Called to Brokenness

Bread doesn’t grow on trees. If I want to make bread, I have to use flour. Flour typically comes from a grain, such as wheat.

Grain  ⇒  Flour  ⇒  Bread

We once lived in a place with less strict processing standards than the United States FDA. Sometimes, a few kernels of our rice retained their tough outer hulls. That hull was like the shell of a nut! It was difficult to break with your hands and almost impossible to chew. We checked and cleaned our rice to remove those pieces before we cooked. Other grains grow the same way. Continue reading

The Proper Perspective on Problems

We all have problems, some big, some small, and some that feel big but are actually quite small. Some problems we bring on ourselves (like overloading our schedules), but some seem to come out of nowhere (like many illnesses).

“Pure joy” feels impossible
when I’m in the middle of
something difficult.

The Scriptures call such problems “trials” and teach us to consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds (James 1:2) because of what we gain from the experience, namely perseverance and spiritual maturity. I don’t know about you, but “pure joy” feels impossible when I’m in the middle of something difficult! The promise of increased perseverance and maturity does help, but still. But there is a greater, higher reason for our problems. Read on…

These days, most believers understand that our problems aren’t necessarily punishment for sin. They may be part of the consequences—the result of our non-Christ-centered decisions (read: sin)—or part of God’s plan to get our attention, but illness, death, even financial straits aren’t God’s retribution evidenced in His followers’ lives. In Jesus’ day, however, the standard assumption was that afflictions/problems/trials were punishment for personal or inherited sins. It was natural for people to ask, “Why is this happening to me?”

Our first reaction
is often “Why me?

But we still ask that question, don’t we? Our first reaction to a problem, our first prayer, often begins with us saying, “Look at me, Jesus! Why me?”

John 9:1-12.

There was a man who was born without sight. We don’t know the details. Did he have eyeballs? Was it more like cataracts? I always wonder these things, but it’s not important.

He was a grown man, not a little boy, which makes me think he was at least eighteen years old. Eighteen years without seeing the love in his mother’s eyes. Eighteen years without watching a sunset. Eighteen years without studying Torah.

Eighteen years of thinking he bore the guilt of his parents’ sin.

In a single moment, Jesus swept away all that guilt. Jesus tells him and everyone else why. It’s the why in all of our hearts when something tragic happens…when we, though faithful, receive that crushing diagnosis…when our world crashes around our feet. This is the answer to that pervasive question, “Why me, Jesus?” Don’t miss it!

This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. –John 9:3

It happened for God’s glory.

Likewise, my problems happen for God’s glory.

I’m sure this man’s experiences over the years produced incredible perseverance and maturity in him. I’m also sure he was thrilled to be healed and probably celebrated for days. But all these things are self-centered. They focus on him and what happened in his life.

Paul understood this concept. He had more reason to boast or call attention to himself than any other believer on the planet (2 Corinthians 12:6, Philippians 3:4-6). Yet there was this one thing, this thorn in the flesh, that God wouldn’t take away (2 Corinthians 12:7-8). He had a problem, and he eventually understood that God was using it for His own glory, which is why God wouldn’t remove it. For this reason, Paul got to where he actually delighted in that problem (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). He considered it “pure joy.”

Our best perspective on a problem
is to look for how God can be
glorified through it. (click to tweet)

When we go through problems, it’s really easy to fold inward and concentrate on how it affects us. While it’s okay to be encouraged by knowing that the testing of your faith produces perseverance, etc. (James 1:3), our best perspective on a problem is to look for how God can be glorified through it. James knew it; Paul knew it, and this unnamed, formerly-blind guy learned it along with the disciples.

All this time, we’ve been asking God the wrong question when we cry out to Him from the throes of our problems. We ask why: “Why is this happening to me?” But He’s already answered that. The better question—the one He’s sure to answer if we watch for it—is how: “How can You get the most glory from this?” It takes a change of perspective, a focus on Him rather than ourselves.

When we bind our joy to His glory, we see our problems from the proper #perspective. #NotAboutMe (click to tweet)

Oh, I like this phrase: bind our joy to His glory! You can tweet that last sentence, if you want to share this post.

What’s your reaction here? How does this make you think…or rethink…about a problem in your life? How have you seen this perspective (of God’s glory) prove true in the past?




