The Committed Climbed

The Sea of Galilee


I love to read and the stacks of books on our shelves, beside my favorite chair, and on my nightstand attest to that. I often have friends ask me about what I have read lately as well because they seem to think I likely have found some goodie they might enjoy.


I have many favorite books and I do have a Kindle and iBooks, but I confess to preferring the feel of a book in my hand (especially if the paper used to print it is nice). Even so, no book has the capacity to bring new discoveries each time I read it like the Bible does.


I am not sure how many times I have read through all of it, but even in my favorite or most familiar passages I often spy a new gem of discovery or recognition when I visit it again.


bible-blur-book-273936Today I was reading in Matthew 5. I have read it dozens upon dozens of times and still recall memorizing the beatitudes in Vacation Bible School as a child. In this chapter we find likely the most well known sermon ever preached anywhere. It is most commonly called “The Sermon on the Mount”.


I had never considered what “mount” this was and the Bible doesn’t say in this case.


In my research, I found that it is thought to be Mt. Eremos that is located on Galilee’s northwest shore between the cities of Gennesaret and Capernaum. Some also refer to this mount as the Horns of Hattin, a ridge running east and west not far from Capernaum. The exact spot is not clear, but for more than 1,500 years this area has been historically pointed to. If you were going to see this area today, it would be about three hours from Jerusalem by bus and once you arrived you would discover The Church of the Beatitudes there and have a wonderful view of the Sea of Galilee.


The descriptions suggest a broad plateau area that would have been well suited for those 5,000+ who came to hear Jesus to spread out over the hills.


Prior to this pivotal message, Jesus had spent the night praying at its highest point and then chose from those who had been following Him, his twelve disciples. History says He moved a bit lower to a broad open area where the multitudes had gathered. From there, He began to teach.


Ken Gire points out in Moments with the Savior who this large group would have been comprised of.


The crowds were comprised largely of the outsiders. From Galilee came a lot of racially mixed, unorthodox Jews. From the Decapolis and settlements east of the Jordan River came a lot of Gentiles. Many in the crowds were those whom Jesus had healed. The diseased and infirm. The demonized and insane. The disabled and impoverished.”


These would not have been the pillars of their community or the honored in the temple. abandoned-adult-black-and-white-384553These were ones who had heard about a miracle-working man known as Jesus and they had come with hope and faith, however feeble.


They would not have come with provisions because they would not have had them. These were the discounted, the poor, and those unwanted by many.


But what is most significant perhaps was that these were the committed climbers who walked or limped to the bottom of the mount and then climbed to where they saw Jesus. There they sat, eager to hear, eyes fixed on Him. Nothing else mattered.


 Here they heard the essentials of Christianity, a character sketch of those who had entered the Kingdom or would do so.


They must have sat for hours in the sun without thought to anything save the words from Jesus, their food and drink, their hope and sustenance.


These were the committed climbers.


That gave me pause.


Am I a committed climber?

Forest, Walland, TN

Detours: Dead End or Destiny



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


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


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


accident-action-auto-220996-2Detours and delays seem to go hand-in-hand with traveling no matter what mode of transportation we choose. They can be a frustrating aggravation for most of us, but we are generally aware there is little we can do about it


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


Life seems to come with plenty of detours.


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


My husband’s job seemed very secure. He had worked for this company full-time for arrow-detour-security-1717728nine years in a variety of different positions following his active duty military service. He had also worked there part-time while he was in college. We felt like we were moving in a good and steady direction until quite unexpectedly one day my husband learned he was laid off along with a number of other people in various management positions in his company. It was a detour we had not expected. It would be some months later until a new job came into view as a result of a “chance” connection at a Bible study.


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


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


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


jamie-street-368704-unsplashThe definition reminds me that sometimes on a trip we actually may choose to detour from the route to see some attraction we would miss by staying on the main road.


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


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


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


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


 Our challenge is that we don’t know where the alternate route is taking us, whether we barriers-building-caution-638487-2will end up where we had hoped to be or not. We also don’t know how long the alternate route really is or the condition of the road ahead.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




The Gift of Companionship




It’s a sad commentary that despite the many ways we have to connect and communicate with others so many people still feel isolated and alone. Some are in that place after wounds or efforts that didn’t bring fruit and even though they feel isolated and alone, they now choose to be alone rather than risk more hurt and disappointment.


Others are in a season of loneliness as a result of a change in their life or location. Sometimes a move, change in job, change in church, change in health, or a death brings about a loss of companionship.


alone-angry-anxiety-236151Others still miscue on discovering companionship. It doesn’t happen in sound bite moments. It doesn’t happen in 280 character tweets or snapshot moments on Instagram or Facebook.


