Hungry for Kindness

I have excused my reluctance to give to the sign holders who occupy freeway exits and high traffic intersections by telling myself they will just use the money to buy drugs or alcohol. And besides, if they are hungry, why don’t they just go somewhere that serves free meals to the homeless, or better yet, get a job and quit begging? I have sometimes given to these men and women, but to be honest, more often out of guilt than compassion.

Shame on me.

I grew up poor, one of six children raised on welfare by a hard-working single mother who suffered mental health problems. Yet we were mainstream, 1970’s American poor, wealthier than the vast majority of people on this planet. Our clothes came from the thrift store and there was always more month than money, but we were never homeless or hungry.

You would think that as a one time member of the working class poor, I would have a better handle on when and how best to help the needy.

When I worked in Portland, I once went to lunch with a co-worker named Darwin. As was often the case in downtown, we were approached by a homeless man who asked if we had any spare change. Darwin opened his wallet and handed the fellow a couple of dollars. As we walked away, I asked Darwin if he always gave when he was hit up for cash and whether he worried that the person would use the money to buy drugs. Darwin said he didn’t always give, but if he had a few extra bucks on him and it was unlikely he would be mugged (i.e., not at night, alone, in a high crime area), then he usually gave something. He told me he didn’t worry about what the recipient would do with the money. He figured it was simply his responsibility to give.

Still, isn’t it wiser to give money and time to reputable charities like the United Way, World Vision, Salvation Army, the World Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels and the local homeless shelter? Maybe, but is this merely an excuse that makes my conscience comfortable, or am I actually doing that? If I am, do I do it regularly? And even if I do consistently support organizations dedicated to helping the needy, is it then okay for me to ignore the woman holding the sign that reads, “Cold and hungry – please help” as I pull out of the grocery store parking lot? If not all the time, then how about sometimes? Must I always roll down my window and hand her cash if I claim to love my neighbor as myself?

I do not presume to tell you what the right thing to do is in regard to the poor when I am still struggling to find my own answer to this dilemma. But I do encourage you to wrestle with the question and decide how you and your family will help those less fortunate than yourselves.

Recently, I got into my car after shopping at Fred Meyer and headed out of the parking lot. When I saw a sign holder near the exit, I made a beeline in the opposite direction. I sensed the Holy Spirit direct me to turn my car around and drive toward the woman with the sign. By the time I pulled alongside her, she was squatting down with her head between her hands and the sign was on the ground. I couldn’t tell if she was crying, but it looked like she had a painful headache. I noticed a large tattoo on her arm and I could see her lips moving, as if she were talking to herself. Silently, I labeled her as one of the multitude of homeless people with mental illness.

She did not see me as I stopped and rolled down my window, leaning toward her with a bill in my hand. So I called, “Ma’am, are you okay?” She looked up, startled, and walked over to my car. To my surprise, her eyes were clear, her hands and voice steady. She apologized for not seeing me there and said she was shook up because a man had just yelled at her, passing judgment on her. She told me she had been praying for him to be kind. She accepted my gift, thanked me and asked God to bless me.

Little did this woman know that God had answered her request before I even drove away. I do not know what brought her to this place. But I do know God used her example of kindness in response to such unkindness to teach me something about those who are hungry, about judging them, about grace and mercy.

We can disagree on how best to help the poor. But if we are human, and especially if we dare to call ourselves Christian, we cannot dispute that we must help the poor. God has quite a bit to say about that, including:

“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18.

“Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.” Proverbs 21:13.

“The poor are shunned even by their neighbors, but the rich have many friends. It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.” Proverbs 14:20-21.

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.” Proverbs 19:17.

May we remember to be kind to the hungry. In doing so, we will both bless and be blessed.

