The Importance of a Good Grip



I recall so well the directive to my children when they were small about holding onto my hand as we were shopping, crossing a street, or parking lot. At that time, they were unaware of the potential dangers in such places if their little hands were not firmly in my grasp.


Children are curious and it can be easy to wander away and lose track of where a parent is.


I saw my children have the same rule for their children, my grandchildren. As with me, this was a non-negotiable rule. The risks were too great not to insist on it.


I recall once when my daughter was near me in a store and I did not hold her hand. It was one of those clothing stores with “rounder’s” here and there with clothes hanging on them as well as the usual shelves and racks along the wall. She was weary of my looking through the racks and plunked herself down on the floor. Suddenly, I realized she was not beside me and I could not immediately find her under the racks of clothing. The panic I felt was enormous.


That kind of environment is a bit like being in a cornfield. It seems simple enough when you walk into the cornfield, but soon you realize you have no orientation about where you are or which way to walk in which row to be able to get back to where you started. (Yes, I experienced that as a girl living on a farm. It’s amazing how easily it can happen!)


An even scarier memory was when we were visiting our son and his family one fall. We had all gone into their small town for a fall festival. The streets were filled with vendors celebrating the season as well as various stalls and tents with games for children of all ages to explore.


We were all having a great time and enjoying the music, food, and celebration when we suddenly realized our grandson was not with us. The streets had been closed to traffic and there were crowds of people everywhere. We had no idea where to look for him. Each of us fanned out, began looking and calling out his name.


I cannot recall how long it took us to locate him, but it felt like a lifetime. When we found him, he was perched on a set of risers that had been set up where a concert was going to take place. The musicians were warming up and he was sitting there calmly listening.


It reminded me of what Mary and Joseph must have felt when they realized Jesus was not with them as they were on their way home from Jerusalem.


A good grip is crucial many times to our safety, but what are you holding onto?



I have a vivid memory of walking down our basement steps a few years ago with a good grip on more hanging clothes than I should have been trying to carry. I am notorious for trying to carry a lot of things so I don’t need to make so many trips whether it is bringing things in from the car or something like this scene.


You know how steps in your house can be. You have a certain muscle memory for how far you step between each one so you don’t even have to think about it or even look (or so it seems).


So I wasn’t thinking or looking and could not see with the armful of clothing I had, I was not even afraid it was an unwise decision. On this day, however, I misjudged which step I was on and skipped the last step and landed on the floor crying out in pain from what was a very badly sprained ankle.


It is not just when we are young that we need a good grip. It happens also when we are older and perhaps less steady on our feet or not as strong to maintain a good balance.


There is something else we must hold fast to as well that is no less crucial than a parent’s hand or a handrail. Failing to do so can be no less deadly.


The writer of Hebrews reminds us in the second chapter that we are to be careful about what we have heard regarding our salvation so we don’t drift away from it.


You see, when we have received gospel truths into our minds, we can let them slip away from us. Our minds can be like a leaky vessel. The entanglements with the world, snares of the enemy, and neglect can allow the good things of the gospel to slip from our minds, our practices, our choices, and our behaviors.


As I checked out the Message version of Hebrews 2:1, I was reminded of the many examples I have already listed above:


“It’s crucial that we keep a firm grip on what we’ve heard so that we don’t drift off.” Heb. 2:1 The Message


Life is busy.


We can get distracted.


We can let go of our Father’s hand, drift away, and not realize where we are.


 How is your grip?





The Best News

Photo by David Ecrement


It seems like every day we are being bombarded by bad news. Stocks go down, antibiotic resistant bacteria surfaces, tornadoes rip through a small town, a factory shuts down or a business closes its doors and wars or discord seem to be multiplying everywhere in the world.


We can be tempted to think things are worse than they have ever been, but if we are history lovers (I am!) we can easily point to other times and eras when people living in those days would have said something like that as well.


In the midst of it all, God keeps calling out to us to return to Him, to look to Him and trust in Him.


That is often not so easy when it is our stock that has fallen, our family member is the one ill, our house has been destroyed, or our son or husband have been called to active military duty.


These sorts of things can leave us at our worst. Our faith can falter. Our trust may teeter and our mood can become sour or our face downcast.


It is no laughing matter. Ask Job.


