How Many Minutes Did You Say?




Each of us seems to be more and more time conscious these days. I think it relates to the fast-paced overly busy schedules we keep where we struggle to arrive on time and get home before midnight too many days.


We can all thank Thomas Edison for some of that. Before he created the filament for incandescent light bulbs in the late 1800’s, our ancestors’ days were much more related to the rhythm of sunlight and darkness as it changed through the seasons. After his invention, we stretched our working and playing farther into the night until we now seem to no longer recognize the sleep and wake cycles had a purpose for our good and health.


When we are young we tend to feel as if time is passing slowly and we are eager to push it forward for all we want to do or be, but as we get older and see how quickly we are using it up we are more likely to want it to move forward at a slower pace.


With those as a backdrop I have been reflecting on the statement of a pastor from Mexico a few weeks ago who spoke of the Lord coming soon. Yes, I have heard that many times over the years and if we are reading the New Testament carefully, we see Paul’s letters speaking of it. That can leave us quite uncertain about the meaning of the word “soon” in relation to His return.


It was when the pastor used a soccer game analogy and said we are in the last three minutes of the game that my attention was arrested. I have little knowledge of soccer so it was likely not as clear an illustration for me as it might be for others, but it still left a definite impression about the possible meaning of “soon”. If I broaden the idea out to cover other sports I know less well, it becomes clear it means near the end. I know the final minutes of a game often determine the outcome.


I went to a high school where football was king. High school students there first played it in 1891. Prior to the current playoff system that began in 1972, the team won the state championship 23 times. The teams were also recognized as the AP National Champions 9 times between 1935 and 1961 (the most in the nation). Since 1891, more than 10.5 million fans have watched the games of this team.


Every Friday night during football season the whole town would show up at the stadium decked in team colors with lots of enthusiasm to cheer on the team to victory. As a student on such a day, the excitement began with a parade downtown at lunchtime led by our marching swing band and cheerleaders. The idea of losing was not an option in anyone’s mind. We went to games at home and away cheering on the team and I saw more than a few games that came down to the final minute or two of the game to determine the winner.


I loved every minute of it! I first learned the game of football as a grade schooler sitting beside my dad for each game. When I was finally able to sit in the student cheering section, it was an electric experience! I knew every cheer and song and most of the plays happening on the field.


The analogy the pastor was talking about was far more significant and one that often seems to get less attention and fanfare in most of our lives than our favorite sports team. Yes, we know Jesus will return and as we see the world unraveling in every corner of the globe we perhaps think of it a bit more often, but is it a truth that spurs us to respond to the time we have differently?



The truth about Friday night football in my town was not just about watching or playing the game. It was also about preparing for the season as well as each game itself. It affected nearly every choice that was made so we would be in the optimal condition to play and win. It was the spirit and the traditions handed down generation after generation that included a certainty about what we believed about the game and ourselves. We knew we were winners, but nothing was taken for granted or left to chance. It was something that everyone felt a part of and prepared for, not just the players on the field. We all got ready.


As I reflect on those exciting fun times over what could seem like a silly game to most, I wonder where I am (where we all are) if we are in the last three minutes of the game before the Lord returns. Am I living each day with the end in mind as Stephen Covey might ask?


So often I have felt the reminder as I read about the story of the wise and foolish virgins Jesus tells us in Matthew 25. The parable clearly speaks of preparation for a sure end that has an unknown time stamped on it.


Maybe we handle the anticipation about the last three minutes of the game differently because there is no specific time stamp we know and because we have heard “soon” for a long time. Perhaps that has dulled our senses and lulled us to sleep. Sure, we think of it when we face the death of someone close to us or hear a diagnosis of our own that suggests our own days are numbered, but what about the big picture? What about the unseen world we are living in the midst of that has an eternal reality stamped on it?


One thing seems certain. It is closer today than yesterday.


