Subtitled: Squeeze Tight

I have a friend who is not a hugger, at all! Unfortunately for him, his daughter is. Sometimes she’ll walk up to him and say, “Hug!” so he’ll do it. This is most often followed though by the daughter saying, “Squeeze tight!” You see there are moments in life when we just need to be held.

Maybe it’s just me, but there are times that I picture myself sitting on God’s lap, saying “Hug, squeeze tight!” I confess to Him that I really really don’t know what He is doing, but acknowledge Him as Father. A Father that really does know best. Even though our finite minds can’t fathom the craziness sounding us, that doesn’t negate that it makes perfect sense in the grand design.

It’s been a rough few days for me. Since Sunday afternoon I’ve been trying to process the phrase “You give and take away” from a praise song I’ve sung many times but am only now beginning to internalize. The next phrase says, “My heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your Name.” Sure, it’s easy to praise and sing when He is in the giving stage. But what does our heart truly say during those taking away portions of life? I’m not talking about the “they had a good and long life” taking away though that is painful as well. I’m talking about the freak car accidents, the medical procedures gone wrong, etc. – what do our hearts say then?

Tonight my heart simply says, I’m hurting. Squeeze tight. But despite the tears and heartache, I know that He is the Father who loves and works for good. I don’t get it. I really don’t get it. But I trust it. “Blessed be Your Name.”

As I drove home tonight I tried processing the events of the last five days and two separate hurting families I know. I realized I had to write because this is my therapy (along with the ice cream in my freezer!) So if you’ve read this far, please know that if this blog spoke to you then Praise Him, but in truth, I wrote this one for me.

Subtitled: Do I Trust You?

Looking back over the last year it’s been, well a lot more valleys than mountains: friends moving away, church shake ups, fires, car accidents, injuries, cancer, even death. All of this offset by a beautiful baby niece born in December. As I sit on my back deck on a gorgeous July afternoon I realize though, all of life is offset by a baby that was born in December.

There is a song that starts “sometimes my little heart can’t understand / what’s in Your will, what’s in Your plan / so many times I’m tempted to ask You why.” But through all the unknowns, life comes down to this simple question, the title of that song: Do I trust You? When family and friends are far away… When people disappoint and circumstances break hearts… when health seems to be unattainable…. Yes, even when loved ones die – Do I trust that God has His best in mind? Do I trust that Jesus will lead and guide and protect me always?

The second verse of the song goes, “I know the answers I’ve given them all / but suddenly now I feel so small, shaken down to the cavity in my soul / I know the doctrine and theology but right now they don’t mean much to me / this time there’s only one thing I’ve got to know…”

Sometimes we know the answers, but we haven’t paused long enough to remember them. As I look over my life, I see the arc of His faithfulness. Even when things didn’t go my way or make sense at the time He was always in control. Mercifully in control. When I stop and look back, I can refocus and say yes Lord, I do trust You. I don’t always understand you. I don’t always like what You’re doing and the way You do it, but I trust You.

“He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him—not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake. Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me.” Psalm 23:3-4 (AMPC)

So while I keep looking for this particular crazy season to end, I continue to trust in Him because He always has been, always is, and always will be faithful.

Subtitled: Remembering God

Ten years ago this month I wrote for my first article as a “guest columnist” for the local paper. I wrote dozens of articles over the two years I lived in Marietta, and the newspaper gave me carte blanche in what to write but they mostly centred on events or mini-sermons. This was my “Memorial Day” article in 2008. I’ve edited it a bit for modernization but otherwise, I post it as it was written.

Today we celebrate Memorial Day. A day about remembrance. Remembering the past in celebration of the present. In thinking about Memorial Day, I wanted to do a bit of Biblical remembrance.

Noah is remembered as the man who was in the 40 day flood. What many times we fail to realize is that this faithful man of God was actually in the ark for months. Genesis 7:17 says that was how long “the flood kept coming on the earth.” The last sentence before the eighth chapter says, “The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.” (That’s nearly half a year!) We’re not talking about a cruise vacation here- can you only imagine! The smells of the animals after this long period of time… the “family togetherness” for that amount of time. Yet, what did it say in the scripture- “But God remembered Noah.” God had provided before the flood and would continue to provide. He wouldn’t just leave them floating forever, but remembered them and remedied the situation. He sent wind to dry the waters, and another two months later they were able to disembark from their floating home to re-establish life on the earth again.

God remembered Noah- and God provided.

This is just one instance of many in the Bible where God remembered- and then provided. Yet, sometimes we fail to remember that the God of the Old and New Testaments is the same God who watches over each of us. He will remember us- and He will provide. We just have to keep remembering Him.

Quite frankly, we’re a society that isn’t very good at remembering things. We use post-its, calendars, and even our cell phones to remember things. I keep a Google Calendar that contains all my dates and schedules in a clear and succinct manner. Even my time with God is typed into my digital calendar. Yep, God has His scheduled time slot. Once I hit my high school into college years truthfully, I had a hard time remembering God. He would get lost in just the everyday craziness of life. Not only would He get lost, but then all the blessings and answers that came along with remembering God went wholly unnoticed. God had remembered me, had provided so much more than I could ask or imagine- but I just didn’t see it.

