Monday Manna


The word “obedience” can make us bristle.  It can feel harsh and rigid, caged in and dripping in drudgery.  "Obedience" can make us wonder if we will lose all joy for the sake of duty.   This mindset is somewhat a result of a culture that nudges us in every possible way to "chart our own course", to "be our own boss", to "depend on no one".  So, when someone asks us to obey, we bristle - or at least hesitate -  and understandably so.

Then, where does this leave us with God?  Ultimately, living as a Christian means living a life of obedience.  Right?  And if “drudgery” is what comes to mind when we hear “obey”, I see a big gap between how I am actually going to live out my faith.  Who wants to follow a God into a life of drudgery?  Not me.  This makes me wonder... maybe we need to rethink this word “obedience”.

Both the Old and New Testaments tell us that the chief command for us to obey is “to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  Isn’t it interesting that the number one thing we are to do in order to obey is to love?  How oddly simple.  Jesus Himself says, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.”  This one is even better, in that IF we love God, we WILL keep His commands.  It sounds like the obedience part is inevitable.  How delightfully straight-forward.  We don’t even have to get all wrapped up in what to do, when to do it, how to do it.  Rather, just LOVE God.  

Still, the human side of me panics a little at this "love God" command.  What does that mean?  How do I do that?  And why, God, do You care so much if I love You?  Why is that so important? (God loves it when we ask these questions.)  The Book tells us plainly that we love because God first loved us.  That is, we love God only when we grasp how much we are loved by Him.  So, when He asks us to love Him; He is asking us to grasp how much we are LOVED by Him.  You, me, each of us -  are the apple of His eye.  He adores each of us.  Given this, when I ask God how He would like me to love Him, I think might answer, “Sit with Me.  Just sit.”  “Look for Me...I am all around and I am looking right at you.”  “Let Me show you how much I love you.” “Walk with Me.”

It turns out that the invitation to a life of obedience is an invitation to a life lived lovedObedience is not about me checking off a long list of duties; and obedience is not about me going off by myself to get things done for God, so that I can be 'a good Christian'.  Obedience is about me choosing, day after day, to live life in relationship with Jesus.  Walking with Him, looking for Him, talking to Him, listening to Him, living loved by Him.  They said that Noah “walked with God”, and that walking led to a big ol’ ark.  Moses begged that he would not have to go alone into the wilderness and God said, “My presense will go with you” and a people were saved.  You and me, we have no idea what is on the other side of our walking with Jesus, of our obedience.  And I am glad that we do not, because it might feel like duty or drudgery.  But what if in our walking, in our simply living loved – God is building another ark, saving another people?  

“The Lord does not give me rules, He makes His standard very clear, and if my relationship to Him is that of love, I will do what He says without any hesitation. If I hesitate, it is because I love some one else in competition with Him, viz., myself. Jesus Christ will not help me to obey Him, I must obey Him; and when I do obey Him, I fulfill my spiritual destiny. My personal life may be crowded with small petty incidents, altogether unnoticeable and mean*, but if I obey Jesus Christ in the haphazard circumstances, they become pinholes through which I see the face of God, and when I stand face to face with God I shall discover that through my obedience thousands were blessed. When once God’s Redemption comes to the point of obedience in a human soul, it always creates. If I obey Jesus Christ, the Redemption of God will rush through me to other lives, because behind the deed of obedience is the Reality of Almighty God. ” — Oswald Chambers

Lost and Found

The navigation apps on our phones that take us here and there have become a lifeline to many of us who do not inherently have the gift of direction.  Thanks to these little devices I can arrive miraculously in places of which I truly have never heard.  Kid's ball game in the backside of beyond, no problem.  Sleepover in foreign corner of the city, I can drive everyone!  Type in the address, and voila! 

The problem comes when I haven't heard the Australian navigator's voice in a while and my surroundings grow increasingly nebulous, especially if it is dark or rainy and I am running late.  In this scenario, I use my fingers to frantically zoom in, zoom in, zoom in.  This causes me to lose all perspective.  Hyper-zoomed in, the little map only shows ME and my very immediate circumstances, with no view of where I am going.  Panic!  To balance this, my fingers frantically zoom out, zoom out, zoom out until I see myself as a blue dot and my destination as a red dot just an inch away, which is obviously a misrepresentation of truth.   Meanwhile, radio silence from the Australian navigator.   My fingers over zoom in all directions.  Ahhh! Panic!  Lost!  

