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Choosing to Find Neverland

Our family watched Finding Neverland the other night. I love that movie. This was the third time I’ve seen it.

If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you go watch it before you read the rest of this post. Just sayin’—I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.

Finding Neverland is based on the true-life story of how J.M. Barrie came to write Peter Pan. At the beginning of the movie, Barrie befriends four young boys who are playing at the park, their widowed mother watching nearby. As Barrie gets to know the family, he finds ways to make their challenging life just a little less challenging—and fun! They, in turn, inspire him to write. The movie is a happy—sad—triumphant experience.

This time through, though, I became both fascinated with and frustrated by one character in particular—Barrie’s wife. Viewers will get the impression that the marriage was troubled from the beginning, but they aren’t told how these two flawed human beings came to be a couple. Viewers are shown that Barrie hasn’t given up on the struggling marriage, however. As his friendship with the widow and her sons develops, he tells his wife all about it. Then he invites her to get involved. He suggests they invite the family to dinner. Seeing the possibility of an advantageous social connection, Barrie’s wife agrees. Barrie and the family have a great time, but Barrie’s wife declares the evening a disaster. Boys behaving like boys are not the stuff of fine society.

As she becomes frustrated with her husband’s choices and disappointed in the direction their life seems to be taking, Barrie’s wife begins to withdraw and complain. Viewers often see her sitting alone in her room with the door closed. An affair is implied. Finally, she leaves Barrie altogether.

“Scandalous,” jests Barrie.

I felt a sense of tragedy.

I couldn’t help but wonder how things might have gone had Barrie’s wife been more receptive to the unexpected intrusion into her life. What if she’d set her inhibitions aside and joined in the fun at her proper dinner party? What if she’d taken notice of the widow, both as a friend and as a fellow human being in need? What if she had tried to see what her husband was inviting her to see? What if she’d embraced the adventure?

Perhaps in the end a marriage would have been saved, four orphans would have enjoyed the blessing of a new mother and father, and Barrie’s wife would have shared in the joy of his success as a writer—which, ultimately, would also have blessed her with all the social connections she craved. Instead, she quietly slipped out of the story with an embarrassed apology, seeking something better somewhere else.

Barrie’s wife told him she felt left out. But Barrie and the boys never excluded her. When the unexpected arrived, she chose to exclude herself. I wonder if we sometimes do the same.

What if, instead of feeling left out, we look for ways to join in? What if, when life takes an unexpected turn, instead of withdrawing in fear and fighting for that which we think we need, we choose to turn our whole selves right into the chaos, to see where it will lead? What if we let life overwhelm us in order to see God’s power at work—to learn that with His help we’re capable of so . . . much . . . more? What if we live surrendered, a life of letting God lead?

I’m coming to believe that God doesn’t delight in meeting our expectations for this life. Instead He’s always challenging us to let Him do immeasurably more. He lets us choose whether to accept this challenge or not, but when we do, He blesses us with joy and triumph as we glorify His name.

  • Where is God leading you that you hesitate to go?
  • Are you feeling left out as His Kingdom rolls on?
  • How can you join in?

Father, help us to know when You are inviting us to embrace something new and help us to do so—even if it seems we’re giving up a treasured dream as we do. You’ve promised immeasurably more than we can imagine, but we have to be willing to trust and follow where You lead. Please bless us with courage, strength, and a sense of adventure as we battle our fears. We know You have good plans for us if only we’ll stay engaged. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

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Prowling Devil, Crouching Sin

abel“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” -Genesis 4:7

The Bible doesn’t tell us, specifically, why God looked with favor on Abel’s offering but not on Cain’s. It only hints that perhaps Cain gave less than his best, a token offering of obligation, in place of a gift of worship from a fully grateful heart. In contrast, Abel brought fat portions from the firstborn of his flock, showing thanksgiving for all he’d received and trust that God would continue to give more.

Cain became angry, though he probably knew what he’d done. But God responded with kindness and grace, gently letting Cain know that he could have favor, too. He only had to choose to do right. Instead, Cain followed the path he’d set out on when he chose to give God less than his best. He received God’s response to his gift with an angry heart. Then he made his situation worse, murdering his brother in a field. (See Genesis 4:8.)

When we do what is right, following God obediently with love and gratitude, He blesses us with everything we need to live out His plan for our lives. We enjoy His Presence, the knowledge that our lives honor Him, and His Spirit within. This Spirit gives us guidance and strength as we continue to walk with God.

