No escape, praise God

761C4B9E-063C-4378-8277-AF48E0B6B030I’ve often read the story of a sick lady touching Jesus’ garment but have never noticed this revealing phrase: “the woman saw that she had not escaped notice” (Luke 8:46). Engulfed by demanding crowds, mounting desperation, and medical abandonment, she would surely be invisible to the Great Physician.

But even so, she reached for Him and suddenly found herself seen, loved, and healed. Interestingly enough, Jesus uses the affectionate term “daughter” just once when referencing an individual, and it’s for this woman. Of course she couldn’t escape notice: she belonged to Him. ❤️

As a daughter of the Most High as well, I’m smiling at the thought. He sees us, sisters in Christ. He absolutely does.

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Birds of a thankful feather

As I sit here writing, a baby mockingbird is calling for its mama. The pitch is a high squeal, just one note repeated every few seconds. At first I cannot locate the tiny ball of fur, but when the mama brings food, spotting her fledgling is easy. Here’s a quick photo of it sitting on a bush. By the looks of that expression, I’m guessing it’s not a morning person: 😊

Even though this chick is adorable, I find myself mostly focused on the mama. She is TIRELESS. I’ve watched her flitting from bush to tree to grass because several fledglings flew the coop in three different places. One of these tykes is always in crisis, so Mama makes the rounds ALL DAY LONG.  Here’s a (blurry) photo of her feeding the Bush Baby:

Mama Bird is FIERCE. Twice today, a hawk has hovered overhead, and the protective, maternal squawking that ensued has been incessant and threatening. (Have you ever seen a mockingbird chase a hawk or a crow? They will not relent until the enemy retreats.) Both times the hawk has turned and flown in the other direction; I don’t blame him.

She’s also ATTENTIVE. Every moment, Mama Bird is giving her babies the eagle eye. I see her perch intently from the best vantage points—on the top branch of an evergreen, on a fence post, on our roof. She’s never far from her babies, watching from a literal bird’s view as they flourish. It’s as if she has one goal: taking good care of her own. Here she is on guard:

I keep wondering which bird my life represents. After mulling it over,  I cannot land on just one, so I’m offering both possibilities for all of us:

Are we the fledgling who’s growing but still dependent on a tireless, fierce, and attentive God? (I hope so.) He is bigger, smarter, and holier than we will ever be. We want to be under His care. And thanks to Him, we can stretch our vulnerable wings, form into His likeness, and know He’ll nurture and protect.

Are we the Mama Bird whose caretaking requires tireless, fierce, and attentive energy? Fellow sisters flying in circles, the Bible says our good works are not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). And we Jesus followers inhabit Holy Spirit strength to fulfill a necessary if often thankless purpose. And guess what, weary caretakers? He sees us. He does. So fly confidently in Jesus’s name.

Well, that’s it for today from my backyard aviary. 🙂 As Mama and Baby reunite for yet another scrumptious meal,  I’m left with the reassuring truth that our Heavenly Father—the same One who created these birds of the field—is covering us with His feathers (Psalm 91). His wing span is eternal. And we will be just fine.

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When little butterbeans bloom

Four-year old Ava is sometimes a bit like the fifty-something version. 🙂

Once upon a time, I was a four-year old Sunday School enthusiast. Story time? Quiz me afterwards. Arts and crafts? Pass the stickers. Songs with motions? Watch my rhythm. But things were about to throw this preschooler for a loop.

The capable, patient teacher—who happened to be my grandmother—introduced us kiddies to a new chorus. We sat in tiny chairs while Grandma sang a little ditty called “Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam.”

Most everyone took right to the melody, belting at the top of their lungs. I, however, was stunned by the lyrics into uncharacteristic silence. You see, I was NOT okay with what Jesus apparently wanted; I could NOT in good conscience sing that song.

Before I explain the next part, remember that I was only four. Also realize that our family had just visited a farm lined with rows of sun-kissed butterbean plants. Put two and two together, and you’ll see why I misunderstood one little word that shook me. Here’s what I heard:

“Jesus wants me for a sunBEAN.” (Yes, a bean. I thought Jesus was asking me to become a vegetable.)

My eyes filled with tears as I sat there mute and confused, fearing that God was ushering me straight to Heaven’s farmlands. (Its exact location I couldn’t say, but it was surely far from the pearly gates of paradise and near the back forty of insignificant, stagnant misery.)

With all my preschool heart, I didn’t want to be a butterbean plant! But at the same time, I didn’t want to disappoint Jesus. This crisis of faith weighed heavily.

Decades later, I still sometimes wrestle with these same theological crossroads: What if God plants me somewhere I’d never voluntarily choose? And if He does, am I okay with it? With Him?

