Posted in Faith Nuggets, Meditations & Meanderings, Thoughts from Kids, Thoughts from Scripture


I recently had a conversation with my girls about books they are reading during their quiet times.

First, let me back up and say that Scripture reading is the number one most critical portion of our morning devotional times. We have daily Bible readings (many years all five of us go through the same plan) and we all copy a portion of Scripture every day, just to help us slow down and truly meditate. But, we all also enjoy adding other thought-provoking books into the mix. We usually pick a devotional to read, then often have another book or two going as well.

My oldest decided to move slowly through James with me this year, and we are using two books to help us work through them: James: A Devotional Commentary and The Book of James: A New Perspective: A Linguistic Commentary Applying Discourse Analysis, both by Dr. William Varner. The second of these two books is highly academic. And here we are, a high school junior (a smart high school junior, but still just a junior) and homeschool mom a long way from her academic pursuits trying to push our way through a very academic look at the book of James.

Needless to say, we frequently feel like we’re in a bit over our heads.

Meanwhile, my nerdy middle child is always searching the bookshelves for something new to stretch and challenge her. Her current attempt is Knowing the Character of God by George MacDonald.

As we discussed the books, both girls admitted to sometimes staring at the page with no real understanding of what they are reading. And, if I’m honest, there are days I do the same. I have to go back and read and reread to try to process and let the concepts sink in. All three of us confess that, sometimes, it doesn’t feel worth the effort when we could focus our full attention on books more on our level.

But, about the time we had this discussion, my youngest unwittingly contributed to the contemplation. His Sunday school lesson that week had been about Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. You can read the whole story in Acts 8, but there are two verses that really rang in my memory as I listened to my son.

Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Acts 8:30-31

The key was this: if the man had not been reading something he didn’t understand, there would not have been an avenue through which he could learn about Christ.

Don’t get me wrong. We can – and do – very often grow through books (and tasks as well) that are closer to our level of understanding. They stretch us in different ways. But, there are also many ways in which we need to push ourselves beyond our apparent capabilities. If we never reach – if we always just stay right where we are doing what we’ve always done – will there ever be an avenue of growth in our lives? Will we ever learn more, experience more, grow more, or be capable of more?

I can’t help but picture a baby taking those first tentative steps, a child choosing to give no training wheels a try, or a teenager first sitting behind the wheel of a car. From birth, we learn and grow because we stretch ourselves. Why should we not do the same as adults?

What more do you need to do this year? Where do you need to step up and challenge yourself to dig into something you don’t understand or don’t really feel capable of in this moment?

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Thoughts from Scripture

Stepping Out

In Matthew 14, we find the familiar story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water. Typically when we read this passage, we focus on Peter’s faltering. He does fine until he notices the waves, then he begins to sink. Jesus gently rebukes him for doubting, and then they return to the boat.

But recently I stopped long before Peter ever started to sink. I got stuck on the first part of the story.

Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. Matthew 14:28-29.

Let’s put aside the sinking part for a moment and think about the significance of these verses. How often do we really stop to look at what Peter is asking for here? The disciples see what they think is a ghost. Turns out, it’s Jesus. Jesus reassures them and let’s them know it’s Him. Then Peter asks Jesus to call him out onto the water with Him.

Does that not seem insane to anyone else?

I have some friends who are risk takers. They love dares and challenges and will jump at any of them. Perhaps they would be more like Peter. But, not me. I wouldn’t even think to ask Jesus to call me to join Him. I’d be waiting in the boat, overawed at the miracle happening before my eyes. I would never even think to join Jesus on the stormy seas. But Peter did. He was so excited to see Jesus that he wanted to be right out there with Him.

Oh, the love Peter had for Jesus! His reckless personality often got him into trouble, but he always wanted to be right their with his Lord. Even on this wild and windy night. And, as long as he had his eyes on Jesus, being right there with Jesus was all he could think about.

I doubt I will ever be the risk taker Peter was. But, I can’t help but wonder what strange and crazy things might pop into my head if I focused on Jesus like Peter in those first moments on the stormy sea. We point out his faltering and sinking, but could trying and sinking possibly be better than never trying at all?

Obviously, it would be best if I saw Jesus and Jesus alone and completely blocked out the wind and waves. Every time. Instead, even though I see Him, I never lose sight of the circumstances and challenges all around me. I never do get out of the boat and walk to Him. I just wait for Him to come to me.

Maybe, instead of pointing out Peter’s failure on the sea, I need to realize my own failure to get even that far. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for me to follow his example and step out on the waves, eyes fixed on Jesus.

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Thoughts from Scripture

My Refuge

Do you ever feel like David, Asaph, and the other psalmists?

Everything is falling apart. Everyone is out to get me. There is no hope. The wicked seem to be winning. The worst seems to be happening. There’s no way out.

