…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  I Thessalonians 5:18


Father, time and space are insufficient to thank you for your presence in our lives.  But you did tell us to give thanks, and in our country we are blessed to have a day set aside to do just that.

THANK YOU for everything that is entailed by being your child: everything that pertains to life and godliness (II Peter 1:3) and to eternal life with you forever (I John 5:11).

 THANK YOU for my family who loves and serves you faithfully and that we come together in love, harmony, and mutual support (Psalm 133:1).

 THANK YOU for the community of faith where we can build each other up and encourage one another (I Thessalonians 5:11).

 THANK YOU for our country where we can freely worship and share our faith (Psalm 33:12).

 THANK YOU for always keeping your promises (I Kings 8:57), for always being with us (Matthew 28:20), and for giving us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

 THANK YOU for being our constant resource (Philippians 4:19) whatever the need: physical, emotional, material, spiritual.

 THANK YOU that you don’t give up on us and continue to work in us for your purposes (Philippians 1:6, 2:13).

 THANK YOU that no matter what the circumstances, we can still thank you in the circumstances knowing you love us and always purpose good for us (Romans 8:28).

 THANK YOU for all the prayers you have answered, but I especially thank you for prayers you answered according to your good will and not mine (Matthew 6:10).


 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name (Psalm 103:1).




…on this rock[a] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  Matthew 16:18  (ESV)


The Church is alive and well.  That’s what I continue to discover in my travels to places of dire poverty; in areas of severe persecution; and where governments are highly restrictive.

On my latest visit to see the Church in action, I observed a country that has literally been shut off from the world.  They’ve had few outside resources and have felt themselves isolated.  Even their lines of communication have been filtered coming and going.  So what’s happened to the Church in the meantime?  The people have learned to lean on God and each other.  They have reached inside to develop their God-given creativity and have trusted God rather than organizations and institutions to provide their needs.  And they’ve found God faithful.

In a number of places hurricanes have blown down the buildings we mistakenly call the Church.  Parishioners have continued to meet in shelters, in homes, in any place they could gather to worship and to praise the One who continues to bring salvation.  And the Church has survived even when the buildings were gone.

In another place the pastor was accused of a heinous crime, which was later proved untrue.  The shame was so great, he one day poured fuel over his body, stood in front of the altar, and lit himself afire.  He died singing a hymn.  Twelve young girls surrounded the altar and pledged never to let the Church die.  Then they opened the doors and invited everyone in for a celebration of the pastor’s life and the life of the Church.  More than eighty years later, the few remaining of those “girls” continue to fan the flames of the Church.

In another country where a revolutionary government fought to obliterate the Church, instead of disappearing, the Church went underground.  Bibles were confiscated, believers were tortured and imprisoned, and buildings were demolished.  Today in that same country, Bibles are freely distributed as the Church has come out of hiding, and where people freely worship the One who established the Church.

Jesus’ promise is true.  Hell and all its powers cannot destroy the Church.  Let us pray for all those who trust and who gather secretly today so that his Word does not fail.


Father, how humbled we are to see the faithfulness of your people, our brothers and sisters around the world, who serve you and who follow you whatever the cost.  Encourage and be with them now and forever.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.



Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  Jeremiah 29:12


One of the biggest mistakes we make in crisis is to focus our prayers on the circumstance rather than on God.  The gravity of the situation increases, and we find ourselves what-iffing.  God, what if this happens or she says that or such and such else?  And then the prayer moves into conversations in our heads.  We begin to operate in what Paul calls the flesh and out of God’s presence.

A sure way to avoid all that nonsense is to pray God’s Sovereignty.  This list of verses was given me by a friend years ago.  I modified it so that it’s a direct prayer to our Father.  Try this next time you don’t know how to pray:


God, you are sovereign.  All authority and power is yours.  Matthew 28:18

Nothing takes you by surprise.  All circumstances serve you.  You know the end from the          beginning.  Psalm 119:91, Isaiah 46:9-10

Your word is forever settled in heaven.  Psalm 119:89

You do all things for our good and your glory, to conform us to the image of Jesus.        Romans 8:28-29

The blood of Jesus covers all circumstances, people, places, and times.  You who did not          spare your own Son will freely give us all things.  Romans 8:31-32

You are for us, and nothing can separate us from your love.  That was settled on the      cross.  Romans 8:35-39

Your loving-kindness never ceases.  Your compassions never fail.  They are new every day.  Great is your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22-23