3 Lessons from My Empty Wallet

Let me say first that we are not impoverished. I’ve seen poverty; it doesn’t look like my life. We have enough money to pay the bills and purchase food. We have enough money to give our children a weekly allowance and buy the occasional pizza. So, no, we’re not destitute. Also, I realize that many people live in much direr straights than ours, and I am not making light of that.

These days, we have to say ‘no’
much more often than we say ‘yes.’

Maybe I should put it like this: At this ‘season’ of our lives, we don’t have extra money. We don’t pay for any television service; we can’t go to the beach or get pedicures, and we earnestly pray that our cars keep running because major repairs would be a real problem. When it comes to things that cost money, we have to say ‘no’ much more often than we say ‘yes.’

This hasn’t always been the case for us. As God led us into the circumstances that created this situation, I began to look for what we might learn through this sort-of trial. (It’s not a real trial in the Biblical sense…more like a period of testing.) So far, I’ve discovered three things.

Faith and Wealth Are Often Inversely Proportional

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?  -James 2:5

It’s easier for poor people to trust God. When you have money, you need to work really hard to stay dependent on Jesus rather than depending on your finances. When you don’t have money, you’ve no choice but to trust Him for your daily needs, which increases your faith. It’s uncommon sense: being poor makes you rich.

Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). Like the Hebrew people in the wilderness gathered just enough manna for that day, He models praying for just enough to meet one’s needs on this day. It’s hard to pray those words with authenticity when you could buy a loaf of bread using your pocket change.

Less money ⇒ more faith.
More money ⇒ less faith.

So riches and faith are often inversely proportional. Yes, there are incredibly faithful wealthy people. I’m just saying that it’s much harder for them to remain in that state of dependence on God. For me, this lack of wealth has given me so many opportunities to trust Him and therefore, to glorify Him as He met our needs every time!

(There’s an implicit reference here to Matthew 5:3, where Jesus says the poor in spirit inherit the kingdom of heaven. I don’t have the space to dig into it here, but go for it, if you’re interested.)

Self-Discipline in One Area Affects Other Areas

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”  -Matthew 16:24

I’ve never been very good at telling myself ‘no.’ Indulgences such as another piece of chocolate or a new pair of shoes or ten more minutes in a novel are natural to me. (I don’t think I’m alone in this.) And fasting? Just the thought of it makes my stomach growl. But in the last two years, I’ve said no to Starbucks, to movie dates, to new clothes, to nice furniture, to weekend getaways, etc. Having done all that, I find it easier to turn off the TV, to choose a special offering over ice cream, and yes, I’ve even fasted—twice!

Because I have been compelled to discipline my spending habits, spiritual disciplines have become more accessible. I’m as surprised by this as anyone.

Contentment Doesn’t Depend on Circumstances

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  –Philippians 4:12-13

There is much in American
life that I don’t need.

Have you ever noticed this before?!? Paul’s power statement that athletes tattoo on their arms and body builders quote in their gyms…it’s actually about contentment! (Context is supremely important.) In the last two years, I have learned that there is much I don’t need. I am not hurt by saying ‘no’ to this or that fun purchase. I’ve actually become more content as I bought less stuff and spent less on entertainment.

If someone handed me a new couch or a trip to the beach, I wouldn’t refuse them. After all, I’m not trying to be ascetic, nor am I testing out a vow of poverty. The simple fact is, I no longer feel like I need those things to be satisfied with my life…or even to be comfortable.

Don’t pat me on the back just yet. I’m still working on all this, and God challenges my pride/humility ratio daily when it comes to finances. I really have a hard time saying, “We can’t afford that.” I feel like I’ve learned enough, however, to pass some of it on to you. I pray that you are encouraged and challenged.

 Becoming more content with less money: 3 Lessons from My Empty Wallet (click to tweet)

For further study: I Timothy 6:3-10, 17-19. Increased faithfulness doesn’t guarantee increased finances. Also Matthew 6:19-21.

What has God taught you about wealth, finances, money, etc.? What verses did He use? How did your life change as a result? We would all like to hear about you, so leave a comment below!

Blog Link up

We Are Built to Last

It’s a long-standing Rubbermaid slogan: “Built to Last,” but it’s also an apt description of our life in Christ…and of wheat. Intrigued?

