Saturday, September 30, 2017


I'm only borrowing the term. I'm not discussing a research or advocacy group or organization for social policy, political strategy or economics. I may, however, adopt a little of its purpose “to solve complex problems or predict or plan future developments.”

Right off I'll explain that by my “think tank” I'm referring to a dishpan of hot, soapy suds in my kitchen sink where I sometimes do dishes. “Do dishes?” Some of the younger generation don't even know what that term means. Stacking dirty dishes into an automatic dishwasher and later pulling them out clean is all they have ever known. Not so when I was growing up. Besides, the automatic dishwasher was not yet invented!

Standing at the sink while sharing the washing of dishes, rinsing and drying them with a dish towel and replacing them on the shelves was a task I shared with my Mom. Sometimes it was reluctantly and under duress when I was impatient to run off and play with my friends. In my teens that changed somewhat. That task became a leisurely time of intimate exchange with my Mom when we talked confidentially about all sorts of things without the pressure of formal face to face, “Let's sit down. There's something we should talk about.”

With hands deep in warm suds sometimes my mountains turned into mole hills and “complex problems found a solution and future plans were developed” like the big time strategy think tank folks hope to achieve. Whenever I had a friend from school over, we shared the doing of dishes and we were in no hurry to finish them while enjoying our private giggling girl talk.

A good friend and I recently discussed the pleasing and positive aspects of hand washing dishes, although we both had the latest models of automatic dishwashers. My friend claimed that with her hands immersed in warm soap suds, she looked upon that unhurried time as the “think tank” interval in her day for quiet reflection and the counting of her many blessings and thanking God for them. In our often frenzied, over-committed lifestyle these days, why not look upon this largely bygone activity as an opportunity for a refreshing oasis to bring some quiet order to our lives several times a day, if we wish? Don't we all need such a window of opportunity to put everything in perspective?

It doesn't matter what brand of dish washing detergent we choose, of course. It may be Ocean Breeze, Sparkle, Lavender, Coconut, Aloe, Lemon, or old standbys like Palmolive or Dawn. As far as I know there isn't one that's called Drudge, Galley Slave, Chore or Bondage. There must be a reason.

The brand I remember from my childhood was called JOY! I wonder if that brand is still available? When our children were young, and then our grandchildren, they begged to stand on a stool and "help" by playing around in the suds pretending at washing dishes. They had fun!

Why should I limit my adult JOY in this activity to my childhood? What matters is the attitude I bring to this household practice and the quality time I invest at my think tank haven that will determine my peace and pleasure either during a humdrum or a hurried, harried day.

Why not join me today? Let's make lots of suds and take a swish in that dish pan and see whether it might bring us into our own corner of peace? Most of the detergents tantalize us with the promise of softer hands. So what's not to like about that?

Thursday, September 28, 2017


In deciding what to wear on a given day, my preference is “comfort clothes,” especially when I'm anticipating a work day at my computer in my writing studio. 

Although they are not the natty, patterned camouflaged design like military personnel wear, I still call them my “fatigues.” Mine are grungy sweat pants or cut off jeans and unmatched, having-seen-better-days sweat shirts that I should have discarded into the rag bag long ago. Nevertheless, they are my favorite wardrobe.

The army fatigues are really quite dapper, with a variable camouflage pattern or monochrome shades of green or brown meant to conceal them from the enemy during battle. They approximate the terrain in which they are fighting—sandy desert, tropical jungles, or treacherous mountain warfare. When I wear my leisure clothes, I also attempt to hide myself and blend into the background. 

My fatigues are my camo clothes too in the sense that I'm retreating to my own comfort zone. I'm not preparing for battle—so I haven't put on my battledress. Recall what happened to King David in the Old Testament story who left himself vulnerable by not wearing his battledress. He sent his soldiers out to war but didn't go with them to lead them as was his custom. He hung back and took it easy—and got into a heap of trouble with a view presented to him while taking a walk on his balcony. One thing led to another and the rest is unfortunate history. The negative reverberations in his family and the kingdom lasted for his lifetime. But I digress....
Battledress for soldiers varied through the centuries. In the Middle Ages when knights went into battle they were saddled with suits of heavy armor. In this age of high tech warfare, soldiers still do carry a lot of heavy communications gear, survival stuff and ammo but their basic apparel is lighter and usually made of cotton fiber. 

Fatigues have become battledress now, much more serviceable than the more formal dress uniforms worn for parades or other military functions. 

Imagine how unsuitable were the full dress uniforms the British soldiers wore when they tried to quell the revolutionary conflict with the New Colonies. Fatigues are worn both when soldiers are working at some assigned duty and when engaging in battle. 

