Sweetly Sent

Today is the day. I’m as nervous as I am excited, and I’d appreciate your prayers so much…

For open doors to gospel conversations and faith sharing. I love the way my friend Christina put it in a text message yesterday: “Praying for unexpected opportunities and conversations with faith-filled responses.”

Yes, that!

Also…the forming of new friendships,

and the encouragement of those who work there full time in anticipation of these things.

A couple of weeks ago, I found this on a stack of checks and notes of encouragement people had sent to help with my trip:
When I opened it, I found a very generous gift from Kayla. It’s not the first time she’s been generous with her hard-earned babysitting money to someone going on mission, but something about her generosity toward me and the country I’ll visit was just so sweet.

While I packed last night, she and Robert cooked me dinner. They prayed over me while we sat at the table. Robert gifted me with a small journal in which he’d written a scripture for me to meditate on each day that I’m away, but left lots of blank pages for me to record the details of the journey. Such sweet moments and gifts from these two whom I’m very sad about leaving, even if it’s only a week.

At the risk of sounding overdramatic about this short mission, which involves slight risk, yes, but not in comparison to what others risk every day, I just wanted to share a couple of things that have encouraged me from the Word recently.

Last week, my seminary lectures were all on the book of Esther. My usually dry and witty professor got very emotional as he taught on Esther’s willingness to risk her life for her people. Through tears, he repeated her famous words, “…and if I perish, I perish,” and urged us to reclaim that attitude in our own lives. “We’re so prone to seek comfort and protection, but the gospel is worth our very lives.”

I believe that, but I certainly fight the desire for not only safety, but also the acceptance of people. Sometimes I won’t even risk speaking the name of Jesus here where it’s still (somewhat) safe, because I fear the loss of approval.

And here’s the other encouraging bit:

 But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Luke 21: 28

Again, not be be overdramatic, but the world does seem an increasingly volatile place. We’re experiencing so much tension and turmoil and disaster these days. Somehow, whether we be near or far from the return of Christ, this verse encourages me not to fear, because my full redemption is drawing near.

Good, sweet news, and I’m feeling very sweetly sent off across the ocean by all of these things.

(And if you would, pray for Allyson, Jordan, Angela, Rob, and Aiden, too.)

A Winner & A Podcast

So fun!  I would have been so thrilled to send a Bible study workbook to any of you who commented on the last post, because each of you are really precious to me. Really. I truly love connecting with you here, and sharing life’s battles and our common faith. But, Sara Evans was the winner, and I’m so glad I get the chance to introduce her to you.

(And just in case you wonder how I chose, here’s the site I used and the results.)

Sara’s husband, Austin, was a part of our Manchaca Baptist Church (Austin, TX) youth group way back in the day. (Circa: 1991-1995) “Austin from Austin” is the way girls from other youth groups would refer to him when we were at camps and conferences…if you know what I mean. Yep, he was quite the catch back then, but Sara was the eventual winner of his heart.

They met at Pepperdine University while studying and surfing the SoCal waves. Just kidding. I don’t think they surfed all that much, but Austin did play baseball there.

Sometime after they married, they were crazy enough to pack a U-Haul with all of their earthly belongings and drive it to Amherst, Massachusetts to live and work and help us with our church-planting endeavors here.

I absolutely loved having them here, and miss them very much now that they’ve moved to Bend, Oregon. Now, whenever young families join our church, we almost always say “Oh! I wish the Evanses still lived here. You guys would have totally hit it off with them!”

Sara exercised both the gift of hospitality as well as her gifts for administration and bookkeeping in such joyful and generous ways, and I absolutely loved spending time with her. One of the great highlights and privileges of my life was participating in the birth of her firstborn son, Dominick. It was a water birth. It was without any pain meds. And it was absolutely amazing. Sara remained her beautiful, determined self throughout the entire process and I was on cloud nine for at least a week afterward. What a blessing.

They went on to have another boy named Nolan, and then they adopted a little girl from China whose name is Maelyn. Currently, they are in the process of adopting a little boy from China. It is truly an incredible story in that their son, Nolan, was diagnosed with Freeman Sheldon Syndrome early in his life, and little YouYoung shares that diagnosis in an even more pronounced way. The tears just start flowing when I think that not only will YouYoung soon have a forever family, but he’ll have a brother who shares a common struggle and syndrome – even if he shares a different ethnicity. And Maelyn will have a brother who shares her ethnicity soon. It’s all just so beautiful to me.

If you’re interested, you can follow their family’s story here. 

So, congrats, Sara. I’ll contact you soon, so you can tell me which workbook you’d like!

Okay. So I really wasn’t planning to ever mention it again, but the podcast I mentioned in a previous post aired today. Bethany texted me last night to give me a little heads-up about it, and I wish I could say that I did not experience the same horror I felt in the days leading up to the interview (which had begun to subside) all over again. But them something really sweet happened.

With much trepidation, I pushed play on the podcast app as I started off on my morning run. I truly expected to cringe at the sound of my own voice, but that’s not what happened. The story was not as random and disjointed as I imagined, my voice was not as awful sounding as I had assumed, and things that are very dear to me came out in ways that I couldn’t have manufactured on my own.

Somehow, God used my listening to myself tell my own story to very sweetly encourage me.

Somehow, my estimation of myself changed as I listened to the ways the Lord has carried and sustained me.

Somehow, I could see and hear His love for me, His acceptance of me, His working in and through me.

Somehow, I ended up in tears over the ways I don’t see myself as He does, how I condemn myself, limit myself, and believe things that aren’t necessarily true or right.

Somehow, He used my own podcast interview to comfort me and remind me of His love for me.

I did not expect that at all. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of what I expected.

He is so good like that.

(And Bethany, thanks for having confidence in me and for being such a great host, minister, wife, mom, and encourager of the church in New England.)

(You can find the podcast here, here, and here.)

The How of Eating (And a Giveaway)

On July 28, 2000 I gave birth to a beautiful little girl named Kayla. It was a scheduled c-section for several reasons, and it just happened to be Kathie Lee Gifford’s very last day on “Live With Regis and Kathie Lee.” Random, I know, but the show was playing on the TV in the surgery prep room, and my OB/GYN, Dr. Elliot Greenberg,  joked about what a landmark day he’d chosen for the birth of my third child. We don’t celebrate Kathie Lee on Kayla’s birthday, but now I’ll forever know how many years she’s been retired from her show with Regis.