This is true of real life too.  On a normal day, I can be cruising right along - reading my devotion, tidying house, driving carpool, going for a walk, tending to business - a girl on the ball.   Then something will get my mind reeling - a comment from a friend, finding out that my child is in a tough spot, a spat with my hubby, the news.  Whatever it is, I go from cruising happily to hyper zooming.  I can zoom so far in on the "thing", psycho-analyzing every aspect, that I lose all perspective.  The child's suffering blocks out any hope, the hubby's hurt drowns out all love, the friend's wound darkens my heart to any light that could heal.   I zoom in, zoom in, zoom in, fixating on the thing, and just like that - though I started the day a girl on the ball - I am lost.  

On the flip side, on a different normal day, my list of things to do, things to think about, things to talk about leave me spinning in a different fashion.  I start the day off feeling solid, secure - a steady woman of character and purpose with a list that I intend to execute.  But then, just as I leave the school carpool loop, I read a text reminding me of something my man-child forgot.  Can I bring it to him?  Yes, but that will make me late to doctor appointment.  As I wait at doctor's, I see a post about a girls' night that I wasn't included in... then I get a reminder about a dentist appointment for child #2, then my brother calls and I am snippy, and I feel guilty, but I am late for volunteering, then...  All these things are not-so-big-a-deal, but they leave me spinning.  So many things to think about, so many things to do.  On the map of my life, I zoom out, zoom out, zoom out trying to make sense of so many details.  And just like that - though I started the day steady and ready -  I am lost.  

On my phone app, when I have over zoomed in either direction and lost all perspective of where I am and where I need to be, there is a little RECENTER button in the corner of the screen.  When I press this button, the screen adjusts and instantly I have a healthy view of where I am and where I am going.  Exhale.  Found.  

In real life, in our heart lostness, we also have this RECENTER button.  Enter Jesus.  Contrary to the way I sometimes live, Jesus is not merely an idea or an out-of-reach kind of god; He is a savior and a finder of lost people, and we can call out His name/press the heart recenter button to be saved, to be found.  To me, this means simply shifting my gaze from my circumstances to Him, it's about focus.  This pressing the heart button and turning to Jesus is not reserved to the one time you asked Jesus into your heart when you are 8, and it is not limited to church visits on Sundays or when you sit dutifully in your devotion chair.  It is for Tuesday morning when you are crying in carpool behind your sunglasses when it is barely light outside because your feelings are hurt, and you feel fat, and you don't know how to parent a teenager.  Because Jesus is a real life rescuer, we can press the RECENTER buttons in our heart, and say Jesus, I am so lost right now.  I know it is crazy, but I can't see my way out of the hurt and the fear and the frustration.  My heart is spinning.  Help!  

I wish I could say that He would answer with an audible Australian accent.  That would be very cool, but that is not my experience.  There are, however, two questions that we can ask ourselves in our lostness that adjust our heart maps back to center.  

Where am I?  

To whom do I belong?

The reason these questions do the hard work of reorienting us is because they are questions that scripture asks of us.  Scripture is how Jesus shows up in our todays.  In scripture, God asked of the first two lost people in the history of the world, "Where are you?"  He asked this not because He needed to find them (He knows exactly where we are in our bodies and in our hearts and minds), but because they needed to take account of where they were in relation to Him.  They had strayed from Him in the yearnings of their minds, and that straying created distance from God.  They were lost people, distanced from God, just like me and you, .  By asking this question, we take stock of where we are and where God is; it recenters our hearts because it makes us proximate to Him.

Then, we ask ourselves, "To whom do I belong?"  This is not about enslavement, rather it is a question that liberates us.  We all want to belong somewhere, and it is the lack of belonging that makes us feel most lost.  When we ask this question of our hearts and remember that we belong to Jesus, that we are completely seen and loved by Him, that He looks at us and says "that's My girl", we re-establish the connection between us and Him.  That little blue line on our phones that is the "way" - it is reaffirmed in our hearts as we answer these questions.  No matter how far we have strayed, with our gaze back on Him, we are found once again.  

Blessed are the lost girls, because Jesus is the savior of the lost.  He knew we would wander in thought, word and deed by things done and left undone.  He knew we would all get lost.  So, He came down from heaven and walked the streets of human hearts and minds to find us all, to save us all, to rescue every one of us.  He became the way out of the lost place.  And while heaven may be our ultimate destination where we will see Him face to face, in the meantime, we have the great privilege of living found, and on our way.   And to that, this lost girl says Amen.

The Room

Imagine your life is a room.  Maybe, think of it as a living room.  Each element of the room represents a part of your life.  The sofa may represent your friends, complete with pretty pillows all fluffed and placed just so.  The coffee table may be your marriage, the center of the room.  The chairs could be your kids.  The knick knacks could be your hobbies.  The bookshelves and all their treasures may be your extended family - rich with history of love and loss.  The fireplace and mantle, your work.  It's all there.   You can arrange it so that it is pretty, so that it is impressive.  It is Pinterest-ready.  

