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.

The Day After Christmas


‘Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house,

Not a creature was stirring, except for a mouse

He’s eating some crumbs from the day’s Christmas feast

There are cookies and biscuits, cheese crackers at least

The stockings are empty, the toys are in play

The parents exhausted and sleeping all day

Carols and movies are done for the year; farewell to the relatives

We’ve all shed a tear

We waved over Zoom to those stuck at home

Next Christmas we’ll see them – none left alone

The meaning of Christmas still rings in our hearts

A birthday for Jesus is only the start

What if we could share all the love we’ve been given

Not only on Christmas since we’ve been forgiven

The New Year is coming within a few days

It’s never too late to live in new ways

Resolutions we’ve promised may flee out the door

Within a few months, we may be as before

I’m grateful for Jesus.

He gives our lives meaning

A place in God’s presence; on His life, I’m leaning

So even though shopping is done for the season

Let’s focus on Jesus—He is the real reason.

Wishing you and your families  a wonderful Christmas season and Happy New Year!

A Thrill of Hope


“Long lay the world in sin and error pining; ‘Til he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For younder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees…”

Adolphe Charles Adam and Placide Cappeau (French composers)

These words to a favorite Christmas hymn, “O Holy Night” keep ringing in my mind this week as we approach this last week before Christmas.

Our world is weary.

It’s weary because it’s been pining away in sin, offenses, mistakes, and brokenness. Lies, disease, natural disasters, violence top the headlines. And that’s only if you can believe the headlines. The media isn’t our friend.

But I love what this song reminds us of. That in the midst of sin, weariness, and despair, Jesus appears. He comes to say “You’re loved, special, worthy.” His appearance, life, and later death and resurrection speak to us of how worthy we are to him. The Bible says it was for the joy set before him that he came and died and rose again.

That joy is me and you. Jesus came so we can be with him forever.

With God, there is always a glorious, new morning breaking through. He doesn’t leave us in weariness and despair. And we can rejoice.

When Jesus first came, the world had been enslaved and God was silent after centuries of speaking, giving the people what they thought they wanted, and offering them life in him. After 400 years, Jesus showed up.

400 years! We’ve been through nine months of a pandemic and feel as if the world as ended.

But regardless of the length of time in waiting expectantly, today as we celebrate, Jesus is still the same. He hasn’t changed. His message of love and hope is still the same. And all we have to do is one thing.

Fall on our knees.

Acknowledge him. Humble ourselves and confess that we don’t have it all together, don’t know everything, and can’t figure life out on our own. When we come to the end of ourselves, he brings the beginning of new life.

A new and glorious morning…

I’m praying for you this Christmas. May we all be falling on our knees and experiencing the thrill of hope.

Merry Christmas. Jesus loves you.

What’s So Exciting About 2020??


My word for 2020 was EXCITEMENT.

The end of 2019 promised new vision, strategies, success, and growth. My husband and I looked forward to exciting experiences the new year would bring. Only it didn’t come like we expected. Instead it came with grief.

God’s grief for the brokenhearted of the world—those who are weary in their perseverance through loss. His cries for those who have gone their own way into hurt, hatred, violence, and division—his children whom he loves that don’t want to have anything to do with him. I feel his grieving heart as I pray for our community, our nation, and our world.

I believe this year has allowed us to see and know who God is, and what’s important. Being forced to be at home, we’ve had time to spend time with God. We’ve been given a chance to reconnect with our spouses and children. Maybe we’ve learned how to work from home, setting our schedules to adapt to higher priorities. Conversation replaced hours previously spent watching sports or sitcoms. Many families have grown closer to God and each other.

Granted, nothing is what we expected. Disappointment and despair over job and family losses is real. But maybe the 2020 turmoil is what we needed to wake up to a different perspective. What if this year has actually brought more benefit than what we expected? When I choose to look at each day with gratitude, I’m suddenly aware of all we do have; all we’ve learned; new opportunities and strategies for change and growth. Maybe that’s what God has in mind. He’s our hope. Nothing but Jesus can bring us peace in the midst of these terrible storms. That’s what I’ve learned to cling to even more this year.

And that has brought excitement.

Looking forward with excitement as we celebrate Jesus in the weeks to come!

LAURA’S BOOKS

If you’re a book reader or have one on your list, you might be excited to hear of these Christmas deals!

My contemporary fiction, A Deadly Silence, is on sale now through December 15th. In it, Sara Maree Matley unpacks a box that challenges her family with the hardest decision she’s ever had to make. You can get the paperback version here. Kindle version will be FREE for a limited time this Saturday and Sunday December 12 & 13th by going here.

I also have a limited supply of paperback copies of my newest release, When the Wind Blows, that were slightly damaged in shipping. You can receive a signed copy for only $7! That includes media mail shipping in the US. (takes about 7-10 days). These copies have minor flaws such as a bent corner or page or marks on the cover. Use the contact form to order. While supplies last.

AND as my Christmas gift to you, my biblical fiction, Rachel’s Son, about a woman named Rachel who’s son is killed in the Bethlehem massacre, will be FREE in Kindle version from December 23-27th for some Christmas reading. You know how the day after Christmas you don’t know what to do? Now you do! Merry Christmas to you.

I think that’s pretty exciting news! Enjoy!

Let Hope Arise


The passage in John 11:17-27 tells the story of when Jesus found out his friend, Lazarus was dead. Had been dead for a few days. His sisters were lamenting and questioning his timing…

One of my former pastors and friend, Hilary Millikan penned this great post on hope based on this passage of scripture and graciously allowed me to re-post it here. Hilary is an exceptionally talented writer who gives us a great dose of “wow!” laced with humor. I hope you are encouraged by her words.