I had the privilege of guest posting on Walk With Me this week. You can read my full thought process *there*. Comment on that blog (I’ll reply.) or come back here (where I will also reply) to like and comment.



The Cast of Christmas: Mary

Among the cast of Christmas characters, what more could be said about Mary, the sainted (sometimes deified) mother of Jesus and undoubtedly most famous woman in the world? Nothing, really. At least nothing new…but we can take a fresh look at Mary, perhaps remembering something we learned long ago that now has deeper meaning for us. Or perhaps finding a new point-of-view on an all-too-familiar scene.

I was “great with child” at Christmas time. I remember lugging my big belly around, struggling to get out of cars, sweating even when it was cold. That year, I empathized with Mary more than ever before. That was also the year I read Francine Rivers’ novella from the Lineage of Grace series, Unafraid: Mary. (I highly recommend that book, by the way!) I couldn’t imagine climbing onto a donkey, feeling the first pains of labor, or giving birth with no one around. I was twenty-nine years old. Mary was very young, unexperienced, and far from home. Well, let’s just take a look…

Luke 1:26-56

Stunned Silence

After Gabriel left (Luke 1:38), I imagine Mary sat for a few minutes with a stunned look on her face. She had just received the biggest news EVER! It had to be shocking. Then her mind started racing: so much to do, so many people to tell…

Overwhelmed with some bit of life-changing news (good or bad): have you been there? Do you know those moments where you brain is so busy processing that you don’t even remember to breath? It takes a few minutes to drag yourself out of that stupor and respond to real life…to start breathing again. Top priority for Mary: telling her mother.

Mary ran the gossip gauntlet every
time she left her home in Nazareth.

Hold on just a minute. How would Mary’s pregnancy look to the people of Nazareth? Every young Jewish girl hoped to be chosen as the Messiah’s mother, and I’m guessing that a few girls tried to claim it every year. Mary would have sounded just like them: another girl who couldn’t wait for her wedding night, and now she was paying the consequences. Oh, the gossips would have a field day, especially since Joseph had such a strong reputation and Mary was known to be an honorable young woman!

The Messy Months

We like to think about beautiful, clean, serene Mary in the stable holding  Baby Jesus while Joseph stands proudly beside her—the perfect, noble little family. But think about the six months prior to that. Mary was an unwed, teenage mother in a very conservative society. It was messy and embarrassing. Her whole family would have been shamed, even ostracized. Sure, she and Joseph moved up the wedding date, but everyone knew (or at least could guess) why.

We’ve all watched believing families walk through something like this—the rebellious son, the pregnant daughter. Stop for a second and think about yourself as that girl or boy, telling your mother that a baby was coming. How would she react?

Now put yourself in the parent role (even if you aren’t a parent). What would you say to your (hypothetical) daughter? Could you control your tongue in those first few minutes? The Bible says absolutely nothing about Mary’s mother/Jesus’ grandmother. I wish we knew how she reacted to the news…

What About Joseph?

The hardest part had
to be telling Joseph.

In my estimation, the challenge of telling her Mom wasn’t Mary’s most difficult task. Telling Joseph would have been even harder. (We’ll consider his point-of-view next week.) You know Mary prayed about it and chose her words carefully. She knew Joseph’s honorable character, and she knew that he cared about her.

Maybe Mary’s Mom suggested the visit to Elizabeth. It would give Mary a chance to escape the stares and the half-whispered comments. And while she was away, Joseph could figure out what he wanted to do about their situation.

God Already Knew

Mary didn’t become the favored
one because she carried Jesus.
She was already favored.

In conclusion, think for a minute about Gabriel’s first words to Mary, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” God had already looked into Mary’s life. She didn’t become the favored one because she carried Jesus. She was already favored; carrying Jesus was her blessing as well as her burden.

God knew the road ahead for Mary wouldn’t be easy…and I’m not just talking about the dirt road to Bethlehem.

He knew she was young.

He knew she wouldn’t understand everything that happened.

He knew she would be afraid more than once.


He also knew her strength of character.

He knew the heritage of Godliness she carried in her heart.

He knew Joseph’s faithful spirit.

He knew she would treasure every memory and think about them for the rest of her life (2:19).

He knew she would be a good mother.

He knew He would be with her the whole way (1:28).

Mary had to trust God more than most teenage girls could every dream possible. She sets the standard for us all with her simple response to Gabriel: “I am the Lord’s servant” (1:38).