When difficult things happen to us, the state of the foundation of our life will likely determine how well we weather the challenge.


The things we practice daily in ordinary moments will automatically kick in when the world turns us upside down.


 What we practice is what we will become.


 Because we are finite and very fallible, we will often not meet the hard times in our life operating as well as we would wish. Sadly, we will then start berating ourselves for not doing better.


When I look at some of the heroes of the faith in the Bible, more than a few of them could identify with that.


Jonah lapsed into believing he knew better than God what should happen to the people of Nineveh. He fled from the Lord, took a ship, and discovered the cost of disobedience was being dumped in the sea. He was clearly at his worst, but God sent a fish to swallow him into less than ideal accommodations. He called on the Lord and the fish vomited him up.


Now he was totally prepared to preach up a storm and call down fire on their heads because of the evil in their midst, but he was unprepared to accept God’s decision to forgive them when they repented. When the king repented and called his people to do so, Jonah went off in a pout under a plant.


You know the story. When God chooses to spare Nineveh, Jonah is angry. Here is the man of God acting out at every turn. He is missing what the Lord wants him to see. It is clearly not Jonah’s best day.


Peter likely experienced that as well when he had insisted to the Lord that he would never deny him despite what the Lord had told him would happen. The morning in the courtyard while Jesus was being beaten, questioned, and mocked, Peter had one of his worst days. He denied the Lord before the rooster crowed three times just as the Lord had said He would do.


Those few disciples gathered around the cross on that Friday of the crucifixion agonized over what they witnessed. Jesus had told them what would happen, but they could not comprehend He meant this was how it would all end. It was the worst of all days. He was dying. They faced an uncertain future and watched helplessly as His ordeal played out.


Saul was the Pharisee of Pharisees and could not believe in this new sect who believed in the man who had been crucified. What crazy stories they were telling about how he had risen from the dead! What blasphemy! He was determined to bring punishment on the heads and bodies of them all. He was blind and unaware he was blind. He was at his worst.


Then on the road to Damascus he lost his eyesight so he could finally see the truth about himself, the new sect, and this Jesus who had been crucified, but now lived.


Over and over again things happen that are not only bad news, but also leave us at our worst.


Here is the key!


When we are at our worst, God is at His best.


 He meets us with grace and mercy, pours oil on our wounds, takes us in His arms and wraps us in His love.


You see nothing about being at our worst surprises Him. NOTHING.


He has always known we would have those times and that life would be turned upside down by any number of things that would happen. He planned for that. He provided for that. He simply loves us that much.


Bad news will continue to come and we may be at our worst, but He has a plan for that.


So do not lose heart, on your worst day, God will be at His best.









One More Reminder from Po




As I shared in my previous post, “Can We Learn Anything from Po?” there are important things Po can help us see in his latest feature film, Kung Fu Panda 3.


Despite all the love his adoptive father has given him and all his efforts to master the Kung Fu marital arts, Po was never able to really master what he was practicing. Much as he tried, he always fell a bit short as the teacher pointed out.


The key to changing Po’s destiny came when a stranger entered the village in the Valley of Peace. This stranger had been searching for his long lost son and never had given up finding him. This stranger was Po’s father and from him he learned the story of how his mother sacrificed her life to save him and how he came to be rescued and adopted by the goose and the villagers of the Valley of Peace.


For as much as Po loved his adoptive family, the story of his mother’s sacrifice and his father’s perseverance in searching for his son begins to open Po’s eyes to the truth of who he is and always has been. He needed to hear the truth and he needed to spend time with his father to learn what was missing.


We are often much like Po. We can be tempted to believe what other people say about us. If those things are good, we feel more okay about who we are. If those things are not so good, we are left with doubts and discouragement about who we are.


We can never have a healthy self-identity of we allow others to define us.


Our heavenly Father (like Po’s father) pursues us waiting for us to recognize Him and discover His everlasting love. Of course, unlike Po’s father, our heavenly Father knows exactly where we are and always have been.


We are not lost to Him, He is lost to us because we do not know Him or that we are His.


 When we finally discover Him, we have much to learn to understand His language, His design for us, and the relationship He wants us to have with Him and others like us.


To come to the truth of our identity and what we have been called to be, we need to spend time with Him, listening to Him, learning to recognize His voice, and the truth we had not known.


