Watching and Waiting


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This past week I have gotten a fresh perspective on the reality of what it means to “watch and wait”. When we are in a smooth season, it can be easier to rest in the midst of waiting, watching for the Lord’s move and answers. When it is a difficult season, the ground under your feet is shaking, the winds are howling, and you are looking for light in the midst of the gale and seeming darkness, it is not so easy.


It can be so much easier to judge those in a hard place when we are not there in that hard place. We can forget they need our ears to listen carefully, our hearts to care with fierce devotion, and our knees to be bent in prayer.


Each of us responds to such seasons as best we can for the season we are in, the measure PPP 013of our faith, the depth of our understanding, and the place we are in our maturity. If we have walked through such seasons before, our experience gives us much to lean on whether for ourselves or someone else.


This past week I have witnessed it in many ways as we watched one of our granddaughters, 13, endure a serious surgery resulting in considerable pain not abated by medication. One afternoon on our visit to the hospital I was deeply impacted as I observed her siblings in the response each had as they sought to come alongside their sister.


Her older brother, 19, squatted beside the bed with his eyes lovingly focused on her, speaking softly his words of encouragement and scripture. Her older sister, 15, was entrusted to hold her favorite stuffed animal, Puppy, when she could not. In another corner of the room, her younger brother, 11, observed it all, closed his eyes, and with furrowed brow silently prayed fervent prayers.


It was a poignant moment for me as a grandmother to these four. One I shall not forget and cherish for the love, care, and concern each was expressing as they had some of their first experiences of watching and waiting.


I saw the scene from eight hundred miles away as our other two grandchildren, 18 and 22, sought to cheer her with daily jokes via short videos that brought some of her first smiles. Her aunt and uncle joined in the effort as well and kept up all of our spirits in this way and in both warfare and healing prayers.


PPP 001 200I saw it also from various cities and hamlets across the country where friends, relatives, and simply those who heard responded in continual prayer.


Then in the midst of our own watching and waiting, praying, and pacing, others came with food to bless us and care for us in ways we had no energy to accomplish. Another offered a play date for her younger brother to give him a break from the challenges we were all walking through.


Surgery was six days ago and we continue to watch and wait, to pray fervent prayers, and look to the only One who can accomplish the healing now.


She entered this surgery full of faith, confident in the Lord, and certain of His presence with her. As with each of us, this time is one of testing and strengthening that faith and confidence.


In the midst of pain none of us could imagine, her parents watched as she prayed through the whole counsel of scripture, calling on God loudly to remind Him of His faithfulness to those from Genesis to Revelation. She also reminded Him of His promises to her as He granted her a rainbow just outside of her window her last night in the hospital. She stood in all that He had built in her before this season bearing witness to His glory to all who watched her grapple with the pain.


She has come home now to finish the process, to run the race, and we run with her emboldened by her steadfast confidence in His love for her that has been so greatly tested.


As Isaiah 43 in The Message says in part:


“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you, I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—Because I am God, your personal God.”

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All But Normal: Life on Victory Road




“Red and blue police lights flashed against our house. From my bedroom window, I could see the front yard where the officer’s car was parked. It looked so unusual sitting there, like something out of a TV crime show that my family, on more peaceful nights, might watch together. But the tears on my face, the pit in my stomach, and the sound of hateful words and shattering glass ringing in my ears reminded me that this was not a scene I could switch off by pushing a button. Tonight, it was real, and it was happening to the Thornton family”


So begins this memoir by Shawn Thornton who is born into a family impacted by chaos as a result of a tragic automobile accident that leaves the girl who would become his mother mentally broken and shattered.


His mother, Beverly, was an exceptionally intelligent, pretty, gentle, Indiana teen when she stepped into her boyfriend’s car to go to the store to exchange a blouse before leaving on vacation. Then without warning the car they were in was hit in an accident.


After weeks in a coma, she awakens, but the girl who wakes up is quite different than the one who had left to exchange a blouse. Her disposition that had once been so gentle has been replaced by violent mood swings, profanity-laced tirades, and uncontrollable fits of rage that can be triggered by nearly anything or perhaps nothing.


