Monday Morning Meditation: Gratitude

This weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Choices conference in Hershey, PA with some ladies from my church.


I was most excited to go to this because Sara Groves was going to be there.


She led worship at each session, and then she’d sing a couple of her songs after. It’s a surreal feeling to sit and listen to songs that you have memorized from listening to them in your room, in your car, on a run. Songs that have carried you through trials and victories, through post-partum depression and questions about whether God is really who He says He is. Songs that have walked with you through major marriage struggles, loved ones dying, songs that have run with you as you trample on child sex trafficking for 26.2 miles and all the training before.

Songs that have brought much healing to your life.

I sat through those songs at that conference, just grateful. My life with Jesus flashed before my tear-filled eyes, and I was once again amazed at all that He is and all that He has done.

Are you grateful today?

I’ve written a lot about gratitude here.  If this is something you struggle with, now is a good time to read some of those posts.

Lord, help us. Help us in the midst of grief and celebration to cultivate gratitude. Your Word implores us to rejoice always, and so help us to choose joy, to choose thankfulness. Keep our eyes open to all the things God has done and will continue to do. In the words of Sara Groves, “He’s always been faithful – He will be again.” Thank You, Jesus.

Monday Morning Meditation: Is God Writing Your Story?

Steve Saint is the son of Nate Saint, a man who was killed in Ecuador alongside Jim Elliot and 3 other missionaries by the Waodani Indians in 1956. I learned of Steve and his father Nate through the film, End of the Spear.

In many ways, Steve has continued the work of his father through his organization I-TEC. The organization’s focus is “opening doors to the gospel by meeting needs with innovative tools.” In the testing of one of these tools in June of 2012, Steve was seriously injured by a falling piece of equipment. He was partially paralyzed from the neck down. He has made some progress since then, though he is still quite limited in many ways. I-TEC recently posted this challenging video with a one year update. Grab a tissue – it’s worth watching all 7 minutes.

Here are a few excerpts of what impacted me.

“None of us knows what our life is gonna be like. I wouldn’t mind dying, but I’m gonna stay here longer. I want it to count. And I want my grandchildren to see that life isn’t good when everything is fitting together right. Life is good because we know that we have a hope when this life is done.”

“My theme has been ‘Let God write your story.’ He doesn’t promise all easy chapters, but He does promise that if we let Him write our story, that in the last chapter if not before, He will make sense of all the other chapters and then He will take us to live with Him in paradise.”

“I want God to still write my story.”

Are you allowing God to write your story? As a song line I love states so clearly*, are you opening your eyes to let Him rewrite even tragedy?

As your week progresses, as you find yourself confused or frustrated about how God is allowing things to play out, shift your perspective. Surrender to God, the all-knowing author and perfecter of your faith. Believe He has what is best for you.

Let God write your story.

*Sara Groves “Rewrite this Tragedy”

Freedom Friday: Fourteen Years

It’s January 4th.

I saw the date several times today. I even wrote it on something and thought, That sounds important. 

I then took my littlest out with me to run errands. I just put a couple of CD’s in my car 2 days ago, the only 2 I could find (still nowhere near unpacked): Keith Green and Sara Groves.

Soon it came on:

There is nothing new
I could give to You
Just a life that’s torn
Waiting to be born

I Can’t Believe It.* The song I was listening to that week of January 4th 14 years ago when Jesus invaded my life.

Rivers overflow

Friends may come and go
But You’ve been by my side
With every tear I’ve cried
I don’t actually know the day Jesus grabbed ahold of my heart. It happened several times during the week of January 4th as I wrestled with the truth of who God says He is.
Oh, I can’t believe that You’d give everything for me
I can’t believe it, no, I can’t believe it, no, no
I know You never lied, and so it’s just my foolish pride

That I just won’t receive it,
It’s so hard to receive it in my heart 

And make the start with you

I just could not believe that someone would die for me. Who would do that? It doesn’t even make sense! But I desperately needed a fresh start. I was failing miserably at life, at relationships, at – well, most everything. I longed to believe that Jesus is who He says He is.

Help me, help me now
I just don’t know how
You know, I’ve been so alone
Please melt this heart of stone

There was no longer any question on that day in January of 1999 that I desperately needed Jesus.

