Where Are We Leading?


"And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness." Ezra 9:2

Let’s face it, we are all a leader of someone.

Because each of us knows more or less than someone else, we will always be following and learning–or leading. Think about it. Ar you a parent? An older sibling? A friend helping a friend? Maybe you are the boss or supervisor at work, or the guy who’s been there a month and is showing a newer one the ropes.

We may not think of ourself as a leader, but we are. By default.

Someone will always be watching our life. Our decisions, words, and actions impact lives around us every day. Whether we like it or not, we are leading.

So, if that’s the case? Where are we leading?

There were some specific guidelines that God gave his people back in the day. The rules were intended to help and protect the people. Like speed limits or stop lights (ignored by many where I live) are meant to help the flow of traffic and keep drivers safe. But the problem was that the leaders in those days were leading the way into doing the very things that were hurting the people.

Hmm…sounds like our world today. Some things never change. The Bible says there is nothing new under the sun. So true.

We’ve witnessed leaders and officials living and promoting harmful practices. Sexual misconduct, abortion, lawless violence are only a few of the hurtful activities we’ve watched leaders participate in or promote. It might be easy to point our finger at them, and they should be called to account. But what about us? Where are we leading?

Whether it’s engaging in illegal practices or taking something from work, we are setting an example. Regardless if no one sees us, our behavior will eventually come out in how it affects our attitude and words. Even our tone of voice can impact those around us. Ever notice how when we’re feeling off, we can speak sharply to our spouse, children or co-worker and create a bad situation where none was there previously?

I love how the Bible shows us the answer to this dilemma.

In Ezra 10:1, it says that Ezra was praying, confessing, weeping, and laying on the ground before God because of the unfaithfulness of the people. The cool thing is that the people who saw this followed his lead. The men, women and children gathered around him and “wept bitterly too.” Ezra was a spiritual leader in his time, and people followed his example of repentance.

We are leaders.

Are we leading into unfaithfulness or repentance? And who are we leading there?

Let’s also remember to pray for those in authority. The people leading us need help and the wisdom of God. They need clear direction so they can lead into good, helpful, positive places that will not bring harm. They must consider their ways carefully because people are watching and following.

We all need to humbly consider who’s watching us. Are we leading into life? Or a path to destruction and death?

Where are we leading?

Where Do We Go from Here?


This is a long post today, but bear with me. I think the content is crucially important.

With all the turmoil in our world right now, we need wisdom to lead us through political division, racial talk, and false narratives from every side.

Believe it or not, our times are not unlike what Jesus and his disciples lived through.

Therefore, the teachings and parables of Jesus in the Bible stand out as the final word on how to navigate the season we’re in today.

This week I’ve been pouring over the eighteenth chapter of Matthew. I’ve been, once again, amazed at how relevant it is to our current times. I’d like to unpack a few things that have spoken to me.

As people who read and apply the Bible to our lives, we often take isolated scripture passages out of their context. While this isn’t always a bad idea and can actually be encouraging, we can also miss the greater message Jesus imparted when we do so. For example, I think we’ve heard these:

  • “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jer. 29:11 (true, encouraging, but we miss that God said this after leading people into exile as a way to help them see their need for him and then obey him.)
  • “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Actually, this is misquoted and incomplete. This comes from 1 Cor. 10:13 and God is talking about temptation. He doesn’t tempt us, he won’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear and will always provide a way out of temptation.
  • “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38 –true in every situation, but we hear it mostly applied to finances; however, in context it applies to forgiveness. Think about that one.

I think you can see what I mean.

Matthew 18 is a chapter from which many verses have been singled out and used outside of the context of the entire chapter. I discovered that this week.

And WOW!