Ultimately, however, life breezes through the room.  Friends betray, the sofa frays, or possibly we betray a friend tattering the once-lovely place of rest and joy.  Kids take a path that seems wrought with hurts-to-come.  The marriage gets dinged up from the business of busy-ness.  The mantle/career may explode for reasons we cannot predict or control.  The knick knacks on the bookshelves get on our nerves.  Then, what happens?  We might become consumed with fixing, repairing, polishing, painting these pieces of our life room.  Surely if everyone on social media can have a perfect life, we can too.  So we hone in on the eye-sore, hunker down with the worry and set our minds to get it right.  Maybe we become simply exhausted by our room because no matter how hard we try to get it just-so, real life blows through and undoes it.  

Think about your heart-life-room.  All the pieces.  All the gifts.  All the hurts.  All the hopes.  All the questions.

Where is God in this picture?  We are told that He stands at the door and knocks, and anyone who hears His voice and opens the door, He will come in eat with her/him.  To me that sounds like Him hanging out in my room, like lingering a while, maybe with coffee.  Jesus, Himself, says that He came so that we would have life and joy to the fullest, abundantly so, and in all kinds of circumstances.  He said that in this life, this world, our room, we would indeed have troubles; but in the midst of them, we can have peace and joy because He is bigger than our troubles.  This makes me pause, because I am a Christian.  Sometime ago, I asked Jesus to come and live in my heart.  But when I look at my life-room, I wonder if I invited Him into my heart with some caveats.  "Please, come be a part of my life, but don't touch my stuff... I believe in You, but it's kind of awkward with you in my room.  And I don't want my neighbors to think I am weird, so how about I visit YOU on Sundays at Your house?"   Then I look at my room that seems absent of peace and joy and life, and I wonder... perhaps I need to give this Jesus more freedom to move around in here.

What if we all said, "Jesus, I believe you love me.  I believe you have a plan for me and that You are good.  I am going to trust You with my stuff.  Come into this room and have Your way."?  I wonder what might happen.  Well, first we may have a panic attack.  As my friend Donna said, "I don't like people moving my stuff around."  But after a bit, I wonder if we may see things in a different light.  That in-law on the bookshelf whom we cannot figure out how to love, what if she gets propped up by a book so that you see her in a new light?  That chair-child that we thought was on the way to failure, what if the failure brings humbling which then leads to a beautiful and unexpected growth in character?  What if our trying to avoid the failure was actually keeping him from the gift of growth?  What if the marriage needed some polishing, some TLC from a source other than you?  What if we simply allowed the God of peace and love and forgiveness and healing and comfort and justice and hope to touch all our stuff?

A funny thing happens when a room is rearranged.  It feels news.  The light hits old things in new ways, and they start to glisten.  New arrangements of furniture allow us to travel more freely in a space that once felt small and claustrophobic.  People come into the space and see something is different here.  The room/the life - it's the same but different.   One day, we are told, when we go to the Home beyond the clouds, all things will be new.  The old hurts will be gone.  Tears wiped by the One who loves.  And all will be better than our greatest imagination. But until then, my heart wonders... could Him dwelling in my room, arranging and tending to all my life pieces, and loving me in my real-life broken spaces be a bit of that kingdom coming now, that glory glistening here, that joy springing forth abundantly in this moment, in my room and in your room on earth as it does in Heaven?



Most Sunday Schoolers have heard of the Promised Land. God’s people needed this land, for they had been slaves in Egypt, nomads in the desert, and exiles from any sort of home.  The Promised Land was rumored to be a land flowing with milk and honey.   It would be fertile so they could survive, and it would be a land to call their own where they could thrive. God promised to take care of His people, to deliver them into the fullness of this land and He did.  Home.

But what about me?   I am not an Israelite, and I do not live in the desert; but I too am craving a home for my heart and a taste of sweetness in this life. My desert is a swirl of activity. I drive concentric circles shuttling overstuffed backpacks and stinky athletic equipment to and from various schools, I have a million message beeping at me from too many devices asking me for this and reminding me of that, and my heart is baffled that life’s calendar can feel so full while I can feel so empty.   In the midst of my swirling culture, I feel pangs of homesickness.   My heart craves a HOME and a connection with the One who promises sweet love and care for me.

