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persistence in prayer


They shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Matthew 20:29

Jesus was walking, talking, and teaching as was customary in Palestine for a Rabbi to teach as well as walk with their followers. Christ’s “students” were trying ever-so-hard to listen, straining their ears to hear what Jesus was saying, as two blind men were crying and pleading for Jesus’ attention.

These beggars were being disruptive and distracting.

The crowd was frustrated and told them to be quiet. There was no space in this paradigm for these men to have access to Jesus. But that did not restrain them. While the crowd tried to silence their pleas, they persisted. Rather than back off, they cried out louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

Can you imagine?

Have you ever been so desperate as to lose all sense of your status and place in society, to shed all decorum and comportment, that you would be willing to cry out, above the shushing crowd, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”?

What a sight that must of have been! I’ve been trying to imagine it in our post-modern, year-2023, world. The underprivileged or the over-privileged, stepping out of their subsequent roles, and being so desperate for Jesus that they would be willing to become the object of annoyance or shame from society. These two blind men, when given even the slightest hope of contact with the Messiah, did not sit back in unspoken, passive hope that Jesus would see them and notice them, but they cried out persistently for the attention of the Son of David. Would I be willing to do the same if I thought there might be a chance that Jesus could change my life?

While the crowd rebuked, Jesus stopped. He paused. He listened. He noticed. And he called them to come.

“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. Matthew 20:32

Such a fascinating question: What do you want me to do for you?

It seems obvious, doesn’t it? “I’m blind. What do you think I want you to do for me?”

Blindness in that time and context relegated these men to a life of poverty. There were no government programs or schools for the blind, benefits or books written in braille, no therapies or medical technologies that a blind person could access in order to help them integrate into society. They had nothing.

Their persistence was understandable. And yet, Jesus still asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” Matthew 20:33

They stated what they wanted- clearly and simply. There was no pause, no trying to find the right words, no guilt or shame.

They wanted to see.

Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. Matthew 20:34

The blind men were so desperate that they had no problem causing a disturbance. They knew Jesus could heal them, and they couldn’t remain silent. When Jesus asked them what they wanted, he already knew, but he wanted them to declare it. Rather than hold this longing in their hearts and minds, Jesus’ question pushed them to speak out loud, and subsequently declare, that Jesus was the true Messiah, the only person who could meet this particular need. Their cries were not for money, which they could get from any passerby, but their cries were for healing, which could only come from a Savior.

And not just healing in the broad sense, but the request was very specific.  There was no ambiguity. They didn’t just ask Jesus to heal them; they were direct and said they wanted their sight.

Then, Jesus had compassion on them. Jesus looked at these two blind men, and his heart was moved. Out of compassion, Jesus touched them. He didn’t lay a hand on their heads or shoulders or hold their hands, but rather, he touched them where their need was – he touched their eyes, and they received their sight.

His compassion touched them at their point of need.

The persistence of these two blind men opened the opportunity for Christ to meet them – in their darkness – and heal them in a very specific and meaningful way. I suppose any healing from Christ would be meaningful, but that Jesus’ touch was so intentional, so directly on the point of pain, makes this miracle incredibly significant to the ones who received it.

As I’ve contemplated this story, I find myself encouraged to persist in prayer. To continue to reach out, cry out, and shout out as loudly as I can, to the One who can heal…to the one who can place his hands on the wounds of my life, and bring the restoration, the healing and the completeness that I need.

I think that we stop too soon in our prayers. I think we get discouraged when it seems that Jesus cannot hear us above the crowd. And I wonder if we just grow weary of asking. But what I believe this story tells us is that Jesus’ heart is for us, and his compassion moves us to him.

I cannot make a guarantee to anyone that if you just pray more persistently, the blind will see, the dead will rise, and the sick will be healed, but I can promise that the more we persist in our pursuit of Jesus – Son of David, Messiah and Savior – he will be there, and he will touch us. There is no question about that. His healing runs far deeper than our physical pains, wounds and disabilities. His healing makes us whole from the inside out.

I suppose we are all very much the two blind men in this miraculous story. However, our blindness is not physical, and our desperate pleas are not that we would be able to see trees and faces, animals and sky. But the healing we need is for the spiritual darkness to be lifted and our hearts to fully see Christ as our Savior. This is healing from the inside out. This is truly seeing. And this comes through our persistent prayers.

A mouth open in unceasing prayer will result in open eyes that see faith clearly. So, pray in the darkness, even if there seems to be no hope of light. When God, who is light, moves a poor sinner to plead and cry out with the commitment to continue until the blessing comes, he doesn’t even consider disregarding that poor crying heart. Perseverance in prayer is a sure sign that the day of opening the eyes of the blind is near.

Charles H. Spurgeon, “Life in Christ: Lessons from Our Lord’s Miracles and Parables”

Pray. Pray. And keep on praying.

Be persistent in prayer.

Trust God with the outcome.

His compassion will touch you, too, at your point of need.

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As I watched the clock strike midnight, its hand leaving 2021 and tick-tock-ticking its way into 2022, I felt a wave of relief. Covid and transition left me feeling kind of empty. Rather than enter the new year with a bang, I mostly coasted in on fumes.

I came down with a fever on Christmas Day and spent the following week either in bed or on the couch. Sydney was with us for a very short period of time, and I desperately wanted to spend as much time with her as possible, in spite of the flu. By the time New Years’ Day arrived, my days were mush as I spent the first week of 2022 packing Christmas away and catching up on life.

