What Audacity!



Have you ever considered how audacious Jesus was?


He broke every aspect of the religious culture of His day. He hung out with all the wrong people. He even seemed to enjoy doing so, not because He was showing the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of the day. He actually loved them. He never saw them as less than.


I love how Leslie Leyland Fields describes this:


“Jesus seems to collect them, the ones every other leader ignores, the kind of followers no one else wants: the sick and weeping, lame and palsied.”


And it was really a shock when He started choosing His disciples. They were just common fisherman by and large. There was even a tax collector and some were known to have quite a temper. They never studied the Torah. What made them so special?


I heard He even hung out with that weird guy who was baptizing by the river whose name was John and He let John baptize Him. If God sent Him, why would He consider that? No one was sure of whether John was really legit or not.


There was a big stir when He went to the wedding with His mother. I guess the host’s wine ran out and He asked for the water pots to be brought and then somehow turned that water into wine. The wine was supposed to be the best wine served that whole night. Talk about a bold move!


Then there were women.


He actually hung out with women. How scandalous that was. Some of the women were IMG_3047known to be loose and free with favors. There was even a harlot. And then that madman who went around half naked much of the time. They say He cast out demons and sent them into a herd of pigs that ran over a cliff.




None of it made sense. If He were the Messiah, He would never have been born to Mary and Joseph, the carpenter. Besides He didn’t look or act like a king and He didn’t crush the Romans who were making life so difficult or deal with the priests who were robbing people blind sometimes.


I think we miss seeing this Jesus many of us profess with all His glory displayed for us to see. He loved no matter who you were, where you were born, how you had messed up, what disease you had, who your parents were. How audacious!


It can be easy to forget that the word “nice” doesn’t seem to show up as a character trait or a fruit of the spirit. It can be easy for us to be misled, as we desire to be like Him. We try to be “nice” and end up being inauthentic instead of loving boldly and audaciously as He did. He didn’t limit His circle to the approved group…quite the opposite. He held nothing back, not just on the cross but every time He interacted with anyone.


I wonder if we have ever considered how dangerous life could be if we really became more like Him. People wouldn’t “get” us. The crowd we usually hang with would be confused and maybe a little irritated if we brought “one of those people” to our meeting.


The truth is that He came to shake things up because no one was really getting in touch with the truth about His Father, our Father. He was clear on His mission and purpose, but He wasn’t out to start a revolution.


He was the revolution.


Whether you accepted Him or not, whether you do today, the world has never been the same because He came and with a holy audacity that turned the world on its ear.


“The audacity of Jesus! To love people like me, like them, and to move us toward faith in him! To sweep so many undeserving into heaven!” Leslie Leyland Fields




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Yielding to the Fire


I recently read these lines in one of those novels that we female types enjoy from time to time: “Find someone to love and pour your heart and soul into it. Some people were like pottery. They had been tested in a fire just hot enough to make them capable, but perhaps not yet durable. But…was fine porcelain. Delicate, yet purified in white-hot flame reserved for those who would stand every test thrown at them.”


Ah, yes, we love those lines and in our dreams we hope for and imagine someone who will be that prince who comes for us and takes us off to his kingdom to live happily ever after.


If we discover the prince who chooses us or whom we choose, does not quite fit that description, we can become very disenchanted. We may start to wonder if the prince is a frog, but the truth is that few of us will marry a prince in real life. We will marry a mortal with various flaws and imperfections much as we are also.


But there is also another truth.


There is a Prince who has done just that and will one day soon return to take us to His Kingdom to rule and reign with Him forever. And He did and does love us and has poured His heart and soul into us, His body was broken and blood poured out for us. We hear or read that and nod in agreement, but barely know what that means. It is incomprehensible when we reflect on it.


The challenge for us is that though betrothed, we are still mortal and laced through with flaws and imperfections. To be prepared for that day of ruling and reigning, we must be refined. Peter talks about that in 1 Peter 1: 3-7 (ESV):


“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”


We are mortal, made of the dust of the earth, fashioned of clay it would seem. Clay is soft at the outset and unable to be of much use in that state until it is shaped on the wheel of a potter into the design he or she has in mind. Jesus is the potter and we are the clay, but once shaped in the design He has we must be fired to be purified and made fit for use.