So, I must ask Jesus, how do I get to the Promised Land from here?  I imagine Him smiling and responding, Well, I am so glad you asked

This question led me to think about Heaven.  It is the place that is to be my forever Home, and it is the place for which we were made.  Our bodies, minds and souls were made to feel at Home there.   Scripture tells us that we are citizens of Heaven, and aliens here on earth.  Like an animal living out of its habitat, it is normal that I would feel out-of-sorts here, even on a good day.  So, this homesickness in my heart… maybe it is actually a healthy longing for a true Home.

Still, I know the old stories apply to us today, so if God offered the Promised Land then, there remains an invitation for me today.   But where is it and how do I get there?  I have sat with this question and let it wander a bit in my soul.  And that led me to wonder, what if Jesus living in our hearts is the sweet and narrow gate into the glories of the Promise Land? 

Jesus told His people He was "the way" and then in John 15 He said, “Live in me.  Make your home in me, just as I do in you…"   I think we only do half of this.  We ask Jesus into our hearts, and we visit as we need to.  We ask for things (not open ended questions that would require listening), we present things (like our noble church doings), we drive around and talk to Him here and there, (as we think of it).  This is all good, but what if it is just the beginning?  What if He wants to have us over to His place, too?  And what if the door from my heart to His Home is He, Himself?  Will I follow Him there?

Maybe our heart homesickness is a sweet nudge from the Jesus in our hearts to follow the longing deeper in.  Paul said he counted everything a loss (swirling culture) in order that he would gain Christ and "be found IN HIM".  He said he "had his eye on the goal, where Christ is beckoning us onward - to Jesus."  I think that is the Promised Land.  It is a home within a home, Christ in me AND me in Him. 

All this time, I thought I was preparing these precious guest quarters for Christ in my heart.  It turns out, He is has been waiting to show me a secret little door that He Himself created in the depths of my very own heart.   And through that door, He is beckoning me into Himself, the Promised Land.

And the true glory of it all is that I can go there while I wait in carpool line. 

Barefoot and In-Between

When we take time to look back, we can see all the ways our life journeys have shaped us into who we are today.  WOW!  When we look forward, we can see all the places we know we need to or want to go in our journey onward.  YIKES!  And then there is the in-between place.   Although nothing enormous may be going on here, in-between places can feel a little like “lost”.  It’s that place where we know everything should be “ok”, but we cannot shake a loneliness in our soul.  These are places that we often want to just get through, but we can’t quite see the way forward.  Although the place seems void of purpose and dark in its lack of connection, there seems a holiness to its gravity that beckons us to linger in the lost and listen for a voice that may ultimately beckon from the deep.

This is not a new place, rather it is rooted in the sacred.  It is part of Joshua’s story.  In it, he has replaced Moses as the leader of God’s people who have wandered the wilderness for 40 years.  Coming up on the edge of the Promised Land, God tells Joshua that He Himself will lead His people into the land flowing with milk and honey, He will deliver the city.  As God is giving Joshua this pep talk, He tells him over and over, “Do not be afraid,”  “be strong, be courageous,” and this makes me pause.  After God’s promising to hand-deliver all the goodness of the promise land, why is there such emphasis on Joshua being strong? If God is going to do the work of taking down a city, then why worry about strength?  Interesting…

It goes on. God says to Joshua that it is time to cross the Jordan River.  He tells him exactly how this is going to happen. God is going to part the waters like He had done with Moses and the Red Sea.  A new generation who had only heard about the parting of the waters would get to see it with their own eyes.  So, Joshua and the 40,000 cross the Jordan River on not-even-soggy but totally DRY ground.   They build a memorial so that these people will remember and be able to tell their children how God delivered them through the years and across this river.

Picture Joshua sitting on the banks of the Jordan.   To the left a stone memorial reminding Joshua of all he had seen God do.  He was the one who sat outside the tent while Moses and God talked like friends.  He had watched the Manna fall from heaven, followed the cloud by day and the fire by night.   Then, just 1.25 miles away, Jericho looms with its seemingly impenetrable walls.  YIKES!  And in this in-between place, on the edge of the river – the MANNA ceases.  They are so close to the Promise Land that they don’t need it anymore.  Imagine 40,000 people remembering how to cook with not so many grandparents alive who remember doing it themselves.  On the one hand, it really is so cool the way God does His thing.   On the other hand, it isn’t like it used to be.

This is the place where we all land in our lives, and not only once.  It is the in-between place where we know God has been with us and will continue to be with us, but it feels different.  The walls of need or worry loom big just ahead.  We know we should pray and trust, but the old way of eating the MANNA of daily devotion is not feeding us.  It can feel dark and lonely, like a sudden disconnect from our senses and though our eyes still work, they are having a hard time adjusting to know the way forward.  Our minds tell us we need “to figure this out.”  We label it depression.  We try to “get through” this in-between place, and fast.