I want to focus on the concept of fatigue with an analogy to practicing our faith. Faith Fatigue is not Failed Faith, however. We may still hold solidly to our Christian beliefs. However, lukewarm faith, which God dislikes, may gradually set in when the journey of life gets long and perhaps after we have been Christians a good while. The first flush of our initial fresh faith has become dulled. Our high emotional spiritual experience may have slowly receded and we find ourselves flagging in our eagerness for spiritual matters. 

In His message to the Church at Ephesus Jesus called Faith Fatigue “losing our first love” for Him. (Revelation 2:4). In the verses preceding, Jesus commended their perseverance and endurance, “...and you have not grown weary.” That is His expectation for each of us, and He gives us the Holy Spirit to enable us to live it out as our normal Christian life. 

When our faith is fatigued and drooping, it may or may not be immediately evident to others because we are good at camouflaging ourselves. We blend in with a neutral background and no longer take a stand on issues that previously we defended with zeal. We drag our feet with Faith Fatigue. There are many facets to this kind of spiritual weariness including discouragement, loss, and the fluctuation of human emotions.

Being weary and being tired are not the same. Tiredness is generally thought of in a physical, bodily sense, as being exhausted by exertion or hard work. A hot shower, massaging our strained muscles and a good night's sleep often take care of our tiredness. On the other hand, to be weary is to be drained of one's energy and vitality through some kind of long, sustained effort, as in repetitive sameness. The feeling of weariness seems to go right down into our bones. It suggests a more permanent condition, mental and spiritual debilitation. Being weary is somewhat closer to the root meaning of fatigue. 

The Bible has much to say about the weariness of Faith Fatigue. In fact, the word weary is mentioned 41 times. Key verses are Isaiah 40:28-31. “God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth doesn't faint neither is weary...even the youths shall faint and be weary...but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, walk and not faint.”

We should watch our own walk with great care and build ourselves up in the faith so as not to succumb to Faith Fatigue no matter how long or rough or tedious our journey of life. Or how diligently we have been serving the Lord perhaps without being noticed, appreciated or applauded. “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9). 

It is military protocol that soldiers cover each others backs and never leave a fellow soldier behind on the battle field. So we should look after each other when we see that our buddy has become weary, is fainting or wounded in the battle of life.

“Am I my brother's [or sister's] keeper?” Yes, of course! “The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary” (Isaiah 50:4) How many weary and Faith Fatigued people may need my word spoken to them with a loving embrace, and a helping hand? I need to press on and be about my "Father's business."

What we wear on our temporary physical bodies isn't of eternal consequence; it is simply a matter of selecting the proper wardrobe for the occasion. We all need times of leisure and loosening the taunt strings from the sustained speed of daily life these days. We should select suitable clothing for such times. Even during leisure and rest and refreshment, however, we need to be battle ready and ever vigilant because the enemy of our souls is plotting at all times to ambush us. I must be prepared for spiritual warfare in my writing studio in my civilian fatigues as well. We need to keep on keeping on, to persevere through our periods of Faith Fatigue, to stay the course, to press on and obtain the crown of eternal life.


What shall I wear today, Lord?
I have a closet full of clothes,
but I don't know what I'll face.
What appointments lie ahead?
Shall I wear blue denim or lace?

I just can't decide.
Lord, will You choose
my proper outfit?
I'm sure You will provide
whatever is in vogue and classy.
It will be fine with me.
I know I'll be a hit.

Well, thanks...I guess.
What You chose does match:
military helmet and boots
all in camouflage design,
coordinating accessories,
a belt of truth.
But a sword to use?

I can't really say
that I expected armor!
Something lighter perhaps,
chic and trendy,
even chosen in haste
would seem to have been
more to my taste.

But You know best
what or whom I'll meet
in the marketplace
and on the street
for which I'll need a shield,
breastplate and sword,
out on the field
of my day.

I feel secure now.
Come what may
I'll wear Your battle gear
more proudly than mink or sable
because this ensemble carries
Your designer label!

(Ephesians 6:10-18)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


When I looked in the packing crate my late husband Ted brought home one day a few decades ago, the contents appeared to be miscellaneous hunks of broken pottery. “Are you headed for the dumpster or the land fill?

 “On the contrary,” he assured me with a twinkle in his eyes. “This is a collection of valuable potential. Just wait and see!” Here's the rest of the story....

