Getting Stuck in Mistakes


A few years ago I sent an anniversary card to some friends of ours. Sending cards is an old-fashioned tradition I still love and I add important dates to my calendar to remind me. (That gives me credit for remembering that I honestly don’t deserve.)

After putting the card in the mail, I bumped into these friends while out and made mention of their anniversary coming up. They were very sweet, but reminded me their anniversary was another month and day than I thought.

After I got home I checked my contact list and saw that I had the correct date there, but when I looked at the calendar I realized I had only noticed their names on the date and hadn’t checked why. It wasn’t their anniversary, but a reminder they were to leave on a mission trip that day.

It was a silly mistake and one that was easy to laugh about, but not all of my mistakes are that way. I have made some mistakes in my lifetime that were far more costly.

A funny one our family jokes about now and also was costly happened when we were heading out on a vacation trip. It was one of those we had anticipated for a long time. Our kids were tucked in the back seat shortly after 5AM and with everything seemingly stowed away, we headed out as the kids fell asleep again in the back seat. Several hours later we stopped at the last plaza in our state and aroused the kids to get out and stretch and enjoy doughnuts and orange juice we had brought with us.

As we were all shivering, I walked around the back of our car where the trunk was still open. As I casually looked inside I didn’t see the clothes that were on hangers that my husband and I would need for most of the 10-day trip. I walked over to my husband and asked where he had put them.

It was then that he realized they were still hanging in the hall closet at home. We had traveled three hours by then and faced the dilemma of what to do. We could keep going and try to buy clothes on the way or turn around and go get the clothes. Ugh!! We were groaning over the lack of a better set of choices.

We realized that finding clothes would cost us in time we didn’t want to waste and also fray a budget already stretched tight. The cost of driving back seemed like the least costly option even though it meant driving back three hours in the direction we had just come from. There was a caveat that we called my parents who met us at the entrance to the turnpike we had first entered that saved us a little bit of time.

We picked up the clothes and headed back on the road again trying to handle our frustration at the cost in mileage and time. We stopped at the same plaza for lunch where we had enjoyed doughnuts earlier. It was a mistake we never made again on our many vacation trips.

“The thing about mistakes is, they become valuable when you learn from them.” 

Lisa Wingate in The Sea Keeper’s Daughter


We all make them and hate it when we do. Maybe it’s because of the cost of some of them to others or us. Maybe it’s because it spotlights a flaw. The cause doesn’t change the feelings we have when we make them even though they do become valuable if we learn from them.


Some of us, however, get stuck. We start to believe we are defective because of our mistakes instead of recognizing we are human and prone to make mistakes. When we get stuck in that erroneous pattern of thinking, we paradoxically set ourselves up to more likely make the mistakes we fear. Our overreaction results in messing up.

The peril of getting stuck in “mistake mentality” sets us up to also be tempted to make bad choices. It started in Eden when Cain, the farmer, and Abel, the shepherd, each made a sacrificial offering to the Lord. Abel’s pleased the Lord and Cain’s did not. Cain couldn’t handle the mistake and loss of favor from the Lord. He hated Abel’s favor and chose to murder him because of it.

The temptation to condemn ourselves when we make mistakes of any size plays into the devices of the evil one who nudges us to believe lies about the whole situation. Left unchallenged, we can become prisoners to the lies and miss the extraordinary things God has in store for us.

Our best response to mistakes is to humbly accept we made them and correct anything we can, recognize we can receive grace for them, learn from them, and walk in freedom while still knowing there will be other mistakes ahead.

“How sad, I think now, to live an entire life blinded by the ordinary, when the path to the extraordinary waits just beyond the well-meaning prisons of your own making.” 

Lisa Wingate in The Sea Keeper’s Daughter


Feasting with the Threshers


Photo by Pam Ecrement

The fragrance of my father’s smoked ham and baking pies permeated every room in the house. As I walked into the kitchen, it was evident all my mother’s preparations had started early that morning. Potatoes were simmering on the stove, tomatoes were waiting to be sliced, and fresh green beans needed to be snapped.

