Category Archives: Devotions

Dealing With The Switchbacks

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“Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to Heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just in our heads) that God is FOR us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.”—John Piper

The truth is, I want the straight line.

I want to go from one blessing to the next until I get to Heaven.

For many years, I skipped along that beloved straight line, believing that life was good and pretty and sunny and fun and kind and orderly.

And then the roof caved in leaving brokenness, darkness, confusion, tears, bewilderment, shock, loss, sadness, fear, and weariness in its wake.

Against my will, I was jarred awake to the brutal reality that this world is not heaven. It is enemy territory and the pain is searing and relentless.

I had so much head knowledge.

But suddenly, that wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough to cope with a life that was no longer safe.

I found that I craved safety. Yet there was no sense of safety in my circumstances. It was as if I was straining to balance on a tightrope and when I got up the nerve to finally look down, I was horrified to discover that the safety net was missing. And the winds were picking up, the sky was darkened by gathering clouds, and the only thing that was below me was sharp, jagged rocks.

I have never felt so vulnerable, terrified and small.

What to do?

I am a firstborn. I am a go-getter. I am driven. I am results-oriented.

So, my first choice was to look past the pain and begin to search for the silver lining. Surely this would help me become a better person. I will know why this happened in hindsight. I will be wiser. I can help others. I have lessons that I need to learn and this experience will help me.

I was on a quest to have two questions answered: Why is this happening? and How do I get out of this?

I asked for prayer, but I was very careful to lace my language with very cheerful terms.

He is at work even when I can’t see it!” I would say brightly after sharing my pain. “I know He will work all of this for my good!” Heads would nod in agreement and assurances would be plentiful.

So why did those words sound empty to my own ears and why did I leave that place feeling like I hadn’t been truly honest, that my pain had been minimized, and that I hadn’t been heard at all?

(This is NOT an indictment against very dear and well-meaning people. They are simply doing what I am doing, which is trying to make sense of a God that we know is good but who allows awful things that we simply cannot understand).

I assured myself that this, too, shall pass.

Except…that it didn’t.

The pain continued.

I would often feel like I was swimming in a rough ocean, trying to make some progress. I would get swallowed by a huge wave, tossed around like  a rag doll, fight my way to the surface, struggle to get on solid ground (as solid as shifting sand can be), take few gulps of air…only to get knocked down again and this time be pulled further out to sea by the relentless undertow.

Looking through the pain for the silver lining wasn’t working anymore.

So, I sought to escape the pain.

Trips, shopping, eating out, getting together with friends. Fun, fun, fun.

Then the money dried up when the economy crashed and my husband’s job was eliminated. Things have been challenging ever since.

No more disposable income meant no more easy avenues for escape. And things just got tougher. There was illness, betrayal, job loss, death, setback after setback.

Lines began to appear on my face. Gray hairs began to overtake the blonde. The dark circles under my eyes could no longer be hidden with the most industrial strength concealer.

My prayer requests were no longer couched in cheerful language.

“I have no idea what Jesus is doing,” I would say.

Tears, which I once refused to show in public by sheer force of my will, fell freely now.

The varying responses would be an uneasy silence, platitudes, a hug, a listening ear, much-needed and appreciated practical help, or an offer to pray, all depending on where those people were in their spiritual lives.

I felt helpless. My feelings were hurt by the One who said He loved me and had a good plan for my life. There were just no easy answers anymore.

hated living with mystery. I wanted answers. I wanted my old life back.

Haven’t I been faithful? Haven’t I led Bible study for years? Haven’t I raised my kids to love Jesus and live for Him? Haven’t I been a good wife, mom, sister, daughter, and friend? Haven’t I been a mentor to the younger moms in my church and community? Haven’t I done a lot of volunteer work? Haven’t I given generously to those in need?

Haven’t I done it right?!

And there it was.

Do you see the common denominator in those questions?


Do you see the sense of entitlement? I did this, so You must do that. You owe me a happy life! (cringe).

Except He wasn’t playing that game. He never was.

My life was so crowded with knowledge and stuff and activity and self-will that I refused to truly see the one thing I needed to see the most.

All along, I had been asking the wrong questions, which were why and how?

I had completely missed the WHO.

“Have I been with you for so long a time and you do not know and recognize Me yet, Susan?” —Jesus (John 14:9).

The question that Jesus had asked Peter on the Passover night over 2000 years ago, He now asked me.

There, in the midst of all the loss and broken dreams, was Jesus.

