reveal how little we understand our God’s ways.
In truth, we serve a God of miracles (hello, just read Luke 2), but our tendency when peering into the future is to predict it based on the rate of past progress. We pray desperately for God to do what we can’t, then we rise from our knees, look at the date the prayer request was first entered, and sigh. “Not gonna happen, at least anytime soon,” we feel, even if we don’t say.
But some years ago, a friend pointed out a truth to me that pierces through hazy doubts. Her statement echoed so deeply in my heart, that I’ve been noticing it illustrated in Scripture ever since. Here it is:
God doesn’t usually move immediately; He moves suddenly.
I have a pretty good inner clock, so I easily think God’s late, behind time, letting “perfect” opportunities for action slip by. But just outside your and my line of sight, He is preparing in ways we can’t see. Continue reading →
Don’t you hate it when your friend comes to you with a prayer request you can’t answer?
I know, the very fact that it’s a prayer request means that it’s supposed to be a need that only God can answer. But I confess, I like to answer them too. (Sometimes I even try to claim solutions that weren’t my idea. Like when the friend says, “I wonder if I tried…” and I say, “You know what, you should try…!”)
I like to suggest the answer that works.
Especially, I like to be the answer. (It’s far more heroic to be the answer than merely to suggest the answer.)
Sometimes, if I can’t suggest the answer or be the answer, and especially if I can’t even see the answer, I tend to lose interest in the need.
Actually, what I most wanted was to parachute. I think I must have been about six or seven when I learned about parachutes and how they work. Ready to experience the thrill for myself, I found two ready-made chutes (a.k.a. plastic grocery bags) in the kitchen drawer and persuaded my sister to go parachuting with me off the top of our backyard swing set.
Quite honestly, it was a disappointing adventure. No broken bones, but no working chutes either. 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.