Po spent time with his father learning how to eat, how to roll down hills, and so much more. From our Father, we also need to learn how to eat His food, His Word, and how to respond to the world outside of Eden where we now live.


It doesn’t happen all at once, but as we spend time with Him we are able to take the risk of going beyond what we can do and become more than we are.


With Him, we discover we can accomplish more than we can ever imagine. We learn about His armor and how He has designed it to work.


We also learn we are not alone. He has been there all along. We just didn’t recognize Him.


 We also discover we have others like us and He wants us to recognize that we are family, His family. As such, He wants us to learn the value of one another and how to work together and learn from one another just as Po’s adoptive village learned from the panda village and the panda village learned from his family in the Valley of Peace.


When the supernatural forces of evil come to defeat and take everyone captive, Po learns how everyone can fight together to defeat the legendary evil force. In the process, his confidence in his true identity and the warrior spirit his father has placed within him allows him to do more than he thought he could do and become more than he was.


When every manner of evil is arrayed against us, we can also learn that lesson if we remember who we are, whose we are, and whose family we stand with and for.


Then we, like Paul, can say:


“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

                                                               Phil. 4:13 ESV

Can We Learn Anything From Po?


IMG_1532 (1)


One of the joys of being a grandmother (and there are many) is the opportunity to go with our grandchildren to see full-length cartoon features. Without the grandchildren, most of us would not be buying a ticket, a bucket of popcorn, and a giant drink to see one.


On a recent visit to see our daughter and her children, I had the chance to do just that with our two youngest grandchildren. My biggest challenge usually is that I walk into a sequel with not much information of what came before the current feature. They share bits and pieces and I try to sort them out as the new film begins.


This time was no exception since we were seeing the third in a series about the legendary Kung Fu Panda, Po, a large lovable panda. For those of you out there who are experts on this series, please forgive any mistakes on my part in what I am about to share about Po.


You see, what I have often discovered is there can be powerful story lines and truths embedded within these full-length animated movies whether or not the pint-sized children seeing them catch that or not.


Long before “Kung Fu Panda 3”, it is clear that Po has had many adventures as a result of his great love of Kung Fu and its legendary heroes. He is living in the Valley of Peace seeking to perfect his training and skills among an assorted lot of other animals, none of whom are pandas such as he is.


In this particular film, it appears Po has learned a great deal, but his teacher is aware there is much more to learn if he is to become the expert he desires to be.


In the midst of the film, a stranger arrives in the valley that looks amazingly like Po. It takes Po a bit to discover the stranger is actually his father who has been searching for him after he disappeared from the panda village where he had been born.


Now Po must rediscover and learn what his identity has been all along. His adoptive father, a goose, cannot ever give him the identity he was born for. Little by little Po learns the natural skills of being a panda.


As the story moves along, Po goes back to the village where he was born and there he seeks to move from student to teacher as he tries to train a group of fun-loving clumsy pandas to become martial-arts fighters.


After he leaves his adoptive home in the Valley of Peace, an evil supernatural warrior comes to the valley seeking to destroy all those who live there. He nearly succeeds, but one escapes to the mountains to let Po know he is needed to fight this evil warrior who has this nasty habit of becoming stronger with each battle.


Po must face his fears and uncertainty to marshal his Kung Fu brethren and the panda village to save them all from certain destruction.


He receives a powerful piece of advice.


“If you only do what you know how to do, you’ll never be more than you are.”


How true is that of me, of you?


We were created for Eden, but we find ourselves in a very different world where we have lost a clear sense of who we really are. We compare ourselves with other human sorts and seek to emulate some of them, totally out of touch with our true identity as daughters and sons of a king, heirs to an everlasting kingdom.


In this world we are faced with supernatural evil. We too must learn how to fight for the freedom of others we love to save them as well as ourselves. Our training, at best, is sporadic and we are prone to only look at what we know how to do which is more often to shiver in the bushes in fear when we consider the power of the evil supernatural force that we face.


What we, like Po, must come to learn is the reality of our true identity and the warrior spirit that has been placed inside us to defeat the powers that seek to overtake us.
















