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An incredible story to give you hope this Christmas season



The bus swerves on the mountain road and I look straight down from my window seat to see sheer drop. Nothing but mist lies beneath us. We are mere centimeters from death.

Mountain climbers call this exposure, the condition of “being on high vertical rock with full consciousness that nothing exists between you and the distant ground but thin air.”

And there are times in one’s life when you come into full consciousness, when you know nothing exists between you and death but the invisible sustaining of God….


The orphanage juts from the side of the mountain and as we climb the steps to enter, I see faces of children peeking out from behind doors.

We spread food out on tables. Children run up to snake packages of cookies, crackers, and candy into their pockets. Some sit down to eat the fried chicken we brought, others just horde, waiting for their own private feast.

All the children but one has special needs. The healthy children get adopted out to homes around the world. The rest stay behind.

“If you have any language ability,” the director of the trip tells us, “please spend time talking with the children.”

That’s me. I’ve worked hard to learn this difficult language. The thought crosses my mind:

“What if I’ve learned this language for a time such as this? Just for today, to communicate the love of Christ to children abandoned up the side of some mountain in the middle of nowhere?”

So I approach child after child, see mouths of rotten teeth and clothes with holes in them. I offer warm arms and warm words and I pray Christ takes broken pieces and words and nourishes the hungry soul anyway.


I’m standing by the director of the trip when she says to the group, “There is one child that hasn’t come out. The child is tied up in the room next door.”

A child tied up? Mercy. My heart starts to pound.

“They told me the child can come out if someone takes the child and does not leave their side.” The director says this and I see raw panic in the eyes of our group. So does the director. We all want to run from what we can’t predict, what we can’t make sense of, avoid what is risky and unknown.

The director turns to me. “Arabah, will you take this child?”

I stammer out a “Yes, of course,” and follow the house parent to the room where the child is tied.

It’s a girl standing at the window. 

Her hair is chopped short and it’s hard to tell if she’s a girl or boy with her clothing, but I look in her face and I see the spirit of a girl, the feminine beauty mirrored in my own heart.

I want to cry.

The window is open, even in this cold, and she is tied to a security bar at the window. Her eyes are bright and I take her hands into mine. They are freezing.

I look in her eyes and speak softly, asking if she wants to go outside for awhile. The rule is that I must keep her on the “leash,” a thick strip of fabric tied around her torso, and that no matter what, I can’t feed her.

I soon find out why.

She rushes the food tables and grabs trash off the floor to eat it. She smacks snacks out of other children’s hands and tries to stuff food and debris down her throat.

I adjust to this child. A child with food issues. I smile inside, thinking of my Little Bit. I can do this.

I steer her away from the food tables, but not before grabbing a wrapped bun. The house parent told me not to give her any food, that this little girl who lives tied up had already eaten.

I don’t listen. I’m sorry, I can’t.

I give her the wrapped bun and she tries to eat it, only to realize it is secured by packaging that she can’t open.

“Wo bang ni,” I tell her. “Let me help you.”

I want her to receive food from a stranger, to know generosity, to realize there is kindness. After a life of abandonment and abuse and pain and isolation, I want to move her one step closer to trust. She needs to know there is hope, there is a good future. There is a Maker who is also a Father.

Is this not why we go in His name?

It seems preposterous for me to try to communicate to her that she doesn’t have to self-protect and look out for her own interests. Me of all people, and she who has lived in a dog-eat-dog world. This is a stretch for sure that seems better left undone.

But I try anyway. I get down on her level, face to face, and repeat the words to her again and again, “I can help you. I will open it for you. You are so special and so beautiful. Slow down, everything is okay.”

She glances up at me quickly. Amidst the rush around us, somehow that inner need for survival is overpowered by trust. She looks at me. Finally, she hands me the bun.

I rejoice at the victory. I open the package and give her the bread.

She devours it.

We repeat this over and over until she’s had chicken, buns, cookies, crackers, juice.

I spend an hour with my little friend, oblivious to everything else going on. At the end, she finds a shiny gold ornament that fell off the Christmas tree. She picks it up and for the first time, she smiles. She speaks. She holds the ornament and rolls it around and around in her cold hands.

“It’s yours,” I tell her. “You can have it.”

I speak words of love over her and when it is time to go, I ask the house parent to take her. ”No,” she tells me, “You must go tie her back up.”

It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life… tying a child up.