My word for 2022 was “Whole”. As a family, we were on a trajectory of healing…processing and working through some hard-to-articulate wounds from the past few years. Joel and I both sensed, individually, that God had a very personal work he wanted to do in us and in our family. And he did just that. While I can’t say it was all neat and orderly, God was very much at work. There were many moments throughout 2022 that I honestly wondered what in the world God was doing because his work did not look like healing or wholeness. Yet, as I reflect on the year past, I do see God’s hand, and his handiwork.

Miracles happened. Not the big and audacious kind that we love to talk about, but the small and internal kind that water deeper growth and spiritual resilience. The kind of miracles that don’t always elicit external awe.

Miracles are still happening. Healing is a process, and it is still in process. I wish I could boast of some grandiose moment of instantaneous healing, but that is not the way in which God has chosen to work. Rather, he is taking our lives, moment-by-moment, and awaking our hearts to not just find personal healing, but to have an awareness of the much-needed healing in the lives of others. His work is never just for “us”, but for his glory and the benefit of others. If my pain can be a catalyst for connection and healing of another, then this pain is worth it all.

And it is not just the heart wounds that God uses, but the physical deficiencies that plague our bodies. Jackson, as we have openly shared, deals with a genetic eye condition by which his optic nerve is slowly atrophying which has caused significant visual impairment. Because we believe that God is a God who heals, we have prayed for complete healing. This supernatural kind of healing has not come. This is not to indicate that I have lost faith in God’s capabilities, but it is our present reality. I still pray and believe for healing, but likewise, I am praying God’s will…his most perfect will to be done in the life of Jackson…whatever that may look like.

I’ve asked myself multiple times this past year: “What if…”

What if the miracle is not Jackson’s eyesight being restored, but rather the miracle is learning to trust God’s goodness regardless of the outcome of our prayers? What if the greatest miracle of all in Jackson’s story is spiritual insight and sensitivity rather than physical sight?

What if our current circumstances do not change, or – even worse – get harder, do I still believe and trust that God is good?

What if the hope of seeing our dreams unfold never materializes? Can I still hold on to Jesus and trust his plan? Is Jesus really enough for me? Is this the miracle we are waiting for…simply Jesus?

The awe and wonder this side of 2022 is that Jesus never left us; his hand was always in the middle of the process.

The miracle of “wholeness” was not the absence of disappointment.

The miracle of “wholeness” was God’s complete presence in the midst of a really hard year.

Perhaps the most audacious prayer we can pray is, “God, give me the grace to accept hard things, give me the strength to endure unmet expectations, and give me your joy in perseverance.”

The miracle is not all the big answers to prayers.

The miracle is God’s grace, strength and joy in spite of our circumstances. It is Christ’s character being formed in us, and in turn, conforming our desires to his desires.

This truly is a miracle.

recalibrate – 2023



New year. New word. New focus.

This year my word is “Recalibrate”.

“Recalibrate” is not a word that I particularly like. It doesn’t immediately jump out to me or inspire me. It’s the kind of word that Joel would choose, or my dad. To me, it sounds very masculine, not very poetic (and I love poetic words!).

Still, at the beginning of December, when my thoughts turned to the anticipation of a new year, this word kept coming to mind. I couldn’t shake it. And when I slowed down long enough to look a little more intentionally at the word “recalibrate”, I started to see its significance for my life.

In order to appreciate the meaning of “recalibrate”, we have to take a look its root word: “calibrate”.

Calibrate is a verb. It indicates the act of measuring something. Merriam-Webster defines “calibrate” as “to make standard (as a measuring instrument) by finding out and correcting for the differences from an accepted or ideal value”.

In other words, when we calibrate something, we are looking at an accepted value and then correcting what we have in order to fit that ideal. When this something begins to slip off track, when it drifts off course, we do the act of recalibratinggetting it back on track.

I think the most significant part of the definition is looking at the “ideal value”. I have to ask myself, what is the “ideal value” that I am recalibrating myself to? This is something to ponder.

In our noisy world, polluted with opinions, self-help books and podcasts all declaring their own ideal value, it is critical to pull away from it all in order to gain clarity. The true picture of what is ideal can get fuzzy if we are looking into our culture for direction. The ideal value will never be found in a program or a person. Man-made ideals will continuously leave us fractured and inadequate. Cultures and systems and structures built around personalities and preferences will only lead to discouragement, fallout and failure. People get hurt in personality-driven ideals.

So, where do we find this “ideal value”? To what are we calibrating and recalibrating ourselves? We have definitely drifted off course, so what do we do and where do we go from here?

In the process of growing up…getting older (and hopefully wiser), I am more and more convinced that the simplicity of God’s word is the compass that keeps us on the trajectory of our true north…our true path…our ideal value. Even as a Christ-follower, it is easy to veer off and into ideals that are not truly God’s ideal. They may not be bad, but they are not the best.

To find the “ideal value” we look to the “ideal”, and that is Jesus Christ. If you are a Christ- follower, like me, then the Holy Spirit dwells within us. We are image bearers of our Savior. The Bible tells us that the world will know us by our fruit. The outpouring of our lives should be the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Christ embodied each one of these…he was a living picture of the fruit of the Spirit. Our “ideal value” is to be the same…to pursue a life that models Christ, and Christ alone.

We must re-calibrate to Christ’s “ideal value”.

In addition to this, Christ has given us the priceless gift of discernment: the Holy Spirit. I worry that this gift has gotten shoved into a corner and is becoming more and more obsolete in our fast-paced world that yearns for instant gratification and celebrity platforms. Discernment calls us to pause, pray, and consider. We can’t rush wisdom and discernment. We have to be willing to patiently wait as God brings clarity and peace.

