…When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.  Mark 16:4

When my husband was diagnosed with cancer, I was terrified.  I’d never been around anyone with cancer, and it wasn’t part of our family history.  I had no idea what to expect, but I knew it was a time to trust.

The surgery went well, and the doctors told me afterward that they thought they had gotten it all, but, of course, I knew there would be some sort of follow-up.  When we met the oncologist for the first time, he recommended chemotherapy—six long months.  My husband met the news with his typical pragmatic attitude wanting to know when to begin.

I didn’t know about cancer, but I certainly had heard horror stories about chemo and knew the side effects could be ghastly.  We asked the same people who had prayed for the surgery to now pray for chemo treatments.  And I prayed that I would be able to support Peter in spite of my own anxiety.

The first day of treatment was scheduled, and I did a lot of extra praying, especially for strength.  We walked in the door looking about to find seats.  Instead, we found Anne.  Anne was the head nurse for the clinic (I had no idea!), and she was a dear friend from our church prayer group.  “We’ve been waiting for you and praying,” was Anne’s greeting.  And so began six months of seeing a friend who we knew had been part of that great cloud of witnesses that are always there to support us through dark times.

I suspect those ladies who went to the tomb on Easter Sunday had hearts full of dread, perhaps not unlike my experience, just much more intense.  They knew what they had seen, and they anticipated the horror and grief they would encounter.  But even before they could minister to Jesus’ body, they had an almost insurmountable task:  Who would roll away the stone?

And how much time do we spend worrying about something that we fear will happen?  We reflect on past experiences thinking that this is going to be just the same—or worse.  We don’t always trust that God will go before us to lift that load.  Notice the order of events:  When they looked up…  Had their eyes been on the ground in their overwhelming sorrow?  Were they thinking of the impossibility of the situation?  WHEN they looked up…they saw the stone had already been rolled back.

The answer was there before they asked. 

Father, help us to look up when we’re bowed down, knowing that you have already met the need.  And thank you, too, Father, for healing Peter.  AMEN.


For we live by faith, not by sight.  II Corinthians 5:7

We were headed for Hawaii to meet my brother who was flying in from Viet Nam for R&R.  My parents had been told by the Army that Jack was due for a break from the unrelenting fighting in the jungles where he and his men had spent the last six months.  On this weak assurance, my dad bought airline tickets for us all in expectation of reunion.

I’ll never forget the oppressive mixture of fear and anticipation as we awaited Jack’s arrival at the international airport in Honolulu.  There had been no guarantee Jack would even be on the plane, but we had come in hope.*  The first bus unloaded its cargo of expectant soldiers as their eyes scanned the crowds, looking for familiar faces, but our soldier was not in the crowd.  Then the second bus came, and still no Jack.  As two more buses emptied their precious load, Mom was on the verge of despair.  At the end of the line a final bus slowed at the curb, and the jostling men made their way through the folding doors.  Still that beloved face wasn’t to be seen until from the very back of the bus my brother emerged to his family who had come in anticipation, just hoping he might come.

I’ve often thought of that experience through the years as I’ve trusted God through difficult times, just praying he’d be present.  To intervene in situations where no one else could make a difference.  I’ve trusted his Word that he would be faithful to make a way where there seemed to be no way.  And sometimes, like my mom, I’ve despaired that maybe, just maybe, I had acted in presumption.  Maybe the promises were not to be claimed for this situation.

It’s taken years to learn that we DO live by faith, not by sight.  God presses us to move out of that familiar comfort zone into a more dangerous place of trusting him in circumstances that only he can resolve.  And in moving, living by faith, we often must move ahead of feelings that threaten to wash over us in waves of panic telling us we were expecting too much of God.  We were trying to live too far beyond ourselves and our predictable existences.  Sometimes when we indulge fear, we fall back where it feels more comfortable and breathing is easier.

But then the time comes that we finally push beyond fear, and we get ahead of emotion, saying, “My God can…”  We trust him to do what he said he will do.  And we wait.  And wait.  And trust.  And the waiting and the trusting are excruciating, but now we can do nothing else.   And then, in his time, he appears. 

And our feelings have to catch up.

Father, I’ve lived too long being pulled and jerked around by my feelings.  I’m ready to live by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

*We learned after the fact that Jack wasn’t supposed to be on the plane after all because he had been wounded in Cambodia, and the military typically didn’t allow soldiers to go on R&R with wounds.  When he returned to Viet Nam, he was checked into the hospital and recovered.