Lord knows, I’ve found myself in some back-forty butterbean fields where the sun beat down and the dry soil cracked. I’ve occasionally (and incorrectly) felt forgotten among the tedious, seemingly endless rows of day-to-day monotony, failures, and insignificance.

But I’m not forgotten, a failure, or insignificant. And this abundant life with Jesus ain’t no butterbean field.

We are sunBEAMS, fellow believers, sunbeams who permeate hope wherever we happen to be. And if our temporary location looks less like paradise and more like a field of non-dreams, then maybe we should make the most of a fertile growing season:

  • We can nurture contentment by rejecting the illusion of greener pastures.
  • We can face a dry, dusty season by cultivating stronger roots.
  • We can weed out isolation by bending toward our neighbors.

As of today, grown-up Ava finds herself in the thick of some necessary pruning. It is not particularly pleasant. But praise to the Tree of Life Jesus, blessed harvest is coming. So sing it big, girl. Sing it wherever you are.

Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, to shine for Him each day.

In every way try to please Him, at home, at school, at play.

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The glorious nearness of light

I have a hurried sketch to show you. It’s my spontaneous attempt to illustrate a woman so near to God that she can almost touch Him. Bathed in light, His essence spills onto her clothes, her skin, her hair. With face lifted to the presence of our Creator, she floats ethereally with head thrown back in worship and awe.

For this woman, He is enough.

And I want to be this woman.

She unashamedly needs Him. Her face, upon studied observation, is shaded with residual sadness, fear, and regret. This woman is human, after all, and is somewhat acquainted with pain. But as she inches ever closer to glory, the shadows fade. Soon, they will be no match for victorious radiance: “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness [does] not comprehend it” (John 1:5).

She unequivocally trusts Him. Others might dread the holy presence of Omniscient God. But not this woman: His majesty evokes both reverence and familiarity. She has seen that the Savior’s character is steady; His love will never waver. She counts all the blessings. She accepts all the grace. And she believes that a faithful God has more of these in store: “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17).

She uncharacteristically mirrors Him. The woman—a daughter of the King dressed in fitting purple—is wearing a servant’s heart. To explain it is impossible, but here is her best attempt: there’s a newfound purpose outside of herself. It’s a paradox, she muses. The more she absorbs the Light, the more she seems to reflect it. The more she shares its warmth, the more she has to give. Transformation complete—He has become her good, and He is now her all: “Let your light shine in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

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Afterword: I’ve been studying the term “light” in scripture and am amazed by what I’m learning!  In case you’re interested, here are a few tidbits:

  1. The word “light” is used over 200 times in the Old and New Testaments.
  2. Light in scripture symbolizes God, faith, or holiness.
  3. Light in scripture is often bright (blinding), warm (nurturing), and safe (evil repelling).
  4. Some of my favorite scriptures on light are as follows: Mark 9:3 (the Transfiguration); John 8:12 (Jesus as the Light); Genesis 1:3 (Creation); Psalm 119:105 (Light as a path); and Philippians 2:15 (Christians as lights).

Shine on, my Jesus family! Let’s keep our faces Lightward!

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When forgetting is foolish

Here’s a nine-word confession: I spend too much time stressing instead of remembering. Like many of you, God has filled me to the brim over and over. He has saved my life spiritually and physically; given me wisdom during difficulty; met my financial needs; and rescued me from myself.

But occasionally, as soon as a new crisis emerges, I become a basket case. Anxiety weaves its way into my thoughts, and for at least a short time, those Hall of Faith sureties become fuzzy and foreign, hiding behind an unfounded fear: “Will He come through for me now?” I know better. I’ve seen better.

Turns out, my faith-amnesia is in familiar company.

In Mark 6, Jesus has just fed thousands with a few bread loaves and some fish. Everyone has eaten until satisfied. (Don’t let this detail of abundance slip past you). There are even twelve food baskets left over. (Don’t let this one get past you, either.) And the disciples enjoy a front row seat to a documented miracle.

Now—on the very same day, mind you—it’s almost sunset, and Jesus stays behind while the disciples get into a boat. By 3:00 a.m., the situation is dire: a terrible storm has arisen, and they are “straining at the oars, for the wind [is] against them” (6:48).

Then Jesus walks toward the boat on top of the water—Miracle #2 within hours—and stops the wind in its tracks. (Miracle #3.) Another crisis averted, another confirmation that Jesus is attentive, capable, and willing.

The disciples are astonished, of course. I imagine them wide-eyed, blood pressure finally dropping, their brains trying to fathom that Jesus is the Boss of Nature. That He is truly God among them.

You’d think they’d be smarter now, more spiritually grounded. But like me sometimes, they’re not. Mark says the disciples have “not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves” (6:52) Then later Jesus weighs in, accusing them of not seeing or understanding His faithfulness (Mark 8:17). How soon they seem to forget.

