Conntecting the Dots

What Air Travel Teaches Me About Trust

In the past 13 days, I’ve flown eight times with seven different flight crews. One of those planes carried only four passengers and a two-man crew. The pilot and co-pilot played the role of baggage handler, hoisted the plane’s stairs up and locked the door prior to take-off, explained the safety rules to us, flew the aircraft, and took our picture beside the plane. They made us feel totally special.

I’m still chuckling about something that happened when we touched down at a teeny airport enroute to Winnipeg, Manitoba. The pilot stepped from the cockpit into the passenger area, careful not to smack his head on the door frame. He looked at us and said, “Does anyone need to use the washroom in the terminal? If so, go ahead. No need to rush. We’ll wait for you.” How’s that for customer service?

Another funny thing happened at a different teeny terminal. A few minutes before the scheduled time to board our plane, Gene asked the gal at the check-in counter where we might find the security area. She smiled and said, “There is none.” A fellow sitting nearby said, “Actually, I’m the security agent, and I think you look like a nice guy. Have a good flight.”

That stranger trusted us even though he knew nothing about us, and we trusted the pilots with our lives despite knowing nothing about them. And, I kid you not, one of them looked like he was too young to shave.

We trust strangers every day—the folks who sit in the flight towers and give instructions to the pilots, bus and taxi drivers, law enforcement officers, medical professionals, plumbers and electricians who service our homes, weathermen, and the list goes on. Why, then, do we hesitate to trust the One who knows everything about us and whose intent toward us is good?

I suspect the problem lies with us, not with Him.

The Lord commands us to trust Him, and He promises good to those who do.

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

I’m totally okay with letting the pilots—even those who look too young to shave—fly the plane because they know more than I do about the controls. They’re skilled; I am not. I’m safe in their hands. I can close my eyes and rest while they steer the aircraft to our destination. And guess what? They can do a great job without my advice.

How much more can I – can we – rest in our Savior’s hands? He understands us better than we understand ourselves. He’s skilled at fulfilling His purposes in and through us. We’re safe in His hands. We can rest.

#TrustGod  #devotions  #RestinGod

Listening to the Right Voice

My focus word for 2020 is “listen.” Yesterday as I scrolled through my past blogs, I fell upon this one written three years ago. It was, for me, a jaw-dropping moment. I smiled at how God brought this reading back to me as a gentle reminder to keep my ear tuned to His voice above the cacophony of others vying for my attention. Read on, my friend, and ask Him for discernment to recognize His voice today.  

Sometimes I hear voices in my head. I know, I know–that sounds a little strange. But I’ll bet you hear them too.

When I travel by plane, I often feel the Holy Spirit’s nudge to strike up a conversation with the stranger beside me.  A voice inside says, “No—don’t bother her. She doesn’t want to talk, and especially not about Jesus. Just be quiet. Mind your own business and leave her alone.”

Occasionally I hear a voice that says, “No matter how hard you try, you’ll never get it right. You may as well give up.”

Sometimes a voice whispers, “It’s okay to share that little piece of inside information about so-and-so, especially if you disguise it as a prayer request on her behalf.”

That voice taunts, accuses, and lies. It causes fear and doubt, criticism, division, and discouragement. I suspect it sounds much like the one Eve heard in the Garden of Eden.

Another voice clamors for my attention. Strangely (or not), it sounds just like me. It tells me the endless things I should do—work harder, do more, do better. And it reminds me of all the things I should have done differently—you know, those things I regret but I cannot change. It imposes upon me burdens I’m not meant to carry.

But then there’s a voice that’s quite opposite. This one speaks words of assurance and comfort. Words teeming with hope and brimming with love. It inspires courage and peace, joy, and unity. Sometimes it speaks necessary words I don’t want to hear because they hurt, and yet they heal.

“Ceasing striving. Do what you can, but leave the outcome to Me.”

“Don’t worry. Trust Me. I know every detail of your situation and I’m working behind-the-scenes in answer to your prayers.”

“I’m the Good Shepherd. Follow Me, and I’ll lead you on the best pathway for your life.”

So many voices clamor for our attention. To which one should we listen? The answer’s easy.

On the day Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus, Peter, James, and John on a high mountain, the men heard God speak. He said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to Him” (Mark 9:7).

Listen to Him. Ultimately Christ’s voice is the one we ought to heed, and for good reason. He is life and truth. He is wisdom and love. He knows the way we should take, the decisions we must make, and the relationships with which we wrestle. He knows our strengths and weaknesses, our dreams, and our desires. He knows everything about us, and He wants to be fully engaged in our everyday lives for our good.