Companionship comes from a span of time spent with intentionality with another person where your conversation moves beyond the current topics of the day to risk unveiling your heart.


It can happen over long walks, time spent lingering over coffee or tea, unhurried moments on a front porch, or intimate moments around an open fire. It rarely happens unless we pause. It’s doomed to fail if we are only looking for what we can get.


It happens best when we are committed to another person’s highest good. It IMG_0674happens best when we do not set aside who we are at our core to simply please the other person.


We see it happening as Jesus walks with his disciples from one place to another. Sometimes Jesus is teaching a crowd, but sometimes it is only time spent intimately with a few or all of the disciples. Sometimes Jesus is feeding thousands and other times He is breaking bread with only them or washing their feet. They experienced Him in varied contexts and despite their failings, they were his closest companions on earth along with his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.


Over time the disciples came to see the same truth and share it. Perhaps that is the secret to the deeper friendship of companionship.


It brings to mind Amos 3:3 (NKJV):


“Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?”


IMG_0121In spite of times and seasons where the Lord may pull us away from all that distracts us to be with Him alone, most often our lives are richer and healthier when we develop companions to walk with us. A companion can challenge us when we falter or drift away from truth and the highest good he or she believes for us. A companion will listen well, but not hesitate to speak what is needed.


Companions are easier to develop when we first have companionship with the One who will never leave or forsake us. Over and over again God reminds us through the Bible that He will not leave our side if we walk with Him. He is there when others cannot be for whatever reason. And if He is not there first, we are not as likely to know companionship.


How can we be committed to the highest good for another person if we do not have love?beach-bond-chair-160767 The Lord can demonstrate best what love is when we (like the disciples) spend time with Him in many contexts so that we come to share the same truth − His.


To know companionship is a gift of grace, grace received and grace offered.


“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” 
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves


In the epilogue in the beautifully written book, Becoming Mrs. Lewis, by Patti Callahan, she writes a reminder to us about grace that applies well to our intentionality about companionship:


“Grace does not tell us how long we have in our life, or what comes next − that’s why grace is only given in the moment.”


Grace moments woven together one upon another opens the door to companionship.


“When we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative.”

Henri Nouwen


Photo by joyce huis on Unsplash






When The Wind Blows



March calendars tell us spring is on the way in the northern hemisphere, but it seems that winter does not give up its hold easily. The month brings with it nearly every type of weather. High pressure and low-pressure systems race along the undulating jet stream bringing rain, snow, and powerful winds. Occasional glimpses of the sun and a warmer day disappear before we can find our spring jackets.


fallen-tree-5224The weather channel stories have highlighted mudslides, tornadoes, record floods, and snowfalls so far this month of March. Even those who have avoided these events have been exposed to winds uprooting trees and shaking free dead branches and limbs to litter the landscape.


Weather can be like that – ever changing.


Life is like that as well. Things come at us from any and all directions. Sometimes only one thing, but often more than one bombards us at a time. Perhaps the Lord allows us to be shaken as well to get rid of what is no longer life giving and nourishing, reminding us of what is essential.


During a recent storm with winds in excess of 60 MPH, some trees were uprooted with huge root systems pulled out of the ground while others stood in the midst of the onslaught. For those left standing, the wind pruned out the weakest and dead limbs and branches.


Science tells us that most healthy trees can weather brief periods of high wind along PICT0261with heavy rain from thunderstorms. But if the ground is saturated from too much rain, the root system can lose its grip. A grip can also be lost if a healthy tree is top heavy.


We don’t see the wind. Christina Georgina Rossetti wrote a poem in a children’s anthology of poems that captures that truth:


“Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.”


What happens to us when the winds of life begin to blow?


Much of what might determine that depends on how deep and broad the roots of our faith and relationships grow. Are they well nourished and healthy?


Health comes from consistent nourishment of all the nutrients needed. It doesn’t come from snacking with an occasional good meal tossed in for good measure. It comes from a commitment and discipline to develop and grow our faith and relationships.


michael-bryant-605807-unsplashWe cannot get healthy and develop a strong root system when we notice a storm approaching. It happens long before the storm appears on the horizon. It happens on ordinary days in all kinds of weather as we dig deep into the truth of who the Lord is, what He calls us to be, and Who the foundation of our life i


In a novel I have read recently, one sentence caught my attention:


“You can take the wind as God sends it.”