(By the way, Dr. Elliot Greenberg at Baystate OB/GYN is awesome.)

Little Kayla had to spend some time in the NICU due to gurgly breathing and fluid that didn’t get properly pushed out of her lungs, but when I finally got her back into my room, I requested an appointment with the lactation consultant. Initially, my nurse said yes to booking an appointment for later that day, but then she reviewed my chart, saw that I’d birthed and breastfed two other babies, and suggested that I didn’t need any help with lactation.

But I really did. Though I’d done it for six months with each of my two boys, I never felt like I was doing it quite right. Not only that, but I wanted to nurse this little girl longer than six months, and I was in need of some expert “how-to’s.”

I love how-to’s.

How to train for a half marathon.

How to better manage time.

How to make buttercream icing.

How to say good morning in Greek.

How to get the pinwheel to stop spinning on my Macbook Pro.

How to best pack a suitcase.

Anyway, that’s a very long introduction to this post, but I’ve been thinking that I didn’t really explain, in my last post, how God’s Word made me well.  How did it work? What were the steps?

I think I mentioned that a few Bible folks – Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and John -were asked (or chose) to eat God’s Word, and though it sounds weird, I think that’s exactly what it requires.

We have to eat it.

Just like actual food, we have to sit down and partake of it regularly. We need everything from a quick breakfast to a four course dinner. Better yet, and I think the argument can be made from Scripture for the exact opposite: a four course breakfast and a late night snack. (See here, here, here, and here!) Either way, we’ve got to ingest and digest it regularly. Just like food to our physical bodies, the nourishing Word makes us well.

So how do you eat it?

It sounds so simple, but the answer is that we’ve got to read it.

And can I say very gently here that Jesus Calling does not count? Nor does My Utmost For His Highest, or Streams in the Desert. And just so I’m stepping on everyone’s toes here, neither do Morning and Evening or Valley of Vision.

Many of those devotional readers are both encouraging and edifying – protein packed snacks that will carry you through the afternoon with your cup of coffee, or send you off to sleep with a satisfied belly. But they just really aren’t a good substitute for reading chunks and chapters and whole books of God’s actual Word.

It would be like eating a Cliff Bar for every meal.

So, how do you read it?

When I was in that season of darkness and despair, I did a couple of things. I read two chapters of the Old Testament and two chapters of the New Testament every day. Depending on how fast you read (and how long those chapters are), it could take as little as 15 minutes or as many as 40. (At that rate you could read the whole thing in a year. Remember this?)

The other thing I did was work through two different Bible study workbooks, both written by Beth Moore: Esther and Living Beyond Yourself. Not at the same time. Just slowly doing a page or two a day until I finished one, and then starting the next one.

And here’s what happened: Since God’s Word is living and active, the chapters I read were relevant to my despair. They taught me something about my situation. They encouraged me that I was not alone. Not only that, but the Scripture I read in say, I Samuel, would often correspond to the Scripture I was reading in Colossians or some other New Testament book. A handful of times, the exact same phrase or principle would be used in both. Occasionally, my workbooks would have me reading some text I had just read in my own Bible ready.

This is how God speaks. This is how He heals. This is how He encourages and nourishes us toward wellness.

Remember Isaiah 55:10-11? It’s a guarantee. Eat His Word, by reading His Word, and it is not possible that you continue in a sick and stunted state. The sustenance will bring growth and healing and maturity.

I think this verse is really helpful in understanding how the Word heals:

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Romans 15:4

We believe God’s Word is how He speaks to us, how he instructs us, so we persevere in reading it, and the result is hope. That hope is what heals.

And check the context of v. 4. Paul is encouraging Roman believers to serve their neighbors and be strong for those who are weak, and he’s quoting a Psalm of King David for precedent. In essence, he’s saying, Got a problem? Need some wisdom? Think you’re the only one to ever face this situation? Nope. Check the Scriptures. David struggled with the same thing and came to a conclusion that I really want you to learn from.

One caveat, though: We can’t just check the “read the Bible” box in our bullet journals and mental to-do lists.

Oh, Isaiah 55 will still hold true on some level, but there’s one more “how-to” required, and I think Psalm 1 tells us what that is:

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.

Delight in the Word. Meditate on it day and night. That’s the caveat for truly benefitting from the Word.

Delight in it. Meditate on it all day.

It’s like the advice we often hear on how to eat and enjoy a meal.

Sit down.

Give thanks.

Small bites.

Chew 20 times.

Savor the flavors.

Put your fork down after every bite.

I’ve been guilty of shutting my Bible after a morning reading and never once thinking about or re-visiting what I read for the rest of the day. Could that be likened to an eating disorder? Like binging and then unconsciously purging? Because the truths don’t stay in that case. They aren’t properly digested. They neither nourish nor effect wellness.

So, the how of eating?

Read. Meditate. Believe.

I’m still a work in progress on implementing these Bible reading how-to’s. (And please don’t ask about how well I’ve implemented of all I know about time management either) But I’ve come to treasure God’s Word so much via these steps, and He’s granted healing and wholeness in the process.

I ended up having to insist on an appointment with the lactation consultant. While I greatly appreciated the fact that my nurse considered me a seasoned mother, and nursing champ, the truth was that I still needed help. Would you believe that Kayla never took a bottle? Sometime around her first birthday, she transitioned from breastfeeding to a sippy cup, and I was one happy mama. Those lactation how-to’s made all the difference, and it’s my hope that these Bible reading how-to’s will make a difference to you as well.

I’d also love to back these how-to’s up with the gift of a Bible reading tool today. So, leave me a comment here on the blog or on Facebook, and I’ll enter your name into a drawing for either one of the workbooks I mentioned above (Esther or Living Beyond Yourself) or the workbook we used in a women’s small group Bible study this summer – Seamless.  Your choice. I’ll tell you who’s name was chosen on Monday.

Happy Bible Eating – and have a wonderful weekend.

Wellness and His Word

6am morning run. We’d meet at the corner, start up the hill, and she’d open the conversation with, “How are you doing?” It was years ago, but I’m still so grateful for the question, and knew exactly what she was getting at.

My answer often felt unsatisfying.  I wanted to report that I was better, healed, happy, that all was well with my soul. But I couldn’t, because it wasn’t.

