According to the dictionary choice means “an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.”  The challenge for us is how often we have a love-hate relationship with making a choice. We want the freedom of choice, but that requires us to think and consider what we really want or need. That is not always easy to decide.

When I use the word “choice” or “choices,” most of us will automatically have some of the major choices of life come to mind: where we will live, whom we will date or marry, what school we will attend, and what work we will pursue.  You’re right! Those are BIG ones for sure.


Have you considered how early in life we are asked or told we need to make such choices?  It happens so early that we may not possess enough information or experience to be sure of what choice to make.

I watch my grandchildren who are in the midst of so many choices about what college or major he or she will select, what medical school is the best option, or where to pursue an internship. Think about how old a person is when those decisions come along. Then consider how much more you know about yourself and the world around you when you are 30, 40, 50, or older.

But those are the headline types of choices. What we fail to recognize at times is that each day, each hour, we are making dozens of choices. Some of them may not affect the course of our life ahead, but all of them will have consequences. And what helps us most in making choices is when we have opportunities to make them when we are really very young. If we do, it gives us a chance to learn in hopefully a safe environment with our parents and to experience the consequences of our choices when their love, experience and grace can help train us to be better at decision-making.


Every time I say, “yes” to something, I am automatically saying “no” to everything else.  Every time I say “no” to something, I am saying, “yes” to something else. And we do it so often in those small choices that we rarely take time to think a lot about the results.

Every day we make a choice about when and if we will get out of bed, what clothes we will put on, whether we will eat breakfast or not and if so, what we will eat. We will make a choice about what route to take to work and what time we leave to get there and how we feel about what is required of us that day. We will make choices about how we respond – to those with whom we live, work, play, and minister.

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As these choices start adding up month-by-month, year-by-year, we inevitably are choosing the course of every area of our lives until we arrive at mid-life and sometimes wonder how we arrived where we are. In those cases, I am talking less about those major decisions I mentioned earlier and more about those little choices that become habits and a lifestyle without a lot of consideration on our part.

Those little choices lead us to how healthy we are in every area of our lives: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, and financially. Those with whom we live and interact, what we read or watch, what we tune out or what we tune in, heavily influence those little choices. There is a continual selection process going on. Yes, our DNA and our personality influence us a great deal, but these other things are key.

How did we get here?

No matter where we live, how old we are, what our education, what our culture, what our financial condition, etc., God gave His most significant creation – mankind – the freedom of choice. He even gave us a choice about whether or not we would recognize Him, call Him God, choose to believe in His Son, Jesus, and whether or not we would follow Him and in what way we would do that.

What a risk He took!

Most of us have failed miserably along the way…more than once, but He has never ceased to pursue us. He has permitted many things in our life that we question or wonder how a loving God could permit, but He has not sought to ever harm us.

He longs for us to know Him, even though He is beyond our understanding. He longs for us to discover how fierce His love is, even though we cannot grasp the full height and depth of it.  He longs for us to enjoy His presence, even though we often don’t make a lot of time to simply be with Him. He longs for us to stand in the midst of trial, even though we wobble and weaken to the point of sometimes sitting down. He longs for us to reflect Him, even when we often look more like the world than Him.

Many of us know the Old Testament Bible stories about heroes of the faith like Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Esther, and more. One passage in Joshua still applies to us each day as we make choices:

“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”   

Joshua 24:14-15 (ESV)

It isn’t the gods beyond the river, in Egypt, or those of the Amorites that may tempt us, but many other things do tempt us. Each day we must choose whom we will serve. That choice will affect every other choice we make and influence every consequence.

He chose us first:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”

Ephesians 1:3-4 (ESV)

To be chosen and hear the “Yes” of God means that He said “No” to Satan’s realm, to the second death, to utter darkness and pain. It means He has fashioned and purposed me for His Kingdom.

My choice of Him is a freedom He gave me.

My answer was “Yes.”

What will your choice be?