And then leaving.

The words are even hard to write.

But as I get ready to leave the room, I notice I’m the only adult there and many of the other children have returned. They are lined up in wheelchairs and every single one of them is staring at me, with hopeless eyes. I touch each one and try to speak words they can understand.

They don’t. Their eyes tell me the words are meaningless. They stare at me dark and hopeless and empty, so I speak just one word. Just one word again and again and again. It’s the only one they need know, really.




“Don’t forget,” I tell them. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”

It seems such a pitiful attempt in the face of such pain and hopelessness. When the dark emptiness stretches endlessly before them. It seems so meaningless, so impractical. Why bother? Why pretend that it matters, that it is somehow significant?

When I return home, I cry with Jackson and Jackson tells me the headlines of death and loss and devastation. And we all wonder why?

Hearts wrenched and wounded and this is why we self-protect and just look out for ourselves and quit believing in Good. This is why our hearts grow numb and we die that way and why we don’t bother with the small attempts because what’s the point, really?

But there’s that one word, that Name, that God-man who left heaven and came down for the express purpose of entering into our pain.

He’s called the “Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

And He didn’t have to be. He could have stayed far removed. He didn’t have to climb the mountain and untie the sash and speak the good news to a broken world and make Himself bread and become the Lamb who took stripes for us and now promises to never, ever leave us … He didn’t have to do all that. But He did.

He wept and He didn’t run from the hopeless, evil, dark pain of our lives stretching out endlessly before us but instead entered into it so that He could overcome it and give us our heart back.

We really can believe there is Good. There really is a future and a hope. Life really is worth living. 

Where is God? we wonder.

And I have no answers but a word: Jesus. Emmanuel. Bread of Life. Freely Given. Shepherd and Savior and Close to the brokenhearted. Binder of wounds. Healer. Sustainer. Weeper and Empathizer. Comfort. Light in our darkness. The Way, Truth, and Life. Redeemer. Overcomer. Victorious One. The Pearl of Great Price. Lamb of God.

He’s everything and He’s right here with us.

And I realize it, that in our moments of exposure, when all the safety nets and securities are removed,  in that place where we understand how close we really are to thin air, we can see Him.






Two Lambs






She toddles out of her room carrying a brown elephant by its trunk. “Good morning, Sunshine,” I greet her. We exchange hugs and slobbery kisses and tickled laughs.

Then I ask where her sister is.

“She won’t come out.”

I sigh. Here we go again. In the providence of God, I have two daughters the same age. One is healthy and attached. The other is not. The one climbs in my lap un-hindered and calls me in the night without hesitation. She knows what it is like to feel safe, to trust. To laugh free and share deep. To belong.

The other? Not so much. She is scarred. Unattached. She came to us after a very long and hard first year of life. She carries memories deep and is afraid to really trust. She is afraid to let go.

To her, safety is in controlling, not in running to us and throwing herself headlong upon us.

My two daughters have brought a richness to my understanding of God. Both daughters are fully mine. They both eat the same things, have the same resources, share the same last name. They share clothes, toys, and the same citizenship, despite their different genetic makeup and backgrounds and pasts. They both have all of me and my resources at their disposal.

The only difference is that one fully knows it and doesn’t doubt while the other isn’t so sure. She is plagued with doubt.

And I’ve asked it many times: Which daughter am I? One daughter has laid hold of all that has been freely given her and the other has not.

It does strike me then, after all the times I have done this. After all the mornings Little Bit has resisted and withdrawn and out-right refused. After all the times her doubt and distrust has put her in a bad spot and it’s upon me to coach her out, it finally dawns on me and I’m struck to my knees with the revelation: I am like the Shepherd.

For the Shepherd leaves the 99 healthy sheep in the fold to go after the single, solitary one who is lost.

I’m on my knees with the revelation and this ground is sacred because I see. I’ve been invited to enter into His very heart, to reach out the finger and touch His wounded side and BELIEVE.

Because I’ve truly been the wounded daughter, the lost sheep, the doubting Thomas.

I’m the black sheep on the outside looking in.

And He has appeared to me and given me two little lambs and has invited me to reach out and touch His side, feel His heart. To Experience. See. And Believe. Both daughters are fully His and this is how He shepherds His own.

Our Shepherd is One who goes after the wounded and sick, the needy one stuck in some pit on the backside of nowhere.

