Is That You, Lord?

IMG_1636 (1)

As I read in the Word about how the Lord speaks to us, I am reminded over and over again that He speaks in a myriad of ways. He speaks through signs and wonders, through miracles, in a booming voice and in whispers. He clearly speaks through His Word and through circumstances many times.

The Lord speaks to us above all else because He desires to be in loving fellowship with us. Fellowship isn’t just about getting together with someone to eat, but truly about companionship. The very meaning of the word suggests sharing each other’s interests.

The picture that comes to mind is someone who is walking with me through my day. Few lyrics capture this idea better then the hymn, In the Garden:

I come to the garden alone,

While the dew is still on the roses,

And the voice I hear falling on my ear,

The Son of God discloses…

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,

And He tells me I am His own,

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other, has ever, known!

He speaks and the sound of His voice,

Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,

And the melody that he gave to me,

Within my heart is ringing…

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,

And He tells me I am His own,

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other, has ever, known!

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other, has ever, known!


I know this hymn well because it was my mother’s favorite and I recall it being sung often in the small country church where I grew up. The words of this hymn describe perfectly the reality of fellowship with the Lord. I cannot help but think songwriter, C. Austin Miles, knew something about fellowship when the hymn was published in 1912.

Today we are blessed with such a variety of powerful worship music that hymns are sung far less often than they once were. Sadly, some children might grow up without hymns being a part of their heritage and miss some of the powerful words and meaning they convey.

I can recall on more than a few occasions having the words of a hymn be something the Lord used to encourage my heart, lift up my spirit, and get my focus back on track.

Somehow they were able to cut through the noise of daily life and also the filters we can often have that cause us to be unsure of whether or not we are hearing His voice.

Our life experiences can tend to color what we hear so that we might tend to hear His voice as critical, harsh, cold, or unloving. Those experiences make it easier to run from Him than run to Him; but if we recognize the words of the hymn, we see the perfect example of what He desires in fellowship with us.

I love the way Richard Foster describes it. “The quality of God’s voice is one of drawing and encouraging. The spirit of God’s voice is all grace and mercy. And the content of what is being said is always consistent with what God has said before—we have a huge biblical witness upon which to test our leadings.”

If we have not learned the truth about His voice to us, the best news is that His heart continues to pursue us, to experience what it means to soak in the Lord’s love and care for us.

Our challenge as a disciple is to set aside our preconceived notions about whether or not He wants to engage us, our distorted views of what He might say or even think about us, and begin to seek to be present with Him. To quiet our internal noise and the cacophony around us will take discipline and practice, but such commitment will leave no doubt in the Lord’s mind of our desire to fellowship with Him.

Francois Fenelon wrote, “God does not cease speaking, but the noise of the creatures without, and of our passion within, deafens us, and stops our hearing. We must silence every creature; we must silence ourselves, to hear in the deep hush of the whole soul, the ineffable voice of the spouse. We must bend the ear, because it is a gentle and delicate voice, only heard by those who no longer hear anything else.”

May it be so, Lord!


Wisdom From An Old Poet


Many years ago while I was a Brownie and then a Girl Scout, I learned valuable lessons (along with having fun) that I really did not fully appreciate at the time. Age and lived experience have shone a different light on some of those things.

If you were in scouting, the first few lines of one song likely quickly come to mind. Until recently, I had forgotten the others.

Make new friends, but keep the old;

Those are silver, these are gold.

New-made friendships, like new wine,

Age will mellow and refine.

Friendships that have stood the test-

Time and change-are surely best;

Brow may wrinkle, hair grow gray;

Friendship never knows decay.

For ‘mid old friends, tried and true,

Once more we our youth renew.

But old friends, alas! may die;

New friends must their place supply.

Cherish friendship in your breast-

New is good, but old is best;

Make new friends, but keep the old;

Those are silver, these are gold.

The song came from a poem written by Joseph Parry who was born in 1841 and died in 1903. I am not aware of when the Girl Scouts began to use the words in the song I came to know or how often they altered all but the first stanza.

After several weeks of visiting some of my older friends, the words easily floated back into my mind and as I looked up the poem to recall the stanzas following the very familiar first stanza. I was struck by the truth of the poet’s words.