A Good Father

“And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’”
-Mark 1:11.
Following his baptism, God spoke these words of blessing over Jesus. They are words that every man longs to hear from his father. Like we need air to breathe, all of us need the love and acceptance of our parents, especially when we are children. We need to know that someone unconditionally loves us, that another human being believes we have value, that we have what it takes. It is this love and affirmation that give us confidence and hope, that help us to trust, love and thrive.
As children, my siblings and I suffered emotional and physical abuse at the hands of our single mother. I know now that my mom loved me the best she knew how, but she suffered from mental illness which caused her to do bizarre, hurtful things. The good news is that what was intended to harm me, God used for my good.
The summer before my junior year of high school, my mom dropped me off at my grandmother’s house in another state and told me she was going to pretend as if I had never been born. I did not know then what my future held, but God did. He had a plan for my good, to give me hope and a future.
“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:2.
My dad lived two states away in California. He knew I had just been elected student body vice-president of my high school and that fall I had the lead in the school play, “Wait Until Dark.” He loved me and would have taken me into his home, but he wanted what was best for me and what I wanted, which was to finish my last two years of high school in Idaho, where I had been living.
My junior high social studies teacher, Bob Miller and his wife, for whom I regularly babysat, offered to have me come live with them and their four children while I finished high school. My dad worked out the arrangements with Mr. Miller, and by the time school started in August, I was living with their family.
When it came time for my school play that fall, my dad sent me one dozen long-stemmed roses with a card that said, “Break a leg! I love you, Dad.” He was working 12-hour days, but made the 1,300-mile round trip from California to surprise me on opening night. At the conclusion of the play, one man in the audience of our high school auditorium gave us a standing ovation. With thundering applause and tears running down his cheeks, my dad kept shouting as he stood tall and proud, “That’s my baby! That’s my girl!”
Did I mention the Millers were Christians? They invited me to church with them and over the next several months God drew me closer to himself. Mr. Miller bought me my first Bible. In its pages and in the Millers’ home, I found salvation, love, and acceptance. On December 5, 1982, at the end of the pastor’s sermon, I accepted his invitation to take Jesus as my Lord and Savior and was baptized that day. Decades later, God would use me and my church family to reach and save several members of my own family, including my dad.
Some of you have been blessed like me, with a wonderful father (or two!) who lavished you with unconditional love and acceptance. Others have been striving their entire lives to earn the approval of their fathers. Some lament a childhood spent aching for time with a dad who was a good man, but who was emotionally unavailable to them. There are others who still carry bitterness and anger toward a father who not only failed to give them love and affirmation, but who was cruel and abusive. Some men are consumed with grief for their own failure as a father to their children. These all are owners of a hungry heart.
This Father’s Day, if you had a great dad like one of mine, rejoice and give thanks! If your dad was dreadful, may God give you the courage and grace to acknowledge the wrong done to you, forgive what cannot be undone, to let go of the pain and find peace. May you find comfort and hope in knowing that “though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” Psalm 27:10.
If you are filled with regret for your own mistakes, may you receive the forgiveness Christ offers, and allow God to use your pain to draw you to himself and change your heart to conform to his. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
May our good Father in heaven remind you that he loves you with abandon, so much so that he sent his one and only Son to die for you that you might believe in him and have eternal life. John 3:16. This Father’s Day, feast on his love for and acceptance of you and be full.

Bus Stop Wisdom


Sometimes the load is heavy, and sometimes the road is long. And sometimes, Lord, this heart of mine is not so very strong. — “Thy Will Be Done,” by Joyce Eilers

Patsy Clairmont, author of the book, “God Uses Cracked Pots,” tells this story about her youngest son, Jason:

“Jason has two goals in life. One is to have fun; the other is to rest. And he does both quite well. So I shouldn’t have been surprised about what happened when I sent him to school one fall day. As Jason headed off for the bus I busied myself, preparing for a full day. The knock on the door was a surprise, and disruptive to my morning rhythm, which is not something I have a lot of. I flew to the door, jerked it open, only to find myself looking at Jason. ‘What are you doing here?’ I demanded. ‘I’ve quit school,’ he announced. ‘Quit school?’ I repeated in disbelief and at a decibel too high for human ears, swallowing once, and trying to remember some motherly psychology. But all that came to my mind was ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ and ‘starve a fever, feed a cold,’ or something like that. Somehow, they didn’t seem to apply to a six-year-old dropout dilemma. So I questioned, ‘Why have you quit school?’ Without hesitation he proclaimed, ‘It’s too long, it’s too hard, and it’s too boring!’ ‘Jason,’ I instantly retorted, ‘You have just described life. Get on the bus!’”