That is how I imagine Joshua sitting there beside the Jordan River.   And it is in this very place that a stranger appears.  Joshua looks up and asks, ‘Are you friend or enemy?’ And the stranger says, “Neither.  I am commander of the Lord’s army.” Joshua immediately bows low.  And the commander of the Lord’s army says, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place you are standing is holy.’

And so, while every ounce of our body, mind and soul wants to get out of the in-between place, worry about the changes, fret over what is ahead, think about 1,000 other things than the loneliness that we feel, the God who knows you and has led you to this very place is whispering to you… Dear One, I am here.  I am at work in you.  And this is holy ground.

Maybe the reason God reminded Joshua to be strong and to have courage was because the temptation for all of us is to FLEE the dark and in-between places, to fix, to go, to do.  It takes enormous courage NOT to fear the darkness of learning a new way to grow spiritually.  Maybe going to church on Sundays has been your way, well starting to read a daily devotion will take enormous strength.  Maybe attending a bible study for years has been your way, well staying home to simply sit with Jesus will require enormous courage.  It will look different to all of us, but this in-between/barefoot place is an opportunity to sit a spell. It is a time to let the eyes of the heart adjust to a new way of seeing.  It is a place to let your mind rest, because He has a plan for the walls of your Jericho and just beyond that is the Promised Land.  

It turns out the in-between place is a sacred space.   So, maybe we should linger here.  Barefoot and unafraid.

Live Like You Believe

It is beyond bizarre that I am writing about the prophets. They have always seemed too- heavy-to-grasp. It has been easier to pull out the power verses from these chapters than actually pay attention to what they are saying. But God. He is a real funny One. So, here I am writing about those radical, strange-to-their-culture, weeping-for-their-lost-peeps men and women with awe and reverence. I do not claim to understand any more than a smidgeon of what these visionaries teach, but I will say without hesitation that I believe their words are deeply important for us to hear as women in 2016.

As a backdrop, after God had faithfully delivered His beloved people out of captivity and established them as a nation and after He had shown up in miraculous ways revealing His power, provision, mercy and grace, His people were pretty much ignoring Him. It was not that they did not believe He existed. They simply did not pay any attention to the words of God. So, God sent the prophets to urge His people to turn back to Him, to obey His word. Essentially, God sent the prophets to tell His people to live lives that look like you believe. And the message is the same for us. If we believe in God, our lives should look like we believe. Do they?

I have heard so much of God’s instruction for my life. I have heard His stories, and I know His promises. I can say confidently that I believe in God; but I confess that the actions of my life often look like I do not believe. I have heard the message of ‘love your neighbor as yourself’, but I dismiss the unpopular and drive past the poor. I know the command of having no other gods before Me, but the idols of our culture are so entrenched in my daily rhythms that am often unaware of what I worship. The shape of our bodies, healthy eating, social media, looking the part, acting the part, raising impressive kids, doing church well– all these things greedily vie for our attention. Within seconds of closing my Bible, my God slips to the background my eyes hone in on the worries of the world.

The Israelites were condemned for not keeping the Lord’s commands and offering sacrifices for show. Their behavior was compared to infidelity, prostitution. Are we that different? If you could print out a transcript of your thoughts or if you had a tracker for your footsteps, what would those reveal about who and what you worship? By the things I think about, by where I spend my money, my time, my energy, what does this say about who or what is my god? I sit with God in the morning and then I dance to the beat of the world all day long. The words of the prophets ring so true they make me shudder.

These prophets were wildly unpopular, because their message, if looked at squarely, stings. Like my mom used to say, “The alcohol stings when it hits the hurt because there is an infection that must be cleansed.” So, I have sat with the words of these prophets and asked God to speak their cleansing truth deeply into my wayward heart. This idea of where we have relegated God is deeply important if we want to lives as women of faith. He is not to be King of a closed Bible, King of Sunday church, He is to be King over all our lives. King in our parenting, King of our marriage, King of our friendships, King of our calendars, King of our bank accounts. King of our words. Even King of our thoughts. And if He is King over all that we say and do, our lives will look radically different. We will live lives that look like we believe in a God who is Good. The glorious promise on the flip side of the prophets’ solemn cries was this: there is a wonderful Counselor, an everlasting Father, a Prince of Peace, a Comforter, a Healer, a lover of our souls waiting with arms outstretched to receive us, when we turn to Him and live like we believe. I think it’s worth a shot.