If we choose not to do right, though, making selfish choices and holding back from God what is His, sin crouches at our door. We give the devil an opportunity to tempt us even further from God. Peter warns us just as God warned Cain:

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” -1 Peter 5:8

It works like this:

If we think of life as a journey toward greater knowledge of and a closer relationship with God, every right choice is a step toward that end. Our obedient choices draw us closer to God Who makes us more like Christ, developing strong character and a healthy heart. Every wrong choice, though, is a step away from this that gives the devil an opportunity to lead us further away. Too many steps away, steps we might not even realize we’re taking, can leave us wandering like Cain, a lion’s meal in the making.

This is why we must live alert and keep a sober (as in contemplative or restrained) mind. As we make daily decisions, we must ask what draws us closer to God, what makes us more like Him, what honors His name, what helps His Kingdom grow?

Though Abel’s life was cut short, he earned a place in Hebrews’ Faith Hall of Fame:

“By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.” -Hebrews 11:4

He didn’t set out to do anything special, he simply lived to honor God and offered his best to Him. We can choose to live this way, too.

Father, help us to remember that our choices matter. Open our eyes to clearly see which decisions honor You, draw us closer to You. We choose to live by faith, with gratitude. You are our God, and we love You. Amen.

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Progressing through Hurt with Hope

Progressing

“Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression.” -Deuteronomy 26:7

I like Deuteronomy 26. It shows a common progression through life – something we all experience, yet all in different ways. It also reveals the hope that comes from trusting God through it all.

As we travel through life, we all experience times of “misery, toil and oppression.” The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt. Most of us experience different kinds of troubles, trials, and pain. If we’re wise, though, we cry out to God through these times, knowing He will hear our voices and deliver us at just the right time. He did this for the Israelites – then He did it for them again and again. He has done it for His people throughout history. He has also rescued you and me from one thing or another all through our lives. Ultimately, He’ll come a final time to take us home to heaven where all suffering will go away for good. This recurrence of pain on earth will end.

Back to life’s progression. 1) We experience some kind of suffering. 2) We cry out to God. 3) He rescues us – in His time . . . at just the right time. 4) “Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household” -Deuteronomy 26:11. We praise Him. We thank Him. We celebrate His victory on our behalf.

But that’s not all.

Verses 12 through 15 talk about living faithfully for God after He rescues us. We follow our celebration of God’s goodness and our freedom with obedience and by reaching out to others who need rescue as well. Moses told the Israelites to care for the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless, and widows. We can ask God to show us who to strengthen, encourage, and comfort in His name.

And then, (yes, there’s another then) when we least expect it while we’re still living on this earth, we’ll probably get to go through the whole process again because, as painful as it is, each time we go through it, cooperating with God’s Spirit, crying out to God, He’ll draw us closer to Him. He’ll make us more like His Son. He’ll use our experience to build new skills that we can use to minister to others more effectively. He’ll reveal His glory in and through us . . . again.

You’re probably wishing I’d have left at least the first part of that last paragraph out. Me, too. But as I struggle through a season of crying out, I’m trusting that all I’ve written there is true. Our God is in control. He sees. He hears. He uses all for good.

“You have declared this day that the Lord is your God and that you will walk in obedience to him, that you will keep his decrees, commands and laws—that you will listen to him. And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands. He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.” -Deuteronomy 26:17-19

We have declared that we will follow Jesus no matter what. God has declared that we are His treasure and He will keep His promises to us. This is what really matters whether we’re crying out, rejoicing, or serving others in His name.

I thank You, Lord, for Your continued interest in me. I know You will use every painful experience for good. In You all is redeemed. Please work in and through me as You want to for the glory of Your name. In Jesus, I pray. Amen.

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Book Review: “The Inheritance”

The InheritanceIt’s been too long since I’ve found the time to read a Michael Phillips book. He remains one of my favorite authors, and his newest book, The Inheritance, reminded me why. This author is a master at creating memorable settings, and his characters within them are deep. Phillips takes us right inside their heads as he draws us into each carefully crafted scene. He reveals needed information at just the right time. The story moves slowly, but precisely, to reveal essential Truth.

The Inheritance is set mostly on Whales Reef, one of Scotland’s Shetland Islands. When clan patriarch Macgregor Tulloch dies unexpectedly and without a will, the entire community is thrown into uncertainty. To make things worse, an obnoxious oil tycoon attempts to manipulate the situation in his favor, hoping to purchase the island, remove its inhabitants, and exploit its resources for himself. Only events set in motion more than sixty years before have the unexpected potential to save the islanders’ way of life and to restore what matters most.