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.

John 16:13

The gift of discernment is the act of listening to that still, small voice inside of us (the Holy Spirit) that warns us when something is off, that brings conviction when we have veered off course, and leads us gently along the path that God has prepared for us – it is the gift of truth. The Holy Spirit guides us in all truth, which sets us free as we follow Christ. This discernment ensures that we are calibrated to the “ideal value”; it is the “measuring instrument” that keeps us on course. We cannot do this life, this God-honoring work of discipleship, without it.

And this is where, and to what, I feel driven to recalibrate. This obedience – a long obedience in the same direction (Eugene Peterson) – to the leading, prompting, directing and ministry of the Holy Spirit within me. This is not some super-spooky-natural new age practice. It is, frankly, the fundamentals of living the Christian life. And this is where I sense the Lord leading me. Recalibrate to the “ideal value”, which is Jesus Christ. No more people pleasing, no more playing a role that doesn’t fit, and no more living outside my values. This year will be about listening more intentionally to the still, small voice inside of me, and recalibrating my attention and my life to God’s ideal value.

And, my hope and sincere desire, is to open up my heart and share very transparently my journey here. If you have been broken, my prayer is that, in this space, you will find a safe place to land. If you have been hurt, may you find refuge and healing through Jesus Christ, and in the safety of this community. And if you, too, feel the urgency to recalibrate, may grace abound as you seek to follow and obey, to set your eyes on the ideal value, and allow the Holy Spirit to do His ongoing work of aligning you to the truth. This year promises blessings and challenges. And it also promises God’s faithfulness and goodness each step of the way.

Recalibrating in 2023.



Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

Christmas is here, and I find myself wondering: how did that happen? Did we really plow through twelve months of rainy seasons, dry seasons, cold seasons, heat, flooding, traffic jams, school days, sport events, haircuts, doctor’s appointments, and all the little things crammed into the open spaces of our calendars? How is that even possible?

And yet, here we are. Another year. Another Christmas.

In some ways, it has gone by very quickly; in other ways, it has felt incredibly slow and arduous.

I’m going to be honest. I am weary. I’ve been living in “weary” for quite some time. I need rest. My soul needs rest, and I am finding glimpses of freedom in acknowledging this. My defenses are down. I’m becoming comfortable with this reality.

While I’m not waving a flag of victory and dancing my way into Christmas- and the year ahead- I am consciously more settled in my soul – now more than ever – with the conviction that God is God, and I am not. The flag I am waving looks more like surrender. My role in this grand story is to live a life honoring and representing Christ in the best and most authentic way possible. And the way I can do this is to take his yoke upon myself – to learn from him the deeper practice of trust and resiliency – and to keep my gaze fixed on Christ.

I want my life marked, not by doing everything perfectly, or handling each challenging situation without flaw or with a track record of exceptional strength, but marked by working out my faith in weakness and humility, surrender to God, and never giving up. In the weariness, there is rest.

Jesus calls the weary to himself. He does not call the self-sufficient, nor those with the proper religious credentials or perfect, Instagram-able lives. He calls those exhausted from toil, from just getting through the day. He calls those burdened with heavy loads, those weighed down by sin and sorrow. It is these, not the confident and successful, to whom Jesus says, “Come to me.”

Prayer in the Night, by Tish Harrison Warren

It has been a year, and I need Immanuel. I need his closeness…his nearness.

Weary and worn, my hope…my peace…my joy and my heart are living in the childlike wonder that Immanuel is here – that his promise to never leave us is a promise kept, and that his invitation to “Come” has not expired.

Throughout this Advent season we’ve made space to reflect upon the hope we have in Christ’s promise, the peace that anchors us in a world of chaos and sin, the joy as we look to something – Someone – greater to come, and the delight in being so loved by our Savior. We’ve welcomed the anticipation and we’ve leaned in hard to the steadfast truth that holds us in our weariness.

Today is Christmas Day. The long-awaited Messiah has arrived. We no longer wait in suffering and silence but hold his promises close.

He says “Come” to the burned out, the broken, the tired, the hurt, the grieving and the hopeful. He is the Savior for the weary, the long-suffering and the lost. And he invites us to take his yoke…to learn and trust…to rest in his presence.

He is God with us.


so loved – advent 2022



For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

For God so loved…

The word “so”, when used as an adverb, can have a few different meanings. It can express the degree or extent of something, or it can also declare something that is definite. For example: “The music is so loud”, or “The volume of the music must be just so”.

One statement is expressing the extremeness of the sound of music playing, while the other is declaring the absoluteness of what level the volume of the music must be.

In this Scripture, both meanings can be applied.

As a way of expressing the extent of God’s love, we can read it as “God loved so much – so intensely and so extremely – that he gave…” As a definitive statement, we can read it as “There is no question about God’s love, it is just so, and therefore he gave…”

Either way, we recognize that God loved us extremely and most purposefully, and because of this intense and absolute love, he gave his most precious possession: his one and only Son.

Have you ever been loved like that? Maybe you have a person in your life that loves you so completely that they would be willing to give their most precious possession to you, or even further, they would die for you. If so, that is a gift. But would they be willing to give, or to die, for all? Is their love so expansive and perfect that they would lay down their own life for that of a stranger, a sinner, or someone they don’t particularly like? To be so loved by One who knows the faults and the sins of all of us is a love I don’t think any of us can begin to fathom. And not one single human being on this earth can honestly say we can so love in the same way.