Knowing that, then, may I suggest a simple prayer with which to begin each day? “Father, tune my ears to hear Your voice. Give me the ability to discern it from all others contending for my attention. Speak to Me for I am Your servant, here to accomplish Your purposes in and through me.”

If you choose to do this, I’d love to hear how God answers.

#bgbg2  #GodSpeaks  #ListeningtoGod

When is it Good to Look Back?

We hear mixed messages about looking back at our past. Some voices warn against it.

Remember the story about Lot and his family? Angel voices urged them not to look back as they fled Sodom before God destroyed it. “Run for your lives!,” they cried. “Do not stop anywhere in the valley. And don’t look back!” Unfortunately, Mrs. Lot didn’t listen. Things didn’t go well for her when she looked back with longing for her friends, home, material possessions, and memories of days gone by despite God’s utter distaste for all things Sodom (Genesis 19:17-26).

Then there’s the apostle Paul’s voice. He wrote, “I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13). By “forgetting,” he meant he refused to dwell on the person he was and the atrocities he’d committed before he encountered Jesus. This freed him to focus on what God was doing in and through him in the present, and to anticipate the glorious future promised him. Good move.

Like Lot’s wife, we don’t fare well if we look back wistfully on a past that grieved God. Like Paul, we gain nothing by dwelling on who we used to be and the sins we committed before choosing to follow Jesus. But then comes a third voice, and this one deserves our attention.

The psalmist wrote, “I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. I think about how  much you have helped me; I sing for joy in the shadow of your protecting wings” (Psalm 63:6-7).

This voice belongs to David. He intentionally looked back, focusing his thoughts on God’s faithfulness to him. Perhaps he recalled how God helped him kill a lion and a bear while he watched his father’s flocks. Maybe he recalled the day God enabled him to topple Goliath with one well-aimed stone. No doubt he thought about how God protected him from Saul and his henchmen.

Like David, we ought to pursue the practice of looking back on God’s faithfulness to us. Remembering His provision instills faith to believe He’ll provide again. Recalling His sovereignty brings confidence that He still reigns over every detail of our lives. Courage replaces fear. Calm replaces anxiety. I’ve learned this from personal experience.

Later this month we’ll celebrate two years since moving onto our sailboat. I recall the months prior listening to the voices of boat brokers far and wide. They all said there was a seven-year wait list to find live-aboard moorage in the Vancouver area. Gene and I believed God was leading us to make this transition, so we had to keep moving forward in faith, trusting Him to provide a place for us to live.

If I’d focused solely on the odds of finding live-aboard moorage, I would have been scared silly to make this transition.  I focused instead on the ways in which we’d seen God do the impossible for us in the past, and fear turned to a sense of wild anticipation. How’s He gonna do it? I wondered.

Looking back has its place and benefits. Why not make it a part of your daily routine? Spend a few minutes recalling one of God’s kindnesses toward you, one answered prayer, one act of provision. Before long, your voice will sound like David’s when he said, “I think how much you have helped me; I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 63:7)

#bgbg2  #RememberingGodsFaithfulness  #LookingBack

A Powerful Promise for When God Gives Marching Orders

Moments before ascending into heaven, Jesus gave His disciples their marching orders. He told them to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all His commands. Then He said, “…And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

I am with you always, even to the end of the age. These were the last words Jesus spoke, the last promise He made before His physical departure. It must have been of critical importance. Certainly, it bolstered the disciples’ courage to accept those marching orders.

As Christ’s followers today, we know this promise. We read it in the Bible and hear it preached. We even sing about it. And yet, sometimes there’s a disconnect between knowing it and living it. We appreciate it but fail to apply its power.

 

Truth be told, I’m a chicken-heart when it comes to writing. Blogs I can handle. Articles and “First 5” Bible studies, too. But books—not so much. It seems I struggle with underlying fear. At this stage in my life, I fear landing a contract but not having the time to write due to traveling for ministry so often. I write best when sitting at my desk and maintaining an uninterrupted stream of thought, but that’s not what my life looks like. I also fear writing a resource that’s imperfect in some way and likely to warrant a publisher’s rejection.

I feel like the Holy Spirit is moving in me. He’s saying that it’s time to get up and take hold of that promise, applying it to the book-writing hat I wear. He’s given my marching orders and I’ve accepted. As a result of a long conversation with my literary agent, I’ll begin working on one proposal and praying about a second possibility. I’m walking out the truth of God’s presence in me, trusting Him to do the supernatural and bring the outcome He desires. I find courage in knowing He does not give marching orders and then abandon His kids to figure them out on their own.  