His intent is nothing short of “bringing in.” He will keep pursuing, keep reaching, keep leading…until each of His sheep are all safely brought in: healthy, attached, and full in His fold.

My sigh turns to a smile. As much as I’d love to cuddle with my healthy little lamb, I leave her sitting on the couch in order to bring in my lost one. “Little Bit,” I call to her from the foot of her bed. “Are you ready to get up?”

She doesn’t respond. She is rigid and her eyes glint at me hard. She isn’t budging.

“We are going to have breakfast in a little while and you are invited to join us.”

She starts to cry. She has placed herself in a predicament, you see. She wants breakfast. But she doesn’t want to reach out. She has decided she doesn’t too much care for the offer we’ve made her, to be part of the family, to belong. She doesn’t want that part. She wants to stay stuck, remain the victim.

The truth is sordid sometimes: being a victim is easier than embracing grace.

And I see it all over my own life. Moments dotting my day, impurities pocking a life, times where I don’t want to stretch into the grace offered me. I want something easier. I want to live close fisted, demanding change from others, from life itself, instead of embracing the change God gently prompts within.

The ugly truth is that I don’t want the challenge of grace. So I stay stuck.

But hunger for that breakfast table has a way of doing it’s work. And the Shepherd has a way of making us desperate hungry for Grace.

I lean against the bunk beds shared by my lambs. I look at Little Bit. She wants control; I give it. “Alright, just come on out when you are ready.”

I leave the room and wait. One of two things will happen. I know because we have done this little routine hundreds of times. She will either start screaming, hoping to elicit a response from me… another of her attempts at controlling me; or she will slowly inch her way out of bed, take baby steps towards the door, and finally make a very reserved, staunch, proud appearance.

She does neither.

This time, I hear her voice amidst the cries, the tears. Momma, I need help!

I run. I reach her side and lift her up and tell her I am right there and that is what I’m here for, to help her and that I will always help her when she asks.

And in my own words, I hear the Shepherd’s voice. He speaks to me the very words I speak to her.

“That’s the promise I’ve made you,” I whisper into her tear soaked hair. “And I will always keep it. Always.”

I think of the Shepherd who made a covenant with us with His very own blood and how He promises to never leave us or forsake us and to always be faithful to us because He cannot deny His nature. Even when we can’t help ourselves, when we can’t reach out and when we flounder in doubt, when we want grace but don’t have the strength to embrace it, all we need do is call out and He is there. He will bring us in.

I lift up my Little Bit and soothe her tears and carry her on the hip. I bring her in to the fold.

We join the rest of the family at the breakfast table.

Little Bit takes a shuddering breath as I lower her into her chair. I trumpet like a victor: “Let’s eat!”

And all hands reach out, a circle of fists grabbing grace… lavish grace broken and poured out.

The family is complete and we’ve all come in and in the quiet pastures of the soul, I feel the Shepherd smiling. Grace has won. 




Linking this post up with a blog I’ve just discovered: Grace Laced; And another I look forward to perusing this weekend, A Royal Daughter. {You can thank Pinterest for these new finds :)  }


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How Jesus Redeems us Marthas



A warm welcome to Arabah, a place that showcases the sufficiency of Christ and demonstrates how to appropriate it into our everyday lives…because Christ intends for us to enter in and lay hold and live free. This online journal is birthed out of weakness, not strength, so you’ll find things a bit raw and messy. But you are welcome nonetheless and my prayer is that the Lord might use this quiet place to deepen your intimacy with Him. If you are encouraged here, I invite you to subscribe for free updates.


It’s Sunday morning and I feel like Martha with Sunday dinner preparations, kids bickering over blankets and which shoes to wear…and how did all those wrinkles wind up on Little Bit’s dress? The angst of it all swells and the cares of this household choke me near to death.

Yes, I’m Martha, and in the Lord’s very presence? How can that be? I wonder if I’ll ever get it right.

Somehow we arrive to church early. The wind in the trees beckon us outside and we walk the property line with the kids. I walk under the shade trees, the wind carressing the skin. The words caress too, brushing against my angst filled soul,  “Now Jesus loved Martha.” 

We all know Martha to be the worried, distracted, serving one. But it says it right there in the scriptures that Martha was a beloved child of the Christ. My troubled heart leaps. Jesus loves us Marthas.