Upon reading this during my morning quiet time, two thoughts occurred to me. One, Patsy is obviously a kindred spirit, and two, it wasn’t just Jason that needed to get on the bus; we all do. Here are a few bus stop pearls to ponder:

1. Don’t miss the bus. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:16-18.

God does not want us to miss the bus because we are stubborn and refuse to repent. Read the gospels that tell who Jesus is, how he lived and why he came. Believe that Jesus died for your sins and accept his offer to be your Savior. Confess that you are a sinner, turn away from your sin and follow Christ. What have you got to lose?

The bus won’t wait forever. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.” 1 Peter 3:9-10. When that day comes, only those on the bus will be saved. Revelation 21:27, 20:15.

2. Take the right bus. There is only one bus to heaven and Jesus is the driver. When his disciples expressed concern that they didn’t know the way to heaven, Jesus told them, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. He promised to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house and to come back and take his followers to live there with him. John 14:2-3. He is the only way. If we hope to arrive in heaven when our time on earth is over, we better be sure to catch the one bus that will take us there.

3. It’s our responsibility to get on Jesus’ bus, but we don’t ride it alone. “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7. We take our seat on the bus to glory among our brothers and sisters in the family of God. We love each other, encourage each other and build each other up. We do good to all people, especially to those with us on the bus. 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Galatians 6:10. As we travel along, each passenger carries his own load. Occasionally, a burden is too heavy to bear alone and it is then that we carry each other’s burdens. Galatians 6:2-5. When clouds obscure our way and the journey feels too long, too hard, and too boring, the sweet fellowship of believers who share the same Holy Spirit pierces the darkness, reminds us who is driving, and where we are headed.

What are you waiting for – an invitation? Jesus has already extended several. He invites you to come to him for rest; to follow him and teach others to do the same; and to live with him now and for eternity. Matthew 11:28, Mark 1:17, Matthew 28:19-20, John 15:5, 1 John 5:13. Everyone is welcome and there is always room for one more. Titus 2:11; Romans 10:13.

4. Obey the driver. Once on board, for our own good and that of others, we need to obey the driver. Jesus said all of God’s commandments could be summed up by just two: love God and love people. Matthew 22:36-40.

“If you love me, keep my commands…. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 14:15, 15:12. How do we love like Jesus? First, we need to know how he loves. To discover that, we have to study the Book that tells us about him. If we want to be his follower, or disciple, we must get to know him through the Bible.

Jesus loved people by teaching them to love God by their obedience and their love for others. The more his disciples obeyed, the more they came to resemble him. Jesus made disciples to make disciples. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20.

5. Stay on the bus. “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Matthew 24:12-13. Don’t get off the bus before you reach your final destination. True believers are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, becoming more like Christ as they grow in his grace and knowledge. Those on the bus will not remain seated in an increasingly sinful culture. They will stand up for love, stand firm on truth in the midst of false teaching, and stay on board until they get to heaven.


Bloom where you are planted.

A high school friend of mine once gave me a gift bearing this advice. I’ve long since lost the flowery picture the words were printed on, but this small seed of wisdom imbedded in my heart long ago firmly took root down through the years.

I haven’t always followed this counsel, mind you. I’ve had dry seasons when I wasn’t much good to anybody. During those times I did not grow or offer the people God placed in my life any beauty or joy. I allowed myself to be fooled into thinking it was easier to droop, to withdraw from the warm light of human connection than to do the risky, hard work of living and loving – looking up, reaching out, giving and receiving.

By God’s design, after such a drought my thirst brought me back to the spring of all fresh, living water. And the Bible reminded me why I was planted here in the first place:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself…do this and you will live.” Luke 10:27-28.

Love God and love people – the two laws that Jesus said trump all the others. This, Jesus was saying, is what it means to bloom where you are planted.