How has your life intersected with Mary’s? Please share in the comments below.

The Cast of Christmas: Zechariah and Elizabeth

For us adults, it’s easy to breeze through the spiritual side of Christmas. After all, you memorized half of Luke 2 that one year for the Christmas pageant at church. At other times, especially if the holiday marks a milestone (first Christmas after your wedding, first with a baby, first without an important person), you latch onto the emotional apron strings of holiday tradition such that you start crying when they flip the switch for the star hanging above the manger during the pageant at church.

The fact that the story and the traditions are so familiar shouldn’t stop us from examining them again. During different Christmas seasons of my adult life, the Lord has brought different personalities to the forefront of the Christmas story. As I ponder that person’s experience, He shows me more of Himself: His love, His sovereignty, His grace.  Over the next few weeks, let’s take a look at some of those people and see what fresh thing God has for us.

Zechariah and Elizabeth

Luke 1:5-17

Righteous, but…

Both Elizabeth and her husband were righteous in the sight of God (1:6). Luke went so far as to call them blameless. And yet they had no children.

Imagine how many times they asked God for a baby, how often they cried.

Imagine how hard they tried in those first years.

Imagine the regular visits to family gatherings where their siblings had children…then grandchildren.

With early marriages and no reliable birth control, most women had many children. Having no children was disgraceful. It meant something was wrong with you, God was punishing you, or you were rarely intimate with your husband for some reason.

I lived in a place with a similar mindset (yes, in the 21st century). I watched young women pray desperately, take medicine, visit witchdoctors, and try everything possible to get pregnant. The pressure from their in-laws was suffocating; they faced divorce if they didn’t produce a child—preferably a boy. The loving husband wouldn’t divorce his wife; he would simply take a second one. (To be fair, there were a few exceptional husbands.) I learned how to read the disappointment on these women’s faces every month. Some even got physically sick. After a couple of years, the shame became almost tangible. That’s very similar to what Elizabeth experienced.

They asked “Why?” from
a place of faith.

Don’t discount this part of Elizabeth’s story just because you haven’t struggled with fertility issues. My point is that we all suffer, often secretly, and that God expects many of us to wade through that suffering for a long time before He answers. Did Elizabeth and Zechariah try to put on a happy face? Did they pretend everything was okay? I don’t know. I do know they didn’t turn away from God. Maybe they asked, “Why?” but they asked from a place of faith, not judgment or selfishness. I can imagine that they leaned on Scripture like Psalm 119:75-76 ESV, I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.

God hears

Zechariah and Elizabeth were very old (1:7). I think they had given up on having children, releasing that prayer. Have you ever given up on praying for something only to have your prayer answered years later? God always hears. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us (1 John 5:14). How and when God responds is up to Him—and the possibilities are innumerable!—but He does hear. Look at what the angel says to Zechariah: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard” (1:13), and remember James 5:16, The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

When it comes to God, don’t take His silence to mean he is ignoring you or refusing you. Perhaps the time isn’t right. Perhaps He has a better alternative. Perhaps He’s waiting for you to learn something or be obedient in a certain matter or come to a certain place in your spiritual walk. Perhaps…well, you get the picture. God has given us many lines of encouragement for those times—verses like Psalm 27:14, Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Know that when God asks us to wait, it’s worth it.

His Will is worth the wait.

Not Alone

Elizabeth joined an all-star line-up of barren women: Sarah, Rachel, Rebekah, Hannah… In every situation, the long-awaited child grew up to be important in the story of God’s people. Same thing here. The angel says as much right there in the temple with Zechariah: “He will be great in the sight of the Lord” (1:15). Think about the same kind of sufferings (1 Peter 5:9) or the cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1). Perseverance, endurance, patience…these things are easier in groups. Like a roof doesn’t stand on one pillar, sharing our burden with others will help all of us to wait patiently. There are stories in the Bible to encourage you and stories in the lives of your Christian family to do the same.

As usual, we’re only getting started on all the Lord has for us just in the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth! The remainder of Luke 1 reveals much more about their character, their story, and God’s sovereignty. If there’s something that’s significant to you about these two, please share it in the comments below.