Chronology of the gospels place Jesus’ encounter with Martha in John 11 {the raising of Lazarus from the dead} after His reprimand of her in Luke 10:38. In other words, Jesus did not reprimand Martha, shake His head sadly at her, and then move out of her life. Quite the contrary. He identified her need and arranged an encounter to resolve it.

While we tend to leave Martha stewing in the kitchen, the Good Shepherd was so tenderized towards Martha after seeing her distraught and in bondage that He specifically arranged an encounter with her. An encounter that would liberate her from her worry-laden, stress- filled service. Isn’t that just like our Savior?

Read about Martha’s transforming encounter over at Darlene’s place? Her’s is a blog I guarantee you’ll love~ smile~


How to Live Open-Handedly


We get the text and I begin to fret.

Their family is using the van during vacation. We’ve told them we want to give them the van when we leave for the field in a few weeks. This cycle of grace spinning ’round. 

But now, the engine light is on and the family doesn’t want to deal with it until the end of the week, when vacation is wrapping up.

I have a nagging feeling of how this is going to play out. “Why can’t they stop and get it checked?” I wonder. “They are going to blow the engine like they did on their own van, then expect us to fix it and give it back to them.”

I grumble to Jackson about everyone taking advantage of him. “Friends stick you with stuff because they know you’ll do it. They know good ole Jackson will literally give the shirt off his back. Why can’t someone else give up the shirt every once in awhile?”

I know it’s ugliness boiling up in me. I know it’s bitter and corrosive and likely to eat me up. I sound like Job’s wife, even to my own ears but somehow I can’t stop it.

Jackson looks at me and smiles sadly at my poor attitude. “Do you know why I do it? I don’t do it for them. I do it for God.”

I’m glad for him, I really am. I’m glad he can always be the one put out and be fine with it.

But I can’t.

I feel like prey for vultures.

Jackson sees how it’s eating me up, how I’m worried about replacing an engine while our own needs mount. He gently pulls me aside. “People who trust,” he begins and I break down.

Trust. Isn’t that what it’s always about?

And Jackson reminds me that people who trust see the glory of God. “Christians who live close-handed will never see God in the ways they could have.”  That’s what Jackson tells me and that’s how Jackson lives, even if he gets burned.

“God, help me,” I pray as we turn back the sheets on the bed. “I feel so bitter right now and I don’t want to be. I want to live open-handedly, even if it does take everything.”

Midst the brokenness, He speaks. “Do you remember the widow’s mite?” He asks. “She gave everything she had. Everything. Do you really think she was the worse off for it?”  His question rouses me, exposes my true condition. Of course I don’t believe she was worse off, at least that’s what I would say…but do I live that way?

Do I refuse to give up my last mite, cluching to it tightly like a security blanket? Am I only willing to give out of my excess? Do I profess an all-sufficient Lord but live like He’s anything but sufficient? And doesn’t the test of what I truly believe lie in what I do with my last mite?

The gentle Savior whispers to me. “Which would you rather have…your finances shored up? Or trust?”

And suddenly, it isn’t hard anymore. I’m a blind man seeing again.

There are things more valuable than security and safety. Trust is one of them.

Yes, I’m desirous of trust.

When we exercise faith to the point of giving that most precious to us, we experience the very nature of God.



“For God so loved the world that He gave…”



This giving, loving nature of God must be the object of truest trust.

Right there, He offers an invitation…  What if, instead of seeing the engine as an expense, I trusted and gave it?

What if I didn’t stop at the engine and my whole approach to life changed? What if, instead of calculating how I could be a minimalist, I became a maximist, seeking to give the absolute most of time, treasure, talent, affection, approval, encouragement, grace…whatever the moment demanded?

What if instead of cutting costs, protecting interests, reserving resources, what if we got a vision for how we could trustingly give them up?


By giving the last little we have, we could all become maximists.


Oh yes, I’m in.

I open the hand and let go. I discover the essence of Glory. I’m becoming a maximist.


“Did I not tell you that if you believe  {trust} , you would see the Glory of God?”

~John 11:40


And an invitation to join us on Thursdays for Simply Trusting? Because faith is the victory that overcomes the world and trust is best restored in community.

Linking up with Women Living Well.


What it means to live by faith

I get the text around 9:30 am. “Mr. Jay’s gone to glory. 7:15 this morn.”