I knew that was my first job of the day before setting the table that was already extended as far as possible to accommodate the threshers that were working in my father’s fields to reap the wheat he had sown last fall.


This was my favorite time of the year and one of my favorite meals. My mother, Delight, was every bit of her name in the kitchen. She had carefully planned for a bountiful table for when the men came in at lunch to eat. She had learned to do it when she was a girl in her own home and now it seemed not to be a chore at all for her.

I never tired of the delicious taste of my father’s smoked ham and a favorite pastime of mine was to slip through the English roses that lined the path to the smokehouse and peek inside at the sides of ham and bacon hanging from the ceiling.

As I finished snapping the beans, my mother was busy mashing the potatoes, and collecting the ham drippings for the gravy. Rolls were waiting to go into the oven where the pies had been a short time ago. Ears of corn were waiting to be dropped into a boiling pot.


I peeked around the corner of the kitchen to the sideboard where the pies were cooling. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. The men would not be disappointed today. No one made better pies than my mother and certainly no one had mastered the crust she created. There would be apple, peach, raisin cream, and two cherry pies. We had finished picking the cherries only a few weeks ago and finished canning nearly 40 quarts of them one day.

I hurried to set the table as the sound of the combine stopped and the men started to make their way to the house. It was a festive time for everyone and the conversation around the table would be filled with stories of other years where harvests were not as good, other farms that might be failing, and the satisfying enjoyment of my mother’s feast laid before them.

It was such a celebration at this time every summer as we gathered the harvest, the fruit of my father’s labor, and blessed those who were hired to help bring in the harvest and enjoy the best lunch anywhere in the township where we lived.

This time of year always brings back these memories and the legacy I learned in childhood of sowing and reaping, harvesting and celebrating the evidence of the planting and tending.

I loved benefitting from all of it, but the clear evidence of the spiritual principles that were being demonstrated during this annual tradition did not begin to soak in until I was older and my father had stopped the bulk of his farming.

As I stopped at the orchard this week to buy rather than pick cherries and peaches, my thoughts returned to the precious legacy I had been given. I also reflected on what the bounty of the Lord’s table will be like when He harvests all He has planted in our lives, in His body, the church, and on the earth.

What a great celebration that will be!

How much He must anticipate inviting us to His table. I cannot imagine the fragrance of that banquet, but I am sure I will be amazed at His bounty and so grateful for the invitation to be there.

Photo by Ian Turnell from Pexels

Journey into the Unknown


I confess to being a Star Wars fan. Our family has great memories of waiting in line to see the very first in the movie series, Episode IV-A Lost Hope that was released May 25, 1977. It was a given that we were looking forward to Episode VII-The Force Awakens when it was released December 18, 2015. (We loved and went to see all other episodes even though we are not typically sci-fi fans.)

The series brings back images of westerns of an earlier time period where the battle between good and evil was somehow clearer than many movies today.

I think our hearts are captured by the conquest of the good and right standing against the evil. Perhaps it gives us hope in our own battles and conquests that ultimately good will win out over evil, light will prevail over darkness.

When Star Wars came on the scene it took us on journeys into the unknown. There were galaxies beyond our own to discover, bizarre and eerie characters to study, and sorting out the truth about “the Force” accompanied by a musical score that accentuated the story unfolding on the screen. That same musical score would be etched in our memories as high school bands learned it and used it as a highlight of their halftime shows at fall football games.

I wonder if we recognize movies about treks into space are not the only journeys into the unknown.

Each of our days is just such a journey. Yes, I make plans and think of seasons of life common to us all, but each day unfolds revealing how little control I have over its twists and turns. Somehow I can feel less excited about that than I might in a movie.


My journey into the unknown requires so much more of me than a space movie.

