Don’t Fill in the Blanks

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It happens so easily to us…

Sometimes it can happen when we are enjoying coffee with a friend. Conversation is flowing back and forth and then our friend hesitates and doesn’t continue with where the conversation was headed. The unfinished communication can leave us hanging and wondering. If we know the person well, we may ask about it but often we will not take that risk and later we start to fill in the empty spots in that part of the conversation with various speculations.

It can happen when we sent a note to someone and there is no response. The silence leaves us wondering if the note arrived, struck the wrong tone, or any number of other thoughts that might crop up. We are ripe for doubts about the relationship and whether or not we matter or are valued by the other person. Depending on what we do next determines whether we draw a little line in our hearts that make us less open to the person in the future.

There was a time not so many years ago when the pace of life was slower. Friends would “sit a spell” and visit on front porches over iced tea or lemonade. The fine art of writing letters gave opportunities to express yourself in depth without interruption. Back then even the handwriting and the paper used gave us a sense of the person and we often saved the letters to reread when we felt a need to reconnect with the other person’s heart or thoughts. Those were the “good old days.” But invention and options changed and before we could even catch up, we were moving from a phone that hung on the wall in our kitchens to a phone we could hold in our hand that could connect us to the world in seconds.

Communication became quicker and easier, but it wasn’t necessarily better. We started to catch up with each other in sound bites with abbreviations that not everyone knew. There was more and more room for misunderstanding and temptations to fill in the blanks of incomplete sound bites.

Be honest – how do you react when you send a text message or video clip and get no response?

Incomplete communication or silence when we have reached out stirs up our inadequacies and offers us lots of space to start having doubts. And it doesn’t just happen in personal relationships. It happens in our various groups and organizations, when we watch or listen to news of any kind, and even in our ministry connections. We start to fill in those empty spots with our own questions, uncertainties, and disappointments.

And it can happen in our relationship with the Lord as well.

Photo by Pam Ecrement

“While many sounds can hurt our ears, I think silence is the most painful because it can hurt our hearts. In the silence, we are tempted to fill in the blanks in our life, our future, and our relationship with God. And that’s dangerous. In the silence, we are tempted with doubt and fear, and, worst of all, we may resort to godlessness that sprouts from trying to make things happen on our own. Meanwhile, we’re prone to make agreements that are not founded in truth. Thoughts like God is not good, God is not trustworthy, and God does not care sink into our souls. Like a barbed hook, they don’t leave easily. Once the wound is inflicted and the hook ensnared, the infection of disappointment and disillusionment sets in. Before we know what has happened, anger surfaces, followed by guilt. In an effort to handle the guilt, anger, disillusionment, and disappointment, we draw a line. After all, lines are simple. Lines are straightforward. Lines make us feel safe.”

Margaret Feinberg in The Sacred Echo

It can and does happen in potentially any and all relationships. Trust erodes and the next attempt at interaction comes from a little distance and as a result adds to the dissatisfaction and the gap widens and the line gets reinforced and with it a callus starts to form on our hearts.

We become self-protective. We decide it is better not to pray so we aren’t disappointed more than we already are.

“I won’t ask God for anything he won’t give.”

“I won’t ask God for anything too specific.”

“I won’t ask God for anything too personal. Too meaningful. Too miraculous.”

“That way, neither God nor I have to cross the line. The line of self-protection works perfectly, except for one little problem: whenever we draw a line with God it’s as if something inside of us dies.”

Margaret Feinberg in The Sacred Echo

If the habit continues as it can easily do, we can find ourselves in a very dry and desolate place. We tend to isolate ourselves from others as the process is occurring and then lament that no one cares about us. We don’t reach out to others as we once did. We skip going to the group gatherings we used to attend. We sit by ourselves in a concert or congregation and each time we make those choices, we die a bit more inside and our hearts become more callused and can harden as well.

It’s not unique to this time and place. We see that many like David or Elijah believed they were alone, and God had deserted them along with everyone else.

The good news is that God continues to try to reach our hearts.

“…when we draw lines with God, he does not draw them with us. He is committed to breaking us out of our imprisoned thinking and renewing our minds and hearts and spirits with the truth. God wants to set us free and often he will use others to do it.”

“He wants to erase the lines, even the hidden ones, and bring redemption and restoration. No place is off limits for God. No hurt, pain, or disappointment is beyond his healing power.”

Margaret Feinberg in The Sacred Echo

That is truly good news, but there is another piece we need to recognize as well. If we drew lines that resulted in our hearts that made them callused or hardened, He longs for us to own that truth, confess that, and repent of shutting Him out. Scripture makes clear that He will pursue us, but He will not knock down the door to our hearts. Only we can open them to the Shepherd’s gentle knock.