At one point in our ministry among international students on university campuses, one of our fellow staff members was a lady of some means who had been a world traveler. Through the years she had amassed many beautiful and expensive art objects. She was now downsizing to an apartment and hired some workmen to help her pack and move. “Be careful! This is fragile!” she shouted—too late—as they attempted to move an over three foot high, extremely heavy porcelain Chinese “vahz” (it was too elaborate and costly to be called a mere “vase.”) 

It had a massive lid which itself weighed about thirty pounds topped with a ferocious looking Chinese lion with its front paws on a ball in a traditional oriental pose. Despite the weight of this art object, it stood on only three claw-like legs with two more lions serving as handles on each side. Through careless handling, the lid fell off, the lion broke into pieces, and the entire “vahz” toppled and crashed to the floor.

To compound the grief of the owner of the Ming Dynasty original art object, a genuine registered antique, she had just signed a bill of sale for its purchase by the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. Now it was not only useless but no longer salable. Our friend swept up the pieces and filled a large wooden packing box with the discards. When my husband came by to offer his help in moving, she told him about the sad mishap and asked if he could arrange to have it hauled to the dump. He asked her if he could have the pieces and she readily assented.

In his spare time Ted painstakingly assembled the massive jar like a jigsaw puzzle and realized that although small shards of porcelain were missing, the major pieces were all there. Over the weeks, actually months and with lots of patience, skill, and TLC, he glued it together again with something far stronger than Elmer's glue, and improvised with a filler for the gaps in the object. When completed, although it will always bear the scars of its misadventure, it is nevertheless a beautiful, stately piece of art once more. 

We brought it along with us through the years from house to house wherever we lived in different states across the country. It stands proudly now more than fifty years later in the corner of the entryway to my home, Eagle Summit, in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

You can see the huge hollow capacity when you carefully lift the heavy lid. What did we use it for during the years of our ministry? We would pour a hundred pounds of white rice into it at a time and still there was room—we used a lot of rice for meals in our hospitality ministry among Chinese university students in the various cities where we worked. It was a secure place to store rice and keep it away from mice since the little rodents certainly couldn't lift the massive lid—especially with the scary menacing lion guarding it.

Our classical Ming Dynasty “Vahz” has become a conversation piece with people who ask about and admire it when visiting us. It stands solidly now as a witness of what God can do in our lives no matter how broken and unredeemable we may be or perceive that we are in any areas of our lives. Careless hands may cause our downfall. We may no longer think of ourselves as costly and of worth. Although God created us to be precious vessels in which He wanted to dwell by His Holy Spirit, we still have free will and it can happen that we become marred even while we are in the hands of the Master Potter, in the story in Jeremiah 18. We are not hopeless and hapless. He delights to “make us again” according to His perfect plan with His Tender Loving Care into new vessels of honor.

Our Ming “Vahz” was used to hold “the bread of life.” Rice rather than bread is culturally regarded as the indispensable staff of life among Asian people. Our “vahz” has become a vessel unto honor by virtue of what it contains, symbolizing our Lord Jesus, who called Himself the Bread of Life. The lions on our “Vahz” are an analogy to our Lord who is called the Lion of Judah.

None of us is just plain and ordinary to God. We are not lost in the shuffle of humanity that populates the world. We are not nobodies. He transforms us into living, creative art objects of His own design, fit to display in the Master's Kingdom by embellishing us with the gifts of His Spirit into His own unique designs. We each have our own story of redemption, just as the Ming dynasty artwork all over its round surface tells us stories, if only we could interpret them. 

In its broken condition, our Ming Dynasty “vahz” was no longer regarded as worthy of the Chinese Embassy's museum, therefore no money passed hands for its purchase. It was headed instead for the dumpster—as were we without Christ—but God through Jesus Christ paid a high price for us at the Cross. My husband Ted saw beyond its brokenness and had plans for the redemption of the “vahz.” God's plans for us are for good and not for evil, with a future and a hope.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Out-of-Control House Plant

It was a lovely Mother's Day gift from my Granddaughter, Kara, her husband Brian and their two little great-granddaughters. The plant's name was "Tropic Escape Mandevilla" and we got along harmoniously together. 

The new plant provided gorgeous trumpet-like crimson blossoms and all the buds came to maturity and followed suit.  I provided admiration, appreciation, water and nutrition and plenty of full sun in my kitchen window overlooking the valley.

Then it seemed the plant decided that it needed a rest from all that energetic blooming and all was quiet for awhile. Blossoms dried and silently dropped off.

Without any warning my "Mandy" began to sprout long, thin shoots helter-skelter all over the plant. Some stringy-thingys were a foot long, even two feet. When the strings got near each other they naturally entwined. Some approached the venetian blind on the window and started to climb. I wasn't sure whether those stringy shoots were to be cut back or nurtured. I simply didn't know what Mandy wanted to do.

