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Say the word after and there may be a variety of impressions, experiences, and emotions that follow. It’s one of those words we meet early in childhood and sometimes connects with the word before that I wrote about a few days ago. You likely can think of many examples from those earliest memories. You likely heard that you could watch a favorite TV show after your homework or after you finished your chores. You may have heard you could have that treat your mouth was drooling for after you finished your vegetables or whatever else you were not so excited about eating.

There were other places you heard it often as well. There were things you wanted to do or get. Maybe it was a special bicycle, a BB gun, a special dollhouse, or one of those expensive dolls another friend had, and you heard one or both parents say, “After you’re older.” As a teenager you still were haunted by needing to wait for things until after your grades came up, after you got a job, or after you got your license. In all these cases, the word after brought with it anticipation and longing for some time ahead.

Your imagination was also impacted by stories that were read to you or later that you read yourself that ended with that wondrous phrase ‘happily ever after.’ Every girl longing for a prince to appear knows that one very well.

That hope for a prince to sweep us off our feet often got tucked away inside us and didn’t die away easily as we looked at outward appearances of those who might look like a prince. They influenced our choices on both sides of a choice so we either became more tentative looking for perfection or had blurry vision that nudged us to make choices and discover later this was not a prince at all and be surprised we missed that fact.

As we got older, we became aware that not all anticipation was positive. Sometimes (perhaps many times) after meant uncertainty. Somehow, we should have recognized that before because we never really know what after will bring our way because it hasn’t happened yet, and we are not in control of it (even if we have a certain amount of influence on it).

We make plans for a special event while knowing that we can’t guarantee that a storm will not upend the party planned for outdoors. We need a medical procedure and after learning all we can about it and listening to what the medical team tells us to expect after it is over, we miss some of what is said. Somehow we filter the most positive outcome because that is what we want or hope, but they cannot guarantee that outcome and when we have more pain, recovery takes longer, or creates yet another issue, we see the fickle nature of after.

The most adventurous of us long for certainty and one thing we cannot miss is that life is filled with uncertainty (even in areas where we think we have control). We recognize that more as we age but that doesn’t make it any easier. Dreams we had don’t work out quite the way we hoped whether in our relationships, our jobs, or our health. Curve balls keep coming. And we are more likely to recognize we have been looking forward a long time without realizing how much more time now is behind us than ahead of us.

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Those curious thoughts about what’s out there beyond this planet and all we know of living when we gazed at the stars from our backyards as we were growing up begin to take on a more serious set of reflections if they haven’t occurred previously. What happens when these bodies wear out and our lives come to an end. Is it really an end for us or is there something else we discover? Some of us have settled that when we were younger. We were taught or heard there was life after the one we were living and what we did or were on our way there mattered. Of course, there were other opinions, but moving further into adulthood means we need to navigate what we believe and what our hope is based on. Do we believe and accept none of this universe was by accident? Do we see ourselves as part of something bigger, a larger story than just our own that we have been adding to each day?

Life keeps us distracted by more than a few things and if we are fortunate, someone or something lets us in on how many minutes we can waste looking at others for our identity, comparing what we have to them, looking at the small stuff and never taking time to check out the interior world of our heart which is where real life matters most.

“In the end, we’re all looking through a keyhole at eternity as we try to figure out our lives today. Don’t be distracted by how different you are from everyone else. Our hearts were meant to beat together, not the same.

If you want to dazzle heaven, stop being distracted being everyone else. Go be you.”

Bob Goff

Yes, we are puzzling now about many things. The Apostle Paul gives an observation about that:

“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”

I Corinthians 12:13 (NIV)
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If we are honest, his words are truer than we take time to consider. Many things are blurry. If you accept and believe in a spiritual world, then you know that we are living in two worlds now – the one we can see and the one that is unseen. What we know about the unseen world leaves more blank spaces than we wish, but if we believe in the One who is the creator of both worlds then we can get glimpses of it in the last will and testament He left for us – the Bible. He gives us peeks into what it looks like in the unseen world, in eternity. For us who are limited by what we can see, hear, touch, and taste, that requires faith.

And you see, that makes all the difference. Our creator points to what is still being created now that Jesus talks about after He rises from the dead before ascending into heaven. He gives those early disciples and us a promise on which to place our faith and hope.

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

John 14:3 (NIV)

No, we don’t know what all that looks like except for the word pictures Jesus left us, but one thing that has evidence beyond the Bible and shows up in historical record of the time He spent on earth – his promises are true.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV)

If we believe in Him, we can look at the after differently because we know He is waiting on us, planning for us, and that eternity is as real as any part of this physical world (even if you can’t see it right now).

