Tag Archives: trials

A Path Into God’s Heart (Part 3): Powerful Praise

Praise is the switch that turns on the light of joy in our lives even when its dark outside.”—Anne Graham Lotz

Today has been a very rough day…more disappointments, more struggles, more questions about why things happen as they do…not only in my life, but in the lives of those I love.

It is ironic that my subject for this post today was praise.

Then again, it’s actually perfect…because it is so easy to praise when the sun is shining…but to do so during the rough times is often a sheer act of the will.

As Anne Graham Lotz writes: “The highest form of genuine praise is not necessarily a sentimental feeling with tears streaming down your cheeks…genuine praise is the gut-wrenching affirmation of faith uttered in the darkness of desperation as you cling to Him alone.” Pursuing More Of Jesus  pp. 52-52

Praise is one of the most powerful weapons we have.

Psalm 22:3 declares that the Lord is enthroned by our praises.

So, when troubles come, we have a choice: will we choose to enthrone our problems in our hearts…or will we enthrone Jesus?

I can rehearse my problems…which dims His light in my life and drags me deeper into the darkness of self-absorption….or I can recount the multi-faceted wonders of my Savior and His great and precious promises to me.

When Jesus has me on a wild ride and He takes a detour that I had not anticipated—nor wanted—I have learned to soak myself in a particular Scripture that gives me great encouragement. This verse refers to Abraham and his astonishing faith.

God had promised Abraham that He would make him the father of multitudes. There was only one small problem…Abraham was 100 years old and his wife Sarah was in her 90s. Abraham could have easily only focused on the impossibility of his circumstances. Twenty-five years had passed since God gave him that promise. He could have given in to despair…yet he did not allow himself to go down that road. Instead, Scripture tells us what he did:

No unbelief or distrust made him waver (doubtingly question) the promises of God, but he grew strong and was empowered by faith as he gave praise and glory to God, fully satisfied  and assured that God was able and mighty to keep His Word and do what He had promised.”–Romans 4:20-21 (Amplified Version).

Abraham had no reason for human hope. Sometimes, neither do we. However, Abraham’s hope was not in other humans or improved circumstances.  His hope was in his  God. He had two anchors for his faith: 1)the goodness, power, and trustworthiness of his God; and 2) the reliability of God’s promises.

The same things are available to me. So, when I feel shaken, I can reach for this Scripture and say, ” Lord, I will not permit myself to operate in unbelief. In Your strength, I  will not waver in my determination to trust in You and Your promises. I will not doubt You or question Your goodness.”

That is the first shot fired at the enemy as he seeks to fill me with fear and knock me off balance.

Then comes the knockout punch as I follow Abraham’s lead. Notice what the above verse  says gave Abraham strength and power despite his dispiriting circumstances: PRAISE.

The enemy cannot abide listening to God receive praise.  It is the best way to get rid of him and his incessant taunts and lies. I like how Tony Evans puts it in his book The Battle Is The Lord’s: ” How do we get some R & R from Satan? By praising God. In fact, the stronger the opposition, the more you need to praise God in the midst of your opposition. Satan can’t handle praise. He is allergic to worship. He has to flee, because when we praise God, He shows up to enjoy our praises. And Satan cannot abide the presence of God. So if your adversary is opposing you hard right now, it’s time to praise! When we praise, we resist Satan’s opposition.” (James 4:7), p. 181 

I have learned to begin listing (usually out loud if I can) all the beautiful attributes of Jesus. I praise Him for all that He has done  for me in the past and promises to do in the future. I praise Him for the incredible gift of His Word. There are times when I just open the Psalms and make the psalmist heartfelt praises my own.  And I always thank Him for saving me, for writing my name in the Book of Life. Truth be told, if He never did anything else for me but save me from the hell of eternal separation from Him, that is enough. 

Sometimes, all I can do is whisper His Name over and over again.

Without fail, praising calms my heart, as Jesus draws near and reminds me that He is in full control, regardless of what I see. Praising Him draws me out of myself and into His heart. It reminds me that this life is not about me…it is only and always ultimately about Him. (Colossians 1:15-17)

Praise reminds me that He is able!  :

*to bless you abundantly so that in all things, at all times you have all you need (2 Corinthians 9:8)

*to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us. (Ephesians 3:20)

*to guard what you have entrusted to Him (2 T imothy 1:12)

*to help you when you are tempted (Hebrews 2:18)

*to keep you from stumbling and to present you before His glorious Presence without fault and with great joy (Jude 1:24)

What can you praise Him for today…even in the midst of your trials?

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…(James 4:8)


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A Path Into God’s Heart (Part 2): Nowhere

This quote from Brennan Manning completely captured my attention a few months ago:

The music of what is happening can be heard only in the present moment, right now, right here. Now/here spells nowhere. To be fully present to whoever or whatever is immediately before us is to pitch a tent in the wilderness of Nowhere. It is an act of radical trust—trust that God can be encountered at no other time and in no other place than the present moment. Being fully present in the now is perhaps the premier skill of the spiritual life.