Life on this earth tests us in many ways and forms whether by disease, evil, heartbreak, or any number of options we face as the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve whose enemy still seeks to claim us from the Prince who lives in our hearts. Who can say how many times our Prince allows that process to happen? He knows the design and purpose. In that we must trust.


To a mortal potter the firing happens at least twice. The first time the high temperature vitrifies the clay enough so when the finishing touches of glaze are applied, they adhere correctly. The temperature in the firing rises slowly to dry out the clay greenware. The bone-dry clay is fragile so the temperature of the firing must be just right and at the exact speed of increase to drive out everything in the clay that is not pure.



This process results in the clay now being changed forever.  


The clay is now less fragile, but still not as durable as is needed. A second firing is needed after the potter applies the glaze. The skilled potter knows just how quickly the temperature of the second firing can take place and to what degree to bring the clay and glazes to maturity. (Do we get the metaphor? The human potter is bringing the clay to maturity…so is the Lord accomplishing in His refining of us.) When this process is complete and the pot is cooled, what is the result?


The fire has caused a remarkable change in the original clay. The pot has been changed from a soft, fragile substance into a delicate, rock-hard substance resistant to many of the things that would have destroyed the clay. It is sealed against all that may come against it.


How powerful a picture He has painted for us when scripture refers to the potter, the clay, the testing and firing.


“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” Job 23:10 (ESV)





Have We Forgotten?


IMG_2537 2


What does it all mean…this Christian life we enter?


Each one of us could answer that and our answers might sound or look very different. The answers would be true for us, but sometimes the “big story” is the one we don’t mention.


Love came and found us and pursued us from wherever we were and wouldn’t walk away or let go until we accepted Him. That’s the big story…the big picture”.


IMG_5191 (1)We really could hardly believe that it was possible or true. How could anyone love us after all we had done, after all we had become? When it finally broke through our resistance, we couldn’t imagine what would be next or how everything before could all be erased.


As we started our new walk, we still messed up a lot more often than we thought we should and old voices whispered condemnation and guilt. But He was patient and gentle with us. He reminded us that He was changing our hearts, putting His light, His truth, and His love within us even if we couldn’t see it yet and no one else believed in us.


If we were lucky someone else who had been walking this path a bit longer than we did came along beside us and loved us for Him. Some of us didn’t have that privilege and the walk was tough for a long time. There were times we stumbled and did not want to get back up again. We met others who Love had pursued and won, but sometimes they didn’t look like Him or sound like Him. He accepted us where we were, but sometimes they focused on what we weren’t and how we didn’t fit in.


But Love still pursued us without tiring, without giving up.


When we were stronger we wanted to find ways to thank Love. What could we possibly give or offer? In time, we learned that the best way to thank Love was to not forget how He had pursued us, accepted us, and never shamed us or gave up on us.


In the movie “A River Runs Through It”, the narrator makes a significant statement:


“We can love completely without complete understanding.”


 How can that be? How can I know how to love you if my life was and is so different than yours?


I really don’t know what to tell you. But you see, that’s where we miss it. We aren’t IMG_0941supposed to tell you anything so much as we are to simply let Him live and love through us. I don’t need to understand you. I just need to have Him take the lead. I need Love to so permeate my own heart that it just happens even when I don’t know how, even if you are different than I am, even if I think you are a mess. That’s how I thank Him. That’s how you thank Him.


After we’ve walked with Him for a while, we can get so comfortable around others whom we presume are like us that we miss the reason we are here. We forget that Life lives in us and unless we allow that breath of God to exhale gently on others, it loses its purpose. He can do this if we let Him, if we don’t decide it is too difficult or “you” are too difficult.


We forget we were difficult too.


We don’t have to have the answers to all your questions. After all, they’re your questions. (We could barely answer our own.) We just need to be there and help you find someone who can answer your questions. We need to see the possible that you can’t see yet. We need to see “treasure in an earthen vessel”.


