I Love You Because

Hello, and welcome to another Thursday morning! It’s officially Autumn. The leaves of our dogwood tree are starting to turn from green to red, triggering a poignant memory…

“Why do the leaves turn color, Mama?”

I looked at my four-year-old son, then back at the dogwood tree in the middle of our yard. The small tree was always the first to display red and orange leaves. Did I know the answer to his question? “The sun shines less this time of year, so the leaves don’t make as much chlorophyll.” I almost ended with a question mark, because I wasn’t quite sure my answer was right. I’d pretty much bombed out in biology.

My little boy frowned and shook his head. “No, Mama, God paints ‘em.”

“Okay. Why did you ask if you already knew the answer?”

He shrugged before bouncing away to join his brothers playing in the court.
My son was certain of his answer, whether scientifically correct, or based on his four-year-old trust mentality.

It made me wonder, why do we ask questions when we already know the answer? Are we hoping the answer will change?

My son had an inquisitive mind. He asked me questions throughout the day for days on end. Sometimes I grew tired of coming up with answers. I may have gotten snippy a time or two.

We taught our children to believe the impossible, that God created the universe by speaking it into existence. His words started a chain of events that centuries later, resulted in the natural beauty around us—the red, orange, and golden leaves in fall. So, maybe He had painted the leaves in the beginning…but why?

Lost in thought, I didn’t hear my son’s approach until he draped his arms around my neck and hugged me.

“I love you, Mama.”

My heart overflowed. “Why do you love me?”

He rested his head against my shoulder. “Just because.”

Grandmotherly Advice

coffee, cup, laptop, memeHello, it’s Thursday morning! What an eventful week it’s been since last I wrote to you. We’ve endured a wintry onslaught, and lots more rain. It’s still raining, but at least the weather has warmed to a more spring-like temperature.

The approach of Easter has me thinking deeply about the grace of God.

I’m studying the book of 1 Samuel in the Bible, and as I read the final verses of chapter 12, I was reminded of one of my grandmothers.

“And neither will I walk off and leave you. That would be a sin against God! I’m staying right here at my post praying for you and teaching you the good and right way to live.”

My granny, Belle Thomason, prayed over her family. Kind of like counting sheep, she repeated the names of her children and grandchildren, as many as she could remember. Every night, she prayed over all of us, because she considered it a sin not to pray.

Granny’s in the middle!

She felt a call of God on her life to pray for those God had given her. The ones she’d given birth to, those who married into the family, and the ones birthed by her children, then her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She lived to the age of 96. That’s a lot of days, and so many prayers going up.

Did they work? Did God answer? I can remember a lot of tragedies, illnesses, losses. Does that mean God didn’t hear her prayers?

Well, I also remember a lot of good and wonderful things. Years later, generations gone by, if you lined us all up, you’d find a great number of Granny’s children who serve the Lord, and not only serve, but love the Lord with all their hearts.

Don’t give up. Though it seems your prayers are fruitless, and God doesn’t listen. Keep on. Never stop. Begin and end each day with a prayer, and see if it doesn’t make a difference in the long run. You see, Granny was a marathon runner, rather than a sprinter. She’d giggle at that analogy, but it’s true, all the same.

She never gave up on any of her babies, even when they seemed to be headed in the wrong direction.

Dad said Granny was “holiness.” Where they were from, deep in the Bible belt, that meant she went to the Church of God. Full gospel believers. Holy rollers. All I knew, is she wore long-sleeved dresses, mid-calf in length, and never cut her hair. She never wore makeup, either. But she had a deep joy inside that wasn’t troubled by what she saw happening around her.

She pieced and quilted until she couldn’t see anymore, and even then, she still made stitches, though they might not line up perfectly. Many of the family slept under quilts she’d sewn and each one knew, Granny had prayed all the while she worked. Those were prayer quilts.

She wasn’t super spiritual or dour, though. Granny could laugh and tell the occasional joke. She’d lived a life threaded with troubles, but stayed the course.

Her husband was an alcoholic, and he’d been known to sleep around. I’m not sure of the story, because it was never talked about, but they divorced. One of her sons died at an early age when his appendix burst. Another of her sons (my grandfather) died at the hand of his brother-in-law. My grandfather had followed in his daddy’s footsteps. He was an alcoholic. My uncle shot him to stop him from trying to kill my grandma. But that’s another story for another time.

So, you see, Granny’s life was often fraught with troubles. But the prayers never stopped. She didn’t give up. She lived to see most of her family living good lives. The alcoholism that ran deep in their veins lost its hold in my dad’s generation. All four of the children in dad’s family fought a battle with the drink and won. All four died knowing salvation, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

What I’ve learned from all this and hope to pass on to you—my grandmotherly advice—is to never give up. Even when the outlook is bleak. Even when it seems there’s no way out. A prayer whispered into the darkness all those years ago, tugs at my heartstrings now.