As I reached the end of this book, it seemed to me that the whole thing was actually a prelude to the real story to be continued in the next book of this Secrets of the Shetlands series. I’m looking forward to reading it, hopefully soon! I recommend this book to fans of George MacDonald, Scottish historical fiction, and Christian fiction with a powerful take-away message for life. I thank Bethany House Publishers for sending a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

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Waiting, Ezekiel, and What Really Matters Now

I’m sorry I haven’t had much to say lately. I’m in a weird writing place. That’s not a complaint; it’s a statement of fact. Life is getting ready to change, so I’m preparing for its changes. I’m in a waiting place, praying the prayer of waiting. I posted a few thoughts about that last week. Here are a few more:

Prayer of WaitingThe prayer of waiting is both a prayer of preparation and a prayer of submission. It is both a prayer of hope and a prayer of surrender. It’s the prayer we pray when we’ve done all we can do and must leave the outcome in God’s hands because, for us, there’s nothing left to do but pray.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that my husband and I are preparing to adopt a daughter from foster care. We prayed before we began the process. We prayed as we completed each task. Now we’ve done all we can do but wait and pray. Our all-powerful God is at work! We are excited—we are impatient. We are learning, again, how to wait.

Preparation: We’re praying God will prepare our hearts for our daughter and hers for us. We’re asking Him to show us anything we might have overlooked—anything else we can do to prepare. I’m reading the newest parenting books–and praying for our daughter as I do.

Submission: Just as we had to submit to the adoption agency: taking classes, filling out paperwork, inviting them into our home, accepting their final decision—the one we’re now waiting for, we’re also living in submission to God. He led us into this process. He led us to this waiting place. Waiting is our service right now. We’re praying while we wait.

Hope: This is a time of great anticipation. We’re expecting a child! A brand new family member will soon be moving into our home. We believe she’s out there waiting for us, too, and so we’re praying for her as she does. And we just can’t wait to meet her! Though wait we will—for as long as it takes.

Surrender: It’s tempting to try to hurry God along right now. Instead we must trust. Voicing that trust is part of the waiting prayer. We believe God will bring this new child into our family at just the right time.

It occurs to me that there’s nothing like the prayer of waiting to help us grow closer to God. Waiting is an essential part of our spiritual development. It teaches us to depend and trust. It reveals a lot about the state of our relationship with God.


I’ve also been reading through Ezekiel for the past few weeks. I’ll finish tomorrow. It’s a long book with a huge message, but it hasn’t generated a lot of devotional thought this time around. To summarize: I’m just so thankful that I know the Lord is God. Have you ever counted how many times God tells Ezekiel, “Then they will know that I am the Lord their God?” Throughout the book this phrase always follows God’s declaration of what He’s going to do to show the people that He is the Lord their God. It’s both sobering and prayer-provoking. What’s He doing or preparing to do in order to teach our world the same?

What’s also clear in Ezekiel, though, is that God goes to great lengths in order to help His people live the best life they can, the life they can only live within His Kingdom. God loves us deeply. He wants to bless us completely. But we have to surrender to His Lordship over our lives. It won’t work any other way. He Is capable and loving and worthy of our trust. Ezekiel shows us that even His wrath is designed to draw us to Him for our good.


Finally, regarding my weird writing place, with the new year came a renewed desire to write more. I think this has resulted in a temporary need to write less. I’m throwing off everything that hinders, prayerfully choosing the activities God wants me to continue, wrapping others up, claiming blocks of time for what matters most. Life is changing, and I’m adapting, anticipating whatever is to come with hope and joy.

Father, thank You for the people who will read these words. Help them through whatever seasons of life they are in right now, whether they are waiting or actively pursuing a goal, accomplishing something in Your name. Draw them close to You. Teach them what they need to know. Lead them wherever You want them to go. Please help us all to throw off anything that hinders us as we pursue Your Will for our lives. You are the Lord our God. We are thankful and blessed. Amen.

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Thanksgiving and Prayer

Thanksgiving and Prayer“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people.”Colossians 1:3-4

Paul starts his letter to the Colossian church with thanksgiving and prayer. He tells them that he is thankful for them and why. He is thankful for them because he’s heard of their faith in Christ and their love for His people.

  • Who are you thankful for today and why?

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.”Colossians 1:9

Because Paul is thankful for the Colossians, he and his ministry team pray for them.* They pray that:

  • God will fill them with the knowledge of His Will (v. 9).
  • They will live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way (v. 10).
  • They will bear fruit in every good work (v. 10).
  • They will grow in the knowledge of God (v. 10).
  • They will be strengthened with all power according to God’s glorious might (v. 11).
  • They will have great endurance and patience (v. 11).
  • They will be joyfully thankful for the inheritance they share with all of God’s people (v. 12).