I’m standing in the kitchen and I look up at the scroll hanging on the corner wall, the scroll with the pink flower and the scripture. “The Lord preserves the faithful.” Psalm 25:10

Ms. Reva gave that scroll to me a few months back. Ms. Reva is grieving the loss of her mate this March morning.

While others go to work and buy their coffee and live like everything is normal. For some, nothing is normal.

It’s easy to believe God when He moves in big ways…when the cancer is healed and the cupboards are full and the gas tank is too. It’s easy to praise when prayers are answered with a “yes” and mountains move and relationships are oiled and everything goes according to plan.

But what about when God pushes you into shallow water where you break your neck, as Joni Tada has described it? And what about when God allows, perhaps even sends, a drunk driver to hit you head on, causing your life to never be the same? What about when God lets your cupboards be empty and your gas tank too and your relationships to sour and your soul to cry out?

What then?

The Lord preserves the faithful.

The faith-FULL.

I look at the scroll hanging in my kitchen and I say it out loud:

The Bible says the just shall live by faith. Isn’t this what a true believer is? A faith-FULL person?

Full with the faith of Abraham, who went out, not knowing where he was going.

The trust Gideon had, who faced the enemy not knowing how victory could ever happen.

The trust Sarah had that said a baby at her age was, in fact, possible.

The trust Stephen had even while being stoned to death.

The kind of trust that even dies believing.

“For these all died in faith, never having received the promises.”

 And I wonder why we put so much emphasis on so many other things when we should be living out what’s really important: faith.

Right there in the kitchen, I look my giant in the eye. “I know whom I have believed,” I say it straight out.

“And He will never leave me or forsake me. He will help me and uphold me with His righteous right hand. I will not be afraid, tho the mountains crumble and the earth shakes. For His steadfast love will never be removed from me. His covenant of peace with me will stand.”

The Lord preserves the faith FULL.

And I am FULL.

Still Trusting

Oldest was late to school today. The car battery was dead when we finally piled in the car and I turned the ignition.

Nothing but a clickclickclick.

Was it just yesterday that I had an incident with Little Bit? She was outside crying and I asked her what was wrong and she said she wanted to come inside.

“What do you do when you need something?” I prompted her, knowing she needed help and felt trapped.

“You ask,” she said.

“That’s right. You ask. You don’t cry and hope someone will hear, right?”

“Right,” she says, and we go back outside and practice doing it the right way, using our words, trusting that someone who loves us will listen.

Little Bit and I have learned some things the hard way: when you are left alone ~ neglected~ you learn not to trust. You don’t believe anyone will help when you need something. You think you’ll just be overlooked and marginalized.

So you learn to self rely. Self-protect. Control. And if you get in over your head, you cry. It’s all you can do.

It sounds silly, but if you are “stuck” in this outlook on life, it is a very scary place to be. You don’t trust. You don’t believe. You don’t hope. You don’t reach out. You neither give nor receive. And you’re a perpetual victim of your circumstances, even if it is only on the inside of you.

So yesterday we practiced what to do when we need help. We used our words and we knocked on the door and we asked.

So  when the car battery died this morning, there was only one thing to do: ask for help.

“Stay put,” I told the kids. “I’m going to knock on the neighbor’s door.”

At first the neighbors didn’t come. Both of them had the day off and it was not even 8am. But then their garage door opened and I asked for a jump and a little while later, Jim had his pick up pulled up to the front of our van and I turned the key and we were running.

We thanked the kind neighbors and pulled out of the driveway and got down the road a few miles when I heard Little Bit say, “When we need help, we ask.”

I almost screeched to a halt. I swivelled in the driver’s seat and beamed back at her. “Yes!” I said, “That’s right!”

She got it!  She saw momma need something. She saw momma ask. And she saw momma’s need met.

I thanked God for the battery that ran out of juice and the awkwardness of waking someone to ask for help.

Oldest was late and it was Oh, so worth it. My little girl got to see asking and receiving in action. For all my needs today…just today…I’m striving to practice my asking.

Repost from archives

There’s Grace For That

The sky spits snow as I leave the house.

Five minutes later, I’m filling out new patient paperwork and then waiting for the doctor. When she comes in, I explain that I’ve had this cough and sinus stuff for 4 weeks. “It’s just not getting any better,” I tell her.

“Well you sure gave it a good college try,” she says and smiles.

Yes, I tell her, I did. “More than you know” is what I want to say but don’t.