There is only NOW…real living is about…experiencing who or what is immediately before us…to live in the present moment requires profound trust that the abundant life Jesus promised is experienced only in Nowhere.” —Ruthless Trust , pp. 150-158                                    

These words transformed my outlook on all of life.

I read them when I was sitting in my car in the high school parking lot, waiting for my son. Suddenly, I was no longer “passing the time” until Josh arrived. I closed the book and became fully present to what was happening in that very moment.

Jesus was here with me! In THIS moment!

It was almost as if He had opened the passenger door, slid into the seat, and greeted me  with a dazzling smile. I had a sudden, electric sense of His very Presence, which seemed to fill the car.

Ever since I became a Christian and learned that Jesus’ very Spirit comes to reside within the heart of every believer, I have known intellectually that He is always with me. And yes, there certainly have been times when I have felt His Presence.

Yet, it was as if He invited me to open my eyes to the incredible reality that He can only be experienced and encountered NOW.

The past is over and the future is not yet…I cannot physically live in either place.

This very moment is where time and eternity meet.

The enemy seeks to do all he can to veil this life-changing truth from me.  He wants to keep me imprisoned in regret over the past (“How could you have behaved like that?”)  and stark fear about the future (“You’re going to lose everything.”).

That is NOT living…and he knows that full well. Remember, he seeks only to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). By keeping me from fully experiencing and seeing NOW…he tries to steal my peace, kill my hope, and destroy my intimacy with Jesus.

However, Jesus beckons me into the beautiful NOW—the only place on this earth where He can be encountered in all His fullness!

All of Him is available to all of me in this moment. Such a staggering thought!

Ann Voskamp beautifully writes of this truth: “Joy is always possible. Whenever, meaning—now; wherever, meaning—-here. The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience.  The joy wonder could be here! Here—in this messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be—unbelievably—possible! The only place we need see before we die in this place is seeing God, here and now.”  (One Thousand Gift, p. 33).             

Joy filled my heart because…I can do now!

Jesus never asks me to try to figure things out on my own. He does not expect me to store up enough faith to make it through a stressful time. Instead, He asks me:

“Do you have faith in Me right now?”

Are you fully alive this moment? Are you tuned in to the music of now?”

Can you believe for this moment that I love you passionately, completely, unconditionally? That right now, I am doing good to you?”

Would you fully embrace the fact that I am right here with you in all My glory and power? “

Yes! I can do that!  And so can you.

Right here in Now/here, you can have a divine celebration, whatever your circumstances. Yes, even the tough ones. When I am caught up in the reality of His Presence, my trials, though still real and painful, cease to be my main focus. They ultimately become the background because Jesus has taken center stage, driving out fear and flooding the dark places with His light.

Ask Him to open your eyes to the fact that He is risen. He is here. His arms are open.

I have never been so alive. My head knowledge about Jesus is now saturating my heart and the result is such joy…His joy…even though my circumstances are still tough.

My senses have been heightened because every moment is blazingly alive with His animated and energizing Presence.

I feel  the warm sun on my skin.

I savor the taste of my food.

I drink in the beauty of His glorious creation.

I laugh deeper and more frequently. I let tears fall.

I lovingly study the faces of my precious loved ones, celebrating the  sheer miracle  and gift that they are.

I acknowledge my emptiness and invite Him to fill those places and make me whole.

I  can embrace the ache of living in a fallen world, rather than surrendering to despair because His Presence comforts and soothes and heals me as He quietly whispers that this is not all there is…the best is yet to come.

I surrender to His ways because He knows what He is doing and He makes all things beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

I treasure all that my days hold…because every single minute, I  am held in His powerful hand and delightfully, I am the focus of His intense love. Always, He is here…in the now…revealing more of Himself to me and I am continually astonished  by His beauty.

He is writing my story…and yours…in the beautiful, sacred moment called now.

Taste and see.…” (Ps. 34:8)


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A Path Into God’s Heart (Part 1): A Wild Ride

I recently heard Beth Moore say this about life with Jesus: “Do you want a wild ride of a life? It’s not a wild drive; it’s a ride…Get in the passenger seat, throw your head back, and let the wind blow through your hair.”

Author Peter Hiett writes, “If John (the Baptist) prepared the highway, Jesus rides a Harley down it and He wants you on the back.” 

Then there is this from Dorothy Sayers: ” The people responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus never accused Him of being a bore—on the contrary; they thought Him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left to later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround Him with a yawning ho-hum atmosphere of tedium. We have efficiently trimmed the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified Him ‘meek and mild,’ and recommended Him as a fitting pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.” 

Brennan Manning once shared the story about a repressed nun named Christine who rarely smiled or laughed and never danced. One day in prayer, she had a vision where she was in a ballroom: “I was sitting by myself on a wooden chair, when a man approached me, took my hand, and led me onto the floor. He held me in his arms and led me in the dance. The tempo of the music increased and we whirled faster and faster. The man’s eyes never left my face. His radiant smile covered me with warmth and delight, and a sense of acceptance. Everyone else on the floor stopped dancing. They were staring at us…I glanced at his hands and then I knew. Brilliant wounds of a battle long ago, almost like a signature carved in flesh. The music tapered to a slow, lilting melody and Jesus rocked me back and forth. As the dance ended, he pulled me close to him. Do you know what he whispered?…’Christine, I’m wild about you.”


