Yes, Both Are True


Photo by Pierre-Yves Burgi on Unsplash


How does the Lord communicate with you?


If I asked you that over coffee, you would likely give me more than one answer. I would have multiple answers as well because He communicates with us in a myriad of ways and always has. And the BEST part about that is that He wants to communicate with us. The communication issues (if there are any) are on our part. That has been true since He created mankind.


Photo by Rob Blair

A friend who is a professional photographer recently captured a sunset that is so brilliantly beautiful that words cannot do it justice. It was as if God painted on the canvas of the sky the deepest and brightest reds, oranges, yellows, and blues that a human mind can imagine and then kicked it up a notch above that.


I was not at the meadow where the photo was taken or even outdoors that evening, but when I saw the photo, I wondered how many of those who were out noticed the Lord’s finishing touches on creation for that day.


I sensed Him in worship on Sunday as we sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and a worship song about overcoming fear entitled “Stand in Your Love.” I heard Him in the pastor’s message from the book of John.


I felt Him in the embrace of my husband and in the warm conversation about Him with a friend over lunch.


I heard Him whispering to my heart as I slipped into bed and He had all of my attention.


You might agree with these examples and have many more to add, but then as I was reading in Exodus, I saw how He spoke to the Israelites. The story makes clear that they were frightened enough that they asked Him to only speak to Moses and let him tell them what they were to know.


Biblical references make clear God speaks in gentle breezes or roaring thundering sounds that can be deafeningly loud.


For the Israelites it was not only the ear-shattering volume, but the accompanying thunder, lightning, smoke and trumpet sound that added to their terror. Did God really want to strike terror into their hearts?


To answer that question, we would need to recall they had been steeped in a culture of idols that were inanimate and despite seeing the plagues in Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea they knew little about Him. They could not fathom his holiness or the power of all of who He was (and is). They also had not gotten in touch with their own sin and how impossible it is to be in God’s presence with sin clinging to any part of them (or us).


Every way the Israelites connected with God taught them more about who He was, but to grasp even the basic understanding would take a lot longer. That’s not unlike us when we first come to Him. Our minds are finite, and a lifetime is not enough to expose us to all of who He is. We will have eternity to delve into more and more of Him.


But even in the deafening sound, the whirlwind, the belly of the whale, the chariots of fire, the desert and wilderness, God was reaching out.

IMG_3591 (1)
Photo by Pam Ecrement


When Christ came to earth, we got a glimpse of the glory of God in human dress and when He ascended and the indwelling Holy Spirit became a part of all who would believe, He spoke in gentle ways, inviting us to come closer.  Even so Paul warned about quenching the Spirit.


All of this relates to our need to recognize and acknowledge our sinfulness and God’s holiness. He desires us to have a close relationship with Him, but also that our love for his grace would result in our obedience.


The Israelites were terrified of this deafening audible voice of God, but it began to result in a fear of displeasing Him as a result of a greater awareness of their sinfulness. They would need to experience the consequences of not remembering that more than a few times as they moved forward.


What drives my desire to be obedient and to sin less?


What reminds me of what response God desires from me?


The gentle voice of the indwelling Holy Spirit.


I must never take advantage of his grace or allow my hearing to dull and my conscience to weaken when so great a love purchased my freedom at such a great price.


It is that gift that allows me to come into his presence at his invitation covered in robes washed white by the blood of Christ.

Photo by Pam Ecrement




Do or Do Not

Photo by Arnie Chou from Pexels


For many of you reading this title, you may recall it has a familiar ring to it. Some of you will identify the source because the film that featured the lines has been seen by millions of people since it was first released in 1980.


The Empire Strikes Back was a second in the initial series of the Star Wars movies that have captured the attention of viewers of varying ages and multiple generations since it was first released. If you know it well, you recall the movie begins scrolling with these words, “It is a dark time…” and continues a few lines later talking about a brave group of freedom fighters led by Luke Skywalker.