Granny loved Jesus, and she passed that love forward to several generations. It’s time for me to take it up and carry it forward. Maybe it’s time for you, too.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. [Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV]

Daniel in the Den of Kings

coffee, cup, laptop, memeI’m a little sad. I’ve just finished the last chapter of Daniel. It’s seemed so short. Every time I read this book, I learn.

So, who is Daniel, really? Is he more than the man who defied the king’s edict and faced the lions’ den?

So much is revealed about the prophet Daniel in this book. If you do a bit of digging, you may be surprised by what you find.

He was a little like Joseph. Both men lived through dire circumstances, yet their obedience and great faith in God allowed them to prosper in the midst of difficult times.

Daniel rose to a position of authority that lasted through several sieges, from Nebuchadnezzar to Darius the Mede. Though Daniel served in the courts of kings, he was not ruled by them. Ultimately, he answered to God, as he proved over and over. And, no surprise, he suffered persecution for his faith.

Thus the den of lions.

This next statement of Daniel’s grabbed my attention and opened a window in my heart and mind:

And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him. Daniel 11:1 [NIV]

Daniel took his stand to support and protect Darius the Mede? I’m reminded of the scripture, “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7 NIV)

Bring this home to your current situation. Do you “seek the peace and prosperity” of the company (occupation, job) in which God has placed you? Or do you constantly revile them, and curse them with your complaints and unkind words? (Gee, this could also apply to marriage.)

I have to tell you, I’ve done it in the past. Many of us pray for a job, a good position, and when we get it, we’re praising God. But time passes and the shiny newness wears off. The honeymoon is over. We become unhappy. We murmur and complain about the gift of God to us.

Daniel’s position was one of honor, and I imagine he had the ability to live pretty well, though he didn’t take everything given. He refused to eat the rich food of the kings. Anything that stood in the way of his worship of Almighty God, he tended to reject. But he prayed for the king who sat on the throne. He didn’t try to escape, because he knew God’s word. He knew God had a plan and he was in it.

It seems to me, if God truly has opened doors and placed me in a position, He might be a little displeased with my complaining. If I’m unhappy with a situation, maybe I should try praying, which is what Daniel did. And his obedience and faith brought this next statement from the angel, Gabriel:

He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.

Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” {Daniel 10:11-12 NIV}

To hear words like these, in answer to your prayer! What a thrill!


 What would our life look like if we truly sought God’s presence in our situation? If we gave Him glory in the midst, and prayed for the prosperity of the place we’d been sent? Even if we feel it’s the wrong place…pray. Remain obedient until the time of God’s deliverance. It will come.

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To the Woman in the Prayer Room

Jennifer Hallmark, Linda Yezak, and me at ACFW
Jennifer Hallmark, Linda Yezak, and me at ACFW

While attending the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference three weeks ago, my heart was heavy. My husband was ill at home and I felt some anxiety over that. ACFW always provides a prayer room, so I found it and entered. My good friend, Linda Yezak was the volunteer in charge at the moment. I didn’t bother her, but crossed the room and found a seat. I just wanted to spend some time in prayer. There was only one other person there–a woman, unfamiliar to me.

As soon as I sat down, I was surrounded by a tangible peace and something else–a sweet spirit–that’s the only way I can describe it. I sat there, barely able to pray, just absorbing the atmosphere. It was precious. I felt loved and lifted up. After a few minutes, the other woman got up and walked out of the room. Though the peaceful atmosphere remained, that sweetness left with her.

I don’t know who she was. I never saw her again.

But I’m grateful. That feeling sustained me and I remembered it often over the next few days.

In last week’s blog post, I hinted that something unexpected had occurred in my life, and interrupted my regular blog schedule. I’d completely missed a week. When I returned home from ACFW on Sunday afternoon, I found that my husband had not improved. He’d grown worse. He was shaking in hard chills and struggling to breathe. I wanted to take him to the emergency room right away. He wouldn’t go. He wanted to wait until morning and go to his doctor. He’d been to the doctor the previous week and had tests run.

A little backstory– he’d been sick on and off for over a year and had lost a significant amount of weight. But the doctor had not been able to find the cause. No one had. Early Monday morning, his doctor called and ordered him to go to the hospital. My husband was in acute renal failure.

In the hospital, after the crisis
In the hospital, after the crisis

Unexpected. We were in shock. This had to be a mistake. How could something like that happen? He was admitted and rushed through numerous diagnostic procedures that revealed blockages in both kidneys. Without an emergency dialysis treatment, he was hours from death. I was devastated. I’d seen my dad go through kidney failure–years of weekly dialysis–and a kidney transplant that succeeded until he died suddenly of a blood clot in his lung. I didn’t want my husband to have to go through that.