Even though we do not know the exact time, J.R.R. Tolkien’s words spoken by Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring reverberate in my heart, mind, and spirit:


All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”










The Value of a Nudge




I think we all get nudges from time to time. When I’m talking about a nudge, I’m talking about that something that prods me to do something or say something that often may not relate to what I am doing or where I am at all. They seem to come out of nowhere and can be easy to ignore because they may not make sense to me at that point.


When I was a much younger woman I tended to ignore them as just one of those crazy things my mind had made up or discovered, but I so much wish I had paid closer attention to them earlier. It was easier to ignore them when I had no knowledge of the person or situation that might have moved me to respond to the nudge.


Of course I was truly ignoring the Holy Spirit back then and missing opportunities assigned to me to bless or encourage someone. I can’t recall the first time I acted on such a nudge because it has actually been quite some time now, but in recent months the Lord has been reminding me that He loves to use us when we accept and act on the nudge. I/we need to not let our heads always run the show.


The nudge doesn’t come from our heads, but rather the heart of Jesus inside us. It is His heart that wants to reach out and touch someone in a specific way. He gives us a chance to be Him with skin on in that moment.


Sometimes I have not done it because it would cost me something and at the time I was not feeling generous or my head was looking at the budget. It might mean time or dollars. It might be inconvenient. It might mean I need to quiet the “other” voice telling me it would be foolish to respond or act and the other person would think so as well. As I write those words, they sound so foolish, selfish, and unresponsive to the Spirit. That’s because they are.


I am so grateful the Lord has been a patient teacher and given me time over the course of my lifetime to learn the value of a nudge. You see, I have discovered the blessing of His love and sense of His affirmation each time I have accepted the opportunity. I say “accepted” rather than “obey” because I don’t think the nudges are commands requiring obedience as much as they are opportunities to bless Him, serve Him in a unique way.


He showed us over and over again during His life here on earth that He noticed the little things and He wants us to be like Him in that as well. Our busyness too often stands in the way of opening ourselves to Him in those ways so we close off our hearts to Him in those moments. He won’t push or demand it. So once we set it aside, we won’t need to worry that we will be hounded. That’s not like Him. But I can tell you there have been times I did just that and later discovered sorrow at missing an opportunity that would not come back again. The lessons were not always painful, but some were painful enough that I determined to not ignore or dismiss His gentle nudges.


Two weeks ago I heard a pastor from Mexico talk about Jesus coming soon. He went on to use a soccer analogy about this being the last three minutes of the game. His words have been echoing in my heart, mind, and spirit since that message. Clearly, he wanted us to be aware that we need to make our time count and it isn’t always about doing more, but listening more and responding faster to His nudge, His whisper.


It confirms something that seems to have been hard-wired into me from the very beginning of my conscious memory. I am persuaded that He placed it there.


I have had a strong determination to be sure I remind persons I care about that I love them, to not leave unsaid anything I might want them to know if I never have the chance to say it again or do it again. It has never been about fear, but truly as the most logical of choices to me. The truth is that at some point, it will be true and I want my last words, my last actions they recall to be of my love for them.



Isn’t that what Jesus modeled for us?


A recent example is especially poignant today.


A few months ago as I sat at an intersection a friend of mine that I had not seen in some time passed in front of me. I was near the workplace we had both shared before I retired. As I looked at the time I knew he was heading to the office. I smiled as I thought of him as he rushed by and the traffic light was about to change, the nudge was there to turn rather than go straight and catch the person in the parking lot to say “hello”. I did.


I caught up with him for only a brief few moments, but the words exchanged between us about seemingly unimportant details echo in my heart. Later that day he called me to tell me how much he valued my choice to reach out and swing around to see him. It had encouraged his heart. He also told me in our brief phone conversation that he wanted me to know he loved me. My split second of silence resulted in him responding, “Do you hear me? I said I love you.” Yes, I had heard and responded that I loved him as well. We had said such things in passing at other times at work, but it seemed like he (and the Lord) didn’t want me to miss it this time. We caught up on a few more details of our lives and then the conversation ended.