It (John 3:16) tells us of the width of the love of God. It was the world that God so loved. It was not a nation; it was not the good people; it was not only the people who loved him; it was the world. The unlovable and the unlovely, the lonely who have no one else to love them, the man who loves God and the man who never thinks of him, the man who rests in the love of God and the man who spurns it–all are included in this vast inclusive love of God. As Augustine had it: “God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love.”

William Barclay’s The Daily Study Bible Series, Revised Edition.

God so loved all.

This kind of love is beyond comprehension.

This kind of love causes our hearts to pound in our chests, especially when we begin grasp the enormity of it all.

This kind of love should move us…compel us…humble us…to shed our pride, our broken systems, and our preferences, and love sacrificially.

This kind of love should undo us…wreck us…change us.

Christmas is just the beginning of the love story between Christ and mankind. It was the spark that ignited a new era of love between God and his people. It was the fulfillment of prophecy and law. It was Immanuel. It was God with us. No longer far off and distant, this love came down, in the form of a human – a tiny, precious baby – and was among us. Flesh and bone, eye-to-eye, rubbing up alongside the world, feeling our feelings, carrying our sorrows and soothing our pain. He came because he so loved.

Christ’s arrival was the start of a journey that eventually led to the cross. His mission was set. There was no other way. Wrapped in swaddling clothes, the story of redemption made its way into our fractured world. Love was born. A love that had never been experienced on earth before invaded the darkness, stepped into our brokenness, and extended itself to any who would accept it and believe.

So loved.

I have been reflecting on this love for several weeks. How has being so loved by God changed me? What evidence is there in my life that reflects this kind of love? And what is my response?

To be so loved does demand a response. Not because this is a conditional kind of love, but because such an unconditional expression of love compels us.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

John 3:17-18

When our hearts come face-to-face with this extravagant and unconditional love, they are required to make a choice: believe it or deny it. There really is no middle ground. We are either compelled to embrace this love with belief and obedience, or we choose not to accept this reality. This love demands a response, and there are only two options.

If, when a man is confronted with Jesus, his soul responds to that wonder and beauty, he is on the way to salvation. But if, when he is confronted with Jesus, he sees nothing lovely, he stands condemned. His reaction has condemned him. God sent Jesus in love. He sent him for that man’s salvation; but that which was sent in love has become a condemnation. It is not God who has condemned the man; God only loved him; the man has condemned himself.

William Barclay’s The Daily Study Bible Series, Revised Edition.

Beyond believing and accepting the One who lavished this love on mankind, being so loved drives us to do something. We don’t do in order to receive God’s love. We do as a result of God’s love. So, what do we do? What are the actions that follow acceptance?

We obey.

We love.

We follow Christ.

We put on humility.

We give.

We die to self.

I think those of us who struggle to obey, love, follow, show humility, give sacrificially and die to our selfish nature are those of us who have not truly grasped the love that God gave us on Christmas. We may mentally take note of it, but our hearts have yet to  receive it. Because being so loved should leave us trembling and aware of the depths God went to in order to save us and redeem us and draw us back to himself. It is too powerful to not be transformed.

For Christ’s love compels us.

2 Corinthians 5:14

What about you? Are you wrestling to even accept and acknowledge Christ’s love for you? Have you yet to receive it, believe and enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ?

If so, what it holding you back? Are there fears or past hurts that seem to stand between you and redemption?

Maybe you have accepted this love, but you struggle to truly embrace its power and extravagance. You are carrying around a lot of fear and wounds, and it is hard to comprehend being so loved. And, in turn, it is difficult to express this unconditional love to others.

Without shame and without pressure, can I just encourage you to consider just how much God loves you right now – imperfect and flawed? Just take a moment to sit in that space…reflecting on how it feels to be so loved.

God didn’t send his son, Jesus, for a privileged few. He sent Jesus for all. God wasn’t, and still isn’t, looking for a perfect person upon whom he can lavish his undeserving love. Jesus came for the lovely and the unlovely. He came for the Abraham’s and the King David’s. He came for the Tamar’s and the Rahab’s. He came for the Jews and the Gentiles.

He came for the rest of us – for all of us.

And all he asks for is our hearts…our obedience…our trust…and our willingness to give his love to others in return.

Christmas is coming. In just a few short days we will gather with family, or attend a church service, and – perhaps – engage in traditions, old and new. As we anticipate the culmination of this season of Advent in the warmth and joy of Christmas Day, may our hearts be further challenged to receive and give this incredible gift of being so loved. Without pause, may we be quick to give our lives in obedience and embrace those who Christ also came to save. What a very different world this would be if we could simply live as so loved.

What can I give Him,

Poor as I am? –

If I were a Shepherd

I would bring a lamb;

If I were a Wise Man

I would do my part, -

Yet what I can I give Him, -

Give my heart.

Christina Rosetti (1872)

joy complete – advent 2022



The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Troubled souls.

I can be included in that category. Troubled. Imperfect. Poor in spirit. In need of a Savior.

Hope and peace turn our hearts towards this “something greater to come”. We know that our hope is secure. We know that peace is Immanuel – God with us. And so, joy is birthed from the conviction that something – Someone – greater is coming.

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.

Isaiah 9:1

Isaiah prophesied that a time was coming when there “will be no more gloom”. He declared that a light would pierce the darkness, and the joy of mankind would increase.

He was prophesying the coming of the Messiah – Jesus Christ. Hope was imminent.

But first, there would be gloom and despair. Troubled souls, like yours and mine, would be waiting, hoping, wondering, and longing. Like the beloved hymn states: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining”.