I have a serious gap in pictures during that time, but here’s a gem from about 6 months later:

I still do need Him. There is nothing magical that happens at the moment of salvation (if you have a “moment,” yet it’s often a process) that makes us less reliant on God. If anything, I believe we become even more keenly aware, through the power of the Holy Spirit and our spiritual eyes being opened, that apart from Him, we really can do nothing.

Especially recently, I’m intimately and painfully aware of my weaknesses and failures and continual dependence on Him. I know the truth of 2 Corinthians 12:10, that when I am weak, I am strong in Him, but I don’t know if the power of that truth has been fully recognized in my soul, or embraced in my heart.

Yet when I shared with my dear husband why January 4th is significant, I got choked up. I know that I know that I know that Jesus has deeply transformed my heart and my life.  He continues to change me and set me free, one breath at a time.

And I continue to choose to trust Him. Trust that He is good, that He is my only hope. That He cares about me so deeply and passionately that His perfect will was for His only begotten Son to suffer, be crushed, punished, condemned, and to die so that I would not be punished or condemned, but may have peace and life till it overflows.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 (NLT)

Thank You, Jesus, for life. For breath. For a fresh start. For joy in my sadness, light in my darkness, truth in my confusion, peace in my anguish, sight in my blindness, hope in my desperation. For when I am weak, Your grace becomes sufficient, and then, I am strong.
Jesus, let’s go for at least 14 more!
*I much prefer this acoustic version of the song to the one that is typically played. It’s raw, it’s pure, it’s just Keith Green and his piano – how I like him best.

Help Me Be New

God is doing a work in me
He’s walking through my rooms and halls
Checking every corner
Tearing down the unsafe walls
And letting in the light

I am working hard
To clean my house and set it straight
To not let pride get in the way
To catch an eternal vision of
What I am to become

Will you help me be new
Will you hold me to the promises
That I have made
Will you let me be new
Forgive my old self and my old mistakes

It seems easier
Living out my life in Christ
For those who do not know me
To hide the thorns stuck in my side
And all my secret faults

But you know me well
And it’s you I want the most to see
And recognize the changes
A word from you empowers me
To press on for my goal

Will you help me be new
Will you hold me to the promises
That I have made
Will you let me be new
Forgive my old self and my old mistakes

When I feel condemned to live my old life
Remind me I’ve been given a new life in Christ

“Help Me Be New” by Sara Groves

Freedom Friday: How Do We Live in the Meantime?

I’ve shared here that my family is in the middle of many possible transitions. Big life changes with lots of uncertainties. Challenging stuff.

Someone asked my husband and I what God has been speaking to us during this time.

My husband spoke of God’s comfort, nearness, and reassurance.

All I’m receiving is correction.

I feel a bit like Paul right now. In the midst of some amazing things, he was kept humble by a thorn in his side. The things God is showing me are humbling, to say the least.

I’m responding better to the correction than when I first wrote this blog post about responding to God’s discipline. I’ll be honest, though, and say I’m still hoping for some direction eventually and not just correction.

I’m living in “the meantime.”

The space between where we were and where we want to be, between God’s initial promises and direction and their fruition. The time of earnest waiting. When we try to push our doubts and fears aside.

This is the meantime.

How Do We Live in the Meantime?

1. Remain open.
A Sara Groves’ lyric inspired parts of this post.

I will open my hands, will open my heart
I will open my hands, will open my heart
I am nodding my head an emphatic “yes”
To all that You have for me

In the meantime, we need to remain open. Am I really in a posture that I can nod my head with an emphatic “yes,” no matter what God asks of me?

We can remain open, open-hearted, and open-handed, so when God’s direction does come, we are ready.

2. Move forward with the direction you have.

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8 (NIV1984)

I’ll confess that I have really struggled during this time with how to proceed. I’ve taken on an additional job, and I’m just plain tired. A few weeks back, I began questioning everything. Am I really called to be a writer/speaker? This book that I’ve been working on forever, is it even any good? Is it necessary? How do I know God called me?

I went back to my journals, to prayer, to God’s Word. Nothing had changed. I was just tired and feeling weary.

The meantime is like that. Abraham wasn’t given the whole picture of what God had for him, but he had enough information to continue forward based on the information and vision God had given him.

Move forward with the direction you have, with the passion God has given you, and the vision He has instilled in you.

3. Don’t compromise.
Character is vitally important in the meantime. Integrity is imperative. Who you are in the meantime is a direct reflection of the state of your heart and the solidity of your character.

When we can’t see God working, how will we respond? We get the urge to strive, to take things into our own hands (above & beyond the direction God has given us), to stop resting and trusting.