Here’s what I believe I’ve missed before…

  • The theme is unity. (Don’t we need that right now?) In verse 1 the disciples are arguing about who’s the greatest. (Sound familiar?)
  • Jesus starts his discourse on unity by speaking of humility. Jesus says change and become like a little child. Humble ourselves. (vs.3-4)
  • There are things and people in the world that can lead us into disunity –our sin can cause others to stumble and fall too – so we need to do whatever it takes, even cutting things off, to protect ourselves and others. (vs.5-9)
  • If someone, even one person, wanders away from safety, we look for a way to help them. God doesn’t want any of us to be lost in sin, despair, brokenness, etc. (vs.121-14)
  • When someone says or does something that hurts us, it’s not only us, but the whole body of believers that suffers. When we confront them, we should do so, not to argue and persuade them that we’re right and they are wrong. Not to press our opinion or validate ourselves. We go in love to present to them in kind words what the problem is. The Bible says if he listens to us, we win him over. What that actually means in the original language is if he’s willing to hear what we have to say (let’s be willing to receive), we have gained him back into relationship with us. If he’s not, Jesus lays out an entire process, in which at least two or three others can see and agree that something is amiss. Following the process, is intended to help someone see how he is hurting his fellow believers. Unity folks. (vs.15-17)
  • If after following the steps of this process, someone refuses to have an open mind/heart to hear his friends (brothers), that is the point where it is for the safety of the entire group to treat him as not part of the group. That doesn’t mean we don’t forgive and continue to love. (vs.17)
  • Jesus goes on to tell us that when we seek him and agree with what he says we have the authority to fasten to him and declare the enemy/sin unlawful. We can release God’s love in the situation and break or dissolve the enemy’s hold on it. Where two or more agree (with God’s will – unity here), Jesus is in our midst and will do what we ask. We must be praying for the person and the situation.(vs.18-20)
  • Then he goes on to tell a parable about being willing to forgive they way he forgives us. We shouldn’t treat someone badly when they sin against us. We remember how much we have been forgiven. Forgiveness brings peace and opens a way for reconciliation. (vs.21-35)

This is my take away.

Jesus reminded us that we are to be:

  1. Humble.
  2. Willing to acknowledge and protect ourselves and others from sin.
  3. Open to doing whatever it takes to help someone who is struggling. (Without judgment.)
  4. Willing to lovingly confront when necessary to bring reconciliation for the benefit of all.
  5. Obedient in following the process Jesus gave us.
  6. Involving others who are close to the situation only when necessary. (Not in gossip.)
  7. Seek God’s will and join with others in prayer about it.
  8. Forgive.

I have to ask myself where I’ve ignored, avoided, denied or missed any of this. The first being am I humble?

Humility leads to unity.

Jesus, who had every right to assert his god-ship over us all, willingly laid it down to show his love for us. His was the ultimate act of humility.

Am I even close to doing that? What about when someone doesn’t share my opinion? When I have the “right” to justice? If I’m reasonably (or not) hurt by someone’s words or actions? If something is not what I hoped for or expected?

Unless we start there, none of the rest will matter because it won’t come from the correct posture of our heart.

If I point out someone’s sin, even with the motive of helping them…

If I proclaim to others about what someone did that was so wrong or hurtful…

If I try to “help” someone see the error of their ways or opinions…

If I confront another…

If I pray for someone…

None of those things done without humility with end up serving in love, and can actually lead to more harm and division.

The Bible says:

“If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love {humility}, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love {humility}, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love {humility}, I gain nothing.” I Corinthians 13:1-3

If we follow Jesus’s example of love, it begins with humility. God’s example of giving his only son to reach his children who have turned against him? Started with humility. Jesus allowing himself to be mocked, beaten, and hung naked on a cross for us? A tremendous act of humility.

Humility may not be popular, but it’s right. It’s not easy—in fact it goes against everything in us that wants to fight for ourselves* (that’s pride by the way).

No matter what situation we face in today’s world, humility is the first step to reconciliation and ultimately, unity.

Where can we apply that to our lives today? I’ll bet, like me, you can find more than one area.

May you experience the depth of Jesus’s humbling presence and love today.

