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Dealing with Doeg

“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.” -Psalm 52:7-8

When Doeg the Edomite betrayed David by giving away his location, David was angry. Almost calling-down-sulfur-and-brimstone-from-Heaven angry. Just take a look at the first six verses of Psalm 52. David calls Doeg a worker of deceit. Not just a liar, but a man who uses his lies for personal gain at the expense of others – others like David. David tells Doeg that God is going to let him have it someday by breaking him down forever, snatching and tearing him from his tent, and uprooting him from the land of the living. Just take a moment and try to picture that. Never mind. It’s pretty violent. Finally, David adds that the righteous are going to laugh. Yes. David was angry with Doeg.

But even in his anger, he left the matter in God’s hands. He didn’t go after the one who betrayed him personally, but said, “Just wait until my dad finds out what you did. Boy, are you gonna get it!”

And then he let go.

Just. Like. That.

How?

By reminding himself of who he was and where he stood before God. David was able to flourish in adversity because he remembered that he was safe and thriving in God’s Presence.

And in God’s Presence, we also are safe. We can thrive in adversity, too. Doeg may try to stop us in our tracks, but he’s no match for the God Who loves us, Who has called us according to His purposes, Whose plans to give us hope and a future will stand because we choose to dwell in Him.

Father, when people give us a hard time, when we feel angry, please help us to respond as David did. Remind us that we are Your children. We can take the matter to You and leave it there. You are our defender. You are our safe place. You are the One righteous Judge, able to work justice with mercy to make everything right in the end. Thank You, Lord! We love You. Amen.

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Learning to Chew

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” -Psalm 34:8

On a day when I felt overwhelmed, I had the idea during my quiet time to search the Word I was reading for a deeper understanding of Who God Is as opposed to seeking how I should live. Both are important, but I wanted to draw closer to God—to let His bigness, His Presence assure me all is well and will be well. I wanted to intentionally put my focus on Him. To do this, I started listing the attributes I saw or remembered as I read, completing the sentence, “God is . . .”

My first list read like this:

God is—

  • bigger than all my troubles.
  • in complete control.
  • the purest, truest love.
  • always available.
  • patient.
  • merciful.
  • compassionate.
  • creative.
  • my safe place.
  • perfect, perfection.
  • here.

I made several more such lists, but they soon started to feel more like an academic exercise than devotional time with God. I told Him so.

“Emulate Me” was the thought that popped into my head, followed by the recent memory of a moment with my granddaughter.

Our family had stopped at a fast food restaurant on a day trip. Aspen isn’t eating solid food just yet, so her mother fed her while we ordered, then I held her while everyone ate. (There are more important things than food, you know.) I watched her darling face as she looked around at everyone, forehead scrunched in concentration. Slowly she opened her lips and began making chewing motions as she continued to study the moving mouths all around her. It was the cutest thing! What a proud moment for our little prodigy!

The sheer delight on her parents’ faces when they saw what she was doing was priceless, too. Grandparents get to watch as two generations grow.

The memory helped me see that our growth into a deeper relationship with God is somewhat like what I witnessed in Aspen that day. God is our heavenly Father. We can watch Him to learn His nature by reading His Word just as Aspen watched her family to learn how to chew. As we meditate on different attributes the Spirit calls to our attention, we can begin to try to emulate some of them, while letting ourselves be awed by the ones we’ll never be able to attain.

For example, I’ll never know everything like God knows everything. He’s God. Omniscience belongs to Him alone. When I think of this and realize He knows things we’re not even aware are able to be known, I am amazed by Him. This is just one of many reasons He is worthy of worship, and worship draws me closer to Him. I know wisdom is important to Him, though, so I can ask Him to provide it for me and do my part to gain it. I also know God uses His wisdom to help all people find Him and grow to know Him better. I can ask His Spirit to guide me to the wisdom I need to help the people He brings into my life draw closer to Him as well. My efforts are miniscule in the grand scheme of things, but God will use them because He loves me. This gives me even more reason to praise Him.

Through our poor attempts to imitate the God we love (for His glory and our own good), we’ll gain greater understanding of and appreciation for Who God Is and how He works in this world. We’ll be drawn to worship, to praise, to love Him more. And because God Is our Father watching us, He will delight in our baby steps to be more like Him. He’ll respond as a Father to a child He deeply loves.