Mankind was in need of a Savior.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

Isaiah 9:2

But, finally, light broke through the wall of thick darkness. The weary world was shaken to attention. The announcement to the shepherds, the star that guided the wise men, it was a most significant event – the dawning of the Messiah.

You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.

Isaiah 9:2

This event…this light dawning, would be more than a beautiful sunrise. It would be more than a bright and shining star. It was a promise that something greater would cause troubled souls to rejoice. It was likened to reaping a harvest or a great feat by a warrior. It was going to bring a kind of joy that would increase and expand everything in their small and gloomy world. It was a moment that would take the crazy and the chaos, the messy and the out-of-order, and bring everything – all creation – into wholeness and completeness.

Mankind is still in need of a Savior.

Christ came, and he brought his perfect peace, but not every soul has grasped it. There are still so many walking daily in the darkness and gloom. They have yet to experience the joy of Christ’s light. They are trying so hard to put things in order in their own power. They live as though the promise of hope has yet to come.

I think we can all be found guilty of this, if we were honest. We forget that Christ came, and his light gives us everything we need to rejoice. We forget that he is coming again. We lose that anticipation of the second coming. Our joy wanes in the heaviness of the here and now.

But when we recognize that our souls are troubled, that our own imperfections cloud the truth, then we are on our way to being transformed by the Light shining in the darkness.

If you have not felt the troubledness of your soul, then you cannot truly experience the joy of Christmas…the hope of what is to come. If you are hardened to the true condition of humanity, and you live blinded to the gloom and despair, then the reality of Christmas, and the light that shot down from heaven to earth – illuminating everything – will be sadly lost on you. Christmas will only amount to trees and tinsel and presents and unmet longing. We must acknowledge our troubled souls in order to appreciate and grasp the enormity of Christ’s humble arrival over 2000 years ago, and his imminent return. There is no greater joy than the promise that Christ fulfilled, and the promise yet to come. This Advent is a celebration of what has already come to pass, and what is most surely on its way…Christ has come, and he is coming again!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.

Isaiah 9:6,7

Christ is with us. He is Immanuel.

There is joy in his presence.

And Christ is coming again.

The Advent of his coming makes our joy complete.

I am looking for something…for Someone…greater to come.

Jesus Christ…Savior and Messiah.

Are you, too, a troubled soul? Have you had a moment of spiritual amnesia? Have you forgotten Immanuel?

Are you struggling to put your life, this world, back into order? Are you weary?

Reflecting on the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy what brings you hope, peace and joy? Can you connect the dots beginning with the promise fulfilled which leads to the promise of Christ’s second coming?

Is your joy complete in Christ? If not, what do you need to release right now in order to experience the hope, peace and joy that Christ has to offer you?

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious mor

Placide Cappeau



Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27

Peace is hard to come by. In our world, it is difficult to find a point of agreement on just about anything: politics, religion, philosophical beliefs on topics ranging from parenting to leadership to morality to social justice. We just can’t seem to find common ground, even on the fundamentals. The truth is, there has never been a time in history when we all agreed on every matter and every point of view. There have always been conflicting thoughts, opinions, and perspectives. That is life. However, never before has there been such animosity, hatred, and the absence of peace in the midst of our differences. It’s not that we can’t get along or find common ground. It’s that we won’t.

Interestingly, we all long for peace. And yet, in that longing, we create more and more of an atmosphere void of peace. We push so hard to get our point across – believing that peace will be attained by uniformity – that we sever relational strings that have long held us together.

I’ve often wondered what was it like during the four-hundred-year intertestamental time – that time between the Old Testament and the New Testament? What about it made Isaiah refer to it as a time of “darkness and fearful gloom”? What was happening?

The intertestamental time was a era fraught with conflict. The difference between this period following the Old Testament and the advent of Christ was that there was complete silence from God. There were no prophets speaking and warning, bringing God’s word to the people. There was no Jesus disrupting the status quo. There was nothing. No voice of conviction nor comfort. Just silence.

And in that silence was longing.

Judas Maccabeaus, the leader of the rebellion against the Seleucid king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes – who desecrated the Temple in order to impose Greek culture and religion onto the Jewish people – led the fight which eventually brought political freedom to the small nation of Israel. But this only lasted eighty years – the span of a life. The Roman empire, which was the ruling kingdom at the time of Christ’s birth, swiftly conquered the independent Judea.

The Hebrew word for peace, shalom (שׁלום) is derived from a root denoting wholeness or completeness, and its frame of reference throughout Jewish literature is bound up with the notion of shelemut, i.e. perfection.

Dr. Aviezer Ravitzky

From the final prophetic word to the time of Christ was around four-hundred-years. And even though Israel won their freedom for a short period of time within that long timeframe, there was still an emptiness.

The Maccabees attained a form of liberation, but even that was still considered, by the absence of documentation by the prophets, as a dark and fearful time. Why?

Because God was silent.

Imagine a world without God’s voice. Imagine no word from heaven. No Holy Spirit speaking and nudging hearts and minds.

Heaven was silent.

As much as man tried to restore peace, true peace had not yet come.

It wasn’t until Jesus Christ, the Messiah, entered into the story that peace – shalom (שׁלום) – illuminated the darkness and the gloom. Jesus was the embodiment of perfection, the heart of peace. And his peace brought wholeness and completeness.

Christ’s peace was not the manmade manufactured kind, and knowing that the disciples would encounter more gloom and darkness, He brought words of comfort:

My peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.