*please know that if you are in an abusive situation, it is appropriate to flee and get help – Jesus loves you and wants his children to be safe and healthy in our relationships – that’s why he gives the process 😉 If you’d let me, I’d love to pray and help in any way I can

Ballet Turtles


Ever watched a turtle perform ballet?

I hadn’t either. But one day on a date at Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium with my husband, we happened upon these turtles that appeared to be stretched out in arabesques. We laughed to see these reptiles pretend to dance on their log. Or, at the barre, if you will.

I’m sure they didn’t know what it looked like to us. Certainly, they were simply enjoying the sunny day, but it appeared purposeful. At least in theory.

It made me think of what positions we take that appear to be something they’re not.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

Lately, I’ve been stunned and saddened by the stance of many who claim to know and love God, profess to be followers of Jesus, but adopt positions that flagrantly oppose what the Bible says. Mean spirited posts from ones who are to extend the love of Jesus. Demands for rights that do anything but consider others in humility. Embracing patterns of the world with lifestyle, choices, and outright destructive behavior.

I have to look at myself too. I’m not finger pointing.

We’re reading Get Your Life Back by John Eldredge and today’s chapter on Self Life and what it means to truly surrender my life to Jesus convicted me. How can I show love if I’m quick to react to something my spouse says instead of calmly conversing? If I write a retort to that post that offended me? When I’m impatient because I’m not getting something I need or want when I want it?

I suppose we could pretend to be like the turtles and say we don’t really know what we’re doing.

But we aren’t. We know what we’re doing.

It may seem like a silly comparison, but if the arabesque fits…

By the way, have you taken time to enjoy nature lately? Here are some other scenes we enjoyed that day. What did you learn from your time in the wild?

When Does Life Start?


Photo by Andreas Wohlfahrt on Pexels.com

January has been the month of celebrating the importance of human life.

Various articles, memes, posts, and videos have shown that life matters. We’ve heard it from every angle. The over-arching theme is that human lives are significant.

All life should be equally important.

This is what the Bible says about life in Psalm 139:

“For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”

Given that, perhaps you can understand my passion when I read this article quoting our new president about life and abortion and detailing the censoring of said articles. (You can read it for yourself here.)

And when I saw the following quote by Rep. James E. Clyburn (D – S.C. I decided I had to speak out. It was time to tell part of my story.

“Today marks the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which gave women the right to control their own bodies.”

Rep. James E. Clyburn

Right to control? How about the responsibility to control our bodies?

“…each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable…” I Thes. 4:4

Women, including myself, have the responsibility to control our bodies. Once we’ve made a choice (that’s the part of “pro-choice” I agree with) to engage in sexual relations, we have now relinquished our rights if that union has created a child. At that point, we have the responsibility to protect that child. Because that child has the right to be born and live the life ordained by their Creator.

  • As soon as an egg is fertilized by sperm, the gender of the child is decided.
  • Within three weeks, a baby’s heartbeat can be heard.
  • At six weeks, fingers and toes are developing.
  • After only two months, a baby’s form can be clearly seen – head, eyes, legs, arms, fingers, toes and internal organs are visible.
  • You can see photos for yourself here.

Some proponents of abortion argue that rape is a reason for choosing abortion, but even if the woman had no choice in the creation of the child, that fact does not remove the rights of that child to life.

Believe me, I understand the challenges unplanned pregnancy brings.

At twenty-five, I was going through a messy divorce because my husband decided he couldn’t give up an adulterous relationship. As a mother of two very young children, I chose, in that season of heartache and poor judgment, to become sexually involved with a dear friend. In spite of using necessary precautions, I found myself pregnant.

It wasn’t the first time.

I had married my husband five years earlier because I became pregnant after a night during which I was unable to prevent his advances. We married in spite of my miscarrying the baby. (I saw that baby who was only a few weeks old.) So when my friend insisted we marry when my divorce was final, I panicked. I wouldn’t be forced into another marriage. He was a kind man, but in a bad place both in his budding career and in his emotional state. My mindset wasn’t any better.