Not as I wanted Him to be, not as I wished Him to be, not as I assumed Him to be…but as He IS: holy, righteous, perfect, Love incarnate.

The time had come for what I needed most: an encounter with the God who had died for me.

The very worst thing that has ever happened to anyone happened to Him.

Pain has a way of crystallizing what is most important in life with laser-like focus.

The single most important event in this world is the Cross.

It was time for me “to see the crucifixion for what it is, not looking away, through, or past it.” (Tullian Tchvidjian, Glorious Ruin, p. 69),

“The cross is the ultimate statement of God’s involvement in the world this side of Heaven.” (Ibid).

The cross is my reminder that life on earth is not a picnic and my God has higher dreams for me than a pleasant life.

The cross is bloody, brutal, violent, horrific…and  as much as I would like to sanitize it, give it lip service and only glance at it… the truth is that meditating on what it means is the only sure-fire way to put suffering on this earth in its proper perspective. The cross is a symbol of a holy God’s hatred of sin and His willingness to deal with it once and for all at the cost of His own life.

The willingness to look at the cross head on without flinching is what enables me to do the same with the suffering in my own life.

And to realize that the same God who has permitted the trials is the same One who allowed Himself to be nailed to the cross to take my place, to die the death that I deserved.

It was the only remedy for my sin-sick soul, the only thing that would save this rebel from hell.

When I lose sight of this most crucial truth,  it is then that I lose my way and my demand for a pain-free life takes center stage. When that happens, I am blind, ungrateful, small.

What I couldn’t see when my pain loomed larger than my God is that ultimately, the pain was a kindness.



Because my greatest need is not a happy life.

My greatest need is an encounter with the living, resurrected Christ, who has delivered me from the domain of darkness and transferred me into His kingdom granting me redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1: 13-14). My life is hidden in Him, which makes me forever safe. He can only do good to me. He does not promise me an easy life, but He does promise to never leave me. He gives me beauty for ashes and is willing to fill me with His indestructible joy. He hears every prayer and sees every tear.

And when this short life with all its sorrows and joys is over, He promises that I will see His face and be with Him forever in a beautiful place where there is only joy and light and wonder for all eternity.

All the pain, the heartache, the trials served one grand purpose: they stripped me of everything but what is most essential: Jesus and me. Because that is exactly how this life ends, the only thing that ultimately matters.

I have learned to live with mystery. Life is still hard and there is no end to troubles in sight. I still battle fear sometimes. I definitely get weary. I have questions and granting forgiveness is still the hardest thing I have ever had to do. There are still tears and grief.

But I am free from the demand to have a problem free life. I am no longer looking for this world to be Heaven. I am not blindsided when pain hits. I have His hope, His joy, His light in the midst of this fallen world and I know I am being guided by His hand. My sense of entitlement is gone.

My greatest calling is to bring glory to Jesus and I can do that regardless of what is happening in my life.

I will close with these wise words from author Larry Crabb from his most excellent book, Shattered Dreams:

“When arrogant people who know they deserve eternal misery tremble before a holy God of passionate wrath, they discover grace. They encounter the depths of God’s kindness and love, a kindness and love they find nowhere else. They fall to their knees and worship Christ as their Lord and Savior and as their truest friend, really their only true friend. They know they don’t deserve a hug, no matter how badly they’re hurting but they get an eternal one anyway. That’s the grace that takes their breath away.

They enter into the community of broken, forgiven people who are hungry for all of God they can get. Nothing stands in their way—not shame, not the fear of revealing too much, not a desire to be well thought of. With abandon, they seek God.

And they welcome shattered dreams as friends. They enter their pain and discover an arrogant spirit that says, “I don’t deserve this.” They tremble in their unholiness before a holy God and discover how passionately they want to have a good relationship with Him. Then He reveals the new way of grace, the gospel that lets them draw near to God and discover how wonderful He is…the journey continues, a journey through shattered dreams to the exquisite joy of encountering Christ.” (pp. 196-197)

I wish for you that same exquisite joy.



































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Tears In The Soup Aisle

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Have you ever burst into tears in the middle of a grocery store?

I did that yesterday afternoon. Right in front of the soup cans, the dam broke and the tears flowed in aisle 3.

I live in a small town. On any given trip to that store, I see at least two people I know.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case right then.

I finished my shopping and headed out into the snowy day.

As soon as I closed the door to the driver’s side, the tears became sobs and I was grateful for the snow covering the windshield so no one would see my meltdown.