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;

    therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.

For the Lord is a God of justice.

    Blessed are all who wait for him!”

Isaiah 30:18 (NIV)

Chasing Shadows

When Adolf Hitler and the Nazi war machine began to roll across the European continent in WW II, their confidence was high and one country they believed they could count on was the Netherlands. The Dutch of this country were considered by the Nazis to be Aryan brothers and they expected they would fold into the Third Reich easily. But there was one thing they had not considered or counted on – Dutch Christians across the nation considered a higher power than they and refused to yield to the evil schemes and demands of the Nazi war machine. The Dutch Christians stood on the biblical principles they held dear and many of them lost their lives in doing so. They not only sought to fight back with military weapons, but also fought back by developing a network of people who risked all to hide the Jewish people among them and later the Resistance fighters that needed a safe place to hide.

Lynn Austin’s newest novel, Chasing Shadows, gives us a glimpse into some of those people and that time period. The title refers to those people who were hidden for protection and could only risk slipping from barns, haystacks, and all manner of hiding places at night for a bit of fresh air or food. They are referred to as the “shadow people” in Austin’s novel.

This compelling story weaves together a series of characters in ways only God could arrange, or Lynn Austin could conceive. Their paths intersect in unexpected, often challenging and dangerous ways. The de Vries family is central in the story and their journey spans from June 1939 through the fall of 1945. Lena, wife, and mother, is a character any woman can identify with as she seeks to keep her family safe and provide for them amid danger and lack of provision for daily life increases each year. Other family members you will meet are Pieter, her husband, Ans, the oldest daughter, Wim, a son, and the youngest daughter, Maaike.

Lena and Ans are two of the three women who are focal points of the unfolding tale. Their lives change immediately when the Nazis invade their beloved Netherlands in ways neither of them expect. The third woman, Miriam, is a young Jewish woman, who has immigrated with her father from Cologne, Germany to the Netherlands to escape the rise of the Nazi hatred of all Jews. You sense the anguish and sorrow she and her father felt as they fled Germany and left the rest of their family behind who trusted the Nazis would never do what Miriam and her father believed.

One of the powerful themes of the story is how faith is challenged and evolves for each one of the characters in the story as it unfolds.

Lena and her family have been active in the church where her father serves as the pastor, but Ans has been eager to shun the simple farm life of her family and her uncertain views on their faith to move to a nearby town. Miriam has not been active in her Jewish faith traditions nor well versed in the Torah. But the challenges each of the characters face allows God to open their eyes in new ways to discover what they had not believed or taken for granted previously.

Tests come for each one that means they are left alone to wrestle with God and what they believe, and it makes it easy to pause and consider (as a reader) how any one of us would respond in the same kind of places.

When standing for your faith and godly principles mean risking your life, it puts faith to a test unlike others that life hands us. It makes how we love others (even our enemies) come front and center into focus and examines whether we are willing to lay down our lives for others we may not even know. Together these tests reveal how much scripture we have heard and hidden in our hearts and how the hymns we have sung have echoed in our spirits. In trying times these are the things the Holy Spirit can bring to mind to lead and strengthen any one of us.

This book will keep you turning every page as you deal with the uncertainty of what will happen next with each of these characters and others you will meet. The fate of each will not be clear until the book ends.

Let me leave you with a quote from near the end of the book that gives you a glimpse of how the faith of one character changes. The quote comes as she sits in church after the war has ended and begins to reflect on who she was and who she became on the journey you read in Chasing Shadows:

“As she listened, the past came rushing back to her – the discontent she’d once felt in church, her restlessness and longing for something different. And with those memories came a flood of guilt. How arrogant she’d been to say that the church didn’t make a difference in people’s lives. She’d had no idea how God was working in their minds and hearts. She’d chafed at sitting here week after week, but the words and songs had worked their way deep inside her just the same, and she’d found them rooted there when she’d needed them so desperately.”

Lynn Austin in Chasing Shadows

Let us never underestimate the power of scripture and worship music that can seep into us even when we have discounted them, but also let us take every opportunity to soak more and more into these things – and never take them for granted.

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How Is the Walk Going?


My favorite form of exercise is probably walking. I love to do it alone many times so I can take in all of God’s creation around me without distraction. I notice so many things I miss when my ears, eyes, and thoughts are wrapped up in my day-to-day living activities and concerns. I often go without music plugged into my ears so I don’t miss the sounds of the birds, the breeze, or the Lord’s whispers. Sometimes He wants to point out something to me and I would never want to miss it!

