Oh, what a happy soul am I!

Francis Jane Crosby was the author of over 9,000 hymns. Did you know she wrote so many that she began using pen names so that the hymnals would not be filled with her name alone? Beautiful hymns such as: Blessed Assurance Safe in the Arms of Jesus All the Way My Savior Leads Me Rescue the Perishing Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross Born in New York, Fanny was ill almost from the beginning. Their family’s regular doctor was out of town and another man, who claimed to be a doctor, prescribed hot mustard compresses to her eyes. She got over the sickness but the treatment left her blind. Blindness didn’t deter her from her love of life and her love for the Word of God. She memorized scripture every day, five chapters a week! Fanny loved poetry and wrote her first verse at the age of eight: Oh what a happy soul am I! Although I cannot see. I am resolved that in this world, Contented I will be. How many blessings I enjoy That other people don’t. To weep and sigh because I’m blind? I cannot and I won’t! The Apostle Paul was also one to be acquainted with grief. He had lived through many, many persecutions. Most of them were physical. “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own...

When Humor Is Not Funny

Recently, I attended a local community event and overheard a conversation that disturbed me greatly. A couple sitting near me were making fun of an obese gentleman who was part of the event, but was not close enough to hear their conversation. After a few moments, their conversation turned to a different topic, but I was left pondering what I had heard. Allow me to offer a disclaimer of which I am not proud: ten years ago I probably would have joined in the discussion and laughed right along with the couple. I can still remember my mother telling me, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Unfortunately, I did not learn that lesson very well. For many, many years, I used my tongue to make fun of others and talk about them behind their backs for a host of reasons. Unconsciously, I suppose I reasoned that as long as the person did not actually hear me doing it, I was safe. In truth, it never occurred to me that my actions were displeasing to God and a sad statement about my relationship with Jesus. My actions spoke like a megaphone to the world about the state of my character. I called myself a Christian, but I was a hypocrite. I looked nothing like Jesus when I made fun of others and talked about them behind their backs. My words were neither encouraging or helpful to anyone. In 2008 I was confronted with a quote from a flip calendar I received when I attended one of the awesome CLASS speaker training events. The quote, by Patsy...

The Widow Lamp of the Journey

(photo credit) Each year on the first Sunday in March, the Iditarod Trail Committee lights a small gas lantern and hangs it from the Burled Arch. Called the Widow’s Lamp, it remains lit until the last musher is off the Iditarod trail. The extinguishing of the lamp by the final musher signals the official end of the race. (https://iditarodoutsider.wordpress.com/tag/widows-lamp/) Life is full of journeys. Physically, emotionally, or mentally we all experience periods that require endurance, patience, and growth.  The tendency to rush a process that refuses our advances and takes its natural time to develop, often unfolding longer than we expect or hope, is familiar to most of us. For some, the start and finish of the journey is perhaps the toughest. For others, the long stretch in between,  feeling alone on the trail, exhausted, with no real sign of advancement, is the most difficult stage. Seasons of transition or waiting can be a big part of a journey where there is little light or knowledge of what is to come. Every winter in Willow, Alaska, dog sled teams start the beginning of March on the toughest marathon trail with whiteout conditions and blizzard temperatures. It is not unusual for mushers (dog sled drivers) and their dogs to push through inky Alaskan blackness, unable to see clearly what lies ahead. Yet, on the final stretch of unforgiving ice after days of remarkable journey, competitors realize the finish line is attainable with the vision of one small hanging lantern: a symbol of completion. I imagine for the musher and his team, sight of the widow’s lamp is an unparalleled prize...

Blessings Don’t Always Feel Good

We were sitting in Applebee’s when he said it. It was over steak, potatoes and salad with too much ranch dressing. “My cancer saved me, Holly.” That was the last thing I expected to come from my father’s mouth. The cancer had plagued him, kept him awake in the middle of the night due to debilitating pain and intense fear. The cancer  had robbed him of his physical health and made him look like a concentration camp victim. (he always joked he was trying out for the next Holocaust film) How in the world had cancer saved him? He continued, “Before I got cancer, I was so consumed with me. There were things I was holding onto that I would not fully give to God, until the cancer. I am at a place with God now like I’ve never been. I have peace and feel Him with me like never before.”  That day as I sat looking at him, I saw a different man before me. He didn’t look the same — his outer appearance was fading — but his inner spirit that dwelt with Christ was gleaming. Oh friends, we look at blessings so incorrectly sometimes. We always equate them with good health, prosperity, and warm, fuzzy feelings. We say, “I had a blessed Christmas” because we got a lot of things and gorged on yummy food. True, these are blessings, but what about the person in the hospital whose body is wracked in pain and feels alone? Are they not blessed? I was studying the word blessed today and the Greek meaning. When Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor...

In the Face of My Enemies

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5 Who are my enemies? I don’t have the kind of enemies King David faced every day. I don’t go into physical battle to fight other nations. I doubt my son will ever wage war against me, as David’s son did. But I do have enemies. My biggest enemy is the enemy we all have: Satan. Our accuser, the father of lies, the evil one. He’s the one who wants to steal from us, kill  and destroy us. I also face the enemies in my own heart: my pride, selfishness, apathy, jealousy, self-protective bent, and desire for comfort to name a few. Sometimes when I am struggling with these “enemies,” I have a hard time writing or sharing spiritual truth. I find it difficult to write out scriptural insights because my enemies accuse me and tell me I’m not worthy. As I was reading Psalm 23:5 one morning, it struck me that God wants to prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. When I come to Him in the morning to read the Bible, pray and write my thoughts, He has promised to spread a table before me, to give me truth and insight into His word even in the presence of my enemies of pride, selfishness and sin. Even in the presence of the accuser, the devil. When I come to Him with an open heart and mind, confessing my sin and seeking Him, He will give me truth. He will feed...