I cried out to Jesus for mercy. There was no lightning bolt from the sky, no voice from Heaven. Yet I knew He heard me. I knew He saw every tear that fell.

The Lord hears His people when they call to Him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles…You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, each tear entered in Your ledger, each ache written in Your book. ( Psalm 34:17; Psalm 56:8)

I drove home and my head was pounding. In spite of my exhaustion, I began to keep my eyes and ears open because I knew He would speak to me. His heart is touched and moved by our pain and He always seeks to comfort us.

He didn’t wait long.

I checked my Instagram feed and one of the people I follow posted this Scripture: “…Hope in the Lord, for with the Lord, there is mercy (exactly what I had been asking Him for!) and with Him is abundant redemption. (Ps. 103:7). NO situation is beyond His redemption.

Shortly thereafter, a new post from one of the bloggers I read popped into my inbox. I clicked on it and could not believe my eyes. She used a verse that He had given me several times in the past few days: “Behold, I am doing a new thing! (He is at work, even when we can’t see it)….Now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert!” (Isaiah 43:19). He always makes a way.

Each time we open His Word, we can hear His Voice ringing out in all its boldness, resounding with hope, shining light into our darkness.

The fact that He put those particular verses in front of my eyes was no coincidence. There is no such thing. He intended for me to see them because He knew I needed to see them. They were His message to me.


This morning, I still wasn’t 100% myself.

So, He filled my day with more of His love notes.

I received a text from my best friend that was filled with encouragement. He speaks to us through His people and her words were very soothing to me. Friendship is a gift.

…There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. —Proverbs 18:24

The first Scripture I saw when I opened my Bible was this: “Let us not lose heart and grow weary in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint.” (Galatians 6:9).

There is a due time and an appointed season. This season will not last forever. There is no need for me to lose heart. No one stays in the valley forever. He always leads us out.

Later, my brother stopped by and caused me to laugh out loud with one of his stories. Laughter is good for the soul.

He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. —Job 8:21

As the sun went down, we received a bounty of His provision.

My God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your ever need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.—(Philippians 4:13).

At the end of a busy day, I was tired and wanted to relax. I clicked onto Netflix.

I found myself clicking on a Christian movie from 2010 called The Encounter. I didn’t have high hopes for it, as it started out a little on the hokey side. But as I watched, I was drawn into the story and Jesus had a tender message to me through one of the characters.

He saw my tears yesterday afternoon, heard my cry to Him, and set about speaking to me in a variety of ways through:

His Word
a blog post
a friend
His provision
a funny story
and a movie.

Do you need to hear from Him? Listen to His Voice as you read His Word. Open your eyes and your ears and experience Him.

He longs to communicate with you and He is wildly creative.

Pay attention and let Him speak. You will experience a profound joy and He will fill your heart with His peace.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who trusts and takes refuge in Him. —Psalm 34:8






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Joy In The Midst

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So, our well pump stopped working on Saturday afternoon, leaving us without any water. Oh the joys of living in a rural area!

Why do these things always happen on the weekends?

A big storm was rapidly approaching, so Doug immediately put in a call to the emergency number for our local well company.

Apparently, “emergency number” means, “We’ll see you first thing Monday morning.”

Of course, they said they could come out on Sunday, but the price would be double what it normally is and it basically amounted to the cost of our son’s spring semester of college.

Clearly, we needed to weigh our options about where to stay until Monday. Eventually, it was decided that all five of us would descend on the very small home that my brother is currently care-taking while the owner is wintering in sunny Florida. (What a smart man).

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It is hard to detect tone of voice via text, but I definitely sensed a certain panic in Jeff’s reply. He asked me to give him a minute to see what he could do.

Long story short, he secured and paid for two lovely rooms at one of the many local inns in our small town, complete with wonderful lakeside view!

Problem (beautifully!) solved! (Our neighbor graciously agreed to watch Buddy for us).

Now, I would like to tell you that I handled this latest inconvenience with peace, calm, and joy.

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Not necessarily.

The fact that one of our businesses closed in November has made things very tight financially. (Not complaining, just stating a fact. He has provided abundantly for us in the midst of it all and we are grateful). So the prospect of having to get our well pump replaced felt daunting and a little heartrending; especially for my husband, who is very tired.

Before we knew how this would all play out, I was throwing some clothes into my luggage and trying not to cry as I talked it out with Jesus, “Really, Lord?” I asked. “You know how tough things are. I don’t get it. Why now? This is the worst possible time for something like this to happen.”