His peace is the assurance of his presence, his grace, his justice, and his truth. Christ wasn’t going to leave them in silence. He promised the Holy Spirit to them.

I do not give to you as the world gives.

He warned them that the peace the world will try to attain and put into practice will not suffice…it will leave them wanting. The world cannot give the kind of peace that aligns with perfection. Only God can.

Along with truth and justice, peace is among the most hallowed Jewish values.

Dr. Aviezer Ravitzky

In this season of “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” let us not confuse our earthly methods of creating and attaining peace to the kind of peace that Jesus promised to us. If we are looking to a political victory or a win in an argument, we are going to be sorely disappointed. That peace, the world’s peace, will never satisfy the longings of our hearts.

It is the assurance that Christ gives us, and we are reminded of every year as we anticipate the wonder of Christmas, of his presence, his voice, his coming again. We can hold on to that. In Christ’s kingdom, unlike all the ancient kingdoms come and gone, truth, justice and peace will reign. We can cling to that, and in the midst of this broken world, we can surely find peace.

In what, or in whom, are you looking for the promise of peace?

Christ promised us his peace, a peace that brings wholeness and completeness. As you anticipate the celebration of Christ’s birth, what facets of his character bring you peace?

What challenge are you facing that is causing anxiety for you today? How can Christ’s promise of peace bring a calm to your weary mind and heart? What hole in your life are you trying to fill yet failing to close the gap and achieve wholeness? What do you need to release to God today so that you can stand secure in his perfect peace?

Silent Night

Silent Night, Holy Night

All is calm, all is bright

Round yon virgin mother and child

Holy infant so tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace.

Joseph Mohr



Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:12

Waiting and hoping.

Longing is defined by Merriam Webster as “a strong desire especially for something unattainable”.

Have you ever longed for something important…something significant…something that your heart has been set on for a long time, only to keep on waiting as “unrelenting disappointment” (MSG) continued to break your heart as you kept on waiting?

No results.

No perceived light at the end of the tunnel.

Disappointment can uproot any hope that we have been holding onto.

Year after year, generation after generation, the Israelites waited for the promised Messiah. After four hundred years, I imagine many hearts had either given up hope or felt the great heart sickness of this “unrelenting disappointment”.

Matthew, the first book of the New Testament, opens without fanfare or a dazzling play-by-play of the answer to hundreds of years of prayers. Rather, he opens up his account of Jesus Christ with a genealogy.

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Matthew 1:1

Genealogies were significant. They were a way to legitimize a person, stating “this individual is who they claim to be”. In Matthew’s introduction to his account of Jesus, he starts by connecting Jesus to Abraham and David. Both Abraham and David are significant members of this ancestorial line. Abraham was the father of the nation of Israel and the one to whom God made covenant with. God promised Abraham that, through his offspring, God would pour out his blessing. David was royalty. God made a covenant with David as well- that his offspring would sit on the throne and rule forever.

Matthew points to Abraham, drawing the attention of the readers to the fact that the promise and blessing of Abraham has come through Jesus Christ. Christ was not just another name in a line of generations past; he was the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham from the conception of a nation.

Matthew points to David, declaring Christ’s royal lineage. Jesus is the heir to David’s throne, and he will reign forever. God’s covenant to David was fulfilled through Jesus. Prophets had foretold the coming of the Messiah. The Israelites were anticipating a king.

While Matthew’s genealogy pointed directly to Christ’s fulfillment of Abraham’s promise and his royal lineage through David, it also did something deeply profound. Matthew highlighted four women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Uriah’s wife (Bathsheba). Not only was it something of a wonder to find the names of women included in a male-dominated genealogy, but these women were prostitutes, Gentiles, women wrapped up in scandal.

They were outsiders.

They were the rest of us.

After four hundred years of waiting, Jesus came. He came as King of kings, the promised one of Abraham, and the Hope of all mankind.

Through Matthew’s genealogy, we see that this longing for the Messiah had come. Hope was no longer deferred.

Hope is with us.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

Hebrews 10:23

It is easy to get caught up in the mental madness of all the broken promises this world has given to us. As much as we may try to avoid keeping track, our brains somehow hold all the records of all the wrongs we’ve experienced and all the misplaced hopes we’ve pined away for. Some of those losses were a blessing, and we breathe a big sigh of relief. Some of them might still hurt. We hoped, and we waited. Maybe we are still hoping and still waiting. We are walking in that “unrelenting disappointment”.

Misplaced hope always leaves us wanting.

But the hope that holds us…keeps us…strengthens us in the midst of a world that consistently disappoints, is the Hope that came at Christmas. The son of David and the son of Abraham. The promise incarnate. The King of kings. The Messiah for all of us.

The hope we profess is the hope of salvation and redemption…the hope of Jesus. And we know that he is faithful. Matthew’s genealogy legitimizes Christ’s identity. We know that the promise has been fulfilled, and therefore, we know our hope is secure.

Christmas is my favorite time of year. The lights, the music, the ‘butterflies in the tummy’ feeling of anticipation brings me tremendous joy. There is hope everywhere. It is in the eyes of the six-year-old hoping to find that special toy under the Christmas tree. It is in the face of the young woman hoping to grasp her long-awaited joy. It is in the voice of the singer who declares “Joy to the world…”, and it is heard in the heartbeat of our elders, wondering if there truly is hope for mankind.

I love Christmas even more because I know that my hope is grounded in truth. While I may not see clearly, or understand the circumstances around me, the assurance of Christ’s presence gives me tremendous peace.

What- or who- are you hoping in this year?

