What Do I Choose As A Foundation?


A few years ago I concluded a post with the following observation:

“I think one thing is certain. The choices I make today will prepare me for the choices ahead. The truth that I bury in my heart will form the foundation of what I believe. That foundation will help me face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”

Pam Ecrement

It begs the question of what I will choose to bury in my heart to form the foundation of what I believe that then guides my choices. I am (in this case) looking at what I intentionally choose to bury in my heart.

All of us have things that get buried in our heart over time. The list can be endless, but let me try naming a few of them.

I easily bury in my heart things that are said about me, over me, and to me from before I can even speak. Since my brain is not fully developed, they (along with my experiences) get randomly tucked away without a determination of whether they are truth, lies, or half-truths. Nonetheless they begin to lay down a foundation of what I believe about myself. Those closest to me often do not pause to think of how powerful and long lasting their words can be.

Those beginning perceptions form beliefs that also begin to form how I view everything and everyone around me. I take them as truth even though they may not be. They become “my” truth, my narrative, and I start to make choices (or not make choices) based on them without much consideration as to whether or not they are actually true. As a result, they subtly, but powerfully influence my preferences, biases, thoughts, dreams, hopes, and more.


When I get introduced to formal education in any form, I start to have a grid or base from which to test out “my” truth to determine if objective facts (truth?) match up to “my” subjective truth. Information from teachers (formal and informal) and a variety of books, magazines, news reports, peers, and social media get thrown into the smorgasbord I take in. What I do not realize at the outset is these added things shaping my foundational beliefs may not be true either even though I often might have strong, passionate feelings about them.

If I am going to consider what I intentionally bury in my heart as a foundation for my choices, I need to be much more deliberate. It will require me to research and look more carefully at the sources and the people behind the sources and what “their” truth has been to determine if it is “the” truth.

With all the current means of research that technology has blessed me with, it actually can make it harder. Too much comes at me from all sources, all persuasions, all over the world and often it is extraordinarily difficult to discover whether I have been taking in misinformation disseminated deliberately or through ignorance. That definitely does not help me in determining whether I will make the easy choice or the right choice in most cases.

That is especially true because the information often comes at me without a moral framework more common a hundred years ago.

Determining truth can be difficult. Pilate made that clear as he examined Jesus as written in John 18:38 when he said, “What is truth?” He was clearly having a hard time deciding between what was easy and what was right.

Perhaps the most relevant thing I need to bury in my heart is found in Psalm 119:11:

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

Psalm 119:11 ESV

The key to burying His Word in my heart is influenced by many things.

Those early pieces of “my” truth will be one of the influences. The knowledge, skill, and truthfulness of the teachers, preachers, and books I take in will have a great impact as well. I think that makes it essential that I discipline myself to researching out who God is by looking at His own words spoken through the men and women He chose that appear in the Bible.

Only then can I do what a former pastor routinely admonished his congregation to do at the end of his Sunday sermons: “Don’t take my word for it. Go home and read the Word yourself and check on what I say to be certain it is true.”

As a believer I can be too quick to casually approach God’s Word and pick what I like or prefer to hear and see, a bit like sorting through fruits and vegetables in the produce aisle. I can attest that God can speak through that many times, but it reveals a truth I might overlook that Bible study leader and writer, Bron Short, put succinctly: “People think they themselves are located at the center of interest in the text; they need to find God there instead.”

The incredible news is that God really does want us to know who He really is and what He is really about so we bury “His” truth in our hearts as a foundation for our choices.

That comes only when I don’t simply randomly pick out something to read that may be quite good, but doesn’t given me a complete picture of Him. If that is all I do, then when life throws me a curve ball (Don’t I wish that were not so common!!), I will be more likely to make the easy choice versus the right choice.

Kathleen Buswell Nielson points out pivotal truths about the Word in her exceptional little book entitled Bible Study: Following the Ways of the Word:

  • The Bible is God speaking.
  • The Bible is powerful.
  • The Bible is understandable.
  • The Bible is a literary work.
  • The Bible is one story.

We are all blessed with many wonderful Bible studies to choose from. Some are on a book of the Bible, some are topical, and some are a combination of a number of things. They are a great source of encouragement and teaching, but I would encourage you to look a bit more at the incredible feast the Word offers when we come to know it as one story and see the context of the passages we sometimes seize upon without knowing fully their meaning.

“…how amazing…to be privileged to hear from the Lord our Maker. How far away from sterile intellectual analysis is the process of deeply studying God’s Word. As we lean together over a biblical text to study it, we are in effect leaning in closer to the breath of God.”

Kathleen Buswell Nielson

Thieves Hiding in Plain Sight


When I have what can seem like an ordinary day, it can be easy to allow my mind to drift. I have discovered that when it does that I can either look back over my shoulder at something from the past or I scan the horizon for something in the future. I am guessing most of you know what I mean. It can happen without thinking.

When I look over my shoulder, it can tempt me to look at ‘what was’. Depending on my disposition that means I will either review some very special days that warm my heart or very difficult days that hurt my heart in some way. The source of the temptation on such a day will likely determine which scrapbook of memories I review in my mind and that choice will affect what sets the tone for the rest of that day. I might be spurred to drop a note, make a phone call, or set up a coffee date, but I might fall prey to disappointment, bitterness, and anger.