Chances are, you may not have thought about Jesus in the above ways. Sometimes He allows a season in our lives that shatters our preconceived notions of Him and draws us into unparalleled intimacy with the Lover of our soul.

A little over two years ago, in His infinite wisdom and kindness, Jesus decided that it was time for my wild ride to begin.

He was determined to fully engage my heart. He was undeterred by—yet sympathetic to— my resistance, my temper tantrums, my copious tears of confusion and self-pity.

My prayers for this season to end were answered with a firm but loving, “Not yet.”

When I begged for answers, He repeatedly assured me, “I AM the answer.”

When my Type-A-loves-to-be-in-control personality thought I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and was convinced that He was about to wrap all this up in a great big glorious bow, He spoke unmistakeably and powerfully to my spirit:

“Do not presume upon Me.”

His goal was for me to know and experience Him as He truly is…not as I wish Him to be.

Without a doubt, this has been both terrifying and electrifying.

No one can experience the risen Jesus and remain unmoved and unchanged.

I will never be the same.

Through it all, He has shown me a pathway that leads directly to His heart and I would like to share that pathway with you. All of our journeys with Jesus are unique and tailor-made. He is a Person to be known, not a religion to be carefully followed. There are no “three-easy-steps to intimacy with Jesus. So, I am not sharing a blueprint…I am simply sharing what He has shown me as I have taken this journey with Him, with the hope that you will find encouragement for wherever you are in your walk of faith.

Jesus longs to give us all of Himself. But so often, our wandering hearts continually look for something else.  He intends for His followers to fully experience Him in this life, but every time we try to protect ourselves from pain and risk, we miss Him.

During this season, He  was calling me to surrender to this ride, knowing that I can trust wherever He is taking me…which ultimately is straight into His passionate heart where overflowing joy resides.

I was ready to slide over and relinquish the wheel.

It was the best decision I ever made.


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Faith That Moves Mountains

I heard an excellent sermon yesterday from Michael Youssef on the crucial subject of faith, entitled, “Mountain Moving Faith.

It inspired, challenged, and encouraged me, so I wanted to share it with you.

He defines the gift of faith as the Holy Spirit-given ability to see something that God wants to be done for His glory before it happens.”

It is…

*the ability to sustain unwavering confidence in the promises of God in the face of impossibility

*the ability to discern the will of God and stand firm regardless of insurmountable obstacles

*the ability to believe God for something that is honoring and glorifying to Him when everybody else has given up

*the ability to hold on to the promises of God when everybody else has moved on

Dr. Youssef qualifies that this is NOT blind faith, but confident faith.”

We cannot live the Christian life without faith. Hebrews 11:6 tells us clearly and unequivocally: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”

When we are NOT walking by faith, we are “focused on the problems of life, the difficulties, disappointments and adversities…it is a narrow focus.

By contrast, when we ARE walking by faith, we will:

*live above the challenges

* have hope in the midst of hopelessness

*see potential in the midst of the problem

*look up to the One who is more powerful than our troubles.

Dr. Youssef gives a picture of someone who is operating in faith:

*when all odds are stacked against them, they live like they have no problems

*operate as seeing the will of God as having already been accomplished.

*rejoice about what will happen while everyone else is singing the blues.

*specialize in the impossible, sail through raging waters, and climb mountains

He reminded his listeners that Jesus saw the resurrection even while hanging on the cross.

Lastly, Dr. Youssef encouraged us to “Think big because your trust is in a BIG God.”

Amen to that!

“Let your sights bring you reports as discouraging as possible, but pay no attention to them. Our heavenly Father lives and even the delays of answers to our prayers are part of His goodness.” — Arthur Tappan Pierson

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My dear friend Harumi is from Japan. I met her thirteen years ago at our church in Rhode Island and I have always been inspired by her faith.

As soon as I heard about the earthquake/tsunami last month, I immediately contacted her to inquire about her family. Thankfully, all were safe and sound.

Earlier this week, she forwarded me the online diary of a faithful Japanese pastor who lived and led his congregation in the town of Fukushima, which is also the home of the troubled Fukushima  nuclear power plant.

He wrote that “…all the residents were forced to evacuate and my church members had to get on a bus without any belongings (and were) sent to schools and gyms separately…I heard that there were not enough blankets for everyone and some couldn’t sleep all night because it was cold in the shelter. In some shelters, no water or food were distributed all day.”

Imagine having to leave your home for an unknown destination in the middle of a catastrophe with only the clothes on your back.

He continues, “…my biggest prayer request is that there would be no more radiation leaks. The worst possible scenario would be that people would never be able to go back to their town and homes, and that the church would be closed down…I have no idea for how long church members have to wander being unable to go home…I feel depressed just to think about it. However, I do believe and confess that almighty God and the Lord of history who reigns  over everything including nature WILL open a new page of mission and lead us on.”

