It’s All Under Control

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When I opened the pages of Jennifer Dukes Lee’s newest book, It’s All Under Control, I was uncertain about how this book might impact my own life. I was no longer working the non-stop schedule that had filled my life for multiple decades. That was no longer the pattern of my days; but even as a retired person my interests and passions could inch toward filling up a week’s calendar.


Throughout many pages I found myself saying “amen” because what Jennifer described about her daily life was not that dissimilar to what mine had always been. Everyone would say I was “so busy” and I hated hearing those words, but to anyone watching me I knew that was exactly what appeared to be the life I was living day in and day out.


It also struck me that when the Lord began to speak to me about retirement a year before I did so, one thing I consistently heard from Him was his desire that I be more available to Him. I thought I knew very well what He meant, but I also squirmed a bit since I had been involved in full-time ministry and work for most of my adult life. Those were good things, things I was called to be and do; but they also kept my days and weeks tightly scheduled. Gone were the more leisurely quiet times or time to spontaneously connect with a neighbor. I also knew my creative thinking was starting to ebb.


Page by page Jennifer gave me a close-up view of the underpinnings of those years and allowed me to revisit how various decisions had added more busyness to a full schedule.


My years as a clinical counselor in a Christian private practice and also on staff supervising various ministries of a large church also confirmed what Jennifer was saying. Nearly any woman I spoke with described herself in one of these two words (if not both): “busy” or “tired.” Somehow each one had a sense that she had to make everything in her life work with her home, her husband, her kids, or other relatives, and then be on hand for anything her church community needed. She felt guilty about ever saying ”no” and much of the joy of serving Christ was dimming a bit more each day.


Jennifer speaks to all of this and more, but I especially appreciate that she hasn’t written this book as a “how to,” but you will learn a lot about how to effect change in your life. (I confess that sort of book is not my cup of tea.) She has identified the culprits that bring many (if not most) women to a place where they are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and guilty they are not doing more. Sometimes these women are not even sure how they managed to get so far down “the yellow brick road.”


You may not self-identify as a controlling person, but when life starts to get out of control and our commitments exceed our ability to meet them, we all tend to start trying to bring order back into things. Sometimes it can feel like trying to stanch the blood flowing out of a wound.


Our challenge can be to know when to let go and when to hang on. And guess what?  Jennifer wrote a chapter on each of those options.


The blessing woven throughout each page is the openness of Jennifer to share her own journey with these same things and how the Lord began to speak into her heart and life to help her rekindle her ability to rest. She shares what she has learned and is still learning and invites the reader to join her to walk together.


This book has something for nearly everyone and it also has a companion Bible study as well. Check it out and find another woman who might want to share in the journey as well.

Evidence of a good book…highlighter and lots of flags!



A Word Fitly Spoken or Not


I am writing a lot about words in recent weeks. Part of that stems from the thinking that was provoked by books I read by Jonathan Merritt (Learning to Speak God From Scratch) and Debbie Kitterman (The Gift of Prophetic Encouragement). But it’s also true that as an author/writer/blogger I pay attention to words and their impact.


Think about the impact of two little words we hear or use often. Those words are “no” and “yes.” At first glance we might be tempted to look at “yes” as always positive and “no” as decidedly negative, but think a bit more deeply. It depends on the moment, the circumstance, who is saying it, how it is being said, and why it is being said.


From the time we are children we often hate the word “no” because it suggests limits and a denial of something we prefer or want. Even as adults we can experience “no” like that whether it is a raise, a new job, or something we desire from someone who really matters to us.


cash-change-coins-50714But let’s consider when “no” can be a friend. It can be a friend when we have been given prescriptions for tests for some physical malady that looms large and haunts us with fear and doubts, and the results come back with the words, “No, you don’t have….(Fill in the blank).” It can also be a friend when a door to a new job opportunity closes that we hoped for and then we learn the company goes bankrupt a few months later.


We love to hear “yes” about something we hope for or dream of doing, having, or being. Conversely, we recoil when the phone rings and the health professional on the other end of the call says, “Yes, the tests are positive and it is cancer.”


When each of us chooses to use one of those words, it is also incumbent on us to be aware of the impact those words will have on the hearer. Sometimes our choice of the word cannot be otherwise, but even then, how sensitively we express it can make all the difference.