…he will be the stability of your times…  Isaiah 33:6  ( ESV)

When we were children, Papa decided it was time to find a larger house for his growing family.  We settled in a beautiful new home, and Papa’s diligent gardening made our lawn the envy of the neighborhood.  It wasn’t long, however, when hairline cracks began to appear in the walls of our dream house, and Papa announced that we’d be moving again.

This time Papa didn’t trust a ready-built house for his family.  Not at all.  He and Momo found a one-acre lot in a suburban neighborhood, and Papa and a friend built our forever home from the ground up.  When it came time to put in the landscaping, it was clear why Papa had chosen this particular neighborhood:  under the few inches of topsoil, there was solid rock.  The house is still standing, and when last I was inside, there still wasn’t a crack.

2020 was a year none of us will forget.  Perhaps, with me, you celebrated New Year’s Day with anticipation of a better year—a new vaccine for the dreaded Covid and the opportunity for our country to return to work and to life as we know it.  Perhaps we might even look forward to planning a family trip or a reunion with loved ones we haven’t seen since shut down.

Just barely into January we saw that relief would not be coming soon.  From any quarter around us.  UNLESS we look to the Rock.  Isaiah (51:1-3) from of old exhorts us to:

 ” Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the LORD:  Look to the rock from which you were cut, and to the quarry from which you were hewn…  For the LORD will comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; He will make her wilderness like Eden and her desert like the garden of the LORD.  Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and melodious song.”

The foundation of our lives, the Rock on which we are built is the only stability that will see us through these stormy times.   And he is sufficient.  He IS the stability of our times; he will not be shaken; he will not be broken; he will not disappear.  Anchored to him, we can weather the tempests, and when they are over, we will still be standing.

              My hope is built on nothing less
              Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
              I dare not trust the sweetest frame
              But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

              On Christ the solid rock I stand
              All other ground is sinking sand
              All other ground is sinking sand.  (Robert Critchley)

Father, save us from ourselves and the false notion of self-reliance.  We stand in you.  In Jesus, our Lord.  AMEN.


The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.  Deuteronomy 33:27

Imagine having an angel appear with a message that will dramatically alter your life and possibly even end it.  That was young Mary’s experience when Gabriel appeared announcing her choice as the mother of Messiah.  Mary’s trusting response: “… Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).  Mary didn’t question; she said, “Yes.”

Do you think that Mary had second thoughts after the aura of the angel had faded away?  Did she, perhaps, wonder if her mind had been playing tricks?  Had she been daydreaming or had her imagination been playing games?  The Bible doesn’t speak to that.

And then there’s noble Joseph who learns that his fiancé is pregnant with someone else’s child.  He could have publicly denounced her, even led to her stoning if the old rules were still to be observed.  But Joseph, God’s earthly father for his Son, was also attuned to God’s voice who assured him that the baby was God’s only Son (Matt. 1:20-21) and that he could continue his plan to marry her.

This is all part of the story that we know and recite, but have you considered the magnitude of Mary and Joseph’s faith in participating in God’s plan?  Of all the questions and struggles they might have endured?  Of all the struggles we sometimes experience as we step out in faith to do the unthinkable?

There’s more.  God didn’t engage Mary and Joseph in a wild-haired scheme and then expect them to work it out on their own.  Not in the least!  Instead, God was with them each step of their marvelous journey. 

Look at the confirmations (plural).  Mary went to visit Cousin Elisabeth (the priest’s wife) who, upon seeing her, spoke a blessing and declared that she was carrying “her Lord” in her womb (Luke 1:42-43).  And then near Bethlehem the shepherds saw the angels and went to see the baby (and his parents) whom the angels had announced (Luke 2:8-20).  Just a few days after Jesus’ birth he was taken to the Temple for circumcision where he met Simeon and Anna who both confirmed Jesus as Messiah (Luke 2:21-38).  Finally, the wise men, strangers from a far country, arrived at Mary and Joseph’s dwelling to find Jesus, fell down, worshipped him, and presented their gifts (Matt. 2:11).

God had chosen Mary and Joseph for a unique life as earthly parents to his Son.  They were challenged to trust their heavenly Father in bringing Jesus into the world, but God didn’t leave them without his Presence and his guidance in doing his will.  We don’t know what was happening in the hearts and minds of this young couple, but we do know that God continued—in his own miraculous way—to encourage them and to confirm his word spoken by the angels.  What Mary and Joseph acted out in their lives, God validated by one and then another of his servants.