Psalm 73 is one of those songs. The wicked have no suffering. They always win and succeed while the godly suffer. I’m sure Asaph is not the only God-fearing person to utter words like those found in Psalm 73:13-14:

Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence; for I have been stricken all day long and chastened every morning. (NASB)

It’s not so much that we feel that our salvation is in vain. We just see blatant sinners succeed time and time again. Criminals go unpunished while innocents suffer. Corrupt businesses triumph over those that try to remain pure in their practices. Those who blatantly disregard God find success after success while those who seek to serve Him with all their hearts struggle day in and day out just to make ends meet.

From an earth-bound perspective, submission to Christ seems to be a very negative thing sometimes. And it’s not going to get any better. Our culture is pushing against the Lord with increasing rapidity.

But, Psalm 73 doesn’t end with verse 14. Instead, it goes on. Verses 16 and 17 stand out most profoundly to me:

When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end. (emphasis mine)

Until I came into the sanctuary of God…

How often am I beat down because I refuse to enter the Lord’s presence? I neglect to bring my discouragements, frustrations, and fears before Him. But as soon as I do, my perspective cannot help but change. I cannot help but see every aspect of this world in light of eternity.

Once again, I can’t help but be hammered with this truth: this life is just a blip in eternity. It’s a single point on a line which, by definition, stretches infinitely in both directions. All of history and all that remains of this earth’s time fits into that single point. Barely a dot. But, that dot is all I see sometimes. Living in the middle of that dot, it looms all around me, overwhelming my sight. I forget eternity. I forget what’s beyond. And I lose sight of what’s true.

So, what is true? That I will move beyond this dot into an eternity in the glorious presence of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But they – those who seem to be succeeding now – will suffer instead. Their successes will mean nothing. In truth, they mean nothing now because they are empty. There is no real satisfaction in them. They only lead to more hunger. More striving. More missing something they can’t identify.

No matter what, though, I can always say…

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works. (Ps 73:28)

Posted in Around the Web, Thoughts from Scripture

The Lord’s Prayer

A couple of years ago, contrary to the anti-liturgy tradition of Baptists, my preacher husband began a Sunday morning practice of reciting the Lord’s Prayer to close out a corporate prayer time. Like most of our congregation, I had known the Lord’s Prayer for as long as I could remember. But, reciting it together as a church body each Sunday has breathed life into a familiar old passage in ways I never could have anticipated.


When a congregation chooses to truly pay attention and seek the Lord together using the points of this prayer, a level of intimacy spreads throughout the church family. Don’t get me wrong – not everyone in our church prays in a heartfelt manner. In fact, it is very much a learning process, and many in our congregation simply repeat the words without much thought. But, in the voices of others, I can hear the same passion that I feel in my own heart. That passion both binds us together and drives us to learn powerful truths about prayer.

Click here to read the rest of the article on

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Thoughts from Scripture

Who Are My Counselors?

Recently, I was reading 2 Samuel 10 in my daily Bible reading. What a sad story. Because King Hanun listened to the bad advice of his princes, a series of battles followed that cost hundreds of lives.
I can’t help but compare this to Rehoboam in 1 Kings 12 or King Xerxes and Haman in the book of Esther. Even Absalom in 2 Samuel 17 is an example of following bad advice, even though we all cheer when we read his story, knowing that Hushai’s counsel was actually intentionally given to save the lives of King David and the people with him.
Considering all of these stories, I can’t help but come to a couple of conclusions.

Counsel is important.

There’s a lot of cockiness wrapped up in every one of the personalities mentioned above. Yet, each one of them sought counsel. Even with their high opinion of themselves, they still sought out the counsel of others.
Most of what we observe in the character and behavior of these men is not admirable, and we should not strive to emulate it. Except in this one thing. Like them, we should never be too proud to seek counsel.
But, we should remember a second reality that these men, sadly, ignored.

Our choice in counsel is even more important.

This is where I’ve been parked lately. How do I choose my counselors? Do I seek out those who will simply support what I already want to do? Do I look for the popular or easy to follow advice? Or do I see advisers that will steer me well, regardless of my desires?

The wise choice seems obvious, doesn’t it? Yet, so often that wisdom does not flow through into our practical choices. We instead surround ourselves with advisers and counselors who advise based on practical ideas or pros and cons or what they see will make us happiest or what will keep our relationships and status quo running smoothly.
The advice we need has nothing to do with the most practical option or even our happiness or relationships. It has to do with the will of the Lord. In fact, far more often than not, His will seems to completely contradict the practical and “obvious” route. His will involves trust even when the path is not clear. It involves obedience even when the results seem painful.
Godly advisers will help us know how to trust and obey. Are those the counselors we seek?