Sarah & Abraham had this struggle (then called Sarai & Abram, before God changed their names). They didn’t believe God was working quickly enough to fulfill His promise that they would have a child. So Abram slept with Sarai’s servant so that they would have the child God promised. He compromised his values when he couldn’t see what God was doing in the meantime.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21 (ESV)

We need to continue to grow in character and integrity of faith in the meantime and not compromise our values.

4. Keep your eyes on God.
Though it’d be quite easy to become discouraged and lose sight of the God who loves you and has good things for you, the meantime should not be viewed as purposeless, or a useless period of waiting and delay. In John 11, Jesus delayed going to see the sick Lazarus, and Lazarus died.

Why did Jesus allow this? Why didn’t He hurry up and get there and heal Lazarus?

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

And they did see the glory of God when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

God is glorified when we look to Him, wait on Him, and trust in him.

Keep reading the Word. Pray. Spend time with people who can encourage you as you move toward God and His plans. Keep your eyes on God.

The meantime can be a fruitful time of waiting on God, trusting in Him and growing in your relationship with Him and others. Look to Him. Don’t compromise your values. Move forward with the direction you have in the meantime.

Freedom Friday: Responding to God’s Discipline

God is doing a work in me
He’s walking through my rooms and hails
Checking every corner
Tearing down the unsafe walls
And letting in the light

Sara Groves Help Me Be New

I’ve been practicing living a lifestyle of hearing (mentioned last week). A lifestyle of waiting on God.

“My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” Psalm 130:6 (NIV1984)

I was hoping through all this waiting and listening to hear some sort of massive revelation about what’s next in our lives. Or to catch a glimpse of some grand plan that God has for me.

Instead, what I’m receiving is correction.

I wish I could say my response to correction is always thankfulness and receptive humility. Not usually. Instead, I respond as my children often do to discipline: I alternate between wanting to lash out in anger or denial and trying to hide in shame.

I mostly just mope. It’s not fun to have your imperfection revealed to you. Isaiah knows what this feels like.

“It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

It’s easy to write, speak and sing about how I desire to be all God wants be to be, how the cry of my heart is to be more like Him, how I want to learn to walk in the fullness of all He created me to be. But the reality of correction is that it’s painful and challenging.

When God puts His finger on something in our hearts or lives that needs to be changed, how should we react?

1. Gratitude. God is speaking to us and doing what a good father does: discipline His children. Discipline is not a dirty word. It simply means to disciple or correct. Discipline is how we grow. So we can thank God for caring enough about us to speak to us about things that are keeping us from living in the fullness of who He created us to be.

“If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself;
but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.”
Proverbs 15:32 (NLT)

2. Humility. False humility, overwhelming grief, self-punishment: these are all forms of pride. Pride declares that the cross is not enough. Pride says I must hide in shame, just as in the garden. Pride says I mist somehow punish myself or make up for the fact that I’m not perfect. To punish myself is to deny the cross.

“The punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5b (NIV1984)

We can choose to accept God’s correction without moping or denial, but rather with true humility and thankfulness. True humility exercises our surrendering muscles and declares to God, “You are able to take care of me, to shape me, and I trust You to do just that.”

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6

3. Prayer. We can go to prayer with the thing God has shown us. Sometimes, we need more guidance and direction. Other times, we need His peace to confirm what we’ve heard. Mainly, I think we just need to experience His love & acceptance in that moment and gather the strength and grace we need in order to accomplish whatever He has asked of us.

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

4. Action. Whether the thing God speaks to us requires a simply tweaking or a complete overhaul, we need to act on what He has said. Write it down. Tell a friend. Pray with someone. And act. Hearing and responding to God takes practice. You may not always get it exactly right. Remember that God is a good father. Good, healthy parents never expect their children to be perfect. Their kids are not mocked or shunned for trying to be obedient, but making a mistake. As we try to be obedient to what we thought we heard, God will give us grace and rejoice over our effort.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 (NIV1984)

Sarah Groves puts it well in her song:

I am working hard
To clean my house and set it straight
To not let pride get in the way
To catch an eternal vision of
What I am to become

True freedom is learning to walk in the fullness of all God created you to be. We can accept the Lord’s discipline with gratitude, humility, prayer and action because He is a good father.

How has the Lord been disciplining you lately? How have you chosen to respond?