And so it is in our lives.  Whatever the faith walk to which God calls us, we never need to fear—even if it seems totally preposterous.  God is able to lead us to his fulfillment; to provide the resources to achieve the goal; and the encouragement to keep us moving in the most trying of times.  He knows exactly what we need to carry on.

When there was nothing visible to see, Mary and Joseph trusted and obeyed.  And God confirmed their faith.

Father, give me the courage of Mary and Joseph to follow in the hardest times, knowing that you are with me until I reach your destination.  AMEN.


Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.  Isaiah 29:14

For months now we’ve listened to experts admonish on COVID19, opine on civil unrest, and caution on the economy only to revise their narratives the following day.  It’s somewhat akin to watching a soap opera—plenty of drama with various players vilified with the shifting scenes.  It’s hard to keep up, and it can be terribly dismaying.

Until we go to the Word…  In the Psalter, Psalm 73 for example, the poet bemoans all the inequities and troubles surrounding him day after day, year after year.  He is grieved that wrong is ongoing while God seems so inattentive.  “UNTIL [he] entered the sanctuary of God…”  (v. 17).  UNTIL he stopped looking out and began to look up.  Then his vision was clarified, and he saw that God has everything under control, and he acts at the time of his choosing.

In another Psalm (2), we see people raging and conspiring to do evil while God laughs seeing the limit to earthly power.  At the time he chooses to intervene, he breaks evil with an iron rod and dashes it to pieces “like a potter’s vessel.”  Essentially, God is sovereign, and all creation exists and moves at his pleasure.  There is no need to be disheartened when we abide in his presence and do his will.

My mother had a little poem on her kitchen bulletin board that read:

          Said the robin to the sparrow,
          “I should really like to know,
          Why these anxious human beings
          Rush about and worry so.”
          Said the sparrow to the robin,
          “Friend I think that it must be,
          That they have no Heavenly Father,
          Such as cares for you and me.”  (Elizabeth Cheney)

Does this negate prudence and neighborly love for such a time as this?  Absolutely not; it reinforces our trust in God’s watchful care over his children and our obligation to faithful obedience as we patiently wait for him to act.

By the way, Handel’s Messiah prominently features Psalm 2 (above) with bass and tenor proclaiming God’s vengeance on evil.  And what follows immediately?  The Hallelujah Chorus, “For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”

Father, you hold all the affairs of our world in your hand.  Let us never forget that you are in control.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. Lamentations 3:22-24

“About six more months,” the doctor said when I asked about recovery from my hand surgery. And just as my second cast was removed and I could get back to the computer and writing, we learned about the corona virus. So, where will we as Christians, go with this latest and unprecedented challenge?
We can begin with gratitude, remembering always God’s great gift through his Son, Jesus Christ. We can cultivate and discipline ourselves in daily thanksgiving, determinedly opposed to the world’s deluge of criticism and fault-finding. “Who do you blame for the transmission of this virus in your community?” and “We’re waiting now for the lawsuits that will be filed,” were comments I heard today on the news—rather than gratitude for all those who are heroically serving in this time of global pandemic and the wisdom and expertise we experience in our beloved country.
We actively seek ways to serve. I know people who are sewing masks; others who are packaging and delivering groceries; some who are calling and checking on vulnerable people; and family members who are treating the ill in our community. We can intentionally block out time for prayer and meditation, specifically lifting up our leaders, first responders, caregivers, and those in trouble.
We can determine to be encouragers. When we hear fear or depression, we can acknowledge these very real feelings and guide the conversation into hope in Christ and his faithfulness. We don’t belittle or disparage temptations to negativity, for they are real and fed at large by the media and others whose faith is not yet strong. We pour out God’s love that flows through us and recognize occasions to minister in times like these.
We resist the temptation, as Fenelon says, to look forward to better days. We trust God’s sovereignty for the now and ask him to use these circumstances to refine and transform us. We live in the present as lights in an uncertain world, keeping our eyes focused on him, the author and finisher of our faith.
We stand, anchored in Christ who will never leave us, and allow him to work in and through us for his purpose in the Kingdom.
When this is all over and this current crisis ended, what and who will we be? Will we be stronger in the Lord and truer to our faith in him, grateful for his promised faithfulness? Or will we have missed all the opportunities he has provided for intimacy and a greater knowledge of himself?
It’s really our choice.