Now imagine the possibility that you could never return to your home. Everything has been left behind, never to be seen again.

I love the honesty of this pastor. He doesn’t try to paint this in a positive light. It hurts and he is depressed at the new reality that he and his congregation are dealing with.

YET…after acknowledging the pain, he calls to mind the only source of his hope and help: Almighty God who is in control of all…even this.

God is always ready to “open a new page”…even in the most devastating of seasons. He is the Author of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) and He is writing a story with your life. As Beth Moore states in her study on Esther: “When we trust our lives to the hand and pen of an unseen but ever-present God, He will write our lives into His Story and every last one of them will turn out to be a great read. With a grand ending. And not just in spite of those catastrophes. Often because of them. Don’t just wait and see. Live and see.”–p.14

Eventually, the pastor and some members of his congregation were able to travel to another shelter 10 hours away from their homes.

He writes, “…Our nomad life has started. When I asked people whether they had any laundry, their reply was that there were no clothes to wash. All they have is what they’re wearing.”

What if all you had was what you were wearing?

“Nothing is clear to us. Will we be able to go back home?  If so, how long will it take? Will we ever be able to worship in our church again or will the town simply be abandoned? Like the Israelites in the desert, all we can do is follow God as He leads us with pillars of fire and clouds.”

He then quotes Psalm 121:

I life up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of Heaven and Earth

He will not let your foot slip—He who watches over you will not slumber

Indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep

The LORD watches over you—the LORD is your shade at your right hand

The sun will not harm you by day nor the moon by night

The LORD will keep you from all harm—He will watch over your life

The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

The most miraculous thing to me is that I never get asked questions like, ‘Why did God allow this?’ or ‘I can’t believe in God; there is no God.’ From the 160 (church) members I have been in touch with, all I hear are words like, ‘God is great. I want to trust Him as I walk with Him from now on.’ I marvel at the strength of their faith in the Lord. Yesterday, three of those who were with us prayed to receive Jesus. Hallelujah!”

The pastor and members from the congregation then drove through a blizzard further south to church facilities: “The facilities here are blanketed with snow. In extremely cold weather, church members welcomed us with hot udon and soba. I ate a rice ball, trying not to cry. ‘Lord, make our hearts as white as the snow that surrounds us.'”

“Are we going to be a diaspora people? Are we going to lead a stable life? What is obvious is that God is shaking everything through these extraordinary events. Some people are receiving the Lord Jesus without question. Others are repenting saying their belief in God was dormant. They say that what sustains us as human beings is actually very little. We don’t really need any material possessions. The Lord challenges each one, shaking them from the bottom of their souls. Is this a beginning of an Exodus into a new frontier that the Lord is opening for us?”

“People around me say they left home thinking they would only be gone an hour or two. They literally have nothing with them…Our group of 50 is kept well by kind donations. Many of us are tired…Yesterday I felt numb. My heart ached. Two or three layers of loss suddenly engulfed me. My home was gone, so was my church. I was driven from my town. My ministry is gone. I can’t see what is going to happen next. I am trying to grasp the whole thing but find myself unable to.”

“We had a worship service yesterday, the first in two weeks….I cried…it seems that if you have to cry, you should do it without embarrassment. I will cry 50 years worth or a lifetime worth of tears.”

He closes his journal by quoting Isaiah 42:3: A bruised reed He will not break and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out and a final prayer: “May the Great Shepherd embrace this flock and carry them on His wings.”

THIS is what real faith in Jesus Christ looks like.

It is messy.

It is real.

It blazes with triumphant joy, even in the darkness.

It simply refuses to let go of the Savior who never lets go of us… regardless of circumstances.

This is not pie-in-the-sky, wishful thinking. This is not ‘religion’. This is a living, vibrant, passionate relationship with God- in- the- flesh, JESUS.

It is because of the risen Christ that we can look straight into the face of unimaginable disaster and heartache on this fallen planet… and through tears and questions and pain…STAND.

This is life reduced to its barest essence.

True life has nothing to do with our possessions…or how much money we have in the bank…or our job…or our looks…or our awards.

True life is found only in Jesus Christ…the Creator and Sustainer of all. (Colossians 1:15-17).

We can lose every single thing we have on this earth and still possess the same radiant, gritty, enduring faith as this dear pastor… because we can never lose Jesus! (Hebrews 13:5). This broken world is not our home. When we  leave this earth, we don’t take any of our possessions with us. The best this world has to offer are mere trinkets in light of our glorious eternity in Heaven.

HE is our Treasure.

And as this pastor and his congregation so beautifully prove: HE. IS. ENOUGH.


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Pure Faith

I am reading a very thought-provoking book by Mark Buchanan called “Spiritual Rhythm: Being With Jesus Every Season of Your Soul.”

He compares spiritual changes to the seasons in the year, helping the reader to know what to expect from each season and thereby prosper spiritually.

I began reading about the winter season first because in many ways, it has been winter in my life for two years.