How often I’ve done the same.

So today I’m listing my own miracles of bread multiplying, water walking, and storm stopping. I’m calling to mind when He’s filled me, comforted me, protected me. And wouldn’t you know it? The list is longer than I remembered, and faith now overflows:

Jesus, You are trustworthy. Your goodness is worth proclaiming; Your promises are worth believing. Keep my focus heavenward, Lord. And foster in me an expectant heart that welcomes Your faithful plan.

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Lessons from JB

I can’t stop thinking about John the Baptist’s jail time. What an odd fixation, you might think, but the intrigue runs deeper than curiosity. For whatever reason, studying those last days of John the Baptist (JB for short) has unraveled some unexpected, tender connections to my own Jesus walk.

It began when reading Mark 6 and noticing that the bad guys—Herod, his wife, and stepdaughter—hogged all the air time. While I saw the ins and outs of their murderous motive and dysfunction, almost nothing was mentioned of innocent JB. Where was his dialogue, his scene? It was as if John the Baptist had been forgotten. As if he’d been reduced to zero.

John the Baptist speaking of Jesus: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

This plot omission—JB’s side of things—is worth noting because the Bible is uncharacteristically silent about this particular prison sentence. Unlike other accounts of jail tales—Joseph’s and Paul’s stories, for example—we are mostly left in the dark about John the Baptist’s incarceration.

My recent journal entry: No one knows, Lord, but You. I don’t even want to write what’s happening. Please, in this silence, raise up the deafening power of Your presence in the darkness.

There are two tiny details in Matthew 11 and Luke 7, however, that offer a peek into JB’s last days. First, he received visitors at least twice. Second, considering his earlier, pre-jail boldness, we read a surprising question for Jesus: “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?” (Luke 7:20).

John the Baptist earlier: “This is the One referred to by Isaiah the prophet . . . . Make ready the way of the Lord!” (Matthew 3:3).

Scholars make a lot of JB’s spiritual state here. They propose discouragement or doubt. Honestly, I don’t think any of us are worthy to weigh in: JB was a Faith Giant, and we should not base an entire heart check on one question. Instead, I sense that JB knew the deal and that Jesus’s reply was a clear, reassuring vote of confidence.

My recent journal entry: I awoke distressed, asking the Lord to show Himself true. Through song and a “random” passage of scripture, He answered. As Psalm 52:9 says, “I will wait on Your name, for it is good.”

For now, I’m left with two thoughts: First, there are some experiences with Christ—especially His unique care of us during trials—which are simply too sacred to share. We don’t know what happened to John just before his beheading. But how God most assuredly prepared John the Baptist is perhaps too intimate, too holy, for our frail human ears.

Second, there is just one goal for believers in Christ: to proclaim a way out of darkness. There will be loneliness. There may be doubt. But we are wholly His, forever. And as comfort and justice fade in this temporary prison, we plant captive eyes on the Son.

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References for this blog: Matthew 3, Matthew 11:1-19, Mark 6:14-32, Luke 7:18-28, and John 1:1-13

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When downpours become blessings

Summer plans are ruined, I’m sure, as skies begin to darken. It’s summer, after all, and everyone chases the sun. But me? I’m curled up with a blanket and Bible, rain memories flooding my soul. Sometimes, life has taught me, downpours can be good.

It was a rainy Saturday night. I was sixteen and feeling alone; my friends all had dates. As tears rolled down my puffy face, Dad poked his head in the bedroom. “Let’s go for a walk,” he said. So we did, a couple of silhouettes holding umbrellas and splashing through asphalt puddles. I recall him saying I’d be a great catch; I decided to believe him. And I remember the clouds lifting.

One year later, the rains returned. Again, the night was dark. As I sat under our carport, the deafening sound of a steady downpour drowned out my sobs. The day before, my friend had died—suddenly, unbelievably. How does anyone, much less a teen, absorb such a shock? But then Mom joined me, pulling her chair up to mine. She held my hand—stroked it, mostly, as I cried a river—and we rode out the storm together.

There wasn’t a raindrop when lightning came. I was grown-up and married, happy for sunnier days. But a hurricane named Erin brought tropical turmoil. With a blinding flash, a transformer burst into a fireball, and our house was now in jeopardy. We ran like the wind to a neighbor’s; flames rose closely to home! As we prayed for help, a drenching rescue fell from a gracious sky. Fire gone and family safe, we were soaked to the brim with mercy.

Such sweet, refreshing memories! As others await the sunshine today, I’m contented and so grateful. Oh, God, your showers have blessed me. Rain on, dear Lord. Rain on.

When you, God, went out before your people, when you marched through the wilderness, the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain, before God, the One of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel. You gave abundant showers, O God; You refreshed Your weary inheritance.

Psalm 68: 7-9

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