Eugene Peterson:

“These sixteen writing prophets provide the help we so badly need if we are to stay alert and knowledgeable regarding the conditions in which we cultivate faithful and obedient lives before God. For the ways of the world – its assumptions, its values, its methods of going about its work are never on the side of God. Never. One of the bad habits that we pick up early in our lives is separating things into secular and sacred. We assume that the secular is what we are in charge of: our jobs, our time, our entertainment, our government, our social relations. The sacred is what God is in charge of: the bible, worship, heaven and hell, church and prayers. We then contrive to set aside a sacred place for God, designed, we say, to honor God but really intended to keep God in his place, leaving us free to have the final say about everything else that goes on. Prophets will have none of this. They contend that everything takes place on sacred ground. God has something to say about every aspect of our lives.”

A Posture of Listening

There is a story in I Samuel, chapter 3 about a boy hearing the voice of God for the first time. The boy’s name is Samuel. Samuel would go on to become a prophet for all of Israel, and God would speak mighty truths through him. However, before that, Samuel had to learn to hear God’s voice.

This story is encouraging to me in so many ways. First, the fact that the God - who knows me, made me, loves me, sees me, has a purpose for me, and is - at present - preparing a place for me to spend forever and ever – that God is not too busy to talk to me. Enormously exciting. The second reason this gets me all fired up is that if He is speaking to me personally, then this faith/church/religion stuff gets very real. No longer the black and white mandate of got to/should do/need to, the God at the center of my faith is now only a conversation away. Faith starts to feel less like duty and more like a road trip with a wise and loving bestie. And thirdly, when Someone wants to spend a lifetime traveling with you, talking with you, listening to your heart’s groanings that you can’t even articulate – well - to me, that sounds like the intimacy I always wanted but never knew I was missing.

So, how do I hear this voice? Interesting how it worked for Samuel. He was asleep on the floor beside the arc of the Lord. His mentor, Eli, was sleeping in the room just adjacent. The Lord calls to Samuel three times, “Samuel!” Every time Samuel wakes up and runs to Eli saying, “Here I am.” And each time, Eli essentially says, I didn’t call you. Go back to bed. After the third time, Eli realizes that this may be the Lord speaking to Samuel, “So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” And that is what Samuel did. The Lord called on him again, and Samuel responded just as Eli had said. “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” And the Lord spoke, and Samuel listened, a pattern that would continue for the rest of Samuel’s life.

So, what was the difference between the times Samuel didn’t recognize God’s voice and the time that he did? What I see in this passage is that Samuel got into a posture of listening, and in doing so, he went from simply hearing to truly listening.

He was quiet and still. No matter how hard we try, it is very hard to truly listen when the world around us is loud and busy. We may hear things, but that doesn’t mean we are always listening. He was expectant. He went from not even considering that God would speak to him to becoming expectant of hearing God’s voice. He was open. Maybe it was because he was a boy without the encumbrances of a great political, social or personal agenda, but Samuel seemed so open to hear anything. I confess that I listen out primarily for things I want to hear - like that I am “right” in pretty much all circumstances. The reality is that sometimes when we listen only for certain things we miss the message all together. He was believing. Samuel was able to listen, because he believed God would speak to a little fella like him.

Ladies, this is immensely important, this listening business. In verse 7 of this chapter it says, “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord” before he listened to God’s voice. Samuel grew up in the temple, a student of the great prophet Eli, he slept on the floor beside the arc of the Lord which was considered the very presence of God. Still, with all that ‘church’ all around him, he did not know the Lord until he listened to His voice.

So, here is our MANNA: God is speaking to you now. He is a God who calls out to the people He loves. And, this I know for sure. He loves you. He wants to ‘tell you great and unsearchable things that you do not know’. Will you listen? What if you gave Him 3 minutes of your day today in a quiet, open, expectant and believing posture? What if you said, “Speak, Lord, for I am listening”? What if …

Mary: Casting Call

In all of the Christmas pageants of my youth, I never got to play the part of Mary. It was a significant disappointment, and it has taken me years to accept this oversight. So, you will join in my rejoicing as I share with you the good news of my recent nod from the Director. It seems there is still a chance for us all.

Luke 1 tells of the angel Gabriel approaching Mary with news of her being chosen to give birth to the Son of God. “The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you… Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.”

When Mary was cast in this role it had something to do with her favor with God. I wonder what that means… favor. Throughout the Old Testament, men and women found favor with God as they listened to Him, trusted Him, obeyed Him and walked with Him. He was in their thoughts, their plans, their hearts. He was ahead of them, behind them, with them. He was I AM to them. For me in 2015, that sounds like belief in its deepest and yet simplest form. Belief that He is all I need. Belief that He is so big, so close, so good, so deliberate in His every awareness of my life that He becomes an extension of me, as I become an extension of Him. Inseparable. Entwined.