One of my favorite Bible stories of journeying into the unknown is found in Joshua. For as horrible as conditions in Egypt were for the children of Israel, it became clear soon enough after they crossed the Red Sea that the trek they were beginning would expose them to much they had never seen or experienced. The conditions would not be easy and we know how they faltered under the leadership of Moses and balked at times when Joshua took the lead.

The Israelites were stepping off into the unknown, but have we forgotten that it was not unknown to God?

God knew the destination and had planned for the route He desired them to take. He also knew it would birth a new level of faith and trust in the people He had called out of slavery in Egypt. The conditions they faced would not be comfortable, but that was less significant to God. He knew these conditions would be temporary, but the development of their faith and trust would endure forever.

The Israelites needed to learn God could be trusted.

So do we.

The Israelites needed to know the land the spies had described that was flowing with milk and honey was not to be the source of their faith. Their faith and trust needed to be in the One who had bequeathed the Promised Land to them.

Page by page in the book of Joshua we discover the challenge to grow in faith that God was good and was for their good as they wandered day by day extending into forty years of their lives. The children of Israel also needed to come to grips with the unexpected challenges they faced and the fears that sought to overtake them.

I wonder if the journey was less about gaining the Promised Land and more about believing that God could be trusted.

Isn’t His first and foremost desire to be in relationship with and for us to know Him as He truly is? To know He is good. To know He is trustworthy. To know that our unknown is not unknown to Him.

Consider this…

Is that what He also wants us to see on our own journey into the unknown?


The Hem of His Garment

Pain is a subject and an experience we would all like to avoid, but living life in this world means we will all experience some form and variation of pain more than once. Sometimes it will be as minor as a pin prick. Other times it will upend our lives physically, emotionally, relationally, spiritually, and financially, and we will feel overcome with the grief and exhaustion of it all and wonder if we will survive.

In The Hem of His Garment:Reaching Out to God When Pain Overwhelms, author, Dr. Michelle Bengston, opens us to her experience and heart as a neuropsychologist and pain sufferer to offer hope and guidance for those who are in pain or are watching a loved one experiencing pain. Even if the reader is not in pain now, you likely have been or will be.

“We can consider pain a storm: We often have little forewarning of it, we feel trapped under it and miserable during it, and we have no inclination of how long it will last or how we will get through it.”

Dr. Michelle Bengston

How often we are asked to describe our pain and give it a numerical number for intensity? It’s an impossible question to answer for the pain sufferer to answer most times. It’s an experience invisible to the one asking. When I have been asked, I never knew how to answer the question and usually felt inept as a result. But add to that something the author calls “secondary pain” and you may well be able see how clearly this book understands what you have experienced or are experiencing.

“Secondary pain is the painful experience caused by the words or actions of others, either intentional or unintentional that worsens the pain we already fight. Frequently it comes in the form of blame or criticism, even if well intentioned.” 

Dr. Michelle Bengston

Each chapter of this exceptional book looks at another aspect of pain and provides the reader with an awareness the author has heard them, seen their tears and anger, questions about God and more. The result gives the sufferer a sense of not being alone and adds power to her recommendations of how to “go through the storm rather than camp there.”

Dr. Bengston’s faith will be evident page by page but absent the words so casually offered by those who have not endured it. She has endured cancer and watched her husband deal with more than one type of cancer. She has endured the roller coaster of emotions, the spiritual uncertainties when pain was at its worst, relational disappointments, grief from a miscarriage, financial upheaval, and depression. Her book gives a vulnerable look at each of these and shapes her understanding of what you may be experiencing.

“It’s a very fine distinction, but essentially pain is what we feel now whereas suffering is our ongoing experience because of today’s event. Suffering includes pain. Pain is the discomfort, and suffering is the process of dealing with the discomfort, a sense of pervasiveness resulting from pain.”

Dr. Michelle Bengston

The battle with pain exposes our need for God as nothing else. We feel powerless to overcome it and cannot fathom why He has allowed us to experience it. It challenges our thoughts about everyone and everything including ourselves and God. It is fertile soil for the enemy to whisper lies to us in the lonely experience of enduring the pain. And it is then whatever our relationship with Him was like before the pain that gives us the tools or lack of them to combat the lies. Then is the time we are challenged to trust his character when there are no answers to our questions or end to our pain.