Her boyfriend, John, is devastated as he watches her slow recovery in the hospital and agonizes with her family as they watch and pray for recovery. Racked with guilt over the accident, he finds no one to help him deal with what happened. Ultimately, he asks her to marry him, promising to always take care of her. The strain on that commitment will be more than he can imagine, but he will persevere.


Even so, in the midst of the darkness and uncertainty, lack of answers to this change in Beverly, and frustration, one light will flicker steadily within Beverly. That light is her love for Jesus and the Bible that had been so much a part of her life before the accident. The light impacts John and her Dad who give their lives to Christ and soon many others are also touched.


John and Beverly become active in Twin Branch Bible Church that was Beverly’s family church home. It is there that Beverly seems most at peace. Her avid Bible reading has equipped her to be a Sunday school teacher for a children’s class who adore her. Her empathy for the elderly, the poor, and others who seem to not fit in or have problems touches lives from the vestibule to the pew to the nursing home she visits.


These knew her awkward movements and difficulty with walking, balance, and fine motor coordination, but could not have imagined what life at home on Victory Road was like for her, John, and their two sons, Shawn and Troy.


John worked hard at a local factory, but money was always in short supply. He would arrive home uncertain of what to expect. Beverly could not navigate caring for their home, managing food, or managing their two sons. Clothing would be found anywhere and everywhere in stacks around the house, some clean and some dirty. Food could also be found in numerous places and in varying conditions. John and the boys learned to look at dates and labels after more than one curdled glass of milk or one nearly raw piece of meat placed out to eat after Beverly was convinced it was cooked.


The extreme shifts in Beverly were always unpredictable. One moment she might hurl a knife at Shawn, Troy, or John while cussing them out in the worst language. The next moment she might be showing them love and affection as if nothing had happened just minutes before.


Anything But Normal leads you through the nightmare of living with unbelievable brokenness.


The book also shows you an incredible picture of how God intersects this family, deepening their faith as they broaden their ways to escape and cope with Beverly’s behaviors and hurtful language.


It isn’t until much later that John reads something about traumatic brain injury and discovers the horrific change in Beverly has been the result of the accident so long ago. This discovery, seemingly unknown by the doctors at the hospital at the time of the accident, sheds new light on what had happened and changes the course of Shawn and Troy’s life forever.


As Shawn Thornton, now senior pastor of Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, CA, says, “Sometimes the broken people in our lives are the ones who need fixing the least.”


This book describes the anguish of traumatic brain injury for the victim and all those around him or her. It provides a reminder as well of how much the Lord would cause us not to judge or flee those and their family so afflicted, but rather to love and care for their hearts.


In exchange for my review, Tyndale through the Blog Network, provided this book, published by Tyndale House.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”




The Best Discipler I Have Ever Had


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Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada


If you have spent much of any time within a church body, you will hear over and over again the value and importance of being discipled by a more mature believer to help you grow in your faith and the exercise of it.


I could not agree more, but often many of us never have that experience in a one-on-one situation where someone not only “teaches” and “models” Jesus to us, but also walks with us as we learn more about Him and ourselves.


Many women may not be blessed to have a Titus 2 woman in their midst. Sometimes women may be hesitant to step into a discipling relationship. Sometimes they already have trust issues and sometimes they may find a structured program doesn’t feel very personal or supportive. They feel a need to not just be “talked to”, but be listened to as well as they begin their walk with the Lord.


Much of the time we need a great deal of loving along the way of being a disciple as we begin to experience what it means to live by grace.


We need to have someone help us remember real believers mess up. We need to know the Lord knows that we cannot be perfect even if He lives within us and the Holy Spirit is at work within us. That is exactly why He came…He IS our perfection and that is what His Father, our Father, sees when He looks at us.


 We need someone to walk out before us the reality of His love and nurture, not simply seek to train us up in the way we should go.


I can say without question that those who have most impacted my growth have not been in pulpits or at the front of a Sunday School class. They have been “ordinary” believers who have loved extraordinarily…first of all the Lord and secondly, me. When that has happened scripture has become alive to me. I have been drawn more and more into a deeper walk with Him.