You supply all our needs by your riches in Jesus.  Philippians 4:19

You know, care, and number the hairs of our heads.  Matthew 10:30

You are the God of all comfort, Father of mercies.  II Corinthians 1:3-4

You are able to supply your abundant grace to us, so that in all things, at all times, we    have all of your sufficient grace we need for every good work.  II Corinthians         9:8

You show your perfect power in our weakness.  II Corinthians 12:9-10

We can know with certainty that you are able to guard what we have entrusted to you.  II          Timothy 1:12

You are our strength, our shield, our strong tower, our refuge, our hope, our joy, our     peace, our all.  Psalm 18:1-3, Colossians 3:11b

You renew our strength as we wait on you.  Isaiah 40:31

You will never leave us nor forsake us.  You are with us, a very present help.  Hebrews             13:5-6, Psalm 46:1

You never go back on a promise.  Joshua 21:45

You give gladness instead of sorrow and praise instead of fainting.  Weeping may endure           for a night, but joy comes in the morning.  Isaiah 61:3, Psalm 30:5

When we lift you up continually in a sacrifice of praise, we glorify you here and now.      John 12:28a


Father, in crises we tend to forget your past faithfulness and get sucked into the problem.  Remind us that if we keep our eyes on you, we are strengthened through the trial, and you are glorified.  In Jesus our Lord.  AMEN.


I will not post on Thursday as I will be in a country with sporadic access to Internet.  I would appreciate your prayers for safety, wisdom, and discernment.  Thank you.


Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  Matthew 6:25-27

Our 24/7 news cycle underscores the fact that we have plenty to worry us.  Every day seems to announce a new disaster, a devastating tragedy, a shocking terrorist attack, or an unimagined horror.  And in the middle of all this, Jesus tells us quite directly that we are not to worry.  He points out the simple provision for the creatures of the air while at the same time bluntly asking us when we’ve accomplished anything through worry.

From John 16 and 17 we see Jesus preparing his disciples for the hardships they will soon face.  Rather than anticipating his own pain and suffering of the cross, he is concerned that his followers will be strengthened to stand.  He assures them that they will have trouble in this world but tells them to cheer up.  He has already overcome the world.  The theme of peace and joy in Jesus permeates these two chapters and echoes Philippians 4:6-7 that reminds us of the incomprehensible peace given to God’s children through prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving.

Who’s not tempted to worry?  But do we really achieve anything through worry?  I’ve not yet seen empirical evidence to indicate the positive effect of worry.  So what steps can we take to avoid this temptation?

  1. Acknowledge/confess the problem – worry.
  2. Remember God’s promises found in the Word – seek them out or ask the Holy Spirit to reveal them.
  3. Apply the promises – determine to activate Scripture through discipline and prayer.
  4. Let go of worry – choose to trust God and his Word.
  5. Listen to God’s voice and obey – quiet yourself to hear so you know what to do next.

Don’t focus on the problem, focus on the Lord.  Peter walked on water until he became distracted by the waves.  God is able to do what he has promised, but we must do our part in pushing aside worry, praying, and thanking him.  That’s when the peace comes but not until then.


Father, we are living in trying times.  Cause us to move from worry to trust so that we live in your peace.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.



And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten…  Joel 2:25  (KJV)

Sadly, or perhaps thankfully, life has no fast forwards or instant rewinds.  There’s no way we can reach back into painful or unsuccessful eras of our lives and redo them.  And we can’t wish away the present into the bliss of utopia.

I know folks who are contemplating making major changes to their lives because of disappointment or ending of a life season.  One has been treated badly by family members; others are yearning for adventure and new horizons.  The ones who are burdened with regret are suffering most.  They just want to start over.

The children of Israel had lived one of the most checkered existences of any nation in their on again-off again relationship with their God who had promised, blessed,  sustained, rescued, established, and prospered them.  Through the times of the judges, they typically followed God’s laws, but in between everybody did what he wanted to do.  (A bit like today.)  When they had kings, they followed God if the king did.

Finally, God had enough, and the country divided.  The northern kingdom eventually went into exile, and the southern kingdom followed within a generation.  The prophet Joel warned the Israelites of coming judgment for their disobedience and urged them to repent.  Finally, he reminds them of God’s mercy and faithfulness when they return to him.  God will restore what has been eaten, Joel says.