Father, there is nothing academic about growing to know more of You. Pair Your Word with our experiences in order to help us see with our own eyes what You are like. We want to know You more. We want a deeper relationship. Thank You for making this possible. We love You, Lord. Amen.

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The Resilient Tree

“For there is hope for a tree,
If it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
And that its tender shoots will not cease.
Though its root may grow old in the earth,
And its stump may die in the ground,
Yet at the scent of water it will bud
And bring forth branches like a plant.” -Job 14:7-9, NKJV

About a year and a half ago, my husband planted a tree in our backyard near our house. We were hoping it would grow up to provide a little shade in that spot. Shade’s a valuable commodity in Texas on a hot, summer day.

A few months after we planted it, though, a child knocked it down. Its little trunk snapped close to the ground. We thought our tree was done for.

But then it grew back!

And then my husband accidentally ran over it with the lawn mower.

And then it grew back!

Then we had some construction done in our backyard, and the workermen dragged something heavy over the little tree and broke it again.

Guess what? It grew back.

When my husband accidentally ran over it with the lawn mower again, though, he decided that spot must be a bad one for a tree. He pulled up what was left of it, thinking that was the end of that.

But the little tree is back!

Perhaps we should give it a name. I think it’s here to stay. I’m going to call it Phoenix.


I asked God to give me the resilience of this little tree. But then I realized that’s a scary prayer! In order to develop resilience, we have to be cut down, broken, knocked over, pulled up by the roots. We have to have a reason to grow deep roots and fight for our lives. I’d rather read a book.

Yet I know that God is building resilience in me. He has been doing so all of my life. He does this for you, too! And not by accidentally knocking us over or cutting us off at the ground. He is quite intentional about allowing all-consuming challenges to come our way. I know this is not for our harm, though, but for our good and His glory.

If life knocks us down and we stay down, that doesn’t do anyone any good. But if we call on God for His strength, our roots in Him grow deep, making us more resilient. Eventually we overcome harsh circumstances and grow firmly into what God intended for us to be. People see and know that God brought us through and grew us strong. They may even seek shade from the harsh sun under our branches where we can tell them about the God Who loves them, died for them, and wants to grow them up strong, too.

I don’t like praying scary prayers. When I catch myself praying them, I sometimes stop and say, “What am I praying?!” I’m tempted to take the prayer back. The older I get, the stronger this temptation can be because prayer becomes more and more scary. I’m no longer praying naive. Yet I must keep praying. It’s what connects me to God. It’s how I surrender myself to His Will. It’s how my life roots grow deep, so my branches grow stronger still.

Sometimes I don’t much like the immediate results of scary prayers. But I love what God does with them when He is through! For that, for Him, I choose to trust as I pray.

Father, please give us the courage to pray scary prayers, so we can grow up in You. Remind us to focus on the work You are doing in us instead of on distressing or uncomfortable circumstances. You are worthy of our trust. You are doing something amazing. We believe in You. Amen.

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Parachute Prayer: For Finders of Lost Belongings

I have a new Parachute Prayer for you today. When you lose something, pray for the person who finds it.

I’m not talking about when you lose something around the house that will eventually turn up. I’m talking about when you accidentally leave your jacket at a restaurant or a book at the doctor’s office or a tote bag at the library.

I did the latter yesterday. I have a tote bag I use for my library books. It’s kind of fun, made for book-a-holics like me. Using it makes me smile, though I would never light a candle on a bookshelf. That’s just asking for serious trouble!

At the library’s return desk, I emptied the old books out of the tote bag. When I checked out some new books, however, there were a lot of people waiting. I grabbed books, bag, and purse and hurried out. At least that’s what I thought I did.

When I got home, I placed books, bag, and purse on the table. At least I thought I did. But when I went to put these things away, the tote bag wasn’t there. I looked all over for it. I thought maybe it had fallen off the table and the puppy dragged it off. She wasn’t talking. The tote wasn’t in any of her usual hiding spots. I realized I must have dropped it at the library. This made me feel kind of sad.

So I decided to pray for its new owner, and I asked God to make sure that it ended up in the hands of the person who needed it most and that that person would be blessed by the find. I continued to look for the tote throughout the day whenever a new possible place for it popped into my mind. When the place turned out to be empty, I prayed another prayer for the finder of my tote. I also felt thankful that God had given me someone new to pray for.