A few weeks later I heard he was ill and in the hospital and that a biopsy was going to be taken. I found out from his son when the day and time was scheduled and called his wife’s cell phone that morning and asked if I could pray with them over the phone before the procedure. They both agreed. It was a precious few moments in time and they both thanked me. Just before I hung up, he said, “I love you, lady.”


The biopsy would confirm he had end stage cancer. Those words on the phone expressing his love for me would be the last time I would hear his voice. That day I responded to the nudge and talked with him in the parking lot would be the last time I would see him alive this side of heaven. Those words on the phone before the biopsy would be the last we would share before we are both home with the Lord.


Yesterday my husband and I attended his funeral just two months after our last meeting and our last words. Both are gifts to me that I will cherish.


The value of following a nudge could not be clearer. When I respond, it is a gift to the other person, but it is also a gift to the Lord. He also passes it along to me just because that is who He is, always has been, and will be.


It is priceless!











Hard—does not mean bad.

Today I am blessed to share a guest post by David Ecrement.  As you read his words of walking with the Lord during the hard times, I pray you will be encouraged and blessed.



The last 18 months have been some of the hardest of my adult life…and when recently verbalizing this reality to a friend, he responded by saying, “I’m so sorry.” I smiled and replied, “By saying it’s been ‘hard’, I didn’t necessarily mean ‘bad’.”


Somewhere along the line of our growing up into maturity (regardless of where you are on that timeline), many of us seem to have a something hard-wired into our DNA that causes us to assume that hard times, difficulties, etc…can be the result of ‘not living right’, or being outside of God’s will; and in those times, things aren’t “good”.


Nothing could be further from the truth. Thanks to Adam and Eve’s original sin in the garden of Eden, we’re essentially promised to have hard times…and to have to work “hard” all the days of our lives. [Genesis 3:17-19]


For some folks, working hard while doing something they love, may not ever seem like work at all. There’s a popular saying, “Do something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life!” For many of us, doing something we love doesn’t always translate into income or a means to ‘make a living.’ For others, it does. Sometimes what we ‘love’ to do ends up being a hobby or sport, and can be very important and fulfilling, but it may be in addition to our “job.”


My current story (in condensed form) as I cross the 50 year mark is this: I grew up with a lot of interests, ranging from music to sports. I did well in high school, went to a four-year college and obtained a degree…and also met my best friend and wife for life. After school, I moved to another part of the country to pursue one of my interests, music. After some varying degrees of success over a couple years, I moved into the business side of the music business and worked in that area for 15+ years. From there, I moved into a corporate job, and for nearly a decade, managed a team and some high-dollar budgets for a well-known company. Then, about 18 months ago, despite nearly ten years of positive results and glowing annual reviews, I was simply “down-sized”… laid off, let go….”position deleted” (you get the picture.)


As I celebrated my 50th birthday just a few days ago, a mile-marker for a lot of folks nearing the mid-to-later stages of their ‘life race’, I feel like I’m starting over. And it’s been hard. These last 18 months have been hard–but not necessarily “bad.”

Wild Rose, Alberta, Canada


Having to work hard, having a hard time—does not mean that God’s face is turned away from you. Consider these examples:


  • Adam had to work the soil and toil hard the rest of his life (post Garden of Eden) but still had God’s favor and protection. [Genesis chapters 3-5]
  • Joseph had a ridiculously hard life in his early years from being rejected by his brothers and unjustly thrown into a pit and prison; and yet, “God meant it for good.” [Genesis chapter 45]
  • Out of all the 12 disciples, most were killed in gruesome ways, and yet they were who Jesus “chose”. There was no “pass” or “prosperity doctrine” that ruled their minds or lives.


Sometimes things don’t work out as we think or plan. That’s OK. God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence are things we will never–this side of heaven–ever be able to comprehend. His ways are not dependent on our circumstances or our understanding.