What a beautiful way to honor someone you are thankful for!

  • What blessings are you asking God to bestow on the people you are thanking Him for today?

*Click here to read the full passage at BibleGateway.com.

I’m sharing this post with the following sites today: Word of God Speak and Spiritual Sundays. Click on the links to see what others are sharing there too.

 

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How Do We Pray?

The Conversation BeginsWelcome to the fifth installment of The Conversation Begins, my 31+ non-consecutive-day series on prayer. (If you missed the first four posts, you can click here and scroll down to read through them. The oldest posts will be at the bottom of the page.)

Today I want to talk about how. How do we pray?

We simply talk to God.

God doesn’t make prayer complicated; He loves us and He wants to hear our voices. He also wants us to learn to listen for His, but that’s a subject for another post—or two—or more. Learning to recognize God’s voice is a skill to develop over the course of a lifetime, perhaps the most worthwhile skill we can develop in the time we have on Earth.

When Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, He didn’t tell them to bow their heads and close their eyes, to kneel or lie prostrate. He simply gave them words. We call these, The Lord’s Prayer, of course, and they model prayer perfectly! (Of course.) Many books and sermons have been written on this prayer, so I’m not going to analyze it here except to note that this prayer acknowledges God’s Fatherhood, sovereignty, and holiness, surrenders our will to God’s, asks God to meet needs, asks forgiveness and forgives others, seeks protection from temptation and evil, and ends in worship of our always-worthy God. These are elements of prayer we can strive to cover in our conversations with Him every day.

But we don’t have to cover them all every time we pray. There are a lot of helpful formulas out there that we can use as tools for prayer, but please remember, they are tools—not rules. When you learn about a friend’s tragedy, make that the focus of your prayer. If a conflict arises or a financial need, talk to God about it right away. If you’re fighting temptation or catch yourself in a sin, tell God what’s going on, confess your wrongs, ask Him to help you choose right or to make things right. We don’t have to focus on every aspect of prayer every time we pray. Instead we have many conversations with God covering different subjects throughout each day.

How We PrayAnd we don’t have to wait until we can kneel or close our eyes or get to church to pray. If the clock tells you it’s time for your dad’s surgery or your son’s test while you’re sitting in a meeting, think a prayer right where you are. Kneeling, bowing, and closing our eyes can help us to focus or remind us of our position before God. Praying at church allows us to be heard with other believers who are all talking together to God about the same thing. It’s important to pray in these ways sometimes, but they aren’t essential every time we pray.

There is one how that is essential to every prayer, though. This concerns our attitude. Whether we’re approaching God on our knees or while driving in the car, we need to approach Him with respect, humility, and a sincere heart. If we don’t believe He is listening to us, that He loves us, that He is able to keep His promises, and that His plans are perfect whether we understand them or not, our prayers will be hindered.

Suddenly I’m remembering the climactic scene from Gone with the Wind where Scarlett is ill. She has just suffered a miscarriage after falling down the stairs. She’s been crying out for Rhett, but no one has heard her. When someone finally does, when she finally has the opportunity to ask for him—something he’s desperately waiting for—she says, “Oh, what’s the use.” And that’s the end of the relationship. If Scarlett had only believed that Rhett would come if she called, he would have, and the story could have ended happily.

That said, our God will never give up on us like Rhett gave up on Scarlett, but He will wait until we call on Him . . . in faith . . . with the right attitude. Desperate for more of Him in every area of life, eager to see His Kingdom come and His Will done, that is how we pray.

Father, thank You for making it so easy to come to You. Thank you for encouraging us to do so. Thank You for waiting patiently. You are God, and there is no other. We need more of You. Amen.


 

Today I’m sharing this post at the Thought-Provoking Thursday Link-up. Click here to see what other posts are being shared there!

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Book Review: “The Methuselah Project”

The Methuselah ProjectThe Methuselah Project by Rick Barry was a surprisingly fun find. Barry has combined historical fiction, science fiction, action adventure, and romance to create one curiosity-grabbing story. Though highly unlikely, Barry is convincing. He leaves the reader believing it could have happened that way.

The story begins in 1943 in the skies over the Third Reich during WWII. When American pilot Roger Greene is taken prisoner, his captors use him as a test subject in an experiment that changes his physiology. Seventy years later is still a captive, and he hasn’t aged. When he finally escapes, it’s into a world full of technology and lingo he doesn’t understand. Greene must convince someone that his story is true before the people who imprisoned him catch up to terminate their experiment.