When I scan the horizon for something in the future, I may scroll through my calendar to look at things that are plotted there. That might include when I am next going to see my children or grandchildren, meet a friend for coffee, or return to a favorite vacation spot. If I look at the empty spaces on the calendar, I might be tempted to yield to thoughts of whether or not anyone cares about me or even realizes I exist. Before long I can be swirling down a long dark tunnel if I yield.

I am confident that this tendency to look back over our shoulder or to scan the horizon and look ahead is common to us all to one degree or another. I see it in Facebook posts, on Twitter feeds, in magazine articles, in conversations with friends, and on the news. We either love the ‘good old days’ or we try to forget, degrade, or minimize them and the impact they had on us. On the other side we might also spend much of our time focused on looking forward to the next thing, the next season, the next promotion, the next raise, the next…

I think there is no doubt that either choice (looking backward or looking ahead) has some value. When I look backward I can both appreciate where I have been and what I have done and also learn from those things to make my life now even better. When I look ahead I can know the joy of anticipating something I am planning toward, but I can also be tempted to see aging, future losses, and more.

As with most things in our lives, I think it is impossible to eliminate these behaviors even though we can (with God’s help) allow them to be used more positively than negatively. The issue is more about how much time I give to either of the choices in my view.

If I spend a great deal of time relishing or lamenting the past or yearning for or fearing the future, I miss today.

I love how the Amplified Bible reads in Hebrews 3:13:

But continually encourage one another every day, as long as it is called “today” (and there is an opportunity), so that none of you will be hardened (into settled rebellion) by the deceitfulness of sin (its clevereness, delusive glamour, and sophistication).”

I see often in scripture in both Old and New Testament passages the word “today” is used as a linchpin. My choice of the word linchpin is very deliberate because of its definition: “a pin passed through the end of an axle to keep a wheel in position”. Is it a word God uses often to try to help keep us in position, to remember that what we have is today and to steward it well? I think it very well may be.

As I was reading in Cindy Liggett’s novel, The Sisters of Sugarcreek, I read these words:

“Regrets over yesterday and fear of tomorrow are twin thieves that rob us of today.”

Let us be wise not to miss these thieves hiding in plain sight.

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Christmas Morn


And so it has come…

Whether you have a large Christmas tree, a small one, or none at all, Christmas has still come.

Whether you have heaps of gifts, just a few gifts, or none at all to unwrap, Christmas has still come.

Whether you are filled with joy, or alone and grieving, Christmas has still come.

The best gift needed no tree, but died on one so you can receive the gift of eternal life with Him.

He simply loved you that much! It had nothing to do with who you were or where you were from, whether you were rich or poor, educated or illiterate.

On this day we celebrate the birth of Jesus,

He brings you the gift of new life in Him, with Him. He wants to dwell in your heart and walk with you through life’s ups and downs. All He asks is that you open your heart and receive Him.

When you are given a gift, your part is to open and receive it.

I have so much enjoyed sharing His story with you these last few weeks. I pray the Lord allowed you to sense Him in a special way.

Merry Christmas! Shalom!

When Calm Stilled the Night

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It has been easy to be myopic in 2020, to see the world only through a nearsighted lens. At a time, the entire world is at war with a pandemic, our own worlds have shrunk as a result of limits regarding usual activities and time with people we love. We feel that even more as we approach Christmas, but in the midst of warring factions of all types in all areas of the world one example stands out to me as we approach Christmas Eve. Some of you may know the story, but it bears repeating when so much has sought to divide us during this year.

In July 1914 “the war to end all wars” began. Most of us know it as WW I and it still stands as one of the most horrific wars that mankind has endured. Men on the battlefield lived in trenches filled with the wounded, dead, filth, water, rats, and poison gas raining over them for four long years until November 11, 1918. For all the tragedies that occurred, “the war to end all wars” didn’t accomplish that mission.

On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV proposed a halt of fighting between the warring nations for the celebration of Christmas. The leaders of the nations rejected his proposal, and the war went on, but then on Christmas Eve a strange thing happened along the 400-mile battle lines that had already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives during the previous months of battle.

Later in the evening on Christmas Eve the sounds of gunfire began to quiet. Soldiers waited in uncertainty wondering what their enemies would now do. And then in the midst of the cold, wet, muddy trenches came a sound no one expected – the German soldiers began to sing “Stille Nacht” that the English soldiers knew as “Silent Night” which had first been written in German. Confusion slipped away as the English soldiers listened and then began to sing back the familiar song. The men in the trenches had determined they would determine a ceasefire the nations’ leaders would not. What began in one spot soon began to occur at other locations along the long battle line.

Photo copyright by Alamy in Wikipedia

The story of that night goes on with some saying that a solider from one side of the battle line called across the “no man’s land” and invited his enemy to meet halfway between the trenches. Little by little men anxiously climbed out of their trenches to meet in the barbed wire space between the enemy armies.