The author used these words to describe one of the characters whose father died and whose mother was able to show little interest after she remarried. Numerous hardships including a failed marriage, death of child, death of a spouse, and more left her standing, but with a hardened and cold heart. There was no faith despite an acknowledgement she was able to take the wind as it came to her. Her reliance on herself had made her brittle so that wind would one day topple her.


When the winds and storms of life assault us, may we heed Paul’s words in Colossians:


“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”

Colossians 2:7 (NLT)





















Get Ready for the Maybe




Gwen Bristow’s 1970 novel, Calico Palace, has immersed me in the early days of California and the gold rush era. The novel is not new to me. We have had it on our bookshelves since not long after it was first published, but I enjoy diversity in my reading. I nearly always have a novel going at the same time I am reading something a bit meatier.


I pulled this one off the shelf recalling we kept it because my husband and I had both read it and I thought I might want to read it again some day. I knew it would take me a few pages to get settled into the story that wends its way through nearly 600 pages.


During the timeline of the book, San Francisco was a tawdry little town filled with men looking for a future on the other side of “the States” without any awareness gold was about to be discovered. Before long men who were eager to get rich were filling up the town on their way to creeks and hills where they hoped to find gold.


astro-awesome-blue-1307986The town (if you want to call it that) grew up around those arriving initially by ship after a perilous journey around the Horn of South America or by traveling across the Isthmus of Panama in frightful conditions. No one was interested in creating a town, but there was a need to get supplies and information to get started on their adventures.


The “buildings” were largely thrown together out of cloth, sticks, and whatever could be found. There was little question it was primitive and conditions didn’t improve as men filled up the place. There was no governing body so garbage was thrown wherever one would please and rats were in abundance. Fresh food was in short supply and heavy rain would turn the area into a sea of mud. Some grew tired of the search for gold.


But people kept coming and buildings got thrown together in days where men slept on the floor in places no bigger than a closet and took their leisure in gambling houses that sprouted up. The conditions were ripe for any number of disasters and one of the biggest was fire.


ashes-bonfire-burn-1374625Men gave little concern to ashes from cigars despite the flimsy construction of the buildings and other men looked at fire as a means of opportunity to get rich through looting if their own dreams of gold had faded.


Fires tore through the town repeatedly before a fire brigade developed and over and over again those trying to live or do business in the town lost everything.


One piece of advice offered by a main character in the story after multiple fires was this: “…the way to live is, get ready for the maybe. Then forget it.”


The statement left me puzzling and wondering how one gets ready for the maybe, the uncertain something that might happen, but I realized most all of us do that in one way or another.


accident-automobile-automotive-1230677When we buy insurance to cover our homes or cars, we’re preparing for the maybe. Depending on our mindset, some of us do it in other purchases and how we live our lives.


The word “prepare” in Hebrew connotes things like readiness, foundation, and equipment, to get ready beforehand. Though we may try to prepare for some eventualities, how well do we prepare for the “maybe” and what we need spiritually? 


How often do we prepare for the unknown of what each day may bring so we will stand in the midst of difficulty?  Do we consider preparation for the “maybe” of the Lord’s return or do we only manage to look to the moment?


Paul writes a powerful admonition about being prepared to the church at Ephesus that we would do well to take for ourselves.


“Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”

Ephesians 6:13-18 (MSG)


That’s good stuff, but the key is to pause at the first two words. The admonition assumes we recognize that we must be doing this before a threat comes or we need the tools Paul writes about. We prepare when the weather is perfect, we are healthy, and there is no hint of any kind of threat to our safety.


There’s the rub. When all is well with us, it can be easy to forget we need to prepare for the maybe. But prepare and get ready we must and it cannot wait till we are in the midst of a hard challenge, a disaster, a dashed hope, or the sound of a trumpet.


Jesus reminds us of that clearly in Matthew 25 in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. You may recall the story of five who were prepared with fresh oil in their lamps and five who had allowed their oil to run out and not taken any more to be ready. The peril of the foolish virgins is clear:

“In the middle of the night someone yelled out, ‘He’s here! The bridegroom’s here! Go out and greet him!’

 “The ten virgins got up and got their lamps ready. The silly virgins said to the smart ones, ‘Our lamps are going out; lend us some of your oil.’

Matthew 25: 6-8 (MSG)


One thing is sure: uncertainty is the norm. We will face it many times in our lives. We cannot know or fully prepare for the unknown, but we can prepare for what will sustain us when it happens.


In the novel, Kendra reminds us from her own early experience with a wise grandmother:

“When I would run in, all upset about something that might happen next week, she used to say to me, ‘Little girl, the way to live is get ready for the maybe. Then forget it.”