What Remains as We Near the Finish Line?


In 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT) Paul writes to remind us of what will last forever:

 “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

Most of us who are believers know that verse in one translation or another, but have you ever considered what that looks like or how those foundation stones are built or develop?

To gain a better understanding of the materials that go into building that foundation 1 Peter 1:25 (ESV) gives a significant clue:


“but the word of the Lord remains forever,  And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”

So does Isaiah 40:8 (ESV)  “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

Certainly faith, hope, and love are built in more than one way, from more than one source or experience, but undoubtedly God’s Word does more to point to, teach about, and show us these three attributes consistently than anything else. Perhaps that is because they are God’s reminders and lay a foundation from which our lives can build and grow.


If we neglect our physical bodies and fail to eat regularly and healthily, we grow weak and may become sick. If we neglect to ingest scripture regularly, the same happens in our spiritual lives. No matter how many great sermons we hear, no matter how grand our worship may be, and no matter how inspired our relationships aid us, I think what will last the longest will be the foundation of the Word.

That isn’t new news to most of us, but I was reminded of that this when I visited a friend of nearly 45 years. She was 92 and lived in an assisted living facility. Her husband had died eight years before and her four grown children and their families were scattered across several states. She was formerly an elementary school teacher and also a Sunday School teacher.

She was waiting for me at the door when I arrived and kept a snappy pace with her walker as we went to her own apartment. Less than two years before  she had a hip replacement at an age most people could not have done one, but her health was good enough and the pain great enough that she chose to do so. She told me again on this visit how delighted she was to have made the choice because she had no pain now.

Before we even arrived at her apartment door, she looked at me and said, “I’m regressing.”  She was talking about her memory and how often she now forgot things or could not recall some things. She said it saddened her, but I reminded her that when I called to plan the visit she recognized my voice before I ever said my name.

As we visited and shared about how each of us was doing, a bit about children and grandchildren, there were times when she could not recall a name or some other piece of information. But throughout that conversation she often quoted scripture that fit the topic we were discussing. It flowed out of her without hesitation even though she did not always add the chapter or verse.

It was a powerful reminder to me of the foundation laid down in her life when she was a young girl. Scripture was something her parents had taught her and then encouraged her to pursue on her own as she learned to read and study. With the psalmist (Psalm 34:8) she had tasted and seen the Lord was good. Now, so many years later, she still held to that truth. It had sustained her through each season of her life. The foundation was laid early and from it grew strong roots of faith, hope, and love.

Instrumental music of hymns and worship music surrounded her throughout her day from a playlist one of her sons had set up. Even that immersed her and brought to mind many favorite scriptures of hers.


It might be easy to say she was unique and of course she was, even as each of us is. But I believe what remains in us as age advances and health begins to fail is the spiritual foundation upon which our lives have been built.

My younger brother was mentally and physically handicapped as well as suffering from mental health issues before he died 11 years ago. He was difficult to care for a great deal of the time, but even then he could easily start singing verses of a hymn he recalled from childhood or finish a scripture that someone else might start to quote. He was quick to ask visitors to pray for him. Even in this vessel, the scriptural foundation was present when all else was crumbling.

Most parents will never see the mature fruit of this foundation they have the opportunity to build.

My friend’s parents have been gone for many years and mine died before my brother, but it is abundantly clear that what young parents invest results in a rich harvest.

The wisdom of Solomon is right:

  “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)


Time in the Times


Photo by Pam Ecrement

J.R.R. Tolkien left us with many thought-provoking words in his literature. Many of them are quotes that we recall long after we have read the book or watched his series The Lord of the Rings in movie form.

One of those that come back to my mind often is from The Fellowship of the Ring. It is a conversation between Frodo and Gandalf. Some of you may recall it as well. Frodo is wishing the thing that had fallen to him to do had not happened during his lifetime. Listen to the words Tolkien uses to provoke each of us:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”


The time that’s given us…none of us know how much that may be, but it is one that we consider more often when we step into the season of retirement. Whether we enter this season eagerly or reluctantly, one thing is certain: we know we have less time ahead than what we see in the rearview mirror.