A Girl’s Gotta Eat (and so does everyone else): In Defense of Martha

This is one of those posts that reflects years of thought. I’m not kidding. I have been pondering this story since before the birth of my second child, and he just turned nine. I once got accused of being a Martha because I pointed out that, if our plan included a meal, someone would have to organize it. Food does not magically appear on the table (although Papa John’s online ordering with to-your-door delivery is surprisingly close).

I have always thought that Mary’s sister, Martha, gets a bad rap in Christian circles. This is probably because I am so much more like Martha than like Mary. I’m a practical girl. You say, “Let’s take a trip!”  I say, “Do we have enough gas to get there?” The kids say, “Let’s watch a movie!” I say, “Will it finish before bedtime?” In defending Martha, I am defending myself. So let’s really unpack this story (Luke 10:38-42) and get to the bottom of Martha’s situation . . . okay, her sin. Because there is no way she was wrong to fix those guys something to eat!

It seems that Jesus enjoyed being at Martha’s house. In fact, he came to love Martha and her siblings (Mary and Lazarus) intimately and even stopped in to see them one last time on His way to Jerusalem before His crucifixion (John 12:1-3). This is the family He trusted enough to let them endure profound grief for His glory. (See John 11. I wrote about this previously.) But the scene for today occurred earlier. Perhaps this was the first time Jesus ever ‘set foot’ in their home. We don’t know. At any rate, Martha invited Him and his companions to come in and have something to eat. The Scriptures say, Martha opened her home to him (Luke 10:38), demonstrating the natural hospitality of near-Eastern culture. Then she got busy. They had been travelling and were most certainly hungry.  Since they couldn’t order delivery pizza, it was necessary to actually cook.

Now this is where things get dicey. Martha got distracted by the preparations (v. 40a).  Let’s look at some of her options.

  • We can safely assume that Martha was fairly wealthy. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have invited all these people into her home. Therefore, she probably had several servants. She could have trusted them to prepare something nice and left it alone. But she didn’t.
  • Martha could have ordered food from other people (like catering) and paid them for their work. No one needed to know . . . unless they found all the take-away containers. This too was unacceptable.
  • If she wanted to do it herself, Martha could have made something simple—maybe some fruit and grilled meat if they wanted to eat quickly—or thrown some beans and rice in the whatever-functioned-like-a-crockpot-in-those-days and walked away. [Semi-random aside:  Remember when Abram prepared a meal for his three guests (Genesis 18)? They had to slaughter an animal and bake bread. Those things take quite a while. Sure, this is thousands of years later, but not much had changed. In many parts of the world, people still don’t expect to eat quickly.]

It’s clear that Martha had some pride issues because the preparations were taking every ounce of her energy and focus. She wanted to make German Chocolate Cake when no-bake cookies or boxed brownies would have been sufficient. But before you slam her, consider the fact that her motives may have been good. When I have someone special in my home, I want to serve them to the best of my ability. I want to give them the very best I have to offer—not for myself but as a way to honor that person. Perhaps Martha already recognized that Jesus was someone special; perhaps she was already growing to love Him (speaking platonically here); perhaps her heart was not that different from the widow with two small coins, who gave so generously (Luke 21:1-4). All of us have walked that fine line between honoring our guests and wanting to be honored for our exceptional hospitality (or any other gift from Him). My kids ask me why we have to clean the house before company comes over. There are days when it’s hard to answer honestly.

When the focus of that award-winning German Chocolate Cake jumps from the eater to the preparer, we have entered into sin. This is why God said He hated the Israelites’ worship in Amos 5. They went through the motions of worship, but with impure hearts. Just think about it:  (paraphrasing) “I hate your offerings because they are about you, not about Me.” He might say to me, “I hate your freshly mopped floors and your delicious muffins because you did it to make yourself look good, not to honor Me.”


We can’t really know Martha’s motives. I have read between the lines far more than is acceptable just because I see myself in Martha so often. Here’s what we know for sure:  Martha went to Jesus and complained (v. 40b). I can imagine her walking around behind the other men, stooping to whisper in Jesus’ ear. You see, Mary was behaving counter-culturally. She wasn’t supposed to be sitting in that room with all the men. There were clear lines of gender separation in that culture. So on top of being jealous because Mary got to listen to Jesus while she didn’t, and frustrated because she couldn’t get all the work done, we can assume that Martha was slightly embarrassed by Mary’s behavior. Her tone could have been a little whiney, or it could have been indignant. I lean toward the latter because I don’t think Martha was afraid of hard work or long hours. She wanted everything to be handled properly and in a socially-acceptable manner. Things just weren’t going the way they were supposed to go, and surely, Jesus—of all people—could see that! So she offered a solution that would help them both: tell Mary to go help in the kitchen.

