Are We Asleep?

The Garden of Gethsemane


The Garden of Gethsemane at the base of the Mt. of Olives gives us poignant images of Jesus as He seeks his Father in anguish and travail as what we know of Holy Week nears the climax at the cross on Good Friday.


The place itself carries so much symbolism. The name of the garden represents an olive mill or olive press. Here, surrounded by olive trees harvested and pressed into oil, the passion of Jesus would begin.


He too would be crushed.


On this night, He would feel the crushing agony He was about to face and would plead with His Father to consider if there was no other way that His will might be accomplished. It was a deep crushing of His heart and spirit that would precede the crushing of His body as He would be beaten and then crucified.


Jesus and his disciples would have walked here after the Passover meal they have shared together. Passover was always at the time of the full moon so the moonlight would have illuminated the path they took. He had already spoken of what was to happen to Him when He had broken bread and poured out the wine, but what did the disciples really understand?


He had invited them to share this night with Him, this elite group who had walked with Him during His three years of ministry. They had heard His teaching, seen His miracles, and enjoyed the intimacy of His company that was theirs alone.


And of course there were the three closest to Him (Peter, James, and John) who even on this night were singled out to go farther with Him into the garden where He would fall on His knees. These three had been chosen to be with Him and observed His transfiguration. They were perhaps His closest companions and now they had been invited into another very sacred moment.


As I read the passage and how the disciples responded to His need and how Peter, James, and John fell asleep, I can feel anguish for Jesus in His loneliness. I confess to feeling very judgmental of the disciples for their failure to watch with Him, pray with Him, be truly with Him.


Jesus had told them He would lay down His life and be taken from them and asked them to watch and pray. We have a similar image when Elijah tells Elisha he will be taken, but Elisha does not depart nor take his eyes from Elijah.


Peter, James, and John, however, have fallen asleep despite the Lord’s attempt to awaken them more than once. Even though He has shared with them that His soul was exceedingly sorrowful even to the point of death, their concern for Him does not keep them alert to minister to Him.


What about this troubles me so much?


I think there is something inside of me that wonders if I too fail to be concerned about His heart, His desire for my companionship. How often do I think about or even consider it?


Perhaps we are more like those disciples than we would desire to admit.


They were tired. They had been with Him ministering day after day doing the business of ministry and caring for the people. Now they fail to care for Him, for His heart, in this dark hour.


Have they been so busy doing the work of ministry they were insensitive to His desire for a relationship with them above all else?


Am I? Are you?


Can we be caught up in doing so many good things for Him that we have little energy to simply be with Him?


Ultimately, He offered them grace even as He does us, but I am drawn back to the reality that He left off praying and had gone to them. What was He seeking from them, hoping for?


We will never know.


What I am reminded of as I read the passage out of Matthew 26 is this:


I don’t want to be too tired, too weary, too involved with the busyness of life or ministry that when He comes and simply wants to spend time with me that I fall asleep and miss that time He has carved out for me.


This passage isn’t the only passage in scripture that speaks to being available and ready for being with Him. We see it when Mary chooses the best part. We see it in the parable of the foolish virgins when they have no oil and miss the Lord’s appearing.


Lord, help me, help us, to be available to you, to be alert, and to be ready and make time to be with you the priority. You gave us all you had, sparing nothing. Awaken my heart, our hearts, to what you most desire of me, of us.


 Are we asleep?





The Prayer Box



Reading is and always has been a great love of mine. Variety is my preference and I invariably have several books of different types going along with my daily Bible time. One book in the mix tends to be something that stretches me and helps me go deeper. Another book will often focus on history or historical content as the theme. Whatever the mix turns out to include, a novel will be there as well.


It can be easy to shortchange how powerfully a novel can speak to our hearts, but over time I have discovered good novels, good fiction, often speak volumes that help me grow, inspire me, and touch my heart.