The consequences of that truth influence us to be clearer on what we choose to occupy the time in this new season. Most of us are more doggedly determined to spend it on what we value most. We can also be highly resistant to anyone else to direct how to use it or invade it with his or her own priorities for us.

A favorite book that my husband and I have appreciated is The Gift of Years by Joan Chittister. If you are in this season (no matter what age) and have not read this book, I would encourage you to read it. But don’t read it too quickly, each chapter brings you things that cause you to smile, reflect, and evaluate.

Listen to how she writes about this time:

“The beauty of the later years, in other words, is that if we have learned through life to trust our own insights at least as much as we trust the insights we have been taught, we find ourselves at the end of a very long life with a very young soul.

Time has done for us what needs to be done. We have deepened as people. We have broadened as personalities. We have softened as thinkers. We have abandoned arrogance and authoritarianism for reflection on new ideas and respect for others. We now see newly, clearly, what in some ways we have never seen before.”


And so we often arrive at this season somewhat surprised we have gotten here so quickly. Others around us may see us as older or even limited while we may still feel very young and alive inside, filled with a sense of freedom to do and be what we have finally understood we desire if only time, health, and finances will allow.

We have handled the responsibilities of education, parenting, caring for our own parents perhaps, left our occupation or profession, and now we understand that beyond our relationship with the Lord, time is the most precious gift. It becomes clearer than ever that we do not want to waste it for it is the stuff life is made of.

It is a paradox that time stays at a steady rhythm throughout our lifetime from birth to our death, but when we are children it seems to be moving slowly because we are rushing about eager for the next thing. We look forward to getting older and what we believe the privileges that age will bring us. But each decade beyond childhood unexpectedly feels as if it is picking up speed.

One thing that often reminds us of that is when we have a son or daughter who turns 30, 40, or even 50 or more. We scratch our heads and think, “Didn’t I just turn…” (Fill in whatever age that child turned).


We do not race ahead now saying things like, “I can’t wait to turn 70, 75, or 80.”  Now time is precious and we discover there are often many things we very much want to do or be. Unencumbered by the demands of the clock and the calendar, we delight in the gift of freedom to explore, discover, reflect, and linger with things or people that matter most to us.

It is not about reluctance to “go home to be with the Lord”, but more about understanding the gift of living life that He first gave us and more about noticing how amazing His creation that He set us in has always been now that we are not rushing through it.

However the times may be in this time, we are given the decision of what to do with it as Gandalf explains to young Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring.

What will you do with the time that’s been given to you?


Photo by Pam Ecrement

Loving Out in the Open

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I heard a sad story recently of a man who was dissuaded from accepting Christ because he had heard many words spoken or written about the Lord, but had not seen those same persons demonstrating those words in their lives.

It caused me to pause. Is that ever true of me? What would my neighbors say and what about the person who last served me in a restaurant?

Jesus made clear there are two things we are called to be and do: Love God and love others.

I love how Kenny Luck describes this in his book, Dangerous Good:

“The secret sauce of life with God – the secret of doing the right thing 100 percent of the time – came down to making a commitment to God and a commitment to other people.”

What does that look like?  We can say this, but what does it look like?


Most of us could come up with a list of things we believe answer the question. Things you would find on the list would include praying, reading the Bible, going to church, giving, and more. But it really all boils down to one basic thing: Do what pleases God.

That sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it?

I think it clearly means being obedient to Him. But to really become skilled at loving God and pleasing Him, I need to ask Him (more often than I sometimes do) what He thinks about something I am planning to do. It means conversing with Him on a broad array of things to learn what He says about that in His Word. It means when we ask Him during times of prayer that we also take time to listen to how His Spirit speaks to us. The more time I spend in my relationship with Him, the better I will know Him and learn what most pleases Him.