This story has a happier-than-that-ending though. I went back to the library this morning. The person I was praying for had turned in my lost tote bag. The librarian was happy to return it to me. Perhaps the person who most needed that tote bag for this time is me; I definitely feel blessed by its find. Yet I’m appreciating the reminder that stuff is just stuff is just ours for a time until it wears out or moves on to someone else.

It’s also possible that the finder of my tote bag needs a little extra prayer. Maybe God used the tote bag to give that job to me! From now on when I use my lost-tote-bag-found, I’ll whisper a Parachute Prayer.

Father, thank You for prompting someone to turn in my bag. I am thankful to have it back, this little luxury. Please send an extra blessing to the kind and thoughtful person who helped return it to me. You know who he or she is and what he or she needs. Please provide as only You can. I thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


To learn more about Parachute Prayer and its blessings, order your copy of my book here.

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Redemption Rewrites

Warning: This post contains spoilers of what I believe to be the best movie of this decade. If you haven’t seen The Greatest Showman, go watch it now. Then you can come back and read this post.

I watched this movie musical for the second time last night and enjoyed every moment again. It’s not Christian. It has its problems, though few. But it’s a powerful film with a beautiful message, a new favorite for me!

After watching the movie, though, I made the mistake of Googling “P.T. Barnum” to learn how much of the movie was real. (My mind just has to know these things!) I am feeling terribly disillusioned now. Though loosely based on the life of P.T. Barnum, the movie is historical fiction. And I like the fiction version better!

Yes. P.T. Barnum married Charity, but they had four daughters, not two. He did visit Queen Victoria. There was a fire. Phillip and Anne did not exist. (They did not exist!) Barnum did promote Jenny Lind for a time, but they parted ways not because he refused to have an affair with her, but either (sources disagree) because she wanted to give more money to charity and he wanted to keep their profits or because she was tired of Barnum’s relentless marketing. (The movie did at least allude to her interest in charity when it had the two meet, but that’s as noble as it let poor Jenny be.)

The saddest revelation to me was the belief that P.T. Barnum used his last words to ask about ticket sales for the day. Whether or not this is true, no one knows. But the fact that people believe it says something about his character. The real P.T. Barnum probably didn’t learn the beautiful lesson that his movie counterpart learned.

That kind of breaks my heart.

Then again, if the quote attributed to him at the end of the movie is true, he was motivated to make people happy as much as he was motivated by money, so there’s that. History has blurred the truth about P.T. Barnum, but God knew his heart. (And no matter what anyone else thinks of us, God knows all of our hearts. And He loves us anyway! In the movie, Charity told her husband that “You don’t need everyone to love you, Phin . . . just a few good people.” I would take that statement further: all we really need is the love of God – and we all have His love! Please pardon the rabbit trail. I just had to share that thought.)


Wouldn’t it be great if we could all rewrite our own stories in order to go down in history as people who learned all the right lessons and accomplished all the most important things of all the things we can possibly choose from? We can’t do that, of course. But thanks to Jesus Christ, we can entrust our lives to the Author and Finisher of our Faith. He is able to redeem all things – to reconcile all things to Himself! Every sin. Every misstep. Every wrong motivation. Every wrong choice. Every wound. Every broken heart. All we have to do is accept Jesus’ invitation to be our Savior and ask Him to help us live our lives according to His plan.

Best of all, once we do that, turn our lives over to Him, God’s work of redemption in our lives, this fixing of all broken things and making what’s wrong turn right, isn’t historical fiction. He works all things together for good. He makes all things new. He is writing the greatest story ever told ever – and He invites us all to take part. His story is real. And so is what He works in and through us for the glory of His name, for the good of all humankind.

The writers of The Greatest Showman did a beautiful job of polishing up P.T. Barnum’s life and presenting their own message to viewers through it. But God is doing a very real job of recreating our lives to present His message of love and redemption to the world.

That Truth boggles my mind.

Father, thank You. I try to live right, but I make mistakes. What a comfort to know that You’re still writing – the world’s story, my story. In the end, all Creation will be a master work authored and finished by You. Thank You for writing me in! Please draw many others in, too. I love You, Lord. Amen.