I am not complaining. As hard as it has been, I am grateful for it.

It is during the winter seasons in life that we have absolutely no idea what God is doing; when He seems very far away; and disappointments are frequent and sometimes heartbreaking.

Winter brings to mind cold, gray, bleak  days, doesn’t it?

Yet winter can also create much beauty: pristine snows blanketing everything in white, vivid blue skies, the shining sun causing the snow to sparkle like glittering diamonds.

In the same way, the spiritual starkness of winter reveals the blazing beauty of Christ like nothing else can.

Mark Buchanan perfectly describes what ‘winter’ faith looks like as he described the psalmist’s faith as recorded in Psalm 88: “In this man’s wintertime, he prays, though his capacity to believe is strained almost to extinction. He prays anyhow and in this way: according to what he knows of God, not what he sees of God…his praying is anchored  in God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture, not in the firsthand experience of God in daily life…He doesn’t pray because He can taste and see that the Lord is good. He prays in spite of that, contrary to the evidence at hand. What he tastes is bitterness; what he sees is darkness. Circumstances erode his faith rather than buttress it. So he pushes himself beyond circumstances. He resists the temptation to equate circumstances with God. He prays…because God’s Word says God’s good and he’s betting the whole farm on that being so. That’s biblical faith. ..Everything short of this is a faith based on  what I can, at least dimly, see. And to the extent that I can see it, it’s not yet pure faith. Winter grows pure faith…like no other season can. It combines the unique conditions that nurture the certainty of things hoped for and the assurance of things unseen. It is the season above all seasons where we walk by faith and not by sight. There is no better ground for growing an abiding faith that weathers the worst life can throw at you.”(pp. 46)

I love those words.  I have lived them…certainly not perfectly…but with an open heart and a willingness to endure because in the process of pushing myself beyond my circumstances, I have seen and experienced Jesus in a way I never have before. And that is worth anything I have to go through.

That is the gift of the winter season of the soul.

It is a gift that liberates one from living by circumstances, feelings, and assumptions …and frees one to live by the eternal truth of God’s unchanging Word.


During the winter season,  Jesus invites us to cling to His living Word–which is how we cling to Him this side of eternity (John 1:1-3)– with all our strength…and then we are given the priceless opportunity to experience Him. Those verses are no longer just words on a page because Jesus has written them on our hearts forever. They become part of us…and in the process, our wounds are healed. That is a beautiful thing.

I want pure faith and He has given me the opportunity to possess it by living…dare I say thriving?!..through a winter season.

Pure faith produces a passion for Jesus as He truly isnot as we would like Him to be.

A.W. Tozer rightly stated, “Left to ourselves, we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms.”

During winter, that is impossible.

When the winter season comes, we are forced to deal with a Jesus who allows what we would have vetoed.

We ask ourselves, “Who is this?” (Matthew 8:27)

And Jesus asks us, “Am I enough for you?”

Of course, He IS enough. He is EVERYTHING. He is the Author of life. All things were made by Him and for Him. He sustains ALL things by His powerful word (Colossians 1:15-19).

“There is not a single square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!'”–Abraham Kuyper

But we tend to not acknowledge that.

So Jesus, in His perfect wisdom, allows a winter season to bring our wandering hearts back home to Him. Back to joy…to peace…to increased intimacy with Him…to a purpose greater than our ourselves, which is to glorify Him.

“When we take the hand of Christ in relationship, not only are we holding the hand of the Creator of the universe, we’re holding a hand scarred by nails. When we agree to follow Him, He demands a life of sacrifice and promises suffering along the way. Yet this is the path of abundance He promises. Abundance of sustaining grace, not necessarily an absence of pain. Abundance of joy, regardless of circumstances. Abundance of contentment, regardless of our financial state. Abundance of peace, even when we deserve guilt. Our lives can be defined by His love the way He intended, instead of being ruled by events beyond our control.”–Harry L. Kraus Jr.


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Not One Inch

I knew it was bad news as soon as I heard my husband’s voice on the phone that February day.

His job…along with several others at his company…had been cut as a result of the economic crisis.

I hung up the phone, shaking my head in disbelief. This had happened to us once before, when the economy took a nosedive after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I prayed it would never happen again.

But it did.

I chose the above photo for this post because it perfectly conveys how I felt at that moment in time. The skies had suddenly turned dark and ominous, warning that a powerful storm was on its way. I had no way of knowing what was around that  bend…or how long the road would be.

The first phone call I made was to my mom. Her heartbroken, shocked silence brought tears to my eyes and I let them fall while  I felt the clammy grip of fear begin to try to take hold around my heart.

I gave my mom the details; then suddenly, I heard myself speak these words, with a confidence I certainly didn’t feel at the moment: “You know what, Mom? I am not giving any ground to the Enemy on this one. None at all. NOT ONE INCH!!!”

At that moment,  I knew that those three words would comprise my battle plan for this new…and very unwanted…season of life.

Not. One. Inch.