Father, never before have we had such unlimited possibilities for service and growth. Move our eyes from ourselves and stay them on you as we seek ways to share our faith and our hope, our energies and our love with fearful, anxious, and hurting people in our world and in our community. May we speak and sing of your faithfulness as we trust you through these difficult times. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.



Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. John 14:1

Ordinarily, I love surprises—like the time I walked into a hotel dining room and discovered that my children had arranged a birthday party for me with friends and family members. And the time our office manager called me in to say I’d be receiving a substantial raise. Yes, I love those kinds of surprises.

But there are also the other kind, and I know we’ve all experienced them. When my son and daughter-in-law came to see me in the middle of the day and were both unusually sober-faced, I knew something was wrong. They positioned themselves carefully on the living room sofa and made a grim announcement: my daughter had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Some surprises are breath-taking.

Without even thinking, a response burst from my lips. “God isn’t surprised.” Even before I knew all the details, years of study, observation and experience assured me that God always goes before us and meets us at every point of our journey. I might be surprised, but he wasn’t.

Jesus knows that none of us is clairvoyant and sees the future, which is a good thing oftentimes. He also knows that life can easily take us unawares and bring about disequilibrium, confusion, and fear. And he made provision for all that. Just look at some of his reassurances to his fledgling disciples and to us: I’ll always be with you (Matt. 28:20); I give you peace, don’t be afraid (John 14:27); I have overcome the world (John 16:33); the Holy Spirit dwells in and with you (John 14:16-18); no one can take your joy (John 16:22); come to me, and I’ll give you rest (Matt. 11:28). And there are so many more words of comfort throughout Holy Scripture.

So, how do we deal with unpleasant surprises? We cast them on Jesus; we trust him to take them; we refuse to retrieve those pains; we glorify God in the middle of the grief; and we move on. Just as my son and daughter-in-law and I took our hurtful news about my daughter straight to our Father. That was twelve years ago, and my daughter today is cancer-free.

And what, you may say, if my daughter hadn’t been healed? Or a myriad of other desperate prayers hadn’t been answered? God’s faithfulness would have remained, and he would have provided exactly what we needed to maintain our witness and trust in him. He does not fail. He goes before, behind, over, and under us so that even unhappy surprises don’t dislodge us from our trust in him.

Father, I still love surprises, even the small ones like an unexpected downpour. You are God and a loving Father and only do wondrous things that will always work together for good. Thank you. AMEN.


Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

Occasionally, we are called upon to do something that is virtually impossible—there’s not adequate time; we don’t have the resources; we don’t have the skills; we don’t have the knowledge; and dozens of other seemingly valid excuses. When that happens to me, I am reminded of an impossible situation in which there seemed no way out.

It was my senior year in undergraduate school. I was approaching the end with a 4.0 GPA and really wanted to finish well. I’d foolishly left my math course until the final semesters (procrastination?), but I boldly asked the department head for permission to take trigonometry with no prerequisite classes. After telling him about my GPA, he signed my registration card, and I was set.

Until my first class. Dr. Turwey began writing equations on the board for us to solve, and I knew my pride would be my undoing. I signed up for tutoring, which didn’t seem to help at all. I was in an impossible situation. By this time, I just wanted to get enough credit to graduate.  Forget the GPA.

In desperation I remembered Jane from a church party. Pretty little demure Jane had off-handedly volunteered to help me if I ever needed math tutoring. “Hah,” I thought. That sweet young woman wouldn’t know a thing about trig, but I gave her a call. “Oh, yes,” she replied, “I taught math at Southwest State.” She invited me to come to her home after classes, and we’d see what could be done.

That point of desperation was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Not only did Jane make sense for me of trigonometry, but it actually became fun, and while I didn’t make the “A” I would have wanted, I was prouder of the “B” than any other grade I’d made at Trinity. God took an impossible situation; humbled me to ask for help; provided the perfect tutor; and gave me a friend in addition.

In later times when I knew I couldn’t succeed in the area to which I was called, I learned (and am still learning) to trust in the Lord with all my heart rather than leaning on my own understanding. Of course, he expects us to discipline ourselves to work with the resources he provides, but with God, nothing is impossible. He is always able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can think or ask. It’s just a matter of humility, trust, and obedience.

Father, thank you for providing everything we need for life and godliness. AMEN.