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When the Rubble Overwhelms

“Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, ‘The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.'” -Nehemiah 4:10

I’ve felt this way. I’m sure you have, too. You look at the task before you and can’t even imagine removing all the rubble within your lifetime, much less rebuilding the wall. God’s people wanted to give up before they even began. Sometimes we do, too.

But if God has called us to do something, we have to set our minds to do it, and if we perish, we perish. Queen Esther gave us those words. Until we go to face the king, as she did, or start picking up heavy rocks, as God’s people did under Nehemiah’s leadership, we will not know how much we can accomplish, what the outcome will be, or how God will use our obedience. Focusing on the size or danger of the task can cause paralysis. Instead, we can concentrate on picking up that first rock . . . and then the next . . . and the next . . . until our God says, “Well done, Child. Time to stop.” That’s when He will show us what a difference He made through us.

Lord, You helped Your people to accomplish the tasks You gave them. Please help us to do so, too. Please make a difference through each of us for the good of everyone around us and for the glory of Your name. Amen.

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Nehemiah’s Prayer for Favor

“Remember me with favor, my God.” -Nehemiah 13:31

At the start of my most recent reading of Nehemiah, I learned something interesting. Bible scholars believe this book wasn’t just Nehemiah’s historical record of an event; it was also his private journal. I learned this just before I read the book, then noticed that there are many places where Nehemiah switches from chronicler to journaler. What I loved most about this was that his journaled thoughts about this event were often sentence prayers. Nehemiah journaled the way I do, recording what he wanted to remember and pausing to reflect and pray about those things. Perhaps you journal this way, too!

Today’s insight is about one of those journaled prayers. At the very end of the book, Nehemiah prays, “Remember me with favor, my God.” In the context of the book, the story of Nehemiah helping his people, God’s people, to rebuild the wall and reestablish Temple worship in Jerusalem, this prayer is one of release and surrender.

Here’s a quick summary:

Nehemiah had given up a cushy, albeit dangerous, life as cupbearer to the king in order to take on the impossible task of rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall in order to keep recently returned residents safe. With God’s help, Nehemiah led the people to succeed in record time under severe duress, but then God’s people neglected their duties, abandoned the Temple, and married their enemies’ children. That’s right – the priests’ kids actually married the kids of the people who tried to sabotage the rebuilding of the wall! Nehemiah must have felt a deeply frustrated, what’s-the-point hopelessness. Perhaps he even felt that he had failed.

Instead of wallowing in failure, however, he wrote a matter-of-fact report of what he’d done, gave God the glory for helping him to obey, and asked to be remembered with favor. Nehemiah had done what God told him to do. He had given God his best efforts. He left the results in God’s care.

Father, thank You for Nehemiah’s example. Please find me faithful to do the tasks that You have given me even when I feel inadequate or sabotaged. Please glorify Your name through my efforts and, when I’m done, please remember me with favor. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

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Wisdom for When the Axe Needs Attention

“If the ax is dull
    and its edge unsharpened,
more strength is needed,
    but skill will bring success.” -Ecclesiastes 10:10

My husband and I have been having a lot of fun introducing our girls to some of our favorite movies from the past. We did this with our boys when they were teens, and now we get to watch again! This time around some of our old favorite movies are movies we watched as brand new with the boys. Some of their favorite movies came out before the girls were born. Our boys might be surprised to learn our girls think those movies are old.

Our most recent introduction was to a movie that came out before any of our kids was born, Karate Kid II. In this movie, the karate kid’s mentor teaches him that he doesn’t have to be the strongest to win a fight. He only has to be the smartest. Both the karate kid and his mentor apply this lesson throughout the movie.

I kind of think that’s what the teacher in Ecclesiastes is telling us in chapter 10, verse 10, applying the wisdom to work instead of fighting. The axe might be dull and need sharpening, but a skilled worker can get the job done anyway. (Though a smart worker will find a way to sharpen the axe and simplify his task.)

But since I don’t plan to cut down any trees in the near future, I took a little time to consider how the teacher’s wisdom applies to me.