I didn’t see any way that as a single parent with no current source of income, I could carry and raise a new baby along with my two and four-year-old. But I had made a choice to become involved sexually, and that meant I had a responsibility to this child.

I prayed. God could take this little one home to heaven and “spare” me the challenge of carrying and raising him. Or, I could carry him despite the ramifications of what it would mean to my life, my future career, and my reputation. I could give him up. Somewhere was a family longing for a child who would be blessed by this baby.

In the end, I kept my baby boy. It’s a longer story than I have space for here, but I will never regret my decision to carry and keep my child. He is a grown, married man with two children of his own now. How much I could have missed!

I, as well as people I know, were told that the life carried was nothing more than a blob of tissue. I can imagine their heartache. Whether they knew what they were doing or didn’t, God as grace, forgiveness, comfort, and healing for all of us.

I know from my own experience as well as research that the “blob” statement isn’t true. It’s a lie that believing in live means we don’t have choices. We make a choice when we partner in creating a life by our sexual action. We can also choose to protect a life, rescue a life, or adopt a life.

But, we can’t make a true choice if we don’t have all the facts first.

Like these facts about trafficking, another “lives matter” issue:

  • 300,000 – Children in the U.S., at least, prostituted annually (ndaa.org)
  • 12 – The average age that a trafficked victim is first used for commercial sex (DHS)
  • 2,700 – Child sex-trafficking victims rescued by the FBI in the U.S. the past 10 years (FBI Innocence Lost Initiative)
  • 3 – Florida’s rank in the number of calls received by the national human trafficking hotline (Polaris Project)
  • 83% – Of sex trafficking victims identified in the United States were U.S. citizens according to a study of U.S. Department of Justice human trafficking task force cases. (Office of the Attorney General of Florida)
  • 52 – Approximate number of local child sex-trafficking victims rescued in 2015 (FBI Innocence Lost Initiative)
  • Less than 250 – Shelter beds for commercially sexually exploited children in the U.S. (ECPAT-USA)

Are you as shocked as I was when I read those statistics?

How can we be appalled at this and accept that 2,363 children die by abortion (2016 statistics) each day?

That is, if life matters.

Maybe we should think about what that means.

I believe all life matters. I believe what God says, that it begins at conception—for that is the way he planned it. And I also believe that we are spiritual as well at physical beings so as Dabney Hedegard states:

“…life doesn’t really begin until I meet my Maker.”

In the end, Jesus is the way, truth, and life. It is with him that we will spend eternity if we choose to believe him. Every sacrificed baby will be there in heaven with Jesus. Every rescued life has a chance to live now and forever. Our true life will begin when we meet Jesus in heaven.

God puts it this way:

“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life…” Deuteronomy 30:19-20

On this last day of January, the life awareness month, will you choose life?

Today is also the last day to get my novel, Dangerous Ground, which deals with sex trafficking, for FREE as the Kindle version. But every copy, whether digital or print, that is purchased will be supporting organizations like A21 and Bridging Freedom that are fighting to end sex trafficking and give aid to victims. All the proceeds of the book will be donated so you can know that you are contributing to saving a life by buying a book for you and/or a friend. While today is the last day for FREE, the annual proceeds from Dangerous Ground will always be donated no matter when you purchase it. Please pass the word.

Are You Angry?


“Medically, anger causes an increase in many physical ailments such as heart disease, stroke, and migraines. Joy, on the other hand, medically causes a decrease in all of those same things.

If the Joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10) and the enemy can keep me in anger at my brother or my neighbor or my spouse or my government or my children, then the enemy has stolen my strength without lifting a finger.

Joy is found in reconnection and restoration…(Luke 15). Joy has to be entered in to…(Matthew 25:23). Connecting with the Father and with others in love brings complete joy…(John 15:9-10).”