How about you? When was the last time you remembered God? Fully stopped the hamster wheel of life and took notice of Him. Noted the blessings He had given, the answers He had provided, and the love and forgiveness which is available to all. This Memorial Day, in your time of remembering those who have served for our freedoms, stop for a moment and remember God who graced us with ultimate freedom. He remembers us in our storms and trials, our slavery and bondage, in our heartaches and pains.

We need to be remembering Him this day, and every day.

Subtitled: Loaves & Fishes

Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”
John 6:7-9 ESV

How many times have you read or heard the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000? For me, probably dozens of dozens. And yet today as I read this story I was struck by a new thought. It comes from a tiny detail tucked into these familiar scriptures. “One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him…” Never before had I given thought to Andrew, the disciple who brought the little boy’s offering to Jesus. Before this very moment his name was just a superfluous part of the story but today I was struck by his courage.

Think about it. Jesus asked Philip what He should do to fix the problem (John 6:5) and when Philip comes up with naught, Andrew brings up this preposterously inadequate meal option. Even he knows it’s not enough saying, “what are they for so many?” but none the less, Andrew brought the five loaves and two fish to The Lord’s attention. Can you just picture the eye rolling and sarcastic comments of the others? Andrew had to know it was coming. Like seriously? There are well over 5,000 people and you bring this nothingness to the Son of God Himself? What are you thinking?! And yet, despite his own disbelief, he offered up what was available to him.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

How often do we see a problem, a need and yet feel ill-equipped to help? We might feel hesitant to step in, to step up because the gifts or resources we have available seem so preposterously inadequate to make a difference. We think, “You know, if I make this suggestion, if I bring this option up, people might roll their eyes and laugh, might make snide or sarcastic comments. Maybe it’ll be better if I just stay back here in the crowd and let others figure it out.”

And yet, we must have courage. “Lord, this is all I have but what can it do?” Who knows, it just might be that God is waiting for us to bring our meagre offering so that He can transform it into a mighty miracle. Andrew didn’t know what the final outcome would look like, he even had his doubts, but brought what he had anyways. You and I may not always know what the final outcome is going to look like in any given situation, we might even have our doubts about our ability or capacity, but we have to have the courage to bring what we have anyways.

Who knows, we might have more left over than what we started with!

Subtitled: Lesser Things

[Caution: a more personal blog than usual]

A few months ago I met a guy. We had mutual friends in common and so after I confirmed that he wasn’t “some crazy,” we started talking. The circumstances that brought us to be in the same place at the same time were so improbable that it could not have been coincidental. I was convinced God was at work. It was a great few weeks until one day *poof* he disappeared. To use a Harry Potter term, he apparated. I was left desperately trying to figure out what I had said or what had gone so terribly wrong. Why had he so completely pushed me away? I well and truly struggled for a while.

This week as I was praying on my way to work I was reminded of two lines from a song. “And all the while, You hear each spoken need, yet love us way too much to give us lesser things.” Honestly, I cried. God’s love is so great that He doesn’t give us lesser things. The Father wants only the highest and best for His children. As I’ve pondered this over recent days I realized that it’s not that good things aren’t good, but good things may be less than something even better.

As humans we like to fill our lives with more, even “good” mores: people/relationships, technology/hobbies, career, food, etc. But sometimes in our pursuit of more, we can find ourselves with less. Connecting with the wrong people, be it in relationship or just community, causes heartache or worse. The “perfect job” that we’ve been striving for comes at the expense of family time.

Sometimes when we pause and examine our lives, we realize that less can indeed be more. What you have right now, as imperfect as it is, may indeed be better than if you were to add “more” or pursue “better.”

In my own life and situation I know that my job isn’t perfect, it’s not the top of the hierarchy but I enjoy going to work each day and it pays enough to cover my bills with a little left over. Yes, I could go for something “more” to allow for “more” left over, but in that pursuit I may find myself infinitely less happy. As much as I desire a hand to hold, I know that the wrong relationship isn’t going to add to my life but diminish it.

There are times we might be frustrated with God and what we think He should be doing but isn’t, but as the song goes, He hears “each spoken need, yet love us way too much to give us lesser things.” Be reminded of that.

Subtitled: A Wondrous Exchange

The soundtrack to my growing up years was either Sandi Patty, Psalty the Singing Songbook, or Luke Garrett. My dad’s choice of “Polish Polka” was always overruled. Recently, one of the songs that Mom played called “Wondrous Exchange” came back to mind.

“A wondrous exchange, a wondrous exchange / An offer so great I can scarcely believe / His crown for my shame, His loss for my gain / His death for my life, what a wondrous exchange”

On the day of my 18th birthday I started working in retail. It was my life until I went to seminary almost five years later. One thing I encountered on almost a daily basis was exchanges. Or even more appropriately titled “even exchanges.” If a shirt came in and wasn’t in bad condition, you could exchange it for something of equal value. If you wanted something better, that option was available to you, but for a price.