What marching orders has God given you?…

  • Teach a Bible study.
  • Befriend your neighbor.
  • Forgive an offender.
  • Surrender control.
  • Face the unexpected medical diagnosis and necessary treatment.
  • Comfort someone who’s grieving a loss.
  • Trust Him in the midst of financial uncertainty.
  • Quit your job to stay home with your kids.
  • Participate in a short-term ministry trip.
  • Develop a fitness plan
  • Add yours here.

Either write or speak aloud your God-given marching orders. Now personalize God’s promise and add it to the end of your statement. As an example, my statement will sound like this: “I will pursue writing my next book, and You will be with me.”

Yours might sound like this: “I will teach a Bible study, and You will be with me,” or “I will befriend my neighbor, and You will be with me.”

Now post your statement here so we can learn from and encourage one another, okay? We’re in this together. Know you are loved!

#GodIsWithUs  #GodsPresenceChangesEverything  #bgbg2

Encouragement for the Weary

The past two weeks have allowed me the privilege of spending every day with two different sets of ministry coworkers and friends. We’ve walked together, shared meals, brainstormed and laughed and prayed together. I found it interesting that so many shared how they entered the new year feeling exhausted.

One woman lost her mom a few weeks ago and she’s struggling with grief. Another had just finished moving from the house she loved into an apartment after experiencing a divorce she didn’t want. Another felt exhausted from ever-increasing work responsibilities. Several are soul-weary from the weight of watching their kids make negative life-altering decisions.

I relate to their weary. After returning from the Middle East, our family dove into mid-December Christmas celebrations. The day after spending a weekend with our kids and grandkids (which was totally wonderful!), a virus hit me in the chest and laid me flat. As a result, I also entered the new year feeling exhausted.

I’m grateful that I finally feel back to my normal self. Even more, I’m grateful for the promise God gives to those who feel weary for whatever reason. Isaiah 40:29-31 says, “He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted and young men will give up. But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

Our heavenly Father knows when we’re tired, and He offers strength. New strength. New strength for every day.

We don’t have to wake up in the morning and wonder how we’ll get through the day. We don’t have to draw from yesterday’s leftover mental, emotional, and physical energy. We are the recipients of God’s endless power, and His strength storehouse never empties.

Are you weary today? Worn out from last year’s challenges or new ones that have come your way since January 1? Draw from God’s bottomless well of strength, my friend. Talk to Him throughout your day. Thank Him for His presence and promises. Open your heart and receive His love and power. He will deliver on His promise to give new strength for every challenge you face.

#StrengthForToday  #GodGivesStrength

Why I Didn’t Want This One-Word for 2020

Determining the Lord’s focus word for me at the start of each year is usually a fun exercise. This year the process has been less fun and more a painful path to self-discovery.

My word is—drum roll, please—“listen.”

It’s not the word I wanted. I tried to ignore it. I picked and journaled about a different one. But “listen” kept popping up, sometimes several times a day, and I finally waved the white flag of surrender.

“Okay, okay,” I said to the Lord. “I get it. You want me to focus on my listening skills this year.” Three ways of doing so came to mind:

  • Listen to others. Be fully present in a conversation. Be slow to speak and quick to hear what others say. (James 1:19)
  • Listen to godly advice. Pay attention when given wise counsel. (Proverbs 19:20)
  • Listen to God’s voice. Stay attuned whether He whispers or shouts. (Isaiah 55:3—“Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life.”)

Here’s where the self-discovery part showed up. Listening to God’s voice is all good and well, but listening alone is not enough. Over and over, the Bible pairs it with doing. Matthew 7:24 is one example: “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.” Having my ears open to receiving God’s words is good, but I must be willing to act upon what I hear Him say.

So then, what if God tells me to do something that feels ‘way beyond my expertise? What if He calls me to a task that’s bound for failure unless He shows up? What if He invites me to take a leap of faith bigger than any leap I’ve attempted in the past?

Listening to God give marching orders is one thing. Taking the first step is quite another.

Determining my one-word this year has revealed pockets of fear. It’s like I’m standing on a high diving board with knees knocking. God is saying, “Jump!” and I’m sticking my fingers in my ears to muffle His voice. If I don’t hear Him, then I don’t have to take action, right? Not.