Detours: Dead End or Destiny



My husband and I spend a lot of time driving on the highway. Part of that comes from our love of traveling around the United States to see some of the many beautiful areas our country has to offer. Another part comes from a desire to stay in touch with our children and grandchildren who live hundreds of miles away in two different directions from where we live.


Fortunately, we are both pretty good travelers and enjoy the talk time we get as well as listening to our movie theme playlist and checking out the scenery. We split the driving and know our favorite stops on all our usual trips.


What can get in the way from time to time are construction zones and detours. Ugh! Neither of us enjoys being delayed to get to our ultimate destination, but clearly it is not always possible to avoid them even with a good map or GPS system.


Detours and delays seem to go hand-in-hand with traveling no matter what mode of transportation we choose. They can be a frustrating aggravation for most of us, but we are generally aware there is little we can do about it.


What about other detours, detours that pull us off the path to our goals, our dreams, or our plans?


Life seems to come with plenty of detours.


 We didn’t plan to have our first child while my husband was half a world away in a war zone, but that detour happened early in our marriage. Despite all the negative things about that for both of us, God also blessed us as we focused on this new life and all the exciting things we experienced as we watched him developing. That shift in focus helped us cope with the myriad of emotions and fearful thoughts of life in a war zone with all the uncertainties it brought.


My husband’s job seemed very secure. He had worked for this company full-time for nine years in a variety of different positions following his active duty military service. He had also worked there part-time while he was in college. We felt like we were moving in a good and steady direction until quite unexpectedly one day my husband learned he was laid off along with a number of other people in various management positions in his company. It was a detour we had not expected. It would be some months later until a new job came into view as a result of a “chance” connection at a Bible study.


Job loss, illness, accidents, and family issues are detours many of us experience in our lifetime. They sting and leave us feeling off balance, a bit unsure of ourselves, a bit unsteady in our faith and trust, and more than a bit disappointed that the path ahead has been altered.


We tend to think of a detour as something that requires us to go a different route to get to where we planned to go, but a dictionary definition gives a broader perspective.


Detour: “a long or roundabout route taken to avoid something or to visit somewhere along the way”.


The definition reminds me that sometimes on a trip we actually may choose to detour from the route to see some attraction we would miss by staying on the main road.


When we face a detour in life, is it possible the Lord has allowed for it because there is something He wants us to see or learn that can only happen on the alternate path?


Is it possible there is something ahead on the path we were traveling that the Lord wants us to avoid?


Both questions give me a reframe for detours. They remind me that the Lord knows what is best for me and is always working for my good even in hard, difficult, painful times.


He wants us to trust Him when we need to travel an alternate route. He is still with us and for us.


 Our challenge is that we don’t know where the alternate route is taking us, whether we will end up where we had hoped to be or not. We also don’t know how long the alternate route really is or the condition of the road ahead.


Israel’s son, Joseph, had a great life at home. His father adored him and the Lord had given Him some amazing dreams that seemed full of promise. He didn’t see the impact on his brothers of all that so landing in a pit, being sold into slavery in Egypt, and losing everything he had going for him seemed like the worst possible detour on his road to success.


When Joseph was sold to Potiphar, he again earned favor with his master and soon had been given charge of his entire household. Everything seemed to be looking up until Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him and then accused him of assault when he fled. This time the detour took him to prison and obscurity.


Joseph experienced multiple detours on his path to becoming Pharaoh’s right hand man and the one God would use to save His people.


Was there purpose in the detours? It would seem so. The young man in the many-colored coat, favorite of his father, often spoke without thinking of others and bragged about his dreams.


The detours were used by God to transform Joseph’s character, deepen His dependence on Him, and cause Him to appreciate and be grateful for all His blessings whether small or great. The detours in Joseph’s life taught him to love and brought him to his destiny. What his brothers had meant for evil, God meant for good.


Sometimes detours occur because we are human and living in an imperfect world where disease happens, accidents happen, and nothing is certain. Sometimes the enemy of our soul tries to hijack us so we lose hope, but I wonder if it is also true that sometimes the detour is arranged by the Lord so our good can become our best.


Detours are not necessarily a setup created by the Lord, but I am persuaded that He uses them. He uses them to grow us up into Him, to be more like Him, and allow His light and love to shine more brightly through us.


That lets me rest in His arms, content to know He is in charge even in detours.