My wife and I had a dear friend, Cindy—actually my wife’s best friend of 20 years—who came down with lung cancer. After nine short months, despite the prayers and intercession of countless family members, friends and multiple churches…God decided that He wanted her in heaven more than we needed her here on earth.


In her last days, my wife spent a lot of time with her dear friend. On one visit, Cindy commented, “A lot of people have been asking me, ‘Aren’t you angry at God? Don’t you want to ask Him “why?”’ Without hesitation, she went on and answered her own question by saying, “Why not? Why not me?” Her point was, simply, God’s ways are so beyond what we can ask or imagine. And sometimes, just sometimes…what seems to be tragic and unfair (i.e. “hard”), might be exactly what God has designed and ordained. (Remember Joseph and Job in the Old Testament?)


The way Cindy lived—as she was dying—while it was so incredibly hard…was so incredibly good–for the kingdom. On the other side of her passing, her indelible mark with how she lived her last days during those nine months, could arguably outweigh every other positive impression she had made on this earth during her prior 50+ years.


So, my encouragement to you today (and to myself as I look in the mirror), is to remember this:


If what you’re currently going through in life is “hard”, remember that—in God’s economy and scale—it might not necessarily be bad.


Look beyond yourself. Keep your eyes and palms turned up. “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.” Psalm 121:1-3


About David…             img_1960

David is a husband of 27 years, father of two children, and companion of one amazing Golden Retriever named Sam who loves to go on early morning walks with him or sit by his side on their porch in Franklin, TN.

Lover of his Lord, family time, music, using his smoker on his latest recipe, mountains, night sounds sitting by a fire in the fire pit, photography, and all things Harley Davidson, I am blessed to call him my son.

As I have observed his life of faith, his consistency in prayer, the Word, and the wisdom of Oswald Chambers have pointed the way for the course of his life even in this current difficult season. What a pleasure for me to share his heart with you today!


My Heart….Found




The journey to rediscover my heart started with not recognizing it had been lost along the way. It had been lost in seeking to please people and being oh, so busy trying to do so. It had been lost in seeking to meet expectations set by others as well as myself that I believed were not even high enough for God! It had been lost because I didn’t know there was a battle raging for it before salvation as well as afterward.


The incredible truth of His love for you and also me is that the Lord is always working behind the scenes and sometimes on center stage to lead us to the truth of who we are and what He has placed in us.


Maurice Wagner in The Sensation of Being Somebody was one of my early companions on the journey of discovery. He set my feet on the right path many years ago when the pastoral counselor I had worked with introduced me to his book. His words urged me step-by-step to learn more about who I was, how I came to be that way, and the truth the Lord had designed for me. His balance and wisdom were uncommon and started to free me in subtle as well as obvious ways.


“Our security is not in our ability by faith in God to get Him to change our situations so that we will be less disturbed by the conditional and variable factors, nor is it in the fact that He might heal our bodies or reduce our pain. Our security is in our submission to His divine scheme of things and in our accepting what He can and does mean to our sense of true self-identity.” (Maurice Wagner)


Learning from him helped me begin to set aside the ways (both unhealthy and healthy) I had used to verify myself with little success. He would open passages of scripture I had read, but now “heard” differently.


John Eldredge and Brent Curtis would open my understanding to the battle for my heart and the enemy’s scheme to keep that battle outside of my awareness.


“Before Lucifer could become a true citizen of hell, he had to kill the desires of his own heart. He did it with scorn and much scorn was required. And this is the strategy with each of us: to kill the desire that would eventually lead us back to the One who loves us, using all forms of shame, contempt, apathy, anesthesia, and perversion at his disposal.” (Eldredge and Curtis in The Sacred Romance)


 If he could not succeed in deadening our hearts completely, he would entice us to pursue “less wild lovers”. Less wild than whom? The Lord, of course, is the wildest of lovers! Who but He would be able to thwart the schemes and devices so deftly laid? Who but He would provide a way of escape from what would seek to destroy us? Who but He would sacrifice Himself for us rather than accept our separation from Him eternally?


