But they that wait upon the Lord shall… Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

I’ve observed a curious thing this holiday season. Otherwise capable, level-headed, resilient people sometimes find themselves in holiday frenzies. It’s as if an announcement has just made that there will be a major family holiday in November and an even bigger one a few weeks later in December. I am hearing some folks say:

How do I maintain civility among my grown children over the dinner table?

Will someone invite me to dinner this holiday?

How will I survive the next few hours with…

I wish we could skip…

Could I just pull up the drawbridge until it’s all over?

Enough. Let’s put a stop to the self-orientation and change the focus. This is where waiting comes in. We flip the perspective from me to our Father. If we look up and wait for him,

• Our strength will be renewed. We can receive grace to deal with any unforeseen event (or person); we can filled with love that flows from the Holy Spirit; and we can be patient, kind, gentle, peaceful, self-controlled, and faithful as we draw from those characteristics that await summoning for the occasion.
• We will mount above testy circumstances in anticipation of opportunities to serve.
• Even in these busy times, we will be quick to run, reaching out of ourselves to the ones in front of us.
• And we will walk without fainting in the middle of it all.

Waiting on the Lord means expecting him to arrive; expecting his empowerment; believing that we are the very people he has chosen for this holiday occasion with these people. We must not refuse to lose opportunities to participate in God’s surprises of grace just because we’re too caught up in ourselves and our preferences. We cannot allow ourselves to be robbed of joy and blessing because our focus is on us rather than on our Father who has promised to provide every single thing we need at all times.

Instead, let us wait on the Lord to see what he has planned as we joyfully anticipate his surprise just around the corner…

Father, thank you for opportunities to experience your grace and to go out of ourselves so that your life is evident. Not us but you, Lord. Anytime and all the time. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20 (NIV)

On my morning walk, a man and his grandson who were doing yard work in the heavy mist spoke blessings to me and wished me a happy Thanksgiving. At the store, the lady behind the register smiled and did the same. And another stranger leaned out her car window to call out happy Thanksgiving. For the next few days we will all be thankful. Or not…

Earlier this week I wrote about being thankful for the people in our lives. And most of us are thankful for the things we enjoy. I wonder how thankful we would be if all that—the people, the things, the numberless blessings—were stripped from us just as has happened to so many in various places around our world today. Think about it.

Some will experience these holidays missing a loved one—I attended a memorial service for a 90-year-old friend yesterday and for a 6-month-old baby boy a few weeks ago. Some have lost jobs or experienced disappointments or severe changes in circumstances. It’s called life in an unredeemed world. Can we still be thankful in somber situations?

When everything is stripped away, there is still God. I heard an indigenous pastor who works with his people in a Syrian refugee camp saying that the enemy thought they had taken everything from them, but they were wrong. With a radiant face, he said, “We still have our joy.”

And we have our peace and assurance, and confidence, and hope, and security, love, and the faithfulness of one gave himself for us. Strip everything away, and we will always have HIM. And we can be thankful.


Father, thank you for teaching us that our hope and our thanksgiving is in you, unchangeable, eternal, omnipotent, and always loving. Cause us to look beyond our circumstances, which are sometimes bleak, and to allow ourselves to bask in your love and your presence forever. In Jesus our Lord. AMEN.


I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…  Philippians 1:3

Recently, I heard someone remark that we need to be thankful this year for the people in our lives, not just the things. Of course, that set me to thinking. For whom am I thankful?

My little grandmother taught me what abiding in Christ looked like. She said she loved to clean house because that reminded her that God washed us and made us clean and righteous in his sight. Every person who came to her house left with a prayer and a word of encouragement. Grandma prayed without ceasing—even when driving. She was never religious; she just knew how to abide.

And then Grandpa taught us how to live a steadfast life in Christ, never worrying, never anxious. His Bible accompanied him on every trip—it was found open by his bedside the evening he died in Laredo. Grandpa’s quiet trust was a perfect foil to Grandma’s more vocal witness. Everyone held him up as a man of God.

Momo showed me that God is faithful. “Always go to the Word,” she advised when I was troubled. “God will speak to you.” In Momo I witnessed a life that was totally committed to doing God’s will as she understood it. She was mother to many spiritual children.

Papa was a model of endurance. Having severe arthritis from age 18 onwards, he never let pain interfere with responsibility. He taught us to never give up and to always do our best. Every time I encounter a rough patch in life, I sense Papa is watching me, knowing that I will fulfill my duty.

Besides these precious forebears, I am grateful for my children who have found the Lord for themselves and whose lives demonstrate their love for him. And then there are wonderful friends who through the years have invested themselves in me and whom God has given me to love.

I am blessed, and I am thankful.

For whom are you thankful? Consider sending a thanksgiving note stuffed with gratitude.

Father, all things come of thee, and outside of thee we have nothing. Especially today, for those people who have shaped and have been integral to our lives, we give you thanks. Thank you particularly for Grandma and Grandpa, Momo and Papa, my precious children, my grandchildren, and all my friends and wonderful co-workers. Help me never forget to be thankful. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Luke 10:2

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a little over 5% of the U.S. population is unemployed. That doesn’t sound like many people, but if you look at those folks in our country who are over 18 years of age and don’t have jobs, that’s over 16 million people. The statistics are sobering, considering that each number represents a person for whom God has a plan.

