The Phone Call

I didn’t recognize the number so I let it ring. I mean let’s face it…most phone calls these days are telemarketers…or worse…scammers. So sorry, not sorry, if I don’t recognize the phone number, I’m not going to pick up.

In the middle of something I completely forgot to check back and see if the caller had left a message. Until this morning when I noticed there was a message waiting.

When the message began I was actually sorry for a few seconds that I hadn’t taken the call. I knew the caller. Not personally except to say that we had met a time or two but I admire his work and his heart for Jesus and would love to have had few moments of conversation with him.

His words were full of hope and encouragement and so timely for my heart. I listened to his message several times and because he had prayed for my husband, Ken, and my family I shared the message with them as well. We were touched by his compassion and his faith. At that moment I was thankful his message was recorded so I could share it to encourage the ones I love. At the end of his call, he said, ‘this is my cell phone so feel free to call anytime’.

It reminded me of this.

God left us a message. The most miraculous thing about His message, His Word, is that it is new and fresh every single time we read it or listen to it. It’s full of hope and encouragement, compassion and faith. Examples of great faith to help us grow ours.

His message in Jeremiah 33:3 is “Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wonderful things that you could never figure out on your own”. Notice there’s no caveat…only call during business hours…or when it’s an extreme emergency…or once you’ve tried everything else on your own strength. Nope. Just… call…and I WILL answer you. Oh and I will encourage you and give you the secret sauce to life…what you could never figure out by yourself.

And when His message touches our heart we will want to share it with others. Just like the message I got from a fellow traveler, reminding me that God is faithful and very near, I want you to know that where you are and what you are going through is no surprise to God. And even more, know that if you will let Him, He will tell you the things your heart desperately wants to know. That you are loved, really loved, and that there is no where you can go in this life that He won’t walk with you through it. Just call.

Set It & Forget It…Or Not?

We love things we can set and forget, don’t we?! Why else do we want electronics with multiple user settings and pre-sets on our radio? It’s one less thing we have to think about. Just set it…and forget it!

But not everything is made to set and forget. Like US, for example! Living day to day on autopilot isn’t healthy. Yes, it’s important to maintain good habits; but even good habits may need to be tweaked from time to time. What’s good for us at age 20 may not be the best for us at age 40. Setting life goals is excellent but without taking time to re-evaluate things regularly we may end up way off base down the road.

Making time to evaluate and re-set our routines is critical to the fulfillment of God’s plan for our lives. Because LIFE happens. Relationships shift. Jobs end and new jobs begin. Health crises arise. Financial situations upset the bank account. Anxiety. Loss. Unforgiveness. All of these are life situations that create change. Some forced. Some necessary. But change requires response. Even ignoring these situations (aka doing nothing) can cause us to drift or move away from where we need to be.

We all need a “re-set” moment. The moment we recognize where we are and where we need to be…and set a determined course to get back to center. Not necessarily to the place we were before but always to the place God created us to be. Exactly in the center of God’s will for our lives. That’s our sweet spot!

Well Watered

It really was the trip of a lifetime. A pilgrimage. Spending just over a week in Israel and a few days in Jordan changed my life forever. One thing is certain, from the moment our flight landed in Tel Aviv, my journey as a believer had connected with a land and a people closer to my real ‘home’ than ever before or since. The Word became even more real to me and its never read the same to me since.

Today, I was reading Isaiah 58:11, “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” A couple memories from that pilgrimage came back to me so clearly. One day while traveling through a desert area our tour guide pointed out areas of green that stood out against the mostly dry, desert land. He said ‘wherever you see green, vibrant, lush vegetation and flowers that is how you know there is a water source below.’

It doesn’t rain much there. So in the cities and in the villages you will see barrels, tubs and pots on rooftops to catch whatever rain they can. Water is a commodity. At one restaurant I noticed the waitstaff pouring any leftover water from glasses into the planters around the patio, not wasting a drop. In fact, when we were leaving after dinner one evening, our waiter actually followed me out to the sidewalk to hand me my bottle of water that had an inch or so left in the bottom. Water is vital to sustain life. And often, I have taken it for granted.