“If you think of your life as a book that’s being written, start taking better notes. It will become a masterpiece one sentence at a time.”

Bob Goff
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Photo by Pam Ecrement

Now is the gift of the present nestled between before and after. It is here for the briefest of time and how we use it and steward it shapes the after even as it has been shaped by the before. In my world the now means autumn that is racing toward winter as the show-stopping colors of leaves have nearly all fallen from the trees and blown from lawn to lawn in our neighborhood giving the lawns a final shower of color. This now is a favorite season of mine but as November marches forward and days are colder and grayer, I delight in the now.

Many of us talk of enjoying the moment we are in while too often letting it slip through our fingers in our distractions and involvement with the details of life that call out for our attention. It can be easy to miss pausing long enough to take note of the sun’s placement in the sky, the lilt of the voice of someone we love, the taste of the coffee we gulp down to awaken us when we are drowsy, and so many other things. But these are the things when life is reduced to the basics that we savor the most when the debris of so much we don’t need is swept away.

“Sometimes we are so busy looking up and looking forward trying to figure out the next moves in our lives – or looking backward at all the places we have been – that we don’t look down and figure out where we actually are.”

Bob Goff
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Where am I in now? Where are you and why is it important to know?

It’s important because it represents life and what we do with it has consequences. If we use the now to squander our money, neglect our relationships, leave our talents and gifts gathering dust on the shelf, we will have devalued the gift of the present, the gift of now. That doesn’t mean we should be racing around every minute of the now, but rather realizing it is slipping like sand in an hourglass. Putting off what we have now for another time presumes we are the author of time and know how much we have ahead of us. The evil one who seeks to defraud us of life knows that well and uses all manner of tactics to keep us from taking the gift of now and breathing life into it.

“…evil wants to distract us from expressing our gifts and doing what we are meant to do. Darkness is rarely content to wound us with one decisive blow when it can injure us equally with a thousand paper cuts.”

Bob Goff

Most of us are familiar with the pain a small paper cut can create. It nags at us and causes us to lose focus for other things until it heals. Paper cuts Goff speaks of come with things like regret at a hasty word spoken without thought in anger, missed opportunities to speak a word of love or encouragement to someone, or even to set aside our spiritual nurture for too much time scrolling on the devices that surround us.

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We hear reminders about the important things, the things that really matter and how our focus should be on those very things while paper cut after paper cut in all forms pull us aside from them. The evil one would choose to do that because he knows it is in these other things, we will find joy. Reminding ourselves of that brings us to the powerful story in Nehemiah where the debris from the destruction of Jerusalem in the 5th century is the focus of his now. His focus and purpose are to rebuild it despite being surrounded by enemies who would dissuade him and those who help him. He tells the people with nothing not to grieve in Nehemiah 8:10 and ends the verse with the words “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

We are a part of the “information age” where it is accumulated and disseminated in more forms than ever imagined 50 years ago. Facts are important but we don’t need more facts and all the questions about their veracity. Our quest for them has not brought us more kindness, unselfishness, or joy.

“We need to block our view of the things that hardly matter at all, stop returning to the patterns that do not serve our larger objectives, start recognizing what is temporary and transitory, and instead focus intensely on the things that will last forever: our faith, our families, and our purposes.”

Bob Goff

Amid all that, Paul reminds us of about now:

“For he says, “I heard you at the acceptable time, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”[a] Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation!”

2 Corinthians 6:2 (NET)

What will you do with now?

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Before is a word we may not think of a great deal because it points to something that is about to happen that seems larger in importance than now. It is a time filled with anticipation but that anticipation may be positive or charged with fear and anxiety. Sometimes we don’t like the word before very much because it makes us wait.

Our memories are filled with things like that from childhood onward. Before you go out to play, you need to finish your homework. Before you race down the stairs and start tearing open Christmas gifts, you need to wait until your parents tell you it’s okay. And the list goes on and on for us. It’s some of those early memories about before that remind us of not only the anticipation but also the waiting.

Before also means preparation. We are often eager to get something over with to get to the next thing we think is better. We need to take training and pass tests before we can drive or do any number of things that require a level of skill or knowledge. As I write this, several come to mind immediately. A friend is soon to have surgery and was asked to prepare by doing various exercises to make recovery more successful post surgery. Our oldest grandson and his fiancee are eagerly counting down the days until they marry but first preparation means premarital counseling to better equip them for that new season ahead.

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When we are expecting a baby, all those months before he or she arrives is filled with preparation. Some involves the physician’s care, but there is so much more. The baby will need a special place to sleep, clothes, and a vast assortment of items to prepare. If you are blessed, you will have those who have gone through this process before giving you pointers on what to expect about labor and delivery, loss of sleep during the early months at night, and so much more you cannot know unless you have been there. These preparations are all vital to when you first hold this wee one in your arms and are struck by wonder and an awareness that you are now the one responsible for this little gem and those helping you in the hospital will hand off everything to you before you are sure you are ready. That all happens before as you prepare to go home and begin family life together.