Naturally I Googled for help but the care growing instructions were a little confusing: "Trim back as needed."  Trim back what?  Leaves or stems? Or get my nippers and murder all the stringy-thingys? I'm still not sure. I don't want to hurt Mandy needlessly, nor do I want to just let her grow wild and unmanageable, if it isn't good for her.

Theoretically, I know about pruning in nature. I wrote a blog post about it almost ten years ago when I started this blog with an analogy to our spiritual lives. I believe the principle of pruning applies equally to the blooming plant in my kitchen. However, I'm still in limbo about what I should do with the stringy-thingys on my Mandy. I welcome advice from my blog post viewers!

“Every branch that bears fruit He prunes.” No exceptions. That’s what Jesus declared in John chapter 15. 

“But that hurts!” I argue. “Shouldn’t I expect His applause and commendation instead? After all, I'm trying to obey Him. I’m already bearing some fruit.”
That’s the law of the Vineyard. God the Father calls the shots. He is the Vinegrower, the Master Gardener, the Owner of the Vineyard and of the entire Orchard. He makes the rules. If I am already bearing fruit, I will get pruned.

Pruning isn’t punishment. It is Father God’s loving investment in me to move me forward to flourish, to bear still more fruit, then much fruit. But it seems as if in my summit years the pruning is on the increase!
God's pruning clippers are often disguised as adversity, hardship, loss, or detachment from the intrinsically good in order to bring forth the better and the best. Pruning is not willy-nilly child’s play. It must be precisely done by One who knows what He is doing. It requires skill and focused intent and gentle severity. On my part it may involve brokenness. But it is done for my future strength not the temporary weakness that I feel and perceive. God’s intention is to clear away the impediment of dead wood and the wild new shoots that wouldn’t result in sweet fruit.
Rather than resisting Divine pruning, I would do well to lift my branches to Him and welcome His loving, tender cultivation.


I delight to sprout new shoots!
I enjoy loud admiration from others
who try so hard to produce theirs
while I'm always pregnant with potentiality
and effervescent with possibility.

Along comes The Master Gardener

sharpening His nipper-clippers.
He starts lopping off and snipping
my upstart, grand productions.
I cry in agony to see
my precious creativity and spontaneity
treated so shamefully!

"Wild growth!" He proclaims.
"It detours the flow of My mainline life
to useless, spurious shoots."

Selectively, but tenderly, He cuts back
my prized and puffy self-efforts.
Tearfully I watch them fall
and shrivel and wither and die.
I nurse my wounded ego
dismayed to see them go.
But in time I come to see
though reluctantly and painfully
the necessity and joy of submitting
to Divine authority
and providential priority. 

When ripe fruit finally bursts forth
from my remaining main-branch buds,
my strength and vigor thus conserved
God-life surges through my fewer shoots
because The Master Gardener chose
to prune my wild and wayward ways
and perform on me His loving, skillful surgery.

Friday, September 22, 2017


(Encore post from 4 years ago by request)
Whenever I approach a birthday...and there have been 92 of them...or any other milestone occasion in my life, I take a peek at what may still be on my “bucket list."

 Of course, when I was a child my little toy pail was full of childish wishes

In youth, with stars in my eyes, my bucket held dreams. In adult life it was full of goals and hopes and plans. In prime of life the bucket began to hold some concrete achievements.  

Now in my summit years, I would do well to examine what remains on my bucket list. Is my bucket empty because I've been there and done all that there is to do? Or have I given up on some things that were there from the beginning? Should I still press on to accomplish what's left in my bucket?

I was curious about the origin of the bucket analogy and did some online research. “The Bucket List" was the title of a movie about two terminally ill men and what they set out to do before they died. It came to mean a list of however many things one might want to accomplish before mortality closes the door. 

That is, before you “kick the bucket,” which is a slang term that has come to mean dying. In short, it’s a list, actual or imaginary, that you make of what you hope to accomplish or do or be in your lifetime. But where did the bucket aspect come from? One source traced it to the Middle Ages when hanging was a common form of capital punishment. The victim would be taken to an elevated scaffold with a noose around his neck. He would stand on an overturned bucket or pail. When the bucket would be kicked out from under him, his body would drop, the rope would tighten, and he would be hanged.

In a sense, since a bucket list is a list of goals to achieve or roles in life or places I would like to go, or things I would like to do, I should ask myself, “Who put those items in my bucket? Did I? Or were they the expectations of others?” As a Christian I should ask at any season of my life, “Have I consulted God for the contents of my life bucket? Or am I simply on an ego trip? Are there things that should not even be on my bucket list? Are there important things I have omitted?”