But there I was getting out of bed at 5:30am, going for a five mile run, and chatting even….with a person. A good friend, of course, but even seeing people during that time was not so easy.

I keep thinking about that woman I wrote about last week.  The one in Luke 8.  The one who fearfully (I’m assuming) and humbly, yet courageously and expectantly reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ robe. I’ve been staying in the gospels for reading lately, and she stands out to me, along with several others Jesus touched. Hers, though, may be the only account of someone intentionally seeking, reaching out, and literally touching Him with a specific hope.

This is what I wrote:

Especially precious to me is the story of the woman with the long term issue of bleeding who anonymously reached out and touched the fringe of Jesus’ cloak. She was immediately healed of her chronic illness, and Jesus knew immediately that someone had touched Him even though there were hordes of people pressing in on Him. When He investigates and she comes forward, He says

“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

So, I’d run the miles and answer Betsy’s question and tell her that I was okay. Okay, but not well. Okay, but not exactly healed in the way I’d been hoping for. This continued for several years, and oh how badly I wanted to give a different answer each week. To report that the sadness had lifted, that the tears had dried up, that I was hopeful again, that I was free from despair.

Betsy has moved away now, and I miss her, but if we met for an early morning Thursday run this week, I’d be able to give her a different answer.

Here it is: He has made me well.

I wish I could say that it was upon my first effort to reach out and touch Him. (Or do I?) That Jesus and I were both immediately aware that power had gone forth from Him and dramatically into me, but that wasn’t how it worked in my case.

Remember that podcast interview I told you about? Well, this season of depression in my life is one direction that conversation took, and when Bethany asked about how I made it through those years, my answer felt unsatisfactory again. Not to Bethany, of course, but to me – even though the answer I gave is really the only one I know to give to anyone who finds themselves in a season like that:

I prayed and read my Bible.

Yep. That Sunday School answer.  That cliche.

Oh, I also did a lot of distance running, a lot of right eating, a lot of water drinking, some biblical counseling, some vitamin D taking, and some intentional resting. And those things certainly set a good stage, but I know it was the praying and the reading (and the receiving and the meditating and the practicing) that performed the true healing.

In fact, God promises that it will. Just take a look at these verses, which have come to be favorites:

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

and do not return to it without watering the earth

and making it bud and flourish,

so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire

and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55: 10-11

His Word (now our Bible) accomplishes just what the rain and snow accomplish: growth, good fruit, nourishing food. God gives His Word to accomplish our growth and our healing. He uses it to produce good fruit in our lives. And just as it is a guarantee that things will grow when they are watered, the same guarantee holds for those who take in His Word.

Remember how I mentioned right eating as a part of healing? Well, I did eat literal food. Still do. Good and healthy food. But as you can see, His Word is to be our food, too, and we need it daily.

Both kinds of food – literal and biblical – provide the faith that make us well.

(Did you know that some people were told to eat God’s Word?  Like, literally chew it up and swallow it? It’s true! Those stories are for another post, though.)

But, here’s the deal: It took time.

And here’s the other thing: Reading His Word is not just a recipe we use for healing from depression or anxiety or physical illness or heartache or grief or loneliness. Nor is it a way to bargain with or manipulate God. Neither is prayer. Both are to be our way of life, not tools we whip out when we really want something from God.

Can you imagine if your friends or children only spent time with you when they wanted something?

My daily, hopeful, and expectant reaching out and touching Jesus by reading His Word was how He made me well. Many days that was a choice by faith, an act of my will in obedience…and expectation.

So was the running, the eating, the meeting and more. And He finally met me…with true wellness. I’d say it’s been about two years now.

Word fueled faith in Jesus makes us well, like I wrote last week…safe, kept safe and sound, rescued from danger or destruction – meaning the danger and destruction of sin, and faith also makes us well…thriving, strong, resilient, sane, healthy, hearty, and more.

Hers was a courageous choice in the midst of what must have been a season of great weakness, but her touch displayed a faith that resulted in complete wellness.

And hers is a story I read in His Word.

Very Random Things

Warning: This might be the most random post I’ve ever written.

I’m wearing white jeans and sandals today…after Labor Day. Please don’t tell my dad. At least my sandals are not white, and I do have on a cardigan. (And it is in the 70’s today) At my 8:15am dentist appointment this morning, the hygienist suggested I might be in denial about the current season, but then went on to commiserate over how we were cheated out of a proper summer this year. She and her husband have a boat and didn’t get much time on the water. Water skiing was almost out of the question, because then you’d have to ride around soaking wet in the cool breeze. I kind of hated answering her question about any trips we took this summer, but it made me relive our adventures in Greece all over again. So thankful for those warm and sunny memories, because the pumpkins and mums have now arrived in New England.

Speaking of the dentist, I finally made the whole family appointments, and I was the last to go. Good reports all around.  Would you believe no one in this family has ever had a cavity or needed braces? Dental mercies, I tell ya. (Well, I have several fillings, but those are from my teen years, and I might just be a test case for the fact that improving the diet strengthens the teeth and gums. And God’s mercy, too, of course.)

Moved Cooper into his dorm at Gordon College on August 28th
Izckra and I went to a Beth Moore conference in Springfield, MA August 25-26. Beth wasn’t able to get home to Houston right away due to Harvey’s destruction in Houston. Wonderful teaching by Beth as usual. Wonderful time with this dear friend, too. (And evidently, I really like these white jeans)

Kayla is in her third week of Challenge IV at Classical Conversations. This week she had to lead the Old Testament/Theology discussion on the book of Exodus. She worked really hard on it, got great feedback, and is falling more and more in love with God and His Word. It has been one of my main prayers for her. She’s both applying at a couple of colleges and considering a gap year, too, for which the Lord seems to be opening some interesting doors. We are praying for His continued direction here. In fact, I was literally sitting and praying for her (journaling it all) and asking God to show her what her next steps would be, when she came and found me just a little while later and told me she was pretty sure about the gap year. After that, a few opportunities for gap year activities were presented to us, and I’m learning more and more how much the Lord wants us to come to Him with the smallest and largest of concerns.

We’ve been gearing up for the return of the Five College Students at church. Enjoyed this free cookout last weekend for first-year students who were in town before upperclassmen.