While this data is disturbing, juxtapose that with a pundit’s recent comment about a woman who was detained at the aiirport as possibly infected with ebola. “No wonder she’s suing the government. Can you imagine being shut up in a room for 15 minutes without a cell phone [or any technology]? You’d be bored out of your mind.” Really? You don’t have enough creative imagination or thought process to occupy yourself for 15 minutes?

Perhaps unemployment and creativity are somehow related, but as God’s children we should know that we will never run out of opportunities to be “workers in his field.” There’s no unemployment. The needs are abundant, and each of us has been placed in a unique position to touch and love and minister where no one else has been called. There’s not a place to quit, and there’s no retirement from God’s work. Let’s pick ourselves up and keep going.

Oh, and can you think of just 3 things you could do if you were shut up for 15 minutes without your cell phone?

Lord, I ask that you would provide economic opportunities for those who are looking for work. Open doors they never expected and encourage them. And help us all to be diligent laborers in a needy world, many of whose members do not yet know you. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15

Evil again rocked our world as brothers and sisters across the ocean were enjoying an evening of enjoyment with family or friends. Who could have anticipated the horror that would impose itself and claim so many innocent lives?

Some of us have friends in Paris—our pastor and his wife are there celebrating their fortieth anniversary—while some feel an attachment through our centuries as allies. Certainly, we have all been touched by the gifts and joie de vivre that are paramount to French culture.

And so we mourn with those who mourn. A famous preacher of another day, John Donne, said so eloquently, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.” We are not distanced nor isolated from our French neighbors. We grieve with those who have lost loved ones, and we pray for those who are now companied by fear. We have walked in their shoes and understand their suffering.

We are called to be comforters. We are called to intercede—not only for the French but also for the perpetrators. May God have mercy.

Heavenly Father, you are our only hope. We ask that you would comfort and strengthen those who mourn, give guidance to those who lead, bring salvation to those who do not know you. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. Jeremiah 33:3 (KJV)

I’ve had the opportunity recently of dealing with several large corporations by phone, and the experience has been less than joyful. Rarely have I reached a real person on my initial call, and I get handed from person to person after I’ve explained in detail my need. You know the drill as well as I do.

Now, can you imagine this scenario: You have a specific need, and you need to talk to the Lord, so you punch in the speed dial for heaven.

“Hello, you’ve reached heaven. Due to the large volume of calls this morning, your wait may be longer than usual, but your call is important to us. Please stay on the line.”

As you wait, Amazing Grace is played through the heavenly connection.

Finally, after an inordinately long amount of time, a recorded voice says, “If you want to speak to a lesser saint, press 1; to speak to your last preacher, press 2; to speak with Peter, press 3…to speak to God, press 7.” You press 7, and a voice says, “God is busy with the crisis in … and cannot come to the phone just now, but he does want to talk to you. Just leave your name, number, time you called, and your concern. Be assured that the Great Cloud of Witnesses will be discussing your situation in the meantime. Bless you.”

Thanks be to God, this IS NOT what happens. Jeremiah tells us that God answers when we call him (Jer. 33:3). The Psalmist says that when we call, God saves us and hears our voices (Psa. 55:16-17). Isaiah tells us, remarkably, that God sometimes answers before we call and hears while we are speaking (65:24). And Micah (7:7) also reminds us that God hears us.

God ALWAYS hears us. He ALWAYS answers us. Sometimes we keep calling because we don’t manage to get connected. The trouble is not with God; it’s with us. We’re halfhearted in our efforts or unbelieving in our attempts. But God has told us that IF WE CALL, HE WILL ANSWER. It may take us a while to still ourselves to get into his presence, but he is there WAITING.

Father, you invite us to call in Jeremiah, and in Song of Solomon, you tell us you want to hear our voices. Strengthen our faith and help us to persist in reaching out in confidence to you. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. II Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

I have a new trainer for my dogs, Edward and Frances. Truth is, as we all know, the trainer is training me, their owner. When I learn how to assume my rightful position as leader of the pack, we will have a more enjoyable and peaceful environment.

I am learning that I am the Alpha (the boss), that I can just ignore those frequent demands for attention, that I set the direction of behaviors for a specific time and place, and that my responsibility is to provide leadership. Which has brought to mind something else that is critical to peace in all our lives…

Have you ever had thoughts, like little puppies, get in your face and demand your attention? Are you ever distracted by nudges from this or that when you’re trying to focus on the Lord? Do worries barge into your peace, demanding dominance and usurping God’s promises for you? We can probably all say a resounding YES.

The obvious conclusion here is that we all need training to know how to deal with our thoughts. They are out there, and they will always be on the periphery watching to see who will have dominance—the Spirit of God in our lives or our thoughts of anxiety, distrust, fear, and negativity.