John 15:7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask … and it shall be done for you.”

I have thought about Mary and this abiding and this favor a lot this Christmas, because I want all of it. But how? I don’t really know for sure, but I think it has to do with planting His words into my soul’s depths with the belief they will grow and become something bigger than me. Just as we believe a seed properly planted will become something else, His words inside of me - Him in me - will yield something new. Him in me changes me, grows me, stretches me, refines me from the inside out. And something else happens along the way. It’s as if I am being prepared for a place I long for but have never seen.

Here we sit at Christmas. And I hear an offering for each of us to play a most sacred role in THE story of our time… You see, I think He is asking all of us to be Mary. It may sounds something like this:

Daughter, will you take My word, My Self into your heart and become pregnant with all the potential of a new life? I am asking only that you abide in me, as My word abides in you. Like a pregnant woman watches new life grow inside of her – something she can only partially see and feel but not fully understand - will you allow Me to grow inside of you? By saying yes, you will begin to see the splendor of Eternity dripping into your everyday life. I ask only that you love this new Life with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. The life inside of you is called Jesus. He is love itself, and He is your Emmanuel. Follow Him wherever He goes. He will comfort you, heal you, bring you peace and joy as you have never known. Trust Him, because He is good. He will show you the way to Me. And with Me, you will understand; for it is with Me that you have always belonged. I have given all that I loved most to give you this opportunity, this gift. I desire you to say yes, because I love you so. This is My Hand reaching down to you. Will you receive this new Life you were born to love?

And just like that, this story is our story. The part is ours for the taking. So, what if we played the part of Mary this Christmas by saying, “Let it be”?

Ruth: Stepping Stones into the Heart of God

The story of Ruth’s journey from pagan Moab to godly Bethlehem and the life that unfolds for her there paints a picture of what following God looks like. It is very easy to treat God like an invisible, unmoving thing that must be visited and honored with bedtime prayers and weekly church services. What Ruth shows us is that living a life of faith requires physical steps TOWARDS God. And before we all panic and say “What steps? Where are the markers? How do I get to Him?” Know that the way is actually quite clear. The steps to God are simply our doing what HE says, again and again.

In my mind, Moab represents the places in my life where I try to have it both ways. It’s where I want to live a life of faith, but I don’t really want to do what the Bible says. Moab is the place where I want to follow Christ, AND ignore my sisters who are struggling because of the color of their skin. It is the place where I want to feel good about doing my quiet time AND omit the part about living in relationship with people whose bank accounts are not like mine. Moab is the place where we say, Yes, I believe in God, but there is a to-do list or an image-to-maintain that just must be addressed right now; so I simply cannot walk toward Jesus today. And I wonder why my faith life feels stagnant.

Ladies, never has Ruth hit me so hard. I used to focus on the love story part and how she ‘happened’ into the field of the wealthy and godly Boaz. I would daydream about the good life Ruth and Boaz had together as leaders in that town. I would get so excited thinking about how that’s what Jesus wants for me. It is all good stuff; and it is truth on which it is absolutely worth dwelling. But we must look at what got her there.

When Ruth asks Boaz how he has come to notice her and give her this favor, he says this: “All that YOU HAVE DONE for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how YOU LEFT your father and mother and the land of your people, and CAME to a people that you did not already know.” Ruth 2:11. This affects you and me, because Boaz is a pre-cursor to Christ. In many ways, this story of how Boaz cares for, provides for and redeems Ruth gives us an understanding of the kind of redemption Christ is offering you and me. So, when Boaz is saying that he notices: 1) what she DID for her mother-in-law; 2) how she left her people; 3) how she came to a new land; I cannot help but think these are the things that Jesus desires of me. These are my stepping stones into the heart of God.

Let me be crystal clear: we cannot have a relationship with Jesus strictly by serving His people. We must spend time with Him in His word, listening to His voice, praying and worshiping Him. To be sure, Ruth learned many a lesson from Naomi as they tended house back in Moab about who God was and what His commands were. She had spent time learning about God; but in this story we see her physically moving TOWARDS God. There comes a time for all of us to move, to take steps away from Moab and towards our Redeemer. He awaits us in foreign fields and amongst people we have not always known but who are to be OUR people.

Before leaving Moab, Ruth profoundly vowed that Naomi’s God would be her God, and His people would be her people. I have read that verse so many times, but I never saw how I have not DONE this verse. I can see clearly how I have accepted God to be my God but fallen gravely short of seeing His people as my people. Sisters, there is a time for movement towards Him in our hearts, but there is also a time for moving closer to Him with our lives and often that requires a displacement from what feels normal, comfortable, and safe.