How well I do any of that will depend in large part on my conviction to discover what loving God looks like and how to do it well.

The second thing that Jesus taught is to love others.

It’s the best relational advice He could ever give.

Most of us are more challenged in that part than we wish or would like to admit. It can be so much easier to say it than to live that out (assuming we might know what that looks like).

Why is that very often true?


We all have a bent toward some degree of selfishness that can get in the way of loving well. We also have preferences for certain types of people and things we enjoy doing. If those preferences rule us, are we really loving well or does that stem from that sticky selfish part of us?

Most of us would need to agree we prefer to be with and do things for people whom we like. Doing things for those we may not like as well, may not be like us, may not think like us or look like us can be a different story.

If we love others out in the open, we will be attuned to those God leads us to as well as those whom He wants to discover His light and love shining through us.

Jesus modeled all this so well. He loved people first no matter what their status or heart condition. If we follow His lead He can show us the way and He will be glorified.

To love others well requires us to set aside our selfish natures and our preferences and think about how we would like to be loved. Kenny Luck calls that “the principle of reciprocity.”  The truth is that none of us can do that very well unless we are focused first on loving God. Both things Jesus requires of us are connected.

Loving out in the open and being/doing these two things is just that simple.  It is also impossible unless He is at work within us and we are relying on Him.

What are our convictions? That will make all the difference.

“Convictions will be the kindling. Belief will be the spark. Faith and trust in the moment will be the wildfire that turns the horizon reddish orange in a worldwide movement of God’s Spirit.”  Kenny Luck in Dangerous Good


You Were Made to Shine

Photo by Neale LaSalle from Pexels

The darkness that appears to be gathering on and hovering over the earth can tempt us to fear or lament, but if we are God’s children and He resides in us that is not what He is calling us to right now. The darkness is not to be our focus because we were made to shine.

If Jesus resides within us, then light resides in us. The gathering darkness should cause our light to be that much brighter as the dimmer manmade lights are overcome by shadow. We were called to be light, and life and He would desire to call that forth in us in ways only He can.

Sometimes we forget that despite how important our words are, who we are because of Him and how He shines through us should eclipse anything else.


Jesus said we are to be salt and light. If we are that, then we will not be pulled off into tangents of the day, cultural dustups, popular arguments, and causes. Those will only distract us from the culture that matters – His! It will also cause others to focus more on our words and views than the light that resides in us and the world has never needed that light more.

Scripture makes clear that as the day of His return comes closer, the world will become darker and things we would not have imagined will become the norm. Polarization will tear apart families, churches, neighborhoods, and nations, but that is when He most needs us, you, and I, to be set apart and to shine.


Imagine yourself in a jewelry store. How often are the jewels and diamonds there displayed on black or dark blue velvet when the jeweler wants to encourage you to buy some of his most beautiful pieces? That is especially true if you are looking at loose diamonds to select for a special ring or necklace. That dark background makes the beauty and light in the diamonds shine more brightly

Brilliance requires darkness.”

Kenny Luck

I think the apostle Paul knew that as well. Consider his words:

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.”

Philippians 2:14-16 (NIV)

The stars in the sky twinkle and gleam even though they are thousands and thousands of miles away because they are scattered across the dark night sky.

We are His workmanship. If the Lord has not yet returned, then we are to shine ever more brightly in the darkening world so that others might yet see and discover His grace, truth, and love before it is too late.

Cutting away the parts that detract from the beauty of His light within us so we can shine more beautifully is His work of sanctification. Diamonds are cut and shaped so the many facets of the gem can better reflect the light and fire from within the gem. And so, it is with us…or should be.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”   

Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,”   

2 Peter 1:19 (ESV)

We have been given His light so much as Tolkien says in The Lord of the Rings:

“May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

I wonder if when God looks upon the earth, He hopes to see lights in each of us scattered around the globe much as we see the stars scattered across the sky.

You were made to shine.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels