Still learning to trust

The first text came just as I was getting dressed, not quite ready to appear in public:

Put your head out the door and look at the sky.

I peeked out the door, then threw on whatever clothes were within reach and grabbed my camera. Had to get outside.

Just then another text came from someone else: Sunrise alert!

sunrise alert

God was simply putting an exclamation point after what He had been saying to me that morning. He knows me well, and He knows the effect morning light has on me. And this morning light was spectacular.

The conversation with God had actually started the morning before when, in our small Sunday-morning group, one man — who is in a situation most of us can hardly imagine — expressed his deep faith in Jesus’ promise:

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

Jesus says the highest priority of His disciples is the kingdom of God, seeking to live out His kingdom right where we are in whatever circumstances we are. The kingdom of God is what is to have our prime time, the fullness of our energy, the urgency of our thoughts. The Father knows what we need in this life—not only spiritually, but also physically—and it is “His business” (said this believer on Sunday morning) to provide that for His children. He is the Great Shepherd.

Ah. Our business is the kingdom. God’s business is providing the necessities for the lives of His children.

That started me thinking about how I spend my days. What always gets first place on my to-do list. What gets my morning time (my prime time) and what is saved for oh-whenever-I-have-a-few-minutes. I tried to imagine a bar graph that would show in stark, colored detail the amount of time I spend tending to what I think are “necessary” things in life (or worrying and thinking about such things) compared to the time I’m giving to life in the kingdom.

I confess, I’m almost afraid to look too closely at the detail of that graph.

This man’s testimony was yet one more nudge from the Spirit. I’ve been grappling with one thing in my life, one thing that it seems I cannot let go of. The Spirit says I must let it go and trust Him fully. Prying my fingers loose is so hard. I’ve grown up in a culture that argues against fully trusting God for all things. Our culture says we must be our own providers, our own strength, our own … can I say it? … our own gods.

Then, on the spectacular-sunrise morning, I read this wonderful verse:

“Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The [enemies] you see today will never be seen again. The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm” (Exodus 14:13).

That’s Moses, telling a frantic, desperate people that God would indeed protect and provide for them. Those people saw absolutely no way out of the predicament they were in. So God turned a sea into a desert road in order to rescue them.

Just after I read that story, along came an email directing me to a blog that ended with the same verses in Matthew 6 that I had been thinking about: “Seek ye first …”

And then came the sunrise. A gift from One who loves me and wants me to trust Him in all things.

So I would like to shout this from the rooftop:

(Source: Elaine, from her rooftop, under sunrise skies)

Nothing, just nothing like it!

I cannot doubt today that God is in this place where I now stand and He intends to keep every promise He’s made to me.

Oh, Father, help my unbelief.


Trees by the Water (A reminder)

This is a re-post (with minor changes)  from the first year of this blog.
More importantly, at the threshold of a new year, it is a reminder to myself of where I want to be and to Whom I owe the life I’m living.

Trees by the Water

Just a short personal story to explain this photo, a small portion of which I use as my photo ID across the web.

I was vacationing with friends. When we arrived at our rented vacation home, the bedroom situation wasn’t quite what we had expected, and we found ourselves short one bedroom. There were tiny ripples of disappointment and frustration throughout the house. I was road weary and just wanted to settle in. I took the couch in the library as my bed.

On top of the weariness and disappointment, I had too many noisy voices in my head that day. I was in the process of trying to sort out whether or not to leave a long-time job. Confused. Doubtful. Arguing with myself, going ’round in circles. I was torn between old ways and habits of thinking and new paths I felt called to follow …

Did I mention how tired I was?

Not too many weeks before, the Lord’s promise in Jeremiah 17:7-8 had seared itself into my heart.

“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD
and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.

They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.

Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.

Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.”

This was the life I wanted to live!
I had made the decision to put all my eggs into one basket — into God’s hands.

But that night on the couch in Roque Bluffs, I was so weary. Under siege by doubts, discouragement, and self-criticism, I was at the point of giving up on what seemed like an impossible new life. When I went to bed that first night, darkness had fallen outside — and seeped into my mind and my heart.

But when I opened my eyes to morning light, the first imprint on my brain was the view you see in the photo. Without putting on my glasses or even lifting my head from my pillow, I saw green trees outlined against a shimmering stretch of silver sea.

Trees by the water.

I had a perfect view, from my bed on the couch. No other bed in the house had that view, that I needed, on that day.

God said, “Trust me.”

I slept on the couch for a week, waking each morning to the view of green trees by the water and the reminder, “Trust me.”

And, if you look verrrry closely at the photograph, there I sit at water’s edge… learning to be a tree planted by the water.


Chariots of fire surrounding you

Let us imagine what that morning must have been like.

They wake up in the hill country of Samaria, in the small town of Dothan. The servant, out on an early morning errand, is stunned by the sight of chariots and foot soldiers everywhere. The enemy has moved into place under the cover of darkness. These are the troops of the king of Aram, who has been attempting raids on towns in Samaria, trying to break the country bit by bit.

The servant runs back home to report the situation to Elisha. “Sir, what will we do?” Dothan is under siege. It is not clear if Elisha and his servant know that these soldiers are here to capture Elisha, or if they simply assume that the enemy is attacking the town, as it has tried to do with other towns. They do know, though, that the enemy forces are powerful, they are everywhere, and there is no apparent way of escape. It looks like they’re doomed to capture or destruction.

“What will we do?”

Elisha is not afraid. “We have more on our side than they have!” he declares.

And then he prays. Not for God to come and help them. No, he prays for the young man. He asks God to open the young servant’s eyes to see the truth of their situation. “And let him see!”

The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire (2 Kings 6:17 NLT).

Oh, Lord, open our eyes and let us see!

Let us see your constant watch over us. Scripture holds so many reassurances that the eyes of the Lord are constantly on those who rely on His love and His ears are always open to our prayers. I just discovered another one recently; 2 Chronicles 16:9 says the Lord is continually looking throughout the earth, looking for hearts devoted to Him so that He can strengthen them. He is there, constantly.

Let us see the power with which you protect us and provide for us. Chariots of fire? Who knows? Are there angels fighting for us in the spiritual realm? We have Scriptures that would indicate this is happening. But God also sends his “angels” in human form—people sent into our lives at just the right time for the purpose of strengthening, encouraging, teaching, and supporting us. They are—just like heavenly angels—special representatives sent by God for a certain purpose. Prayer warriors might very well be, in God’s eyes, driving chariots of fire into the thick of the battle. (I like that image.)

Psalm 18 is a great picture of God tearing open the heavens and coming down Himself to rescue one who depended on His help. God has done that for you and me! He has torn open heaven, and He not only came down to rescue us but He comes to live with us. God comes to abide with us. We abide in Him. He comes and makes His home with us and we share a life together. He tore the heavens open one night in Bethlehem, coming to rescue us and to share His life and kingdom and power with us.

We cannot despair, even when the situation looks grim to our blind eyes. We cannot feel helpless or hopeless when faced with enemies so strong they seem unbeatable. We cannot, because Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid of any trouble you face in the world. Trust me.”

What would this day look like if we could see clearly the chariots of fire surrounding us? What if we could have just a taste, one wee sip, of the might of His power at work in our lives?

Today, I pray for you and for me—not for His help in what we face or victory in our battles, but I pray: Lord, open our eyes and let us see!

Good Things from Hard Places

Their youngest son went for a walk one day and never came back. The only trace of him that was found was a piece of clothing belonging to the boy—smeared with blood.

Can you imagine a harder place? The boy’s parents had no clue as to what had happened to their child, but the bloody coat suggested violence. Yet a body was never found, nor was a perpetrator of the crime ever suspected, accused, or punished. They spent many years grieving and wondering.

And I’m sure the father, especially, had many questions for God. His life up to that point had been anything but peaceful. He knew God’s promises, but his life’s path had been through many deep valleys. Why had God allowed this to happen now? Had he not already suffered enough? This tragedy was too much to bear. It was such a staggering blow that he lived in constant and deep mourning.

I wept when I read the end of the story. I had read and heard it many times before. Because this is the story of Joseph and his father, Jacob. Yet this time, reading it through, it touched me like it never had before. Could you imagine a harder place for a parent to be? Can you imagine the prayers, the tears, the questions, the sadness?

But as I read the end of the story, I wept not in sadness, but in relief and thankfulness.

Many, many years later we see that God has had a hand in Joseph’s life all along—and in Jacob’s. In Jacob’s old age, his entire family is in peril of death, and Joseph—the child Jacob has spent decades mourning—is alive and in a position of power to save them all.

But oh! the hard places Jacob had to walk through! And yet at the end of the story, we hear Joseph saying, “God has gone ahead of all of us, setting the stage so that I can save us all.” And God Himself comes to the old man Jacob and says, “Don’t be afraid. I will go with you to Egypt and I will bring you back again.”