I got to participate in Classical Conversations this week (I’m not teaching this year) by helping to take the Challenge II class on a quick field trip to collect pond water samples and leaves for a future tree identification project. I loved taking my previous classes to do this. There is just something about getting outside and being given time to observe and interact with the natural, created world. It’s just something the classroom and a textbook can’t truly offer.

I’ve hardly told one soul about this, but I was interviewed for a podcast last Friday. The night before the interview I had a dream that when Bethany, the interviewer, arrived at my house, I sent her down to the basement to set up in Robert’s office while I settled some matters with my kids upstairs. (Somehow my kids all reverted to being 12, 10, and 7 in my dream and needed some wrangling before I could meet with Bethany.) When I finally started down the basement stairs, after leaving Bethany to fend for herself down there, I found her mopping up an inch of water that was covering my basement floor. Evidently my washing machine had broken and leaked water everywhere. I was horrified.

This horrifying dream may have been because I was fairly horrified about giving this interview. 3,000 listeners? Yikes. I’m horrified at the sound of my own voice.  I spoke at a women’s breakfast for a church in central Massachusetts in the spring, and still haven’t listened to the recording for which the pastor’s wife (Hi Christina!) sent a link. Every time I happen to hear a recoding of myself, I wonder why anyone wants to sit and talk with me at all. Ever. Seriously. But I’m learning that many people feel this way, and that all this self-horror is really just too. much. self. focus. And I pray God would rid. me. of. that.

I don’t know when the podcast will air, and I’m still not sure why the interview took the directions that it did. All I know is that I prayed…A LOT. Prayed that it would all be led by the Holy Spirit, and that the things recorded would be just the things that some other woman needs to hear. And Bethany prayed. And then we prayed together before we recorded. So, I’m trusting that, as confused as I was about what ended up being talked about, God has a purpose. Here, I’ll give you a hint:

Just don’t make the mistake of listening to the “hey, girl” podcast – with lowercase letters and a comma. That would NOT be the one on which I’ll eventually appear. (Or on which my voice will eventually be heard. Ugh.)

One of my favorite things. This group – a very random assortment – was gathered around my table on Sunday after church. No one moved until 4pm, as we listened to each other’s stories of faith and new jobs and spontaneous proposals and weddings and ultra-marathons and growing up a homeschooled missionary kid in Afghanistan. Sweet fellowship.

Speaking of opportunities to be horrified at the sound of my own voice, I was invited to speak at a women’s retreat the first weekend of November, and have been working with the women there to decide on a topic. Several themes have been on my mind, and I look forward to which one they’ll choose, so I can begin preparing. (Especially since I just discovered it’s one of my heaviest workload weeks for my seminary class. (Old Testament II)  (Good thing we get to drop three quiz grades!) But one theme has been jumping out at me in my own reading lately.

I’ve really only read the gospels this year – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. (With some occasional departures into the Psalms and Colossians in moments of desperation.) My goal was to read all four gospels each month, and I was able to keep up with that until summertime arrived. Since then, I’ve still stayed in the gospels, really wanting to soak in all that Jesus did, all that He was and still is, but I’ve not made it through all four each month. As I’ve read, a few things have jumped out at me, one of them being how often Jesus touched people, and how often they touched Him.

Especially precious to me is the story of the woman with the long term issue of bleeding who anonymously reached out and touched the fringe of Jesus’ cloak. She was immediately healed of her chronic illness, and Jesus knew immediately that someone had touched Him even though there were hordes of people pressing in on Him. When He investigates and she comes forward, He says

“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

I just love those words. And I don’t think she was just made physically well. I think she was made wholly well – spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and yes, also physically. That she believed Jesus was powerful to make her well was a choice by faith, and that faith made her well from sin first and foremost. It reminds me of the paralytic man who was taken to Jesus by his friends. His most obvious need, his most presenting symptom, was physical disability, but Jesus forgave his sins first and foremost. His eventual healing of the man’s inability to walk was only a verification of His authority to forgive sin.

Faith in Jesus makes us wellsafe, kept safe and sound, rescued from danger or destruction – meaning the danger and destruction of sin, and faith also makes us well…thriving, strong, resilient, sane, healthy, hearty, and more.

He has done that for me. He has made this daughter of His well, and continues to do so on a daily basis. I’ve been praying for this wellness in one young woman in particular this week. I know the wellness is coming, but right now it doesn’t feel so certain to her.

So, I really don’t know how to transition from the woman who touched Jesus’ cloak to Taylor Swift, but I do hope and pray that Taylor comes to know this healing touch of Jesus by faith. How’s that?

This is from Urban Dictionary, and I have to say that I am in full agreement with this definition. 😉

My family and a few other Swiftie friends had a lot of fun tracking Taylor’s crazy marketing ploys for her new album a couple of weeks ago. The group texts were such a fun source of laughter and ridiculousness, and you know what? Sometimes laughter and ridiculousness are just what the doctor ordered.

For the record (I can never pun on purpose), I like her new songs. To be quite honest and vulnerable here, I think Taylor is a gifted, creative, gracious, strong, generous, humble, compassionate, and beautifully confident. I have a theory that people who love to hate on her, are actually just mad that she is able to embody all of those characteristics. Envy and jealousy are oftentimes obvious in our misplaced outrage. True story.

But I’d like to suggest a few edits to her most recent song, “Ready For It.” She has a couple of other songs that are just as suggestive, and I really wish she’d make a lyrical u-turn in this area. So, Taylor, if you are reading, tell me what you think of these changes:

I-I-I see how this is gonna go,

Propose to me, and we’ll never be alone

I-Island breeze, and we’re takin’ it slow

‘Cuz soon enough we’ll know

***

In the middle of the night, in my dreams

You should see our wedding day, baby

Mmmmm…

I can’t wait to be with you

So I pray and I pray

Are we ready for it?

I’ve got my eyes open for a part-time job for when Kayla goes off on her gap year or to college, and I’m really thinking Taylor might want to hire me. I mean…her songs only need this slight tweaking. And I could do it from home – after an initial meeting, autograph, and selfie, of course. It’s a win-win in my mind.