I suspect this year will be one of growth that comes by listening to God and then doing what He says even if that means doing it afraid. Part of me wants to resist; the other part of me tiptoes toward the end of that diving board knowing God will catch me when I take the leap.

So, my friend. What’s your focus word this year? And how does it resonate with you so far? I’ve told you my story. Now I’d love to hear yours.

#OneWord  #LeapOfFaith  #ListenToGod

Finding Peace

“These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father,

Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Yesterday a news broadcaster reviewed the past year’s many tragic headlines from North America and beyond. They told of floods and fires, plane crashes, the opioid crisis, mass shootings, genocide, displaced people, and war. The collective pain and grief is incomprehensible. Those affected pick up the shards and try to carry on in their new normal. Some folks succeed; others not so much. How does one heal when the shards continue to cut to the depth of one’s heart?

There’s only one answer. For this we have Jesus—the Prince of Peace. 

Before His arrest, Jesus spoke these words to His disciples: “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27).

Peace of mind and heart is a universal need. Men and women of all ages and from every culture seek it. The world offers cheap knock-offs that may provide temporary pain relief, but nothing and no one offers lasting, deep peace like Jesus.

Hours before He died, Jesus spoke of sharing His peace with us. This is a peace we can neither conjure up nor fake. It doesn’t come through easy circumstances or having enough money to feel comfortable. It doesn’t come through having good health or relationships. Granted, enjoying these things help make one’s life less stressful, but none of them are guaranteed. They can vanish in a heartbeat. Where does that leave us if we’ve founded our peace on their presence?

True, unshakeable peace comes from the Prince of Peace. Our circumstances change but He never will. He carries us and comforts us when life as we know it falls apart. He strengthens us and sustains us through change. He loves us and leads us like a gentle shepherd when we lose our way.

How do we experience the peace Jesus promised? I believe aligning our thoughts about God with the truth is key. Apart from the truth, our minds make Him into a God too small and peace is impossible. With that as our foundation, here are several intentional actions to take:

  • Refuse to entertain worrisome thoughts and fears.
  • Focus on God’s promises. Speak them aloud and personalize them.
  • Tell God about everything that concerns you.
  • Make gratitude a lifestyle.

Philippians 4:6-7 explains it well. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Only God knows what the new year will hold. For us, it’s a huge uncertainty. But this one thing we can know for sure—no matter what headlines we’ll encounter, we can experience peace because Jesus said so.

#PrinceOfPeace  #Advent  #ChristmasMeditations  #JesusCares  #ChristmasIsHard

Encouragement For Those Who Find Christmas Difficult

“These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Christmas is a time for celebration, but it can also be really tough when life brings change.

Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one and you’re keenly feeling the pain of the empty place.

Maybe you moved far from family and friends this year, and the miles between you make it impossible to see them this season.

Perhaps the one who promised to love you forever broke his vows and your heart. Celebrating Christmas is the last thing you feel like doing.

The most difficult Christmas I’ve experienced happened in 1999. Two months prior, my dad suffered a stroke while standing on a ladder. He fell and ended up with serious head injuries and broken ribs. He’d barely returned home from the hospital when a second stroke hit him. Doctors questioned whether or not he’d survive.

It was the first week of December. I wanted to rush to Dad’s bedside, but I lived on a little island off British Columbia’s west coast and he lived in southern Alberta. I couldn’t afford to fly, so driving was the only option. The trip took about twenty hours and meant crossing the Rocky Mountains in treacherous conditions. It also meant leaving my 12-year-old daughter when she faced surgery. Granted, it was relatively minor but still, I was her mom and I wouldn’t be there for her. 

I spent a week juggling time between Dad’s bedside and helping my mom with whatever she needed doing. I also worried about how my family was coping in my sudden absence. I cried every night, dreading the time I’d have to say goodbye and wondering whether it might be the last time I’d see my father alive.

Then came the return trip through the mountains.

On one stretch of winding highway, a sanding truck dumped a load of pea-sized gravel as it approached from the front. The gravel bounced off the road and sprayed across my car’s hood, windshield, roof, and headlights. There was no way to stop on that icy road. The sander kept going and disappeared around a bend, and I did the same in the opposite direction despite the damage done.

Darkness fell and seemed impenetrable with only one headlight still functional. I tucked behind an 18-wheeler and followed it for miles through the most treacherous part of the journey. By the time I reached the coast, my neck was a tense mess and my fingernails seemed permanently embedded in the steering wheel.