In rural China, I have seen two heavily loaded buckets being carried by one person. A long pole is suspended across the shoulders and two buckets in balance are hung on each end of the pole. 

It might take two buckets to contain all that some of us would like to accomplish in one lifetime. There is nothing wrong with having personal goals and wishes and desires and dreams. It is good and right to fill up one bucket with that kind of list. Nevertheless, I should balance it in the other bucket with a list of God’s priorities and purposes for creating me and calling me to become His child. One bucket may contain temporal desires; the other, eternal values and desires in sync with the will of God.

God isn’t about the business of raining on our parade or taking all the fun out of life. The Scripture declares, “God has given us richly all things to enjoy.” God created the world and everything in it for man and called it “Good.” In the Psalms we read, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Faithful to His promise, the Lord has given me a long lifetime of the desires of my heart. God’s storehouse of goodness and mercies has overflowed to me. Among His many blessings, I have traveled the world, I have served the Lord with gladness throughout the many decades, I have lived to delight in my children, my grandchildren, and my great-grandchildren. I couldn't even count His blessings to me by the bucket—more like by the barrel!

The bucket list of how God wants to favor His children is a lot weightier and richer and a greater treasure than anything we could think of to put on our own bucket list of “to do’s or to be’s.” The nature of God is generosity, always giving us more abundance than we can ask or imagine. 

The question I ask myself is not, Have I accomplished all I want to do from my bucket list?” 

I can’t go wrong with continually praying, “Lord, I want Your will to be done in my life on earth as it is in heaven. If there is still anything left on my life bucket list that would please You, show me how to fulfill it!”


I still have some dreams, Lord
leftover dreams from early years
just hanging there in midair
whose strings I can't seem to let go
some goals that I can't meet
some desires of my heart of hearts
plans I can't complete.
I wonder now—
were they even meant
for fulfillment?

Perhaps some are my own
foolish fantasies, hot air balloons of self
launched from the platform
of my puny pride. Is my chief distress
that they'll come hissing down
to embarrass me
without accomplishment?

Lord, teach me relinquishment
to cut the powerful strings
of those inappropriate dreams
and self-ambitious things
to let them go and not despair
surrendered to Your sovereign care
and be content to leave them there
sacrificed beneath Your cross
incomplete and unfinished.


If perchance the dreams are meant
by Your Divine intent
to come to actuality
for Your glory and not mine
inspire me, enable me, my Lord
to pursue them unrelentingly
if need be
all the way from here to Eternity!


I'm blessed to have a number of "real" artists as friends. Since I "paint with words" and not brush and canvas, my part is to enjoy the masterpieces others create. 

I was honored today with a visit from Sarah Lin-lu Daku and her husband David. Sarah is from China and her gallery of paintings numbers more than 200 including the signed original she presented to me in the accompanying photo to grace my "Eagle Summit" home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

The story behind the painting sparks my ideation for this post. David bought a bargain box full of gladiola bulbs last year but unfortunately reaped a discouraging crop failure of weak, stunted blooms. When autumn came and his garden was put to bed for the winter, he cut off the dried leftovers but didn't bother to dig up and discard the useless bulbs.

This spring those previously disappointing bulbs happily came to life and surprised David with a massive growth of mature, fragrant, flourishing gladiola blossoms. He picked an armful of the multi-colored extravaganza and brought the bouquet indoors to his wife who, of course, immediately began to memorialize them with brush and colors trying to match the Creator's marvelous natural display.

Sarah deliberately chose a Chinese vase with images of peaches for her painting since the destiny of the painting was to be a hot-off-her-canvas friendship gift for me.  What's all this about peaches?
In Chinese folklore peaches are a common symbol of luck and good fortune. They are thought to confer the mystic virtue of longevity on all who eat them--a wish for a long and healthy life. Customarily given for birthdays to the beloved and highly respected elderly in the family, they are a common symbol in Chinese art. Grown throughout China, peaches are native there and mentioned in Chinese historical writings as far back as the 10th century B.C. They were the favored fruit of kings and emperors. Parts of the peach tree are used in traditional medicine, especially the stone or peach pit. The wood or timber is reputed to keep away demons, so peach branches are laid at the entrance to houses at New Years. "Peach Blossom Land" is a Chinese term for a place or haven of peace--an allusion to Heaven? I'm happy to embrace all the above symbolism since I am navigating longevity already through the generous, loving gift of God. What a beautiful reminder this painting is which now prominently hangs in the entrance foyer wall to my home!