I wonder how we handle our use of those words when the Lord leads us in a direction or asks something of us or tells us something He plans to do. Even if we do not say “no,” our delay in saying “yes” communicates a great deal about our trust in the One to whom we say it.


Consider the Old Testament story of Sarai (later Sarah), Abraham’s wife who heard she was going to bear a child after years of barrenness. It was God’s “yes” to her after years of likely being considered defective and “less than” in a culture where bearing children (especially sons) was highly valued.candy-chocolates-coin-210703


She can’t believe it and gives her husband her servant to conceive a child (commonplace back then it seems). That stirs up all sorts of trouble and we live with that consequence of her unbelief today. Then when the Lord tells Abraham again when he is 100 and Sarah 90 that she is indeed to have a baby boy and she laughs.


I love the note in my Bible about that part of the story:


“God’s purposes of grace are not held captive by human sin or adverse circumstances. He is the God who works out his purposes through weak and ordinary human beings such as Abraham and Sarah.”


There are also times we are prone to believe our answer to a request is always to be “yes” when it comes to a ministry opportunity, a need, or a request from someone. It may well be, but believers when asked how they are often say “tired” or “busy.”  Each of us needs to step back and consider what the Lord has asked of us versus what others have asked…especially when it is a good thing that is being asked.


“Sometimes no’s are God’s wondrous gifts that push us toward the greater yes awaiting us.”  Jonathan Merritt


What we do for Him should never be above how we are with Him. The truth is that the richness of our life with Him can be eroded by so much service that we drift away from that first love that caused us to want to sit in His presence.


“Our lives should be so open to God that our first impulse is sacred yes, but we are also meant to be so grounded in wisdom that we know when to speak a “necessary no.”  (Jonathan Merritt quoting Richard Rohr)


Consider this:

“Winsome words spoken at just the right time are as appealing as apples gilded in gold and surrounded with silver.”  Proverbs 25:11 (TPT)




I Never Heard That Word Before


For those who are linguists there was big news recently when Merriam-Webster announced the addition of new words for their 2018 edition of their classic book. If you didn’t see that report, there are 850 new terms. They stated that these come from a cross-section of our linguistic culture and include some new definitions for existing words.


What fascinates me is that I have not heard of more than a few of these. Additionally, though I love words, I do not consider myself to be a true linguaphile (a person who loves languages and words).


Some of the new additions include: cryptocurrency, chiweenie, harissa, wordie, tzatziki, hangry, and bingeable. Are these in your current vocabulary? Do you know what they mean? They are so new that the Word program spell check does not even recognize them so they are all underlined in a squiggly red line.


It was interesting to me to read what Merriam-Webster stated on their website as they introduced these new words and definitions. Let me share it with you:


“The language doesn’t take a vacation, and neither does the dictionary. The words we use blur-book-stack-books-590493are constantly changing in big ways and small, and we’re here to record those changes. Each word has taken its own path in its own time to become part of our language – to be used frequently enough by some in order to be placed in a reference for all. If you’re likely to encounter a word in the wild, whether in the news, a restaurant menu, a tech update, or a Twitter meme, that word belongs in the dictionary.”


I don’t recall the edition in our current library, but I am certain it is out of date. I knew that dictionaries evolved over time, but the speed and degree in which they have changed really surprises me. How many “new” words present when the first dictionaries were published in the 1500’s even exist today?


I wonder if the difficulty for us comes from the perception that dictionaries exist to tell us the meanings of words as if they are set.  We are often scurrying to dictionaries on our devices or occasionally a real reference book searching for the meaning or spelling of a word. But in reality dictionaries tell us how those words are used even if there is a meaning listed. As such words are far less scientific and more artistic than we often believe.


It is little wonder that sacred words associated with faith, religion, or spirituality are increasingly debated as to the real meanings. It’s why looking at the original language the scripture was written in and the usage and meaning of the word at that time is so important. There is also the pesky problem that some languages have multiple words that refer to the word love while the English language is focused on one word even though one can hardly equate love of pizza to love of one’s spouse or child.


One of the things about the Bible that is also fascinating is how much figurative language is used. Such language gives us pause and stirs our imagination. Perhaps that is the Lord’s intent.


The writer of Hebrews begins chapter 4 verse 12 this way in the NIV:  For the word of blur-book-browse-256546God is alive and active.“  What understanding do we gain by that description of God’s Word?