What “less wild lovers” would he use?pict0318


Our adversary also seduces us to abide in certain emotions that act as less-wild lovers, particularly shame, fear, lust, anger, and false guilt. They are emotions that ‘protect’ us from the more dangerous feelings of grief, abandonment, disappointment, loneliness, and even joy and longing, that threaten to roam free in the wilder environs of the heart.” (Eldredge and Curtis in The Sacred Romance)


On the path to wholeheartedness as I recognized the battle for what it was, Eldredge would help me see another truth in Waking the Dead:


“You must remember that the Enemy is always trying to pull everyone else to do to you what he is doing to you. As I said earlier, he creates a kind of force field, a gravitational pull around you that draws others into the plot without their even knowing it.”


Discovering, learning, and accepting my story as part of His story that He fully intended to use for His glory, would equip me to listen more effectively to the stories of others and what healthier community would look like.


…you must know each other’s stories, know how to ‘read’ each other. A word of encouragement can heal a wound; a choice to forgive can destroy a stronghold. You never knew your simple acts were so weighty. It’s what we’ve come to call ‘lifestyle warfare’.” (John Eldredge in Waking the Dead)


Learning those things brought more discernment and wisdom in those who became my comrades in arms for the daily journey. We stood for and with each other in the battle for our hearts. They too would be a part of the path to wholeheartedness.


Then in Sandra Wilson’s book, Into Abba’s Arms, I would have my heart stirred by the words she shared that she sensed the Lord speaking to her during times of journaling. As I read those intimate conversations she had with the Lord, my heart longed to have Him speak with me in such ways. Yes, He spoke to me through His Word, through the beauty of nature, through the messages of pastors and teachers, but I knew Sandra was experiencing something I had not known. My thirst was awakened for a different level of intimacy as I read the words she had ‘heard’ such as these:


“Your love is precious to me. You are precious to me. Learn to rest in the reality of my presence whether you are fainthearted or strong hearted. Keep listening to me. Keep coming to be with me in these quiet, special times.”


Yes, I had used a journal before and poured out thoughts, feelings, concerns, and prayers, but I had never taken moments to listen for or record His responses. To recognize that He had been waiting for me to listen for Him brought fresh rays of light to my heart. I knew at once why it was important to write down what I sensed because in the few times I sensed something from Him, it was not so easy to hold His words in my heart as time passed. One more scheme of the battle for my heart was evident in that.


And so it was that on a frosty January morning more than twenty years ago I would begin a new journal and write these words to Him:


“Sandra Wilson’s book—how inspiring and real! She’s right! We/I don’t take much time to listen to you and hear your personal words to my heart. Please, forgive me. I want to do better. Help me find my way through distractions into your arms.”


In the hushed moments of silence filled with uncertainty that He would respond, I would sense His response to me in the warmest and gentlest of words:


“I’m always waiting. I long to listen to you and hold you in my arms. You nurture others each day. Let me nurture you. I chose you. No one can pluck you out of my hand.”


With those words, the love story between us would change, as day after day I would return to my journal after my time in His Word and prayer. Year after year as the journals took up more space on my bookshelf, He would whisper His love, grace, and truth into my heart that would make it whole again and lead me to discover what He had created in me from the very beginning for His purposes and glory before all the other voices I had listened to had drowned out the only One who knew.





Here A Little, There a Little




Reconnecting with my heart over time and leaving the rat race and people-pleasing habit I knew so well would require I needed to step away from the story I thought I was supposed to be writing, to the truth of my story as it had evolved over my lifetime. It also meant being willing to lay down the religious habits I had developed as a means of self-verification because I was convinced I was supposed to do them to please the Lord, and instead discover the heart I had lost even more when I pursued them in heavy doses without learning if any of them were from Him.