I’m good at trying. For ever so long, that is what I did. I thought my efforts would somehow bridge the gap. Maybe I believed the American ideology that you can do whatever you want to…as long as you believe and try hard enough.

I approached God that way. Knowing there was a gap between me and Him, I determined to just “do better.” To try harder. To give it all I had and in the end, it was going to be enough. I could do this thang!

So I reared back and took a running start and dove headlong towards making myself good and right with God. I fell short. Time after time, same thing.

More and more bible reading and praying and spiritual disciplines and service and being moral, well it always fell short.

It took awhile before it finally sunk in: Your college try isn’t good enough. You need some help.

Just like my body needed some help in getting over the sinus infection, so my sin-sick soul needs help in being made right with God.

People cannot do any work that will make them right with God. So they must trust in Him, who makes even evil people right in His sight. Then God accepts their faith, and that makes them right with Him. ~Romans 4:5

But God has a way to make people right with Him without the law, and He has now shown us that way which the law and the prophets told us about. God makes people right with Himself through their faith in Jesus Christ. This is true for all who believe in Christ, because all people are the same: Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard, and all need to be made right with God by His grace, which is a free gift.

So A person is made right with God through faith, not through obeying the law. Romans 3:21f

Friend, I’m not sure what you are struggling with today, but there is grace for that. There is grace for even the most evil of persons who will trust in His goodness. God has made a way…for however you are falling short. It is not through trying harder and giving it all you’ve got.

It is through believing that HE WILL DO IT.

There’s grace for that. Only believe!

Courageous Faith ~Kristen’s Story

It’s a riveting read, the story of a girl who laid down on the train tracks. At seventeen, she had decided to commit suicide. That cold, January night was meant to end her life…except she tells of a force stronger than a freight train traveling at 50 miles per hour.

This force held her down on the tracks and blanketed her as the train roared over her.

She didn’t die.

She lost both of her legs. But she didn’t die.

God saved her for a reason that she came to understand only after she became a Christian. It is a gripping story to be sure.

But I found the most remarkable part of Kristen’s story to be a couple years after her suicide attempt. She had grown in her relationship with Jesus and felt it was time for her to wean off of her antidepressants and her pain meds.

Here’s what she says:

One of the first things I realized was how much of my life revolved around the pain pills. Doctors had told me that I would need them the rest of my life, and I’d gotten used to watching the clock to know when to take them. If I missed a dose, I knew it right away.

One day, I told (my pain specialist) I wanted to get off my pain meds. I noticed the difference right away. As I expected, the pain was intense. The muscle spasms were stronger and the phantom pains returned. It would have been easy to take more pain medication, but I wanted to trust God in this area of my life too.

Every time I wanted physical relief, I’d pray. “God, I need You. I want You to be my pain relief. Please help me.”

As the weeks passed, the pain lessened, and my tolerance grew along with my faith in God.

Kristen Anderson shows me what faith looks like. It is the courage to do hard things. It is a deep, vulnerable reliance on God. It is clinging to Him like there is no other.

It’s letting go of our props.

As I read Kristen’s story, I remember the Israelites in the wilderness. These were a people who’d been oppressed, abused, and wounded. Yet God placed them in a place of deprivation so they would be reliant on Him…and in so doing, they would discover that He is trustworthy.

He was their bread from heaven.

He was their water from rock.

He was their protection and provision, fire and cloud, morning and evening.

How else would they really understand that but for being in a state of deep need and vulnerability?

And I think God is showing me that He brings His children to that deep place of dependence…and then waits for us to exercise the faith to see Him work.

Kristen’s storyshows her crying out to God in her desperate, painful places…and God meets her there. He brings her through. He brought her out to a level place, a land of abundance and joy, a place of rich blessing.

We each have desperate, painful places, places where it is easier to rely on our props than it is to trust God moment by moment.

But God wants to bring us out to our place of abundance too and it happens through faith.

As I read Kristen’s book, courage, it rises. The courage to trust God fully because He is trustworthy. The courage to say no to the naysayers and the inner critic and the doubts.

Courage to do the hard things.

Because God always invites us first to trust and trust? It moves mountains.

This post is based on the digital copy of Life, In Spite of Me: Extraordinary Hope After a Fatal Choice and was provided to me free of charge by Multnomah Books.

Lessons from the Year of Conquest

“Mom, why did Gideon not want to trust God?” Sunshine girl asks while I’m trying to get the printer installed and working.