Luke is young and passionate, self-confident, and eager, but his mentor, Ben Kenobi (better known as Obi-Wan), reminds him there is much he does not know to be a great warrior. He tells Luke he must travel and train with the greatest of trainers, Yoda, to become a true Jedi knight to face the evil Darth Vader. Luke seems skeptical but flies off to the planet in search of Yoda.


When Luke arrives to search for Yoda, nothing is as he expects. The planet is creepy at best and the expectation of what such a legendary Jedi knight would look like is shaken when Luke first meets Yoda. (A great way to remind us all not to be shaken by appearance or believe that is all there is to a person, or to a Jedi knight.)


Once the training commences Luke is not always convinced Yoda is as gifted as he truly is, nor does he recognize the wisdom and necessity of the training needed to use the power of a Jedi knight for good and not darkness.


One of the training tasks Yoda implements with Luke is asking him to lift something using only his mind and thoughts. It requires a lack of distraction and a great deal of belief that he can accomplish the task. Luke has some success but gets distracted when his space craft sinks into the water where it had first landed. Luke believes the spacecraft is lost, but consider the dialogue and the admonishment of Yoda in the situation:


“Luke: Oh, no! We’ll never get it out now!

Yoda: So certain, are you? Always with you, what cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?

Luke: Master, moving stones around is one thing, but this is… totally different!

Yoda: No! No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.

Luke: All right, I’ll give it a try.

Yoda: No! Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.

[Luke tries to use the Force to levitate his X-Wing out of the bog but fails in his attempt.]

Luke: I can’t. It’s too big.

Yoda: Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.

Luke: You want the impossible. [sees Yoda use the Force to levitate the X-wing out of the bog and gets flustered when he does it] I don’t… I don’t believe it!

Yoda: That is why you fail.”


You may wonder what that has to do with the usual themes I write. Consider what I have put in italics in the dialogue above.


It contains principles for all who would believe and are called to be warriors for the cause of Christ. (Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit have power far beyond the mythical “Force” of the Star Wars epic series we enjoy.)



We also face an unseen dark force determined to erode any light emanating from the Godhead and shining through us. We (like Luke) can sometimes get ahead of ourselves and not recognize the power available to us is great but can only be wielded wisely as a result of training with a master warrior. Or we can be foolish and minimize the skill and tactics of the dark evil’s attempts to upend us and persuade is to leave the light and go “to the dark side.”


The more subtle weakness that can result in defeat is one less recognized by most of us. Yoda’s message is key: “Do or do not. There is no try.” You see Yoda knows the first step is to make a determined choice to do or not do what must be done. To say we will ‘try” does not show a determined belief and commitment to “do or do not” and that alone will result in a lack of success in battle, discipline, or life itself.


Fictional tales often show us a valuable lesson in life.


We too may see life around us not unlike the words scrolling at the beginning of the film – a dark time – and if we are to be light in the darkness and warriors for the good, our commitment must be sure and our belief unwavering.


“Do or do not. There is no try.”


Photo by Mathew Thomas from Pexels





Looking Back and Looking Forward




The stunning unfolding of fall beauty and final harvests that occur in the northern hemisphere during these months of autumn seem to cause us to look back and also look forward. Those who have planted and tended crops that are finally being harvested look back at their effort in what they sowed, tended, and cared for to bring the very harvest they are now taking into their barns and homes.


Growing up on a farm in Ohio, I recall this season for my dad involved harvesting of the cornfields or soybeans. The oats, wheat, hay, and straw had been completed months ago. For my mother, it was finishing all the things she would do with vegetables and fruit we had grown and were now ready for our use.


img_3513Usually I did not get to help much for these last tasks as I would be gone in school each day, but I still recall the delicious fragrances coming from the kitchen when I would arrive home. In this season, it would most often be that of Concord grapes that she would be making into grape juice or grape jelly. My mouth waters as I even write those words because I also knew she would be making grape pie filling for that most wondrous treat that I always have loved. Since my birthday fell during this time, I would also choose to have a grape pie instead of a birthday cake for my special day.