Quote from Alicia Hommon of Kingdom Driven Entrepreneurs taken from their newsletter 1/19/21
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

When you look at the above picture, what do you feel?

Fear? Anger? Agitated? What if you were standing in front of this man in person?

I’ll bet, like me, you wouldn’t experience warm fuzzies making you want to engage with him.

Now what about the picture below?

Photo by Gabby K on Pexels.com

Different emotion completely, right?

This man makes us want to laugh, say hello, and find out what’s made him smile.

Incredible what a picture can illicit in us, isn’t it?

So, what is it like when we embrace anger or joy and others experience it simply by watching us? Not only do those emotions destroy or bring life to us physically or medically as is stated in the above quote, but they do the same to everyone around us.

Just for a moment, consider all the images we’ve seen lately in the news. Let’s ask ourselves why the majority of them are of anger, violence, hatred, and agitation. Is it possible that there is a spiritual agenda by the enemy (meaning the devil, not a political figure) to keep us in an angry, agitated state so that we can be destroyed and bring that same destruction to those around us?

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Jesus

An abundant, joyful life is found in Jesus. It comes from sharing his love with others. Regardless of what circumstances around us look like, can we choose joy and love over anger and hatred? Not only will it benefit us, but it will benefit our world.

When I was a kid, there was a popular song called “What the World Needs Now is Love” composed by Burt Bacharach. Here’s the first verse:

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No not just for some, but for everyone

Love is what our world needs. Still. Now. Always. And we have it if we will simply embrace it. God IS love. Jesus showed this when he walked with man on earth and then died on the cross so we could forever experience God’s love here, now and for all eternity. When we acknowledge Him, confess that we’ve looked everywhere but to him, and receive the gift he give us, we can have all the love we need.

And that love leads to joy.

Let’s not let the enemy rob us of strength, joy, love and the abundant life Jesus came to give us.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

Can You See His Beauty?


Today is a little stormy in my town in Southwest Florida. Not really cold, but with gusty winds, grey clouds crawling across the sky, and temperatures in the mid-sixties, I’m reminded that we’re in the middle of winter. I know it’s snowing in other places, but here in our tropical paradise I forget. Looking at the sun streaming intermittently between the clouds today, it’s hard to believe it’s a frigid winter elsewhere, and we’re already half-way through the first month of 2021.

Thankfully, due to our warmer weather, there is a tree in the area behind our townhouse that spans the view of my patio and living room window. The elongated, dipping branches stretch out a handful of magenta blossoms as if it’s handing me gifts. A blanket of fallen blooms covers the ground beneath the tree. I watch as the wind scatters a shower of them to add to the carpet covering the grass.

Beauty.

In the midst of a dark world, beauty still reigns. I’m grateful this morning for the view. Grateful for the sporadic rays of sunshine and the blustery winds. Grateful that God is on his throne seeing everything, knowing all, and in control.

Time doesn’t exist within his realm. We live according to the clock, but he has already been here this day. Already seen the events still to play out. Nothing surprises him. So I can rest and revel in the beauty he offers us.

When I sit in this place of peace, listening for God’s whispers in the wind, I am transported into his kingdom. He placed man in a garden, after all, didn’t he? His desire was for us to walk and talk with him in the beauty of nature. And God doesn’t change. That’s still his desire today.

I know evil in the world rages. Our voices have been silenced by media, social sites, and masks. Lies are being called truth, and truth is repelled as a lie. Children are discarded through abortion and trafficking. Various religious groups persecute those who choose to follow Jesus in his way of love. Political tempers flare. Those who claim tolerance are intolerant of anything having to do with God. Even those who say they love God, show hate across various platforms. As the Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:1-3,

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good…”

Sounds like our world.

But God still offers us beauty. Beauty for ashes, the Bible tells us.