The way to love God is to love other people, people who are just like you – imperfect, fragile, pig-headed, selfish, abrasive, disappointing, rude, wrong, weird, proud, and occasionally, hopefully ever-increasingly, loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, gentle, faithful, and self-controlled. And how do we love? By treating others how we wish they would treat us. Luke 6:31.

The happiest people I know bloom where they are planted. Regardless of their circumstances, they bring life, beauty and joy to their work places, families and friendships. It matters not whether they are rich or poor in the eyes of the world, diseased or healthy, young or old. Bloomers feed and water the soil of their own hearts so that they can in turn nurture the souls of others and, in so doing, are blessed.

Today, whether our sky is blue or dreary, let’s turn our faces toward the Son and bloom!

pexels-photo-207962.jpeg“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25.



Get Rich!

Who doesn’t want to be rich? Better yet, who wouldn’t like to get rich quick?

Embarrassing as it may be to admit, instantaneous, pain-free riches are not just the stuff of childhood fairy tales, but the secret desire of many adults. Just when we think we’ve traded in our Willy Wonka dreams for a steady job with a 401K, a bomb cyclone lottery hits and our rags to riches fantasies are awakened as we ponder the ludicrously remote but theoretically possible eye-popping billion-dollar payoff of a combined Mega Millions and Powerball jackpot. Despite the odds of winning these mega-jackpots being slim and none – one in about 300 million for either one of them alone and one in 88 quadrillion to win both of them – millions of Americans have bought tickets hoping to be the lucky one.[1]

Think about it: you are 2,000 times more likely to be killed by a lightning strike than you are to win the Mega Millions jackpot.[2] Yet Americans spend over $70 billion each year on lottery tickets, or $325 for every American adult. Sixty percent of lottery proceeds is returned in prize money and spent on administration costs, while the rest is added to government coffers to substitute for or supplement designated state spending.[3]

Imagine what could happen if, instead of randomly redistributing wealth to a handful of others through the lottery, every American adult instead donated $325 annually to their favorite charity? What good might the World Food Program, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, United Way, Salvation Army, Doctors Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity and World Vision do with that extra $70 billion each year? As one author suggests, “Abundance isn’t God’s provision for me to live in luxury. It’s His provision for me to help others live.”[4]

Alas, Americans would rather squander money on a snowball’s chance in Hades of striking it rich than spend those dollars on a surefire opportunity to alleviate human suffering. The United States is a compassionate nation, arguably more generous than almost any other country. So, what gives? Why are we so enamored with achieving excessive personal wealth?

The answer is found in a lie that we have swallowed hook, line and sinker: money buys happiness.

Money means more, and more of everything we find pleasurable is always better. The more money we have, the happier and more successful we are, whispers this deception. Therefore, excessive wealth equals bliss. He who dies with the most toys wins. Even though experience and People magazine reveal that the richest actors, rock stars and businessmen are no happier than the rest of us, somehow, we convince ourselves that if we just had what they did, then we would be happier.

God disagrees. He says that those who find wisdom – not money – will be happy. Proverbs 3:13.

Wisdom is the most precious commodity of all. She is more profitable than silver, yields a better return than gold, and is more precious than rubies. There is nothing we desire that can compare to her. Proverbs 3:14-15.

Wisdom brings long life in her right hand and riches and honor in her left. Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace. Wisdom is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and all who hold her fast will be blessed. Proverbs 3:16-18. She will protect you, save you, watch over you, and guide you. Proverbs 1:3-5, 2:12, 16; 4:6.

God is the source of all wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 2:6, 9:10. To be wise is to be blessed, and to be blessed by God is to be rich.

Today, you can get rich without spending a dime. Open up a Bible and begin making withdrawals from its endless reserves of wisdom. In the case of wisdom, more is better, and Proverbs is a good place to start.

And instead of buying a lottery ticket, drop those dollars in an envelope earmarked for someone who can use them. Do this, and you will be sure to win the jackpot.

[1] CNN Money online, Chris Isidore, January 5, 2018 and August 24, 2017.

[2] Id.