God has not given us a spirit of fear but of love and of power and of discipline. And so we, through God’s Spirit, confidently take control of those thoughts that threaten to destroy our peace and stability in Christ. We make those thoughts obey Christ. We control our thoughts through the truth of God’s Word; we ignore those thoughts that tempt us to fear; and we discipline those thoughts that want to introduce doubt.

And with faithful practice, as we are trained, the thoughts become captives to our focus on Christ. We dominate them; they are no longer in control. “And the peace that passes understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Lord, why does it take us so long to recognize the authority we have over what we think? Strengthen us to resist anxiety, negativity, anything that diminishes you, your will, and your peace in our lives, and help us to begin to discipline our thought life. We especially need your power for this. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. II Chronicles 20:6 (KJV)

This week we have celebrated All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days. In light of that our Scripture reading for Sunday was about Jesus and Lazarus from John 11. The CliffsNotes version of the story goes like this.

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are dear friends, beloved of Jesus. He stops at their house from time to time for a visit and a meal. The narrative opens with Lazarus’ illness and his sisters’ message to Jesus to come quick. By the time the messenger reaches Jesus, Lazarus is probably already dead, and Jesus waits another two long days to go to his friends. He even tells his disciples that Lazarus is dead, and he is glad because this will be an opportunity for their faith to increase.

When Jesus arrives at the village of Bethany, Martha comes out to greet him with the admonition, “If you’d been here, Lazarus wouldn’t have died.” Then she adds a profound statement of faith. “But I know that God will do whatever you ask.” Jesus proclaims one of his I AM statements, saying, “I AM the resurrection and the life. If you believe in me, you will see the glory of God.” Martha reaffirms her faith.

Then Mary joins Jesus and Martha, and the entourage of grieving Jews follows her. Mary also tells Jesus that if he’d been there, Lazarus wouldn’t have died. Jesus doesn’t respond but asks instead where Lazarus is laid. At the grave site, Jesus cries because of the unbelief around him, because of his anger at death, because of the sadness of his friends who are responding as pagans rather than believers, and, perhaps, because he has to bring Lazarus back.

Practical Martha warns Jesus that Lazarus already stinks because he’s been dead four days. (Jews didn’t consider anyone officially dead until three days had passed.) Instead of silently joining the mourners, Jesus prays and then shouts, “Lazarus, come out.” (He had to say Lazarus’ name so that only he would be raised from the dead.) Lazarus came out of the tomb, and Jesus commanded that he be loosed from his grave clothes. What a sight that must have been.

John tells us at the end of the chapter that from that day, the priests and temple rulers sought to put Jesus to death…

Now look at these gems from this story:

• Jesus’ timing was perfect. Mary and Martha expected him to appear immediately, but his delay caused a greater manifestation of God’s glory.
• Mary and Martha and Lazarus wanted a healing—they got a resurrection.
• The delay was proof that Lazarus was really dead, and only divine intervention would save him. Indeed, the Son of God, the incarnated Jesus, the I AM, brought Lazarus to life.
• Jesus was angry at death, our last enemy, but knew that his divine commission would soon be accomplished, and that he would conquer death, hell, and the grave.
• The priests and Jewish rulers began planning from the day of Lazarus’ resurrection to put Jesus to death. Instead of taking him down, they played right into Jesus’ hands to fulfill God’s promise of salvation from the beginning of creation (Genesis 3).
• GOD IS ALWAYS IN CONTROL, and all things serve his purpose. He can always be fully trusted even when we don’t understand.

Dearest Father, we thank you that your Son Jesus is Lord of all and that nothing is outside your control. Remind us that you always answer our prayers according to your will, your way, and in your time. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


But he gives us more grace. James 4:6 (NIV)

Reggie’s mom was his life. She was 16 when he was born, and very soon she was the only parent he knew, teaching him to work hard and to be the best he could be. She told him there was right and wrong, but he could only do what was right. Reggie’s mom was his best friend. When he got a football scholarship for university, his mom was right there—working as a housekeeper in the school. And then she died. Reggie said he just wanted to walk off the edge of the world. He wanted to forget sports, and he was ready to drop out of school and life.

Reggie got a call from a mentor who’d heard the news. He called Reggie in and asked what was going on. The usually upbeat young man who wasn’t afraid of any challenge was quitting school and leaving the future he and his mom had planned together. Why? Reggie grasped for a reason that might satisfy the Big Man and quickly spit out a partial truth. “It’s money,” he said. “I don’t have the money.” “How much do you need?” his friend questioned. Reggie gave a figure that he thought was relatively large, and the man reached into his wallet and handed it over.

Reggie told us in church last week that he knew then that, in the midst of his grief, he had to keep going—no excuses. And he said, “That was grace. That’s what our God does for us. He gives us grace.” Just when we most need it. Reggie went on to become an officer in the military, a key executive in various large non-profits, CEO of large business operations, and a leading business consultant. All because someone extended God’s grace, that undeserved, unearned mercy.

To whom can you extend grace today?

Lord, use us as instruments of your grace just as so many times you’ve used others to touch us. We are grateful; help us to express that to the others who need to experience your redeeming grace. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.