God’s grace and mercy reach far past our sinful, prideful ways. His peace reaches out to us when we’re harried, hassled, fearful, and anxious. He longs for us with the love of a perfect father who wants our company, our input, our devotion, and our good. His call to us is to see him, know him, and love him in response to his immeasurable love for us.

He offers us so much. For so little.

Jesus paid such a great price so that we could belong and be with him forever.

Today, when a bit of beauty crosses your path—when the color of a flower, the majesty of a sunset, a blanket of newly fallen snow, the wave of the mighty ocean, or the towering of stately trees shows up—when the hand of God strokes his paintbrush across your landscape, will you take a moment?

Whisper a thank you. Consider the God in heaven who you may have overlooked, ignored, or forgotten? Recognize that in Jesus, you can live in a place of perfect peace in spite of the crazy ways of the current world. It only takes a moment to reach out in response to God reaching out to you. Quicker than typing out a text, we can say,

“Thank you for all you’ve made. Thank you for your love. Thank you for dying on the cross for me, Jesus. I’m sorry I’ve sinned against you. Please lead me into your kingdom today. I believe you. I trust you.”

Will you join me in beauty today?

If you say, “yes,” I’d love to know. Will you give me a thumbs up in the comments, or tell me your story? Or even just click like. I pray for my readers, and we all need prayer in these times, don’t we?

Unshakable Hope


A few months ago, a mysterious illness infiltrated my body. (No, not covid.) The signs were subtle at first. Some swelling in my ankles and aching in my arms. It rapidly progressed through my body and currently holds me hostage with severely swollen, aching arms and legs and sometimes debilitating stabs of pain. Test results are all normal. I have no other symptoms apart from fatigue and an occasional headache. The doctors are stumped. I am on a three month wait for a specialist.

Not fun.

But God.

Whether I am afflicted or healed, God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He has made every day, and I choose to rejoice and be glad in it.

As Jesus believers, we pray each day for healing, believing and claiming that by his stripes, I’m healed. And I believe I will be. It may not be today or tomorrow that my healing manifests, but it will be one day according to his plans. Plans I don’t understand, but that are always good.

So far, I’ve learned to trust him more. I’m learning to wait well. My mind is a battlefield, and I can choose to embrace God’s presence, hope, love, and joy, or I can believe lies and be filled with fear, anger, despair, and self-pity. Each day, and sometimes multiple times a day, I have the choice.

Days are better when I choose Jesus.

Today I watched the memorial service for a blogging friend of mine who went home to Jesus on December 30th. He wrote a blog called Unshakable Hope and lived with ALS for 24 years after the doctors gave him three to five to live. I met him because of this blog. He has been such a source of encouragement and faith building to me. As his two daughters shared some questions they asked him, and played his robotic responses while he was confined completely to a wheelchair with no voice and no ability to move, I was once again inspired.

Bill talked about the passage in Scripture where Paul asked God to remove the thorn in his flesh. He commented that our trials here are fleeting and temporary in light of eternity. Now as I wait on the Lord for healing to manifest, I am encouraged by this man’s incredible life. His wife, Mary, has been his caregiver all these years. Her grace and patience humble me. Bill reached tens of thousands of people through his blog that he wrote with eye recognition software. How can I live my life daily in this affliction so that it has eternal value?

How can I consider my current situation close to what he’s lived with? I only hope that I can live it with faith, grace, and unshakable hope like he did no matter how long it lasts. In light of eternity we live a fleeting moment.

Today is the only today we have. Tonight it will be gone, and tomorrow will come. What will we choose today?

I don’t know what the rest of my day or my tomorrows will be. We don’t even know how many tomorrows we’ll have. But today, I live for Christ in response to his love for me. No matter what comes, his love, his presence, peace, joy, and hope are beyond measure.

Will you choose him today? Whether you know him or you don’t, he loves you. He chose you. He has a plan for you.

In honor of my blogging brother Bill Sweeney. He chose Jesus.

If you’d like to see Bill’s site and posts, you can read here.

Heart Sick?