I prayed. I called on all my friends and family to pray. And often, throughout the next few hours, I remembered that sweet presence in the ACFW prayer room.

I meditated on it as I sat at my husband’s hospital bedside while his blood ran through the dialysis machine. I was consumed by peace. I laugh now, remembering myself sitting there eating a veggie sandwich from Jimmy John’s while my husband endured the procedure. Okay, I was really hungry, but I had an assurance that everything was going to be all right. He was sleeping, by the way.

We had no idea what the future held. Would he have to continue receiving dialysis? Were his kidneys permanently damaged? These fears danced through our minds on and off over the next couple of days, as prayers rose on our behalf, throughout our sphere of influence.

A lighter moment - sharing a meal in Cuenca, Ecuador this summer.
A lighter moment – sharing a meal in Cuenca, Ecuador earlier this summer.

God answered. The unexpected thing brought to light a problem my husband had had over the last couple of years. Kidney stones. They’d almost completely blocked his kidneys. This was making him very sick, as toxins filled his body. Once this issue was addressed, he began to recover. Rapidly. He still has to go through some things, but he’s getting stronger every day.

And he won’t need additional dialysis.

Yes, we were shocked by the initial news, but our trust is in God. He brought us through. I’m thankful to Him and to all our friends and family who prayed for us and with us during those days of uncertainty. And I’m thankful for that unknown woman in the ACFW prayer room. It’s possible she was there praying for herself, but God used her as a vessel–a conduit. The sweetness spilled over onto me. God’s presence stayed with me through a very difficult time.

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Couragious Forgiveness

background-1135051_1280Sometimes, it takes raw courage to forgive.

This is an ongoing theme in my life. Forgiving, even when it hurts (me). Looking back, I see a line of courageous forgivers. The Amish families who lost their children. Corrie Ten Boom. And further back in history, Stephen (early church deacon who was stoned to death for his faith).

The troubles of my past pale in comparison. But they still hurt. The human reaction for most of us is to hold on to them. To hate the one who hurt us. To punish the perpetrator through our ongoing hate.

Deep inside, I know that kind  of possessive unforgiveness hurts me more than anyone else. Those who committed the worst things that ever happened to me are dead now. They’ve met their fate, and they met it without my spoken forgiveness. I came to this knowledge too late. But I have now forgiven them. Their slate is clean with me.

flower-946502_1280Why does it matter? I no longer suffer under the weight of holding on to someone’s guilt. I’ve been spiritually healed of the pain inflicted on me, because of this passage of scripture… “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (John 8: 14-15 NIV)

Pay close attention to verse fifteen. It holds a devastating truth. Don’t overlook it.

Forgiving others sets you free. When I let go of the pain of my past, something died inside of me. But it was a good death. No longer would I be in its death grip. I am free of the pain. And those who caused that pain are in God’s hands. I am completely free.

Here’s another life-giving realization that came to me when I pondered my freedom: Unforgiveness is one of the strongest tools of the enemy. Satan uses unforgiveness–in your life–to steal your joy, your health, happiness, peace. He uses it to kill, and to destroy. With it, he destroys families…lives. Yours. Not the one who sinned against you.

death-1013386_1920I held my hurt and pain in a tight fist for so long, I couldn’t enjoy life. If anything in my life reminded me of what happened, I curled up in a fetal position (inside, if not physically) and felt dead. Others were hurt and confused by my attitude. Until the day I discovered these scriptures and decided it was time to let it go.

It wasn’t easy. Even after the initial spoken forgiveness, I was reminded throughout the day, every day, of what had been done to me. I’m not exaggerating. So I faced it with courage. I took every thought captive. When the thoughts came, they brought pain with them. I forgave all over again. I took a step further and replaced feelings of hurt and pain and hate with love. But not in my name. “Father, forgive me. Replace the hateful memories. Heal my heart and help me love.”

1-Passion FlowerYears have passed since that time. The hurtful thoughts came less and less. My heart gradually healed. Some babies are born with a hole in their heart. Most are healed naturally, as they grow. The hole closes. Their hearts are healthy. That’s what happened to me, but spiritually. The hole in my heart closed up. It’s sealed and strong. It took courage. I would like to take all the glory for that, but I can’t.

It was God’s love. I am so loved by God. “For God so loved the world, He gave his only Son…” As a believer, my faith has made me whole.

I share this so perhaps you can be whole also. If you suffer under the weight of unforgiveness, consider what I said in the paragraph above. How much joy have you allowed to pass by, so you could hold on to this pain? How much peace?

Take a chance. Be courageous. Forgive, that you might be forgiven.