Some of us grew up with an understanding of the most used spiritual sacred words that limited our view of who God is and what our relationship could be or ought to be. Those understandings sometimes distorted our view of Him and kept us at a distance. Reimagining the words and delving into the actual meanings based on their original language and usage can dramatically affect and correct misunderstandings and bring us closer to the Lord.


Words have impact, but sacred words are transformative.


When we write them, say them aloud, and allow them to take root in our hearts, sacred words can result in a metamorphosis in our knowledge, understanding, and personhood. We have the potential to become new persons.


When we use sacred words or spiritual language as we grow and move in our faith walk, book-bookcase-books-1166657I hope we discover the depth of them as we lean in closer to hear the Holy Spirit’s whispers to our hearts.


“No matter where you find yourself, the most important thing about learning (or relearning) a vocabulary of faith is to remember that in the words of Reynolds Price, “language is a vehicle, almost never a destination.” When we speak, we aren’t just saying something – we’re pointing to something. In the case of sacred language, we’re pointing to meaning, to identity, to transcendence, and ultimately, to God.” Jonathan Merritt


Every word Jesus said has a life-changing value.


His words disrupted the culture of his time on earth.


They still do that in many ways and places today.


Opportunities to hear and read the Word are precious and not available to everyone around the world. Let us never forget that privilege and gift and take seriously the words from the prophet Amos in the Old Testament:


“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord,
“when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.”

Amos 8:11 (NIV)





The Power of Prayer Confirmed by a Neuroscientist



Most of us agree that prayer is a powerful gift of communicating with the Lord. It can be hard to describe in detail for the uninitiated, but for those who have sensed the Lord’s nearness during prayer, perceived his direction, embraced his comfort, or received a miracle there is no argument that it is potent indeed.


Most of us have heard more than a few quotes about prayer from writers we enjoy. Let me share just a few of mine:


“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work. Prayer is the greater work.” Oswald Chambers


“The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men – men of prayer.”  E.M. Bounds


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“I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”  C.S. Lewis


“If you want that splendid power in prayer, you must remain in loving, living, lasting, conscious, practical, abiding union with the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Charles Spurgeon


“I need the spiritual revival that comes from spending quiet time alone with Jesus in prayer and in thoughtful meditation on His Word.”  Anne Graham Lotz


I could add more, but I know you may have your own favorites and your own experiences in prayer. Prayer is considered one of the spiritual disciplines and for many of us; it is not one that is easy or practiced with regularity. Perhaps that relates to what our relationship with the Lord is like, but perhaps it is also because prayer for us is more like submitting a list of desires or needs not unlike a Christmas list and hoping He gives us what we ask.


In my recent post using translations of Erasmus, I shared how John’s well known beginning to the gospel he wrote focuses on the word…word, broadens the meaning of the word logos to the word conversation.  In that sense as believers, He invites us to join the conversation with Him. That moves us away from lists of desires and needs to a relational dynamism.


But if prayer is powerful and impacts us, can we prove it?    asphalt-dark-dawn-531321


One of the places scientists are beginning to look at is what is happening within the brain as MRI and the new SPECT imaging is allowing us to begin to delve into this complex organ. Dr. Daniel Amen is well known for his work in this arena and recently wrote a little book entitled Stones of Remembrance looking at how memorizing scripture affects the brain.


Another neuroscientist, Dr. Andrew Newberg, along with his team of researchers conducted brain scans to look at the impact on the brain of those involved in prayers. The subjects studied included Franciscan nuns reciting prayers, Tibetan Buddhists in meditation, Sikhs chanting, and Pentecostal Christians speaking to God using the gift of tongues.


Using a brain scan in his studies in the same manner Dr. Daniel Amen does, a radioactive tracer is injected and images are taken when the brain is at rest and then when it is involved in prayer or meditation as noted above.


The studies of Dr. Newberg show a positive link between prayer and changes in brain activity.


Some of the results noted in Jonathan Merritt’s latest book, Learning to Speak God from Scratch include the following:


  • Concentration increased dramatically when the subjects were praying or meditating
  • Prayer resulted in sharpening brain function so that subjects became hyperfocused and aware
  • Whispered prayer, worshipful songs, and chanting all turn on the hippocampus and block neuronal traffic to other brain regions that Newberg says “…opens the door to a greater sense of spiritual connection with God”
  • If the subjects felt God’s love during the spiritual exercise, the part of the brain that helps us feel love was often activated
  • If the subjects felt restfulness during the spiritual exercise, the part of the brain that helps us feel secure was often activated


The research resulted in evidence that prayer not only changes our brain and bodies in the moment, but it can also lead to “permanent physiological transformation” (Merritt).