Reading Lisa Wingate’s book, The Prayer Box, was my first introduction to this author. As her words began to weave together the story, I was caught up with not only the characters but the underlying themes as well.


The setting for the book is the Outer Banks of North Carolina and tells the story of Tandi Reese and her children who have recently moved from Texas. Her life has been upended in more than one way, but she is hoping to find enough work to afford the cottage she is renting from 91-year-old Iola Anne Poole.


Tandi has no idea how she will be able to stay in this cottage. She arrived in North Carolina on fumes and barely has enough money to get started.  She’s hoping something will turn up for at least a chance to stay there for a short time, hoping that Iola Anne Poole will somehow let her stay even if she discovers she only has pennies in her pockets.


But Tandi has no idea what this 91-year-old woman’s influence will become or how it will change her life and ultimately the lives of her children who are living with the consequences of Tandi’s poor choices.


A cast of other characters will enter the scene including a group of special ladies from Sandy’s Seashell Shop, a current boyfriend named, Ross, who has shown her the party life of a surfer, Rowdy, her daughter’s boyfriend, and a few others. But it will be Iola Anne Poole whose life and character will unfold alongside Tandi’s story in this significant narrative that will inspire and confound you (just as it does Tandi).


The Prayer Box invites the reader to experience the faith and life of Iola along with  Tandi as she discovers the prayers Iola has written for many years and tucked away in various prayer boxes. These prayers will reveal the untold stories of Iola’s life, how she came to own the Victorian style house where she lives and also the cottage Tandi is renting.


Iola’s prayers are laced with not only her untold story, but also powerful words that lead Tandi to a life she never believed possible.


In one prayer letter to God (or “Father” as the letter begins) Iola writes, “…the most difficult battles are not the ones fought outside the armor, but the ones within it.”


In another prayer letter that begins “Dearest Father”, Iola reflects on her relationship with God in these words, How strange that when the hours are long with misery, when needs are many and my heart aches, I seek the solace of conversation with you. Yet when the day is sun-drenched and calm, as peaceful as a milk-full foal splayed on the grass, I am silent, my needs quiet in their slumber.”


It would be easy for me to tell you more about this story, but I would encourage you to discover these two stories, Tandi’s and Iola’s, for yourself. You won’t be disappointed. Tears filled my eyes as I read the final pages. My heart embraced the story of the young broken woman, Tandi, and the 91-year-old, Iola, whose own life had been broken and then went on to impact more people than anyone ever guessed until Tandi discovered The Prayer Box.


Tyndale House publishes the book, but they did not provide me with a copy for my review nor ask me to review it. This link will take you to Tyndale for an additional synopsis of the book: The Prayer Box.










Would They Recognize Him Now? Would We?


Jesus had been in their midst for three years. They had watched Him heal the sick. They had watched Him feed the 5,000 and the 4,000. They had seen Him send the moneychangers fleeing from the temple, but was He the king they had been looking for?


There were doubts here and there because He did not appear as royalty. He had no kingly trappings. He had not gathered an army to stop Roman domination. Could this truly be the Messiah?


God had used many things to confirm the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus. Somehow doubt lingered, but then on Palm Sunday He gave them another image unlike the others and they quickly responded in their behavior even though days later their hearts would be far from Him.


The ride into Jerusalem on a donkey fulfilled one more prophecy from Zechariah. He came on a lowly donkey, not in a chariot with runners ahead clearing the way and bidding people to bow.


He had always walked among them so this scene (so modest in many ways) still became a triumphal entry which abruptly caused those watching to cut palm fronds and throw them on the path before Him and wave them in the air, saluting Him with shouts of “Hosanna”!


It was a day of great joy and celebration at the outset of what would be a dark and tragic week.


It was also a day that points to the changeableness of the human mind and heart. It paradoxically points to the very reason He would be put to death later in the week and why His death would be necessary to pay for the sinful condition of humanity.


How could they have forgotten so easily what they had witnessed with their own eyes, heard with their own ears?