What incredible news.  Those damaged places in their lives and ours that we’d rather forget or paste over, when surrendered to God in repentance, can be restored, and we can be freed.  Not my word – God’s.  When we’re tempted to think that the past can’t be undone, we must remember these powerful words:  God will restore.  Just as with prayer, God will restore in his way, his time, and according to his will.

It’s a promise.  Bank on it.  We can start over.


Father, in the middle of the stresses in our world today, there is Good News with you.  Take our past failures and sins, our brokenness and pain, and heal us, restore us, and set us free.  We ask this for your glory and in your powerful name.  AMEN.



In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.        I Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV)

One of my spiritual mentors said that we should seriously examine ourselves if we find that we are losing our sense of gratitude.  Through the years I’ve discovered this to be a wonderful measuring stick.  Can my faith see God’s faithfulness and his love in all circumstances?  Can I trust God to work everything for good in my life?  Can I believe him to be in the middle of difficulties.

I Thessalonians 5:18 doesn’t tell us we must be thankful for all things but that we should give thanks in all sorts of circumstances and situations.  When the Children of Israel were saying farewell to Joshua, he reminded them that not one of all the LORD’s good promises to Israel [had ever] failed; every one was fulfilled  (Joshua 21:45).  As we reflect on our personal Christian journeys, we can say the same—in retrospect.  Why not bolster our faith for each new challenge with a reminder of what God has done and been in the past?  Why wait to see his promises fulfilled?

I read about a little boy whose grandmother had promised a particular, special gift.  When the expected time arrived, there was no gift and no word from grandmother.  Days passed, and the boy began to think that perhaps his grandmother had forgotten her promise.  The little fellow’s mother suggested that he write grandmother a thank you note as a gentle reminder.  The boy did so, and by return mail, his grandmother sent her apologies with a check.  She had been trying unsuccessfully to find the gift, and since she couldn’t find what she had promised, she sent a check for her grandson to use in purchasing another gift of his choosing.

Gratitude can be our way of remembering God’s faithfulness of the past while reminding God of our trust in him for the present.  It’s really easy to be grateful if we’re honest and start looking outward instead of focusing on our own navels.


God, I don’t have enough paper to even begin to list your goodness to me.  If all your material blessings disappeared in a puff, still I could go on thanking you.  Please help me remember that every single thing I enjoy, and especially your precious Son, comes from your bounty.  THANK YOU.  AMEN.


Lamentations 3:25 The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

So many people I know are waiting on God just now – waiting for him to direct, to provide, to heal, to confirm. And almost everyone I know wishes God would hurry and arrive on the scene.

I wonder if Joseph felt that way as he waited on God to intervene in his unjust predicaments – first as slave, then as prisoner. He was sold by his own brothers; imprisoned because of deception; and forgotten even as he served his fellow prisoners. Did he ever wonder when God would break through and deliver him?

Then Abraham was told by God that he would have an heir and be the father of many nations. But Abraham got tired of waiting on God’s timing and tried to help God. He took Hagar (his wife’s servant) as a secondary wife and produced a son, but Ishmael wasn’t the child of promise. The strife that was initiated by Abraham’s impatience is with us still today.

In contrast, Hannah prayed faithfully for a child, and after many years of waiting, God answered with one who became that great man of God, Samuel. Hannah’s trust in God resulted in a child who would become Israel’s leader for many years and who would anoint Saul and David as their kings.

We may trust God’s working and sense affirmation about a calling or direction, but we find ourselves struggling with his interminable delays. That’s what happened when Israel’s King Saul waited for Samuel to show up to offer a sacrifice before the army went into battle. Only the priests were to sacrifice to the Lord, but when Saul saw his army deserting, he took matters into his own hands. Just as the sacrifice was done, Samuel arrived. Saul’s disobedience and lack of waiting cost him a kingdom.

Being still, waiting on God requires spiritual discipline and trust that even when we do not sense God’s presence or working, he will be faithful and will act at the right time. Faith presupposes a relationship with God and a desire to see him glorified. Feeling prefers tangible evidence of spiritual activity and a desire to see ourselves gratified. Imagine what we might lose if, after God has clearly spoken, we do not wait. On the other hand, think of the joy we will be to our Father if we sit quietly, actively expecting his arrival.

God is faithful. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isa. 40:31).

Teach us, Lord, to wait. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad? Job 2:10 (NLT)

I have just experienced a profound disappointment – not something that will alter my life forever – but it has been, nevertheless a great disappointment. I’ve worked on a project for almost nine months and have anticipated its fulfillment only to find that at this point I can no longer be involved.