Other times I love walking with a family member or friend. It’s an opportunity to talk without interruptions from electronic devices and assorted other things.

Walks with several of my grandchildren would top the list of some of my favorite memories. It’s given each of us time to get to know one another in unique ways as we have shared. One of those times was a photo walk where our youngest granddaughter and I were looking for special evidences of creation to catch a glimpse of through our camera lenses.


My husband has also been a great walking partner often in our years together. I have especially loved times when he has told me the story of the latest book he has been reading. Because he is one who notices details, it has given me the sense of being in the midst of the book with him. One of his best stories was telling me about Undaunted Courage that chronicles the Lewis and Clark expeditions.

Sometimes the walk is solely for the purpose of exercise, but I love the walks that do not have that purposeful stride I am looking to have as I wend my way along a path or neighborhood sidewalk.

But there is another issue of walking I must not neglect and it can be one that I must be purposeful about. It relates to Paul’s words in Ephesians:

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Ephesians 4:1-3 (ESV)

Paul is stating an imperative in these verses. That puts it in the category of being an essential thing, crucial, vitally important, and a command, but what we fail to sometimes consider is what it means to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling.” That requires more intentionality.

Walking in such a manner means that I am looking like Him (or seeking to do so) not only in my words, but also in my actions, attitudes, tone, and posture in all things. After all, Jesus makes clear He represented the Father in his time on earth and was actually showing us the Father.

Am I (are you) showing others Jesus and the Father?

In this tension filled polarized world, how will that look for each of us?


The other words in the passage outline that, don’t they? If I am walking in humility, I am neither boasting nor trying to convey that I am right, my position is the one that clearly is most Christian, or trying to convince you that you are wrong. My social media is filled with postings from brothers and sisters that do not reflect that and I am pulled back to seek the Lord about what I post myself. Does it edify, build up, show love, promote our oneness in Him or does it focus on a position that can be debated and comes from my opinion, preferences, and experiences? We all have those (Me too!), but far too often they separate us; and, the body of Christ grows weaker when we promote them.

Each of us is called to be patient and “bear one another in love” and it is good to have those with whom we share those unfiltered ideas and opinions, but when they do not lead to peace and unity between us, do they result in a walk that is worthy of His calling?

In Paul’s first book to the Thessalonians, in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV) he exhorts the reader again about what walking in a worthy manner would look like:

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

In this case, Paul offers commendation for those who are doing it.

Am I?

Are you?

“Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”  

Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)

When God Gives the Vision

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Most of us speak of goals and dreams about things we hope to do or accomplish. A few of us might say we have a vision for our lives or a particular thing. Perhaps the word vision connotes something grander than we can imagine or we associate it with ancient stories we have heard. What’s the difference between a vision and a dream?

One way to differentiate between these two is this: a dream tends to be a cherished aspiration, ambition, or ideal while a vision is the ability to see or plan something for the future – something that does not exist.

We could likely point to a vision as being able to see something that perhaps no one else has seen and then proceed to develop or bring it about. If it is an inspiring idea that emanates from our own mind and wisdom, history shows it may or may not succeed with bumps along the road even if it does.

But when God gives the vision, I think it is invariably beyond what we can even imagine and the way it evolves and grows points to a source beyond ourselves. An Old Testament scripture speaks to this:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)
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I shared a story about a vision God gave to one woman I knew well in a post written in 2016 ( and then how God led me to tell that story in a book, Bring Me a Vision ( that details how God planted a small seed in a vision to reach those who have been broken and battered through human trafficking. Updates about how the vision grew appeared in another post in January of 2020 ( But the story continues to show God’s hand was there from the beginning moving the vision beyond one woman with a pack of sticky notes on which she wrote her phone number to give to the women on the streets to a drop-in center, a safe house for adult women, mentoring program, a safe house for adolescents and more. You can read more about this using the links included, but as I continue to hear about how this ministry expands, I wanted to give you a glimpse into how God’s thoughts and his vision grows beyond what we can think or imagine.

That’s just like God, isn’t it? He creates something out of nothing at creation and in all He has done since then.

Rahab began in one area on the streets of Akron, OH, located in Summit County and despite the pandemic opened two new drop-in centers for women in Stark County taking light into the dark street corners and strip clubs of Canton, OH, another town in Midwest Ohio that few would expect to have a reason for such a ministry to be needed there. Yet that is exactly what too often we don’t get. We see ugly headlines routinely, but often “the world has been pulled over our eyes” as The Matrix might say and we miss what is happening in our own communities in places we barely notice when we drive by.