I no longer live on a farm, but I am very much aware that the farm still lives in me for all it taught me about growing and God’s provision.


As we savor this season with its beauty and special treats, it also causes us to take a peek forward into the months just ahead. The harvest is meant to sustain us through the season of late fall and winter where nothing grows. Those gifts provided by hard work and God’s blessing and provision also stir up thoughts of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays just ahead.


In the midst of this season, few of us will remember that another celebration is happening this very week. We might be thinking it does not pertain to us, but a careful reading of scripture shows it does.


I am talking about The Feast of Tabernacles known as Sukkot, celebrated recently by our Jewish brothers and sisters. It too was also a time of looking back and looking forward.


This seventh and last feast or festival of celebration was and is a celebration of God bringing Israel out of Egypt when they lived in fragile booths in the wilderness and ate from His bounty. So the gratitude of His protection and provision are dominant themes. It was a time meant to bring remembrance, but it is also one pointing forward to the future for those who are Christian or Gentile.


In Zechariah 14:16, the prophet speaks of the time ahead after the tribulation when the img_3570-1Lord has returned and declares that ALLnations and anyone who has survived will go to Jerusalem to celebrate this feast and worship the King. This passage shifts from the Tabernacle of long ago to His Tabernacle among the people and the day when we will all worship as one together.


This feast or festival so rich in meaning is also called the Feast or Festival of Lights to commemorate the pillar of fire that led Israel at night. Huge candelabra would be lit and the priests would wave torches. When Christ came to earth, He became our light and it is His light that will fill the Tabernacle in the passage Zechariah speaks about.


In the midst of the beauty and harvest of this autumn season and the shadows cast by events unfolding around the world, perhaps it would be very good to look forward to that day and to take heart and hope in the One who remains our protection and provision if we are His.


For then we will reign with Him even as John writes in the Book of Revelation 21: 3:


“… And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God…”

Revelation 21:3 (KJV)











October Morning in Vermont




I have no doubt that October comes everywhere and it is beautiful when it comes, but I am persuaded that when it comes in Vermont it simply explodes in full bloom splashing gold, orange, yellow, and red across the canvas of the Green Mountains. The gurgling streams serenade a response to the symphony cascading from the trees above as the sun shines down brightly from the cloudless azure skies.


img_3470During morning walks and hikes where the sunlight filters through the painted leaves, everything within me is drawn to praise the One who created all that surrounds me. Each season displays something unique and wondrous about Him, but in autumn it is such a glorious showy display. Over and over again Isaiah 55:12 resounds within me:


Isaiah 55:12 New International Version (NIV)

You will go out in joy

and be led forth in peace;

the mountains and hills

will burst into song before you,

and all the trees of the field

will clap their hands.



People come from everywhere for this grand display in the midst of small towns and villages scattered across the mountains of Vermont. Some gaze from the vantage point of the interstate highways that give panoramic views of mountains that look like paint pots of color. The view goes on mile after mile while your eyes eagerly race ahead to take in the vista at each turn to take and the veritable feast of beauty unfolds before your eyes.


But to get a more intimate view, you need to leave the interstate and search out the two img_3527lane roads like Vermont routes 100 and 108 that meander through the scene between walls of color made brighter by the sunlight filtering through them.



That will let you see the red barns tucked here and there in fields carved out of small lush valleys. It will let you catch sight of the beautiful tall white spires of churches dotting the landscape and it will also invite you to taste the season. As cider mills, maple syrup farms, and the wonderful Cabot white cheddar cheese stores offer their harvest for sample and sale along the country roads, you will not be able to resist a cup of hot apple cider along with a warm apple cider doughnut.




You’ll be reminded that maple syrup comes from these stunning sugar maple trees awash in their bright red leaves rather than from the bottle you pick up at your local grocery. Those who harvest the sap and boil it to create the syrup will acquaint you with the grades, colors, and uses of the sap made into such a delicious syrup. Each grade and type has a special purpose and no matter whether it is the first and best light colored liquid that goes for the highest price or the darkest amber of the last liquid drawn off and used for cooking, it is all good.