 This pivotal week in the Christian faith stirs many emotions and thoughts. We look back and consider, but do we also take note of the now and the not yet?


Do we now recognize how tepid our own responses to Him can be and where He fits into the priorities of our life?


 Do less committed brothers and sisters around us cause us to pursue a more casual relationship with Him and easily sway us?


Are we tempted to lay aside His principles, and truths for a more popular path?


Would we prefer an easy stroll behind Him rather than walking with Him?


I don’t think that most of us ever plan to do any of those things.


But ANY relationship left unattended falls into disrepair and distance.


 The crowd saluting Him would be influenced by their priests to deny what they had seen for themselves. It is an important reminder of personal accountability for our relationship with Him and the need not to allow others to deter us from what our hearts have responded to and confirmed.


What about Palm Sunday reminds us of the “not yet”?


As we look back and take note and learn, we also should remember to look forward to the next time He will arrive in Jerusalem in triumph. He will come as risen Lord and King. Will we be ready to ride with Him? Will He find us steadfast and unwavering?


Many places in scripture point to that “not yet” in the future. One that speaks to me as I close this is from Phil. 2:9-11


“Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:9-11 ESV


 Let us look back and celebrate, take stock of our hearts now, and prepare for the greater celebration yet to come when our voices join in Hosanna to the King!



How to Defeat Doubt





What a pesky thing it can be for any and all of us! It would be lovely if we could say we never experienced doubt, but if we are totally honest none of us really can say that.


Doubts are those uncertainties that can send us spinning. They also can become snares that lead us astray.


When we are very young, doubt does not seem to be quite as much of an enemy. Unless something has occurred to create a question, we tend not to wonder whether or not to jump into daddy’s arms when he invites us to do so. We know he will catch us if he told us to jump.


Little by little doubts seem to grow unnoticed like weeds hidden in the grass at first. It can happen all at once, but often it is a gradual thing. It starts when something we believed in or trusted lets us down. It also happens, as we get a little bit older when we are tempted and the enemy whispers as he did to Eve that we will be okay if we yield.


bloom-blooming-blossom-414367Like some of you, I somehow grew up with what seemed to be a fair number of uncertainties. They seemed to crop up in all kinds of places.


Much of it came from nagging doubts about whether or not I was loved, accepted, and valued if I was less than perfect (and I was). As these questions evolved into a belief that I wasn’t or might not be, questions and doubts seemed to multiply.


Despite my efforts to defeat these enemies, they clung to me into adulthood even though I had first accepted Jesus when I was 12.


A common little example was when I would plan to meet someone for coffee or lunch. If they were late, I would start to question if they were really coming or if they had someone they preferred to spend time with. I wondered if I mattered to them and if left unchecked, my insecurity grew.


When we don’t understand something, it can be easier to doubt. If we don’t really know someone, it can be easier to doubt.


Add to that our own filters about ourselves and soon we are slipping down a rabbit hole we cannot seem to get out of.


The truth is that the more I know and understand about myself or another person, 4k-wallpaper-beautiful-bloom-1413010the easier it is to defeat doubt and uncertainty about the relationship.


If I am waiting on a friend that I know well, I will know if they are late there is a good reason because it is unlike them; or I will know if they are late that it is common for them to be late because they are late for nearly everything and everyone! In both cases, I accept it is not about me.


These things can help us experience relationships that are not hampered by needless doubting.


The biggest challenges come in our relationship with the Lord. If our prayers don’t seem to be answered, or answered as we desire, it can be easier to doubt, lose faith, and question. When bad things happen despite all our efforts to be good, do the right thing, or be the right person, we can fall prey to questions in our heart even if our head knows that bad things can happen to anyone.


I am not sure that in this life we can totally escape all doubts, but I do believe we can do much to defeat them by growing in our understanding and knowledge of others. It helps us to make wiser choices about relationships and which ones are healthy and trustworthy.