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God sees and notices each one of those dark streets and the women who walk them and those who have heard the call to reach them go out to them, not with tracts but with the love of Jesus, not with judgment but seeing each one as valuable. When that happens, miracles begin to happen as well because love and light from the teams on the street are more powerful than the darkness and evil they have been ensnared in. Approximately 90 people make up the outreach team. Twenty-five of these walk the streets with a vision for the women they meet there and the remainder serve in the clubs. They offer an invitation to a different community than these women have known.

Is it dangerous? Absolutely, those who are trafficking these women do not want to lose their income stream that includes not only trafficking the women but keeping them on drugs to control them and the abuse they incur.

We may read about how Jesus responds to women such as this in scripture, but these are not women who will show up on a church doorstep or try to sit in our pews. Few will consider the call to go out to them and see a vision for some of the least of these Jesus spoke of.

In addition to the ministry on the streets of Akron and Canton, teams are now doing outreach in five different counties (three counties adjacent to those where Akron and Canton are located). Eight teams are trained to reach into 27 strip clubs over the five-county area and far more are needed in this effort as larger metropolitan areas begin to be tapped for ministry.

God’s fingerprints are evident in every aspect of this ministry since it began in 2002. How can I say that? Because He has always noticed those others avoided, rejected, devalued, and threw aside. And that is what this ministry demonstrates wherever they go. Not unlike the first disciples, the teams on outreach are really ordinary women whose hearts have a vision for those women who have none and do extraordinary work by following the leading of the Holy Spirit. Their obedience leads them to the exact street and to the woman God has a heart for they just happen to meet.

You may not be called to such a ministry but where has God called you to see something beyond what your natural eyes might see? If He has called you to something like this, be prepared for your heart to be broken and your eyes to see miracles happen.

That’s what happens when God gives the vision.

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Don’t Wait Till The Last Minute


The admonition, “Don’t Wait Till The Last Minute”, is one we all hear and have heard many times. Those words have come from teachers, parents, friends, spouses, ministry leaders, and so many others along the way including us. It is always sound advice and certainly intended to encourage us to accomplish a task, do well on an assignment, meet a project deadline, think through what we need to pack, and if we heed it, to avoid stress and disappointment in our performance.

Somehow those words often can result in feelings of frustration as well. We may not admit that, but it shows up in the tone of our voice when we respond to it. We do not like to be reminded of things we need to do much of the time. Perhaps it is our pride that anyone would suggest we didn’t have an awareness of the deadline we are facing. Perhaps it is our reluctance to dig into it and set aside the excuses and procrastination that triggers the feelings. Perhaps it is our regret at our commitment to complete it from the beginning. It is a reminder that our time is not our own.

Nevertheless, duties, assignments, projects, and the like are a part of our daily lives and something we cannot avoid. Time. We complain when we are older that we do not have enough of it. We grumble when we are younger that we have too much time on our hands and are bored.

Special Day at Peyto Lake, Alberta, Canada

Time is a gift. We spend some of it every day while never knowing what our allotment of time is.

We can feel we have no choice in how we spend it, but that is an illusion. There are duties for each of us, but the things we have committed to whether it is a job, a class, our family, a ministry, or anything else are choices we have made.

Perhaps the greater challenges, however, are the truly important things for which we never receive such an admonition and yet we should remember daily.

What kinds of things should we not wait to do lest we miss an opportunity? Here might be a short list that you can add to:

  • Tell those we love that we love them and why (Don’t wait until they are dying.)
  • Kiss our children and tell them something positive we noticed about them (Don’t wait! They are growing up so fast and they will hear so many negative things from others in their lives.)
  • Notice the world around you and become a good observer so you experience the wonder of creation and places where you may be needed. (Don’t wait to look up at the star-studded sky, smell the flowers you planted weeks ago, notice the neighbor whose steps are slowing.)
  • Take time to read and reflect on God’s Word (Don’t wait to discover the words the Lord wants you to hear from Him for that very day.)

Don’t simply add these to your “to do” list, but ask the Lord to help you keep the important ahead of the urgent in each day. It is usually the small things that are remembered by those around us long after we have been with them.

In God’s Word there are many reminders about time and our responsibility to be good stewards of that time. I was reminded of that again as I was reading in Mt. 25:1-13 about the wise and foolish virgins and the return of the Bridegroom. When we see the reminders we can be tempted to chafe again and add to our “to do” list, but I don’t think the Lord is as interested in our “doing” as in our relating to Him, loving Him, and loving one another.

Perhaps the truly important admonition is this: “Don’t wait till the last minute to receive Him, love Him, to love those He has brought into your life.”

Forest, Walland, TN