Each of us can have a view of the path ahead from time to time that gives us a glimpse of PICT0327where the Lord is leading us. Much of the time we discover we truly need to walk by faith and not by sight.



The longer we move forward, we discover the Lord has been discipling us all along.



We can see how He has brought situations, people, and training into our lives that line up with our skills, passions, and giftings. Little by little intersections are brought about by or used by Him to lead us to the next part of the journey, to shape us to look more like Him.



The Lord is carefully building His Kingdom, one person at a time.



He is also preparing His Bride to be a companion fit for the King of Kings, full of grace and love, guided by His truth, generous in His mercy.



He knows our frame intimately because He saw us being knit together (Psalm 139:13). He has been pursuing our heart, soul, mind, and spirit from the very beginning. He is indeed the persistent Lover.



More than one person has played a discipleship role in my life. I praise Him for each one.



But the very best discipler I have ever had or known has been the Lord who has always pulled me back to Him when I strayed, always walked with me when I was weary, always carried me when I could not walk, and loved me perfectly even when I didn’t recognize He was doing so.






One More Thing About Listening




Many of you are aware I have been writing and reflecting over the past five posts on listening. I was certain I had shared all I wanted to include until today.


Yes, most importantly, learning to listen for the whispers of the One who loves us everlastingly with such grace and mercy is the most important habit we can develop.


Yes, all of us improve the quality of any relationship when we have honed our listening skills and continued to grow in them. (I know that is true for me even though I listened to people in my office every day of every week for almost thirty years.)


Yes, listening to others and their stories enriches our lives and expresses love as few other things can. If you are tempted to disagree, try to recall when you last took time for an unhurried visit with someone in your life. If you do, you likely will recall a sense of how graciously they expressed their appreciation for the visit as you were leaving if you have listened well.


One other thing is important if we are to be effective in our listening.


We need to listen to our lives, to sense what every aspect of who we are is saying to us. That includes paying attention, listening, to our body. In this fast-paced life most of us lead, we push ourselves so often and so frequently we tune out what our body is cuing in on. Often it is only when we get sick, we actually hear there is something being communicated.


But our bodies try to let us know long before then much of the time. They cue us that we are tired, but we drink another cup of coffee or tea instead (maybe even an energy drink). Our bodies tell us with headaches, with grumpiness, and a great many other things.


It is not only our bodies that get tired, however. We get depleted in the cognitive, emotional, spiritual, and relational areas as well. Those are sometimes harder to read or hear, as the clues may seem subtler. Our emotions run on the edge or get dulled. Our thinking takes a more critical edge or we simply don’t want to make even one more decision. We feel bored or dry in times with the Lord or the worship service at church leaves us cold. We start to find our relationships are not nurturing us and feel as though we are the ones doing all the giving.


These are things any of us can easily rationalize or explain away and often do, but over time they begin to build up and take a toll. I know. I have experienced it. One example was a vacation trip where I slept for eleven hours the first night we arrived at our destination. Another was when I felt uncreative about a variety of areas in my life whether it was what to make for dinner, what to read, where to go for a date night, and the list could go on.


You see, the Lord wired us to have such signals for our benefit to lead healthy lives, but if we keep turning down the volume, switching channels, or avoiding what we might be hearing our finite body, mind, emotions, and spirit will not be able to keep up.


If we are going to bring the Lord glory in all we do and say, if we are to remember He values us and deems us precious, then we must learn that what happens to us matters and has meaning.


John Calvin has said, “without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God.”


We need to learn to discern what our life is telling us. We can only do that when we are listening, testing, sifting through what we sense in our internal world. That helps us discern what the Lord wants us to know, see, and understand.


In The Listening Life, Adam McHugh puts it this way:


“Your thoughts, emotions, impulses, desires, values, passions, dreams, recurring questions and bodily responses have meaning, are trying to teach you, and all are interconnected. They are telling you what your life is like. The voices that you choose to listen to are shaping what kind of person you are becoming.