We also will have more than a few times that we wish we had known more before something happens. We think we would have prepared more, been better equipped in some way. We both want and are edgy about getting warnings about something in advance. In many cases we are aware knowing more doesn’t help as much as we wish because we don’t really have as much control as we hope.

We are all living in the now and not yet, the time before whatever is about to happen across the entire spectrum of our lives. That can be and often does stir many feelings in us, but it has been that way since the beginning of time. A classic example is how we are now anticipating the days before Christmas even as those in Israel were anticipating the birth of the Messiah based on hundreds of prophecies. Some were preparing, others were not. Some were ready and believed. Others missed the reality of what occurred on that night in Bethlehem.

We’re living in a parallel time now. Prophecies tell us the Christ will return and we are living in the now and the before. We have not been given a date even as there was no exact date before He came as a baby thousands of years ago. How are we preparing and what is our anticipation about it?

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But as you ponder that, there is something else to keep in focus.

Before now, before the history of the world, God was preparing for us. He was preparing the wonders of the earth and all its beauty for us to inhabit. He wanted to make humankind for fellowship with himself and knew we would be fallible so planned before to send a Savior to heal our brokenness and make a way for us where there would have been no way without such a perfect sacrifice. As God and perfect man, He experienced life as we do so He could know the weaknesses and yet not falter or fail.

As a perfect parent, He planned for each one of us knowing that we would live in a world tarnished by evil, filled with darkness and trouble, disease and loneliness, sorrow, and disappointment. And He planned for that by promising to be with us before He returns to set everything in order and take us to be with Him. Even now, before we are in that time, He is preparing for us there. While we wait, we can prepare, we can call on Him. He invites us to do that.

Tucked into Isaiah is a verse that I have read often and been blessed by as I live in the now and not yet, the now and the before.

“Before they call, I will answer;
    while they are yet speaking, I will hear.”

Isaiah 65:24 (ESV)

Our challenge with that verse is we have difficulty believing it unless God answers in the way we want and in the time we want. He knows the whole story and our part in it and sometimes those answers are not the ones He has for us. Reading through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation shows us that but also shows us his faithfulness to be with the worst of us and see us through whatever our role is. Even now before, He is with us. He wants us to be preparing to be with Him.

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The Call to be Darkness Chasers Revisited

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I shared a statement from a pastor in a recent post that we are to be darkness chasers. What does that mean? Certainly we are not to be chasing after darkness, are we? Aren’t we to chase after the light?

Consider this: Jesus is the light of the world. His light exceeds any light known by or created by mankind. If we are His children and He dwells in us, we are His light bearers. There is no need for us to chase the light because He dwells within us.

For as dark as the world is becoming, we must remember that it is not filled with darkness. Darkness is the total absence of light and so long as we Christ followers are here, there will never be total darkness on the earth.

John 8:12 (ESV) tells us He is light:

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Where was Jesus when He said these things? He was in the temple to celebrate The Feast of Tabernacles. This, like the other feasts, was used by God to remind the Israelites in every generation of their deliverance from Egypt.


As a part of this feast a lamp-lighting ceremony took place in the temple every evening of the feast. Large lamps would be set up in the Court of Women and it was said that the lamps’ light was so great it that it filled every courtyard in the city. Once these large lamps were lit, there would be singing and dancing to celebrate God’s salvation, especially His deliverance in the exodus from Egypt. There He used a pillar of fire to lead His people through the dark wilderness.

When the Israelites followed the pillar of fire into the darkness of the wilderness, the light illuminated the darkness. When we follow Christ and become His, we no longer walk in darkness.

Wherever we go, we have the possibility of causing the darkness to flee so long as we are His light bearers.

It can be tempting to fear the darkness and cower from it, but the Lord did not give us a spirit of fear and He would have us be light that dispels the darkness as we travel the path He has set before us. His call on us is to let His light in us shine in the midst of the darkness. Within us resides the power of God’s light through Christ by the Holy Spirit. The darkness needs to fear that.

Do you remember childhood games outside after dark? Sometimes it was flashlight tag or some other game made up on the spot. No matter how dark the night outside, the flashlights chased away the darkness wherever the light was.


Many of us in childhood also learned the little song, “This Little Light of Mine”. The lyrics of the Veggie Tales version are likely the ones you know the best:

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. Hide it under a bushel – NO! I’m gonna let it shine. Hide it under a bushel – NO! I’m gonna let it shine, Hide it under a bushel – NO! I’m gonna let it shine, Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. Don’t let Satan blow it out. I’m gonna let it shine. Don’t let Satan blow it out. I’m gonna let it shine.”