The verse from Galatians 6:9 comes to mind in spiritual analogy for David's experience with his gladiolas. To everything there is a season. God's way through His natural creation is not to be in a hurry but to await everything in its season. We tend to be impatient if something isn't happening in our time frame. The dark and cold and frozen soil of winter may be needed for the transition to flourishing growth and blossoming--in nature and in our lives. It takes the fullness of time. "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest, if we don't give up!" Let's not give up on anything prematurely or on anyone who may be a late bloomer or who needs our patience to wait for them "to ripen" and start bearing the fruit we think should be developing by now.

Of course we enjoy the gorgeous peach blossom in springtime.  But that isn't the ultimate stage of nature's sequence we are looking for. The luscious taste bud feast of the autumn-ripened peach fruit is what it's all about. With the perspective of the sweep of a human lifetime, God's expectation for the Christian is not only to bear fruit as would be expected during youth or prime years but right on into longevity. Psalm 92:12-15 "The righteous one will flourish like the palm tree [see my book STILL MORE for my research on the analogy of the palm tree], he will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; they will be fat and flourishing [another translation renders this: full of sap and very green] to declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock and there is no unrighteousness in Him."  

I'm hoping to live long enough to give the Lord a whole basket full of tree-ripened peaches of good works to please Him (Ephesians 2:10) since that appears to be what He expects of His children, no matter what season of life.

Saturday, September 16, 2017


Sometimes a discussion or a relationship or even my entire day can go off on a erratic tangent making lots of crazy, meaningless turns. It's hard to tell where I'm going, and wherever I find myself, I don't know how I got there. It feel as if I've been "going down a rabbit trail." 

If you've ever seen a dog chase a wild rabbit in a field or in someone's back yard, you'd understand where this idiom comes from. The dog pursues the hare in vain as it scurries under bushes, runs through briers, hops over brush piles, into ditches and out of them without any pre-planning of its route. Rabbit trails in my life experience have come to mean running haphazardly through my day as if I'm being chased. 

There is a positive alternative to what may seem like senseless digression. Sometimes I've deliberately taken the risk to explore a side path and found an interesting adventure or come upon an unexpected breathtaking scene. That's more like intentionally taking the road less traveled, a literary reference to a poem by Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken." It is a better option than just running around helter-skelter in rabbit trails. But there is more.

Digging still deeper for a flip side choice to a rabbit trail life, I came upon the word serendipity which on the surface may still appear to be happenstance. But that is deceiving. It is very controlled but not by me, nor is it by random chance. Serendipity is defined as “the unexpected occurrence and development of events in a happy or beneficial way.” With a surprising outcome, something wonderful happens that I had not even been seeking.

Serendipitous as an adjective implies not accidentally but as a God-shaped event, being in the right place at the right time. For instance, bumping into a good friend in some unusual location just when I needed help. Or someone sending me an exact amount of money without knowing my need. Or when you meet the person who becomes your spouse because of the seating arrangement the college professor declared would be permanent for the entire semester (my true story!)—these are examples of serendipitous events. I couldn't plan such things so precisely if I tried. living a serendipitous life is like flowing along in a river within a positive current that had been planned to bring me to my happy destiny.

I believe in Divine serendipity. That's how I want to live my life. There is room in my life for wise planning, of course, but I don't want to negotiate my life by my flawed self-control. I would be blind to my real needs and desires and still inclined toward running meaningless rabbit trails.

Serendipity is finding something valuable or delightful when you are not looking for it. In information technology, serendipity often plays a part in the recognition of a new product need or in solving a design problem. In ordinary, everyday routine living, serendipity may express itself in the ordering of small details like who to visit on the way home from a book promotional tour (my true story!) which led even to a major paradigm shift in my life direction.

Are we getting closer to understanding Divine serendipity? It is like an ordered godsend you didn't ask for or expect; a distinct happening that is recognizable in retrospect. Serendipities are the moments in life you never expect will happen but are so glad when they do. At times it comes down to sheer, out-of-my-hands perfect timing, seemingly total coincidence, but it is indisputably the extraordinary, generous blessing planned by God for us.

The way many of us lead our lives – over planning, overbooking, developing hard lists of goals and objectives, cramming our schedules full, placing so much importance on being always busy, scarcely glancing up from our ever more advanced communications devices – is tragically shrinking our chances of encountering Divine serendipity. We are missing one of the best parts of life. We box in God by our lack of expectations. All the while He wants to generously work on our behalf outside the confining box we have made for ourselves.