Displacement is scary. Leaving what you know and venturing to a neighborhood, a person, a daily routine totally different from your own - it feels weird. But it will be worth it. Boaz was waiting in Ruth’s field of displacement. Jesus is waiting in yours, with arms outstretched. Your love story… waiting to unfold.

Remembering Led Joshua to Faith and Obedience. God gave him Victory.

Four centuries of Egyptian bondage, followed by forty years of wilderness wandering, then the Glory days. God spoke, Joshua listened, and the Glory Days began. The Jordan River opened up. The Jericho walls fell down. The sun stood still. Evil was booted. Homeless wanderers became hope-filled homesteaders. The Lord gave the land. The Lord gave rest.

How could this movement from Egypt to the Promised Land apply to us?

Egypt: Hebrews enslaved to Pharoah. Represents our days before salvation, enslaved to sin.

Wilderness: The defeated Christian life. Characterized by grumbling, anxiety and desire to be slaves again. Didn’t believe the Lord could give them what He promised. Out of Egypt (slavery), but Egypt wasn’t out of them.

Promised Land: The victorious Christian life. By Jesus’ grace and power, we were freed from our old life. “We are more than conquerors.” Romans 8:37. Canaan is a life defined by grace, refined by challenge, and aligned with a heavenly call. We serve out of our giftedness and delight in the Lord.

There were 2 key characteristics that allowed Joshua to lead God's people into the Promised Land.

1. REMEMBERING led Joshua to faith and obedience

  • From the first mention of Joshua in the Bible, it was very important to God that Joshua REMEMBERED. Joshua was the lead soldier in the wilderness battle with the Amalekites. When Moses' hands were raised they were winning, but when they dropped the Amalekites would be winning. After the victory, the Lord asked Moses to write the story on the scroll as something to be remembered and make sure Joshua hears it.
  • When God called Joshua to lead His people into the Promised Land (Joshua 1), Joshua could have responded with “I can’t”. Moses was dead, 2 million people inexperienced in battle, and the Canaanites eat people like them for breakfast. But, Joshua Remembered that God could do the miraculous. He trusted God's Word, and believed that God had already blessed them and chose to live into that blessing.
  • Joshua had faith because God declared He was giving them the land, not might give, you must conquer, must prove yourself worthy, must earn or purchase! Transaction had already happened. When we give our life to Christ, He “has blessed (us) with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” (Eph. 1:3) Not will bless, might bless, or someday could possibly bless. 2 Cor 5:17, God will “equip you with all you need for doing his will” (Heb 13:21), “God has given us everything we need for living a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3). These Promises are for us!
  • God offered the inheritance to the people of Moses’ day, but they didn’t take it. They chose the wilderness- self-preservation and grumbling. We don’t want to make the same mistake. Joshua took God at his word and set about the task.
  •  What are our Jerichos that keep us from Promised Land living? Does a stronghold (a false premise that denies God’s promise) have a strong hold on you? Ask God to reveal it.
    • I could never forgive that person (stronghold of resentment)
    • I could never recover or change (stronghold of defeat)

    • Bad things always happen to me (stronghold of self-pity)

    • I have to be in charge for things to go right (stronghold of pride)

    • I don’t deserve to be love (stronghold of rejection)

    • I must be good or God will reject me (stronghold of performance)

    • I’m only as good as I look (stronghold of appearance)

    • My value is based on my possessions (stronghold of materialism)

  • “The enemy does not have to kill you to destroy your witness… all he has to do is disorient, distract, disengage, distance you, disable you, deactivate you…. From your calling." Gary Barkalow, It’s Your Call: What Are You Doing Here?


  • God was equipping Joshua for the mission of a lifetime. Command given? Read the Word of God. (Joshua 1:8) He gives us the same word. Open our Bibles, most important tool for spiritual growth.
  • Desire to leave the wilderness for the Promised Land? Trust in God, engage the Bible, meditate on it day and night, think and rethink about it, let it be your guide and go-to book for questions, the ultimate authority in your life. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” John 8:32. Truth saves us from guilt, fear, anger, and reconfigures our heart.
  • Do we have Scripture on the walls of our heart? On the walls of our home? By our kitchen sink?

Like a mom sending her child off to school, bending down low, looking them in the eye, “Remember what God has done. Remember who you are. Remember whose you are.”

Content from Max Lucado’s book, “Glory Days: Living Your Promised Land Life Now.”