Before we look at what Jesus said, let’s look at what He did not say. This is significant.

  • He didn’t deny that there was a lot of work to be done.
  • He didn’t tell Martha to quit making the preparations;
  • He didn’t tell her to sit down;
  • He didn’t suggest a simpler meal.
  • He also didn’t say that He was hungry, though,
  • or tell her about His favorite food.

Instead, His words make me think He reached out and laid his hand on her arm. He connected with her, looking beyond the dirty apron, the burn on one hand and the worn-out potholder on the other, the sweat dripping down her temple, the frizz of hair that had escaped her headscarf. He stopped whatever deep and important conversation was developing (or whatever joke was being told, because we know Jesus liked to laugh!), waiting until her eyes met his, and spoke into her heart: “We don’t need a lot, Martha. The social conventions aren’t important; I’m not going to ask Mary to leave here when she is learning so much about Me.” Perhaps I’m going too far, but I like to think that there was gratitude in His tone . . . something which told Martha He appreciated her service and understood her situation.

I spent years trying to comprehend the “one thing” of which Jesus spoke. Remember? He said, Few things are needed—or indeed only one (v. 42). This just puzzled my Martha mind . . . until recently. Mary chose to focus on Jesus. Martha chose to get distracted, and she complained. In those actions, we see her sin. She invited these people into her home then didn’t pay attention to them. The one thing needed was to prioritize Jesus.

I don’t think Jesus expected Martha to drop the potholder, wipe the sweat from her brow, ignore the burning rice, and sit down there with the others. We don’t know for sure because –frustratingly—the Word stops there. We don’t even know how Martha responded. It seems more likely, however, that she simply needed to adjust her mindset.  While Mary sat and worshiped, Martha would serve and worship. Both functioning within the will of God.

Later, Paul would say, In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Your mindset has nothing to do with sitting-haha!

So, my fellow Christ-following Martha-types out there, there is NOTHING WRONG with cooking dinner. There is certainly nothing wrong with hospitality, and there is nothing wrong with giving God our absolute best. We can go ahead and bake the German Chocolate Cake if we can do it without losing focus and without detracting from our one-on-one time with Him . . . because the sin is in the why. Are we distracted from knowing Him by serving Him? Are we more interested in what people will think than how God will be glorified? Get these things sorted out, and our service becomes an act of worship, which is what God intended when He created you and me.

We serve God for His pleasure, not our pride.

One thing I love about blogging is how we can add to what we’ve written before. Here’s a 2020 article from Core Christianity that gets to the same point.

A Martyr Mindset

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness –2 Cor 11:30.

It’s such a comfort to know that the flaws in my personality, gifts, talents, and skills are exactly the places where God can show Himself most clearly.  My weaknesses leave more room for God to work and be glorified:  like gaps in the clouds let the sun shine through (see the photo at the bottom of this post).  I’ve experienced it many times.  But let’s push this very-well-known verse a little farther.

After enumerating all the horrible stuff that he had endured or overcome (five times whipped, three times beaten, three times shipwrecked, etc. – 2 Cor 11:21-29), Paul says, in essence, “Then there was this one time . . .”.  The Apostle Paul snuck out of a city by climbing through a window and being lowered to the ground in a basket (Acts 9:23-25).  A BASKET, people!  Think about that.  It’s totally out of character for Paul.  Was he having a wimpy moment?  Did he suddenly “chicken out”?  Why didn’t he march right up to that king and tell him about Jesus, as usual?!?

Because Paul knew that martyrdom isn’t always the path to Father’s greatest glory.  Sometimes God calls us to make the meek choice, which means not defending ourselves . . . or Him.  Notice I said “meek”, not “weak.”  It is that very “weakness” (from an outsider’s point-of-view) which best accomplishes God’s purpose.  What the world sees as cowardice may be exactly what He wants from me or you.  They thought Jesus was weak because He let Himself be hung on a cross.  Hmm . . .