At the same time (in 2015), Katherine Mueller, a young woman raised by her uncle after her parents’ deaths, is in training to rise in the ranks of a secret society called the Heritage Organization. Her uncle has been grooming her for this most of her life, but, while she wants to please him, she also longs to be free of his control. He doesn’t approve of her career and won’t even let her choose her own dates. When the organization calls on Katherine to participate in a field assignment while her uncle is out of the country, all that Katherine knows of her world must change.

I enjoyed reading this book and recommend it to fans of WWII fiction and modern day suspense. Kregel Publications sent me a complimentary copy of The Methuselah Project in exchange for this review.

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Book Review: “Glory Days”

Glory DaysMax Lucado’s new book, Glory Days, takes us through the Book of Joshua with courage and determination and God right by our side. I loved this book! It’s a quick read, but it’s full of knowledge and wisdom we Christians need. Someday I’m going to read it again, slowly, taking my time on all the questions for reflection included at the end of the book. For now, I’m savoring truths about Joshua and Caleb (my favorite as presented through Lucado’s eyes) and Rahab and several modern-day Promised Land dwellers whom Lucado introduces to his readers in this book.

Lucado starts out by explaining how we have three choices for our existence now: slavery to sin, free from sin but wandering in the wilderness, dwelling in the Promised Land. He then goes on to show us how we can experience that Promised Land life right now. Most chapters start with a Bible story from Joshua, some with a modern experience that parallels the Bible story in some way leading into that story. Then, as he reaches the end of the story, Lucado quickly switches, showing how we face similar challenges and can respond triumphantly by trusting in God to show us the way and to fight for us in order to glorify His name through us for all the world to see.

My words are not enough to express how highly I think of this book. Just know I recommend you read it! Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending a complimentary copy in exchange for this review.

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Trusting God with the Moment That Matters Most

Moment That Matters“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’” –John 4:39-42

One of my college professors used to say that faith is more caught than taught. I saw this in action when my children were little. As a mom who loved Jesus, I looked forward to the day when I could pray with my children, leading them to invite Him into their hearts, knowing they were saved and walking heavenward with me.

It didn’t happen quite that way. We took our boys to church—that was a given, us being a ministry family. But we would have done that anyway. We studied the Bible together. My husband and I shared our testimonies. We prayed with our boys regularly. As my oldest son entered fourth grade, though, that longed-for moment had not yet come . . . his decision to give his life to Jesus . . . at least as far as I knew.

Then he brought home an essay he’d written for school. He was attending a private Christian school at the time, and his teacher had asked the kids to write their testimonies. Justin told how he’d been alone in his room when he decided to invite Jesus into his heart. He’d prayed all by himself. And I knew from both his character and the words he’d written, that his young faith was absolutely real.

That’s probably when I first realized that God works differently in different people and that Jesus doesn’t enter people’s hearts when they say a few prescribed words. He brings salvation when they believe that He does. Each individual knows when that moment comes, whether another leads them directly to it or not.

Not that we didn’t lead our children to it. Like the Samaritan Woman in Luke 4, we told our children what we’d experienced, what we believed. But like the people of the woman’s community, our children had to hang out with Jesus for a while in order to decide they believed for themselves. This is something all people must do! I still love the sweet sentiment of a mother or father praying with their children to lead them to Christ, but it’s that moment of belief in a person’s heart that’s really the most beautiful thing.

Does this mean we shouldn’t tell others about Jesus, instead leaving them to find Him for themselves? Absolutely not! The Samaritan Woman couldn’t help herself; Jesus had told her everything she’d ever done! We can’t help ourselves either. If we walk and talk with Him daily, Jesus will amaze us on a daily basis! And so, we tell. Who He Is. What He has done. How we experience Him. What we’re learning from His Word. We live it; we talk it. It’s what we do!

Then we pray. We pray that people who hear our stories will invite Jesus to hang out with them for a while, so they can get to know Him, too.

And then we trust that the God Who has done so much for us, the One Who told the Samaritan Woman everything she’d ever done, will speak to our children, our friends, our acquaintances, too. We may not be there for the moment of belief, but the One Who matters will be, and He Is faithful to save.

Jesus, help us to live what we believe. Give us opportunities to show and to tell. Then help us to trust as we pray. You’ve invited everyone into Your Kingdom. Now You’re waiting for everyone who will to accept that invitation. Please wait patiently. There are many yet to be saved. We thank You, Lord, for speaking to each heart—through us and all around us. Use our lives as You will to honor Your name. Amen.