As a young girl learning the song, I could not have known or recognized how many seasons of life there would be and how those very seasons would give those words more impact. Back then, we girls made promises of being best friends forever, but we soon learned “forever” might look differently than we expected.

It would not take long before insecurity, jealousy, trying to feel accepted and a long list of things would separate those “forever” friendships. How fickle and immature we could be and for some of us that habit perhaps remained far longer than fit our actual age.

As we got older, we discovered there were other things that could bring about separation of friendships. Someone moved. Someone got sick or even died.

Later still, someone married and their whole circle of relationships and their location changed or someone went off to war and never returned or came back in ways we did not recognize them.

Of course, changes like this simply depict the normal patterns and cycles of all of our lives. No matter what the season or the cause; a change in a friendship is never easy.

Perhaps that is why the poet so wisely wrote as he did. He recognized we would be constantly meeting new people. Some of them would remain acquaintances even though we often call them “friends”. Some would become friends but due to a move, change of job, children, and so many other things, we might lose touch with them in the way we had known.

Realizing that, the poet reminds us of the value of friendship. New friends are silver. Old friends are gold. Perhaps old friends are gold because they have been refined by the challenges we faced together and still remained friends. Perhaps old friends became more mature and set aside those silly things that can separate us when we are younger.

“Friendship is never established as an understood relation. It is a miracle, which requires constant proofs. It is an exercise of the purest imagination and of the rarest faith!”

Henry David Thoreau
“Savannah Morning” (Photo by Pam Ecrement)


Ladies of the Lake

The course of any life can change in what seems like a blink of an eye and so it was for Adelaide Rose MacNeil who lived with her family on Prince Edward Island in Canada. In the autumn of 1901, her parents took a ferry to Halifax for a day of shopping with plans to return home by nightfall. But wind, rain, and darkness came without their return. Storms blew up often over these waters, but this storm resulted in her parents drowning and at eleven years old, Adelaide’s life was changed forever.

So begins Cathy Gohlke’s latest novel, Ladies of the Lake, as she invites us into the difficult journey Adelaide was about to begin. The loss of her parents was devastating but when her half-brother, Lemuel, determines that she needs to leave Prince Edward Island and the life she has known including her closest friend to go to a girl’s boarding school in Connecticut, Adelaide’s grief engulfs her.

Lemuel wanted this transition to happen immediately without recognizing the struggle Adelaide faced in doing so. She had always been in a two-room school with all the grades in the same rooms and now she was to board a ship and a train to go to Lakeside Ladies Academy. She was unable to even take some of her favorite things on the trip and would be living with strangers as an orphan.

Arrival at Lakeside introduces her to a girl named, Dot, who offers friendship and a welcoming smile. Little can prepare Adelaide for some of the challenges other girls at the academy would present but Dot would be steadfast, and two other girls, Ruth and Susannah would soon become allied to withstand the bullying they faced from some of the older girls and the strict rules of the staff. Their bond of friendship grows and soon they find a gazebo on the academy property to be the best of meeting places. With a growing bond of “one for all and all for one” they choose a name for themselves of “Ladies of the Lake” with promises made to always be there for one another.

The author introduces you to the way life at the academy unfolds with other characters who come into Adelaide’s life. The longing for her parents does not go away but the bond of friendship becomes a sisterhood of the dearest kind, but a group of twelve-year-old girls know little about the ways that bond can be stretched and potentially broken. They know little of what true friendship requires.

“Friendships require honesty, trust, nurturing, investment of time and means, and sometimes sacrifice.”  

Cathy Gohlke

Adelaide, Dot, Ruth, and Susannah discover that even the closest of friendships are tested. Ladies of the Lake will give you a front row seat to the testing this foursome faces over these pre-teen years into their mid-fifties with backdrops of the impact of WW I and the Great Depression.

“Jealousy, misunderstandings, competition, bullying, secrets, lies, shame, arguments – any number of things can fray relationships or completely tear them apart.”  

Cathy Gohlke

The biggest breach for these girls will come over a young man from a boy’s academy nearby whose family also lives in the area. Despite their efforts to deal with this challenge, the war will separate them unexpectedly while the boys and their families are shunned by the community as a result of their German heritage and the request of Adelaide’s brother to come to Halifax to help his wife whose second pregnancy has proved difficult. With no time to communicate and say goodbye hearts of everyone are torn and distance and lack of communication will lead to more misunderstandings.