“Well, because he was scared,” I tell her.

“But why was he scared? Is it because he thought he was going to have to fight all those people in the army down there?” 

She pauses then she says is straight out:  ”But really all he had to do was blow his horn.”

I turn to stare at this little girl. Yes, that’s it exactly. We think we have to be the Victorious One when all we really have to do is blow the horn, raise the banner, call on our God and step out in faith.

The battle never did belong to us.

How we fall prey to our own fear. The secret is knowing that victory is ours…but it isn’t up to us.

Victory is a gift, granted us by the Victor.

And didn’t pastor just preach this on Sunday? That our greatest and last enemy is death and even that will be defeated? And Jesus, He lets Jairus experience the death of his daughter so that He could show us all what to think about this great enemy of ours.

Past the weeping, the wailing, the hopelessness and unbelief…Jesus enters the room and shuts it all out and He speaks tender words of endearment: “Little lamb, get up!”

And pastor says that term would be like us saying to a daughter, “Sweetie pie” or “Honey”… and how Jesus didn’t say strong words like “Come forth!” but soft ones, like He was waking her up.

“Sweetie pie, wake up. It’s time for breakfast.”

This is how our Savior faces down death.       Glory be.

What a mighty King we have, what an awesome God we serve, what a glorious Savior we’ve been given! HE is our victory.

Yet there are the moments before the conquest, before the victory, before the resurrection. These moments have to be lived, and how?

The same way Jesus urged Jairus to live his “in between” moments: “Do not fear any longer. Only believe.”

For the just shall live by faith.

It has always been this way, the call to faith.

The invitation has been given to turn our eyes away from the current reality, away from ourselves, and focus on the Word breathed out. Let Him hold our confidence.

There comes a time when He tells us to set aside our fear and take hold of faith. Because He goes before us to the battle ground and needs only say to the enemy there, “Sweetie pie, it’s over. Let’s go eat now.”

Our job is always, only, to simply trust that He’ll do what He said and that He is who He says He is.

This, the Year of Conquest, has taught me Victory comes through trust.

And trust goes out and blows some horns.

So Sweetie Pie, get up. We’ve got some horns to blow and besides, breakfast is ready.

Q4U: What is your greatest enemy right now?

What does God say about it? (Hint: You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength!)

How can you step out in faith and blow a horn?


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She Who Believes {Living Well Watered}


My friend Liu Lian and I walked the street to see the widow.

It was hot like usual, and the streets were crowded with hawkers and bicyclists and taxis. People milled around the newspaper stand and the noodle shop. We stopped at the produce stand to buy some apples for the widow.

“I want to get her some milk powder, too,” my friend told me. “She is pregnant and last night when I was there, she only had two vegetable dishes on the table for dinner.”

We ducked into a small shop for the milk powder before continuing our journey.

It was so hot my feet were sweating in my sandals and mixed with dust from the streets, I had a sudden urge to take up pedicures the next time we returned to the states.

We reached the apartment complex where the newly widowed young woman lived. Liu Lian talked us past the guard and we walked down the gravel road towards her building. Liu Lian pointed out painted red markings that ran along the ground at the side of the building.

“See that?” she asked. “That’s the line for the departed spirit to follow home. In case he gets lost…”

We followed the paint up the stairs to a second floor apartment. The door posts were covered in slashed, dripping red. A candle burned outside the doorway.

Her mother was there with her and they invited us in.

The room was somber and dark and I could sense the air thick with spiritual activity. On the table was a shrine to the murdered man and incense burned and filled the apartment with a pungent smoke.

They looked at me strange, eyes hard and distrustful. I was the foreigner, the outsider. What right did I have to intrude upon something so painful, so deep as sudden, violent death? And I’d never met these people before.

Yet I was compelled, yes, I was commissioned.

Aren’t we all?

My friend asked how they were and then began speaking very quickly, beyond my ability to understand. She gestured at me and waved and they smirked and nodded and I knew they’d just agreed to tolerate me.

She turned and looked at me. I was up. “I’m so grieved by what you have experienced,” I began. “And I know there is nothing I can do to change things or make things right again. But I came here today to tell you Who can heal your broken places.”

I made a simple gospel presentation and I quoted the scripture I had memorized: John 7:38

“He who believes in Me (who cleaves to and trusts in and relies on Me) as the Scripture has said, from his innermost being shall flow (continuously) springs and rivers of living water.”