 Self-discovery is not the ultimate end of listening to your life; love is. If we want to listen to others with compassion, gentleness and attentiveness, then we must learn to listen to ourselves with those same qualities. If we do the work in the quiet spaces, our compulsions will come out less when it’s loud.”


 If we seek to cease striving, running, or escaping, we need to intentionally gain courage to seek quiet. If we don’t take time to “be,” we will never have time to truly listen.


Marian Wright Edelman has written these powerful words:

“Learn to be quiet enough to hear the genuine within yourself so that you can hear it in others.”


 I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to miss the precious gems the Lord wants to share with me. I also don’t want to miss hearing the stories of the people I love.


“Listening is a gift. It is a gift from God to us that sparks intimacy, that helps us grow into servants and disciples, that promises constant learning and self-discovery, that helps us never lose the childlike gift of being surprised, and that assures us of guidance and the awareness of God’s presence. It is a gift that God offers—in the staggering discovery that God actually listens to us—and it is a gift we offer others, an open invitation to receive whatever they choose to share with us.

 Will you embrace the gift of listening?”

           From The Listening Life by Adam McHugh




Is That You, Lord?


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As I read in the Word about how the Lord speaks to us, I am reminded over and over again that He speaks in a myriad of ways. He speaks through signs and wonders, through miracles, in a booming voice and in whispers. He clearly speaks through His Word and through circumstances many times.


The Lord speaks to us above all else because He desires to be in loving fellowship with us. Fellowship isn’t just about getting together with someone to eat, but truly about companionship. The very meaning of the word suggests sharing each other’s interests.


The picture that comes to mind is someone who is walking with me through my day. Few lyrics capture this idea better then the hymn, In the Garden:


I come to the garden alone,

While the dew is still on the roses,

And the voice I hear falling on my ear,

The Son of God discloses…


And He walks with me, and He talks with me,

And He tells me I am His own,

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other, has ever, known!


He speaks and the sound of His voice,

Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,

And the melody that he gave to me,

Within my heart is ringing…


And He walks with me, and He talks with me,

And He tells me I am His own,

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other, has ever, known!


And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other, has ever, known!




I know this hymn well because it was my mother’s favorite and I recall it being sung often in the small country church where I grew up. The words of this hymn describe perfectly the reality of fellowship with the Lord. I cannot help but think songwriter, C. Austin Miles, knew something about fellowship when the hymn was published in 1912.


Today we are blessed with such a variety of powerful worship music that hymns are sung far less often than they once were. Sadly, some children might grow up without hymns being a part of their heritage and miss some of the powerful words and meaning they convey.


I can recall on more than a few occasions having the words of a hymn be something the Lord used to encourage my heart, lift up my spirit, and get my focus back on track.


Somehow they were able to cut through the noise of daily life and also the filters we can often have that cause us to be unsure of whether or not we are hearing His voice.


Our life experiences can tend to color what we hear so that we might tend to hear His voice as critical, harsh, cold, or unloving. Those experiences make it easier to run from Him than run to Him; but if we recognize the words of the hymn, we see the perfect example of what He desires in fellowship with us.


I love the way Richard Foster describes it. “The quality of God’s voice is one of drawing and encouraging. The spirit of God’s voice is all grace and mercy. And the content of what is being said is always consistent with what God has said before—we have a huge biblical witness upon which to test our leadings.”


If we have not learned the truth about His voice to us, the best news is that His heart continues to pursue us, to experience what it means to soak in the Lord’s love and care for us.


Our challenge as a disciple is to set aside our preconceived notions about whether or not He wants to engage us, our distorted views of what He might say or even think about us, and begin to seek to be present with Him. To quiet our internal noise and the cacophony around us will take discipline and practice, but such commitment will leave no doubt in the Lord’s mind of our desire to fellowship with Him.


 Francois Fenelon wrote, “God does not cease speaking, but the noise of the creatures without, and of our passion within, deafens us, and stops our hearing. We must silence every creature; we must silence ourselves, to hear in the deep hush of the whole soul, the ineffable voice of the spouse. We must bend the ear, because it is a gentle and delicate voice, only heard by those who no longer hear anything else.”


May it be so, Lord!