It is at time like this when one’s professed faith is put to the test: Will I believe only what I can see with my physical eyes? Will I allow my feelings to run the show? Will I allow fear to fill my mind and poison my outlook on the future? Will I allow worry to steal my sleep and my peace?

OR…will I give priority to God’s eternal, unchanging Word? Will I rest and trust in His rock-solid promises, as well as His goodness? Will I approach this scary cirumstance in the attitude of conquest, filled with the courage that my Savior freely and fully offers me?

I had a ton of head knowledge about Jesus.  But He was about to take all that knowledge and make such a blazing imprint on my redeemed heart that I will never be the same again.  It was time for a dramatic encounter with my Savior.  I have learned that there are times when He will not hesitate to take drastic measures to not only get our attention, but to wake up a slumbering soul.

Before my husband even got home from his last day at work, I had a list of Scriptures ready to live on for the days, weeks, and months ahead. These promises would be my lifeline and I would cling to them with all the strength I had.  Jesus led me to Scripture after Scripture for my battle plan.

A crisis is no time for posturing or pretense…I needed to be totally honest with Jesus. So, the first thing I told Him, through many tears, was that I was disappointed and heartbroken that He has allowed this.

This would be my first test: what do you do when your sovereign Savior allows one of your worst fear to come true?  When your spirit feels crushed and your heart is filled with pain?

Ps. 62:8 says, “Trust Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our Refuge.”

Let it all out. He can take it.  He is your safe place. He knows exactly how you feel. (Ps. 139:1-4). He sees each tear you cry. (Ps. 56:8).

Where in the world do we get this idea that we have to “clean ourselves up” before we can come to Jesus? We come to Him for the bath!  He would much rather have us approach Him with red-rimmed, puffy eyes, mascara streaks halfway down our faces, yet honest and real, as opposed to every hair in place, makeup perfectly done, pious-sounding words that we don’t mean coming from our lips, mask firmly in place, and  all the while, our hearts remain cold to His touch,  encased in bitterness and hurt feelings. He seeks…and sees…ALL of us…the good, the bad, and the ugly…and yet He loves us with a passion that is beyond our ability to fully grasp.

When we pour it all out and are empty and spent, we have made room for Jesus to then  fill the hollow places.

What does  He fill our hearts with?

*A gentle reminder that trials are part of life on this fallen planet, but He is in control: “In Me, you have perfect peace and confidence. In the world , you will have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer (take courage, be confident, certain, undaunted!). For I have overcome the world. (I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.” —John 16:33 (Amplified Version).

Even in the face of one of my worst fears, Jesus was telling me that because I belonged to Him, I could be confident, certain, and undaunted. Courageous!

Beth Moore once said, ” There is no denial in courage. Courage is denying the reality its’ victory over you.”

Christians were never meant to live in denial. We can meet any circumstance straight on because  we have:

*the certain knowledge that He will never leave us: “…God Himself has said, “I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. (I will not, I will not, I will not, in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake you nor let you down (relax My hold on you! Assuredly not!)” —Hebrews 13:5 (Amplified Version).

*the fact that we are more than  conquerors through Him. (Romans 8:37).  In the original language, the word conqueor means: “to gain a surpassing victory, to overcome, to prevail.” I am NOT a victim of my circumstances! Neither are you!  Because of  Christ’s strength working through us, we need NOT come through our tough seasons defeated and a shell of who we once were. Not on your life! We can emerge out of that battle stronger, more purposeful, filled to the brim with faith and grace, and more in love with our powerful Savior than we have ever been!

*overflowing HOPE: “May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing…that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope.”–Romans 15:13 (Amplified version). Jesus Christ Himself IS our living Hope (I Peter 1:3). Hope for the Christian is never wishful thinking! Our hope is firmly anchored in the Person of Jesus, our resurrected Savior, who promises to work ALL things for our ultimate good! (Romans 8:28).  The King James Version declares this to be a “lively hope” meaning, ” to be fresh, strong, powerful, to have an expectation of good, joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation.” Our hope in Jesus blows away the stale dustiness of our days and breathes fresh life into our souls, even in times of trial.

*the realization that most importantly, it’s ALL about HIM: In Him, all things were created…all things have been created by Him and through Him. He is before all things and in Him, all things hold together.”–Colossians 1:16-17. I exist to make much of Christ, not the other way around. The late Christian recording artist Rich Mullins once said that he wanted his life to be an arrow pointing to Christ and that is my desire as well. If I have to go through a trial so that others can see that Jesus is alive  and the supreme treasure of life, then it is all worth it!  Much like a diamond sparkles brightly against a black velvet backdrop, the dazzling beauty of Jesus can sometimes best be seen by a watching world  during our dark days.

This has been by far the hardest journey Jesus and I have ever taken together. There have been good days and bad days. It wasn’t always pretty and it has been scary and heartbreaking at times. It’s not even over yet. However, as I walked (and to be honest, sometimes stumbled or crawled) along this painful road, I made an amazing discovery:

He is more beautiful that I ever knew.

He is way more powerful than I ever imagined.

He is infinitely more tender than the sweetest human love.