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Thoughts from Scripture

Thus Far & Beyond

In my personal writing files, I have all sorts of little notes with topics I’d love to write about. I include memory triggers and thoughts, but none of them are fleshed out. Yet, so many times as I sit down to write, I read through the old thoughts intending to utilize them, only to end up writing something new. The new might be inspired by the old, but it’s never quite a fleshing out of those old thoughts.

Eventually, I want to go back and flesh out those old thoughts. But as I sit down today and start from scratch yet again, I’m reminded why it’s so important for me to jot down those thoughts, even if I never use them to create a blog post, article, or even a book chapter (maybe someday!).

Those thoughts are my Ebenezers.

The Bible is replete with remembrances. The Israelites are continually pointed back to their origins and the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even in the New Testament, the majority of Stephen’s sermon as he is on trial before the Jewish leaders recalls the history of Israel (Acts 7). Remembrance of the work of God in this world is critical to our growth. We cannot go forward if we do not build on what brought us here in the first place.

And that is why, in 1 Samuel 7, the prophet Samuel set up a stone and named it Ebenezer. He knew the people needed a tangible reminder of God’s work among them, not only His historical work of their exodus from Egypt and early settlement in the land of promise, but also of His recent work in redeeming them after they had turned from Him yet again.

Scripture is my solid foundation. It is the history that I must know and constantly learn more about in order to grow. But, my Ebenezers are my personal experiences. They are my “thus far the Lord has helped ME” reminders. They are personal.

But I cannot stop there.

“Thus far” indicates that this is not the end. God wants to take me further. Where I have been is critical, for all of my past experiences are critical building blocks of my faith. And I need to remember and revisit those lessons. I need to keep them in my heart and mind and even go back and dust them off and clean them up now and then to make sure those lower blocks are not decaying as I try to build on top of them.

But, if I only reminisce on and flesh out my Ebenezers, then I am effectively preventing any new growth. I’m keeping the lower blocks clean and fresh, but never adding to them. That causes me to transfer my focus to the Ebenezers themselves and away from the Lord who has brought me to each and every point.

So, today, I am enjoying going back and reading through some of those Ebenezers. And, at some point, I’ll probably flesh them out and share them, little by little. But for today, I’m building a new block. I’m setting a new stone. I’m thanking the Lord for His faithfulness to bring me even further, past my last Ebenezer and to my current one.

Thus far the Lord has helped me. And, oh how beautiful to know that He will not stop here!

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Thoughts, Thoughts from Scripture


Several months ago, I was praying for a friend who had been in the midst of some great challenges. As I prayed, one of my go-to passages popped into mind: Philippians 4:4-8. But, somehow, I didn’t get far past “rejoice in the Lord.”

Actually, I got hung up on one word: in.

It’s easy to fly over that phrase and not truly stop to ponder what it means. “Rejoice in the Lord.”

Okay, Lord, let me see what I can be thankful for right now. It’s hard, because I’m overwhelmed by the circumstances, but I’ll try. Maybe. Yes…here goes. Oh, Lord, HELP!!!!

Unfortunately, that’s usually how it sounds when I try to start my prayer with thankfulness. But, here’s the problem. I’m still focused on circumstances. I’m just trying to find some way to be thankful for them.

And there’s another problem. Thanksgiving is not actually what this phrase commands. The whole thankfulness instruction comes later in the “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” part. For now, it is simply “rejoice in the Lord.”

Now, to come back to the word “in.”

You see, so many times we get stuck on word “rejoice.” We stop there and wonder why it is so hard to obey that simple command.

I confess I have to laugh a bit as I process through this. Why? Because this is a grammar issue more than a heart or mind issue. And as an editor, I’m all about grammar! Will you bear with me for a moment while we look at this phrase through an editor’s eyes?

For those of you who aren’t too fond of grammar, here’s a quick two-part side note. First, an imperative is a command, often encapsulated in a single word. Second, a preposition is a word that lends a sense of direction, like in, of, for, to, under, over, etc. It is followed by a noun called the object of the preposition, telling you to whom or what the direction relates (under the table).

Now, back to the passage.

The opening of this passage is not just a single imperative word with no further modification. It is a phrase with an imperative verb followed by a prepositional phrase. And a preposition always has an object.

Rejoice (imperative) in (preposition) the Lord (object of the preposition).

What happens if we don’t stop with the imperative, but continue on to the prepositional phrase? What if we truly rejoice in the Lord?

I know what happens to me. I get a refocus. I find myself in the center of Him instead of in the center of my circumstances. I am moved. Transformed. Lifted. The circumstances don’t change, but I do. And it makes all the difference.

When I rejoice in the Lord, the following commands come much more easily:
– let your gentle spirit be known to all men
– pray with thanksgiving
– think on these things

Yes, it’s all a natural progression, but only if I start by truly rejoicing in the Lord.