I admit, this weekend, I let my attention be captivated by the ‘sun-scorched land’ and not nearly enough focus on the One whose waters never fail. I heard the whisper today…’whose report will you believe?’. I know that Voice. That’s the voice of my Father. And as I sat with this promise for awhile today I am thankful for His peace that speaks over the noise and waters my soul.

We could stop with the first part of that verse. ‘The Lord will guide you always‘. That means there is never a time when He is not leading us. That alone can bring us comfort.

But, let’s continue. ‘He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.’ He knows we are needy and that we sometimes find ourselves beat down by our environment, our harsh circumstances, the voices that try to quench the life in us and around us. But, if we are open to Him, He will not leave us needy and He will add HIS strength to ours to uphold us.

And finally, ‘You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.’ I LOVE that, don’t you?! In my mind I could see that desert in Israel again. So much desert for miles and miles. And dropped right in the middle of that sun-scorched land….areas of lush, green flourishing gardens…an obvious outward sign of an unseen water supply deep below the surface.

Dig deep. The green vegetation experiences the same harsh environment that the brown, dead desert plantation does. But the thriving garden digs down deep and stays connected to the water source. Dig deep and stay connected to the source of the water for your soul. Even from a distance your well-watered roots will be undeniable and your fruit will be beautiful…even in the desert.

I Like Roomy

Psalm 118:5 reads, “When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.”

I’m so taken by the phrase ‘spacious place’. I looked up spacious in the dictionary: Roomy. Having ample space. Larger capacity than normal. Vast. Of a great extent or area so that you can move around. I suppose fighting claustrophobia much of my life might have something to do with my love for wide open spaces!

The ESV Bible says, “out of my distress I called on the Lord; he answered me and set me FREE!” Talk about spacious! It doesn’t get more spacious than free! The Message Bible reads, “pushed to the wall, I called out to God; from the wide open spaces, He answered. God’s now at my side and I am not afraid.” How interesting that He answered FROM the wide open spaces. I thought God never leaves us. It’s true! God’s promises are absolute. He said “I will never leave you or forsake you.” If I am in a tight place, and He is with me, how can He answer me from the wide open space?

You know what I think? I think when we are hard pressed, pushed up against the wall, in a tight place that causes us anxiety…that’s where our focus gravitates. On the pressure. The pain. The illness or loss. It threatens to smother us. But God cannot be contained by a small space. He is God. Greater than the universe. He is not overcome by suffering or depression or loss.

When we cry out to Him we make a decision to stop looking at the hardship and focus on God. He never left our side…but we lost sight of Him. Opening our mind and heart to His presence blows out the walls that threaten to smother us. Keeping our focus on God helps us to live free in that spacious place and gives us the faith to not be afraid.

Falling In Love

Remember when you first fell in love? I couldn’t do one thing without thinking of him. I could make a grocery list and find myself doodling his name before I could get the list together. Every conversation contained something about what he said or did…or how he made me feel. And almost every thought took me right back to…him. Every decision I made I began to base on his influence on me and whether it would make him happy or not.

Then, I started to notice that things didn’t always go the way I wanted or expected them to go. In the early days, we would have the ‘I’m sorry’ conversation right away. You know. Keeping the lines of communication clear. There were times I thought he must be angry with me, or worse, he’s finally seen the real me and I’m not worthy of his love. The irony of that is my mind could so easily convince my heart of that lie when he was only ever steadfast in his love and care for me.

I discovered that every time I’d call him or sit with him, he was always there. The truth was that I looked for him less. I spoke of him less in my conversations with others. My to-do lists hardly ever included his name let alone something I could do for him. Decision making was much more self-centered. What would make me happy? We had conversations so seldom and then mostly a quick thought here or there. In fact, I really didn’t listen to what he had to say. I only focused on telling him what I wanted or thought I needed.