By now Christmas was only two weeks away. I felt anything but joyful. It felt wrong to party while my dad and mom suffered. I felt guilty decorating our home and then buying and wrapping gifts. I felt sad and tired to the core. I didn’t need a tree, presents, and a turkey dinner that year. Neither did I want to attend carol-sings or a candlelit Christmas Eve service.

All I wanted was a big, strong Daddy to wrap me in His arms and say, “I’ve got you. Everything’s going to be okay.” I needed my heavenly Father to hold me safe and embrace me while I slept. I needed Him to infuse me with energy so I could serve my family and make their Christmas special.

Can you relate? Sometimes life is flat-out hard. Thank heaven we have Jesus—our Everlasting Father—for such times as these. He remains consistent when everything around us changes. He remains constant when circumstances thrust us into a new normal. (Hebrews 1:10-12) He’s always there for us, ready to listen to our cries and eager to help us in our weakness. (Psalm 34:17)

If you’re finding this season difficult, know that you’re not alone. Also know that Jesus, our Everlasting Father, opens His arms wide and invites you to nestle close to His heart. Tell Him how you feel. Accept His invitation, and rest in His never-ending love for you, my friend.

#EverlastingFather #Advent #ChristmasMeditations #JesusCares #ChristmasIsHard

Jesus — Mighty God

“These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

Life being what it is, we sometimes face problems that appear insurmountable. We deal with circumstances that seem utterly impossible.

Perhaps Mary viewed her situation through that lens when the angel Gabriel said she would become pregnant. Naturally, she questioned how that could be possible while she was still a virgin.

Gabriel explained that the power of the Most High would overshadow her and she would conceive the Son of God. Furthermore, Mary’s relative Elizabeth, barren and beyond child-bearing age, was six months pregnant. “For nothing is impossible with God,” he said. (Luke 1:31-37)

Nothing is impossible with God, mighty God—the One who spoke the universe into being. The One who parted the Red Sea so His people could walk through on dry land. The One who became flesh and walked among us on earth.

Mighty God in human form turned water into wine, gave sight to the blind, healed the lepers, and fed the masses with a few loaves and fish. He walked on the waves and calmed the storm at sea. He performed miracles of every sort and then topped them all when He rose from the grave.

Nothing was impossible with God then, and the same holds true today.

We might view our circumstances as impossible. We’ve prayed and prayed and prayed for a wayward child to return. We’ve fought for our marriage, and we’ve done everything we know to make our finances stretch. We’ve waited for a miracle and wondered why God doesn’t operate according to our timetable.

Our problems might seem insurmountable, but focusing on them in that light will only cause discouragement. The more impossible our circumstances, the greater our opportunity to experience Mighty God’s presence and power.

How have you seen Mighty God do something that seemed impossible by human standards?

#MightyGod  #Advent  #ChristmasMeditations

4 Meditations on the Names of Jesus – Week 1

The Christmas season is upon us full bore. Even the international airlines featured Hallmark-type Christmas movies on our flight from England to the USA yesterday. I’ll admit it—I enjoy wrapping myself in a warm blanket and watching these movies for fun on cold winter nights as Christmas approaches. I also enjoy wrapping gifts, baking cookies for my neighbors, inviting friends over for board games and hot chocolate, and the anticipation of getting together with my kids and grands.

During quiet moments, I enjoy meditating on the names of Jesus.“These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”(Isaiah 9:6). With four names listed and four weeks until Christmas, I thought it would be nice to share a thought about one name per week. How does that sound?

So, for starters, let’s talk about “Wonderful Counselor.” Those two words immediately reassure us that no problem we face is too great for God. He understands every detail involved including those unseen and unknown to us. We might feel confused and clueless, but He knows the best solution and how to achieve it. He also knows not to rush toward quick fixes but to work according to the best timing.

As our Wonderful Counselor, Jesus is accessible at all times. We never need set an appointment to talk with Him. We never need worry that He’ll judge us for sharing our most troubling secrets. We never need fear that He’ll view us as hopeless cases for He instills hope within us.

Our Wonderful Counselor is wisdom personified, and He is more than willing to share that wisdom with us. (James 1:5) He’s also kind and tender. And He always speaks the truth to us for our good even though we might not want to hear it.

The Wonderful Counselor has come to give us wisdom, guidance, and hope. With Him as our Counselor, no problem is unsolvable or insurmountable. Close your eyes for a few moments and ponder the beauty of this gift.

Please—go ahead and tell us what “Wonderful Counselor” means to you.

#WonderfulCounselor  #Advent  #ChristmasMeditations