The enemy can tolerate religion such as he did with the Pharisees, but he cannot accept the complete connection with our hearts or a deeper understanding of the truth of our relationship with the Savior, the expanse of His grace and love.


Brent Curtis and John Eldredge speak truth when they write the following in The Sacred Romance:

 “It is possible to recover the lost life of the heart and with it the intimacy, beauty, and adventure of life with God. To do so we must leave what is familiar and comfortable—perhaps even parts of the religion in which we had come to trust—and take a journey. This journey first takes us on a search for the lost life of our heart, and for the voice that once called us in those secret places; those places and times when our heart was still with us.”


It can take a bit to discover that what has been driving all the activity is the loss of our heart and the connection we once had with it. As believers, it can happen so easily because we have often exchanged a life of selfish pleasures and moved into a life filled with what we believe is our duty to God. There are so many good things to do, so many needs to respond to, and so much of the heart in us that we know still holds too many secrets, that we subconsciously shift from a calling (if we knew it) to increasing duties, and needs we think we must agree to fill without even asking the Lord if we are to commit to them.


“So for many of us, believing is exhausting. This is precisely why spiritual leaders are observing a precipitous decline in worship service attendance. Religion is a dying business. Most people are still interested in God, but not in all the baggage that seems to come along with the belief.” (Chuck De Groat in Wholeheartedness: busyness, exhaustion, and healing the divided self.)


I think one thing that sneaks up on us relates to our understanding of grace. We know it is grace that saves us, but we too often think of grace as something that happened back there at that moment and know little about living by grace, and grace alone. As a result we go about self-verification in religious activities rather than the ones we pursued before the Lord came into our hearts as a means to make us feel acceptable.


I think Jerry Bridges says it best in The Discipline of Graceimg_2063

“Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”


There is also the reality that those functional and feeling level parts of our self I mentioned earlier in the series are truths we have avoided. They made us feel too vulnerable. It would mean looking at how our story began and this time seeing all of it. To do this in the healthiest way would mean I would need to trust someone to listen to my story as I began to put the pieces of it together. For me, that was a pastoral counselor who listened patiently and asked questions that took me to deeper places so I could begin to see what I had been missing for too long.


It was not an easy thing to uncover the part of my life and heart I knew in the presence of someone I wanted to think well of me. It was even harder to recognize things I had missed along the way and a great many things I had never heard in the Sunday School classes and church pews I had occupied since childhood. I had never understood there were not only a battle for my thoughts, but also an unseen battle for my heart. Though it was unseen, it was crucial for me to recognize it.


You see, it was in my heart that God had placed the essence of who He had created me to be, what passion was tucked deep inside, and where I was in His plan and His Kingdom here on earth. The enemy didn’t want me to discover that and he doesn’t want any of you to discover that as well. From the earliest of ages he begins whispering to us about all that we are not, all the ways we have failed. And we believe him. With that and whatever our attachment style becomes, he carefully weaves a web around our hearts to keep us from discovering all that is there.


In Waking the Dead John Eldredge says:

“The story of your life is the story of the long and brutal assault on your heart by the one who knows what you could be and fears it.”


He most certainly doesn’t want us to discover whom we can be and were designed to be by the One who created us. He can live with us being shaped and molded by our own ideas of what we should be or the ideas of others to whom we give too much power to shape us as they desire, but the truth is never something he wants us to discover.


To regain my heart would mean a journey to discover the lost parts of it. It would mean laying aside my view of myself, my lack of worth, my self-verification, and lies I believed as truth. The healing would begin in the office of a pastoral counselor, but would come into fullness over time with other means and ways the Lord brought into my path.


What did I discover?

You are not what you think you are. There is a glory to your life that your Enemy fears, and he is hell-bent on destroying that glory before you act on it.” (John Eldredge in Waking the Dead)


Next time I will finish this short series with the other discoveries that restored my heart to what He had always designed it to be.