Let Hope Arise by Hilary Millikan

I had the privilege of writing and recording a message on Hope for the beginning of Advent at our church. Most of you know that hope is my main “lane” in life. There is always hope. But only because we have THE Hope. How filling it is to rehearse and articulate what we have lived and become convinced of in the Lord. May hope arise and re-arise for each of us…

Now hope… is tricky.

There’s that verse in Proverbs that says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when desire comes it is the tree of life.” So simple. So short. So catchy.

But anyone who has spent any time in the first half of that Scripture, who has lived out the carving of that first phrase is familiar with what a desperate, lonely, painful place hope can be.

The very presence of hope in my life means that I have unfulfilled promises, unanswered pleas, unhealed woundings. Especially right now, when my hope is basically on its “last leg.” The ropes that tether hope to my heart and keep it from flinging wildly away from my soul are strained because my everyday is now filled with unfamiliar and new “hopes” that I now have to navigate.

I hope my children come out of this pandemic emotionally unscathed. I hope this is just a cold and not something trying to kill me. I hope when I go to the store I don’t accidentally pick up an extra carton of COVID.

It’s hard to keep a “stiff upper lip” in my day-to-day, much less give any sort of trusting thoughts or faith-filled prayers to the deeper, longer-lived, farther away hopes. And as in this story, it is especially hard to hope when it is just plain too late.

I’m always struck by how Jesus asks Martha and Mary to trust Him even though Lazarus is ACTUALLY DEAD. There’s not much more to do here, nothing left to hope for. And yet, Jesus comes offering them hope–Hope in Me, can you trust Me, do you believe Me?

I don’t know how you’ve reacted to Jesus when He’s tried to touch your “too late” spot with His hope, but I’ve reacted much like Martha and Mary. “Lord,” they BOTH said, “if You had been here–if You had come when we called for You, if You’d answered us. You, Who we DO hope in, Who we DID hope in, because… You could have… I know You could have, if You’d been HERE where we are, where Lazarus was, where it was all going down, in that moment, if You’d been HERE WHERE I AM, then it wouldn’t have happened this way.”

The implication (at least in my heart) being, “But You weren’t. And I don’t understand why. I trusted You. I hoped in You. I put all of my hope in You. And You didn’t come when I needed You. It’s too late. You came too late.”

When things don’t go the way we had hoped, when things are so far away from what we believe would or should be true of our lives, it has a way of sometimes even making us question what is true of the Lord.

I remember a time when I just couldn’t reconcile the goodness of God with the gaping loss in my life. When I couldn’t put together this God that I had trusted my whole life and given my every moment with what had happened. How could He allow this to be? He could have stopped it. He could have fixed it. He could have… He could have… Why wouldn’t He… How can I trust a God who didn’t when He could have?

Jesus’ answer to Martha? Do you believe Me? Do you believe that I AM the life? Do you believe that I AM your hope? Not just something to hope in, but I AM hope itself? Do you believe this?Martha’s like “don’t come at me with all Your there’s-hope-in-the-end, it’ll-all-be-fine-in-Heaven stuff. That doesn’t help me NOW. That doesn’t help me HERE.”

Again, but before He has done anything, before anything has changed, Jesus stands before her and says, “Yes, but Martha… Do you believe Me?” Martha says, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are everything I hoped You were. You are God. You are my hope.”

The Lord asked me in my moment, “Do you believe Me?” And immediately my spirit cried out Yes! I believe You. I don’t know what to do with You, I don’t know how to trust You, but I know I believe You.

And it was enough.

Somehow the formation of what I DO believe quieted all the unanswerable questions that had caused me so much disbelief, and the faint whispers of hope began.

I also have experienced times in the midst of my darkest, farthest, not-sure-I-will-make-it-out-alive places, when the Lord’s words and promises, it’s like they hurt. There was a time when I was so desperate, so close to the edge of myself, that I told the Lord, Enough! Enough promises! Stop. I can’t take one more promise from You. I can’t take the presence of one more unfulfilled thing that I have to hold onto. I can’t… I can’t do it. I can’t hope. I’m like Lazarus, Lord. My hope is dead. And I’m not far behind it. I can’t hold on anymore.

I need hope to hold onto me.

Sometimes we say to our souls–like Martha and David and so many others–“oh my soul, trust in the Lord, hope in the Lord! Let hope arise!” And our souls respond.

Sometimes we are like Lazarus himself, where there is not even the option to hope anymore. Still Jesus stands outside the tomb of our heart and calls us forth. He calls hope to arise from places that feel long gone. Because, He has been there. That’s why He is our hope.

He has been to hell and back again. He has experienced the utter betrayal and abandonment of the Lord. He has born our grief, our sorrows. He has been unable to lift even His head. He has been to the unimaginable edges of His heart and life. He has asked God why. He has even heard nothing in return. He has been here. He knows this place. But more importantly, He knows the way.

He IS the way to hope everlasting.

He is the life to our long-gone places. He is the truth that makes that way. He is our morning star, a promise in the darkest of our nights that MORNING IS COMING.

He IS coming.

Though you be bones in a valley, though you be a body in a tomb, though you be grieving an unbelievable actuality, though you be living a hell. Do you believe Him? It is enough.

And may He who IS our Hope arise in your heart, in your situation, in your soul, outside your tomb, in your yesterday today and tomorrow. May hope arise.

“God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.” Psalm 46:5

To hear Hilary’s podcast of this post click here.

I’m grateful for the influence Hilary has had in my life and my family’s life. She is a woman of great faith and wisdom, not to mention fun and quirky humor. Thank you, Hilary!