Here’s something else I haven’t told many of you, which has absolutely no connection to Taylor, well, except for the letter T. I’m going on a mission trip overseas. It will be a first for me. I’ve been on several mission trips – to Mexico a handful of times and to Louisiana to help with hurricane clean up in the early 90’s, but never overseas. I’ll get to work with a team and help with English classes, provide respite care for long term missionaries in the country, and participate in outreach to people on a spiritual (superstitious) pilgrimage during this season.  Here’s my team:

I’ve never had to raise my own support, though I’ve helped my kids do it several times. If you’ve sent me money, thank you so much. It has been so sweet to read the notes you’ve sent along with your gift, and I’m always overwhelmed by the joy with which people give. In many ways, you’ve taught me how to give – with both generosity of resources and encouragement. I’m not quite fully funded, but almost.

I leave in just about two weeks, and I’d really love it if you prayed for us – for many open doors to share the gospel, to bless others, to serve others, to learn about God’s work in a very different context than my own, and for safe travels. It’s still scary to me to cross an ocean in an airplane and leave all of my loved ones behind, but this invitation to mission and service seemed like one the Lord was asking me to take.

How’s that for randomness? Thanks for loving me enough to track right along.  I love sharing it with you.

Running Anxieties

Not anxiety about running itself, though there was a bit of that yesterday as well. We didn’t run while we were in Greece. Couldn’t seem to make it work. We either slept too late letting it get really hot outside, or we had to be out the door early for a tour or a flight. So, yesterday was our first run in almost two weeks, and we never let that much time pass.

Running is an anxiety remedy for me, so not running for a couple of week means that not only do I not have my usual anxiety outlet, but it also causes anxiety about my running ability after letting so much time pass.

Are you following? Does that mean I’m anxious about being anxious? Am I crazed?

Running is also when I do much of my praying, which certainly has something to do with the anxiety relief over and above any amount of endorphins and serotonin that running produces. It’s a pretty good combo now that I think of it.

The point is, I finally went running again yesterday, and the running wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be, but the praying was. Somehow, being out of the country provided a reprieve from the daily onslaught of distractions, but coming back home opened wide the door to frenzied thoughts once again. Every time I tried to pray I was bombarded with anxious thoughts…

Need to take a wedding gift to church tomorrow

North Korea

Need to have two other wedding gifts sent

Car needs an inspection and the side-view mirror is broken

Charlottesville

Child sponsorship program needs back pay from an expired debit card debacle

Kory’s college loan grace period ending soon

How will he transition from camp to corporate world?

He needs a place to live

That thing she said…ouch. What did I do wrong?

That Facebook post was harsh

Cooper’s move-in back at Gordon is soon

Does he need new stuff for his room this year

Need to go to Target

Tanglewood is one week from today. Don’t forget. Don’t double book

Seminary starts next week

Do I need to buy a new book for my seminary class?

I really need to buy groceries

I need to unpack

Everyone in my family needs a dentist appointment

A few minutes in to granting all of these anxious thoughts space in my heart and mind I realize what’s happening, and I wonder what God is thinking. I mean, it was only a few seconds after I started talking to Him that my prayers took an abrupt turn and into my long list of concerns and to-do’s.

So, I tell Him I’m sorry, and I start my prayer again.

Please forgive my distractions, Lord. Thank you for an amazing trip to Greece, for keeping us safe, our kids safe, for 25 years of marriage, for your grace and your good gifts…

I wonder how my friend is doing in the midst of her divorce

How could he do that to her? To his kids? To us?

Should we reach out to him again?

I hope _____________ is okay after her hospital stay

I hope she is settling in well in her new place

I wonder how much the church interns had to help with that after we left

Women’s ministry team has a meeting in a couple of weeks

What should our postcards look like? Maybe __________ can help with that?

What if someone doesn’t like the things we have planned?

Will this event/small group/Bible study cause offense?

Kayla starts school in one week

I hope her books arrive on time

I hope I got all the books she needs

She’s anxious about starting her senior year

I want to help her with that

How can I lift her burdens?

I need to pray with her about it more

We need to have ____________ over for dinner

I hope ____________doesn’t think I’m ignoring them

I need to respond to that email

I need to be sure and write Airbnb and TripAdvisor reviews for our hosts and tour guides

I need to find a job in the next year

Where should Kayla go to college?

College loans x three kids

Should I reach out to _______________?

She may not want me to reach out, but she might also be waiting for me to.

I don’t know…

Oh, Lord. I’m doing it again! I’m so sorry. I don’t know why I can’t pray today. Help me to pray.

This is how He answered…

Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken. (Psalm 55:22)

…casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (I Peter 5:7)

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God… (Philippians 4:6)

And so, because those are the verses that came to mind as I asked for His help, and also because I really could not focus in the type of prayer I was trying to manufacture, I just started casting.

Casting the cares that were flooding my mind.

Lord, be near to ____________ and give her peace.

God, restore their family and grant much comfort in the meantime.

Casting the anxieties that were troubling my heart.

Lord, protect our country and turn the heart of our president to you.

Father, provide for the finances and the debt.

Casting the burdens that were weighing heavy on my shoulders.

God, give us strength for the school year.

Lord, give me wisdom and discernment about this person. Give me love for them.

Letting the long list of requests be made known.

Father, you know we need this.

Lord, draw his heart to you.

God, show her her calling.

Father, give me efficiency in time and productivity in all the work.

It felt disjointed, unorganized. It didn’t follow any acrostic. There was no adoration or confession, really. In short, it wasn’t the prayer I intended to pray, but it was clearly the one I needed to pray.

What a relief (what grace!) that God anticipated our anxieties and scattered all throughout His Word reminders that He wants to carry them for us. He continued showing them to me throughout the day…

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; (Psalm 139:23)

When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul. (Psalm 94:19)

and in His typical and tender way, He reminded me of this at the end of my run and again at the end of the day…

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Running.

Yesterday it was a running list of worries running me into a frenzy – and even about the actual running itself. (Help!)

Today it is a running list of promises that relieved that frenzy.

I’m really looking forward tomorrow’s run.

Bloom Where You Are Planted/Exiled: Part 4

A couple of years ago, I experienced what felt like an all-out betrayal (which is an exile of sorts) by someone close to me. I was hurt, and I grieved the loss of relationship through tears for weeks. When I would recount the experience, listing off all of the felt injustices to my husband, he would say this:

“I know. I’m so sorry.”

“But don’t you love Jesus more now?”

Maybe it seems an insensitive way to respond to a weeping wife (as I did for a split second), but I thank God for a husband who offers truth in the midst of emotion.