Then one day I was reading one of his letters to me. It read, “I know all that you’ve done for me—you have worked hard and persevered..I also know how you have bravely endured trials and persecutions because of my name, yet you have not become discouraged. But I have this against you: you have abandoned the passionate love you had for me at the beginning. Think about how far you have fallen! Repent and do the works of love you did at first.” *

I remembered the excitement and joy of those early days when my heart had been wooed by Him. The delight I had in spending time with Jesus without distractions. Telling Him how I was feeling and what I was concerned about, and then, waiting and listening, for what He wanted to tell me about each of those things. It didn’t change overnight. But it can change over time. Just because I realized how far I’d moved away didn’t mean that I snapped my fingers and dropped those habits that kept me from Him. It’s a choice. Every. Day. Moment by moment. Choosing to want Him more than anything or anyone else.

Remember how much lighter your heart felt when you first gave it to Him? Today is the perfect day to choose Him all over again. This moment is the perfect moment to repent. Let go of every thing that keeps you from putting Him first. Every little thing. Every big thing. Hit reset. 2020 has been a hard year for all of us! It may have left you hurting, wanting, wishing, maybe even afraid to hope again.

But it’s time. It’s time to remember your first love. It’s time to let go of what you’ve held so tightly it blocked your awareness of the presence of your Love. And it’s time to reset your priorities. Your first love has been waiting. His love has never waned. Let 2021 be the year we fall in love all over again. We may even find ourselves doodling His name.

*Revelation 2:2-5 TPT

Where You Sit

I heard a statement in church Sunday that really resonated with me. “Where you sit determines what you see; and what you see determines what you do.”

Come and sit with Jesus for a few minutes this morning. Ask for wisdom and to be able to see through His eyes what is before you today. You can react to the worries and stresses of this day out of fear or you can choose to shut out the chaotic noise and focus on His voice. His voice that says, ‘I am with you always. Don’t be afraid.’

It starts with where you choose to sit. Where you sit determines what you see and what you see determines what you do.

That Voice (How I’ve Heard Him Speak)

Lately, I’ve been thinking of ways God communicates with me. If you’ve ever heard someone say “God spoke to me…” and thought ‘I wish I could hear Him speak to me!’; the truth is, He probably has and you may not have even realized it. We are His kids and He WANTS to communicate with us.

So I began writing down different ways I’ve experienced God in my life and four distinct things surfaced. Oddly enough, I saw a pattern of words that began with the letter “S”. Before I go any farther I want to be sure to clarify that these are not the only ways God speaks. God is GOD! And He can do anything to get our attention, change our direction, answer our prayers and completely set our hearts at rest.

SENSE. When you’re putting a puzzle together and trying to find the right fit for a puzzle piece, you know it when you find the exact spot that piece belongs. It just snaps into place. Even when you feel surrounded by chaos and pieces that don’t fit in your life sometimes you just sense God’s presence and He hasn’t even spoken a word.

About six weeks ago my husband, Ken, and I received a medical diagnosis that we certainly didn’t want to hear. This part of our journey is not going to be easy. But from the moment the doctor said ‘I wish I had better news’ we felt the presence of God settle over us like a thick, warm blanket. Like a familiar loved one coming alongside us. Sometimes no words are necessary to say ‘I’m right here and I’m not leaving you’.

SEEK. Jeremiah 6:16, “Stand at the crossroads and look, ask for the ancient path (some translations say the ‘tried and true’ path), ask where the good way is, and walk in it. And you will find rest for your soul.” Remember when Abraham & Lot stood overlooking all the land and Abraham let Lot choose which land to live in. He looked and chose which one LOOKED better. Turns out it wasn’t the better land and he paid dearly for it later.

This verse says ASK where the good way is and walk in it. I’ve learned that good doesn’t always mean happy. Sometimes the ‘good’ way is hard. But God knows what we really need. We often quote Romans 8:28, “And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” It doesn’t mean that everything will work out perfectly in our lives. It does mean that God will lead us through life to become the very best version of ourselves we can be in Him. I especially love that at the end of Jeremiah 6:16 after seeking and walking in His good way…we will find rest for our souls.

SCRIPTURE. I’m not talking about randomly opening the Bible and letting our eyes fall on a verse although God can certainly speak to us that way. If you’ve ever read something in the Bible and all of a sudden a specific verse seems to jump off the page at you and it resonates with what you’re going through at the time…that’s actually God using His Word to speak to you.