 Will we let Love lead? Will we set aside the jargon and language that interrupts the flow of Love through us?


No, its’ not easy. Often men and women try to kill Love. Once they thought they had succeeded, but then they discovered Love was stronger than hate, stronger than death, and Love rose up and lived. Then Love multiplied in the most unusual way. It multiplied in you and me or at least it was supposed to so long as we didn’t forget.


We can love completely without complete understanding because we know what that feels like. It happened to us.


 Have we forgotten?



*Photos (except the final one) all courtesy of my friend, Muriel, from Maine. The final photo is my own from Vermont.


Sound Bite Malnutrition



As a grandmother of six grandchildren ages 12 to 23, I love connecting with them via text, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram to try to stay connected in their busy lives. We live hundreds of miles apart and this is no substitute for phone calls and visits, but it gives me brief glimpses into moments in their daily lives.


I am sometimes kidded by them as well as my “senior” peers for being a techie grandma. (Of course, I smile at that.) There is really so much I don’t know about tech things, but I have jumped in with the help of children, grandchildren, and You Tube to learn some basics.


When I was their age my grandparents were all dead, but I had one great aunt who had moved from Ohio to Florida and she and I exchanged letters faithfully until her death. I loved writing to her and looking in the mailbox for her responses. (I still love writing notes and letters and am blessed to have one grandchild who seems to enjoy it as well.)


Somehow the handwritten letters gave me more of a sense of her. Not only did she take time to speak in full sentences and paragraphs, but her handwriting also allowed me to know her in a special way. (Have we forgotten the Bible is like that?)


I think we have all increasingly been adapting to a “sound bite world”. When we can’t handle listening or watching a full newscast, we get the sound bites, the headlines. When we don’t have time for lunch or coffee with a friend, send a text or Instagram pic.


That same style can creep into other parts of our lives as well. In the busyness of daily life and distraction, it can be easier to skim a brief devotional in the morning than to sit with a Bible in hand carefully reading and reflecting on what is written.


I get that!


We all can have seasons like that when the ages of our children or our parents, the demands of our jobs or ministries keep us moving from the moment our feet hit the ground until we collapse into bed at night.


IMG_3012I really do get that! I sadly led that kind of life during several seasons. One occurred while I was teaching full-time and going to graduate school part-time while trying to manage being a wife and mom. Another occurred when I was involved in working as a professional clinical counselor with enough church life ministries attached to comprise a second full-time job.


During the latter one I had not even taken time to clearly see what was happening for a while. At recent calling hours for a deceased friend, I saw someone who knew me during that season. She commented on how good I looked using words like “refreshed” and “brighter/lighter”. I laughed and commented that I was no longer working 24/7. She responded with a smile but with a serious tone and said, “You mean 36/7.”


I know many (perhaps most) of us deal with this. Then we get bogged down with the guilt that comes with the “ought’s” and “should’s”. I know about those too! I am not here to add to those, but rather gently remind all of us what happens to our spiritual lives when they are only nourished by sound bites regularly.


No matter how busy we are or what season we are in, there are going to be challenges. Our challenges will often leave us weary, worn, and worried. When those become relentless, then doubt, discouragement, and depression can soon follow. We can feel lost and alone and wonder if God has lost our address. (“Doesn’t He see what I am going through or facing?”)


I know He does and I hope you do as well; but when we are trying to keep going with sound bites and have done it for too long, even if we had a strong foundation of faith it can start to erode. If we never had a chance or took the time to build a strong foundation to begin with, we are in even worse shape.


It is time in the Word that speaks truth into the darkness. It is time in the Word that brings me hope. It is time in the Word that renews my faith.


I am not prescribing a formula. I am not one of those who suggest you read a Psalm or Proverb every day, even though that is not a bad thing. There are lots of great suggestions out there, but if we’re honest and we are in one of those sound bite seasons we probably aren’t even getting something like that done. If we try it, we will often be so distracted that we can’t focus well enough to be able to tell anyone what we just read 5 minutes later.