You certainly won’t find me out there looking for more betrayals and conflicts, but I do love Jesus more for the ones I’ve experienced. He met me in my grief. He taught me to not put my hope in people. He reminded me of His steadfast love – the kind others aren’t able to give perfectly. I read His Word more. I prayed more. I poured out my heart more and was met with more grace and strength by the One who had experienced a betrayal much, much greater than mine.

Why did God require a 70 year exile to Babylon for His children? Because they had not chosen to know and walk closely with Him at home – in the Promised Land, in Jerusalem, their holy city.

It’s in our exile that we learn to love our real home as we should. And our real home is in Christ.

But listen to that famous verse to exiles again:

“For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'” Jeremiah 29:10-11

Some versions say “I know the thoughts I think toward you” and this is what Charles Spurgeon had to say about that:

“Yet what God told the exiles through Jeremiah was even better. God does not only think of His people, His thoughts are toward them. The Lord not only thinks of you, but towards you. His thoughts are all drifting your way.”

Instead of punishing the exiles forever and not granting them any hope of redemption or rescue, He assures them of His plan and His promises for the future. He is coming for them eventually, and in the meantime His thoughts and plans are for them.

I don’t really anticipate a permanent return to my home in Texas – at least not anytime soon. But I do love Texas more now than I did when I lived there. I appreciate the temperatures, the landscape, the food, the history, and the culture much more than I did when I was swimming in it – sometimes literally. (Have I mentioned the rivers and lakes? Gorgeous!) And I appreciate my Savior more when He allows different sorts of exiles in my life.

Israel’s sin exiled them from their homeland and the temple leaving them in Babylon. Our sin exiled us from God’s presence and a glorious garden leaving us in this fallen world. But God still promises us a rescue and a return to the garden – if we acknowledge and receive forgiveness for that sin.

The only way He could promise this rescue?

To become an exile Himself.

He did that in Jesus, who chose exile from heaven, put on flesh, and died on a cross for the sin that caused our own banishment. Then He resurrected showing power and authority over the death that sin brought about. (And trust me, the exile from Texas to Massachusetts was really nothing compared to the exile from heaven to earth.)

If you have placed your faith in Jesus you can hope in the same promise the Babylonian exiles received from God – that He is coming back for you. He will eventually return you to your true and new home with Him.

And not only do you have future hope, but you also have present help…Help to bloom where you are planted. Strength to remain, to settle, to surrender – no matter what your current circumstances are.

His plans and His thoughts are all drifting your way.

 

Are you walking through a difficult season (or the end) of marriage?

Is He asking you to be pure, patient, and faithful in your singleness?

Are you exhausted by the difficulties and challenges of parenting?

Is He asking you to keep praying for and being patient with a rebellious child?

Do you need to be strong for and keep striving with a sick child or an elderly parent who requires great care?

Is your family and homeland thousands of miles away?

Are family dynamics a source of pain or discouragement?

Do anxiety or depression (or both) overcome you?

Is your work environment frustrating, demeaning?

Are people taking for granted your faithful volunteer efforts?

Has a friend betrayed you?

Are finances dwindling?

Do you have dreams and desires that seem disregarded or shut down by God Himself?

All of the above, different facets and layers of living in exile. And though seemingly impossible at times, all fertile ground for blooming, too. Not so fun at times. Often uncomfortable. Sometimes totally heart-wrenching. Still, I thank God for my exile and the for the growth and blossoming He’s accomplished through them.

And some sweet day, near or distant, I’ll finally get to return to Tex-Mex and temps above 70.

Just kidding. I’ll finally get to live fully and wholly in and with Jesus.

I can’t wait.

Until then, praying to blossom and grow in this exile.

Bloom Where You Are Planted/Exiled: Part 3

The following July when Kayla turned one (the sun came out, the morning sickness ended, and I found a wonderful OB/GYN and hospital), I looked around my dining room table at the people I’d been able to gather to celebrate her birthday and watch her eat her first cake ~ a teapot cake I’d carefully made for the occasion. There were a couple of local folks and students, two other visitors who were college students we’d known from Oklahoma (Hi Jenny and Jason!), my husband, my two little boys and me. It was not the big gathering of friends and family that my boys had each had back in Texas for their first birthdays, and I wondered why the Lord had sent us to this place. I’m not sure what I expected, and I though I loved ministry and knew that we were here for a good purpose, it seemed like the punishment of exile at the time.

It was sometime after that, that I came across Psalm 37 and I’ve already shared the verses that I began to cling to and try to practice. Here it is again:

Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. v. 3-4

Dwell: reside, live, be settled, stay (Hebrew – Shakan – to establish, abide, remain)

Cultivate: to improve growth by labor and attention, to develop, to dig, till, plow, and fertilize (Hebrew – Ra’ah – to tend, graze; also – befriend, associate with)

Faithfulness: devotion, long-continued and steadfast fidelity, loyal stability

When I read those verses, I knew the Lord was asking me to bloom where I’d been planted – to settle in and be faithful. I wrote the verse out and put it on our refrigerator as a constant reminder. As difficult as I often found it, and as resistant as I could be at times, I knew He was asking me to build my home here.

To plan birthday parties here with whoever is able to come. To pick apples in the fall and learn to eat a lobster. To meet my neighbors. To walk the Freedom Trail and enjoy the local history. To learn to love snowshoeing. To pray for my town and state and region. To join the local Woman’s Club. To purchase a snow blower and some waterproof boots. To join the local organic farm co-op. To lead small group Bible studies for young women and spend time on the college campuses. To invite church folks over for lunch after the worship service and more.

David’s words toward the end of the Psalm in verse 25 gave me the encouragement I needed to live those things out…

I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread. v. 25

David was saying, in essence, “I have been alive a very long time, and I’ve been observing how God deals with His children all these years, and NOT ONCE has He forsaken them or left them in need of anything.”

And though I have come to love New England, my town, and my church, Texas still feels very much like home. I was just there last month for my son’s college graduation. Many of you know he went to Baylor University in Waco, TX. If you are a Fixer Upper/Chip and Joanna Gaines fan, you know exactly the place I’m talking about. It’s that sweet little town where the 4 bedroom 2 bath homes are less than $200,000, the marriages are all happy and fun, and the local business owners are all friends and go to church together.