Dieting and My Christian Walk

Recently, my hubby said something in a sermon about people being willing to give God some of ourselves, maybe even most of ourselves, but until we give Him EVERY-thing, we won’t experience Christianity the way God intended. So I’m thinking to myself, “That’s sounds a lot like dieting.” (Probably because I would REALLY like a huge plate of nachos for lunch instead of the baked fish waiting on me.) The comparison occupied my mind for several days as I adjusted to my new diet. Each time I made a poor food choice, I was reminded how similar choices hinder my Christian walk. What if I eat mostly “allowed” foods, and give up all the “bad” foods except maybe one or two? Can’t I give up the extra pizza and sugary soft drinks with friends, but eat a pack of cookies in private? I mean, giving up MOST of the foods that make me fat counts for something, right? Surely giving up MOST every “forbidden” food allows me the right to a nightly bowl of vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate syrup and candy coated sprinkles. Of course not! I have to wonder why so many of us do the same with our Christian walk. We give up most everything, only holding on to those “little” vices that we “deserve.” Surely giving up most of our sinful desires counts for something. Giving up MOST of our “old life” gives us the right to hang on to one little part of it, doesn’t it? I can have all the tools to get healthy. I can join a gym, carry a gym pass on my key ring, pack my gym bag...

No Ordinary Love

Matthew 27:45-46, 51-53 From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I began the week wading in thoughts of the selfless love of Christ on the cross. The time between the famous “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” and his last mortal breaths was where I dropped anchor. I pondered the suspension. It is a picture of unprecedented darkness. A place where God seemingly abandons his son by placing humanity’s plight on his back to burrow. The darkest of dark. Abject abandonment and withdrawal of God from earth.  As I sipped my morning coffee, I let it sink in. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[c] went into the holy city and appeared to many people. A probing question circled up from my warm cup: “Why did Christ (who was above reproach) at the stygian hour continue forward in what must have been a most unusual experience for the Trinity— something completely unnatural— an unbearable separation?” As the only place in scripture where Christ’s words imply triune separation, I imagine it was a new experience for the Godhead. And I presume no person since has experienced that kind of complete withdrawal of God on earth. Hebrews 13:5b And God has said, “Never will I leave...

Still Frame

{The Vision} I looked out to see sheets of green dipping into valleys where early morning shadows hovered over the moist earth, only to build up again into curved slopes where wind curled and crashed over the top. From my mind’s eye, the hills stretched up, each touching the horizon in sequence, continuing into an infinitely of wide-open space. Eyes closed, I’d take off running towards the skyline, tension in my arms and the wind at my back. {The Backstory} I spent most of my childhood, until age 13, on a single street in rural North Carolina. Summers were my favorite. I’d wake up early, pick out mismatched clothes from my beloved pickled oak cabinet, and hurry out in search of the morning. A pasture bordered one side of our house. The rusty barbed wire fence, overgrown with prairie grass, separated us from a few cattle, occasionally grazing. The pasture, though small, would not only become a backdrop for some of the first conversations I’d have with God, it would appear as a still frame on a reel of memories, long after my family moved away. God knew that certain events in my life would crush me. He knew that I’d believe things about myself that weren’t true: that I would compare myself to others. Was I enough? Was I too much? He knew that I would strive to please, and how heavy this self-made mantle would become…with anxiety, panic, and exhaustion. He knew that I would make decisions, albeit with good intentions, in order to gain control. He knew that others would betray me, and how many sleepless...

Teaching Our Kids Not to Mask Their Pain

I answered the phone and on the other end was a dear friend sobbing. She was going through a debilitating depression and was making the decision whether to get on medication or not. She has teenagers like myself and I asked her if the kids knew. I could barely hear her whisper on the other end of the line: “No, and I don’t want them to know.” Oh, I knew the feeling all too well. I had just experienced the same thing and had to sit my kids down and explain I had depression and was taking medication. But I too had hidden it from them for quite a while out of shame. We chatted for a while and in the following days we both wrestled with these questions back and forth to each other: “How will we teach our kids the path to wellness if we don’t show them? “How do we explain to them that it’s okay to sometimes not be okay? “What if they someday go through depression like us. Are we teaching them to hide? To run? To be ashamed?” I was taught from an early age how to cope with my pain. My father was a severe alcoholic/addict and I learned early on how to numb it by stuffing it down with a substance or food, or to run from it altogether. My dad ended up getting sober when I was eighteen and was clean for twenty-two years before he passed away two years ago. Through watching him in active recovery all those years and watching him come out of hiding, God began leading me...

Our trials Are NOT Our End

“It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” Psalm 119:71. It was good for me. Affliction is good for me? Trials are good for me? Tests and temptations are good for me? Why? That I might learn. That I might grow. That I might serve. The Scottish minister, James Stewart, profoundly stated, “In love’s service, only the wounded soldiers can serve.” The wounded soldier has felt pain, he has been hurt, suffered, maybe even had to crawl out of a hole to get back on his feet. He has had to dodge enemy fire; he had to keep getting back up, time and time again. But he does. Psalm 147:3. “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” It doesn’t matter what caused the broken heart or how the injury got there, God is ready to heal us of our wounds so we can move on and help someone else. Psalm 51:17. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” He sees our broken heart and spirit and that is just what He needs to work with and work through! “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39. Our trials are not our end. The scripture doesn’t mean we will not experience difficulty or even suffer in this life. We will! He did! But He promised...