What I know and can say with assurance is throughout my lifetime, it has been the seasons where I could read longer passages and reflect more deeply that the foundation of my relationship with the Lord was built. When I was able to do that, I was building the foundation that got me through all those other times. Those longer times in my favorite chair with Him allowed me to know Him more fully. It wasn’t about a particular verse as much as it was knowing on an intimate level who He was.


If I only read in snatches or pieces and parts of the Bible, I can be like the blind man and the elephant. You know the story. Touching one part of the elephant gave him only one sample of the elephant and as a result he totally misperceived the truth and reality of the elephant. It can be like that with the Lord as well. If I only read about His grace and mercy, I miss His holiness and justice. If I only read about joy, I miss His sorrow and longing.


I also know that even on the busiest of days (even in the busiest of seasons) when I did not neglect to spend more than sound bites with Him, He never failed me. I discovered at the end of those days that I had been more productive and accomplished more than I would have dreamed possible.


Be careful to avoid “sound bite malnutrition” in your walk with the Lord. He has so much more for you…a bountiful table with everything you need for health and life and strength.


I like to remind myself that during the night while I was sleeping, He was not. He was watching, maybe like I sometimes took joy in watching our son or daughter sleeping when they were young children. He is also looking forward to me opening my eyes in the morning and starting the day with me. He has things He wants me to see and know and sometimes I like to think He just enjoys hanging out with me (maybe like He did with Mary, Martha, Lazarus and His other friends).





Stones of Remembrance



As more and more people are living longer than they once did, research keeps growing on how to keep us fit in every area. One of the major fields of study focuses on how to keep our brains functioning as healthily as possible. Of specific concern is how to keep our memory working optimally.


One of the persons who have been championing the cause for brain health is Dr. Daniel Amen, psychiatrist and brain disorder specialist. Using SPEC scans to see how the brain is truly functioning has led to breakthroughs in how nutrition, supplements, exercise, and meditation can significantly impact brain function. Dr. Amen has a passion to ensure that our brains function at peak performance for as long as possible.


In his new release, Stones of Remembrance, Dr. Amen focuses on the significance of memory. He writes:


“Memory enables us to bring the joys, dreams, and lessons of yesterday into today. As we recall God’s faithfulness, we remain centered and growing, and we move forward with a sense of purpose. Memory allows us to keep our loved ones close, even when they are far away. It assures us that our personal history and experiences matter – that we have something valuable to teach generations to come.”


From this foundation and biblical base that God designed our brains to remember, the author reminds us that throughout the Bible we are encouraged and commanded to remember. When we remember His Word and stay in touch with His promises, we are more likely to stay on course. We know how key that is to us spiritually, but Dr. Amen goes on to point out how vital it also is to our brain health.


But it’s not just our spiritual well-being that benefits from remembering. Participating in regular spiritual practices such as Scripture meditation, memorization, and prayer also contributes to a healthier mind and body by reducing stress, increasing brain capacity, and even guarding against memory loss… The stronger your brain becomes, the stronger your memory becomes. And the stronger your memory becomes, the stronger you become.”


 This small book is divided into three parts that focuses on how to make the memorization process more meaningful and intuitive. The first part of the book focuses on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines for Improving Your Memory. Part two includes scriptures that have been organized by theme that can be helpful when you need biblical advice, support, or inspiration. The third part of the book highlights 12 verses that every Christian should know. They capture the essence of the Christian life.


Some of you may have heard Dr. Amen on TV or read one or two of his many books. He will soon release another book, Memory Rescue that focuses more on the physical and emotional impact of brain health on memory. This new book, Stones of Remembrance, looks specifically at the spiritual aspect of memory and brain health and gives specific tools to utilize to strengthen and bring healing to our brains.


At the conclusion of the book Dr. Amen includes several appendices you won’t want to miss: Tips for Memorizing Scripture; Healthy Snacks for Boosting Your Memory; and, Easy Exercises to Help Improve Your Memory.


I have had the opportunity to participate in several teaching workshops presented by Dr. Amen as a part of my clinical counselor continuing education and learned so many things we can do personally to impact our brains and overall health. It was a delight to be able to review his new book.


To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review.