He is firm—yet kind–in His conviction of sin in my life.

He is more wonderfully creative than I ever dreamed.

His resources truly are inexhaustible.

He is radically committed to bringing His light into all the dark corners of my heart.

He still does miracles.

He will not tolerate divided affections.  He wants ALL  of me.  He is LORD.

Sometimes, He shakes the foundations of our lives so that we can see what can’t be shaken. (Hebrews 12:27). My identity was all wrapped up in externals prior to this season (although I wasn’t even fully aware of that). He has shown me that I can be stripped of those things and still be okay—even thrive!— because they do not define me. Christ alone defines me…and He will never change. He is my sure Foundation.

Were there days when I did give ground to the Enemy, despite my best intentions? Yes…sometimes it seemed that I gave up miles! Yet…Jesus was faithful to lift me out of that pit, dust me off, steady me, and put me back on my feet to walk the path He had chosen for me, hand in hand with Him. (see Psalm 18).  In His strength, I regained that lost ground and haven’t looked back.  Not one inch.

“…Even during storms when the winds are most intense, we are more than conquerors. You may be tempted to run from the ordeal of a fierce storm of testing but head straight for it! God is there to meet you in the center of each trial…He will whisper to you His secrets, which will bring you out with a radiant face and such an invincible faith that all the demons of hell will never be able to shake it.” —E.A. Kilbourne

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The really happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery when on a detour.”–Unknown

I am a classic Type A personality: first-born,  honor roll student, list-maker extraordinnaire, etc. I set and achieve goals. I am driven. I must have a plan!

I spent most of my life resisting detours of any kind, until I realized how futile that is…because like it or not, detours are part of life.

We can either fight against them or we can allow them to work for us.

I can still remember one particular detour that took place when I was 16 years old. Our family was making our annual summer pilgrimage from Pittsburgh, PA to Myrtle Beach, SC, where my uncle Duane had a vacation home. I had had my driver’s license for a few months and was always looking for a chance to get behind the wheel. Probably against his better judgment, my dad agreed to let me drive part of the way down. He and my mom promptly fell asleep and I took the opportunity to push a cassette  into the sound system (yes, this was the 80s, long before the invention of CDs!) so I could enjoy some musical accompaniment as I whizzed along the highway. An hour and a  half later, I was still going strong, so happy to be helping out with the long drive.

Until my dad awoke from his nap and happened to notice the signs along the highway.

They all said north.

After all that driving, we were only about 45 minutes from our home in Pennsylvania. It turns out that there was a fork in the highway and I had taken the wrong one.

I always did have a terrible sense of direction.

I comforted myself by theorizing that I had probably saved us from being in a terrible accident that may have awaited us on the southbound part of the highway. Of course, I contemplated this from the back seat, where I was banished for the remainder of the trip.

Each detour presents us with a fork in the road:  we can view this interruption of our plans with anger, bitterness, irritation, disappointment, fear or acceptance, anticipation, a willingness to experience something new, and peace and trust in our good God.

Of course, detours vary in degree.

When I graduated from college, I was convinced that I had aced a particular job interview and was poised on the edge of a great career. However, I wasn’t offered that job and the path I had planned to travel was suddenly closed.

To this day, I am grateful for that detour. Since I didn’t get that job, I went to work for another company…and met my husband. Without that detour, this moment in time would never have  happened:

(Please note that in 1992, big poofy shoulders and enormous head pieces were all the rage for brides). 🙂

Of course, some detours hurt deeply: a health crisis, job loss, financial struggles, a major move when you would loved to have stayed put; the unexpected death of a loved one. I have experienced all of those.

Yet, each one of those detours turned out to be a blessing in disguise:

*They forged steel into my soul and fire into my heart. I’m tougher than I thought I was. I am a survivor.

*They allowed me to meet wonderful people that I would never have known otherwise…some have become my very closest friends.

*They have made me long for that great heavenly day when I will finally see my Savior’s beautiful face and He will wipe away every tear from my eyes and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. (Revelation 21:4)

*They have challenged me to live by the truth of God’s Word rather than allowing my feelings  and my limited vision to dominate.

*They have caused me to truly treasure the good times. Those moments are all the sweeter for having endured the hard ones.

*They have forced me to live within today’s parameters, focusing on the here now. And even in the hardest of times, blessings still abound…if we have eyes to see them.

I am currently on a  God-appointed detour, so this is all fresh to me. I thought I would share some steps that have helped me along the way. If you are experiencing a detour, please think about the following:

1) Remember that God knows the path that you take. (Job 23:10). That includes the detours. He knows all there is to know about you (Psalm 139). You have not slipped through the cracks.

2)He hears your cries and has compassion on you. (Psalm 37:14; Psalm 18:6-7; Psalm 145:8). In fact, we are told that He is good to all and His tender mercies are over all His works. (Psalm 145:9)

3) He can ONLY do good to you. (Jeremiah 32:40). During a detour—especially if it is a painful one—you must always remember the comforting and reassuring promise of Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a future and a hope.”