It was warm and sunny  while we were there. I was drinking iced coffee at the Silos and shopping at the market. When I’d go out for a morning run, people smiled and waved. Sometimes they stopped me and engaged me in friendly conversation. (True story.) We stayed with my dad who is healthy and active, but growing older. We cooked steaks on his deck after a few hours of floating the beautiful nearby river.

Did I mention that it was warm and sunny?  Yeah – you could swim in that river without your lips turning blue and your whole body going numb….in mid-May.

Photo Credit: Kayla (You know, that one year old I was talking about in the first paragraph.)

And like the Israelites in exile experienced, there have been some false prophets in my life. During an especially difficult time in ministry a few years back, someone said something like this to me: “You’ve given up over 15 years of your life living in New England and doing what your husband is called to do. I think it’s your turn to live where you want and do what you want now.”

Yikes.

Now, I know that the Lord often speaks through others when He wants to lead us in new directions, but I knew immediately those words were not from God. A true prophet would have known that what’s best for me is to be right where God has called BOTH my husband and me. A real friend would have encouraged me to be faithful to that calling and not tempted me further with my own desires which were mostly self-centered and honestly had much more to do with months of sunshine and southern hospitality than ministry or walking with God.

I knew I needed to disregard those words, because they were so contrary to the “dwell, cultivate, be faithful” commands God had been asking of me all along. And if it’s not a friend or family member playing the role of false prophet, there are plenty of other voices on social media, podcasts, and in your local bookstore. You don’t have to go far to find someone encouraging you to seek out your own personal desires and follow your own heart no matter the cost or consequence, no matter God’s will or purposes.

So many wonderful things have happened in our church and family over the last 18 years. I consider it a great privilege to be here and see first hand the incredible ways God works in people’s lives. The difficult days of ministry and the longings for home have not disappeared, so at times it still feels like exile, but the reality is, we’re all living in a type of exile. This world is not our home. Life here is difficult and riddled with disappointments, yet we are asked to settle here –  as “aliens and strangers” is how the apostle Peter describes it. (Or “sojourners and exiles” if you read the ESV) It’s not the Garden of Eden we were created for, and it’s lasting a lifetime.

But we’re not the only ones who have been asked to dwell and bloom here. That same Hebrew word for “dwell” in Psalm 37 God also uses to describe what He does with and for His people.

Exodus 29:45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God.

I Kings 6:13 And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people Israel.”

And even crazier than a God who chooses to dwell among His people in spirit as these Old Testament verses are describing, is a God who chooses to put on flesh and dwell among us in Jesus. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

“Pitched a tent” among us is what the Greek word for “dwell” means in the first chapter of John.

He comes close to us in our exile.

To be continued…

(Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you on Monday!)

Bloom Where You Are Planted/Exiled: Part 1

I do not have a green thumb.  I really wish I did. I am in love with the idea of gardening, but seem to lack the knack. Actually, I think I fear gardening. The perfectionist in me often resists the notion entirely because I fear that (from experience with a couple of house plants) it won’t work. A couple of years ago my friend, Betsy,  insisted upon giving me some hosta cuttings from her yard. I tried to politely refuse, but she dropped off a bucket of earthy roots with attached leaves anyway and told me to just put them in the ground.

The bucket sat near our front door for probably a few too many days while my guilt over their impending death grew. I finally gave in one day and dug out a row in the grass of our front yard and plant the cuttings there out of guilt mixed with a lot of doubt and grumbling.

Guess what happened? They grew! (Not surprising to you green-thumb people, I’m sure.) They’ve even grown larger and fuller each spring since I planted them. I’m pretty sure this one success of mine does not mean you’ll want to hire me as your next landscaper, but still. I planted something – something cut out of a friend’s yard, no less, and it grew!

(Actually, I have had one or two successful vegetable gardens, but I’m like 2 for 25. Not good odds.)

And while plants are often used to illustrate people and their growth, the truth is, that people don’t always thrive and grow where they’ve been placed. (I suppose some plants don’t either, but it’s never due to own their choices.) It’s why we have cliches like “bloom where you are planted” to encourage each other to thrive and make the best of any given situation.

I did some research on the origin of the phrase. It’s earliest mention seems to be from the 16th century…

The Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622) said this: “Truly charity has no limit; for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by His Spirit dwelling in each one of us, calling us to a life of devotion and inviting us to bloom in the garden where He has planted and directing us to radiate the beauty and spread the fragrance of His Providence.”

The phrase “bloom where you are planted” cannot be found in the Bible, but the concept can be found all over the scriptures.  When I was first asked to speak at a womens’ breakfast with this theme, my thoughts immediately went to Psalm 37. It’s a Psalm I have clung to often – especially these verses written by an older King David.

Trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him and He will do it.

And then I started thinking about specific times that God had asked people to “dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness” or in other words “bloom where they were planted.” (Also where I got the “dwell” in this blog’s new name.)

The book of Jeremiah came to mind. Especially the 29th chapter. You are probably familiar with Jeremiah chapter 29 because of its often-quoted verse 11.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I have received a couple of birth announcements, wedding invitations, and graduation cards with that verse on it.

And while it is a verse about God’s plans and the coming circumstances of His people, the context really has nothing to do with celebrations or congratulations or even God’s plans to prosper His children with good jobs or safety or successful futures. Quite the opposite. (Though I think we can still use it to give evidence of God’s involvement in our lives and His good intentions toward us.)

The context of Jeremiah 29:11 is exile. In this chapter, God’s people have been recently conquered by an enemy nation and forced from their homes. It is a consequence of their disobedience, of rebellion, and of idol worship.

God had been very patient with them for about 1000 years, having given many, many opportunities for them to turn from idol worship and disobedience and back to Him. Not only have they refused, they have only escalated in their rebellion and evil deeds. (Just read about King Manasseh in 2 Kings 21. Yikes!) God has now has appointed some very extreme consequences for His beloved children: destruction of their city, their homes, the temple, and banishment from their homeland.

After 1000 years of His people leaving Him for other Gods, we might expect an “I told you so” or “I am so done with you” from God. Something reminiscent of Keith Urban’s 2002 hit:

Take your records, take your freedom

Take your memories, I don’t need ’em

Take your space and take your reasons

But you’ll think of me.