How quickly we forget.

Back in November, I read one of Ann Voskamp’s blog posts. She had declared November to the “November Niagara Of Thanks.” She challenged her readers to list 1000 gifts in the month of November alone, reminding us that the depth of our joy is directly tied to the depth of our gratitude.

She assured us that this was do-able. We just needed to list roughly 33 gifts a day to make it to 1000 by the end of the month.

I knew I needed to do this, as life was hard and a fresh perspective on all the ways He shows His love to me was much needed. I read that blog post on November 10th, so I was determined to catch up that very day. I simply needed to list 333 gifts in one day! So, I grabbed a fresh notebook and got to work!

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I wrote #333 before midnight that night…and completed the 1000th gift before Thanksgiving. I am still writing down all the gifts, and I am approaching #1500. Try it for yourself. Your joy will increase one hundredfold, I promise!

His Presence…and His endless, lovely, tailor-made gifts are everywhere. All we need are eyes to see.

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Despite the stress of that particular season, my joy and my peace were abundant because my prime focus was definitely not on my problems, but on the One who controls all things and loves me with a perfect, fiery love.

As I continued to pack, I resolved to still count my gifts, right there in the midst of a house with no water.

My mind cleared, my spirits lifted, and my attitude improved dramatically.

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Doug, Josh, Julia, my mom, and me threw our luggage into the car, got some takeout, checked into our rooms and had a carpet picnic for dinner in one of the rooms while the snow swirled outside.

The inn where were were staying was beautiful and cozy.

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Mill Falls-0030It was the perfect place to ride out the big snowstorm that blew through town. We were toasty warm, very comfortable, had plenty of running water, and best of all, we were all together.

Over the next two days, we talked, laughed, used the pool and the hot tub, and I had plenty of opportunities to take photos. What started out as a stressful situation turned out to be a sweet time in a lovely place.

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How He delights to give us good gifts, even the midst of the mess.

Each night, I fell asleep watching the twinkling white Christmas lights on the trees outside our window, counting my blessings and thanking Him for His lavish provision.

This morning, it only took two hours for our well to be fixed.

It was glorious to have fresh, running water once more! I will never take it for granted again!

By 11:00, we were all home.

At 1:00, one of my crowns was pulled right out of my mouth after I ate one of my son’s sour cherry gummy bears. I have an appointment with the dentist on Wednesday morning.

At 4:30, our daughter came into the house and announced that her car would not start.

Is it 2016 yet? 🙂




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Blessings Abound!

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Every January 1st, an empty glass jar sits on our kitchen counter.

We call it the Blessing Jar.

As the year unfolds, each time something good happens, we write it down and drop it into the jar.

On the afternoon of December 31st (before the kids scatter to their various New Year’s Eve plans), we gather around our big farmhouse kitchen table and one by one, we take turns reading a blessing. By the time the jar is empty, our hearts are full and the laughter is plentiful and robust.

This afternoon was particularly sweet.

As I have said before, this has been a hard year.

Sometimes, in the midst of frustration and dashed hopes and hardships, it is easy to forget to look for the light.

Yet, these little strips of colored papers (so many of them!!!) were reminders that the light blazes brightly on even the darkest days because Light is a Person and He forever shines. (John 8:12). 

He is a God who is always coming for us, always chasing us down in order to bless, a God who stores up good things for us, then delights to reveal them at just the perfect time. He adds vibrant color to the gray days and speaks powerful words of life and love from His Word to those who are willing to listen.

He is so good to me.

Let 2015 be the year that I remember that everyday, that I trust Him with the hard and joyfully celebrate the good.

You too?


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The God Who Comes Near

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I read a Facebook status yesterday that took my breath away.

“The first Christmas was God taking the armor off and becoming vulnerable to the worst we could do to Him.” —Dr. Steve Brown.

Those words are so powerful because they are so true.

The very fact that the same Jesus who called this world into existence would voluntarily leave the perfect and glorious beauty of Heaven to come to this earth as a helpless baby on a rescue mission to save our sin-stained souls is the miracle that should leave us stunned with wonder every Christmas.

In recent years, I have become much more intentional about savoring the Christmas season…not for gifts or the music or the celebrations (as wonderful as those things are)…but for THE Gift: the wondrous gift of Immanuel, God With Us.

Just this morning, I was reminded anew how approachable Jesus has made Himself to us and it filled my soul with fresh joy.

In Ann Voskamp’s advent devotional The Greatest Gift, she writes this:

“God can’t stay away. This is the love story that has been coming for you since the beginning…He comes as a Baby because He is done with barriers. He comes vulnerable because He knows the only way to intimacy with you is through vulnerability with you. You can’t get to intimacy except through the door of vulnerability. So God throws open the doors of this world and enters as a baby. As the most vulnerable imaginable. Because He wants unimaginable intimacy with you.

What religion ever had a god that wanted such intimacy with us that He came with such vulnerability to us?

What God ever came so tender we could touch Him? So fragile we could break Him? So vulnerable that His bare, beating heart could be hurt? Only the One who loves you to death.

“Christmas is about God’s doing whatever it takes to be with us…He climbed down from the throne in Heaven to get to you. (pp.234-236)

I just finished reading a fascinating book by Walter Wangerin, Jr called “The Book Of God: The Bible As A Novel.” He is a beautiful writer and his words made the Bible come alive for me in a fresh way. Near the end of the book, he writes about the moment when the doubting disciple Thomas sees Jesus for the first time after His resurrection. Thomas had refused to let himself believe the other disciples’ accounts of seeing the risen Christ.

However, he was about to experience an encounter with Jesus that he would never forget the rest of his days.

The very much alive Jesus appeared to him and all doubt flew away forever.

Wangerin writes: “On Sunday night the disciples were again gathered in the upper room…Thomas felt himself alien here. Everyone else seemed bound together by some ethereal experience that excluded him. His mood was sour. He was planning to leave these people and this place but he hadn’t yet decided where to go.

Then someone directly behind him said, “Peace be with you.”

Thomas began to turn around—then leaped to his feet, all his nerves singing. It was Jesus!

Candlelight brushed the sides of His face with an orange warmth and shade. He was looking at Thomas.

“Come here.” Jesus said.

Jesus was speaking to none but him. “Thomas, come here.”

Slowly Thomas approached.

As He did, Jesus opened the palms of His hands and said, “Reach out your finger. Examine my wounds.”

Jesus opened His robe so that His flesh was visible from His ribs to His hip. “Reach out your hand and put it into My side….Do not be faithless but believing!”

The poor disciple, now completely bowed down before Jesus whispered, “My Lord and My God!” (pp. 829-830).

(You can read the biblical account of this event in John 20:24-29)

Christmas declares that our infinitely powerful and holy God has come close enough to allow us to reach out and touch Him. First as a baby, then as a boy, then as a man.

Not every touch was a tender one, however. He allowed His body and face to be punched with fists, His forehead to be lacerated with a crown of thorns,  His back to be ripped to shreds by a brutal whip made of lead balls and pieces of bone, His hands and feet to be punctured with nails, and His side to be pierced with a sword.

He allowed His created ones to kill Him, their Creator.

All for the love of you.

And then in a beautiful moment, He invites Thomas, who was as frail and fallible as we are, to touch His resurrected body that will forever bear the scars that made it possible for us who once had a death sentence hanging over our heads to be set free.

There is a glorious day coming for every Christ follower who now walks this earth: One day, you will see the resurrected Jesus, just as Thomas did. Not only will you see His beautiful face, hear His Voice, and bask in the warmth of His smile, but you, too, will be able to see and touch the scars that bought you your freedom.

And you will spend all eternity giving thanks for the fact that God Himself entered time and space and came near to us in that stable in Bethlehem.

And she gave birth to her Son and she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger because there was no room or place for them in the inn.

And in that vicinity, there were shepherds living out under the open sky in the field watching over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone all about them and they were terribly frightened.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the people. For to you is born this day in the town of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!” (Luke 2:7-11) 








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The Power Of Music

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Today, I sat next to Luke in church.

Luke is an adorable five year old whose mother is a dear friend of mine and the worship leader at our church. She sings like an angel and brings joy to everyone her life touches.

Luke was intent on coloring when our pianist began to play “Thy Word.”

He dropped his crayon and turned excitedly to his grandmother. “Mommy sings this song to me every night before I go to sleep!” he announced. Snuggling into his grandmother’s arms, he began to sing loud and clear in that sweet,high-pitched voice that little children posses.

Tears instantly filled my eyes as I listened to his voice blend with the notes on the piano.

It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard.

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path

When I feel afraid and think I’ve lost my way
Still, You’re right there beside me
Nothing will I fear as long as You are near
Please be with me to the end

I will not forget Your love for me and yet,
My heart forever is wandering
Jesus be my guide and hold me to Your side
And I will love you to the end.

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path.

As we drove home from church, I got to thinking about the power of music.

When I was a teenager, we once had a guest speaker at my youth group.

He talked about how influential music is to our psyche and gave an example that has stuck with me.

It was the 80’s and a new song had come out. It was called “867-5309/Jenny.”

He said, “You will most likely not remember the phone number to the house you grew up in. But you will still remember 867-5309 when you’re 40 because it was set to music.”

He was absolutely right.

I will be 50 years old in four months and I still remember that song title.

Music embeds itself in our minds and hearts and just a few notes of a familiar song can transport us back in time, enveloping us in emotions and memories that bring joy, sadness, longing, regret, or a combination of all.

Jesus created music. (He is singing over your precious life at this very moment. Don’t believe me? Look up Zephaniah 3:17. Go ahead. It’s in the Old Testament, near the back. It will be worth the trip, I promise).

When my kids were little, I sang “There Is A Redeemer” to them every night before they went to sleep.

Each time I hear that beautiful song, my mind instantly takes me back to their rooms, illuminated only by the cheery glow of a nightlight. The scent of soap and bubble bath and shampoo from bath time still clung to their clean skin and they were snuggled in tight with their favorite toy under the blankets. And in that moment in time, a tired mama’s voice rose in song telling the sweetest love story this world will ever know.

There is a Redeemer,
Jesus God’s own Son,
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah
Holy One

Thank You, oh my Father
For giving us your Son
And leaving Your Spirit
Til the work on earth is done

Jesus my Redeemer,
Name above all names
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah
Holy One

When I stand in glory,
I will see His face,
And there I’ll serve my King forever
In that holy place

And every time my mom visited, she sang “Because He Lives” to them.

God sent His Son,they called Him Jesus
He came to love, heal and forgive
He lived and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove
My Savior lives!

Because He lives,
I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives,
All fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living
Just because He lives!

Last Christmas, Josh asked my mom for a cross that had Because He Lives engraved on it. (That is the photo at the top of this post).

I know that as my kids make their way in this world, the cold winds of adversity will blow into their lives. It is my prayer that during those times, Jesus will bring those songs to their minds and hearts, and that they will speak His truth to them when they most need to hear it.

That is a beautiful thing.

“Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens.”—Maria von Trapp



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Hijacking The Dark


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Reading Ann Voskamp’s blog post today was a balm for my soul.

She writes, “Grace is never passive. Grace is a hijacker. Grace hijacks the dark…your calling is radically this: Gloriously hijack every darkness with grace….give thanks in the most unlikely places….Why not get really subversive with this giving thanks and go hard after the dark this month: take the dare to write down 1000 gifts in the month of November…(because) daily doxology is how to detox your soul….a personal revolution of gratitude turns everything around.”

She is calling this the “November Niagara Of Thanks.”

I am going to start today. It is the 10th so if I am to record a little over 33 gifts a day, I will need to name 333 graces today. 

And am I ever ready to do it!

This year has been without a doubt the hardest, most exhausting and heartbreaking year I have ever lived.

It has been the wildest ride with my Savior yet. There have been so many moments that my heart has pounded with fear or felt like it was going to break right in two and then shatter into a million tiny shards. There have been times when I felt like I couldn’t even breathe. I have cried buckets of tears. There have been moments when I have had to cling with all my remaining strength to the TRUTH of His Word that says that all is well when my life circumstances scream the opposite. I have asked Him a million questions but have never once questioned His character.

Because I know my Jesus. Having given His very life for me, I can trust Him with everything, even that which I do not understand. As battered and bruised as I am, I am more in love with Him than ever. I know how faithful and good He is. He has spoken His Word and His promises to me over and over again with infinite gentleness and patience.  I am experiencing firsthand His healing touch on my busted up heart.

He sends forth His Word and heals me and rescues me from the pit. (Psalm 107:20).

I have lived that verse this year.

The reason Ann’s post spoke so forcefully to me today is that I am sick of the darkness. It is unrelenting in this season of my life, (and the lives of so many others. People are hurting today as never before. Every single person I know is going through some type of hardship) and like a rush of fresh air—and fresh JOY—Ann reminded me that darkness NEVER gets the last word.


Because Jesus IS the LIGHT of the world (John 8:12). And He is here, in this place, with me, even as the darkness hovers and threatens to overwhelm.

I do not have to let it.

I can choose to fight back with His  grace and His light and His truth and His power.

So I will pick up my pen and this very day, that pen will become a sword that will slash defiantly at the darkness.

As I write down 333 ways that He is showing His never-ending love to me, His light will flood my soul and chase the darkness away. The enemy will go down in flames like the defeated loser he is and will always be.

I will fight and as I do, He will put the steel back into my soul.

And I will do it all again tomorrow and the next day and the next until by the end of this month, I will have written down 1000 gifts that come from His merciful hand, straight from Heaven to me.

And I will see and experience firsthand how His Light ALWAYS overcomes the darkness. I will rejoice in what will now become a November Niagara Of Thanks.

Join me?

Arise from the depression and prostration in which circumstances have kept you—rise to new life! Shine and be radiant with the glory of the Lord, for your Light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!—Isaiah 60:1



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No Church Ladies Here

Credit: Google Images

I had lunch with a new friend yesterday.

She and her family recently started attending our church and we are just in the early stages of getting to know each other.

At one point, she lowered her voice and her eyes and said, “I feel like a hypocrite walking into that church sometimes.”

When I asked why, she said, “Everybody there is so good. And I’m not.”

Oh honey. That is so NOT true!

Our pastor from our Florida days,  the incredibly gifted Tullian Tchvidjiian (here is a link to his sermons. Do yourself a favor and go watch some of them. His sermon series on the book of Romans was life-changing!), has taught me more than any other teacher about the miracle and wonder of God’s breathtaking and scandalous grace. 

Here are some of my favorite quotes from him on this subject:

God only saves bad people because bad people are all that there are.”

I know one thing: I am a great sinner and Jesus is a great Savior.”

“God’s message to the worn out and weary is this: ‘God’s demand: Be righteous.
God’s Diagnosis: No one is righteous.
God’s deliverance: Jesus is our righteousness.”

Once this good news grips your heart, it changes everything. It frees you from having to be perfect. It frees you from having to hold it all together. 

Because Jesus was strong for you, you’re free to be weak.
Because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose.
Because Jesus was Someone, you’re free to be no one.
Because Jesus was extraordinary, you’re free to be ordinary.
Because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail.

“Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver. It is one way love.”

Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return.”

Jesus came to liberate us from the weight of having to make it on our own, from the demand to measure up. He came to emancipate us from the burden to get it all right, from the obligation to fix ourselves, find ourselves, and free ourselves. Jesus came to release us from the slavish need to be regarded, right, rewarded, and respected. Because Jesus came to set the captives free, life does not have to be a tireless effort to establish ourselves, justify ourselves and validate ourselves.”

When you read those words, do you sense the wind of freedom blowing into your life?!

For so many years, I lived as if all of this Christian life depended on me. I constantly felt the need to do more, to try harder, to perform, to pretend to be be something I wasn’t. And in the end, it left me feeling empty and hypocritical.

But then Jesus opened my eyes to the freeing fact of His incredible grace and I have never been the same!

He has done for me what I could never do for myself. My identity is no longer in external things: the size of my bank account, my looks, my possessions, my career. Rather my identity is in who I am in in Him.  Among other things, I am unconditionally loved, fully forgiven, chosen, beloved, free. That makes all the difference.

 I am no longer bound to “shoulds” and “oughts.”

I have made the choice to accept the free gift of grace that He offered me at the cross. (I just read a fabulous quote about what Jesus did at the cross for us from author Mark Batterson: “Jesus said, ‘I’ll take the blame for everything you did wrong and give you the credit for everything I did right.”). 

Grace is a free gift to us but it cost Jesus everything He had to be able to give it to us. 

When you live in the light of that kind of love, your life is filled with a joy that circumstances cannot touch and a liberating freedom that no one can take away. 

I had no interest in playing the role of Church Lady with my new friend during our lunch. I was very honest about the fact that I am as much of a mess as anybody else. I have my own baggage and struggles and trials and heartaches. I told her that every single person she sees in church on Sunday morning is dealing with their own stuff. (As Tullian likes to say, we are all train wrecks in our own way).

 There is not one person who would willingly volunteer to have all their inmost thoughts displayed up on the screen for everyone to see. None of us are perfect. That’s why we need a Savior who is perfect on our behalf. 

We are all broken people living together in a broken world.

Years ago, I may have wanted to leave her with the impression that I had it all together. That is the last thing that I would ever do now. I described how I used to be. She expressed amazement and proceeded to rattle off a list of lovely words that she would use to describe me now.

I smiled wide and said honestly, “If any of those things are true, that is Jesus who you are seeing. That shows you the difference He has made in my life. I’m not the same person that I was anymore. You can’t walk with Him and stay the same.  In fact, to quote Patsy Clairmont, ‘Without Jesus, I’m not even nice!!'” 🙂

Very true.

The last thing my new friend needed was to leave that restaurant thinking how great Susan is. 

She needed to walk out of there thinking, “Wow, Susan is a mess. Susan is broken. But Jesus has met her right there in that brokenness and He is making her whole. He is giving her beauty for ashes. He is bringing redemption and restoration to a life that desperately needs it. He is taking a rebel and transforming her into someone who loves like He does.”

 She needed to leave that place marveling over the fact that it is the beauty of His grace alone  that has the power to set her free. 

Give that same gift to those who come across your path today.

Show them Jesus.

His love for us does not depend on our loveliness. It goes one way. As far as our sin may extend, the grace of our Father extends further.”

(All quotes taken from Tullian’s book One Way Love: Inexhaustable Grace For An Exhasuted World. I highly recommend this book).





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Finding (And Offering) Mercy and Grace

Sandwich January-0045-1

Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy for our failures and find grace to help in good time for every need (appropriate help, well-timed help, coming just when we need it).—Hebrews 4:16, Amplified version.

Those words hit me right between the eyes this morning.

As a Christ follower, I have been given the unspeakable privilege and honor of being able to approach God’s throne, assured of a warm and delighted welcome from my Savior. The wonder of it is that that welcome is not the result of sappy, sentimental feeling. On the contrary, that staggeringly gracious  welcome is the result of Jesus giving everything He has in order to redeem my life and make me eternally His.

He then bids me to freely give as I have freely received.  (What was a free gift for me came at infinite cost to Him). He asks me to love others as I have been loved by Him. (He gave no thought to Himself as He literally poured out His life on behalf of others).

So, this question hit me like a thunderbolt: “Do I extend the same mercy and grace to people who come to me?”

How can I not?!

But yet I so often don’t.

My face burns and my eyes well up with tears as memories of unloving thoughts and unkind words rear their ugly heads. I want those things for myself, yet I can still be so unwilling to offer them to the unlovely, the ungrateful, the unrepentant, the foolish. All things that I can still be if I am honest with myself.

In the original Greek, the word mercy means: “kindness, goodwill toward the miserable and the afflicted.” 

Grace (is there a more beautiful word?!) means: “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness, goodwill.”

I have received these things from Jesus without measure…full, abundant, free.

It is my prayer that as I go throughout this day, that I will remember the constant grace and mercy that He shows to me every single second of my life…and that I will extend those same beautiful gifts to everyone who crosses my path.

Join me?







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A New Motto

Several years ago, I saw a plaque in a Lifeway catalog that I have never forgotten.

Six simple words: Live As If Heaven Begins Tomorrow.

What would happen if we really believed that? If we really lived like that?

How would it change your daily life?

Would you stress about money and possessions?

Would you hold onto bitterness and anger?

Would you hold a grudge?

Would you worry about the circumstances in your life?

Would you neglect to pray?

Would you share the good news of the gospel boldly with the people in your life?

Really think about those questions…because Heaven could begin tomorrow for you.

We are all living on borrowed time and none of us know how long we have to live on this earth.

I have been living like this for the past week and it has been revolutionary. It is so much easier to let things like silly offenses go. To refuse to allow worries to occupy my mind.  To be kind. To be loving. To choose joy.  To not be fixated on tomorrow but to be fully present now. To keep short accounts with my God.

Lately I have been reading Randy Alcorn’s amazing book entitled Heaven. I highly recommend it. The Bible has so much to say about our heavenly home and it is glorious!!!

We spend far too little time learning about the place where we will spend eternity…and way too much time being obsessed with the things of earth.

In the years since I first saw that  plaque in the catalog, Jesus has continually opened my eyes to the wonders of His grace and I marvel in that miracle every single day. He has loosened my grip on the stuff of this world through trials that have forced my faith out into the light, to stand firm in what I say that I believe…and to experience the joy that comes from knowing that my faith is not just empty words or intellectual knowledge. It is the real deal.

This world is not my home.

I love my family. I love my friends. I love my life here.

But it’s all temporary and I can never forget that.

Living as if Heaven begins tomorrow has been a gateway to joy.

Try it.

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