I discovered the lyrics of the song when it was sung as a spiritual are just a little different so let me add those now as well:

“This little light of mine I’m going to let it shine Oh, this little light of mine I’m going to let it shine Hallelujah This little light of mine I’m going to let it shine Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Ev’ry where I go I’m going to let it shine Oh, ev’ry where I go I’m going to let it shine Hallelujah Ev’ry where I go I’m going to let it shine Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

All in my house I’m going to let it shine Oh, all in my house I’m going to let it shine Hallelujah All in my house I’m going to let it shine Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

I’m not going to make it shine I’m just going to let it shine I’m not going to make it shine I’m just going to let it shine Hallelujah I’m not going to make it shine I’m just going to let it shine Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Out in the dark I’m going to let it shine Oh, out in the dark I’m going to let it shine Hallelujah Out in the dark I’m going to let it shine Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

So, how do we assure that we are shining brightly and chasing the darkness as we walk out the life He has called us to lead?

It means keeping our light renewed and fresh; being sure we have oil in our lamps. When we see the ever-growing darkness, we must remember it points to the Lord’s soon return. As such, I believe Jesus would have us take heed as He taught in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins in Matthew 25. Let me share that with you from The Message:

1-5 “God’s kingdom is like ten young virgins who took oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were silly and five were smart. The silly virgins took lamps, but no extra oil. The smart virgins took jars of oil to feed their lamps. The bridegroom didn’t show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep.

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

7-8 “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.’

“They answered, ‘There might not be enough to go around; go buy your own.’

10 “They did, but while they were out buying oil, the bridegroom arrived. When everyone who was there to greet him had gone into the wedding feast, the door was locked.

11 “Much later, the other virgins, the silly ones, showed up and knocked on the door, saying, ‘Master, we’re here. Let us in.’

12 “He answered, ‘Do I know you? I don’t think I know you.’

13 “So stay alert. You have no idea when he might arrive.”

The call to be darkness chasers is one to keep our lamps lit and filled with oil as we ready ourselves for His return.

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The Gown

Few people had touched Heather’s life as much as her grandmother, Nan, so it was not surprising that her heart was wrenched when Nan died and Heather did not arrive in time to see her before she did. They had connected on so many levels and she berated herself for not making time to get to see her as often as she would have hoped.

To add to her misery, suddenly her job as a journalist came to an abrupt, unexpected end and she had no clear direction of what to do. When her mother said she had discovered a box of her grandmother’s that said “For Heather” on it she couldn’t have been more surprised or curious about what it contained.

When she picked up the box from her mother and opened it, she became even more curious. Layers of tissue paper encased several delicate and ornate embroideries that Heather had never seen. She had not known her grandmother did anything like this despite having a little knitting shop she had run for years. It also reminded her that for all she knew of her grandmother, there were many things she did not.

With no job and a mystery to solve about her Nan, Heather decided to travel to England using her love of history and journalistic research skills to see if she could discover the story of the mysterious embroidery samples apparently created by her grandmother. She hoped that might also give her information about her grandfather whom she never knew. He had not been spoken of by her grandmother after emigrating to Canada to be with her deceased brother’s widow. Everyone assumed he had died in England when Nan was pregnant with Heather’s mother

That adventure unfolds page by page between 2016 in Canada and 1947 in post-war England through the gifted writing of Jennifer Robson in The Gown, the historical novel of the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip.

This fascinating story will introduce you to Ann, Heather’s grandmother, living out her life following the death of her brother during the Blitz of Britain by working as an apprentice embroiderer for the William Hartnell Design studio famed for their designs favored by the Queen and her family. Working there will bring a woman named Miriam onto the scene whose life has been torn apart in France as her Jewish family was sent for their destruction to the east and she sought to survive working for Christian Dior after being sent to Ravensbruck and the horrors of that place. With the war at an end, Miriam believes she must leave France rather than risk encountering any of those who had harmed her, and it will be Ann who offers friendship when she arrives at Hartnell’s.

As the story of hardship in post war England unfolds the added dimension of the lives of these women becomes their role as the key embroiderers tasked with the finest detail work for the wedding gown of Princess Elizabeth. Creation of the gown was one of top-secret designation, but that too adds to the depth of the writing of this novel.

What will Heather discover of her grandmother and who will fill in the blanks about the woman she had loved but discovers she knew so little about?

If you enjoy a good historical novel along with other reading, you won’t want to miss this one that seems so in tune with the recent death of Queen Elizabeth.