And take your cap and leave my sweater

‘Cause we have nothing left to weather

In fact I’ll feel a whole lot better

But you’ll think of me, you’ll think of me.

(We just got a Spotify family plan, and now I can listen to as much Keith Urban, George Strait, and Faith Hill/Tim McGraw as I want. Sandra McCracken, Sara Groves, and All Sons and Daughters, too. So exciting.)

Fortunately, God was not as bitter as Keith was over his breakup. Actually, God is incapable of these attitudes. He is in a covenant relationship with His people, and so He is literally unable to break His end of the deal. Israel, however, is well known in the Old Testament as the unfaithful wife of God. She keeps betraying Him with other lovers, but He remains faithful even so. (Read the book of Hosea for an incredible portrayal of that adulterous affair.)

With that in mind, maybe instead of a “breakup” message, it’s a message telling them to just hunker down and wait for God to intervene. Maybe it’s a “don’t worry, it will all be over soon” letter or a letter encouraging them to actively resist this pagan nation, to stay pure, to stick together and to fight for their rights.

Nope. Not that either.

God (almost literally) tells them to bloom where they are planted – even though where they are planted is in EXILE.

To be continued…

Soul Food

Last week I was tasked with writing a devotion (a Bible reading/prayer/meditation plan) for a friend who is walking through the darkest days of her life so far. Actually, three of us would write a devotion, so that she would have three days worth of truth to focus on while she’s away on a tropical vacation that had been planned long before the darkness invaded life as she knew it.

It wasn’t as easy of a task as I thought it would be, and up until the night before her departure, I wasn’t sure what to write, what direction to take. But then I remembered a conversation we’d had about a passage from Stepping Heavenward.

(You know, my favorite book? The one which, if you’ve read it and don’t like it, I start to question our friendship. The one that Elisabeth Elliot also likes, and said we could be friends over? Yeah, that book. You can order it here.)

Here’s the passage I came across. It’s one in which Katy (the main character) is talking to Mrs. Campbell (an elderly woman and patient of Katy’s husband) and asking her about her illness and enduring the trials of life.  Here’s what Mrs. Campbell says:

“I was bound to my God and Savior before I knew a sorrow, it is true.  But it was by a chain of many links; and every link that dropped away brought me to Him till at last, having nothing left, I was shut up to Him and learned fully what I had only learned partially, how soul-satisfying He is.”

And here is what I ended up writing for this dear friend in hopes of helping her overcome the fear and deep sadness she is facing, with a few edits as of today, because I’ve had more time to think and research.

Isn’t that a beautiful way of describing it? We are bound to Christ in our salvation, but the distance between us (or gulf between us in intimacy) is so much greater than we realize – many, many links in the chain. There’s the link of self-sufficiency, of pride, and of fear. One especially stubborn link is that of control and even more fierce – the links of health and material blessings. Ask me how I know! Cutting those links of metal requires a serious tool, and because there is life in this particular chain, it hurts deeply when the links are cut away.

But the more that are cut away, the closer we are drawn to Christ. And the closer we are drawn to Christ, the more soul-satisfying we find him.

Soul-satisfying.

Doesn’t that just sound so good? Can you imagine being completely satisfied from deep within your soul? No restlessness. No fear. No insecurity. No anxiety. No hiding. No putting on a happy face. In fact, the smile is natural, because it comes from way down deep in a soul completely at rest in her savior.

Oh, how far from that kind of satisfaction, that level of contentedness I am!

So, in order to better face these days when the chain links are being cut away, I thought you and I could both focus on how soul-satisfying Jesus is today. That’s right, both of us. I need this as much as you, and have committed to meditating on the same things I’m asking you to this week. I want to learn it fully, and not partially – just like Mrs. Campbell said.

When you can get alone and undistracted for a little while, look up these verses. I’ll give you some prompts or questions after each one.

Haggai 1:5-7  (…there is not enough to be satisfied. v. 6)

 “Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, “Consider your ways! You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.”

What things did the Israelites think would satisfy them?

Pray about ways/places/people in which (or whom) you’ve sought satisfaction apart from Christ.

Write them down.

Matthew 14: 19-21 (…and they all ate and were satisfied. v. 20)

“Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.”

About how many were satisfied with five loaves and two fish?

What other needs might Jesus’ followers have been trying to satisfy?

Were there leftovers after the meal? How much?

Remember and make a list of the ways He’s provided for you, satisfied you, given good gifts.

Thank Him.

John 6:30-35 (…he who comes to Me will not hunger. v. 35)

“So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” 

Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’ “

What do the people want? What Old Testament reference do they make?

What does Jesus say the bread of God gives to the world?

What/Who is the true bread? What happens (or stops happening) to those who eat this bread?

Thank the Father for Jesus. Ask to have your soul satisfied in Him alone.

Write out John 6:35.

Offer it in adoration to Him throughout the day…”You are the Bread of Life. You satisfy every desire.”

Now, just a few more tasks for today…

  1. Find some pieces of rope, seaweed, palm branches, vines, (toilet paper? 😀 ) etc. and make a short chain out of them. Take a picture and text it to me. This will remind you that in the removing of links there is soul-satisfying nearness to Him happening.
  2. Buy a loaf of artisan bread in a local market or store (or…grab a piece of toast from the hotel’s continental breakfast?). Text me a photo. Slather on your favorite toppings – butter, jelly, peanut butter, honey? Savor it and with every satisfying bite, give praise to the True Bread of Life.
  3. Lie on the beach. Close your eyes. Meditate on these words: “My soul is satisfied, My soul is satisfied; I am complete in Jesus’ love, And my soul is satisfied.” It’s the chorus of the hymn “My Soul is Satisfied.” (And the whole thing is worth reading!)

May your soul be at rest today, and fully satisfied in Jesus. May every link that is cut away deepen your satisfaction in Him and your intimacy with Him. I love you, friend.


I did a little research on the Greek word for “satisfied” in the Matthew verse.  The word is chortazō and it carries all of the meanings you would guess – to fill, to fulfill – but it can mean something even more grand than that: to gorge or supply food in abundance in order to fill, feed, and satisfy.

Today I’m praying for my friend, for myself, and for you ~ that we would gorge ourselves (I think I like the terms savor and delight and indulge better than gorge) on Jesus and all that He is and provides. He is truly enough, even in our most despairing seasons and on our darkest of days. In fact, nothing and no one else can satisfy.