“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

This has been a year of hope deferred, hasn’t it?

We had expectations of how this year 2020—the year of vision and purpose—would pan out. I think it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that most of those plans for this last year did not happen as expected.

I wonder if that’s how the 400 years of captivity felt to the Israelites.

We’ve been through eleven grueling months, but they had to hold onto the prophecies and promises of God for hundreds of years. Palm on face here. I can’t imagine it. Can you?

But here’s the great thing.

Jesus—Emmanuel, God with Us, Prince of Peace, King of kings and Lord of lords—was scheduled by God to arrive. That plan had always been in place. God knew way ahead of time what he was doing.

And it’s no different today.

I have no doubt that God has a plan. It may not look like anything we expect. Just like the arrival of a baby in a remote town, placed in a cave manger with angels singing and shocked shepherds ogling. Not what anyone expected, right?

But it was a longing fulfilled to replace sick hearts whose hope had been deferred for centuries.

As we look forward to the next few weeks leading up to Christmas, we’re in the same place. Looking for hope. Longing for promises fulfilled.

And just as Jesus was that hope a couple thousand years ago, he is still our hope today.

There are a couple of differences.

We haven’t waited for hundreds of years—even if this year of 2020 feels like it’s stretched on for decades or centuries. And also, they didn’t know when to expect Jesus, but we have already seen him. We have the opportunity to not only welcome him into the world as a baby, but welcome him into our hearts and lives as our Savior, Lord, and King.

No matter what the virus or election or protests bring, Jesus is our hope.

And he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

Blessing in an “Annus Horribilis”


An author friend of mine from California writes great blog posts about hope. I swapped with her this week since we both share our findings of hope in our world from opposite places in the nation. I pray you’re blessed by her wonderful post this week. You can read more of her posts, and see mine this week on her site at www.carolshope.com.

Blessing in an “Annus Horribilis”

By Carol Nicolet Loewen

In a speech marking the 40th anniversary of her succession, Queen Elizabeth II referred to 1992 as an “annus horribilis,” a horrible year. Many of us would say the same of 2020.

Our country is in the midst of an ever-expanding pandemic as we wait and pray for an effective vaccine. We have isolated, masked, attended church, family, and business meetings on Zoom. We are hitting new highs for COVID-19 hospitalizations and are cautioned against being together with family members for Thanksgiving and Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa holidays. Fires and floods have taken lives, homes, animals, property. And our election results are still in question, with the media quick to step in with their interpretation before waiting for the final electoral vote in December.

We need hope. And out of that hope we need love that goes beyond our differences.

I heard a statistic recently that more than 80% of Americans–whether Democrat or Republican, Christian or non-Christian, church-goer or non-church goer–say they have no friends who see the world differently than they see it, politically and theologically. We prefer to stay in our own comfort zones rather than deliberately choosing to know and learn to love someone who is “unlike” us. And nothing divides us like fear. Fear of loss … of control, safety, rights, freedom, health, power, economic stability, and on and on.

We look for affirmation, security, and love in a variety of ways, many of which are not only unproductive, but potentially dangerous.

  • The sexually abused daughter who grows up to become promiscuous, believing physical intimacy is the way to gain security through the approval of men.
  • The son who has never been able to please his father, continues to push himself, trying ever harder to get an “atta boy”. He becomes a workaholic who is almost an absentee parent.
  • The tycoon who thinks his business success will buy him security. 
  • The perfectionist who continually beats herself up because she could have “done it better,” never satisfied despite awards and recognition.
  • The rioters and looters who attack and destroy businesses of those they claim to defend.

What we’re looking for is a blessing. “Blessing” is defined as God’s favor and protection; a special favor, mercy or benefit. Three thousand years ago, God gave Moses a blessing for the people of Israel, which my lovely mother sang at my wedding. It still carries deep meaning. 

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
Numbers 6:24-26

Only in the blessing of God do we find unconditional love which remains constant, not because of who we are or what we do, but because of who HE is.