In thinking about exchanges recently I was stuck anew by the magnitude of not just the song, but what Jesus actually did for each of us. Him for me: Holy God for wretched human. Prince for pauper. Perfection for corruption. This wasn’t remotely an “even exchange” policy – this was exchanging something dirty and tattered for new perfection. But the catch is, there was a price… but He paid it.

Quite frankly, it doesn’t make sense! Why would God allow this vastly uneven exchange in the first place, and even more than that, why would He offer His own Son to pay the price?! And yet, God wonderfully, mercifully, and miraculously is a God who does things that don’t make sense, at least in our finite human minds.

Throughout our lives there are snapshots that don’t seem to make sense in the moment but weeks, months, even years later we understand exactly what He was trying to accomplish. Things that don’t seem to fit in the puzzle at the time, fill a perfect void in later life when we realize there was an edge piece missing, or maybe a bigger picture entirely.

I don’t always understand what God is doing, in fact I dare say I am confused more often that I am confident. But when I think of the wondrous exchange paid for me, I realize that I am right where I’m supposed to be: relying on a God who sees a bigger picture, and always wants he best for me.


Subtitled: In Heaven’s Eyes

Normally, when you see a post from me, you can assume it’s my thoughts, my story, and/or the things God is teaching me along this journey called life. This post is different though. It’s not my story but one I am merely privileged to share because it is a story worth sharing.

I met Amos, age 10, at the Sandi Patty / Veritas concert in Marietta, Ohio. He sat across the aisle from me – front row, with yellow roses in hand. It was his third time seeing the “Forever Grateful” show and he had come to see “Miss Sandi Patty” one last time before she retired.

After the concert this little boy who “never knew a stranger” gave me a huge hug and even kissed the right side of my face. He was just the most adorable little guy I’d ever met! I got to know Amos’ mom Tina after the show and she shared with me a little about Amos’ background.

And I have the privilege of sharing it with you. Written by Tina, this is Amos’ story:

Three Sandi Patty concerts? Three? Yes, three! Obsessions are common for people with the same disabilities as Amos. Most of his friends obsess over Darth Vader or professional wrestlers. My son obsesses over Sandi Patty, and yes, I reinforce that obsession. Why? Well, the obvious answer is because I don’t want him obsessing over Darth Vader or professional wrestlers, but mostly because I am thankful that he has chosen someone of such character and class to be the primary focus of his life.

First, who is Amos? The sad answer is that nobody really knows. He was born in China, but we have no idea when. Abandoned outside the orphanage gate, a doctor guessed that he was eight months old, and assigned him the birth date of December 21, 2006. Then, eight years of being hated and abused in every way imaginable followed. I had no idea that Amos even existed until I “just happened” to be at the orphanage to adopt an older girl who was about to “age out.” It was then that this little boy walked up to me, took my hand, looked deep into my eyes, and said “Mumma?” In that moment, my heart sank. “Who? What? How?” were all questions that rushed through my mind, but the biggest question was “God, why?” Along with my new daughter, I left the orphanage that day with a little boy’s “birthday,” a name, and more questions than answers.

Miracle after miracle happened. Despite violating several state, national, and international codes, my home study agency, my adoption agency, the United States government, and the People’s Republic of China all consented to the adoption! Oh, and Amos wasn’t even officially available for adoption. I’m sparing you the details, but want to make sure to emphasize that each of these is a huge miracle that can only come from the one true God!

Then there is the money factor. Most people have automobile debt and credit card debt. Well, I have adoption debt. I’m not okay with that, until I think of all that my son went through. To put it into perspective, as soon as I signed the adoption papers the orphanage director looked at me and said “you never should have signed that – he’s a bad bad boy.” No, he is a very precious boy who is gifted at playing drums, brings such fun and laughter into our home, and is “Mr. Personality.”

So, yes, I take him to lots of Sandi Patty concerts. And, lots of tears flow from this “Mumma.” Why? Because during those three hours, my son is loved for who he is. During those three hours, everyone only sees the good in my son and not his issues. During those three hours, my son is free from the demons of his past. During those three hours, this “Mumma” gets to watch her son just be a happy little boy loving life. So, yes, I will continue to take him to as many Sandi Patty concerts as possible.

“Mr. Personality” is a testimony of God’s provision and how every single person is fearfully and wonderfully made. And, his story isn’t complete since God is writing it every day!

There are 153 million “Amos'” in the world. Not everybody is called to adopt, but we are all called to care for orphans. If you are called to adopt, know that nobody is ever “ready” and it’s never “a good time.” But, think of the other side of that coin…it’s never a good time to be an orphan. If you are not called to adopt, there are so many fun ways to serve orphans. Organize a clothing drive, collect a card shower to send to tired and underappreciated orphanage workers, partner as a prayer warrior for a specific orphan, etc. The possibilities are endless! Just as I didn’t know that Amos even existed, many others don’t know if we don’t share.

Feel free to contact me – I’ll gladly answer any questions!