Most important of all is to grow in our understanding and knowledge of the Lord.


At 12, I accepted Jesus into my heart, but I didn’t really know Him very well and didn’t expend time to grow in my knowledge and understanding so my footing was unsure and doubts could more easily assail my mind and heart.


Getting to know someone, getting to know the Lord, takes intentional time spent with them observing what they do, how they do it, what motivates them, and what they care about.


 I can hear a lot about someone, which can give me a sense of the person, but unless or until I spend time with him or her myself, I will never really know him or her nor trust and understand him or her at a significant level. That will make me vulnerable to doubt.


It’s also true I can hear a lot about the Lord from great preaching and teaching or hearing others share their testimony, but if I don’t spend time with Him coming to know His heart I will fall prey to doubt.


Because I am finite and He is infinite there are things I will never be able to fully understand about Him. But if I spend time seeking to know Him, know His heart, and not just learn more about Him, doubt will be defeated more easily as I rest in the certainty of His love and care, His goodness and grace.





Find A New Dream




Do you remember when you were a child?


Childhood blesses us with so many dreams. We don’t have the lived experience to put them on the shelf so we consider them all to be possibilities. We believe we can be or do almost anything (or at least hope that we can).


Heading off to elementary school began to challenge some of those dreams. We needed to work harder, study more, and adults outside of our parents began to assess our abilities. Peers were not just the kids from the neighborhood and perhaps a Sunday School class. Many of them had different values and views. The person we wanted to be our best friend didn’t always respond as we hoped.


baby-boys-childhood-160946 (1)That shadowed the earlier childhood dreams for some of us. There were all sorts of reasons for that. One of the key ones was whether or not we had someone (anyone) who believed in our unique possibilities and us. If no one came alongside us to encourage us, doubts about dreams and abilities began to grow.


But it didn’t stop there. No matter which way our early dreams evolved, high school brought a buffet of challenges and more pressure than we might have expected. There were all those extracurricular activities, but now you often needed to excel to be able to participate. There were try-outs for sports, musical groups, speech, and drama groups. More of who you were was evaluated all over again. That wreaked havoc with some additional dreams.


We were being asked to make decisions about college, tech school, or getting a career img_2107and it tended to feel a bit overwhelming. It felt like a forever decision. Most of us didn’t know then that our brains didn’t mature fully until nearly 27 years old and we also didn’t have a ton of experience. How much did we really know about ourselves anyway?


Life can be a bit like a conveyor belt ride at a theme park, but we don’t know that will be the case when we are young. We don’t realize that life is always in transition and neither we nor our environment or opportunities remain the same.


Perhaps we need to learn that life gives us a chance in each new season to dream a new dream. (And it doesn’t stop as we get older or retire.)


Transitions from one season of life to another come with more than a few challenges. We can look forward to some of the changes that come with the transition and shudder at others. We can be tempted to ask, “What now?”


pexels-photoThe answer to the question is impacted by whether or not you risk finding a new dream.


The new season offers new opportunities, not just limitations and losses. Believing that and discovering a new dream is a key to continuing growth, deeper satisfaction, passion, and a zest for living, but the key is to find a new dream (a new possibility) before the transition actually occurs.


Over and over again in the Bible we see possibilities for new dreams at different seasons of life. I think God designed it that way. Look at how many of the stories show God showing up with new dreams and big opportunities even when a person may think they are beyond the age when those are possible. (Moses comes to mind and so does Caleb when he said, “Give me that mountain” … or similar words.)


My dreams have changed many times over the course of my lifetime even though some beach-clouds-dawn-404326of the pieces of each dream may remain. I love God’s unfolding design and even now am curious about what He has in mind next.


You see, whatever your limitations may be, His design and dreams for you have already taken that into account.


What’s holding you back?


Find a new dream for the next season of your life. That new dream provides a new beginning.


How like God!


God is the author of new beginnings.