Deep inside don't we all feel a desperate need to be more open to the wonders we have inadvertently closed ourselves off to due to having booked our calendar full without leaving any room for the flow of leisurely serendipity in our lives? God has endowed us with free will. We can choose to spend our lives running rabbit trails, if we wish.

Luck and Divine serendipity are very different. Luck is random good fortune, if there is even such a thing as luck. Serendipity is finding something wonderful that I didn’t know I was looking for or needed, but God had it on His agenda for me from the beginning. I could miss it. If I deliberately surrender myself totally to the will of God, I allow Him to put all His serendipity ducks in a row for me to bring me to the right place at the right time in His perfect plan.

A casual lunch engagement might surprise me with an unfolding relationship with someone I have just met who turns out to be a soul mate as time goes on. I might have been walking through "an ordinary field" one day and found "a treasure." An offhand comment by someone may lead me to a window of opportunity of which I never dreamt. 

Holy Spirit serendipity arranges circumstances behind the scenes, opens doors, gives incredible life abundant pleasure to me, brings balm to heal my hurts, wisdom to my life—or draws me into the orbit of someone else who needs my encouragement or help. When such Divine serendipity occurs, in retrospect I know from Whom it comes—it is not by chance or by my self-planning. And I thank Him to Whom credit is due.

The anticipation of daily Divine serendipity is what wakes me in the morning to enthusiastically and expectantly ask, “What have You planned for us to do today, Lord? I want to give You pleasure and I am ready to receive Your serendipity blessings. Keep me from the rabbit trails of my self-will.”  

Then I put my feet on the floor and prepare to watch Him work out my multi-trailed day in His Divine serendipity way!

Sunday, September 10, 2017


(Guest Blog Post)
Answers offered below are excerpted from Online: Question of the Week

 Question: "Why does God allow natural disasters, i.e. earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis?"

Answer: Is God behind the earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, typhoons, cyclones, mudslides, wildfires, and other natural disasters? Tragedies cause many people to question God’s goodness. It is distressing that natural disasters are often termed “acts of God” while no “credit” is given to God for years, decades, or even centuries of peaceful weather. God created the whole universe and the laws of nature (Genesis 1:1).

Most natural disasters are a result of these laws at work. Hurricanes, typhoons, and tornadoes are the results of divergent weather patterns colliding. Earthquakes are the result of the earth’s plate structure shifting. A tsunami is caused by an underwater earthquake.

The Bible proclaims that Jesus Christ holds all of nature together (Colossians 1:16-17). Could God prevent natural disasters? Absolutely! Does God sometimes influence the weather? [With a word from Jesus “the wind and the sea” obeyed Him and were stilled.] Deuteronomy 11:17, James 5:17, Numbers 16:30-34 show us that God sometimes causes natural disasters as a judgment against sin. The book of Revelation describes many events which could definitely be described as natural disasters (Revelation chapters 6, 8, and 16). Is every natural disaster a punishment from God? Absolutely not! 

In much the same way that God allows evil people to commit evil acts, God allows the earth to reflect the consequences sin has had on creation. Romans 8:19-21 tells us, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” The fall of humanity into sin had effects on everything, including the world we inhabit. Everything in creation is subject to “frustration” and “decay.” Sin is the ultimate cause of natural disasters just as it is the cause of death, disease, and suffering.

We can understand why natural disasters occur. What we do not understand is why God allows them to occur. Why did God allow the tsunami to kill over 225,000 people in Asia? Why did God allow Hurricane Katrina to destroy the homes of thousands of people? [And other on-going at the time of this blog post natural disasters, wildfires, earthquakes, droughts, etc.] 

For one thing, such events shake our confidence in this mortal human life and force us to think about eternity. Churches are usually filled after disasters as people realize how tenuous their lives really are and how life can be taken away in an instant. What we do know is this: God is good! Many amazing miracles occur during the course of natural disasters that prevent even greater loss of life. Natural disasters cause millions of people to reevaluate their priorities in life and henceforth hold their possessions more loosely. Hundreds of millions of dollars in aid is sent to help the people who are suffering. Christian ministries have the opportunity to help, minister, counsel, pray, and lead people to saving faith in Christ! God can, and does, bring great good out of terrible tragedies (Romans 8:28).

Who is really behind the weather curtain?