The ”Ladies of the Lake” and their friendship and affection for the two boys, Jonas and Stephen become increasingly more complex and when the Halifax Explosion of 1917 happens Adelaide’s life takes a tragic turn. Her half-brother, his wife, and young son are all destroyed in an instant when the fires tear through Halifax like an atomic bomb. Only Adelaide and the new baby girl survive but both are badly burned and injured.

These events result in Adelaide isolating herself from the sisterhood she had been a part of and had already been challenged. 

“Despite their good intentions to remain close, each young woman plays a part in the failure of their friendship pact, and each middle-aged woman plays a needed part in seeking forgiveness, reconciliation, and in taking steps to tangibly demonstrate a path forward that they might travel together.”

Cathy Gohlke

This novel is written masterfully and most any woman will identify with some portion of the story of friendships that can provide so much joy and so much pain. You will want to add this title to your reading list.


Photo by Richard R. Schünemann from Unsplash

How is your day going?

If you are like most people, I know many of your days seem to be colliding with your goals and plans from the moment you awaken. There are “incoming” assaults from every direction and often from those you may not expect. That word “incoming” came to mind as I was reflecting on this. 

Any military person or one who reads of military campaigns knows the meaning of the word “incoming”. It is shouted when a soldier hears the sound of an incoming round or rounds against their position from the enemy on the battlefield. It’s a warning that an attack is imminent and taking appropriate action is necessary. It can strike fear into the hearts of those the shells are targeting and without good training, they can become immobilized.

But you may think that you are not a soldier perhaps or not a battlefield and yet that is what too many days can feel like. Before you have had your first cup of coffee, things start flooding at you from source after source. You know what I mean. You absently check your phone and find messages and emails requiring your attention, news that alarms you, and voicemails requiring your response. There are members of your household needing or wanting something or the phone rings or the pet you usually adore becomes a rascal. 

All of these serve to distract you from entering your day calmly and with time to quietly spend time with your coffee, the Lord, a Bible, and a journal. These are “incoming” assaults and for many of us, they seem to be coming faster and more frequently than ever. Our best efforts cannot seem to rein them in.

Sometimes we miss how we happen to find ourselves in the midst of these as just “an ordinary person.”  We also miss how we opened ourselves to some of the onslaught. We got caught up in the pursuit of information (knowledge) when the technology suddenly put it all at our fingertips. The sources kept growing, more organizations and businesses asked for our email addresses, texting became the norm as did social media platforms like Face Book, Instagram, and Twitter, to name just a few of dozens. 

Before we knew it our inboxes were filled up with hundreds of emails before we even got up in the morning and despite our best efforts to unsubscribe so we could see the emails we really wanted, most of them continued anyway. So were the temptations to look at social media posts for more than the time we took to eat breakfast or sip our coffee.

Could it be that we had succumbed to a love of knowledge in this “Information Age” and the apple we bit had impacted us in ways we could not have guessed?

As I was reading in Kings and Chronicles in the Old Testament, it seems life has not changed so much as the devices to pull even the best of us off course are many indeed. We would do well to consider what Solomon asked of God – wisdom! He sought wisdom above all else and was granted that and more. He, too, fell prey to the distractions around him and got off the path God had for him. 

The increase of “incoming” rounds tells an experienced soldier that the battle is intensifying and becoming more violent. That may cause us to wonder if we are about to lose but it would be good to consider a different perspective. Sometimes it is about the enemy fearing that he is about to lose because he sees good things happening that make him feel less confident. That results in desperate measures, tactics, and munitions. If you read or study any of the great wars that have been fought in the world, you see example after example of that.

Many of our knowledge sources now give us largely bleak information and there is a great deal of it that western cultures are flummoxed by after decades of seeming peace. The reports are often true as well as used to distract and create fear in the hearts of us all. There can be a sense of foreboding in the hearts of some.

Our reaction to all these “incoming” rounds needs to be to look beyond the big-name sources we were used to turning to and seek solid footing again. We hear of churches splitting and believers in the Gospel slipping away and hearts turning cold and miss the reasons for that as the battle intensifies and we see more signs of the end of this age that Matthew writes about in his Gospel. We also miss how many people in remote places of the world unknown to us are coming to faith despite risks of persecution and death. Such things should encourage our hearts and embolden our faith to see what we have opportunities to be and do. To anticipate what we who believe have been promised.