  1. If I am feeling too weak or unskilled for a task I need to accomplish, I need more strength. This may mean I need to practice or study or get some rest. This is how I, in my own power, can sharpen my axe, so to speak.
  2. Since my own power isn’t always enough, and even if I think it might be, I need to ask God for an edge, a power boost! He can and wants to provide the strength and skill and any other resource I might need. In fact, though I believe God wants us to do what we can do in order to develop our own strength and skill while trusting Him for help, I also think that I think the skill that brings success is learning how to access the resources God is offering to us every day. He promises to give us everything we need. When our axes are dull, we’re smart to go to Him.

Father, we know You have all the strength and wisdom and other resources we need to succeed at any task You give. Please provide. When You want us to work to develop our skills or build our strength, show us how to do this most effectively and where to go for help. When our axes are too dull, add Your strength. We need You, Lord . . . every day. Thank You for working alongside us as we work to serve You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Just Keep Chewing

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” -2 Corinthians 12:9

Since my husband and I adopted three children last year, people sometimes comment that maybe we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. They’ll shake their heads and say they don’t know how we do it. We don’t know either, we just know that day by day by day, our family is blending, our girls are adapting, and we’re all still breathing. Our God is working miracles.

On days when I feel overwhelmed, though, I’ll sometimes hear those voices in my head. “You’ve bitten off more than you can chew. This is going to get the best of you. You cannot do this!” That lying voice is my cue to take a break and get some rest, to intentionally seek the strength I need. “Jesus often slipped away to be alone so He could pray,” (Luke 5:16, NCV). I need to do that, too.

There are four things I’ve learned to remind myself whenever I think about biting off more than I can chew:

  1. I bit off more than I could chew because God led me to. My husband and I made our home available to children in need of a permanent home and family. The girls we adopted are gifts from Him, handpicked by Him for us—and us for them. Little by little, He’s helping us all to adapt. Daily He’s showing us how this works.
  2. If I never bit off more than I could chew, God would never have the opportunity to show His strength in my weakness. Whenever He leads me to do something that feels overwhelming, that’s my cue to pay attention and watch Him work—through me! Yes, it’s tiring, but it’s also exciting. A God-given challenge is a privilege and a blessing.
  3. Though this may be the biggest big bite I’ve ever taken, this isn’t the first time I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. God has led me through many challenges; He will lead me through this one, too.
  4. If ever I physically, as opposed to metaphorically, bite off more than I can chew, I have the choice to spit it out and throw it away or just keep chewing. If I just keep chewing, it probably won’t be pretty and it will be awkward and uncomfortable, but eventually my teeth will break the food down, so I’ll be able to swallow and continue eating my meal. Challenging tasks are just like that. Life gets messy and awkward and uncomfortable and less than beautiful (though I suspect God finds it even more beautiful), but eventually everything settles down into a new normal—and everyone who has been involved or been watching can rejoice at what God has done.

Father, thank You for the blessing of big bites! Please give us the determination to just keep chewing. Provide Your strength, wisdom, humor, and any other resource we need to continue on. Remind us of our calling and Your faithfulness. Display Your glory as You work in and through us. We love You, Lord. Amen.

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The Newborn Within

“because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever:” -2 John 1:2

Jesus taught His disciples that He is the truth. If we have received Jesus as our Savior, His truth now lives in us. This truth is something that we must nurture and protect. Jesus doesn’t need to be nurtured and protected; He is our strength. But His life within, His truth, is something we must feed and care for in order for it to grow. We do this by reading, meditating on, and memorizing God’s Word, praying continually, participating in worship services, and spending time with other Christians who are nurturing the truth inside themselves.

Think of this truth within your life as a newborn baby. When babies are loved, fed, held closely, protected, cleaned, comforted, and cared for as they need to be, they grow healthy and strong. They change from helpless, little beings to mature, thriving adults, who are able, in turn, to bring their own children into the world, nurturing, protecting, and providing for their needs.

When we care for Jesus’ truth within us, holding it dear and keeping harmful things away, we grow up in Jesus and become able to help others to do so too. Jesus’ truth lives in us and will be with us forever. Let’s nurture and protect it, so that we will continue to grow up in Him.

Father, please help us to remember that Your Son’s Spirit of Truth lives inside of us. Help us to make choices that will strengthen that Spirit of Truth within. Help us to mature in You, so that You can transform us from helpless to helpful, able, with Your Spirit’s help, to nurture other souls. Thank You, Lord. Amen.