For nine months I worked with great joy. I researched. I made new friends and acquaintances. I studied and learned so much, and in the final moments, I have discovered that this really good thing has been denied me.  I am Moses looking across at the Promised Land but being denied entrance.

Just like you in times of distress, I have prayed; I have remembered and quoted favorite scripture promises; and I have trusted. As the culmination of the work was getting nearer, the intensity of my prayers (like yours) has increased. And yet, it has become increasingly clear that I was an instrument for planting and watering; others would reap the harvest.

A few days prior to our final group meeting on this project, I read Job 2:10 (above), and it spoke to me. Sometimes God says no even to good things, and accepting his closed doors is as important to our discipleship as rejoicing in his yes-es. Peace has accompanied me, and I am joyful in knowing that there are those who will perform this ministry faithfully, and I may some day participate in the results of their labor. Do I still feel a bit wistful about not finishing with my team? Absolutely. But I trust God’s wisdom and know his plans for me are always good. And I know that this disappointment is nothing compared to the numberless times and blessings that have already come my way.

I once heard someone say, “Disappointment is God’s appointment.” I accept this appointment and stand on tiptoes to see what he will do next.

Father, bless my team who will proceed without me. I pray that you will do through them more than any of us can think or ask. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


Give to everyone who asks you… Luke 6:30 (NIV)

Some of Jesus’ sayings are hard to understand; others are harder to do. Occasionally, I struggle with the latter, thinking that perhaps Jesus doesn’t really mean what he says…

I had just rolled my cart into the parking lot and was filling my trunk with plants when she approached.

“Ma’am, I need to get home to Corpus Christi,” she said.

I listened, wondering what that had to do with me.

“My husband and I had a fight, and I left him and the children. But I know I need to go back,” she elaborated. “Can you give me money for a bus ticket?”

Quickly, I processed what I was hearing. She says she made a mistake and needs to get home to her family to straighten things out. But what if she’s scamming me and wants the money for drugs or something else? But Jesus told us to reach out generously. BUT WHAT IF… I argued with myself in the milli-seconds as I stood listening.

“You need a bus ticket to get back to Corpus?” I repeated.

“Yes,” was the hopeful response.

After a mental struggle I found myself shifting into automatic, and a voice inside said, “You wait here, and I’ll go to the bus station and buy your ticket.” Caution had been thrown to the wind. If necessary, I would err on the side of foolish generosity. I closed the lid of the trunk and walked around to the driver’s door.

“Ma’am,” she stopped me. I turned to listen. “I’m lying to you. I just want a drink, and I don’t have any money.”

With that we began a short conversation about the help that was available to her. “I know someone who can work with you and who would walk with you through this,” I offered.

“I’m not ready,” she responded, letting me know the conversation was over.

“What’s your name? At least I can pray.”

She looked up sadly and gave me a sweet smile, “Lanae.” And then she left me.

Lord, do not let fear keep me from obeying your commandments. Remind me that YOU will keep me from harm while I follow you. And, Lord, heal Lanae. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (KJV)

Almost ten years ago my son and daughter-in-law walked into my house and said they had something to tell me. This wasn’t a casual visit, I could tell. I sat down on one of the sofas, and they sat across from me. They had come to tell me that my daughter had just been diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Without pausing to think, words popped out of my mouth: “God isn’t surprised.”

And with that announcement our family launched the support mechanism that springs into place in crisis. Some began researching for best doctors and hospitals, others made provisions for her two little girls, and we all put together a prayer campaign that spread around the world.

I sat with family members for the twelve-hour surgery that was part of Tish’s treatment regimen. With us was a sweet rabbi who read to me a Psalm that was used every day at his synagogue to pray for Tish. Each of us passed the time in terse conversation and responding to calls and emails for updates. And then I received a beautiful message from a clergyman in Rwanda: “This cancer may have a name, but we know the GREATEST NAME.” He had joined us in invoking that powerful name above all names, foretold by Isaiah, asking for healing.

That was ten years ago. This week I will accompany my daughter to M. D. Anderson for her regular check up and to celebrate the prayers that were answered by the One whose birthday we celebrate during this season. The greatest name, Emmanuel, God with us.

Father, all praise and glory be to you for your wonderful gift of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. May this season of celebration be centered on Emmanuel who came to meet all our deepest needs. In his name. AMEN.