Here’s an example of how that has happened in my life. A number of years ago at a routine doctor’s visit something came up out of the ordinary. The doctor gave me possible reasons from minor all the way to worst-case scenarios. By the time I left his office I was completely freaked out! I was praying on my way home and when I got there I began to read John 14 which has always brought me a lot of peace. I kept reading into John 15. When I got to verse 3, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you”, I got so excited! I knew that God had shown me that promise for that exact situation. And I knew I was healed!

SPACE. Create a space in your day to listen for His voice. I love 1 Samuel 3:1-10 when the boy Samuel who is living in the house of the Lord is trying to go to sleep and he keeps hearing someone call his name. He keeps going to Eli and I think its because the Lord’s voice is familiar to him. And since the first verse tells us that the word of the Lord was rare in those days I think Samuel had not experienced hearing God’s voice in quite a while.

I believe that before we are born we are known by God. Psalm 139 says that we were not hidden from Him. He saw us before we were formed in our mother’s womb. And so I believe when we begin to listen for God to speak to us our spirits will begin to recognize His voice.

Back to Samuel’s story when Eli realized that Samuel was hearing God speak to him, Eli told him to go back to bed and the next time he heard the voice call to him, he should answer, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

We can ask Him to speak to us. But we have to choose to stop looking and listening to the chaos and the crowds of voices around us. 1 Kings 19:11-13 is Elijah trying to hear God’s voice on a mountain. While Elijah was listening he experienced a great and powerful wind that tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks. He encountered an earthquake followed by a fire. Talk about chaos! But as loud and powerful as all those things were, God was not in them. It says ‘after the fire came a gentle whisper.’

We can be so overwhelmed by the chaos and so busy with our to-do lists and responsibilities that we forget to be quiet. Be still. Just listen. That still, small voice, that gentle whisper – is intimate. You can’t whisper to someone on the other side of the room. They have to be near for you to hear. Think about this – the whisper of God over your soul means that He is NEAR. So near you can lean into His presence. And hear His heart for you.

Create a space in your day to listen for His voice. Write down what you hear. John 10:27 is Jesus’ words saying, “My sheep know my voice, and I know them. They follow me.” Keep listening. Practice being in the presence of Jesus. Regardless of what we face in life, in our most mundane days and our most extraordinary moments, hearing God speak to us, however He chooses to do it, is an exceptional gift He wants us to open! Keep listening!

Come and See

Usually the first word my brain can make out when my alarm goes off at 4am is “coffee”. This morning it was “Psalm 46”.

I grabbed my coffee and headed to the studio and I opened my journal to jot down a few thoughts. The verse on the page was from Psalm 46. And the subtitle read, “For the director of music. A song.” So you may not know what I do at The Bridge when I’m not in the studio…but I program the music. I already knew I MUST pay attention to this conversation He and I were nuancing this morning before the sun was even up.

…”God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear…God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” (Trust me, when the mic opens at 6:08 every morning THAT IS my prayer!)

…”Come and see what the Lord has done.” (The most simple way to share my faith…no hype, no deep theology…just a simple invitation from my heart to yours…to come and see what He has done for me and what He can do for you…)

And finally…”He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God;’…The Lord Almighty is with us and He is our fortress.”

I’m not always such an intent listener. But I’m really thankful that today I listened to hear His heart for me…for us. How much He wants to meet with us if we’ll listen.

Come and see…

Worth The Wrestle (An Epiphany On Loss)

7 years ago something happened in my family that devastated me. 3 months before my oldest child was to graduate from high school he moved out. We came home one night to a note on the counter and his set of keys. At first I didn’t even know where he was staying. No prom. No graduation. No final summer family trip before college. No college football games…

I was really angry with God. I especially took issue with His story of Job. Specifically the end of the book of Job (42:14-15) when God blessed him with stuff –  and more children…that verse made me angry. Not that Job received a blessing – but that it seemed so neatly packaged up in the writing…after the devastating loss of all his children before. It’s wonderful that his stuff was restored and miraculous that he could have more children and they were all beautiful and would receive his inheritance. But they could never replace his original children. Job would never be able to go back to the way things were with his first beloved children.