If you believe and have faith, what does that look like as God seeks to reach the whole world with the truth in these final days? Think of all those chances we miss each day. If we are harried by all these “incoming” rounds, we fail to thank the person serving us at the deli counter in our grocery store, neglect opening the door for someone with a small child, a cane, or a walker, never pause to greet a neighbor, rarely consider asking someone who is not a close friend or family member how we can pray for them, and more. All these give witness to our hope and the source of it.

The pandemic we all experienced has ended but the resilience we lost during that time takes a long time to replace. We came out of it eager for recreation, travel, filling our days with things we couldn’t do before and less aware of the “incoming” assaults camouflaged in these fun things that also took us away from still needing to quiet our hearts and minds and settling our spirits. John Eldredge’s great book, Resilience, gave us a reminder of that and a pathway to rebuild. Did we? The world we live in fatigues us on a regular basis without a pandemic and we are vulnerable.

We need to take time to remember God is with us and restore our union with Him daily, so the “incoming” rounds do not upend us. We cannot dabble with Him and be available to Him for that to happen. 

God wants what is best for us and it is we who often miss it.

“Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because He would give the best, and man will not take it.”

George MacDonald

Photo by Oleksandr Canary Islands from Pexels

Traveling in the In Between


I once heard a speaker say, “We all need to get through the swamp. The trick is to know where the rocks are.” That’s because he also knew that change is certain in life. That means we will go through a number of “in between” seasons. Such times of transition are pivotal because they tend to forecast how well we will enter the new season with its own tempos and rhythms.

Looking back over my shoulder some of those times in my life stand out in bold relief. There is that much clarity and almost a visceral response for these. Others are “normal development tasks” such as going to college, getting married, having a first child, and getting a first full-time job.

Of those that create almost an HD video experience, my husband’s deployment to a war zone while I was pregnant with our first child would likely top the list. Close behind it would be a season where both of my parents became ill and died within three months of each other. Their care and responsibility for a younger mentally handicapped brother fell to me. Others on the list would include the season when I was teaching full-time as well as being a wife, a mom, and going to graduate school part-time. Changing careers at 50 would be another. Each of these created an unsettling upheaval in the cadence that had been my life before it happened. Each also produced growth in every area of my life.

More than one factor will influence how we fare as we trek through the “in between”. The depth and breadth of our spiritual life will be pivotal. Another factor that will have a major impact is how close we are to our spouse and family. A third is the level of flexibility and adaptability typical for us.

If we have healthy relationships, we will enjoy time together with our closest family members and time apart. We will chafe a bit at change, but move forward. We will see possibilities for the next season. (How we balance that will affect the quality of closeness we experience.)

What do I mean?

If we are part of a family or relationship that is too close, we can become more dependent on each other. Any change in status of any member, any alteration in rhythms, might create fear or insecurity. These can open the possibility of using manipulation or guilt to return the family or relationship to the status quo. If there has been very little closeness, disconnection and more extreme independence will result.

Our flexibility will influence how you or I respond to any of this in the “in between”. By that I mean how well we manage and adjust to changes. That is even truer when our roles in the family or relationship change as a result of a normal developmental period, stress, or crisis. If there is a healthy balance between consistent stability and change, the “in between” or transition, then the person, relationship, or family will experience growth on the other side of it. They will discover the relationships have moved to a stronger, deeper level.

Letting go tends not to be easy. The familiar somehow comforts us and convinces us that our worlds are safer somehow. Letting go sometimes shows us our tendency to try to control our environment and those in it.

Traveling through the “in between” will be best accomplished with a companion, someone who has walked through, lived through such times. (They will know where the rocks in the swamp are.) Choosing the right companion will make all the difference.

As I look back over my shoulder, I see that I did not always choose the right companion when I was younger. Sometimes I relied too much on trying to be strong or even allowing myself to be weak. Sometimes I tried to avoid the reality of the change and other times I was too clingy with someone.

I have discovered the best companion to travel through the “in between” is Jesus. He has experienced what it is like and walked it out perfectly. He not only knows where the rocks are, He is the rock.

The key is what the quality of that relationship with Him was like before the “in between” arrived.

Stream at Blackberry Farm, TN

Photo by Pam Ecrement