Freedom Friday Tools for the Journey: Stones of Remembrance

This is a continuation of the last 2 Freedom Friday posts. It falls into the “Tools for the Journey” category, but it’s also a continuation of the discussion of Joshua (I recommend going back & reading this if you haven’t already).

We pick up the story in Joshua 4. The Israelites have just crossed the Jordan. They’ve seen God’s hand move powerfully and faithfully, as He continues to do what He has promised He would do.

Then God tells Joshua to have one man from each tribe go back into the middle of the river, take a stone from where the priests are standing, and carry it back out of the river.

4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel. 5 He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. 6 We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”

I can’t help but wonder why God doesn’t tell them to get the stones on their way through the river. Is this again another little faith test, like when He commanded them to step into the Jordan, and only then would the waters part? While crossing the river, the Israelites were specifically instructed to stay a half mile away from the Ark of the Covenant, whereas now they are told to gather rocks from where the priests are standing. The stones needed to be from that very spot where the Ark of the Covenant, a sign of God’s presence and His promises, was held. God also instructed Joshua to make another pile of 12 stones in that very spot in the middle of the Jordan.

Notice they weren’t celebratory stones. It would have been a fine time to celebrate, but no. The “Stones of Remembrance” served as a memorial. A reminder of God’s faithfulness. That His promises were, and still are, true. The end of an era (slavery and wilderness wanderings), and a new beginning in the Promised Land.

The reality of life is that we all get discouraged. “Discouraged” is likely too weak of a word – “disheartened” is better. Proverbs says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”. Our focus gets sidetracked by the wait. We forget all that God is, and all He has done in us & through us.

We get hyper-focused on our vision of how things should be. We even have a picture of how, when and why God will show up and come through.

The Israelites certainly had a preconceived idea of how God’s deliverance should look. Imagine the Israelites, enslaved for 400 years. For all those generations, they spent their days, while subject to the whims of Pharaoh, dreaming of how God would show up. In my article “Craving Egypt“, I wrote about how quickly the Israelites lost sight of all that God had done to deliver them from slavery in Egypt. The following words were spoken by the Israelites soon after the parting of the Red Sea.

“If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Exodus 16:3

Even the Pharisees and Jewish leaders had an idea of what the Messiah, their deliverer, would look like. They had built in their minds an image of Him so inaccurate that when Jesus came, they didn’t even recognize Him.

The Stones of Remembrance after the crossing of the Jordan served not just as a reminder, but also as a warning. You will forget. You will lose sight. You will get off kilter, lose focus, sink into despair. You will even come up with your own ideas of what freedom looks like and how it should arrive.

It’s as if God is saying: I’ve carried you this far. Trust me. I’m not going to stop caring for you now. It may not look like you think it will. but I’m still here and I’m still working.

The Stones of Remembrance encourage us to focus on the “who” rather than the “how”. We love the “how”! We love imagining and conjuring up the grand scheme of how God is going to work in a particular situation. We’re not so enthusiastic about simply resting in the knowledge of who God is. We get too caught up in the details of the “how” to remember to fix our eyes on the eternal: Jesus.

This tool is different from the encouragement file in that the encouragement file is a place to keep reminders of thoughtful notes, affirmations, and thanks from people from over the years. Stones of Remembrance are times God came through, often in surprising ways.

So start writing it down. Look back through your journals, your emails, your Facebook status updates, and start a new journal. Write the date, and the way in which God came through. The manner in which He reminded you that He is good. The person through whom He spoke truth. The Scripture you heard three times in the same day, through three different means.

Write it down. You will forget. You will lose sight. We all do.

The Stones of Remembrance are what we reach for when we are disheartened, weighed down by the burden of the problems we were never meant to carry.

In the words of Sara Groves in her song by the same name, “He’s always been faithful; He will be again”.

That’s why we need Stones of Remembrance.

21 Then Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over. 24 He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever.”

Freedom Fridays: Choosing to Trust

Trusting God is a hard thing. Understatement of the year, but this is something that has been really hitting home lately as I ponder the future of my children. Surrendering my children to God’s care does not mean things will turn out the way I hope, or even that they will live to reach adulthood. I don’t mean to sound so somber. Or maybe it sounds pessimistic or gloomy.

But it’s reality. I had a miscarriage. I trusted God with that child. The child died.