[3], Stephen Gandel, January 13, 2016.

[4] “The Treasure Principle,” Randy Alcorn.

Music and the Book of Love

“The Book of Love has music in it. In fact, that’s where music comes from….”

I don’t think Peter Gabriel had the Bible in mind when he sang those lyrics, but that’s the Book I think of when I hear those words.

“…some of it’s just transcendental. Some of it’s just really dumb.”

You got that right, Pete.

Mind you, I don’t know much about music. I can’t read it, play it, or sing on key. But I know what I like when I hear it, and I like how it makes me feel. The music I enjoy listening to and crooning along with has the power to send my heart soaring, to calm chaos, to both quench and ignite fire, to silence fear and lighten darkness, and to make me dance. Sometimes I love the music itself, or the voice of the artist who sings it. As I grow older, the lyrics are what most move me and speak to my soul.

The Bible, too, has the power to do that, and so much more. It is packed full of hope from cover to cover, with endless layers of wisdom, truth, healing, love and grace. Unlike music that can get old, stale, and become just more noise, the Bible is as fresh and relevant today as it was when it was first written and read. I’ve been studying it for decades and have only begun to tap into its transforming power.

Music is a gift. Since every good and perfect gift comes from God, we can be sure that music was his idea – God’s gift to mankind. And it makes sense that God’s Book of Love, the Bible, would be the source of all good music, because it is a book of goodness. Its words inspire the most rich, meaningful, and life-giving lyrics, because it teaches us how to live the most rich and meaningful life.

Some of the best lyrics in music have been written and sung by the Christian contemporary group Casting Crowns. They are full of Biblical truth, yet real and resonate with all of us who, because of unfortunate circumstances or regrettable choices, find ourselves from time to time alone in the cold and painful places of life. Consider how many encouraging, Scripturally spot-on sermons could be preached based on the Text that inspired these healing lyrics from their song, “Praise You in This Storm:”

“I was sure by now

God you would have reached down

And wiped our tears away

Stepped in and saved the day

But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining….

As the thunder rolls

I barely hear you whisper through the rain

“I’m with you”

And as your mercy falls

I raise my hands and praise the God who gives

And takes away.

I’ll praise you in this storm

And I will lift my hands

For you are who you are

No matter where I am

Every tear I’ve cried

You hold in your hand

You never left my side

And though my heart is torn

I will praise you in this storm

I lift my eyes unto the hills

Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord

The maker of Heaven and Earth.”

You can praise him in the storm, too, from the valley and not just the mountain top.  Listen for the Word of God in the music that filters through your home or workplace, and into your ears and heart. If you don’t hear it, then change the station, or better yet, open the Book of Love. After all, that’s where music comes from.

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” Psalm 139:7-10.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18.

“You have taken account of my wanderings and have put my tears in your bottle.” Psalm 56:8.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9.

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:30.


Just Enough

“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:8-9.

Affluence tempts us to deny our need for God and to embrace the fallacy of self-sufficiency. When we have more than enough, it is easy to convince ourselves that we can get along fine without God, if indeed there is a God, that we are not beholden to him for anything, and that what we have is the result of our own hard work, wisdom and diligence. When we don’t need anything, we are susceptible to the lie that we can live and thrive without God.

Just ask Rehoboam.

Solomon was the wisest and richest man who had ever lived. When he died, his son, Rehoboam, succeeded him as king of Israel. Though he inherited Solomon’s wealth, Rehoboam did not receive his wisdom. Rehoboam rejected the counsel of his elders in favor of the advice of his peers and treated the people harshly. As a result, most of the nation rebelled against him, dividing Israel into a northern and a southern kingdom. Rehoboam reigned in Jerusalem over the southern kingdom of Judah.

Sadly, “after Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the Lord.” 2 Chronicles 12:1. Consequently, calamity followed. When Rehoboam and his leaders humbled themselves and acknowledged God, the Lord delivered them from total destruction.

Such was the cyclical history of Israel. Obedience brought blessing, which led to forgetting God, which brought judgment. Fortunately, judgment led the people to repent and to remember and obey the Lord. They were then blessed…until they once again abandoned God.