Because “pain creates a common bond between sufferers” it “affirms that we are not alone in our suffering.”  And this describes what you will sense as you read each paragraph of this treasure trove of a resource. Her understanding and words will also remind you there is another who knows this common bond – Jesus Christ. He suffered in innumerable ways beyond what we can fully imagine out of his love for us.

I could quote numerous sentences in this book, but it could not capture the whole of the message it contains. It is one you will want to read for yourself, share with others, and keep on a shelf to revisit again. Let me leave you with this one:

“Sometimes pain and suffering are just that. They don’t always make you stronger. They don’t always build your character. Sometimes they just hurt. And there’s space for that without trying to wrap it up in a pretty bow.” 

Dr. Michelle Bengston

Foundational Issues About Authority


As I write this, I wonder what your gut-level reaction is when you read the word authority. It tends to be a word we are not neutral about. The reasons for our reactions can be many and certainly include what we have experienced with authority in our lives. One way or another we come face-to-face with authority very early in our homes with our parents and their surrogates. Soon afterward we connect with authority with our teachers, principals, coaches, and others in a school setting.

Beyond that, there are authorities that govern how we live our lives. Those are as basic as stopping at a stop sign or a red light and go on from there.

It doesn’t seem to take long until we can easily chafe at authority. We really don’t want to be limited by its restraints. More than ever we live in a time when we want to do what we want to do when we want to do it. Beneath that our western culture encourages that in subtle and not so subtle ways.

Sometimes our difficulty with authority can come from not only our experience, but also our confusion of authority with authoritarianism. Authoritarianism means the enforcement or advocacy of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom. Authority has more than one or two definitions, but prominent ones include 1) the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience; 2) a person or organization having power or control; and 3) the power to influence others.

People born into a Western culture and tradition have rejected painful experiences with authority and usually decided it is more noble and better to think for ourselves. As a result, in this postmodern age, we tend to discredit and distrust authority.

Our path to this place may be understandable, but it leads to a faulty conclusion and anarchy.  The world and we are not set up to function well without some levels of authority. Our bad experiences with authority or authoritarianism cause us to believe that our rejection of authority is justified. It implies we have accepted an “all-or-nothing” type of conceptualization. Instead of rejecting bad uses of authority or authoritarianism as bad, we fall prey to deciding authority in any form is bad. We should be wiser.

At a deeper level we often miss that the struggle with authority began in the Garden of Eden. God was clearly the authority and offered our relatives, Adam and Eve, a paradise with one caveat: one tree was forbidden. They appeared to accept that authority until the fallen angel, Lucifer, created doubt and encouraged them to think for themselves. Clearly, that didn’t work out very well for them OR us!

More than ever before in this postmodern Western culture, we need to press in to truly know who the authority of the Bible is and how He governs with love, grace, and mercy. The enemy is counting on deterring us from trusting the Lord and His authority. Lucifer still uses his old devices to create doubt. We can be tempted to believe his whispers and the voices of men and women around us who are not wisely informed. It can be easier when some of our brothers and sisters or religious authorities have also disappointed or wounded us, failing their responsibility to lead and guide as He would.

I once heard a pastor offer very wise counsel at the end of his sermon: “Don’t take my word for what I have shared. Go home and read the Bible for yourself and test to see if my words line up.” Those are sound words. Do we? He was pointing to the Bible as the authority we can and should trust.

God’s Word is the compass, the map, to lead and guide us safely home to Him. Never has it been more important to trust it more than the headlines or nightly news. His Word gives us the interpretation of what those things we see and hear mean. They show us that day-by-day His return is getting closer. Knowing Him has never been more important.

When I look into His Word, I find myself standing on tiptoe in anticipation of that day.



Photo by Pam Ecrement