4). There is a purpose for the detour. Nothing is random. (Proverbs 19:21; Romans 8:28).

5) He will guide you every step of the way. (Psalm 23:3; Psalm 48:14; Psalm 73:24).

6) You are never alone (even if you sometimes feel that way). (Matthew 28:20).

7) Remember that you are not able to see the big picture…but you can trust God’s sovereign and good purposes. (Isaiah 55:5-9; Romans 8:28).

8) God does not make mistakes. (Deuteronomy 32:4).

9) Remember that every detour has an end. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). His timing is perfect. This season will not last forever even if it feels that way. So…

10) With that in mind, enjoy the scenery while on the detour. (Psalm 118:24). It may seem that there is nothing to enjoy, especially when life is hard. Life can be brutal, no doubt about it. But our beautiful God delights in giving us gifts (James 1:17) and they can be found, even in the hard places. I know that from experience.

“This day will never come again and anyone who fails to eat and drink and taste and smell it will never have it offered to him again in all eternity.”—Hermann Hesse

He has made everything beautiful in its time.—Ecclesiastes 3:11


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Fullness of Joy

You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand, there are pleasures evermore.–Ps. 16:11

One Sunday morning in January 2002, our small group leader posed a challenge to all of us in his class at our church: Ask Jesus to give you a verse for the new year so that by December, you will have lived that verse. The goal was that for the rest of our days, that Scripture would not just be words on a page to us;  but those words would be written forever on our hearts by the nail-scarred hand of our Savior.

That year was absolutely life-changing for me in so many ways. As a result, I have asked Jesus for the same gift every December. I then begin to keep my eyes and ears open and without fail, He begins to give me the same Scripture over and over again from a variety of sources. By December 31st, I have my verse and my theme for the upcoming year.

Imagine my delight when He disclosed the theme for 2009: JOY! My Scripture was Ps. 16:11 and I was ready for  what would surely be an amazing year! And it was.

However, not at all in the ways I had imagined.

I’ll never forget the day I excitedly told Doug that the theme Jesus had given to me for 2009 was joy. Rather than being as thrilled as I was—because he is a very wise man—he looked slightly green around the gills and tried to summon a faint smile. You see, he knew what I was conveniently overlooking: Jesus doesn’t have to teach you about joy when life is rosy.

Suffice it to say, life didn’t stay rosy for long; trials hit and they hit hard. Among other things, my husband’s job was cut and my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.  That was my invitation from Jesus to go deeper into relationship with Him…to take a journey into a joy that I had never known prior to that season.

Joy is NOT happiness. Happiness is dependent on favorable circumstances. Joy is a supernatural gift from heaven that can blaze strong and shine bright in spite of circumstances. “Joy (can) express itself in laughter and elation, yet it draws from a deep spring that keeps flowing long after the laughter has died and the tears have come.” —Sherwood Wirt.

Jesus is the personification of Joy. He IS joy. He is the Source of Joy.  Hebrews 1:9 boldly declares this about Jesus: “God has anointed You with the oil of exultant joy and gladness above and beyond Your companions.”

In his book, In The Footsteps of Jesus, author Bruce Marchiano writes: “Yes, Jesus smiled; yes, Jesus laughed. Jesus smiled wider and laughed heartier than any human being who has ever walked the planet. He was young. He radiated good cheer. The real Jesus was a man of such merriment, such gladness of heart, such freedom and openness, that He proved irresistable. He became known among Galilee for His genuine strength, the sparkle in His eyes, the spring in His gait, the heartiness in His laugh, the genuineness of His touch, His passion, playfulness, excitement and vitality: His JOY! He made a dazzling display of love. He set hearts on fire. He was an elated, triumphant young man with an incredible quality of life…so different from the solemn religious types He constantly encountered.”

Yet, Jesus Christ suffered more than anyone ever has or will on this planet. He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah. 53:3). However, that immense suffering never affected his joy.  That blazing, divine joy remained abundant and overflowing, even as He went to the cross.

As the difficult season unfolded, I clung to Ps. 16:11. It said that He would show me the path of life.  He knows exactly what is on that path and where it leads. Sometimes that path has some painful detours, but my joy need not ever be affected. Why? Because 16:11 tells me that “in His Presence is fullness of joy.”  His Presence never leaves me;  so His joy is always available.

But I have to choose it.

As Henri Nouwen once said, “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it everyday.”

Choosing joy became my lifeline…especially when fear filled my heart and threatened to overwhelm me. I clung to the promises in God’s Word  with all my strength. I learned to live within today’s parameters and to focus on  my many blessings, rather than what I lacked. I learned to trust my Savior’s inexhaustible provision.  I learned that Jesus is ENOUGH.


The joy of the Lord truly became my strength…even when the storms grew in frightening intensity. Yet…to my great delight, I found that the joy of Jesus was…and is… always stronger than the storm.

At the end of 2009, my dear friend Penny made me a wonderful gift that I will always treasure:

This is the first thing I see when the day begins. It is a physical reminder of the intangible yet very real gift of joy.

Joy always triumphs.




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