We may be tempted to say, “Get a clue, people!” until we consider the United States of America today and ask whether we are just as foolish as Israel.

After our country was established and became strong, we, too, abandoned the law of the Lord. Instead of seeking Him, we have pursued money and what money can buy, relying exclusively on it for our security. We have rejected the higher ways of God for the ways of man.

Consider the words of Soviet dissident and author, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who, in a speech delivered almost 40 years ago to Harvard University’s 1978 graduating class, declared that the West has become morally impoverished because it has forgotten God and others, mistaking the excess acquisition of material things for happiness. Solzhenitsyn described “the calamity of a despiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness,” a disaster in Western culture that he said had been unfolding for some time:

“We turned our backs upon the Spirit and embraced all that is material with excessive and unwarranted zeal. This new way of thinking, which has imposed on us its guidance, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man nor did it see any higher task than the attainment of happiness on earth. It based modern Western civilization on the dangerous trend to worship man and his material needs.”

Solzhenitsyn lamented America’s spiritual poverty in light of the fact that at the time of our nation’s birth, “all individual human rights were granted because man is God’s creature…. freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility.”

Neither God nor our founding fathers ever intended to grant people unlimited freedom. Reasonable restrictions on personal liberty are good for individuals and necessary for a healthy and happy society. But the West has increasingly rejected God-given restraints in its relentless pursuit of materialism. It turns out that many Americans don’t really want freedom of religion; they want freedom from religion and religious responsibility to God and their fellow man.

“We have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life….

 If humanism were right in declaring that man is born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most of them.”

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn “A World Split Apart,” speech delivered on June 8, 1978, at Harvard University.

Because America has rejected the law of the Lord in favor of the pursuit of self and the things of this world, judgment is imminent. And judgment is not just imminent, but necessary to remind us that unrestrained personal freedom is not in our best interest, that we cannot survive and thrive without God.

God commands us to love him and to love others because he knows that this is the path to peace and happiness, not the love of money and material things. The good news is that when the painful consequences of our foolishness cause us to humble ourselves, repent and turn back to the Lord, he forgives our sin and restores us into fellowship with him where we enjoy his favor and blessing.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Help us to get a clue, Lord. Please give us just enough and not too much, so that we will remember you, enjoy your blessing and save ourselves a world of hurt.


Gad and God

IMG_5653Unless you are one of those persistent, adventurous types that have actually ventured past the longsuffering list of Hebrew genealogy in the opening and eye-closing chapters of 1 Chronicles in the Old Testament, then you probably don’t know much about the Gadites. Recently, I slapped my glassy-eyed self awake several times to get far enough into the book of Chronicles to find them.

Recall that Jacob had twelve sons and Gad was one of them. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, and thus his descendants are referred to as the children of Israel, or the twelve tribes of Israel. Gad’s descendants, the Gadites, were one of these twelve tribes.

The Gadites lived east of the Jordan River between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. They were joined east of the Jordan by two other tribes of Israel – the Reubenites to the south and half the tribe of Manasseh to the north. Bordering them on the west were the rest of their family – the remaining twelve tribes of Israel – and on the east were their enemies, including the Ammonites and the Hagrites. We meet up with these east siders in 1 Chronicles 5:18-22:

“The Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh had 44,760 men ready for military service – able-bodied men who could handle shield and sword, who could use a bow, and who were trained for battle. They waged war against the Hagrites [and others]. They were helped in fighting them, and God delivered the Hagrites and all their allies into their hands, because they cried out to him during the battle. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him.”

A few chapters later we are introduced to eleven individual Gadites whom God deemed worthy of honorable mention. These brave men left the ranks of the reigning king of Israel, Saul, to support David, whom the prophet Samuel had anointed as Saul’s successor and whom Saul was intent on killing:

“Some Gadites defected to David at his stronghold in the wilderness. They were brave warriors, ready for battle and able to handle the shield and spear. Their faces were the faces of lions, and they were as swift as gazelles in the mountains. These Gadites were army commanders; the least was a match for a hundred and the greatest for a thousand.” 1 Chronicles 12:8,14.