What does Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus mean to you as you contemplate the hopes deferred in your life?

If you were to hold unswervingly to the Hope that Matthew declares to be the legitimate Messiah and King, how might your perception of your current circumstances change?

What does hope in Christ look like to you?


Hope in Jesus…the promise…the King…is a hope that never betrays us. Like a beautiful string of lights that warm up the cold winter landscape, Christ’s presence reminds us that hope in him will light our paths and warm our hearts…even when the world turns a cold shoulder on its promises.



One of my favorite Christmas songs is “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”. One variation of this song begins with this line: “I’m dreaming tonight of a place I love even more than I usually do…”. Every time I hear this, my thoughts are instantly transported to my grandparents’ old farmhouse in Wellston, Ohio at Christmastime. I can see the tree in the corner of the living room, and I can smell my grandmother’s baking in her little farmhouse kitchen. It’s like time stands still for a moment. Christmas at Nanny and Ba’s house- some of the most precious childhood memories I have. It makes me feel homesick, not just for that old house, and my grandma’s baking, and my grandpa’s endless teasing, but homesick for a moment in time that felt warm and cozy and safe. Homesick for a feeling. A feeling of “home.”

The topic of “home” has been a recurring theme in my life over the past few months. Where is home? What is home? Is home a place, an idea, or a feeling? What is it?

If you were my son, Jasper, your connection to home might be family. He had to do a little project for school about all the different kinds of homes there are in the world. We brainstormed, and he came up with a long list of all the various types of homes that are possible: wood homes, stone homes, brick homes, glass homes, ice homes, etc.. His list was long. The next part of the project was to talk about his own home. Once he described what he believed his home was made of – brick and wood – he then went on to explain what he loved about his home- what makes it special to him. Interestingly, he didn’t talk about specific features, but rather, it was his family that made his home so special to him. For Jasper, it was family that defined home, more so than wood and brick.

As a missionary, I often find myself wrestling with this idea of “home.” It feels uncertain because of the unstable nature of this kind of life. I try my best to plant roots and dig in deep wherever I am, but there is always this reality – way back in my mind – that all of this is temporary. Even now, as we look ahead to itineration in approximately six months, “home” is already being disrupted by the anticipation of our upcoming transition.

I was listening to a speaker recently unpack this topic of “home” to a group of fellow missionary women. She shared about a time when she was attending a high school graduation in Nairobi, Kenya. The graduation speaker, who was a third culture kid, asked the question, “What is home?” Later, she answered the question by saying, “God is home.”

This really struck me.

God is home.

Brooklyn and I were out for one of our coffee dates, and she opened up to me about some of the things she’s been processing lately. She is a senior in high school and is looking ahead at a lot of big transitions in her life. Like I mentioned earlier, itineration is just around the corner for our family, but even more startling is the reality that Brooklyn’s transition doesn’t end when she leaves South Africa. She will be in an ongoing state of transition as she begins university in August of next year. For her, this feeling of unsettledness is profound. There is so much uncertainty. And she made a comment to me that nowhere feels like home.

South Africa, while it is her current address, doesn’t feel like home to her. She doesn’t feel as connected to it as she did to our home in Portland, Oregon. And yet, Portland doesn’t feel like home either. It is has changed. Everything that made it “home” to her has completely flipped upside-down, and her connection to a place that would seemingly be home to her feels very foreign.

As we were talking ,two things came to my mind: First, I remembered the message I listened to that encouraged us that “God is home,” and second, thankfully we can say that our “family is home.”

Nothing is constant, except God. And while I am grateful that I have a family that is secure, stable, authentic, and a safe place to land, I realize that rooting myself/ourselves in family can’t always meet that need for “home”, but God can. Because God is constant. When we are rooted in him, we are secure. He keeps us and he holds us. He anchors us when life threatens to blow us over. He is faithful.

I don’t think this concept applies only to missionaries and third-culture kids. I think it is universal to all Christ-followers. How often do we look around at the world, or even the city we live in, and feel so very foreign? How often do we wonder where exactly we fit in? And how many times do we struggle to find a place that feels right and whole and “home?” My guess is that we don’t feel these things very often. Maybe you are fortunate enough to be a part of a body of believers that gives you a living picture of safety and security and fulfills that longing for home. Like my family, it is a place of rest and peace and trust. Or maybe the body you have been connected to has been dysfunctional, and it has disappointed you, and you are thinking to yourself, “Is there really such a thing as a healthy church family?” Regardless, I would guess that many of us, whether in healthy or unhealthy environments, feel very foreign in this world. And those feelings are very valid.

Earth is not our home; Heaven is our home. This is not to say we don’t get planted and rooted where we are, but we do so with the awareness that this is not our forever home.

In Hebrews chapter 11, the writer is drawing our attention to those who trusted and lived by faith, waiting and believing in the promise to come. Even as they passed from this earth, they were still living by faith.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 11:13-16

Are you longing for a better country? Are you reminiscing about a time gone by that felt warm and secure, but doesn’t exist anymore? Do you feel like a stranger here on earth? If yes, then you are in good company. Those who lived by faith and are acknowledged as those who put faith in action in the Scriptures, also felt those same feelings. This broken world, these dysfunctional systems we try so hard to control, are not our home. God is our home.

And our mandate from Christ is to bring as many other people home as we possibly can. Our purpose is not to live so secluded and insulated that our light grows dim. Our purpose isn’t to create better systems or even to make better leaders. As we live as strangers in this world, our responsibility is to bring people to Christ; to bring them home with God. Making disciples who make disciples. Because God’s home is not for a select few, but we know that he longs for all to come and dwell.