…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:13

My friend Janie says that it takes God seven years to answer a prayer. I’m not sure how she’s come up with that number—perhaps that’s because it’s God’s number of completion. But Janie doesn’t get impatient when answers don’t happen right away. Unlike so many of us…

There are so many examples in the Bible of people praying and experiencing delays in their answers. Sarah and Abraham were well past their prime when God birthed their promised son. Joseph waited more than a decade to see God’s promise fulfilled in his life. The children of Israel waited about four hundred years before returning home. How long did the faithful wait for Messiah? And how long have we waited for his Second Coming?

Yet God is the one who is working. He gives a promise, and then he works to bring it to pass. When Sarah and Abraham tried to help God out, they only created enmity that has lasted to this present day. The pattern is: we pray and God works. He brings together the myriad details, all the connections, and every component that’s needed for what we call answered prayer.

And God works secretly, behind the scenes, and in our hearts. Trying to watch God work is somewhat like planting an acorn and expecting to see an oak tree appear overnight. “God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform,” (Cowper) and we need to get out of his way. Often, it takes time; other times he surprises us with his speed. But the underlying truth is that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isa. 55:9), and he’s always working.

So much is written about prayer—pray fervently, pray in faith, ask and seek and knock. I’ve spent countless days praying and praying and trying to see what God was doing. As if I could peek over his shoulder and be a spectator to the wonders of his ways. And when I didn’t feel I had prayed sufficiently or used the proper words, I’d begin again as if God didn’t understand the situation or hadn’t heard me initially.

I am beginning to learn that my job is to pray and then to simply trust and let go. I hand the matter to my Father and trust him to work. I try not to rush him or ask him to explain. I leave the matter totally to him. I walk away and move on to my next duty so that he can work without my interruption (or suggestions).

And then, to my wonder and great joy (sometimes when I’ve even forgotten what I’d asked him to do) in his timing he shows me what he has been up to. It’s always better than what I had prayed, what I had asked, or what I had imagined. God is ALWAYS working. And it’s always good. I’m trying to remember to back out and stop interfering.

Father, thank you for your mercy with my impatience. Let your will be done in your time. In Jesus, our Lord. AMEN.



Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be firm. Ephesians 6:13 (ESV)


A friend reminded me this past week that “the evil one” is always lurking around, looking for an opening through which to torment or derail God’s children. There’s no fear in that, but it certainly is important for us to remain vigilant and to remain abiding in the shadow of the Almighty (Ps. 91).
I think we’re  pretty much accustomed to safety messages all around us that tell us to “Be aware of your surroundings to minimize safety incidents.” But do we take seriously the need to abide in God and to be prepared for attack? Do you inventory your safety equipment? And do you take time to put it on every morning? I mean the armor of God:
• The helmet of salvation. Jesus Christ’s redemptive death on the cross paid the price for our sin—once and for all—and we have absolutely no condemnation if we stay in him and obey his Word (Romans 8). We put on Jesus’ salvation covering our thoughts so that the enemy cannot have access to our minds.
• The breastplate of righteousness. Our righteousness comes from Jesus alone, not from our good deeds, so that we have no right to boast (Romans 3:22). We choose to live in purity, giving glory to God.
• The belt of truth. Jesus described himself as Truth. We bind ourselves in him committed to live in light and transparency, without falsehood, deception, or exaggeration. Truth encircles us.
• Shoes of the Gospel of peace. We’re told to—as much as possible—live at peace with all men (Romans 12:18). We do everything we can to be disciples of Jesus’ peace, knowing that he gives us his peace so that we’re not troubled in spirit (John 14:27).
• Shield of faith. My personal thought is that the size of our shields is determined by the size of our faith (Luke 17:5). While that may be a scary thought, as we walk in obedience to the Lord and experience his faithfulness, our trust in him increases and prepares us for the battle ahead.
• Sword of the Spirit. This is our only offense—the Word of God. And it’s enough. It was the weapon Jesus used against his enemy, Satan, and it’s sufficient for us as we study, memorize, and rely on its truth in every situation.
Personally speaking, I don’t like battles, but we are well equipped to take on any enemy and to be victorious. Think of these battle verses and be encouraged:
• “This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s’” II Chronicles 20:15.
• “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness is from Me” Isaiah 54:17.
• “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will show to you to-day…” Exodus 14:13
• “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him” Isaiah 59:19.
• Finally, “…after you have done everything, … stand” Ephesians 6:13.
Oh, God, the enemy is breathing down my neck. But I am relying on your promises, wearing your armor, and standing. AMEN.