I’m not saying God killed my child. Hardly. Miscarriages happen for many reasons. If we get hyper-focused on the “why”, we miss the point 🙂

God LOVES you. Just like you wouldn’t wish for bad things to happen to one of your children, neither would the God who does not give us stones when we ask for bread. He has beautiful, awesome, amazing and wonderful things for you and for me. Really. Let that soak in.

The point is that trusting God is a choice.

It’s not a choice to trust that things will work out a certain way; it’s a choice to trust in His character. It’s a choice to believe that He works out all things for the good of those who love Him – and that means trusting that He’s not trying to teach you a lesson in a punitive “I’m wagging my finger at you, little girl” way because you need to learn a lesson.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

I want to share an excerpt from an article I wrote:

And most importantly, I wrestled with God. A lot. In all honesty, I suppose, it was more like I wrestled and He waited patiently for me to realize that He is who He says He is and He will do what He has said He will do.


There were times when I was so angry and bitter at God because He could have made my life — past and present — easier if He wanted to, but He didn’t. He wasn’t working according to my timing, and that wasn’t easy for me.

I’m reminded of something from John 6. Jesus had just given the disciples a particularly difficult command. Rather than trusting in God’s goodness and overall trustworthiness and taking into account their limited understanding, quite a few of the disciples decided it was too tough a command and stopped following Christ. When Jesus turned to the Twelve to ask if they would leave too, Peter responded, “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God.”

That’s how I feel. In the midst of all the questions and doubts, I already knew that I had tasted and seen that the Lord is indeed good, and that I had no other choice but to take refuge in Him (Psalm 34:8), to take my questions and hurts, rest in the shadow of His wing, and trust that He’s always been faithful. And that this time will be no exception.

As I’ve been contemplating the issue of trust and what it should look like, I can’t help but think of the following passage where children interact with Jesus:

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16 (emphasis mine)

I’m sure there are a lot of things we could pull from this as we seek to understand the passage, but I can’t help but relate it to the trust of a child.

As most of you know if you’ve spent 60 seconds reading my blog, I have 2 children 🙂 I never had to teach them to trust me. They trusted me from birth. Of course as imperfect parents, there are things we can do to break that trust, but at least initially, my children inherently trusted me, and thankfully they still do. They run to me (or their father) when they need food, when they have a question (in fact, all day long, I hear, “Excuse me! I’m telling you a question!”), they come to us when they are excited, and we are the first people they run to when they were hurt.

Why don’t we do that with God? If we are to come to Him as little children, why don’t we trust Him like little children?

Trust is a choice. Again, it’s a choice to take God at His word. It’s a choice to believe that He is who He says He is even when life would try to convince us otherwise.

I’ve been actively choosing to trust God for several years now. Almost every time I pray, I end with, “God, I choose to trust You.” It’s almost another way of saying, “God, if Your will is different than my will & my desires, I will still love & follow You.”

If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.
2 Timothy 2:13

Believers are God’s children. We have been adopted into His family. And when we choose to trust God, it’s a picture of how Jesus responded to the little children: He takes us into His arms, places His hands on us and blesses us.

Trust is a choice.

When I think about trust, I can’t help but think of the song He’s Always Been Faithful by Sara Groves, a song that still brings me to tears almost every time, despite 8+ years of knowing it. I chose the picture for this entry based on the first 2 lines. The lyrics stand for themselves. I’ll end this post with them.

Morning by morning I wake up to find
The power and comfort of God’s hand in mine
Season by season I watch him amazed
In awe of the mystery of his perfect ways

All I have need of his hand will provide
He’s always been faithful to me

I can’t remember a trial or a pain
He did not recycle to bring me gain
I can’t remember one single regret
In serving God only and trusting his hand

This is my anthem, this is my song
The theme of the stories I’ve heard for so long
God has been faithful, he will be again
His loving compassion, it knows no end

Something’s Coming

God is cooking something up………’s best stated in Scripture and song lyrics 🙂

There’s something’ due any day;
I will know right away
Soon as it shows.

“It’s only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feelin’ there’s a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Comin’ to me!

“Something’s coming, something’ good,
If I can wait!
Something’s comin’, I don’t know what it is
But it is gonna be great!”Stephen Sondheim

“Back to the start, my heart is heavy
Feels like it’s time to dream again
I hear your voice, and yes I’m ready
To dance upon this barren land
Hope in my hands

“Now something inside is awakening,
Like a dream I once had and forgot.
And it’s something I’m scared of
And something I don’t want to stop.”
Sara Groves

“For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you. Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13