You do not want to meet these men in battle; you want these Gadites fighting on your side. No doubt David was grateful to know they had his back. I was grateful God kept me conscious long enough in 1 Chronicles to discover these lessons from the Gadites:

1. Preparation is key to success. The Gadites diligently trained so that when the battle came, they were ready to fight. They worked their bodies until they were strong. They practiced using the tools of the warrior trade – shields, swords, bows and spears – until they were skilled. As a result, when conflict came, they could face it with the courage of a lion and could scale mountains as fast and steady as a gazelle.

If we want victory over the enemy of our soul who uses sin, temptation and trials to get us to fall, like the Gadites we must prepare for it. If we want to do something well, we have to first be willing to do it poorly until, after constant repetition and correction, we have become skilled at it. Training takes consistent effort and perseverance. To grow strong in the Lord and to be changed so that we look more like Christ we must daily study the Word of God, seek Him in prayer, serve in his kingdom and follow him in word and deed.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13.

2. God helps those who cry out to him. Man says, “God helps those who help themselves.” God laughs and says, “How’s that workin’ for you?”

The Gadite soldiers were strong and able; their least capable could fight one hundred men alone, and their greatest could handle a thousand. But more important than their strength and ability was their wisdom. The Gadites knew that they needed God to fight for them during the battle because no matter how strong they were, they would lose without God on their side.

When we come to the end of ourselves and realize that we cannot do life on our own apart from God; when we acknowledge that we need him to guide us, to comfort us, to give us wisdom and strength; when we finally cry out to him, then, as the Psalms repeatedly attest, God will come along side us and say, “Here, let me help you.”

“I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me.” Psalm 3:4.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1.

“Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.” – George Muller.

3. God answers prayer when we trust in him. God didn’t hear the prayers of the Gadites because they were strong, skilled, prepared, courageous or fast. He answered their prayers because they trusted him. The Gadites had a firm belief and confidence not in themselves, but in the reliability, truth, power, and promises of their God. They knew they were able, but not always able. They were wise enough to understand that God alone is able always.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.” Psalm 28:7.

Like the Gadites, let us train for victory, but trust and rely on the only One who delivers the victory.

A River Runs Through It

For all of my adult years, I have enjoyed a constant flow of life-giving love and encouragement from a small town, Idaho farm girl. She passed last night from this life into heaven.

Like a river, Jan Feil Dean ran through my life for over 34 years, beginning when I was in high school and fell in love with her brother. She welcomed me into the Feil family even before I was a Feil, and long after I no longer bore that name. When I was injured in a serious truck accident shortly before my wedding day, Jan brought me home to her house from the hospital and tenderly cared for me. She was my maid of honor and helped me plan our wedding, and I counted it a privilege a few years later to attend her wedding to her hero, Wendel, an honorable, true and simple gentleman.

Birthdays, Mother’s Days, Father’s Days, Memorial Days, Thanksgivings, Christmases, family reunions, barbecues, graduations, weddings, births and funerals piled up over the years like gold in the treasure chest of my heart and always, Jan was there. We moved away, but Jan’s love and support moved with us, wherever we went.  She was the first person who made me believe I was special and beautiful and worthy of love, and continued to make me believe it when my life shattered and I was a broken, desperate mess. She taught her children and grandchildren to honor and love me, and thereby allowed me the joy of loving them, too. She was, in turn, my friend, nurse, mentor, confidante, counselor, mother and sister, as well as an aunt and, after her own mother passed, a grandmother to my children.

Jan never lectured me, but instead taught through her example how to be less selfish, more giving; less angry, more kind; less fearful, more trusting; and to experience less pain and more peace. She lived the truth of Exodus 14:14: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

It is pathetically inadequate to say I was blessed to have known Jan. But say it I must, for her light illuminated many of my darkest places. Much of the good in me today is a result of spending years watching and trying to be like this sister of my heart, who I held up as the gold standard of what it meant to be a Christian wife and mother. Jan would have been the first to tell me how misguided I was in seeking to emulate her imperfect model, rather than that of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who we both knew and loved. Eventually, I came to understand that it wasn’t Jan I wanted to be like, but the Rabbi she resembled and tried to follow.