After awhile, I wasn’t angry anymore. I just avoided that book in the Bible. I love God. I believe His Word and trust that He is always working on our behalf. But I could not resolve that great loss in my life.

So when God gave me the word ‘deeper’ for 2020, I knew that issue I had with God’s Word would keep me from really going deeper with Him. So I determined to wrestle this thing out once and for all.

Yesterday I was looking at how Job and Peter both handled being ‘sifted by Satan’ and what their post-sifting looked like. As I was reading those chapters I was thinking how life after being ‘sifted’ by the enemy could never be the same...and I heard God say, ‘I didn’t want them to remain the same…just like I don’t want YOU to remain the same.’

I have grieved what was lost and wished we could go back to ‘fix’ things…but that’s not God’s plan or His purpose. The blessings are in receiving what God is doing NOW.   Last week I heard Revelation 21:5 repeatedly from about four different sources. I think it was the set up for yesterday’s revelation to me: “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down – each word dependable and accurate.”

As much as we would want to we cannot change our past. But God has a distinctly unique way of taking what the enemy meant to harm us, even destroy us, and use it to move us to a new place where He is honored and glorified; and, if we are willing, we are made just a little bit more like Jesus.

Two Bananas And A Smile

There were about a dozen of us facing each other on long bench seats in the back of a big truck. Holding onto the side of the truck while it jostled and jerked up the mountain side on a winding dirt path.

The closer we got to the top the more garbage we began to see on the sides of the road, the more flies we encountered and the worse it smelled.

The Dump. Everything you can imagine and more. Piles upon piles of garbage, waste, spoiled food, sewage. Some piles were smoking – burning below the surface from the heat. This is where the people of the villages come, about 3 times a week, to find something to eat or something to sell to buy food to feed their families. They walk about two miles up the mountain and spend the day foraging. If they can fill a recycle burlap bag with bottles they will carry it down a big hill on the other side to a recycling center at the entrance where they will earn about 5 pesos for the entire bag. That’s about 2 and a half cents…for their whole days’ labor.

Right after we arrived a local man who makes several 5 gallon buckets full of soup every day pulled up behind us. He also brings a tank of water for them to fill whatever jug they may have to drink and carry back home.

I watched a woman pick through a pile of garbage to find a dirty 2 liter soda bottle. She unscrewed the top, sniffed inside it and walked over to fill it up with water. She drank some and filled it up again. I swallowed hard. Our eyes connected over a cup of soup and what I saw surprised me. Resilience. Hope. Life.

Many would not leave their piles to come for the soup. We carried cups of soup out to them throughout the dump. But! When the man went back to the cab of his truck and brought out the bananas….everyone came! They were each allowed TWO bananas. And they waited in lines for them. We spoke English. They spoke Spanish and some Creole…but we all found common ground that day over 2 bananas…and a smile. I’m convinced its the international sign for kindness.

Hot. Tired. Emotionally spent, we loaded up the truck and made the trek down to the bottom of the mountain and back through the town of Sosua. All through the town the locals waved and smiled and hollered ‘Hola’ to us. Their lives are hard. Life is dangerous. It is a struggle to survive every single day. But within the struggle, they have a simple cadence to life. Family is everything and time is told by the rising and the setting of the sun.

That day as we headed back to Sosua, to our air conditioned rooms, to shower and meet back up for an amazing buffet of Dominican food by the beautiful waterside, I heard God whisper these words…‘privilege comes with a price.’  I don’t know why God chose to put me here in America and that beautiful lady, in a little village beside a garbage dump, but I know that God has given each of us gifts, talents, knowledge, time and, yes, wealth to use for His Kingdom.

So when we can give bananas, give bananas. When we can sponsor a child for an education & a hot meal to break the cycle of poverty, we must! When we can go there to serve like Jesus, we must! It will bless them and it will change us…forever!

If God has been generous with you, he will expect you to serve him well. But if he has been more than generous, he will expect you to serve him even better.   Luke 12:48, CEV

Father, help us to see with Your eyes. To hear with Your ears. To love with a heart like Yours that loves without condition or expectation. We are grateful that You love US that way. Help us to be generous in our serving and our loving…just like Jesus. In His name, Amen.