Christian theologians, writers, and preachers have told us for many years that prayer changes things. Some have said prayer changes us. Now research using brain scans can prove this to be true.  (If you have never seen examples of SPECT brain scan imaging, you can go to the website of Dr. Daniel Amen to see a series of scans of healthy and unhealthy brains.)


In consideration of how prayer transforms us spiritually and physically, Paul’s words in Romans 12:2 (TPT) can take on a deeper meaning:


“Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.”


Have You Joined The Conversation?



One of the things that still gets my juices flowing is when I read or discover something new. It may not be new to anyone else, but if it is new to me I confess to wanting to explore it and see how it fits with the rest of my knowledge and belief system.


As I was reading Learning to Speak God From Scratch by Jonathan Merritt, I was especially interested in his content on the significance of the word…wordWe read it often throughout scripture, but it stands out for being used more than 600 times in Jewish and Christian scriptures.


The name Erasmus came up and since he is not a topic of common conversation in our house, I was intrigued. I had heard the name before and yet his contributions were lost to me now.


In case that is true of you, let me share that he lived from 1466 to 1536 and was a Dutch Christian Humanist who was the greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance. He was originally trained as a Catholic priest and from earliest childhood had a love of words and scripture. While still in grade school Erasmus learned to read and write in classical Latin.


brown-colour-dawn-132428 (1)He became a revered Bible scholar who lived in the midst of the growing European religious Reformation. Despite his criticism of the abuses of the Catholic Church and a call for reform, he did not join Luther and continued to recognize the pope.


As he worked on revising his translation of the New Testament and specifically the Gospel of John, he paused on John’s use of the word…word.  His study of all sources that were relevant caused him to believe John’s word, Logos, was more complex and dynamic than the English word, word.


Merritt quotes his discovery this way:


“Logos signifies a continuous statement, an ongoing narrative, a complex utterance in which the audience, not just the speaker, participates.”


With that in mind the aging Erasmus translated the opening passage of John to reflect that. I want to quote it now and I hope you will read it with a joyous response of what that suggests about God’s desire for a vibrant relationship with us that is active rather than passive.


It all arose out of a Conversation,

Conversation within God, in fact the

Conversation was God. So, God started the

discussion, and everything came out of this,

and nothing happened without consultation.


This was the life, life that was the light of men,

shining in the darkness, a darkness which

neither understood nor quenched its creativity.


John, a man sent by God, came to remindclouds-contrails-dawn-65865 (3)

People about the nature of the light so that

they would observe. He was not the subject

under discussion, but the bearer of an

invitation to join in.


The subject of the Conversation, the original

light, came into the world, the world that had

arisen out of his willingness to converse. He

fleshed out the words but the world did not

understand. He came to those who knew the

 language, but they did not respond. Those

who did became a new creation (his children),

they read the signs and responded.


These children were born out of sharing in

the creative activity of God. They heard the

conversation still going on, here, now, and

took part, discovering a new way of being people.


To be invited to share in a conversation

about the nature of life, was for them, a glorious

opportunity not to be missed.”


Jonathan Merritt adds some observations about this that are worth quoting:


“…understanding Jesus as a divine Conversation reveals a God who is vibrant, alive, involved, and a good listener.


Jesus didn’t just reveal who God is in the past; Jesus reveals who God is in this present moment. That discourse beckons us, draws us, sweeps us up into the Conversation. Which is probably similar to what the apostle Paul meant when he called Christians “a letter from Christ.” When we open our mouths and speak God, we are entering into and amplifying the Conversation, participating in divine discourse.”


 Each of us has been invited to enter into this ongoing Conversation.


How powerfully that speaks to me of God’s love for us! His Word from Genesis to Revelation is an open invitation to converse and respond to what is written.


The Lord wants us to dialogue with Him.


That suggests an intensely passionate relational desire that moves us to deepening intimacy beyond prayers of petition, confession, or praise we might more commonly speak.


Have you joined the Conversation?


Erasmus reminds us all that it is “a glorious opportunity not to be missed.”

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