There are so many Scriptures that tell us that God holds the lives of His children. He not only walks through everything with us, He goes before us. He has a purpose and a plan. He holds our times in His hands. So many Scriptures! You probably have your favorites. Hold on to them in the hard times!

I just want to pull out two today that always speak peace to me. They are taken from two very different contexts. One is written to people who are in the middle of terrible suffering. The other addresses people on the verge of a wonderful new life.

…trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you. (1 Peter 4:19)

For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water…a land where food is plentiful and nothing is lacking. (Deuteronomy 8:7, 9)

In the good times and the very hard times, our lives are safe in His hands and He is bringing us to the place He promised us.

Praise the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

p.s. Will you share your favorite promises in the Comments section?
If you have trouble entering a comment, just shoot me an email with your Scripture, and I’ll enter the Comment for you.
Send it to
Thanks for the encouragement it will bring to all of us.



“Let all who are helpless take heart”

What do we do when we are up against a wall? We are so programmed to be self-reliant, strong, assertive, empowered—we know all the buzz words that today’s self-help culture throws at us. Yet every one of us will see times when we are helpless—totally powerless to make a difference in a situation or circumstance.

That’s real life.

Psalm 34 is real life too.

I will praise the LORD at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the LORD;
let all who are helpless take heart.

I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me.
He freed me from all my fears.

Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces.

In my desperation I prayed, and the LORD listened;
he saved me from all my troubles.
For the angel of the LORD is a guard;
he surrounds and defends all who fear him.

Taste and see that the LORD is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

Fear the LORD, you his godly people,
for those who fear him will have all they need.
Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry,
but those who trust in the LORD will lack no good thing.

The LORD hears his people when they call to him for help.
He rescues them from all their troubles.

The righteous person faces many troubles,
but the LORD comes to the rescue each time.
Psalm 34:1-10,17, 19 NLT

Psalm 34 is real life. There’s a lot of talk of helplessness, trouble, and fear—things we face every day. We find ourselves helpless in the face of a diagnosis or the conflicts in a relationship. Economic uncertainty creates anxiety. We walk in a world filled with evil, and we are not immune to all that brings pain and tears.

David wrote this psalm, and he suffered through more trouble than many of us will ever see. A rebellious son who wanted to kill him. Family turmoil. Wars against his kingdom. Conflict and opposition from powerful people. A heavy burden of guilt. And even a feeling of alienation from the God he loved so much.

But in Psalm 34 we also find joy and praise and gladness, side by side with helplessness. David knew what it meant to be kept safe in the care of the Shepherd.

That’s the real life I want!

When we are helpless, we can take heart because we are not without help. The Lord rescues all who come to Him for help. In the midst of pain and tears, our hope knows that the Lord’s eyes and ears are open to His people and He is good. He will answer!

I wonder if we miss the joy because we are trying to be so self-sufficient. We look only at the difficulty of our situation and do not even think of the goodness and greatness of our Shepherd. Look again at the verses that mention joy. Those who look to Him for help and those who take refuge in Him are the ones who find radiant joy. Are we looking to the wrong places for our help? Is that why we do not find joy in the midst of our troubles? Is that how the words hopeless and helpless creep into the thinking and the vocabulary of the children of God?

David sets the example: constantly praise the Lord. Tell of everything He has done. Even boasting in the Lord is in order. When we are helpless, when there is absolutely nothing we can do, this psalm reminds us over and over again: We are not helpless. Remember who the Lord is and what He has done. Remember that He comes to rescue us and will also bring us good things even in the midst of trouble.

Tell of the Lord’s goodness. Thinking about and speaking the greatness of our Father will be the antidote for the feeling of helplessness.

“Let the helpless take heart” reminds me of Christ’s words: “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world. I’m not going to leave you alone. My power will work in you, and my power is greater than any power in the world.”

What better place to go for help than to the One who defeats and disables every power of this world? With the Spirit of Christ living within, the helpless are never without help. Jesus says this is a fact of our lives as children of God. We are kept safe in His care. Will we believe-live it?

Yes, this psalm is real life. Ripples of small troubles upset our days. Monster tidal waves sweep over our lives and we fear we are drowning. But in every thing, the Lord is good and will rescue His children. The Shepherd surrounds and defends those who belong to Him. We can take heart. Joy comes even when we are helpless.

It’s putting all our eggs in one basket —  and it is never a risk! Going to our God for help is never fruitless, and it’s the only way to joy that survives even the most frightening storms.