God is our home.

I am so grateful for that promise and assurance today. This Thanksgiving more than any other, this truth feels even more comforting to me.

the cost of forgiveness


Tim Keller likens our typical Christian approach to forgiveness as a type of “therapeutically- motivated culture” of forgiveness. We forgive in order to feel better – to attain inner peace – and so to also ensure forgiveness from God. Without embracing the reality of what forgiveness costs, we tend to take action for personal relief, healing, and mental rest. However, how often do we count the actual cost of forgiveness? Truly? We feel that cost deep, deep down, but we struggle to articulate the negative feelings because it doesn’t always sound Christlike and selfless. It can sound very self-preserving and, perhaps, angry.

Our Christian faith sets us apart from other religions in that we are called to forgive, and to extend love and grace, even in the face of hostility. However, we often fall short in our approach to true forgiveness. We tend to stay on the superficial level of releasing our wounds from others in order to feel better. But that is not the full picture of forgiveness. That is only a part of the process of forgiveness.

In his breakdown of the story of the wicked servant found in the book of Matthew, Tim Keller writes this in his book “Forgive”:

The request by the servant for “patience” – makrothumeo, a Greek word that literally means ‘to be slow to boil or melt’ – hints at the cost of forgiveness. The older English translation for makrothumeo was ‘long-suffering’. Patience is the ability to bear suffering rather than give in to it. To forgive someone’s debt to you is to absorb the debt yourself. If a friend borrows your car, totals it through reckless driving, and hasn’t any ability to remunerate you financially, you may say, “I forgive you,” but the price of the wrong does not evaporate into the air. You either find the money to buy a new car or you go without one. Either way, forgiveness means the cost of the wrong moves from the perpetrator to you, and you bear it.

Forgiveness, then, is a form of voluntary suffering. In forgiving, rather than retaliation, you make a choice to bear the cost.

True forgiveness is bearing the cost.

Jesus’ example to us of bearing the cost is the price he paid on the cross. Forgiveness is identifying with Christ’s sacrifice. We, thankfully, will never know the pain and suffering he experienced as he took on the sin of the world and paid the debt (our debt) of sin and evil. There is no earthly experience, not even the worst we can imagine, that can compare to the experience of Christ’s death on the cross. It was more than the physical act of suffering. It was the separation from God and the weight of sin. It is more than any of us could ever bear, and he voluntarily suffered on our behalf.

Christ is our example.

I find it fascinating that Christ, as he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to his arrest, requested that God would “take this cup” from him.

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14:36

In his human form, he sought some relief from the price to pay. He cried out to God, “everything is possible for you (God, find another way to do this), please take it away.” But then he committed his will to God and stated, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

What this says to me is that when we feel that pang of hurt, grief, and hesitation to forgive the one who has wronged us, we are not feeling bad or non-Christian-like feelings. We are feeling very real and normal feelings. Who truly relishes in voluntary suffering?

And yet…in spite of the cost, Christ submitted himself to the will of God. Quite bluntly, if we want to follow after Christ- to identify with him in every way- then we, too, must surrender. We must choose to suffer and bear the cost.

This, I believe, is why forgiveness – true forgiveness – is so hard. I recognize this process is often missing in our Christian worldview. We seek, as even the world does, for inner healing and the personal satisfaction that comes from “letting go”, but there comes a point when this kind of forgiveness just isn’t enough or isn’t working for us anymore. We are seeing the ramifications of this approach in our world today. It is not enough to simply say “forgive and let go.” I believe this is due to the fact that that cost must be counted. We must allow ourselves permission to identify and accept what forgiveness is costing us.

But if we stop here we are still cutting the process of forgiveness short. There is more. We must look upward. We must look to Jesus.

It is when we do this that we also recognize forgiveness cannot take place without the supernatural grace extended to us through Jesus Christ. We cannot bear the cost without that. We are too human and too selfish. True forgiveness requires both the recognition of the cost and the dependence upon Christ’s supernatural empowerment to then bear the cost.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Romans 8:14-17

When we choose this voluntary suffering, we are sharing in Christ’s sufferings. Much of the work is internal as we choose to release our pain and our hurt into the hands of Jesus. And oftentimes this internal work is never known. Not very often do we see the kind of justice that we would prefer. We do this act of forgiving without fanfare and without a cheering squad. But we are not alone; Christ is with us, and he is holding us.

This is not to say that justice should be neglected. But the pursuit of justice without true forgiveness often becomes retaliation, and that should never be our motive.  We need clear discernment between the two.

To conclude my thoughts on the cost of forgiveness, I just want to add one thing. When we truly grasp the depth of Christ’s love for us when he chose to suffer on the cross for the redemption and forgiveness of mankind, it is difficult to stand in our justification of withholding forgiveness from others. I am not excusing the acts done against any person or persons, but I can only speak personally; when I encounter this transformative power of grace, love and forgiveness from God, there is nothing left in me but incredible awe and fear. Not terror or anxiety, but amazement at God’s goodness to me. And, from that goodness, I find my heart more inclined to forgive. It is a process, for sure, but a process that draws us closer to the heart of God, and deeper in identifying with his suffering. This is precious to me.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am deeply grateful for the price that Christ paid for the forgiveness of my sins. Where I fail, he brings redemption. Where I fall short, he fills in the gaps. And I am thankful for the example he set for me.

While the price of forgiveness almost seems too high at times, he showed us how to do it. And he promises his grace to see us through.

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