Many of the men brought gifts of things they had received to share with their enemies – tobacco, chocolate, hats, badges, and alcohol among them. German soldiers reportedly lit candles along the edges of their trenches at some places. Handshakes were exchanged and songs shared along with the meager gifts they shared. Sometimes bartering took place as a soldier would offer a haircut for a tin of tobacco. There were stories of football being played, not everyone was in agreement with what was happening and it didn’t happen across all the battle lines.

It was not widely adopted in the areas of the front controlled by the French and there was no equivalent stoppage on the Eastern Front with Russia, but what became known as the “Christmas Truce” between the United Kingdom and German soldiers was a special time that was never again repeated. Violence returned to the Western Front, but some areas were without bloodshed until New Year’s Day.

It can be easy for any and all of us to complain about division that has increased over so many things in so many places. We blame leaders at every level and of every political stripe. We want someone to fix this, to make a difference, and to make this hard time go away…at least for Christmas. But what about the example we see in this story from 1914? What took place was not done when a Pope requested it. It was not a chosen path for the political leaders of the nations that did it. It was common men in the midst of unthinkable conditions that sought for the calm of a “silent night.”

What a powerful testimony!

History of such a truce was not repeated, but over and over again history highlights moments in time where one man or woman or just a few made a choice out of their own conscience and values that made a difference and sometimes changed the course of history for good.

How like Christmas when one ordinary man and women were chosen by God to be the earthly parents of the Son of God who would be fully human and fully divine and change the course of the world forever!

What about us, you and me, what difference are we making instead of waiting on those in authority over us to make a change? What has caused us to forget the authority as believers that God has given us and the commission to be salt and light?

Salt and light are most significant in the midst of darkness, shadow, famine, and distress and it is when it is most needed.

How can you make a difference across enemy battle lines?

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The Gift of Simplicity

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That night in the manger was a simple setting for the birthplace of a King. No thrones or crowns, no trumpets announcing his entrance, and no soft cozy bed for Him to lay in. The feed trough would have been rough wood and the straw used for padding would have been prickly. The sounds of the animals would have been the lullaby He first heard, and his first visitors would be the lowly shepherds (those on the lowest rungs of the culture at the time). What a simple scene for this profound entrance of the Son of God!

Thousands of years later the celebration of his birth more likely features a far grander display. Lights abound instead of the dimly lit stable that awaited his arrival. Glittering glass balls adorn trees trimmed in red, green, gold, silver, and every other color we may like instead of the cedar, fig, date palm and olive trees his family would have seen along the path to the stable. They would have been accustomed to walking long distances as a poor couple and feel fortunate to have a donkey.

The debut of Jesus on the earth would foreshadow what his life and ministry would be like. He chose the simple settings – hillsides, boats, breaking bread with a few close companions. He chose the ordinary people of the day, the common people – uneducated, often poor, those without vast theological knowledge.

Have you ever wondered why?

Could it be because simplicity removes the things that distract from what is most important?

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Consider the impact of a single candle lit in a window or a darkened room. It draws our focus and seems to quiet us, hushing the noise within us so we can hear more keenly the smallest whisper. It captures our attention more completely than a million little twinkling lights that fill a landscape, but never cause us to notice the individual lights within the display or give us time to pause and reflect.

For all that is different and that we miss about this Christmas season in the midst of a pandemic perhaps He has opened the door to simplicity once again and it is a special gift from his heart to ours – the gift of simplicity.

“Simplicity is the secret to seeing things clearly. A saint does not think clearly until a long time passes, but a saint ought to see clearly without any difficulty. You cannot think through spiritual confusion to make things clear; to make things clear, you must obey. In intellectual matters you can think things out, but in spiritual matters you will only think yourself into further wandering thoughts and more confusion.”

Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest

If this is a simpler Advent season during a time the world around us has grown darker, full of cacophony, and chaos, what would He have us see more clearly about Him and ourselves this year? Could He be preparing us for the Second Advent that is slated to be quite different from the first?

What does He want us to see in the gift of simplicity?

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Can we yield our disappointments over what we are missing to discover what gift we have been given?

Can these moments push back the sense of impending doom and shadow that would seek to undo us and rob us of the joy of the gift of simplicity born in a stable so long ago?

Will we invite Him in to whatever state we find ourselves so He can truly be with us as never before?

Is there something He wants for us more than a grand celebration?

“Even the smallest thing that we allow in our lives that is not under the control of the Holy Spirit is completely sufficient to account for spiritual confusion, and spending all of our time thinking about it will never make it clear. Spiritual confusion can only be conquered through obedience. As soon as we obey, we have discernment.”

Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest

We will never know unless we accept the gift and open it to discover all that He has tucked inside for us.

“The setting of priorities is not a once-and-for-all act. It has to be redone frequently. Balances shift. Circumstances change. Moods swing. Is it still God, in fact, with whom I have first of all to do, or is it not? Prayer is the place where the priorities are reestablished.”

Eugene Peterson in Run with the Horses

Let us delight in the gift of simplicity this Advent season and enter into quiet communion with the One who modeled this gift so we could learn to see more clearly and hear more sharply and defeat the confusion that would rob us of all He is.

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