Should we renounce our faith? Never. Should we sometimes flee, sometimes stand firm? Yes. His will is not this cut-and-dried, always-the-same kind of thing . . . even within one life.  I’ve met quite a few people (okay, I used to be one of them) who think that the most difficult, brash, heroic, suffering-filled thing MUST be God’s will.  With all due respect to the thousands of actual martyrs that God has called to release life for His glory, I call this attitude a “martyr mindset.”  Who is the hero in those situations?  That is, who actually gets the glory?  There’s often a little something inside us that says, “Look at me!  I’m suffering for the Lord,” or we take it into our prayers:  “Oh Father, look how I’ve suffered for You.  Now I deserve _______________!”

As each trial arises, we need to ask for clear direction: “What is the path to His greatest glory here?”  The hardest thing or the greatest suffering may not always be what He wants from us at that time.  It’s uncommon sense, but when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor 12:10).

Be ready to face the whip but also be ready to climb in the basket. 

Yeah, I know.  It's a rough life . . .
Yeah, I know. It’s a rough life . . .

Not an Easy Answer

IMG_0255It’s been awhile since I posted anything.  This is not because God has been silent.  Quite the opposite.

I have been depressed.  This is a weak spot in my spiritual armor that I wish wasn’t there and that I want to hide, so of course, He calls me to talk about it.  I felt like the tree in this photograph: connected to the world but dry and silent.  Apart from some post-partum, I’ve never struggled with depression before, so it took me awhile to admit it.  Yes, I should have talked to someone, but I felt like I knew what he or she would say, and I was already telling myself those things every day:  get in the Word, look for the positives, rise above my circumstances.  But there is no easy answer for a spiritual/emotional/mental/hormonal/physical/circumstantial attack.  In the meantime, despite God’s amazing way of revealing Himself through His Word, I didn’t feel like I had anything to say.  Then, one morning . . .

I was reading 2 Corinthians 7, where Paul keeps building up the Corinthians and telling them how important they are to him.  In the midst of his encouragement, one innocent phrase captured my attention in that unforgettable way which is so clearly the work of the Holy Spirit.  It said, “God, who comforts the downcast.”  I had already been pondering comfort, but “downcast” seemed like a mild way to describe what I’d been experiencing.  At any rate, I couldn’t continue reading.  This was for me!

One of the cross references was Psalm 42.  Contrary to my habits (I usually just stay in one section of the Word), I flipped over.  In the next few minutes, the Father laid out a clear “plan of attack” for those overwhelming times.  I wrote it on my hand for two days (just the ‘R’ words)—until I had it locked in my memory.  This is not a secret formula or a miracle cure.  It is not an easy answer for everyone’s depression.  All I’m saying is that God now lets me use it to pull out of the depression ditch whenever I feel it closing in around me again.

Psalm 42:5-6.

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you . . . 

REMEMBER the things You’ve [God] done for me.  Like the pattern of Your timing in my life or those many times when You’ve rescued me or revealed Yourself to me.

from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon–from Mount Mizar.  Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls . . .    

07-15 trip to Cherokee (8)
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near Cherokee, North Carolina  (c) Carole Sparks

REFLECT on Your Greatness.  I picture the craggy mountains of Chapman’s Peak (South Africa) when the waves crash against the boulders, Victoria Falls where the midst shrouds the falls but can’t hide the roar, Yosemite Falls and HalfDome, the soft valleys of the Smokies, the way the ocean looks different in Maine than it does in Florida.  I see Your Hand of creation stretched from one to the other, and I stand in awe.


all your waves and breakers have swept over me . . .   

REVEL in Your love sweeping over me like ocean waves.  I will dwell here until I know Your love surrounds me.

remember . . . reflect . . . revel

3 ‘R’s to fight spiritual #depression. I wrote them on my hand. via @Carole_Sparks #NotAboutMe (click to tweet)

What Scripture has God used to lift your heart and mind out of spiritual depression? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!


My circumstances are the cobbled path down which Jesus leads me. I may sometimes stub my toe on one of the stones, but if I look down at the path, I will loose sight of Him.

A response to O.C. (18 June):  “If you are truly recognizing your Lord, you have no business being concerned about how and where He engineers your circumstances.  The things surrounding you are real, but when you look at them you are immediately overwhelmed, and even unable to recognize Jesus.”