“Thy love is uncaused and undeserved. Thou art Thyself the reason for the love wherewith we are loved.” (A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 97)

God has chosen to delight in me. What an amazing, life-altering fact! I don’t have to earn His love. I can’t. I simply need to receive it, bask in it, find my security in it. And when I am secure in His love, I am able to love others and fear begins to evaporate.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. I John 4:18

So then how can I GIVE a blessing to others? In a video, an impatient man is given a pair of “all-seeing” glasses. People who before were irritants or interruptions are seen through a new lens—recognizing one needs a hug, a woman just lost a dear friend, a man lost his job. Seeing their pain, the man responds very differently than before.

I pray for eyes to see and ears to hear, so I can bless those around me … with a warm smile, a listening heart, a “thank you” to store clerks, health care professionals, and others. I want to intentionally affirm those I love and those who need encouragement.

I have needed a blessing these past weeks. Have you?

What choices will you make this week to receive and give the blessing? I’d love to interact with you at carolshope.com.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17b-19

Carol Nicolet Loewen writes of hope from the depths of her own loss. She resides in San Jose, California with her lovely second husband and their dog, Paige. Marrying a wonderful man at age 36 and losing him twenty years later taught her to value every moment, that we can survive loss, move ahead and even love again. It also allowed Carol to experience God’s faithfulness during the hardest time of her life. She is working on her first book, a historical novel of hope set in Bolshevik Russia, and loves to connect with her readers at carolshope.com.

What do Mr. Bill and the Bible have in common?


When I was in high school, Saturday Night Live often entertained us with crazy skits. It’s a show I haven’t watched for decades due to the change in content that seems less creative and more crude, but in those days we laughed our heads off at the ridiculous antics of the Coneheads, satiric sketches, and of course, the claymation characters of Mr. Slugo and Mr. Bill.

For you youngsters who may read my blog, a pair of real life hands would gesture according to a narrative in which Mr. Hands or Mr. Slugo would torment Mr. Bill and his dog with everyday situations, like showering or karate class that would destroy a clay figure. Mr. Bill would frantically cry out, “Ooohhh, nooo!” Believe me, it was only funny because it wasn’t real.

A number of years ago, a family member (Mom) sent me the little guy in the above picture as a joke. I wrote a post about it that you can read if you’d like.

But that’s not what this post is about.

Over the past year, Brendan and I have taken turns hiding Mr. Bill in various locations to get a laugh with each other. Here are some of Mr. Bill’s adventures:

We like to pretend the Mr. Bill got himself into these incredible predicaments, and keep a running joke of what Mr. Bill might be thinking. Lately, Mr. Bill has a thing for high places and spinning.

It’s a silly game, but it gives us a laugh. We’re a little crazy like that.

Here’s the thing…

While hiding a silly rubber man to play a game with my husband may be ridiculous, hiding something more important is not.

God says to hide his word in our hearts. And that is no joke!

Why should we hide God’s word in our heart?

  • So we won’t sin against God. (Psalm 119:11)
  • So we can learn and grow to be like Jesus, mature and ready for everything. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)
  • So we can give an apt word to someone who has a need for wisdom or encouragement, or wants to know about our source of hope. (Proverbs 15:23 & I Peter 3:15)
  • To allow the Holy Spirit to remind us of Jesus’ words and God’s great love for us. (John 14:26)
  • So we can wield it as a weapon against Satan. (Ephesians 6:17)
  • So if we are ever in a situation where we do not have a Bible, we will know what it says and be encouraged.

Hiding Mr. Bill may not make a lot of sense, but hiding God’s word in our heart is wise and advisable. Memorizing it is great, but even if we can’t remember the exact words or verse, the more we read, the more we understand the true character of God. And the more we can apply it and rely on what it says.

What’s a verse you have hidden in your heart? Mr. Bill wants to know.

Can you guess who conspired with Mr. Bill on the Aussie high dive?