It was the only scripture I had memorized and I had worked for weeks to get it just right. Liu Lian had coached and tutored me.

I could see the desperation in the widow’s eyes. She was truly without hope. She asked me if I could help her get to America. I told her no, I didn’t have the means for that, but I had the good news of Jesus and He was better than any good life America might offer her.

She fell into a numb silence and I gave her a Jesus film and a gospel tract as we excused ourselves.

Past the dead man’s photo with incense, past the painted doorframes, down the stairs with their screaming message of despair.

Outside, Liu Lian turned to me. “Her mother told me she is pregnant with twins. She is six months along and doesn’t know how she will take care of them. She is seriously considering abortion because if she waits much longer, she will be too far along to abort legally.”

My heart broke and I immediately began praying for the lives of these two unborn babies.

I returned home but couldn’t get the woman off my heart or mind. The next day, I enlisted another friend, a local believer, to go with me to talk with the woman.

The guard was a bit more troublesome this time. My friend reverted to using the local dialect to convince him to let us in. He did, but the widow and her mother did not come to the door.

I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving without speaking to her.

We asked some neighbors if she was at home.

“She went out a couple hours ago but she should be back anytime.”

We waited.

Shortly, we saw the two women walking slowly up the gravel road, the young woman clinging tightly to the arm of her mother.

We greeted them and they were cordial and we asked to speak with them inside and they hesitated, but then acquiesced.

“I know you are struggling with so many decisions,” I told the widow. “But please, please don’t abort those babies. They are the children of your husband and there has been so much death and sadness already. You don’t need even more. Please!”

My friend also gave her advice and made many words about keeping the babies. I told her that if she needed anything, please call me or come see me and I gave her my address.

On our way out the door, the mother pulled my friend aside for a moment. We left and with tears in her eyes, my friend relayed the message to me that the widow had already aborted the babies. At the abortion, the momma found out what gender they were.

They were twin little boys.

And it had just happened that very morning. They were just returning from the clinic when we caught them on the gravel road.

We were too late.

I grieved those baby boys. “I’m so sorry,” I told them again and again~ like they could hear. “I’m so sorry.”

Grief has a way of messing with your faith. Pain and trauma and hardship all viciously attack your trust in God. There are some things that just aren’t supposed to be.

But they are.

And I’ve been through loss and grief and trauma and when I feel someone else’s, it all comes back, that innate tendency to close up and shut off because faith seems too risky. It seems downright foolish. It seems Sunday Schoolish and fairy tale and who needs that?

And yet…

It wasn’t a fairy tale when Jesus told Mary and Martha “This illness does not end in death” in John 11…and then Lazarus died. No siree, there’s nothing fairy tale about that.

Who could deny the cold, hard facts? The reality was that Lazarus lay decaying in a grave.

But didn’t Jesus also say to Martha, “If you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

So on the one hand we have the reality of death. On the other, we have the promise of God. It’s pretty clear that Jesus set this scenario up so that we would all know that faith isn’t a fairy tale. It isn’t some good-for-Sunday School-only concept.

He made sure the stakes were as high as they could possibly be, the reality as dark and the fate as sealed as possible. Then He turned around and taught us a profound lesson: that reality may be hard and cold and deathly but there is a reality just as true and real and concrete …and that is His word.

Because hadn’t He told them it wouldn’t end in death? After it was all said and done, Lazarus, the one who died, was. not. dead.

And doesn’t He say to me and to you that even though our reality may be empty and dry and spent and cold and inadequate…but there is another reality just as real and true and sure and that is His word?

She who believes will see the glory of God.

She who believes will have streams of water gushing from her innermost being.

Perhaps God wants you and me to learn what faith really is: a transferred focus from the reality I can see to the one I cannot. A faith that asks and correctly answers the question, “What is real? What I can see laying up in that tomb? or what God has said?”

What God has said is the truer reality.


[Most] blessed is the woman who believes in, trusts in, and relies on the Lord, and whose hope and confidence is the Lord.

For she shall be like a tree planted by the waters that spreads out its roots by the river; and it shall not see and fear when heat comes; but its leaf shall be green. It shall not be anxious and full of care in the year of drought, nor shall it cease yielding fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

What hard reality are you facing right now?

What has God said about it?

Which reality will you believe?


“I, the LORD, have spoken.” She who believes the word of the Lord will live well watered.




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