Walking along these colorful paths in Vermont will most of all take you back to the Creator because His creation declares His glory at every turn. Your heart and spirit are quieted in His presence as your feet walk along streams, follow footpaths down wooded trails, and climb the pathways to waterfalls.


Your heart is also awakened to praise that He too uses every thing, every season for His glory and our good.


No matter how dark the moment may seem, He is present in it with us and His light will lead us home.



Before We Were Yours

SCREEN SHOT 2019-10-18 AT 2.34.40 PM


Stories sometimes remind us that more often than we think, things are not always what they seem. That truism is what comes to life in Lisa Wingate’s newest best-selling book, Before We Were Yours.


 As Lisa writes early in the book:


“Life can turn on a dime…We plan our days, but we don’t control them.”


The gripping story she tells introduces us to a seemingly well-bred and connected family of the South. Filled with traditions of southern society and their political life, the story begins with the Stafford family caught up in the midst of a political campaign for the U.S. Senate while also navigating the mental decline of the candidate’s aging mother. The Senator’s favorite daughter, Avery (a successful Baltimore attorney) has returned home to help with the campaign since her father’s bout with cancer has weakened him.


Avery’s trip home pulls her into the family traditions she left behind after law school. Those include hopes for her own political future and moving forward to marry a childhood friend, but as Lisa writes, “We plan our days, but we don’t control them.”


Another story unfolds and runs parallel that is quite different than that of the prestigious Stafford family. It tells of the poor people in the Memphis, Tennessee shanty towns along the Mississippi River whose children were routinely taken from them through a variety of deceitful ways.


These children were treated as chattel as a part of the true story of Georgia Tann and her Tennessee Children’s Home Society that remained a secret from the 1920’s to 1950. The secret of Georgia Tann was that babies and children were treated as commodities or objects. As such she became wealthy to the staggering amount of what would be ten million dollars today currying favor with judges and politicians allowing her to continue her schemes for decades.


Under her reign of terror, abuse, and neglect, many of the children she had stolen from their families didn’t live to tell their stories. Their records were sealed as she duped poor uneducated families into signing over custody to her so she could “sell” these children to the highest bidders. Some children were grabbed on their way to school or walking along a roadside or dangling their feet in the river. The parents who chose them didn’t know the truth of how they became wards of Georgia Tann.


Some estimates suggest as many as 500 children simply banished under her greedy structure while thousands more disappeared in adoption for profit in ways that never allowed the birth families or the adopted children or their families to discover the truth.


It would not be until 1995 that the records would be unsealed to reveal the true stories of these children. It would be too late for many of them, but the stories some were able and willing to share allowed Lisa to create a story not unlike those they lived.


In Before We Were Yours these two stories intersect when Avery bumps into a woman at a nursing home who is certain that Avery is someone named Fern. Avery’s investigative legal experience nudges her to try to sort out who this woman is after the woman takes a bracelet from Avery. The bracelet was a gift to Avery from her grandmother, but the woman insists the bracelet is hers.


In the process of unraveling what connection this woman might have to Avery’s beloved grandmother, Avery discovers more of her own personhood that may not lay on the path her parents have in mind. She also recognizes the power of love that goes beyond status or heritage.


This unexpected encounter with the woman in the nursing home later gives Avery a glimpse of something she could not have expected:


“A woman’s past need not predict her future. She can dance to new music if she chooses. Her own music. To hear the tune, she must only stop talking. To herself, I mean. We’re always trying to persuade ourselves of things.”


This latest offering by Lisa Wingate seems to be her finest work and I say that as one who has been captivated by her other books in recent months. Page-by-page my heart was captured by the story she writes, of two stories that connect in ways that may surprise you.


If you have not read this one yet, put it on your list to read next.