Scripture tells us that the evidence of our salvation is found in our changed lives, as demonstrated by certain characteristics of the Holy Spirit who lives in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22. Jan was not perfect, but she possessed these qualities in increasing measure as she grew closer to meeting her Maker. I saw her fruit and I wanted my life to produce the same bumper crop of righteousness.

God blessed me by planting me in the rich and fertile soil next to the river of life that was Jan, that I might drink from her soul and become kinder, gentler, and more loving than I would have been otherwise. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to God for his gift of this life-giver. I will miss her sweet presence every day until the day God calls me home and we are reunited in heaven.

Perhaps you have someone like Jan who runs through your life, a person who imperfectly but dependably follows the example of Christ, loving God, loving others and loving you. Someone who lifts you up and fills your cup with her kindness, who leaves you better than they found you. If so, be refreshed by your loved one’s presence, and then seek and find the true Source of their fullness and joy, Jesus, so that you may not just drink for their lifetime, but for eternity.



It was 35 years ago this month that my mom handed me a box and told me to pack up my belongings. She then drove me several hours away to my grandmother’s house in another state. During the drive, she told me she was going to pretend as if I had never been born, to never contact her, or my younger siblings who still lived with her, ever again.

We pulled into my Grandma’s driveway, and, with the engine still idling, I opened the car door and got out. I said goodbye to my mom, who sat holding the steering wheel and staring straight ahead through the windshield. She did not speak a word to me. I took my box and closed the car door, and the door on a chapter of my life and a room in my heart.

Then I turned, and walked toward the house and the next door.

In the intervening years so much has changed, including me.

I have been hurt many times and I have hurt others, often those I loved the most.

I have gained a little wisdom from experience and a lot of wisdom from the Word of God.

I have long since forgiven my mom for childhood hurts she inflicted on me, but which I believe in her heart of hearts, she never intended to do.  I understand that my mom suffers from deep-seated mental illness, that Christ alone can deliver her from her demons, just as he delivers each of us from our own sin and shame. She has sought freedom in many wrong places instead of in genuine surrender to Jesus, the real lover of her soul. I pray for her salvation.

And though my heart is not hard, it is cautious. I do not want to walk back through that door and into the crazy fire that once scorched me. I am a 51-year-old little girl who is still afraid of her 74-year-old mother.

Perhaps one day God will lead me to reconcile with this poor, broken old woman who once loved me as best she knew how and was capable of, and who I once loved. Letting go, like forgiveness and healing is a process. Sometimes, it takes a lifetime.

While there have been many times when I felt alone and abandoned, I see now that never once did God leave me all alone. Whether I knew it at the time or not, he has always walked with me, held me and pursued me. I am thankful that God picked me up out of the muck and mire at an early age and set my feet on the Rock. He has been opening doors for me to walk through and closing others ever since. And he wants me to be a door, a conduit through which his love can pass to others and light their way.

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4: 6-9.

If a door in your life has slammed shut, turn toward God and ask him to lead you to the next one. Step into the light of grace. Yesterday’s a closing door; you don’t live there anymore. Tell your heart to beat again.

“You’re shattered
Like you’ve never been before
The life you knew
In a thousand pieces on the floor
And words fall short in times like these
When this world drives you to your knees
You think you’re never gonna get back
To the you that used to be

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door
You don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
And tell your heart to beat again

Just let that word wash over you
It’s alright now
Love’s healing hands have pulled you through
So get back up, take step one
Leave the darkness, feel the sun
‘Cause your story’s far from over
And your journey’s just begun

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door
You don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
And tell your heart to beat again

Let every heartbreak
And every scar
Be a picture that reminds you
Who has carried you this far
‘Cause love sees farther than you ever could
In this moment heaven’s working
Everything for your good

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door
You don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
And tell your heart to beat again.”

– “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again,” by Danny Gokey