Question: "Does Satan have the power to control the weather?"
The increasing number of natural disasters and terrible storms have many people wondering, who controls the weather, God or Satan? Some point to the descriptions of Satan as the “prince of the power of the air” in Ephesians 2:2 and the “god of this world” in 2 Corinthians 4:4 as evidence for Satan having control over weather. An examination of Scripture reveals that whatever influence Satan and his demon angels have over the weather is restricted by God's ultimate sovereignty. The Devil, our "adversary," must be taken seriously; we should acknowledge his existence and his limited power over the secular world. At the same time, Satan, a defeated fallen angel, is super-human but not divine, having only the power that God ultimately allows (2 Thessalonians 2:6-11).

If Satan could impact the weather, it would only be by God's permission, and restrained, as in the case of Job in the Old Testament story. Satan was allowed by God to torment Job in order to test him, and this included “the fire of God” (probably lightning) which "fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants" (Job 1:16). This was followed by a "mighty wind" (possibly a tornado) that destroyed his home and killed his children (vv. 18-19). So if the fire from heaven and the tornado were somehow caused by Satan, they were still under the ultimate control of God for His purposes.

God is in control of all things, including the weather. Through His providence, God provides for and protects His children, but He also permits Satan, demons, and mankind itself to exercise their limited will to commit acts of sin, evil, and wickedness. These same beings are fully responsible for any and all man-made disasters and tragedies they cause. We know that God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass (Ephesians 1:11; Romans 11:36), and therefore God's invisible hand is in our pain, even though He cannot sin or be the perpetrator of evil (James 1:13-17).

There can be no meaningless suffering for the Christian, whether the suffering is caused by mankind or by a natural event. We may not always know why evil acts or natural disasters happen, but we can be assured that in all our trials and tribulations God is working all things together for His glory and for our everlasting good (Romans 8:18-28).

Monday, September 4, 2017


[My complaint] 

Come on, God, don't You know what's going on in this country? Don't You hear our prayers? Why do You seem to look the other way when evil is prevailing? We are praying for justice to rule. 

Don't You hear our prayers for judgment on those unlawful nations which threaten to destroy us? They are fierce and hotheaded, blood-thirsty and dangerous. Their leaders are out of their minds, like loose cannons. They don't honor You. Their poison is spreading all over the world. They seize what doesn't belong to them and murder their captives. They laugh at us, mock us. 

Sure, we know our country isn't perfect. But remember, we are Your people, called by Your Name. We have committed some gross sins too—but we are still pretty righteous compared to how bad our enemies are. We are in social ferment and even physical conflict among ourselves, our leaders are corrupt, and we have lost our way. Natural calamities are coming upon us. Because You are just and holy I know we're really not going to get away with our transgressions, but—please, God, we really want to be great again....

[God replies] 
 You may not like My answer. Write this down because you may not believe it. I want everyone to know very clearly. Of course I don't endorse evil and I reward the good. And I don't overlook those who are righteous, who are just and live by faith and who honor Me. But My way is not to rain justice down from heaven. I am going to judge your evil oppressors in My time frame and in My own way. 

If it is My will to use other nations, heinous as they are, to punish your nation, that is My prerogative. *Your enemy may even rule over you for a time, but I will judge them and all those super powers around you too and they will fall into ruin. Don't question My methods or My timing. Be patient and trust Me. I hold history in my hands.

Was the above scenario written in 2017 
about the United States?

No! Almost verbatim (paraphrased) the above was written by the prophet Habakkuk in about 612-589 B.C. in the Old Testament Book bearing his name. God had just shown the prophet that evil Babylon was poised to overrun Judah as God's judgment on His people Judah. The subject of this prophecy is the destruction of Judea and Jerusalem for the sins of the people, and the consolation of the faithful under national calamities.

The governments of the world are on the shoulders of the “Child born to us, the Son given to us” the One Whose Name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6) He has not abandoned His people who aspire to be righteous, but His hand is in all the affairs of men and nations throughout history until it culminates in the Return of the Prince of Peace, Jesus, at the conclusion of Planet Earth's history. It may be applaudable for us to desire that our nation be great again, faithful to its godly heritage, but the more commendable prayer is that our God be magnified and HE becomes great again in the hearts of our nation's people.

* Reminder from history:

Today, we have the advantage of seeing centuries of this cycle in retrospect. We know, like the Hebrew prophets, that God used Assyria to judge Israel, Babylon to judge Assyria (and Judah), and later, Persia to judge Babylon. We also know from later history that the Macedonians brought down Persia, and in turn, Rome over the Macedonians and on through the centuries. If you search more recent history, you’ll see the same process at work in our global political context as the prophets did.

(I take responsibility for the above personal, non-political, non-partisan thoughts the day after the President's Proclamation of a National Day of Prayer.)
"He who has ears to hear, let him hear" said Jesus.